The Note: Who's in Charge Here?

WASHINGTON, Jan. 19

NEWS SUMMARY

Ten Things to Know Before You Get on the Delta Shuttle in Either Direction:

1. In charge of good copping on the economy today and forever: President Bush.

2. In charge of bad copping on Hillary Clinton: the RNC and the First Lady (and Senator McCain on Imus!!!).

3. In charge of bad copping on civil liberties fetishizers in a time of war: the Vice President and the Wall Street Journal ed board.

4. In charge of bad copping on Harry Reid's ethics: everyone!!!!

5. In charge of making sure that Democrats have their ethical house in order before they throw stones: no one!!!

6. In charge of making sure that Virginia Governor Tim Kaine watches a video of his inaugural address and is told how he must improve in time for his nationally televised State of the Union Democratic response: ????.

7. In charge of wishing Ann Compton and Jon Karl "happy birthday": The Note.

8. In charge of making sure everyone at the Republican National Committee meeting has a good time: Gucci-loafered corporate lobbyists (just kidding(?)).

9. In charge of assigning Mark Leibovich to write the hyper-inevitable "Fred Wertheimer's Fourth Renaissance" piece for Style: Deb Heard. LINK

10. In charge of the Democrats' message for the Alito confirmation aftermath: (see #6 above).

The Bush Administration continues its pre-State of the Union out-of-town tryouts. President Bush heads to a small business in Sterling, VA for 10:10 am ET remarks.

ABC's Karen Travers reports, "The President will focus on small businesses and cite his Administration's policies as major factors for economic growth. He will address the outlook for job creation and talk about the role small businesses play in supporting the economy."

"'Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and the number one job creator in the United States,' White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said in advance of the boss' remarks. 'Many of these small businesses pay taxes at the top rate, so it's important that we make the tax cuts permanent. Otherwise, we're going to hurt job growth and hurt our economy.'"

"Expect the President to push for making his tax cuts permanent, reduce health care costs, and have Congress continue to push for spending restraint."

At 12:30 pm ET, Vice President Cheney will take to the stage at a Manhattan Institute gathering at the Grand Hyatt to deliver remarks on Iraq and the "War on Terror." ABC's Travers reports Vice President Cheney will likely discuss the NSA warrantless domestic spying controversy and the Patriot Act. Cheney is also expected to take some questions at the event.

First Lady Laura Bush is also back stateside and will join President Bush at a 1:15 pm ET meeting with foundations on Gulf Coast recovery in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

The Republican National Committee's winter meeting gets underway this morning. The Ken Mehlman and Karl Rove speeches are scheduled for tomorrow.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) leads a panel discussion with House Democrats and former Clinton Administration officials on the Democrats' "New Innovation Agenda."

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, announces his decision on the Alito nomination in remarks at the Georgetown University Law Center today. His 11:00 am ET remarks are entitled, "The Alito Nomination, The Supreme Court, and Presidential Power."

Sen. Kennedy (D-MA) heads over to the Center for American Progress at 1:30 pm ET to deliver a speech explaining why he sees his vote against Alito's confirmation as a vote for progress.

Judge Alito meets today with Sens. Carper, Sununu, Menendez, and Warner.

MALDEF and LULAC and other national Latino organizations hold a press conference to announce their opposition to Alito's confirmation at 9:45 am ET.

The Senate Republican Policy Committee gathers for a closed press meeting at 12:30 pm ET.

Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) is in Iraq and will hold a media availability there.

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) holds a 2:30 pm ET conference call with reporters to announce his introduction of a resolution calling for sanctions on Iran.

Sen. Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Lautenberg (D-NJ), and Sen. Rockefeller (D-WV) hold a 1:45 pm ET press conference on Medicare Part D.

In Pennsylvania, Democratic Senatorial candidate Bob Casey plans to hold a 5:20 pm ET conference call with supporters to discuss ethical scandals in Washington and question whether or not his opponent, Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), is the best person to be charged with heading up the lobbying reform effort in the Senate. (Whether or not Casey announces his position on Alito remains to be seen.)

The DSCC will help Casey drive that point home today by unveiling a new web video on its website and as advertisements on nearly 70 blogs. You can watch the web video (with its clear inspiration from Macbeth) here: LINK

Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) is in Arizona today continuing his nationwide tour to "end illegal immigration."

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) discusses the ways in which he thinks his Strategic Growth Plan will reduce traffic congestion, create jobs, and improve air quality at a Cal Trans construction site in San Diego, CA at 6:00 pm ET.

