WASHINGTON, Apr. 6
Democrats have been consistently pounding a national security message for a week now. From Rep. Jane Harman's PAC/Third Way training on national security policies and messaging for 32 House candidates to Sen. Schumer's DSCC poll showing what he believes is movement from defense to offense on national security for the Democratic Party, and Howard Dean and Wesley Clark's unveiling of the DNC's "Fighting Dems" agenda.
So, be sure to listen carefully as President Bush leaves his health care message behind today and pivots back to security. The President is scheduled to make remarks on the war on terror at 10:45 am ET in Charlotte, NC.
As if you were a production associate for "The Daily Show," listen for tone, nuance, Bushisms, tough and easy questions, and the President's message-o'-the-day.
ABC News' Travers reports, "The remarks will be informal -- not at a podium and not from a prepared text -- and the President will take questions from the audience. The World Affairs Council of Charlotte is the host for the event." LINK
(Exactly the kind of format that lends itself to allowing the President -- we bet -- to cleverly indicate just how serious he takes the Democratic Party's efforts to shore up their national security deficit with the American people.)
"There will be around 1000 people in the audience which will be made up of invited guests of the World Affairs Council of Charlotte and Central Piedmont Community College faculty and staff. President Bush will be introduced by Firoz Peera, the chairman of the World Affairs Council of Charlotte," adds Travers, as she takes a break from lacrosse coverage.
"President visits as his support in N.C. wanes," reads the Charlotte Observer's headline that will greet President Bush today. LINK
And we are typing fast, because an immigration deal in the Senate could be reached at any moment!!
House Majority Leader Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) holds a 10:30 am ET on-camera press briefing immediately followed by his Democratic counterpart Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who holds her weekly briefing at 10:45 am ET.
Democratic Reps. Dingell, Rangel, and Capps hold a 1:00 pm ET press conference on Medicare Part D.
Former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) joins Sen. Kennedy (D-MA) at noon ET for a rally for a "fair minimum wage." Later this evening, Edwards addresses the "American Rights at Work" organization at 7:00 pm ET.
Gov. Tom Vilsack (D-IA) has lunch and plays a game of chess with Andrea Rider at 1:30 pm ET. Andrea is a young girl with Cystic Fibrosis and, according to the Vilsack press office, the Rider family requested time from Governor Vilsack "who gladly agreed." Members of the press will have the opportunity to ask Andrea about her experiences with the governor at the conclusion of their lunch.
Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) swears in members of the Asian-American Commission in Boston, MA at 5:00 pm ET.
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA) speaks at Mount Union College in Cleveland, OH at 8:00 pm ET.
Pete Ricketts (R-NE) is set to receive a "major endorsement" at 3:30 pm ET in Lincoln, NE.
Eliot Spitzer (D-NY) addresses the "Democratic Leadership for the 21st Century" organization in New York, NY at 8:15 pm ET.
Rev. Al Sharpton (D-NY) kicks off his National Action Network annual convention in New York, NY. Sen. John Kerry delivers the keynote tomorrow morning.
The Fitzgerald investigation:
In a must-read, the New York Sun's Josh Gerstein reports that Scooter Libby testified to a grand jury that he gave information from a National Intelligence Estimate to the New York Times with the "specific permission of President Bush," according to a new court filing from the special prosecutor in the case. LINK
Politics of immigration:
Sen./Dr./Leader Frist did a morning TV tour this day, and seemed pretty confident that something on immigration bearing his imprint will emerge from the Senate.
Wednesday's late-night immigration compromise does "not have the commitment of all Republicans, much less Democrats," yet it "cannot pass without the support of Democrats, who said they were still weighing their options," the New York Times Notes. LINK
"There were signs, though, that some of Mr. Kennedy's allies among business and immigrant advocacy groups were throwing their support behind the compromise proposal. The leaders of the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition, which represents hotels, restaurants and other service industries, said a limited legalization would be better than a bill that focused solely on tightening border security."
