Iowa Presidential Watch
Holding the Democrats accountable


May 4, 2006

"This misbegotten, misguided, mismanaged war is dividing our nation and distracting our government from urgent priorities" such as health care, education, law enforcement and a "smarter approach" to terrorism, Sen. Tom Harkin said.

"No legitimate interest is served when oil and gas become tools of intimidation or blackmail, either by supply manipulation or attempts to monopolize transportation," Vice President Dick Cheney commented about Russian President Vladimir Putin. "And no one can justify actions that undermine the territorial integrity of a neighbor, or interfere with democratic movements."

"I think if I decided to go national that there will probably be a time when people will ask questions, and it will be about my faith, and I'll have the opportunity to talk about the role of religion in our society and in the leadership of our nation," Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA) said.


J U S T   P O L I T I C S


Harkin supports surrender

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), who lied about being a combat veteran in Vietnam, now wants to surrender to terrorists in Iraq. The Des Moines Register reports that Harkin is offering a Senate Resolution to withdraw American troops no later than Dec. 31:

Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa called Wednesday for U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq by Dec. 31.

Harkin was expected to offer a resolution on the Senate floor saying that the United States should not maintain a permanent military presence or bases in Iraq and should not attempt to control the flow of Iraqi oil.

The resolution also says that U.S. armed forces should be redeployed from Iraq as soon as practical after the completion of Iraq's constitution-making process or Dec. 31, whichever comes first.

Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., is attempting to attach similar language to an emergency spending bill.

Harkin voted in 2002 for the resolution to go to war against Iraq. Harkin didn’t vote to go to war in the first Iraq war.

Harkin further stated that the president's policy "is not a strategy for success; it is a strategy for continued stalemate and stagnation." That was the policy Democrat President Harry Truman set against the last ideology to threaten democracy. The term used wasn’t stagnation, but rather a policy of Communist containment.

Snow’s memo

New press secretary for the White House Tony Snow has had his strategy exposed by ABC News. The following is the memo obtained by the news organization:

To: Josh Bolten, Dan Bartlett and Nicolle Wallace
From: Tony Snow
Re: Our message

After observing how the Press Office has operated, first from the outside and for the last week from the inside, I wanted to share some initial thoughts about what I think needs to be done. Thank you so much for the trust you've placed in me and the risk you took by making an unconventional choice in a most conventional White House. I promise I won't screw it up.

First, I want to clear the air about something that I know has been bothering some people in the building — and frankly has been bothering me, too. When I was at the podium with the President and Scott McClellan, I meant to recognize Scottie and say something nice about him and the big shoes I have to fill. He was standing right next to me, and I know it really rubbed people the wrong way and looked ludicrous for me to ignore him.

Like Hilary Swank after she won for "Boys Don't Cry" and failed to mention, Chad Lowe, I had intended to say something, and I just blanked. I really felt badly about it, and said so right away. I know Scott had told his friends he would be welcoming, and he has been, and I really appreciate his help with the transition. After talking to reporters and other staffers, I realize better why people like him so much. (And all those cats and dogs at home! The man's a saint!) I recognize that Scott has a hard-won, first-hand understanding of the ecology of Bushworld that I can only hope to gain by osmosis. I respect that, and I plan to stay in regular touch with Scott — if he'll take my calls when he's off making all that speakers' bureau buckage.

Second, I've been doing my own reporting and I know there are concerns inside that I might mistake the George Bush Show for the Tony Snow Show. I am extremely conscious of this and am going to be very careful. Jim Rutenberg always knows the right word, and he wrote that I'm "something of a showman." That stung, but it was an astute insight and I get what he was saying. I assure you that I'm going to keep the spotlight where it belongs — on the President. I'm the gigolo — paid to meet specific needs, and then leave. Unfortunately, Halperin thinks I'm an ugly gigolo. LINK

(Funny stuff, although not as funny as Ms. Gladstone seems to have thought. But he does make some good points.)

All right, enough throat-clearing. The number one thing we need to do is RE-HUMANIZE THE PRESIDENT. All my other suggestions are just variations on that theme. People WANT to like this President, and we need to give them more chances. They love the regular guy thing that worked so well for you in the first campaign, and we need to tap back into that on a regular basis as a fundamental part of our communications strategy, not a when-can add-on.

There's nothing the Press shop can do about facts on the ground, but we can HELP people remember why they originally liked the President so much. In December and January, Dan and Nicolle did a great job of getting the President out more, talking to the pool nearly every day and answering all those questions from the good red-blooded, red-stated Americans who come to our events. There have been lulls in this strategy as plans got overtaken by the news and the schedule, but we need to make it a priority instead of an if-can. I know the President was reluctant to do the questions from the general public, concerned that he would say some tiny thing that the press would blow it up into some huge deal. But he has nailed nearly every one of these outings, and I know he now enjoys them and has gotten more confident.

I know you realize the dirty little secret: Truly nasty questions, ones the President can't defuse with his quick wit, are rare. And when we DO get asked them, we get brownie points for openness. So these free-for-alls are almost can't-lose propositions.

Similarly, the President should take questions from the pool all the time. For him, this is just batting practice. With all due respect, all press corps are predictable. And when we give them two questions, I'll go back to my radio show if I can't usually predict what they're going to be. But it makes it harder for the press to rag on the President when they're in close touch with him, and it's an opportunity for us to remind people of our message. When we don't answer questions, it looks like we believe the critics. We want to be out there at every opportunity, like my uncle at Thanksgiving dinner, saying: And ANOTHER thing. . .

