Wednesday, March 21, 2007


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The New York Times

March 21, 2007
Rove Offered for Unsworn Testimony
Filed at 5:54 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House and Congress clashed on Tuesday overPresident George W. Bush's power to keep close advisers like Karl Rove fromtestifying under oath about the firing of U.S. prosecutors.

Setting up a possible legal showdown, a testy Bush vowed he would go tocourt to rebuff congressional orders ``dragging White House members up thereto score political points'' during what he described as ``show trials.''

``Absolutely, I hope the Democrats choose not to do that. ... We will not goalong with a partisan fishing expedition,'' Bush said at the White House. Healso offered fresh confidence in Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, whoseresignation has been demanded by Democrats and some Republicans.

Recent disclosures about the firings of eight U.S. attorneys has ignited afirestorm over whether the prosecutors were pushed out for political reasonsand prompted calls for Gonzales to resign.

The White House earlier on Tuesday offered to make Rove available tocongressional investigators probing the firings but rejected Democraticdemands he testify under oath.


The New York Times

March 20, 2007
'Idol' Contestant's Faith Questioned

Filed at 9:58 p.m. ET

GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) -- Chris Sligh, the ''American Idol'' contestant whohas won fans thanks to his curly mop of hair and soulful voice, has a fewpeople concerned with his departure from strictly Christian music. But formost others in this city of 56,000 about 100 miles southwest of Charlotte,N.C., Sligh has become a hometown hero.

Jonathan Pait, a spokesman for fundamentalist Bob Jones University whereSligh attended for several years, said: ''We really are somewhatdisappointed with the direction he has gone musically.''

He nonetheless tunes in each week to monitor Sligh's progress.

Local fans -- some wearing fake glasses and curly wigs and callingthemselves the ''Fro Patro'' -- gather each week at restaurants and bars tocheer Sligh on. The local newspaper has been tracking his progress on itsWeb site.

Sligh, a 28-year-old son of missionaries who spent much of his childhoodoverseas, kept his spot among the 11 remaining finalists last week with arendition of ''Endless Love.'' He'll try to improve on that performance,deemed ''unemotional'' and ''uninspiring'' by judge Simon Cowell, this week.The show will announce results Wednesday evening.


The Washington Post

Bush Aides Facing Subpoenas Over Firings

The Associated Press
Wednesday, March 21, 2007; 2:33 AM

WASHINGTON -- Flexing their political muscle against the White House,Democrats in the House and Senate are insisting that President Bush's topaides describe their roles in the firings of eight federal prosecutors onthe record and under oath.

A House committee was to vote Wednesday to authorize subpoenas for politicaldirector Karl Rove and other administration officials despite Bush'sdeclaration a day earlier that Democrats must accept his offer to allow theofficials to talk privately to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees,but not under oath and not on the record.

Would he fight Democrats in court to protect his aides against congressionalsubpoenas?

"Absolutely," Bush declared Tuesday in televised remarks from the WhiteHouse.

Democrats promptly rejected the offer and announced that they would startauthorizing subpoenas within 24 hours.


The Washington Post

Democrats Split on Iraq Bill
Even Vote Counters Aren't Lined Up Behind Spending Measure

By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 21, 2007; A13

One of the Democrats' chief designated vote counters, Rep. Maxine Waters(D-Calif.), is actively working against the Iraq war spending bill. Theleadership's senior chief deputy whip, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), spokepassionately against it on the House floor. And one of the whiporganization's regional representatives,Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), is implacably opposed.

The disarray in the House whipping operation ahead of tomorrow's expectedvote on the bill is putting a harsh spotlight on House Majority Whip JamesE. Clyburn (D-S.C.), who has the task of rounding up the 218 votes needed topass the $124 billion measure, but who has not even kept his organization in line.

"There's only one test, and that will be whether we get 218 on the board nThursday," said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), whopredicted that Clyburn will come through with the votes.

But the failings of his organization are resurrecting fears that the courtlySouthern gentleman is simply too nice for a job known for head-banging,punishment and retribution.

To be sure, House Democratic leaders appear to be making progress towardsecuring the votes to pass a $124 billion emergency war spending bill thatwould establish strict readiness standards for deploying combat forces andset a firm deadline of Aug. 31, 2008, to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq.Clyburn and other House Democratic leaders locked down two criticalDemocratic converts -- one liberal, one conservative -- yesterday.


The New York Times

March 21, 2007
Star in New Role, Gore Revisits Old Stage

WASHINGTON, March 20 - The last time Al Gore appeared publicly inside theUnited States Capitol, he was certifying the Electoral College victory ofGeorge W. Bush. He returns on Wednesday, a heartbreak loser turned Oscarboasting Nobel hopeful globe trotting multimillionaire pop culture eminence.

