The Note




Swirling out there: a new Bush-Cheney 60-second TV spot going hard after John Kerry; two new Kerry TV spots, including one dovetailing perfectly with a hard-impacting Washington Post story on Iraq spending; and the rolling release of Kerry's military records.

(Sorry, Woodward -- we've sort of moved on.)

Per a Republican source, the new BC04 ad will rotate into their national cable buy and it "will address John Kerry's claim that 'a lot of people don't really know who I am.' The ad points out that John Kerry's problem isn't that people don't know him. It's that they do."

Its charming and evocative title: "Doublespeak."

The Kerry spots interestingly avoid the biographical stuff for which some Democrats are clamoring, but do smartly provide Kerry specifics (as much as one can in a 30-second spot!) about what he would do about Iraq and what his priorities would be (security, healthcare, the economy).

And then there are those military records.

It takes a gutsy (read: "foolish") weatherperson to predict tomorrow's outlook or November's in the middle of a hurricane-tornado.

That's why we don't want to project out too many conclusions from the flap over these records.

But four things are clear:

1. Proving that the transition from nomination-campaign-to-general-election-campaign is still underway for both candidate and staff, Team Kerry was totally unprepared for something that should have been researched and ready to take off the shelf a year ago.

(If this costs Kerry the election, we'll dissect what happened at the Institute of Politics post-November, and we bet the candidate gets his share of the blame.)

2. The WhiteHouseBC04RNC machine is awesome at seizing on an issue in the news, getting their talking points and marching orders disseminated and putting Kerry on the defensive and looking Clinton-Goreish. They are organized, relentless, and savvy.

3. The Kerry campaign's rolling release of the military records (We loved the Aaron Brown-Kelly Wallace play-by-play on the process last night!!) suggests that they are doing the kind of purge-it-all-out move that such contretemps demand. But what of the Washington Post report that Mrs. Heinz Kerry's tax returns could be next?

4. It's clear that it's NOT clear if the military records will yield a darn thing. So far, the only clear area of possible controversy (beyond the non-release) involves the terms of the first Kerry Purple Heart, and we are old enough to know that it didn't take much to get one, and there is at least some documentation of an injury.

Republicans will continue to try to raise questions, and here are ours at this writing:

a. Is the campaign withholding any records?

b. Has the military got any records that the Kerry campaign doesn't have?

c. What, if any, documents are missing?


1. The Washington Post's Weisman on the Bush Administration's money gap on Iraq funding. LINK

Will these quotes turn out to be true (and repeated on camera?): GOP Rep. Curt Weldon "charged that the president is playing political games by postponing further funding requests until after the election, to try to avoid reopening debate on the war's cost and future" and described "the administration's current defense budget request as 'outrageous' and 'immoral' and said that at least $10 billion is needed for Iraqi operations over the next five months."

There's more, actually. Weldon's chief of staff, Michael Conallen, told ABC News that the Post misinterpreted what Weldon said. He says Weldon used the word "immoral" to describe the conditions U.S. troops faced during the Clinton Administration, when defense budgets were being cut.

Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress have increased the defense budgets, but it is still not enough -- which is "outrageous," Conallen said.

He also told ABC News that Weldon will question Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz strongly during this morning's House Armed Services Committee hearing.

2. Jim VandeHei of the Washington Post on the Kerry power structure, with the typical Shrum storylines. LINK

3. The Los Angeles Times' Ron Brownstein on how the President's embrace of the U.N. in the Iraq process has defanged Sen. Kerry at least a bit. LINK

President Bush will be introduced at two of his events by Mrs. Bush. He makes remarks to the 2004 National and State Teachers of the Year at the White House. He also speaks at the Newspaper Association of America Annual Convention at the Omni Hotel and at a reception for the National Race for the Cure at the White House.

He is expected to take questions at the Newspaper event, so watch out!!!

Sen. Kerry tours the Louisiana coast by boat, then discusses coastal erosion and conservation with environmentalists and community leaders at Shell Beach in St. Bernard, La. Later, he attends a joint Kerry/DNC reception fundraiser in New Orleans before appearing at another fundraiser reception at The Foundry in New Orleans, La.

