The Note: Mystery Training


Starting tonight, several white Republican men who want to replace George Walker Bush as President of the United States and Commander in Chief will speak to a group of party activists from the South (and, really, all over the country) at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Memphis.

No fewer than six men with possible presidential aspirations will speak tonight and tomorrow, culminating in an utterly meaningless, utterly vital straw poll, the results of which will be announced on MSNBC and Hotline's SRLC blog LINK at 9:05 pm ET Saturday.

If you are someone who believes that the next president will almost certainly be a Republican (either because of an Electoral College lock or because the Democrats will nominate someone who is unelectable), you can't help but wonder if this weekend's event will someday be part of American history -- the moment when the nation's dominant party (and almost every serious political reporter who wears "Gang of 500" dog tags) decide to anoint The Next President of the United States.

Trust us: a lot more preparation will have gone into this weekend than most of the meta-candidates and their meta-campaign-staffers will let on. Their considerations and choices: when to arrive and when to leave; who to meet with (publicly and privately); how to pack the hall; which reporters to seek out (and which to snub); and, most of all, what to say in their speeches.

Mindful of how busy these cats are; mindful of how difficult it is to both support the current occupant of the Oval Office and create some proper Rove-approved distance; and/but mindful of how a single well-written and well-delivered speech can change human history -- mindful of all that, The Note provides to those headed to Memphis and still editing, the text of a speech that pretty much all of them can give.

We have included stage directions too, but, alas, we can't help you deliver it. For that, you are on your own.


The scene: the Peabody Hotel, Memphis.

[A few trusted college and high-school volunteers, strategically placed around the hall, begin chants of "U-S-A! U-S-A!" as they hold aloft both pre-printed and "homemade" signs with various slogans featuring your name. As you take the podium, you should look up with mock surprise, as if the chants were divinely inspired, and the signs a total surprise.]

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. [Tell a touching, lightly embellished tale from the road involving high school basketball, J.J. Redick (if you have to ask, don't run) or NCAA pools.]

Ladies and gentlemen, I come before you as a missionary of [insert home state name*] values. HEARTLAND values.

Friends, YOUR values are MY values and they're the values of the AMERICAN PEOPLE and we're proud Republicans making sure THOSE are the values that are animating this great country. We will all continue to work together as a party. And a great party it is -- the party of Lincoln, Reagan, Mercer Reynolds, and Jack Oliver.

Friends, the DEMOCRAT Party can't beat our IDEAS. They can't beat our PASSION. They can't beat our RECORD. So they will try to focus on hiccups and irrelevancies and diversions and falsehoods in an effort to get us to BEAT ... OUR ... SELVES. And ladies and gentlemen, we ... will ... not .. FALL for it. Because friends, what matters isn't what you see when you look at some poll. [Pause for chuckles.] What matters is what you see when you look in the MIRROR.

[Look down and actually read this next part, or practice it to a fare-thee-well, because this -- if done well -- is what will get you third graf of Balz and fourth graf of Nagourney.]

And friends, I have NEVER been prouder of our party, or our PRESIDENT [pause for applause] , or our great VICE president [pause for thunderous applause]. And how 'BOUT that First Lady, Laurabush!? [Say as one word. The house comes down.]

Are you with me?!!?? [Pause for acclamation.]

When our President said, 'we need to bring down the deficit', he was right then, and he's right now!

We have one of the most buoyant economies in history, and we have Republican leaders, and Republican policies, to thank for it! [Hoo-ah!]

In a time of new and hidden dangers, our country is ever safer, and we have Republican leaders, and Republican policies, to thank for it. [Hoo-ah!]

Hear me now: When OUR President said we need to restrain pork-barrel spending, he was right then, and he's right now!

When our President said we need to strengthen this historically strong economy, he was right then, and he's right now!

When our President said we need to keep cutting taxes on hard-working Americans, he was right then, and he's right now!

When our President said ALL the world's people deserve democracy, he was right then, and he's right now!

And, friends, when our President said that job one is keeping America safe, he was right then. And ... he .. is ... right ... NOW!

You know, a little earlier some of our FRIENDSSSSSS in the fair and balanced media were asking me about ... 2008. [Smirk, pause for knowing, mirthful ripple.]

And you know what I told them? I told them: I'm thinking about, what YOU'RE thinking about, and that's THIS November, and the chance we have to strengthen our majorities in the House and Senate to support the President's agenda, confirm rock-solid judges, and do the work of the American people, based on OUR principles and OUR values.

