Donald advising Arnold

Robert Novak

8/23/2003 12:00:00 AM - Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- New York billionaire entrepreneur Donald Trump telephoned his friend Arnold Schwarzenegger Tuesday and told him he better get rid of billionaire stock-picker Warren Buffett as his economic adviser if he wants to be elected governor of California.

Trump told Schwarzenegger that he holds substantial real estate in California and that increasing state property taxes advocated by Buffett would be devastating to him personally and to the state's economy. "If you kill Proposition 13," Trump added, "you kill Schwarzenegger for governor." Buffett has called for the repeal of Prop. 13, a limit on property taxes approved by California voters in 1978.

Schwarzenegger did not fire Buffett, but tried to curb his pro-tax comments when they appeared together Wednesday. More talk about Prop. 13 by Buffett, said the bodybuilder, and he would make the 72-year-old investor do 500 pushups.

HILLARY ATTACKS

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's quick response to the Aug. 14 power failure trying to blame President Bush, marking a shift in her political tactics, received mixed reviews from insiders of both parties.

Some criticized her for reverting to the harsh partisan style of her first lady days after softening her image as a senator. The consensus, however, was praise for Clinton for grabbing the spotlight while other politicians were caught vacationing, on foreign trips or unable to say anything.

Normally chary about television, Clinton rushed to cameras the night of the power stoppage to be interviewed by Larry King (CNN) and Ted Koppel (ABC). She blamed the federal government in general and energy deregulation in particular.

GEPHARDT'S UNIONS

Rep. Richard Gephardt, inching toward an AFL-CIO presidential endorsement, has pinned down support from two more unions to be announced after Labor Day: the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the Communications Workers of America (CWA).

That would bring the number of unions supporting Gephardt to 13, with about 6 million members. He would still need backing from approximately 2 million more to reach the two-thirds level required for AFL-CIO endorsement.

Gephardt's principal target is the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), currently polling its members' presidential preference. SEIU President Andy Stern is considered friendly toward Howard Dean, but Gephardt has not given up on him.

TALKING TO NORTH KOREA

The recent appearance with Secretary of State Colin Powell at a Bush administration inter-agency meeting of newly appointed State Department official Mitchell Reiss suggested he is a major new force in devising U.S. policy toward North Korea.

Reiss, dean of international affairs at the College of William and Mary, was named State's director of Policy Planning on July 21. The occupant of that office normally does not attend such senior meetings, but Reiss is an expert on North Korean arms control. He is viewed with suspicion among administration hard-liners who want no concessions made to the Pyongyang regime.

Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly will continue as lead U.S. negotiator on the Korean question. However, depending on how the talks progress, Kelly could be replaced by Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, or even by Powell.

DELAY'S SUPPORT

A national poll showing only 33 percent approval normally would be bad news for a politician, but the Gallup survey showing that level for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay pleases his political operation. That's because the poll puts DeLay's disapproval at 19 percent, despite Democratic efforts to make him a campaign wedge against Republican candidates.

In contrast, Gallup puts Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle's favorable at 31 percent and his unfavorable at 35 percent. Daschle appears a much bigger burden for Democratic candidates if his name is used in Republican campaigns.

A footnote: Sen. Max Baucus, senior Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, has asked the Internal Revenue Service to investigate the Rushmore Policy Council's tax exemption because of its ads attacking Daschle in South Dakota. A private Republican poll shows Daschle only one percentage point ahead of former Rep. John Thune.