WASHINGTON, Feb. 9
Questions for Scott McClellan (to be asked in this exact order):
Did you know that former NASA aide George Deutsch didn't graduate from A&M? Did you know he was limiting what scientists could say? Did you know he would be forced out before he knew?
Did you know the budget details for the "out" years as revealed in Jonathan "I Still Have My Green Eye Shades" Weisman boring-but-must-read story in the Washington Post? LINK
Do you know Justice Department career guy James A. "'A' Is Not for 'Addison'" Baker, and can he be trusted (i.e. Is he a good man?)? And do you think he was the source for the Washington Post' riveting-and-must-read account of the FISA court? LINK
Did Gonzales and Hayden brief at least one bogus "fact" to the Hill yesterday so when Members (inevitably) leak operational details of the program you can explain the REAL reason you didn't go to Congress?
Does the President still have confidence in Mike Dennehy?
Does the President agree with Ken Mehlman's Sunday "This Week" description of Senator Clinton? What will the White House do to help her Senate opponent?
Does the White House view the dispute over the surveillance program as a "Republican versus Democrat" issue?
Have you ever seen Andy Card looking this well rested before?
Will you have lunch with Raul Damas and Bob Novak next week? LINK
(To be asked by a long-winded, floor-holding network type): For months you all said the State of the Union would allow you to "turn the page" away from the Iraq war, Katrina, gas prices, and Leak-gate, and, indeed, those topics have receded. But what topics launched by the President's speech do you see taking root and actually providing unambiguous political benefit to him and the party?
That question is answered by the one-two punch speeches of the President and the Vice President today.
President Bush makes remarks on the global war on terror at the National Guard memorial building at 9:55 am ET. (The President meets with the president of Poland in the Oval Office following his speech at 11:15 am ET.)
ABC's Jessica Yellin reports, the President "will share more details of a West Coast plot that was successfully broken up in close cooperation with other countries. He will use it to highlight how the Administration is acting on all fronts and in close coordination with many nations to disrupt plots, keep pressure on Al Qaeda, and stay on the offense to win the war on terror."
And, then, in the sequel, as ABC's Karen Travers reports, well in time for the West Coast edition of "World News Tonight," at the Conservative Political Action Conference at the Omni Shoreham, "The Vice President will take on critics who have challenged President Bush on national and economic security and we will hear strong language from Cheney on the President's leadership on these key issues, according to a Senior Administration Official."
Cheney's remarks are part of the three-day boffo CPAC conference that kicks off today. The list of marquee speakers at the largest gathering of political activists in the country includes Cheney (who speaks at 7:45 pm ET tonight), Amb. John Bolten (who speaks Friday evening), Sen. George Allen (who speaks at tonight's dinner), Sen. Rick Santorum (who addresses the crowd at 2:45 pm ET today), Dr./Sen./Leader Bill Frist (who appears on Friday somewhere around 4:30-5:30 pm ET), Rep. Tom Tancredo (who discusses immigration this morning), and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (who speaks on Saturday evening).
For 2008 watchers, David Keene, the president of the American Conservative Union, and Tony Fabrizio, the Republican pollster, will announce the winner of CPAC's presidential preference straw poll on Saturday evening. (Check out our 2008 section below to read about how David Keene currently sizes up the GOP field.)
House GOP leaders gather at the Rayburn Horseshoe for a pre-retreat press availability before heading off to Cambridge, MD. The House Republican Conference will hear from President Bush at their retreat tomorrow. RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman is scheduled to speak at the gathering today, and will not shout unnecessarily.
The Senate convenes at 9:30 am ET and resumes consideration of the asbestos bill following morning business. Amendments will be offered to the bill and roll call votes are expected to occur.
At 10:00 am ET, the Senate Intelligence Committee receives its expanded closed-door briefing today on the President's warrantless domestic wiretapping program from Attorney General Gonzales and Lt. Gen. Michael Hayden.
From Italy, ABC News' Ann Compton reports, "Mrs. Bush and daughter Barbara were greeted by Pope Benedict with both arms extended in welcome to his private library today. Mrs. Bush later told us they briefly discussed Muslim violence and in persistent questioning she stuck very close to White House talking points."
