The ABCs of Politics

WASHINGTON, Jan. 9

A is for al Qaeda, which remains the problem (still).

B is for Bush, the biggest speech of his life (again). LINK

C is for "cut and run," which one doesn't hear much any more.

D is for David Rogers, Dow Jonesing for Rep. Murtha's secret plan to end the war. LINK

E is for endgame, which this just might be.

F is for Fielding, more Mikva than Cutler.

G is for governor, which Romney isn't any more – so what on Iraq?

H is for Harry Reid, who - despite what the AP led many to believe - was against the surge before he was against it.

I is for Iran, about which the Wall Street Journal is flipping out. LINK

(I is also for "I get it," a key -- and so far undercovered -- component of the President's "way forward" speech.)

J is for Joe Biden, whose hearings will give him a chance to talk.

K is for Kennedy, Edward Moore, emboldened and fearless.

L is for leaks, about the Iraq plan, which still seem ham handed.

M is for Maliki, who remains the biggest question mark (still).

N is for New York Sheraton, where the torch went from RJLJackson to BHObama last night.

O is for opportunity, to save ¼ of a presidency.

P is for Pelosi, having her own moment of truth.

Q is for Qaeda (al), which remains the problem (still).

R is for raising money, which 2008 handicappers discount at their peril.

S is for surge, which Rahm calls an "escalation." (S is also for -- don't forget -- "sacrifice.")

T is for Terminator, shaking up health care.

U is for underminers, some surprising Republican Senators on Iraq this week.

V is for Vilsack, heavily dissed on Imus this morn.

W is for winning, which W is determined to do.

X is for X-ing out, starting Wednesday at 9:26 pm ET.

Y is for your money – a billion here and a billion there, and it starts to add up.

Z is for Zeleny, Timesman Jeff chronicling the Democrats' split on Iraq. LINK

One day before President Bush outlines his plan to change Iraq policy, and amidst the growing (or is it shrinking) Democratic Party split on the issue, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) will introduce legislation that would prohibit the Bush Administration from using federal funds to increase US troops beyond the levels there on Jan. 1 of this year without specific congressional approval.

"We cannot simply speak out against an escalation of troops in Iraq," Sen. Kennedy plans to say at the National Press Club at an event that begins at 12:30 pm ET. "We must act to prevent it."

Congress has to act now, Sen. Kennedy told the Boston Globe's Scot Lehigh, "because if lawmakers wait, they could be put in the position of voting to cut off funding for additional troops after the administration has already sent them to Iraq -- a difficult vote for any elected official to take."

"If that happens, 'they will have effectively won the day,' Kennedy said. 'They will have gotten what they are looking for.' Thus Kennedy says he will press for a vote on his legislation 'at the earliest possible time.'"

This won't be easy, however, because as Obama expert Jeff Zeleny points out in his seminal New York Times story, Democrats are split over their approach to Iraq.

"While Democrats find themselves unusually united in their resistance to a troop increase, party leaders are locked in an internal debate over how far to go in objecting to the Administration's Iraq strategy." LINK

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has suggested that Democrats consider blocking financing for a troop increase, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) vowed Monday "to take a look at it."

"But the House majority leader, Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, has not endorsed the idea. Other Democrats, either looking ahead to a possible presidential candidacy or their own re-elections, have also distanced themselves from such a proposal, fearful of being cast as opposing the troops."

Look to see how much daylight Hoyer puts between himself and Pelosi at 10:00 am ET when he discusses the situation in Iraq as well as the Democrats' 100 Hours Agenda at his pen and pad briefing.

The White House's plan to sell its surge continues at 11:10 am ET when President Bush holds a private meeting with Democratic House members to discuss U.S. strategy in Iraq. The President will make his case to the nation at 9:00 pm ET on Wednesday night, followed Thursday by a presidential trip to Fort Benning, GA.

On Capitol Hill today, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE), holds a closed hearing at 9:30 am ET in Washington, DC. Senior intelligence representative brief the committee at 2:30 pm ET.

