WASHINGTON, Oct. 17
On the Miers Problem, the White House has a plan:
A classic and smooth turn-the-page was executed in the last week ("Mistakes were made, but now we are back on track."), with today marking the true kick-off of the re-launch.
Focus on her professional qualifications to be on the Court (not her religion); stop insulting those opposed to her from the right; give the press positive things to write about her (get the questionnaire up to the Hill, flood the zone with surrogates -- all relentlessly focused on the Notion of "qualified"); keep any Republican Senator from coming out against her; deploy the nominee's legendary capacity for hard work and attention to detail and get her every bit of help possible to help her prepare for the confirmation hearings; and focus, focus, focus on getting a majority vote on the Senate floor.
Contrast that plan to what appears to be the flying-blind-without-a-net non-plan on how to deal with possibly devastating indictments from the Fitzgerald CIA leak investigation.
But appearances can be deceiving. Behind the scenes, surely the Most Organized White House of All-Time has done some work to get ready for what might happen.
In fact, over the weekend a secret, FAKE memo went to the White House from some of the best strategic minds in Republican politics (Note: no, it didn't.). Obtained exclusively by The Note late Sunday night (except for the fact that it is NOT real), the memo makes it clear that there is a lot of thought going into how to be ready in case Fitzgerald indicts top White House aides.
Here is the full text (of a SATIRE of a memo that doesn't exist, but with reportorial meaning embedded throughout):
TO: Andy Card, Karen Hughes, Karl Rove, Dan Bartlett, Nicolle Wallace
FROM: Mike Deaver, Chris LaCivita, Ralph Reed
RE: preparing for the worst
The conference call on Friday was discouraging and not very clarifying. These are the best ideas we came up with, given how little information we have.
1. Finishing the opposition research on Fitzgerald, Judy Miller, and Matt Cooper is essential. We think it is still an open question how you should put that out, but the RNC seems like the best idea of those suggested. The press is obsessed with divisions at the New York Times and we can use that to obscure things for a bit.
2. Definitely also finish the research on past presidential pardons. Those precedents will be invaluable.
3. The public hates how much money these prosecutors spend, so comb through the Fitzgerald disbursements and see if any of his deputies have been staying at the Ritz, etc.
4. We are going to need some Democrats to decry the politics of personal destruction and the criminalization of politics. Try Breaux, Lieberman, Begala, and Lanny Davis. And Zell Miller.
5. Scott should not be at the podium when this comes down. Give him someone to refer questions to and do a background briefing in the Roosevelt Room with Andy Card or someone else of high stature.
6. We can't figure out how Tate approved of the language Scooter used in that letter to Judy Miller. Make sure there isn't anything else like that out there.
7. Don't get caught flat-footed without surrogates in the Old and New Media and on Capitol Hill. Karl and Scooter have been self-sacrificing and noble public servants who have done so much for America, but their images have taken a beating in the last few months. People need to be reminded of all the good they have done and that they are entitled to a presumption of innocence, even if they are indicted.
8. Be ready to have Ben and other trusted lawyers read any indictments as quickly as possible. A decision will need to be made in real time about whether to denounce the charges and/or the prosecutor in order to dirty up the indictment in the same news cycle, or to accept the seriousness of whatever Fitzgerald does.
9. Have congressional relations ready to call Hagel, McCain, LaHood, Shays, etc. We need everyone on the reservation until we make some decisions if there is an indictment.
10. Bring back Cindy Sheehan -- any way you can, as fast as you can.
11. Until/unless there are actual indictments, the press can be distracted by any news story that is surprising enough -- it doesn't even need to be new. We know your plans now call for the hurricane czar to be nothing but a "coordinator," but maybe Don Evans would take the job after all. Anything to avoid a full week of unremitting chatter about nervousness at the White House.
12. In case of indictments, the President needs a more confident and consistent answer to "WDHKAWDHKI" (as we like to call "what did he know..."). He needs to make one statement that acknowledges he discussed the matter but makes it clear he knew nothing about the gory details. Then stick with it. We can calibrate it at the last minute to see if we want to show distance from Karl. The White House press corps will argue that indictments mean that you can finally discuss the case; you need to point out to them resolutely that the case is ongoing as long as there are pending legal cases.
