White House Week
White House Is Hoping for a Big Lift...in January
White House advisers are already looking ahead to the State of the Union address next year as a way to lift President Bush out of his political doldrums. Senior Republicans tell U.S. News and the Bulletin that they don't see much of an opportunity for Bush to improve his political standing, short of a crisis in which he proves his mettle, until January, with the big annual speech setting forth his agenda for 2006 and beyond. "He's really floundering right now," says a senior Republican strategist. Indeed, some see Bush as having entered a "trust me" phase of his presidency. On issues like Iraq, terrorism, and Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, the argument goes, Bush now seems to be saying, "I won't go any further in making my case; you just have to trust that I'm doing the right thing."
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Is the Hill Already Seeing a DeLay Effect?
Has the indictment of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay changed the political landscape on Capitol Hill? Some think it has, pointing to maneuverings on Friday when the House took up an energy bill designed to encourage construction of more oil refineries. In a last-minute move, the bill's sponsor, Rep. Joe Barton, a Texas Republican, deleted one key section that would have dramatically rolled back Clean Air Act requirements, not only for the oil business but for coal-fired utilities as well. GOP moderates had balked--some in open revolt--at the package. (The bill passed, 212 to 210.) Before his resignation earlier last week, DeLay's ability to keep GOP moderates in line earned him the moniker "the Hammer."
At the CIA, Goss May Be Losing His Gloss
Backers of CIA Director Porter Goss say he is quietly reforming the place. But the disconnected style of the former chair of the House Intelligence Committee has both Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill wondering whether he is working out. "It's hard to get a handle on what he's actually doing," says one Intelligence Committee source. "We can't really decipher it." So, sources say, the Senate Intelligence Committee will now look into Goss's performance. Many on the Hill are skeptical about Goss's decision not to open accountability boards to look into the failures of specific intelligence officials in the period before 9/11. And Democrats are still protesting Goss's intention to keep classified the CIA's internal inspector general's report on the failures.
And Now, Conservatives to the Rescue
Surprisingly, the consensus among veterans of past confirmation fights in the Senate is that the conservative furor over Harriet Miers will actually help her nomination. "The conservatives are understandably nervous," said a Washington insider with close connections to congressional Republicans. "But this situation helps the nominee because it moves the perception of her to the center, and that will bring along moderate Democrats." In the end, however, sources say they believe that while the far right will make hay over the nomination, establishment conservatives will trust Bush and come along, and he will pull it off.
With Kenneth T. Walsh, Marianne Lavelle and Kevin Whitelaw Kenneth T. Walsh, Marianne Lavelle and Kevin Whitelaw Kenneth T. Walsh, Marianne Lavelle and Kevin Whitelaw Kenneth T. Walsh, Marianne Lavelle and Kevin Whitelaw
This story appears in the October 17, 2005 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.