White House Week
Sleeper Issue: Home Heating Costs Could Burn the GOP
Not that the White House needs anything else to worry about, but there's a new concern among President Bush's advisers: reports that heating bills will increase this winter by as much as 50 percent for most Americans who use natural gas. That's the prediction of the U.S. Energy Information Administration, and Republican strategists are fretting that Bush and the GOP majority in Congress will be punished for it in the 2004 midterm elections. "It's a sleeper issue," says a key Republican strategist who works closely with the White House. Bush supporters say the president has been pushing legislation to increase the country's domestic energy production, but Congress has balked at doing everything he wanted. Now, they say, it's too late to keep the bills down.
If the 'Architect' Steps Down...
With Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove having just made his fourth appearance last week before the federal grand jury looking into the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame, some worried White House insiders are now talking about who might replace him if he becomes entangled in a criminal inquiry. Topping the list: lobbyist, former Republican Party chairman, and judicial shepherd Ed Gillespie. The cofounder of the powerhouse Quinn-Gillespie public relations and lobbying firm, he was called on to handle much of the effort to get John G. Roberts confirmed in his post as chief justice of the United States and has stayed on to address conservatives' objections to Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers. Most insiders say they don't believe that Rove, whom Bush called the architect of his re-election strategy, will be indicted. That's the good news. The bad: Rove may be dragged more deeply into the case, further distracting a White House already beset by more than enough trouble. They said that Gillespie is the only Bush ally with the political seasoning and gravitas to take the job.
It's Either the Miers Way or the Highway
White House officials have a message for conservative Republican senators balking at Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers. "If Miers is confirmed and she winds up being what the president says she is, Republican senators who voted against her will look quite foolish," says a GOP insider. This could cause a backlash against these legislators from conservative Bush supporters at the grass roots. The not-so-subtle point: Republican senators should shut up, trust the president, and rally behind his choice.
A 21st-Century Version of The Birds
Over at the Pentagon, meanwhile, the brass are debating plans to fight a possible avian flu pandemic. "We are looking at a wide range of contingencies potentially involving [active-duty] forces if a pandemic outbreak of a biological threat were to occur," said Paul McHale, an assistant secretary. Most plans for dealing with quarantines involve the use of National Guard troops under the direction of governors. But at the urging of President Bush, the Pentagon is re-evaluating the role it would play in coordinating a response to any outbreak of the rapidly spreading bird flu.
With Kenneth T. Walsh, Paul Bedard and Julian E. Barnes Kenneth T. Walsh, Paul Bedard and Julian E. Barnes Kenneth T. Walsh, Paul Bedard and Julian E. Barnes Kenneth T. Walsh, Paul Bedard and Julian E. Barnes
This story appears in the October 24, 2005 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.