The Note: "Responsible" Seems to (Not) Be the Hardest Word



Designing an exit poll questionnaire when there are 7,000 candidates on the ballot isn't effortless. And let's just say that in Iraq, the issues matrix is sort of complex too.

We don't normally cover elections in other countries that much in The Note, but the Bush White House and the Gang of 500 have a lot riding on the outcome of today's Iraqi election, so we sold off some of our vintage, eBay-ready Note Notebooks (from the 2004 glory years) and raised enough cash to spring for an exit poll in today's election. (Note to the literal-minded who want to ruin our holiday season: this is a joke.)

The data will come in three waves, as usual.

As always, first wave data (11:30 am ET) is completely unreliable and is no predictor of the outcome. Luckily, we will have it in time for subscribers to take it with them to lunch at the Palm or the Senate Dining Room to talk knowingly about how the election is going.

By the second wave (3:30 pm ET), you will be able to start pontificating about who will be in the Iraqi cabinet and "what it means" for President Bush.

And when the third wave numbers come in (6:00 pm ET), it will be crystal clear if Republicans will lose control of the House and/or the Senate in 2006, and what President Bush's approval rating will be next October 1st.

Per usual, subscribers can call in to be briefed by the ABC News Political Unit on each wave of data at the listed times (again: 11:30 am, 3:30 pm, and 6:00 pm). As always, this data is for subscribers only, and may not be posted on websites (even the Drudge Report) or blurted out on cable TV or talk radio. You can, however, use the data to say things such as, "It looks like it is going to be a loooong night for the Kurds." Or: "The Sunnis just never got a clear message across to the voters -- that's clearly hurting them."

Because of the length of the questionnaire, these calls will take a little longer than usual -- assume about 30 minutes.



Please call in no more than five minutes before the call start time.

Polls opened in Iraq at 11:00 pm ET last night and closed at 9:00 am ET.

ABC News' Angus Hines says that "Al Iraqiya TV has reported that the Interior Minister has announced that voting will be extended to include those still queuing at 5:00 pm local. Anyone who joins the queue after that will be excluded."

The Council on Foreign Relations has an excellent primer on the election: LINK

The Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq has lots of FAQs for you as well: LINK

President Bush and the First Lady meet with Iraqi out-of-country voters at 1:15 pm ET at the White House.

(ABC News' Ann Compton reports that no presidential press conference is on the agenda -- public or otherwise, today or tomorrow -- at this point because, as Compton sees it, the President wants to commend Congress if the Patriot Act is extended and express his consternation if it isn't. Therefore, any anticipated press conference will likely come after Congress finishes its work on that bill. Said Scott McClellan to the press at the gaggle this morning, anticipating tonight's media holiday gathering -- we paraphrase -- "party on!!!")

The days best stories on what Iraq means for President Bush and American politics:

1. In his must-read analysis, David Sanger of the New York Times concludes thusly: ". . . over the next year the American ability to shape the Iraqi battleground will gradually decline." LINK

"If it declines because a new Iraqi government - even a factious, argumentative one - takes shape, the president will be able to declare before the midterm elections that the great gamble of his presidency has paid off, and troops may begin to come home."

"If it declines because the country spins out of control, because terror groups and insurgents still roam, because holding elections turned out to be easier than forging compromises, then Mr. Bush could be back doing next year what he has done over the past two weeks: explaining what went wrong, and why invading the country turned out to be a lot easier than remaking it."

2. A front-page Wall Street Journal story brilliantly decodes the White House's good cop/bad cop Iraq political strategy. (Sorry, no link available.)

3. Susan Page of USA Today takes a look at the public's attitude about the war following other significant events in Iraq and concluded that the President has a lot riding on today's elections. LINK

4. The Washington Post's Peter Baker on what President Bush hasn't answered: "Will U.S. soldiers withdraw from Iraq only after the insurgency has been vanquished? Or will they withdraw when Iraqi security forces become adequately trained to take over the battle themselves? Or somewhere in between?" LINK

Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee hold a 2:30 pm ET closed meeting on the Iraq intelligence investigation.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld holds a town hall meeting at 1:30 pm ET in the Pentagon. He will be joined by Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The Senate takes up the Labor-HHS appropriations conference report, moves to the Patriot Act, and then continues onto votes on motions to instruct the conferees.

