White House Week
In the Senate, Just When Things Were Looking Up
Even as the White House was celebrating because GOP senators had squelched an anti-troop-surge resolution, seven Republican senators, including the influential John Warner of Virginia, reversed course to support a full-scale debate on Iraq policy. President Bush and his advisers had hoped that GOP senators would hold firm behind their commander in chief, as they did earlier last week by using Senate rules to block debate on Warner's resolution opposing Bush's "surge" of 21,500 additional combat troops into Iraq. But the seven, concerned about media portrayals of Republican "obstructionism," broke ranks and called for debate on an antisurge measure, which they may attach to another bill that reaches the full Senate in the next few weeks. "They want to have their voices heard," said a White House official with a stiff upper lip. "If they want a debate, we won't stand in the way."
Feeling the Pinch of the New Congress
Republican lobbyists for some of the biggest legal and lobbying firms say that being locked out of the majority leadership offices is hurting their business. "We can no longer meet with the speaker and other leaders, so the business for now isn't so good," says one. Another said that some clients aren't wowed yet by the backbone of the House GOP leadership, so they might be holding off pushing pet projects Democrats might object to. As a result, some Republican lobbyists are expected to make fewer performance bonuses, which, in turn, will mean fewer donations to GOP candidates and lawmakers. "Republican lobbyists are cutting fewer checks for this crowd," says one.
What, You Want Us to Work a Full Week?
One of the lesser-known aspects of the "Air Pelosi" controversy is the degree to which the fuss is payback for the House speaker's decision to hold legislators to a five-day workweek, instead of the three- or four-day schedule adopted by the Republicans in the past. Nancy Pelosi has been attacked for using a big Air Force jet to fly nonstop to her home district, in San Francisco. She says she is only following the policy of her predecessor, Republican Dennis Hastert of Illinois, who used government aircraft for security reasons-and the House sergeant-at-arms backs her up. But GOP insiders say the issue has a lot to do with Pelosi's workweek requirement, which they consider a PR stunt that makes it harder for lawmakers to get home. Of course, the plane is also a target that is hard for the GOP to ignore.
The Alternative Universe of the DOD
In a sound dressing-down for then Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld's top policy aide, the Department of Defense inspector general reprimanded Douglas Feith for developing, producing, and disseminating misleading intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war. The report said Feith's office ginned up its own alternative intelligence reports that exaggerated the connection between Iraq and al Qaeda-findings, the IG noted, that were "inconsistent with the consensus of the intelligence community" but supported the White House's charge to invade Iraq. Feith's office responded that its actions were not intelligence activities and that "even if they were, [they] would be appropriate given that they were responding to direction from the deputy secretary of defense."
PHOTO OP: 11:30 a.m., February 7, White House South Lawn
National Park Service rangers duck to avoid a blizzard of snow churned up by the president's Marine One helicopter landing at the White House. White House aides were grousing last week, arguing that the major media did not give adequate attention to President Bush's funding increase of $258 million for the National Park Service in his new budget.
With Kenneth T. Walsh, Paul Bedard and Anna Mulrine
This story appears in the February 19, 2007 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.