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UPI's Capital Comment for Feb. 4, 2003

Feb. 4, 2003 at 1:14 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Feb. 4 (UPI) -- Capital Comment -- Daily news notes, political rumors and important events that shape politics and public policy in Washington and the world from United Press International.

Panel discussion...

Tensions ran high at the just-completed 30th annual Conservative Political Action Conference because of its tone concerning Muslims and Arab-Americans. The first day of the conference was marred by the sale of virulently anti-Muslim paraphernalia on display in one vendor's booth in the exhibition hall. The items were taken down after conference organizers informed the vendor that the items or the entire booth had to go. But according to some reports, they continued to be sold under the table. Tempers again flared Saturday afternoon because of a panel titled, "Islam: Religion of Peace?"

Moderated by WorldNetDaily.com editor Joseph Farrah, the panel was composed of remarks by the Middle East Institute's Daniel Pipes, author Kenneth Timmerman and Serge Trifkovic, the foreign affairs editor of Chronicles magazine -- all of whom had little if anything kind to say about Islam while suggesting that permitting Muslims to immigrate to the United States posed a threat.

Particularly disturbing to some in the audience was Trifkovic's assertion that: "We must have the guts to call a religion of war by its proper name."

The fact that no representatives of the Islamic faith were also on the panel is an unfolding controversy.

According to a CPAC spokesman, the panel, originally titled "Islam," was supposed to be composed of Farrah, religious scholar and prison ministry founder Chuck Colson, Islamic activist Khaled Saffuri, the Arab-American Institute's Jim Zogby and one additional panelist who had not yet been selected.

The spokesman told United Press International that after Colson withdrew because of a scheduling conflict, the staff asked the co-sponsors to suggest a replacement at one of the final pre-conference meetings -- and they suggested Pipes and Trifkovic.

The addition of Pipes, however, caused Saffuri and Zogby to reconsider their participation. The Islamic Institute, a think tank headed by Saffuri, explained their withdrawal in a Friday e-mail to friends, supporters and the media.

"CPAC never announced their desire to invite Daniel Pipes to speak on the panel nor did they inform the panelists upon his acceptance to their invite. For lack of confidence in Pipes' ability to intellectually discuss Islam, Saffuri and Zogby both rightfully declined from the panel upon learning from CPAC's Web site that he was to appear on their panel," the message said.

The CPAC spokesman suggested their opposition to appearing with Pipes was a surprise. "Had I been clued in that Pipes' presence would cause a firestorm, we would have at least talked about it," he said.


Blondes do have more fun...

Best-selling author Ann Coulter spoke to CPAC on Saturday and, in her usual fashion, pulled no punches in her critique of modern liberalism and opposition to the looming war against Saddam Hussein. Greeted by thunderous applause and laughter were her observations that the Jan. 18 "Anti-war rally was also an anti-grooming rally" and that, for liberals, the evidence on global warming is sufficient to warrant a complete overhaul of the industrial economy of the West "but we still don't have enough evidence on Iraq."


Take a letter...

In response to the ongoing controversy over letters to the editor that had been generated by a Republican Web site, the Boston Globe is instituting a new letters policy to ensure the authenticity of the authorship of letters. Emphasizing that the Republican National Committee "is not alone in drafting prefab letters to the editor, or making them easy to e-mail," Globe Ombudsman Christine Chinlund wrote Monday that the paper's editorial page editor "has instituted a new policy to confirm original authorship on any letter that could be part of an organized campaign."


Tough choices?

The Concord Coalition, a moderate group dedicated to deficit reduction, has taken out a full-page ad in The New York Times posing the question, "Are we really cutting taxes -- or just raising them on our kids?" Concord Coalition co-chairmen former Sens. Warren Rudman, R-N.H., and Bob Kerrey, D-Neb., signed Monday's ad along with the coalition's president, former Commerce Secretary Pete Peterson, and board members Paul Volcker, Robert Rubin, Lloyd Cutler, Sam Nunn and Charles A. Bowsher, former head of the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.


Personnel notes...

The Department of Justice has announced that Diane Stuart has been named acting director of the Office on Violence Against Women. The November 2002 Justice Department authorization bill elevated the position to a presidential appointment requiring Senate confirmation. Stuart has been director of the existing office since October 2001 ... Ellen Engleman has been nominated to be a member of the National Transportation Safety Board for the remainder of a five-year term expiring Dec. 31, 2007, and for a two-year term as chairman ... Nicole Harburger is taking over as communications director for the Democratic Governors Association, replacing Ramona Oliver who has accepted a post working for Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell.


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