The Note: Stress Position

WASHINGTON, Apr. 14

Quasi-cryptic Note lede:

1. After a long and distinguished career, a chance to rest.

2. Spend more time with the family.

3. Mission accomplished.

4. A need to hear new voices.

5. The policy has failed.

6. What the Gang of 500 wants, the Gang of 500 gets.

7. Stay the course!!!!!

President Bush is at Camp David in the Maryland mountains and has no public events, and, thus, a lot of time to think (and watch baseball).

Gov. Mitt Romney is in California today for Republican Governors Association and Commonwealth Political Action Committee finance meetings.

The Christian Defense Coalition holds the first public celebration of the "Stations of the Cross" on Capitol Hill at 2:30 pm ET. Participants will walk and carry the cross past the Supreme Court, congressional office buildings, and the Capitol.

The Washington Region Religious Campaign Against Torture holds a 5:00 pm ET vigil outside the Vice President's residence in Washington, DC to demonstrate opposition to the "policies and practices of the Bush Administration that allow the cruel and inhumane treatment of individuals detained in the war on terrorism."

The grand jury investigating the CIA leak may meet at 9:30 am ET in Washington, DC.

Sam Donaldson gives a guided tour of "Fantasyland," while Mark Halperin delivers his weekly look at who took steps forward and backward in their 2008 presidential runs in the past seven days: George Stephanopoulos has all this and more for you on "This Week All Week," the best political Webcast around. Click here to view for the same price as The Note: FREE!!!!: LINK

Senate Foreign Relations Chair Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) and his Hoosier State colleague, Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN), will be George's guests on "This Week" this Easter morning. George will ask these two leading Senators on foreign policy about the six generals who called out the Secretary of Defense this week, Iran's announcement of its nuclear progress, and the Chinese president's upcoming visit to Washington. Be sure to tune in.

The Note will not be publishing on Monday, April 17. We'll be back on Tuesday, April 18.

With the move of Mike Abramowitz to cover the White House for the Washington Post, The Note challenges our readers to name a more influential pair of sister-brother political reporters working in America today than Mike and Rachel. Think about it over the holiday weekend, and let us know by Tuesday. Congratulations to Michael, and to all our readers: Have a happy holiday.

Rumsfeld rumblings:

Gen. John Batiste (Ret.), who served in Iraq for 2 and a half years, had harsh words for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld while appearing on morning television. Gen. Batiste said his call for Rumsfeld to resign has to do with "accountability and leadership."

"We went to war with a flawed plan," Batiste said. Rumsfeld "didn't understand leadership," he was "arrogant" and "impulsive."

Asked on whether or not the Secretary of Defense was open to input, Gen. Batiste said that "he built the plan the way he wanted to, without regard to" others.

The New York Times ledes its paper with a two-column wide story on the growing chorus of retired generals calling for Secretary Rumsfeld to resign. LINK

"Among the retired generals who have called for Mr. Rumsfeld's ouster, some have emphasized that they still believe it was right for the United States to invade Iraq. But a common thread in their complaints has been an assertion that Mr. Rumsfeld and his aides too often inserted themselves unnecessarily into military decisionmaking, often disregarding advice from military commanders."

"The outcry also appears based in part on a coalescing of concern about the toll that the war is taking on American armed forces, with little sign, three years after the invasion, that United States troops will be able to withdraw in large numbers anytime soon."

USA Today recaps the six former generals criticizing Rumsfeld. LINK

The Washington Post on Scott McClellan's "rebuffing calls" for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's resignation yesterday: LINK

The New York Daily News' Sisk on the same. LINK

The Washington Post's David Ignatius jumps on the fire-Rumsfeld bandwagon. LINK

According to Salon's Scherer and Benjamin, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was personally involved in the interrogation of Mohammed al-Kahtani, a member of al-Qaida, and approved interrogation strategies that included forced nudity, stress positions and the removal of religious items. LINK

USA Today/Gallup:

Susan Page and David Jackson write in USA Today of new polling numbers that show Americans are increasingly isolationist in their thinking, opposing everything from international trade to illegal immigration to increased U.S. international engagement. LINK

Per Page and Jackson: "Public opinion now is reminiscent of the Vietnam War."

