The Note: The Note



Before the President takes to the road to deliver the travel versions of his State of the Union address, he will be joined by Mrs. Bush when he signs a presidential proclamation in honor of "American Heart Month" at 10:20 am ET in the Oval Office.

President Bush then heads to Nashville, TN for his first public post-SOTU remarks at 12:50 pm ET from the Grand Ole Opry.

President and Mrs. Bush will host a ceremonial swearing-in ceremony for Associate Justice Alito at the White House at 4:00 pm ET.

There will be an on-camera briefing by Secretaries Gutierrez, Chao, Bodman, Spellings, and OSTP Director Dr. John Marburger on the President's "American Competitiveness Initiative" in EEOB Room 450 at 10:00 am ET.

National Economic Council Director Al Hubbard holds a conference call with reporters at 12:00 pm ET to discuss the President's health care initiative.

At 11:00 am ET at the Senate swamp, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will be joined by other Democrats and healthcare groups to rally for "real healthcare reform" in response to the President's health care proposals put forth in last night's speech.

Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) delivers his response to the President's speech at 1:00 pm ET in the House Radio/TV gallery.

The House Republican Conference began meeting at 9:00 am ET. All candidates for leadership positions will have an opportunity (should they choose) to address the conference and afterwards Rules Chairman Dreier will lead a discussion on reforms. Normally, conferences take about an hour but Chairman Pryce has advised members that this conference may be rather lengthy.

House Republican leaders will go before cameras immediately following conference at approximately 11:00 am ET. We reminder you that the vote for new leadership is scheduled for tomorrow.

Democratic Sens. Lieberman, Feingold, and Obama are scheduled to hold a 12:30 pm ET press conference in the Senate gallery on the Democratic lobbying reform efforts.

Immediately following the House Democratic Caucus meeting, Reps. Pelosi, Hoyer, and Clyburn will hold a 10:30 am ET press conference to introduce the newly elected Vice Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus and to respond to the President's State of the Union address.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) responds to the SOTU in an 11:00 am ET speech at Northern Virginia Community College. Audiences at other community colleges, including LaGuardia (New York City) and Wake Tech (Raleigh, NC), will participate through Apple's iChat video conferencing technology. LINK

The Senate convened at 9:15 am ET and proceeded to H.R. 4297, the tax reconciliation bill.

RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman will help sell the President's agenda at a 1:30 pm ET press conference with the North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Ferrell Blount in Raleigh, NC. The Chairman will also headline a North Carolina Victory 2006 fundraiser at a private residence in Raleigh, NC.

On Capitol Hill, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) attends a 10:30 am ET press conference on LIHEAP and an 11:00 am ET press conference on eye health.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) began chairing an Indian Affairs Committee hearing on off-reservation gaming at 9:30 am ET.

Gov. Tom Vilsack (D-IA) delivers a speech at Governing Magazine's 2006 "Outlook in the States Conference" at the National Press Club in Washington, DC at 12:30 pm ET.

Former Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) delivers a speech at Iowa State University in Ames, IA.

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) headlines a Congressional Black Caucus PAC fundraiser in Washington, DC this evening.

Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) discusses state revenue performance for January at an 11:30 am ET press availability at the State House in Boston, MA.

The grand jury investigating leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson's name is scheduled to meet.

SOTU: ledes and headlines:

New York Times: "Bush, Resetting Agenda, Says US Must Cut Reliance on Oil" LINK

The Wall Street Journal splits its lede between the President's push for global democracy and his call for alternative fuels, under a headline that reads: "Bush Aims to Cut Energy Imports, Ease War Anxiety."

Under a headline reading "Bush Warns Against Shrinking Global Role," the Washington Post's Peter Baker and Michael Fletcher write: "Bush sounded more dutiful than triumphant, repeating arguments he regularly makes in national security speeches while running through a succession of economic proposals with little evident passion... The president appeared more emotional in dismissing calls to pull troops out of Iraq." LINK

"Many of the ideas … were repackaged versions of proposals he has supported before. Bush offered nothing to match the scale of the plan for private Social Security accounts that proved so unpopular on Capitol Hill last year that it died without even being introduced."

