Robert Novak
WASHINGTON -- When Republican insiders in Washington privately complain about George W. Bush turning down free time on television, his strategists in Austin claim they must maintain control of their message, even if that means relinquishing network access to Al Gore. The old Washington hands are mystified by Gov. Bush's rejection of a nightly issue interview with NBC anchor Tom Brokaw, an offer that was accepted by Vice President Gore. The Bush team has justified its decision on grounds that the candidate cannot spare much time late in the campaign. But the unspoken reason is the feeling in Austin that hostile television journalists distort Bush's message. The governor's advisers claim he has been able to stay on message since mid-September when he ended press conferences and limited TV interviews. CLINTON TO N. KOREA? President Clinton's advisers, in and out of government, urge him to demand that he be permitted to deliver an uncensored television address to the people of North Korea as the price for visiting the Communist state before his term ends. Clinton could use the airtime to call for democracy and human rights in the dictatorship. That would likely be a deal-breaker with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il refusing to give any outsider free access to his subjects. A footnote: Secretary of State Madeleine Albright shocked the human rights community by clapping politely at the 55th anniversary celebration of the totalitarian Korean Workers Party during her recent visit to Pyongyang. DELAY'S DELIGHT Rep. Tom DeLay, the powerful House Majority Whip, was the happiest man in Washington when the collapse of budget negotiations between Congress and the White House forced a post-election legislative session. Behind the scenes, DeLay for months has advocated a lame-duck session. He wanted to avoid a repetition of 1998 when Republican budget concessions just before the mid-term elections depressed the conservative GOP voting base. Democratic leaders in Congress -- Rep. Richard Gephardt and Sen. Thomas Daschle -- had gone to White House Chief of Staff John Podesta on behalf of a recess on Capitol Hill with funding provided to keep the federal government open for 14 days. But when Democrats started bashing the Republicans for going home instead of doing their work, House Speaker Dennis Hastert opted for keeping the government funded one day at a time. TREASURY CHOICE If Al Gore is elected president, he will be pressured from the architects of current economic success -- Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin -- to retain Lawrence Summers as Secretary of the Treasury. Gore was not happy when Summers opposed his proposed use of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to stabilize oil prices. Some Gore advisers would prefer that he pick his own Treasury chief, but they anticipate a powerful argument for Summers from Greenspan and Rubin. A footnote: Republican presidents usually select a financier or banker for the Treasury portfolio, but Lawrence Lindsey -- like Summers, a former Harvard economics professor -- is on top of George W. Bush's list. Former Federal Reserve Gov. Lindsey, a middle-level aide in President George Bush's White House, has been the 2000 Bush campaign's top economic policymaker. TEAMSTERS FOR MEL The Teamsters Union members have been asked to drive with their lights on during daylight hours through Election Day as part of an aggressive get-out-the-vote campaign in Missouri to elect the late Democratic Gov. Mel Carnahan against Republican Sen. John Ashcroft's re-election bid. A massive Teamsters rally in Springfield, Mo., Saturday (called "Mel Carnahan Day") kicked off the drive. In life Carnahan was a staunch ally of the Teamsters. If in death he defeats Ashcroft, the union expects just as firm support from his widow, Jean, who would be appointed to the Senate. A footnote: Rank-and-file Teamster members, through telephone calls and e-mails, still express outrage over the union's endorsement of Al Gore for president because of his position on gun control. In response, Teamster leaders have mailed to union members score cards showing Gore stronger than George W. Bush on core labor issues.
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Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.
 

 
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