The Note




Let's take a short break from the Bush-Kerry savage combat over Dick Clarke; 9/11; jobs, numbers that don't add up; numbers that don't add up; a $1 trillion tax gap; a $10 trillion tax gap; disrespecting veterans; bankrupting Medicare; opposing tort reform; opposing prescription drugs; living in a parallel universe; failing to heed warnings; squandering the surplus; sticking it to the middle class; supporting a 50-cent gas tax hike; being in the tank with big oil; blocking the energy bill; and credibility to try to do a bit of a re-set on WHY we are where we are.

Here The Note will take two risks -- the risk of offending people we have covered in past cycles -- and the far, far greater risk of committing what has been considered for at least a decade the ultimate sin in political journalism: appearing to suck up.

We feel quite confident in suggesting that from top to bottom the Bush and Kerry folks are as nice a group of people as you could ever meet in presidential politics (not counting, of course, the attendees of a Kucinich campaign bake sale, or Elizabeth Edwards).

Now, there ARE some exceptions on both sides (and you know who you are).

But for the most part, this pattern both the campaigns have fallen into, where every press release, every speech, every event, and every strategy meeting is about how to destroy the other fella, is the product of an odd juxtaposition where lovely people are trying to decapitate their opponents -- and it is only March.

Think of it as sort of the opposite of what happened during the Cold War, when mutually assured destruction insured that the peace would be kept, with both sides recognizing that the use of even a single nuke would unleash the unthinkable.

Now that the weapons of mass destruction have begun to fly, neither side wants to lose for failing to have launched everything from every silo, ship, and slingshot.

We all can recite in our sleep the reasons proffered for this:

-- the 50-50 nation;

-- Kerry emerging unscathed from the nomination process with good fav/unfavs;

-- the cable-Web driven 24/7 news cycle;

-- Michael Meehan's access to a word processor;

-- the front-loaded Democratic calendar;

-- the fear that if one side lets up for even a day, they will be patsies;

-- the ghosts of Michael Dukakis and George H.W. Bush;

-- the ghosts of the Little Rock War Room;

-- the need to stoke the base;

-- the (apparent) lack of respect the candidates have for each other;

-- Jim Dyke's access to a word processor;

-- the Rosetta Stone belief of both parties that Negative Works;

-- and the heartfelt belief on both sides that four years of the OTHER guy as president would inflict true long-term damage on America and the world.

It even got to the point last week where the RNC took the President's favorite movie (We aren't kidding: LINK), "Austin Powers," and produced a cutting take on the GOP's "John Kerry: International Man of Mystery" thematic.

And take, for instance, two of the nicer foot soldiers in their respective camps: Terry Holt (the dashing BC04 spokesperson who learned everything he knows about being nice and not nice on Capitol Hill) and Stephanie Cutter (the graceful Kerry spokesperson who learned everything she knows about being nice and not nice on Capitol Hill).

Their loyalty to the men for whom they speak, to their colleagues, and to the causes in which they serve cannot be questioned.

Their kindness to all those people, plus to the lazy, demanding, and ungrateful reporters who ask them a million questions a day, is manifest. (Note to Cutter: we still need an answer to the voice-over question.)

And yet yesterday, before a late-night truce was apparently brokered, Holt and Cutter engaged in a day-long attack-mode back-and-forth over, well, nothing.

Or, more to the point, over SOMETHING, although we aren't quite sure what it was.

Thus the Bush and Kerry campaigns went into full Seinfeld mode yesterday, trading lines inspired from the world's greatest sitcom -- and The Note offers you an exclusive look (and, yes, we egged them on, as sort of a controlled experiment).

Bush campaign spokesperson Terry Holt sent off the first barb with his "yadda, yadda" comments in yesterday's Washington Post and New York Times.

"John Kerry's campaign seems to be summed up this way: I went to Vietnam, yadda, yadda, yadda, I want to be president. He would have the American people ignore his 19-year record in the United States Senate. . . . In the case of John Kerry, the truth hurts."

Insulted that Holt had "yadda, yadda'd" over Kerry's service in the Vietnam, Kerry spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter demanded an apology from Holt and fired back, "George Bush's campaign can be summed up this way: 'I lost three million jobs, turned record surpluses into record deficits, denied affordable health care and prescription drug coverage to most Americans, yadda, yadda, yadda, four more years.'"

