WASHINGTON, Dec. 7
In the one hand, top Republican Party strategists hold graphs of polling dips, Abramoff/Scanlon/Cunningham media clips, and telephone message slips from jittery candidates/incumbents reflecting the theoretical possibility (a/k/a: "fear") that they could lose control of the House (and, perhaps, the Senate) in 2006.
In the other hand, they hold the gift they believe keeps on giving, just when they need it most: the politico-military public strategizing of Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi, and John Kerry.
House Democratic Leader Pelosi says a majority of her colleagues are for a Murtha-style withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, but she doesn't think that that should be the position of her caucus.
Pelosi's lieutenants -- Steny Hoyer and Rahm Emanuel -- don't think that that should be the caucus position either, but they, uhm, go about expressing that view in a different way, and they hold this position for at least a slightly different reason.
What must Leader Pelosi and Chairman Dean have thought as they read the on-the-record and thinly veiled background quotes in this morning's Washington Post???!!?? (Only people with names such as "Finney" and "Crider" can hope to know such mystical things. . . . .)
The politics of Iraq are front and center again today, as President Bush gives another big speech on Iraq and House Democrats meet to figure out what (if anything) they stand for on the major issue facing the nation these days.
While facts on the ground continue to be created each minute.
President Bush will deliver his second speech in his series of speeches on Iraq prior to the December 15 elections to the Council on Foreign Relations at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC at 10:45 am ET.
ABC's Karen Travers has the preview:
"President Bush will deliver the second in a series of speeches on Iraq leading up to the December 15th elections in Iraq. In this speech before about 300 members of the Council on Foreign Relations, President Bush will address the economic strategy for reform and reconstruction in Iraq."
"An official who has seen the speech tells Martha Raddatz that Bush will stress 'clear, hold and build' strategy for Iraqi security, which is outlined in the "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq" document the White House released last week."
"The President will address:"
"- how the U.S. military conducts security operations and follows up with reconstruction"
"- focused reconstruction, humanitarian assistance and civil affairs and cite examples of where this has worked in Iraq and where it has not"
"- the Administration's specific concerns that still need to be addressed on the economic front"
"The Council on Foreign Relations offered the President a question and answer session with its members, but the White House declined," adds Travers.
Meanwhile, the House Democratic caucus was gathering at 9:00 am ET for a closed door debate about its position(s) on Iraq. The Democratic leadership (including Rep. Bob Menendez, for you Garden State watchers) will meet the press at 10:00 am ET.
Rep. Jack Murtha (D-PA) will be responsible for responding to the President's speech on behalf of House Democrats at 1:30 pm ET in the House Radio/TV gallery.
Senate Democrats will rely upon Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) -- sans John Kerry this time -- for their rebuttal to the President's speech. Sen. Reed takes to the Senate gallery at noon ET.
Which all nicely sets up the Dean debate you will find in your essential stories this morning.
The Washington Post's Jim VandeHei and Shalaigh Murray report in must-read fashion that several Democrats are disavowing recent antiwar remarks by Dean and Pelosi. LINK
The disavowal camp includes DCCC Chairman Rahm Emanuel who does not want voters to take away the impression that Democrats favor retreat.
"'What I want Democrats to be discussing is what the President's policies have led to,' Emanuel said. He added that once discussion turns to a formal timeline for troop withdrawals, 'the how and when gets buried' and many voters take away only an impression that Democrats favor retreat."
Also in the disavowal camp are Rep. Jim Marshall (D-GA) who compares Dean's take on Iraq to his Iowa scream, Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) who says Dean "does not represent me," and an anonymous "top strategist" to House Democrats who says Democrats have not blown their chance of winning back the House in 2006 but who nonetheless thinks Democrats "have jeopardized it."
At today's closed-door meeting, Tauscher and Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) plan to push House Democrats to adopt a position similar to the one the Senate recently approved, calling 2006 "a period of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty" and compelling the Administration "to explain to Congress and the American people its strategy for the successful completion of the mission in Iraq."
Speaking of Harman, she appeared on C-SPAN's "Washington Journal" this morning.
Harman said that when House Democrats gather, she expects them to discuss Iraq without voting on specific resolutions.
She was asked about Dean's San Antonio radio comments and said "I don't agree with Howard Dean," saying at another point "I don't know what his definition of winning is." Speaking for herself, the ranking minority member on the House Intelligence Committee voiced support for honoring the sacrifice of American troops and leaving Iraq "in better shape than we found it."
The California Democrat said the Bush Administration erred by not disavowing permanent US bases and by not disavowing US interest in Iraqi oil.
