WASHINGTON, Oct. 8 (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.
Armey of one -- Those opposed to U.S. military action against Saddam Hussein have lost the support of one who was often cited as a discordant voice within President George W. Bush's own party. On Monday, House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, issued a statement announcing that he had "decided to support President Bush and a resolution authorizing the use of force to change the current regime in Iraq.
"My decision follows a careful, exhaustive review of the facts and evidence against Saddam Hussein, a series of direct consultations with Cabinet officials and the vice president and an historical review of American foreign policy," Armey said.
Though he had previously argued for caution, leading some to infer he opposed U.S. action, Armey said that "Over the course of the past five weeks, I have approached this decision seeking to answer three fundamental questions: How real is the threat Saddam poses? How good a plan do we have to mobilize our military resources in a way that U.S. troops will complete the mission with a maximum amount of personal safety? And finally, would such an action constitute a redefinition of the character of the United States in conducting international and military affairs?"
"America has never been an aggressor nation. That is a matter of history. It is a matter of conscience. It is a matter of who we are, who we have been, and who we should be. For the United States to act first, the threat must be clear and present. It is," Armey said. "No American wants to go to war. But the president's proven leadership has shown that conflict may be our only option to defend freedom. I will cast my vote without reservation."
The way things lei -- The untimely death of veteran Hawaii legislator Patsy Mink has thrown the normally uncomplicated election process into a tizzy. Mink, a Democrat member of the House of Representatives, died of pneumonia on Sept. 28 -- three days after the deadline to replace her on the ballot had passed. Party leaders, led by Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, had originally called for voters to nevertheless re-elect Mink as a tribute to her years of service.
As things were set in motion, the possibility arose that there would be three elections over a two-month period to determine who would represent the state's 2nd Congressional District: the Nov. 5 general election (where Mink's name would appear on the ballot); a Nov. 30 special election to choose a representative to fill out the remaining month of Mink's unexpired term; and a Jan. 4, 2003, special election to fill the open seat if, as expected, Mink is re-elected on Nov. 5.
The Nov. 30 election alone would cost the cash-strapped state government close to $2 million to administer, leading state Attorney General Earl Anzai to petition the state Supreme Court to allow Hawaii Democrats to replace Mink on the Nov. 5 ballot.
Two names mentioned as potential replacements are recently-defeated gubernatorial candidate Ed Case, who lost to Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono in last month's party primary, and former Honolulu City Councilman Mufi Hannemann, who ran against Mink for Congress in 1990 -- but there are a whole slew of Democrats waiting in the wings to jump in depending on what the state Supreme Court decides to do.
By any other name -- It should come as no surprise that American Muslims groups are up in arms after the Rev. Jerry Falwell, founder of the now-defunct Moral Majority, called the prophet Mohammed "a terrorist" in a recent appearance on the CBS newsmagazine "60 Minutes." Citing Falwell's observation as one more indication of the declining level of public civility in America, American Muslim Council Executive Director Eric Erfan Vickers is asking people to take a stand for tolerance. "As an American, I do not expect many in this country to understand how I can suffer what this nation has done to my people, and what it is now doing to my faith, and still claim this land as mine. But I do. And I do so because I do have some expectations," he says.
"I expect this nation to demand decency in the public discourse over religion. I expect my country to hold our heroes sacrosanct, and I expect America to have the politeness to say it is sorry when it makes a mistake, even a well-intentioned one. I expect this from leaders chosen under a democracy that contains a Bill of Rights, and I expect it as well from the everyday people whose spirit of being just is the lifeblood of a free nation."
On Monday afternoon the executive board of the U.S. chapter of the National Council of Churches voted unanimously to "condemn and repudiate" Falwell's statement, saying it endangered the lives of Christians around the world.
Unfinished business -- Talks between the United States and North Korea on issues related to accounting for MIA U.S. soldiers ended Sunday in Bangkok. Led by Jerry D. Jennings, deputy assistant secretary of defense for POW/missing personnel affairs, the one-day session laid out the U.S. vision for improving U.S. remains recovery operations inside North Korea, as well as facilitating live sighting investigations. Jennings, addressing Col. Gen. Li Chon Bok of the Korean People's Army, said "...our meeting gives each of us our first opportunity to provide an overarching vision for the direction in which we need to take the accounting issue in the future."
Jennings also called for access to American defectors living in North Korea, saying it was necessary to shed some light on the possibility of Americans living or being held in North Korea. Teams of specialists from the U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii will complete the third of three operations in North Korea at the end of this month in Unsan province 60 miles north of Pyongyang, as well as near the Chosin Reservoir in the northeast part of the country. Similar U.S. teams have conducted 24 operations in the seven years since 1996.
Sittin' on the dock of the bay... -- On Monday, the White House announced that President George W. Bush had, by executive order, established a board of inquiry to look into the labor dispute that has shut down ports on America's Pacific coast. The three members of the board are former Senator and Secretary of Labor William Brock, who is also the former U.S. trade representative; Dennis Nolan, who is presently the Webster professor of labor law at the University of South Carolina School of Law and a member of the American Arbitration Association and Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service panels of arbitrators; and Patrick Hardin, the W. Allen Separk Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Tennessee and former chief counsel to the chairman and associate general counsel in charge of the division of enforcement litigation of the National Labor Relations Board.
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