The Note: Economics 101



If the White House has its way, this weekend -- as tens of millions of Americans get ready for the NFL playoffs, watch their Tivo'ed "Washington Week," and check out re-runs of Tom Edsall's gripping colloquy with Brian Lamb -- the Nation will say to itself in one giant collective voice, "President Bush does indeed have a strategy to grow the economy and raise household incomes!!!"

Of course, presidential strategists know that if this group shout-out occurs, it will be because of the wide reach of Matthew McDonald, rather than any significant Friday night network coverage (and Saturday newspaper coverage) of all of today's focus-like-a-laser-beam efforts by the Administration to highlight the growing economy and the plans to keep it booming. Because the President's vision has nothing to do with Sharon, miners, Jon Stewart hosting the Academy Awards, or deaths in Iraq.

Nonetheless, as Republicans on the Hill sort through the leadership, message, and policy ramifications of the swirling controversy that is L'affair Abramoff, their partisan brethren at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue are getting out of Dodge.

It's Economy Day for the Bush Administration.

"The Labor Department says the economy added 108,000 jobs in December; the unemployment rate dips to 4.9 percent," reports the AP, heralding numbers that can be spun in any direction one wishes (good trend; weaker than expected; etc.).

President Bush will no doubt be touting those numbers his way after he tours the Chicago Board of Trade today during his 1:00 pm ET remarks at the Hilton Hotel in Chicago, IL.

Per ABC News' Karen Travers, Scott McClellan said the President will focus his remarks on three areas:

1. Importance of increasing opportunity by keeping the economy growing (read: making taxing cuts permanent and reining in spending).

2. Job skills and training in a changing economy.

3. Increasing opportunity by expanding trade and the importance of opening markets abroad to American products and workers.

Per the Wall Street Journal's John Harwood, the steelworkers plan to protest in Chicago today as Bush visits to tout better education for 21st century workers. The steelworkers were "rebuffed" by Bush on Dec. 30 in their bid for trade protection. The steelworkers union is seeking congressional help in competing with imports of Chinese-made steel pipe.

Vice President Cheney is expected to do some economic cheerleading today as well. He'll have the more muscular photo opportunity with a tour of a Harley-Davidson factory in Kansas City, MO. Mr. Cheney will make his remarks at 12:20 pm ET from that factory before heading off to Fort Leavenworth, KS to rally the troops.

(ABC's Karen Travers reminds us, "Cheney visited a Harley Davidson store in Gainesville, FL on Oct 4, 2004 for a campaign event. He delivered his standard campaign stump speech there and checked out the bikes but did not take one for a test ride.)

The Secretary of the Treasury John Snow visits the New York Stock Exchange at 11:00 am ET and the Secretaries of Commerce, Labor, and Energy (and many of their deputies) are all out and about today as well.

And your one must-read on the Bush/Cheney/Evans economy:

The Los Angeles Times asks if the problem for Mr. Bush is that he just has a tough act to follow – the boom of the '90s. LINK

And your three must-reads on the (soon to be?) end of the DeLay era in the House:

1. In a front-page look at the scrambling taking place in the House GOP Conference, the Washington Post's Weisman and Murray name Roy Blunt of Missouri, John Boehner of Ohio, Mike Pence of Indiana, John Shadegg of Arizona, Zach Wamp of Tennessee, and Jerry Lewis of California as possible permanent replacements for DeLay. If Blunt were to be the permanent replacement, Eric Cantor of Virginia could claim the whip's post but he might draw opposition from Mike Rogers of Michigan, a former FBI agent who specialized in public corruption cases. LINK

2. The Wall Street Journal's ed board writes that Republicans "seem clueless about the meaning of Jack Abramoff." LINK

The paper calls on the House GOP and DeLay to "move on separately."

And the Gigotites write that if Speaker Dennis Hastert, Acting Majority Leader Roy Blunt and other GOP leaders are "too insulated" to realize that the Republican majority has gradually decided since 1994 that "they want to reform and limit government less than they want to use government to entrench their own power," then Republicans "need new leaders, and right away."

