UPI's Capital Comment for June 12, 2002

By United Press International  |  June 12, 2002 at 10:06 AM
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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.

Here we go again -- The early days of George W. Bush's administration were marked by charges and counter-charges that outgoing Clinton administration personnel had vandalized the White House complex as they were leaving in January 2001. The General Accounting Office, which was asked to investigate by Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., has issued its report in the matter after many months of investigation, a copy of which has been obtained by Capital Comment.

The GAO concludes "Damage, theft, vandalism, and pranks occurred in the White House complex during the 2001 presidential transition. Incidents such as the removal of keys from computer keyboards; the theft of various items; the leaving of certain voice mail messages, signs and written messages; and the placing of glue on desk drawers clearly were intentional acts." The report also says that, "It was unknown whether other observations, such as broken furniture, were the result of intentional acts, when and how they occurred, or who may have been responsible for them."

"Further, with regard to stolen items, such as the presidential seal, because no one witnessed the thefts and many people were in the White House complex during the transition, it was not known who was responsible for taking them."

Convention wisdom -- On Tuesday, President Bush addressed the Southern Baptist Convention 2002 annual meeting. The nation's largest protestant denomination, the SBC is meeting in St. Louis to conduct denomination business.

Several years ago, the SBC passed a controversial resolution that was, in essence, a formal apology for not having done enough to combat slavery and racial division, which makes some of the president's comments to the group all the more poignant. Speaking via satellite from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, Bush said, "Baptists have had an extraordinary influence on American history. They were among the earliest champions of religious tolerance and freedom. Baptists have long upheld the ideal of a free church in a free state. And from the beginning, they believed that forcing a person to worship against his will violated the principles of both Christianity and civility. What I found interesting is the Baptist form of church government was a model of democracy even before the founding of America. And Baptists understood the deep truth of what Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., said: 'The church is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state.'

"True faith is never isolated from the rest of life, and faith without works is dead. Our democratic government is one way to promote social justice and the common good, which is why the Southern Baptist Convention has become a powerful voice for some of the great issues of our time," he said.

PFAW hates Senate blockade -- People for the American Way criticized GOP members of the Senate Tuesday for keeping a so-called hate crimes bill from coming to a vote. "Too many Republican senators are willing to talk the hate crimes bill to death," People For the American Way President Ralph Neas said. The hate crimes provision is part of the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act. According to PFAW, the bill contains provisions of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act sponsored by Sens. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and Gordon Smith, R-Ore., and Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., which passed the House and Senate in 2001. Neas says People For the American Way will back "efforts by the bill's sponsors to break Senate GOP leaders' blockade of hate crimes legislation and bring the bill up for a vote in this session of Congress."

Personnel note -- The White House says President Bush has named the first members of the new Homeland Security Advisory Council, created by presidential Executive Order on March 19, 2002.

Chairing the group will be Joseph J. Grano, Jr., currently the chairman and chief executive officer of UBS Paine Webber and a veteran of the U.S. Special Forces, while former FBI and CIA Director William Webster "will be designated vice chair upon appointment."

Other members of the council, whose purpose is to provide the president with advice on homeland security matters, are: Richard A. Andrews, vice president for emergency planning in the risk management Division of ABS Consulting; Dow Chemical Vice President Kathleen Bader; Dr. Jared Cohon, president of Carnegie Melon University; Utah GOP Gov. Michael Leavitt, a past chairman of the National Governor's Association; Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner James Moore; former U.S. Secretary of Defense and Energy James R. Schlesinger; Washington, D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams, a Democrat; Dr. Ruth David, the president and CEO of ANSER Inc., an independent, not-for-profit, public service research institution; Paul Bremer, who served President Ronald Reagan as ambassador-at-large for counter terrorism; Dr. Lydia Waters Thomas, president and CEO of Mitretek Systems; Steven Young, an administrative lieutenant with the Marion, Ohio, City Police Department; David Bell, vice chairman of the Interpublic Group of Companies; Sidney Taurel, chairman, president and CEO of Eli Lilly and Co.; and former Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind., who currently is director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

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