The Note: All the Vice President's Men



Google "timing is everything" and you get this: "There were about 758,000 Google results for 'timing is everything'."

That might seem like a lot, but it is not enough, really, given that "timing is everything" is The Note's Third Rule of Politics.

The story in the Washington Post LINK about Bob Woodward and Valerie Wilson would have led the morning shows had it come out several weeks ago, and the spin off stories would have gone on for days and days, complete with stakeouts and cable news updates every 18 minutes.

(Now, it appears that the best we can hope for is a Howie Kurtz adjudication of "Woodward v. Pincus.") (Oh, and blogging from all sides by the bucketful on the whole Post account, what with it being full of holes.)

With the President on foreign soil, what some have cast as a meta-historic bipartisan rebuke of Mr. Bush on his Iraq policy is in fact something the White House welcomes -- a victory really. So timing isn't an issue on that.

Ditto on Washington Post Cheney-oil company executive story and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting stories. No questions of timing here either, so don't be fooled.

Getting only the vaguest of news summaries of all this from Dan Bartlett, President and Mrs. Bush are in Busan, Korea today. The First Couple will head to Gyeongju, Korea later this evening where President Bush will meet with the President of the Republic of Korea at 9:00 pm ET, followed by a 10:15 pm ET press availability.

At 7:10 pm ET, Vice President Cheney delivers remarks at the Frontiers of Freedom Institute 2005 Ronald Reagan Gala to honor retired Sen. Malcolm Wallop (R-WY) at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC. It is unclear if Bob Woodward will be covering the event.

One key moderate female Republican from Maine and a 2008 presidential hopeful from each party are on Judge Alito's Senate dance card today. Here's the full schedule of common courtesy:

9:00 am - 9:45 am - Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME)

10:15 am - 11:00 am - Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC)

11:30 am - 12:30 pm - Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE)

2:00 pm - 2:45 pm - Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA)

3:15 pm - 4:00 pm - Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT)

4:30 pm - 5:15 pm - Sen. George Allen (R-VA)

At 12:30 pm ET, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) will outline the Judiciary Committee's process for the Alito confirmation hearings at a speech before the US Chamber of Commerce.

The House Democratic leadership is scheduled to address reporters at 10:00 am ET on the debate over torture of detainees.

At noon ET, Sens. Bayh (D-IN), Brownback (R-KS), and Lieberman (D-CT) will hold a Senate gallery press conference to "unveil a legislative proposal to help America break its dangerous dependence on foreign oil."

Speaker Hastert (R-IL) holds a 10:30 am ET photo opportunity with the Dalai Lama at the Capitol.

Former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), E.J. Dionne, Jr., and Gwen Ifil hosted the release of the latest Harvard University Institute of Politics poll of America's college students at 9:00 am ET at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC.

Sen. Bingaman (D-NM) holds a 11:00 am ET press conference call to call for the restoration of funding to "education programs that are key priorities for the Hispanic community."

At 2:00 pm ET, Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) will announce his legislative proposals concerning keeping kid's safe, part of his "Year of the Child" package for the next legislative session in Albuquerque, NM. At 2:45 pm ET, he will give the keynote address at "The Innocent Victims of Meth in New Mexico A Call to Action Conference."

The delegations from the Texas academic institutions hoping to house the George W. Bush Presidential Library wrap up their presentations at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC, with ABC News Political Unit interns swarming the hallways off DeSales Street like locusts.

The Fitzgerald investigation:

It turns out, per the Washington Post, that Bob Woodward testified under oath on Monday at Patrick Fitzgerald's request. LINK

The lede:

"Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward testified under oath Monday in the CIA leak case that a senior Administration official told him about CIA operative Valerie Plame and her position at the agency nearly a month before her identity was disclosed."

The Post story and Woodward's statement raise as many questions as they answer.

The big ones:

1. Why is this happening now?

2. Who was Woodward's first source?

3. What is Fitzgerald looking for?

The Washington guessing game on (2) -- fairly or not -- already includes Vice President Cheney, although a senior Administration official, speaking to ABC News' Jessica Yellin, "laughed" at the suggestion that Cheney was Woodward's source. (Note Note: we wonder if that was one of those laughs like Senator Clinton laughs when asked reportorial questions).

