Saturday, June 25, 2005

White House Stands Behind Rove Comments

White House Stands Behind Rove Comments

By JIM ABRAMS, Associated Press Writer
Fri Jun 24, 7:55 AM ET

WASHINGTON - A White House official said Friday the administration finds it "somewhat puzzling" that Democrats are demanding presidential adviser Karl Rove's apology or resignation for implying that liberals are soft on terrorism.

"I think Karl was very specific, very accurate, in who he was pointing out," communications director Dan Bartlett said. "It's touched a chord with these Democrats. I'm not sure why."

Congressional Republicans earlier joined the White House in standing solidly behind Rove, saying he shouldn't apologize and that he was outlining a philosophical divide between a president who sought to win the war on terrorism by taking the fight to the enemy and Democrats who questioned that approach.

The controversy, fought out in hearings, floor speeches and news conferences Thursday on Capitol Hill, was the latest of several highly contentious battles that have soured the already highly partisan atmosphere.

Earlier this week Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., apologized after being hit with a chorus of attacks from Republicans about comments in which he compared detainee treatment at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the actions of Nazis and other repressive regimes.

Rove, the architect behind President Bush's election victories, on Wednesday night told a gathering of the New York Conservative Party that "Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers." Conservatives, he said, "saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war."

He added that groups linked to the Democratic Party made the mistake of calling for "moderation and restraint" after the terrorist attacks.

Bartlett, appearing on morning news shows Friday, said that Rove was referring in his talk to, a liberal group that has been identified with movie producer Michael Moore.

"It's somewhat puzzling why all these Democrats ... who responded forcefully after 9-11, who voted to support President Bush's pursuit of the war on terror, are now rallying to the defense of, this liberal organization who put out a petition in the days after 9-11 and said that we ought not use military force in responding to 9-11," Bartlett said on NBC's "Today" show. "That is who Karl Rove cited in that speech ... There is no need to apologize."

Appearing on CBS's "The Early Show," Bartlett said that Rove was "just pointing out that is a liberal organization that didn't defend or accept the way that we prosecuted the war in the days after" the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks on New York and Washington.

Bartlett told interviewers that he didn't understand why Democrats "are throwing up such a huff."

Sen. Charles Schumer (news, bio, voting record) of New York, in a letter to Rove co-signed by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Democratic senators from Connecticut and New Jersey, called the presidential adviser's speech "a slap in the face to the unity that America achieved after Sept. 11, 2001."

White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Thursday there was no reason for Rove to apologize because he was "simply pointing out the different philosophies when it comes to winning the war on terrorism."

"Of course not," McClellan said when asked by reporters whether Bush would ask Rove to apologize.

Democrats said Rove, and his Republican allies, were now trying to change the subject when Democrats, and many Americans, are becoming increasingly critical of the course of the war in Iraq.

For Rove "to try to exploit 9/11 for political purposes once again just shows you how desperate they are," said House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California, who in recent days has been the target of Republican attacks for saying that the Iraq war was a "grotesque mistake."


On the Net:

White House:

Public Broadcasting Names New President

Public Broadcasting Names New President

by JENNIFER C. KERR, Associated Press Writer
Thu Jun 23, 1:41 PM ET

WASHINGTON - The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, already embroiled in controversy over allegations of a liberal-leaning bias in PBS programming, chose a former Republican Party co-chairman Thursday as its president and chief executive.

Patricia S. Harrison, the assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs, was selected following three days of closed-door meetings by the corporation's board of directors.

Democratic lawmakers last week urged the CPB to put off choosing a new president, citing concerns about political interference by the corporation's chairman, Kenneth Y. Tomlinson. A Republican, Tomlinson, has been critical of public affairs programming at PBS, alleging that it's too liberal.

In a letter to Tomlinson, Sens. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and others expressed dismay at the expected appointment of Harrison.

"We find it astonishing that Ms. Harrison, given her former prominence as a partisan political figure, would even be considered as a candidate for a job that demands that the occupant be non-political," the senators said in their letter.

