The Note: Matthew Dowd and the Old Gray Lady

WASHINGTON, Dec. 8

NEWS SUMMARY

President Bush meets with Members of Congress at the White House to discuss the war on terror at 10:15 am ET. The President meets with the Chancellor of Austria in the Oval Office at 9:30 am ET, while Scott McClellan briefs the White House press corps at 1:00 pm ET.

With the Bush political operation more psyched by a New York Times/CBS poll than they ever have been in the history of the world, the man who but for the quixotic decision making of a stadium full of Buckeyes would be the Commander in Chief moves front and center on the Iraq debate today.

In a bid to break through the Murtha-Dean-Pelosi clutter, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) delivers a speech entitled, "Real Security in the Post-9/11 World" at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City at 1:00 pm ET.

"The speech includes some arguments on Iraq, but it's focused on winning the broader war on terror -- including 'ending the empire of oil,' making sure our side wins the war of ideas and ideologies in the Greater Middle East, and destroying terrorist cells," a senior Kerry aide tells The Note.

Here is an excerpt of Kerry's remarks as prepared for delivery: "The real war on terror is an even bigger challenge. This war has drawn us smack into the middle of an internal struggle in the Islamic World -- a struggle ultimately for the transformation of the Greater Middle East into a region that is no longer isolated from the global economy, no longer dependent on despotism for stability, no longer fearful of freedom, and no longer content to feed restive and rising populations of unemployed young people a diet of illusions and excuses."

Kerry's speech comes after he has been quietly traveling and meeting all over the country with the military leadership and national security experts of his campaign, including General Hoar last week in San Diego.

He'll come from the right on regimes that are unresponsive to their own people, and from the right regarding Washington's failure to do much of anything that would undermine the flow of oil -- a bipartisan problem.

Place your bets now: will this speech get live cable coverage and/or network evening news pickup?

And, relatedly, ask yourself: what national Democrat has the most credibility with the media and the public on national security issues these days?

(Note how restrained 42 was, sitting side by side with his buddy 41, on Larry King last night, when the green-clad and color-blind host tried to get Clinton going on Iraq.)

(And check out this: "Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid is urging Democrats to limit their comments on the future of the Iraq war to areas where there is broad agreement within the party in an effort to quell increasing concerns both within the Democratic Caucus and the minds of the public that the ongoing conflict has caused deep intra-party divisions," writes Roll Call's Josh Stanton.)

With Reid's words in mind, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) holds her weekly press conference at 10:45 am ET. (Howard Dean is not expected to attend.)

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus will come out in opposition to the Alito nomination at 10:00 am ET, followed by Democratic congresswomen doing the same at 11:30 am ET.

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