USA Today's Richard Benedetto Notes that seven months of Mr. Bush on the offensive about Iraq has done precisely nothing to increase public approval of the handling of the war in Iraq, which remains at 32 percent. LINK

Politics of Katrina:

New studies on the aftermath of Katrina, including one that claims "the toll of false starts and missed opportunities appears likely to top $1 billion," are renewing Congress' frustration with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, the Washington Post reports. LINK

Politics of Easter eggs:

Deb Orin of the New York Post writes of the gay and lesbian parents who intend to line up for White House Easter Egg Roll tickets which get distributed tomorrow. LINK

Zachary Coile of the San Francisco Chronicle writes that the gay and lesbian movement to attend the Egg Roll "could succeed in putting a spotlight on gay and lesbian families at an event that is heavily covered by the Washington press corps." LINK

Bush Administration agenda:

The AP's Jennifer Loven, eating Jeff Zeleny's dust, looks at the 10 political appearances -- all fundraisers -- that First Lady Laura Bush has "notched" so far this cycle. LINK

Staffers lined up to greet Andy Card on his last day of work at the White House, the AP reports. LINK

Liz Smith passes along Fred Barnes' suggestions for a White House staff shakeup. LINK

Back to the well: Paul Krugman opines on the New York Times op-ed page that what he sees as deceptions made by the Administration in its war rationale are similar to what he sees as deceptions made by the Administration in its tax cutting rationale. LINK

The Fitzgerald investigation:

The Washington Post's Jeffrey Smith writes that nobody knows "exactly what provoked" the federal judge in the Scooter Libby case from threatening to impose a gag order yesterday. LINK

Smith also reports that the Post will give Patrick Fitzgerald a "complete copy of a memorandum" written by Bob Woodward after his interview with Libby on June 27, 2003. The Post characterizes the move, which was prompted by a subpoena by Libby's defense team, as not posing "legal or journalistic concerns."

The New York Times' Johnston writes up the threatened gag order from Judge Walton and the defense team's desire to call Marc Grossman, Ari Fleischer, and Karl Rove to the witness stand. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Anne Marie Squeo reminds us that the Libby trial may "highlight the faulty intelligence leading to the Iraq war and the infighting over it within the Bush administration," with expectations that a "host of current and former administration officials" will testify. LINK

The Boston Globe's Charlie Savage on Libby's request to open up the President's pre-war intelligence files. LINK

Politics of immigration:

The New York Times' Jim Rutenberg goes through the debate over how involved the President should be in trying to get a Senate immigration bill passed and the clear political calculation at 1600 to blame the Democrats for thwarting reform. LINK

Marjorie Connolly of the same paper takes thorough stock of all the recent immigration polling and ledes her assessment thusly: "Americans see illegal immigrants as using more public services than they pay for and want the government to do a better job of controlling the borders, but they favor legal status for current illegal immigrants under specific conditions. . ." LINK

Grassroots groups are divided over whether to initiate a "massive job and economic boycott" on May 1, according to the Washington Post's Darryl Fears and N.C. Aizenman. LINK

The New York Post's Deb Orin columnizes about a Rasmussen poll she seems to believe indicates the immigration rallies and marches across the country may have backfired. LINK

"So maybe the conventional and politically correct media wisdom is wrong, as usual, with its focus on Republican splits over immigration and the risk that get-tough Republicans will alienate Latinos." Despite the fact that they want essentially the same outcome, Sen. Minority Leader Harry Reid and President Bush are blaming each other for the stalemate on immigration legislation, reports Gebe Martinez of the Houston Chronicle. LINK

The New York Post's Orin on the Bush/Reid "tit for tat:" LINK

Almost no one on Capitol Hill is speaking about deportation as a realistic option, writes Michelle Mittelstadt of the Dallas Morning News. LINK

Politics of preemption:

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire quotes one unnamed Republican lawmaker who has begun to "fret about voter backlash if airstrikes occurred to stop Iran's nuclear program: 'The administration lacks the political support needed to use military force.'" LINK

In his New York Post column, John Podhoretz suggests President Bush hold a bipartisan summit at Camp David along with his top cabinet officials and advisers to discuss proposals on how to deal with Iran. LINK

"This is a sensible idea for several reasons. First: The president has only 32 months left to serve in office, and lacks an anointed or even putative successor. Iran will be a challenge for the foreseeable future; he should attempt to give both parties ownership of a policy that can survive him," writes Podhoretz.

