White House Week
Bush Backers Worry That He's in a Little Bit of a Bog
President Bush has hit a slow spot. His job approval is down in the 40s; he's on the wrong side of public opinion on key issues ranging from federal intervention in the Terri Schiavo case to Social Security overhaul. Democrats are looking to beat him on the looming issue of judicial nominations. Yet he's intent on staying the course, and his aides minimize his problems. "A rough patch?" a senior White House official told U.S. News : "I'm not sure that's the case." Yet it has unsettled some Republican allies. "People are starting to raise their eyebrows at the disconnect," says a former GOP presidential adviser. "It's not a disaster or a free fall, but it is a rough patch." One reason may be ominous: More Americans believe the economy is worsening, at least partly in reaction to rising gas prices.
A War They'd Rather Forget
The president will walk a diplomatic tightrope when he heads to Moscow next month to mark the victory of the old Soviet Union over Nazi Germany 60 years ago. Russian leader Vladimir Putin wants a grand celebration for a country that endured millions of deaths and achieved victory with great courage. But some of its former "satellite countries" aren't wild about partying with their longtime occupiers. Bush wants to keep Putin happy, but he'll also have to make some more stops: in Georgia and Latvia to recognize their own struggle for freedom--against the U.S.S.R.
Nonstop Selling on Social Security
The roadshow must go on. Despite the shaky news on Social Security reform, White House aides say they're happy with the pace of progress. The goal of pushing the president's plan for 60 days in 60 cities is halfway over, and so far the president and his Social Security reform team headed by Treasury Secretary John Snow have traveled to more than 100 events in 32 states. While polls and House and Senate leaders are skeptical of passage this year, the White House thinks the events will boost support over the next month. "We are making real progress," says a top treasury official. "At the end of 60 days, we are confident that more and more people will understand the real problems facing Social Security and the need to take action."
Ditching the Press Corps
It sounds innocent enough: The grungy press room in the West Wing will undergo major renovations starting in August. Meantime, reporters and photographers who work in the slovenly space are to be moved to a nearby building. Yet the evolving plan--which is to be discussed this week at a meeting between the White House and the media--is setting off alarms in the always skeptical press corps. Scribes sniff a ploy to use the upgrade as an excuse to oust them from their prized location next to the inner sanctum. Not impossible, says Mike McCurry, who lorded over the press room for Bill Clinton. Every time the subject of renovation came up, says McCurry, "it was pretty clear pretty soon that people thought it was just a dandy idea to move the press." There are even long-standing and bipartisan blueprints for where to put the pesky reporters, including in a bunker under the White House lawn. But not on his watch, says Press Secretary Scott McClellan. "It's a temporary relocation," he reassured U.S. News . "The renovation is to make it easier for everybody who uses it." Sure.
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This story appears in the April 11, 2005 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.