"A Rare Public Appearance"

--The Commerce Department releases November housing starts (fell 13.1 percent in November -- the biggest drop in 11 years, according to Reuters) and third-quarter current accounts figures (the trade deficit widened just 0.2 percent, which is better than expected, AP reports).

Coverage of the President's economic conference:

The New York Times: LINK

The Washington Post: LINK

USA Today: LINK

The Wall Street Journal's John Harwood and John McKinnon look at how President Bush's second-term agenda to overhaul Social Security and the tax code is playing (answer: a wary, mixed reaction), Noting that "the president may have a tough selling job not just with Democratic lawmakers but also with Republicans wary of forcing through measures unpopular with important constituencies." The first Wall Street Journal/NBC poll since the election shows that 50 percent of the public thinks it's a "bad idea" to privatize Social Security by letting people invest their taxes in the stock market, as opposed to 38 percent who approve of the plan. LINK

The President provokes mixed feelings among independent voters and strong opposition from Democrats, Harwood and McKinnon write. "The upshot is that the president, to sell his legislative program, will have to repeat the winning formula for his 2004 campaign: add just enough middle-of-the-road support to his strong political base to form a narrow majority."

"Overall, the survey shows Mr. Bush in a middling position a month after besting John Kerry by 51% to 48% in the popular vote and carrying 31 of 50 states. His 49% job approval rating matches his standing in October, though disapproval has waned slightly since then to 44% from 47%."

Fifty-one also seems to be a magic number -- the number of those who approve of President Bush's handling of the war on terrorism, and the number who disapprove of his handling of the economy.

Poll results: LINK

N. Gregory Mankiw of the Council of Economic Advisers makes the case for personal Social Security accounts on the Wall Street Journal's op-ed page. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's David Wessel offers up some criteria for evaluating the various plans to overhaul Social Security. LINK

The Wall Street Journal editorial board uses a bit of a hyperbolic approach to smack around the President's opponents who it says are using hyperbole to worry people about the state of the Social Security system. LINK

Greg Ip, G. Thomas Sims and Andrew Morse of the Wall Street Journal report that the President tried to mitigate European fears about a weak dollar and sooth the U.S.' trading partners by saying that a lower budget deficit and higher interest rates balance out the problem. LINK

The Financial Times reports that Fed chairman Alan Greenspan nixed the idea of going to Treasury to replace Secretary John Snow. LINK

The New York Times' Todd Purdum looks at Republican criticism of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. LINK

Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post Notes, "If Don Rumsfeld has lost Bill Kristol, he's losing his conservative base." LINK

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