Richard Wolffe

Stories by Richard Wolffe

  • Final Days

    After all the conventions, after all the debates, after all the TV ads and stump speeches, what's left? How does a presidential campaign break through the clutter to reach the hearts and minds of voters?It's the news, stupid. If John Kerry wins next week, he'll have the headlines to thank. Week after week in this closing phase of the general election, the news cycle has turned in his favor. From the shortage of flu vaccines to the war in Iraq, there has been precious little good news for the Bush campaign--and the bad news goes to the heart of the issues of the 2004 election. Four years ago, the only news that broke through in the final days was the decades-old story about Bush's drinking and driving--a story that hardly spoke to the central debate of the election. To this day Karl Rove, the president's strategist-in-chief, blames the DUI story for erasing Bush's lead in the final days.This time around, the news stories don't stop coming. The missing 380 tons of high explosives in...
  • KERRY BY THE BOOK

    It's one of John Kerry's biggest achievements in the Senate: a groundbreaking investigation into money laundering, drug dealers, terrorists and secret nukes. Yet voters have rarely heard of the senator's dogged inquiries into the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI). Why? Because some of Kerry's leading campaign strategists believed it was too difficult for voters to digest. "You can't talk about that because people think you're talking about the BBC," Bob Shrum, Kerry's top adviser, told one senior staffer. "Why were you investigating British TV?"From corrupt banks to Vietnam POWs, Kerry's Senate record is a mixture of the high-profile and the obscure, of showboat politics and detailed debate, not unlike the man himself. George W. Bush accused Kerry last week of having "no record of leadership." In fact, as the BCCI inquiry shows, Kerry has a serious record that translates poorly into the language of a presidential campaign. That's not unusual for senators, who have...
  • Trail Mix: Military Politics

    Buried deep inside a recent poll of servicemen and women (and their families), there's a surprisingly frank assessment of the war in Iraq and the commander-in-chief. While the University of Pennsylvania's National Annenberg Election Survey showed heavy support for George W. Bush on questions of job approval and general voter support, the military displayed deep concerns about Bush's goals in Iraq.When asked if the war in Iraq had reduced the risk of terrorism in the United States, 47 per cent said yes while 42 per cent said the risk of terrorism had increased. Added to the 9 per cent who said the war had made no difference, more than half of the active soldiers and their families believe the war in Iraq has failed to live up to Bush's mission--to kill terrorists in Iraq before they kill Americans at home. That wasn't the only disturbing news from the survey. By a narrow margin of 48 to 47 per cent, a plurality of military folks believe Bush has no clear plan to bring the war in Iraq...
  • The Slog of War

    HEAD TO HEAD: BUSH LIMPED INTO ST. LOUIS, BUT BOUNDED BACK OUT--CONFIDENT THAT HIS DEBATE PERFORMANCE LEFT THE RACE DEAD EVEN. TWO DOWN, ONE TO GO.
  • Trail Mix: On the Defense

    The final debate of the 2004 election in Tempe, Ariz., was supposed to be John Kerry's turf: jobs, health care and the economy. But it was also George W. Bush's ground: religion, abortion and education. After opinion polls showed that voters saw Kerry as the victor in the first two contests, Bush needed a big win to level up the debating phase of the general election. Here's a rough guide to the highs and lows for both candidates.Bush: The HighsBush turned question after question toward one of his few strong domestic issues in the polls: education. To a question about the minimum wage, Bush gave one of his most clear and committed statements. When the president spoke of inner-city kids being "shuffled through" public schools, he sounded engaged in the problem of failing schools. He also sounded like he had a vision for what he wanted to achieve--a vital goal for any would-be president--even if the subject was bogged down in a dispute over funds for the No Child Left Behind Act. "You...
  • Trail Mix: Between the Numbers

