The Note: Everything That Ought to Be Up Is Down

WASHINGTON, Sep. 20

NEWS SUMMARY

There are two fundamental political realities that we have hinted at for several days that are known to everyone in the know in the inner circle of American politics (a/k/a: the Gang of 500) and we feel you should know them too.

The first one involves the Republican Party and precisely stated, it goes like this: The potential for the political interests of the White House and congressional Republicans to diverge is greater now than it has been since George W. Bush took office.

The second one involves the Democratic Party and precisely stated, it goes like this: Every negative impression that the Democrats have had about George W. Bush's policies and competence is being reaffirmed in the minds of party elites these days and they are as certain as they have ever been that the country at-large will begin to see what they have long seen.

On the first point: the on-going intra-GOP budget discussions (more tk today) are certainly the loci of most of the dissension within the party right now. But, despite the Democrats and the media looking for overall signs of disarray, the reality is that the manifestations of talking-point-driven unity are still far greater within the President's party than any splits.

Still, there is a growing emperor's-new-clothes sensibility to the words of some conservatives -- still mostly quietly. More loudly, Exhibit A today is Brendan Miniter's opinionjournal.com essay, which takes the Republican Party to task for bringing back the welfare state. It leads with Leader DeLay's Waterloo quote about the lack of excess spending in the federal budget. It also predicts doom and gloom for 2006 and 2008 if something doesn't change and quick. Read it now. LINK

As for the Democrats, they are confusing President Bush's polling and political weak patch with some Notion that they have developed ideas and an image of leadership that will allow them to fully capitalize on what is going on.

And as they follow the news, the Democratic wing of the Gang of 500 has affected a sensibility that is one part Sidney Blumenthal, two parts John Podesta, and three parts Laurie David.

In other words, if you were reading the papers like Paul Begala this morning, this is how you would see the President's day:

* CHAOS AND CRUMBLING IN THE SCOTUS PROCESS, per the New York Times: "The White House is reshuffling its short list of potential Supreme Court nominees with a new emphasis on finding someone who will hold up under the pressure of what is expected to be fierce confirmation battle, several Republican allies close to the process said on Monday." LINK

* ADMISSION OF ERROR IN IRAQ INFECTING NORTH KOREAN POLICY, per the New York Times: "'The lesson of Iraq,' said one senior American official, who is deeply skeptical about the deal, 'is that we can never again confront a country about its weapons unless we show that we have tried every available alternative to disarm it.'" LINK

* WEAKNESS AT HOME CAUSING WEAKNESS ABROAD , per the New York Times: "Several officials, who would not allow their names to be used because they did not want to publicly discuss Mr. Bush's political challenges, noted (sic) that Mr. Bush is tied down in Iraq, consumed by Hurricane Katrina, and headed into another standoff over Iran's nuclear program. The agreement, they said, provides him with a way to forestall, at least for now, a confrontation with another member of what he once famously termed 'the axis of evil.'" LINK

* A DESPERATE DEAL DOOMED TO FAIL , per the Washington Post: "'It's an all-front crisis for the Bush administration,' said Kongdan Oh, an expert on the North Korean nuclear program at the Institute for Defense Analyses in Alexandria. 'I think they thought, hey, North Korea is a small country and maybe we can handle it if we put it to the side for a while." But she said she did not believe North Korea would ever give up nuclear weapons, 'its platinum trump card.''" LINK

* INDICTMENTS GALORE ON THE WAY , per the Washington Post: "The Bush administration's top federal procurement official [David H. Safavian] resigned Friday and was arrested yesterday, accused of lying and obstructing a criminal investigation into Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff's dealings with the federal government." LINK

* A TANGLED WEB OF CORRUPT RELATIONSHIPS IN AT LEAST TWO BRANCHES, per the New York Times: "[Safavian's] wife, Jennifer Safavian, is chief counsel for oversight and investigations on the House Government Reform Committee, which is responsible for overseeing government procurement and is, among other things, expected to conduct the Congressional investigation into missteps after Hurricane Katrina." LINK

