The Note




Dynamics to watch:

1. How does today's round of the Bush campaign's campaign to "define John Kerry" go? The major prongs: Vice President Cheney's tour de force speech on taxes and the economy and a new radio ad with a Massy cop. And will there be (yes) a new Bush television spot tomorrow?

2. Does the focus on Dr. Rice ("Will she or won't she?") obscure the bigger 9/11 commission issues? (The POTUS and VPOTUS "visits" with the commission; the shape and tone of the final report; Ron Brownstein's pro-Dick Clarke boosterism.)

3. Will there be a deal to secure a Rice appearance before the commission?

4. What led to yesterday's Republican rush to decry Rice's refusal to testify, and is it a sign of things to come?

5. With Democrats from outside the campaign still keeping the jury out on the competence of the Cahill Crew (Is it more Estrich or Carville?), how does Team Kerry handle the semiotics of their candidate's surgery this week?

6. With the Massachusetts legislature trying once more on same-sex marriage today, will the president ever talk about the issue again?; what will the GOP platform say about it?; will either or both chambers of Congress vote on it?; and, if so, how will those votes come out?

7. How tight is the connection between gas prices and the "wrong track" number?

8. Will the question posed a while back in a full-page ad from Southwestern University in Texas Monthly ("What's important to Karen Hughes?") be answered in the next month, what with her book tour and all?

9. Will the Wall Street Journal 's David Rogers ever learn that nuance in the '00s is hazardous?

10. Will Time's Joe Klein ever learn that Ron Suskind (and not Paul O'Neill) wrote that book?

11. Which USA Today headline does Trent Duffy like more — A1's "Iraq Economy Shakes Off the Shackles of Saddam" or B1's "Economists See 'Booming Economy'" in America?

12. Which of The Note's readers will be smart enough to double back and read the must-reads from the weekend, sprinkled throughout below?

13. What is up with Ralph Nader?

President Bush meets with the prime ministers of new NATO nations at the White House today. He speaks about the economy in Wisconsin tomorrow; meets with members of the Baseball Hall of Fame at the White House and attends a Washington fundraiser on Wednesday; celebrates Greek Independence Day at the White House and attends an NRCC dinner on Thursday; and speaks about job training in West Virginia and attends fundraisers in Georgia on Friday.

Vice President Cheney speaks about Sen. Kerry's tax policy at the Chamber of Commerce today.

Sen. Kerry campaigns in Sacramento this afternoon before holding two fundraisers, one in Sacramento and one in San Francisco. He repeats his schedule tomorrow, speaking in San Diego before attending fundraisers in San Diego and Beverly Hills. He flies back to Boston early Wednesday morning to undergo outpatient, one-hour surgery on a torn tendon in his right shoulder.

First Lady Laura Bush is in Florida today and in Washington the rest of the week until Friday, when she travels to Texas.

The Senate debates the welfare reform reauthorization bill today.

Trials challenging the Partial-Birth Abortion Act begin in New York, California and Nebraska today.

The Massachusetts state legislature debates a proposed amendment to the state constitution to ban same sex marriage today, tomorrow and Wednesday.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich campaigns in Oregon today.

Ralph Nader has no public events today.

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

The Bush-Cheney '04 campaign will launch its second radio ad today, a 60-second national radio spot that features a Boston law enforcement officer discussing Senator Kerry's record on taxes.

The ad will run in the 18 states that are currently seeing BC04 television spots, on a variety of radio stations.

"The radio ad highlights Senator Kerry's consistent support for higher taxes that would derail the economic recovery," BC04 press secretary Scott Stanzel says. "It's important to seek out the opportunities we have available to communicate President Bush's message."


Jay Moccia:

"My name is Jay Moccia. I'm a law enforcement officer in the greater Boston area.

And for the record, I think you guys have a funny accent, too.

John Kerry has been my Senator for 20 years.

Now he's running for President. You might want to know him the way some of us in Massachusetts do.

Take his record on taxes.

John Kerry likes to raise taxes. So much so he's voted for higher taxes 350 times …

I'm a working guy with six kids. The last thing I need is another Kerry tax increase. Senator Kerry also voted to increase taxes on seniors' Social Security benefits.

No it's not fair at all … these people have worked their whole lives and to put a tax on them is just wrong.

And sad to say, John Kerry even voted against giving small businesses tax breaks so they could provide health care for their employees.

It looks like Kerry's gonna raise taxes about 900 billion dollars within his first hundred days in office.

I'd say look it, trust me, John Kerry likes to raise taxes. It's what he's done before and you know he'll do it again.

That's just … just wrong."

Mr. Moccia — let's get ready to rumble (with the Kerry campaign)!!!

And hats off to A. Kornblut for breaking this story cleanly in Sunday's Boston Globe .

Also today, the BC04 campaign will fan out across the country in a series of press conferences that will highlight the campaign's message that Sen. Kerry has at times supported higher gas taxes.