Kerry health:

AP's Nedra Pickler reports that "John Kerry's campaign on Tuesday provided documentation of Vietnam War injuries that included shrapnel wounds to his arms, legs and buttocks that earned him three Purple Hearts." LINK

The Washington Post's VandeHei and Romano recapped the release of the documents, including Kerry's "That's stupid" denial that he was feeling the heat from the Bush campaign and Republicans including RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie. LINK

The Chicago Tribune's Jill Zuckman and Jeff Zeleny outline the campaign's struggle to make Kerry's military documents public, given their contention that they weren't prepared to go public with them so soon. LINK

Michael Kranish and Patrick Healy of the Boston Globe almost appear bored with the Kerry military documents released by deadline. They've seen them all before. However, the Boston Globe duo no doubt look forward to the rest of the document dump scheduled throughout the day. LINK

"Late yesterday, after Kerry's stance and the Republican taunts became the subject of numerous media reports, the campaign announced that it would release more records than it had given to the Globe, but it did not say what additional records would be made available."

The New York Times' Kit Seelye's early version of the Kerry military records story. The Teresa Heinz Kerry tax return question gets more play here. LINK

The Los Angeles Times on the Kerry military records -- with a mention at bottom of the President's National Guard service. LINK

Kerry ads:

The Kerry campaign hits the air with two new 30-second spots today, teasing their debut as part of a "series of ads" in a "significant buy" in 17 battleground states. One, entitled "Commitment," lays out the Senator's priorities for America -- national security, jobs, education and health care. The other discusses his plan for changing the course of action in Iraq.

Here are the scripts:


Kerry: "As President I'll set a few clear national priorities for America. "First, we will keep this country safe and secure. Second, I'll put an end to tax incentives that encourage American companies to ship jobs overseas. And third, we'll invest in education and healthcare.

"My priorities are jobs and healthcare. My commitment is to defend this country. "I'm John Kerry and I approved this message because together we can build a stronger America."


Kerry: "Let me tell you exactly what I would do to change the situation in Iraq. "I would immediately reach out to the international community in sharing the burden, the risk because they also have a stake in the outcome of what is happening in Iraq.

"The American taxpayer is paying now almost 200 billion dollars and who knows how many more billions and we're paying the highest price in the loss of lives of our young soldiers, almost alone.

"I'm John Kerry and I approved this message."

Liz Sidoti of the Associated Press has the latest on the latest Kerry campaign ads. "Democrat John Kerry outlines his plans for a 'safe and secure' America and for the nation's involvement in Iraq in two new campaign commercials meant to introduce the relatively unknown presidential candidate to voters." LINK

More Sidoti: "Kerry's campaign boosted advertising spending significantly for the new commercials, the first in a series meant to flesh out Kerry's proposals and biography, according to campaign officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity. One said Kerry's spending now is even with Bush's current buy, which is about $4 million over 10 days. A biographical Kerry ad is to follow in the coming weeks."

The politics of national security:

Writes the Los Angeles Times' Brownstein in that must read, "President Bush's increasing reliance on the United Nations in Iraq is unsettling some of his political allies, but blunting Sen. John F. Kerry's main argument against the administration's strategy for restoring stability there." Notes Brownstein, "With his move toward Kerry's position, Bush has demonstrated how quickly an incumbent can change the terms of debate in a presidential election by co-opting his opponent's positions. In effect, Bush has thrown Kerry off balance by letting go of the rope in their tug of war over Iraq -- just as Clinton did in 1996, when he signed a revised welfare reform bill after Bob Dole, his Republican opponent, had condemned him for vetoing earlier versions."

Here at home, the Wall Street Journal's Michael Phillips takes a good look at the Democrats' "efforts to chip away at Republicans' political strength on national-security matters. With Vietnam veteran John Kerry at the top of the ticket and unease growing over the Bush administration's handling of Iraq and terrorism, Democrats are hoping to tap a new constituency: members of the military and veterans, who vote overwhelmingly Republican. Say some observers, though, "there's little evidence so far that Mr. Bush is in trouble with military voters."

Today Secretary of State Powell is not a target of the Wall Street Journal's opinion page but as author on it as he argues for openness to visitors to the United States.

And in coalition news: The Dominican Republic says it, too, will withdraw its troops from Iraq when its one year of duty is up in August as car bombs kill dozens of Iraqis in Basra.

