Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Murtha retreats

Rep. John P. Murtha yesterday put his short-lived bid to be Democratic leader on hold until after the November elections, when his party hopes to recapture the majority.

The Pennsylvania lawmaker unexpectedly announced Friday he would seek the No. 2 post should the Democrats win the 15 seats needed to take back the House. The move irked several Democrats. Such a bid would pit current Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland against Mr. Murtha.

Yesterday, however, Mr. Murtha soothed Democratic nerves by informing Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California he is suspending the campaign. Mr. Murtha acted “in the spirit of unity to achieve our goal of winning a Democratic majority,” Mrs. Pelosi said.

“I appreciate Mr. Murtha’s continuing cooperation and leadership in our effort to win a Democratic House to take America in a new direction for everyone,” she said.

Counting chickens

“I guess it was in the mid-to-late 1980s, not too many years after I began meeting with congressional candidates, that I realized there was a perfect correlation between those candidates who mentioned where they might want to live in the Washington area, or were in some other way licking their chops over a job that they had yet to win, and losing,” political analyst Charlie Cook writes at

“Quite simply, their contemplation of the appropriate way to tip their hats to the crowd distracted them from actually hitting that grand slam home run, and they struck out instead,” Mr. Cook said.

“Those thoughts have come to mind repeatedly in recent weeks, as many House Democrats seem to have begun counting their chickens before the proverbial eggs have been hatched.

“First there was Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi‘s media tour expounding on what she would do as speaker, which quickly and rather derisively became dubbed by reporters as ‘Nancy’s Victory Lap.’ Needless to say, more than a few experienced party strategists winced that week, seeing it as ill-advised and in poor form to boot.

“Then last Friday, Rep. John Murtha, [Pennsylvania Democrat], began passing out letters to fellow House Democrats on the floor, announcing that he would run for majority leader if Democrats gained control of the House.”

Mr. Cook added: “While Democrats have every right to feel hopeful, one can practically hear Republican strategists chortling when they see such overconfidence among top Democrats because they know what usually follows such hubris.”

Not about science

“There is a conceit among the American left that the American right cleaves to bad science out of deference to religion, while the left is all-science, all-the-time. Former Veep Al Gore‘s new movie, ‘An Inconvenient Truth,’ however, shows how unscientific — and downright faith-based — the left has become,” San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders writes.

“Gore was wrong in 1992 when he wrote that 98 percent of scientists agreed with him on global warming. Witness the survey cited above,” the columnist said.

“Now, he is wrong when he argues in his movie that there is a complete consensus on global warming today. As proof Gore cites a 2004 study that looked at 928 climate abstracts and found none that refuted global-warming dogma. That says more about the researcher than the scientific community.

“There are a number of well-known scientists who don’t believe that global warming is human-induced, or who believe that if it is, it is not catastrophic. Hurricane expert William Gray of Colorado State University believes the Earth will start to cool within 10 years. Neil Frank, former director of the National Hurricane Center, told The Washington Post that global warming is ‘a hoax.’ Climate scientist Robert Lindzen of MIT believes that clouds and water vapor will counteract greenhouse gas emissions.

“So you have to ask yourself: Why does Gore pretend that apostates do not exist? Scientists acknowledge contradictory data. But the faith-driven Gore argues that all scientists agree with him — well, except for those who are bought and paid for by big polluters.

“Because this is a crusade — and not about science — Gore is drawn not to the most reasoned scenarios, but the most apocalyptic.”

Legal eagles

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis, under federal investigation over his ties to a lobbyist, has hired a high-profile legal team from a Los Angeles-based law firm, the Associated Press reports.

Mr. Lewis, California Republican, has denied wrongdoing and has said he has not been contacted by federal investigators in the probe, which became public last month and is being run by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles.

The team includes former Solicitor General Ted Olson; Robert Bonner, who once led the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles and was head of Customs and Border Protection; Mel Levine, a former Democratic congressman from California; and Joseph Warin, a former federal prosecutor.

All are partners at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. Mr. Olson and Mr. Warin are based in Washington, and Mr. Bonner and Mr. Levine in Los Angeles. The hires were confirmed by Mr. Bonner and by Barbara Comstock, a lawyer at another firm who is acting as a spokeswoman for the legal team.

Mr. Bonner said the legal team was hired within the past couple of weeks, but declined to comment further. Mr. Lewis’ congressional spokesman also declined to comment. The hires were first reported yesterday by the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call.

Gore’s messengers

Al Gore plans to train 1,000 messengers he hopes will spread out across the country and present a slide show about global warming that captures the essence of his Hollywood documentary and book.

The former vice president, a Democrat, said Monday that by the end of the summer he would start a campaign to train 1,000 persons to give a version of his slide show on global warming featured in the film “An Inconvenient Truth” and book of the same name.

“This moment cannot be allowed to pass,” Mr. Gore told reporters in New York. “I have seen and heard times before when the awareness of the climate crisis has peaked and then a few months later it’s gone. I think this time is different, but I have to say I’m not certain of that.”

The book is an expanded version of the film. Both are based on a slide show he has given more than 1,000 times over the past 30 years on the dangers of global warming. He says climate change is a crisis that has become a moral issue, Reuters news agency reports.

The weatherman

Bill Clinton predicted Monday that Republican environmental policies will lead to more severe storms.

“It is now generally recognized that while Al Gore and I were ridiculed, we were right about global warming,” Mr. Clinton said at a fundraiser in Orlando, Fla., for the state Democratic Party. “It’s a serious problem. It’s going to lead to more hurricanes.”

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

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