WASHINGTON, Feb. 16
The debate over whether the Vice President handled the public disclosure part of the aftermath correctly?
It is what it is.
The debate over whether going on Fox News Channel amounts to fulfilling Mr. Cheney's "obligation"?
It is what it is.
(We will leave those two debates to the Romeneskoed.)
The debate over whether the Vice President is politically hurting the President and/or crowding out his agenda?
It is what it is.
(Although please don't get overheated over Peggy Noonan's overheated musings in the Wall Street Journal about White House aides possible-maybe-alleged musings about replacing Mr. Cheney. LINK)
(That ain't what it is.)
Now, whether you agree with Howie Kurtz's characterization of the interview or not ("Hume. . . touched the major bases in his discussion with the vice president."), and stipulating that everyone agrees that the story changes if Whittington's health takes a turn for the worse, let your inner Jake Tapper run free and read these:
1. Dallas Morning News:
"Kenedy County sheriff's deputies have redoubled their efforts to investigate the case after criticism of their decision not to interview witnesses until a day after the shooting." LINK
"Ms. Armstrong said she faxed a detailed account to deputies on Wednesday at the sheriff's request. She said she would have done so sooner if she'd been asked and added that everyone at the ranch has been encouraged to tell the truth about the shooting."
(Note to self: file another open records request.)
2. New York Times:
"Until Mr. Cheney acknowledged having had a beer at lunch, members of the hunting party had been adamant that no alcohol was involved. Katharine Armstrong, whose family owns the ranch, had said in interviews that Dr Pepper was served at lunch and that no one was drinking. In interviews with The Times and other papers, Ms. Armstrong heavily implied that no alcohol was served at all." LINK
"'No, zero, zippo, and I don't drink at all,' she said in an interview published on Monday in The Corpus Christi Caller-Times, the paper she initially called. 'No one was drinking.'"
3. Los Angeles Times:
"Mark Skurka, the first assistant district attorney in Corpus Christi, said Cheney's consumption of a beer during lunch before the accident was probably irrelevant." LINK
"'If the guy had a gun in one hand and a bottle of Jack Daniels in another hand, that'd be another thing,' he said. He added that no other witnesses had apparently described the vice president as intoxicated, and that a regular person can absorb a beer in an hour."
"In his 20 years with the district attorney's office, Skurka said, he had never seen a prosecution for a hunting accident."
"Doctors at Christus Spohn Memorial Hospital would not say Wednesday whether they had measured the alcohol content in Whittington's blood."
4. The New York Times:
"The Secret Service, which put the time of the shooting at 5:50 p.m., said it had notified Sheriff Ramon Salinas III of Kenedy County by 7 p.m." LINK
"Sheriff Salinas said he had dispatched a deputy, and he later issued a news release suggesting that the officer had been turned away at the ranch. The Washington Post on Wednesday quoted Sheriff Salinas as saying that he first learned of the shooting from one of his captains, who had been summoned to escort the ambulance, but that he arrived after the ambulance left and that the Border Patrol agent guarding the gate during Mr. Cheney's visit knew nothing of any shooting."
"Sheriff Salinas did not return repeated calls, and a reporter seeking to resolve the discrepancies was turned away Wednesday by the sheriff's office in Sarita, which said he was 'unavailable.'"
"Ms. Armstrong said she knew nothing of any attempted visit by a deputy on Saturday night."
Read the portions of the Hume-Cheney interview that deal with these "major bases" here: LINK
(Hume was asked on "Fox and Friends" if there were any questions he wished he had asked, to which he replied:
"I can't really think of anything. Some people have quibbled about whether the sheriff was brought into the picture when he should have been, and that the Vice President should have undergone questioning immediately after that. I don't think that goes very far, and it didn't much interest me. . . . I tried to ask questions that would of interest to others."
Brit also was asked if he would be willing to come on the show every morning at 8am, but he said that that conflicts with his daily morning conference call with Roger Ailes.)
