Lobbying Mexico

Robert Novak
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Posted: Mar 15, 2003 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON -- Not only have President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell lobbied United Nations Security Council members to support the Iraq war resolution, but they have also asked the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee -- Sen. Richard Lugar -- to help.

Lugar, with a long-standing interest in Latin America, was asked to contact Mexico's President Vicente Fox. Mexico, a current Security Council member, is not backing the resolution. However, Fox was undergoing medical treatment and was not immediately available. Lugar did speak with the foreign ministers of Mexico and Russia, after which he introduced a bill to repeal the Jackson-Vanik Act directed against the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

A footnote: British diplomats protested privately to the State Department when Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld suggested Tuesday that the U.S. could go it alone militarily in Iraq if Britain drops out. That put Prime Minister Tony Blair in a difficult position for Wednesday's question period in Parliament.

UNHAPPY WITH HILLARY

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is a rising star in the Senate but has encountered criticism from her left-of-center core constituency in New York City, which complains she pulls her punches against George W. Bush.

The big liberal complaint is Clinton's failure to speak out against military intervention in Iraq. Liberals also grumble she has not aggressively attacked President Bush's economic policy. Clinton's passivity does tend to remove lingering suspicions about her interest in the 2004 national Democratic ticket.

A footnote: New York City Democrats were not bowled over by the recent visit of a possible front-runner for the presidential nomination: Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts. Like other presidential hopefuls, Kerry found it difficult to raise money in Manhattan.

TEAMSTERS AND GOP

While scores of members of Congress came to the recent reception hosted by Teamsters President James P. Hoffa at the union's Capitol Hill headquarters, all eyes were on White House chief political aide Ken Mehlman.

Mehlman's presence was a sign President Bush wanted to continue wooing the Teamsters and other selected labor unions. Hoffa has been irked by Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao's strict enforcement of the law requiring detailed financial reports by labor.

After Chao vigorously defended her policy to the AFL-CIO executive council in Florida Feb. 26, Teamsters sources reported the relationship with Bush was terminated. Since then, however, Hoffa has indicated he does not want to shut the doors, and Mehlman's attendance at the Teamsters reception was the White House response.

TARGETING MORAN

Rep. Jim Moran has finally won himself a nearly certain primary election challenge in his safely Democratic northern Virginia district even though he has apologized for telling a voters forum that "strong support of the Jewish community" is moving the country to war in Iraq.

State Sen. Leslie Byrne leads several Democrats in Moran's Washington, D.C., suburban constituency who are considering a campaign against him. She has strong support from labor and feminist groups but lost her congressional seat in a less Democratic district to Republican Tom Davis in 1994.

Until now, Moran has avoided internal Democratic challenges despite embarrassing incidents in and out of Congress and personal loans from business organizations lobbying for his support. Moran won with 64 percent of the general election vote in 2000 and 60 percent in 2002, and Republicans have given up hope in his district.

HOLLINGS TO QUIT?

National Democratic campaign operatives are convinced that Sen. Ernest F. (Fritz) Hollings, the fourth most senior U.S. senator and a onetime presidential aspirant, will not seek election in South Carolina for the seventh time next year at age 82.

Although Hollings announced in 2000 that he would be running again in 2004, he has kept a low political profile and done no fund-raising. If he does run, he would face an uphill race following the 2002 Republican sweep in South Carolina.

Rep. Jim DeMint, a 51-year-old former marketing executive first elected to Congress in 1998, will be the Republican candidate. Hollings would face tough going against DeMint, who would be an overwhelming favorite if Hollings bows out.