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Bush Declares DeLay Innocent

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" Q Have they really said that if we weren't there, the terrorists would be idle?

" MR. McCLELLAN: Oh, people have talked about this issue. And I think what the President said in his remarks was very clear."

Taking Responsibility For What?

So did Bush stake out a new position on his responsibility for going to war on false intelligence? Maybe, maybe not.

Jennifer Loven writes for the Associated Press: "Bush has repeatedly noted that the decision to go to war was his responsibility. And he has acknowledged for more than a year that most of the intelligence behind the claims of Saddam's weapons programs turned out to be faulty. But he has never linked the two so clearly and so personally."

Kenneth R. Bazinet writes in the New York Daily News: "President Bush blamed himself yesterday for going to war based on lousy intelligence, another in a string of mea culpas that may be helping sway public opinion his way."

Ken Herman writes for Cox News Service: "President Bush said Wednesday the invasion of Iraq was the right thing to do even if was for a reason that turned out to be wrong. . . .

"It was not the first time Bush acknowledged the faulty intelligence.

"But it was unusual for him to bring it up on his own."

Robert Schlesinger writes on the Huffington Post blog: "Don't be fooled by the press reports: President Bush did not admit any personal mistakes Wednesday.

"What he did was reaffirm that he was right -- regardless of other people's mistakes."

One Marine's Story

Bush yesterday spoke of a young Marine lieutenant who was killed in Iraq last month, calling him a symbol of "the greatest force for freedom in human history."

Johanna Neuman writes in the Los Angeles Times: "Ryan McGlothlin was an interesting choice for the president's speechwriting team. When White House speechwriters contacted his parents Monday to ask for permission to mention him, they were told that McGlothlin had not voted for Bush in 2000 or 2004.

"But, Donald and Ruth McGlothlin said, they told the White House that Bush could use their son's story as long as it was not reduced to a sound bite or taken out of context. And they vetted the words the president delivered.

"' My son told us, to our faces, 'I won't vote for Mr. Bush, but I'll take a bullet for him,' " Donald McGlothlin said in an interview Wednesday."

The McGlothlins also spoke with Wolf Blitzer on CNN yesterday:

"D. MCGLOTHLIN: Well, we first had misgivings. We did not want our son's story to be used lightly or in a way that would be unseemly. But we discussed, in light of some recent correspondence that Ruth had received from our son, we actually received it after his death, we felt that it was important and that Ryan would want the American public to know what he told us in the letter.

"R. MCGLOTHLIN: Actually, I don't feel Ryan felt that when we first went to war that was the right place or the right time. And that's why we wanted to make sure that the White House understood that. He felt if we were going to go to war we should have been in Afghanistan, and I think he felt war should have been the last resort or last possible resort. And I'm not sure he felt that it was.

"What he did feel that once we went there, and we tore down the government they did know, and disrupted their country, we had an obligation to fix what we had destroyed. And he very strongly believed in that."

Elder Anger

John Harwood writes in the Wall Street Journal: "While President Bush has high hopes for today's elections in Iraq, his Republican Party faces a different challenge at home: quelling the political insurgency among elderly American voters. . . .

"In a period of broad-ranging public discontent, that among senior citizens stands out as most worrisome for Republicans aiming to keep control of the House and Senate in the fall. . . .

"[O]lder voters, having given Mr. Bush slightly greater support than younger voters in his narrow 2004 re-election victory, have now become the most critical of his job performance. In the Journal/NBC poll, for instance, Americans under 65 disapprove of Mr. Bush's job performance by a margin of 16 percentage points, while those 65 and above disapprove by a margin of 20 percentage points."

Poll Watch

The new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds Bush's overall approval rating at 39 percent, down from 50 percent earlier this year but up from his 38 percent approval in November.

A new Zogby poll finds his approval rating at 38 percent, down 3 percent from last month.

The latest Pew poll find his approval up 2 percent from last month, but only to 38 percent.

And in a poll question commissioned by an anti-Bush coalition but asked by Rasmussen Reports , 32 percent of Americans say they want Bush impeached and removed from office, compared to 35 percent for Cheney.

"The impeachment of President Bush is favored by a plurality (49%) of Democrats. However, it is opposed by 84% of Republicans and 55% of those not affiliated with either major political party."

Democrats.com reports that "prior to the impeachment of President Clinton in August and September 1998, there were 10 major polls conducted. Support for impeaching Clinton and removing him from office averaged only 26%."

Correction

I asserted in yesterday's column that none of the major newspaper had written about Bush's no-show at his own White House Conference on Aging.

But Janet Kornblum points out that she had a story about the conference in USA Today on Monday, where she noted that Bush was not planning to attend.

FOIA Watch

Mark Sherman writes for the Associated Press: "President Bush on Wednesday directed federal agencies to be more efficient in dealing with requests for government information, but he left in place a four-year-old policy that restricts access under the Freedom of Information Act. . . .

"The Associated Press is among the media organizations that have pressed for more government openness. Dave Tomlin, the AP's assistant general counsel, said Bush's announcement does not go far enough."

Rebecca Carr writes for Cox News Service: "The executive order incorporates key provisions of legislation introduced this year by Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and in the House by Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio.

"Cornyn and Smith stood by the president as he signed the order and warmly endorsed it. . . .

"Leahy did not attend because the White House did not tell him before the event what the executive order contained.

" 'The executive order is a constructive step, but it is not the comprehensive reforms we need,' Leahy said. 'For example, it does not impose penalties for agencies that miss deadlines. We can do better.' "

Plame Watch

Rob Christensen broke the story in the Raleigh News and Observer yesterday, but it gets broadcast wide today:

As Carol D. Leonnig writes in The Washington Post: "Syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak, who has repeatedly declined to discuss his role in disclosing the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame, said in a speech this week that he is certain President Bush knows who his mystery administration source is. . . .

" 'So I say, don't bug me. Don't bug Bob Woodward. Bug the president as to whether he should reveal who the source is,' Novak said."

"Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) sent a letter to Bush yesterday urging him to name the source and make public any disciplinary action taken, 'in keeping with your stated desire to root out leaks.' "

Bush's Legacy

From the Fox interview:

"HUME: Let me get your thoughts, Mr. President, on -- on how you think or hope you'll be remembered.

"BUSH: You mean, just kind of a blanket statement?

"HUME: Yes.

"BUSH: I hope that first, as a person, I'll be remembered as a fellow who had his priorities straight: his faith, his family and his friends are a central part of his life.

"Secondly, I hope to be remembered, from a personal perspective, as a fellow who had lived life to the fullest and gave it his all. And thirdly, I'd like to be remembered as the president who used American influence for the good of the world: bastioning freedom and fighting disease and poverty, by recognizing to whom much is given, much is required and that -- that I wasn't afraid to make a decision."

Eye for Detail

Brian Williams talked to TVGuide.com after his Bush interview:

"Williams: I love the details. When I was a White House intern in '79, I loved how the White House staff mirrored the boss. Everybody who worked for President Carter wore his or her watches crystal down because he did. The boss always has a quirk that the staff mirrors, whether they do it consciously or not. In the Bush White House, everybody uses a Sharpie because that's Bush's pen of choice. They are all over the place. Sharpie now makes one for them. It bears a replica of the president's signature on the barrel of the pen. That I noticed by just looking at his inbox in the Oval Office."


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