Bush and McCain

Robert Novak
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Posted: May 21, 2005 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON -- Sen. John McCain came close to completing and announcing a deal on judicial confirmations unacceptable to George W. Bush hours before the two old Republican intraparty rivals were to appear on the same platform.
 
That would have created an uncomfortable situation at Wednesday night's dinner of the International Republican Institute (IRI) at the Renaissance Hotel in Washington. McCain, the IRI's chairman, was to introduce President Bush, as the evening's principal speaker. Bush objected to the compromise, which would have accepted the defeat by a minority vote of three nominees for federal appellate courts (including Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen).

 The McCain-brokered deal collapsed, apparently because of Democratic failure to guarantee consideration, without filibuster, of future Supreme Court nominees. At the IRI dinner, McCain and Bush spoke without either mentioning the judicial confirmation battle.

BIOETHICS DROPOUT

 Conservative political theorist James Q. Wilson, considered one of the most flexible members of President Bush's Bioethics Council, resigned on May 6 from the divided advisory group without explanation.

 Wilson, currently Ronald Reagan professor at Pepperdine University, told this column he did not quit because of disagreements over the human cloning issue. "I think the commission has done its work," he said, adding he did not "see the need for more flights across the country in coach class."

 While conceding serious disagreements inside the council, Wilson said it was the best of the many advisory groups on which he has served.

NO HOOSIER TAX HIKE

 Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is back in the good graces of anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist after the final budget passed by the Indiana legislature did not contain the rookie governor's proposed surtax on incomes more than $100,000 a year or any tax increase.

 President George W. Bush's first director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), stunned conservatives with his tax-the-rich proposal. Daniels and Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform, exchanged harsh invective. However, the Republican-controlled legislature would not go along with the governor.

 Friends of Daniels contend the governor never really favored his tax-the-rich initiative but successfully was using the threat of higher taxes to force cuts in spending. Norquist does not quite accept that rationale, but all is forgiven with Daniels as far as Norquist is concerned.

RELIGION AND POLITICS

 The leftist MoveOn.org's website on Wednesday posted a depiction of Pope Benedict XVI as a U.S. Supreme Court justice in waging its fight against President Bush's judicial nominations. The image lasted only a short period of time before it was pulled down.

 The pope was shown with a gavel in his upraised hand, standing in front of Supreme Court depictions of the Ten Commandments, with this caption: "God Already has a Job. He does not need one on the Supreme Court. Protect the Supreme Court Rules."

 The MoveOn.org image contradicts Democratic claims that they are not playing the religious card in opposing Bush's judges. On the Senate floor Wednesday, Democratic Sen. Mark Dayton of Minnesota said any claims that the president's foes are raising religious issues are "the slurs of charlatans."

DISINVITED SENATOR

 The Arlington Group, a Washington-based pro-family coalition of more than 60 organizations, disinvited Republican Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma from its recent meeting because of his conservative views on the environment.

 Conservative leader Paul Weyrich, who sits on the Arlington Group's executive committee, had arranged for Inhofe's appearance at the meeting in early May. But Inhofe was cancelled because of pressure by Ted Haggard, president of the National Assn. of Evangelicals (NAE). He objected to Inhofe's appearance because the Arlington Group focuses on marriage issues.

 The NAE recently asked Christian leaders to sign "an evangelical call to civic responsibility" that commits them to environmental "sustainability." Inhofe, chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, has publicly expressed concern that Haggard is letting environmentalists take advantage of him.