White House Week
Third Time's the Charm, Unless You're Being Sent to Iraq
The day after President Bush delivered his Iraq speech to the nation, he jetted to Fort Benning, Ga., to pitch his plan to the troops, some of whom will soon be heading back to Iraq for the third time. The grim, visibly tense president who came into America's homes on Wednesday night was gone. Bush was animated and folksy-even optimistic at times-skirting the culpability he had accepted the day before. For their part, the soldiers warmly greeted Bush's long-term plan for a permanent increase in the size of the military and clapped at the mention of a Medal of Honor winner from the base. But Bush's plan for a troop surge was met with silence, and after several key lines in his speech, the president seemed to wait for applause in vain. The soldiers, however, stood and clapped respectfully for Bush when he finished.
Bipartisanship Gone, Comity to Follow
By February or March, the "lip-service talk of comity will dissipate" between Republicans and Democrats, a high-powered lobbyist predicts. At that point, he worries, bitterly partisan oversight hearings will very likely have begun, making it difficult for advocates to form coalitions to move measures through Congress. Some lobbyists believe they'll have to peel 15 to 20 House Republicans away from their party on key votes, essentially the reverse of the 109th Congress. But getting legislation through the Senate will be significantly more difficult. Former Majority Leader Bill Frist often had to find five or six votes to cross over to break a filibuster, but Democrats, with a tiny Senate majority, will have to find twice as many. That means, says the hired gun, that Republican moderates may wind up being not only the most powerful but also "the most lobbied people in Congress."
Waiting to See the Color of Their Eyes
One of the calculations by House and Senate Republicans in deciding to lay low for a while when it comes to attacking Democrats is that their foes will eventually start displaying their liberal tendencies on issues like abortion and taxes, making them easier targets. "They'll go liberal by April or May, we think, when the honeymoon is over," said a Senate GOP official. In the first few weeks of the new Congress, GOP leaders have decided not to attack the Democrats, who are expected to have a honeymoon with voters and the press. Republicans calculate, however, that after a few victories on moderate issues, Democrats will move to tackle more traditionally liberal issues such as raising taxes or opposing abortion curbs. "That's when we will hit," said the GOP insider. The challenge? Coming up with positive alternatives.
Uh, What Kind of a Rebuke Is That?
In a rebuke of President Bush's climate change policy, 355 U.S. cities committed themselves to the aim of the Kyoto Protocol by reducing their greenhouse gas emissions to 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. But a new report by the Washington-based Institute for Local Self-Reliance finds that they are all failing to meet their goal. The primary culprit: automobile emissions. "You have to get people to stop driving, or you need increased fuel economy standards," says the report's author, John Bailey. The one beacon of success is Portland, Ore., which has essentially stabilized its emissions at 1990 levels for the past 15 years.
With Will Sullivan, Bret Schulte and Paul Bedard
This story appears in the January 22, 2007 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.