The Note: Credit Where Credit Is Due



A "Bush White House optimist" is someone who thinks they can make it through to the holidays without any more political damage, more indictments, or more mega-bad news out of Iraq.

Such a person thinks that the press might finally be bored reporting that the President's polling numbers are his "worst ever," and that it will be true for the foreseeable future that Democrats will, as John Harwood writes in the Wall Street Journal today, "lack either a singular national voice or a clearly defined agenda for voters to seize on." (Something up with which Rahm will not put. . .)

And, finally, the "Bush White House optimist" thinks the pony in the manure is the President's State of the Union, where good things -- and real page turning -- can happen. (If they can make it until January. . .)

And what is a "Bush White House pessmist"?

Someone who can't even utter the word "Snowe," someone who looks at the Presidents' numbers in the WSJ/NBC poll on "honest and straightforward" and gets physically sick, and someone who reads this blind kicker quote from a Republican strategist in Dan Balz's Washington Post story and realizes that it accurately sums up Republican angst (and reality?) heading into 2006:

"'We're tapped out on taxes,' he said, asking not to be identified to offer a more candid analysis. 'We failed on Social Security. We're nowhere on health care. Medicare didn't do it. The war's not going well. The economy's in fact going well, but we're not getting credit for it.'" LINK

With no curtain raising whatsoever, Karl Rove headlines the Federalist Society's convention with a 7:00 pm ET speech at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, DC. It has been awhile since Mr. Rove has spoken in public in a Washington venue besides his driveway, so attention must be paid. The revovery begins here, some say.

(The Feds are hearing from a whole group of other luminaries, as well. For instance, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) delivers 11:30 am ET remarks at the Mayflower Hotel.)

For the other team (to use Grover's phrase): DNC Chairman Howard Dean, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, DGA Vice Chair and West Virginia Gov. Joe Machin III, and National Conference of Democratic Mayors Chairman and Trenton Mayor Doug Palmer kick off the Democrats' coordinated campaign for the 2006 mid-term elections at a 10:45 am ET press conference at DNC headquarters in Washington, DC.

Today's event is designed to "show the American people that while Republicans are so consumed with their own ethical problems, Democrats are working together to address the priorities of working families." The news conference takes place after Democratic congressional leaders meet to discuss their party's "strategy for success."

Members of the GOP's Main Street Partnership who helped broker the deal to eliminate ANWR from the budget reconciliation bill hold a 1:30 pm ET press conference at the Capitol Hill Club.

Judge Samuel Alito continues making the rounds on the Hill today. He meets with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) at 9:15 am ET, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) at 11:00 am ET, Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) at 1:15 pm ET, Sen. John Warner (R-VA) at 2:30 pm ET, Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL), and Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) at 5:00 pm ET.

President Bush meets with local officials from Louisiana at 3:25 pm ET and with the president of Yemen at 11:25 am ET. He signs the agriculture appropriations bill at 4:00 pm ET and honors the arts and humanities during a 10:05 am ET medal ceremony and during a 7:00 pm ET dinner. Earlier today, President Bush called King Abdullah to express his condolences.

Sen. John McCain delivers 12:30 pm ET remarks at the American Enterprise Institute on "Winning the War in Iraq."

Sen. Hillary Clinton takes part in a bipartisan effort to "salvage" $125 million for sick and injured 9/11 responders at 11:00 am ET in Dirksen 430. New York's Junior Senator delivers 12:15 pm ET remarks to the ABA's International Rule of Law Symposium at the Capital Hilton.

Leader Pelosi has her regular briefing scheduled for 2:00 pm ET in H-206.

The Senate reconvenes at 9:30 am ET and resumes consideration of the Defense Authorization bill.

The House meets at 10:00 am ET to consider the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. There's lots hanging in the balance here still.

Karen Hughes appears before the House International Relations Committee for an around-the-world review of public diplomacy at 10:00 am ET.

A House Judiciary subcommittee holds a hearing on "How Illegal Immigration Impacts Constituencies."

