The Note: Mixed Messages

WASHINGTON, Dec. 5

NEWS SUMMARY

This is not a letter written by Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and Senator Majority Leader Bill Frist to President Bush over the weekend:

December 4, 2005

The Honorable George W. Bush

President of the United States

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, D.C.

Dear Mr. President:

The early reports back from our Members' time with their constituents are mixed, but the message is clear.

Please talk up the economy more, making that the dominant message, so the Party gets credit for the things that are going well -- except on the days when we need you to make Iraq the dominant message, because we are getting beat up on that by the Democrats -- except don't talk about Iraq too much. It only draws attention to it.

We need to cut spending, because our base is getting restless -- but we can't cut stuff that will allow the Democrats to attack us (such as health care).

Also, we can show we are serious about spending cuts if we eliminate earmarks and pork for Members -- except we need those in there to get some bills passed.

We need to take on hard, big issues -- such as immigration and tax reform -- but please don't do things in a way that divides the party or will force our Members up for re-election to take tough votes.

Our Members don't like the prescription drug benefit (It is too expensive.) and they don't want to help sell it to their constituents, but it must be seen as a big success by Election Day next year.

Please don't be so nice to Bill Clinton -- it strengthens him and helps Senator Clinton, and we are already helping her enough by working on bills with her.

Please veto some bills to show you are tough, particularly on spending -- just don't veto any of the bills WE send you.

Please play down how conservative Judge Alito is to avoid any fights or defections -- but let's not shy away from defending the Reagan years and all they stood for.

This Abramoff and ethics stuff is a potential problem, but we can't give an inch on it.

Bartlett and Wallace are excellent on TV -- is there any way to make them seem older?

You need to shake things up at the White House with some new blood, but please don't panic and make any changes.

We are doing our best to keep our Members in line, but you all need to do a better job on McCain, Hagel, Graham, LaHood, Shays, Voinovich, Chafee, Collins, and Snowe. We will deal with most of the others.

Together, America can do better. Or something like that. As long as we remember that we must all hang together, or surely we will all hang separately. Or something like that.

Best,

Denny and Bill

In a related development, in your absolute must-read story for the day, Janet Hook details in the Los Angeles Times how a major legislative victory before the end of the year is critically important for the GOP. Hook also has details from the Republican retreat last week, where Andy Card told congressional leaders that they need to focus on allying their legislative strategy with the President's. LINK

"To go out [at year's end] without any substantial actions reinforces the notion that Congress has lost its way under our control," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). "To deliver is to show we are capable of governing."

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