SEIU President Andy Stern joins Tom Donohue, the President and CEO of the US Chamber of Commerce, at 1:30 pm ET to discuss the importance of a guest worker program.

The five-year suspension of former President Bill Clinton's Arkansas law license ends today. The former University of Arkansas law professor has not indicated whether he will seek reinstatement.

And at 8:15 am ET, our friends and colleagues over at National Journal kicked off their Hotline quarterly political briefing at the Watergate.

SOTU:

Democrats have chosen Tim Kaine, Virginia's newly-elected governor, to deliver the party's State of the Union response.

Roll Call's Erin Billings reports that Kaine is expected to deliver the response from Richmond, VA and that party leaders Reid, Pelosi, and Richardson are expected to extend the offer to him today.

The AP's Jennifer Loven reports, "President Bush's State of the Union address will attempt to shift focus from the polarizing war in Iraq to a more popular domestic priority: taming health care costs." LINK

"Facing congressional elections in November that could end Republican control on Capitol Hill, Bush is hoping his agenda will help his party at the ballot box."

Medicare:

In a must-read that gets only A6 treatment in the Washington Post, Shailagh Murray explains how concerned Republicans held town meetings and workshops all over the country during Congress' winter break to try to "tamp down senior citizens' outrage" over the new Medicare prescription drug program. LINK

"The prospect of a crisis in the Medicare drug program, coming during a congressional corruption scandal and a shake-up of the House GOP leadership, is politically terrifying to some Republicans."

Samuel Alito for Associate Justice:

Just a bit more than half the Democratic caucus in the Senate showed up to the closed door meeting on the Alito nomination at which several Democratic Judiciary Committee members made their case for the importance of voting against Alito and then using that vote as a possible campaign issue, per the New York Times' David Kirkpatrick. LINK

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) tells the Los Angeles Times she will vote against Alito, but it's too soon to say how many of her Democratic colleagues will join her. LINK

The Washington Post follows the Boston Herald in reporting that Sen. Kennedy has formally cut his ties with a male-only Harvard social club. LINK

Lobbying reform:

In addition to indicating that Democrats intend to push the "culture of corruption" theme all year long, Carl Hulse of the New York Times writes yesterday's unveiling of their reform agenda "showed that Democrats did not intend to strike a deal easily with Republicans on an ethics overhaul." LINK

The Washington Post reviews the Democrats' reform plan and asks if an "ethical 'arms race'" is developing. LINK

Dorning and Zeleny of the Chicago Tribune call to our attention loopholes in the lobby reform plans of both parties: exceptions for campaign fundraising, trips on private planes, and a strong means of enforcement. LINK

USA Today's Jim Drinkard reports on the fact-finding trips, a congressional perk on the endangered list. LINK

All this talk about lobbyists seems to have inspired USA Today to shine a harsh light onto the relationship between Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA) and "vulture fund" Cerberus. LINK

The Boston Globe's industrious Michael Kranish reports that Democratic Congressman Michael Capuano (MA) and his wife "went on a $19,403 corporate-sponsored trip to Brazil -- one of the most expensive trips taken by any member of Congress during 2005, according to congressional travel records." LINK

Per Zachary Coile of the San Francisco Chronicle: "Watchdog groups said the Democrats' plan had the same major flaw as the GOP proposal: no clear system for enforcing congressional ethics rules." LINK

Norm Ornstein and Thomas Mann take to the New York Times op-ed page to suggest that Congress needs to take a look in the mirror and reform how it does its legislative business before any lobbying reform can have meaningful impact. LINK

Ben Pershing of Roll Call reports that lobbyists have been cut from the guest list of an upcoming GOP retreat, meaning Congressmen will have to pay their own way, as well as for any attending staffers.

A Wall Street Journal editorial scoffs at the "hilariously predictable" lobbying reform proposals, which will do nothing to "truly reduce corruption."

The Abramoff affair:

Can Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) be beaten by a Democrat decrying the lawmaker's role in what he called the "Abaramoff" affair? The Hill takes a look at the competition facing Representative No. 1. LINK

Democrats are failing to take full advantage of the Abramoff scandal because of internal divisions about the extent to which they should adopt reform proposals, suggests a Bloomberg story. LINK

"I've had a number of people who said, `Geez, you really want to do this, after the way Republicans have treated us?''' Rep. David Obey (D-WI) said. ``Why would we guarantee them this stuff if we take control?''

