WASHINGTON, Sep. 12
Previously, on The Note:
It looked like some shoes were going to drop.
And some did: Mike Brown was dispatched; several national polls showed POTUS decline (as the Gang of 500 had predicted); and the Casa Blanca effort to fuse 9/11 and Katrina began.
And/but some shoes are still poised to hit the ground: a major presidential address is on the way; and a reconstruction czar appears in the offing.
Always allowing for the unexpected, planned events alone will account for a big week in our shared world: the Roberts hearings kick off at noon today and continue all week; the President has more Katrina touring today and he is at the United Nations midweek; the first congressional hearings on hurricane aftermath are planned; Bill Clinton's Clinton Global Initiative (a/k/a "ClintonFest") rocks Gotham; and Friday is the National Day of Prayer.
While Democrats continue to quietly and gleefully declare the end of the Bush presidency -- and investigative reporters settle in for months and months of dove-tailing on-going work -- the White House recalibrates everything, looking to restore equilibrium.
Below you will see coverage of the two big stories (Katrina and SCOTUS), but the most important reporting of the cycle comes from freshly minted Time scribe Mike Allen, whose debut piece is indescribably delicious.
In deconstructing the causes of the Bush Administrations slow-on-the-uptake Katrina response, Allen writes this:
"A ... factor, aides and outside allies concede, is what many of them see as the President's increasing isolation. Bush's bubble has grown more hermetic in the second term, they say, with fewer people willing or able to bring him bad news -- or tell him when he's wrong." LINK
"Bush has never been adroit about this. A youngish aide who is a Bush favorite described the perils of correcting the boss. 'The first time I told him he was wrong, he started yelling at me,' the aide recalled about a session during the first term. 'Then I showed him where he was wrong, and he said, "All right. I understand. Good job." He patted me on the shoulder. I went and had dry heaves in the bathroom. . .'"
"The result is a kind of echo chamber in which good news can prevail over bad -- even when there is a surfeit of evidence to the contrary."
"For example, a source tells TIME that four days after Katrina struck, Bush himself briefed his father and former President Clinton in a way that left too rosy an impression of the progress made. 'It bore no resemblance to what was actually happening,' said someone familiar with the presentation."
These blind quotes contain information from conversations with the President that reflects badly on him -- something that rarely happens in this White House and something this President can't stand.
Which leads to two questions for the President and Andy Card: do you know who leaked these things, and do you know why they leaked them?
The Note remains on guard to observe tipping points, page turning, blame gaming, and dry heaving. But let's not impatiently jump to any conclusions just yet. There is a lot of stuff to play out here over time. Don't rush it.
And, thus, your Roberts related daybook items:
At 10 am ET, Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R-KY) holds a press conference in the "Senate Swamp" with Ed Meese, Jay Sekulow, Leonard Leo, and Brigida Benitez. (If you don't know who all those people are, you are simply not paying enough attention.)
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) gavels the Roberts hearings into session at 12 noon ET.
Ten-minute opening statements from Judiciary Committee members begin at 12:15 pm ET. (Note to certain Judiciary Committee members: the Gang of 500 has a very particular view of how you behave under the bright lights of such situations; wouldn't it be wonderful to alter your performance mode and shock and delight us all!!??!!!)
Senators Warner, Lugar, and Bayh introduce John Roberts to the committee at 3:45 pm ET.
At 4 pm ET, Roberts is sworn-in and delivers 15 minutes or so of opening remarks.
In non-Roberts related events:
President Bush received a Katrina briefing on the USS Iowa Jima at 8:45 am ET. ABC News' Ann Compton reports that President Bush did not speak during a two-minute photo opportunity aboard the USS Iwo Jima while receiving a briefing on relief efforts. The President was flanked by Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin while Vice Admiral Thad Allen provided the briefing. Gov. Blanco's advisor on emergency response, former FEMA Director James Lee Witt, was also present.
Mr. Bush visits the New Orleans at 9:50 am ET and Gulfport, Mississippi at 1:30 pm ET. He arrives back at the White House at 5:00 pm ET.
On Sunday, the White House pool slept in two luxury "rock star" buses parked on the Iwa Jima dock. The "girls' bus" was outfitted with six bunks, Diet Coke in the refrigerator and a King size bed in the rear, ABC News' Compton reports.
