Morning Political Note: Jan. 28

This is not your typical "Days of 43" Monday, which are usually kind of sleepy and slow.

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News Summary

For our regular but impatient readers, here's the lead straight up (or at least as straight up as we can make the words accommodate the confusing reality):

The State of the Union address Tuesday meant this already was going to be a high-stakes week for the Bush administration. Throw in the seemingly likely prospect of an unprecedented GAO lawsuit against the administration to force the release of the energy task force records, due to be filed this week by a disgruntled GAO chief who says "Talk is cheap."

Add in that New York Times /CBS poll showing Americans "perceive Republicans as far more entangled in the Enron debacle than Democrats, and their suspicions are growing that the Bush administration is hiding something or lying about its own dealings with the Enron Corporation before the company filed for bankruptcy protection." ( http://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/27/business/27POLL.html )

Stir, and set pan aside.

Then get out a whole other mixing bowl because, despite the intense focus on the SOTU, the energy task force and Enron, and the economy, there are plenty of foreign policy stories simmering out there, any of which could boil over and overwhelm all things domestic.

Beyond the war on terrorism in general, there's captive Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, the big National Security Council meeting today to deal with the detainee question, and the ongoing chaos in the Middle East. Plus, the president's got some foreign travel coming up, and meetings with foreign leaders in Washington today and this week.

President Bush will meet with Afghan interim leader Hamid Karzai this afternoon. His only other currently scheduled public event is a photo op with the NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers. The Wall Street Journal says Bush will meet privately with members of both parties to talk about prescription drug costs.

And of course, to paraphrase the old joke, "How do you get to the Capitol to deliver the State of the Union?" "Practice, practice, practice." We'd expect the president to be doing some of that today, too.

If you don't know that the State of the Union will focus on three areas — the war against terror, homeland security, and the economy — well, then, the White House needs to recalibrate its effective pre-event message machine, because somehow you have slipped through the cracks.

Let's see how enduring the message of the speech winds up being the wake of many more Enron disclosures certain to come. That story is everywhere, from Time's cover to this morning's morning shows (new whistleblower Ceconi on Good Morning America, and Mrs. Lay and kids on Today, making the first serious bid to rehabilitate and recontextualize the image of Ken, complete with B-roll of the silent and strolling former corporate titan).

One paragraph from the Wall Street Journal puts the Big Speech in the political context within which some of our best sources view things: "With polls showing Americans united behind the president's war effort, aides believe his emphasis on security will overshadow political squabbles about Enron and the economy. Democrats, however, already are drafting a campaign to focus attention on the economy, deficits and Enron."

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