The Note: Pretzel Logic



These things happen in politics: the world is on hold while we await the answers to a few substantive and process questions.

For some, it all boils down to:

Privacy or plan?

Chaos or cover-up?

Mr. President -- get on the blogs, switch on the radio, and you'll know -- your project to change the tone in our politics is unfinished.

On a January Monday in 2002, the Houston Chronicle's Bennett Roth reported: "President Bush fainted briefly Sunday evening after choking on a pretzel while watching a football game in the White House residence, an Administration spokesman said."

"The president, who was examined by Dr. Richard Tubb, an Air Force colonel and physician at the White House, was not found to have any serious health problems and went to bed early after a dinner of soup and salad."

"'Dr. Tubb believes this could have been caused by a temporary decrease of the heart rate,' said White House spokesman Ken Lisaius, who added that the president had not been feeling well over the weekend."

That same day, White House spox Ari Fleischer briefed the press on the matter (Although the transcript of that January 14, 2002 briefing is missing from the White House's website LINK (And why are that month's briefings all labeled as "May.") (Why did The Note have to read the pretzel briefing on this site? LINK)

From that briefing:

Q: How does the President feel today?

MR. FLEISCHER: He feels fine. Still a little under the weather. But in terms of the fainting, he feels fine, he said, but he still has a runny nose and feels a little bit under the weather.

Q: Due to the size of the injury, is he still concluding that he hit his glasses?

MR. FLEISCHER: Yes. The President said this morning his glasses -- told me last night, too -- his glasses are bent.

Q: So you think that's actually what he hit and didn't bend them some other way?

MR. FLEISCHER: He thinks it was either any combination of the table, the floor and the glasses. He was wearing the glasses. They could have hit the table, hit the floor.

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan will get his chance to be like Ari when he takes his first whack at all the Cheney-related questions at the 9:25 am ET gaggle.

McClellan will repeat his performance on-camera at 12:15 pm ET.

At the conclusion of his 1:15 pm ET Oval Office meeting with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, President Bush is expected to address the White House press pool, with Vice President Cheney scheduled to attend, too. The Note predicts the use of humor at this event to try to turn the page.

A little joking and a few more facts and we can all put this behind us. Otherwise, this will be our collective lives for the full week. Up to you, David Addington (read: "Mary Matalin.")

The press will first see President Bush at 10:40 am ET when he makes remarks at the presentation of national medals in science and technology in the East Room of the White House.

President Bush welcomes the World Champion Chicago White Sox to the White House at 2:35 pm ET. Later tonight, the President is scheduled to attend a closed NRSC fundraiser at a private residence in Washington, DC.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Acting FEMA Director David Paulison address the National Emergency Management Association mid-year conference in Alexandria, VA at 11:30 am ET.

Members of the President's Council of Economic Advisers brief the press on camera at 1:30 pm ET.

The Senate continues debate on asbestos legislation at 12:00 pm ET.

House Democrats are scheduled to hold a 10:00 am forum on mine safety with family members of miners killed at both the Sago and Alma mines.

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committees hold hearings on fraud and problems with FEMA contracts at 10:00 am ET in Dirksen 342.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) addresses the 2006 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering at 1:30 pm ET at the Capitol Hilton in Washington, DC. Sen. Reid will discuss the need to use "America's moral compass to guide public service," and, above all, to work for "the common good."

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) chairs a 10:00 am ET hearing on abuse, fraud, and waste during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) talks health care in Buffalo, NY at 10:00 am ET and attends the "Met Life Awards Dinner for Research on Alzheimer's Disease" in Washington, DC at 7:15 pm ET.

Former President Clinton and the American Heart Association hold a 10:30 am ET press conference in Manhattan to announce an initiative to improve student's health.

RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman is in Naples, FL today for the RNC Regents winter meeting.


As of 6:40 am ET, the Vice President's office says there is "no update since the Vice President said that Harry Whittington was doing fine and in good spirits during their visit yesterday afternoon." They are still letting Katherine Armstrong relate the details.

Why the delay in going public with the news?

The Vice President's office says they "deferred [to the owner of the ranch], Mrs. Armstrong about what had taken place on her property."

