A congressman co-hosts a pork fest for Florida recounters! President shores up struggling church charity plan while GOP members break faith with his agenda. Plus: Fleischer faints at speech.

Published June 25, 2001 4:14PM (EDT)

Bush league: Pork fest for Florida recounters

While many Republicans demand that Democrats get over the Florida recount fight, apparently the GOP isn't done celebrating its victory. Kurt Markva, chief of staff for Rep. Donald Manzullo, R-Ill., will be throwing a "LONG-OVERDUE THANK YOU CELEBRATION FOR THE REPUBLICANS' FLORIDA RE-COUNTERS." The event, to be held Saturday at Markva's home, will feature roasted pig, volleyball and the country music stylings of the Wil Gravatt Band, all to thank Markva's friends and associates who went down to Florida for the recount battle last winter.

While the invitation has a strong partisan tone -- guests are described as "know[ing] what 'is' is" -- the host committee reflects business interests as much as political ones. Listed among the event's hosts is the lobbying firm Albertine Enterprises, whose president, James Albertine, was elected to lead the American League of Lobbyists last December. Though the celebration thanks Republican recounters, the host committee is not orthodox GOP. It includes consultant Thomas Cator, who gave $1,000 to the campaign of Michael Ross, an Arkansas Democrat who won a congressional seat in the last election.

Some staff members of the National Association of Manufacturers, a group that frequently lobbies on workplace issues dealt with by the House Small Business Committee, which Manzullo chairs, also made the guest list. While Markva himself was unavailable for comment, Manzullo press secretary Rich Carter dismissed concerns about possible conflicts of interest, claiming the event was a party, not a fundraiser, and was Markva's personal affair regardless. The congressman and other members of the host committee, Carter said, are just chipping in to cover the costs of the event. Any money left over will go to charity, and while one hasn't been picked out just yet, it could be, Carter says, the American Cancer Society.

Carter didn't know the exact cost of the event, but was comfortable offering an estimate of the price of pork. "That's $5 a pound for about 200 pounds of pig," he said. As further proof that the event was on the up and up, Carter extended the invitation to members of Salon.

-- Alicia Montgomery

Poll watch: Americans gain confidence in the presidency

After getting bad public opinion news last week, Bush can take some solace in the results of a recent Gallup survey. Though it did not specifically ask about Bush, the poll does show that a significant percentage of the public has become more confident in the presidency since last year. According to the survey, taken from June 8 to 10, 48 percent of Americans surveyed express "a great deal or quite a lot" of confidence in the presidency, compared with 42 percent who did so in June 2000. Of the three branches of the federal government, the Supreme Court inspired the most confidence, and Congress earned the least, 26 percent.

But confidence in the presidency was strongly shaped by partisanship. For example, the number of Republicans who expressed "a great deal or quite a lot" of confidence leapt 42 points in the last year from 31 to 73 percent, while only 27 percent of Democrats are now confident in the institution, down from 54 percent. The election seemed to have less of an effect on the Supreme Court, with Republican confidence jumping from 48 to 60 percent over the last year, while Democratic confidence slipped slightly from 48 to 44 percent. Though Congress is firmly in the basement, it's the only branch that picked up points from both sides. Thirty percent of GOP members are now confident in the federal legislature, compared to 25 percent last year. Democrats were less impressed, but their confidence ratings for Congress climbed from 24 to 26 percent.

This poll had a 3 point margin of error.

Bush job approval

  • 53 percent, CBS News/New York Times, June 14 to 18
    Down from 57 percent, May 10 to 12

  • 50 percent, Pew Center, June 13 to 17
    Down from 53 percent, May 15 to 20

  • 55 percent, Gallup, June 11 to 17
    Steady at 55 percent, June 8 to 10

  • 59 percent, Fox News, June 6 to 7
    Steady at 59 percent, May 9 to 10

  • 55 percent, ABC News/Washington Post, May 31 to June 3
    Down from 63 percent, April 19 to 22

  • 52 percent, CNN/Time, May 23 to 24
    Down from 55 percent, March 21 to 22

  • 50 percent, Newsweek, May 10 to 11;
    Down from 57 percent, May 3 to 4

    -- A.M.

