Richard Wolffe

Stories by Richard Wolffe

  • THE WHITE HOUSE: PREACHING PATIENCE

    In the Oval Office last week, George W. Bush was explaining his theory on growing a democracy to Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif. "It's the evolution of a baby," Bush said, according to a senior aide who was present but declined to be named because the meeting was private. "First you crawl, then you walk, then you sprint. Sometimes people want to go straight to sprinting." That evening, at a foreign-policy dinner, Bush counseled patience, especially in the newly free countries of the Middle East and former Soviet Union. He also spelled out details of a new office for reconstruction and emphasized his commitment to nation-building.With this more nurturing approach, Bush is trying to flesh out the lofty rhetoric of his second Inaugural Address, in which he pledged to spread liberty and end tyranny. The aide says the president wants to show he can be a realist--as well as an idealist. "It's a systematic effort to show it's not a simplistic foreign policy," the aide says. "It's not...
  • The Oval: The Race Never Ends

    It was the classic picture of a politician seeking votes: a gray-haired man in a dark suit holding and kissing a baby. Yet the man surrounded by gurgling babies (21 in all) wasn't running for office. It's been little more than six months since George W. Bush won re-election by what turned out to be a relatively comfortable margin. But whether he's staging rallies about Social Security or kissing babies for photo ops about stem-cell research, he still looks and sounds like a man on the campaign trail.Bush's overt campaigning is a sign of the tough--and unpopular--positions he has staked out early in his second term. According to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, 63 percent of voters support stem-cell research, including 58 percent of Roman Catholics. A recent Gallup poll showed that 53 percent want to see either no restrictions or fewer restrictions on government funding of stem-cell research. Those numbers are not so different from Bush's polling on Social Security (64 percent...
  • The Oval: Bush's Palestinian Tightrope

    It's hard to overstate how much the White House is betting on the next several months of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. President George W. Bush's national-security officials suggest that if all goes well with Israel's withdrawal from Gaza--and if an effective and peaceful Palestinian state emerges there--the administration will find new diplomatic openings across the region, the broader Muslim world and even across Europe.That's not entirely wishful thinking, even if it relies on two big "ifs." On Bush's recent trip to Europe, it was Palestinian politics that featured more prominently than any subject other than Russia itself. In Moscow, President Vladimir Putin recounted at length his recent trip to the region, agreeing with Bush on the need to support both the Palestinian and Israeli leaders. Even in Maastricht, Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende mentioned the Middle East peace process ahead of the broader war on terror and the prospects for Iraq.Those sky-high...
  • The Oval: Shake, Rattle and Roll

    He came, he wiggled his hips, he conquered. For many people back home (and around the world), the pictures of George W. Bush trying to dance in Tbilisi, Georgia, looked ridiculous. But to many, many Georgians (and there were throngs of them welcoming Bush), they were an impossible dream come true: an American president, the most powerful man in the world, enjoying their hospitality and their history.Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili was positively giddy with the reaction of his people to Bush's arrival: mile after mile of schoolchildren holding welcome signs, and an enormous crowd of more than 150,000 in the capital's Freedom Square. "This is not North Korea here; you cannot tell people to go out if they don't feel like it," Saakashvili told reporters. But he was also elated at Bush's enjoyment of a night on the Old Town--from their meal at a restaurant to the whirling-dervish dancers that enticed the American president. Even the next day, Bush was still moved by the night...
  • THE PROBLEM WITH PUTIN

    She was supposed to be smoothing the way for President George W. Bush's trip to Moscow, a celebration of Hitler's defeat 60 years ago this week. But instead of rekindling the spirit of wartime allies, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice only provoked the Russians, who were offended by Bush's plans. Why, they wanted to know, was Bush also traveling to Latvia and Georgia, two countries that were once part of the Soviet Union? "Bush going to Latvia and Georgia will make them think they have carte blanche to do whatever they want," Sergei Lavrov, Russia's blunt foreign minister, complained to Rice. Welcome to Moscow, Mr. President. Please leave your democratic ideals at home.As he tries to build a legacy of promoting democracy around the globe, Bush has run headlong into Fortress Russia. Increasingly, he's fending off the kind of Russian accusations that once dominated the Soviet era of geopolitics: of covert action on Russia's borders, competing spheres of influence and zero-sum games....
  • A WHITE HOUSE ADRIFT