Politics of gas:

The Wall Street Journal editorial board says Congress deserves part of the blame for rising gas prices thanks to the "ethanol love-fest that Congress engaged in last summer as part of its energy bill." LINK

Mollohan:

Embattled Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV) yesterday defended the "surge" in value of his investments, "contending that he benefited from rising values and good investments," reports the Washington Post's Thomas Edsall. LINK

GOP agenda:

Pat Robertson takes to opinionjournal.com to warn Republicans that "30% of Republican Party voters are motivated by moral values," and if "those voters stay home in 2006 and 2008, the Democrats will sweep those elections." LINK

2006: House:

The New York Times' Rick Lyman profiles the NRCC target race in South Carolina's 5th congressional district Noting the state's 2008 prominence as a fundraising draw as potential '08ers swing by to help out. LINK

Try to imagine how much fun it was for Jonathan Hicks to craft this lede in his New York Times story: "Roger L. Green, the Brooklyn assemblyman who pleaded guilty in 2004 to petty larceny, formally kicked off his campaign for Congress yesterday, announcing that he is challenging United States Representative Edolphus Towns in what is certain to be a high-spirited Democratic primary." LINK

2006: Senate:

The Washington Post fronts a look at the challenges facing Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI), as he tries to appear conservative enough to fend off G.O.P. primary challenger Stephen Laffey while staying moderate enough to win a general election. LINK

Chafee's not optimistic: "I'm running for opposite constituencies… It's impossible." The Washington Post's Richard Morin writes up a new Yale University study that (theoretically) provides bad news for Republican Maryland Senate hopeful Michael Steele: apparently, white Republicans tend to cross over and vote for Democrats when the G.O.P. candidate is black. LINK

The Washington Post's Robert Barnes reviews Rep. Benjamin Cardin's (D-MD) odds of securing the Democratic nomination for Senate in Maryland: while the money and endorsements favor Cardin, the Post says "almost everyone who is handicapping the race at this point has a reason why the front-runner should be nervous." LINK

In light of a recent Cornell Belcher polling memo on Michael Steele, the New York Post editorial board urges Chuck Schumer and other Democratic leaders to "reject a racialist campaign against a black man who just happens to be a Republican." LINK

The Schwarzenegger Era:

In a must-read for anyone following the California governor's race, the Los Angeles Times' Robert Salladay writes that Phil Angelides "isn't afraid of the T-word." LINK

Angelides compares himself to Pat Brown and Ronald Reagan -- previous governors who raised taxes -- and says in an interview that "the seminal issue of his campaign is 'whether we are going to have the guts and the will to provide our kids with the best education possible.'"

Westly adviser Garry South, who has never been one to mince words, "called promoting tax increases to such an extent 'beyond idiotic.'"

"'I can't even begin to tell you how stupid that position is,' South said. 'If he is the Democratic nominee in November, he is toast.'"

"Angelides and Westly support the $2-billion tax increase in Proposition 82. But Angelides would raise taxes even further -- to increase school funding, reduce fees at public colleges and expand teacher training and recruitment. In addition, the state still spends about $4 billion more than it receives in taxes -- and Angelides says his plan would close that so-called structural deficit. The total cost is about $8 billion in additional taxes."

Per the Los Angeles Times' Robert Salladay, "Few people have worked harder than Joe Nuñez to sabotage Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's political fortunes. A high-ranking teachers union official, he helped engineer the governor's embarrassing defeat in the special election last year. So to Republicans, it was nothing short of infuriating and confounding that Schwarzenegger would appoint Nuñez to the state Board of Education. He handed a Democrat and avowed enemy one of the most prestigious patronage jobs in government." LINK

Competing everywhere: McCain goes to Iowa:

The Washington Post's Dan Balz reports that there is a mixed reaction to Sen. John McCain's (R-AZ) attempts to repair relations with Iowans. LINK

"[O]pinions here differ sharply on the question of whether Iowa's most conservative activists will warm to a candidate who has been on the opposite side of so many issues, including immigration and campaign finance reform. Perhaps, more significantly, McCain's criticism of the religious right in 2000 remains a potential obstacle."

