Monday, May 3, 2004

Chabot's no yes man on foreign policy

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WASHINGTON - If there's a second Bush administration, you can bet Rep. Steve Chabot won't be secretary of state.

The Westwood Republican, who has served on the House International Relations Committee for his entire 10 years in Congress, runs his own foreign policy.

Often it conflicts with the White House.

Take Taiwan. Chabot co-chairs the Congressional Taiwan Caucus. Last month, he declared: "It may be impolite to say so, but 'one China' is a fiction - and a dangerous fiction - that most of the international community has bought into in order to mollify China."

Never mind that "one China'' is official Bush administration policy.

Chabot has backed Taiwan-related bills that could make life uncomfortable for the administration by boosting Taiwan's independence from China and pledging U.S. support.

Take Saudi Arabia. At a March hearing on terrorism financing, Chabot quizzed a top Bush administration official about how 140 Saudis were allowed to leave the county in the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks; about the Saudi embassy's role in financing terrorism; and about Saudi money for mosques and schools in the United States. He thinks the Bush administration should be tougher on the Saudis.

The Bush administration repeatedly has stressed that Saudi Arabia is a good ally in the war on terrorism and takes pains to avoid embarrassing the nation.

Even on Iraq - though Chabot backs Bush on most of his Iraq policy - he fought the administration on whether the $87 billion to rebuild Iraq should be a gift, as the administration demanded, or a loan.

"Some of the oil in the ground over there should have been used to repay the American taxpayer," Chabot said.

Chabot says he agrees with Bush on most of his foreign policy.

"Sometimes I have a different point of view. When I do, I'm not hesitant to speak out," Chabot said. "Whether the administration appreciates that, I don't know. If they don't, well, that's not my concern really."

Not to worry, the White House says. Chabot will join Bush on Tuesday when the president campaigns in Cincinnati.

"The president understands that good people can disagree on certain issues and respects Congressman Chabot's viewpoint, even if they may not agree," White House spokesman Jim Morrell said.

TESTIFYING: Roberta White, president of Cincinnati's Great Oaks Institute of Technology and Career Development, testified last week at a House committee hearing on vocational education.

"In today's globally competitive economy, employers need, and are demanding, that employees have increasingly high levels of academic and technical skills," White told the Subcommittee on Education Reform.

Rep. John Boehner, chairman of the House education committee, invited White.

DeWINING AND DINING: Sen. Mike DeWine played host to Thursday's meeting of the Lunch Bunch, a weekly meeting of Republican senators. On the menu: Montgomery Inn ribs and Graeter's ice cream with Smuckers' toppings. "These are the foods I indulge in when I'm at home in Cedarville," he said.

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

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