The Note




It's Friday, so -- of course -- regular readers know it is time for The Note's weekly Ups and Downs, What's Hot and What's Not, Winners and Losers, Plays and Outrages of the Week Awards!!!!

In presidential politics, as always, the answer to the question "Who won the week?" can be looked at two ways:

Who won, in terms of raw Gang-of-500-driven, media-filtered analysis of whose election chances have been helped or hurt?

Or: who won, in terms of the relative merits of each sides substantive claims to honesty, leadership, and plans for America's future?

(And, we hate to have to hasten to add, The Note is indifferent on both scores to who wins, despite what readers on all sides think. . . . )

While the Googling monkeys spend the weekend doing regression analysis on all sorts of serious Bush-Kerry policy proposals, let's go with the superficial and ephemeral raw political tally!!!

While Bush-Cheney started the week smelling blood by continuing to pound its Kerry-loves-taxes message on the large head of the vacationing, Grey Poupon-eating skier/nominee, the back of The Note envelope says that the President lost the week.

Between Clarke's book, Dr. Rice's refusal to testify and questions about her own consistency, the President's RTCAWMD joke flap, gas prices, and entitlement trust fund problems -- things were less than smooth for the ol' re-elect.

Kerry's win was also fueled by Democratic unity galore and the late addition of pretty boffo Friday print coverage of the unveiling of his corporate tax plan (with the twin messages of stopping outsourcing and cutting corporate taxes overshadowing the caveats).

BUT for those who are tempted to score the week as a Kerry rout, Note well four things:

A. The relentless Kerry-image-shaping of the Bush ad campaign, whose work in defining Kerry isn't fully appreciated by national political reporters who fail to reside in battleground states.

B. Last night's reminder that John Kerry is no Bill Clinton.

C. This morning's Washington Post reminder that John Kerry is no Bill Clinton.

D. Yesterday's Unborn Victims of Violence vote, which offers a window into tough future Senate votes for John Kerry.

So, mark this one down and re-set the scoreboard!!!! Just a few more intense weeks to go until election day!!!

President Bush visits Albuquerque, N.M. and Phoenix, Ariz. to talk about homeownership before traveling to his Crawford, Texas, ranch later in the evening. Bush will remain at the ranch until Monday.

John Kerry is campaigning in Detroit and Warren, Mich. Kerry will be in Kansas City and St. Louis, Mo. on Saturday and Sacramento, Calif. on Sunday.

Vice President Cheney speaks at a Bush-Cheney fundraiser in Dayton, Ohio and at a reception for congressional candidate Mike Sodrel this evening in Jeffersonville, Indiana.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich speaks at a high school this evening in Portland, Ore.

Ralph Nader speaks at colleges in North Carolina and South Carolina.

Democrats Unite!:

The Washington Post's Mark Leibovich was at the $11 million show of unity thrown by the Democrats last night, Noting that former Vice President Al Gore was "a late addition to the program" before making sure to include President Carter's "Nader, drop out already" comments and President Clinton being, well, President Clinton. LINK

And for students of media image, the crew passed the body language test on stage, Leibovich Notes.

James Rainey of the Los Angeles Times covered the big bash and wondered about the role Bill Clinton will play this election cycle. LINK

"One Democratic strategist said Clinton will be used primarily to raise money and to bring out key constituencies."

"Clinton's role will be larger than in the 2000 election but with a wary eye to not 'turn off the independents you need to capture in a general election,' the official said."

Helen Kennedy of the New York Daily News wraps up the Democratic fundraiser and gives Jimmy Carter the best sound bite of the evening award. LINK

The New York Times' Kit Seeyle and Jodi Wilogren wrap the Democratic Unity dinner last night, Noting that "true to form" the party's stars "seemed to lack a certain coordination." LINK

The Boston Globe's Pat Healy really liked the photo-op. LINK

USA Today's Jim Drinkard observed much unity. LINK

Knight Ridder's Thomma and Kuhnhenn write that the fundraiser "signaled that the party is entering the general election campaign unusually unified and focused on defeating Bush." LINK

A few observations from our perch in the wings at the dinner last night, which was one of the truly fascinating and electric political nights for either party in this election cycle:

--President Clinton orchestrating the opening on-stage photo op -- only slightly less elaborate than the ritualized introductions, accompanied by spotlights and booming music than those of the 1994 Chicago Bulls.

