Rice to warn Syria on inciting terrorism
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, yesterday to urge him to crack down on and try to disarm Palestinian terrorist groups. She has done so before. But the conversation apparently took an unexpected turn when Abbas voiced concern that Syria, a longtime backer of some anti-Israeli terrorist groups, including Palestinian Islamic Jihad, would encourage them to launch attackspresumably in Israel or the West Bank, says a senior State Department official. Abbas wanted to alert the Americans and others; the U.S. official says the administration, too, is concerned that Syria will use the groups for a violent, "hard-wired" response. "Everyone is concerned about the Syrians, as they come under international pressure, lashing out," the official tells our Thomas Omestad. That is a reference to U.N. Security Council action expected next week. The likely resolution should ramp up pressure on Syria to cooperate fully with a probe of the car-bomb killings in February of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and 20 other people. U.N. investigators have implicated senior Syrian and Lebanese intelligence officials in the plot. Rice, says the official, has decided to convene a conference call today of the so-called Quartetthe United States, Great Britain, France, and Russia, plus the United Nationsto discuss the risk of Syrian-inspired violence by proxy groups to encourage all to exert pressure on Syria to avoid such a reaction. Diplomats are also working on a joint statement to be released today. The wording is unknown, but the message, however explicit, is expected to convey a warning to Syria not to cross this line.
Pace's Picks: Vette, Scotch, Pasta
Gen. Peter Pace, the Marine four-star and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is thoroughly proving that he's not your everyday jarhead. Earlier this month he put out his first "guidance," which included an interesting call to top staff to take time every day to do something like read to enhance "intellectual breadth and perspective." And this week he laid out his personal style on everything from what he drives to what he drinks, showing the public that even a "mud marine" has class.
We learn this from the nationally syndicated Hugh Hewitt radio show, guest-hosted by Jed Babbin of the American Spectator. It was Pace's first radio interview as JCS chairman. Before jumping into the serious stuff, Babbin asked Pace his personal preferences on lots of items. The results: Pace likes Corvettes, pasta, Scotch, calamari, Batman, and newspapers over Internet media. "I knew I liked this guy," cheered Babbin, himself a Scotch fan. Here's the interview:
Jed Babbin: Suffice it to say, this gentleman, in almost 40 years of active duty in the United States Marines, has done pretty good for a mud marine from Brooklyn, N. Y. He is now the principal military adviser to the president of the United States, the secretary of defense, and the national security council. It is my great privilege to introduce to you the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Peter Pace. General, thank you very much for joining us.
Peter Pace: Jed, it is my pleasure. Thank you very much.
JB: Well, sir, we see you a lot, around with the president and testifying up on the Hill, but I think that the American people don't know you really as much as they'd like to. So here at the Hugh Hewitt Show, we'd like to suspend politics, and just get to your personal preferences. And we've put together a little bit of a quiz, and if you're game, I know you are, you're a marine. So if you would please just give me out of the choices I'm about to pose to you, just give me your preference.
JB: Ready to go?
JB: All right. Question 1. Pickup truck or SUV?
JB: All right. Fair enough.
PP: Actually, Corvette.
JB: I know this is going to be trouble. This guy has a mind of his own. God bless. All right. Motorcyle or golf clubs?
JB: Okay. Scotch or bourbon?
JB: Good. I knew I liked this guy. Internet or hard copy newspaper?
PP: Hard copy.
JB: Skis or surfboard?
JB: All right. Now, sir, I just ask you to pay particular attention-we're halfway through, but this is really getting to the serious stuff now. Question 6. Chili or ribs?
JB: All right. We'll keep going. This is the most important one, and I know you're going to give me trouble on this one too, sir. Calamari marinara or Moo shoo pork?
JB: All right. I can tell...ladies and gentlemen, this guy was raised right...from Brooklyn, and Teaneck, N. J. Getting down to the last couple of questions. Cameron Diaz or Sandra Bullock?
PP: Oh, I'm not going there. I'll get in trouble. I'll pick my wife.
