The Note: Abducted by Aliens



If we were the types to look backward, we would make sure that you had seen Christopher Cooper's December 30, 2005, Wall Street Journal piece on lame-duck First Lady Laura Bush, with this best-of-the-year paragraph:

"A hint of the steel behind her smile was evident early this year, when the White House ushered out longtime head chef Walter Scheib. One East Wing official, breaking months of silence on the issue, cited a 'level of arrogance' Mr. Scheib displayed in preparing dishes the Bush family detested -- scallops in particular, which kept appearing on menus despite repeated complaints. Mr. Scheib declined to comment."

But we are always about looking forward.

The Note and the President think the point of the last three years of his presidency (after he just basically wasted last year) is to see which of his public policy promises he can fulfill, to make America and the world better.

The rest of the politico-media class seems to think the next three years are about jockeying for advantage in the midterm elections and the 2008 presidential sweepstakes.

Finding ourselves, as we often do, in the majority (Sorry, Mr. President), here is what you need to know on the major issues that will dominate the rest of our lives (or, at least, dominate them through election night, which is right around the corner).


What the person at the desk next to yours is focused on: How much Iraq versus how much domestic, and whether Tim Kaine is doing the Democratic response.

What you should focus on: How much Big versus how much small-ball, and whether the speech is a version of the compassionate conservative SOTU Mr. Bush planned for 2002 (but then 9/11 happened).


What the person at the desk next to yours is focused on: Boots (not) on the ground.

What you should focus on: What EJ Dionne nails today: "Khalilzad needs to get Iraq's dominant Shiites to make concessions to the Sunnis and create a semblance of political peace." LINK


What the person at the desk next to yours is focused on: Puny ad buys, meaningless PR stunts, and Steve Schmidt's blood pressure.

What you should focus on: Senators Collins and Snowe.


What the person at the desk next to yours is focused on: Will there be a deal?

What you should focus on: On whom does he have the goods?

Specter hearings on NSA:

What the person at the desk next to yours is focused on: When do they start?

What you should focus on: Does Specter do real oversight/investigative hearings or Bush-era kabuki ones (and what does Sen./Leader/Dr. Frist want?)?


What the person at the desk next to yours is focused on: Legal troubles.

What you should focus on: District troubles.


What the person at the desk next to yours is focused on: Is Rove a focus?

What you should focus on: Will Scooter Libby go to trial?


What the person at the desk next to yours is focused on: Macro statistics.

What you should focus on: The right polling data that indicates if presidential efforts to get credit are doing the trick.


What the person at the desk next to yours is focused on: Nothing yet.

What you should focus on: The oxes to be gored, and the psycho-split House Republican Conference.


What the person at the desk next to yours is focused on: An issue that divides the Republican Party.

What you should focus on: Whether Frist and Hastert want a deal acceptable to the President (and whether Hastert will apply his majority-of-the-majority rule).


What the person at the desk next to yours is focused on: Feature stories galore.

What you should focus on: How many times the POTUS visits New Orleans in 2006.

Bush staff:

What the person at the desk next to yours is focused on: Card leaving.

What you should focus on: Card staying.

Bush Cabinet:

What the person at the desk next to yours is focused on: Rummy leaving.

What you should focus on: Rummy staying.

2006, Part I:

What the person at the desk next to yours is focused on: If there are enough retirements in the pipeline to make this interesting.

What you should focus on: If certain Democratic Leaders and Chairs can thwart the best-laid Emanuel/Schumer plans by thinking that a post-9/11 election can be won by the party proudly proclaiming it favors civil liberties over national security (or that America can have both!!!!).

2006, Part II:

What the person at the desk next to yours is focused on: Breathless Democratic hopes to take over both congressional chambers after the November elections.

What you should focus on: Gov. Mitt Romney's ability to manage expectations about potential Republican net losses of governorships and how much the RGA chairman personally puts himself on the line in various gubernatorial battles across the country (and the chits available if he runs the table).

2008: Republicans:

What the person at the desk next to yours is focused on: John McCain.

What you should focus on: John McCain.

2008: Democrats:

What the person at the desk next to yours is focused on: Jockeying to be the "Clinton alternative."

