Inside Pol­i­tics

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Last re­sort

First, Newt Gin­grich said he woul­drun­for­pres­i­dentin2008only if no other Repub­li­can emerged as a clear front-run­ner. Now, the for­merHous­es­peak­er­sayshewil­l­run only as a “last re­sort.”

His as­sess­ment came in re­sponse to a ques­tion by Chris Wal­lace, host of “Fox News Sun­day.”

“You sound as if you think about run­ning for pres­i­dent as a last re­sort, not as a first re­sort?” Mr. Wal­lace asked.

“Ex­actly,” Mr. Gin­grich an­swered. “I mean, no­body’s ever said it quite that way, but you’re right.”

Mr. Gin­grich said he first hoped to in­flu­ence the pres­i­den­tial race by pro­vid­ing can­di­dates in both par­ties with his “so­lu­tions” to prob­lems such as health care, en­ergy, ed­u­ca­tion, na­tional se­cu­rity and im­mi­gra­tion.

“If, in that process, it be­comes nec­es­sary to run, then I’ll run,” Mr. Gin­grich said.

“Last re­sort, not first re­sort?” Mr. Wal­lace re­peated. “Last re­sort,” Gin­grich replied. Mr. Gin­grich said last month that it would not be too late for him to en­ter the race af­ter La­bor Day, if he thought no can­di­date had a clear ad­van­tage.

Fear of leaks

The­p­ro­ce­dure­haschanged­when it comes to re­vis­ing the pres­i­dent’s State of the Union Ad­dress, Peggy Noo­nan­dis­cov­ere­d­i­na­con­ver­sa­tion with an ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial.

“I asked the ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial how the speech looks. He said he’d only seen part of it, that each agency now re­ceives for re­view only the sec­tion of the speech that is per­ti­nent to it. This sur­prised me. In the Rea­gan White House, the whole speech was sent out to the agen­cies. This caused prob­lems of its own — a poet at Trea­sury might ac­ci­den­tally re­write Amer­i­can for­eign pol­icy — but it al­lowed the speech to emerge with a cer­tain de­fin­able char­ac­ter,” Miss Noo­nan wrote at www.opin­ionjour­nal.com.

“The change sug­gested two things. One is that the new way might ac­count for the in­creased chop­pi­ness of such ad­dresses over the years. It’s hard to main­tain a flow if each sec­tion bears dif­fer­ent marks. The other is that the ad­min­is­tra­tion must be very anx­ious about leaks, wor­ried that the guy in the Of­fice of Man­age­ment and Bud­get will leak the for­eign-af­fairs sec­tion or the guy in Com­merce will leak the ref­er­ences to im­mi­gra­tion. It’s dif­fi­cult to run a gov­ern­ment when you have to op­er­ate with such anx­i­ety.”

Alabama fa­vorites

Sen. Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton’s en­try into the pres­i­den­tial race is ex­cit­ing Alabama Democrats, who rate her, Sen. Barack Obama and John Ed­wards as the can­di­dates to watch in the state’s new pres­i­den­tial pri­mary.

Mrs. Clin­ton an­nounced Jan. 20 that she would form a pres­i­den­tial ex­ploratory com­mit­tee. Mr. Obama of Illi­nois and Mr. Ed­wards, the Demo­cratic vice-pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee in 2004, have al­ready taken that step.

“I’d put Obama, Clin­ton and Ed­wards in a clump of three, with the oth­ers in the back,” Joe Turn­ham, chair­man of the Alabama Demo­crat­icParty,toldtheAs­so­ci­at­edPress.

He said that Mrs. Clin­ton is prob­a­bly sup­ported by about one-fourth of the likely Demo­cratic vot­ers in Alabama and that if she wants to build on that, she will have to cam­paign ac­tively in the state — some­thing Bill Clin­ton didn’t do be­cause he had the nom­i­na­tion locked up be­fore Alabama’s pri­mary.

