White House Week
Counting the Days, but What Really Counts Is the Money
Spin doctors for both sides battled anew as congressional Democrats sent President Bush an Iraq war-funding bill with a timetable for withdrawal, and Bush vowed to veto it immediately. The veto, expected this week, will allow Bush to continue his count of the days until Congress sends him an acceptable bill-one that does not "handcuff our generals, add billions of dollars in unrelated spending, and [make us] begin to pull out of Iraq by an arbitrary date." Meanwhile, the Democratic National Committee is running its own tally: "It's Been 90 Days and Counting: Escalation Plan Still Not Working," it claimed on its website one day last week. War of words aside, it's unclear where this all goes next. Some Democrats suggest a compromise bill that would set nonbinding benchmarks for Iraqi behavior on matters like curbing sectarian violence and dividing oil revenues. The hope: It might pull in enough Republican senators to make it vetoproof.
Hitting the Highway for School Safety
Even as the three cabinet secretaries tapped by President Bush to review the Virginia Tech shootings hit the road on a listening tour, the White House was considering a broader commission to study and recommend changes in school security and related issues. While the trio-Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt-plan to look at mental health and security in school from kindergarten through college, the broader commission would include many more officials from school systems, colleges, and health fields. But a White House official said that the idea for a commission is still in the planning stages, and the panel might not be formed if the cabinet approach works.
Enough Flirting, It's Time to Say, 'No'
At the opening gala of the Tribeca Film Festival last week, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Vice President Al Gore continued to publicly flirt with the presidential race, with Bloomberg joking, ostensibly about Gore, "Don't you just hate those rumors about running for president?" But in an interview, one of the mayor's top aides firmly stated that, jokes aside, Bloomberg has shut the door on a White House run. Bloomberg, mayor since 2002, has a personal fortune estimated at $5 billion by Forbes magazine, enough to allow him to self-finance a late-entry campaign. But Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff told U.S. News, while praising the mayor's independence and pragmatism, "I think he'd be terrific, but he's not going to run."
Creating a New Storm at the Center
The White House on Friday declined to directly address damaging new allegations made in a newly published book by former CIA Director George Tenet. In his book, At the Center of the Storm, Tenet writes that top administration officials never had a serious debate about whether Saddam Hussein posed an imminent threat to the United States, nor did they seriously discuss ways to contain him short of invading his country. (Tenet had to do a bit of explaining himself over his prewar "slam-dunk" remark regarding evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.) The White House would only say that President Bush allowed a full debate over invading Iraq and properly assessed all options.
PHOTO OP: 11:05 a.m., April 26, the Pentagon
Exit is no answer, Gen. David Petraeus, the top American commander in Iraq, told reporters at a press conference last week. He acknowledged that sectarian violence was bad now but added, "It can get much, much worse." Deterioration would surely come in the wake of a U.S. troop withdrawal, he said, but in the end a political solution is needed.
With Kenneth T. Walsh, Paul Bedard and Will Sullivan
This story appears in the May 7, 2007 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.