The Corpus Christi Caller-Times has incredible details about the investigation. LINK
Notes only for those paying extraordinarily close attention:
Note(s) to Mary Matalin:
1. We also weren't sure if Imus was kidding or not, but four apologies seems excessive to us.
2. You still haven't explained -- if the Vice President was SO concerned about Whittington not being blamed, why did he let his designated spokesperson (Ms. Armstrong) and Scott McClellan repeatedly suggest it WAS Whittington's fault?
4. Your anti-Beltway, populist defense of the media strategy is awesome.
5. L-O-V-E-D your line about how even Imus couldn't stay high for six hours on one beer.
6. 8 am is not 8 pm, no matter whose decision it was.
7. You got any specifics on the Ed Goeas polling data showing the country doesn't care about this?
8. The Note agrees with you: this story is over, except
A. if the facts change
B. White House reporters are still not interested in covering the President's agenda
C. Sunday show treatment (as you suggested)
Note(s) to Imus:
1. Your simultaneous channeling of Dr. Altman, Larry King, and Paul Begala on your tough-but-fair questions was outstanding.
2. Were you actually mad or was that an act?
Note to NBC News:
1. Don't think Roger Ailes hasn't Noted your "Nightly" and "Today" attacks on Brit and Fox.
Scott McClellan will find out if it is safe to retake his podium at his 9:30 am ET off-camera gaggle with White House reporters today. The press secretary is scheduled to brief on camera at 12:15 pm ET. (Expect lots of references to the Vice President having fully addressed all issues in a widely covered television interview.)
Vice President Cheney has no public schedule as of this writing. (Perhaps Mr. Whittington will be well enough by tomorrow's speech in Wyoming so the Vice President can incorporate some self-effacing humor into his remarks.)
Christus Spohn Hospital holds a news conference on Harry Whittington's condition at 1:00 pm ET. Note to Scott McClellan: the hospital briefers layed down a rule yesterday that if the reporters re-asked an asked-and-answered question, the briefing would come to an immediate end. Hmmmmmmmm.
President Bush begins his (public) day in his Republican-fundraiser-in-chief role. The President is scheduled to attend a RNC luncheon fundraiser at Evermay in Washington, DC at 11:25 am ET. According to the RNC, 80 people are expected to attend and the event will bring $1.5 million into the RNC coffers. President Bush will then head to the Department of Health and Human Services to attend a panel on health care initiatives at 1:20 pm ET.
At 3:40 pm ET, the President meets with the President of Colombia in the Oval Office.
Karl Rove speaks at a Republican Party of Arkansas fundraiser in Conway, AR.
The formal investiture ceremony for Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr at the Supreme Court is scheduled to get underway at 2:00 pm ET.
At 10:00 am ET, The House Defense Appropriations subcommittee holds a hearing on FY07 appropriations with Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Peter Pace, and others set to testify.
Secretary Rice testifies before the Senate Budget Committee at 10:00 am ET. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke also heads up to Capitol Hill to testify before the Senate Banking Committee. And the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence meets behind closed doors today.
First Lady Laura Bush attends a Junior Rangers event at 9:30 am ET in Miami, FL.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) holds her weekly press conference at 10:45 am ET.
At the Capitol Hill Club at 11:00 am ET, members of the Republican Main Street Partnership hold a press conference to discuss their 2006 legislative policy agenda including the President's budget cuts/restraints-in-growth and the federal response to Katrina.
Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) attends a 9:30 am ET Armed Services Committee hearing with Secretary Bodman providing testimony and a 10:30 am ET press conference to "announce a new, multi-million-dollar initiative to deliver financial education tools and training to United States military servicemembers and their spouses."
Sen. Clinton's likeness takes to 42nd Street today. The Senator's official Madame Tussauds wax figure will be unveiled today at 11:00 am ET in a mock "Hillary in 2008" campaign rally.
