The Note: Comes in 3s


Anticipated: Elizabeth Vargas' Tuesday POTUS interview; Bill Clinton's NGA speech; Bob Novak's next phone call to Dan Bartlett.

"Rehabilitated": Michael Savage; Ari Fleischer; Maria's hiring acumen.

Distractions: Cheney shooting; Dubai port fight; the Next Big Thing.

Details: Bumiller on Singh's daughter; Sanger on everything; Toobin on DeLay.

Mantras: "the rubber meets the road"; "on the front lines"; "David Broder loves us!!"

Covers: Iraq, India, Sopranos.

Radared: Prescription drug benefit; restraints in growth of spending; immigration.

Cards: Tired; responsible; invisible.

Forward-looking: Peter Baker on Russia; The Note on Peter Baker; Sen./Dr./Leader Frist on 2007.

Profiled: Kevin Sheekey LINK; Ann Romney LINK; Jeff Zeleny. LINK

Well-defined: Googling monkeys; Gang of 500; the sleep habits of Mike Allen.

Ill-defined: Big Casino; John Broder's beat; the sleep habits of Mike Allen.

President Bush meets with the nation's governors at the White House at 11:10 am ET. NGA Chairman Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) told reporters this weekend that he expects immigration, Medicare Part D, the Dubai Ports World transaction, and cost shifting to the states all to be on the agenda.

Tomorrow, World News Tonight's Elizabeth Vargas sits down for an exclusive interview with President Bush at the White House. The interview is expected to cover topics including his upcoming trip to India and Pakistan, the six month anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and the war in Iraq.

The interview will air on "World News Tonight" and "Nightline" tomorrow and "Good Morning America" on Wednesday. Excerpts from the interview will run on World News Tonight's daily webcast on

Today, the governors are scheduled to hold a press briefing about their White House meeting back at the JW Marriott at 12:30 pm ET. They will then head into a closed press meeting with Defense Secretary Rumsfeld where the overall size of the National Guard force and the deployment of Guardsmen/women in Iraq and Afghanistan will top the agenda.

The governors will split into their partisan groups this evening. President Bush will be introduced by Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) at a RGA's "America's Majority Celebration" at the National Building Museum. The DGA holds its "Taste of America" gala this evening.

Dr./Leader/Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN) addresses the Detroit Economic Club in Detroit, MI at 12:00 pm ET.

Vice President Cheney travels to Norfolk, VA to deliver 6:00 pm ET remarks at a campaign fundraiser for Rep. Thelma Drake (R-VA).

The Senate convenes at 2:00 pm ET and begins a period of morning business until 3:00 pm ET. Following morning business, the Senate resumes consideration of S. 2271, the Patriot Act Amendments Act.

Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) leads a Senate Democratic Policy Committee "hearing" at 1:30 pm ET on the implementation of the Medicare prescription drug benefit.

Gov. Pawlenty (R-MN) and Sen. Cornyn (R-TX) hold a 5:20 pm ET press conference on comprehensive immigration reform. Sen. McCain (R-AZ) will also talk immigration today in New York City at a town hall and rally for immigration reform sponsored by the New American Opportunity Campaign.

Fresh from his star turn on CBS' "60 Minutes," Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D-MT) holds a press conference at the Center for American Progress at 12:30 pm ET to discuss ways government can be more effective.

The nation's guvs come to DC:

After all 50 governors signed a letter protesting a reduction in the overall size of the National Guard, many governors are still concerned that the proper funding and equipment is not in place to prepare the Guardsmen/women for their domestic duties when they return home from Iraq, reports Robert Pear of the New York Times. LINK

The Associated Press previews the immigration issues likely to be raised by several governors with the President and Defense Secretary today. LINK

Wal-Mart chief executive Lee Scott addressed the nation's governors at the NGA meeting yesterday. The speech was "directed at an increasingly important constituency for Wal-Mart: state leaders who have veto power over legislation aimed at forcing Wal-Mart to spend more on health care," writes the New York Times' Michael Barbaro. LINK

The Washington Post's Style section includes some gubernatorial color, including Gov. Romney's smile and Gov. Huckabee blessing the White House menu. LINK

The Washington Post's Dan Balz led his Sunday coverage of the NGA conference with governors of both parties challenging cuts in the National Guard proposed by the Bush Administration. LINK

Port security:


(If you expected The Note to report on the meaning of the flap, the delay, the brouhaha, the whole thing -- you expected wrong. Wake us when it's over.)

