- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Watch this

For 24 hours, the international non-incident was called “Watchgate” by a global press fixated by the idea that President Bush lost his watch while rubbing elbows with the citizens of Albania earlier this week.

Was he pickpocketed? Was he careless? Inquiring minds and restless pundits reviewed an ABC News video of the moment again and again yesterday, looking for clues. White House spokesman Tony Snow cleared up the mystery, which had already assumed conspiracy-theory status. The watch was not lifted or lost.

“The president put it in his pocket, and it returned safely home,” Mr. Snow said.

The saga barreled on, nonetheless, but National Review Online’s John Derbyshire used the story as “an excellent opportunity to recycle a Soviet-era joke.”

It goes something like this: It seems Soviet leaders Josef Stalin and Nikita Khrushchev were touring their Eastern European satellite countries aboard a train, tracking their progress by time. Ten o’clock meant they were in Czechoslovakia, 2:30 meant Hungary, the joke went.

Khrushchev: “Sorry, I’m lost yet again. What country are we in now?”

Stalin: “What time is it?”

Khrushchev (lifts wrist to look at watch): “Hey. My watch. It’s gone.”

Stalin: “Ah, this must be Romania.”

A little adjustment

White House hopeful Rudolph W. Giuliani introduced yesterday a dozen campaign tenets, which included vows to keep the nation protected and to end illegal immigration.

But the former New York mayor — who is both Republican and Catholic — may also be using the moment to tweak his public stance on abortion.

Previously, Mr. Giuliani has said that while he personally opposes the procedure, he thinks women should still have the right to terminate a pregnancy. Thomas J. Tobin, the bishop of Providence, R.I., called him “pathetic” and “hypocritical” in a column in the Rhode Island Catholic earlier this month. Assorted analysts have said it would cost him “the Bible Belt vote.”

Mr. Giuliani’s 12-step campaign program includes a vow to “increase adoptions, decrease abortions and protect the quality of life for our children.”

“We can reduce the number of abortions. One of the ways, not the only way, but one of the ways and maybe one of the primary ways is increase the number of adoptions,” he told Fox News yesterday.

“I did that in New York. I increased adoptions by 134, 135 percent. I decreased abortions. That’s the kind of program that we can aim for nationally. Bring down the number of abortions, bring up the number of adoptions. And the other alternatives and the other sources of information that can be available so a woman actually has a free choice.”

Bomb checks

Oh, dear, and just when he was getting so statesmanlike. This correction in the Miami Herald yesterday speaks for itself:

“A photograph of Bill Clinton and Officer Alan Davis on Page 3B in Monday’s local section did not intend to imply that the former president had involvement in a sexual solicitation case against the officer. Davis and Clinton were photographed together when the officer did bomb checks during a visit by Clinton. Davis was arrested Sunday and charged with solicitation and transportation with the purpose of prostitution.”

Reagan’s candor

Two decades ago, when President Reagan stood at the Berlin Wall and said, “Mr. Gobachev, tear down this wall,” the simple statement became a powerful symbol of American resolve.

“The most wonderful part about this is that the signature line of the Reagan presidency was his own words,” Anthony Dolan, chief speechwriter in the Reagan White House, told Human Events yesterday.

“The line was Reagan’s. I remember saying to him ‘Mr. President do you have any thoughts at all about what we should say in the Berlin Wall speech,’ and the president had not seen any drafts or talked to anyone about it, and the president said yes — ‘tear down the wall.’ So that’s how it initially happened.”

“Up until the day the speech was given, people were trying to get it taken out,” Mr. Dolan said, adding, “Reagan felt that telling the truth about communism was the most powerful diplomatic weapon on earth.”

History tends to mutate a little, perhaps. Peter Robinson, also a Reagan speechwriter, said that he told Mr. Reagan of a German woman who once advised Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to implement his glasnost (or “openness”) policy, and to “get rid of the wall.”

“Mr. Robinson decided to include that demand in the Berlin speech … . The president liked the idea. The State Department and the [National Security Council], however, disapproved,” noted an account Monday by Robert Stacy McCain of The Washington Times.

Gillespie moves on

Longtime Republican operative and lobbyist Ed Gillespie appears to be the choice to replace Dan Bartlett as counselor to President Bush, but talks of an announcement for yesterday failed to materialize, according to Jon Ward of The Washington Times.

Virginia Republican sources yesterday said that Mr. Gillespie, 45, who is the state party’s chairman, was expected to visit 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in the afternoon, and would accept the job if offered it.

The White House, however, made no announcements, and spokesman Tony Snow declined to comment. A Gillespie hire has been a steady rumor, fueled by talk of his potential replacements.

Mr. Gillespie did not return requests for comment yesterday. He is currently a lobbyist with Quinn Gillespie & Associates, worked for Mr. Bush’s first presidential campaign, and became a key figure in the 2000 Florida recount.

House fight

An unpopular war and stronger campaign fundraising has House Democrats off to a good start for the 2008 campaigns, but elections analyst Stuart Rothenberg says “there may be a crack or two starting to show in the Democrats’ position.”

Congress’ “standing has slipped again” and “the defeat of immigration reform could well be a net plus for Congressional Republicans, many of whom can and will run against ‘amnesty’ and illegal immigration next year,” Mr. Rothenberg says in his Political Report newsletter, which tracks all the races.

“Democrats have been making a major effort to put a few seats in play and look to be succeeding” in a few districts, including Missouri’s 6th, Ohio’s 16th and Pennsylvania’s 3rd, he says.

But Republican recruiting “seems to be progressing at a reasonable pace. GOP strategists have about half a dozen seats that they know the party should never have lost (Texas 22 and Florida 16 are the most obvious), and eight of the nine most vulnerable House seats currently are held by Democrats.”

Democratic House control seems safe for now, but “small gains for either party are possible.”

c Contact Jennifer Harper at jharper@washingtontimes.com or 202/636-3085.

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