Capital Briefs: Jan. 7-11


WHAT NEXT FOR HUCKABEE? Following the Iowa caucuses last week, there was no question that Mike Huckabee packed a political wallop and was going to be a factor in the Republican presidential sweepstakes—at least for a while. The major problem that even fervent backers of the former Arkansas governor privately concede is that, for all his strong showings in polls in key primary states, Huckabee so far has few troops on the ground to mobilize his poll numbers into a vote-getting organization. One longtime Michigan GOP operative who requested anonymity cited the most recent Detroit News/WXYZ Action News poll, which showed Huckabee barely trailing native Michiganian Mitt Romney 21% to 19% among that state’s likely voters in the presidential primary January 15. “But there is nobody of any political significance working for Huckabee or any sign of a grass-roots organization,” the Michigan GOPer told Human Events. Days before Iowa, as a sign it was aware of the “no infantry” criticism, Huckabee headquarters began releasing names of familiar political figures nationwide who had endorsed their man. Among them were former Wyoming Gov. Jim Geringer, former North Carolina State GOP Chairman Bill Cobey and former Tulsa, Okla., Mayor Kirk Humphreys.

ANYONE FOR JUSTICE? That seems to be the situation as President George W. Bush begins his final year in office and Michael Mukasey starts his second month as attorney general. Eleven nominations for top positions at the Justice Department are pending before the Senate Judiciary Committee, including White House nominees for the top two positions under Mukasey (deputy attorney general and associate attorney general) and for chief of the civil rights office (for which the nominee is Grace Becker, onetime clerk to U.S. Appeals Court Judge James L. Buckley). In addition, 19 of the 93 U.S. attorneys hold their positions on an acting or interim basis, and the White House has sent only three nominees for permanent replacements for those slots. Of the nine U.S. attorneys forced to resign in the controversy that raged in 2007, the administration has sent only four nominees as successors.

U.S. ATTORNEYS WAR keep going: As we go into the election year, the ’07 U.S. attorneys controversy that helped bring down Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales showed no signs of going away. One of the nine former prosecutors forced to leave office made news last week by calling on top Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse to resign. In a strongly worded article on the website of the liberal Washington Monthly, former U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins of Little Rock, Ark., charged that Roehrkasse “did more than perhaps any other DOJ official to disseminate the avalanche of untruths” about the removal of the lawmen and “the department’s reputation can’t be restored if its spokesperson isn’t credible.” In a response to Cummins, a close political ally and friend of Mike Huckabee, Roehrkasse wrote: “I’ve always strived to provide truth and accuracy in my statements based on the best information available to me.”

ANOTHER SENATE RACE IN ’08: Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour’s appointment last week of Rep. Roger Wicker to replace resigned Sen. Trent Lott (R.-Miss.) means there will be a modern high of 35 Senate seats up for election in ’08—23 in Republican hands and 12 held by Democrats. The question in Mississippi is when the election will be held. State Democrats have settled on former Gov. Ronnie Musgrave as their candidate and want a “snap” election in 100 days. Democratic State Atty. Gen. Jim Hood has issued an opinion calling for the early election, but as Barbour told Human Events in a recent interview (See page 5.), “I’ve got a different opinion”—that the election should be held in November, on the same day as the presidential election, when Democrats clearly fear Musgrave will be buried on a Democratic ticket led by presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton (N.Y.) or Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.). The dispute over timing between Hood and Barbour is almost certain to be decided by the Mississippi Supreme Court.

THOMPSON QUITTING? Fred Thompson and his top campaign advisor Rich Galen last Thursday strongly denied the widespread rumor that Thompson will quit the Republican presidential race if he finishes poorly in Iowa. The story appeared to be a political dirty trick by one of his opponents aimed at reducing Thompson-backers’ turnout at the caucuses. It began as a rumor among political junkies, but then caught fire as the result of an article in Thursday’s Politico. The line was that Thompson was likely to quit Friday after Iowa if he did poorly there, and might then endorse Arizona Sen. John McCain before next week’s New Hampshire primary. The article painted a glum, almost resigned mood among Thompson’s inner circle. There have been a number of questions raised about the Politico story, written by Jonathan Martin and Mike Allen. It cobbles together two unnamed sources—one a “Thompson advisor” and one a “campaign source”—with Thompson’s own statement that he needed to finish second in Iowa. But Thompson’s statement—like many others from him lately—sounded a positive, energetic note on the Iowa race. Galen said, “I can’t put enough words in front of ‘deny’ to accurately describe how vehemently I’m denying the story.” Sources told Human Events that Thompson’s campaign was already moving some elements to South Carolina, where they expect to do very well.

HOEKSTRA TALKS TO ROMNEY ON ‘NO CHILD’: Although he has been one of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s biggest boosters in Michigan and stumped with the GOP hopeful in Iowa last week, Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R.-Mich.) has made no secret that the two disagree sharply on “No Child Left Behind:” Romney supports reauthorization of the program that vastly enhances the federal role in public education, while Hoekstra is the leader of House conservatives trying to make it easier for states to avoid the federal standards and strings in NCLB. “But we’re not that far apart on education,” Hoekstra told Human Events last week. “When we talked, he said he believes in standards. I say that in opposing the federal regulations in ‘No Child,’ we’re exactly where he is on healthcare—he says the Massachusetts model on healthcare he signed should not be applied to every state. That’s what we’re saying about ‘No Child’ and its standards—you can’t apply them to each state.” Hoekstra said he feels confident he can move Romney away from his endorsement of reauthorization of NCLB because “Mitt is also in favor of flexibility.”