A Southern Swing

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Thursday, January 15, 2004; 9:53 AM

President Bush's visit today to the King Center memorial site for Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., to which he was not actually invited, has caused some degree of commotion in Atlanta.

The president is on a swing through the South to pitch his faith-based initiatives plan in New Orleans, lay a wreath at the foot of King's grave in Atlanta and raise campaign cash in both cities.

But some Atlantans are actively protesting Bush's visit.

Jon Shirek of NBC affiliate 11Alive News reports that critics are calling the visit purely political -- and inappropriate. "It is an insult to those of us who are committed to justice, it is an insult to those of us who believe in the life and legacy of Dr. King. It is the epitome of hypocrisy," said Rev. Timothy McDonald. "Deception will have a heyday at the crypt of Dr. King."

And as Charles Yoo reports in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the visit at first threatened to force the cancellation of a long-planned tribute to King next door at historic Ebenezer Baptist Church.

"The daylong tribute with a focus on human rights was supposed to go from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m., but . . . Secret Service agents told them they'd have to empty the church early in the afternoon to allow a security sweep before Bush's 3:45 p.m. visit. Organizers, including the Rev. James Orange, said they weren't leaving the church."

The standoff was eventually resolved.

"Both sides of the argument gave a little. Bush will visit. The committee's tribute will go on. The twist is that no one can enter the church after 2 p.m. Guests may, however, leave the church."

Jeffrey Gettleman and Ariel Hart write in the New York Times that: "Every president since Ronald Reagan has come to Atlanta, the birthplace of Dr. King, to lay a wreath at his grave. When President Clinton came in 1996, he received a standing ovation. But this presidential visit will be different. It seems to have lifted the lid on long-simmering anger many blacks feel toward Mr. Bush."

Bush caps his visit to Atlanta with a $2,000 a plate fundraiser downtown.

Jennifer Loven of the AP writes that the sweep through the South is "aimed at attracting support from blacks and campaign cash."

Pretty much whenever Bush wants to promote his push to let religious groups compete for more federal dollars, he finds a black church in a poor neighborhood as his backdrop. The issue "is aimed at appealing to two important constituencies: religious conservatives, who make up his base of support, and black voters, only 9 percent of whom supported him in 2000," Loven writes.

Today's black church in a poor neighborhood is Union Bethel AME in New Orleans, a 139-year-old church built by former slaves, now situated on the edge of a housing project in Central City. Bruce Nolan of the New Orleans Times-Picayune writes that church officials are scrambling to get ready for the visit.

"Union Bethel does the kind of social ministries the Bush administration believes work effectively, and ought to be fed with more federal dollars," Nolan writes. There's a church day-care center, ministries that feed the homeless, provide emergency rent and utility payments and run youth programs and so on.

"Bush will meet in a closed, round-table discussion with local clergy about faith-based initiatives and, after midmorning public remarks in Union Bethel's sanctuary, move on to a Republican fund-raiser at the National D-Day Museum," Nolan writes.

"Newly inaugurated Gov. Kathleen Blanco, a Democrat, is expected to greet the GOP president at the airport and have a short private meeting with him, Blanco spokeswoman Denise Bottcher said."

Space, The Financial Frontier

Kathy Sawyer of The Washington Post writes that "Bush has outlined a tortoise-like pace, dictated by severe budget constraints."

"What the plan lacks in momentum and flash, however, it makes up in political shrewdness, and analysts said that, unlike previous attempts to get the space program off the dime, it might even survive the congressional gantlet," she writes.

David E. Sanger and Richard W. Stevenson write: "With the nation deeply divided along partisan lines on the most pressing issues of the day, including the war in Iraq, tax cuts and the environment, Mr. Bush's political advisers backed the plan as a way of associating the president with a unifying and uplifting election-year goal that transcends politics." Their colleague William J. Broad notes that "the history of bold visions for human spaceflight is littered with more failures, delays and cost overruns than clear successes."

Bob Kemper of the Chicago Tribune writes that the potential cost of as much as $1 trillion. Where'd he get that number?

Here's the transcript of Bush's speech; video excerpts; the full video; a White House fact sheet; and a White House position paper.

Like Father, Like Son?

As Mike Allen and Eric Pianin note in their story in The Washington Post, "Bush's aides were eager to avoid the mistake made by his father, who in 1989 proposed establishing a base on the moon, sending an expedition to Mars and beginning what he described as the permanent settlement of space. NASA responded with a plan estimated to cost as much as $500 billion over decades, and Capitol Hill rejected the plan."