Today at 12:00 pm ET the House Democrats' "first 100 hours" of legislation begins with a bill that aims to implement the remaining 9/11 Commission recommendations.

The Senate then takes up ethics reform at 10:00 am ET.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee holds a hearing on "Ensuring the Full Implementation of the 9/11 Commission's Recommendation." New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Lee Hamilton, the vice chairman of the 9-11 Commission, are among the those expected to speak to the Senate panel.

Democratic leaders meet with 9-11 family members to discuss the 9-11 Commission legislation at 2:00 pm ET in the Basement of the Capitol.

The United States Supreme Court issues rulings and begins hearing oral arguments at 10 am ET.

First Lady Laura Bush is in New Orleans today. She delivers remarks at St. Rosalie School in Harvey, LA at 12:20 pm ET. The event is opened to the press. Then Mrs. Bush participates in a visit at Café Reconcile in New Orleans. LA at 1:30 pm ET followed by a tour of the Louisiana Children's Museum in New Orleans, LA at 3:00 pm ET.

One day after proposing a plan for universal health-care coverage, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) delivers his State of the State Address in Sacramento, CA at 8:05 pm ET.

Governor Tom Vilsack (D-IA) delivers his final Condition of the State Address to a join session of the Iowa General Assembly at 10 am ET in Des Moines, IA.

Politics of Iraq: "The (New) New Way Forward":

On "Good Morning America," ABC News' George Stephanopoulos sized up the Democratic attempts to block a surge legislatively. "There is a brewing sentiment to try to prohibit funding for at least some of the troops," said Stephanopoulos as he previewed Sen. Kennedy's bill to cap troop levels at where they were on January 1.

In the face of some daunting USA Today front-page poll numbers on the public's view of Iraq LINK and LINK

, Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times lays out the Bush Administration's uphill sales pitch plans for a new strategy including the President's primetime address on Wednesday, a visit with the troops in Ft. Benning, GA on Thursday, and congressional testimony provided by Secretaries Rice and Gates at the end of the week.LINK

"Despite Mr. Bush's insistence that he does not govern by polls, the White House is acutely aware that a vast majority of the American public disapproves of the job Mr. Bush is doing in Iraq. But advisers to the president believe that the public is willing to give Mr. Bush another chance -- especially if he puts forth a policy that is heavy on specifics," writes Stolberg.

"The president's advisers are also mindful of polls showing that while the public wants the situation to improve in Iraq, it does not necessarily favor immediate withdrawal."

"'They're going to cast it as a choice between withdrawal and surge,' said one Republican strategist close to the White House. 'The public is not for immediate withdrawal or even a quick withdrawal, but they're not for the status quo. I think they feel as if the public is more likely to support the president's position, which is putting a stake in the ground in Iraq and saying were going to try to win.'"

The San Francisco Chronicle's Carolyn Lochhead reports that the Bush Administration is expected to request $100 billion to finance the war. LINK

In a front-page story about which the White House will have mixed feelings (but which the Administration would very much like you to read), the Wall Street Journal's Neil King Jr. and Greg Jaffe report that Middle East diplomats and U.S. officials are worried that if President Bush's new plan in Iraq fails "worsening strife could engulf the entire region, sparking a wider war in the middle of the world's largest oil patch."

In his front-page look at President Bush's crucial speech on Iraq, the Washington Post's Michael Abramowitz Notes that the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll shows that "only 17 percent" of Americans "called for an increase in U.S. forces, the 'surge' believed to be a centerpiece of the new Bush plan." LINK

The Wall Street Journal's David Rogers reports that Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) "outlined options that would restrict any troop surge if it meant depleting readiness at home or extending the tours of troops now in the war zone." LINK

Murtha has "urged the president's national-security adviser, Stephen Hadley, to expedite submission of the war-funding requests to facilitate hearings and debate."

