I just watched the entire episode of This Week with George Stephanopoulos, thinking it would be the best shot for hearing SOMETHING about the Jeff Gannon story on a broadcast network. Instead, their big news item was the “secret” George Bush tapes, which I can’t help but notice show W in the most flattering light. It was noted that only a few minutes were being released, with the other nearly nine hours to be shipped to the Bush Library.

I am tired of saying, “If this were Bill Clinton…” I am tired of waiting for a negative Bush White House story the MSM will deem big enough to cover. I’m saying now it can’t be done. If the Jeff Gannon thing can be ignored, I give up. There is no way to penetrate the wall of protection around this president.

We’re screwed.

But I hope someone will disagree with me.

The White House Hopes You Won’t Read This

As is its habit, late yesterday, after the million-dollar babies in the Washington press had adjourned for the weekend, the White House released details of the programs it plans to cut in education, children’s health and small business support. The AP gives us a skim:

In the new list, Bush asked lawmakers to eliminate programs worth $4.3 billion from education, $1 billion from health and $1.5 billion from law enforcement.Reductions include cuts totaling $2.5 billion from agriculture, $690 million from health and $470 million from housing.

What? No corporate welfare programs are being eliminated? I’m shocked. But there’s more:

In all, the targeted programs include 99 that the White House wants to eliminate, for a total of $8.8 billion in savings. The president wants to save an additional $6.5 billion by cutting spending on 55 programs, including:
– End the Small Business Administration’s $15 million micro-loan program because it costs taxpayers yearly $1 for each $1 lent.
– Eliminate $496 million in educational technology state grants to free more money for higher priority programs that focus on student achievement and show clearer results.
– Cut half of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership and move the program closer to self-reliance.
– Cut one-third of the Children’s Hospitals Graduate Medical Education Payment Program because an assessment determined there was no demonstrated need for the program.
– Eliminate the National Drug Intelligence Center because it duplicates programs run by a new, multi-agency Drug Intelligence Fusion Center.

Plight of the Swingsters

On Monday, in the afterglow of the media’s positive reports about the Iraqi elections, the February 7 Gallup Poll/CNN poll gave Bush a 57 percent approval rating – his highest rating since the capture of Saddam Hussein. Now, just four days later, the glow has apparently faded completely. According to the Associated Press, Bush’s approval in their latest poll is 45 percent.

Could be a polling fluke, God knows, but it’s more likely a reminder that the swing voters are still out there – and they still haven’t made up their minds about George Bush. The media says we’re a divided nation, like it’s 50/50. But it’s really more like 40/40/20, with 40 percent who love Bush no matter what, and 40 percent who absolutely do not. The remaining 20 percent – a group I like to call the “Swingsters” – are still on the fence.

Swingsters think of themselves as “independents” whose opinions aren’t captive to either party. Their judgments are not sullied by ideology, they say, but rather are based on objective analysis of the character of the candidate and his policies. The rest of us are a lot less charitable. We tend to think of them as wishy-washy and, well, dim. The central irony of the debacle of the elections last November is that this group of voters who bend with whatever breeze comes down the pike finally couldn’t bring themselves to vote for John Kerry because they believed he was a flip-flopper.

One bit of analysis we could take away from this drop in the polls (assuming its real) is that the Swingsters have very low expectations of President Bush. So it only takes one or two good press reports to get them singing his Hosannnas. During the Iraqi elections, the massive suicide attacks that had been threatened never transpired and just a few dozen voters were killed – so the elections were deemed a big success. At the State of the Union, on February 2, Bush read his speech without a noteworthy gaffe, and it was filled with even more flowery, upbeat rhetoric than most, perhaps to counter his natural, involuntary snarkiness. Plus, he did not appear to have electronic devices hidden in his coat. Another triumph. Bush also did a round of television interviews, including one with Brian Lamb at C-SPAN in which he discussed a book a book he’d read, “The Case for Democracy,” by Natan Sharansky. He’d have to be smart to read something like that. Right?

As a result, good buzz emanated from water coolers across the land and over the weekend, when the polls were taken, the poor Swingsters – who want to like Bush, they really, really do – were swept up in the euphoria. But as the week wore on, them ol’ devilish details about the SOTU speech came out. Turns out the Preznint’s flowery rhetoric hid the fact that what he really plans to do is phase out Social Security and cut education funding and veterans benefits, among other things. Disappointed again, by Friday the Swingsters had turned on Bush again, slapping him with a 12 point drop in popularity.

The Swingsters aren’t bad people. They’re just looking for a leader. Maybe they gravitate to Bush because he fulfills a familiar idea of a modern leader: the corporate division manager at the company where they work. But if the poll drop is as real, maybe he’s looking less like that guy every day.

