The Note: The Loneliest Number Since the Number One



As you know, when the first Tuesday of the month falls on the 7th, the answer to every question on the regular first-Tuesday-of-the-month Note quiz is the same number.

Good day and good luck.

1. What is the number of New York Times and Washington Post reporters who have intellectual sympathy for supplied-side budget scoring?

2. For how many of the programs that the Bush Administration proposes to cut back or eliminate in the budget did the White House explain clearly on the merits the rationale for the cuts?

3. How many real Americans delight in the distinction between the terms "cuts" and "restraints in growth"?

4. How many Democratic Members of Congress who didn't "get it" before will "get it" after reading Steven Groopman's New Republic piece entitled "How Liberals Play Into Karl Rove's Hands"? LINK

5. Before today, in the last 365 days, how many negative press clips did Sens. McCain and Obama have between them?

6. How many Senate votes on the asbestos legislation have been changed by those incessant and incomprehensible TV spots?

7. How many Music Caucus members are not behind on their work?

8. How many people, minus the number 22, understand the humor in Question 7?

9. How many non-Softball questions did Chris Matthews ask Howard Wolfson last night on cable?

10. What is the percent chance that Sen./Leader/Dr. Frist will let any wayward Republican Senators do actual oversight of -- or political damage to -- the White House on the NSA program?

11. What is the percent chance that the cable news networks will cut away from road-blocked coverage of the Coretta Scott King services?

12. What is the percent chance that the cable news networks would not cut away from the Coretta Scott King services if Natalee Holloway were found?

President and Mrs. Bush attend Mrs. King's "Homegoing Celebration" in Lithonia, GA at 11:45 am ET. Per a proclamation the President issued on Monday, flags will be flown at half-staff at the White House and other public buildings. The Atlanta Journal Constitution has more on today's ceremony. LINK

Presidents 39, 41, and 42 will also attend as will bipartisan congressional delegations from both the House and Senate. The AJC lists many of the expected dignitaries: LINK

If you are looking to watch the most comprehensive live coverage of the services, subscribe to ABC News Now by clicking on this LINK and following the user-friendly instructions.

ABC News Now's coverage, anchored by Bill Blakemore, will begin at 11:30 am ET. Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, Juan Williams, Taylor Branch, and many others will join Bill to discuss the life and legacy of Coretta Scott King.

The funeral service is scheduled to begin at noon ET. After the opening prayers have been offered, the official tributes will begin with President Bush's remarks followed by Gov. Sonny Perdue, Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, and the First Lady of South Africa Mrs. Zanele Mbeki.

A little later in the program, special tributes will be offered by President Jimmy Carter, President Bill Clinton, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Sen. Ted Kennedy, Rep. John Conyers, Stevie Wonder, Maya Angelou, and Andrew Young.

The budget process continues on Capitol Hill today: The Armed Services Committee hears from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, on budget matters at 9:30 am ET. OMB Director Josh Bolten testifies before the Senate Budget Committee at 3:00 pm ET. And Treasury Secretary John Snow testifies before the Senate Finance Committee at 9:30 am ET.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) speak out against what they say are "harsh cuts" in funding for education and health care spending at 12:00 pm ET. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the Senate Democrats' point person on energy policy, hosts a 3:00 pm ET conference call with reporters to respond to the energy-related items in the President's budget.

Following morning business (which gets underway at 9:45 am ET), the asbestos bill faces its first hurdle in the Senate, a cloture votes on the motion to go to the bill. ABC News' Tom Shine reports that supporters say they have the 60 votes to get cloture, but even if they succeed, they still face the possibility of several budget points of order, killer amendments, and a possible filibuster of the bill itself in the coming days. (The Hill writes up the money behind the opposition. LINK)

The Senate will recess from 12:30 pm ET until 2:15 pm ET for the weekly party luncheons. (As Noted above, several Senators will be attending Mrs. King's funeral service.)

