Capital Briefs: May 5-9

NEXT REPUBLICAN REFORMER? Next to the battle between Representatives Dave Camp (Mich.) and Wally Herger (Calif.) over who will be the new ranking Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, the hottest fight among House Republicans after the ’08 elections is almost certain to be for the ranking spot on the Government Reform Committee. With Rep. Tom Davis (R.-Va.) retiring from Congress, the next senior GOPer on the panel is Connecticut’s Chris Shays. But ten-termer Shays is one of the diminishing band of genuine liberal Republicans in Congress (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 46%). He opposed the ban on partial-birth abortion (finally passed by Congress and signed by President Bush) and been one of five GOP House members to vote against impeachment of Bill Clinton in 1998. Shays is expected to face strong opposition from the much more junior Rep. Darrell Issa (Calif.), a solid conservative (ACU rating 88% ) who is vigorously lobbying for the ranking spot. House GOP leaders will decide the ranking members in a closed-door vote in December.

BUT WILL HE GO TO ALASKA? President Bush opened his news conference last week with an unusually strong plea for Congress to permit drilling in the Arctic Natural Wildlife Reserve (ANWR) — a subject on which he sharply disagrees with John McCain, who says we shouldn’t drill in ANWR because it’s “pristine.” Despite Bush’s plea, many are still wondering why the President has never agreed to go to Alaska and let the public see how ugly and barren most of ANWR is and show why drilling would not endanger the environment. A day after the news conference, HUMAN EVENTS Political Editor John Gizzi posed the question of an Alaskan trip to White House Press Secretary Dana Perino. “I think the President gets a lot of advice on where he makes impacts or not,” was all Perino would say.

PANDERING MOYERS: The recent pandering PBS presentation of Barack Obama pastor Jeremiah Wright by Bill Moyers once again underlined that former CPB Chairman Kenneth Tomlinson was right in his condemnation of spending tax dollars on the weekly left-wing Moyers program. Moyers offered no challenge to such outrageous Wright theories as that the American government was responsible for the AIDS virus. Instead, the questions from Moyers included such soft-balls as: “Did you ever imagine that you would come to personify the black anger that so many whites fear?” and “I think of how important music is to your church at times like this, that’s intentional isn’t it?”
Little wonder that Wright wanted Moyers conducting his first public interview.

DALEY PUTTING ON AYERS: In what the Financial Times concluded was a “remarkable” statement, the son of one of the chief targets of the far-left Weather Underground weighed in last week with a strong endorsement of Bill Ayers, friend of Barack Obama and himself a veteran of the terrorist group that “declared war” on the U.S. government in 1960s. “But this is 2008 and I’ve gotten to know Bill Ayers,” said Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, whose namesake-father was also mayor and oversaw the police battles with demonstrators at the 1968 Democratic National Convention and during the “Days of Rage” rampage orchestrated by the Weathermen a year later. “He’s been very active in school reform and education and a very active person in the community.” Ayers, of course, is married to fellow Weather Underground member Bernadine Dohrn and has no regrets about being part of a group that bombed targets including the U.S. Capitol. The present Mayor Daley also insisted that his father was not a target of militants such as Ayers, his strong action against anti-war demonstrators notwithstanding. “The Days of Rage was more against the Vietnam War,” Daley told the FT, “And the Weathermen, they were all over the country—in San Francisco, New York other places. So it wasn’t against my father. There were never any threats against him.”

NO MORE TAX DOLLARS FOR CARTER: That’s what Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R.-Mich.) is calling for. In the wake of Jimmy Carter’s controversial meeting with Hamas last week, Knollenberg introduced the Coordinated Response to Extreme Radicals Act (CARTER Act), to bar tax dollars from going to the Carter Center founded and headed by the 39th President. “It sends a fundamentally troubling message when an American dignitary is engaged in dialogue with terrorists,” said Knollenberg, adding that his bill “will make sure that taxpayer dollars are not being used to support discussions or negotiations with terrorist groups.” Since 2001, the Carter Center has received more than $19 million in taxpayer funds.

BOLTON ON KOREA-SYRIA AXIS:  No sooner had members of Congress received a closed-door briefing on the Israeli bombing of an alleged nuclear facility in Syria that North Korea (DPRK) had been helping to develop than U.S. intelligence was again called into question. One of the key pieces of evidence offered by intelligence officials was that a North Korean shown in photographs from the Syrian facility bombed by Israel seven months ago was a nuclear scientist.  The intelligence officials reportedly told lawmakers at the briefings the man they claimed was a scientist was recognized from the six-party talks in which North Korea participates and which are aimed at controlling nuclear capabilities.  But shortly after the U.S. briefing, the South Korean newspaper Munwha Ilbo cited a government official in Seoul who identified the individual in question as Jung Tae-yang, the vice director general of the Foreign Ministry’s North American Bureau. A CIA spokesman told Human Events the man in question was indeed a nuclear scientist, disputing the newspaper report. One who joined in the skepticism over the identity of the North Korean provided by U.S. intelligence was former UN Ambassador John Bolton, who told HUMAN EVENTS:  “I would have been surprised had North Korean permitted any of its nuclear scientists anywhere near the six-party talks,  That would be running the risk they might have said something true!”  Bolton added that “ it wouldn’t have surprised me if a diplomat was there,” and noted that Syrian officials flew to Pyongyang shortly after the Israeli bombing of the facility.  Responding to President Bush’s claim at a televised news conference that confirmation of an Israeli bombing of the facility was withheld for more than seven months because of a “risk of conflict.”  Bolton told us risk to Israel “existed for a short time but passed a long time ago.”  He said he believed that “the U.S. withheld the information to avoid tanking the six-party talks,” which Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill has long overseen and claims are succeeding in reducing the chances of North Korea’s becoming a rogue nuclear nation.  “Hill and the whole policy should go,” said Bolton, joining in the calls that began last week for the longtime State Department official to resign, “But now, this policy [of trusting North Korea to reduce its nuclear potential through the six-party talks is the President and Secretary of State’s policy more than it is Hill’s, unfortunately.”