Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- President Pervez Musharraf and opposition leader Benazir Bhutto each placed telephone calls from Pakistan to Democratic Sen. Joseph Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to discuss the country's crisis before either talked to President George W. Bush.

On Saturday, Bhutto stressed to Biden the need for parliamentary elections in January with Gen. Musharraf remaining as president but leaving the army. Musharraf called Biden Tuesday and asked that their conversation be kept confidential. Biden got the impression Musharraf could accept January elections although he had triggered the crisis by suspending the constitution.

Biden, seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, wants the Bush administration to get actively involved in resolving the situation. He wants development now of a post-election power-sharing agreement between Musharraf and Bhutto.

IMPEACHMENT POLITICS

House Republicans were ready to go along with the Democratic leadership's plans Tuesday to kill without debate Rep. Dennis Kucinich's motion to impeach Vice President Dick Cheney when Rep. John Shadegg, a conservative Republican with no leadership role, pushed a better idea.

Shadegg talked the GOP leaders into voting to keep alive the Kucinich motion, in order to force a House debate on whether to impeach Cheney that would split Democrats. Republicans and left-wing Democrats combined to kill House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer's tabling motion.

Hoyer prevented a debate by moving to refer the impeachment motion to the House Judiciary Committee, a maneuver that was adopted along party lines. However, anti-Cheney activists now will pressure Judiciary Chairman John Conyers to act on Kucinich's proposal.

WOODSTOCK AGAIN

Sen. Charles Schumer had nothing to do with an effort to revive a $1 million earmark for the Woodstock festival museum in Bethel, N.Y., after it had been rejected by the full Senate. Appropriations Committee staffers on their own partially restored the proposal in the final version of a spending bill even though it had not been passed by either house.

The conference report on the bill removes the prohibition on funds for the "Hippie" museum passed by the Senate but does not actually authorize the $1 million. Thus, a phone call from Schumer to the Health and Human Services Department could restore the funding. But Republican Sen. Tom Coburn, who led the unexpectedly successful floor fight against the earmark, believes Schumer will not defy the will of the Senate.

Sen. Hillary Clinton, Schumer's fellow Democrat from New York and co-sponsor of the Woodstock earmark, has given no such assurance to Coburn. But the Democratic presidential front-runner has kept arm's length from the Woodstock project and did not help Schumer in his unsuccessful floor fight.

HECKLING GORE

A Washington-based conservative think tank is trying to organize a protest in Oslo Dec. 10 when Al Gore receives the Nobel Peace Prize for his activism against global warming.

Nobel presentations in the Norwegian capital are usually dignified affairs without hecklers, even for radical peace activists. However, Gore is a controversial political figure whose environmental positions generate conservative opposition.

The proposed anti-Gore demonstration would involve around 30 people, all Norwegians.

CONSERVATIVE PORKER

The Club for Growth, founded to support conservatives and punish liberals in Republican primaries, showed this week it is not blindly partisan. The organization blasted Missouri's conservative Republican Sen. Kit Bond and praised the state's liberal Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.

Bond led the 74 to 19 vote Thursday overriding President Bush's "compromise" bill authorizing $23.2 billion for water projects, nearly twice as much as the bill passed by either the House or Senate. McCaskill voted to sustain the veto because of pork barrel projects "added behind closed doors."

The Club for Growth gives McCaskill a 40 percent anti-pork rating, second best among Senate Democrats, compared with 13 percent for Bond. "It is no wonder that taxpayers have trouble trusting Republicans," said former Rep. Pat Toomey, Club for Growth president. Toomey suggested veteran Republican Bond, up for re-election in 2008, could "learn something about opposing wasteful projects" from freshman Democrat McCaskill.


Robert Novak

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

 
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