For Mr. Gore, who calls himself a "recovering politician," returning toCapitol Hill is akin to a recovering alcoholic returning to a neighborhoodbar. He will, in all likelihood, deliver his favorite refrain about how"political will is a renewable resource" and how combating global warming isthe "greatest challenge in the history of mankind." He will confront one ofhis fervent detractors, Senator James M. Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma, whoderides Mr. Gore as an alarmist.

He will also embrace old friends, pose (or not) for cellphone photos andgreet the legion of climate change disciples who swear by the "Goracle" as acontemporary sage.

And, of course, he will be asked whether he plans to run for president in2008, something he has said no to a million times or so, if never quitedefinitively. On Tuesday at a Washington hotel, where Mr. Gore addressed agroup of institutional investors, he was urged on accordingly.

"Run, Al, run," one attendee shouted after the former vice president as hebarreled through the hallway, a greeting that has become as familiar as"hello."


The New York Times

March 21, 2007
Bush Clashes With Congress on Prosecutors

WASHINGTON, March 20 - President Bush and Congress clashed Tuesday over aninquiry into the firing of federal prosecutors and appeared headed toward aconstitutional showdown over demands from Capitol Hill for internal WhiteHouse documents and testimony from top advisers to the president.

Under growing political pressure, the White House offered to allow membersof Congressional committees to hold private interviews with Karl Rove, thepresident's senior adviser and deputy chief of staff; Harriet E. Miers, theformer White House counsel; and two other officials. It also offered toprovide access to e-mail messages and other communications about thedismissals, but not those between White House officials.

Democrats promptly rejected the offer, which specified that the officialswould not testify under oath, that there would be no transcript and thatCongress would not subsequently subpoena them.

"I don't accept his offer," said Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat ofVermont, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee. "It is not constructive,and it is not helpful to be telling the Senate how to do our investigationor to prejudge its outcome."

Responding defiantly on a day in which tension over the affair played out onmultiple fronts, Mr. Bush said he would resist any effort to put his topaides under "the klieg lights" in "show trials" on Capitol Hill, and hereiterated his support for Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, whosebacking among Republicans on Capitol Hill ebbed further on Tuesday.


The New York Times

March 21, 2007
Sensing Shift in Bush Policy, Another Hawk Leaves

WASHINGTON, March 20 - Among the hawks in the Bush administration, RobertJoseph long occupied a special perch.

As the architect of much of the administration's strategy for counteringnuclear proliferation, he helped engineer the decision to exit theAnti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, worked secretly to squeeze Libya to give upits nuclear weapons program, and created a loose consortium of nations, nownumbering more than 80, committed to intercepting illicit weapons at sea, inthe air or on land.

But last month Mr. Joseph quietly left the State Department, where he wasunder secretary for arms control and international security, tellingcolleagues that, as a matter of principle, he simply could not abide the newagreement with North Korea that the Bush administration struck in February.

Mr. Joseph has declined to talk publicly about why he left, but he toldcolleagues that he thought the deal would prolong the survival of a NorthKorean government he has publicly called "criminal" and "morally abhorrent"while failing to require it to give up the weapons it has already produced.In an interview, Mr. Joseph made clear that he "does not support the policy"that President Bush has now embraced.

"The approach I would have endorsed was to continue to put pressure on theregime," Mr. Joseph added.


The New York Times

March 21, 2007
What People Really Need

In nasty and bumbling comments made at the White House yesterday, PresidentBush declared that "people just need to hear the truth" about the firing ofeight United States attorneys. That's right. Unfortunately, the deal Mr.Bush offered Congress to make White House officials available for"interviews" did not come close to meeting that standard.

Mr. Bush's proposal was a formula for hiding the truth, and for protectingthe president and his staff from a legitimate inquiry by Congress. Mr. Bush's idea of openness involved sending White House officials to Congress toanswer questions in private, without taking any oath, making a transcript orallowing any follow-up appearances. The people, in other words, would be kept in the dark.

The Democratic leaders were right to reject the offer, despite Mr. Bush'sthreat to turn this dispute into a full-blown constitutional confrontation.

Congress has the right and the duty to fully investigate the firings, whichmay have been illegal, and Justice Department officials' statements toCongress, which may have been untrue. It needs to question Karl Rove, Mr.Bush's chief political adviser, Harriet Miers, the former White Housecounsel, and other top officials.

It is hard to imagine what, besides evading responsibility, the White Househad in mind. Why would anyone refuse to take an oath on a matter like this,unless he were not fully committed to telling the truth? And why wouldCongress accept that idea, especially in an investigation that has alreadybeen marked by repeated false and misleading statements from administrationofficials?


The New York Times

March 21, 2007
Russia, Iran and the Bottom Line

Let's hear it for the profit motive. Russia has apparently decided that itcan do even better financially if it starts pressuring its longtime clientIran to curtail its nuclear appetites.