* A SMART SUGARLAND MOVE BY BEGALA, per the Washington Post: "Adults With Wisdom Teeth Often Develop Gum Disease." (That one is an inside joke intelligible to precisely seven Note readers.) LINK

Looking to improve things and win the news cycle -- as well as inspect and inspire -- President Bush returns to the Gulf Coast region today with stops in Mississippi and Louisiana. The President will be in Gulfport, MS at noon ET. He then heads to New Orleans to participate in a briefing on Tropical Storm Rita and then visits a "recovering business" at 3:20 pm ET before heading back to the White House.

Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) hold a 10:50 am ET press conference with African American ministers on Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.

Later in the day, Rep. Pelosi will team up with Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) at a 3:00 pm ET press conference on legislation creating a commission to prevent fraud and abuse in the recovery and rebuilding effort in the Gulf Coast.

At 2:15 pm ET, the Federal Open Market Committee meets on interest rates in Washington, DC. Whatever they decide will be seen through the Katrina prism.

Sens. Barack Obama (D-IL), Chris Dodd (D-CT), and Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) will hold a 2:15 pm ET press conference to voice their opposition to a recommendation made by the Carter-Baker Commission on Federal Election Reform which would require all Americans to show photo identification before voting. Of course, as best we can tell (and we say this un-cynically) that report is already gathering dust and it isn't even on the shelf yet.)

The Senate convenes at 9:45 am ET. The Senate will recess from noon until 2:15 pm ET for the weekly party luncheons.

The House will convene at 12:30 pm ET for morning hour and 2 pm ET for legislative business. No roll call votes are expected before 6:30 pm ET.

The Arctic Refuge Action Day rally gets underway at 10:30 am ET to protest plans to drill in ANWR with featured speaker Robert Kennedy, Jr.

Judge John Roberts will be on the Hill for a 3:30 pm ET photo opportunity with Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA). And Roberts' opponents at People for the American Way have put together a collection of "faith and religious leaders" to formally oppose the Roberts nomination at 12:30 pm ET.

Harvard University's Institute of Politics holds a panel discussion on "10 Years of the Weekly Standard," in Cambridge, MA.

Conservatives Salute Jesse Helms Dinner will take place this evening in Crystal City, VA

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) will host "New York Farm Day" in the Senate Russell Caucus Room at 5:30 pm ET.

If last week's Clinton Global Initiative did not provide enough Clinton-era nostalgia for you, there are two events this evening at which you can get your fill. Tipper Gore is being honored at the annual Alice Award Dinner at the Sewall-Belmont House at 7:30 pm ET. Also at 7:30 pm ET, Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) is being roasted at a Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy event at Union Station. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) is expected to deliver remarks at both events.

Sen. Jon Corzine (D-NJ) and Republican Doug Forrester will square off in their first televised debate of the general election campaign at 8:00 pm ET this evening. New Jersey Network will be carrying the debate live.

The O'Connor seat:

The New York Times' Kirkpatrick and Stolberg (apparently) break some news in the Grey Lady: LINK

"The White House is reshuffling its short list of potential Supreme Court nominees with a new emphasis on finding someone who will hold up under the pressure of what is expected to be fierce confirmation battle, several Republican allies close to the process said on Monday."

A whole slew of female names follow, including Judge Consuelo Callahan of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

That matches the CW at this point: men need not apply for this job.

The USA Today editorial board makes its plea for President Bush to consider diversity when making his next Supreme Court pick. LINK

John Roberts for Chief Justice:

We still don't know if the Judiciary vote will be strictly along partisan lines or not. Our guess: yes.

