The Note: The Note

WASHINGTON, Feb. 2

NEWS SUMMARY

Four establishment conservative voices, after a day to think things over, are declaring their lack of enthusiasm (to say the least) for the President's State of the Union address: the Wall Street Journal's editorial page; Bob Novak; George Will; and Peggy Noonan.

Does this matter?

Only time will tell.

First, the Journal's twin editorial take on the speech:

One editorial takes the White House to task for focusing too much on polls in its calls for energy policy changes. "If there is an unhealthy addiction right now, it may be the White House fixation on polls showing Americans are anxious about gas prices. This, and only this, could explain the decision to co-opt Democratic energy ideas in order to deflect their political attacks in the run-up to mid-term elections."

A second editorial draws similarities between Bush and Clinton. "On the home front, President Bush was definitely playing 'miniball,' as he likes to describe small political ideas. At times his agenda had the feel of Clintonian 'triangulation,' an attempt to play it safe and inoculate Republicans against some of the likely Democratic themes this election year."

Then there's Novak's column, in which he suggests that most conservatives felt the President's Tuesday night speech was his "worst," and "what bothered conservatives most about Tuesday night's performance was not what the president failed to do but what he actually did." LINK

Will and Noonan feel much the same: LINK and LINK

While conservatives ponder those five pieces, their political event of the day will occur when Tom DeLay's successor will be chosen by secret ballot at the House Republican Conference gathering at noon ET.

It takes 117 votes to win. If nobody achieves that threshold on the first ballot, the top two vote-getters move on to a second ballot. Rep. Roy Blunt currently has 100 public supporters, and claims to have more than 117 in public and private commitments combined.

Election results will be announced on www.GOP.gov as soon as they are available. There will be a press conference after the meeting.

President Bush attended the National Prayer Breakfast this morning and praised Bono as "an amazing guy" who gets things done.

President Bush spends the rest of today and tomorrow continuing his SOTU road show. (As she did yesterday, Mrs. Bush will be traveling with her husband again today.) The President tours the 3M Company in Maplewood, MN before making 12:40 pm ET remarks on "American competitiveness." President Bush will then head to Albuquerque, NM where he will remain overnight in advance of his event there tomorrow morning.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hears from DNI Negroponte, Michael Hayden, CIA Director Goss, FBI Director Mueller, and others at 10:00 am ET.

Sens. Baucus, Cantwell, Kennedy, and Reed hold a 2:15 pm ET pen and pad for reporters to discuss the President's State of the Union address.

Secretary Chao delivers remarks on the SOTU and the economy to the City Club of Cleveland at 12:30 pm ET.

Secretary Snow delivers remarks on the "state of the economy" to the National Association of Wholesalers at 1:30 pm ET in Washington, DC.

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) will key off Karl Rove's recent RNC remarks and deliver a speech entitled, "A New Approach to the National Security Debate," at the Center for International and Strategic Studies at noon ET. (See our preview below.)

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) is scheduled to speak about the "Iranian threat" at 11:00 am ET at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC. (See more below.)

At 12:45 pm ET, Sens. Reid, Schumer, Salazar, and others plan to urge Attorney General Gonzales to appoint a special counsel to lead the Abramoff investigation.

Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) plays host to the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices education summit in Orlando, FL. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings delivers the keynote address.

California First Lady Maria Shriver and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) co-chair the Daughters of Charity Health System conference on poverty at UCLA. Former Sen. John Edwards delivers the keynote and Mayor Villaraigosa and Jack Kemp are expected to attend.

RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman is in Tennessee today. He breakfasted with the Hamilton County Republican Party. He will also meet with local African American and Hispanic leaders as well as raise money for the Tennessee Republican Party and, of course, do some local media.

Politics of surveillance:

The New York Times' Eric Lichtblau has a must read with a "senior Justice Department official" saying on Wednesday: "I don't think they're coming out," when asked about Judiciary Committee requests for classified legal opinions on President Bush's domestic spying program. LINK

How "real" Monday's hearing will be remains the biggest political question in Washington today. Getting the legal analysis is one thing, but will they go for the facts?

The Attorney General is doing network interviews today.

Blunt v. Boehner v. Shadegg:

The Wall Street Journal endorses Shadegg's candidacy: "[M]ore impressive on the spending front is Mr. Shadegg, one of only two dozen courageous GOP souls to buck the White House and oppose the 2003 Medicare drug entitlement. We'd have to give him a slight edge on Mr. Boehner when it comes to ideas, too."

The Los Angeles Times piece on the race tries to read the mood of the contenders yesterday, finding Blunt "buoyant" and Boehner "terse". LINK

The Hill has the latest tally on the morning of the vote. LINK

Ben Pershing of Roll Call has details on the last-minute scramble for votes -- on the first and potentially second ballot.

