The Note: Plan, Plan, Plan



Which is more difficult: measuring America's progress in the war in Iraq or measuring the President's progress in selling the Notion of progress in the war in Iraq?

Before our regular Thursday "Worst of. . ." feature, here's the scientific scorecard on the second matrix metric item.

Crucial ommissions blah blah blah.

Nothing new blah blah blah.

Belated acknowledgement of errors blah blah blah.

Out of touch blah blah blah.

Political calculation blah blah blah.

Not listening blah blah blah.

Failed to satisfy critics blah blah blah.

No specifics blah blah blah.

Gave no ground blah blah blah.

Only speaking at military facilities blah blah blah.

Cut off from reality blah blah blah.

No commitment to a timetable blah blah blah.

And/but, how about this Los Angeles Times headline: "Bush Is Now in Step With His Generals"?

And if you look at the other headlines, the jump headlines, the pull quotes, the front-page photos in papers from sea to shining sea, the tone of the TV coverage, and the bounce stories (Note the Iraqi troop training pieces. . . .), we are almost certainly amidst the best series of mini-news cycles the Bush Administration has had on the Iraq war in eons and eons.

Let the blogs go wild; let the White House staff realize that they have miles to go before they sleep; let congressional Democrats decide if the Murtha/Pelosi Plan is more attractive to endorse than the Murtha Plan was; let the process-obsessed media start gearing up for the next Bush Iraq speech; and let's get right to The Note's Worst of Awards!!!!

Worst sign for the White House that they will have to stay in campaign mode for some time to come: The Washington Post's Michael Fletcher plays Leader Pelosi's backing of the Murtha resolution in paragraph three of his news of day speech coverage story. LINK

Worst news for the Democratic opposition on Iraq: Thomas Riehle's poll analysis in Peter Baker's Washington Post news analysis stating Americans are as skeptical of war critics as they are of the war and Democrats do not appear to be in a position to drive opinion. LINK

Worst headline for John Kerry's main talking point: That one from the Los Angeles Times: "Bush Is Now in Step With His Generals" LINK

Worst Analysis from Nicolle Wallace's Standpoint of the President's Speech: The Wall Street Journal's Dreazen and McKinnon writing that Bush left out accusations that Shiite and Kurdish security forces are torturing and killing Sunni civilians, "raising the specter of civil war." LINK

Worst Sign for Anyone Hoping that the Money for Journalism Story Was Going to Go Away Anytime Soon: Today's Philadelphia Inquirer report saying that the US military's efforts at manipulating the media in Iraq are more extensive than first reported in yesterday's Los Angeles Times.

Worst Sign for Democrats Who Think They Have a Shot at Regaining Control of Congress in 2006: In a spot-on analysis, Elisabeth Bumiller writes in the New York Times that the President's push-back on Iraq is not driven by concerns about Republicans losing control of Congress next year -- both sides of the aisle, she says, agree that's not likely to happen -- but instead by worries that support for the war could drop enough by 2008 that Congress would hold back funding of the troops in a "cut and run" strategy. LINK

Worst story if your name is Mark Pfeifle or Brian Walton: Doug Struck of the Washington Post's piece on unchanging facts on the ground. LINK

Worst Editorial for Partisan Fundraising Appeals: The Washington Post on the dirty little secret that there is much more agreement than disagreement between many Democrats and the Administration on the path forward in Iraq. LINK

Worst Sign for Supporters of Sen. Hillary Clinton's Potential to Run as "America's Version of Iron Lady Thatcher" Who Are Hoping That the New York Tabloids Will Someday Slack Off: Both tabs have stories about the increased heat on the New York Senator for her stance on the Iraq war. LINK and LINK

Worst Story for Murtha Supporters: John Podhoretz, writing in the New York Post, says Murtha revitalized the President and his supporters on the Iraq war. LINK

Worst Evidence for Anyone Trying to Disprove the Notion the New York Times Editorial Board Skews Left: The New York Times says in an editorial the President's speech was a "tired" "rehash" of old arguments, offered a "false choice," and was "misleading" on the state of the Iraqi military's progress. LINK

Worst Perceived Risk for the President: Judy Keen and Richard Benedetto have it in their USA Today news analysis. LINK

Worst Story for Republican Senators from Maine and Rhode Island: The New York Times ledes with the Alito abortion memo story -- instead of the President's speech -- and has Steve Schmidt saying that suggestions that the memo says how Alito will rule on abortion from the Court "cross the border into silly land." But David Kirkpatrick also calls out Republican Sens. Collins, Snowe, and Chafee, saying the memo "ratchets up the pressure on the handful of Republican senators who support abortion rights." LINK

What say you, Senators? And your homestate papers!!???

Worst Problem for Americans Hoping to Shed Stealthiness in the Alito Debate: Charles Hurt in the Washington Times. LINK

Worst-case SCOTUS tea-leaf reading for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England: The Washington Post's Charles Lane Noticing Justice Ginsburg's possible inclination to find a compromise solution and not declare the New Hampshire parental notification law completely unconstitutional. LINK

Worst On The Record Quote Carl Forti Will Read This Morning: From Bloomberg News' look at the "culture of corruption" label Democrats are trying to hang on Republicans. "'We can't afford to be portrayed as `K Street conservatives,' [Rep. Jeff] Flake (R-AZ) said, referring to the Washington area that is home to many lobbying firms and trade groups. `That's what we're looking like.'"