The Washington Post's Weisman on the compromise Republicans "believe will garner enough bipartisan support to break through a parliamentary impasse. . ." LINK
David Brooks worries that "Democrats might end up defeating a liberal immigration bill over a trifle." LINK
Democrats intent on opposing last night's immigration compromise may want to keep this line from the Los Angeles Times in mind: "Privately, some Republicans have expressed concern that if the Senate bill fails, the House bill will be left standing as the GOP position on immigration." LINK
Michelle Mittelstadt of the Dallas Morning News breaks down the "11th hour" alternative proposed by Leader/Sen./Dr. Bill Frist (R-TN) yesterday. LINK
Is President Bush aiding the congressional stalemate over immigration? The Los Angeles Times' Ron Brownstein says the answer may be yes, given his "strategy of calculated ambiguity . . . on the most difficult issue dividing senators": what to do with the illegal immigrants already in the country. LINK
"Those sympathetic to the White House approach say it is executing a sophisticated legislative strategy by allowing the Senate maximum flexibility to reach its own compromise."
"Others, on both sides of the issue, worry that Bush's reticence increases the danger that no bill will emerge from the complex legislative maneuvering in the Senate."
The New York Post's Deb Orin Notes says Republicans are going about the immigration debate all wrong. LINK
"Indeed, many Republicans privately say they believe Bush is blowing the immigration issue by failing to frame it as a border-protection national security issue, which would put Democrats on the defensive."
Per the New York Daily News, Sen. Hillary Clinton told constituents yesterday that she's not optimistic about getting an immigration bill signed into law this year. LINK
"'I think it's going to be hard,' said Clinton (D-N.Y.) in a speech to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. 'I think it's going to be a challenge because right now the ... bill that came out of the House is unacceptable.'"
The Washington Post's N.C. Aizenman has Jaime Contreras of the National Capital Immigrant Coalition predicting that Monday's immigration demonstration at the Washington Monument will draw 100,000 people and that nationally the turnout, in more than 60 cities, would number "in the millions." LINK
The New York Post does some investigating and finds that a "high-ranking Pentagon official" dug through Sen. Hillary Clinton's financial filings during the kerfuffle over the Dubai ports deal last month. LINK
"Exactly what Francis was searching for, and who told him to do it, remains a mystery... It's common for reporters and opposition researchers to pore over a lawmaker's personal financial disclosure forms, but exceedingly rare for Defense Department officials to do it."
The Note Noted with curiosity that the first edition of this story in the Post differed from the second edition by this crucial and buried sentence: "One possible explanation for Francis' interest could be Clinton's membership since 2004 in the Joint Forces Command advisory group."
Since the first edition rolls off the presses early evening, we can only assume that the Post waited until late in the day to seek an explanation, and when a plausible one was floated, they were in a jam and couldn't get out of it easily.
To confirm the suspicions, The Note caught up with Clinton spokesguy Philippe Reines early this morning. Reluctant to pierce the Reporter-Spokesman privilege and comment on the specific mechanics of his interactions with the tabloid, Philippe did offer this groggily from bed: "Senator Clinton has proudly served on this important defense advisory group at the request of the Pentagon since 2004 - especially since she is the only member of the Senate to do so. Joint Forces Command needs to explain this, but as we understand it, Federal statute requires every member of TAG to file a disclosure form on an annual basis, and since Members of Congress already do so in the normal course of doing their jobs, TAG simply pulls those to satisfy the requirement. In this case, they did so with our full knowledge. It's unfortunate tabloid journalism, but it does bring attention to the important work of this group, and Senator Clinton is looking forward to the next TAG meeting later this month. Now, I'd like to go back to watching CNN AM in the hopes of seeing Soledad vs. McKinney III - I have $50 on Ms. O'Brien."
For those curious about TAG: LINK
A US Defense Department official concurs with Reines' explanation by telling ABC News' Adam Belmar, "Three members of Congress serve on Joint Forces Command transformation advisory group (TAG). Federal law requires members to file financial disclosure forms to ensure there is no conflict of interest. The NY Post story is part of routine checks."