Kathryn Garcia of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times told ABC News that when she was patched through to Lea Anne McBride yesterday, the Vice President's spokeswoman did NOT sound surprised. Garcia said McBride was "very calm."

McBride asked Garcia to repeat the details of what Mrs. Armstrong said and then confirmed it as accurate. She then said that the Vice President had visited Mrs. Whittington and would be visiting Mr. Whittington.

Time Magazine's Mike Allen reports that White House aides can be expected to say that the Vice President "did not shoot Whittington, which suggests a bullet, but rather sprayed him with birdshot, a type of ammunition made up of tiny pieces of lead or steel." LINK

The Dallas Morning News describes Whittington, 78, as "a millionaire civil attorney known as a tenacious battler not afraid to fight City Hall." LINK

Houston Chronicle: LINK

Austin American Statesman: LINK

The New York Times' Anne Kornblut interviewed Katharine Armstrong last night who said that Harry Whittington "didn't do what he was supposed to do," reports Kornblut. LINK

The New York Post's Earle reports Katharine Armstrong has stayed overnight stay at the White House. LINK

Dan Mangan of the New York Post profiles Whittington: LINK

Bloomberg: LINK

And the paper that started it all, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times LINK

2008: Republicans:

Dan Balz turned in a boffo look at the John Weaver-led two-pronged approach Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is taking to winning the GOP's 2008 nomination for Sunday's Washington Post: first, he appears to be expanding his fundraising network, starting with Bush's Rangers and Pioneers; second, he is building his political organization in key nominating states. LINK

Iowa: He skipped it last time "but cannot afford to do so again; an April trip on behalf of gubernatorial candidate Rep. Jim Nussle (R-IA) will help establish a beachhead in that state." (We guess it is official: McCain ain't skipping Iowa!!!)

New Hampshire: Team remains solid; beginning to attract supporters of the President.

South Carolina: "No state is getting more attention from McCain"; with the help of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) he is "systematically" meeting with Bush people.

Michigan: Seen as another prime target. McCain won the state in 2000 but Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) "could be a threat."

McCain's upcoming schedule includes trips to New Hampshire, Iowa, Ohio, California, Florida, Minnesota, Arkansas, and New Jersey.

Be sure to read all the way through to the kicker: "[Mark] McKinnon is the only senior member of Bush's team to commit publicly to McCain, but others are interested. One strategist, who played an instrumental role in the 2004 campaign but did not want to be identified because he is still looking at 2008 options, said, 'I thought he would be a contender and a good general election nominee, but a year ago would not have thought I would be seriously considering being with him. Now I am.'"

By sheer coincidence, Time Magazine's Red Line-riding Karen Tumulty looks at the GOP moneymen (like former Rep. Tom Loeffler, R-TX) coalescing around Sen. McCain. LINK

Be sure to Note Grover Norquist's approval of McCain's Obama smackdown and the "break" McCain caught last week when James Webb, Navy Secretary under Ronald Reagan, announced he would run as a Democrat against Sen. George Allen (R-VA).

In Sunday's Detroit News, Nolan Finley praised Gov. Romney's record on "full college scholarships to state schools" for "high-achieving" Bay State students, bonuses up to $15,000 for teachers who teach "tough courses" and teach them well, an emphasis on math and science, hands-on business training, wide access to college courses, and parenting workshops. LINK

The AP's Lisa Marie Pane reports that Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA), the man who "saved" the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics, took in some figure skating and women's freestyle moguls competition over the weekend at this year's games in Turin, Italy. LINK

In a possible sign that he is gaining some notoriety among a small group of attentive young conservatives, Sen. Allen finished first in a poll of 1,251 mostly 18-24 year-old conservative activists attending the annual CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) in Washington, DC this weekend.

With 22% support, Allen edged out several better-known Republicans.

Participants were asked "who will" be the republican nominee in 2008. The straw poll results:

Allen 22%

McCain 20%

Giuliani 12%

Rice 10%

Frist 6%

Tancredo 5%

Romney 5%

Gingrich 5%

Santorum 3%

Pataki 3%

Undecided 4%

When participants were asked whom they believed "will be" the 2008 democratic nominee, these young conservatives overwhelming said Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY). She received 64%. The closest Democrat to Sen. Clinton was former Gov. Mark Warner (D-VA) who received 10%.

