"Access to the secretary is also an issue for many career officials. The most senior of them were only an e-mail away from Mr. Powell, who often replied within minutes. Now, they have to go through Miss Rice's chief of staff, Brian Gunderson, or [James] Wilkinson if they want to speak with her."
"Several senior officials -- assistant secretaries or equivalent -- have lost the only regular direct contact they had with the secretary. Since March, they have not been invited to her 8:30 a.m. senior staff meetings, which have been cut from daily to three times a week."
"Many of those who no longer attend the meetings come from the so-called management bureaus, prompting some officials to question Miss Rice's commitment to the department's management needs."
The New York Post's Deborah Orin has the details on Laura Bush's upcoming trip to the Middle East. LINK
The Washington Post's Dan Eggen reports that FBI documents to be released today will show that anti-war protesters who were questioned last summer before the party conventions in Boston and New York were participating in "pretext interviews" that did not lead to information about criminal activity, despite the claims at the time from investigators and Attorney General John Ashcroft that they were based on indications that some protesters were planning violent demonstrations. LINK
Bush Administration personality/strategy:
Our favorite part of New York Times Magazine Deborah Solomon's Q&A with Education Secretary Margaret Spellings set to appear in the upcoming issue this Sunday:
NYT Magazine: Does the president have a nickname for you?
Secretary Spellings: Yes. It's Margarita.
NYT Magazine: Is that something you like to drink?
Secretary Spellings: I do.
NYT Magazine: With salt?
Secretary Spellings: Frozen, no salt. Although my own self, I'm a little salty, as you can tell.
You could kind of guess from listening to Elisabeth Bumiller question Scott McClellan at the briefing yesterday that the headline on her article the next morning would be "White House Presses Newsweek In Wake of Koran Report." LINK
"Republicans close to the White House said that although President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were genuinely angered by the Newsweek article, West Wing officials were also exploiting it in an effort to put a check on the press."
"'There's no expectation that they're going to bring down Newsweek, but there is a feeling that there is no check on what you guys do,' said one outside Bush adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he did not want to be identified as talking about possible motives of the White House."
"'In the course of any administration,' he continued, 'you have three or four opportunities, at most, with a high-profile press mistake. And if you're going to make a point -- and no White House is ever going to love the way it's covered -- you have to highlight those places where there is a screw-up.'"
The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz offers a profile of Newsweek editor in chief Mark Whitaker. LINK
The New York Times' Carl Hulse writes that Senate GOPers want a quick conference on the highway to present to the White House but are under no illusion about avoiding a presidential veto if $11 billion can't be trimmed. Sen. George Allen gets a cameo for his "officious nanny" seatbelt amendment. LINK