Cunningham outlines threats, calls for putting more troops in Iraq

By: MARK WALKER(nctimes) - Staff Writer

ESCONDIDO ---- America remains threatened by al-Qaida terrorists who want to repeat the kind of attack that happened on 9-11, U.S. Randy "Duke" Cunningham said Tuesday.

In an address to the Escondido Rotary Club, Cunningham said that bringing stability to Iraq, Israel and the Middle East in general is one of the keys to reducing that threat.

"Are we safe? Absolutely not," said Cunningham, a member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence and chairman of its Human Intelligence Analysis and Counterintelligence Subcommittee.

Reporters from the North County Times and The San Diego Union-Tribune newspapers were allowed to attend the Rotary luncheon at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido.

Radio and television reporters who wanted to question the congressman about an ongoing grand jury investigation that he is at the center of for his dealings with a Washington defense contractor were kept outside as Cunningham addressed foreign affairs, the economy and energy issues.

Cunningham said two recent trips he took to Saudi Arabia as the guest of San Diego businessman allowed him to speak with the Saudi ruling family and members of its Cabinet.

He said that despite Osama bin Laden's connections to the ruling family, keeping Saudi Arabia's leadership in place also is necessary to hold down growing anti-American sentiments in that region of the world.

The former U.S. Navy fighter pilot also said that a free Iraq and a free Afghanistan are important parts of the ongoing efforts to thwart terror attacks. He called for speeding efforts to turn internal security in Iraq over to Iraqis.

"We need to get the Iraqis trained faster so we can get out faster," he said, adding that he believes more U.S. troops are needed to help stem the insurgency and train the Iraqis to provide their own protection.

The Escondido Republican said last week's loss of two of four members of a Navy SEAL team in the mountains of Afghanistan and the loss of 16 members of the military aboard a Chinook special operations helicopter sent to rescue them was especially sad. One of the SEAL team members was rescued and one is missing.

"It's hurts to see those kids killed," said Cunningham, who was one of the most heavily decorated combat pilots during the Vietnam War.

Turning to the economy and energy issues, Cunningham said the Bush administration needs to do all that it can to reduce the current price of oil. He said he supports many of the efforts aimed at finding new sources of natural gas and oil, but does not support new offshore drilling in California.

On highway and mass-transit issues, he said Congress needs to pass a new transportation bill soon that invests heavily in improving the region's freeways and reducing congestion.

During a question-and-answer session following his remarks, Cunningham drew applause for his statement that he opposes President Bush's proposal to grant amnesty to illegal aliens.

Cunningham favors increased measures along the border with Mexico to reduce illegal immigration.

Democrats Challenge GOP on Ethics

New Ads Target Six Republicans

By Mike Allen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 6, 2005; A04

Democrats took their first formal step yesterday toward trying to nationalize next year's midterm House elections around the issue of ethics, buying ads in the local papers of six Republican lawmakers calling on them to "start working for us" instead of special interests.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is spending $36,000 on the ads -- a virtually meaningless sum, by itself -- but calls it the beginning of a campaign to fuel an anti-incumbent fever like the one that swept its party out in 1994.

"There's a question about the conduct and the culture that goes beyond the individuals," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), the committee's chairman. "The speaker's gavel is supposed to open the people's house, not the auction house."

Even White House officials have begun to fret about the large number of senior Republicans being tied to questionable travel and relationships with lobbyists. On Friday, federal agents raided the San Diego area home of Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, one of the ad targets. The search followed news reports that he had sold a house to a defense contractor, who immediately put it back up for sale and took a huge loss.

Republicans contend that Democrats are making the mistake the GOP did in 1998, when the party made its main message about President Bill Clinton instead of a positive agenda. Republicans say Democrats face numerous ethical issues of their own. Rep. Jack Kingston (Ga.), vice chairman of the House Republican Conference, asserted that Democrats are "stepping into their own Venus' flytrap."

The ads are customized for each district, with a large photo of a lawmaker accompanied by critical headlines. The one in the Fort Bend Sun, which circulates in the House majority leader's suburban Houston district, asks, "What's Happened to Tom DeLay?"

An ad in two Ohio papers singles out the House Administration Committee chairman by blaring: "Bob Ney's work in Congress is generating headlines . . . on his ties to lobbyists, his foreign trips, and his fight for Indian casinos."

Political consultants agree that a message needs to be repeated so that voters can absorb it. But Democrats have struggled to recruit candidates and hope the ads will help generate an aura of vulnerability around some GOP leaders.

Carl Forti, communications director of the National Republican Congressional Committee, called the ads "a waste of money." "Clearly, their intention is more to draw headlines inside the Beltway than to move votes," Forti said.

Shannon Flaherty, DeLay's spokeswoman, said Democrats are "relying on a strategy of smear tactics and personal attacks in a feeble attempt to win back seats."

The other targets are House Resources Committee Chairman Richard W. Pombo (Calif.), Rep. Rob Simmons (Conn.) and Rep. Charles H. Taylor (N.C.).