The White House agreed Sunday to a request by Dubai Ports World for a further review of a deal that would put the company in charge of six American ports, easing concerns from lawmakers who had threatened to block the purchase, reports Jill Lawrence of USA Today. LINK

The Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman on the same: LINK

In a must-read, Bob Novak reports that when the Democrats "first opened fire," Dan Bartlett responded to GOP warning signs by suggesting, "in the imperial style of this presidency," that he hoped Republicans could support the deal, but if they could not, it just would be too bad. That was followed by the president's rare session with reporters aboard Air Force One in which he threatened a veto." LINK

Bloomberg News' Jess Bliss reveals that in addition to the 45-day review beginning March 2, the company also agreed to allow P&O's North America-based executives to run the port operations. LINK

The New York Times' David Sanger (ahead of the story all weekend) writes the Dubai Ports World request for a 45-day delay "will leave President Bush in the politically delicate position of having to personally approve or disapprove the takeover." LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Greg Hitt calls the delay a "face-saving way out of the controversy."

Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times delivers a near-must-read on the political calculations and machinations at play over the ports controversy. LINK

"Though the tensions were somewhat defused Sunday when the company agreed to a 45-day national security review, the problem continues to exact a steep political price from Mr. Bush, exposing divisions between the White House and Congressional Republicans in a critical election year and further weakening a president already reeling from a series of setbacks, from Hurricane Katrina to the war in Iraq," writes Stolberg.

And here's a line that will cause Josh Isay, Cathie Levine, and Stu Loeser to smile broadly: "Also on Monday, right after the big snowstorm, Mr. Schumer held the first of a series of news conferences. But hardly any reporters showed up."

The delay spares "President Bush -- at least for the time being -- a politically uncomfortable showdown with members of his own party," writes the Los Angeles Times' Richard Simon. LINK

On ABC's "Good Morning America," Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was asked whether he thinks the proposed process put forth by the Administration this weekend is a true review, Schumer said, "I worry about that. . . Let's wait and see the report."

Sen. Frist reacted to the request by DP World for further US review of the port deal by saying on Sunday that he expects the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States to grand DP World request for the 45-day investigative national security review and therefore the Senate will "await the outcome of that work before deciding on any legislative steps related to the DP World deal."

Frist went on to say, however, that he expects action to take place in congressional hearings. "I expect the full and vigorous oversight process by Senate committees will continue to explore all aspects of this arrangement," Frist said in a statement released by his office.

Knight Ridder's Ryan Alessi has Frist back on the Republican reservation saying: "We're behind the president 100 percent. We believe the decision in all likelihood is absolutely the right one." LINK

In the newspaper's weekend edition, the Wall Street Journal's ed board rebuked '08ers Clinton and Frist for using "national security" as an excuse for protectionism.

In Sunday's Los Angeles Times, Ron Brownstein wrote that President Bush is "stewing in a pot he brought to boil." LINK

More Brownstein: "By Bush's own logic in Iraq, the Dubai port deal is suspect. But Congress needs to think carefully about whether the deal's potential risk justifies the clear and present danger of twisting" the "spiral" with the Islamic world "a notch higher."

In her Friday afternoon column, Newsweek's Eleanor Clift had McCain aide turned DLCer Marshall Wittman calling the "flap over port management the national security equivalent of the crime bill that set the stage for the Republican sweep of Congress in 1994." LINK

In an op-ed for the Washington Times, Michael Chertoff and John W. Snow attempt to mitigate security concerns over the deal, detailing security measures and assuring thorough cargo screening process. LINK

According to Washington Times' Nicholas Kralev, the founder of UAE's largest law firm said that the Administration's support for the deal may actually boost U.S. image abroad, but if the deal renders moot, he would reconsider representing U.S. companies. LINK

A Washington Times' editorial deems accusations of racism over the uproar of the Dubai deal the"cheapest of cheap shots" and stands by the UAE with "justifiable caution." LINK

Newsweek's Richard Wolffe and Holly Bailey have this great little detail in their story on the ports controversy. LINK

"Rep. Peter King, the GOP chair of the House homeland security committee, called the White House to ask about the deal a few days after the AP story. A senior official told him not to worry, but conceded he didn't know about any investigation into the Dubai company. When King said he planned to go public, the White House official shrugged and said, 'Go ahead.'"