The Los Angeles Times editorial board gives Roberts a full-throated endorsement today, calling on Sen. Feinstein and other Democrats to confirm him, and showering him with more praise than even Fred Thompson or Jessica Boulanger can muster at this point (but only because Senator Thompson and Ms. Boulanger are understated types). LINK

MSNBC's Tom Curry looks at the Roberts vote in the context of the Democratic Party's Invisible Primary. LINK

The Hill's Alexander Bolton reports that a rift has opened up between Beltway conservatives who are happy with Roberts and those outside of Washington who are concerned that Roberts would respect precedent even if it was wrongly decided. "'I'm definitely one who has major concerns about the Roberts nomination,' said Dr. Virginia Armstrong, the national chairwoman of Eagle Forum's Court Watch Project. 'I had questions before the hearing. Since the hearing, those questions and concerns are much more intense than they were.'" LINK

The Hill's Jonathan Allen has Steve McMahon saying that if you are thinking about running for President, you've got to "take a hard look at voting no because that's where the Democratic base is." LINK

The politics of national security:

As we hoped for, David Sanger's must-read analysis on the North Korean deal: LINK

The Sanger/Kahn New York Times tick-tock on how the deal came to be and the overview of what's included (and what's not): LINK

The New York Times editorial board writes of a "big win" if the agreement is carried out. LINK

The Washington Post underscores that the US "gave ground" to make a deal with North Korea. LINK

"The Bush administration is seeking to appoint a lawyer with little immigration or customs experience to head the troubled law enforcement agency that handles those issues," the Washington Post's Eggen and Hsu report. LINK

Katrina: Bush strategy/response:

The New York Times has the details on Fran Townsend's appointment to head the internal White House inquiry into the "Administration's performance in handling Hurricane Katrina." LINK

"A Republican who served in the Clinton administration's Justice Department before holding a number of jobs under Mr. Bush, Ms. Townsend has a reputation for being tough and independent. But her appointment is unlikely to mute calls from Democrats in Congress for a fully independent investigation," write the Times' Stevenson and Hulse.

The Los Angeles Times' Wallsten and Hamburger hit the front page with a cup-filling-towards-half look at the Bush Administration's post-Katrina comeback with (some) black clergy. If there was a Ken Mehlman growth chart (like a Cal Ripken growth chart), this piece would raise the Chairman up 4 inches. LINK

Susan Page writes up the post-POTUS speech Gallup poll, with its 40 percent approval rating for the President. But she Notes this number belies the stronger approval -- 45 percent -- of the recovery proposals offered up by Bush. LINK

Kudos to Fox News Channel for its exclusive on camera interview with 41 pushing back on 42 for his criticism of 43.

Katrina: Big Casino budget politics:

The Los Angeles Times' Havemann and Hook has the White House rejecting delay of the prescription drug benefit, and a "senior" McCain aide throwing down this, "No fiscal conservative could say with a straight face that [passing the benefit originally] was a good thing to do." LINK

Roll Call's John Bresnahan gets right to the heart of yesterday's Big Casino developments: "Proposals from House GOP conservatives to cut federal spending to offset the costs of Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts ran smack into political reality Monday, as the White House rejected a plan to delay implementation of a new Medicare prescription drug program for one year, an idea that conservatives said would save at least $40 billion."

The Washington Times' Lambro and Fagan have Rep. Mike Pence saying that the fact that the White House so quickly dismissed delaying the implementation of the prescription drug program "may mean that it is nervous. 'If it was really going nowhere, it probably wouldn't have been ruled out,' he said." LINK

Katrina: the blame game:

In Mary Curtius's Los Angeles Times piece reporting that the two parties on the Hill are still stalemated on how to proceed with an investigation, there is this teasing quote: "'If Katrina families will come forward, maybe that will be the next chapter, and that will get the [independent] investigation going,' one senior Democratic Senate aide said." (Ah, the 9/11 model. . .) LINK

Katrina: investigative:

The Wall Street Journal's Dreazen on B1 looks at the companies with "checkered pasts" who are getting FEMA contracts.

