- The Washington Times - Monday, January 21, 2002

Big Bad Bob
"Someone once said the White House is the only sieve that leaks from the top, but the Bush White House is, so far, famously leak-proof. Or rather almost leak-free," Peggy Noonan writes.
"And that is amazing. But a big but has a bright and industrious little serpent attempted to invade this leakless Eden?
"Yes," said Miss Noonan, an author and former White House speechwriter, in her weekly column at OpinionJournal.com.
"Guess who's working on a book on Dubya's first year, or Dubya's first year and the war, or the Afghan war, or the continual fighting between State, Defense and the National Security Council over Dubya's first year, the war and Afghanistan?
"Big Bad Bob. Woodward, that is. He is reported to be hammering all over the place looking for leaks, trying to make them spring. Who would be his sources? I can guess and so can you, but the more sophisticated and experienced guesser would be one George W. Bush.
"I wonder how he intends to handle it. I wonder what he's doing about it. I wonder if the No Leak Law will prevail or, if it doesn't, I wonder if Mr. Bush will choose to cooperate, and have his people cooperate, on the old theory that if you cooperate with certain people you're paying a kind of protection money: Talk and the whole story won't be told to your disadvantage, refuse to talk and you'll be portrayed as the fool. 'In this town,' as Bob Novak once famously said, 'you're either a source or a target.'
"Wonder what Mr. Bush and his people will choose to be. Wonder if they'll figure out a way to be neither."

Keeping score
"He used to be a baseball bigwig, so it's not surprising that President Bush carries score cards in his pockets. But they don't chart his fantasy ball team. The 'Executive Branch Management Scorecard' rates his government lineup," Paul Bedard writes in U.S. News & World Report.
"'You'll be in this meeting and he'll whip out these score cards,' says an aide. 'They rate agencies and programs effective or not.' Yes, there's finally an M.B.A. in the Oval Office who, with his budget consigliere Mitch Daniels, is bringing a corporate approach to the 2003 budget," Mr. Bedard said in his Washington Whispers column.
"Gone: mumbo-jumbo budget books. In: grades on key program elements, a first. 'If you're not keeping score, you're just practicing,' says Daniels.
"We've heard it before. Remember Al Gore's reinventing government? 'Well, we're doing it,' brags a Bush aide. 'We're doing the old Ross Perot "look under the hood; see what works and streamline what doesn't."' Which means Mitch the budget mechanic is on 24-7 duty. 'I'm not seeing any movies. I'm not reading any books.' But he still works out, bench pressing his weight. 'It's routine maintenance.'"

Unabashed optimists
Mindy Tucker, new communications director for the Republican National Committee, and her Democratic counterpart, Maria Cardona, both say they have reason to be optimistic about the 2002 elections.
"We're very excited going into the '02 elections," despite President Bush's 82 percent approval rating, Miss Cardona said Saturday on the CNN show "America's New War."
"What you saw in '01 is that Bush has absolutely no coattails. He had none in 2000, as a matter of fact. He had none last year. We won in New Jersey. We won in Virginia. We won 39 of 42 targeted mayor's races. We won up and down the ticket, all over the country because Democrats really spoke to the issues that matter to the American people."
Those issues, she said, included fiscal discipline, education, public safety, job creation and economic opportunity.
But Miss Tucker countered: "The important thing is, who's getting things done? President Bush signed into law an education bill. Senator [Tom] Daschle was holding up the economic-stimulus bill in the Senate. American people don't want people to just talk about issues. They want people who get things done, and that's what George W. Bush has done as president. That's what a lot of Republicans have done."
The RNC spokeswoman went on to say this will be an "important election year." She said she also recognizes that, historically, the party in power does not do well in off-year elections.
"But we're going into it hopeful with a great agenda, a great president who has shown leadership, lots of accomplishments to talk about, a unified party. We're well-funded, unlike our opponents. And we're hoping for a very good election year," Miss Tucker said.

Shared weaknesses
Conservatives "should be happy with this administration," Ramesh Ponnuru writes in National Review, but there are a few problems.
President Bush and the conservative movement "share weaknesses: a reluctance to challenge liberal pieties concerning race; failure to exploit the full potential of the new investor class; blindness to the costs of continuous mass immigration; lack of zeal to shrink government; a reactive approach to health care; and a general lack of creativity," Mr. Ponnuru said.
"And the downside to Bush's dominance of the Right is that it reflects the decay of such conservative organizations as the Christian Coalition. The dormancy of organized conservatism deprives Bush of useful allies. It also means that there is no force tugging him to the right to offset the many forces tugging him left.
"Conservatives should be grateful that Bush is as conservative as he is, since they have no independent political power to force him to be so. As they celebrate Bush's success, they might profitably worry about their own failures."

Creative caption writing
It's pretty obvious that some precincts of national news media have been working overtime to pin some sort of scandal on the Bush administration regarding the collapse of Enron, but a caption writer for The Washington Post apparently resorted to outright falsehoods.
Michael Getler, the Post's ombudsman, had this to say yesterday in his weekly column on the editorial page:
"In last week's column, I mentioned reader complaints about a picture of Harvard professor Cornel West and a misleading caption. This week a sharp-eyed reader calls attention to a picture and caption on Page 2 of the Style section Tuesday, accompanying a story about the Enron saga and its political effect. The caption read, 'Enron CEO Kenneth Lay spoke to President Bush at a Houston ballgame last April.' It showed Lay speaking to someone whose back was turned to the camera and who looked like President Bush. Well, it was, sort of. It was actually April 2000, and it was former president Bush, facts that the original Associated Press caption made clear but that The Post dropped in its version, making it appear that Lay was talking with the current president."

Come home, Michael
The Democratic and Republican Party chairmen were guests yesterday on NBC's "Meet the Press," and host Tim Russert asked if "out of respect," both parties would hold their 2004 national political conventions in New York City.
Republican Marc Racicot said that his party had begun a process that will consider a number of cities, but that New York is a sentimental favorite "to virtually everyone."
Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic Party chief, replied: "I just appointed 38 people yesterday to make the decision. We're going to work in a lot of cities. But you know how New York could help themselves? [Republican Mayor] Michael Bloomberg, come back to the Democratic Party."
The remark elicited laughter from Mr. Racicot as well as Mr. Russert.

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