Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- The thrilling liberation by U.S. Special Forces of prisoner of war Jessica Lynch gave President Bush a boost in passing the supplemental appropriations bill to finance the war by pacifying a leading Democratic critic.

Sen. Robert Byrd, the Senate's senior member and top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, has been accusing Bush of exceeding constitutional authority in waging and financing the war in Iraq. However, Pfc. Lynch, a Special Forces supply clerk, is from Palestine, W. Va., in Byrd's home state, and that appeared to moderate his tone.

Byrd's opening statement on the supplemental bill Wednesday did not mention the rescue of his constituent, but his criticism of the president was muted in comparison to his recent attacks.


Retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who has publicly attacked the Pentagon's management of the Iraq war, privately told a senator this past week that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld "is as bad as McNamara."

Robert S. McNamara, secretary of Defense during much of the Vietnam War under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, was despised by generals for interfering with their plans. No Pentagon civilian chief had such stormy relations with military officers until Rumsfeld's second hitch as secretary began in 2001.

McCaffrey, an analyst for NBC, is one of the "armchair generals" ridiculed by Rumsfeld. He commanded the 24th Infantry Division during the first Gulf War, but is suspect in the Bush administration for his service as President Bill Clinton's drug czar. His criticism also reflects the mutual animosity between the Army and Rumsfeld.


Other airline executives are furious with Delta CEO Leo Mullin for endangering badly needed federal aid by awarding himself and other members of the company's management team $17 million in bonuses and another $25.5 million in special guarantees.

Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, is pushing an amendment to the bailout package that would limit executive pay. It would freeze compensation for two years at 2002 levels. Executives throughout the industry say they likely would take early retirement if their pay were capped, creating a management crisis for the troubled airlines.

A footnote: House Speaker Dennis Hastert is pushing airline aid, but the Republican Study Committee (composed of rank-and-file conservative House members) is opposing the bailout.


Robert Novak

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

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