Twin watch: Stocking up
As White House advisor Karl Rove struggles to avoid any more scandal surrounding his ownership of Intel stock, the president's recent financial disclosure forms show that the computer chip-maker also had some investors in the first family: Barbara and Jenna Bush, whose trust funds each held between $1,000 and $15,000 worth of Intel stock.
On the May 15, 2001 financial disclosure statement, Bush reveals that Barbara's and Jenna's trusts each held between $1,000 and $15,000 worth of Intel stock, along with similarly sized chunks of stock from tech interests like Microsoft, Lucent and Cisco Systems, that were tucked into their nest eggs during last year. The White House did not respond to Salon's request for information about the investment.
Nobody, of course, is suggesting that either of the young women took a meeting with Intel's chief honchos -- like Rove did. But it was Bush, after all, who closed his first executive order on Jan. 20 with a warning to his staff to "avoid any actions creating the appearance that they are violating applicable law or the ethical standards in applicable regulations." That didn't prevent Rove's $100,000 Intel connection, or stop Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill from keeping a white-knuckle grip on his Alcoa stock until it earned him unflattering attention.
The first daughters might not be in a position to boost their stock, but their father certainly is. Maybe, if Bush is the family man we're always told he is, we should be more concerned with his family's investments than we are with Karl Rove's.
-- Alicia Montgomery
It's Grecian to me: Bush bashing in the Great White North
While conservative critics were hammering the European press for their less-than-kind coverage of Bush's trip overseas -- National Review contributing editor Michael Novak called the reports the result of "incorrigibly social democratic limitations of the European mind" -- a very nasty and largely unnoticed piece blasting the president was coming from much closer to home.
This week, Canada's Ottawa Citizen ran an anti-Bush column smugly titled, "Bush would never be elected here," that starts out slamming the president, spreads its wrath to include American politicians in general, and obliquely insults just about every voter in the United States. The piece, authored by Susan Riley, goes for the jugular from the opening line. "Does anyone know for sure that George W. Bush has forsaken drugs?" she asks rhetorically. "He sounds stoned half the time."
It takes Riley another paragraph, in which she compares Bush to a plastic action figure, before she touches his European tour. When she does, Riley won't even give Bush credit for exceeding low expectations or charming his hosts with self-effacing humor and chummy nicknames. She instead labels the trip a complete failure and a disappointment "[t]o anyone looking for signs of intelligent life in the new American presidency." Bush's "sheen of affability" was a thin disguise for his display of "an intense patriotism that verges on chauvinism" and his "condescending interest in anyone unlucky enough not to be American."
But, in Riley's estimation, nothing better could be expected of an American political landscape, "littered with robo-pols like Bush: identical, silver-haired senators; tall wealthy corporate captains with perfect teeth and trophy wives; interchangeable wafflers, preachers and glad-handers of all political persuasions, all smartly dressed and dauntingly fit." (I guess she's never seen Cheney.)
Riley then goes on to praise Ralph Klein, Joe Clark and a few other "rumpled, unfashionable" and presumably earnest Canadian leaders who no American -- including the president -- has probably ever heard of. According to Riley, they're all kinder, better educated and more hard-working than any of the shallow, aging Ken dolls that we elect down here. In the Canadian political paradise, prepackaged pols like Bush get eaten alive. "The smoother they sound -- the more scripted, primed and Bush-like -- the less we trust them," Riley writes, concluding, "Good for us."
Maybe Ralph Nader should consider moving north.
"The president will veto the bill unless significant changes are made to address his major concerns."
-- Sen. Tim Hutchinson, R-Ark., reading from an administration letter threatening to block patients bill of rights legislation.
The president is going to veto the Democratic version of the patients bill of rights. He really, really, really means it, too. On Thursday, the president went a step farther than he had previously in his opposition to the legislation authored by Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C. -- he put his veto threat in writing.
In a letter to the Office of Management and Budget, the president reiterated his concerns that the bill would open the floodgates to costly lawsuits against employers and HMOs. Sen. Tim Hutchinson, R-Ark., read aloud from the letter as the Senate debated the measure. The bill's sponsors promptly dismissed Bush's remarks, and said that the president was more interested in supporting HMOs and insurance companies than in protecting consumers. The first major Republican amendment to the bill would have given tax breaks to self-employed people to purchase health insurance. Democrats said the amendment was just an attempt to muddle the debate, and it went down in defeat.
While debate over the bill has reinvigorated the rivalry between presidential primary foes Bush and McCain, it has also showcased two rising Southern stars on opposite ends of the debate, Edwards and Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., whose histories give clues about the partisan division on the issue. Before joining the Senate, Edwards was a top trial lawyer, winning big judgments for injury victims, while Frist was a surgeon who had heavily invested in a major for-profit hospital chain.
As the Democrats try to win the patients rights battle over Bush's objections, many members of the president's own party abandoned him in a House vote on a key energy provision. The House voted to block Bush's plans to drill for oil in the Gulf of Mexico off the Florida coast. But Bush understands that he can't count on even his closest allies for support for the provision; Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, his brother, is also vehemently opposed to the idea.
The president has been dogged from his first days in office for being insensitive to the concerns of environmentalists, and he tried to undo some of that damage on Thursday by touting his conservation plans in Alabama's Oak Mountain State Park. He said that his administration planned to spend a record amount on conservation while leaving most of the decision-making authority in the hands of the states. The trip came as a new poll showed Bush's standing slipping among voters and a large proportion of Americans disapproving of his environmental policies.
In defense policy news, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told a Senate panel that American military strategy and structure are outdated and unfit to address current defense concerns. But senators were skeptical about some of his suggestions for reforming the armed forces, and Rumsfeld acknowledged the need for compromise. The defense decretary hasn't been particularly popular with either Republicans or Democrats on the Hill, with GOP leaders criticizing him for shutting them out of the loop on military policy and Democrats criticizing Rumsfeld's enthusiasm for missile defense.
Some Democratic senators think that the Bush White House may now be willing to compromise on the missile shield plan. That was the word after a meeting between Vice President Cheney and Democratic Senate leaders. While a handful of the senators said the vice president hinted that the Bush administration would still adhere to the terms of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which would essentially limit missile defense, other senators said that Cheney offered only doublespeak.
Karl Rove will be doing less speaking about defense matters. After enduring criticism that he was too involved in the administration's decision to end munitions testing on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, Rove abruptly canceled plans to meet with Pentagon officials to discuss the matter further.
And don't miss the GOP whipping the Dems on the baseball diamond. The Republicans beat the opposition 9-1 in the 48th annual congressional baseball game.
Friday schedule: The president enjoys a long weekend at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.
-- Alicia Montgomery
This day in Bush history
June 22, 1990: George W. Bush sold 212,140 shares of his stock in Harken Energy Corp. at a time when he sat on that company's audit board. Days later, the company closed a disappointing quarter, and the value of its stock decreased 44 percent. When Bush ran for governor in 1994, Democratic opponents pointed to the deal, suggesting that Bush was involved in insider trading. He steadfastly argued that he had done nothing wrong.
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