The Note: Follow My Lead, Oh, How I Need


The Republic faces a number of challenges, but it is becoming more true -- rather than less true -- that the politics of 2007 and 2008 are being shaped by exactly one issue.

Senate Democrats, per a must-read Washington Post tone poem, are closely watching their Republican counterparts on Iraq. LINK

But also:

Clinton is closely watching Obama on Iraq. LINK

Bush (and Cheney) are closely watching Rep. Boehner to see if he goes squishy on Iraq.

Doves are closely watching Pelosi -- later today headed to the White House to team up with the President -- to see if she goes squishy on Iraq.

Biden, via some spicy New York Observer quotes about Clinton and Edwards, is trying to get people to closely watch him on Iraq. LINK

Edwards, with some spicy quotes of his own, is closely watching Clinton watching Obama on Iraq. LINK

Sharp Republican strategists -- watching Sen. McCain, Romney, and Giuliani hug Bush's policy -- wonder when one of them will have the nerve/sense/guts to deviate on Iraq.

The Republican National Committee is watching Obama's new troop withdrawal plan on Iraq. (Thus begging the question: will the RNC try to open up Illinois' Junior Senator on this issue -- as they would a Clinton, or even a McAuliffe? Or are they deliberately going easy on him so that they don't neuter his ability to cause Clinton trouble?)

On "Good Morning America," Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE), whose solution to The Problem is partition, told ABC News' Diane Sawyer, "I'm not exploring. I'm in. And it's the start of a marathon."

The Biden campaign has launched its website this morning at">LINK. At about 10:00 am ET, on the site's front page, the Senator's video statement will launch. Then, later in the day, Sen. Biden plans to hold a press conference call at about 2:15 pm ET before heading to New York City to tape the "Daily Show." (He'll also work in some Senate Foreign Relations Committee business this morning with former Secretaries of State Albright and Kissinger appearing as witnesses. The hearing was scheduled to get underway at 9:15 am ET.)

President Bush, whose solution to The Problem is a surging David Petraeus, delivers remarks on the economy at 11:05 am ET at Federal Hall in New York City. Mr. Bush later appears in a taped interview on Fox News Channel's "Your World with Neil Cavuto" at 4:00 pm ET.

And/but the President's schedule again seems to indicate awareness at 1600 that even a big economic speech in the financial capital of the world won't knock The Problem out of the headlines.

ABC News' Jessica Yellin reports that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and her Iraq CODEL meet with the President at the White House at 3:50 pm ET. White House Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino tells Yellin, "Yesterday afternoon the President had a good phone conversation with Sen. Reid and Speaker Pelosi and they agreed to put together a bipartisan War on Terror working group."

The group's first meeting will be next week, adds Yellin. Will this meeting produce comity? Results? Agreements about agreements? Could it be the start of a beautiful, bipartisan friendship? Stay tuned for the body language. Hint: no stakeout appearance by the Speaker would be a good sign for those who want a deal.

On the President's Gotham jaunt, ABC News' Ann Compton reports, "The economic speech is now scheduled to last 50 minutes, making it almost full State of the Union-size. 150 NYC guests are expected and Mayor Bloomberg will introduce him."

"Then in other rooms at Federal Hall, President Bush will be interviewed by the Wall Street Journal editorial board and he will meet privately with Caesar Borja Jr who was Senator Clinton's guest at State of the Union, the day his firefighter father died of 9-11 related illnesses."

Journalisto Matt Cooper is expected to take center stage at the Libby trial today.

Sens. Cornyn (R-TX) and DeMint (R-SC) holds a pen and pad in the Senate print gallery at 10:00 am ET to discuss the Iraq resolutions.

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) delivers the keynote address at the "Ten Big Ideas for a New America" policy forum at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill at 11:00 am ET.

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) is in Michigan today where he plans to deliver a speech entitled "The Proper Role of the Judiciary" at Ave Maria School of Law at 11:00 am ET in Ann Arbor, MI. Brownback also keynotes at the Michigan Society of Association Executives at The Lansing Center at 1:30 pm ET in Lansing, MI. Later, the Senator holds a media availability at the Hilton Grand Rapids Airport at 4:15 pm ET in Lansing, MI.

