Doing Business

President George W. Bush and President Vladimir Putin recently agreed to a long-delayed trade deal to allow Russia to proceed with entry to the World Trade Organization. They had hoped to ink the deal at the G8 summit in St. Petersburg in July, but finally reached agreement in Vietnam last month. NEWSWEEK’s Richard Wolffe spoke with Dorothy Dwoskin, the Assistant United States Trade Representative about the negotiations and what the deal means. Excerpts:NEWSWEEK: Why does the Russian deal make sense for Americans?DWOSKIN: Russia joining the WTO imposes a certain amount of predictability and certainty in how Russia will treat U.S. exports of goods and services to the Russian market. You have a guarantee of what the tariffs will be. You have a guarantee of the rules that will be applied. When you join the WTO, you have to treat people on a non-discriminatory basis.This deal has been in the works for a long time. What were the stumbling blocks?The accession process takes a long time...

The Odd Couple

It’s not Reagan-Thatcher. And it’s certainly not Clinton-Yeltsin. But the Bush-Maliki relationship is now the single most important one of the Bush era. Both leaders desperately need one another for their political survival and their place in history.So how come there’s so little electricity when they meet?After their third face-to-face meeting in six months, President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki emerged in Amman, Jordan, on Thursday to face a hotel ballroom fairly bristling with cameras and excitable Iraqi reporters. But the energy level among the media was far higher than it was between the two leaders.At one point, President Bush turned to the prime minister to ask if he wanted to take any more questions. Maliki slowly wheeled around and stared blankly at Bush as if he’d never really understand the foreigner standing next to him. If Americans are from Mars, and Europeans are from Venus, then the Iraqi prime minister may be from the planet formerly known as...

Adjust the Course

You could be forgiven for thinking there was something big in the works. President Bush is holding a three-way summit in the Middle East. Washington’s political insiders are swapping leaks about forthcoming studies on Iraq. Even the network news anchors are flying halfway across the world.So the White House is ready to change course in Iraq, right?Not quite. The president and his senior staff arrived in Amman, Jordan, on Wednesday with a deep sense of discontent about the direction of Iraq. But that doesn’t translate into a major course correction, no matter what the pundits—or the Democrats, or James Baker’s study group—suggest. Somewhere between Stay the Course and Reverse Course lies Bush’s new approach. Call it Adjust the Course.Look at how the White House is approaching the high-stakes meeting in Amman between President Bush, King Abdullah of Jordan and the Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. The president’s fundamental judgment about Maliki is unchanged.The tone of the leaked...

Vietnam: Focusing on the Future

Until now, Vietnam has symbolized two strands in President Bush's political life: a war he didn't fight in and a comparison he wants to avoid. But this week the country becomes not just a metaphor but a reality, as Bush visits Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City for the first time. Bill Clinton embraced history in his wildly popular trip in 2000, when he became the first U.S. president to visit Vietnam since the war. But Bush is choosing to concentrate not on the country's past but its future. At a recent meeting with his Asia advisers, Bush was fascinated by Vietnam's economic boom, which his economists likened to China's position a decade ago. "I wonder if people at the end of the Vietnam War would ever have thought that at the end of 2006 a president would go there and there would be a market-based economy in a country that was becoming freer," Bush told aides, according to one who was in the room but asked for anonymity because the briefing was private.Small wonder Bush doesn't want...

The Architect's Faulty Specs

President Bush knew he was in for a rough night. As he settled down in front of the TV in the White House residence to watch the election results, the numbers were already grim. By 8 p.m., long before the polls closed out west, Bush realized it was over. "It looks like this is going to be a rout," he lamented to a handful of aides.Downstairs in the West Wing, Karl Rove wasn't ready to concede anything. The president's political architect believed the GOP could hold on to slender majorities in the House and the Senate. He had history on his side: in 2004 he refused to believe the early exit polls while everyone else was resigned to defeat. This time he was convinced his numbers would come through again. But even Rove's optimism finally cracked when he took a gloomy call from an old friend working for Rep. Clay Shaw in Florida. Shaw won re-election two years ago by a 28-point margin; last week he was heading to a four-point defeat. At 11:01 p.m., Rove made the long walk to the...

