WASHINGTON, May 11
Bi-monthly Note Quiz for Insiders Only:
Are you surprised that George W. Bush's post-9/11 government has more secret domestic surveillance programs?
Are you surprised that a rare "Jim VandeHei and Peter Baker" double byline in the Washington Post yields a super must-read, that says, according to White House officials, lawmakers, and new polling data, "disaffection" over spending and immigration have caused conservatives to "take flight" from President Bush and the Republican Congress at a "rapid pace" in recent weeks, sending Bush's approval ratings to "record lows" and presenting a "new threat to the GOP's 12-year reign on Capitol Hill"? LINK
Are you surprised George Will approvingly quotes Bob Bauer in a column about John McCain?
Are you surprised that Rahm Emanuel yelled at Howard Dean to end a meeting?
Are you surprised that Peggy Noonan has perfect pitch on what ails her party and/but she still thinks Ronald Reagan cut the deficit? LINK
Are you surprised that John Edwards didn't up and tell Winnie Hu he was running for president in 2008?
Are you surprised that the left-wing blogosphere is going (to go) nuts over Karl Rove and Jack Abramoff?
Are you surprised that Duke Cunningham is not the only Member of Congress potentially involved in the Duke Cunningham investigation?
Are you surprised that Ed Rollins and his New York Senate candidate are still playing bad cop-good cop?
Are you surprised that Paul Begala feels compelled to sneak into New Hampshire? LINK
Are you surprised that the New York Times and the Secretary of HUD don't seem to know what "anecdotal" means?
Are you surprised that Jackie Calmes of the Wall Street Journal found that all politics is local, except when that is not true?
Are you surprised that President Bush meets with Chinese human rights activists in the White House residence at 10:55 am ET, before heading down to Biloxi, MS to deliver the commencement address at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College at 3:00 pm ET?
First Lady Laura Bush is also doing the college campus thing today. She is in Nashville, TN to deliver remarks at Senior Class Day at Vanderbilt University. Mrs. Bush then heads to Louisville, KY for a RNC fundraising luncheon where she is expected to raise $325,000 at a private residence.
The Nashville Tennessean reports, the First Lady will be receiving an award on behalf of disaster relief works and getting an earful from two anti-war groups that plan to protest the event. LINK
Speaker Hastert and Minority Leader Pelosi address the U.S. Chamber of Commerce "Small Business Summit" at 3:00 pm ET in Washington, DC.
House Majority Leader Boehner holds a 10:30 am ET on-camera press briefing. The Senate begins debate this morning on the tax-cut conference report. There will be eight hours of debate equally divided. Upon use or yielding back of time, a roll call vote will occur on the conference report.
At noon ET, Democratic Sens. Kennedy, Harkin, Feinstein, Schumer, and Menendez plan to renew their call for House-passed stem cell legislation (H.R. 810) to be included in the Republican "health week" agenda in the Senate.
EMILY's List holds its annual luncheon today at 11:30 am ET with keynoters Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) and congressional candidate Tammy Duckworth (D-IL). There will also be a photo-op of all the Democratic women candidates this year up on stage together, which could be handy for all those inevitable fall stories about how key women candidates are to the Democratic Party's efforts to regain control of Congress.
The Senate Budget Committee holds a nomination hearing on Robert Portman as Director of the Office of Management and Budget.
Democratic Sens. Leahy, Lieberman, Murray, Lincoln, Carper, and Cantwell hold a 10:30 am ET presser to express their continued opposition to the Enzi health care bill.
Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) addresses students at American University in Washington, D.C. as part of his national series of college campus speeches at 1:00 pm ET.
Former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) delivers remarks at the Hunter College Presidential Public Leadership Program in New York City at noon ET, followed by a 1:00 pm ET media availability.
Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) attends a closed press dinner hosted by the Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers in Newport, RI.
At noon ET, Gov. Pataki (R-NY) joins actress and filmmaker Rosie Perez in a proclamation ceremony for National Puerto Rican Day Parade Month in New York City.