Friends, the other party is playing TWISTER, and DODGE BALL, trying to figure out what they stand for. Well, you know what? [Smile, pause for, "WHAT?"]

We don't NEED to listen to every Tom, Dick and [pause slyly] HARRY [if enunciated poorly enough, some in the crowd will think you said "HILLARY," which, come to think of it, might not be half bad either] to tell us who we are. We KNOW what we stand for. We KNOW what we believe in. It's what the American people believe in and we ... will ... fight for it, and we will prevail!

Ladies and gentlemen, THANK YOU for making me so proud to be part of this party. THANK YOU for your loyalty to our great PRESIDENT. THANK YOU for your hard WORK over the next eight months. And THANK YOU for being the BACKBONE of the greatest nation in the history of the world. God BLESS you, and God BLESS the United States of America!


Versions of this speech can be heard beginning this afternoon, when Gov. Mitt Romney takes the stage in the 2:00 pm ET hour. Sen. McCain is scheduled to be the final speaker of the evening session. He'll likely address the crowd in the 10:00 pm ET hour.

Sen. George Allen kicks off the morning session tomorrow at 9:30 am ET, followed by Sen. Brownback and Gov. Huckabee. The proud senior senator from Tennessee, Bill Frist, is scheduled to speak sometime between 2:30 pm - 3:30 pm ET.

Straw poll voting hours are 11:00 am - 1:00 pm ET and 3:00 pm - 6:00 pm ET, with results scheduled to be announced at 9:00 pm ET Saturday.

Timed with the Republican cattle call in Memphis, TN, the RNC is releasing a Web video attacking the "rudderless Democrat Party."

The Web video, which will be shown at the Memphis cattle call, opens with an announcer saying: "It's time to play find the leader of the Democrat Party." The Web video includes references to DNC Chairman Howard Dean's concern about the US becoming like Iran, Sen. Joe Biden's (D-DE) statement that "no party official" speaks for him, Sen. Harry Reid's (D-NV) boasting on killing the Patriot Act, Sen. Hillary Clinton's (D-NY) plantation remarks, and Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) on US soldiers terrorizing Iraqi women and children. It also includes Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) on Samuel Alito and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) vowing to stop the President.

RNC spokesgal Tracey Schmitt tells The Note that RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman's remarks will "frame up both the high stakes voters will face in 2006, and lay out in very clear terms how the Democrats continue to be on the wrong side of every critical issue."

Back in Washington, President Bush is making remarks to the National Newspaper Association at 9:40 am ET. After that: a POTUSian Q&A will occur at this august venue.

Scott McClellan announced this morning an upcoming series of Iraq speeches beginning Monday.

Ron Fournier writes up the latest AP/Ipsos poll numbers showing the President with a 37 percent approval rating, the lowest in that poll's history for this president. Note, too, how Sen. Brownback (R-KS) explains the perils of the sixth-year itch. LINK

Bloomberg News reports that American employers added a "greater-than-expected 243,000 workers in February and incomes rose, signs the job market will bolster consumer spending and economic growth. The unemployment rate increased to 4.8 percent." LINK

Majority Leader Boehner and Majority Whip Blunt were quick to hail the numbers, and we bet the President does too.

Mr. Bush meets with the president of Peru at 11:15 am ET, and he and the First Lady meet with organizations that support the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan at 1:15 pm ET.

The grand jury investigating the CIA leak was scheduled to meet at 9:30 am ET.

In a rare move for Ron Bonjean's boss, House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) will join Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO), Conference Chairman Deborah Pryce (R-OH), and Chief Deputy Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) on a conference call at 11:00 am ET.

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) hosts Sen. Reid (D-NV) when he visits Hope, AR at 4:30 pm ET where "thousands of manufactured homes built for hurricane evacuees in Louisiana and Mississippi continue to sit on the airport's tarmac and nearby pastures, and have become a symbol of FEMA's ineptitude." Sen. Pryor is encouraging Sen. Reid to support the "Hope Housing Act," which he introduced in the Senate to waive FEMA's restriction to move these temporary homes into a flood plain." LINK

Sen. Reid then heads to Austin, TX where he will discuss national security issues and why Republican "incompetence" has made our homeland "less safe." He will be joined by Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) and others who will highlight Republican failures, from Hurricane Katrina to port security.

