Under the Radar
SCIENCE — THREE CONSERVATIVE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES SAY THEY DO NOT BELIEVE IN EVOLUTION: During last night’s Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Library in California, a reader of Politico.com asked Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) for a yes or no answer on whether he believed in evolution. McCain paused for a second before answering “Yes.” Politico’s Jim VandeHei, one of three moderators for the night, then opened up the question to the other nine candidates. Three candidates — Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS), Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) and Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AK) — raised their hands to say that they do not believe in evolution. While the three politicians’ lack of belief in evolution is shared by a slim majority of Americans, “outside of the precincts of the religious right, though, the scientific consensus about evolution is very close to unanimous.” The National Academy of Sciences, “the nation’s most prestigious scientific organization,” declares evolution “one of the strongest and most useful scientific theories we have.” President Bush’s scientific adviser John Marburger has called it “the cornerstone of modern biology.” But for years, conservative activists have been seeking to push evolution out of school classrooms in order to replace it with “intelligent design,” a theory that posits extra-natural, non-scientific phenomena as its basis. Despite McCain’s expressed belief in evolution, he appeared recently as the keynote speaker for the most prominent “intelligent design” advocacy group in the country, the Discovery Institute.
IRAQ — AFTER VETO, CONGRESS WEIGHS NEW OPTIONS TO PRESSURE BUSH ADMINISTRATION ON IRAQ: In the wake of President Bush’s veto of the $124 billion Iraq war supplemental bill last week, congressional war critics have begun negotiations on new legislation that would pressure Bush to place benchmarks on Iraq. Currently under consideration is a proposal by Rep. David Obey (D-WI) suggesting the House guarantee funding of the war through July and give Congress the power of the purse to deny those funds if the Iraqi government does not meet certain benchmarks. “[L]eaders in the House are considering a proposal that would pay for the Iraq war at least through July but could cut off funding after that if the Iraqi government does not meet certain political and security goals.” Another proposal would fund the war through September. “Further funding would come only after Gen. David H. Petraeus, the commander in Iraq, briefed Congress on military progress and the progress of the Iraqi government in achieving a set of benchmarks, such as quelling sectarian violence, disarming militias and adopting changes to the Iraqi constitution to guarantee equality among ethnic and religious groups.” The compromise is stirring up debate on Capitol Hill, as several conservatives have indicated a divide over Iraq policy in the wake of Bush’s veto. In a meeting at the White House, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) “pushed a hard line, demanding that Democrats give Bush a funding bill stripped of war policies and extraneous spending. But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) sounded more conciliatory,” emphasizing that they would accept benchmarks “tied to nonmilitary assistance and that Republicans be prepared to compromise.” In the meantime, the White House remains steadfast in its opposition to any compromise with teeth, ruling out “linking U.S. troop deployments to such benchmarks, administration officials said. Those officials said they would be open to a measure holding Iraqis accountable for political reconciliation as long as it is flexible and not framed as overly punitive.”
MILITARY — MCCAIN CLAIMS ‘OPEN SEXUALITY’ IN MILITARY IS ‘INTOLERABLE RISK’: In a letter released yesterday by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) expressed his support for the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy that bans lesbians, gays, and bisexuals from serving openly in the military. McCain said he staunchly opposes openly gay servicemembers, asserting that “open sexuality within military presents an intolerable risk to morale, cohesion and discipline” and national security. McCain’s personal beliefs are antiquated and ill-informed. The overwhelming majority of the military supports equal rights for all servicemembers. Last December, a poll of servicemembers in Iraq and Afghanistan found that 73 percent were “comfortable with lesbians and gays.” A 2004 poll found that a majority of junior enlisted servicemembers believed gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve openly in the military, up from 16 percent in 1992. Furthemore, 55 percent of Americans believe “gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve openly in the military.” Since Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was instituted, at least 11,000 servicemembers, hundreds of whom had with key speciality skills such as training in Arabic, have left the military. The military could attract as many as 41,000 new recruits if gays could serve openly.