Sen. Sam Brownback's (R-KS) Senate Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution holds a hearing on "Why the Government Should Care About Pornography: The State Interest in Protecting Children and Families." Pamela Paul, author of "Pornified," testifies.

As promised on Tuesday night, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will meet privately with legislative leaders from both parties in Sacramento at 11:00 am ET.

Dow Jones/General Electric:

John Harwood's powerful lede in his WSJ/NBC poll write-up: "Republicans, wincing from losses in two governors' races this week and President Bush's current political weakness, face a broader problem as well: Some of the party's most potent traditional advantages appear to be eroding." LINK

More Harwood: "Among other findings, the poll indicates that voters no longer prefer Republicans to Democrats on handling taxes, cutting government spending, dealing with immigration and directing foreign policy."

And from the pollster: "'There's a kind of pall in terms of the American mood,' says Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who conducts the Journal/NBC poll with Democratic counterpart Peter Hart. 'It's a very unhappy electorate that's going to be very unstable....for a Republican majority.'"

2005: post-mortem analysis:

The Washington Post's wise Dan Balz writes, ". . .Tuesday's results confirmed that nothing happened to alter a political climate that now tilts against the GOP and that the President remains in the midst of a slump." LINK

Balz goes on to Note Kaine's success in Virginia in talking about his personal faith as appealing to swing voters and a lesson for the Democratic Party at large.

Ron Brownstein offers these somewhat soothing words to Republicans who are still stinging: "the best news in Tuesday's election may have been that more was not at stake." He zeroes in on the day's most telling loss: that of St. Paul, Minnesota's Democratic mayor Randy Kelly, whose trouncing was seen as punishment for his endorsement of Bush last year. LINK

The Wall Street Journal must-read editorial on Tuesday's results leads thusly: "About the best thing Republicans can say after Tuesday's election debacle is that at least it happened in an off-off year. This was a Democratic rout any way you look at it, from the gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey to the ballot initiatives in California. If the GOP learns the wrong lessons, it'll happen again next year, when a lot more will be at stake."

Bob Novak says that, thanks to the loss following Bush's last minute campaigning in Virginia, the GOP should stay far away from him if they hope to win in '06. LINK

Novak argues that while the fault for GOP defeat in Virginia may not rest squarely on President Bush's shoulders, he will take the heat for it on Capitol Hill.

"Bush gets the blame. In the days immediately preceding Tuesday's elections, Republican committee chairmen in Congress grew increasingly contemptuous of their President. . . Thanks to Virginia, Bush can expect more of the same."

The Boston Globe's Rick Klein on Democratic excitement. LINK

The Washington Times' Donald Lambro throws some cold water on that excitement, reminding Democrats that they were in the same position in 2001 before being trounced in 2002. LINK

"Bloomberg drove a stake into the heart of the idea of the imperial mayoralty as practiced by Koch and, more importantly, by Giuliani. His win yesterday showed he could build a majority larger than Rudy's -- even as he proved that a mayor could be effective without indulging in crude racial appeals and with an unapologetic embrace of tax-hikes in exchange for better government. In a sense Bloomberg's win was a victory for smart-government liberalism," writes Greg Sargent in the online edition of the American Prospect. LINK

Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post rounds up the results from the Detroit and San Diego mayoral contests as well as the Democratic and Republican post-election day spin. LINK

The Washington Post editorial board writes up the continued political woes for President Bush in light of Tuesday's results and bemoans so much personal spending by wealthy candidates. LINK

The Houston Chronicle reports that the polls showed on Election Day, "Blacks and Hispanics who traditionally vote Democratic strongly backed the state's gay marriage ban at the ballot box this week." LINK

The vote against intelligent design in Dover, Pa., on Tuesday was all about the town's image, reports the New York Times. LINK

Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) on Tuesday: "If I were a Democrat, I would make hay of this." LINK

2005: Virginia:

"Bush 'sank' GOP in Virginia," blares the front page of the Washington Times. LINK

Christina Bellantoni has Delegate David B. Albo, a Republican who narrowly defeated his Democatic challenger in Fairfax County, saying of Bush, "We know that George Bush is just killing us. His popularity just brought the ticket down. There's no other way to explain it."

