Wallace, Hume attacked Democrats, misled on Democrats' domestic agenda, Lewis corruption scandal

››› ››› JOE BROWN

Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace and Fox News' Brit Hume criticized Democrats because a domestic policy platform unveiled by the congressional Democratic leadership contained "not a single word about the war in Iraq." While the platform focused only on domestic issues, it followed a proposed national security strategy released earlier this year that did address Iraq, which neither Wallace nor Hume cited. Later, during a discussion on ethics, Hume, Wallace, and other Fox News Sunday panelists failed to note the broadening investigation into the ethics of House Appropriations Committee chairman Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA). Wallace also gushed over White House press secretary and former Fox News Sunday host Tony Snow.

On the June 18 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace and Fox News Washington managing editor Brit Hume criticized Democrats because a domestic policy platform unveiled by the congressional Democratic leadership June 14 contained "not a single word about the war in Iraq." In fact, while the platform -- titled "A New Direction for America" -- focused only on domestic issues, it followed a proposed national security strategy released earlier this year that addressed Iraq, something neither Wallace nor Hume cited. Hume also declared that "no matter what happens in Iraq, it's an excuse to leave" for Democrats; he added that the Democrats are "a party that ... doesn't much want to fight" in Iraq. Later in the program, Wallace, Hume, National Public Radio (NPR) senior political correspondent Mara Liasson, and NPR senior correspondent Juan Williams participated in a discussion on the subject of the previous week being "good" for Republicans and "bad" for Democrats" on the "ethics front," but none mentioned new developments in the recently launched investigation into the ethics of Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, stemming from a relationship between Lewis and a lobbyist linked to former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA), who pleaded guilty to bribery charges. Wallace also gushed over White House press secretary and former Fox News Sunday host Tony Snow, suggesting that he was perhaps "too interesting" and "too provocative" for his current job as presidential spokesman.

During a panel discussion with Center for American Progress president John Podesta and New Democrat Network chairman Simon Rosenberg, Wallace stated that there was "not a single word about the war in Iraq" in the "New Direction" document, and asked: "[H]ow can you have a platform for the country ... when you don't talk about the premier issue?" Similarly, when Wallace repeated his assertion that the plan contained "not a single word about Iraq," Hume took the Democrats to task for "laying out what they're going to run on for the fall," but failing to mention "the major ... national security issue of our time." Hume further stated that the Democrats' failure to include a position on the Iraq war in the "New Direction" document demonstrates that "broadly speaking" there is "real truth" to the longtime "knock on the Democrats" that "they're not serious about national security."

But Wallace and Hume failed to mention that the Democratic agenda highlighted in the "New Direction" plan focused solely on domestic issues, but the Democrats' March 29 "Real Security" plan included several foreign policy items, including the following proposals regarding U.S. policy in Iraq:

  • Ensure 2006 is a year of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty, with the Iraqis assuming primary responsibility for securing and governing their country and with the responsible redeployment of U.S. forces.
  • Insist that Iraqis make the political compromises necessary to unite their country and defeat the insurgency; promote regional diplomacy; and strongly encourage our allies and other nations to play a constructive role.
  • Hold the Bush administration accountable for its manipulated pre-war intelligence, poor planning and contracting abuses that have placed our troops at greater risk and wasted billions of taxpayer dollars.

Later in the program, Wallace claimed that "on the ethics front," the past week had been "good ... for Republicans, but not so good for Democrats." During the eight-minute panel discussion that followed, each panelist discussed governmental ethics issues -- including the fact that Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA) was forced to give up his seat on the House Ways and Means Committee, and the fact that White House deputy chief of staff and senior adviser Karl Rove has reportedly been cleared in the CIA leak investigation -- none of the panelists mentioned the the new developments in the federal investigation of the relationship between Lewis and "a Washington lobbyist linked to" Cunningham. This failure of the panelists to mention Lewis during the discussion on ethics came despite the fact that the federal investigation of Lewis was reported in The Washington Post that morning and on the previous day.

