The Note: Compassionate Rebel/Conservative-in-Chief

WASHINGTON, May 18

Note that this is NOT a parody. This is a real memo.

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TO: President Bush

FROM: The Note

DATE: 5/18/2006

RE: A present so bright, we suggest shades

Karen Hughes hates when we give advice, so please consider this analysis.

As you fly down to the Arizona border this morning, you should ignore the polls. Your approval rating might be closer to ours than to Governor Lynch's, but the key to your mojo comeback, as Josh keeps telling you, is confidence.

You have never lacked for that, of course, but today is a particularly good one to remember the 1999-2004 glory years and recall just how much you can accomplish in this environment.

Everywhere you look, starting with your own schedule, it seems like yesteryear:

-- You have a compassionate-conservative photo up, where you can dress in rugged/sexy garb and act simultaneously tough and caring. Maybe throw a little espanol into your remarks too.

-- David Brooks is writing on the op-ed page of the New York Times about real-world compassionate conservatism, showing he knows almost as much about the Republican Party as he does about the Democrats. LINK

-- House Republicans are doing your bidding by muscling through tough votes on the budget. LINK

-- The press is filled with stories showing you signing tax cuts into law. LINK

-- David Sanger is taking leaks about shifts in your North Korea policy, and loving it. LINK

-- Bob Novak is explaining why the Republican Party is imploding, and loving it. LINK

-- You have a confirmation "battle" that the press is building up into a real fight, when your nominee is assured final approval.

-- "American Idol" is getting more "news" coverage than the war in Iraq.

If none of that cheers you up, Mr. President, try these (by popular demand): LINK, LINK, LINK

Make sure you know which line in your remarks are supposed to be the soundbite that makes the network evening news broadcasts.

And make sure you don't flub that line. (Sorry if that warning psyches you out.)

Good luck, sir.

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The President tours the Yuma sector border in Yuma, AZ at 2:10 pm ET. He is expected to be joined by Gov. Napolitano (D-AZ). He then receives a 4:25 pm ET briefing at border control headquarters and makes remarks at 4:45 pm ET before heading back to Washington, DC. (And be sure to tune-in to your network news programs at 6:30 pm ET to catch the President's one-on-one interviews with White House correspondents.)

"Gov. Napolitano supports the President's move to put National Guard troops on the border. Asked why the President is going to Arizona (and why Yuma), Tony Snow said yesterday that "it's a really good spot' and does not necessarily have anything to do with Gov. Napolitano but they are happy she is joining the President," writes ABC News' rainbow-lovin' Karen Travers.

Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) and Attorney General/congressional candidate Patricia Madrid (D-NM) hold a noon ET press conference in Albuquerque, NM.

Surveillance politics will be front and center today when the Senate Intelligence Committee holds a hearing on the nomination of Gen. Michael Hayden to be the next director of the CIA. The hearing gets underway at 9:30 am ET, one day after the White House attempted to tamp down the tension in the hearing room by providing NSA surveillance briefings to the full House and Senate Intelligence Committees.

Americans United is going up with its second tv ad in the current series criticizing the President on national security pegged to the Hayden hearings. The ad will run in rotation with the spot on the CIA leak investigation launched earlier this week. The new ad criticizes the President's domestic warrantless wiretapping program and will run on national cable in a $100,000 buy.

After a very late night, Majority Leader Boehner holds a 10:30 am ET on camera press briefing where he will get the opportunity to tout the passage of a budget. He'll probably get the opportunity to talk about the Republican divide over immigration and the House ethics investigations too.

Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) gets her opportunity to discuss those topics and more at her 10:45 am ET on camera briefing.

Three days after the deadline, House and Senate Republicans (including Rep. Deborah Pryce and Sen. Jim Talent) joined by HHS Secretary Leavitt and Dr. Mark McClellan to talk about "the good news that over 38 million seniors now have prescription drug coverage" at an 11:00 am ET press conference complete with two HHS "Medicare busses."

The CEO's of the Big Three automakers make the Capitol Hill rounds today. They meet with the House Republican leadership at 11:00 am ET, the Senate Democrats at 12:45 pm ET, the House Democrats at 1:45 pm ET, and Dr./Sen./Leader Frist (R-TN) rounds out the day with his 3:45 pm ET photo opportunity.

Sen. Clinton (D-NY) addresses immigration reform at the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute at 10:15 am ET. Tonight, Sen. Clinton addresses the "Dream Academy Dinner" in Washington, DC at 7:30 pm ET.

Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) makes an 11:00 am ET personnel announcement in Boston, MA.