Former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) holds a town hall on America's role in the world at 2:30 pm ET at the Hopkins Center at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH.

The Senate Armed Services Committee holds a closed full committee hearing on the Iraq "surge" at 10:00 am ET.

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) holds a 2:00 pm ET on camera press availability in the House studio.

Gov. Jim Doyle (D-WI) meets with the Senate Democratic Caucus where he plans to discuss stem cell research and then will make remarks at 1:00 pm ET at the Center for American Progress in Washington, DC.

Former President Bill Clinton is scheduled to appear at an event honoring supporters of the "American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial" at 6:00 pm ET at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, DC.

The Creative Coalition holds a "Welcome Back Celebration: A Tribute to the 110th Congress" at B. Smith's Union Station at 8:00 pm ET in Washington, DC. Participants include: Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Max Baucus (D-MT), House Government Reform Chairman Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), Rep. Mary Bono (R-CA), Heather Graham, Bridget Moynahan, Fran Drescher and other politicians and celebrities.

Today is Harriet Miers' last day as White House counsel.

Politics of Iraq:

The New York Times' Carl Hulse and Thom Shanker have a front-page look at President Bush's Senate GOP allies' efforts to block a vote on the nonbinding rejection of President Bush's troop increase plan. LINK

The division within the conference in that closed door policy luncheon yesterday clearly was a bit too great to remain behind closed doors. Sen. Specter practically broke down in tears within the Situation Room in recounting it to Rabbi Confessor Blitzer.

After initially aiming to rally around a single resolution that would allow the party's senators to express doubts about the plan without stating their outright opposition, the Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman and Shailagh Murray report that Republicans appear to be "balkanizing," with at least five Republican drafts now in play and more GOPers stating their reservations. LINK

"The admiral picked by President Bush to oversee his new strategy for Iraq testified yesterday that he does not know much about the plan that the administration says will determine whether the U.S. wins the war," reports the Washington Times' Rowan Scarborough and Charles Hurt. LINK

USA Today's Richard Wolf reports on the efforts of some House Democrats to redirect funds intended for Iraq to "military readiness at home." Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), defense budget subcommittee chairman, said, "We've got problems in our own country. We're going to check every cent that's spent by the United States government" in the war on terrorism. LINK

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, David Rivkin and Lee Casey, who served in the Justice Department under President Reagan and President George H.W. Bush, argue that "unless Congress withdraws funding for the Iraqi war as a whole, the president would" be "justified in refusing to comply."

Bush to Stark:

In an exclusive interview, ABC News' Betsy Stark talked with President Bush about invading Iran, to which, he replied, "Nobody's talking about that." During the interview, President Bush made mention of his budget that will be presenting next week. If the Democrats try to raise taxes, "I've got a veto that will prevent them from raising taxes" said Bush. There's plenty more here: LINK

2008: Democrats: Biden:

In your must-read 2008 story of the day, the New York Observer's Jason Horowitz writes up an interview with Sen. Biden -- a man who didn't mince words about Sens. Clinton, Obama, Edwards. LINK

On Clinton, Biden calls the likely results of her position on Iraq, "nothing but disaster." (Sen. Biden offered kind words about Sen. Clinton on "Good Morning America," but didn't back down from his assessment of her plan for Iraq when pressed by ABC News' Diane Sawyer.)

Biden goes on in the Observer story to talk about Sen. Clinton's political standing.

"'Are they going to turn to Hillary Clinton?' Biden asked, lowering his voice to a hush to explain why Mrs. Clinton won't win the election."

"'Everyone in the world knows her,' he said. 'Her husband has used every single legitimate tool in his behalf to lock people in, shut people down. Legitimate. And she can't break out of 30 percent for a choice for Democrats? Where do you want to be? Do you want to be in a place where 100 percent of the Democrats know you? They've looked at you for the last three years. And four out of 10 is the max you can get?'"

