MIDEAST MUDDLE: President Bush faces an uphill struggle--and some substantial risks--in the push by Secretary of State James A. Baker III for a new Middle East peace settlement.
Despite Israel's agreement to embrace much of the American plan, White House officials concede that the proposal is fraught with uncertainties, including the possibility of a U.S. confrontation with Israel over Jerusalem's continued insistence on encouraging Israeli settlements in the West Bank. As a result, Bush has been keeping his distance from the Baker proposal, stopping well short of telephoning other world leaders to win support for the plan or of publicly exulting over the "progress" that Baker has made. "You've got this kind of commitment in general but there aren't any specifics attached--who'd be there, how it would be managed," a White House official says.
Strategists say the likelihood is that the White House will continue to let Baker do the spadework, at least until the progress becomes more visible. Indeed, the secretary has plans to begin another round of shuttle diplomacy in the region later this month--and may also continue his capital-hopping.
POSTWAR FIZZLE: Congressional frustration over Baghdad's continuing attacks against the Kurds threatens to undermine the heightened influence Bush expected to have in Congress after the stunning U.S. victory over Iraq.
Both Republicans and Democrats have lambasted the Administration for failing to take sterner measures to protect the Kurds. Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.), a staunch Bush supporter, says that Bush made a mistake in allowing Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to use helicopters against dissidents in Kurdish provinces and in Basra.
Still uncertain is how much the souring situation in Iraq will embolden House Democrats, who earlier had been forced to hold their fire after the U.S. rout of Iraqi forces.
GET GREENSPAN? Alan Greenspan's chief critics within the Bush Administration are launching a last-ditch attempt to derail his reappointment as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board.
Last week's reports of a growing revolt within the Fed's policy-making Open Market Committee--apparently exaggerated--were partly the result of efforts by some senior Administration officials to discredit Greenspan in the eyes of the President, insiders say. Anti-Greenspan forces also are trying to persuade foreign finance ministers to criticize Greenspan publicly at next week's meeting of economic policy-makers of the Group of Seven major industrial countries.
Treasury Secretary Nicholas F. Brady, White House Chief of Staff John H. Sununu and White House Counsel C. Boyden Gray have been quietly trying to block Greenspan's reappointment for months. Brady and the Fed chairman have been battling for months over how restrictive the central bank should be in managing the economy. Although Bush has seemed frustrated with Greenspan in the past, he indicated in his State of the Union address last January that he would renew the appointment when it expires in August.
FAIR TRADE? House Majority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.) retaliated against the Japanese in a recent dispute over his criticisms of Japanese trade policies by faxing reporters a copy of Tokyo's response--in the original Japanese.