- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 17, 2009

STATE DEPARTMENT

Clinton defends Iraq envoy choice

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday defended the choice of Christopher Hill as the next ambassador to Iraq, saying Republican criticism of him was “unfounded.”

Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham last week urged President Obama to reconsider his choice, saying Mr. Hill lacked Middle East experience and left a “controversial legacy” in North Korea diplomacy.

“Both of those criticisms are unjustified, unfounded,” Mrs. Clinton told reporters at the State Department.

“Chris Hill is a distinguished, experienced diplomat who has served in some very difficult positions on behalf of our country,” she said.

WHITE HOUSE

Obama to appear on ‘Tonight Show’

The White House says President Obama will appear this week on Jay Leno’s talk show, perhaps adding a lighter touch to his bid to resuscitate the moribund economy.

Mr. Obama will visit “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” during his trip to Los Angeles on Thursday. NBC will tape the program and air it that night, after the president has returned to Washington.

TEST VOTE

Senate moves on wilderness bill

The Senate is moving forward on a much-debated bill to set aside more than 2 million acres in nine states as protected wilderness.

Senators endorsed the bill Monday on a test vote, setting up a vote on final approval later this week. Seventy-three senators voted to go forward with the bill, 13 more than the 60 votes needed.

The Senate approved the bill in January, but it was defeated last week in the House amid a partisan dispute over a plan to allow concealed weapons in national parks.

The package of legislation would confer the government’s highest level of protection on land ranging from California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range and Oregon’s Mount Hood to parts of the Jefferson National Forest in Virginia.

WHITE HOUSE

Mayors to get tips on how to spend

The White House is inviting local government officials to a conference on Wednesday to learn how to put President Obama’s $787 billion economic stimulus package into practice.

The White House held a similar workshop for state officials last week.

Many mayors have expressed concern about how quickly they will receive stimulus money they can use to help create jobs in their communities.

The White House said Wednesday’s all-day conference will give these officials a chance to hear from and question numerous administration officials, and to propose and discuss ideas for spending the money.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. will address the gathering.

IMMIGRATION

Pelosi comment riles Republican

Rep. Lamar Smith said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi insulted American law enforcement agents when she criticized them for raiding businesses, which she said led to an “un-American” separation of illegal immigrant parents and their children.

“Let’s let the American people decide what is ‘un-American,’ ” Mr. Smith said on the House floor Monday. “We should not criticize law enforcement personnel; instead, we should be grateful for the job they do.”

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Mrs. Pelosi, speaking at a church in her San Francisco district on March 7, called for an end to immigration raids.

“Taking parents from their children … that’s un-American,” she said.

OBITUARY

Nixon’s transportation secretary dies

PALO ALTO, Calif. | Claude Brinegar, who as U.S. transportation secretary led an overhaul of the railroad industry and pushed for energy conservation in response to the oil crisis of 1973, has died. He was 82.

Mr. Brinegar died Friday of natural causes at Classic Hyatt Care Center in Palo Alto, said his daughter Claudia Berglund.

President Richard M. Nixon nominated Mr. Brinegar to become the nation’s third transportation secretary in late 1972. At the time, Mr. Brinegar was a senior vice president at Union Oil Co., where he had worked since 1953.

During his tenure as secretary, Mr. Brinegar led efforts to overhaul the collapsed Northeastern railroad industry, ultimately resulting in the creation of Conrail Inc. He served as a founding director of Conrail from 1974 to 1975 and joined the board again from 1990 to 1998. He served on the board of CSX Corp., which acquired part of Conrail, until 2002.

Mr. Brinegar headed the Transportation Department during the oil crisis of 1973, when Middle East oil producers blocked shipments to the U.S. in response to the country’s support for Israel during the Yom Kippur War. Mr. Nixon signed the highly unpopular 55 mph national speed limit into law in response to the crisis. The limit was repealed in 1995.

REPUBLICANS

Palin to address Congress dinner

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will deliver the keynote address at a dinner sponsored by the House and Senate Republican campaign committees.

Mrs. Palin, the party’s 2008 nominee for vice president, will address the annual Senate-House Dinner June 8 at the Washington Convention Center.

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, called Mrs. Palin one of the Republican Party’s most popular and recognizable faces and a proven leader who “represents a breath of fresh air from the business-as-usual crowd in Washington.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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