From the release: "The figure will be part of a new Hillary Clinton Interactive Exhibit. Visitors will enter voting booths to answer the following questions: 1.) Would you ever vote for a female President? 2.) Will Hillary Clinton be the first female President? Votes will be immediately tallied and shown on-site and updated on the website: www.nycwax.com. Figures of President John F. Kennedy, President George W. Bush, President Ronald Reagan, and President William J. Clinton will surround this new exhibit."
RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman is in Hawaii today for a fundraiser for Gov. Lingle (R-HI) and a Hawaii Republican Party Lincoln Day dinner.
Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) holds a 10:00 am ET press conference on his legislation to create a congressional ethics enforcement commission.
Sens. Stabenow (D-MI) and Reed (D-RI) hold a 2:00 pm ET press conference on America's competitiveness agenda.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is leading a CODEL set to leave this evening to Sudan (Darfur, Khartoum), Cape Verde, Ghana, Liberia, and South Africa.
The Fitzgerald investigation:
There is remarkably little in the papers today about what Vice President Cheney said about national security in his Hume interview.
Cheney would not comment on court filings that indicate that Scooter Libby, the Vice President's former chief-of-staff, has suggested that his unidentified superiors authorized the release of some classified information.
But he did tell Hume that a vice president has the authority to declassify information and that he "certainly" has "advocated declassificiation and participated in declassification decisions."
Asked if he's ever made such declassification decisions unilaterally, Cheney said: "I don't want to get into that. There is an executive order that specifies who has classification authority, and obviously focuses first and foremost on the President, but also includes the Vice President."
The AP's Ron Fournier Notes the way in which the Cheney mishap has taken the focus off of the White House leak investigation. LINK
To the sage Fournier's point . . . perhaps demonstrating just how easy it is to distract the White House press corps, the New York Times dedicates six paragraphs to Vice President Cheney's comments regarding his authority to declassify intelligence. LINK
Ron Brownstein and Peter Wallsten of the Los Angeles Times find parallels between the Administration's fumbled response to Hurricane Katrina and the hunting hullabaloo. LINK
Dana Milbank observed yesterday's Cheney interview and Chertoff testimony and concludes the Bush Administration operates under the idea that "public acceptance of culpability is de rigueur when something goes wrong" while "admitting mistakes is an entirely different matter." LINK
"He chose a proactive defense, accepting blame for what he had done but arguing that there was nothing wrong with what he had not done. And that made for a layered performance," writes Alessandra Stanley in her New York Times "TV Watch" coverage. LINK
"'. . .it'll get off the front page now, but it's going to hang around in a very unpleasant way,'" Brookings' Stephen Hess tells Deborah Orin in her New York Post column. LINK
Carolyn Lochhead of the San Francisco Chronicle writes that "the incident threatens to gel as a metaphor for the Bush administration, much as Monica Lewinsky's dress became wedded in the public mind with Clinton." LINK
More Lockhead: "'The president is out there today trying to talk about health care, and the reality is nobody cares about what he's saying on health care because this news is consuming everything,' said Leon Panetta, chief of staff to former President Bill Clinton during his second term. 'No president could tolerate that or should tolerate it.'"
Bloomberg's take on the interview: the Vice President "succumbed to pressure for a public accounting. . . partially, and on his own terms." LINK
It turns out that Brit did NOT get the first post-shooting interview. LINK
"Once in the newsroom, (reporter Jaime) Powell spoke to (Katharine) Armstrong again and said she wanted to talk with the vice president, whom she had met last year at the funeral of Katharine Armstrong's father, Tobin. Cheney came to the phone and briefly spoke with Powell -- so far his only public comment on the matter."
Hume learned he had the interview with Cheney when the Vice President called him on his cell phone yesterday morning, reports Howard Kurtz. But other journalists shouldn't be glued to their cell phones -- Mary Matalin tells the Washington Post she doesn't think "any purpose would be served" by doing more interviews on the subject. LINK
The Los Angeles Times' excerpts the Hume/Cheney sitdown, Noting that the Vice President "spoke quietly and in his familiar monotone." LINK
Cheney defended the decision to let ranch owner, lobbyist, and newly minted spokeswoman Katherine Armstrong reveal the first account of the accident to the press, reports the Houston Chronicle's Julie Mason. LINK
"I Fowled Up," blares the New York Daily News wood.