Tim Kaine's "ability to incorporate religion" into his "public persona" was crucial to his victory in the red-leaning Virginia, a lesson that the New York Times says should be duly Noted by other Democrats around the country. LINK

Gov.-elect Kaine savored his victory for a brief time and then pledged to hit the road to build support for his transportation reform agenda, reports the Washington Post. LINK

The Washington Post's Barnes moves beyond George Bush and Mark Warner and looks at the candidates on the ballot in his post-election analysis of the Virginia gubernatorial contest. LINK


The New York Times reports Jack Abramoff asked the President of Gabon for $9 million in 2003 in exchange for arranging a meeting with President Bush. But Administration officials say the eventual meeting between the two leaders, on May 26, 2004, was "routine" and unrelated to the fees paid to Abramoff's Maryland company GrassRoots Interactive. LINK

The Washington Post prints Abramoff's letter to Gabonese President Omar Bongo. LINK

Big Casino budget politics:

To save its package of $50 billion in spending cuts, House Republicans late last night had to drop a provision for drilling in ANWR, a move that will speed the bill's passage in the House but may meet objections in the Senate. LINK

Dropping ANWR drilling from the House budget bill is painted as a Bush Administration defeat in the Washington Post. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Brody Mullins writes, "Businesses are lobbying to strip language from a Senate tax bill that would bar deductions for punitive damages and parts of government settlements."

"Corporations also have lined up against a provision that seeks to close $5.2 billion in tax shelters over five years."

"Congressional Republicans and President George W. Bush are divided over whether and how to make an overhaul of the tax code the centerpiece of their agenda in 2006," writes Bloomberg's Donmoyer. LINK

Politics of national security

USA Today previews the fight shaping between President Bush and prominent veterans in Congress over the treatment of detainees. Says McCain of his amendment, banning inhumane treatment of prisoners, "We will win sooner or later. I will not quit." LINK

Jonathan Weisman of the Washington Post reports Sen. Roberts has asked Majority Leader Frist to tamp down his urging for an immediate Senate review of the leak to the Washington Post about the CIA secret prisons. Sen. Roberts would like to wait until the Justice Department completes its review. LINK

The Washington Post's Pincus reports on the bipartisan agreement on how to move forward with the Intelligence Committee's work on Phase II of the investigation into pre-war intelligence. LINK

In his look at the Democratic strategy to expose or create friction between Bush and Cheney, Bush and Rove, the White House and Congress, and between competing GOPers on the Hill, Newsweek's Howard Fineman has this from Reid's spokesman -- the always agile Jim Manley: "'The focus is on Cheney,' Manley said happily, 'and you can quote me on that!' Cheny and Halliburton, Cheney and torture policy, Cheney and the CIA leak, Cheney and pre-war intelligence, Cheney and global warming. . ."

Speaking of Reid, RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman told reporters on Wednesday that Reid suffered from a "Lyndon LaRouche moment" on Tuesday.

Manley responded to Mehlman's broadside with a barb of his own, telling The Note: "What do you expect from a hack who only knows how to distort, divide and deny?"

Back to you, Mr. Chairman.

Roll Call's Paul Kane has an angry Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) saying the Vice President should no longer be allowed to discuss sensitive topics at weekly party luncheons.

Samuel Alito for Associate Justice:

Michael Kranish of the Boston Globe reports on Alito's involvement within a 1995 case where his sister's law firm was a representing side and Alito was a member of the overseeing appeals court. The White House says Alito "does not have recollection of this case." Alito's sister, confirmed by telephone that she was employed by the firm representing, but was '"absolutely not" personally involved in the case. Alito had said in 1990 that he would disqualify himself from any case involving his sisters law firm. LINK

Democratic Senators are also focusing on Alito's "decision" not to initially recuse himself from a case involving Vanguard.