Throughout the nation, members of Congress, state officials and small business owners will hold press events to pitch the campaign's message that Sen. Kerry has supported higher gas taxes at least 11 times and his one-time rhetorical support for raising the gas tax 50 cents.

Press conferences will be held by Rep. Mark Green of Wisconsin, Rep. Don Sherwood of Pennsylvania and Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota.

Newsweek reports on its new poll, showing the approval rating for Bush's handling of terrorism and homeland security has slid to 57 percent from 70 percent two months ago. Bush's overall approval remains unchanged at 49 percent. LINK

The Boston Globe's Anne Kornblut turned in a must-read Sunday, looking at the way the Bush campaign is trying to get in Kerry's face, previewing the 60-second radio ad featuring a Boston police officer criticizing Kerry's stance on taxes that's set to be released today. LINK

"For the most part, such endeavors are designed to accomplish traditional political goals — in this case, convince voters that Kerry can be undermined where he is strongest, counter his proposal to cut corporate taxes, and give the Bush team an opportunity to repeat criticisms of his record and his past. Kerry steadfastly denies he would raise taxes on those making less than $200,000 a year."

Read all the way to the end for the last word on knock-you-off-your-balance strategy from none other than Mike Feldman.

The Associated Press' Scott Lindlaw previews Vice President Cheney's speech today, in which he "will assert Monday that Democrat John Kerry would sweep away an array of tax cuts President Bush has enacted." LINK

The speech is billed as a campaign speech. BC04 press secretary Scott Stanzel: "The Vice President gave a speech at the Reagan Library on the clear differences between President Bush and Senator Kerry on foreign policy and in this speech he will highlight the clear choice on how we keep the economy and keep jobs moving. The Vice President obviously is one who has a wealth of experience and is able, in a very articulate manner, to discuss the differences, that Kerry's policies would derail the economic recovery and kill jobs."

According to excerpts given to the AP, Cheney will focus on Sen. Kerry's record on tax cuts and will say that "all those 'no votes now form the basis of Sen. Kerry's economic plan."

More excerpts:

"He says that he will keep some of those tax cuts, never mind that he opposed each one of them at the time," Cheney says. "He has given the usual assurances that in those first 100 days he's planning, only the wealthiest Americans can expect higher taxes. But voters are entitled to measure that campaign promise against Senator Kerry's long record in support of higher taxes for every income group."

"Cheney was to offer an upbeat assessment of the economy, saying that manufacturing and homeownership are up, inflation and interest rates down. The vice president gives tax cuts enacted by Bush in 2001 and 2003 credit."

The New York Times' Elisabeth Bumiller compares the vacation spots of President Bush, Crawford, Texas, and John Kerry, Ketchum, Idaho. LINK

If you want the nuts and bolts version of the Ketchum v. Crawford debate, refer to Kerry campaign reporter Ed O'Keefe's handy guide from his time in Idaho: LINK

"Several hundred people stormed the small yard" of Karl Rove, yesterday afternoon, "pounding on his windows, shoving signs at others and challenging Rove to talk to them about a bill that deals with educational opportunities for immigrants," writes the Washington Post's Steven Ginsburg. Karl's first response to the crowds, "Get off my property." Rove later relented and spoke to a few of the protesters. LINK

This is an unfortunate story and development.

"A mixture of gossip, family doings and truncated contemporary history, "The Bushes" does not reveal any lasting clues about this unusual group of people who have done so much to shape modern American politics," writes the Washington Post's Lewis Gould in his review of Peter and Rochelle Schweizer's book on the Bush family. LINK

US News and World Report's Matthew Benjamin looks at the economy of Central Pennsylvania and what it means for the BC04 re-election campaign. Despite an economy holding up well, "the president may be vulnerable here as elsewhere across the nation's manufacturing belt."

"If ever a state was aptly named for an election, it's this one," says Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics. "Pennsylvania is the key, arguably more so than Ohio or Florida, to this election." LINK

Karen Hughes' "Ten Minutes to Normal":

Tonight at 10:00 pm ET, tune into ABC to catch Barbara Walters' highly anticipated interview with Bush adviser Karen Hughes. Some highlights of the interview, as well as thoughts from Walters, who spoke with The Note about the book, "Ten Minutes from Normal," and Hughes' decision to leave the White House in 2002, and her potential return to the campaign trail this summer:

Hughes and Walters talk about her continuing influence in the White House and on the president, to whom she speaks regularly. She is getting more involved in the re-election campaign — the day that the campaign's first ads hit the airwaves, it was Hughes who did the morning show circuit to defend the use of 9/11 images.

"The president likes her and she is very good on air — she is strong but charming," Walters said.

Hughes tells Walters that "the president's been saying he wants to see me on television a little more." Laughing, she said Bush thinks she's "a good political needler."

Walters and Hughes also discuss life beyond politics, and Hughes describes her decision to pack up and move back to Texas in the summer of 2002.

