- The Washington Times - Friday, February 16, 2007

‘Shameful moment’

“Congress has rarely been distinguished by its moral courage. But even grading on a curve, we can only describe this week’s House debate on a vote of no-confidence in the mission in Iraq as one of the most shameful moments in the institution’s history,” the Wall Street Journal says in an editorial.

“On present course, the members will vote [today] to approve a resolution that does nothing to remove American troops from harm’s way in Iraq but that will do substantial damage to their morale and that of their Iraqi allies while emboldening the enemy. The only real question is how many Republicans will also participate in this disgrace in the mistaken belief that their votes will put some distance between themselves and the war most of them voted to authorize in 2002,” the newspaper said.

“The motion at issue is plainly dishonest, in that exquisitely congressional way of trying to have it both ways. … The resolution purports to ‘support’ the troops even as it disapproves of their mission. It praises their ‘bravery,’ while opposing the additional forces that both President Bush and Gen. David Petraeus, the new commanding general in Iraq, say are vital to accomplishing that mission. And it claims to want to ‘protect’ the troops even as its practical impact will be to encourage Iraqi insurgents to believe that every roadside bomb brings them closer to their goal.”

Twilight zone

“Anyone who flipped on C-SPAN around noon on Valentine’s Day was entering a political twilight zone,” Matthew Continetti writes at www.weeklystandard.com.

“The House was well into its second day of debate on Concurrent Resolution 63, a statement of support for the American troops in Iraq but disagreement with President Bush’s new strategy there, when the typical partisan alignment — Republicans arguing with Democrats — suddenly collapsed. On one side of the aisle were the Republicans, managed by Rep. Pete Hoekstra of Michigan, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee. And on the other side of the aisle were … more Republicans, managed by North Carolina Rep. Walter Jones, the Republican co-author, with Democrats Ike Skelton of Missouri and Tom Lantos of California, of Resolution 63,” Mr. Continetti said.

“In a canny move, the Democrats had given a portion of their allotted time to the Republicans who oppose Bush’s introduction of more than 20,000 additional combat troops to the Iraqi theater of war. During this portion of the debate on Wednesday, 10 Republican congressmen came to the floor to join Rep. Jones in support of Resolution 63. And if you had closed your eyes while listening to them speak, you would have found their rhetoric to be indistinguishable from that of the antiwar Democrats.”

Bearing gifts

State Rep. Ed Rynders represents a district he calls “the peanut capital of Georgia.” So proud was he of southwest Georgia’s signature crop that he handed out many jars of peanut butter produced at a local plant in Sylvester to his colleagues in the state legislature in the past year.

Now he has egg on his face.

The jars were from the batch of Georgia-made peanut butter being recalled after being linked to a salmonella outbreak, the Associated Press reports.

Mr. Rynders, a Republican and a former conservative talk-radio host in Albany, went to the well of the Georgia House to tell lawmakers and lobbyists to discard the peanut butter jars he recently gave them. He said he would make it up to them.

“Make sure you’ve discarded it,” Mr. Rynders warned. “We’re going to get you some good peanut butter and make sure you’re done right.”

The jars Mr. Rynders had given were among the Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter that ConAgra Foods Inc. told consumers to discard after the snack food was linked to a salmonella outbreak, thought to be the nation’s first related to peanut butter. Almost 300 people in 39 states have been sickened since August.

‘Staying out of it’

House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn, one of the most powerful Democrats in South Carolina, will not endorse a presidential candidate during the 2008 primaries as part of a promise made months ago to party leaders.

“I’m staying out of it,” Mr. Clyburn told the Associated Press this week as several Democratic White House hopefuls prepared to visit his home state.

Mr. Clyburn did much of the arm-twisting that landed South Carolina’s January 2008 primary ahead of every other state except Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.

“I used a lot of political capital keeping that primary in South Carolina when two other states went after that,” Mr. Clyburn said. “I promised people at that time that if they were to come to South Carolina and participate in that primary, I would not participate in any effort.” He said he wanted to ensure that all candidates “have a fair shot at winning the state.”

Turning the page

Before the Mark Foley scandal erupted in the fall, congressional page applications trickled into Rep. Dave Weldon’s office one at a time, every once in a while.

Since then, Weldon aides have noticed a steady flow of two or three applications a week and a number of calls from curious high school juniors and their parents. “How do I apply?” has become a common question, not “Will I be safe?” as many lawmakers had predicted in the wake of the Foley scandal, Scripps Howard News Service reports.

Although the scandal highlighted significant flaws in the inner workings of Congress, it appears to have helped boost the 178-year-old page program at a time when many predicted it would close its doors.

The congressional staffer who takes the calls and applications has noticed a bit of a spike, said Kurt Heath, press secretary for Mr. Weldon, Florida Republican.

Mr. Heath and other staffers on Capitol Hill — including those in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office — say they think the rise in the number of applicants occurred because of the constant mention of the page program during the height of the scandal.

Mr. Foley resigned from Congress in late September after it was discovered that he had sent sexually charged online messages to teenage congressional pages.

A first step

A still-hospitalized Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota, whose brain surgery two months ago raised the possibility that Democrats could lose control of the Senate, has co-sponsored his first piece of legislation since he fell ill, his office said yesterday.

Although Mr. Johnson remains focused on daily therapy, the senator has read memos from his staff and has signed on as a co-sponsor of the Emergency Farm Relief Act of 2007, his office told Reuters news agency.

“This is a first step for the senator,” said Drey Samuelson, Mr. Johnson’s chief of staff. “As time allows, he has begun reviewing work. True to form, Tim is a hard worker.”

Mr. Johnson underwent emergency surgery Dec. 13 to stop a brain hemorrhage.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce @washingtontimes.com.

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