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In the Loop

Free Speech Is Not for the Taking

By Al Kamen
Monday, March 7, 2005; Page A17

Rep. Jim Gibbons (R-Nev.) rallied the faithful at the GOP's recent Lincoln Day Dinner speech with a blistering attack on liberals who "are trying to divide this country" over Iraq. Gibbons, who is said to be running for governor in 2006, "brought the crowd to a near feverish pitch," the Elko Daily Free Press reported, "when he hit the hot button issue of abortion." He said: "I want to know how these very people who are against war because of loss of life can possibly be the same people who are for abortion. They are the same people who are for animal rights, but they are not for the rights of the unborn."

This was great fire-breathing stuff, surely one of Gibbons's greatest, most thoughtful addresses. Unfortunately, Free Press reporter Dave Woodson wrote Friday, it was lifted wholesale from a copyrighted speech by Alabama State Auditor Beth Chapman, given at a Stand Up for America rally in Alabama on Feb. 2, 2003.

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In fact, 15 paragraphs of Gibbons's speech were lifted from Chapman's 21-paragraph talk. But surely not his best line -- the one where he says: "I say we tell those liberal, tree-hugging, Birkenstock-wearing, hippie, tie-dyed liberals to go make their movies and their music and whine somewhere else." Surely that's Gibbons's?

Alas, he lifted that one, too, along with his erudite observation that if antiwar folks lived in Iraq or Afghanistan, "ironically, they would be put to death at the hands of Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden."

Chapman told the Free Press on Friday that Gibbons hadn't requested permission to use her speech but that she had spoken with him earlier Friday morning and he apologized.

Gibbons said he couldn't remember where he had gotten the speech, saying, "I had no idea it was copyrighted."

Otherwise it would have been okay? Well, at least he didn't do the usual and blame "sloppy staff work" for the problem, which could affect any gubernatorial run. (Of course, neither did Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) when he was knocked out of the 1988 presidential race after he cribbed that line from a speech by British Labor Party leader Neil Kinnock: "Why am I the first Kinnock [Biden] in 1,000 years to be able to get to university?") After Gibbons's speech, outraged Nevada Democrats ripped into him, saying his statements were grossly over the top and so forth.

Well, now it turns out those weren't his words at all -- he was just repeating what Chapman said. So don't they owe Gibbons an apology?

No Vacancy at Embassy in London

Still lots of prized diplomatic openings to be had, but cross the embassy in London off the list. The nod for the Court of St. James's has gone to Robert Holmes Tuttle, a wealthy California automobile dealer, major GOP contributor, Bush Pioneer and Ranger, and director of presidential personnel during the Reagan administration.

Tuttle is also a close buddy of Bush II "first friend" Brad Freeman, whose Los Angeles pals have been leaving him lately for fine ambassadorial appointments. (Note to file: Take Brad to lunch.) Tuttle is the son of Holmes Tuttle, who famously sold a car to Ronald Reagan in 1946 and later became a key member of his California "kitchen cabinet."

Chief, and Chief Fill-In

Stephen L. Johnson, the Environmental Protection Agency acting administrator nominated Friday for the top post, may have more than one job to worry about. Things have been rather slow on the EPA appointment front of late, and several top jobs are filled by "acting" folks.

In fact, some offices -- such as the assistant administrator for solid waste and emergency response and the assistant administrator for prevention, pesticides and toxic substances -- have been vacant so long that federal law will require Johnson himself to oversee them, sign off on official decisions and such.

Time for Agency Name Change?

Speaking of the EPA, folks there apparently understand that the enviros don't have the clout they used to have. Why else title the first line of the agency's annual pesticides report "Taking Care of Business"?

Exactly what the enviros have said the agency has been doing. The Natural Resources Defense Council recently sued the EPA, one official noted yesterday, saying it was coddling polluters "at the expense of public health and the environment."

Of course, the second line of the EPA report says "protecting public health and the environment," but lots of folks may not read that far.

New Direction for Principi

Anthony J. Principi, a veteran Washington hand and just-departed secretary of veterans affairs, is said to be taking over the Washington office of Pfizer Inc. Principi, a Naval Academy grad, also was acting head of the Department of Veterans Affairs during Bush I. In the 1980s, he was Republican staff director of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, winning kudos from folks on both sides of the aisle.

Hollywood Goes Global

Hollywood does international relations. The venerable Council on Foreign Relations' list of new members, in addition to the usual diplomats, academics, Hill folk and media suspects, includes Michael Douglas, Richard Dreyfuss, Warren Beatty and Mike Medavoy.

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