The Note: With No Apologies to Bill Safire

WASHINGTON, Nov. 27

You might be focused on holiday travel, office parties, gift buying, and why your relatives are so psychotic, but for the power players of politics -- who want to win the legislative battles of early 2007, the fundraising skirmishes of early-to-mid 2007, and the chance to inherit the Iraqi war from the current President Bush -- the future is now.

A quick perusal of any political news source makes one thing clear: no one has a bloody clue what is going on.

The best The Note can do, even after our little break, is to offer up some choices.

Thus, our Annual Post-Thanksgiving Note Quiz:

1. Jim Baker's main goal with the Iraq Study Group is

a. To give President Bush a political out.

b. To end the war in Iraq.

c. To secure his own place in history.

d. To give armchair psychobabbleists another crack at 41-43 data.

2. The President's communications aides' biggest quandary in planning the State of the Union is

a. How much of the speech to devote to Iraq.

b. How much of an olive branch to offer on Iraq.

c. What to say about judges.

d. What jokes to give the President to defuse all of the inevitable booing and hissing (from both sides of the aisle).

3. The lesson Rep. Nancy Pelosi learned from the Rangel-draft controversy was

a. There is no controlling what some members of the Caucus say.

b. The media is obsessed with meaningless things and there is nothing one can do about it.

c. George Miller might not have perfect judgment about everything.

d. Democrats need to act like the majority, even before they take over.

4. The entity/person most freaked out by the new Democratic majority is

a. Republican lobbyists.

b. Ken Johnson.

c. Senior Republican leadership aides.

d. The staff of the Weekly Standard.

5. Mel Martinez's model for how to be national chair of a major political party will be

a. Frank Fahrenkopf.

b. Ed Rendell.

c. Ken Mehlman.

d. Bob Strauss.

6. The most underrated person in Washington is

a. Ed Markey.

b. Peter Baker.

c. Mark Salter.

d. John McCain.

7. Barack Obama's biggest variable is

a. Does the low-hanging fruit add up to $30 million, or more than $30 million.

b. What did he leave out of the first book that would be hard to explain.

c. What does he know that John Glenn, Bob Kerrey, and Bill Bradley do not.

d. Family matters.

8. The person who has the clearest chapter-and-verse hold on Mitt Romney's past statements and actions on abortion, gay rights, and other hot button issues is

a. A Boston Globe reporter.

b. John Weaver.

c. Mitt Romney.

d. A DNC oppo researcher.

9. Coverage of Governor Vilsack's presidential announcement tour will garner how many total minutes on the three broadcast network evening newscasts:

a. Less than 1 minute.

b. 1 minute-2 minutes.

c. 2 minutes-4 minutes.

d. More than 4 minutes.

10. The entity or person most angry with Pelosi's choice for Intelligence chair will be

a. Alcee Hastings.

b. The Congressional Black Caucus.

c. The Washington press corps.

d. The White House.

11. The President's first veto in the New, New Normal will be of a bill on

a. Spending.

b. Foreign policy.

c. A social issue.

d. Intelligence.

12. Hillary Clinton will first set foot on New Hampshire soil in

a. January.

b. February.

c. March.

d. After March.

13. The most-likely factor that could keep John McCain from becoming 44 will be

a. Age.

b. Temper.

c. Temperament.

d. He doesn't run.

14. The third most-likely Republican 2008 presidential nominee is

a. Rudy Giuliani.

b. Newt Gingrich.

c. Someone not on anyone's list right now.

d. Anyone who can raise $20 million by June 30, 2007.

15. The Bush Administration official most likely destined for political stardom in 2007 is

a. Josh Bolten.

b. Secretary Rice.

c. Secretary Paulson.

d. Gordon Johndroe.

You gotta play to win. The answers are here: LINK

President Bush has departed for Estonia for the first leg of his second overseas trip in as many weeks, but all eyes are on the Wednesday meeting with the Prime Minister of Iraq in Jordan.

The Baker/Hamilton led Iraq Study Group convenes in Washington, DC at the Ronald Reagan Building (with stakeouts galore) today and tomorrow to debate the initial draft report of its recommendations. Leon Panetta will be class pet.