Gubernatorial Candidate Lynn Swann holds a "Hall of Fame Tribute" fundraiser in Washington, DC.
White House political director Sara Taylor attends a Story County GOP fundraiser in Ames, IA.
Arriving outside your hotel door this morning is a splashy front page USA Today must-read exclusive. Pick it up off of the floor and read it.
Leslie Cauley reports that the National Security Agency has been "secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth." LINK
"The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans -- most of whom aren't suspected of any crime. This program does not involve the NSA listening to or recording conversations. But the spy agency is using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity, sources said in separate interviews."
"One major telecommunications company declined to participate in the program: Qwest." "According to sources familiar with the events, Qwest's CEO at the time, Joe Nacchio, was deeply troubled by the NSA's assertion that Qwest didn't need a court order -- or approval under FISA -- to proceed. Adding to the tension, Qwest was unclear about who, exactly, would have access to its customers' information, and how that information might be used."
ABC News' Jessica Yellin reports that the White House will not confirm or deny the existence of this program.
Cable news will have at this all day. It will almost certainly lede the evening programs.
Tony Snow: this one's for you to figure out. Note hint: start by asking, "Are there more of these I should know about?"
The DOJ investigation into the conduct of its own lawyers in approving the NSA's domestic surveillance program was shut down because investigators were denied security clearances, the New York Times reports. LINK
According to Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Mr./General Hayden told him that he is "willing to consider trying to bring the NSA wiretap program, as it exists now, under federal law." LINK
The Washington Post's Charles Babington writes: "It was unclear whether Hayden meant the FISA law or some other, perhaps new, statute, aides to Durbin said." White House spokeswoman Dana Perino played down the significance of Hayden's reported remarks.
More from that Washington Post story on Bush and conservatives:
Michael Dimock of the Pew Research Center said one of the most "striking" findings of recent surveys is the growing number of conservatives who "don't' see Bush as one of them" as they did earlier. "Pew found that Bush has suffered a 24-point drop in his approval rating among voters who backed him in 2004: from 92 percent in January 2005 to 68 percent in March."
Karl Rove and GOP leaders are "well aware of the problem and are planning a summer offensive to win back conservatives with a mix of policy fights and warnings of how a Democratic Congress would govern. The plan includes votes on tax cuts, a constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage, new abortion restrictions, and measures to restrain government spending."
Sen. Kennedy (D-MA) claims the Enzi health care bill being debated in the Senate this week would undermine the landmark Massachusetts health care legislation recently signed into law by Gov. Romney. (Be sure to Note Romney communications guru Eric Fehrnstrom's refusing to take a similar swipe at the GOP Senate bill and instead opts for a more cautious response.) LINK
Jonathan Allen of The Hill writes up the House GOP's 2006 "vision statement." LINK
Politics of tax cuts:
In the written statement he issued last night, the President offered a reminder to Democrats how the Republican Party would frame any rollback of his tax cuts: "I urge the Senate to vote swiftly so that I can sign this bill into law and put a stop to a massive tax hike that would be disastrous for small businesses, our economy, and all working Americans," said the President.
The New York Times' Sheryl Gay Stolberg credits President Bush with a "welcome victory" in the form of the House's passage yesterday of the tax cut bill. LINK
Per the Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman, the House "easily approved a five-year, $70 billion tax package last night that would extend President Bush's investor tax cuts, keep millions of middle-income Americans off the alternative minimum tax and provide a bevy of other benefits, from a tax write-off for songwriters to a break for the University of Texas." LINK
The Wall Street Journal's Brody Mullins writes that large U.S. financial-services firms and oil companies "emerged as winners in the $70 billion tax bill moving through Congress, though neither industry came through the process unscathed."
