Bolton's successor

Robert Novak

12/9/2006 12:00:10 AM - Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- Zalmay Khalilzad, who was announced this week as leaving as U.S. ambassador to Iraq, is the leading prospect to replace John Bolton as envoy to the United Nations.

President Bush was reported by aides as looking for someone who approximates Bolton's combination of toughness and diplomatic skill and has tentatively decided on Khalilzad. A native of Afghanistan, he has served in government posts dating back to 1985 and is the highest-ranking Muslim in the Bush administration.

A footnote: State Department sources have said Andrew Card, who on April 14 finished five years as White House chief of staff, was interested in the UN post and was a dark horse to get it. However, he never made any such desire known to the president and is not being considered for the UN.

MCCAIN'S NEW BACKER

Newly elected Senate Republican Whip Trent Lott will host a 10 a.m. coffee session for invited Republican guests Tuesday at the Phoenix Park Hotel on Capitol Hill in Washington to discuss Sen. John McCain's impending campaign for president with him and McCain.

Lott, a supply-sider and social conservative, had not been allied with McCain previously. However, in his e-mailed invitation, Lott asserted, "John and I have been friends for many years, and my respect for him is unparalleled." Tuesday's meeting with McCain, Lott said, will "begin to build an organization that focuses not on our differences, but on our shared goals for peace and prosperity for this nation."

A footnote: New York investment banker Ken Langone is hosting a fund-raising cocktail reception for former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani's prospective presidential campaign the evening of Dec. 19 at the Marriott Marquis Hotel ballroom in Manhattan. The price: $2,100 per person and $4,200 per couple.

NON-CONSULTANT ROVE

Bush presidential adviser Karl Rove disclosed during a Washington speaking engagement last week that he will not return to his lifetime profession as a political consultant when he leaves the White House.

Rove was taking questions at a dinner sponsored by Hillsdale (Mich.) College when asked about computerized gerrymandering of congressional districts. Cautioning against "fancy" redistricting, he added: "I say this as a former political consultant who liked competitive races when I was in the business, but won't be returning to the business."

Starting the firm of Karl Rove and Co. in Austin, Texas, in 1981 at age 30, he began advising Gov. Bill Clements and Rep. Phil Gramm. He worked hundreds of races before coming to Washington as President George W. Bush's political aide.

PAPAL TO PRESIDENT

Archbishop Pietro Sambi, papal nuncio to Washington, is letting it be known that he suggested to President Bush in a private meeting earlier this year that the best way to bring peace to the Middle East would be developing an "alternative" energy policy.

Sambi, apostolic delegate in Jerusalem before coming to Washington, embraces the theory that oil is the source of much evil, besides wealth, for countries that produce it, and that a global switch to alternative fuel sources would help stabilize the region.

In their conversation, Bush asked Sambi whether he had any ideas for winning the war. According to Catholic sources, the papal nuncio responded that the Vatican did not fight but only prayed.

EPA GETAWAY

Facing two years of critical oversight from the Democratic-controlled Congress, Bush-appointed officials in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are making plans for a quick departure.

An investigative onslaught is expected from Rep. Henry Waxman of California as chairman of the Government Reform Committee and Rep. John Dingell of Michigan as chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee. They plan to probe corporate influence on EPA policy.

Dingell, the senior member of Congress with 25 terms in the House, proved a tough adversary of Republican administrations in his past tenure as a committee chairman. However, Dingell does have ties to the automotive industry and could be a partial counterweight to Waxman's policies on alleged global warming.