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Slaughter accuses Bush of sexism for criticism of Pelosi

Rep. Louise M. Slaughter called the White House on Thursday afternoon and asked the administration to reconsider its position against exchanging customs inspectors on the Canadian border.

But after her visit to the White House on Thursday morning, she might have to add a "please" to her request.

That's because her face-to-face with President Bush that morning got a little testy.

She suggested that Bush might have been sexist for criticizing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's recent diplomatic trip to the Middle East.

"I hope it's not a sexist thing he did, but I basically accused him of it yesterday," she said Friday in a teleconference with reporters.

The congresswoman said she was among a group of House members who met with the president Thursday and said her comment to the president targeted the White House's adverse reaction to the Pelosi trip, which also included Slaughter.

She said she told Bush and several high-level members of his staff that 14 other members of Congress had previously visited Syria, without comment from the White House, including three male members simultaneous with the Pelosi mission.

The legislative branch provides the money for the president's diplomatic activities, she said, and doesn't need his permission to travel abroad and discuss world affairs.

But earlier this month, Bush called the Pelosi-Slaughter trip "irresponsible," and Slaughter said she made no effort to hide her disappointment during the White House visit.

"I think it reflected very poorly on the White House to tell the first woman speaker of the House that she should stay home," Slaughter said. "Vice President Cheney did a real number on her."

She said the White House assured her that the president's remarks should not be interpreted as sexist.

"But nobody hardly believes that," she said.

White House spokesman Alex Conant said late Friday that the president has made it clear of his disapproval of any trips by members of Congress -- male or female -- to Syria, which he considers a "state sponsor of terrorism."

Still, the exchange didn't stop Slaughter, D-Fairport, from asking Bush to reconsider the Department of Homeland Security's decision to reject a plan for one customs inspection area on the Canadian side of the Peace Bridge. Despite her pleas and those of several other federal representatives, the decision raises the likelihood the Peace Bridge Authority will take more land on Buffalo's West Side for a new toll plaza.

Slaughter said she expects to enlist the assistance of several business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, to seek a reversal of the decision.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., weighed in on the subject Friday, promising he will also pursue the matter.

e-mail: rmccarthy@buffnews.com

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