WASHINGTON, June 15
Perhaps the tensile dexterity of the fingers of our Googling monkeys has given way, but the President's trip to Pennsylvania yesterday and his fiery speech last night don't seem to have received quite the level of coverage that they might have.
The most supreme informal power of the presidency -- the bully pulpit gambit -- works only when the commander in chief successfully bypasses the filter -- or dominates it.
The Bush Administration has been expert at using (sometimes) peripheral media to extend the reach of the presidential megaphone beyond the MSM and outside the conventional three-network-newscast narrative that still exerts much influence on those factors that limit the office's hard powers.
In the 2004 campaign, it worked SO well in part because the message (whatever it was) could often be eclipsed by the personal connection folks had with the man himself.
But don't make too much of the alternative world when thinking about Bush v. Kerry, because Bush won the network/MSM wars more often than not too.
Sophists that we are, we can argue the "Bush half full" argument as well as the "Bush half empty" one in assessing the current state of play.
However, it is clear that on the interconnected issues of moving some Social Security legislation, pushing up the key/right presidential poll numbers, and getting the Gang of 500 (including Republican members) to snap out of their "he's a lame duck" mindset, that the White House could use more MSM real estate and more positive coverage therein, locally and nationally.
And/but that brings us to today's Rosetta Stone text, from the quill pen of Harvard scholar and AP writer Ron Fournier, which suggests some possible reasons for all this:
"The Bush campaign succeeded in its 2004 strategy -- to make the election a referendum on Kerry and not the incumbent. Now, every day is a referendum on Bush." LINK
The man can write these sentences with authority:
"One reason is that voters are no longer judging him in comparison to Kerry. Bush, like other second-term presidents, is facing the prospect of lame-duck status. He's up against his own record, in a sense, and that's never an easy task."
His story includes on-the-record quotes from Rep. Tom Cole, Ken Khachigian, Charlie Black, and Joe Gaylord.
Fournier nicely balances optimism and pessimism in his final four paragraphs: "Khachigian said Bush is being worn down by stiff Democratic opposition and by his bullish agenda. 'In a campaign, you're less likely to put up provocative ideas, you use much more global messaging and fewer specifics,' he said. 'What he's paying the price for now is being specific and provocative, especially on Social Security.'"
"Cole compared Bush to President Truman, who never shied from a tough issue and often paid a political price. 'He was pretty farseeing. What you liked about Truman is what in the short term makes it politically challenging, and I'd say the same thing about Bush,' Cole said. 'He likes to make tough decisions.'"
"Cole's analogy may not be comforting to Republicans. For all his tough stands and history's opinion, Truman left office with low poll ratings after the 1952 elections. And his Democrats lost control of Congress."
And/but/to/be/sure, Mr. Bush's remarks at last night's Presidential Dinner would have, in other circumstances, drawn bigger and "better" coverage.
Simply put: He Fought Back.
Mike Allen and Michael Fletcher of the Washington Post take Note of President Bush's red-meat phrasing last night at the $23 million Republican mega-fundraiser as he framed the Democrats' role in the Social Security debate as obstructionist, "beginning to insulate himself against possible defeat on Social Security," according to Republican congressional aides. LINK
The Los Angeles Times' Ed Chen takes Note of the dual purpose of President Bush's fundraising activities -- fill the coffers and boost his own legislative agenda. LINK
"Bush's escalation of rhetoric came as his agenda is stuck on hold while Democrats boast that they hope to block his Social Security plans by refusing to negotiate," writes the New York Post's Deborah Orin. LINK
"Bush's get-tough speech offered clues to his strategy for turning things around at a time some analysts have started to paint him as a lame duck."
As they say on "American Morning": only time will tell.
Other must reads today include:
1. John Fialka's short (but detail-laden) summary in the Wall Street Journal of where the energy bill stands, including a smart mining of an OMB report that says that "The president will oppose 'any climate change amendments that are inconsistent with the president's climate change strategy,' which remains centered on voluntary emissions-reduction efforts." (Note question: But would he veto an energy bill solely on that basis?)
