The Note: The State of the Bush Presidency

WASHINGTON, May 22

To review where we are:

It seems safe to say that mojo restoration will not be produced by the President's call to create "a commission to examine the full impact of baby boom retirements on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid" that would "include members of Congress of both parties, and offer bipartisan solutions." Or by his proposals "to train 70,000 high school teachers to lead advanced-placement courses in math and science," and "bring 30,000 math and science professionals to teach in classrooms."

Those were, of course, signature parts of the Bush 2006 State of the Union, which the Washington Post's political team once suggested was where resuscitation, resurrection, and renaissance would occur.

Four months later, if the Post is right (and it is) all those things will only come (if they come at all) in about six months, when voters vote. Bolten only bounces, it seems, when the threat of a Speaker Pelosi/Emanuel is lifted.

The Washington Post's Peter Baker and Jim VandeHei report that President Bush and his team are "focusing on the fall midterm elections as the best chance to salvage his presidency and are building a campaign strategy around tax cuts, immigration and national security." LINK

"A top adviser said Rove and White House political director Sara M. Taylor are advising candidates not to duck the issue of Iraq but rather to make it a centerpiece of their campaigns."

"The Rove-Taylor view is that one-third of Americans agree with liberal Democrats calling for immediate withdrawal and another third support staying the course. The middle third wants a new strategy, but would be leery of pulling out and leaving behind a volatile Iraq, a position strategists believe leaves those voters open to persuasion."

And/but the Los Angeles Times' Janet Hook takes up the "trouble brewing for the GOP" theme by looking at the ramifications of a potentially demoralized Republican base unmotivated to go to the polls in November. LINK

Two other must-reads over the weekend add to our shared precise descriptions of this particular moment in the 2006 cycle.

1. From Adam Nagourney's Sunday New York Times must-read: "Over the past week, a handful of once-safe Republican Congressional seats have come into play, and other Republican incumbents are facing increasingly stiff re-election battles, according to analysts, pollsters and officials in both parties. The change amounts to a slight but significant shift in the playing field, and a potentially pivotal change in the dynamics of this midterm election." LINK

2. Keying off of a Friday fundraiser that President Bush attended on behalf of Rep. Thelma Drake (R-VA), the Washington Post's Dan Balz and Michael Shear reported in a Saturday must-read that Stu Rothenberg now has 42 Republican districts on his list of competitive races. Last September, he had 26 competitive GOP districts. LINK

President Bush, aware of all four stories -- and the fact that Charlie, Amy, Stu, Adam, Dan, and The Note rarely agree about anything -- will again get to tout the formation of a (partial) Iraqi government when he makes remarks on the "Global War on Terror" in Chicago, IL at 11:35 am ET. Per the Chicago Tribune, upon arrival at O'Hare, the President will honor a family's volunteer work for Hurricane Katrina victims. He'll then helicopter to McCormick Place. LINK

Vice President Cheney hits the California campaign trail today to stump for Republican congressional candidates. His first stop is a fundraising event for Rep. John Doolittle in Sacramento at 1:30pm ET. Later today, Cheney plans to appear at an evening reception for Rep. Richard Pombo in Stockton, CA. Vice President Cheney plans to overnight in San Diego, CA.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is wooing women in the Granite State today. The Senator attends the New Hampshire Federation of Republican Women "Lilac Breakfast" in Manchester, NH. (The very same group that then-Gov. Bush of Texas addressed on his debut trip to New Hampshire as a presidential candidate in June 1999.)

Today also marks the deadline for Republican National Convention host city proposals to be submitted to the RNC. The DNC deadline was last Friday and it received four bids from four cities interested in hosting the 2008 Democratic National Convention: New York, Minneapolis, Denver, and New Orleans.

Site visits will be conducted this summer and the convention city will be picked this fall, per the DNC.

Sen. Clinton delivers the keynote address to the Long Island Association breakfast at 8:00 am ET. She then delivers the commencement speech for Adelphia University graduates in Uniondale, NY at 9:30 am ET.

Secretary of State Rice delivers the Boston College commencement address at 10:00 am ET in Boston, MA.

Rep. Pelosi (D-CA) is also in Boston this morning. She is attending the Kennedy "Profiles in Courage" award presentation to Rep. Jack Murtha (D-PA). This week, House Democrats will continue to focus on high gas prices, the need for the Senate to pass stem cell legislation, -- Wednesday is the one year anniversary of the House bill passing -- and honoring those who have served in the Armed Forces in advance of Memorial Day.

