The Note: It's the Murals of Elihu Vedder, Stupid

WASHINGTON, Jan. 18

NEWS SUMMARY

Maureen Dowd speaks for more than a few Note readers when she suggests in her fabulously expensive column today that the Democratic Party's leaders aren't winning the battle or the war.

On the other hand: George Miller thinks Nancy Pelosi is doing a fabulous job; Jim Manley thinks Harry Reid is doing a fabulous job; Karen Finney thinks Howard Dean is doing a fabulous job; Ray Hernandez thinks Hillary Clinton is doing a fabulous job; and Robert Gibbs thinks Barack Obama was robotic and unsmooth on Good Morning America today.*

RoveBartlettWallaceMcClellan, on their own terms, would pretty much agree with all of that.

In any case, our point is this:

Cliché-Meisters such as Terry McAuliffe would say that the Abramoff scandal has caused a PERFECT STORM of corruption, controversy, and chaos battering the Republican Party, and that the Democrats would have to be completely incompetent not to be able to take dramatic electoral advantage of the scandal and sweep to victory in the midterms and 2008.

(Yes, well, clear throat here and, if you can afford it, go re-read the Dowd column.)

Sen. Reid (D-NV), Rep. Pelosi (D-CA), Sen. Obama (D-IL), and Rep. Louise Slaughter will unveil their "honest leadership, open government" reform agenda at 2:00 pm ET at the Library of Congress. They will be joined by other Democrats.

Sens. Reid, Durbin, and Schumer follow up with a 3:30 pm ET pen and pad briefing on the Democrats' "Honest Leadership Act."

Making hay out of recent GOP scandals in the crucial battleground state of Ohio, DNC Chairman Dean will preview the Democrats' reform agenda at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, OH at 10:00 am ET. Ohio Democratic Chairman Chris Redfern is expected to attend.

A rally sponsored by the Campaign for America's Future, MoveOn.org Political Action, and the Public Campaign Action Fund is planned for 9:45 am ET outside Grover Norquist's weekly meeting of conservative activists to "protest the 'K Street Project' Norquist helped create."

In the day's one must-read not written by Robert Pear, the Washington Post's Jeffrey Birnbaum explains that the lobbying reform proposals unveiled by the GOP yesterday actually do nothing to prevent lawmakers from accepting meals or travel from lobbyists – as long as the travel and meals are tied to fundraising. LINK

Birnbaum has Sen. John McCain saying he's aware of the loophole and vowing to fix it.

ABC's Liz Marlantes reports that Sen. McCain and Speaker Hastert agree that 527 reform is needed and should be a part of any reform bill. However, before walking out of his press conference with Sen. Santorum yesterday, McCain added ". . .my problem is earmarking more than 527s," and "I'm not going to sacrifice a whole bill for the sake of 527s."

The only item on President Bush's public schedule as of this writing is a meeting with "victims of Saddam Hussein" at 10:55 am ET in the Roosevelt Room at the White House. In private, the President will be racking his brain, trying to remember if he ever posed for photos with Jack Abramoff -- now the central issue in the 2006 midterm elections.

ABC's Karen Travers reports, "President Bush will meet with about a dozen Iraqis. A senior Administration official said Tuesday that some in the group witnessed Saddam Hussein's brutality, some were forced to flee Iraq, and some were imprisoned and beaten by the Hussein regime. Most of the Iraqis currently reside in the United States."

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