The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Wednesday, June 15, 2005  

Together With Media Miscellany
June 15, 2005

The Republicans & Their Marbles [*]
Have you ever noticed that Republicans can’t even be relied upon to play marbles like your average seven-year-old? Here’s the latest evidence of the party’s “If we don’t play our way, we’re talking every last agate, cat’s eye, and shooter home!” mentality (from “GOP Committee Targets International Red Cross,” by Sonni Efron, Los Angeles Times):

Senate Republicans are calling on the Bush administration to reassess U.S. financial support for the International Committee of the Red Cross, charging that the group is using American funds to lobby against U.S. interests.

The Senate Republican Policy Committee, which advances the views of the GOP Senate majority, said in a report that the international humanitarian organization had “lost its way” and veered from the impartiality on which its reputation was based. […]

The congressional criticism follows reports by the Swiss-based group that have faulted U.S. treatment of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. […]

The Senate Republicans’ report called on the Bush administration to ask the Government Accountability Office to review Red Cross operations, noting that the U.S. funds 28% of the group’s budget and has contributed $1.5 billion since 1990. The International Committee of the Red Cross is separate from the American Red Cross, which has no say in how the international committee is run. […]

The decision to investigate the ICRC was sparked by a series of articles in the conservative National Interest magazine as well as by critical Wall Street Journal editorials, a senior aide to the policy committee said. […]

The ICRC is the only organization mandated by international treaty to monitor the observance of the Geneva Convention governing the treatment of prisoners, and it has the right to visit prisoners. But the GOP report charges that the group has exceeded the bounds of its mission by trying to “reinterpret and expand international law” in favor of terrorists and insurgents; lobbying for arms-control issues that are not within its mandate, such as a ban on the use of land mines; and “inaccurately and unfairly” accusing U.S. officials of not adhering to the Geneva Convention.

Here’s the part of the story that really kills me:

The Senate aide denied that the report, released Monday, was motivated by a desire to punish the ICRC for embarrassing the United States on its treatment of prisoners.

Yeah, right.

Who’s Afraid to Vote Against Lynching?
This is just appalling, and yet not very surprising. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has the goods on Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.). In “Critics: Frist Vetoed Roll Call,” by Scott Shepard, the paper reports:

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist . . . refused repeated requests for a roll call vote that would have put senators on the record on a resolution apologizing for past failures to pass anti-lynching laws, officials involved in the negotiations said Tuesday. […]

As dozens of descendants of lynching victims watched from the Senate gallery, the resolution was adopted Monday evening under a voice vote procedure that did not require any senator’s presence.

The resolution was adopted under what is called “unanimous consent,” whereby it is adopted as long as no senator expresses opposition.

But the group that was the driving force behind the resolution had asked Frist for a formal procedure that would have required all 100 senators to vote. And the group had asked that the debate take place during “business hours” during the week, instead of Monday evening, when most senators were traveling back to the capital.

Frist declined both requests, the group’s chief counsel, Mark Planning, said Tuesday evening. […]

Bob Stevenson, Frist’s chief spokesman, said Tuesday evening the procedure the majority leader established was “requested by the sponsors.”

The chief sponsors of the resolution, Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and George Allen (R-Va.), disputed that assertion.

Landrieu said Monday before the resolution was adopted she would have preferred a roll call vote but had to accept the conditions set by Senate leaders.

When Stevenson was informed of Landrieu’s statement, he amended his comments to say “at least one of the sponsors” had requested adoption on a voice vote and in combination with a resolution related to Black History Month.

Allen press secretary David Snepp took issue with Stevenson. “I don’t know why Bob Stevenson would characterize it that way,” he said.

Snepp said Allen, since agreeing to sponsor the resolution, had insisted that he preferred a roll call vote.

Planning agreed that Landrieu and Allen “made every effort” to have the resolution debated during the day, when it would attract the most attention from the public, and with a formal roll call of the senators.

“We were very perplexed” that Frist would not agree to that, Planning said.

Jan Cohen, the wife of former Defense Secretary William Cohen and one of the key figures in the Committee for a Formal Apology, expressed outrage over the lack of a roll call vote.

“America is home of the brave, but I’m afraid there may be a few cowards who have to cower to their very narrow-minded and backward, hateful constituency,” Cohen told ABC News. “They’re hiding out, and it’s reminiscent of a pattern of hiding out under a hood, in the night, riding past, scaring people.”

Sounds like Sen. Frist learned nothing from the Lott Affair, or maybe just a little too much.

Argentina Military to Face Justice
The Supreme Court of Argentina, in a 7-1 decision, declared unconstitutional two amnesty laws dating from 1986 and 1987 that shielded hundreds in the military and police forces from prosecution during the country’s “dirty war.” The Los Angeles Times reports (“Argentine Court Voids Amnesty in ‘Dirty War,’” by Héctor Tobar) the decision could lead to new charges against as many as 300 defendants, most of them retired military and police officers.

[* Note: Additional items may be posted to “Political Notes” after initial publication but only on the day of publication, excluding post-publication addenda. Such items, when posted, are designated by an asterisk.]

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