Timing is Everything, Part IV


By Saturday night when Al Hunt says for the 10th time to a guest at the Bloomberg party, "No, the man who made this all possible is not here," we will know if the Republican Party will hold its majorities in the House and Senate.

(By "the man," of course, we mean Kevin Sheekey.)

Most Washington reporters want the Democrats to take control of Congress for various reasons (including that it is a better story than the alternative, and the Waxman leaks are missed), but they are willing to put that desire aside, and at least be semi-neutral, if the President's jokes at the annual White House Correspondents Dinner are funny.

AND if he seems genuinely contrite, and willing to change his ways.

AND if he announces a troop withdrawal, an end to the "domestic" surveillance program (and he must call it that), and that he is putting root beer in the water fountains in the press room.

With a chance to open for Stephen Colber(t) (of the "Colber(t) Repor(t)"), Mr. Bush, in short, must show he is a changed (and humorous) man, if Hastert is to keep the gavel and McConnell is to succeed Frist with the "Maj." in front of his "Ldr." And it all happens at the Hilton and before the C-SPAN cameras.

The President has never pretended to enjoy this event. Each year he has managed to limit his time in the podium spotlight, using props, employing visual tricks, and tossing distractions right and left.

To review:

2001: Offered up a slide show, featuring a photo of a nude Jeb Bush (aged four). Quote: "Some people have asked me . . . if the vote recount left any hard feelings between my brother Jeb and me . . . Not a bit! In fact, here's a picture of the governor of Florida."

2002: Shared a mindmeld with comeback-king-of-MTV Ozzy Osbourne, thus shifting the focus to the then-hotter-than-hot musician/family man/reality TV star. Quote: "The thing about Ozzy is, he's made a lot of big hit recordings... 'Party With the Animals.' 'Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.' 'Facing Hell.' 'Black Skies' and 'Bloodbath in Paradise.' Ozzy, Mom loves your stuff." When Ozzy got on the furniture and made homo-erotic eye contact with "someone" on the dais, The Note lost its mind.

2003: [Bush was exempt from cracking wise in 2003, given the war in Iraq, and the deaths of journalists Michael Kelly and David Bloom. His speech was appropriately brief and somber.]

2004: Tossed out a short little speech (ceding the microphone to Jay Leno), albeit one with a widely repeated quip. Quote: "I thought about giving an economic speech tonight. It really gets me when the critics say I haven't done enough for the economy. I mean, look what I've done for the book publishing industry. You have heard some of the titles: "Big Lies"; "The Lies of George W. Bush."; "The Lies & the Lying Liars Who Tell Them." I'd like to tell you I've read each of these books, but that would be a lie."

2005: Allowed First Lady Laura Bush to usurp the stage; she looked luminous and showed off killer timing. Her racy remarks and demure delivery gave her husband a pass for another year. Quote: "Nine o'clock, Mr. Excitement here is sound asleep and I'm watching `Desperate Housewives'. With Lynne Cheney. Ladies and gentlemen, I am a desperate housewife."

The Dickensian-named "Emily Jo Boots" offers a decidely populist curtain raiser of the event here. LINK

The following is a list of those expected attendees who might provide distractions for 2006, many as the guests of People mag:

Actor/spouses Laurence "MI3" Fishburne and Gina "Serenity" Torres, Tiki "NFL" Barber, Alan "CAA" Berger, Kelly "Nip/Tuck" Carlson, Jon "2 ½ Duckie" Cryer, Jill "Crossing Jordan" Hennessy, Melina "CSI NY" Kanakaredes, Anna "Actress/Tennis Champ/Whatever" Kournikova, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Doris "Everybody Loves Raymond" Roberts, Sela "House" Ward, Isaiah "Grey's Anatomy" Washington, Ben "Pittsburgh Steelers" Roethlisberger , John "Get Lifted" Legend, Hill "CSI New York" Harper, William "Billy" Baldwin, Joe "Joey Pants" Pantoliano, Patricia "Indy Darling" Clarkson, Harold "Mr. List" Ickes, Thomas "Station Agent" McCarthy, Jeffrey "Basquiat" Wright, Kerry "Spence graduate/Ray" Washington, Naomi "Love Can Build A Bridge" Judd, Kim "Cover Girl" Alexis, Mark "Redskins" Brunell, Governor George "Fresh Off the New Hampshire Campaign Trail" Pataki, The Honorable Mr. Michael "Department of Homeland Security" Chertoff, The Honorable Mr. Samuel "Energy Secretary" Bodman, The Honorable Mr. John "Up and Coming Senator" Sununu, Timothy "President of the Federal Reserve Bank in NY" Geithner and The Honorable Mr. Nikola "Ambassador for Republic of Macedonia" Dimitrov