    Campaigns and candidates like to think they can escape the laws of physics. So both the Bush and Kerry campaigns claim with equal certainty they have gained momentum out of last week's TV debates. But as Isaac Newton correctly noted, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Bush and Kerry cannot both be rising in the polls, unless Ralph Nader has suddenly nosedived from his 1-point rating to, well, zero.Bush's aides were almost giddy with delight at the improved performance of the president after last week's contest in St. Louis. But they may well have celebrated too early. As the latest batch of polls suggest, it's Kerry who is emerging from the debates as the clear winner. NEWSWEEK's poll after the first debate gave him a 40-point victory over Bush, with 61 percent of those who watched seeing Kerry as the clear winner and a mere 19 percent picking Bush as the victor. Sixteen percent called it a draw. Gallup's poll after the second debate gave the challenger a 15-point lead...
  • Trail Mix: Body Blows

    It was billed as a contest between the man with the golden parachute and the man with the golden tongue. Instead, the debate between Vice President Dick Cheney and Sen. John Edwards on Tuesday in Cleveland was nothing like the cliched encounter that some expected between the Halliburton CEO and the trial lawyer. Here's a rough guide to the highs and the lows of this election year's one and only vice presidential debate.Cheney: The HighsThe veep was everything his boss, President George W. Bush, wasn't last week: relaxed, confident and articulate. Cheney conveyed disdain for his opponent without seeming disgusted by the debate itself. He leaned back in his seat, he upbraided Edwards for what he called "inaccuracies" and he even passed up the chance to rebut his opponent at times. Where Bush was edgy and hesitant, Cheney seemed smooth and forceful. The vice president adopted the tone of a high-school principal admonishing a wayward student, and it paid off. Edwards forced a smile,...
  • Trail Mix: 'Sparks of Life'

    It's never easy to declare the winner of a TV debate. But the contest in Coral Gables, Fla., on Thursday scored some striking successes all the same. Not least, the debate showed sparks of life--and insights into both candidates--that nobody anticipated. Here's a rough guide to the highs and lows of both George W. Bush and John Kerry at their first encounter.Bush: the HighsBush showed some of his much-vaunted compassion when he spoke about Missy Johnson, the wife of a soldier who was killed in Iraq. For a rare moment in the debate, Bush dropped his personal attacks on Kerry to talk about something much more human. "I told her after we prayed and teared up and laughed some that I thought her husband's sacrifice was noble and worthy," Bush said. The president's aides have long said that he's much more likable and personable than his rival. The anecdote about Johnson gave voters the best glimpse of that personal touch that Bush is famous for--a quality he exhibited again when he...
  • Trail Mix: And Now It's September

    John Kerry may be lagging in the polls. He may have a small mountain range to climb to edge ahead of George W. Bush. And he may still be tied in the knots of his past statements. But there's a lot that has changed about the Democratic candidate in the last few weeks of the election, suggesting this race is very far from a romp for the Bush-Cheney campaign. As Kerry and Bush complete their final rehearsals for this week's first TV debate, it's worth taking a closer look at how Kerry has raised his game.PHOTO OPSThere was a time when the Kerry campaign treated photo ops as an annoying distraction from everyday politics. There were weeks dedicated to fund-raising, weeks dedicated to big speeches and sometimes--just occasionally--a week dedicated to pretty pictures. If Kerry's old handlers had little visual sense (who on earth, apart from the candidate, could think that windsurfing photos were a good idea?), his new handlers have wised up to the notion that you can walk and chew gum at...
  • KERRY'S NEW CALL TO ARMS

    Sitting in his black-leather swivel chair, with his trusty world atlas beside him, John Kerry huddled with his aides in the executive-style cabin at the front of his campaign jet. Kerry was preparing to accuse the president of failing to tell the truth about "the mess in Iraq"--part of an aggressive fall strategy to challenge George W. Bush on the war. But before he spoke to the National Guard convention in Las Vegas, Kerry sought the advice of yet another sounding board on his plane: former four-star general Wes Clark. Kerry knew from Vietnam what it felt like to face the bullets without the support of the folks back home. So how, one of his senior staff wanted to know, would Kerry's attacks go down now with the troops in Iraq? "Look, the soldiers are debating it themselves on the ground," Clark reassured Kerry's inner circle. "They're coming back and they're incredibly critical. You have to call it like it is."After the summer's phony war over Vietnam medals and memos, the 2004...
  • Trail Mix: Nothing Simple About Iraq