Weekend coverage of the Dubai deal from Time Magazine's Burger, Allen, and Cooper: LINK


In a lede that's so good it's sure to be ripped off on television, the Los Angeles Times' David Savage reported on Sunday that the Supreme Court is set to take up states' rights this week of both "the blue- and red-state variety." LINK

"Tiny Vermont, a true blue state, hopes to restore small-town democracy by greatly limiting the role of money in politics. If its new spending caps win before the high court, they could change how campaigns are conducted across the nation."

"Meanwhile, Texas, the biggest of the red states, is defending its right to redraw its electoral districts to give its GOP majority more seats in Congress. If its extraordinary mid-decade shift wins in the high court, other states have signaled they will do the same."

In a must-read for anyone who works at the intersection of law and politics, Jeffrey Toobin turns in a piece for the New Yorker exploring the ways in which Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) might personally benefit if the Supreme Court were to require the state of Texas to go back to the congressional district map that courts approved in 2001 before the mid-decade redistricting and how Rep. DeLay might personally lose if the map is left unchanged. He also Notes the crucial role that Justice Anthony Kennedy will play in deciding this case.

Chicago Tribune's Naftali Bendavid discusses the upcoming SCOTUS hearings on the Texas redistricting, stating that "Few are willing to predict which way the court will go." LINK

During a pen-and-pad briefing at the NRCC a few weeks ago, Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-NY) told reporters that he was not making any contingency plans in case the Supreme Court redraws the map before the 2006 cycle.

The Schwarzenegger Era:

When asked on "Meet the Press" if he would run for re-election as a Bush Republican, Gov. Schwarzenegger said he would run as an "Arnold Republican." LINK

On the issue of port security, Gov. Schwarzenegger said he has "no problem with many port terminal operations in California being foreign-run, but he endorsed a 45-day delay for a broader security review before a state-owned firm from the United Arab Emirates assumes management of some facilities at several big Eastern ports," reports San Francisco Chronicle's Edward Epstein. LINK

He also made this curious statement: ". . . we have villainized the Arab world also so much that now Arab country -- or company taking over our ports and maybe have some influence in our security, it freaks everyone out, and rightfully so."

Schwarzenegger supporters rejected a move yesterday that pitted California Republicans against the Governor on record for his plans to increase the minimum wage, manage the state budget and sell $68 billion in bonds to improve the state's infrastructure. LINK

"Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger shunned an opportunity over the weekend to toss out some red meat to Republican activists in open revolt against his policies," writes Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton of the Governor's convention speech. LINK

Skelton adds, "It was a mistake."

Michael Finnegan and Robert Salladay of the Los Angeles Times write of how Gov. Schwarzenegger's allies blocked a stern rebuke from conservatives at the California Republican Party convention this past weekend. LINK

"A day after killing a move to yank the party's endorsement of Schwarzenegger, the governor's political team succeeded in quashing a resolution against the debt and minimum-wage proposals."

"But in a mild slap at the governor's fiscal leadership, party delegates voted to drop language from another resolution that would have lauded him for 'signing balanced budgets.'"

Our favorite moment from Gov. Schwarzenegger's MTP interview was the pro-longed silence that followed when Tim Russert read a San Francisco Chronicle quotation from Bob Mulholland saying that Gov. Schwarzenegger had gone from being a "pit bull" before the Special Election to an "old French poodle."

Schwarzenegger: "You want me to respond to that? I don't respond to Bob Mulholland," which is not Garry South's policy, yet.

Lobbying reform:

If Congress doesn't start policing itself more seriously, federal prosecutors say they might step in, report Time Magazine's Bennett and Burger. LINK

"The guilty plea on Friday by Mitchell Wade, a defense contractor who paid more than $1 million in bribes to former Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-CA)," will create increased scrutiny of contributions to Reps. Virgil Goode (R-VA) and Katherine Harris (R-FL), writes Roll Call's John Bresnahan.

