The battle strategies

President Bush and the GOP congressional leaders are pressing the “Democratic Inaction” buttons (that’s the headline Wednesday from GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump signs executive orders after coronavirus relief talks falter Coronavirus deal key to Republicans protecting Senate majority Coronavirus talks collapse as negotiators fail to reach deal MORE, R-Ky.) because of stalled legislative measures.

Not to be outflanked, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her team have been mapping counteroffensives to battle the White House over Iraq war funding and other issues.

The Pelosi point is message discipline and repetition, boiled down to this: The negative “no more blanks checks for Bush when it comes to Iraq” and the positive “the House passed $50 billion for troops.”


Here’s how the Pelosi strategy is rolling out.

• Each day starts with a coordinated Democratic leadership communications effort that launches with a conference call. The focus is on rapid-response offensive (in contrast to defensive) communications to mainstream outlets, online media, influential bloggers and opinion-makers/pundits who are called on by bookers to be TV guests on political shows.

•The drive started the week before Thanksgiving with a press conference by House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) and Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), followed by retired Gen. Ricardo Sanchez recording the Democratic radio address, earning press coverage through the weekend.

• A bump along the way — leading anti-war critic Murtha, who chairs the Appropriations Defense Subcommittee and had been against the surge — travels to Iraq, comments and then has to clarify his remarks that the “surge is working.”

• Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) send around a memo to editorial boards, newsmakers and “talkers.”

• Leaders and other key members continue to be booked on CNN, MSNBC and other outlets.


• The plan is this: Whenever Bush speaks, have something out before he hits the podium. When Bush has a press conference on Tuesday, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) rebuts the president 45 minutes after Bush finishes. Emanuel had been signed up for rebuttal duty earlier Tuesday morning.

Dean, Duncan star at winter Gridiron show

The Gridiron Club’s winter dinner featured the chairmen of the Democratic and Republican national committees, Howard Dean and Mike Duncan.

Dean let off a few good zingers.

• “Despite what you may think, I harbor no ill will toward the media. After all, it was exactly four years ago that you made me the next president of the United States.

• “Heck, the media and I are a marriage made in heaven — like Rudy Giuliani and Pat Robertson. Sure, we may not always see eye to eye … like Mitt Romney and himself.

• “But we belong together, like Fred Thompson and a two-day workweek.”

• Dean also threw what he called “an impromptu press conference” — FEMA-style. Democratic National Committee communications chief Karen Finney and press secretary Stacie Paxton, playing the role of reporters, tossed out softballs for the chairman to swat.

• Quipped Dean, “I gotta tell you: I’m not in the business of giving the Bush administration any credit … but boy, do I wish I had thought of that.”

Sweet is the Washington bureau chief for the Chicago Sun-Times. E-mail: