- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Liberal applause

The “American Freedom Agenda,” announced yesterday at the National Press Club by a quartet of leading conservatives, drew approving notice from a number of liberals online.

As reported in this column Monday, the agenda is a proposal by constitutional scholar Bruce Fein, the American Conservative Union’s David Keene, direct-mail pioneer Richard Viguerie and former Georgia Rep. Bob Barr to form “a coalition established to restore checks and balances and civil liberties protections under assault by the executive branch.”

Melinda Henneberger of the liberal HuffingtonPost.com site took notice yesterday morning so that anti-war bloggers were tuned in when the press conference aired live on C-SPAN2.

“There’s nothing wrong with celebrating conservative hypocrisies and absurdities, but to be a little more fair and balanced, this is proactive and needs celebration and recognition,” said blogger Ricky Shambles (https://utteroutrage.blogspot.com), pronouncing the proposal “brilliant.”

Also among fans of the agenda was Washington disco disc jockey Alex Whalen.

“Thank God finally some of the nation’s most important movement conservatives are waking up to what this administration has done,” Mr. Whalen wrote at his blog (https://blog.alexwhalen.com). “There is much I do not agree with these people on, but on this issue, one of the most important of our time, I’m happy to join in common cause.”

That settles it

“[Monday] we noted that Kerfuffle Gal Valerie Plame testified she did not know whether she was a ‘covert’ CIA agent as defined under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act in 2003, when her supposedly secret identity surfaced,” James Taranto writes in his Best of the Web Today column at www.OpinionJournal.com.

“Reader Jim Lucas makes a crucial point that we missed: ‘The Intelligence Identities Protection Act makes it a federal crime to intentionally reveal the identity of an agent whom one knows to be covert. So how can anyone be accused of knowingly revealing Valerie Plame’s identity as a covert agent if Valerie Plame herself didn’t know if she was covert according to the law?’

“That pretty much settles the question, doesn’t it?” Mr. Taranto said. “If Plame’s status was secret even from herself, how could ‘leaker’ Richard Armitage or ‘perjurer’ Scooter Libby possibly have known?”

Anti-war vandals

Vandals upset over the Iraq war defaced the district office ofRep. Mike Rogers, Michigan Republican, in Lansing, Mich., overnight, a spokesman said yesterday.

The unknown individuals splattered red paint on the building and put up a sign saying the Republican has “blood” on his hands. They also spray-painted the sidewalk with the words “no more deaths,” glued shut the front door of the building and destroyed security cameras, said Andy Keiser, Mr. Rogers’ chief of staff.

Sheriff’s deputies were providing extra security at the Brighton home where Mr. Rogers lives with his wife and two children, Mr. Keiser said.

“The aggressive destruction of federal property and vandalism was a callous attempt to intimidate Congressman Rogers and his staff,” he said. “We all are entitled to our own opinion on the situation in Iraq, but we are not entitled to destruction of taxpayer property and intimidation of federal officials.”

The FBI, U.S. Capitol Police and Lansing police were investigating, the Associated Press reports.

Mr. Rogers supported President Bush’s decision to pursue the war in Iraq four years ago, but has opposed Mr. Bush’s recent plan to send extra troops to Baghdad.

Hospital visit

Vice President Dick Cheney went to George Washington University Hospital yesterday morning after experiencing discomfort in his left lower leg, where a blood clot was discovered a few weeks ago, the Associated Press reports.

After consulting with his doctors, Mr. Cheney was asked to return to the hospital for repeat ultrasound imaging of the deep venous thrombosis, or clot, in that leg, spokeswoman Megan McGinn said.

“The ultrasound revealed no extension or complication of the clot,” she said. “His blood-thinning medication was found to be therapeutic. These results are expected and reassuring, and the current course of treatment will continue.”

Mr. Cheney returned to the White House to resume his normal schedule, she said.

Prefab protests

Newspaper editors nationwide can expect a flood of e-mails urging U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, thanks to MoveOn.org.

“The media has spent a lot of time focusing on divisions between the Democrats,” Eli Pariser, the liberal Internet group’s political director wrote yesterday in an e-mail message to MoveOn’s members. “But the biggest division is between President Bush, who says he’ll veto any timetable for exit, and the voters, who want one. It’s important for the media to understand this stark contrast — can you write a letter to the editor of your local paper?”

Such “AstroTurf” (i.e., fake grass-roots) campaigns are not unusual in contemporary politics. MoveOn.org provided a link to a how-to Web page, supplying its members with anti-war “talking points,” such as: “This week Congress has a chance to take action to end the war. … The Democratic proposal for Iraq is doing what a majority of Americans want. … If President Bush makes good on his threat to veto this bill, he is saying that the only policy he will accept is one of endless war — a policy Americans rejected in November and will continue to reject.”

Reform the form

Lawmakers are aiming to ease a burden that millions of parents preparing to send their children to college struggle with every year — filling out the form known as Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

Both the administration and lawmakers from both parties have long complained that the complex, lengthy form — which determines how much federal student aid a family receives — is a big obstacle for parents and students.

Yesterday, House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, California Democrat, and Rep. Rahm Emanuel, Illinois Democrat, introduced legislation that would streamline the form, reduce the number of questions and let students apply for the aid one year earlier than currently allowed.

“You should not need a graduate degree in engineering to fill out this form,” Mr. Emanuel said.

The Democrats, however, dropped a contentious provision that was included in last year’s version of their bill — a provision that would have gotten rid of a rule barring college students convicted of a drug crime from receiving federal student aid.

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

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