Accidental Tourist?

"Stay the course" may have been the slogan that killed the GOP and President Bush in 2006. But Bush still has the capacity to change, and the political sense to know that he needs to adapt to survive the last two years of his presidency.Take the start of his current weeklong trip to Asia. On previous trips, Bush has shunned cultural events, preferring to plunge straight into his business meetings with foreign leaders. In foreign interviews, he has often blamed his scheduler for leaving no time to show his interest in the countries he visits. In reality, his aides have long complained they couldn’t convince him to carve out time in his schedule to win some easy goodwill for his presidency and the United States.That pattern was broken this week. The president’s first stop in Singapore on Thursday was the Asian Civilizations Museum—even before he visited the U.S. Embassy, which is normally his first port of call. There he and the First Lady walked through exhibits, including one about...

Turnout Wasn’t Enough

RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman was the man who built the Bush turnout model. He started building a grassroots machine in Iowa in the 2000 campaign, then took it nationwide to win in 2004 as Bush's campaign manager. 2006 was shaping up to be an even more successful turnout for the GOP, but it wasn't enough to hold on to the House or the Senate. Now Mehlman is stepping down from the RNC. He spoke last week to NEWSWEEK's Richard Wolffe. Excerpts:NEWSWEEK: You predicted before the election that you'd lose 23 seats in the House. Did you think that was at the upper end?Ken Mehlman: I thought 23 was moderately pessimistic. Here's what you knew. You knew there was a band of about 30 seats that could go one way or another. There wasn't a common denominator to those 30 seats.What early results told you it was worse than expected?Anne Northup [in Kentucky's 3rd district] was a sign of the problem. And the [Mark] Foley seat and the [Tom] DeLay seat. Both are conservative districts we should have held...

White House Blues

The last time George W. Bush lost an election was three decades ago, when he ran for Congress in west Texas in the middle of the oil boom of the 1970s. Bush likes to tell the story of how he asked one voter how come he failed to win his support in that race. The apocryphal answer goes like this: “Because you didn’t ask for my vote.”Well this time around, in the middle of another oil boom, President Bush asked many states and districts for their vote—and they still didn’t deliver. To add insult to injury, the commander in chief was forced to hand another triumph to the Democrats on Wednesday: the removal of controversial Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld from office.President Bush’s personal performance will be one of many difficult questions posed for him and Republicans in post-election analyses in the days and weeks ahead. Speaking after his 2004 victory, two short years ago, the president claimed he had earned a large store of political capital from the election—and intended to...

A GOP Balancing Act

Bob Corker needed to add some flair to his flagging campaign. The GOP candidate should have been running a simple Senate race in conservative Tennessee. But he was trailing by several points last month, so the White House and party leaders stepped in. Their solution: a new campaign manager in the form of a rumpled, martini-drinking, cigar-chewing veteran of Tennessee politics. Back in 1978, Tom Ingram helped transform a lackluster candidate for governor--Lamar Alexander--by dressing him in a folksy red plaid shirt. And it was Ingram who put Fred Thompson in a red pickup truck in his 1994 Senate race, turning the Hollywood actor and lawyer into a good ole boy.What could Ingram change about Corker, the starchy former mayor of Chattanooga? Everything but his clothes, apparently. Speaking to a group of sheriffs last week, Corker was buttoned up in a charcoal pin-striped suit. ("We need to change that," Ingram later grumbled in a Nashville bar.) Still, Ingram has helped turn the Corker...

Stealth Campaigner

To hear White House officials tell it, President George W. Bush is as popular as ever on the campaign trail.They point to his calendar, which so far this year, has included roughly 70 appearances on behalf of the GOP and its candidates. And two weeks before Election Day, administration officials continue to cite a backlog of requests they’ve had to turn down in recent months, simply because Bush has been too busy.More than anything, they cite numbers as proof that Bush hasn’t lost his groove: the president has raised more than $100 million for the GOP this campaign cycle, making him by far the most popular Republican fund-raiser on the circuit.But then there’s the other telling statistic the White House often downplays: of all the campaign events Bush has attended this year, not a single one has been open to the general public. So far only paying supporters have had a chance to catch a glimpse of the political campaigner in chief—a notable shift from previous election years.Back in...