Then Holt pulled an Elaine: "As I said, I mentioned the bisque."

And then: "Kerry knows how to take a position, he just doesn't know how to hold a position. And that's really the most important part."

Cutter responded, "As much as they hate it, this President's record is what's on trial. Watching George Bush destroy this nation's economy is just as painful as watching Elaine dance. Like Seinfeld, this Administration's record is a show about 'nothing.' Only difference is Seinfeld will have been on the air longer."

Turning to his Costanza handbook, Holt replied, "It's too bad the Kerry campaign can't take a little light-hearted ribbing. I guess over there 'the sea was angry that day, my friend.'"

"OK, from now on, just facts ma'am. Higher taxes, weak on defense, wrong for America. And that's not funny at all."

Don't get us wrong -- we aren't in the business of telling the campaigns how to do things, and we like a sharp elbow as much as Jeff Ruland does.

But it would be lovely if the relative bipartisan comity of yesterday's 9/11 hearing wouldn't come as such a shock (and let down) to the press at a time when America faces a range of challenges at home and abroad.

(Here ends our own parody of a David Broder column closing paragraph, and, yes, this whole lead was constructed because we didn't want the excellent verbal work of the comedy team of Holt and Cutter (a modern-day Shields and Yarnell, if you ask us LINK) to go to waste.)

President Bush speaks at the Congressional Gold Medal ceremony this afternoon, and addresses the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, before attending this evening's Radio and Television Correspondents Association Dinner, all in Washington.

(The gold medal ceremony will provide one of those rare George W. Bush/Hillary Rodham Clinton photo ops that can be used in the overall Bush-to-Clinton-to-Bush-to-Clinton transition montage Dick Morris dreams of being aired on Jan. 20, 2009.)

Sen. Kerry enjoys his last day of vacation in Ketchum, Idaho before returning to Washington, D.C. this evening -- not in time to make the dinner.

First Lady Laura Bush speaks at a congressional event in Connecticut and an Alzheimer's Association Gala in Washington, D.C.

This afternoon, chief Medicare actuary Richard Foster will testify, along with CBO Director Douglas Hotz-Eakin, at the House Ways and Means Committee hearing on the trustees report on Medicare and Social Security solvency. Foster should be particularly interesting, given his contention that his boss, Medicare administrator Thomas Scully, threatened to fire him if he revealed the higher Medicare cost estimates.

9/11 Commission:

White House Chief of Staff Andy Card appeared on nearly all of the morning shows to defend the President's efforts against al Qaeda before and after the Sept. 11 attacks and to try to downplay Dick Clarke's role in the Administration prior to Sept. 11.

"The President from the day he took office was concerned about terrorist attacks on the United States," Card said to ABC's Charlie Gibson and repeated during every other appearance.

He added on "Fox and Friends:" "When we took office, we accepted the plans the previous Administration had and the President said he wanted to make it more robust. He found that they were deficient." "He didn't want a plan that just swatted flies," he continued on "The Today Show." We wanted to produce change. The President has been working hard to defeat terror."

Card had three main lines of attack on Clarke: On "Good Morning America" he said that "Dick Clarke was not in on all the meetings." On CNN, during a taped interview with John King, Card said that "Dick Clarke is a very smart man. He's a little bit of a character . . . But his view is not the reality." And on the "Today Show" (and other places) Card pointed out that "The primary focus he suggested we should pay attention to is cyber-security. The briefing he demanded to have with the president dealt with cyber-security and not with al Qaeda and terrorists attacks."

When asked about the September directive which the White House and National Security Council yesterday admitted had provisions for "military options" against Iraq, Card defended the President's decision and restated the Administration's focus on Iraq as integral to the war on terrorism. "The President was appropriately concerned that Saddam Hussein and his regime -- who were sworn enemies of this country and subject to U.N. sanctions and to no-fly zone restrictions -- would take advantage of the Taliban regime and use that to attack the United States… He was preparing for all circumstances. But the primary concern that the President had post-9/11 was eliminating the Taliban regime so they could not be a safe harbor for the al Qaeda network."