"'I know Muslims are offended with these cartoons. I understand their offense. On the other hand I don't think violence is the answer. I think everyone around the world needs to speak out and say let's stop the violence.'"
Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) joins Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and several hundred others affected by Hurricane Katrina in rallying for "a real federal commitment to rebuild the region." The rally will take place on Capitol Hill. Sen. Clinton also attends a Senate HELP Committee hearing to examine the role of education in global competitiveness at 11:15 am ET.
Sen. Reid, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Sen. Kent Conrad, and Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) will castigate the President's budget for its effects on rural America at 1:30 pm ET.
Americans United hosts a conference call on President Bush's "continued pursuit" of Social Security "privatization" at 10:30 am ET, with Congressman Sandy Levin (D-MI), the ranking Democratic member on the House Ways and Means' Subcommittee on Social Security. (See Allan Sloan's Newsweek online column for more on this: LINK)
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) discusses his "strategic growth" plan with Bay Area community and business leaders at 5:00 pm ET in San Jose, CA.
Politics of surveillance:
In a must-read, the Washington Post's Carol Leonnig reports that "twice in the past four years, a top Justice Department lawyer warned the presiding judge of a secret surveillance court that information overheard in President Bush's eavesdropping program may have been improperly used to obtain wiretap warrants in the court, according to two sources with knowledge of those events." LINK
"The revelations infuriated U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly -- who, like her predecessor, Royce C. Lamberth, had expressed serious doubts about whether the warrantless monitoring of phone calls and e-mails ordered by Bush was legal; both were the only judges briefed about the program."
On the day after the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee calls for the President's spying program to be brought under the FISA court's supervision, the Wall Street Journal's editorial board calls for the abolishment of FISA.
The Washington Post's Charles Babington has Sen. Hagel being critical of the Bush Administration going around the law, Sen. Brownback saying that "there's a decent shot at crafting legislation to make the FISA court a more workable option, and Gonzales and Hayden neither confirming nor denying the Washington Post's Sunday account that thousands of Americans appear to have been monitored, resulting in very few suspects. LINK
The Washington Post's David Broder has a Noteworthy look at the GOPers who are bucking Bush on spying, erh, surveillance. LINK
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) tells USA Today's John Diamond that he wants to "assert Congress' constitutional authority" while allowing the warrantless wiretapping program to continue under the supervision of the FISA court. His proposal, which Specter has not discussed with the President, would require FISA to review the NSA's actions every 45 days to ensure it does not go beyond the limits described by the Bush Administration. LINK
Yesterday's briefing of the House Intelligence Committee represented a "significant concession" and a "change of heart" the New York Times reports, although Scott Shane and Eric Lichtblau also have White House spokesman Dana Perino insisting that the new briefings did not change the "principle" already articulated by the White House. LINK
The difference? "While the full committees are being given 'additional procedural information' on the program, emphasizing measures taken to protect civil liberties, they are not getting the 'full operational details' given to the eight leaders, said the spokeswoman."
". . . with a careful listening, the attorney general did come over as conciliatory by at least offering to discuss the question with senators," columnizes Bob Novak on Gonzales' appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee. LINK
United Press International reports on House Intelligence Committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra's allegations of bias in two recent Congressional Research Service reports on warrantless wiretapping. LINK
Big Casino budget politics:
White House documents indicate that significant cuts would be needed throughout the decade to meet the President's goal of halving the deficit by 2009, the Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman reports. LINK
In a piece looking at the President firing back at Democrats who call his budget "immoral," the Washington Post's Peter Baker Notes that Wednesday's Union Leader greeted Mr. Bush's New Hampshire trip thusly: "Mr. President, you are not fooling anyone. Stop these short-term political games and give us a budget that brings federal spending down to a sustainable level. Don't let the American people down by passing this problem on to our children." LINK
John DiStaso's write-up of the President's Granite State visit to sell his budget plan: LINK
Per the Wall Street Journal's David Rogers, President Bush signed a $39 billion deficit-reduction bill into law, "but not before Republican leaders discovered that a portion of the text related to Medicare had been changed after clearing the House last week."