The hand recount requested by Democratic challenger Larry Kissell in North Carolina's 8th congressional district gets underway today. Rep. Robin Hayes (R-NC) led by 329 votes after the machine recount was completed.

Former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) signs copies of his book, "HOME: The Blueprints of Our Lives," in Cambridge, MA and Manchester, NH.

Potential presidential candidate Mayor Michael Bloomberg meets with community leaders and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly about the police shooting over the weekend in which a groom was killed and two of his friends wounded. After the meeting, Bloomberg and Kelly will hold a Q&A at approximately 11:45 am ET. (Let the "Bloomberg vs. Giuliani handling of police shooting" comparison stories flow.)

At 10:30 am ET, First Lady Laura Bush receives the official White House Christmas tree at the North Portico of the White House.

The Capitol Christmas tree will be set up on the west front of the Capitol at 10:00 am ET.

Be sure to check out our look at the week ahead in politics below.

Politics of Iraq:

David Sanger of the New York Times breaks some news on the ISG, reporting that their draft report "urges an aggressive regional diplomatic initiative that includes direct talks with Iran and Syria but sets no timetables for a military withdrawal." LINK

On "Good Morning America," former President Jimmy Carter said to ABC News' Robin Roberts that everybody is waiting for the report and that his "guess is that President Bush will take their advice as much as he possibly can." Carter said he agrees with any call for direct U.S. talks with Iran and Syria over Iraq: "This is one of the most counterproductive policies that I've ever known,. . . . not to talk to the people who disagree with you unless they agree in advance to everything you demand."

Bloomberg News reports that Zbigniew Brzezinski, a former U.S. national security adviser, said it would be "a gimmick'' for the Defense Department to increase the number of troops in Iraq temporarily before beginning to withdraw them. LINK

The New York Post's Geoff Earle reports on Sen. Trent Lott's (R-MS) call for a change in circumstances as Iraq reaches a "critical point." LINK

Incoming freshman lawmakers are making a visit to Iraq one of their top priorities, reports Christina Bellantoni of the Washington Times. LINK

Democratic agenda:

A look ahead to next week when Congress reconvenes courtesy of Speaker-Designate Nancy Pelosi's memo to her caucus. On Tuesday, December 5, at 9:00 am ET House Democrats hear a presentation on Iraq from Dr. Brzezinski, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, and Major General John Batiste, among others.

On Wednesday, December 6, at 9:30 am ET, House Democrats hear a presentation on the economy by former Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin.

Roll Call's Pierce reports that Republican infighting in Congress is likely to cause Republican leaders to "punt" the nine remaining spending bills to next year's Democratic-led Congress.

Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) concedes he is not likely to become Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, reports Newsweek, as Speaker-designate Pelosi seeks a "compromise" candidate for the post. LINK

The Washington Post's Charles Babington reports that Democratic lawmakers "vow to come roaring out of the blocks when they assume control of the next Congress" but Notes that absent from the list of Democratic priorities "are the knottiest problems that bedeviled the outgoing Congress, including immigration, domestic surveillance and the war in Iraq." LINK

Bloomberg's Al Hunt, a huge Panetta fan, warns that Rep. Pelosi's status as "the highest-ranking woman in American political history" is "both a splendid showcase and a treacherous trap," and he urges her to "find her equivalent of Jim Baker or Kirk O'Donnell soon," lest she be devoured by "what has been called the 'freak show' of American political journalism." LINK

The Washington Times' Eric Pfeiffer reports on Democratic assurances the House will focus on "issues that have bipartisan support." LINK

Exploring what they did the last time they were in charge, the Chicago Tribune looks at Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) and the rest of the "old bulls", the veteran lawmakers who are poised to become committee chairmen in the 110th Congress. LINK

"Following in President Clinton's footsteps," Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) accused Fox's Chris Wallace of "conducting a skewed interview designed to make Democrats look bad," reports the New York Sun's Josh Gerstein. LINK

Bush Administration:

Peter Baker of the Washington Post and Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times separately look at how 43 might revive things a ala 40 and 42, but neither solves the Right-Left puzzle. Note the Durbin quote of Reid to Bush on the promise of bipartisanship (' . . . that Mr. Bush had made a similar vow after the 2004 election, which was followed by still more partisan rancor.') and this blind quote from the Republican Hill aide -- "'While the White House is trying to define their legacy, they'll try to triangulate us . . . There is no sense of wanting to defend the Bush administration right now.'" LINK and LINK

The New York Daily News' Thomas DeFrank reports that President Bush and his closest supports are seeking out "megadonations" toward the construction of his Presidential library -- reportedly to be located at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX. LINK

This one has priceless blind quotes too.

