The Note: Party On



Stuff we all might know by this Sunday at 9 pm ET:

Where Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe stand on Judge Alito's abortion paper trail; whether the House Democratic caucus is with Leader Pelosi or Whip Hoyer on the Murtha plan; whether Jeanine Pirro will be a candidate for the United States Senate in 2006; how many shameless e-mails new Vanity Fair national editor Todd S. Purdum can get in a 48-hour period requesting invitations to the magazine's Oscar party LINK; what John Warner plans to do about Pentagon efforts to place without fingerprints editorial content in Iraqi newspapers; and if the White House takes comfort from the new Fox News poll.

On the other hand:

Stuff we probably won't know by this Sunday at 9 pm ET:

Who all these leakers are inside the Bush Administration and what can be done to stop them; whether the leading Republican to win the nomination to face Hillary Clinton in 2006 will have more or less than $1 million in the bank on January 31, 2006; which political party will work harder in the next 9 months to make the Medicare prescription drug benefit a success; what the President will say in the State of the Union about tax reform and Social Security; and how much success Republicans at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue are having in getting/taking credit for the economy.

President Bush will crow about the vibrancy of America's economy -- as suggested by today's job figures and booming stock market -- at 10:45 am ET in the Rose Garden.

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) talks with reporters in the Senate Gallery Studio at 12:00 pm ET after meeting with Judge Samuel Alito at 10:30 am ET.

The Senate Armed Services Committee holds a closed briefing (time: TBA) on story placement in the Iraqi press. Sen. John Warner (R-VA), the panel's chairman, said in a statement yesterday that he will be able to comment further following the briefing.

Sens. Bill Frist, Robert Bennett, and Mitch McConnell tout third quarter economic figures at a 10:30 am ET press conference on Capitol Hill.

Gov. George Pataki (R-NY) meets with New York Senate candidate Jeanine Pirro today. A spokesman to the governor said yesterday that the two are expected to discuss whether Pirro should drop her bid to topple Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY).

The Pataki-Pirro sitdown comes not long after state Senate Republican Leader Joe Bruno publicly called for Pirro to nix her effort to oust Clinton and to aim instead for the state attorney general's office which is being vacated by Democrat Eliot Spitzer who is running to succeed Pataki as governor. Pataki endorsed Pirro's Senate bid in October.

Sen. Clinton is in the Bluegrass State for a Kentucky Democratic Party fundraiser in Louisville.

Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) will present National Guard life insurance checks to soldiers in Santa Fe at 11:00 am ET.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) delivers 3:30 pm ET remarks about the Democrats' innovation agenda at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, MA and also appears at a Boston-area fundraiser with Rep. John Murtha (D-PA).

Campaign for America's Future holds a discussion, "Why Americans Rejected Bush's 'Raw Deal' on Social Security and What It Means for 2006,' with author Joe Conason and pollster Celinda Lake at 9:30 am ET at the National Press Club.

Vice Adm. Thad Allen, the leader of post-Katrina operations, delivers a 12:45 pm ET keynote address via video feed to a George Washington University symposium on "Katrina: It Reshaped the Gulf Coast -- How Will it Reshape Washington?"

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) holds a black tie birthday celebration in the Hoosier State expected to raise $600,000 for his campaign committee. Bayh's father, ex-Sen. Birch Bayh (D-IN), will deliver remarks at the birthday celebration. The former DLC chair and presidential hopeful turns 50 on Dec. 26.

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) turns 66.

And Sunday on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley and Congressman John Murtha (D-PA) pick up the debate over the war in Iraq and the growing call for withdrawal. Plus, Mr. Stephanopoulos returns to New Orleans for a candid conversation with Mayor Ray Nagin and a firsthand look at the city three months after Katrina.

Fitzgerald investigation:

The New York Times' Stevenson and Jehl break some new ground on some of the content of the (Viveca) Novak/Robert Luskin conversation from late summer/early fall 2004 that inspired the search and revelation of the now-famous Rove email to Stephen Hadley about his conversation with Matt Cooper. LINK

The question the Timesmen indicate is foremost on Fitzgerald's mind from this episode: Was Karl Rove "fully forthcoming with investigators and whether he altered his grand jury testimony about his dealings with reporters only after learning that one, Mr. Cooper, might identify him as a source"?