After much lobbying by nonprofits for and against the measure, the House dropped a controversial proposal from the tax bill which would have changed the tax rules for charities and donors. LINK
Carl Leubsdorf of the Dallas Morning News columnizes that policies of tax cuts and out of control spending from Washington lawmakers are running contrary to any promises of fiscal restraint. LINK
The "recreational ballet dancer with the vocabulary of a longshoreman" fires a shot across Chairman Dean's 50-state bow in a must-read on the front page of today's Washington Post: "This is a historic opportunity, and we can't squander it," Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) tells the venerable Tom Edsall. LINK
The chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, who "stormed out of Dean's office several days ago leaving a trail of expletives," is one of "many" Washington Democrats who think Dean is "unwise" to spend the DNC's money on field organizers and other staff in states where House and Senate candidates have "little chance of winning."
True to the promise he made when he ran for party chair, the Good Doctor has maintained that the party "cannot strengthen itself over the long haul unless it competes everywhere."
One source familiar with the details of the meeting tells The Note that "this discussion was a follow up to a previous one where Dean, Emanuel, and Schumer agreed the DNC would focus on the ground game in key '06 races. This was the follow-up to that discussion."
"This is Rahm covering his bases to a degree," added the source.
A Democrat with one of the committees explains, "There's been longstanding disagreements about how funds are being spent and raised, but certainly nobody wanted it to bubble up on the front page of the Washington Post. [All three chairmen] are trying to have lines of communication as open as possible" to help get Democrats elected.
Yet another Democratic aide familiar with the workings of the campaign committees offers this response: "Dean doesn't understand that if we blow 2006, we're through as a party. Opportunities like the one we have, come around as often Haley's comet."
The New York Times' Nagourney covers similar ground: LINK
"Mr. Emanuel, in an interview, said he had left the meeting to cast a vote in Congress. He described their differences as a 'fundamental difference about short-term versus long-term objectives -- it is not hostile.'" DNC communications director Karen Finney tells The Note, "Gov. Dean believes we have to do both focus on '06 and build for the longterm and we are doing just that. Unlike the committees the DNC has to focus on not just 2006, but on 2008, 2012, and beyond."
All of this provided for an awkward scene this morning where occupants of the DNC/DCCC building were evacuated due to an alarm. One source says everyone had to huddle together to avoid the rain.
Bense stays out:
The St. Petersburg Times's Steve Bousquet analyzes Bense's decision not to run for Senate, with gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist fundraiser Brian Ballard saying that "If she's the Republican candidate, the best we can hope for is that she doesn't bring down the rest of the ticket." LINK
The Miami Herald's Gary Fineout has a priceless Gov. Jeb Bush reaction, "I'm going to support the Republican nominee, if she is the nominee. . . Sure. If there's no one else filing, she will get the support of all God-fearing Republicans," and Notes that "some Republicans say Harris' campaign, already wracked with trouble, now becomes more vulnerable after the public spectacle of Bush and others courting someone to run against her." LINK
John Kennedy and Jason Garcia of the Sun-Sentinel write that "analysts forecast that national parties could steer dollars away from Florida's Senate race to more competitive contests elsewhere, particularly in Pennsylvania and Ohio." LINK
The Palm Beach Post's Alan Gomez Notes that, "asked if he would support Harris, Bense was noncommittal, mentioning that other potential candidates have until Friday to qualify for the primary." LINK
The Washington Post's tireless Chris Cillizza has DSCC honcho Schumer saying that GOP candidates are backing away from the Florida Senate race because they "are loath to spend the next six months defending the status quo." LINK
The St. Petersburg Times' Bill Adair writes up Pres. Bush's Florida print roundtable, including the President saying that he thinks "Jeb would be a great president. But it's up to Jeb to make a decision to run" and that he "pushed him fairly hard about what he intends to do," without any result. LINK
Phil Long of the Miami Herald writes it up as well. LINK
The Palm Beach Post headline: "President touts brother Jeb for his job in 2008." LINK
The Florida Times-Union: "Bush touts brother's presidential mettle." LINK
Washington Post (hard copy) headline: "First Two Say They Want a Third President Bush." LINK
The New York tabloids have fun with the Jeb-for-president storyline after President Bush yesterday told reporters his younger brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, would make a "great president." LINK and LINK
The President addressed the current political climate as well.