Here is the story from the New York Times LINK, the Los Angeles Times LINK, and the Washington Post LINK.

Charles Hurt of the Washington Times reports that Alito is looking at an easier confirmation than expected. LINK

The New York Daily News interprets Sen. Chuck Schumer's faint praise of Judge Samuel Alito yesterday -- the New York Senator said the Judge does not have a view that "is clearly out of the mainstream" -- as a sign that Alito's confirmation is turning into a "slam dunk." LINK

Bush agenda:

The Washington Post's Eggen writes of some limits to a renewed USA Patriot Act gaining momentum on the Hill despite Administration opposition. LINK

"If these and other compromise measures are approved, it would mark another significant setback for the weakened Bush Administration as it battles the GOP-controlled Congress over the limits of its powers related to terrorism and the Iraq war. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and other Bush officials have argued for months in favor of the more administration-friendly House version of the Patriot bill, but the Senate version appears to have more momentum."

The politics of gas:

USA Today fronts yesterday's face-off between Senators and oil company executives, Noting Sen. Stevens' refusal to swear in the suits, thus avoiding "the kind of embarrassing photo that showed tobacco executives at a 1994 hearing swearing cigarettes were not addictive." LINK

The New York Times says consumers shouldn't expect much more action from Congress on gas prices beyond yesterday's hearings, even though prominent Republicans such as Sen. Bill Frist said after the sessions that they were not satisfied. LINK

2005: New Jersey:

Now that he's won the Governor's race, Jon Corzine has to confront the problems of governing New Jersey – something that is no easy task, according to the New York Times. LINK

"Mr. Corzine's greatest test will be to keep the appropriate distance from the party power brokers without alienating them so badly that they block his agenda."

Making Corzine's new job easier will be an increased Democratic presence in the New Jersey legislature following Tuesday's vote. LINK

2005: The Schwarzenegger special:

What's next for the Gubernator? asks the New York Times. LINK

Martin Kasindorf of USA Today analyzes the Schwarzenegger's next move following his bruising at the polls. First up: a media-laden trip to Asia, a chance to promote trade and burnish his star power. LINK

John Wildermuth and Carla Marinucci of the San Francisco Chronicle report that Schwarzenegger is taking his ballot defeat as a sign that Californians are tired of special elections, not him. He is working to move forward with reforms through the legislature now, instead of at the ballot box. LINK

When the dust settles in Sacramento, there will be some new (and some so-old-they're-new-again) faces at the state capitol. The Los Angeles Times reports that Susan Kennedy, a PUC Commissioner who previously served as a powerful aide to then-Gov. Gray Davis, might be interviewed for a top job with Schwarzenegger. LINK

Mark Barabak and Michael Finnegan of the Los Angeles Times ask whether Schwarzenegger can regain his mojo and win in 2006, now that he's "an improbable underdog with good reason to doubt his Sacramento team and a large number of voters who, in turn, doubt him." LINK John Pomfret of the Washington Post writes, "Political analysts said Schwarzenegger's challenge now will be to see whether he can mend fences with legislative leaders, restore his political clout and resurrect his political future." LINK

Harold Myerson sees a bleak political future for Gov. Schwarzenegger in his Washington Post column. LINK

The Los Angeles Times examines lady-killer Warren Beatty's flirtation with elected office, the press, and a room full of nurses. LINK

Republican strategist Ken Khachigian says Tuesday's special election results will have "zero effect" on the re-election chances of Schwarzenegger. LINK

2005: New York City

A Republican winning nearly half the black vote? The New York Times crunches the numbers and finds Mayor Michael Bloomberg received significant African-American and Hispanic support in his successful reelection bid on Tuesday. LINK

The New York City Democratic Party has hit rock bottom, the New York Times suggests, and must now begin focusing less on multiracial coalitions and more on pragmatic ideas aimed at fixing the city's problems. LINK

