The Note: (White) House of (Andy) Card(s)?



In the Morning Update we got from the White House today (a publication which regularly comes out MUCH earlier than The Note does by the way, but is heavily subsidized by the federal government), these were the headlines:

President Bush Highlights Progress In Winning The War On Terror.

Homeland Security Adviser Fran Townsend Discusses The Importance Of Using All Available Tools To Prosecute The War On Terror.

White House Praises Bipartisan Agreement On The Patriot Act.

Secretary Chertoff Highlights Efforts To Strengthen Homeland Security At The Nation's Borders.

CIA Director Porter Goss Writes About The Danger Of Leaking Classified Information In The War On Terror.

Iraqi Security Forces And Political Process Credited With Preventing Terrorist Attacks During Shiite Religious Holiday.

NATO Reaffirms Commitment To Expanding Security Mission In Afghanistan.

Four-Week Moving Average Of Jobless Claims Falls To Lowest Level Since April 2000.

Consumer Confidence Soars On Strong Job Market.

Nothing in there that we see that reflects the Franken-Manley-Old Media morning take, which includes these (paraphrased) headlines:

Bush, White House Manipulated the Pre-Iraq war Intelligence.

Bush, White House Manipulated the Latest Budget Figures.

Bush, White House Released Details of Plot Against the Library Tower for Political Purposes.

Bush, White House Knew More about the New Orleans Levee situation Than They Have Let On.

Bush, White House Knew Jack Abramoff Better Than They Have Let On.

Bush, White House Authorized Scooter Libby to Do Bad Things.

Bush, White House Has Disappointed Conservatives on the Budget, Immigration, and Civil Liberties.

Oh, Cognitive Dissonance!! Thy name is the News Cycle!!!

We all have the weekend -- or until Election Day -- to figure out which version of reality is more real for the hard-working citizen-voters of this great land.

In the meantime, let's be clear: we mean "Election Day, 2008," because without anyone but 37 of us Noticing, the next presidential campaign is SO totally underway.

For example(s):

The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) continues at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC today, with possible presidential candidate Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) scheduled to take the podium at 5:20 pm ET. The Sen./Leader/Dr. is expected to use his remarks to get tough on Democrats for allegedly lacking ideas.

Former Gov. Mark Warner (D-VA), also a possible presidential candidate (AAPPC), keynotes the New Hampshire Democratic Party's "100 Club" annual fundraising dinner at 7:00 pm ET in Manchester, NH. (Wildly popular Gov. John Lynch (D-NH) will also address the crowd.)

Gov. Warner's comments will air live on C-SPAN, C-SPAN Radio (90.1 WCSP FM Washington/Baltimore), and online at where it will also be archived for later viewing. Warner's speech will also be part of "Road to the White House 2008" on Sunday at 6:30 pm and 9:30 pm ET/PT.

Through the magic of video tape, C-SPAN's "Road to the White House 2008" on Sunday will also feature a recent speech by Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA), AAPPC, in Michigan at the Oakland County Republican Party's Lincoln Day Dinner.

The Governor, however, is in Torino, Italy this weekend. He is scheduled to participate in the Olympic Torch Relay today and attend the opening ceremonies this evening.

Gov. George Pataki (R-NY), AAPPC, keynotes the Pennsylvania Republican State Committee Lincoln Day dinner tonight at 7:00 pm ET in Harrisburg, PA.

Gen. Wesley Clark, AAPPC, addressed the Council on Foreign Relations at 8:30 am ET. The topic of his address was "Iraq: The Way Forward."

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, AAPPC, speaks to CPAC on Saturday shortly before ACU's David Keene and pollster Tony Fabrizio announce the winner of CPAC's presidential preference straw poll.

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN), AAPPC, visits Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Ottumwa, and Des Moines, IA tomorrow through Monday.

Without legal cover from the White House, former FEMA Director Mike Brown, NOT AAPPC, and Patrick Rhode, former acting deputy director of FEMA, testify at 9:30 am ET before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on "Hurricane Katrina: The Roles of DHS and FEMA Leadership." We suspect that Eric Lipton's Page One New York Times story on when the Administration learned of the levee breach will be an item high on the agenda. LINK

President Bush, constitutionally NOT AAPPC, speaks to the House Republican Conference retreat at noon ET in Cambridge, MD. There will be pool coverage for the remarks only. Earlier in the day, the President meets with the Minister of Transportation of Southern Sudan in the Oval Office.