Later, the former President gave the Macker props for the nomination schedule, which he said he once opposed, but now knows promoted -- you guessed it -- unity. We don't think he has ever said that publicly before.

--Two hugs: a genuine bear squeeze between Al Gore and Rev. Jesse Jackson, and the (seemingly) less so onstage buss between Gore and Sen. Joe Lieberman.

--Bob Shrum at a better table than Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle. Shrum the first on his feet after Clinton mentioned his still-extant pride over working for George McGovern's campaign in Texas. Shrum left his seat no fewer than three times to visit Sen. Kerry during the speeches.

--While Terry McAuliffe was in the final stages of introducing the man he tried to get elected in 2000, Michael Whouley checked his Blackberry -- by the light of his cell phone. Whouley, incidentally, at table 146, was so close to the children's table he could have reached out and touched it.

--Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack -- a man who might be in the sweepstakes himself -- served as MC for the vanquished candidates/vice presidential tryout reception before the dinner. If there was a winner of the tryouts, it was not immediately apparent.

--A camera-wielding Alexandra Pelosi, with suspiciously good access, exchanging waves with Al Gore.

--David Morehouse and Chris Heinz joking around during Clinton's speech, with one wag heard observing, "Who's that cute guy standing next to Chris Heinz?"

--The wealthy donors whose winters were dominated by fear and hand-wringing over Howard Dean are now overflowing with love for him.

In addition, The Note has a few pointers on what has become a standard practice at big time Democratic events: stalking President Clinton.

It's not an easy thing to do. And, please brace yourselves, it's also not a subtle thing to do. First of all, don't stand in front of network television producers who are trying to work and act like you just happen to be really interested in what former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb has to say about voting rights.

Also, don't try to explain to a Secret Service agent what you're trying to do. It appears to us that they don't care, and, shockingly, they already seem to know what you're doing as you wave a camera in one hand and adjust your outfit to its optimum setting.

And please, please, please don't act surprised that you're not the only one circling like a crazy person. We really were hoping for it to get ugly.

The Note must give a particular shout out to the lovely couple whom we'll identify as Intensely-Gum-Chewing-Guy and the Girl-In-Pink. We really were pulling for you to get that picture. And for the longest time, we thought you might. And we were rooting for you, honestly, up until the point of hearing Girl-In-Pink get introduced by Intensely-Gum-Chewing-Guy to someone else and ask that person, "So, what is a New Democrat anyway?"

And then there was the intense after-partying at Dream nightclub:

First of all, can Starr Jones dance or what? We recommend to our colleagues at "The View" a regular segment called "Starr's Bust-A-Move."

The official after-party at Dream nightclub in Northeast D.C. was a raucous affair to say the least. We missed both Presidents Carter and Clinton, and we sure hope it wasn't because we were screwing around with the guy at the door who didn't have our names on the stupid list. What gives, DNC?

The second floor was definitely the most "united," with shouts of "Democrats, can you feel it?" We particularly enjoyed watching two Democrats unite excessively and definitely "feel it" on the dance floor and then hear the gentleman ask the lady, "So, what's your name?"

But the third floor was where we had our limited celebrity sightings. Gov. Richardson held court with some guys who nodded an awful lot. And we also found our first possible guest for "Starr's Bust-A-Move": Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.).

ABC News Vote 2004: Sen. John Kerry:

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

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 25 -- After picking up endorsements from AFSCME and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (though not his 700,000-name e-mail list) on Thursday, Sen. John Kerry on Friday heads back to the battleground state of Michigan to deliver the first of three speeches outlining his economic message.

Mixing old stump favorites and a few new nuggets under the banner of a "Jobs First" plan, Kerry will pledge to create 10 million new jobs in part by reforming the international tax system at an annual savings of $12 billion, applying that savings toward jobs creation.

At Wayne State University in Detroit, the Senator will advocate the elimination of tax deferment on foreign income, closing tax loopholes, and cutting the tax rate by 5 percent. Kerry will aim to "replace (the current tax code) with a simple system: companies will be taxed on their foreign subsidiaries profits just like they are taxed on their domestic profit," but not retroactively.

Kerry will also outline plans to provide a one-year, 10 percent tax rate on any profits companies reinvest in the United States in addition to proposing a manufacturing "New Jobs Tax Credit" covering an employer's increased payroll costs.

