- The Washington Times - Monday, February 18, 2008


“What were they smoking?”

That’s how an editorial writer and columnist for the Wall Street Journal responded, answering a question with a question Friday at the Heritage Foundation.

The question that had been posed to Kimberley A. Strassel was, what did she think of Thursday’s selection of Rep. Jo Bonner of Alabama by the House Republican Steering Committee for a vacant seat on the powerful House Appropriations Committee over Rep. Jeff Flake of Arizona.

The selection of Mr. Flake, a fiscal hawk whose candidacy for the Appropriations seat was backed by several conservative advocacy groups, would have sent a strong signal that Republicans were serious about reforming the budgetary earmarks system. Earmarks are pet projects inserted by members of Congress into legislation.

Passing over Mr. Flake “undercuts their own message,” Mrs. Strassel told the monthly luncheon gathering of the Conservative Women’s Network, co-sponsored by the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute.

Unlike Mr. Flake, Mr. Bonner has regularly requested earmarks for his district. House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said Mr. Bonner was chosen because of his dedication to changing the system of earmarks.

Mrs. Strassel said some Republicans appear to think that it would be “one-sided suicide” to forgo pork-barrel projects unless Democrats were willing to do likewise. But she told the gathering that voters would “reward people for taking the right stand.”


“A year ago, when neither the war nor political reconciliation was going well, the Bush administration reluctantly agreed to 18 benchmarks for judging progress in Iraq. And the Democratic Congress eagerly wrote the benchmarks into law, also requiring that the administration report back in July and September on whether the benchmarks were being met,” Fred Barnes writes in the Weekly Standard.

“Despite the surge of additional American troops and a new counterinsurgency strategy, the reports found little progress on the political benchmarks requiring tangible steps toward reconciliation between Shia and Sunnis. Democrats insisted this meant the surge had failed,” Mr. Barnes said.

“They had a point, but not anymore. The surge, by quelling violence and providing security, was supposed to produce ‘breathing space’ in which reconciliation could take place. Now it has, not because President Bush says so, but based on those same benchmarks that Democrats once claimed were measures of failure in Iraq.

“Last week, the Iraqi parliament passed three laws that amounted to a political surge to achieve reconciliation. Taken together, the laws are likely to bring minority Sunnis fully into the political process they had earlier boycotted and to produce a new class of political leaders.

“Just as important is what the laws reflect in Iraq today. ‘The whole motivating factor’ behind the legislation was ‘reconciliation, not retribution,’ says U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan C. Crocker, who has never sugarcoated the impediments to progress in Iraq. This is ‘remarkably different’ from six months ago, he said.”

Only one

“If the surge in Iraq did not work, you can be sure the networks would all use its one-year anniversary to highlight its failure, but on Thursday night, only ABC’s ‘World News,’ of the three broadcast network evening newscasts, marked the anniversary,” the Media Research Center’s Brent Baker writes at www.mrc.org.

“With ‘Surge Success’ on screen, anchor Charles Gibson noted ‘it was one year ago today that the surge began in Iraq — the troop buildup ordered by the president when so many of his critics were calling for a drawdown of troops. Thirty-thousand additional troops started arriving a year ago.’

From Iraq, Clarissa Ward began over matching video: ‘If you’re looking for one measure of the impact of the surge, look at General David Petraeus, walking through a Baghdad neighborhood with no body armor and no helmet. It’s one year since the beginning of what’s known here as “Operation Fardh al-Qanoon.” According to the U.S. military, violence is down 60 percent. One key to the success, reconciliation.’

“Ward proceeded to outline how residents of one Baghdad neighborhood who had fled have flooded back in droves. ‘There is work,’ this mechanic told me. ‘Shops have reopened.’ But the Iraqi government has yet to capitalize on the relative peace. The hope is that the passing of the budget this week will spur the Iraqi government to act.’

“Ward concluded with how Petraeus is ‘normally very guarded in his assessment of the surge,’ but ‘now expresses cautious optimism.’ Petraeus asserted: ‘I have to tell you that having been here for a number of years, this is very encouraging, actually. This is potentially a big moment.’ ”

‘It’s up to you’

Former President Bill Clinton told hundreds of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s supporters yesterday that her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination will likely come down to contests next month in Ohio and Texas.

“It’s up to you,” he told about 800 people inside the gymnasium of a high school in Toledo, Ohio.

Mr. Clinton said his wife is the only candidate with the ideas to help a state like Ohio, which has been hit hard by home foreclosures and the loss of thousands of manufacturing jobs.

The former first lady and New York senator is trying to rebound from eight consecutive losses to her rival, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, including several by lopsided margins, and she is looking for wins in the Ohio and Texas primaries on March 4 to give her campaign a boost.

Polls show her with a comfortable lead over Mr. Obama in Ohio, and the two candidates are scheduled to debate Feb. 26 in Cleveland.

Mr. Obama has scheduled a rally this afternoon at Youngstown State University, the Associated Press reports.

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

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