Inside Report

Robert Novak

3/8/2003 12:00:00 AM - Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- In a rare break of House Republican unity, GOP leaders are furious with Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas for letting the party fall into a Democratic trap.

Thomas, without informing the House leadership, permitted individual Republican committee members to add their pet projects to a non-controversial bill affecting taxation of military personnel. The result was an abundance of special interest proposals that were immediately targeted by Democrats. When Thomas refused to change the bill, Speaker Dennis Hastert pulled it down Thursday afternoon and adjourned for the weekend.

Republican leaders say Thomas should have been warned when Democratic committee members disdained an offer to attach their own pet proposals to the bill.


The Rev. Al Sharpton is privately accusing Democratic National Chairman Terry McAuliffe of pushing former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun to enter the party's crowded field for president, thereby splitting the African-American vote between her and Sharpton.

Noting Sharpton's rising black support, McAuliffe and other establishment Democrats are concerned that he will distort the contest for the presidential nomination. Whether or not they promoted Moseley Braun's unexpected announcement of candidacy, they certainly welcomed it.

Whispers in Washington that the Rev. Jesse Jackson encouraged Moseley Braun appear to have no foundation. She did not support Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. in his contested 1995 Illinois primary election, and views the Jacksons as adversaries. The younger Jackson has cited "rumors" that "Democratic forces" hostile to Sharpton have led the former senator into the presidential race.


Democratic attorneys general are pressuring Environmental Protection Administrator Christine Todd Whitman to impose carbon dioxide (CO-2) emission standards, a move that would enrage conservatives.

Attorneys General Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Tom Reilly of Massachusetts and Steven Rowe of Maine plan to sue the Environmental Protection Agency on grounds that the Clean Air Act requires Whitman to impose the caps. Those three are among seven state attorneys generals who filed suit Feb. 20 demanding CO-2 emission limits on power plants.

A footnote: New York's Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, among those who filed the Feb. 20 suit, is viewed by conservatives as the leader of state attorneys general trying to expand their jurisdiction on many issues.


Gen. Eric Shinseki, the Army's retiring chief of staff, is sending friends and associates a chapter from the memoirs of a famous predecessor to justify his public disagreement with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld over how many occupation troops will be needed in Iraq.

Shinseki dispatched Chapter 31 of the late Gen. Matthew Ridgway's memoirs [buy book]. Explaining disagreement over spending levels with Defense Secretary Charles Wilson during the Eisenhower administration, Ridgway wrote: " . . . the professional soldier should never pull his punches, should never let himself for one moment be dissuaded from stating the honest estimates his own military experience and judgment tell him will be needed to do the job required of him."

Civilian Pentagon officials privately said Shinseki should move up his June retirement date after his Senate testimony predicting "hundreds of thousands" of U.S. troops will be necessary to occupy Iraq. Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz publicly rejected Shinseki's forecast. In 1955, Ridgway hastened his retirement by several months after budget disputes with Wilson.


With National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice bowing out of consideration as an opponent of Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer in California next year, prominent Republicans in the state are eyeing another potential minority female candidate: Rosario Marin, treasurer of the United States.

Marin, 44, came to Los Angeles from Mexico with her parents at age 14, speaking no English. She served for seven years in Republican Gov. Pete Wilson's administration and was elected councilwoman and mayor of Huntington Park (which has a 99 percent Hispanic population). President Bush named her U.S. treasurer in 2001.

California Republican strategists question the viability of several congressmen mentioned as possible challengers of Boxer. They see Marin, though unknown statewide, cutting into Latino supporters vital to the Democratic base.