JB: All right. That's safe. I understand. Batman or Spiderman?
JB: And last question in this quiz, very important. If you have a martini, shaken or stirred?
PP: I don't drink martinis.
Read the rest of the interview here.
Insider grades Miers an "A"
Margaret Spellings, President Bush's education secretary and former White House domestic policy adviser, is going to bat for troubled Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, her former West Wing coworker. "She is one of the smartest people," said Spellings, who has known Miers personally since the president's first gubernatorial campaign in Texas. A friend, Spellings said that she's upset with the attacks on her colleague but confident Miers will emerge victorious and get the court job. "I am disappointed at the way she is being treated because I think a lot of people don't know her as I do," said Spellings at a lunch with reporters hosted by the Christian Science Monitor's Washington bureau. She called Miers "very proper and dignified. I do not think I've ever heard her say a cuss word." Spellings also called Miers both open-minded and unchanging. "She is the same Harriet I met in 1993," said Spellings.
With such a glowing report card, you'd think the White House would put Spellings on the Miers confirmation team, but so far she's handling only press questions. "I have not been asked to make any calls" to push for Miers's confirmation, said Spellings.
Speaker Hastert joins the blogging world
House Speaker Dennis Hastert has seen the Internet and he loves it. And now he's joining it. Aides tell us the Illinois Republican, nicknamed "Coach" for his years running a high school wrestling team, will start a blog this week. It will be called "The Speaker's Journal" and will be available at his site, "He wants to connect with people outside the mainstream media," said spokesman Ron Bonjean. "It's our way of getting around the 24-7 cable news." The speaker's blog is the first for the GOP leadership. Hastert plans to write a couple times a week on whatever's on his mind, and his staff will include some related news items and links. But it won't always be about Republican issues before the House like immigration reform or spending cuts. "Hey, if the White Sox win the World Series, he might write a message about that," said Bonjean.
CIA bows to bin Laden publisher
Gary Berntsen's long wait is over. After battling with the CIA for months to get his memoir cleared for release, the veteran CIA operative this week got his manuscript back with the CIA agreeing to drop many of the redactions it had demanded at first. The move came only a few days after Whispers wrote about his fightand about the lawsuit he was preparing against the CIA, seeking $1 million in damages over lost pre-Christmas sales, reports our Kevin Whitelaw. "It's in good-enough shape to publish," Berntsen told U.S. News. "The agency has reduced the redactions significantly." The book, titled Jawbreaker: The Attack on bin Laden and al Qaeda: A Personal Account by the CIA's Key Field Commander, is tentatively scheduled to be published on December 27. In the book, Berntsen recounts his service as a clandestine CIA officer, including his time in East Africa after the bombings of two U.S. embassies in 1998, as well as his time chasing bin Laden in Tora Bora. The book explores bin Laden's presence in Tora Boraand how he escaped. It also tells the story of four Muslim Americans, some of whom were career CIA officers, who served on Berntsen's team in Afghanistan. "This is a good story for the agency," he says. Still, there are some details and anecdotes that remain redacted. Berntsen says he will continue to fight the CIA's decisions and try to get the entire text cleared.
Sorry, Oprah: Stick to TV
Washington pollsters have a message for Oprah! Forget those presidential aspirations, and stick to your TV show and diets. The reason: You just don't come across as commander-in-chief material. "I have no evidence," says GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway, "that the country is ready for Oprah in chief [rather] than commander in chief." She and Democratic pollster Celinda Lake said that being tough will still most likely beat being compassionate in the 2008 race. In fact, Lake, noting the popularity of the new TV show Commander in Chief, suggested that the better show to help future female candidates would feature a woman as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The polling duo, who formed an unusual alliance to write the new book What Women Really Want, describe the issue divide facing candidates with two acronyms: WE vs. HERS. WE stands for war and the economy, the dominant issues according to most Americans. HERS stands for health, education, and retirement security.
So who fits that model? Maybe Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who's taken tough positions on the war and the economy, and Secretary of State Condi Rice. But not Oprah Winfrey, who's been on some Democratic candidate lists.