    George Voinovich is not your typical Bush loyalist. A self-styled deficit hawk, the former Cleveland mayor and Ohio governor is so frugal that he once fished a penny out of a urinal in the Statehouse. To the White House, his independent spirit should have come as no surprise: he split with his party over the estate tax in 2000 and he opposed the size of Bush's tax cuts three years later. Yet when it came to the prickly question of John Bolton's nomination as U.N. ambassador, the president's team assumed Voinovich would fall into line.The warning signs were there if anyone had looked for them. About two weeks before senators were set to vote on Bolton's nomination, Voinovich "grilled" Bolton for an hour in private, according to officials familiar with the session, asking "tough questions" about allegations that Bolton sought to force out an intelligence analyst who disagreed with him. Yet in subsequent days, nobody at the White House asked the senator directly about Bolton. Others...
  • The Oval: Delicate Dances

    After 60 days on the road, and a prime-time press conference complete with new proposals last week, the White House believed it was finally making progress on Social Security. George W. Bush's aides argued that the new details of "progressive indexation" (or means-tested Social Security) would finally expose the weakness of their Democratic opponents. The Bushies' theory is that the Democrats are going to crack under the pressure of having to propose their own policies for the future of Social Security.Yet the initial result of Bush's proposals has been to expose divisions among Republicans in Congress about how to deal with any legislation to overhaul the program. Administration officials were thrilled last week when House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas announced plans for a May 12 hearing on Bush's Social Security plan, with the goal of drafting a bill by early June. "That's serious progress," a senior administration official told NEWSWEEK.Not everyone was so happy, though. A...
  • Nothing Special

    "I wouldn't expect anything special," said one senior aide to President George W. Bush. "It's standard practice." So went the planning for Bush's travels with embattled House Majority Leader Tom DeLay this week. But for DeLay, at least, there was nothing standard about the event in Galveston, Texas, and the flight that followed on Air Force One back to the nation's capital.In the brick-walled auditorium at the medical facility in Galveston--close to DeLay's home district--the highly partisan crowd turned one of Bush's regular Social Security events into an impromptu rally for DeLay. "We love you Tom!" shouted one member of the invitation-only audience. The representative of the 22nd district of Texas turned around, beamed a big smile and flashed a single thumb into the air. As the reaction turned into a cheer, DeLay stood up and waved at his fans. "All those reporters," said another DeLay fan, pointing to the White House press corps in front of him. "You're in Texas now."In fact,...
  • The Oval: Oil Dilemma

    "I wish I could simply wave a magic wand and lower gas prices tomorrow," George Bush told Latino business leaders at the Ronald Reagan building in Washington on Wednesday. "I'd do that." Yet what followed--a speech previously described by his aides as a major policy address--said nothing about how to lower prices any time soon, with or without a magic wand. Instead, Bush focused his attention on his long-delayed energy bill, which includes plenty of long-term strategy about the future of America's energy supplies.That's a considerable gamble for a White House that believes the reason Bush's poll numbers have dropped sharply is almost entirely because gas prices have risen sharply. According to the latest poll by the American Research Group, Bush's approval rating stands at a low 44 percent, while his handling of the economy is rated at an even lower 38 percent. More than 60 per cent of those polled say the economy is bad, very bad, or downright terrible.Bush's aides say the...
  • POLITICS: BUSH'S ENERGY PLAN--START TALKING

    Two numbers have dominated White House discussions about the president's domestic agenda in recent days: rising gas prices and the president's falling approval ratings. While much of Washington has been trying to forecast the political impact of the Terri Schiavo case and the struggle to overhaul Social Security, Bush's aides maintain there is a pocketbook explanation for the downward slide in the president's polls. "Schiavo didn't drop the numbers," says RNC senior adviser Matthew Dowd, who was Bush's top strategist in last year's campaign. "It's gas prices primarily." Two polls last week gave Bush just 41 percent approval on his handling of the economy and an overall approval rating of 48 percent. Whether their concern is political or economic, Bush's advisers are looking for a way out. "They are very concerned," says one administration official.While his aides concede there is little they can do to shift prices quickly, Bush has been grappling with the issue in recent internal...
  • The Oval: Summit Talk

