The Note: Q: Is It a Game or Is It Real?

WASHINGTON, Sep. 23

NEWS SUMMARY

The Mayor of the United States of America heads to the eye of the storm today.

He plans to leave the White House at 3:15 pm ET for San Antonio, TX to meet with first responders preparing for Hurricane Rita. (Note: look to see what he wears, and how many "g's" he drops when talking to the front-liners, and what Bush SOTS* and pix show up on the network newscasts at 6:30 pm ET.)

Mr. Bush then travels to Northern Command in Colorado Springs, CO (where he RONs**) to oversee the federal government's response to the storm. (Note: look to see if there is a photo op that looks like this: LINK

)

What the MOTUS is doing tomorrow remains, at this writing, as up in the air as the amount of damage Rita will do is. (Note: look to see if the Bush bike is loaded on AF1.)

(Before he departs for all this, Mr. Bush will present the Medal of Honor to Army Cpl. Tibor Rubin, a veteran of the Korean War, in a 2:30 pm ET ceremony in the East Room.)

Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, in his capacity as chairman of the National Governors Association, delivers a 1:00 pm ET speech to the National Press Club on his healthy living initiative. He is also expected to discuss Arkansas' well-reviewed Katrina Assistance Relief Effort. (Note: look to see how many of the questions Huckabee takes are about disasters.)

Sen. John Kerry was expected to deliver a 9:00 am speech to the Congressional Black Caucus on health care, veterans, and education. (Note: look to see if anyone asks the Senator to autograph today's Scot Lehigh column.)

The Cato Institute holds a 12 pm ET briefing on "The Republican Pork Explosion" in Rayburn B-369. (Note: look to see how the Catoians react at the mention of Leader DeLay's name.)

First Lady Laura Bush and Librarian of Congress James Billington attend a 7:00 pm ET gala to kick off the National Book Festival in the LOC's Jefferson Building. (Note: look to see if the FLOTUS keeps up the pressure to get a woman on the Supreme Court.)

Sen. Hillary Clinton speaks to seniors and attends a ribbon-cutting ceremony for RNN-TV in Rye Brook, NY before attending an 8:30 pm ET fundraiser for her re-election campaign at Crobar in New York City. Singer/songwriter Venice Maki is scheduled to perform.

Vice President Cheney is scheduled to undergo elective surgery to treat an aneurysm in an artery behind his knee at some point this weekend.

On Saturday, United for Peace and Justice and ANSWER hold a joint anti-Iraq war rally at the White House. (Note: As the Philadelphia Inquirer points out, the only Democratic officeholders who plan to speak at this weekend's protest are Reps. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) and John Conyers (D-MI).) LINK

Karl Rove is scheduled to address North Dakota's Republican Party tomorrow night. (Note: look to see if Tim Lamb of Grand Forks or Greg Brokaw of Ashley attend. LINK and LINK

(Note that Al Kamen in the Washington Post marvels at Rove's ability to multitask, dealing with Katrina -- and immigration and more -- while he takes this trip and maybe tries to "induce" popular GOPer Gov. John Hoeven to run against Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) next year. LINK

) (Note that the AP says, "Hoeven said he will attend the Fargo fundraiser and meet with Rove, but he downplayed the visit's significance." LINK

) The New Yorker Festival gets underway today and will continue running through the weekend. Tonight's featured event is a 7:00 pm ET "Town Hall Meeting on Iraq," with Douglas J. Feith (former Under-Secretary of Defense), Rend al-Rahim (former Ambassador-designate to the U.S. for the interim government of Iraq), R. James Woolsey (former CIA Director), Robert Baer (former CIA officer), and author Mark Danner. It all happens at Town Hall in midtown Manhattan. (Note: look to see if anyone from The Note attends.)

On Sunday on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," you'll get the very latest on hurricane Rita from correspondents in the field, and from state and federal officials about the scope of the damage, plus, a Sunday exclusive with Sen. John McCain -- live from his home state of Arizona. (Note: look to see what the Senator says about off-sets.)

As the inimitable Roger Simon once wrote, C-SPAN is the "lifeblood, the glucose drip, the keep-hope-alive channel of presidential candidates."

Be sure to tune in on Sunday as C-SPAN's "Road to the White House 2008" continues. This week's installment will feature three recent speeches: former Sen. John Edwards' Sept. 18 speech to the 28th Annual Harkin Steak Fry at the Warren County Fairgrounds in Indianola, IA, as well as Sen. Sam Brownback and Gov. Mike Huckabee's Sept. 17 remarks at the Polk County Republican Party's "GOP Fest" at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, IA.

This weekend, Karen Hughes embarks on a trip to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.

Also this weekend, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney appears at the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference in Mackinac, MI.

