Robert Novak

 NEW YORK -- Republican convention planners, fearing that Dick Cheney would not be interrupted enough times on Wednesday night to stretch out his relatively brief prepared remarks, underestimated the vice president's popularity with the party faithful.

 Because Cheney's uninterrupted text ran only 16 minutes, his staff hoped for at least 25 applause interruptions to stretch out the length of his appearance. In fact, the Madison Square Garden audience applauded, cheered or hooted to stop him 59 times, which extended his performance to 32 minutes.

 A footnote: In a convention bereft of hard news, the rumor of the week swept Manhattan Tuesday when well-placed Republicans repeated a report that Cheney would be replaced as vice president at the last moment by Sen. John McCain. Such a shift would not have sat well with the assembled delegates, but the rumor was totally baseless.


 The poorly received convention speech of the Bush twins, Barbara and Jenna, Tuesday night was blamed by insiders on the influence and bad judgment of Andrea Ball, chief of staff to Laura Bush.

 President Bush's staffers regard Ball and her subordinates as the weak link in the White House. They have considered the first lady's operation as a disaster waiting to happen, and it happened when Ball cleared the twins' inappropriate speech.

 Bush insiders say that this is one area where even Karl Rove, the president's powerful adviser, fears to tread. They contend Rove could not have reversed Andy Ball's judgment on what the twins said.


 Conservative leader Phyllis Schlafly responded to a conciliatory gesture by Sen. Bill Frist by gently suggesting that he should be as tough in his day job as Senate majority leader as he was in chairing the platform committee at the Republican National Convention.

 Schlafly had grumbled that Frist acted like an old-fashioned Soviet Communist in blocking her efforts to modify the immigration and stem-cell research planks. After the platform was wrapped up, Frist approached her to make some friendly remarks. Schlafly responded, with a smile: "I have only one question. Why can't you run the Senate this way?" Frist has been criticized for not being more effective as majority leader.

 A footnote: Frist's management of the platform was regarded in Republican circles as the launch of his campaign for the 2008 presidential nomination. While he faithfully executed the White House's wishes, he did not get high marks from many Platform Committee members.


Robert Novak

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

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