DeLay:

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have cut their three-year relationship with lobbyists linked to Tom DeLay, including former DeLay deputy Tony Rudy, Bloomberg reports. LINK

Blunt v. Boehner v. Shadegg:

While appearing on C-SPAN's "Washington Journal" this morning, Congressman John Shadegg (R-AZ) said he had "a fresher face" and "a more aggressive reform agenda" than either Congressman Roy Blunt (R-MO) or Congressman John Boehner (R-OH).

Per The Hill, the three candidates for Majority Leader met with reform-minded Reps. Charlie Bass (R-NH) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who pushed them to adopt agendas that would institute substantive changes to the halls of Congress (not to mention the gym). LINK

Blunt appeals to the Wall Street Journal's readership for support in the Majority Leader race. LINK

Shadegg gets some home-state editorial support from the Arizona Republic. LINK

WisPolitics links to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Sensenbrenner's full statement of support for Shadegg. LINK

Roll Call's Mary Ann Akers writes that the Majority Leader race is getting nasty, with one of her sources overhearing a Boehner supporter calling Blunt the "bride of Frankenstein" over drinks at Bobby Van's.

Follow the Leader(ship race):

Blunt's Jessica Boulanger offers her take on the State of the Race:

Congressman Blunt held another successful strategy session with his Majority Leader race whips. They reported that while the media scrambles to fill the need for a daily story, Members are beginning to look past this campaign and on to the first days, weeks and months of the crucial second session of the 109th Congress.

House Republicans have accomplished a great deal, but there's still more work to be done to restore the trust of the American people and refocus on our agenda. And in an election year, it is even more important our team hit the ground running.

On that Note, Roy Blunt turned in today's must-read in Roll Call. (And for all you fiscal policy enthusiasts, check out today's WSJ).

Key graph:

"The Republican majority's goals cannot be crafted in response to newspaper headlines or polling. We have achieved so much on behalf of the American people by leading with bold initiatives - not by reacting with lukewarm, poll-tested plans. I have been privileged to sit at that leadership table as we have built our successful agenda around our core philosophy of limited government that promotes entrepreneurs, encourages job growth, defends the family, and secures our country."

So while we are much too humble to spike the football or dance in the endzone (we bet Steel would if he could!!!), Team Blunt looks forward to the day we can go back to training our sights on the Democrats, not each other.

Congressman Shadegg's Man of Steel writes:

The announcement yesterday by Chairman Sensenbrenner that he is supporting Rep. Shadegg's candidacy brings up an important point: for a number of reasons, we have not chosen to play the numbers game. We are not releasing a public list of supporters, or even a number - and we likely never will. So everyone should remember that the number (5, 6, or 117) beside Shadegg's name in the public counts only reflects our supporters who choose themselves to make their names public - the actual count is far higher.

(And, on a personal note: challenge accepted. My truth serum of choice is Jack Daniels. What say you, Mr. Smithe?)

Congressman Boehner's communications director, Kevin Smith, weighs in with this:

For 15 years Mr. Boehner has refused to engage in pork-barrel politics. Now that his principled position is fashionable, everyone's on board - and claiming they've been leading the charge! As they say about budget reconciliation votes, it's better late than never.

Let's look at some numbers from the Citizens Against Government Waste: 13,997 ... 10,656. ... 9,362. These represent the number of pork projects passed through Congress over the last three years, and they truly mean something to the American people who've watched billions in pork be slipped into legislation with little accountability or scrutiny. John Boehner has a plan to reform this practice.

The next Majority Leader must have ideas, and just as important must have the credibility to turn those ideas into action. John Boehner has both the ideas and the experience necessary to help lead the Conference and provide a real alternative to the status quo.

GOP Leadership:

Reps. Dan Lungren (R-CA) and John Sweeney (R-NY) tell the Washington Times that they are halfway to the 50 signatures needed to ask for full leadership elections, and both "predicted they would reach that number." LINK

Politics of spying:

Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) is heartened by a Congressional Research Service report supporting her view that Intelligence Committee members beyond the "Gang of 8" can be briefed on the NSA warrantless wiretapping program, per the New York Times. LINK

The Washington Post Notes that yesterday's report is the second from CRS this month to question the legality of the domestic spying program, with its conclusion that the President improperly limited its briefings of Congress on the program. LINK

The spying hearings, the Wall Street Journal Notes, will not generate a "binding decision" on whether the White House broke the law, which is why there are such wide-ranging private efforts to bring the program before a judge.

"Their goal is a court ruling, possibly within weeks, to uphold or strike down the government's eavesdropping program."

