The Note: Test Cases

WASHINGTON, Apr. 20

Sure, China has north of a billion people and the very future of America depends on President Bush's visit with Mr. Hu. (Insert Abbott and Costello joke here.)

But The Note can't be expected to focus on the future of the nation when we have superficia with which to concern ourselves.

For those left in the White House communications operation (and that includes you, Josh Bolten, whether you like it or not), what lessons are there to be drawn from the coverage of yesterday's test run, as you unfurl more elements of your turn-the-page-for-all-to-see "shake-up"?

News organizations whose coverage did NOT call it a "shake-up" or "part of a shake-up": The Washington Times.

News organizations whose coverage did call it a "shake up" or "part of a shake-up": Everyone else.

Opening lines from morning television reports: GMA: "This certainly is a dramatic change for Karl Rove." Today: ""White House shuffle." Early Show: "Big-time staff changes at the White House."

Most negative takes on Rove's situation: "The change. . . was widely interpreted in Washington as a step down in stature for Mr. Rove and an acknowledgment of policy failures in the last year," in the New York Times. LINK; "Shift Leaves Grand Ambitions in a Ditch," Washington Post headline after the jump. LINK; "Karl Rove bit off more than he could chew," courtesy of the Associated Press. LINK

Most positive takes on Rove's situation: "People familiar with White House operations said Rove still would be the key voice on determining the president's travel schedule and message, and they predicted that Rove personally would help raise funds for congressional candidates," in the Los Angeles Times. LINK; "Rove probably will remain one of the most influential voices in the White House," the Washington Post. LINK; "President Bush continued his midterm staff shuffle yesterday," the Washington Times (which played it on A3). ". . . calling it a shakeup might be too much -- all of the slots that have been filled were with people already in the administration, and White House officials said Mr. Rove remains as important as ever." LINK; and the upbeat Fox & Friends banter emphasized that Rove's move is "most definitely not a demotion." The deputy chief of staff was bogging down "the vision guy" with "too much paperwork."

Best Rove quote provided in a post-announcement interview: "I've got a new boss. . . who says I want you to do more of this and less of that," in the New York Times. LINK (Note to Bumiller: whatever it was you said to him to get him to go on the record, please share that with Rutenberg.)

Most negative takes on McClellan's situation: "He was painful to watch at times, gamely repeating the same stock phrases under a barrage of hostile media fire, grasping for new ways to deliver the same non-answers," the Washington Post. "But former colleagues of McClellan … say he acquitted himself well in what has become an increasingly difficult and contentious job." LINK

Most worshipful of Bolten: ". . . Bolten probably will operate more in the mold of chiefs of staffs in previous administrations, who saw their role as managing the entire White House and sought to oversee the entire federal government, as well. . ." in the Washington Post. LINK; ". . . Mr. Bolten has made clear that he rules the roost,"in the Washington Times. LINK

Most gutsy position on McClellan's successor: "Tony Snow. . . is emerging as the front-runner to replace McClellan," in the New York Daily News. LINK

Most out-there blind quote from a "White House aide": "A lot of people are bummed out today," in the New York Daily News. LINK

Best supportive metaphor: "People have been watching this TV series for a long time, and it helps to plug in some new characters from time to time," said Bush political adviser Mark McKinnon. "Gets folks to tune back in and take a fresh look," he said to the Washington Post. LINK

Best local angle description: "thinning the cadre of Lone Star loyalists around President Bush," per the Houston Chronicle. LINK

Most scathing editorial: "President Bush wants to show the nation he's shaking things up in his administration, but it is clear that the people who messed everything up will remain in place," in the New York Times. LINK

Before it ossifies into a version of history suitable for the history books or this Sunday's public affairs shows, let's get some facts straight:

1. Given how split the Republicans Party is on the issue in Washington and around the country, the current state of how immigration legislation is doing on Capitol Hill, under Rove's direction, is a huge incremental win, rather than a failure. (Recall the twisting, stop-start process that yielded President Bush's legislative victories on tax cuts, No Child Left Behind, and the Medicare law, and the media's sky-is-falling coverage of those storylines.)

2. Rove was not in charge of preparing for Hurricane Katrina (failure), but he has played a large role in the intergovernmental coordination of the aftermath (which has gone well, by some accounts).

3. Congressional Republican criticism of the White House for its failed Social Security push falls into four categories: they started too early; they started too late; they pushed it too much; they didn't push it enough.

