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« Bloggers Will Join Bush For Signing Ceremony | Main | What A Memorial Should Be »
September 26, 2006

The Whole Thing

Chris Wallace was on the airplane last night, with his producer, still made-up from a blitz of interviews in New York regarding his Clinton thing. TV make-up is kind of noticable in real life. He looked good, but the make-up was kind of arresting.

I tried to get an interview, and at first he said yes, but as I came back with pen and paper his producer had objected that these things are supposed to go through their media coordinator, or some other nonsense. They gave me the media coordinator's number and supposedly Chris Wallace will make time for me. So, who knows, might get to ask him three or four questions. He was dead tired, but graceful enough as he negotiated my interview time from twenty minutes to "five to ten minutes" to, ultimately, zero minutes.

I'm not a good negotiator.

This morning was a living hell, as I'm just not used to getting up at 6:45. I was invited by Keith Hennessey, Deputy Assistant to the President, National Economic Policy, to breakfast in the White House mess an hour or so before the signing. Usually I'd blow off an early breakfast, but hey, this was in the White House mess, so I went. NZ Bear and Mary Katharine Ham were there too. I spent the first twenty minutes staring into space slack-jawed, about to pass out from exhaustion, but managed to rouse myself, somewhat, with the kickass suggestion that Barney the Dog start blogging. I figure the kids will love that, plus Barney can question the patriotism of John Murtha. And who can gainsay him? He's Barney. He is beloved.

(No, I really didn't suggest that last part.)

Also pitched my FBI-should-run-wanted-poster-ads on blogs idea again. One of these days someone's going to take that seriously.

Mr. Hennessey was a nice guy and wanted to talk about blogs and how they might be used to communicate with the public. He'd done his homework; I'm pretty sure he had no earthly idea who I was but he had checked the site to be able to mention the stuff I was talking about lately. My only suggestion was: Leak to blogs. We'll do more with a minor leak or small nugget of information than any reporter will. We have so little inside information, we'll push what little we have. Well past its newsworthiness, of course, but at least we'll push it.

NZ Bear and Mary Katharine were of course both lovely and charming. I'd tell you what they said, but I was so exhausted I was having trouble following conversations.

We were then all escorted to an escort who escorted us to another escort who then escorted us to a room in the Old Executive Office Building. About 40 people were there, a couple of whom I knew from emals (like Sean Davis, a staffer for Tom Coburn and of course very big on the earmark reform bill) or from previous blog-things (like Instapundit) and other people I've never met or even e-met (like Mark Tapscott). If there were a lot of bloggers there, I don't know. There never was really much of a meet and greet, and I was too tired to introduce myself to folks. More socially adept people will probably be able to say who was there.

Bush then walked in from behind me. He walks fast, and blew right by me. I only saw him from behind but could tell from his build and manner of holding himself -- his "swagger" -- it was Bush. Also, it tipped me off that he was walking directly towards the Presidential podium.

I got a good charge out of seeing Bush in person. He mostly riffed on his remarks, I think, picking up a point here and there and then making it up as he went along. He talked a lot about bipartisanship and empowering folks to see how their money's being spent, to make the executive and legislature do their jobs better.

What he didn't mention was bloggers. Which I thought was odd. Not so much because we'd played a role in this, but because the White House had specifically invited bloggers to the signing, and then Bush didn't mention them at all. I wasn't outraged! or anything, I just thought it was strange to flatter a group in one way (an invite) and not flatter them in a less troublesome way (a brief mention during extemporaneous remarks). I'd guess maybe there was a bullet-point in his prepared remarks about bloggers, but he just hopped over it at he riffed.

The statement was fairly brief, then he signed the bill into law. So, I saw a bill become a law. I had been told previously to look out for Senators elbowing each other as Bush and they moved to the signing desk (a tiny little desk moved into the room just before Bush came in; really just a side-table), because they all wanted to be in the picture of the President signing the bill. There was a bit of jostling, but no really good elbows, nothing you'd call a flagrant foul.

The cool thing is that I was sitting on the edge where Bush had entered from, and hence to where he would exit. As he left, he walked right past me -- quickly, again. The guy moves fast. But this was my opportunity, so I stuck and my hand and shook his. I don't even think I said anything. I just shook his hand. I don't think he said anything, except maybe a "How are ya?" And then, swoosh, out the door.

I nabbed the only handshake there. Bonus.

The text of his remarks follows (the White House people work fast). We were told that the ceremony would begin at 9.45, and that he was prompt, so we could expect it to begin right at around that time. He actually walked in at 9.46 and started at 9.47.

Update: Allah's got pictures. Blurry pictures.

If you care, Instapundit cannot be seen, but he would be in the foreground of the shots, a couple rows back from the front. Mary Katharine is on the other side of the room, one or two rows back, sort of the edge of the far wing. I'm actually in the second row, furthest seat away from the camera, in prime position to seize a presidential mitt.

I'm pretty sure I'm visible in both very blurry screencaps. See in far background the big mop of brown hair? That's me underneath it.

Mary Katharine's wearing a red dress, so her parents would be sure to see her, but she's blocked in these pics. If other pics show a red dress, there's Mary Katherine.