The New York Times' Shanker and Sanger report "the Pentagon has drawn up plans to send fresh troops quickly to Iraq in case it decides it must keep 135,000 or more American soldiers deployed beyond July." Write the two, "President Bush and his political aides had hoped to be drawing down American forces before the November elections, which now seems far less likely."

More: "The administration is pressing to keep others in the 30-plus nations in the alliance." Goes this blind quote "As one senior administration officials acknowledged, 'it tells you where we are today -- a year into this -- that they have to call to keep this glued together.'" LINK

We wonder what Wolfowitz's day in the hot seat would have been like if Woodward's book had not yet been published. USA Today's take on the contentious Lugar/Biden/Wolfowitz session. LINK

The Los Angeles Times Notes that during the hearings, "Republicans on the Armed Services Committee closed ranks to support the administration's policies, even though some acknowledged outside the hearing room that pressure from constituents was growing." LINK

The Washington Post's Helen Dewar writes that members of Congress are hearing from "concerned" constituents and "want President Bush to spell out a clear strategy for victory." LINK

The Washington Post's Christopher Lee reports in the House of Representatives, there is "discontinuity in the continuity-of-government movement." (Bonus: an accompanying photo of Norm Ornstein!) LINK

Roll Call's Mark Preston has the details on a report Chairman Roberts is aiming to publish at the end of next month.

"The Senate Intelligence Committee is expected to criticize the intelligence community for definitively saying Saddam Hussein was assembling a weapons of mass destruction program in a new report that may result in an overhaul of the nation's spy agencies."

Two American generals spoke out against the U.S. policy of de-Baathification Tuesday, reports the New York Times' Schmitt. LINK

The Washington Times' Rowan Scarborough reports that U.S. military officials say they've seen intelligence indicating that Syria is helping foreign fighters enter Iraq and supplying them with weapons. LINK

"Foreign fighters from Syria have become a major stumbling block to stabilizing Iraq and turning over sovereignty by June 30," Scarborough writes.

The politics of the 9/11 Commission:

In five short graphs comes big news:

The New York Times reports that the Bush-Cheney "visit" before the 9/11 Commission is set for April 29, with the "closed-door questioning" said "likely to focus on what steps the administration took in summer 2001 to guard against a terrorist attack in the face of warnings from intelligence sources." LINK

The New York Times' Jehl profiles the politically resilient George Tenet, who he writes is "emerging as something of a case study of a political survivor in the capital." Tenet, Notes Jehl, has made "little secret" of his desire to leave the job come November. LINK

The Wall Street Journal ed board writes that Commissioner Jamie Gorelick's "failure to resign and testify herself in the face of a clear conflict of interest is reason enough for the American public to distrust its ultimate judgments."

The New York Times' Linda Greenhouse reports that the Supreme Court justices yesterday were "distinctly unreceptive" to the Administration's argument that Guantanamo Bay detainees should not be allowed to appeal to federal courts. LINK

Woodward and the White House:

Day four of excerpts from "Plan of Attack" in the Washington Post, focusing today on the support for military action in Iraq by British Prime Minister Tony Blair. LINK

And the Administration response continues.

The Washington Post's Al Kamen observes that the Bush Administration is "scrambling to attack, defend, deflect, outflank and just plain figure out how to deal with" Bob Woodward's new book. LINK

The Washington Post's Mike Allen Notes "the Pentagon deleted from a public transcript a statement Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld made to author Bob Woodward suggesting that the administration gave Saudi Arabia a two-month heads-up that President Bush had decided to invade Iraq." LINK

The Washington Post's Dan Morgan writes that Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz denied a report in Bob Woodward's book "that the Pentagon in 2002 secretly diverted $700 million to a covert military construction program in Kuwait linked to a future war with Iraq without adequately informing Congress." LINK

Keying off the Woodward book, Walter Shapiro of USA Today restates one of the absolute truths of this campaign. Nobody quite knows how voters will respond to the situation in Iraq on Nov. 2, 2004. LINK

The New York Times' Todd Purdum goes deep into the methods of Bob Woodward, concluding his is "a reporting style that blends flattery and silken intimidation with unparalleled access." LINK

The New York Times' Richard Stevenson Noted on the Times' blog yesterday that members of the Bush-Cheney campaign are "'overall heartened by the book,'" in the words of Matt Dowd. LINK

Writing on the Wall Street Journal's opinion Page, Rush Limbaugh wonders why "the president or anyone else in the administration who supports the war against Iraq would give Mr. Woodward the time of day."