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) addresses the National Press Club in Washington, DC at 12:30 pm ET.

See below for our look at the week ahead in politics.

Al Gore's red carpet week:
If you only have time to read one Gore story - make it John Heilemann's must-read New York Magazine cover story, although don't take the breathless parts too seriously. LINK

Heilemann got tons of face time with The Man, which produces a scene evocative of the moment when Bill Bradley bowed down to Mike Kelly. It also produced this:

". . . the Gore boomlet is also being driven by another force: the creeping sense of foreboding about the prospect of Hillary Clinton's march to her party's nomination. 'Every conversation in Democratic politics right now has the same three sentences,' observes a senior party player. 'One: 'She is the presumptive front-runner.' Two: 'I don't much like her, but I don't want to cross her, for God's sake!' And three: 'If she's our nominee, we're going to get killed.' It's like some Japanese epic film where everyone sees the disaster coming in the third reel but no one can figure out what to do about it.'"

"Gore's loyalists take pains to avoid criticizing Hillary (on the record, at least). But many of them plainly see their guy as the solution to the Democrats' dilemma. 'If he runs, he's certainly the front-runner or the co-front-runner with Mrs. Clinton,' contends Ron Klain, Gore's former vice-presidential chief of staff. 'And, in the end, he would probably win the nomination.'"

(Note to Ron: PSD will call you soon.)

"Mr. Gore -- who said he had veto power over all elements of the film but did not exercise it -- tries just about every possible tactic to make his points," writes the New York Times' Revkin. LINK

The New York Times' Mark Leibovich simultaneously added to the Gore presidential buzz and defused it with some important Democratic Party history in his Sunday week-in-review must-read. LINK

Leibovich record at the Paper of Record to date: 2 for 2.

Variety caught up with Al Gore on a very windy hotel roof in Cannes. LINK

Roll Call has Gore's would-be/could-be cabinet attending his movie premiere in DC. LINK

USA Today includes this line in its coverage: ". . . the reality is, Gore is back and he's hot." LINK

The Washington Post's Sebastian Mallaby writes: "Six years ago, Bush narrowly defeated Gore, apparently because voters thought he'd be a nicer guy to have a beer with. But after years of governmental bungling, of willful indifference to truth, the national mood seems to be changing. Voters have seen that nice guys can screw up. And technocrats with diagrams and charts have never seemed so interesting." LINK

Surveillance politics:

The New York Times' Liptak writes up Attorney General Gonzales' "This Week" appearance in which he intimated that prosecutions of journalists who published classified information may be a course of action the Department of Justice could potentially take. LINK

The New York Post's Orin covers similar ground. LINK

The Washington Post: LINK

Politics of immigration:

The Wall Street Journal's Joe Millman reports that better security on the US-Mexican border may do little reduce illegal immigration given that similar strategies "have been tried in the past and failed" and given that smugglers have "gotten smarter" since then.

Robert Novak writes that Rove's mission last Thursday was to convince a closed session of the hard-line House Republican Conference that progress really was being made on the border. "Individual House members did not think he got the job done." LINK

Novak also puts Buchananian pin pricks in some of the Senate bill's provisions.

"Among those who will be cleared of past crimes under the Senate's proposed immigration-reform bill would be the businesses that have employed the estimated 10 million illegal aliens eligible for citizenship and that provided the very 'magnet' that drew them here in the first place," reports Charles Hurt of the Washington Times. LINK

Stephen Dinan of the Washington Times has the director of the agency that would administer a new guest-worker program saying that the pending Senate bill "doesn't give his agency enough time to prepare for that giant task." LINK

"Immigration Deal is Likely," reads a bold (read: "silly") Los Angeles Times headline, based solely on Sunday show blather. LINK

Jefferson:

The New York Times follows the AP reporting over the weekend about the FBI's weekend raid of Rep. Jefferson's office in the Rayburn House Office Building and the court filings describing $90,000 in cash found packed away in the congressman's freezer. LINK

More from the Los Angeles Times: LINK

The Washington Post: LINK

The Abramoff affair:

