Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- It took personal pleas from his Harvard Business School classmate, George W. Bush, to convince Indiana industrialist Al Hubbard to become head of the White House National Economic Council. Previously, Hubbard had turned down all offers from President Bush.
The Hubbard choice was heralded in Republican and business circles as one of President Bush's best nominations in the second term reconstruction of his administration. However, it caused some distress at the White House, where Hubbard comes in as an influential policymaker with access to the president. His predecessor, New York investment banker Stephen Friedman, did not make much of a stir over the last two years.

 A footnote: Hubbard is expected to play a major role in building support for Social Security reform, which has not generated enthusiasm among Republican-oriented business lobbyists.


 Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland, second-ranking Democrat in the House, is supporting a former colleague, moderate ex-Rep. Martin Frost of Texas, for Democratic National Chairman.

 Frost is a former Democratic Caucus chairman who unsuccessfully opposed Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California for minority leader on grounds that she was too liberal. Frost was defeated for re-election last fall, a victim of Republican redistricting in Texas.

 Howard Dean recently visited Hoyer in search of support for the national chairmanship, citing the names of 700,000 contributors he had collected in his campaign for the presidential nomination. Hoyer responded that Dean would be performing a useful service if he turned those names over to the party.


 Sen. Trent Lott, who was thought to be ready to leave the Senate after being pressured into resigning as majority leader two years ago, is now considered likely to seek re-election in Mississippi next year.

 After Lott got in trouble with a joking remark about Strom Thurmond's 1948 presidential campaign, he was bitter at lack of support from President Bush. However, Lott has enjoyed being a senator freed from his leadership role.

 Lott's re-election would virtually guarantee keeping the Senate seat in Republican hands. If he stepped down, Democrats would make a strong bid. Two former Democratic governors, Ronnie Musgrove and Ray Mabus, would be hard to beat. The most likely Republican candidate to replace Lott would be Rep. Chip Pickering, who has never run statewide.


 More than a dozen conservative groups have joined to launch a campaign to end organized labor's 70-year-old exemption from anti-violence prohibitions under federal racketeering laws.

 The coalition is getting behind a new bill introduced by Republican Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina. The measure would overrule a landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision confirming that union violence cannot be prosecuted under the racketeering statute if it is done in pursuit of legitimate union objectives.

 In promoting Wilson's bill, conservatives are aiming at individual union members who complain about being intimidated by the union leadership. Conservatives want to protect the 40 percent of union members who voted for George W. Bush from union leaders, who send 96 percent of their political contributions to Democrats.


 An "alternative inaugural ball" scheduled in Washington for Jan. 20 appears to have lost its top two attractions: Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.

 Obama and Dean were featured in mailings sent to Democratic contributors for the event at the National Press Club. However, fund-raiser Ted Westervelt told this column that Obama, originally pencilled in, has become a "maybe." Dean has been removed entirely because, said Westervelt, "he decided he had to do other things because of his run" for chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

 Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York promised only to "drop by" the event briefly. The one absolutely certain guest is Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts. Elizabeth Edwards (wife of 2004 vice-presidential nominee John Edwards) and talk-show host Al Franken will likely attend.

Robert Novak

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

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