Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- In a conference call back to California Wednesday, the state's Democratic members of Congress proposed that Gov. Gray Davis lower his profile in order to save his job in the Oct. 7 recall election. But House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi supported the governor's present aggressive stance.

Several House members contended during the conversation that because Davis is so unpopular, he is making a major mistake in taking a personal role in the campaign and, instead, should stay in the background. In response, Pelosi claimed polls showed that the low-profile tactic would not work.

One nationally prominent Democratic campaign consultant has advised that Davis is probably doomed unless he gets out of the spotlight. There appears no chance the Davis high command will take that advice.

TURNING DOWN DELAY

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay tried but failed to get a House Democrat to accompany him on his mission to Israel. Democrats did not risk the wrath of their party's leadership.

Second-term Republican Rep. Ander Crenshaw of Florida accompanied DeLay. But several Democrats declined his invitation, despite assurances of face-to-face sessions with top Israelis (featuring Prime Minister Ariel Sharon).

The avowed reason for regret by several Democrats was that they had signed on to a large delegation to Israel led by House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer. However, several of the invited Democrats had broken party ranks to support the Medicare bill backed by President Bush, and had been severely condemned by House Democratic leaders.

NO EPA CHIEF

Rather than provoke a bitter intra-Republican battle, President Bush is inclined to leave open his administration's top environmental position through the 2004 campaign. The post of administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been vacant since the resignation of former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman.

Bush appeared ready a few weeks ago to select Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne as EPA administrator. However, conservatives have waged an effective campaign against Kempthorne, mainly because of his environmental record when he served in Congress, but also because of his advocacy of tax increases as governor.

Conservatives have no quarrel with Assistant Administrator Marianne Horinko, who will continue as the EPA's acting head through next year if no replacement is named. She is an environmental lawyer who served at the EPA during the first Bush administration.

BUDGET FISHING

Sen. Ted Stevens, the strong-willed Appropriations Committee chairman, will have an unusual guest on a fishing trip in his home state of Alaska next week: Josh Bolten, the newly installed director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

Stevens and other leaders of the House and Senate appropriations committees clashed frequently with Bolten's predecessor at OMB, Mitch Daniels (now running for governor of Indiana). While not changing policy, Bolten is seeking more cordial relations. He will be Stevens's guest at a private lodge in southeastern Alaska.

A footnote: In his first Capitol Hill encounter as budget chief, Bolten ran into withering fire at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday from Democratic Sen. Joseph Biden over funding of Iraq operations. Friends say Bolten was surprised how little help he got from Republican senators.

RUMSFELD'S GAY ADVISER

Gay activist Stephen Herbits, who worked temporarily at the Pentagon on two occasions in 2001 and 2002, has settled in as a special adviser to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Herbits now has his name on the door and has been assigned a Pentagon e-mail address. A longtime friend and ally of Rumsfeld, he is clearing all major personnel choices in the Defense Department.

In 2000, former Seagrams executive Herbits contributed $17,000 to Democratic causes, including $13,000 to the Democratic National Committee and $1,000 to the Gore-Lieberman Recount Fund. Federal records show no 2000 political contributions by Herbits to Republicans. Generally, even contributors to other Republican candidates in 2000 have had trouble getting named to the Bush administration.


Robert Novak

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

 
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