The Note: Ten Minutes from the New New Normal



Nine years ago (or so it seems), when the current Bush presidency was dominated by the war in Iraq, the war against terrorism, and stubbornly high gas prices for American consumers, squabbles such as which cable networks were most egregiously over-covering the Natalee Holloway story seemed sensible.

But now, everything's different.

However the "different" is taking on a certain sameness (suggesting that the politico-media culture might be open to some page turning next week, after a Sunday show cleansing/purging).

For that story, let's go to Reporter A in New Orleans with all the latest. A?

Reporter A: "Water continues to be pumped out of the Crescent City around the clock, as law enforcement officials go door to door looking for holdouts, and some signs of life are returning here. The grim process of looking for bodies continues as officials begin to think about rebuilding. I can tell you that in Houston, debit cards from the Red Cross and FEMA -- that's the Federal Emergency Management Agency -- are being handed out to the evacuees, although there is some confusion about who is eligible. Now, the stories of personal kindness and the nation pulling together are amazing, including one community that B. President Bush is expected to visit here again on C, and today he has dispatched Cabinet Member D to the region. State officials say they can use all the federal help they can get. Reporting live from Canal Street in the French Quarter, I'm Reporter A, back to you."

Meanwhile in Washington, President Bush has signed another emergency spending bill to aid disaster victims. More on this story from Reporter E:

Reporter E : "With F billions of dollars already spent, and with the ultimate costs projected to be G billions more, the President today told the victims of Hurricane Katrina that he understands what they are going through. 'This is going to take a long time,' the President said, in signing into law a bill that will provide H billions more in spending. On Capitol Hill, Republican leaders announced that they had done I, reflecting, they said, the Congress' unwavering commitment to helping those hurt by the storm. Meanwhile, Democrats charged that Republicans were mismanaging the process and being too partisan, and they denounced J. Republican Congressman K and some watchdog budget groups suggested that Washington cut other spending to pay for all this, but no one really listened. This is Reporter E, live in Washington, back to you in the studio."

And/but the Gang of 500's ceaseless quest for the new has it waiting for the following shoes to drop (although these shoes might never hit the ground):

1. The naming of a reconstruction czar -- although if it is not a Gang favorite like Giuliani or Powell, the choice will be a serious letdown.

2. The axing of Mike "Brownie" Brown -- and if you are a political appointee at FEMA and you padded your resume, we suggest you, uhm, start polishing up your resume.

3. The delivery of a primetime presidential address with soaring Mike Gerson flourishes -- although Karen Hughes will re-edit it, presumably.

4. The continued sinking of the President's poll numbers -- although as Paul Krugman will tell you, the 9/11 anniversary will be soon upon us.

5. The effort to maximize the aforementioned potential 9/11-related boost in the face of a fresher national tragedy -- Note the hurricane does not hate freedom.

By the sheerest of coincidences, President Bush has events related to the war on terror and 9/11 today, where he will no doubt relish the honor of swearing in Ms. Hughes as the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy at the State Department at 10:10 am ET. Later in the day, he will make remarks at the 9/11 Heroes Medal of Valor ceremony on the South Lawn at 1:05 pm ET.

If by the end of the end presidential rhetoric has not attempted to fuse 9/11, the war on terror, and Katrina recover efforts, we will give all readers a full refund on this week's Notes.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will join Representatives Gene Green, Sheila Jackson Lee, and Al Green at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, TX to meet with victims of Hurricane Katrina. There will be 3:00 pm ET press availability.

Sens. Kennedy, Lieberman, Pryor, and Stabenow will hold a conversation on how to heal the communities of the Gulf Coast with NAACP President Bruce Gordon, Jim Wallis, and members of the faith community at 9:30 am ET.

Though there will be no roll call votes in the Senate today, Senators will resume consideration of the Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill.

Judge Roberts has a meeting and photo-op with Sen. Martinez (R-FL) today. Lt. Governor Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Sen. John Edwards will visit a Charlottesville, VA preschool at a 3:15 pm ET campaign event.

RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman will be the featured speaker at the Pennsylvania GOP annual fall dinner Friday night at 6:30 pm ET at the Harrisburg Hilton in Harrisburg, PA.

Two ABC News programming Notes for you:

On "This Week," George Stephanopooulos will have an exclusive interview with Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) in his first Sunday morning show appearance this year.

Vice Admiral Thad Allen, Coast Guard Chief of Staff and FEMA Director Brown's deputy for Katrina relief will also be George's guest Sunday morning on "This Week."

