Rumor Control

By Dan Froomkin
Special to
Friday, July 16, 2004; 11:26 AM

Have you ever heard so many people talking about a non-story?

Well, I'm not one to buck a trend. I just report about 'em.

So here's all the latest about the rumors about Vice President Cheney getting dumped from the ticket.

It was a big-time rumor smackdown on the NBC Nightly News, when Tim Russert told Brian Williams last night: "Brian, I have talked to five -- count 'em, five -- senior Bush campaign advisers, and every one of them, starting with Karl Rove on down, said Dick Cheney is on the ticket to stay."

Russert said the advisers told him there are lots of reasons: Cheney is an asset to the campaign, an articulate defender of the president, and Bush's conservative base would be livid if he was dropped.

Plus, Russert says: "The president is a man who is loyal, a man who is not complicated but consistent, and he would never do this to the closest vice president in history. . . .

"I have never heard these advisers more emphatic that Dick Cheney is on the ticket to stay."

But Bill Plante reports on CBS this morning: "The rumor mill continues to grow, with Democrats delighted to keep it going." And, he says, "In Washington, you never know. The buzz is part of the game, and even flat denials never end it."

AFP notes that White House press secretary Scott McClellan was annoyed at the continued questions.

"Yes, he will be on the ticket," McClellan told reporters. "You all amaze me sometimes, playing to this kind of speculation when it was asked and answered long ago."

Here's the text of McClellan's press briefing.

Heart of the Matter

CNN correspondent Brian Todd talked to heart specialists.

TODD: "We spoke to Cheney's cardiologist, Dr. Jonathan Reiner, who tells us the idea of Cheney seeking out a new doctor to tell him he's unfit is patent nonsense and laughable. . . .

"We asked a cardiologist at Emory University Medical Center what the risks are for someone who's had four heart attacks and a job as stressful as Cheney's.

"DR. RANDY MARTIN, EMORY UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: If you looked at the surface, a gentleman who's had four heart attacks, who's had bypass, you certainly would be concerned about them in a stressful situation.

"Vice President Cheney has been in stress, though, all of his -- just about all of his adult life. But most importantly, we know in June of 2001, he had an implantable cardiac defibrillator, a device that's inside his heart that could literally be like a paramedic in his chest.

"TODD: And we spoke to another prominent cardiologist familiar with Cheney's case, who was consulted on the procedures in 2001. He says Cheney's coronary status is stable and sees no reason why he couldn't run again or hold office. . . .

"But he says flat-out, unlike a normal person who might have heart muscle strength in reserve, Dick Cheney simply cannot withstand another significant heart attack."

Case Closed

If you still have any niggling doubts, here's the word from Washington Post In the Loop columnist Al Kamen: "The answer is no. There will be no Loop contest to pick a successor to Vice President Cheney. His departure is a liberal/media/Alfonse M. D'Amato-concocted mid-July fantasy."

That's good enough for me.

The Joy of a Cheney Visit

Adam Morris of the Waterloo, Iowa, Courier writes that Cheney is speaking at the Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center in Waterloo this afternoon.

And in a new trend sweeping money-strapped Midwestern cities that are constantly being used as backdrops for the Bush/Cheney campaign (see my June 24 column, last item), Morris reports that city officials may ask the campaign to pick up the tab for all the police overtime the visit will require.

But this new trend is not going well for the cities.

Morris writes: "[I]if a similar request by city leaders in Dubuque is any indication, Waterloo may hear 'tough luck' from the campaign and the federal government."

James McCurtis Jr. writes in the Lansing State Journal that Cheney will be joined by Arizona Sen. John McCain for a rally at the Lansing Center earlier in the day.

Lansing city spokesman Bruce Ferguson told McCurtis that the city will take the budget hit. "These types of things are part of our duty," Ferguson said, also noting that the rally also helps the local economy.

"When you have dignitaries come to the city, people buy lunch, they buy gas and they pay for parking."

Now, that's enthusiasm!

Meanwhile, Thomas Beaumont suggests in the Des Moines Register that getting a Cheney visit is a sure sign that the reelection campaign is in trouble in your state.

"Vice President Dick Cheney is scheduled to visit Iowa again today as the Bush campaign's main standard-bearer at a time when he is suffering a near all-time low in his public approval and defending his place on the Republican ticket.

"The president's reliance on Cheney in Iowa so far could signal that the campaign considers the state less attainable than its neighbors in the critical Midwest battleground."

Rove in Irvine

Karl Rove was in Irvine, in the heart of conservative Orange County, Calif., headlining one of the 6,921 Bush/Cheney "parties" held yesterday.

Jean O. Pasco writes in the Los Angeles Times that it was "a campaign stop designed to showcase the man many Republicans revere as a political genius for orchestrating Bush's razor-thin victory in 2000. . . .