Clinton Comeback

When Hillary Clinton and John McCain traded rhetorical blows over North Korea last week, some pundits hailed the exchange as a taste of 2008: a titanic clash between the early front runners in the next presidential election.They forgot that the real titans of modern politics have yet to leave the stage: two relatively young, two-term presidents who show no sign of stepping out of the national debate on domestic politics and foreign affairs. Welcome to the heavyweight title fight between Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.Clinton declared his political comeback Wednesday with a set-piece speech that is aimed, according to his aides, at framing his governing philosophy in the context of the 2006 elections. Clinton’s goal: to show why his philosophy works, and why Bush’s doesn’t. Clinton, of course, doesn’t cite Bush’s name. But he hardly pulls his punches against what he calls “the leadership in Washington today.”In theory, Wednesday’s speech marked the 15th anniversary of Clinton’s “new...

‘Seduction of Christians’

David Kuo was a rising star among social conservatives: he wrote speeches for Ralph Reed, served as a policy adviser to John Ashcroft and counted Bill Bennett as his mentor. He joined the Bush campaign in 1998 and rose to become second in command at the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.But he quickly grew disillusioned with the Bush White House for what he saw as its political manipulation of Christian groups—and the failure to fund a policy that the president portrays as his personal priority. His new book, “Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction” (Free Press), is a tell-all book dissing the administration’s dealings with social conservatives . Officially released today, it has left the White House struggling to defend its record, as well as its relationship with evangelicals. NEWSWEEK's Richard Wolffe spoke to Kuo about his “profoundly personal” memoir. Excerpts:NEWSWEEK: How are you dealing with the firestorm your book has sparked? David...

2nd-Term Blues

It’s not easy being a second-term president—especially when your party is mired in a sex scandal, voters are worried about the war in Iraq and a sworn enemy of the United States has apparently tested a nuclear weapon. With less than a month to go before Election Day, President Bush is trying his hardest to take control of a political debate that has steamed along without him, overshadowing every theme that he and the Republicans had hoped to use to their advantage this election season. Even the two most basic themes that Bush and his allies have employed to win elections in the past—taxes and terrorism—have simply been overshadowed in recent weeks by what has amounted to a hurricane of bad news for the GOP.In what could be his final press conference before the highly anticipated midterm elections, Bush on Wednesday went before reporters at the White House where he tried to regain some element of political momentum—or, at the very least, reclaim a little relevancy in a news cycle...

Lifeline for Hastert?

It was an unusual segue. On Tuesday afternoon, President Bush made an impromptu stop at the George W. Bush Elementary in Stockton, Calif., where he made a brief statement about school violence in the wake of several recent shootings around the nation. But that wasn’t the only thing he wanted to talk about.With a school principal standing tearfully at his side, Bush used the topic of keeping kids safe at school to bring up the story that has transfixed the nation. In his first remarks on the growing sex scandal surrounding disgraced Rep. Mark Foley and his inappropriate e-mails to House pages, Bush said he was “disgusted by the revelations” and called it a “reminder of the need for people in positions of responsibility to uphold that responsibility when it comes to children.”Yet he threw something of a lifeline to the man who has come under fire for possibly ignoring that responsibility: House Speaker Dennis Hastert. While Bush ignored questions about whether Hastert should resign,...

In Rove's Footsteps

In a darkened edit room in downtown Dallas, admaker Scott Howell is tinkering with his latest political firebomb. The ad starts with illegal immigrants running across the border. It then cuts to images of Osama bin Laden and Zacarias Moussaoui. Finally comes the real target of Howell's attack: Harold Ford Jr., the Democrat locked in a close race for the Senate seat in Tennessee. Over an edgy hip-hop soundtrack, the ad castigates Ford for voting against border security and the Patriot Act. "No wonder Harold Ford has been rated the most liberal congressman from Tennessee," the narrator intones. The ad ends with the word "liberal" pulsing on the screen as a shadowy figure walks down a long hallway.If that ad sounds familiar, it's not surprising--it's a classic in the Karl Rove genre. Howell is one of a group of admakers, strategists and direct-mailers who learned the craft from the architect of George W. Bush's White House--and are now shaping some of the hottest races of 2006. Some...

