The Note: Topsy Turvy



It is an extraordinary, ordinary day in American politics.

The pompiness and circumstanciness of the State of the Union are going to be a great comfort to the political-media infrastructure in which the Gang of 500 nestles, what with all the out-of-kilter, Twilight Zone phenomena taking place:

-- President Bush is fighting with House Republicans over an issue of critical importance to him (Iraq) at a time that is inconvenient for him (as the State of the Union moves to TelePrompter).

-- Speaker Pelosi is battling with her own base of House liberals (over the Pure Power of Old Bulls).

-- Rahm Emanuel is the most bipartisan person in Washington (per the Chicago Tribune's Jill Zuckman, who seems to have flipped from Hastert to Emanuel in a blink). LINK

-- Speakering of which: the sight of Pelosi sitting behind Bush during the SOTU will make our eyes bug.

-- Labor unions are opposing a government plan to expand health insurance coverage, while Grover Norquist is all for it.

-- Small-government conservative George W. Bush plans to morph into a greenbean/HillaryCare/amnesty-loving/increased-federal-role-in-education expansionist (again).

On the other hand, some things will apparently never change (and some of you will take comfort from that):

-- Sens. McCain, Clinton, and Obama will have no trouble inserting themselves into the post-SOTU speech reaction, while other 2008 candidates will struggle.

-- Television pundits such as Bill Schneider, explaining the Bush poll numbers, are saying "Iraq, Iraq, Iraq."

-- The media is obsessed with the length of the speech, the guests in the First Lady's box, and Bill Livingood's chops.

-- The media will get speech excerpts late in the day, and will once again paraphrase Ronald Reagan: "Is that all there is?"

-- Sen. Clinton refuses to say if Sen. Obama is qualified to be commander in chief.

-- We are all still getting our political news from Mike Allen, Roger Simon, Jim VandeHei, and Ben Smith (just from a different platform LINK).

Mr. Bush's annual address to the nation will occur this evening sometime after 9 pm ET just after the U.S. House Sergeant at Arms says, "Madam Speaker, the President of the United States," for the first time in this nation's history (and then after some bipartisan applause).

On the television broadcast network, Charlie Gibson will anchor ABC's coverage from Capitol Hill. He will be joined by George Stephanopoulos, Martha Raddatz, Jake Tapper, and Kate Snow in Washington and Dan Harris in Baghdad. ABC News commentator George Will, ABC News financial contributor Mellody Hobson, and ABC News consultant General Jack Keane will also contribute. Prior to tonight's address, there will be preview coverage on, ABC News Now, ABC News Radio, and ABC "World News with Charles Gibson" at 6:30 pm ET.

The Democrats will respond to the President's address with newly elected Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA), the former Reagan Navy Secretary who knocked off Sen. George Allen (R-VA) in November. For the second year in a row, Democrats will offer a response to the President in Spanish. Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA), who was recently named Assistant to the Speaker, will perform those duties this evening.

Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) will be interviewed on ABC News by Gibson following President Bush's address and the Democratic response.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) plans to go to his office in the Capitol (S-321) to blog on DailyKos, the popular liberal web site at roughly 10:30 pm ET.

Former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-IL) is set to endorse Gov. Mitt Romney today -- "a strong indicator of where much of the anti-McCain Republican establishment is headed," reports Jonathan Martin of the Politico. LINK

"An Inconvenient Truth," former Vice President Gore's documentary about the climate crisis, received two Oscar nominations this morning for Best Documentary and Original Song.

Vice President Gore reacted to the nominations thusly: "I am thrilled for our director Davis Guggenheim and producers Laurie David, Lawrence Bender, Scott Burns and co-producer Leslie Chilcott. The film they created has brought awareness of the climate crisis to people in the United States and all over the world. I am so grateful to the entire team and pleased that the Academy has recognized their work. This film proves that movies really can make a difference."

See below for more schedule items.

