Okay, there are something like twenty five hours left in the year and I realized that I've ignored the last six White House Letters. That's a lot of nonsense to ignore. So, in the spirit of finishing what we start or in a quick homage to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, here's a quick and dirty rundown of the last clutch of WH Letters from 2005 in chronological order. (Warning: nearly every link is behind the pay wall because I waited so long to get to this.)
November 7: Far Away From Home, No Rest for a Weary President:
Good times. BushCo was running around Mar del Plata ducking Chavez and looking annoyed that he had to listen to other people talk. To the rescue rode Ms. Bumiller, who wrote off the hemisphere's loathing of Dear Leader to a problem with his presidency's bio-rhythms:
George W. Bush sometimes seems to be in a Murphy's Law period of his presidency, when everything that can go wrong will go wrong.
So after one of his most miserable weeks at the White House, things did not get a lot better on his messy four-day trip to Latin America.
You've had one of those stretches haven't you? Everything just goes wrong. You're going about your business illegally invading a country and starting a civil war, withdrawing the most ridiculously unqualified SCOTUS nominee in modern memory, suffering the indictment of a chief aide involved in a breech of national security, refusing to fire or even to suspend the security clearance of another top aide implicated in the investigation, presiding over a national catatrophe which exposes your economic policy as the Kill-the-Poor plan that we've always known it to be, pushing to make torture an offical part of US policy and then, out of nowhere people start rioting at the mention of your name. What's up with that?
November 14: Back at Work After Battle, Prepping the Next in Line, in which we find out that Harriet Miers may actually be a little bit slow:
As the handful of people in Ms. Miers's West Wing office that Sunday night tell it, the president's beleaguered counsel brought a sardonic sense of humor to the proceedings. When Ed Gillespie, an adviser at the meeting, told Judge Alito that if he was going to wear his glasses for the announcement then he should also wear them to his confirmation hearings, Ms. Miers offered some advice of her own.
''But don't wear eyeliner,'' she told Judge Alito, according to participants, who say the meeting immediately broke into laughter.
There's all kinds of laughter, dear. Thank goodness she has the repression skills to cope:
Her friends suggest that her emotions have been stored up in the attic, to be dealt with later, and that work is its own therapy.
See, this humiliation would have destroyed a lesser White House, but not this one. Not on Dear Leader's watch. This White House has Harriet back to work the next day and coaching her replacement no less! Brave, brave Harriet. She owes Ms. Bumiller a note: "Dear Liz, You are the best WH reporter ever -- deserving of great respect." It's really only polite.
November 28: Keeping a Low Profile, but Sending a Loud Message was a profile of one Steve Schmidt, the man who is responsible for keeping Big Swingin' Dick's approval ratings in the double digits and crafting Alito's press strategy. The 900 words are nothing more than the standard People magazine puff piece we've come to love seeing in this space but one paragraph was interesting:
Mr. Schmidt said he had devoted most of his time since June to two of President Bush's three Supreme Court nominations, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Judge Alito. Mr. Schmidt would have worked on the nomination of Harriet E. Miers but was in Iraq at the time, dispatched by the White House to assess problems in the American government's press operation in Baghdad.
Only days after that, the story of the U.S.-planted stories in the Iraqi press broke. Steve may be having a worse stretch of luck than Dear Leader. But we'll never know.
December 5: Talk of Changes in the White House Turns to Its Chief: Ground softening for the possible staff shake up at the White House. It's very important that we understand that any personnel changes would be perfectly normal and in no way an indication that everything wasn't running super smoothly at the Presidential Palace. Andy Card needs a nap is all, which is why he'll move to a Cabinet position. Those guys get a lot of rest.
December 12: 21st Century Warnings of a Threat Rooted in the 7th: Ms. Bumiller hips us to the administration's new scare tactic:
The word getting the workout from the nation's top guns these days is "caliphate" - the term for the seventh-century Islamic empire that spanned the Middle East, spread to Southwest Asia, North Africa and Spain, then ended with the Mongol sack of Baghdad in 1258. The term can also refer to other caliphates, including the one declared by the Ottoman Turks that ended in 1924.
Specialists on Islam say the word is a mysterious and ominous one for many Americans, and that the administration knows it. "They recognize that there's a lot of resonance when they use the term 'caliphate,' " said Kenneth M. Pollack, a former Central Intelligence Agency analyst and now a scholar at the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution. Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter's national security adviser, said that the word had an "almost instinctive fearful impact."
Instinctive fearful impact? I'm pretty sure that's what's called music to Team BushCo's ears. If only I could believe that this column was written to inform us instead of to prime the fear pump. The link works so you can be the judge.
December 19: Top Hawks in Search of Their Own Peace: The Millionaire Moron Twins have moved into palatial estates on the Chesapeake. The big news - the news that warrants 900 words in the NYT - the news that Ms. Bumiller considers valuable and good information or else she would not have written it - is that despite the intrusive security measures, the locals are loving their new neighbors! There's nothing like having royalty in one's midst. That level of cheery acceptance is no doubt largely due to the acute sense of noblesse oblige evinced by the old man:
Locals say that they see Mr. Rumsfeld at the ice cream parlor and in restaurants, and that he signs autographs, poses for pictures and tries to blend in. "He doesn't mind anyone coming to talk to him," said Lesley Sprinkle, a bartender during the season at the St. Michaels Crab and Steak House, where the defense secretary has dined twice. "In fact, his head of security is one of my regulars."
Lesley Sprinkle should work at the ice cream parlor, don't you think?
The only people whining are some pilots who can't fly over the Dick's house and local Joe Trippi, who wouldn't like Cheney and Ol' Man Rummy if they bought him a double dip of Rocky Road. You just can't please everyone.
And so it's on to 2006 and, I hope, more White House Letters. Until then, I'll leave you with Ms. Bumiller's own understanding of the space:
I try and do stuff that's topical, that's off the news. I realize it's important real estate in the New York Times. It's in the back of the A section but it's still the New York Times and so I feel like I've been given this space. It's there no matter what, I mean, that's a great honor in a way in this business and so it better be good. So I better impart information. It better be stuff that is interesting that I work to get and not just me sort of yammering on about something. I feel it has to have value. A lot of times I kind of wait to see how the week is shaping up. Sometimes I do it if there's a theme for the week. Last week it was obvious it was Time. This week it was Bush getting into the campaign. Sometimes I do it on a person. It's hard to do 800 words, but I do it.
She's the wind beneath my wings.