Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- If Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld survives the Iraq prisoner abuse scandal, he may have to lose one of his closest advisers: Dr. Stephen A. Cambone, under secretary of Defense for Intelligence.
Republicans in Congress have privately informed the White House that if Rumsfeld is retained, somebody in authority must leave. The most likely candidate is Cambone, whose office has authority over the intelligence officers blamed for abuses at Abu Ghraib prison. He has not been a popular figure either with the uniformed officer corps or with Congress.

 A footnote: Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, a former member of Congress who is well-liked on Capitol Hill, is being mentioned as Rumsfeld's successor if a change is made.


 Democratic insiders grumbled that Sen. John Kerry's absence Tuesday, when a Senate effort to extend unemployment benefits fell one vote short, reflected incompetence by the presidential candidate's campaign.

 Kerry had sufficient notice to revise his schedule to be present for the vote. The tally was 59 to 40, one vote short of the 60 needed to waive budget rules to pass the extension. Kerry was the only senator not voting.

 Kerry's explanation was that Republicans would have killed the measure even if he had been there, but it is doubtful that any of the 11 GOP senators who broke party lines to support the jobless pay would have changed their vote. Kerry also claimed the measure would die in the House anyway, but the outcome there actually is uncertain.


 Secretary of State Colin Powell's enemies inside the Bush administration are making much of a close aide's attack against President Bush's continued embargo on communist Cuba.

 "Dumbest policy on the face of the earth. It's crazy," Larry Wilkerson, Powell's associate for 15 years and currently his chief of staff, told an interviewer for GQ magazine. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said these were "not the secretary's words."

 With this year's presidential election perhaps hinging on the outcome in Florida as it did in 2000, comments that might alienate the state's Cuban vote could be disastrous for George W. Bush.


 Pennsylvania's Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell, under pressure from critics in the party nationwide, will actively oppose his close friend and onetime boss, Republican Sen. Arlen Specter, for re-election.

Robert Novak

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

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