4. The Los Angeles Times website midday yesterday said that Rove "lost half of his portfolio"; that estimate does not appear in the more considered account distributed by newsprint throughout the Southland.

As for the substantive things that go on at 1600, this morning President and Mrs. Bush welcome Chinese President Hu Jintao and Madame Liu Yongqing in a South Lawn arrival ceremony at 9:25 am ET. After the ceremony, the presidents will have a meeting in the Oval Office at 10 am ET, followed by a social lunch at 1:15 pm ET. Among the topics the presidents are expected to discuss are human rights in China, the U.S.-China trade imbalance, and Iran's nuclear program.

After meeting with President Hu, President Bush makes remarks to recipients of the President's Environmental Youth Awards at 2:50 pm ET.

Gov. Romney (R-MA) makes an announcement regarding abstinence education at 11:00 am ET in Boston, MA.

Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN) is in Dallas, TX addressing the Salesmanship Club of Dallas luncheon and meeting with Sen. Hutchison (R-TX). Frist later travels to Houston, TX to attend a Barbara Bush Foundation Literacy Program event.

Former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) is in Portsmouth and Concord, NH today. Edwards will promote his anti-poverty initiatives and help raise money for local Democrats.

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) addresses the Democratic Professionals Forum in West Palm Beach, FL at noon ET.

Gov. Schwarzenegger (R-CA) holds a 1:00 pm ET press conference after completing a tabletop exercise simulating a disaster in Mather, CA

Sen. Brownback (R-KS) is scheduled to keynote the Missouri State University Public Affairs conference today.

Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) makes what is described as a "major speech on Iraq" to the 75th Anniversary luncheon of the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh at noon ET.

The DNC's Rules & Bylaws Committee is scheduled to meet at 1:00 pm ET to begin hearing presentations from the 10 states that would like to be considered for a pre-window nomination contest in 2008. Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) will each be helping their respective states make their pitches with an in-person appearance. Gov. Napolitano (D-AZ) and Rep. Grijalva (D-AZ) are expected to appear via teleconference to make Arizona's pitch for an early slot. And we'll be able to determine if Nevada can best expectations with its presentation.

The Orlando 2008 host committee-in-waiting holds an evening reception to woo some of those coveted site selection folks.

DNI Negroponte addresses the National Press Club at 12:30 pm ET.

At 11:00 am ET, DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff and Julie Myers of ICE hold a news conference on immigration enforcement strategy and the results of Wednesday's nationwide enforcement operation.

Roving responsibilities:

Before launching into his planned topic of a President Bush with an exceedingly long to-do list and the seeming inability to substantively do much of anything at the moment, Newsweek's Howard Fineman offers these three nugget graphs on the news of day. LINK

"In the snakepit of the White House -- any White House -- power is a zero sum game. Bolten has demonstrated his clout by taking some away from the Empire of Rove. Forget trying to play policy expert, Bolten told Rove. Go back to focusing on what you do best: building and running a Republican election machine."

"And, by the way, if the Republicans lose the Congress in 2006, it's gonna be your fault, Karl -- not the president's."

"By ripping a star from Rove's epaulet -- the first time Rove has ever lost, rather than acquired, power in the Bush circle -- Bolten showed that he can be effective, that he can influence events."

Mary Matalin on GMA: This is a "refocusing of what Karl Rove does best." He's "back on the pitcher's mound."

Mark McKinnon SOT in Shipman's GMA package: Said Rove has "only so much bandwidth" and "he had to give up something."

"The shift of Mr. Rove out of his second-term role as deputy chief of staff for policy could help address a separate problem: concern that White House policies too often are perceived as partisan and divisive," per the delusional Wall Street Journal.

McClellan resigns:

While McClellan's resignation appears to leave his schedule open for other openings, his family members are keeping mum on whether or not he will be joining his mother's independent campaign for Texas governor, reports Linda Leavell of The Dallas Morning News. LINK

Newsweek's Wolffe and Bailey appear skeptical that McClellan's departure will really shake things up at the White House. LINK

"Some Republicans have said that the affable Mr. McClellan wasn't a forceful-enough advocate of White House positions, contending that he relied too much on stock phrases and occasional stonewalling," reports the Wall Street Journal.

