The Note: Fat Tuesday


Today is:

-- Elizabeth Vargas' exclusive White House interview with President Bush, conducted right before he leaves for his commanding overseas trip. LINK

-- Bill Clinton's stemwinding remarks to his former colleagues at the National Governors Association, in which he will outflank Broder, Balz, Fordice, and Pear in expressing his love for the group. [See our exclusive excerpts below.] LINK

-- The day to make obvious Anna Nicole Smith jokes. LINK

-- National Pancake Day. LINK

-- Fat Tuesday. LINK

-- The birthdays of Will Robinson, triathlonist Laura Tucker LINK, Jack Abramoff, and Lee Ann Smith.

-- The end of The Note's latest experiment in which we see how easy it is to get liberal bloggers and e-mailers mad at us, and the beginning of the experiment in which we see how mad they get when we joke about their getting mad. LINK (We particularly recommend post #26.)

Another chance for Matthew Dowd to take issue with the polling methodology of CBS News. LINK

World News Tonight's Elizabeth Vargas sits down for an exclusive interview today with the man who is the focus of that CBS poll, 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, the war in Iraq, and the controversy surrounding the Dubai ports deal.

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

Earlier this morning, President Bush met with the Prime Minister of Italy Silvio Berlusconi in the Oval Office. Later this afternoon, President and Mrs. Bush travel to India and then head to Pakistan later in the week.

Vice President Cheney delivers remarks at the 46th annual American Legion conference in Washington, DC at 11:30 am ET. Sen./Dr./Leader Frist addresses the conference just prior to the Vice President at 11:00 am ET.

It's Anna Nicole Smith day at the Supreme Court! Justices will hear oral arguments in her probate case. The Supreme Court will also hear oral arguments in Randall et al. v. Sorrell et al. concerning Vermont's campaign finance law. Arguments get underway at 10:00 am ET.

Former President Clinton addresses the National Governors Association about his personal health journey and his foundation's efforts to combat childhood obesity. Clinton, a former NGA Chairman, is expected to take the stage at approximately 10:15 am ET as part of Gov. Mike Huckabee's (R-AR) "Healthy America" initiative, the theme of this year's gathering.

With several of his wife's potential presidential rivals in the room, President Clinton will urge the nation's governors to take an active role in preventing childhood obesity.

"Nine million children and adolescents are overweight today," President Clinton is expected to say. "These children have a 70 percent chance of becoming overweight or obese adults. Not only does this pose a great health risk, but it also carries economic consequences, as obesity-related healthcare costs for young people continue to rise and show no signs of declining. We must act now to stop and reverse this deadly trend because3 if we do not, today's generation of young people could be the first generation of Americans to have shorter life expectancies than their parents."

In May of 2005, the Clinton Foundation teamed up with the American Heart Association to create the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a partnership dedicated to addressing the public health threat of childhood obesity. Gov. Huckabee serves as co-chair of the Alliance.

New Medicare prescription drug numbers are expected today.

January existing home sales -- "the broadest measure of strength in the housing market," according to ABC's Dan Arnall -- are scheduled to be released at 10:00 am ET.

Chairman Stevens (R-AK) holds a Commerce Committee hearing on security of terminal operations at American ports at 2:30 pm ET. Witnesses include Deputy Homeland Defense Secretary Michael Jackson and DP World chief operating officer Edward Bilkey.

Majority Leader Boehner (R-OH) holds his first weekly pen and pad briefing with reporters at 1:30 pm ET.

The Senate today will resume consideration of S.2271, the Patriot Act Amendments bill. At 2:30 pm ET, the Senate will vote on the motion to invoke cloture, which if successful will lead to a vote on the final passage of the bill tomorrow morning.

The Republican and Democratic Senate policy luncheons are scheduled for 12:30 pm ET with stakeouts at 12:15 pm ET (Frist) and 2:15 pm ET (Reid).

Gov. Vilsack (D-IA) delivers a speech entitled, "Building a Sense of Community," at the National Press Club at 1:30 pm ET. Later in the day Vilsack holds a media availability with the Hawkeye State congressional delegation.

Be sure to check out our expanded daybook section below for the rest of the day's events.