George Will, Newt Gingrich, and Fareed Zakaria make up a powerhouse of a roundtable. That's all coming up Sunday morning on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos."

And don't miss Barbara Walters' exclusive interview with Colin Powell where the former Secretary of State calls his controversial presentation before the United Nations on WMD a "blot" on his record. That's at 10:00 pm ET on 20/20 on your local ABC station. LINK

Katrina: Bush test/strategy:

The "Even Judy Keen (and Richard Benedetto) Rule" kicks in, with a USA Today news analysis questioning whether too much Yankee reserve remains in the Texas boy for him to show sufficient emotion and compassion at times of national crisis. LINK

In Dick Stevenson's New York Times analysis that contrasts the President's post-9/11 leadership to his post-Katrina leadership, he has Michael Deaver saying it is time for a "My fellow Americans" speech to the nation. LINK

"Mr. Cheney expressed little emotion at what he had witnessed, instead taking the pragmatic problem-solver tack," writes the New York Times Jodi Wilgoren of the Vice President's visit to the region. LINK

The profanity being hurled the Vice President's way from a passerby during a rare live press availability certainly made for a memorable moment. However, it was Mrs. Cheney's interview on Fox immediately following her husband's press avail that made us chuckle most.

Mrs. Cheney did quite well on the talking points when being interview live by FOX's Shepard Smith. However, when Smith started pressing Mrs. Cheney on political questions about Rep. Pelosi and Sen. Reid's reaction to the Joint Committee investigation he was met with. . .

"I'm not going to talk to you anymore, Shepard, but it's been a good conversation."

Katrina: assessing blame:

Time Magazine looks at the ways in which FEMA Director Mike Brown allegedly padded his resume to make it appear that he had more emergency management experience than he actually did. LINK

"Before joining FEMA, his only previous stint in emergency management, according to his bio posted on FEMA's website, was 'serving as an assistant city manager with emergency services oversight.' The White House press release from 2001 stated that Brown worked for the city of Edmond, Okla., from 1975 to 1978 'overseeing the emergency services division.' In fact, according to Claudia Deakins, head of public relations for the city of Edmond, Brown was an 'assistant to the city manager' from 1977 to 1980, not a manager himself, and had no authority over other employees. 'The assistant is more like an intern,' she told TIME. 'Department heads did not report to him.'"

The facts on this one still need to be sorted out, and presumably will be by 6:30 pm ET tonight.

Sounding an awful lot like Sen. Hillary Clinton, the Washington Post's Spencer Hsu writes in a front-page FEMA piece: "Some security experts and congressional critics say the exodus was fueled by a bureaucratic reshuffling in Washington in 2003, when FEMA was stripped of its independent Cabinet-level status and folded into the Department of Homeland Security." LINK

The Los Angeles Times on FEMA staffing. LINK

The New York Times looks at the Blanco-Bush standoff and how "practicality and politics" played major roles in navigating the federal vs. state command and control issues that quickly arose in the aftermath of Katrina. LINK

And here's a blind quote to relish: "'Can you imagine how it would have been perceived if a president of the United States of one party had preemptively taken from the female governor of another party the command and control of her forces, unless the security situation made it completely clear that she was unable to effectively execute her command authority and that lawlessness was the inevitable result?' asked one senior administration official, who spoke anonymously because the talks were confidential."

The Wall Street Journal's McKinnon has a similar story, which concludes thusly: "When the two leaders toured an evacuee center in Baton Rouge, they worked different parts of the room. Some Republicans say privately that continuing cool relations between Mr. Bush and Gov. Blanco have contributed to discussions of setting up a public corporation to administer long-term relief and reconstruction funds for the region."

We are still only seeing the top of the iceberg about what the Bush high command thinks of the job the Governor and the Mayor did in the early days. It's hard to get at this stuff, however, when there is such reluctance to play the blame game. Or whatever.

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank sketches Karen Hughes' iron fist and gets a MoveOn protester to confess to some political opportunism at play. LINK

Katrina: Congress reacts:

The New York Times on the Pelosi/Reid rejection of the Joint Committee investigation and this from Ron Bonjean: "We hope that in the end, the Democrats will come on board. . ." LINK

Roll Call's Billings and Preston look at Democratic charges that GOP investigation plans are a "sham and charade."

