Mea Sorta Culpa

Posted September 21, 2007 at 6:42pm

Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) is sorry, sort of, for kind of saying that Democrats who are not sufficiently anti-war should face primary challenges. Except that’s kind of not really what she said, so she’s not really sorry for not saying it.

Back on Aug. 29, Woolsey — co-chairwoman of the Progressive Caucus — participated in a conference call with a host of liberal and anti-war groups convened by the Network of Spiritual Progressives. Woolsey’s comments on the call sparked some grumbling from Democrats and several media stories reporting that she appeared to have encouraged intraparty challenges.

Not so, Woolsey said in a letter she sent to her fellow Democratic lawmakers Wednesday. [IMGCAP(1)]

“Many of my colleagues are upset about [my remarks] and I have heard their concerns,” Woolsey wrote. “But let’s deal from the facts, as unattractive as they may be.”

After including a link to the call transcript, Woolsey said she “never suggested” that any Democrats should get primary foes, and she kind of apologized. Or maybe she just apologized for everyone finding out what she’d said.

“I was blunt, to a fault, but then I am, and had I thought that my remarks were going to be widely distributed, you can be sure that I would have couched them more elegantly,” she wrote.

So what did Woolsey actually say?

According to the transcript of the August call, Leslie Cagan of United for Peace and Justice said anti-war groups had been focused on peeling away Republican support for the Iraq War, rather than on Democrats.

Woolsey then said, “Well, maybe you folks should go after the Democrats.”

Later on the call, Tim Carpenter of Progressive Democrats of America said, “If they’re not with us at this point in time, then we need to keep upping the ante from our end, to communicate to those Blue Dogs and those moderate Democrats the political consequence of this vote.”

Woolsey responded: “I think that’s a good idea, Tim. I’d hate to lose the majority, but I’m telling you, if we don’t stand up to our responsibility, maybe that’s the lesson to be learned. I don’t know.”

In her letter last week, Woolsey suggested that she had merely said “that grass roots advocacy, particularly email, is persuasive and I said those advocacy efforts should be targeted to my ‘moderate colleagues’ as well as moderate Republicans.”

How do those “moderate colleagues” feel about her non-apology apology?

“It’s interesting that it’s more of a defense than an apology,” said an aide to a centrist lawmaker. “It’s pretty clear how she feels. She’s frustrated. A lot of people are frustrated. But you don’t cut off the head to cure the headache.”

In the last paragraph of the letter, Woolsey finally comes around to the magic words: “I’m sorry.” But she still isn’t sorry for what she said (except for the whole thing about phrasing her words more “elegantly”). Rather, Woolsey said, “I’m sorry this has taken the focus off our need to bring the troops home.”

Got that? If you’re still confused, HOH is sorry.

The Right to Bear Tasers. By now you’re probably tired of seeing the footage of Sen. John Kerry’s (D-Mass.) town hall meeting last week at the University of Florida, where an unfortunate student was Tasered by campus cops when he wouldn’t leave the microphone.

While most of the media coverage focused on whether the police overreacted, at least a few folks — specifically, some members of the National Rifle Association — think that the ol’ Taser is just the way to deal with those pesky disrupters of public events.

At the NRA’s “Celebration of American Values” conference on Friday morning at the Capital Hilton, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) was in the midst of his opening remarks when a protester got up and started yelling about this and that. As she bellowed, a source who was present tells HOH, “All these old dudes started shouting, ‘Tase her! Tase her!’”

Alas, security personnel just quietly walked the offender out the door, sans the 50,000 volts of electricity and — as NRA members might appreciate — “more stopping power than a .357 Magnum” that Taser claims to provide. Maybe next time.

Weller Wallop. A staffer for Rep. Jerry Weller (R-Ill.) apparently took questions from a reporter a bit too seriously Friday, when he allegedly pushed the scribe down a flight of stairs.

Mike Flannery, the political editor at the CBS affiliate in Chicago, planned to file charges against the staffer, identified by the station as John Dusik.

According to a news report on the station’s Web site, Flannery followed Weller into a stairway at the local chamber of commerce in Joliet, Ill., after the Congressman delivered the speech announcing his retirement. After Flannery asked Weller about the Central American investments that have gotten the Congressman into hot water, Dusik apparently pushed Flannery — first off-camera and then again on-camera, causing a woman nearby to fall.

“There’s a large man, who begins shoving reporters around, including yours truly,” Flannery told the station. “He shoves me one way, then he goes after another reporter with CLTV. … There’s an opening in the doorway, and I begin moving through that doorway, and he shoves me down the stairs; he shoves me into a railing on the staircase and also into a woman on the staircase who was traveling with Weller.”

Dusik later was arrested, according to the report. Weller, for his part, stayed mum during the incident and drove away without answering questions from reporters.

A Weller spokesman could not be reached for comment by deadline.

Showtime at the Apollo. Heading to the Big Apple next weekend? Are you a fan of former President Bill Clinton or Shakira, or perhaps both? Have you wondered if Bono is really as short as they say?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then take the “subway” (their version of the Metro, apparently) up to the Apollo Theater in Harlem on Sept. 29 for a “frank conversation” about community service with assorted superstars, sponsored by the ONE Campaign, MTV and the Clinton Global Initiative.

In addition to the ex-president, the diminutive U2 frontman and the singer whose hips don’t lie, Chris Rock and Alicia Keys also will be on hand to talk about poor people and diseases and to rock out. If you can’t make it, the discussion and concert will be webcast at ONE.org and shown later on MTV.

Elizabeth Brotherton contributed to this report.

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