Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- Senate Republican leaders accuse Democrats of a "sneak attack" in bringing up a budget amendment cutting in half President Bush's proposed tax reduction Tuesday when his only Democratic supporter, Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia, was absent.

With Miller gone because his son was ill, halving of the tax cut was passed, 51 to 48. Had Miller been there, the 51 to 49 vote would have meant only one Republican defector need have been turned to make it 50 to 50 -- a tie that would have been broken by the vote of Vice President Dick Cheney.

A footnote: Senate GOP leaders are also miffed by the unexpected vote by Republican Sen. Gordon Smith of Oregon against drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Freshman GOP Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota, who had campaigned against ANWR drilling, would have voted with his party if it would have made a difference. While the anti-ANWR amendment passed 52 to 48, Smith and Coleman would have produced a 50-50 tie.


Deteriorated relations between two longtime allies over Turkish refusal to give access to U.S. troops for an invasion of northern Iraq resulted recently in top U.S. and Turkish military officers engaging in a telephone shouting match.

Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, raised his voice and made clear his outrage during a conversation with Gen. Hilmi Ozkok, chief of Turkey's general staff. Ozkok replied in kind and then rudely hung up.

A footnote: The U.S. northern front in Iraq, established without Turkish help, is commanded by the highly regarded Marine Maj. Gen. Henry P. (Pete) Osman. He was unveiled suddenly last Sunday in a press conference at Kurdistan Democratic Party headquarters in northern Iraq.


Contrary to published reports that President Bush personally struck from his Wednesday speech a line that the war effort was "ahead of schedule," it was never contained in the final version of his address to troops at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.

White House reporters, at the morning "gaggle" conducted by Press Secretary Ari Fleischer each day, were told Wednesday that the president would make the "ahead of schedule" remark. According to White House sources, it actually was contained in an earlier draft of Bush's speech, but not in the final version.

The impression of the president lowering expectations was deplored by presidential aides. They contend the war is not behind schedule and do not want to give that impression.


Robert Novak

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

©Creators Syndicate