Discovering WMD

Robert Novak
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Posted: Aug 09, 2003 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON -- Former international weapons inspector David Kay, now seeking Iraqi weapons of mass destruction for the Pentagon, has privately reported successes that are planned to be revealed to the public in mid-September.

Kay has told his superiors he has found substantial evidence of biological weapons in Iraq, plus considerable missile development. He has been less successful in locating chemical weapons, and has not yet begun a substantial effort to locate progress toward nuclear arms.

Senior officials in the Bush administration believe Kay's weapons discoveries should have been revealed as they were made. However, a decision, approved by President Bush, was made to wait until more was discovered and then announce it -- probably in September.

GRILLING THE NSC

The two senior staffers of the National Security Council (NSC), who have been reported responsible for the famous 16 words in President Bush's State of the Union address, were cross-examined privately by congressional interrogators on Aug. 1.

Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley was questioned briefly by bipartisan aides of the Senate and House intelligence committees. Robert Joseph, the senior NSC staffer who actually wrote the 16 words reporting alleged Iraqi efforts to buy uranium from Africa, was then grilled for over three hours.

The congressional staffers came downtown to question Hadley and Joseph at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next door to the White House. The president had refused to permit NSC officials to be interrogated in public or to go to Capitol Hill for the questioning.

LABOR INFIGHTING

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean's campaign scored a political victory, with the help of his newly named labor operative, by stopping the AFL-CIO's immediate endorsement of Rep. Richard Gephardt for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Gephardt, backed by 11 unions, pushed hard for the labor federation's endorsement at the AFL-CIO meeting in Chicago this past week. Bob Mullenkamp, Dean's new labor aide, worked to postpone further consideration of the issue until another meeting was called for October.

Mullenkamp was an aide to former Teamsters president Ron Carey and is on poor terms with the union's present leadership headed by James P. Hoffa, a strong supporter of Gephardt. Mullenkamp is married to Karen Ackerman, currently political director of the AFL-CIO.

DASCHLE DISHED

The usually astute Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle committed a rare tactical blunder just before the August recess when he agreed to a procedure opening the way to passage of a Republican-style energy bill.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist was under attack for interrupting Senate debate on the energy bill, at White House request, to bring up stalled judicial nominations. In an obvious effort to goad Frist, Daschle took the Senate floor to say that one way to pass an energy bill before the recess was to rubber-stamp the bill passed in the then Democratic-controlled Senate last year. Frist took him up on the offer, and a surprised Daschle had no alternative to concurring in his own proposition.

That gives Senate Energy Committee Chairman Pete Domenici the opportunity to craft a bill to Republican specifications in the Senate-House conference. He has made clear he will return to the Senate with a bill resembling the Republican-drafted House measure.

9/11 POLITICS

Republican members of the special 9/11 investigating commission were delighted to lose former Sen. Max Cleland as a colleague when he accepted President Bush's appointment as a Democratic director of the Export-Import Bank, a full-time job.

Cleland, still obviously bitter over his defeat for re-election in Georgia last year, was the most anti-Bush member of the bipartisan commission headed by former New Jersey Republican Gov. Tom Kean. He remains furious about last year's ads for victorious Republican Saxby Chambliss depicting Cleland as weak on homeland security.

Bipartisanship at the commission is unlikely to improve, however. Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle will select Cleland's successor, and he will not pick anyone who is soft on President Bush.