Thursday, November 17, 2005

Foxman’s war

The leader of the Anti-Defamation League has called for a national Jewish summit to respond to what he says is a growing danger from religious conservatives, especially the groups Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council.

Abraham Foxman, national director of the league, speaking to the group’s national leadership last week, signaled a sharp shift in ADL policy by directly attacking several prominent religious-right groups and challenging their motives, which he said include nothing less than “Christianizing America,” reporter James D. Besser writes at

Mr. Foxman said these Christian groups seek to use government to further missionary goals, and that Democrats and Republicans alike are “pandering” to the religious conservatives.

“What we’re seeing is a pervasive, intensive assault on the traditional balance between religion and state in this country,” he said. “They’re not … talking just about God and religious values, but about Jesus and about Christian values.”

Marshall Wittmann, a fellow with the Democratic Leadership Council and a former Christian Coalition lobbyist, said the ADL shift could be an “overreaction” based on a misunderstanding of most religious-right leaders.

“What motivates the religious right more than anything else is a feeling of grievance, a feeling that they are the one group that’s fair game for ridicule and criticism,” he said. “The Jewish community overreacts, and that just makes the religious right feel it even more.”

Patriot Act OK’d

House and Senate negotiators have struck a tentative deal on the expiring Patriot Act that would curb the FBI’s investigative power and require the Justice Department to more fully report its secret requests for information about ordinary people.

Democrats and civil libertarians said that although the tentative deal makes some improvements, it doesn’t address their chief concern: the curbing of FBI power to gather certain information by requiring the investigators to prove the subject’s records are connected to a foreign agent or government.

“It gives a nod toward checks and balances without fixing the most fundamental flaws in the Patriot Act,” said Lisa Graves of the Americans Civil Liberties Union.

The agreement, which would make most provisions of the existing law permanent, was reached just before dawn yesterday. Republican leaders made plans for a House vote today and a Senate vote by week’s end, the Associated Press reports.

Skipping a raise

After bringing four months of abuse down on their heads, Pennsylvania lawmakers voted yesterday to repeal a pay raise they gave themselves in the middle of the night.

Gov. Edward G. Rendell was expected to sign the legislation, which was approved 50-0 yesterday by the state Senate and 197-1 by the House on Monday.

In July, the legislature, acting at 2 a.m. without public notice or debate, raised the salaries of more than 1,300 public officials in all three branches of government, including Pennsylvania’s 1,000 judges.

Radio talk-show hosts, editorial writers and activist groups lambasted lawmakers over the size of the legislative raises — 16 percent to 54 percent — and the way the bill was handled.

“We are here to correct a mistake,” said the Senate’s Republican leader, David J. Brightbill. “As one of the people who exercised poor judgment, I would like to apologize.”

Alito ad

The conservative group Committee for Justice plans to release an advertisement today in support of the nomination of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The ad — designed for TV and radio — highlights Judge Alito’s qualifications before turning to the judge’s attackers, specifically the liberal group People for the American Way, reports Charles Hurt of The Washington Times.

The ad accuses the group of wanting to take “under God” out of the Pledge of Allegiance, supporting partial-birth abortion and opposing pornography filters on public library computers.

Sean Rushton, executive director of the Committee for Justice, said the ad will run Thanksgiving week in pro-Republican “red” states with Democrat senators.

His group is spending a “modest six-figure” amount on the ad, which will continue to be aired in at least some places through the confirmation vote.

Drafting Rudy

The Federal Election Commission yesterday returned organizational documents to Draft Rudolph W. Giuliani for President Inc., the first federal committee with the sole purpose of getting the former New York mayor to run for president in 2008.

“This is the beginning of a nationwide effort to show Mayor Giuliani the tremendous support that exists throughout the United States for a Giuliani presidential candidacy,” said Allen Fore, a veteran Republican political consultant and co-founder of Draft Rudy Giuliani for President. “America needs and wants this great man to lead our nation. We’re starting the grass-roots effort to make a Giuliani candidacy a reality.”

The group has created a Web site (, at which visitors can sign a pledge encouraging Mr. Giuliani to run, volunteer to help the campaign, and make contributions that will fund a national ad campaign.

A ‘good leak’

Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper, who almost went to jail rather than reveal that presidential aide Karl Rove told him the name of a CIA employee, said Monday that the recent revelation about secret CIA-run terrorist prisons overseas was a “good leak,” in contrast to the leak that made him famous.

Republicans in Congress have called for an investigation into the leak about the prisons, saying it endangered national security and undermined the war on terror.

Mr. Cooper, speaking at Princeton University, said it was a “good leak” that enabled The Washington Post to publish a story about the secret prisons. The story is “clearly in the public interest,” Mr. Cooper said, but “we’re seeing the call for another leak investigation.” He was quoted in the Daily Princetonian student newspaper.

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

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