Kerry's Michigan address itself may be heavier on general principles rather than specific proposals, but in that vein the Senator will pledge, "I will fight for the most sweeping international tax law reform in 40 years, a plan to replace tax incentives to take jobs offshore with new incentives for job creation on our own shores."

Unfortunately for the Kerry camp, they face the particularly tough task of not only getting their message out but also doing so on a Friday afternoon. Nevertheless, the first in a series of speeches will headline the Senator's post-vacation return to trail. Kerry will also campaign this weekend in Missouri before commencing a 20-city fundraising tour with four stops in California.

Read more from the trail with Kerry on LINK

Ron Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times explores the heart of John Kerry's economic message to be delivered in Michigan today. LINK

"The proposal, which Kerry is scheduled to make public in Detroit, helps flesh out two of his main campaign promises: accelerating job growth in the United States and cracking down on companies that shift operations abroad."

"But even some experts who liked the plan said they were dubious it would significantly affect company decisions about where to locate new facilities."

Kerry "said his plan would produce 10 million jobs in four years while carrying out the most sweeping international corporate tax reform in four decades. Kerry overrode some of his advisers who opposed the corporate tax cut on political grounds" writes the AP's Ron Fournier. LINK

The New York Times' Wilogren and Andrews preview Sen. Kerry's plan "to propose on Friday a sweeping revision of international corporate taxes intended to prompt companies to invest more money in the United States." Write the two, "Mr. Kerry's speech is designed to begin a new economic policy offensive. It represents an approach that sounds some of the same notes as his frequent denunciation of 'Benedict Arnold C.E.O.'s' during the Democratic primaries, yet is more sympathetic to business." LINK

John Kerry will announce a proposal to cut the "corporate tax rate as part of an economic plan designed to create 10 million jobs by 2009 and discourage companies from sheltering taxable income overseas," writes Jim VandeHei of the Washington Post.

"Kerry will reiterate his call for the elimination of all tax breaks that encourage U.S. companies to locate operations and jobs overseas. For the first time, he will target a popular tax incentive, known as "deferral," offered to most U.S. companies that do business in lower-taxed foreign countries." LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Davis and Harwood write Kerry's plan "would largely eliminate the tax break that lets U.S. companies defer tax payments on income earned abroad -- sometimes for a decade or more. That break costs the U.S. Treasury about $12 billion annually. Mr. Kerry would use the additional revenue to reduce the overall U.S. corporate tax rate to 33.25% from the current 35%."

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, R. Glenn Hubbard, formerly the chairman of the White House's Council of Economic Advisers, writes "Laws of math cannot be repealed -- one cannot increase federal spending by $1.7 trillion over 10 years, slash the deficit over four years, and raise taxes only on those earning $200,000-plus to pay for the rest. More Americans would pay higher taxes under John Kerry's administration than John Kerry is willing to let on. Fully funding his promises would require repealing the entire Bush tax cuts, implying large tax increases for lower- and middle-income workers."

"Some Democrats are worried that their presumptive nominee's campaign is suffering from the candidate's inability to put a period in his sentences. They say an arguably trivial trait -- Kerry's penchant to wander off into the rhetorical woods -- has already proved damaging," writes John Harris from the Washington Post in his analysis of Kerry speaking style. LINK

The Chicago Tribune's Jill Zuckman covers the Kerry/Dean event at GWU yesterday, Noting that despite efforts, the two candidates do not seem to have completely healed the wounds between them from the primary. LINK

Steve Kraske of the Kansas City Star reports on Gephardt's plans to appear with presumptive Democratic nominee John Kerry in Kansas City on Saturday at a roundtable discussion about jobs and the economy. LINK

Charles Hurt of the Washington Times Notes that the Kerry campaign is trying to unseat seven-term Representative James P. Moran from his seat. Several of the campaign's top advisors, including Bob Shrum, Steve Elmendorf, and Steve Grossman, support Moran's primary opponent, lawyer Andrew Rosenberg. Has the return of the Sopranos inspired these Dems to start "whacking" within the family? LINK

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

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that President Bush and Vice President Cheney will stop by a retreat for the campaign's Rangers and Pioneers next week at the "swank" Reynolds Plantation resort between Atlanta and Augusta.

The retreat is "billed as a show of appreciation for their work on the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign, according to two contributors who have been asked to attend," AJC's Baxter and Basu report.

