'Non-partisan' commission

Robert Novak
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Posted: Apr 17, 2004 12:00 AM

 WASHINGTON -- Jamie Gorelick, the Clinton administration lawyer defended as a wholly non-partisan member of the independent commission investigating the 9/11 terrorist attacks, has contributed more heavily to political candidates -- almost all Democrats -- than any other commissioner.

 Government records show Gorelick, President Clinton's deputy attorney general, donating at least $32,500 to federal candidates since 1998. Only $4,250 of that total went to Republicans. She gave the maximum $2,000 to Sen. John Kerry's presidential campaign last year when he was struggling.

 The commission chairman, former Republican New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean, defended Gorelick last Friday after House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner called for her resignation. Sensenbrenner contended Gorelick had disqualified herself by constructing in 1995 the wall between the FBI and the CIA under attack by the commission.

KERRY'S DISCRETION

 Sources close to Sen. John Kerry say he still feels the pain of being passed over for vice president four years ago and wants to avoid inflicting that punishment on anybody else as he picks his own running mate.

 Kerry was announced as a contestant in 2000 as Al Gore held a public competition for vice president. Sens. Joe Lieberman and John Edwards ended up as the finalists, with Kerry eliminated early after being led to believe he had a real shot to be Gore's choice.

 With Kerry determined not to mislead anybody, no list of prospects has been put out. Unofficial lists come from people who are not close to the presumptive presidential nominee and do not know his mind.

KERRY'S MISTAKE

 Prospecting among thousands of words uttered by John Kerry, Republican researchers spotted gold Tuesday in a Washington Post op-ed column by the prospective Democratic presidential nominee that attempted a non-partisan approach to Iraq.

 "(W)e are seeing increasing numbers of Iraqis," Kerry wrote, "lashing out at the United States to express their frustration over what the Bush administration has and hasn't done." The unfortunate word was "frustration," which Republicans say Kerry applied to the Iraqi fighters who are murdering Americans. That will be used repeatedly against the Democratic candidate.

 Kerry has taken a less combative posture on Iraq since he clinched the nomination, angering some anti-war Democrats. Describing the "frustration" of Iraqi gunmen, therefore, was a mistake rather than a calculated strategy.

KAREN FOR GOVERNOR?

 Following her impressive performance on NBC's "Meet the Press" April 4, Bush adviser Karen Hughes's friends and supporters in both Washington and Texas started quietly boosting her for governor of Texas in 2006.

 Gov. Rick Perry, who succeeded to the governorship in 2000 when Gov. George W. Bush became president, has indicated he will seek another term. But Perry has many enemies, and the word in Texas political circles is that Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison could challenge him for the Republican nomination.

 Conservative activists do not consider Hughes one of them and are not talking about her for governor. However, Republican insiders who are not fond of either Perry or Hutchison are starting to promote Hughes, a former television journalist who never has run for public office.

SENATE STRATEGIES

 Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, facing Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle's ultimatum that could block all of President Bush's judicial nominations, is considering a tough counter-strategy.

 Daschle has threatened to prevent any vote on 45 proposed federal judges unless the president "gives assurance" that he will not make any more recess appointments. That process, used when the Senate is in recess, puts a judicial nominee temporarily on the bench without being confirmed.

 Frist is being urged to file cloture petitions, which will cut off debate and force a vote on each of the 45 stalled judges. If Democratic discipline holds as it has in the past, none of the judges will get the 60 votes needed to impose cloture. However, Democrats may get the blame for preventing the Senate from doing business.