ABC News Vote 2004: Bush-Cheney re-elect:

The New York Times' Terence Neilan reports on President Bush's urging Congress to extend the USA Patriot Act during a stop in Buffalo, N.Y., where the so-called Six were arrested last year. LINK

The New York Times' Nagourney offers a must read on how the Patriot Act will factor into the BC04 re-election strategy and Notes the President efforts this week to take his support for the legislation on the road.

The President "has wrapped himself in the Patriot Act at the very time that his own credentials as a terrorism-fighter have been under challenge in testimony before the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks," Nagourney writes.

BC04 aides tell Nagourney that there will be "systematic references" to the legislation in speeches and ad through November and the legislation will become "a crucial part of his campaign strategy."

The "evocatively titled law" allows the re-election campaign "to advance two of their chief lines of attack against Mr. Kerry: that Mr. Bush would be tougher than he in facing down terrorism and that the senator, who voted for the law and later came to criticize some of its provisions, is a 'flip-flopper,' as Republicans regularly describe him."LINK

USA Today's Benedetto wisely looks at why President Bush chose Buffalo (located in a county and a state he has little hope for winning) to trumpet the Patriot Act. Bush officials point to the Lackawanna Six case, but some local Democrats think it had something to do with Tom Reynolds' reelection campaign. LINK

Vice President Cheney spoke at the National Right to Life's Proudly Pro-life dinner last evening in Washington D.C. Cheney's brief remarks highlighted the accomplishments of the Bush Administration and Noted what he called "historic actions" such as the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act and the ban on partial birth abortion.

The AP reports that "Vice President Dick Cheney reaffirmed the Bush administration's staunch opposition to abortion Tuesday, saying the issue was a nonpartisan question of protecting the "weakest members of our society."" LINK

Robin Toner of the New York Times reports: "Coming in the buildup to what organizers have called the March for Women's Lives on Sunday, Mr. Cheney's speech amounted to an unapologetic line in the sand."

"His praise for the anti-abortion cause, one of Mr. Bush's most loyal bases of support, was unstinting."LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Trachtenberg and Hitt Note that the recent slew of books written from inside the Administration are flying off the shelves, although their affect on voters is less measurable.

The Washington Post's Amy Goldstein writes "the Bush administration is changing the nation's largest program of housing assistance so that, for the first time, the government no longer is promising to pay the full cost of rent vouchers that help nearly 2 million poor families." LINK

The New York Times' Steven Greenhouse writes that "facing a deluge of criticism in an election year, the Bush administration yesterday scaled back its plans to deny overtime coverage to hundreds of thousands of American workers." LINK

Wall Street Journal's Pierceall and McKinnon report "some Democrats said yesterday that they planned to block the rules by enacting new legislation. The Democrats and their traditional labor allies were weighing a challenge to the portions of the new rules that restrict overtime, fearing that millions of workers still could lose their right to time-and-a-half."

A new feature on the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign Web site, "Journeys with John," allows one to click on a map to follow Sen. Kerry's travels across the country and find out reasons why "John Kerry is wrong" for that particular state. The BC04 campaign launched this feature yesterday while Kerry was in battleground state Florida, highlighting his positions on issues like There is a feature on Bush's campaign Web site that enables one to "click on the state where Kerry is on a given day and find out why Republicans believe "John Kerry is wrong" for that state."

Yesterday, the BC04 campaign highlighted Kerry's record on taxes, votes on troop funding and intelligence spending and his positions on Cuba and NASA to target Florida voters. Visitors can also supply their own reasons why Kerry is wrong for their state in a special comments section on the site. LINK

"President Bush's 2000 campaign has agreed to pay a $90,000 civil fine for failing to disclose fundraising and spending to the Federal Election Commission for its effort to win the Florida recount," the AP reports.

The FEC said yesterday that the campaign should have reported to the commission the nearly $14 million it raised for the recount. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: Sen. John Kerry:

That clever "playing dirty" line makes it into the Boston Globe's lede on Kerry's environmental hit too before bringing its readers this lovely bit of color. LINK

"Kerry also took a rare shot at Bush's school smarts, something he had diligently avoided during the campaign because many Democratic politicians are aware that Al Gore turned off some voters in 2000 by appearing dismissive about Bush's intelligence. He made the comment at a Tampa fund-raiser, where Kerry noted that both he and Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, sitting nearby, had attended Yale University, as had Bush."

