Monday, March 1, 2004

Tristate lawmakers defend Israel

Inside Washington

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WASHINGTON - Two Tristate congressmen went out of their way last week to show support for Israel's security barrier - and one went way out of his way.

Rep. Mike Pence, a Republican who represents northern Dearborn County, introduced a resolution supporting Israel's right to build the wall. The resolution also condemns the United Nations for requesting that the International Court of Justice render a legal opinion on the fence. The measure already has 70 co-sponsors.

Rep. Steve Chabot went Pence one better.

The Westwood Republican flew to The Hague in the Netherlands to denounce the court's hearings. He told a pro-Israel rally there that the wall is needed to protect Israel from terrorist attacks.

Building the wall "is not a hostile act. It is an act of self-defense," Chabot said. The U.N. resolution calling for the hearing on the wall was drafted by Israel's enemies "to promote a forum for the dissemination of anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic propaganda."

Chabot also met with Israeli government officials.

Both Pence and Chabot sit on the House International Relations Committee. Chabot left Sunday and returned Tuesday on the taxpayer-financed trip.

Israel is building a 420-mile wall along its border with the West Bank to protect Israelis from terrorist attacks. Palestinians say the route of the "apartheid wall" is actually designed to gobble up Palestinian land, that it separates workers from their jobs and farmers from their fields.

IT'S GOOD TO BE CHAIRMAN: What does it mean that West Chester Republican John Boehner chairs the House education committee?

Well, for starters, he can choose which witnesses appear before the panel. That means if he has a hearing on something like the defined pension system, which sounds, oh, really dull, he can bring in a cool witness.

In this case he called Ben Stein, who played the economics teacher in Ferris Bueller's Day Off and hosted Comedy Central's Win Ben Stein's Money. In real life, Stein is a lawyer, economics expert and honorary chairman of the National Retirement Planning Coalition.

"Obviously, it's a good way to spice up the issue at hand," said Boehner's spokesman, Steve Forde.

Being chairman also means you can have a hearing in, say, Columbus on March 8, on education issues.

ROOTS OF RIDICULOUS RUMORS: Where did this Rob Portman-replacing-Dick Cheney rumor get started?

A Feb. 17 Associated Press story about dropping Cheney from the ticket mentioned several possible replacements, including Portman. Its cited source: "speculation."

Portman spokesman Kyle Downey said his boss has "no idea" where it came from and believes Cheney is the best running mate.

COMING TO TOWN: Joelle M. Reizes of Loveland will testify Tuesday at a Senate hearing on suicide prevention.

She is director of external relations for Screening for Mental Health Inc., which organizes national screening efforts for alcoholism, suicide, depression. She will talk about preventing suicide in high schools. GOP Sen. Mike DeWine of Ohio invited her.


Carl Weiser covers Washington news for the Enquirer. E-mail or call (202) 906-8134.

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