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White House Briefing: Dan Froomkin

Picking the Right Audience

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Wednesday, August 18, 2004; 11:34 AM

President Bush is off on a bus tour of Wisconsin and Minnesota today, his last campaign swing before a week's vacation at his ranch in Crawford, Tex.

There's been a lot of attention focused lately on how willing his campaign is to allow non-loyalists into his events.

Yesterday, in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, both campaign events were invitation-only, as usual.

When he spoke at a Boeing Co. plant outside in Ridley Park, Penn., you might have been forgiven for thinking that he was actually speaking to Boeing workers. But, just like when he spoke at a union hall in Las Vegas last week, the room was filled with invited guests. Workers had the day off.

Later in the evening, in his campaign rally in Hedgeville, W. Va., Bush had a rare encounter with a heckler.

There's more on those visits below. But first, what do we have to look forward to today?

Today's Bus Tour

Pete Yost writes for the Associated Press: "President Bush is trying to capitalize on what some analysts see as a political realignment in northwestern Wisconsin that could put the state in the president's column in November.

"Bush rolls out Wednesday on his third bus tour of the state since May," Yost writes.

Bush's first stop is the Kell Container Corp. in Chippewa Falls.

Then it's off to a lakefront park in Hudson for an "Ask President Bush" event.

Then he crosses over into Minnesota, for a rally at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

Who Gets In?

Mark Gunderman writes in the Chippewa Herald that tickets to the Chippewa Falls event were being distributed yesterday at Republican Party headquarters in Eau Claire.

"Inside the headquarters, party workers were making sure that the audience was made up of Bush supporters. People were let in one or two at a time and asked if they were Republicans.

"A 'no' answer wasn't an automatic disqualifier. A follow-up question was whether the voter was approaching the election with an open mind.

"Local campaign workers referred all press questions to a state spokesperson, who verified that the campaign was looking primarily to reward people who helped out in the past."

Jeffrey Hage writes in the Chippewa Herald that workers at the Kell Container Co. have the day off.

Minneapolis Star-Tribune columnist Nick Coleman writes about two people who aren't invited. They used to work "next door to the cardboard-box plant where Bush will speak today, in the factory of Mason Shoe Manufacturing" until all the machinery and jobs went to China.

Bob Von Sternberg writes in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, however, that in St. Paul, at least, there were no obvious attempts to weed out Kerry supporters.

"'I can't imagine why a Kerry supporter would even want to attend a Bush campaign rally, but we're not keeping anyone away,' said Peter Hong, a spokesman for the Bush campaign in Minnesota."

Craig Gilbert writes for the Milwaukee Journal and Sentinel:

"President Bush will get on a bus Wednesday and ride through western Wisconsin.

"Sound familiar?

"It should."

Here's a map showing the five recent Bush and Kerry bus tours.

But not everyone is jaded. The River Falls Journal, not far from Hudson, reports: "The latest buzz from the President Bush's re-election campaign is that the president will drive through River Falls early Wednesday afternoon.

"If the crowd is sizable, Bush may even stop briefly in downtown River Falls, possibly at Treasures From the Heart or Lund's Hardware.

" 'We're hoping he'll stop here,' said Kari Gaustad, of the Pierce County Republican Party and local communication director for the Bush/Cheney campaign. 'People are excited. I've been calling them to get the word out.' "

Backdrop Watch

I spoke this morning with Nancy Christensen, manager of the Treasures from the Heart thrift shop in River Falls, just to get a sense of what it's like to be a potentially impromptu stop on the campaign trail.

"We're hoping for a big sales day, and we're certainly going to stand outside and hope he comes in," said Christensen. The store -- with its motto "great used goods at pennywise prices" -- raises money for a local hospice.

Two local Republicans told Christensen that the president might be stopping by. And while no one from the Secret Service has officially visited yet, "There was a man in here yesterday for about an hour and a half, and he asked to use the bathroom and walked around, and I'd never seen him before, and he didn't buy anything."

The president "would get a fine reception," Christensen said. "There's a lot of people in this area who support him, as I've learned in the past 24 hours." But, she added, "You never know if there's going to be some Kerry supporters out on the street or not."

