WASHINGTON -- Even before Sen. Thomas Daschle delivered Thursday's broadside against George W. Bush's foreign policy, the president had personally soured on the Senate majority leader.
Bush takes pride in maintaining warm relations with Democratic leaders, but sources say that Daschle is the exception. He has taken a real dislike to the soft-spoken South Dakotan, an attitude which was capped when Daschle attacked Bush's foreign policy just before the president left on his most recent visit to Europe.
A footnote: Daschle's reputation for being cool and calculated took a blow during the furious Senate infighting just before the August recess. He was overheard using unprintable language to Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott on two occasions.
DOLE FOR HELMS
White House political chief Karl Rove and Sen. Bill Frist, the Senate Republican campaign chairman, are behind the push to save Sen. Jesse Helms' North Carolina seat by running Elizabeth Dole.
GOP insiders in North Carolina are optimistic that the two-time Cabinet member and former Red Cross president will agree to run. If she does not, they fear the nomination will go to former Sen. Lauch Faircloth. The guess in Republican circles is that Faircloth would be a sure loser in the general election -- especially against Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, a folksy Democrat with a moderate image.
Helms, who has not definitely ruled out trying for a sixth term, could be influenced by his prospective successor. North Carolina Republican sources say he might feel better about stepping aside if somebody with the prestige of Elizabeth Dole were to succeed him.
Griffin Bell, President Jimmy Carter's conservative attorney general, turned down a request by Attorney General John Ashcroft to be the government's representative on the Independent Review Board (IRB) monitoring the Teamsters.
Bell on the IRB would have given Teamsters President James P. Hoffa hopes for escaping expensive federal regulation. But Bell said that at age 82, he could not stand the travel. Actually, not much travel is involved. Former U.S. Attorney Joseph diGenova, the Teamsters representative on the board, agreed to travel to see Bell at his Atlanta office when necessary.
However, Bell was convinced he would have to travel, raising suspicions of a misinformation campaign. Benjamin Civiletti, Bell's successor as attorney general in the Carter administration, was named instead. He replaces retired Federal Judge Frederick Lacey, who was a notorious supporter of former Teamsters president Ron Carey. In the scandalous union election of 1996, Carey defeated Hoffa but was forced from office when the election was found fraudulent.
CHRISTIE'S BACK STAB
Supporters of Jersey City Republican Mayor Bret Schundler's uphill campaign for governor of New Jersey were furious that the White House political office did not publicly deplore the criticism of Schundler by former Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, now Environmental Protection Agency administrator.
"I don't know that his positions are compatible with, on some issues, New Jerseyans," Whitman said last month while meeting Washington Post editors and reporters. She specifically mentioned abortion and gun rights.
That may hurt Schundler against Woodbridge Democratic Mayor Jim McGreevey, but it also damages Whitman with the state's Republicans. A private poll by the state GOP shows that more voters now disapprove of the former governor than approve of her.
Senate Republicans will not drop Minority Leader Trent Lott's claims that the trucking amendment restricting Mexican trucks in the U.S. is "anti-Mexican" and "anti-Hispanic," but will pursue that criticism when Mexican President Vicente Fox comes to Washington next month.
A media offensive is planned by Republicans, who hope to bring Fox to the Senate gallery when conferees are announced for the bill with the trucking amendment. They plan to repeat charges that the assault on Mexican trucks and drivers as unsafe was racially motivated.
The truck campaign and calls for easier immigration rules are part of a GOP effort to compete with Democrats for Mexican and other Hispanic voters.