WASHINGTON, June 21
The Note never likes to do anything that might contribute to an environment in which politicians are automatically presumed to be acting out of electoral motives and ambitions. We're with Mookie, regarding doing the right thing. LINK
So we only gingerly enter into the waiting minefield as we write: the outcome of the 2006 midterm election is likely being determined in the next 48 hours -- not so much on the floor of the Senate as in how the two parties spin, shape, and echo what happens on that floor.
Democrats can deny it all they want (and not all do. . .), but they are on the precipice of self-immolating over the issue that has most crippled the Bush presidency and of making facts on the ground virtually meaningless. In other words, they are on the precipice of making Iraq a 2006 political winner for the Republican Party.
We write with elliptical certainty and precision that Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer, and Ken Mehlman share the exact same view of Chris Dodd's eyebrow. (If you don't know what that means, get thyself to the day's only true must read -- Kate Zernike's extended imitation of Mark Leibovich on the front page of the New York Times on how Sen. Kerry is doing with his colleagues on Iraq. LINK
If you want to know what makes Mehlman laugh besides the Zernike story and Dodd's eyebrow, read Joseph Williams of the Boston Globe, who examines the term "cut and run," and how it is being used by the GOP as a linguistic weapon against Democrats in the Iraq war debate. LINK
If the Democrats can't make cable TV bookers and Washington assignment editors feel there is a dime's worth of difference between something called "Levin" and something called "Kerry," our guess is that the American people won't see much of a difference between those options when they pull their levers (or punch their chads, or whatever) come November. Remember our rule from yesterday, which we paraphrase here: if you have to deny your non-binding resolution amounts to "cut and run," you are losing the battle (and the war -- but not that war).
The slow motion car crash begins, sometime after 11:00 am ET, when Sen. Levin is expected to bring up his amendment on Iraq with up to five hours of debate to follow. Then Sen. Kerry will likely offer his amendment on Iraq with debate to follow.
Watch the floor debate, sure, but keep a closer eye on the network news at 6:30 pm ET, the packages done for the network affiliate news services that will air on late local news, and tomorrow's USA Today coverage.
On ground that Democrats hope will be less of a funhouse mirage, the Senate is expected to vote on Sen. Kennedy's minimum wage amendment at 11:00 am ET with debate beginning at 9:30 am ET. His plan would raise the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 over three years. (Here's one of the Democrats favorite talking points you will likely here in the debate: In the nine years since the last increase in the federal minimum wage, Congress has raised its own pay by $31,600.)
The Senate will also have the chance to vote on the alternative Enzi amendment, which you can Google if you wish to.
Sen. Clinton was expected to join with the other eight Democratic female Senators at 9:00 am ET to present "their 'Checklist for Change,' a list of nine issues the Senate can take specific action on right now to better the lives of Americans." (For those keeping score at home you have 'A New Direction,' 'Real Security,' 'Six in '06,' and 'Checklist for Change' as your Democratic slogans of the moment. But be patient; there will be more.)
ABC News' Teddy Davis reports each Senator will speak to one specific checklist item. Sen. Clinton's agenda item is making America energy independent by passing the strategic energy fund bill. The nine Senators are expected to take questions from the press.
The nine female Democratic Senators plan to be on Larry King Live this evening on CNN at 9:00 pm ET.
President Bush had a press availability with E.U. leaders at 8:30 am ET, during which the questions were wonkier than usual. He also has already conducted several meetings while in Vienna this morning and has two items remaining on his schedule for the day. First up, a 10:40 am ET roundtable with students followed by a 11:40 am library tour with some singing from the Vienna Boys Choir. President and Mrs. Bush then head on to Budapest, Hungary where they will remain overnight.
On North Korea, President Bush said at the press availability, "It should make people nervous when non-transparent regimes that have announced they have nuclear warheads, fire missiles."
On the recent European polling: "I thought it was absurd that people thought the United States was more dangerous than Iran."
Republican and Democratic House leadership hold separate press availabilities following their caucus meetings at 10:00 am ET.
Gov. Mitt Romney announces that Samsonite's North American operations office has relocated to Massachusetts in Mansfield, MA at noon ET.
Newt Gingrich delivers a speech to National Federation of Independent Business at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, DC at 12:50 pm ET.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) helps raise some campaign funds for Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) in McClean, VA at 7:30 pm ET.
RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman addresses the St. Mary's County Republican Party at its annual Lincoln Day dinner at 7:00 pm ET in Callaway, MD.
