The Note

Retired General Wesley Clark, former NATO Supreme Commander and potential presidential candidate, addressed the executive board of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees at the group's Washington, DC headquarters in a closed meeting. Following the meeting, Clark answered questions from the press for about ten minutes.

Clark said he addressed the group, at their invitation, with his ideas on national security issues and also domestic issues such as health care, taxes, employment and housing.

When asked if he would declare his candidacy for the presidency, Clark said, "I'm not going to say that." Clark continued, "I don't want to talk about the process … .let's talk about ideas." Later on, Clark asserted that he didn't try to contrast himself against the Democratic candidates during the private meeting because he said, "I'm not a candidate."

At the end of the session with reporters, one asked him if he's not a candidate, then what were the reporters doing there, to which Clark responded, "I didn't ask for this."

AFSCME President Gerald McEntee asserted that it was the group, not Clark, who arranged the press availability. Clark quickly apologized to the reporter, hoping he didn't sound to flippant.He said at that point, "I hope I didn't abuse anybody's time here."

Aides quickly stepped in and assured him it was time to leave.

After the press availability, McEntee was asked what distinguished Clark from the Democratic candidates. He said, "The way he was able to discuss terrorism and Iraq."

McEntee also said AFSCME expects to have similar private meetings with the (other) Democratic candidates. "This is just a step in the process," he said.

Regarding civil liberties, Clark said, "I think the Patriot Act needs to be taken out and reviewed."

IOWA

In Iowa, "Republican legislative leaders accused Gov. Tom Vilsack, a Democrat, of acting illegally Thursday in vetoing portions of an economic stimulus package, including a $310 million income tax cut, while approving the creation of a $503 million development fund." LINK

"'The Legislature has no choice, really, but to defend itself' by bringing a lawsuit, said House Speaker Christopher Rants of Sioux City."

NEW HAMPSHIRE

In New Hampshire, Governor Craig Benson signed the state's first abortion parental notification law yesterday. LINK

MoveOn "primary":

Several campaigns have grumbled to us that next week's MoveOn.org primary is a waste of their time and effort. Even the Dean campaign, which might be expected to do well in the "Internet primary," has some reservations. Campaign manager Joe Trippi told reporters yesterday that while a MoveOn win would be nice, it's doubtful Dean or any other candidate can cross the 50 percent threshold just yet.

But Dean for America does want a victory. MoveOn is just their type of deal. And the PAC money couldn't hurt later on.

To prevent that from happening, several other campaigns have asked their supporters to vote, hoping to gum up the works, so to speak, by preventing Dean from amassing a majority.

"Officials in Dick Gephardt's campaign said they were surprised when their supporters who registered got an e-mail encouraging them to vote for Dean. Gephardt's team considered pulling out of the primary but decided to stay in with reservations," the AP's Nedra Pickler reports. LINK

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