What you should focus on: How many of the top 100 bundlers are with Senator Clinton.

Political media:

What the person at the desk next to yours is focused on: If The Note has lost its relevance in 2006.

What you should focus on: Bloomberg News' brilliant hiring of Roger Simon.

The Scheib/scallop thing:

What the person at the desk next to yours is focused on: Did that really happen?

What you should focus on: Getting the President (or Lea Berman) to tell you what really happened.

President Bush participates in a meeting on the Patriot Act in the Roosevelt Room at 1:15 pm ET after which he'll chat with the pool (and we suggest a scallop question). Scott McClellan will gaggle off camera at 10:00 am ET and brief the press corps on camera at 12:15 pm ET. (We're pretty sure any questions about Scott's mom's decision to run for Governor of Texas as an independent instead of as a Republican will be quickly redirected to her campaign, so, again, we suggest a scallop question.)

Neal Sonnett, Jack Abramoff's attorney in the Sun Cruz matter, tells ABC News' Jack Date the status conference with Judge Huck will be handled over the phone, today at 3:30 pm ET at which time it is expected to become apparent whether or not a plea agreement has been reached. Abramoff is not expected to be present.

Although the final details are not worked out, Abramoff is widely expected to agree to a plea deal including charges in both the Miami and Washington investigations.

Progress for America launches a 9-day, $500,000 advertising buy today on national cable (CNN and Fox) and several targeted states (Louisiana, Maine, and North Dakota) in support of Judge Samuel Alito's confirmation to the Supreme Court. The ad is called "Drip" and takes on the "liberal" Alito critics for what PFA sees as a daily stream of unfounded attacks on his record. The television ad is scheduled to coincide with PFA's 18-state "barnstorm" by 29 of Alito's clerks, personal friends, mentors, and former colleagues.

Look for the anti-Alito forces to roll out their latest ad campaign tomorrow. The House and Senate meet for a brief pro forma session to begin the second session of the 109th Congress. (This duty will fall to a relatively few members who may be in or near town.) The Senate is scheduled to return to business on January 18. The House is expected to get back to work on January 31.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff holds a 10:30 am ET press conference on the 2006 Urban Area Security Initiative Grants in Washington, DC.

Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) is in Woodbine, GA today at the (closed press) Republican Governors Association "Sportsmen Challenge."

President Bush's week ahead includes a statement on the Global War on Terrorism tomorrow morning at the Pentagon, a meeting with the current and former Secretaries of State and Defense at the White House on Thursday, and a speech on the economy from Chicago, IL on Friday.

Tomorrow, Vice President Cheney delivers remarks on Iraq and the GWOT at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC, Gov. Pataki (R-NY) delivers his final State of the State address in Albany, NY, and former Pittsburgh Steelers star Lynn Swann (R-PA) is expected to announce his gubernatorial campaign in three-day statewide tour.

Samuel Alito for Associate Justice:

David Kirkpatrick of the New York Times previews the feeble onslaught of Alito-related public relations campaigns (both for and against the nomination) set to kick into high gear this week including a coalition of anti-Alito forces apparently preparing to attack Judge Alito's integrity and credibility. LINK

Despite the Kirkpatrick breathlessness, recall the predictions of millions and millions of dollars being spent and citizens in the streets, and you can better put all this in perspective.

In their story looking at the semi-reinvigorated fight over Alito's nomination, USA Today's Kiely and Memmott Note that liberal plans to deliver anti-Alito petitions to Specter's Philadelphia offices Thursday while the conservative Family Research Council plans to host a TV broadcast featuring pro-Alito speakers at a Philadelphia church on Sunday. LINK

The Boston Globe columnist Peter Cannellos writes that Judge Alito's "chances of being confirmed as a Supreme Court justice could turn on whether the public comes away from next week's confirmation hearings believing he is a conservative judicial activist or merely a conservative judge." LINK

Former Solicitor General Charles Fried comes to Judge Alito's defense on the op-ed page of the New York Times. LINK

In the Times' "editorial observer" space, Adam Cohen focuses on how Alito might answer questions concerning one-person, one-vote. LINK

Bush agenda:

In a USA Today story about "the six-year itch" facing President Bush, David Jackson and Susan Page have Grover Norquist calling 2005 "a perfect storm of problems" and offering his thoughts about 2006. LINK

"'We don't have to be out of Iraq by September' to boost Americans' views of the war and help Republicans fare well in November's elections, Norquist says. What we have to do is: Iraq with an elected leadership. Iraq every two months with some announcement that more U.S. troops are coming back -- a steady sense of that.'"

