Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- Chairman Orrin Hatch angered fellow Republicans last week by opening Senate Judiciary Committee Republican e-mails to investigators probing leaks of Democratic e-mails.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist ordered full cooperation in the investigation of how Republicans obtained the committee's Democratic e-mails, which detailed the strategy for blocking President Bush's judicial nominations. Hatch responded with his order to open GOP e-mails to investigators. The Republican chairman also put one staffer on administrative leave.

The investigation was triggered by Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois, the assistant Democratic floor leader who received some of the more important leaked e-mails. Rank-and-file Republican senators grumble that Frist and Hatch have permitted Durbin to obscure the substance of the e-mails, which showed left-wing special interest groups behind the filibusters preventing judicial confirmations.

THE GENERAL RISES

Retired Gen. Wesley Clark's influential New York liberal supporters, who were disappointed by the shaky start of his Democratic presidential campaign, were cheered by his performance in last Monday's Iowa debate.

Clark's backers felt that for the first time, the former NATO supreme commander effectively presented his military credentials. They view that as his strongest asset against the Democratic front-runner, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.

A footnote: Rep. Richard Gephardt's operatives claim that the fight for the Democratic nomination is a two-man race in which Gephardt is the only viable alternative to Dean. To counter that claim, Clark's supporters admit he must finish better than third in either Iowa on Jan. 19 or New Hampshire on Jan. 27.

CHALLENGING DASCHLE?

National Republican strategists have grown more optimistic that former Rep. John Thune will run against Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle in South Dakota next year.

Thune was thought inclined not to run for the Senate again after being narrowly defeated last year by Sen. Tim Johnson. However, he has been convinced that the South Dakota Republican turnout will be much better in 2004, with George W. Bush heading the ticket, than in 2002.

National Democratic strategists consider South Dakota a cinch for Daschle's re-election unless Thune runs.

IMMIGRATION AND MEDICARE

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a California conservative who often violates Republican discipline, supplied the decisive vote to pass the Medicare bill in the House after being misled on federal health care for illegal aliens.


Robert Novak

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

 
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