Kent Conrad (D-ND) compares the new Medicare prescription drug benefit to Katrina, Jane Norman of the Des Moines Register reports. LINK
In an interview with Bloomberg's Richard Keil, President Bush said the U.S. is working with China to address the trade issue, and there is "no question'' that China must take further steps on its currency." LINK
The Chicago Tribune's Mark Silva broke this news on his paper's blog last night: "Claude A. Allen, the president's domestic policy adviser, turned in his letter of resignation today at the White House, the Bush administration acknowledged tonight." LINK
More Silva: "White House spokesman Scott McClellan said tonight that Allen is seeking more time with his family and cited purely personal reasons for stepping down after a few tough years in high-level posts."
The New York Times' David Sanger writes that the President's speech in New Hampshire yesterday had shades of Bush's campaigns. LINK
Elisabeth Bumiller reviews the Bush-Clinton relationship(s). LINK
In a made-for-an-RNC-press release moment -- while discussing domestic surveillance on ABC's "Good Morning America," DNC Chairman Howard Dean said many in the Republican Party disagree with the President, adding that all Democrats are asking is that "we don't turn this country into a country like Iran, where the president of Iran can do everything he wants at any time."
(Otherwise) Dean was pretty much on message, in part because he was not asked for his thoughts on his former aide, Kate O'Connor, crossing party lines in Vermont's US Senate race this year. LINK
Sheryl Gay Stolberg on the divisions over what form lobbying reform should take -- and threats of possible retaliation against lawmakers who support reform measures: LINK
In his op-ed in the New York Times, Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) hearkens back to his days on the F-Bar Ranch in an attempt to explain why earmark reform is needed. LINK
House supporters of publicly financed federal elections got a boost yesterday when Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) endorsed the idea, reports The Hill. Dodd says he's reaching out to the Senate Democratic Caucus to gauge interest in the idea. LINK
Scott McClellan, we bet, will call that welfare for politicians.
McCain vs. Obama:
For the third time in as many days, the Chicago Tribune's Jeff Zeleny reports on the McCain/Obama spat. Zeleny writes the two men put this week's "misunderstanding" behind them yesterday before testimony on lobbying and ethics reform in front of the Senate Rules Committee. LINK
"'I'm particularly pleased to be sharing this panel with my pen pal, John McCain,' Obama (D-IL) said with a smile. 'And I look forward to working with him on this very important work.'"
Majority Leader Boehner:
Don't miss Newsweek's "The Oval" column by Richard Wolffe and Holly Bailey which tells the tale of President Bush's "I'm with Boehner" moment in 2001 after soliciting advice on how best to proceed with the No Child Left Behind legislation. LINK
Ben Pershing of Roll Call treads similar water today too.
The Washington Post's Dana Milbank turns in a tale about various conservatives who are turning on President Bush on everything from immigration to checks and balances. LINK
Be sure to check out Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) saying that the VPOTUS had spoken "arrogantly" and don't miss the account of yesterday's faux Nazi salute.
Salon's Michael Scherer offers the opinions of conservative insiders who believe the President has moved too far to the right and even accuse him of "Clintonian 'triangulation.'" LINK
Politics of energy:
Despite opposition from the President's brother, drilling in the Gulf of Mexico off of Florida is back on the table, reports the Associated Press. LINK
President Bush's "addiction to oil" eyes Florida's waters for a "shot," Lesley Clark of the Miami Herald reports. LINK
The DNC will discuss the fate of New Hampshire primary March 11, working on recommendations to hold one or two caucuses between the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary, according to the Union Leader's John DiStaso. LINK
Ryan Lizza's cover story for The New Republic this week provides an excellent and wise look into "Hillaryland." It is certainly a must-read. LINK
Lizza highlights the extreme loyalty Sen. Clinton's closest advisors have for her. Too bad he missed the six secret key Clinton advisers that most other reporters don't know about either.
