The Note: Not a Snip, Not a Bite

WASHINGTON, May 30

Topics that can be heard discussed among Republican members of the Gang of 500:

-Whether the Wall Street Journal took the edge off of its Hank-Paulson-for-Treasury-Secretary exclusive with this: "[B]ut it wasn't immediately clear that Mr. Paulson would take the job if it was offered."

- It looks like another day when the violent news out of Iraq will dominate over the positive Iraq news the White House had hoped would be front and center.

- How voters back home just don't want to give the party credit for a strong economy, no matter what Ron Bonjean says.

- Who gets the summer bonus for dropping oppo on the pugilistic Harry Reid?

- What to tell the receptionists to do with all those bricks.

- How to stop Rahm.

Topics that can be heard discussed among Democratic members of the Gang of 500:

- A would-be Speaker Pelosi.

- Al Gore's firmer lean into not running in 2008.

- Sen. Clinton's poll numbers and positioning.

- Current and former Ney aides taking the Fifth.

- The possibility of an upset in CA-50.

- John Murtha: Media Superstar and News Driver.

In the Rose Garden this morning, Henry M. Paulson, Jr., was nominated to replace John Snow as Treasury Secretary.

ABC News' Ann Compton reports that Hank Paulson is the head of a financial trade association here in Washington which is run by Don Evans, the president's close friend and former Commerce Secretary. Evans spent the holiday weekend at Camp David with the Bushes.

ABC News' Jessica Yellin reports a former Bush Administration official said this about the Paulson pick this morning: "Paulson is a fantastic pick. He has a keen, singular understanding of the financial markets. The markets will love the pick. His fingers are truly on the pulse of the global economy. He is held in the highest regard in the financial services industry and Wall Street. One of the world's most prominent investment bankers as Treasury Secretary is absolutely huge."

Fortune's Patricia Sellers reminds us of Paulson's affinity for snakes in this 2004 profile. LINK

Bloomberg News Notes that Paulson was "the highest paid Wall Street executive last year, earning $38.3 million in salary, stock and options up 28 percent from a year earlier, according to Institutional Investor's Alpha magazine on May 26. The sum included $30 million in restricted stock, which vests over time." LINK

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) reacted to the pick by saying: "I spoke with Hank Paulson this morning and pledged my full support for his nomination. His experience, intelligence, and deep understanding of national and global economic issues make him the best pick America could have hoped for."

The Note wonders if the President's pick of a Wall Streeter presages a New Bush. Later today, President Bush participates in an 11:05 am ET credential ceremony for the ambassador of Iraq to the United States at the White House.

Dozens of dignitaries are expected to join hundreds of mourners in remembering former Treasury Secretary and Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-TX) at a memorial service in Houston, TX at 2:00 pm ET. Former President Clinton is scheduled to deliver the eulogy at Houston's First Presbyterian Church in a service held after a private graveside service for Bentsen's family.

Neil Volz, the former chief of staff to Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), testifies at the US District Court in Washington, DC at 9:30 am ET in the trial of David Safavian. ABC News' Jason Ryan reports that his testimony could yield new details about Ney and his dealings with former lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

The House Judiciary Committee holds a 9:30 am ET hearing, "Did the Saturday Night Raid of Congress Trample the Constitution?" on the FBI raid of the Capitol Hill office of Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA) in connection with an ongoing bribery investigation. Witnesses include Charles Tiefer, professor at University of Baltimore School of Law and former counsel to both the Senate and House; Jonathan Turley, professor of law at George Washington University Law School; former Rep. Robert Walker (R-PA), and Bruce Fein, principal at the Lichfield Group. Witnesses do not include Sen./Leader/Dr. Frist.

The government's response to Rep. Jefferson's suit is due by the close of business today. The South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families holds a 10:30 am ET conference call briefing to announce the filing of petitions to refer South Dakota's abortion ban to the November ballot. Participants include Dr. Maria Bell, official sponsor of the petition referral, Jan Nicolay, former state representative, and Roger Tellinghuisen, former attorney general.

Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) addressed his afterschool summit at 8:30 am ET. DNC Chairman Howard Dean and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) attend a 4:30 pm ET town hall meeting with veterans at an American Legion Hall in Las Vegas, NV.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) holds private meetings in Sacramento, CA.

The American Petroleum Institute releases its weekly report on petroleum inventories at 5:00 pm ET.

The House and Senate are not in session due to the Memorial Day recess.

Politics of Iraq:

Per the Washington Post's Thomas Ricks, video shot by an unmanned drone aircraft that was circling overhead for at least part of that day might aid an inquiry into what happened in the Iraqi town of Haditha on Nov. 19 when Marines allegedly killed two dozen civilians. LINK

"U.S. troop levels in Iraq will likely stay around the 133,000 mark in the coming months even if an Army brigade or two is cut from the current number of 15 total combat brigades, defense officials say," reports the Washington Times' Rowan Scarborough. LINK

Harry "Ringside" Reid:

The Associated Press reports Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid accepted free ringside tickets to three professional boxing matches from the Nevada Athletic Commission, at the same time the Commission was lobbying him on federal boxing regulations. LINK

The AP has Reid defending the move, saying "these events are nothing I did wrong," but also has several ethics experts saying Reid should have paid for the tickets.

In a moment of loop-de-loop, the RNC press shop has already e-mailed the story around.

Politics of immigration:

In a must-read, the Wall Street Journal's John Fund points readers to the race he predicts will be a bellwether for the immigration conference committee: the June 27 Utah primary between five-term incumbent Rep. Chris Cannon, who is Bush's "strongest ally" in the GOP on immigration, and political newcomer John Jacob, an immigration hardliner who Fund says looks likely to defeat Cannon. LINK

"Illegal immigration is the key issue in the race, and should [Cannon loose], look for House Republicans to dig in their heels and block any bill that creates a path to citizenship for illegal aliens. 'House Republicans are already spooked about immigration, and should one of our own lose on the issue, you will see panic break out,' one GOP congressman told me."

USA Today's Susan Page reviews the polling data on immigration and points out the difficulty facing the immigration conference committee: Americans fall into "four cluster" on immigration that are "roughly equal in size but vary dramatically in point of view," and a "compromise that 50% of the population can go for leaves half the public feeling unhappy, and very unhappy." LINK

Hillary Clinton:

In a wide-ranging and must-read assessment of Sen. Clinton's governing philosophy, the Washington Post's Dan Balz plays it straight down the middle, and suggests the Senator often does too, but not always. LINK

Balz writes that Sen. Clinton made it clear in an interview that her governing philosophy may never be easily reduce to a slogan.

Asked whether there is anything that connects her different interests and positions, Sen. Clinton told Balz: "What's framed all the work I've done in the Senate and all the years before that is my belief that our most important obligation is to take care of our children . . . and that as a nation, America should remain as a symbol of freedom and hope around the world."

On "Good Morning America," ABC News' Jake Tapper had Donna Brazile saying, "Upstate New York is like Middle America, they're the voters she needs to win," while Nora Walcott, the executive director of the Democratic Party in Greene County, MO, said, "We really do need a nominee, I think, who can appeal to those moderate Republican voters, those independents. And I am just not personally sure that Sen. Clinton is that candidate."

Despite efforts on the part of Sen. Clinton to moderate her image, Tapper cited a new ABC News poll which shows that 42 percent of Americans say they would never vote for her. But the poll also shows voters rate Clinton as "strong," which ain't a bad thing in this day and age.

Dave Saltonstall of the New York Daily News looks at some Democratic clubs in Manhattan which have voted to endorse Sen. Clinton's little-known anti-war Democratic opponent or to not endorse at all as examples of Sen. Clinton's potential problem wooing liberal anti-war Democrats to her reelection effort. LINK

Al Gore:

Al Gore capped his red carpet week with the New York Times' Adam Nagourney believing him that he doesn't intend to seek the presidency in 2008. LINK

Note question: if Nagourney and The Note believe Gore, shouldn't you?

Time magazine's Karen Tumulty reports that in recent weeks, Gore has been "quietly telephoning some of his biggest fund raisers and telling them to feel free to sign on with other potential candidates. And he wants them to put out the word, instructing, 'Tell everybody I'm not running.' LINK

Tumulty Notes, however, that Gore is positioned "better than just about anyone else to tap the enormous, near instant fund-raising potential of the Internet should he choose to, considering the following he has generated among bloggers and with the Net-based political organization MoveOn.org.

Jefferson and separation of powers:

Despite negotiations between House officials and the Justice Department, critics of Speaker Dennis Hastert's position worry that the controversy over the FBI raid will hurt the GOP, Notes Roll Call.

In his Roll Call op-ed, Norman Ornstein accuses the FBI and the Justice Department of overstepping their bounds.

In a different Roll Call op-ed, Stu Rothenberg writes that the attention on the raid's constitutionality resulted in Republicans missing their chance to exploit the Democrats connection to the corruption probe.

