CRUEL AND UNUSUAL
Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi was inclined to do nothing to Rep. Jim Moran for his "moranic" comments about the Jewish community in the United States. But last Thursday and Friday, Pelosi's aides and close advisers pressed her to act.
"The party had to do something, because we were being embarrassed by our inaction," says a House leadership staffer. "I'll give the Republicans credit, there was a bigger furor about Trent Lott's comments, but they also moved fairly quickly to oust the guy. We wouldn't have the nerve to do that."
And Democrats confirmed that analysis by essentially letting Moran pick his own punishment.
According the leadership staffer, Pelosi and Moran spoke by phone and the leader asked Moran to come up with his own punishment. Some Democratic members, likely seeing an opportunity to fill the void, suggested to Pelosi that she strip Moran of at least one of his two senior committee seats -- Appropriations and Budget. But Pelosi left it to Moran to make the call.
He, in turn, chose to surrender his "leadership" position. Moran, it turns out was a "regional whip" -- one of 24 Democrats who monitored a regional district. In Moran's case that was the Mid-Atlantic. He'd held the position for three years.
"He didn't care about it to begin with," says a Democratic congressman. "That he and Pelosi would somehow make this appear to be punishment is surprising. She's embarrassing herself by failing to lead, and he's embarrassing our caucus. While I hate to see us lose a longstanding member, I hope this doesn't go away. He's just going to do something boneheaded again. It's inevitable."
According to the leadership staffer, discussion of Moran giving up a committee assignment never occurred. Nor was any floor punishment, such as censure, ever discussed.
"The Republicans will continue to use him and his comments for fundraising and for political gain," says the Democratic House member. "Just like we'll use Lott for ours."
Despite persistent Washington rumors that Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez will return to Florida to run for the Senate, he and advisers are telling anyone who will listen that he has no interest in the seat.
Instead, look for Martinez to focus on a possible run for governor --in 2006, when Jeb Bush completes his second term). While Martinez's name will most likely continue to surface for the Senate run, look for the White House to also closely monitor the performance of Florida Rep. B>Mark Foleyfor the Senate seat, regardless of whether or not Sen. Bob Graham decides to run for re-election or the Democratic presidential nomination.
The White House was thrilled with the performance of Vice President Dick Cheney on the Sunday morning talk show circuit, particularly his time on NBC's "Meet the Press."
"You see him out there like he was today and you just appreciate him more," says a White House staffer. "He was in command and laid everything out. We couldn't have asked for a better job."
Cheney's appearances were intended to further lay out the Bush Administration's final Iraq push, leading into comments by the president late Sunday from the Azores, and almost certainly later this week in response to what takes place or doesn't take place in the U.N. Security Council.