The Alabama Leg­is­la­ture has moved up Alabama’s pres­i­den­tial pri­mary by four months to Feb. 5, 2008. The state will go from be­ing last in the South to sec­ond be­hind South Carolina. Be­cause of that, the state is get­ting more at­ten­tion from likely pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates of both par­ties.

Clean record

For­mer Rep. Bill Jan­klow, South Dakota Repub­li­can, emerged from his man­slaugh­ter pro­ba­tion Jan. 22 with a clean record, more than three years af­ter he sped through a stop sign in a Cadil­lac and killed a mo­tor­cy­clist.

Mr. Jan­klow al­ready re­gained his law li­cense and can get be­hind the wheel again, hav­ing obeyed all con­di­tions of his re­lease, his pro­ba­tion of­fi­cer said.

But the 67-year-old’s po­lit­i­cal ca­reer is through.

“I think that it’s good for ev­ery­one in­volved that this chap­ter has come to a con­clu­sion,” said Ed Evans, the lawyer who rep­re­sented him at trial.

Mr. Jan­klow told the As­so­ci­ated Press that he did not want to com­mentabout­theend­ofhis­pro­ba­tion.

Mr. Jan­klow was gov­er­nor for 16 years, serv­ing four terms in two eight-year stints. In 2002, he was elected as South Dakota’s only mem­ber of the House.

His record will be cleared be­cause Cir­cuit Judge Rod­ney Steele, now re­tired, is­sued Mr. Jan­klow a sus­pended im­po­si­tion of sen­tence in 2004 — a one-time­only pass for a per­son found guilty of a felony.

A sus­pended im­po­si­tion of sen­tence is sim­i­lar to a par­don, and means that a judge has placed the jury’sguiltyver­dic­ton­hold.Thereis no con­vic­tion on record if a per­son com­plieswith­all­con­di­tion­sspec­i­fied as pun­ish­ment by the judge.

Pigskin pol­i­tics

Two weeks ago, the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives ap­proved a res­o­lu­tion honor­ing the Univer­sity of Florida foot­ball team, win­ner of the na­tional cham­pi­onship game.

This pro­vided oc­ca­sion for com­ment by staffers for Rep. Jack Kingston, Ge­or­gia Repub­li­can, a proud alum­nus of the Univer­sity of Ge­or­gia, whose Bull­dogs are bit­ter ri­vals of Florida’s Ga­tors in the South­east­ern Con­fer­ence (SEC).

“Al­though we do feel that the Florida Ga­tors did a great ser­vice by prov­ing once again that the SEC is THE elite con­fer­ence in col­lege foot­ball, as Ge­or­gia Bull­dogs, we could sup­port no such res­o­lu­tion,” an anony­mous staffer wrote on the blog at the con­gress­man’s of­fi­cial Web site (http://kingston.house.gov/blog). “We en­cour­aged Jack to vote against this res­o­lu­tion as we felt the con­stituents of the First Dis­trict would want him to do so.

“Jack was the lone mem­ber of Congress to op­pose the res­o­lu­tion, and we couldn’t be more proud of him. De­spite get­ting much grief for his vote from his House col­leagues, he was able to de­liver the fun­da­men­tal mes­sage we wanted him to con­vey — GO DAWGS!”

Arnold’s ‘loan’

“When politi­cians break their pledges not to raise taxes, they come up with the darn­d­est eva­sions,” John Fund writes at www.Opin­ionJour­nal.com.

“Take Gov. Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger, who wants to levy new charges on Cal­i­for­nia doc­tors, hos­pi­tals and em­ploy­ers to help pay for his $12 bil­lion health care plan. ‘It is not a tax, just a loan, be­cause it does not go for gen­eral [ex­pen­di­tures],’ he told the Sacra­mento Bee [Jan. 18]. ‘It goes back to health care.’