Ken Bazinet of the New York Daily News writes that Cheney's handling of the shooting story was discussed at the President's breakfast with congressional leaders on Tuesday. LINK
"What Cheney should do was the main course at the breakfast with President Bush, especially with Capitol Hill Republicans warning that the incident was hurting more than just the White House, a source disclosed."
VPOTUS: morning shows:
While appearing on ABC's "Good Morning America," James Carville challenged the White House to release Mr. Whittington's blood alcohol level and the Secret Service's incident report. In an effort to tie the hunting accident into a broader narrative, he said, "they haven't told the truth about Iraq, they haven't told the truth about the deficit, why would anyone expect them to tell the truth about this?"
Bay Buchanan told GMA that the episode was nothing more than a hunting accident and that unlike then-First Lady Hillary Clinton, Vice President Cheney took responsibility and didn't blame the "vast right-wing conspiracy."
Mary Matalin -- with some satellite delay -- chatted with NBC's Katie Couric this morning and echoed the Vice President's claim that accuracy and completeness guided his PR decisions.
VPOTUS: Bush staff versus Cheney staff:
The Washington Post's Peter Baker says it was a sign of the "extraordinary tension inside the White House -- evidently even between Bush and Cheney" when Scott McClellan said yesterday that his Monday comment that he would have handled the shooting's disclosure differently was him "speaking on behalf of the White House and the president." LINK
VPOTUS: local tick tock:
The New York Time's Blumenthal provides a must-read timeline of events at the Armstrong ranch which still has a couple of holes in it that need filling, even if it does quote some new witness material. LINK
VPOTUS: editorials and op-eds:
In his New York Times column, David Brooks bemoans the Shakespearean levels of role playing that consume Washington with such feeding frenzies.
Margaret Carlson, writing for Bloomberg, wonders what the other witnesses to the shooting would have to say, but says that we won't hear their accounts because Cheney has "kept the whole thing as secret as an energy task force meeting." LINK
Here's a preview of Des Moines Register's Mark Hansen dissecting the VP's wrong choices since first mistaking his friend for a quail: "The vice president should have said to himself, 'What if I accidentally splatter a hunting companion with birdshot. What should I do?' If his answer was, 'Try to keep it secret for as long as possible; it's nobody's business but mine,' he would have been guilty of faulty planning." LINK
The Washington Times takes shots at the media's response to the Cheney shooting in a story slugged, "Critics hit Cheney 'feeding frenzy.'" LINK
The Washington Post profiles Harry Whittington and calls him more of a "Rockefeller Republican" than a Reaganite. LINK
Politics of domestic surveillance:
In another key story that would be on A1 -- not A4 -- if not for the Cheney saga, the Washington Post reports that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said in an interview yesterday that the Administration will "sharply limit" the testimony of John Ashcroft and James Comey when they appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee. LINK
George Will once again slams the White House for its defense of the domestic surveillance program, saying Bush's claim that his power to launch the program stems from his inherent powers is a "monarchical doctrine." LINK
"But 53 months later, Congress should make all necessary actions lawful by authorizing the president to take those actions, with suitable supervision. It should do so with language that does not stigmatize what he has been doing, but that implicitly refutes the doctrine that the authorization is superfluous."
Roll Call's Morton Kondracke argues that President Bush should jump at bipartisan offers from Congress to make the wiretapping program legal.
