The Note: Gnip Gnop Nation


Once upon a time (ok: it was nine days ago, on Sunday the 12th), the staff of The Note was gathered at Dupont Circle's retro-trendy Front Page for a meal. It was, of course, "Take a Googling Monkey to Brunch Day."

That day, and every day for just over half a fortnight, we each had one beer (followed, of course, by three mimosas) with our midday meal. This accounts for our fuzzy recollection of the events of last week, and for the fact that when we look at the covers of Time and Newsweek what surely are pictures of Olympic athletes look just like (we swear to this) pictures of Dick Cheney.

We spent all of President's Day drinking coffee, and here is what we need to remind you to focus on:

1. The Bush legislative agenda: bipartisan compassion on energy, education, jobs, and immigration, with Leader Boehner's leadership on the budget the main event.

2. House retirements: do Republican members in swingy districts quit or not? That's all that matters to November.

3. The Abramoff and Fitzgerald investigations: what lurks in the hearts (and minds) of the prosecutors?

4. Iraq/Iran/NSA/etc.: are we near a Hagelian tipping point on GOP challenges to the Administration?

5. Facts on the ground in Iraq: 'nuff said.

6. Democratic message: not 'nuff said.

7. The Medicare drug benefit: "benefits whom?" on Election Day.

8. Don't be stupid: Will voters feel the Republicans are the good stewards of a good economy?

Well aware of the list above, President Bush keeps up his focus on energy independence with a tour of the National Renewable Energy Lab at 10:55 am ET followed by remarks on energy policy at 11:30 am ET. (Nearly three dozen employees at the lab are possibly referring to this as their personal presidential jobs tour.)

The Supreme Court meets for decisions and arguments at 10:00 am ET. All eyes will be on Justice Alito and Chief Justice Roberts as they hear 80 minutes of extended arguments in their first environmental cases for the High Court.

Before oral arguments are heard in Rapanos v. United States and Carabell v. US Army Corps of Engineers, the Court may announce whether it has agreed to act on some pending cases, including Padilla and partial-birth abortion, ABC News' Ariane DeVogue reports.

With respect to Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the government is asking the Court to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction. (At present, the Court is scheduled to hear arguments on the case of Bin Laden's former driver next month.) Roberts will be recused from any participation in the Hamdan case because he ruled on it while sitting on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.

Justice Scalia delivers remarks to the American Enterprise Institute on the outsourcing of American law at 3:00 pm ET.

The Energy Information Administration releases its survey of retail gas prices at 4:30 pm ET.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, hold a press availability at 1:30 pm ET.

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) attends a fundraiser for her reelection campaign at "Crobar" in New York City this evening.

Sen. George Allen (R-VA) speaks at the Jefferson County Republican Lincoln Day Dinner and attends a fundraiser for his 2006 re-election campaign in Jefferson County, CO.

The Senate is in recess and is expected to reconvene at 2:00 pm ET on Monday, Feb. 27.

The House will reconvene next Tuesday.

The National Press Club holds a 10:00 am ET discussion on President Bush's upcoming visit to India with Ronen Sen, India's ambassador to the United States. holds a 6:00 pm ET discussion at the National Pres Club on "Election Reform and Voter ID: Access and Integrity."

Politics of national security:

The New York Times writes up Gov. George Pataki (R-NY) joining with Gov. Bob Ehrlich (R-MD) in opposing an Arab company's "takeover of operations at six major American ports." LINK

The New York Post gives prominent play to Pataki's going against the Administration's grain too. LINK

Predicting a "major political headache" for the White House, the AP's Will Lester reports that Pataki and Ehrlich threatened legal action to block Dubai Ports World from taking over operations. LINK

Ehrlich requested close examination of the ports deal, calling the state's absence from the months-long approval process "very troubling," write Washington Times' S.A. Miller and Jo Ward. LINK

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) plan to push legislation "to ban the sale of U.S. port facilities to companies owned by foreign governments," if the Bush administration doesn't block the Dubai deal by March 2, reports Elisa Ung of the Philadelphia Inquirer. LINK

The senior Senator from New York, Sen. Chuck Schumer, teams up with Rep. Peter King (R-NY) today to announce their proposal for "emergency legislation" to halt the UAE deal.

