- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The race card

New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin told a Senate committee yesterday that the rebuilding of New Orleans is getting shortchanged in light of the billions poured into the war in Iraq, and he said racism is part of the explanation.

Seventeen months after Hurricane Katrina struck, Mr. Nagin said he doesn’t see evidence of “the will to really fix New Orleans,” the Associated Press reports.

“I think it’s more class than anything, but there’s racial issues associated with it also,” said the black mayor of the mostly black city.

Mr. Nagin told the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which is looking into the federal government’s hurricane response, that he has heard various explanations for why money is not flowing quickly enough to New Orleans.

“And then I look at what we’re doing in Iraq and how we spend money at an unprecedented level there, how we can set up temporary hospitals and designate money to rebuild their economy, and we have this dance going on in New Orleans,” he said.

He said he is not asking for more money, just that the money allocated get to the city faster. As of Jan. 18, the Federal Emergency Management Agency had agreed to pay for $334 million for infrastructure repairs in New Orleans, but Louisiana had forwarded only $145 million to the city. State officials have said city leaders failed to provide required documentation, which Mr. Nagin called cumbersome.

Drafting Gingrich

Newt Gingrich says he won’t decide whether to run for president until September, but that hasn’t stopped a former aide from starting an effort to draft the former House speaker into the race.

“America is ready for his leadership again,” said David W. Kralik, who previously worked in Mr. Gingrich’s congressional press office. “He’s the only conservative.”

Mr. Kralik has created a Web site, www.draftnewt.org, that will serve as the headquarters of what he calls a grass-roots effort to increase the Georgia Republican’s profile with primary voters. He says funds raised on the site will be used to buy TV and radio ads promoting Mr. Gingrich’s possible candidacy.

“It’s one gigantic blog,” Mr. Kralik says of the site, which is co-authored by volunteers in California, Florida and Georgia. The site is operated in open source, which means that any reader can add or edit its content.

Giuliani’s recruits

Former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani has recruited a recent New Hampshire Republican chairman to lead his political operations in the first-in-the-nation primary state.

Following his weekend visit to New Hampshire, Mr. Giuliani — who has taken the initial steps in a presidential bid — announced the appointment yesterday of veteran Republican activist Wayne Semprini.

“We picked up a lot of supporters this weekend,” Mr. Semprini said.

Mr. Semprini, who until Saturday was the state Republican Party chairman, has been involved in New Hampshire politics since 1972, the Associated Press reports.

Mr. Giuliani has hired other key staff in New Hampshire, including veteran Republican activist David Tille as his political director. Chris Wood, a veteran of Steve Forbes‘ and Pat Buchanan‘s campaigns, will lead coalition building.

McCain’s backers

Republican presidential hopeful John McCain won the support of two Senate colleagues from Maine yesterday and then scored big with a plug from Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling.

Mr. Schilling helped pitch the Boston Red Sox to a World Series title in 2004, a source of pride during the tenure of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. But he apparently won’t be supporting Mr. Romney in the race for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.

Mr. Schilling told Boston radio station WEEI-AM: “I’m actually kind of excited about the fact that I think Senator McCain is going to do something official here, and he’s going to be the man I’m going to back.”

Mr. McCain is the Republican senator from Arizona, where Mr. Schilling has a home.

Mr. McCain’s presidential exploratory committee also announced that Republican Sens. Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins have been named to serve as his co-chairmen in Maine.

Hunter vs. Kerry

White House hopeful Rep. Duncan Hunter yesterday criticized Sen. John Kerry for telling an overseas conference that the United States was “a sort of international pariah.”

The Republican congressman and long-shot presidential candidate complained about Mr. Kerry’s remarks this past weekend at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the Associated Press reports. Responding to a question, Mr. Kerry said the Bush administration had failed to adequately address a number of foreign-policy issues.

“So we have a crisis of confidence in the Middle East — in the world, really. I’ve never seen our country as isolated, as much as a sort of international pariah for a number of reasons as it is today,” the Massachusetts Democrat said.

Mr. Hunter told a New Hampshire audience Monday: “It was terrible for him to say that.”

41 scolds media

President Bush’s father accused news outlets of “personal animosity” toward his son and said he found the criticism so unrelenting he sometimes talked back to his television set.

“It’s one thing to have an adversarial … relationship — hard-hitting journalism — it’s another when the journalists’ rhetoric goes beyond skepticism and goes over the line into overt, unrelenting hostility and personal animosity,” former President George Bush said.

The elder Mr. Bush, the 41st president, had a relatively collegial relationship with the press, but things turned sour during his losing 1992 re-election campaign. He got so fed up with news coverage that supporters at the time circulated hats with the slogan “Annoy the Media — Re-Elect Bush.”

“I won’t get too personal here — but this antipathy got worse after the 43rd president took office,” the former president said. He was speaking in Washington at a reception for a journalism scholarship awarded in honor of the late Hugh Sidey, White House correspondent for Time magazine, Reuters news agency reports.

A new challenge

Veteran Washington newsman Stephen G. Smith has been named editor of the Washington Examiner.

Mr. Smith is leaving as chief of the Houston Chronicle’s Washington bureau to take over the top spot at the Examiner, which is distributed free of charge.

In addition to his work at Time, Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report, Mr. Smith edited National Journal and was founding editor of Civilization magazine.

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

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