Is Any Subject Safe?

By Dan Froomkin
Special to
Thursday, October 12, 2006; 1:20 PM

President Bush tried to change the subject yesterday, away from the Mark Foley congressional-page scandal and the general Republican pre-mid-term meltdown.

But no topic is safe these days. And Bush apparently has very little new to say.

The president spent just over an hour parrying questions from the press in the Rose Garden.

On North Korea, rather than coming off as an assertive leader, Bush spoke meekly about what has so far been a failed and listless diplomatic effort. On Iraq, his rhetoric was familiar and unlikely to stanch the loss of public support for the war. Even his formerly dependable warnings about threats to the nation's security lacked authority amid the growing doubts about whether his approach to the war on terror is working.

Here is the transcript of the news conference.

Small Success

Richard Wolffe and Holly Bailey writes for Newsweek: "In what could be his final press conference before the highly anticipated midterm elections, Bush on Wednesday went before reporters at the White House where he tried to regain some element of political momentum -- or, at the very least, reclaim a little relevancy in a news cycle that has proven beyond his control in recent weeks."

Peter Wallsten writes in the Los Angeles Times: "In an election year that is looking increasingly dire for Republicans, Wednesday brought the White House at least one triumph: President Bush was able to set aside talk about former Rep. Mark Foley, the congressional page program and the ethics inquiry into what leaders knew and when they knew it. . . .

"Despite the challenges Bush faces with North Korea and Iraq, Republicans welcomed the change of topic."

In fact, Wallsten writes: "White House officials say Bush will be highly visible for the rest of the campaign.

"'You're going to see a whole lot of the president,' Press Secretary Tony Snow said. 'He has got the ability to talk about the things that ultimately serve as the key issues in 99 out of 100 election cycles -- which are peace and prosperity.'

"Democrats said Wednesday that Bush could change the subject all he wanted, but that it wouldn't help the GOP overcome public opposition to the party's policies. They said that such opposition was more solid now than in any election since Bush took office."

Dana Milbank writes in The Washington Post that for all his attempts at bonhomie, Bush couldn't have liked the questions he was hearing.

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