The Note: The Silver State of the (Political) Union



Some days, the Googling monkeys can sleep in because The Note lede writes itself.

Today is such a day.

Back to basics:

1. President Bush came to Washington to accomplish a short list of big goals.

2. Some of those goals have been accomplished, but some have not, and his original plan has been gravely complicated by 9/11 and Iraq.

3. President Bush cares a lot about accomplishing the unaccomplished, and he plans to spend all four years of his second term working on his to-do list.

4. It is a political certainty that two of those big goals -- Social Security reform and tax reform -- will not to be accomplished in 2006.

5. Any major Bush goals not accomplished in 2006 will have to get done in 2007 or 2008.

6. Getting these and other (mostly conservative) things done in the last two years of his term will require keeping Republican control of the House and Senate, which itself will require:

(a) keeping GOP 2008 presidential jockeying to a minimum;

(b) continued building of the Republican Party grassroots machine;

(c) making sure the 2006 elections are about "who can keep you safer?," "who reflects your values?," and "who will keep government limited?";

(d) turning the Medicare prescription drug benefit from a political minus into a political plus;

(e) minimizing the political peril of ethics, deficit spending, and immigration; and,

(f) forcing (or: "watching") the Democrats continue to behave like the dumb, scared, Mommy Party. (Check out Tom Vilsack's request for ten words to solve all this. LINK)

So: will the White House get what it wants? Hints can be found in the words and actions of two Nevadans:

For the Republicans, on this one-year anniversary of President Bush's second inaugural, Silver Stater Karl Rove (and Marylander Ken Mehlman) will address the Republican National Committee winter meeting. First up is Chairman Mehlman who will gavel in the session at 9:45 am ET at the Capital Hilton in Washington, DC and take the podium about an hour after that for his remarks.

On this day after the latest Osama bin Laden tape was released, Rove will deliver his keynote remarks at the 11:30 am ET luncheon.

You may recall Rove got some attention at the RNC winter meeting in Austin, TX in 2002 when he kicked off the Republican midterm agenda there by speaking about the political advantage Republicans have when national security and the war on terror are in the foreground of the political debate. "We can go to the country on this issue because they trust the Republican Party to do a better job of protecting and strengthening America's military might and thereby protecting America," Rove said at the time, seeming to make a perfectly legitimate point, but for some reason setting parts of the political world on fire.

Still, even the tightly controlled Party under the meticulous Mehlman doesn't control everything, appearances to the contrary.

In a must-read, the AP's Ron Fournier writes that GOP leaders who have gathered in Washington for the RNC meeting worry that an "enthusiasm deficit" could cost the party control of Congress in November. LINK

"'We've seen the enemy, and he is us,' said Tom Rath, a Republican National Committee member from New Hampshire describing the sentiments of some GOP voters. 'We have to get back to the basics. Let's talk about small government and reduced spending, and don't let the Democrats take those issues.'"

More Fournier: ". . . the possibility of losing Congress doesn't seem as remote as it once did. Many tried-and-true Republican voters are disenchanted with party leaders in Congress, and the sulky mood could suppress turnout in November, RNC members said."

Even more Fournier: "Separately, private polling for Republicans suggest that government spending and political fallout from the Iraq war are causing anxiety among GOP voters. Senior party officials inside and outside the White House fear that Washington scandal may hurt GOP turnout if average Republican voters believe that Congress' spending habits are partly the result of corruption."

Some of the high drama at the RNC winter meeting is centered around the intra-party division on immigration. The Los Angeles Times' Wallsten delivers a must-read on the committeeman from Arizona's push for an immigration proposal which does not include a guest-worker program, as President Bush has suggested should be part of any immigration reform. An alternative measure -- more in line with White House strategy -- is being offered in hopes of defeating the Arizona proposal. LINK

"The proposed resolution does not directly affect the Republican Party platform or the congressional agenda, but any vote by leading GOP activists directly countering White House views sets a particularly awkward stage as Bush seeks to make immigration a top-tier issue for 2006."

At this writing, how that debate (and vote) will go is anyone's guess.

