Robert Novak
WASHINGTON -- Republican contributors who gathered at Washington's Willard Hotel Tuesday for "an evening with the President" were stunned by the surprise appearance of boxing promoter Don King (accompanied by his usual bodyguard). Nobody had ever before seen King at a Republican event. Attendance Tuesday was limited to Eagles, who must pay $15,000 membership dues. From the Willard, King went to a $15,000-a-ticket Democratic fund-raiser at the Washington mansion of Bill and Hillary Clinton. A footnote: Federal records reflect only $10,000 in contributions by King in the 1996 and 2000 election cycles, with but $1,000 given Bush (in 1999). He contributed $2,000 each to Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi, Senate Democratic Whip Harry Reid of Nevada and Republican Sen. John Ensign of Nevada. He gave $1,000 each to Democratic Reps. Earl Hilliard of Alabama, Corrine Brown of Florida and Robert Brady of Pennsylvania. BUSH FOR PEACE In a closed-door meeting with big Republican contributors Tuesday night, President Bush stressed his goal to disarm Iraq without loss of American lives. "I'm the one who will have to look the mothers (of U.S. casualties) in the eye," Bush told the Eagles, who each paid a $15,000 membership fee required to attend the reception at Washington's Willard Hotel. The unscripted performance was more personal than the president's prepared address to the nation in Cincinnati the previous evening. A footnote: Bush gave the Cincinnati speech before an invitation-only audience because he does better in such a setting than sitting alone in the Oval Office. He personally edited the speech to eliminate applause lines that would give the impression of a political rally. TEAMSTERS POLITICS The endorsement by the Teamsters Wednesday of Democratic lawyer Bill McBride against the re-election of Republican Gov. Jeb Bush was a setback in the evolving political relationship between President Bush and Teamsters president James P. Hoffa. Florida Teamsters leaders don't like Gov. Bush and pushed hard for McBride. Aides to Hoffa who wanted the Bush endorsement complained that the governor's emissaries did a poor job of making his case. Some Hoffa advisers warned him the McBride endorsement won't help the union's pleas to president Bush to free the Teamsters from court-ordered supervision. A footnote: The Teamsters have endorsed two incumbent Republican governors facing easy re-election contests: George Pataki in New York and Bob Taft in Ohio. They also are supporting State Atty. Gen. John Cornyn, the Republican Senate candidate in Texas. However, all Democratic senators up for re-election have been backed by the Teamsters. VERMONT IN IOWA Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, a long shot for the Democratic presidential nomination, was the unexpected star at last weekend's annual Iowa Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Des Moines. Some of the Iowa Democrats attending didn't quite know who Dean was, with one referring to him as "that New Hampshire governor guy." Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa in his speech repeatedly called him "John Dean." Nevertheless, the Iowans clearly liked what they heard from Dean, who at one point described Iowa as "Vermont, ironed out." A footnote: The bust of the Des Moines cattle call for presidential hopefuls was Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina. Although some women said they liked the good-looking Edwards, the consensus was that he had "said nothing." LAUTENBERG'S HELPER Ace Democratic consultant Bob Shrum was on the plane from Washington to Newark the morning after New Jersey Democrats selected former Sen. Frank Lautenberg to replace Sen. Robert Torricelli on the ballot. Shrum, one of the best writers of speeches and television ads, quickly agreed to come on board for Lautenberg. Shrum was strategist for Torricelli's hard-fought Senate victory in 1996 but was not hired for his mistake-ridden 2002 campaign. A footnote: Although the Eagleton-Rutgers poll for the Newark Star-Ledger shows a 44-44 tie between Lautenberg and Republican candidate Doug Forrester, Republican strategists in Washington feel Forrester blundered in taking the lead against the ballot switch.

Robert Novak

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

 
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