Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- The unusual Democratic outrage over ABC-TV's "The Path to 9/11" film to be shown Sunday and Monday reflects private concern in the party that the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attack can reverse the political tide running against Republicans.

The highly partisan Rep. Louise Slaughter of New York composed a tough letter to Robert A. Iger, CEO of Walt Disney (ABC's parent company). The letter cites two scenes from the program casting doubt on the Clinton administration's legacy in fighting terrorism.

Slaughter added as co-signers of the letter three senior Democrats who would join her as committee chairmen if Democrats win control of the House. They were Rep. John Dingell of Michigan, senior member of the House; Rep. Jane Harman of California, a top party spokesman on national security; and Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, a left-wing leader.


In expectation of a Democratic takeover of the House in this year's elections, advocates of Minority Whip Steny Hoyer and Rep. John Murtha are engaged in a fierce backstage battle for their candidate to become majority leader.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who would be unopposed to become speaker of a Democratic-controlled House, is considered certain to vote for Murtha against Hoyer. Murtha managed Pelosi's successful campaign for party whip against Hoyer in 2001, which provided the stepping stone toward her current dominance in the House. Hoyer associates say Pelosi is working behind the scenes for Murtha, but Hoyer told this column he sees no such activity by her.

Although both Hoyer and Murtha once were considered part of the Democratic Party's relatively moderate wing, Murtha's aggressive opposition to U.S. intervention in Iraq has made him a favorite of the left.


Republican strategists figure they benefited from a little political break Aug. 28 when U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle in Washington agreed to a joint motion by defense and prosecution lawyers to postpone the sentencing of disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Abramoff, who in January pleaded guilty to corruption charges, had been scheduled to appear at a sentencing hearing before Huvelle last Wednesday. The reason stated by the Justice Department in agreeing to Abramoff's request for a delay was his cooperation with prosecutors, resulting in the conviction of former Bush administration officials.

Robert Novak

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

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