The AP's Will Lester Notes the proposal which allows for a guest-worker program (though, no amnesty) "was unanimously passed by the resolutions committee and would give RNC members a strong alternative to the Pullen measure." LINK

ABC's Ann Compton reports that Rove indicated earlier today during an energetic session with politically-friendly radio hosts that he will remain in the West Wing for the remainder of the Bush presidency, but then he will steer clear of presidential campaigns.

"I love my wife" Rove told WMAL Radio in a live interview, "and I have a feeling she wouldn't be my wife if I said 'Hey, here I come. We're gonna do this again, Baby!'"

Rove served up a team-player's defense of Bush policies, using many of the same economic statistics the President and the press secretary used this week on growth and job creation.

He's one of a galaxy of WH officials stopping by the Administration's Radio Day -- staged this year at the Treasury Department, not the White House North Lawn, where it has been held in the past.

The grand jury investigating the CIA leak case is scheduled to meet at 9:30 am ET. Speaking of the leak investigation, some College Democrats and others are expected to be on hand at the Capital Hilton to welcome Mr. Rove to the RNC meeting by wearing tool belts and waving wrenches and plungers.

As for the Democrats, they can be confident of exactly one thing:

Republicans are (still) from Mars and Democrats are (still) from Venus.

How else to explain Senator Harry Reid's (D-NV) extraordinary apology yesterday to his Republican colleagues?

Last year Democrats laughed and laughed when George Bush was unable to think of a single mistake he had made as President. Today Republicans are quadrupled over in hysterics because of Harry Reid's apology to his Senate Republican colleagues for sending out a negative research document from his office.

Failure to find weapons of mass destruction? No apology required. Nasty research document? A thousand pardons please.

And that different approach sums up the difference between the two parties: as effective as Manley/Singer/Cutter have been in their war rooms, the Democratic Party leadership still has not internalized the rules of modern politics at a time of war and terror in the way the GOP has.

(Of course, the Republicans are right: why didn't Reid's operation have that sent out by the DNC or the DSCC?)

Look to see if Reid's apology is inserted into the final drafts of the Mehlman and Rove speeches before they take the podium.

President and Mrs. Bush have no public events on their schedules other than their departure from the White House for Camp David at 1:05 pm ET.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan gaggles at 9:45 am ET.

After his Thursday meeting with Gov. Schwarzenegger, HHS Secretary Leavitt meets with Gov. Bob Taft (R-OH) about the Medicare prescription drug benefit. They will hold a press availability at 1:30 pm ET at the statehouse in Columbus, OH.

Today may well be Justice O'Connor's last closed-door conference with the other Justices. Two very important cases have been "relisted" a couple of times and are sure to be brought up during the conference: the Padilla case and partial-birth abortion.

At 10:00 am ET in Washington, DC, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) holds a briefing on the new Medicare prescription drug benefit.

Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and others hold a "Democratic hearing" on the ramifications of the NSA warrantless wiretapping program at 11:00 am ET.

Former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) and Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-NC) will discuss poverty at 11:00 am ET at Fayetteville State University in Fayetteville, NC.

Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) and Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) attend the Douglas County Republican Party's "Elephant Remembers Dinner" in Omaha, NE -- which, for the geographically uninitiated, is very close to Iowa.

Sen. Biden (D-DE) is in Delaware for the weekend.

Sen. Feingold (D-WI) will be in Wisconsin this weekend. He has a "listening session" in Sheboygan County tomorrow and will then be speaking before the Wisconsin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce tomorrow night.

Sen. Bayh (D-IN) is in Washington, DC this weekend.

As is Sen. Kerry who will be George Stephanopoulos' guest on "This Week" Sunday morning to discuss his recent trip to the Middle East, Bin Laden, and much more.

Reid's apology:

Sen. Reid apologized to 33 Republican Senators yesterday for a hard-hitting news release that accused them of ethical and legislative lapses, in an "awkward about-face that tripped up Democrats' effort to keep the GOP majority on the defensive over alleged corruption." LINK

The Washington Times' Stephen Dinan Notes that Reid's apology came just a day after announcing a campaign for clean government. LINK

The New York Times on the apology. LINK

The liberal blogosphere has already started to weigh in:

"I'm tired of the Democratic leadership taking a pass every time Republicans seem on the ropes," writes Marisa McNee at Daily Kos. LINK

"What was Reid thinking exactly?" asks Josh Marshall. LINK

Will bloggers still be talking about the alleged "about face" when Sen. Reid addresses the June "Yearly Kos" convention in Vegas?