And right on cue, Patrick D. Healy of the New York Times points to the crux of the Democratic dilemma by highlighting a new phenomenon dogging Senator Clinton: the small but angry group of moms and grandmas protesting her war stance outside last night's fundraiser in New York City starring her FPOTUS husband. LINK
Devouring the sustenance she and her editors crave, the New York Post's Deborah Orin reports that Republicans say that Dean's comments that America can't win the war in Iraq show "a retreat and defeat strategy" on the part of the Democrats. LINK
The New York Post editorial board takes the varnish off of Ken Mehlman's response to Dean's remarks and, unsurprisingly, excoriates the DNC chairman for his "working overtime for a terrorist victory in Iraq." LINK
And don't get us started on the GOP press releases being issued from every corner of the universe yesterday on Dean's remarks.
Meanwhile, in some parallel universe political activity:
Former Presidents Bush (41) and Clinton will visit the University of New Orleans to announce a major grant to be made by the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund at 1:30 pm ET. The former presidents will also announce the appointment of the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund co-chairs Alexis Herman and Don Evans.
Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) will attend the Manchester Republican Committee's holiday celebration in Bedford, NH at 7:00 pm ET.
Gov. Warner (D-VA) will make a "significant budget announcement" about research and development in higher education at 11:30 am ET in Richmond, VA before heading down to Charleston, SC to be the keynote speaker at the South Carolina Democratic Party's 2005 Governors Appreciation Dinner at 7:00 pm ET.
NGA Chairman Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) meets with Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) and Rep. Nathan Deal (R-GA) on the Hill at 9:15 am ET to discuss Medicaid reforms contained in the budget reconciliation package.
Tomorrow will bring "Better America Day" when many Senate Democrats will hold events across the country highlighting their commitment to "reforming Washington and giving Americans a government as good as its people." Expect to hear the word "reform" a lot whether the topic is prescription drugs, the economy, national security, or corruption.
Politics of Iraq:
Rowan Scarborough and Donald Lambro of the Washington Times detail the debate over Dean's comments. LINK
The Los Angeles Times' Ed Chen writes up the Republican response to Dean's criticism of the war as unwinnable. Hastert chides Dean thusly: " [he] made it clear the Democratic Party sides with those who wish to surrender." LINK
The Hill has Minority Whip Steny Hoyer saying Republicans "are not united" over Iraq. LINK
The Washington Times kicks off "the first in a series of editorials on underreported good news from Iraq." LINK
The Wall Street Journal's Jay Solomon reports that the Senate Intelligence Committee is probing whether the Bush Administration "underplayed prewar analysis that was correct in forecasting the post-Saddam chaos that currently engulfs the country." Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and other critics say the US would have been better-prepared to rehabilitate Iraq if it had "listened more to these warnings."
The Washington Post's Al Kamen picks up on Iraqi Vice President Ghazi Yawer, a Sunni moderate, saying that training of Iraqi security forces has suffered a big "setback" in the past six months. (Sorry, no link available.)
"The Shiite-dominated army and Interior Ministry security forces, Yawer said in an interview in Dubai on Monday with the Associated Press, are increasingly being used to settle scores and for political goals. So the United States can't withdraw now because that would leave 'a huge vacuum' and Iraq might fall into civil war, he said, a war Shiite militias might incite if US and allied troops left."
Soldiers at Fort Drum greeted Cheney's latest speech on Iraq with cheers and strains of AC/DC. LINK
The jockeying for DeLay's position as Majority Leader seems to have abated, writes Carl Hulse in the New York Times. The judge's dismissal of the conspiracy charge against DeLay has quelled Republican nerves, although some are worried Blunt is stretched too thin. LINK
Or not. . .
Ray LaHood sounding, well, very Ray LaHoodish in Jonathan Weisman's Washington Post piece, with lots of GOP hand-wringing over DeLay. LINK
Breaking the tie: Rick Klein of the Boston Globe reports that House Republicans are looking ahead to 2006 and ready to take on new leadership and a better image. ''For the sake of the Republican conference -- and without casting any aspersions one way or the other on Tom DeLay -- the conference would be better off talking about issue differences with Democrats, not trials and ethics issues," said Rep. Charles Bass (R-NH). LINK
Samantha Levine and R.G. Ratcliffe of the Houston Chronicle report on similar House frustrations. LINK
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Jonathan Gurwitz of the San Antonio Express-News writes that the legal trouble DeLay is facing in Austin is "only a carnival sideshow" compared to the "far graver threat" facing DeLay in the nation's capital from his ties to Jack Abramoff and Michael Scanlon.
