The Note: The Rule of Five



The Note was going to take a snow day off today, or perhaps (in the grand tradition of Prince William County) open two hours late because of some slush.

But it is the rare day when all five of the Five Basic Rules of Politics are on display at the same time, so we have borrowed mittens and blankets from some shivering Googling monkeys and banged out our last edition of the week.


1. When a Massachusetts pol makes noises about running for president, the Boston press builds him up and encourages him to walk on water; then, when he starts to sink, the Bay State press pushes him down and holds his head under. And then they laugh and laugh.

2. Nothing is scarier to politicians and strategists than the unknown in an election year, and nothing is more unknown than what steps prosecutors and cooperating witnesses might take.

3. No other state in the union besides New Hampshire has the political-media culture to support a serious vetting of presidential candidates that involves citizen participation and issues. (Iowa is a distant second, and no other state is even close.)

4. Time's Jim Kelly is more powerful than all but 23 United States Senators.

5. When a political party is losing a debate, the party's sharpies say, "We are the Stupid Party, with no message discipline and no unity."

Which hand would you rather play in 2006: the Republicans (with the facts on the Iraq ground) or the Democrats (with the Pelosi-Dean-Kerry-Murtha-Lieberman-blog-donor-Clinton-Edwards-Kerrey-Reid-Nelson-Nelson split)?

Which party is acting Stupider on Iraq?

Which party is exhibiting more message discipline on Iraq?

Which party is showing more unity on Iraq?

Packing his bully pulpit, smart hat, and a message that largely inspires party discipline and unity, President Bush travels to Minneapolis, MN today to help raise some money for Rep. Mark Kennedy's Senate campaign and the Minnesota Republican Party.

The President's remarks are scheduled for 1:20 pm ET, and there will be loud hootin' and hollerin' when the POTUS calls for staying the course and finishing the job in Iraq.

Democrats will hoot and holler over the latest public polling data in the state. On cue: the Minnesota DFL Chairman Brian Melendez will hold do some counter-programming at a 3:00 pm ET press conference.

Sen. Clinton (D-NY) was in New York City this morning calling on the "EPA to revise its plan for testing and cleaning indoor air contamination following the September 11th attacks."

Illinois Democrats Sen. Obama, Rep. Emanuel, and Rep. Schakowsky discuss protecting the Great Lakes at Navy Pier in Chicago, IL at 11:30 am ET. Sen. Obama then heads to the Steppenwolf Theater to appear on the Al Franken show live at 12:30 pm ET.

Gov.-elect Jon Corzine (D-NJ) is expected to formally announce his choice of Rep. Bob Menendez as his successor in the Senate at a 2:00 pm press conference today at the Central Railroad of New Jersey Terminal at Liberty State Park in Jersey City.

As for the weekend, It's not quite a full-fledged cattle call, but with all the current political talk focused on disarray within the Democratic ranks on Iraq and the party's challenge to establish an affirmative agenda for 2006 and 2008, this weekend provides an excellent opportunity to take a look at some of the prospective candidates thinking about seeking the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008 and give a listen to some of the ideas the leaders of the opposition party are road testing.

Three Democrats considering '08 bids -- Gov. Mark Warner (D-VA), Gov. Tom Vilsack (D-IA), and former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) -- and another rising star who may figure it's never too early to water testing -- freshman Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) -- will be in Orlando, FL this weekend for the Florida Democratic Party conference.

The four Democrats will NOT appear on the stage together at the same time. But they will get a chance to strut their stuff and to make critical political and financial contacts while in the very key Sunshine State.

And the DNC nomination calendar commission is scheduled to meet at 10:00 am ET tomorrow in Washington, DC to vote on its final recommendation report. (See more on that below.)

Be sure to tune into "This Week" on Sunday when ABC's George Stephanopoulos talks with Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE), the Ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, about the upcoming elections in Iraq. Stephanopoulos also interviews HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt about the controversy surrounding the implementation of the new prescription drug benefit under Medicare and next week's White House Conference on Aging.