"Despite the Democratic outcry, several key Democrats conceded yesterday they have little leverage over Bush's war policy," writes Ken Bazinet of the New York Daily News. LINK

The Boston Globe's Alex Wirzbicki reports that "President Bush would have little choice but to follow the law," should Congress block further spending on the Iraq war according to legal experts. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Noam Leavey looks at past efforts on the part of Congress to limit military conflicts. LINK

"I think he understands that he's betting his presidency, his place in history, on this coming out well," said Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR) after private meetings between President Bush and groups of Senators to sell his push for an troops surge in Iraq according to the Los Angeles Times' Maura Reynolds. LINK

"Mr. Bush's surge may be just big enough to expose more troops to danger and to let the Iraqi government off the hook, without being big enough to achieve security," writes New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof -- who should clearly be marked down as opposed to the surge. LINK

Erin Neff of the Las Vegas Review-Journal criticizes Sen. Reid for his shifting public stance on the proposed troop surge in Iraq, saying "It's amazing it took the political winds 36 whole hours to blow him back to where he should be as the Senate's Democratic leader." LINK

Democratic agenda:

Eric Lipton of the New York Times reports some doubts in the Senate and in the Bush Administration that the House Democratic goal for 100 percent cargo inspection is realistic. LINK

House Democrats announced legislation yesterday aimed at implementing many of the remaining reforms suggested by the Sept. 11 commission, including calls for more thorough cargo screening, better emergency communications and more money for cities at the highest risk of terrorist attack, report the Washington Post's Hsu and Eggen. LINK

Reuter's Thomas Ferraro writes on the anticipated "first 100 hours" beginning today after Congress was given yesterday off for the college football championship game between Ohio State and the University of Florida. LINK

Bush Administration strategy/personality:

The New York Times' Jim Rutenberg explores (with the help of Michael Luttig, Ken Duberstein, Wayne Berman, and others) what "the selection of such a battle-hardened hand" as Fred Friendly means for the White House as it prepares to deal with a less hospitable Congress than it has in the previous six years. LINK

More from the Boston Globe: LINK

And the Washington Post: LINK

2008:

Seth Gitell of the New York Sun takes a look at a new book analyzing prospective '08ers' speaking styles, looking at Sen. McCain, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and Sens. Clinton and Obama and concluding that the Dems might have an edge. LINK

Dick Wadhams has returned home to Colorado to run for chairman of the Colorado GOP, reports the Rocky Mountain News' Bartels. LINK

2008: Republicans: McCain:

Under a "McCain may get caught up in Bush's war plan" header, the Boston Globe's Peter Canellos writes: "President Bush has spent a lot of his political capital pursuing the Iraq war. But now that his account is almost empty, he may be getting ready to spend John McCain's." LINK

More Canellos: "McCain . . . has always been a stalwart defender of the war. . . But because McCain has been willing to criticize Bush over some aspects of the war, he hasn't been linked in the public mind with Bush's failures. Now he might be, since Bush is preparing to call for an increase in troops, which is McCain's favored approach to reversing US fortunes in Iraq."

2008: Republicans: Romney:

The Hotline's Marc Ambinder reports Gov. Mitt Romney is set to announce a huge Palmetto State endorsement as early as today. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) plans to split with his state's senior Senator and governor and is expected to join the Romney effort in a big get for the former Bay State governor. DeMint's support will help Romney tout his social conservative credentials on the trail in the South Carolina. LINK

Ambinder's reporting about Sen. Judd Gregg's (R-NH) expected support for Romney in New Hampshire causes Cosmo at New Hampshire Presidential Watch to ponder Joel Maiola's role in Romney's Granite State effort. LINK

So the question now is: Et tu, Sununu?