3. "Support wanes for DeLay return to leadership post," blares a Washington Times front-page headline. Ralph Z. Halow and Amy Fagan have Paul Weyrich and the editor of the American Spectator turning cool on DeLay's return to the leadership. But Tony Perkins and Congressman Jack Kingston are sticking by the embattled Hammer. LINK

The Majority and Minority staffs of the Senate Judiciary Committee will provide background briefings on the upcoming Alito hearings to members of the media today.

The grand jury investigating the leak of former CIA operative Valerie Plame's name is scheduled to meet at 9:00 am ET at the Federal District Courthouse in Washington, DC.

First Lady Laura Bush will be at the State Department this afternoon to deliver remarks and introduce Under Secretary of State Karen Hughes at 1:30 pm ET.

Sen. Bayh (D-IN) is in Israel today and Sen. Obama (D-IL) is in Kuwait. The two will meet in Iraq tomorrow as part of a CODEL led by Sen. Bayh. LINK

Sens. McCain (R-AZ), Collins (R-ME), and Sununu (R-NH) are in Antarctica for 10 days observing climate and atmosphere changes, the Washington Post's Al Kamen reports. LINK

Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) honors New Mexico on the 94th anniversary of its statehood in the Capitol Rotunda in Santa Fe, NM at 1:00 pm ET.

In his post State of the State barnstorming, Gov. Schwarzenegger (R-CA) will sell his "strategic growth plan" in Nimbus and El Monte, CA today.

Tomorrow, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) heads to Vermont to support Rep. Bernie Sanders' (I-VT) Senate campaign. And since he'll be in the region. Sen. Feingold will also drop by a Hanover Democratic Party event in Hanover, NH tomorrow night.

In advance of the Alito confirmation hearings, Family Research Council's "Justice Sunday III - Proclaim Liberty Throughout the Land" is set to be simulcast on Sunday evening from the Greater Exodus Baptist Church in Philadelphia, PA.

Make sure to tune into "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" on Sunday morning. Senate Judiciary Committee members Sens. Kennedy (D-MA) and Brownback (R-KS) will be George's guests to discuss the upcoming Alito confirmation hearings and much more.

Abramoff: reforming Republicans:

Scot Lehigh of the Boston Globe writes in his op-ed, "Back during their long years in the minority, Republicans pledged lean, honest, efficient, responsive government when and if they ascended to power in Congress. Instead, they've offered up a Roman orgy of arrogance, excess, and indulgence." LINK

There's a race to come up with the best lobbying reform package among members of the both parties in Congress, and the New York Times' Carl Hulse predicts the sentiment will hold and some form of lobbying legislation will be passed this year. LINK

Writing on the New York Times editorial page, Byron York questions the rush to pass new lobbying reform. LINK

Abramoff: the politics:

In an ominous sign for Tom DeLay, Jeff Flake tells the Los Angeles Times that he expects a letter calling for new Republican leadership elections to be circulated within days. LINK

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed arguing that K Street will always be with us, Michael Barone writes that Abramoff's testimony "could end the careers of some members of Congress and could threatens the Republicans' House majority."

Charlie Cook is not yet ready to declare winners and losers in the Abramoff saga. In his National Journal column, Cook writes that much of the impact may hinge on Tom DeLay.

"If DeLay is directly implicated in Abramoff's criminal activities, the scandal could acquire a Republican tinge in the minds of the public. So far, the vast majority of voters have no earthly idea who Abramoff is, and they don't see his troubles as primarily a Republican problem. The chances of this becoming a GOP scandal rather than a bipartisan congressional scandal would go up enormously if DeLay were indicted or were to plead guilty to a serious crime."

