The Note: The Tips of Icebergs


Key political stuff even David Sanger, Dee Dee Myers, Charlie Rose, and Steve Schmidt aren't seeing (and hearing) right now:

-- The disagreements between Josh Bolten (remember him?) and Karl Rove (remember him?) about what should be in the State of the Union.

-- The Clinton, Obama, and Edwards staff conference calls that precede their act-react-respond chess moves on Iraq.

-- The Boehner-Blunt discussions reviewing what Rahm did to them (and about how to keep it from happening again).

-- Howard Dean's efforts to influence Pelosi-Reid legislative strategy.

-- Carl Cameron explaining his expense reports to his bosses.

-- Kevin Madden explaining to a bunch of business people who have never set foot in Iowa during the caucuses – or in a debate spin room – how all this actually works.

-- The private dinners that labor and other liberal interests are hosting with the men (and woman) who want to be the Democratic nominee for president in 2008.

-- Jeff Zeleny reminding his bosses that not only is he an expert on Barack Obama (from his Chicago Tribune days), but he used to work for the gosh darn Des Moines Register (and that he is solidly sourced there too).

-- Senate Democratic communications staffers strategizing about how to wring the maximum benefit out of Chuck Hagel's apostasy.

-- The BOARD meetings in Hillaryland on the coming announcement (in days or weeks, not months).

-- The meetings Al Gore and his people (Hollywood-style, with a little Nashville panache thrown in) are having over positioning "An Inconvenient Truth" for an Oscar nod.

-- Laura Bush's pouring over polling data, and asking Rove for clarification.

-- John Kerry's pouring over polling data, and asking Ed Reilly for clarification.

-- Joe Biden's prep conference calls with his staff to get ready for each key hearing.

-- John Weaver's internal ruminations about at what pace to unfurl the (endless) additional pre-canned endorsements -- in key states and nationally -- that he has ready to go.

Things that are more out in the open for your consideration:

-- How Leader Reid will finesse ethics legislation today.

-- If Tom Edsall's HEARTING of the Pelosi Machine is reasonable and reasoned. LINK

-- If Mel Martinez and other leading Republicans find the worldview of Bob Novak or Jacob Weisberg more dire: LINK

-- Or, perhaps, the Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll numbers. LINK

Every last one of those items were grist for the Republican National Committee's mill as they began its Winter Meeting under the theme "Recommitting to Reform" at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Washington, DC at 9:00 am ET. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) will speak at 11:30 am ET, and outgoing RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman will speak at 12:30 pm ET. Ralph Z. Hallow of the Washington Times is still making it tough on the incoming face of the RNC, Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Rove). LINK

Friends of AR GOP & Gov. Huckabee's Hope for America PAC will be hosting an informal breakfast reception on Thursday AM at the Grand Hyatt to welcome RNC Members and provide copies of the Governor's new book. "From Hope to Higher Ground: 12 Stops to Restoring America's Greatness."

President Bush has no public schedule today.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-SC) and Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) hold a news conference to discuss the 100 legislative hours of the 110th Congress at roughly 3:30 pm ET.

Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) joined Majority Whip Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) at a constituent coffee this morning at 8:30 am ET in the Hart Senate Office Building. Later this morning at 10:45 ET, Obama presides over the Senate.

The Senate Foreign Relations committee meets today for a hearing on Iraq military strategy. The meeting was scheduled to begin at 9:30 am ET.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, in their hearing on "Oversight of the U.S. Department of Justice" heard from Attorney General Alberto Gonzales at 9:30 am ET.

When Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testifies before the Judiciary Committee at 9:30 am ET, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) plans to ask him: "Does Congress have the authority to prohibit the President from sending forces into Iran and Syria without specific congressional authority?" Sen. Kennedy also plans to ask the Attorney General whether Congress has the authority to prevent the "escalation" of the Iraq war.

Sen. Kennedy will tout a letter signed by 23 leading constitutional scholars who contend that Congress does, indeed, have the authority to do so.

"Congress clearly may cut off funds entirely and bring an armed conflict to an end," the scholars write in their letter. "It may also take the intermediate step of providing that the President from using appropriated funds to increase troop levels or to broaden a conflict into additional nations or territories."