"A White House spokesperson confirms that Gates will be sworn in as the new Defense secretary 'in the new year,' a good two weeks after his confirmation," reports Newsweek. LINK

More from Newsweek: "One source close to the White House, who spoke anonymously in order to keep his job, believes President George W. Bush has decided to wait until after Dec. 29 'as a personal gesture to Rumsfeld.' On that date Rumsfeld would become the longest-serving Defense secretary, beating Robert McNamara's record of 85 months."

After playing a key role in the passage of legislation which strips Guantanamo detainees and other enemy combatants from filing writes of habeas corpus, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) tells the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin that he hopes the courts will restore those rights. LINK

A Democratic Senate staffer tells Toobin, "We make fun of Specter, but we're basically leaving it up to the Courts, too."

2008:

Tom Beaumont of the Des Moines Register wrote on Sunday of the seamless transition from the 2006 midterms to the 2008 Iowa caucuses. Be sure to Note the Bayh and Pataki planned Iowa stops for next week. LINK

In a Sunday Chicago Tribune op-ed, US News & World Report's Dan Gilgoff explored the narrowing of the God gap for Democrats in 2006 and what he sees as the party's need "to step up its nascent faith offensive" if it hopes to build on the recent electoral success for 2008. LINK

2008: Republicans:

Rounding out his stellar 2008 coverage in Sunday's Des Moines Register, Tom Beaumont reported that Saturday Aug. 11, 2007, is the date of the key Iowa Republican Party Ames straw poll. LINK

David Broder in the Washington Post and Mike Allen in Time take serviceable (but mostly newsless) looks at Mitt Romney for president. LINK and LINK

Also check out Joan Vennochi from the Boston Globe (for some of Romney's past apparently pro-gay actions) and The State's Lee Bandy, who has McCain adviser Richard Quinn saying that it's "good news" for the Arizona Senator that Warren Tompkins has signed on with Gov. Romney since Tompkins, in Bandy's words, "was generally recognized as the architect behind Bush's hard-hitting campaign in S.C. in 2000." LINK and LINK

Emma Ratliff of the Boston Herald reported Sunday on Gov. Mitt Romney's allegedly stingy Bay State record on donating to fellow Republican candidates. LINK

While appearing on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) said he believes "there is room, on the Republican side, for somebody that's full-scale conservative, that's an economic and fiscal and social conservative."

While not confirming that he would seek the 2008 presidential bid, Sen. Brownback did say that he's "very close with announcements."

Without mentioning Sen. McCain by name, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) rejected the call for more troops in Iraq in a Sunday Washington Post op-ed. LINK

"The time for more U.S. troops in Iraq has passed. We do not have more troops to send and, even if we did, they would not bring a resolution to Iraq. Militaries are built to fight and win wars, not bind together failing nations. We are once again learning a very hard lesson in foreign affairs: America cannot impose a democracy on any nation -- regardless of our noble purpose."

The Washington Times' Stephen Dinan writes up Rep. Duncan Hunter's (R-CA) presidential bid (candidate interview included) and his plan to rebuild the "blue collar coalition" that proved victorious for the Republican Party during the Reagan years. LINK

2008: Democrats:

In a Sunday Washington Post op-ed looking at how the Granite State has gone Blue, David Broder wrote that if Gov. John Lynch (D-NH) chooses to endorse, "it will carry more weight than any Democratic endorsement in a long time." LINK

Be sure to read every word of Tom Beaumont's Sunday Des Moines Register story on the Hawkeye State experience surrounding Sen. Obama and the still unaffiliated John Norris' ability to dole out caucus advice while avoiding the "ask" to join Team Obama. LINK

The Appelby/Myers/Hildebrand/Axelrod/Harsted expertise should not be overlooked -- neither should the need for such expertise being greatest in Iowa which the nascent Obama campaign seems to understand.