The Boston Globe Klein/Kranish duo wrap up all of Thursday's activity from one end of Pennsylvania Avenue to the other including a call for a more cautious and careful approach to government spending from Republican Sens. Sessions and Gregg. LINK

The Washington Post's Mark Leibovich on Sen. Mary Landrieu's "shell-shocked bearing" on her first-day back in the Senate. LINK

Katrina: Big Casino budget politics:

Bloomberg News's Heidi Przybyla and Brendan Murray have Florida Senator and former Bush Cabinet member Mel Martinez saying on Sept. 7, "There ought to be another look at the tax cuts.... We have to look at it all.''

The Washington Times' Stephen Dinan has Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), outside of quotation marks, saying that "the president has failed a test of leadership by not including spending cuts to pay for part of the spending." LINK

The New York Times' Andrews and Hulse provide some price tag perspective. LINK

"White House officials and Congressional budget experts now assume that federal costs for the hurricane will shoot past $100 billion, which itself is more than twice the entire annual federal budget for domestic security."

The Washington Post's Peter Baker and Amy Goldstein see a "growing political rift" in a story that wraps the day's Big Casino developments. LINK

The San Francisco Chronicle's Carolyn Lochhead on the Big Casino dimension: "Farm-state lawmakers are urging aid for drought-plagued Midwest farmers who cannot get their crops to market through the Port of New Orleans. Business lobbyists are pushing for long-sought tax cuts as an economic stimulus. Lawmakers from neighboring Texas are asking for help to pay for housing and schooling for storm evacuees." LINK

Writes Brody Mullins in the Wall Street Journal, "Bolstered by the shift in political winds from Hurricane Katrina, U.S. corporations are pressing lawmakers to approve a range of issues that have languished on Capitol Hill, some of which have little to do with hurricane relief," with a focus on the airlines and foodstuffs, and hints of more to come.

When Prime Minister Ariel Sharon meets with President Bush on Sept. 14, he won't raise Israel's request for U.S. aid to cover costs of its withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. LINK

Katrina: House of Labor:

President Bush signed a proclamation suspending the minimum labor standards contained in the Davis-Bacon Act for construction projects in the affected areas of the Gulf Coast region, prompting AFL-CIO President John Sweeney to accuse the White House of "taking advantage of a national tragedy" to get rid of a protection for workers that the President's "corporate backers" have "long wanted to remove."

The Davis-Bacon Act set certain minimum labor standards for workers employed in federal contract construction: notably, that contractors must pay their employees not less than the locally prevailing wage for the various crafts in four different types of construction -- commercial buildings, highways, residential, and heavy construction.

In Louisiana, for example, the prevailing wage for a general laborer engaged in highway construction is $9.26/hour plus $1.14 in fringe benefits. Suspending Davis-Bacon will allow federal contractors in the region to pay below that level.

Katrina: the economy:

Per the Wall Street Journal Online forecasting survey, "Hurricane Katrina is likely to slow growth and boost inflation pressures in the second half of this year, economists believe. But the economy could receive a modest boost early next year amid recovery efforts on the Gulf Coast."

Economists pared U.S. third-quarter growth forecasts by half a percentage point and raised inflation estimates after Hurricane Katrina, according to a Bloomberg News monthly survey. LINK

Katrina: Democratic strategy:

The New York Post reports on the DSCC's brief (it has already been discontinued) fundraising attempt tied to a Katrina related petition on its website. LINK

Katrina: 2008:

Sen. Hillary Clinton's decision to use Hurricane Katrina to step into the national spotlight has been duly Noted by Fineman LINK, Balz LINK,

But what about the other '08 candidates?

On both sides of the aisle, presidential hopefuls are using the contretemps to push pet projects, grab some spotlight, and to return to rhetorical mainstays.

To wit:

While on FNC yesterday following the Vice President's obscenity-laced media availability, Sen. George Allen (R-VA) called for suspending those Davis-Bacon labor rules and permanently changing requirements on gasoline blends aimed at meeting air quality standards. LINK

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is "thinking outside the box" and feeling David Ignatius' love. LINK

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is keeping up his GOP fence mending and passing on chances to whack the president.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani has his name and that of God tripping off the tongue of Don Imus.

Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) is invoking Salt Lake City and lambasting "undermanagement." LINK

Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) said Katrina "may require an outside commission to not only do it right, but to assure that Americans trust the results." LINK

Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) is calling for FEMA Director Mike Brown to be fired LINK and railing against "corruption and incompetence" in Louisiana LINK

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN), true to his Third Way self, is taking to the Senate floor to say that the federal response "can't be big government, but it also cannot be no government."

