By Greg Pierce

House Majority Leader Dick Armey yesterday defended Rep. Tom DeLay, the Texas Republican who has emerged as the most likely successor to Mr. Armey, who will retire after the end of his term.

When NBC's "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert read three disparaging comments about Mr. DeLay, two from fellow Republican lawmakers, Mr. Armey responded: "Tim, I don't think you're being fair here. . . . You may not believe this. I've got people who don't like me, and I wouldn't want you reading quotes about me."

Mr. Armey noted that some Republicans consider the Democratic whip, Rep. David E. Bonior of Michigan, to be "the mean-spirited guy."

"That's the whip's job, to do that stuff. David Bonior is a much sweeter guy than what we see of him as he does his job. And Tom DeLay may very well be just as sweet and gentle in a different kind of a framework. The whip's job is the whip," Mr. Armey said.

Even Minority Leader Richard A Gephardt, Missouri Democrat, who appeared alongside Mr. Armey on the program, declined to take any potshots at Mr. DeLay.

"He'd be a very strong adversary. He's very conservative, and he would stand for what he believes in, and that's fine," Mr. Gephardt said.


Anthony Lewis, a consistently liberal voice on the New York Times editorial page, has retired after 32 years as a columnist.

Ethan Bronner, an editor at the newspaper, interviewed Mr. Lewis for a Q&A that appeared yesterday in the Week in Review section. The interviewer elicited the following response to the question of whether Mr. Lewis has changed his mind about socialism.

"I can remember when the Labor government was elected in 1945 in Britain. It was one of those defining moments," Mr. Lewis said.

"I was coming out of a lecture hall at Harvard. There were still a lot of troops abroad and all that. The election was announced and it was a Labor landslide, which was an extraordinary surprise. And here was a headline on a newspaper that somebody was hawking outside this lecture hall. And I thought, Well, this is great. Socialism is really going to have a chance. Democratic socialism is going to have a chance.

"Well, it just turned out to be more difficult and the resources weren't there. You know, the health service doesn't work. I'm still for it. But it doesn't work."


White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card says Rep. Rob Portman, Ohio Republican and chairman of the House Republican leadership, is a "terrific fellow," but he doesn't agree with statements Mr. Portman has made that President Bush needs to be more aggressive in pushing domestic legislation.

Mr. Card was asked about these assertions by Mr. Portman, who is seen as one of the president's closest supporters in the House, in an interview Saturday on CNN's "Novak, Hunt & Shields."

"I love Rob Portman. He's a terrific fellow," said Mr. Card, "but I happen to know that President Bush pushed very hard for his domestic agenda."

He then cited presidential efforts both before and after September 11. The list included Mr. Bush's "winning tax cuts," his economic-stimulus package, education reform, and trade-promotion authority. The latter, Mr. Card said, "passed by one vote in the House thanks to the work that the president did."

So Mr. Bush has "a very aggressive agenda," and he's "pushing it hard," said Mr. Card. "I'm confident that the leadership that you see from the president today is the exact kind of leadership that you will see from him next year."


"Tongues are wagging that Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill is in trouble. But not with the prez, he who stands by his guy," Paul Bedard writes in the "Washington Whispers" column of U.S. News & World Report.

"It's conservatives who want O'Neill gone, especially those eager to cut taxes - an issue O'Neill isn't big on," Mr. Bedard said.

"O'Neill foes have gone so far as to float a list of replacements. It includes retiring Sen. Phil Gramm, retiring House Majority Leader Dick Armey, former Rep. Bill Archer, magazine publisher Steve Forbes, and UBS Americas boss Donald Marron, the only one with the Wall Street smarts some in the administration want in a new secretary.

"But, hey, not so fast, O'Neill aides say. Sure, he's said some dumb things, but that doesn't diminish his successes, especially as one of Bush's key lieutenants in the anti-terror war. Consider: Whispers has learned that Treasury just won pledges from Saudi Arabia that it will impose first-ever money-laundering rules on charities thought to be helping Osama bin Laden and other terrorists."


"Republicans have won a few battles lately: the trade vote in the House, the defeat of Robert Byrd's attempt to lard up the defense-spending bill in the Senate. But mostly they're taking it on the chin," John J. Miller and Ramesh Ponnuru write at

"They lost the airport security fight, and Congress is well on its way to producing a stimulus bill with more for Democrats than Republicans to like. Tom Daschle has been able to hold up the president's energy bill and his nomination of Eugene Scalia - even though a majority of senators would vote to approve both. So far at least, Democrats aren't paying a price for their partisanship," the writers said.

"A change in White House strategy might keep this losing streak from continuing. But there's a limit to how much the president can do vis-a-vis Congress, given the other demands on his time and the Democratic majority in the Senate. Congressional Republicans have to change the dynamic on the Hill.

"One way to do that would be to ask Senator Zell Miller, Georgia Democrat, to switch parties. In 2000, according to Congressional Quarterly, Miller voted against his party 75 percent of the time. He backed John Ashcroft's nomination and cosponsored President Bush's spring tax cut. If he joined the Republicans, they would have 50 senators. To give them control of the floor would require only that the vice president be coaxed out of his secure location.

"It's an idea that's been discussed before, but there hasn't been much reason for Miller to switch. He gets more ink as a dissident Democrat than he would as a run-of-the-mill Republican. He wouldn't have any more power as a member of a Republican majority than he already does as part of the Democratic one. And Miller would be taking a risk. If one of the Republican senators should die or bolt his party, some very ticked Democrats would regain the majority.

"So if Republicans want him, they should sweeten the pot: Promise to make Miller majority leader. If he proves to be an unsatisfactory leader, Republicans will always be able to vote him out later. In the meantime, they could at least keep Pat Leahy from being chairman of the Judiciary Committee."


"Massachusetts Democrat John Kerry, a likely presidential candidate in 2004, is wading into the confirmation mess in the Senate," United Press International reports in its "Capital Comment" column.

"Frustrated over the failure of the Senate to move ahead on the bipartisan Kerry-Bond small business relief and recovery act, Kerry has announced his intention to put a 'hold' on all nonjudicial executive nominations," UPI said.

"By Senate tradition, no nomination will move forward if a member of the Senate asks that it be held up. This works by mutual consent as each senator expects colleagues to honor a hold request if for no other reason than to have their own request honored at a different time. However, a blanket hold such as Kerry is proposing is rarely, if ever, used - and is likely to add support to the White House's argument that Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, and the Democrats are obstructing the administration's efforts to put a full complement of personnel in place."