(And remember how the blogs treated Mr. Woodward's indictment-eve Larry King Live appearance: LINK and LINK and LINK)

Also: Was the motive of Woodward's source simple fear of being discovered, or is it more interesting? And did Bob really think, perhaps based on past experience, that this would stay hidden? And did Woodward's original source consult HIM before outing HIM to Fitzgerald?

And/or this development could end up helping Libby, since it is possible that he heard the name from Woodward long before he claimed to have heard it from Russert (and perhaps from his government colleagues), and he could claim he was confused and displaying simply a faulty memory when he told the FBI and the grand jury he heard it from Russert. Also, as Libby's lawyer points out, if Woodward is right, Libby was not the first government official to identify Wilson's wife as working at the CIA, as Fitzgerald claimed.

The Post might also be caught up in a series of the kinds of media-story controversies that have bedeviled the New York Times, with Woodward in the Judy Miller role. (Will The Note be the first to use the phrase "Mr. Run Amok"?)

Here's the text of Woodward's statement: LINK

One possible criticism, raised by the Village Voice in its latest issue: Woodward has been talking down the significance of the leak story in broadcast appearances, without telling of his role. LINK

Also, Woodward's account differs in at least one key respect with that of one of his colleague Walter Pincus, and the Post and Woodward are withholding certain details, including the names of his sources.

Perhaps of a piece with the blockbuster Post story is an Eric Lichtblau piece in the New York Times saying the Libby defense strategy will involve seeking Notes from not only Tim Russert, Matt Cooper, and Judy Miller, but also from a host of other reporters, including Robert Novak. LINK (Of course, the Wall Street Journal tread on much of this same ground recently.)

Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) predicts that a trial in the Libby case will help move forward a media shield law, reports The Hill. Says Pence, who has allied himself with Judy Miller, "Even an imperfect journalist deserves protection of [the] First Amendment." LINK

Politics of Iraq:

The Washington Post's Dan Balz analyzes yesterday's developments in the Senate thusly: "It would have been easy for Republicans to defeat the Democratic amendment and leave it at that, but given the state of public opinion and the opposition to Bush's policies, Republicans needed a vehicle to show constituents that they understand the public's frustration and to signal to the White House that they expect more than statements of optimism about the pace of a conflict in which American troops are dying almost every day." LINK

The Washington Post's Shailagh Murray and Jonathan Weisman write for the newspaper's front page that the day's debate "reflected clear unease in both parties about the Administration's Iraq policy – and a new willingness by the Senate to insist that Bush provide more clarity on how he intends to exit Iraq." LINK

In spite of Republican denials, the New York Times' Carl Hulse concludes that yesterday's Iraq amendment vote was yet another slap at the President by members of his own party. LINK

"While the practical consequences of the bipartisan vote on the Republican proposal may be limited and largely symbolic, the willingness of most Senate Republicans to join with most Democrats to prod the Bush administration on the war represented new determination to distance themselves from the White House in the face of dwindling public support for operations in Iraq."

Bill Kristol, writing in the Daily Standard, apparently, doesn't agree with the White House official take, writing, "With today's vote in the Senate, the Republican leadership, apparently working hand in glove with White House staff, showed itself today to be tactically myopic and politically timid." LINK

In an op-ed in The Washington Times, Tony Blankley writes: "The Republican senators either no longer believe in the mission or fear an unhappy electorate more than they fear the consequences of failure in Iraq. In all events whether disillusioned or cynical or principled, whether Republican or Democratic, the majority of senators who are pushing for this want to get us out of Iraq more than they want us to succeed." LINK

USA Today's Susan Page compares the latest poll numbers on Iraq with public sentiment about Vietnam in the spring of 1970. LINK

The editorial board of the Nation's Newspaper writes today that "Bush's only change of gaining [public] support is to admit what's obvious beyond the White House walls: That the war was a mistake." LINK

