Congressional breaks are supposed to be fun for President Bush -- no pesky meetings with Democrats, no competition for the media spotlight, plenty of time for recess appointments that don't need Senate confirmation. Coming off what may have been the president's best week of the year last week, the Memorial Day break promised to be especially sweet.
But with members of Congress back in their districts for the week, the president may find himself wishing that no one had left Washington. On the major issues of the moment -- the Iraq war and immigration reform -- the noise being heard back home isn't the message the president wants delivered.
On Iraq, Bush's victory on war funding masks an uncomfortable political reality for the president: the war is growing more unpopular by the day, and all signs point to a September date by which the GOP will be fed up. The Los Angeles Times' Julian Barnes has military leaders "seeking ways to redefine success" because they are "increasingly convinced" that most of the political goals laid out for the Iraqis by the president won't be met. (Would the Bush administration be talking with card-carrying members of the "axis of evil" if officials weren't worried?)
And on immigration reform, which Bush plans to push with a speech today in Georgia at 11:30 am ET, Democrats and Republicans are coming under fire from members of their own party for reaching a compromise no one seems to love. The bill survived numerous challenges on the Senate floor last week, but bigger tests could come on lawns and at community centers this week.
A snapshot of what Congress is hearing from the rank-and-file: "None of these were happy calls. Truly, from our headquarters to the 15 county parties, the ratio was 100 to zero," Sean McCaffrey, the Arizona GOP's executive director, told The New York Times' Michael Luo.
On the 2008 front, much of the field camped out in Iowa over the long weekend. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., is still there today, and this time he's following Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., in making an announcement. As he seeks to flesh out his agenda, Obama will unveil his plan for universal healthcare, calling for an end to the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and a new tax on most businesses that don't provide health coverage. "The climate is far different than it was the last time we tried this in the early '90s," Obama plans to say, per Bloomberg's Jay Newton-Small and Aliza Marcus.
The president this morning outlined new economic sanctions against Sudan, delivering on his weeks-old threat before leaving next week for the G8 summit, ABC's Jonathan Karl reported this morning on "Good Morning America." "For too long, the people of Darfur have suffered at the hands of a government that is complicit in the bombing, murder, and rape of innocent civilians," Bush said.
Also from the (sort of busy) holiday weekend:
The New York Times and Washington Post capped a rough week for Senator Clinton by taking dueling Saturday looks at the Clintons' least-favorite lawsuit: a shareholder who is accusing the owner of infoUSA of a "waste of corporate assets" by showering consulting contracts and cut-rate flights on the couple. "The dispute over Gupta's bankrolling of the Clintons offers new detail about how successfully Bill Clinton has leveraged the inner circle of donors he cultivated during his tenure in the White House to his personal financial benefit since he left office," write the Post's Matthew Mosk and John Solomon. "In addition, it suggests the degree to which Hillary Clinton's political career is also benefiting." Or not.
The Los Angeles Times' Janet Hook yesterday examined the "more combative" campaign style of former senator John Edwards, D-N.C., with its emphasis on poverty and social justice, even as Edwards draws heats over haircuts and houses and hedge funds. "Edwards' 2008 strategy carries risks, in part because it speaks most directly to a slice of the electorate that has notably little political clout," Hook writes.
Michael Powell of The New York Times today dissects secrets to the early campaign success of Rudolph Giuliani, R-N.Y: 9/11, no more ferret incidents, 9/11, and being nice to -- gasp! -- voters who ask him questions. (9/11) "The dyspeptic, 'not afraid to suggest his opponents have really deep-seated psychological problems' Republican mayor of fact and legend has taken a holiday," Powell writes.
Politico's David Paul Kuhn looks inside the polls to find Giuliani "winning the contest for the support of social conservatives," who are buying into the electability argument -- at least for now.
Mitt Romney, Iowa front-runner? The Boston Globe's James Pindell and Scott Helman look at the organizing strength the former governor, R-Mass., is riding to an early lead in polls, and quote this warning from a top Iowa supporter's e-mail: "Too early to look too good."
But Romney's got quite a record -- and an entire state, really -- to run from in Massachusetts, Politico's Elizabeth Wilner writes. "In seeking the support of the social and fiscal conservatives who traditionally have decided the outcome of the Republican presidential primary, Romney has to reconcile how, five years ago, he asked the liberal-leaning voters of the Bay State for the same vote of confidence," Wilner writes.
ABC's Jonathan Greenberger reportsfrom New Hampshire on a shift in Obama's campaign strategy -- downsized events, and more family appearances, 8-year-old Malia and 5-year-old Sasha included. "Probably what we're going to be doing is more off-the-record stops that aren't scheduled, so that I can just hop into a diner and sit down at the counter and start having conversations," Obama said Monday.
Clinton's secret weapon is slightly older: former governor Tom Vilsack, D-Iowa, who is working so hard on behalf of Clinton that it looks like "a rehearsal for the role of running mate," the Des Moines Register's Thomas Beaumont writes.
Peter Canellos of The Boston Globe tracks the rhetoric of the GOP presidential candidates and finds them "increasingly echoing words and phrases used by President Bush in the run-up to the war that reinforce the misleading impression that Iraq was responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks."
The president's next trip to Crawford promises to be quieter: Cindy Sheehan chose Memorial Day to submit what she called her "resignation letter as the 'face' of the American anti-war movement," ABC's Jake Tapper reports. If this is indeed the last we'll hear from her, she left us with some choice words for both political parties: "when I started to hold the Democratic Party to the same standards that I held the Republican Party, support for my cause started to erode and the 'left' started labeling me with the same slurs that the right used."
"My favorite team has always been the Red Sox. I'm a Red Sox fan. End of session. . . . I'm also a Yankees fan," Gov. Bill Richardson, D-N.M., in an impressive act of political fence-sitting, on NBC Sunday.
"The Democrats are a lot smarter than everybody thinks they are. They're not -- everybody is not Moveon.org," a hopeful Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., the only Democratic presidential candidate to vote for war funding last week, on CNN Sunday.