"It is white."
--President Bush responding to a British child who asked what the White House was like
Bush league: Rapping with Ari
During Bush's recent weekend at his family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine, White House flack Ari Fleischer let down what remains of his hair at a local karaoke bar, according to a United Press International story. With several reporters bearing witness, Fleischer rapped along to Young MC's decade-old hit "Bust a Move," apparently from memory. No word on what Fleischer did for an encore.
"In a victory for progress and compassion, the House has acted to expand charitable giving, to increase the help available to poor Americans, and to end discrimination against churches, synagogues, and charities that provide social services. Our Faith-Based and Community Initiative levels the playing field so that all people and groups with a heart to serve have the chance to serve."
-- A statement from President Bush heralding the passage of his faith-based charity plan in the House
One day after a coalition of moderate Republicans joined Democrats to stall the president's faith-based charity initiative in the House, the GOP leadership twisted a few arms and handed Bush what is perhaps his biggest legislative victory since his tax cut was passed. Not only was the president able to count all but four Republican members on his side of the 233-198 vote, 15 Democrats were on board as well, enough to slap the bipartisan label on the win.
The president is justifiably thrilled over the vote. It makes his agenda look alive after several rocky weeks in Congress, fulfills an essential element of Bush's vision for American philanthropy and is a crowd pleaser with swing voters and religious conservatives.
But the House bill retains the problematic civil rights language that prompted the delay in the first place. Under the House plan, religious organizations would be able to ignore state and local anti-bias laws that conflict with their religious doctrines. While Bush praised this version of the House bill, other fans of federal funding for faith-based groups are concerned that the problematic provision will be a deal breaker when the bill goes to the Democratic-controlled Senate.
As Bush celebrates the half-passage of this "compassionate conservative" centerpiece, he's laying the groundwork for a much tougher fight on Social Security reform. In a draft report, the presidential commission on Social Security, to no one's surprise, concludes that the nation's retirement plan is in desperate need of reform, preferably the kind that squares with Bush's vision of a partially privatized entitlement.
During the campaign, Bush was able to touch this "third rail" of American politics without much trouble, with many voters supporting his call to put at least a portion of Social Security funds in the hands of citizens for private investment. But that was before the economy began to sputter. The White House will have to wait and see whether the public and Congress have the stomach to dive into privatization now that bears run Wall Street.
Though Bush may not be able to rely on the market to facilitate his agenda, he must trust in his charm to win the support of the European allies he's meeting with at this weekend's G-8 summit in Italy, because he won't bond with those leaders over policy. European nations continue to fuss about Bush's diehard opposition to the Kyoto Protocol, the international treaty aimed at curtailing global warming, and his steadfast support of missile defense system development.
But such policy differences haven't stopped Bush from trying to make friends during the trip. He's reportedly warming up to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, a protégé and friend of former President Clinton's.
Meanwhile, another Clinton could be fueling a family feud between the current president and his predecessor. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., spent part of a speech at Washington's National Press Club on Thursday beating up President Bush for his refusal to enact the tougher restrictions on arsenic levels in drinking water that her husband put forward in his waning White House days.
On Wednesday, Sen. Clinton mixed it up with two generations of Bushes when Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz spoke about the defense budget on Capitol Hill. During Wolfowitz's testimony, Clinton blamed both Bush presidents for most of the military's current fiscal concerns, claiming that the deficits run up by the first Bush administration forced her husband to cut defense spending and slamming President Bush for pushing a tax cut that Clinton believes will again leave national programs cash starved.
Is this the beginning of Bush vs. Clinton, the rematch?
And don't miss Bush twin Barbara crashing a Buckingham Palace luncheon dressed in denim. Though she was hardly appropriately dressed to meet Britain's Queen Elizabeth, the traveling twin tagged along to the royal event with her folks. She wasn't seated with the queen or any other A-list people, however. Barbara ate in a room apart from the big shots, where she was joined by the less exalted members of Bush's road crew.
Friday schedule: While in Genoa, Italy, for the G-8 summit, the president speaks via satellite to a tax relief rally in Missouri.
This day in Bush history
July 21, 1994: Texas gubernatorial candidate George W. Bush angered the press and good-government watchdogs by refusing to submit computerized records of his campaign contributions to public review. Reporters were allowed to access the computerized file only if they signed a pledge not to share the information with anyone else, and the only alternative method of getting the information was to wade through approximately 30,000 pages of paper records. The Bush campaign claimed that its decision was aimed at keeping donors' names from telemarketers, while Bush critics charged that it was an attempt to skirt campaign disclosure laws.
Bush league I: Daschle's long-distance diss bugs Bush team
The president and his advisors bristled at comments made by Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., in a Wednesday USA Today interview. Daschle had remarked that Bush was bungling foreign policy, rattling America's allies with his stands on missile defense and global warming, and pulling the nation toward isolationism. "I think we are isolating ourselves, and in so isolating ourselves, I think we're minimizing ourselves," Daschle said. "I don't think we are taken as seriously today as we were a few years ago."
Administration officials traveling with the president were furious. "This is a real violation of a long-standing tradition of bipartisanship on foreign policy," groused White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer. "It is unseemly, unwise and inaccurate." National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, who has tutored Bush in foreign affairs from his campaign days to the present, reportedly called Daschle to register her dissatisfaction.
The president himself, however, played it cool. "One of the things that America has prided itself on is a bipartisan foreign policy," Bush said. "And I would hope that that tradition continues. It's a very important tradition." When asked if Daschle had violated that standard, the president demurred. "I think that's going to be up for Tom Daschle to make up his own mind whether he did or not," he said.
Apparently, Daschle did make up his mind fairly quickly, telling USA Today on Thursday that he regretted the timing of his statements.
Bush league II: The last time I saw London ...
The president's team has always been tight-lipped about his history of overseas travel, leading many of Bush's critics to speculate that he's rarely ventured off American soil. But a Bush staff member revealed on Wednesday that the president had been to London twice before his current journey. The first trip happened in 1982, when he passed through on his way to a friend's wedding in Scotland. Bush's last trip to the British city came more than a decade ago in 1990, when he attended a gathering of the Young Presidents Organization, a group of young business leaders.
But at that time, Bush had a spotty -- and some would say checkered -- record as a businessman, and one of his business successes in 1990 came during a questionable stock deal. In June of that year, Bush had sold $840,000 worth of shares in Harken Energy Corp., at a time when he also served as a paid consultant to the firm. Weeks later, the company stock plummeted after it posted a $23 million quarterly loss. Though the Securities and Exchange Commission investigated Bush for insider trading, it declined to press charges.
Though Bush maintained his innocence throughout, the deal surfaced as a campaign issue when Bush first ran for Texas governor in 1994. During that campaign, Bush continued to deny any wrongdoing. "My sale of Harken stock was entirely legal and proper," he said.
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