"That's what so interesting about her — here's this woman who's worked her way up and has the greatest job a communications person could have," Walters said, but she gives it up to take care of her family. "Her son was deeply unhappy and there is a quote where a friend says to her, 'remember you can't do this again.'"

"The thrill and the great privilege competed with the shadow and the shadow was that I wasn't seeing my family very much," Hughes tells Walters. "I remember a friend of mine saying, 'It's not like you get to do this over again. You . . . you can't . . . you know, just wait and see how it turns out and try it again if it doesn't work out.' And . . . and that . . . it really hit me, because I thought, you know, "Wow, that . . . that's true."

Hughes also tells Walters about several critical events and decisions that she was involved in or responsible for

She describes her role in shaping the White House message right after 9/11 — a day she was not traveling with the president because her wedding anniversary is Sept. 10.

"I didn't realize that she was the one who right after 9/11 addressed the press and the public and that was the one who nailed down the White House message, saying "We're not going to say 'victim — we're going to immediately say that there's going to be action. She was the one," Walters said.

Hughes: "I remember thinking 'Action will be reassuring.' Because people will know how the government's acting."

The Hughes interview airs at tonight 10:00 pm ET on ABC — check your local listings.

Hughes gave her first newspaper interview to the Dallas Morning News' Wayne Slater, telling him that the book offers insights about the political process — about the president, about the media and "the way campaigns are covered."

As for Dick Clarke's book and testimony last week, Hughes told Slater "I was sickened by it."

"The only people responsible for the terror attacks on Sept. 11 were al-Qaeda — not the government, not the Bush administration or the Clinton administration. It was al-Qaeda," she said. LINK

On Sunday, the New York Times' Elisabeth Bumiller and Dick Stevenson looked at Karen Hughes' book as a preface to her return to the campaign. LINK

But might it echo a clash of the titans at the top not unlike we saw in the Democratic nomination campaign of a certain former Vermont Governor?

"But advisers to the president say that Ms. Hughes's impending return to a more full-time role has stirred some unease within a campaign that has been wholly the province of Karl Rove, Mr. Bush's chief political adviser. The president trusts Ms. Hughes like almost no one else on his staff, so much so that some Bush aides say they are worried that a return of the two-headed Rove-Hughes team could lead to internal disputes about strategy and message that so far have been muted. Others point out that even though Ms. Hughes and Mr. Rove have a history of tension, they also have a history through three campaigns of working it out."

Mike Allen of the Washington Post previews Karen Hughes' re-emergence onto the Bush PR team and her upcoming book tour, Noting "this is no tell-all, and readers looking for dirt on Bush and his administration inner circle will be disappointed." LINK

Time magazine's Jay Carney looks at the timing and political significance of Hughes' book:

"Bush aides are counting on Hughes' hagiographic portrait of the president as a near flawless leader in turbulent times to serve as an antidote to the searing criticism in the recent book by Bush's former counterterrorism czar, Richard Clarke, or the one that former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill produced with journalist Ron Suskind."

Carney also cautions readers looking for insight into the inner workings of the West Wing, describing the book as "all kiss and no tell." LINK

Jena Heath of the Austin-American Statesman focuses on Hughes' religion, Noting that "the memoir is the work of a disciple spreading the word."

"Hughes' most intense language is reserved for two men — Jesus Christ and George W. Bush. She invokes them again and again, and neither man experiences a Garden of Gethsemane moment of doubt or even a second thought. It is this absoluteness that makes Hughes the author as frustrating for readers as Hughes the political operative often was for those of us who covered the 2000 presidential campaign and, later, the White House."LINK

The New York Post's Orin described the publicity tour for Hughes' book as much about politics as literature."

Republicans are "thrilled that confidante Karen Hughes is launching her book tour this week because it puts her back in the spotlight" and Orin observes: "Nobody is better at promoting Bush in a down-to-earth way than Hughes."LINK

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Jay Root read "Ten Minutes" and reports that except for a brief lapse in 1976 to vote for Carter, Hughes has stayed admirably on-message her entire life. Here are her descriptions of her former and current boss: "awesome," "phenomenal" and "decisive leader." LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: Bush vs. Kerry:

Keying off the likes of Sen. McCain and his refusal to call Kerry weak on defense, Dave Rogers of the Wall Street Journal explores the potential for backfire in the Bush-Cheney ad strategy against John Kerry.

" … The administration's highly personal approach to defense and foreign-policy issues may raise questions about Mr. Bush's credibility as much as the Democratic challenger's indecisiveness."

"The attacks on Mr. Kerry bore in on defense and intelligence votes in the 1980s and 1990s, a complex time when many in both parties — including some Republican hawks and intelligence supporters — were experimenting with how to adapt to the end of the Cold War and budget deficits that threatened the U.S. economy."