While Noting that Allen's people made good on their private assertions that they would win the straw poll, it's worth Noting that Sen. McCain also improved upon his 2005 CPAC performance. Last year, McCain tied for third place with only 11 percent of the vote. Sen. McCain's improvement came without working the vote the way Allen's people did and without speaking to the conference. Last year, the top finishers, according to Human Events, were:

19% Giuliani

18% Rice

11% Allen, Frist, McCain

4% Owens, Romney, Santorum

5% Gingrich

2% Pataki

1% Hagel, Huckabee, Pawlenty, Santorum

0% Barbour

More from Human Events: LINK

On Friday, Democrat Harris Miller sent Sen. Allen a letter challenging him to give back $229,307.51 to signal that he is "serious about fiscal discipline" and that his paycheck proposal is "not the 'attention-grabbing gambit' that the pundits have labeled it."

Asked about Miller's challenge, Sen. Allen's office declined to comment to ABC News.

In their appearance on Fox News Sunday, Sens. Jack Reed (D-RI) and George Allen (R-VA) called for an investigation into VP Dick Cheney and others who may have leaked secret information to reporters, writes the Associated Press. LINK

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's CPAC speech on Saturday called for the Republican Party to redesign the slow-moving government that failed to respond quickly to Katrina, the AP reported over the weekend. LINK

More from Randy Hall of CNS News. LINK

Keying off of his Friday night speech to CPAC, the Wall Street Journal's David Rogers reports that Dr./Leader/Sen. Frist is pushing for permanent repeal of the estate tax this spring.

"'Mark it on your calendar, this May I'll bring it to the Senate floor,' the Tennessee Republican told a meeting of conservatives Friday evening. 'I will do everything in my power to bury the 'death tax' once and for all.'"

Frist also vowed to bring a federal amendment banning same-sex marriage to the Floor of the Senate on June 5.

Politics of Katrina:

Eric Lipton of the New York Times previews a House committee (made up of 11 Republicans) report -- set to be released Wednesday -- which criticizes the Bush Administration for delaying "the evacuation of thousands of New Orleans residents by failing to act quickly on early reports that the levees had broken during Hurricane Katrina." LINK

In an "unusual compendium of criticism by the House GOP," the Washington Post's Spencer Hsu reported on Sunday that Chertoff was "singled out" for criticism and the House Republican investigators found that "earlier presidential involvement could have speeded the response" to the disaster. LINK

Politics of domestic surveillance:

In his pricey Sunday New York Times column, David Brooks called for a return of the Gang of 14 and a compromise on domestic surveillance. He doesn't like Sen. Arlen Specter's (R-PA) proposal to let the FISA court rule on the constitutionality of the President's domestic surveillance program, however, because "unelected judges should not be put in charge of national security decisions.

"It is Congress's job to oversee the executive," he writes.

Bush Administration agenda:

Bruce Bartlett's upcoming book critical of President Bush's spending record is the focus of Elisabeth Bumiller's "White House Letter" in the New York Times, but it is William Kristol who offers this key observation. LINK

"'. . . one thing I've noticed giving speeches in the last couple of months is that conservatives remain pro-Bush, but the loyalty to the movement and the ideas is deeper than the personal loyalty now. Two years ago, Bush was the movement and the cause.'"

For Sunday's Los Angeles Times, the inimitable Ron Brownstein dusted off his copy of the 1995 Kerrey-Danforth report and advised that spending cuts, tax increases, and comprehensive health-care reform would all be necessary for "placing America's obligation to the elderly on a sustainable path." LINK

Brownstein has former Sen. Bob Kerrey (R-NE) saying that if Bush says revenue increases are off the table, "My recommendation to anybody he asks to be on the commission is, 'Just say no.'"

