"I came to Europe to express my administration's philosophy of engagement with Europeans. I was able to do so."
-- President Bush, speaking Saturday after a joint press conference with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin
Reviews of Bush's European tour became more generous as his journey concluded than they had been during the president's travels. Despite Bush's disagreements with allies over the Kyoto Protocol on global warming and his missile defense plan, several of his critics say that the president still made the most of a bad situation. And conservatives applaud Bush for sticking to some of his more unpopular positions with a minimum of rancor.
Among the least popular of those policy stands was Bush's determination to undo the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the 30-year-old pact that stands in the way of deployment of a missile defense system. The president tried to present the end of American support for the ABM Treaty as a sign of global progress, a recognition that the Cold War is indeed over.
But American allies remained unconvinced, as did Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, though his meeting with Bush on Saturday did establish a personal rapport between the two leaders. They agreed to exchange visits in the near future. While some see Bush's new warmth toward Putin as a crucial step in building a more positive relationship between the two nations, others worry that the president might be too trusting of his Russian counterpart on the basis of their young friendship.
Back in the United States, Bush is beginning to waver on one of his more strident policy positions. After weeks of fervent opposition to energy price controls, the president has signaled his support of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's recently announced plans to set minimal price limits on power in Western states. The limits fall far short of what Democrats have been demanding, but it's the first time Bush has shown willingness to compromise on any part of his energy policy.
The change of heart comes just as the General Accounting Office prepares to investigate whether representatives of oil, gas and nuclear energy companies improperly influenced the Bush administration as it was drafting its energy policy. Senate Democrats are planning an investigation of their own, and Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., the new chairman of the Government Affairs Committee, started hearings on the matter last week.
Top White House advisor Karl Rove won't have to worry about Senate Democrats probing allegations that he peddled influence on behalf of Intel. Calls for an investigation sprang up after it was revealed that Rove met with Intel representatives in March who wanted to discuss government approval of the company's merger plans. At the time, Rove held more than $100,000 worth of Intel stock. On Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said that there would be no Rove probe in the Senate.
The administration's biggest fight in that chamber is likely to be the upcoming debate over patients rights legislation. Democrats believe that the patients rights bill authored by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., will win approval from Congress, though Bush has hinted that he will veto it.
And don't miss Florida volunteering to get bombed for the sake of security. Republicans were worried that the Navy would not be able to find another site to hold its live munitions tests now that Bush has promised to end the practice on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques. But Florida officials have invited the Navy to start bombing in some remote parts of the state as an alternative, saying that it would be good for area businesses.
Bush's primary Republican rival, McCain, is trying to shore up support for one of former President Clinton's pet projects. He's working to expand the AmeriCorps program, Clinton's youth volunteer initiative, though the GOP has previously attempted to kill it.
A Democratic Party nemesis is returning to the fray. Former Green Party candidate Ralph Nader is setting up a watchdog group to take shots at corruption in the two-party system. As he did during the campaign, Nader has promised to make trouble for Democrats and Republicans with equal vigor.
Monday schedule: The president speaks to agriculture leaders at the White House in the afternoon.
-- Alicia Montgomery
This day in Bush history
June 18, 1997: After Gov. George W. Bush refused to issue a last-minute reprieve, Texas executed Irineo Montoya, a Mexican citizen, for a 1985 murder. The case prompted protests from Mexico because Montoya was not allowed to contact his nation's consulate at the time of his arrest, a violation of international law. Bush told the protesters and the Mexican government that Montoya got a fair trial nonetheless.
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Bushed! contributors: Eric Boehlert, Karen Croft, Gary Kamiya, Kerry Lauerman, Daryl Lindsey, Alicia Montgomery, Fiona Morgan, Scott Rosenberg, Jake Tapper, Joan Walsh, Anthony York
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