WASHINGTON, May 31
There are six jobs in American political journalism that are significantly more influential than all of the others.
Of those six, two are particularly influential, and the occupant of one of those is about to move on.
The Associated Press's chief political writer, Ron Fournier, told 2/3 of the Gang of 500 in a mass e-mail yesterday that he is moving on to a yet-to-be-revealed new position having something to do with that World Wide Web thing the kids are so juiced up about these days.
The departure of Fournier -- father, husband, Michigander-by-way-of-Arkansas, FOB, FOH, FOG, author, Applebee's expert, Rush Limbaugh punching bag, and a writer as brilliant as he is fair and fast -- will change the contours of the 2006 and 2008 American elections in ways that can now be only dimly understood, even by the Board of Directors of the Gang.
There's a reason that the two cutest Googling monkeys are named "Ron" and "Fournier."
There's a reason that many Note readers don't even know that John King was once a wire guy.
There's a reason that both of the last two presidents (of both the United States and of the Associated Press) like and respect Fournier.
The man has done an impossible job impossibly well.
Those who think the Old Media can't be unbiased have not closely read Fournier's work. Those who think the Bush White House can crush the spirit of any journalist have not closely read Fournier's work. Those who think there is no societal benefit produced when reporters compete vigorously to see who can report a planned presidential cabinet nomination four minutes before someone else reports it have not closely read Fournier's work. (Note: we are kidding about one or two of those.)
As we salute Fournier and mourn his departure, there are some unanswered questions that the smart set is asking itself:
1. Who better understands the significance of this development for control of Congress in 2007, Senator Elizabeth Dole or Senator Charles Schumer?
2. What is Fournier's new job?
3. Which potential 2008 presidential candidates are familiar enough with the AP to have educated guesses about who might replace Fournier in this slot (and has begun sucking up to them)?
4. Which Note readers are smart enough to have pre-ordered "Applebee's America : How Successful Political, Business, and Religious Leaders Connect with the New American Community"? LINK
5. How did a guy so talented miss the Mena Airport story, the Whitewater story, and pretty much everything going on at the Rose Law Firm?
The firm's first female partner delivers an 11:00 am ET acceptance speech and kicks off her Senate reelection campaign at the New York Democratic State Convention in Buffalo, NY this morning. After hosting a breakfast, Clinton will have a video shown, have signs waved, and then she will speechify, with her family looking on. Later, she will talk to house parties around America at 7:00 pm ET after showing up at the residence of Carole and Joe Hankin in Purchase, NY at 6:30 pm ET, while Ms. Lewis says it is all about service and Ms. Solis Doyle counts the money.
Secretary of State Rice holds a press conference on Iran at 11:00 am ET. A senior State Department official previewed Secretary Rice's message by saying, "You play ball, we'll play ball." ABC News' Jonathan Karl reports that it sounds like she will open the door to some form of negotiation with Iran.
Pesident Bush meets with the president of Rwanda at 10:50 am ET in the Oval Office, he participates in the swearing-in ceremony of Michael Hayden, the new director of the Central Intelligence Agency in Langley, VA at 1:50 pm ET, and he attends a Maryland Victory 2006 reception at the BWI Airport Marriott at 6:05 pm ET.
First Lady Laura Bush delivers 12:30 am ET remarks at the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Conference on "Rebirth: People, Places and Culture in New Orleans" at Tulane University. She then participates in a 1:25 pm ET tour of the Historic New Orleans Collection.
DNC Chairman Howard Dean attends an Alaska Democratic Party dinner in Anchorage, AK at 11:00 pm ET.
To the delight of the DCCC and the Busby campaign, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) canceled a breakfast fundraiser he was scheduled to attend for Brian Bilbray (R-CA) in San Diego, CA. Bilbray is vying to fill the unexpired term of convicted Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-CA) and to be the Republican nominee to represent California's 50th congressional district for the next full term. The special election run-off and regular primary are scheduled for June 6.
Former Gov. Mark Warner (D-VA) addresses the Mid-Atlantic Venture Association's Capital Connection Venture Fair at 12:00 pm ET at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington, DC.
Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) swears in Lynn Rooney as an Associate Justice for the Dedham District Court at 10:00 am ET. He files legislation to promote parental responsibility at 11:00 am ET.
Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) holds a 3:00 pm ET conference call on roadless areas.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) and Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau (R-MN) make a campaign announcement at 9:30 am ET in Eagan, MN.
