Inside Report: Rumsfeld strikes out

Robert Novak

9/7/2002 12:00:00 AM - Robert Novak
WASHINGTON -- Dissatisfaction by Republican senators over their briefing Wednesday by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was intensified by the contrast with President Bush's performance a few hours earlier. Bush reassured invited Republicans, including critics of plans to invade Iraq led by Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana. A former Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman and influential GOP spokesman on international affairs, Lugar was impressed by Bush's even-handed performance and promise that Congress will be consulted. Several of Lugar's colleagues were described as being in a state of euphoria. Rumsfeld's performance disappointed and angered Republicans from both the House and Senate when he held back on information about Iraq. Vice President Dick Cheney was much more forthcoming Thursday when, with CIA Director George Tenet, he delivered a top-secret briefing to bipartisan congressional leaders. HOUSE GOP SAYS NO Influential House Republicans have said "no" to President Bush's plans for a tax bill intended to build investor confidence, contending that such a bill would not pass and would serve no political purpose. Rep. Bill Thomas, the powerful chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, has pushed through the House all of Bush's tax proposals over the past two years. But he has signaled no interest in trying to pass tax preferences on dividends and capital gains and losses in the few weeks remaining before the mid-term election. A new Bush tax bill surely would die in the Democratic-controlled Senate, but the president wanted to send a friendly signal to worried investors. The contents of the measure have been widely leaked but not officially released. WILL SIMON PAY? California Republican political strategists are telling Bill Simon that if he really wants to make a race of it against Democratic Gov. Gray Davis this year, he had better unpeel at least $8 million to $9 million from the family fortune to revive his flagging campaign. Despite a series of adverse events that have seemed to destroy the campaign of billionaire businessman Simon, Thursday's Field Poll showed Davis ahead by only 38 percent to 31 percent. The survey indicated Californians are overwhelmingly negative against both candidates, with 52 percent unfavorable toward Davis and 50 percent unfavorable toward Simon. A footnote: Apart from his family bankroll, Simon's biggest asset in the opinion of GOP strategists may be his endorsement from Rudolph Giuliani. Simon backers would like to see the former New York City mayor campaigning in California. WHITHER A. CUOMO? Supporters of Andrew Cuomo for governor of New York, left high and dry after he pulled out of the race a week before Tuesday's Democratic primary, vow never to back the former Democratic governor's son for anything in the future. These critics contend that Cuomo, Housing secretary in the Clinton administration, should have gone through with a losing primary effort. While his withdrawal was intended to preserve the 44-year-old Cuomo's political future, it may have just the opposite effect. A footnote: New York political insiders contend that if multi-millionaire businessman Thomas Golisano's self-financed campaign defeats Republican Gov. George Pataki in the Independence Party primary election, Democratic State Controller Carl McCall may have a chance in a three-way race for governor. DRILLING FOR OIL With the Bush administration having failed to get congressional approval to produce oil from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), Interior Secretary Gale Norton is talking about trying to drill on other federal lands. By November, Norton plans to report on how much oil and natural gas has been locked up by federal regulations. Preliminary studies show the government is sitting on nearly 770 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, beneath federal lands and offshore beneath ocean waters. That would be enough natural gas to supply the country for 30 years. Once the Interior Department survey is completed, Norton may seek permission for drilling. She would encounter the same environmentalist pressure that sank ANWR.