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The Nuclear Briefing

"The White House is walking that fine line, of course, because while these judicial nominees are key to the president's political base, a key part as well of his agenda, there's great concern here about what a so-called nuclear war would do. Would that blow up the Senate in terms of blocking the rest of the president's agenda?"

Laura Bush Watch

Kenneth R. Bazinet writes in the New York Daily News: "Team Bush is again turning to its diplomatic ace-in-the-hole, announcing yesterday that First Lady Laura Bush will visit Egypt, Israel and Jordan to wage a Mideast charm offensive. . . .

"After her successful trip to Afghanistan this year and her recent laugh-out-loud speech at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, experts say sending the First Lady could be just the tonic for the White House's global image problems.

Jennifer Loven writes for the Associated Press: "Without wading deeply into sensitive topics, Mrs. Bush has become an ambassador for American values before often-skeptical audiences.

"She won over many in France during a September 2003 visit in which French President Jacques Chirac famously kissed her hand.

"Her image-repair mission in the Middle East may be her most complicated yet."

Mandela Visit

Deborah Orin writes in the New York Post: "President Bush yesterday buried the hatchet with Nelson Mandela by welcoming him to the White House for a friendly huddle, in which Mandela's bitter criticism of the Iraq war didn't come up.

"Bush 'expressed his appreciation for President Mandela's leadership and courage' as they discussed combating AIDS and forgiving African debt, said White House press secretary Scott McClellan. Iraq didn't come up in the 20-minute Oval Office meeting with the former South African president, which McClellan described as 'a very good discussion.' "

Raising Funds

Michael Janofsky writes in the New York Times: "The Republican Party raised more than $15 million on Tuesday night as President Bush joined party leaders at a downtown reception and basked in their ardent appreciation of his leadership. . . .

"Mr. Bush could hardly have appeared before a warmer audience, major party donors whose applause and whistles repeatedly interrupted his 25-minute speech."

Here's the transcript of his speech at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Washington.

"We are driving the debate on all key domestic and foreign policy issues. Because of our achievements, the American people see the Republican Party as the party of reform and optimism, the party of ideals and vision," Bush said.

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