At a time when Congress is considering regulations on privately-funded travel for members of Congress, lawmakers are also racking up huge costs in commercial and military transportation that are paid for by taxpayers, report the Houston Chronicle's Levine and Hedges. LINK

Bush Administration agenda:

Elisabeth Bumiller's "White House Letter" in the New York Times looks at President Bush's itinerary for his quick jaunt to India and Pakistan and Notes his lack of love for sightseeing. LINK

David Jackson of USA Today on the President's trip. LINK

In a piece that describes President Bush as being as Wilsonian as he is Carteresque, Time Magazine's Joe Klein writes that the President is "acting like a Democrat, standing for abstract principles and high-minded long-term projects in the face of a public demanding easy answers and immediate results." LINK

The Philadelphia Inquirer's Dick Polman contends that President Bush governs from a bubble, Noting that, "even political allies and Republican observers believe Bush is prone to the bunker syndrome; symptoms include tone-deaf politicking, a refusal to fire or discipline failed subordinates, and a reluctance to acknowledge bad news that conflicts with core beliefs." LINK


The New York Times' Adam Nagourney used the NGA as his peg for his Sunday look at the Democratic Party's best chance to become a majority party in 2006 - in the 36 gubernatorial elections for statehouses across America. LINK

On Saturday, the New York Times' David Chen wrote up the star-studded GOP support heading Tom Kean, Jr.'s way (at what Norm Ornstein wisely calls a "critical time") in his battle for a US Senate seat from the Garden State. LINK

Roll Call's David Drucker breaks down Texas' 22nd and 28th district primary battles, set to conclude March 7.

Gebe Martinez of the Houston Chronicle reports that, incumbent Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) faces stiff primary competition from Ciro Rodriguez and Victor Morales in Texas' 28th District. LINK

Roll Call's Stu Rothenberg predicts a disappointing November for the GOP.

According to Morton Kondracke of Roll Call, Republicans say the Medicare drug plan will be an advantage in November, despite constant Democratic criticism.

The New York Post's Fred Dicker writes up the Democratic disappointment that Tom Suozzi has launched a primary campaign against Eliot Spitzer. Dicker also takes a look at what some insiders tell him may be a Pataki effort to woo Kathleen Troia McFarland to run for the Republican nomination to take on Sen. Clinton in November. LINK


NBC's "Today" show's close-up segment was dedicated to the 2008 presidential race with a David Gregory package followed by a talkback with Tim Russert. The Democrats mentioned in the Gregory package: Clinton, Kerry, Edwards, Biden, Warner, and Vilsack. The Republicans mentioned: McCain, Giuliani, and Allen.

2008: Republicans:

While appearing on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was asked if he were South Dakota's governor whether he would sign the state's recently-passed abortion bill banning all abortions except in the case of the life of the mother.

McCain did not directly answer the question, preferring to state his own views on abortion.

"I don't know," McCain said, "because I don't know the technical -- my position has been consistently pro-life but rape, incest and the health of the mother has been my position. If that's in keeping with that, yes. But I don't know whether . . ."

Stephanopoulos interjected, saying, "It actually goes farther than that. If it does go farther, you wouldn't sign it?"

Sen. McCain replied by saying: "Not if—my position has been clear for 20-some years."

Sen. McCain's office told ABC News' Jake Tapper after the show concluded that if the Arizona Senator said that he recognizes an abortion exception for the "health" of the mother (which he did), then he misspoke because he only recognizes abortion exceptions for rape, incest, and the "life" of the mother.

Karen Finney, the DNC's communications director, reacted to McCain not answering the South Dakota question by telling The Note: "Looks like the Straight Talk Express hit a bump in the road."

"Sen. McCain is going to have to do better than that," she continued, "voters expect straightforward answers and a clear sense about where McCain stands on the issues that affect their lives."

Note to Eileen McMenamin: Does McCain still support (as he did in 2000) changing the Republican Party's platform to explicitly recognize exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother? LINK

On the Dubai front, Sen. McCain questioned the wisdom of Sen. Clinton's proposal to block all foreign government involvement in managing US ports.

He pointed to the US trade deficit and warned that if Sen. Clinton were to get her way, "We've got a lot of disinvestment to do."

"Should they not be allowed to invest in any place in America under any circumstance?" he asked. "If you go down that road, you obviously get there."

NewsMax took Notice: "John McCain Rips Hillary Clinton on Ports 'Hysteria'" LINK

Keying off of a question that McCain raises in the documentary "Why We Fight," the former prisoner of war was asked by The Note during the stakeout on DeSales Street how the American people would know if the US military were to ever go from being a "force for good to a force for imperialism" in Iraq. LINK

McCain said that he expected that America's free press would tell them.

Asked what signs the media could look for to know if the US presence in Iraq had made that shift, McCain said, "I don't know," and moved on. He then returned to the imperialism question and said he doesn't know what signs the media should look for because the US military has "never been a force for evil in the world."