Politics of Iraq:
Don't skip Kate Zernike's must-read analysis of the Kerry Iraq amendment, which she writes has "Democrats fuming" and has brought back to the forefront some of the personal animosity the Democratic caucus has long felt toward the Massachusetts Senator. LINK
Democrats "fear the latest evolution of Mr. Kerry's views on Iraq may now complicate their hopes of taking back a majority in Congress in 2006," writes Zernike, while "some of his Democratic peers complain that he is too focused on the next presidential campaign."
"Democratic leadership has arranged for its plan to be debated first, pushing Mr. Kerry and his proposal into the evening, too late for the nightly television news, to starve it of some attention."
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) told "Good Morning America's" Charlie Gibson this morning that Republicans "will stick together" in today's Senate debate over the Levin-Reed non-binding resolution for troop withdrawal, adding that "We need this debate, I think it's good and healthy for the country." McCain also said that he understands the politics involved in "an even-numbered year," but "it's got to be how we leave, not when we leave."
The Washington Post's Charles Babington ledes with Democratic divisions on Iraq: "While congressional Republicans continued to show almost unanimous support for President Bush's handling of the Iraq war, Democrats struggled for consensus yesterday, reflecting what some of them called the public's mixed feelings about the three-year-old conflict." LINK
The Washington Times reports Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) said the recent killings of two American soldiers serve as, "a grim reminder of the price we're paying for a failed policy in Iraq" and that "It's time for Iraqis to stand up. When will this end?" LINK
The Washington Post's Dana Milbank reports that Republicans "quickly tried to change the subject" on Tuesday "from their immigration cut and run to the Democrats' cut and run on Iraq." LINK
(Be sure to Note the cameo that the Wall Street Journal's David Rogers, a veteran in at least two senses of the word, makes in Milbank's story.)
The Pentagon's decision to maintain troop levels in Iraq may complicate efforts for congressional Republicans, who had hoped for troop reductions this summer so they could point to progress in Iraq before the midterm elections, Notes the New York Times' Thom Shanker. LINK
ABC News' Luis Martinez reports, the Pentagon is announcing another 21,000 soldiers and Marines will rotate into Iraq at the end of this year, essentially maintaining current troops levels now at about 127,000.
When Sen. Kennedy speaks on the floor later today, he is expected to say: "The Republican leadership is out of touch on this issue. They are caving to industry lobbyists and special interests, and ignoring what's best for working Americans. When you give the American people a chance, they will always vote for fairness. It's time for us in Congress to heed their example, and vote to raise the minimum wage."
According to the liberal Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, the push to raise the minimum wage at the federal level is being complemented by a push to raise the state minimum wage by ballot measure in Montana, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, and Ohio.
The Boston Globe: LINK
Politics of immigration:
The smart money that held there would be no pre-elex immigration law (or even conference report) has just doubled down. The two questions: will the conservative base be depressed without an enforcement law, and, relatedly, is the base fooled by dog-and-pony shows?
The Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman and Shailagh Murray report that House GOP leaders announced plans yesterday to hold a series of "field hearings" on immigration during the August recess in what amounted to the "clearest sign yet" that House GOPers have "largely given up on passing a broad rewrite of the nation's immigration laws this year," believing that their "get-tough" approach is "far more popular with voters than the approach backed by Bush and the Senate." LINK
The Chicago Tribune also reports that a House/Senate compromise on immigration reform is looking less and less likely -- which could be an embarrassment for the President but spell victory for House Republicans in November. LINK
Per USA Today, Angelo Amador, director of Immigration Policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, says that that the Bilbray election made House Republican leaders think twice about compromising with the Senate bill. LINK
"The decision by House Republicans to schedule hearings. . . signifies their willingness to run for re-election in November on the strength of the enforcement-focused House bill and their unwillingness to give any ground to President Bush and the Senate, which passed a broader measure that includes a guest-worker program," writes Roll Call's Ben Pershing.
"Our number one priority is to secure the border, and right now I haven't heard a lot of pressure [from constituents] to have a path to citizenship," said House Speaker Hastert (R-IL), per the AP. LINK
The House leadership's decision to hold summer hearings around the country on immigration is clearly meant to "build public opposition" to the Senate's bill, writes the New York Times' Carl Hulse. LINK
The Boston Globe: LINK
Future electoral votes:
"The 2005 city population estimates released by the Census Bureau Wednesday show that [population] growth is shifting from large central cities that grew rapidly years ago to smaller, outlying communities in California, Texas, Arizona and Florida," reports USA Today. LINK
The top five fastest-growing cities are Elk Grove, California; North Las Vegas, Nevada; Port St. Lucie, Florida; Gilbert, Arizona, and Cape Coral, Florida. All are suburban areas with fewer than 200,000 residents. Researchers say more families are moving south and west in search of affordable housing, open space and good schools.
