The Note: Friends Come and Go



With "assurances" from ABC News and the New York Times that no indictments are coming this week, all members of the Gang of 500 are invited to gather at noon today at Lauriol Plaza, on the top floor, to game out our theories of the case of Patrick Fitzgerald.

Based on early e-mail RSVP's, we expect at least 250 participants, and perhaps more.

ABC News is providing the easels, the color markers, the finger puppets, the law books, the tortilla chips and salsa, the timeline, the clips, and the seating chart. Matt Cooper is bringing the anecdotes.

Not expected to attend: Tim Russert, Mike Allen, and anyone going to California today with the President.

By the way, do you want to be an ABC News Political Unit intern next semester? Then scroll down to check out the details.

As for today:

President Bush will met with Palestinian Authority President Abbas in the Oval Office this morning. The two leaders are scheduled to appear in the Rose Garden for a press availability at 10:50 am ET.

The President will depart the White House at 3:20 pm ET to wing his way westward for a RNC (closed press) fundraiser in Los Angeles, CA at 9:35 pm ET. In the morning gaggle, Scott McClellan said the President is likely to talk about the war on terrorism, Iraq, and legislative priorities (Patriot Act, border security, immigration issues and Supreme Court), though no "formal remarks" are planned.

As of this writing, it is not yet clear if Karl Rove is manifested for the trip. What is clear is Mr. Rove's enjoyment in using his high beams while driving.

Gov. Schwarzenegger (R-CA) will not be appearing with the President.

Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) is expected to surrender himself in Fort Bend County, TX at 10:00 am ET for photographing and fingerprinting prior to his Friday 10:00 am ET court appearance in Austin, TX.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi holds her weekly 10:45 am ET press briefing.

David Keene of the American Conservative Union, Dr. Edward Feulner of the Heritage Foundation, Pat Toomey of the Club for Growth, and others will hold a 10:00 am ET press conference "to challenge Congress and the Bush Administration to rein in federal government spending."

The Transportation Treasury Appropriations bill is up for consideration on the Senate floor today.

Former President Bill Clinton appears with Democratic mayoral candidate Fernando Ferrer in the Bronx at 1:30 pm ET.

Sen. Allen (R-VA) and Republican gubernatorial candidate Jerry Kilgore host a 3:45 pm ET conference call with reporters.

First Lady Laura Bush delivers remarks at a Junior Ranger event in Denver, CO

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) keynotes the Al Smith dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City tonight.

The Fitzgerald investigation:

The headline of John Solomon's must-read AP story on Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation is that Scooter Libby and Karl Rove allegedly spoke to each other about the conversations each had with journalists regarding the wife of Joe Wilson. Per a secret source, Rove told the grand jury that that discussion with Libby is where he may have first discovered the identity of Valerie Plame. LINK

"Rove 'has always clearly left open that he first heard this information from Libby,' said one person directly familiar with Rove's grand jury testimony."

"That person said Rove testified he believes he heard general information about Wilson's wife on two occasions before he talked with reporters in July 2003 and then learned her name from syndicated columnist Robert Novak."

And there are plenty of other newsy nuggets. Among them: Tim Russert's testimony might contradict what Libby told the grand jury. Also Noteworthy: Rove perhaps first learned of the existence of one Valerie Plame in "a casual social setting outside the White House in the spring of 2003."

In the other blockbuster story of the day covering similar ground, the Washington Post's VandeHei and Leonnig have a "source familiar with Rove's account" saying that Rove told the grand jury in that Libby "may have" told him that CIA operative Valerie Plame worked for the intelligence agency "before" her identity was revealed. LINK

More VandeHei/Leonnig: "John Hannah, an aide to Vice President Cheney and one of two dozen people questioned in the CIA leak case, has told friends in recent months he is worried he may be implicated by the investigation, according to two U.S. officials. . ."

"The new information about Hannah signals how broadly the prosecutor has probed for answers. As Cheney's deputy national security adviser, he was intimately involved in Iraq policy. Hannah is one of at least five people in the Cheney operation who have been interviewed by federal investigators."