The House of Representatives meets to consider legislation to reduce oil company subsidies and increase investments in renewable energy sources at 10 am ET.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff addresses the American Society of Newspaper Editors at 1:15 pm ET at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. Afterward, Secretary Chertoff addresses the American Bar Association's 2nd Annual Homeland Security Institute meeting at 4:45 pm ET at the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel.

Leader Boehner also holds an on-camera press briefing at 11:05 am ET in the House Radio-Television Correspondents' Gallery of the Capitol.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) delivers a speech to the Jordan Company at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel at 12:00 pm ET in New York, NY.

Politics of Iraq:

In his must-read column, Robert Novak pens on "the sense of impending political doom that clutches Republican hearts" because of Iraq and says all the GOP can hope for is a Democratic blunder to take the focus off Republicans. LINK

On the other hand, Novak acknowledges writing his column before Prime Minister al-Maliki's upbeat chat with the media yesterday.

USA Today has the details on the Biden/Levin/Hagel/Snowe non-binding bipartisan resolution aimed at sending a message to the White House that the Congress does not support the President's plan in Iraq. LINK

"For all the bills introduced yesterday," writes the Washington Post's Dana Milbank, "none is likely to force President Bush to change course in Iraq. Proposals such as Biden's are 'nonbinding' and others don't have enough votes to pass. 'There is very little chance in the short run that we are going to pass any legislation,' Clinton confided during her news conference. Asked to elaborate, she explained: 'I can count.'" LINK

Carl Hulse of the New York Times on the symbolic Iraq war measure and the looming clash between Congress and the White House. LINK

The AP's Anne Flaherty reports on the Hagel/Cornyn to and fro over the resolution. Sen. Cornyn (R-TX) called the resolution a political ploy to embarrass the President. Sen. Hagel -- who is a co-sponsor of the non-binding resolution -- shot back: "To somehow come up with a conclusion that it shows a lack of seriousness, I am a bit befuddled by what the Texas senator is trying to describe." LINK

John Stanton and Susan Davis of Roll Call also take a look at the accusations of politicking and difficulty Senate Republicans face in presenting a unified front on the Senate's non-binding resolution opposing President Bush's call for more troops.

Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll:

A majority of Americans oppose more troops in Iraq and nearly half the country wants Congress to block President Bush's deployment of more U.S. troops, according to a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll number as reported by Ron Brownstein.

More Brownstein: "The poll's findings drive home the extent to which Iraq has politically weakened Bush, whose reelection just more than two years ago stirred dreams among his advisors of cementing an enduring GOP electoral majority in Washington." LINK

"The results also underscore the immense challenge confronting Bush: The public's loss of faith in the war's direction, his handling of the conflict and questions about his credibility all make it more difficult for him to rally support for the new direction he argues is necessary to turn the tide." LINK

In her write-up of the Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll, Heidi Przybyla reports that the war has special saliency for Sen. McCain. "A plurality of self-defined moderates and independents, a key McCain constituency, said his advocacy of a troop escalation even larger than the one Bush has announced makes them less likely to support him if he runs for the White House." LINK

Republican National Committee:

Outgoing RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman is poised to provide some political analysis and parting advice when he addresses the RNC this afternoon before heading off to greener pastures.

On the 2006 election, Mehlman plans to say: "If we shrug our shoulders and say 'it was just a fluke, a perfect storm of factors out of our control'. . . then we will lose again in 2008."

"We cannot write this election off as pre-ordained, as the natural order of things, to be automatically rectified in two years. If that is the approach we take, then we are destined to spend far more than one term in the minority. . . and we as a party will deserve it."

Mehlman also plans to dedicate a significant portion of his speech advising the RNC on the virtues of bipartisanship: "We are all Americans, and though I have dedicated my career to fighting for this Party -- and I will continue to do so after I am no longer your chairman -- I will always remember, and we must all remember, that Democrats are our political rivals, not our enemies, and they deserve our respect," Mehlman plans to say according to remarks planned for delivery.

One word missing from Mehlman's prepared remarks: Iraq. The outgoing chairman does mention the war on terror, but the current debate about Iraq is largely absent from his remarks.

House Minority Leader Boehner also plans to put on his political pundit hat and provide his take on the 2006 GOP losses: "Over time, we became less interested in developing new, innovative, conservative solutions to America's problems. The Republican brand became diluted and voters went the other way," Boehner is expected to say according to excerpts of his speech obtained by The Note.