Katrina: 2008: Democrats:

Under a "Backlash Over Katrina" header, the Washington Post's Dan Balz writes that President Bush came under "withering criticism" for his handling of Hurricane Katrina yesterday, with Sen. John Kerry charging that the storm exposed the Administration's "incompetence and ideological blinders" and former Sen. John Edwards asserting that even in its response, the Administration backs policies that support the privileged over the working poor. LINK

In his write-up of Kerry's money quote, Balz reminds his readers that Kerry was "using the nickname Bush used for Brown."

"Brownie is to Katrina what Paul Bremer is to peace in Iraq, what George Tenet is to slam-dunk intelligence, what Paul Wolfowitz is to parades paved with flowers in Baghdad, what Dick Cheney is to visionary energy policy, what Donald Rumsfeld is to basic war planning, what Tom DeLay is to ethics and what George Bush is to 'Mission Accomplished' and 'Wanted Dead or Alive,' " Kerry said.

Balz Notes at the end of his story that in addition to calling for many new programs to help the poor, Edwards "also said everyone, from parents and clergy to those most in need, must accept the responsibility to speak hard truths about behavior -- particularly out-of-wedlock pregnancies --that condemn many to perpetual poverty."

Edwards' efforts to link opportunity with responsibility reminded more than one reporter in the room of Bush's 2000 message about ushering in a "Responsibility Era."

Ronald Brownstein, penning for his beloved Los Angeles Times, gives Kerry and Edwards their own story, and his smart DLC-oriented ear picks up Edwards' (new) emphasis on discouraging out-of-wedlock births (so Clintonian, circa 1991. . .). LINK

Ron also has Jim Jordan (saying that Kerry-Edwards "never stopped running" or "gotten out of campaign mode"), Tracey Schmitt (giving out her same quotes), and Trent Duffy (a man of iron discipline and will).

The AP re-paired the former running mates also. LINK

In his Boston Globe op-ed piece Thomas Oliphant writes that John Edwards has "earned the right to say I told you. Edwards who spoke yesterday on poverty in America and the Katrina disaster is an American who said: LINK

"'If we know anything from a half-century of urban development, it is that concentrating poor people close to each other and away from jobs is a lousy idea. . . if the Great Depression brought forth Hoovervilles, these trailer towns may someday be known as Bushvilles.'"

Peter S. Canellos of the Boston Globe reports that Sen. John Kerry may be testing waters for another 2008 run, but yesterday he sounded like Howard Dean with his "outrage and ridicule " for the Bush Administration while speaking at Brown University. LINK

Katrina: 2008: Republicans:

Gov. Haley Barbour says he won't raise taxes to cover Mississippi's rebuilding effort, but he will start debate next week on allowing land-based casinos into Mississippi, reports the AP. LINK

Ethics:

The New York Times front pages Mr. Safavian's arrest and includes those great professional details about his wife's work on the Hill. LINK

The Los Angeles Times version has Mr. Ney in the penultimate graph, to D-trip delight no doubt. LINK

"Bush official arrested in corruption probe," blares the Washington Post. LINK

2008: Democrats:

During his speech to a packed Center for American Progress yesterday, Sen. John Edwards talked about his "College for Everyone" proposal and said that he would soon announce plans for a "pilot program" in "one county in North Carolina" where "College for Everyone" was going to be implemented.

Per Kim Rubey, Edwards' savvy and stylish spokeswoman, the Tarheel heads to Russia today for the Council on Foreign Relations task force that he's heading with former HUD Secretary Jack Kemp.

2008: Republicans:

Gov. Romney denies rumors that he will leave his governorship to head a White House appointed position to assist with the Katrina clean up, reports the Boston Herald. LINK

Under the header "Good omen?," the Washington Times writes that "There will be a President Allen, whether Sen. George Allen makes the cut in 2008 or not: at least on ABC's new show "Commander in Chief," starring Geena Davis as President Mackenzie Allen." LINK

2005:

The New York Times reports on the expected 1199/SEIU and David Dinkins endorsements headed Ferrer's way, despite Michael Bloomberg's attempts to win them. LINK

How many questions at today's 1199/Ferrer endorsement press conference will be about a possible quid pro quo? And will the candidate follow his staff's advice about how to answer?