John Hannah and Karl Rove both left their homes this morning without comment.

Please Note: Bloomberg News issued a correction to its story from Monday that former White House official Jim Wilkinson was questioned by Fitzgerald. According to Bloomberg, "Wilkinson has said he was not questioned."

The Los Angeles Times trace Vice President Cheney's long distrust of the CIA, dating back to the late 1980's, and asks if this tension may have led to Valerie Plame's unmasking. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Carla Anne Robbins mixes some grand jury reporting into a profile of Scooter Libby, the "Quiet Insider." Officials who know Libby say he was "almost certainly" trying to shield Cheney from Wilson's charges that the White House manipulated prewar intelligence in Iraq. What is unknown, is whether Libby's conversations with reporters were done "on impulse," or whether they were part of "a larger, scripted White House effort to discredit and punish Wilson." The bio box notes Libby's authorship of "The Apprentice," a novel published in 1996. LINK

On the heels of yesterday's report that the President reacted angrily to Rove's involvement in the Plame story, Senator Chuck Schumer is demanding a full accounting of what Bush knew about Rove's role and when he knew it. LINK

"Traits and tactics that lead to power lead to overreach, and ruin. In our day, justice is administered (and balance restored) by law, not by gods," writes Newsweek's Howard Fineman in his MSNBC online column. LINK

Fineman goes on to explore the political machine that is the Bush White House and ponders how its structure may contribute to the problem in which it finds itself should indictments be filed.

". . .the very discipline of the machine itself -- its short internal supply lines, the consistently-followed talking points, the focus on feeding friends and obliterating enemies -- could be helping Fitzgerald. Tightly-knit groups rise together, but they fall together. If the inner circle is small, it takes only one insider "flip" to endanger the rest," Fineman writes.

The Washington Post's Jim Hoagland writes that the "lingering question" in the Fitzgerald case is a paraphrase on Howard Baker's Watergate query: "What did the New York Times not know, and when did it now know it?" LINK

The New York Times Kit Seelye writes up the Judiciary Committee hearing on the shield law and includes this: LINK

"While she has put herself in the center of the debate over the bill, having spent the summer in jail for initially refusing to testify in the C.I.A. leak case, her actions, including her decision to testify, appear to have muddled the issue."

The blogs and journalism sites have questions galore for Ms. Miller and the Times. Go find the links yourself.

Liz Smith takes her turn reading the Fitzgerald investigation's tealeaves in today's New York Post. LINK

Harriet Miers for Associate Justice:

Robert Novak declares Harriet Miers' confirmation prospects are on shaky ground, gets two sources to confirm John Fund's account of the October 3 conference call, and raises the possibility that Miers' time as head of the Texas Lottery Commission could potentially cause some controversy if it becomes a focus of the Judiciary Committee hearings. It's a must-read, folks. LINK

The New York Times' Kirkpatrick on the do-over questionnaire due to Republican and Democratic Senators describing the initial submission as "inadequate," "insufficient," and "insulting." LINK

In the Washington Post's wrap of the Miers developments, the Washington Post duo of Babington and Fletcher have Cass Sunstein, a constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago, saying that in her questionnaire Miers was "confusing proportional representation -- which typically deals with ethnic groups having members on elected bodies with the one-man, one-vote Supreme court ruling that requires, for example, legislative districts to have equal populations." LINK

The Los Angeles Times has a spate of blind quotes from Senators describing Miers' "underwhelming" meeting with members. LINK

Said one: "Generally when you hold these interviews, people want to show you what they know. She did not respond. Nothing came back."

Former Senator and Miers shepherd Dan Coats tells Kathy Kiely of USA Today that conservatives criticizing the SCOTUS nominee are "clearly being too harsh." LINK

Charles Hurt of the Washington Times reports that Senator Frist won't "automatically" use the 'nuclear' option against Democrats if they filibuster Miers, but he's "going to always consider that as an option." LINK

"This page has urged that Ms. Miers be given a fair chance to prove that she is worthy of a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. But based on the evidence so far, it is getting hard to believe that she is," writes the New York Times editorial board. LINK

The Los Angeles Times ed board indirectly predicts the possibility of failure for the Miers nomination. LINK

In a well-placed op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Ronald Cass and Kenneth Starr write that the Miers debate has obscured the crucial role the Court plays in developing the country's economic jurisprudence. Pointing to the support she has from the US Chamber of Commerce, Cass and Starr praise Miers's significant experience in business law.