The United Auto Workers are convening at the Marriott Wardman Park in Washington, DC today. The UAW will hear from Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) at 11:00 am ET. The UAW will also hear from the Dems' party committees at 9:30 am ET. 2006 panel participants include Michael Davies of the DLCC, Penny Lee from the DGA, John Lapp of the DCCC, and J.B. Poersch of the DSCC.

Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) and HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt host a summit on pandemic flu planning and response at 10:00 am ET followed by a media availability at 11:00 am ET.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) discusses his "Strategic Growth Plan" with community and business leaders at the University of Southern California at 2:00 pm ET. He presents the 2004 Medal of Valor to five peace officers who have gone above and beyond the call of duty.

At 12:00 pm ET, will release "Election Reform since November 2000: What's Changed, What Hasn't and Why," a "non-partisan, non-advocacy account of the state of the American electoral system a month after the deadline for significant changes."

The contents of the report are embargoed until noon. However, Doug Chapin, the group's president, offers this preview to The Note:

"The report finds that while as many as one-third of the states will miss deadlines in the Help America Vote Act, looking at election reform changes since November 2000 reveals that there has been a tremendous amount of change in the way Americans cast their ballots."

"The one thing we have definitely seen is a dramatic spike in the scrutiny that the election process receives as well as an increased willingness of defeated candidates and their supporters to challenge the results."

"Change brings uncertainty and uncertainty is always fertile breeding ground for error. In the current partisan environment . . . the ingredients are there for election controversy in one or more states. We can't predict that it will happen but conditions are there for it to happen."

Big Casino budget politics:

The Wall Street Journal's ed board raps the President for not using his veto pen and opines that many budget initiatives have "zero" chance of being implemented.

Donald Lambro of the Washington Times reports that the Cato Institute's chief budget analyst reveals much doubt over Congress giving Mr. Bush the cuts he proposed in an election year. "The Bush administration has a very poor record on following through on spending cut proposals. It's partly Bush's fault. He's not playing hardball with Congress on spending." LINK

USA Today's Richard Wolf and David Jackson call Bush's permanent tax cuts and persistent war on terrorism, which would curtail hundreds of other programs, a "tough sell, especially in an election year." LINK

Robin Toner of the New York Times offers up a political analysis of the Administration's budget proposal in which she sees President Bush having drawn clear battle lines for the two major political parties this midterm election year. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Solomon and McKinnon think the President may find it "tough" to persuade Congress to endorse his plan given that "much" of the squeezing would be of programs aimed at low-income Americans and given that doing so "wouldn't save all that much money in the aggregate."

The Washington Post's Amy Goldstein sees "twin political objectives" in the President's budget: "not forcing Congress to make too many hard spending choices in an election year" and "taming the deficit to satisfy conservatives, who complain that Bush has presided over a rapid expansion of federal spending." LINK

Michael Kranish of the Boston Globe reports that after looking at the presented budget by President Bush, both Democrats and Republicans have questions when it comes to entitlement plans. LINK

In the kind of headline that Democrats love to clip 'n save, the Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman writes that the President's budget "assumes too much" and "demands too little." LINK

"The budget bears all the hallmarks of the Bush presidency: his overriding priorities are national security and making permanent the tax cuts passed by Congress in recent years," writes David Sanger of the New York Times. LINK

And make sure you don't miss the kicker quote from the Republican Senate Finance Committee Chairman: "'Congress just finished reducing the growth of Medicare and Medicaid by $11.1 billion over the next five years,' Mr. Grassley said, 'and it wasn't an easy legislative accomplishment. Any more reductions of a significant scope could be difficult this year.'"

