Bush Works To Get Right With the Right

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After what might have been the worst week of his Presidency, in which a key adviser was indicted, his Supreme Court nominee withdrew under fire from conservatives and the 2,000th U.S. soldier died in Iraq, George W. Bush is looking to move forward on a number of key issues. The President got an early start on righting things with Republicans by announcing this morning that federal appeals court judge Samuel Alito is the new nominee to replace Sandra Day O’Connor.

Next, Bush will try to address growing worry over bird flu reaching the U.S, by announcing on Tuesday his strategy to combat a possible pandemic. And on Thursday, he will depart for a five-day trip to South America, where he will visit Argentina, Brazil and Panama.

The focus on these issues is designed to boost Bush's low poll numbers by putting him in the role of commander-in-chief, rather than leader of a now-struggling GOP. But as Bush tries to regain his stride, he's expected to start by reaching out to his Republican supporters. Alito looks to be a good beginning; the choice of the Yale Law School grad, who spent a decade working in the Justice Department for both Reagan and the first President Bush, has conservatives excited. In another move to rebuild support among his base, Bush seems now more eager to attack the growth in federal spending. He gave a speech last week calling for spending cuts to help balance the budget and pay for Hurricane Katrina; Congress is expected to debate the issue over the next two weeks. And White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove will talk this week about the growing number of illegal immigrants entering the country with congressional Republicans who have been demanding action on the issue for months.

But even as the White House tries to recover, the problems from last week won't go away quickly. Though Rove has not been indicted, Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald is continuing the investigation, and the situation will once again be under the spotlight on Thursday, when Lewis Libby is arraigned. Because of the roles Rove and Libby played in the CIA leak case, and the White House's sluggish performance in the last weeks, some Republicans are saying Bush needs to get new advisers. Kenneth Duberstein, who served as Reagan's chief of staff, said on NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday that Bush needed to "bring in two or three people who can talk with him and talk reality. I think it is central." In Iraq, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican, said on CBS's Face the Nation that the administration should create deadlines by which the Iraqi government must train its own troops, so Americans can eventually come home. And even with a strong pick for the Court this week, Bush is likely to have trouble regaining the enthusiasm he had from conservatives before Miers. As David Keane, head of the American Conservative Union wrote earlier this month, "from now on, this administration will find it difficult to muster support on the right without explaining why it should be forthcoming."