Backing Away From Bush

In recent national television appearances, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist backed away from unequivocal support of President Bush in what Republican insiders viewed as preparation for a 2008 presidential run.

On NBC’s "Meet the Press" Jan. 29, Frist said, "I would have probably put more troops in [Iraq] if the decision had been up to me." He said the White House is not cooperating with Hurricane Katrina investigations by Congress. As for the Bush budget, he said: "We are spending too much in Washington, D.C." He suggested his and the White House’s position in the Terri Schiavo case was wrong. On NBC’s "Today" program the next day, when asked about the administration’s National Guard policy, Frist replied: "I am opposed to cutting the Guard myself."

Frist as majority leader has vigorously supported the president’s programs. Frist would not be in the post if Bush had not withdrawn support from Sen. Trent Lott as majority leader after the 2002 elections.

Greenspan’s Goof

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan’s appearance, for a $250,000 honorarium, at a Lehman Brothers secret dinner in Manhattan last Tuesday created dismay among his former colleagues at the Fed.

Published reports indicated that Greenspan alerted Lehman partners and clients that the markets are underestimating future Fed interest rate increases. Such hints would violate the central bank’s rules. Fed sources also say Greenspan broke from past practice by chairing the last meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee after his departure date had been announced.

Greenspan’s alleged comments were leaked to the news media by a Lehman Brothers official who was not invited to dinner.

Republican McCain

Key supporters of Sen. John McCain’s prospective bid for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination were delighted by his outburst against Sen. Barack Obama, the rising Democratic superstar.

McCain accused Obama of "self-interested partisan posturing" in the campaign to control lobbyists. McCain strategists rejoiced that this overrides complaints in Republican circles that he has been too chummy with Democrats.

The downside of McCain’s outburst, say his supporters, is that it strengthens the perception that he may be too hot-tempered to serve as president.

Republicans for Lieberman

Two prominent Republican lobbyists, Craig Fuller and H.P. Goldfield, hosted a fund-raising dinner Thursday evening at Goldfield’s Washington home for Democratic Sen. Joseph Lieberman, seeking re-election in Connecticut this year.

Fuller was President Ronald Reagan’s Cabinet secretary and later Vice President George H.W. Bush’s chief of staff. Goldfield, a Reagan White House aide and later assistant secretary of Commerce, was a fund-raiser in the two Bush-Quayle campaigns.

While Lieberman is a major voice for lobbyist reform, three of his dinner’s five hosts were registered lobbyists. Fuller represents the National Association of Chain Drug Stores. Goldfield lobbies for Airbus and for energy companies (ConcocoPhillips, Dynegy International and Gulfsands Petroleum). Co-host C. Michael Gilliland, a partner in the Hogan & Hartson law firm, represents a variety of clients.

Congresswoman vs. Teamsters

Chuck Harple, national political director of the Teamsters, asserts that freshman Rep. Melissa Bean was not telling the truth in her latest TV interview when she denied pledging to him that she would oppose the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).

Jeff Berkowitz, interviewing Bean Jan. 29 on Chicago public access, asked about this column published that day quoting an unnamed Teamsters official as saying Bean had broke a hard promise to oppose the trade pact. "I have no idea what you’re talking about," she replied.

Berkowitz then said Harple had told him what the unnamed source had told me. She replied: "I’d have to talk to Chuck. I don’t know what he’s referencing. I don’t recall any conversation like that with him." When I contacted Harple, he agreed to be identified as my original source as well as Berkowitz’s. "I stand by what I said," he told me, adding that "in a representative government, telling the truth is of the greatest importance."