White House Struggles with a Week of Bad News
SCOTT SIMON, Host:
NPR's Don Gonyea has this report.
DON GONYEA: When you're the president of the United States, you're used to being the big story of the week, or at least setting the news agenda. But this week, even the White House seemed barely able to break through. To be sure, the president was out talking about a topic critical to Republican fortunes in the November elections at events like this fundraiser in Scottsdale, Arizona. The theme was competing views of terrorism.
GEORGE W: They view this election - they view the threats we face like law enforcement, and that is, we respond after we're attacked. And it's a fundamental difference. And I will travel this country for the next five weeks making it clear, the difference of opinion.
GONYEA: But such appearances were swamped by other news: the brutal killings at an Amish school in Pennsylvania, and the Mark Foley story, and questions of whether Republican congressional leaders should have restrained him years ago. The president felt compelled to weigh in on these stories. In a photo op at an elementary school named after him in Stockton, California, Mr. Bush spoke of the school shootings.
BUSH: Our school children should never fear their safety when they enter into a classroom. And of course the superintendent and principal know that.
GONYEA: Then he continued, in the same paragraph, with this on the scandal in Washington.
BUSH: We also had a reminder of the need for people in positions of responsibility to uphold that responsibility when it comes to children, in the case of Congressman Mark Foley. I was dismayed and shocked to learn about Congressman Foley's unacceptable behavior.
GONYEA: If it was an awkward moment for the president, it was little noted. Very little the president said seemed to get much attention - on terrorism or education reform or on upbeat fiscal news at week's end. Meanwhile, back on Capitol Hill, Republicans already bracing for losses in the midterm elections, saw their leader, Speaker Dennis Hastert, required to explain why he wasn't resigning.
DENNIS HASTERT: You know, when you talk about the page issue and what's happened in the Congress, I'm deeply sorry that this has happened. And the bottom line is that we're taking responsibility, because ultimately, as someone has said in Washington before, the buck stops here.
GONYEA: If there was a silver lining in all this for the White House, it was that Americans were distracted from what has been a deadly week in Iraq for U.S. forces. At week's end, Senator John Warner, Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, a Republican, had this stark assessment of how the mission is going.
JOHN WARNER: It seems to me that the situation is simply drifting, sidewise.
GONYEA: Don Gonyea, NPR News, Washington.
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