- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Bubbapalooza

The Clinton Global Initiative gets under way in Manhattan tomorrow under the tutelage of former President Bill Clinton. The three-day anti-poverty event showcases one particularly piquant cultural moment: a forum featuring first lady Laura Bush, Mr. Clinton, Pakistani PresidentPervez Musharraf and others, moderated by Thomas Friedman of the New York Times.

Yes, Al Gore will show up later in the week at the “CGI” to air his green laundry; Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, will chat up the empowerment of women. A thousand guests paid $15,000 each to attend what the Wall Street Journal deemed “a cross between a Hollywood premiere and a tent-revival meeting.”

Mr. Clinton got burned by a few folks, though.

“A few participants at last year’s fest ‘pledged’ to carry out programs that already were under way. In other words, the initiatives weren’t specifically generated by the CGI. Moreover, not all participants followed through on their commitments. That’s a no-no,” the Journal noted.

“So this year, the Clinton folks have adopted a Reaganesque principle: Trust but verify … CGI’s 10-person ‘commitments team’ has been working with participants to develop pledges for this year’s conference. Some commitments were made months ago. Others will emerge at the meeting itself, as attendees rub elbows and drink cocktails with 60 heads of state and celebrity philanthropists, such as Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett,” Mr. Friedman wrote.

“Those who don’t follow through on their pledges won’t be invited back. ‘Just under 20 participants from last year’s conference weren’t invited to this year’s session,’ ” said spokesman Jay Carson.

It’s a gas

Well, here’s one more convenient liberal conspiracy theory put to rest:

“There’s no evidence we can find to suggest that anyone in the White House or Congress is manipulating oil or gasoline prices to make for an easier trip on this fall’s campaign trail,” stated MSNBC’s John Schoen yesterday on the network’s Web site.

Laura alone

First lady Laura Bush made a broad and gracious global outreach of her own yesterday, appearing with President Bush, his mother — and a former first lady in her own right — Barbara Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings and other luminaries at the White House Conference on Global Literacy at the New York Public Library.

The first lady is a considerable draw: Thirty nations were represented by their “First Spouse” and 40 nations sent their education ministers. They have their work cut out for them. According to UNESCO, 771 million adults around the world cannot read; 85 percent live in just 35 countries and two-thirds are women.

“Women who can read are advocates for their children’s education,” Mrs. Bush said. “Literacy helps adults make informed decisions to protect their health and the health of their children, and literacy helps adults — women and men — learn the basic financial skills that generate income, that foster independence and that boost local economies.”

Sharing the podium, Mr. Bush took it one step further.

“I am deeply concerned about the spread of radicalism,” he said. “One reason radicals are able to recruit young men, for example, to become suicide bombers, is because of hopelessness. One way to defeat hopelessness is through literacy,givingpeople the fantastic hope that comes by being able to read and realize dreams.”

It’s a go for Alice

Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, has released his hold on a senior Justice Department nominee, clearing the way for a confirmation vote today for Alice Fisher to become assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

The Republican leadership had forced Mr. Levin’s hand through a parliamentary maneuver, according to one GOP staffer, while vowing to press for another nomination the lawmaker has also blocked — that of Kenneth Wainstein to be head of the Justice Department’s new National Security Division.

“Watch this space,” the GOP staffer told United Press International.

Mr. Levin has held up the confirmation of Mrs. Fisher for more than two years, maintaining the Bush administration stonewalled his requests for information about her role in handling reports from FBI agents on detainee abuse at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Mrs. Fisher was chief of staff to Michael Chertoff, the head of the Criminal Division at the time; Mr. Wainstein was general counsel at the FBI.

A Democratic staffer said Mr. Levin thinks “this stonewalling is part of a pattern of the administration stymieing legitimate oversight,” later adding, “There’s a lot of smoke, and unfortunately, we are going to be forced to take a vote before we find out whether there’s any fire.”

Wooing 43 million

Are the young and restless politically engaged? Hardly. A new survey of 18- to 24-year-olds reveals that 81 percent of the age group “aren’t aware” that all 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, one-third of the U.S. Senate (33 seats) and numerous other public offices are up for election Nov. 7.

Ninety-one percent were also unaware there was a deadline to register to vote, while 22 percent said they did not plan to register. The poll of 2,032 young adults was conducted throughout August by the Ad Council and the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) and released yesterday. According to Polli Brunelli, director of FVAP, a tidy 43 million votes are at stake.

The two organizations have created a motivational Web site — complete with cheeky satire and a state-by-state voting guide — to get their point across (www.payattention.org).

Ney sayer

Rep.Bob Ney, who has agreed to plead guilty to federal corruption charges, stepped down from two House committee positions yesterday, the Associated Press reported.

The Ohio Republican said in two letters to House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, that he would resign as chairman of the Financial Services housing and community opportunity subcommittee, which oversees the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and as head of the House Administration Committee’s Franking Commission, which governs lawmakers’ use of public money for their mailings.

Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Bennett called on Mr. Ney to resign Friday, after it was announced that the lawmaker would plead guilty to making false statements, conspiracy to commit fraud and other charges. The congressman is expected to plead guilty in less than a month.

Mr. Ney has not participated in House floor votes since Sept. 12. Spokesman David Popp would not comment on whether Mr. Ney would return to his elected duties before his term expires in January. Last week, his attorney, William Lawler, disclosed that Mr. Ney wasn’t ready to resign and was seeking treatment for alcohol abuse.

Contact Jennifer Harper at 202/636-3085 or jharper@washingtontimes.com

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