Cris Barrish of the Wilmington News-Journal looks at Sen. Biden's 21st Century rollout plan (web video, "Daily Show") compared to his 1987 announcement at the Wilmington train station. LINK

Nicole Gaudiano of the Wilmington News-Journal gets some expectations setting from Sen. Biden in a pre-announcement interview. LINK

"'I have to do well in Iowa and I have to do well in New Hampshire,' he said. 'If I do well in those two places, I win South Carolina and I think the nomination would be mine. To put it another way, if Barack Obama or [former Sen.] John Edwards or Hillary Clinton doesn't win Iowa, they're out.'"

More Gaudiano: "His campaign committee, Biden for President Inc., will open its office in Wilmington within the next couple of weeks."

Be sure to Note Sen. Biden's pushback on criticism of his vote for the Bankruptcy Act of 2005.

Probably not a scheduled part of the Biden rollout: LINK

Democratic agenda:

ABC News' Jake Tapper and Mike Callahan report on Rep. Henry Waxman's (D-CA) hearings with scientists and experts who believe their research on global warming was suppressed by the Bush administration. LINK

Be sure to check out Jake Tapper's 'Political Punch' as he comments on the scientist's testimony about global warming. LINK

As the expiration of the President's ability to negotiate trade deals approaches, USA Today's David Lynch reports that, wary of giving the President a black check, House Democrats are looking for "assurances" before reinstating the President's authority. "The price of an extension may be administration agreement on new efforts to prepare workers for an era of less job security and help for those who lose their jobs as the economy adjusts," writes Lynch. LINK

Democratic lawmakers are going to study if the Pentagon obtained proper approval for covert intelligence operations and notified Congress as required, reports the Wall Street Journal's Scot Paltrow.

Republicans who were attacked by Democrats in the fall for raising their own pay while blocking an increase in the minimum wage are "unwilling to allow Democrats to reinstate the members' COLA," even though Democrats have taken some action on the minimum wage, "forcing Democratic leaders to scuttle the 1.7 percent pay increase for the entire year," reports the Associated Press. LINK

House of Labor:

Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post opines about the new Democratic leaning entity, "They Work For Us," and posits that Andy Stern of the SEIU is a kingmaker and tree shaker. LINK

The courtship of one of the most influential groups in presidential politics is in full swing, reports ABC News' Teddy Davis. LINK

Harold Schaitberger, the general president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, had dinner Tuesday evening with Sen. Clinton. On Saturday, he is having a one-on-one meeting with John Edwards. These meetings -- and a handful of others that have already occurred and that are still in the works -- are a prelude to the I.A.F.F. making its 2008 presidential endorsement.

In addition to the one-on-one meetings, a key proving ground for the I.A.F.F.'s endorsement will come at the union's 2008 presidential forum which will be held from Mar. 11-14 at the Hyatt on Capitol Hill.

Per Politico's Jonathan Martin: "Anna Burger, the second-ranking official in the politically powerful Service Employees International Union, said Tuesday that her union could make an endorsement in the 2008 presidential race as early as this fall, when it holds a conference with thousands of its members." LINK

"The SEIU had almost every Democratic contender come before its top officials last weekend and plans to invite those same candidates back to Washington for another assessment in September." "'That would be a natural time to come out of there with an endorsement,' Burger said in an interview Tuesday with Politico editors and reporters."


Per Roll Call's Billings, the four top House and Senate party leaders -- R's and D's -- will likely refrain from supporting a presidential candidate until clear nominees emerge.

Patrick Healy of the New York Times uses video of Sen. Clinton singing off key, former Sen. Edwards "fussing with his hair for two minutes," and video clips of former Gov. Romney defending abortion rights to show how new technology and "You Tube" is impacting the 2008 presidential race. LINK

"The video clip may have been trivial, but the brief episode surrounding it illustrated how visual and audio technologies like video streaming have the potential to drive political news in unexpected directions, and how White House candidates are aggressively monitoring and trying to master them," writes Healy.

As always, Kevin Madden is willing to play political pundit.