Politics of Iraq:

The Republican National Committee is out with a new web video this morning highlighting recent comments from Howard Dean, John Kerry, and Barbara Boxer to paint the Democratic Party as one of "retreat an defeat" with white flag waving included.

Place your bets now: by 6pm ET, how many cable nets will have aired a snippet (or two)?

While appearing on Don Imus' program on Friday morning, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) said that he would not vote to authorize the use of force in Iraq knowing what he knows now.

"Absolutely not," Kerry told Imus, repeating a position he has been espousing since his October speech at Georgetown University.

Would Kerry have gotten more votes or fewer votes in 2004 if he had taken this position before Election Day?

Scott Shane of the New York Times writes of the heated debate over pre-war intelligence in the House International Relations Committee. Be on the lookout for a RNC press release featuring Rep. Gary Ackerman at an inbox near you. LINK

Deb Orin of the New York Post has more: LINK

Bloomberg's Dodge and Newton-Small report that Iraq, "which is dragging down President George W. Bush's public standing," is also creating a "dilemma" for Democrats torn between riding the "wave of opposition to the war" and fear of looking "soft" on national security. LINK

The Washington Post's Charles Krauthammer writes: "Of all the mistakes that the Bush administration has committed in Iraq, none is as gratuitous and self-inflicted as the bungling of the trial of Saddam Hussein." LINK

"Probe into Iraq coverage widens," blares the front page of the Nation's Newspaper. LINK

2008: DNC nomination calendar:

According to several Democrats who have been briefed on a draft of the calendar commission report making the rounds, here are the four main points being proposed in the report:

1. The first in the nation of status of both Iowa and New Hampshire are affirmed.

2. The calendar should include one or two caucuses between IA and NH and one or two primaries between NH and the opening of the window.

3. As the rules and bylaws committee begins the process deciding which states should go, they should evaluate states with an eye toward increasing the geographic, demographic, and economic diversity of states that play a meaningful role in the process.

4. Rules & Bylaws committee should figure out a way to create an incentive for a way for states not to move up -- essentially create an incentive to moderately pace the calendar.

The report will be discussed and voted on by the commissioners tomorrow and then handed off to the rules and bylaws committee and Chairman Dean. The goal is to have a final plan in place for the entire DNC membership to vote on at the April 2006 meeting in New Orleans.

To be clear: this is still the beginning of the beginning of all this, with a lot to play out at the DNC, the RNC, and at the state level.

It is unclear, at this point, if NH Secretary of State Gardner thinks the one or two inserted caucuses between Iowa and New Hampshire are "similar events" to the New Hampshire primary. But he will take his time and he holds a lot of cards.

Here's the AP's Norma Love on the "will he" or "won't he" speculation surrounding Mr. Gardner: LINK

New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairwoman Kathy Sullivan reacted to The Note, thusly: "I just think that, unfortunately, it is a plan that front-loads the calendar and makes the process narrower and less democratic. It also is, I believe, a setback to future efforts to carry both Iowa and New Hampshire."

The Washington Post's Dan Balz on the calendar developments. LINK

John DiStaso of the New Hampshire Union Leader has some more of the local disappointment. LINK

In a Boston Globe op-ed former Sen. Gary Hart defends the Granite State primary and its place in politics saying that it, "gave him a chance" and Notes, "It is the last and only chance the 'dark-horse' candidate has to show what he or she is really all about and what they have to offer." LINK

The Los Angeles Times editorial board commends the impulse of the Democratic Party to change its nominating ways, but disapproves of the means likely to be recommended tomorrow. The ed board goes on to endorse the Carter/Baker regional primary system and denounces the front-loading trend of recent cycles. LINK


The Washington Post's Schmidt and Grimaldi report that federal prosecutors have "all but finalized" a plea agreement with a second business partner of former lobbyist Jack Abramoff in exchange for cooperation in the ongoing criminal investigations of Abramoff. LINK

Bloomberg's Kristin Jensen reports that Abramoff's secrets and claims on lawmakers may start emerging soon. LINK

The Fitzgerald investigation:

The Washington Post's Leonnig and VandeHei on Viveca Novak's (and Robert Luskin's) deposition in the CIA leak investigation: LINK

"Sources familiar with their conversations say Novak's and Luskin's accounts to Fitzgerald appear to conflict on when they spoke."

