Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Richard Lugar, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman and the Republican most trusted in Europe, went to the NATO meeting in Istanbul this weekend to scold alliance members for being too stingy with troops.

 A draft of Lugar's speech has him complaining about unavailability of troops for NATO operations. While NATO members have over 2 million troops under arms, Lugar said, only 33,000 are available for the alliance's military functions.

 Although Lugar often has been critical of President Bush's foreign policy, his NATO speech reflected the administration position. He is a leading candidate for secretary of state if Bush wins a second term.

W'S PLATFORM

 George W. Bush's campaign planners intend to shorten debate on the party platform at the Republican National Convention in New York in order to limit conservative opposition to the president's policies.

 In the past, platform committee members have arrived in the convention city early Sunday the week before the GOP convention begins. This time, however, several delegates have been alerted that there is no need to get to New York before Monday, with platform meetings not scheduled to begin until Tuesday. That would leave only two and one-half days of platform committee sessions during which conservatives could push their positions on prescription drug subsidies, education and immigration.

 Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, the still-unannounced platform chairman, is expected to follow the administration line. The prospective co-chairmen -- Colorado Gov. Bill Owens and Rep. Melissa Hart of Pennsylvania -- are rookies in platform drafting.

KERRY'S REVOLVING DOOR

 Veteran Democratic political operative Rodney Shelton has crossed over from America Coming Together (ACT), an anti-Bush 527 organization set up to evade the McCain-Feingold Act's ban on soft money, to become Arkansas state director of John Kerry's presidential campaign.

 The 527s and the Kerry campaign are not supposed to coordinate with each other, but top staffers have moved back and forth through a revolving door. Zack Exley has left the Bush-bashing MoveOn.org to become Kerry's director of online organization. Moving in the opposite direction, former Kerry campaign manager Jim Jordan has joined ACT.

 A footnote: Shelton, a native Arkansan and a veteran of the last three Democratic presidential elections, raises Democratic hopes for reversing George W. Bush's 2000 win in Arkansas. Republicans are gloomy, fearing unpopular GOP Gov. Mike Huckabee is hurting President Bush's chances in the state.

HOMELAND DISPUTE

 Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a staunch supporter of the Bush administration's national security policy, has gone to the House floor to call for removal of a senior official in the Department of Homeland Security.

 Rohrabacher said retired Lt. Gen. Patrick Hughes, now a Homeland assistant secretary, in 1999 as Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) director fired Afghan analyst Julie Sirrs for "insubordination." Disobeying orders, she risked her life to go into northern Afghanistan and get information about forces that were holding out against the Taliban.

 Sirrs asked for help from Rohrabacher, who has specialized in Afghanistan policy since his days as a presidential aide in the Reagan White House. She told him she was fired by Hughes and stripped of her security clearance. Rohrabacher has appealed to Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge to get rid of Hughes.

PALMETTO POLITICS

 The unexpected landslide victory in Tuesday's South Carolina Republican primary runoff for senator by Rep. Jim DeMint over former Gov. David Beasley raises Republican hopes of winning the Senate seat held for 38 years by Democrat Ernest F. Hollings.

 Republican Gov. Mark Sanford has said privately there is no way that Beasley, defeated for re-election as governor in 1998, could win the Senate seat. Republican hopes of beating the Democratic nominee, State Education Superintendent Inez Tenenbaum, had faded with Beasley as front-runner for the GOP nomination and first-place finisher in the first primary two weeks ago.

 DeMint's free-trade votes in the House did not wreck his campaign, indicating that protectionism is increasingly less effective politically in South Carolina.


Robert Novak

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

 
©Creators Syndicate