Things fall apart
Damn fine cake
All disquiet on West Wing front
Aides: W must right ship
By THOMAS M. DeFRANK
and KENNETH R. BAZINET
DAILY NEWS WASHINGTON BUREAU
WASHINGTON - Embattled White House aides have begun to believe President Bush must take the reins personally if his evaporating agenda and credibility are to be salvaged.
"We're just plodding along," admitted a senior Bush aide from deep within the West Wing bunker. "It's up to the President to turn things around now."
Even as his poll numbers tank, however, Bush is described by aides as still determined to stay the course. He resists advice from Republicans who fear disaster in next year's congressional elections, and rejects criticism from a media establishment he disdains.
"The President has always been willing to make changes," the senior aide said, "but not because someone in this town tells him to - NEVER!"
For the moment, Bush has dismissed discreetly offered advice from friends and loyalists to fire Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and bring back longtime confidant Karen Hughes from the State Department to shore up his personal White House staff.
"He thinks that would be an admission he's screwed up, and he can't bring himself to do that," a former senior staffer lamented.
So aides have circled the wagons as Bush's woes mount, partly hoping they can sell the President on a December blitz of media interviews to help turn the tide.
"The staff basically still has an unyielding belief in the wisdom of what they're doing," a close Bush confidant said. "They're talking to people who could help them, but they're not listening."
"There is just no introspection there at all," he said in exasperation. "It is everybody else's fault - the press, gutless Republicans on the Hill. They're still in denial."
Not ready to throw in the towel and declare the boss a lame duck, the Bushies are hoping two issues can help firm up their base and perhaps make inroads with centrists who voted for Bush: the anticipated confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito, and a plan to reinforce the border with Mexico to help stop illegal immigration.
This week Bush will begin to press the border security issue, while Alito's Senate confirmation hearings start early next year. Aides hope those issues will draw attention away from the war and leak probe.
Alito will solve their problems? I wouldn't surprised to find his membership in the He-Man Woman Hater's Club next up for discussion. Border Security? You mean Mr. Guest worker program? Please.
W deaf to bad news on Iraq, says mag
BY MICHAEL McAULIFF
DAILY NEWS WASHINGTON BUREAU
WASHINGTON - President Bush will hear no evil on the Iraq war - even when the bad news comes from military brass and top government officials, a new report says.
Bush "remains convinced that it is his personal mission to bring democracy to Iraq," according to The New Yorker magazine.
The article, echoing a Daily News story yesterday, says Bush and his inner circle are so determined to follow their own plan that generals fear saying what's wrong in Iraq - and senior advisers are snubbed if they have bad news.
"I tried to tell" the President about problems in Iraq, one former senior official told the magazine. "And he couldn't hear it."
New Yorker reporter Seymour Hersh said that Bush is motivated in part by religious fervor and that he believes the war must be judged on a time line of decades, not years. "He's a utopian, you could say, in a world where maybe he doesn't have all the facts and all the information he needs and isn't able to change," Hersh said on CNN yesterday.
"I'll tell you, the people that talk to me now are essentially frightened because they're not sure how you get to this guy."
Hersh said such tunnel vision helps explain why the Bush administration went ballistic when Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), a Vietnam War hero, recently declared the war is tanking and it's time to bring the troops home.
"The generals know him and like him," Hersh said. "His message to the White House was much more worrisome than maybe to the average person in the public. [White House officials] know that generals are privately telling him things that they're not saying to them."
posted by Steve @ 10:26:00 AM