Replacing McClellan:

Mary Matalin lays out the job description for the Chicago Tribune's Mark Silva: "you've got to stay really focused on the message. ... The press' job is to write something different, and he can't give them what they want. If he is successful at his job, it makes it harder for them to do their job." LINK

"To replace McClellan, Republican strategists said the White House is considering Fox News radio host Tony Snow and former Iraq occupation spokesman Dan Senor," the Washington Post reports. LINK

More Washington Post: "Republicans close to the White House identified three main candidates: Tony Snow, Senor, and former Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke. Snow confirmed he is considering it, while Clarke said she would not."

"Snow, a speechwriter for the first President Bush, told his audience it's a 'great honor to be mentioned by the great mentioner' and that he plans to be 'professionally coy' about the prospect," USA Today. LINK

Former Pentagon spokeswoman Torie Clarke said "she is not under consideration," USA Today. LINK

Rumsfeld rumblings:

The Boston Globe writes up the military blogosphere's reaction to all of the Rumsfeld rumblings. LINK

The Los Angeles Times investigates Gen. Peter Pace's assertion that the troops in Iraq don't care about the calls for Sec. of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's resignation and concludes most just haven't heard the news. LINK

Politics of Iraq:

Reminding all what's to come when Congress returns next week. . . "The cost of the war in U.S. fatalities has declined this year," reports the Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman, "but the cost in treasure continues to rise, from $48 billion in 2003 to $59 billion in 2004 to $81 billion in 2005 to an anticipated $94 billion in 2006, according to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments." LINK

Big Casino budget politics:

In must-read fashion, columnist Robert Novak singles out Appropriations Chairman Jerry Lewis(R-CA) for scorn, blaming him for blocking progress on the budget and wondering what Hastert, Boehner, and Portman are going to do about it when it comes to a head next week. LINK

House of Labor:

In a briefing with political reporters held Wednesday by the AFL-CIO, AFSCME's Gerald McEntee praised the "neighbor-to-neighbor" voter mobilization program that the GOP ran in 2004 and contrasted it with the "stranger-to-stranger" program run by Democratic allies.

The Wall Street Journal's John Harwood told McEntee that he remembers Steve Rosenthal, the former AFL-CIO political director who ran Americans Coming Together during the last presidential election, telling him in 2004 that the Democrats were going to do better than the Republicans because the Republicans were making the mistake of relying on volunteers as opposed to ACT's paid workers. Harwood asked McEntee if labor no longer subscribed to Rosenthal's theory.

McEntee said Rosenthal's theory was "not necessarily" wrong, adding that labor may have to hire people for the political program.

But he said the lesson should be don't hire someone in Philadelphia and put them in Phoenix.

The AFL-CIO has identified Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania as the four most important states in 2004 based on union density, key 2006 contests, and their importance in 2008.

The AFL-CIO believes there are 21 gubernatorial races, 15 Senate races, and 42 House seats (in 22 states) in play.

The AFL-CIO has broken down the House contests into: 28 "top tier vulnerable Republicans" who represent a district with "high" union density (average=28,000), 16 seats with "very high" union density (average=43,000), and 8 "top-tier" open seats (where union density is on average 28,000).

Bush agenda:

The President's recess appointments yesterday of the two public representatives on the board of trustees for Social Security and Medicare was a form of "defying" Senate leaders of both parties, including powerful Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, the New York Times says. LINK

Mr. Hu goes to Washington:

The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler curtain raises Bush's meeting with Hu Jintao. LINK

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi takes to the Los Angeles Times op-ed page to condemn the "celebratory nature" of Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to Washington while insisting she is not an isolationist. LINK

Economy:

Per the Wall Street Journal's Web site, "GM reported a net loss of $323 million, or 57 cents a share, in the first quarter, hit by charge related to health-care settlement."

Politics of immigration:

The Chicago Tribune reports that event organizers are expecting as many as 500,000 illegal immigrants to participate in a work boycott on May 1. LINK

But the paper also looks at how national immigrants rights groups are split over the wisdom of a boycott just as Congress is returning to Washington. LINK

In a key story (that falls just short of must-read status), the New York Times' Rachel Swarns reports on how immigrant groups are trying to turn their new political clout into lasting political influence, with "voter registration and citizenship drives across the country." LINK

Politics of national security:

The New York Times has the top Republican and Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee expressing fear, in an unusually bipartisan manner, that spymaster John Negroponte is "creating just another blanket of bureaucracy, muffling rather than clarifying the dangers lurking in the world." LINK

Dean's Democrats:

Democrats wielding crowbars and shovels descend upon New Orleans for the Democratic National Committee meeting in a political maneuver designed to highlight the party's dissatisfaction with the Bush administration by combining party business with community service, reports the AP's Sidoti. LINK

"The biggest issues in the elections are character issues," DNC Chairman Howard Dean told reporters on Wednesday at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. Dean said character is always the biggest issues which he defined as the President's and the Republicans' trustworthiness and honesty.

"They're going to lose big on both those issues," he added.

Taking a page out of Sen. Bayh's playbook, Dean said: "One of our slogans is probably going to end up being 'tough and smart.' Because what the Republicans have done is tough and not very smart."

Asked what the Democratic message would be in 2006, Dean outlined the Democrats' now familiar six themes (honest government, strong defense, energy independence, health care for all Americans, educational excellence, and retirement security).

But later in the breakfast he cryptically said that there will probably be a "values piece" that the party will unveil in September.

On the issue of immigration, Dean sidestepped the intra-party disagreement between the AFL-CIO (which supports earned legalization but opposes guest-worker programs) and Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) who supports a guest-worker program as part of a larger package of reforms that would include a path to earned legalization for the estimated 12 million immigrants currently in the United States illegally.

Dean made it clear, however, that he thought the GOP has been hurt by what he called its "wacko wing" which he referred to as including Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) and Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI).

Asked if he has ruled out running for public office again, Dean said he has ruled it out for 2008 but that he hasn't ruled it out altogether for the future.

The Washington Times gives Dean's call for "tough" border control top billing on the front page of today's newspaper. LINK

(It does so even though Dean's comments about the border at yesterday's breakfast were very similar to the rhetorical approach taken by other supporters of earned legalization).

The Houston Chronicle's Bennett Roth picks up on Dean saying that he wants to position Democrats as "the vehicle of change." LINK

David T. Cook, the moderator of yesterday's breakfast, has Dean excerpts. LINK

Politics of Medicare:

In a headline that is tailor made for the Campaign for America's Future, USA Today reports: "Medicare payment letters raise fears." LINK

2008: Republicans:

Bloomberg's Roger Simon scores with a perception-shattering piece on how McCain's biggest issue might morph into his greatest liability: LINK

"The real barrier to his ambitions may be his unswerving, unstinting and unnuanced support for an unpopular war in Iraq.

'I do understand it could be a political liability,' the 69-year-old Arizona senator said in an interview. While he said he is 'a bit resentful' of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld 'for the way the war has been poorly handled,' McCain added, 'I still think we've got to win the war.'"

The piece also has boffo quotes from a galaxy of McCain aides, former aides, and would-be supporters. And do Note Tom Rath declaring the field is winnowed to three.

The Boston Phoenix chronicles Gov. Mitt Romney's greatest political stumbles to date, digging up some quotes that suggest a certain lack of clarity on gay and abortion rights. Says the paper to the Republican Party: "Forewarned is forarmed." LINK

The New York Daily News on Rudy Giuliani's relationship with conservative Christians, as demonstrated by his differing relationships with Jerry Falwell and Ralph Reed. LINK

Gov. George Pataki (R-NY) is taking heat in his home state for his veto of the legislature's budget, reports the New York Daily News. LINK

In a Cross Country column for the Wall Street Journal, the Denver Post's Fred Brown Notes that Rep. Tancredo is backing a ballot measure in his home state of Colorado that would deny state services to unauthorized immigrants. Brown Notes that one of Tancredo's "more unusual allies" is former Gov. Richard Lamm, a Democrat, who is backing the measure even though he is not convinced it would survive a court test.

"'This is not my first choice,' he said. 'Basically we're seeking a referendum on illegal immigration to put pressure on Washington.'"

