The Note: As Goes Maine



If the pro-choice Republican Senators from Maine (who both happen to be women) decide they want to make it their personal crusade to stop Judge Alito from becoming Justice Alito, then the media's insistence that the President's latest Supreme Court nomination will be a "war," a "clash," "a momentous judicial battle," a "rumble," a "brawl," and "a bruising Senate battle" just might come true.

In all likelihood, Senators Snowe and Collins won't tip their hands for awhile. In the meantime -- despite the long odds that they will take on the White House, and despite the long odds (we think) that Democrats will try to filibuster this pick -- the media is sure to spend the next few months counter-factually ratcheting up the impression that the outcome of the nomination hangs in the balance.

Why is this?

Well, some segments of the press like the "Bush in trouble" storyline and don't want to give it up anytime soon.

Some segments of the press pretty much always prefer to have (Republican) presidential nominees be derailed (although the blood-thirstiness on that score seems lower than usual for reasons we can't quite explain today -- beyond saying: this guy seems nice!!).

Some segments of the press can't really identify ideologically with Judge Alito's rulings on abortion, machine guns, and religion in public life.

Some segments of the press just don't understand Senate rules.

And some segments of the press just can't bear to demystify the process for their editors by acknowledging that unless Snowe and Collins commit apostasy, it is only a matter of time before Alito joins the High Court.

Twenty-four hours into the Alito nomination, the right is unified; the Gang of 500 is officially blown away by Alito's resume and love of baseball; the papers are semi-filled with various John-Roberts-style quotes from liberal Democratic lawyers who have known Alito through the years and say they don't think of him as ideological; the left hasn't come up with an overarching strategy to drive down Alito's poll numbers; and, most important, Senator Specter has sent various signals that he doesn't think Alito will vote to overturn Roe (or at least it isn't a sure enough thing to vote against him).

And/but twenty-four hours into the Alito nomination, the White House likely has to resign itself to the confirmation process spilling into 2006, with all the resulting implications; the First Lady has not weighed in publicly; and the investigative apparatus is just now gearing up, with plenty of time to look at Alito's work at the Justice Department and the US Attorney's office (and/but with no indication that there is trouble lurking there).

So, today marks the moment at which the two stories that have so preoccupied The Note for weeks move from "boil" to "simmer." We will keep covering the Fitzgerald investigation and the SCOTUS twists and turns, but with the occasional banana breaks for Googling monkeys.

Even without Fred Thompson at his side, Alito is (we predict) likely to ace today's Capitol Hill photo ops, which begin at 10:00 am ET with Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH). Sens. Johnson, Hatch, Kyl, and Graham will each meet with the nominee later this day.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins and others will hold an 11:00 am ET news conference on the Alito nomination. The FRC will also preview its television ads which are set to run in selected markets across the nation.

Shifting his focus from the dominating dual story lines of the last week(s), President Bush heads up to Bethesda, MD this morning to make remarks on the Administration's national strategy for pandemic influenza preparedness and response at the National Institutes of Health at 10:10 am ET. The Associated Press provides a preview that places the price tag at a minimum of $6.5 billion. LINK

At 3:00 pm ET, Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) will react to the President's avian flu preparedness plan in a Senate gallery press conference.

Former Sens. Connie Mack and John Breaux, Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the President's Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform, accompanied by other members of the panel, will deliver the panel's recommendations to reform the U.S. tax code to Treasury Secretary John Snow at 11:30 am ET in the Treasury Department Diplomatic Reception Room. A briefing by Sens. Mack and Breaux will follow.

"The panel will recommend two plans which it believes would make the tax system simpler, fairer and more pro-growth," writes ABC News' Dan Arnall. Both the simplified income tax plan and the growth and investment tax plan include: simplified tax forms, repeal of the alternative minimum tax, reduce the number of exemptions and deductions, home mortgages would be eligible for a tax credit equal to 15% of the interest paid, limited to the average regional price of housing (from $227 - 412K), and no deductions for state and local taxes.

