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Will Justice Go After Cheney?
Newsweek: "These were internal communications about what to say to the press?"
Leonard: "Let me give you some the irony of that. Part of the National Archives is the presidential libraries. . . . So we're going to have documents [at the libraries] with the most sensitive markings on it that isn't even classified. If I were going to do a review [of OVP], that would be one of the questions I would want to ask: What is this practice? And how widespread is it? And what is the rationale? How do we assure that people don't get this mixed up with real secrets?"
Cheney at Work, Part II
Los Angeles Times reporter Janet Wilson recently described the series of events that led to the controversial decision by the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to ignore his staff's recommendations and deny California's request for a waiver to implement a landmark law slashing vehicle emissions.
So what was the deciding factor for Stephen L. Johnson?
Wilson wrote: "Some [EPA] staff members believe Johnson made his decision after auto executives met with Vice President Dick Cheney and after a Chrysler executive delivered a letter to the White House outlining why neither California nor the EPA should be allowed to regulate greenhouse gases, among other reasons. The Detroit News reported Wednesday that chief executives of Ford and Chrysler met with Cheney last month."
White House Priorities
From yesterday's briefing with White House press secretary Dana Perino.
Q: "This begins President Bush's final year in the White House. What would you say are his most important goals, his priorities, the things on his 'must-do' list before he leaves the White House?"
Perino: "Well, there's a few things that we need to do with Congress on. While we were able to achieve some things last year, there's a lot of unfinished business. In regards to working with Congress, one of the first things that they need to do when they return is to pass and permanently establish the intelligence community reforms for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act -- the FISA bill. . . .
"We'll also need to move forward on -- hopefully the No Child Left Behind reauthorization. . . .
"In the last four months, when the President has asked Congress to move forward on housing legislation in order to help stabilize that market and to help homeowners who are having some difficulty, they've only passed one of the pieces of legislation the President asked for. . . .
"In addition to that, we have free trade agreements that are on the table. . . . And in addition to that, we have many outstanding nominations that need to be confirmed, both judicial and also throughout the government. . . .
"And then of course we'll have to go through the joy of trying to pass a budget again. . . .
"In addition to that, though, the President has a lot of things he wants to do to consolidate the gains that we've made in the global war on terror. . . .
"In addition, as you know, next Tuesday the President leaves for a trip to the Middle East, where he will continue to help the Palestinians and the Israelis seize this opportunity to try to get to a peace settlement where we can have a Palestinian state. . . . Beyond that, you know he'll be going to Africa. He's got many economic meetings to come, international meetings, including the G8. So there's a lot of things that we have to get done. He says he wants to sprint to the finish. I saw him this morning. He said he got a lot of great rest and that he's ready to work."
It fell to Hearst columnist Helen Thomas to point out something that apparently slipped Perino's mind.
Q: "It's missing in your whole category of goals for his last year in office -- peace in Iraq."
Perino: "I should have mentioned, of course -- my list was not considered exhaustive as I ticked it off of the top of my head."
Pocket Veto Watch
Walter Alarkon writes in The Hill: "House Democrats and the Bush administration appear on the verge of a new constitutional fight over whether President Bush can pocket-veto the defense authorization bill.
"The White House on Monday said it was pocket-vetoing the measure, but a spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the president cannot use such a measure when Congress is in session. The distinction over whether the president can pocket-veto the bill is important because such a move would prevent Congress from voting on an override. . . .
"A pocket veto occurs when the president neither vetoes nor signs a bill within 10 days, excluding Sundays, after its passage while Congress is adjourned. When Congress is in session, any bill that the president does not act on becomes law, according to the Constitution. The Senate has been in pro forma session over the last two weeks, while the House has been out of session. . . .
"Louis Fisher, a constitutional scholar at the Library of Congress, said that the president is inviting a constitutional fight in trying a pocket veto.
"'The administration would be on weak grounds in court because they would be insisting on what the Framers decidedly rejected: an absolute veto,' Fisher said.
"True pocket vetoes are available only when Congress is away for months and unable to vote on an override, he said."
Kathleen Hunter writes for Congressional Quarterly: "Both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi , D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid , D-Nev., have signaled that they plan to treat Bush's Dec. 28 memorandum of disapproval on the bill (HR 1585) as a normal veto, and have left open the possibility of veto override votes."
In my Live Online yesterday there was a great deal of animated discussion about Bush's attempted pocket veto. But a reader from Chandler, Ariz., chimed in to suggest that it wasn't exactly the sort of controversy that Democrats could use to harness voter outrage: "It's hard to get an apathetic public to get upset about a 'pocket veto'; it has no heart -- no slogan!"
I instantly commissioned a slogan contest. And by golly, Chandler, Ariz., was right. The strongest entries came from reader Horace LaBadie, and they weren't good. Among them:
"Don't pocket veto me, bro'."
"Is that a veto in your pocket, or did you just miss me?"
"If the Senate's in sayshun, the bill's legislation."
The best I could come up myself: The Pick Pocket Veto. (The veto, after all, had the immediate effect of reducing the raise military members got on Jan. 1 from 3.5 percent to 3 percent.)
Middle East Watch
More details of Bush's trip to the Middle East are emerging.
AFP reports: "Bush will hold a joint meeting with Israeli and Palestinian leaders during his visit to the region next week, a Palestinian official said on Wednesday.
"Bush will meet Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in Jerusalem on the evening of January 10, the official told AFP on condition of anonymity."
But apparently Bush isn't expecting any breakthroughs. He'll soon be changing the subject.
John D. McKinnon writes in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required): "President Bush plans to deliver the centerpiece speech of his Mideast trip this month in Abu Dhabi, White House officials said, highlighting the rapid economic growth and expanding opportunities of some Persian Gulf states.
"The speech scheduled for Jan. 13 is likely to hold up Persian Gulf States like Abu Dhabi, the largest of the United Arab Emirates, as models for the broader Arab world. By focusing attention on examples such as the UAE, the White House apparently hopes to encourage other Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia to open their economies and societies more rapidly and to shift their focus from their conflict with Israel and toward development."
Meanwhile, a new Harris Poll finds: "Three out of five Americans (62%) give the President a negative rating on his handling of the Israeli/Palestinian issue while only 25 percent give him positive marks. Looking at how President Bush has handled the situation in Afghanistan over the past several months, just one-quarter of Americans (26%) give him positive ratings while 63 percent give him negative ratings."
They're still out there. Claudia Rosett writes in an op-ed for the Philadelphia Inquirer: "The irony is that with the gains in Iraq of the 2007 surge, the much-criticized toppling of Saddam Hussein is looking more and more like the signal success of Bush foreign policy.
"It is on the rest of the chessboard, where America has been trying to go along to get along, that the real failures are now in the making. One by one, military options have been swept aside, and step by step, the quest for United Nations-style 'consensus' has replaced U.S. leadership. . . .
"[T]his was the road to Sept. 11, and it is an approach that right now we can ill afford.
"America doesn't have to wage war on every enemy on the planet, but appeasement and denial do not buy peace."
Rove in His Own Words
Karl Rove takes questions from Vanity Fair:
VF: "What is your most marked characteristic?"
Rove: "Energy and precision are tied."
VF: "What is your motto?"
Rove: "I like the one that used to be the motto on the unit coin of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, the Blackhorse: 'Be prepared! Find the bastards. And pile on!'"
Laugh Out Loud Funny
Shikha Dalmia interviews former White House press secretary Tony Snow for Reason magazine.
Dalmia: "Run through how the messaging works in this White House. If a particular story or disaster breaks, how does the White House decide what it is going to say about it?"
Snow: "This is not like some previous administrations where people are running around with talking points. You're not going to find - I guarantee you - people using exactly the same phrase because that's not a very convincing way to do public diplomacy. What you've got to do is allow people to speak honestly in their own words. You've just got to do it in a way that is not jarring or inconsistent with what the president is saying."
Tom Toles on Bush's quest for permanence.