The Note: Found in the Flood

WASHINGTON, Sep. 16

NEWS SUMMARY

What did you see in the President's speech last night?

Was it this? LINK

Or, perhaps, this? LINK

Do you share Bill Frist's "That Guy's Awesome and Bold" reaction?

("[The] president outlined a bold and optimistic vision for restoring communities throughout the gulf region. The awesome scale of this rebuilding effort is surpassed only by the inspiring talents and generosity of the millions of Americans who continue opening their arms to care for their fellow citizens.")

Or the less favorable Pelosi/Reid sense?

("The Gulf Coast region does not deserve to be treated as a laboratory for political opportunism or ideological experimentation. Now is the time for unity.") (Note Note: those two have an excellent sense of irony.)

For those Americans who look to The Note to tell them What It All Means -- well, we've moved on (mentally, practically, attitudinally) from last night to today (although we do round up some Speech Reax below.)

President and Mrs. Bush attend the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance service at National Cathedral at 10:50 am ET.

President Bush returns to the White House to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Oval Office at 1:40 pm ET. The two leaders will hold a 3:00 pm ET joint press availability before the President departs for Camp David.

Prior to the prayer service, First Lady Laura Bush visits the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Alexandria, VA to thank volunteers for the efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and to highlight the ways parents and children can find each other through the Center's website and hotline.

A coterie of United States Senators--including the Majority and Minority Leaders--holds a 12:30 pm ET media availability in New Orleans while touring the devastated region.

Speaker Hastert is in Glasgow, Scotland attending a G-8 Speaker's conference where he will lead a service of prayer and remembrance.

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) delivers a 3:30 pm ET speech on global climate change at the Clinton Global Initiative conference in New York City.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is expected to announce at 3:00 pm ET that he is running for re-election during a town-hall meeting in San Diego, CA. (To understand the reasons why Schwarzenegger is announcing now -- amid staunch union opposition and accusations that he is paying his consultants too much -- read Michael Finnegan's Los Angeles Times light romp, ending with Ray McNally's cheery quote: "No politician is dead until there's a flat line on the monitor . . . He can come back.") LINK

Lynne Cheney marks the first-ever Constitution Day with a 1:00 pm ET speech to 180 fourth grade students from Fairfax County Public Schools at George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson discusses emergency preparedness, homeland security, and Medicaid reform during the DGA's "Fall Policy Conference" in Nashville, TN.

On Sunday, President Bill Clinton will be George Stephanopoulos' guest on "This Week." Check your local listings for this must-see interview.

Katrina: the Bush speech:

Pretty favorable coverage for the President in broadcast and print, given that he didn't give the media the czar, price tag, or racial mea culpa that was being demanded (by the media).

Judy Keen's news analysis in USA Today says it all: possible pivot point, one speech can't change everything, partisanship won't end in Washington, Joe Lockhart isn't mollified (to say the least), there was no bullhorn, blah, blah, blah. LINK

The New York Times and ABC's Dean Reynolds found a similar positive and hopeful reaction to the President's speech from evacuees. LINK

John McKinnon of the Wall Street Journal calls the speech "hopeful and sympathetic."

From Dick Stevenson's New York Times analysis: LINK

"It was not the president's most stirring speech, but it conveyed a sense of command far more than his off-key efforts in the days immediately after the storm, when he often seemed more interested in bucking up government officials than in addressing the dire situation confronting hundreds of thousands of displaced and desperate people."

"But if the speech helped him clear his first hurdle by projecting the aura of a president at the controls, it probably did not, by itself, get him over a second: his need to erase or at least blur the image of a White House that was unresponsive to the plight of some of the country's most vulnerable citizens and failed to manage the government competently."

The Washington Post's Dan Balz looks beyond the text of Bush's speech and writes that the "clear subtext" was "the rebuilding of a presidency that is now at its lowest point ever, confronted by huge and simultaneous challenges at home and abroad -- and facing a country divided along partisan and racial lines." LINK

Balz, like everyone else sensible, cares more about facts on the ground than the speech.

