Capital Briefs: Sept. 18-22

Webb of Deception:

When James Webb, who served as secretary of the Navy under President Reagan, won Virginia’s Democratic senatorial primary in June, he claimed he would lure conservatives into his new party. “It’s time to welcome home those Democrats who left for a time, the Reagan Democrats, the conservative Democrats, whatever labels we give them,” he said.

Since then, Webb has demonstrated he is not conservative in any sense, adopting liberal positions on both economic and social issues. On July 9, for example, he told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week,” that he would roll back the Bush tax cuts. “So you’d roll back some of President Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy?” asked Stephanopoulos. “I don’t understand really how you can have a tax cut and be spending $500 billion on a war,” said Webb. “So you would?” asked Stephanopoulos. “Yeah, I would,” said Webb. Webb has also said he is pro-abortion and opposes both the federal marriage amendment and the state marriage amendment that will be on Virginia’s ballot in November. In his interview with Stephanopoulos, Webb said, “I think if Ronald Reagan were alive today, looking at where his party has gone, he might be thinking about coming back to the Democratic Party, too.” Webb went too far, however, when he released a TV ad last week, featuring a video clip of Reagan praising him in 1985 for his service in Vietnam.  Joanne Drake, chief of staff to Nancy Reagan, fired off a letter to Webb informing him that using Reagan’s image in his campaign was “neither authorized nor appropriate,” and asking him at “the direction of Mrs. Reagan” to cease doing so. Webb ignored Mrs. Reagan and continued to run the ad.

Tomlinson Triumphs:

Democratic members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees U.S. broadcasts to the world’s trouble spots, failed last week to oust Republican Chairman Ken Tomlinson, a staunch conservative.

The board failed to approve two anti-Tomlinson resolutions on party-line votes. The first would have forced Tomlinson’s resignation, the second would have stripped him of all authority. Incredibly, Tomlinson could not even vote on the resolutions. The BBG’s general counsel informed him that to do so could amount to a criminal violation.

The votes came in the wake of an unpublished State Department inspector general report alleging  Tomlinson misdeeds—none of which the Justice Department found worthy of prosecution (see “Capital Briefs” in Human Events last week). Although a summary of the IG report was leaked to the press by Rep. Howard Berman (D.-Calif.), a Tomlinson enemy, Tomlinson and the other board members have not yet seen the document. Republican board member Blanquita Cullom said the Democrats’ attempts to oust Tomlinson were “clearly a partisan effort … to usurp the authority of President Bush and the Senate (which confirmed Tomlinson’s nomination by unanimous vote).”

The anti-Tomlinson moves were orchestrated by liberal board member D. Jeffrey Hirschberg, a major fundraiser for President Clinton who has given nearly $100,000 to Democratic candidates and organizations since 1999.

Tomlinson adamantly rejected the IG charges, saying that the campaign against him was “inspired by partisan divisions inside the Broadcasting Board of Governors.” Those divisions have been evident for some time.

Biden’s Role:

On June 24, 2005, Robert Novak reported that Sen. Joe Biden (D.-Del.) was blocking the confirmation of a non-controversial nominee, Dina Habib Powell, to be assistant secretary of State with key responsibilities for the Middle East. Reason for Biden’s fury: The White House had refused to re-appoint California billionaire Norm Pattiz to a Democratic seat on the BBG. Pattiz had violated an unwritten but long-standing Senate rule that a minority appointee cannot attack a President who appointed him. (Pattiz was a signatory to a 2004 campaign ad in the New York Times denouncing President Bush and urging his defeat.)

Pattiz was a huge Democratic donor ($360,000 in 2000 alone) who was rewarded with an overnight stay at the Clinton White House and an appointment to the BBG. In 1992, Novak reported, Pattiz’s Westwood radio conglomerate was fined $75,000 for offering to illegally reimburse employees who contributed to the short-lived 1988 presidential campaign of … Joe Biden. Of the two House Democrats who demanded the IG investigation of Tomlinson, one, Tom Lantos (D.-Calif.) is a former Biden staffer and the other, Berman, is a political intimate of Pattiz.

It’s Not Her Party:

Apparently enraged by President Bush’s veto of a bill that would have provided tax dollars to researchers who kill human embryos to extract their stem cells, former New Jersey Gov. and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Todd Whitman sent out a September 2 fundraising letter asking potential high-dollar contributors to join the Steering Committee of her “It’s My Party Too” PAC.  The stated rationale for forking over cash to Christy: the threat posed to the GOP by “the extreme far-right.” “[W]e can’t allow a few extremists to hijack our party, dictate our ideology, attack our moderate candidates and alienate centrist Republicans,” Whitman wrote. “The stem-cell fiasco is just one of numerous examples of how insidious a threat the far-right extremists are to our party, our principles and our future.” Former President Gerald Ford and former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R.-Kan.) serve on Whitman’s advisory board.

Build the Fence:

The House voted 283 to 138 on September 14 to approve the Secure Fence Act (HR 6061), sponsored by House Homeland Security Chairman Peter King (R.-N.Y.). The bill orders the secretary of Homeland Security “to provide at least two layers of reinforced fencing, installation of additional physical barriers, roads, lighting, cameras, and sensors extending” along 700 miles of the 2000-mile-long U.S.-Mexico border. There are currently 75 miles of fence along that border.

This bill only authorized the fence, but Republicans expect to approve money to actually build it in an upcoming appropriations bill. King said his bill was necessary to show America “we can take meaningful action to secure the border.” While the majority (132) of House Democrats opposed the fence, only 6 Republicans voted against it. They were: Mike Conaway (Tex.), Lincoln Diaz-Balart (Fla.), Mario Diaz-Balart (Fla.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.), Don Young (Alaska) and the retiring Jim Kolbe (Ariz.).