Bolton's New Backers

The renewed push for Senate confirmation of John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations has picked up Jewish support that could neutralize New York’s two Democratic senators.

Sens. Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton both voted against cutting off debate with cloture nearly a year ago when a Democratic filibuster prevented Bolton’s confirmation. Jewish leaders, impressed with Bolton’s support of Israel at the UN under a recess appointment, have urged the New Yorkers to back cloture this time. Schumer, praising Bolton’s support for Israel, has said another filibuster is “unlikely.” Clinton has not stated her current position.

A footnote: Republican Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio, by switching his position to support Bolton, now provides a Bolton majority in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota has pleaded with Voinovich and other doubtful fellow Republicans that the U.S. government should not be deprived of its voice at the UN.

Mitt Rising

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, trailing in national polls of Republican voters, has the lead in organizing early primary states for the 2008 presidential run, in the opinion of neutral GOP politicians.

Romney is particularly strong in Iowa, where caucuses begin the presidential hunt. A win there would swell Romney’s now anemic identification among Republican voters.

A footnote: A report in this column that Rudy Giuliani intends to run for president has been confirmed by one of the former New York mayor’s closest Republican friends. He said Giuliani definitely is running.

Byrd Declining

Sen. Robert Byrd, the 88-year-old senior Democratic senator, has started to cast his votes from the well of the Senate for the first time in his 47-year career. To colleagues, that pointed up Byrd’s declining physical condition.

Byrd has been a stickler for “old school” Senate procedures, including senators voting from behind their desks. He has become a solitary follower of that practice. But, using two canes, he now has trouble getting to his desk and joins colleagues in the well of the Senate to vote in front of the presiding officer’s chair.

After the Republican failure to recruit the popular Rep. Shelley Moore Capito to run against Byrd in West Virginia, he has been heavily favored this year to win his ninth term against industrialist John Raese. Republican hopes have hinged on public perception of Byrd’s frailty.

Murtha’s Mistake

Rep. John Murtha, responding Wednesday to a defamation lawsuit filed by a Marine accused of killing Iraqi civilians in 2005, mistakenly said Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich had been “charged in the incident at Haditha.” In fact, no charges have been filed against anybody.

Murtha quickly issued a new press release Wednesday deleting “charged” and describing Wuterich as leader of “the squad accused of killing two dozen civilians.” The lawsuit accused Murtha of spreading “false and malicious lies” about the sergeant in his May 19 statement which said Marines “killed a number of civilians without anybody firing at them.”

Although Murtha has carried his western Pennsylvania district by landslide margins and was unopposed in 2004, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry won it with only 51 percent. Diana Irey, a Republican county commissioner, is waging a vigorous campaign, and last week accused Murtha of “regular and willful misstatements of key facts.”

Laird on Rummy

Melvin R. Laird, who as secretary of Defense was Donald Rumsfeld’s fellow Nixon Cabinet member 37 years ago, has publicly declared his old colleague should have left his post after the 2004 election on grounds that one term is enough to lead the Pentagon.

Laird endorsed the one-term limit in Atlanta June 9 in a conference of former Defense secretaries. “I told that to Rummy, that he should stay only four years,” said Laird. “He didn’t pay any attention to me.”

Bush advisers, with no replacement in hand, say Rumsfeld can stay in the Pentagon as long as he wants.