Politics of Medicare:

"Millions Not Joining Medicare Drug Plan," blares the Washington Post's front page headline above Ceci Connoly's story, about low-income seniors who are eligible for special aid. LINK

Robin Toner's must-read in Sunday's New York Times on the potential for political peril caused by the program and the Democratic Party's efforts to turn that potential into actualized benefit: LINK

Politics of domestic surveillance:

Washington Times' Charles Hurt reports that Senate Judiciary Committee Arlen Specter, who seeks to place the entire surveillance program under FISA, will put forward a proposal within the coming weeks. LINK

Bush agenda:

Elisabeth Bumiller ledes her New York Times coverage of President Bush's alternative energy push by Noting that he "did not repeat a promise to cut back on Middle East oil imports that drew complaints from" OPEC and was "disavowed by his energy secretary." LINK

Badger State native Jim VandeHei traveled with the President to Milwaukee and writes that Democrats and some Republicans criticize the Bush energy plan as "failing to sufficiently address a leading cause of US dependence on imported oil: the fuel efficiency of cars, trucks and sport-utility vehicles." LINK

James Gerstenzang of the Los Angeles Times mentions how Bush's speech reading came "with a little less passion" than his Iraq war rhetoric, during his Monday energy tour. LINK

According to the Wall Street Journal's Jackie Calmes, "Presidents like pork, too." Only, instead of pet projects for his home district, President Bush has earmarked money for projects catering to "special interest" like social conservatives and the First Lady.

The Wall Street Journal's ed board breaks the code a bit and writes with gusto that President Bush's health care proposals are "HillaryCare in reverse."

Politics of torture:

The New Yorker's Jane Mayer writes that an effort by the Navy's outgoing general counsel to ban the abuse and torture of detainees is "at odds with the official White House narrative." LINK

Ethics reform:

The Washington Post's Charles Babcock looks at how earmarks became the business of Brent Wilkes, one of two defense contractors alleged to have given former Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-CA) $2.4 million in cash and other benefits in return for Cunningham's steering government business their way. LINK

Politics of Katrina:

In a piece looking at the "lobbyist's pull" that Gov. Haley Barbour brings to the job of rebuilding Mississippi, the New York Times James Dao Notes that Barbour has taken himself out of the running for 2008. LINK

While appearing Sunday on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) said FEMA has become "a four-letter word."

The ranking Democrat on the Senate's Homeland Security Committee said FEMA should be disassembled and replaced with a stronger agency, albeit still within the Department of Homeland Security.

More from Janet Hook of the Los Angeles Times: LINK

VPOTUS: newsweekly cover packages:

Nancy Gibbs and Mike Allen report that President Bush had to lean on Vice President Cheney to talk publicly about the gun accident in a Time Magazine piece that argues that the "real challenge" for the two is "how to get the Administration back on track." LINK

John Cloud handles the tick tock for Time. LINK

Newsweek's Evan Thomas views the shooting incident through the secrecy prism, and makes a Sting-like reference to the Hotline. LINK

Dean's Democrats:

David Postman of the Seattle Times reports that 1,200 Washington state Democrats greeted DNC Chair Howard Dean on Monday night as if "it were early 2004, when his presidential campaign was igniting liberals in the party." LINK

Dean told the crowd: "If only we started out in Washington state and not Iowa."


Newsweek's Ellis Cose looks at the black candidates -- from both parties -- running in Senate and gubernatorial contests across the country this year -- and not merely in symbolic fashion. LINK

The New York Post's Dicker reports that New York state Democrats will attempt to block Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi from being able to challenge Eliot Spitzer in the September primary for governor as they try to force Suozzi to go the petition route to get on the ballot. LINK

Per the Daily News' Joe Mahoney: "Abortion is emerging as a defining issue for the crowded field of gubernatorial wanna-bes, with front-runner Eliot Spitzer winning a pro-choice group's backing yesterday as Republicans staked out their own positions." LINK

GOP candidates for governor in Illinois sharpen their claws on state treasurer Judy Baar Topinka (R-IL), writes John Chase of the Chicago Tribune. LINK

Former Ohio Senate candidate Paul Hackett accused Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) on Monday of "spreading rumors" that Hackett had acted inappropriately while serving in Iraq, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Hackett told MSNBC's Chris Matthews that he had heard this from "several Democratic Party chairmen," be he declined to name them. LINK


Gov. Kathleen Blanco (D-LA) is sitting on a war chest of $2.4 million, "far more than of any of the other statewide elected officials holding office in Louisiana," The Advocate of Baton Rouge reports. LINK


In his Sunday column, the Los Angeles Times' Ron Brownstein used his recent trip to New Hampshire with Gov. Warner as a starting point for exploring whether it is better to seek presidential nominations while out of elected posts. LINK

Be sure to catch former Bill Bradley spokesman Eric Hauser's take on the risks that come with seeing yourself as a "roving ambassador for truth, justice and the American way."

