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Would Bush Rather Be Fishing?

"GOSS: I think that got played pretty well yesterday, thank you.

"QUESTION: No, nobody knows why.

"GOSS: Well, it's just one of those mysteries.

"QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) mystery, huh?

"GOSS: I've got some things to do."

Hayden and Domestic Spying

Peter Baker and Dafna Linzer write in The Washington Post: "The nomination of Gen. Michael V. Hayden to take over the CIA would trigger a fresh battle over the secret warrantless surveillance program he oversaw on behalf of President Bush, a debate that could help shape the contours of the fall midterm congressional elections, officials in both parties said yesterday. . . .

"Rather than steer away from a Hayden nomination because of the controversy, the White House seems ready for a new fight over it, convinced that it has public support and that Democrats opposing Hayden's confirmation would risk looking weak on terrorism."

Ever ever since December, Hayden has been the public face of Bush's secret domestic spying program.

Bush has said that Hayden designed the program. Hayden has publicly asserted, without offering any evidence, that the circumventing of traditional eavesdropping rules was necessary, that such a program could have prevented the September 11 attacks had it been in place then, and that the disclosure of the program has harmed national security.

Whenever Bush or his aides have been questioned about the program, they cite Hayden.

Has the disclosure of the program harmed national security? Objectively, it's hard to see how it matters to terrorists if their phone calls are being tapped with or without warrants -- although it does matter to people who care about civil liberties.

Hayden and the Fourth Amendment

One thing we do know is that Hayden didn't only misinterpret the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution during a January speech at the National Press Club; he sanctimoniously tried to correct a reporter who got it right.

Here's the Fourth Amendment : "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

When Jonathan Landay of Knight Ridder Newspapers properly characterized it, Hayden insisted, incorrectly, that that requirement for search and seizure was reasonableness, rather than probable cause.

Said Hayden: "Just to be very clear -- and believe me, if there's any amendment to the Constitution that employees of the National Security Agency are familiar with, it's the Fourth. And it is a reasonableness standard in the Fourth Amendment. And so what you've raised to me -- and I'm not a lawyer, and don't want to become one -- what you've raised to me is, in terms of quoting the Fourth Amendment, is an issue of the Constitution. The constitutional standard is 'reasonable.' And we believe -- I am convinced that we are lawful because what it is we're doing is reasonable."

Hayden and the War on Terror

If in fact Hayden's nomination is motivated in part by a desire to get people talking about the danger of terrorism again, there are a few other signs that this is the emerging White House strategy as well.

Here's video of a largely overlooked interview Bush had with conservative CNBC host Lawrence Kudlow on Friday.

Kudlow asked Bush to comment on the new movie, "United 93," about the September 11 uprising on a United Airlines plane before it crashed in a Pennsylvania field.

Bush said he hadn't seen the movie, but said he agreed with the description of David Beamer , whose son Todd died in the crash, and who recently called the uprising the "first successful counterattack in our homeland in this new global war--World War III."

Said Bush: "I believe that. I believe that. I believe that it was the first counter-attack to World War III."

This was not the first time Bush has described the war on terror as World War III. As I wrote in my June 29 column , he publicly endorsed Osama bin Laden's assertion that "This Third World War is raging" in Iraq.

That's pretty fiery rhetoric -- especially considering that the term "World War III" is generally reserved for the sort of avoid-at-all-costs nuclear catastrophe that would presumably destroy the world.

In fact, Bush had lots of curious things to say about war this weekend.

In the Kudlow interview, Bush continued, somewhat unintelligibly: "War is terrible. But it, war brings out, you know, in some ways it it it it touches the core of Americans who volunteer to go in to combat to protect their, their souls. It touches something unique I think about our country that there are people who in the face of danger say 'I want to help. I want to, I want to save lives. I want to, uh, serve my country.' And, um, we see that here. We've seen that throughout our nation's history. And we're seeing it here in the 21st century."

And in the Bild interview, Bush reprised the theme: "For some people around the world, September the 11th was just a terrible moment. For me, and a lot of other people in America, September the 11th was a change of attitude; it was a call to arms in the sense that this is the first -- for America -- the first battle of the war in the 21st century."

And then Bush implied that Americans are somehow less opposed to war than Germans.

" Q Taking a look at the past, do the Americans feel that the Germans abandoned them when they went to war with Saddam Hussein?

" THE PRESIDENT: I've come to realize that the nature of the German people are such that war is very abhorrent, that Germany is a country now that is -- no matter where they sit on the political spectrum, Germans are -- just don't like war. And I can understand that. There's a generation of people who had their lives torn about because of a terrible war."

Rove in Trouble?

Jim VandeHei writes in The Washington Post: "Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald is wrapping up his investigation into White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove's role in the CIA leak case by weighing this central question:

"Did Rove, who was deeply involved in defending President Bush's use of prewar intelligence about Iraq, lie about a key conversation with a reporter that was aimed at rebutting a tough White House critic? . . .

"Rove expects to learn as soon as this month if he will be indicted -- or publicly cleared of wrongdoing -- for making false statements in the CIA leak case, according to sources close to the presidential adviser."

Rove's Strategery

Meanwhile, Jim Rutenberg writes in the New York Times: "The prospect of the administration spending its last two years being grilled by angry Democrats under the heat of partisan spotlights has added urgency to the efforts by Karl Rove and Mr. Bush's political team to hang on to the Republican majorities in Congress.

