Secretary of State Colin Powell peacemaking will bring him to Israel later this week, and he'll be carrying at least one big carrot: F-16s. According to a Washington-based defense lobbyist, Lockheed Martin last week reached a tentative deal to build and sell more than forty F-16s to the Israeli military. The deal for Lockheed's Fort Worth plant could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars for the company and its subcontractors.
"The Israelis want these jets badly," says the lobbyist. "If they want them, they'll have to at least sit down and make an effort at the negotiating table. Otherwise, those fighter jets never get built."
On March 20 The Prowler reported on Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and Sen. John Kerry's jockeying over who would lead the possible filibuster over pending legislation to allow oil drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge. Now it turns out each may have to swallow hard and actually vote for the bill. All because pro-ethanol Republicans and Democrats on the Energy Committee inserted an amendment in the bill renewing the sweetheart subsidy for the fuel alternative. And ethanol is the hot political issue every election cycle in Iowa, home of corn, ethanol producers and ... the first presidential caucus in the country.
"It's almost always the first question a presidential candidate has to answer in Iowa, 'Do you support ethanol subsidies?'" says an Energy and Natural Resources Committee staffer. "And it's always an issue for us. I don't know how either Kerry or Daschle avoid it, unless they can successfully remove the amendment, and that could come back to haunt them too."
"Kerry and Daschle can't afford to waffle on this," says a Democratic leadership staffer, pointing out that other potential Democratic candidates are positioned to pounce. "Dick Gephardt has had great grassroots operations in Iowa in the past and that can be key to a caucus. The ethanol issue is one he could make hay with."
SAVING GOV. RYAN
The White House would like current Illinois Gov. George Ryan to resign before the November election cycle really kicks in, and is putting pressure on the RNC -- namely current chairman Marc Racicot -- to do its dirty work.
"They want Ryan out as soon as possible," says a senior RNC staffer.
Ryan, a longtime Illinois politician, was elected governor in 1998 but chose not to run for re-election after his administration became tainted by a federal investigation into graft during Ryan's previous tenure as Illinois secretary of state.
State Attorney General Jim Ryan (no relation) is the Republican nominee, facing off against Democrat Rep. Rod Blagojevich, in one of the critical gubernatorial races in 2002. "We can't afford to lose Illinois, and having a scandalized Ryan in the governor's mansion isn't going to help a guy with the same name and from the same party. Best to get him out so he doesn't do any damage," says the RNC staffer.
But why the RNC? Why not let the state party handle it? "Governor Ryan has a lot of pull in the state party, they don't want to push him out," says the RNC source. "And [House Speaker] Dennis Hastert doesn't want to push an old friend out, either. That leaves the national party."
And it leaves chairman Racicot, according to the RNC source, bucking the White House request. But the clock is ticking, and Blagojevich is given better odds than any Democrat in years. Republicans have controlled the Illinois governorship since 1976.