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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.