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Bush Blames Polls on 'Battle Fatigue'

"So the White House will try to survive by driving down the ratings of the other side."

Plan B?

At the same time, according to Richard Wolffe and Holly Bailey in Newsweek: "Even before today's poll, administration officials were weighing yet another retooling of the message to woo so-called suburban voters. Last Thursday, 18 House Republicans met at the White House with Karl Rove, the president's top political adviser, to come up with an agenda of less divisive policy ideas that could score points with voters in the suburbs, both Democrats and Republicans. Instead of focusing on contentious topics like immigration or a proposed ban on same-sex marriage, Rove and the lawmakers strategized on an agenda centered on more simple legislative proposals that could be an easy win for the GOP. Among the ideas: tax incentives for college-savings accounts, more funding for local police working to crack down on gangs and the creation of a federal database to track sex offenders. The group also talked about laws to combat urban sprawl -- a huge issue in states like Illinois, Ohio and Arizona, home to some of the most closely fought House and Senate races in the country."

Or: A Dose of Humility?

Peggy Noonan writes in her Wall Street Journal opinion column that it may take a defeat in November for the GOP to unlearn the lessons of power.

"What's behind the president's, and the Congressional Republicans', poll drop? All the bad news that's been noted, from Iraq and Katrina to high spending and immigration. What's behind the bad decisions made in those areas? Detachment from the ground."

The Books Tell the Story

In an astonishing essay that serves as a timely reminder of the enormous value that books bring to the public discourse, New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani distills the wisdom of the recent "floodlet of books has been published about President Bush, his administration and the war in Iraq. . . .

"[T]aken together with earlier volumes, these books create a cumulative and, in many respects, surprisingly coherent portrait of the Bush White House and its management style. Authors as disparate as the Reagan administration economist Bruce Bartlett, the New Yorker investigative reporter Seymour M. Hersh, the Weekly Standard editor Fred Barnes and the New York Times reporter James Risen point to ways in which this administration has discarded past precedent, and illuminate its penchant for circumventing traditional processes of policy development and policy review."

Sometimes on the Internet, big stories can get lost in the frenzy over daily minutiae. Books are a nice antidote.

Writes Kakutani: "According to books published so far, even the ultimate decision to go to war against Iraq -- a war that has already resulted in, as of Tuesday, 2,416 (and counting) United States military deaths, and an estimated more than 35,000 Iraqi deaths (according to Iraq Body Count, an independent media-monitoring group) -- seems to have been somewhat ad hoc. In 'The Assassins' Gate,' Mr. Packer quotes Richard Haass, the former director of policy planning in the State Department, saying that a real weighing of pros and cons about the war never took place: 'It was an accretion, a tipping point,' Mr. Haass says. 'A decision was not made -- a decision happened, and you can't say when or how.' "

Of course, this sort of big-picture stuff isn't entirely the province of books.

Jacob Weisberg writes today in Slate: "Bush's stated management model -- appointing good people, delegating authority to them, and holding them accountable for results -- reflects some common-sense notions he picked up at Harvard Business School. His actual management practice, however, has not followed that model. In practice, Bush tends to appoint mediocre people he trusts to be loyal, delegates hardly any decision-making power to anyone beyond a few top aides, and seldom holds anyone accountable. These failures are related. If you don't give people real authority, you can't reasonably hold them responsible for what follows. What has grown up around the president as a result is not an effective political machine, but a stultifying imperial court, a hackocracy dominated by sycophants, cronies, and yes men."

Big NSA News

Leslie Cauley writes in USA Today: "The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, people with direct knowledge of the arrangement told USA TODAY.

"The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans -- most of whom aren't suspected of any crime. This program does not involve the NSA listening to or recording conversations. But the spy agency is using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity, sources said in separate interviews. . . .

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