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Whither Hagel

A Commentary by Robert D. Novak

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Friends of Sen. Chuck Hagel, the Senate's sharpest critic of President Bush's Iraq policy, say there is no chance he will endorse a Democrat for president this year.

That does not mean, however, that Hagel necessarily will back the Republican candidate, his friend John McCain. That could depend on whether McCain devises an Iraq exit strategy. Hagel and McCain, who occupy offices in the same second floor corridor of the Russell Senate Office Building, have been spotted conferring on two recent occasions.

A footnote: Although the conservative Hagel is an unlikely running mate for either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, he conceivably could end up as secretary of defense for either Democrat.

Hillary for V.P.

As Hillary Clinton's presidential odds lengthen, feminist supporters have begun arguing that she must be the vice presidential candidate if Barack Obama wins the presidential nomination.

Obama was not responsive to this question on Wednesday's ABC network debate, but his advisers say it is out of the question. Clinton as vice president, they say, would weaken rather than strengthen the ticket.

A footnote: Many Democrats would like to see a military man as Obama's running mate, and specifically mention retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni. CENTCOM commander in chief (covering Iraq) during the Clinton administration, Zinni is a critic of President Bush's national security policies. Retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark is a vice presidential prospect who, unlike Zinni, has a little political experience. He ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004 and actually won one primary (Oklahoma).

Obama's Pastor

Prominent Democrats in Michigan made no public outcry but were appalled to learn that the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama's radical former minister, would keynote the annual NAACP Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner in Detroit April 27.

Democrats carried Michigan for president by relatively modest margins in 2000 and 2004, and party insiders worry about Obama's problems getting the white workingman's general election vote in Midwestern industrial states. They fear that Wright will alienate Michigan's white workers by what he says in Detroit.

A footnote: Hillary Clinton's Michigan backers blame her national strategists for ruining chances for a re-voted primary in Michigan that probably would have benefited her over Obama.

Specter's New Friend

Anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, who was a fierce opponent of Sen. Arlen Specter's Republican renomination in his 2004 bid for a fifth term from Pennsylvania, is now his strong supporter for a sixth term in 2010.

Norquist has changed his stand because of Specter's backing for two standbys of Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform (ATR): business expense deductions and a flat income tax. Norquist traveled with Specter and spoke for him in Pennsylvania April 14 at three town meetings and two fund-raisers. Specter returned the favor April 15, appearing at the ATR tax-day news conference in the National Press Building in Washington.

A footnote: While traveling in Pennsylvania, Specter did not inform Norquist of his recurrence of cancer (which was announced April 15).

Who's Anti-Catholic?

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy has not backed down from giving "anti-Catholic comments" as a reason for not acting on the nomination of Federal District Judge Robert Conrad of Charlotte, N.C., to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. But Leahy said he was willing to look again at the views of Conrad, who is a devout Catholic.

At an April 3 Judiciary Committee meeting, Leahy was asked why Conrad's nomination was stalled despite a "well qualified" rating from the American Bar Association and backing from North Carolina's senators. He then raised Conrad's criticism of Sister Helen Prejean, who in her book "Dead Man Walking" denounced traditional elements of the Catholic Church.

Leahy, who also is a Catholic, told this column he based his view on what Conrad wrote in the January/February 1999 issue of Catholic Dossier. The senator added that he would take a closer look at Conrad's article.


See Other Political Commentaries

See Other Commentaries by Robert D. Novak

Views expressed in this column are those of the author, not those of Rasmussen Reports.

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