Fishing for Solidarity on Sea Island

By Dan Froomkin
Special to
Tuesday, June 8, 2004; 10:26 AM

The White House is hoping that the "Group of Eight" summit starting today on a swanky resort island off the coast of Georgia will produce the perception of international solidarity behind President Bush and his global agenda.

And since carefully orchestrated, super-diplomatic gatherings like this one are rarely an occasion for open warfare, chances are pretty good that the imagery will be upbeat.

The funeral of Ronald Reagan on Friday, which will draw even more world leaders, won't exactly be a forum for dissension, either.

But under the surface, the true status of transatlantic relations may remain a bit of a mystery -- sort of like Bush's fishing trip yesterday, after which the press wasn't told if Bush actually caught anything or not. (Doesn't that make you a bit suspicious?)

G-8 at a Glance

Richard W. Stevenson and David E. Sanger write in the New York Times: "In an exclusive beach resort setting chosen to protect against a terrorist attack and far away from the antiwar and antiglobalization protesters expected to assemble near here, the leaders are to consider a variety of issues including global warming, trade and the ways to help Africa deal with AIDS and poverty.

"But their agenda will be dominated by Iraq, the Middle East and the threat from terrorism, topics that in the administration's view are closely interlinked."

Glenn Kessler and Robin Wright write in The Washington Post: "The Bush administration's plan to promote democracy in the Middle East -- the centerpiece of its agenda at this week's summit of the Group of Eight industrialized nations -- has been accepted by Europeans and Arabs only reluctantly, and some administration officials fear that the program's goals have been undermined to ensure its acceptance at the summit."

Edwin Chen writes in the Los Angeles Times: "Despite the broad array of items on the agenda, the administration has made it clear that the president's top priority here is approval of his Middle East initiative. Even First Lady Laura Bush, who typically promotes noncontroversial causes such as reading, plans to hold a round-table discussion here this week of how her husband's proposal relates to women."

AFP writes: "The United States opened a global charm campaign Monday, seeking G8 support for fistful of multilateral initiatives apparently aimed at showing that Washington is a good global citizen . . .

"The US outreach efforts here are not limited to world leaders: The White House, not known for its cozy relationship with the media, is aggressively pushing reporters to sign up for rare, on-the-record interviews with senior administration officials on a wide range of topics."

Rupert Cornwell writes in the British newspaper, the Independent: "Leaders of the US and its fractious allies gather here today for a summit at which President Bush will seek a blessing for his strategy in Iraq and try to repair the biggest rift in transatlantic relations in decades.

"The annual G8 meeting, the central part of an intense month of diplomacy for Mr Bush, has arrived under mixed auspices. Prospects have been given a boost by the show of unity at last weekend's D-Day anniversary ceremonies, and by the likelihood of swift passage of a new American-British resolution at the United Nations."

Tom Raum writes for the Associated Press: "President Bush is adding Iraq's new president to the leaders he plans to meet with in one-on-one conversations on the fringes of this week's big-power economic summit."

Jingle Davis writes in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "A surreal and tense lull descended on the Georgia coast Monday, the eve of the G-8 summit, because of sweltering heat, fear of possible terrorism, former President Ronald Reagan's death and the presence of 20,000 police and soldiers.

"President Bush spent Monday in seclusion -- biking, fishing and consulting with his staff about the summit and plans for Reagan's funeral in Washington on Friday."

Here's the text of national security adviser Condoleezza Rice's overview of the summit; the text of a briefing by deputy national security adviser Jim Wilkinson and summit spokesman Barry Bennett, who identify the major issues on the table; and the text of a senior administration official's briefing on the key issue of democratization in the Middle East.

The G-8 summit has its own Web site,, where among other things you can find out what a G8 sherpa is.

Bush and His Friends

Glenn Kessler writes in The Washington Post: "Beginning with the G-8 summit this week, Bush will socialize and negotiate with key leaders at a series of high-profile summits this month. The stakes are high for the president, who is seeking to win international approval for the U.S. plan to grant some political authority to an interim Iraqi government that will lead the war-torn nation until elections next year.

"Bush has had mixed relations with the world leaders who will gather this week.

Kessler also writes: "Bush bonds with leaders who see the world as he does, who in his view 'get' the war on terrorism, who talk simply and straightforwardly and do not break any private commitments and understandings, officials said."

Bush and Reagan

Bush will deliver one of the eulogies for the former president at Friday's funeral service at the National Cathedral.

Vice President Cheney will speak at a welcoming ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda and participate in a wreath-laying Wednesday night.

Yesterday's column raised the question of how a week of Reagan tributes will effect Bush's standing with the public.

Dan Balz writes in The Washington Post today: "Republicans see the events surrounding Reagan's death, coming at the end of a week in which Bush will have been visible on the world stage, as providing a potential circuit breaker from two months of unrelenting bad news in Iraq that has driven down Bush's approval ratings and raised Democratic hopes for victory. They also believe that Reagan's death will remind Americans of the effect of strong, if sometimes controversial, presidential leadership built on conservative convictions."

Some Democrats, meanwhile, "believe that the commentary and recollections of Reagan's presidency will reflect unfavorably on Bush, despite some GOP efforts to cast Bush in Reagan's image. If Reagan helped restore respect for the United States in the world, they say, Bush's presidency has had the opposite effect."

Carolyn Lochhead writes in the San Francisco Chronicle that "many conservatives who revere Reagan are reluctant to pass his mantle to Bush. . . .

"Edward Crane, founder and president of the Cato Institute, contends that Bush mistakes stubbornness for the conviction that so many conservatives admired in Reagan, noting that Reagan read widely, while Bush brags about never reading a newspaper."