The Federal Reserve is expected to boost interest rates another quarter-point today. Any announcement is expected to hit the wires at 2:15 pm ET.

The Senate Republican and Democratic caucuses hold their policy lunches at 12:30 pm ET. Sen. Harry Reid is expected to address reporters at the Ohio Clock at 2:15 pm ET.

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Peter Pace are scheduled to hold a press briefing at 1:15 pm ET at the Pentagon.

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS), Ret. Gen. Wesley Clark (D-AR), Dr. Richard Land, former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, and others participate on various panels of the "Bipartisan Conference on Human Rights: Uncommon Leadership for Common Values" taking place this morning at Georgetown University in Washington, DC.

Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) is expected in an Austin, TX courtroom today for an 11:00 am ET hearing on his request to remove Judge Bob Perkins (D) from the case. (No cameras are expected to be in the courtroom.)

Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall begin their week-long tour of the United States with a visit to New York City today. Their first stop will take place at Ground Zero at 12:40pm ET.

Bush-Cheney '04 strategist Matthew Dowd addresses the University of Kansas Dole Institute of Politics in Lawrence, KS.

Retiring Sen. Paul Sarbanes will be honored at a Maryland Democratic Party fundraiser in Baltimore, MD. Earlier in the day, Sen. Sarbanes has a photo opportunity with Federal Reserve Chairman nominee Ben Bernanke.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R-NYC) and Fernando Ferrer (D-NYC) face off in the second and final televised general election debate in New York City at 7:00 pm ET.

Sen. Jon Corzine (D-NJ) and Doug Forrester (R-NJ) will share the stage at 7:30 pm ET at WBGO studios in Newark, NJ for a "candidate forum."

Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) hosts a fundraising reception this evening for Mayor Bob Baines' reelection campaign in Manchester, NH.

Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine (D-VA) takes his gubernatorial campaign to Newport News, Chesapeake, Norfolk, and Virginia Beach, VA.

Former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore's (R-VA) gubernatorial campaign trail winds its way through Geico Insurance headquarters in Fredericksburg, VA at 11:00 am ET.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) is scheduled to do some retail campaigning at the Apple Farm Restaurant in San Luis Obispo, CA at 2:00 pm ET and then fires up the troops at Republican county headquarters in Bakersfield and Palm Springs, CA later in the afternoon.

Alito: lede-alls:

The New York Times: LINK

Washington Post: LINK

The Boston Globe: LINK

The Washington Times: LINK

The Los Angeles Times: LINK

Deb Orin of the New York Post ledes her Alito coverage with his mother's declaration that he is opposed to abortion. LINK

The New York Daily News plays up the fight theme in its front page coverage. LINK


Alito: confirmation prospects:

The Los Angeles Times, writing that Alito's fate will likely be decided by the Gang of 14, reports that Republicans Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Mike DeWine (R-OH) do not consider Alito to meet the "extraordinary circumstances" threshold, while Democratic gang members Mark Pryor (D-AR) and Ben Nelson (D-NE) want to find out more through the hearing process. LINK

And make sure to read the blind quote in this graph: "Privately, senior Democratic staff members doubted that the seven moderate Democrats in the Gang of 14 would consider Alito's strongly conservative record -- or the fact that his ascension to the court could tip its balance -- as the sort of extraordinary circumstances that would allow them to support a filibuster. 'I don't think Democrats are going to say filibuster unless they are sure they want to filibuster and they have the votes,' said a senior Senate Democratic aide, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the political sensitivity of the issue."

Both Maine Senators Collins and Snowe react cautiously to Alito's nomination and Sen. Collins says she, "would have liked to see a woman nominated, but it is not an overriding consideration." LINK

Salon's Michael Scherer has this on the Gang of 14 front: "David DiMartino, a spokesman for [Sen. Ben] Nelson, said Monday there was nothing about Alito that would lead the senator to change his mind and support a filibuster of Alito's nomination. 'I don't think the 'gang' agreement is applicable,' DiMartino said." LINK

The Wall Street Journal has this on the Gang of 14 front: Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) said in an interview that he thinks the Gang of 14 group will stick together at least through the Alito confirmation hearings. "And, even then, 'it will take something extraordinary to break up the Gang of 14,' he said."