The House meets at 10:00 am ET and picks up pension reform followed by the start of immigration reform.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) hold a 10:00 am ET hearing in Dirksen 342 on "Hurricane Katrina: Who's In Charge of the New Orleans Levees?"

White House staffers brief House Select Katrina committee members and staff on documents at 11:00 am ET in Rayburn 2247.

Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) meet with Acting FEMA Director R. David Paulison at 10:15 am ET to discuss FEMA's alleged "flip-flop" on its commitment to competitively re-bid all no-bid contracts awarded in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Sen. Obama will meet with reporters following the meeting at 10:45 am ET in Hart 713.

Sen. Obama will not be focusing strictly on Katrina today. At 3:30 pm ET, he and fellow immigrant Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL) discuss immigration reform in the Senate press gallery. The two Senators have an op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal, arguing that to bring undocumented immigrants into the open, the United States "must give them a reason."

Earlier today, the Congressional Black Caucus held an 8:45 am ET news conference outside of FEMA following a meeting with the director of FEMA.

Sen. George Allen (R-VA) will join Sen. John Ensign (R-NV), Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT), and others at 2:00 pm ET in the Senate radio and television gallery to discuss the "National Innovation Act of 2005."

There will be a stakeout of Senate Democrats at 12:00 pm ET at the Ohio clock.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) holds her briefing at 10:45 am ET in H-206.

DCCC Chair Rahm Emmanuel and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) hold a 10:00 am ET news conference in the Senate gallery studio on the "Fair Flat Tax Act."

Outgoing CBO Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin releases the CBO's Long Term Budget Outlook at 12:15 pm ET at an event sponsored by the New America Foundation in Washington, DC.

The Federalist Society is sponsoring a 12:00 pm ET debate at the National Press Club on "Judicial Activism vs. Judicial Restraint: Is the Alito Nomination Sharpening the Debate?" Debate participants include Wendy Long of the Judicial Confirmation Network, Seth Rosenthal of the Alliance for Justice, Law Prof. Stephen Presser of Northwestern University, and Law Prof. Jonathan Turley of The George Washington University. The debate will be moderated by National Journal's Stuart Taylor.

Lame duck Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) will make an announcement about the John and Abigail Adams Scholarship Program in Lowell, MA at noon ET.

Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) announces his crime initiatives for the upcoming legislative session at a 1:00 pm ET press conference in Roswell, NM.

The politics of Iraq:

Peggy Noonan explains the White House' communication strategy on Iraq from 50,000 feet. LINK

Richard Stevenson of the New York Times on the President's final pre-Iraqi election/tone recalibration speech in which he urged patience from both the Iraqi people and Americans as well. LINK

Senators Graham and Biden did some morning shows from Iraq this, uhm, morning. The Washington Post's Dana Milbank Sketches Murtha's decision to rebut the location of Bush's speech. LINK

Bloomberg News has Republican Senators Lugar and Roberts praising the President's recent efforts to provide the American people with more information about his strategy in Iraq, but both also indicate the President still has more work to do on that front. LINK


It's official: Romney will not seek a second-term as governor of Massachusetts.

The AP's Glen Johnson -- the man who broke the story -- sums up what the decision means: ". . . he did not want to risk tarnishing his resume if he decides to run for president in 2008." LINK

"By forgoing a second term, he will allow himself to campaign unimpeded for the presidency should he so choose, and not subject himself to the political whims of the heavily Democratic state in the run-up to the next presidential election."

Romney on what it means for '08 from the Boston Globe: ''John McCain the other day said he thinks about being president every day in the shower. I guess I'd turn instead to the words of 'Star Wars,' which is, it's in a galaxy, far, far away . . . It's a lifetime away in the world of politics." LINK

Romney's people unveiled a new podium that seemed to be a near replica of one President Bush often uses in the Rose Garden and other more informal events.

The guv misted up on first seeing Cabinet and again at the end, as he discussed making final decision with his wife -- in bed -- at 10:00 pm, the night before.

The Boston Globe's Scott Helman looks ahead to how the handsome Massachusetts Mormon will play in the three key primary state of Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. LINK

An editorial in today's Boston Globe calls for Romney to resign "if, as it appears, his heart and mind are no longer in Massachusetts." LINK

Look for the DNC to portray Romney's decision as a tacit acknowledgment that he doesn't have a formula for sustaining Red state governance in a Blue State.