The Reynolds Plantation resort was developed by BC04 national finance chairman Mercer Reynolds, the duo Notes. LINK

President Bush visits Phoenix today to talk about home ownership, and the Arizona Republic's Jon Kamman and Billy House report: "Bush's message . . . is that rising homeownership is a major contributor to a healthy economy while strengthening family and social stability." Meanwhile, "Democrats say the gap in Hispanic homeownership has increased by 5.3 percentage points under Bush, while the gap for Blacks has grown 2.4 points." LINK

In light of the visit the Albuquerque Tribune profiles "lenders who prey upon some minority buyers looking to get into new homes." LINK

AP's Yost previews the President's trip to New Mexico and Arizona.

Yost also looks at the geographic significance of the trip for the President:

"Hispanics are a key constituency in 2004, both for Democrats who have long gotten their support, and for Republicans who are fighting to make inroads."

"The Bush-Cheney re-election campaign has Hispanic teams in 30 states. In the offing is an aggressive drive to recruit Hispanic voters face to face and through ads." LINK

President Bush stepped onto Sen. Kerry's turf yesterday and brought in $1.2 million at a fundraiser in Boston.

The Boston Globe's Washington reports that "the visit was an opportunity to add to the president's fund-raising advantage and tweak Kerry at an event just a 10-minute walk from his Louisburg Square townhouse."

"Bush didn't veer far from his usual campaign themes about tax cuts and terrorism," reports Washington. But "the president touted his administration's record in fighting terrorism and questioned Kerry's commitment to national security."LINK

Andrew Miga of the Boston Herald reports that the President "ticked off a laundry list of tax cuts" that his Democratic rival opposed. LINK

Miga clearly found the humor in the President's fundraising speech -- a few Notable phrases (and more on the President's attempts at comedy is below)

-- "Spicing his attacks with a dash of humor as he invaded Kerry's home turf"

-- "Bush recalled with biting sarcasm how Kerry admitted Saddam Hussein was a threat (LINK) but opposed Bush's invasion to topple the former Iraqi dictator." (LINK)

-- "self-effacing Bush also poked fun at his own public image as an intellectual lightweight"

-- "playful Bush tweaked Romney's national political ambitions"

The Boston Herald reports on an alleged fight that broke out outside the President's event in Boston between opponents and supporters of Bush. LINK

Joseph Curl of the Washington Times heard President Bush call John Kerry a main opponent of tax relief and a liberal vacillator at an event in Boston yesterday. LINK

And before the fundraiser, President Bush stopped in Nashua, N.H. for a conversation on jobs and the economy and the Nashua Telegraph leads with a hometown story on job loss and recovery. LINK

"Bush spent much of his 70-minute visit linking job creation with his message that Congress should make permanent his tax cuts, which include a doubling of the child-care tax credit."

Also Notable: "During this official White House visit, Bush never mentioned Kerry by name or inference, though his campaign has accused the Massachusetts senator of voting to raise taxes 350 times."

The Union Leader's DiStaso reports that the President was greeted at the Manchester airport by Cheryl McGuinness, whose husband, Tom, co-piloted American Air Lines Flight 11, which crashed into the World Trade Center.

"A hug the President received from McGuinness upon his arrival was a clear contrast to the scene in Washington on Wednesday, when Clarke received hugs and handshakes from family members of Sept. 11 victims after telling the 9/11 Commission that the Bush administration scaled back the struggle against the terrorist organization al-Qaida after taking office in 2001."LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Chen leads with President Bush's rejection of charges that his Administration did not fully grasp the danger of terrorism prior to 9/11. LINK

"'Had I known that the enemy was going to use airplanes to strike America, to attack us, I would have used every resource, every asset, every power of this government to protect the American people,' the president said." Chen Notes that the President "delivered those remarks, his most extensive yet on the matter, without prompting at the start of a 'conversation' on the economy."

President Bush gave his most "extensive comments" about the allegations that the administration was inattentive to the threat posed by al Qaeda before the 9/11, saying he would have "used every asset, every resource, every power of this government" to prevent the terrorist hijackings had he been warned of them, writes Amy Goldstein of the Washington Post. LINK

The Washington Times' Curl on the President's trip: LINK

And the New York Post's Orin: LINK

The Boston Globe's Greenberger and Phillips look at the welcoming party that greeted the President in Boston, including Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney, who "rode to the Park Plaza in Bush's limousine, where they discussed 'a range of issues,' including jobs and homeland security." LINK