The Washington Post's Dan Balz has Sen. Jack Reed saying that Sen. Kerry's call for most US troops to be out of Iraq by the end of the year is "consistent with the Democrats' belief that 2006 should be a year of significant transition in Iraq; Reed did not endorse the deadline schedule." LINK
"Kerry's proposals drew no reaction from the White House or the Republican National Committee, which one GOP official called a sign that they do not regard Kerry as someone likely to influence others in his party on the central foreign policy issue of the day."
The AP's Dylan Lovan follows Gen. Wesley Clark's visit to Elizabethtown and Owensboro to stump for state Rep. Mike Weaver (D-KY) in Kentucky's 2nd District. LINK
Clintons of Chappaqua:
Get ready! This rather benign and clever side-by-side comparison of President Clinton and his Senator wife is only a hint of what's to come if Sen. Clinton decides to run for the White House. LINK
"The dueling speeches from the political twosome were more than the Clintons writ large, the power couple who elicit equal parts love and loathing in some citizens. The situation showed that Sen. Clinton is carefully treading on the presidential path taken by her husband and, no matter what she does or says, will always be compared with him," write the AP's Cassata and Fournier.
In a story looking at President Bush's efforts to re-focus attention on his energy and health-care plans, the Washington Post's Peter Baker writes that the President's health-care plan "stood in striking contrast to the new legislation passed this week in next-door Massachusetts, which is set to become the first state to require that all residents obtain health insurance just as all drivers must have automobile insurance." LINK
Gov. Mitt Romney appeared on ABC's Good Morning America today to explain the logistics of his state's new health care plan.
Describing the plan, Gov. Romney said, "Now we're saying to everybody, come on in." When asked about his presidential aspirations, Gov. Romney ducked the issue, but talked about his work as a Republican with the Democratic legislature in a Democratic state.
The Governor appeared as a soundbite on the nation's two top-rated evening news casts last night, in the lede pieces.
Pam Belluck's New York Times analysis of the Massachusetts health care bill praises Gov. Romney's ability to bring together "virtually every political stakeholder in the state" and includes this gem of a line, which is sure to be saved and framed by the Romney '08 campaign: "Mr. Romney . . . supplied a template for the bill with some of the most innovative ideas." LINK
The Boston Globe offers a detailed look at how exactly the plan will work: LINK
The Boston Globe asks whether the move brings Romney to the national stage as a big-government Republican or a bipartisan deal-maker. LINK
Page Six reports oddsmaker Danny Sheridan has made Sen. Hillary Clinton a 3:1 favorite for the 2008 election, followed by Sen. John McCain at 6:1, and Rudy Giuliani and George Allen at 7:1. LINK
The AP's Ron Fournier writes up Gov. Romney's health care plan under the headline, "Clinton praises Romney health care plan." LINK
The American Conservative Union is out with its congressional ratings and Republican '08ers Allen, Brownback, and Tancredo all scored 100%. None of the Democratic '08ers in the Senate made it on to the "worst of the worst" list with a 0% rating.
From the ACU release: "The 'Rating' encompasses three categories: economic and budget matters; social and cultural issues, and defense and foreign policy. Within these categories, ACU selects 25 votes based on the following question: does the vote reflect a clear ideological principle? While ACU tends to select votes on important matters, the votes are not necessarily on key issues."
Prof. Dante Scala runs some numbers on the four Granite State towns John McCain will visit this week and discovers they are Democratic-leaning towns where McCain performed better than his overall statewide performance in the 2000 primary. LINK
The New York Post previews former Mayor Rudy Giuliani's testimony at the Zacarias Moussaoui trial, reporting that he will "testify about the devastating impact the attacks had on New York City" and "may touch on his firsthand experience with the tragic human impact of the attacks." LINK
The New York Daily News on the same: LINK
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Ross Douthat describes Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) as someone whose vision encompasses "Third World poverty, prostitution and prison reform without sacrificing any urgency on issues of life and death."
Big Casino budget politics:
The Washington Times' Amy Fagan calls the budget vote -- expected today or tomorrow -- the "first major test" for House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH). LINK
"We have a challenge," Boehner said this week, "We have people who want to spend more; we have people who want to spend less."