Politics of Iraq:

"The recent explosion of violence in Iraq is forcing a debate inside the Pentagon about whether the U.S. military can proceed with plans to cut the number of troops in Iraq, Defense officials said Monday," writes Mark Mazzetti of the Los Angeles Times. LINK

"The violence came at a crucial time for the U.S. military: Top generals must decide within weeks whether to carry out a long-anticipated reduction in American troops this summer. Threats of civil war in the country have raised questions about the wisdom of a troop drawdown in the next few months."

A comprehensive plan was never drawn up by the Bush administration after the Iraqi invasion in 2003, reports Washington Times' Rowan Scarborough. LINK

Bush Administration agenda:

Bumiller and Connolly of the New York Times write up the latest CBS News poll numbers which show President Bush with a 34 percent approval rating. LINK

"There has been a decline in Mr. Bush's support even among Republicans. In the January Times/CBS News poll, 83 percent of Republicans approved of the way he was handling his job; in the latest poll 72 percent approve. Approval among self-identified conservatives also dropped to 52 percent, from 62 percent."

The Wall Street Journal reports on the challenges President Bush faces as he discusses nuclear weapon issues with India's top leaders tomorrow. Tick tock!!!!

The nation's guvs come to DC:

"The Bush administration told the nation's governors on Monday that National Guard forces and equipment, depleted by the war in Iraq, would soon be restored to full strength. . . ," writes Robert Pear of the New York Times. LINK

Gov. Vilsack remains skeptical until he sees the money.

"You cannot make the country safe by making the states less safe," Gov. Vilsack said Monday.

Dan Balz of the Washington Post has a skeptical Gov. Kempthorne (R-ID). LINK

Asked by ABC News if he shares Gov. Vilsack's "skepticism," the President's hermanito came to his big brother's defense.

"I trust Peter Pace and I trust the president of the United States," Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) said. "They said they'd find the money and I think you can take that to the bank."

Always the loyal soldier, Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS) came to the Bush Administration' defense as well, telling reporters after an NGA-sponsored news conference that the money needed to close the gap between the Guard's authorized strength and the proposed budget amounted to "chump change" and a "crumb" in Pentagon terms. Gov. Barbour was also quick to defend Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Yesterday was Rumsfeld's first meeting with the NGA. But it was not his first meeting with governors. The Secretary has met with governors who have traveled to Iraq on an individual basis.

Jane Norman of the Des Moines Register on the leading role Gov. Vilsack played yesterday in calling for more say in the deployment and funding of National Guard troops. LINK

Tamara Lytle of the Orlando Sentinel has Gov. Bush saying: "'The president came in and reconfirmed it,' [Gov.] Bush said. 'That's good enough for me.'" LINK

The AP's Jennifer Loven reports that President Bush added $9.6 million to GOP campaign coffers last night. LINK

Port politics:

Carl Hulse and David Sanger of the New York Times on the not-quite smoking gun Coast Guard document unearthed by Sen. Collins' (R-ME) committee staff. LINK

The Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman calls the Coast Guard document "the strongest indication that members of the administration had expressed security concerns over the transaction." LINK

The Chicago Tribune on the Coast Guard document. LINK

USA Today on the Coast Guard document. LINK

The Wall Street Journal picks up on Gov. Richardson believing that President Bush is going to let the port deal go through even though he is pleased that there will now be a more thorough review.

The fact that foreign companies own 80% of American terminals, Bloomberg News' Matthew Leising and Ripley Watson point out, suggest that objections over the deal were driven by pure politics. LINK

The Boston Globe reports that Democrats are using President Bush's decision to allow the U.A.E to manage six American ports as a way to lash out at Republicans who have in the past called Dems weak on national-security issues. Stu Rothernberg Noted, " 'Democrats are giving the president a dose of his own medicine.'" LINK

The Wall Street Journal reports that the U.A.E deal had been in the works for over a year and lobbyist just recently made Senate officials aware of the business move.