"''Bill and I share the same institution of higher education -- at least for some of us,' Kerry told the $1,000-a-plate audience of about 500, some of whom chuckled at first, then laughed louder and applauded. Kerry, looking a bit sheepish, said in a low voice, 'No, uh, be nice.'"

The New York Times' David Halbfinger writes that Sen. Kerry accused the Bush Administration yesterday of undoing 30 years of environmental regulation as he sought to downplay recent polls showing improved numbers for the President. Kerry, Notes Halbfinger, "has been arranging themed events to coincide with what is essentially a fund-raising tour" that has "brought in $5 million over two days in Florida, $2.1 million of that for the Democratic National Committee and the rest for his campaign." LINK

On the environment, Kerry said he would embark "on new programs in four areas: improving the quality and health testing of public waters; reducing mercury and other harmful emissions from power plants; decreasing pollution runoff from farms, factories and residential neighborhoods; and increasing spending to form coastal preserves," reports the Los Angeles Times' Rainey. LINK

The Miami Herald writes up the Kerry campaign's environmental back-and-forth with Team Bush. LINK

Adam Smith of the St. Petersburg Times wraps Kerry's Florida fundraising and environmental attacks into one story we urge you to read. And doesn't that Hillsborough Bay make for a pretty backdrop? LINK

The Hill reports on Kerry's recent staff additions from the Hill, writing that "Kerry is using the Hill hires to make peace with old rivals and court influential members, while stocking his campaign with aides who have been tested in tough House and Senate races and Capitol floor battles." Notes the story, "there is speculation that Kerry would tap legions of former Kennedy aides to fill his administration if he won the election." LINK

The Washington Times' Jennifer Harper Notes Sen. Hillary Clinton's appearance at American Society of Newspaper Editors' annual meeting yesterday. Clinton offered a strong defense of John Kerry, and used the Woodward book as the basis for several attacks on President Bush. LINK

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Mackenzie Carpenter and Maeve Reston reports on John Kerry's own version of the Brady Bunch. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: Bush vs. Kerry: the money:

Boffo, record-breaking numbers from both major presidential campaigns.

The Kerry campaign's FEC filing showed it raised more than $54 million in the first quarter of 2004.

That's the most by any candidate in a quarter, ever. That's more than Al Gore raised during the entire 2000 primary cycle (including Gore's federal matching funds). Kerry will report raising more than $77 million to date.

The campaign spent a total of $14.6 million this quarter -- $5.9 million on media, $1.7 million on travel and $722,000 on direct mail.

President Bush's campaign reported raising about $52 million this quarter -- $185 million since January of 2003. Bush has spent more than $99 million so far -- nearly $50 million this month alone. That's a record for spending. Bush has more than $86 million in the bank.

Ralph Nader's campaign reports having about $200,000 in the bank, having raised $100,000.

The Associated Press crunches all of the monthly numbers. LINK

"President Bush and John Kerry each added to their presidential fund-raising firsts last month: Bush in part by hitting $185 million and spending nearly a third of it and Kerry by raising nearly $55 million in one quarter."

"Kerry's $54.8 million fund-raising total for January through March tops the $52.9 million Bush raised during the period. It also beats the previous presidential quarterly record of $50 million, set by Bush last summer."

On this day after the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign released its fundraising figures for March, the national political reporters all look at what the numbers mean -- $184 million, $99 million, and $50 million.

The New York Times' Justice sifts through the disbursements and details what the BC04 campaign is spending all that money on. (Two words: Maverick Media) LINK

AP's Theimer Notes that "Bush's spending in March, about $50 million, is the most ever in one month by a presidential campaign." LINK

Roll Call's Wallison reports, "Almost half of the 279 Republicans in Congress contributed to the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign through the first three months of the year. The Members, giving either from their campaign accounts or through aligned political action committees, together have accounted for more than a quarter-million dollars to the Bush-Cheney effort."

