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Bush takes issue with 'biggest political story'

President Bush:
President Bush: "I don't get to decide the biggest political story."

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Is President Bush a tad jealous of all the attention fellow Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger is getting from the national media?

Speaking to reporters at his Crawford, Texas ranch, Bush seemed miffed this week when one asked him about the recall election in California. The reporter prefaced the question by describing it as the "biggest political story in the country."

That phrase caught the president's attention and he just couldn't let it go.

Bush: "It is the biggest political story in the country? That's interesting. That says a lot. That speaks volumes."

Reporter: "Means you don't agree?"

Bush: "I don't get to decide the biggest political story. You decide the biggest political story. But I find it interesting that that is the biggest political story in the country, as you just said."

Pressed on the matter, Bush said, "Oh, I think there's maybe other political stories. Isn't there, like, a presidential race coming up?"

There sure is -- November 2004. California voters will decide whether to recall Democratic Gov. Gray Davis on October 7 of this year.

Schwarzenegger, by the way, had campaigned for the first President Bush.

Repeating a line he said last week, Bush said the movie star would make a "good governor," but this time he added "as would others running for governor of California."

On the sidelines?

Speaking of the recall, White House aides are refuting accusations by some Democrats that the administration is involved in the GOP-backed effort to boot Davis from office.

"I haven't asked anyone to get engaged and I'm not aware of anyone who has been engaged," White House Chief of Staff Andy Card told reporters on Wednesday. "I'm not aware of any advice we've given in regard to California."

Card, who spoke to reporters after a meeting of top administration economic advisers gathered at Bush's ranch, also had words for Davis when asked if the embattled governor is "running against the economy."

"I think Gray Davis is running against a lot of things. Like a tidal wave," Card said.

Unflattering colors

Lawmakers may be on their August recess, but Congress still managed to weigh in on the nation's color-coded terrorism warning system with a critical new report.

The report, prepared by the Congressional Research Service, says the system is too vague, provides local governments and law enforcement agencies with little practical guidance, and is expensive.

The summary echoes what many mayors and local police chiefs have been saying for months -- that the five-tiered warning system doesn't really help them prepare for a possible terrorist attacks and is costing them a lot of money.

The system, operated by the Department of Homeland Security, went into effect in March 2002 in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that killed approximately 3,000 people.

The report calls for better federal guidance to localities about protective measures that should be taken when the warning system is raised and also cites the need for better communication with law enforcement nationwide.

--CNN White House Producer Christy Brennan, CNN.Com Producer Sean Loughlin and CNN Homeland Security Correspondent Jeanne Meserve contributed to this report.


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