Balz has Rep. Jim Leach (R-IA) saying that he believes McCain's "war record and national stature override specific disagreements with the party's right flank. 'There will be no antagonism to John,' he said Thursday."

"Leach noted that in some past campaigns, conservatives branded certain presidential candidates as unacceptable. 'There is no sense of that with John,' he said. 'He will be nobody's last choice.'"

But Steve Scheffler, who heads the Iowa Christian Alliance, predicted that McCain will never win the harts or vote of the bulk of religious conservatives. "'I don't think he's going to get anywhere,' Scheffler said." Scheffler also said that if McCain opposes the constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriages (as he plans to do), "that would be 'political suicide.'"

It's evident that Sen. McCain is positioning himself to win the GOP presidential nomination, but Charlie Cook Notes in National Journal that, "the $64,000 question is how much McCain might jeopardize his potential general election support among Democrats and independents by bonding so publicly with the Right."

The Des Moines Register's Tom Beaumont has Sen. McCain saying: 'If I decide to run -- and I emphasize, if I decide to run -- you've got to have an army on the ground," when asked about hiring two top GOP advisers with Iowa ties. LINK

In the past, Sen. McCain has said that ethanol is, "good for neither the environment nor the consumer," but during a visit to Iowa yesterday he mentioned that the biofuel may be more viable now due to rising gas prices, report Beaumont and Fuson of the Des Moines Register. LINK

Ed Tibbetts of the Quad-City Times Notes that Sen. McCain hasn't flipped completely on the ethanol issue and has him saying, "I was and remain opposed to subsidies." LINK

The Cedar Rapids Gazette has Sen. McCain "expressing concern" over Iran and backing President Bush for his decision "not to take the military option off the table." LINK

2008: Republicans:

The Boston Globe reports on why the Massachusetts health care legislation may just be a good fit for the Bay State and not necessarily a national model. LINK

The New York Times editorial board gives kudos to Gov. Pataki and writes that most of Pataki's proposed budget cuts "make sense." LINK

2008: Democrats:

According to a filing with the Federal Election Commission, Sen. Hillary Clinton's (D-NY) Senate re-election campaign raised $6,072,801 in the 1st quarter of 2006. Her re-elect committee now has $19,703,421 cash on hand.

While Sen. Clinton and her advisers insist that her only focus is winning a second term in the Senate, her hefty fundraising clip -- in the face of only minimal opposition in New York -- will fuel the already-strong-speculation that she is laying the groundwork to run for president in 2008. (Actually: no it won't!!)

Money raised by Sen. Clinton's re-election committee that is not spent on her Senate race can be transferred into a presidential campaign.

The New York Post's Bishop looks at Sen. Clinton's burn rate and includes this helpful comparison: "Despite her fund-raising prowess, Clinton has been spending too much to keep pace with senior New York Sen. Chuck Schumer. She has $1.1 million less in the bank than Schumer had at this stage of his re-election race in 2004." LINK

The New York Times on the same: LINK

The New York Daily News' Helen Kennedy calls Sen. Clinton's $19.7 million in cash on hand "a colossal pile of money compared with her little-known and ill-funded challengers for the Senate seat." LINK

"Former Yonkers mayor John Spencer has $340,000 on hand and former Pentagon official Kathleen "K.T." McFarland has $430,000."