Pam Belluck of the New York Times looks at how Romney has been shuffling to the right on some issues of late, which may have proven politically problematic if he decided to run for reelection in overwhelmingly Democratic Massachusetts. Belluck also Notes Romney's "light dig" at McCain during the Q & A. LINK

The Boston Herald chimes in on Romney's '08 viability: "The road to the White House is riddled with land mines for [him] as he faces a potentially rough ride on three issues: Mormonism, Massachusetts and the military." LINK

There are gobs of other Globe stories; go find them yourselves.

The politics of national security: USA Patriot Act:

The Senate Majority Leader has filed cloture on the Patriot Act reauthorization conference report. The vote on that motion is expected on Friday, and may well serve as an indicator of the strength of any possible filibuster attempt.

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), the lone Senator who voted against the Patriot Act when it was originally considered in 2001, appeared on C-SPAN at 8:00 am ET to discuss where things stand on re-authorization. He said he could not support the version of the Patriot Act currently before the Senate because it makes "essentially the same mistake" as the original legislation.

When a very angry caller asked Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI): "If we have another terrorist attack, are you going to say 'it's my damn fault?'"

Feingold answered: "Good morning to Texas."

The Wisconsin Senator went on to say he wants to make sure the US government can't get the library records of "law-abiding citizens" in El Paso, TX, the caller's hometown, "just because it feels like it."

Nine Senators -- including four Republicans (Sens. Craig, Sununu, Murkowski, and Hagel) -- sent a "Dear Colleague" letter yesterday in which they write: "If the conference report comes to the Senate in the same form that it was filed in the House last week, we will oppose cloture on the conference report. We urge you to do the same."

The New York Times' Stolberg on Sen. Hagel joining the Feingold Four in opposition of the current version of the Patriot Act reauthorization legislation, Sen. Frist's opposition to a short-term extension, Sen. Leahy's prediction that the Republicans don't have 60 votes to stop a filibuster, and Ken Mehlman's ominous political threat to Democrats by resurrecting the specter of the 2002 vote on creating the Department of Homeland Security. LINK

The politics of national security: torture:

On a 308 to 122 vote, the House voted yesterday to ban torture and limit interrogation tactics in U.S. detention facilities, agreeing with Senators that Congress needs to set uniform guidelines for the treatment of prisoners in the war on terrorism.

The Washington Post's White and Babington on what yesterday's House vote means: "The vote sends a clear signal to the Bush administration that both chambers of Congress support the anti-torture legislation and want the government to adopt guidelines that aim to prevent damage to the U.S. image abroad." LINK

More from the Washington Post: "Though lopsided, the vote was largely symbolic and does not put the language into law."

Sen. John McCain is described by the New York Times' Schmitt as "uncharacteristically tight lipped" about the current state of his negotiations with White House National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley. Schmitt also looks at the non-binding House vote in support of the McCain amendment and Chairman Stevens' belief that the language will remain a part of the final bill. LINK

The New York Times pegs its second story on torture to McCain's attendance at a fellow POW's funeral yesterday and delves into some of McCain's experiences while in captivity in Hanoi. LINK

The Kennedy-Kerry amendment to the intelligence spending bill requiring the Director of National Intelligence to provide detailed briefings to the House and Senate intelligence committees on any possible "secret prisons" and the treatment of prisoners there is poised for Senate approval, reports the New York Times. LINK

Alexander Bolton reports in The Hill that Republicans and the White House have discussed adding legislation to the defense appropriations will that would lessen the clout of so-called 527 soft-money groups, in an effort to woo Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), whose anti-torture amendment is holding up the bill's passage. LINK

The Fitzgerald investigation:

The Washington Post's Leonnig gives Bob Novak's North Carolina comments some play including his belief that he and Bob Woodward have the same source. LINK

Save time to get to the end of the piece for Novak's thoughts on the White House management of the leak investigation in the kicker.

Tom DeFrank of the New York Daily News picks up Novak's comments and writes up Sen. Schumer's letter to the President urging him to disclose the source if, as Novak believes, he knows who it is. LINK

Bush Administration and agenda:

John Harwood looks at the 2006 implications of discontent among senior citizens for the Wall Street Journal.

"'They're a pretty cranked up bunch and they've got to be handled with enormous care by incumbents,' says Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who helps conduct the Journal/NBC survey. So far, adds his Democratic counterpart Peter Hart, 'the Bush administration has done more to alienate them than to gain their support.'"

