WASHINGTON, Oct. 10
We know (we think) a little more about the Thoughts and Life of Patrick Fitzgerald this morning than we did the last time we wrote to you, dear gentle reader.
Eschewing the hurly burly of our usual Gang of 500 Lauriol Plaza brunch this weekend, we convened the more elite Group of 10 for Oyster Po Boys and ale at Hank's Oyster Bar in Dupont Circle yesterday to try to figure things out.
And/but a raging combination of insecurity and modesty forces us to tell you first what we all agreed we DON'T know.
We don't know what Fitzgerald's theory of the case is. We don't know what day Karl Rove is expected before the grand jury this week. We don't know what the President and Vice President knew and when they knew it. We don't know why all of a sudden reporters are writing about a new possible charge related to the disclosure of government information that is different than the Agents Identity Act (OK: that one we pretty much know.). We don't know what Judy Miller has told her bosses or what drives the suspicions of her colleagues. We don't know when something is going to happen, or what happens after that, and after that.
What we do know: if you aren't spending 90% of your waking time thinking about this, talking about this, and doodling on your jeans about this, then you aren't a member of the Gang of 500, and you probably will never be (even though we are, uhm, expecting some openings pretty soon).
On the Harriet Miers matter, we still believe that confirmation is more likely than not -- and withdrawal is more likely than defeat on the Senate floor.
We are still amazed by the lack of a White House handle on Miers record, by the lack of un-Hechtian surrogates, by the things that come out of Judge Hecht's mouth, by the only memorable thing Sen. Coats has said so far in "support" of Miers, by the apparent failure to think through the Dobson thing and the Richard Land thing, and by the effort that is going to be required to turn Ms. Miers into a world-class expert on constitutional law in less time than it normally takes to pass through driving school.
Unfortunately for the Bush Administration, these two story lines (Fitzgerald and Miers) have been mixed in with Iraq, Social Security, poll ratings, gas prices, and Katrina to produce a one-way news cycle trajectory as the week begins.
To say the political press corps has gotten hold of a narrative they can and will milk for some time is to understate the current political moment.
Time Magazine's Joe Klein has a Republican Senator saying: "'This Administration has been excellent at politics and spin. . . It hasn't been very good at governance. Perhaps it's time for Bush to do what Ronald Reagan did to shore up his White House in the final years—bring in a team of terrific managers, people with credibility from Day One.'" LINK
In their above-the-fold debut on A1 of the Washington Post, Chris Cillizza and Charles Babington look at the GOP's Senate recruitment problems and Note that while some Republican operatives, including some who work closely with the White House, privately point to what they regard as a lackluster performance by NRSC Chair Elizabeth Dole, some strategists more sympathetic to Dole "point the finger right back." LINK
"A senior Republican familiar with the recruiting process agreed that the climate has shifted for the GOP because of a confluence of problems from Iraq to Hurricane Katrina and high gasoline prices: 'Looking at polls from June or July and then looking at them now, the deterioration is really bad.'"
"Another Republican, pollster Tony Fabrizio, said a recruiting chill was inevitable. Candidates 'aren't stupid,' he said. 'They see the political landscape. You are asking them to make a huge personal sacrifice. It's a lot easier to make that sacrifice if you think there's a rainbow at the end.'"
The Los Angeles Times' Hook and Wallsten also explore the GOP's Senate candidate recruitment problems, and/but it is the kicker quote from Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) is what will get tongues wagging today. LINK
"Capito said her decision wasn't affected by Bush's low public approval ratings, but she acknowledged that the president might not be as much of an asset if she had made a Senate run as he was for her in the past."
"'In 2002, when I ran for my second term, the president came in and gave me a 5 [percentage] point bump up in the polls,' Capito said. 'Whether he has the ability to bump someone up at this point is a valid question.'"
As for the House, when Chairman Reynolds was asked about recruitment at his pen & pad briefing with reporters on Friday, he said he had not heard a single potential candidate cite the current political environment or the sagged presidential and congressional poll numbers as the reason someone decided against entering a race. (Reynolds also used that "wind in our face, not at our backs" metaphor employed by GOP pollster Glen Bolger in the Los Angeles Times piece, but to reverse effect.)
