Executive Power Hot Topic at New Hampshire Forums; 2008 Hopefuls Sound off on Civil Liberties

Article excerpt

Byline: Stephen Dinan, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. - Former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani yesterday defended President Bush's extensive use of national security tools such as the USA Patriot Act as no worse than other countries, but Sen. Barack Obama said he would use executive orders to roll back some of those powers.

"The Patriot Act does give the government more tools, more power, but it's not vastly out of line with what other governments have, free governments, democratic governments," Mr. Giuliani told the Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce while campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination here in New Hampshire.

"All of this takes a little privacy away from somebody. It depends on who you take it away from, and what is at stake," he said.

But Mr. Obama, Illinois Democrat and one of the top Democrats seeking his party's presidential nod, said Mr. Bush has "just gone nuts in amassing more and more executive control and skewing the checks and balances."

Speaking to a town hall in Rochester, he said he will use executive orders to grant terrorism detainees new legal rights, prohibit torture and create more oversight for intelligence gathering such as data mining and the use of national security letters to obtain personal information from companies.

"A lot of the executive orders I'll be issuing are just reversing some of the executive orders put forward over the last six years," Mr. Obama said.

The two men were taking questions at separate forums yesterday as they and other candidates, fresh off announcing fundraising totals, spread throughout New Hampshire, which traditionally holds the first-in-the-nation primaries.

Some Democrats appeared unsettled at the large amounts of cash the campaign will require. At his town hall yesterday Mr. Obama, who hasn't released a tally but has reportedly raised at least $20 million, had to defend himself against one questioner who told him, "I don't want money to pick my next president, I want to pick my next president."

Mr. Obama said he's trying to change the system but for now has to play with the rules as they are.

"What I've tried to do is engage the system in a way that keeps me feeling like my integrity is intact - I don't take [political action committee] money, I don't take money from registered federal lobbyists," he said.

In his own town hall in Derry, Republican candidate Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, had to explain why he loaned his campaign more than $2 million of his own money, despite earlier saying he would try to avoid that. …