The War Room was a 1993 documentary about how James Carville ran the Bill Clinton press operation during the 1992 campaign. But now, expecting massive global controversy, the Bush White House is quickly setting up a real "war room" designed to coordinate its own media and message strategy and win the war of ideas should hostilities break out with Iraq.
Senior Bush communications adviser Jim Wilkinson had just six days to clear out his West Wing office and set up the rapid response operation at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla., home of the U.S. Central Command. A Naval Reservist trained in Arabic, Mr. Wilkinson was a top aide to Rep. Dick Armey from 1992 to 2000, then served as spokesman for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld during the 2000 transition, before being hired by Bush adviser Karen Hughes to be one of her top deputies. Mr. Wilkinson will work side-by-side with CENTCOM Gen. Tommy Franks, and coordinate with White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer and Communications Director Dan Bartlett.
Exactly 30 years after he and Carl Bernstein began breaking the Nixon Watergate scandal, Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward is again creating buzz at a Republican White House. Mr. Woodward's controversial new book, Bush at War, paints the picture of a fierce policy and personality clash between Secretary of State Colin Powell and other top officials in the days and months following 9/11.
Secretary Powell is described as resisting President Bush's buildup toward war with Iraq and so concerned about his subsequent isolation from the president that he requested a 20-30 minute private weekly meeting to strengthen his relationship. The meetings occurred, but only with National Security Adviser Condi Rice present. Mr. Woodward writes that during the 2000 campaign, Karl Rove "detected a subtle, subversive tendency, as if Powell were protecting his centrist credentials and his own political future at Bush's expense." Mr. Woodward writes that Mr. Rove still worries that the secretary of state operates "beyond [the] political control" of the White House.
Senior White House officials clearly talked on background for the book. The president himself gave the Post star four hours of on-the-record interviews. Mr. Woodward also draws from confidential National Security Council memos and discussions with 100 high-ranking administration, Pentagon, and congressional sources. The administration, however, has refused comment on any of the revelations in the book. White House reporters on Nov. 18 grilled deputy press secretary Scott McClellan on whether the book was accurate; Mr. McClellan fought them off with, "Well, I'm not up here to do book reviews."
Al Gore is on a blazing new media blitz, attacking the Bush tax cuts and saying he now supports a single-payer national health care system: A sit-down interview with Barbara Walters on 20/20; three days with Katie Couric on Today; an exclusive with George Stephanopolous on This Week; even a guest host gig on Saturday Night Live. But is all this a post-midterm book tour, or a pre-primary campaign tour? Either way, it comes amidst a new Los Angeles Times poll that offers little but bad news for the former vice president.
A stunning 46 percent of Democratic National Committee members-the party's most devout activists-say "none of the above" when asked who they favor for the 2004 nomination. Not even one in five favors Mr. Gore. Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry draws slightly less than that, 18 percent. Thirteen percent express support for North Carolina Sen. John Edwards. One in 10 supports Rep. Richard Gephardt, while Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman brings up the rear with just 4 percent.
If that weren't bad enough, 48 percent of Democratic National Committee members say they wish Mr. Gore wouldn't even run again. Thirty-five percent say he should, while a full 17 percent are undecided. All this comes on the heels of growing party support for New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, set to join the Senate Democrat leadership team in January. A new CNN poll finds only 36 percent of registered Democrats nationally would back Mr. Gore, while 26 percent favor Mrs. Clinton.
Democrat Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman has conceded his narrow defeat to Republican challenger Bob Riley. That now gives the GOP a 26-24 edge in governorships. President Bush called Mr. Riley, a former three-term congressman, to congratulate him on winning by a margin of 3,117 votes out of 1.3 million cast.