The Note: Unite to Victory

WASHINGTON, Mar. 9

The Note wishes to move on to faith-based debates, Axis of Evil updates, David Rogers professional ties to Judd Gregg, the connotations of the word "fancy," Howard Fineman's sneakiness, Jon Corzine's generosity, America's historic debate over how to balance civil liberties with national security, the 2008 nominating calendars, and lame Sopranos jokes.

But we can't, because (apparently) no one is listening to us about the port deal and how it will come out.

Another news cycle of "veto showdown" rhetoric -- not surprising, given the House vote and the political media's obsession with process stories -- and another news cycle of Republican members of Congress of all shapes and sizes reporting back that, yes, their constituents would rather make Russian the official language of the United States than let Dubai Ports World have this deal.

Things have gotten so silly that there is now speculation that the White House is doing this on purpose, to allow Republicans to create space between themselves and the President.

It is a mortal lock. Mark it down and give us Krauthammer Credit when it happens: a few more futile rounds of trying to come up with a deal that will save face, satisfy "legitimate" security concerns, and set things right, and then the company will withdraw the deal. The President will, Scott McClellan will tell us all, have not backed down.

Until then, mark us down as impatient.

A couple of explicit port security items are on the schedule today, beyond the hallway banter: At 10:00 am ET the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee holds a hearing on foreign operations of U.S. port facilities. Assistant Department of Homeland Security Secretary Stewart Baker and Gary Brown of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union will be in attendance. At 1:00 pm ET, Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and John Barrow (D-GA) hold a news conference on port security legislation.

The cloture vote on the lobbying reform bill aimed at scuttling Sen. Schumer's surprise amendment is likely to occur tomorrow. Might a vote for cloture be considered a vote against port security? ABC's Zach Wolf reports, "Frist's people say the Democrats need to 'put their money where their mouth is on lobbying reform. They've been talking about this for over a year and now we need to vote up or down.'"

And we bet ports comes up at this one too: DCCC Chairman Rahm Emanuel and DSCC Chairman Chuck Schumer hold a 11:45 am ET press conference to discuss the "lack of oversight as a result of the rubber stamp Republican congress."

On the other hand, President Bush will likely do nothing but please his fellow Republicans today. He talks up faith-based initiatives at 11:25 am ET, signs the Patriot Act renewal into law at 2:40 pm ET, and then heads down to Atlanta, GA to dish out some partisan red meat at a Georgia Republican Party fundraising dinner.

His schedule serves as an important reminder that if you are a Republican with your name on a ballot this year (or if you'd like to have it on THE ballot in 2008) the distancing game is a tricky one.

The Washington Times provides some background for those of you covering the President's faith-based initiatives remarks. LINK

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