Many Conservatives have been taking shots recently at President Bush, "because he's pushing a downscaled domestic agenda -- no Social Security plan, no tax-code overhaul -- and because he wants to pump taxpayer money into alternative energy, " according to Dick Polman of Knight Ridder. LINK

Big Casino budget politics:

San Francisco Chronicle's Carolyn Lochhead on both parties' twisting of tax cuts in an effort to win the November elections. LINK

The Abramoff affair:

The first photo of President Bush with a tiny Jack Abramoff in the background has been published with more of a whimper than a bang. LINK

Sen. Reid is pushing back on efforts tying him to Jack Abramoff and staying firm in his lead role attacking GOPers over the alleged 'culture of corruption,'" reports Paul Kane of Roll Call.

AP's disclosure of Reid receiving $68,000 from Abramoff's company, clients and associates led Republicans to accuse the Minority Leader for playing the hypocrisy game, report Washington Times' Donald Lambro. LINK


Billy House of the Arizona Republic looks at a survey that defines McCain and Clinton as "the leaders of the pack." LINK

Govs. Bill Richardson (D-NM) and Mike Huckabee (R-AR) discuss Iraq, Katrina, energy, health care, and 2008 with USA Today. LINK

Be sure to catch Gov. Huckabee saying that, "If this keeps up, we're going to have a political version of Broke Back Mountain up here." LINK

2008: Democrats:

In his write-up of former Gov. Mark Warner's (D-VA) Granite State trip, the Washington Post's Michael Shear has the presidential hopeful holding one-on-one meetings with the "movers and shakers in the state's Democratic Party," including George Bruno, a former state party chair, who advises that Warner should "fade away for a while" while testing themes and getting his sea legs. LINK

According to New Hampshire Democrats, Christina Bellatoni of the Washington Times writes that "Mr. Warner, who enjoyed a more than 70 percent statewide approval rating when he left office last month, would be a better choice because he works with Republicans while the New York Democrat and former first lady is too polarizing." LINK

And for those of you who think those Deaniacs of 2004 may not be interested in a Red State Democrat who prides himself on his ability to bring Republicans and Democrats together, you should know that Mark Warner spent nearly an hour chatting at former Dean Campaign Chairman (and former DNC Chairman) Steve Grossman's table in J.D.'s Tavern Friday night after his speech.

In his New York Post column, Dick Morris sees the "genius" in Ken Mehlman's "angry" description of Sen. Clinton. LINK

Keying off of Sen. Clinton's presentation (especially in comparison with her husband) at Coretta Scott King's funeral, Ray Hernandez of the New York Times ponders what (if any) effect Sen. Clinton's oratorical skills might have on her potential presidential run. LINK

The Boston Globe's Nina J. Easton reveals in Sunday's The Briefing that Sen. John Kerry's (D-MA) campaign coffer consists of $800,000 in PAC and Senate committee contributions, an addition to the $9.1 million leftover from his 2004 primary campaign account. LINK

Per Roll Call's Jennifer Yachnin, Sen. Kerry introduced legislation Thursday (named after the Dukester) that would strip members of their congressional pensions if they are convicted of a range of crimes, such as bribery, while in office.

". . .Al Gore told a mainly Saudi audience yesterday that the U.S. government committed 'terrible abuses' against Arabs after 9/11," reports the New York Post's wire services. LINK


Mark Naymik of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes that in a battleground state like Ohio, the campaigning never really ends. LINK

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports on the incessant race for campaign cash in Pennsylvania's high profile Senate race and how that may distract the candidates from their day jobs. LINK

Casey is still over 50 percent and holds a double-digit lead over Santorum in the latest Quinnipiac University poll released this morning. Here's the AP with more. LINK

Boston Globe's Rick Klein wrote yesterday that with mid-term elections only nine months away, Republicans expressed concerned that Bush's cutbacks on social programs and increase in tax cuts would cause election-year backlash. LINK

Sen. Jim Talent (R-MO), who is up for reelection, supports a $70 million competition to find an alternative way to produce stem cells, reports Bloomberg News' William Roberts. LINK

House Republicans heard from President Bush, discussed campaign strategy, and enjoyed a "Star Wars" parody at this year's annual retreat, per Roll Call's Ben Pershing.

