Robert Novak

The issue of international trade has produced a tense internal Democratic confrontation between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Charles Rangel, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Rangel has succeeded in negotiating a compromise trade bill with Republicans on his committee (led by Rep. Jim McCrery) and the Bush administration. But Pelosi is attuned to the wishes of Democratic Caucus members, who are being pushed by organized labor to effectively bar imports produced by lower-wage labor.

Rangel's moderate position faces a challenge within the Ways and Means Committee from Rep. Sander Levin, chairman of the Trade subcommittee. Levin's Detroit-area district contains United Auto Workers members and pensioners who want trade protection.


Rep. Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, pleaded a family commitment as the reason for turning down an invitation to debate his Republican counterpart on national television last weekend -- the third time since the first of the year that plans for them to face each other on TV have gone awry.

Rep. Adam Putnam, the 32-year-old chairman of the House Republican Conference, and the 47-year-old Emanuel are rising stars in their respective parties. But television producers have been unable to get them together, most recently on ABC's "This Week" with George Stephanopoulos.

Although Republican operatives have spread the word that Emanuel is avoiding Putnam, no such accusation has come from Putnam himself. Emanuel's staff says it is strictly a scheduling problem, and he will be face to face with Putnam before long.


Ex-CIA Director George Tenet had the date wrong but the message right when he said neo-conservative policymaker Richard Perle was advocating intervention in Iraq immediately after the 9/11 attack on America.

Tenet's memoir ("At the Center of the Storm") reports that Perle had advocated an assault on Iraq when they met at the White House on Sept. 12, 2001. But Perle let it be known last week that he was out of the country that day and never said what Tenet claimed.

However, over the telephone on Sept. 17, Perle told this column that there were few good targets in Afghanistan but many in Iraq. Perle, a former assistant secretary of defense, was then chairman of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board.


Political insiders believe first-term Republican Sen. Norm Coleman caught a break with the prospect that comedian and radio talk show host Al Franken will likely be his Democratic opponent for re-election next year.

Robert Novak

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

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