President Bush is planning to spend 2006 making the case for his policies on Iraq and the economy instead of pursuing "lofty new domestic initiatives," the Washington Times' Bill Sammon reports. LINK

The Chicago Tribune Notes that President Bush will focus on "economic successes" when he tours the Chicago Board of Trade and speaks to the Economic Club of Chicago on Friday. LINK

Bloomberg's Richard Keil reports that President Bush will embrace a $10 million proposal by Congressman Jack Kingston (R-GA) to promote energy independence through tax credits and breaks for the purchase of hybrid vehicles or the use of alternative energy sources. LINK

The President will also push job training by religious charities and host a one-day summit in March with corporate leaders and foundations executives to encourage them to give more money to churches and religious charities.


Bloomberg's Forsythe and Salant report that Abramoff's lawyers "may tell a U.S. district judge in Miami as early as today whether they've reached a plea agreement with the government ahead of a scheduled wire-fraud trial, according to a person close to the investigation." LINK

Politics of spying:

On NBC's "Today" show this morning, New York Times scribe Jim Risen told Katie Couric that he hopes he will not have to reveal his sources to a grand jury and declared his story to be the exact opposite of the Plame case. Risen claims his sources revealed information for the best possible reasons and he went on to declare those sources "patriots."

Politics of Iraq:

The US and its key allies may fall short by one-third of their funding pledges to help rebuild Iraq, the Wall Street Journal's Dreazen reports.

Following yesterday's Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal's King and Jaffe look at a "revolutionary" Pentagon directive issued in late November that singles out postwar stability and reconstruction operations as a "core U.S. mission" with a priority "comparable to combat operations" but wonder how much the directive, which is "a bit short on specifics," will change the way the military actually operates.

Reuters picks up Congressman Murtha telling Nightline that he wouldn't join today's military and that the average guy out there who's considering recruitment is justified in saying "I don't want to serve." LINK

Paul Schroeder, the managing director of a trade development firm in Cleveland, pens a Washington Post op-ed arguing that his son's death in Iraq was a "waste." He blames President Bush for not sending enough troops and for misunderstanding what it takes to build a democracy. LINK

Politics of national security:

Charles Hurt of the Washington Times has a must-read that quotes "one Republican aide" saying on background that he looks forward to posting pictures of former Sen. Max Cleland (D-GA) around the Capitol during the Patriot Act debate as a warning to Democrats that they will face a similar political demise. LINK

Along the same lines, Dick Morris writes in the New York Post that the Democratic positions on the Patriot Act and the NSA wiretapping story are helping to rehabilitate President Bush's poll numbers due to the strong isolationist streak Morris believes runs through many independents in America. LINK

The New York Times leads today's paper with Eric Lipton's preview of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff's expected announcement to shift security money disbursements to a more risk-based approach. LINK

Politics of immigration:

Keying off of an ABC News-Washington Post poll taken in mid-December, Dan Balz reports that Americans support tighter border controls but split on what should happen to immigrants already in the United States. LINK

The Geoffrey Garin kicker quote carries a lot of Balzian water.

GOP agenda:

"It's going to be a banner year for C-SPAN," writes Christian Science Monitor's Gail Chaddock in her congressional curtain-raiser for 2006. LINK

The economy:

Economists predict a thriving business sector should carry the economy through the fifth year of economic expansion, though overall growth will slow due primarily to a softening housing market, the Wall Street Journal reports.