The Washington Times' Donald Lambro writes that Sen. McCain has some explaining to do with his "political flip-flop," where his recent vote to extend Bush's tax cuts proves inconsistent with his four-year opposition against such cuts. LINK

John Brummett of the Arkansas News Bureau writes that the Republican presidential race for 2008 may not be as "wide open as everyone has been saying." LINK

It might be McCain's "to lose" for three reasons: (1) he has star power, (2) his conservative credentials are looking better, and (3) the over-riding objective in 2008 is to defeat Sen. Clinton.

Gov. Romney criticized the Bush Administration's handling of the Dubai port controversy, Iraq war and Medicare spending during his appearance yesterday on Fox News Sunday, all the while not directly pointing fingers at the President, writes Susan Milligan of the Boston Globe. LINK

Scott Helman reveals in a front-page article of the Boston Globe how Gov. Romney's "articulate" and "attractive" wife, Ann, is an asset to his presidential bid to win over the conservative base. LINK

Adrian Walker of the Boston Globe reports that the Massachusetts State Legislature's talk of providing universal health coverage has not been met with realistic how-to's, Noting the Governor's attempts to push for something to be done "partly as a credential for his expected presidential campaign." LINK

Here's one way to keep Florida's 27 electoral votes in play. The New York Post writes up Rudy Giuliani's Sunshine State business dealings. LINK

Gov. Huckabee, "supports the kind of sweeping anti-abortion bill that South Dakota legislators approved this week," reports the Arkansas Democrat Gazette's Paul Barton. LINK

Gov. Huckabee also gave an on-camera answer regarding the South Dakota abortion bill while appearing Sunday on C-SPAN's "Washington Journal."

2008: Democrats:

Knight Ridder's Steven Thomma explains the fears some Democrats have for a Clinton nomination in 2008. LINK

The New York Post's Ian Bishop writes up Sen. Clinton's Heather Hurlburt hire, "a hawkish former top speechwriter and policy planner at the State Department and [Clinton] White House." LINK

The best line from the Houston Chronicle's Julie Mason's pool report from last night's White House dinner with President and Mrs. Bush and the nation's governors: "The only governor in the room to make overt eye contact with the pool was Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico."

Yup, it's official: Gov. Richardson is a Jessica Simpson fan. LINK

In his weekend visit to Iowa, John Edwards touted several hot-topics including ports security, tax cuts, and alternative energy, mentioning that "the domestic surveillance is illegal, and it's unconstitutional," and declining to commit to a presidential run in 2008, writes Perry Beeman of the Des Moines Register. LINK

Edwards has already traveled to at least eight states in 2006 to promote his anti-poverty agenda and lay the framework for what some say is another run at the nation's top office, reports Knight Ridder's Jim Morrill. LINK

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Craig Gilbert reports on Sen. Russ Feingold's (D-WI) popularity in the liberal blogosphere. LINK

On "60 Minutes" last night, Gov. Schweitzer got the kind of exposure that most presidential hopefuls can only dream about.

In her in-depth look at his "controversial" plan to turn Montana's coal into synthetic liquid fuel, CBS' Leslie Stahl described Gov. Schweitzer as a "half-Renaissance man and half a rodeo cowboy" who seems ready to "take on the world."

Asked about his description of people who sell the United States oil as "rats and crooks," Gov. Schweitzer let loose: "Hugo Chavez, the Saudi royal family, the leaders of Iran," he said on "60 Minutes." "How about the countries that end with 'stan'? Nigeria? You tell me. Sheiks, rats, crooks, dictators, sure."

On Sunday morning, Gov. Schweitzer took viewer calls on C-SPAN's "Washington Journal." A longshoreman from Savannah, GA told him: "This morning, to hear you, governor, speak out, reminds me of a little guy coming out of Little Rock, AR, a couple of years ago and becoming president of the United States. If you stay on track, governor, keep the message hat you're broadcasting right now. You're headed straight for Washington, DC because what you're telling America this morning is the breath of fresh air."

2008: Veepstakes:

Note to producers covering Veepstakes 2008: if Gov. Romney gets tapped to be the GOP's No. 2, be sure to pull the "Fox News Sunday" tape from Feb. 26, 2006.

Asked by FNC's Chris Wallace if he is "really running for vice president," Gov. Romney said: "Oh, I can't imagine anyone doing that (hearty chuckle). I've got a much better job and love the job that I have. It's great being governor of Massachusetts. It's a great state. It's a great state. I'm having great fun. You know, I'll keep the option open of running for national office, but I wouldn't get into something if I didn't plan on winning."

