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It's the Economy

President Bush meets with the heads of the Big Three automakers today, then travels to Russia, Singapore, Vietnam and Indonesia.  Bloomberg previews Bush's meeting with the automakers.  "The auto chieftains and Bush have ruled out a direct bailout or government loan guarantees.  So the executives want steps to help the industry compete against foreign imports...  Bush is expected to exhort automakers to push fuel-efficient new models, said White House spokesman Tony Snow.  He said the president won't offer much more than verbal encouragement for Detroit's restructuring efforts."  The Wall Street Journal says Democrats have their own ideas for how to help the automakers and other manufacturers. 

Congress yesterday "rejected a deal to normalise trade relations with Vietnam in a setback for [Bush] ahead of a visit to Hanoi," per the Financial Times.  "Supporters of the pact on Monday night said they expected the bill to be revived and passed by a simple majority vote as early as Wednesday after failing to secure the two-thirds needed to pass the bill without a debate.  The defeat of the first major piece of legislation brought forward since the election by the Bush administration was seen as a setback for the White House, which made clear the president's desire to arrive at the summit with the deal in hand." 

USA Today notes that the new Democratic majorities raise "the prospect of the most significant globalization debate" in the United States since the 1992 presidential campaign's bitter exchanges over [NAFTA]."  More: ""Several members of the Democratic Congress that takes office in January say the Bush administration's unquestioning celebration of free trade is bleeding the middle class and endangering the American Dream."