Pentagon fall guy

Posted: May 15, 2004 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON -- If Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld survives the Iraq prisoner abuse scandal, he may have to lose one of his closest advisers: Dr. Stephen A. Cambone, under secretary of Defense for Intelligence.
Republicans in Congress have privately informed the White House that if Rumsfeld is retained, somebody in authority must leave. The most likely candidate is Cambone, whose office has authority over the intelligence officers blamed for abuses at Abu Ghraib prison. He has not been a popular figure either with the uniformed officer corps or with Congress.

 A footnote: Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, a former member of Congress who is well-liked on Capitol Hill, is being mentioned as Rumsfeld's successor if a change is made.


 Democratic insiders grumbled that Sen. John Kerry's absence Tuesday, when a Senate effort to extend unemployment benefits fell one vote short, reflected incompetence by the presidential candidate's campaign.

 Kerry had sufficient notice to revise his schedule to be present for the vote. The tally was 59 to 40, one vote short of the 60 needed to waive budget rules to pass the extension. Kerry was the only senator not voting.

 Kerry's explanation was that Republicans would have killed the measure even if he had been there, but it is doubtful that any of the 11 GOP senators who broke party lines to support the jobless pay would have changed their vote. Kerry also claimed the measure would die in the House anyway, but the outcome there actually is uncertain.


 Secretary of State Colin Powell's enemies inside the Bush administration are making much of a close aide's attack against President Bush's continued embargo on communist Cuba.

 "Dumbest policy on the face of the earth. It's crazy," Larry Wilkerson, Powell's associate for 15 years and currently his chief of staff, told an interviewer for GQ magazine. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said these were "not the secretary's words."

 With this year's presidential election perhaps hinging on the outcome in Florida as it did in 2000, comments that might alienate the state's Cuban vote could be disastrous for George W. Bush.


 Pennsylvania's Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell, under pressure from critics in the party nationwide, will actively oppose his close friend and onetime boss, Republican Sen. Arlen Specter, for re-election.

 As general chairman of the Democratic National Committee in 2000, Rendell came under fire from party insiders for urging Al Gore to accept George W. Bush as the election winner. The same critics have questioned whether Rendell will do his duty as party leader in Pennsylvania and support Democratic Rep. Joe Hoeffel against Specter. The governor will take that step and even help raise money for Hoeffel.

 Fresh out of law school and unable to find a job in 1968, Rendell was hired by then Philadelphia District Attorney Specter. They have remained friends over the years, and Pennsylvania political sources say the governor gave Specter secret assistance in the recent hard-fought Republican primary.


 The Club for Growth, which narrowly lost its effort to defeat Sen. Arlen Specter in the Pennsylvania Republican primary, scored a comeback Tuesday in an open congressional seat in Nebraska.

 Curt Bromm, speaker of the single-house Nebraska Legislature, had been tapped by the party establishment and retiring 13-term Rep. Doug Bereuter for the usually Republican seat. But Bromm, hit by $170,000 worth of Club for Growth radio and television ads assailing his support for state tax increases, lost badly to former Lincoln City Councilmember Jeff Fortenberry. Bereuter, under fire by conservatives for opposing repeal of the estate tax in 2000, had anointed Bromm to succeed him.

 Bromm also was opposed by the Americans for Tax Reform because of his tax positions, but the Club for Growth preferred a third candidate over Fortenberry. Social conservatives were against Bromm for backing fetal tissue research at the University of Nebraska, while Fortenberry is solidly pro-life.