The Note: Independent Fighters Under Ken Mehlman's Direction


President Bush comes into the Rose Garden at 11:15 am ET to talk to the world through some interaction with the White House media.

The President knows that said press corps will always side with Colin Powell over George W. Bush, and he doesn't much care. What the White House DOES care about is dominating every news cycle for the next 53 days. So today's way is: a press conference.

While we wait. . . .

Remember: All the Gang of 500 cares about is who controls the House and Senate come January.

While 498 of them sit back and make weekend plans (while recovering from Wednesday's Sally-and-Ben-in-a-tent showing of HBO's fabulous "Mr. Conservative: Goldwater on Goldwater" LINK), two Gang members close the week for the rest of us with really good (a/k/a must read code breaking) explanations of Where We Are.

From the womanly Right: Peggy Noonan on's miraculous (with a KAFC cameo): LINK

"The Democrats' mistake--ironically, in a year all about Mr. Bush--is obsessing on Mr. Bush. They've been sucker-punched by their own animosity."

"'The Democrats now are incapable of answering a question on policy without mentioning Bush six times,' says pollster Kellyanne Conway. '"What is your vision on Iraq?" 'Bush lied us into war." "Health care? "Bush hasn't a clue." They're so obsessed with Bush it impedes them from crafting and communicating a vision all their own.' They heighten Bush by hating him."

"One of the oldest clichés in politics is, 'You can't beat something with nothing.' It's a cliché because it's true. You have to have belief, and a program. You have to look away from the big foe and focus instead on the world and philosophy and programs you imagine."

"Mr. Bush's White House loves what the Democrats are doing. They want the focus on him. That's why he's out there talking, saying Look at me."

From the manly Left: E.J. Dionne proves once again that Brookings isn't totally clouding his mind: LINK

"The United States is witnessing a centralization and nationalization of politics unprecedented in our history. This trend is rooted in the rise of the political consulting industry, vast changes in the technology of campaigning, and the intense competition between the two major parties for control of Congress. . . ."

"Even turning away from your party can be a national partisan strategy, and Republicans are hoping to hold Congress by electing a herd of 'independent fighters.' At least five Republican candidates describe themselves with that phrase. New Jersey Senate candidate Tom Kean Jr. calls himself an 'independent fighter,' and so do Sen. Mike DeWine of Ohio and Reps. Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania, Heather Wilson of New Mexico and Vito Fossella of New York. . . ."

"So in 2006 the local is not really local, everything is about controlling Washington, and "independence" is a product being franchised by a national party apparatus."

Noonan and Dionne are smart partisans -- too smart to think only inside their respective partisan boxes. Go read both pieces in their entirety, and then resume reading The Note, while you wait for the President's words to change everything.

The New York Times and others are reporting that former Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) "has agreed to plead guilty to federal criminal charges related to his dealings with the corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff." LINK

A guilty plea would make Rep. Ney, a six-term congressman, "the first member of Congress to admit to criminal charges in the Abramoff investigation, which has focused on the actions of several current and former Republican lawmakers who had been close to the former lobbyist."

ABC's Pierre Thomas reports that Rep. Ney has been in negotiations for a plea deal and agreement could be filed in court as early as today.

These matter are fluid, however, and could change at the last minute.

News of Rep. Ney's plans to plead guilty comes as Republicans picked state Sen. Joy Padgett, a party-backed state senator, to replace Rep. Ney in the 18th congressional district of Ohio. Padgett will face the Democratic nominee, Zack Space, on Nov. 7.

On Capitol Hill today, the Government Reform subcommittee chaired by Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT) holds a 10:00 am ET hearing on the consequences of leaving Iraq. Witnesses include Fouad Ajami, director of Middle East studies at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies and James Fearson, professor of political science at Stanford University.

Rep. Rob Simmons (R-CT), another embattled GOP House member from Connecticut, will an 11:00 am ET keynote address at a Pentagon ceremony for national POW/MIA Recognition Day.

Two Republican Senators will block the nomination of Dr. Andrew C. Von Eschenback to become commissioner of the FDA. Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) said in an interview yesterday that the Bush Administration must allow the importation of some prescription drugs before he signs off on the nomination; Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) will allow the nomination if the FDA takes steps to remove the abortion drug RU-486 from the market. Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) is scheduled to attend a closed-press fundraiser for his Commonwealth PAC at 5:45 pm ET with Sen. DeMint (R-SC) at the Poinsett Club in Greenville, SC. More from the New York Times on the FDA: LINK

On the left coast today, Karl Rove is the "special guest" at a fundraiser for Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA) in Medina, WA. Vice President Cheney is in California where he is scheduled to attend two receptions.