13. We know Dan will be inclined to go with his tried-and-true, all-purpose emergency ploy and have an East Room news conference every day, but more than three a week will be too obvious.
14. To dilute 1600-bleeding stories, try to get Arlen to have the Miers hearing sooner rather than later, as he now plans.
15. And, perhaps most important: If someone is indicted, they're going to have to go -- it's obvious to everyone inside and outside. So the President could help regain his footing and image of command by saying so in advance. In fact, this is conceding nothing -- it is just a statement of reality. But it would go miles toward making him look like the boss, not a victim or a weasel.
Good luck. Let us know how else we can help.
There are no developments EXPECTED in the Fitzgerald investigation today.
Two weeks after announcing Harriet Miers as his nominee to the Supreme Court and one day after the newsweeklies provided all the details about the re-jiggered White House strategy on the Miers confirmation process, President Bush is scheduled to meet with former Texas Supreme Court justices supporting Miers in the Oval Office at 11:00 am ET. The group will talk to the White House press pool at the top of the meeting and the justices will head to the stakeout afterwards for some additional camera time.
Miers herself is scheduled to meet with Sen. Schumer (D-NY) at 1:45 pm ET and Sen. Feinstein (D-CA) at 2:30 pm ET. Photo opportunities will follow (Feinstein) or precede (Schumer) each meeting.
President Bush will also meet with the President of Bulgaria at 10:00 am ET in the Oval Office and attend the Iftaar Dinner with ambassadors and Muslim leaders this evening at the White House.
Vice President Dick Cheney is scheduled to be the featured guest for a private Kilgore fundraiser in Richmond, VA.
Mrs. Laura Bush and the First Lady of Bulgaria, Mrs. Zorka Parvanova, visit the Library of Congress at 11:00 am ET.
National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley will appear in CNN's Situation Room sometime after 3:00 pm ET.
The Senate convenes at 2:00 pm ET and proceeds to a period of morning business. At 3:00 pm ET, the Senate will consider H.R. 3058, the Transportation, HUD, Judiciary and DC Appropriations Bill.
The Supreme Court will issue orders at 10:00 am ET. There are no oral arguments scheduled this week. The Hamdan and Phillip Morris cert petitions are pending.
At 3:00 pm ET, Justice Breyer takes to the stage at Falk Auditorium for a Brookings Institute sponsored event on the Constitution and Breyer's latest book, "Active Liberty: Interpreting Our Democratic Constitution."
Democratic Sens. Dorgan, Dayton, Harkin, Levin, and others will hold a Democratic Policy Committee hearing at 10:00 am ET examining the handling of federal contracts in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
EMILY's List holds its 20th Anniversary Celebration at the Washington Hilton. The program (featuring Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Barbara Mikulski among others) is set to begin at 12:15 pm ET and Ellen Malcolm and others are scheduled to hold a 1:30 pm ET media availability.
Former Attorney General and Republican gubernatorial nominee Jerry Kilgore holds an 11:15 am ET presser on the death penalty at the State Capitol in Richmond, VA.
As previewed on CNN's "American Morning," former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) kicks off his college tour to encourage young people to get involved in fight against poverty. He will be at UNC-Chapel Hill today, Yale University tomorrow, Harvard University on Wednesday, and Dartmouth in Hanover, NH on Thursday.
Be sure to check out our look at the week ahead in politics below.
The Fitzgerald investigation:
In a piece looking at the ways in which Vice President Cheney may be entangled in the CIA leak investigation, Bloomberg News reports that Fitzgerald has "questioned Cheney's communications adviser Catherine Martin and former spokeswoman Jennifer Millerwise and ex-White House aide Jim Wilkinson. . ."
This story is a must-read for a variety of reasons.
We are officially amazed at how little commentary and reporting there is in the Monday papers on the Aspen portion of Libby's letter to Miller. The blog activity will be overwhelming, however.
