Robert Novak

That resulted in the Office of the Special Counsel (OSC), which tracks Hatch Act violations, saying it could "imagine no greater violation of the Hatch Act than to invoke the machinery of an agency in the service of a partisan campaign to retake the Congress and the governors' mansions." But the Jan. 26 meeting targeted no political candidate for support, solicited no GSA employee for political activity and resulted in no follow-up. Doan's question actually was addressed to Jennings. "The harsh penalties under the Hatch Act for a brief slip-up are unwarranted," a congressional Republican source close to the situation told me. "Doan's resignation is a punishment that does not fit the crime."

Waxman has made no secret of intending to hound the Bush administration whenever possible, with emphasis on nailing presidential adviser Karl Rove. Special Counsel Bloch's motives are more complicated. He has survived a ferocious left-wing assault, which the White House not only failed to resist but quietly supported. It is payback time for Bloch, to burnish the OSC's reputation and maybe get even.

The White House has done no more to help Doan than it did for Bloch. One congressional Republican asked a senior White House aide why not. The response, he said, amounted to this: This is a very tough time for us when we are preoccupied trying to save Alberto Gonzales, and Mrs. Doan will just have to save herself.

When I asked Congressman Davis, he replied: "The bottom line is the administration has really not shown any willingness to stand up for her like they have for Gonzales, when what she has done is not nearly so egregious." She will at least have Davis on her side when she faces the committee Thursday. Having one friend in Washington is better than none.

Robert Novak

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

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