2008: Democrats: Clinton's morning show interview:

ABC News' Diane Sawyer asked Sen. Clinton on "Good Morning America" if she concurred with her husband's assessment 15 years ago, that if elected, the country will get "two for the price of one"?

Sen. Clinton said that she is "certainly going to count on his advice and his experience. . . And I'm very grateful to have his staunch support and good advice going forward."

When Sawyer again pressed Clinton on "two for the price of one," Clinton responded by saying, "Well, I wouldn't say it quite like that. I'm running to be the president -- to make the decisions."

On whether or not her vote for the Iraq war was her biggest mistake in the Senate?

"Well, I think giving the President the authority has turned out to be a terrible decision for everybody including the President," Clinton said.

And Diane Sawyer picked up where Charlie Gibson left off last night, still pressing Sen. Clinton to answer if she believes Sen. Obama is qualified to be president.

"I have no opinion one way or the other," said Clinton continuing to refuse to answer the question. "We're all in this to demonstrate as clearly as we can that we're ready for the most important and difficult job in the world. I think I may have a bit of an inside track in understanding just how difficult it is," Clinton added.

Sawyer also asked if Chelsea Clinton plans to hit the stump for her mom.

"Well, she's pretty busy -- she's got a life and a job of her own. I'm going to be out there on my own talking about what I want to do because that's who I am asking people to vote for," said Clinton.

While appearing on NBC's "Today," Sen. Clinton previewed the line of attack that she might use against former Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., if her 2008 Democratic presidential rival were to challenge her in a debate for not renouncing her 2002 pro-Iraq war vote.

"I'm not on the sidelines," Clinton told NBC's Meredith Viera in an apparent invocation of a Teddy Rooseveltism. "I'm in the arena."

ABC News' Teddy Davis and Tahman Bradley have more on the "Political Radar." LINK

With her cozy, crackling fire in the background, Sen. Clinton fired back at Liz Cheney -- daughter of the Vice President and former deputy assistant secretary of state – while appearing this morning on CNN's "American Morning."

In an op-ed in today's Washington Post, Cheney lambasted Sen. Clinton for "hemming and hawing about her vote for the war resolution."

Liz Cheney's op-ed is at LINK

Sen. Clinton shot back: "I've been a consistent critic of this administration's war planning," she said. "They've been dead wrong. They've been wrong in the war, they've been wrong in alienating the rest of the world," said Sen. Clinton. Asked by Soledad O'Brien whether she thinks she can win despite stirring the "passions" of Republicans, Sen. Clinton said: "There's a bit of bravado there," she said of the Republicans, arguing she heard the same comments when she ran for the Senate in New York and still won.

On CBS' "Early Show," Harry Smith asked Sen. Clinton how she will woo voters who "just don't like you." Sen. Clinton gave her trademark laugh, and exclaimed, "What a way to start my morning!"

As to the power of her political enemies to define her, Sen. Clinton said "I've been around long enough to know how effective the other side is." Sen. Clinton continued, "I'm battle hardened. I've been there. I know how to overcome these kinds of political tactics."

Of the President's upcoming State of the Union address, Sen. Clinton said she was "thrilled" about the prospect of the President opening the door on health care and energy, and while she believes President Bush's propositions will not be "bold enough" she asserted, "I want to be a part of that solution."


On "Good Morning America," ABC News' Claire Shipman said the President plans to highlight "top of mind" items other than Iraq such as healthcare, energy, immigration, and education.

With an ABC News/Washington Post report showing the lowest approval rating of his presidency, President Bush's plan to build consensus on health care, energy, immigration and education will be eclipsed by his decision to send more troops to Iraq, write the Washington Post's Peter Baker and Jon Cohen. LINK

Jim Rutenberg and Robert Pear of the New York Times write up the President's low poll numbers, Democratic resistance to his health care proposal previewed in recent days, and likely bipartisan congressional rejection of his surge plan in Iraq to set the stage onto which President Bush walks this evening. LINK

Looking at President Bush's healthcare plan, Bloomberg News' Brendan Murray and Jay Newton-Small write that President Bush's health care plan, "has already divided lawmakers and interest groups along partisan lines." LINK

Ethanol has come a long way, baby. The New York Times takes a closer look. LINK

Bloomberg News' preview of the President speech. LINK

The Politico:

Ben Smith jumps out of the gate with a look at Sen. Clinton's efforts to lock up her African American support despite Sen. Obama's presence in the presidential race. LINK

"'She is conceding no ground, and I don't anticipate or expect that the African-American community would want her to,' said Minyon Moore, a consultant to the Clinton campaign who's directing her national black outreach."