Politics of national security:
The standoff between the White House and John McCain over acceptable interrogation methods seems to have reached a detente. The New York Times' Sanger and Schmitt report that a veto seems unlikely now that Stephen Hadley has been talking with McCain. Hadley's trying to convince him to allow legal protections for some, but not all, covert officers who handle prisoners. LINK
In talking about torture with Don Imus this morning, Sen. McCain admitted he is a huge Jack Bauer (of Fox's "24" fame) fan, but, McCain added, that's not how it works in reality.
The Wall Street Journal's ed board slams "the Continent" for its "phony outrage over American anti-terror practices."
Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX), a fellow POW from Vietnam, is actively against Sen. McCain's anti-torture bill and has called the legislation, "well-intentioned but unnecessary." LINK
Buddy picture pals John Edwards and Jack Kemp use the New York Times op-ed page to criticize new legislation in Russia's parliament that would seriously restrict non-profits operating there. They call on European leaders to help convince Putin to shelve the bill and move forward. "Russia faces a choice between entering the mainstream of the modern world, or trapping itself in an eddy of reaction and isolation." LINK
Roll Call reports that the House is close to announcing they'll return for the second session on January 31st and Notes that this would be good news for Tom DeLay.
The Hill reports that House Majority Leader Roy Blunt put Rep. John Boehner's (R-Ohio) pension overhaul bill on ice. LINK
"Boehner may challenge Blunt in leadership elections that could happen as soon as January, and some Boehner allies fear that GOP leaders are delaying a vote on the pension bill to rob Boehner of a significant legislative victory.
Other Republicans downplayed suggestions that tension over potential leadership races killed action on the pension bill this year."
The Fitzgerald investigation:
The Washington Post's Richard Leiby profiles Rove attorney, Democrat Luskin. LINK
Big Casino budget politics:
Roll Call has Rep. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) saying he will use "all the power I have" to push forward a proposal that nearly doubles Bush's request for aid for victims of Hurricane Katrina.
House lawmakers decided not to extend hurricane tax relief to businesses like casinos, liquor stores, and massage parlors in the Gulf Coast region, reports the Associated Press. LINK
The Wall Street Journal's David Rogers Notes that by shifting $125 million to rural health and education accounts, Republicans believe they can reach a spending accord. When 22 Republicans broke ranks in the House to kill the measure last month, it was the first time in a decade that such a large annual spending bill had been rejected by the House so close to enactment.
Bloomberg's Ryan Donmoyer reports that the President is backing legislation to prevent the AMT from imposing "a $30 billion increase on 15 million households next year, a task that would widen the deficit and complicate the Republican push to extend breaks on dividends and capital gains." LINK
The Wall Street Journal's Greg Ip has a front-page look at the ways in which studying the Great Depression has shaped the views of Fed Chair Ben Bernanke. "Mr. Bernanke's study of the era influences his belief that the Fed should not only aim for low inflation but publicly put a number on the inflation rate it wants to achieve." The most important benefit of doing this, in Bernanke's view, is to prevent the Fed from "stumbling into deflation."
The Wall Street Journal ed board thinks Greenspan was really pushing spending cuts, not tax cuts, in his Friday speech.
Alito for Associate Justice:
People for the American Way brought Sharon Stone to town to show her support for the cause, per the New York Times, which quotes Ms. Stone's elliptical anti-Alito views. LINK
Politics of immigration:
Per the Los Angeles Times, Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) pushes an immigration bill that tightens border security but Noticeably leaves off any mention of President Bush's prized guest-worker policy. LINK
Ron Brownstein previews the Democrats' potential plan to knock Iowa and New Hampshire from their exclusive hold on nomination calendar prominence. LINK
The Des Moines Register reports that on his visit to Iowa yesterday, Gov. Pataki said that the United States can never be fully prepared for a terrorist attack. LINK
The Register also Notes that this was Pataki's fourth visit to Iowa this year. "He lunched with state GOP leaders and met with Red Cross officials and volunteers before headlining a fundraiser for an anti-tax group. Iowa GOP leaders have said Pataki is taking steps toward running in 2008 by meeting with key party members during his visits."
Dr./Sen./Leader Frist has an op-ed in The New York Sun about New Yorkers paying too much in taxes. LINK
The Hill's Alexander Bolton writes of some Christian conservative groups' disenchantment with Sen. Frist's lack of commitment to bringing legislation favored by them to the Senate floor for a vote this session. LINK
"'For a good period of time he was very receptive to the [conservative] social agenda,' said [Paul] Weyrich of Frist. 'It seems after the Schiavo case that he hasn't been as interested. I don't know whether a connection is there or not.'"
