The Note: Reckless Cautiousness


President Bush, who hasn't dominated a news cycle since his State of the Union address, attempts to keep the 2008 race at bay, show he can still bag foreign policy wins (North Korea), poo-poo the Iraq debate in the House as noise not related to the mission at hand, and grab the proverbial reins at his 11:00 am ET news conference -- his first of the year -- in the East Room of the White House.

Words and phrases the President should probably avoid: "I don't pay attention to Congress," "pardon," "Democrat Party," "Dick Cheney and I believe," "he seems like an articulate fellow, but...."

ABC News' Jessica Yellin reports that "the President is expected to make an opening statement in which he will say that he has talked to Petraeus this morning and is expected to make comments on Iraq -- including the House debate -- and on North Korea."

Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid plan to lead a group of bipartisan bicameral congressional leaders to the White House for a 3:30 pm ET meeting with President Bush. Happy talk therein? Stakeout after? You make the calls.

Mitt Romney (R-MA) continues his announcement tour today traveling to South Carolina. The former governor delivers 11:00 am ET remarks at Seawell's Fairgrounds in Columbia. His event scheduled for 4:30 pm ET at Hopkinton Town Hall in Hopkintown, NH has been postponed due to the wintry weather travel delays.. Words and phrases Romney should probably avoid: "Ted Kennedy," "Massachusetts Miracle," "my faith teaches me," and "as Kevin Madden told me to say."

The House of Representatives meets at 10:00 am ET to continue its consideration of the Iraq war resolution. Things to Note so far:

1. White House and minority leadership pressure might keep Republican defections below the CW levels.

2. Democrats seem to be paying no price for not allowing a vote on an alternative.

3. The questions of what the Senate does next -- and what the House does next -- are more important than this.

As if on cue (and to throw the ball back into the court of the Clinton and Obama camps), Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) holds a conference call at 10:30 am ET to announce a "comprehensive proposal to enact his plan for Iraq."

Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R-NY) appears tonight on CNN's "Larry King Live" at 9:00 pm ET. Words and phrases Giuliani should probably avoid: "Mario Cuomo," "life begins," "open book," and "NRA."

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) participates in a panel of corporate leaders at Alliance of Communicators for Sustainable Development host a Legislators Forum on Climate Change at 2:30 pm ET in the Russell Senate office building. Sen Joe Lieberman (I/D-CT) is on the panel also. Words and phrases McCain should probably avoid: "Iraq" and "dirt."

Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) join Rep. Henry A. Waxman, at an 11:30 am ET press conference to announce the introduction of the "Access to Life-Saving Medicine Act" at the Rayburn Office Building in Washington, DC. Words and phrases Clinton should probably avoid: "it requires 60 votes," "we are winning," "I know how to stand up to the Republicans," and "you would have to ask Ann Lewis about that."

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) was scheduled to take part in a 9:30 am ET discussion with the Pew Charitable Trusts in Washington, DC on the release of their report on the prison population forecast.

Fresh from his press conference, President Bush meets with Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf at 1:40 pm ET in the Oval Office, marking the President's 100th meeting with an African Head of State.

Vice President Cheney delivered 8:30 am ET remarks at the National Association of Manufacturers' Breakfast Meeting at the JW Marriot in Washington, DC.

"Comedian and talk-show host Al Franken appears poised to launch a run for the state's Senate seat, currently held by Senator Norm Coleman, R-Minn," writes ABC News' Matthew Jaffe in his preview of Franken's final Air American radio show today. LINK

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy testifies at a 10:00 am ET hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on judicial security and independence.

The Senate Select Intelligence Committee holds a 2:30 pm ET hearing on CIA detention, interrogation, and renditions.

The House Appropriations Committee holds a 10:00 am ET budget overview hearing which includes testimony from Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

Presidential press conference:

ABC News' Knollerian Karen Travers reports that although President Bush has yet to hold a news conference this year, he did give two major addresses -- his Jan. 10 speech announcing a troop increase in Iraq and his Jan. 23 State of the Union address -- and interviews to ABC News, Fox News, NPR, USA Today, and the Wall Street Journal as well as regional television stations." LINK

(ABC News' Ann Compton Notes that "the White House communications strategy was clearly trying to go over the heads of the White House press corps with those interviews. Today's press conference comes as something of a surprise to reporters here.")

More Travers: "But in terms of full press conferences, the President was on a 10 month streak -- he held a press conference every month since March 2006."

"February was the only month last year that he did not have a press conference, but he held two in October to reach a grant total of 12 last year (by far the most he has held in one year -- see list below)."

Press conferences by the year:

2001 -- 4

2002 -- 3

2003 -- 4

2004 -- 4

2005 -- 7

2006 -- 12

2007 -- 1

2008: Republicans: Romney announces:

On "Good Morning America," ABC News' Kate Snow interviewed and profiled Ann Romney, spouse.

The Boston Globe's Scott Helman Notes that Romney's announcement "lacked the vigor of some of his past campaign appearances" but that the soundtrack played projected Romney's "man-from-the- Heartland" image. LINK

The Boston Globe on the Romney-Massachusetts complicated relationship. LINK

The Boston Globe ed board describes what it believes are Romney's sharp strategic decisions, from his announcement in Michigan to his "agility" in issue positions, where the former Governor adjusts accordingly to "fit each new constituency" and where he seeks opportunities that "best serve his ambitions." LINK

In her recap of Romney's announcement, the Washington Post's Anne Kornblut reports that Romney has made "sizable shifts" since 1994 on "issues such as abortion and gay rights" exposing himself to charges of "inconsistency and political opportunism." LINK

On Iraq, Romney "said little about his plan for ending the occupation or quelling the violence, and he left himself room to maneuver if President Bush's troop increase fails to calm the strife."