The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne mines Roll Call, The Hill, and National Journal for a decade-old glimpse of Abramoff's GOP ties. LINK

For the Washington Post's Style section, Robin Givhan writes that with his black fedora and too-tight trench coat Abramoff "could not have appeared more guilty, more menacing and more unsympathetic." LINK

Abramoff: shedding tainted cash:

The New York Times looks at the windfall accruing to charities as politicians dump (donate) their Abramoff-related contributions, but asks why random charities, instead of Abramoff's victims, should be the beneficiaries of the money. LINK

The Des Moines Register's Jane Norman reports that three of the four member of the Iowa delegation to Congress who received campaign dollars from the scandal-plagued Abramoff or his clients are moving to give up the cash. Between Sen. Harkin, Rep. Nussle, and Rep. Latham, more than $22,000 will be donated to various charities. LINK

The Wichita Eagle writes up Sen. Brownback's shedding of Abramoff-related money. LINK

The Boston Globe reports that Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) is just one of many Democrats not giving back Abramoff-associated dough. LINK

Abramoff: DeLay:

Bloomberg's Michael Forsythe looks at the Alexander Strategy Group's ties to three scandals. LINK

DA Ronnie Earle appears to be after an Abramoff/DeLay link. Earle issued subpoenas for records related a large advocacy group donation with links to Abramoff, reports the Houston Chronicle. LINK

The Washington Post's R. Jeffrey Smith on the widening DeLay inquiry involving the US Family Network. LINK

Abramoff: news of day:

The Los Angeles Times looks at the massive task confronting prosecutors as they attempt to show lawmakers were bribed by Abramoff and his clients. LINK

Samuel Alito for Associate Justice:

The New York Times' David Kirkpatrick analyzes the witness list put forward by Democrats for next week's Alito hearings and finds the nominee's character will be prominently investigated by Judiciary Committee Democrats. LINK

The AP on the possibility of a delay in the Judiciary Committee vote on Alito: LINK

The Washington Times' Stephen Dinan reports that Democrats claimed yesterday that if Alito wants to be confirmed, he must explain whether he would allow warrantless wiretapping of the kind practiced in a recently disclosed NSA program. LINK

The Boston Globe Notes that with just days before Judge Samuel Alito's confirmation hearings, top Democratic Senators came together on the Hill to discuss Alito's "centering on his deference to executive power." Sen. Kennedy (D-MA) wants to know, "is there any limit to executive power and authority that this nominee will recognize?" LINK

USA Today's Joan Biskupic's detective work on the unusually tight-lipped Supreme Court nominee indicates that his work under spitfire attorney Rex Lee during the Reagan administration offers clues to his positions. LINK

Politics of spying:

In what the New York Times sees as an indicator of a growing partisan division over domestic spying, Intelligence Committee chair Peter Hoekstra lashed out at Democrat Jane Harman yesterday, following her letter on Wednesday to the White House criticizing how Congress has been briefed on the program. LINK

The DNC is attempting to refocus attention on the domestic spying story by sending a web video (a tactic of which the Democrats are apparently growing as fond as their Republican counterparts) to its supporters in which they literally morph George W. Bush into Richard Nixon to hammer home their point about what they see as executive power overreach. You can check it out here: LINK

In addition to the video, the DNC delivered a FOIA request to the Department of Justice yesterday -- signed by 160,000 supporters -- seeking documentation concerning the decision to implement the warrantless spying program.

The power of the president in wartime moves to "center stage" when Sen. Specter holds hearings on the NSA's domestic spying and on Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court, the Wall Street Journal's scholarly John McKinnon reports.

Politics of Iraq:

The Washington Post's Josh White on the way in which Congressman Murtha's recent comments to Nightline's Jon Donvan irked and "energized" Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. LINK

Late on Thursday, the RNC circulated Gen. Pace's comments in a typically aggressive move.

Murtha responded to Pace's criticism by saying "there is no greater honor than to serve and defend this great nation" while standing by his full-throated criticism of the Iraq-era US military.

The President's Q&A yesterday with officials from former administrations lasted only 5-10 minutes, reports the New York Times. During the unusual bipartisan interchange, which had "shades of the first days of Mr. Bush's presidency in 2001," Colin Powell was silent, a "silence that spoke volumes." LINK

(Make sure you read the part of the Albright exchange at least twice.) The Los Angeles Times runs down the questions asked and concerns raised at the gathering. LINK

The Washington Post's Jim VandeHei on the graybeards. LINK

Bush Administration/agenda:

Bloomberg's Brendan Murray and Kevin Carmichael write that some economists and investors say the bond market is heralding an economic downturn later this year or early next. The Bush Administration doesn't see it that way. LINK