"'I don't see it as a hard battle for her,' Moore said of the contest for the support of black leaders. 'I see it as a reaffirmation of people she already knows and support she already has.'" (Read closely for Moore's apparent put down of Obama's credentials.)

Smith also has Bill Lynch announcing his Clinton support and throwing an elbow in Team Obama's direction for not responding to his outreach.

Smith follows up on the New York Post's reporting from yesterday about Rev. Sharpton's planned meetings with Sens. Clinton and Obama this week and adds that Sharpton plans to meet with Sen. Dodd too. (Incidentally, Sharpton was at the McAuliffe book party last night hanging out with all the Clintonites).

(And don't miss the crafty lede likely to put the discussion of whether or not the Clinton's politically calculate their vacation destination decisions back in the ether.)

Roger Simon scores a McCain interview for his Politico debut in which McCain says President Bush was "very badly served" by Vice President Cheney with regard to Iraq. McCain -- who supports the President's surge and believes it should be given time to work -- also begins discussing possible options in Iraq should the President's plan fail. LINK

"One of those options, McCain said 'is to withdraw to the borders (of Iraq) to try to keep other countries from interfering. Maintaining our bases in Kuwait and other places. There are a lot of scenarios,'" writes Simon.

". . .the presentation was almost as visually flattering as Saturday's announcement video. The Senator was nearly as smooth as if she were scripted," writes Mike Allen in his story on Sen. Clinton's first of three consecutive web chats this week. LINK

Jonthan Martin reports that in the battle for Michigan supporters, former Senate candidate Rev. Keith Butler (R-MI) plans to endorse Sen. McCain. LINK

Gov. Rendell (D-PA) spent much of the weekend avoiding calls from Clinton loyalist and DNC member Harold Ickes, reports Martin. LINK

Ben Smith offers up a photo of a concerned looking Jay Carson as he watches a Bill Clinton/Bill O'Reilly conversation take place at the McAuliffe book party. LINK

The photo of that conversation goes nicely with Smith's continued reporting on the Murdoch/Clinton relationship with a blog posting about Murdoch's daughter-in-law working for the Clinton foundation. LINK

Josephine Hearn reports more on the fact that freshman Rep. Stephen Cohen (D-TN) -- a white congressman who represents a majority black district -- is not going to join the Congressional Black Caucus. LINK


Adam Nagourney of the New York Times looks at all the different stages on which the 2008 presidential drama will likely unfold this week. LINK

The New York Times' Broder writes up the hypothetical November 2008 match-ups from the Newsweek poll out this weekend, with that Johnny R. Edwards margin-of-error lift. LINK

"The public financing system for presidential campaigns, a post-Watergate initiative hailed for decades as the best way to rid politics of the corrupting influence of money, may have quietly died over the weekend," writes David Kirkpatrick of the New York Times keying off of Sen. Clinton's decision to not participate in the public financing system for either the nomination fight or the general election. LINK

Under the headline, "Clinton Bid Heralds Demise of Public Financing," the Washington Post Balz and Most describe the likely demised of the public financing system in 2008. LINK

2008: Republicans:

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank compares Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and Sen. Sam Brownback's (R-KS) appearance at the Family Research Council's "Blog for Life," concluding that Brownback is in his element among social conservatives, and that he's not "zany" for thinking he can ride Christian conservative support all the way to the GOP nomination.LINK

2008: Republicans: Romney:

Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) proposed a five-point plan for dealing with Iran while addressing the Seventh Annual Herzliya Conference in Israel this morning.