Get their autographs on your cocktail napkin or their faces on your phone at the Bloomberg party.

No joking matter at all: ABC News' Dan Arnall reports that the Commerce Department says that the Gross Domestic Product -- the broadest measure of U.S. economic health -- grew at an annual pace of 4.8% during the first three months of 2006.

It's the best performance in two and a half years and significantly above the anemic 1.7% growth of the last quarter of 2005. It's slightly below what economists were expecting.

More from Marketwatch: LINK

We Noticed that Mr. Frist and Mr. Boehner beat Mr. Hastert to the chest-thumping punch, Mr. Bonjean.

President Bush takes to the Rose Garden at 11:45 am ET to make statement about the new economic growth numbers.

President Bush also meets with President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan at the White House today, and with the families of the Japanese victims of Cold War North Korean kidnappings If you don't know how big a deal this is in Japan, ask Secretary Rice, Jeff Zeleny, or Ambassador Tom Schieffer.

The grand jury assigned to the CIA leak investigation is scheduled to meet at 9:30 am ET.

Howard Dean kicks off the DNC's 50-state "neighbor-to-neighbor" canvass at 7:30 pm ET in Charlotte, NC. The canvass will continue at a location TBD at 10:00 am ET.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is in Brussels speaking to the "Brussels Forum: Transatlantic Challenges in a Global Era."

Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) delivers 9:15 am ET remarks on immigration at the Georgetown University Law Center as part of the school's third annual Immigration Law and Policy Conference.

Gov. George Pataki (R-NY) speaks at the C. R. Sparks in Bedford, NH.

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) raises money for House candidate Dave Loebsack and speaks at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.

The Save Darfur Coalition holds a 9:45 am ET rally at the Sudanese Embassy to "protest the genocide in Darfur, Sudan." Democratic Reps. Tom Lantos (CA), Jim McGovern (MA), James Moran (VA), and Sheila Jackson-Lee (TX) participate.

The George Washington University holds a 7:00 pm ET discussion on press ethics. Marvin Kalb, former chief diplomatic correspondent for CBS and NBC News; Jill Abramson of the New York Times; and GW Prof. Carl Stern participate.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA), and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) join American Roman Catholic Cardinals at a press availability to discuss the need for "bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform and to ensure that 12 million immigrants are not turned into criminals."

The House is not in session today.

Remember to set your TiVos for "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" on Sunday where Sen. Chuck Schumer and former Sen. (and current lobbyist for oil and gas companies) Bennet Johnston will debate the politics of gas prices and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will brief George about her recent trip to Iraq, the IAEA report on Iran, and much more. LINK

But, wait! You don't have to wait until Sunday to enjoy "This Week." You can check out the "This Week All Week" webcast to hear George Stephanopoulos and Cokie Roberts talk about Tony Snow's big new job at the White House, Karl Rove's appearance before the grand jury, and much more. LINK

Fitzgerald investigation:

The New York Times' Bumiller and Cloud report that special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has all the information he needs and will decide in the next two to three weeks whether to indict Karl Rove or drop the case. LINK

Bloomberg's Dick Keil writes a "lingering legal cloud" is also a possibility for Mr. Rove. (And be sure to Note Keil's inclusion of Fitzgerald's history on indicting "Official A.") LINK

Doubling down on Dubai:

The crack New York Times team of Jim Rutenberg and David Sanger report President Bush is set to announce "his approval of a deal under which a Dubai-owned company would take control of nine plants in the United States that manufacture parts for American military vehicles and aircraft. . ." Apparently, the CFIUS national security process was triggered this time which landed the deal on the President's desk. LINK

Note the tacit approval from ports deal critic Rep. Pete King (R-NY) and an anonymous senior Republican congressional aide. Sens. Clinton and Schumer have yet to weigh-in. If the White House didn't vet this one through the Hill, we would be shocked.