In a must-read story, the Washington Post's Dan Eggen reports that Justice Department lawyers concluded in 2003 that the Texas congressional redistricting plan spearheaded by then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R) violated the Voting Rights Act, but senior officials overruled them and approved the plan. LINK

"The memo, unanimously endorsed by six lawyers and two analysts in the department's voting section, said the redistricting plan illegally diluted black and Hispanic voting power in two congressional districts. It also said the plan eliminated several other districts in which minorities had a substantial, though not necessarily decisive, influence in elections."

"The 73-page memo, dated Dec. 12, 2003, has been kept under tight wraps for two years. Lawyers who worked on the case were subjected to an unusual gag rule. The memo was provided to The Post by a person connected to the case who is critical of the adopted redistricting map. Such recommendation memos, while not binding, historically carry great weight within the Justice Department."

The story answers many questions but, in typical style Post, raises many more.

DeLay, who typically doesn't engage his congressional challengers, "challenged" ex-Rep. Nick Lampson (D-TX) "to say whether US troops should leave Iraq." LINK

New Hampshire:

In a front-page editorial, fabled New Hampshire Union Leader editor Joseph W. McQuaid makes the case for keeping the first-in-the-nation presidential primary in New Hampshire. Note the blame meted out to various parties. LINK

John DiStaso reports in the Union Leader about Sen. Bill Frist's (R-TN) upcoming trip to New Hampshire, scheduled for next week. LINK

DiStaso also reports that New Hampshire Republican U.S. House members, Reps. Jeb Bradley and Charles Bass, are being pressured by Democrats on a series of issues. LINK

Kevin Landrigan reports in the Nashua Telegraph that a New Hampshire commission has recommended that the state amend its constitution to specify that marriage is between a man and a woman, at least until lawmakers can view data that's decades away regarding whether gay parents raise children as well as husbands and wives. LINK

Politics of Iraq:

"Democratic split on war pleases GOP: Pelosi-backed 'position of retreat' a key issue," blares the front page of the Washington Times. LINK

A "Democrats splinter" headline runs on page 4 of the Washington Post. LINK

Note the "manna from heaven" quote from the DLC's Marshall Wittman. "'If Karl Rove was writing the timing of this, he wouldn't have written it any differently, with the president of the United States expressing resolve and the Democratic leader offering surrender,' Wittmann said, referring to Bush's top adviser. 'For Republicans, this is manna from heaven.'"

"Federal prosecutors arrested a high-ranking officer in the Army Reserve on charges of conspiring to commit bribery, money laundering and theft in connection with a scheme to defraud the Coalition Provisional Authority," the Wall Street Journal reports.

Per the AP, former Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-SC) said America needs to either commit more troops to suppress the insurgents or consider leaving. "'You either have to get in or get out,' Hollings told a homeland security conference in Mount Pleasant on Thursday. 'We are asking the Iraqis to do what we haven't done: secure the country.'" LINK

The politics of prescription drugs:

The Los Angeles Times on the "mounting pressure" to extend the window to enroll in the new Medicare prescription drug benefit currently set to close May 15. LINK

You "must" "read" this one VERY carefully.

Alito for Associate Justice:

The Washington Post's Charles Babington characterizes the meeting Specter has planned with Alito for today as "a sign of Republican nervousness" about Alito credibility questions. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's wirey John Harwood reports that Alito, who still sits on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, "disappoints the right" in a teen-sex survey case.

Charles Hurt of the Washington Times looks at the renewed criticism over Alito and hears "new rumblings that his nomination could be filibustered". LINK

Sen. Schumer uses the "f" word (filibuster) in the New York Times in light of the most recent Alito abortion-related revelations. LINK

The Boston Globe has Sen. Kennedy pushing credibility questions about Alito. LINK

In Thursday's Boston Globe (sue us!), Susan Milligan had Sen. Lincoln Chafee reacting to the latest Alito documents. LINK

"'It's an issue that I care deeply about, and I know how high the emotions are,' Chafee said in an interview in East Greenwich, R.I. 'I think that to pull this country apart on this issue at this time it's not good for our country to wade into this debate right now, when the country is so polarized, with the high emotions associated with it.'"

