The Note: Milestones, Watersheds, and Turning Points

WASHINGTON, May 23

What if, as patriots Chuck Schumer and Rahm Emanuel hope, things are better in Iraq by Election Day than they are now?

What if in Iraq the American troop level dips below 100,000, the government is stood up, more military and police are trained, and violence subsides -- and at home, President Bush's poll numbers improve, and even right track/wrong track turns around a bit?

Republicans seeking election or re-election to Congress certainly hope all that happens. But isn't it possible that a Democratic Party badly divided over Iraq and still looking to go from being the Mommy Party to the Hermaphrodite Party could benefit too?

If Iraq was moving off the front burner, couldn't Democrats focus on other issues that unite them and on which they are in sync with the American people?

Just kidding.

As is always the case with the out-of-power party, Democrats have to root root root for bad news. And no bad news source is better for the Democrats' election prospects than the bad news from Iraq. President Bush and Karl Rove have both played public political pundit in the last few weeks to ostentatiously (and not accidentally) make that point.

A cynic might suggest that the White House has planned all along to make 2006 a year of significant progress in Iraq, regardless of the facts on the ground. But as Michael Barone and Steve Doocy explained on "Fox & Friends" this morning, things are much better in Iraq than Matt Lauer or Wolf Blitzer would have you believe.

So, watch closely when President Bush meets with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at 3:10 pm ET in the Oval Office. The theme of the meeting per Tony Snow: LINK, but we bet Iraq comes up at 5:00 pm ET -- with a short turnaround for network evening news programs -- when the two leaders hold a joint press availability in the East Room.

And watch more closely still when President Bush meets with Tony Blair later this week.

Tony Snow gaggles at 9:30 am ET and briefs on-camera at 1:00 pm ET.

Sen. Clinton delivers what is being billed as a "major address on energy policy" at the National Press Club in Washington, DC at 9:00 am ET.

Sen. Clinton will call for reducing American oil consumption by nearly 8 million barrels a day in 2025, an amount which she anticipates will cut in half America's projected imports. She will stress "promoting innovation," "investing in our workers and infrastructure," and "providing American consumers with broader, more responsible choices." To ensure that dedicated funding is available, Sen. Clinton will propose the creation of a "Strategic Energy Fund" to pay for the clean energy transition.

In a prebuttal, the RNC has criticized Sen. Clinton's energy agenda as "Obstruct New Ideas and Repackage Old Ideas."

First Lady Laura Bush delivers remarks at a 100th anniversary of Mesa Verde National Park event in Mesa Verde, CO at 1:45 pm ET.

Vice President Cheney delivers remarks at a rally for Expeditionary Strike Group One in San Diego, CA at 1:40 pm ET. He then headlines a fundraiser for congressional candidate Brian Bilbray (R-CA) who is running in the special election in CA-50 to replace Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-CA) at 3:30 pm ET.

Senate Republicans and Democrats meet separately for their weekly policy luncheons at 12:30 pm ET followed by stakeouts.

The Senate reconvenes at 9:45 am ET and resumes consideration of S2611 -- the immigration bill.

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