The Note:


President Bush meets with British Prime Minister Tony Blair at 9:35 am ET in the Oval Office. There will be a press conference at 11:00 am ET at the White House following their meeting. ABC News will be carrying live coverage of the press conference across multiple platforms including the television network, ABC News Radio, and ABC News Now.

President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush participate in the lighting of the National Christmas Tree at the opening ceremony for the 2006 Christmas Pageant of Peace on the Ellipse in Washington, DC.

Vice President Dick Cheney presides over Dr./Sen./Leader Bill Frist's (R-TN) farewell speech on at 2:30 pm ET on the floor of the United States Senate. Sen. Frist plans to leave the chamber with his family after the speech.

Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi holds a press availability following the AFSCME board meeting at its headquarters in Washington, DC at 9:30 am ET. At 10:30 am ET, Pelosi is joined by incoming House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Rep. David Obey (D-WI) for an "end of session" news conference. She'll later join the outgoing Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) at a photo opportunity with Prime Minister Tony Blair at 12:20 pm ET at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. At 1:40 pm ET, Leader Pelosi holds a photo opportunity with members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) speaks today at Georgetown University's Gaston Hall in Washington, DC at 11:45 am ET about his views on immigration calling the border fence "ridiculous" and promoting a "reasonable but tough" plan for immigrants to gain citizenship. The Hotline's Marc Ambinder and the Associated Press provide previews. LINK and LINK

Sen. Chris Dodd kicks off Harvard University's "Conversations with Kirkland" series at 4:30 pm ET. This will be the first of many conversations between students and potential 2008 presidential candidates.

Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) presents the annual Rostov Lecture on International Affairs at the John Hopkins Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at 5:00 pm ET. Hagel will discuss Iraq and the greater Middle East.

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) attends the Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing at 9:30 am ET to examine the Iraq Study Group report in room 216 of the Hart Senate Office Building. She later joins Sen. Lieberman (I-CT) at a press conference to announce the launch of a nationwide television PSA campaign about video game ratings at 3:00 pm ET in the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, DC.

Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) is in South Korea.

DNC Chairman Howard Dean addresses the Party of European Socialists' Conference in Porto, Portugal and meets with Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriquez Zapatero of Spain.

Congressional candidate Christine Jennings (D-FL) holds a press conference with voters regarding the machine failure in Sarasota County at 11:00 am ET in the Sarasota County Judicial Center in Florida.

Political potpourri:
The politics of the Iraq Study Group:
Former Secretary James Baker and Lee Hamilton defended their report on "Good Morning America" this morning. Hamilton acknowledged that while there are risks in their recommendations, "the path we're on now is also high risk" and there is the "reasonable chance that this can succeed." Baker emphasized that "there really is no magic formula" and the report "does not in any way call for a graceful exit" making clear that it suggests our troops take on an enhanced role in Iraq "for a long, long time."

The duo also responded to criticism that drawing Iran and Syria into the discussion is not beneficial, Baker emphasized that "all we're suggesting is doing with them what we did in Afghanistan" repeating that they're "simply suggesting we do what we've already done."

ABC News' George Stephanopoulos also weighed in on GMA stating that "the President's going to have no choice but to make an address" to the public to outline his strategy now that the group has issued their 79 recommendations.

The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler and Thomas Ricks report that the ISG report will "help incoming Democratic congressional leaders frame the debate over Iraq as a disaster largely of the administration's making." LINK

Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes in a New York Times analysis, "For Mr. Bush to embrace the study group's blueprint would mean accepting its implicit criticism of his democracy agenda, reversing course in Iraq and throughout the Middle East and meeting Democrats more than halfway." LINK

Stolberg continues, "Assuming he is not ready to go that far, despite some recent signals of flexibility, he faces the more general question of whether he is ready to embrace the spirit of the report -- not to mention the drubbing his party took in the midterm elections a month ago -- and produce a new approach of his own that amounts to more than a repackaging of his current worldview."