Conservatives reconsider Bush:

Fred Barnes in the Weekly Standard online counts six reasons why conservatives have rethunk POTUS -- for now. LINK

Peggy Noonan says Mr. Bush needs a life-changing change; follow the light towards conservatism, she seems to suggest. LINK

Big Casino budget politics:

When moderate and conservative budget hawk Republicans add to GOP moderates who like spending add to solid Democratic opposition, it's tough for the House Republican leadership to accomplish its goals.

House GOP leaders postponed a vote on reductions in spending yesterday after the plan ran into problems with conservatives, "who did not think it went far enough," as well as with moderate Republicans, "who objected to further trims in programs such as health care for the poor and elderly, student loans, and food stamps, while discretionary spending was ignored," the Washington Post's Murray and Morgan report. LINK

"The leadership's inability to round up the votes for its initial plan to raise the broad target for spending cuts to $50 billion from $35 billion showed how difficult the specific cuts will be to achieve. And its backtracking in the face of opposition illustrated that the makeshift leadership structure is still trying to find its bearings," writes Carl Hulse of the New York Times. LINK

As the Congress struggles to make major spending cuts, some lawmakers are wondering if the House is doing the heavy lifting. Rep. Zach Wamp (R-TN) tells Bloomberg News that during a closed-door meeting yesterday, some of his fellow Republicans said they don't want to push for more cuts unless the Senate is willing to go along. LINK

Alexander Bolton reports in The Hill that House Majority Leader Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said yesterday that he will only bring budget and spending legislation to the floor if he is sure he has the 218 votes needed for passage. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's ed board pushes wayward Republicans to embrace a 3% across-the-board sequester. And they hold the White House's feet to the fire a bit at the end of the piece.

Bush agenda:

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank has a must-read sketch of the scathing critique of the "Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal" that Larry Wilkerson, the former State Department chief of staff, delivered at the New America Foundation yesterday. LINK

In a front-page look at how a victorious President Bush fumbled the effort to revamp Social Security, the Wall Street Journal's Jackie Calmes Notes that when Bush talked about private accounts during two presidential campaigns, he never spelled out any details "except to suggest that carving out private accounts would solve the program's looming financial woes. When he acknowledged this year that they wouldn't, and that future benefits would need to be reduced, both the public and lawmakers recoiled."

No Child Left Behind gets mixed results, per the New York Times. LINK

The Washington Post's Lois Romano reports that the Bush Administration "scrambled" yesterday to "put the best face" on the disappointing/mixed results of the "first tangible testing numbers available since the implementation of No Child Left Behind." LINK

Drilling in ANWR moves forward in the Senate. LINK

Filing from an intriguing St. Petersburg, Russia dateline, the Washington Post's David Broder writes that "Ever since President Bush decided, on his first meeting, that he found something reassuring in Putin's soul, the United States has largely stood mute about Putin's crackdown on the media and any nascent political opposition." LINK

In the forthcoming Sunday New York Times Magazine, Deborah Solomon turns in a Noteworthy Q&A with former Sen. Connie Mack (R-FL). The co-chair of the President's tax-reform panel talks about cutting the home mortgage interest deduction, paying the cost of Katrina, and letting the Chinese finance US government borrowing.

Judging from Mack's interview, the President's tax reform panel might be underestimating the level of political resistance they will receive from the upper-middle class if they try to cap the home mortgage interest deduction (however worthy the idea might be from a policy standpoint).

Mack's cavalier attitude towards massive public borrowing is reminiscent of the "Reagan proved that deficits don't matter" comment that former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neil attributed to Vice President Cheney in Ron Suskind's "Price of Loyalty" book.

