WASHINGTON -- Answering complaints by congressional Republicans that George W. Bush was in London when he should have been in Washington lobbying for his endangered legislative program, the White House contended he had postponed the British visit three times and could not do so again.
President Bush considered the British invitation particularly sensitive because it came from Queen Elizabeth, not Prime Minister Tony Blair. Bush is the first American president to be the queen's official guest since Ronald Reagan, and U.S. protocol experts say Bush is making the first full-fledged U.S. state visit to Britain since Woodrow Wilson.
A footnote: Upon returning from Britain, the president is available in Washington to pressure lawmakers for only one of the next 10 days. He is scheduled for political fund-raisers in Las Vegas, Phoenix, Detroit and Newark, N.J., sandwiched around several days on his Texas ranch.
An unusual effort to win over conservative opponents of the Bush-backed Medicare bill by using former House Speaker Newt Gingrich may have backfired. Gingrich delivered pep talks to separate Senate and House Republican caucuses Wednesday.
Many conservative House members years ago soured on Gingrich as speaker. His identification as an unpaid adviser to AARP did not help. AARP is so distrusted by many Republicans that its endorsement of the bill is not entirely a positive. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a leading opponent of the Medicare package, as a House member led an aborted coup attempt against Gingrich.
A private citizen speaking to closed-door caucuses is unusual, and the address to senators by a former House member may be without precedent. Gingrich as speaker had called for a totally revamped Medicare.
LOST IN LOUISIANA
Republican political operatives in Louisiana, second-guessing last Saturday's Democratic victory for governor, contend Republican candidate Bobby Jindal might have defeated Democrat Kathleen Blanco if President Bush had campaigned for him.
The president stayed away in the belief that his vigorous Louisiana campaigning lost the close 2002 Senate contest, in which Democrat Mary Landrieu won re-election over Republican Suzie Terrell. However, Louisiana GOP insiders say Bush did not hurt Terrell in 2002 and would have helped Jindal in 2003.
Jindal, the South's attractive new Republican political figure, would have a good chance for the Senate in 2004 if unbeatable Democratic Sen. John Breaux does not seek another term.
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