The Bob Woodward Effect

There are few journalists in Washington who can throw the White House off its stride: Bob Woodward is one of them. Woodward’s new book, "State of Denial,"  paints a damning picture of White House policy in the aftermath of the Iraq invasion. After The New York Times printed excerpts of the book on Friday, the West Wing immediately went into full damage-control mode, as top aides tried to figure out how to respond. Woodward had delivered copies of the book to the White House on Friday morning—earlier than they expected because of the newspaper leak. The arrival of a Woodward Tome has become a kind of biennial ritual in Washington. The last two, which detailed the Afghan war and the successful early invasion of Iraq, were fairly kind to the president and his staff. But this was a different kind of book, and the administration was already bracing for a rougher ride.The White House stayed quiet all morning, until the press briefing, which began unusually late. Soon after press secretary...

I Just Called to Say I Love You

President Bush took a rare trip to Capitol Hill this morning to talk to GOP senators. Rarer still: he brought reinforcements. The veep, chief of staff Josh Bolten, national-security adviser Steve Hadley and political guru Karl Rove all showed up for a closed door Republican pep rally. The message: we care. Bush's pitch was all about the historic nature of their GOP struggle against jihadis, and Democrats. After all, they're all in this election together--or at least that's the image the White House wants to broadcast. Bush's team has been working harder to schmooze wary members of Congress, some of whom have wandered away from Bush over Iraq, immigration and other issues that aren't popular back home. But Bush also had tough words for the members about the recently disclosed National Intelligence Estimate on terrorism. "He said it's wrong to leak this stuff, and absolutely wrong to leak only a portion of it in order to imply something that is in...

Spinning the Spin

Amid all the hoopla about the National Intelligence Estimate on terrorism, it’s worth stepping back to gain a little perspective. Like three and a half years of perspective. Back in March 2003, President Bush addressed the nation from the Oval Office just after the first military strikes in Iraq. “The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder,” he said. “We will meet that threat now, with our Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Marines, so that we do not have to meet it later with armies of firefighters and police and doctors on the streets of our cities.”Never mind that the weapons of mass murder were never found. And never mind the suggestion, now retracted, that Saddam’s regime would coordinate operations with terrorists. The central premise of the war in Iraq was that military force would stop terrorists from attacking America—that troops would fight the threat in...

Mixed Messages

The French foreign minister called George Bush’s speech to the United Nations “remarkable,” gushing that the U.S. president showed “great determination.” Even the Iranian president reached out to the United States by saying that both countries shared the experience of being the victims of terrorism.No, that wasn’t in some parallel universe. That was the U.N. General Assembly in November, 2001. Bush was speaking at a time when, as he put it, “many thousands still lie in a tomb of rubble.” It was a time when the president could cite one of the world’s leading Islamic scholars condemning those who attacked the United States. And it was a time when Bush himself launched a passionate defense of the U.N. against the threats of the terrorists and the Taliban in Afghanistan. “Last week, anticipating this meeting of the General Assembly, they denounced the United Nations,” Bush said. “They called our Secretary General a criminal and condemned all Arab nations here as traitors to Islam.”Over...

Patriotism or Politics?

The White House promised a non-political speech. Bush’s aides said the president’s address to the nation would exploit no partisan differences, and issue no calls to Congress. In technical terms, they were right. To all intents and purposes, they were wrong.Sure, President Bush avoided the words Democrat and Republican. And there were no exhortations for legislation. But if that’s the definition of political, then there’s little that qualifies outside a 30-second TV ad and a State of the Union speech. Instead, the 9-11 anniversary speech carried all the hallmarks of politics as honed and polished by President Bush in the 12 years he has held public office.The most important hallmark is a passive-aggressive strategy—to land a punch without looking like you’re in a fight. So Bush took the high road of patriotism, as he called for Democrats to stop opposing his policies in Iraq and elsewhere. “Winning this war will require the determined efforts of a unified country,” Bush said, “and...