Four of the five major candidates running to succeed Gov. Romney on Beacon Hill square-off in a Cambridge, MA debate.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell (R-CT) introduces her 2006 running mate at 1:00 pm ET in the House Republican Caucus Room of the State Capitol.

Musician Moby joins the fight for net neutrality with Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) at a 1:00 pm ET press conference in Washington, DC as part of the unveiling of the "Artists and Musicians for Internet Freedom" initiative.

Hayden for CIA Director:

The Chicago Tribune's Stephen Hedges writes Mr. Michael Hayden's appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee as a "hearing within a hearing" determining whether he is qualified to replace Porter Goss and whether he broke the law as head of the NSA. LINK

Per the New York Times, yesterday's classified briefing to Senate Intelligence Committee members on the domestic surveillance program "smoothed what might have been a contentious path toward confirmation for Gen. Michael V. Hayden as director of the Central Intelligence Agency, senators and Congressional officials said." LINK

In a piece sure to be read by members of the Intelligence Committee before today's hearings, the New Yew York Times' Scott Shane points to the NSA's failed Trailblazer and Groundbreaker operations and reports that critics of Hayden's, including some "former senior N.S.A. officials and advisers," claim that Hayden is "better at public relations than at management, and that his record at the agency was far more mixed than his many admirers realize." LINK

Columnist Robert Novak reports that Speaker Hastert, still angry over the swift dismissal of his friend Porter Goss, "let the vice president have it" during a private meeting. According to Novak, Cheney then brought the Speaker to the White House living quarters so he could air his concerns directly to the President, who asked for Hastert's support of Hayden. LINK

Roll Call's John Stanton reports that to insure separation between the independent leadership of Michael Hayden in the CIA and that of his military background and entanglement with the DOD, Sens. John Warner (R-VA) and Carl Levin (D-MI) have modified language in this years Defense authorization bill "requiring that officers serving in civilian roles 'shall not be subject to supervision or control by the Secretary of Defense or by any officer or employee of the Department of Defense, except as directed by the Secretary or the Secretary's designee concerning reassignment from such position.'"

The Washington Post reviews Hayden's role in the domestic surveillance program. LINK

Fixing the CIA's morale problem is likely to be Hayden's first priority if confirmed. The Washington Post has that story. LINK

USA Today's preview: LINK

By suddenly deciding to brief the Intelligence Committees, the Administration is "doing the right thing for the wrong reason," writes the Los Angeles Times ed board. LINK

Surveillance politics:

The New York Times tries to make sense of the latest statements by phone companies about their role in the NSA's phone databases, and vaguely suggests "records directly turned over by the long-distance carriers might be only one of several sources for such a database." LINK

Big Casino budget politics:

After weeks of delays, the House approved a $2.7 trillion US Budget plan the 2007 fiscal year reports to Brian Faler of Bloomberg. While the chamber adopted President Bush's cap on discretionary spending, it refused his other suggestion, slashing the Medicare budget for the second year in a row. LINK

The Wall Street Journal reports that House lawmakers worked late into last night, passing a blueprint budget, "after Republican moderates won a promise for modest increases in spending on education, health and other social programs."

Alexander Bolton of The Hill reports that Majority Leader Rep. Boehner had a closed door meeting where he "flexed his authority " with lawmakers hoping to get Republican members focused and on the same voting path on budget issues. LINK

The New York Times' Edmund Andrews writes that the House's late-night passage of a budget plan was a modest victory for congressional Republicans; had they failed to pass the plan, it would have "accentuate[d] their disarray on fiscal issues at a time their public approval ratings, even on issues like taxes, are plunging." LINK

The Associated Press predicts that it "is improbable" that the House and Senate will be able to agree on a mutual budget plan. LINK

Politics of immigration:

Wethinks Rep. Sensenbrenner is thus far unconvinced by the President's immigration reform push this week.

"Complaining that President Bush 'doesn't get it' on immigration, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner blasted the White House on Wednesday, saying that Bush has provoked a firestorm by endorsing amnesty for illegal immigrants," reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Craig Gilbert. LINK

The Senate's vote in favor of a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border yesterday had a clear impact, writes the Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman: it "helped soften opposition among conservatives" to the Senate's immigration bill, while simultaneously starting to "strain a coalition of immigrant rights and civil rights groups that have given Democrats political cover to back the Senate measure." LINK

Yet Weisman writes that Senate Democrats are likely to accept the bill, even if it contains provisions they are opposed to, "as long as they get the one measure they must have: a chance at citizenship for an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants."