CPAC will also hear from not-possible presidential candidates RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman at 5:00 pm ET and US Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton at 7:30 pm ET.

Rep. Ben Cardin (D-MD) holds a 10:00 am ET presser at the City Docks in Annapolis, MD to address what Cardin considers to be "offensive" comments made yesterday by Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (R-MD) while speaking at a Board Meeting of the Baltimore Jewish Council. (See more on that below.)

First Lady Laura Bush has arrived in Torino, Italy. ABC News' Ann Compton reports Mrs. Bush will meet with all of the athletes on the US Olympic Team prior to the opening ceremonies this evening.

At 2:30 pm ET, California's First Lady Maria Shriver will join host Tiger Woods (AAPPC), former President Bill Clinton (constitutionally NOT AAPPC), and local area students on a tour of the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, CA. Following the tour, the First Lady will participate in a formal dedication ceremony and speaking program.

Gov. Ed Rendell (D-PA) keynotes the Virginia Democratic Party's Jefferson-Jackson dinner tomorrow in Richmond, VA

Be sure to tune into "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" on Sunday when Secretary of State Rice will be among George's guests. Also on the program, Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) and gubernatorial candidate Lynn Swann (R-PA).

Politics of surveillance:

The Washington Post's Jim Vandehei calls Vice President Cheney's CPAC comments on NSA spying the "closest" that a top White House official has come to "calling for the NSA program to be a political matter." LINK

In his CPAC remarks, Vice President Cheney repeated the Bush Administration's claim that previous presidents have relied on the same constitutional authority President Bush is invoking and that federal courts have approved of that authority.

Vice President Cheney repeated this claim even though Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was unable to point Sen. Feingold on Monday to any court that has considered whether, after FISA was enacted, the President nonetheless had the authority to bypass it and authorize warrantless wiretaps.

The Chicago Tribune's Mark Silva reports that President Bush revealed details yesterday regarding a terrorist plot that was thwarted in 2002, but the White House, "declined to say whether the National Security Agency surveillance that Bush has authorized repeatedly without court orders since Sept. 11 played any role." LINK

The Boston Globe also reports on the revealed terrorist report and Notes that homeland security advisor Frances Fragos Townsend couldn't say that NSA spying prevented the attack. LINK

The Los Angeles Times on a "stunned" Antonio Villaraigosa. LINK

"'I would have expected a direct call from the White House,' said Villaraigosa, a Democrat, during a City Hall news conference. 'We should have been aware of all the details much before today. We did not know all of the facts.'"

"Mr. Bush and White House officials gave no reason for releasing details of a plot that they first disclosed last October. But Mr. Bush's speech came at a time when Republicans are intent on establishing their record on national security as the pre-eminent issue in the 2006 midterm elections, and when the president is facing questions from members of both parties about a secret eavesdropping program that he describes as pivotal to the war on terrorism," write Elisabeth Bumiller and David Johnston of the New York Times. LINK

CIA Director Porter Goss takes to the New York Times op-ed page to decry leaks of national security information. LINK

The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne hails the "brave" Republicans who have "stared the President down" on surveillance, including two GOPers (Rep. Heather Wilson and Sen. Mike DeWine) who are in tough re-election fights. LINK

The verbatim section of the Washington Post's Federal Page contrasts Specter's 2005 comments on putting witnesses under oath with his Monday decision not to put the Attorney General under oath. LINK

Patriot Act politics:

Sen. John Sununu (R-NH), one of four Republicans to oppose immediate renewal of the Patriot Act in December, says new compromises that help protect civil liberties will help ensure passage of the legislation, reports John DiStaso of the Union Leader. LINK

In addition to the four Republican Senators now on board, Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times Notes Democratic Sens. Feinstein and Durbin in agreement with the new provisions too. LINK

In the wake of yesterday's Patriot Act compromise, the Washington Post's Charles Babington writes that the plan "appears to have enough support to overcome the Senate filibuster that has thwarted a four-year renewal of the statute for months." LINK

The Fitzgerald investigation:

