Our twin leads from Thursday — campaign finance reform and the budget — carry on into today, but absent President Bush, who will be occupied with other matters, and possibly distracted by humming TVs all over Beltwayville showing the Enron hearings.
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Don't be fooled by what for now seems like a typical slow-starting Monday in Washington.
By the end of the week, we expect to have run the gamut from: a) a flirtation with Armageddon, with the House vote on campaign finance reform currently expected for Wednesday; b) the human face of the new impetus for the CFR vote, Ken Lay, taking the 5th; c) President Bush's decision on whether or not to dump nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain; d) Bush's meeting with the president of Pakistan; e) former Vice President Gore's first major policy speech since the 2000 election, focusing on foreign stuff, in New York City; f) the current Vice President's major foreign policy address to the same audience three days after Gore's; and g) the knighting of Rudy Giuliani; to z) the first quasi cattle call of the 2004 presidential election, with a handful of Democratic Senators pondering their national futures expected to address the California state party convention in Los Angeles over the weekend.
And if that isn't enough for you, there are the undercurrents: the Democratic party's frustrated-to-panicked struggle to gain traction against the president's wartime popularity, which is now officially and undeniably rubbing off on the president's party; and Democrats' related efforts to strike the right tone and message on the budget.
While Bush is running deficits, the Washington Post notes that "Democrats have thus far avoided the issue of how they would pay for their domestic initiatives while funding both the war on terrorism and Bush's tax cuts, the largest of which will not take effect for years. Republican claims to the contrary, neither Daschle nor Gephardt have called for repealing the cuts," but neither have they proposed a way to deal with the budget in a global way. ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A55320-2002Feb10.html )
Roll Call looks at White House and GOP efforts to capitalize on the president's approval ratings to pressure moderate Democratic Senators up for re-election in 2002. ( http://www.rollcall.com/pages/news/00/2002/02/news0211g.html )
Meanwhile, in the most blatant example yet of the president and his party trying to leverage his wartime popularity for political gain, Bush has allowed his image to be used in GOP TV and radio ads against a handful of Democratic Senators up for re-election in 2002, accusing them (in varying language) of "not doing their jobs" because they didn't support the president's version of the economic stimulus package.
The TV spots are running in Montana, Missouri and South Dakota; radio ads are running in Iowa, Missouri and Minnesota.
These ads got little notice because they were launched late last week amidst the Enron/Shays-Meehan frenzy. Democrats don't plan to let the spots go uncountered; expect response ads to go on the air in many of these states this week. And stay tuned for a year of accusations flying back and forth about politicizing the war.
Today, the Campaigner-in-Chief heads to the battleground state of Wisconsin to raise money for Gov. Scott McCallum, while First Lady Laura Bush appears on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."