Edmund Andrews of the New York Times looks at the very likely costs in the years to come that are left out of the Administration's calculation of the budget deficit. LINK

The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne pays homage to 41's now-antiquated commitment to keeping "some balance" between what the government spends and what it raises in taxes. LINK

Clip n' save Timesman Robert Pear's primer on slowing the growth of Medicare. LINK

The Washington Times' editorial details Bush's "short-term optimism," where costs of war, a long-term plan that addresses the alternative minimum tax (AMT), and budget deficit predictions after 5 years were omitted from his budget proposal. LINK

The Los Angeles Times reports that Bush's lean budget proposal when it comes to social and health programs has some Republicans worrying about 2006 elections. LINK

Roll Call's Emily Pierce outlines the potential landmines Majority Leader Boehner will try to avoid in bringing various House GOP factions together over the President's budget proposal.

Washington Times Stephen Dinan writes that in addition to first-ever proposed funding for the President's guest-worker program, the 2007 proposed budget increased the number of Border Patrol agents and detention beds from last year but still fell short of the amount the President and Congress agreed to in the 2004 intelligence over-haul bill. LINK

Politics of surveillance:

In a must-read looking at the ways in which Republicans and conservatives are "split" on domestic surveillance, the Washington Post's Charles Babington has Sen. Specter saying in an interview that when Gonzales argues the Constitution gives the President "undisputable powers" he's "smoking Dutch Cleanser." LINK

The Washington Post's Dan Eggen ledes with Gonzales suggesting to Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) that the Bush Administration had considered a broader surveillance effort that would include "purely domestic telephone calls and e-mail but abandoned the idea in part due to fears of the negative public reaction." LINK

The Washington Times editorial board warns that if Congress does not change statutes that comply with the President's constitutional authority, Congress will soon become "irrelevant." In their "misapprehension" of the NSA agenda, the board says, comments made by Sens. Leahy (R-VT) and Specter (R-PA) ought to be dismissed. LINK

The New York Times' news of day piece Notes the skepticism of the Republican Four -- Specter, Graham, Brownback, and DeWine -- as well as Chairman Specter's declaration that he remained unconvinced of the program's legality after hearing the Attorney General's presentation. LINK

Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times explores the Democratic balancing act on display during yesterday's hearing. LINK

The New York Times' Liptak on the legal arguments presented by the Attorney General and his Senator questioners. LINK

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank Notes that Attorney General Gonzales lapses into Counsel Gonzales mode yesterday when he referred to Bush (and not the United States) as "the client." LINK

In his New York Post column, John Podhoretz picks apart the Democratic arguments under the headline: "Wiretap Wimps" LINK

Mindful that they will likely lose politically if the domestic surveillance program is defined simply as "are you willing to defend the country?" Democrats are hoping that the skepticism shown by four Republicans at Monday's hearing will help re-frame the issue as "does the President have absolutely unlimited power?".

Reid spokesman Jim Manley has responded to Specter, DeWine, Graham, and Brownback's criticism of the Bush administration's handling of the domestic surveillance program by telling ABC News: "It is a defeat for the all out campaign-style push by President Bush, Karl Rove, and Ken Mehlman to defend the legality of its domestic spying program. Everyone agrees that the intelligence agencies should be empowered to root out the terrorists. The question is whether the President can pick and choose which laws apply to him."

The difficulty for the Democrats, of course, is that the White House retains the biggest megaphone and it is still unknown what (if anything) will come of the questions raised by some of the Republicans.

Manley will clearly like Maura Reynold's lede in the Los Angeles Times in which she writes Gonzales faced "testy interrogation by lawmakers from both parties." LINK

Sen. Graham's homestate paper ledes with his sharing the skepticism expressed by his Democratic colleagues. LINK

McCain vs. Obama:

Sen. McCain (R-AZ) was none too pleased with Sen. Obama's (D-IL) publicly released letter last week asserting the Democratic approach to lobbying reform was the better approach. Here's McCain's response that set off the shock and awe around Capitol Hill last evening. LINK

There is only one place to go to get your best Obama/McCain coverage. The Chicago Tribune's Jeff Zeleny writes, "When McCain's letter arrived Monday afternoon, it touched off a stir unlike anything else Obama has experienced in his first year in the Senate, where he has tried to navigate the partisan divide without offending Democrats or Republicans." LINK

"Initially, Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs declared: 'The tone of this letter shows that it may well be harder to change how Washington works than anybody first thought.'"