2008: Democrats:

Anne Kornblut of the New York Times equates the firefighters endorsements (and all the corresponding 2008 implications) Sen. Clinton received yesterday with the unofficial launching of her reelection campaign. However, it is more likely that the stopping for coffee at Junior's is the key signal. LINK

Michael McAuliff of the New York Daily News has an insightful analysis of Sen. Clinton's campaign contributions and finds she is living in the best of all worlds: she is running on "high-octane celebrity contributors and political pros but is rapidly building a national base of small-dollar donors ideal for a national contest." LINK

Campaign filings show former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner is raising significant money on Clinton's home turf of New York, reports the New York Post, as if no other Democrat would think of raising money there. Next thing you know, Virginians will denote to Senator Clinton!!! LINK

Gov. Vilsack (D-IA) rejected a proposal by Rep. Jim Nussle (R-IA) to create a state inspector general's office in response to the CIETC scandal, arguing that "internal oversight could be strengthened instead" -- a move that drew strong criticism from Nussle, writes Jane Norman of the Des Moines Register. LINK

Michael Myers of the Cedar Rapids Gazette writes up on Gov. Vilsack's presser at the White House yesterday and his comments afterwards: "There were not enough troops. We did not have a plan for peace. There is a much steeper hill to climb." LINK

Sen Joe Biden (D-DE) dialed into Imus this morning. Asked if the White House changes make a difference, Biden said that "I don't think so." "I think Pat was right on," the Senator said referring to Pat Buchanan's earlier assertions, "just moving folks around doesn't necessarily [change anything]."

Asked about Sen. McCain's upcoming appearance at the Liberty University, Sen. Biden said, "I like John McCain a lot. He's a personal friend; I hope that when he goes down to Liberty University he uses the occasion to point out how he differs with them. I just hope John is John at Liberty University, not the guy that… that… I shouldn't even talk about this."

New Hampshire:

John Distaso discusses the first quarter campaign finance reports for New Hampshire's House contenders, congressional PAC contributions and New Hampshire Democrats in the New Hampshire Union Leader's legendary Granite Status. LINK

2006: New Orleans:

The Washington Post's Peter Whoriskey reports that to the "astonishment" of some who had assumed that Mayor Nagin's "missteps" and "post-Katrina despair" would doom his reelection bid, Nagin, the "laughingstock," is counted as a "front-runner" going into Saturday's vote. LINK

But campaign finance reports indicate that many of incumbent Mayor Nagin's pre-Katrina supporters have taken their campaign contributions elsewhere, reports the Times-Picayune. LINK

The Times-Picayune explores the battle for the small, but significant Republican vote in New Orleans. LINK

Gordon Russell of the Times-Picayune reports on the reluctance of mayoral candidates to sign a pledge promising to turn to a professional panel for decisions about awarding service contracts in a post-Katrina New Orleans where the path to rebuilding has taken center stage. LINK

2006: landscape:

The New York Post's Deb Orin writes it's too early to write obituaries for the Republicans in the midterm elections. LINK

2006: Senate:

The Washington Times' Eric Pfeiffer reports that Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) is "the only senator running for re-election who is raising less money than his primary opponent and both Democrats running to replace him, according to Federal Election Commission filings." LINK

2006: House:

George F. Will looks at Republican Rick O'Donnell's bid to replace Rep. Bob Beauprez (R-CO) as the congressman from Colorado's 7th congressional district and writes that if the Democrats vying for the chance to take on O'Donnell keep arguing about "the politics of politics," then "the phrase 'Speaker Pelosi' will not be heard in 2007." LINK

The Schwarzenegger Era:

Carla Marinucci of the San Francisco Chronicle discusses Gov. Schwarzenegger's (R-CA) attempts to distance himself from the President and writes that "the sharp words from California's Republican governor coming just before the president's arrival underscore the political tightrope Schwarzenegger must walk as he campaigns for re-election in November." LINK

"Already, Democratic gubernatorial candidates Phil Angelides and Steve Westly have cited the Bush visit to attack Schwarzenegger, saying the governor has failed to deliver promised federal aide to California."

DeLay:

RG Ratcliffe of the Houston Chronicle reports on DeLay's small victory yesterday, as an appeals court upholding a lower court ruling that dismissed the conspiracy charges against him. LINK

Abramoff affair:

In a story that ponders whether Ralph Reed will become the "first campaign casualty" of the Abramoff scandal when he squares off with state Sen. Casey Cagle in the July 18 primary, the Wall Street Journal's Jeanne Cummings reports that Republicans "once close" to Reed "aren't satisfied" with his explanation of his role in Mr. Abramoff's work.

Political potpourri:

"The Republican-controlled state Senate voted in Nashville to unseat Democratic Sen. Ophelia Ford, agreeing that her 13-vote win in a September special election was tainted by questionable ballots from felons and dead voters," reports the Associated Press. LINK