Finish this analogy: Robert Pear is to the new Medicare prescription drug benefit as Sting is to __________________. Here is Pear's New York Times dispatch on the mixed bag of results new beneficiaries are finding thus far. LINK

2008: Republicans:

While traveling in Australia, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) told Prime Minister John Howard that troops will be needed in Iraq for years to come, reports The Australian. LINK

Sen. McCain tells the Washington Post's Style section that before re-working "Character Is Destiny," he and co-author Mark Salter almost scrapped it because they thought that everything they wrote was "condescending." LINK

2008: Democrats:

The Washington Post's Eugene Robinson mocks Sen. Clinton's "epic rightward march" and changed "allegiance in the Culture War." LINK


The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne analogizes 2006 to 1958, 1966, and 1978 and columnizes that if the Democrats prosper in 2006, it will be because whatever program they come up with exploits "the failures of the party in power" and exacerbates "the contradictions in its coalition." LINK

The Houston Chronicle reports on the "bold stroke or a huge long shot" by Texas state comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn who will step away from the Republican party as a candidate and now challenge Gov. Rick Perry as an independent. LINK

The Dallas Morning News has more: LINK

Irritated, in part, by his opposition to the Syria Accountability Act, some pro-Israel money is flowing to Stephen Laffey, the Club for Growth-backed GOPer who is challenging Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) on the right, the New York Sun's Josh "Papa Doc" Gerstein reports. LINK

Eliot Spitzer's temperament gets Fred Dicker's attention in the New York Post. LINK (One has to wonder if Spitzer's press operation has developed a plan to deal with the Post's obsession. . . .)

Dicker also gets Donald Trump to rule out a 2006 gubernatorial run, but does his best to float a potential 2008 presidential campaign. LINK

The estranged wife of Democratic state Rep. Armando "Mando" Martinez from Texas filed Monday to run against her husband in a South Texas race. LINK

House of Labor:

Anyone who wants to understand the ways in which his daughter's death has motivated SEIU's Andy Stern should read Lynne Duke's excellent profile in the Washington Post's Style section. LINK

Political potpourri:

For those that may have thought "Ballotwatch" desks are soooo 2004, the Los Angeles Times offers up a must-read look at the complexities and complications many counties are encountering in trying to upgrade their voting equipment in a post-Florida 2000 world. LINK

Speaker Quinn will likely become the Manhattan Councilwoman's title after the 51-member New York City Council votes to make it official tomorrow. All the papers have something on the historic selection. LINK, LINK, and LINK


Keying off a Peter Savodnik story in The Hill, we wrote in The Note on Thursday, Dec. 15 that Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) had said: "I don't think it helps the Democrats to have a party chairman who is involved in controversy."

Sen. Bayh never said that.

Former Clinton adviser Doug Schoen (who does not work for Bayh) is the one who made that comment.

We regret the error.

Bonus poem:

We know what Democratic superlawyer Bob Bauer did over his holiday: he thought and wrote. You can read Counselor Bauer's latest work, and the book review for which it stands, here: LINK

And as a Note non-exclusive, a taste:


"The Center Does Not Hold"

Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson

Off Center: The Republican Revolution and the Erosion of American Democracy

"The Centre Cannot Hold"

W.B. Yeats

"The Second Coming"

(and with apologies to the latter)

Spinning and blogging, each calling the other a liar,

Will Extremes now vie for absolute power?

Things are unsettled; the center is on hold,

And moderates, clutching their handsets by the hour,

Fret that representatives are busy with other customers.

Is this mere democracy loosed upon our times?

And the leak-thick tide is loosed, and on background

The lawyers for spy and source rehearse their lines.

The lucky may avoid all conviction, while the worst

Know that Fitzgerald must eternally hover,

Full of his passionate intensity.

Ah, how the middle-of-the-roader must suffer!

Surely some explanation is at hand!

Surely think-tanks and pundits will attempt one!

Hardly are these words out, when C-SPAN

Switchboards, sorting by party, erupt with opinions.

Opposing poles arise, citadels of reason are stormed,

The darkness drops again, the hour of Fox is near.

But we know that neither lamentation nor reform,

Not the secluded cry of wonk or editorialist,

Can subdue disagreement, hide democratic sprawl

Behind conceits of high Policy, or answer a Norquist

Or Rove with anything more, or better, than politics.

And it is not "moderation", that pale and inoffensive gift,

That will repay that hard trip back to the Capitol,

But that which is dearer still, and lasting: an Alternative