ABC News' Jessica Yellin has a Bush Administration official saying: The purchase was carefully reviewed and when it came to the White House two weeks ago it had been unanimously approved by the CFIUS committee, which determines whether there are national security concerns.

Lobbying reform:

The Wall Street Journal's David Rogers reports that House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) was able to keep the latest version of the House ethics bill from being killed off last night, but some Members are worried the bill doesn't go far enough.

"As adopted last night, the rule would effectively bar many amendments sought by public-interest groups pushing for stronger changes. These would include a ban on members taking below-cost flights on corporate aircraft and the creation of an independent professional office of public integrity to complement the troubled Ethics Committee structure."

Jim Drinkard of the USA Today takes a look at how the House lobbying reform bill transformed over time, Noting that the current bill "bears little resemblance to Hastert's early prescription." LINK and LINK

Per Drinkard: "Lobbyists would still be able to buy gifts for lawmakers, as long as they are worth $50 or less. Instead of banning privately financed trips, they would be suspended until the ethics committee could come up with new rules to govern them."

Charles Hurt and Christina Bellantoni of the Washington Times on the House Republican deal that saved the "pork" reform bill. LINK

Zachary Coile with the San Francisco Chronicle says "watchdog groups said GOP leaders deliberately blocked consideration of amendments to strengthen the bill, such as new limits on corporate-jet travel and greater disclosure of fundraisers." LINK

Perhaps Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) said it best in the New York Times when he assessed yesterday's agreement among House Republicans to move forward on lobbying reform, thusly: "It means the leadership is still the leadership, and that's the good news." LINK

Politics of gas:

Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman was asked on morning television whether a windfall profits tax is a good idea. Bodman argued against it, saying that the Administration is doing everything that it can that they know works while suggesting that such a tax wouldn't work.

In an effort to combat high fuel prices, "President Bush and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) yesterday urged Congress to pave the way for higher passenger-car fuel-economy standards," write Fialka, Gold, and Meckler of the Wall Street Journal.

The newspaper's editorial board takes GOPers to the woodshed for a handful of energy moves -- like a Senate Republican proposal for a $100 rebate -- that is reminiscent of Jimmy Carter and destined for the "pandering hall of fame."

"This is what happens when a President is at 36% job approval, and there is no Beltway chaperone," writes the Journal's ed board.

The New York Times' Hulse wraps up the legislative leapfrog occurring on both sides of the aisle to get ahead of the high gas prices story and Notes the White House has yet to publicly sign on with some of the legislative plan being offered. LINK

The Washington Post's Mufson and Murray report that lawmakers are grasping at ways to bring prices down in response to yesterday's announcement $8.4 billion in first-quarter profit from Exxon Mobil Corp. LINK

The Washington Times' Christina Bellantoni reports on the proposed $100 dollar rebate aimed at easing the burden of high gas prices, the "obvious" solution of exploring oil in Alaska, and also including some fightin' words from Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY); " 'It's time for the American consumer to have a Congress that works hand in hand with them and not with the oil executives.' " LINK

Politics of surveillance:

The Washington Post's Pincus and Babington report that Sen. Arlen Specter said yesterday he will move to block funding for the NSA spying program (without immediately seeking a vote) in an effort to further debate on the topic. LINK

"Where is the outrage?" asked Specter. The Los Angeles Times on Sen. Specter's warning that he is prepared to cut off funding for the NSA domestic warrantless wiretapping program if the Administration does not answer some more questions, comply with existing law, or help draft new legislation tailored to the program: LINK