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) is pushing free air time LINK and bankruptcy protection LINK

Former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) is dusting off the "Two Americas" speech. LINK

Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) is making Chris Heinz nervous again with his "don't-you-dare" estate-tax talk. LINK

Gov. Tom Vilsack (D-IA) is wondering whether the federal response to Katrina would meet the Hawkeye State's D-minus requirement for high school athletes. LINK

And Gov. Mark Warner's (D-VA) chief-of-staff is moonlighting as Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco's (D-LA) night-time chief-of-staff in Baton Rouge. LINK

Thomas Beaumont of the Des Moines Register assesses the politics of Katrina through the lens of the 2008 Iowa caucuses and wonders if perhaps an event like this will continue to solidify the conventional wisdom that governors make for better presidential candidates than senators. LINK

Check out Sen. Grassley's pointed criticism of Romney and Gingrich.

Katrina: 2008: Republicans:

Boston Globe columnist Brian McGrory columnizes on his love/hate relationship with Gov. Romney. LINK

"There are times, too many times, when Mitt Romney is the most exasperating politician on the planet, sliding further by the day to the right, mocking his home state to the rest of the country, seemingly expedient in every action he takes and decision he makes."

"But just when it seems time to wish him good riddance on his way toward a presidential campaign, something like this happens. Romney acts like the real, honest-to-goodness governor he always had the potential to be -- deeply moral, defiantly nonpartisan, crisply decisive, and nonchalantly generous."

The O'Connor seat:

Judge Edith Brown Clement and her husband left their New Orleans home "in the early stages of the storm" and are living at the home of one of her Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals colleagues in Jackson, MS, the New York Times says. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Wirey John Harwood writes, "Conservatives tout female court pick to block Gonzales….Right rallies around antiabortion appeals-court judges, including Edith Jones and Priscilla Owen; Janice Rogers Brown, an African-American, would meet post-Katrina calls for Bush to appoint a minority. All are seen as more conservative than Attorney General Gonzales. . ."

John Roberts for Chief Justice:

USA Today's Memmott walks back the phantom ad flap story, but makes it clear that Eli Pariser doesn't blame the Nation's Newspaper. LINK

The New York Sun's J. Gerstein got what is believed to be history's first exclusive interview with Memmott. LINK

The New York Times' Kirkpatrick nicely sums up the current state of Democratic thinking in the Senate on shifting the focus of their efforts from Roberts to the O'Connor replacement. LINK

And it is still unclear just how much Steve Schmidt and Brian McCabe will enjoy this quote from the Democratic whip/Judiciary Committee member:

"'Has anything come up before the hearings that is a showstopper for Roberts? The answer is no,' said Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois. . ."

Read on for the Schumer/Reid short list narrowing -- no Garza, Jones, or Luttig for them -- and Sen. Kennedy's list of suggested nominees.

Explain to us again why Democrats expect a President who ran twice for the office explicitly saying he would nominate justices like Scalia and Thomas should give in to those who suggest he should strive for "balance" and O'Connor-like status quo.


"A Texas grand jury has indicted a political organization formed by Tom DeLay, accusing it of taking illegal corporate money as the House majority leader helped Republicans win control of the Texas Legislature and keep Congress in GOP hands," reports the Associated Press. Rep. DeLay has not been charged with any wrongdoing. LINK

The Houston Chronicle reports that the Travis County DA Ronnie Earle said he hasn't ruled out possible legal action against DeLay, "No one's off the hook. The investigation is ongoing." LINK


The Democrats all played nicely with each other in their final televised debate before primary voters head to the polls on Tuesday. LINK

The New York Times reports on Gifford Miller's continued scaling back of his homestretch advertising budget in the face of a potentially negative ruling today from the Campaign Finance Board. LINK

The New York Post picks up Ben Smith's Politicker item about David Doak's decreasing influence within the Ferrer campaign. LINK


Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) declined to tell the Washington Post whether he has been in employment talks with the National Federation of Independent Businesses, one of the nation's leading lobbying organizations. LINK

The Washington Post calls a Rhode Island mayor's decision to challenge Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) a "blow" to the NRSC, which had "tried to persuade him not to run and is backing the incumbent. LINK

The Schwarzenegger Era:

The New York Times editorial board beats up on Gov. Schwarzenegger for promising to veto the same sex marriage bill. LINK

The politics of national security:

Former Clinton adviser Sandy Berger was fined $50,000 and had his clearance suspended, the Washington Post's Carol D. Leonnig reports. LINK

All Note readers know that reporters don't write their own headlines, but we can't help but think that Deb Orin didn't object to the New York Post's "Bubba's Ex-crony Slapped" topping her story about Berger. LINK