On Sunday, the Los Angeles Times' John Glionna looked at how the 9/11 commission and allegations of Bush Administration terrorism policy is affecting the president's standing in certain battleground states thought of as "Bush country." LINK

The San Francisco Chronicle's Zachary Coile sums up the early attacks "both parties have set a new benchmark for partisan sniping in a presidential race … ."'It's kind of like all Jerry Springer, all the time.'" LINK

Carl Weiser of the Cincinnati Enquirer Notes that Greater Cincinnati contains 14 Bush Pioneer and Rangers, without an equivalent number of big donors for Kerry. LINK

On Saturday, the New York Times' Jim Rutenberg took a closer look at the ad wars, and how the 527 spots — while not coordinated with the Kerry campaign, they insist — are proving a nearly equal match for the Bush advertising juggernaut. It's an excellent preview of the more than seven months of ads (and complaining about them) to come. LINK

On Sunday, the Los Angeles Times' Janet Hook Noted that the real wild card of the election — the economy — is the X factor over which no one has any control. " … Luck or acts of God may have as much to do with the state of the economy on election day as would acts of Congress or the White House," Hook wrote. LINK

The politics of 9/11:

Eric Lichtblau's New York Times lead was probably not what Dr. Rice was looking for when she decided to rebut Richard Clarke's assertions on "60 Minutes." LINK

"The White House acknowledged Sunday that on the day after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, President Bush asked his top counterterrorism adviser, Richard A. Clarke, to find out whether Iraq was involved."

More Lichtblau: "Last week, the White House said it had no record that Mr. Bush had even been in the Situation Room that day and said the president had no recollection of such a conversation. Although administration officials stopped short of denying the account, they used it to cast doubt on Mr. Clarke's credibility as they sought to debunk the charge that the administration played down the threat posed by Al Qaeda in the months before the Sept. 11 attacks and worried instead about Iraq."

Condoleeza Rice "renewed her determination not to give public testimony and said she could not list anything she wished she had done differently in the months before the 2001 terrorist attacks," write the Washington Post's Dana Milbank and Walter Pincus. LINK

Vince Morris of the New York Post writes up Dr. Rice's "60 Minutes" appearance, during which she criticized previous administrations. LINK

"'In the '80s, and most certainly the '90s, . . . we were not aggressively going after them . . . They saw us cut and run in Somalia.'"

On Saturday, the Washington Post's Dana Milbank and Dan Eggen compared the policies on terrorism of the Bush and Clinton Administrations — and found that they were basically the same. LINK

"The primary differences in the Bush proposal were calls for more direct financial and logistical support to the Northern Alliance and the anti-Taliban Pashtuns and, if that failed, to eventually seek the overthrow of the Taliban through proxies. The plan also called for drafting plans for possible U.S. military involvement, according to testimony and commission findings."

The Los Angeles Times wraps up all the Sunday talk about Washington It Guy Clarke's book and testimony, leading with Dr. Rice's refusal to testify (despite her desire to do so) being called a "political blunder" by a Republican commissioner. LINK

But on Saturday, the Washington Post's Chuck Lane took macro look at presidential advisers refusing to testify publicly before Congress, and found the precedents. LINK

Time magazine's Michael Elliott and Massimo Calabresi take a long look at the role of National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice. LINK

Bush Administration vs. Clarke:

The Los Angeles Times' Ron Brownstein thinks it "highly unlikely" that the White House has been successful at completely discrediting Richard Clarke and surmises the political fallout of last week's drama thusly: LINK

"In this year's election, most Americans will probably judge Bush more on his response to Sept. 11 than his actions before then (partly because most Americans may believe Clinton also failed to act aggressively enough). But the White House attempt to shift the focus to Clarke's credibility is still unseemly, especially after the corroborating evidence the commission presented last week. Clarke isn't alone in his charge that the Bush team moved too slowly to grasp the terrorist threat, and even silencing him would not end the debate he has ignited."

"Mr. Clarke didn't back away from criticism. On NBC's 'Meet the Press,' he said the Bush White House was preoccupied with Iraq and deserves 'a failing grade' for its pre-Sept. 11 terrorism planning because 'they never got around to doing anything. They held interim meetings, but they never actually decided anything before Sept. 11,'" reports the Wall Street Journal 's Cloud and Cummings.

Despite the Bush Administration's barrage of criticism, the efforts to answer the charges by Dick Clarke haven't been successful yet, the Washington Post's Mike Allen wrote on Sunday. LINK

However, Vice President Cheney had some interesting — and not-so-flattering — things to say about Clarke in an interview with Time magazine. LINK

"He's taken advantage of the circumstances this week to promote himself and his book. I don't know the guy that well. I have had some dealings with him over the years, but judging based on what I've seen, I don't hold him in high regard," Cheney told John Dickerson.