    Prompted by reporters, the president and the prime minister left no one in any doubt about their sharp differences over Israeli plans to expand a handful of settlements in the West Bank. Speaking outside George Bush's Texas ranch after their Monday meeting, the president insisted the situation was simple. "Israel has obligations under the Roadmap," he said, standing beside Ariel Sharon. "The Roadmap clearly says no expansion of settlements." Sharon, for his part, insisted that the settlements in question were already major population blocs and would remain part of Israel under any final agreement with the Palestinians.But while the rest of the world focused on the tension between Bush and Sharon, behind the scenes the mood among White House aides was far more upbeat. Sharon first discussed his disengagement plan--and the annexing of parts of the West Bank--with Elliott Abrams, Bush's hawkish White House adviser on the Middle East, in November 2003. At the time, the security...
  • Presidents and the Pope

    Inside St. Peter's Basilica late Wednesday night, Vatican officials briefly blocked the massive line of people that had been waiting hours to view the body of Pope John Paul II. The move prompted slight outrage among many individuals who were anxious for their chance to view the late pontiff, but within an instant, that displeasure was replaced by stunned surprise, as onlookers caught their first glimpse at the people Vatican officials had moved to accommodate.There, less than five feet away from the pope's body, stood a solemn President George W. Bush, clasping the hand of his wife, Laura, who wore a traditional black mantilla. Behind him stood two former presidents, including his father, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. Also on hand: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and White House chief of staff Andrew Card.In an unscheduled stop, the group had proceeded to the Vatican directly upon their arrival in Rome late last night to view the pope's body. Escorted by Italian security...
  • The Oval: Picking Up Steam

    The White House claims that it's gaining momentum in its never-ending quest to overhaul Social Security. But judging from the battle on the ground, it looks like the opposition can also claim to be on a roll. As George W. Bush took his Social Security tour to Iowa on Wednesday, he found his message countered by an increasingly organized group of opponents who have been on the ground for days.The AARP, True Majority (a group founded by Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry's ice cream) and several other groups who oppose Bush's plan for personal accounts began running TV, radio and newspaper ads on Monday in advance of Bush's visit to Cedar Rapids. Other groups staged protests of the president's Social Security "conversation," which was held at a local college. AARP took out full-page newspaper ads in The Des Moines Register, the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Quad City Times condemning White House efforts to alter the program. It also held two press conferences near the site of Bush's town...
  • A SLY CHARM OFFENSIVE

    The talk was small for Dick Cheney: the virtues of duck-hunting, the recent renovation of his mansion and the history of conservatism in Congress. Yet the reception for 40 members of the conservative Republican Study Committee was also unusually personal for the veep. Munching on mini-cheeseburgers in his official residence, Cheney chatted with small groups of lawmakers, saying he understood their position--after all, he was once a member of the RSC when he served in the House. "It was very casual," says Kevin Brady, a five-term Texas Republican, "or as casual as you can be at the vice president's house." Casual enough for some frank talk about Social Security--what one guest called the elephant in the room. One lawmaker bluntly told the veep the party wouldn't support lifting the cap on payroll taxes. Others warned of the budget-busting cost of the transition to private accounts. Cheney, on the verge of his own town-hall-style sessions, listened carefully. "We still have a long way...
  • The Oval: Not Such Good Neighbors

    Call it Bush's law of unexpected diplomacy. Four years ago, nobody could have predicted just how difficult relations would become across North America. And a year ago, nobody could have predicted just how improved relations would become across the Atlantic.How difficult are George Bush's relationships with Mexico and Canada? They're not the kind of tension that was so visible between the U.S. president and Russia's Vladimir Putin in Bratislava, Slovakia, last month. But the awkwardness between Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin and Mexico's President Vicente Fox, was on full display at their joint press conference at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, on Wednesday. Martin bluntly ruled out ever joining Bush's long-held vision for a missile-defense system to protect North America--the first significant breach between Canada and the United States in terms of defending the continent in recent years. "The file is closed," Martin told reporters. "But our cooperation in terms of...
  • Tricks Of The Trade

    The White House likes to call them "regular folks"--people with real-life questions about the president's agenda. Only some are more regular than others. Carlos Huertas was billed as a concerned grandfather and hard-working engineer when he sat onstage next to President Bush to talk about retirement accounts in downtown Tampa, Fla., last month. "The thing I like about the proposed reforms in Social Security," Huertas said, "is that, just like I do on the 401(k), I can invest in the market where I get a better return." The president nodded his head in agreement. "We're not talking about, you know, needing to become a great financial analyst in order to make decisions," Bush told his town-hall-style audience.Small wonder that Bush found Huertas so convincing. The Florida granddad is an activist for FreedomWorks, a conservative group founded by former vice presidential nominee Jack Kemp and Dick Armey, the former House GOP leader. FreedomWorks campaigned heavily for Bush's re-election...
  • Woman Power at State

    Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reinvigorated the State Deparment's flagging role in foreign-policy making in a matter of months. Now, State is about to gain even more firepower when long-time Bush adviser Karen Hughes is nominated as Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. And NEWSWEEK has learned that Hughes will be given the rank of ambassador, a title that will grant her formal access to President Bush.Not that Hughes needs anybody's okay to see Bush. She has spent years crafting the president's domestic message, but left the White House in 2002 to spend more time with her family in Texas (where she continued to advise the president from afar). If Karl Rove has been described as Bush's brain, Hughes is Bush's voice: she has been shaping and directing his message since his first days as Texas governor.Hughes's new appointment is part of an effort to help bolster America's image abroad, particularly in Arab world. Hughes, who is also close to Rice...
  • The Oval: On the Social Security Battlefield

    The more you hear White House officials talk about Social Security, the more it sounds like Iraq. Of course it's not a violent, bloody conflict leading to huge loss of life and limb. But the political strategy and the test of leadership carry the same mix of calculated risks and reckless gambles, of stubbornness and compromise.First the strategy. It may look chaotic on the ground, with no one really in charge. But that chaos is something the White House claims to be happy with, not unlike the giant shake of the chessboard in the Middle East. "This is a complicated issue, with a complicated legislative strategy, particularly in the sense that there's no vote set on a specific plan," said a senior White House official. "You're going to have this kind of churning going on in the process. You've got to expect chairmen of committees to explore a lot of different things. We're not going to hyperventilate every time there's a comment from a congressman."That may be wishful thinking, given...
  • RATING THE ROADSHOW

    It was meant to be a heart-to-heart: just the two presidents and their translators, sitting alone inside the historic castle that overlooks the Slovak capital of Bratislava. Four years earlier, in another castle in Central Europe, George W. Bush looked Vladimir Putin in the eye and saw his trustworthy soul. But what he saw inside Putin last week was far less comforting. When Bush confronted his Russian counterpart about the freedom of the press in Russia, Putin shot back with an attack of his own: "We didn't criticize you when you fired those reporters at CBS."It's not clear how well Putin understands the controversy that led to the dismissal of four CBS journalists over the discredited report on Bush's National Guard service. Yet it's all too clear how Putin sees the relationship between Bush and the American media--just like his own. Bush's aides have long feared that former KGB officers in Putin's inner circle are painting a twisted picture of U.S. policy. So Bush explained how...
  • The Oval: Heavy Going

    Exactly one month ago, George W. Bush kicked off his campaign to overhaul Social Security in earnest, pitching his plan for personal retirement accounts directly to the American people and Congress in his State of the Union address. In his speech, Bush made no bones about it: remaking Social Security would be his top domestic priority of the year, if not his entire second term. The president promised he would do whatever it takes to sell his Social Security plan, and to prove it, he immediately took his case on the road, hitting five states in less than 48 hours to convince the public and a skeptical Congress of the retirement plan's looming crisis.Since then, Bush has traveled to another four states--at least one trip a week--to hold campaign-style Social Security rallies. He's hosted more than a dozen private meetings at the White House with members of Congress and lobbied skeptical lawmakers face-to-face on Air Force One. Yet a month later, the White House is still no closer to...
  • A DIPLO-SPEAK GUIDE: BUSH IN EUROPE

    President Bush begins the first overseas trip of his second term in the diplomatic minefield of Europe this week--and it's being tightly stage-managed. For example, White House officials ditched plans for a town-hall meeting with regular folk in Mainz when the German government said it couldn't guarantee friendly questions. Bush will instead face a hand-picked group of German yuppies who've enjoyed exchange trips to the U.S. How to translate the nicely crafted phrases you'll hear from all sides.FRENCH PRESIDENT JACQUES CHIRACWHAT HE WILL SAY: We already live in a multipolar world.WHAT IT MEANS: I could always find a friend in Beijing or Moscow.PRESIDENT BUSHWHAT HE WILL SAY:We all share the common values of freedom and democracy.WHAT IT MEANS: So why don't you help in Iraq now?EUROPEAN HIGH REPRESENTATIVE JAVIER SOLANAWHAT HE WILL SAY:We all agree that Iran should end its nuclear programs.WHAT IT MEANS: But we can't persuade the Americans to talk to Tehran.PRESIDENT BUSHWHAT HE WILL...
  • The Oval: New Views in Old Europe

