Rove without policy

Robert Novak
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Posted: Apr 22, 2006 12:05 AM

WASHINGTON -- The removal of the policy portfolio from Karl Rove's duties as deputy chief of staff pleases Republican insiders who have contended that those duties were not appropriate for President Bush's political adviser.

Republican complaints about the White House domestic policy initiatives in the Bush second term have zeroed in on Rove for attempting to do too much. His new role of long-term planning may seem like a demotion but is considered a more appropriate activity for Rove.

Joel Kaplan, Rove's replacement in the policy slot, will be performing the same functions for Chief of Staff Josh Bolten that he did at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) when Bolten was director. The change tends to confirm Bolten as a force independent of Rove, who brought him into the George W. Bush orbit in 1999.

GUTIERREZ FOR TREASURY?

Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez is being considered as the next secretary of the Treasury if President Bush decides to move out John Snow.

U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman was thought a strong contender for the post, but instead was named as the new OMB director. The current shakeup at the Bush White House could move next to Treasury.

Gutierrez, then CEO of the Kellogg Co., had no previous governmental experience when Bush named him to Commerce to start the president's second term. However, he has been a pleasant surprise there, getting high marks from the business community and Congress. Also talked about for Treasury is Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, who has held many senior government positions and is a specialist in economics.

ABORTION FUZZY MATH

The widely publicized claim by Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton that state-funded contraception aid cuts down abortion as prevention of unwanted pregnancies is contradicted by figures from the same abortion think tank the senators relied on for an April 18 op-ed in the Albany, N.Y., Times Union.

The Alan Guttmacher Institute reports that California spends more than three times as much on contraception as South Dakota for each woman who requests such services. However, California's rate of abortion per one thousand women is 31.2 percent, nearly six times as high as South Dakota's 5.5 percent.

Reid and Clinton chided South Dakota for passing an anti-abortion law while being "one of the most difficult states" for low-income women to get contraceptive devices, which the senators claim drives up abortion.

BUSH'S OLD GIRLFRIEND

President Bush, frustrated in efforts to make ex-girlfriend April Foley the head of the Export-Import Bank, has decided to name her as U.S. ambassador to Hungary without formally announcing it.

The top Ex-Im job was vacant for months when the Justice Department took a long look at Foley's financial records. Her proposed nomination is in the hands of the Hungarian government, as was reported by that nation's press.

"Although she is not related to U.S. President George W. Bush, like her immediate predecessor [Amb. George Herbert Walker]," said the Budapest Business Journal, "Foley's appointment would follow a tradition of having a trusted old friend of the Bush family at the helm of the embassy." Bush dated Foley when they both were students at the Harvard Business School.

EARMARK DICTATORSHIP

Democratic Rep. Jim Moran used federal earmarks in a unique way: to force the planned community of Reston in his northern Virginia district to raise their dues for residents.

Moran warned Reston on April 11 that he would kill the federal funding that the community gets through his earmarks unless it adopted a "governing document" containing the dues increase. The homeowners reluctantly capitulated and gave the congressman what he wanted.

"What he is basically trying to say," Moran's spokesman told this column, "is that if the community isn't willing to invest in their own community, he's not going to put any extra federal money into it."