Discourteous Democrat

Robert Novak

1/24/2004 12:00:00 AM - Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- The most discourteous Democrat in Congress during this year's State of the Union address was veteran Rep. Maxine Waters of California. She refused to clap or stand when President Bush entered the chamber, even though Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, a fellow Black Caucus member, tried to get her out of her seat.

The most courteous Democrat Tuesday night was Rep. Harold Ford Jr. of Tennessee, another Black Caucus member. He was usually the first Democrat on his feet for Bush's applause lines, sometimes was the only Democrat standing and on occasion beat Republicans in getting up.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, known to grimace when Bush addressed Congress in the past, was on her best behavior this time -- usually joining Republicans in standing ovations. She retrogressed into eye rolling and head shaking, however, when the president claimed "dozens of weapons of mass destruction" had been "identified" in Iraq.


Arnold Schwarzenegger's honeymoon with California's anti-tax activists has ended quickly, with the new Republican governor abandoning his campaign promise to install tight caps on spending.

In a major test of strength with the legislature, Gov. Schwarzenegger accepted a bipartisan compromise calling for a referendum to mandate a balanced budget. That might force tax increases that the body builder-movie star campaigned against.

Rep. Darrell Issa's Rescue California, which launched the recall that removed Democrat Gray Davis as governor, is seeking to put a strict spending cap on the November ballot. Joining in sponsorship are the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and the California Taxpayers' Association.


As Iowa Democrats participated in presidential caucuses Monday night, their leaders privately and sadly predicted this would be the last time Iowa's unique institution would lead off the Democratic presidential selection.

Democratic National Chairman Terry McAuliffe had to stave off a challenge to Iowa's favored position in 2004 from Michigan, led by the powerful Sen. Carl Levin. Leading Democrats in Washington and Des Moines agreed that Iowa's preferred position cannot be retained in 2008.

However, this year's results could change that death sentence. Iowa caucus-goers are getting high grades for not being stampeded and for making their own decisions.


The House's hundred most conservative members traveled to Cambridge on Maryland's Eastern Shore Wednesday through Friday for meetings protesting the rise in federal spending condoned by the Bush administration and congressional Republican leaders.

A major complaint was directed at President Bush's State of the Union address Tuesday night. The conservatives argue the president did not go far enough in limiting increased discretionary spending to 4 percent and only halving the budget deficit within four years.

A footnote: Opposing the omnibus appropriations bill, Sen. John McCain in a floor speech listed pork barrel lavished by Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens on his home state of Alaska. McCain declared: "Somehow, Alaska keeps coming back through all this, and back and back and back and back. I wonder how the people of Alaska feel about being put on welfare."


Dr. Tom Coburn, the conservative country doctor from Muskogee, Okla., who has published a scathing account of his six years in Congress ("Breach of Trust"), is considering running for a U.S. Senate seat from Oklahoma that Republicans are in danger of losing.

State and national Republican leaders fear Rep. Brad Carson could be the first Democrat since 1994 sent to the Senate from Oklahoma by winning the seat left vacant by the retirement of former Senate Majority Whip Don Nickles. They complain that the designated GOP candidate, former Oklahoma City Mayor Kirk Humphreys, is not connecting with the grass roots.

State Corporation Commissioner Bob Anthony is jumping into the Republican primary, and Coburn is spreading the word that he may run as well. Coburn limited himself to six years in the House (1995-2000), during which he often challenged the Republican leadership.