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank wraps up the Bush fundraising numbers, yesterday's event for the Republican Party and Bush's stop in Buffalo to stump for the Patriot Act -- everything you want and need to know, all in one article!LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Getter and Finnegan look at the FEC filing and the latest polls: LINK

President Bush made a stop in New York City yesterday for an RNC luncheon with Gov. Pataki, Mayor Bloomberg and 150 Republican supporters. The New York Post's Blomquist and Friedman report "Bush spoke for about 20 minutes on terrorism and the economy -- joking, "The faster I speak, the quicker you eat" -- as guests dug into shrimp salad in a small room that bore a striking resemblance to the Oval Office."

The event brought in $3.75 million for the Republican Party. LINK

The Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune's Rob Hotakainen, Greg Gordon and Emily Johns report on Bush's upcoming visit to Minnesota this Monday, where he will attend a fundraising event at the Edina home of a prominent real estate developer and add to the record-smashing $1.7 million he has already raised in the state. LINK

The Orlando Sentinel's Mark Silva appears impressed with John Kerry's fundraising prowess. LINK

Democrat John Kerry and his allies may be able to match President Bush and the Republicans dollar for dollar this summer in a record-shattering spending spree to win the White House.

More Silva: "Kerry raked up an additional $5 million for his own campaign and the Democratic National Committee on a three-day swing through the state that ended Tuesday; Bush will be in the state Friday, raising cash for the Republican National Committee at a $25,000-a-plate luncheon in Coral Gables."

ABC News Vote 2004: Bush vs. Kerry:

Anne Kornblut of the Boston Globe heard the giddiness in Matthew Dowd's voice yesterday.

Kornblut looks at the recent polls showing the President "holding steady" against Sen. Kerry and reports that "His advisers attribute the durability of his standing in part to an aggressive $40 million advertising blitz last month and his overwhelming head-start in fund-raising, which have helped neutralize negative events as long as the overall focus is on national security."

Kornblut gets the view from the other side too: "A spokesman for the Democratic National Committee accused Republicans of having 'glossed over' the poll results, plucking out positive information from data that otherwise show Bush's approval rating trending downward. LINK

President Bush's continues to inch ahead of John Kerry in the Keystone State according to Quinnipiac's latest poll numbers. The President gets the nod from 45 percent of Pennsylvania voters polled compared to Kerry's 39 percent and Nader's 8 percent. LINK

Voters from Tennessee to Ohio would like to see some serious presidential debates. LINK

The Associated Press writes up the Heinz Corporation's political action committee donations to the Bush campaign and Notes Kerry has gotten nothing from it thus far. President Bush's record campaign spending gets mention too. LINK

From the outside:

Speaking on this eve before Earth Day, a coalition of enviro groups that includes the League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club is getting together to blast the "Bush administration's continuing assault on virtually every safeguard that protects America's air, water, public health, wildlife, forests, and public land." The coalition plans to go up with an ad targeting the White House's environmental record. LINK

We are told the buy is "modest" but "in the six-figures" and the spot is slated to run in Albuquerque, Columbus, Lansing, and Tallahassee, among other cities.

And in other news, the Club for Growth is up with a weeklong buy of another spot in Pennsylvania targeting GOP Sen. Arlen Specter in his primary against GOP Rep. Pat Toomey. The spot's tag line: "That's Arlen Specter. Very liberal with your taxes." The group says "this is the first installment of a $400,000 ad campaign. The next portion of the ad campaign will be released later in the week." LINK

The morning shows:

The three morning shows led with killer tornadoes before moving onto violence flaring up in Iraq again after a day of calm.

On NBC's "Today Show," Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) chided the Bush Administration for not having "asked for one penny for Afghanistan and Iraq" in "this election year." When Matt Lauer asked Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) if he agreed that the Administration's handling of Iraq funding was being influenced by election-year politics, the Nebraska Republican said: "Oh, Matt, I fear it is."

Hagel called on the Bush Administration to be honest with the Congress and the American people about the cost of operations in Iraq before adding: "Every ground squirrel in this country knows $50-75 billion in additional money is needed to sustain us in Iraq." Biden pointed out that the figure quoted by Hagel -- large though it may be -- doesn't cover reconstruction. "That's just for our troops. That's not for building anything," Biden said.

On the issue of bringing back the draft, Hagel stopped short of calling for the U.S. to institute a draft, but did call for exploring the issue and instituting some kind of "mandatory service."