"Newly shorn of the daily policymaking duties he took on after the 2004 campaign and now refocused on his role as Mr. Bush's chief strategist, Mr. Rove is facing an increasingly difficult climate for Republicans, and an increasingly assertive Democratic Party."

Scooter Libby Watch

Charles Lane writes in Saturday's Washington Post: "A federal judge dealt a setback to I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby's defense in the CIA leak case yesterday, telling the former vice presidential aide's attorneys that he is likely to deny their request for a vast trove of government documents."

Abramoff Watch

John Solomon writes for the Associated Press about some "e-mails showing Rep. Tom DeLay's office knew lobbyist Jack Abramoff had arranged the financing for the GOP leader's controversial European golfing trip in 2000 and was concerned 'if someone starts asking questions.' "

Among the e-mails: some back and forth between Abramoff's team and DeLay's office about low-balling cost figures. And one of the Abramoff players? None other than Susan Ralston, who now works at the White House for Rove.

McClellan: Out Like a Liar

Peter Baker writes in The Washington Post: "White House press secretary Scott McClellan's final turn at the lectern yesterday proved to be something like a greatest hits album. For 45 minutes, he trotted out all the old standbys, then gave a jaunty wave and bid farewell."

Yes, but it's worth noting one particular assertion by McClellan on his last day that was incredible, even by his standards.

Halfway through the briefing , he suddenly "remembered" that Goss was being sacked that afternoon.

"MR. McCLELLAN: Can I -- one thing I forgot to mention at the top -- and I know this will stir some interest, but the President -- I do need to back up, it just popped back in my head and I apologize for not mentioning it at the top -- at 1:45 p.m., the President does have a pool coverage announcement. That will be in the Oval Office, so the pool will need to assemble after this briefing."

John Dickerson writes in Slate: " 'We're losing our piñata,' said one correspondent, 'and we never got any candy.' "

The Fat Lady Sings?

Eric Pianin and Chris Cillizza write in The Washington Post: "The recent White House shake-up was an attempt to jump-start the administration and boost President Bush's rock-bottom approval ratings, but have those efforts come too late to salvage the presidency? A prominent GOP pollster thinks that may be the case."

More From Bild

It really was an amazing interview Bush had with Bild.

After talking about his rug (see Peter Baker 's classic story from the Post in March) and even before getting a single question, Bush started venting.

"The interesting thing about Washington is that they want me to change -- they being the -- and I'm not changing, you know. You can't make decisions if you don't know who you are, and you flip around with the politics. You've got to stay strong in what you believe and optimistic about that you'll get good results.

"And so --the other thing I want you to know about me is that no matter how pressurized it may seem, I'm not changing what I believe. . . . I'm not changing. I don't care whether they like me at the cocktail parties, or not. I want to be able to leave this office with my integrity intact."

And he referred to the Oval Office as "a shrine to democracy. And we treat it that way. When people walk in here, they -- they don't come in here in bathing suits and flip-flops. They come in here dressed like they'd come to a shrine."

The Other German Interview

Noah Barkin writes for Reuters: "President George W. Bush said he would like to close the U.S.-run prison at Guantanamo Bay -- a step urged by several U.S. allies -- but was awaiting a Supreme Court ruling on how suspects held there might be tried."

That news came during Bush's interview with ARD German television , which included many tough questions.

A Cheney Interview

Cheney sat down with Kelly O'Donnell of NBC News in Croatia. Here's the transcript ; here are some video excerpts .

Agence France Presse reports: "Was it a slip of the tongue, a backhanded payback for callous jokes about him, or a sign of a deeper chill in relations between two most powerful men in the United States? . . .

"During an interview with NBC News, Cheney was asked to comment on persistent rumors that he may retire following the November congressional election, allowing the president to appoint his heir apparent. . . .

"But the vice president was skeptical.

" 'Well, I'm not sure it would be an advantage,' he said with a coy smile."

My conclusion from the interview is that even if Bush wanted Cheney out, he ain't going.

"Q You have said you will not seek the presidency. You will complete your term. When you consider what it might mean for the Republican Party, would there be any benefit if you were to retire, to allow the President to choose someone else who might then have an advantage in 2008?

" THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I'm not sure it would be an advantage. But that's not my concern. I, in effect, took on the obligation when I put my name on the ballot at the request of the President -- both in 2000 and again in 2004 -- that if elected to serve out my term, I feel I've got a contract, if you will, with the American people, a constitutionally elected officer, my term ends in January of 2009, and barring some unforeseen disaster, that's what I'll do. "

When in Doubt, Get a Puppy

Paul Bedard writes for U.S. News about how two White House staffers secretly agreed to rescue two of the 17 abandoned puppies Bush was shown during his trip to Mississippi last week.

"On his visit, Bush told Hands On coordinator Erika Putinsky that he sympathized with families who lost dogs in Katrina. 'He thought about his dog, Barney, and how upset he would have been if he lost his dog,' she recalls. He snuggled a few pups. She said he was taking two home. He said no--unaware of the secret rescue mission. That was the cue for the two staffers to seize their dogs, Biloxi and Scrappy. First stop, Air Force One, where a now informed and supportive president ignored the howls. Then came the motorcade and, finally, the White House, where they were unveiled the next day. Aides swooned. Some pledged to rescue more when Bush visits the area again. 'It made the White House a very happy place,' says an insider."


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