Bob Novak takes an excellent look at Clarke's transformation from hard-line "super-bureaucrat" to lightning rod in the war on terror and the tug-of-war of partisan politics and national security policy. LINK

"The answer lies with personality rather than ideology, with personal relations rather than political strategy. Clarke is now painted as a miscreant by Republicans and as a martyr by Democrats, but he really is a super-bureaucrat accustomed to working behind closed doors who has been thrust into the public arena. Downgraded and disrespected at the Bush White House, he became an anti-Bush activist with his testimony last week."

Evan Thomas, Michael Isikoff and Tamara Lipper of Newsweek report on the Clarke testimony on 9/11, remarking that he came across as "a soulful truthteller" in the same relationship as John Dean to Nixon and Ollie North to Reagan. LINK

The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler on Sunday looked at how Clarke's criticism has reopened the debate over U.S. action in Iraq. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: Sen. John Kerry:

Patrick Healy of the Boston Globe marks a shift in the John Kerry stump speech, focusing more on policy than war cries leading with "Bring it on!"LINK

"He is also directly appealing more to undecided voters and Republicans, proposing tax cuts and extolling GOP heroes like Theodore Roosevelt, while starting to exhort Democratic audiences not just to vote for him, but to donate to his campaign as well."

The New York Times' Wilgoren heard Senator Kerry quote scripture in a St. Louis church on Sunday and then got an earful from Nicolle Devenish on the matter. LINK

The AP's Nedra Pickler reports that "John Kerry cited a Bible verse Sunday to criticize leaders who have "faith but has no deeds," prompting President Bush's spokesman to accuse Kerry of exploiting Scripture for a political attack."LINK

Jo Mannies of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Kerry preached in St. Louis churches on Sunday morning, discussing jobs and social justice with congregants. LINK

On Sunday, the Washington Post's sage Dan Balz turned in a must-must read looking at John Kerry's central challenge: crafting a compelling central strategy to define himself, his campaign, and his party. LINK

"The party has stamped Kerry's candidacy more than Kerry has put his imprint on the party, with Democratic divisions over Iraq personified in his position on the war, with its differences over trade exemplified by his statements along the campaign trail," Balz writes.

More: "Inside the party, there is no great pressure for Kerry to define a dramatic new direction or to resolve big differences. Eight years of the Clinton-Gore administration reduced the gulf between left and right in the party, and unity around the cause of denying Bush a second term has submerged debates about what is next. Organized labor, for example, rushed to endorse Kerry when it was clear he would be the nominee, despite a voting record on trade at odds with labor's interests. Many Democratic voters who disagreed with Kerry over his vote authorizing Bush to go to war in Iraq found him a more acceptable candidate than former Vermont governor Howard Dean, whose opposition to the war rallied the party last year."

The Wall Street Journal editorial page congratulates John Kerry for admitting that "U.S. corporate taxation is a problem," but criticizes that his in the end his economic plan would make things worse.

The "signature event" of this week's California fundraising trip is the one taking place at Ron Burkle's home Tuesday in Beverly Hills according to the Los Angeles Times. LINK

"Villaraigosa said the party is 'the hottest ticket in town.' James Taylor, a Massachusetts pal of Kerry's who is in Los Angeles recording a Christmas album, is scheduled to perform."

"The event, which costs a minimum of $1,000 per ticket, is practically sold out. Organizers, who were initially expecting around 750 people, said it may draw as many as 1,500."

The New York Times ' Louis Uchitelle profiled on Sunday at the Kerry economic team — the folks who will surely absorb plenty of fire as the battle for the economic soul of the American electorate goes hard-core. LINK

Time magazine's Karen Tumulty and Perry Bacon look at how Kerry must reconcile his policies with his own faith.LINK

The Washington Times' Charles Hurt reports on Kerry's (semi-)firm anti-death penalty stance, making him the first major-party presidential candidate in over 15 years to assume such a strong stance against capital punishment. LINK

Steve Kraske of the Kansas City Star reports that Kerry blasted Bush's political tactics in the Richard Clarke affair. Calling his attacks "almost hysterical" instead of answering questions. Dick Gephardt also toured KC with Kerry, while in the background Bush backers yelled "Flip-flop Kerry!" LINK

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Mannies Notes that Gephardt has turned into Kerry's "nuts and bolts man," introducing him at rallies, shaking down fundraisers and defending the presumptive nominee against all comers. John Sweeney is quoted as saying that Labor would "love" to see Gephardt as Kerry's Veep. LINK

From ABC News' Kerry campaign reporter Ed O'Keefe:

ST. LOUIS, March 28 — While not quite as catchy as "It's the economy, stupid," Sen. John Kerry's first full fledged post-vacation campaign events were peppered with Clintonian themes and phrases.

Appearing alongside former rival Rep. Dick Gephardt in St. Louis (coincidentally at World's Fair Pavilion, where Gephardt proposed to his future wife Jane 38 years ago), Kerry chucked the "Real Deal" stump that has served him well and insisted, "We're going to have a middle class tax cut and we're going to put Americans back to work."

