Bush presses moderates in uphill patients' rights fight, while Cheney sticks to secrecy on energy records.

Published July 27, 2001 10:48AM (EDT)

Daily line

"We're trying to find some common ground on getting a bill that I can sign, and I believe we're making progress."
-- President Bush, speaking about his continuing effort to get more support for his vision of patients' rights

Bush buzz

President Bush has ramped up his role in the patients' rights battle in the House, traveling to Capitol Hill and holding meetings with key representatives in hopes of crafting less lawyer-friendly legislation than the bipartisan Norwood-Ganske-Dingell bill. A lot more is riding on the president's efforts now that House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., has vowed to allow the legislation to come to a vote next week, instead of letting the issue languish until the fall.

While the White House is putting a positive face on its lobbying efforts, Republican supporters of the bill have remained steadfast. If GOP moderates are not moved by the president's pleas to alter the bipartisan bill or sign onto the Republican leadership's version, Hastert may again be put in the position of using a parliamentary maneuver to smother the Democrats' effort, as he did with recent campaign finance reform legislation. In any event, the White House wants to avoid having to follow through on Bush's threat to veto the current patients' rights bill, and thus hand the Democrats a powerful issue in the 2002 elections.

Democrats are trying to exploit Bush's perceived weakness on energy policy, and have repeatedly portrayed the administration's business-friendly energy plan as a gift to the GOP's big power industry contributors. Vice President Cheney has repeatedly refused to release records connected with the White House energy task force that Democrats believe would help them prove their case. And now that Cheney has officially rejected a General Accounting Office demand that he release the information to House Democrats, the matter could be heading to court.

The Senate is providing no refuge for Bush's beleaguered agenda, and is moving ahead with expanded safety requirements for Mexican trucks, even though the president has labeled the effort discriminatory and a violation of America's commitments under the North American Free Trade Agreement. Unfortunately for Bush, not all the members of his party concur with that assessment; those in favor of tougher safety rules were heartened on Thursday when a GOP-led filibuster of the bill was killed in a lopsided 70-30 vote. Whether there are enough votes to override a promised presidential veto of the measure remains to be seen; however, the fight doesn't bode well for Bush's plans to ask for greater authority in trade matters.

Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., has no incentive for going easy on Bush on trade or any other issue. Widely rumored to be considering a White House bid in 2004, Daschle has angered many Republicans with what they consider legislative grandstanding since Democrats took control of the Senate in June. They complain that Daschle would rather provoke a presidential veto on issues like patients' rights and campaign finance reform than work with Bush to get the best possible compromises signed into law.

It's clear that the president himself has yet to find the formula for building bipartisan compromises on tough issues, and that's making the job of his Democratic detractors much easier.

And don't miss a review of the first lady's first six months in office. Laura Bush has made a concerted effort to stay in the background of the administration, and use the goodwill she has built to further her plans to promote education issues.

Friday schedule: The president speaks to the Future Farmers of America in the morning, and holds no other public events. Cheney is in Minnesota for an energy conference.

-- Alicia Montgomery

Poll watch: A stupid question?

Liberal Web site Buzzflash.com teamed up with pollster John Zogby to find out just how the American public felt about Elliott Abrams, the former Reagan administration official who pleaded guilty to deceiving Congress, and whom President Bush has hired to head the National Security Council's office for democracy, human rights and international operations. It got the answer it was looking for.

In a survey conducted from July 16 to 19, Zogby found that 74 percent of Americans believe that "someone who admitted to deceiving Congress," as Abrams did during the Iran-Contra scandal, should not receive an appointment to a "top level White House position." Only 16 percent said that such an appointment would be fine. There was a 3.3 percent margin of error.

The partnership between the liberals at Buzzflash and Zogby, a Republican, was greeted with jeers from some conservatives. On Wednesday, James Taranto, writing for the Wall Street Journal's best-of-the-Web opinion section, declared that Buzzflash.com "may well be both the shrillest and the most dimwitted political site on the Web," and that Zogby "ought to be ashamed of himself for lending (or renting) his name to this dishonest survey."

But Taranto did plenty of parsing on his own in explaining why Zogby's questions about Abrams were inappropriate. "One problem with the Zogby question is that it makes it sound as if Abrams committed perjury," he writes. "In fact he pleaded guilty only to two misdemeanor counts of withholding information from Congress, in connection with the Iran-contra scandal."

The poll does use language like "lying" to Congress instead of the technical terms used in Abrams' guilty plea -- "withholding information" -- but that's hardly clear bias in the poll's language. To Taranto, however, the Buzzflash poll is just another example of the victimization of Abrams, who, in his view, was pushed into a guilty plea by "a politically motivated, out-of-control independent counsel."

Sounds like Taranto would like to give the GOP take on what the meaning of "is" is.

Bush job approval

  • 56 percent, CNN/USA Today/Gallup, July 19 to 22
    Down from 57 percent, July 10 to 11

  • 52 percent, Pew Center, July 18 to 22
    Up from 51 percent, July 2 to 12

  • 55 percent, CNN/Time, July 17 to 18
    Up from 52 percent, May 23 to 24

  • 56 percent, Fox News, July 10 to 11
    Down from 59 percent, June 6 to 7

  • 50 percent, NBC News/Wall Street Journal, June 23 to 25
    Down from 56 percent, April 21 to 23

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

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

  • 54 percent, Bloomberg, May 29 to June 3
    Down from 56 percent, April 3 to 8

    -- A.M.

    Burning Bush

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

    Send questions, comments and tips to bushed@salon.com.

    Bushed! contributors: Eric Boehlert , Gary Kamiya, Kerry Lauerman, Alicia Montgomery, Scott Rosenberg, Jake Tapper, Joan Walsh, Anthony York

    Take a look at the previous edition of Bushed!

  • By Salon Staff

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