Wherever It Leads



Billings (Aug. 15, 2005) -- With Washington a virtual ghost town, the staff of The Note late Friday afternoon loaded up one of the reconfigured ABC News 2004 campaign buses (Googling monkey cages tied to the roof) and headed here to the heartland.

For the rest of August, we'll be on the road, looking for both the obvious and the off-the-beaten-path political stories that we all know are out here, if one is just willing to get off of one's air-conditioned butt and actually report the news.

So, after a long weekend of driving (A&W, we are not worthy. . .), we are set up in Room 211 of the Holiday Inn Grand Montana (LINK) in the beautiful Billings Metroplex to cover a homecoming of sorts for influential Vice President Dick Cheney as he raises money for incumbent Senator Conrad Burns.

The hotel is an excellent choice, as the too-modest Interweb write-up only hints: "Enjoy the finest accommodations that Billings has to offer, for business and leisure travelers alike. As the largest hotel in a four-state area, we are proud to provide modern amenities and deluxe facilities so you can enjoy many of the same comforts and conveniences of your home or office. From the warm, inviting guest rooms and the boundless meeting space, to our caring and friendly staff, the Holiday Inn Grand Montana truly captures the 'Big Sky' spirit of Montana."

(We can vouch for 80% of that.)

Cheney is expected to participate in three events here today: a reception, a roundtable discussion, and a luncheon, which is at 2:30 pm ET. The AP reports that the luncheon costs $125, and the reception, with a photo opportunity, runs $1,000.

For our part, lunch is expected to cost less (We are mostly eating from the vending machines -- which don't give receipts. . .), and we already had our photo op -- for free!! -- with Pam, who works on the front desk here.

Of course, our coming to shadow the Veep's day is part of the general conundrum facing the GOP all August.

There is nothing scarier to the Grand Unified Republican message team than when both the President and Congress are largely out of sight for an entire month.

Something has to fill that vacuum and they obviously prefer that the "something" to be in their control.

Some possibilities for vacuum filling, besides the Vice President:

- Jack Abramoff's Tuesday court appearance.

- Fitzgerald grand jury developments.

- More not-so-flattering Jeanine Pirro stories.

- The detailed Democratic Party agenda that Howard Dean outlined on "Face" yesterday (kidding about that one).

- A surprising Roberts document from the Reagan Library dump that causes Tony Perkins and James Dobson to be even more circumspect.

- Early reports about the finger-pointing in Trent Lott's book, including at Joe Allbaugh.

- Stuff on the ground in Gaza, Iraq, and/or Crawford.

After his work in Montana, Mr. Cheney heads off to Boise, ID to help another incumbent Republican Senator up for reelection next year, headlining an 8:30 pm ET reception for Sen. Craig (R-ID).

(Note to the Veep: please, please, please tell at least one new joke today.)

At 11:00 am ET, 5,383 pages from the records of the Staff Member Office Files of John G. Roberts Files, 1982-1986, will be opened simultaneously at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, CA and the National Archives in Washington, DC.

As of this writing, President Bush has no public schedule for the week and Congress remains in recess.

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