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McClellan's Revenge

A Commentary by Robert D. Novak

Saturday, May 31, 2008

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Republican insiders see the bitter criticism in Scott McClellan's memoir, "What Happened," as a payback for his abrupt firing as White House press secretary in the spring of 2006.

McClellan's book makes it clear he did not like it when newly appointed White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten informed him he was done as press secretary. His resignation was announced six days later.

While McClellan's attack on President George W. Bush shocked Washington, it was no surprise to many people in Austin, Texas. They say McClellan's mother, veteran Texas politician Carole Keeton Strayhorn, has been predicting that her son would get back at the people who fired him. Elected state comptroller as a Republican in 1998, she left the party to launch a losing independent race for governor in 2006.

ROMNEY FOR VP

Political donors report Sen. John McCain complains he is under pressure from President Bush and his former political adviser Karl Rove to select former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as his vice presidential running mate.

Since losing to McCain in the Republican primaries, Romney has become a strong supporter and helper of the presumptive nominee. During their contest, McCain indicated his dislike for Romney.

Many economic conservatives view Romney as the best bet for a unified GOP ticket. Social conservatives are less enthusiastic about him, and many evangelicals still oppose Romney because of his Mormon religion.

MANAGING ST. PAUL

New York City Deputy Mayor Kevin Sheekey, Mayor Michael Bloomberg's principal political adviser, is being seriously considered by the McCain campaign to be named manager of the Republican convention in St. Paul, Minn.

Sheekey, a former aide to the late Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York, had been the top strategist behind Bloomberg's consideration of an independent campaign for president this year. The premise for such an attempt was removed when Sen. John McCain won the Republican nomination.

McCain had selected a more conventional Republican political operative for the manager's post, Washington lobbyist Doug Goodyear. But he was forced to bow out when it was revealed that his firm represented Burma's military dictatorship six years ago.

DEMOCRATIC FRATRICIDE

Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign made no friends in national Democratic circles last weekend when its forces in Massachusetts purged Margaret Xifaras from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) after 28 years of membership because she supported Sen. Barack Obama for president.

A lawyer from Marion on the south coast of Massachusetts, Xifaras endorsed Obama on Feb. 21 as a super-delegate by virtue of her membership on the DNC. The other shoe did not drop for three months, when the Democratic State Committee met in Dorchester and replaced Xifaras with a Clinton stalwart (Susan Thomson, the state party's former executive director). What her friends described as "hard-core Hillary feminists" were aligned against any women not backing Clinton.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and Sens. Edward M. Kennedy and John Kerry supported Obama in the state's Feb. 5 primary, but Clinton carried the state by a wide margin.

PURGING MR. PORK

National conservative activists are getting behind an effort to purge 74-year-old Rep. Don Young, a leading purveyor of pork, in Alaska's Aug. 26 Republican primary. Young's opponent, 45-year-old Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell, met with conservative activists last week in Washington.

Young, who came to Congress in 1973, would become the senior Republican in the House if he is re-elected this year. He is a subject of a Justice Department investigation in connection with the notorious Coconut Road earmark that was added after the bill actually passed. Young has voiced support for gas tax increases in the past and recently voted for the "patriot tax" to finance the new GI Bill.

National Democratic strategists have targeted Young as a vulnerable incumbent, with State Rep. Ethan Berkowitz the leader for the Democratic nomination. But Young is shaky in the Republican primary, with a recent poll giving him 45 percent to Parnell's 42 percent.

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