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In the Loop

Truckin' On

By Al Kamen
Monday, April 4, 2005; Page A19

We're halfway through the famed "60 Stops in 60 Days" tour to tout the Bush administration's ideas on Social Security. Actually, President Bush and Vice President Cheney and other administration officials already have logged more than 100 events in 32 states.

Despite decidedly mixed results -- two polls showed fewer people approving Bush's handling of the issue after the tour started than before -- administration officials are determined to keep on truckin' for yet another month to places such as Red Bluff, Calif., and Noblesville, Ind.

Vice President Cheney has put in miles for Social Security changes. (Scott Erskine - AP)

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More In the Loop

A Washington Post poll midway through the first month showed a teensy bump up in public support for private accounts and found Americans no more likely to trust Bush on Social Security over the Democrats, who, despite offering nary one iota of creative input, are still more likely to be trusted to do a good job handling the issue.

Republicans say recent polls show they are succeeding in a critical goal of drawing attention to the issue -- ironically achieved with major help from well-funded and ferocious opposition from opponents such as AARP.

"When protesters show up at an event, it shows up on TV," an administration supporter on the Hill said. "Conflict creates news."

So that means the White House won't continue to bar naysayers from smoothly running and deadly dull "town hall" events? Ummmm . . . maybe not.

Quote of the Week

The virtually certain winner initially looked to be Colorado Gov. Bill Owens (R), who hosted a Western Governors' Association symposium on Native American gambling in Denver. The anti-gambling Owens got kudos from participants for arranging the event so tribal gambling advocates could lobby government folks, according to the online publication New West.

The coverage failed to note one teensy glitch, New West said. That was when Owens suggested that a speaker get his microphone functioning quickly because "the natives are getting restless."

However, an Owens spokesman later said the remark was "inadvertent," thereby diminishing the quality of the entry for Loop purposes.

But there was nothing inadvertent about a quip from Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.), second-most senior member of the Congressional Black Caucus. Rangel was interviewed on New York Public Television WLIW21 last Monday night and asked for his quick reaction to various people. The first was Bush.

"Well," Rangel said. "I really think that he shatters the myth of white supremacy once and for all; it shows that, in this great country, anybody can become president."

We have a winner.

A Rush of Condolences

The deaths of world leaders always prompt a flood of news releases from groups hailing the late leader's accomplishments. Timing these missives can be important.

For example, an "embargoed until needed" statement from the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America came in shortly after 1 p.m. Friday, 25 hours before Pope John Paul II died.

The group "notes with great sadness the passing of Pope John Paul II," the release said, lauding, among many things, his "denunciation of anti-Semitism as a sin against God. . . . "

The statement included this instruction for reporters: "Please note that this statement has been issued in advance of the Jewish Sabbath."

Sure was. They could have delayed the sadness another five hours until the Sabbath actually began.

On the Move

Major movement at the Justice Department. Alice S. Fisher, formerly a deputy in the criminal division and of late a partner at Latham & Watkins, is going back to government work as head of the division. She worked on the Senate Whitewater committee with now-Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

Regina B. Schofield, head of intergovernmental affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, was tapped to be head of the Office of Justice Programs at the Justice Department.

Philip J. Perry, another former top Justice Department official, general counsel in the Office of Management and Budget and now partner at Latham & Watkins, is to be general counsel at the Department of Homeland Security.

At the Department of Health and Human Services, Suzanne C. DeFrancis, now in the White House communications office, is to be assistant secretary for public affairs. Tony Jewell, HHS deputy assistant secretary for public affairs, has headed private to Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu to handle media for the Center for Healthcare Management and Transformation, among other things.

On the Hill, Lisa Camooso Miller, former deputy in the Commerce Department public affairs shop and before that deputy White House liaison, moves up the Hill to be deputy communications director for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.). Janelle Carter, a speechwriter at the Commerce Department, returns to the Hill, where she had been the speechwriter for Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.), this time to be Hastert's chief speechwriter.

From Utah to East Wing

White House press aide Peter S. Watkins, who drove here from Utah in his Maxima four years ago with no job, is moving to the East Wing as deputy press secretary to Laura Bush. Watkins, known for maintaining a smile 'midst the press office bedlam, succeeds Rachael Sunbarger, who has moved to Colorado.

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