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Annan's 'face time' with Bush

| Sunday, Feb. 19, 2006

WASHINGTON

Administration sources say U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan misspoke in suggesting to reporters that he asked President Bush last week to send U.S. troops to Darfur in the Sudan.

The meeting with Bush had been requested by Annan, but he did not have much of an agenda. That led to speculation at the White House that the secretary-general merely wanted "face time" with the president to boost his sagging prestige.

A footnote: Vice President Dick Cheney sat in on the Bush-Annan meeting but ducked out before reporters and cameras were let in at the end. Cheney at that point did not want to face questions about the Texas shooting incident.

McCain's Bushies

Major political contributors to George W. Bush who have never given a dime to prospective 2008 Republican presidential candidate John McCain received letters, dated Feb. 8, asking for donations to the senator's Straight Talk America political action committee.

Obviously using President Bush's direct mail list, the letter signed by McCain asks for $1,000 or $1,500 to support candidates agreeing with McCain on "key issues." It specifically lists "limiting federal spending, immigration reform, military readiness, global climate change, Social Security reform, reining-in lobbyists, reducing the power of the special interests and putting an end to wasteful pork-barrel spending by Congress."

Each recipient received a card to be filled in for McCain's files. "I'm asking you to update your file card," requests the letter, though the Bush contributors had no previous card in the senator's files.

The non-Hillary alternative

Although Sen. Hillary Clinton is not absolutely certain to run for president in 2008, former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner is well on his way in preparing his campaign for the Democrat presidential nomination as the non-Hillary candidate.

He has signed Monica Dixon, who was deputy chief of staff to Vice President Al Gore, to run his Forward Together political action committee. After ending his single term as governor at the beginning of the year, Warner has been traveling the country and recruiting staffers.

Warner has been overwhelmed with offers of support from Democrats since he left office. Friends say he realizes he is a hot article and must be careful not to say or do anything now that will come back to haunt him.

Medicare politics

Democrat activists James Carville and Stan Greenberg, complaining that Democrats "have yet to capitalize" on public discontent with President Bush's Medicare prescription drug subsidy, are calling on them to "create an uproar over" the plan.

A national survey conducted by the Democracy Corps, headed by Carville and Greenberg, showed two-to-one opposition to the drug plans by all voters. The Feb. 8 letter by Carville and Greenberg said Democrats can "create a tidal wave of opposition" by "creating new opponents" out of the 28 percent of voters shown by the poll to be undecided.

Union disclosures

The first documents received from unions in the Labor Department's demand for detailed financial disclosures, for the first time strictly enforcing the 1959 Landrum-Griffin labor reform act, suggest embarrassment by organized labor when the information is made public next month.

Early reports show the AFL-CIO spent $49 million (27 percent of its total annual budget) on political and lobbying activities but only $30 million (or 16.5 percent) to represent its members. That gap contributed to the breakaway from the AFL-CIO of the Teamsters, the Service Employees and other unions.

Robert Novak is a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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