The Note: Sweat the Big Things



Last week and this week are a swirling mélange of IraqAlitobudgetDeLayLibbyDemocratshavenomessage

Keep your eyes on what matters for 2006 and 2008, however:

A. The number of U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq on November 1, 2006.

B. The degree to which Republican candidates in 2006 get credit with seniors for the Medicare prescription benefit.

C. Whether there are mass Republican retirements in the House before 2006.

D. Whether Mainers Snowe and Collins continue to (HEART) Judge Alito.

E. Whether Patrick Fitzgerald indicts anyone else (or not).

F. Whether there is a Scooter Libby trial (or not).

G. Whether the White House and congressional Republicans can thread the political needle on spending cuts/deficit reduction versus tax cuts and sacred cows.

H. The extent to which the State of the Union is boffo.

I. The extent to which Democrats come up with new ideas that voters can understand and care about.

J. Whether there is a Democratic position on Iraq by September 25, 2006 (or not).

K. The extent to which the AFL-CIO is still a viable political entity.

L. The likelihood that NRCC topper Tom Reynolds ever pulls an Ed Rollins LINK

and advises House candidates to run away from George Bush (which, in an under-Noted remark, Ken Mehlman endorsed as a strategy last week).

M. What independents will think about President Bush and Republican control of Washington on Election Day, 2006.

Completely aware of The Note's list (since it was practically dictated to us by his senior aides), President -- along with the First lady -- plans to depart the White House at 11:15 am ET for their trip to Alaska and Asia this week.

Air Force One is scheduled to touch down in Anchorage, AK at 6:20 pm ET. The President will make remarks on the war on terror at Elmendorf Air Force Base before taking off again at 8:20 pm ET en route to Osaka, Japan and then on to Kyoto. President and Mrs. Bush will spend the rest of the week in Japan and Korea.

Vice President Cheney meets with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi at the White House today.

Cheney is also scheduled to be the featured speaker this afternoon at NRCC Chairman Rep. Tom Reynolds "summit" in New York City. At 5:00 pm ET in Washington, the Vice President headlines a fundraiser for State Sen. John Campbell (R-CA), who is running to replace Christopher Cox in CA-48. Speaker Hastert, Majority Whip Blunt, and other members of the House Republican leadership are expected at the Campbell fundraiser as well.

At this writing, it is not clear when/if the Alito document dump reported in today's Washington Times will take place or from where it will come. One source says we can expect a few scores of pages from the Reagan Library.

Sen. Clinton (D-NY) and her husband attended a memorial service for Yitzhak Rabin at 8:00 am ET in Jerusalem. She is scheduled to attend the 12:30 pm ET opening of the Yitzhak Rabin Center in Tel Aviv.

The Senate meets at 2 pm ET to resume consideration of S.1042, the FY2006 Defense Appropriations bill. At 5:30 pm ET, the Senate will proceed to a vote final passage of the FY2006 Energy and Water Appropriations bill.

The House meets for a pro forma session at 6:00 pm ET.

If you want to know where the House budget reconciliation bill and the Senate tax cut bill stand, we urge you to check the Hastert, Blunt, Thomas, DeLay, Frist, McConnell, and Grassley call logs from the weekend.

DCCC Chair Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) hosts a conference call early this afternoon to discuss the ways in which the Republican House leadership and Big Oil's profits are connected through "millions and millions in campaign contributions and subsequent tax subsidies."

At 12:15 pm ET, the New America Foundation and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget host a luncheon discussion on specific proposals for closing the fiscal gap and how to offset the federal costs for Katrina, as well as the war, prescription drug programs, tax cuts and other entitlement programs.

Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE) delivers an 11:30 am ET keynote address on "Stem Cell Research; The Legislative Landscape" at today's stem cell seminar sponsored by Johns Hopkins University at the Washington Hilton & Towers.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D-MI) discusses "Leadership Challenges in a Shifting Global Economy" at Harvard's Kennedy School in Cambridge, MA.

Gov. Schwarzenegger (R-CA) is in Beijing, China promoting California trade initiatives.

Former New York Times reporter Judith Miller appears on The Kalb Report, to discuss the CIA leak story at the National Press Club at 8:00 pm ET.

Today's must-reads:

1. In one of the major scoops of the day, the Washington Times' Bill Sammon reports that when Alito applied to be deputy assistant to Attorney General Edwin Meese III, the future Supreme Court nominee wrote that "the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion." LINK

"'I personally believe very strongly' in this legal position," wrote Alito.

"The document, which is likely to inflame liberals who oppose Judge Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court, is among many that the White House will release today from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library," reports Sammon, though it remains unclear if it is the White House or the National Archives that would release such documents.

2. Bob Novak reports that some conservatives are none too pleased with the "coddling" of Republican moderates by the House leadership last week -- and to no avail. LINK

The final graph: "The Republican Party does not know how to save the budget bill that it cannot afford to lose. A weakened Bush, off to Asia Tuesday, will not be around for one-on-one lobbying. A way out is to pass a budget with neither ANWR nor budget cuts and approve a tax bill without investment tax cuts. The Grand Old Party's mission, apart from a vigorous foreign policy, then would be legislation fitting the special needs of its top business contributors -- a role the moderates could accept."

