In this White House Pool report, Karen Hughes re-assures the nation:
Walking under the wing for Marine One's landing Karen was jokingly asked about Mr. Kerry's skin color this week, and what the president's would look like. "Natural, he's going to be natural," she said.Also, Crawford locals react to paper's endorsement of Kerry: Cancel subscriptions, but enjoy seeing children in its pages. Obligatory menu run-down included as well.
Full report after the jump.
Sent: Wednesday, September 29, 2004 2:40 PM
Subject: POOL REPORT #1, 9/29/04
Pool Report #1
TSTC to McDill AFB
Before the president arrived, Karen Hughes boarded Air Force One to spin us about Kerry's GMA interview (more on that later) and inform us that a Crawford woman outraged over the Iconoclast editorial had come to the airport with a sign of support for the native son. The airport wouldn't allow her to show her sign (something about private property) but Karen kindly brought her to meet us on the tarmac.
The woman, Shirley Westerfield, said she and her husband -- who danced with POTUS and FLOTUS and the inaugural ball they hosted in Crawford-- had yanked their advertising and subscription from the Iconoclast upon seeing the editorial, and that lots of their fellow business owners were doing the same. The Westerfields, he Crawford born, she a resident since 1989, own Western McLennan Air Conditioning and Heat, and run a regular business-card size ad in the Iconoclast, plus larger ads on special occasions like this week's festival.
"I think it's sad that the paper came to Crawford just as President Bush, Governor Bush was becoming our president," said Ms. Westerfield, 48. "I understand free enterprise and all that. But he realizes that all of the advertisers, most of the advertisers in the paper, support Bush."
Ms. Westerfield, who is active in the local Republican Party and sometimes drives for the WH in Crawford (she drove staff to airport today) said her husband had written "little notes" of complaint to the paper before about its left-leaning editorials. As soon as she picked up the early edition of Tuesday's Iconoclast, she said her husband "just called and he cancelled our ad, cancelled our subscription. I know that the other businesses in town, most of them have done the same." She did not know how much the ads cost.
Advertisers were particularly offended, Ms. Westerfield said, because they had paid extra this week for a special ad for the festival and "a lot of the advertisers would not have done so had they realized that the paper was going to be supporting Kerry, or not even necessarily supporting Kerry, making it look like Crawford doesn't support Bush."
With lapel pins of a little elephant and the presidential seal, Ms. Westerfield proudly told us how when POTUS first came to Crawford, "my husband and I really roused the town, throwing an election night party" and then the ball. They are already planning a party for Nov. 2 and "we hope we're having another inaugural ball," she said.
But she does not want to put the Iconoclast out of business. "They do an excellent job of covering the schools, if you have children in school it is just the most wonderful thing that you can see your child in the paper if they have any kind of success," she explained. "I don't want to see the paper gounder, no."
Now, back to Karen. Appearing in the press cabin she was asked if she was ready for the debate, she said, "If the president's ready." Of Kerry, she said, "Let's see what position he takes," and then rushed to respond to the GMA interview, which she said she had not seen but had read via transcript. "He changed again!" she exclaimed. "He now says, six weeks after saying I would have voted the same way, he now says no, he wouldn't." She continued: "He was asked whether it was worth it, he said it depends on what the outcome is. I guess that means if we win it was worth it, if we don't it wasn't. That's leadership, isn't it?
Walking under the wing for Marine One's landing Karen was jokingly asked about Mr. Kerry's skin color this week, and what the president's would look like. "Natural, he's going to be natural," she said.
On the tarmac, she continued: "We've spent the weekend trying to keep up with Senator Kerry's rapidly shifting positions, which has been a challenge. Now he's decided, no, he would not go into Iraq knowing everything he knows today. I think its important for the next commander in chief, the next President of the United States, should know that Americas freedom and security are worth winning the war on terror, to say things unequivocally."
Asked if that would be Mr. Bush's line of attack Thursday night, she said: "What we have is two very different views on the war on terror, and the president will argue his is the view that can successfully win and wage the war on terror." As for what POTUS needs to achieve in the debate: "I think he needs to communicate with the American people about his policies about what the next four years of the Bush presidency would look like."
And on the polls showing the majority of people expect Bush to win the debate: "The expectations game is always a part of the debate process. I think most Americans know that the president occasionally mangles the English language, mispronounces a few words here and there, and has not spent a lifetime practicing debating, which is what Senator Kerry has done, he's spent his entire life preparing for this moment, starting in prep school and during 20 years in the Senate. I think most Americans know that, but I think they also have the sense that at the end of the debate they will know where George Bush stands and that may not be the case with Senator Kerry."
As for POTUS, he was wearing a dark suit, and did the customary waves and salutes coming off the helicopter before climbing the stairs of Air Force One at 11:19 a.m. We were wheels up by 11:25. Condoleezza Rice and Joe Hagin were among those spotted boarding with him.
There was much confusion about the schedule. Minis were handed out and then recollected, because they were as empty as the ones distributed last night. The credentials defined the trip as "Polk County, Fla. & Melbourne, Fla., Miami, Fla.," making some of us wonder whether we were in fact making two stops. Eventually, Scott and Josh clarified that no, it's one stop only; Lindlaw made a formal complaint about the lack of skeds.
In a brief gaggle before landing., McLellan told us that we would take helicopters to the orange groves of Marty and Pat McKenna, in Lake Wales. They have lost about half their crop, having been hit by three of the four hurricanes, Charley, Frances and Jeanne. They are in Polk County, the 8th most populous in the state, and about 55 miles east of Tampa. Scott said to expect POTUS to make remarks to the pool re relief efforts, and to thank first responders. He also said there would be another hurricane tour Thursday morning near Stuart, Fla., in Martin County; will chopper from Miami and return by noon.
Other highlights from McClellan: He was asked repeatedly whether POTUS would folo PM Blair in apologizing, and said POTUS has already addressed the issue of no stockpiles, and that it was the right decision to remove Hussein (in short, no, he would not apologize). He ran through debate talking points very similar to Karen's, and said the president continues with informal preps, conversations, but would not comment on mood (he said Bush mountain biked and fished this am before takeoff). "He's ready, he's looking forward to it." Asked about John Walker Lindh's request for a reduced sentence, he said "there's a process in place." And he brushed off any notion that the $12 billion in aid and frequent tours of hurricane damage have anything at all to do with politics (Mark Silva, formerly of the Orlando Sentinel, notes that today's stop is smack between two key media markets, Tampa and Orlando). You'll get the rest in the transcript.
Lunch on board was breaded chicken patty sandwiches with what appeared to be provolone cheese, and onion rings (tuna salad and olives was the veggie/low carb alternative) and two big brownies.
We landed at 2:20.
Jodi Wilgoren, NYT
Tamara Lipper, Newsweek