Elaine Sciolino reported in The Times yesterday that Moscow told Tehranprivately that it will not deliver nuclear fuel for Iran's Russian-builtBushehr power plant unless Iran stops enriching uranium. There were alsoreports that Moscow was pulling experts from the nearly finished reactorsite. The pressure is welcome and long overdue, considering that theSecurity Council ordered Iran to suspend enrichment by the end of lastAugust.

As for why Moscow - which has been working since before August to deflectany serious sanctions against Iran - may be doing the right thing, that issomething of a puzzle. Russia's leaders may have finally figured out that anuclear-armed Iran poses a genuine danger. But we suspect profits may havebrought that threat into sharper focus.

Russia has accused Iran of falling behind on payments for the Bushehrproject, which Tehran hotly denies. Meanwhile, Russia is very eager tobecome a leader in the global business of nuclear fuel production and spentfuel storage. Being the chief protector and enabler of Iran's nuclearefforts is not the best advertising for such an enterprise. Moscow will haveanother chance to put its mouth where its money is in coming days when theSecurity Council votes on another series of sanctions against Iran.

The Bush administration also deserves credit if it helped Moscow to seehere its larger interests lie. We are far less enthusiastic about recentthreats - from Capitol Hill and some in the administration - to imposeunilateral sanctions on foreign energy companies that do business with Iran.The administration needs all the friends it can get, and this is anothercase where quiet persuasion can go a lot further than bludgeoning.


The New York Times

March 21, 2007
Tom DeLay Looks Back

Since his forced retreat from power in a corruption scandal, Tom DeLay, theformer House Republican majority leader, must have been watching re-runs of"Cool Hand Luke." That film's cynical rationalization of life's conflicts asmerely a "failure to communicate" is Mr. DeLay's approach to explaining theRepublicans' loss of Congress last year.

No, no, he insists in a new memoir, it wasn't voters revolting against thequid pro quo corruption that Mr. DeLay turned into a dark art. Rather,Republicans "did not communicate their message" and overcome "short-term,media-fed issues."

Despite Mr. DeLay's retreat from public office after his indictment forpolitical money laundering, the memoir is, of course, entitled "No Retreat,No Surrender."

Mr. DeLay excoriates former colleagues from Newt Gingrich to the leader ofthe moribund House ethics committee that finally found the temerity toadmonish him.

He is furious that Republicans didn't back his attempt to stay in powerafter his indictment.

The private sector that the DeLay Inc. machine milked like a political cashcow is efended as if it were an underdog. "We should start recognizing thatthose who work n that sector have a right to political representation also," says the former lawmaker as he defends his golf junket to Scotland - arranged by Jack Abramoff, the now-imprisoned lobbyist - as a genuinesavings for the taxpayer.

Occasionally, truth peeks through. At one point, Mr. DeLay does allow thatvoters faced "a general perception of Republican incompetence and lack ofprinciples." Well, at least that got communicated, Mr. Former Leader.


The New York Times

March 21, 2007
Op-Ed Contributor

Why I Was Fired

WITH this week's release of more than 3,000 Justice Department e-mailmessages about the dismissal of eight federal prosecutors, it seems clearthat politics played a role in the ousters.

Of course, as one of the eight, I've felt this way for some time. But nowthat the record is out there in black and white for the rest of the countryto see, the argument that we were fired for "performance related" reasons(in the words of Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty) is starting to lookmore than a little wobbly.

United States attorneys have a long history of being insulated frompolitics. Although we receive our appointments through the political process(I am a Republican who was recommended by Senator Pete Domenici), we areexpected to be apolitical once we are in office. I will never forget JohnAshcroft, then the attorney general, telling me during the summer of 2001that politics should play no role during my tenure. I took that message toheart. Little did I know that I could be fired for not being political.

Politics entered my life with two phone calls that I received last fall,just before the November election. One came from Representative HeatherWilson and the other from Senator Domenici, both Republicans from my state,New Mexico.

Ms. Wilson asked me about sealed indictments pertaining to a politicallycharged corruption case widely reported in the news media involving localDemocrats. Her question instantly put me on guard. Prosecutors may notlegally talk about indictments, so I was evasive. Shortly after speaking toMs. Wilson, I received a call from Senator Domenici at my home. The senatorwanted to know whether I was going to file corruption charges - the casesMs. Wilson had been asking about - before November. When I told him that Ididn't think so, he said, "I am very sorry to hear that," and the line wentdead.


The New York Times

March 21, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist

The Troika and the Surge

President Bush's Iraq surge policy is about a month old now, and there isonly one thing you can say about it for certain: no matter what anyone inCongress, the military or the public has to say, it's going ahead. Thepresident has the authority to do it and the veto power to prevent anyonefrom stopping him. Therefore, there's only one position to have on the surgeanymore: hope that it works.

Does this mean that Democrats in Congress who are trying to shut down thewar and force a deadline should take the advice of critics and shut up andlet the surge play out?

