Bush's cold shoulder; Flynt's indecent proposal.

Published May 3, 2001 10:52PM (EDT)

Rant: So who's right on energy, Cheney or Bush?

I'm confused. On Monday Vice President Dick Cheney told us the nation "can't conserve or ration our way out of" the energy crisis, that conservation is just a '70s-era "sign of personal virtue" that can't significantly curb our growing energy needs. Now President Bush has announced a bold plan to help California out of its energy nightmare and it's all about conservation, by reducing energy demand at federal facilities. Who are we supposed to believe? Will conservation help or not?

OK, I know California voted overwhelmingly for Al Gore, but Bush promised to be president of everybody, even the blue states. Yet his plan looks more like retaliation than an effort to problem-solve. Think of those federal workers in Fresno, climbing stairs instead of the escalators (they'll be shut down) in swampy 78-degree buildings. But who cares if they're stifling? Most of 'em voted for Gore, anyway. Let them take the stairs.

And while California lawmakers have blasted the plan as too little too late, it should even make Dick Cheney happy -- because it throws in a little nuclear power, too, thanks to a nuclear submarine that will be stationed off the coast, its generator plugged in to the state's overtaxed grid. Never mind that California voters are heavily anti-nuclear energy; the state even passed a law in those wacky '70s, prohibiting the construction of new nuclear reactors until the federal government comes up with a reliable waste-disposal plan.

But now we'll get some extra nuclear energy anyway and Bush says we don't even have to thank him.

"We want to be a part of any solutions" to California's dangerous power disaster, the president told reporters. But somehow California's Democratic leaders -- Gore supporters all, naturally -- aren't happy about the plan.

Bush won't even meet with the state's senior senator, Dianne Feinstein, to talk about the state's energy crisis. "The senator has written three separate letters to request a meeting with the president, and has been turned down every time," says Feinstein spokesman Howard Gantman.

"The president has shown no interest in meeting with us," Gantman says. "Whenever we do meet [with the administration on energy policy], it's sometimes with Cheney or just with Republican officials." Ironically, Feinstein asked Bush to issue a conservation order for federal facilities in California back in February, Gantman said, but received only "a perfunctory reply." The senator found out about yesterday's Bush announcement "from news reports," her spokesman says.

How much energy will be saved by Bush's plan? Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told AP that military facilities -- the biggest federal presence in California -- account for about 1 percent of the state's power use, and the plan should conserve one-tenth of that. Let's say the plan conserves double that amount, it will the save two-tenths of 1 percent of California's power needs.

I'm starting to think that, as usual, we should listen to the big guy, Dick Cheney. The federal government can't conserve its way out of a response to California's energy crisis. But then, seriously addressing the state's energy meltdown -- which could lead to upwards of 30 days of blackouts this summer, and cost California businesses many billions of dollars -- would involve restraining the profits made by price-gouging energy suppliers, and those were among the Bush-Cheney ticket's most generous backers.

Bush certainly isn't going to buck his biggest backers for a state that had the bad judgment to vote for Al Gore. For a president whose staff has been spinning him as the best-traveled president this early in his administration of any in recent memory, he hasn't even set foot in California as president. I think we should start taking it personally.

-- Joan Walsh

Twin watch

So, you're Jenna Bush. You score a credible 8.4 for foxiness on HotorNot.com. You're rapidly becoming a favorite of the tabloids. Then, last weekend, you get busted for allegedly drinking a beer at a bar (an' you're only 19!). What's next?

An offer by Larry Flynt, of course, to shed your skivvies for a cool $10 mil in a no-holes barred pictorial in Hustler.

In his column, sex columnist Dan Savage offers the first daughter what he does best: cheap, frank and sometimes provocative advice. "Hey Jenna," Savage writes, "this is the kind of once-in-a-lifetime offer that a hip young girl might discuss with her gay best friend. I doubt, however, that you have a gay best friend, so I asked Benjamin Scuglia, editor of Unzipped Monthly, a porn magazine about sex for gay guys, to pretend you were his best friend and advise you accordingly."

The gay writer and father then relays Scuglia's advice: "Envision a crowded beach filled with all sorts of people of all ages. Now imagine that you're naked. All of those people -- moms, dads, toddlers, teenage boys, grams and grandpa -- can see every inch of your body. Does the very idea give you the shivers? Then don't do it. Could you care less about who sees you and what they think about your nakedness? Then do it."

