- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 21, 2006

Devil or angel

The Democrats are racing willy-nilly to either condemn or applaud Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who called President Bush a “devil” during a speech this week at the United Nations. Here’s the scorecard so far, though it could expand as politicians discover how much press mileage they can get by growling or grinning over the insult.

Condemning: Rep. Charles B. Rangel of New York, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, Rep. Chaka Fattah of Pennsylvania, former President Bill Clinton.

“He shouldn’t have said that. It’s not helpful,” Mr. Clinton told Fox News last night.

And on the applauding end: Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa and Rep. Bill Delahunt of Massachusetts.

The observers are already busy weighing in on the lawmakers’ sincerity — or cunning.

“What’s Rangel’s beef with Chavez for saying things Dems say every day? Only one reason. Cheap oil. Chavez is using Citgo, the Venezuelan government-owned oil company, to give cheap oil to poor families in Rangel’s district. Charlie ain’t upset at what Chavez is saying. Charlie is livid that someone would be giving a handout to his liberal voters that he can’t take credit for,” Jed Babbin wrote yesterday at American Spectator Online.

“I think Rangel deserves credit for saying the right thing [for once]. I’d love to see more of the same from the Democrats,” Philip Klein countered on the same Web site (www.spectator.org).

Better than Oprah

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s “devil” remark has been fomenting in the literary world as well. At the time of his remark, Mr. Chavez also brandished a 2004 book by Noam Chomsky called “Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance.”

“The people of the United States should read this instead of watching ‘Superman’ movies,” Mr. Chavez said.

Within 48 hours, the book leapt to the top of the Amazon best-seller list, climbing from 220,664th place to No. 4. The volume claims “the U.S. is a rogue nation in its foreign policies and its ‘contempt for international law,’” according to a 2004 review by Publisher’s Weekly.

Meanwhile, Metropolitan Books has ordered an additional paperback printing of 25,000 copies, the Associated Press reports. Mr. Chomsky, a 77-year-old linguist, has long opposed U.S. foreign policy in such books as “9-11” and “Failed States,” which was released last spring.

Shalom, George

Sen. George Allen’s life continues in high drama mode. Though the Virginia Republican is being labeled “Macacawitz” by waggish observers, he continues to dog it out in the talk arena, explaining — and re-explaining — his newfound Jewish heritage.

“I’ve been a leader for fighting against anti-Semitism and intolerance, but now it’s personal,” Mr. Allen told CNN yesterday. “And I’m going to use my time here on Earth to continue to fight for freedom and justice, and to make sure intolerance never rears its ugly head in this country or anywhere else in the world, because it causes a great deal of fear, intimidation and lessening the opportunities for people in life.”

Host Wolf Blitzer pressed on, noting that some wondered why the lawmaker initially seemed “so sensitive about maybe having some Jewish heritage” when questioned on camera at a recent press conference.

“Is he embarrassed about that? Is he afraid that anti-Semites in Virginia might not vote for him if they think there’s some Jewish history there? You understand why it caused that kind of reaction,” Mr. Blitzer continued.

“I don’t know what all the reaction is for, whether political or otherwise,” Mr. Allen said. “I know that the audience also thought it was inappropriate, but I’ll tell you what I was thinking. I was thinking of my mother. I was thinking as a son and I wanted to protect my mother and her wishes and the promise I made to her.”

One for Scooter

A ruling by a federal judge yesterday could make it easier for I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby Jr. to use classified documents in his trial in the Valerie Plame/CIA leak matter. Special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald proposed a strict legal test that would have forced Mr. Libby to prove his need for the records outweighed the government’s need to keep them secret.

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton rejected the prosecutor’s proposal, saying he’ll apply standard rules of evidence, which generally provide defendants documents that are relevant and helpful, according to the Associated Press.

Judge Walton acknowledged the government can withhold any documents it chooses, though that might mean the case is dismissed. Still, federal law offers judges the option of blacking out sensitive portions or relying on unclassified summaries of the materials.

The outcome will come down to “experts in the executive branch of government,” who will determine whether evidence Judge Walton deems essential for a fair trial can be declassified, the AP reported. If not, Mr. Fitzgerald will be unable to try the case.

Treasured moment

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, joined Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein yesterday to view the new National Archives’ Legislative Treasures Vault, considered to house “the most significant historical documents of Congress.”

Curious? Among the contents of the new, secure state-of-the-art facility:

Journal of the House from the First Congress showing the duties of the speaker of the House, April 7, 1789; report of House Committee on Foreign Relations “War Manifesto,” June 3, 1812; electoral vote tally from the 1824 election; a 1835 map of Illinois; the Post road petition, signed by Abraham Lincoln and other citizens of Illinois, 1834; former House Speaker Joe Cannon’s trunk; Lincoln’s “Fiery Trial” message to Congress, 1862; his nomination of Ulysses S. Grant as lieutenant general of the U.S. Army, 1864; and finally, the House roll-call vote on declaration of war, 1941.

Leading the charge

What? It’s 2008 already? New Hampshire is bracing for political hordes this weekend. Democratic presidential hopefuls Mark Warner of Virginia, Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana and Gov. Tom Vilsack of Iowa will arrive in New Hampshire today for plenty of face time with the citizenry, round the clock, all weekend, according to the Manchester Union Leader.

Mr. Warner has stops in Manchester, Concord and Rochester and will retreat tomorrow to a picturesque orchard near Contoocook with state Senate candidate Betsi DeVries and congressional hopeful Paul Hodes. Mr. Bayh will attend a reception for District 6 Senate candidate Rep. Jackie Cilley, a house party with Nashua Democrats, and the Manchester City Democrats’ “Countdown to Victory.” Mr. Vilsack will chat with students at St. Anselm College and New England College, then shmooze in Franklin, Laconia and Sanbornville.

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

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