TAKING LEAVE OF THEIR SHORE
Democrats in the House led by Rep. Henry Waxman have asked the GAO to investigate the costs incurred by the Bush administration to pull off the presidential address on the USS Abraham Lincoln last Thursday. The decision to have Waxman make the request came in a closed-door House Democratic caucus meeting in which the party’s congressional leaders discussed how they might drag down the Bush team’s momentum coming out of the successful war.
“This was not about what was right, or whether they thought something illegal had occurred,” says a House Democratic leadership source. “This was all about how can we hurt the Bush team.”
House Democrats leaked word to congressional reporters early Tuesday that a request to the GAO was to be made. This allowed several White House reporters to raise the issue with Ari Fleischer during his late morning press briefing at the White House. Democratic staffers on the Hill pointed to some inconsistencies in the White House explanation of how and why the plan for Bush to fly out to the aircraft carrier came about. Reporters grilled Fleischer on the ship’s distance from shore at the time that Bush flew the S3 Viking to its tailhook landing.
Fleischer had told reporters several days before Bush’s speech that the carrier would be several hundred miles offshore. But on the day of the landing, the Lincoln was closer to shore than the White House had expected. Theoretically, this would have allowed Bush to more readily use the presidential helicopter to make the trip.
However, as the Prowler reported last Friday, the S3 Viking flight was not out of the ordinary, and according to several White House sources, there were no major expenses incurred at any time during the planning or execution of the speech.
“We don’t expect the GAO to come up with anything,” said the Democratic staffer. “But Henry [Waxman] is so good at keeping these kinds of things alive in the media that we’ll probably gain something from having him do this.”
All of Washington was talking yesterday about the soon to be published interview with Teresa Heinz Kerry in Elle magazine (which too looks French). What they should be talking about is how her husband John Kerry appears to be slipping in the polls to the man he said could teach him nothing. New polls in New Hampshire show Kerry and nemesis Howie Dean neck and neck leading in the Democratic primary hunt in the Granite State.
“Kerry is talking a lot and paying lots of attention to us,” says a Dean volunteer in New Hampshire. “He’s making it easy for us to make it a race.”
Kerry went into the debate in South Carolina last weekend hoping to distance himself from Dean, who has seemingly attached himself like a barnacle to the bottom of Kerry’s boat. And Dean seems to be using every opportunity to chide Kerry and goad him into a head-on competition.
“For voters it’s the most attractive conflict,” says the Dean volunteer. “Kerry doesn’t want it, but if the press keeps allowing it to go on, we’ll take the free publicity.”
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