"Administration officials said they expected President Bush to announce his own 'way forward' this month. They were careful not to take issue with the report's findings in public, and said Mr. Bush had yet to make firm decisions. But some suggested that the diplomatic strategy in the report better fit the Middle East of 15 years ago, when Mr. Baker served as secretary of state," writes David Sanger of the New York Times. LINK

The Washington Times' Charles Hurt reports that congressional Democrats -- including ones who voted in favor of going to war -- portrayed the ISG Report as vindicating their criticism of the war effort as they pledged to begin "'extensive hearings'" in January that will "continue for months." LINK

ABC News' Jake Tapper writes in his Blog "Political Punch" that, despite what you see in most media coverage, not everyone is happy with the Baker report. For example, Bill Bennett wrote in the National Review that, "In all my time in Washington I've never seen such smugness, arrogance, or such insufferable moral superiority. Self-congratulatory. Full of itself. Horrible." LINK

Robert Gates for SECDEF:

A bipartisan chorus of approval for Bob Gates as Secretary of Defense. The AP has the vote count including Sen. Santorum's parting shot. The new SECDEF is expected to be sworn in on December 18. LINK

GOP agenda:

The AP's Jim Abrams reports on House Majority Leader John Boehner's announcement yesterday that the "goal of adjourning on Thursday was not feasible and that members should put off plane reservations until Saturday morning" so that Congress could address issues of federal funding and tax breaks among others. LINK

Bush Administration agenda:

Soon to be former Rep. Jim Leach's (R-IA) possible nomination as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations has the support of over 50 House members and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), Notes the Des Moines Register's Jane Norman. LINK

In his Chicago Sun Times column, Robert Novak focuses on the roles of Senators Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) and Chris Dodd (D-CT) in the resignation of John Bolton. LINK

Democratic agenda:

Bloomberg's Jay Newton-Small and Shannon Pettypiece report that Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), the incoming chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said yesterday that the HHS Secretary must be required to negotiate lower drug prices, "not just permitted, because we have reason to think that if he's just permitted, nothing will happen.'' LINK

Incoming chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Sen. Patrick Leachy (D-VT) made clear yesterday that he wanted to investigate the effectiveness and legality of many of the Bush Administration counterterrorism programs. LINK

2008: Republicans:

The AP's Kevin Landrigan reports that New Hampshire Republican State Party Chairman Wayne Semprini is stepping down so that he would have time for a second hip operation. State Rep. Fran Wendleboe is currently the only candidate interested in the position. LINK

Semprini's resignation statement from the New Hampshire Union Leader: LINK

For the third time in as many days, a top-tier presidential hopeful is revealing who will serve as his/her campaign manager. On Tuesday we learned former Rep. David Bonior (D-MI) plans to head up the day to day operations for the Edwards campaign should the former Senator choose to officially make the race. Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that top Clinton adviser, Patti Solis Doyle, will serve as campaign chief if/when Sen. Clinton formally jumps in.

Later today, Sen. John McCain's exploratory committee plans to announce veteran GOP campaign operative Terry Nelson as his pick to be his national campaign manager, should the Senator choose to turn his exploring into a full-blown run for the White House. "We couldn't be more pleased that John asked Terry to oversee the daily operation of the campaign if the McCains decide to move forward. All of us -- Rick (Davis), Mark (Salter), and me -- look forward to a crash course in metrics," McCain's top political strategist John Weaver told The Note.

"Terry brings strong leadership, detailed and current knowledge, a wide range of impressive contacts nationally, and a drive to our core group," Weaver added.

The Washington Post was first to report the McCain camp's initial Nelson primary victory back in March when he joined McCain's Straight Talk America PAC as a senior adviser. LINK

Iowa-native Nelson served as national political director for Bush-Cheney '04. He has served in senior roles in both the political and field/grassroots organizing arenas at the RNC and the NRCC.

Nelson's hire is clearly a huge get, but will not come without controversy. Nelson made political headlines in the 2006 cycle as the strategist tapped to head up the RNC's independent expenditure which was responsible for that extremely controversial ad in Tennessee against Harold Ford, Jr. featuring a young blonde actress portraying a woman who met Ford at a Playboy party and who suggestively asks him to call her at the end of the ad. (It caused enough heartache for one of Nelson's other clients, Working Families for Wal-Mart, that they sought and received his resignation after the episode.) Nelson was also tied up in the recently settled New Hampshire phone jamming case and in Tom DeLay's TRMPAC troubles from his days at the RNC.

The left-leaning blogs will certainly jump on this with gusto. Here's a little preview of what may be coming from a September 2006 posting by MyDD's Matt Stoller. LINK

DNC spokeswoman Stacie Paxton offered this to The Note this morning: "With the hiring of Terry Nelson, It's clear that McCain's 'straight talk' on ethics reform has gone out the window. He's willing to do or say anything to win."