The budget battle in Congress is made more divisive by the composition of the spending, 80 percent of which is mandatory, reports the New York Times' Edmund Andrews. LINK
"With tax cuts putting a squeeze on government revenues, almost all the battle to shrink the budget deficit is therefore focused on the less than one-fifth of government spending that goes to domestic 'discretionary' programs like education, scientific research, national parks and space programs."
The Hill's Patrick O'Connor points out the House GOP impasse on the budget bill and has a comprehensive list of Republicans who might join a unified Democratic "nay" vote. LINK
The Washington Post's Tom Edsall Notes in his lede that the House bill capping 527 donations would "benefit Republicans." LINK
The New York Times' Sheryl Gay Stolberg takes Note of the fact that even if the limits the House passed on 527 groups become law, "it is unclear how much will change." LINK
"Already, groups like MoveOn.org are operating under another section of the tax code, 501(c)4, which is not covered by the legislation passed Wednesday."
Democrats in the Senate have vowed to block the bill, reports Roll Call's Tory Newmyer. Alexander Bolton of The Hill writes that House Republicans have struck a deal with Sen. McCain to eliminate restrictions on "coordination between national parties and federal candidates," a deal that would be of great benefit to Sen. McCain should he win his party's presidential nomination. LINK
Per Bolton, "Eliminating the coordination limit would be especially helpful to the Republican presidential nominee in 2008 because the Republican National Committee (RNC) has a huge fundraising advantage over its Democratic counterpart, greater than the disparity between the Republican and Democratic fundraising committees affiliated with the Senate and House."
Zachary Coile of the San Francisco Chronicle points out that while "the bill could prove a blow to the Democratic Party," some analysts believe that "the most potent 527 campaign was run by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth," a GOP 527 that questioned John Kerry's military record in 2004. LINK
Democratic candidate Nick Lampson says he will run in a special election to succeed Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) if it's held at the earliest possible date, reports the Houston Chronicle's Kristen Mack. LINK
Bob Novak looks back on the political career of Tom DeLay and offers, not a defense, but more of a misty-eyed tribute to "the most effective legislator of his time." LINK
The New York Times' David Kirkpatrick looks at what will happen to conservative interest groups with Tom DeLay out of Congress, Noting that Christian conservative groups are particularly concerned. LINK
As soon as he resigns, Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) will be eligible for a nearly $67,000 a year congressional pension, per Samantha Levine of the Houston Chronicle. LINK
The internal divisions and lack of leadership among House Republicans are "crystallized," writes the New York Times' Carl Hulse, in "the leadership's desperate search this week for votes to pass its budget." LINK
"The leadership hunted for budget votes on Wednesday, trying to appease conservatives with promises of votes on budget enforcement rules and centrists with commitments to resolve complaints about low spending on social programs with later adjustments. It remained unclear whether Republicans could cross the budget finish line."
Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus told McKinney to "back off," reports Josephine Hearn of The Hill. LINK
"I told her she needs to lower the temperature and stop holding the press conferences," Lewis said… "I don't think it had any impact because she is still going on all the TV shows."
The Washington Post's Dana Milbank writes that Democrats were "just beginning to dream about the possibility of taking control of the House" as GOP unity collapsed over spending, immigration, Iraq, and lobbying scandals when Rep. McKinney "had her dust-up with the cops and responded with a charge of racial profiling." LINK
"A. . . grand jury has subpoenaed a House staffer who allegedly witnessed an incident between Rep. Cynthia McKinney and a U.S. Capital police officer last week," writes John McArdle of Roll Call.
The federal prosecutor is, "expected to call at least three eyewitnesses to testify before the grand jury," about Rep. Cynthia McKinney's (D-GA) "altercation" with a Capital police officer, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Bob Kemper. LINK
Politics of Iraq:
Keying off of Sen. Kerry's call for US troops to be out of Iraq by the end of the year and three House GOPers calling for a lengthy congressional debate on Iraq, Knight-Ridder's Steven Thomma, Tim Funk, and James Kunhenn report that if Congress "ever turns against the Iraq war, analysts may look back at this week as a turning point." LINK
"Many of us have taken heat for what we're doing," said Rep. Jones on Wednesday. "But you know what? One day I will die, and I hope I will have a chance to look at the throne where my Lord and Savior is sitting and I hope He will say to me, 'alter, you are welcome because you sought the truth.'"