The Tallahassee Democrat' Bill Cotterell has President Bush saying that "I am convinced that we will continue to hold majorities in both the House and the Senate" seeing that "we have a very strong and positive agenda." LINK
The Tampa Tribune's William March has University of Florida political scientist Stephen Craig commenting on the President's unusual hour-long meeting with reporters that "they know what their poll numbers are. It's clear they are taking steps that they hope will have some positive political fallout." LINK
David DeCamp of the Florida Times-Union has some quick Bush-in-his-own-words excerpts from yesterday's meeting with reporters. LINK
Politics of gas prices:
Bloomberg News' Jay Newton-Small reports on Democratic efforts to use gasoline to their advantage in the 2006 elections. LINK
Newton-Small suggests this could be particularly effective in so-called "exurbs," areas outside of traditional suburbs that "trend Republican" but depend on low gas prices for long commutes.
"Republicans aim to gain control of the energy issue with a series of votes on supply-and-demand proposals rejected by previous Congresses," the Wall Street Journal reports.
The House energy committee yesterday heard yet another "bleak assessment" of what is to come with gasoline prices. LINK
Also in the House, the Appropriations Committee yesterday approved a bill that would have the Interior Department renegotiate leases for companies drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico – despite the Bush Administration and many Republican lawmakers opposing such a measure. LINK
Hayden for CIA Director:
The New York Times' Carl Hulse reports part of the disappointment in the House over the developments at the CIA are attributable to the "bipartisan sense" that outgoing head Porter Goss "was treated shabbily." LINK
Columnist Robert Novak is hearing the Hill grumbling over DNI John Negroponte in the form of criticism for being a too-smooth operator, "interested mostly in avoiding criticism, not really addressing the shortcomings in the intelligence community." LINK
Politics of detainees:
Julian Barnes of the Los Angeles Times writes that Senators are trying to (quietly) convince the Defense Department that the new Army Field Manual comply with the McCain amendment regarding detainees in the war on terror. LINK
Politics of immigration:
Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton analyzes how the GOP's anti-immigration rhetoric changed California voters 10 years ago, and how those voters are changing again. LINK
Politics of abortion:
Sens. Reid and Clinton frame their opposition to a Republican health bill as part of their attempts to reduce the number of abortions in America, claiming the bill could result in less access to contraception for women, reports the Washington Times' Amy Fagan. LINK
The New York Times' David Stout writes that some Democrats on the Hill are not satisfied by HUD Secretary Alfonso Jackson's explanation of and apology for his ("anecdotal") comments that he rejected a government contract because the recipient was critical of the President. LINK
The New York Times previews today's speech by FBI Director Robert Mueller on his agency's efforts to focus on public corruption. LINK
As the Times Notes, the more than 2,000 corruption investigations underway by the FBI have "yielded an unexpectedly rich array of cases." (Unexpected to whom exactly?)
Chicago's infamous political machine has been one target of increased attention by law enforcement. LINK
The New York Times reports former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA) is refusing to speak with Pentagon investigators about the bribery scheme that led to his resignation from office. LINK
The Times' Paul von Zielbauer also has the lead investigator in the case saying he is likely to "eventually identify several conspirators."
