WASHINGTON, Jan. 23
In the Clinton White House years, top aides would unabashedly sprint out of the daily senior staff meetings to call reporters and let them know what Thomas McLarty, Leon Panetta, or John Podesta had said.
Things are a little tighter in the Bush regime, with the sports-mad Andy Card ending each morning's conclave with a hand-holding chant of "what you see here, what you hear here, let it stay here when you leave here."
On occasion, though, Bush loyalty and press-adverse tendencies are overcome by the sheer absurdity of what is said in these sessions. Today is such a day.
So -- out goes the elaborate lede we had written based on yet another leak (the early reviews of Tim Kaine's State of the Union response preps, which we will save for a non-rainy day). Instead here is our insider report on this morning's White House senior staff meeting.
Card told the group that they had many challenges and questions to face this week:
1. How long can they brazenly say that it is Democrats who oppose Administration policy on the Patriot Act and domestic spying, when some Republicans oppose them too? ("How long can Democrats and the press be this incompetent?" one relatively new member of the team asked, to which his colleagues responded with swells of laughter and knowing looks.)
2. How can they best handle the inevitable release of the photos of the President with Jack Abramoff?
3. How long can they allow Dan Bartlett to do live television interviews on the topic of Hanukkah?
4. How is the pre-SOTU health care policy rollout going?
5. How much will the President have to say about ethics and lobbying in the SOTU?
6. How much does anyone care about the administration being outflanked by Democrats on the right on Iran?
7. How should Scott answer if asked if anyone at the White House has looked at polling data on domestic spying?
8. How will people react when the RNC's boffo oppo on Kaine comes out right before his moment in the spotlight, demonstrating just how bad the Kilgore campaign was?
9. How should Scott answer when asked, "Does the President still support a constitutional amendment overturning Roe and, if so, what has he done as president to fight for its passage?"
10. How quickly after Steve Schmidt's departure will the quality of political work at the White House deteriorate to Harriet-Miers-confirmation levels?
We will begin to get the public answers to many of these questions when anti-abortion rights activists converge on the mall today to mark the Thirty-third year anniversary (plus one day) of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision. They will receive a telephone call from President Bush at 12:10 pm ET. National Right to Life holds a press conference at the National Press Club at 10:00 am ET.
The President will place his phone call from Manhattan, KS, where he is slated to deliver remarks on the war on terrorism at 12:30 pm ET. A crowd of over 9,000 is expected at the President's speech in Kansas. LINK
The President is again expected to take questions. The AP looks at the President's new campaign-style Q&A format at his recent events. LINK
ABC News' Karen Travers reports that President Bush has placed a phone call to march participants the last four years. In 2001, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) read a statement from the President. (Pro-life advocates should really try to call the White House scheduling office earlier than they do. . . .)