- The Washington Times - Monday, February 12, 2007

Newt’s advice

“He’s back. A conservative backbencher who fired up a lackluster GOP and grabbed victory in 1994, Newt Gingrich is being tapped by the newly out-of-power group to help map a return trip,” Paul Bedard writes in the Washington Whispers column of U.S. News & World Report.

” ‘Unlike anyone else in the party,’ says a prominent GOP insider, ‘Newt knows how to fight back.’ A potential 2008 presidential candidate, Gingrich has been meeting with Republicans at closed-door House GOP retreats and suggesting ways to squash the Dems,” Mr. Bedard wrote.

“Initially, the former speaker urged a less in-your-face approach, advising Republicans to put it in idle and wait for the Democrats to ‘implode on their own,’ one GOP lawmaker tells us. ‘Newt advised not to get out in front of them too fast, let them make some mistakes,’ says the lawmaker. Well, it hasn’t happened fast enough, and now Gingrich is sounding the attack charge.

“At a second retreat of conservatives this month, he challenged them to bark loudly and often at Democrats and use parliamentary moves to thwart the opponents. His first order to conservative rabble-rousers: Take over the GOP message. Next, he suggested tactics and rules to delay legislation and tricks to trap Democrats. Finally, drop a bomb the media will love. The GOP did, slapping Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s demand for an ‘Air Force Three’ to fly her home to San Francisco. Says a leadership aide, ‘He brings up things that we didn’t even know about.’ ”

Economic reality

“In the Democratic Party today, neopopulists and economic nationalists are on the rise,” New York Times columnist David Brooks writes.

“The free-traders are on the defensive. The Democratic view of the global economy has grown unremittingly grim. When John Edwards talks about the economy, you think he’s running for the Democratic nomination of 1932,” Mr. Brooks wrote.

“Which is why the report to be released [today] by the Democratic activist group Third Way is so remarkable. Here is a group of Democratic economists and strategists who are taking on the rising neopopulists.

“The first thing their report, ‘The New Rules Economy,’ does is challenge the neopopulist depiction of economic reality. Neopopulists are good at describing the suffering in towns like Mansfield, Ohio, and Flint, Mich. But they act as if they’ve never been to Charlotte or Phoenix, where office parks are shooting up.

“The authors of this report, Anne Kim, Adam Solomon, Jim Kessler and Stephen Rose, try to blend all the diverse pieces of American reality, and to expose what they call ‘the myths of neopopulism,’ ” Mr. Brooks said, such as the myth of the failing middle class, the myth of stagnant living standards, and the myth of wildly increasing income volatility.

Obama’s faith

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said yesterday he does not think voters have a litmus test on religion, whether evangelical Christianity or his childhood years in the Muslim faith.

“If your name is Barack Hussein Obama, you can expect it, some of that. I think the majority of voters know that I’m a member of the United Church of Christ, and that I take my faith seriously,” Mr. Obama said in an interview with the Associated Press.

“Ultimately, what I think voters will be looking for is not so much a litmus test on faith as an assurance that a candidate has a value system and that is appreciative of the role that religious faith can play in helping shape people’s lives,” he said.

Mr. Obama formally announced his candidacy in Illinois on Saturday and made a beeline for Iowa, site of the first nominating contest.

Mr. Obama’s religious background has come under scrutiny because he attended a Muslim school in Indonesia from age 6 to 10. Mr. Obama, who was born in Hawaii, lived in Indonesia with his mother and stepfather from 1967 to 1971 and subsequently returned to Hawaii to live with his maternal grandparents.

Mr. Obama attends a Chicago church with his wife and two young daughters.

Troublesome issues

Rudolph W. Giuliani addressed a potentially troublesome issue with conservative voters, saying his policies as mayor to get handguns off the street helped reduce crime in New York.

“I used gun control as mayor,” he said at a press conference Saturday during a swing through California. But “I understand the Second Amendment. I understand the right to bear arms.”

He said what he did as mayor would have no effect on hunting.

Addressing another potential trouble spot with conservatives, Mr. Giuliani spoke in favor of a border fence, saying, “You have to have secure borders, you have to have a fence, and the fence I think has to be a highly technological one.”

The nation needs to know, he said, who is coming into the country and why. But he provided scant details on how he would deal with illegal aliens already in the country. Citizens, he added, should be able to read and write English.

Mr. Giuliani is scheduled to make an address today in Silicon Valley, and he will appear tomorrow at an agricultural fair in the Central Valley, the Associated Press reports.

Obama’s playbook

The conservative Club for Growth says that while Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama promises “a different kind of politics,” his economic prescriptions come from the same old left-wing playbook that hurts taxpayers and kill jobs.

The group said Mr. Obama repeatedly voted for tax increases while serving in the Illinois state Senate, and that in the U.S. Senate he has remained true to form, voting against extending $70 billion in cuts in capital-gains and dividend taxes.

Mr. Obama also voted against the Central American Free Trade Act and in favor of raising the minimum wage, the group said. He opposed personal savings accounts that would help make Social Security solvent and give workers the opportunity to accumulate wealth, the group added.

“Senator Obama’s prescription for America would result in higher taxes, higher tariffs, higher spending, less economic freedom, and consequently, a weak economy,” said Club for Growth President Pat Toomey, a former Republican congressman from Pennsylvania.

“Last week, John Edwards announced he wants to raise taxes. This week, the tax-hiking, protectionist Senator Obama promised to campaign on ‘a different kind of politics’ while supporting the same old disastrous economic policies of the past.”

Edward’s bloggers

By keeping on his campaign two bloggers who criticized the Catholic Church, John Edwards risks alienating what many political strategists consider to be a pivotal voting bloc in the 2008 election, Cox News Service reports.

The Democrat’s candidacy entered a state of turmoil last week after a conservative Catholic organization demanded that he fire bloggers Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan for criticizing the church’s opposition to homosexuality, abortion and contraception in their personal blogs. The bloggers were hired as part of Mr. Edwards’ outreach to liberal voters and online activists.

• Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or [email protected]

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