The 'Islamofascists'

Last fall White House aides were grappling with a seemingly simple question that had eluded them for years: what should the president, in his many speeches on the war on terror, call the enemy? They were searching for a single clean phrase that could both define the foe and reassure Americans who were confused by a conflict that had grown much bigger than Osama bin Laden. But the answer was anything but simple. Some academics preferred the term "Islamism," but the aides thought that sounded too much as if America were fighting the entire religion. Another option: jihadism. But to many Muslims, it's a positive word that doesn't necessarily evoke bloodshed. Some preferred the conservative buzzword "Islamofascism," which was catchy and tied neatly into Bush's historical view of the struggle.But when national-security adviser Steve Hadley called the CIA, the Pentagon and the State Department, the experts nixed the idea of a single phrase for a war that was so complex. "There was a...

Bin Laden’s Bounce

There was a time when the White House considered Osama bin Laden so contemptible and so radioactive that it would rarely mention his name in any presidential speech. President Bush’s aides didn’t want to dignify the Al Qaeda leader by suggesting he was worthy of a presidential response. Moreover, they thought there was some danger in propagating the views of a figure who wanted to reach the widest audience—and possibly even send coded messages to his followers.So when bin Laden released a tape late in the last election—in October 2004—the White House handled it delicately. In the final days of the closely fought campaign, Bush’s aides preferred to focus not on bin Laden but on how John Kerry was handling the tape. Bush challenged Kerry for what he called “Monday morning quarterbacking” on the war in Iraq, saying his criticism was “especially shameful in the light of a new tape from America’s enemy.”Even earlier this year, after another audiotape from bin Laden, the White House...

It’s the Enemy, Stupid

With the Hurricane Katrina anniversary behind it, the White House is moving quickly to shift the focus to a topic it thinks will play better for the GOP this fall. Thursday is scheduled to mark the start of yet another attempt by President Bush to frame the war in Iraq, and the war against Al Qaeda, in terms that might move his poll numbers in the right direction.But is there anything he can say about the war that he hasn’t said before? The White House speechwriters will have plenty of opportunities: Thursday’s speech to the American Legion’s national convention is the start of a series that builds up to Bush’s address to the United Nations General Assembly in two weeks.For Bush’s aides, the immediate goal is never about the poll numbers—not because they don’t follow them closely, but because they don’t want to be measured by the cold hard digits after one or two speeches. Instead, the president’s priority over the next two weeks is to re-focus attention on “the enemy,” to empathize...

Campaigner in Chief?

At his news conference Monday morning, President Bush offered up some advice to Republican candidates, suggesting that if he were on the ballot this fall that he’d be stressing two major issues: the economy and national security. “If I were running, I’d say look at what the economy has done. It’s strong,” Bush told reporters. Ditto for national security: “There’s a fundamental difference between many of the Democrats and my party, and that is, they want to leave before the job is completed in Iraq,” he said. “These are decent people. They are just as American as I am. I just happen to strongly disagree with them. And it’s very important for the American people to understand the consequences of leaving Iraq before the job is done.” But, Bush admitted, “since I’m not running, I can only serve as an adviser to those who are.”But will GOP candidates take his advice? Bush’s name may not be on the ballot, but in an election that many Republicans believe is shaping up to be a referendum on...

Washington: Shades Of Green

Before moving into the White House, George W. Bush built the kind of vacation home that Al Gore might have designed. His Texas ranch captures rain and wastewater for landscaping. Solar panels line the roof and an underground geothermal system provides heating and air conditioning. There's even a protected forest that is home to the rare golden-cheeked warbler.Unlike his caricature, Bush is not monochromatic when it comes to the environment. During the final weeks of the 2000 campaign, he lampooned Gore's plans to cut taxes for those living a green lifestyle. "How many of you own a hybrid electric-gasoline-engine vehicle?" he would ask at rallies. "How many of you have a rooftop photovoltaic system?"But following his green-tinted State of the Union address in January, Bush now travels the country promoting both hybrid vehicles and solar power. In June he created a huge national monument around the remote northwestern islands of Hawaii.Has Bush turned green in his six years in office?...

