Posted: Feb. 20, 2004

POLI-TICKING

 

A WARM DAY IN FEBRUARY FOR SHERRY FREEBERY

The smart money in New Castle County was supposed to be on Sherry L. Freebery inside of a courthouse by now, and it would be a warm day in February before she was outside a courthouse, announcing for public office.

Well, it was a warm day in February on Friday, and so there was Freebery, the county's chief administrative officer with attitude, standing in front of the famous 18th Century courthouse in old New Castle, kicking off an in-your-face campaign to succeed two-term Democratic County Executive Thomas P. Gordon, her boss at least on the organizational charts.

Freebery declared her candidacy even though U.S. Attorney Colm F. Connolly has been investigating the Gordon-Freebery administration since 2002 and even though the Democratic Party hierarchy is all but openly rooting for County Council President Christopher A. Coons to win the next four-year term for county executive.

Freebery announced without a whiff of an indictment and without a whiff of a Democratic Party official in a crowd of about 100 people, and she sounded as though all that turmoil suited her just fine.

"Sometimes I have generated a little controversy, but for sure there are always great things going on," Freebery said.

Naturally Gordon was there with her, as he has been for 30 years since they were county police officers together, climbing the ranks until Gordon became chief and then she did, before he was elected county executive in 1996 and won a second term in 2000 without so much as a Republican to oppose him.

They both spoke proudly of the administration's record -- no tax increases, a fat surplus, land use reform, new parks and libraries, more police and paramedics. Never mind that their critics say they did it with a police mentality of intimidation, turning the county into a palace guard that involved itself enough in elections to light Colm Connolly's fuse.

Freebery took something of a shot at the others who want to be county executive, both Coons and Republican Christopher J. Castagno, the New Castle City Council president who will be announcing his own candidacy at the same courthouse next week.

Coons and Castagno are regarded by their parties as prime material for higher office, and that left Freebery scoffing. She said she would never seek any other elected office but county executive, so she would be free of trimming her decision-making to the political winds, as others might do.

"I have not learned yet the subtle act of compromising to achieve popularity," she said.

A handful of Democratic county elected officials showed up for the announcement, but not all of them were with Freebery. Councilwoman Patty W. Powell, elected in 2002 with Gordon-Freebery backing, was committed -- "I can't be for two people," she said -- but Councilman J. Robert Woods was not necessarily so.

"I want Democrats to control county executive, so I'll be at Coons' announcement, too," Woods said.

Freebery considers old New Castle her home turf. She grew up there, she said, and played on the very courthouse steps where she announced. James J. Freebery Sr., her grandfather, was the city police chief during Prohibition, and Freebery said when she became the county police chief in 1996, she went in full uniform to pay her respects at his grave.

James Freebery lies quietly in the cemetery of St. Peter's Catholic Church in New Castle. It is quite unlike his granddaughter, who is not going quietly yet.

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FORMER DELAWARE REPORTER WRITES ON RUMSFELD

When American Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld rushed from his desk to the impact site to help rescue the wounded. Later, from the safety of a vault-like security center within the burning Pentagon, Rumsfeld called President George W. Bush.

"This is not a criminal action," he told the president. "This is war."

Rumsfeld's  instant declaration of war is revealed for the first time in a book by veteran national security reporter Rowan Scarborough.

While covering government and the courts from the (Wilmington) News Journal's Dover Bureau from 1981 to 1986, Scarborough earned a reputation as a thorough and fair investigative reporter who cultivated sources and a keen eye for detail.

For the last 15 years he has been Pentagon correspondent for the Washington Times. He is one of the most respected and news-breaking -- defense reporters in the country.

Now Scarborough has written "Rumsfeld's War," 255 pages, published by Regnery Publishing Inc. of Washington, D.C., and due in bookstores Monday.

In "Rumsfeld's War," Scarborough takes the reader deep inside the Pentagon to show in detail how Rumsfeld -- once the nation's youngest secretary of defense and now its oldest  --took control of the Pentagon and turned it into a "house of warriors."  Leading the global war on terror, in both open and covert missions, Rumsfeld is revealed as a tireless dynamo focused on his primary goal: killing terrorists.

Scarborough interviewed "Rummy" and scores of his friends and colleagues, including former President Gerald Ford, economist Arthur Laffer, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and many members of the military.

Scarborough also reveals other sides of the man who ran with the bulls in Pamplona, battled the bulls on Wall Street, gave the nation NutraSweet, was a champion wrestler, is a fierce squash player and co-owns a ranch with longtime friend and CBS anchor Dan Rather.

Scarborough concludes that Rumsfeld's task of reconfiguring the military and fighting the war on terror is so immense that it will take the light of history to determine exactly what he finally accomplished and at what he failed. For now, he is America's man in the Pentagon.

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