The Note: With This Pen, I Do Veto


Five and a half years into his White House tenure, President Bush gets to try a new aspect of the job today.

At 2:15 pm ET, President Bush is expected to make remarks on stem cell research policy in the East Room where he is expected to explain to the American people why he plans to make good on his veto threat of the bill that passed the Senate yesterday aimed at expanding federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. (HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt attempts to lay the ground work in a USA Today op-ed. LINK)

Our suggestion: play the long game and focus less on the veto action itself and more on the President's speech, to get a sense of whether he has his philosophical and rhetorical mojo working (or not).

The next few months will determine control of Congress and, thus, the fate of the balance of the Bush presidency. If he is to win national security, immigration, budget, and social issue wars at home, he is going to need to be focused and impressive, not easy pickings for the Rich-Krugman-Dowd-Stewart axis.

If today's remarks make you think of the best work of Karen Hughes and Mike Gerson, bet on Tom Reynolds (and on Republicans to hold the House). If the remarks make you think of the passionless and defensive words that come out of a bureaucratic process, double down on Rahm.

At noon ET, Sens. Reid (D-NV) and Schumer (D-NY) plan to hold a pen and pad briefing to "detail the political accountability of the Senate's 63-37 vote."

The Associated Press wraps the Ralph Reed defeat, the pending Cynthia McKinney runoff, and the Taylor victory in Georgia yesterday. LINK

It is legislative advocacy day at the NAACP convention at the Washington Convention Center. Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Barack Obama (D-IL) and Sam Brownback (R-KS) are all expected to address the morning session around 11:00 am ET. The group's annual conference concludes tomorrow with President Bush's tradition-bucking (or is it "tradition-embracing"?) appearance.

Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) preaches the Republican gospel on the war on terror, border security, and fiscal restraint to the Heritage Foundation at 12:30 pm ET in Washington, DC.

On global threats: "It's important to note [sic] what separates Republicans from Capitol Hill Democrats. Republicans recognize the threat and have constructed policies reliant on strength and purpose. Democrats have instead blundered towards an empty and cosmetic mindset that underscores a shared devotion to a weak and indecisive foreign policy forever queasy about America's role in the world," Rep. Boehner is expected to say according to excerpts released by his office.

On budget reform, Boehner is expected to say, "Unfortunately, there has been little desire from Democrats to join Republicans in exercising fiscal restraint. Minority Leader Pelosi recently spoke out against the practice of earmarking millions for home-state projects, yet she's bragged about nearly $500 million in earmarks in her own press releases."

For those who want to watch the Leader live on the Heritage website, here you go: LINK

Sen. Hillary Clinton unveils the first piece of her DLC "American Dream Initiative" at a DGA-sponsored press conference with Gov. Vlisack, Sen. Carper, and others at 2:00 pm ET in Washington, DC. The policy proposal is geared toward "increasing college enrollment and improving college graduation rates, in part, by making higher education more affordable." The rest of the "American Dream Initiative" is expected to be unveiled when Sen. Clinton addresses the DLC national conversation in Denver, CO on Monday July 24.

GOP Reps. Hastert, Blunt, and Cantor meet the press at 10:00 am ET following their conference meeting.

Democratic Reps. Pelosi, Hoyer, Clyburn, and Larson do much of the same at 10:00 am ET following their caucus meeting.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is schedule to testify before the Senate Banking Committee at 10:00 am ET on the state of the economy.

Sens. Joe Biden (D-DE) and Sam Brownback (R-KS) deliver energy speeches at the National Press Club to discuss energy security and plans to roll back American dependence on foreign oil at 9:15 am ET and 11:15 am ET, respectively.

The House Homeland Security Committee begins its immigration and border security hearings in Washington, DC.

The NDN Political Fund unveils the findings of its new Hispanic voter poll in Washington, DC.

The Senate Armed Services Committee holds a hearing on detainee trials at 10:00 am ET in light of the Supreme Court's Hamdan v. Rumsfeld ruling.

RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman attends a closed press fundraiser for the Tennessee Leader Victory Fund in Washington, DC.

Stem cell politics:

ABC News' Z. Byron Wolf reports that the key "stem cell research bill, H.R. 810, which negates the Bush Administration's 2001 order restricting federal funding only to embryonic stem cell lines already in existence in 2001, passed 63-37 in the Senate. That's four votes short of the 67 that would be needed in the Senate to overcome the promised presidential veto. A veto-proof margin in the House is 291 votes. H.R. 810 fell far short of that when it got 238 upon passage in May of 2005. So don't hold your breath for a veto override."

"The House threw an unexpected monkey wrench into the White House's stem cell plans -- by voting down S-2754, the bill that would have encouraged research on non-embryonic stem cells. Democrats derided this bill (though it passed the Senate 100-0) as nothing more than political cover for Bush and Republicans opposed to the embryonic stem cell bill," reports ABC News' Liz Marlantes.

The House is not expected to vote on the bill again today -- "but will just send the two that passed (expanding embryonic stem cell research and the ban on fetus farming) on to the President. Assuming this doesn't change, this means Bush will have to issue his first veto without the hoped-for political cover," adds Marlantes.

At least two potential Democratic presidential hopefuls, Gov. Tom Vilsack (D-IA) and Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM), support expanded embryonic stem cell research capabilities; they joined five other governors to author a letter to Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) and Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) exhorting the Senate to overturn President Bush's restrictions. The AP's Mike Glover reports: LINK

ABC News' Jake Tapper and Avery Miller report on the Senate's "intense" and "emotional" debate, and President Bush's upcoming veto. &LINK

The Washington Post's Charles Babington writes, that if, as expected, the House stem cell override fails "it would kill the issue for the 109th Congress but would probably propel it toward the front ranks of the November congressional election." LINK

The Chicago Tribune's Jeremy Manier and Judith Graham claim that Karl Rove's assessment to the Denver Post's editorial board that more "promise" lies with adult stem cells than embryonic stem cells "is inaccurate, according to most stem cell research scientists." and the Bush adviser is drifting further into "deeply contentious scientific territory." LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Sarah Lueck writes that the stem cell issue is one that "divides Republicans and that Democrats" are already "using on the campaign trail."

New York Post's Ian Bishop Notes that Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said that he will make Bush's stem cell veto a key election issue. LINK

The New York Times: LINK

The Los Angeles Times: LINK

The Des Moines Register: LINK


Boston Globe: LINK

Chicago Tribune: LINK

ABC News' Jake Tapper blogs a slew of reports and analyses from our colleagues over the stem-cell debate. LINK

Bush Administration agenda:

In a must-read look at the growing conservative anger over Bush's foreign policy, the Washington Post's Michael Abramowitz has former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) asking: "Is the next stage for Condi to go dancing with Kim Jong Il?" LINK

Note that "triumph of Kerryism" quote!!

Middle East politics:

In a look at the ways in which most Democrats and Republicans are "rushing to offer unalloyed support for Israel's offensive against Hezbollah fighters," the Washington Post's Diamond Jim VandeHei has RNC Chair Ken Mehlman telling Christians United for Israel "today, we are all Israelis" while Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) warns that the flurry of pro-Israel activity, including a House resolution that is expected to pass today, "can encourage their leadership to overreach and create situations that become more problematic." LINK

Per the Los Angeles Times duo Johanna Neuman and Peter Spiegel, the Administration and some MOC's are playing the blame game, pointing fingers at each other for not evacuating U.S. citizens out of Lebanon earlier. LINK

President Bush and the NAACP:

"Until now, Bush was the first sitting president since Warren Harding who hadn't addressed the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People," writes Richard Benedetto of USA Today. LINK

The Washington Post's Darryl Fears Notes that President Bush's "change of heart" with respect to speaking to the NAACP follows a change in the NAACP's leadership. LINK

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said that it's the right time now to address "residues of the past." LINK

The fact that several African American candidates are running for office this year as Republicans may help bridge the gap between Bush and the NAACP, Notes the New York Post editorial board. LINK

Georgia primary:

After Ralph Reed threw in the towel last night, one of the first post-concession press releases to hit our inbox came courtesy of Jon Tester's (D-MT) campaign, perhaps hoping Reed's Abramoff-associated defeat is transferable to Big Sky Country.

