The President/Candidate Tango

By Dan Froomkin
Special to
Thursday, February 26, 2004; 10:31 AM

President Bush takes Air Force One out for a spin today to Louisville and Charlotte and in each city he'll make quick stops -- as president -- to talk about the economy, before making longer stops -- as candidate -- for massive fundraisers.

But even on his "presidential" time, Bush is expected to hammer away at one of the central tenets of his campaign: That his tax cuts are leading to an economic recovery.

And on "candidate" time, he'll take in at least $2 million for his campaign war chest.

Deb Riechmann writes in her Associated Press preview of today's trip: "The nation's soft employment market makes President Bush's upbeat economic forecast a hard sell in states that have lost thousands of jobs since he took office."

But Bush will be seeing mostly friendly faces. In Louisville, for instance, he's holding his conversation on the economy at a pipe-manufacturing company that credits tax cuts for its recent growth.

And Bush easily carried both states in 2000. He won 57 percent of the vote in Kentucky, and 56 percent in North Carolina.

There's not much doubt what the message of the day will be. Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans actually called the Louisville newspaper to give a pre-visit interview when they hadn't even asked for one.

Evans "wants people in the region to know 'the president is very focused on job creation,' " writes Al Cross in the Louisville Courier-Journal. "However, Evans declined to predict net job growth under Bush before the election."

As for ISCO industries, the backdrop for today's conversation on the economy, Cross writes: "The privately held company's marketing coordinator, Ryan Harrington, said the Bush aide who called to arrange the event told him they were 'looking for a company that used the tax cuts and has been able to grow the company.'

"ISCO said the tax cuts have helped it open eight locations around the country and hire 60 more employees in the last three years, bringing employment to 160. ISCO, started in 1962 as Irrigation Supply Co., said it is one of the nation's largest distributors and manufacturers of high-density polyethylene piping."

Afterward, Bush's $2,000-a-plate luncheon at a riverside hotel "is expected to attract more than 700 and raise more than $1 million for Bush's re-election campaign."

Over in Charlotte, News 14 Carolina reports that Bush will visit Central Piedmont Community College to spend time with college president Tony Zeiss, who "will speak with Bush about work force training and development.

" 'I am going to ask him to consider determining better ways to spend federal dollars for job training,' Zeiss said Wednesday. 'I think there are some more efficient ways he could do it.' "

At the Charlotte Observer, Scott Dodd and Charles Lunan write that "At least 200,000 jobs in both states have vanished since Bush took office -- mostly in manufacturing, the region's traditional economic base."

But, they write: "That's not expected to turn either state from Republican red to Democratic blue on the electoral map. The Carolinas are still Bush country and likely to stay that way."

Charlotte Observer colleagues Richard Rubin and Ted Mellnik report that Bush is raking in the money in North Carolina. More than 800 people are expected at the $2,000-a-plate dinner there. "The campaign will not release its take until today, but 800 people at $2,000 apiece would be $1.6 million."

Meanwhile back in Washington, Alexander Bolton writes in the Hill, "Republicans plan to stage a lengthy Senate debate on Iraq today to respond to intensifying Democratic attacks on President Bush over his conduct of the war and its turbulent aftermath. . . .

"The leadership initiative provides further evidence of close tactical coordination with the White House."

Amendment Watch

Rick Hampson and Karen S. Peterson of USA Today pose a question: "President Bush wants a constitutional amendment to preserve marriage. But what, exactly, would it preserve? Traditional marriage already has been transformed, not by gays and lesbians who want in, but by straights who want out."

CNN asks "Will it Help or Hurt Bush?"

Anne E. Kornblut and Lyle Denniston write in the Boston Globe: "Bush advisers say that the decision about gay marriage was largely driven by current events and that he probably would have refrained from speaking out so soon if same-sex couples in San Francisco were not getting married and the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court wasn't forcing the Legislature to wrestle with the issue.

"But in choosing to wade so deeply into the cultural divide, Bush also gave a nod to the more than 45 percent of Americans who were likely to vote for him anyway -- the same people in the evenly divided electorate to whom he reached out in his remarks before the Super Bowl last month, in his NASCAR visit in Florida, and in his expressing interest in seeing 'The Passion of the Christ.' "

Carl Hulse in the New York Times writes: "Despite President Bush's endorsement of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, some Congressional Republicans are cool to the idea and say they want to move more deliberately than the White House."