Scooter Libby "testified to a federal grand jury that he had been "authorized" by Cheney and other White House "superiors" in the summer of 2003 to disclose classified information to journalists to defend the Bush administration's use of prewar intelligence in making the case to go to war with Iraq, according to attorneys familiar with the matter, and to court records," reports National Journal's Murray Waas. LINK

The Washington Post's Leonnig claims to have matched the Cheney part of the Waas reporting on the DAYS-OLD documents: "Cheney was one of the 'superiors' I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby said had authorized him to make the disclosures, according to sources familiar with the investigation into Libby's discussions with reporters about CIA operative Valerie Plame." LINK

ABC's Jonathan Karl received this statement from Libby attorney William Jeffries: "There is no truth at all to the story that Mr. Libby's lawyers have advised the court or the Special Counsel that he will raise a defense based on authorization by superiors. Indeed, there has never been any conference call between Mr. Libby's defense lawyers and Judge Walton. We do not know who reporters are relying on as sources for this story, but any such persons are neither knowledgeable nor authorized to speak for Mr. Libby's defense team."

Richard Schmitt of the Los Angeles Times frames the alleged revelation that leaks were authorized in a hypocritical light. LINK

More: "Cheney has been among the most aggressive in lashing out against what officials have described as unauthorized leaks that have gravely hurt the country."

The New York Times' Neil Lewis writes, "The prosecutor's note of Jan. 23 does not, however, make any reference to Mr. Libby's involvement in the disclosure of Ms. Wilson's identity. It seems, rather, to be part of an effort by the prosecutor to demonstrate that Mr. Libby was engaged in using secret information to press the administration's case at the same time that Ms. Wilson's identity was leaked to reporters." LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Anne Marie Squeo and John D. McKinnon call the disclosure that Libby told a grand jury that he was authorized by his superior "embarrassing" for the White House.

What word would Squeo, McKinnon, etal, use to describe the time-delay in reading/reporting on the documents?


Philip Shenon of the New York Times reports on the email exchange between Jack Abramoff and an editor for the Washingtonian Magazine in which Abramoff reportedly claims he "met with President Bush many times and was invited to the president's Texas ranch for a gathering of campaign contributors in 2003." LINK

The Washington Post's VandeHei on the same (and make sure you read the disclosure in the last graph!!): LINK

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan told reporters yesterday that the President's previous comments on his relationship with Jack Abramoff still stand.

The Associated Press writes up a series of letters Sen. Harry Reid wrote on behalf of Indian Tribes represented by Jack Abramoff. LINK

"Reid's office acknowledged Thursday having 'routine contacts' with Abramoff's lobbying partners and intervening on some government matters, such as blocking some tribal casinos, in ways Abramoff's clients might have deemed helpful. But Reid's office said none of his actions was affected by donations or done for Abramoff."

Sen. Reid's communications director Jim Manley offers this response to The Note:

"Republicans tried and failed to drag Senator Reid into their scandal. Similar to a high school game of 'Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,' a number of unconnected events were tied together. Harry Reid took actions for his state, not for allies of Jack Abramoff. That¹s why federal investigators are going after Republicans, not Reid and the Democrats."

"Senator Reid became a co-sponsor of Senator Kennedy¹s Fair Minimum Wage Bill on June 25, 2001. That¹s the same day Senator Reid¹s campaign received a $1,000 donation from Ronald Platt, the Greenberg Traurig lobbyist who the AP story insinuates was trying to lobby Reid to oppose the bill."

"Why is Jack Abramoff leaking his records to the press in the first place? Is Abramoff being a Republican loyalist to the end? Who¹s contributing to his legal defense fund? Someone who has an interest in making this scandal look bipartisan?"

Tom DeLay sent an eight-page letter to constituents yesterday, asking for support and distancing himself from any dubious ties to Abramoff, reports the Houston Chronicle's Mack. LINK

"'The notion that Abramoff was a close friend who wielded influence over me is absolutely untrue,' DeLay writes. 'Jack Abramoff and I were not close personal friends. I met with him only occasionally, in fact less frequently than numerous others who brought issues before Congress -- never did he receive preferential treatment. To be certain, I knew nothing about the crimes for which he has pled guilty.'"


