01/10/2007 10:13 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Reading The Pictures: Bush, Kennedy And Getting Schooled


With Bush's umpteenth Iraqi war plan set for delivery today, was yesterday's cruise missile attack in Somalia supposed to change the subject, or score points elsewhere while the President was on the hot seat? Perhaps Bush/Rove thought they could draw blood by hitting al Qaeda in order to build a little momentum?

With the Administration barely making the grade, however, the most deft political move yesterday could not be credited to Bush/Rove, but to the Dems, and that old (anti-)warhorse, Ted Kennedy. The Administration was so taken off guard, in fact, Kennedy (arrow above) spent the entire Tuesday as a featured guest on the White House photo gallery.

Otherwise, Kennedy had his own plans for the day.

Sharp operators that they are, the Administration had no idea Monday's little sit-down with Kennedy, Bush, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, and a couple other warm Congressional bodies (in commemoration of the fifth anniversary of that boondoggle, known as "No Child Left Behind") would turn around on them. At the same time the White House -- in a cynical gesture of bipartisanship -- was profiling this picture, Kennedy was actually standing up in front of The National Press Club.

Of course, the stated agenda was health, education and all those wonderful concerns a truly bipartisan effort over the past six years might have actually done something about. For a segue, however, Kennedy began this way:

I had hoped to speak today about health care and my agenda as Chairman of the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. I will speak to those concerns on another day soon, but an issue of grave importance requires our immediate action.

What followed was Kennedy's promise to introduce legislation requiring congressional approval before force levels in Iraq could be increased.

Say what you will about Kennedy, the Democratic strategy, or the political clash to come, for years now the White House has held almost complete sway over the timing, tempo and construction of major political events. But as this simple episode shows, like throwing away lunch money, they have burned through their capital and that picture is no longer theirs to control.

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(image 1: Paul Morse/White House. Monday, Jan. 8, 2007.