Bush: Summer Reading

Apart from the wars in Iraq and Lebanon, what's on President Bush's mind as he takes a shortened vacation at his Texas ranch? Judging by the books on his summer-reading list, Bush is thinking about nuclear bombs, civil war and baseball. The president has just finished "Clemente," by David Maraniss, the story of the gifted right-fielder who rose from a poor Puerto Rican family to become a Pittsburgh Pirates star, before dying in a plane crash while delivering aid to Nicaraguan earth-quake victims. (Bush told NEWSWEEK he loved the last baseball book he read, "The Big Bam," about Babe Ruth.) The president has also read "American Prometheus" by Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin, a biography of Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atom bomb who later became a pacifist and a victim of the anti-communist witch hunt.Now Bush is reading another bio of his favorite president. "Lincoln," by Richard Carwardine, looks at the newly formed Republican Party and the president's evolving views of slavery....

Backstage at the Crisis

As the world's leaders gathered, the Middle East burst into flames. How President Bush handled the biggest foreign challenge of his second term. A NEWSWEEK exclusive.

Buckeye Blues

With just over three months until Election Day, White House political adviser Karl Rove hit the campaign trail Tuesday in Ohio, hoping to rev up voters in a state where polls show President George W. Bush and the GOP is in real trouble. Bush’s top political aide was the guest of honor at a $100-a-plate luncheon in Columbus to benefit county parties in central Ohio, a state that is viewed as ground zero in the GOP’s attempts to maintain control of Congress.A poll released over the weekend showed that Sen. Mike DeWine , a moderate Republican who has notably distanced himself from Bush on the campaign trail, is running 8 percentage points behind his Democratic opponent, Rep. Sherrod Brown. Other Ohio Republicans are in trouble as well, including GOP gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell, who is running 20 points behind Democrat Ted Strickland. Bush, whose approval ratings linger in the low 30s in the state, is scheduled to campaign for Blackwell in Ohio next week.Yet Rove insisted...

The President: Shades of Green

Before moving into the White House, George W. Bush built the kind of vacation home that Al Gore might have designed. His Texas ranch captures rain and wastewater for landscaping. Solar panels line the roof and an underground geothermal system provides heating and air conditioning. There's even a protected forest that is home to the rare golden-cheeked warbler.Unlike his caricature, Bush is not monochromatic when it comes to the environment. During the final weeks of the 2000 campaign. he lampooned Gore's plans to cut taxes for those living a green lifestyle. "How many of you own a hybrid electric-gasoline-engine vehicle?" he would ask at rallies. "How many of you have a rooftop photovoltaic system?"But following his green-tinted State of the Union address in January, Bush now travels the country promoting both hybrid vehicles and solar power. Just last month he created a huge national monument around the remote northwestern islands of Hawaii.Has Bush turned green in his six years in...

Balancing Acts

President Bush thought he’d be flying into St. Petersburg on Friday with one big challenge on his agenda: how to deal with Iran’s nuclear program. His prospects for diplomatic success at the weekend G8 summit in the Russian city looked promising. After all, European nations were affronted by Iran’s nonresponse to their package of incentives to stop enriching uranium. The White House had won everyone’s support—including Russia’s—to move ahead to the next step of talking about a United Nations resolution against Iran.Instead the president is firefighting in another corner of the region: the hostilities between Israel and Hizbullah in Lebanon. On board Air Force One he called three regional leaders—Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak, Jordan’s King Abdullah and Lebanon’s Prime Minister Fouad Siniora—to maintain a united front against Hizbullah and its backers in Syria and Iran.White House officials said President Bush was especially pleased by Saudi Arabia’s statement Thursday that...

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