    All you need to do is look at someone like Britain's Tony Blair. Blair used to flash his famously broad smile whenever he stood next to the president, radiating his own sense of power at being so close to the leader of the free world. Now the prime minister looks stern and humorless, as if his alliance with Bush was less a cause for happiness than deep concern. Facing a likely election within months, Blair managed to muster just one flash of his teeth during a morning photo op with the president. After that, he endured the rest of the time in front of the cameras wearing a deep frown. He looked even less happy later in the day at a group photo of European Union leaders, standing alone and unloved to one side of the stage.The political theater of group photos is far more revealing than most news conferences. President Bush and France's Jacques Chirac played the classic cat-and-mouse game of trying to be the last leader (and therefore the most important) to show up to the photo shoot....
  • The Oval: Bush's European Roadshow

    It won't be easy. Setting aside the personal chemistry, both sides have hardly forgotten the series of snubs and grudges that began four years ago when Condoleezza Rice told European ambassadors in Washington that the Kyoto global warming agreement was dead. What followed might be funny if it wasn't so serious. Did NATO really feel wounded that it wasn't asked to take part in the war in Afghanistan? Did the White House really try to interfere in the German elections by lashing out at Gerhard Schroeder? Does Jacques Chirac really believe in something as obtuse as multipolarity?The clearest sign that both sides want to kiss and make up is the extraordinary care that has surrounded this tour. On paper, Bush's trip is a carefully staged exercise in ego-stroking--the sort of diplomatic massage that the Bush administration is hardly renowned for.It starts, of course, with the French. White House officials say it was Chirac's turn to come to Washington since his last visit was three and a...
  • The Oval: Barnstorming

    Both proposals landed on Capitol Hill with a resounding thud, described by some members of the president's own party as "dead on arrival." While their public show of confidence is still high, some White House officials appear blindsided by the opposition to what one of the most ambitious second-term agendas by a president in recent history. "There's always a certain level of posturing," a White House adviser told NEWSWEEK. "We'll just have to ride it out."Bush, meanwhile, isn't sitting idle. Bucking his first-term reputation as a president who gets involved only in the later stages of legislative battle, he has stepped up his outreach to members of Congress, especially those in his own party. On Tuesday, he met privately with a group of House Republicans still on the fence about his Social Security package--the sixth time in three weeks that he has hosted GOP lawmakers to discuss the subject. Last month, he wooed the Congressional Black Caucus, and in recent weeks, he's been...
  • BUSH'S HARD SELL

    Just five days before delivering the first State of the Union of his new term, President Bush dispatched his senior aides to ask his party for some unusual advice about the landmark address: what should he say about Social Security? At a party retreat in the Greenbrier hotel in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va.--an exclusive resort that once served as the Capitol's secret nuclear bunker--Bush's advisers were still wrestling late last week with the language of the speech. The president wanted to flesh out his plans to overhaul Social Security, but how much should he say about specifics such as personal accounts or the cost of it all? For several days, GOP leaders had pressed the president to do a better job of selling his ideas to a skeptical public.Now it was Bush's turn to push his own party to work out the radioactive details. "You're the lawmakers," the president told one anxious Republican who inquired whether the White House would write its own bill. "I am willing to lead, but this...
  • The Oval: A Battle Joined

    Of all the people President Bush clasped hands with at 9:01 p.m. in the House chamber, one cantankerous character emerged from the crowd for special treatment: Bill Thomas, chairman of the all-powerful House Ways and Means Committee. Thomas famously hijacked the Social Security debate by proposing a wide array of ambitious policies (like a sales tax) that the White House wouldn't touch with a 10-foot pole. He went on to speak less than flatteringly about the president's strategy on Social Security, comparing the domestic priority to a "dead horse."So how did Bush greet his troublemaker in chief? With a firm handshake that quickly turned into a brotherly thumb clench. It looked for a moment as if they might arm wrestle right there on the floor of the House.But this is a president who knows his political capital might be wasted in an open display of machismo with a so-called congressional friend. So he and his aides have been unusually welcoming to Thomas, praising him for his input...
  • The Oval: Bush's Fresh Start