Bush was "unapologetic" in defending his national security initiatives, writes the Los Angeles Times' Doyle McManus, while also offering a "flurry of domestic initiatives." LINK

New York Post wood: "America's drunk on oil: Bush warns the nation" (The story shares the space with the must-read "Angry NRA kills Mike gal pal's job"). LINK

New York Daily News wood: "Prez: End tyranny, stay the course in Iraq war and curb U.S. oil 'addiction'" LINK

The Washington Times: "Bush calls for an optimistic America" LINK

The Boston Herald's lede: "President Bush issued a rallying cry for a country weary of war and wary of the future." LINK

ABC's Charles Gibson: "If there was anything new in the speech, it was his call for an end to America's 'addiction' with foreign oil. . . . And then he reached out to Democrats saying there needs to be a reduction in the anger between the parties here in Washington. Of course, the Democrats think the President is the source of most of that. So whether that will work, remains to be seen."

CBS' "Early Show" led with the President's "addicted to oil" line, focusing on ethanol proposals and Bush's proposal that America should strive to replace 75% of oil imports by 2025.

CNN's first package this morning: "President Bush struck a noticeably conciliatory tone…. But the gloves quickly came off (Iraq, domestic spying).

NBC's Couric on "Today": "President Bush urges America to stand tall in Iraq in a wide-ranging State of the Union address."

SOTU: political analysis:

The AP's Ron Fournier seemed to come away from the speech wholly unimpressed. LINK

"The state of the union is fretful," he writes.

"President Bush acknowledged the public's agitated state Tuesday night when he gave voice to growing concerns about the course of the nation he has led for five years. His credibility no longer the asset it once was, the president begged Americans' indulgence for another chance to fix things."

Fournier goes on to list in detail all that needs fixing and seems to wonder why some of these things have not yet been fixed despite previous pledges to do so.

Dan Balz and Jim VandeHei's analysis in the Washington Post, headlined "Lowered Expectations Reflect Political and Fiscal Realities," concludes that the "scaled-down blueprint for governing" offered by the President was the result of the war in Iraq – which has "drained the administration's energy and creativity" – and domestic political and fiscal realities. LINK

"The president has never lacked for big ambitions, particularly in foreign policy, and he restated many of them last night. But his address lacked the rhetorical lift of some of his best efforts of the past, and the domestic policy agenda, although lengthy, included initiatives that have been around for some time."

In the eyes of the Los Angeles Times' Ron Brownstein, the speech had two defining characteristics: LINK

First -- "It spoke volumes that he now proposed not to remake Social Security but to restudy it, with the appointment of a bipartisan commission to examine the structure of all federal entitlement programs for the aged. Nor did Bush say a word about fundamental restructuring of the tax code…"

And -- "The speech also was noteworthy (sic) in urging more bipartisan cooperation… As this election year takes shape, one crucial question may be how long the generally conciliatory tone Bush struck will drive the White House political message."

The New York Times' David Sanger sees the President's agenda as "far less ambitious" and his options as "far more limited than they were a year ago." LINK


Bush's speech was one that "Bill Clinton would have been proud to give," writes the Boston Globe's Peter Canellos, given its embrace of the global economy and emphasis on "progressive action." LINK

The New York Daily News' Thomas DeFrank: "After a miserable 2005 that plunged him into occasional bouts of anger and gloom, President Bush had regained his equilibrium, and just in time." LINK

The New York Post's Deborah Orin: "Bush's big speech was a chance to try to rally the nation behind him, offer hope on Iraq, and appeal for less of the angry venom that has taken over much of the politicking in the nation's capital." LINK

In his column, the Des Moines Register's David Yepsen provides a point-by-point analysis of what President Bush did right last night. LINK

Marc Sandalow of the San Francisco Chronicle compares Bush's call for the United States to end its addiction to oil, to Barry Bonds calling for an end to steroid use. LINK

The Houston Chronicle's Cragg Hines takes a look at President Bush's SOTU attempt to overcome struggling poll numbers with a positive message of improvement on a number of social issues. LINK

One Note: The first embargoed response to the President's speech to hit our inboxes came courtesy of Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) at 6:14 pm ET. (He agrees with the President on most his agenda -- with the exception of trade.)

SOTU: morning shows:

McCain on GMA: Plugged nuclear power as a solution to America's energy problem, said he was glad to hear President mention earmarking, which the Arizona Senator described as "the cause of the corruption around here."

