The President's Week Ahead

As President George Bush prepares for the G-8 economic summit later this week, the nation is buzzing with speculation over his choice to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

From NPR West and Slate magazine online, this is DAY TO DAY. Alex Chadwick is on assignment. I'm Madeleine Brand. Coming up, we hear from an American soldier who's spending his Independence Day in Iraq.

But first, Americans defending freedom abroad was the theme of President Bush's July Fourth speech today in Morgantown, West Virginia. The president called Iraq the latest battlefield in the war on terror.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: These terrorists will not be stopped by negotiations or concessions or appeals to reason. In this war, there is only one option, and that is victory.

(Soundbite of cheering)

BRAND: Tomorrow, the president heads to the G8 economic summit in Scotland. With us to discuss this and more of the president's concerns for the week ahead is NPR White House correspondent Don Gonyea.

And welcome, Don.

DON GONYEA reporting:

Hi, Madeleine.

BRAND: The president spoke at length today about the importance of fighting for freedom and democracy in Iraq, obviously good themes for July Fourth, but recent polls indicate Americans are a little ambivalent about this war, and perhaps that's one of the subtexts of the president's speech.

GONYEA: Absolutely. The poll numbers are troubling to this White House, that support has fallen so much, especially over the past couple of months. And this speech today was like a miniversion of the speech he gave in prime time to a national audience from Ft. Bragg almost a week ago. It was last Tuesday night. Now the president has, in the past, used the Fourth of July to go out and praise troops overseas, and it's not unusual for him to visit a small town like this on a Fourth of July holiday.

The other thing the did in that speech last week was really end with a call to action, for people to support the troops, to write letters, to just do whatever they can to help out a military family. And that's essentially what he, himself, is doing out there today.

BRAND: And Washington is abuzz over who the president might nominate for the Supreme Court now that Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has announced her resignation. So over the weekend, what were Republicans and Democrats saying?

GONYEA: Well, it's funny. No matter what the president does, this is what people are talking about in this town and around the country to a great deal. The battle has been joined even before we get a nominee, and that's likely to be at least a week away. There are war rooms in place representing various outside groups, both conservative and liberal. They're all hoping to influence the selection or to support or derail a nominee, depending on who is chosen.

I can tell you my e-mail box is already overflowing with messages from all sides. And there are messages being sent out, incidentally, from conservative groups, for example, that they want a true conservative, that this is a key moment in the Bush presidency. And there have already been some pre-emptive strikes against Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, a longtime friend of the president and a confidant of Mr. Bush's, who's considered on everybody's list to perhaps be a nominee. And a lot of conservatives are saying, `Wait a minute. He's not conservative enough.'

There is also debate going on over the sorts of questions that can be asked of any nominee in the hearings when those hearings do roll around later this summer. Can, for example, a nominee be asked their position on an issue like abortion? Republicans are saying, `No, that's not appropriate. That's asking them to kind of rule in advance before some hypothetical case comes to them.' Democrats are saying, `It's absolutely an important issue.' So that's part of the back and forth we're getting now.

BRAND: And the president heads off to the G8 Summit. At the top of the list there, economic aid to Africa and climate change. What's the president saying about those two issues?

GONYEA: Well, on climate change, don't look for the president to budge much. Tony Blair, who's hosting this summit, really does want to find some way for the US and the rest of the world to work together on climate change. The president is still defending his decision to walk away from the Kyoto Treaty four years ago.

On Africa, Tony Blair wants to double the current level of aid to Africa from industrialized nations, and the president has not signed onto that either, stressing, though, that he has already greatly increased aid to Africa, but that aid isn't the only thing that needs to happen. There has to be more trade and more of that kind of activity.

BRAND: NPR White House correspondent Don Gonyea.

Thanks, Don.

GONYEA: Thank you.

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