As for Warner's Granite State performance, Brownstein has one anonymous Democratic activist saying that it was "too corporate -- not enough passion," and predicting that Warner will not be giving the same speech in six months.

Keying off the release of "Three's a Crowd: The Dynamic of Third Parties, Ross Perot, and Republican Resurgence," The New Republic's Marty Peretz writes that the "Perot wild card without Perot is bad news for Democrats." LINK

"Most of those middle-aged voters who went for Perot simply cannot vote for the mushy Democratic policies and attitudes on national defense and security. In any case, it is good news for John McCain."

2008: Republicans:

Sen./Dr./Leader Frist lays out his economic vision in a USA Today op-ed: LINK

1. The Bush tax cuts have worked and will continue to work.

2. Entitlement spending programs must be reformed.

The AP's write-up of Gov. Romney's South Carolina swing recalls the '08er's speech of one year ago when he "created a stir back home" by telling Spartanburg Republicans that "it's not right" that same-sex couples are having children born to them. LINK

The AP's write-up of Gov. Romney's busy travel schedule includes criticism that he is tending more to his presidential prospects than his gubernatorial duties. He's making stops in Ohio, South Carolina, and New Hampshire this week. LINK

Per the Boston Herald's Kimberly Atkins: " Gov. Mitt Romney is boasting of his accomplishments -- including bringing the state's budget out of the red -- to national media outlets as he continues to flirt with a presidential run in 2008." LINK

While speaking to the Spartanburg GOP on Monday, Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) "hit on several domestic hot-button issues, including an amendment to ban gay marriage that South Carolina voters will consider this November," the AP reports. LINK

"'It's sad that we have to define (marriage) for a minority that want to change that,' Huckabee said."

Carl Hulse's Saturday New York Times story on Sen. McCain's pet project at the University of Arizona, begs the political question of the three-day weekend, was this an enterprise story from start to finish or did someone shop this around, and if so, who? LINK

As Sen. McCain prepares to make his 2006 debut in New Hampshire on April 7 and in Iowa on April 13, ABC News' Teddy Davis talks with "Why We Fight" writer and director Eugene Jarecki about the Arizona Senator's 2008 balancing act. LINK and LINK

After arguing that McCain-Feingold "strengthened millionaires, weakened the middle class, and made it harder for challengers," former House Speaker Newt Gingrich tells the Wall Street Journal's Brian Carney in the "Weekend Interview" that his "working assumption" is that Sen. McCain will run in 2008: "Why wouldn't he? He's arguably the front-runner right now."

As for the Democratic side of the aisle, Gingrich once again talks up the chances of Sen. Clinton, saying: "If we end up in a crisis with Iran . . . with the Straits of Hormuz closed . . . with oil above $100 a barrel . . . I wouldn't assume automatically that Hillary's unelectable."

From the California Republican Party: "Gov. Pataki will not be attending the California Republican Party 2006 Winter Convention as previously announced due to his continuing recuperation from appendicitis. The California Republican Party wishes him a speedy recovery and we look forward to welcoming him to California sometime soon."

The New York Post's Kenneth Lovett gives us way too much information on why Pataki is still in the hospital. LINK

2008: Democrats:

When asked by Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday" if Leader Pelosi's Cheney reaction showed her to be "out of touch," the chairman of the "All America PAC" said, "I would have a respectful difference of opinion on the magnitude of this issue," adding that Democrats should pivot and address the "major issues" and "not make a mountain out of a molehill."

"When we do that," Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) said, "I think we run the risk of damaging our own credibility with mainstream America."

The New York Post's Deborah Orin highlights a new Siena poll that shows some unwelcome numbers for Sen. Clinton's potential presidential prospects. LINK

The New York Daily News writes up the Siena numbers somewhat differently than the New York Post. LINK

Per the Washington Post's Stephen Barr, ten Democratic Senators are urging the Senate budget panel to provide members of the military with a 2007 pay raise higher than the 2.2 percent increase proposed by President Bush. LINK

In a letter organized by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), the Senators call President Bush's pay proposal "'a paltry increase' that 'neglects the value of their service and the very real challenges of recruiting and retaining an all-volunteer military in time of war.'"

