The Week in Washington

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Alex Chadwick checks in with NPR senior correspondent Juan Williams to discuss the week's top political stories.


Congress is back is back at work this week in Washington, fighting over the budget, border security, new ethics rules, and the price of oil. And President Bush's advisor Karl Rove, again was called for grand jury testimony in the CIA leak case. And starting Monday, there's going to be a new face at the podium at White House briefings, Fox News' commentator and former White House speech writer Tony Snow. Joining us is NPR's senior correspondent Juan Williams, a regular guest on this program, on Fridays. Juan, welcome back.

JUAN WILLIAMS, senior correspondent:

Good to be with you, Alex.

You know, I don't watch Fox News quite as much as I should, I guess, but you're there, occasionally, as a political commentator. I'm not that familiar with Tony Snow's work. What kind of a person is he, and what's he going to do as White House press secretary?

WILLIAMS: Well, he's a friend, Alex, and Tony's kind of an open, friendlier face, I think, than people are going to be accustomed to. And I think he's almost a genial kind of TV host, but one who is definitely conservative, and definitely a Bush supporter. Although, over the past week, some of the criticisms that he's had about Bush in his columns have come to light. But this is a thrill for him. I mean, he feels like this is a moment where he can do nothing but win because the president's ratings are so low, the relationship with the press is so bad, and he wants to come in there with an attitude that he can build bridges.

CHADWICK: That is an interesting attitude, because politically, you'd have to say that the Bush administration is probably at its lowest point, although, I think for the last six months, every week I talk to you, it's a - boy, things have never looked this (unintelligible).

WILLIAMS: Well, you know, that's right. And I must say that things just seem to somehow get worse. But especially with - not only just the war in Iraq and death toll, and so forth, and arguments over whether Rumsfeld should go or stay - but also, on the home front. Now you have Rove back, a fifth time, before the grand jury, the possibility that the president and the vice president would have to testify in Scooter Libby's trial, and you realize there's just huge problems. And the question is, can a friendly face on it, Tony Snow, help?

CHADWICK: You know, but in the face of this, Mr. Bush today, is doing something that does take political nerve. He's approving this deal that would give a company based in Dubai control over a dozen US military plants. This is a business deal, but it's kind of like the ports deal that was such a controversial topic a couple of months ago. Apparently, Mr. Bush is going to say, I think it's the right thing to do, I'm going to improve it.

WILLIAMS: Well, you know, that's the way he felt about the ports deal, but there was such a backlash. I mean, it was almost comparable to what we saw in the fire back from the Harriet Miers' nomination, which had to be pulled. Now, the ports deal didn't get pulled, but it was kind of pushed off. And of course, the ports (unintelligible) said, well, we don't really want to buy it, we'll do it through another system, as a way to kind of, ease the political problems that the president was having. Now you have a British company selling this nine plants in the US that make turbines blades for vehicles and aircraft. And I'm not sure that he has got his political finger in the air, Alex. I think he's alienating the base on this. This is like the border security issue, that this week forced members of Congress to take money away from away from the war in Iraq, supplemental funding, and put it into border security. I think it just is creating lots of contradictions for Republicans and lots of tension between Republicans in Congress and the president.

CHADWICK: Political analysis from NPR's senior correspondent, Juan Williams, a regular feature here on Fridays, on DAY TO DAY. Juan, thank you again.

WILLIAMS: Good to be with you, Alex.

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