In his New York Post column, John Podhoretz wonders if President Bush alienated his conservative base. LINK

"The speech was meant to portray Mr. Bush as a forceful leader in control of the crisis and sympathetic to the people in the region," writes Elisabeth Bumiller of the New York Times in her straightforward lead news of day piece focused on the federal rebuilding efforts proposed by the President. LINK

Ed Chen and Mary Curtius of the Los Angeles Times courteously tuck away most of the political dimensions of last night's speech until the end, writing that "the speech also represented an attempt to restore the president's credibility at a time when his approval ratings had fallen to new lows. The Katrina crisis appears to have eroded support for the fight against terrorism, the Iraq war effort and the president's second-term domestic policy initiatives." LINK

"Once again, he has delivered a speech that will reassure many Americans that he understands the enormity of the event and the demands of leadership to come," writes the New York Times editorial board. The editorial goes on to express some concern about the Administration's ability to follow through and uses Iraq as an example, but the lede will no doubt make White House advisers breathe a bit of a sigh of relief this morning. LINK

Per the Washington Post's VandeHei and Baker, the "compassionate conservative" rhetoric and religious overtones of the President's address reflected "not only Bush's own faith but also his decision to bring back Michael J. Gerson," his first-term speechwriter who is now a policy adviser. LINK

In his Los Angeles Times news analysis piece, Doyle McManus says the address "included all the necessary elements of a post-disaster address: compassion for the victims, praise for their rescuers, a call on the nation to pull together, a promise that 'we will do what it takes' to bounce back -- and a brief acknowledgment that federal preparations had fallen short." LINK

He also recycles this 2004 Bush quote: "I love taking on big issues, because I think that's my job. . . I think that's why the people of the country put me in office. They expect a president to lead."

Katrina: Bush poll numbers:

From the Wall Street Journal's "Washington Wire": "[Pollsters] Peter Hart and Bill McInturff . . . liken erosion in Bush's ratings to Reagan's Iran-contra dip, and say Katrina's costs and link to gas prices make the effect unlikely to fade soon."

Katrina: Congress reacts:

The Des Moines Register's Jane Norman reports on Sen. Charles Grassley's fury over -- and clamor for an investigation into -- the New Orleans St. Rita's nursing home deaths. She also Notes that Sen. Tom Harkin is not cool with Republicans temporarily throwing Davis-Bacon regulations to the wind. LINK

Katrina: Big Casino budget politics:

"'We are not sure he knows what he is getting into,' said one senior House Republican" to the New York Times' Hulse referring to the President's big spending plans for the rebuilding efforts. (Hulse has your Coburn, McCain, and DeMint comments too, in a front pager about conservative concerns over spending.) LINK

The Washington Times' Stephen Dinan reports that Sens. Coburn, McCain, and DeMint are urging GOP leaders to offset new Katrina spending with spending cuts. LINK

In one incredibly tightly written piece, the Wall Street Journal's Jackie Calmes deals with rebelling fiscal conservatives in Congress, the Republican Party's identity and legacy, next year's mid-terms, tax and spending cuts, the fraggings of Tom DeLay and John Bolten, Newt Gingrich's thinking and yes, even bloggers.

Read this sentence closely: "Administration officials also express frustration that conservatives in Congress are criticizing the White House even as Congress has balked at making the Medicaid cuts that Mr. Bush had called for earlier this year."

From the Wall Street Journal's "Washington Wire": "...White House aide dismisses rolling back jet-fuel taxes in response to post-hurricane price jumps, saying, 'Our focus is on bailing out the French Quarter, not the airlines.'"

Katrina: policy and politics:

The Des Moines Register's Thomas Beaumont writes up Gov. Tom Vilsack's (D-IA) "sharpened" criticism of the Bush Administration's response to Katrina. LINK

"Vilsack accused Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress of failing to value the purpose of government in general and systematically trying to dismantle it," writes Beaumont of Vilsack's DLC sponsored message timed to the President's speech.