The Washington Post's David Broder's bold Sunday lede: "Three front-page stories on a single day last week testified to the unraveling of the Bush presidency." Broder goes on to say that Stephen Skowronek's "orthodox-innovator" assessment of Bush's presidency has proven prescient given the "sectarian infighting" that has broken out in the GOP. LINK
With his eye on the prize, President Bush makes his eighth trip to the hurricane ravaged Gulf Coast today. He departs the White House at 4:35 pm ET and has dinner with local officials in New Orleans at 8:00 pm ET. His trip will focus on finding housing for hurricane victims. Mrs. Bush travels with him.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) joins Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) in urging Californians to back Propositions 74 (teacher tenure), 75 (paycheck protection), 76 (state spending and school funding limits), and 77 (redistricting reform). The two Republicans will hold a 3:30 pm ET campaign event at the Burbank Hilton followed by a 5:30 pm ET town hall meeting at the Oakland Hilton. FNC's "Hannity & Colmes" will have a pre-taped interview with Schwarzenegger at 9:00 pm ET.
Secretary of State Rice departs Washington, DC for Kyrgyzstan at 10:00 am ET.
Gen. Wesley Clark is the featured guest at a fundraiser for the Alabama House Democratic Caucus in Birmingham, AL.
Former Sen. John Breaux (D-LA), Democratic pollster Geoffrey Garin, and Republican pollster Bill McInturff discuss findings on US health care reform priorities at the Washington Convention Center at 2:30 pm ET.
Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) attends the Italian Civic League of Rochester's Columbus Day Luncheon at 11:45 am ET. At 3:00 pm ET, she makes remarks at "Upstate New York Biotech Day," a conference hosted by New Jobs for New York and Johnson & Johnson which brings together business leaders, biotech company executives, and research leaders.
The American Council of Life Insurers, which is meeting at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC today, will hear from the Concord Coalition's Pete Peterson at 9:45 am ET and from the Washington Post's Bob Woodward at 1:00 pm ET.
Justice Antonin Scalia (who, in his CNBC interview excerpted on "Today" this morning, spoke of how he will miss Sandra Day O'Connor when she leaves the High Court and called O'Connor "the social glue" of the Court) will serve as Grand Marshall of the Columbus Day Parade in New York City today.
DNC Chairman Howard Dean will appear with Fernando Ferrer at a New York City fundraiser this evening. John Edwards is expected to do the same tomorrow.
The House and Senate are in recess this week.
And a Note to Harvard students and Institute of Politics fellows: Professor Adam Nagourney turns approximately 40 years old today; please bring an extra apple to class with you for him.
See below for our look at the key calendar items in the week ahead.
Harriet Miers for Associated Justice:
By Charles Hurt's clever count in the Washington Times, 27 Republican Senators — nearly half the caucus — have "expressed specific doubts" about Miers or have said they will withhold judgment on her nomination until after the hearings. LINK
Ron Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times isn't buying the theory that President Bush nominated Harriet Miers from a position of political weakness and he sums up his column thusly: "History says Miers is still a favorite for confirmation. But she faces the genuine threat of an informal left-right alliance that argues she isn't the best person for the job. Too much confidence, not too little, probably explains why Bush now faces an unpredictable fight likely to weaken him whether the Senate confirms Miers or not." LINK
Time Magazine's Nancy Gibbs has a presidential adviser blaming White House chief of staff Andy Card for the Miers pick: "'This is something that Andy and the President cooked up,' the adviser told TIME." Andy knew it would appeal to the President because he loves appointing his own people and being supersecret and stealthy about it.' Relations between Rove and Card have always been strained, and this adviser said the nomination has reignited the tension." LINK
The New York Times' David Kirkpatrick wraps the Sunday morning chatter by focusing on the potential that the Judiciary Committee may call Dr. Dobson to testify as a part of the Miers confirmation hearings. Kirkpatrick has White House spokesperson Dana Perino saying Karl Rove did not provide Dr. Dobson "'any insight into how Ms. Miers may rule on any particular case.'" LINK
Richard Schmitt of the Los Angeles Times leads his coverage of Sunday talk with Specter's "lynch mob" remark and buries the potential Dobson testimony. LINK
In an exclusive interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, Sen. Arlen Specter said he will push Miers very hard to learn about her ability to make complicated constitutional decisions. LINK
The Washington Post's Balz and Baker wrote on Sunday that the Miers' confirmation hearings could turn into a "stump-the-nominee" contest. LINK
The Washington Times' Donald Lambro predicts it won't take much for the social conservatives to get back solidly in Miers' -- and the President's -- corner. LINK
Concerned Women for America issued a release this morning stating why it can not endorse the Miers nomination at this time and urging less talk about her evangelical faith.