The State's Lee Bandy writes up Gang of 14 member Sen. Lindsey Graham's (R-SC) warning to Democrats that any attempt at a filibuster will likely fail. LINK

The Washington Post's Charles Babington has Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Mike DeWine (R-OH) saying they "almost certainly" would oppose a filibuster. LINK

"Chafee said the Alito nomination 'raises many concerns,' and that the dissent in Casey 'showed a narrow view of a woman's right to choose.'"

The Boston Globe looks at the Graham/DeWine assessment that Alito is not an extraordinary circumstance and Notes that no Democratic Senator has yet to call for a filibuster. LINK

Roll Call's Paul Kane writes that Alito "may have a slight majority in his corner to start out the process" in light of some Republicans in the Gang of 14 voicing praise for Alito Monday, including Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Mike DeWine (R-OH).

The Washington Times has Democratic Gang of 14 members Ken Salazar (D-CO) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA) expressing concerns about the nomination, while Republican members such as Sen. Lindsey Graham said Alito's 'qualifications are beyond reproach. . . Efforts to filibuster this nomination based on his conservative judicial philosophy will only serve to weaken all three branches of our government,' he warned." LINK

Alito: political analysis:

Ron Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times writes that the confrontation over Alito "might not unfold the way either side expects." LINK

"[F]or all the fervor they displayed, Alito's opponents face the challenge of generating significant public resistance to a nominee whose legal credentials are unquestioned. That hurdle proved far greater than Democrats expected during the confirmation of Roberts as chief justice in September."

"Conversely, Bush faces the risk that a victory could impose a heavy cost. Even if opponents cannot generate enough pressure to block Alito's Senate confirmation, a highly partisan and ideological fight could further damage Bush's weakened position with swing voters -- and inflict collateral damage on Republican senators struggling with an inhospitable election climate for 2006."

The New York Times' Purdum on whether the potential for all-out war over Alito is real or will fizzle: LINK

The Washington Post: LINK

Alito: editorials and commentary:

The Wall Street Journal editorial board writes that a fight over judicial philosophy is a fight worth having and includes this in its praiseworthy editorial on the Alito nomination:

"At least one pro-life group was rumored yesterday to be considering withholding support for Judge Alito over Farmer -- which would be an example of the results-based jurisprudence that conservatives criticize when it is practiced by the left."

"The nominee's clear respect for precedent ought to satisfy Republican Arlen Specter, the pro-choice chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who said yesterday that abortion will be "one of the first items" he will discuss with the nominee. It should also provide covering fire for center-left Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins to vote for him. As for conservatives, the nomination is already unifying the President's base, which fractured over the Harriet Miers nomination."

The New York Times editorial board calls the President's nomination of Alito "another lost opportunity." LINK

The New York Post's John Podhoretz predicts no huge battle is on the horizon. (And you will be doing yourself a disservice if you don't read his comparison of David Gergen's opinion giving to election night balloons.) LINK

The New York Post editorial board suggests Democrats are picking a fight they are likely to lose. LINK

The Washington Post editorial describes Alito as an "exceptionally strong nominee." LINK

George Will's victory lap: LINK

The Los Angeles Times editorial board dubs Alito the anti-Miers. LINK

The Washington Times praises the "clear, conservative choice." LINK

The New Hampshire Union Leader's editorial board is gushingly starry-eyed about Samuel Alito, and gives special thanks to the conservatives who helped President Bush (re)discover the proper SCOTUS path. LINK

Alito: investigative:

Per the Washington Post's R. Jeffrey Smith, Alito participated in a 2002 Vanguard case despite a promise to recuse himself, prompting Anthony Joseph Scirica, the chief administrative judge for the 3rd Circuit where Alito worked, to withdraw Alito's ruling on the basis that Alito's participation was 'unlawful' under judicial ethics rules. LINK