The New Republic's end-of-the-year issue offers a biting look at GOP DC. LINK

John Stanton reports in Roll Call that Donald Rumsfeld -- a stockholder and former CEO of Gilead Science Inc., the sole patent-owner Tamiflu -- will make millions of dollars if a plan to stockpile the flu drug passes through Congress. LINK

Big Casino budget politics:

Per the Washington Post's Weisman and Murray, "A contentious health and education spending bill squeaked through the House on its second try yesterday, but a broader Republican effort to cut some mandatory domestic programs continued to falter."LINK

"Their struggle reflects a deeper problem that GOP congressional leaders are confronting as they try to wrap up the legislative year, possibly by Saturday. Eager to restore their fiscal credibility after several years of spending growth and rising deficits, Republicans are attempting to tighten the federal belt, both through leaner spending bills, and through separate budget cuts that target mandatory programs such as Medicaid and food stamps."

The Wall Street Journal's David Rogers looks at the Big Casino implications of three contentious issues: torture, Katrina, and ANWR.

ANWR drilling may end up in the Pentagon spending bill instead of the budget reconciliation, but Republican leaders are committed to getting it passed before leaving town, reports the New York Times. LINK

"Congress will recess for the holidays without passing a tax bill that would extend several tax breaks and protect millions from paying the AMT, opening the door to the possibility that the laws won't be re-enacted," the Wall Street Journal reports.


As Kevin Madden was quick to alert people, DeLay received a presidential boost of support yesterday during President Bush's Fox News interview.

FNC's Brit Hume: "Do you believe he is innocent?"

President Bush: "DeLay? Yes, I do."

The President also said that he would like DeLay to resume his post as Majority Leader because he likes him and plus, "when he is over there, we get our votes through the House."

Coverage of the President's comments from the New York Times' Stevenson: LINK and the Washington Post's Jim VandeHei LINK


McCain-Feingold part deux! Bloomberg reports on the two potential presidential hopefuls teaming up on lobbying reform. LINK

2008: Democrats:

After two Virginians were exonerated yesterday using DNA evidence, Gov. Mark Warner (D-VA) ordered an "even more sweeping review," according to the Washington Post's Shear and Stockwell. LINK

"He ordered that 660 boxes containing thousands of files from 1973 through 1988 be examined for cases that can be retested using the latest DNA technology. There is no estimate on how long that would take or how much it would cost."

"'I believe a look back at these retained case files is the only morally acceptable course, and what truth they can bring only bolsters confidence in our system,' Warner said in a statement."

The Richmond Times Dispatch looks at Virginian Peter Feddo's support for Sen. Clinton's possible presidential aspirations as opposed to those of his homestate Gov. Mark Warner. LINK

Outgoing Virginia Gov. Mark Warner appeared at a fundraiser yesterday and put some distance between himself and President Bush: Where I disagree with the president is not any action he took," he said, "but in an action he has not taken: His need to make an appeal to all Americans to stand up and be great." LINK

George Clooney told the Times of London in last Sunday's issue that Democrats, specifically Hillary Clinton, should have questioned more aggressively the Bush Administration's justification for war and that Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) would make a great president. LINK

Deborah Orin's New York Post column probably puts a bit too much stock in Bob Kunst, but raises the important question of whether or not Sen. Clinton can successfully triangulate her way to the center in these very polarized times. LINK

Richard Cohen does not like Sen. Clinton's flag position. LINK

2008: Republicans:

Check out this cleverly worded graph from the New York Times coverage of a possible New York City transit strike: "Gov. George E. Pataki, before leaving for New Hampshire, made his most forceful comments yet to discourage a strike, warning of 'dire consequences' and telling the union: 'Don't even threaten a strike.'" LINK

The Wall Street Journal beckons Gov. George Pataki to demonstrate his leadership to a national audience by flexing some '08 muscle and standing up to the transit workers union that is "threatening to ruin New York City's Christmas."

The New York Post reports on Gov. Pataki's commitment to the New Hampshire primary and his belief that Democrats would be making a mistake if they diminish its importance. LINK

USA Today makes Note of a provision Frist hopes to insert into a defense bill that would shield makers of the avian flu vaccine from lawsuits. LINK


The Boston Globe wonders whether Romney will move aside to let the spotlight shine on his socially liberal Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey. LINK

Raphael Lewis of the Boston Globe surveys the field of contenders who have arisen in Romney's wake. LINK

Carrie Sheffield reports in The Hill that Democrat Jim Pederson, who expects to challenge Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) for his Senate seat in 2006, plans to exploit the differences between Kyl and McCain on immigration issues. LINK

Lauren W. Whittington reports in Roll Call that James Carville said he's looking forward to campaigning for Iraq war veteran Paul Hackett if he wins the Democratic nomination to challenge Ohio Sen. Mike DeWine (R) in 2006.