The New York Sun's Josh Gerstein describes the letter as "sarcastic" and Noted that it "parodied the usual senatorial courtesy." LINK

Here's the AP version: LINK

The politics of Medicare:

Per the Wall Street Journal's Barbara Martinez, a coalition of drug manufacturers is working on a plan to help millions of low-income seniors pay for drugs when they hit "the so-called doughnut hole in the new Medicare drug benefit. But the government warned such a plan to bridge the program's coverage gap could run afoul of antikickback laws unless properly structured."

Politics of Iraq:

The New York Post has "a source close to" Gov. Pataki that claims Karl Rove called the Governor over the weekend "to rip Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno for comments that the United States should withdraw its troops from Iraq." LINK

"They weren't plotting to take him out," adds the source.

2008: Republicans:

The New York Post's Deborah Orin reports that Rudy Giuliani will headline the National Republican Senatorial Committee's fundraiser in Washington this coming May. LINK

The New York Daily News' Saltonstall seems to have thought he had an exclusive. Saltonstall writes up the fundraising gig as a sign that Rudy Giuliani "is starting to get his political groove back." LINK

Giuliani's spokeswoman says that the former mayor decided to headline the May event because "Liddy Dole asked him to, and because he thinks it is very important to see Republicans reelected during the midterms."

The Reliable Source in search of McCain's "split-second appearance on '24.'" LINK

2008: Democrats:

The New York Times' Pat Healy writes up Sen. Clinton's "even tones" and "temperate phrases" the day after RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman labeled her "angry." LINK

ABC News' Teddy Davis writes of Sen. Clinton's (trademark) laughing off an inquiry about Mehlman's comments. LINK

The New York Post runs the AP write-up of Sen. Clinton's defense of her contribution to Democratic Senate hopeful (and abortion rights opponent) Bob Casey's campaign. LINK

Jo Mannies of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Notes that when some Missouri Democratic legislators proposed a college scholarship program yesterday, they were borrowing from Sen. Evan Bayh's playbook. LINK

The Boston Globe's Peter Canellos surveys the potential Democratic field for 2008 and writes that John Kerry's move for a filibuster of Samuel Alito's Supreme court nomination, "could end up being his smartest political move in a long time." LINK

Republican legislative leaders unveiled their budget plan which aims to cut $200 million from Gov. Vilsack's plan, "setting the stage for hard bargaining," Jonathan Roos of the Des Moines Register writes. LINK


Jimmy Carter's son, Jack Carter, formally announced on Monday that he will seek to unseat Sen. John Ensign (R-NV), despite polls that suggest he faces "an uphill battle," Reuters reports. LINK

"With his parents sharing a stage in the Nevada capital, Carter invoked many of the same themes his father used to rise from relative obscurity to win the Democratic nomination in 1976 and go on to become president."

Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) may soon face Greenwich businessman Ned Lamont in a Democratic primary. Lamont moved closer to becoming a candidate on Monday by creating a candidate committee, naming a campaign manager, and beginning to search for a campaign headquarters, the Hartford Courant reports. LINK

The Boston Globe reports that after last week's political setback for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Thomas Reilly, he now has to tweak his campaign tactics and press forward to stay competitive with Democrat Deval Patrick. LINK

The Clintons of Chappaqua:

The New York Daily News dedicated a story to Sen. Clinton's bling that was on display yesterday. LINK


The New York Post remains committed to covering the FDIC nomination that never materialized to Diana Taylor -- today, in the context of Michael Bloomberg's absence from a White House social event last evening. LINK

Be sure to read The Hill's entertaining play by play from last week's GOP caucus leadership elections courtesy of emails from those inside the meeting. LINK

The Los Angeles Times reports that the Rock the Vote organization is in a rocky financial state and its future is uncertain. LINK