Tom DeLay still has substantial support in the Texas 22nd, reports Kristen Mack of the Houston Chronicle. LINK


In his look at the "exquisite dilemma of being Obama," Time Magazine's Perry Bacon Jr. has David Axelrod blue skying. LINK

Roll Call's Stuart Rothenberg looks at Harry Reid's transformation from a "polite and soft-spoken" red-state Democrat to a "ruthless and Machiavellian" Senate Majority leader.

"The language of the new Reid is less measured and far nastier than that of his predecessor, Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), and the new Minority Leader is far more combative and confrontational than his recent Senate Minority Leader predecessors."

George Will called Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) "the Senate's stoplight" over the weekend. LINK

Will Lester of the AP wraps up last week's CPAC meeting with a Sunday article in which he presents some not-so-flattering remarks to Pres. Bush from fellow conservatives. LINK

Boston Herald's Brian Ballou reports that about 100 demonstrators will protest Rep. James Sensenbrenner's bill that makes it a crime for family and friends to knowingly allow illegal immigrants to remain in the U.S. The "Liberty, Justice and Amnesty for All!" event will take place tomorrow at noon at Faneuil Hall. LINK

Rush & Molloy of the New York Daily News deconstruct the Pataki/D'Amato relationship of late. LINK

Dean's Democrats:

Fresh from an 8-hour trip to New York, DNC Chairman Howard Dean appeared on CNN's "American Morning" and repeated his call that if Scooter Libby's allegations are true, Vice President Cheney must go.

The former Vermont governor said the Bush Administration is "probably the most corrupt Administration we've ever had—perhaps ever, at least since Harding."

Confronted with Sen. Barack Obama's (D-IL) recent criticism of the Democratic Party in the New York Times, Dean said the party stands for health care for everybody, decent jobs, honesty in government, and a strong defense based on telling the truth. At another point, he borrowed Sen. Bayh's tough and smart formulation when speaking about national security.

Dean's "Face the Nation" comments about the possible need for Vice President Cheney to resign in light of Libby's recently revealed grand jury testimony that "superiors" granted permission to leak certain national security information gets treatment in the New York Times courtesy of Neil Lewis. LINK

"Any confusion on Mr. Dean's part about last week's disclosure underlines both the deep complexity of the investigation into who leaked Ms. Wilson's identity to the press and its potential for enormous political opportunities and pitfalls," writes Lewis.

Conservatives will shake their head without surprise at how Lewis treats Dean's ahead-of-the-known-facts statements.

The Schwarzenegger Era:

In yesterday's San Francisco Chronicle, Carla Marinucci profiles the former White House rapid response chief Steve Schmidt, who recently hopped on Schwarzenegger's re-election bandwagon. LINK

The week ahead:

President Bush will do his part to help Republicans raise enough money to be competitive in November. In addition to tonight's NRSC fundraiser, President Bush will also headline a RNC fundraiser luncheon on Thursday and a Republican Party of Florida event Friday evening in Orlando, FL.

Tomorrow the President partakes in a hook 'em horns photo opportunity with the 2005 NCAA Football champions, the University of Texas Longhorns. The President and Mrs. Bush host a Valentine's Day social event in the East Room tomorrow evening.

On Wednesday, President Bush travels to Dublin, OH to talk about health care at Wendy's International. He'll also talk about health care in the Washington, DC area on Thursday. The White House hopes to make health care the policy focus of the week as it dispatches Cabinet Secretaries throughout the nation to talk about the President's health care initiatives.

On Friday, President Bush heads down to CENTCOM in Tampa, FL to participate in a briefing and make remarks on the war on terror.

Treasury Secretary John Snow heads up to Capitol Hill tomorrow to testify on the President's FY 2007 budget before the Senate Budget Committee.

Also tomorrow, filmmaker George Lucas will join Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other Democrats for a town hall meeting on their "innovation agenda" in Washington, DC.

At the Supreme Court on Thursday, Associated Justice Samuel Alito, Jr. will participate in his formal investiture ceremony.

Gov. Pataki (R-NY) is scheduled to kick off the holiday weekend in Bedford, NH as the featured speaker at the "Politics & Eggs" breakfast Friday morning.

Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) is scheduled to begin his President's Day weekend at a 6:30 pm ET Friday dinner with Republican Party activists in Spartanburg, SC.

Also on Friday, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld addresses the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City.