Dean's Democrats:

Sources close to the DNC tell The Note that later today, the DNC will announce that an "unprecedented" number of cities have expressed an interest in hosting the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Eleven cities, more than double the number that applied to host the 2004 convention, will receive official "Requests for Proposal." The 2008 Democratic National Convention will be held from August 25 - 28, 2008.

The cities: Anaheim, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, New Orleans, New York, Orlando, Phoenix, and San Antonio.


The Washington Post's R. Jeffrey Smith reports that the IRS has audited Texans for Public Justice, a, "nonprofit group that was critical of campaign spending by former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-TX)," at the request of Rep. Sam Johnson, a political ally of DeLay. LINK

"This audit was political retaliation by Tom DeLay's cronies to intimidate us for blowing the whistle on DeLay's abuses," said for Public Justice Director and Founder Craig McDonald.

House of Labor:

Steven Greenhouse of the New York Times previews the AFL-CIO winter meeting in San Diego, CA. Greenhouse writes labor leaders "will once again be on the defensive, a situation made worse by the split the labor federation suffered last year." LINK

Politics of abortion:

The debate over access to Plan B contraception will hit nearly every state in 2006, reports Marc Kaufman of the Washington Post. Over 60 bills have already been filed in state legislatures this year. LINK

Gov. Mike Rounds (R-SD) announced over the weekend his serious consideration to support the South Dakota bill banning most abortion cases "if the bill is written correctly," writes Reuters' Michael Condon. LINK

Politics of Katrina:

The Des Moines Register's editorial board responds to last week's White House report thusly: "Return the Federal Emergency Management Agency to its status as an independent agency, with a focus on natural disasters and an administrator who has direct access to the president. Better yet, dismantle the entire Department of Homeland Security, which holds FEMA and 21 other agencies in its clutches." LINK


Kit Seelye's must-read New York Times examination of the current state of affairs in the White House briefing room: LINK

"Renana Brooks, a clinical psychologist practicing in Washington who said she had counseled several White House correspondents, said the last few years had given rise to 'White House reporter syndrome,' in which competitive high achievers feel restricted and controlled and become emotionally isolated from others who are not steeped in the same experience."


Jim Rutenberg's bouquet to Kevin Sheekey landed on Saturday's New York Times front page. LINK

Jeff Zeleny of the Chicago Tribune analyzes Sen. Obama's (D-IL) evolution and future on the political stage. LINK

The Washington Post's Ceci Connolly is underwhelmed by Kate Michelman's "With Liberty and Justice for All" book. LINK

In the Sunday edition, James Norman of the Des Moines Register cites a National Journal review that ranks Iowa's House delegation as "the fifth most conservative" in the nation. LINK

"Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff says the nation's aviation system remains 'the No. 1 target' for terrorists," and warns that the Department of Homeland security may have to cut funding for airport security if Congress rejects a $2.50 increase in passenger fees proposed by DHS, writes Mimi Hall of USA Today. LINK

The week ahead:

President Bush meets with the Italian Prime Minister tomorrow morning before his interview with ABC's Elizabeth Vargas and then he heads off to India and Pakistan later in the day.

Vice President Cheney delivers remarks tomorrow morning at the 46th Annual American Legion Washington Conference in Washington, DC.

Former President Clinton addresses the NGA winter meeting tomorrow morning. The FPOTUS is going to discuss his personal health journey. (Though, if he attempts to show his scars LBJ-style LINK, Gov. Huckabee jokingly promised to rush the stage and bring the presentation to a close.)

The Senate Judiciary Committee meets tomorrow at 9:30 am ET for its second hearing on the NSA domestic warrantless wiretapping program and House Majority Leader Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) holds a 1:30 pm ET pen & pad briefing with reporters.

Also tomorrow, Gov. Tom Vilsack delivers remarks at the National Press Club in Washington, DC on "building a sense of community."

After gaveling the NGA winter meeting to a close, NGA Chairman/Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) heads to the Granite state to address the Grafton County Lincoln Day Dinner in West Lebanon, NH. Gov. Huckabee heads to South Carolina later this week.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in LULAC v. Perry et al, a case involving the controversial Texas redistricting plan engineered by Rep. Tom DeLay that culminated in Republicans garnering more congressional seats in 2004.

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) celebrates his 53rd birthday on Thursday.