"Iran must be stopped, Iran can be stopped, and Iran will be stopped," said Romney while adding that the "military option remains on the table."

Note the way that Romney attacked a congressional straw man in his remarks.

"And on Iraq," Romney said, "I would just like to make another point. Some congressional leaders in the United States today are arguing that the President is not authorized to allow our forces to pursue Iranian elements inside Iraq--which are attacking our own troops. That would be folly."

When Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) spoke at the National Press Club last week, he contended that the United States does not have authority to launch military action in Iran without first seeking congressional authorization. Without referring to anyone by name, Romney's remarks made it seem as if congressional leaders were opposed to going after Iranian elements "inside Iraq."

While Romney appeared in person, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) addressed the group via satellite.

2008: Republicans: Giuliani:

Mayor David Wallace of Sugarland, TX plans to host a cocktail reception fundraiser for Rudy Giuliani at the Houstonian Hotel on Thursday Feb. 1 in Houston, TX. Members of the host committee who raise $30,000 will get to join Giuliani for a private dinner following the reception.

Giuliani "is moving to sell the Wall Street wing of his multi-pronged business - the strongest sign yet that he's making a serious play for the presidency, The Post has learned," writes the prolific Maggie Haberman of the New York Post. LINK

2008: Republicans: Hagel:

Wil Hylton's profile of Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) for GQ's March issue doesn't go on newsstands for another month, but you can check it out now online. LINK

Hagel tells Hylton a pretty interesting anecdote of how the 2002 war authorization bill came to be, his belief that Colin Powell is tormented "by all of this," and his position that as a legal contract, marriage should be left up to the states.

Here's a snippet for you:

GQ: "But there was a decision whether to grant the president that authority or not."

Hagel: "Exactly right. And if you recall, the White House had announced that they didn't need that authority from Congress."

GQ: "Which they seem to say about a lot of things."

Hagel: "That's right. Mr. [Alberto] Gonzales was the president's counsel at that time, and he wrote a memo to the president saying, "You have all the powers that you need." So I called Andy Card, who was then the chief of staff, and said, 'Andy, I don't think you have a shred of ground to stand on, but more to the point, why would a president seriously consider taking a nation to war without Congress being with him?' So a few of us -- Joe Biden, Dick Lugar, and I -- were invited into discussions with the White House."

GQ: "It's incredible that you had to ask for that."

Hagel: "It is incredible. That's what I said to Andy Card. Said it to Powell, said it to Rice. Might have even said it to the president. And finally, begrudgingly, they sent over a resolution for Congress to approve. Well, it was astounding. It said they could go anywhere in the region."

GQ: "It wasn't specific to Iraq?"

Hagel: "Oh no. It said the whole region! They could go into Greece or anywhere. Is central Asia in the region? I suppose! Sure as hell it was clear they meant the whole Middle East. It was anything. It was literally anything. No boundaries. No restrictions."

GQ: "They expected Congress to let them start a war anywhere in the Middle East?"

Hagel: "Yes. Yes. Wide open. We had to rewrite it. Joe Biden, Dick Lugar, and I stripped the language that the White House had set up and put our language in it."

2008: Republicans: Pataki:

Gov. George Pataki (R-NY), from whom we have not heard much since he left office on Jan. 1, is scheduled to deliver what his aides are calling a "major policy speech" entitled, "A New Way Forward In Iraq," at Georgetown University on Friday morning at 11:00 am ET.

Gov. Pataki has yet to publicly express his support or opposition for the President's plan to add more troops in Iraq.

2008: Democrats:

The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza curtain raises Saturday's closed press SEIU event which promises to be the first testing ground of the 2008 Democratic presidential field. LINK

2008: Democrats: Clinton: the "conversation" begins:

In her inaugural web chat, Sen. Clinton's campaign blogger allowed one question of color (favorite movie?) to get through a lot of questions about issues such as Iraq, energy, healthcare, and education.