Despite Justices Roberts and Alito now sitting on the Supreme Court, immigration and government spending are two issues that appear to be keeping conservative activists from being all-out Bush Administration cheerleaders at CPAC this weekend, report Adam Nagourney and David Kirkpatrick of the New York Times. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' James Gerstenzang on "conservatives' less than united" reunion. LINK

"There is considerable disappointment that Bush has not tamed the federal deficit. His immigration plan has divided hard-line conservatives, who oppose his guest-worker proposal, from more moderate business interests which rely on immigrant labor. Even the administration's policies in the war on terrorism have created controversy.

While participating on a CPAC panel discussion on "Preserving Civil Liberties in the Fight Against Terrorism" with Georgetown Law Prof. Viet Dinh, former Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA) was asked why he is working with former Vice President Al Gore and, Barr said: "I have nothing to do whatsoever with them; I have nothing to do with Al Gore."

Barr was scheduled to introduce Gore via satellite last month when the former vice president excoriated President Bush on the surveillance issue. The image of the odd bedfellows did not materialize, however, when Barr's satellite connection failed.

The speech was sponsored by the conservative Liberty Coalition and the liberal American Constitution Society. was involved in encouraging people to attend the event.

Big Casino budget politics:

USA Today Notes President Bush's budgetary, program hit list. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Wirey John Harwood reports that Republican leaders have signaled they won't pursue a proposal which would cut $255 lump-sum Social Security death benefit for survivors.

Bush Administration:

In an interview with Robert Hillman of the Dallas Morning News four months after her failed Supreme Court bid, Harriet Miers says she has no regrets. LINK

(Note to Hillman: Fantastic detail about the Alito ceremonial swearing-in photo staging area in Ms. Miers' outer office!)

The Wall Street Journal's John Harwood reports that tax overhauls' demise has revealed an unhappy Bush panel and an ineffective Treasury Secretary. Meanwhile, the liberal Center for American Progress wants Democrats to step in, placing tax overhaul atop its "15 new ideas," with a plan to cut employee payroll-tax contributions on earnings below $90,000.

Terry's Democrats:

Our Friday "sightings" feature:

The Note's eagle-eyed freelancer spotted Terry McAuliffe and friends celebrating his 49th birthday at Café Milano in Washington, DC last night. One friend in attendance: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY). The Note's man-on-the-scene reports all appeared to be having much fun.

(Note to selves: spotting Terry McAuliffe at Café Milano hardly counts as a "sighting"!!!)

2008: Republicans:

Speaking to CPAC after a lengthy musical tribute to God and American air power, Sen. George Allen (R-VA) proposed withholding the salaries of members of Congress unless all appropriations measures are passed by October 1, the start of the fiscal year.

"I know this proposal won't be popular in the halls of Congress," said the boot-wearing presidential hopeful, "but it will be much-appreciated and understood by real people in the real world." Sen. Allen's "pay check penalty" proposal was introduced in the Senate late on Thursday. In the same speech, Sen. Allen renewed his support for a balanced budget amendment and the line-item veto.

He also took a swipe at Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) for "wasting taxpayer money" by making "long-distance" filibuster calls from Davos.

As part of a call for an unabashed conservatism on Thursday, Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) told the Conservative Political Action Conference, "God bless Denmark." Tancredo's one-line reference to Denmark was met with enthusiastic applause.

Tancredo, a potential 2008 presidential candidate best known for his opposition to the President's immigration proposals, urged conservatives to return to their principles even if it means undoing legislation passed by a Republican Congress and signed by a Republican president (i.e., the Medicare drug benefit, No Child Left Behind).

"It is the President, not Tom Tancredo, who is out of step with his party," Tancredo told the conservative activists.

His most enthusiastic applause line came when he said people who sneak into the United States and have babies should not be rewarded with their children becoming US citizens.

Speaking to reporters at NGA headquarters in Washington, DC on Thursday, Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) said the Republican majority in Congress has been "roughed up" but he predicted that they would survive.

"Real or imagined, they're roughed up," Huckabee said. He argued, however, that GOP control over Congress would survive because people "don't see the other party saying 'here's our plan' and the six or seven things they would do that would be different."

While reporters nibbled on a chip-free lunch, Huckabee said his "Healthy America" initiative is intended to bring about a cultural shift akin to past cultural transformations in American attitudes towards littering, smoking, drunk driving, and seat-belt use.

Huckabee said former President Bill Clinton will talk about "his own personal health journey" when he's the keynote speaker at the NGA's winter meeting on Feb. 28.