The Washington Post reported June 17 that a lobbying firm employing a close associate of Lewis had disbanded because of the scrutiny of the Lewis investigation. The Post article noted:

The firm, Copeland Lowery Jacquez Denton & White, has been a major player on K Street, particularly in winning narrow appropriations, known as earmarks, for military contractors, municipalities and others. Federal investigators last month subpoenaed many of the firm's clients to learn more about the relationship between Lewis and former representative Bill Lowery (R-Calif.), a partner in the firm since 1993 who is a friend and financial supporter of his.


The firm's relationship with Lewis is being scrutinized by U.S. prosecutors in Los Angeles. Lewis has denied any wrongdoing, and the firm has said it has complied with all rules and regulations governing its conduct.


Authorities last month sought records regarding correspondence among Lewis, his staff and the firm. Lowery and some of his clients have donated heavily to Lewis's campaign committees, and Lewis has been a reliable benefactor of projects for Lowery's clients.


The firm attracted additional attention this month when it reported that it had paid a former partner, Jeffrey S. Shockey, nearly $2 million last year in a separation agreement when he left to become deputy staff director of the House Appropriations Committee, which Lewis chairs.

Additionally, the Post reported June 18 that Lewis's stepdaughter had come under scrutiny for her work for a lobbying firm with business before the House Appropriations Committee:

Julia Willis-Leon, who lives in Las Vegas, is a "strategic partner" in Potomac Partners DC LLC, President Richard Alcalde said in a recent interview. Alcalde said he has paid Willis-Leon $40,000 to $50,000 over the last year for advice on several clients.


Six of Alcalde's 13 clients have business before the Appropriations Committee, according to reports of his lobbying activity. Lewis had "nothing whatsoever" to do with his decision to hire Willis-Leon, Alcalde said, adding that he did not hire her in hopes of currying favor with the committee chairman.

Finally, Wallace gushed over White House press secretary Tony Snow -- who hosted Fox News Sunday from 1996 to 2003 -- during a solo interview. Wallace told Snow: "[W]hen you became press secretary, I thought you had one big problem. You're too interesting. What you say is too provocative." Wallace went on to ask Snow: "[Have you ever] had to bite your tongue and remind yourself, 'Hey, I'm speaking for the president now, not Tony Snow'?"

From the June 18 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:

WALLACE: Isn't this split on Iraq a real problem for the Democratic Party? And let me follow up with this point. This week, your congressional leaders came out with their new platform for 2006, for the November election -- here's where to look for us. They called it "A New Direction for America" -- not a single word about the war in Iraq.

PODESTA: Well, it's clear that the country needs a new direction, and I think it would be better if the Democrats were unified around one plan, but I think it's responsible, as Simon was suggesting, that this debate take place. Look, unity --

WALLACE: But how you can have a platform for the country to look at when you don't talk about the premier issue?

PODESTA: Well, you know, I think they are talking about the premier issue, Chris. That's what this debate was about, and that --

WALLACE: But there's not a single word in the new party platform.

PODESTA: Well, they haven't -- they don't have agreement on all of what should be in that platform. Maybe they can get that agreement by November. But you know, seriously, unity isn't everything. The Republicans are unified in no change in direction. They're unified on ignoring the facts on the ground. They're unified in no accountability. But you know, unity doesn't make for a uniform good judgment. And I think they're on the wrong side of the issue with the American people. And they've showed no sense of challenging the president as he's made mistakes. And I think that will be the issue when it comes to November.

WALLACE: But, Mr. Rosenberg, I mean, if you're a voter, and let's say you're a swing voter -- you're trying to decide which party to go for -- and there are a lot of things maybe you like in the new party platform -- what it says about minimum wage, what it says about health care, what it says about energy -- here's the -- I think we'd all agree the prime issue -- we're at war, and there's not a word in the Democratic platform about Iraq.

ROSENBERG: But I think Democrats have been talking about Iraq quite a bit over the last few years --

WALLACE: I know, but if you're a voter, you don't know where the party is going to go.


