- The Washington Times - Monday, January 11, 2010

Williams for choice

The conservative-leaning Heritage Foundation has found a strong ally in its fight for school choice in Juan Williams, a liberal news analyst for Fox News.

Mr. Williams, who is also senior national correspondent for National Public Radio, hosted an event at the National Press Club on Friday to promote a short film produced by the think tank about the recent decision to cancel the short-lived D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program.

The scholarships, which were handed out beginning in 2004, gave money to D.C. students toward attending a school of their choice. But Congress revoked funding for the program last year, forcing many disadvantaged minority students back into failing public schools.

Mr. Williams and his fellow panelists at the event expressed disappointment in President Obama for permitting the program to expire and faulted teachers unions that typically oppose school choice, for exercising too much political influence in that process.

“I don’t understand how politics would be blind to helping people,” Mr. Williams said, adding about Mr. Obama that “we all know his personal story and of his mother exercising school choice.”

The panelists that Mr. Williams hosted were even more blunt.

“Just because the NEA [National Education Association] and AFT [American Federation of Teachers] says we should not have this program and we’re going to end it — then shame on all of us,” said former D.C. City Council member and Education Committee Chairman Kevin Chavous, who has appeared in local television advertisements drawing attention to this issue.

Virginia Walden Ford, executive director of D.C. Parents for School Choice and visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation, added, “It is so frustrating, to me, as an African-American, that the president hasn’t jumped to help us.

“That’s very frustrating,” she said. “And I’m really, really angry he hasn’t fought for this program.”

Transparent disagreement

The president and CEO of the Center for American Progress has publicly disagreed with two of his staffers over the possibility of televising health care negotiations.

While campaigning to become president, Barack Obama promised several times that health care deliberations would be covered by C-SPAN, but Democrats are now planning to keep these talks behind closed doors.

This has sparked a debate in liberal circles of whether Mr. Obama should make good on his campaign promise or let the talks go on secretly to improve the chances of passing a health care bill quickly.

Igor Volsky, health care researcher and blogger for the think tank, which has close ties to the Obama administration, wrote in a CAP blog post last week that letting cameras cover the process to amend wouldn’t be useful to the public and would only provide opportunities for “political theater and posturing.” He also elaborated to the Washington Times that “C-SPAN cameras won’t improve the quality of the final product.” And, Mr. Volsky’s colleague Matt Yglesias echoed similar sentiments.

But John Podesta, CAP president and CEO, wrote in his own blog post on Saturday he thought differently from his staffers.

“Open government and citizen access to information is the first principle of liberty in a democracy that has to be defended — even when it’s unpopular or deemed unhelpful in the short term,” he said.

Going ‘24’

Keep America Safe didn’t pull any punches in criticizing President Obama for waiting a few days to make a statement about the attempted Christmas Day plane bombing.

The group released a Web ad on Friday titled “100 hours” reminiscent of the television hit “24” that features video clips of Mr. Obama golfing over his Christmas holiday with the sound of a digital ticking clock.

It also shows footage of White House press secretary Robert Gibbs and Department of Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano assuring the public “the system worked,” contrasted by Mr. Obama saying in a press conference there “was a mix of human and systemic failures that contributed to this potential catastrophic breach of security.”

According to KAS’ watch, Mr. Obama said this “100 hours” after the flight that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is accused of attempting to destroy landed in Detroit.

“How long did it take you to realize the system failed?” a narrator asks at the end of the spot.

Liz Cheney, founder of the nonprofit group producing the ad, also made the rounds on the Sunday talk shows, appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union” and ABC’s “This Week,” where she was sharply critical of the Obama administration on security issues.


Scott Brown, the GOP candidate in the Jan. 19 Massachusetts special election for the late Edward M. Kennedy’s Senate seat, came out with an ad of his own that’s an unmistakable echo of the “Keep America Safe” brand.

The ad, titled “Keeping America Safe,” advocates trying terrorists in military tribunals, rather than civilian courts, which is the approach Keep America Safe supports. As Mr. Brown notes in the ad, his Democratic opponent, Martha Croakley, prefers putting them through the criminal justice system.

“Some people believe our Constitution exists to grant rights to terrorists who want to harm us,” Mr. Brown says. “I disagree. Our laws are meant to protect this nation, not our enemies.”

Amanda Carpenter can be reached at [email protected]

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