With an assist from Deborah Solomon, the Wirey John Harwood has Huckabee hitting Congress for trimming the deficit "on the backs of the states" with proposals to increase state cost-sharing on Medicaid. "Arkansas's' Republican governor, a 2008 White House hopeful, says states instead need more flexibility to experiment with approaches to reining in Medicaid costs."

In a New York Post op-ed, Ryan Sager wonders why Rudy Giuliani isn't speaking at CPAC. LINK

2008: Democrats:

Lee Bandy of The State writes up an interview with former Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-SC), who predicts Sen. Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee in 2008, but that she will lose to the general election to the Republican nominee -- whoever that may be. LINK

In his Indianapolis Star op-ed, Ken Bode acknowledges that Sen. Clinton is the frontrunner for her party's nomination in 2008, but advises against betting on her to win the nomination, let alone the general election. LINK

Quarreling has its benefits, especially when it comes to President Bush and Sen. Clinton, write Glenn Thrush and Craig Gordon of Newsday. LINK

Florida is the new Florida. Adam Smith of the St. Petersburg Times has the details on Al Gore's upcoming Sunshine State fundraising swing and so much more. LINK

Per Smith, also expected to storm Florida in the immediate future are Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) in Miami-Dade on Feb. 12, Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) in Fort Lauderdale on Feb. 19, former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) in Miami on Feb. 23, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) in Miami on March 23, and Sen. Hillary Clinton who will be taking a three day tour beginning with Feb. 23. (Be sure to Note what Florida money-man Mitchell Berger thinks about Sen. Clinton taking some of that Florida cash back to New York with her.)


The Baltimore Sun and the Washington Post report Lt. Gov. Steele made the following comparison to the Holocaust as he explained his opposition to stem cell research: "You of all folks know what happens when people start to experiment on human lives, when they want to take your life and use it as a tool." LINK and LINK

From the Baltimore Sun's Skalka: "Steele later issued a statement expanding on his comment."

"'When I was asked the question about stem cell research, I had just finished speaking at length about my first trip to Israel and the powerful memories I had of my visit to the Holocaust museum there,' Steele said. 'Those memories have had a lasting impression on me, but in no way did I intend to equate the two or trivialize the pain and suffering of more than six million Jews.'"

Lenny Alcivar will, no doubt, tap into his experience with the New York City political press corps to guide him through the cycle.

The Washington Times reports, Maryland Democrats will honor Lt. Gov Steele during black history month celebrations, even though they do not support his run for Senate. LINK

With gains for the Democrats in 2006 amounting to a only a slight majority at best, Charlie Cook suggests in the National Journal that it may be in their best interest to fall short, build up their "time for a change" message, and go for all the marbles in 2008.

Bloomberg reports that Democrats are not only hoping to ride the ethics wave into gaining seats in 2006, but they also appear to have had ease when it comes to financial backing for a successful campaign season. LINK

"With nine months to go before the November election, Republican businessman Richard Tarrant is closing in on the $2 million mark in money he is pouring into his own U.S. Senate campaign," the AP's David Gram reports. LINK

All five Tennessee candidates jockeying for Sen. Bill Frist's (R-TN) seat met for the first time in a legislative planning forum yesterday, the AP reports. LINK

The first line of Jane Norman's Des Moines Register story: "Rep. Jim Nussle has declared war on earmarks. . ." LINK

The last line of Jane Norman's Des Moines Register story: "Nussle will not give up on pursuing Iowa earmarks unless all earmarks are eliminated," said Nussle's Chief of Staff Chris Bliley.

Nussle and White House political topper Sara "No 'H'" Taylor sure got in a lot of talking time on the CPAC dais last night!!

Cindy Sheehan has decided not to challenge Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the Los Angeles Times reports. LINK

Eliot Spitzer runs to Tom Suozzi's left on abortion. Here is the AP on Spitzer's remarks: LINK

The Schwarzenegger Era:

Chief of Staff Susan Kennedy, the woman who is spearheading Gov. Schwarzenegger's $9-billion plan to improve California's water system, was paid $120,000 last year by a Los Angeles developer seeking to build a massive water storage project under the Mojave Desert, the Los Angeles Times reports. LINK


The New York Times' Rutenberg wisely Notes the non-slacking Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Democratic-like actions of late. LINK