The Note: A Minuet of Scorpions



At 9:30 am ET, Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) was gaveling Day Two of the Alito hearings into session. (Note: we love that 24/7 journalistic verb tense.)

Mandatory guess for all Note readers right now: will the network ledes tonight be:

A. Alito has the votes to be confirmed.

B. Abortion is the big issue.

C. Alito is no Roberts.

D. National security versus civil liberties is the big issue.

E. Democratic Senators are bullies.

F. None of the above.

G. Ed Gillespie is a genius.

Lock in your answer now, take the TV off of mute and enjoy the three-branch constitutional high-tech non-lynching.

Specter was to lead off the first round of questioning. Each of the 18 members on the Judiciary panel will be given 30 minutes. The committee will break for lunch at 12:30 pm and dinner at 6:00 pm ET. If necessary, the questioning could continue past 7:00 pm ET.

In non-Alito news, President Bush will address the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Washington DC at 10:15 am ET.

ABC News' Karen Travers reports that President Bush will address steps being taken to ensure that Iraq's police forces "adhere to the highest ethical standards."

Teeing up the boss' remarks, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said: "We've seen some recent news reports of a few, or some, who have engaged in abuses of the prison system. And I think the President will talk about the training that we are providing to the police forces, and human rights, and rule of law. And he will talk about how we're increasing the forces, too."

Earlier today, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) appeared exclusively on "Good Morning America" from her home in Chappaqua, NY to discuss her call for an investigation into body armor for troops in Iraq. Clinton told ABC's Diane Sawyer that the insufficient body armor was "unforgivable and unacceptable" and hammered President Bush and Vice President Cheney for continuing to "isolate themselves from various points of view," but she refused to call for Secretary Rumsfeld's resignation.

Gov. Tom Vilsack (D-IA) delivers his final "Condition of the State" address at 11:00 am ET in Des Moines, IA. Vilsack is expected to call for higher teacher pay, helping small businesses pay for health insurance, improving water quality, and increasing the cigarette tax.

Govs. Codey (D-NJ) and Gregoire (D-WA) also do their State of the State thing today.

In Sacramento, CA, (the recently-stitched-up) Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) unveils his 2006-07 budget proposal at 4:00 pm ET.

Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) provides a (closed press) state economic update at a meeting of "Jobs for Massachusetts."

As part of his tour of Red States, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) visits Phoenix, AZ and Denver, CO today. Roger Hickey of the Campaign for America's Future and David Donnelly of Public Campaign Action Fund will join forces today to unveil a relatively small ($100K-ish) advertising campaign in television, radio, and billboard ads targeting Congressman Tom DeLay (R-TX) and Congressman Bob Ney (R-OH). The TV ads call on DeLay to resign. The radio spot and the billboard target Ney. The ad campaign is part of a year-long effort to hang the corruption charge around GOP necks. The Houston Chronicle has more. LINK

First Lady Laura Bush makes 10:55 am ET remarks at the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Conference in Washington, DC. ABC News' Travers reports that the First Lady will highlight her "Helping Americas Youth" initiative and talk about the community assessment guide which was unveiled at the conference last fall. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales speaks to the same conference at 10:30 am ET.

The Supreme Court is expected to issue between one and four decisions today and tomorrow. The Court also hears oral arguments in Hartman v. Moore as well as the consolidated Texaco, Inc. v. Dagher and Shell Oil Co. v. Dagher.

Follow the Leader(ship race):

Day Two of your Note exclusive dispatches from the leadership candidate campaigns. (Published, as always, in the order in which they were received.)