McCain on "Imus": Defended President Bush for not saying more about Hurricane Katrina; said President was "fully cognizant of the challenge we still face in New Orleans." Asked about whether Sen. Kerry was thinking that he should have been delivering the SOTU last night, McCain said: "I would have never contemplated that myself (laughter)."

McCain on "Early": Expressed support for President Bush's comments on immigration in the SOTU: "We won't solve our immigration problem until we have a guest worker program."

Obama on "GMA": Suggested "more of the same" was the headline coming out of the President's speech. Also said that "there is no military option in Iraq."

Biden on "Early": Said President Bush offered no real plan for Iraq and that a strained federal budget adds to the difficulty of moving forward with health and energy proposals.

SOTU: Dem response:

When John Kerry was asked about the President's reaching across the aisle and urging more bipartisan cooperation, Kerry cited the Administration's initial rhetorical attack on John Murtha and Karl Rove's recent speech in which he stated many Democrats have a "post 9/11" mentality.

"You have to practice what you preach and set the standard," Kerry said on NBC. The President made rhetorical bipartisan overtures, Kerry argued, "and then proceeded to engage in picking those issues that divide the hall."

In response to a question about the President's "addicted to oil" line, the Massachusetts Senator said, "It's not the American people who are addicted to oil. It's this Administration who is addicted to oil." He then flashed some vintage 2004 Kerry and told NBC's Couric, "As you remember, I made energy independence the centerpiece of my presidential campaign."

After calling the President's education initiative "timid," the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee summed up the President's overall agenda thusly: "What he's doing is fiddling at the margins." Kerry went on to add that President Bush didn't ask Americans to sacrifice anything to achieve his goals and used the call for making his tax cuts permanent as an example.

The New York Times' Carl Hulse has Sen. Reid saying: "This is Bush doublespeak. Whatever he said, think just the opposite." LINK

The Washington Post says Kaine's response was generally well-received by TV pundits. LINK

"In preparing the speech, he sought to balance his centrist reputation with political pressures to launch a partisan attack. Television pundits generally gave him high marks for being aggressive but not confrontational. Several said that by focusing on competence, he drew a sharp contrast with the partisanship in Washington."

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) expressed his disapproval of the President's defense of the "terrorist surveillance initiative" last night: "I can't believe the president of the United States got up there and asserted that kind of executive power about a wiretap that is unlawful," per the Chicago Tribune's Jeff Zeleny. LINK

"I can't believe that members of Congress would cheer him in disrespect for our system of government."

The Washington Times gives play to Rep. Emanuel's "There's something wrong with America's leaders who are addicted to oil money" line. LINK

The Washington Post on Cindy Sheehan's arrest: LINK

More SOTU:

Janet Hook on the bipartisan support for the science education and research proposals. LINK

On the other hand. . . Bush's 10-year, $136 billion science research and teacher training initiative won applause from the scientific community, but the Washington Post Notes that conservatives may balk at the high price tag. LINK

The Boston Globe's Charlie Savage questions whether the U.S. really can end its "addiction" to foreign oil. LINK

The Des Moines Register's Phillip Brasher examines the kind of ethanol that President Bush highlighted last night. LINK

The Washington Times has Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) calling Bush's guest worker plan unenforceable. LINK

On CNN's post-speech edition of "Larry King Live," Sen. George Allen (R-VA) said that he would have liked to have heard the President call for drilling in Alaska.

The New York Times Alessandra Stanley: "Mr. Bush spoke confident, even defiant words, but he looked defensive." LINK

More Stanley: "It was an entirely different performance from the one the president gave a year ago, when he was so cheerful and cocksure, buoyed by his re-election and the first free elections in Iraq. Mr. Bush addressed a joint session of Congress yesterday after the worst year of his presidency, and the toll showed in his face as much as in his words."

Tom Shales in the Washington Post: LINK

SOTU: editorials:

Headlined "A Comfort Speech," the Los Angeles Times' editorial says the speech was one where you could "find yourself, regardless of your politics, nodding along in vigorous agreement." LINK

The editorial page of the Wall Street Journal backs the President's call to reform the health care system by increasing individually owned, portable plans. "Market-based health-care reform could be a big political winner for Mr. Bush and the GOP. Americans have shown themselves averse to rationing via brute force, both in their rejection of HillaryCare and in the backlash against HMOs."

