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The Colbert Blackout

My Night

So let me tell you a bit about my night. After exchanging brief pointless smalltalk with Tony Snow, Dan Bartlett and even George Clooney at the Newsweek pre-dinner party, I repaired to the ballroom where I found myself sitting next to -- of all people -- Kristen Silverberg.

Now you may not know who Kristen Silverberg is, but I've been following her movement through Bush's inner circle for quite a while now. First she was a campaign worker, then a young aide in the chief of staff's office, then a high-level policy adviser.

Silverberg was considered the White House's ultimate rising star, and she really caught my attention when -- after Karl Rove was promoted to deputy chief of staff and moved downstairs into an office just down the hall from the Oval -- Silverberg moved into the highly karmic second-floor space that he vacated, and that before him had been occupied by Hillary Clinton. (See my now out-of-date White House floorplan .)

Not long after that, however, she decided to follow Condoleeezza Rice to the State Department, where she now serves as assistant secretary for international organization affairs.

In pretty much any other circumstance, if I had a chance to talk to Kristen Silverberg, I would grill her about Bush's plans for Iran, or about her mentor Karl Rove, or on the inner workings of the White House.

But here she was sitting next to me as the guest of a Washington Post White House correspondent, and it wouldn't have been appropriate. Not to mention, she's sweet as pie. Heck, I was pushing the limits of propriety by introducing her to everyone at the table this way: "She's John Bolton's boss!!!"

We ended up talking about Karl Rove, but only in the most general terms. I noted that she might be Rove's protege, but that -- according to my wife, at least -- Rove is my greatest muse. (He does seem to inspire some of my finer columns .)

As a result, Silverberg very kindly offered to introduce me to my muse. I said I couldn't possibly. She insisted. And next thing I knew we were over at table 54, chatting with Rove himself.

In person, Rove was charming. He looked genuinely confused when I told him that the headline of my Friday's column had been " Rove Worrier ," a reference to his possibly imminent indictment in the CIA leak investigation.

And in fact, he didn't look the least bit worried.

The conversation quickly turned to the fact that he adores Silverberg and thoroughly grills every one of her potential suitors.

Of course, what I wanted to do was ask him: Why did he lie to journalists about not having been one of the people who leaked Valerie Plame's identity to Robert Novak? What exactly did he tell the grand jury last week? How does he feel about getting kicked across the hall into a windowless office? (He's moving into Michael Gerson's old digs.) Is there any serious chance of a detente with the press?

But this was not the time. Instead, I went back to my table with Silverberg, still not talking about Iran.

And not only had I gotten nothing useful out of Rove -- but now I was beholden to Silverberg.

As luck would have it, I was able to wipe that particular slate clean in short order. Silverberg kept eyeing actor James Denton, the hunky plumber from "Desperate Housewives," who was sitting a few tables away. I went over and persuaded him to come say hello. Silverberg was thrilled. And I was off the hook.

But what value did any of this have to my readers? Not much.

Poll Watch

David Jackson writes in USA Today: "A USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken Friday through Sunday found Bush's approval rating at 34%, two points under his previous low. He also received the lowest ratings of his presidency on his handling of the economy, energy and foreign affairs. He tied his previous low on Iraq: 32%."

Here are the complete results .

In fact, Bush is getting it from all sides now. An all-time high of 45 percent of those polled said he's too conservative; an all-time high of 19 percent said he's too liberal; and an all-time low of 28 percent said he's about right.

CBS reports: "Only 33 percent approve of his job performance, Mr. Bush's lowest approval rating yet in CBS News polls. A majority -- 58 percent of those polled -- say they disapprove of the president. Mr. Bush appears to be losing support from his own party. His approval rating among Republicans has dropped to 68 percent."

Here are those complete results .

The View From the Ivory Tower

The Associated Press reports: "If his presidency ended now, Republican George W. Bush would go down in history as a failure, according to a majority of college history and political science professors surveyed nationwide."

Here's more information on the poll.

Abramoff Watch

Toni Locy writes for the Associated Press: "The Secret Service has agreed to turn over White House visitor logs that will show how often convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff met with Bush administration officials -- and with whom he met."

Philip Shenon writes in the New York Times: "The agreement was announced Monday by Judicial Watch, a legal group generally associated with conservative groups and open-government issues, which had filed suit to force the disclosure of the logs. . . .

"[T]he unedited visitor logs will be released to Judicial Watch by the Secret Service by May 10. The group has said it will then make the logs public through the Internet."

Libby Watch

Toni Locy writes for the Associated Press: "Lawyers for I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby urged a federal judge Monday to force several media organizations to turn over e-mails, drafts of news articles and reporters' notes they say the former top White House aide needs to receive a fair trial in the CIA leak case."

Plame Watch

David Shuster reported on Hardball with Chris Matthews last night: "MSNBC has learned new information about the damage caused by the White House leaks. Intelligence sources says Valerie Wilson was part of an operation three years ago tracking the proliferation of nuclear weapons material into Iran. And the sources allege that when Mrs. Wilson's cover was blown, the administration's ability to track Iran's nuclear ambitions was damaged as well."

Appointee Watch

A new report from the House Government Reform Committee Democrats finds that in the administration's first five years, the number of political appointees on the federal payroll has soared while the number of minority and female political appointees has declined dramatically."

"President Bush has packed federal agencies with political appointees - many with suspect qualifications," said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) "The President has added hundreds of political appointees to the federal payroll, raising costs to taxpayers and reducing efficiency."

Mission Not Accomplished

Jennifer Loven writes for the Associated Press: "Three years after delivering his 'mission accomplished' speech on Iraq, President Bush on Monday declared another turning point had arrived with the establishment of a permanent government in Baghdad."

Here's Bush's statement .

Here's the text of yesterday's briefing with Scott McClellan:

"Q I'm asking you, based on a reporter's curiosity, could he stand under a sign again that says, 'Mission Accomplished'?

"MR. McCLELLAN: Now, Peter, Democrats have tried to raise this issue, and, like I said, misrepresenting and distorting the past --

"Q This is not --

"MR. McCLELLAN: -- which is what they're doing, does nothing to advance the goal of victory in Iraq.

"Q I mean, it's a historical fact that we're all taking notice of --

"MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think the focus ought to be on achieving victory in Iraq and the progress that's being made, and that's where it is. And you know exactly the Democrats are trying to distort the past.

"Q Let me ask it another way: Has the mission been accomplished?

"MR. McCLELLAN: Next question.

"Q Has the mission been accomplished?

"MR. McCLELLAN: We're on the way to accomplishing the mission and achieving victory."

Clarity

On his MSNBC Show yesterday, Chris Matthews also had a friendly chat with Nicolle Wallace, the White House communications director.

MATTHEWS: "What was the selling point for Tony Snow as the new presidential press secretary?"

WALLACE: "Well, you'd have to ask Tony. . . . [But] to speak for George W. Bush is a privilege. We can all really just muck it up. He speaks with such clarity and he has such conviction. And he's really someone who cares much more about doing the right thing than about opinion polls. And it is a pleasure to speak for someone like that."


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