Democratic trickery?

Robert Novak
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Posted: Mar 29, 2003 12:00 AM

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.

SHOUTING GENERALS

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.

BUSH'S WAR SCHEDULE

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.

NO DEMOCRATIC DEFECTOR

Republican political operatives trying to coax Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska to join the GOP were discouraged by his performance Monday when Secretary of Education Rod Paige toured the state.

Nebraska's leading Republicans, Gov. Mike Johanns and Sen. Chuck Hagel, were present, and Nelson was invited. The Democratic senator regretted, asserting he had to be in Washington because of the war.

Nelson was heard, however. Timed to coincide with Paige's visit was an op-ed by Nelson in Monday's Omaha World-Herald. It said educational testing mandated by President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act is "costly, burdensome and duplicative," adding that "we do not need a federal testing mandate."

TARGETING DASCHLE

The national Republican establishment is going all out for the second-chance Senate try in South Dakota by former Rep. John Thune as candidate for the seat now held by Senate Democratic Leader Thomas Daschle.

The White House and the National Republican Senatorial Committee, while they cannot endorse Thune for the party nomination, have made it clear they want him and feel they should make a maximum effort for him. President Bush talked Thune out of his preference to make an easy run for governor last year and instead challenge Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson, a campaign that barely failed.

GOP leaders have signaled that they do not want Rep. Bill Janklow, the former governor who took Thune's House seat last year, to oppose Thune for the Republican Senate nomination.