(Take a look at the states those cities are in and ask yourself if the House or Senate position on immigration reform would better enhance long-term electoral appeal.)
And political reporters' love affair with exurbs may continue, after reading the New York Times' report this morning that those outer suburbs continue to surge in population. LINK
Estate tax politics:
To Mallory Factor's chagrin, the Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman reports that Republican leaders announced yesterday that the House GOP will settle for "less than full repeal" of the estate tax. LINK
"Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said Thomas's proposal, which includes a tax break worth $900 million over 10 years for U.S. forest-products businesses that own their own timberlands, may attract votes from Senate Democrats from timber-rich states such as Washington, Louisiana and Arkansas who voted against repeal earlier this month," reports Bloomberg's Donmoyer. LINK
Which leads nicely to this Free Enterprise Fund press release: "In an effort to educate the public about the recent votes by Senators Mark Pryor (D-AR), Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) to keep the federal death tax, the Free Enterprise Fund will begin a state-wide media blitz on Wednesday, June 21 in Arkansas, Louisiana and Washington state. The TV spots will run on all local broadcast stations as part of a $3.7 million national campaign to permanently repeal the federal death tax."
The New York Times: LINK
"A federal jury in Washington, D.C., convicted former Bush administration official David Safavian of obstructing justice in a trial that tested the strength of the government's investigation into former lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his controversial connections on Capitol Hill," write Jason Ryan and Jennifer Duck of ABC News. . LINK
The Wall Street Journal's Jeanne Cummings writes that yesterday's Safavian verdict "could pressure more congressional aides to cooperate with the investigation, and complicate the re-election bids of a handful of Republican legislators," including Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-OH), and Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WVA).
The Columbus Dispatch also reports the guilty verdict brings federal prosecutors one step closer to filing corruption charges against Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), an alleged "'champion'" for Abramoff. LINK
ABC News' Jake Tapper blogs on Bob Ney's unfortunate online ad placement. LINK
The hard copy of the Washington Post's front page trades in a hard-to-pronounce "Safavian" headline for a simpler (and more Democratic ad friendly) "Ex-Aide to Bush Found Guilty." LINK
The New York Times: LINK
USA Today: LINK
Abramoff's lawyer Abbe Lowell pens in a USA Today op-ed that real reform will not happen "until the very relationship between lobbyists and public officials is re-examined." LINK
Jonathan Allen of The Hill reports that Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) escalated his bold "anti-earmark crusade" yesterday in the House through his efforts to kill a $2.5 million provision for a technology center proposed by Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) on behalf of his former aide, Thomas V. Thornton. LINK
Politics of North Korea:
ABC News' Jonathan Karl reports, "Two senior U.S. military officials tell ABC News the Pentagon has activated the missile defense system and put it on high alert for a missile launch from North Korea."
"The U.S. has a limited missile defense system comprised of nine interceptors in Alaska and two in California. The detection system has been adjusted to detect and track missiles coming from North Korea. The U.S. would likely only attempt to shoot down a North Korean missile if it appeared likely to hit a U.S. or allied target."
"'We need to be prepared for any possibility,' said one senior official."
"U.S. officials say they simply don't know if North Korea will go ahead and launch a missile. One senior official directly involved in this told me he thought North Korea would back down; another told he me he thought they will go forward; both admitted they have no idea."
Bush in Europe:
Washington Post header: "Bush's Unpopularity in Europe Hangs Over Summit." LINK
In his wrap of all the Democratic efforts to win the battle of ideas this week, the Washington Post's Dan Balz has Doug Hattaway, a Democratic communications consultant who worked for Al Gore's presidential campaign in 2000, recalling a "moment of epiphany" during a focus group of Democratic operatives and marketing professionals he attended last year. LINK
"The participants were asked to say what Democratic accomplishments they were most proud of. Their responses filled several pages on a flip chart set up in the focus group facility. 'We all realized there was nothing there within the past 30 years,' Hattaway said."
The Wall Street Journal's editorial board is disappointed that the GOP's "spendthrifts" have handed Democrats a political opening on the issue of fiscal responsibility. But the Journal's editorial board considers the Democratic push for a return to pay-as-you-go budget rules as nothing more than a "ruse" because PAYGO rules apply "only to new or expanded entitlement programs, not to those that already exist and grow automatically with user demand."