The Los Angeles Times sees the Iraq amendment as the Senate's "first direct challenge to President Bush on the war" and a signal of a "more active role by Congress in pushing for an end to U.S. involvement in Iraq." LINK

In an interview with British network ITV1, Tony Blair said it is "entirely reasonable" to "talk about the possibility" that the troops could begin leaving Iraq within a year. LINK

A Note to young reporters who have never even heard of I.F. Stone:

A reader writes (actually, the "reader" is John Isaacs, the legendary figure of the Council for a Livable World):

"Yesterday, in The Note, you said:"

"'On the Republican Senate gambit on Iraq:'"

"'1. Why did the New York Times get a newspaper semi-exclusive on the release of the plan?'"

"Actually, the information that the New York Times reported on Monday was hiding in plain sight since Friday. The Levin and Warner amendments, and some discussion of the amendments, were placed in the Thursday Congressional Record, available Friday at least electronically if not a written version."

"I was surprised to see that no newspaper reported the amendments on Saturday. At that point, I called a reporter with another large newspaper -- not the New York Times -- to tell them about the amendments and suggest they write a story. However, it being a weekend, with few reporters working, nothing happened to the story."

"Thus the New York Times 'semi-exclusive' was available to all who spent some of their weekend reading the Congressional Record. Apparently, most reporters think that there are more fun things to do on weekends."

Dear fellow journalists: raise your hand if this embarrasses you.

Alito for Associate Justice:

In an interview with Bloomberg's James Rowley, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) discusses the Democratic strategy of not confronting Alito on abortion directly in favor of developing a "broad critique of his judicial philosophy." LINK

"Abortion 'just absolutely stratifies people in America,' Durbin said in an interview yesterday in Washington. 'They have made their minds up. But if you engage them to talk about some of the principles involved here and the constitutional questions, they are more open to it.'"

"The Democratic strategy is to discuss Alito's views on abortion within 'the larger context' of the constitutional principle of privacy, from which flows issues such as the right of families to make end-of-life decisions for loved ones and that of couples to use birth control, Durbin said."

The Washington Post's Babington and Russakoff lede with Alito assuring Democratic Senators that his 1985 views do not necessarily indicate how he might rule on abortion cases. But the Washington Post duo has "at least one prominent conservative" who supports Alito saying that he should "not be allowed to distance himself from the 1985 remarks. 'This idea that all the folks on the Reagan Administration were all apparatchiks who didn't believe what they were saying and writing is surreal,' said Bruce Fein, who also was a Justice Department official during Ronald Reagan's presidency. 'In Alito's memos, it's clear that he wasn't writing these things because he was forced to do so. He wrote them because he believed them.'" LINK

The New York Times gives prominent play to Sen. Dianne Feinstein's comments yesterday that she thought Judge Alito was being "very sincere" in explaining that his 1985 comments about abortion were unrelated to the way he interprets the law. LINK

A New York Times editorial says the new Alito papers should set off alarm bells and reveal that the nominee is an extremist, an ideologue, and a judge who does not respect precedent. LINK

Michael Kranish of the Boston Globe reports that according to former co-worker, Albert Lauber, Judge Alito was actually very "instrumental" in writing that Roe. v. Wade brief. LINK

The Washington Post's columnizing Harold Meyerson suggests what he says is the logical fallacies of Alito's champions: "Alito's champions would have us believe, however, that he will defer even to precedents that he regards as unconstitutional – despite the fact that the job of a justice is precisely what is and isn't constitutional." LINK

"Do Alito's constitutional views count for nothing? Did George W. Bush appoint him simply to leave everything as is?"

Keying off of a law review article that Alito wrote in 1975, the Wall Street Journal's Jess Bravin talks to Alito critics who think President Bush's Supreme Court pick will read liberal Court precedents in such a way that "diminishes their scope without explicitly overruling them."