The Washington Post headlines its editorial "Altered State" offers a mixed bag for Bush, criticizing his budget proposals ("he did not offer new ideas") and energy plans ("a lofty goal… but his deadline is far off"), while praising the new investment in math and science and the continued goal of democracy-building in the Middle East. LINK

The Washington Post's Steven Pearlstein writes last night's speech confirms Republicans, just like Democrats, now "have nothing original, credible or even mildly intellectually intriguing to say about" economic policy issues. LINK

SOTU: fact check:

The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler on the "omitted context" and "assertions that have been subject to intense debate" in the President's speech. LINK

Bush's historical justifications for the domestic spying program were backed up with "selective uses of fact," conclude Peter Wallsten and Maura Reynolds in the Los Angeles Times. LINK

Associate Justice Samuel Alito:

Alito's confirmation, per the Washington Post, yesterday was "a major victory for conservatives in their decades-old drive to move the court rightward, and alarming liberals who fear that long-standing rights might be in jeopardy." LINK

The New York Times David Kirkpatrick looks at the "deep divide" that the Alito vote exposed on the Democratic side: "The 42 senators who voted against confirmation would have been enough to block the nomination if they had voted against closing the debate. But many Democrats were unwilling to do so because it would have drawn charges of obstructionism from Republicans, who have threatened to change Senate rules to bar filibusters on judicial nominees." LINK

More Kirkpatrick: "Still, Democrats vowed to make an issue of Justice Alito and Chief Justice Roberts's decisions in elections this fall and beyond."

Now that Judge Alito is Justice Alito, the New York Times' Adam Liptak looks at upcoming marquee cases through the Alito lens. LINK


The confirmation of Alito will mean a shakeup in the seating chart at the Supreme Court for the first time in 11 years. LINK

Politics of abortion:

Two Courts of Appeals -- one in San Francisco and one in New York -- yesterday declared Congress' partial birth abortion plan unconstitutional. LINK

Blunt v. Boehner v. Shadegg:

Securing final passage of the budget cutting bill today will not guarantee Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) a victory in the majority leader race tomorrow, but failure to do so may doom his candidacy, according to the Washington Post. LINK

Boehner has had the greatest number of former staffers move on to careers on K Street, according to The Hill's analysis. LINK

The Hill's Patrick O'Connor on the differing leadership styles of the three Majority Leader candidates. LINK

Lobbying reform:

The House will vote to ban former Members of Congress who have become lobbyists from both the House floor and members' gym, the Washington Times reports. LINK

Majority leader hopeful Rep. John A. Boehner (R-OH) yesterday criticized parts of Speaker Dennis Hastert's ethics reform package, including the travel ban -- which Boehner termed "childish," reports the Los Angeles Times. Boehner later back tracked. LINK

Roll Call's Tory Newmyer reports that Republican proposals for lobbying reform are floating around the House this week, but formal introduction could be delayed by efforts to elect a Majority Leader, who could have significant influence over the final shape of any reform package.


$182,000 in donations came into Rep. Tom DeLay's (R-TX) defense fund in the three months after his indictment, but it hasn't been enough to keep up with legal fees, reports Todd J. Gillman of the Dallas Morning News. LINK

Patriot Act:

Per the AP, the House will vote today on extending the Patriot Act until March 10. LINK

Politics of surveillance:

A lawsuit was filed against AT&T yesterday for its possible role in the domestic spying program. LINK

The Fitzgerald investigation:

ABC's Jason Ryan reports, "Scooter Libby and his defense team are now asking that all intelligence briefings and related information be provided to him from May 6, 2003 to March 24, 2004."

"The motion filed Tuesday at the US District Court states that they will even seek access to the Presidential Daily Briefing or PDB. The PDB is viewed as the crown jewel of intelligence information. Besides this, the defense is asking for 'all documents relating to inquires made during or in connection with Mr. Libby's morning intelligence briefing for the period May 6, 2003 through march 24, 2004 and all documents provided to Mr. Libby as a result of those inquiries.'"