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said "he did not know what Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was talking about when she said last week that the United States had made thousands of 'tactical errors' in handling the war in Iraq, a statement she later said was meant figuratively," the Washington Post's Josh White reports. LINK
Bush Administration agenda:
Lawmakers appear to be making progress on a bid to extend President Bush's lower 15% tax rates on capital gains and dividends, the Wall Street Journal's Brody Mullins reports.
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, former Bush economic adviser Larry Lindsay writes that as a "matter of principle," President Bush should "seek to leave office with an exchange rate consistent with one that would be market-determined, a goal requiring an appreciation of the yuan of roughly 1% per month."
The New York Times' wonky Jim Rutenberg arrives on his new beat and writes that the President's appearance in Connecticut yesterday to push his Health Savings Accounts plan seemed to intentionally put "the president on domestic policy ground far from the war in Iraq." LINK
For those with enough time and focus to stop pondering Scott McClellan's future: you should know that, per ABC News' Ann Compton, White House CoS and non-Massy candidate Andy Card is sporting a cast on his left arm, after he broke his wrist and his elbow in a fall while biking with POTUS last week.
"Both parties believe that by November the Medicare drug benefit will be a plus for them," and both are therefore readying Medicare messaging to members over the recess, writes Patrick O'Connor of the Hill. LINK
Politics of surveillance:
The New York Times ed board endorses a Sen. Chuck Schumer bill that would put the domestic surveillance program on the fast track to the Supreme Court. LINK
The Pentagon database that tracked war protests "improperly retained reports that should have been removed, according to an internal review," reports the Los Angeles Times. LINK
Politics of national security:
The nuclear agreement with India "gained support from key lawmakers in both parties" yesterday, the Los Angeles Times reports, in spite of some concerns and questions about the program. LINK
The White House's domestic nuclear plan, unveiled yesterday, is taking more heat, "both from those who say it does not move fast enough to consolidate plutonium stores and from those who say restarting bomb production would encourage aspiring nuclear powers across the globe to develop weapons." LINK
Sen. Schumer was cautiously optimistic about his efforts to lead the Democrats to the majority at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast yesterday.
"If the election were held today the Senate would be 50-50," said Schumer. (He assumed holding on to all Dem seats and picking up Pennsylvania, Ohio, Missouri, Montana, and Tennessee in this calculation.)
Schumer on the national political environment: "The wind is at our back right now. That could change at anytime."
He boasted of limiting retirements, good recruiting, and good fundraising. He is also quite proud of the DSCC's lower burn rate than that of the NRSC.
To retake the majority he said, "all the stars have to be aligned just right."
The two pillars of the Democratic argument for this election as Schumer sees it:
1. A real need for change. Sen. Schumer said that most Americans -- even if they didn't agree with Bush on anything -- found him to be a "likeable honest chap" who can sit at eye level and tell you the truth. Now they are not so sure and are far more distrustful of him, claims Schumer.
2. Competence. Sen. Schumer said that what Hurricane Katrina did to lift the veil on this Administration's domestic policy, the Dubai ports deal did for foreign policy. He said he would expect to see images of Katrina in television ads for some of his Senate candidates this fall.
And in a statement that may come back to haunt him if the President's approval rating begins to creep northward, Schumer said "80 percent of this election will be a referendum on George W. Bush." Schumer said "20% is about a Democratic alternative, which "is necessary, but not at all sufficient."