Secretary of State Rice holds a bi-lateral meeting with Pakistani President Musharraf in New York at 10 am ET before holding ed board meetings with CBS News and the New York Times Publishers Group at 11 am ET and 12:30 pm ET.
At 9:30 am ET at the National Press Club, PICO National Network holds a press conference to discuss Medicaid issues raised by Katrina and to release a report estimating the number of children who would lose health care coverage under proposals before Congress to eliminate cost-sharing protections in the Medicaid program.
At 12:15 pm ET, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Surgeon General Richard Carmona, NGA executive director Ray Scheppach and others participate in a briefing on "Safeguarding the Health of Katrina's Victim's" in Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room G-50.
Beginning at 8 am ET, the American Enterprise Institute holds a symposium at its headquarters in Washington, DC on "UN Reform: Past, Present, and Future." Participants include Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN), former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations, former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, and Vance Serchuk of AEI.
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney addresses the Manhattan Institute at New York City's Harvard Club at Noon ET and speaks at the fabled Monday Meeting in the early evening.
The Energy Information Administration releases a survey of retail gasoline prices at 4:30 pm ET.
Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano addresses the Congressional Hispanic Conference Institute in Washington, DC at 8:30 am ET.
Education Secretary Margaret Spellings addresses the Education Department's annual National historically Black Colleges and Universities Conference at 12 pm ET.
Be sure to check out our week ahead below.
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Katrina: Bush response:
ABC News' Jon Cohen provides you with a first look at our latest poll numbers:
"More than six in 10 say the administration lacks a clear plan to handle the situation caused by the hurricane and subsequent flooding. The percentage of Americans who think there's no clear plan is somewhat higher now than it was in an ABC News/Washington Post poll on Sept. 2 when 80 percent of New Orleans was under water: Today, 63 percent say the administration lacks a plan, up from 55 percent."
"Overall, 54 percent disapprove of the way Bush is handling the post-Katrina situation; 44 percent approve. Since the last ABC/Post poll, disapproval is up by seven points while approval is relatively stable (it was 46 percent); today fewer are undecided about the job Bush is doing in this area. These numbers continue to reflect a deep partisan divide: Seven in 10 Republicans approve of the president's performance, compared to only 22 percent of Democrats."
"Intensity is with Bush's detractors, as 39 percent strongly disapprove of his handling of the situation, while 24 percent strongly approve of what he's doing. Democrats are more apt to strongly disapprove of the president and Republicans are more apt to strongly approve. Independents are about twice as likely to strongly disapprove as to strongly approve."
It's that very last sentence that will be read with some concern among those GOPers whose names will be on ballots next November.
From the Mike Allen tour de force of original reporting: Karl Rove was in the hospital last week; Secretary Snow might be replaced; reconstruction czar candidates have been interviewed; and the White House has sent reps to some blame game meetings. LINK
Peter Gosselin and Doyle McManus were super-must-readable in Sunday's Los Angeles Times, with a Dan Bartlett interview that produces a lead (the White House is "reviewing whether to increase the president's power to dispatch troops at the outset of a disaster and to give them law enforcement duties") some on-the-record NFPPO news ("Bartlett said Bush planned to make a major speech about the hurricane and its aftermath, although he declined to say when."); and an on-the-record reference to page turning (!!!) ("Bartlett described the storm and its aftermath as 'a kind of fact-driven story in the minds of the public. Last Friday when the security situation began to be stabilized,' he said, 'we think that was kind of a page-turner.'") LINK
Also this: "Separately, congressional sources said that Sen. John W. Warner, a Virginia Republican and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, conducted a closed-door meeting with administration officials and military leaders Tuesday to discuss what must be changed to avoid repeating the fumbled response to Hurricane Katrina, and he has scheduled a second session for this Tuesday."