After promising to deliver 10 million new jobs in the first term of a Kerry administration, the candidate struggled to boil down the more complicated elements of his economic plan, losing the crowd at times only to gain them back with red-baiting lines such as, "You're working off the difference while they're walking with the money," in place of standard bearers such as "Bring it on."

And, with surprising brevity, Kerry topped a less-detailed explanation of his health care plan by saying, "George Bush doesn't have a plan, I do."

At a Saturday night fundraiser in St. Louis, Kerry tipped his hat to Gephardt, who implored his lifelong supporters to open their checkbooks for Kerry, who said, "I have my way, I will be finding some way, somehow that this man continues in public service."

Overtly continuing the Clinton theme Sunday, Kerry complimented the guitarist at New Northside Missionary Baptist Church, Noting he too is a guitar player then suggesting, "Maybe we ought to get someone up here who plays the sax and me together."

The crowd erupted in cheers as Kerry joked, "I can't think of who that saxophone player might be."

Much to the dismay of his traveling press corps, even Kerry's rare press conferences are getting tighter. Holding his first availability in 14 days on Saturday, the Senator appeared with Rep. Gephardt for a total of 10 minutes and 10 seconds, which included statements by both men.

At the conclusion of the six-question presser, Kerry said over a shouting press corps, "New discipline."

Somewhere senior Kerry adviser Bob Shrum, who is traveling with Kerry for the first time in weeks, was smiling.

Kerry jumps off the trail next week following a four-city fundraising swing through California.

Kerry will undergo one-hour outpatient surgery Wednesday to repair a tear in the sub-scapularis tendon in his right shoulder. The surgery requires general anesthesia and will be performed by Dr. Bert Zarins, orthopedist to the New England Patriots and Boston Bruins.

The Senator re-injured the shoulder, which had originally been damaged during a bicycle fall in Boston several years ago, aboard the "Real Deal Express" in Iowa in January.

Read more from the trail with Kerry on LINK

The Washington Times' editorial board reports on the "57 flavors of hypocrisy" surrounding Kerry and his wife Teresa Heinz, whose estimated $700 million from the ketchup fortune places the pair in the "lap of luxury" while the candidate seeks to "further exploit" certain political gains. LINK

On Sunday, the Los Angeles Times' Ralph Vartabedian and Lisa Getter looked at the relatively small contributions that Kerry made to technology policy from his perch on the Senate Commerce Committee. LINK

The Washington Post's Jim VandeHei reports that Kerry will have shoulder surgery this week and looks at the question as to whether the candidate has a "Cheney problem." LINK

Lloyd Grove reports that 75 of George "Pumping Iron" Butler's photographs of Kerry (taken over the last 35 years) will be available at a bookstore near you come Labor Day. And the campaign documentary is due out before the election too. LINK


The New York Post's Fred Dicker floats Mario Cuomo's name as a possible running mate for Kerry. LINK

"For his part, Cuomo, 72, said, 'I think they want someone who is younger, who doesn't come from the Northeast, who isn't as liberal as I am, and someone who could deliver a state.'"


Reminiscing fondly about the "Butt Men" (a group who, during the 1996 campaign dressed up as cigarettes to harass Bob Dole for his ties to the tobacco industry), the Chicago Sun Times' Laura Washington argues for a similar effort to stalk Ralph Nader. LINK

But perhaps neither Butt Men nor Chad Men will be necessary. The AP reports that Nader will meet with John Kerry next month to open a "second front" against Bush. LINK

Nader's 50-state ballot access goal could take a step forward in Oregon, where a quirky state law gives Nader a quick and dirty opportunity to get on the ballot there. Nader needs to get just 1,000 registered voters together in one place and sign their names on a petition. This should be a fairly easy task given Nader's strong 5 percent showing in Oregon in 2000. Nader plans an appearance in Portland on April 5. LINK

The Washington Times' Steve Miller Notes that Green Party advocate Peter Camejo claimed yesterday that voters have no choice without a strong third-party candidate while urging a crowd in the District to support Ralph Nader in his bid for the presidency. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: battlegrounds:

The AP reports of folks in Iowa wincing when they hear Democrats comparing President Bush and their hometown boy Herbert Hoover. LINK

Jennifer Garlesky of the Charleston Gazette reports on young voters acknowledging their voting power in West Virginia who, following Dean's exit from the Democratic candidate field, are left deciding between Bush, Kerry, and Nader in the upcoming general election. LINK

Amy Calder of the Kennebec Journal reports on the loss of manufacturing jobs in the state of Maine, which are not coming back following business consolidations, advances in technology, and cheap labor abroad that push manufacturing overseas. LINK

The Albuquerque Tribune's Shea Andersen reports on Gov. Richardson's involvement in an upcoming Democratic primary that could get ugly. LINK

The Albuquerque Tribune's Hal Rhodes blames low voter turnout in this year's presidential primaries on sheer boredom. LINK

