Bush and the ‘bully pulpit’

If nothing else comes of it, the Annapolis initiative for Middle East peace has dramatically demonstrated that even a politically wounded president of the United States still has huge influence in world affairs.

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5,000 troops coming home

Around 5,000 American troops will head home later this month as part of a withdrawal plan announced by President George W. Bush, US military spokesman Rear Admiral Gregory Smith said Saturday.

“Current conditions allow for a withdrawal of the first unit, the Grey Wolf Brigade, starting on November 27th,” Smith told reporters at a press conference in Baghdad.

The brigade will not be replaced, he said, adding the drawdown is an indication of “overall improved security within Iraq as well as the improved capabilities of the Iraqi security forces.”

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Royalties trump loyalties

White House press secretaries, who speak for the president and appear before the nation on his behalf, have traditionally kept their secrets while their bosses are in office.

That unwritten rule has faded in the face of big advances for political tell-all books.

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Former aide confirms: Bush lied

A former White House press secretary has accused President George W. Bush of misleading the public over a CIA leak which blew the cover of one of their spies and rocked the US administration.

Scott McClellan, who was Bush’s chief spokesman between 2003-2006, says in an excerpt from his upcoming book that he unknowingly gave wrong information about the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame in 2003.

He told reporters in October 2003 that top White House aides Karl Rove and Lewis “Scooter” Libby were not involved in leaking her name to the media.

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Homeland Security advisor calls it quits

Fran Townsend, the leading White House-based terrorism adviser who gave public updates on the extent of the threat to U.S. security, is stepping down after 4 1/2 years.

President Bush said in a statement Monday morning that Townsend, 45, “has ably guided the Homeland Security Council. She has played an integral role in the formation of the key strategies and policies my administration has used to combat terror and protect Americans.”

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House snubs Bush on spying

The US House of Representatives defied President George W. Bush on Thursday, passing a bill tightening legal oversight of the power of intelligence agents to use wiretaps to eavesdrop on terror suspects.

The bill, approved in the Democratic-led House by 227 votes to 189 did not however meet the president’s demands for retroactive legal immunity to telecommunications firms which may have handed over data to the government.

The White House immediately warned the legislation would “dangerously weaken our ability to protect the nation from foreign threats.”

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The uncoverup

As attorney general and designated lightning rod for the Bush administration, John Ashcroft wore his Bible-thumping nature as a suit of Christian armor and a flag of pride.

This regligious zealot from Missouri was so uptight he expressed displasure at a nude statue in the Department of Justice and aides scrambled to cover it up so the AG wouldn’t have his picture taken with a bare breast behind him.

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A fresh start

Perhaps not since Watergate, when one former attorney general was headed to jail and another to a perjury conviction, has anyone taken over the Justice Department under more difficult circumstances.

As if to reinforce the impression that he is truly in charge, Michael Mukasey was sworn in as attorney general twice, privately last Friday and ceremonially Wednesday, with President Bush avowing that the former judge “has my complete trust and confidence.”

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Still swinging

As America’s ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton was the White House’s most effective defender. Now, as an ex-diplomat, he has become among the administration’s toughest critics. But he critiques from the right, not the left, which probably explains why the elite media are not eager to focus on what he has to say.

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Bush vetoes health ed bill

President Bush, escalating his budget battle with Congress, on Tuesday vetoed a spending measure for health and education programs prized by congressional Democrats.

He also signed a big increase in the Pentagon’s non-war budget although the White House complained it contained “some unnecessary spending.”

The president’s action was announced on Air Force One as Bush flew to New Albany, Ind., on the Ohio River across from Louisville, Ky., for a speech criticizing the Democratic-led Congress on its budget priorities.

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