9:47 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Please be seated -- except for you all. (Laughter.) Welcome. Every April, Americans sit down and fill out their tax returns, and they find out how much of their hard-earned money is coming here to Washington. Once the tax dollars arrive here, most Americans have little idea of where the money goes. And today, our government is taking steps to change that. We believe that the more we inform our American citizens, the better our government will be.

And so in a few moments, I'll sign the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006. This bill is going to create a website that will list the federal government's grants and contracts. It's going to be a website that the average citizen can access and use. It will allow Americans to log onto the Internet just to see how your money is being spent. This bill will increase accountability and reduce incentives for wasteful spending. I am proud to sign it into law and I am proud to be with members of both political parties who worked hard to get this bill to my desk.

This has been a good effort by concerned members of the House and the Senate to say to the American people, we want to earn your trust; when we spend your money, we want you to be able to watch us.

I want to thank Rob Portman, who is in my Cabinet, he's the Director of the OMB, and my good friend, Clay Johnson, is the Deputy Director, for insisting on accountability when it comes to taxpayers' money. I know this has been a particular project -- a fond project of Clay, and I'm glad that members of Congress got it here.

I want to thank Susan Collins, who is the Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. I want to thank the bill sponsors, Tom Coburn from Oklahoma, Tom Carper from Delaware, and Barack Obama from Illinois.

I appreciate Roy Blunt, who is the Majority Whip. He's a sponsor of the House companion bill. I also want to thank Tom Davis, who is the Chairman of the Government Reform Committee, as well as cosponsors of the bill, Jeb Hensarling and Randy Kuhl.

You know, we spend a lot of time and a lot of effort collecting your money, and we should show the same amount of effort in reporting how we spend it. Every year, the federal government issues more than $400 billion in grants, and more than $300 billion in contracts to corporations, associations, and state and local governments. Taxpayers have a right to know where that money is going, and you have a right to know whether or not you're getting value for your money.

Under Clay's leadership, we launched a new system for measuring how federal programs are doing. In other words, federal programs say, we want to achieve this result, we're trying to figure out whether or not they're meeting the results. In other words, it makes sense for all of us in Washington, D.C. to say, we're a results-oriented government. I know Henry Waxman believes that. (Laughter.) Thank you for coming. Proud you're here, sir. I was just praising the bipartisan support that this bill has received, and you’re confirmation of that bipartisan support. (Laughter.) Thank you, appreciate you coming.

And so we've got -- we're measuring, and we put a -- we put a website out called In other words, people can go on to that website and determine whether or not the results are being met for programs.

And now Congress has come forth with an additional sense of accountability here in Washington, additional way for taxpayers to figure out whether or not we're being wise with your money. And the Federal Funding Accountability Act -- Accountability and Transparency Act will create a new website that will list government grants and contracts greater than $25,000. We'll list all grants except for those above $25,000, except for those that must remain classified for national security reasons.

The website will allow our citizens to go online, type in the name of any company, association, or state or locality and find out exactly what grants and contracts they've been awarded. It will allow citizens to call up the name and location of entities receiving federal funds, and will provide them with the purpose of the funding, the amount of money provided, the agency providing the funding and other relevant information.

By allowing Americans to Google their tax dollars, this new law will help taxpayers demand greater fiscal discipline. In other words, we're arming our fellow citizens with the information that will enable them to demand we do a better job -- a better job in the executive branch and better job in the legislative branch.

Information on earmarks will no longer be hidden deep in the pages of a federal budget bill, but just a few clicks away. This legislation will give the American people a new tool to hold their government accountable for spending decisions. When those decisions are made in broad daylight, they will be wiser and they will be more restrained. This is a good piece of legislation, and I congratulate the members here.

Recently the House made an important rule change that will also improve transparency in the legislative process. Under the rule change, the sponsor of each project will now be disclosed before the bills come to a vote. This is a wise change. It will shine the light on earmarks. It's going to help the American taxpayers know whether or not they're getting their money's worth here in Washington.

Rule change, along with the bill I'll sign today, are important steps, but there's more to be done. The President needs a line-item veto. Here's the problem: I get a big bill, an important bill to my desk, and in that bill there may be some bad spending items, some kind of last minute cram-ins, or items that may not have seen the full light of day during the legislative process. I then either have to accept those, or veto a good bill. And there's a better way forward, at least the House thought there was a better way forward in the legislative process, and that's the line-item veto.

Under the proposal, the President can approve spending that is necessary, red-line spending that is not, and send the wasteful and unnecessary spending back to the Congress for an up or down vote. I think this is an important part of making sure we have accountability here in Washington, D.C.

I want to thank the House for passing the bill. I would hope the Senate would take it up. We can work together to inspire confidence in the appropriations process here in Washington. And it's in the interest of both political parties to do so, and it's in the interest of both branches of government to do so.

Right now, however, I have the honor of signing this new bill. It’s a bill that empowers the American taxpayer, the American citizen. And we believe that the more transparency there is in the system, the better the system functions on behalf of the American people.

Again, I thank the members. It’s my honor now to sign the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006. (Applause.)

(The bill is signed.)

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.)


[The President of the United States of America shakes Ace of Spades' hand.]

9:55 A.M. EDT

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posted by Ace at 11:40 AM

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