Bush Balks At First Pitch

Bush baseball

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When the Washington Nationals play their home opener this afternoon at RFK Stadium, the president won't be there to toss out the ceremonial first pitch.

For the second straight year, reports the Washington Post, President Bush has turned down an invitation to participate in a Washington baseball tradition started by President William Howard Taft in 1910.

Mr. Bush was there in 2005, to help celebrate the return of the nation's pastime to the nation's capital after a 33-year absence, but last year he left the first-pitch duties to Vice President Cheney. This year, neither man will be there.

The Post says that except for during World Wars I and II, only two other presidents have missed two opening days in a row – Woodrow Wilson and Richard Nixon.

So why can't Mr. Bush, an ardent baseball fan and former part owner of the Texas Rangers, make it out to the ballpark this year? A White House spokeswoman says Mr. Bush will be in Washington today, but "it's not possible with his schedule. … It just wasn't going to work out."

With the president's approval ratings stuck below 40 percent, was Mr. Bush concerned that he might get booed? "No," the spokeswoman said. "Certainly not."

Monday Morning Political Quarterbacking

The presidential money race is off and running – and as expected, Sen. Hillary Clinton has a big, early lead.

The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal all feature page-one items Monday morning on Clinton's record-breaking showing in crucial first quarter fundraising. Her $26 million total is nearly three times as much as any candidate has previously raised at this point in a campaign, and almost as much as the entire Democratic field raised in the same period four years ago.

Sen. John Edwards, also broke the old first-quarter record, with his $14 million in donations. Another top Democratic contender, Sen. Barack Obama, has not yet announced his fundraising progress, and neither have any of the Republican candidates.

Meanwhile, one of those Republicans, Sen. John McCain, took a "heavily guarded" trip to a Baghdad market over the weekend, where he asserted again that progress was being made in Iraq, the Wall Street Journal reports. McCain, who has staked his White House hopes on the success of President Bush's troop buildup, caused a stir last week with his claims that it was safe for an American to walk the streets of the Iraqi capital.

The Journal also reports on the announcement that yet another candidate is tossing his hat in the ring – a Republican named Thompson. No, it's not Law and Order's Fred Thompson, it's Tommy Thompson, the former Wisconsin governor and Bush health secretary. And his announcement comes with a novel plan or Iraq: Thompson says he would call for a vote by the Iraqi government on whether the U.S. should stay or go.

Democrats Look To Widen War With Bush

The Democrats may have their hands full with the escalating battle with the White House over Iraq, but the Washington Post reports they're ready to challenge President Bush on a slew of issues when they return from spring recess.

The Post says emboldened congressional Democrats, smelling political blood in the water, are looking to take on the president on such potentially risky efforts as the closing of the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; the reinstatement of legal rights for suspected terrorists; and limiting the scope of the Patriot Act.

"Backed by a unified party and fresh from a slew of legislative victories, Democratic leaders appear to believe there is hardly any territory they cannot stray onto," the Post says.

That strategy has some Democrats worried the party may be overreaching – and some Republicans "gleeful" that the plan could backfire on the Democrats.

"I suppose there's always a risk of going too far," House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said, "but the risk of not going is far greater."

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