The Note

The Wall Street Journal 's David Rogers wraps the debate over whether the administration knew before it was signed that the $400 billion Medicare bill would actually cost about $535 billion.

The New York Times ' Lynette Clemetson writes that while Richard Foster's disagreement with his Administration bosses over dollar figures for Medicare reform is not surprising, "That the unassuming numbers cruncher would be caught in a public firestorm over those disagreements, most conceded, is shocking." LINK

The Department of Health and Human Services has produced "made-for-television 'story packages,'" the New York Times' Robert Pear reports, which praise the Medicare bill using actors posing as journalists and include suggested introductions for anchors to read. LINK

Pear doesn't make the true identities of the "journalists" clear, however.

John Diamond of USA Today reports on a classified Senate investigative report on pre-war intelligence that is not so flattering to President Bush. LINK

Diamond writes of incomplete information leading to firm warnings. "The committee report criticizes Tenet and the CIA for consistently seizing on the worst-case scenario of the Iraq threat and overriding the views of intelligence agencies in areas where those agencies had expertise."

Time's Joe Klein outlines major questions facing President Bush as he heads into his session with the 9/11 commission. LINK

Klein writes that while the image of the president from the aftermath of 9/11 is probably being saved by his campaign "for the last, emotional moments of the election next fall," these looming questions facing him could overshadow that image and create one much-less flattering.

Over history, there is no link between taxation and unemployment, writes the Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: Bush vs. Kerry:

No one can bang away on a keyboard like he can.

The Los Angeles Times' Ron Brownstein is furious with both the Bush and Kerry campaigns as well as with the national political press corps. LINK

"It was amateur hour all around when President Bush's reelection campaign released an ad last week accusing John F. Kerry of planning to raise taxes by $900 billion if he won the White House. The Bush campaign's justification for the charge was specious. The Kerry campaign's response was misleading. And the vast press corps covering the campaign almost entirely failed to illuminate the holes in each side's arguments."

The AP's Ron Fournier writes that with such a super early start to the presidential campaigning, President Bush and Senator Kerry are "in a race to shape the campaign for the White House on their terms." LINK

"Bush partisans fret over the president's sagging poll numbers and wonder whether he let Democratic criticisms go unanswered too long. Kerry backers tremble over the Republican's financial advantages and wait anxiously for Kerry to fashion a general election message."

Note: Fournier is the winner of today's Best-Use-of-a-Childhood-Riddle contest: "While sticks and stones may break some bones, negative advertising will hurt you."

In today's Roll Call, Stuart Rothenberg writes that despite the Bush campaign's early ads that "have begun to spotlight Senator John Kerry's (Mass.) record in a way that Democrats won't like," the campaign has not been aggressive and in an attempt to stay presidential, the president and his campaign "are starting to look a little, well, wimpy."

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