The corporation, which was set up by Congress in 1967 to shield public broadcasting from political influence, funnels federal dollars to PBS, National Public Radio and hundreds of public radio and television stations.

In a statement, PBS said it looked forward to working with Harrison. It added: "We have every expectation that she will execute her responsibilities with nonpartisan integrity."


On the Net:

Public Broadcasting Service:

Corporation for Public Broadcasting:

Bill's Comment: Wouldn't it be ironic that this entity turned a profit, or to a point that they would be one less piglet milking the government tit? Now, if we could do the same with Amtrak and other transportation authorities that always ask for more money, no questions asked.

Existing Home Sales 2nd Highest in History

Bill's Pre-Comment: More good news for The President

Existing Home Sales 2nd Highest in History

Thu Jun 23, 6:24 PM ET

WASHINGTON - Sales of existing homes slowed slightly in May but still came in at the second-highest level on record, with home prices hitting an all-time high.

Sales of previously owned homes and condominiums edged down 0.7 percent last month, the National Association of Realtors reported Thursday. The small decline left sales at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 7.13 million units, down only slightly from the 7.18 million sales pace in April, which had been an all-time high.

Even with the small drop in sales, home prices moved higher, to an all-time record of $207,000 for the median price, the point where half the homes sold for more and half for less.

The new report was likely to do little to lessen concerns that the housing market in some parts of the country is caught in the grip of a speculative fever similar to the stock market bubble of the late 1990s before prices came crashing back to earth.

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, while discounting the possibility of a national housing bubble, has talked of "froth" in local markets that have seen sizable run-ups in prices over the past year. He has also expressed concerns that home buyers are using types of mortgages that let them purchase more expensive homes with less of a downpayment, leaving them vulnerable if prices do fall sharply.

David Lereah, chief economist of the Realtors group, said he too was concerned about the reliance on interest-only mortgages and other types of mortgages offered with low down payments.

"I worry about a high level of questionable loans in those bubble areas. That could make those markets more fragile," Lereah said.

In other economic news, the number of Americans filing new applications for unemployment benefits fell sharply last week, signaling that job growth should remain strong in the months ahead.

The Labor Department reported that new claims for unemployment benefits fell by 20,000 last week to total 314,000, the lowest level in two months.

The good news on home sales and jobless claims was ignored on Wall Street, where investors focused instead on a poor earnings report from FedEx Corp. and on surging oil prices, which briefly moved past the psychologically important $60 per barrel mark for the first time.

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 166.49 points to close at 10,421.44.

The housing market is on track to post another record year in sales of both existing and new homes. Analysts had predicted a slight decline in activity this year after sales of new and existing homes set records for four straight years.

For May, sales of single-family homes declined 1.1 percent to an annual rate of 6.21 million units. Sales of condominiums rose 2.2 percent to an annual rate of 922,000 units.

Sales have confounded experts because mortgage rates have stayed near rock-bottom levels.

Normally mortgage rates and other long-term rates would be rising, reflecting the yearlong effort by the Federal Reserve to boost short-term interest rates to control inflation.

Instead, mortgage rates have fallen for most of this year and financial markets have kept long-term rates low, a development that Greenspan has labeled a "conundrum."

Freddie Mac reported in its weekly survey that the average rate on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage declined to 5.57 percent this week, the 10th drop in the past 12 weeks.

"This market is red hot," Lereah said. He predicted sales would remain strong through the summer as mortgage rates rise only gradually from near historic lows.

By region of the country, sales were down 3 percent in the Midwest and fell 0.7 percent in the South. Sales were flat in the Northeast and rose by 1.9 percent in the West.

Greenspan told Congress two weeks ago that he believed the economy was on a "reasonably firm footing," with inflation remaining under control and economic growth expected to remain strong in coming months.

Those comments were seen as further evidence that the Federal Reserve, which has raised interest rates eight times over the past year, will boost rates again when policy-makers meet next week — and will keep raising rates at a gradual pace through the summer and perhaps well into the fall.


On the Net:

Federal Reserve:

National Association of Realtors:

Labor Department:

Movie retreads have hit the skids

Bill's Pre-Comment: What took them so long to figure this out?