Jodi Rudoren of the New York Times reports that three nonprofit organizations created by Rep. Alan Mollohan (and in large part funded by federal dollars courtesy of his earmarking) have been told by the FBI to expect subpoenas soon as a part of its investigation into the accusations of financial impropriety on Mollohan's part. LINK

Politics of immigration:

Illegal immigrants across the country stayed home from work and school this week after hearing rumors that authorities would be, "rounding up undocumented residents," per Jordan and Trevisani of the Wall Street Journal. USA Today's Martin Kasindorf and Judy Keen write up on the divide that seems to be emerging between pro-immigration activists and business owners over the May 1 planned boycott. LINK

Representatives from conservative religious groups around the country debated the moral merits of U.S. immigration policy at the Family Research Council yesterday, reports Todd Gillman of the Dallas Morning News. LINK

Chicago police expects about 300,000 protesters for Monday's immigration rally, reports David Heinzmann of the Chicago Tribune. LINK

New Orleans:

Earlier this week, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin touted his independent leadership style, saying that he has the ability to work with both Democrats and Republicans in Washington. His challenger, Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, responded in a separate interview by defending his "inclusive" style and criticizing Nagin's "lone wolf" attitude, per the Times-Picayune's Donze and Ritea. LINK

2006: landscape:

"Demography can seem like destiny in politics, but geography still counts for plenty. As voters of both parties well remember from the 2000 presidential election, the location of a party's votes can sometimes be more important than their number: Democrats lost the White House despite receiving over 500,000 votes more than the Republicans. Similarly, the total number of votes cast for the Senate's 55-member Republican majority is some 3.6 million lower than the number cast for its Democratic minority. Clearly, for Democrats to change the balance of power in Washington, they must figure out how to be popular in the right places, not just how to lead in national opinion polls, as they do now," writes James Barnes in National Journal's election preview cover story. LINK


Francine Busby has asked former Rep. Brian Bilbray to urge the NRCC to pull its current television campaign ad labeling her as "dangerous" on the issue of teachers possessing child pornography, reports the Los Angeles Times. LINK

2006: House:

The Albany Times Union picks up the Rep. Sweeney (R-NY) fraternity party drop-by story. LINK

2006: Senate:

Donald Lambro of the Washington Times reports that Sen. Maria Cantwell's (D-WA) support for the Iraq war has "alienated" her Democratic base, putting her in a tight race with Republican challenger Mike McGavick. LINK

Lambro writes that Cantwell, a top GOP 2006 target, "could see her support for a second term siphoned off in the general election by two anti-war candidates." A recent Rasmussen poll put the incumbent leading 48 percent to McGavick's 40 percent. Former Reagan Navy Secretary Jim Webb wants to move the Democratic Party to the center and win back "Reagan Democrats," writes Joel Banner Baird of the News Leader. LINK

Schwarzenegger Era:

Robert Salladay of the Los Angeles Times writes up the competing ethics complaints filed by the Angelides and Westly campaigns accusing each other of violating campaign finance regulations. Salladay sets the stage with his first nine words: "Escalating the bitterness in the Democratic race for governor. . ." LINK

In what might be a sign of things to come, Carla Marinucci of the San Francisco Chronicle explains a generational shift occurring in California Democratic primary politics, from a "moderate-versus-liberal" campaign to an "establishment - versus - anti-establishment" campaign. LINK


The Wall Street Journal's Wirey John Harwood reports that in a hypothetical presidential matchup, Sen. McCain leads Sen. Clinton, "46%-37%, up from two-percentage edge in November. The fourth-term maverick draws 13% support from Democrats, while Clinton receives just 6% support from Republicans."

"But former first lady benefits from a more enthusiastic base, as 41% of Democrats call themselves 'optimistic' about another Clinton presidency. Just 28% of Republicans are optimistic about McCain."

And this: "Bill Clinton's positive ratings hit 50% for first time since he left the White House; his negative falls to 33%."