The grand jury investigating the CIA leak may meet at 9:30 am ET at the US District Court in Washington, DC.
The Natural Gas Supply Association releases its 4th annual summer outlook at 9:30 am ET.
And Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) ties former Speaker Joe Cannon as the longest serving Republican House Speaker in US History.
Hillary Clinton's nomination:
The New York Times' Kornblut contrasts Sen. Clinton's 2006 campaign (or lack thereof) with the then-First Lady's "robust" 2000 campaign. LINK
The New York Daily News Notes the international media presence covering the New York State Democratic convention. LINK
New York Observer's Joe Conason criticizes Washington journalists in his op-ed for elevating the Clinton marriage as a matter of prime importance if Sen. Clinton chooses to run. LINK
Note the oppo hit on Pat Healy!!!
In one of the day's few must reads, Ron Brownstein weighs the pros and cons about the internal Democratic dilemma over whether or not to present a full-fledged alternative legislative agenda. LINK
Preview of Bush fundraising in Maryland:
The Baltimore Sun's Julie Davis insists that Lt. Gov. Michael Steele's (R-MD) absence from tonight's campaign dinner due to "scheduling conflicts" reveals the growing number of Republican candidates opting to distance themselves from the President despite his major fundraising gains. LINK
The New York Times' Andrews and Rutenberg write of the Paulson nomination as "a move intended to add economic star power to his administration as it tries to fight its way through a thicket of political difficulties." LINK
Andrews and Rutenberg also write that the President "seemed to signal that Mr. Paulson would have top billing on an economic team that has often been overshadowed in policy making by Mr. Bush's inner circle, including Vice President Dick Cheney and Karl Rove. . . ."
The Washington Post's Fletcher and Blustein Note that the White House sought Paulson "even though he and his wife contributed nearly $1 million to an environmental organization that has been harshly critical of the president." LINK
We think Mrs. Paulson would make an excellent guest on "Fox & Friends."
The Chicago Tribune's William Neikirk praises Paulson, dubbing him as a "street veteran" who possesses a "more finely tuned understanding of the financial intricacies of globalization than Snow." LINK
". . . it was unclear how much Paulson would shape administration policy," reports the Los Angeles Times' Havemann. LINK
Bloomberg's Miller and Murray write that the Paulson nomination is "in the mold of Robert Rubin." LINK
Sheelah Kolhatkar and Anna Schneider-Mayerson of the New York Observer Note that the President's latest pick is starkly different from his previous old Beltway and "Bush 41" Treasury Secretaries. LINK
"The successful wooing of a prominent executive who -- unlike several recent Bush appointees -- hasn't previously held a post in this administration could bring Mr. Bush some sorely needed credibility, both with financial markets and with the public," reports the Wall Street Journal's Deborah Solomon.
More from USA Today: LINK
Per usual, everyone in the media must rely on the fruits of a brilliant Charlie Rose interview with Paulson from awhile back.
Paulson: reaction on the Street:
Wall Street Journal headline: "Traders Cheer Bush's Treasury Pick"
Paulson: confirmation prospects:
The Hill sees a "swift" confirmation for Paulson. LINK
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid was less supportive of Paulson's nomination than some other Democrats, Notes the Washington Times' Joseph Curl. LINK
Bill Barnhart of the Chicago Tribune predicts what Paulson's Senate confirmation hearing might look like, where it "easily could turn into a debate over protectionism and federal budget deficits, two issues that have contributed to market volatility this year, as well as the state of the stock market in the coming weeks." LINK
The Wall Street Journal's Greg Hitt writes that Paulson's first challenge will be to jumpstart Bush's competitiveness initiative, including proposals to renew the now-expired R&D tax credit, a plan to allow more highly skilled foreign workers into the country, and proposals to increase spending on basic science research as well as math and science education.
Paulson: the personal dimension:
Bloomberg News includes the Paulson household's political contributions in its look at the nominee: LINK
"Paulson has been a loyal Republican and generous donor to Republican candidates, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. He gave $276,350 from 1999 to 2005, including a $95,000 contribution to the National Republican Senatorial Committee and $35,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee. He gave $1,000 to John McCain and nothing to Bush in the 2000 election season."