(Carl Hulse's similar take in the Times of New York says the various approaches to emissions could "stall" the ball through the summer. LINK)
2. Yoichi Dreazen's Journal think piece on the Bush Administration's seeming lack of a UN strategy. " . . . . Mr. Bolton has yet to lay out a concrete agenda for changing the world body if he is confirmed. And the Bush administration has yet to articulate its preferred answers to far-reaching questions about the institution's future -- such as whether and how to expand the Security Council -- that are being debated by U.N. officials and nations such as China, Russia, Germany and Pakistan. Similarly, U.S. officials are resisting U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's deadline to push through a slate of proposed changes by September, when the world body celebrates its 60th anniversary. U.N. diplomats say the U.S. also is sitting out the early horse-trading and politicking by diplomats hoping to succeed Mr. Annan when his term expires at the end of 2006."
3. USA Today's Susan Page's examination of the coalitions that evangelical Christians have formed with divergent activists who have been their adversaries as they've widened their agenda to include foreign and social policy issues like fighting religious persecution, war, AIDS, poverty, and the environment. LINK
"Evangelicals' engagement on a wider range of issues and their willingness to forge surprising coalitions reflect the growing maturity and sophistication of the most powerful emerging force in American politics today. And while the alliances formed on, say, the Sudan aren't likely to change anyone's mind when the topic turns to abortion or same-sex marriage, they could help moderate the bitter tone of the nation's politics."
Big props to Rich Cizik, who has another positive article he can send to NAE members now.
And, you reading done, you naturally ask us: "What's happening?"
Well, five unions, five million workers (in spirit), a new coalition, maybe a new federation, 50 labor leaders: they all divide to unite, here, in Washington at 12:30 today. The Change to Win Coalition (as Harold Meyerson says, "boy, is that ever a provisional-sounding and utterly clunky name") officially debuts. Terence O'Sullivan of the Laborers, James Hoffa of the Teamsters, Joe Hansen of UFCW, Bruce Raynor of Unite-Here, and Andy Stern of SEIU will be present.
After the press conferences, the 50 union officials will meet to write a constitution and bylaws for the new organization.
The President starts the day with a 10:55 am ET speech on standard-fare energy at the Reagan Trade Center.
At 7:00 pm ET, he attends the Congressional Picnic Reception on the South Lawn of the White House followed by performances by Tom Wopat ("Dukes of Hazard" star and country musician); Harolyn Blackwell (opera singer) and Shirley Jones (actress/Shirley Partridge).
ABC News' Linda Douglass reports that the Senate is expected to debate and vote on an amendment to the energy bill which would reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil by 40 percent over the next 20 years. The bill is sponsored by Maria Cantwell, a Democrat, and is short on specifics. But sources in both parties think it may pass.
The House Ways and Means Committee convenes a full committee meeting at 10:30 am ET to conduct an "informal markup" of legislation relating to CAFTA. At 1:00 pm ET, a group of members of Congress holds a news conference to express opposition to CAFTA.
RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman is on the road today: he will make an appearance at no less than three press conferences in Richmond, Norfolk, and a final stop in Northern Virginia. Mehlman is traveling to "celebrate the slate of Republican candidates" selected in yesterday's state primary as the GOP's candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general.
The National Governors Association -- led by Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) and Gov. Mark Warner (D-VA) -- holds a press briefing at 9:00 am ET to discuss its bipartisan efforts with Congress and the White House on overhauling Medicaid. At 10:00 am ET, the Senate Finance Committee holds a hearing on "The Future of Medicaid: Strategies for Strengthening American's Vital Safety Net."
At 10:00 am ET, members of the Navy Memorial and Naval Medical Education and Training Command salute the men and women "caregivers" in uniform with a formal ceremony in front of the U.S. Navy Memorial.
The executive vice president of the AFL-CIO and director of Immigration Policy Research discuss ways to strengthen federal labor and employment protection for immigrant workers beginning at 8:30 am ET at the AFL-CIO headquarters.
