- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 14, 2008

Hillary who?

“If you happened to be watching TV [Tuesday] night at, oh, around 10 o’clock, you may have witnessed the moment when, symbolically, the presidential primaries ended — and the general election began,” New York magazine’s John Heilemann writes at https://nymag.com.

“Out in Madison, Wis., in the speech celebrating his clean and decisive sweep of the Potomac primary, Barack Obama ignored his current opponent and trained his fire instead on the man who may stand as his future rival, John McCain, arguing that ‘his priorities … are bound to the failed policies of the past.’

“A few minutes later, from a stage in Alexandria, Va., McCain belittled Obama as blatantly as possible without ever mentioning him by name: ‘To encourage a country with only rhetoric rather than sound and proven ideas that trust in the strength and courage of free people is not a promise of hope. It is a platitude.’

“And where in all this, you might well wonder, was Hillary Clinton? In El Paso, Texas, imploring, in effect, ‘Hey! Remember me?’ ”

A dissenting view

“No one can quite decide (the polls favor Obama) whether Clinton or Obama is the tougher opponent for McCain,” Victor Davis Hanson writes at National Review Online (www.nationalreview.com).

“Contrary to popular wisdom, I think Obama is the weaker candidate in the general election for a number of reasons:

“One, there is less chance that Hillary would accept the VP and unify the party. (Obama just might accept a VP to get the requisite experience and stature for the next run);

“Two, so far his repertoire is limited to the brilliant set ‘change’ speech and repartee in debates, but we have no idea how he will sound when asked for specifics in ex tempore occasions;

“Three, his high-profile wife Michelle, being bright, educated, confident, but completely without experience in reacting to criticism or counter-argument, is a loose cannon, and so are some of his staunchest supporters (who wants a Moveon.org (‘General Betray Us’) endorsement? or the support of his ‘black value system’ church?);

“Four, moderates and independents are surprised that the non-race candidate has been winning overwhelming block racial support. One might have expected Obama, in a race against the liberal wife of the first ‘black’ president to garner 50 percent or 60 percent of the African-American vote, but not 80 percent. That disparity might in itself prompt a like counter-reaction among whites, Latinos, and Asians that legitimizes voters taking into consideration race — as Hillary’s surrogate Gov. [Edward G.] Rendell, in perfect Clintonian fashion, has just ‘suggested.’ ”

No waterboarding

The Senate voted yesterday to prohibit the CIA from using waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods on terrorism suspects despite President Bush’s threat to veto any measure that limits the agency’s interrogation techniques.

The prohibition was contained in a bill authorizing intelligence activities for the current year. The bill would restrict the CIA to the 19 interrogation techniques outlined in the Army field manual. That manual prohibits waterboarding, a method that makes an interrogation subject feel he is drowning. The bill passed on a 51-45 vote.

The House had approved the measure in December, so yesterday’s Senate vote set up a confrontation with the White House, where Mr. Bush has promised to veto any bill that restricts CIA questioning, the Associated Press reports.

Arguing for such restrictions, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV, West Virginia Democrat, said the use of harsh tactics would boomerang on the U.S.

CIA Director Michael V. Hayden said last week that current law and court decisions, including the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, cast doubt on whether waterboarding would be legal now. He prohibited its use in CIA interrogations in 2006; it has not been used since 2003, he said. The Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 prohibited cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment for all detainees in U.S. custody, including CIA prisoners.

The Condi factor

“Democrats who think it’s going to be a cakewalk into the White House next November had best remember one name: Condoleezza Rice,” Nicholas von Hoffman writes at www.thenation.com.

John McCain is a formidable candidate in his own right, but if he has the political imagination to do it, he can cause the party of Jefferson and Jackson indescribable angst with Rice as his vice-presidential pick,” Mr. von Hoffman said.

“Besides being the greatest two-for in GOP history, Rice brings other huge pluses to the old admiral. Indeed, she may be enough to elect the venerable hero/naval aviator.

“McCain’s troubles with the religious wing of his party could well evaporate with the churchgoing Rice at his side. She solidifies that part of his base overnight.

“With Rice on the ticket, the GOP would have somebody to get enthusiastic about. The secretary of state is immensely popular with Republicans. For a party that up to now has been clueless about how to run against either a woman or a person of color, Condoleezza Rice is pure political gold.

“Woe to any Democrat who thinks taking her on in a debate is a sure thing. The woman is tough, fast on her feet and able to give better than she gets. Anyone who has seen her in action testifying in front of a hostile House or Senate committee knows that she will be able to wipe up the floor with a plodding, ordinary pol of a Democratic vice-presidential candidate. Take Rice lightly at your peril.”

Unhappy bishop

San Antonio Archbishop Jose Gomez complained yesterday about plans for a rally by Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton at a Catholic university.

The archbishop released a statement noting that Mrs. Clinton and some other presidential candidates’ support for abortion rights and embryonic stem-cell research were not in line with Catholic values, the Associated Press reports. The Rev. Pat Rodgers, an archdiocese spokesman, said Archbishop Gomez was responding to telephone calls and e-mails from concerned Catholics.

Mrs. Clinton was scheduled to hold a rally last night at St. Mary’s University, the oldest Catholic college in the city.

“I was neither advised nor consulted by the university before the decision was made to have Senator Clinton speak at the university,” Archbishop Gomez said.

Archbishop Gomez noted that U.S. Catholic bishops have affirmed a statement calling on Catholics not to honor or give platforms to political candidates and officeholders “who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles.”

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washington


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