Robert Novak
WASHINGTON -- Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's post-attack performance in New York City has won such praise that there is talk in Washington of summoning him to the capital to run the war against terrorism. Giuliani has been mentioned both as CIA director and a proposed new post of anti-terrorism director (a position given to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge). He is without experience in the intelligence field and is not a specialist in combating terrorism. However, he does have credentials as a former federal prosecutor and senior Justice Department official, and his main qualification is his effectiveness over the last two weeks. If George Tenet is eased out of the CIA, speculation about his successor has centered on Rep. Porter Goss of Florida, House Intelligence Committee chairman, and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. Most frequently mentioned as terrorism czar is former Ambassador Paul Bremer, chairman of the National Commission on Terrorism. GAGGING THE BUREAUCRATS Federal bureaucrats were told by their superiors this week that the White House has ordered them not to say a single word to members of the news media and instead to refer all questions from reporters to President Bush's official spokesmen. Even before the gag order was issued, government officials were not returning telephone calls from reporters with whom they normally talk. From the moment of the Sept. 11 attack, the White House was determined to put out a single message, eliminate free-lancing with the press and plug leaks of behind-the-scenes discussions in the government. Presidential assistants, normally given a long leash in dealing with the news media, also were gagged. They had to cancel all previously scheduled meetings with reporters -- even supposedly social meals, including dinner parties. NO TRUCE FOR OTTO Republicans are ready to break the Senate's post-attack truce by charging that Democrats are hampering President Bush's conduct of foreign policy in a national crisis by blocking Otto Reich's confirmation as assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs. Immediately after the terrorist attack, the Democratic-controlled Senate quietly confirmed the previously languishing nomination of John Negroponte as ambassador to the United Nations. Reich, however, remains stalled. Negroponte and Reich are both experienced diplomats whose nominations for new jobs have been assailed because each supported Nicaraguan Contras during the Reagan administration. Reich has a majority of votes on the Senate Foreign Relations committee but is opposed by Sen. Christopher Dodd, a fierce foe of the Contras two decades ago and now Western Hemisphere subcommittee chairman. Dodd has refused to even permit hearings on Reich. Bush intends to fight, with one White House document saying: "USG (U.S. Government) needs Otto Reich in place as soon as possible." NERVOUS YASSER The anxiety felt by Yasser Arafat immediately after Sept. 11 was enhanced when Jordan's King Abdullah for days refused to return the Palestinian leader's telephone calls, according to intelligence sources. Abdullah's cold shoulder contributed to Arafat's fears that he was being isolated and separated from responsible Arab leaders, making him a possible target of U.S. military reprisals. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon sought to put him in precisely that position by publicly calling Arafat "another bin Laden." Responding to his danger, Arafat sought to join the global anti-terrorist coalition. His orders to Palestinian fighters not to shoot back even if the Israelis shoot first reflected concern about being targeted by Washington. UNPROTECTED MONUMENTS The National Park Police (NPP) pressed for a share of the $40 billion emergency appropriation to help it protect the national mall in Washington and other monuments around the country, but was turned down by the Interior Department's career budget officers. A private report by an accounting firm recently showed serious security lapses at the nation's monuments because of NPP under-funding. The requested $45 million was axed Monday at the Interior Department. Speaker Dennis Hastert has joined House members of both parties representing the Washington metropolitan area in trying to give the NPP badly needed funds.

Robert Novak

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

 
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