The Boeing Speech

First stop yesterday for the president was a Boeing factory outside Philadelphia. Noting that Boeing engineers last month loaded the first missile interceptor into a silo in Alaska, he augmented his standard stump speech with some statements on missile defense.

Mary Fitzgerald and Vanessa Williams write in The Washington Post: "President Bush reaffirmed his administration's commitment to building an antimissile system, accusing opponents of the program of 'living in the past.' "

David M. Halbfinger writes in the New York Times: "Saying he was 'living in the future,' President Bush promoted his plans for a missile defense system on Tuesday and said that its opponents were putting the nation's security at risk, as he courted aerospace workers in Pennsylvania before rallying supporters in West Virginia."

Peter Wallsten writes in the Los Angeles Times: "Bush has rarely raised the topic of the missile defense system -- designed to target and destroy incoming nuclear missiles -- since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks prompted the administration to oust the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and invade Iraq.

"But the program is in many ways a vivid symbol of the contrast Republican strategists hope voters will see in the Bush-Kerry contest: a strong-willed commander in chief with a vision for modernizing the military versus a more equivocal challenger."

Bring It On, Part II?

The last time Bush issued a public dare, it didn't turn out so great. But here was Bush yesterday: "We want to continue to perfect this system, so we say to those tyrants who believe they can blackmail America and the free world: you fire, we're going to shoot it down."

About the Visit

Tom Infield and Tina Moore write in the Philadelphia Inquirer: "Bush had nothing in particular to announce -- no new orders for the plant's CH-47 Chinook helicopters, no updates on the Pentagon's view of its new V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft program. He had come, he said, just to say thanks. It was clear he had also come to raise his profile in a key part of a key state that could go either way in the Nov. 2 election."

Infield and Moore note that the audience was invitation-only -- workers got the day off.

"Bush entered the plant for a photo opportunity inside a Chinook on the refitting assembly line. With a big wrench, he tightened a fitting or two, then signed a logbook and pressed the flesh with a few workers.

"The plant floor was all but empty. Workers had been given the day off. But workers on one Chinook had decided to come in to get a close-up look at Bush."

Here's a Reuters photo of a safety-goggled Bush wielding a wrench during his tour.

Here's the text of Bush's speech.

Philadelphia Humor

"You know, this is my 32nd visit to your state," Bush told the crowd. "Since I've been President. A lot of people are wondering why I'm coming so much -- it ought to be obvious to you; I like my cheesesteak 'Whiz with.'"

That, the New York Times's Halbfinger explains, "as anyone within a certain radius of South Philadelphia knows, translates as a Pat's King of Steaks sandwich slathered in Cheez Whiz and onions.

"Mr. Kerry made the mistake of ordering a cheese steak last August and requesting Swiss cheese - when the choices included Cheez Whiz, American and provolone -- for which he was widely lampooned."

The Hedgesville Visit

Vicki Smith writes for the Associated Press from Bush's rally in Hedgesville, W. Va., that "Bush drew his loudest applause when talking about social issues that resonate with conservatives including marriage and family. And he said what they wanted to hear when he declared that trying times demand 'a strong and abiding faith.' "

Here's the text of his speech in Hedgesville.

Bushism Watch

It's not often that the White House transcription team feels it has to annotate a presidential statement with a "(sic)". So you know it's going to be an odd one.

Here's Bush in Hedgesville last night: "Even though we didn't find the stockpiles we affected (sic) -- to find, Saddam Hussein had the capability of making weapons."

Here's how he hit the line earlier in the day at the Boeing plant, is: "I realize we didn't find the stockpiles we thought we would find. But I want you to remember, Saddam had the capability of making weapons, and he could have shared that capability with our enemies."

As Bush himself put it at the Boeing plant: "When the American President speaks, it better be clear for everybody to understand and he better mean it."

Heckler Sighting!

Rick Klein of the Boston Globe sent his colleagues the following pool report last night:

"For those who were inside during West Virginia event, there was a rare heckler sighting out on the field. The heckler, a bald young man in a plaid shirt, yelled out 'Where are the weapons?' and 'Would you send your children over there?' and 'That's not the whole truth.' He was shouted down by others in the crowd, and the president did not appear to be distracted. When he got loud, Bush supporters drowned him out by chanting, 'Four more years!' After his first few disruptions, some Bush aides went over and stood near him. When he yelled out 'That's not the whole truth,' they escorted him to the back of the event, and appeared to have a tense conversation with him. He was not detained, and was doing some media interviews despite the crowd's yells of 'media bias' for paying attention to him."