No, just the opposite. I would argue that for the first time we have - byaccident - the sort of balanced policy trio that had we had it in place fouryears go might have spared us the mess of today. It's thePelosi-Petraeus-Bush troika.

I hope the Democrats, under Speaker Nancy Pelosi, keep pushing to set adeadline for withdrawal from Iraq, because they are providing two patrioticservices that the Republicans failed to offer in the previous four years:The first is policy discipline. Had Republicans spent the previous fouryears regularly questioning Don Rumsfeld's ignorant bromides and demandingthat the White House account for failures in Iraq, we might have had thesurge in 2003 - when it was obvious we did not have enough troops on theground - rather than in 2007, when the chances of success are muchdiminished.


The New York Times

But I Didn't Do It!

Published: March 21, 2007
Delray Beach, Fla.

Emboldened by the State of Virginia's apology for slavery - the measurepassed both houses unanimously - some Georgia lawmakers are in the processof introducing a similar resolution in their legislature. The reasoningbehind the apology movement is straightforward: a great wrong was done forcenturies to men and women who contributed in many ways to the prosperity oftheir country and were willing to die for it in battle; it's long past timeto say we're sorry.

Resistance to the apology movement is also straightforward. There is thefear that because an apology is an admission of responsibility for a priorbad act, apologizing might establish a legal or quasi-legal basis forreparations. And there is also the objection that after so many years anapology would be merely ceremonial and would therefore be nothing more thana "feel good" gesture.

But the objection most often voiced is that the wrong people would beapologizing to the wrong people. That was the point made by Tommie Williams,the Georgia Senate majority leader, when he said: "I personally believeapologies need to come from feelings that I've done wrong," and "I just don't feel like I did something wrong."


The Washington Post

Rice's Mideast Minefield

By David Ignatius
Wednesday, March 21, 2007; A15

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is crossing a modest threshold in herefforts to mediate the Palestinian problem: She is signaling her willingnessto meet with some members of the Hamas-backed "national unity government,"even though the Israelis have publicly opposed such a move.

Rice doesn't do anything impulsively, least of all jump into the world'smost intractable conflict. And the space she has opened between U.S. andIsraeli positions is quite small. But as she prepares for another trip tothe Middle East late this week, Rice is sending the message that despite thecomplications posed by the Palestinian unity government announced last weekend, she is pressing aheadwith her diplomatic efforts to broker the creation of a Palestinian state.

Henry Kissinger called this incremental approach "step-by-step diplomacy"when he was secretary of state during the 1970s under Presidents RichardNixon and Gerald Ford. In Rice's case, there have been only baby steps sofar. But she appears to recognize that as she moves forward, she will needto engage the Palestinians more broadly, even though these contacts willupset some Israelis.

Rice's position is that she won't refuse to talk to Palestinians justbecause they have become members of the Hamas-dominated government, if theirpast public statements have recognized Israel's right to exist. She isprepared, for example, to meet the new Palestinian finance minister, SalamFayyad, a former World Bank economist. In a sign of the new U.S. policy,Fayyad met yesterday with the U.S. consul general in Jerusalem, JacobWalles, according to Israeli press accounts.

State Department officials also don't rule out the possibility that Ricemight meet with the new foreign minister, Ziad Abu Amr, a former politicalscience professor with a doctorate from Georgetown who is friendly withHamas.


The Washington Post

Hollywood's Climate Follies

By Robert J. Samuelson
Wednesday, March 21, 2007; A15

"My fellow Americans, people all over the world, we need to solve theclimate crisis. It's not a political issue. It's a moral issue. We haveeverything we need to get started, with the possible exception of the willto act. That's a renewable resource. Let's renew it."
-- Al Gore, accepting an Oscar for "An Inconvenient Truth"

Global warming has gone Hollywood, literally and figuratively. The script isplain. As Gore says, solutions are at hand. We can switch to renewable fuelsand embrace energy-saving technologies, once the dark forces of doubt aredefeated. It's smart and caring people against the stupid and selfish.Sooner or later, Americans will discover that this Hollywood version ofglobal warming (largely mirrored in the media) is mostly make-believe.

Most of the many reports on global warming have a different plot. Despitevariations, these studies reach similar conclusions. Regardless of howserious the threat, the available technologies promise at best a holdingaction against greenhouse gas emissions. Even massive gains in renewables(solar, wind, biomass) and more efficient vehicles and appliances wouldmerely stabilize annual emissions near present levels by 2050. The reason:Economic growth, especially in poor countries, will sharply increase energyuse and emissions.

The latest report came last week from 12 scientists, engineers and socialscientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The report, " TheFuture of Coal," was mostly ignored by the media. It makes some admittedlyoptimistic assumptions: "carbon capture and storage" technologies provecommercially feasible; governments around the world adopt a sizable charge(a.k.a. tax) on carbon fuel emissions. Still, annual greenhouse gasemissions in 2050 are roughly at today's levels. Without action, they'd bemore than twice as high.