Big Casino budget politics:

The tax bill passed by the Senate Finance Committee yesterday "greatly aggravates the disarray among Republicans over both tax cuts and spending cuts," writes the New York Times' Andrews, with its new oil-profit taxes and its failure to extend the President's 2001 tax cuts on stock dividends and capital gains. LINK

The dispute over whether to extend the Bush tax cuts will set up a "likely showdown" between the House and Senate, the Los Angeles times predicts. LINK

The Hill reports that vulnerable Republican Senators are balking at Sen. Specter's plans to cut $1 billion of their pet projects from the appropriations spending bill. LINK

Will ANWR make it back into the reconciliation bill? The Hill on the amorphous entity that is a bill in conference. LINK

Bush agenda:

Per the Washington Post's Dana Milbank and Justin Blum, a White House document shows that Big Oil executives met with Vice President Cheney's energy task force in 2001 – "something long suspected by environmentalists but denied as recently as last week by industry officials testifying before Congress." LINK

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) will ask the Justice Department today to investigate whether oil executives lied to a congressional committee last week.

"'The White House went to great lengths to keep these meetings secret, and now oil executives may be lying to Congress about their role in the Cheney task force,' Lautenberg said."

Will this one make the networks and the Thursday papers?

FEMA's decision to stop hotel room payments for Katrina evacuees on Dec. 1 is drawing some fire from Capitol Hill, reports the New York Times. LINK

Cindy Sheehan plans to return to Camp Casey in Crawford Texas over the Thanksgiving holiday. LINK

The politics of national security:

Per the Los Angeles Times, the Senate's compromise yesterday on Guantanamo inmates' rights was criticized yesterday by some "legal experts" for the "hasty way senators were tackling such complex issues." LINK

Suggestions that planes used by the CIA to transport terrorism suspects made stopovers in Spain threaten to further erode ties between Washington and Madrid, reports the New York Times. LINK


Rep. Charles Bass (R-NH) tells the New Hampshire Union-Leader that it's time for new leadership in the GOP. "When we have our majority leader being indicted and a bridge to nowhere, then it's time for us to reflect upon the Republican Party," Bass said. LINK


For the Washington Post's Federal Page, Tom Edsall looks at the rapid rise of David Safavian before he was indicted in connection with the investigation of Jack Abramoff. LINK


If Hillary Clinton faces either John McCain or Rudy Giuliani in November 2008, she's got her work cut out for her to win Florida's 27 electoral votes according to the latest Quinnipiac University poll numbers out of the Sunshine State.

However, Florida Democrats would like to see Sen. Clinton as their nominee. She bests John Kerry by a 2 to 1 margin and John Edwards loses nearly 3 to 1 in the hypothetical match-up.

Rudy Giuliani may soon become the pitchman to move Florida's Republican primary to the head of the pack in 2008. From the Quinnipiac release: "Among [Florida] Republican voters, Giuliani leads with 56 percent, followed by Arizona Sen. John McCain with 27 percent and Virginia Sen. George Allen with 9 percent."

2008: Democrats:

Ian Bishop of The New York Post excerpts parts of a fundraising letter from Sen. Clinton to her supporters. LINK

Note the Senator's caution in directly confronting the President on anything other than budget priorities and tax cuts for the wealthy.

Sen. Biden appears quite familiar with Sen. Edwards' voting record on Iraq in an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. LINK

On Edwards' recent Washington Post mea culpa for his Iraq war vote, Biden told the paper, "I think he did make a mistake. He voted for the war and against funding it, I think that was a mistake."

2008: Republicans: Sen. Hagel:

In a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations on Tuesday, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) criticized the Bush Administration for its recent pushback against Iraq war critics.

"The Bush Administration must understand that each American has a right to question our policies in Iraq and elsewhere and should not be demonized for disagreeing with them. Suggesting that to challenge or criticize policy is undermining and hurting our troops is not democracy, nor what this country has stood for, for over 200 years," Hagel said. LINK

During the question and answer period that followed his speech, Hagel warned that "there will be consequences" if the Bush Administration continues to demonize critics of the Iraq war.

"The American people will not put up with that," he said.

In a departure from Republican orthodoxy, Hagel said the United States "should begin drawing down forces in Iraq next year."