Sen. Jim Talent (R-MO) and Democratic challenger Claire McCaskill participate in Missouri Press Association candidate forum, Lake Ozark, MO.

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) addresses the United Auto Workers annual CAP conference in Des Moines, IA. Meanwhile, Sen. Bayh's running pal, John Edwards, is in Miami, FL to attend a 5:00 pm ET community gathering with Democratic nominee for governor Jim Davis and his choice lieutenant governor, Col. Daryl Jones.

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) joins Gov. John Lynch and the 2006 New Hampshire Democratic candidates to kick off the final days of the general election campaign at Democratic headquarters in Manchester, NH.

The George Washington University Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet was slated to hold a 9:00 am ET discussion, "Will MySpace and YouTube Change the Way the Beltway Does Politics?"

When the Senate reconvenes at 10:00 am ET, it will address morning business until an agreement is reached on a time to start debate on the US-Oman Free Trade Agreement.

That trade measure will be voted on next Tuesday.

The House will consider H.R. 6054, Military Commissions Act from the Committee on Armed Services.

Weekend politics:

The weekend's political highlight will come Sunday when Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) makes his Iowa debut at Sen. Tom Harkin's (D-IA) steak fry in West Indianola, IA. Tongues are wagging over news that the freshman Senator will be accompanied by Steve Hildebrand, the Democratic strategist who managed then-Vice President Gore's 2000 win in the Iowa caucuses against former Sen. Bill Bradley (D-NJ). An Obama trip to the China Buffet is TBD.

On Saturday, Gov. Mark Warner (D-VA) fundraises for the Virginia Democratic Party, Fredericksburg, VA. Sen. McCain campaigns for Rep. Jeb Bradley (R-NH) in Portsmouth, NH. Rep. Emanuel and State Chair Chris Redfern (D-OH) speak at Ohio Democratic State Convention, Parma, OH.

On Sunday, Sen. McCain acts as the Grand Marshal for the Sylvania 300 NASCAR race in New Hampshire. The Arizona Senator also attends the Vermont Republican Party's Fall Dinner in South Burlington, VT. Sen. Bayh hosts a fundraiser for Gov. Lynch and Iowa gubernatorial candidate Chet Culver in New York City.

Politics of detainees:

ABC's David Chalian reports: At this morning's Christian Science Monitor breakfast, RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman quickly looked beyond today's headlines of a GOP rift with a bit of a metaphorical shrug and said, "I'm not sure from a national perspective that there is that much political impact" to the McCain/Warner/Graham split with the President over detainee treatment.

"Voters don't vote on a single issue," Mehlman explained. "The average American is not paying attention to committee markups. The average American is looking at the overall picture," he added.

Mehlman then went on to paint that overall picture by highlighting Democratic efforts to "kill" the PATRIOT Act, weaken NSA terrorist surveillance, and cut post-9/11 funding for intelligence.

Voters "are not going to see the President and [a Senator] disagree," Mehlman argued. The Chairman claims voters will have an overall sense that Republicans are the ones who "recognize we are at war" and that Democrats would "weaken our efforts in the war on terror."

"It is one of those rare Congressional moments when the policy is as monumental as the politics," writes Carl Hulse of the New York Times in his news analysis in which he goes hog wild over dissension in the Republican ranks with an always eager assist from Rep. Ray LaHood (R-IL) who calls it "a big problem." LINK

After writing of the gleeful Democrats on the sidelines, Hulse also Notes that "with the focus on the treatment of detainees there is a potential benefit for Republicans since it does at least temporarily change the subject from Iraq."

"With virtually all Senate Democrats likely to back McCain, he appears to have enough Republican support -- for now, at least -- to fend off amendments on the Senate floor and to block passage of the House version if it emerges from a conference committee," reports the Washington Post's Babington and Weisman. LINK

The Nation's Newspaper runs a splashy front page "strategy on terror suspects splits GOP." LINK

The Washington Times has a source that says after weeks of bickering in private with Sen. McCain, the White House decided to make their fight public. LINK

The Chicago Tribune on the same; the paper takes particular Note of the Bush Administration's "embarrassment" over Colin Powell's letter to Sen. McCain. LINK

USA Today sums up the Bush and Warner plans. LINK

More from the Los Angeles Times: LINK

The Washington Post's ed board writes: "A defining moment for America: The president goes to Capitol Hill to lobby for torture." LINK

Abramoff affair:

The Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman reports that Rep. Ney will blame "a long-standing problem with alcohol for behavior that spiraled down to illegality, sources close to the congressman said last night." LINK

More from the Cleveland Plain Dealer. LINK

The campaign of Harry Mitchell, the Democrat running against Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ) in Arizona's fifth congressional district, responded to the Cleveland Plan Dealer's report by asking in a missive to reporters: "Where does Hayworth stand?"

