Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- Howard Dean rose to the top tier of Democratic presidential candidates after collecting $7 million the past quarter, but his quick tongue got the former governor of Vermont in trouble with African-Americans.

Dean was having difficulty on NBC's "Meet the Press" June 22 answering moderator Tim Russert's questions testing his knowledge of the federal government. Asking him how many troops are in active duty in the U.S. military, Dean said, is "like asking me who the ambassador to Rwanda is." Some black politicians were offended that Dean cited the U.S. envoy to an African country, whose name he obviously did not know, as unimportant trivia.

The U.S. ambassador to Rwanda appointed by President Bush in 2001 is Margaret K. McMillion, a veteran foreign service officer specializing in Asian and African affairs.


Many California Republicans, unable to find a viable candidate to oppose Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer for a third term next year, are urging Pete Wilson to consider a comeback.

Wilson is widely blamed for the party's precipitous decline in the state because of his support as governor for an anti-immigration referendum that alienated Hispanic voters. However, he has never lost a general election, winning two terms each as U.S. senator and governor after serving as mayor of San Diego and a state assemblyman.

A footnote: Many California GOP strategists do not want the party to select a single candidate for governor as part of the recall effort against Democratic Gov. Gray Davis. Naming one Republican would enable Davis to use his familiar tactic of concentrating on his opponent.


House Speaker Dennis Hastert may break precedent and become a Republican conferee representing the House in a tense Senate-House conference to shape the final version of the prescription drug bill.

A member of the senior leadership will be one of the three House Republicans named as conferees. Normally, a speaker does not serve on conferences. But Hastert specialized in health care issues before he became speaker and is vitally interested in the bill. Majority Leader Tom DeLay usually represents the leadership in major conferences, but third-ranking Majority Whip Roy Blunt is also a possibility.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a physician and an expert on health care, is almost certain to be a Senate conferee.


The White House successfully convinced Rep. Chip Pickering of Mississippi to turn down a million-dollar lobbyist's job to stay in the House of Representatives as a key Republican.

Robert Novak

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

©Creators Syndicate