2006: money landscape:
In the Washington Post "Politics" column, Zachary Goldfarb reports that for "the first time in recent memory, the Democratic Party's House and Senate campaign committees have more money to spend on races than their Republican counterparts." LINK
Five months before the midterm elections, the DCCC ended May "with $24.5 million in the bank, compared with the" NRCC's "$21.9 million, according to reports filed with" the FEC yesterday.
The DSCC had "$33.5 million at the end of last month and the" NRSC "showed $18.5 million."
"Republicans still maintain a wide advantage in one arena." The RNC ended May with "$43 million in the bank;" the DNC "had $10.3 million."
Congressional Democrats are proudly advertising their fundraising totals and their cash-on-hand advantages through the first five months of the year. LINK
The cash on hand edge "isn't expected to last long." Roll Call's Lauren Whittington reports.
"For the first time in at least 30 years, more members of the House have decided to run for governor than for senator," based on their frustration with a slow-moving Congress and their confidence that "life in the House and Senate can be fruitless when compared to running a state." The Hill's Aaron Blake has the story. LINK
Lieberman spokeswoman Marion Steinfels weighed in Tuesday on Gore's recent Bloomberg TV statement of non-support for his former running-mate: "You might remember that Sen. Lieberman worked very hard along side Al Gore to defeat another aristocrat from Connecticut a few years back. And, if Ned's friend, Bill Hillsman, hadn't worked to defeat them then, we wouldn't be in the position we are right now."
As for whether Sen. Lieberman has seen "An Inconvenient Truth," Steinfels said Sen. Lieberman has not had an opportunity to see it yet but "he and Hadassah are looking forward to catching it over the July 4th holiday."
The Washington Post's Zachary Goldfarb has George Jepsen, a former chairman of the Connecticut Democratic Party and former state Senate majority leader, explaining his support for Lamont over Sen. Lieberman thusly: "It's a very difficult decision, because I've known Joe Lieberman for 20-odd years, and I like him and I thought he's sincere in what he believes. . . But it's become increasingly clear on most of the major issues of the day that I don't share his values. . . I personally believe the war is possibly the worst foreign policy mistake of the post-World War II era, and Joe has been an enabler of that." LINK
"If parties were based on the acceptance of diversity of opinion on the most important issues of the day, they would lack the definition to be parties at all," writes the Washington Post's Harold Meyerson, who is dismayed by Sen. Lieberman's recent interview with David Broder. LINK
Even though Sen.Lieberman refuses to rule out an independent run if he were to lose the August 8 Democratic primary, many Senate Democrats announced their intention to travel to Connecticut to support their colleague's campaign -- to which Senators have already donated $49,000. But one senior Democratic aide told Roll Call's John Stanton and Nicole Duran, "Lieberman running as an independent will do major damage to our party. . . [It] would be devastating."
ABC News' Jake Tapper blogs about Sen. Rick Santorum's (R-PA) increasing love for Philly cheese steaks. LINK
More from the Philadelphia Inquirer: LINK
Peter Jackson of the AP has the details on the latest Quinnipiac University poll pitting Sen. Santorum against challenger Bob Casey, Jr., which shows Casey handily defeating Sen. Santorum, 52 percent to 34 percent, matching Casey's October lead; Sen. Santorum's approval rating of 38, meanwhile, is a new low for the Senator. LINK
Peter Wallsten of the Los Angeles Times profiles Harold Ford (D-TN), a Senate hopeful in Tennessee who is trying to win Sen. Bill Frist's seat by attracting black voters, running as conservative Democrat, and utilizing strategies to counter Republican tactics. Although his family name has been associated with corruption in the past, the Times Notes that if successful he would become the former Confederacy's first black senator since Reconstruction. LINK
Note the you-can-see-Wallsten-smile-as-you-read-it kicker.
New Jersey Senate candidate Tom Kean, Jr. will debate Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) as planned this Sunday after being granted a reprieve from his state's budget vote by the Democratic president of the State Senate. Kean had refused to miss the vote because "'somebody needs to stand up for New Jersey taxpayers.'" LINK
The Des Moines Register on Rep. Jim Nussle's (R-IA) plan to raise Iowa teacher salaries above the national average within two years of taking office should he emerge victorious in November. LINK
The New York Observer profiles Tom Suozzi, the Democrat challenging/windmill tilting Eliot Spitzer for their party's nomination in the New York governor's race. LINK
Questions about sexual orientation. Questions about adultery. Questions about quickie divorces. The Florida governor's race has promptly turned private and ugly. LINK
Per Roll Call: "Former President Bill Clinton will headline his first fundraiser for a Congressional candidate this cycle next month when he heads to Indianapolis to do an event for former Rep. Baron Hill (D)."