Rita: Bush pre-response:

The lead of the New York Times' Dick Stevenson seems to reflect a newsroom-wide sensibility (ok: a "Gang of 500-wide sensibility") that Mr. Bush is photo-opping a corrective overreaction: "Under intense pressure to show that he has learned the practical and political lessons of Hurricane Katrina, President Bush planned on Thursday to pack his foul-weather gear and head to Texas on Friday ahead of Hurricane Rita, trying to make clear that he is directing an all-out federal effort to cope with the storm." LINK

Per Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in the Orlando Sentinel, Bush 41 and former First Lady Barbara Bush are among the evacuees from Houston. "'They're in Washington,' Gov. Bush said. 'Their house (in Houston) is all boarded up.'" LINK

Katrina: Bush Administration response:

Peter Gosselin and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar pen a Los Angeles Times news analysis piece suggesting the Bush Administration is favoring the one-time delivery of services to the displaced through FEMA, rather than risk creating on-going entitlement obligations in areas such as health care and housing. LINK

David Rogers of the Wall Street Journal in fact says this, ". . . the Administration is working openly to rein in a bipartisan Senate Medicaid bill to extend health-care coverage to Katrina survivors. The White House prefers a more incremental approach of state-by-state waivers and the Administration reached agreement with the state of Mississippi yesterday and was close to agreement with Alabama.">LINK

Bloomberg News looks at the ways in which Bush relies on corporate lobbyists to push his agenda. LINK

Katrina: Congress reacts:

Carl Hulse's New York Times congressional round-up highlights the Louisiana delegation's request for a $250 billion plan -- or what Mr. Dirksen would call "real money." LINK

And/but the lack of a proposal from the President and worry about the outcome of Hurricane Rita may hold up aid packages for Louisiana, the Washington Times' Stephen Dinan reports. LINK

Katrina: Big Casino budget politics:

Steven Komarow reports in USA Today that Iraqis are concerned that Katrina and Rita relief costs will divert money from the re-building process in their country. "Our hearts and our prayers are with the victims," Planning Minister Barham Saleh said. "But one should also keep in mind the importance of reconstruction in Iraq. You cannot leave Iraq alone, because failure is not an option here." A 35-year-old mother of four in Baghdad "was stunned by the 'clean and beautiful areas' where evacuees were resettled. 'Why can't he do that in Iraq?'" she asked, referring to Bush. LINK

Katrina: politics:

In National Journal, sage Charlie Cook reads the tea leaves and writes: "In the 13 months until the midterm elections, Bush will have countless chances to try to improve his standing. From this point forward, however, he can expect to have considerably less control over the agenda, both on Capitol Hill and within his own administration, than he had during his first four and a half years in the White House."

The AP's bookish Ron Fournier looks at the muddled Democrats and only hints at what he really thinks. LINK

Paul Krugman's pricey New York Times column connects the dots (Iraq+hurricanes+economy=crisis of confidence), but questions from where the anti-Bush leadership will come. LINK

John Roberts for Chief Justice: the whip count:

As of this morning, John Roberts has support from all 55 Republican Senators as well as Democratic Sens. Leahy, Feingold, Kohl, Byrd, Pryor, Bingaman, Baucus, and Johnson, putting him at a minimum of 63 votes. He is also likely to get the support of Sens. Ben Nelson and Kent Conrad, which would take him to 65 votes. And there could still be others, taking the vote total higher still.

John Roberts for Chief Justice:

In his examination in the October GQ of how Justice David Souter let down conservatives, handsome Robert Draper has Grover Norquist laying out why Roberts is no David Souter: "'People say he may be like Souter -- but no, he's got a family and friends here." Draper reports that Norquist agrees with Garry Bauer's theory that Souter "fell into the influence of the prevailing liberal ethos of Washington."

The Washington Post's Babington and Goldstein news-of-day piece includes this: "The soothing tones and anticlimactic windup of Roberts's confirmation are unlikely to be repeated in the looming battle to replace O'Connor, an array of lawmakers and activists said. 'It's Armageddon,' said Sen. Orrin G. Hatch. . ." LINK

The Boston Globe's Rick Klein writes that the "mixed message" that the Democrats are delivering on Roberts takes on added significance because of the O'Connor vacancy. LINK

The Des Moines Register's Jane Norman writes that, while Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley stamped his approval on a Supremely hopeful Roberts in committee, Hawkeye man Tom Harkin (D) still has misgivings about the nominee's Americans with Disabilities Act stance. LINK

The Wall Street Journal ed board, in denouncing the Judiciary Committee "no" votes, writes, "Joe Biden was, well, Bidenesque."