We are also amazed that the New York Times put those two pieces in the paper yesterday as they did. But we will leave that to the bloggers too -- for now.
Keying off of Robert Bennett's Sunday interview on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," the Washington Post's Pincus and Kurtz Note that Miller's lawyer thinks Libby faces "a problem" if Libby told the grand jury that he had not talked to Miller about "these things" or that he didn't "talk about the wife." LINK
Time Magazine's Viveca Novak and Mike Allen report exclusively and unmatched that even before testifying last week, Rove and others at the White House had concluded that "if indicted he would immediately resign or possibly go on unpaid leave." LINK
David Johnston of the New York Times focuses on Scooter Libby's role in light of the now-revealed Miller testimony including her inability to remember how she first learned of Joe Wilson's wife's name. LINK
Johnston concludes thusly: "Until she provided her own account on Sunday, Ms. Miller's interactions with Mr. Libby had been a subject of intense speculation in news media and government circles. She spent 85 days in jail for refusing to testify about her discussions with Mr. Libby before reaching an agreement with the prosecutor to appear before the grand jury."
The Wall Street Journal trio of McKinnon, Hagan, and Squeo got a short interview with Miller in which the New York Times reporter grew testy when asked if she could recall who told her the name that she transcribed as "Valerie Flame."
"'I don't remember who told me the name,' she said, growing agitated. 'I wasn't writing a story, remember?' Asked if the other source was Mr. Rove, she replied, 'I'm not going to discuss anyone else that I talked to.'"
The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz, far ahead of the pack, continues to merely hint at the intensity going on within the Gray Lady's DC bureau and New York headquarters. LINK
Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) chatted with Don Imus on the radio this morning and theorized about what he sees as the "plausible deniability" President Bush and Vice President Cheney likely have in Fitzgerald's investigation.
Although Biden did not suggest in any way that the President or Vice President knew specifically what Libby and Rove may have been up to, Biden told Imus that they surely knew the "modus operandi" of their team and used the 2000 South Carolina primary as an example.
"When somebody tells me the principals didn't know, I just find it absolutely unbelievable in my life experience," said Biden.
The Washington Post's Ian Shapira reported on Sunday that Rove's replacement by Mehlman at a Saturday fundraiser for the Fairfax Republican Party "triggered responses ranging from disappointment to indifference." LINK
Just in case you were under a rock this weekend, here are the links to the New York Times package on Judith Miller's involvement in the leak investigation: The news account: LINK Miller's personal account: LINK
Judy Keen profiles Scooter Libby and finds he is an unlikely source -- and an unlikely leading man in the neoconservative movement. But she doesn't reveal the source of his nickname. LINK
Harriet Miers for Associated Justice:
The New York Times' Kirkpatrick appears to report that Harriet Miers' completed questionnaire will be sent to the Judiciary Committee today as the White House begins to focus on her judicial philosophy and not her religion in an effort to shore up support her confirmation. LINK
The Wall Street Journal's John Fund has obtained notes from an Oct. 3 conference call in which two of Miers's close friends -- both sitting judges -- allegedly said that she would vote to overturn Roe. Expect more on this today.
In his radio appearance with Don Imus this morning, Sen. Biden said that he fully expects after Harriet Miers bones up on the core constitutional principles prior to the hearing that "she'll exceed expectations in terms of her knowledge."
"Of all the time I have been on the Judiciary Committee, . . .this is the blankest blank slate I ever saw," added Biden.
Newsweek's Howard Fineman and Richard Wolffe wisely lead their look at the White House's new Miers sales pitch with Tom Rath delivering the President's message to Republican presidential hopefuls making their way to the Granite State. LINK
National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru takes to the New York Times op-ed page to explain why some conservatives were already questioning their faith in George W. Bush prior to the Miers nomination. LINK
In a well-placed Wall Street Journal op-ed, Rush Limbaugh describes the Miers debate among conservatives as a sign of a conservative crackdown, not a crack-up. "The purpose of the Miers debate," he writes, "is to ensure that we are doing the very best we can to move the nation in the right direction."