    The White House wants the world to see its new term as a fresh start, with a re-election victory behind it and a big domestic agenda ahead. But it's not at all clear that the rest of the world should expect much change from a second Bush term. In fact, judging from recent comments by some of the president's closest aides, there's a distinct reluctance to suggest that anything is going to change from last year to this, in terms of George W. Bush's foreign policy.Take the president's first foreign trip of his new term. The grand kiss-and-make-up tour in Europe has been whittled down to little more than three days on the ground--in Brussels with European leaders; then Mainz, Germany, with Chancellor Gerhard Schroder; then Bratislava, Slovakia, with President Vladimir Putin of Russia. What was once billed as a lengthy exercise in bridge-building has become a brisk chance to do business. That's fine for the self-styled results-oriented president, who cares little for sightseeing or state...
  • PRESIDENTS: BUBBA AND DUBYA--WARMING UP

    Four years ago George W. Bush used to call him "the shadow" and promised a fresh start by pledging to "uphold the honor and dignity" of the presidency. He even joked to late-night TV's David Letterman that one of his top 10 priorities in the White House would be to give the Oval Office "one heck of a scrubbing."But when President Bush welcomed Bill Clinton into that same office last week, those barbs were ancient history. After Clinton remarked how much he liked the new Oval Office rug, Bush encouraged him to praise his interior designer--Laura. (He did.) Over lunch with the president's father, the compliments flowed the other way. When Bush 41 inquired whether Chelsea Clinton had marriage plans, Bush 43 declared how impressed he was with the former president's daughter.For two men at opposite ends of the political spectrum, the relationship between the 43rd and 42nd presidents has grown surprisingly warm and personal over the last six months. Clinton endorsed Bush's approach to the...
  • THE WONKETTE

    Ana Marie Cox started writing as the Wonkette in January '03, delivering a gossipy, satirical blog on D.C. politics. Now she's working on her first novel. She dished with Richard Wolffe.What's the relationship between bloggers and mainstream journalists? ...
  • CHANGING OF THE GUARD: A SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP

    She thought she was heading to a casual dinner to celebrate her 50th birthday with some friends at a Yuppie restaurant in northwest Washington. But when her limo turned in to the British Embassy's driveway last week, Condoleezza Rice experienced an unusual moment of confusion. Greeted by the tuxedo-clad ambassador, Sir David Manning, Rice could only sputter, "David, why are you dressed in black tie?" Her answer was waiting inside, where 120 friends were enjoying a rare secret kept from the president's ultradiscreet national-security adviser. Rice was stunned. The president was 15 minutes away, Rice was told, and she had to change quickly into a red dress tailored especially for the occasion by her favorite designer, Oscar de la Renta. "The warrior- princess image is so wrong," says one close friend. "The reason we all dressed up is because Condi likes to dress up."Three days later Rice was stepping out (this time in a yellow suit) next to President Bush as his newly nominated...
  • Taking Charge

    It's no coincidence that the first two cabinet nominations of the second Bush administration are some of the very same people he first named in 2000. Condoleezza Rice and Alberto Gonzales were among the initial wave of appointments by George W. Bush, less than a week after the Florida recount was brought to a halt. Both were named a day after the president-elect's first big personnel announcement--the return of Colin Powell to government as secretary of State.Four years later, there's an unmistakable symmetry. First, the choreography around Powell. The former four-star general was courted carefully by Bush in 2000, even though he wasn't part of the Texas governor's inner circle (like Rice or Gonzales). Powell's role was more than just to sprinkle stardust over the new president-elect. It was to lend him foreign policy gravitas, like Dick Cheney's addition to the ticket earlier that year; to reassure the world that a rarely-traveled governor could make the transition to the leader of...
  • Trail Mix: Battle of the Battlegrounds

    For many months in this eternal general election, several battleground states have vied for the title of The Next Florida. Pennsylvania has been a strong contender throughout (a particular favorite of the Bush campaign), while Wisconsin has launched a late-breaking bid for the award. Still, it's Ohio that believes it has a lock on the TNF title. Its Republican secretary of state, Kenneth Blackwell, has even encouraged comparisons with 2000 Florida counterpart Katherine Harris--a shameless bid for the MVP award in the TNF contest.But as Election '04 draws to an end, the polls point to one clear winner. It turns out that Florida is The Next Florida. With the numbers exceptionally close and frustratingly unpredictable, both campaigns can plausibly claim to be heading for victory in the Sunshine State. The latest polls give Kerry a slender one-point advantage, according to the final tracking poll by Zogby. Unless the voters break in one direction on the day, we're headed for another...