By Robert D. Novak
Saturday, September 8, 2007
WASHINGTON -- While Senate Republicans reflected outrage that Sen. Larry
Craig was retreating from his earlier statement that he would resign from
the Senate, their privately expressed anger was directed toward Sen. Arlen
Specter for encouraging Craig to reconsider.
Craig appeared ready to resign because he pleaded guilty to improper conduct
in a Minnesota airport restroom, but he modified his position after he heard
Specter on the Fox News Network say the Idaho senator should not quit. The
misdirected voicemail disclosing Craig's tactics cited Specter's comments as
reason for contemplating a fight.
Specter, a moderate from Pennsylvania, was grateful to Craig as a rare
conservative senator who backed him vigorously when an effort was made after
the 2004 elections to prevent Specter from becoming Judiciary Committee
chairman. After privately being told by Republicans to stop boosting Craig,
Specter Thursday contended he had said all he would say about the
A closed-door meeting of House Republican leaders Wednesday favored urging
President Bush to veto the higher education bill providing more money for
student loans, but by Thursday they were backing away because of doubts that
they could block an override.
The final version passed by overwhelming margins (273 to 149 in the House,
78 to 18 in the Senate). That included substantial Republican support -- 29
senators, 47 House members. Republicans expect far more than the 67 senators
needed to override a veto but also fear the necessary 290 will be reached in
Bush has indicated he would veto the extravagant bill unless it were
improved in the Senate-House conference. But the conferees made the bill
worse from the Republican standpoint. That raises the question whether Bush
would undermine his veto credibility or risk a defeat.
Inside the White House, departed communications director Dan Bartlett is
blamed for allowing journalist Robert Draper to conduct six exclusive
one-hour interviews with George W. Bush for a new book ("Dead Certain") that
paints an unfavorable portrait of the president.
Draper, a correspondent for GQ magazine, is a former senior editor at Texas
Monthly who was regarded by most of Bush's aides from Texas as a "typical
Austin liberal." Nevertheless, Bartlett argued it would be a good idea to
give Draper unprecedented access.
In his author's note, Draper said he was "deeply grateful to Bartlett for
this leap of faith -- made without any promises on my part or stipulations
on his" to get "a larger, more lasting portrait" of Bush.
TIM JOHNSON'S RETURN
Although Sen. Tim Johnson received a warm bipartisan greeting upon his
return to the Senate Wednesday after suffering a brain hemorrhage last Dec.
13, his financial team is running into trouble with his Sept. 12 fundraiser.
One political "switch-hitter" (who contributes to both parties) has received
six separate invitations to the $1,000-to-$2,300 reception at the Washington
mansion of Johnson's fellow South Dakotan, former Senate Democratic Leader
Tom Daschle. Such unusual persistence indicates the sponsors are
encountering donor resistance.
There has been speculation that Johnson could use the event to announce his
candidacy for re-election in 2008. He indicated Wednesday he had not decided
whether to seek a third Senate term.
HILLARY'S 'TOWN HALLS'
Sen. Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign has redesignated as "town
halls" what used to be "VIP receptions" for top-dollar political donors.
Political events usually start with the candidate chatting and being
photographed with big money backers paying the $2,300 limit, followed by a
regular reception for $1,000 givers. Now, Clinton is calling the expensive
first session a "town hall conversation."
An Aug. 24 "town hall conversation and reception" was hosted by two
prominent Democratic multi-millionaires -- Elizabeth Frawley Bagley and
Smith Bagley -- at their Nantucket Island, Mass., estate. The Bagleys were
substantial contributors to President Bill Clinton's political campaigns and
legal defense fund, and Mrs. Bagley was named by him as ambassador to
Robert Novak is a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak
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