"In sharp contrast to his previous trip, in which Mr. Bush seemed intent on reassuring the public about the government's role and the commitment to rebuild New Orleans and other coastal communities, the White House portrayed this trip as more akin to a general's heading to the front lines for inspection," write Johnson, Chan, and Yardley of the New York Times. LINK
In her New York Times "White House Letter," Elisabeth Bumiller uses a recent Pew Research Center survey as her peg to explore the President's possible political damage in the African American community. LINK
The Washington Post's Michael Fletcher reports that NAACP president Bruce Gordon has had "multiple conversations with top administration officials and fielded calls from aides to White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove" as part of an effort to heal relationships with black leaders "frayed by years of mutual suspicion." LINK
In light of the controversy surrounding FEMA Director Brown, Bush critic Paul Krugman uses his New York Times op-ed column to ask if "cronyism" is in place at other federal agencies. LINK
Katrina: Congress reacts:
The Wall Street Journal's Robert Block, regarding the planned Senate-House joint investigation and the Democratic boycott says, "Talks over the weekend to break the impasse were reportedly making headway."
We wonder if both Republicans and Democrats agree with that assessment.
Per Roll Call's Ben Bershing: "As the chaotic response to Hurricane Katrina casts a fresh light on the Department of Homeland Security, House Republicans are gathering to choose the next chairman of the panel that oversees the troubled agency." Rep. Peter King (R-NY) is considered the frontrunner.
Katrina: Big Casino budget politics:
The Wall Street Journal's Yochi J. Dreazen looks at the contracts already given out, the rules, and the potential for abuse on A3.
In his Sunday column, the Washington Post's David Broder took Republicans to the woodshed over the deficit: "When you look at that record, the self-congratulatory tone of the Republicans who have been running Washington seems absurdly unjustified." LINK
M.Z. Barabak of the Los Angeles Times turned Albuquerque into a Katrina focus group, with predictable results. LINK
Sunday's Los Angeles Times on how the exodus could change the politics of Louisiana, maybe helping the GOP. LINK
When veteran lobbyist Frederick L. Webber received a dozen fundraising requests from members of Congress last week, he threw them all in the trash, wrote a check to victims of Katrina and decided that "an imperative of his vocation -- political giving -- had finally gone too far." LINK
Mr. Webber will be called by cable TV bookers today, by the way.
The Washington Post's Jim VandeHei has John Podesta calling on Democrats to challenge Bush's ownership society with an activist, reform-minded government agenda that includes new energy, infrastructure and homeland defense policies while GOP Congressional leaders lobby Bush to push tax-friendly business zones and portable education benefits. LINK
Vandy was kind enough to Note, however, that it is too soon to say what the political impact of all this will be.
Katrina: 2008: Republicans:
As only the Boston Globe can (insanely) do, Sunday's paper analyzed Mitt Romney's role in helping some evacuees settle into the Bay State as if it were the Republican national convention or an inauguration. Michael Levenson (breathlessly) reports: LINK
Katrina: 2008: Democrats:
John Heilemann of New York magazine looks at the His and Her Clinton fallout from Katrina. LINK
Sen. Kerry heads to Louisiana this morning to help distribute supplies to those affected by Katrina. LINK
Katrina: assigning blame:
The Washington Post's politics of Katrina piece has Sen. Mary Landrieu taking a shot at the Bush White House's "full-court press to blame state and local officials," Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco refusal to blame Bush, and Ken Duberstein's call for Bush to outline a vision for the future of New Orleans. LINK
The O'Connor seat:
Bob Novak breaks news: "According to White House sources, Bush met secretly with [Priscilla] Owen last week," and the Prince of Darkness says Judge Owen is the "front-runner." LINK
Bob says that pro-Gonzales signs "probably should not be taken seriously," and handicaps some others: Clement and Jones are down in his book, while Karen Williams and Maura Corrigan are up.
In an elaborate (either early or late) April Fool's column, the Los Angeles Times' Ron Brownstein floats the Notion that President Bush should pick a Democrat for the O'Connor seat, making an across-the-aisle move that some of his predecessors have taken. LINK
After saying kind words about Gonzales earlier this week, Texas Sen. John Cornyn received a "slew of angry phone calls." But he says the arguments against Gonzales "just don't hold water." Bill Kristol, however, says that a Gonzales pick would be the equivalent of the President's father breaking his "no new taxes" pledge. LINK
But this weekend's Washington Post piece is most important for breaking the news that the FOA (Friends of Al) have teamed up to defend his conservative bona fides -- not, they say, to get him on the Court, but to simply defend his good name.