The Boston Globe's Slack looks at the "Billionaires for Bush," a sarcastic protest group that makes its mark by "Staging swanky protests in which they enthusiastically defend tax loopholes for the rich and war contracts for friends of the president." LINK

The Los Angeles Times ad box spotlights the new BC04 ad "Differences" reporting the ad "is misleading in some respects." LINK

Salon gets unnamed GOP moderates to give quotes for a story saying that "there's little doubt that behind the scenes, some moderate Republicans are rooting for the other side. If Bush wins, one aide to a moderate Republican says privately, 'that would be the worst possible situation.'" Sen. Specter's GOP primary fight gets a lot of play here. And DO check out this Lincoln Chafee quote: "'The president's agenda has been so different from his campaign rhetoric,' Chafee says. 'He is pushing an extreme agenda, from the abandonment of Kyoto, to banning access to abortions for service members overseas.'" LINK

First Lady Laura Bush talked to Knight Ridder's Douglas about her dislike for the "traditional first lady" box and her list of accomplishments since moving into the White House.

"I don't feel like I've shied away from anything difficult," Bush said. "I'm asked about issues and I speak about issues everywhere I go, every single time I do a press conference or interview.

"I think I've done a really good job. I mean, I've spoken up about women's rights, the women of Afghanistan, the women of Iraq. I've done the only radio address by a first lady, to talk about Afghanistan. I've talked about children's issues," she said. "I was on Capitol Hill to brief the Senate Education Committee about early childhood on the morning of September 11th."

Douglas also Notes: "She's raised more than $5.3 million, appeared in television ads for the first time since her husband's first congressional campaign in 1978 and defended him against political attacks."LINK

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

The New York Times' Raymond Hernandez reports today "the White House was busy defending the joke that President Bush delivered as he put on a slide show, called the "White House Election-Year Album," at the Radio and Television Correspondents' Association's 60th annual dinner." The joke involved Bush showing a photograph of him down on his hands and knees looking under furniture in his office and saying, "Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere!" LINK

Democrats were up in arms yesterday, in the wake of President Bush's comments Wednesday night joking writes the Washington Post's Paul Farhi. LINK

And the New York Daily News' Rose and Bazinet take up the subject of the President's comedy act, and Note "some family members of dead G.I.s said yesterday there was nothing funny about it."LINK

We don't know where (if anywhere) this story is heading, although we will Note that President Clinton joked about some serious matters when he spoke at these dinners, AND that at least one Clinton critic didn't approve of that ( . . . was then and this is now . . .):

Writing on May 3, 2000 in the Washington Times about Bill Clinton's dinner jokes about impeachment and other White House scandals, Tony Blankley wrote:

"But the audience, made up of the political and media leadership of the country, ought to be ashamed of itself for laughing and popping out of its chairs for repeated standing ovations. Because that hotel ballroom is not a night club, and Bill Clinton isn't a stand-up comic. He is the president of the United States, and there must always be a moral component to the assessment of his comments, whether they are funny or serious. In this instance, humor should not be its own reward."

ABC News Vote 2004: Bush vs. Kerry:

The rumble played out this morning with the party chairmen as surrogates on ABC's "Good Morning America," where they had an almost congenial chat with Charlie Gibson that, as more proof of the week's focus on 9/11 and the Administration, nearly managed to avoid the Democratic challenger to the President entirely.

After talking about Richard Clarke and Condoleezza Rice, Gibson played a clip from the President's speech on Wednesday night where he joked about his failure to find weapons of mass destruction in the Oval Office and raised Democratic and 9/11 victims' criticism. Gillespie, shaking his head, said that "you know, the Democrats, they will go after anything. The fact is you can hear the laughter in the room. . . . There is a longstanding tradition of the President making light of serious matters and self-deprecating humor."

By the end of the spot all three were talking at once, leading the moderator to Note "It's only a 2-hour program today, guys."

Keying off of the latest Bush-Cheney '04 ad, Nick Anderson of the Los Angeles Times writes up the intensity of the to and fro. Anderson Notes Camp Kerry's "flurry of [paper and surrogate conference call] rebuttals" and highlights and the Media Fund's latest efforts. LINK

"Now Bush is matching the Democratic opposition blow for blow, landing more punches directly on Kerry than the senator is throwing."

Anderson also gets the talented Ken Goldstein to chime in with his latest findings that more than a quarter of President Bush's television spending has been dedicated to attacking John Kerry.