    A presidential election can be a strange prism on the real world. Small incidents can look monumental simply because they're unexpected or embarrassing (remember the flap over the word RATS appearing in a George W. Bush ad in 2000?). And big topics can get overlooked because they seem old or complex (has there been a serious discussion about Social Security in 2004?).Yet that doesn't mean elections are incapable of dealing with complex debates. Politicians, reporters and voters often shrug their shoulders at election time, admitting that everything gets oversimplified. But if the Vietnam-era stories about Democratic nominee John Kerry and Bush show anything useful, it's that campaigns can assess and evaluate difficult stories--even when they're old and mired in complexity. If an election can immerse itself in the typographical qualities of obsolete typewriters, or the topography of the Bay Hap River in Vietnam, it can surely cope with other multifaceted problems. And there's no more...
  • Trail Mix: Reviving Kerry

    John McCain, that part-time friend to both presidential candidates, likes to joke about the false sense of hope that bedevils politicians. "Remember the words of Chairman Mao," he says. "It's always darkest before it's totally black." It's unclear whether Mao ever said such a thing, or whether this is just another example of McCain jerking the chain of his Vietnam-era foes (who believe that he and John Kerry are some kind of Commie double-agents). In any case, McCain's Maoism deserves to become the mantra for spooked Democrats and Kerry loyalists this month.It was only early June when Kerry held a six-point lead over Bush among likely voters in Gallup's poll. While there were many weak-kneed Republicans at that time, there was little of the wailing that so many Democrats voice now. Today Bush holds a seven-point lead among Gallup's assessment of likely voters and a one-point lead among registered voters. (The latest NEWSWEEK poll gives the president a six-point lead.) Before anyone...
  • IN BUSH'S SHADOW

    John Kerry wanted to hit back. It had been a miserable August as he took incoming fire about his military service from a gang of hostile Vietnam vets. But no, campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill and other staffers argued, the Swift Boat ads would blow over. Finally, Kerry had had enough. For three or four days, as he campaigned across the country, Kerry ripped into Cahill, furious that the mostly baseless attacks on his valor were driving his numbers down. "He was very angry," one old friend says. "The calculation had been made that this wasn't going to hurt him." Kerry's solution was to reach for an old ally. "Get Vallely," he screamed.Thomas Vallely is the leader of the pack of vets that Kerry calls his dog-hunters, a group that has beaten back the attacks on his Vietnam record since his first Senate race 20 years ago. "He knows that I know the other players," Vallely says of Kerry's Mayday call. "He knows that I also like this stuff."The return of the old warriors marked a turning...
  • WHY HE MIGHT STAY

    For nearly two years, the settled wisdom in Washington has been that Colin Powell would never stick around for a second Bush term. The secretary of State, who began his tenure as the most popular and prestigious figure in Bush's cabinet, was fed up--tired of being a moderate minority of one in a squall of neocon true believers. But last week there was a hint that the settled wisdom may now be unsettled. A former close aide and current confidant of Powell's, asked during the GOP convention whether the secretary might stay on, nodded his head eagerly and said yes.The reason, the ex-official hinted, is that global events are moving in Powell's direction. In Iraq and on other future flash points like Iran and North Korea, an administration that once short-shrifted Powell's diplomacy now badly needs it. He also has more control than he's had in a while, especially over Iraq, where America's new viceroy, Ambassador John Negroponte, answers to the secretary of State. (The previous top...
  • Trail Mix: Campaign Under Fire