On the future of the GOP, Boehner plans to say, "Let me be clear: I would never have run for this position if I didn't think we could retake the majority in two years. . . Our goal should not be to 'take back' the majority -- it should be to earn the majority by reclaiming our position as the party of small government and big ideas."

2008: Democrats: Clinton:

Jake Tapper's 'Political Punch' blog at has the updates on the Senate's "surge against the surge," including the details of Sen. Clinton's proposed legislation to cap troop levels in Iraq. LINK

And here's Tapper's full story on yesterday's Iraq activity among Democrats. LINK

The Washington Post's Dan Balz on the "twisting path" that Sen. Clinton has followed as she has moved "slowly away" from her pro-war vote. LINK

In an interview with Patrick Healy of the New York Times, Sen. Clinton took a not-so-veiled swipe at Sen. Edwards. LINK

"Hours after Mrs. Clinton's announcement, Mr. Obama said that he, too, would support a cap on troop levels. Mrs. Clinton also took her own glancing shot back at Mr. Edwards, saying in the interview that it was important for political candidates in 2008 to avoid 'finger-pointing, hot rhetoric' on Iraq," writes Healy.

To Democratic '08ers: Please raise your hand if you do not have the "responsibility gene."

"'I am cursed with the responsibility gene.' she said. 'I am. I admit to that. You've got to be very careful in how you proceed with any combat situation in which American lives are at stake.'"

Jill Zuckman of the Chicago Tribune includes this blind quote in her look at Clinton's latest formulation on Iraq: LINK

"A strategist for a rival Democratic campaign accused Clinton of being 'trapped by gender' in needing to appear tough enough to govern, in the mold of Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi."

"'She and her campaign understandably have been obsessed with preserving her general election viability,' said the strategist, who would speak only on the condition of anonymity. 'They understand that a liberal dovish woman is not about to be elected president in a post-9/11 America. So they find themselves trailing public opinion on the war, badly trailing Democratic primary opinion on the war and just hoping the left gives her a pass.'"

Asked if MoveOn members would be upset with Sen. Clinton for not proposing (as John Edwards has done) to flex the power of the purse, Tom Matzzie, MoveOn's Washington director, told ABC News, "Our members are not of one mind on that" and he praised her for recognizing that the Senate "has a role" in checking President Bush's plan to send additional U.S. troops to Iraq.

"She's farther ahead than most other 2008 candidates with the exceptions of Dennis Kucinich and John Edwards," said Matzzie.

Susan Milligan of the Boston Globe on Sen. Clinton's new Iraq strategy: LINK

ABC News' Paul Fidalgo Notes Sen. Even Bayh's (D-IN) humorous remark at the start of the press conference with Sen. Clinton on their trip to Iraq and Afghanistan with Rep. John McHugh (R-NY). Noting the rapt crowd of reporters packed into the briefing room, he quipped, "A few more people here than my usual press. I can't imagine why!" LINK

In a New York Post op-ed, Lieberman adviser Dan Gerstein writes that Sen. Clinton's biggest political hurdle is not Obama but overcoming the public's perception of her because, "after choosing two dislikeable nominees to run against George W. Bush, Democrats seem to have little interest in rallying around another wrong-rubbing candidate." LINK

2008: Democrats: Obama:

Jake Tapper and Mary Claude Foster of ABC News take a look at the confluence of circumstances and personal qualities that have vaulted Sen. Obama to the top tier of presidential candidates and try to answer the burning question, "Just who the hell is Barack Obama? And why on Earth should he be trusted in these dangerous times with the most powerful job on Earth?" LINK

The New York Times' Jeff Zeleny looks back at some of the presidential candidates in the past who've, like Obama, declared themselves the fresh new thing. They've had trouble, but in the words of the Senator himself (in a walking interview through Senate hallways), "Novelty alone is not a criteria success, nor should it be." LINK

USA Today's Jill Lawrence reports Sen. Obama's toe-dip into the Democratic Party's presidential nomination is generating support among blacks who see a chance to help make history by helping to elect the nation's first black president. LINK

Ryan Keith of the Associated Press takes a more critical look at Sen. Obama's chances in the 2008 presidential race, examining the "minefield" of past positions, votes, and indiscretions that opponents will "pound him over the head with," as Americans United for Life vice president Daniel McConchie put it. LINK

In her Boston Globe column Joan Vennochi, doesn't seem so sure about Sen. Obama's presidential resume. LINK

"I'm not ready to climb aboard the Obama bandwagon. New is nice, but in perilous times, new is not enough. Neither is hope, the other underpinning of Obama's nascent presidential campaign," writes Vennochi.

