WASHINGTON, Feb. 23
After being chastised by many for focusing on a non-substantive process story for the entirety of last week, the White House press corps has plenty to sink its teeth into today. Iraq, Katrina, and port security are all on the agenda providing the Administration lots of opportunities for explaining, contextualizing, and nuance.
President Bush addressed all three issues when he spoke to the pool after his Cabinet meeting this morning.
On Iraq: President Bush again condemned the attack on the mosque and said the United States will continue to work with the "voices of reason," but he refused to directly address a potential civil war.
On Katrina: "I wasn't satisfied with the federal response," said Bush. "We will learn the lessons of the past," he added.
On the UAE ports deal: Mr. Bush said the more Cabinet members brief Congress, the more they are bringing a sense of "calm" to the issue.
Your news peg for today's port stories will come when the Senate Armed Services Committee receives a briefing in an open meeting at 11:00 am ET by a half-dozen federal departments and agencies about Dubai Ports World's planned takeover.
Senators expected to participate: Chairman John Warner (R-VA), Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), and Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA).
According to Bloomberg News, while appearing on the Fox News Channel on Wednesday, Sen. Warner said: "I anticipate that the views of the commander-in-chief will eventually prevail, and that the country will settle back and suddenly realize -- maybe not suddenly, but gradually realize -- that the Administration did the right thing." LINK
ABC's Zach Wolf reports that staff level meetings between the Administration and congressional Republicans occurred yesterday and a Frist staffer told Wolf those meetings constituted, "a good first step."
For the best indication as to where the political narrative over the ports is heading, we offer these four must-reads for you.
1. The New York Daily News' golden Thomas DeFrank predicts that because "Bush has placed his political reputation squarely on the line," Republicans in Congress are unlikely to "humiliate" their leader. LINK
"Delay is Bush's best tactical weapon. An emerging strategy is to slide next week's decision date by 30 to 60 days so the White House can launch the education job with Congress and the public it should have done weeks ago."
2. The Washington Post's Jim VandeHei and Jonathan Weisman write of the "unprecedented Republican revolt over national security" and have a "senior White House official saying that President Bush "realizes that Republicans are dug in and that he may have to compromise. 'We are sensitive to the fact that people have taken firm positions,' the official said. . . ." LINK
3. David Brooks of the New York Times takes on the "completely bogus" and "nativist, isolationist mass hysteria" gripping the nation and points fingers directly at Sens. Schumer and Clinton and Reps. Hastert and King while doing so. LINK
Raise your hand if you think Sen. Clinton and Sen. Frist disagree with Brooks' thesis.
Raise your hand if you think the American public cares to consider Brooks' thesis.