From the Blunt camp's Jessica Boulanger:

Team Blunt is feeling strong to quite strong. The Congressman began his day with a bowl of Wheeties and some dialing-finger stretches. He then immediately hit the phones for the fourth day straight, continuing to have some very positive conversations with his colleagues and rack-up supporters. Last night, Blunt held a conference call with the approximately 40 Members he now counts as Whips in his Leader bid. The call went well, with each Whip giving Blunt feedback and reporting on commitments. The reviews are in and House Republicans are giving Roy two enthusiastic thumbs up. Per Marsha Blackburn: "We're looking for a conservative thinker and a savvy floor leader and that's Roy Blunt." The Diaz-Balarts and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen on Roy: he has "the experience, vision and character to lead us." Says Charlie Dent: "his style is warm and inclusive." Tom Cole agrees citing Roy's ability "to get things done."

From the Boehner camp's Kevin Smith:

The next three weeks will be very interesting; the last 72 hours certainly have been. We're hearing a growing consensus that conservatives are going to make this race, and on that front, all signs point to Boehner. While some conservatives may hold their support until it's clear no one else plans to enter the race, a post on the Corner yesterday said that between the two, "the choice for conservatives is Boehner." And this morning, George Will's column echoed this very point, saying "A salient fact: In 15 years in the House, Boehner has never put an earmark in an appropriations or transportation bill." Momentum is certainly going our way. Reps. Sam Johnson, a widely-respected Texas veteran conservative, and Ray LaHood, a well-known and influential moderate, are just two who today will join the growing list of members supporting John Boehner.

Blunt v. Boehner:

House Republicans have asked for Reps. Roy Blunt and John Boehner's platforms and are awaiting a possible third candidate to revamp the reputation of the House. The Washington Times' Stephen Dinan and Amy Fagan write that Rep. John Shadegg of Arizona may be The Third Man. LINK

The Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman on Boehner's 37-page manifesto, Blunt's "working in private," Rep. John Sweeney (R-NY) calling for a competition for all leadership posts, and Reps. Charlie Bass (R-NH) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) urging lawmakers not to commit publicly to any candidate because none has committed to "curtailing pork-barrel projects" or "stopping open-ended votes." LINK

Carl Hulse focuses his New York Times news of day piece on the Bass/Flake and Pence pushes to slowly and carefully consider leadership options, perhaps causing the contest to play out all the way to the tentative February 2 election. LINK

"So mired are the Republicans in Mr. Abramoff's web that Mr. Blunt's and Mr. Boehner's first task will be to convince their colleagues that they won't be the next ones caught up in the scandal," writes the New York Times editorial board. LINK

Blunt and Boehner share a broad network of lobbyist ties with DeLay, Bloomberg's Salant and Litvan report. LINK

"John Boehner is an insider's insider. He not only knows how to pass laws and win allies in Congress, he also knows how to slip quietly out of the Capitol for a smoke and some schmoozing with reporters, and how to make friends among CEOs, work a golf course and throw one magnificent party," begins Stephen Koff's Cleveland Plain Dealer Boehner profile in what may the Ohio Congressman's toughest clip of the day. LINK

Koff continues, "If Congress is to renounce its cozy relationships with lobbyists - the intense chase for campaign money and deal-making that's prompting outrage - Boehner may not represent a sweeping change."

A la the George Will column cited above, the Wall Street Journal's Brendan Miniter writes up Boehner's choosing not to bring the pork back home as a main selling point for the Congressman in his bid to lead his party. LINK

Hugh Aynesworth of the Washington Times writes that "the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals yesterday refused former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's appeal to dismiss money laundering charges against him or order a lower court to proceed immediately with his trial." LINK

The Republican ethics agenda:

The DCCC's Bill Burton will want to clip'n'save the news analysis about congressional corruption that Jim Drinkard wrote for the Nation's Newspaper. LINK

"'We simply have too much power,'" says Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), "speaking of lawmakers' ability to target tax dollars for particular projects, contractors or campaign donors. 'We Republicans have abused that power badly over the past several years.'"

The Washington Post's Morin and Deane report that most Americans believe that corruption in Congress is widespread, and even larger majorities support far-reaching reforms that would effectively end lobbying as it is currently practiced on Capitol Hill, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll." LINK

Americans are paying close attention to the lobbying scandal in the Capitol and say corruption in government will play a big role in their vote for Congress in November - more important than Social Security, taxes, abortion or immigration, USA Today's Susan Page reports. LINK

But "enthusiasm for Democrats is only slightly higher than for Republicans. A plurality predict both parties will be hurt equally by the inquiry into disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff."

