By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
No one is predicting that DeLay, Rove and Bush are buying soap on a rope and reading the inmate’s guide “So, I’m Going to Prison.” But DeLay is in real trouble. The grand jury and the D.A. can’t talk, but material turned up in suits filed by Democrats defeated by TRMPAC’s corporate funds provides a paper trail that leads to DeLay.
Who knows? Maybe the majority leader’s bad press is providing a little relief for the White House, which now seems like a bad story about to break every week. Ever since his handlers (that would be Rove) agreed to let Bush go live with Tim Russert on Meet the Press, most of the news coming out of the White House has been bad.
Not only was Bush’s rare live interview with a reporter a letdown for all but his most blindly ardent supporters, it also so aroused interest in his sketchy National Guard history that Team Bush hastily arranged a document dump of the president’s military personnel records within days of his dodgy interview with Russert.
As the Texas National Guard story died down (for the moment; there’s more to come), Medicare actuary Richard Foster admitted he’d been ordered to lie about the president’s Medicare bill, understating its cost by $100 million to get it passed in the House. The order came from a Bush appointee, who has since left his job.
Then came Paul O’Neill’s book, depicting the president as the same disengaged executive we knew and feared when he was governor of Texas. And Richard Clarke’s claim that the Bushies were asleep at the switch as plans were being made to launch commercial aircraft at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, then missed al Qaeda because they were obsessed with Iraq.
The White House’s resolve to keep Condeleezza Rice away from the September 11 commission only required three weeks of bad news reports to completely unravel. Reports of the ongoing military disaster in Iraq were crawling across the electronic news ticker on the screen under Rice as she testified. This week, the Associated Press reported that 62 American Marines and soldiers died during the first two weeks of April. This Sunday, Bob Woodward is on 60 Minutes to kick off a book that promises to be filled with critical reporting on Bush’s floundering war in Iraq.
Suddenly, Rove’s plan to hold the Republican National Convention in New York — planned as a triumphant return to the scene of the terrorist attack almost three years to the day after the event — is openly criticized by some Republican Party leaders. As is Bush’s decision to remain holed up at the ranch in Crawford during the worst week of fighting in Iraq since his ill-advised “Mission Accomplished” landing on the flight deck of the Abraham Lincoln.
“There’s this sense that after he appeared on Meet the Press and released the Guard records, things started to change,” said a White House reporter at the Press Club in Washington. The reporter sensed a change in the mood of the press, which suddenly became more aggressive. And a real sense of indecision in the White House. “Maybe a fear that they waited too long to start the campaign,” the reporter said.
Help is on the way.
Bush’s longtime media adviser Karen Hughes is returning from semi-retirement in Texas. The only top-level adviser who has worked with Bush since Karl Rove wrote the script that made him governor of Texas in 1994, Hughes is also the only Bush adviser with the chops to stand up to Rove. She would have kept Bush out of the flight suit he wore when he told the sailors gathered on the deck of the Abraham Lincoln their mission was accomplished. She would have vetted Bush’s appointment of a “Jobs Czar” who had shut down one of his American factories and shipped the work to China. And because her background was first news and then care and feeding of reporters, she would have at least shortened the news cycles on some critical stories the White House allowed to drag on for weeks.
But even Hughes is off to a slow start. Rather than returning directly to Washington, she’s working the free media circuit, on a book tour with her recently released Ten Minutes From Normal. In the first half of the book, she breezes through her life story. In the second half, she does in print for George W. Bush what Monica Lewinsky did in private for Bill Clinton. Hughes is signing books at Wal-Mart in Austin next week. She got a $1 million advance from Viking and needs to move some books before she moves back to Washington.
Meanwhile, everyone is waiting for Karen.
One White House adviser speaking off the record to Time in late March was begging Hughes to get back to Washington right now. The president, the adviser said, desperately needs Hughes’ “mom-in-the-kitchen sense of the country.” Another White House aide was more gloomy: “The longer they wait for her to get back, the less it will matter.”