Robert Novak
Checking With the Speaker WASHINGTON -- Late in the afternoon prior to his heavily publicized White House dinner Wednesday with newly installed Senate Majority Leader Thomas Daschle, President Bush held an unannounced meeting with House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert. The president and the speaker, each accompanied by a senior aide, met for 20 minutes in the Oval Office to discuss strategy for the rest of the session. The two Republicans considered how Bush should approach Democratic control of the Senate under Daschle's leadership. House Republicans have quietly grumbled that they have been ignored by the White House, which has concentrated on what had been an evenly divided Senate. Now that Democrats control the Senate, the Republican House has become more important for the president. ANGRY GRANDMA BARBARA Although the president and the first lady kept quiet about the escapades of their twin daughters, sources close to the Bushes report outrage by one family member: grandmother Barbara Bush. The former president's wife, in public, dismissed the troubles with self-deprecatory humor. ("He is getting back some of his own," she told an Indianapolis audience.) But Mrs. Bush, in private, is described as being very upset with her granddaughters, Jenna and Barbara. The whole Bush family was at Camp David last weekend, and sources said the girls got several earfuls from their grandmother. JESSE TO LEAVE? Sen. Bill Frist, the Senate Republican campaign chairman, is being quoted by political insiders as saying that 79-year-old Sen. Jesse Helms will not seek a sixth term from North Carolina next year. According to these reports, Helms will wait until September or longer before announcing that he will not run again. That delay could have the effect of temporarily freezing campaign contributions that Helms ordinarily receives but would be divided among Republican and Democratic candidates once he announces he will not run. Conservative Rep. Richard Burr is the leading Republican prospect to replace Helms, with moderate liberal Rep. Bob Etheridge topping the Democratic list. Political insiders in advance give the GOP an even chance of keeping the state. BUSH'S MAN IN S.C. President Bush has promised Rep. Lindsey Graham a visit to South Carolina in behalf of his 2002 Senate race there, a signal that the Bush political operation has finally forgiven Graham for vigorously opposing the future president in last year's bitter South Carolina presidential primary. Graham had been getting a cold shoulder from the White House in view of his strong support for Sen. John McCain against Bush in 2000. The atmosphere began to warm, however, when it became clear that Graham was assured of the Republican nomination to replace Sen. Strom Thurmond -- a seat the GOP needs to retain if it hopes to regain control of the Senate next year. A footnote: Graham has been privately urging his friend, Rep. John Thune, to run against Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson in South Dakota next year. Bush earlier had made the same pitch to Thune, who has stated his preference to run for governor instead. Johnson would be vulnerable to a challenge by Thune, but probably nobody else. CENSUS POLITICS Sen. Joseph Lieberman is being urged to use his broad new powers as chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs committee to investigate whether the Bush administration discriminated against minorities in ruling out sampling techniques for the 2000 census. Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York, the most vocal advocate of census sampling, has personally asked Lieberman to launch the inquiry. She and members of the Congressional Black Caucus want Secretary of Commerce Don Evans to be grilled on his census decisions. Lieberman has not decided, but the investigation would not hurt his 2004 presidential stock with the important African-American vote. Republicans do not relish the prospect of Evans and other Bush officials being accused of discriminating against minority voters.

Robert Novak

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

 
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