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Strategic Retreat

Doyle McManus, Warren Vieth and Mary Curtius write in the Los Angeles Times: "The prosecutor hasn't announced any indictments, but President Bush's aides and their allies in Congress are working on strategies to counter the blow if White House officials are accused of crimes.

"The basic plan is familiar to anyone who has watched earlier presidents contend with scandal: Keep the problem at arm's length, let allies outside the White House do the talking, and try to change the subject to something -- anything -- else."

You mean, like a brand-new Supreme Court nomination, perhaps?

McManus, Vieth and Curtius continue: "The White House doesn't plan to attack Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor in the CIA leak investigation -- at least not directly, several GOP officials said. Instead, expect Bush to unveil a flurry of proposals on subjects from immigration and tax reform to Arab-Israeli peace talks.

" 'We've had discussions; we've gamed out different scenarios,' said one Republican strategist in frequent contact with the White House. 'But to try to put together a big binder with 18 different tabs is a fool's errand at this point. There are so many different ways this could play out.' . . .

" 'Let's say something happens in the next 48 hours,' said one official. 'It will dominate the news cycle until the 7th of November. Then a new cycle begins: Harriet will be the news.' "

Or maybe something even better: Harriet's replacement.

Tom Raum writes for the Associated Press: "Amid White House anxiety over the CIA leak investigation, President Bush is heading down a path well worn by other modern second-term presidents embroiled in scandals. He's avoiding confronting the unpleasantness publicly, contending he's too busy doing 'my job.'

"He may also be following other pages of the playbooks of Presidents Clinton, Reagan and Nixon: keep busy, shake up the staff, go abroad, give speeches on weighty topics. . . .

"Just like other embattled presidents, Bush has been a whirlwind of activity."

Julie Hirschfeld Davis writes in the Baltimore Sun: "President Bush ground his way through a packed and carefully choreographed schedule yesterday, keeping publicly focused on workaday duties amid anxious speculation about indictments of top administration aides in the CIA leak investigation. . . .

"The only thing conspicuously missing from Bush's day: any exchange with journalists. Reporters and photographers were quickly shepherded in and out of the Oval Office to observe the president's interactions with world leaders, but were left unfulfilled as they shouted questions about the leak inquiry."

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