The tab for Mayor Bloomberg's election night victory party? Just $250,000, reports the New York Post. LINK

Fully 48 percent of Democrats voted for Republican Mayor Bloomberg, while 50 percent cast ballots for Democrat Fernando Ferrer. LINK

While Ferrer lost in a landslide, he received significantly more support than pollsters expected, a fact that has some scratching their heads. One poll on Monday had Bloomberg winning by 38 points, while the actual margin was 20. LINK

Mayor Bloomberg said yesterday that Tuesday's campaign was the last one for him – after he leaves office in four years, he plans to spend the rest of his life as a philanthropist. LINK

Likewise for Fernando Ferrer, who told the New York Daily News he will not run for mayor again. LINK

The New York Daily News speculates on the future of the City's Democratic Party and asks what will happen if popular Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly takes a run for the mayor's office in 2009. LINK

Republicans can no longer rely on racking up huge margins on New York's Long Island as a route to statewide victory, reports the New York Times, a fact that has "profound" implications for Sen. Clinton's 2006 reelection bid as well as the state's '06 gubernatorial race. LINK

Corzine replacing Corzine:

The jockeying to replace Sen. Jon Corzine in the Senate is well underway.

The Hill's Peter Savodnik has an anonymous DNC official saying that Dean, Reid and other Democrats want acting Gov. Richard Codey to fill Corzine's post when he leaves the Senate. Neither the DNC nor Reid's office would comment. LINK

Per the New York Times, Reps. Robert Menendez and Robert Andrews are the frontrunners, but acting Gov. Richard Codey is being urged by former President Clinton and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to consider the post. LINK

The New York Daily News says new New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine is "leaning" towards appointing Rep. Robert Menendez as his successor in the U.S. Senate. LINK

With Corzine poised to pick a replacement for himself in the US Senate, Roll Call's David Drucker and Erin Billings report that Menendez picked up the endorsement yesterday of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

They Note that all but one Democratic House Member from New Jersey has publicly expressed interest in filling Corzine's seat.


Per Roll Call's John Bresnahan, House Democrats plan to step up efforts to defeat Congressman Don Sherwood (R-PA) in the 2006 midterm elections, an announcement that came one day after Sherwood reached a confidential settlement with a woman who accused him of assaulting and abusing her during the course of their relationship.

Republican businessman Bill Mundell is considering a 2006 run against Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). LINK

Lee Bandy of The State writes that education is now and will be a hot button issue of 2006. LINK

Jeanine Pirro and Sen. Clinton mixed it up yesterday over the estate tax. LINK

Dean's Democrats:

We're sure, by now, you have all heard Howard Dean's assertion that he believes the Democratic Party is the party of "moral values." When Dean addresses groups around the country he cites the moral values of investing in healthcare, education, and security as winning issues for Democrats.

In his post-election press conference with Gov. Richardson yesterday, Dean spoke separately from his recitation of Democratic "moral values" about how important it was in Tim Kaine's victory that the Virginia Democrat was able to speak so comfortably about his personal commitment to his faith.

Dean went on to say that he believes Virginia is trending Democratic and that he expects it to be in the Democratic column on election night in 2008. When asked if that meant his party's nominee in 2008 must be comfortable talking to voters about his/her personal faith, Dean said that it likely does, but he wouldn't delve into which 2008 Democratic hopefuls appear to be at that comfort level.

2008: Democrats:

Carl P. Leubsdorf of the Dallas Morning News reports that, although Gov. Mark Warner did not have been elected to anything, he may come out the biggest winner of all. LINK

Add Heidi Przybyla of Bloomberg News to the pile of positive Mark Warner clips in light of Tuesday's results in Virginia. LINK

Be sure to read all the way to the end:

"Warner has been trying to expand his network of Democratic Party and national heavyweights. In May, Democratic elder statesman Vernon Jordan took Warner to the annual Bilderberg Conference, which brings together some of Europe's and North America's leading bankers, economists and government officials."