The event is scheduled for July 5.
On the same day he got to show off his latest fundraising totals, Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) announced his plan to step down as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee following the upcoming midterm elections. The Hill has the story, although, oddly, no comment from Rahm's children. LINK
The New Hampshire Union Leader's Clynton Namuo reports that yesterday's motion to unseal the search warrant against Democratic congressional candidate Gary Dodd (NH-01) reveals that police were skeptical of Dodd's version of his April 5 car crash and were pursuing possible charges against him. LINK
Also per the Union Leader, Dodd's former campaign manager digs up dirt behind congressional candidate's campaign, Noting "an inappropriate relationship with an office worker and questionable accounting long before Dodds' April crash on the Spaulding Turnpike." LINK
Yvonne Abraham and Scott Helman of the Boston Globe report that Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) is trying to expand the authority of the Massachusetts state police, in order to effort a crack down on undocumented workers. LINK
Frank Phillips and Brian Mooney of the Boston Globe report that "taxpayer cost of providing State Police security for Gov. Mitt Romney's out-of-state trips increased by more than 60 percent in the last year, as he tested the waters for a run for president." LINK
Did Mike Dukakis really travel out of state with no troopers?
On "Imus" this morning, Sen. George Allen (R-VA) joined the host to discuss gay marriage and the Iraq war. My daughter learns "good things from her mother and probably bad things from her father," the Senator said. "You need [the federal amendment] to protect marriage. Family is so important." On another Allen favorite subject, the Senator said, "We're dealing with vile, hate-filled terrorists. No one likes to be in a reconstruction government, but Iraqis need to be trained." Allen was skeptical of Democratic plans to withdraw, redeploy, plan to redeploy, or anything else. "We also have an enemy. We are not working in a vacuum." To end, Imus asked about his tough reelection bid, in which Allen happily reported that he still leads. "I need you to stay by my side, Mr. Imus," Allen said. Imus did not directly respond.
"Sen. George Allen (R) has a new TV ad in the Washington, D.C., media market, the second he has aired in his campaign for re-election," reports Roll Call's Whittington.
"The new 30-second spot features Allen with his family talking about efforts to make communities and schools safer for children."
Gov. George Pataki (R-NY) has to choose between appeasing conservatives and angering liberals in deciding whether to reappoint liberal Judge Bundy Smith to New York's high court, writes the New York Times. LINK
The New York Sun's Josh "Papa Doc" Gerstein looks at the many 2008 Democratic hopefuls coming out in favor of net neutrality and former Clinton press secretary Mike McCurry on the other side of the debate. LINK
The AP reports that former Senator and Democratic Presidential candidate George McGovern is urging recently unseated Sen. Tom Daschle to run for the nation's highest office in 2008: "I think he's a very credible candidate, he's a very good man." LINK
Of course, Sen. McGovern might not be the best person to assess the viability of presidential candidates -- or maybe he is the best.
Gov. Mark Warner (D-VA) told Democrats to campaign more aggressively for November victories while addressing a New Jersey Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee fundraiser, per the AP. LINK
In the July issue of GQ, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) dishes to Lisa DePaulo about his life outside the Senate:
On packing "like a girl": "There would be those who would say that. And it would not be the easiest thing to deny."
On 42 as FLOTUS: "Oh, he'd be a great first lady. He would be a great first lady."
On dating: "Um, that's, uh, classified?"
And on women throwing themselves at him: "I certainly wouldn't say that. [smiles] I'm not gonna say that."
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, the Atlantic's Ross Douthat writes that it would be presumptuous for Sen. Obama to run for president in 2008 "but it might also be the smartest thing he ever does. . . For the moment, he's part Clinton, part Roosevelt, part JFK and MLK; but in eight or 12 or 16 years, he might be John Kerry."
Ross: please donate your fee to charity.
Casting and counting:
Per the New York Times, New York City voters will soon be able to vote "by 'puffing' and 'sipping' air through a straw, pumping a foot pedal, touching a computer screen or pressing flat plastic shapes." LINK
The New York Times on the Merchant Marine Academy midshipman (and Granite Stater) who nearly suffocated President Bush on Monday: LINK
The New York Times gives front-page treatment to a review of the 997-page tome "American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia." LINK