David Donnelly, the director of Campaign Money Watch, reacted to Reed's loss thusly: "Ralph Reed's loss has national implications because he is the first casualty of the Abramoff scandals. And this judgment is delivered by conservative voters -- voters which many of those who are implicated in Washington's scandal will depend on this November. The lesson is this: politicians who place political money before morals ought to be very worried about meeting the same fate Ralph Reed met tonight." LINK

Just hours after the DLC's Bruce Reed joked at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast about his high hopes that look-alike Ralph Reed would emerge triumphant in the Georgia LG race, Reed lost his primary which represents "the first electoral defeat this year that can be traced directly to the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal," writes Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post. LINK

Reed's defeat may limit the influence of Christian conservatives in Georgia: "They may be the tail now, but they're not the dog anymore," writes the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Jim Galloway. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Jeanne Cummings works into her second graph that Reed is a "close adviser to White House political director Karl Rove."

In, perhaps, the biggest upset of Georgia's primary elections yesterday, controversial Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) -- who had widely been considered a shoo-in for the primary and general elections in the 4th District -- just barely edged out her leading opponent, DeKalb County Commissioner Hank Johnson; the two candidates will face each other in a runoff August 8th. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Valerie Basheda reports. LINK

Lt. Governor Mark Taylor (D-GA) bested Secretary of State Cathy Cox yesterday, capturing the Democratic nomination to take on Gov. Sonny Perdue (R-GA) in the generals this November, reports James Salzer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The fight "will likely be an uphill battle" for Taylor, although the "Big Guy," who has won every race he has run since his political debut, presents a formidable challenge: "The Big Guy knows what he's doing," said one former Republican lawmaker. LINK

The Breakfast Formerly Known as Sperling:

In his write-up of yesterday's Christian Science Monitor breakfast, David T. Cook has the DLC's Al From taking a swipe at liberal bloggers who have been critical of the Iraq war stance taken by Sen. Clinton: ". . . The vitriol, the tone, the vindictiveness of some of the blogosphere I don't think is very helpful. . .'" LINK

Eric Pfeiffer of the Washington Times ledes with From saying Democrats "should emulate the policies of Bill Clinton and ignore 'the noise' of their liberal base if they want to win national elections." LINK

Asked if the DLC would do as it did to Howard Dean in the last election and tag Al Gore or Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) with the "weakness" label on the basis of their opposition to going to war with Iraq in the absence of hard evidence of an imminent threat, the DLC's Bruce Reed said the 2008 election should focus on what should be done in Iraq now, not on some vote that was cast on one night in October of 2002.

2008: Republicans:

In the nine days since a woman was killed in a Big Dig tunnel by concrete ceiling panels, Gov. Romney has projected the image of a "take-charge chief executive," writes the Washington Post's Amy Goldstein. But Northeastern Prof. William Mayer cautions that callers in recent days to Boston talk radio shows have been asking: "If he can't handle [turnpike authority director] Matt Amorello, how is he going to handle Korea and Iran?" LINK

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that filmmaker Mitch Davis plans to boost Gov. Mitt Romney's (R-MA) image for 2008 with his formation of a 527 group and promise to create a $1 million documentary, both meant to dispel voter hesitancy about Romney's religion but with the potential to "backfire" by reinforcing Americans' skeptical views of the Mormon faith. LINK

The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza writes that Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.'s (R-UT) support for Sen. McCain "strikes deep into the political base of Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney." LINK

"Four in 10 Republicans Would Not Find McCain an 'Acceptable' Nominee," blares the Gallup Poll headline. LINK

Under the USA Today headline, "Will the Christian right embrace -- and support -- one of its own?," Susan Page explores the Brownback candidacy (with a Des Moines dateline) and ponders the question that likely keeps McCain and Giuliani up at night on occasion: "The question for [the Christian right] next time: Support a candidate who has a good shot of winning but a short history on their core issues? Or back a true believer who faces a steep uphill fight?" LINK

Ed Gillespie on Brownback: "It's a mistake to underestimate him. There's no substitute for sincerity in politics, and he comes from a neighboring state, and he is strong on a lot of issues that Iowa voters care about."