    Daily line

    "He is speaking to the mayors because of their important role in developing strong partnerships between government and the people to address important issues in neighborhoods and communities."
    -- White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan, explaining Bush's decision to plug his faith-based charity plan at the Conference of Mayors

    Bush buzz

    The president focuses on strengthening his faith-based charity initiative this week as the legislation limps through the House. Once thought to be a sure political crowd pleaser, Bush's plan has been hit from all sides. Democrats and their allies are wary of softening the line between church and state, and of funding groups that would have leave to discriminate if religious doctrine so demanded. Some Republican leaders, along with conservative Christian groups, worry about federal money funding faiths that they don't consider legitimate. Bush hopes that strictly narrowing the definition of funded activities will allay the fears of both camps.

    Another major legislative headache for the president is the patients' bill of rights, with the Democrats and GOP Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., seemingly unrattled by Bush's repeated veto threats. Some Republicans doubt that the president could stick to that course, and they're trying to craft a compromise that will keep them from being on the wrong side of the issue in the 2002 election season. Members of the GOP, particularly in the House, are willing to consider expanding patients' rights to sue HMOs, which Bush has argued should be limited.

    The debate over the patients' bill of rights -- and Republicans' willingness to break with Bush's position -- is symptomatic of significant discontent with the White House among congressional members of the GOP. There's a sense that Bush is willing to let Republicans struggle on their own with politically unpopular stands, and that impression is undermining loyalty within the party.

    It doesn't help Bush that he has ended up on the wrong side of Republican blocs on some key issues. The GOP's military hawks continue to be up in arms over the president's decision to phase out munitions testing on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, which many perceive as a strategic surrender for the sake of Latino votes. And the administration's decision to stay neutral on China's bid for hosting the Olympics is likely to displease Republicans, including social conservatives angered by that nation's lack of religious freedom, its periodic imprisonment of Christians and its forced-abortion policy. What's more, Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., is publicly opposing Bush's positions on fetal stem cell research and subsidies for American shipbuilders.

    Each of the parties has apparently adjusted to the leadership change in the Senate by borrowing heavily from the other side's playbook. Democrats are using the power of committee chairmanships to steer public debate, while Republicans are looking to form new alliances to keep their agenda alive. One surprising example of GOP deal making comes in the House, where Republicans are counting on support from Hispanic and black lawmakers to kill the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill. Minority members of Congress are uncomfortable with the prospect of banning soft money, a move that they feel would cripple candidates who run in poor districts. Meanwhile, reform advocates are struggling with calls for compromise, worried that increasing the limit for hard-money donations would jeopardize support of moderates.

    In other policy news, the administration is having little luck with its proposed missile defense shield, and the plan remains a complication in Bush's newfound friendship with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, in which the two leaders have declared their mutual desire to reduce nuclear arsenals. Meanwhile, a new Pentagon study indicates that no one needs to worry about a missile defense shield becoming operational anytime soon. The study declares the timeline advocated by the Bush administration unrealistic.

    And don't miss Peggy Noonan's fawning assessment of Bush's performance in Europe and at home. In her recounting of an interview with the president, Noonan remarks on Bush's tan and notes that she can tell that he's been working out.

    Noonan wasn't the only Bush buddy swooning in the past few days. White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer fainted during a speech before the graduating class at his high school alma mater. Fleischer attributed the collapse to heat and exhaustion. After he was revived, he refused to go to the hospital and finished his remarks.

    In other White House news, a recent report indicates that Vice President Cheney underplayed links between Iraq and Halliburton, the international energy company he headed before joining the Bush team. Corporate and United Nations sources say that Cheney likely knew that Halliburton subsidiaries did $73 million worth of business with the Iraqi government during his tenure as CEO, something Cheney denied throughout the campaign.

    Monday schedule: The president starts the day in Detroit, where he promotes his faith-based charity initiative at the 69th annual Conference of Mayors. He then returns to Washington to participate in the Presidential Scholars Medallion Ceremony. Later, Bush has his picture taken at the White House with the University of Minnesota at Duluth 2001 women's hockey champions.

    -- A.M.

    Burning Bush

    Links to the Web's best sites for hardcore Bush watchers.

    Send scoops to bushed@salon.com.

    Bushed! contributors: Eric Boehlert, Karen Croft, Gary Kamiya, Kerry Lauerman, Daryl Lindsey, Alicia Montgomery, Fiona Morgan, Scott Rosenberg, Jake Tapper, Joan Walsh, Anthony York

    Take a look at the previous edition of Bushed!

  • By Salon Staff

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