Politics of Osama bin Laden:

The New York Post editorial board on the bin Laden tape: "Who writes his stuff -- Howard Dean? John Murtha? Sure sounds like it." LINK

William Blum, the "Rogue State" author whose work Bin Laden recommended yesterday, is scheduled to speak to "Students for Peace and Justice" at Miami University of Ohio on Wednesday, Jan. 25 at 7:30 pm ET.


Bloomberg's Runningen and Keil deliver a must-read story on the President's health care proposals to be fleshed out in the State of the Union. LINK

"Former Bush economic adviser R. Glenn Hubbard said he is briefing Republican leaders in the House and Senate and their staffs on his recommendations, which are shaping up as central elements of Bush's 2006 domestic agenda."

"The president said yesterday that he'll aim to make health savings accounts more widespread, seek price disclosure for medical services and make health insurance more widely available to the 45.8 million Americans whom the Census Bureau said were uninsured in 2004."

USA Today's David Jackson sees President Bush's Sterling, VA remarks on the budget deficit not justifying tax increases as setting the tone for his econ-heavy State of the Union speech. LINK

Close observers of the passing parade will have Noticed that Time's Mike Allen cleanly broke the story of Kaine's SOTU response gig last month. Newsweek, trying to parlay its ultra-success with its fabled presidential campaign inside-look tick tock books into more coin, is working on a book on Allen's reporting career, and The Note has an exclusive excerpt:

"Mike Allen was at it again. The tireless Time magazine reporter was closing in a story, but he was, as always, worried he would get beat. Allen had been at Time for only a few weeks, and he felt he had something to prove. After seemingly successful stints at the New York Times and the Washington Post, Allen was regularly compared by colleagues behind his back to basketball's Larry Brown, the peripatetic coach who switched jobs as often as David Wade switches metaphors."

"Back on Dec. 8, Mike was phoning around for news nuggets before going on MSNBC's 'The Situation with Tucker Carlson' when a well-known Democrat mentioned that party leaders were so fractured over Iraq that they were going to have to turn to Kaine for the SOTU response because they couldn't all agree on anyone else. Only a few people knew, so the source insisted Mike make the plan sound vaguer than it was. But Gang of 500 members who were still awake got the message."

"'I'll give you a little breaking news here,' Mike slyly told Tucker. 'There's a lot of people in the party that wanted Congressman Murtha to do the Democrats' response to the State of the Union. It's been decided he cannot do that because they don't have a unified position. So, Tucker, I would look for a new Democratic face, perhaps the governor-elect in Virginia, Tim Kaine.' For anyone who missed that, Mike used the same construction three days later on NBC's 'Meet the Press': 'Democrats are trying to find someone to respond to the State of the Union address. A lot of people obviously wanted Congressman Murtha.'"

"That produced a story in the Washington Times four days later saying that 'Virginia is abuzz over rumors' about Kaine, based on the TV mention. After the 'ask' was formalized after Kaine's inauguration this weekend, an official involved in the decision elaborated on the Kaine logic: 'He a D who was elected from a red state running on middle-class issues and a values platform---exactly the kind of person Ds need to showcase to independents.'" Mike had been right all along. It felt good."

"Mike found out the ask would be made late in the week, but there was no room left in Time. So he gave the scoop to a former co-worker. 'News is like karma,' Mike told a friend. 'The more you give away, the more you get.' For some reason, it was always like that for Mike Allen."

Newsweek's special Mike Allen issue goes on sale February 1.

