UPI's Capital Comment for Aug. 6, 2002

By United Press International   |   Aug. 6, 2002 at 12:09 PM
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WASHINGTON, Aug. 6 (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.

A pregnant pause -- Monday President George W. Bush signed the Born Alive Infants Protection Act at a public ceremony in Pennsylvania. The legislation specifies that a baby who survives an abortion and manages to be born will be protected -- even if that was not intended or desired.

As is usually the case, people who in one way or another underscore the importance of the issue stood with him at the ceremony. Along with the activists and politicians who had worked hard to raise the issue was National Review columnist Hadley Arkes, professor of jurisprudence and American institutions at Amherst University who, White House insiders say, played some small part in bringing the ceremony about.

A number of prominent conservatives feared the president would not use the opportunity afforded him by the bill signing to make a point about the larger issue of abortion. The Democrats in Congress looked upon this legislation with great trepidation, letting it pass with little dissent rather than explain why it is but one step down the road to ending legal abortion on demand in America.

In a recent piece Arkes wrote for National Review, explaining the moral and political significance of the issue, addressed this point, saying the Democrats should be publicly shamed for their silence. The piece generated a lot of attention -- especially among those who feared the president would sign the bill without much fanfare.

Arkes wrote: "The deep worry, of course, is that if nothing is said, the Democrats will have won. More than that, they will have finessed a remarkable victory from what figured to be, for them, a certain disaster. For who would attach any meaning to a law, when those who enacted it did not proclaim it, or even made some noticeable effort to impart its meaning to the public. In the absence of anything said officially, the meaning of the bill can be marked only in commentaries of the kind I have set down here. But such commentaries are as nothing compared to the simplest words spoken by the president, for those words are spoken with the authority of his office and they have behind them the weight of the executive branch. It is precisely at moments of this kind, with the moral questions thickening, that Mr. Bush has often shown his surest touch. My own hope is that he will redeem the efforts and the sacrifices made for this bill, and speak finally, at this moment, some telling words of his own."

On Monday, in Pittsburgh, Arkes got his wish.

Upping the stakes -- Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., has written President George W. Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Attorney General John Ashcroft urging that those responsible for last week's bombing at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem be transferred to the United States for prosecution. The blast killed five Americans. Though the United States does not have an extradition agreement with the Palestinian Authority, in his letter Flake cited a 1991 case in which the United States persuaded the Egyptian government, which does not have an extradition agreement with the United States, to surrender a criminal suspect. "The lack of an extradition agreement with Yasser Arafat can not and must not be a reason not to go after those responsible for murdering Americans," Flake said. "There are international legal precedents that we must vigorously pursue."

While he acknowledges the White House is allowing Israel to handle the situation, Flake nevertheless says the United States should not shy away from demanding that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat turn over those responsible for the murders to the United States. The militant Hamas organization has taken responsibility for the bombing. "We owe it to the victims' families to bring these terrorists to justice," Flake said.

Strike up the band -- Anyone who calls Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain's congressional office and gets put on hold is in for a treat. Unlike the stale "Musak" that is so often heard on official phone lines, McCain's office uses rousing martial music performed by the U.S. Navy band. McCain is a former Navy flyer, graduate of the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., and comes from a family steeped in Navy tradition. His grandfather, Adm. John McCain, was a senior commander of naval forces in the Pacific during World War II.

Where the elite meet -- The Islamic Society of North America gathers at the Washington Convention center between Aug. 30 and Sept. 2 for its annual conference. By some estimates it will be the biggest event and conference held by Muslims in America, with 30,000 attendees from all over North America expected to attend.

Have faith in the rules -- The American Jewish Committee has issued a new publication identifying what it calls "the proper place of religion in the nation's public schools." "Religion in the Public Schools: A Primer for Students, Parents, Teachers, and School Administrators" is being widely distributed to school districts across the country. "It is our hope that this publication will provide much needed guidance to various interested and involved members of the community from parents to teachers, principals, and school administrators," AJC Legal Director Jeffrey Sinensky said. The AJC says the role of religion in American public schools has been one of its central concerns since the AJC was founded almost 100 years ago, and they have fought continuously to eliminate state-sponsored religious activities in public schools. The AJC also says they have worked to ensure the rights of students to recite their own prayers and honor their own religious traditions during the school day so long as they do not interfere with the rights of others.

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