2008: Democrats:

Tom Beaumont of the Des Moines Register reports that four eager potential presidential hopefuls each coughed up the "reduced price" of $50,000 for the Iowa Democratic Party voter information file, including Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) who has not visited the state since 2004 and purchased the file in order to get his organization "up and running." In addition to Dodd, the other early buy-in Democratic '08ers are Sen. John Edwards (NC), Gov. Tom Vilsack (IA), and former Gov. Mark Warner (VA). LINK

Two words missing from Beaumont's story: Hillary Clinton. The New York Observer's Jason Horowitz tackles Sen. Hillary Clinton's massive -- and massively successful -- fundraising apparatus, with a special shout out to P.S. Doyle and a reminder that not all of Sen. Clinton's donors clear their quotes with Ann Lewis. LINK

And beyond the $10,000-a-plate dinners and secret rendezvous with Rupert Murdoch, Horowitz also writes, "More than 90 percent of the money Mrs. Clinton collected in the most recent quarter were in donations of under $100." Also Note Fred Hochberg's boilerplate use of the word "bespeaks."

Per the Washington Times, Sen. Clinton warned that it would be "a serious mistake" for Bush to veto the stem cell bill. LINK

Bloomberg News' Roger Simon reports that as nearly a dozen Democrats continue to posture for their party's nomination in 2008, Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) disrupted the peaceful process by openly criticizing former Sen. John Edward's (D-NC) focus on poverty and declaring that the middle class should be the party's top priority. Sen. Bayh felt so strongly about this that he delivered the same speech in Washington, DC and Des Moines, IA this week in an apparent attempt to bolster his low approval ratings in the highly sought-after state. LINK

The Hill's Bolton reports that Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) is contemplating the use of a leftover $14 million from his 2004 presidential run, saying he might very well put the dough toward another bid in 2008 in hopes of closing the fundraising gap with Sen. Clinton. LINK

At his third annual homeland security conference yesterday, Gov. Vilsack slammed the Bush Administration for failing to allot enough money for state and local homeland security efforts. Charlotte Eby of the Quad City Times has more. LINK

Sen. Lieberman's primary politics:

Patrick Healy of the New York Times reports on Sen. Lieberman's (D-CT) challenger Ned Lamont who is owning up to his country club past and attempting to move beyond the one issue (Iraq) to present a more multi-topic campaign message. LINK

Modern technology is playing an underground role in propelling Lamont's campaign to replace Sen. Lieberman. The third most popular group on the popular video screening website,, is Nedheads, which compiles footage from the primary face-off and even parodical political ads in support of Sen. Lieberman's anti-war challenger; video titles include "Joe & Georgeā€¦(a love story)" and "Ned Lamont Has a Messy Desk." The Hartford Courant's Jane Porter explores this online revolution: LINK

2006: landscape:

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, former Rep. George Nethercutt (R-WA) opines that 2006 is not 1994 but he warns that if his fellow GOPers don't get serious about big ideas like making Sarbanes-Oxley less onerous for small business, the Democrats might be able to win in 2008 with a simple "we're not them" message.

Nethercutt: "Today my former colleagues seem tired, conflicted and defensive about holding their majority in the face of huge budget deficits, an unpopular and difficult war, and the inefficiencies that come with a bigger government bureaucracy -- all at a time when a few Republican and Democratic members face their own ethical issues."