Blunt v. Boehner v. Shadegg:

The Washington Post's VandeHei and Murray have several members of Congress viewing a "lack of grass-roots enthusiasm for broad changes on Capitol Hill" as possibly working to the advantage of Rep. Blunt in the leadership race. LINK

The Arizona Republic gives big play to Rep. Shadegg's endorsement from Rep. Pence, but Notes that "more than half of the 100 [Pence-led Republican] study committee members have endorsed either Blunt or Boehner." LINK

Dinan of the Washington Times on Reps. Boehner and Shadegg's joint request for all three candidates for Majority Leader to make a joint television appearance: LINK

Boehner has picked up the support of Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH). LINK

Follow the Leader(ship race):

Congressman Blunt's Jessica Boulanger on the State of the Race:

Things that they've got and we don't:

1) Blogger endorsements

2) Joint press releases

3) Male press staffs

4) Terry Holt

And while the recent joined-forces of Team Boehner and the Gentleman from the Sunny State of Arizona makes us feel pasty enough to run immediately to Mystic Tan, here's something that we've got and they don't:

1) The votes!

Almost all of Congressman Blunt's colleagues have had the opportunity to debate him one on one, and over 117 like what they hear. They believe Roy is doing the right thing by taking the conversation directly to them---not TV cameras. And they know that when Roy is elected Leader he will continue his aggressive media interaction on behalf of our Conference.

And unless Congressman Pence can deliver Danny Ocean plus a greaseman, there's not much the AZ-OH twosome can do to steal this one away.

See you at the first Maj Leader's pen and pad!

Kevin Smith, Congressman Boehner's communications director, goes Letterman for this edition of "Follow the Leader(ship race):

Top 10 Reasons John Boehner Should be the Next House Majority Leader

10. He's the only candidate who's offered a plan to help lead the Republican conference.

9. He helped write the Contract with America.

8. He's the only candidate who's guided comprehensive legislation from introduction through committee markup to White House signing ceremony.

7. His committee produced more than 40 percent of the savings in the Deficit Reduction Act.

6. He's the only candidate who's exposed House corruption and pushed for reform.

5. He has a proven record of enacting legislation embracing Republican principles with bipartisan support.

4. He's the only candidate with original proposals for lobbying reform, including new ideas for reforming the earmarking process.

3. He's never accepted pork in his 15 years in Congress.

2. He's never been endorsed by Howard Dean.

1. He's willing to debate anyone, anywhere, anytime.

Michael Steel recaps Congressman Shadegg's first week in the leadership race:

After our first full week of campaigning, Team Shadegg is pretty happy. Our public supporters include Conservatives, especially RSC Chairman Mike Pence, senior Committee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner, and other members who simply understand the need for real reform. As always, remember that the private count is substantially higher than the public number (and the private number is another thing we're pretty happy about, too).

Mr. Shadegg took to the air yesterday, with appearances on Bill Bennett's radio show, C-Span's Washington Journal, and Hardball. He also did a blogger conference call -and Arizona sunshine proved very popular in Blog-land.

We were looking forward to "meet"-ing Mr. Blunt and Mr. Boehner on Sunday, but sadly it seems not to be (last chance, Jessica - if y'all won't debate, I bet they give the whole hour to Joe Biden. Seriously, do you want that? Can your conscience take it? Can the American people?).

GOP Leadership:

Rep. Bob Bennett (R-OH) is calling for Rep. Ney's resignation if Ney is indicted. LINK

David Rogers of the Wall Street Journal explores the sometimes complicated alliance between Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) and Chairman of the House Committee on Rules David Dreier (R-CA) and the work that lies ahead of them in the post-DeLay era. LINK

Note to Rogers: artfully written.

Politics of spying:

The white paper released by the Department of Justice yesterday claims that the President has inherent war powers to order warrantless eavesdropping on the international calls and e-mails of US citizens and others in this country. It also argues that if the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is interpreted as blocking the President's powers to protect the country in a time of war, its constitutionality is doubtful and the President's authority supersedes it, the Washington Post's Carol Leonnig reports. LINK

More Leonnig: "Yesterday, ranking Democrats on the Senate and House intelligence committees . . . sent a letter to Vice President Cheney demanding that the full committee be briefed on such intelligence activities in the future."