The T-Shirt Test

Richard Leiby reports in The Washington Post's Reliable Source column about John Prather, an Ohio math professor, and the T-shirt experiment he conducted a few weeks ago.

"The experiment: A college professor wears a Kerry-Edwards shirt to a rally for President Bush, then a Bush for President shirt to a John Kerry rally.

"Result: Bush people make the subject remove his shirt, then give him the boot. The Kerry people don't make a peep."

This blogger has Prather's entire e-mail on the topic.

Bush's Education Record

Diana Jean Schemo writes in the New York Times: "Critics and supporters alike agree that since Mr. Bush signed No Child Left Behind in January 2002, the law has imposed deep, undeniable changes on public education."

But, she writes, "Critics contend the law gives schools dozens of ways to fail, but does little to help them tackle the causes of low achievement among poor, minority and disabled children. Others complain that the law's reliance on standardized tests is unsound, that its strict rules conflict with existing state efforts and that its remedies for struggling schools are largely punitive. As a result, in the two and half years since Mr. Bush signed No Child Left Behind into law, a political backlash has curtailed its reach."

Faith-Based Watch

Don Lattin writes in the San Francisco Chronicle: "President Bush has gone 'under the radar' and around the Congress to spread his faith-based initiative throughout the federal government, according to a new study released Monday.

"The study, compiled by researchers at the Rockefeller Institute of Government in Albany, N.Y., is one of the first comprehensive looks at the Bush administration's efforts to redirect government grants to churches and other faith-based groups."

Here's the full report and supporting material.

Intel Watch

Josh White and Mike Allen write in The Washington Post: "Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld warned senators yesterday that moving hastily to centralize all U.S. intelligence-gathering efforts under a new national director could spawn confusion while the country is at war and could prevent vital information from getting to those on the battlefield. . . .

"Administration aides acknowledged yesterday the political imperative of responding vigorously to the commission but say they do not want to create problems for future presidents."

Sumana Chatterjee writes for Knight Ridder Newspapers: "Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld made it clear Tuesday that the Bush administration was still debating how to carry out critical details of intelligence reforms that President Bush already has announced. . . .

"Rumsfeld's comments indicated that the Bush administration announced its support for the Sept. 11 commission's calls for intelligence reform before it reached any final decision on how extensive those reforms would be."

Said Rumsfeld: "While the president has made a number of decisions and announced them, that he believes will improve the intelligence community, some aspects of his proposals are still under discussion."

Valerie Plame Watch

Joe Strupp writes in Editor & Publisher: "The New York Times has received two more subpoenas from prosecutors investigating who leaked the identity of former CIA officer Valerie Plame to the press, E&P has learned.

"The subpoenas, one for reporter Judith Miller and one for the Times, seek documents and other records related to the paper's reporting on Plame. Miller received a previous subpoena on Aug. 11 compelling her to testify before a federal grand jury investigating the case. The two latest subpoenas arrived over the weekend."

Halliburton Watch

Robert O'Harrow Jr. writes in The Washington Post: "Only hours after deciding to withhold some payments to Halliburton Co. because of questions about billing for its work in Iraq, the Army reversed itself yesterday and said it would give the giant contractor more time to justify its claims."

Church Watch

Alan Cooperman writes in the Washington Post: "Ten teachers of Christian ethics at leading seminaries and universities have written a letter to President Bush criticizing his campaign's outreach to churches, particularly its effort to gather church membership directories."

Here's the full text of the letter.

Twins Watch

"Bush gals to see gay vows" is the headline on Lloyd Grove's gossip column in the New York Daily News this morning. "When Washington-area beautician Erwin Gomez and his longtime partner James Packard celebrate their marital vows with 400 of their closest friends next month, two of Gomez's best customers will probably be in attendance: President Bush's twin daughters, Jenna and Barbara.

Grove writes that "the First Twins have become devotees of [Gomez's] popular eyebrow waxes over the past few weeks."

"I gave them the party invitation, and they said, 'That sounds great, we'd love to come -- it sounds like a lot of fun,' " Gomez told Grove.


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