The splashy high-tech $6.5 million Romney fundraising show was -- by all accounts -- a success. Adam Nagourney of the New York Times writes up the "striking" gathering at the Boston Convention Center of more than 400 Romney supporters including corporate executives, elected officials, donors, and operatives all dialing for dollars in full public view. LINK

Nagourney's nut graph: "Politically, the display of fund-raising and organizational prowess was intended to put Mr. Romney back on the map after a tough month in which his conservative credentials have come under attack because of questions about his evolving positions on abortion and gay rights. If the immediate audience for this fund-raising event were his own supporters and the press, it was aimed just as much at other prospective Republican candidates. Those include Senator John McCain of Arizona and Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York mayor, but also some lesser-known candidates on the right, like Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas and Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arizona, who have been emboldened at the sight of Mr. Romney struggling."

The Boston Globe's Scott Helman has Tom Tellefsen, a private investor from California and one of Romney's national finance cochairmen, saying that the daylong blitz would "send a very strong message" to others in the race, both to top-tier rivals such as Sen. McCain and Mayor Giuliani, and to "those that are considering or haven't really yet laid the groundwork that maybe they should have." LINK

Among the fundraisers at Romney's event was fellow former Gov. William Weld (R-MA) who has thrown his support to Romney rather than his friend Giuliani, and some are asking if (read: suggesting that) the move has something to do with Giuliani failing to publicly support Weld in his bid for Governor of New York reports Brian Mooney of the Boston Globe. LINK

The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza on Romney's $6.5 million haul. LINK

The Salt Lake Tribune's Thomas Burr reports that Romney "was out to show that he can raise money like a frontrunner, and he did." LINK

More from the AP's Glen Johnson. LINK

More from The Boston Herald. LINK

Earlier today, Romney's Carolyn Weyforth distributed a video clip from FNC's Carl Cameron on Romney's fundraising. LINK

2008: Republicans: Giuliani:

Kris Wertnowsky of the Wilkes Barre Times Leader in Pennsylvania, where Rudy Giuliani's third wife Judith Nathan hails from, takes a look at the much-discussed ex-wife factor in his fledgling candidacy. LINK

2008: Republicans: Brownback:

David Brody of CBN News writes up the well-timed Brownback press release touting support from some Massachusetts conservatives yesterday as Gov. Romney was raking in $6.5 million. LINK

2008: Republicans: Huckabee:

The AP's Andrew DeMillo has former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) reacting to a rumor he's joining Romney's camp thusly: "That ranks right up there with my having my stomach stapled as complete nonsense." LINK

2008: Republicans: Hunter:

The Associated Press reports that Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) staunchly defended the Bush Administration's handling of the war in Iraq and said it's too soon to tell whether the American miliary effort has been a failure. LINK

The Union Leader's John DiStaso on Duncan's touting himself as the true conservative in the race. LINK

2008: Democrats:

In the New York Times' "Election 2008" column, Jeff Zeleny and Pat Healy (almost appearing like beat reporters) inform readers to "stay tuned" for presidential campaign announcements from Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton. Obama timing: don't expect anything prior to the SOTU on Jan. 23. Clinton timing: the next several weeks. LINK

Maggie Haberman of the New York Post writes up the Clinton and Obama appearances at Rev. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH coalition gathering including Obama's gratitude to Jackson for "paving the way for historic White House runs." LINK

The New York Daily News on the same: LINK

2008: Democrats: Edwards:

Kathleen Parker of Salem, Oregon's Statesman Journal humorously explores the unfortunate timing of former Sen. John Edwards' (D-NC) kickoff announcements, and the viability of a sans-serif logo in a font-as-metaphor campaign. LINK

2008: Democrats: Obama:

The Chicago Tribune's Christi Parsons on the Obama-Feingold efforts to toughen Senate ethics rules. LINK

More on the Senate ethics reform bill from the Los Angeles Times' Richard Simon: LINK

ABC News' Teddy Davis and Paul Fidalgo on Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) poking fun at Sen. Obama for working on ethics reform "for many years" without "any attention from the press." LINK

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank is all over the People magazine photo of Sen. Obama splashing in the Hawaiian surf. LINK

Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun Times blogs about Obama's barechested appearance and Milbank's quest for comment on the matter after yesterday's press conference on the Feingold-Obama ethics reform bill. LINK