Movie retreads have hit the skids

By Scott Bowles, USA TODAY
Wed Jun 22, 8:44 AM ET

A VW Bug and a mischievous witch are about to test moviegoers' taste for the past.

Herbie: Fully Loaded opens today, followed by Bewitched on Friday, the latest of at least seven movies and TV shows remade for the big screen this summer.

Although moviegoers may have fond memories of Ralph Kramden or Vincent Price, they aren't flocking to the new renditions of their work. Of the three remakes already out this season, only The Longest Yard has been a hit; it has taken in $132 million. The Honeymooners and House of Wax, meanwhile, have been flops.

Movie remakes are nothing new. But of late, the reception at moviehouses has been tepid for retreads of TV or movie favorites.

And if this summer's do-overs don't lure audiences, Robert Bucksbaum of industry tracker Reelsource says, the genre may be on the way out. "We're at the tail end of the bell curve, unless something really catches fire."

That won't stop Hollywood from trying. After Herbie and Bewitched, War of the Worlds returns June 29, this time with Tom Cruise. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, a redo of the 1971 Willy Wonka tale, oozes on screens July 15. The Bad News Bears arrives July 22, followed by The Dukes of Hazzard Aug. 5.

Hollywood's frenzy for familiarity may seem obvious: What's more sure-fire than a beloved character or story line given a modern-day makeover?

But remakes have proved treacherous ground. Last year's high-profile redos The Manchurian Candidate and The Stepford Wives took in less in domestic ticket sales than they cost to make.

"The studios get some comfort from properties they know," says Paul Dergarabedian of box office tracker Exhibitor Relations. "But the movies are being marketed to audiences who don't even recognize the titles."

So why keep making them?

"Because some of them work," film historian Leonard Maltin says. "If you get two or three that do mediocre business and one that's a hit, the studios will keep trying for that hit."

But a film's title is less important than casting, Maltin says. "I'll bet most kids didn't know The LongestYard was even a remake. But they knew Adam Sandler and Chris Rock were in it."

Bewitched director Nora Ephron says the key to remakes is capturing the spirit of the original.

"Bewitched had a chemistry that was unexplainable," she says. "When you can recapture that chemistry, audiences are going to respond in the same sort of way they did years ago."

Dean Answers Cheney's Barb About Mother

Dean Answers Cheney's Barb About Mother

Tue Jun 21, 5:31 PM ET

BOSTON - Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean, responding to criticism from the vice president, said he doesn't "care if Dick Cheney likes my mother or not."

The vice president said in a recent interview that Dean was not the type of person to lead a political party and mentioned the chairman's mother.

"I've never been able to understand his appeal. Maybe his mother loved him, but I've never met anybody who does. He's never won anything, as best I can tell," Cheney said in an interview on Fox News Channel's "Hannity & Colmes."

Dean was elected governor of Vermont five times between 1992 and 2000. He ran for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination but closed down his campaign after stumbling in the early primaries.

Dean has recently described the GOP as "pretty much a white, Christian party" and said many Republicans have "never made an honest living." Republican leaders have called on him to apologize, and even some Democrats have distanced themselves from his remarks.

Dean, in Boston on Monday for a fundraiser, told fellow Democrats that Republicans want a smaller government, but "their government is just big enough to fit inside Terri Schiavo's bed in the nursing home. We can do better than that."

Earlier this year, Dean, a physician, accused congressional Republicans of grandstanding in trying to keep the brain-damaged woman alive and said Democrats will use that against them in coming elections.

The party chairman also said on Monday that Democrats can win in traditionally Republican states.

"But we gotta be there and fight in order to do it. And believe me, we are going to fight back. I don't care if Dick Cheney likes my mother or not. We are going to fight back," Dean said to cheers and applause. "I think it's great that Dick Cheney went after me, to be honest. At least they notice there's a Democratic Party that's not going to put up with this stuff any more. So there's a lot we're gonna do."

Bill's Comment: What the VP said was, if I remember, that even Howard Dean's mother
doesnt like Howard Dean (or the like).