But even if Senate Democrats are on board, the New York Times' Carl Hulse and Jim Rutenberg report that House Republicans are still in open "revolt" over the Senate bill's path to citizenship for illegal immigrants -- a revolt that even a visit by Karl Rove to Capitol Hill yesterday was unable to quell. LINK

Hulse and Rutenberg report that Rove "made little headway" with House Republicans, and was even "warned" by one that "it was dangerous to work too closely with Senator Edward M. Kennedy."

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) tells the Los Angeles Times that Karl Rove "left with his hat in his hand" yesterday after trying to bring House Republicans on board with the President's immigration proposal. LINK

The Hill's Patrick O'Connor provides a round-up on Rove's remarks on Capitol Hill yesterday. LINK

After the Senate approved the measure to build the fence, Rep. Sensenbrenner (R-WI) claimed President Bush's "basically turned his back" on border security during Monday's primetime speech after, according to Charles Hurt of the Washington Times. LINK

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) went the Robert Frost route, stating "Good fences make good neighbors."

The New York Daily News' Kenneth Bazinet reports that funding for the President's proposal to send National Guard troops to the border may be the next big battle. LINK

The Washington Post on the 400 church, union, and civic leaders from 20 states who yesterday "swarmed" the Capitol Hill to lobby for legalization of all immigrants: LINK

Los Angeles Times super-columnist George Skelton reports that Gov. Schwarzenegger expressed serious doubts about sending California's National Guardsmen to the border during a long phone call last night with Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff. LINK

David Brooks explains, in a rather lyric and/or roundabout way, why some Republicans in the Senate are supporting the immigration reform plan. LINK

The ethics committee gets to work:

With the House ethics committee deciding last night to open investigations into Reps. Bob Ney (R-OH) and William Jefferson (D-LA), and another one into activities surrounding former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA), the Washington Post attributes the breaking of the "logjam" to former ranking Democrat Rep. Alan B. Mollohan's (D-WV) resignation from the panel. LINK

"Isn't it interesting that when the chief Democrat quits the stalled ethics panel under scrutiny, his replacement is able to easily work with House Republicans to move the process forward?" Hastert spokesman Ron Bonjean rhetorically asked a USA Today reporter. LINK

The House Democratic leadership clearly disagrees with that assessment. One House Democratic leadership aide tells The Note, "The fact is Republicans couldn't sustain their obstruction of the ethics process after one Republican member was indicted and another Republican member was sent to prison for bribery. Democrats continue to insist that all members - Republicans and Democrats - must obey the law and follow the rules or be held accountable."

The Post's Jonathan Weisman also predicts the "Cunningham inquiry could hold the most political significance, because it will look into activities that could snare lawmakers who so far have escaped official scrutiny."

The New York Times' Philip Shenon writes that the ethics committee's moves signal "a new, if grudging spirit of compromise on the ethics committee, as well as a sense of embarrassment that the panel has been inactive while prosecutors are suggesting that several members of Congress are under criminal investigation and facing indictment." LINK

In his statement, Rep. Ney said he was pleased "to have this matter addressed once and for all,'' reports Bloomberg News. LINK

Rep. Joe Baca (D-CA) may have violated House ethics rules when his staffers went to help campaign for his son's California Assembly seat, reports Josephine Hearn of The Hill. LINK

Politics of Iraq:

Military investigators were tight-lipped when the Wall Street Journal tried to follow up on yesterday's accusation by Rep. John Murtha that Marines in Haditha opened fire on civilian women and children in an incident last November. Murtha, a former Marine, "appeared to be prodding the Marine command to acknowledge the incident more openly."

Intelligence politics:

The Los Angeles Times reports that Leader Pelosi may be angling to rotate Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) out of her influential seat as the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee. LINK

For insiders, there are no fewer than four important, subtext storylines embedded in this one.

Politics of same-sex marriage:

Despite Laura Bush's protestations, Stephan Dinan of the Washington Times writes up the Family Research Council's -- and other socially conservative groups -- pushing President Bush to up his support for the Federal Marriage Amendment that will come up for a vote in the Senate next month, citing an AP-Ipsos poll that ranks the President's approval rating among conservatives at a sub-par 45 percent as cause for alarm. LINK

Bush Administration agenda:

The New York Times' Adam Nagourney has a wrap on the President's speech Wednesday night before an RNC fundraiser in which he "left little doubt that the White House would return to the same themes it used over the past six years, portraying Democrats as weak on terrorism and committed to higher taxes and government spending." LINK

Per the New York Times, with Congress set to revisit No Child Left Behind next year, yesterday's move by the Department of Education to allow North Carolina and Tennessee to participate in a pilot project that tracks student progress in new ways could be significant in the upcoming debate over the law's future. LINK

The Washington Post on the same: LINK

Energy politics:

