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.

See below for our look at the week ahead and your not-to-be-missed weekend must-reads.


Note Howard Dean did not rule out a Democratic filibuster for Roberts' nomination in the Senate yesterday on "Face," which sort of puts him to the left of Barbara Boxer.

The New York Times' hard-working David Kirkpatrick says "Justice Sunday" focused more on separation of powers issues than Judge Roberts. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Steven Bodzin seems to agree, despite his lede. LINK

There were strong words on the Supreme Court from conservative leaders at "Justice Sunday II", Tom Edsall reports. Not surprisingly, "[t]he event was billed as an attempt to awaken Christians to the importance of appointments to the Supreme Court, but it also served as a televised rally supporting President Bush's nomination of John G. Roberts Jr. LINK

"Speakers compared the civil rights movement of the 1960s to demands now by Christian groups for restoration of traditional morality. 'It's time we move to the front of the bus and that we take command of the wheel,' said William A. Donohue, president of the Catholic League."

"The environmental community looks at Judge John G. Roberts Jr. as something of a chameleon. As a result, it is having a hard time deciding how green he is and whether to join other liberal groups in opposing his nomination to the Supreme Court," writes the Wall Street Journal's Jeanne Cummings.

The Washington Post's Marcia Davis caught up with John Roberts in an elevator, where he told her he's studying "binders and binders" of material in anticipation of his hearings in September. LINK

Ohio Sen. Mike DeWine's role in the filibuster compromise has made him and his Gang of 14 colleagues a target of interest groups in the Supreme Court confirmation battle, USA Today's Kathy Kiely reports, and the Buckeye State is getting a lot of attention as the hearings grow closer. "It's a fight that could make Ohio a test case on which issues decide elections: those that average voters care about or those that inflame activists." LINK

If you are a staff lawyer to a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, this August has provided no recess at all, reports the Chicago Tribune's Jill Zuckman. And be sure to Note the Democratic division of labor in the upcoming hearings. LINK

The politics of Iraq:

ABC News' Bruno Roeber reports Laith Kubba, the Prime Minster's spokesman, on Iraqi TV this morning says that the first draft of the constitution will be submitted to the National Assembly today.

However, he acknowledged that there are still a number of outstanding issues, but didn't provide any details. Where there are still disagreements, the relevant sections will be submitted in two or more versions to be agreed upon at a later date.

He also said the Iraqi National Assembly session today will start as planned at 10:00 am ET and the constitution will be submitted at some point after that.

In his Los Angeles Times column, Ron Brownstein explores the debate over whether or not the United States should publicly rule out the possibility of permanent or long-term plans for military bases in Iraq to possibly help quell the insurgency. LINK

Back at the ranch:

Bush neighbor Larry Mattlage's gunshot and the continued anti-war gathering at Camp Casey get some Los Angeles Times ink. LINK

Chef Cristeta:

The AP's Nedra Pickler includes Comerford's menu for the honorary dinner for the Indian Prime Minister last month in her write up of the glass ceiling coming off the White House kitchen. LINK

Jill Lawrence of USA Today also looks at the tryout menu. LINK

Weekend must-reads:

Sunday's Washington Post had Robin Wright and Ellen Knickmeyer with background quotes galore from American officials downgrading the pre-withdrawal goals for Iraq big time. LINK

Rick Klein's Sunday Boston Globe story looked credulously at Democratic attempts to close the national security gap. LINK

Ron Brownstein and Mark Mazzetti filled the Saturday Los Angeles Times with a look at the rhetorical gap between the White House and the military leadership on withdrawal. LINK

Dan Balz (Sunday Washington Post), Dana Milbank (Saturday Post), and Timeswoman Stolberg (Saturday New York Times) all wrote brilliantly about the implications of the NARAL ad being pulled off the air and the deeper meaning for Democrats. LINK and LINK and LINK

