The Note: George W. Bush Re-Examined
PHOTO: President George W. Bush appears pensive as he walks across the  Colonnade to the Oval Office Friday morning, Feb. 15, 2002.


By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )


  • BOSTON BOMB PLOT HATCHED WITHOUT FOREIGN HELP, AUTHORITIES BELIEVE: In the hours before Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was charged with the crime that could lead to the death penalty, authorities tell ABC News the 19-year-old accused terrorist told investigators the whole attack was devised from the Internet, ABC's BRIAN ROSS, RHONDA SCHWARTZ, MARTHA RADDATZ and MATTHEW MOSK report. The two brothers, a source said, had no direction or financing from governments or rogue groups overseas. Authorities said they now believe the two foreign-born brothers were inspired to violence by the Internet preaching's of al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki, the charismatic American-born radical jihadist, who has been dead now for more than a year. They used instructions from an al Qaeda Internet magazine to make their pressure cooker bombs. And Dzhokhar, the younger of the brothers, may not have even known about the plot until a week or so before the attack, sources told ABC News. Authorities also said it is increasingly likely that the older of the brothers, Tamerlan, devised the plot and did most of the work in pulling it together.
  • CAVEAT: Officials say they do not plan to take what the younger accused bomber has told them at face value, and that the probe will continue to examine whether there were overseas terror connections of any kind. "It would be in his interest to minimize his own role," one official said. But the younger brother is reportedly telling investigators is consistent with what many of those who knew Tamerlan were observing - his disgust with things American and Christian. Authorities are also looking closely at the six month trip Tsarnaev took last year to Russia and Chechnya, at a time that rebel groups there carried out a number of violent attacks.
  • G.W. BUSH ADVANCES IN ESTEEM BUT… After the most unpopular second term of the post-World War II era, George W. Bush has gained in public esteem as time since his presidency has passed - not that the public's ready yet to throw him bouquets. ABC News Pollster GARY LANGER notes that just over four years after he left office, with his presidential library about to open its doors, Americans divide on Bush's performance during his tumultuous eight years as president: Forty-seven percent approve while 50 percent disapprove in a new ABC News-Washington Post poll. Albeit tepid, that score represents progress for Bush. His overall approval rating is 14 percentage points higher now than at the end of his second term; approval for his handling of the economy is 19 points higher, and he's gained, although more slightly, on the Iraq war as well.
  • NOTED: Former President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush will sit down with ABC'S DIANE SAWYER as they prepare for the opening and dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Center this week. The interview will air tomorrow on "World News" which Sawyer will anchor from the George W. Bush Presidential Center on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas.


ABC's MICHAEL FALCONE: He's back. Anthony Weiner quietly took to Twitter yesterday after mostly steering clear of it - for obvious reasons - since his scandal-driven resignation from Congress nearly two years ago. Weiner has been hinting about his interest in running for mayor of New York City and it was no accident that his first tweets directed followers to a document that could provide a blueprint for his candidacy should he decide to jump into the race ("64 Ideas to Keep New York The Capitol of the Middle Class"). But if he runs he'll still face an uphill battle to overtake City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in an already-crowded Democratic primary field. A Quinnipiac University poll released last week put Weiner in second place behind Quinn with 15 percent support among New York City voters compared to 28 percent for her. The poll also showed Weiner underwater on favorability - 41 percent have an unfavorable view of him compared to 33 percent who see him favorably. "With his negatives," Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute said of Weiner, "the question is whether he can get much higher."

ABC's Z. BYRON WOLF: Get ready for some sequesterschadenfreude. Months after Washington gave up on averting the sequester, and with promised mass furloughs yet to kick in, the thousand automatic spending cuts seem to ready to inflict some of the first real mass pain with hours long waits at the nation's airports. Surely they're not secretly smug about this at the White House. Right? Critics say the administration has the power to move money around and keep air traffic control towers open and the airways flowing. Either way, will turning a political fight into a real-life consumer fight lead to a public reevaluation of sequester?

FUSION's JORDAN FABIAN: The question of the week on Capitol Hill has been whether the Boston Marathon bombing will derail immigration reform. The passage of an immigration bill is far from given, but the Boston attack isn't the reason why. Instead, keep an eye on the internal fight brewing in the Republican Party over whether to embrace immigration reform. This isn't a new dynamic, but the outcome could determine if the bill becomes law or languishes in Congress. Proponents of reform on the right, such as Marco Rubio, have been proactive about selling the bipartisan plan to the base. But there were signs on Monday that won't be an easy task. At an all-day hearing on immigration, opponents dug in their heels. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex., said that including a path to citizenship in a bill "jeopardizes the likelihood of passing any immigration reform." The same strident tone that doomed Republicans among Latino voters in 2012 reemerged at the hearing. Immigrant activist Gaby Pacheco gave tearful testimony asking senators to give her family the "opportunity to fully integrate." But minutes later, witness Mark Krikorian of the restrictionist Center for Immigration Studies quipped that the bill should be dubbed "No Illegal Alien Left Behind." Republicans have to ask themselves if they can hold out and sustain more moments like this or if they will embrace reform and take the issue off the table for the next election cycle.