2008: Republicans:

With the global warming debate heating up on Capitol Hill yesterday, Sen. McCain led the call of concern -- as opposed to Mitt Romney who has stayed relatively mum on the subject, reports Janet Hook and Richard Simon of the Los Angeles Times. LINK

2008: Republicans: McCain:

"GOP Reps. Spencer Bachus (Ala.), Mark Kirk (Ill.), Dan Lungren (Calif.), John Shimkus (Ill.), John Shadegg (Ariz.) and Fred Upton (Mich.) will serve as McCain's emissaries in the House, with additions to the team expected to be announced later," writes Roll Call's Whittington.

In a press release, Sen. McCain's campaign announced today that "Fred Zeidman has joined the Arizona Senator's team and will serve as National Vice Chair for Jewish Outreach."

The Montgomery Advertiser reports that Dax Swatek, who managed Gov. Bob Riley's (R-AL) campaign, has signed up with Team McCain as an Alabama adviser. LINK

(We may have a winner for the "most Sci-Fi name for a campaign adviser" award.)

The Arizona Republic's Dan Nowicki examines how Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is talking his time to officially announce his presidential candidacy. LINK

2008: Republicans: Romney:

The State's Aaron Gould Sheinin writes up Gov. Romney's Columbia, SC visit and appeal for support. LINK

Romney's veto on a budget provision in 2003 that would have reimbursed Massachusetts nursing homes in for giving kosher meals to Jewish residents on Medicaid may hurt his chances in wooing the Jewish community, per the Politico's Ryan Grim. LINK

In a New York Sun opinion piece, Eli Lake looks at Gov. Romney's conversion on some issues and particularly examines the "Reagan Republican" label, saying, "The former Massachusetts governor parts his hair the way Reagan did, his voice sometimes dips into the Gipper's slight gravel, and he holds his arms and shoulders loosely near his side. Don't be surprised if he starts answering questions from reporters, smiling, with the preposition, 'well.'" LINK

2008: Republicans: Giuliani:

New York Daily News columnist Mike Lupica uses everything but his September 11 performance to dispel what he see as the Giuliani "myth." LINK

"When you are the mythical mayor of America, instead of a declared candidate for the Republican nomination for President of the United States, it means nobody wants to talk about what kind of mayor of New York City you were before Sept. 11, 2001. That is a real good thing for Giuliani."

Previewing his Thursday Texas fundraiser and eating Bloomberg dust, The New York Observer's Anna Schneider-Mayerson looks at former Mayor Giuliani's efforts to use his law firm to court big-name, big money Bush bundlers. LINK

2008: Republicans: Huckabee:

In an interview with the AP's Mike Glover, Huckabee said: "I think the reality has set in that Republicans got beat because they deserved to. They failed to act like Republicans." LINK

The Des Moines Register's Grant Schulte highlights Huckabee's focus on health, migrants, music, and art. LINK

2008: Republicans: Brownback:

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) told Iowans on Tuesday that he may be the lesser known candidate, but he will do very well once his policy ideas are put forth and pass the more higher profile names. The hard-working Kay Henderson of Radio Iowa has more. LINK

Sen. Brownback said yesterday that he wants to focus on issues like human trafficking, climate change and poverty that are consensus builders, reports the Des Moines Register's Drew Kerr. LINK

When asked how he will overcome his current dark horse status, Sen. Brownback invoked Sen. Obama.

"'Did you know who Barack Obama was at this time a year ago? I think I will be in that spot once the voter contact is made,' he said."

The Cedar Rapids Gazette's Steve Gravelle Notes that Sen. Brownback, who drives a Honda Civic Hybrid, "figures simply getting his message out to GOP caucus-goers will propel him past Giuliani, who is pro-choice and supports same-sex civil unions, gun control, and embryonic stem cell research, and McCain, who supports increased troop levels in Iraq." LINK

"After a Cedar Rapids reception for county auditor candidate Dan Abolins last night, Brownback has events scheduled this week in Michigan, South Carolina, and Florida."

2008: Republicans: Pataki:

"Pataki said he does not expect to announce his intentions soon, but will be engaging in some 'thoughtful policy analysis about the real challenges facing this country,'" writes Garry Rayno of the New Hampshire Union Leader from his interview with Gov. Pataki on his plan for Iraq. LINK

"Two areas he mentioned for possible discussion are energy independence for the United States and ways of strengthening the country's economy by lowering the tax burden on working Americans."