A Washington Post editorial makes the case for the White House turning over more information to Congress regarding the domestic surveillance program. LINK
Politics of Katrina:
Yesterday's House report on Katrina failures was "quickly swept up in divisive election-year politics" and was limited by the political maneuvering that preceded the report's release, writes the Washington Post's Spencer Hsu. LINK
The Post's Stephen Barr on the problems at FEMA exposed by the report: LINK
In light of yesterday's House report, earthquake (un)preparedness comes to the table again: "We just hope and pray that the earthquakes will wait until DHS finishes all their bureaucracy," Edward Epstein of the San Francisco Chronicle has Natalie Ravitz, Barbara Boxer's (D-CA) spokeswoman, say. LINK
With Karl Rove heading to the Natural State, the Arkansas News reports that Asa Hutchinson, a Republican candidate for governor, will meet with the White House deputy chief of staff to discuss state economic issues, "and possibly political strategy." LINK
"State Democratic Party chief Jason Willett condemned the visit and called on Hutchinson to distance himself from Rove, whom Willett accused of practicing dirty politics. He also referred to questions about Rove's possible involvement in the White House leak of a CIA officer's identity."
Vice President Cheney is heading to Wisconsin on March 13 for a "six-figure fundraiser" that will raise money for House candidate John Gard and the state Republican Party," the Green Bay Press Gazette reports. LINK
Roll Call's Stu Rothenberg picks his "10 most endangered Hous incumbents," nine of whom are GOPers: Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX), Rep. John Hostettler (R-IN), Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-PA), Rep. Rob Simmons (R-CT), Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM), Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT), Rep. Mike Sodrel (R-IN), Rep. Clay Shaw (R-FL), and Rep. Melissa Bean (D-IL).
Roll Call's Lauren Whittington has DCCC spokesgal Sarah Feinberg hailing Rep. Bill Jenkins' (R-TN) Wednesday announcement that he is retiring. "Rep. Jenking clearly saw the writing on the wall for election 2006," said Feinberg. "This retirement is likely just the tip of the iceberg." Note to Feinberg: you need retirements in districts you can win, silly rabbit.
Maryland Lt. Gov and Senate hopeful Michael Steele lost his campaign manager it was revealed yesterday in what the Washington Post calls an "internal move disclosed for the first time yesterday in the aftermath of an off-balance week for the Republican candidate." LINK
Sen. Clinton had nice things to say about Tom Suozzi AND Eliot Spitzer yesterday, reports the New York Daily News' McAuliff. LINK
Former Republican Congressman Peter Blute tells the Boston Herald he may run against Sen. Ted Kennedy. Blute, who was forced out of his last job as Massport chief by a scandal involving a topless woman on a booze cruise, says he can overcome his "mistake." LINK
Roll Call's Lauren Whittington on the "Draft Breaux" movement: "There is little question that Breaux, who retired from the Senate in 2004 and remains widely popular back home, would be difficult to beat if he runs. However, many veteran Bayou State politicos remain doubtful that he has the desire to get back in the game."
USA Today reports that Sen. Arlen Specter earmarked nearly $50 million that went to defense clients of a lobbyist who is also the husband of his appropriations aide, Vicki Seigel. LINK
In a second story, Specter defends himself to the Nation's Newspaper: "It's news to me that Vicki Siegel's husband had anything to do with recipients of appropriations funding from my committee or subcommittee." LINK
A handful of top Republicans in the House, such as Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA), are stalling the push to end earmarks, reports the Washington Times. LINK
No ear-marks means less bacon to tout around when campaigning and less buddy-buddy projects, writes Bob Cusack of The Hill. LINK
The Hill's editorial board is not happy about the iPods sent to senators through their campaign offices: "It is a ruse cleverly constructed so as to stay within the law -- until, that is, lawmakers decide that this means the law must be changed yet again. And if the law is changed, guess what will happen." LINK
A record $1,164,586,968 was spent lobbying the federal government during the first six months of 2005, according to new figures released yesterday by PoliticalMoneyLine. LINK
Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) writes in an op-ed at Salon.com that many of his fellow Democrats have "folded" in efforts to make "critical changes" to the Patriot Act that would protect civil liberties. LINK
"Expect Democrats and some Republicans to insist that they have won some significant improvements to the Patriot Act. Don't believe it . . . Thanks to this deal, the White House will be emboldened in its fear-mongering, Democrats will be perceived as timid, and the American people will still face the prospect of government intrusion into their private affairs. Some deal."