According to a study out today by the Wisconsin Advertising Project, Ken Mehlman was right: the ads by the Kerry campaign and the Democratic 527 organizations is nearly on par with those of the Bush-Cheney re-election efforts. In addition, the Democratic ads are more negative, and the Bush spots have been "largely positive to date." LINK

The Los Angeles Times' LaGanga takes a look at the use of surrogates this election season. LINK

"These are busy times for the armies of surrogates who campaign for Kerry and Bush, women and men who are called in -- often at a moment's notice -- to serve as attack dogs or policy wonks or simply warm bodies on days when the candidates can't show up."

The AP's Will Lester looks at the battle in courting Hispanic voters. LINK

Peronet Despeignes of the USA Today reports on Bush and Kerry's dueling job plans. LINK

There's also a handy list of bullet points to compare the two. LINK

USA Today's Jill Lawrence Notes, "Both presidential candidates have shifted focus from terrorism and national security to economic terrain." LINK

Philip Dine of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Notes the impact jobs and related economic conditions within the nation are having on the presidential election, where the two contenders face off constantly on these issues, which are extremely close to voters. LINK

The Des Moines Register's Tom Beaumont reports from the ground in Iowa, where the air wars have already caught some attention. LINK

The long-anticipated Karen Hughes on 20/20:

Next Monday at 10:00 pm ET, Barbara Walters' highly-anticipated interview with Bush advisor Karen Hughes airs on ABC's "20/20," and while The Note will have a preview for you that day, for now we wanted to give our loyal readers you a little something to satisfy just a little bit of your curiosity on the interview and Hughes' new book, "Ten Minutes from Normal."

(…and have you begging for more by Monday morning!)

Hughes talks to Walters about her new life in Texas, her decision to leave the White House to be with her family, her role in the President's re-election campaign, and her close relationship with President Bush.

Walters said that Hughes speaks to the President every week and her involvement with the re-election campaign is increasing, from her help on the State of the Union address to her taking the airwaves recently to defend the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign ads that showed images of 9/11.

Walters asked Hughes why she was the one asked to come back and be the public face for the Administration once again. "Well, the president's been saying he wants to see me on television a little more. He thinks I'm a good political needler, he told me," Hughes said laughing.


For another week it is Edwards, Gephardt, Richardson, Vilsack, Graham in the National Journal Democratic Insiders Poll . . .

ABC News Vote 2004: battlegrounds:

Bill Currey of the Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette writes on the loss of industrial jobs in the state of West Virginia, where broad-based decline is reaching a critical point. LINK


The AP reports on Dennis Kucinich's trip to Oregon, which he sees as "one of his best hopes for winning enough votes to influence the Democratic Party's agenda." LINK

9/11 Commission reverb:

Condoleezza Rice's insistence to not testify in public before the 9/11 commission is drawing the ire of her critics, write Walter Pincus and Dana Milbank of the Washington Post, Noting Gov. Kean's statement that he believes the "administration shot itself in the foot by not letting her testify in public." LINK

The Administration has clearly made at least progress as the week has gone in raising questions about Clarke's consistency and credibility, but this story is going to raise some blowback problems for the White House, we think.

The Los Angeles Times' Reynolds and Efron explore the effectiveness of Dr. Rice's position of refusing to testify publicly before the 9/11 commission. Apparentlly Stephen Hess and David Gergen think it not all that effective. LINK

The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne writes that "it is now obvious why the Bush administration fought so hard in 2002 to prevent this commission from being created," and asks that it may be time for President Bush to say "I'm sorry" to the American people, a la Richard Clarke. LINK

The Washington Post's David Ignatius reviews the efforts of the Bush White House this week, writing that they "fanned the flames of partisan debate; when asked awkward questions, they stonewalled; rather than testify before the cameras, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice spent part of her Wednesday afternoon dishing dirt to reporters about a commission witness who had criticized the president." LINK

Bush Administration vs. Clarke:

The Washington Post's Mike Allen analyzes the White House's efforts this week to ward off criticism and damage from Richard Clarke's book, Noting that "the barrage was unusual for a White House that typically tries to ignore its critics, and it was driven by White House calculations that Clarke would appear credible to average viewers." LINK

The New York Times' Nagourney and Stevenson report that the White House has offered to let Condoleezza Rice answer more questions for the 9/11 commission, though in private and not under oath. LINK

Note this line: "Some Republicans said that Mr. Bush was being undercut by the perception that a senior White House official would not cooperate, while his aides were out pummeling Richard A. Clarke, the former counterterrorism chief who has accused the Bush administration of not heeding warnings before Sept. 11."