Card also called the Administration's level of cooperation with the 9/11 commission "unprecedented," citing on "Fox and Friends" the 2.3 million documents the Administration has handed over, President Bush's plan to meet with the commission, and Condoleezza Rice's "over four-hour" private meeting with the commission.

Card also answered questions about the intelligence the President received prior to the attack, none of which "indicated an attack on the United States of the nature of 9/11."

Card went on to say on "Good Morning America" that, as has been published elsewhere, some of the intelligence included possibilities of al Qaeda's hijacking airplanes but not to use to attack the United States: "I do remember one report talking about the potential of al Qaeda and hijacking planes, but it was not seen as something that would relate to the American homeland. It was expected around the world and there were lots of notifications sent around the world to tighten up airports and security around planes and to tighten up security at U.S. facilities around the world."

Chairman Thomas Kean and Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton appeared on "Fox and Friends" and, after telling questioner Steve Doocy that the White House has "by and large" been helpful ("some of it's been slower than we want it to be"), had the following exchange with the always on-schedule (and former booker) Doocy:

Doocy: You're bringing the gavel down at 8:30 this morning, right?

Hamilton: That's right. The governor will bring the gavel down at 8:30

Doocy: Well see that's a problem for us because our show goes til 9:00. Which one of you wants to call Lee Ann Rimes and tell her we have to cancel her appearance?

In a preview of Richard Clarke's testimony before the 9/11 commission today, the Washington Post's Mike Allen writes that in an interview yesterday over the phone Clarke revealed that "CIA Director George J. Tenet used his morning briefings to warn Bush 'over and over' beginning in June 2001 that al Qaeda would 'almost certainly' stage a major attack." LINK

The New York Times' Shenon and Schmitt report that "the harsher questioning, from Democrats and Republicans alike was reserved for Mr. Rumsfeld, especially after he and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell acknowledged in testimony that they had been aware of intelligence reports in 2001 warning of the especially dire terrorist threat against the United States." Write the two, the "report prepared by the commission staff portrayed Mr. Rumsfeld as a new secretary struggling with delays in getting his senior aides in place and focused on other priorities, like missile defenses." LINK

The Washington Post's David Von Drehle Notes that during the 9/11 commission hearing yesterday's officials from both the Clinton and Bush administration showed signs of unity and did not the play the "blame game" as expected. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Paltrow and Cloud report "on a day of unusual public airing of the conduct of the war on terror, investigators declared that both the Clinton and Bush administrations relied too heavily on diplomacy instead of military action to curb al Qaeda before Sept. 11, 2001."

Looking at the election year timeline, the two write "the commission suddenly has moved into a national spotlight at a time when the war on terrorism doesn't appear to be the source of political strength for Mr. Bush that it once seemed. Democrats, including likely presidential nominee John Kerry, have shown increasing willingness to attack Mr. Bush for his conduct of the war on terror, and particularly for making an attack on Iraq a central feature of it."

"An additional problem for Mr. Bush: The calendar of the commission . . . has pushed its work into the thick of the presidential campaign. Because of delays in conducting its inquiry -- delays the commission has attributed in part to lack of cooperation from the administration -- the panel's deadline for producing a report, once set for May, now has been pushed to the end of July."

Writes Gerald Seib in the Wall Street Journal, "this week, at least, the 2004 presidential campaign is very much about the past -- specifically President Bush's past performance on Iraq and the war on terrorism. Here's the only problem with that: On the core issue of Iraq, the focus is off. The issue isn't whether President Bush was secretly plotting to invade Iraq even before terrorists struck on Sept. 11, 2001. He almost certainly wasn't, as a look back at the time indicates. The real issue is the Bush turn to war against Iraq some time after Sept. 11. Confusing the two scrambles what should be the most serious debate of this election year."