The New York Times on the DOJ's white paper. LINK

Vice President Cheney reiterated the Bush Administration's stance on domestic surveillance on Thursday, describing it as an essential tool to monitor terrorist organizations. LINK

Samuel Alito for Associate Justice:

Per the Washington Post's Dan Balz, three Democratic Senators who supported Roberts for Chief Justice (Leahy, Salazar, and Baucus) have announced that they will oppose Alito for Associate Justice. But a filibuster is "increasingly less likely," according to Democratic strategists. LINK

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Peggy Noonan looks at the impact that the growth in media sources has had on the ability of Democrats to dominate the airwaves.

"Eleven years ago the Democrats lost control of Congress. Then they lost the presidency. But just as important, maybe more enduringly important, they lost their monopoly on the means of information in America. They lost control of the pipeline. . . ."

"Could Democratic senators today torture Clarence Thomas with tales of Coke cans and porn films? Not likely. Could Ted Kennedy have gotten away with his "Robert Bork's America" speech unanswered? No."

Bush Administration and agenda:

President Bush's definitive "never" response regarding Mrs. Bush and a possible future run for office gets the New York Times treatment. LINK

In her write-up of President Bush being asked about Loudoun County's "pressing" traffic problems, the Washington Post's Amy Gardner Notes that the President "arrived by helicopter." LINK

As reporters push White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan for more information regarding "staff-level meetings" with Abramoff in the White House, John Dickerson of Slate suggests that "Potomac Fever" may be hitting Bush's staff. LINK

"Clay Johnson, the head of White House personnel in the first term, set up a special Web site to inform White House aides about the symptoms associated with the disease." LINK

Politics of immigration:

Securing US borders is a priority for the Bush Administration, but the New York Times' Swarns reports that it falls into that 'easier said than done' category. LINK


Peter Brown of the Orlando Sentinel takes a good look at his crystal ball and predicts Clinton vs. McCain in 2008. LINK

Speaking of Clinton and McCain, Ken Bazinet of the New York Daily News writes up the latest Hotline/Diageo poll showing McCain defeating Clinton in a hypothetical match-up 52 percent to 36 percent. LINK

"'McCain needs Hillary to run because that's what keeps the Republican coalition together,' [Hotline editor-in-chief Chuck] Todd said. 'She helps unite the Republican base.'"

2008: Democrats:

The New Republic's Marisa Katz tries to debunk as myth that Sen. Clinton's performance in upstate New York is a model for her ability to win over Red States across the country. LINK

". . .before the Hillary-can-do-it-because-she-did-it-upstate narrative gets any more airtime, it's worth pointing out its fatal flaws. Namely, upstate New York is not that conservative. Clinton hasn't done all that well here--in fact, she lost the region in 2000 and remains a highly polarizing figure. And, when she has won people over, it's been through retail politics at a very local level. Ultimately, if she's going to do well as a presidential candidate, she and her advisers must accept that her Senate campaign doesn't count as a dress rehearsal. She's going to have to bring something else to the national stage."

The Washington Post's Dan Balz has Clinton and Bayh, (two fellow DLCers), issuing "get-tough" warnings over Iran this week. LINK

Maureen Groppe of the Indianapolis Star on Bayh -- and Clinton – actions with respect to Iran. LINK

Bayh: "Time is running out. It may be measured in months before Iran has the technical capability, not actually production but the technical know-how, which will lead it down the path to becoming a nuclear power, and that is unacceptable."

In his New York Post column, John Podhoretz writes Sen. Clinton's "plantation" remark may serve her well. LINK

"She played the race card on Monday because she was being grilled about her votes in favor of the Iraq war and subsequent defense appropriations. It was her way of making clear to her audience that, despite her hawkish votes, she was really one of them in spirit and in her heart of hearts."

A Granite State source tells The Note that Sen. Kerry will be the featured guest at a Hillsborough County Democratic Committee and Nashua City Democrats fundraising dinner on March 11 at the Nashua Country Club. The usual pre-dinner receptions will also be on the Senator's schedule that evening.

While in Baghdad on Thursday, Sen. Kerry "called the Iraqi elections 'very successful' despite the reports of fraud and said the next year would be crucial to the future of the country. 'This will not be resolved by our military,' Kerry said. 'This will be resolved by the Iraqi political process. This si crunch time for everything we've invested.'" LINK

2008: Republicans:

AP Political Writer Glen Johnson reports that Gov. Romney may use a Turin visit to reconnect with his Olympics notoriety. LINK

Johnson has a Romney adviser saying: "It's what provided the rocket fuel in 2002, and if he's going to do anything after his term, he's got to reconnect with his Olympic experience a little bit. Going to Turin allows that."