The Schwarzenegger Era:

Gov. Schwarzenegger has opted out of joining the President during his visit to the Golden State and has openly criticized the President's planned fundraiser tonight in the Beverly Hills area, bringing out into the open "long-simmering tensions" between the two. LINK

A Republican familiar with the situation tells The Note this morning, "It seems as though the governor's staff should be more concerned with their special election and less concerned with a fundraiser that was scheduled months ago."

We wonder if the hosts of the RNC fundraiser are supporting Gov. Schwarzenegger's initiatives.

The Los Angeles Times' George Skelton says the President's visit to California is bad for Schwarzenegger, with Bush's negative coattails threatening to further hurt the state's embattled Governor. Not helping matters is that "the Schwarzenegger camp considers the White House a bunch of ingrates." LINK

Governor Schwarzenegger said of his wife Maria Shriver, "You will hear from her," in regards to her views of the ballot measures at the 2005 Governor and First Lady's Conference of Women, which was promptly refuted by the First Lady's office reports Carla Marinucci of the San Francisco Chronicle. LINK

Michael Janofsky of the New York Times takes a look at the Schwarzenegger-backed Prop 74 (teacher tenure) and writes, ". . .neither side has produced convincing evidence that the measure would help or hurt classroom achievement. . ." LINK

Dean E. Murphy writes in the upcoming Sunday New York Times Magazine that taking the power to draw legislative districts away from lawmakers does not eliminate the vexing philosophical questions behind the mechanics of electoral mapmaking.


We know what DeLay is up to today, but you may be wondering what he was up to yesterday.

Dick Patten, executive director of the American Family Business Institute, says that the goal of DeLay's surprise visit to the Wednesday Group, an off-the-record conservative strategy session, "was to take the focus away from his current legal entanglements and try to refocus the Wednesday Group on the tax and spending work that he has been leading in the House," reports Ralph Z. Hallow of the Washington Times. LINK

Note to Ralph Z.: "Group" or "Meeting"?

The Houston Chronicle reports that Rep. DeLay's legal team says the arrest warrant for the Congressman is a form of "retaliation," and defense team head DeGuerin says DeLay's surrender won't be a show. "What I'm trying to avoid is having Ronnie Earle having him taken down in handcuffs and fingerprinted and photographed," said DeGuerin. LINK

The Houston Chronicle profiles Bob Perkins, the "wired-on-soft-drinks judge," who is presiding over the DeLay case. LINK

Patrick O'Connor and Jonathan Kaplan report in The Hill that Republicans are pondering the impact of Delay-in-handcuffs images on the 2006 mid-term elections. LINK


Erin Billings in Roll Call examines whether congressional Democrats might face some of the same ethics violation charges that have plagued their colleagues on the other side of the aisle.

Josephine Hearn reports in The Hill that Sen. Tom Harkin failed to account properly for two fundraisers he held in lobbyist Jack Abramoff's skybox at Washington's MCI Center in 2002 and 2003, according to FEC filings. LINK

The politics of Iraq:

The New York Times' Weisman on Secretary Rice's "testy" hearing on Iraq before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: LINK

The politics of Katrina:

The Washington Post's Specter Hsu reports that Chertoff denied Brown's assertions, made last month, that department budget and personnel cuts led to "the emaciation of FEMA." LINK

2008: Republicans:

Although a family event originally caused him to decline the invitation, Sen. Bill Frist has put speaking to the South Carolina Federation of Republican Women convention back on the docket. Frist speaks this Friday to the organization which promotes getting women into politics. (Yes, that means Dr. Frist will be in South Carolina on Friday and Iowa on Saturday.) LINK

At 8:45 pm ET on Saturday, C-SPAN will carry Frist's remarks to the 5th Annual Ronald Reagan Dinner in Des Moines, IA live. Also speaking will be Iowa's Republican gubernatorial candidates: Congressman Jim Nussle and Bob Vander Plaats.