Alito for Associate Justice:

Meta-responding to the Washington Times story cited above, White House spokesguy Steve Schmidt tells ABC News:

"Judge Alito has served on the federal bench for more than fifteen years and his record shows a clear pattern of modesty, respect for precedent and judicial restraint. Twenty years ago he was among the vast majority of Americans who supported the policies of the Reagan administration . Some outside of the mainstream groups have claimed that service in the Reagan administration should disqualify someone from service as an associate justice of the Supreme Court. That notion was decisively refuted during the Roberts confirmation process. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg had served as general counsel of the ACLU and had advocated liberal political positions including the ideas that the age of consent should be 12, there was a right to prostitution and polygamy in the Constitution and Mother's Day should be abolished. Republicans voted overwhelmingly to confirm her because she was evaluated on her qualifications and more than 12 years of jurisprudence as a federal judge."

Schmidt refused, however, to address the key quote in the Washington Times story.

David Kirkpatrick of the New York Times raises the curtain on the advertising campaign, set to begin later this week, aimed at criticizing Judge Alito's record in areas beyond the abortion issue. (Note Schmidt's pre-buttal before viewing the ads for a hint of what is to come.) LINK

And a sharp-elbowed Republican strategist tells us: "The abortion fight might make liberal activists happy but it is not a winning fight for Democrats. Any of them listen to Tim Kaine's radio ads. What about Bob Casey Jr.??"

While writing in an op-ed for the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal that "guarantees are for used cars, not judicial nominees," Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) reviewed the things Alito has told him that suggest Alito would not overturn Roe v. Wade.

"In evaluating Judge Alito's jurisprudence on this subject, it is significant that he told me he accepts Griswold v. Connecticut, which affirmed the right to privacy as part of the liberty clause. Judge Alito also acknowledged to me the extra precedential weight of Casey and other Supreme Court decisions re-affirming or leaving Roe intact. While he did not adopt the concept of super-precedent or super-duper precedent, he did say there was a 'sliding scale' giving extra weight to the Supreme Court decisions following Roe. The principle of stare decisis has many other ramifications which will be extensively discussed at his hearings. In observing his demeanor and listening to his 'words' the committee will be paying much attention to his 'music.'"

Specter also indicated in the op-ed that if due process had been followed, Harriet Miers "might well have been confirmed."

Timesmen Justice and Pilhofer take a look at the pro-Alito side, with their Progress for America profile, which should remind John Podesta that his team remains far, far behind. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's ed board writes that Alito's opponents are going after him on ethical charges because they know they can't beat him on his credentials or judicial philosophy.

Judge Alito is no Scalia, says USA Today in an editorial, but he is a well-qualified conservative. LINK

The Los Angeles Times reviews Alito's sole jury trial, and finds he was a competent prosecutor – if (not) a bit of a "showboat." LINK

Elisabeth Bumiller uses her New York Times "White House Letter" to look at Harriet Miers' post-nomination life. LINK

Politics of Iraq:

Dana Milbank and Walter Pincus turned in a meta-must read on the front-page of Saturday's Washington Post that is worth quoting from at length: LINK

"President Bush and his national security adviser have answered critics of the Iraq war in recent days with a two-pronged argument: that Congress saw the same intelligence the administration did before the war, and that independent commissions have determined that the administration did not misrepresent the intelligence."

"Neither assertion is wholly accurate."

The White House responded to the Milbank-Pincus piece on Sunday with a "fact sheet" that argued that the PDB the President did not share with the Congress was actually more "problematic" than the NIE given to Congress.

Walter Pincus pulls Sunday show duty for the Washington Post and ledes with Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts saying that one lesson of the faulty prewar intelligence on Iraq is that Senators will take a hard look at intelligence before voting to go to war." LINK

The Washington Post's Fred Hiatt has Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) saying that the Democrats' focus on manipulated intelligence "aren't irrelevant questions" before adding that "the more they dominate the public debate, the harder it is to sustain public support for the war." LINK

Lieberman came in first among Democrats when National Journal asked its pool of Republican "insiders" which member of Congress from the opposite party do they most admire. (Needless to say, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) came in first when Democratic "insiders" were asked the same question).

Much of the amendment on Iraq being offered by Republicans to the Defense Authorization bill is similar to the Democratic version. However, one Senate Democratic aide points out these unique inclusions in the Levin/Biden/Reid amendment:

"The Democratic amendment on Iraq, on which the Senate will vote Tuesday, makes clear three policy statements:"

"1. 2006 should be the year of a significant transition with Iraqi forces helping to create the conditions that will lead to the phased redeployment of U.S. military forces from Iraq."

"2. The Iraqi people must be advised that U.S. military forces will not stay in Iraq indefinitely and that the Iraqis need to take the steps necessary to achieve a broad-based and sustainable political settlement that is essential for defeating the insurgency."

"3. The President shall submit a plan for success with timetables to the Congress and the American people on a quarterly basis specifying the challenges and progress in Iraq and the estimated dates for the phased redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq."

The Boston Herald reports, a new Bay State petition could put the Iraq war on the ballot for voters, "if approved by voters next November, the initiative would require whoever is elected governor in 2006 to use all legal means available to bring home the Massachusetts National Guard." LINK

Roll Call's Morton Kondracke writes that Bush's pushback comes "none too soon."

Conservative icon William F. Buckley told the Wall Street Journal's Joseph Rago in the newspaper's "Weekend Interview" that the US enterprise in Iraq is "anything but conservative" and that it lacks a "certain submission to reality."

Bush agenda:

Time Magazine's Mike Allen reports that Vice President Cheney has seen "better times" but that "all he cares about is history, not today's headlines." LINK

More "record low approval ratings" beame talk show chatter this weekend, courtesy of Newsweek's latest poll numbers. LINK