Scot Lehigh writes in a Boston Globe op-ed that President Bush met Democrats half way with the Robert's nomination and that Democratic Senators should "disregard . . . their opposition." And Lehigh spares Senator Kerry none of his quasi-venom. LINK

The O'Connor seat:

The Washington Times' Charles Hurt Notes that Feingold will not vote for Judge Janice Rogers Brown, if she is chosen to replace O'Connor. LINK

CBS' Dotty Lynch has one Democratic consultant suggesting that if the next nominee is a Hispanic or female or both, the Democrats who supported Roberts have "put themselves in the position of rolling over for the white establishment male and then beating up on the minority." LINK

The politics of Iraq:

The Los Angeles Times curtain raises the weekend's anti-war protests. LINK

John Ritter reports in USA Today that some of the anti-war protestors converging on Washington this weekend and Monday plan to attempt to block White House entryways, hang placards on the White House fence and illegally occupy the sidewalk along Pennsylvania Avenue. Organizers hope to launch the biggest demonstration since the U.S. invasion of Iraq and say they expect more than 100,000 people Saturday for a march near the White House at which Cindy Sheehan will speak. War supporters are expected to rally along the same route. LINK

President Bush will avoid anti-war protesters in D.C. this weekend but yesterday offered the following pre-rebuttal, as quoted by Judy Keen in USA Today: "I recognize their good intentions but their position is wrong. The only way the terrorists can win is if we lose our nerve and abandon the mission. For the safety and security of the American people, that's not going to happen on my watch." LINK

Blares the New York Times' Joel Brinkley: "Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, said Thursday that he had been warning the Bush administration in recent days that Iraq was hurtling toward disintegration, a development that he said could drag the region into war." LINK

"'There is no dynamic now pulling the nation together,' he said in a meeting with reporters at the Saudi Embassy here. 'All the dynamics are pulling the country apart.' He said he was so concerned that he was carrying this message 'to everyone who will listen' in the Bush administration."

Robin Wright has the story for the Washington Post. LINK

In a letter to the intelligence czar yesterday, Senate Democrats asked John Negroponte to brief "all interested senators" behind closed doors, starting Oct. 5 and then about every 60 days thereafter, about the anti-US insurgency, allied support, training of Iraqi security forces, and many other topics.

The politics of national security:

Warren Vieth of the Los Angeles Times and possessed of a fine ear, catches 43 exempting 41, and/but ignoring Peggy Noonan's advice, and saying this yesterday:

"President Bush said Thursday that mistakes made by three of his predecessors, including the Reagan administration's restraint after the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon, had emboldened terrorists and helped set the stage for the Sept. 11 attacks." LINK

Frist and HCA:

Now that the SEC is investigating Dr./Sen./Leader Frist's HCA stock sale, the drip-drip-drip process story will go on for some time. Like a bad penny (stock), this one is going to be with the Good Doctor for the foreseeable future, whatever the facts. And the media appears very suspicious.

The Wall Street Journal's Solomon and Rogers emphasize that other insiders sold off stock around the same time as Frist and/but that Frist's brother doesn't think he had any/much stock to sell after previous sell-offs.

The New York Times editorial page -- widely read in your finer Nashville neighborhoods -- is concerned enough to weigh in, calling for the SEC investigation that has already kicked off LINK, as detailed in the paper's news pages by David Kirkpatrick. LINK

The Washington Post ed board on Frist and HCA: "One possible explanation for Mr. Frist's action is that he is weighing a presidential run and wanted to get any potential ethical issue out of the way. A more conspiratorial explanation comes to mind, as well, which is that Mr. Frist had some advance knowledge of the company's impending bad news. Mr. Frist's brother is HCA's largest individual shareholder, its chairman emeritus and a member of the company's board. There's no evidence that Mr. Frist had inside information or traded on it, though Ms. [Amy] Call's careful phrasing -- that the senator "did not have any conversations with HCA executives about HCA stock when he was making the decision to divest" -- is curious." LINK

The Palm Beach Post ed board wants an FEC investigation also. LINK

2008: Democrats:

The New York Daily News has Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf saying Hillary Clinton has positioned herself well for her "no" vote by not being the loudest liberal voice out there. LINK

The AP's Frederick Frommer has Ralph Neason Feingold's "yea" vote: "I think countless progressives across the country are going to be so disappointed when they find this out. It's so contrary to the image we have of Russ Feingold." LINK

More Neas: "I was expecting him to be one of the leaders to block the nomination of John Roberts. As someone who has supported Russ Feingold with our political action committee, we are totally bewildered. He abandoned us." Neas wouldn't say whether the PAC would support Feingold in the future.

Charles Franklin, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, makes the case that Feingold's "yea" vote could underscore his image as someone who makes up his own mind.