New York Times' Todd Purdum writes that despite the election-year atmosphere, the former "secretaries themselves often agreed with one other, regardless of party, and their public presence was a powerful sign that terrorism transcends politics -- and that blame abounds for failing to fully face the threat in time." LINK

The Washington Times' Bill Gertz details the first day of testimony, and the findings that faulty intelligence and a reliance on law enforcement and diplomacy, rather than military action, allowed al Qaeda to continue to operate during the Clinton Administration. LINK

Bush Administration v. Clarke:

The New York Times' Marquis and Stolberg profile Richard Clarke's career and offer this descriptive graph: "The man at the center of the maelstrom is a ghostly pale balding bureaucrat who has spent the greater part of a three-decade career in government unknown to most Americans. The son of a chocolate factory worker from Pennsylvania, Mr. Clarke, 53, earned degrees at the University of Pennsylvania and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is single, and known for keeping long hours, and he was one of a handful of White House officials allowed to carry a gun for protection." LINK

The Los Angeles Times writes that Kerry has yet to weigh in on the Clarke controversy because the new book "has yet to catch up with the presumed Democratic presidential nominee as he enjoys a vacation here." LINK

The Washington Post editorial board writes that "few officials in either administration saw al Qaeda as the most important emerging threat to U.S. security" but Richard Clarke did. LINK

The Washington Times' James Lakely reports that despite the criticism now, Clarke praised the President's "courage, determination, calm and leadership" on Sept. 11, 2001 in his resignation letter. LINK

Clarke v. Bush Administration:

Clarke talked to Salon yesterday. Some highlights: LINK

--"The vice president is becoming an attack dog, on a personal level, which should be beneath him but evidently is not."

--"It's possible that the vice president has spent so little time studying the terrorist phenomenon that he doesn't know about the successes in the 1990s. There were many."

--"This book could have come out much earlier. It's the White House that decided when it would be published, not me. I turned it in toward the end of last year, and even though there was nothing in it that was not already obviously unclassified, they took a very, very long time."

-- On the Administration: "I just think it's funny that they can engage in this sort of 'big lie' approach to things. The plan that they adopted after Sept. 11 was the plan that I had proposed in January [2001}. If my plan wasn't aggressive enough, I suppose theirs wasn't either."

-- "The Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar, had worn out his welcome in the Clinton White House. But he had very, very good ties to the Bush family."

--Clarke voted for John McCain in the 2000 Virginia primary.

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

Though the BC04 recent strategy has been to highlight Sen. Kerry's negative and focus on his record, the Los Angeles Times' Brownstein writes in a must-read that perhaps the campaign should focus instead on the President's leadership and his Administration's record.

Brownstein goes back to the history books and concludes that for the President, "raising his approval rating -- now right around 50% in most surveys -- could be the key to four more years."

"In the end, many analysts believe, Bush's fate is likely to turn more on his success in answering such questions than his ability to generate skepticism about Kerry," Notes Brownstein. LINK

President Bush heads to Kerry's turf on Thursday to raise more money for his re-election fund, reports the Boston Herald's Miga.

Miga reports that the fundraiser event is expected to bring in $1 million, adding to the just over $2 million the President has raised in the Bay State. LINK

The Albuquerque Tribune's Andersen reports that state parties "don't see a dime" from BC04 fundraisers featuring high-profile speakers. LINK

"President Bush seems to be running his reelection campaign on the basis of the Powell doctrine: Go in with overwhelming force from the start and strike a blow from which the enemy can never recover," writes Michael Kinsley in the Washington Post, Noting the Bush family weapon of choice, taxes. LINK

The AP's Nedra Pickler reports on the "depressing statistics on unemployment and poverty" on which opponents of the President in Michigan are focusing. LINK

The Boston Globe's Frank Phillips looks at Mitt Romney's raised profile, his role in the effort to re-elect the President, and his potential future on the national political stage. LINK

First Lady Laura Bush was in Chicago yesterday to speak about heart disease but she showed once again that she will be a factor this year for the President and his re-election campaign, addressing Dick Clarke's criticisms of her husband, reports the Chicago Sun-Times' Fusco:

"'When my husband was inaugurated, and he swore to protect and defend the Constitution and the people of the United States, he took that very, very seriously,' she said. 'For someone to imply that he doesn't is just wrong.'"LINK

Brian Faler writes in the Washington Post that President Bush has not cut the Department of Veterans Affairs' budget, at least in the conventional way. LINK

Tomorrow will mark Bush's second visit to New Hampshire in two months, where he will stop at New Hampshire Community Technical College to speak about his small business initiatives, The Manchester Union Leader reports. LINK

President Bush suggested settling the NCAA football championship on the South Lawn of the White House yesterday. LINK

Today in Washington, Sen. Zell Miller announces the launch of his group "Democrats for Bush," and will detail his plans to rally Democrats across the country to support the President's re-election. Miller will appear with BC04 campaign chairman Marc Racicot.