Then, Scuglia raises the Pamela Lee and Tommy factor: "It's gonna go onto the Internet and will be circulating when you're 87 years old. Do you hate the idea of someone being able to ogle pictures of your 21-year-old pussy when you're wrinkled and hunched over and gumming banana mush? Then don't do it. If you love the idea, then do it." Then, of course, there's the image problem that would ensue. "If you pose nude," Scuglia advises, "your friends will think you're a slut. Does that matter to you? Of course, with 10 million dollars you can always buy new friends. And parents."

-- Daryl Lindsey

Word play

In early April, Vice President Dick Cheney dismissed the Weekly Standard magazine's criticism of the administration's handling of the recent spy-plane controversy with China, accusing Weekly Standard editor and publisher William Kristol of just "trying to sell magazines."

On Thursday, the White House employed another blame-the-media effort to distract from another mishandling of foreign policy; this time, the Department of Defense's order -- rescinded Wednesday -- that all Pentagon contacts with the Chinese be severed. When asked about it, the White House's truth-challenged spokesman, Ari Fleischer, said, "Not to be too flip about it, but this morning, I happened to flip through some newspapers and I noticed there was a major newspaper in Washington that had six corrections and one clarification in it today. There was another major newspaper in New York that had nine corrections in it.

"I think what's important," Fleischer said, "is that, when something is done that is not in keeping with the guidance of the Secretary, that it's immediately set straight so the public has a clear understanding of what the administration's policy is." (The incident, meanwhile, was widely seen among D.C. foreign policy observers as an attempt by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to set policy, after which he was reproached.)

Taking Fleischer at his word, we inspected today's corrections in the New York Times and the Washington Post, expecting to see mistakes on par with those the Bush administration seems to have an odd propensity for making with all things Chinese.

Thursday's Times corrects mistakes on misstating the Israeli year of independence (1948, not 1947); messing up a photo credit; misidentifying the state Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio; misspelling the surname of a pastor of a New York City church; misstating the cost of storing mail on Yahoo; misidentifying the publisher of a book as the parent publisher rather than the unit publisher; getting the age of an art gallery owner wrong by one year (61, not 62); misstating the last name of the president of State Farm Insurance company; misidentifying Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, and Heinrich Mann as Jews; and, as it turns out, erroneously reporting how much Salon.com would charge for premium subscriptions.

Thursday's Post corrects mistakes on whether an interior design company would not or could not participate in a Post Home section special; the Web address for an antique typewriter company; an explanation of whether START II is formally ratified or not (the treaty was, but an extension protocol has not been); whether a Virginia gubernatorial candidate supports or opposes abortion rights; the correct name of a Marine general featured in a photo caption; whether Aegis battle system-equipped ships in a photograph were cruisers or destroyers; and whether a game show expert said definitively, or just to the best of his recollection, whether a woman had ever hosted a prime-time network TV game show.

Messing up a photo credit, making a foreign policy snafu; po-tay-to, po-tah-to. In the Bush White House, at least.

-- Jake Tapper

Daily line

"There is a budget deal. It's an agreement that makes a lot of sense. In the agreement is the largest tax cut in a generation and reasonable levels of spending."
-- President Bush, speaking at a meeting of bipartisan congressional leaders.

Bush buzz

A day after GOP leaders announced an agreement on $1.35 trillion in tax cuts over the next 11 years, the president scored another modified victory. Congress reached an accord on the budget and agreed to limit growth in government spending to 5 percent. That's not the 4 percent spending cap that the president wanted, but it's not the 8 percent spending increase that Senate Democrats had tried to get through, either. Still left to be decided is exactly where the money for the tax cut is going to come from.

Meanwhile, in separate votes on Wednesday, congressional committees voted to overturn the president's executive order reinstating the so-called global gag rule (banning federal funds to international agencies that provide information or services connected to abortion), and to strip vouchers from Bush's education plan. While the White House had largely conceded defeat on the voucher issue weeks ago, conservatives in Congress believe that without the provision, students are essentially locked into failing public schools.

And in an attempt to soften the administration's hard line on energy policy, the White House will reportedly order managers of federal buildings in California to implement conservation practices during that state's energy crisis. Bush has also dispatched Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham to go west and demonstrate the president's willingness to cooperate in finding solutions for power problems -- as long as those solutions don't include price controls.

