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McCain Defeats Cheney

"MR. McCLELLAN: No, not at all. Not at all. You can get all dramatic about it, but you know what our policy is."

Another Non-Answer

Reuters reports: "The White House took issue on Thursday with a claim by syndicated columnist Robert Novak that President George W. Bush knows who the source is who leaked the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame.

" 'I don't know what he's basing it on,' said White House spokesman Scott McClellan, declining to comment further."

The 'Same Intelligence'?

Dafna Linzer writes in The Washington Post: "A congressional report made public yesterday concluded that President Bush and his inner circle had access to more intelligence and reviewed more sensitive material than what was shared with Congress when it gave Bush the authority to wage war against Iraq."

Here's that Congressional Research Service report .

Dana Milbank wrote in The Post yesterday that as of Wednesday, Bush had asserted fully 102 times that Congress saw "the same intelligence" about Iraq's weapons as he did.

But I guess that doesn't make it so.

New Orleans Watch

Joby Warrick and Peter Baker write in The Washington Post: "The Bush administration yesterday pledged an additional $1.5 billion in federal spending to strengthen New Orleans's storm-battered levees, vowing to give the city 'better and safer' flood walls but stopping short of explicitly promising protection against catastrophic Category 5 hurricanes."

The White House announced the measure at yesterday's press briefing .

But no one asked the $1.5 billion question: Where is this money coming from? Is it just being added to the deficit? Is the White House taking it away from other programs? Will taxes go up?

I mean, $1.5 billion -- you're talking real money.

Iraq Votes

Elisabeth Bumiller writes in the New York Times: "There was cheer and relief at the White House on Thursday over the Iraqi election as President Bush declared the vote 'a major step forward' in creating a democratic nation that he said would set an example for others in the region."

Here's the transcript from a photo op Bush held with some Iraqi voters yesterday.

The Big Christmas Party

I wasn't invited to either of last night's two big White House Christmas parties for the press. But David Lightman writes in the Hartford Courant that approximately 1,250 other media people and their guests were.

"What happened to the grizzled snarlers who spend their lives questioning Bush's every smile and grimace?" Lightman asks.

"Hey, say the Washington veterans, chill. It's Christmas. . . .

"In truth, each reporter usually gets time to utter about a sentence to Bush in the receiving line. (The Courant was told that Sen. Joe Lieberman is a 'man of great courage.')

"The Bushes, standing under a portrait of George Washington in the Diplomatic Reception Room, on the first floor, greet each person by name because a military aide announces it. The president shakes hands for two hours, takes a break, presumably to wash his hands and rest them, and then returns for two more hours."

A few other attendees also e-mailed me their observations.

One wrote: "It's the one evening out of the year when it's difficult to suppress pangs of sympathy for the President. Would you want to have thousands of people that you don't really like over to your house? . . .

"Each invitee gets to bring a guest. Last night, by some strange second-term quirk, everyone seemed to have brought either their kids or their moms. . . .

"One of the regular dynamics is for a mingling White House staffer to greet the media person's guest extremely warmly, then praise the media person lavishly if carefully ('there's no smarter reporter in the White House press corps than your daughter!')"

Another attendee just couldn't get over how thin Karl Rove looked. (And here's a recent Reuters photo ; he has lost weight!).

Rove was "very visible, mingling and chatting with all comers, posing for pictures, playing with the little kids. The first thing you notice is the astounding weight loss. . . . Everyone was sort of buzzing about it."

Another hot topic of conversation: Whether McClellan will be sticking around much longer.

New from JibJab

JibJab is out with a year-in-review video, starring an animated George W. Bush: "My approval rating's in a dive/Hope it's not another year like 2-0-5/. . . . Oh a leak investigation's got my White House in a snarl/There's a special prosecutor after my friend Karl."

Bush's Ipod

Sky News yesterday Web-posted the highly amusing video of an exchange between Fox News's Brit Hume and Bush that took place after their formal interview Wednesday had concluded.

Adrian Shaw in the British tabloid the Daily Mirror writes: "President Bush made a fool of himself yet again yesterday as he got in a muddle over his new iPod.