The Note is pleased to tempt your palate with excerpts from Sen. Miller's speech today:

"President Bush has led America in a time of recession, terrorism, and war. But through it all he has never forgotten his charge to protect our nation's security and promote opportunity for every American. He is guided by the right principles -- aided by his strong faith -- and I know that my family and the people of my state are more secure with George W. Bush in the White House."

Sen. Miller will also address why he is not supporting his colleague John Kerry:

"I have also known John Kerry for several years and I've considered him a friend. He served our country honorably in Vietnam, and he has served our party admirably through much of his tenure in the Senate.

But after listening to Senator Kerry over the last year or two -- after hearing the agenda he's laid out for our country -- I cannot support him in his race for the presidency. There are too many issues about which John Kerry and I disagree. And there are too few similarities between John Kerry and the great Democratic leaders I've known."

Sen. Miller also holds a conference call at 12:30 pm today to discuss Democrats for Bush and call on his supporters to each recruit five new Democrats to throw their hat in the ring for the President this year.

Eddie G-Unit:

While the DNC may have Biz Markie tomorrow at Dream, the RNC is taking their show on the road, with Reggie the Registration Rig and RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie making a stop in Times Square to visit MTV's "Total Request Live."

Reggie will be parked outside the studio on Thursday from 5:00-6:00 pm ET and the Chairman will be on hand with other Republicans to get out the RNC's message and register new voters.

According to a schedule on, actor/rapper extraordinaire DMX is also expected to stop by the Times Square studio on Thursday.

RNC Spokeswoman Heather Layman tells the AP, "'Chairman Gillespie has three kids of his own, and the oldest is a teenager, so he is no stranger to MTV and "TRL." He's hip enough to know how important it is, so I think he'll have fun.'" LINK

No word on whether or not we'll see Gillespie screaming outside and holding up Kanye West or Clay Aiken signs . . .

ABC News Vote 2004: Bush vs. Kerry:

A new AP poll finds President Bush with a 46-43 lead over Sen. John Kerry, but "after two weeks and tens of millions of dollars spent by both sides on negative advertising, little has changed in the basic landscape of a very close presidential race," reports AP's Lester.

"Voters said they trust Bush to do a better job of protecting the country by 58 percent to 35 percent. They trust Kerry to do a better job of creating jobs by 53 percent to 37 percent. Kerry has been emphasizing the job issue in campaign appearances and campaign ads."

"Both candidates have been trying to change the subject in recent weeks to more friendly turf -- Kerry to jobs, Bush to national security. Jobs are the top issue as far as voters are concerned, according to the poll, while national security trails jobs by about 15 percentage points." LINK's Terry Neal finds gaps in both the Kerry and Bush tax plans. LINK

Democrats are using a "team effort" to combat the Bush television ad machine, writes Paul Farhi of the Washington Post. LINK

The Wall Street Journal ed board, writing on jobs and protectionism, says that Kerry's recent decision to "come out against" the Central American Free Trade Agreement presents the President with an opportunity to turn "his attack on 'economic isolationism'" into a "winning political issue."

Cox News' Moni Basu reports on how immigrants are becoming big factors, supporters, and donors for both Bush and Kerry. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: Sen. John Kerry:

The New York Times' O'Brien and Labaton take a l-o-n-g look at Sen. Kerry's record on telecom issues, writing that he "has been at the nexus of some of the most high-stakes lobbying wars in Washington over telecommunications and cable television policy, and like most other lawmakers involved in these issues has raised significant campaign money from corporate interests with a stake in the legislation." LINK

The Boston Herald's Andrew Miga reports on the e-mail fundraising effort on Kerry's behalf by Sen. Clinton, who Miga identifies as "a popular national figure who has been mentioned as a possible Kerry running mate." LINK

Miga also writes about the speculation about a Secretary of State McCain in a Kerry administration. LINK

The New York Post's Orin picks up Kerry's French Connection in earnest, finding psychologist Clotaire Rapaille, who was in the Washington Post just yesterday, to say "All this association [of Kerry] with thinking too much and nuance and five-sentence answers is off-code." Note that Rapaille "lunched with Kerry's brother, Cam, to offer advice directly to Team Kerry, said Kerry spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter." LINK

Roll Call's Nicole Duran writes today about all of the speculation about the potential plans of the Massachusetts congressional delegation if Kerry's Senate seat would become available.