At 10:30 am ET, the House Education and Workforce Committee will hold a hearing on the Pension Protection Act, with several corporate and academic bigwigs acting as witnesses.
Former representative Bruce Morrison (R-CT) joins the inspector general of the State Department and the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies for an oversight hearing on "The Diversity Visa Program." The hearing, held by the House Judiciary Committee, begins at 4:00 pm ET.
The Task Force on the United Nations -- co-chaired by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell -- delivers its report to the and both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees at 10:00 am ET. A press briefing with Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) follows.
Iraqi labor leaders hold a 10:30 am ET press briefing on Capitol Hill as they mark the halfway point in a 15-day visit to the U.S.
At noon, former leaders of Iraq, Algeria, Malaysia, and France announce the formation of an "Emergency Committee for Iraq" and discuss the next steps in the preparation for Saddam Hussein's legal defense at the National Press Club.
Bush does the Keystone thing:
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports, essentially, that President Bush attempted to boost his poll numbers by stumping for Sen. Rick Santorum and the Republican Party in Pennsylvania. LINK
Chatting with younger-than-college-age students in State College, PA, the President entreated them to join the Social Security discussion by contacting Washington representatives, but some youthful audience members surmised that entitlement worries can wait. LINK
Also from the Philadelphia Inquirer: "Coming to State College gave Bush the opportunity to address two of the groups he hopes will find his ideas appealing -- family farmers, who have to pay both the employer and employee share of the payroll tax, and young people, many of whom wonder about what will be left of Social Security when their time comes to collect." LINK
"The political risks of his decision to push doggedly ahead with his ambitious agenda were on full display as Mr. Bush appeared twice in Pennsylvania, a battleground state with one of the oldest populations in the nation, alongside Mr. Santorum, one of his most ardent supporters on Social Security," writes Dick Stevenson in the New York Times. LINK
"In part because of his support for the changes sought by the president, including the establishment of individual investment accounts and benefit cuts for future generations of middle- and upper-income workers, Mr. Santorum is trailing in his 2006 re-election race and is perhaps the No. 1 target next year for Democrats as they seek to cut into or wipe out the Republican majorities in the House and Senate."
The local newspaper's coverage is pleasantly (for the West Wing) straightforward: LINK
Protestors, protestors: LINK
Joe Paterno gets the limo ride of his life: LINK
The Washington Post's Peter Baker and Glenn Kessler look at the new interest that Bush is showing in meeting political dissidents -- part of his second-term push to create a powerful symbolic link between the United States and those who have fought human rights abuses in their own countries. The duo Note the juxtaposition of the meetings with the criticisms toward the U.S. for alleged abuses at prison facilities in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and elsewhere. LINK
A page A-1, triple-bylined-dual-datelined article in the Wall Street Journal concludes that "The Bush administration and some Republican leaders in Congress are scrambling to beef up legislation regulating mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that they see as too easy on the scandal-scarred companies. The White House, which has long sought to rein in Fannie and Freddie, has told House Speaker Dennis Hastert that a bill which last month sailed through the House Financial Services Committee on a bipartisan 65-5 vote failed to meet many of its key goals, according to a senior administration official. The administration and some Republican allies are seeking to prevent it from going to the House floor for a vote in its current form."
Writes the New York Times' Robert Pear: "As companies devise insurance policies for the new Medicare drug program, federal officials are pressing them to offer a surprisingly generous array of prescription drug choices, according to industry executives." LINK
"Medicare will rely on private health plans to deliver drug benefits to the elderly and the disabled. Insurers worry that Medicare officials' insistence on a robust drug benefit will make it hard for them to control the costs of the program. But the officials say their policies will ensure that all 41 million beneficiaries have affordable access to the drugs they need."
"Nearly six in 10 Americans think global warming likely is underway and as many accept that human activities play a significant role. But -- like the Bush administration -- most part company with scientists' calls for prompt government action," writes ABC News' Gary Langer.