"The hapless President was trying to demonstrate how cool and trendy he was as he proudly showed off the music player in the Oval Office.

"But he blundered when he called American Pie singer Don McLean 'Dan'.

"And he spouted a lot of meaningless jargon as he tried to explain how the iPod worked.

"The President floundered: 'I get the shuffle and then I shuffle the shuffle.' "

In the Washington Post, Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts have a transcript of part of the interview, which includes Bush rattling off a list of who's on his Ipod. He actually cops to listening to the Archies.

Wallace and the Spin Zone

Conservative Fox News anchor Bill O'Reilly interviewed White House Communications Director Nicolle Wallace last night and they talked a lot about the relationship between the White House and the press.

"O'REILLY: I've gone on record saying 75 percent of the American press is anti-Bush. And a lot of the Iraq criticism is driven by a hatred in some quarters for the president. Do you subscribe to that?

"WALLACE: I don't, I can't. I couldn't do my job if I did. . . .

"O'REILLY: So you have to live in denial, Ms. Wallace? You can't accept the fact that the media is viciously anti-Bush?

"WALLACE: Well, look, I -- there are challenges. I've been working for this president for five years. And there are always challenges to getting the message out. And I think we saw that come into sharp focus during the campaign with the National Guard story and the CBS situation. But I think at the White House, there is a press corps that's deeply committed to getting it right.

"O'REILLY: Yes, OK.

"WALLACE: And we have to play to their - you know, their best motives.

"O'REILLY: Look, I'm not worried about the White House press corps. But look, 'Newsweek' magazine, Bush is in a bubble . There he is on a bubble, OK?

"WALLACE: Unbelievable.

"O'REILLY: Right?

"WALLACE: Right.

"O'REILLY: ' Time ' magazine, pretty much the same article.

"WALLACE: Right.

"O'REILLY: All right, not on the cover, but the same thing. There's the bubble. The New York Times then picks up the anonymous sources that talk to 'Newsweek' and prints them in The New York Times.

"WALLACE: Right.

"O'REILLY: Dowd's column.

"WALLACE: Right.

"O'REILLY: Frank Rich hates the president, another New York Times columnist.

"WALLACE: Right, right.

"O'REILLY: Paul Krugman hates the president, right? Another New York Times columnist. Bob Herbert hates the president.

"WALLACE: Right. . . .

"O'REILLY: Washington Post doesn't like the president. L.A. Times doesn't like the president. Atlanta Constitution doesn't like him. Boston Globe doesn't like him. What's going on?

"WALLACE: Well, thank God 65 percent to 75 percent of the American people don't get their news from any of those places. They get their news from the local paper that they look at.

"O'REILLY: But they carry the syndicated pieces.

"WALLACE: Sure, they do. But they also do a lot of their own reporting. Look, no doubt it's a challenge. And after this segment, I may go back to the White House and request combat pay. But no doubt it's a challenge. But that's why. . . .

"O'REILLY: Shouldn't you and the president address this directly and say, this is unfair? It's unfair to put the guy in a bubble using anonymous sources? The only guy quoted in the whole 'Newsweek' article is Andy Card.

"WALLACE: Right. . . .

"O'REILLY: But look, those of us who try to be fair, and I do, and I think the FOX News channel does.

"WALLACE: Right.

"O'REILLY: [We] know there is a virulent anti-Bush feeling in the American media. And that feeling every single day is drummed home, which is part of the reason he's fallen in the polls. Shouldn't you and the president fight that head on?

"WALLACE: We have started fighting back and engaging the press a lot more aggressively than I think - than I know we ever had as a White House. We started a new product called Setting the Record Straight, where we take on the stories that are just egregiously wrong. We take on the reporters by name. And we call out the inaccuracies. So we've become a lot more aggressive about calling out the things that are egregious, but we could certainly engage more robustly. And.

"O'REILLY: I don't know why you don't do it. And I think most of our audience doesn't know why you don't do it. . . .

"WALLACE: Right. Well, I think we can - we take some satisfaction in the fact that even, with what we're up against in the media, they are finally focusing on the complete disarray on the Democratic side.'"


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