As for the movies, Sen. Clinton was not able to provide just one favorite. She has a different favorite movie for different stages in her life. "Wizard of Oz" is her favorite from childhood, during her college and law school days she liked "Casablanca" best, and in more "recent years" she put "Out of Africa" atop her list while specifically mentioning her love for Meryl Streep and Robert Redford -- which just may add up to two $4200 checks.

New York Daily News on same: LINK

Sen. Clinton "appeared comfortable as she gave animated responses to questions," writes Ian Bishop of the New York Post. LINK

The New York Daily News writes up Sen. Clinton's $1.9 billion request for treating workers who contracted illnesses working at the World Trade Center site. LINK

In his New York Post column, John Podhoretz opines that a crowded field is helpful to Hillary Clinton's candidacy for the Democratic nomination. LINK

2008: Democrats: Clinton:

The "First Man" -- Bill Clinton -- scores the New York Post wood with his first public appearance since Sen. Clinton jumped into the presidential fray. LINK

Maggie Haberman of the New York Post captures the "charming" former president's gushing about his wife. LINK

Mayor Michael Bloomberg's kind words for Sen. Clinton and belief that she is electable get written up by the New York Daily News' Saul and McAuliff. LINK

Note, too, that the Daily News has Sen. Clinton making her case to the SEIU board on Friday prior to heading to Iowa for her inaugural Hawkeye State campaign swing.

RNC goes after Clinton for McAuliffe's Iraq comments:

The RNC launched its first post-Clinton announcement attack yesterday.

The RNC research shop circulated Clinton campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe's comments from the "Today" show on Monday in which he tried to apparently create some wiggle room for Sen. Clinton on what is perceived to be one of her most prominent vulnerabilities -- her vote to authorize the use of force in Iraq in 2002.

Somewhat reminiscent of Sen. John Kerry's (D-MA) tortured explanations on his Iraq war positions McAuliffe said said yesterday morning, "She voted to give the President the authority to negotiate and to have a stick to go over there and negotiate with Saddam Hussein."

Clinton has recently tried to distance herself from the vote going so far as to say that if she knew then what she knows now she wouldn't have voted that way.

However, the Senator has also made clear that she doesn't believe you get do-overs and she takes responsibility for that vote.

Writing under a "Hillary Does Iraq Flip: GOP" header, the New York Post's Maggie Haberman has Clinton campaign spokesman Blake Zeff saying: "If the Republicans want to make this election a referendum on who's right on Iraq, they can be my guest. One of the reasons they lost 30 seats in November while Sen. Clinton routed their candidate is because she's right on this issue and they're hopelessly out of touch." LINK

2008: Democrats: Obama:

Chicago Sun-Times Lynn Sweet sets the record straight for the Obama and Clinton camps, dismissing reports that Obama was educated in a radical Islamic school during his elementary student years in Jakarta and revealing that "no evidence whatsoever" is linked between the Clinton campaign and the rumor. LINK

Democratic agenda:

The Chicago Tribune's Jill Zuckman writes up the unlikely meeting of Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) and 10 Republican congressman at an upstairs room at the Monicle. Even the check was bipartisan; Emmauel and LaHood " split the $800 tab between them, leaving an additional 20 percent tip." LINK

Note also Emanuel dishing out free rooms and his invitation to President Bush, as part of a possible pattern.

The Washington Post team of Juliet Eilperin and Michael Grunwald write that Speaker Pelosi's "powerplay" on global warming is a sign that she wants her caucus to know that she is serious about discipline and avoiding a return to the days of powerful committee chairmen. LINK

Politics of Iraq:

The Wall Street Journal's David Rogers looks at some of Republicans distancing themselves from President Bush's Iraq war, including Boehner, who "surprised some of his own colleagues by proposing the creation of a bipartisan House select committee to oversee the president's strategy in Iraq and hold the White House accountable for achieving prescribed "benchmarks."