"The only Democrat he has contributed to in recent election cycles was Bill Bradley's presidential campaign in 1999. Paulson's wife, Wendy, has given to a number of Democrats, including $6,000 to Hillary Clinton's senate campaigns and $5,000 to Clinton's political action committee."
Under the headline, "Hank the Tank," the New York Post Notes Paulson's "contentious ties" to Gov. Corzine (D-NJ) and gubernatorial candidate Eliot Spitzer (D-NY). LINK
The Los Angeles Times on Paulson the environmentalist. LINK
The New York Times: LINK
Paulson: the pay cut:
The New York Times Notes Paulson's drastic pay cut. LINK
Paulson: op-eds and editorials:
Per the Wall Street Journal's ed board, Paulson is "solid on taxes, weaker on the dollar."
The New York Times editorial board calls the pick a "master stroke." LINK
The Washington Post's David Ignatius remembers Paulson telling USA Today in February 2004 that "There is no doubt that the twin deficits [budget and trade] are significant problems that everyone needs to be concerned about." LINK
The Washington Times ed board outlines the foreboding challenges that await Paulson if confirmed as Treasury Secretary: LINK
Los Angeles Times editorial board: "Bush will be fortunate to have in place a highly credible firefighter if and when another crisis arrives. Unless, that is, financial markets soon determine that Rove is still running the show." LINK
In a well-placed Wall Street Journal op-ed, N. Gregory Mankiw writes that Paulson's challenge is to "t ackle the fiscal imbalance while keeping tax rates low."
"Even if Paulson is a better booster of Bush policies, he'd do well not to stray from Snow's 'do no harm' approach," writes the New York Post editorial board. LINK
Politics of Iraq:
The New York Times Schmitt and Cloud advance the Haditha investigation with their exclusive look at evidence uncovered by a military investigator "that contradicted repeated claims by marines that Iraqi civilians killed in Haditha last November were victims of a roadside bomb. . ." LINK
The politics of the Haditha story remain unclear.
This New York Post exclusive on an Iraqi war veteran suing liberal filmmaker Michael Moore over use of footage in his film "Fahrenheit 9/11" should provide some fodder for the conservative blogosphere today. LINK
"The Pentagon's hopes of making substantial reductions in U.S. troop levels in Iraq this year appear to be fading as a result of resurgent violence in the country, particularly in the Sunni Arab stronghold of Al Anbar province, military officials acknowledge," reports the Los Angeles Times. LINK
Washington Post headline: 50 Die in Rising Iraq Violence: Multiple-Fatality' Bombings Reach Highest Level Since Invasion" LINK
In a Washington Post op-ed, Fareed Zakaria writes that Nouri al-Maliki, the new Iraqi prime minister, needs to co-opt the majority of Sunnis, disband the Shiite militians that now run rampant throughout non-Kurdish Iraq, and handle Sadr's growing army politically as well as militarily by enlisting Ayatollah Ali Sistani's help. LINK
Politics of immigration:
Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), head of the Republican Study Committee, predicts that the only bill that can pass this year would be one that combines tougher border enforcement with a no-amnesty guest-worker program, per the Washington Times. LINK
The New York Times' Hulse writes up the "Send-a-Brick Project" immigration protest through which constituents send bricks to their Senator to express their opposition to amnesty and support for a fence along the border. LINK
(Note to Dan Pfeiffer: we hear Yepsen and DiStaso love little quippy quotes like that too.)
In his Washington Post column, Robert Samuelson takes the press to task for not reporting that the Senate's immigration bill would have the effect of doubling the level of legal immigration over the next two decades from about 20 million (under present law) to about 40 million. LINK
Citing Pew polling which shows that 40 percent of the public favors a decrease in legal immigration, 37 percent would hold it steady and 17 percent favor an increase, Samuelson writes that there "seems to be scant support for a doubling."
Jefferson and separation of powers:
Judiciary Committee Chairman Sensenbrenner said yesterday that he wants the Attorney General and the director of the FBI to appear "up here to tell us how they reached the conclusion" to conduct the raid, which Sensenbrenner called "profoundly disturbing" on constitutional grounds. Per the Washington Post's Allan Lengel and Charles Babington, the chairman "also said that his committee 'will be working promptly' to draft legislation that would clearly prohibit wide-ranging searches of lawmakers' offices by federal officials pursuing criminal cases." LINK
More from the Washington Post's Lengel and Babington: "As part of its response to Jefferson's lawsuit, the government offered to provide a "filter team" -- to be made up of an FBI agent and two Justice Department lawyers not part of the investigation -- which would allow Jefferson to examine all the seized materials. If Jefferson thought legislative materials were "privileged" and unrelated to the criminal investigation but the government disagreed, a judge would be the final arbiter, under the proposal."