The Washington Times' Bill Sammon on Bush's efforts to counter the image of insularity. LINK

David Ignatius of the Washington Post has a hit job on David Addington, Vice President Cheney's gazpacho-eating, ideology-enforcing, and subway-riding chief-of-staff. LINK

The Houston Chronicle reports of charges of "cronyism" when it comes to President Bush's recess appointment of Julie Myers, a lawyer, who was given the post of Immigration and Customs Enforcement head. LINK

Death penalty politics:

Maria Glod and Michael D. Shear report for the Washington Post's front page that Gov. Mark Warner (D-VA) has ordered DNA testing that could prove "the guilt or innocence of a man executed in 1992, marking the first time a governor has asked for genetic testing of someone put to death." LINK

New Jersey is likely to become the third state to impose a moratorium on the death penalty, with a one year ban. LINK

The politics of education:

The Washington Post's Lois Romano on the Florida Supreme Court's decision to strike down the state's voucher program on the basis that it sets up an alternative system not subject to the "uniformity" requirements articulated in the state's constitution. LINK

Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) called the decision "a sad day for accountability in our state." "Voucher proponents said they will examine options for continuing the program, such as amending Florida's constitution or appealing to the US Supreme Court."

Yesterday's ruling is "expected to reverberate through battles over school choice in many states." LINK

But the Los Angeles Times says the effect of the ruling will be limited because of Florida's unique constitution. LINK

The Fitzgerald investigation:

Scooter Libby will be hanging his hat at the Hudson Institute where, in his capacity as a senior fellow, he will focus on issues related to terrorism and Asia, reports the Washington Post's Al Kamen. LINK

2008: Republicans:

The Richmond Times Dispatch follows the Hotline reporting that former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie has signed on as treasurer of Sen. George Allen's (R-VA) PAC. LINK

The Boston Globe writes up Gov. Romney's push for on-demand HIV testing for victims of sex crimes. LINK

The New York Post's Dicker looks at Human Events magazine's list of top 10 RINO's (Republican In Name Only) and finds both Gov. Pataki and Gov. Romney on the list. LINK

2008: Democrats:

John Kerry boasts of his ability to protect witnesses back in his prosecutorial days, a skill he sees woefully lacking among Bay State prosecutors today. The Boston Herald has the story. LINK

The Des Moines Register's editorial board writes that Gov. Vilsack's intentions are good in his proposal to help alleviate health care costs for small businesses and school districts, but his plan to create a $30 million fund for the program "raises questions about fairness." LINK

Eating Gersteinian dust, the New York Daily News has details of a $35,000 fine that will be paid by one of Sen. Clinton's fundraising committees after it admitted to failing to reveal $722,000 in contributions from a felon. LINK

Steve Hildebrand tells the AP that former Senator Tom Daschle (D-SD) is heading back to Iowa next month for his second speech there in the span of three months. LINK


Per the New York Post, New York's state GOP chair yesterday filed a FOIA request for all of Attorney General – and gubernatorial candidate – Eliot Spitzer's e-mails regarding "threats" he may have made against former Goldman Sachs chairman John Whitehead and talk show host Sean Hannity. LINK

The Schwarzenegger Era:

The sweeping proposals outlined by Gov. Schwarzenegger at his State of the State address yesterday met with "tepid applause and, later, guarded comments" as legislators seemed "stunned" by the cost of the programs outlined in the speech. LINK

But the New York Times says the proposals were "applauded by Democrats." LINK

And the Los Angeles Times Notes that Schwarzenegger's speech amounted to a shift to the center, a tactically smart move that the paper says will make it harder for him to be painted as an out-of-touch conservative. LINK

More State of the State reaction, courtesy of the San Francisco Chronicle. LINK

Bloomberg's William Selway and Michael B. Marois have Senate President Don Perata, an Oakland Democrat, reacting to Schwarzenegger's $222 billion public works plan by saying: "It's impossible to grasp,. I don't know if there is enough available cash to pay the debt service on a bond like that.'' LINK

Political potpourri:

The New York Times' Jodi Wilgoren asks if Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, the man known as Mayor for Life, may have reached the nadir of his long political career. LINK