Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- President Bush must make a difficult decision whether to promote Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who recently ended 13 months as top U.S. military officer in Iraq, to full four-star general.

 The White House does not relish Senate confirmation hearings that probably would become another inquiry of the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal under Sanchez's command. However, considering the important Hispanic vote, Bush might not want to hold up a fourth star for the Army's most prominent Mexican-American. For the same political reason, however, Democratic senators might not want to appear that they were persecuting Sanchez.

 A footnote: Although the Pentagon announced that Sanchez's relief in Iraq was routine, he has not been on good terms with his superior officer: Gen. John Abizaid, the regional commander in chief.


 It was because of criticism not only from the news media but also from important figures in his party that Sen. John Kerry backed away from plans to delay accepting the Democratic presidential nomination. The delay would have given him more time to raise money.

 While broadcast networks warned they might not cover the convention in Boston if Kerry did not officially become the nominee there, old Democratic hands privately told the candidate the delay would make him look ridiculous. These critics feel this technique would enlarge complaints that Kerry has little to say on the issues.

 Kerry's Democratic critics have been particularly unhappy about what they consider failure to draw sharp distinctions between him and President Bush on the war in Iraq. Speaking in Seattle Thursday, Kerry spelled out some of those differences.


 The Bush administration's economic team is unhappy and frustrated by the Senate adding $170 billion in targeted tax breaks to the bill repealing the foreign sales corporate export tax break. This measure must be passed to avoid severe European Union tariff retaliation.

 Sen. John McCain of Arizona was defeated, 85 to 13, when he attempted to remove from the bill $18 billion in corporate tax advantages intended to promote energy development. Sens. Jon Kyl of Arizona and Don Nickles of Oklahoma gave up on their efforts to substitute a general corporate tax reduction for the targeted tax cuts.

 There is not much President Bush can do if this bill gets to his desk. He can hardly veto the bill needed to stave off $400 billion in tariffs by Europe.


Robert Novak

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

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