2008: Democrats: Richardson:

The AP's Nedra Pickler writes that Gov. Bill Richardson's (D-NM) private diplomacy trip to the Darfur region of Sudan may bode well for his 2008 presidential bid. Gov. Richardson meets again today with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in a personal attempt to open the area to UN troops. LINK

Capitol Hill Blue blogger Dan Thomasson writes that Gov. Richardson presidential ambitions may be cut short by his handling of a severe winter storm that left New Mexicans stranded for days over the holidays. LINK

2008: Democrats: Dodd:

The Connecticut Post's Peter Urban writes that Connecticut's two Democratic Senators will have conflicting responses to the President's Iraq strategy speech on Wednesday night -- with the anticipated call for increasing troops likely hailed by Sen. Lieberman and panned by presidential hopeful Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), who watched Obama at the Sheraton last night with interest. LINK

2008: Democrats: Kerry:

Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) will likely make a decision on whether he will seek the top job again in 2008 by the end of the month, writes Rick Klein of the Boston Globe. LINK

Klein Notes that Kerry "has a top-tier Democratic operative, Ed Reilly, running his political operation," as well as a potential campaign team that includes two former top DNC aides, John Giesser and Jackson "Jay" Dunn, as well as his 2004 political director, Amy Dacey.

"Through his Senate office and his political action committee, Kerry has recently signed on several prominent aides. Theo Yedinsky , who was Kerry's New Hampshire political director in 2004, is joining the PAC, along with Erik Smith , who was a spokesman for former Representative Richard A. Gephardt. Vincent Morris, a former New York Post reporter who was communications director for outgoing Washington mayor Anthony Williams, joined Kerry's Senate staff yesterday."

2008: Democrats: Vilsack:

Gov. Vilsack is readying himself to leave the Iowa statehouse as he delivers his final Condition of the State speech tonight, closing out his term as governor and preparing himself to run for the White House, writes the Des Moines Register's Thomas Beaumont. LINK

2008: Democrats: Kucinich:

The Cleveland Plain Dealer says at a news conference Monday by presidential hopeful Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) announcing his strategy for getting U.S. troops out of Iraq, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Magic Johnson were receptive but wouldn't endorse his presidential bid. When a reporter asked Kucinich if he considered himself a political rockstar like Sen.Obama, the Cleveland congressman pointed out that he hails from the home of rock and roll. LINK

2008: Democrats: Sharpton:

The New York Post runs a portion of the Associated Press story on Rev. Al Sharpton's comments that he has not yet ruled out a run for the White House in 2008. LINK

2008: Bloomberg:

The New York Daily News' McAuliff and Saul write up Bloomberg's trek to Washington, DC today to appeal to his friend (and 2006 political beneficiary) Sen. Joe Lieberman (I/D-CT) for more Homeland Security dollars for New York City. LINK

The 110th Congress:

Robin Toner of the New York Times writes up some demographics of the 110th Congress and Notes that a new Congress is not necessarily a younger Congress. LINK

The Dukester:

House Democrats are working with the Department of Justice to respond to subpoena requests from documents from three high-profile House committees in connection to the case against disgraced former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA). LINK

The Schwarzenegger era:

Gov. Schwarzenegger's proposal to extend health care coverage to all of California's 36 million residents scores front-page, above-the-fold coverage in the New York Times. LINK

More coverage from the Washington Post: LINK

South Carolina:

Variety's Michael Learmonth reports that MSNBC will air the first presidential debate of the 2008 election, when the Democratic candidates meet on April 26 at South Carolina State University, almost six months earlier than the first debate of the 2004 contest. Brian Williams will likely moderate. LINK

New Hampshire:

Riley Yates of the Union Leader reports that the chairman of the Manchester, NH GOP is calling for state Democratic Vice Chairman and five-term Manchester Democratic Chairman Ray Buckley to resign his post amid allegations, with Buckley having already withdrawn his name to succeed Kathy Sullivan as state chair. LINK