The San Francisco Chronicle's Epstein reports "Kerry has found his largest number of deep-pocketed donors in California -- repeating the success of Democrats Clinton in 1992 and 1996 and Al Gore in 2000." LINK

Gromer Jeffers Jr. at the Dallas Morning News reports that state party leaders prefer John Edwards on the ticket as Vice President, with Bill Richardson a second choice. LINK

Veepstakes: assessing Bob Kerrey:

With all eyes on the 9/11 Commission yesterday, veep prospect Bob Kerrey certainly got a lot of air time.

On display during Tuesday's hearings was Kerrey's distance from both the Bush AND Clinton records of fighting al Qaeda before 9/11.

Typically, when Democrats criticize the Bush Administration for failing to head off the al Qaeda threat before 9/11, Republicans hit back by saying that the Clinton Administration sat on its hands following the 1998 bombing of the US embassies in Africa and the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole.

One asset Kerrey would bring to the table is that he called for a declaration of war on al Qaeda long before 9/11.

As former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said to Kerrey during her testimony: " . . . you, Senator, I know, were the only person -- that I know of -- who suggested declaring war. You were probably -- in retrospect, you were probably right."

Kerrey, a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient (sporting an excellent haircut), reminded everyone on Tuesday that he is as adept at turning a phrase as he is at handling a weapon. He told former Secretary of Defense Bill Cohen: "We had a round in our chamber. We didn't use it. That's how I see it."

And he told Albright, in response to both Democratic and Republican footdragging: "I keep hearing the excuse: 'We didn't have actionable intelligence.' What the hell does that say to al Qaeda?"

It was precisely the kind of moment that White House officials would have envisioned when they called Kerrey a "nonpartisan statesman." Of all the hopefuls out there, it's no accident that his name comes up again and again -- let us refer you back to the Feb. 12 Note (LINK) for our first crack at the case for Kerrey.

Now, don't get us wrong. There are definite downsides (from Kerry's standpoint) to putting Kerrey on the ticket.

Take Iraq. He's made some statements that are sure to leave Shrummy asking Tad to pass the Prilosec.

As the RNC's Ed Gillespie pointed out at Catholic University last week during his alma mater debate with The Macker, Kerrey told the New York Sun on Dec. 29, 2003: "It breaks my heart whenever anybody dies, but we liberated 25 million people who were living under a dictator. It puts us on the side of democracy in the Arab world. Twenty years from now, we'll be hard-pressed to find anyone who says it wasn't worth the effort."

And, typically, the New York Daily News says that "during a break, panel member and New School President Bob Kerrey described the explanations for not attacking Bin Laden as "bulls---." LINK

From the outside:

The Los Angeles Times looks at the fight for control of the Sierra Club. LINK

Democracy 21 and Common Cause are "dogging" Tom DeLay's charity, alleging "that DeLay plans to use the charity improperly to fund political activities in New York City during the 2004 Republican National Convention." LINK

What is the world coming to?! The Hill says some on the right say Grover is getting too close to the White House and losing some of his renegade tax-cutting edge. LINK

Big casino budget politics: Medicare:

The New York Times' Robert Pear writes that the Medicare's long term fiscal health has "significantly deteriorated, partly because of exploding health costs and partly because of the new Medicare law, the government reported on Tuesday." Writes Pear, "The new figures touched off a political brawl between Democrats and the White House." LINK

The Wall Street Journal's McKinnon leads thusly: "Medicare's trustees said the program is on track to go bankrupt in 15 years -- seven years sooner than previously projected -- reflecting soaring health-care costs and changes ordered by Congress and the White House."