Scot Lehigh Notes on "The State of Mitt," writing that Gov. Romney may be able to claim his "kudos." LINK

Under a headline that reads, "Pataki Prez Bid A Fia$co," the New York Post runs the AP follow to the New York Times story yesterday on Pataki's PAC fundraising numbers declining each successive quarter in 2005. LINK


Pat Healy of the New York Times writes up a Spitzer-supporting civic group's complaint that it is inappropriate for Tom Suozzi to finance his potential gubernatorial campaign by accepting a large percentage of his contributions from associates, friends, and family of a man being sued by Attorney General Spitzer. LINK

The New York Post's Fred Dicker writes up the latest Quinnipiac University gubernatorial race poll numbers and determines that Spitzer is sitting on a comfortable lead despite some recent not-so-flattering stories about his style and temper. LINK

"She's behind on fundraising, she's behind on high-powered endorsements and now Minnesota's favorite mom may be about to put her U.S. Senate campaign behind her," writes the St. Paul Pioneer Press' Stassen-Berger in a story which hints at a possible withdrawal speech from Democrat Patty Wetterling today. LINK

If true, this will be music to Democratic ears as they try to defend a competitive open seat. Rep. Ed Case (D-HI) has announced his intention to challenge Sen. Akaka (D-HI) in a Democratic primary, despite having "the deepest aloha for Sen. Akaka." LINK

Clintons of Chappaqua:

Clinton spokesguy Jay Carson calls the allegations of a cover-up in the Barrett report "nothing short of laughable," reports the New York Times. LINK

No one really explains how Barrett explains why the Bush Justice Department was in on the "conspiracy."

The Washington Post's Eggen and Crenshaw report that Counsel Barrett alleged that a "a coverup at high levels of our government" prevented him from bringing further charges in the case of Henry Cisneros, the former secretary of housing and urban development. LINK

Jerry Seper of the Washington Times on the same. LINK

House and Senate committees are reviewing the final Cisneros report and "weighing whether to pursue the independent counsel's allegations that he had been stonewalled by Clinton officials," reports Jackie Calmes of the Wall Street Journal.

GOP senators are dying for a full release of Barrett's report on the Clinton years, writes Brian McGuire of the New York Sun. LINK

Republicans are considering forcing the three-judge panel into releasing the report for the Senate "to make a judgment on its potential value to the public interest" or sneaking in language into unrelated legislation, writes McGuire.

South Carolina:

Per Sheinin of The State, "Sanford's fourth State of the State was long on topics, but relatively short on specifics that Democrats -- and some Republicans -- say they were looking for." LINK

Read the speech. LINK


Jim Nussle (R-IA) and Chet Culver (D-IA) performed the best in their gubernatorial race fundraising efforts, in what is expected to be "state's most expensive race for governor and one of the nation's most competitive," reports Tom Beaumont of the Des Moines Register. LINK and LINK

The Schwarzenegger Era:

The Los Angeles Times' Peter Nicholas offers a must-read in which he has California GOP Chairman "Duf" Sundheim conceding that he may have declared the Susan Kennedy issue over a bit too soon. LINK

"Restive Republicans said they would rally conservatives behind a resolution, to be offered at the state GOP convention in San Jose next month, that may give Schwarzenegger an ultimatum: Dump Kennedy by March 15 or the party will withdraw its backing of his reelection bid."

The Note goes Hollywood:

You won't want to miss this Sunday's episode of The West Wing (8 pm ET on NBC), penned by Al Gore's former chief scribe Eli Attie. In the episode, entitled "Duck and Cover" and dealing with the familiar primetime TV topic of nuclear energy policy, Ron Silver's Bruno Gianelli character (who is oddly Dick Morrisian) name-checks The Note, and then proclaims himself to be a liberal Democrat in real life! (Okay, maybe not. But he does name-check the Note, per our sources.)