    John Kerry and John Edwards popped up in the middle of the crowd like the stars of a J. Crew catalog. Matching blue blazers, chinos and blue shirts (no tie! too formal!). The crowd had just watched Kerry's movie bio on a giant TV screen--the same one that premiered at his convention in Boston. Then, all of a sudden, there the candidates were, on a catwalk to the side of the cameras, striding toward the main stage with big grins and even bigger waves. It looked and felt like more than the usual stump speech. The crowd had gathered at nearly midnight, in the normally slumbering town of Springfield, Ohio. The appearance was being billed as Kerry's aggressive response to George W. Bush's convention address--wrapped up in New York just minutes earlier.In the end, though, it was just another stump speech--with a couple of zingers thrown in at the top. The zingers weren't that bad. But then, most of Kerry's performance isn't that bad. It's just inconsistent. In the speech, the Democratic...
  • PAIN ON MAIN STREET

    To the rest of the world, Matthew Sandri's death in Fallujah looked like just another statistic from the war in Iraq. A 24-year-old Army medic, Specialist Sandri was killed in a rocket attack on a staging area far from the front lines in March. But back home in rural Pennsylvania, Sandri was far more than a name and a rank. When it came time to hold a memorial service, there was only one place big enough in the small town of Shamokin: the high-school gym. So many arrived to pay their respects that officials asked police and firefighters from neighboring towns to help control the traffic and crowds. Two months later Shamokin (population: 7,800) was grieving once more. Robert Scheetz, a 31-year-old Special Forces captain, died when a Humvee exploded at his campsite in Iraq. "We watched these children grow up," said Mayor James Yurick Jr. "Sandri lived across the street from city hall. These deaths have been devastating to the community."The deaths have also raised sharp questions...
  • WHAT WOULD KERRY DO?

    While the president gets briefed in his high-tech Sit Room deep in the West Wing's basement, John Kerry's intel sessions are a much more makeshift affair. Seven hours after the White House offered to brief him, Kerry, who'd been unwilling to bump any campaign events, was finally parked in one place long enough so that a secure phone line could be set up in his bus. After playing softball with firefighters and autoworkers in Taylor, Mich., Kerry boarded his bus next to the field, and, still wearing his TEAM KERRY jersey, heard what lay behind last week's terror warnings. While his aides described the call as simply "informative," the glimpse into the top-secret intel made its political mark all the same. Kerry tiptoed warily around the warning, and kept his distance from Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor, who accused the Bush administration of manipulating the warning to help boost the president's re-election bid. Kerry wasn't always so respectful. Standing beside Dean six...
  • THE LAST WORD

    Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry claims he'll fix American intelligence and make America safer at home and more respected abroad. James P. Rubin, senior foreign-policy adviser to the campaign, sat down in Detroit with NEWSWEEK's Richard Wolffe to explain what would be different under a Kerry administration. Excerpts:NEWSWEEK: Expectations are high that American foreign policy would change under a President Kerry. But it sounds like the goals--fighting terror and making America safer--are not that different. Is it a question of style or execution?RUBIN: The difference, and this is the big and crucial difference, is that John Kerry, by virtue of his experience and his character and his wisdom, will be just as tough as George Bush in defeating Al Qaeda and Islamic extremist terrorists, but he will be a lot smarter in how he solicits the support of other countries. If elected, John Kerry will be sitting down with the leaders of our major friends and allies and demanding...
  • PAIN ON MAIN STREET

    To the rest of the world, Matthew Sandri's death in Fallujah looked like just another statistic from the war in Iraq. A 24-year-old Army medic, Specialist Sandri was killed in a rocket attack on a staging area far from the front lines in March. But back home in rural Pennsylvania, Sandri was far more than a name and a rank. When it came time to hold a memorial service, there was only one place big enough in the small town of Shamokin: the high-school gym. So many arrived to pay their respects that officials asked police and firefighters from neighboring towns to help control the traffic and crowds. Two months later Shamokin (population: 7,800) was grieving once more. Robert Scheetz, a 31-year-old Special Forces captain, died when a Humvee exploded at his campsite in Iraq. "We watched these children grow up," said Mayor James Yurick Jr. "Sandri lived across the street from city hall. These deaths have been devastating to the community."The deaths have also raised sharp questions...
  • Trail Mix: Inside the Bubble