USA Today's Peronet Despeignes reports, "Medicare will go broke by 2019, seven years earlier than predicted a year ago, and could begin squeezing the rest of the federal budget as soon as 2011, according to a report released Tuesday by the trustees of Medicare and Social Security." LINK

Knight Ridder's Ken Moritsugu lays out all the reasoning in yesterday's Medicare report for why the program is facing a shortfall by 2019 -- and what the government will have to do about it. Besides prescription drugs, the convergence of rising hospital costs with a stalled economy in which wages aren't rising are also culprits. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's ed board continues to wax disdainful about the Medicare prescription drug bill, writing "the political tragedy here is that Republicans have probably squandered their big chance to reform Medicare anytime soon. The prescription drug benefit was the only political carrot they could offer in return for genuine policy reforms. They settled instead for speculative policy changes on a long time fuse that may be swamped by the runaway costs of their new drug entitlement before the reforms ever have a chance work. Was it Barry Goldwater, or perhaps Ronald Reagan, who first said that Republicans had become tax collectors for the welfare state?"

The Boston Globe's Stephen Glain Notes that Kerry "wasted little time in going on the attack, charging that President Bush was starving Medicare of revenue by combining tax cuts with increased benefits such as the prescription drug measure, which opponents say favors the pharmaceutical industry over the consumer." LINK

The Hill's Cusack says the White House is now "firing back and criticizing comments made by Richard Foster, Medicare's top actuary." LINK

House of Labor:

The Los Angeles Times' Simon on the AFL-CIO's "Show us the Jobs" tour "targeting states that will be critical in the 2004 presidential election." Notes Simon, "every event is designed to spotlight an issue that the AFL-CIO contends President Bush has mishandled, from overtime rules to international trade pacts." LINK

Erik C. Huey of the Las Vegas Review-Journal profiles one of the unemployed workers hitting the road. LINK

The politics of gas:

It's never easy to know when the time is right to create a new section for The Note.

But here's our general rule of thumb: if Klein writes about something, it's big. If Kimmel talks about it, it's bigger than big.

One of the monkeys stayed up late last night to watch Nightline and caught this promo for Jimmy Kimmel's show:

ANNOUNCER: "Jimmy talks about topics that hit home."

KIMMEL: "It's the one-year anniversary of the war with Iraq. One year later, we've got it all worked out: Gas is now 8 bucks a gallon."

"Gasoline prices around the United States reached a record average of nearly $1.74 a gallon for regular grades last weekend, pushed up by higher worldwide prices for crude oil," Peter Behr reports of the Washington Post. LINK

The New York Times' Wald and Tierney report "the record-high price of gasoline has suddenly become one of the most contentious issues here, with presidential candidates and members of Congress rushing to assign blame and propose ways to lower voters' costs at the gas pump." LINK

James R. Healey of USA Today reports that as average U.S. gas prices reach $1.738 per gallon, AAA recommended economy cars and reform of federal clean air laws. Some members of Congress have requested that Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham either stop adding to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve or start pumping from the reserve to lower prices. Secretary Abraham has refused. LINK

The Washington Times on the criticism leveled at the White House at a Tuesday Senate Armed Services Committee hearing LINK

The politics of same-sex marriage:

"Despite indications that a bid to amend the Constitution to ban gay marriages has little hope of passage, GOP congressional leaders continued to push the amendment yesterday, prompting Democrats to charge that Republicans are orchestrating an emotionally divisive issue for the fall elections," writes of the Chuck Babington Washington Post. LINK

The Boston Globe's Mary Leonard reports that the "proposed federal amendment to ban gay marriage" came under fire from Democrats, legal scholars, and at least one conservative yesterday as a hearing was held to discuss the proposal. LINK

The politics of immigration:

The New York Times' Rachel Swarns reports "Republican and Democratic senators accused the Bush administration on Tuesday of doing too little to transform President Bush's sweeping immigration plan into legislation that might be voted into law this year." (And for a change, Sens. Hagel and McCain aren't alone on their side of the aisle in "expressing frustration" with their party!) LINK

SCOTUS and the Pledge (sung to the tune of "Benny and the Jets"):