2008: Republicans:

Sen. George Allen's (R-VA) campaign manager, Dick Wadhams, reacted to the New Republic story written up in The Note yesterday thusly: "It's a predictable hit piece by a magazine that has a well known liberal slant and it is not surprising that they would write a piece where they would try to portray a conservative Republican Senator as racist."

"Sen. Allen has already talked about his views surrounding these issues in pervious campaigns in which he has run and won."

The Wall Street Journal's Wirey John Harwood writes that three in 10 Americans call health care a top priority, "outpacing those citing job creation, terrorism or Iran's nuclear program."

"Strong majority applauds Massachusetts Gov. Romney's plan to mandate that individuals buy insurance, though Republicans are less enthusiastic than Democrats and independents."

While calling into Don Imus' show, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was asked about Pentagon plans to pull more than 30,000 troops out of Iraq by the end of the year.

"I'm nervous about that," said Sen. McCain. "I want to make sure the situation on the ground warrants that."

While saying that he was optimistic about progress being made, McCain added: "I just hope we don't pull those troops out too fast for political reasons. I hope the reasons are valid if we do."

McCain and Imus also talked about whether the Arizona Senator is crazy or not. They agreed he is not, which the Senator proved by pandering to the New Hampshire audience.

Aaron Sadlers of the Arkansas News Bureau takes a look at how Gov. Mike Huckabee's (R-AR) decision to cut the Arkansas Times off his press release list is playing out. LINK

2008: Democrats:

The Boston Globe's Ellen Goodman looks at all of the steps Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) is taking towards 2008 and writes: ''Stop him before he kills (the Democrats' chances) again." LINK

The roll-out continues . . . Following on the heals of former Clinton aide Rahm Emanuel's endorsement of Sen. Clinton for president, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) has declared that New York's junior Senator is his candidate for 2008.

"I think she's the favorite for the nomination and I certainly hope she wins the nomination. She'd be a very strong candidate. I think she'd be a good president," Rep. Nadler said in the April 28 edition of the Downtown Express. . LINK

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), "is introducing an amendment to the emergency supplemental appropriations bill that requires the redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq by December 31st, 2006," per Wispolitics.com. LINK

New Hampshire:

"Political leaders from both major parties applauded" as Gov. John Lynch (D-NH) signed into law a bill that would allow the Secretary of State "to set a filing deadline for primary candidates as early as he thinks necessary," which will provide greater flexibility "to respond quickly to last-minute changes other states make to their primary schedule," reports Tom Fahey of the Union Leader. LINK

Add Haley Barbour's name to the list of big name GOPers that Democrats throw around when pushing the phone-jamming scandal story. Although he apparently had no knowledge of the phone-jamming program put into action in 2002, he was an initial investor in the Republican telemarketing company responsible for the illegal activity


Gov. Tom Vilsack (D-IA) and the legislature struck a deal yesterday over the budget, report Jonathan Roos and Tim Higgins of the Des Moines Register. LINK

Dean's Democrats:

According to the DNC, the party's 50-state canvass will include 1,000 events and the dissemination of 1 million pieces of literature.

With primary elections scheduled for May 2 in the Buckeye State, state and county parties are working together in Ohio, according to the DNC.

Abramoff affair:

The New York Times has many details about Jack Abramoff's Passover family vacation. LINK

Weekend politics:

There will be lots of political activity this weekend.

On Saturday, Gov. Pataki will be in Delaware, Sen. Kerry will be Florida, Sen. Feingold will be in Iowa, and Sen. Bayh will be in North Carolina.

Newt Gingrich and talk show host Sean Hannity headline the annual Iowa Republican Party Lincoln Dinner, Des Moines, IA.

Also on Saturday, the Massachusetts Republican Party holds its state convention in Lowell, MA with featured speaker Andy Card.

Meanwhile, out in Sacramento, CA, California Democrats will hold their state convention.

On Sunday, John Edwards travels to Brussels to deliver the closing keynote address at the Brussels Forum: Transatlantic Challenges in a Global Era.

And Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) will hold a fundraiser for Illinois House candidate Tammy Duckworth in Los Angeles, CA.