"'He did very well,' Jordan said."

"Fourteen years ago Jordan took another young southern governor to his first Bilderberg Conference. His name was Bill Clinton."

Kaine's election in Virginia helps outgoing Gov. Warner and, thus, is bad news for Sen. Clinton's 2008 ambitions, says Deb Orin of the New York Post. Orin also claims that Clinton offered her help to the Kaine campaign, which turned her down and instead asked for her husband's help. LINK

Virginia Gov. Mark Warner's upcoming Granite State trip is picked up by the Union Leader. Warner will co-host a discussion on high school dropouts with New Hampshire Gov. Lynch in Nashua and have lunch with state Senate Democrats in Manchester. LINK

The Hill's ever-alert Josephine Hearn reports that the DLC "took a step toward warming its usually frosty relationship with many labor unions this week as DLC Chairman Gov. Tom Vilsack hosted a breakfast with union representatives," including SEIU's Andy Stern and IAFF's Harold Schaitberger. LINK

Hearn adds: "Vilsack's own political ambitions may also have played a role in the outreach effort."

2008: Republicans:

Roll Call's Paul Kane and Lauren Whittington write that Kilgore's defeat, at least for now, has some asking questions about Allen's viability -- as well as the fact that, were he to join a successful national ticket, he'd be replaced by a Democrat appointed by Kaine.

Allen shrugged off its meaning, saying, "It doesn't have an impact on me whatsoever. . . It doesn't change my focus. . . It would be easier to have a governor on your side."

On Sunday, C-SPAN will air Brian Lamb's "Q&A" interview with Sen. Chuck Hagel.

Hagel, who endorsed McCain's 2000 presidential bid, is asked if he would be impeded from running for president in 2008 if McCain says, "I'm going again."

Hagel replies: "Well, Brian, I think in this business or any major decision one makes in your life that decision has to come from you first. It's got to come from you. The considerations are your family or other personal issues. Then you start working through the more external conditions."

"You know in this business that if you run for president there will be many very qualified candidates out there, some will be good friends I suspect. You know that and you factor that in and you're not unmindful of that kind of competition. And that kind of competition is good for the country. It's good for our system. We want the best people in this business."

"So whatever decision John makes would not influence my decision."

Sen. Sam Brownback gives momentum to ban gay marriage through a constitutional amendment. LINK


Thomas Beaumont reports in the Des Moines Register that Gregg Connell, one of eight Democrats seeking his party's nomination for governor in 2006, suspended his campaign yesterday after he was ticketed for running a stop sign in a fatal accident Tuesday. LINK

Free Judy Miller:

Judy Miller's lawyer said yesterday that his client's "retirement" from the paper came after both sides reached a "shared understanding that she couldn't continue to report on national security matters for the New York Times." LINK

In her letter to the editor of the New York Times, Judy Miller says she left the paper "because over the last few months, I have become the news, something a New York Times reporter never wants to be," but she will continue to write and "call attention to the internal and external threats to our country's freedoms - Al Qaeda and other forms of religious extremism, conventional and W.M.D. terrorism, and growing government secrecy in the name of national security." LINK

Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post: LINK

The New York Post says Miller's departure from the New York Times yesterday allowed the Times newsroom to breathe "a collective sigh of relief," ending the "painful" episode for the paper. LINK

Miller told the New York Daily News that she feels "great" and is glad the Times "cleared up that they didn't intend to say anything hurtful" about her. LINK


Hollywood financier James Stern is putting the finishing touches on a film about the final days of the battle for Ohio during the 2004 presidential election. The New York Times has a sneak peek at the movie, which "shows Republican campaigners functioning like a well-oiled machine and Democrats looking incapable of ordering lunch, let alone organizing a major get-out-the-vote operation." LINK

David von Drehle of the Washington Post appears moderately entertained, but not at all satisfied with Sen. Boxer's first foray into novel writing. LINK