Or, as the New York Daily News put it, in a headline over a Kenneth R. Bazinet story: "GOPers: Nup Ban a No-Go."

Robin Toner writes in the New York Times: "Democrats on Wednesday plunged into the volatile new debate over a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage, saying they were confident that voters would see President Bush's endorsement of the measure as an expression of political opportunism, not shared values."

Johanna Neuman writes in the Los Angeles Times that "some gay Republicans are vowing to vote Democratic for the first time, while others are pledging to stay in the party and fight."

Talking Points Memo blogger Joshua Micah Marshall points to a post on the Democratic Underground Web site that suggests there are already enough Senators on record against the amendment to makes its passage impossible.

Via the Daily Kos, Oxblog also has a tally.

More newspaper editorials:

Los Angeles Times editorial: "There's no crisis here, only a president bent on dividing a nation that is otherwise more concerned about war and jobs."

USA Today editorial: "[A] constitutional amendment is the wrong way to address an issue where a national consensus is lacking and states still are grappling with the issue in their own ways."

New York Daily News editorial: "The Constitution of the United States is meant to chart the relationship of the federal government to its citizens, not to regulate those citizens' behavior."

And Jay Leno has this to say, via the Associated Press: "I guess you heard this rumor now, President Bush may be dumping Dick Cheney from the ticket. He doesn't want to drop Cheney, but two guys running together just looked way too gay!"

Plame Watch

Not a peep from the major media this morning after House Republicans essentially killed a proposal for a congressional probe into who leaked Valerie Plame's identity as a CIA operative to journalists.

But David Hess of CongressDailyPM reports: "Under a thick partisan overcast, the House International Relations Committee on Wednesday sidetracked a resolution calling for a congressional probe of the circumstances surrounding the public outing of a CIA agent whose husband had debunked a Bush administration claim that Iraq obtained uranium from Africa . . .

"Two other committees in the House -- Intelligence and Judiciary -- have likewise voted to sidetrack the resolution sponsored by Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J. The Judiciary Committee on Wednesday voted 17-8 to report the measure adversely, as did the Intelligence Committee by a 10-3 margin when it met Jan. 28. The House Armed Services Committee plans to take up the measure on Wednesday, with the panel's Republican majority assuring the same outcome."

And Dan Robinson of Voice of America writes: "House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner voiced the Republican view that approving the resolution would amount to interference with the ongoing Justice Department probe. . . .

"The sharpest Democratic response to that came from Congressman Jerrold Nadler. 'Mr. Chairman, we have every evidence that a cover-up is going on, plain and simple.' "

Nadler's statement is online.

Commission Watch

Philip Shenon reports in the New York Times: "President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have placed strict limits on the private interviews they will grant to the federal commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks, saying that they will meet only with the panel's top two officials and that Mr. Bush will submit to only a single hour of questioning, commission members said Wednesday."

In The Washington Post, Dan Eggen writes that not only is the House Speaker refusing to extend the deadline for the commission, but also "national security adviser Condoleezza Rice has rejected an invitation to testify publicly in front of the panel."

Learning the Hard Way

Edmund L. Andrews of the New York Times profiles N. Gregory Mankiw, chairman of President Bush's Council of Economic Advisers.

"Three times in the last two weeks, he has found himself at the center of a firestorm on an issue of enormous political importance to the administration: jobs."

And now he "is trying to fight off an image as both a cold-hearted apologist for corporate outsourcing and an Ivy League academic who knows too little of the real world."

Speaking of the economy, "Capital Journal" columnist Gerald F. Seib writes in the Wall Street Journal about the latest signs that voters are worried about where the economy is headed. "The consumer-confidence numbers suggest that insecurity might well be trumping performance as a political indicator in this election cycle."

Learning the Hard Way, Part II

Ever wondered what would happen if you jumped the White House fence, yelled "I'm a victim of terrorism" and ran across the lawn?

That's what.

(See accompanying Associated Press story.)

© 2004