Dusty Foggo said through his lawyer yesterday that he did not have any improper relationship with Brent Wilkes, a defense contractor at the center of a congressional bribery scandal. LINK
The Los Angeles Times reports that federal prosecutors have begun an investigation into Appropriations Chairman Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA) and his unusually close relationship with a Washington lobbyist linked to the Duke Cunningham scandal. LINK
The Abramoff affair:
The Chicago Tribune's Mark Silva writes up the USSS-released records of Jack Abramoff's two visits to the Bush White House, though they reveal nothing about who Abramoff visited or who invited him. LINK
The Washington Post's Grimaldi and Schmidt report that Secret Service logs made public yesterday show "only" two visits by Abramoff to the White House, including "what administration sources said was a 2001 meeting with presidential adviser Karl Rove seeking to place two allies in agency jobs." LINK
"Tom Noe has signaled his intention to possibly accept responsibility for some, if not all, of the charges that he illegally funneled money into the re-election campaign of President Bush," reports the Toledo Blade. LINK
"Mr. Noe's attorneys and federal prosecutors asked a federal judge yesterday to schedule a hearing so that Mr. Noe can change his plea in the case. Mr. Noe pleaded not guilty in October and faced a maximum of 15 years in federal prison and a $1 million fine if convicted of all charges."
Alan Johnson and Jim Siegel of the Columbus Dispatch report on Democratic efforts to attach themselves to minimum wage battles in Ohio and eight other states, believing such bills will help bring voters to the polls. LINK
Quinnipiac University is out with its latest poll in the Pennsylvania Senate race which shows nearly half of Bob Casey, Jr.'s support comes from people who are mainly voting against Santorum. The horse race numbers are little changed from Quinnipiac's April poll: Casey: 49 percent; Santorum: 36 percent; Undecided: 12 percent (MoE: +/- 2.5%)
DSCC's Charles Schumer "pledged yesterday that Democrats would begin courting disaffected Republican voters and making 'offensive forays into red states,'" reports Jonathan Kaplan of The Hill. LINK
The New York Times on the nasty Republican primary in New York as John Spencer and Kathleen Troia McFarland battle to take on Sen. Hillary Clinton. LINK
Despite the NRCC's Carl Forti saying "People are totally comfortable with criticizing Congress but then voting for their congressman," the Wall Street Journal's Jackie Calmes writes that 2006 is "shaping up to be different."
"Stuart Rothenberg, a nonpartisan election analyst, says there is no doubt 2006 is a nationalized election year that threatens a wipeout for the party in power. Republican pollster David Winston argues that in an Internet age of Web blogs, talk radio and cable news, all politics henceforth are national, not local. 'We are going to play in a national arena this fall, not a local sandlot,' he wrote recently in Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper."
"In a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, likely voters by 49% to 30% said that national issues will be more important in their decisions than their representative's local record. That is unusually high; by contrast, just before the 1994 midterm wave drove Democrats from power in Congress, a slight majority still said local issues were more important."
The Hill's Patrick O'Connor writes that "while many members appreciated Bob Ney's (R-OH) comments" that he does not intend to resign and that he will "vigorously fend off" a federal indictment, "others thought it was only a matter of time before the lawmaker is indicted as part of the corruption probe and thought that seeking their support is beside the point." LINK
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Gabrieli is proposing a $1 billion plan to bring embryonic stem cell research to Massachusetts, reports the Boston Globe. LINK
James O'Toole of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports on gubernatorial challenger Lynn Swann's (R-PA) still-unannounced plan for property tax reform that would require a constitutional amendment, a process that under the best of circumstances could take years. LINK
Mark Houser of the Tribune-Review reports on more of Swann's projected tax cuts, including a plan to cut state spending by five percent. LINK
The New York Daily News reports on e-mails, given to the newspaper by the state's Republican Party, which show Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Eliot Spitzer and TV stock analyst Jim Cramer engaging in "several instances of mutual – and clearly coordinated – praise for each other in the press." LINK
The San Francisco Chronicle's Tom Chorneau writes up yesterday's third and probably last debate between gubernatorial candidates Steve Westly (D-CA) and Phil Angelides (D-CA), Noting that having little to distinguish them from one another, the two settled for trading harsh personal attacks. LINK
2006: New Orleans:
New Orleans' three largest police and fire associations announced yesterday they will endorse Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu for mayor, reports Michael Perlstein of the Times-Picayune. The groups backed Mayor Ray Nagin in 2002, but are hoping for more visible progress from Landrieu. LINK
Trying to address the loss of the Maytag plant in Newton, Gov. Tom Vilsack is set to offer $10 million to Newton and Jasper County "for a wide range of economic development initiatives" in what he calls "a state first," reports Donnelle Eller of the Des Moines Register. LINK
The Des Moines Register's Jane Norman provides the Iowa congressional delegation's reaction to the Maytag plant closure. LINK
John DiStaso of the New Hampshire Union Leader includes Evan Bayh's PAC funding the salary of "Sean Downey as the new finance director of the [New Hampshire] Senate Democratic Caucus' PAC" and Gov. Tom Vilsack's planned inaugural visit to the Granite State next month. LINK
In his Washington Post column, David Broder writes that "any Democratic hopeful who hires Shrum for 2008 is on notice that he can expect nothing but grief from Shrum." LINK
Broder also writes that Joe Klein is right about voters wanting authenticity, a quality which Broder thinks McCain possesses and which he thinks will be tested this weekend when McCain speaks at Liberty University.
