WASHINGTON, Nov. 2
For the record, The Note trusts both Bill Frist and Harry Reid.
Also, The Note, like David Addington, believes in the primacy of the co-equal executive branch (and, like Addington, The Note rides the subway to work).
And, finally, The Note normally likes to leave analysis of the business of the Senate to Roll Call (and to the Roll Call refugee alums now liberally sprinkled throughout the media).
But we have to briefly take up yesterday afternoon's Senate tussle over Iraq pre-war intelligence for two reasons.
First, if the "tone" in the Senate is not "changed," getting the people's business done on Alito, immigration, the budget, tax reform, avian flu, and everything else will be very tough. For heaven's sake -- it could even destroy the comity of tomorrow's Gang of 14 meeting (which would devastate the crustless-sandwich sensibilities of the Gang of 500).
Second, The Note likes nothing more than when both parties simultaneously (a) think they have the upper hand; (b) accuse the other party of heading down a dangerous, self-destructive path; and (c) accuse the other party of playing only to its base without regard to where the country really is.
Looking at the coverage, we have no clue who won yesterday. And we have no clue what happens next. We know the White House can't be happy about the Frist-Reid breakdown. And we know that at least the Democratic base seems pretty happy about it.
Beyond that -- we don't know much of anything.
Check out the parallel universe recaps of two key players:
Says a Republican leadership aide, when asked if Frist and Reid had talked about all this:
"I don't know if they've spoken -- I think not -- except for on the floor during the closed session…. We're agreeing to do what we're already doing -- but Democrats needed to spin a victory. . . . The comity in the Senate is severely strained -- because of these stunts. It also blows a hole through their argument about the nuclear option and comity/traditions of the Senate. If/when they are in the majority in the future all of this will come back to haunt them. Also lots of people wondering about the Democrat leadership control of their caucus.... Did they need to change the subject because they can't decide what to do on Alito? Are they ever going to move past base politics?"
A Democratic aide says:
"Frist can't take a punch. Republicans prove [they have a] glass jaw. Republicans cave quickly and agree to time certain for long-awaited intelligence investigation. No one knows Senate rules better than Reid. Frist not honest when he says he and Reid hadn't discussed phase 2 of promised investigation. [There's a] paper trail today documenting repeated requests and in-person meetings. They stiff-armed us. Dr. Frist and Senator Reid spoke on floor since, but not at length. That'll come today."
Those talks are expected to yield details of how a panel of six Senators will report back by November 14th on moving forward.
The Senate reconvened in open session at 8:30 am ET, when it resumed consideration of S.1932, the Deficit Reduction bill. Time expires on the bill at approximately 6 pm ET. The Majority Leader has announced that the Senate may take up and vote on the Agriculture Conference Report this evening.
Judge Alito's Senate meeting schedule for today:
9:15 am ET: Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE)
10:30 am ET: Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
11:45 am ET: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)