Twin watch: Late nights with Jenna
The president's daughter is reportedly rubbing elbows with Hollywood types as an intern for the Los Angeles entertainment firm of Brillstein-Grey, and she's had mixed luck with a pair of late-night joke jocks she's met in her travels. According to a New York Daily News report, Jenna recently ran into CBS "Late Night" host Craig Kilborn in an L.A. bar and asked him to quit making jokes about her. "Sure," he replied. "So, can I buy you a beer now?" (A witness said Jenna didn't drink any alcohol that night.)
Things went a little more smoothly when Jenna visited the set of "Politically Incorrect" with other Brillstein-Grey interns. Though host Bill Maher regularly shreds Jenna's dad on the program, and has made jokes about Jenna's and twin sister Barbara's problems with booze, everyone on the "Politically Incorrect" set was on their best behavior when she and the other interns stopped by last Tuesday. Members of the staff even removed mocking pictures and caricatures of the president from public view until Jenna left.
"We need to keep conservatives and moderates together. I've spent a lot of time listening to problems -- we can work out these problems. And once we move to the floor, we need to stick together or we won't be able to get anything done."
-- House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., speaking Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press"
Despite a lengthy wish list of policies Bush asked Congress to act on before its August break, it looks like the best the president can hope for before next week's summer recess is to avoid a potentially disastrous veto of the patients' bill of rights.
House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Bush's new best friend on Capitol Hill, is doing his best to help the president dodge that scenario. With newly energized GOP moderates holding their ground on the bipartisan patients' bill of rights, Hastert, anxious to avoid an outright defeat on the issue, is backing off his promise of late last week to hold a vote on the bill before September. The move effectively signals that there won't be a vote until Hastert and Bush are guaranteed a bill they like, one with fewer options for patients who want to sue their HMO over treatment disputes.
This is the second time in three weeks that resistance among moderate Republicans has forced Hastert into this type of tactic. It's a similar maneuver to the one that Hastert and other members of the GOP leadership used to indefinitely table a vote on the Shays-Meehan campaign finance bill. At the time, Hastert asserted that the House couldn't continue work on that legislation because Congress had better things to do with the remaining weeks of its summer calendar, including the patients' bill of rights. Well, things didn't work out the way Bush and Hastert had hoped, and now the pressing, calendar-clearing legislation is the White House's comatose energy policy.
But that's likely to be felled by the same ideological split between GOP moderates and conservatives that has hampered the progress of the rest of Bush's agenda. For example, several moderates have already signaled their opposition to oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a significant element of Bush's energy plan. Given that whatever energy legislation the House passes is likely to be vigorously ignored by the Democratic leadership of the Senate, there's precious little incentive for a greenish moderate Republican to cooperate on Bush's unpopular energy initiatives.
The House Republican leadership has already given up on reversing dozens of last-minute Clinton administration energy policies because GOP moderates won't go along. Most notably, Bush's challenge to more stringent rules governing the level of arsenic in drinking water was quashed on Friday when 19 moderate Republicans joined Democrats in voting to let Clinton's rule on the issue stand.
The arsenic battle reinforces Bush's reputation for giving short shrift to environmental causes, and his administration's flip-flop on a global warming plan won't help. Over the weekend, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice backed off from an October deadline for Bush to come up with an alternative to the Kyoto treaty on global warming. In the wake of the president's recent European trip, Secretary of State Colin Powell had told the international community that the White House would have its own global warming proposal ready for an October conference on the issue in Morocco.
With all the trouble Bush is having keeping his troops in line, it's easy to forget that his policies are still running up against opposition from Democratic constituencies. Organized labor, which has been somewhat supportive of Bush's energy plan, won't budge in its opposition to letting Mexican trucks travel freely across the border, a policy that the president asserts is crucial to maintaining the integrity of the North American Free Trade Agreement. While Senate Democrats have pegged their opposition to the trucking plan on concerns about safety, unions have openly complained that the new rules would leave American drivers at a distinct disadvantage to their lower-paid Mexican counterparts.
While Republican free-trade advocates are holding the line on the trade issue, the president's proposal to partially privatize Social Security lacks the support of some of his most loyal party members. In the wake of a much-criticized report from Bush's Social Security reform commission last week, even Bush buddy Hastert has signaled that he has serious doubts about partial privatization of the federal retirement system.
And Hastert is the key. With moderate Republicans continuing to stray from the president's game plan, Bush has no choice but to use Hastert's parliamentary prowess as a crutch for his crippled agenda.
And don't miss legendary White House correspondent Helen Thomas scolding the president for avoiding full-fledged press conferences. According to Thomas, those multinational, multileader Q&A sessions that Bush held in Europe just don't cut it.
Monday schedule: The president speaks to the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Executives in Washington, while Vice President Cheney travels to New Jersey to speak on behalf of Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler, the state's Republican gubernatorial candidate.
This day in Bush history
July 30, 2000: On the eve of the Republican Convention, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., released the delegates he gained during his primary struggle with Texas Gov. George W. Bush. Though the move was entirely expected, it cleared the final obstacle to Bush's gaining the unanimous affirmation of his party as its presidential nominee.
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