The Wall Street Journal editorializes on the separation of powers issue and comes down squarely in the Hastert/Pelosi camp, writing that the Justice Department went "overboard" and was "insubordinate" in the raid of Jefferson's office. LINK

The Journal also says that the leaking of the threat by AG Alberto Gonzales and Deputy AG Paul McNulty to resign was an attempt to "intimidate" President Bush: "If we were Mr. Bush, we'd have accepted both resignations on those grounds alone."

Bush Administration agenda:

Before official word came from the White House, the Wall Street Journal reported online this morning that President Bush is "leaning toward" selecting Henry Paulson, the chairman and chief executive of Goldman Sachs, as his new Treasury Secretary. LINK

The Washington Post's Zachary Goldfarb has Karl Zinsmeister, President Bush's new domestic policy adviser, saying that "he did something wrong when he took a newspaper profile of himself, altered quotes and text, and then posted it on a Web site without noting the changes." (Somewhere, Papa Gerstein is smiling, although that might just be gas.) LINK

Roll Call's Erin Billings on the Administration's quiet goal of getting Republican and Democratic Senators to clear executive branch nominations:

The Boston Globe's Scott Canellos praises the President for recently adopting a "more statesmanlike tone" and writes that "it seems clear that Bush is seeking to give his administration a more moderate tone." LINK

Politics of gas:

The Roll Call duo of Billings and Pershing preview this week's in-district battle over gasoline prices and energy reform.

The Wall Street Journal's ed board takes Congress to task for not doing enough to expand America's energy supplies by approving more offshore oil drilling.

Politics of intelligence:

The New York Times on Stephen Kappes' return to the CIA: LINK

2006: landscape:

Keying off of Karl Rove's recent AEI speech, Bloomberg's Brendan Murray reports that Rove's effort to frame the 2006 election around the economy "may be a tough sell," according to political experts. LINK

"'The administration needs to change the electorate's overall psychology,'' says Stuart Rothenberg, who publishes a nonpartisan Washington political report. 'It would be a huge asset for the Republican Party if people could start to focus on the economy, appreciate it and see it as something that has worked, but I see no evidence that that's going to happen.'"

2006: Governor:

On the eve of his formal acceptance of the Democratic nomination for governor, Eliot Spitzer "blasted the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. as 'an abject failure' in its rebuilding of the World Trade Center site" in an interview with NY1's Dominic Carter. The New York Post has more. LINK

The Patriot-News previews the Lynn Swann/Tom Ridge five-city campaign tour getting underway in Philadelphia today. LINK

Former Gov. Tony Knowles (D-AK) plans to seek a third-term as governor of Alaska, per the Associated Press. Gov. Frank Murkowski (R-AK) announced his intention to seek a second term last week. LINK

2006: Senate:

The New York Times' Yardley looks beyond the anti-war hype and writes of Ned Lamont's need to broaden his candidacy in a relatively short period of time if he hopes to knock off incumbent Sen. Joe Lieberman on August 8. LINK

CA-50:

Whatever happened to "a win is a win?" "A loss here, or even a close victory, could be seen as a sign that the GOP hold on Washington is slipping and that November could see wholesale change," reports the Los Angeles Times in its one-week out look at the special election to replace Rep. Duke Cunningham. LINK

2006: House:

The New York Times' Shenon includes this nugget of reporting in his preview of Neil Volz's testimony in the Safavian trial: "Mr. Volz's testimony is scheduled to take place in the wake of several embarrassments for Mr. Ney, who is facing a difficult re-election fight this fall. These include the disclosure last week that his current chief of staff and another former House aide were resisting defense subpoenas and threatening to assert their Fifth Amendment rights against compelled self-incrimination if called to the stand in Mr. Safavian's trial." LINK

Mark Leibovich of the New York Times, a lover of Curly Fries and Funnel Cakes, explores some Republican excitement and Democratic hand-wringing surrounding a potential Speaker of the House Pelosi. LINK

2008:

Per the Washington Times' Greg Pierce, Newt Gingrich anticipates Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) making a possible presidential run in 2012 or 2016 -- in an interview with a Florida television station. Gingrich also Noted that Gov. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) are formidable Democratic candidates but will have a hard time beating frontrunner Sen. Hillary Clinton. LINK

The Boston Globe's Susan Milligan's Monday story on the 2008 Invisible Primary campaign trail heading through the key battleground that is Ohio: LINK

Quinnipiac University released some poll results this morning of potential 2008 general election match-ups in the key state of Florida. Sen. Clinton bests both Sen. Allen and Gov. Romney but "has difficulty getting above 50 percent in Florida against [the] two relatively unknown Republican candidates," per Quinnipiac's release.