The Washington Post

Rethinking the NAACP

By Ronald S. Sullivan Jr. and Eddie S. Glaude Jr.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007; A15

The resignation of Bruce S. Gordon as president and chief executive of theNAACP this month portends an important and long overdue shift in blackAmerica's struggle for racial justice.

Gordon resigned after only 19 months because he disagreed with the NAACP'sboard on the best focus for the historic civil rights group. Gordon wantedto direct more resources toward social service programs such aswealth-building, tutoring and pregnancy counseling. The board wanted tomaintain its traditional emphasis on fighting racial discrimination andadvocating for social justice.

No matter where one stands in this debate, Gordon's resignation signals acritical impasse. The civil rights old guard, represented by the board,seems stuck in a 1960s mind-set that expects a particular form of responsefrom black America -- pushing for government action to remedy the effects ofdiscrimination. This type of response was popular, successful and necessaryduring the civil rights movement and, in some cases, remains a powerful formof redress.

The successes and failures of the civil rights movement, however,fundamentally changed the country's racial landscape. Of course racialdiscrimination remains. But we have entered what has been called apost-civil-rights age that requires an array of strategies to address thecomplex problems many African Americans face.

Gordon sought to extend the reach of the NAACP to include another form ofAfrican American dissent: the politics of self-empowerment. Regrettably, theNAACP was not inclined to alter its long-standing approach. Julian Bond,chairman of the NAACP board, rejects even the notion that we are in apost-civil-rights period, which requires imaginative and innovative strugglefor social justice. Indeed, many current civil rights leaders fetishize theform of dissent most associated with the civil rights movement. They confuseprinciple with tactics. They behave as though marching and petitioning thegovernment for redress of grievances is the only principled response to themaldistribution of burdens and benefits in our democracy. And they bristleat other forms of dissent, tactics designed to reach the shared goal ofequality under law for all Americans. For many, it is either the old way orno way at all.


The Washington Post

Don't Take Poland for Granted

By Radek Sikorski
Wednesday, March 21, 2007; A15

WARSAW -- The U.S. proposal to place radar and interceptor sites for a newmissile defense system in Central Europe -- respectively, in the CzechRepublic and Poland -- may generate a new security partnership with thecountries of the region. Or it could provoke a spiral of misunderstanding,weaken NATO, deepen Russian paranoia and cost the United States some of itslast friends on the continent.

Early omens are worrisome. Some genius at the State Department or thePentagon sent the first official note describing possible placement of thefacility with a draft reply attached -- a reply that contained a long listof host countries' obligations and few corresponding U.S. commitments.Natives here tend to think they are capable of writing their own diplomaticcorrespondence. But in a region where goodwill toward the United Statesdepends on the memory of its support in resistingSoviet colonialism, this was particularly crass. If the Bush administrationexpects Poles and Czechs to jump for joy and agree to whatever is proposed,it's going to face a mighty crash with reality.

The administration might have gotten away with this five years ago, when thememory of Ronald Reagan's steadfast support for our freedom fighters hadjust been bolstered by American advocacy of NATO enlargement, despiteRussian hostility and some hesitation among Western European nations. Butthe war in Iraq has dented Central European trust. The spectacle of the U.S.secretary of state at the U.N. Security Council solemnly presentingintelligence that proved unreliable shook our faith. Our old-fashionedexpectation that the United States would show gratitude for ourparticipation in Iraq also proved misplaced. Public perceptions of Americaare plummeting, while opposition to U.S.-led military operations, and aboveall to the proposed missile site, grows. We have decided that the UnitedStates is a foreign country after all.

Meanwhile, membership in the European Union has reoriented our foreign anddomestic policies. Few in the United States realize that Poland, to name oneexample, is receiving $120 billion to upgrade its infrastructure andagriculture under the current seven-year E.U. budget. By comparison,American military assistance to Poland amounts to $30 million annually, afraction of what we spend on missions in Iraq and Afghanistan that we regardas acts of friendship toward the United States. Perhaps the bestillustration of the changing dynamic is the fact that the visa issue thatonce vexed Polish politicians -- Americans come to Poland without visas,while Poles need them to enter America -- has lost its urgency. There are alot more proverbial Polish plumbers working legally in Britain and Irelandthan illegally in Chicago.

While U.S. influence and esteem have diminished, strategic stakes in theregion are rising. Awash with oil money, Russia spends seven times more onprocurement and modernization of military equipment than it did just fiveyears ago. Russia recently deployed several batteries of S-300 missiles nearour border -- the first such provocation toward NATO in 20 years -- yet thiselicited not a squeak of protest from the alliance. Russia is alsothreatening to deploy scores of intermediate missiles aimed at Warsaw inresponse to the missile defense base, a threat no Polish politician canignore.