If your intern goes missing around 11:30 am ET, check Longworth 1539. Jessica Simpson, Operation Smile's International Youth Ambassador, is joining Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) and Operation Smile CEO Bill Magee, Jr., at a Capitol Hill press conference.

To set the stage for November's showdown between Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) and former Rep. Nick Lampson (D-TX), DCCC Executive Director John Lapp hosts an on-line chat at 10:00 am ET. LINK

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) is bringing his trademark listening sessions to the Web at 10:30 am ET today. LINK

Gov. Tom Vilsack (D-IA) embarks on a nine-day trip to India with an Iowa delegation.

Today and tomorrow, the nation's presidential libraries and the National Archives will host an unprecedented two-day conference examining the history of the Vietnam War and the American presidency. The conference will be held at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston. Among the many participants are former President Jimmy Carter, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Ted Sorensen, Gen. Wesley Clark, and David Halberstam.

Be sure to tune into "This Week" on Sunday when George Stephanopoulos will interview Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI).

And a happy birthday from The Note to one of America's finest political reporters, Bill Nichols of USA Today. Bill's first-class campaign work has sometimes overshadowed his golf, music, and foreign policy writing. But nothing -- NOTHING -- tops his piece from December of last year, in which he wrote about a TV classic, with this editor's Note: "USA TODAY reporter Bill Nichols first watched A Charlie Brown Christmas on Dec. 9, 1965. He was 7. This Thanksgiving, he watched a tape of it with his son, Charlie, 3, for the first time." If you missed the story then, here's your chance to read it now -- before wishing Bill a happy day. LINK


On "Good Morning America," ABC's Claire Shipman said today's cattle call in Memphis comes at an "extremely turbulent time for Republicans." She said the gathering will give a "sense of direction about where the party is headed" and it will be an important test of strength as these contenders all jockey for position."

"President Bush won't be there," Shipman continued, "but he will be the focus. There is enormous party frustration over everything from the port deal to government spending to his plummeting poll numbers."

"Early presidential polls make John McCain the pack leader right now. But he's got a lot to prove to the conservative crowd."

She also said in her piece: "The hot name right now? Virginia Senator --and former governor -- George Allen."

Running a thorough review of the GOP 2008 hopefuls, Paul West of the Baltimore Sun writes that "The eagerness with which GOP contenders are carving out space between themselves and the president is matched on the other side by an apparent Bush effort to keep the president's most prominent supporters and advisers away from the '08 race for as long as possible." LINK

John Dickerson of the Slate discusses the Memphis SRLC Noting that "as the front-runner, John McCain has the most to lose. The press and activists have high expectations, and we'll all be watching him very carefully." LINK

According to the Tennessean's Bill Theobald, Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) says he was snubbed by the SRLC because of his views on immigration. The Tennessee Republican party says it's because he isn't considered to be a presidential contender in 2008. LINK

CBS's Steve Chaggaris acknowledges that the SRLC straw poll isn't very significant, but Notes it gives potential candidates an opportunity to "make their case" to campaign donors that they have a real shot in 2008. LINK

Port politics:

John Podhoretz writes in his New York Post column, that much like when he had to withdraw Harriet Miers' nomination in the face of Republican revolt, President Bush may emerge the victor from the demise of the Dubai ports deal by taking the issue off the table long before the midterm elections. LINK

The Washington Post's Peter Baker calls the port deal collapse a "singular failure" for President Bush but he's not so sure that Democrats can capitalize. LINK

"By turning against Bush," writes Baker, "some GOP strategists believe Republican leaders may have saved themselves a worse fate." Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio tells Baker that Bush has "no political capital" but he thinks Republicans in Congress "may have made chicken salad out of chicken you-know-what" by breaking with the President.

On, GOP uber-strategist Rich Galen argues that Republicans in the House and Senate running for re-election win because they now have an excellent counter-argument when their Democratic challengers accuse them (as they most certainly will) of being Bush clones: "I have two words for my opponent: Dubai Ports." LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire writes that the deal's demise "crimps Democratic plans to use 45-day review hammering Bush's party." LINK

The Washington Wire has a Port of Seattle official saying that Americans are "xenophobic" about globalization, but they "like their '$1.98 underwear at Wal-Mart.'"