WALLACE: The point seems to be what you're saying is, both of you, if the war is going well come November of 2006, the Republicans are in pretty good shape.

PODESTA: Well, the chances of that are -- you know, look. If there's a liberal democracy and Western-style liberal democracy in Iraq in November 2006, maybe that will inure to the Republicans' benefit.


PODESTA: I think it's much more likely to look like Lebanon by November of 2006. And the question is, what's the direction now? We've got a force that is under extreme pressure. Recruitment's down. Retention is down. And we've got experts across the political spectrum -- conservatives, moderates and liberals -- saying in a new piece in Foreign Policy this month that the -- Iraq is hurting the war on terrorism and we're losing the war on terrorism. So I think that's a debate the country needs to have.

WALLACE: Mr. Rosenberg, we've got less than a minute left. Somebody might be listening to what Mr. Podesta says and say it sounds like he's rooting for failure in Iraq.

ROSENBERG: No. I just think that the -- the Republicans have gotten in trouble because they've confused politics with governing, right? What's going on right now isn't governing. They're not producing the results the American people want.


WALLACE: So, Brit, is it good politics for the Republicans to go out of their way and tie themselves to the president's policy?

HUME: I don't think you can get around this issue, Iraq. This is the central issue of our time, central issue politically in this country. And I think that to have the debate fought out over this is probably inevitable and it's probably not a bad thing for the Republicans. The Democrats, since the -- right around the time that Zarqawi is killed and the new government is finally put fully in place, two major positive developments in Iraq, embark upon a debate -- debate among themselves over not whether to leave the battlefield, but how quickly to leave the battlefield. Now, you hear this issue described as you did by a couple of the people you had on earlier as if, "Well, it's just a discussion about turning things over to the Iraqis and withdrawing and so forth." Well, if that's all it was, there'd be no disagreement. That's what the administration wants to do. But that's not all there is to it. The Democrats have once again displayed this impulse, which is no matter what happens in Iraq, it's an excuse to leave. I don't think in the end that the public is going to choose that as -- as the policy even if the public remains as distressed and pessimistic as it is today about that, because I think the public may be very hesitant to turn their country over to a party that really at the end of the day doesn't much want to fight.


WALLACE: Brit, what do you make, as we talked about in the previous segment about the Democratic divide -- we saw [Sen.] Hillary [Rodham] Clinton [D-NY] being booed by liberal activists for saying she's not for a deadline, [Sen.] John Kerry [D-MA] now saying he thinks his vote to support the war was a mistake. And what I talked about with these two -- the Democratic strategists -- the fact that they issued, the party did, its platform for November -- not a single word about Iraq.

HUME: You know, the knock on the Democrats has been they're not serious about national security. In some instances and in some ways, that's been unfair, but broadly speaking, it has real truth. So now come the Democrats laying out what they're going to run on for the fall and the major issue of our time isn't -- national security issue of our time is not mentioned. That is -- I think that betokens a certain lack of seriousness about this sort of thing.


WALLACE: All right. We have to take a break here. But when we return, the latest on the ethics front. It was a good week for Republicans, but not so good for Democrats. Stay tuned.


WALLACE: Let's talk -- we have a couple of minutes left -- about your new job. I have to say that when you became press secretary, I thought you had one big problem. You're too interesting. What you say is too provocative. Have you found in the new job that you've had to bite your tongue and remind yourself, "Hey, I'm speaking for the president now, not Tony Snow"?

SNOW: No. When you work in the White House, you remember who you're working for. Everybody who works in the White House really deals with the reflected glory of the president, and those who make the mistake of thinking that somehow it's a platform for themselves -- it's a serious mistake. But I've got to tell you, Chris, that this is a fun White House to work in. I've worked in another one, as you know. I worked for the president's father. And the kind of camaraderie and the kind of unselfishness and the kind of, you know, all-for-one-and-one-for-all attitude I think is probably unprecedented in a White House. And it makes it an easy place to work, but it also -- the focus is, how do you help the president. So in that case, no, I haven't really had to bite my tongue.

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