"That lack of urgency stems from perceptions of the hazard: While a vast majority, nearly eight in 10, believe global warming will pose a serious threat to future generations, far fewer -- just one-third -- think it'll affect their own lives. The majority who see the risk as a distant one overwhelmingly prefer more study to immediate action. The majority view aligns in this respect with the Bush administration, which has focused on uncertainties in climate science, urged further study and supported only voluntary steps through 2012 to slow greenhouse gas emissions. The administration has rejected the Kyoto treaty on global warming, which went into effect in February and now has 150 signatories."
The New York Times' Andrew Revkin writes of Phil Cooney's sudden departure from the Administration to Exxon Mobile but doesn't know what Cooney will do for the oil company. LINK
Jonathan Weisman of the Washington Post has the details of the debate that sent the Central American Free Trade Agreement out of the Senate Finance Committee yesterday by a vote of 11 to 9, including criticism for the White House for being less than willing to consult with Congress. LINK
The New York Times' Sheryl Gay Stolberg Notes that Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor, who earlier voted to cut off debate on John Bolton's nomination, seems to have changed his mind. "'If they continue to be reasonable,' Mr. Pryor said, referring to Democrats, 'and the White House won't provide information, I want to reserve the right to change my vote. I think this is a matter of balance of power and checks and balances.'" LINK
Duke Cunningham's "deal:"
Anne Kornblut in the New York Times suggests that the deadlocked ethics committee, whenever it gets going, might consider Rep. Cunningham's case. LINK
Roll Call's Paul Kane reports that some Senate Republicans are prepping to move a Supreme Court nominee through the process quickly by planning to run out the clock -- or at least announcing the nominee later in the summer to give activists who would go after a nominee less time to prepare, according to Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).
The Washington Post's Mike Allen and Brian Faler pore over lawmakers' disclosure forms and trips paid for by outside groups, which Senators on both sides defend as a necessary part of the job. LINK
Rick Klein of the Boston Globe reports on the deep pockets of Sen. John Kerry; he earned between $14,700 and $42,300 from his personal investments, while his wife Teresa Heinz Kerry has made millions. Senior senator Ted Kennedy discloses his estimated earnings between $440,000 and $3.3 million from his trust funds which does not include his Hyannisport rental income or his Senate salary. LINK
"Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) made $822,000 last year from the sale of a controversial real estate investment with an Anchorage developer who had obtained a huge federal contract with his help, records show," the Los Angeles Times' Chuck Neubauer reports. LINK
The financial disclosure of Sen. Jon Corzine (D-NJ) show the former head of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. did quite well -- between $425,000 and $1.6 million worth of well -- last year after those who handle his blind trust managed his investments by betting Goldman stock would take a tumble, Bloomberg's Ryan Donmoyer and Kristen Jensen report in their examination of the Senate millionaires' club.
Suzanne Nelson of Roll Call examines the growing list of Senators who now disclose their net worth as more than $1 million (complete with a "to be sure" paragraph about spousal wealth!).
Roll Call's Mark Preston reports that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) is looking to redefine his party's agenda and message in the coming months with a new task force/war room designed to move away from the social issues that have dominated the agenda and focus on other legislative priorities -- to the relief of some in the Republican ranks.
Erin Billings and Ben Pershing of Roll Call look at House Democrats' ginned-up ethics fight, as Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) yesterday led the charge calling for the resignation of ethics committee chairman Doc Hastings and Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) accused Rep. James Sensenbrenner of violating House rules during a hearing.