2008: Republicans:

Perhaps to Kevin Sheekey's chagrin, Mayor Michael Bloomberg again attempts to tamp down speculation about a possible presidential run, reports the New York Daily News. LINK

2008: Democrats:

The Concord Monitor's Felice Belman on Mike Gravel, former Democratic Senator who announced his presidential run last month, and his travels to New Hampshire to promote his "National Initiative for Democracy "plan. LINK

The Schwarzenegger Era:

Californians have one more week of the nasty campaigning in the Democratic gubernatorial primary to which they seem to be paying very little attention. LINK

Al Pross, co-editor of the California Target Book, predicts that the June 6 primary between California state Treasurer Phil Angelides (D) and state Controller Steve Westly (D) boils down to the strength of their media campaign rather than the endorsements they got.

Analysts contend that the two Democratic candidates need to overcome voter fatigue with many of them still undecided and unimpressed, according to the Washington Times' Greg Pierce. LINK

The San Francisco Chronicle ed board on the need for Gov. Schwarzenegger to strongly commit to his prison reform efforts, moving 40 percent of the states' female inmates into correctional facilities. LINK

House of Labor:

The Teamsters vs. FedEx: The New York Times' Steven Greenhouse has all the action from Massachusetts. LINK

Ballot measures:

Pre-K programs are expanding nationwide, but the Washington Post's Nick Anderson thinks the debate over Proposition 82 in California is showing that widespread disagreement continues over whether the education of all 4-year-olds should be a public obligation. LINK

Casting and counting:

Keying off of a recent test of software in voting machines conducted in Utah, the Washington Post's Zachary Goldfarb reports that "four years after Congress passed a law to improve the reliability of elections, Americans still lack definitive word on whether the nation's voting machines are secure." LINK

New Hampshire:

"Sen. John Sununu, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Operations and Terrorism, will lead a subcommittee hearing in Concord Wednesday," per the Union Leader. LINK

SCOTUS:

The Los Angeles Times' Savage curtain-raises the tough decisions likely to be handed down in the month ahead by the Supreme Court and Notes that Chief Justice Roberts' preference for unanimity on narrow issues can hold up. LINK

Politics:

In an effort to rally the GOP base ahead of this fall's elections, Dr./Leader/Sen. Frist intends to bring the tax package and constitutional amendments banning gay marriage and flag-burning to the floor in June, reports Roll Call.

Week ahead:

On Wednesday, President Bush meets with the President of Rwanda at 10:50 am ET, he participates in a swearing-in ceremony for the director of the Central Intelligence Agency at CIA headquarters in Langley, VA at 1:50 pm ET, and he attends a Maryland Victory 2006 reception in Baltimore, MD at 6:05 pm ET. The First Lady delivers 11:30 am ET remarks at the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Conference at Tulane University in New Orleans, LA. She then participates in a 12:30 pm ET tour of the Historic New Orleans Collection. Chairman Dean attends an Alaska Democratic Party dinner in Anchorage, AK at 11:00 pm ET. Sen. Clinton delivers her acceptance speech and kicks off her reelection campaign at the New York Democratic State Convention in Buffalo, NY. Sen. McCain attends a breakfast fundraiser for Brian Bilbray (R-CA) in San Diego, CA. And Speaker Hastert ties former House Speaker Joe Cannon (R-IL) as the longest serving House Speaker in US History.

On Thursday, President Bush makes remarks on comprehensive immigration reform at 8:50 am ET at the Chamber of Commerce, he meets with his Cabinet at 10:15 am ET, he participates in a swearing-in ceremony for the Secretary of the Interior at 11:20 am ET, and he participates in a swearing-in ceremony for Judge Brett Kavanaugh at 1:05 pm ET. Former President Clinton raises money for Arizona Senate candidate Jim Pederson in Phoenix, AZ.

On Friday, President Bush participates in a 1:45 pm ET photo-op and makes remarks to the Pittsburgh Steelers at the White House. The First Lady delivers 9:00 am ET remarks at the UN General Assembly High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS in New York City. Chairman Dean attends a 10:00 pm ET Oregon Democratic Party convention kickoff dinner in Eugene, OR. Sen. Biden keynotes the Great Scranton Chamber of Commerce's 138th annual dinner in Scranton, OH.

On Saturday, Chairman Dean delivers 9:45 am ET remarks to the Stonewall Democrats National Conference in Pittsburgh, PA. Sen. Obama headlines the Ohio Democratic Party's dinner. Gov. Warner and Sen. Feingold speak at the New Hampshire Democratic State Convention in Manchester, NH. Sen. Feingold also speaks to the Maine Democratic Convention.

On Sunday, Chairman Dean attends a 2:00 pm ET "Sunday with Time Magazine" forum at the City University of New York in New York City.

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