WASHINGTON -- An embattled Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld cannot expect support from Sen. John Warner, the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman who normally supports the Bush administration on military matters.
"I've had it with him," Warner told a Senate colleague recently, referring to Rumsfeld. The 77-year-old Warner, a five-term senator and former secretary of the Navy who is a veteran of both the Navy and Marine Corps, complained about Rumsfeld's neglect of senators during a Senate Republican caucus two years ago. Nothing has changed since then, in Warner's opinion.
Republican senators who have publicly joined criticism of Rumsfeld include John McCain, Chuck Hagel, Trent Lott and Susan Collins. The defense secretary has little support in the Senate and is particularly unpopular with junior GOP senators.
The White House made sure Sen. Chuck Hagel did not get advance word that his fellow Nebraskan, Gov. Mike Johanns, would be named secretary of agriculture. Hagel was shocked to hear about it while travelling abroad.
Hagel and Johanns are close political allies, but the White House instructed the governor not to alert the senator about his selection. This secrecy in part reflects anger over Hagel's criticism of President Bush's Iraq policy. But news of the Johanns selection was also kept from Rep. Tom Osborne and the rest of Nebraska's Republican congressional delegation.
Johanns's nomination removes the strongest threat to Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson's re-election in 2006. Hagel has repeatedly told the White House there is no chance Nelson will change parties and not to count on Nelson's help on key Bush measures. Nelson still may face a strong challenge from State Atty. Gen. Jon Bruning.
Liberal Democratic activist Carol Bellamy will be replaced next spring as head of UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund), but UN Secretary General Kofi Annan may break precedent by not choosing an American to succeed her.
Departing U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman has been mentioned as a possible conservative successor to Bellamy. However, Annan may seize the opportunity to wrest UNICEF from American hands.
Bellamy focused on children's rights, abortion advocacy and sex education since being named to UNICEF by President Bill Clinton in 1995. The liberal British medical journal Lancet recently criticized Bellamy's "pervasive neglect of [UNICEF'S] central mission" of protecting children's health and reducing infant mortality. Bellamy is a former New York City Council president and New York state senator.