Senate Democrats unveiled their own energy plan yesterday, the New York Times reports. LINK

Tuesday's primary results:

The Washington Post's Dan Balz and Chris Cillizza explore Tuesday's primary results in Pennsylvania and Oregon and see them as the "latest signals of brewing unrest that could threaten incumbents of both parties in the November elections." LINK

The New York Times' Jason DeParle tackles the same topic and has Club for Growth President Pat Toomey sounding worried about what the Pennsylvania primary bodes for the Republican Party: "It shows a very worrisome, elevated level of anger and frustration on the part of Republicans. . . In a primary, they can vent that by voting for challengers. The problem is, in a general election they stay home. It's a very worrisome sign for Republicans in Washington." LINK

Mario Cattabiani and Amy Worden of the Philadelphia Inquirer on the aftershocks Tuesday's primary will have on Pennsylvania's incumbents all the way to November. LINK

The Clintons of Chappaqua:
The Washington Post has former President Clinton's attorney saying that Clinton's new book will do three things: "describe some of the 'remarkable work' in which he has been involved through the Clinton Foundation, profile some of the 'amazing people' he has met in the course of that work and other travels, and give guidance to his readers as to 'how they can get involved and make a difference.'" LINK

One "industry veteran with knowledge of the deal" tells the New York Times that Clinton's book deal has a cash advance of "around $5 million." LINK

The New York Daily News has Jim Milliot of Publisher's Weekly Noting that "It could be a perfect campaign book" and saying he believes the book will be "a tougher sell" than "My Life" was. LINK

2006: New Orleans:

The New York Times asks -- and tries to answer -- why Ray Nagin continues to be so popular in New Orleans. LINK

Nagin garners support from local mayors in the region, reports the Times-Picayune. LINK

2006: House:

In a near must-read, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) takes to the Washington Post op-ed page to say he "will not" immediately begin impeachment proceedings against the President if Democrats retake the House in November and he becomes chairman of the Judiciary Committee. LINK

Instead, Conyers says he would convene a select committee "made up equally of Democrats and Republicans and chosen by the House speaker and the minority leader" that would investigate the President. "At the end of the process, if -- and only if -- the select committee, acting on a bipartisan basis, finds evidence of potentially impeachable offenses, it would forward that information to the Judiciary Committee."

That's probably just enough to keep the NRCC/NRSC/RNC fundraising machine churning with an "In His Own Words" type of appeal.

2006: Senate:

Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) primary challenger Ned Lamont was cited yesterday by the Federal Elections Commission for failing to meet the deadline for filing a fund-raising report before the state Democratic nominating convention. LINK

Lamont has taken to the airwaves in advance of Saturday's Democratic state convention, writes Roll Call's Duran.

"One 30-second spot called 'Underdog' features a little black-and-white dog and a Cape Cod-style house. The pooch stands on the lawn barking at a Lieberman for Senate sign. A female narrator intones that Lieberman has been called President Bush's 'lap dog' and that 'it seems like everybody is mad at Joe Lieberman these days.'"

"The dog keeps straining against his leash and barking until the woman says 'never fear. . . the underdog is here,' and the Lieberman sign turns to a Lamont sign, at which point the dog obediently sits and ceases barking."

PA's newly-crowned Democratic Senate nominee Bob Casey, Jr. rejected a challenge from Sen. Santorum asking him to state his votes on every Senate bill through the election. LINK

The Hill's Jonathan Kaplan writes up Sen. Specter's returning the favor and making Sen. Santorum's reelection his top priority for the year. LINK

USA Today looks at how immigration is dominating the Arizona Senate race. LINK

Sen. Chaffee (R-RI) has filed an FEC complaint against his primary opponent, Stephen Laffey, for failing to properly disclose expenditures and contributions, reports the Associated Press. LINK

2006: Governor:

Leading in the polls and with money in the bank Gov. Ed Rendell (D-PA) took to the road in a nine-city bus tour of the commonwealth, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. LINK

A new poll of New York state voters has 54 percent, including 46 percent of Republicans, saying Eliot Spitzer (D-NY) is the person to fix the state's "broken" government, reports the New York Post. LINK

The poll also showed Spitzer trouncing any possible opponent in the governor's race, Notes the New York Daily News. LINK

Per the New York Times, Spitzer's primary opponent, Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi, yesterday called on Spitzer to recuse himself from an investigation into the New York State United Teachers, which has been a campaign contributor to Spitzer. LINK

New York Republicans are trying to "derail" John Faso's bid to be their party's nominee for governor by "assailing him as an extremist conservative who would drag down the entire Republican slate in the November elections," per the New York Times. LINK