The fabulously talented Jennifer Senior has in her New York magazine cover story one of the best pieces anyone has done on the post-presidential Bill Clinton -- no news, but tons of access, great quotes, fabulous scenes, and Mike McCurry as Mike McCurry. LINK

Mark Z. Barabak in Sunday's Los Angeles Times on Bill Richardson, whose staff will appreciate the largely favorable nature of the piece and the use of euphemisms. LINK

Social Security:

Paul Krugman's opinionated review of the Bush push on Social Security includes the laughable Notion that the punditocracy favored private accounts. LINK

Bush agenda:

The Washington Post ed board asks "Which is the party of big government?" and takes the President to task for signing the $286.4 billion highway bill last week. LINK

The AP reports that President Bush's second-term approval numbers are not nearly as high as his predecessors. LINK

Beware the Medicare prescription drug benefit marketing blitz.

From the Wall Street Journal's Lueck: "At the moment, companies' drug plans and advertising are being reviewed by Medicare. Marketing can begin Oct. 1 and enrollment Nov. 15. But some companies, anxious to snag a big chunk of the potentially lucrative seniors' market, already are offering beneficiaries general information -- in part to boost name recognition and the chance that seniors will be receptive to their product-oriented pitches later."

Roll Call's Chris Cillizza reports on some Republicans feeling momentum for the President's agenda including Social Security reform which Dan Mattoon says we should look out for at the very end of the session.

Judy Keen uses her Crawford duty to size up the race to host the Bush 43 presidential library. LINK

The economy:

Steve Forbes pushes his flat tax rate plan on the opinion page of the Wall Street Journal.

House of Labor:

The Wall Street Journal runs no less than three stories today on the troubles within the union movement and the challenges that are ahead.

Hillary Clinton and Jeanine Pirro:

The New York Post wood trumpets "Pirro Hubby Bombshell: Love Child Peace Bid," in a story about how Al Pirro promised to buy his so-called "love child" (now a mother of two herself) a new car on the day Jeanine Pirro announced for Senate. The quotes from Pirro's ex-mistress (a/k/a the mother of the "love child") are straight out of fiction and not good news for the Pirro campaign. LINK

But it is the sidebar by Fred Dicker that has the real news, quoting Republican "party insiders" as being unhappy with Jeanine Pirro's liberal ways and gaffe-filled announcement tour; quoting Conservative Party chief Mike Long as unhappy with Pirro on both fronts; saying Bill Weld is whispering he's "likely" to run for governor of New York; and quoting (more) GOP "insiders" claiming there is at least one (at least!!) "mystery candidate" for governor who might still get in on the Republican side. LINK

And, as if on cue, the New York Times' David Carr has a must-read Business Day story on the marriage of convenience between the Post (Rupert Murdoch) and Sen. Clinton, in which Carr seems to declare the Senate race over. The Vince Morris and James Carville quotes are better than the Gary Ginsberg and Philippe Reines quotes. LINK

Has anyone else Noticed how active (on a near daily basis) the New York State Democratic Committee has been on going after Pirro? The one thing upon which all four Democratic mayoral candidates can agree is their disappointment in the state party's refusal to aggressively take on Bloomberg each and every day. As Kieran Mahoney can tell you, it doesn't appear Denny Farrell's team will ease up until they have fully turned "Pirro's Pause" into the "Dean Scream."

The New York Post reports that Adam Parkhomenko, who used to work for a "draft-Hillary" movement is now on her PAC payroll. LINK

2008: Republicans:

Bob Novak says Sen./Dr./Leader Frist is more effective than before, but is said to be tin-eared (see: stem cell announcement timing) and out of sorts with Speaker Hastert and, to some extent, with Casa Blanca. LINK

On Saturday, the Des Moines Register's Thomas Beaumont led with Newt Gingrich's endorsement of George W. Bush's just-not-ready-yet Iraq withdrawal stance. Speaking his mind on Iowa time, the former Speaker lamented that U.S. casualties will climb if any troops disappear from the scene and emphasized that the American public could use a recurrent Presidential reminder on why leaving would be trouble. LINK