As part of its shift from the bio phase to the accomplishment phase of selling Miers, Time Magazine's Mike Allen reports that "the White House's 20-person 'confirmation team' will line up news conferences, opinion pieces and letters to the editor by professors and former colleagues who can talk about Miers' experience dealing with such real-world issues as the Voting Rights Act when she was a Dallas city council member and Native American tribal sovereignty when she was chairwoman of the Texas Lottery Commission." LINK
Roll Call's Paul Kane has conservative talk-show host Hugh Hewitt writing on his Web site that Karl Rove was "adamant and even vehement" in his support for Miers when he called into Hewitt's radio show on Friday and touted Miers' work in picking judicial nominees for Bush. Keying off of statistics provided by the Senate Judiciary Committee and the White House, Kane writes that Miers oversaw the selection of a dozen new federal district court judges as well as John Roberts for the Supreme Court and James Payne for the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.
In an op-ed for Sunday's Washington Post, Business Week's Lorraine Woellert wrote a spirited defense of Miers' business-friendly credentials. LINK
On Sunday, the New York Times' Purdum reported that Harriet Miers is meticulous and a good bowler. LINK
"Some who have worked with her say that the same punctiliousness that made her a sterling steward of the White House paper flow sometimes made her an impediment in her policy jobs, and that her focus on process bodes ill for her work as a justice," wrote Purdum.
There's nothing wrong -- and in fact something eminently reasonable -- with using Harriet Miers' nomination to create an "Evangelical seat" on the Supreme Court, writes the ed board of the Los Angeles Times. LINK
Elisabeth Bumiller uses her "White House Letter" in the New York Times to explore the President's Saturday radio addresses from multiple angles. LINK
USA Today confirms the Bush Administration's contract with Armstrong Williams is under review by the U.S. Attorney's office, leaving open the possibility of civil or criminal charges in the case. LINK
In a Sunday piece looking at the ways in which Scott McClellan is mixing it up with reporters lately, the Washington Post's Howie Kurtz has CBS' John Roberts saying that McClellan "has adopted this siege mentality in which the best way to deflect the question is to attack the questioner. I'm not quite sure who he's playing to -- maybe the segment of the Republican Party that believes we're a bunch of liberals who have our own agenda." LINK
In the face of numerous distractions, President Bush has begun rehearsing answers to possible press conference questions, claims intrepid reporter Cindy Adams in the New York Post. LINK
The politics of Katrina:
President Bush has failed to introduce legislation for two of the three rebuilding proposals he announced in his primetime speech from New Orleans last month, the Los Angeles Times reports, in a story that suggests some believe the President needs to do more. LINK
"President Bush has settled on a cautious, piecemeal approach that even many members of his own party fear will stall reconstruction and sow economic disarray."
House GOP leaders' plans for across-the-board discretionary spending cuts have run into opposition from the chairmen of the Homeland Armed Services and Homeland Security panels, The Hill's Alexander Bolton reports. LINK
The Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman writes that House GOP leaders have moved from "balking" at big cuts in Medicaid and other programs to "embracing them." LINK
Weisman does some excellent first-draft-of-history work, explaining the change, and reminding people that coming up with the cuts will still be tough.
Big Casino budget politics:
Meta-Cardinal David Rogers of the Wall Street Journal looks from A to Z at the budget process and the challenges facing the GOP majority.
The politics of Iraq:
The New York Times' David Sanger delivers a must-read on a shift in tone and emphasis he hears from the President on the path to victory in Iraq. LINK
"Mr. Bush's own way of talking about the future, in Iraq and beyond, has undergone a subtle but significant change in recent weeks. In several speeches, he has begun warning that the insurgency is already metastasizing into a far broader struggle to 'establish a radical Islamic empire that spans from Spain to Indonesia.' While he still predicts victory, he appears to be preparing the country for a struggle of cold war proportions."
In a front-page story that is positively bullish on Saturday's Iraqi vote, the Wall Street Journal has Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice saying on Fox News Sunday: "There is no political base any longer for this insurgency."