Philip Shenon of the New York Times tees up David Safavian's trial -- the first Abramoff-related jury trial -- set to get underway this week. Jury selection begins today, with opening statements expected Wednesday, in a trial expected to last about a week. LINK

The Fitzgerald investigation:

Keying off of recent court filings, the Washington Post's Walter Pincus reports that Patrick Fitzgerald plans to argue that Libby knew Plame's CIA employment was classified, giving him a reason to lie to the grand jury. LINK

The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz reports that the recent untrue claim that Rove had been indicted was written by "a journalist who has battled drug addiction and mental illness and been convicted of grand larceny." And yet, that didn't stop "more than 35 reporters -- from all the major newspapers, networks and newsmagazines -- from calling Luskin or Rove's spokesman, Mark Corallo, to check it out." LINK

A Note Notebook to the first person who can tell us why Karl Rove was at O'Hare last Friday afternoon around 6pm ET. Karl Rove and members of his staff are not eligible.

Bush Administration agenda:

Dick Morris writes in the New York Post that the road back to healthy poll numbers for President Bush has far less to do with Iraq than it does with gas prices. LINK

USA Today's Richard Benedetto writes up Laura Bush as the White House's Homecoming/Outgoing Queen, with upcoming stops in Rhode Island, Vermont and Minnesota. LINK

The Tony Snow Era:

Elisabeth Bumiller of the New York Times -- now officially out of ideas for her Letters -- Notes Tony Snow's mention that he was watching the Hayden confirmation hearings on CNN (read: "not Fox") while aboard Air Force One last week. LINK

GOP agenda:

Roll Call reports that Sen/Dr/Leader Frist has begun talks with Sen. Warner aimed at quickly finishing the annual defense authorization bill. The paper Notes that if Frist is successful, "it could be one of the few legislative bright spots for incumbent House and Senate lawmakers in an otherwise politically charged month of June."

2006: New Orleans:

The New Orleans Times-Picayune sees Ray Nagin's "broad appeal," especially among white voters, as the reason for his win. LINK

Shaila Dewan of the New York Times looks at how Nagin survived his post-Katrina electoral test. LINK

The Times' New Orleans bureau chief, Adam Nossiter, profiles Nagin as he looks ahead to his second term. LINK

Deb Orin of the New York Post Notes Nagin's thanks to President Bush. LINK

2006: Senate:

Paul Krugman of the New York Times uses his column to write a direct mail piece for the Ned Lamont campaign. LINK

2006: Governor:

John Faso scores the New York Post's endorsement in his Republican primary battle against William Weld. LINK

The Boston Globe profiles Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Chris Gabrieli. LINK

"His critics paint him as too longwinded, too wonkish, too cerebral to capture the public's imagination. Gabrieli admits he isn't flashy, but he says that his previous races sharpened his campaign skills. And he is convinced that this time, voters want a candidate like him."

The Schwarzenegger Era:

George Skelton of the Los Angeles Times writes that Gov. Schwarzenegger is happily perched above the Democratic gubernatorial primary fray eagerly awaiting his opponent as he showers communities around the state with unexpected state funds. LINK

Dean's Democrats:

In a wide-ranging look at who some Democrats think can win in the midterms and in 2008, the New Yorker's Jeffrey Goldberg has Missouri Senate candidate Claire McCaskill, former Oklahoma Senate candidate Brad Carson, and the chief executive of the Missouri county that includes Kansas City all voicing skepticism about Sen. Clinton being the Democratic Party's nominee in 2008.

Nora Walcott, the outgoing executive director of the Greene County Democrats, told Goldberg, "You've got to tell the people in Washington not to nominate Hillary. It would do so much damage to the Missouri Democratic Party."

Sen. Clinton is not the only '08er mentioned in the story. McCaskill says that Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), whose wife pushed organic farming while in Missouri in 2004, will not be coming to Missouri to campaign for her.

Former Gov. Mark Warner (D-VA), by contrast, is seen as a welcome visitor (although Goldberg Notes that the folks in Missouri may not be aware that Warner raised taxes while serving as governor of Virginia).

As for Democratic Party leaders, DNC Chairman Howard Dean is described as seeming "almost chemically incapable of communicating effectively beyond his base," and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is mocked for making a "game attempt at ferocity" by telling Goldberg to: "Think lioness."