Alito: legal analysis:

The New York Times looks at Alito's dissent in the 1991 Pennsylvania abortion case Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which will likely play a pivotal role in his confirmation hearings. LINK

The New York Times also looks at Alito's methodical, solidly conservative rulings. LINK

A Los Angeles Times headline calls Alito's judicial record a "Portrait of Conservatism and Consistency." LINK

The Washington Post on the Alito judicial record: LINK

The Los Angeles Times looks at the 1991 Pennsylvania abortion case: LINK

The Los Angeles Times says Alito's strong free-market philosophy is likely to please corporate America. LINK

The Boston Globe's Charlie Savage writes that since Alito's conservative views are "well established, his confirmation fight is unlikely to focus on proxy issues, such as access to papers, as did those of John G. Roberts Jr. and Harriet Miers." LINK

The Hill's Alexander Bolton brings into focus four hot-button, high-profile cases -- three on abortion, one on assisted-suicide -- whose outcomes could be affected by confirmation timing. LINK

Gina Holland of the Associated Press Notes that it's yet unclear whether Justice O'Connor or a fresh-from-confirmation Justice Samuel Alito will be hearing the New Hampshire parental notification law from the bench. LINK

Alito: bio:

The New York Times: LINK

If confirmed, Alito would be the fifth Catholic on the Court, Notes the New York Times. LINK

The Boston Globe: LINK

The Los Angeles Times: LINK

The Washington Post: LINK

The New York Post's bio includes a look at Alito's stint at Phillies fantasy camp. LINK

The Washington Times: LINK

The Newark Star-Ledger: LINK

Alito: the interest groups and abortion:

The New York Times on conservative reaction and preparations for the confirmation battle ahead: LINK

The Boston Globe on the "mollified conservative voices" responding to the Alito nomination: LINK

The Washington Times details White House calls to conservative supporters yesterday before Alito was announced. LINK

The Los Angeles Times wraps up the jubilation (sprinkled with a hint of hesitation) among conservative groups. LINK

The New York Times explores the insta-responses from interest groups on both sides of the abortion debate: LINK

The Fitzgerald investigation:

As we Noted above, the story seems to have moved from boil to simmer, but we are quite sure the unanswered questions will continue to be asked.

Republicans worry that if Libby doesn't plead guilty President Bush could face the prospect of "top officials," including Cheney himself, testifying and embarrassing disclosures of how the White House operates and treats critics." LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Cooper and Squeo report that the CIA-leak case may hinge on the events of June 12, 2003. According to the five-count indictment against Libby, that was the day Libby "was advised" by the Vice President that Wilson's wife worked in the counter-proliferation division of the CIA. LINK

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank sketches the scene in the White House briefing room: "Two years ago, [White House press secretary Scott McClellan] categorically denied any involvement in the leak by Rove and Libby and said without qualification: 'If anyone in this Administration was involved in it, they would not longer be in this Administration.' Both statements are now inoperative." LINK

Dick Morris uses his New York Post column to pose many unanswered questions to Vice President Cheney. LINK

The New York Times reports that Vice President Cheney named longtime aides David Addington and John Hannah to replace Scooter Libby, perhaps suggesting that the White House "has little intention of bringing in fresh faces in the wake of the indictment." LINK

The Los Angeles Times writes up Libby's replacements as well. LINK

"Even as lawmakers were advising the Bush administration to clean house after last week's criminal charges against a top official in the CIA leak case, Vice President Dick Cheney on Monday elevated two aides who emerged as bit players in that saga to replace his indicted former chief of staff."

The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne writes that if Bush truly wants the public to know what happened in the leak case, as he has claimed in the past, he will announce now that he will not pardon Libby. LINK

Bush agenda:

Roll Call's Paul Kane, who was ribbed by the Senate's Minority Leader yesterday as being "way to the right" of Charles Babington, has Reid alleging at Monday's Monitor luncheon that the Miers pick was an attempt to "divert attention" from recent GOP scandals.