Scott McClellan revealed that the President's veto threat still stands if Congress moves to block the deal, write Washington Times' Charles Hurt and Stephen. LINK

The Hill has the effect of the Dubai controversy on the upcoming race for Pennsylvania's Senate seat. LINK

The Chicago Tribune gives President Bush the benefit of the doubt on the ports deal, but warns that "the White House, if it decides to push ahead, will need to explain why to a public and a Congress hardened by the awful carnage at the World Trade Center and Pentagon." LINK


Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times tees up the campaign finance and redistricting cases to be heard by the Supreme Court this week. LINK

Joan Biskupic and Jim Drinkard of USA Today explain the point of contention over the Texas Republicans' passing of a revised 2003 congressional redistricting map after their majority win, pointing out the weight of the Supreme Court review through Loyola Law School's Richard L. Hasen: "The court is at a crossroads … It has to make some fundamental decisions on how much to intervene in state races." LINK

According to Bloomberg News' Greg Stohr, Supreme Court justices today will "hear arguments on a 1997 Vermont law, signed by then-Governor Howard Dean, that caps candidate spending and limits contributions to as little as $200 per election cycle for each candidate." Republican State Committee, who will challenge the law, said that such limits violates right to free speech.

Prof. Hasen predicts that "the Court will declare more forthrightly than in Buckley that candidate spending limits can never be constitutional." LINK

In his preview of Randall et al v. Sorrell, Democratic superlawyer Bob Bauer indicates that he is perplexed by how Vermont "of all states" came to be "so glum" about its political process given how livable the state is. LINK

Energy politics:

The New York Times writes up CBS News poll results on a gasoline tax and finds that if the revenue from an increased tax on gasoline went directly to making the United States less dependent on foreign oil or to reducing global warming, a small majority of Americans would support it. LINK


Three challengers are continuing their uphill climb to best incumbent Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) in the 22nd District's March 7th Republican primary, according to the Houston Chronicle's Samantha Levine. LINK

Big Casino budget politics:

Charles Hurt of the Washington Times reports that House conservatives yesterday urged Republicans to cut spending so that the President's goal for an additional $92 billion in hurricane relief, Iraq and war on terror would be met. LINK


Shaliagh Murray and Charles Babbington of the Washington Post report on continued Democratic efforts to pound the Administration over the Medicare prescription drug benefit including the new slogan, "Let Medicare be Medicare." (LINK) LINK

Lobbying reform:

The lobbying reform legislation being drafted by the Senate Rules Committee is likely to include some earmark reform, reports Jeffrey Birnbaum of the Washington Post.LINK

The Wall Street Journal's David Rogers Notes, "as Congress returns this week, Republicans face growing pressure to make good on promises to tighten ethics and lobbying rules…The next six weeks are seen as crucial if the effort is to regain momentum."

Roll Call reports that a former senior aide in Cunningham's office is talking. LINK

The Hill reports on Democrats' decision to not support the lobby reform bill proposed by their poster-child for the issue, Sen. Barak Obama (D-IL). LINK

As Congress grapples with reform, Mary Curtius of the Los Angeles Times looks to the states and finds just how difficult it is to police political activity. LINK

Roll Call reports that House members could be traveling quite a bit less in the future. LINK

The Schwarzenegger Era:

Michael Finnegan of the Los Angeles Times sets the stage for the Democratic gubernatorial primary in California as the candidates begin their television ad campaigns and their efforts to present themselves as the most trustworthy and consistent of politicians. LINK

Politics of national security:

The New York Times' Scott Shane takes stock of the reorganization of the intelligence community, one year into DNI Negroponte's tenure, and finds what some experts believe is a troubling amount of bureaucracy. LINK

Politics of domestic surveillance:

The Washington Post's Murray and Babbington report Sen. Frist will meet with Republican members of the Intelligence and Judiciary committees to try to find a caucus consensus on how to proceed with congressional oversight of the President's domestic warrantless wiretapping program. LINK

The Boston Globe reports that today Sen. Specter (R-PA) will introduce a bill, which he drafted that introduces a national security court that would decide the legality of NSA spying requests. LINK


The Hill breaks the story that Rep. Jim Marshall (D-Ga.) was the victim of alleged Wikipedia sabatoge when his entry was changed last year by a conservative op-ed writer now serving as the spokesman for the Republican challenging the incumbent. LINK

Sen. Obama will stump for Senate candidate Bernie Sanders at the University of Vermont on March 10, according to Sam Hemingway of the Burlington Free Press. LINK

According to CongressDailyAM, the DCCC is appointing Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) today as co-chairmen of its "red-to-blue" program.

"Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele exhorted religious leaders yesterday to build stronger ties between church and state and called for targeting more state money for community programs run by faith-based groups," reports the Washington Post. LINK

Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D-IL) has raised discontent among his base of black voters on the issue of taxes, write Pearson and Flynn of the Chicago Tribune. LINK

The Daily News exclusively reports that Eliot Spitzer's running mate, state Sen. David Paterson has withdrawn his controversial "shoot to wound" bill. LINK

Spitzer has harsh words for public transportation, according to the New York Post. LINK

The New York Post runs the AP write-up of New York state Sen. Michael Balboni's decision to run for reelection, and more Notably not for attorney general. LINK


Peter Brown takes space in the Salt Lake Tribune to explain why no one has gone directly from Congress to the White House since John F. Kennedy in 1960. LINK

Richard Morin of the Washington Post offers some research that suggests some things about the faces of Sens. Clinton and McCain that we leave to others to sort out. LINK

The politics of obsession:

In a made-for-Inner Circle moment, Sen. Clinton told Fred Dicker on his radio show that Karl Rove "spends a lot of time obsessing about me."

New York Times: LINK

New York Post header: "Hill Fires Back at Karl Rove." LINK

New York Daily News header: "Karl's got Rove-ing eye for me, says irate Hil" LINK


2008: Democrats:

Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) is expected to return to New Hampshire for the Manchester City Democrats' 9th annual St. Patrick's parade breakfast on Sunday March 19. State House Democratic leader and congressional candidate Jim Craig's father, Louis Craig, will be honored at the $25 per head breakfast.

The Washington Post Express has a pull-out quote from, a blogger who is "dumbfounded" as to why the governor of New Mexico invited Jessica Simpson over for dinner. LINK

In a "postcard from Iowa" Sen. Bayh (D-IN) writes to All America PAC supporters, "By campaigning for my dad at coffee shops, people's homes, and plant gates, I developed a real appreciation for the "face to face" way politics is done in Iowa."

Washington Times' Jennifer Harper reports that with Al Gore's public opposition to the Bush team's foreign policy and his second book on globing warming "An Inconvenient Truth" coming out in several months, there's speculation that Gore may be "testing the waters" for a 2008 run. LINK

The Helena Independent Record on Gov. Brian Schweitzer referring to Vice President Cheney as "old straight shooter himself" during his Monday speech to the Center for American Progress. LINK

2008: Republicans:

The AP's Glen Johnson analyzes Gov. Romney's "kaleidoscopic views" about the Iraq war and writes that they have allowed him to "express support for the war when it benefits him and his potential candidacy, but maintain distance from the president when necessary." LINK

A busy Glen Johnson also reports that Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey (R-MA) has split with Gov. Romney by coming out in favor of stem-cell research. LINK

The Boston Globe reports that up on Beacon Hill lawmakers are looking over newly introduced healthcare legislation after deadlock debates froze movement on past initiatives. LINK

The Boston Herald reports that as Gov. Romney pushes forward on his GOP fundraising agenda across the country, he leaves behind Lt. Gov. Kerry Healy who is stumping for 2006 gubernatorial support without him. LINK

The New York Post reports that Gov. Pataki may not be out of danger. LINK

"Gov. Pataki, still in the hospital 13 days after an emergency appendectomy, is receiving intravenous antibiotics because he's now at risk of developing an abscess, an aide to the governor revealed last night."

A "frustrated" Gov. Pataki chatted with the New York Times' Hakim for a little more than a minute in his first interview since being transferred to a hospital in Manhattan last week. LINK

The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza on Sen. George Allen (R-VA): "While there is no question that Allen -- stylistically and philosophically -- resembles President Bush, he is also careful to highlight several major differences he has had with the current administration, especially when it comes to the war in Iraq." LINK

Sen. Allen favored holding elections in Iraq sooner and he also parted ways with the Bush Administration's initial strategy for training Iraqi troops. But he remains a "staunch supporter of the overall conflict and the larger war on terrorism."

Sen. McCain touted his immigration reform proposals in New York yesterday.

Coverage from the New York Sun: LINK

And the AP: LINK

House of Labor:

The AFL-CIO is prepared to spend $40 million on the 2006 midterm elections, reports the New York Times' Greenhouse. LINK

"Union leaders said they would concentrate their efforts on 15 Senate races, 40 House races and governors races in California, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania."

The RNC read this story carefully.