Broder's guess is that "rather than pandering to the fundamentalist's social agenda, McCain will challenge the Liberty students to bring their moral energy and religious conviction to bear on the struggle for political reform, immigrant rights, and environmental improvement – the causes with which he is most identified."
Across the page from Broder's air kiss to McCain, George F. Will takes him to task for telling Don Imus on April 28 that he would rather have a clean government than a corrupt government in which "quote First Amendments rights are being respected" LINK
"So Republican primary voters will wonder: Can President McCain be counted on to nominate justices who would correct such constitutional elasticities as the court's discovery of a virtually unlimited right -- one unnoticed between 1787 and 1973 -- to abortion?"
Adam Reilly of the Boston Phoenix argues that when it comes time for Gov. Mitt Romney (D-MA) to explain his Mormonism to the voting public, there will be a lot of questions and no easy answers. LINK
David Yepsen of the Des Moines Register (and Steve Scheffler of the Iowa Christian Alliance) seem to think Gov. Romney handled "the Mormon question" well in Cedar Rapids, IA this week. LINK
Davidson Goldin of the New York Sun explains that if former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is looking for success in 2008, he'll have to trade his tough New York shell for a more "honest and genuine" image that resonates with Iowa and New Hampshire voters (and reporters) in a one-on-one setting. (Sorry, no link.)
A new poll shows the approval rating of New York Gov. George Pataki (R-NY) at 30 percent, which marks his lowest rating ever. LINK
The DCCC "is keeping score" on "how helpful Democratic presidential hopefuls are to candidates endorsed by the DCCC," writes Josephine Hearn of the Hill, Noting that at the top of the list sits none other than Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) with more than half a million donated. LINK
The New York Post's Deb Orin reports that former Vice President Al Gore has made a small fortune off of Google stock: "Gore 'owns a ton of Google and he's made enough money that he could wait until a month before and just drop $50 million in to launch a  race,' claims a well-placed Democrat." LINK
The New York Daily News has Rupert Murdoch's defense of his fundraiser for Sen. Hillary Clinton, which he offered during a News Corp. conference call yesterday: "It will be pretty modest support… She's been an effective and good senator. And if people want to come to breakfast for $1,000, they're welcome. It's no big deal. It's not a million-dollar raising. It's got nothing to do with anything other than her Senate re-election." LINK
The New York Daily News asks whether Sen. Clinton's reticence to sign on to a bill that would remove an import tax on foreign ethanol has something to do with Iowa and 2008. LINK
John Edwards stopped in New York City yesterday to advocate for wage hikes for the city's home health aides. LINK
Addressing a New Hampshire firefighter's convention, Ret. Gen. Wesley Clark (D-AR) urged the President to make words not war with Iran, reports the Associated Press. LINK
In a front-page Washington Post story, Lori Montgomery and Elissa Silverman curtain raise legislation that Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton and Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) are set to unveil today that would for the first time give the District of Columbia a full vote in the House of Representatives counterbalanced by a new seat in Utah, a move which would increase the overall size of the House from 435 to 437. LINK