2006: House:

Prof. David Lightman reports for the Hartford Courant that Rep. Shays denies that he played politics with his Iraq position. LINK

Lightman writes that Shays' discourse on Iraq Thursday "in many ways followed the classic Shays format when controversy erupts."

Per the AP, Swift Boat bankroller Bob Perry has given $5 million to the Economic Freedom Fund, a "527" dedicated to the defeat of Democrats.

"So far, the new group -- which lists Mr. Perry as its sole donor -- has spent slightly more than $500,000 on television ads and mailings criticizing Democratic Reps. Jim Marshall of Georgia and Alan Mollohan of West Virginia, according to a disclosure form filed last week with the Federal Election Commission."

Dick Polman of the Philadelphia Inquirer discusses the GOP's use of the "horrific threat to the nation if Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) gets the keys to the House." LINK

2006: Senate:

The Wall Street Journal's ed board writes: "We don't know whether Mr. Menendez is guilty of violating federal conflict-of-interest laws. But it's worth noting that a Senate ethics complaint has been filed against him. The last major Senate ethics investigation was the one launched four years ago against New Jersey's Torricelli."

Sen. George Allen (R-VA) has been on the offensive this week, as the Richmond Times-Dispatch's Tyler Whitley reports of Allen's new television ad chastising opponent Jim Webb (D) for implying that former President Reagan would have supported Webb.

Not stopping there, Whitley Notes that Allen's ad, "refers to Webb as 'fiction writer James Webb' and says Reagan never would have supported a person whose advisers called him 'an ignorant fool' and who 'disrespected the wishes of his widowed wife.'"


The Nation asks what Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) can do for the Democrats in the competitive Ohio Senate race against Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH). Apparently Brown is beating the GOP at their own game: emphasizing economic issues, even romancing CEO's. By promising to make Ohio "the Silicon Valley of alternative energy" Brown is fiercely combating the GOP's "God-guns-and-gays sloganeering." LINK

Lecturing at his alma mater, Catholic University, Senate Democratic hopeful Bob Casey Jr. spoke to themes of faith, hope and a common good, bridging the what many Democrats describe as the "God gap" in US politics. LINK

The Arizona Republic on the Kyl-Pederson race, suggesting that Pederson is "gaining ground on Kyl, closing to within 10 points, according recent polls." LINK

The Detroit News gives its analysis today of US Senator Debbie Stabenow's new campaign commercial which details her trade policy views that "paints Stabenow as trade enforcer." LINK

Per Bonna de la Cruz of the Nashville Tennessean, Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D-TN) filmed his latest Senate campaign commercial in the church where he was baptized, invoking a mixed reaction for using the unusual setting. LINK

Freshman GOP Senators have decided to hold off until after the elections to choose a NRSC chairman, Roll Call reports.

2006: Governor:

"Granholm keeps her lead amid jitters," reports the Detroit News. LINK

Detroit Free-Press columnist Rochelle Riley says that Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D-MI) did a great job in handling the recent teacher strike in Detroit. Riley writes that Granholm "found a delicate balance that enabled her to participate in a victory." LINK

"Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley traded blame Thursday for spiraling electricity costs in Maryland in their first face-off," reports the Washington Post. LINK

The Schwarzenegger Era:

The stars have come out in, as Arnold, would say," Cal-i-for-ni-a." Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R-CA) Hollywood friends are helping his reelection effort. Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, James Cameron and Danny DeVito are just a few of Hollywood's biggest names helping the governator. Of course Democratic candidate Phil Angelides (D-CA) has Bill Clinton and Barbara Streisand on his side. LINK

2008: Republicans:

The Washington Post has Sen. McCain saying that The Chris Matthews Show "always has several attractive women on his show.' Pause. 'Articulate , attractive women.'" LINK

The New York Post reports on Gov. Pataki's (R-NY) vetoing legislation that would have kept admission to the World Trade Center Memorial free of charge. Pataki Noted that "the vast majority" of the eventual memorial will indeed be open to the public and free of charge, but he thought it unwise to completely rule out any charges to the public that may be needed to run a $50 million/year operation. LINK

Politics of immigration:

Eager to blunt rage over congressional stalling on illegal immigration, House Republicans advanced two pre-election initiatives on border fencing, reports the Wall Street Journal.