Chris Cillizza of reports on the other huge hire from the McCain camp today -- RNC Communications Director Brian Jones will head up the national press effort for McCain's presidential campaign. LINK

The Arizona Republic's Billy House writes that although Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) agreed with the Iraq Study Group's proposal for troop increases, he did not support the firm timetable for withdrawal saying, "our troops should be sent to Baghdad, or anywhere in Iraq, in order to complete a defined mission, not to serve until some predetermined date passes." LINK

Bloomberg's Heidi Przybyla, Catherine Dodge, and Nicholas Johnston report that while many Democrats and Republicans praised the ISG Report, Sen. McCain and Rep. Murtha "ripped the panel's proposals from different ends of the spectrum." LINK

Matthew Benson of the Arizona Republic reports that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) hired Kurt Davis and Wes Gullett to lead his exploratory committee. LINK

She may have lost the election, but with Gov. Romney (R-MA) globetrotting, Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey has been in the Bay State driver's seat, Notes the Boston Globe. LINK

Eli Lake of the New York Sun reports that Mayor Giuliani has not read the ISG report's recommendations and he "can't imagine all of them will be implemented - but some of them will be very, very useful." LINK

Russell Berman of the New York Sun reports that Mayor Giuliani (R-NY) views the prospect of running against Sen. Clinton (D-NY) "deja-vu all over again." Although he has not officially announced his intentions to run, Giuliani stated that "the people that talk to me are very, very encouraging." He added that he would be careful because "generally the people that don't want you to run don't come up to you and tell you that." LINK

2008: Democrats:

The Washington Times picks up on South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Joe Erwin announcing that the South Carolina Democratic Party is hoping to host a Democratic presidential debate some time around the April 27 Jefferson-Jackson dinner and state party convention. LINK

ABC News' Teddy Davis reports that Gov. Richardson took a swipe Wednesday at the new Democratic congressional majority for not consulting the nation's Democratic governors more. LINK

"'In my judgment it's been insufficient,' said Richardson who chaired the Democratic Governors Association in 2006 when his party won control of a majority of the nation's governorships for the first time since 1994. 'The Democratic Congress should listen to Democratic governors more because we have won.'"

At another point at yesterday's news conference, Richardson contrasted governors with members of Congress by saying: "Here in Congress, the people just float around and nothing happens."

Nedra Pickler of the Associated Press also looks to Democratic governors for signs of the party's political pulse heading into the 2008 cycle. LINK

John DiStaso of the New Hampshire Union Leader writes of Sen. Clitnon's first possible visit to the Granite State as a presidential candidate. "The most likely scenario has Clinton headlining the party's big "100 Club" fund-raiser, which is usually held in early February," writes DiStaso. LINK

How would Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) confront the turmoil in the Middle East?

About 80 high-ranking U.S. and Israeli officials and opinion leaders will get a glimpse into Clinton's thinking when she participates in a closed press discussion of "U.S. Strategies in the Middle East: What Works, What Doesn't?" this Sunday at noon (ET).

The panel discussion, featuring New York Times columnist Tom Friedman and moderated by former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, is part of a three day forum on US and Israeli policy towards the Middle East sponsored by the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.

ABC News' Teddy Davis has more here: LINK

He wasn't ready to make an endorsement, but the grin on Gov. Corzine's (D-NJ) face yesterday when The Note asked him about Sen. Clinton hiring his former money man, Jonathan Mantz, as her national finance director for her likely 2008 presidential campaign certainly demonstrated a great deal of paternal-esque pride in having a Corzine-guy in the Clinton operation.

"Jonathan Mantz is a first class professional at what he does. He served me well and I'm sure he'll serve Sen. Clinton well. I have a very favorable view of Sen. Clinton, but I haven't committed to one candidate or another at this point," said Corzine.

On whether or not the Mantz hire should be seen as a tacit endorsement for Sen. Clinton, Corzine said, "It is quite possible that Jonathan Mantz has the ability to make a decision what he would like to do for himself. As you can imagine, I have a favorable view of Mrs. Clinton as I do a number of the people running. I think having a strong finance operation is elemental to success in presidential politics. And so, I think she's chosen well."