The politics of national security:

The New York Times' Judith Miller takes a look at some of the Pentagon's report on the 2001 anthrax attacks, "which concludes that the nation is woefully ill-prepared to detect and respond to a bioterrorist assault." LINK

Although the Bush Administration has updated the 1980s security standard for the security of nuclear plants, critics argue that the standards are not high enough and that current guard forces would be outnumbered if a 9/11 style attack were to occur at a nuclear site, reports R. Jeffrey Smith of the Washington Post. LINK

Bush Administration strategy/personality:

"A mixture of gossip, family doings and truncated contemporary history, "The Bushes" does not reveal any lasting clues about this unusual group of people who have done so much to shape modern American politics," writes the Washington Post's Lewis Gould in his review of Peter and Rochelle Schweizer's book on the first family. LINK

Reproductive Politics:

Three constitutional challenges to the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act officially get underway today in federal courts. Judges in New York, San Francisco and Lincoln, Neb. will consider requests to stop Bush-approved legislation which bans an abortion procedure some say bears "disturbing similarity to the killing of a newborn infant," writes Al Kamen of the Washington Post. LINK

Courts in San Francisco, Lincoln, Neb., and New York City will all begin to hear cases today against the partial-birth abortion ban signed into law by President Bush last November, the New York Times echoes. LINK

The AP's Larry Neumeister writes, "Even before President Bush signed a bill into law in November outlawing a type of late-term abortion, opponents made the unusual step of filing three federal lawsuits seeking to block it." LINK

"Those lawsuits were expected to be heard Monday in a trio of courtrooms stretching from coast to coast as abortion-rights supporters challenge the first substantial limitation on abortion since the Supreme Court's landmark Roe v. Wade decision."

The politics of gas:

The AP's Tim Molloy reports that nationwide gas prices have reached $1.80 a gallon, a new record high. As Memorial Day weekend and summer get closer, there is little chance that the price will drop. Gasoline prices are up 29 cents a gallon since late December. LINK

The Washington Post editorial board urges the government removing all subsidies given to the oil and gas industries in order to promote alternative energy sources. LINK

The politics of same-sex marriage:

The AP's Peter reports that is Massachusetts, "State representatives were to resume their constitutional convention Monday, picking up a proposed amendment that would ban same-sex marriage but make Massachusetts the second state to grant civil-union benefits." LINK

In a second story, Peter writes that this debate is particularly personal to the lawmakers as well, even bringing some to tears. LINK

The Boston Globe's Lewis and Rodriguez write "Lawmakers, spent after two previous sessions this year, may cast anywhere from three to a dozen votes over the next three days on a dizzying array of amendments and amendments to amendments." LINK

Complete with a description of major measures being addressed this week, Lewis and Rodriguez continue, "Any of the measures, if advanced this week and again in the 2005-06 legislative session, would give voters a chance to decide the future of gay marriage in Massachusetts on the November 2006 ballot. On the other hand, if supporters of the Supreme Judicial Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage can gather enough sympathizers, they stand an excellent chance of blocking any amendment put forth."

On Sunday, Mary Leonard of the Boston Globe reported on Republican leaders in Washington who have run into resistance toward the proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage from an unlikely source — fellow Republicans within their own party — who withheld support from the legislation following claims from some that Congress should wait until federal courts or state legislatures grapple with the issue, while others cited discrimination against gays and lesbians as the a reason not to push the amendment through Congress. LINK

And USA Today's Bayles Notes "Even if it passes, the amendment couldn't be ratified by voters until November 2006, extending the controversy for the next 2 1/2 years." LINK

Democratic National Convention:

Paul G. Kirk Jr., chairman emeritus of the Boston 2004 Host Committee, calls on Boston residents to put their arguing aside and focus on the positive side of the Democratic convention in a Boston Globe op/ed today. LINK

"The oldest political party in the world has selected the capital city of Massachusetts, where the first seeds of democracy were sown, to host the first national political convention in its history. As it has turned out, the convention will nominate a favorite son of our own commonwealth for president. The stage is set for a united, national, partisan celebration to take place within the Fleet Center. Not a bad political story!"

Republican National Convention:

Steve Miller of the Washington Times reports on the thousands of protestors who are already gearing up for this summer's Republican National Convention in New York, promoting their anti-establishment events through various Web sites and word of mouth. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: the Senate:

Mark Preston of Roll Call reports that Republican leadership in the Senate "is urging their colleagues to invoke their Senatorial privilege of using the floor to speak in favor of President Bush's legislative agenda and question the policy proposals of Massachusetts Senator John Kerry." Some nameless Republicans tell Preston that GOP leaders are concerned that the Democrats use the floor more effectively in order to advance their agenda.