Sen. Obama is dispatching Jenny Yeager to oversee his fundraising effort in New York as he tries to reach those in the business community who haven't traditionally given money and black professionals, reports the New York Post's Maggie Haberman. LINK

Gregory Lewis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel looks at how talk of Sen. Obama's potential White House run is the talk of southern Florida. LINK

2008: Democrats: Obama vs. Clinton:

In a piece looking at the politics of Iraq on NBC's "Today," David Gregory Noted that neither Sen. Clinton nor Sen. Obama has been willing to go as far as John Edwards who has urged Congress to cut off funding for the troop surge. The only other Democratic '08er referenced was Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) -- but he was only mentioned as a cautionary tale about the kind of nuance that Democrats are trying to avoid.

In the Chicago Sun Times, Lynn Sweet writes how Iraq is the "defining issue" in early stages of the 2008 presidential contest-- especially between Sens. Obama and Clinton. LINK

Sweet might have lost her head a bit, however, in claiming that Obama's afternoon press release was some sort of facile rapid response moment.

Hillary Clinton "ramped up her attack on the White House yesterday," said ABC News' Diane Sawyer on "Good Morning America." As she introduced ABC News' Claire Shipman's television version of a 'tale of the tape,' Sawyer went on to ask "Is Sen. Clinton feeling the heat, the pressure from Sen. Obama?"

Shipman on Obama's entrance into the race: "At the very least, it's unsettling for the Hillary machine. . . "

Former White House press secretary Dee Myers explained that Sen. Clinton has "tenacity, resilience, the ability to take a punch. . . We don't know if Sen. Obama can do that."

Chicago ABC 7 reporter Andy Shaw examines Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama's political roots in Illinois -- Noting the Sen. Obama announcement has resulted in Sen. Clinton losing the support of most of Chicago's local political leaders, such as Mayor Daley and his brother Bill, who loyally supported former president Bill Clinton. LINK

2008: Democrats:

The Wall Street Journal's ed board assesses the Democratic presidential field and concludes that it's still "Hillary versus the world" while Noting that "Obama is already moving left on national security -- which is dangerous ground for a political rookie amid what the Pentagon calls 'the long war' on terror."

The Journal sees the field's two governors - Tom Vilsack and Bill Richardson - as men with "solid state records" but Notes that both "will have trouble breaking through the fund-raising barriers erected by the campaign-finance limits they themselves have supported." The Journal picks Al Gore as its "wild card challenger" while predicting that he will receive "a ton of free publicity for his global warming 'documentary' come Oscar time."

With their eyes on the White House, Sens. Clinton, Obama, and Dodd each unveiled their own plans for Iraq, The Hill's Elana Schor reports. LINK


One year out from the 2008 Iowa caucuses, ABC News' John Cochran examines the factors the Democratic candidates will have to contend with in this critical early contest particularly with the all but formalized entrance of Sen. Obama into the presidential fray. LINK

Pull out your scorecards! David Yepsen of the Des Moines Register provides the current Hawkeye State landscape for both parties' presidential hopefuls. LINK

New Hampshire:

John DiStaso's Granite Status does not disappoint, as he divulges a list of New Hampshire staffers signed onto the nascent Giuliani and Obama camps.

There is of course much more in the usual Thursday opus. LINK


The Washington Post's Shailagh Murray and Matthew Mosk on the season of the presidential exploratory committee. LINK

2008: Republicans: Romney:

The Hill reports that former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) has garnered support from 16 Republican National Committee members of various geographic areas, who will serve as liaisons to Congress and to activists in key states. LINK

2008: Republicans: McCain:

Per a McCain release: "State Senator Michelle McManus (R-MI) will serve as state chairman of Women for McCain and become a member of the statewide Michigan Steering Committee."