And this one: "The moves came as the White House also sought to deflect new criticism of Mr. Bush for his handling of counterterrorism issues in the months before the attacks and to contain the fallout of an investigation that Democrats and some Republicans said could cast a shadow over his re-election campaign." Don Sipple makes a must-read cameo.

The New York Times' Bumiller and Shenon calmly write that "as she prepares to leave her job" Condoleezza Rice "has infuriated some members of the panel, who wonder why she has time for CNN but not for them" and "now finds herself at the center of a political storm, furiously defending both the White House and her own reputation." LINK

USA Today's Peter Johnson offers a tick-tock of how Clarke's background briefing became on-the-record. LINK

The New York Times' editorial board calls the White House "thin-skinned" and "defensive," and writes that "Mr. Bush's team is so preoccupied with defending his image as a can-do commander in chief that it has no energy left to engage the legitimate questions that have been raised by Mr. Clarke and by others who have appeared before the independent 9/11 commission." LINK

While the Wall Street Journal's ed board writes that "in their eagerness to insist that Mr. Bush should have acted more pre-emptively before 9/11, the critics are rebutting their own case against the President's aggressive antiterror policy ever since. The implication of their critique is that Mr. Bush didn't repudiate the failed strategy of the Clinton years fast enough."

The Washington Post's Al Kamen writes that the members of the National Security Counsel, who reviewed Richard Clarke's book before it was published, never once made mention to the communications or political people that they had an "election bomb on their hands." LINK

The New York Times' Rachel Swarn writes that Clarke's new book is flying off the shelves, writing that "in Washington, Mr. Clarke's book is not just the talk of the town, it is practically the only conversation in town, having -- in just four days -- hijacked the news agenda and placing him in the ranks of other best-selling Washington authors like Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York." LINK

The "2004 Chutzpah of the Year Award" goes to Richard Clarke, writes Charles Krauthammer, detailing an interview Clarke gave to "Frontline" in March of 2002 in which he made many of the same statements as he did this week. LINK

Roll Call's Ethan Wallison reports that Rep. Porter Goss said Thursday that Clarke "may have lied in testimony to his committee, and said he plans to explore whether Congressional action on the matter is warranted."

The economy:

Treasury Secretary John Snow delivers the keynote speech at the U.S. Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy conference at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Hall of Flags in Washington, D.C. today at noon. He'll talk about small business and the role it plays in creating new jobs in the economy, as well as what government is doing to help small businesses.

Big casino budget politics:

The House narrowly passed a "$2.4 trillion budget resolution yesterday that would make it tougher to increase spending -- but less difficult to cut taxes," writes Chuck Babington of the Washington Post. LINK

Big casino budget politics: Medicare:

Tommy Thompson announced yesterday that the "government has selected 28 private companies to provide prescription drug discount cards to Medicare recipients beginning in June," writes Marc Kaufman of the Washington Post. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Kemper takes a look at the soon-to-be-rolled-out prescription drug discount cards for Medicare beneficiaries. LINK

USA Today's Julie Appleby writes, "28 private firms -- mainly large health insurers and companies that handle pharmacy benefit programs -- have been selected to offer" Medicare prescription drug discount cards. LINK

Reproductive politics:

The Senate gave final approval yesterday to legislation that would make it a crime to injure or kill a fetus during the commission of a federal crime of violence, overriding critics' claims that the bill defines the start of human life in a way that could undermine abortion rights," writes the Washington Post's Helen Dewar. LINK

USA Today's Andrea Stone writes, "The Senate on Thursday passed the first federal legislation giving independent legal status to a fetus or embryo. It was a victory for President Bush and his conservative base, but critics called it a veiled attempt to chip away at abortion rights." LINK

The Los Angeles Times looks at the passage of Laci and Conner's law through the prism of the political season. LINK

"Bush, as he seeks to shore up his support from social conservatives, is expected to highlight the measure on the campaign trail, along with his signing last year of a measure banning a procedure critics call "partial birth" abortion."

"Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, interrupted his campaign to return to vote in favor of an alternative measure favored by abortion rights advocates."