2008: Democrats:

The Washington Post's high-concept Ruth Marcus compares Sen. Obama to Bill Clinton and Sen. Clinton to Al Gore. LINK

2008: Democrats: Clinton:

Howard Wilkinson of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports on the latest Quinnipiac Poll showing Sen. Clinton as the clear favorite among Democratic primary voters in Ohio, and within the margin of error against all potential general election rivals. Playing the expectations game, Hamilton County Republican Chairman George Vincent claimed surprise that Sen. Clinton was not even farther ahead at this early stage. "'With the strong showing the Democrats had in Ohio in November and her enormous name recognition, I would have guessed she'd be way out front,'" says Vincent. LINK

"Buckeyes on the Prize: Hil Leads all in Ohio," headlines the New York Daily News' look at the Quinnipiac poll. LINK

With the headline "Hill Trouncing Rivals in N.H. & Ohio," the New York Post's Ian Bishop writes up Sen. Clinton's current poll position in New Hampshire and Ohio. LINK

Pat Healy blogs at "The Caucus" on about last night's book party for Sen. Schumer thrown by his Empire State colleague, Sen. Clinton with her Letterman-esque proposed alternate titles for his new book. LINK

2008: Democrats: Obama:

For the first time, Sen. Obama proposed "setting a deadline for withdrawing troops from Iraq," reports the Washington Post's Shailagh Murray. LINK

"Obama's legislation . . . would remove all combat brigades from Iraq by March 31, 2008."

"New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson is the only other prominent Democrat in the field to set a withdrawal timetable, declaring that troops 'can and should' be brought home by the end of 2007."

ABC News' Z. Byron Wolf writes up the Obama plan for Iraq. LINK

Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun Times Notes that Sen. Obama's call for a fixed deadline is a new position for the Senator. Sweet reports that as recently as his November 20 speech in Chicago, he was not suggesting an "overly rigid" timetable for complete withdrawal. LINK

Seton Hall Law Professor Mark Alexander told his students that he would be leaving his teaching gig in a few weeks to become the policy director for Sen. Obama's presidential campaign, per the "Inside Edge" blog on LINK

2008: Democrats: Edwards:

The Politico's Roger Simons assesses fomer Sen. Edwards' attempts to position himself as the "authenticity" candidate and his recent tough talk for his opponents, calling the non-binding Iraq resolutions as well as Sen. Obama's plan, "useless." LINK

2008: Democrats: Dodd:

David Lightman of the Hartford Courant reports on Sen. Chris Dodd's (D-CT) showing in recent polls. Dodd said, "I'm competing with the margin of error in most polls." LINK


"As he apparently readies for a re-election bid, Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa raised $362,000 in the last three months of last year," according to FEC reports due today. LINK

The Des Moines Register's David Yepsen on Gov. Chet Culver's (D-IA) new budget. LINK

The Libby trial: Judith Miller's day on the stand:

ABC News' Jason Ryan and Pierre Thomas have all the details on Miller's testimony. LINK

USA Today's Willing reports that Judy Miller said Libby seemed "agitated, frustrated and angry" in their first meeting by what he called a "perverted war of leaks" by Wilson and others tied to the CIA, and that Libby "was concerned that the CIA was beginning to backpedal to try to distance itself from the unequivocal intelligence estimates it had provided before the war." LINK

The New York Times team of Lewis and Shane write that Miller "provided the testimony that was most damaging to Mr. Libby, he sat almost motionless in his chair about 20 feet away and stared at her." LINK

In the states:

Stepping into the debate over health care, Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) will call for expanded coverage of the state's 780,000 uninsured in his State of the State address today, reports the Washington Post's Lisa Rein. LINK

In California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's fellow Republicans are putting forward more "modest" plans than he had hoped for on universal healthcare coverage. The Los Angeles Times has the story. LINK

Casting and counting:

"A federal court trial is expected to end this week in a Justice Department lawsuit seeking an end to 'relentless voting-related discrimination' by black political leaders in a rural Mississippi county -- the first suit brought under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that accuses blacks of suppressing the rights of whites, reports the Washington Times' Jerry Seper. LINK