The politics of propaganda:

The New York Times on Gen. Casey's initial attempt to avoid talking about the paid propaganda program revealed this week and on Chairman Warner's calling for a closed-door briefing on the matter today: LINK

The Los Angeles Times reports that the Associated Press is investigating to see if any of its photos were improperly used by the government accompanying any of the published articles. LINK

"Loathsome and damaging" is how the Washington Post editorial board's describes the Pentagon's Iraqi media propaganda. LINK


Pat Healy of the New York Times gets Jeanine Pirro committing to her Senate run on the record, but reports that some observers believe Gov. Pataki my be able to provide some political cover by asking her publicly to switch to the Attorney General's race. LINK

Healy also has some great details on back-channel discussions between Pataki and Cox aides on what it might take to get Cox back into the Senate race should Pirro depart from it.

Oh, and, Michael Bloomberg, once again, tells Joe Bruno and anyone who will listen that he is not running for governor.

". . .a state Senate source familiar with Pirro's campaign said research was under way Thursday on whether she could use the money she has raised for a federal race in a state run. It turns out she can use some, but not all of it," reports the Albany Times-Union's Elizabeth Benjamin. LINK

Fredric U. Dicker reports in the New York Post that Pirro is holding an "emergency summit" with Pataki to determine whether she should pull out of the race. LINK

Owen Moritz at the New York Daily News has sources hinting that Pataki may nudge Pirro from the race. LINK

The economy:

The Bush/Cheney/Evans economy got a shiny segment in the first half-hour of NBC's "Today" show this morning with CNBC's Jim Cramer giving rave reviews for retail sales, the stock market, and jobs.

Cramer went on to say that home heating is the one thing keeping America' economy from being great instead of just good.

"The President's in the bunker. It's a really great story he could tell, but he doesn't seem to be that adept at it anymore," added Cramer.

RGA does La Costa:

Michael Finnegan of the Los Angeles Times turns in a must-read on the RGA gathering in Carlsbad, CA (which he Notes is Duke Cunningham's old district) and gets Gov. Pawlenty (R-MN) and consultant Mike Murphy (R-ROMNEY) to sound far more concerned about the political landscape than Ken Mehlman does. LINK

"'You'd have to be really disconnected from reality to not see and admit that Republicans nationally have gone through a tough patch here the last six or eight months,' Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said. 'We should just acknowledge that.'"

The Boston Globe has Pawlenty saying: "people are smart enough to distinguish between Congress and governors." LINK

The Washington Post's Dan Balz devotes his LaCosta coverage to RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman urging his party to oppose rising anti-immigrant sentiments in the debate over border security and illegal immigration, suggesting that the GOP risks being on the wrong side of history and electoral politics alike. LINK

Politics of the death penalty:

The one-thousandth execution in the United States since 1977 when the Supreme Court allowed states to reinstate capital punishment was carried out early this morning in Raleigh, NC after Gov. Mike Easley (D-NC) denied clemency to Kenneth Lee Boyd.

Even though the US crossed the landmark, the Washington Post's Peter Slevin sees signs that more Americans are expressing doubts about the death penalty. LINK

"Public opinion polls show that nearly two-thirds of Americans support the death penalty, but that is a significant drop from the peak, in 1994, when 80 percent of respondents told Gallup pollsters they were in favor of capital punishment. When asked if they would endorse executions if the alternative sentence of life without parole were available, support fell to 50 percent."

The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne thinks Warner's recent decision to grant clemency will be seen in coming years as a "landmark" in the nation's debate over capital punishment. LINK

"Even supporters of the death penalty now have doubts about how it is administered," writes Dionne of Warner's decision.


Prosecutors investigating Jack Abramoff "are examining whether he brokered lucrative jobs for Congressional aides at powerful lobbying firms in exchange for legislative favors, people involved in the case have said," reports Anne Kornblut of the New York Times. LINK

More Kornblut: "The hiring pattern is 'very much a part of' what prosecutors are focusing on, a person involved in the case said. Another participant confirmed that investigators were trying to determine whether aides conducted 'job negotiations with Jack Abramoff' while they were in a position to help him on Capitol Hill."

Former DeLay aide Tony Rudy and former Ney aide Neil Volz who both moved from their congressional offices to Greenberg Traurig are under particular scrutiny, Kornblut adds.

The AP reports that Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) is now opening up to his past dealings with Abramoff in years past. LINK

Dorgan told the AP: "I never met Jack Abramoff but I am appalled by what we have learned about his actions. So I have never felt there was any conflict in my helping to lead that investigation."

