Wednesday's must-reads

By Geraldine Sealey
Published March 31, 2004 2:30PM (EST)

GOP on Hill pressured White House
The White House won't call its 180 on Condoleezza Rice's testimony before the 9/11 commission a cave-in. Having Rice testify in public is what the White House wanted all along, Bush and his spokespeople suggest, which makes one wonder why they stonewalled for weeks. Presidential adviser Karen Hughes, who's out selling a book, said on NPR this morning that, no, the White House did not bow to pressure. "This was a good resolution in keeping with what Condi Rice and President Bush want: To get the facts out to the American people."

But The Hill newspaper reports that the White House cave-in came after senior House Republicans expressed concern that Bush and Rice's position "had become politically untenable."

"The lawmakers conveyed their message through an intermediary, who asked to speak on the condition of anonymity. His GOP colleagues told him that the White House would have to give in, in light of the enormity what transpired on Sept. 11 -- the single greatest loss of life on U.S. soil. 'Some colleagues wanted her to testify,' said Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Rules Committee."

"Rice has been pilloried this past week for refusing to appear before the bipartisan commission while appearing on many TV news shows to give her side of what happened and to dispute the harshly critical account of events portrayed by former anti-terrorism official Richard Clarke."

"Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) told The Hill: 'It's one of those things led by circumstance that I hate to see the absolute confidentiality of that relationship given up in any way. There are issues raised by Richard Clarke that the country needs to have answered.'"

Questions for Condi
The Associated Press compiled a list of questions for Condoleezza Rice now that she'll finally testify in public and under oath before the 9/11 panel. It's a golden opportunity, the AP writes. "President Bush's about-face decision to let his national security adviser testify about the government's actions before the 2001 terrorist attacks offers a chance to pierce a fog of confusion if not contradiction. Condoleezza Rice's public accounts of the Bush administration's anti-terrorism preparations have not always been consistent with statements by others in the Bush team, and sometimes she has seemed to be at odds with herself."

Weighing Clarke's charges
Knight-Ridder's Ron Hutcheson accomplished what too few newspaper reporters even attempt to do these days: He sorted through the allegations made in the last week by former counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke. In this report card of sorts, Clarke's charges stand up to scrutiny.

From Knight-Ridder: "Here, in a nutshell, is what we've learned so far from the charges, countercharges and conflicting accounts.

Allegation: The Bush administration failed to treat the al-Qaida threat as an urgent priority before Sept. 11, 2001.

True. Bush acknowledged in an interview with Bob Woodward last year that he "didn't feel that sense of urgency" before Sept. 11 ...

Allegation: The Bush administration was fixated on Iraq from the day Bush took office.

True, but some officials were more fixated than others ...

Allegation: More diligent action against al-Qaida could have prevented the Sept. 11 attacks.

Probably not, but there's no way to know for sure ...

Allegation: Iraq was a distraction from the war against al-Qaida.

True. The war in Iraq diverted attention and resources from the campaign in Afghanistan and elsewhere ...

Allegation: Clarke wasn't "in the loop."

False. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice put this one to rest almost as soon as Vice President Dick Cheney made the allegation. "I would not use the word out of the loop. ... He was in every meeting that was held on terrorism," she said. However, it isn't clear what loop Cheney meant.

Allegation: Clarke is an opportunist whose motives and credibility are suspect.

Judgment call. Clarke clearly has an agenda, but that doesn't mean his critique is incorrect ...

Bush wants monopoly on faith
St. Petersburg Times staff writer Bill Maxwell weighs in on a recent faith-based flap between the Bush and Kerry campaigns. While speaking recently at a church in St. Louis, Kerry quoted Scripture to criticize the president. Although Bush frequently relies on faith-based language, his campaign went after Kerry, saying his Bible quote was inappropriate.

Maxwell starts off his column with this quote from George W. Bush: "As I studied and learned, Scripture took on greater meaning, and I gained confidence and understanding in my faith."

He continues: "The Bush administration is feeling threatened ... because it responded in a childish manner to a matter of religion -- the purported essence of this president's character and leadership. Last Sunday, John Kerry, the likely Democratic presidential nominee, worshiped at a black church in St. Louis and used a Bible verse to describe President Bush's leadership as one that has 'faith but has no deeds.'  Bush's attack dog Steve Schmidt pounced on Kerry, intoning that the Massachusetts senator's indictment 'was beyond the bounds of acceptable discourse and a sad exploitation of Scripture for a political attack.'"

"Did Schmidt forget that he speaks for one of the most 'faith-based' administrations ever? If Bush can be legitimately attacked on any front, it is that of 'faith.' In other words, the president's own public declarations of faith as the source of his leadership and designs on the world are fair game for political scrutiny and attack."

DeLay pooh-poohs reports of political demise
The Houston Chronicle reports that House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is downplaying "reports that he is preparing, politically and financially, for an indictment in Texas on charges that he broke state campaign finance laws  The Houston Chronicle reported last week that DeLay had told a group of Houston supporters March 8 that he may need to raise more money for a legal defense fund. There also have been reports in Washington that DeLay has discussed with some House Republicans a GOP conference rule that requires party leaders to step aside if they are indicted on a felony punishable by at least two years in prison. DeLay is the second-highest-ranking Republican in the House."

"'All the reports are wrong. The reports in Washington are particularly wrong,' DeLay said. Speculation that he would consider stepping aside is 'ridiculous,' he added. DeLay acknowledged that during a recent meeting with financial supporters in Houston, he discussed what he called a political witch hunt by Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, a Democrat. DeLay denied there were discussions about a legal defense fund for this case."

"For the past year, Earle has been looking into the alleged use of corporate contributions in state legislative campaigns in 2002 by the Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee, a campaign organization created by DeLay. Such use is against state law."

Nader: "We're confronting a liberal virus"
The New York Times hung out with Ralph Nader, who described the similarity of the letters he's receiving from friends asking him not to run for president again as characteristic of a "liberal virus."

Decribing the letters, Nader said: "'Here's how it started,' ... his soft voice taking on mock oratorical tones over dinner with a group of aides in Charlotte, N.C., last week: 'For years, I've thought of you as one of our heroes.' He rolled his eyes. 'The achievements you've attained are monumental, in consumer, environmental, etc., etc.' He paused for effect. 'But this time, I must express my profound disappointment at indications that you are going to run.'"

"'And the more I got of these,' Mr. Nader said, 'the more I realized that we are confronting a virus, a liberal virus. And the characteristic of a virus is when it takes hold of the individual, it's the same virus, individual letters all written in uncannily the same sequence. Here's another characteristic of the virus: Not one I can recall ever said, 'What are your arguments for running?'"

Nader claims he will get the votes of disaffected Republicans and Independents, not from Democrats who would otherwise vote for John Kerry. But the Times writes: "Mr. Nader's argument that he can draw more support from Mr. Bush than from Mr. Kerry has yet to be proved. A New York Times/CBS News poll earlier this month found that when voters were asked to choose between Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry, 46 percent chose the president and 43 percent Mr. Kerry. When Mr. Nader was added to the mix, Mr. Bush's support stayed at 46 percent, Mr. Kerry's dropped to 38 percent and Mr. Nader drew 7 percent. More than half of Nader supporters preferred Mr. Kerry in a two-way race."

"'Conservatives for Nader,' the comic Jon Stewart mused recently. 'Not a large group. About the same size as 'Retarded Death Row Texans for Bush.'"

Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at

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