The Note: Sentimental Journey

62 Days Until Inauguration Day

Twas the week before Thanksgiving

And in one city in the South

Republican Governors were angling

To buy Dan Balz a Vermouth

As we leave you be to our final Note before the Thanksgiving holidays (we'll return shortly thereafter) . . .

The Washington Wire in the Wall Street Journal says simply "Social Security First: Tax reform will follow in 2006."

If you aren't focused on this as one of the biggest political issues of the next 18 months, please get focused.

And to help you: read the lead editorial in the same paper, on the other side of the church/state divide -- with applause for fiscal discipline.

In other budget news, the Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman looks at the congressional rejection of tax and spending caps and the move to raise the debt limit. "[The move has] alarmed Wall Street, befuddled the Treasury Department and elicited calls for a rethinking of the way the government handles its authority to tax its citizens and spend those proceeds." LINK

Weisman continues to wait for the bills to come due.

In his look at the Clinton legacy, the Washington Post's weighty John Harris writes, "The dedication and the library suggested the historical argument that is likely to echo -- and remain unresolved -- for decades about Clinton: whether he should be recalled as an innovator who understood the changing character of his times or as a man who squandered his abilities through personal weakness." LINK

By the way: Kit Seeyle's wonderful tick-tock is so full of detail that she manages to use two adjectives to describe two raincoats worn by two Bushes: "fuchsia" and "sensible."

Rush may deem this the giggle quote: "Mrs. Clinton spoke briefly, noting [sic] that the library behind them 'is like my husband -- it's open, it's expansive, it's welcoming, it's filled with light.'" LINK

This was sweet on so many levels:

"Mr. Clinton told Mr. Gore, a noted (sic) environmentalist, that his library, built with solar panels, was energy efficient. Then in words that suggested he might be trying to redeem himself in the eyes of his vice president, who had kept him at arm's length during his 2000 campaign, Mr. Clinton added, 'So Al, thanks for the inspiration, and I'm still trying to measure up to the challenge you set for me so long ago.'"

Check out Bruce Lindsey's explanation of the impeachment exhibit in the Boston Globe. LINK

The Washington Post's Mike Allen looks at President Bush's day honoring his predecessor, and his hasty exit, because late is rude. LINK

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette wraps the day and acknowledges the economic benefits the Clinton Library brings to the old warehouse section of Little Rock and Notes that city leaders are feeling validation. LINK

The bottom lines from various high, middle, and low Clintonistas in Little Rock, as they begin to board their charters and commercial flights out of town (this ain't science but it based on many discussions):

a. Nobody has a clue whom the Democrats will pick as the new party chair.

b. There was a lot more politicking for that job in Little Rock this week than has been reported.

c. John Kerry did not, in the view of many Democrats, run that great a campaign (forgive us our understatement).

d. There are, uhm, mixed feelings about nominating Hillary R. Clinton (D-Blue State) for president in 2008.

e. The steaks at Doe's have gotten better.

f. Sitting at a rain-drenched ceremony near Karl Rove is fascinating (if you are a Democrat who has never seen him in person).

g. Nancy Heinreich truly defies all known information about science, nature, and the process of (not) aging.

John McCain went to New Hampshire, did an interview with the Union Leader, and left the 2008 door open wider than the facade of Little Rock's Peabody hotel. LINK

The New York Times' Steven Weisman on the rising voices of hard-liners in the Administration about Iran's nuclear program and the potential for that country to define the President's foreign policy choices over the next year. We are still unsure whether Arlen Specter's chairmanship is, shall we say, conditioned enough to call this a victory for social conservatives -- or a reminder of their place in the firmament.

Wraps: LINK and LINK

From Helen Dewar in the Washington Post: "The ordeal demonstrated the clout of conservative groups in the GOP but also underscored its limits in a chamber that values its traditions and personal relationships."

From Sheryl Gay Stolberg in the New York Times: "Mr. Specter's conservative critics seemed resigned to that outcome. When the news conference ended, the senator said he was headed to a meeting with three conservative leaders: Gary L. Bauer, the former presidential candidate; Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council."

"Afterward, Mr. Perkins issued a statement saying he hoped the senator would 'be true to his promise.'"

The New York Times' Carl Hulse warns Republicans about excessive enthusiasm by dint of goo-goo types and Harry Reid. LINK

While attention has rested on the Democrats in Little Rock this week, Ken Mehlman and other GOPers have arrived in the Big Easy for the RGA meeting. They are basking in the glow of their recent victories and Mehlman is leading tutorials on how it was done. The Washington Post's Dan Balz reports. LINK

"Mehlman, whom Bush has tapped to become chairman of the Republican National Committee, said, 'Our strategy was to offer a big choice on the biggest issues of the day,' citing terrorism, the economy and values as the pillars of that message."

"But Mehlman also said another crucial strategy was the decision to try to tarnish Kerry with a series of attacks that began immediately after the Massachusetts senator effectively wrapped up the Democratic nomination in early March. 'Defining John Kerry was one of the most important things I think we did in the spring,' he said,'" with his own penchant for understatement.

"The Bush campaign developed what Mehlman described as 'a very aggressive and very . . . different multimedia' strategy to disseminate its message, concluding that traditional media and major networks no longer have a monopoly on reaching voters".

"Among swing constituencies, Bush won a majority of the Roman Catholic vote and more than 40 percent of the Latino vote, which Mehlman called 'the single most important number that has come out of the election.' Future Republican majorities will depend in part on the party's ability to expand its support among Hispanic voters, and 2004 may have been a significant step in that direction if GOP candidates can build on it."

Mehlman looks so young, so handsome, and so darned rested in a Rogelio Solis Associated Press photograph that accompanies Adam Nagourney's N'Orleans dispatch. LINK

The Boston Globe's Yvonne Abraham tails Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney through his mostly business schedule in New Orleans and notices that he smiled (faintly) when a panelist mentioned him as a 2008 presidential hopeful. Fellow governors Kenny Guinn and Mike Rounds (Nevada and South Dakota) have kind words for the man. LINK

In the Wall Street Journal, Jeanne Cummings has crunched the numbers from Ohio and concludes that Bush won there because he sold the tax cuts well to rural residents and business owners; he convinced folks that Kerry seemed too European; and, yeah, maybe a bit of gay marriage and cultural values thrown in the mix.

The AP's Ron Fournier updates the Kerry nomination bank account story and ends with two interesting paragraphs. LINK

"One member of Kerry's inner circle said the failure to spend the money cost Kerry victory in a close election. Another said the fact that Kerry had $45 million in the primary campaign account in mid-October raises questions about why he did not opt out of the campaign finance system for the general election to avoid spending limits.

"Although some officials pointed fingers at campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill, others said Kerry knew there was a big surplus in his primary campaign account. They said he wanted to save it in the event of a recount, legal challenges or other unforeseen expenses. In the end, they said, Kerry's nest egg will be less than $10 million."

Rick Klein and Charles Savage in the Boston Globe -- remembering for the entire paper how good it makes them feel to play "Pile on John Kerry" -- include disappointed quotes from Gordon Fischer and Dan Mongiardo. LINK

OK: not for the ENTIRE paper: Scot Lehigh uses his Globe column to state his belief that Sen. Kerry campaign made serious errors in judgment and that, not 60,000 votes in Ohio, caused him to lose the election. LINK

The Alan Greenspan take-out on the front page of the Wall Street Journal is food for thought. We'd link to it but the Journal Web site is down at this writing.

See all y'all soon.