The New York Times reports that Roland Betts was none too pleased with Gov. Pataki's unilateral decision to remove the International Freedom Center from the World Trade Center memorial site while the issue was still pending before the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, a body on which Mr. Betts serves. LINK

Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) is taking his pro-family agenda to the streets of the District. Brownback has proposed a plan that would match three to one the savings of low-income D.C. couples who are engaged or married. LINK

2008: Democrats:

The New York Post's political editor, Gregg Birnbaum's website dedicated to all things Hillary Clinton gets some Boston Herald ink. LINK

Paul Kane reports in Roll Call that Hillary Clinton's campaign spent $4 million and accumulated 47,000 new donors in the third quarter of this year.

New Hampshire:

In this week's Granite Status, John DiStaso relays that Dr./Chairman Howard Dean, Gov. George Pataki and Sen. Joseph Biden are all Hampshire bound in the upcoming weeks. Also, Mr. Ken Mehlman may be coming to town in December. LINK

And, as always, we suggest reading the entire column.

The Clintons of Chappaqua:

Greg Sargent in the American Prospect online on Jay Carson (and Lanny Davis) versus CBS News. LINK


New York Democrats are asking if Mayor Bloomberg kept last night's appearance at a GOP fundraiser off his public schedule in an attempt to obscure his Republican connections. LINK

Fernando Ferrer will get some big help in his campaign to be New York's next mayor today when Bill Clinton campaigns by his side. In announcing the move, Ferrer's spokeswoman taunted Bloomberg, asking why he wouldn't want President Bush at his side. LINK

John Kerry doesn't often leave voicemail messages for The Note, but he did last night, helpfully inviting us to a "grassroots fundraiser" for Freddy Ferrer at 174 Grand Street this Sunday at 6pm. The Robo-Senator nicely gave the address and the phone number to call for more information twice each. He sounded like he is really looking forward to it.

Bloomberg took a page from Ferrer's book yesterday in announcing a plan to double New York's affordable housing. Both the New York Post and New York Daily News Note that Bloomberg, besides "stealing" his rival's idea, also "borrowed" some lines from Ferrer. LINK and LINK

The New York Times' look at the Virginia gubernatorial race through the Mark Warner prism: LINK

The Wall Street Journal's ed board attributes the closeness of the Garden State governor's race to a property tax revolt.


David Brooks delivers a must-read op-ed in the New York Times that looks at Republican Members of Congress (especially those in marginal districts) distancing themselves from their President and national leaders, Democrats disappointed in the lack of abilities displayed by their party, and the 2006 rollout strategies with Democrats hoping to nationalize and Republicans hoping to localize.

David Drucker reports in Roll Call that Republican pollster Bill McInturff said yesterday that if President Bush's approval ratings don't rise to almost 50 percent, Republicans might lose seats in the 2006 election.

The Washington Post's Wagner and Mosk report that Montgomery Executive Douglas Duncan is set to declare his gubernatorial bid amid skepticism from some Maryland Democrats who think Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley is better positioned to make inroads in the Baltimore suburbs against Gov. Robert Ehrlich (R-MD). LINK

Keying off of some inartful comments she made in Elmira, NY Tuesday night, Empire State Democrats want voters to believe Jeanine Pirro thinks Democrats are pro-sex offender. The New York Times' Hernandez has all the details. (And Note how Howard Wolfson seems to be getting under Steve Minarik's skin already.) LINK

Be our intern:

Hey, you. . . yes, you, the college student reading The Note right now instead of working on that term paper.

We'd love for you to be an ABC News Political Unit intern during this upcoming spring semester.

There are a few requirements you should know about before applying for the internship.

- You MUST be able to receive approved credit for the unpaid internship from your school.

- It is a full-time (Monday-Friday) internship.

- The internship is ideal for those students considering careers in political journalism.

Not only will you get to write for "The Note," but ABC News Political Unit interns also are afforded the opportunity to cover political events around town, assist ABC News broadcasts in getting political stories on the air, and learn how to cover national politics during a midterm election year with 33 Senate seats, 36 governorships, and 435 House seats all up for grabs.

If you want to further understand and explore the fascinating and dynamic relationship between the American people and their elected representatives (and those seeking to represent them), then this is the internship for you.

To apply for a spring semester internship, please send your cover letter and resume to this email address, with the subject line: "INTERN":