Last week, the Wall Street Journal's John Fund wrote that "while skepticism of Ms. Miers is justified, the time is fast approaching when such expressions should be muted until the Senate hearings begin. At that point, Ms. Miers will finally be able to speak for herself." But after interviewing more than a dozen of her friends and colleagues along with political players in Texas, he is now convinced that questions about Ms. Miers should be raised "now -- and loudly." LINK
Fund is murky about what he thinks the result of all this "raising" should be.
Gary Rice, an SMU classmate of Harriet Miers, tells Time Magazine: "My theory is that she is going to be a Justice very much like Sandra Day O'Connor." LINK
The New York Times' Glater looks at Harriet Miers' record from her Texas corporate law firm days and reminds readers that the heated constitutional issues of the day appear before the Supreme Court far less than disputes over mundane federal laws and statutes. LINK
Glater has this nugget: "Most of the cases Ms. Miers handled were settled out of court, leaving little for the public record. According to the Congressional Research Service, Ms. Miers has been counsel of record in 22 cases that were litigated."
In his Sunday column, Bob Novak reported "President Bush had advised senators that his probable choice was federal Circuit Judge Consuelo Callahan of California." LINK
Out of the public eye, aides to Senate Democrats tell the Associated Press their bosses are jubilant at the in-fighting within the GOP over Miers' nomination. LINK
Elisabeth Bumiller explores the "Girls Night Out" phenomenon in her New York Times "White House Letter," with special attention to the Miers, Rice, Veneman triumvirate. LINK
(If we were in a mood to pick a fight with the Bumiller household, we would muse about how this piece got in the paper, but we aren't, so we won't.)
Conservatives rethinking President Bush:
President Bush is beset with problems but Michael Barone thinks the President can rebound and confound his vitriolic critics with a State of the Union speech that lays out a forward-looking vision. LINK
Bob Novak writes that he was unable to find one conservative at the National Review bash last week who is pleased with the Miers nomination or with the level of federal government spending under the Republican President and Congress, but that Speaker Hastert's decision to push for many "Operation Offset" recommendations is a good place to start to ease those conservative concerns. LINK
As Novak correctly says, however, getting to "yes" on the spending cuts is still a challenge. Former Reagan speechwriter Clark Judge writes in the New York Post that Bush's recent troubles can be traced to the loss of his inner street fighter. LINK
The Fitzgerald investigation:
In a piece that looks at why some Republicans are worried by the idea of a White House without Karl Rove, the Wall Street Journal's John McKinnon charts the evolution of President Bush's statements on the CIA leak case. "Early on in the controversy over the disclosure of Ms. Plame's identity, the President vowed to fire anyone involved. Later, after testimony implicating Mr. Rove became public, Mr. Bush expressed a looser standard, saying he would remove aides who committed crimes. Last week, amid speculation that Mr. Rove might face charges from special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, Mr. Bush wouldn't say whether he would remove an aide under indictment." Ed Gillespie's name is floated at the end of the article as one person who might join the White House staff if Rove goes down.
Newsweek's Isikoff focuses on the Rove email to Hadley describing the Cooper conversation about which he did not initially tell investigators, the grand jury, or the President. Isikoff also reports Judith Miller's Notes on her June 2003 conversation with Scooter Libby were found in the paper's Washington bureau. LINK
Greg Mitchell of Editor & Publisher has several questions about that Miller/Libby conversation from June 2003. LINK
Mike Allen's front-of-the book Time item on the investigation is written/edited in a way that makes it appear that Karl Rove said something about Fitzgerald on the record that we really can't believe he said. We are sure there will be an excellent clarification issued soon.
The Wall Street Journal ed board thinks GOP disarray is leading the market to worry that "the pro-growth political majority of recent years is in jeopardy."
