New confirmation trouble

Posted: Jun 04, 2005 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON -- On top of confirmation fights waged by liberal Democrats, President Bush now faces trouble from a potential conservative Republican presidential candidate.

 Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas has quietly put a hold on Bush's nomination of Julie Finley to be U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) because of her fervent support for abortion rights. Finley has been a major contributor to Bush and is a longtime Republican leader in the District of Columbia.

 The White House contends that Finley's proposed diplomatic post has nothing to do with abortion. Brownback argues that the OSCE, a European multilateral organization, often gets into women's issues, including abortion, and that the U.S. representative there often pulls the organization away from radical initiatives. It is supposed to police human rights standards established by the 1975 Helsinki Accords.


 Sources close to former Secretary of Commerce William Daley report that there is an outside chance that he still could challenge politically declining Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich in next year's Democratic primary.

 Daley, the brother of Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, could have had the governor's nomination for the asking in 2002 but instead took a corporate position in San Antonio. Now back in Chicago, he is looking seriously at the governor's office but is more likely to try in 2010 than in 2006.

 A footnote: Friends of Jim Edgar say the two-term Republican governor is seriously considering a comeback against Blagojevich in 2006. But most Republican politicians doubt that Edgar is serious about running.


 Gov. Bill Richardson, who has been a big hit back home in New Mexico, has been striking out in some speeches around the country preparing the way for a possible place on the national Democratic ticket in 2008.

 A recent fund-raising speech to a Hispanic-American group in Chicago fell flat. Democratic politicians complained about Richardson's trademark sarcastic sense of humor, well-known in Washington where he served in Congress and as secretary of energy.

 Richardson, whose mother is Mexican, would be the first Latino on a national ticket. While several new Republican governors were succumbing to calls for higher taxes, Richardson was cutting rates in New Mexico. But he is considered a better bet for vice president than president.


 The Arab American Institute has received no response from Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid after demanding that he apologize for his remarks about Michigan State Appeals Court Judge Henry Saad, whose nomination to be a federal appellate judge has been blocked by Democrats.

 "All you need to do," Reid said on May 12, "is have a Member [of the Senate] go upstairs and look at his [Saad's] confidential report from the FBI, and I think we would all agree that there is a problem there." On May 23, Arab American Institute Chairman George Salem wrote Reid that the senator's comments are "akin to launching allegations of terrorist activity." Salem called on Reid to "retract your statements, apologize to Judge Saad and the Arab American community."

 A footnote: Several Republican senators, also citing the secret FBI reports, say off the record they cannot vote for Saad's confirmation. However, President Bush had full access to the FBI files when he nominated Saad in 2001 and renominated him this year.


 On the day before Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen was confirmed by the Senate as part of a negotiated compromise, Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin called her "wacko."

 Harkin, appearing on liberal Randi Rhodes's national radio talk show, became animated as he said of Owen: "This is not a person to put on the bench for a lifetime appointment. This person is wacko! She's wacko!"

 On the same program, Harkin said Christian broadcasters are "sort of our home-grown Taliban." He added: "They have a direct line to God. And if you don't tune into their line, you're obviously on Satan's line."