Nancy Benac writes for the Associated Press: "Both loved big tax cuts and brought America bigger deficits. Both set broad agendas and let underlings work out the details. Ronald Reagan railed against the Evil Empire, George W. Bush the Axis of Evil.

"The parallels between these two presidents are many. Whether the similarities are seen as good or ill depends on the beholder."

Doyle McManus writes in the Los Angeles Times: "Can Ronald Reagan's political magic work in one last election -- this time for President Bush?

"Republican strategists acknowledged Monday that they hope the nation's week of mourning for Reagan, who died Saturday, will turn into a boost for Bush's reelection campaign."

Jill Lawrence writes in USA Today that both "Bush and Kerry are competing to lay claim to the resolve and approach the sunniness identified with Reagan."

John Roberts, on CBS News, reports: "With Democrat John Kerry off the political stage out of respect, President Bush is aiming this week to connect with Reagan's legacy of modern conservatism, cutting taxes, and national strength. But Republicans warn the White House must be careful in equating policies like Reagan's crusade against the 'evil empire' . . . with Mr. Bush's campaign against the 'evildoers' in Iraq."

On Fox News, Jim Angle looks at the vindication of Reagan's then-controversial view about the Soviet Union. "Some Republicans take comfort that President Bush is approaching terrorism the same way President Reagan confronted Communism," Angle says. "Indeed, many people didn't appreciate just how right Ronald Reagan was until after he left office. Obviously, President Bush is hoping voters will see it his way before November," Angle says.

Stem Cell Watch

Rick Weiss writes in The Washington Post: "A majority of the Senate, including 14 Republicans, have sent a letter to President Bush asking him to loosen the restrictions on human embryonic stem cell research that he imposed nearly three years ago.

"The letter, dated Friday, echoes a similar plea signed last month by 206 members of the House. It may have special resonance during this week of remembrances for Ronald Reagan. Nancy Reagan has been increasingly outspoken in her support for stem cell research, which some experts believe could speed the development of treatments for many ailments, including Alzheimer's disease, the brain-wasting syndrome that took Reagan's life on Saturday."

Caption Contest

Last week, I asked you readers for suggested captions for this picture of President Bush in an odd position with a cadet at the Air Force Academy graduation.

About 200 of you responded. Thank you to all of you. Here are a few of the printable ones.

• "Bush teaches cadets his 5-step Stay-the-Course Boogie." (Linda Moffatt, Ocala, Fla.)

• "George W. Bush photographed sidestepping a reporter's question." (Jeff Malet, Minneapolis.)

• "Is this how you want me to hit Iraqi prisoners, sir?" (Jim McNelis, Chicago.)

• "Give me the car keys, Mr. President. I'm gonna call you a cab." (Rexanne Felton, Houston.)

• "President Bush, mistakenly thinking he was at the U.S. Naval Academy broke into a somewhat unwelcome rendition of 'I'm Popeye the Sailor Man' today at the U.S. Air Force Academy graduation." (Stan Hudson, Columbia, Mo.)

• "Sure, we can do the funky chicken if you want, Mr. President." (Richard Fallon, Atlanta.)

• "So you say this doesn't violate the Geneva Convention?" (John Yates, Knoxville, Tenn.)

• "No, no sir, it's just a jump to the left and a step to the right, no sir -- your other left . . . " (Hugh Comerford, Toronto.)

• "This is how Chalabi and I played Twister in the Oval Office." (Anthony Wheeler, Sacramento.)

• "I am here to pump - you - up!" (Pat Mans, Marinette, Wisc.)

• "Bush adjusts stance on gay marriage." (Lawrence E. Mack, New Orleans.)

Poll Watch

A new Gallup Poll shows "Bush's approval ratings remain relatively unchanged, but for the most part in negative territory." Technically, it's up two points from two weeks ago, to 49 percent, with 49 percent disapproving. The poll also shows Kerry with a growing lead over Bush.

Zogby International, working for the Wall Street Journal, is focusing exclusively on "battleground states." Its latest results show that Kerry's lead over Bush has shrunk slightly in those states.

Torture Memos

This may be the next White House crisis.

Dana Priest and R. Jeffrey Smith write in The Washington Post: In August 2002, the Justice Department advised the White House that torturing al Qaeda terrorists in captivity abroad 'may be justified,' and that international laws against torture 'may be unconstitutional if applied to interrogations' conducted in President Bush's war on terrorism, according to a newly obtained memo."

Neil A. Lewis and Eric Schmitt write in the New York Times: "A team of administration lawyers concluded in a March 2003 legal memorandum that President Bush was not bound by either an international treaty prohibiting torture or by a federal antitorture law because he had the authority as commander in chief to approve any technique needed to protect the nation's security."

Ad Watch

Nick Anderson writes in the Los Angeles Times that about 70 percent of the Bush campaign's television ad spots have been critical of Kerry, while just 25 percent of Kerry's ads mentioned Bush at all.

"New data on the TV ad wars, compiled for The Times and covering the three months of advertising by Bush, Kerry and a coalition of liberal groups, illustrate the unusual intensity of the president's assault. The information also shows the extent of Kerry's effort to neutralize those attacks with a massive barrage of his own, mostly upbeat TV messages."

Bush Book Watch

Edward Guthmann writes in the San Francisco Chronicle about "Bushwomen: Tales of a Cynical Species," a new book by Laura Flanders that "makes the case that the Bush administration has a shrewd agenda for placing women in positions of power."

New York Daily News columnists Rush & Molloy note the upcoming publication of "Bush on the Couch," an unauthorized "applied psychoanalysis" of the president by Georgetown psychoanalyst Justin Frank, who concludes that the White House is occupied by an "untreated ex-alcoholic" with paranoid and megalomaniac tendencies.

© 2004