2008: Democrats:

Trying to show a different side of herself, Sen. Clinton will do a sit down interview with Jane Pauley at an event in California that will be broadcast on C-SPAN. Carla Marinucci of the San Francisco Chronicle talks with Bill Whalen, a research fellow with the conservative Hoover Institution at Stanford University, who says "It allows Hillary to be here, and not have to cater to the San Francisco audience . . . she doesn't want to be a candidate of the left and doesn't want to appear beholden to the left. Her strategy is the same as her husband's (as president) -- triangulating." LINK

Ian Bishop reports in the New York Post that Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) wants the TSA to continue to ban sharp objects from airplanes, and said so yesterday in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. LINK

Gov. Richardson's recent revelation about his previously incorrect assertion that he had been drafted by the A's gets some ribbing from Tom Ruprecht on the New York Times op-ed page. LINK

The Detroit News reports, lawyer Geoffrey Fieger "faces a federal grand jury investigation into whether he concealed $35,000 in campaign contributions to John Edwards' Democratic bid for president in 2004." LINK

Our favorite quote: "'If you were a trial lawyer, who would you give to -- Bush or John Edwards?' Fieger said. 'This is a no-brainer.'"

And the Edwards camp response courtesy of spokesgal Kim Rubey: "The Edwards for President 2004 campaign held itself to the highest standards and went above and beyond legal requirements for campaign finance compliance. Senator Edwards expects his staff and supporters to meet these standards."

2008: Republicans:

In a 2008 story of Note, Ralph Z. Hallow of the Washington Times labels Sen. George Allen (R-VA) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) as frontrunners at present for the GOP '08 nomination. LINK

Hallow writes that although Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) is also mentioned frequently, many party officials say his Mormonism is unlikely to play well with evangelical Christians.

The Smoky Mountain News reports Allen will be the featured speaker Saturday December 10 at the "Charles Taylor Fourteenth Annual Holiday Dinner" in Asheville, NC. It "is the largest sit-down political dinner in North Carolina." LINK

Gov. Sanford comes under fire for waiting on legislation to give him permission to lower state flags in honor of Rosa Parks. LINK

2006 Massachusetts Democratic gubernatorial candidate Deval Patrick calls for Gov. Romney's resignation as a result of his consistent out of state travel, "I think he should resign. All around the state, almost every (business) person I've talked to said they've never had a conversation with him." LINK

Kimberly Atkins reports in the Boston Herald that Democrats blasted Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for ignoring his state's business base. LINK

Barbara Slavin reports in USA Today that Condoleezza Rice won't discuss future political aspirations. LINK

Bush Administration and agenda:

For the Wall Street Journal's "Politics and Policy" page, Greg Hitt and Bob Davis take a step back and look at efforts on the part of a "politically weakened" Bush Administration to show "flexibility" on labor rights in the hopes of picking up Democratic support for trade agreements. LINK

The New York Times on the President being called for jury duty. LINK

Secretary Chertoff gave some vague hints of a soon-to-be-announced immigration or citizenship verification program for employers that the Department of Homeland Security will implement and then use for more strict enforcement, reports the New York Times' Eric Lipton. LINK

The Schwarzenegger Era:

Some California Republicans are expressing their frustration with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R-CA) post-special election march to the middle, reports the Los Angeles Times' Jordan Rau. (Dan Schnur wisely cautions that Schwarzenegger still has some time to "convince conservative voters that the Democratic alternative would be much more frightening.") LINK

Schwarzenegger's administration "violated state law by producing fake news videos touting his proposals to soften an array of pro-labor laws, including one to water down nurse-to-patient staffing ratios, a judge ruled Thursday," writes Dan Morain of the Los Angeles Times. LINK

The Dukester:

"More than a dozen Republican lawmakers and challengers" have returned (or announced intentions to do so) contributions from Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham in light of his guilty plea and resignation. LINK

Corzine replacing Corzine:

The New York Times leans heavily into the potential of a Bob Menendez pick and weighs the pros and cons. LINK

Political potpourri:

The Palm Beach Post reports that Florida county elections officials will be using a new system to more accurately identify felons to purge them from voter rolls. LINK

Charlie Cook writes in the upcoming issue of the National Journal that, thanks to a congressional and executive "leadership vacuum," neither Democrats nor Republicans will likely have dominating influence after the 2006 midterm elections, regardless of which party garners a majority.

Cindy Adams writes in her New York Post gossip column that Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) and Gov. Ed Rendell (D-PA) attended a dinner for Sen. Specter along with about 1,000 Republicans. LINK