Robert Novak
Labor sources say AFL-CIO President John Sweeney has chosen to seek re-election next year with Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka, still under scrutiny of federal prosecutors, kept as his running mate. Skeptics in the labor movement suspect Sweeney will say nothing publicly until he sees where U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White in New York is going in her continued prosecution of the illegal 1996 campaign funds swap between the Democratic Party and since deposed Teamsters Union leaders. Trumka was a principal in this arrangement. Former Teamsters President Ron Carey was indicted Thursday for perjury in connection with the 1996 scandal. Trumka invoked the Fifth Amendment in refusing to answer questions from federal authorities about the 1996 scandal. That would make him "unfit to hold office" under AFL-CIO rules, but Sweeney has retained Trumka -- to the displeasure of current Teamsters President James Hoffa. CLINTONITE VANDALS WASHINGTON -- The unprecedented trashing of White House offices by departing Clinton aides included cut telephone wires, pornographic pictures in fax machines and garbage in refrigerators. Wholesale removal of the "W"s (as in George W. Bush) from computer keyboards was the most publicized but the least serious vandalism encountered by incoming Republicans. The worst was sabotage of telephone, fax and e-mail communications, blacking out the White House for the Bush takeover's first days. Permanent White House staffers said "practical jokes" are often played by the departing staff when there is a change of party. That was true eight years ago when the first Bush administration gave way to Bill Clinton. But, the old hands said, they had never encountered damage at the level caused by the Clinton crew. NOT SAVING HILLARY Sen. Hillary Clinton was saved the embarrassment of missing her first roll call votes in the Senate, not because of the kindness of Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott, but thanks to the indisposition of Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd. Lott did not want roll calls -- possibly with a few negative votes -- when six of President Bush's Cabinet nominees were up for Senate confirmation on Inauguration Day last Saturday. But Byrd, the senior Democratic member of the Senate, insisted on it. If Byrd had prevailed, Hillary Clinton would have been absent for these votes because she was fulfilling her duties as first lady at the presidential inauguration. Word spread though Washington that Lott killed the roll calls, acquiring a chit from Sen. Clinton for future use. In truth, however, the 83-year-old Byrd was not feeling well and decided not to venture out in last Saturday's bad weather. With Byrd absent, no senator demanded roll calls. O'NEILL FENCE MENDING Paul O'Neill won unanimous Senate approval as secretary of the Treasury but still faces serious fence-mending with Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, a rising Republican power in the Senate. The 42-year-old Santorum has lived in western Pennsylvania since he was 7 years old, and O'Neill has been a top executive of Pittsburgh-based Alcoa for the past 13 years. Nevertheless, they had never met, and Santorum's only telephone call ever placed to O'Neill was not returned. O'Neill contributed nothing to Santorum's campaigns for the House and Senate, and had no connection with the Republican Party or community affairs involving the senator. Santorum, a lieutenant of Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, this year was elected chairman of the Senate Republican Conference. "BIG GEORGE" President Bush startled the fiercely partisan Rep. George Miller of California during a White House meeting Tuesday by repeatedly calling him "Big George." George W. Bush is known for applying nicknames to friends and associates. But Miller, one of the toughest liberal advocates in Congress as well as being tall and heavy, was hardly expected to be friendly with the new Republican president. Nevertheless, the president persisted in calling him Big George during a session with lawmakers about the Bush education program. Using the same schmoozing he employed with state legislators when he was governor of Texas, Bush conducted a seminar with the members of Congress -- including Miller. He conceded that there were disagreements with the Californian, but pointed out where they agreed.

Robert Novak

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

 
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