The New York Daily News reports of a "giggling and chatting" Jeanine Pirro outside a slain police officer's funeral in the Bronx yesterday. LINK

The New York Post's Dicker on yesterday's Quinnipiac University poll numbers showing Jeanine Pirro with a "chance of winning" if she switches her campaign to a race for Attorney General. LINK

The New York Daily News covers similar ground: LINK

The Clintons of Chappaqua:

The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle on former President Clinton's part-politics, part-goodwill visit to Rochester with local billionaire (and gubernatorial hopeful) Tom Golisano who bankrolled part of the Clinton Global Initiative symposium. LINK

News 10 writes up Clinton's Rochester trip under a "raises political questions" header. LINK

WROC-TV's Katrina Irwin has some saying that Golisano's decision to align himself with Clinton "will only hurt his political aspirations." LINK

"Political Analyst Curt Smith says the bi-partisan card would be a fine one to play if Golisano already was the Republican nominee and this was the general election. But, it's not, and Bill Clinton isn't just any Democrat. Smith says, 'there is no one more universally reviled among Conservatives and Republicans who dominates that party other than Bill Clinton.'"

The New York Post on all this. LINK


The New York Times' Philip Shenon reports of an email sent by Jack Abramoff to the Tigua Indian tribe of El Paso urging them to send a contribution of $25,000 for the 2002 President's Dinner. In the email Abramoff indicated his urging was due to a phone call his office received from Rep. Tom DeLay inquiring about the money. DeLay's lawyer denies such a phone call was made. And be sure to Note the separate email from inside Abramoff's office -- indicating Abramoff had significantly altered the original email his assistant sent to him on the matter before forwarding it on to the Tigua tribe. LINK

DeLay's legal team seems to have a source inside the Abramoff world who is not very loyal to Abramoff. We wonder how helpful that will continue to be for them.

Paul Kane reports in Roll Call that the Senate Ethics Committee will not investigate Sen. Conrad Burn's connections to lobbyist Jack Abramoff until the Department of Justice's investigation into the matter has ended.

Politics of immigration:

The Washington Times editorial board supports the immigration bill to be voted on today in the House. LINK

The Dukester:

Although former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham will still collect his $36,000 congressional pension next year, some GOP lawmakers are trying to assure that future congressmen convicted of crimes will not. Rep. Lee Terry (R-NB) says the legislation will show the American people that Congress is serious about maintaining high ethical standards. LINK

Jackie Kucinich reports in The Hill that three Republican representatives yesterday announced separate pieces of legislation that would revoke the government pension from any member of Congress convicted of a white-collar crime. LINK

Dean's Democrats:

John DiStaso writes in his Granite Status column in the Union Leader that the Democratic National Committee commission's recommendation to insert caucuses between Iowa's first and New Hampshire's first primary goes now to the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee. LINK

The Washington Times reports that Mike Allen's floating of Gov.-elect Tim Kaine's name as a likely Democratic responder to SOTU is a rumor that may have some legs. LINK

South Carolina:

Aaron Gould Sheinn reports in The State that Phil Bailey, executive director of South Carolina Senate Democratic Caucus, apologized yesterday for posting negative comments about a Democratic South Carolina gubernatorial candidate and the state's late Gov. Carroll Campbell, a Republican. LINK

The Schwarzenegger Era:

The Los Angeles Times' George Skelton looks at California GOPers' fear that new chief of staff Susan Kennedy will push the governor leftward. But Kennedy defends herself: "That totally underestimates the governor. Republicans need to have more faith in him..." LINK


George F. Will columnizes that for some opponents of oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, environmentalism is really "just collectivism in drag." LINK

Robert Novak wants Congress to force the release of a decade-in-the making report by an independent counsel, which he claims contains "shocking allegations of high-level corruption in the IRS and Justice Department" and "concealed Clinton administration scandals." LINK

The Chicago Tribune reports that the Securities and Exchange Commission may sue former Illinois Gov. James Thompson for his involvement in the audit of the Hollinger newspaper company. LINK