The New York Times on the same. LINK
In his Sketch of yesterday's hearing, Dana Milbank Notes in the same newspaper that Democrats "needled the majority about the fresh discovery of the committee's oversight authority." LINK
The Hill provides a helpful guide to where the 2008 presidential contenders stand on the raid of Jefferson's office and finds most have tried to take a middle ground on the issue -- expressing concern about the raid, but not calling it unconstitutional. LINK
The Los Angeles Times reports on the deal the Department of Justice is offering to Jefferson and his attorneys to inspect each seized document from his office and allowing them to raise objections as to whether an individual document was "properly seized." LINK
Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL) continues to criticize Speaker Dennis Hastert for his stand on the Jefferson raid, telling The Hill yesterday, "There is no way to spin it that it wouldn't look like anything but a special privilege." LINK
Philip Shenon of the New York Times leads his Neil Volz testimony coverage with the former Ney staffer's deliberately low-balling the cost of a now-famous Scottish golfing trip. LINK
Volz testified yesterday about how the disgraced lobbyist "identified his 'champions' in government and then showered them with favors to get inside information and hep for his clients," reports the Washington Post's Susan Schmidt. LINK
Big Casino budget politics:
In his Washington Post column, Harold Meyerson criticizes Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) for working to forge a half-way compromise with Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) on the estate tax that would deplete federal revenue by "only" $500 billion to $600 billion next decade (2011-2021). LINK
"The Montana senator spent much of last week trying to line up a handful of his Senate Democratic colleagues to support his proposal, in the hope of being able to announce an unshakable 60 votes favoring this folly when the debate begins next week."
Sen. John McCain has cancelled his appearance with Brian Bilbray in California today because he didn't want their differences on immigration to overshadow the event, reports the Los Angeles Times. LINK
The San Diego Union Tribune has more: LINK
"Bilbray's campaign spokesman, Steve Danon, said he got the first call from McCain on Monday to talk about the political climate surrounding immigration. As calls went back and forth, Danon said he told the McCain staff that immigration was the hot issue in the district. McCain's staff later asked Danon to consider excluding press from the fundraiser. After Bilbray refused to rescind press invitations, McCain canceled late yesterday morning, Danon said."
The Busby campaign has put McCain's words to use in a web ad you can see here: LINK
Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby says he, like "millions" of other conservatives, will choose not to vote Republican this November: "Unless something changes dramatically -- and soon -- the GOP is poised to lose its most reliable voters, and with them any hope of keeping its congressional majority." LINK
". . .at a time when he is trailing badly in both poll numbers and cash, [Lynn] Swann has turned to one of the state's most popular leaders, former Gov. Tom Ridge, to bring political gravitas and fund-raising prowess to his campaign," reports the Philadelphia Inquirer on yesterday's five-city statewide tour. LINK
The St. Paul Pioneer Press looks at a "polarizing" Gov. Pawlenty's (R-MN) first term as he prepares to formally launch his reelection campaign today. LINK
The New York Times' Cooper and Hakim on Eliot Spitzer's anti-Albany convention speech: LINK
"In a sweeping and well-received speech with a heavy emphasis on reform, he conjured up a vision of a resurgent New York State," writes the New York Daily News' Katz. LINK
The Democratic road to a Senate majority may go through Tennessee and Rep. Harold Ford's (D-TN) campaign to be the first Democratic elected Senator from the Volunteer State since 1990. The New York Times' fancy-in-her-own-way Robin Toner has the story. LINK
Perhaps inspired by the New York Times' Mark "Curly" Leibovich, The Hill goes on the road and asks Democrats running for the House if they would support Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's elevation to speaker if Democrats win enough seats in November. LINK
The Hill reports an "overwhelming" number say they will, although "a handful of Democratic challengers running in Republican-leaning congressional districts are much more cautious than their party's incumbents" in endorsing Pelosi for speaker.