The Washington Post's Charles Lane analyzes the case before the Supreme Court to determine the constitutionality of the phrase "under God" in the pledge of allegiance. LINK

The New York Times' William Safire thinks in order to quell the argument over the Pledge of Allegiance, the Supreme Court needs "to require teachers to inform students they have the added right to remain silent for a couple of seconds while others choose to say 'under God'." LINK

Bush Administration personality/strategy:

"Washington power lobbyist Tom Korologos, dubbed the 101st senator for his storied work on behalf of Republican administrations for more than three decades, is said to be President Bush's pick to be ambassador to Belgium," reports Al Kamen of the Washington Post. LINK


AHA! A Hastert senior aide tells Roll Call Andy Card was the "source of faulty numbers" who prompted Hastert to deal only with the President on the highway bill. Note: Not surprisingly, "Republican sources downplayed the possibility of division on future issues, citing nearly seamless cooperation between the Bush administration and GOP Congressional leaders in other areas of policy. "

The Portland Press Herald's Weinstein reports that Maine became the fourth yesterday state to pass a resolution aimed at revising The Patriot Act. LINK

Jim Morrill of the Charlotte Observer calls races for open Senate seats in the South "unusually competitive" and Notes that uncontested primaries for Democrats have left them stronger than Republicans in large primary fields. LINK

The Winston-Salem Journal's David Ingram reports that the GOP candidates for Governor in North Carolina all agree that more tax cuts and smaller state government are needed, criticizing the efforts of Democratic Gov. Mike Easley. LINK

TODAY SCHEDULE (all times ET): —7:00 am: White House Chief of Staff Andy Card appears on the morning television news programs —7:00 am: 9/11 Commission co-chairs Lee Hamilton and Gov. Thomas Kean appear on "Fox & Friends" and CNN's "American Morning" —9:00 am: CIA Director George Tenet speaks before the 9/11 Commission, Washington, D.C. —9:00 am: House Democratic Caucus holds a closed meeting, Washington, D.C. —9:30 am: The U.S. Senate meets for morning business, Washington, D.C. —10:00 am: The U.S. House meets for legislative business, Washington, D.C. —10:00 am: Colombian President Alvaro Uribe meets with Sens. Bill Frist and Tom Daschle, Washington, D.C. —10:00 am: The U.S. Supreme Court meets to hand down decisions and hear arguments, Washington, D.C. —10:00 am: The White House Project launches drive to recruit women to vote, with Reps. Shelley Moore Capito and Louise Slaughter, the Capitol, Washington, D.C. —10:30 am: The U.S. Senate resumes consideration of S.1637, Jumpstart Our Business Strength (JOBS) Act, Washington, D.C. —11:00 am: Former presidential adviser Samuel R. Berger speaks before the 9/11 Commission, Washington, D.C. —11:00 am: Former Sen. Zell Miller announces his leadership of Democrats for Bush, Washington, D.C. —12:00 pm: First Lady Laura Bush speaks at a luncheon for Rep. Rob Simmons at the Mystic Marriott Hotel and Spa, Groton, Conn. —1:00 pm: President Bush speaks at the Congressional Gold Medal ceremony honoring Dr. Dorothy Height at the Capitol, Washington, D.C. —1:00 pm: Medicare actuary Richard Foster testifies, along with CBO Director Douglas Hotz-Eakin, at the House Ways and Means Committee hearing on the trustees report on Medicare and Social Security solvency. —1:30 pm: Former national coordinator for counterterrorism Richard Clarke speaks before the 9/11 Commission, Washington, D.C. —2:30 pm: Colombian President Alvaro Uribe meets with meets with House Speaker Dennis Hastert —2:30 p.m. Treasury Secretary Snow speaks to the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce at the Renaissance Hotel, Washington, D.C. —3:00 pm: President Bush speaks to the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce at the Renaissance Hotel, Washington, D.C. —4:00 pm: Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage speaks before the 9/11 Commission, Washington, D.C. —7:30 pm: Laura Bush speaks at the Alzheimer's Association Gala, Washington, D.C. —8:15 pm: President Bush attends the Radio and Television Correspondents Association Dinner at the Hilton, Washington, D.C. —9:00 pm: Richard Clarke appears on CNN's "Larry King Live"