WASHINGTON -- Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in secret briefings of U.S. senators in Washington this past week, warned that Iraq's Saddam Hussein not only is acquiring nuclear weapons but may have the means of delivering them against the United States.
Netanyahu, who is positioning himself to succeed Ariel Sharon as prime minister, warned that the Iraqi weapons could enter the U.S. in satchels carried by terrorists. U.S. intelligence has minimized the likelihood of such an approach.
A footnote: Netanyahu is the favorite Israeli politician among conservative Republicans. Many agree privately with his criticism of President Bush's Middle East policy, but so far, few will say so publicly.
WHO RUNS CALIFORNIA?
Presidential political operative Karl Rove laid it on the line Wednesday in a sometimes heated White House meeting with Bill Simon, California's Republican nominee for governor, and his advisers: Gerald Parsky is still President Bush's principal political agent in the Golden State.
Members of Simon's campaign team have been unhappy with venture capitalist Parsky ever since he was quoted as referring to some of Simon's backers as "extremists." Parsky had urged the candidacy for governor of former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan as a means of helping Bush's 2004 re-election, but Riordan was badly beaten in the GOP primary by political neophyte Simon.
Parsky has strongly endorsed Simon, and Bush will visit California later this month to campaign for the GOP nominee.
THE UNDECIDED HOOSIER
Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, a senior Republican who supports the Bush administration on nearly everything, has refused to commit himself to the president's most embattled energy initiative.
Lugar has informed the White House that he remains undecided on proposed oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). The outlook in the forthcoming Senate vote is too close to call. Lugar, one of the most cerebral of senators, is not the kind of lawmaker who can be brought into line by lobbying pressure.
A footnote: The Senate Democratic leadership is going all-out to defeat ANWR drilling. The environmentalist movement trails only organized labor and the trial lawyers as a power source for Democrats.
TARGETING SOUTH CAROLINA
Rep. Lindsey Graham, considered a relatively safe prospect to keep 99-year-old Sen. Strom Thurmond's South Carolina seat in the Republican Party this year, is being targeted by national Democratic operatives as a surprise loser in the national contest for Senate control.
Polls show Graham comfortably ahead of Democratic candidate Alex Sanders, a former state senator and judge who most recently was president of the College of Charleston. Nevertheless, one prominent Democratic U.S. senator who keeps close tabs on campaigns across the nation is offering all takers a bet that Graham will lose in November.
Graham has been attacked on television talk shows for releasing alleged intelligence information about a U.S. attack on Iraq and for President Bush's use of Air Force One to campaign for him in South Carolina. Bill Clinton's old political handlers never have forgiven Graham's performance as an impeachment trial prosecutor and intend to keep the heat on him.
Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a heavy favorite for re-election against former Attorney General Janet Reno, was back in Washington Wednesday night for another big fund-raiser -- an event much more exclusive than his previous efforts.
While Bush's Washington fund-raiser a month ago took place at the Capital Hilton Hotel, the latest effort was held in the mansion of Republican lobbyist Wayne Berman (who happens to be Sen. Hillary Clinton's next-door neighbor). The $5,000 price for attending is estimated by supporters to have added $400,000 to the governor's war chest.
Florida's election laws limit individual contributions to $500. Consequently, his supporters -- many of them Washington lobbyists -- were urged to collect $500 apiece from 10 people. The alternative was a $5,000 "soft-money" contribution to the Florida Republican Party.