Nothing motivates like a 36 percent approval rating in the polls. That appears to explain the president's expansive mood of late. You saw it in the press briefing today at the White House. Billed as a statement about the economy (it surged forward in the first quarter), it became a 35-minute press conference. The president was so eager to take questions (on everything from gas prices to Iran to voting rights) he called on one reporter twice! Not me. No, I received special treatment from the ebullient leader: when pressed on what his staff turnover said about what HE thinks he needs to do to turn his presidency around, he joked "I'm not going to hire you, if that's what you were suggesting." I was not. But he continued, "You can't pass the background check."
But seriously folks... today represented a new turn for the president, I think. New Chief of Staff Josh Bolten has ushered in an urgent charm offensive. The idea is to engage the press corps more often and more assertively. But it's not all style. Stay tuned for more turnover in the next couple of weeks and new policy direction, too. The president's proposals on lowering gas prices this week marked a new embrace of government intervention and environmental activism by this administration. Bush hasn't exactly gone green, but it's something.
This White House team may become more organized and assertive, but the president is still looking for the one thing that eludes him: a break.