But it's kind of interesting to read President George H.W. ("41") Bush's stirring exhortation on the 20th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, 1989. Here's the full text.

For instance, who said this?

"Space is the inescapable challenge to all the advanced nations of the Earth...We must commit ourselves anew to a sustained program of manned exploration of the solar system and, yes, the permanent settlement of space.... Back to the Moon; back to the future. And this time, back to stay. And then a journey into tomorrow, a journey to another planet: a manned mission to Mars. Each mission should and will lay the groundwork for the next."

Bush 41, or Bush 43? (Scroll down to the bottom of this page to find out.)

How about this?

"Today we set a new course for America's space program. . . . We will build new ships to carry man forward into the universe, to gain a new foothold on the moon and to prepare for new journeys to the worlds beyond our own. . . . Mankind is drawn to the heavens for the same reason we were once drawn into unknown lands and across the open sea. We choose to explore space because doing so improves our lives and lifts our national spirit. So let us continue the journey."

41 or 43?

How about this?

"Today I'm asking my right-hand man, our able vice president, Dan Quayle, to lead the National Space Council in determining specifically what's needed for the next round of exploration: the necessary money, manpower, and materials; the feasibility of international cooperation; and develop realistic timetables -- milestones -- along the way."

OK that was an easy one.

Kennedy: Administration is Arrogant, Vindictive

Helen Dewar in today's Washington Post: "President Bush marketed the war on Iraq as a 'political product' to influence the 2002 elections and is doing so again this year, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) charged yesterday in a scathing speech accusing Bush of putting politics ahead of national security."

Here's the full text of the speech, in which Kennedy also says:

-- "Former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill has now revealed what many of us have long suspected."

-- "The Administration is breathtakingly arrogant."

-- "The Administration is vindictive and mean-spirited."

Sheryl Gay Stolberg in the New York Times reports this response from Rep. Tom DeLay (Tex.), the House Republican leader: "His hateful attack against the commander in chief would be disgusting if it were not so sad."

Biting the Hand

And that book keeps on giving. I mean "The Price of Loyalty," of course, the Paul H. O'Neill tell-all written by Ron Suskind.

Richard Leiby, The Washington Post's new "Reliable Source" columnist (second item), reports another revelation. This is what the president has to say about his mother-the-former-first-lady's cooking: "The woman had frostbite on her fingers. Everything right out of the freezer."

Poll Watch

MSNBC's Alex Johnson leads his report on the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll this way: "Barely half of Americans say President Bush deserves to be re-elected." By contrast, the Wall Street Journal's John Harwood takes this tack: "As the 2004 presidential primaries near, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows President Bush has preserved much of the political benefit derived from the economic recovery and the capture last month of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein."

The numbers say that Bush's job approval stands at 54 percent, down from 58 in mid-December.

Compare this to other polls on pollingreport.com

Let's Try it This Way, Then

Bill Sammon of the Washington Times writes: "President Bush's political strategists, taking note of the unpopularity of his immigration initiative as reflected in public-opinion polls, expressed confidence yesterday that the proposal will gain support as it is recast as an economic and homeland security issue."

Cheney Takes Los Angeles

Maura Reynolds of the Los Angeles Times reports on Cheney's lunchtime speech: "Vice President Dick Cheney delivered a somber warning Wednesday about the dangers facing the United States, telling the Los Angeles World Affairs Council that America must not be complacent about the continuing threat of terrorist attacks." (Here's the full text.)

Reynolds also was there when Cheney "praised the scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena for the success of their Mars Spirit rover."

And Reynolds and Joe Mathews report that Cheney also found time to hear from Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that California is getting shortchanged by the federal government.

Other Notable White House Stories

Rick Weiss in The Washington Post: Peer Review Plan Draws Criticism

David D. Kirkpatrick in the New York Times: Bush's Push for Marriage Falls Short for Conservatives

Alan Fram of the Associated Press: Bush's 2005 Budget May Be Less Ambitious

David Gregory of NBC: For Bush-Cheney Organization, '04 'Campaign is Now'

Badger Badger, Who's Got the Badger?

Al Kamen of The Washington Post tries and fails to get to the bottom of what Bush was talking about the other day when he referred to "Desert Badger."

41 or 43?

The first quote about space exploration was Bush the elder; the second, Bush the younger.

Got any more striking parallels between 41 and 43? E-mail me.

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