Kane also Notes that Reid predicted Bush would be remembered as the "Millard Filmore of the last 100 years," a reference to "the generally undistinguished 1850s president whose middle-ground view on slavery helped doom the Whig Party."

Bloomberg's Brendan Murray has people familiar with the selection process telling him that President Bush may choose Stanford University economist Edward Lazear, a member of his tax advisory panel, to succeed Ben Bernanke as chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. LINK


The Des Moines Register's David Yepsen suggests that centrists -- such as Senators Evan Bayh and Chuck Hagel -- are the candidates of tomorrow. LINK

2008: Democrats:

The New Hampshire Union Leader reports that the Democratic commission is still busy reshuffling the primary scheduling deck and have yet to lay any recommendations on the table. LINK


The Houston Chronicle previews DA Ronnie Earle's arguments -- to be delivered in court today -- defending Judge Bob Perkins' right to continue to hear the DeLay case despite his Democratic political contributions. LINK


The ad wars in the New York mayoral race have heated up, according to the New York Times. LINK

Mayor Bloomberg's ad team had produced some of the best and most creative spots we have seen in a long time. One of the great undertold stories of this campaign is how Bill Knapp and others have figured out a way to supercharge the impact of the Mayor's mega-millions by making ads that are breaking through the clutter.

Anyone watching Gotham City television for more than an hour, of course, can see their high quality work. Seeing the spots of his opponent, Freddy Ferrer, is a lot tougher.

The Soapbox firm of Democratic strategist Jonathan Prince has churned out some terrific (and entertaining) work as well. Check out the 15 seconds of fun on this page LINK by clicking on the spot featuring the Reverend Al Sharpton, dancing to the campaign's got-a-beat-and-you-can-dance-to-it theme song -- shot outside the Flatiron Building in a brisk 30 minutes.

The New York Post calls the latest Ferrer campaign ad -- a cartoon depicting close ties between Michael Bloomberg and George W. Bush -- a "dirty trick" on its front page. LINK

Carl Campanile of the New York Post also looks at the other ads released by the campaigns leading with "Salsa Sharpton." LINK

Michael Saul of the New York Daily News previews tonight's debate. LINK

The New York Daily News' Saltonstall takes a look at all those Democratic pols who have appeared at public events with Mayor Bloomberg despite their endorsement of his opponent, Freddy Ferrer. LINK

The debate over stem cell research takes center stage in ads in the New Jersey gubernatorial race. LINK

Cindy Adams takes on Jon Corzine in her New York Post column. LINK

The Schwarzenegger Era:

For his ballot initiatives to have any chance of passing, the California Governor is relying on "micro-targeting" of his supporters, and the hopes of "relatively few people showing up next Tuesday and large segments of voters staying home." LINK

The San Francisco Chronicle writes that Gov. Schwarzenegger "spent Halloween using a potential tax increase as the bogeyman waiting for Californians if his special election agenda fails at the polls next week." LINK


Per the Washington Times, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) has high hopes for 2006: "We're going to pick up seats. History's on our side. It's just a question of how many we pick up." LINK

The politics of Wal-Mart:

The New York Times writes that "Wal-Mart is taking a page from the modern political playbook," setting up an Arkansas-based war room of Democratic and Republican campaign veterans and former presidential advisors to help the company respond to its increasingly sophisticated and well-organized critics who have "hammered the retailer with criticisms of its wages, health insurance and treatment of workers." LINK

Stump Sam Donaldson:

"Politics Live," the all-politics newscast on ABC News Now, ABC's 24-hour digital news network, is seeking your help.

"Stump Sam" is the final segment of each episode of "Politics Live." We invite viewers and scholars alike to stump ABC's Sam Donaldson with difficult presidential trivia questions. Questions can involve any aspect of presidential trivia, dating from 1950 to the present. (It's harder than you'd think to stump -- Sam knows his stuff.)

So go to here: LINK

What fun would it be without a prize? If you stump Sam, you'll get an ABC News Now baseball cap for your effort.