ABC's TOM SHINE: Maryland, New York, Connecticut and Colorado have all passed extremely tough gun laws. But according to the Baltimore Sun, the National Rifle Association is taking just two of the four states - New York and Maryland - to court. Why? NRA President David Keene told Sun reporter Erin Cox, "We're already in court in New York, and we will be in court in Maryland. Our feeling is that you've got a case in two states in particular that are one-party states. They both have Democratic governors who when they close their eyes, see themselves in the White House." The paper says the NRA plans to file its lawsuit against Maryland's gun control measure shortly after Governor O'Malley signs it into law next month.


ROBERT REDFORD: WE NEED MORE WOODWARDS & BERNSTEINS. It's been more than 40 years since Watergate, but the old story - and its characters - made news once again with the Washington premiere of Robert Redford's new documentary about the scandal. And ABC's RICK KLEIN and YAHOO! NEWS's OLIVIER KNOX snagged red carpet interviews with the big stars of the night: Robert Redford, Bob Woodward, and Carl Bernstein. Redford's new documentary All the President's Men Revisited takes a historical look at the scandal - and the investigative reporting by Woodward and Bernstein - that ultimately led to President Richard Nixon's resignation. Redford, who says "we need a lot of people like Woodward and Bernstein" today, hopes the documentary is a good resource for young aspiring reporters who come to journalism in the age of the Internet. "The Internet changed everything," says Redford. "There's so many voices claiming the truth, it's harder and harder to get to it." WATCH:


-OP-ED: " MEHLMAN: BUSH LEGACY POINTS WAY FOR GOP FUTURE," by former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman. "The opening and dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Center this week offers Republicans an important reminder: We can win the votes of non-whites, but only if we try. President George W. Bush won an historic share of Hispanic voters and grew African- and Asian-American support by acknowledging the different and often difficult experiences of many minorities, while pursuing policies that recognized the universal appeal of freedom and opportunity. As Republicans look to the future, our party might revisit this approach. In the past quarter century, the GOP has won the popular vote just once - in 2004, the same year Republicans earned 27% of the non-white vote, its highest share in a generation. This was no accident. In the changing demography that is 21st century America, Republicans only win national elections by attracting new faces and voices. Good policy is good politics, and the anchor for President Bush's growth in non-white support was good public policy." More from Mehlman:

-JOHN SUNUNU HITS THE COMMENCEMENT CIRCUIT. From The Northern Virginia Daily's Kim Walter: "Former New Hampshire Governor and White House Chief of Staff John H. Sununu will speak at Shenandoah University's 2013 Commencement ceremony on May 11. … Miles Davis, dean of Shenandoah's school of business, said this year was no exception in the university's quest to bring a high-quality speaker to the school. 'We are a small university, and don't have to type of budget to get some big names that ask for $30,000 or $40,000,' he said. 'We believe spending that much for a speaker is a misuse of the students' tuition dollars.' However, Davis credited his extensive network with being able to invite Sununu to speak during the graduation exercises."


MORE FROM ABC'S GEORGE W. BUSH POLL. It's not unusual for a former president to advance in public esteem after he's left the fray of partisan politics, but neither is it guaranteed, notes ABC Pollster GARY LANGER. In polls four to five years after the end of their presidencies, George W. Bush's father gained 18 points in approval, but Bill Clinton slipped by 4 and Ronald Reagan lost 12. (Reagan later improved in retrospect; it just took more time.) Bush left office with just 33 percent approval, and a disapproval rating, 66 percent, that tied the disgraced Richard Nixon as the highest on record for a departing president in polls since the Roosevelt administration. Bush's approval rating on average across his second-term, for its part, stands alone as the lowest on record in modern polling. With his improvements since returning to Texas, Bush remains negatively rated on two central issues of his presidency, but more narrowly so than when he was in office. The public by 53-43 percent disapproves of his handling of the economy, compared with 73-24 percent in late 2008. And this poll finds that Americans by 57-40 percent disapprove of his decision to invade Iraq. That compares with a 65-33 percent negative rating for his handling the situation there in mid-2008.

SENATORS TANGLE ON BOSTON BOMBING'S ROLE IN IMMIGRATION OVERHAUL. A movement is rising in the U.S. Senate to put the brakes on the push for immigration overhaul, in light of the slowly emerging details about the foreign-born Boston Marathon bombing suspects. ABC's SUNLEN MILLER reports that Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., yesterday urged him to reconsider immigration legislation because of the bombings, and called for new hearings and a completely new Senate bill from the bipartisan Gang of Eight's proposal. "Before Congress moves forward, some important national security questions must be addressed," Paul wrote. "The facts emerging in the Boston Marathon bombing have exposed a weakness in our current system. If we don't use this debate as an opportunity to fix flaws in our current system, flaws made even more evident last week, then we will not be doing our jobs." He said immigration overhaul should not proceed until "we understand the specific failures of our immigration system."

