Robert Novak

Hopes that the Democratic majority in Congress might perceive the importance of supporting Colombia were dashed April 20 when Al Gore canceled a joint appearance with Uribe at an environmental event in Miami. Gore cited allegations of Uribe's association with paramilitary forces a decade ago, charges denied by the Colombian president.

Gore's snub legitimized what the new congressional majority is intent on doing anyway. Democrats follow both left-wing human rights lobbyists and AFL-CIO President John Sweeney's protectionist campaign against the Colombian free-trade agreement. Rep. Sander Levin, chairman of the Ways and Means subcommittee on trade, as usual echoes labor's line against the bill.

In the wake of Uribe's visit to Washington, two prominent House Republicans -- former Speaker J. Dennis Hastert and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, ranking minority member of the Foreign Affairs Committee -- made a quick trip to Colombia. Visiting there for the first time in many years, they were struck by the progress. They met with Colombian national police who had just returned from Afghanistan, where they advised NATO forces in techniques for dealing with narco-terrorists.

Democrats in Congress seem oblivious to such help or such progress. Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee dealing with foreign aid, last month held up $55.2 million in military aid to Colombia because of "human rights" concerns. While Pelosi and her colleagues could not find a kind word for Uribe, Leahy insisted that he "supports" the Colombian president. As Lenin once put it, he supports him as a rope supports a hanged man.

President George W. Bush at least gave lip service to Uribe last week, but his concentration is on Iraq as the U.S. position in its own backyard deteriorates. Passivity is the best description of the administration's posture, while Democrats follow human rights activists, environmentalists and labor leaders on the road to losing an important ally.

Robert Novak

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

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