Jill Zuckman of the Chicago Tribune Notes that Democrats' chances in the Senate are looking up. With a combination of vulnerable incumbents, bruising GOP primaries, and unexpected retirements, the Democrats may have a small chance of taking back the Senate, in an election where they were widely predicted to lose ground. LINK

No Child Left Behind:

Elizabeth Shogren of the Los Angeles Times takes a look at No Child Left Behind pitchman-in-chief, Education Secretary Rod Paige and his selling of the controversial law. LINK

"Conservatives attack it as a big-government approach to education reform. Liberals scream about what they call inadequate federal funds to meet the law's requirements. Legislatures are considering opting out of the law or refusing to comply with any requirements not paid for by Washington."

"And Paige, who has traveled to 46 states since taking office, primarily to promote No Child Left Behind, is finding it harder than ever to make his case."

George Archibald of the Washington Times reports on over 80 Hispanic and black school superintendents across the nation who are battling a group of 14 chief state school officers who want Congress to reduce the requirements of No Child Left Behind by lessening math and reading requirements to the detriment of disadvantaged minority students. LINK

TODAY SCHEDULE (all times ET): —8:00 am: Sept. 11 victims are commemorated at the National Cherry Blossom festival, Washington, D.C. —9:00 am: Rep. Peter King speaks to the Communications Workers of America legislative-political conference, Washington, D.C. —9:00 am: Reps. Ciro Rodriquez, Harold Ford and Jesse Jackson, Jr. speak at the Building and Construction Trades Department legislative conference, Washington, D.C. —9:00 am: The President's Commission on HIV/AIDS holds a meeting, Washington, D.C. —9:20 am: Rep. Robert Menendez speaks to the CWA conference, Washington, D.C. —9:30 am: First Lady Laura Bush speaks to the National School Boards Association at the Orlando Convention Center, Orlando, Fla. —9:30 am: Rep. John Lewis speaks to the CWA conference, Washington, D.C. —9:40 am: Rep. James Clyburn speaks to the CWA conference, Washington, D.C. —10:00 am: Laura Bush holds a press conference, Orlando, Fla. —10:00 am: The Brookings Institution hosts "Bush v. Kerry: The Long Battle Begins," Washington, D.C. —10:00 am: The Senate Democratic Policy Committee holds a hearing on the findings of a petition filed by the AFL-CIO challenging China trade abuses —10:00 am: The Supreme Court convenes to hear arguments and release orders —10:30 am: Vice President Cheney speaks about Sen. John Kerry's tax policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Washington, D.C. —10:30 am: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz and Department of Defense Director of Administration and Management Raymond F. DuBois open the new Pentagon Athletic Center with Marion Jones, Washington, D.C. —12:00 pm: Laura Bush speaks at a luncheon for State Rep. Bev Kilmer at Florida State University, Tallahassee Fla. —12:00 pm: House Democratic Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer holds his regular pen and pad briefing, Washington, D.C. —12:30 pm: The House of Representatives meets for morning business —12:45 pm: House Majority Leader Rep. Tom DeLay delivers the keynote luncheon address at the annual meeting of the American Public Human Services Association, Washington, D.C. —1:00 pm: The Senate begins debate on the welfare reform reauthorization bill —1:00 pm: Rep. Dennis Kucinich has brunch at Off The Grid Waffles, Ashland, Ore. —1:15 pm: Sen. Kerry tours and participates in a town hall at the Charles A. Jones Skills & Business Education Center, Sacramento, Calif. —2:00 pm: Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Lugar speaks about terrorism and the Middle East at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, Washington, D.C. —2:00 pm: Acting Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister Ana Palacio addresses the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, D.C. —2:45 pm: Kerry campaign national chairwoman Gov. Jeanne Shaheen and former NCRA Chairman Rep. Thomas Davis speak to the American Medical Association's National Advocacy Conference, Washington, D.C. —3:00 pm: Sen. Kerry holds a fundraiser luncheon, Sacramento, Calif. —3:00 pm: Rep. Kucinich gives a presentation at the University of Southern Oregon, Ashland, Ore. —3:45 pm: President Bush speaks at a ceremony with the prime ministers of Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia at the White House —4:00 pm: The Energy Department releases weekly gasoline prices —4:45 pm: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld hosts an honor cordon to welcome Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader to the Pentagon —5:15 pm: Rep. Dennis Kucinich holds a meet and greet at Ashland Community Food Store, Ashland, Ore. —8:00 pm: CNN's Candy Crowley, AP's Ron Fournier, CBS News' Peter Maer and USA Today's Susan Page discuss life on the campaign trail on "The Kalb Report" —9:00 pm: Sen. Kerry holds a fundraiser reception at the Westin, San Francisco, Calif. —10:00 pm: Karen Hughes sits down with Barbara Walters on ABC's "20/20" —10:00 pm: Rep. Kucinich gives a speech at the Reston Hotel and Convention Center, Medford, Ore. —11:00 pm: Richard Clarke appears on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart —11:00 pm: Karen appears on The Charlie Rose Show