Robert Novak
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WASHINGTON -- Hans Blix, the 74-year-old Swedish lawyer who is the chief United Nations weapons inspector, is credited inside the Bush administration with cracking an international deadlock over how to deal with Iraq. President Bush had grown frustrated with getting an agreement for the use of force against Iraq and hinted the U.S. would take military action on its own. Blix turned the tide when he and Mohamed el Baradei, an Egyptian arms inspector, attended a closed-door meeting of the U.N. Security Council Tuesday. They argued that inspections should be backed with a threat of force against Saddam Hussein. When Blix met with Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney in Washington Wednesday, he was greeted privately by U.S. officials as a savior. DISAPPOINTING DEMOCRATS Republican Sen. Pete Domenici, who canceled his own re-election campaigning in New Mexico because of Sen. Paul Wellstone's death, was appalled that Tuesday night's memorial service in Minneapolis turned into a Democratic political rally. Domenici had worked closely with Wellstone on mental health issues and was crushed by the news of the Oct. 25 plane crash. He hurried to Washington and then went to Minneapolis for the Wellstone service. Friends described him as disappointed by the tone there, especially when Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott was booed. A footnote: Republicans were outraged that Vice President Dick Cheney's offer to attend the memorial service was rebuffed. However, the official White House response was a quiet recognition of the Wellstone family's wishes. SAVING RUSSIAN LIVES? While U.S. Ambassador Alexander Vershbow in Moscow criticized Russian handling of the theater hostage affair, Defense Department and CIA officials privately praised it. The U.S. security experts commend their Russian counterparts for saving lives by sending gas into the theater, a method that would not even have been considered in Washington. The Americans would have stormed the theater doors, probably prompting the Chechen terrorists to set off their bombs and kill many more hostages than the 115 who actually perished. Vershbow's criticism of the Russian government for still keeping secret the nature of the gas was interpreted as an effort by the Bush administration to keep its distance from Russian President Vladimir Putin on this issue. TERRY'S GAFFE The public intervention by Democratic National Chairman Terry McAuliffe in the Florida governor's race was quickly followed by Republican Gov. Jeb Bush's spurt that put him eight to 10 points ahead of Democratic candidate Bill McBride in current polls. McAuliffe sent political operatives and more money to Florida in an effort to defeat George W. Bush's brother, but leaders of both parties said the move backfired. McBride, a lawyer making his first bid for public office, also wilted under Bush's challenge to say how he would raise the money for the higher school funding that he has promised. A footnote: In the race for governor of Massachusetts, Republican businessman Mitt Romney has moved back ahead of Democratic State Treasurer Shannon O'Brien. All sides agree that Romney was the clear winner in Tuesday night's final televised debate. S.D. BUCK RAKING The Senate campaigns in South Dakota of Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson and Republican Rep. John Thune, which have spent more per capita than any other political race this year, were still trying to raise more money at the eleventh hour. Johnson bombarded Washington lobbyists with invitations to a $1,000-a-ticket luncheon last Tuesday at the offices of Van Scoyoc Associates, a Washington lobbying firm. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was the speaker. The same lobbyists were solicited by Thune to attend a reception ($1,000 per person, $2,000 per couple) the previous Friday at the Los Angeles mansion of Bradford Freeman, a major GOP contributor and friend of President Bush. Presidential counselor Karl Rove was the speaker.
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Robert Novak

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

 
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