Per Roll Call's Paul Kane: "Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has turned his current book promotion extravaganza into a fundraising whistle-stop tour, helping to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for GOP candidates and more than $1 million for his own political action committee."
Environmentalists appear unhappy with Gov. Romney's plans to cap plant pollution in the Bay State with hiked up emission payments from corporations. LINK
The Boston Herald reports that the Romney administration is interjecting some rules for Catholic hospitals in light of the "morning after pill" legislation that is supposed to go into effect next week. LINK
The New York Times raises questions about the propriety of Governor Haley Barbour's (R-MS) relative receiving $6.4 million in government contracts to perform Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts. LINK
Gov. Mark Sanford voices his concerns over eminent domain law and calls for "stricter limits." LINK
Per the New Hampshire Union Leader's John DiStaso: "Gov. John Lynch yesterday said potential 2008 Democratic Presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton has privately voiced her support for keeping New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary in its traditional role, behind only the Iowa caucus." LINK
Ben Smith of the New York Observer evaluates Senator Clinton's conspicuous nine-year absence from the Granite State. LINK
Chris Cillizza reports in The Fix that Lorraine Voles will take over as Sen. Clinton's communications director in the new year. LINK
For $50 a head last night at the Crobar in Chelsea more than 2000 people heard Bill Clinton rip into GOP leadership in Washington and make what the impatient could describe as the opening pitch for Sen. Clinton's 2008 appeal. LINK
The New York Post's Ian Bishop on how the American Legion is burning up inside over Sen. Clinton's support of legislation that outlaws flag-trashing without issuing a Constitutional amendment to ban it. LINK
Setting a one-day record for fundraising in Virginia, Gov. Mark Warner (D-VA) netted $2.5 million last night from 600 people who think he might be the next president of the United States, the Washington Post's Michael Shear reports. LINK
The Virginia Daily Press has this headline: "Warner draws hundreds of people, millions of dollars at event." LINK
Former Boston Celtics assistant coach, Jon Jennings, takes over Sen. Kerry's Massachusetts offices, per the Boston Herald. LINK
The AP writes up a New Mexico GOP radio spot calling Gov. Richardson (D-NM), "King Bill." LINK
Ralp Z. Hallow writes in the Washington Times that Republicans are aware of the not-so-favorable current political climate for them, but are gearing up to refocus on their agenda for 2006. And Carl Forti is quick to remind all just how tough the electoral map is for the opposition party. LINK
Republicans, eager to gain a foothold in Democratic New Jersey, are throwing their political and financial weight behind the Senate campaign of Thomas Kean, Jr. LINK
David Saltonstall of the New York Daily News on the status of Jeanine Pirro's political limbo. LINK
Kenneth Lovett reports in the New York Post that movers and shakers within the Independence Party have been planting the seed among party leaders about backing Jeanine Pirro for Attorney General. LINK
The New York Observer on gubernatorial wannabe John Faso's ability to be simultaneously establishment and underdog. LINK
The Chicago Tribune reports that today the Illinois race for governor takes a turn as Sen. Steve Rauschenberger (R) is expected to take himself out of the running and turn his interests to the post of lieutenant governor. LINK
In a special election to fill a California Congressional seat, Republican State Senator Jim Campbell soundly bested his Democratic challenger as well as a anti-immigration independent candidate Jim Gilchrist. The Los Angeles Times writes that the performance of Minuteman Project founder Gilchrist was seen as a national litmus test of how immigration would play as an issue in Republican areas. LINK
Spokane, WA Mayor James West was recalled from office yesterday and will have to leave office by the December 16 certification of the vote. LINK
The Schwarzenegger Era:
The Los Angeles Times reports that, amid a rising tide of anger at Schwarzenegger, leaders of the California Republican party have demanded a private meeting with the Governor to complain about his choice of Democrat Susan Kennedy as chief of staff. LINK
This one is a must read.
As is this next one, at least for people wanting to understand the scope of reinvention taking place in Susan Kennedy-run Sacramento, the Washington Post's Harold Meyerson looks at Schwarzenegger "the reimaginator" and contrasts the California experience with the steadfastness of President Bush. LINK
Corzine replacing Corzine:
The Gloucester County Times reports a Corzine announcement about his successor may come today or Friday. LINK
Thanks to a streamlined absentee balloting process and increased outreach efforts, " 80 percent of US military members voted -- or tried to -- in 2004, the Washington Post's Josh White reports. LINK