The AP writes that Sen. Clinton is "raising money like a presidential candidate even though she's running against poorly funded Senate opponents." Lloyd Grove shares a fun (if true) anecdote from Joe Klein's new book about the final night of the 2004 Democratic National Convention. LINK

Joel Connelly of the Seattle Post Intelligencer writes up Sen. Kerry's breakfast appearance in Seattle on Wednesday, arguing that Kerry does sound like a presidential candidate, "and one whose redeployment-from-Iraq stance is to the left of the perceived front-runner, Sen. Hillary Clinton," Noting however that "the culture of his party is, however, working against Kerry." LINK

New Hampshire:

The Washington Post reports that revelations of 2002 phone calls from a G.O.P. consultant to Ken Mehlman are threatening to drag the White House into a phone-jamming scandal that dates to the 2002 New Hampshire Senate race. LINK

"Paul Twomey, of Epsom, N.H., an attorney for the Democratic Party in its civil lawsuit, said that he wants to question Mehlman and Davis to determine if the calls dealt with the phone-jamming scheme. 'You have somebody who's committing a felony, and he's calling [the White House] during the planning, the execution and when it's falling apart,' Twomey said."

Tom Fahey of the Union Leader Notes that the Hampshire Senate unanimously voted to make Election Day phone-jamming a felony. The AP reports a victory for Gov. Robert Taft of Ohio in his attempts to keep some of his documents sealed in relation to corruption charges. LINK

Politics:

He may have given up his leadership post four years ago, but Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) still has clout in the Senate, writes the Chicago Tribune's Jill Zuckman. LINK

The AP reports on Senator Kennedy flirting with the enemy. LINK

Party planning:

Political reporters will have two excellent opportunities to take stock of what's most consuming party leaders and activists across the country in each major national political party at this six-months out juncture from the midterms.

Next week in New Orleans, LA, the DNC conducts its spring meeting. There's a packed schedule for various DNC caucus meetings and state party executive director planning sessions and the like, but here are the highlights:

On Thursday April 20, the DNC Rules & Bylaws committee will meet and hear from those states which chose to avail themselves of the opportunity to make an in-person pitch to move their nomination contest either between Iowa and New Hampshire or between New Hampshire and the opening of the window. At press time, the states to have confirmed they are making a pitch to the committee in New Orleans are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, and South Carolina.

(Note: An in-person appeal is not a required part of the process. All applications from any states who want to move their nomination contests earlier in the process must be submitted to the DNC by close of business today.)

DNC Chairman Howard Dean will present his fiery red meat rhetoric twice over the course of the meeting. He'll first address the gathering at the executive committee meeting on Friday morning and then again on Saturday morning at the general session.

Orlando and Denver, two potential convention host cities, will be holding receptions to make nice with DNC members during the course of their stay in New Orleans.

And, of course, the New Orleans locale provides an opportunity for a community service component to the spring meeting. As DNC members take stock of the pieces coming together in New Orleans and help with rebuilding projects, you can also expect to hear some echoes of Howard Dean's post-Katrina speech where he focused on the need to "rebuild the American community."

A couple of weeks after the DNC meeting, the Republican National Committee is hosting its annual meeting of all the state chairs of the party. The state chairs will begin arriving in Colorado Springs, CO on Wednesday evening May 3. The meetings will take place on Thursday May 4 and Friday May 5.

Unlike the RNC winter and summer meetings, this is less a meeting about official party business with committee meetings and resolutions and more a chance for the state chairs to get together and provide an update on party activities in their respective states.

RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman will address an open press welcome session focusing on the 2006 races, campaign technology, and engage in some q&a with the members. There will be closed press regional political meetings and strategy sessions as well.

On Friday May 5, RNC co-chair Jo Ann Davidson will chair the open press luncheon with keynote speaker House Majority Leader John Boehner. (Sen. Mitch McConnell was also invited to attend, but it conflicts with the pride of his home state, the Kentucky Derby.) Energy Secretary Bodman will be providing a closed press talk about the President's energy initiatives to the group and the state chairs will have the chance to get out and explore a bit including, perhaps, a tour of the Air Force Academy.

Nearly every single state chair attended last year's meeting in Cleveland and a similar high turnout rate is expected this year.

The President's week ahead:

On Monday, President Bush participates in a roundtable on taxes and the economy in Virginia.

On Tuesday, President Bush meets with the Prime Minister of Lebanon and makes remarks about American competitiveness in Maryland.

On Wednesday, President Bush makes remarks about American competitiveness in Alabama.

On Thursday, President Bush meets with the President of China.

On Friday, President Bush discusses American competitiveness in California.