David Broder writes that it will take "much more than hounding Tom DeLay out of office to change the culture of" Washington, as the Dean reads Texas Monthly and thinks Lone Star thoughts. LINK

2008: Republicans:

As Democrats keep up their drumbeat that Washington suffers from a "culture of corruption," Republican presidential hopefuls are searching for the right balance between loyalty and reform.

Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA), one of the most active '08ers, said on Monday that House Administration Committee Chairman Bob Ney (R-OH) should follow the lead of Congressman Tom DeLay (R-TX) and resign his leadership post. LINK

Ney spokesman Brian Walsh reacted to Romney's comments by saying: "I don't know how the personal opinions of the governor of Massachusetts on an issue of which he has no personal knowledge are relevant whatsoever."

If one wants to gauge the way one prominent Republican has recalibrated the way he speaks about Republican scandals, compare Romney's words to the AP's Glen Johnson on Monday with what he said in Davenport, IA on Saturday, Oct. 28.

Back in October, Romney, in the words of the AP's Mike Glover, "dismissed a string a setbacks suffered by Republicans, including the indictment of Vice President Dick Cheney's top aide, the withdrawal of a Supreme Court nominee and the continuing investigation of GOP congressional leaders as 'bug bites.'" LINK

Romney's not calling the GOP setbacks "bug bites" anymore.

Samuel Alito for Associate Justice:

Today, the action begins.

The New York Times' Liptak provides some background on executive power that should be helpful for today's round of questioning. LINK

Adam Nagourney of the New York Times on the changed political environment in which Alito finds himself. LINK

The Washington Post's Dan Balz sees a "disconnect" between "the zeal of activists and the detachment of the general public." LINK

David Kirkpatrick LINK and Dana Milbank on the day's color. LINK

News of day:

New York Times: LINK

Washington Post: LINK


Washington Times: LINK

Wall Street Journal: LINK

Boston Globe: LINK

The New York Post on seven things "you didn't know" about Alito. Number 7: "he took up juggling." LINK

The Washington Post's Mark Leibovich has Sen. Specter saying: "'With all the weightier issues I've been involved with . . . ' His voice trails off. And then back on: 'I get more comments about my hair than I do about any of the substantive issues I've been involved with.'" LINK


The life of the post-plea deal Abramoff is captured by the New York Times' Zernike and Kornblut including his penchant to continue to fire off emails on his BlackBerry. LINK

The Alexander Strategy Group will shut down at the end of the month because of its ties to Abramoff and DeLay, the Washington Post's Birnbaum and Grimaldi report. LINK

The Los Angeles Times reports that Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (CA-R), may be one of few Congressman defending Jack Abramoff. Rohrabacher told the AP, "They're portraying Jack as a monster, I see him more as a good person who's done bad things and has to be punished for doing bad things." LINK

Bush Administration agenda:

President Bush is evidently not too keen on the Snowe/Collins amendments to No Child Left Behind, reports the New York Times' Bumiller. LINK

Clintons of Chappaqua:

Former President Clinton extended his refueling stop in Bangor, ME last night (while en route home from Paris after chatting with President Chirac about his foundation) to join the greeters at the airport awaiting two planes of troops returning from duty in Iraq. LINK and LINK

Politics of Iraq:

On the Los Angeles Times op-ed page, Leon Fuerth attempts to broker partisan peace on Iraq by suggesting Democrats support the Bush Administration policy in Iraq without questioning troop withdrawals for six months in exchange for more honesty and better information flow from the Administration to Congress and the public. LINK

Paul Bremer's troop level comments get some New York Times ink today. LINK

As Sen. Clinton clearly demonstrated this morning, "Bremer" will no doubt be added to every Democratic talking point with the word "Shinseki" in it.