2006:

Jeanine Pirro yesterday slammed both President and Sen. Clinton, calling the former "unbelievable" for refusing to advise his wife to pledge to serve out a full second term and the latter "outrageous" for not divulging her plans for the future. LINK

The Des Moines Register's political columnist David Yepsen foresees a ghost of elections past hovering over Iowa's 2006 G.O.P. gubernatorial primary. LINK

The Schwarzenegger Era:

In a telephone interview with ABC News yesterday, actor Warren Beatty left open the door for a possible run for governor of California in 2006 as a Democrat against Republican-actor-turned-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"I don't want to run for governor," Beatty said. "But I don't think anyone should put public service out of the question because that's not what a good citizen does."

"I think people have an obligation to say what they think," he added.

Beatty would not provide details as to what timetable he is using to make a decision about a possible run for governor. But he did point to two recent speeches as indications of where he would lead the state. Schwarzenegger announced last week that he will seek re-election next year. LINK and LINK

In Oakland on Thursday, Beatty will deliver a 9:30 pm ET keynote speech to the biennial convention of the California Nurses' Association. The state's nurses have been sparring with Schwarzenegger because of his decision to block implementation of previously-passed legislation that would reduce nurse-to-patient ratios.

Beatty, who has been critical of the Democratic Party in the past for being too conservative, does not appear to be motivated by any animus towards the two Democrats currently seeking their party's gubernatorial nomination in 2006.

"They are both terrific," he said, referring to state Treasurer Phil Angelides and state Controller Steve Westley.

House of Labor:

We couldn't help but Notice that three Democrats who might seek the White House in 2008 criticized President Bush yesterday for suspending the labor protections contained in the Davis-Bacon Act for hurricane-ravaged Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida.

In his speech to John Podesta's Center for American Progress, former Sen. John Edwards departed from his prepared text to say "I might have missed something, but I don't think the President ever talked about putting a cap on the salaries of the CEOs of Halliburton and the other companies. . . who are getting all of these contracts."

During a Monday speech at Brown University, Sen. John Kerry cited "the suspension of wage controls" as part of a larger GOP effort to turn the Gulf Coast region into a "vast laboratory for right-wing ideological experiments."

And not to be outdone, Sen. Hillary Clinton joined Sen. Chuck Schumer in sending President Bush a letter yesterday, calling on him to reverse the suspension of Davis-Bacon. In the letter, the former First Lady said it would have been unthinkable to suspend Davis-Bacon in the wake of 9-11, and she argued that the people working around the clock to rebuild the Gulf Coast deserve no less respect.

RNC Press Secretary Tracey Schmitt responded to the Davis-Bacon criticism by saying, "This action will expedite the return of basic services and infrastructure to the communities that have been devastated by the storm, cut costs and will help create job opportunities for those in need of work. It's disappointing that leaders in the Democrat Party focus on dividing our country while the rest of America is focused on pulling together to help those in need."

The New York Times reports on the Labor Department's waiving the requirement for first-time government contractors working on hurricane relief to have an affirmative action plan in place. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Kris Maher writes on A6 about how AFSCME and SEIU plan to support each other in organizing.

The Fitzgerald investigation:

Hurricane Katrina and Supreme Court vacancies have kept Judith Miller's incarceration out of the spotlight lately, and even from jail, that's something she's Noticed, writes Cindy Adams. LINK

Politics:

The first big "527" test case: FEC vs. Club for Growth: LINK

The New York Times editorial board trashes the Carter/Baker election reform proposal. LINK

Susette Kelo, in a Washington Times op-ed, previews the testimony she is set to give today before the Senate Judiciary Committee on eminent domain. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Hitt looks at how the CAFTA vote is playing with members of Congress and free traders.

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