Robert Novak

 WASHINGTON -- In contrast to the blase attitude among many Republican movers and shakers, George W. Bush is described by political associates as energized about Social Security reform to a degree not matched on any other domestic issue.

 President Bush sometimes backs away from issues under fire, but adding personal accounts to the Social Security system is not one of them. He was on record in support for personal accounts preceding his tenure as governor of Texas.

 In contrast, politically influential Republican lobbyists could hardly care less about Social Security -- an issue that does not benefit their clients. The lobbyists are vastly more enthusiastic about tort reform on the Bush second-term agenda.


 Irritation by the House Republican leadership with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist was heightened when he decided to skip the beginning of the joint Senate-House Republican retreat at The Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va., late this past week in order to attend the annual World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland.

 House Speaker Dennis Hastert had hoped that he and Frist could confer on legislative strategy at Greenbrier and was stunned when the Senate leader said that instead, he was off to Switzerland. The Davos diversion prevented a three-way meeting at The Greenbrier between Hastert, Frist and President Bush. Frist arrived at the resort hours after Bush finished his speech.

 Three weeks ago, House Republicans were vexed with Frist because he was not around for the disputed vote affirming the 2004 presidential electoral vote, instead going to the Indian Ocean on a medical mission to care for tsunami victims.


 Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, feared by Republicans as a dangerously moderate presidential candidate for the Democrats in 2008, surprised colleagues by joining 12 left-of-center senators in voting against confirmation of Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state.

 In declaring his opposition to Rice's confirmation, Bayh told the Senate Tuesday: "I believe she has been a principal architect of policy errors that have tragically undermined our prospects for success in this endeavor [the military operation in Iraq]." Bayh's statement follows support for Bush's Iraq policy during his re-election campaign last year.

Robert Novak

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

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