"The outcome did nothing to solve the underlying issue exposed by an uproar that has consumed the capital for weeks. A vast majority of containers that flow daily into the United States remain uninspected and vulnerable to security gaps at many points," writes David Sanger of the New York Times. (And Note how high up he plays the sell vs. transfer language.) Catherine Dodge and Richard Keil of Bloomberg report that the failied port deal, "marks another setback for President George W. Bush, exposing deteriorating relations with fellow Republicans and underscoring a perception of incompetence stemming from the government's response to Hurricane Katrina." LINK

USA Today reports the effects of the port deal are still unknown, but Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) predicts, "damage from the quashed deal 'will reverberate in the Arab world.'" LINK

Although Dubai ports deal is effectively dead, the Wall Street Journal's Hitt and King remind us that Republicans are still worrying about the effect the deal has had on their national security profile and commercial interests are still worrying about its effect on foreign investment.

The Journal also says that Lou Dobbs and Michael Savage want to see the fine print on the actual deal.

The New York Times' tick-tock: The Washington Post on NOD: The Financial Times reports that few buyers meet requirements for "US entity." Big Casino budget politics:

Although funding for the Iraq war will likely remain intact, political insiders are predicting a squeeze on the over half-trillion dollars reserved in the budget for defense, reports the Wall Street Journal's Jackie Calmes in a must-read for the knowing.

On a party-line vote, the Senate Budget Committee approved yesterday a "scaled-back version of President Bush's budget, shorn of signature initiatives such as tax relief and cuts to federal benefit programs such as Medicare." Politics of surveillance:

The Washington Post's Walter Pincus reports that those who participated in yesterday's first meeting of the new seven-senator intelligence subcommittee created to review the Bush administration's domestic surveillance program were "close-mouthed" afterwards. The Des Moines Register editorial board cautions on the presumption that Congress "is finally standing up to President Bush," arguing that blocking the ports deal "requires no political courage whatsoever" and pointing out that in regards to the NSA wiretapping program, "which involves a threat to the Constitution itself," Congress "as usual, caved in to pressure from the White House and shirked a clear duty." LINK

The Abramoff affair:

Philip Shenon of the New York Times explores an Indian tribe's $25,000 payment to Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform at Jack Abramoff's urging just prior to the tribal leader gaining access to a White House meeting in May 2001. Norquist's spokesman says there was no quid pro quo. "The transaction could also focus further attention on Mr. Norquist's group, which is already under scrutiny by the Justice Department and Congressional investigators over its ties to Mr. Abramoff," writes Shenon.

Abramoff's custom wheels, also in the New York Times: DeLay:

Rep. DeLay's campaign is saying that the recent Vanity Fair interview with Jack Abramoff show DeLay hadn't done anything illegal, reports Michael Hedges of the Houston Chronicle. In the Vanity Fair interview, Abramoff said, "I didn't spend a lot of time lobbying Tom for things, because the things I worked on were usually consistent with the conservative philosophy, and I knew Tom would be supportive."

Politics of immigration:

The Senate moves ahead and agrees on further fencing in Arizona to help manage immigration issues. LINK

Nicole Gaouette of the Los Angeles Times brings you up to date on the flurry of immigration activity occurring in the Senate Judiciary Committee in advance of the March 27 deadline set by Dr./Sen./Leader Frist. LINK

Abortion politics:

Iowa gubernatorial candidates Chet Culver (D-IA) and Ed Fallon (D-IA) joined a rally yesterday to protest the South Dakota abortion ban, writes Thomas Beaumont of the Des Moines Register. LINK

Per Trent Seibert of the Tennessean, the Tennessee state Senate passed a resolution that, "calls for a statewide constitutional referendum in 2010 to ratify new language for the Tennessee Constitution declaring: 'Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion.'" LINK


The always attuned Elisabeth Bumiller of the New York Times writes up the President's remarks at the Georgia Republican Party fundraiser last night. "Mr. Bush perfunctorily recognized Ralph Reed, a former head of the Christian Coalition and a top Bush campaign adviser whose Georgia candidacy for lieutenant governor has been tarnished by ties to Jack Abramoff, the lobbyist," writes Bumiller. "President Bush dashed in and out of Atlanta on Thursday to praise Gov. Sonny Perdue, raise about $1.5 million for state Republicans, and signal his neutrality in Georgia's hot race for lieutenant governor," reports the Atlanta Journal Constitution. On Memphis television this morning, just prior to the story about the dead Dubai ports deal, was Harold Ford's commercial bashing the deal, providing a reminder to all just how easily events can overtake.