More Leonnig/VandeHei: "A source familiar with Novak's account said she believes the conversation took place in March or May, and definitely took place after February 2004, when Rove first testified before the grand jury."

"But one person close to the case said the conversation took place before Rove's first grand jury appearance in February. This person said the conversation was not the event that led Rove to change his testimony."

The New York Times reports, Novak will write an account of the deposition she provided to special prosecutor Fitzgerald in the next issue of the magazine set to hit newsstands on Monday (but probably released to the press in time to chat about it on Sunday morning television). LINK

No word on when/if Rove attorney Robert Luskin plans to provide a detailed account of the deposition he gave last week.

Politics of national security:

From Douglas Jehl's must-read New York Times story of the day on the intersection of pre-war intelligence, rendition, and the Iraq-Al Qaeda connection (or lack thereof) that was so central to the Bush Cheney 2004 campaign's messaging: "The Bush administration based a crucial prewar assertion about ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda on detailed statements made by a prisoner while in Egyptian custody who later said he had fabricated them to escape harsh treatment, according to current and former government officials," writes Jehl. LINK

More Jehl: "The new disclosure provides the first public evidence that bad intelligence on Iraq may have resulted partly from the administration's heavy reliance on third countries to carry out interrogations of Qaeda members and others detained as part of American counterterrorism efforts."

Secretary of State Rice "appears to have reassured some European leaders about the treatment of terrorism suspects held in secret foreign jails," writes the New York Times' Brinkley. LINK

Mary Curtius of the Los Angeles Times writes up the Patriot Act compromise deal announced yesterday Noting the aggressive lobbying from Andy Card and Vice President Cheney. LINK

As for that Feingold filibuster threat, a Republican official tells The Note, "On the same week as Howard Dean's blunder, if Democrats want to position themselves as being against protecting America, that is a debate we are more than happy to have."

Feingold's filibuster threat makes it into the second graph of the Washington Times story along with this: "A significant bipartisan Senate bloc of civil libertarians on both sides of the aisle also appear ready to oppose the measure." LINK

For threatening to filibuster the deal to renew the Patriot Act, Feingold gets his photo in USA Today opposite that of Chairman Specter. LINK

The Washington Post's Babington and Eggen on the Patriot Act deal. LINK


Judge Priest has told Rep. DeLay that his legal case won't be heard until after Christmas at the earliest. LINK

Texas Republicans have no problem standing by their man, Tom DeLay, reports the New York Times' Blumenthal. LINK

Big Casino budget politics:

The House voted largely on party lines to extend the 15% maximum tax rate on capital gains and dividends through 2010. The final tally was 234 to 197. Now on to the tricky conference.

"The differences in the two chambers' bills underscore the divisions within the ranks of the Republicans," write Richard Simon and Joel Havemann of the Los Angeles Times. LINK

The New York Times' Andrews writes, "The conflict between the tax bills means that taxpayers will face uncertainty about a long list of popular tax cuts that are set to expire at the end of 2005." LINK

And for Republican ad copy that may hit a television screen near you in October 2006, check out this quote from Chairman Thomas: "'If you vote yes for the Democratic substitute, you are increasing taxes over five years by $40 billion,' Representative Bill Thomas of California, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said. 'That is the single largest tax increase since they were in the majority in 1993.'"

The New York Times editorial board weighs in with its split decision on this week's tax legislation passed in the House. (We leave it to you to guess which one the ed board favors and which it opposes.) LINK

The Wall Street Journal's David Rogers goes inside the way in which House and Senate talks on a $45 billion deficit reduction bill pits two Republican patrons, oil and pharmaceutical interests, against each other.

