The Situation: Monday, September 12
Editor's Note: The Situation Report is a running log of dispatches, quotes, links and behind-the-scenes notes filed by the correspondents and producers of CNN's Washington Bureau. Watch "The Situation Room" with Wolf Blitzer on CNN 3 p.m. ET to 6 p.m. ET weekdays.
The Morning Grind
President Bush arrives Sunday in New Orleans, where he was met by Vice Adm. Thad Allen.
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Posted: 8:45 a.m. ET
As he begins yet another One of the Most Critical Weeks of his Presidency (On tap: Roberts, Katrina, the UN ...), George W. Bush is hit by new polls that offer up nothing particularly encouraging for himself, or his party. Katrina blame game or not, voters are unhappy with Republicans.
According to a new Newsweek poll, only 38 percent of Americans approve of the way Bush is doing his job overall, a new record-low for this president. (Fifty-five percent of Americans disapprove of his overall job performance).
It gets worse (for Bush). Only 28 percent of Americans say they're "satisfied with the way things are going" in the country, down from 36 percent in August and 46 percent in December, after his '04 reelection. That puts Bush's support two points below where it was immediately after Abu Ghraib. Two-thirds of Americans now say they aren't satisfied with the direction of the country.
"In every category, the view of the president is at all-time lows for the Newsweek poll," writes Newsweek's Marcus Mabry of the poll, conducted Thursday and Friday by Princeton Survey Research Associates International.
Don't just listen to Newsweek. Bush's job approval has dipped below 40 percent for the first time in the AP-Ipsos poll. Nearly four years after his job-approval numbers soared into the 80s, Bush was at 39 percent job approval in an AP-Ipsos poll taken last week. That's the lowest since the the poll was started in December '03.
As the DCCC happily notes this morning, congressional Republicans also fare poorly in the Newsweek survey. Only 38 percent of registered voters say they'd vote for a Republican for Congress if the midterm elections were held today (which, of course, they aren't), while 50 say they would back a Democrat.
* The one bright spot for the Bush agenda right now is John Roberts, who takes center stage today. Eleven years and two months after it voted to send Stephen Breyer's nomination to the Senate floor, the Judiciary Committee convenes hearings at 12 p.m. EDT to decide whether Roberts should become the court's 109th justice and the country's 17th chief justice.
Despite the widespread focus, the day will be long on scripted oratory and (probably) short on theatrics. Each senator will give a 10-minute opening statement in the ornate Russell Caucus Room, including introductions by Roberts's home state senators, Hoosiers Richard Lugar (R) and Evan Bayh (D), John Warner (R-Va.), as well as a 10 to 15 minute statement from the nominee himself.
Every senator on the committee will get a chance to grill Roberts. He'll face an hour of questioning from each one: 30 minutes in a first round, 20 minutes in a second round and possibly a third round if lawmakers want it.
* But back to Bush, who flew to New Orleans yesterday evening (his second visit in a week and his third since Katrina hit) to spend the night aboard the USS Iwo Jima, an an 844-foot amphibious assault ship that's serving as a control center in the relief efforts.
He has a briefing on board at 8:45 a.m. EDT on the latest on relief efforts, before departing the ship around 10 a.m. (time is fluid.) He'll tour New Orleans in a military truck today and then take an aerial tour of area parishes and have a ground-level meeting with local parish presidents before flying to Gulfport, Miss., for more tours. He arrives back to DC around 5 p.m. tonight.
Also in New Orleans today: John Kerry, who'll help deliver two semi-trucks filled with supplies. Kerry plans to leave Boston this morning on a cargo plane donated by UPS to deliver the supplies to distribution centers. Per a spokeswoman, Kerry and wife Teresa have donated $250,000 to relief organizations.
This hopeful sign from Louis Armstrong International Airport: Officials plan to resume commercial flights into and out of New Orleans's main airport tomorrow, a move that will surely boost the psyche of a city that feels cut off from the rest of the world. (The airport formally reopened for cargo traffic yesterday). Officials hope to have 30 daily departures and arrivals of passenger flights, down from 174 before the storm, and 60 each day by the end of October.
And this, less hopeful sign, from an Islamist Web site, which posted a recording from al Qaeda's leader in Iraq saying Katrina was an answer to the prayers of Iraqis and Afghans who have suffered under U.S. occupation. The audio message thought to be from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi came on the fourth anniversary of 9/11.
"I believe the devastating hurricane that hit the United States occurred because people in Iraq or Afghanistan -- maybe a mother who had lost her son or a son whose parents were killed or a woman who was raped -- were praying for God and God accepted their prayers," al-Zarqawi said in the recording.
* Also today, one day after 9/11, Hillary Clinton raises '06 money in New York. Clinton will address 400 supporters at the Sheraton New York in midtown Manhattan. She'll be introduced by Friends of Hillary finance chairman Alan Patricof.
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Posted: 8:35 a.m. ET
WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS TODAY? The committee convenes at noon EDT. Senators give their opening statements of 10 minutes each. Sens. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., and Evan Bayh, D-Ind., as well as Sen. John Warner, R-Va., each spend up to five minutes introducing Roberts. Roberts gives his opening statement. AP via Los Angeles Times: Schedule for Roberts Confirmation Hearings
LOOKING FOR A BULLHORN MOMENT? President Bush arrived in New Orleans Sunday night for his second visit in a week as this stricken city continued its determined struggle to recover from Hurricane Katrina. On Monday, Mr. Bush is to be briefed about the recovery effort onboard the Iwo Jima, an amphibious assault ship in the Mississippi River on the edge of the city's downtown, where ghostly office buildings loom over a crowded, noisy street scene of relief works, soldiers and trucks. The president is then scheduled to tour New Orleans in a military convoy, take an aerial tour and meet with local officials. New York Times: President Visits as New Orleans Sees Some Gains
BUSH APPROVAL AT RECORD LOW: In Katrina's wake, the president's popularity and job-approval ratings have dropped across the board. Only 38 percent of Americans approve of the way Bush is doing his job overall, a record-low for this president in the NEWSWEEK poll. (Fifty-five percent of Americans disapprove of his overall job performance.) And only 28 percent of Americans say they are "satisfied with the way things are going" in the country, down from 36 percent in August and 46 percent in December, after the president's re-election. NEWSWEEK: Eye of the Political Storm
A BLUER TEXAS? Population shifts caused by the exodus of hurricane victims from the Gulf Coast could have ripple effects for years to come in Louisiana political races and perhaps beyond. How big depends on how many people stay away, which ones stay away and where they end up putting down roots. The early thinking is that the evacuees least likely to return to their homes in Louisiana may be the poorest -- and thus, Democrats for the most part. That would hurt the party in a state where Republicans already were making inroads. AP via CNN.com: Katrina might affect Louisiana politics
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