The Boston Globe reports on Ford, and the uphill battle he faces to run for Senate. LINK

USA Today Notes on the comeback candidates for 2006. LINK

CQ writes up on the latest Democratic field to be cleared. Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Arkansas Bill Halter has dropped his bid for that office and will instead run for Lt. Governor, giving Attorney General Mike Beebe a clear path to his November showdown with Asa Hutchinson. Jerremy Wallace of the Herald Tribune discusses how Rep. Katherine Harris' (R-FL) campaign finance ethical troubles attract possible challengers from within the party. LINK

Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey's gubernatorial running mate Reed Hillman, formally apologized yesterday for his past decisions that may have partially discriminated against women. LINK

The Boston Herald has more: LINK

The Clintons of Chappaqua:

Former President Clinton in the Canadian press LINK

He said his wife would do an outstanding job but pointed to recent surveys and wondered if his country was ready for a female chief executive.

"In general there's still a tilt to a male preference at executive positions, but they're willing to suspend it if they believe the woman in question is strong enough."

"And yet if women are really strong, then they're liable to drive men off the wall -- that's been my observation over time," he said to laughter.

"My view is we ought to always vote for the person who would do the best job, and to take out more than half our population from consideration on the front end is really dumb."

Veronica Rhodes of the Regina Leader Post details President Clinton's speech yesterday in Regina, Canada. ?id=cbb93d3d-4968-4f89-827c-43ede072d9cf&k=22611">LINK

2008: Democrats:

Jim Puzzanghera and Mary Anne Ostrom of the Mercury News discuss the results of a new Field poll showing that "more than two-thirds of Californians believe America is ready for a female president, but fewer than half want Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) to get the job." LINK

The New York Sun's Josh Gerstein reports that a federal magistrate has ordered former Vice President Gore to give testimony in a trademark lawsuit against his new cable television venture, "despite objections from the company's lawyers that the request amounted to harassment." LINK

A front page Washington Post story about Gov. Tim Kaine (D-VA) contrasts him somewhat unfavorably with former Gov. Mark Warner's (D-VA) "knack for accepting bad news, seething for a moment and then moving quickly to turn a setback into an opportunity." The Winson-Salem Journal's Mary Shaffrey sees former Sen. John Edwards' (D-NC) work on the Council on Foreign Relations' Task Force on Russia as a much-needed boost to his foreign-policy credentials that could helps Edwards in 2008. LINK

2008: Republicans:

Although he pokes the governor around for a while, Ken Fuson of the Des Moines Register believes that "Huckabee came across as engaging, self-effacing and yet uncompromising in his beliefs" in his speech to the Iowa Christian Alliance. LINK

The Economist looks at the ways in which Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) is "redefining the Christian right." LINK


The Washington Times Reports that former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry was sentenced yesterday to three years of probation and ordered to pay almost $250,000 for failing to file federal or local tax returns. LINK

Gov. Jon Corzine's Garden State ethics flap -- less than two months into his tenure -- gets the Deb Orin treatment in the New York Post. LINK

Weekend in politics:

On Saturday, President Bush will attend the Gridiron Club dinner with the First Lady.

Page Six curtain raises the Gridiron Club dinner. LINK

Michael Bloomberg's billions -- or at least the $84 million he spent to get reelected -- will, no doubt, provide tons of fodder for the New York political press corps as they prepare to put on their annual Inner Circle show tomorrow night. (Think Gridiron -- New York style.) And after a year off (in observance of Pope John Paul II's death) the New York political/media establishment will once again get to see Mayor Bloomberg's musical talents. However, most observers expect the real show to be watched tomorrow evening will be the Andrew Cuomo/Mark Green dynamic taking place in the ballroom.

Also on Saturday, the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee will meet to consider the report and recommendations of the Commission on Presidential Timing and Scheduling at 10:00 am ET at the Hyatt on New Jersey Avenue in Washington, DC.

At 7:00 pm ET on Saturday, C-SPAN will carry Sen. John Kerry's (D-MA) live remarks to a fundraising dinner for the Democratic parties of Hillsborough County and the City of Nashua in always vital New Hampshire.

On Sunday, former Vice President Gore attends Florida State Democratic Party fundraisers and Gov. Romney celebrates his 59th birthday.

*Utah works better here than, say, Massachusetts.