And Now, the Bush Buddy Roadshow
President Bush can't seem to catch a break from some of his former advisers and colleagues. He has already been burned by ex-Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, ex-political adviser Matthew Dowd, and ex-Mexican President Vicente Fox. Now it's Alan Greenspan's turn. In his new book, The Age of Turbulence, the former Federal Reserve chairman lashes out at Bush and congressional Republicans for letting the deficit grow too large and being irresponsible with the budget.
Bush fought back last week, arguing that he has handled fiscal matters "in good fashion." And a cadre of "exes," or former aides, is gearing up to give the positive side of his story. Karl Rove, the president's former chief political strategist, will soon join the lecture circuit to make his boss's case. Michael Gerson, White House speechwriter in Bush's first term, is expected to join the chorus with his new book, Heroic Conservatism. Perhaps the most active defender will be Tony Snow, the White House press secretary who left the West Wing September 14. Snow, a former conservative commentator, tells me he is about to begin a very aggressive speaking schedule during which he will praise Bush as a smart, tough, strong leader. This also will be one of Snow's themes in a book he plans to write about policy and politics.
Democrats Lose Another Round on Iraq War Policy
While some worry about Bush's legacy, most in Congress are concerned about the here and now, especially in Iraq. And there was another strong indication last week that Bush will get his way in running the war. The Senate rejected a Democratic amendment to mandate more time at home for troops who have been in combat, which would have limited deployments to Iraq. It lost on a 56-to-44 vote, 4 short of the 60 needed to cut off debate. The measure also got 56 votes in July, suggesting that despite all the sturm und drang surrounding Gen. David Petraeus's recent congressional testimony about Iraq, nothing much has changed on Capitol Hill. Nearly all the Senate Republicans opposed the measure in solidarity with the White House. And a frustrated Democratic strategist conceded: "In the short term, things have stabilized for Bush on Iraq." In other words, it will be nearly impossible for Congress to force a change in policy this year.
When Secrets and Lies are a Big Part of the Job
Speaking of national security, one of the most serious challenges facing any White House press secretary is deciding whether to lie about the existence of secret military operations. In a revealing Smithsonian-sponsored panel discussion last week that I moderated, four former presidential spokesmen agreed that protecting the troops must come first. "The public's right to know never trumps somebody's right to life," Snow said, although he gave no details. Jody Powell, press secretary to Jimmy Carter, admitted lying when he denied that his administration was considering a mission to rescue the U.S. hostages in Iran. He didn't want to jeopardize the operation, but it failed anyway. Powell had no regrets but allowed that deception is always a "slippery slope" that can easily undermine a press secretary's credibility. Marlin Fitzwater, spokesman for Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, said the best course is to set a policy of not discussing military operations at all. That was the approach taken by Snow and Joe Lockhart, press secretary for Bill Clinton. Another area of consensus: All four said their presidents didn't get a fair shake from the media—and their presidents thought so, too.
PHOTO OP: 9:09 a.m., September 18, South Lawn
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice listens as President Bush thanks representatives of military support organizations for assisting U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and their families at home. Rice will accompany the president to New York this week for his address to the United Nations General Assembly.