February 4, 2006
Inside Report

By Robert Novak


WASHINGTON -- The nation's governors are grumbling over inability to schedule a meeting with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld when they come to Washington Feb. 25-28 for the annual winter meeting of the National Governors Association.

The governors want to talk to Rumsfeld about his plans for National Guard troop reduction. The Pentagon's response has been that the secretary is busy managing hostilities in Iraq and Afghanistan and has no time for a long gab session with governors.

While governors theoretically are in command of the National Guard, the real control is exercised by the Department of Defense. Governors are grateful for their annual visit to the White House to see the president, but they would much rather go to the Pentagon to talk National Guard business with Rumsfeld.


Rep. Michael Oxley, outgoing chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, shouted in outrage at a closed-door conference of House Republicans last Tuesday in protesting a reform barring from the House gymnasium former congressmen who become lobbyists.

Oxley, who is not seeking election to a 13th term, is expected to become a lobbyist. He was more restrained on the House floor Wednesday in speaking against the reform, which also bans lawmakers-turned-lobbyists from the House floor. But he voted against the measure. He resigned as chairman of the gymnasium committee, effective immediately, when the reform passed 379 to 50.

A footnote: Former Majority Leader Tom DeLay surprised colleagues when he voted against the leadership-backed proposal.


New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson's stock for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination may rise or fall depending on whether Republican Rep. Heather Wilson keeps her seat representing the New Mexico congressional district that includes Albuquerque.

Wilson is a principal target of Rep. Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Her opponent is state Attorney General Patricia Madrid, who appears to have the financing to wage a strong race against Wilson.

Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner got a big boost in the '08 presidential derby when his state elected Democrat Tim Kaine to succeed him. Richardson's backers say he could experience a similar effect from Wilson's defeat.


Some Democratic members of Congress who have been trashing President Bush, including several African-Americans, arrived at the House up to 45 minutes ahead of President Bush's State of the Union address in order to get aisle seats for his speech.

When Bush walked in shortly after 9 p.m., the Democrats on the aisle were as eager as the Republicans opposite them to shake hands with the president. African-American Democrats Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick of Michigan and Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas engaged in hugs and kisses with Bush. He shared a joke that caused Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, who had formerly challenged Bush's 2004 electoral votes from Ohio, to laugh uproariously.

A footnote: Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, now the House's top African-American as the newly elected chairman of the Democratic Caucus, was the only member of the House Democratic leadership to keep his seat and not rise in applause during Bush's address.


Rep. Jane Harman of California, ranking minority member of the House Intelligence Committee, was on her feet clapping in response to nearly all of President Bush's national security applause lines Tuesday night while fellow Democrats generally kept their seats. An exception was the president's defense of wiretapping, where Harman shook her head vigorously and stayed seated.

Sen. Ben Nelson, Bush's most consistent Democratic supporter in the Senate, was often alone on his side of the aisle in rising to applaud the president. Nelson, up for re-election this year in heavily Republican Nebraska, also praised Bush's address in television interviews after the speech.

Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, a sharp critic of Bush, clapped and started to rise when the president called for renewal of the Patriot Act. But he stayed down when he noted that Democrats around him were keeping their seats.

Copyright 2006 Creators Syndicate

Robert Novak

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