Jeb for VP?

Robert Novak
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Posted: Mar 12, 2005 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON -- Nationally prominent Republicans are talking to each other about the possibility of getting Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to accept the vice-presidential nomination in 2008 since he has ruled out running for president that year.

 Bush probably would be the front-runner for the party's next presidential nomination if he only had a different last name. GOP politicians agree that five Bush presidential nominations out of the last six campaigns would be one too many for the country to take. But second place on the ticket might be acceptable to voters.

 A footnote: Florida Republican leaders still hope that Bush might change his mind about not running against Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson's bid for a second term in 2006. Nelson is considered vulnerable, but no strong Florida Republican has indicated an interest in running against him.

STATE-DEFENSE HARMONY

 The new deputy secretary of state, Robert Zoellick, has met four times this year with his counterpart at the Defense Department, Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. That quadruples the number of meetings between Wolfowitz and Zoellick's predecessor at State, Richard Armitage, during the past four years.

 The lone meeting between the State and Defense deputies was a one-on-one luncheon at the State Department hosted by Armitage. Wolfowitz failed in efforts for a return meal at the Pentagon. This year Zoellick met with Wolfowitz once even before Zoellick was confirmed by the Senate.

 Wolfowitz and Armitage both served in the Reagan administration's Defense Department as assistant secretaries. But during George W. Bush's first term, they disagreed on broad strategy questions -- including the attack on Iraq.

MAJORITY LEADER LOTT?

 While Sen. Trent Lott has not decided whether to seek re-election from Mississippi in 2006, he is seriously considering an attempt to win back the post of Republican leader that he lost two years ago, if he does run.

 Lott was forced to resign the leadership when opposition snowballed in reaction to his praise of Strom Thurmond's pro-segregation 1948 presidential campaign. He has recently been prowling the Senate floor, engaging in friendly chats with fellow Republicans.

 Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee, who replaced Lott, is not running for re-election in 2006 under self-imposed term limits. Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the current assistant leader, would have a clear path to succeed Frist unless Lott opposes him.

GETTING JOE TO GO

 A "Time to Go Joe" website in its first 10 days raised $25,905 to find a candidate to defeat Sen. Joseph Lieberman for the Democratic nomination to the Senate from Connecticut next year.

 The site, featuring pictures of President Bush giving Lieberman his famous embrace at the recent State of the Union address, lists the times this year in which he voted with Republicans. That includes support of Condoleezza Rice for secretary of state and Alberto Gonzales for attorney general, and backing for tort reform and bankruptcy reform.

 "He is a DINO (Democrat in Name Only)," the site says of the party's 2000 vice-presidential nominee, "and is as much a part of the Bush administration as Dick Cheney."

SURPRISING THE DONORS

 Conservatives who had contributed generously to the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) were stunned at the think tank's recent black-tie banquet to hear left-wing social views expressed by Peruvian writer and political thinker Mario Vargas Llosa.

 Accepting AEI's annual award, Vargas supported "liberals like me who are agnostics as well as supporters of the separation between church and state and defenders of the decriminalization of abortion and gay marriage." He said that what "was called fascism and communism" in the past, now "is known as nationalism and religious fundamentalism."

 Starting with Gerald R. Ford in 1977, the AEI's annual award has gone mainly to conservatives such as Robert Bork, Ronald Reagan, Antonin Scalia, Thomas Sowell, Irving Kristol, Richard Cheney, George Will and Clarence Thomas. Last year it was won by conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer.