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Bush Fatigue Hits Bush

"Some senior administration officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney and some hard-liners in the Pentagon, are advocating the continuation of what they confirm has been a White House-imposed communications blackout on most dealings with Russia and a halt to nearly all bilateral initiatives on security matters. . . .

"On the other side are officials at the State and Justice Departments and Pentagon, including Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who have fought behind the scenes for a continuance and even a rededication of national security alliances with Russia. They believe such ties, particularly on joint counter-terrorism and counter-proliferation efforts, are too important to jeopardize over the conflict in Georgia.

"'Those who want to scale back are winning,' one State Department official said Wednesday, referring to those advocating the harder-line approach."

Meanwhile, Robert Burns writes for the Associated Press: "Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Friday the world should keep its powder dry as it reckons with a newly assertive Russia, avoiding military confrontation as U.S. presidents did during the Cold War. . . .

"Injecting a bit of self-deprecating humor, Gates noted that the Bush administration is the first in history with secretaries of state and defense who both hold doctorates in Russian studies.

"'A fat lot of good that's done us,' he said."

Locking Things In

Jim Hoagland writes in his Washington Post opinion column: "In its final months, the Bush White House -- along with the Pentagon -- is laboring to avoid crippling disruptions during the coming transition by locking in policies for the year to come. The idea is to move down in Iraq, up in Afghanistan and sideways on Pakistan.

"This triple-play strategy was essentially put in place during a July 23 meeting involving Bush, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the 'tank,' the chiefs' secure conference facility at the Pentagon."

Stop the Shredders!

Christopher Lee writes in The Washington Post: "A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction yesterday ordering Vice President Cheney and the National Archives to preserve all of his official records.

"U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly's order came in response to a lawsuit filed this month by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. The group, joined by several historians and open-government advocates, warned that Cheney might destroy or withhold important documents as the Bush administration winds down if he interprets the Presidential Records Act of 1978 as applying to only some of his official papers.

"That, in turn, could deprive historians and the general public of valuable records that illustrate Cheney's role in forming U.S. policy over the past 7 1/2 years, they argued. . . .

"'It's a pretty strong opinion,' said Anne Weismann, chief counsel for the watchdog group. 'They will be prevented from destroying anything. It basically means they have to preserve everything in the broadest possible interpretation of what the law requires -- not their narrow interpretation.'. . .

"In court filings, Claire M. O'Donnell, Cheney's deputy chief of staff, offered a narrower definition of vice presidential records than the one in the law. She wrote that the statute applied to records relating to the 'constitutional, statutory or other official or ceremonial duties' of the vice president that fall within 'the category of functions of the Vice President specially assigned to the Vice President by the President in the discharge of executive duties and responsibilities' or 'the category of the functions of the Vice President as President of the Senate.'

"But that definition excludes many records, including those relating to Cheney's work on the National Security Council and those where he acted without instructions from the president, such as his efforts to win reauthorization of a top-secret warrantless wiretapping program, the plaintiffs argued.

"Kollar-Kotelly agreed and ordered all records preserved until the court can sort out the legal arguments on both sides before the presidential transition in January."

Fundraising Watch

Bush is expected to find time for a political fundraiser today on his way to New York.

How desperate are the candiates seeking his help these days? This one is being outspent 10-to-1.

Erik Larsen writes in the Asbury Park Press: "The details of President Bush's visit to Colts Neck this afternoon were being kept private, just like the fundraiser he is expected to attend there for Republicans Chris Myers and Leonard Lance, who are running in the two most competitive congressional races in New Jersey. . . .

"According to a copy of an invitation for the event, guests . . . have been advised that they can snap photos of the affair, but must disable any video recording feature on their still cameras. . . .

"'Republicans in both the 3rd and 7th (Congressional Districts) here are faced with a Hobson's choice,' said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. 'The president is incredibly unpopular here in New Jersey. His numbers have been in the lows 20s (percent) for the past few years, and so being seen with the president is something the Democrats would just love. The problem is these candidates are far behind the Democrats in terms of fundraising. The president, whether you love him or hate him, is a fundraiser -- par excellence, bar none -- for the Republican base.'

"As of June 30, Myers' opponent, state Sen. John Adler, D-Camden, had almost $1.5 million in his campaign war chest, compared with $155,407 for Myers, according to the Federal Election Commission."

Poll Watch

The latest American Research Group poll has Bush's approval rating at 19 percent, matching that survey's all-time low.

"Among Republicans . . . , 48% approve of the way Bush is handling his job and 46% disapprove."

Late Night Humor

Jay Leno, via U.S. News: "President Bush has issued a new warning to Iran that it faces new economic sanctions after reports by the UN atomic watchdog committee that Iran is still enriching uranium. President Bush promising new economic sanctions. And believe me, if there's one thing the President is an expert on, it is ruining a country's economy."

Cartoon Watch

Signe Wilkinson on George Bush the great nationalizer, Charlie Daniel on Bush's fireside chat, Rex Babin on Bush at the controls, Ann Telnaes on Bush's confidence in the market.

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