The President said last night that he wants people to return to New Orleans. But a poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health found that some of the uprooted won't go home again and plan to stay in Houston, a development that could roil the politics of Texas and Louisiana. LINK

The O'Connor seat:

Kathy Kiely's USA Today news analysis ends with this "news": "Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said Bush aides asked her about Edith Clement, a judge on the U.S. appeals court that covers Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi. Clements' [sic] lack of controversial writings on abortion could make her an appealing candidate. . . 'She would be very high in my book,' Landrieu said." LINK

The Wall Street Journal says "Bush aides search for Roberts-style woman to succeed. . . Justice O'Connor; Attorney General Gonzales,. . . and. . . Larry Thompson. . . are also contenders. But pluralities of women and Hispanics [in the NBC/WSJ poll] say Bush should disregard diversity and consider only 'the best person.'"

John Roberts for Chief Justice:

Timeswoman Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes, "Judge Roberts's unflappable performance during three days of questioning has clearly put Democrats in a quandary. Some say a strong vote against his nomination could prod the White House into naming a centrist to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, a crucial swing vote. Others say that supporting the Roberts nomination could make Democrats appear reasonable, giving them more credibility to oppose the next nominee." LINK

And then Sen. Clinton immediately gets to work at debunking those theories with this priceless quote: "'I have found it is very difficult for Democrats to influence this White House on anything, and so I don't count on them paying attention to our legitimate concerns,' Mrs. Clinton said, adding, 'They will do what they think is in their interest, however they define it.'"

The Los Angeles Times Reynolds and Simon cover similar turf with Sen. Dick Durbin wondering how to use the Roberts vote to maximize Democratic sway over the O'Connor replacement while Sen. Hillary Clinton says that the Roberts vote is about "speaking to the larger American public and speaking to history" given that she has "found it very difficult for Democrats to influence this White House on anything." LINK

They have conflicted Democrats pondering a winning vote strategy against Roberts -- seemingly knowing that they've already lost. Read it to see how Democrats are already talking about how they want to send a message about the next nominee.

"Over three days of testimony, between declining to answer questions on specific cases and legal issues, Judge Roberts made clear that his approach to interpreting the Constitution is more varied and flexible than the originalism subscribed to by Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia," writes Adam Liptak of the New York Times. LINK

The New York Times' Toner and Kirkpatrick report on the expected party line vote in committee and question how many Democrats will vote for Roberts' confirmation on the Senate floor. LINK

The Washington Post's Charles Krauthammer seems to think Roberts will move the Court to the left but he's okay with that. LINK

John Roberts for Chief Justice: PFA handicaps the committee vote:

The good people at Progress for America LINK, a conservative group that supports John Roberts as the next Chief Justice, have baked up a tasty memo that was stealthily "obtained" by The Note and virtually predicts that every Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee will "almost certainly" vote against President Bush's Supreme Court pick.

Hot as a fragrant croissant, the PFA pre-emptive memo argues that the lack of Democrat support should not surprise anyone given the extreme liberalness and vaulting ambition of its members on the Judiciary Committee. Some might say that if the press were less inclined to see Sen. Brownback as "extreme" and "very conservative" and more likely to see Ted Kennedy as "extreme" and "very liberal" that a party-line vote in the committee would be less of a news story that some are sure to make it.

In fact, as PFA points out, every Democrat on the committee hails from a Blue State and their posture towards Roberts has been far less favorable since he was first nominated than that of, say, the Nelsons -- or other Red State Democrats.

The memo comes complete with member-by-member odds for those keeping score at home:

Sen. Ted Kennedy comes in at "200 to 1" given that "for the last 25 years, whenever any Democrat has voted against a Republican Supreme Court nominee, Kennedy has joined them."

Sen. Pat Leahy comes in at "100 to 1." The Bat Man buff may have called Roberts "pleasant, articulate and knowledgeable." But he has said similar things before while still voting "Nay" on Justices Thomas, Bork, and Rehnquist.

Sen. Chuck Schumer comes in at "95 to 1" because, in PFA's view, DSCC chairs can't get to 51 while giving GOPers a helping hand.

Sen. Dick Durbin, the loyal party leader, comes in at "90 to 1."

