Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- High-ranking Justice Department lawyers privately express hope that the Jayson Blair scandal at the New York Times could push the Supreme Court to rule against racial quotas in the University of Michigan case.

The high court has been considered split 5 to 4 over Michigan, with Justice Sandra Day O'Connor the unknown swing vote. The decision will go far toward setting the limits of affirmative action. Times management contends that the disgrace of Blair, an African-American reporter, has nothing to do with the newspaper's quest for diversity.

Nevertheless, the government's lawyers speculate that the case could impact the Supreme Court's view of affirmative action. The government has intervened against the University of Michigan's contention that its racial admission policies are constitutional.


The Bush administration has joined congressional conservatives in opposing the bid for a gasoline tax increase by Rep. Don Young, the powerful chairman of the House Transportation Committee.

Conservative Republican House members, led by freshman Rep. Marilyn Musgrave of Colorado, are circulating a letter to colleagues opposing the tax hike required by Young's highway bill. Conservative organizations are making the same plea in a letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert. They now have received support from Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, whose transportation plan contains no tax increase.

It is difficult to change a transportation bill, with individual House members reluctant to challenge Chairman Young and risk the loss of highway money for their constituencies.


The national Republican establishment was so shocked by former Gov. Jim Edgar's announcement that he would not be the Republican Senate candidate in Illinois next year because, a week earlier, he was ready to come to Washington on a house-hunting expedition.

Edgar was advised by Washington-based GOP operatives not to make the trip, which they said would convey overconfidence. Nevertheless, his eagerness signaled that he would seek the seat being given up by Republican Sen. Peter Fitzgerald. The speculation in Washington is that Edgar's wife turned him around last week.

That radically transforms the prospects for the Fitzgerald seat in the closely held Senate. Edgar would have been an overwhelming favorite, but the Democrats now will be given an edge to win in a state where the Republican Party has been in sharp decline.


Robert Novak

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

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