Under the headline "Rove joins beat-Hill effort," the New York Post's Kenneth Lovett reports that Karl Rove deputy Sara Taylor met yesterday with former Yonkers Mayor John Spencer, who is the likely Republican challenger for Sen. Hillary Clinton in her reelection race. The hour-long discussion at the White House focused on -- duh -- campaign strategy. LINK
The New York Post has a field day today with Sen. Clinton, devoting three other articles as well to the junior Senator from New York: One describes her speech yesterday before a United Auto Workers Convention; the second has her returning a donation from Ted Kennedy's "felon brother-in-law"; and the third, a column by the pacific Deb Orin, recommends without irony that Clinton seek anger management counseling. LINK and LINK and LINK
The New York Daily News has a more thorough wrap of Clinton's UAW speech, in which she went after the White House's record in the war on terror. LINK
Asserting her "hawkish credentials," Sen. Clinton rebuked Karl Rove's focus on fear when discussing national security in a potential effort to distance herself from anti-war Democrats, according to Meghan Clyne of the New York Sun. LINK
Sen. Clinton, a former Wal-Mart board member, is urging caution over Wal-Mart's "controversial" bank application, telling regulators she has "serious reservations" about allowing companies to enter financial services by exploiting a "loophole" in U.S. law, Reuters reports. LINK
The New York Sun's Josh Gerstein takes a look at the cadre of advisors/operatives in Mark Warner's orbit of late including a tutoring session with a slew of foreign policy experts (arguably the former Virginia governor's weak spot in his resume) including former State Department official from the Clinton Administration Ivo Daalder, who offers up this colorful 'what it takes' kind of quote. LINK
"'First and foremost, it's a question of having a head on your shoulders. We've had enough people who got shot up in Vietnam or got on a foreign policy committee and think they've got foreign policy experience,'" said Daalder.
In Hillaryland, they will well Note the few brave/foolish souls willing to go on the record about why they prefer Warner to Clinton.
Scot Lehigh of the Boston Globe writes on Senator Kerry's (D-MA) political viability for a presidential run in 2008. Lehigh writes, "So in a party that loves the next new thing, Kerry would certainly have to demonstrate that his previous turn around the track has left him tougher, wiser, better prepared, and less stumble-prone than his rivals -- and there, the jury is still out." LINK
In a news conference on Wednesday, former VP nominee John Edwards (D-NC) called Bush the worst president of his lifetime and aligned himself with the Carville/Begala theory. "'I want to see some backbone,' Edwards said. 'That's what our party needs,'" reports Molly Walsh of the Burlington Free Press. LINK
The Washington Times' Eric Pfeiffer on Democratic presidential candidates' embrace of left-leaning blogs: LINK
As for the CPAC straw poll, American Conservative Union President David Keene wouldn't venture a prediction as to who will win, believing that it is mostly a function of name ID at this point. But he did offer his two cents as to what conservatives are thinking:
"Talking to them aside from the straw poll, there's a strong Allen contingent, some Brownback people, and some McCain people," Keene told The Note.
Can Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) overcome conservative doubts?
"Frankly, I find it unlikely," said Keene, who will get a call from John Weaver as soon as Weaver reads this.
Keene seems to think McCain "starts with biggest base," somewhere around 30-35 percent of Republicans. But Keene believes McCain's "problem" is that "he also has a ceiling which may or may not be 50 percent."
"He can't become their guy," Keene told The Note. "What he has to do. . . is not be the devil in their minds."
"He's made some progress on that," Keene added. "But not with me," he said with laughter.
The former executive editor of the New York Times Joseph Lelyveld's 8,000-word Chuck Hagel profile lands on the cover of the New York Times Magazine set to hit your doorstep this weekend.
Lelyveld spends much time exploring Hagel's conservative bona fides within his well-known maverick context. Hagel also spends a moment or two 'on the couch' when talking about some difficult times with his father. The profile certainly captures that thing all potential presidential candidates like to sell on the stump and on the airwaves -- a good story.
"A Republican campaign pro, after an astute analysis of Hagel's virtues and drawbacks, zeroed in on a factor no one else had mentioned, one that he seemed to feel said a lot about the reason Hagel's party hasn't warmed to him, and therefore about his limited prospects."
"'He doesn't have a happy face,' the pro said."
Lelyveld also reports that Sen. Hagel will never take "the pledge" against any and all tax cuts under any circumstances.
While speaking to the Family Research Council on Wednesday, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) called for an amendment to the US Constitution defining marriage as the union between "one man and one woman."
