Bush To Visit Northwest Next Month
"According to well-placed sources in both Washingtons, President Bush will follow his Cabinet Sherpas into the Puget Sound region on or about Aug. 22,"
In The Northwest: Bush's scouts pave way for a presidential visit
Wednesday, July 23, 2003
By JOEL CONNELLY
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER COLUMNIST
The Bush administration's warm-up acts are basking in Northwest sunshine this week, with Attorney General John Ashcroft's appearance yesterday at the Seattle waterfront, and a Boeing Field visit tomorrow by Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge.
According to well-placed sources in both Washingtons, President Bush will follow his Cabinet Sherpas into the Puget Sound region on or about Aug. 22, making his first trip as president to a state that resisted his courtship in 2000.
A Bush trip would display two legs on which stand his 2004 re-election campaign.
Security against terrorism in the post-9/11 world is one foundation. The White House is looking at the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma and a variety of other settings for a "public" presidential event.
Massive early fund raising -- the Bush-Cheney campaign already has taken in $41 million -- is the campaign's other pillar. Billionaire cellular telephone magnate Craig McCaw and wife, Susan, are likely hosts for a luncheon that would be Washington's second million-dollar-plus political fund-raiser. The first was a Bush dinner in May 2000.
As well, the president is being called on for persuasion and arm-twisting to recruit Republican candidates in Washington. The GOP "bench" here is sparse and the state has not elected a Republican governor in 23 years.
The White House is already working -- hard -- on GOP Rep. George Nethercutt.
After getting cold feet on previous statewide races, the Spokane congressman is leaning toward a challenge to Democratic Sen. Patty Murray. No U.S. senator has been elected from Eastern Washington since C.C. Dill retired nearly 70 years ago.
Bush also might be called upon to persuade semi-retired Microsoft Corp. Executive Vice President Bob Herbold to run for governor. Herbold is looking at the race, but earlier demurred, in the words of his wife, because "he is not cut out for the political life."
The four-day tour that took Ashcroft to Portland, Anchorage and Seattle shows that Republicans face problems -- even on the anti-terrorism front.
By appearing at the Coast Guard Integrated Support Command, the attorney general was insulated from Seattle's noisy protesters by at least 300 yards of federal property and several gray buildings.
Still, as in his other Northwest appearances, Ashcroft was peppered with critical questions about the Patriot Act, the post-9/11 law that permits government prying through business records, library checkouts, business files "or any tangible thing."
Ashcroft delivered a spirited defense of expanded government snooping. He argued that the Patriot Act should be expanded -- "refined, made additionally sophisticated" -- and not pulled back.
"With these tools, we are able to draw associations, connect the dots," Ashcroft said.
He noted that the Patriot Act requires that such acts as examining book checkouts and other library records take place under supervision of a federal judge.
But the West has traditionally distrusted bossy federal intrusiveness. The attorney general has had a hard sell.
Demonstrators outside the Coast Guard facility carried signs reading: "Defend civil liberties, repeal the Patriot Act."
In Alaska, the Republican-run Legislature passed a resolution requesting local and state law enforcement to refuse assistance to federal agencies using provisions of the act.
Both in Anchorage and Seattle, Ashcroft argued that it would be "difficult if not impossible" to prevent terrorism without provisions of the Patriot Act. As Ashcroft spoke, however, the inspector general of the Justice Department announced in Washington, D.C., it is investigating complaints from Muslims that federal employees, enforcing the Patriot Act, have violated their civil liberties.
One claim is that an immigration officer held a loaded gun to the head of a detainee. In another complaint a Muslim detainee was ordered to take off his shirt so a prison guard could shine his shoes with it.
A federal prison doctor was reprimanded after reportedly telling an inmate during a physical exam, "If I was in charge, I would execute every one of you."
In a report to Congress the inspector general, Glenn Fine, said that during the six months ending June 15, his office received 34 complaints of civil rights and civil liberties violations by Justice Department employees that it considered credible.
Hard questions are also being asked about how the Bush administration will provide money for new security mandates faced by state and local governments -- at a time when the government is running a $455 billion deficit and spending $3.9 billion a month on the occupation of Iraq.
In the spring, Ridge tried to raid $28 million from a $58 million fund set up by Congress to protect U.S. ports. He wanted to divert the money to cover a "structural shortfall" in the Transportation Security Administration.
Murray held up confirmation of the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget until about $30 million was released under Operation Safe Ports. The Ports of Seattle and Tacoma received $14.2 million, New York-area ports $13.8 million and Los Angeles $13.7 million.
The dough is needed.
Ashcroft had a gorgeous backdrop at the Seattle waterfront yesterday, with a Coast Guard cutter and gunboats arranged in the background -- and majestic 7,743-foot Mount Constance looming in the Olympics.
Beneath their beauty, however, America's working waterfronts are the nation's most vulnerable transportation system: Only 2 percent of the 6 million containers entering the United States each year get inspected.
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