Sen. Russ Feingold, with a New Hampshire trip already on the calendar, comes in at "25 to 1".

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, with/despite her abortion litmus test, comes in at "3 to 1."

Sen. Herb Kohl's odds are placed at "2 to 1."

And the mercurial Sen. Joe Biden comes in at "6 to 1" if the "reasonably moderate legislator" shows up. But if he is serious about doing the Richard Ben Cramer-thing again, his odds jump to "75 to 1," lest "radical liberals in Iowa and New Hampshire" abandon him.

Social Security:

To Congressman Rahm's (public) delight, Roll Call's Pershing and Pierce broke the news yesterday that National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (NY) plans to recommend to his fellow leaders that they shelve Social Security reform for the remainder of the 109th Congress out of fears that it could "cripple" the party in the 2006 elections.

The Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman has a House GOP strategist asking: "Why would you want to make vulnerable members take a vote on something that's not going anywhere? You could make the case that it would be suicide." LINK

Chairman Thomas seems unpleased.

The Associated Press has Speaker Hastert not quite embracing Reynolds' point of view. LINK

The economy:

The front page of the Wall Street Journal blares: "While many consumers have focused in recent weeks on the high price of gasoline, utilities are grappling with enormous natural-gas bills that threaten to push another form of energy, electricity, to unprecedented price levels."

Clintonfest:

From the daytime talk show style setting to the lavish gift bags, James Barron of the New York Times has all the details from Clintonfest Day 1. LINK

The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler on the carbon-minimizing pooh-bahs at the Clinton confab. LINK

2005:

Diane Cardwell and Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times capture the (rare) display of Democratic unity in New York City and look ahead to the general election. LINK

"The rally crystallized what is emerging as the dominant theme of the mayoral race, a battle over perceptions of life in New York: one of a city on the move for all its residents with a rebounding economy, improving schools and lower crime, as the Bloomberg campaign suggests; the other of a city Mr. Ferrer sees, in which the poor are being left behind, the middle class is being squeezed and too many children are dropping out of school into a dire future."

2006:

Says the Wall Street Journal's "Washington Wire," "Minority leader Reid launches online organizing drive next week linking activists with Democratic Senate campaigns."

2008: Republicans:

While speaking to a packed house at the Heritage Foundation on Wednesday about the importance of "speed," "agility," and "opportunistic thinking" in homeland security, Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) said: "We have 120 colleges in Massachusetts. Are we tracking people from terrorist-sponsored states who are going to those colleges?"

"How about people who are in settings -- mosques, for instance -- that may be teaching doctrines of hate and terror?"

"Are we monitoring that?" he asked.

Romney's Heritage remarks--which were interrupted by applause when he said "I'm for fewer illegal immigrants coming into our states" and "I don't like amnesty" -- may be signs that this "red state folk," as he described himself, is not planning on running for re-election in the bluest of blue states in 2006. We still await the formal announcement of his intentions sometime this fall.

Back at home, Romney finds himself in hot water today with civil liberties and Muslim groups for his Heritage remarks. LINK

In a telephone interview with the Washington Post, Romney said he was not calling for a loosening of the rules governing when and how the government can conduct surveillance.

But he defended his focus on mosques as potential surveillance targets, saying that attacks by Islamic terrorists in the United States, London and elsewhere justify a particular focus on Muslim places of worship. Authorities "should be watching what's being taught in a mosque more closely than what's being taught at the local 4-H Club," Romney told the Washington Post.

Gov. Romney tries to "soften" his Washington DC based remarks on wiretapping, which has angered many Muslims. LINK

Romney's new office digs will cost him $58,350 annually the Boston Globe reports today. LINK

Boston lawmakers override Gov. Romney's veto which will now allow over the counter morning after pills to be supplied by pharmacists. LINK

House of Labor:

The Wall Street Journal's Kris Maher says the airline trouble is just the latest challenge for the AFL-CIO.

Politics:

The Washington Post's Al Kamen on Dubya's trip to the WC. LINK

The New York Post gets Dr. Rice's reaction to the photo during an editorial board session with the paper. LINK

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