"The White House will not pursue the OMB regulation proposed by the Salvation Army and reported today."
-- White House press secretary Ari Fleischer's statement.
A day after returning from his vacation seemingly rejuvenated and foisting his agenda on Congress, President Bush was in full retreat Tuesday. The White House has backed out of an apparent pact with the Salvation Army that counted on a bizarre bit of spiritual back-scratching: The White House would allow that group and other faith-based charity organizations to ignore local anti-discrimination laws protecting gays, and still receive federal money under the presidents proposed faith-based initiative. In return, according to the story in Tuesday's Washington Post, the Salvation Army would pledge to spend upwards of $88,000 a month promoting the president's charity plan, according to an internal Salvation Army memo.
Tuesday morning, Fleischer said the anti-gay policy was still under discussion. By 6 p.m., in memo, he announced that the Salvation Army deal was dead.
The muddle seems to further imperil the Bush faith-based initiative. Several administration critics didn't think the bill was a good idea in the first place, citing concerns about diminishing the wall between church and state, and Senate Democrats threatened to smother the initiative if Bush didn't commit to non-discriminatory hiring practices for faith-based groups.
The administration would have much rather spent the day hyping its latest health policy proposal, a new prescription drug initiative for seniors, which would provide older Americans cards that would allow them to get pharmacy discounts on their medications. But even that plan comes as Bush remains on the defensive on health policy, with polls showing that much of the public believes that the president would rather protect the healthcare industry than patients.
With Bush losing the P.R. battle on his faith-based charity plan and patients' rights, House Republicans are trying to rescue tidbits of the energy policy that anchored the president's post-tax cut agenda this spring. Congressional GOP members are pressing a scaled-back version of the Bush plan to boost power production, with energy industry groups grousing that the administration is running out of time to do anything significant on the issue before the August recess.
Bush is battling the clock on several fronts as he makes a summer push for his beleaguered agenda. But with Democrats controlling the Senate, the GOP has yet to find an effective way to push Bush's plans without compromising them into oblivion.
Bush will clearly need to regroup -- but will Karl and Karen come up with a plan that will work in time?
And don't miss Robert Redford blasting Bush environmental policy in the German magazine Stern, saying Bush "doesn't have a clue" about how to protect the environment or how to cooperate with America's allies on environmental initiatives.
Wednesday schedule: Bush speaks to the House Republican Conference on Capitol Hill, and later speaks to a group of doctors about his healthcare policy. In the afternoon, Bush meets with the chief executive of Hong Kong.
This day in Bush history
July 11, 1997: The Dallas Morning News reports that, under the first two years of law and order advocate Gov. George W. Bush, more than 15,000 Texas inmates received automatic early release from jail. During his 1994 gubernatorial campaign, Bush portrayed opponent Gov. Ann Richards as being soft on crime for allowing 5,622 such releases during her tenure.
Poll watch: Bush gets nowhere with blacks
The squabble between the White House and the NAACP reflects a deep distrust between blacks and the president that's persisted since the election, suggests the latest Gallup poll. The survey shows that strong disparities between the attitudes of blacks and whites toward all branches of government have developed in the last six months.
Since Bush was elected, blacks' approval of the president dropped from the 89 percent satisfaction rate that Clinton enjoyed to just 32 percent during these first months of the new administration. That compares with an average 61 percent approval rate Bush has achieved among whites during the same period.
The souring sentiments among African-Americans have lowered that community's opinion of Congress and the Supreme Court as well. During the final four months of the Clinton administration, 54 percent of blacks approved of Congress' performance, a number that has sunk to 43 percent since Bush took office. At the same time, Congress has made small gains among whites, with its approval rating inching up from 51 percent to 53 percent.
The Supreme Court, which ended Democrat Al Gore's Florida recount challenge, fell in the eyes of African-Americans, though the slip was surprisingly slight. From August to September of last year, blacks held the Supreme Court in higher esteem than did whites, with 54 percent of African-Americans approving of the high court compared with 51 percent of whites. For the first six months of the Bush administration, the Supreme Court's approval rate has climbed to 63 percent among whites, while it dipped to 51 percent among blacks.
The Gallup report is based on surveys with a 3-point margin of error.
Bush job approval
Down from 56 percent, April 21 to 23
Down from 57 percent, May 10 to 12
Down from 53 percent, May 15 to 20
Steady at 55 percent, June 8 to 10
Steady at 59 percent, May 9 to 10
Down from 63 percent, April 19 to 22
Down from 56 percent, April 3 to 8
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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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