    Just in case John Kerry was feeling a little too pumped after his weeklong party in Boston, the real world was waiting to bring him back down to earth. On the first day of his postconvention bus trip (formally known as the Believe in America tour), Kerry stopped at a Wendy's to see if America believed in him. The answer was: maybe. At the roadside eatery in Newburgh, N.Y., Kerry and his wife, Teresa, joined their running mates, John and Elizabeth Edwards, to celebrate the Edwards's 27th wedding anniversary. The Edwards have been enjoying their anniversaries at Wendy's for the best part of three decades, but this wasn't a chance for Edwards to run for the position of Wendy's unofficial spokesman (against a weak incumbent). It was, of course, a monumental photo op and a chance for an invigorated Kerry to test out his newly honed skills in retail politics.Watched by several dozen photographers, cameramen and reporters, Kerry spotted a group of Marines at another table and walked over...
  • 'The Bullying...Will Come to an End'

    Last Thursday, the same day that the 9/11 Commission published its long-awaited report on events leading up to and following the 2001 terror attacks, John Kerry promised to fix American intelligence as part of his strategy to make America safer at home and more respected in the world. Former State Department spokesman James P. Rubin, now a senior foreign policy adviser to the Kerry-Edwards campaign, sat down in Detroit with Richard Wolffe to explain what would be different about U.S. foreign policy in a Kerry administration. Excerpts:NEWSWEEK: Expectations are high that American foreign policy would change under a President Kerry, but it sounds like the goals-fighting terror, making America safer-are not that different. Is it a question of style or a question of execution?James P. Rubin: The difference, and this is the big and crucial difference, is that I think John Kerry, by virtue of his experience and his character and his wisdom, will be just as tough as George Bush in...
  • Trail Mix: High Hopes

    After four days of extreme sports and extreme speechwriting on Nantucket, John Kerry embarked on his countdown to the Democratic convention looking unusually unstressed. Maybe it was the time he spent kiteboarding, a strange mixture of surfboarding and paragliding, which Kerry chose to display to the TV cameras this week. It takes a supreme kind of confidence to perform any kind of televised show of physical skill as a presidential candidate, given the ample moments to look downright foolish. Gary Bauer could barely manage a pancake-flipping contest, and Michael Dukakis struggled to look presidential riding in a tank. So why in the world would you want to kiteboard in front of a camera?Like George W. Bush, Kerry plays to win, and he approaches all sports in an intensely competitive spirit. In 2000, Bush liked to challenge reporters to run with him, confident in the knowledge that he could outpace them in any climate. The handful that kept up with him earned his enduring respect--and...
  • Trail Mix: Campaign Paragon

    It's hard to put your finger on the precise moment. It could be when he steps to the front of the stage, raises his arms in the air and simply basks in the cheers of thousands of adoring fans. Or it could be when he stops in his tracks, shrugs his shoulders and modestly tells the crowd they don't really need to listen to him talking about their lives. But by the time John Edwards reaches the climax of his new stump speech, the realization dawns. The senator who just joined the Democratic ticket is not just good. He's the Stepford Veep.Somewhere along the way, the redneck son of a mill worker from rural North Carolina morphed into an almost-perfect candidate. Someone streamlined the senator, overhauled every physical flaw and created a paragon of presidential campaigners. And like Stepford itself, the America that Edwards dreams of is a place where there's no crime, no poverty and no pushing. That place, of course, just happens to be John Kerry's America. "We believe, the two of us,...
  • Trail Mix: That's the Ticket

