The Note: The State of Our Union Is . . . Confused

In Newsweek, Howard Fineman captures President Bush's distaste for foreign travel and the Gang of 500 obsession with the Karl question. LINK

"Students of the Bush-Rove team sifted tea leaves as a city full of Republicans offered tidbits, speaking on background because of the sensitive situation. Rove went about his business, calling senators to lobby on the budget, conducting meetings on immigration policy, sketching out the long-term strategy for what aides hope will be a political revival meeting in January -- the State of the Union Message. Administration aides insist that there have been no discussions on Rove's departure. Fellow Republican strategists marveled at what one called Rove's 'survivability.' 'Mere mortals would be affected,' said a senior White House aide, 'but Karl isn't mortal.'"

The New York Times' Bumiller and Rohter on the "tough remarks" the President aimed at Chavez on Sunday, calling for Latin America to choose between an American-supported "vision of hope" and another that "seeks to roll back the democratic progress of the past two decades." LINK

In her White House letter, Bumiller zeroes in on "how removed" from his surroundings President Bush has seemed. LINK

Big Casino budget politics:

The New York Times ed board writes that the House leadership's package of budget cuts is "so over-the-top in its inequities and giveaways that the moderate Republican lawmaker," that "rara avis," is "actually rebelling." LINK

In Saturday Washington Post story looking at the ways in which some in the GOP are regretting the pork-stuffed highway bill, Shailaigh Murray reported that Congressman Tom DeLay (R-TX) conceded at Heritage on Thursday that "Our responsibility, that frankly we didn't perform very well, is to make sure those are legitimate earmarks for legitimate reasons." LINK

Conservatives in the House tell the Washington Times they can't pass their package of $53 billion in spending cuts unless the President begins to actively intervene – something they are urging Bush to do. LINK

Ethics:

The Washington Post's Grimaldi and Schmidt reported on Saturday that Congressman Bob Ney notified Congress on Friday that he had been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury examining the lobbying activities of Jack Abramoff. LINK

Roll Call's Bresnahan Notes that Ney's subpoena "marks the first time a Member of Congress has become formally enmeshed in the criminal probe of Abramoff."

The Washington Post's Susan Schmidt reported on Saturday that Steven Griles, the former deputy secretary of the Interior Department, had "numerous meetings, telephone calls and other contacts" with Abramoff concerning the lobbyist's tribal clients, according to e-mails released by congressional investigators. LINK

2008:

The Associated Press reported over the weekend that the Michigan Democratic Party reasserted its call to end what it sees as the Iowa and New Hampshire "monopoly" on the nomination process. LINK

2008: Democrats:

"The DNC's unusually early announcement of its 2008 convention dates took most Democratic Members by surprise, but it was quickly embraced. Members and aides suggested Democrats are smart to avoid having the convention too soon, and to stake their claim on a plum time period that forces the Republicans to consider a shorter time frame for their own," writes Roll Call's Billings.

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