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Fool Me Once

Supreme Court Watch

Elisabeth Bumiller writes in the New York Times: "President Bush is focused on Hispanics, African-Americans and women to succeed Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, and he may announce his choice for her seat on the Supreme Court as early as the court's opening days in October, Republican strategists said on Wednesday. . . .

"The strategists said that staff members like Harriet Miers, the White House counsel, had been in contact with several contenders, but that Mr. Bush was not thought to have begun formal interviews."

Safavian Watch

Philip Shenon and Anne E. Kornblut write in the New York Times: "A lawyer for David H. Safavian, the former White House budget official arrested this week, accused the Justice Department on Wednesday of trying to coerce Mr. Safavian into cooperating with a criminal investigation of Jack Abramoff, the once-powerful Washington lobbyist. . . .

"The Justice Department has refused to say why it decided to arrest Mr. Safavian early Monday at his home in Alexandria, Va., rather than allow him to surrender, which is typical for most white-collar defendants, and why prosecutors brought the charges directly instead of seeking a grand jury indictment. Former department officials say the methods are often used in cases in which prosecutors hope to frighten a person into cooperating against other targets of an investigation."

So who might prosecutors be trying to turn Safavian against?

Jonathan D. Salant writes for Bloomberg: "The widening investigation of lobbyist Jack Abramoff is moving beyond the confines of tawdry influence-peddling to threaten leading figures in the Republican hierarchy that dominates Washington."

Something Works

Damon Hack writes in the New York Times with evidence that the radiation detectors at the White House work.

"David Toms tried to walk into the White House with his Presidents Cup teammates and competitors for a dinner Tuesday night, an alarm sounded.

"A security detail quickly whisked him away, Hickey Freeman suit and all, before he had a chance to explain what had happened.

"Sensors had detected radiation in his body from his stay in the hospital after he developed a rapid heartbeat last week while playing in the 84 Lumber Classic in Farmington, Pa."

Bette Booed

George Rush and Joanna Molloy write in the New York Daily News: "President Bush and his administration got major breaks from most performers around New York Tuesday night."

They describe this scene from the Madison Square Garden benefit concert "From the Big Apple to the Big Easy":

"Bette Midler was booed when she said, 'George Bush likes my music. He came to see me in the '70s. A coke dealer of mine got him some tickets.' "

Bush-Bashing Among the Rich and Famous

Robert Novak writes in his syndicated column that the rich, mainly Republican crowd at a swanky, off-the-record conference in Aspen last weekend indulged in almost non-stop Bush-bashing.

" U.S. News & World Report disclosed this week, with apparent disdain, that presidential adviser Karl Rove took time off from the Katrina relief effort to be at Aspen. He was needed as a counterweight."

But, Novak concludes: "It would be a shame if Rove returned to Washington without informing George W. Bush how erstwhile friends have turned against him."

Prick the Bubble?

In my Live Online discussion yesterday, a reader asked if Bush has any plans to meet or visit with evacuees. Specifically: "Would it be a real open forum, or another invitation-only, no dissenters allowed-type photo op?"

Bush is currently set to travel to Alabama on Friday, then Arkansas and Texas on Saturday. Unless Hurricane Rita becomes the sole focus of the trip, I expect he'll come face to face with some evacuees from New Orleans. Standard White House operating procedure, however, would be for them to be screened in some way beforehand.

But what if the White House actually let some angry evacuees come face to face with the president? Wouldn't it be therapeutic for everyone to see Bush get yelled at?

Bush haters would enjoy it vicariously. But Bush supporters would be reassured that he can take it. Enough with the bubble!

Bush and Booze

Will any member of the White House press corps risk scorn from McClellan -- and maybe even mockery from colleagues -- by asking the press secretary to set the record straight about what appears to be an utterly scurrilous report in the National Enquirer that Bush is hitting the booze again? Some brave soul should.

Tina Brown's View

After attending Bill Clinton's Global Initiative conference, Washington Post columnist and New York socialite Tina Brown concludes: "A weird reputational exchange has taken place between Clinton and President Bush. After so much dishonest reasoning it's the vaunted 'CEO president' who begins to look like the callow, fumbling adolescent. And it's the sexually incontinent, burger-guzzling, late-night-gabbing Bubba who is emerging as a great CEO of America."

Late Night Humor

On Comedy Central's Daily Show last night, satirical correspondent Robb Cordrry insisted to host Jon Stewart that "Everything the president is doing is perfectly in keeping with the conservative ideal of limited government."

Stewart, who had just divulged the possible $200 billion pricetag for Bush's proposals for Gulf Coast reconstruction, expressed puzzlement.

So Cordrry explained: "This president believes government should be limited not in size, Jon, but in effectiveness. In terms of effectiveness, this is the most limited administration we've ever had."

Stewart also last night examined the workings of the White House briefing room in some detail.

There's the White House press secretary -- "whose job it is to put a semihuman face on the lack of information we receive from the White House."

There's the media -- "Think of them as America's three-year-olds. And taken together, their questions give an illusion of tenacity."

And there are the "variety of techniques" the press secretary uses to "prevent actual democracy from breaking out." For instance: "Call on the foreign press." Or: "You can also run out the clock with one of the briefing room eccentrics."

And why is the average tenure of a White House press secretary only two years? Stewart explains: "Lying is hard."

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