    John Kerry bounded on stage, punched both fists towards today's crowd in downtown Pittsburgh, and plucked a speech out of his back pocket. For the first few minutes, he smirked, he smiled, and he tried to suppress a grin. But as the giant backdrop rose behind him emblazoned with his newly-announced campaign ticket, he could hold back no longer. Once the whoopin' and hollerin' had died down, he simply beamed: "I trust that met with your approval."Kerry has plenty of reasons to feel good about far more than his hyperventilating fans. His process of picking John Edwards was everything he wanted to project about his campaign: discreet, exhaustive and a sign of his determination to win. After all the weeks of vetting, after all the cloak-and-dagger meetings with the candidates, Kerry managed to keep his veep decision private until the final hours. Edwards may have been on the media's shortlist from day one, but Kerry still managed to preserve the element of surprise in naming him. That...
  • Trail Mix: Yes, Backdrops Do Matter

    It was supposed to be a week for John Kerry to show off his support for science and high-tech matters. So sure enough, the Democratic presidential candidate rolled into San Jose last Thursday, the self-styled capital of Silicon Valley, to talk about the new frontiers of broadband, biosensors and nanotechnology. The only problem was Kerry's choice of warm-up guy. An elderly icon of the old economy: Lee Iacocca.There was nothing wrong in staging an event with Iacocca. Far from it. Iacocca is a huge scalp for the Kerry campaign, a big Republican business leader who backed the other guy in 2000. Moreover, the cigar-chomping Iacocca remains a hero in at least three battleground states--Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania--for saving Chrysler from bankruptcy a generation ago. "I was deeply involved in the Bush campaign," Iacocca sheepishly told Kerry's fans, "stumping for him in Michigan and Pennsylvania, where I spent most of my life. I hate to tell you this now: I even appeared in a couple...
  • PERISCOPE

    U.S. AFFAIRSThe Clinton FactorAs John Kerry toyed last month with the idea of delaying his official nomination, one voice broke though the babble of advisers and aides: Bill Clinton's. The former president told Kerry not to wait until after the Democrats' convention in Boston--a ploy that was supposed to help the senator spend and raise unlimited cash through August. Clinton's intervention was typical of the advice offered in the regular late-night phone calls between the ex-president and the presidential candidate. Clinton's friends and Kerry's aides tell NEWSWEEK that the former president hopes to tune up the message of a senator who lacks Clinton's political perfect pitch.While Clinton focuses on Kerry's message, the candidate himself is engrossed in the final shortlist of veep picks. Kerry sources say the choice is narrowing to Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack and former House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt, and that the candidate remains personally uncomfortable with Sen. John Edwards....
  • KERRY: LOOKING TO CLINTON FOR A HELPING HAND

    As John Kerry toyed last month with the idea of delaying his official nomination, one voice broke though the babble of advisers and aides: Bill Clinton's. The former president told Kerry not to wait until after the Democrats' convention in Boston--a ploy that was supposed to help the senator spend and raise unlimited cash through August. (According to one former Clinton aide, the ex-prez thought the delay would be "a distraction.") Clinton's intervention was typical of the advice offered in the regular late-night phone calls between the ex-president and the presidential candidate. Clinton's friends and Kerry's aides tell NEWSWEEK that the former president hopes to tune up the message of a senator who lacks Clinton's political perfect pitch.While Clinton focuses on Kerry's message, the candidate himself is engrossed in the final shortlist of veep picks. Kerry sources say the choice is narrowing to Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack and former House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt, and that the...
  • Trail Mix: The Battle for America's Soul