The politics of national security:

Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times provides an excellent primer on some of the arguments surrounding the Supreme Court's hearing the Hamdan case in light of a recent bill signed into law by President Bush late last month. LINK

The Fitzgerald investigation:

Per the Washington Post's Carol Leonnig, NBC's Tim Russert and his attorneys "argued in previously sealed court filings in June 2004 that he should not have to tell a grand jury about that conversation, because it would harm Russert's relationship with other sources." LINK

2008: Democrats:

The New York Times editorial board urges Gov. Mark Warner (D-VA) to pull a Vilsack and restore the right to vote to ex-prisoners in Virginia. "The public interest and Mr. Warner's political interests both argue in favor of giving Virginia's ex-prisoners full citizenship," writes the ed board in its attempt to paint its policy position as good politics for Warner as well. LINK

The Washington Post's Shear love-affair with Gov. Mark Warner (D-VA) continues today with a front-page tribute to his "triumphant legacy." LINK

Note the tribute to his bipartisan spirit from Sen. George Allen (R-VA), a fellow '08er: "It's probably one of his biggest successes. Some will applaud it. Some will criticize it. I didn't think a tax increase [was] necessary. But . . . working in a bipartisan way is very important, and he did that."

Cindy Adams can't believe Al Gore walks down the street unaided. LINK

Sen. Hillary Clinton and body armor makes Newsday. LINK

Raise your hand if you Noticed on GMA this morning that Sen. Clinton declared herself "one of the leading critics" of the President's Iraq policy over the last several years?

While appearing on Don Imus' show with Paul Begala this morning to promote "Take It Back: Our Party, Our Country, Our Future," James Carville said: "Feingold is going to cause some havoc out there. He is the most pro-reform, anti-war candidate out there."


Tom Higgins and Jonathan Roos of the Des Moines Register report on the first day of the Iowa legislative session, where one of the House Republicans' top agenda would be "to eliminate income taxes on Social Security and pension benefits in an effort to keep wealthy seniors from leaving the state." LINK

New Hampshire:

An emergency session held by the Legislature today concerns a vote on a bill that would divert $500,000 in state funds to untie bureaucratic knots in the Medicare Part D plan, writes Tom Fahey of the New Hampshire Union Leader. LINK


Northern Virginian lobbyist Harris Miller announced his candidacy for Senate yesterday. He hopes to run against Sen. George Allen (R-VA) in November. So far Miller, 54, who said he has quit his job as president of the Information Technology Association of America, is the only Democrat who formally announced a bid for the Senate seat. LINK

Scot Lehigh Notes in his Boston Globe op-ed, "AS THE [Massachusetts] 2006 gubernatorial contest starts in earnest, it might well be labeled the ''Wizard of Oz" campaign. Starting on the long winding road toward November, each of the four hopefuls seems to lack at least one important political quality." LINK

Republican gubernatorial contender Lt. Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas has met the $1 million dollar mark in campaign fundraising. LINK

The New York Post attributes to a source close to Jeanine Pirro that the former Senate hopeful fired her campaign manager when she learned he was paying himself $16,000 per month. Campaign Manger Brian Donohue disputes that claim, though not the salary. LINK

The Schwarzenegger Era:

The Los Angeles Times reports that today as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger presents his state budget worth billions of dollars "some of the governor's Republican allies wonder how the state would pay it all back." LINK

In an Los Angeles Times op-ed Dan Schnur, the famed Republican political consultant, writes on the "holes" Gov. Schwarzenegger needs to fill in order to win re-election. LINK


As rumors swirled, the attorney for former representative, Randy "Duke" Cunningham issued a statement yesterday refuting talk that Cunningham wore a listening device to gather evidence on other officials, but "declined to specify whether he wore one in conversations with private individuals." LINK

Ed Skyler scores a promotion to Deputy Mayor and tons of clips concerning his being 32 years old. LINK

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