Rove's Diagnosis

Robert Novak

7/28/2007 12:01:00 AM - Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- Karl Rove, President Bush's political lieutenant, told a closed-door meeting of 2008 Republican House candidates and their aides Tuesday that it was less the war in Iraq than corruption in Congress that caused their party's defeat in the 2006 elections.

Rove's clear advice to the candidates is to distance themselves from the culture of Washington. Specifically, Republican candidates are urged to make clear they have no connection with disgraced congressmen such as Duke Cunningham and Mark Foley.

In effect, Rove was rebutting the complaint inside the party that George W. Bush is responsible for Republican miseries by invading Iraq.

MCCAIN VS. THOMPSON

Sen. John McCain, trying to keep his sinking Republican presidential campaign afloat, scheduled a fund-raiser for the same day -- Monday -- that Fred Thompson is holding his first Washington money event. McCain's reception is in the same suburban Virginia neighborhood where Thompson lives.

McCain's $1,000-to-$2,300 per person "intimate lunch" is being held at the McLean, Va., home of Wes Foster. He is chairman and CEO of Long & Foster, a major Washington area real estate firm. Thompson is holding a reception that night at the J.W. Marriott hotel in downtown Washington.

A footnote: Alabama Atty. Gen. Troy King, McCain's state chairman, attended a private fund-raiser for Thompson in Mountain Brook, Ala., last Monday night. However, as an invited guest, King did not pay the $1,000 price of admission and said he was still committed to McCain.

PENTAGON EARMARKS

Sen. Tom Coburn, frustrated with the Pentagon winking at earmarks, wrote Defense Secretary Robert Gates July 19 requesting a critique of all Defense spending items asked by members of Congress to determine whether they "are for necessary national security purposes or to satisfy the parochial self-interests of politicians and defense industry lobbyists."

Coburn has experienced difficulty in getting information from the Pentagon on more than 300 earmarks contained in the Defense Department authorization bill. Over the past five years, such earmarks have cost taxpayers $55 billion. Coburn has not received a response from Gates at this writing. He has failed to mandate such critiques by legislative action.

Earmarks cited in Coburn's letter to Gates include more than $40 million for 21st Century Systems Inc. (21 CSI), sponsored by Sen. Ben Nelson. In defending the earmark for a company that employs his son, Nelson claims support from the Pentagon.

TIM JOHNSON'S RETURN

Solicitations for a Sept. 12 fund-raising reception in Washington on behalf of ailing Sen. Tim Johnson give the impression he will be present at the event, but in fact there are no such plans.

Sources close to Johnson say he will not decide his schedule until he is back in the Senate, and there is no firm schedule yet for that. Johnson has not been seen publicly since suffering a brain hemorrhage last Dec. 13, but his staff has been raising funds for his re-election campaign in South Dakota. His campaign has $1.75 million cash on hand.

The $1,000-to-$2,300-a-ticket reception will be held at the home of Johnson's fellow South Dakotan, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, and his wife, transportation industry lobbyist Linda Daschle, on Foxhall Road millionaire's row in Washington. It has been speculated that if Johnson cannot run, Daschle could attempt a political comeback.

GROUCHY GINGRICH

Contrary to reports that Newt Gingrich lost control in one of his temper tantrums at a breakfast last Monday sponsored by The American Spectator magazine, the former House speaker was variously described as "grouchy," "cool" and "arrogant" in assailing his critics.

Gingrich made clear he would not be seen anytime soon engaging in multi-candidate debates with opponents for the presidency, disdaining them, as he said Charles DeGaulle once labeled his competitors, as "pygmies." But he did not rule out an eventual candidacy.

A footnote: Republican leaders report that the most enthusiasm among grassroots activists is for Gingrich and libertarian Rep. Ron Paul.