In a Sunday analysis for the Washington Post, Michael Fletcher suggested that President Bush has long walked a "fine line" when it comes to abortion. LINK
The New York Times' David Sanger writes of the Bush Administration's speedy initial response to the Pakistan earthquake. LINK
Edmund Andrews of the New York Times explores what one Senate lawmaker calls the "complex minuet" between Chinese and American officials over trade issues as Secretary Snow and Chairman Greenspan head to the region. LINK
Bipartisan members of the Senate education committee tell USA Today they want an investigation of the President's Reading First initiative. Both Sen. Mike Enzi and Sen. Edward Kennedy are concerned the program's top advisers may have illegally influenced what books schools are buying to teach reading. LINK
The Associated Press takes an extensive and largely positive look at the new organizational and tactical techniques Howard Dean has introduced to the DNC. LINK
Check out this quote from Dartmouth Government Professor Linda Fowler in the college paper: "Frist's loyalty to President George W. Bush may turn out to be a disadvantage in 2008, given the president's low approval ratings." Fowler calls Sens. Allen and Frist "the only real conservatives." She thinks McCain has benefited from keeping his distance from Bush but cautions that he may not run because of his age and health. LINK
The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza reported on Sunday that Dr./Leader/Sen. Bill Frist is not letting the HCA investigation slow down his "typically torrid" fundraising. LINK
The portrayal of Frist on "Saturday Night Live," doing a Thelma-and-Louise thing with a Tom DeLay character, was boffo for his name ID!!!
At a weekend fundraiser in New York, Sen. John McCain told the New York Daily News "he is seriously considering" a 2008 presidential bid, but he will wait more than a year to decide. The Daily News believes he also ruled out a vice presidential bid. LINK
At the same fundraiser, McCain said he supports Mayor Bloomberg's recent decision to raise security in city's subways. LINK
The New York Post reports a former official in Gov. George Pataki's Inspector General's Office is suing, saying she was illegally fired for not making political contributions to a Republican Assembly candidate. LINK
On familiar turf, the AP's Glen Johnson writes that if Gov. Romney decides to make the leap into presidential waters, he will be following a long line of Bay State politicians. LINK
A Dan Wasserman cartoon in Sunday's Boston Globe has Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney asking: "To flee, or not to flee, that is the question!" LINK
In Sunday's Washington Post, George Will had Congressman Tom Tancredo saying he is too short, too fat, and too bald to be president. LINK
The State's Lee Bandy wrote in a Sunday column that Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is "just the kind of candidate who could catch fire" in South Carolina. LINK
The New Hampshire Union Leader's Tom Fahey offers a glimpse of Newt Gingrich's jaunt to the Granite State this weekend. The former Speaker revealed that he likes the presidential primaries just the way they are and doesn't understand Democratic preoccupation with their scheduling/timing rearrangement. LINK
The Des Moines Register's Abby Simons reports that Sen. Sam Brownback conveyed his tentativeness on Miers to Iowans this weekend. LINK
In a colorful profile of Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, the Washington Post's Mark Leibovich Notes that a Mississippi renaissance -- "if it occurs" -- could be a "springboard into a run for President in 2008 -- something Barbour had been considering before Katrina." LINK
The Indianapolis Star looks at how an altered nomination calendar might affect Sen. Bayh's electoral prospects. LINK
David Shribman does the "will he or won't he?" look at Gov. Vilsack. LINK
Teresa Heinz (with no "Kerry" attached to the byline) authored a Boston Globe op-ed over the weekend looking at a gender gap in retirement security. LINK
The Des Moines Register's Tom Beaumont writes up John Kerry's weekend visit to the Hawkeye State and Notes that it isn't always easy the second time around. LINK
For anyone following the race for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, Salon's Michael Scherer has a must-read Q&A with Sen. Russ Feingold.