More Ryan: "According to the brief the documents requested will show that Libby was immersed in sensitive matters, 'some literally of life and death' and show that any errors Libby made 'were the result of confusion, mistake, or faulty memory rather than a willful intent to deceive.' According to the filing 'such documents can be used to help establish that Mr. Libby did not participate in any plan to punish Mr. Wilson by leaking his wife's identity to the press.'" The Washington Post has their version of this story. LINK


The Des Moines Register reports that in the next month a host of 2008 hopefuls will be visiting the state of Iowa, including: Gov. George Pataki, John Edwards, Tom Daschle and Sen. Evan Bayh. LINK

New Hampshire:

New Hampshire GOP Chairman Warren Henderson has resigned his post to help care for the health of family members who reside in Florida, reports the New Hampshire Union Leader John DiStaso. The party's finance committee co-chair Sean Mahoney of Portsmouth, NH is being mentioned as a potential successor, per DiStaso. LINK

2008: Republicans:

Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post on the dilemma facing hopefuls for the '08 GOP nomination: how far to distance themselves from an "unpopular" president. Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney seems to have made his decision, choosing "distance over embrace," she writes. LINK

Time Magazine online posts a Hilary Hylton story looking at Mayor Rudy Giuliani's (R-NY) inquiring tour of the South. LINK

2008: Democrats:

The New York Post's Ian Bishop on Sen. Clinton's fundraising: "Hill's $17 million war chest." LINK

The New York Daily News: "just over $6 million in the last three months of 2005, notching its best fund-raising quarter of the year" during the "typically" dry "holiday season." LINK

In an understatement, the New York Times' Ray Hernandez writes: "Fairly or not, there is a sense within political circles that Mrs. Clinton may have a goal in mind beyond her own re-election this year: that she may be starting to amass cash to run for president in 2008." LINK

Sen. Biden "ended 2005 with $3 million in his campaign war chest -- enough money, he said, to push ahead with a potential White House bid," the Delaware News Journal reports. LINK

"'It's no secret that I'm considering a presidential run,' Biden said in a statement Tuesday. 'What we did in 2005 gives me a strong level of comfort that we can take this to the next level.' Biden raised $539,000 through his political action committee, Unite Our States, and another $2.6 million through his Senate campaign."

"He said the amount raised 'exceeded our goals,' even though he ended the year with less money than many other Democratic hopefuls in the crowded 2008 field."


The DSCC raised $44 million for Democratic candidates for Senate in 2005 – nearly $10 million more than its Republican counterpart, the NRSC, the Washington Post's Edsall reports. LINK

Bloomberg also writes up the state of campaign finances as both parties look toward 2006. The skinny on the digit-laden report: despite Sen. Chuck Schumer leading the DSCC's coffers to an all-time high, and Howard Dean doubling donations from small donors, Republicans still raked in $63 million more than Dems last year. LINK

President Bush is working with Congressional Republicans to solidify their message and provide continuity within the GOP as they head into the 2006 elections, reports Erin Billings of Roll Call.

"'There is certainly a recognition that we need to coordinate more and we need to have more Member participation in coordinating the message,' said a GOP leadership aide. 'Democrats are doing a better job than us. In order to protect our Members, we need to do this.'"

Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) has $7.8 million in the bank; Bob Casey Jr. (D) has only $3.4 million, the Philadelphia Daily News reports. LINK

The New York Times' Patrick D. Healy sees Tom Golisano's announcement that he will not run for governor as "giving a boost" to Bill Weld, who faces three other Republicans in his bid for the New York GOP's gubernatorial nomination. LINK

More Healy: "The Democrats, rather suddenly, may now be the ones facing a hard-fought, potentially damaging primary, between Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who has $19 million on hand, and Thomas R. Suozzi, the Nassau County executive, who has $5 million and a mother lode of ambition."

As Spitzer's campaign to be the new governor of New York heats up, the New York Observer's Ben Smith finds it's time for a little psychoanalytical probing: "'He's very smart, but he's very simple,' said an old friend and mentor. 'There's a kind of tedium and boredom about him. He always orders the same thing at restaurants.'" LINK

Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas Reilly's lieutenant governor running mate has had three delinquent tax debts in the last four years, the Boston Globe reports. And Reilly did not do very much due diligence before picking her. LINK

The Schwarzenegger Era:

While Democratic rivals have raised more than $50 for the California governor's race, incumbent Arnold Schwarzenegger enters the campaign $410,000 in debt, reports the Los Angeles Times. LINK

Per the Los Angeles Times, Schwarzenegger's appearance at a fundraiser tomorrow for O.C. Sheriff Michael Carona will be an exercise in fence-mending, given that Carona has been one of the most outspoken Republican critics of Schwarzenegger's recent moves. LINK