"While details of the competing Iraq plans varied, one point could not be mistaken: a growing number of senators in both parties find the president's strategy flawed. While some Republicans still vow to back the White House, the tough language from Mr. Warner, a former chairman of the Armed Services Committee and a onetime Navy secretary, dealt a blow to administration officials trying to salvage the Iraq plan," write Jeff Zeleny and Carl Hulse of the New York Times about the alternative bipartisan anti-surge resolution unveiled yesterday by Sens. Warner, Collins, Nelson (NE), and Coleman. LINK

The Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman on the same: LINK

"Warner Bill Hits Bush's Troop Surge," blares the front-page of the Washington Times. LINK

Minneapolis Star Tribune's Kevin Diaz covers Sen. Norm Coleman's (R-MN) backing of a new Senate resolution Monday opposing a buildup of U.S. troops in Baghdad -- Diaz writes it's a move designed to stem criticism from Minnesota DFLers for appearing to break from Bush's war policy, but refusing to back up his words in votes. LINK

New Hampshire:

The New Hampshire Union Leader reports this morning that the first presidential debates will be held April 4 and 5, 2007, at St. Anselm College in the Granite State, with CNN's Wolf Blitzer moderating and questions from the Union Leader's indefatiable John DiStaso and WMUR's Scott Spradling. LINK

Political potpourri:

With Democrats now in charge on Capitol Hill, The National Federation of Independent Business is changing decades of habits, reports Jeffrey H. Birnbaum of the Washington Post. LINK

Lynn Bartels reports in the Rocky Mountain News that the Colorado Senate initially approved a bill that would put Colorado in an interstate agreement to elect the president by popular vote, instead of the electoral system currently in place -- a formal vote will be held Wednesday. LINK

Other calendar items:

Sen. Clinton continues her online chats with voters tonight at 7:00 pm ET on her website.

HotSoup's Ron Fournier invites you to join an online discussion with Govs. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) and Tom Vilsack (D-IA) during President Bush's State of the Union. LINK

Sen. Obama attends the Senate Veteran Affairs Committee oversight hearing at 10:00 am ET in the Russell Senate Office Building, then at 11:05 am ET attends the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Iraq in the Dirksen Senate Office Building and then makes an appearance at the Democratic Caucus Lunch at 12:45 pm ET in the U.S. Capitol.

Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Caucus Chairman Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) and Caucus Vice Chairman Rep. John Larson (D-CT) hold a press availability following the Democratic Caucus Meeting at 1:00 pm ET in the House Radio-TV Gallery.

Former Vice President Gore speaks at the Boe Forum on Public Affairs at Augustana College tonight at 8:00 pm ET in Sioux Falls, SD.

The Senate Armed Services Committee was scheduled to begin hearings on the nomination of Army Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, President Bush's nominee for General Commander of the Multi-National Forces-Iraq,at 9:30 am ET in the Russell Senate Office Building.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee was scheduled to begin its hearing at 9:15 am ET on "Alternative Plans for Iraq: Part III." Witnesses include Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) and former House Speaker Newt Gingrcih (R-GA).

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) holds his regular pen and pad briefing at 11:30 am ET in his U.S. Capitol office.

The Mayors Against Illegal Guns National Summit began its meeting today on Capitol Hill at 9:30 am ET.

Former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) was schedule to address the seventh annual Herzliya Conference (a summit focused on Israel's national security) in Herzliya, Israel at 8:15 am ET.

Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R-NY) speaks at the 2007 Town Hall Platinum Appreciation Dinner at as part of the Ringling School Library Association Lecture Series today in Sarasota, FL.

Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) participates in a media conference at 11 am ET call on climate change and honors veterans in a Roundhouse Rotunda ceremony in Santa Fe. Then, at 2:00 pm ET, Richardson honors New Mexico's veterans and military by reading a proclamation in the Rotunda during Military and Veterans' Day at the Legislature.

Former presidential speechwriters Ted Sorensen and Bill Safire keynote Generation Engage's annual State of the Union iChat from New York at 7:15 pm ET in the Marble Collegiate Church.