The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz writes up Sen. Obama calling journalist Nicklaus Lovelady to apologize "for messing up your game" with a "pretty young thing" who gave him the cold shoulder after the Illinois Senator confused the baby-faced Lovelady for a college student. LINK

Todd Dorman of the Sioux City Journal writes that Gov. Tom Vilsack (D-IA) can only succeed in his bid for the Democratic nomination if he wins big in Iowa, all but conceding his prospects if he falls short. LINK

In a piece looking at former House impeachment manager Jim Rogan's nomination for a federal judgeship, the Washington Post's Al Kamen Notes that "there's a senator named Clinton" who will get to vote on his nomination. LINK

(A photo of Christine Rogan, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and James Rogan at a 1999 White House Christmas party accompanies the Kamen story in the hard copy of the paper.) The Providence Journal reports that Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) plans to headline a fundraiser in Rhode Island tomorrow, fresh off the tracks of fellow '08ers Sens. Clinton, Obama, and McCain and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. LINK

Outstanding House races:

The Wall Street Journal's Joel Millman takes a must-read look at how a remapped district and a hard-line immigration stance are weighing on Rep. Henry Bonilla (R-TX), a Republican incumbent who is facing a run-off on Dec. 12 against former Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-TX).

Note the pressure Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) and the 21-member Hispanic Caucus are putting on Speaker Pelosi to make winning the district, which is now 50% Democratic and 61% Latino, a priority.

Political potpourri:

Bob Novak hearts Chuck Schumer and riddles his first graph with code words. LINK

Jill Lawrence of USA Today reports that Democratic candidates swept most suburban areas this past election as political analysts and sociologists are dissecting exit poll results to find out more about Americans' choices in 2006. LINK

Susan Page of USA Today on political lessons learned from this past November. LINK

The New York Times' Pam Belluck writes of the disappearing "New England Republican." LINK

The 2002 New Hampshire GOP phone scamming saga continues, as a judge plans to decide in a civil trial next week how much damage Republicans did when they jammed Democrats' GOTV lines election morning that year, the Union Leader's DiStaso reports. LINK

Newsweek's Campo-Flores looks at the continuing battle between the parties for the fast-growing Latino vote. LINK

2009:

The New York Post's Frankie Edozien writes on the growing speculation that New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is considering running for mayor. LINK

The week ahead:

Tomorrow, President Bush is in Estonia and Latvia and the Iraq Study Group continues its meetings in Washington, DC. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich does "Politics and Eggs" in New Hampshire and Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) signs books in Obamaland -- Chicago and Naperville, IL.

While in Riga, Latvia, President Bush addresses the German Marshall Fund of the United States. Rudy Giuliani is expected to address the group earlier in the day. You can catch live streaming video, transcripts, and everything else you need here: LINK

On Wednesday, President Bush heads to Amman, Jordan to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki and King Abdullah of Jordan. The Republican Governors Association annual conference gets underway in Miami, FL with Google CEO Dr. Eric Schmidt addressing the gathered governors and others on "Politics and the Internet: What Does the Future Hold?" Also on Wednesday, Gov. Tom Vilsack (D-IA) hosts a community pot luck supper in Mt. Pleasant, IA in advance of his five-state presidential campaign announcement tour, DNC Chairman Howard Dean addresses the Liberal Party of Canada convention in Montreal, and Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) signs books in Des Moines, IA.

President Bush continues his meetings with Prime Minister Maliki in Jordan and heads home on Thursday. Mrs. Bush hosts a media preview of the 2006 holiday decorations and tasting event on the State Floor of the White House. In Miami, FL the Republican Governors Association hears from outgoing RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman on the future for the Republican Party, Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) and New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and others on homeland security, and powerhouse GOP political roundtable including Sara Taylor, Phil Musser, Russ Schriefer, Rich Galen, and others. Gov. Tom Vilsack (D-IA) formally announces his presidential campaign in Mt. Pleasant, IA and then heads to Concord, NH. Newt Gingrich (R-GA) keynotes a fundraiser for the Virginia Conservative Action PAC in Alexandria, VA.

On Friday, Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) joins Rick Warren, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS), and others when he speaks at Saddleback Church on World AIDS Day in Lake Forest, CA. Gov. Tom Vilsack continues his announcement tour in New Hampshire and Pittsburgh, PA and Sen. John Edwards signs books in Dallas, TX.

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