The Washington Post

Politics of Fuel Economy Catch Up to Automakers
War and Worries About Foreign Oil Increase Pressure

By Sholnn Freeman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 21, 2007; D01

The auto industry is facing one of its toughest political battles in yearsas shifts in the political and business landscape have eroded its defensesagainst stricter fuel-economy standards.

Congressional Democrats and environmental groups have new allies in thefight to mandate higher vehicle mileage, including a coalition of businessexecutives and retired military leaders. President Bush's support of higherstandards also has hampered Detroit's efforts to fend off new rules.Increasingly, the war in Iraq and related concerns over U.S. dependence onforeign oil are changing the dynamics of the debate.

"Something happened in the last five years, most likely the war in Iraq,"said Mike Jackson, chairman and chief executive of AutoNation, the nation'slargest chain of dealerships. "People see the connection that we went to warfor the first time over oil, we stayed around over oil and we're back thereover oil."

Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.) said the auto industry is confronted by a "seachange" in Washington, where lawmakers equate action on fuel economy withthe issues of global warming, high gas prices, foreign oil dependence andthe war in Iraq.

Attracting support from other senators on fuel-economy changes is "not anuphill push anymore," Dorgan said.


The New York Times

March 21, 2007
Kan. Senator Seeking Conservative Mantle

Filed at 2:23 a.m. ET

11 DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- It's just past 8:30 a.m. on a snowy weekendmorning when the unassuming presidential candidate strolls into a hotelconference room.

''Hey, folks. I'm Sam Brownback. Good to meet you,'' says the Republicansenator from Kansas, personally greeting the sparse crowd of some two dozenpeople munching on pastries and sipping coffee.

Standing at the podium, Brownback eschews talk of his accomplishments andcriticism of his better-known rivals. Instead, he explains where he standson various issues and seeks to define himself for the right-leaning GOPvoters who matter in primaries -- ''a full-scale, economic and socialconservative with a smile.''

With the GOP's influential conservative wing still scrambling for acandidate to back for the 2008 nomination, Brownback presents a paradox.

He has the kind of unquestioned credentials as a family values crusader thatconservatives have long sought in a presidential candidate. Yet he hasn'tbeen able to leverage his credentials to break out of a crowded pack ofWhite House hopefuls.


The New York Times

March 21, 2007
Britain Proposes Allowing Schools to Forbid Full-Face Muslim Veils

LONDON, March 20 - British authorities proposed new rules on Tuesday toallow schools to forbid Muslim students to wear full-face veils in class,reflecting a wider debate over Britain's relationship with its Muslimminority.

The recommendation was the latest episode in a saga of rancorous discussionof the full-face veil, known as the niqab. Last October, Prime Minister TonyBlair described the niqab as a "mark of separation" that made "other peoplefrom outside the community feel uncomfortable."

The Department of Education published the new guidelines after a court inBuckinghamshire rejected a 12-year-old Muslim girl's demand to wear theniqab in class last month.

The proposed regulations, which have yet to be formally adopted, said theindividual right to "manifest a religion or belief" did not bestow a rightto demonstrate faith "at any time, in any place or in any particular manner."

School principals should be allowed to order pupils to show their facesbecause otherwise "the teacher may not be able to judge their engagement inclass," the proposed regulations said. Moreover, they said, "schools need tobe able to identify individual pupils in order to maintain good order andidentify intruders easily."


The New York Times

March 21, 2007
Massachusetts Sets Benefits in Universal Health Care Plan

BOSTON, March 20 - Massachusetts took a major step toward enacting itsnear-universal health care overhaul, with the board that oversees the planvoting on Tuesday to require insurers to provide certain minimum benefits,including coverage of prescription drugs.

The decision, subject to final approval in June, would make Massachusettsthe first state to establish standards that apply to every resident andevery health insurer.

"It's setting the definition of what is acceptable health care coverage,which is really unique in America," said Stuart H. Altman, a professor ofhealth economics at Brandeis University. "What you're doing is not onlyaffecting what the uninsured can get. You indirectly are affecting what isconsidered to be acceptable coverage for everybody."

The requirements were worked out over several months and include severalcompromises, balancing the interests of businesses, insurers and health careadvocates.

For example, the board, called the Commonwealth Health Insurance ConnectorAuthority, agreed to phase in some of its requirements, giving residents ndemployers an extra 18 months to buy health plans that meet all the newcriteria. While residents will still need to have some form of insurancestarting in July, they will have until January 2009 to get all the requiredcoverage.


The Washington Post

Precedent 4 Student Speech
An unusual First Amendment case

Wednesday, March 21, 2007; A14

WHAT IS a bong hit 4 Jesus? We're not sure, and we doubt anyone really knowswhat the phrase means -- which is one reason the Supreme Court ought not toregard it as prohibited speech.