In his New York Post op-ed, Dick Morris writes the NSA warrantless wiretapping controversy is a politically winning issue for President Bush. LINK

"Ann Coulter represents the Democratic mainstream better than Al Gore on this one," writes Morris.

On the Washington Post op-ed page, David Broder says Al Gore's comments on Monday on executive power did the country a "service by laying out the case as clearly and copiously." LINK

The current Vice President will not be any more swayed by the Broder piece than the current First Lady is by the Reines statements.

Politics of Iran:

Steven Weisman of the New York Times reports that the United States and its European allies are working to assure Russia that they are not pressing for immediate Security Council sanctions against Iran. LINK

The 2008:

A poll by the University of Virginia's Center for Politics shows former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner easily beating current Virginia Sen. George Allen in a head-to-head presidential matchup. LINK

2008: Democrats:

In a get-tough speech on Iran delivered at Princeton University late yesterday, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) said the United States "cannot take any option off the table in sending a clear message to the current leadership of Iran."

The Senator called on the United States to move "as quickly as feasible" for UN sanctions.

The New York Sun's Josh Gerstein reports: "While Mrs. Clinton's comments on Iran were generally in line with the Bush administration's position, she also suggested that President Bush erred by 'standing on the sidelines' while Britain, France, and Germany attempted to broker a deal with the Iranians. 'I believe that we lose critical time in dealing with Iran because the White House chose to downplay the threats and outsource the negotiations,' she said." LINK

More Gerstein: "Mrs. Clinton said one reason for American to maintain a presence in Iraq is to ward off interference from Tehran. 'It will send a message to Iran that they do not have a free hand in Iraq, despite their considerable influence and personal and religious connections there,' she said."

Celeste Katz of the New York Daily News also writes up the Princeton speech and leads with Sen. Clinton's call for UN sanctions against Iran. LINK

The New York Post's Deb Orin writes up First Lady Laura Bush's comment calling her predecessor's "plantation" comment "ridiculous." Orin also gets some entertaining reaction from some of Sen. Clinton's Democratic Senate colleagues. LINK

Orin covers much the same ground in her column with an eye towards the First Lady's raw political skill and Republican attempts to paint Sen. Clinton as "shrill." LINK

The New York Daily News prints the First Lady's commentary as well. LINK

It might seem early, but Clinton picked up an endorsement for 2008 yesterday from former Czech President Vaclav Havel. LINK

While appearing on "Fox and Friends" this morning, Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) described Iran as "a real menace" and announced that he is planning to introduce legislation in the Senate tomorrow addressing the development of a nuclear plan in Iran.

Possible measures could include economic sanctions, cultural sanctions, travel bans, and an international ban on gasoline export towards Iran.

In the February issue of GQ, Michael Crowley details the unpropitious fallout John Kerry may be experiencing with some Democrats. Crowley interviews over a dozen former Kerry staffers and Democratic Party insiders to get a feel for the current mood towards Kerry. LINK

"Kerry -- who Democrats almost unanimously say is keenly interested in running for president again in 2008 -- keeps reminding people of the bad old days, when the country had a choice and chose Bush. 'There was so much pent-up anti-Bush anger that has not dissipated,' says Carter Eskew, former chief strategist to Al Gore in 2000. 'There was no catharsis, and he's a reminder of that frustration and anger.'"

Crowley writes that Kerry's been dropped from the Democrats' "A-team" and quotes a prominent party strategist as saying, "he had hoped to make himself the voice of the opposition, and that has just not happened."

Among other quoted folks you will recognize: Joe Lockhart, Mike McCurry, and Jim Jordan.

Crowley's article appears in the February issue of GQ, set to hit newsstands nationwide on January 24.

Lloyd Grove has Kerry spokesguy David Wade's reaction to the GQ story (and Crowley's reaction to Wade.) LINK

2008: Republicans:

Gov. Romney introduced a $200 billion dollar healthcare package in his SOTS address last night. LINK

The Boston Globe's Frank Phillips Notes that Romney's "State of the State" was crafted with "two audiences in mind." LINK

"In his last State of the State address, Romney rehashed some of his old ideas and initiatives, repackaged a proposed income tax rollback to win support from the Democrat-controlled Legislature, and offered a few new proposals, including funding for an ambitious proposal to expand healthcare to the state's uninsured."

More Phillips: "On Friday, he is headed to Omaha to give a speech to a Republican audience. It will be an event that is beamed into a good part of the Iowa media market, a state that he frequently visits and that is high on the list of important stops for presidential candidates."

