- The Washington Times - Monday, January 26, 2009

Witch hunt

President Barack Obama has called for an end to ‘the petty grievances’ and ‘recriminations’ of Washington. John Conyers intends to find out if the new president really means it,” Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley A. Strassel writes.

“Mr. Conyers, the powerful chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has spent years gearing up for a Bush administration witch hunt. Backed by a mob of congressional liberals, outside groups, and the New York Times, he’s counting on this new president to play along with payback. Consider it the first test of Mr. Obama’s promise of a new civility,” the writer said.

“Mr. Conyers’s own notion of civility has included holding no less than 70 hearings into Bush programs. Last year, he and 55 House Democrats demanded the Justice Department appoint a special prosecutor to conduct a criminal investigation into Bush interrogation policies. This year, they expect the incoming administration to finally give them satisfaction.

“Mr. Conyers also just introduced legislation to establish a Soviet-style ‘truth commission’ to investigate (for starters) interrogations, wiretapping, Valerie Plame, Iraq intelligence, and the firing of U.S. attorneys. The body would be vested with a big budget and subpoena power. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, with no hint of a smirk, explained her party had a duty to the ‘truth.’

“Over in the Senate, Carl Levin released a creative-writing report in December that purported to show the Bush administration’s legal responsibility for ‘abusive’ interrogations. This was designed to pressure the new administration to climb on board with ‘war crimes’ trials of officials like former Justice official John Yoo, who were trying to keep the country safe. Senate Democrats are also busy snooping for Republicans to sign on to the ‘truth commission,’ to ward off a GOP filibuster. The name John McCain keeps popping up.

“Truth commissions and special prosecutors are just the beginning of the left’s demands.”

Obama’s words

“In 1994, congressional Republicans carried laminated copies of their Contract With America (tax cuts, term limits, etc.) in their pockets. They may now want to laminate President Obama’s inaugural address and carry it around,” Fred Barnes writes in the Weekly Standard.

“This is not as silly as it sounds. Republican leaders believe the speech pleased them more than it did House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Obama’s ‘new era of responsibility’ echoed the ‘Personal Responsibility Act,’ the third of the 10 planks in the Contract With America. Obama also said that it’s not the size of government which matters, but whether it works. Newt Gingrich coined that thought years ago. Obama lauded ‘risk-takers.’ Democrats want to tax them to death,” Mr. Barnes said.

“For the foreseeable future, attacking Obama will be counterproductive for Republicans. He’s both enormously popular and the bearer of moral authority as the first African-American president. So the idea is for Republicans to make Obama an ally by using his words, from the inaugural address and speeches and interviews, against Democrats and their initiatives in Congress.

“Obama is for bipartisanship. Pelosi, Reid, and their cohort are heavyhanded partisans with no interest in accommodating Republicans. Obama favors transparency. They don’t. Obama says he wants ‘to spend wisely’ and promises that ‘programs will end’ if they don’t work. That’s hardly the philosophy of congressional Democrats.

“Obama’s words may be bromides or boilerplate that bear little relationship to his true sentiments or real plans. But so what? Republicans in the House and Senate are a badly outnumbered minority. They have few political weapons at their disposal. Citing Obama’s words makes political sense. It’s at least worth a try. Republicans have nothing to lose.”

Happy advocates

Pro-marriage advocates, already happy with the lovey-dovey President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, were ecstatic to see a pro-marriage quote from him show up on a federal Web page on Jan. 20.

“Finally, preliminary research shows that marriage-education workshops can make a real difference in helping married couples stay together and in encouraging unmarried couples who are living together to form a more lasting bond,” says the quote from Mr. Obama’s 2006 book, “Audacity of Hope.”

“Expanding access to such services to low-income couples, perhaps in concert with job training and placement, medical coverage and other services already available, should be something everybody can agree on,” Mr. Obama wrote.

The quote appeared on the Web page of the Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families, which oversees, among other things, $150 million a year in healthy-marriage and responsible-fatherhood grants.

Marriage advocates have been alarmed by rumors that the Obama administration and congressional Democrats will try to kill or divert the grants this year.

The quote, however, is “a reflection of both the president’s strong marriage, and his commitment to marriage education as an important tool in the fight to strengthen marriage and help America’s children,” former HHS official Chris Gersten, now leader of the Family and Marriage Leadership Institute, told Cheryl Wetzstein of The Washington Times.

Boorish behavior

“Ironic that on Inauguration Day, when President Barack Obama told Americans it was time to take personal responsibility and ‘grow up’ as a country, some of his supporters behaved like spoiled children in booing George W. Bush,” Las Vegas Review-Journal publisher Sherman Frederick writes.

“And, sadly, neither Obama nor any leader in the public spotlight that day seized the moment to admonish the boorish behavior,” Mr. Frederick said.

“It would have been nice had Obama had the presence of mind in his inaugural speech to not only allude to Scripture in saying it’s time to put away ‘childish things,’ but to also have told the boo-birds that their behavior was inappropriate and the embodiment of those ‘childish things.’

“He might have said: ‘Isn’t it enough to be just happy for me? When you boo the former president, you fail to understand what this solemn event is all about - the peaceful transition of power. This is not a football game. Nor is it a Third World bloodless coup. This is American democracy at work. If you can’t respect that, then leave. Now.’”

• Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or Greg Pierce.

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