The latest from the Political Grapevine:
First Family’s First Card
President Bush has become the first President in U.S. history to send out a Christmas card with a Bible verse. About 2 million friends and supporters received a card that featured a painting of the White House's Red Room and this line from the book of Psalms (search): "Let us come before him with Thanksgiving and extol him with music and song."
Meanwhile, some readers of the Akron Beacon Journal in Ohio are up in arms over a headline in the paper's food section that included the words, "Christmas Cookies." In a letter to the paper, one reader calls the words divisive, insisting the paper should have said "Holiday Cookies" instead.
An annual survey of global freedoms shows that of 192 countries around the world, only one has regressed, categorically, in the past year: Russia (search). The survey, conducted by the 60-year-old, international human rights group Freedom House, now classifies Russia as a "not free" country. Russia had been considered "partly free."
The survey specifically cites further consolidation of state-controlled media, official rules curbing opposition political groups, and flawed presidential elections earlier this year for the negative change. President Bush was asked today to explain why Russia seems to have taken steps away from democracy, but he declined to answer, saying, "[Russian President] Vladimir Putin and I have got a good personal relationship ... I intend to keep it that way."
Origins of the Question
A week and a half after Chattanooga Times Free Press reporter Lee Pitts boasted that he worked with Army Specialist Thomas Wilson (search) to craft that tough question about armor on military vehicles for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in Kuwait, Wilson now insists he came up with the question all by himself.
In an interview with Time magazine, Wilson says that after realizing only soldiers could ask questions, Pitts urged him to think of "intelligent questions." So Wilson came up with the armor question and three others. He says Pitts suggested he find a "less brash way of asking the question." But Wilson refused, insisting, "I wanted to make my point very clear."
The family of California Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters (search) earned more than a million dollars in the past eight years doing business with candidates, companies, and causes Waters has helped, according to The Los Angeles Times.
Specifically, Waters' son earned $115,000 from a political organization working for his mother; the organization also paid nearly $450,000 to Waters' daughter and her consulting firm and Waters' husband was paid nearly $500,000 in consulting fees from politicians she has supported, and from his firm after winning a contract from a local school board whose members Waters has endorsed.
Waters, however, insists she has nothing to do with her family's earnings, saying, "They do their business and I do mine."
— FOX News' Michael Levine contributed to this report