Under a "Days of Rage" header, the Wall Street Journal's ed board writes that Ned Lamont's Connecticut performance and the reception that Sen. McCain received at the New School "speak volumes about the direction of modern liberal politics, and it's not an encouraging trend, especially if you're a Democrat who wants to take back the White House."

The Washington Post's Jackson Diehl slams Pelosi for wanting to "quickly abandon Iraq, regardless of the consequences" and Reid for issuing a Democratic security plan that does not include the word democracy. But he is bullish on the ideas contained in the DLC's "With All Our Might" book which Diehl thinks might end up at the center of the next presidential campaign. LINK

2008: Republicans:

The New York Daily News on John McCain's intention to vote against a federal constitutional ban on same-sex marriage when Sen. Frist brings it up for a vote. LINK

Sen. McCain expressed his disappointment in the behavior of some students and faculty during his commencement address to the New School last week. The AP has the story. LINK

"Gov. Pataki signed a bill to ease the pain of rising gas prices yesterday - then made his latest trip to New Hampshire to test the waters for a possible 2008 presidential run," reports the New York Daily News. LINK

The Boston Herald ledes its "Monday Morning Briefing" with Rudy Giuliani's visit to Boston, Noting that it comes on the heels of a trip to North Carolina. LINK

The Boston Globe has Gov. Mitt Romney saying Mass residents could learn as early as this week if they'll receive federal aid to cover flood damage. LINK

2008: Democrats:

Craig Horowitz, in yet another New York Magazine must-read that will create CW as much as it reflects it, explores which kind of ideological box to place Sen. Clinton in and if/how she can overcome the conventional wisdom on her nomination vs. general election appeal. LINK

Ian Bishop of the New York Post writes everything you want to know about Sen. Clinton's (or "H-Rod") iPod playlist. LINK

On "This Week," Sen. John Edwards stood by his declaration that President Bush, in his view, is the worst president in American history. . . And the New York Post's Deb Orin Noticed. LINK

In one of the newspaper's Bayh stories, the Des Moines Register makes the Bayh staff's collective heart go pitter patter by working the words "tough" and "smart" into the headline. LINK

In his other Bayh story in the Des Moines Register, Ken Fuson has Sen. Bayh reacting to an Iowa GOP news release calling him "ultra-liberal" by laughing and saying: "That's the first time I've ever been accused of that. Can I send this to MoveOn.org and some of those folks?" LINK

The New Hampshire Union Leader's John DiStaso reported on Saturday that former Sen. Mike Gravel (D-AK), who will be making his maiden New Hampshire campaign trip Tuesday through Thursday, "has lined up a host of news interviews and meetings." LINK

Politics:

In a Federal Page profile, the Washington Post's Peter Baker writes that John Podesta's Center for American Progress "blends the scholarship of old-style research organizations with the in-your-face war room tactics of a presidential campaign." LINK

The New York Times' Ray Hernandez has details on Sen. Schumer's (D-NY) new book deal. LINK

"Mr. Schumer said he was writing about what he contends is the failure by both Republicans and Democrats to articulate a vision of government that addresses contemporary concerns." Ray fails to mention Sen. Schumer's voting record.

In his Georgetown Law commencement address, Chief Justice Roberts indicated that he is not very interested in 5-4 decisions on big issues at the Supreme Court. He is pushing for as much consensus as possible. The Associated Press has more: LINK

The New York Post previews Jim McGreevey's book set to be published in the fall. LINK

The week ahead:

President Bush meets with the Prime Minister of Israel tomorrow. The two leaders hold a joint press availability at 5:00 pm ET in the East Room. The President heads to the Keystone State on Wednesday. He plans to promote his energy policy initiatives and raise funds for the Pennsylvania Congressional Victory Committee. On Thursday, President Bush makes remarks at the "Change of Command Ceremony for the Commandant of the United States Coast Guard" in Washington, DC.

Arkansas and Idaho hold primaries tomorrow.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton delivers what is being billed as a "major policy speech" on energy at the National Press Club in Washington, DC tomorrow.

On Wednesday, Paramount releases former Vice President Al Gore's documentary on global warming, "An Inconvenient Truth"

MoveOn.org Political Action holds an online primary in the Democratic Senate primary contest in Connecticut on Thursday.

Gov. George Pataki (R-NY) attends a fundraiser for state senate candidate LaMetta Wynn (R-IA) in Maquokete, IA on Friday.