2006: House:

NRCC Chair Tom "Nuts and Bolts" Reynolds believes there will be the same number of competitive House races this year as there were in 2002 and 2004, when Republicans added seats and expanded their reign in Congress, though he admits he'll "have a few sleepless nights." Reynolds estimates the number of seats in play at 36, while the DCCC says "over 40." The Hill's Aaron Blake has more. LINK

Fresh from a trip to Iraq, Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R-MN) told reporters in a telephone conference call Tuesday that American forces appear to have no operational control of much of Baghdad. LINK

Saying "Baghdad is worse today than it was three years ago," Rep. Gutknecht was critical of some of the "spin" from Bush Administration officials in the Pentagon and State Department. "What I think we need to do more is withdraw more Americans," he said. Until his recent trip to Iraq, Rep. Gutknecht had been a strong supporter of the war in Iraq. He is running in a competitive -- though likely Republican -- district against Tim Walz, a former command sergeant major in the Army National Guard.

Jim Kuhnhenn of the AP reports on how the House Republican "American Values" agenda is faring on the brink of upcoming elections. LINK

Lauren Whittington of Roll Call Notes that while embattled Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) saw a steep dropoff in campaign funds in the second quarter and spent more than he took in, one of his largest donors was none other than Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) through his PAC.

Per Roll Call's Kane, Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA), who came under scrutiny after allegedly giving fundraising kickbacks to his wife Julie (and namely after a front page Washington Post story last week), has abandoned fundraising for his political action committee to focus exclusively on his re-election bid. But Kane points out that Julie Doolittle is set to take in more than double this election cycle than she received in 2004.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's headline above James O'Toole's story doesn't quite capture the whole picture: "Challengers trail U.S. House incumbents in funding." LINK

In the competitive races -- Pennsylvania's 6th and 7th districts -- the two Democratic challengers are close behind the Republican incumbents.

2006: Governor:

The Washington Times' Greg Pierce Notes that the Republican Governors Association funneled half a million dollars into Colorado's gubernatorial race to help support Rep. Bob Beauprez (R-CO). LINK

The Houston Chronicle reports that Democrats in Texas are cozying up to independent gubernatorial candidates Carole Keeton Strayhorn and "Kinky" Friedman, showing up to campaign events and appearing on donor lists. LINK

The AP's Brendan Farrington describes the populist, folksy appeal of Rod Smith, one of the Democrats who hopes to compete in the general election for Florida's governorship. Smith, who set out on a 3-day, 1,100-mile bus tour yesterday, hopes that his "twang and ability to mix humor with rapid-fire talk reminiscent of a Baptist preacher" will allow him to connect with the Republicans he'll have to woo to capture the governor's mansion. LINK

2006: Senate:

The Ohio Democratic Party launched a response statewide television ad (produced by Squier Knapp Dunn) yesterday going after Sen. DeWine for using 9/11 imagery in his recent television ad and pointing to Sherrod Brown's voting record on terrorism-related legislation.

"With the pro-Brown commercial, the Ohio Democratic Party -- which financed it -- showed it would quickly respond to any attack on its candidates. But it also shifted the campaign debate to international terrorism and national security -- issues on which voters tend to trust Republicans more than Democrats," wisely writes Jack Torry of the Columbus Dispatch. LINK

"2006 is not going to be a repeat of 2002. We will not tolerate Republicans attacking our candidates on national security or any other issue," said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Phil Singer to Roll Call's Whittington.

Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL) flatly contradicted former top advisor Ed Rollins' claim that "there's no question" federal investigators are targeting Rep. Harris in their inquiry into defense contractor Mitch Wade's activities, claiming that her complying with investigators by providing requested documents is "being exploited by people engaged in an unsuccessful, coordinated effort to end my candidacy for the United States Senate." The Tampa Tribune's William March and Keith Eptstein report: LINK

More from the Sun-Sentinel: LINK


The Note inadvertently misspelled a Connecticut congressional candidate's name yesterday. The proper spelling is: Diane Farrell (D-CT). We regret the error.