2006: down ballot:
The New York Times on Andrew Cuomo's "remarkable turnaround" and Mark Green railing against the "Cuomo machine." LINK
The New York Daily News' Ben Smith has some of the behind the scenes drama in the Cuomo/Green "Battle in Buffalo." LINK
The Hill provides a recap of House Republicans' recent splits, including details of a feisty Republican Study Committee meeting last week. LINK
The Los Angeles Times writes up the petition drive in South Dakota to get the recently signed anti-abortion law on the November ballot. LINK
The Schwarzenegger Era:
The Washington Times' Eric Pfeiffer Notes that state Treasurer Phil Angelides and state Controller Steve Westly have spent a combined $60 million on their race with some Republicans saying that Angelides would be easier to defeat. LINK
Carla Marinucci of the San Francisco Chronicle reports on the wealthy Sacramento developer funneling nearly $9 million to Phil Angelides' campaign. The war over campaign money between Angelides and Westly, Prof. Michael Semler Notes, has become a policy of "mutually assured destruction." LINK
The Washington Post's Jim VandeHei reports that a group of old Washington hands has launched an Internet campaign to change the two parties by organzing a bipartisan 2008 ticket with online balloting. "Unity08's organizers estimate that if 20 percent of the voting public signs on -- then 'our voters will decide the 2008 elections.'" LINK
Unity08's founders include Hamilton Jordan, Gerald Rafshoon, Doug Bailey, and former Gov. Angus King (I-ME).
According to the group's Web site, Unity08 defines "crucial issues" facing the United States as: "global terrorism, our national debt, our dependence on foreign oil, the emergence of India and China as strategic competitors and/or allies, nuclear proliferation, global climate change, the corruption of Washington's lobbying system, the education of our young, the health care of all, and the disappearance of the American Dream for so many of our people." By contrast, the group considers "gun control, abortion and gay marriage" to be "important issues, worthy of debate and discussion in a free society, but not issues that should dominate or even crowd our national agenda."
The Note officially withholds judgment on this whole thing, until another day. But we tip our hand by asserting that VandeHei was probably sloshed when he wrote this story.
Per the New York Observer's Niall Stanage, there's speculation from those close to Mayor Michael Bloomberg that he might consider making an '08 run as an independent. Stanage surmises that the mere discussion of Bloomberg running even if there are no real plans to would only boost the Mayor's image. LINK
The New York Observer's Jason Horowitz profiles Mayor Michael Bloomberg's results-oriented, "take-your-medicine-and-like-it leadership," which, according to Horowitz, has gained a national following. LINK
In his New York Post op-ed, Eric Fettmann bemoans Gov. Pataki's stewardship of the New York Republican Party. LINK
The White House will dismiss Al Gore and Sen. Hillary Clinton's stands on the environment and energy at its peril, Dick Morris writes in The Hill. LINK
"Hillary Clinton, quite simply, gave the speech Bush should have given… Bush's passivity and knee-jerk reluctance to think beyond oil surrendered the battlefield, and the two Democrats occupied the vacant land. Now the Democrats have the high ground and Bush is looking up into their guns."
The Chicago Tribune's Eric Zorn writes in an op-ed that if Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) ever makes a presidential run, it ought to be in 2008. LINK
Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack signed a package of energy bills yesterday designed to expand the use of renewable fuel and wind energy in Iowa. LINK
In his eulogy to former Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen, former President Clinton said to laughter that Bentsen was "one of the very few candidates for the vice presidency in the history of the republic who lost and came out better than he went in." LINK
CBS' Harry Smith introduced his "Early Show" interview with Al Gore by telling viewers that he was going to find out whether the former Vice President would be running against Sen. Clinton in 2008. Smith told Gore that he detected a rolling of the eyes at the mention of 2008 to which Gore quipped, "I rolled my eyes off the record."
Just moments after a boot-wearing Gore discussed the problems that flow from the press pursuing an "on the one hand, on the other hand" mode of coverage with regards to the "planetary crisis" of global warming, Smith fell back into the conventional journalistic construct, tossing to the CBS weather man by saying, "Now let's get a check of the weather -- with or without the globe warming."
The Wall Street Journal's Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., chides Gore for not advocating higher gas prices: "Does he want to be a presidential contender or does he want to be the deliverer of 'inconvenient truths' about climate change?"
As goes California. . .?
"Seeking to force presidential candidates to pay attention to California's 15.5 million voters, state lawmakers on Tuesday jumped aboard a new effort that would award electoral votes to the candidate who wins the popular vote nationwide," reports the Los Angeles Times. LINK