    It was a case of almost perfect election symmetry. On the day George W. Bush rallied the faithful with a conversation about compassion, John Kerry appealed to reason with a speech about science. In the cosmic contest of values, it almost looked like a campaign between the faith-based president and the science-based senator.Almost. As the Bush campaign points out, the president has substantially increased funding for the National Institutes of Health. And of course the senator is a practicing Roman Catholic whose sense of faith appears deep and personal. Yet their positions on both issues speak volumes for their polar-opposite personalities and leadership styles."Compassion" is what Bush's aides used to call compassionate conservatism. Back in 2000, the phrase was interpreted to mean some kind of Clintonesque middle ground, with the Texas governor positioning himself as "a different kind of Republican"--one who cared about social issues such as drug addiction and prisoner rehab. In...
  • Trail Mix: Off Message

    It was only 10 minutes into what was billed as a relaxed "conversation" about prescription drugs. But after leafing through his talking points, perched on a small black box in front of his chair, the president was clearly struggling. "I'm just about running out of air," he joked, before handing things over to the other four people on stage. "Want me to keep talking?" In less than 40 minutes, the conversation was over. That was about the same time as George W. Bush spent in his motorcade from Kansas City airport to his chit-chat in Liberty, Mo.After two weeks of hobnobbing with foreign leaders, in Europe and then in Georgia, Monday's event was supposed to mark the president's return to domestic politics--and the campaign trail. Missouri is one of the most hotly contested battleground states in the country, a state Bush won by a mere 3 points in 2000. Polls suggest the race is running just as close this time around. So his event, to sell his policies on prescription-drug benefits to...
  • Living Up to the Eulogies

    A little more than two decades ago, Ronald Reagan hosted the Western world's leaders in Williamsburg, Va., for what would become a high point in global summitry and Cold War politics. His agenda was as bold as it was ambitious: to win support for a nuclear buildup in Europe that would bolster his bargaining position with the Soviet Union. It's one thing to try to convince your allies to send their troops to a foreign war. It's another to get their support for missiles that could turn their nations into ground zero of a nuclear exchange.Yet that's what Reagan did at Williamsburg, overriding Soviet threats of retaliation and overcoming the hesitations of the French and Canadians. The cruise and Pershing missiles that followed Williamsburg sparked widespread antinuclear protests in Europe and sharpened opposition to his presidency overseas. But Reagan held his alliances together, and entered talks with the Soviets on stronger terms.Today at Sea Island in Georgia, George W. Bush hosts...
  • Trail Mix: Another Comeback Kid?

    Most polls put John Kerry in a statistical dead heat with George W. Bush. But the Democratic campaign likes to pick out the surveys that give their candidate a slight edge, saying that no other challenger in the last half-century has been faring so well at this stage of the race. Since that last early-surging challenger was Thomas Dewey, this may not be the best of role models for Kerry's aides. The more obvious comparison is Jimmy Carter, who held a slender lead over President Gerald Ford early in 1976. That's a comparison that should be familiar to at least two people in the Bush cabinet: Vice-president Dick Cheney was chief of staff and Donald Rumsfeld was Defense secretary in the Ford administration. Whatever the analogy, there's plenty of time for Kerry to lose his slim lead in the polls. Here's a look at what can go right for George W. Bush over the next five months.THE ECONOMY"What a difference a year makes," says a grinning John Snow. "I remember a year ago at this time when...
  • Trail Mix: A Gaping Hole

    In years to come, historians will wonder why this Bush administration enjoyed such a strong reputation for its foreign policy for so long. After all, it was only a few weeks ago that Washington's pundit class, spurred on by the rival presidential campaigns, declared that George W. Bush was a shoo-in as long as the focus remained on Iraq.How times have changed. The president's grand vision for Iraq--now known as his five-point plan--was supposed to get the full ballyhoo on Monday evening. The magical words "prime time" were thrown around, even though the networks chose to broadcast shows like "Fear Factor" instead of the president's fine words. But no amount of rhetorical flourish can mask the disarray of the administration's policy in Iraq, and the president's continuing struggle to speak convincingly to the American and Iraqi people.First the strong stuff. The president reached for the rhetorical heights by citing the horrific beheading of Nicholas Berg, as part of his latest to...