2008: Republicans: Brownback:

In a piece looking at how opposition to the President is "firming up," the Washington Times' Charles Hurt and Stephen Dinan pick up on Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) saying on the Senate floor that "at the present time, the United States cares more about a peaceful Iraq than the Iraqis do. If that is the case, it is difficult to understand why more U.S. troops would make a difference." LINK

2008: Republicans: Hagel:

In explaining his opposition to the President's plan for Iraq on ABC's "Good Morning America," Sen. Hagel used some recent polling to support his position. "You cannot conduct or sustain a foreign policy -- especially a war policy -- without the support of the American people," Hagel told ABC News' Robin Roberts.

2008: Republicans: Thompson:

Ed Tibbetts of the Quad City Times reports that former Iowa House Speaker Ron Corbett (R) has signed onto former Gov. Tommy Thompson's (R-WI) fledgling presidential campaign. LINK

The Rocky Mountain News reports Thompson's influence is reaching all the way to Colorado, though not necessarily for a presidential bid. Colorado State Lawmakers are proposing a bill that would prohibit the implanting of microchips into people for tracking purposes, a measure that was supported by Thompson. LINK

2008: Republicans: Huckabee:

Max Brantley of the Arkansas Times blogs about how much money Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) raised through his PAC in the fourth quarter of 2006 including a roughly $500,000 haul for his December fundraising gala in Little Rock which Brantley compares unfavorably to Gov. Romney's recent $6.5 million day in Boston. LINK

2008: Senate:

The Des Moines Register's Jane Norman Notes that Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) is leaning toward running for re-election, but has stopped short of announcing it. LINK

The Libby trial:

The Washington Post's Carol Leonnig and Amy Goldstein on how the "big names" in the Libby trial have made picking a jury a "tall order." LINK

Politics of surveillance:

Eric Lichtblau and David Johnston delve into the Bush administration's surprise move to bring the NSA domestic wiretapping program under the purview of the FISA court as many Democratic critics had long been seeking. LINK

Scott Shane with news analysis on the subject. LINK

The Washington Post: LINK

Boston Globe: LINK

Democratic agenda:

Tom Edsall pays his respects to the Democrats in a New York Times op-ed in which he calls the early stages of their majority a success and ponders what effect an effective, functional, bipartisan Congress may have on the presidential race. LINK

USA Today's Fredreka Schouten reports Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) is squaring off with Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) over Sen. Vitter's proposal that would ban senators' spouses from lobbying the chamber -- Sen. Reid and Feinstein are promising to oppose the bill if it affects senators already married to lobbyists. LINK

The Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman on Republicans halting ethics legislation. LINK

"The ethics bill before the Senate not only cracks down on lawmakers, but also subjects politically active ministers and neighborhood groups to the same rules as K Street lobbyists," reports the Washington Times' S.A. Miller. LINK

Rick Klein of the Boston Globe writes about the limited impact some critics see in the House bill to lower student loan rates. LINK

A bill dealing with climate change is on the move with an aide to Nancy Pelosi confirming that the Speaker wanted to create a special committee on climate and 08ers Sens. McCain and Obama have already signaled that they're on board, report Felicity Barringer and Andrew Revkin of the New York Times. LINK


The New York Times' Steinberg on ABC News' George Stephanopoulos surging in those weekly Sunday morning polls. LINK

Political potpourri:

Lizette Alvarez offers a New York Times style feature on Speaker Nancy Pelosi leading the way for woman who are "speaking chic to power" and jazzing up the Hill. Note, too, the image consultants saying that after a long try Sen. Clinton has reached her fashion center. LINK

In his debut piece for the forthcoming Sunday New York Times Magazine, the talented Mark Leibovich follows the Senate's "disheveled and awkward" socialist around Vermont and Washington and has Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) saying in his Brooklyn accent that dental care, which he views as an employment and economic issue, is "yooge."

"Martin O'Malley pledged to unite Maryland at a time of 'great peril and great possibility' as he was sworn in as governor" of Maryland yesterday, reports the Washington Post's John Wagner. LINK

Former Rep. Dick Gephardt (D-MO) is joining FTI Consulting Inc. as a consultant and advisor, through an exclusive agreement with his consulting firm, Gephardt & Associates LLC, reports the Wall Street Journal's Donna Kardos.