"Rove spoke for 20 minutes about the importance of reelecting Bush, declaring: 'Who wins this election will determine the course of history.' Then he worked a busy rope line with vigor, shaking eager hands and posing for photos."

Caption Contest!

I can't resist. Please take a look at this highly amusing AP photo of Rove and send your proposed captions to

Please include your full name and your home town, or I won't be able to use your entry.

I generally respond to all my e-mails, but since I expect to get a fair amount on this one, please be assured that I will read every one and please consider yourself thanked in advance.

Twins Watch

Well, someone finally asked the question a lot of you readers have apparently been waiting for.

It happened in Nashville yesterday afternoon, when first lady Laura Bush was taking questions at the Alpha Kappa Alpha convention. (Here's the transcript.)

The topic was the twins.

"Q Have they shown any interest in perhaps enlisting in the military, ma'am?

"MRS. BUSH: No, I don't think they have. But they're very interested -- Jenna is very interested in teaching and she is going to teach in a charter school in New York next year, next fall, and Barbara is interested in doing work with AIDS and she has an opportunity with Baylor College of Medicine to work either in Africa or Central Europe."

So there you have it.

But . . . will Jenna be teaching in Harlem or somewhere else in New York?

Thomas M. DeFrank and Joe Williams continue the New York tabloid war over this story.

"Presidential wild-child Jenna Bush will choose between a teaching job at a Harlem charter school and another school outside the city within the next two weeks, a White House source told the Daily News yesterday.

"The News reported this week that Jenna interviewed for a teaching assistant job at Harlem Day Charter School, but officials at the school said yesterday they could not say whether the President's daughter will end up working there.

"A Bush official said she is 'actively considering' a second teaching job elsewhere.

"'Harlem is a real option,' the source said, 'But there is another option being seriously pursued, and she hasn't decided.'"

Today's Calendar

Pete Yost writes for the Associated Press: "In another appeal to his conservative base of support, President Bush is declaring that human trafficking is a global crime problem that must be met in the United States with swift justice for those who profit from it.

"In Tampa, Fla., where swing voters could well determine whether Bush or Democrat John Kerry wins the state in November, the president is stressing the importance of dealing with the issue in remarks to a Justice Department conference about human trafficking. . . .

"Bush also addresses a campaign rally Friday in Beckley, W.Va., one week after Kerry rallied an estimated 4,500 supporters at the county airport just outside town."

Here's the White House Fact Sheet on trafficking.


While folks at the NAACP convention were fuming about Bush's absence -- which they called evidence of his divisiveness -- Education Secretary Roderick R. Paige was on CNN with Anderson Cooper, defending Bush.

"The president has a long and distinguished record of involvement with African-Americans. Look at the appointments. Look at the important decisions the important positions that people -- that African-Americans hold in the Bush administration. Look at the support for the AIDS program in Africa. Look at the development of housing for low income people. The president has a distinguished record and is constantly reaching out and that record should be clear with anyone who is objective about it."

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed yesterday, Paige said the NAACP's leadership was involved in "naked partisan politics, pure and simple."

Bill Sammon writes in the Washington Times: "The White House yesterday called the Urban League a more constructive civil rights organization than the NAACP, which is why President Bush will visit the former after snubbing the latter."

Marc Sandalow writes in the San Francisco Chronicle: "President Bush's decision to skip the annual meeting of the NAACP -- making him the first president to spurn the civil rights organization since Herbert Hoover more than 70 years ago -- reinforces the notion that the 2004 campaign is more about firing up the base than attracting swing votes. . . .

"Rather than walk into a lion's den, Bush spent the past week promoting a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, defending his war in Iraq and campaigning in Republican strongholds in Wisconsin and Minnesota."

Valerie Plame Watch

Valerie Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV fires back at the Senate intelligence committee in a letter published by

Parts of the Senate report challenged Wilson's veracity. For instance, the report quoted officials who said Plame did propose sending Wilson on the now-famous trip to Niger. It even excerpted from a letter written by Plame, describing Wilson's qualifications for the trip.

But as Mary Jacoby writes in Salon, Wilson insists "that his wife was stating facts about his background, not pushing that he go to Niger."

The assertion that Plame was the one who recommend Wilson for the trip was the key element of the White House leak to columnist Robert D. Novak, intended to discredit Wilson as an administration critic.

The ongoing criminal investigation was launched because the leak divulged Plame's identity as a covert CIA operative.

Andrea Mitchell of NBC News reports on the new chapter in this controversy.

White House Sex Symbol?

George Rush and Joanna Molloy write in their New York Daily News gossip column that Steve Earle, the rebel cowboy country musician "professes his love for Rice in the song 'Condi, Condi' on his new CD 'The Revolution Starts . . . Now' in what might just be the first love song to a national security adviser."

