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.

GAS TAX WARS

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.

ILLINOIS DROPOUT

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.

$1,000 FROM KISSINGER

The Republican National Committee's (RNC) finance division, going through the daily batch of small contributions arriving in the mail, recently found a $1,000 check from Henry A. Kissinger.

The former secretary of state was responding to a computerized RNC mailing dunning donors who had not contributed in a long time, asking them whether they had abandoned the GOP. Because such letters seldom elicit a positive reply, the finance division was stunned to get the check from Kissinger.

A footnote: A routine RNC mail solicitation recently received a $500 check from Los Angeles with the donor identifying himself as Tony Curtis and his profession as "actor." The Republicans rarely get any kind of help from people in that line of work.

KOREA'S HONEST ABE

The glossy 47-page booklet distributed in Washington by the South Korean government for left-wing President Roh Moo-Hyun's visit to the U.S. capital is devoted mainly to his "encounter" with Abraham Lincoln.

Roh reports he read Lincoln's second inaugural address on April 13, 2000, as ballots for the Korean election were being counted. "At that moment," he writes, "I had an exciting reunion with Lincoln," comparing his experience to Gandhi's "moment of truth" after being thrown off a segregated train and St. Paul's meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus.

A footnote: Washington consultant John Carbaugh, who has wide experience in Asia, has suggested to the White House that Roh be urged to emulate Lincoln as the Great Emancipator by calling on North Korea to "free its slaves." The new South Korean president favors a soft approach to his bellicose northern neighbor.


Robert Novak

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

 
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