Jonathan Kaplan of The Hill presents the Democratic attack plan, has Sen. Schumer talking about the 2006 elections, and recalls a GOP senator saying last month that "What I fear most is the competence thing." LINK
"An internal document prepared by a top Democratic strategist warns that a majority of African American voters in Maryland are open to supporting Republican Senate candidate Michael S. Steele and advises the party not to wait to 'knock Steele down,'" the Washington Post's Matthew Mosk reports. LINK
The Baltimore Sun's Jennifer Skalka writes that the fact that state and national Democrats are "examining the leanings of blacks early in the race shows concern." LINK
On the front page of the Washington Post, Shailagh Murray reports that Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT) has "distinguished himself as a reliably moderate House Republican" for nearly 20 years. But he has "strayed deep into loyalist GOP territory on Iraq, "and that could cost him his job." LINK
The Philadelphia Daily News picks up on a report from The Hill about a Pennsylvania House race getting quite personal. LINK
"Apparently trying to score political points on a residency issue, Weldon reportedly suggested to a Washington newspaper that Sestak should have sent his daughter to a hospital in Pennsylvania or Delaware, rather than the Children's National Medical Center in Washington, where she has been treated since the tumor was diagnosed last summer."
The Washington Post's George F. Will has an aide to Judy Topinka, the Republican gubernatorial nominee in Illinois who was urged to run by Karl Rove, saying "We just want him to raise money" . . . "late at night" . . . "in an undisclosed location" . . . when asked whether Topinka wants the President to campaign for her. LINK
Per the Los Angeles Times, the primary for California's Democratic gubernatorial race has turned negative. LINK
John Wildermuth and Carla Marinucci of the San Francisco Chronicle discuss the heating up of the Democratic gubernatorial primary in California and have some nice Westly and Angelides quotes from yesterday, Noting that "the only real surprise about Angelides' attacks was the timing. A race as close and hard-fought as the Democratic campaign for governor was guaranteed to get nasty." LINK
Wayne Semprini, the new head of the New Hampshire GOP, is criticizing Gov. John Lynch (D-NH) and New Hampshire Democratic Chair Kathy Sullivan for not standing firm enough against calls from national Democrats to shuffle the primary order, according the Union Leader's John DiStaso. LINK
And, per every Thursday, that is just one of the must-read nuggets in DiStaso's opus. Decide for yourself if The Pledge is premature!!!
Clark Kauffman and Jonathan Roos of the Des Moines Register detail Gov. Vilsack's call for Iowa Workforce Development director Richard Running and deputy director Jane Barto's resignation over their $360,000 salaries. &LINK
As you first learned here yesterday, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is asking a handful of wealthy New Yorkers, who he estimates collectively gave $61 million to candidates nationwide in 2004, to stop supporting these candidates unless they begin funding Bloomberg's priorities for the New York City area. LINK
The New York Times' Patrick Healy reports Bloomberg cites Tom DeLay as part of his inspiration. The Washington Post's Judy Sarasohn has the inside scoop on Paul Begala's successful campaign for student body president. LINK
When she's not covering the White House and lacrosse, Karen Travers covers White House baseball: Per ABC News' hyper-versatile Karen Travers:
Vice President Cheney will throw out the first pitch at the Washington Nationals home opener next Tuesday April 11 at RFK Stadium. Game time is 1:05 pm ET against the New York Mets
The Nationals Note that Cheney will continue a tradition of Vice President's throwing out a first pitch in Washington. Charles Dawes, vice president under Calvin Coolidge, threw out a first pitch in 1926 and Hubert Humphrey did so in 1968.
According to a release from the Nationals, 12 presidents and four vice presidents since 1910 have thrown out a first pitch in Washington. Last year, President Bush had the honor to throw out the first pitch at the first Major League Baseball game in Washington since 1971.
"The Nationals are pleased to continue the time-honored baseball tradition in our Nation's Capital, and welcome the Vice President to RFK Stadium," said team president Tony Tavares in a statement.
Cheney is no stranger to the pitcher's mound -- he has already thrown out a first pitch at two MLB games.
Cheney on the mound:
August 18, 2001
Casper Rockies vs. Ogden Raptors (Pioneer League)
George Tani Field, Casper, WY
April 5, 2002
Texas Rangers vs. Anaheim Angels
The Ballpark at Arlington, Arlington, TX
April 5, 2004
Cincinnati Reds vs. Chicago Cubs
Great American Ballpark, Cincinnati, OH
July 4, 2004
Altoona Curve vs. Harrisburg Senators (Double AA)
Blair County Ballpark, Altoona, PA