"Next month, the governor may well be out of state more than he is at the State House. His calendar is filled with political events, including two trips to South Carolina and one to Michigan. At the end of the month, the governor will be wrapped up with his duties at the" NGA "annual meeting in Washington, followed by a meeting of the" RGA.

Note question to Frank: what is your definition of the word "beamed"?

Michael Cooper Notes in the New York Times the decline in fundraising for Gov. Pataki's (R-NY) 21st Century Freedom State PAC, a decline which sharpened after Pataki announced over the summer that he would not seek reelection. LINK

On Feb. 1 at 11:00 am ET, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich will respond to President Bush's State of the Union. He plans to discuss political activism and major political issues with students at Northern Virginia Community College. LINK

2006:

Mark Leibovich reviews Sen. Trent Lott's (R-MS) Washington news conference yesterday and the "non-denial/denial" game he engaged in over whether he will run for a leadership post in the Senate. LINK

With his eye on re-election, Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D-IL) announced a major public-works package for Illinois, but failed to mention that the initiative may be funded by keno wagering, according to Pearson and Long of the Chicago Tribune. LINK

Thomas Beaumont of the Des Moines Register gives us some statements from gubernatorial candidate Ed Fallon (D-IA), who, even if short of cash, says that he is well supported by caucuses. LINK

Tom Suozzi concedes to the New York Daily News that he may have had an "undisciplined moment" when criticizing Eliot Spitzer in the past, but that he has nothing bad to say about him going forward. LINK

Big Casino budget politics:

USA Today's Richard Wolf on what will get cut from the 2007 budget and why. LINK

SCOTUS:

Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times captures the poetry of yesterday's unanimous ruling which avoided revisiting any Supreme Court precedents on abortion. LINK

"If the decision. . . turns out to be Justice O'Connor's last, it will be a fitting coda to a 25-year tenure in which she often played a pivotal role in the court's abortion jurisprudence."

Clintons of Chappaqua:

The New York Times gets a hold of independent counsel David Barrett's final report on his investigation into Clinton-era HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros and reports that it accuses some Clinton Administration officials from DOJ and the IRS of "thwarting an inquiry into whether Mr. Cisneros evaded paying income taxes." LINK

Robert Novak is of two minds on the soon-to-be-released independent counsel report into Clinton-era corruption at the I.R.S.: gratified to finally see the results of $23 million investigation, but dismayed by the large number of redactions. His solution: asking Congress to make them public. LINK

The Schwarzenegger Era:

The Governor hits the road – with Susan Kennedy in tow – to prove to California Republicans that he really is one of them. LINK

What does Patty Mar think of all of this? The San Jose Mercury News reports that Bush-Cheney 2004 uber strategist Matthew Dowd has signed on with Gov. Schwarzenegger's reelection team. Dowd and Schmidt -- so happy together! LINK

"It is not clear what Dowd and Schmidt's hiring means for Mike Murphy, who ran Schwarzenegger's recall campaign, as well as the special election, in which the governor lost all four of his ballot measures."

"Murphy insisted he is still in charge of the governor's election effort. 'I'm chief,' he said in an e-mail."

Politics of immigration:

The New York Times reports on the expected strange bedfellows alliance between the Chamber of Commerce and SEIU on immigration reform including a guest worker program like the one sketched out by Sen. McCain and Sen. Kennedy. LINK

Political potpourri:

Larry Wilkerson's long friendship with his former boss, Colin Powell, ended when Wilkerson spoke out about what he saw as a neoconservative "cabal" running the country. LINK

The Federal City Club dissolved last week, reports the Washington Post. LINK

Beer, tobacco, and money-lending industries have formed a 527 group in Iowa that, per their filing papers, promotes "conservative principles and engages in advocacy to improve the health, education, prosperity, safety and overall quality of life for all Iowans," reports Jane Norman of the Des Moines Register. LINK

Three strategists from American business and politics --William Moore, Robert Norcross, and Michael Shannon -- have joined the internatinoal management and communications consulting firm ViaNovo. Moore will provide Capitol Hill expereince and coalition management from DC. Shannon's work in Austin, TX will focus on strategic communications, media planning, and research analysis. Norcross, who will specialize in public policy, advocacy and crisis strategy, is opening Via Novo's new Dallas-Fort Worth office.

And former Rep. J.C. Watts (R-OK) will join CNN as a political analyst. LINK

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