The Usual Rabid Suspects

Florida is looking into the money behind the fight to keep Terri Schiavo on life support. Her parents’ Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation is receiving funding from big right to life groups, but what it’s doing with that money isn’t clear.

According to a story in the Palm Beach Post, donations are being solicited at to, “offset some of the expenses associated with protecting Terri.”

“While the Web site says the donations help offset legal expenses, the majority of the Schindlers’ representation during the protracted legal struggle with their daughter’s husband, Michael Schiavo, has been paid for by two anti-abortion groups — the Life Legal Defense Foundation and the Alliance Defense Fund — according to the Schindlers’ current attorney, Barbara Weller.”

The California-based groups promote the usual hot button, right-wing agendas.

“Alliance Defense Fund ‘is funding litigation that is going on to confront and challenge the radical legal agenda advocating homosexual behavior, defending parental rights, and to restore the Constitution’s guarantee of free exercise of religion,’ IRS documents read. “

Schiavo’s parents never filed state paperwork to solicit donations, and the money does not seem to be paying the legal bills.

“…attorneys for the Schindlers offered conflicting statements of how much they have been paid and how much has been spent fighting on behalf of Terri. “

Jeb Bush jumped in to “save” Terri’s life when her husband attempted to unhook her in 2003. He exerted his power with the Florida legislature, getting them to pass a law that Republican Senate President Jim King later called one of the worst decisions of his life.

The law was rejected by the Florida Supreme Court, and despite being argued by Ken Connor, the former head of the Family Research Council, the U.S. Supreme Court recently refused to hear the case, letting the lower court decision stand. But Jeb continues to interfere in the matter, vowing to force Terri to remain on a feeding tube and entertaining suggestions he actually take her into “protective custody.”

Put the Huggies and Wings on Clinton?

Don’t know if this story is getting much play outside the advertising community, but it should, for comic relief if nothing else. The huge firm Ogilvy & Mather is defending itself against charges it overbilled the Clinton Administration’s White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).

According to Ad Age online, an O&M exec sought in late 1999 to hide problems with the company’s financials by shifting billing time from other accounts to the government.

Testifying in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, the FBI’s John Sardone presented a set of timesheets for Rosalinde Rago, Ogilvy’s former director of research and planning who died last year. He told the jury that the handwriting on written orders on the timesheets telling Ms. Rago to “Put Huggies and Wings time on ONDCP” matched handwriting samples provided to prosecutors by Ms. Seifert.

For all the clients who ever suspected they were being overcharged, this case provides plenty to worry about. As for O&M, it’s going to take a lot of Huggies and Wings to soak up all the hot water they’re in.

Party Pyramid

Interesting story in the in the St. Petersburg Times. Evidently the dying act of the chair of Amway, Jay Van Andel, was to give the largest contribution by an individual to a state party in Florida. And guess which party it was?

” Records show that starting July 27, he made 10 $100,000 donations to the Florida Republican Party. The money began flowing in at a time when many observers saw Florida as a tossup state that could decide whether President Bush or John Kerry won the election.

The money helped pay for a massive get-out-the-vote effort in a state Bush needed to win.

Van Andel had Parkinson’s disease and nearly missed seeing his generosity to the Florida GOP pay off. He died just over a month after President Bush won Florida and re-election – and a week after the Florida GOP deposited his 10th $100,000 check. He was 80.”

Oh well, what’s a million these days? That’s no doubt why Van Andel and the family of his business partner, Richard DeVos, “also each gave $2-million to Progress for America, an independent group that paid for TV ads aimed at re-electing Bush.”

So let’s see, that’s $1 million, then another $2 million each, so that’s $5 million, plus another $515,000 from the DeVos family to the state GOP…Yep, pretty soon you’re talking about real money.

This Show is Rated G for Gullible

Amazing there are still people (like my mother) out there who fall for the staged performances of the Bush crowd.

A story in the St. Petersburg Times exposes the process for how “ordinary folks” are recruited for presidential appearances. Bush speaks in Tampa, across the bay from St. Pete, Friday.

Let’s see, who would definitely support putting Social Security money in the stock market? How about securities traders?

” Susan Hartman, a Raymond James financial planning consultant, who belongs to the Securities Industry Association, sent out the e-mail searching for volunteers Monday.”

There was no question about what the President wanted to hear.

“Recipients of the e-mail sent out to employees at Raymond James were asked to explain how they wanted Social Security changed – not if they wanted it changed.”

Yes, just folks, like you and me and Grandma.

“Are they ordinary American citizens? Yes and no,” said Dennis Goldford, a political science professor at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. The White House “will look through the pool for people who say the magic words they want to hear.”

The White House does not deny this.

“When the president travels outside Washington to participate in a conversation on a particular subject, we would look at individuals who have a vested interest in a particular subject or have an important story to tell,” said Taylor Gross, a White House spokesman.

Why should they deny it? It’s working for them great.