The Fitzgerald investigation:

Victoria Toensing has a must-read op-ed on the Wilson matter on the Wall Street Journal op-ed page, taking to task Armitage, Fitzpatrick, and Wilson.

The New York Times covers the Novak/Armitage he said, he said. LINK

2008: Republicans:

Under the headline, "Mike: I'm So Not Running," David Seifman of the New York Post dutifully captures Michael Bloomberg's reaction to a poll showing that an independent Bloomberg presidential candidacy may have some legs: "'It would be a tough commute from 79th Street,' he joked. 'I'm not running for president, for the record.'" LINK

The New York Post's editorial board urges the mayor to reconsider his position: "Mayor Mike's puckishly iconoclastic approach to politics would lend substantial clarity to the process. Plus it would be terrific fun. Run, Mike, run!" LINK

2008: Democrats:

Thomas Beaumont of the Des Moines Register curtain raises Sen. Obama's Iowa trip and Notes that other '08 Harkin guests include: Bayh, Kerry, Warner, and Vilsack. LINK

Chris Cillizza's "The Fix" on Senator Obama 2008 presidential bid: his words and actions stand at loggerheads. LINK

The Chicago Tribune and Quad City Times on additional encouragement Sen. Obama is receiving to run for president: LINK and LINK

In his new book, Sen. Obama writes: "We Democrats are just, well, confused," reports the Chicago Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet. LINK

Hillary Clinton's campaign -- in what some may call a tame Howard Wolfson press release -- pivots to the general election and gets a few inches in the New York Times simply for showing up. LINK

Be sure to Note the Clinton camp commitment to at least one debate.

The New York Sun's intrepid Josh Gerstein demonstrates just how shadowy 527s can be and discovers a hard-to-trace donor who contributed more than half the total amount raised to John Edwards' 527 committee. LINK

"Several clues uncovered by the Sun suggest that Oak Spring Farms may be a Company tied to members of the family of a famous industrialist, Andrew Mellon."

Be sure, too, to Note Hillary Clinton adviser Howard Wolfson's involvement with the "September Fund."

Sen. Edwards encouraged Green Central High School's class of 2007 to take advantage of his College for Everyone program in North Carolina, reports Abernethy of the Sun Journal. LINK

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) unveiled a plan to eliminate the U.S. trade deficit by requiring companies that import goods into the U.S. to obtain a government certificate. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire reports that an email from Sen. Kerry yielded "more than $200,000 in 72 hours for congressional candidates in New York, Pennsylvania, and California. By 77%-17%, voters who backed Kerry two years ago favor reducing troops in Iraq."

GOP agenda:

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire reports Democratic leaders remain "elusive foils" for Republican barbs. According to a WSJ/NBC poll, "seven in 10 voters" don't know Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and "six in 10" say the same thing about House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). "House Speaker Hastert is similarly anonymous."

The New York Times' Eric Lipton provides a status report on "Security September" on the Hill. LINK

Democratic agenda:

Dana Milbank of the Washington Post writes about the Democrats message on endless new directions (unveiled by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi) and what it could really mean for the party. LINK


The Los Angeles Times reports that the House took a cautious step on earmarking yesterday. LINK

Ballot measures:

The Detroit Free-Press reports that the statewide ballot for this November just got a bit slimmer on Thursday after the Michigan Supreme Court declined a request from the Stop OverSpending campaign to place the issue before voters, "siding with state elections officials who said SOS collected too few petition signatures to qualify." LINK

Literary corner:

For those of you who missed Ed Gillespie on "The Daily Show," or haven't read his book yet, we recommend Terry McAuliffe's Washington Times' review of Eddie's new book "Winning Right." Following plain editorial logic, The Macker was able to work in a plug for his own upcoming "What a Party!"! LINK and LINK and LINK and LINK

The New York Post's Andrea Peyser -- not so much a Jim McGreevey fan. Discuss. LINK

"After months of trying to ensure that his forthcoming book is viewed as a story of redemption and the torturous spiritual journey that led him to publicly admit that he was the nation's first openly gay governor, Mr. McGreevey instead finds himself cast as a prime example of the irresponsible expectant father," writes the New York Times' Kocieniewski and Jacobs. LINK

In memoriam:

Wayne Slater and Robert T. Garrett from the Dallas Morning News write that former Gov. Ann Richards (D-TX) worked to ensure that those normally underrepresented in politics had a place in her capitol. LINK

Karl Eisenhower on "What Ann Richards Taught Me About Politics" LINK