The New York Times on John Edwards: "Eye on Presidency and Ear on Hotel Workers' Concerns." LINK
The paper calls Edwards' meeting with hotel workers yesterday "one of his most prominent forays into the spotlight as he considers whether to seek the Democratic presidential nomination."
Note to Sen. Edwards: please e-mail us with the numbers of times since Election Day 2004 you have been asked the same three questions over and over again in every interview. We are curious.
The AP's Beth Fouhy Notes that Sen. Clinton declined an invitation to attend the unveiling of her wax statue. LINK
Andrea Peyser received a sneak peak at Sen. Clinton's wax figure to be unveiled at Madame Tussauds later today. LINK
"Here's a philosophical question: Isn't creating a wax figure of Hillary Clinton just a wee bit redundant?," Peyser begins her New York Post column.
In a story that calls Gov. Warner "the early favorite to challenge Clinton," The Hotline's John Mercurio has the "strategically sophisticated" Kathy Sullivan wanting a Democratic presidential nominee who is not "angry and partisan" while Nancy Beach, a progressive Democrat who backed Howard Dean in 2004, says Warner does not have her vote because he's "too afraid." LINK
The AP reports that Gov. George Pataki (R-NY) had surgery to remove his appendix this morning after checking himself into the hospital last night because of abdominal pain. LINK
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA), Sen. George Allen (R-VA), and Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AK) are raiding South Carolina, writes Peter Savodnik of the Hill.
Per Savodnik: "'The presidential welcome mat is out,' South Carolina GOP Chairman Katon Dawson said, Noting that the fact that the race for the White House is wide open has generated a great deal of early buzz." LINK
American Conservative Union executive vice president J. William Lauderback sent an email to supporters praising Sen. Allen's three-point plan to reign in federal spending.
"Let's give this good man all the help we can. At last, someone on Capitol Hill remembers what the Republican Party has been saying for decades. It's time to stop stealing hard-earned money from the American people," writes Lauderback.
Bush Administration agenda and personality:
The President's speech in Ohio yesterday was just the start of what will be an "intense health-care debate across the country over the next 10 days," Bloomberg reports. But reporters Kerry Young and Brendan Murray say to expect the debate to last more than 10 days: they predict health care will dominate the year's political dialogue. LINK
The Washington Post recaps Bush's speech in Columbus, OH, yesterday: LINK
Casting and counting:
Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich yesterday said he lacks confidence in his state's Board of Elections to conduct fair elections and called for a paper trail to verify touch-screen voting machine results. Ehrlich said these problems necessitated a delay in early voting, a move that prompted criticisms from state Democrats. LINK
Politics of global warming:
Yesterday's decision by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to revise a statement it released after last year's hurricane season that claimed there is no link between hurricanes and global warming reflected the "high-stakes fight over the issue of global warming, and what some scientists complain is a widening gap between what their research shows and White House climate policy," reports the Wall Street Journal.
Big Casino budget politics:
Bill Frist takes to the Washington Times op-ed page to explain why extending the 2003 capital gains and dividends tax cuts is "non-negotiable." LINK
Democrats proposed changes to the Medicare prescription drug plan yesterday, reports the Chicago Tribune's Matthew Chayes. LINK
The Washington Post fronts a look at the corruption charges being faced by Democratic Rep. William Jefferson and claims Jefferson's woes "have undercut the Democrats' election-year assertion that Republicans have created a 'culture of corruption.'" LINK
The local Fox affiliate in Houston refuses to show a new pro-DeLay ad that starts today on CNN and Fox News and will run for two weeks, reports Samantha Levine of the Houston Chronicle. LINK
"The 30-second spot from the conservative Free Enterprise Committee attacks billionaire financier and Democratic supporter George Soros for spending '$25 million against President Bush. He also bankrolled the liberals linked to attacks on Tom DeLay.'"
The Schwarzenegger Era:
The embattled Governor and his team are trying to build a record $120 million war chest before November's election, reports the Los Angeles Times. LINK