Robert Novak
WASHINGTON -- The White House is seriously considering installing Otto Reich as assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs through a recess appointment by President Bush after Congress adjourns for the year, even though Reich has not been confirmed by the Senate. Sen. Joseph Biden, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, and Sen. Christopher Dodd, Western Hemisphere Subcommittee chairman, flatly refuse to give Reich a hearing. Actually, there appears to be sufficient support in the committee to approve Reich if his nomination were ever brought to a vote. Biden and Dodd have implied that Secretary of State Colin Powell would like to drop the appointment of Reich. However, a letter sent to Biden Monday puts Reich at the top of the list of nominees. Reich, a former ambassador to Venezuela, long has been on the liberal enemies list for his support of Nicaraguan Contras during the Reagan administration. O'NEILL IN TROUBLE The steady murmur of congressional Republican discontent with Paul O'Neill as treasury secretary rose to a roar with demands for his resignation after his statement in Memphis Monday. He attacked the GOP-crafted tax stimulus bill and called it "show business." Prominent Republican senators -- Minority Leader Trent Lott, Minority Whip Don Nickles and Phil Gramm -- read O'Neill the riot act following his Memphis performance. After that, the outspoken former Alcoa CEO toned down his language. Nevertheless, private Republican calls for his departure continue. The highest political card held by O'Neill is George W. Bush's concept that loyalty must run in two directions -- down as well as up. The president is not prone to fire a Cabinet member who is under political pressure. HOUSE DEMOCRATS FEUD House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt's sharp complaint Tuesday that Republican partisanship is blocking passage of an airport security bill followed rumblings in the Democratic caucus that he had been too soft since the events of Sept. 11. Gephardt is expected to be under pressure from his left with the election of Rep. Nancy Pelosi as House minority whip, No. 2 in the Democratic hierarchy, for next year. She defeated the more moderate Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, who is seen as closer to Gephardt. A further problem for Gephardt from the left is Rep. George Miller, who like Pelosi is from the San Francisco Bay area. Miller, a formidable vote-counter and vote-collector, is expected to be Pelosi's enforcer next year. ANTI-HILLARY Sen. Hillary Clinton's demeanor and posture when President Bush addressed a joint session of Congress Sept. 20 the week after the terrorist attacks is still the talk of Republican and conservative circles four weeks after the event. The former first lady has made friends among Republican senators as a hard-working freshman lawmaker. But outside the Senate, she has become the target of critics in a stream of e-mails, faxes and letters. They all attack Clinton for grimacing, rolling her eyes and appearing to applaud only reluctantly during the president's speech. All that was unknown to her colleagues listening to the speech on the House floor, but television cameras frequently focused on the senator. GEORGIA CIVIL WAR Rep. Bob Barr, nationally renowned in conservative circles as a Clinton impeachment manager, will be fighting for his political life against fellow conservative Republican Rep. John Linder thanks to redistricting by the Democratic-controlled Georgia legislature. Barr, who came to Washington in the Republican sweep of 1994, and Linder, elected to Congress two years earlier, were thrown into the same district. Although not as well known as Barr outside Georgia, Linder was a lieutenant of former Speaker Newt Gingrich and at one time headed the House Republican campaign committee. Conservatives around the country will have to make choices, and American Conservative Union chairman David Keene has made his: Bob Barr. In a letter to activists mailed Monday, Keene said Barr "is principled. He is fearless. He is family."

Robert Novak

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

 
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