Bush Administration:

SecDef Rumsfeld has "no plans to retire," reports Reuters. LINK


Gov. Jeb Bush's (R-FL) Medicaid reform plan has been approved by the Florida legislature and is headed to his desk for his signature. Many states will be watching the fallout from this pilot program to see if a state run managed care program which operates a bit more like a private health care plan is viable. LINK

Politics of immigration:

The Wall Street Journal ed board looks at the results of this week's Special Election in Orange County, California and writes that it's "the restrictionists" who have the politics of immigration wrong.

Per the Washington Times' Stephen Dinan, "the House Judiciary Committee yesterday voted down an amendment that would have created a path to citizenship for most illegal aliens before passing a bill to require employers to check employees' documents to ensure workers are legal." LINK

2008: Republicans:

Gov. Romney "reversed course" on the Bay State "morning after pill" legislation. He now says all hospitals (including Catholic hospitals) must provide the medicine to rape victims. Here's Scott Helman of the Boston Globe. LINK

Kenneth Lovett reports in the New York Post that some Republicans want New York Gov. George Pataki to work more actively to avoid a New York City transit strike, with "one official close to Pataki and Mayor Bloomberg" saying, "The governor is busy running his lame ass off to Iowa and acting like there isn't a problem around. There is no leadership at all." LINK


A new Des Moines Register poll found President Bush's approval rating among Iowa voters lower than it's ever been, at 38 percent. LINK

The Clintons of Chappaqua:

The Chicago Tribune reports that, in a surprise visit, Bill Clinton will speak today at the annual UN Climate Conference in Montreal, which, according to Canadian delegates, "annoyed" American delegates. LINK

We wonder how many times Sen. Clinton's name will be associated with Sen. McCain's name during the FPOTUS' remarks.


The Washington Post's Jim VandeHei on President Bush, the money-magnet despite his poll numbers. LINK

Joe Mahoney reports in the New York Daily News that New York Republican county leaders are trying to "draft" Jeannine Pirro to run for attorney general instead of U.S. Senate. LINK

Cindy Adams dishes in her New York Post gossip column that, according to unsubstantiated rumor, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld will run for Senate against Hillary Clinton if Jeannine Pirro chooses to run for state attorney general. LINK

Scot Lehigh focuses his Boston Globe column on gubernatorial candidate Deval Patrick's (D) educational philosophies for the Bay State. LINK

The eccentric independent Texas gubernatorial candidate , Kinky Friedman, officially filed his candidacy yesterday, reports the Houston Chronicle. LINK

The Schwarzenegger Era:

Prosecutors and defense lawyers in the Tookie Williams clemency case made their arguments to the Governor yesterday. "After hearing attorneys' arguments during a private, 75-minute meeting, Schwarzenegger made no comment and aides could not say how soon he would decide whether to grant Williams clemency," reports the Los Angeles Times. LINK

Corzine replacing Corzine:

The New York Times editorial board slams Gov-elect Corzine's first major decision for selecting a "business as usual" politician to replace him in the Senate. LINK

David Chen of the New York Times looks at the potential Democratic primary opponents Sen. Menendez may face next year. LINK


USA Today's Kathy Kiely pays homage to John Dingell's half century of service. LINK

The Note goes Hollywood:

In our regular Friday entertainment feature, The Note brings you some nuggets from our recent interview with the writer/director of the new film "Syriana," Stephen Gaghan.

Gaghan tells The Note that he very much wants to watch his movie (which explores the intricacies and ramifications of America's dependence on foreign oil) with Vice President Cheney.

"I'll pay for the screening, I'll bring the print, all on my nickel. I'll even make the Jiffy Pop," Gaghan said.

Gaghan added, "I think he has a lot of relevant experience. In lieu of publishing those energy commission papers, I think [watching the film with him] would be a nice starting point for a discussion and we can talk about where he sees it all going. I have a theory that he will find it to be very accurate and that he won't take offense to it. And it is a world that he knows very very well. I'd like to vet it at the top."

Gaghan conducted a lot of research in Washington, DC for his film and found the way people communicate in Washington very intriguing. "We exist in a time where every single person knows to stay off the record," says Gaghan. "People have gotten so tricky about getting what they want by implication without ever having to say it."