The Note: Unique Instructions

WASHINGTON, Apr. 7

Better-than-expected jobs numbers are likely to do little to make this week into a winning week for the Bush Administration and the Republican Party. A failure to bring House Republicans together on the budget, a stalled immigration bill shortly after hailing compromise, and semi-silence from the White House over the President's approval to declassify and disseminate information to rebut war critics will all keep the "negative environment for Republicans" theme going at least through the recess, we'd imagine.

And then there's also this from the AP's ultra-fair Ron Fournier: LINK

"President Bush's approval ratings hit a series of new lows in an AP-Ipsos poll that also shows Republicans surrendering their advantage on national security -- grim election-year news for a party struggling to stay in power."

When the Democratic Party or one of its leaders makes a mistake, Republicans and conservatives -- from the White House to the Republican National Committee to the members of Congress to talk radio to the interest groups to the bloggers -- jump all over it, with speed and consistent talking points.

It is testament to the Democrats' certainty that this Bush/leak story is a winner for them -- as well as to their improved communication coordination -- that they are driving that same kind of Republican-style effort right now.

And in the media (the network news shows, on cable, the morning shows, and the newspapers), the White House appears well cemented in a very bad news cycle.

The (near-total) silence from the President's side is pretty deafening. That RNC release didn't seem to us to address the President's politically precarious position on this, simply his strong legal foundation. And claiming it was in the "national interest" to leak the information (as one network reports an Administration official did) might cause more problems than it solves.

ABC's Martha Raddatz reports, "a Senior Administration Official [said] last night said that only key judgments in the NIE and the part about uranium were ultimately released to the public. The official said that the CIA was part of that process on the broader dissemination but the official wasn't sure the President went through the CIA to get the NIE info to the New York Times, because, the official 'could not confirm Libby's account since the legal proceedings are still ongoing.'"

"When reminded about the clause in the Executive Order that calls for the President to go through the agency where the classified material originates, the official said 'There is a traditional process but that doesn't restrict his authority.'"

Democrats have been looking to argue for the midterms that Bush is weak on national security. Unlike, say Iraq or the secret surveillance program, this issue unites literally every member of the Democratic Party, from the far left to the centrists. That is a powerful political advantage.

If Libby is in fact making this claim, it begs many questions: What did Bush and Cheney tell Fitzgerald on this point when they gave statements? How long have White House officials known about Libby's alleged testimony? Will anyone else tell a new story? Can Libby ever be pardoned now? As a political matter, can the case actually go to trial?

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