Joseph Frederick, the protagonist in a case the justices heard Monday,unfurled a banner that read "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" across from his Juneau,Alaska, high school in 2002. His unamused principal ripped it down andsuspended him. The Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled that theprincipal had violated Mr. Frederick's First Amendment rights; now it's upto the Supreme Court to decide whether Mr. Frederick's sophomoric signagewas protected speech.

Existing precedent, which is rightly cautious about limiting First Amendmentfreedoms, indicates that high school administrators can regulate speech oncampus if it is school sponsored, vulgar or disruptive to the school's basicwork. Mr. Frederick's banner was neither school sponsored nor vulgar, and itdid not cause a disturbance on campus. The school's lawyers argue that thebanner promoted marijuana smoking, which is antithetical to the school'santi-drug mission. But the sign's nonsensical content does not support thatclaim. In fact, the banner essentially said nothing and did not cause astir, so it's difficult to see how it harmed the school's anti-drug efforts.

The harder question, which the justices do not necessarily have to answer inthis case, is what happens when a student tries to send a real message atschool -- perhaps one that is unambiguously pro-auto theft or anti-gay. Ascurrent precedent maintains, there is room within the First Amendment forschool districts to regulate student speech in order to educate and maintaindiscipline. That covers speech that is patently offensive.

But as the 9th Circuit pointed out, establishing a standard that is toodeferential to school administrators would make it legal, for example, tostop students from distributing copies of the Alaska Supreme Court'sdecision allowing personal marijuana use in the state. It is distressinglyeasy to see how such a precedent could apply to expressions of support forother activities that administrators might not condone, such as thedistribution of pamphlets discussing civil disobedience or expressions ofdisagreement with standing laws. The court should ensure that administratorscannot define a school's basic educational mission so broadly -- inculcating"good citizenship," for example -- that they have the power to suppress anymeaningful speech with which they, or their school boards, disagree.


The Washington Post

Lawyers Press Musharraf With Protests
Clash Over Judge Grows Into Challenge of Pakistani Leader's Rule

By Griff Witte
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, March 21, 2007; A01

LAHORE, Pakistan, March 20 -- When the police broke into the offices of someof this city's best-known lawyers last week, they didn't hold back. Theysmashed through doors and windows, tossed computers, ransacked files andbeat anyone standing in their way with iron-tipped batons.

"We couldn't even see them because of the tear gas, but we could hear thecries of our lawyers," said Khurram Latif Khosa, a counselor who was in thecourtyard below.

To Khosa, the raid was a clear message from Pakistan's president, Gen.Pervez Musharraf: Don't cross me. But Khosa, like lawyers across thiscountry, is failing to heed it.

In a controversy that has gripped Pakistan and poses perhaps the mostserious challenge yet to Musharraf's leadership, the nation's executive andjudiciary are clashing over the president's decision nearly two weeks ago tosuspend the Supreme Court chief justice. Lawyers in black suits have stagedalmost daily protests since, as the president's political opponents joinedin. The police have responded with several raids, including one on thenation's most popular television station. A major protest is expectedWednesday in the capital, Islamabad, with organizers calling for anationwide strike.

To the lawyers and other Musharraf critics, the protests are about far morethan a decision to suspend a judge. The larger question, they say, iswhether Pakistan will be governed by the rule of law, or by one-man rule.


The Washington Post

FBI Violations May Number 3,000, Official Says

By R. Jeffrey Smith
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 21, 2007; A07

The Justice Department's inspector general told a committee of angry Housemembers yesterday that the FBI may have violated the law or governmentpolicies as many as 3,000 times since 2003 as agents secretly collected thetelephone, bank and credit card records of U.S. citizens and foreignnationals residing here.

Inspector General Glenn A. Fine said that according to the FBI's ownestimate, as many as 600 of these violations could be "cases of seriousmisconduct" involving the improper use of "national security letters" tocompel telephone companies, banks and credit institutions to producerecords.

National security letters are comparable to subpoenas but are issueddirectly by the bureau without court review. They largely target records oftransactions rather than personal documents or conversations. An FBI tallyshowed that the bureau made an average of 916 such requests each week from2003 to 2005, but Fine told the House Judiciary Committee that FBIrecordkeeping has been chaotic and "significantly understates" the actualuse of that tool.

Fine, amplifying the criticisms he made in a March 9 report, attributed theFBI's "troubling" abuse of the letters to "mistakes, carelessness,confusion, sloppiness, lack of training, lack of adequate guidance and lackof adequate oversight."

His account evoked heated criticism of the bureau from Republicans andDemocrats alike, including a comment from Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) thatit "sounds like a report about a first- or second-grade class."


The Miami Herald

Posted on Wed, Mar. 21, 2007
'A loyal Bushie' void of independent thought

Eerything we needed to know about Alberto Gonzales we learned before Feb. 3,2005.