The politics of gas:

SUV drivers of the World Unite! The New York Times' Danny Hakim reports Sen. Kerry "is sticking with a plan he backed in the Senate to increase the nation's fuel economy standards 50 percent by 2015. That would be the largest increase, by far, since automotive fuel economy standards were first imposed after the oil shocks of the 1970's." Gov. Granholm, among others, would like to see the plan scaled back. LINK

The Detroit News on Kerry's Thursday endorsement from the UAW and questions about what a "President Kerry" would mean for the auto industry. LINK

And the Detroit News' ed board writes that "in supporting" fuel economy "restrictions that are unreasonable and probably technologically impossible to achieve, he ruins his best argument -- that he is better for the economy and the American middle and working classes than is the current president." LINK

Note Joseph White of the Wall Street Journal writes that the federal Environmental Protection Agency "will for the first time in nearly two decades consider changing the way it calculates the mileage estimates shown in large type on new-vehicle price stickers so that the figures better reflect real-world performance."

The politics of same-sex marriage:

The Boston Globe's Kathleen Burge writes, "In [Massachusetts'] first official acknowledgment that gay and lesbian couples can legally marry in May, town and city clerks were notified this week that they will be trained to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples." LINK

The Boston Herald's Erin Convey reports on how the debate is motivating some Catholics to engage in voter registration drives. LINK

The New York Post has the latest Quinnipiac numbers showing a great majority of Americans opposed to same-sex marriage. LINK


The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Deirdre Shesgreen reports on House lawmakers, who are at odds over a trade bill that pits two powerful Illinois companies against a California congressman, with the politically sensitive issue of outsourcing jobs overseas resting at the center of the dispute. LINK

Ken Herman of the Austin-American Statesman reports on the runoff in Texas' 10th Congressional District. No Democrats ran in the primary, and now two Republicans have turned it into the most expensive congressional race this cycle, prior to the deciding April 13 election. LINK

With a second-day follow, Chuck Lindell and Laylan Copelin at the Statesman Note that Tom DeLay has raised the possibility of resigning his leadership position with fellow Republicans should he be indicted with felony charges in connection with the grand jury investigation of his Texas PACs. LINK

The Houston Chronicle's R.G. Ratcliffe reports that DeLay has discussed with friends the possibility of beginning a legal defense fund. Delay is quoted as saying "I fully expect to be indicted" and the paper reports that any resignation of a leadership position might only be temporary. LINK

TODAY SCHEDULE (all times ET): —7:00 am: DNC Chair Terry McAuliffe and RNC Chair Ed Gillespie appear on "Good Morning America" —8:30 am: Commerce Department releases the February report on personal income and spending. —9:00 am: Chairman Alan Greenspan speaks before the Models and Monetary Policy Conference, Washington, D.C. —9:30 am: The U.S. Senate convenes for morning business. —10:00 am: The Democratic National Committee Executive Committee meets for an update from the Kerry campaign staff. Washington, D.C. —10:30 am: Vice President Cheney speaks at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio —10:30 am: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld hosts Azerbaijan Minister of Defense Safar Abiyev, Washington, D.C. —12:00 pm: Ralph Nader attends campaign rally at UNC-Asheville campus, Asheville, N.C. —12:00 pm: Treasury Secretary John Snow speaks before the Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Washington, D.C. —12:30 pm: Sen. John Kerry speaks at Wayne State University, Detroit, Mich. —12:30 pm: Sen. Bob Graham speaks about U.S. intelligence at the Council on Foreign Relations, Washington, D.C. —12:30 pm: Vice President Cheney speaks at a Bush-Cheney 2004 luncheon. Dayton, Ohio —12:35 pm: President Bush makes remarks on homeownership at the Expo New Mexico, Albuquerque, N.M. —3:45 pm: President Bush tours the Phoenix Carpenters Training Center, Phoenix, Ariz. —4:15 pm: President Bush participates in a conversation on homeownership at the Phoenix Carpenters Training Center, Phoenix, Ariz. —4:15 pm: Sen. Kerry meets with the United Auto Workers at the Solidarity House, Detroit, Mich. —6:30 pm: Vice President Cheney speaks at a reception for congressional candidate Mike Sodrel, Jeffersonville, Ind. —7:00 pm: Sen. Kerry attends a rally at the UAW's Region 1 office, Warren, Mich. —7:00 pm: Nader speaks at the University of South Carolina Law School, Columbia, S.C. —7:00 pm: Rep. Kucinich speaks at Lincoln High School in Portland, Ore.