Sounding very much like Brent Scowcroft, Hagel said, "Great powers succeed when they understand their limitations."

Hagel said yesterday that the Vietnam War in which he served "was a national tragedy partly because members of Congress failed their country, remained silent and lacked the courage to challenge the Administrations in power until it was too late."

The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler Notes that while answering a question from the audience about Syria, "Hagel suggested that the Middle East is worse off after the invasion because the Administration failed to anticipate the consequences of removing Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. 'You could probably argue it is worse in many ways in the Middle East because of consequences and ripple effects,' he said." LINK

The Washington Times highlights Hagel's call for a ministerial-level security conference on Iraq to focus on "the three pillars of Mideast stability -- security, political and economic." LINK

In his coverage of yesterday's Senate debate, the Wall Street Journal's David Rogers contrasts Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's warning against any fixed timetables with Hagel saying that the Senate had "engaged in a legitimate debate over exit strategy."

2008: Republicans:

Bloomberg reports that Paul Singer is poised to exceed George Soros as this cycle's biggest hedge-fund giver. Singer, who gives almost exclusively to Republicans, has given more to Sen. George Allen (R-VA) than to anyone else. LINK

In an editorial that criticizes the current budget debate as a charade, the Wall Street Journal's ed board praises '08ers McCain and Brownback for joining with five first-term Republicans to propose some genuine cost cutting.

Gov. Romney (R-MA) warned school leaders Tuesday in a speech on improving education that, "Unless we take action, we'll end up being the France of the 21st century: A lot of talk, but not a lot of strength behind it in terms of economic capability," reports the AP. LINK

The Boston Globe also covers Romney's anti-French remarks. LINK

We wonder how much national exposure Gov. Pataki (R-NY) will get over his fury at a judge's ruling that New York State was illegally holding recently released sex offenders in mental institutions.

The New York Daily News wood: LINK

Page two of the New York Post: LINK


The New York Post reports that Republican Senate hopeful Jeanine Pirro refused to endorse Alito yesterday. LINK

Eric Fettmann begins his op-ed in this mornings New York Post with a question: "Who would have thought, back when she first took office, that the New York Republican Party would be unable to come up with a credible issue -- let alone a strong candidate -- against Hillary Rodham Clinton's re-election bid?" LINK

The New York Daily News reports that Jeanine Pirro criticized Sen. Clinton for attending a birthday party for Sen. Byrd, because he was briefly a KKK member. LINK

The Hill reports on the departure of Rep. Katherine Harris's (R-FL) campaign manager citing worries about her fundraising capabilities. LINK


The Daily Press says that the Virginia state election for attorney general is so close, it may require a recount. 446 votes separate the two candidates. LINK

Political potpourri:

Democratic speechwriter and guru Bob Shrum has signed on the dotted line, receiving a six-figure deal for his first-ever book. He tells the New York Observer's Ben Smith that the memoir, pegged for a spring 2007 release date, will be "about politics and what I've seen, the lessons I draw from it." LINK

Former Virginia Gov. James Gilmore tells the Washington Times that he will be a candidate for public office again. Says Gilmore: "The Republican Party is going to have to make a decision that it will have to make a stand on principles and values." LINK

Tuesday's report that former Corporation for Public Broadcasting Chairman Kenneth Tomlinson violated the law and the corporation's rules is the "first detailed and official inside look at the dynamics of the corporation as some of its career staff members have struggled with conservative Republican appointees seeking to change its direction," says the New York Times. LINK

The New York Times reports on its front page that papers filed by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement said yesterday that former DHS secretary nominee Bernard Kerik accepted tens of thousands of dollars from a construction company with ties to organized crime during his tenure as New York City correction commissioner. LINK

The White House Christmas ornament is revealed. LINK

Cindy Adams dishes that Harold Ickes had to go to the hospital after a minor accident involving a pothole and his motorcycle. Says Cindy, "The only thing really hurt is his ego." LINK

The New York Daily News has excerpts from a Rolling Stone interview in which Madonna says she's hopeful voters will see Bush for what he really is. LINK