Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Arnold’s ‘loan’

“When politicians break their pledges not to raise taxes, they come up with the darndest evasions,” John Fund writes at www.OpinionJournal.com.

“Take Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who wants to levy new charges on California doctors, hospitals and employers to help pay for his $12 billion health care plan. ‘It is not a tax, just a loan, because it does not go for general [expenditures],’ he told the Sacramento Bee last Thursday. ‘It goes back to health care.’

“A loan? The first reaction of many Californians was: What state office will I be able to go to and get my loan back — perhaps with interest? It’s preposterous, for example, to characterize as a ‘loan’ the 4 percent payroll levy the governor wants to impose on employers who don’t offer health benefits. California’s gas taxes are dedicated to transportation, but no one would call them ‘gas loans.’ Property taxes go to local education. Are they not taxes?” Mr. Fund asked.

“The over-the-top absurdity of the Schwarzenegger statement led Rush Limbaugh into fits of laughter last Friday. ‘Bill Clinton calling [tax increases] “investments” was bad enough,’ Mr. Limbaugh says. Bruce Bartlett, a free-market economist and harsh critic of the Bush administration, thought he’d heard all the euphemisms for a tax hike (‘revenue enhancements’ and ‘solidarity payments’ are classics), but he allows that ‘calling one a “loan” is new.’ ”

‘Bring it on’?

Color one man unimpressed by President Bush‘s planned troop surge in Iraq.

Al Qaeda deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahri mocked Mr. Bush’s plan, saying Islamist militants could wipe out the entire U.S. Army, according to an Internet video posted yesterday. Al-Zawahri’s comments were published on the Web site of the U.S.-based SITE (Search for International Terrorist Entities) Institute, www.siteinstitute.org, which searches and analyzes militants’ networks.

“Why send 20,000 only? Why not send 50 or 100,000? Aren’t you aware that the dogs of Iraq are pining for your troops’ dead bodies?” he said.

According to Reuters news agency, al-Zawahri taunted Mr. Bush further by inviting him to send the whole U.S. Army to Iraq, and said the “mujahedeen” were capable of destroying the equivalent of 10 armies.

Turning to Afghanistan, al-Zawahri said the United States had failed to deprive the Taliban of a haven there and had to turn to NATO for help. Al-Zawahri urged Muslims to launch a jihad, or holy war, saying Mr. Bush’s plan to send more troops to Iraq made it an obligation for all Muslims to defend Islam.

California primary

With California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s backing, state legislators from both parties are moving rapidly to make California a player in choosing the nation’s next president by holding the state’s primary four months earlier, the Los Angeles Times reports.

A bipartisan group of state senators introduced legislation Friday to change the 2008 presidential primary from June 3 to Feb. 5.

Another bill was introduced by an Assembly Republican on Thursday, the day after Mr. Schwarzenegger declared that moving up the primary date would make California “relevant” nationally and was “something to shoot for.”

The February date — the earliest the state can choose under national party rules — would place California at the beginning of the election season, right after four states that have secured the most privileged spots in January for their Democratic caucuses or primaries: Iowa (Jan. 14), Nevada (Jan. 19), New Hampshire (Jan. 22) and South Carolina (Jan. 29).

The Republican calendar has Iowa and New Hampshire first, with the rest of the schedule in flux.

Florida, too

Florida lawmakers will consider a plan this legislative session to move the Florida primary from the first week of March to within seven days of New Hampshire’s primary, a move that could change the political dynamic of the 2008 election.

“It’s a big deal for Florida,” said Mike Murphy, a GOP political consultant who has worked for several Republican presidential candidates, including the campaigns of President Bush, Arizona Sen. John McCain and Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander.

“If Florida moves its primary close to New Hampshire, it will make Florida a major player,” Mr. Murphy said.

But Florida is not the only state thinking about changing its primary date, the Associated Press reports. New Jersey, Michigan, North Carolina, Missouri and California are among the states looking at a Feb. 5, 2008, primary.

Virtual campaign

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat and presidential hopeful, began her first online chat last night answering a question on the war in Iraq, a possible Achilles’ heel that she hopes to disarm before next year’s Democratic primary.

Mrs. Clinton was among the Democrats who voted in favor of the resolution to authorize that war. Since then, Democrats — and an increasing number of independent voters — have grown deeply dissatisfied with the war and her decision. Last night, she put the blame entirely on President Bush, reports Charles Hurt of The Washington Times.

“We have to make better decisions now than the president has in the past,” a lavender-clad Mrs. Clinton told Web viewers for the videocast as she sat on a beige couch.

But, she added, she does not support cutting funding to end the conflict immediately.

“I don’t want to cut funding for American troops,” she said. “I don’t want to do anything that in any way undercuts their ability to protect themselves.”

She said she would rather cut U.S. aid to Iraqi troops unless they step forward and take control of their country’s security.

Misleading report

“On ‘ABC’s World News Saturday,’ correspondent Laura Marquez filed a story on the upcoming trial of Lewis Libby regarding his role in leaking CIA analyst Valerie Plame‘s identity,” the Media Research Center reports at www.mrc.org.

“Marquez relayed the theory that Bush administration members deliberately leaked her identity ‘to get back at’ her husband, Iraq war critic Joe Wilson, without mentioning the revelation that Richard Armitage, formerly an assistant to Colin Powell and a dove in the run-up to the Iraq war, admitted to having inadvertently been the original leaker.

“Instead of mentioning this aspect of the story, which undermines the theory of a deliberate conspiracy, Marquez suggested ‘dirty politics’ was behind the leak as she pointed out the trial’s bad timing with the president’s upcoming State of the Union speech. Marquez: ‘It will remind the American public just how dirty politics can get.’ ”

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

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