The Note

"In another such sign, Republican leaders who were interviewed used almost identical turns of phrase in maintaining that the decision to hold the Republican National Convention in New York for the first time was a testimony to the city's diversity. The reason, they said, was not that Madison Square Garden, the site of the gathering, is barely two miles from ground zero."

"Mr. Bush is hardly alone in having to deal with the issue. Advisers to the Democratic presidential candidates say he cannot be defeated unless their party succeeds in at least partly severing his identification with a strong national response to the attacks. Those candidates have begun trying to do so."

But …

"In this environment, the White House is showing imagination in finding ways to invoke the Sept. 11 attacks. In a briefing for Republican leaders, Mr. Bush's campaign manager, Ken Mehlman, cited the attacks as a main cause of economic weakness, which could threaten the president's re-election. (At his Rose Garden news conference this morning, Mr. Bush, too, pointed to the attacks as a weight on the economy.)"

"'These attacks,' Mr. Mehlman said, 'worsened the recession. Airlines were grounded for days. Millions canceled travel plans. New construction came to a halt, as builders feared lawsuits in the event of an attack. Financial markets were devastated. And the costs of cleanup ran into the billions.'"

The AP's Will Lester writes that President Bush "has sought in recent weeks to shift the primary rationale for the Iraq war from the gathering threat to the West he described before the war to stabilizing the Mideast and removing the vestiges of a tyrannical regime. The shift coincides with the failure so far to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq." LINK

Bush's presser: The Washington Post 's Dan Balz turns in a must-read on President Bush's Rose Garden session yesterday, reading between the smiles on Bush's game face to the pile of challenges that the administration still faces on multiple fronts, from foreign policy to the economy. LINK "His upbeat appraisal across a wide range of problems belied the challenges that have confronted his administration in the past month and the political toll they have begun to take on his presidency," Balz writes. "If confidence alone produced results, there might be less for him to worry about. If confidence alone produced results, there might be less for him to worry about."

The press conference, where Bush talked optimistically about economic growth and progress in Iraq, was designed to buy time, Balz Notes, and if Democratic presidential contenders are savvy enough to effectively capitalize on the administration's weaknesses, the small rays of optimism they're starting to see could turn out to be something.

"The energy with which Bush's political team has been attacking the Democrats as too far left to be trusted to run the country suggests they understand that the longer the problems in Iraq and at home fester, the more likely it is that Bush will face a genuine fight to win a second term."

We would add that the Bush that was on display was the version that make Democrats who don't like him seethe.

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