White House Week
Bush Aides Hit Conservative Blogs but Find Cool Reception
As part of an all-out PR blitz to save the Senate immigration compromise, the White House is dipping its toe in the blogosphereand finding the waters decidedly chilly. In a first, staffers from the Office of Strategic Initiatives registered accounts with the conservative blog Redstate (along with several others) and posted rejoinders to the bill's critics. The response from the party faithful very likely made them long for the comparatively well-mannered White House press corps. One blogger accused the aides of lying, and site directors had to remind posters to keep things civil. Erick Erickson, a Redstate director, said he is happy that the White House is paying attention to online communities but suggested that the blogging neophytes have a lot to learn. Says Erickson, "They're not having a conversation, which is what blogs really should have."
A New Strategist to Tout Bush's Agenda
When veteran Republican operator Ed Gillespie arrives at the White House to take up the powerful post of counselor to the president, he will most likely be armed with a trademark strategic road map aimed at helping President Bush relaunch his stalled agenda and eventually depart Washington with a positive legacy. "Ed is the master at strategic documents," says one ally, who gives the former chairman of the Republican National Committee credit for drafting the 1994 GOP Contract With America. Others say that he is a "grown-up" who will be equal in stature to political guru Karl Rove, whose relations with Gillespie's predecessor, Dan Bartlett, were strained. Gillespie's most important mission, says one adviser, is rebuilding Bush's "brand on trust and build[ing] confidence in the president among the base."
North Korea Gets Its Dough; Bush Gets Flak
It took three long months for the Bush administration to secure the transfer of millions of dollars in suspect North Korean funds out of once frozen Macao bank accounts, but last week's apparent breakthrough might finally free a logjam in negotiations over the country's disputed nuclear program. Now, the complicated machinations of the transferthe U.S. Federal Reserve Bank had to act in effect as a financial agent for North Korea because of the administration's own money-laundering prohibitionshave landed Bush in hot water with his conservative base. Last week, a group of six House Republicans angered by the negotiations with Pyongyang asked the Government Accountability Office to evaluate whether the administration had broken its own rules in facilitating the movement of money.
The Art of Criticizing One's Closest Friends
Some allies of the Bush administration came in for unusually harsh criticism in the State Department's annual report on human trafficking. Several Persian Gulf states that host large U.S. military deployments, including Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and Oman, were added to the list of violators because of alleged abuses surrounding their practice of importing laborers for construction, domestic work, and prostitution. Seven new countries were added to the list of the worst violators, but the gulf nations were singled out because of their oil wealth. "It's a comparison of economic capacity of a country to help people and their will to do so," says Ambassador Mark Lagon, who issued the report.
PHOTO OP: 1:57 p.m., June 12, U.S. Capitol
After returning from a swing through Europe, President Bush made a rare visit to Capitol Hill to press Republican senators to give the controversial immigration reform bill another chance. After meeting with Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott (left) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (right), Bush called on Congress to permit a vote.
With Will Sullivan, Paul Bedard and Thomas Omestad
This story appears in the June 25, 2007 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.