Gov. Corzine will likely continue to grin today when he looks at the Quinnipiac University poll numbers released this morning showing his best job approval rating in that poll since taking office roughly one year ago -- 49 percent of New Jersey voters approve - 32 percent disapprove. However, the poll also clearly shows why he didn't need to hang on to Mantz for a Corzine 2008 operation. Seventy-four percent of Garden State voters said he should not run for president. Gov. Corzine didn't sound full of praise on Don Imus' radio show yesterday when he said Sen. Clinton would have a "have a hard time getting elected," reports Maggie Haberman of the New York Post. LINK

Sen. Obama's upcoming New Hampshire Democratic Party event is sold out with 1500 attendees expected, reports John DiStaso in his always must-read Granite Status column in the New Hampshire Union Leader. LINK

The Des Moines Register reports that late-night talk show hosts are finding humor in Gov. Tom Vilsack's (D-IA) unusual last name, Jon Stewart of the "Daily Show" need an animated duck to finally get it. LINK

Peter Canellos of the Boston Globe writes that Senator Kerry may have been on the right track with Iraq in 2004. LINK


Jim Morrill of the Charlotte Observer Notes that South Carolina is "enjoying a primary cash flow" from 2008 presidential hopefuls totaling almost $600,000. LINK


Given that the Constitution provides that "each House shall be the judge of the elections, returns and qualifications of its own members," DNC Chairman Howard Dean said the new Democratic Congress should not seat Republican Vern Buchanan as the House member from the 13th congressional district of Florida without a new election, according to Anita Kumar and Adam Smith in a St. Petersburg Times must-read story. LINK

"'Absolutely not,' Dean said in a taped Political Connections interview scheduled to air Sunday on Bay News 9. 'You cannot seat someone if you don't have an election that's valid.'" "On Wednesday, Democrat Christine Jennings said she will ask the U.S. House to take the extreme measure of conducting its own investigation into the election."

Cheney's daughter expecting a baby:

The pro-gay rights organization Family Pride was quick to Note that the Mary Cheney's home state of Virginia doesn't recognize same sex unions after it was revealed the Vice President's daughter and partner are having a baby. The New York Times has the story. LINK

The Washington Post's Reliable Source interviews officials from Family Pride and Human Rights Campaign about the legal status of Vice President Cheney's latest grandchild-to-be. LINK

David Crary writes for the AP that groups on the left and right spoke out about Mary Cheney's pregnancy. Jennifer Chrisler, a Family Pride executive said, "Grandfather Cheney will no doubt face a lifetime of sleepless nights as he reflects on the irreparable harm he and his administration have done to the millions of American gay and lesbian parents and their children." LINK

2008: House:

Rep. Rob Simmons (R-CT) is considering running again for his CT-02 seat (the one he lost to Rep.-elect Joe Courtney (D-CT) by 82 votes), or Simmons might become Connecticut's Republican state chairman as part of the GOP rebounding effort, Notes the Associated Press and Mark Pazniokas of the Hartford Courant. LINK and LINK

Jimmy Carter's book:

Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post discusses the escalating controversy over former President Jimmy Carter's book as Kenneth Stein, a professor at Emory, resigned as a Carter Center's fellow and accused Carter of "factual errors, omissions and plagiarism." LINK

Political potpourri:

Keying off a study by UC San Diego's Keith Poole and NYU's Howard Rosenthal, the Washington Post's Zachary Goldfarb reports that the 110th Congress will have the fewest moderates since the 19th Century. LINK

Patrick Healy of the New York Times on the gathering of the "constellation" of big ego, powerful, New York politicians -- Clinton, Spitzer, Schumer, and Rangel -- and the comfort with which the New York political press corps uses their first names. LINK

The (unsuccessful) Arizona ballot measure which would have turned Arizona elections into a lottery awarding one lucky voter $1 million is included in the forthcoming Sunday New York Times Magazine's coverage of the year's most Notable ideas.

Intern for the ABC News Political Unit:

The ABC News Political Unit is now seeking full-time interns for the spring semester. There are a few requirements you should know about before applying for the internship.

—You must be either a graduate student or junior or senior in college.

—You must be able to work long days, starting early, Monday through Friday.

— If your school gives credit for internships, you must receive credit.

—The internship begins Jan. 8 and runs into May.

Not only will you get to write for The Note, but ABC News Political Unit interns also are afforded the opportunity to help manage ABC's Political Radar, cover political events around town, and conduct research used by ABC News broadcasts.

If you write well, don't mind getting up early, and have some familiarity with web publishing, send a cover letter and resume to as soon as possible, with the subject line: "INTERN" in all caps.