On ABC's "Good Morning America," Dan Harris had a piece on Kerry's military records. CBS handled Kerry's records as a tell.

On NBC's "Today Show," Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge was pressed to explain why the Administration is not raising the threat level at a time that it is beefing up security.

CBS' Bill Plante's piece from the White House included Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld on taking it "to the bank." It also included sound from Sen. Ted Kennedy telling Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz that his omission of weapons of mass destruction as one of the reasons for going to war in Iraq was "a little disingenuous."

The economy:

Dow Jones tells it this way: "Stocks are set to open flat Wednesday, coming off the big sell-off that followed Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan's comments suggesting inflation is a concern."

Wall Street Journal's Greg Ip reports on Alan Greenspan's upbeat assessment of the economy yesterday, Noting that investors concluded from his comments that an interest-rate increase by the Fed later this year appears likely -- though not in May.

Wall Street Journal's Michael Schroeder reports that the House, under the influence of a "lobbying blitz," is moving toward watering down the proposal that would require public companies to treat stock options as an expense.

The politics of overtime:

The Washington Post's Amy Joyce reports that new federal overtime pay rules have been applauded by business groups pushing for the changes but criticized by labor organizations and Democratic leaders. LINK

USA Today's Armour writes, "Critics said the original plan would have stripped as many as 8 million Americans of overtime pay. It quickly became a political issue, and Democrats had promised to make overtime an issue in the presidential campaign. President Bush also received pressure from some Republican lawmakers to make changes." LINK

Armour goes on to Note Democrats are still displeased with the new rules.

The Des Moines Register's Jane Norman Notes Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin's comments yesterday that he is skeptical of the Bush administration's new rules on overtime pay, claiming that they will be more damaging to workers than an earlier proposal assailed by Dems and labor unions. LINK


AP looks at the plane ride to Florida enjoyed by Sens. Edwards and Graham as they went to campaign for Kerry. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: the battlegrounds:

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Malone reports on a new Web site providing all you need to know about traveling to the battleground states this summer and registering Democratic voters. LINK

"…On April 12 they [a Microsoft program manager and his friends] launched their guide for do-it-yourself political touring, including why swing states are important, lists of Democratic neighborhoods to target, forms for registering voters and the names of political contacts."

"House Speaker Johnnie Byrd shut the door Tuesday on hopes the Florida Marlins might get state help with a new stadium," reports the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. LINK

The Cincinnati Enquirer's Dan Horn Notes efforts to demand voting machines accessible to the blind, claiming that it is required under HAVA. LINK

Reproductive politics:

Abortion rights advocates are hoping to break a record, reports the Associated Press. "Organizers of Sunday's 'March for Women's Lives' -- which include Planned Parenthood, the National Organization for Women, and the American Civil Liberties Union -- are seeking a turnout in Washington, D.C., exceeding the estimated 500,000 who attended an abortion-rights rally there in 1992." LINK

Democratic National Convention:

The Boston Herald looks at the relatively small size of the Boston police force as a potential challenge for convention security plans. LINK

No swimming in the Charles this summer. The EPA gives the famed river a B-minus. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: the Senate:

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's James O'Toole Notes two new polls that show the US Senate race within the margin of error. LINK

The wife of a prominent Florida businessman, Republican Karen Saull, is jumping into the Sunshine State's competitive GOP primary. And she's willing to spend "whatever it takes." LINK

And in other news, the Club for Growth is up with a weeklong buy of another spot in Pennsylvania targeting GOP Sen. Arlen Specter in his primary against GOP Rep. Pat Toomey. The spot's tag line: "That's Arlen Specter. Very liberal with your taxes." The group says "this is the first installment of a $400,000 ad campaign. The next portion of the ad campaign will be released later in the week." LINK

Norm Coleman is beginning to make his move for NRSC chairman for the 2006 cycle. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: the House:

Stephanie Herseth is taking advantage of the new campaign finance law and collecting a salary for campaigning for South Dakota's at-large House seat, reports Roll Call's Chris Cillizza. And be sure to Note the new radio spot courtesy of the DCCC. LINK

The politics of gas prices:

The Miami Herald reports on efforts in the Florida legislature to give Sunshine State motorists a gas price break in the month of August. LINK

"A measure to cut the state tax on gas for one month is moving smoothly through the Legislature and is expected to pass, with lawmakers hoping it will push down the record-level price of gasoline at the pump during the peak summer driving season." "But it remains to be seen how much of the tax cut will actually be passed along to motorists. The tax is actually paid by distributors, not by the stations and convenience stores where gas is sold."

