Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- George W. Bush's main fund-raisers and contributors expected a pep talk from the president when they were his guests for a barbecue at Crawford, Texas, last weekend but instead received a long and enthusiastic portrayal of U.S. capability to remove "evil" regimes.

In a speech that lasted close to an hour, President Bush described the use of American military power in Iraq as "history-making." He said the use of smart weapons to "decapitate" any regime's tyrannical leadership was no "blunt ax." Instead, it showed dictators that they "can't hide" from avenging Americans.

A footnote: Bush's political advisers welcome a Democratic presidential campaign strategy attacking the president's handling of Iraq. "Please throw us into the briar patch," said one Bush lieutenant.


After getting the talk from President Bush at Crawford, Texas, his top money men talked Democratic politics among themselves and discovered that they agreed on who will be the opposition's probable presidential nominee: Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri.

They calculated that Gephardt's endorsement by 11 international unions will enable him to win the Iowa caucuses and do well enough in the early primary elections to be nominated. The Republicans also figured that former House Democratic Leader Gephardt enjoys a big advantage in congressional at-large delegates to the national convention.

A footnote: Gephardt's forces have all but given up hope for an AFL-CIO endorsement when its executive council reconvenes in October. However, his operatives claim the support from 11 individual unions still makes Gephardt labor's choice even if he does not get the AFL-CIO's blessing.


African-American ministers in the Los Angeles area made an unsuccessful effort this past week to get the Rev. Al Sharpton to attack Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, the possible Democratic replacement for Gov. Gray Davis, for accidentally using the "N-word" two years ago.

Speaking in Oakland in January 2001 to an African-American audience, Bustamante stumbled in reading a long list of historic black organizations bearing the word "Negro" and said "nigger." Some black leaders criticized the lieutenant governor even though he apologized profusely.

Sharpton called Bustamante this week and was satisfied by his explanation of the 2001 incident. The ministers who wanted the black presidential candidate to attack Bustamante are close to Davis, whose chances for beating the recall would improve if there were no viable Democratic alternative.


Robert Novak

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

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