The President looked strong and decisive swinging a hammer down in New Orleans for a few minutes the other day. If he wants to, and I bet he'd be thrilled, let's suggest that he spend a whole day working down there, and really have something to show for it. I understand we had to call an audible and make that quick stop at the BP station to make the statement about CAFE standards, but that became the news and drowned out the real empathy the President had shown for the folks on the Gulf Coast. You know how he likes working up a sweat at the ranch. Let's remind people that he's not trapped at the desk. He got along great with the workers down there—I saw the video of the back pats and the shared jokes. That's the George W. Bush we need to showcase.

One of the most important changes I'd like to make in the operation is to empower the other spokespeople so they can develop relationships with reporters and work with them on stories and give them guidance and tidbits we might not be able to dispense from the podium. In my canvassing of reporters, I've learned that the only spokesperson who had any real rapport with the press was Trent Duffy. That's not helpful to the President. We need our spokespeople to be proactively reaching out to A-list reporters, which gives us a ripple effect of good will as they talk to others in the press corps and reach their large audiences.

As far as the podium: Josh, that was sheer genius of you to float the idea of cutting back on on-camera briefings. Obviously, we can't do that, because it would make the White House look like it was going backwards instead of forwards, and like we had something to hide, when in fact I wish we could open all the doors and windows and have every good American just walk on through. But now when we spell out our policy on briefings, it'll look like we took the press's side.

There are two tweaks I'd make to the briefings, though. One, we need to reengage the press by really making some news from the podium. We need to have people literally running out of the briefing room to file bulletins or do a quick hit from the lawn. Muscles atrophy if you don't use them and the podium is a powerful platform that we should be using the heck out of. I'm amazed at how empty the briefing room sometimes is when it is shown on the cut-away shots. We need to remind this press corps that with this reenergized White House, if you snooze, you lose. Second, let's take a page from the Pentagon and the mega-churches and include some electronic and graphic elements in our presentations. We don't want to be predictable, and a clip that provides a preview of the next day's event might give us two pops where we would have gotten only one.

A quick housekeeping matter: We need to assure the young people in the Press Office right away that we need them and are going to keep them and if anything are going to expand their responsibilities. They're understandably worried about change, and they shouldn't be. I understand I'm not an expert on operations, and I value their expertise and will defer to them. The Press Office wouldn't run without your Nathan Carletons and Carlton Carrolls and John Robertses. And we can only dream of having the approval rating of Josh Deckard. Let's make sure the Press Office knows we're still a team and that I think they're all starters.

Thank you for letting me vent. I'm thrilled by this opportunity, and look forward to the day, not far down the road, when all of America sees this President as we do.

And by the way: Let's have a little fun!

Your friend, colleague, and servant, Tony


Lobbying reform

The Washington Post reports on the passage of lobbying reform legislation in the House of Representatives:

The House narrowly approved ethics legislation yesterday that would expand the amount of information that lobbyists must disclose about their interactions with lawmakers and would also rein in big-money political groups that spent heavily in the last presidential election.

By a vote of 217 to 213, the House agreed to require lobbyists to file quarterly instead of semiannual reports, to include in those reports donations they give to federal candidates and political action committees, and to make public gifts that they give to lawmakers or congressional aides.

Brownback marriage amendment

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) says that the marriage amendment should be voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee according to GOPUSA:

Kansas Republican Senator Sam Brownback says the federal marriage amendment will finally see action within a matter of days. "We will have it up probably coming to the full Judiciary Committee in two weeks," he says. "It will probably pass on a strict party line vote, defining marriage as a union of a man and a woman."

Then the measure will come to the Senate floor, he explains. "And I wouldn't doubt that the same thing will happen this time around that happened last time. That is, the Republicans will vote for it, and the Democrats will vote against it," he states.

That could be a problem -- because the current make-up of the U.S. Senate shows 55 in the Republican column. A two-thirds vote (67) would be necessary for the bill to move out of the Senate to the House for consideration. Brownback says without help, the amendment will not make it out of the Senate.

Pataki toxic

The NY Daily reports that political pollster Frank Lutnz says it could hurt Republicans if Governor George Pataki campaigns for them:

In a private meeting of about 20 Republican state senators, pollster Frank Luntz told the group to spurn any offers of campaign help made by Pataki, according to people who attended the Albany gathering last week.

"He told us if the governor offers help, just tell him you are going to be out of town or on vacation," said one source.

Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno (R-Rensselaer) invited Luntz, who has worked as a strategist for ex-Mayor Rudy Giuliani, to give the speech.

"Frank Luntz told us we should be talking to voters about our plans for tax cuts and to get away from Pataki," said another source. "But we already knew it's not a smart idea to be running with Pataki this year. The Senate is basically at war with the governor right now."

New Hampshire schedule

The Manchester Union Leader writes that probably only one more caucus before New Hampshire:

There are indications that New Hampshire is making progress in its fight with the Democratic National Committee to preserve the status of its first-in-the-nation primary.

The Washington, D.C., political Web site The Hotline last week claimed the DNC’s rules committee is likely to recommend one caucus between Iowa’s leadoff 2008 caucus and the New Hampshire primary eight days later.

Even after speaking with several committee members this week, we’re not about to predict what a 30-member panel will do — especially since the members can’t even agree on when they will vote on the issue

Gingrich touring Iowa

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich continued to travel throughout Iowa following his fundraising event for the Iowa Republican Party.

One example was his stop in Ft. Dodge where he was joined by Rep. Jim Nussle and his gubernatorial running mate Bob Vander Plaats at a community college dental hygiene training unit. Gingrich brought his experience in trying to reform healthcare to the front page of the Fort Dodge Messenger newspaper and that community’s residence.



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