The New York Times' Carl Hulse plays up the GOP's rejection of a broad shake-up of its part leadership in the House as a good sign for Rep. Blunt. LINK

Blunt proved his vote-gathering stripes with yesterday's passage of a $39 billion budget, writes Alexander Bolton of The Hill. LINK

The Arizona Republic on Sen. McCain's endorsement of Rep. Shadegg yesterday. LINK

Patrick O'Connor of The Hill reports that House Republicans killed a measure that would have had almost every member of the leadership stand for reelection. The defeat bodes well for Blunt, but the close vote suggests many in the conference are itching for wholesale change. LINK

A Washington Post editorial urges the new majority leader, whoever it may be, to make the House more democratic. LINK

SOTU: political analysis:

The State of the Union is evidence of the new White House strategy to hit "singles and doubles instead of home runs," write the Washington Post's Baker and Babington. LINK

"After his far-reaching domestic agenda of 2005 collapsed along with his poll ratings, he and his advisers have concluded that grand proposals of the magnitude of restructuring Social Security or rewriting the tax code are unworkable in a time of war."

SOTU: Day Two:

The White House tried -- and failed -- to convince Alan Greenspan to head the bipartisan commission on controlling Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security costs, reports the Wall Street Journal's Mullins and Calmes.

Greenspan's associates "said his rejection also reflects his sense that the political system is too polarized and its leaders too unwilling to compromise on cutting benefits and raising taxes -- as President Reagan and Democratic House Speaker Tip O'Neill did on Social Security."

Elisabeth Bumiller of the New York Times sees international, political, scientific, and economic skepticism towards the President's energy proposals. LINK

"In an interview on Wednesday, the Saudi ambassador to Washington, Prince Turki al-Faisal, said he would have to ask Mr. Bush's office 'what he exactly meant'" by his call for the replacement of 75 percent of the United States' Mideast oil imports with ethanol and other energy sources by 2025.

President Bush's energy initiative gets mixed reactions and lacks funding, writes David Baker of the San Francisco Chronicle. LINK

The President's post-SOTU interview with the AP: LINK

The New York Daily News reports that Sen. Specter is "irate" at "oil bigs" who "thumbed their nose at a Senate hearing called yesterday to grill them about their record profits." LINK

"'If we need to issue subpoenas, we can do that,'" said an "angry" Specter.

The New York Daily News' Kenneth Bazinet reports that President Bush's first stop to sell the idea of breaking the nation's oil addiction "burned up thousands of gallons of jet fuel and hundreds of gallons of gasoline." LINK

Big Casino budget politics:

The Washington Post tells readers what it thinks of the new budget bill with the subhead on its lead budget story: "Poor, Elderly and Students to Feel Pinch." The article Notes that the vote could be helpful for Majority Whip Roy Blunt's in today's Majority Leader election. LINK

The New York Times' Sheryl Gay Stolberg describes yesterday's budget vote in the House as helping President Bush deliver on his promise to "rein in federal spending" while "underscoring deep anxiety" within the GOP over "cutting social welfare programs in an election year." LINK

Associate Justice Samuel Alito:

The Washington Post's Romano and Eilperin tick-tock the nomination process of Justice Alito, focusing on the White House's success and the Democrats' failure in trying to define Alito, getting to about 30% of the real story, with the accurate focus on the disorganization of the Senate Democrats but giving way too much credit to the planning of the outside interest groups on the left. LINK

Lobbying reform:

The Washington Post fronts yesterday's 3.5 hour House GOP caucus meeting, with the divisions that emerged over lobbying reform and the close vote on having full leadership elections. LINK

On the leadership vote: "Republican leadership aides conceded they were surprised -- and distressed -- by the vote, but dismissed supporters of the resolution as a disjointed band of malcontents, protest voters and members seeking to knock off individual leadership members for personal reasons."

Jeffrey Birnbaum on the lobbying loophole that isn't being addressed: the lack of limits on Indian tribes' donations to lawmakers. LINK

Dana Milbank's Washington Sketch on the "treadmill" politics: LINK

Politics of immigration:

The Wall Street Journal's June Kronholz looks at the President's "dual tack" on immigration. It's necessary, she says, because with "Republicans largely leading the anti-immigration charge, the issue is causing heartburn for the national party, which was hoping that its generally pro-immigration stand would help it pick up Hispanic voters."

DeLay:

The Bush administration filed a brief with the Supreme Court yesterday supporting DeLay's Texas redistricting plan. LINK

Roll Call writes up the latest FEC filing, which finds both Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) and his opponent Nick Lampson with over a million dollars cash on hand.

Politics of Katrina:

A new GAO report on the Katrina aftermath says the blame starts at the top, with the White House's failure to quickly name a commander of disaster relief. LINK

The Fitzgerald investigation:

A letter from special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald reveals that some White House e-mails from 2003 weren't archived as they should have been, reports Josh Gerstein of the New York Sun. LINK

"The letter does not indicate how thoroughly prosecutors explored the issue of the missing e-mails. However, Mr. Fitzgerald wrote that he did not believe any evidence disappeared that was relevant to the charges against Mr. Libby."

Iowa:

The Des Moines Register's editorial board smashes at President Bush's SOTU wiretapping argument. LINK

Thomas Beaumont of the Des Moines Register has former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle say that "[the] control of the House of may actually be decided here in the state of Iowa." LINK

New Hampshire:

John DiStaso of the Union Leader reports that New Hampshire Democratic Chair Kathy Sullivan has a bone to pick with Howard Dean for failing to give her a copy of a recent DNC letter that includes favorable language regarding proposed changes in the Democratic nomination calendar. LINK

2008: Republicans:

In an 11:00 am ET speech to the American Enterprise Institute, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) will say that the Iranian regime's "rebellious disregard for human rights and global security is a defiance that should not be tolerated."