BUT: Sen. Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, yesterday chastised those trying to draw a connection between the Boston marathon bombings and immigration overhaul, saying opponents of the immigration bill should not be so "cruel" to "exploit" the Boston marathon bombing to their advantage. "Last week, opponents of comprehensive immigration reform began to exploit the Boston Marathon bombing," Leahy, D-Vt., said at a hearing of the Judiciary Committee today. "I urge restraint in that regard. Refugees and asylum seekers have enriched the fabric of this country from our founding."

CHRIS CHRISTIE'S GUN GAMBLE. On Friday, the New Jersey Republican governor and possible GOP White House hopeful Chris Christie unveiled a new plan for tighter gun laws in the Garden State. Previously on the record as supporting some gun restrictions on the books in New Jersey - some of the toughest in the nation - the governor took an active turn on the gun issue, ABC's CHRIS GOOD. Christie proposed requiring mental-health adjudication records be added to background checks, banning the Barrett .50 caliber rifle, new and stiffer penalties for straw-purchasers and gun trafficking, parental consent for violent video game sales, and making it easier for doctors to mandate commitment or outpatient treatment for mental-health patients deemed dangerous. He added a mental-health working group to a state gun-violence task force, charged with making recommendations. Highlighting a political conundrum for Christie, the gun push will likely play well in his home state, which already restricts guns more aggressively than most - but it might raise concerns among Republicans elsewhere, posing a hurdle for Christie if he seeks the presidency in 2016. "It's only gonna hurt him," said Keith Appell, a former adviser to Steve Forbes' 2000 presidential campaign, the Swift Vets and POWs for Truth campaign, and Florida Gov. Rick Scott's 2010 campaign.

THE POLITICAL LANDSCAPE: Taking an active approach to gun control could be considered a low-cost move for Chris Christie, Monmouth University polling director Patrick Murray suggested. "Voters in New Jersey don't see this as a major issue that needed to be addressed in the state, but it helps him to address the charges that he's out of step on some of the social issues, namely gay marriage and abortion," Murray said. "The calculation that he made here is that in the wake of the Newtown tragedy, he had to do something. In New Jersey, there wasn't a requirement to do much of anything" because of the state's already-stringent gun laws, Murray said. "Those that were going to go after him on his gun stances were going to do that anyway."

ANTHONY WEINER RETURNS TO TWITTER. It was a sexually-explicit tweet that forced Anthony Weiner to abandon his New York Congressional seat nearly two years ago, and it's Twitter that Weiner evidently intends to use to help propel his political comeback, ABC's MICHAEL FALCONE notes. Weiner, who is eying a run for mayor of New York, rejoined Twitter on Monday with a new handle: @anthonyweiner His first tweet was simply a link to his publication: "Keys To The City: 64 Ideas to Keep New York The Capitol of the Middle Class." By creating a brand new account, which has been "verified" by social media service, Weiner is seeking to make a clean break with his old username - @repweiner - from which he sent a lewd photo of himself to a woman setting off the scandal that eventually led to the seven-term Democrat's resignation in June 2011. Since then, Weiner has only tweeted four times from his @repweiner account - twice to promote relief efforts for victims of Hurricane Sandy and once on Monday to direct users to @anthonyweiner.


"BOEHNER'S IMMIGRATION PATH: SLOW WALK COULD BE KEY," by Roll Call's David Drucker. "Unlike gun control, whether an immigration overhaul passes in the House is not reliant on first being successful in the Senate. As Jonathan Strong reported Monday in Roll Call, the issue isn't whether Speaker John A. Boehner backs a comprehensive rewrite of U.S. immigration law, but which legislative strategy the Ohio Republican favors. Will Boehner endorse a single vehicle modeled on a bipartisan compromise being negotiated by a working group of four House Democrats and four House Republicans? Or, will the speaker defer to the whims of House Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., and House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, whose panels are set to review key portions of whatever deal the House 'gang of eight' reaches? These two chairmen could exert major influence over whatever legislative product proceeds to the House floor, not to mention whether the chamber votes on one big bill or several smaller ones. If Boehner has a preference for pushing his conference to support the House group's comprehensive bill, which could be ready to unveil in May, he hasn't said so, although he has repeatedly praised its work. But the cagey speaker also has hyped Goodlatte's role, leaving open the possibility that he will endorse the Judiciary Chairman's call for immigration changes to be moved in multiple legislative vehicles."


@nycjim: Boston officials say 264 injured in marathon bombing via @reuters

@ron_fournier: Column - "Go Ahead, Admit It: George W. Bush is a Good Man"

@mattklewis: What if immigration reform fails? …

@BDayspring: Democrats, @DSCC Divided in South Dakota Senate Race between a legacy & a lobbyist #SDSEN

@HuffPostPol: Congress slows military efforts to save money

More ABC News