Worst Duke Cunningham Revelation: Matt Kelley and Jim Drinkard have it in USA Toda: businessman had contact with lots Republicans. LINK

Worst Story If You Ever Received Government Contracts Courtesy of Cunningham's Help: The Los Angeles Times on Chairman Hoekstra's inquiry. LINK

Worst Omen for the Drug Benefit Program: Per Robert Pear in the New York Times, the GAO report yesterday found "serious, widespread" problems in the Medicare drug discount program, including inaccurate information, low use of the cards due to confusion about the benefit, and the use of the cards to buy drugs forbidden by Congress. LINK

Worst Outlook for the New York GOP: Fresh calls yesterday by Republicans for Jeanine Pirro to drop her candidacy for Senate -- including by prominent upstate New York Rep. John Sweeney -- are just another sign of the state Republican Party's disarray and leadership void, reports the New York Times. LINK

Worst Sign for GOPers Hoping Schwarzenegger Will Govern as a Republican: LINK and LINK

Worst Problem for Reporters Hoping '08ers Would Take the Holidays Off: Pataki -- like Romney -- is headed to the Granite State, the Union Leader's DiStaso reports. LINK

Worst Story for Romney's Vegan Schtick: Adam Reilly in the Boston Phoenix. LINK

Worst story for both Mitt Romney and Tom Reilly: For Romney: When Glen Johnson gets a potential presidential candidate in his viewfinder, he stops at nothing. For Reilly: Gov. Romney is all but indicating he will wait until the very end of his decision-making window before announcing. LINK

And don't miss how Johnson takes the opportunity to point out yet another difference between Massachusetts and Idaho -- two states not unfamiliar to the last candidate in his line of sight.

Worst Sign for New York Times Executives Hoping that Times Select Wouldn't Lead to Fewer Readers: Maureen Dowd's comments in a Texas Monthly Talks interview with Evan Smith. LINK

As for today's best schedule items:

President Bush makes remarks on World AIDS Day at 9:55 am ET. Later today, the President is scheduled sign legislation requesting that a statue of Rosa Parks be placed in the US Capitol. He will also meet with the Archbishop of Washington, DC and participate in the Pageant of Peace with Mrs. Bush. The President will light the national Christmas tree at 5:00 pm ET.

ABC's Karen Travers reports that President Bush will talk about keeping the United States' commitment to fighting AIDS globally and how it was a historical commitment. President Bush will also announce new treatment numbers through his Administration's emergency plan.

Per White House deputy press secretary Trent Duffy, "'President Bush remains committed to the global fight against AIDS and delivering on the US commitment to provide $15 billion [before 2009]."

The Administration continues its Iraq war public relations offensive at 9:10 am ET when Gen. Peter Pace, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, makes remarks on "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq" at the National Defense University.

The President's second in a series of speeches on Iraq will be next week in Washington, DC.

The Democratic National Committee's rescheduled fall meeting convenes today in Phoenix, AZ. Most of the day is dedicated to Association of State Democratic Chairs meetings. The Resolutions Committee is scheduled to meet at 6:30 pm ET.

The Republican Governors Association continues its annual conference in Carlsbad, CA where RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman will deliver 1:15 pm ET remarks focused on immigration and Iraq. According to a copy of his speech as prepared for delivery obtained by ABC News, on Iraq Mehlman will argue that Democratic critics of the President such as Sens. Reid, Biden, and Feingold actually agree with much of the President's plan to train Iraqi forces, encourage the democratic process, and increase reconstruction efforts.

According to his prepared remarks, Mehlman will say: "If I didn't know better, I might think Senator Biden had written that op-ed by simply sitting down and copying the President's plan," referring to a Washington Post op-ed about Iraq that the Gentleman from Delaware recently wrote.

Note the RNC chairman's use of the words "Biden" and "copying" in the same sentence!

In a prebuttal emailed to reporters, Biden spokesman Norm Kurz writes: "Indeed, only Mr. Mehlman could be unaware that Sen. Biden has expressed his views often on Iraq -- sometimes supportive of the President and sometimes offered as constructive criticism -- since 2002."

On immigration, Mehlman will invoke Ronald Reagan's politics of "and" and stress that the United States is both a nation of immigrants AND a nation of laws.

The Mehlman speech will be followed by the much-anticipated McInturff, Murphy, Stevens, and Wadhams panel on 2006 and 2008 moderated by Kate O'Bierne. Incoming RGA Chairman Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) holds his first press conference as chairman at 2:15 pm ET.

The American Democracy Conference -- co-hosted by the Center for Politics and National Journal's The Hotline -- convenes at Hotel Washington today.

The conference brings together leading journalists, Beltway insiders, and academics to examine: "Setting the Table: The 2005 Off Year Elections and the 2006 Midterm Elections."

Larry Sabato moderates a panel discussion on "The Declining Bush Mandate" at 9:00 am ET, John Mercurio moderates a discussion on "The 2006 Midterms" at 10:30 am ET, and Chuck Todd moderates a discussion on "Seeing Red: What's Next for the Republicans" at 12:00 pm ET.

Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar and Acting Director of Detention and Removal Operations John Torres hold a 10:00 am ET operational briefing on the "Secure Border Initiative" at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, DC.

Gov. Jim Doyle (D-WI) holds a 2:00 pm ET hearing in Milwaukee, WI where oil executives from five major oil companies will answer questions about "the rising cost of home heating and high gasoline prices following Hurricane Katrina."

Opponents of the budget bill that was recently approved by the House will gather for a "prayer vigil" outside Speaker Hastert's district office in Batavia, IL at 11:30 am ET.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales addresses the Council on Foreign Relations in New York this evening.

At The Henry Ford in Dearborn, MI today, Democratic Sens. Clinton, Boxer, Levin, and Cantwell and Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D-MI) will help raise funds for Sen. Stabenow's reelection campaign.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) headlines a fundraiser for Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY) in New York City on this evening.