The politics of same-sex marriage:

The Catholic Action League of Massachusetts is not giving up yet. According to the Boston Globe, the group made a plea to a single justice of the Supreme Judicial Court to postpone the issuing of marriage licenses to same-sex couples in the Bay State for two and a half years when voters will get to weigh in on the issue. LINK

No Child Left Behind:

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Virginia Young Notes that under a new budget plan up for approval, education will see a 5 percent increase in basic state aid next year. LINK

From the outside:

Speaking on this eve before Earth Day, a coalition of enviro groups that includes the League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club is getting together to blast the "Bush administration's continuing assault on virtually every safeguard that protects America's air, water, public health, wildlife, forests, and public land." The coalition plans to go up with an ad targeting the White House's environmental record. LINK

We are told the buy is "modest" but "in the six-figures" and the spot is slated to run in Albuquerque, Columbus, Lansing, and Tallahassee, among other cities.

Legislative agenda:

The Boston Globe's Christopher Rowland writes up the Kennedy/McCain/Snowe/Daschle/Dorgan bill to be introduced today allowing for the importation of prescription drugs from Canada (immediately) and Europe (a little later). LINK

"If momentum continues to build, the election-year support in Congress could lead to a confrontation with the White House, which has stood strongly with the pharmaceutical industry and the Food and Drug Administration in opposition to the importation of medicine."

TODAY SCHEDULE (all times ET):

—7:00 am: Sen. John McCain appears on CNN's "American Morning" —9:00 am: House Democrats hold a closed party caucus at the Capitol, Washington, D.C. —9:00 am: House Republicans hold a closed party conference at the Capitol, Washington, D.C. —9:45 am: Off-camera gaggle by White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan —10:00 am: The House of Representatives meets for legislative business —10:00 am: House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, House Republican Conference Chairman Deborah Pryce and House Small Business Committee Chairman Donald Manzullo hold a news conference to discuss health care costs for small business owners at the Capitol, Washington, D.C. —10:00 am: The Supreme Court meets to hand down decisions —10:00 am: Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan testifies before the Joint Economic Committee, Washington, D.C. —10:00 am: The House Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on requested extensions from foreign nations on the visa waiver program with Secretary of State Colin Powell and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, Washington, D.C. —10:00 am: Rep. Louise Slaughter and the Pro-Choice Caucus holds a news conference to unveil a women's health initiative at the Capitol, Washington, D.C. —11:10 am: President Bush makes remarks to the 2004 National and State Teachers of the Year, the White House —11:15 am: Sens. Tom Daschle, John McCain, Byron Dorgan, Olympia Snowe, Ted Kennedy and Debbie Stabenow hold a news conference to discuss legislation that would allow for the re-importation of lower-priced prescription drugs at the Capitol, Washington, D.C. —12:15 pm: On-camera briefing by Secretary McClellan —12:30 pm: Sen. John Kerry is greeted by veterans upon arrival at the airport, New Orleans, La. —1:00 pm: Politics Live on ABC News Live and AOL —1:00 pm: House Speaker Dennis Hastert holds a news conference to discuss Saving America's Cities Working Group, Washington, D.C. —1:35 pm: President Bush makes remarks at the Newspaper Association of America Annual Convention at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, Washington, D.C. —1:45 pm: Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Daschle and Sen. Hillary Clinton co-chair the "Next Generation Youth Summit," Washington, D.C. —1:45 pm: Sen. John Kerry tours the Louisiana coast by boat —2:30 pm: Sen. Kerry speaks about coastal erosion and conservation at Shell Beach at Campo's Marina, St. Bernard, La. —2:30 pm: Rep. Steven King holds a news conference to discuss Know Your Vote Counts Act of 2004, Washington, D.C. —4:35 pm: President Bush makes remarks at a Reception for the National Race for the Cure, the White House —7:00 pm: Sen. Kerry attends a joint Kerry/DNC reception fundraiser, New Orleans, La. —8:35 pm: Sen. Kerry attends a fundraiser reception at The Foundry, New Orleans, La.