The Quad City Times reports that a very fast Vilsack plans to fly through the Quad-Cities Marathon on Sunday. (Ok, ok, the Iowa Governor actually claims to be exhausted, since his -- not-highly-recommended -- training regime consisted of extensive travel and four-hour sleep cycles).

LINK

2008: Republicans:

After seeing Sen. John McCain address an American Spectator dinner, Michael Barone writes that the Arizona Republican's "comments on spending and immigration were in line with the animating spirit of Republican primary electorates, even if some of the measures he continues to support (McCain-Kennedy, the McCain-Lieberman bill on global warming, campaign-finance regulation) are not. Barone Notes that while McCain is to the left of Bush on immigration, he is to the right of Bush on the highway bill and on delaying or repealing the Medicare prescription drug benefit to prevent what "may be the largest deficit in history" in the wake of Katrina. LINK

Michael Cooper of the New York Times writes up Governor Pataki's video-link press conference from China with the Albany press corps (whose bosses didn't shell out the money to send them on the trip), and reveals to said bosses on 43rd Street that "9 a.m." is early for reporters to do business. (Note to Coop: we agree.) LINK

We love five things in this paragraph: "When Gov. Mario M. Cuomo traveled to Moscow in 1987, in what was viewed as an attempt for him to learn about foreign policy before the 1988 presidential race, 15 reporters traveled with him. But Governor Pataki has no reporters traveling with him, as news organizations are struggling in tough economic times."

The Boston Globe has three Romney stories today: on energy legislation, Rita evacuees, and a threat of arrests. LINK and LINK and LINK

Immigration:

Super-talented Mary Curtius of the Los Angeles Times interviews House members of both parties who have been to recent Rove-led White House sessions on immigration reform and comes away with the sense that the Administration is gearing up to push for a comprehensive bill that stresses border control and a resolution to the illegal immigrant/worker problem. It gets her on the front page. LINK

Ethics:

Per the Washington Post's Smith: "Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff bragged two years ago that he was in contact with White House political aide Karl Rove on behalf of a large, Bermuda-based corporation that wanted to avoid incurring some taxes and continue receiving federal contracts, according to a written statement by President Bush's nominee to be deputy attorney general." LINK

2005:

Patrick Healy writes about Mayor Bloomberg's campaign's use of a World Trade Center-related photo in a campaign mailing which will soon desist, and demonstrates the tempest-in-a-tiny-little-teapot nature of the "flap" by tagging the story with some Virginia Fields history that makes no sense in this context whatsoever. LINK

The New York Post seems to warn against Bloomberg taking unnecessary shots at the President LINK given a new poll out telling Bloomberg that he has little to worry about in November. LINK

Bloomberg's campaign charged its Democratic rival Fernando Ferrer with flip-flopping on fingerprinting of welfare recipients, which the Ferrer campaign denies. LINK

Iowa:

It appears as though endorsements would be a breeze for Mike Blouin, as the Sioux City Journal counts off the multitude of Iowa state senators that would instantaneously throw support behind their fellow Democrat, should he decide on a gubernatorial campaign. LINK

Here is the Des Moines Register's version: LINK

New Hampshire:

The Manchester Union Leader's editorial boards cheers hurrah for Gov. John Lynch's reappointment of New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte -- plaintiff in the New Hampshire parental notification lawsuit, scheduled for Supreme Court scrutiny. LINK

The Schwarzenegger Era:

Warren Beatty ripped Governor Schwarzenegger at a nurses' convention in Oakland and said he hasn't ruled out running for governor, the AP reports. LINK

The New York Sun's Josh Gerstein reports that the nurses "erupted repeatedly in cries of 'Run, Warren, run!' as Beatty endorsed traditional liberal causes such as a national health insurance system and savaged the Governor on a wide array of issues." California Democratic Party Chairman Art Torres says he talks to Beatty all the time and he doesn't expect that he will run. LINK

Schwarzenegger's campaign team announced plans for a seven-figure advertising campaign in the state's Spanish-language television and radio media yesterday. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Schwarzenegger's support among Latino voters, which was once robust, has "plummeted in the last year" according to public opinion polls "amid controversial comments supporting the Minutemen anti-illegal immigration movement and his continuing opposition to bills to provide illegal immigrants with driver's licenses." LINK

Politics:

In a New York Times op-ed piece, Jimmy Carter and James A. Baker 3d pushback on the attacks on the I.D. issue stemming from their election recommendations, but it would seem "to some" unlikely that one opinion piece can keep the dust from settling on the report. LINK

The FEC has dismissed a complaint accusing Republicans and conservative groups of improperly working to put Ralph Nader on Oregon's ballot last year, AP reports. LINK

*SOTS="sound on tape"

**RONs="remains overnight"