The New York Daily News picks up wire reports of Sen. Specter's Sunday comments about keeping Gonzales in his current job and suggesting a female nominee to replace Sandra Day O'Connor. LINK
The San Francisco Chronicle's Carolyn Lochhead reports that Bush is "under pressure, even from Republican lawmakers and leading conservatives, to nominate a woman or a minority." The piece mentions only two names: Larry Thompson and Gonzales. LINK
John Roberts for Chief Justice:
We turn back to our colleague, Jon Cohen, from the ABC News polling unit, for an early look at the latest ABC/WP numbers on the Roberts nomination.
"Support for Roberts' confirmation is essentially unchanged, at 55 percent, from what it was when he was slated to replace Sandra Day O'Connor as Associate Justice; Bush has now tapped Roberts to replace Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who died on Sept. 3. Also almost unchanged is the percentage who haven't made up their minds about Roberts; about one in five is undecided about whether the Senate should confirm him as chief," writes Cohen.
Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times reminds readers that the spotlight is not solely focused on John Roberts this week. Those 18 committee members are getting ready for their close-ups as well. LINK
In Sunday's New York Times, Linda Greenhouse provided an excellent primer which can be used as a scorecard for those watching the hearings at home. LINK
The Babington-Becker curtain-raiser has former Solicitor General Ted Olson saying that Roberts needs to explain the context of his arguments as a young Reagan administration lawyer. LINK
The Washington Post's ed board thinks the White House "would advance the confirmation process and do Judge Roberts and itself a favor by reconsidering its position on making available Roberts' papers from his days as deputy solicitor general during the first Bush administration. LINK
The Washington Times' Charles Hurt recaps the ways in which Roberts has criticized a range of issues of importance to Senators who sit on the Judiciary panel. LINK
Nina Easton of the Globe Notes that conservatives agree that, "key liberal leaders waited more than a month to declare their opposition, and even then they didn't launch mass advertising campaigns. That left a media void that their conservative foes eagerly filled." LINK
The liberals "explanations" of why they hadn't prepared research for a Roberts nomination is as laughable as it is key.
The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto takes op-ed space on A17 to write about a non-liberally-biased study that rates 43 in the middle of the pack compared to other presidents, but Taranto says -- grippingly -- that if the President succeeds, history will judge him more kindly.
Former Bay State Governor and presidential nominee Mike Dukakis urges Gov. Romney to tell his constituents whether he plans on running for president or not. Dukakis said: "I wasn't running around doing events designed to enhance my national stature…I don't think it helps to run around the country trashing the state you are governor of at Republican events," per the Boston Herald. LINK
Scott S. Greenberger of the Boston Globe eyes Gov. Romney's trip to Gotham City today to attend a meeting with members of New York's Monday Meeting, which is comprised of many top political donors. "It's a good place to kick off ideas and movements that can catch fire, and at the same time it's a good place to kick off a potential, down-the-road candidacy," says Michael R. Long, chairman of New York's Conservative Party. LINK
Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) says he has no comment on a possible 2008 campaign because he is focused on caring for more than 60,000 displaced hurricane victims who are now in Arkansas. LINK
From a Washington Post poll: "(Virginia Gov. Mark) Warner is more popular than any of the current candidates (to succeed him). He is viewed favorably by 69 percent of Virginia voters, outscoring his own Democratic Party by 16 percentage poitns and a political rival, Republican Sen. George Allen, by 11 points." LINK
The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette writes up Sen. Bayh's supporting role in today's confirmation hearings for John Roberts. LINK
The AP's Gary Robertson taps a source who fears that if John Edwards take his 2004 campaign linchpin of "two Americas" for a spin around the 2008 racetrack, he'll be running on empty before long. LINK
The Des Moines Register's Johnathan Roos excavates Gov. Tom Vilsack's ongoing (no longer) clandestine preparations in the event that the Iowa state government can no longer perform its assigned duties. LINK
Quinnipiac University released its primary-eve poll this morning and leads its release with the horserace.
"Fernando Ferrer is stuck at 32 percent among likely Democratic primary voters just one day before the New York City Democratic primary for Mayor, coming no closer to the 40 percent goal needed to avoid a run off, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today."
"U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner appears to have locked up second place, with 25 percent. City Council Speaker Gifford Miller and Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields each have 14 percent, with 13 percent of likely Democratic primary voters undecided."
