The President's travels

Robert Novak
|
Posted: Nov 22, 2003 12:00 AM

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.

NEWT'S RETURN

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.

ARNOLD'S SPEECHWRITER

Democratic speech writer Bob Shrum's intraparty enemies in California complain that he took time off from Sen. John Kerry's presidential campaign to write Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's inaugural address.

Shrum is not only a longtime personal friend of Schwarzenegger but is known to have been appalled by the campaign waged against him in the recall election by ousted Democratic Gov. Gray Davis.

Outgoing San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown and other Democrats joined Schwarzenegger's transition team without being criticized. However, Shrum has collected California foes, thanks to his participation in the bitter 1998 primary for governor won by Davis.

DOLLARS FROM HALEY

Mississippi Gov.-elect Haley Barbour made a quick trip to Washington Tuesday to raise money for his old friend Mitch Daniels, the former Bush budget director who is running an uphill campaign for governor of Indiana.

Barbour was host of a fund-raiser for Daniels at the Caucus Room, a downtown Washington restaurant partially owned by the former Republican National chairman and winner of the recent Mississippi election. Daniels led in the polls when his probable opponent was former Democratic National Chairman Joe Andrew. However, Democrat Joe Kernan became the favorite when he succeeded to the governorship upon the death of Gov. Frank O'Bannon and became a candidate.

A footnote: Former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, joining the Republican fund-raising circuit, will appear in Richmond, Va., Monday at a reception for Rep. Eric Cantor. A $1,000 donation is the price of getting a photo taken with Fleischer, a career congressional aide before entering the White House in 2001.