“A loan? The first re­ac­tion of many Cal­i­for­ni­ans was: What state of­fice will I be able to go to and get my loan back — per­haps with in­ter­est? It’s pre­pos­ter­ous, for ex­am­ple, to char­ac­ter­ize as a ‘loan’ the 4 per­cent pay­roll levy the gov­er­nor wants to im­pose on em­ploy­ers who don’t of­fer health ben­e­fits. Cal­i­for­nia’s gas taxes are ded­i­cated to trans­porta­tion, but no one would call them ‘gas loans.’ Prop­erty taxes go to lo­cal ed­u­ca­tion. Are they not taxes?” Mr. Fund asked.

“The over-the-top ab­sur­dity of the Sch­warzeneg­ger state­ment led Rush Lim­baugh into fits of laugh­ter [on Jan. 19]. ‘Bill Clin­ton call­ing [tax in­creases] “in­vest­ments” was bad enough,’ Mr. Lim­baugh says. Bruce Bartlett, a free-mar­ket econ­o­mist and harsh critic of the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion, thought he’d heard all the eu­phemisms for a tax hike (‘rev­enue en­hance­ments’ and ‘sol­i­dar­ity pay­ments’ are clas­sics), but he al­lows that ‘call­ing one a “loan” is new.’ ”

‘Bring it on’?

Color one man unim­pressed by Pres­i­dent Bush’s planned troop surge in Iraq.

Al Qaeda deputy leader Ay­man al-Zawahri mocked Mr. Bush’s plan, say­ing Is­lamist mil­i­tants could wipe out the en­tire U.S. Army, ac­cord­ing to an In­ter­net video posted Jan. 22. Al-Zawahri’s com­ments were pub­lished on the Web site of the U.S.-based SITE (Search for In­ter­na­tional Ter­ror­ist En­ti­ties) In­sti­tute, www.site­in­sti­tute.org, which searches and an­a­lyzes mil­i­tants’ net­works.

“Why send 20,000 only? Why not send 50 or 100,000? Aren’t you aware that the dogs of Iraq are pin­ing for your troops’ dead bod­ies?” he said.

Ac­cord­ing to Reuters news agency, al-Zawahri taunted Mr. Bush fur­ther by invit­ing him to send the whole U.S. Army to Iraq, and said the “mu­ja­hedeen” were ca­pa­ble of de­stroy­ing the equiv­a­lent of 10 armies.

Turn­ing to Afghanistan, al-Zawahri said the United States had failed to de­prive the Tal­iban of a haven there and had to turn to NATO for help. Al-Zawahri urged Mus­lims to launch a ji­had, or holy war, say­ing Mr. Bush’s plan to send more troops to Iraq made it an obli­ga­tion for all Mus­lims to de­fend Is­lam.

Vir­tual cam­paign

Sen. Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton, New York Demo­crat and pres­i­den­tial hope­ful, be­gan her first on­line chat Jan. 22 an­swer­ing a ques­tion on the war in Iraq, a pos­si­ble Achilles’ heel that she hopes to dis­arm be­fore next year’s Demo­cratic pri­mary.

Mrs. Clin­ton was among the Democrats who voted in fa­vor of the res­o­lu­tion to au­tho­rize that war. Since then, Democrats — and an in­creas­ing num­ber of in­de­pen­dent vot­ers — have grown deeply dis­sat­is­fied with the war and her de­ci­sion. On Jan. 22, she put the blame en­tirely on Pres­i­dent Bush, re­ports Charles Hurt of The Wash­ing­ton Times.

“We have to make bet­ter de­ci­sions now than the pres­i­dent has in the past,” a laven­der-clad Mrs. Clin­ton told Web view­ers for the video­cast as she sat on a beige couch.

But, she added, she does not sup­port cut­ting fund­ing to end the con­flict im­me­di­ately.

“I don’t want to cut fund­ing for Amer­i­can troops,” she said. “I don’t want to do any­thing that in any way un­der­cuts their abil­ity to pro­tect them­selves.”

She said she would rather cut U.S. aid to Iraqi troops un­less they step for­ward and take con­trol of their coun­try’s se­cu­rity.

For­mer House Speaker Newt Gin­grich said he plans to seek the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion in 2008 only as a “last re­sort.”

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