Conway jokes that the White House would be a step down for the media diva. "I think she's too smart ...that might be a demotion," she says. What's more, adds Conway, fiscal conservatives might not like Oprah's recent giveaway promotions, fearing that she'd do that as president.
Don't Count Al Gore Out
Al Gore's declaration this week in Stockholm that he doesn't plan to run for president has done nothing to dampen moves by friends and allies to talk him into a 2008 race. In fact, they tell Whispers, it's hardened their belief that he wants to run. But, they said, his comments suggest that he isn't interested in a traditional bid for the presidency: He wants to be begged to run. "I'm not discouraged at all by what he said," said one of the Gore advocates Whispers talked with. This week, Gore was in Stockholm blasting the Bush administration and talking about his political plans. He said: "I have absolutely no plans and not expectations of ever being a candidate again." Allies said that left the door wide open to being wooed. "He doesn't want to be embarrassed and he won't just slowly tip-toe into the race. He wants the whole thing set up for him and that will be easy to do," said our tipster. How? Those advocating a Gore candidacy believe that he already has the issues and a top leadership team in place. But they feel he needs to be convinced that there are enough donors not likely to back Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton that would move to his side to make his bid unbeatable. That, said the advocates, is their first job and they predicted that there are scores of high-tech, media and corporate donors willing to step forward to help Gore.
Pink fights back
Pink's not just the color of love anymoreit's also the shade of Mary Kay's war on violence against women. We hear that the Texas makeup giant is bringing to Washington today its campaign to boost support for domestic violence shelters for women. The firm and its Mary Kay Ash Charitable Foundation plan to herald October's designation as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month by doling out $20,000 grants to 150 shelters across the country. It turns out that the effort from the company most known for giving pink cars to its star salespeople is somewhat of a family affair: Much of the money comes from those very same "independent beauty consultants." Now that's a lot of MK Signature Color Collections.
GOP: Enough About Miers' Democratic Donations
In its struggle to muzzle conservatives outraged over Bush Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers and her political contributions to liberals like Al Gore, the GOP is rolling out proof that the president's loyal lawyer did, in fact, give more to folks on her boss's side of the fence. In a detailed list drawn up by party insiders, it turns out that she gave Republicans much more than Democrats. "Miers contributed to conservative Republicans," cheers here support team. Only after the list was produced, did some conservatives back off their attacks of Monday when word of her checks to Gore, former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and even the Democratic National Committee spread just an hour after she was nominated by President Bush. Here's the donation information her allies supplied:
Miers has contributed to conservative Republicans:
- Harriet Miers Has Given $16,500 To Republicans And Only $3,000 To Democrats. (Political Money Line Website, www.tray.com, Accessed 10/3/05)
Miers contributions to conservative Republicans include:
- Miers Gave $2,000 To Bush-Cheney '04 In 2003. (Political Money Line Website, www.tray.com, Accessed 10/3/05)
- Miers Gave $1,000 To George Bush For President In 1999. (The Center For Responsive Politics Website, www.opensecrets.org, Accessed 10/3/05)
- Miers Gave $1,000 To The Bush-Cheney 2000 Compliance Committee In 2000. (Political Money Line Website, www.tray.com, Accessed 10/3/05)
- Miers Gave $5,000 To The Bush-Cheney 2000 Recount Fund In 2000. (Political Money Line Website, www.tray.com, Accessed 10/3/05)
- Miers Gave Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) $1,000 In 1999 And 1997. (The Center For Responsive Politics Website, www.opensecrets.org, Accessed 10/3/05)
- Miers Gave Phil Gramm (R-TX) For President $1,000 In 1995 And Phil Gramm For Senate (R-TX) $1,000 In 1996. (The Center For Responsive Politics Website, www.opensecrets.org, Accessed 10/3/05)
- Miers Gave Pete Sessions (R-TX) $500 In 1991, 1994 And 1995. (The Center For Responsive Politics Website, www.opensecrets.org, Accessed 10/3/05)