The New York Daily News has similar numbers in its primary-eve poll. LINK
Though September 11 was deemed a non-campaign day, it didn't stop Fernando Ferrer from holding a campaign-style press conference to accept Rev. Sharpton's support. The New York Times' Manny Fernandez has the story. LINK
The New York Post gets some family members of 9/11 victims to respond to the timing of the endorsement, but since all four Democratic mayoral candidates were out and about at various events in the city and all made themselves available to the news media for interviews, we're not sure it is fair to say that Ferrer was "the only mayoral candidate to campaign." LINK
David Seifman of the New York Post reminds readers just how tough the Democratic nominee is going to have it. LINK
Stefan Friedman's New York Post column looks at Fernando Ferrer's position(s) on non-citizen voting rights and the Bloomberg campaign's attempts to keep Ferrer under 40 percent. LINK
A Washington Post poll shows Republican Jerry Kilgore with a four-point lead over Democrat Timothy Kaine in the Virginia governor's race. LINK
The Schwarzenegger Era:
Peter Nicholas of the Los Angeles Times sticks to dry-as-dust detail in his lead: "Soon after Arnold Schwarzenegger entered the 2003 recall campaign, a tabloid publisher that was recruiting him as a consultant tried to suppress a risque 1983 Playboy video starring the future governor." LINK
"The video, which had first aired years before on the Playboy Channel, shows him grabbing a scantily clad woman and making other sexually suggestive gestures." (Further down in the story, a carrot makes a cameo.)
Meanwhile, the paper's George Skelton says the Governor's special election is a bad idea and he is like, totally so beholden to the right. LINK
Can anyone explain to us why Team Schwarzenegger's announcement for today's 2:00 pm ET "Conversation with Californians" prominently features a photo of New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein? We are wondering if the Governor is in a New York City classroom in that photo or if Chancellor Klein is in California.
Per the San Francisco Chronicle's Marinucci and Wildermuth: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger told reporters on Friday: ""I will be making an announcement very soon" about his re-election plans, but refused to confirm reports that he will announce his re-election campaign at the upcoming GOP state convention in Anaheim. The governor is planning to air ads on behalf of his ballot measures but his backers "worry the message is coming too late -- and has already been drowned out by the opposition. 'We're on board with the governor's reform plan, but it's hard to get people motivated when you're not fighting back,'' said Mike Spence, president of the conservative California Republican Assembly. 'He has to step it up.'" LINK
Per Roll Call's Lauren Whittington: "Mike Brady, chief of staff in the personal office of National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (NY), is slated to move over to the committee later this month to become director of strategic communications, a newly created position."
Forget the six-year itch and instead keep an eye on the Midterm Trend, writes Roll Call's Stu Rothenberg. "The Trend starts where the six-year itch does (by accepting the fact that midterm elections provide critics of any sitting president with an opportunity to express anger or disappointment), but never suggests inevitability."
The New York Post's Fred Dicker has a source saying there is a 80 percent chance Tom Golisano will run for Governor of New York as a Republican. LINK
The New York Times editorial page declares Georgia's new voter ID law a "poll tax." LINK
Elizabeth Reyes, a staff attorney with the Texas secretary of state, said Friday that she was fired for violating press protocols when she spoke to a Washington Post reporter about tax deductions on Karl Rove's homes in the District of Columbia and in Texas. LINK
Raphael Lewis of the Boston Globe Notes that same sex marriage legislation in Massachusetts may be safe from a ban proposed in a constitutional amendment. LINK
The week ahead:
On Tuesday, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee question John Roberts as President Bush meets with the Iraqi president at the White House and travels to New York to participate in the 60th United Nations General Assembly.
On Wednesday, Round 2 of John Roberts questioning takes place as President Bush addresses the UN General Assembly.
On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary panel hears from outside witnesses, the Government Reform Committee looks at post-Katrina preparedness across the nation and the Clinton Global Initiative convenes in New York.
On Friday, the nation recognizes a National Day of Prayer for Victims of Katrina and celebrates the first-ever Constitution Day as President Bush hosts Russian President Vladimir Putin at the White House and Vice President Cheney raises money for Tom Delay in Houston.
On Saturday, former President Bill Clinton addresses the Clinton Global Initiative on the conference's last day.