Rick Klein of the Boston Globe covers Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) campaigning over the weekend. Klein writes that with new redistricting in the county, DeLay is "working his district like he's never had to." LINK
The New York Times writes up DeLay's third quarter $920,000 haul despite increased scrutiny in the months leading up to his indictment. LINK
The Washington Post's Schmidt and Grimaldi investigated on Sunday the ways in which Abramoff used a DeLay aide and attacks on allies to defeat an anti-gambling bill. LINK
A must read. Note the Norquist, Reed, and Ralston cameos.
Des Moines Register's political columnist David Yepsen forecasts two major fronts converging to dominate the 2008 election season -- the war in Iraq and defense against terrorism -- and believes the sun may rise on candidates with warfront/wartime credentials. LINK
A Washington Post op-ed by Fred Hiatt about the Kilgore vs. Kaine contest, characterizes Sen. George Allen's (R-VA) technique as governor as serving four years and hoping to leave town on a rising economy before "the mess is apparent". The same piece mocks Gov. Mark Warner for pretending that he didn't know taxes would have to go up in Virginia while campaigning for governor in 2001. LINK
Newt Gingrich did not announce his presidential plans on "Today" this morning. He did, however, say that he thinks the leak investigation "has to be a draining experience. . ." for Karl Rove, but that he suspects it isn't distracting him from working on the President's big agenda items.
Gingrich reasserted his belief that the Republican Party is at its greatest crossroads since it nominated Ronald Reagan in 1980. Gingrich says the GOP has to return to a government which balances budgets, replaces "failed systems" of government, and communicates better about how the United States is going to fight the long war on terror.
The Boston Globe Noted on Sunday the ways in which a Utah-New Mexico Feb. 5 primary could aid Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's presidential prospects given the large Mormon population of the State of Utah. LINK
The Boston Herald writes up Gov. Romney's "barely one foot still here at home" style of politics as he speaks around the country trying to gather conservative support for a possible '08 run. LINK
The New Hampshire Union Leader reports that Sen. George Allen visited the Live-Free-or-Die state on Saturday and proclaimed himself a "common-sense Jeffersonian conservative who trusts free people and free enterprise," as he stealthily managed to free himself from questions on future plans. LINK
While refueling in Tokyo, Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM), en route to North Korea, said he will focus on urging North Korean officials to dismantle the country's nuclear weapons program and allow verification to move forward. LINK
In the Des Moines Register, Jane Norman lays out Tom Vilsack's $42 billion federal budget savings plan -- as it appeared in the Wall Street Journal last week. LINK
General Wesley Clark objects to President Bush's alleged sluggishness in prepping Iraq for an eventual U.S. withdrawal. Per the New York Sun's Josh Gerstein, "A lawyer for Sen. Clinton urged a California state appeals court Friday to give the senator a second chance to end her involvement in a politically nettlesome lawsuit stemming from a star-studded and star-crossed fund-raising gala for her 2000 Senate bid." LINK
Reports that "Commander in Chief" has hired two former Clinton administration staffers has bloggers up in arms about the show they see as nothing more than a "Hillary infomercial." LINK
Cindy Adams says in the New York Post that during a Yom Kippur speech at the Beverly Hills Actors Temple, Sen. Clinton said "there was one period she had to think a whole lot about forgiveness." LINK
Diane Cardwell and Mike McIntire of the New York Times wrap Sunday's campaign trail activity including Ferrer's return to his "two New Yorks" theme and Democratic endorsements for Bloomberg including Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. LINK
New York Magazine's Greg Sargent reports on Sen. Hillary Clinton's plans to give Fernando Ferrer's mayoral candidacy a much needed boost. LINK
Fernando Ferrer's hiring of Democratic operative Steve Sigmund suggests he may be planning to attack Mayor Bloomberg head on during the final weeks of the campaign. LINK
Ferrer already has come out swinging on Bloomberg's significant charitable donations, which Ferrer is criticizing as "strategic" and politically motivated. LINK
The New York Times' Gettleman writes a political memo exploring why neither candidate in the New Jersey gubernatorial contest has been able to gain the decisive edge as the anti-corruption candidate. LINK
On Sunday, the Washington Post ed board scornfully wrote that Jerry Kilgore (R) "would have us believe that any lawyer who represents a death row inmate should be disqualified from public office." LINK
Michael Shear reports on A1 of the Washington Post that voter anger is growing in Virginia as negative campaigning has seized hold of the Virginia gubernatorial race. LINK
"With a Federal Election Commission ruling in place allowing them to raise soft money, Ohio Republican lawmakers have begun trolling for several hundred thousand dollars in hopes of defeating a November redistricting initiative that could imperil their political careers," Roll Call's Ben Pershing reports.