The Washington Post's Renae Merle details the $409 billion defense appropriations bill that the House is expected to consider this week -- including the cuts to the Lockheed Martin cruise missile program and the Northrup Grumman Corp. program to build a Navy destroyer. LINK
"House Republicans beat back a Democratic challenge Tuesday to Majority Leader Tom DeLay, defeating an effort to cut $200 million from NASA's Moon-Mars initiative and spend the money instead to aid local police," AP reports. LINK
Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ) is reviving Dick Armey's "unity dinners" to help bring consensus to his caucus on immigration reform. LINK
House of Labor:
In his Washington Post column, Harold "Villaraigosa" Meyerson details what's happening in the unraveling AFL-CIO coalition. LINK
"In a sense, the leaders of American labor -- people who have spent their lives at the bargaining tables -- are engaging one another in a massive game of chicken. But such games can take on a life of their own, with all manner of unforeseen consequences. The Change to Win Coalition may begin as a modest group devoted to coordinating some joint organizing efforts by its member unions. But if those efforts grow, so will the financial demands on its members, which will then find themselves paying dues to both a full-fledged federation, so long as they stay in the AFL-CIO, and a new group that could look more and more like a federation rival. Under those circumstances, predicts the dissident leader, 'We're not going to pay double dues.'"
"If nothing else, today's declaration ensures that the federation's coming convention -- originally conceived as a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the merger of the AFL and the CIO -- will be a bitter affair. It was never wholly clear what there was to celebrate: At the time of the 1955 merger, 35 percent of the U.S. workforce was unionized; today that figure stands at just 12.5 percent. Unions are surely not the primary authors of their own demise, but to the extent that they are responsible, their decline can be traced back to a fateful error made at the time of the merger."
The Clintons of Chappaqua:
Ray Hernandez and Glen Justice put a Clintonesque spin on the financial disclosure forms released yesterday. LINK
The New York Post headline above Ian Bishop's write-up of Sen. Clinton's financial disclosure form: "Hill-ionaire Author" LINK
The Observer's Ben Smith explores the contours the Hillary Clinton/Rupert Murdoch relationship and ponders if a "nonagression pact" may be in place. LINK
"Jean Schmidt, the Clermont County Republican whose political career hit bottom last year when she lost an Ohio Senate primary, won a shot at an even bigger job Tuesday night -- a seat in the U.S. House. LINK
". . . In the Republican primary, with 100 percent of the seven counties in the 2nd Congressional District reporting, Schmidt edged former Rep. Bob McEwen by about 700 votes."
More: "Perhaps the biggest surprise of the early results was the weak showing of Hamilton County Commissioner Pat DeWine, who finished fourth behind Schmidt, McEwen and state Rep. Tom Brinkman Jr."
Iraq war veteran Paul Hackett won his Democratic primary handily.
The Washington Post's Michael Shear wraps all the results from yesterday's primary in Virginia, Noting that in addition to the Kilgore v. Kaine match up now official for governor, moderate Republicans prevailed in their bids for nominations in House of Delegates races, despite the efforts of anti-tax advocates who went after them for passing a tax hike. LINK
Pat Healy offers up a must-read political memo in the New York Times where he gets a couple of Democratic campaigns to muse openly about how they can best use the mayor's big stadium defeat (Manhattan) and "flip-flop" (Queens). LINK
And though Anthony Weiner's offer to fly with the mayor to Africa is entertaining, it is pollster Lee Miringoff who nicely sums up the problem facing the Democratic field.
"'If Bloomberg inspired only love or hate in voters, you could write off the folks who love him and go after those who hate him,' said Lee M. Miringoff, the director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion. 'Bloomberg is in the 'doing O.K.' category, and 'doing O.K.' is much harder to lay a glove on . . . '"
Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields has filed a complaint against City Council Speaker Gifford Miller for a taxpayer funded mailing distributed well outside his Upper East Side district. The New York Times' Randall Archibold has the story. LINK
Wasn't a similar complaint levied against then City Council Speaker Vallone four years ago to very little effect?
Doug Forrester and Jon Corzine kept their remarks "relatively mild" in their first joint appearance of the general election campaign, reports the New York Times' Kocieniewski. LINK
The AP has the latest Quinnipiac University poll results out of the Garden State. LINK
"U.S. Sen. Jon Corzine, the Democratic candidate for governor, has a 10-point advantage over his GOP challenger, but voters prefer Douglas Forrester's property tax reduction plan, according to a poll released Wednesday."
Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (R-Md.) will start exploring a Senate bid today. LINK
Eliot Spitzer criticized Gov. Pataki of doing "too little too late" on lobbying reform and answered the pot smoking question all in one day. LINK
The Hill's Alexander Bolton looks at Gov. Bill Richardson's (D-NM) efforts to change the nomination calendar with an early Western primary that could work to his favor. LINK
The Washington Post's Peter Slevin was in Des Moines yesterday with former Sen. John Edwards, who talked about poverty and moral values with housing advocates, factory workers, and Democrats raising money, and describes Edwards' post-presidential campaign quest to invent himself anew on issues and create a platform of experience, as well as an image, for himself. LINK
Thomas Beaumont lays out in today's Des Moines Register Edwards' palpable frustration with the President's agenda as it relates to his most recent campaign -- alleviating poverty. At the Iowa Coalition for Housing and the Homeless, the once (and again?) presidential candidate/UNC think tank leader implicitly questioned where President Bush's moral values are now as he delivers budgets to Capitol Hill that he says threaten child care availability. Summer plans for the seemingly tireless crusader? Well, he will in fact swing by Iowa and (you probably guessed it) New Hampshire. LINK
In the Sioux City Journal, Todd Dorman writes that Edwards is certain the old the ask and ye shall receive philosophy will hold true in regards to the current "cause of his life," which he is talking up vigorously before opening his mouth about a presidential bid. LINK
One of our favorite New Hampshire Democrats passes along this invite:
"Sen. Joe Foster and Sen. David Gottesman cordially invite you to a reception with Sen. John Edwards, Honoring New Hampshire's Democratic State Senators Nashua Country Club Fairway Street Nashua, NH, Tuesday, June 21, 2005, 4:30-6:00 PM, $50 Patron -- $250 Host"
That precedes the $1,000 a plate dinner with Edwards and State Sen. Sylvia Larsen.
There's a word missing in this AP lede, and we think it's "intend." But read it for yourself.
"Even though he has visited New Hampshire and does not run for the White House in three years, Sen. Sam Brownback said he's sticking to his two-term pledge in the Senate." LINK
"'That's what I said when I first ran, and I intend to stick to that,' Brownback, whose second term expires in 2010, told The Topeka Capital-Journal on Monday."
"Brownback, meanwhile, acknowledges he will need to boost his name recognition to have a chance at the GOP presidential nomination in 2008."
"The Republican has visited key primary states, such as Iowa and New Hampshire, but has not set a timetable for deciding whether to pursue the nomination."
A bill to protect children from sex offenders doesn't come cheap. "The expense of the new law, signed Tuesday by Gov. Tom Vilsack, is projected to more than double over the next five years, topping $12.4 million in 2010." LINK
Gov. Vilsack also authorized a financial reward for himself and other state officials by boosting salaries yesterday. LINK
The Des Moines Register reports that an anti-gambling effort is cropping up in Iowa. LINK
The Schwarzenegger era:
Democrats in California's state legislature have thrown up their hands and cried "uncle," abandoning their plans to add billions of dollars in programs to Gov. Schwarzenegger's proposed state budget, and are getting ready to vote for his plan. Instead, they're turning their attention to this fall's special election, reports the Los Angeles Times' Evan Halper. LINK
The San Francisco Chronicle's Marinucci/Wildermuth duo Noticed Gov. Schwarzenegger talked a lot about Prop. 13 yesterday despite the fact it doesn't have much to do with the current ballot initiatives and sensed a strategy forming. LINK
". . .Schwarzenegger made it clear he'll spend much more time talking about his opposition to tax increases than he will about the details of his initiatives."
The Washington Post's Alan Cooperman takes a fascinating look at how some religious leaders, while remaining true to their beliefs, are starting to find ways to look across the partisan gulf to find ground between people on either side of the ideological spectrum who share some common ground. On issues like poverty, hunger, and even gay marriage and abortion, there appears to be a growing dialogue between groups like evangelicals, Jews, and Muslims, Cooperman writes -- but there remains an element of political positioning and advantage that stretches beyond just the altruistic. LINK