WASHINGTON, Jan. 24
Tussles continue over Alito's confirmation (a sure thing); domestic spying (E.J. Dionne on Karl Rove is a must-read, even if it is 67% misguided LINK); lobbying and congressional reform; the House leadership contest; and if it is a coincidence that "The West Wing" was cancelled on the very day it aired its first mention of The Note LINK
But exactly one week before President Bush delivers his State of the Union speech, what really matters is the mindset, the mojo, and the moxie of the Nation's 43rd commander in chief as he faces the make-or-break moment of the rest of his second (and final) term.
After a disastrous and defensive 2005, Mr. Bush must recover politically and substantively this year: to paraphrase Bob Eubanks, a good 2006 will give you a good 2007 and 2008, but miss it and go home to Crawford in last place.
This President has always been both an open book and a cipher. (An open book to Don Evans and Fred Barnes, a cipher to Henry Waxman and the staff of the New Republic.)
So: if you want to know if George Walker Bush is ready to use next week's big speech to take back full control of the national and international agenda, all you have to do is parse the very linear answer he gave to a question at yesterday's rock'em-sock-em town meeting in Kansas.
Here was what a fellow citizen of the president asked:
I have a question less with politics and more with leadership, in general. You're in a situation where you're under a lot of flack, especially for your character. And that's something that, it seems to me, means a lot to you, as it does to many of us here. As a leader, as many of us are going to need to know here because we're going to be leaders in just a few years, what's the best way that you go about preparing yourself for attacks on your character, and how do you deal with others in those matters?
Seems pretty simple, huh?
Here's how the president answered:
(Note to Jon Stewart and the staff of "The Daily Show": by our count, you should be able to get a week's worth of shows out of this one response.)
(Note to Dan Bartlett and Mike Gerson and a moonlighting Karen Hughes: HE'S READY!!!!)
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I appreciate that. I would summarize it: faith, family and friends. (Applause.) I am sustained mightily by the fact that millions of citizens -- for whom I'll never get to thank personally -- pray for me. It's hard for me to describe why I feel that way, why I'm so sustained. I guess it's just called faith. And I'm sustained by my family. And there's nothing better than going home to somebody who understands and is sympathetic and is part of -- we're working together. I mean, Laura's job is just as important as mine in many ways.
The girls still love me. (Laughter.) I really love them. And then there's my man, Barney, a little Scottish terrier. (Laughter.) I say this -- and Laura will be furious at me -- he's the son I never had, you know? (Laughter.)
I believe in what I'm doing. And I understand politics, and it can get rough. I read a lot of history, by the way, and Abraham Lincoln had it rough. I'm not comparing myself to Abraham Lincoln, nor should you think just because I mentioned his name in the context of my presidency -- I would never do that. He was a great President. But, boy, they mistreated him. He did what he thought was right.