Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Trent Lott looked like a supporter of Rudy Giuliani's presidential ambitions when the former New York mayor visited Lott's home state of Mississippi recently. But in private, he warned Giuliani about roadblocks in his presidential path.
Lott, who likes and admires Giuliani, told him that the New Yorker's support for abortion, homosexual rights and gay marriage are heavy burdens for a Republican to carry nationally. Giuliani protested that he never supported same-sex marriage, only civil unions. Lott then advised that in Mississippi, they don't see any difference between gay marriage and civil unions.

 A footnote: National Republican leaders would like to see Giuliani challenge Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton for re-election next year, but that does not seem to be on his agenda.


 The chilly relationship of the Bush administration with congressional conservatives warmed last Tuesday evening when Dick Cheney entertained the Republican Study Committee (RSC) at the vice president's official residence.

 Cheney's last contact with the conservative RSC was his meeting in 2001 with Rep. John Shadegg of Arizona, then the committee's chairman. With the vice president seeking to reach out to the restive right, the current RSC chairman -- Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana -- suggested the reception. About 30 members attended the event, which lasted two hours.

 "Back in the days when I had some power, I was a conservative Republican member of Congress," Cheney told his guests. In one-on-one sessions with the vice president, the RSC members expressed concern over rising government spending and underlined their opposition to a tax increase as part of Social Security reform.


 Howard Dean, who has minimized media exposure since his election as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, departed from the party line in telling a college audience that there are problems with the Social Security program.

 Speaking at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., on Feb. 23, Dean totally opposed President Bush's advocacy of personal accounts as part of Social Security. However, he did not follow Democratic insistence that nothing need be done about the program. If Social Security is left alone, he said, benefits after 30 years would be 80 percent of what they are now.

 Dean's divergence from the party line was reported only in the Cornell Daily Sun, the student newspaper.


Robert Novak

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

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