Treasury Secretary John Snow got more than he bargained for when he went to a private lunch with fellow senior economic advisers at the White House yesterday, met with the President, and was asked to stay on for the second term. Snow agreed, thus ending one of the more uncomfortable situations in Washington.
Snow and his advisers, as well as outside supporters, had been growing increasingly concerned about the ongoing whispering campaign that Snow was on his way out. The low hum of rumor was compounded by the White House's refusal to tamp down the talk that Snow was a lamer duck than his boss.
Snow may be staying on, but it isn't clear for how long. Despite the strong statement of support President Bush gave Snow, the expectations remain that Snow will not remain in the Administration for more than a year, perhaps 16 months. Snow has talked about his eagerness to push for tax reform and fairness, and indications are that that issue may the one that moves ahead in Congress in the coming months.
A successful tax reform package would afford Snow the kind of victory any Treasury Secretary would relish on the way out. Should Snow leave, it would open the door for Office of Management and Budget director Joshua Bolten to take the helm and push through the President's Social Security reform and privatization plan, an issue on which Snow is in less agreement with the White House.
Lost amid all the hubbub about satellites and turf-warfare in the Intelligence Reform Act of 2004 was the fact that the White House and Justice Department were able to get most of the terrorism prevention statutes formerly known as "Patriot Act II" or "Son of Patriot Act" attached to the bill with no notice whatsoever.
It appears that at least some of the act's provisions will make it to the President's desk for signing, including statutes that strengthen and improve bans and penalties for material support to terrorists; prohibit possession of the most dangerous weapons of mass destruction such as atomic weapons, so-called "dirty bombs," and the small pox virus; criminalize terrorist or military hoaxes; permit pre-trial detention of indicted suspects, and strengthen provisions that allow for authorized surveillance of non-U.S. individuals who engage in international terrorism.
The Patriot Act-like amendments sailed through without attracting attention from the usual watchdog groups, which were probably too busy focusing on their bogus campaigns for electoral recounts in Ohio and elsewhere. Either way, the Bush Administration pulled off a major political and national security success, by ramming through important counter-terrorism statutes and removing complicated amendments for what is expected to be a bruising battle to re-authorize some sun-setting statutes in the USA Patriot Act that expire in 2005.
In a sign perhaps of how unhappy senior DNC officials are with the current spate of prospective DNC chairman candidates, the Democratic Party's elder statesmen have been reaching out to potential new candidates for the party job.
In just the past week, both former Mississippi Gov. Ray Mabus and former Michigan Gov. James Blanchard have seemingly jumped into the race. Blanchard is now scheduled to speak to party officials at the state party leadership conference in Orlando, Florida, on Friday. Mabus isn't on the schedule yet, but he was spotted earlier in the week meeting with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. According to a Senate leadership source, the meeting was about the DNC job.
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