Novak Political Report: Hurricane Harriet

Hurricane Harriet

Telephone lines to Republican senators sizzled last week with calls protesting the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. That followed reluctance of the senators to heed the call by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and the White House to go to the Senate floor to boost Miers.

Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas associate of Miers and her friend for 15 years, was the only speaker praising her during Tuesday’s "morning business," though the leadership had hoped to fill that period with Miers boosters.

A footnote: President Bush had advised senators that his probable choice for the Supreme Court was federal Circuit Judge Consuelo Callahan of California. Bush touted Callahan’s diversity as a Hispanic woman, but she is liberal enough to be recommended for the high court by Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer.

Bush’s Agent

Former Republican National Chairman Ed Gillespie, one of his party’s rising stars, is off to a poor start in promoting Harriet Miers’ confirmation to the Supreme Court.

According to published reports, Gillespie evoked a negative reaction from conservatives last Wednesday when he accused Miers’ opponents of "sexism." Republican insiders say that the Miers confirmation poses a big test for Gillespie, who within a few years rose from congressional aide to millionaire Republican lobbyist.

Actually, Gillespie thought he had accepted a one-time task to run the confirmation effort for Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. But Gillespie had no choice when President Bush said he hoped the Roberts team would stick together for the second high court confirmation. Gillespie has now moved out of the White House back to his lobbyist firm downtown.

A Senator’s Vengeance

Freshman Sen. Mel Martinez last week quietly blocked immediate confirmation as U.S. ambassador to the European Union of prominent Republican lawyer C. Boyden Gray, who last year withdrew his support for Martinez in the Florida Republican primary.

Gray was an active supporter of Martinez, who had resigned as secretary of Housing and Urban Development to run for the Senate. But three and one-half months before the Aug. 31 primary, Gray switched to former Rep. Bill McCollum. Gray said then that Martinez, a trial lawyer, had "opposed tort reform" and "taken money from the trial lawyers."

At last week’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee meeting, Martinez asked that Gray’s nomination be held. Martinez did not explain his objection to colleagues, and an aide told me it was "personal." After a meeting between Gray and Martinez, the aide said, Martinez will not continue to hold at the next committee meeting in two weeks. Because of delay, Gray will not take up his post in Brussels until well into November.

Haley for President?

"Barbour for President" bumper stickers that suddenly appeared in the Washington area were designed by one of Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour’s top political operatives.

Barbour has become a presidential possibility for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination thanks to his handling of Hurricane Katrina on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. His performance compared favorably with disaster management in neighboring Louisiana.

A footnote: Joining Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, both presidential prospects, as a speaker at last month’s Republican conference at Mackinac Island, Mich., was Tommy Thompson, former governor of Wisconsin and U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services. He is interested in a presidential bid.

Targeting Earle

Republicans have begun a campaign to discredit Ronnie Earle, the Texas prosecutor who brought the indictment of Rep. Tom DeLay and his resignation as House majority leader.

The Washington-based Free Enterprise Fund’s TV ad contends that Travis County (Austin) District Attorney Earle’s campaign against DeLay is aimed at "the Bush free-market agenda." It adds: "Ronnie Earle, the partisan prosecutor investigating DeLay’s political activities, gave a speech attacking him to liberal activists, raising money to support high-tax, big-government candidates."

Earle’s speech was delivered last May 12 in Dallas to a $500-a-ticket fund-raiser for Democratic candidates. He referred to DeLay as a "bully," even though his grand jury was then investigating the majority leader.


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