Morning Political Note: Knots

"'One of the things the White House will find is that the nature of Congress is not to stand up and applaud every time the White House does something,' Mr. Hastert said. 'Do we need to send a birthday card every time?'" ( )

"'If they try to make one candidate the anointed one, that can get you in trouble,' Mr. Lott said. 'It could backfire on them like it did in California. In states where you've got more than one credible candidate, they need to be careful. Eventually, you keep piling up those negative chits, and it gets to be a problem."

"Nicholas E. Calio, the White House legislative liaison, said Republican members of Congress were never satisfied that the president was doing enough. 'If they had their way,' he said, 'we'd have the president standing in the elevators and at the steps waiting to talk to people on their way to vote.'"

"Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director, … [a]sked about feelings among Republican lawmakers with the White House, … said, 'I have not sensed that there is dissatisfaction beyond just the typical nervousness during an election year.'"

"Most recently, many Republicans expressed concern that Mr. Bush did not veto the campaign finance bill, which Democrats hailed as an important victory. 'Some people were hoping they'd be more aggressive,' said Senator Don Nickles, the No. 2 Senate Republican. 'In a perfect world he would have vetoed it,' Mr. Lott said."

And today brings another semi-strong criticism of President Bush from the right. Bob Bartley uses his Monday The Wall Street Journal column to question just how much the president has learned from 41. In "Bush: Beyond the Bad Patch," Bartley gags over the steel and campaign finance decisions (naturally), but offers an array of other criticisms, including that the administration isn't fighting hard enough for its judicial nominees and, significantly, questioning the president's toughness and consistency in prosecuting the war on terror.

Democrats are irked by some of President Bush's recess appointments, particularly RNC counsel Michael Toner to the Federal Election Commission and Gerald Reynolds as assistant secretary of education. Roll Call gets Senators Feingold and Kennedy on the record, as well as this: "[S]everal sources said the White House decided to temporarily bypass the uncertain Senate confirmation process specifically to make sure Toner is in place for the critical drafting of new campaign finance regulations." ( )

That story, and a The Wall Street Journal editorial celebrating the recess appointment of Reynolds, reminds us to make a point we've been meaning to make: it used to be that a presidential recess appointment of a controversial nominee would kick up a much bigger dust storm, but Bush and Rove have made this practice so routine that such events have become non-events, except (mostly) to the conservative constituencies who applaud them on substantive and symbolic grounds (ibid, Frank Rich's point).

Today in New York, Senator Joe Lieberman will speak at New York University's business school on "Ethics in the Post -Enron Era." See below for details.

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