The San Francisco Chronicle's Marinucci reported on Saturday that it is unlikely Gov. Schwarzenegger will appear with the President at his Thursday and Friday events in California. LINK
"Although the governor's staff will not confirm his schedule this far in advance, sources said Schwarzenegger is not planning to attend either event. He is tentatively scheduled to campaign next week, possibly in the Central Valley, on the days of the visit."
The San Francisco Chronicle writes up Howard Dean's campaign stop against the Schwarzenegger-backed ballot measures in the Golden State. LINK
The Los Angeles Times' Janet Hook analyzes what impact the issue of GOP ethics will have on the 2006 midterms and finds general concern among Republicans. LINK
"'This vague issue of corruption hanging over Republicans is not good, because it is the one thing on which Democrats don't have to have an alternative policy,' said former Rep. Vin Weber (R-Minn.)."
The Los Angeles Times' Mark "Z" Barabak reported on Sunday that local scandals are impacting statewide races from Ohio to New Mexico to Tennessee. LINK
Roll Call's Stu Rothenberg thinks Democrats could help trigger a tsunami in 2006 if they can nationalize the election through generic party advertising.
So much for Sen. Schumer's efforts to clear the Democratic field in Ohio – Paul Hackett says he is in it for the long haul. LINK
"'It's going to be a long, hard fight, but I am in it for good,' Hackett told The Enquirer."
The New York Post's Fred Dicker reports William Weld will offer the No. 2 spot on his New York gubernatorial ticket to Assembly Minority Leader John Faso, in a move to shore up support among conservative New Yorkers. LINK
Sen. Ted Kennedy assisted in the rescue of six men trapped on a jetty off Hyannis, MA on Sunday. LINK
The week ahead:
President Bush is scheduled to meet with the President of the European Commission tomorrow. He is also expected to sign the Homeland Security Appropriations Act.
On Thursday, President Bush meets with Palestinian Authority President Abbas. The two leaders are scheduled to hold a 10:50 am ET Rose Garden press availability.
President Bush then plans to head to California for a RNC event on Thursday evening and the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Air Force One Pavilion at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley on Friday.
Bob Dole will be speaking to senior adults during the Senior Fun Festival at the Dorton Arena in Raleigh, NC tomorrow.
On Wednesday, Tom DeLay is scheduled to be a special guest at a reception for Rep. Mike Conway at 6:00 pm ET at the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers in Washington, DC.
The trial of Saddam Hussein begins Wednesday.
Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack visits New Hampshire on Wednesday and Thursday.
Her husband, Gov. Vilsack (D-IA), will be hosting a Democratic Leadership Council economic roundtable in New York City on Wednesday.
Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) delivers a foreign policy address at the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, DC on Thursday morning.
In the evening, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) will serve as the featured speaker at the 60th Annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, New York, NY
Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) is scheduled to appear in a Travis County courtroom in Austin, TX on Friday.
Former President Bill Clinton plans to attend fundraisers for Tim Kaine's gubernatorial campaign in McLean and Charlottesville, VA.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is scheduled to be in Lakewood, NJ on Friday to attend a fundraiser with gubernatorial candidate Doug Forrester.
On Saturday, Sen./Dr./Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) is scheduled to serve as the special guest at the Iowa Republican Party's annual Ronald Reagan Dinner in Des Moines, IA.