That's the day the Senate, which spent more time in gauzy celebration ofGonzales' Hispanic heritage than it did examining his legal prowess, votedto confirm him as attorney general.

We knew Gonzales' chief qualification to be the nation's top law enforcementofficial was that he had been -- to use a phrase that apparently carriesgreat weight inside the current Justice Department -- ''a loyal Bushie.'' Weknew this because loyalty to President Bush was really the only credentialGonzales' public record offered.

We knew that while Gonzales was counsel to then-Texas Gov. Bush, the futureattorney general managed to find no death row inmate worthy of clemency --no matter how severe his mental retardation or how incompetently thedefendant was represented at trial. The Gonzales memos that would reach thegovernor's desk before he proceeded to put a convict to death were cursory,at times only three pages in length.

Gonzales remained characteristically void of independent thought after hemoved to the White House. There he would become, in effect, the lawyer whoapproved torture.

The Gonzales seal of approval resolved the dispute between the right-winglegal warriors in the Justice Department and elsewhere in the administrationwho argued that the Geneva Conventions on the humane treatment of wartimedetainees were antiquated relics lacking in relevance to the ``war onterror.''


GOP 'family values'
By Jeff Jacoby, Globe Columnist | March 21, 2007

THE RADIO talk show had turned to the presidential possibilities of formerHouse Speaker Newt Gingrich. On the line was a woman who described herselfas a religious conservative and a Republican. "I could never vote forGingrich," she was saying. "If he couldn't uphold his marital vows, how canwe trust him to uphold his oath of office?"

Get ready: We may be hearing a lot of that in the months ahead.

Fifteen years ago it was a Democrat, Governor Bill Clinton, whose maritalshortcomings faced scrutiny on the presidential campaign trail. Six yearslater, then-President Clinton was impeached by House Republicans for lyingunder oath about what he eventually admitted was his "inappropriate"relationship with a White House intern.

Another presidential race is underway, and again marital misbehavior isdrawing attention. This time it is Republicans whose family values are inquestion. Of leading GOP contenders -- Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, former NewYork mayor; Senator John McCain, and Mitt Romney, former governor -- onlyRomney is married to his first wife. McCain is on his second marriage;Gingrich and Giuliani, their third. Each had an affair with the woman nowhis wife while married to another .

McCain's first marriage ended more than 25 years ago, but Giuliani's andGingrich's family complications continue to make news. Last month, Giulianiand wife number three posed for a newspaper photo while exchanging anintimate kiss. Not long thereafter Giuliani's son Andrew announced that hewould not take part in his father's campaign, making it clear that thefamily remains riven by the former mayor's bitter and very public dumping ofwife number two -- Andrew's mother, Donna Hanover.


The LA Times,0,3349604,print.story?coll=la-home-headlines

Governor calls Limbaugh 'irrelevant'
Schwarzenegger's repudiation of the conservative talk show host comes as heis accused of betraying his party's values.
By Robert Salladay
Times Staff Writer

March 21, 2007

SACRAMENTO - After repeatedly being asked about his conservative critics,including talk show host Rush Limbaugh, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger droppedhis diplomatic veneer Tuesday and declared their views irrelevant to hiswork in California.

"All irrelevant. Rush Limbaugh is irrelevant. I am not his servant," thegovernor said on NBC's "Today" show.

Limbaugh then declared on his radio program that Schwarzenegger, lacking thecommunications skills to persuade Californians of his Republican values, hadsold them out.

"If he had the leadership skills to articulate conservative principles andwin over the public as [former President] Reagan did, then he would havestayed conservative," said Limbaugh, who is often seen as the embodiment ofall conservative viewpoints.

The tiff marked Schwarzenegger's most high-profile repudiation of aconservative critic. Many fellow Republicans view his support of stem-cellresearch, mandatory curbs on carbon dioxide emissions and universalhealthcare as a betrayal of his party's ideals.


Constantinos E. Scaros - Cliffside Park, N.J.

USA TODAY'S cover story about John Edwards examines whether he can win thepresidency with a populist pitch. He can, with the right running mate ("CanEdwards win with an 'us vs. them' pitch?," News, March 14).

Although many pundits predict that Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., will succumbto the omnipotent Clinton political machine and agree to become Hillary'srunning mate, I think a different course of action would benefit both Obamaand Edwards far more.

If Obama joined the Clinton ticket, he would lose his greatest politicalasset - that he is above the fray and will not compromise his principles. Asthe darling of the anti-Hillary crowd, he would lose respect in an instant.

But Edwards and Obama would be a dynamic duo. Democrats in particular shouldhope that this happens. Because as it stands, Rudy Giuliani beats Clinton,with or without Obama, in a national election. Edwards-Obama is the onlyoption the Democrats have of reclaiming the presidency.


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