It's now tempting to treat the President's inaugural address like the 1986 season of "Dallas" that was Pam Ewing's dream -- something that we all THOUGHT we experienced, but that -- it turns out -- didn't really happen.
To review: the very, very meticulous, media-savvy Bush White House had the President give a huge, historic speech in which there was unambiguously only one lead/headline possible -- the President was adapting a new paradigmatic extension of the Bush Doctrine that called for fundamentally remaking America's relationships around the world based on the supreme value of supporting democratization.
For more than 24 hours, all the Gang of 500 talked about was how big a deal all this was, how unachievable, how weighted with implications for Saudi Arabia, Russia, etc, etc, etc.
Then the White House started background sessions (supplemented by a "surprise" weekend briefing room drop-by by 41) in which they said that this was "nothing new," "long-term," "broad goals," etc., etc., etc.
So: the President was for democracy on Jan. 19, on Jan. 20, and today. But he didn't really mean to suggest any new policy in his historic, ambitious inaugural address.
For us, the biggest question begged is one we have been thinking a lot about -- does the Bush politico-governmental operation need the spur of an upcoming Bush campaign to have the drive and discipline to hit on all cylinders?
Or, put another way, from where do they derive energy, dynamism, and rhythm without the cutting Steve Schmidt press releases, the caustic Mary Matalin Imus appearances, or the cunning Ken Mehlman e-mails? (OK: the e-mails are in fact still coming . . . )
If the White House truly did not anticipate how the speech was going to get covered, we wonder -- in the wake of how it was in fact covered -- if they have thought about, oh, say, press management of the Iraqi elections and the State of the Union.
Because while the Thursday-Friday-Saturday narrative laid out above is of gripping fascination to the Gang (particularly those at the various Councils and Institutions and Institutes that make up Washington and New York), it didn't really break through to Real Americans.
But that won't be the case if there is a similar performance on these next two big-ticket events, or, really, all that is going on in DC in the next fortnight -- starting today.
Tens of thousands of anti-abortion activists are expected to gather in Washington today for the annual March for Life. The gathering commences at 10:00 am ET, and the walk begins at 1:00 pm ET near the White House and ends at the Supreme Court around 3:00 pm.
Prominent social conservative activists get to meet with Mr. Mehlman afterwards. At noon, President Bush calls the gathering from Camp David.
Who dares to question why the strongly anti-abortion president doesn't address the gathering in person? And there is tradition . . .
The Supreme Court meets sans Chief Justice Rehnquist at 10:00 am ET.
The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee meets to consider the nomination of Jim Nicholson to be the VA Secretary.
Democrats hold a press conference on the Hill to announce their agenda for the year at 10:30 am ET. Senate Republicans today are expected to detail their policy agenda for 2005 at 1:00 pm ET.