Meanwhile, the New York Post reports that Al Gore is having doubts about returning to electoral politics, though Gore has said he'll jump back into the public arena soon.

And don't miss: First lady Laura Bush joining Julia Roberts, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Jennifer Lopez in People magazine's list of the 50 most beautiful people in the world ... while we get a different look at Vice President Dick Cheney, whose old arrest reports, and history of drinking and driving, get resurrected by the Smoking Gun Web site. Though his two arrests have been part of the public record for some time, the Smoking Gun purports to give a more complete accounting of the events.

Thursday schedule: Bush will meet with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, host a reception marking the 50th anniversary of the National Day of Prayer, welcome amigo Mexican President Vicente Fox to the White House and speak with the American Jewish Committee at the National Building Museum in the evening.

-- Alicia Montgomery

"That's My Bush!" recap

The setup: As Episode 5 ("The First Lady's Persqueeter") begins, we learn that sexual relations between the president and his wife seem to be in a rut; as wacky maid Maggie puts it, the "president's not going downtown anymore." Maggie inquires about whether George was actually good, "downtown," and Laura responds (with a pithy illusion to a famous Gennifer Flowers' comment), "Like a champ!" Laura's quite upset -- "Maybe it sort of sickens him now," she wonders. Maggie persuades her to confront George about the problem.

The subplot: The Bushes' 24-year-old cat, Pun'kin, smells bad and keeps losing control of its bodily functions, at one point peeing all over a revolted Karl Rove. At Karl's and neighbor Larry's urging, George agrees it's time for Pun'kin to be put to sleep.

The rub: Laura overhears George, Karl and Larry talking about Pun'kin, but thinks they're talking about her.

George: She's getting so old the smell is making me sick.

Karl: The smell is terrible ever since you guys moved in. Every room in the White House has started to stink like rotten cheese.

George: What can I do? Laura seems to think there's no problem with it.

Larry: Do you have to tell Laura? Just get rid of her and get a new one. They're much more fun when they're young and soft and cute.

Laura, sobbing, runs to her bedroom.

The high jinks: George talks to Laura about Pun'kin, but Laura again thinks he's talking about her. When she says she'll go to the doctor and have it taken care of that day, George thinks she's going to have Pun'kin put to sleep, though she's really going to her gynecologist! Laura returns with boxes that, she tells George, are going to solve the problem. When they find that Pun'kin is still alive, George and Larry try to put the cat down by themselves -- by molesting poor, hissing Pun'kin with Laura's pink rubber douche until Karl calls them off.

The switcheroo: Liberal Larry, who has been trying to change George's mind about euthanasia, persuades him to free Dr. Jack Kevorkian from jail ("Who's Jack Kevorkian?" George asks), and have Pun'kin die by "assisted suicide." Laura, aided by Maggie, helicopters off to northern Maine, where an Indian tribe allegedly has a magic "persqueeter" treatment to solve the problem Laura believes she has. Kevorkian, after first thinking George wants him to put down Karl, hooks up Pun'kin to a machine, and places before the cat a switch. "The patient himself must press the button," he says.

Meanwhile, in a Maine woods, Laura meets the tribe and receives her treatment, which, while not shown, involves a crowd of Indians, her screams and what looks like a fire hose. By the time she arrives back at the White House, the police are ready to arrest her, believing that she is really Kevorkian in drag, when Kevorkian is actually in drag as Laura, hoping to avoid detection by the police until Pun'kin finally hits the button.

Ultimately, Pun'kin does press the button, and in an explosion of tabby orange, the episode winds to a close.

Reality ranking: Let's not speculate, though we know that the Bushes like their cats. Better to play it safe.

Score: 5 (out of a possible 10).

-- Kerry Lauerman

This day in Bush history

May 3, 1989: Congress' top Iran-contra investigator, Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind., tells reporters President George Bush and former President Ronald Reagan were not candid about their roles in Oliver North's secret contra supply network. "Mr. Bush has the obligation to talk on Iran-contra," Hamilton said during a breakfast meeting with reporters. "More needs to come from Mr. Bush and Mr. Reagan because they seem to know more. They need to be more candid than I sense they have been."

-- Joan Walsh

By Salon Staff

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