He also made a pitch for removing the incentives in public assistance laws that discourage marriage.
"Getting married and staying married is one of the best ways to get out of poverty," Brownback said.
Under Brownback's proposed Marriage Development Accounts legislation, the federal government and partnering private institutions would match the savings of low-asset DC residents at a ratio of 3:1. LINK
Participating couples would receive training that helps them repair their credit, set a budget and savings schedule, and manage their money. They would also receive bonuses in their MDA accounts for receiving marriage counseling.
(Note Note: The entire panel discussion on marriage took place in an FRC conference room adorned with a portrait and bumper stickers commemorating America's only divorced president.)
Sen. Brownback is feeling the heat from evangelical Christians when it comes to his participation on the global warming issue, per the Wichita Eagle. LINK
The Hill has Jack Kemp telling of how Sen. Allen' wowed his fundraising crowd at the Super Bowl. LINK
Jill Lawrence of USA Today reports that Democratic leadership is now promising a "Contract with America"-type agenda by spring or summer. And despite the objections of the blogosphere and Paul Begala ("I'd be tougher and meaner"), it's likely to echo Tim Kaine's "we can do better" speech. LINK
Roll Call's piece on the state of bipartisan congressional relations predicts more trouble ahead. In the words of one Democratic staffer: "This year could be the year of the meltdown."
Bryan Bender of the Boston Globe reports on the efforts of the "Fighting Dems," who touted their military service yesterday in Washington DC in a bid to launch their Democratic congressional campaigns. LINK
New York Republicans are highly concerned that the state's Conservative Party might not endorse William Weld in the gubernatorial race over concerns about his values -- a move that "could split the right and hand the race to the Democrats," reports the New York Times' Patrick Healy. LINK
Steve Westly's senior advisor, Garry South, sent political reporters a memo highlighting what he sees as opponent Phil Angelides' "unfathomable" burn rate of his campaign funds in 2005.
"Angelides is clearly running a free-spending, gilded-lily campaign of the type that Al Gore -- another insider, 'frontrunner' candidate -- was running for much of 1999, until he pared down his bloated operation, reduced his monthly overhead, and high-tailed it to Nashville," wrote South.
"Will his donors stand up and take note of the fact that 60% of their money has been going for overhead, instead of voter communications?"
California Sen. Barbara Boxer is trying to convince Cindy Sheehan not to challenge Sen. Diane Feinstein in a Democratic primary, reports the Washington Times. LINK
George F. Will looks at Gov. Jennifer Granholm's (D-MI) re-election race in the Wolverine State and predicts that the Democratic Party by 2008 "will fully and formally embrace protectionism." LINK
"Embracing a strategy that has worked for the past three Republican candidates, Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey officially launched her bid for governor yesterday by promising to 'stand up to the tax-and-spend attitude of the Democratic Legislature,'" ledes the Boston Globe's Scott Greenberger on the official Day One coverage of the Healy campaign. LINK
Tom DeLay took former Rep. Duke Cunningham's spot on the Appropriations Committee yesterday, per the Associated Press. LINK
Roll Call reports that the former Majority Leader DeLay has sent a nine-page letter to his Republican constituents, defending his trips to Scotland and the Northern Marianas, and denying that Abramoff is a "close friend." Josh Bresnahan writes that DeLay has fortified his staff and gained dozens of new volunteers in recent weeks. Although, apparently the campaign is still in need of a direct-mail editor.
Todd Gillman of the Dallas Morning News reports that Tom Campbell, Republican challenger to Rep. Tom DeLay, is spending $50,000 over three weeks to air two :30 ads in the Houston area that cite "integrity" and "distractions", but don't mention DeLay directly. LINK
Rarely does a man emerge from defeat with his reputation buffed to a silvery sheen. But such is the case of Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ). So what will he do with all that mojo? The Hill takes a look: LINK
Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times quotes former Clinton spokesguy Jim Kennedy on his Sony studio's clever attempt to defuse expected Catholic anti-"Da Vinci Code" attacks by giving critics space on a website. The potential uses for this strategem in politics and government are huge. (And, yes, Jim, The Note expects invites to both the Gotham City and Capital premieres.) (Note interview with Hanks: optional but requested.) LINK