The Quad City Times picks up on Gingrich's weekend encounter with Gov. Tom Vilsack, during which the two men tackled a stubborn (meat) market issue. LINK

A Power Point presentation on Capitol Hill last week by Newt Gingrich laid out a blueprint for a Republican "21st century governing majority" and also provided a peek at a potential Gingrich presidential run, Mike Allen and Brian Faler report. LINK

The Clintons of Chappaqua:

"The Bill Clinton Collection: Selections from the Clinton Music Room" will be available for purchase in a little over a month in a joint venture between the Clinton Library and the Clinton Museum Store, reports the New York Daily News based on various wire services. LINK

The Schwarzenegger Era:

George Skelton continues to bang the anti-special election drum in his Los Angeles Times column, this time focusing on the cost to the counties. LINK


The New York Times Manny Fernandez writes of a Virginia Fields seeking to regain momentum in the mayor's race, but it isn't entirely clear what evidence he uses to conclude that she ever had it in the first place. LINK

Daily mayoral coverage and notebooks in the Times, and Post. LINK and LINK and LINK

Michael Saul's New York Daily News campaign column has Jeanine Pirro's spokesman talking up her unsurprising support for Michael Bloomberg's reelection bid and an added benefit for Bloomberg in not having a GOP primary opponent. LINK

New York Magazine's Greg Sargent reports of Ferrer campaign efforts to organize a post-primary Democratic unity event a month before primary voters head to the polls. LINK


"Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) accuses two GOP colleagues of helping mastermind his fall from power in 2002, in a tell-all memoir set for release next week," reports Roll Call's Mark Preston.

"The Mississippi Republican charges that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and former Sen. Don Nickles (R-Okla.) seized on his "innocent and thoughtless remark" about former Sen. Strom Thurmond's (R-S.C.) 1948 Dixiecrat presidential campaign to force him to resign his position as Republican leader."

Note well the Joe Allbaugh part and the Amy Call quote.

Jeff Bliss and Robert Schmidt of Bloomberg News write up Sen. Schumer's Washington clout in contrast to his being overshadowed by the Junior Senator back home in the Empire State. This one will give both Phil Singer and Iris Weinshall a good night's sleep. LINK

By coincidence, Schumer gets the 2,000-plus word M. Liebovich Style treatment today, in a story that has no discernible news but is a nice profile of the often seen and heard from senior Senator from New York. LINK

The State's Lee Bandy writes that Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) has invited Rep. Tom DeLay to his campaign fundraiser next week in South Carolina, which is getting a bit more media attention than usual. LINK

The week ahead:

Former President Clinton is in Chicago, IL today to speak at Ebony and Jet founder John Johnson's funeral.

Sen. George Allen (R-VA) continues his listening tour through the Commonwealth of Virginia today and tomorrow.

Lobbyist Jack Abramoff is expected to appear in US District Court in Ft. Lauderdale, FL on Tuesday at 9:00 am ET before Judge Barry Garber.

Tuesday evening will mark the first official Democratic mayoral primary debate in New York, NY at 7:00 pm ET.

Also on Tuesday, the Washington State Democratic Party will hold their 12th annual Warren G. Magnuson with special guest Senator John Edwards in Seattle, WA.

John Edwards will also join Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D-MT) to headline the kickoff event for the Progressive Legislative Action Network gathering, Seattle, WA.

The National Conference of State Legislatures Annual Meeting and Exhibition gets underway on Tuesday in Seattle, WA.

Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman will be the featured speaker at the Ohio County Republican Party's Lincoln Day Dinner on Wednesday in Wheeling, WV.

On Thursday, Pope Benedict XVI makes his first international trip as Pope to Cologne, Germany.

John Kerry addresses the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee in Seattle, WA on Friday.

Also on Friday, Bill Clinton celebrates his 59th birthday, and Tipper Gore has a birthday also -- about her 38th, we think.