"The Iranian people's bold resistance of the regime's dictatorial disregard for democracy and human rights is a moral defiance for truth and justice," Brownback is expected to say. "As we witnessed in the Polish Solidarity movement, the defiance of the people eventually cracked the defiance of the government."

The potential Republican presidential candidate will decry the Iranian president's anti-Israel comments, call for a session of Iran's nuclear efforts, and make a plea for a true democracy without mullahs interfering and approving all of the candidates. He will also discuss his previous efforts to pass the Iran Democracy Act.

Don't blink or you'll miss Sen. John McCain's turn as a paper-pusher on next week's episode of Fox's hit 24. LINK

Newt Gingrich targeted the youth vote yesterday at Northern Virginia Community College. LINK

Scott Greenberger of the Boston Globe writes up Gov. Romney's house calls to legislative leaders to sell his health care plan. LINK

An early version of Wednesday's Note contained, in this section, a write-up and link to an old story that should not have been included. We regret the error.

2008: Democrats:

In language reminiscent of the way former President Clinton used to talk about his party's approach to crime, Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) will call for a "tough and smart" approach to national security in a 12:00 pm ET speech to the Center for Strategic International Studies. LINK

Sen. Bayh will make the case for why his fellow Democrats should pick up the gauntlet that Karl Rove threw down last month.

"Two weeks ago," Sen. Bayh is expected to say, "Karl Rove told the Republican National Committee that the 2006 elections should be a referendum on who can best secure the country in the post 9-11 world. . . ."

"Some in my party are afraid of this fight. . . Others argue that it is wrong to inject 'politics' into something as important to our national well-being as National Security. I could not disagree more forcefully."

"Tough is good, but six years into the Bush Presidency; it is clear that tough is not enough. We need a foreign policy that is both tough … and smart. The good news? That it is the historic legacy of the Democratic Party. It is a legacy we must now reclaim."

On Iraq, the former DLC Chairman who voted to authorize the use of force in 2002, will say: "We are left with no easy answers in Iraq. There is no 'transforming' approach at this juncture." He will say that the United States must let all of the Iraqi factions know that "they must make the difficult compromises necessary, or they will cease to have our support. Our presence cannot be used to avoid hard choices. An approach that is tough and smart would establish benchmarks for success, a timeline for progress, accountability for results, and candor about how we are doing." Dick Morris offers Sen. Clinton some unsolicited advice in the pages of The Hill: "shut up." LINK

The New York Daily News reports that the "Stop Her Now" committee raised only $23,637 since launching in March 2005 with a bold promise to net $10 million from Clinton's detractors." LINK

Sen. Feingold has raised "a combined $1.9 million for his campaign and political action committee since the 2004 election," the AP reports. LINK

More: "Feingold's leadership PAC, the Progressive Patriots Fund, raised $595,000 in 2005 and finished the year with $289,000 in the bank." The Des Moines Register's Jane Norman reports that Gov. Tom Vilsack (D-IA) stressed the importance of "innovation and creativity" as well as a community ethic in government, at a conference of political and governmental leaders Wednesday. LINK

Gov. Vilsack is attempting a massive education reform with high political stakes, writes David Yepsen of the Des Moines Register. LINK

Gov. Bill Richardson from New Mexico threatens to veto minimum wage legislation that involves increase caps, per the Santa Fe New Mexican. LINK

2006:

The Boston Globe reports that the Reilly campaign is left in the wind after Rep. Marie St. Fleur withdrew her candidacy, but even more troublesome for Att. Gen. Reillly is the idea he may now have to investigate his former running mate's tax issues and prosecute her on any wrongdoings. LINK

Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi slams Reilly in her column, writing that his choice for a running mate was based on "gender and race" and perhaps Reilly is not ready to move out of his current job, "as attorney general, Reilly never had charisma but he cultivated the appearance of competence. As a gubernatorial candidate, he shows neither." LINK

The Boston Globe also reports on Deval Patrick's decision to announce the tax lien he faced in 1996. LINK

James O'Toole of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports on the free media Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate (and former wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers) Lynn Swann is enjoying during Super Bowl week in the Keystone State. LINK

The Hill reports that the GOP wagons are finally circling around Katherine Harris' candidacy. LINK

Peter Brown writes in an opinionjournal.com op-ed that the Bush brothers are very unhappy with Harris' run for Senate in Florida. LINK

Gov. William Weld and Sen. D'Amato appear to agree on one thing at the moment: Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long's importance in the Republican primary process. LINK

Pat Healy of the New York Times writes up his visit and interview with Attorney General candidate Jeanine Pirro (R-NY) and her post-Senate race outlook. LINK

2007:

Stuart Rothenberg writes in Roll Call that Rep. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) is starting to make noises (quietly, of course) about a rematch against Gov. Kathleen Blanco (D-LA) nex