New Hampshire:

Gov. John Lynch (D-NH) told reporters yesterday that in addition to policy discussions, he has used some of his time at the NGA to lobby governors who may be thinking about running for president to support New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary, reports's James Pindell. LINK

The Union Leader has New England members of Congress, including Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH), reacting to the new formula used to dole out homeland security grants which favors higher risk areas like New York and Washington. LINK


Chet Culver (D-IA) and Mike Blouin (D-IA) are exchanging "pleasantries" as they seek unions' backing and get ready to face Rep. Jim Nussle (R-IA) in the race for Iowa's governorship, writes Des Moines Register's Thomas Beaumont. LINK

Per Beaumont, Blouin is expected to announce on Thursday that his running mate if he wins the Democratic nomination will be physician Andrea McGuire. LINK

Both Democrats have filed nomination papers yesterday, writes the AP. LINK

Politics of abortion:

White House press secretary Scott McClelland suggested on Monday that President Bush does not support a South Dakota bill that would ban nearly all abortions in the state, the AP's Mary Clare Jalonick reports. LINK

"McClellan did not say that Bush opposes the state bill but reiterated the president's long-standing position on abortion. Bush is 'pro-life with three exceptions,' McClellan said."

USA Today reveals that at least 15 other states have laws in place forbidding abortion if South Dakota's abortion ban takes into effect. LINK


Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times writes up Sen. John Thune's (R-SD) journey through the "reverse revolving door" from lobbyist to Senator. LINK

The New York Post has the newest action figure: the Vice President, complete with shotgun. LINK

Mayor Bloomberg's top deputy is leaving, the New York Post reports. LINK

Dean's Democrats:

The AP's Will Lester on the 11 cities making bids to host the 2008 Democratic convention. LINK

Other Tuesday schedule items:

Both RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman and DNC Chairman Howard Dean addressed the Jewish Council for Public Affairs this morning. The chairmen were expected to take "unscripted questions" from many of the 800-plus attendees from 40 states. Chairman Dean is expected to discuss the port security controversy on this third anniversary of the creation of the Department of Homeland Security.

At 10:00 am ET, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) joins Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and others for "a celebration of Mardi Gras and a demonstration of their commitment to Gulf Coast recovery." Sen. Clinton then heads to a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing with DNI John Negroponte.

Chairman Specter (R-PA) holds a 9:30 am ET hearing on the NSA domestic warrantless wiretapping program including former CIA Director James Woolsey among the witnesses.

Former Bush Administration official David Safavian is scheduled to attend a status hearing in court today in his Abramoff-related case.

A state PAC started by Democratic strategist Steve Hildebrand -- "Common Sense South Dakota" -- has organized a 9:30 am ET protest outside the NGA gathering urging Gov. Mike Rounds (R-SD) to veto the recently passed strict anti-abortion legislation in his state.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) attended a western governors roundtable this morning before heading up to Capitol Hill to meet with Rep. Jerry Lewis at 10:00 am ET and Sens. Feinstein (D-CA), Boxer (D-CA), Cochran (R-MS), and Domenici (R-NM) at 11:00 am ET.

House Democratic Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and others participate in a discussion on the concerns of African Americans as well as "the need for continued relief for survivors of Hurricane Katrina." A photo opportunity is scheduled for 3:00 pm ET.

Democratic Sens. Durbin and Levin hold a 2:45 pm ET press conference on the Medicare prescription drug benefit. They will be joined by Reps. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT).

At 3:45 pm ET, Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) delivers a "major speech" on energy to the "Governors' Ethanol Coalition" at the winter meeting of the National Governors Association.

Sen. Obama is expected to say that ". . . all we really need to know about the danger of our oil addiction comes directly from the mouths of our enemies" before quoting Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden.

Sen. Obama is also expected to partake in a bipartisan roundtable discussion on the topic later this afternoon. In addition to Obama, Sens. Evan Bayh (D-IN), Sam Brownback (R-KS), Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), Richard G. Lugar (R-IN), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Ken Salazar (D-CO), and Jeff Sessions (R-AL) are expected to attend a roundtable discussion with military and business leaders on America's dependency on foreign oil. The roundtable discussion is closed to the press, but a 5:30 pm ET media availability will follow.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R-NYC) is in Washington, DC today meeting with DHS Secretary Chertoff, HHS Secretary Leavitt, and delivering keynote remarks at the "National Low Income Housing Coalition" annual conference.