The Note: The Owl Flies West (?)

President Bush fell below 40 percent approval for the first time in the latest USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll. Congressional job approval fell to 29 percent, the lowest level since 1994, and 68 percent of Americans say they are dissatisfied with the country's direction. Stuart Rothenberg provides this analysis: "These numbers suggest an electorate ripe for an 'it's-time-for-change' argument. They don't like the way things are going, and they are blaming the people in charge." LINK

"The confluence of crises, all running through Mr. Card's suite just steps from the Oval Office, has some critics asking whether he needs to clean house or assert himself more forcefully - or at least consider a course correction before Mr. Bush is downgraded permanently to lame duck status," writes the New York Times' Anne Kornblut in her look at Chief of Staff Andy Card's responsibility for and response to the current political climate in which the Administration finds itself. LINK

Bloomberg's Ryan J. Donmoyer has William Gale, a senior fellow at Brookings, betting "big money" that President Bush's tax advisory panel will recommend overhauling the current tax system by replacing it with a variation of the flat tax that would abolish most deductions and end levies on investment income. The plan would raise concerns about whether it would "shift the tax burden from wealthy individuals to salaried employees," experts said. LINK

Conservatives rethinking President Bush:

Bruce Bartlett has been dismissed from his research fellow position at a conservative think tank in Dallas in advance of the publication of his book, "The Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy," reports the New York Times. LINK

We're guessing Mr. Bartlett will need the extra time to return all those phone calls from TV bookers.

The politics of Katrina:

In an op-ed in the Washington Times, Newt Gingrich and Veronique de Rugy write, "While we all feel for Louisiana's residents, there are limits to what American taxpayers can--and should--be asked to contribute." LINK

Big Casino budget politics:

The New York Times' Carl Hulse previews the congressional spending battle ahead. LINK

"With Democrats likely to be united against the cuts, Republicans cannot afford many defections if they hope to push a final package through Congress."

"The tension between moderate and conservative Republicans has been on display in the Finance Committee, where Senator Charles E. Grassley, the Iowa Republican who heads the panel, is trying to negotiate an approach to satisfy the two factions by balancing $10 billion in cuts between Medicare and Medicaid."

"Still, some Republicans said they believed that a final deal could be reached, given the rare opportunity to enact cuts through legislation that is specifically protected from a Senate filibuster."

A "major message war" is poised to peak on the House floor this week, as Democrats and GOPers battle for the mantle of fiscal responsibility, Roll Call's Billings and Pershing report.

Republican Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona wants his congressional colleagues to do their part in reducing federal spending by turning down a $3,100 pay raise they are slated to receive, the Associated Press reports.

Big Casino budget politics: Medicare:

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