- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 21, 2007

About-face

Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland said he would welcome Iraqi refugees to Ohio, a change of course from comments the governor made last week. He said the earlier remarks were meant to express frustration with President Bush instead of the people displaced by the war.

The Democrat told the Associated Press last week he was not inclined to accommodate any refugees because doing so would help bail out the president.

“I am sympathetic to the plight of the innocent Iraqi people who have fled that country,” he said. “However, I would not want to ask Ohioans to accept a greater burden than they already have borne for the Bush administration’s failed policies.”

On Monday, he said he had been attempting to express his frustration with the Bush administration and the Iraq war, which he opposed when he was serving in the U.S. House.

“It’s one of those incidents out of many [when] I’ve said something inartfully and conveyed something that I did not wish to convey,” said Mr. Strickland, who was elected Nov. 7 and sworn in last month. “I guess it means that when you’re a governor, people seem to be interested in what you say, which is fine, but I think everything has a context.”

Mr. Strickland’s initial comments were in reaction to an administration plan to allow about 7,000 Iraqi refugees to settle in the United States over the next year.

Johnson’s move

More than two months after suffering a brain hemorrhage, Sen. Tim Johnson, South Dakota Democrat, has left a Washington hospital and entered a private rehabilitation facility, his office said yesterday.

A spokeswoman refused to say whether the senator remained in Washington or was moved to a facility in South Dakota, citing family concerns about press scrutiny. “They just want him to focus on getting better and not worried about outside cameras snapping away,” spokeswoman Julianne Fisher said.

Mr. Johnson’s brain hemorrhage Dec. 13 and subsequent surgery highlighted his party’s tenuous one-seat advantage in the Senate.

Mr. Johnson was rushed to George Washington University Hospital after becoming disoriented during a phone call with reporters and underwent emergency surgery hours later. He was diagnosed with arteriovenous malformation, a condition that causes arteries and veins to grow abnormally large, become tangled and sometimes burst.

Mr. Johnson will continue undergoing physical, occupational and speech therapy at the private facility. Dr. Philip Marion, the chief of rehabilitation at George Washington University Hospital, said the senator has made “great progress” and a final test showed no evidence the tangled arteries that triggered the senator’s hemorrhage remain.

Mr. Johnson’s office has said his recovery is expected to take several months, though he has been doing some work from his bed.

McCain’s outreach

Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain is defending his outreach to conservative Christians, arguing that his effort is not political pandering to win the party’s nomination.

The Arizona senator met privately Monday with religious broadcasters in Orlando, Fla., then answered questions about his appeal to conservatives in Vero Beach.

In the 2000 campaign, Mr. McCain angered the party’s right by calling evangelist leaders Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell “agents of intolerance.” Last spring, he spoke at Mr. Falwell’s Liberty University, although hard feelings still linger among some conservatives. Focus on the Family founder James Dobson has said he won’t support Mr. McCain.

“Nobody accused me of courting and pandering to the liberals when I went to the New School,” Mr. McCain told the crowd, a reference to the New York City school. “What I have found out in my life, is that every time I have done something for political reasons and not the right reasons, I have paid a very heavy price for it — a big price.”

Mr. McCain said he is trying to reach out to all elements of the party.

“I don’t know which part of the party is going to be more influential or not,” he said. “I’ve tried always in my political career to have a big-tent party, where a lot of people are welcome with differing views.”

Backing Rumsfeld

The White House yesterday defended Donald H. Rumsfeld after criticism from Republican Sen. John McCain that he was one of the worst defense secretaries in history for his handling of the Iraq war.

Mr. McCain, one of President Bush’s key allies in Congress on Iraq, is running for president.

“I think that Donald Rumsfeld will go down in history as one of the worst secretaries of defense in history,” the Arizona senator and Vietnam War veteran said on the campaign trail in South Carolina on Monday.

The White House backed Mr. Rumsfeld, but was careful not to criticize Mr. McCain in doing so, Reuters news agency reports.

“We think Donald Rumsfeld was an enormously consequential and effective secretary of defense and somebody who led to the transformation of the Department of Defense. Senator McCain holds a different point of view,” White House spokesman Tony Snow said.

A day after Republicans lost control of Congress in elections in November in large part owing to concerns about the Iraq war, Mr. Bush accepted Mr. Rumsfeld’s resignation and replaced him with Robert M. Gates.

“The thing that’s important to us right now is that Senator McCain is a strong supporter of the president’s position on the way forward in Iraq and somebody who has been an eloquent voice and a reliable leader on the issue. And we appreciate it,” Mr. Snow said.

Asked if Mr. McCain’s comments should be chalked up to election politics, Mr. Snow replied: “I left the chalk at home.”

Mitt’s introduction

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney this week will air his first presidential campaign ad to introduce himself to voters in several early-voting states, the Associated Press reports.

The 60-second spot describes the Republican candidate as a “business legend” who “rescued the Olympics” and “turned around a Democratic state.”

Mr. Romney himself adds: “This is not a time for more talk and dithering in Washington. It’s a time for action.”

The ad is set to air starting today. It will rotate between Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Michigan and Florida.

It is the first ad by a top-tier contender in a campaign analysts think will cost more than $1 billion by the time it ends in November 2008.

A fellow Republican, Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, staging a long-shot bid for the presidency, aired the first ad of either major party in December with a limited buy in South Carolina, North Carolina and South Dakota.

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


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