Here are the highlights: Feingold says there is "a real timidity and weakness" on the part of Democrats who are unwilling to challenge Bush on Iraq; he says "don't count on" Miers being confirmed to the High Court and says she lacks the independence from the President that he admires in Roberts; he pushes back at Ralph Neas' criticism of his votes to confirm Roberts and Ashcroft; and he sketches the three planks that would form his positive platform. LINK
Saturday marked the induction of Sen. Clinton into the National Women's Hall of Fame in New York. After the event, Clinton told the Associated Press that there has never been a greater time for women in the U.S. LINK
Neither of the two new Hillary Clinton books is selling very well -- at least as judged by their rankings on Amazon.com, says the New York Daily News. LINK
Sens. Clinton and John Kerry and former Sen. John Edwards are all expected to host fundraisers for New York mayoral candidate Fernando Ferrer this month. LINK
A possible '08 run by his wife is forcing the former President to change his schedule, "reports" Page Six. LINK
Flooding in New Hampshire caused hundreds of people to evacuate their homes, reports the Associated Press. LINK
The AP reports that Gov. John Lynch sees no need for a New Hampshire constitutional amendment disavowing gay marriage, since he asserts that the Granite State is already committed (through current laws) to the heterosexual-only definition of marriage. LINK
"Speaker of the House Douglas Scamman reversed course yesterday, saying he will not sign onto an amicus brief that supports a Planned Parenthood U.S. Supreme Court position against the state's parental notification abortion bill," reports the New Hampshire Union Leader's Fahey. LINK
Sixty-eight percent of Americans "said they do not care whether Iowa should continue to be the first to declare their choice for the presidential nominations," writes Thomas Beaumont of a new poll in the Des Moines Register. LINK
The Des Moines Register's Tim Higgins reports that Republican Iowa gubernatorial candidates Nussle and Vander Plaats could be seen picking-a-little (at each other), and talking-a-little (on taxes) at an Iowa forum on Saturday. LINK
The Washington Post's Shear and Jenkins assess Sunday's Virginia gubernatorial debate between Republican Jerry Kilgore and Democrat Tim Kaine: "Unlike last month's debate at the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, where Kilgore's performance was panned, both candidates in Sunday's night's debate were crisp aggressive and on message." LINK
As it comes down to the wire, the New Jersey gubernatorial race is getting tighter, with a Star-Ledger/Eagleton-Rutgers poll saying Sen. Jon Corzine's lead over Doug Forrester is down to just seven points among likely voters. LINK
Fernando Ferrer says he has agreed to another debate in the New York mayoral race. The only problem? Mayor Michael Bloomberg won't be there, according to the New York Daily News. LINK
The New York Post reports Ferrer is telling supporters his private polling shows him less than 10 points behind Bloomberg. link
Michael Bloomberg's campaign spending and donations to Fernando Ferrer's campaign from tobacco companies were the dominant Sunday campaign trail themes. LINK
Jim Rutenberg uses the New York Times campaign column to report that Ed Gillespie's nephew is on the Bloomberg campaign payroll. And be sure to Note Pat Healy's reporting that a Republican gubernatorial primary might be exactly what Gov. Weld wants. (Note Note: We remain unconvinced.) LINK
The wise George Skelton uses his Los Angeles Times column to explore the Democratic conundrum of how to motivate your voters for an election you deem unnecessary and silly. LINK
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's Friday signing of bills imposing restrictions on video games and dietary supplements should give a boost to his special election agenda, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. LINK
In a Sunday look at Dr. James Dobson's "spiritual empire," the Boston Globe's Brian MacQuarrie Noted that Dobson has targeted several Red State Democratic Senators for defeat in 2006, including Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, and Bill Nelson of Florida. LINK
In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Warren Beatty does his usual, not ruling out an '06 challenge to Gov. Schwarzenegger, but saying it continues to be unlikely. LINK
House of Labor:
The New York Times gets around to publishing Steven Greenhouse's requisite Anna Burger profile. LINK
In case you missed 60 Minutes or much of the pre-broadcast coverage, former FBI Director Louis Freeh's book -- specifically his thoughts on Bill Clinton and Richard Clarke – gets some New York Times space today. LINK
Justice Scalia on not being elevated to Chief Justice following the death of William Rehnquist: "I'm not even sure I wanted it, to tell you the truth." LINK
The week ahead:
On Tuesday, President Bush holds events in Louisiana as well as Pass Christian, MS before heading back to Washington, DC. The President and First Lady will also be Matt Lauer's live guests on the "Today" show tomorrow morning.
Also on Tuesday, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) addresses the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm College in Manchester, NH.
New York Times reporter Judith Miller is scheduled to meet with Special Counsel Fitzgerald in the CIA leak investigation tomorrow. Karl Rove is expected to go before the grand jury in the case at some point this week.
Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee will be in Des Moines Wednesday through Friday for an NGA Healthy America Forum and the World Food Festival.
On Friday, former President Clinton raises some money for the Arkansas Democratic Party.
On Saturday, Sen. George Allen (R-VA) visits New Hampshire.