A sample stanza: "They say you're too uptight, I say you're not/Dance around me spinnin' like a top/Oh, Condi, Condi, don't ever stop."

"A White House spokeswoman for Rice, herself a classical pianist, told us: 'I don't think we'll be commenting on that.'"

Kenny Boy Watch

Former Enron chairman Kenneth L. Lay may be a bit of a pariah right now, but those Bushes are still a loyal bunch.

In an interview with Sheila McNulty of the Financial Times, Lay said that he received words of support from the former president Bush and his wife after his indictment.

Ad Watch

Howard Kurtz evaluates the latest Bush/Cheney ad in The Washington Post today. The ad "continues the president's 'values' assault against Kerry and tries to frame the abortion issue in a way that makes him appear insensitive to parents. "

Good Country, Bad Country

The Associated Press reports: "President Bush met Mongolian President Natsagiin Bagabandi in the Oval Office on Thursday and thanked him for sending peacekeepers to Iraq and helping rebuild Afghanistan."

AFP reports: "The White House scolded the Philippines for deciding to pull its forces from Iraq ahead of schedule to save the life of a Filipino hostage, saying the move sent 'the wrong signal' to terrorists."

Picking a CIA Chief

Jackie Calmes writes in the Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire that Bush is getting a lot of advice on naming a new CIA chief.

"Deputy Secretary of State Armitage tells associates he doesn't want to be considered for the Central Intelligence Agency, though he might be willing postelection -- when his pal Powell is expected to leave State. Filling the job in an election year looks harder; Bush could keep Acting Director McLaughlin."

She also notes, further down in the column, that some Republicans are grousing that the Bush/Cheney campaign hasn't been talking about the future enough. "White House aide Dan Bartlett counsels patience: 'We will really focus on this once the public is listening, and when the Democrats' convention is over.'"

Identity Crisis

David McGuire writes in The Washington Post: "President Bush signed into law yesterday a measure intended to curb identity theft by adding two years to prison sentences for people convicted in federal courts of using stolen credit card numbers and other personal information to commit crimes."

Here's the text of Bush's comments at the bill signing ceremony.

From the Police Blotter

When is bashing Bush a crime?

Toby Coleman writes in the Charleston, W. Va., Daily Mail that the controversial trespassing charges against a married couple who wore anti-Bush T-shirts to Bush's Fourth of July appearance in Charleston have been dropped.

And I have an update about Michael Larson, the gentleman who was removed from a Bush rally in Duluth on Tuesday after heckling the president.

John Myers of the Duluth News Tribune wrote about the incident on Wednesday. Well, Myers just e-mailed me today to report that Larson wasn't actually charged after all. "They said they'd let him go if he promised not to go back in, he wouldn't promise, so they drove him to the other end of town and dropped him off!"

Non-Answer Watch

The other day, in my Live Online, readers pelted me with their favorite McClellan non-answers.

Blogger Holden, guest-blogging on Eschaton, calls attention to this one, from Helen Thomas, at yesterday's briefing.

"Q Does the President -- does the United States harbor or hold secret detainees who are not available to the International Red Cross?

"MR. McCLELLAN: Actually, this is an issue that came up earlier in the week and I talked about it at that point. When it comes to the International Committee for the Red Cross, we work very closely with them on detainee issues, and we --

"Q I have a follow-up.

"MR. McCLELLAN: Okay -- we stay in close and regular contact with the Red Cross on all the issues related to detainees. And they do, from time to time, raise issues and we work to address those issues directly --

"Q Why don't you answer the question? Do we have secret detainees and is it possible that they could be subjected to the same treatment as in Baghdad prisons?

"MR. McCLELLAN: We work to address these issues that the Red Cross raises directly with the Red Cross. And any issues that they have, we respond directly to the --

"Q That's not the answer to the question.

"MR. McCLELLAN: -- Red Cross. We meet with them on a regular basis at a variety of levels, and we stay in close and constant contact with them. And I really don't have anything else to add to this issue.

"Q You don't know whether we have secret detainees --

"MR. McCLELLAN: Like I said, Helen, I don't have anything else to add to this issue.

"Q Why?"

At which point McClellan moves on.

And moments later, after he himself points out that it is his one-year anniversary as press secretary, the press corps applauds. I wasn't there, so I don't know how enthusiastically.

Word Watch

Hillel Italie reports for the Associated Press on yet another Bush-bashing tome making its way to bookstores: "The Future Dictionary of America."

Contributors, like cartoonist Art Spiegelman, imagine a vocabulary in a post-Bush era. For instance: "He ralphnadired their relationship when he condi-scendingly denied that he'd cheneyed their joint account."

© 2004