- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 18, 2008

POLITICS

Clinton shuns Palin, U.N. event

UNITED NATIONS | Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton canceled her appearance at a demonstration against the president of Iran after learning Republican vice-presidential candidate Gov. Sarah Palin would be there, a Clinton aide said Wednesday.

A group of Jewish organizations had said both Mrs. Palin and Mrs. Clinton would speak at the protest Monday near the United Nations against Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has said Israel should be wiped off the map.

But Clinton adviser Philippe Reines said the senator from New York would not be attending.

“[Mrs. Palin’s] attendance was news to us, and this was never billed to us as a partisan political event,” he said in an e-mail.

The McCain-Palin campaign reacted swiftly to Mrs. Clinton’s decision.

“Governor Palin believes that the danger of a nuclear Iran is greater than party or politics,” said spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt.

SENATE

GOP says Palin boosts Senate hopes

Sen. John McCain’s choice of Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate has boosted Republican chances of holding key Senate seats and denying Democrats a filibuster-proof majority next year, the party’s Senate campaign chief said Wednesday.

Democrats, however, said there’s no evidence of a Palin boost in contested races.

“Their incumbents are in a worse position now than they’ve been all year,” said Matthew Miller, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee still lags far behind its Democratic rival financially and public polls show Republican candidates trailing in competitive contests and the party’s incumbents tied in several others.

Sen. John Ensign, Nevada Republican, the campaign arm’s chairman, said adding the Alaska governor to the ticket “totally changed things,” giving his party a chance at reducing its losses in the November election to one or two seats.

CHARITY

Smith Dinner to hear candidates

NEW YORK | Presidential rivals Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama have agreed to participate in what historian and author Theodore H. White once called “a ritual of American politics” - the annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner.

The 63rd annual dinner on Oct. 16 at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria hotel has been a requisite stop for most politicians since the end of World War II. It has featured a galaxy of speakers from Winston Churchill (who spoke by trans-Atlantic telephone to the 1947 gathering) to Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and his son, President Bush.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair spoke at the 2007 affair.

The dinner, named for the former four-term governor of New York who was the unsuccessful 1928 Democratic presidential candidate and the first Catholic to run for president, are generally lighthearted affairs that benefit a charitable foundation that has raised millions for health care causes over the decades.

This year’s dinner comes one day after the presidential candidates meet in their final debate on the Hofstra University campus in Hempstead on Long Island.

FBI

Leahy doubts FBI anthrax case

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said Wednesday he does not think that Bruce Ivins acted alone in the deadly 2001 anthrax attacks.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy was one of the targets of the lethal anthrax-laced letters that killed five and sickened 17 in fall 2001. At a hearing in front of his committee, the Vermont Democrat told FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III that he thinks other people must have been involved.

Mr. Leahy did not say why he thought Mr. Ivins had help and he also cast doubt that the Army scientist was the attacker in the first place.

“If he is the one who sent the letter, I do not believe in any way, shape or manner that he is the only person involved in this attack on Congress and the American people. I do not believe that at all,” Mr. Leahy said.

HOMELAND SECURITY

Anti-terror credit divided by party

Why do people think there hasn’t been a terrorist strike in the United States since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001? The answer largely reflects the political party of the person asked, according to a poll released Wednesday.

Eighty-nine percent of Republicans said actions by the U.S. government are a major reason there’s been no follow-up attack, according to an Associated Press-GfK Poll. Democrats were more skeptical, with 53 percent crediting federal activity.

Seven in 10 Republicans but just one in five Democrats rated the war in Iraq a major factor in preventing another attack. The party breakdown was similar regarding the impact of the war in Afghanistan.

Of seven explanations for the lack of a strike, Republicans were likelier than Democrats to cite five major deterrents: federal activities, the war in Iraq, the invasion of Afghanistan, state and local efforts and vigilance by ordinary Americans. In addition, roughly one in four from each party said help from foreign governments and the possibility terrorists haven’t tried launching assaults were major factors.

OVERSIGHT

Probe hits FAA for approving jet

A government watchdog said Wednesday that federal officials approved a new type of small jet despite problems with the plane’s design and production, and overruled safety concerns.

The Transportation Department’s Inspector General Calvin Scovel told lawmakers the Eclipse 500 won certification despite “unresolved design problems.” He cited significant production troubles and said the manufacturer, Eclipse Aviation of Albuquerque, N.M., had difficulty reproducing the Federal Aviation Administration-approved final design.

His investigation did not try to make a judgment on the jet’s safety, but Mr. Scovel said he was concerned about “alarming” problems with the FAA’s certification process.

To members of a House panel, the FAA’s decision to go ahead despite concerns by agency engineers and inspectors was further evidence that promoting the aviation industry was taking priority over public safety.

“I am very concerned that we have another example here that complacency has crept into the highest levels of FAA management,” said House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Rep. James L. Oberstar, Minnesota Democrat.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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