Faso's primary opponent, William Weld, yesterday accused Faso of having an "Irish problem" -- referring to "a 10-year-old case in which Faso was against having public schools teach about Ireland's 1845-49 potato famine." LINK

The Washington Post reports Maryland Democrats are objecting to Gov. Robert Ehrlich's (R-MD) visage appearing on taxpayer-funded ads across the state, while Noting that last week, "Ehrlich vowed to continue the marketing regime, calling it a benefit of incumbency that he has every right to enjoy." LINK

"Under investigation for alleged hiring improprieties, Gov. Rod Blagojevich's administration acknowledged Wednesday it has kept a list of thousands of names of state job applicants and their politically connected sponsors since his election to office nearly four years ago," reports the Chicago Tribune. LINK

"But Blagojevich aides said compiling the list does not violate rules that prohibit political considerations in most state hiring or promotions."

The Los Angeles Times' Michael Finnegan writes of Steve Westly's "quick reversal of fortune" in his primary battle against Phil Angelides. LINK

New Hampshire:

John DiStaso's "Granite Status" column in the New Hampshire Union Leader ledes with the Democrats perhaps scooping the New Hampshire GOP on announcing Karl Rove as their guest speaker. DiStaso also has DNC Rules Committee co-chair Roosevelt's schedule for proceeding with changes to the 2008 nomination calendar and a reference to Julie Teer's wedding. As is always the case, it is a must-read. LINK

Former Republican National Committee regional official James Tobin was sentenced to 10 months in prison yesterday for his role in a jamming New Hampshire Democrats' phones during Election Day of 2002. LINK

Iowa:

Financial disclosure forms reveal both of Iowa's Senators and Rep. Jim Leach (R-IA)'s millionaire status, reports the Des Moines Register. LINK

2008: Republicans:

Jim Galloway of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on how Rudy Giuliani's visit to Atlanta puts Ralph Reed's bid for lieutenant governor into the spotlight. LINK

Under the headline "Rudy makes right turn," the New York Daily News previews Giuliani's appearance at a Reed fundraiser today. LINK

The Boston Globe writes that Gov. Romney spoke in "unusually personal terms" when he told a prayer breakfast that the recent floods in Massachusetts have reminded him that American society has a ''culture of caring" that rises in the face of devastation. LINK

And the Globe's news-of-day flooding story makes clear that Romney will be tested on this for a long time to come. LINK

The Boston Phoenix editorial board doesn't seem to think Gov. Romney's national media exposure -- in the wake of flooding in his state -- is presenting the full picture of his record on flood preparedness. LINK

2008: Democrats:
The Sioux Falls Argus Leader fronts Tom Daschle's presidential toe-dipping with his announced upcoming trips to Iowa, New Hampshire, and Michigan. The Argus Leader reminds readers of Daschle's post-November 2004 prediction that elected office was a thing of his past. LINK

While trashing the President, the New York Post's Deborah Orin Notes that Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and John Kerry (D-MA) both voted in favor of the Senate amendment yesterday that would create a 370-mile fence along the U.S.-Mexico border. LINK

Bob Herbert writes in the New York Times that though some people think otherwise, Sen. Clinton has not yet wrapped up the Democrats' 2008 nomination. LINK

A look at the Vilsacks' off-the-beaten path Tour de Israel, courtesy of the Des Moines Register. LINK

Gov. Vilsack's e-postcards back to his home state can be found here. LINK

Start your engines! Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) plans on visiting the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Monday to meet with Indy Racing League engineers and "discuss how the ethanol fueling the racecars in next week's Indy 500 can be used by Americans everywhere to help reduce dependence on foreign oil. This year, the racecars will run on a 10 percent ethanol blend before moving to a 100 percent ethanol fuel next year," per the Bayh press release.

Politics:

ABC News' Jake Tapper and Avery Miller offered an exclusive report on "World News Tonight" last night looking at the NRA's push to get "police chiefs and mayors pledge to never confiscate weapons from law-abiding citizens in the wake of disasters such as hurricanes or terrorist attacks." LINK

The New York Daily News folos: LINK

In his Washington Post column, George Will vents his frustration at the continued use of the phrase "values voter": "This phrase diminishes our understanding of politics. It also is arrogant on the part of social conservatives and insulting to everyone else because it implies that only social conservatives vote to advance their values and everyone else votes to . . . well, it is unclear what they supposedly think they are doing with their ballots." LINK

Note the McCain/Clinton analysis at the end of the column. In a move of obvious type casting, former White House counter-terrorism chief and current ABC News consultant Richard Clarke will be portrayed by Sean Penn in the movie version of his book. LINK