On Friday's premier of HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) reiterated his opposition to the Patriot Act and the NSA wiretapping program, calling the program "illegal" and "unnecessary."

"Where I come from illegal is still bad, illegal is still wrong and the President doesn't have a right to sort of make up a law whenever he feels like it," Feingold added.

As you might have suspected if you read Vogue's profile of Sen. Feingold, the West Wing's Bradley Whitford has given the Wisconsin Senator's PAC $2,000, the AP reports. LINK


Republican Bob Vander Plaats plans to end his candidacy for the nomination and join Rep. Jim Nussle (R-IA) as his running mate, Thomas Beaumont of the Des Moines Register reports. LINK

The Des Moines Register's David Yepsen calls the alliance a "smart move with possible downside," pointing out that the media spotlight will now turn to the Democratic primary. LINK

Per James Lynch of the Cedar Rapids Gazette, the campaigns will announce the decision on Wednesday at the state Capitol. LINK

Today's LGBT conference at the Olmsted Center at Drake University will include an address by Gov. Tom Vilsack (D-IA) and a forum with Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls Mike Blouin, Chet Culver, and Ed Fallon. LINK

The Schwarzenegger Era:

Carla Marinucci of the San Francisco Chronicle Notes the Schwarzenegger political resurgence underway in the Golden State. LINK


The New York Sun's Josh Gerstein takes stock of Al Gore's Current TV six months into its tenure and finds the intriguing television channel is facing some tough Internet competition. LINK

The Washington Post's Christopher Lee on the use of anonymous sources. LINK

Richard Cohen on why we need leakers. LINK


The Los Angeles Times editorial board accuses Hollywood producer Rob Reiner of spending taxpayers' money on campaign propaganda aimed at swaying votes, with his most recent initiative to promote universal preschool. LINK

Both houses of Congress have finally passed bills that would force companies to better fund their pension plans, but Congressional leaders still need to reconcile major differences before sending unified legislation to President Bush for approval, reports Michael Schroeder of the Wall Street Journal.

In a "rare display of unanimity" that cuts across "partisan and geographic lines," lawmakers in "virtually every" state have reacted to the Supreme Court's 5-4 City of New London decision by advancing bills and constitutional amendment to limit the government's power of eminent domain," writes the New York Times' John Broder. LINK

Bloomberg News' Jonathan Salant reports that General Motors Corp., Pfizer Inc. and Comcast Corp. are among companies that have created loopholes around the law banning unlimited campaign donations, giving more money through their political action committees than ever before and writing checks to independent groups. LINK

USA Today's Andrea Stone reports, "Efforts to ban gays and lesbians from adopting children are emerging across the USA as a second front in the culture wars that began during the 2004 elections over same-sex marriage." LINK

Bills drafted or discussed include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont and West Virginia.

In Memoriam:

The Washington Post's Adam Bernstein remembers Democratic campaign chief Eli Segal who died on Monday from a rare form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. LINK

The week ahead:

Tomorrow, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) delivers a "major address" on competitiveness at Northeastern University in Boston, MA.

On Thursday, Sen. Clinton raises money for her re-election campaign at a private home in Miami, FL, Sen. Kerry headlines an event for the DFL in St. Paul, MN, and Gov. Romney speaks at the Lexington County Republican Party's Bronze Elephant Dinner in West Columbia, SC.

Sen. John McCain addresses the "Miami Town Hall and Rally for Immigration Reform" in Miami, FL on Thursday.

On Friday, a 2:30 pm ET status conference will be held by Judge Walton in connection with the Fitzgerald investigation, President Bush meets with the president of El Salvador at the White House, Gov. Romney speaks at the Carroll County Republican Lincoln Day Dinner in West Ossipee, NH, Sen. Kerry meets with Democratic congressional candidate Ed Perlmutter in Colorado's 7th district, and the California Republican Party begins its three-day winter convention in San Jose, CA. (Gov. Schwarzenegger is the featured speaker at the Friday evening banquet.)

On Saturday, Sen. Clinton headlines a Florida Democratic Party fundraiser in Tampa, FL and raises money in Charlotte, NC. Meanwhile, Sen. Edwards stumps in Iowa City and Muscatine, IA. And the NGA's winter meeting convenes in Washington, DC.