Even though a lot of Old Media types back in Washington have a hard time understanding this, the Washington Times' Ralph Z. Hallow has Chuck Laudner, executive director of Iowa's Republican Party, saying that Romney's "biggest applause of the day" came when he "expressed support for President Bush and the war in Iraq." LINK

The Des Moines Register's Lisa Rossi reports on Gov. Romney's post-announcement visit to Iowa, which was followed by "mixed reviews" by attending Iowans because of his changed positions on social issues and skepticism about his "ability to achieve his goals internationally and domestically, while keeping spending in check." LINK

Under the headline "Claiming Outsider Status, Romney Says He'll Seek the White House," the New York Times' Adam Nagourney writes, ". . . with his 20-minute announcement here in Michigan, Mr. Romney, 59, took the latest step in his transformation from a Republican who won election as governor of Massachusetts, one of the most Democratic states in the nation, to a candidate trying to capture his party's presidential nod in a nominating process dominated by social conservatives." LINK

More Nagourney: "Mr. McCain's advisers said they would hammer Mr. Romney and try to portray him the same way Republicans portrayed the last Massachusetts politician who ran for president, John Kerry, as a flip-flopper."

And yet more: "His speech drew a relatively small and subdued crowd, particularly in comparison with the crowd at the announcement speech by Senator Barack Obama, the Illinois Democrat, on Saturday in Springfield. Mr. Romney spoke nearly seven minutes before drawing a round of applause. He rushed through much of the speech, finishing in 20 minutes, before heading for a plane for Iowa."

Romney, a native son of Michigan, returned there on Tuesday hoping that his roots and his father's legacy in the state would help in securing the nomination. The Detroit Free Press' Zach Gorchow has the report. LINK

The Politico's Jonathan Martin Notes that Romney spoke in "general terms" saying "almost nothing" about his record in Massachusetts. LINK

"Rather, it was images of Americana, family and community that Romney sought to invoke."

In an interview with NBC News' Matt Lauer on "Today" this morning, Gov. Romney made no news and was largely kept off message. He dismissed the idea that he would not have the financial resources of his more famous GOP rivals. "Yes, I can raise the money," said Romney, "I didn't spend my life in politics. I have a network of friends and associates that is very broad."

Politics of Iraq:

In a must-read, the Politico's John Bresnahan reports that top House Democrats, working with anti-war groups, have decided to pursue a "slow-bleed strategy" designed to "gradually limit the administration's options." LINK

"Led by Rep. John P. Murtha, D-Pa., and supported by several well-funded anti-war groups, the coalition's goal is to limit or sharply reduce the number of U.S. troops available for the Iraq conflict, rather than to openly cut off funding for the war itself."

"'There's a D-Day coming in here, and it's going to start with the supplemental and finish with the '08 [defense] budget,' said Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, who chairs the Air and Land Forces subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee."

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee plans to start running newspaper ads on Friday in New Hampshire and Oregon targeting potentially vulnerable GOP Sens. Sununu and Smith for voting to filibuster the Warner/Levin Iraq resolution last week.

Be sure to also check out Jake Tapper's report for World News Tonight on the House debate over the Iraq resolution. LINK

Republicans say at least 24 of their members may break ranks and join with Democrats supporting the non-binding resolution expressing opposition to the President's troop increase, report the New York Times' Jeff Zeleny and Michael Luo. LINK

By not engaging in the Iraq debate, reports the Washington Post's Peter Baker, President Bush "sends the signal that it does not matter to him what Congress says in a nonbinding resolution, hoping to minimize the impact of what the White House considers the inevitable outcome. And according to strategists in both parties, he has limited influence on Capitol Hill at this point, even among fellow Republicans." LINK

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank writes that Rep. Adam Putnam (R-FL) is leading House GOPers with "a pair of somewhat contradictory arguments: (a) that the Democrats' resolution opposing Bush's Iraq buildup is a meaningless gesture, and (b) that the Democrats' resolution will cause the end of civilization as we know it." LINK

Voices from the House floor: LINK

In a Washington Post op-ed, Douglas Feith, President Bush's former undersecretary of defense for policy, defends his record and accuses Sen. Levin of whipping the Inspector General's use of the word "inappropriate" to describe the conduct of Feith's office into a "political lather." LINK

2008: Democrats: Clinton vs. Obama on Iraq:

Under a "Clinton Camp Chides Obama for Distorting Her Iraq Position," ABC News' Teddy Davis explains that Clinton is in favor of beginning a phased U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq -- even though she does not share Obama's support for specifying a date by which that withdrawal should be complete. LINK

"Asked if Obama, or his campaign, acknowledges that Clinton does support beginning a phased troop withdrawal from Iraq even though she does not share Obama's support for an actual deadline for finishing the withdrawal, Obama press secretary Bill Burton told ABC News: 'The votes on their research document appear to be accurate.'"

On the other hand: "The Obama campaign did not back down," writes the Chicago Sun Times' Lynn Sweet. LINK

"Hillary Clinton's presidential team took its first shot at Sen. Barack Obama yesterday," declares the New York Daily News' Michael McAuliff. LINK

Of course, Sen. Clinton's "bill" does not yet exist. But the New Hampshire Union Leader's John DiStaso writes, "Clinton's Senate press secretary, Philippe Reines, said in an e-mail to the New Hampshire Union Leader that the language of her bill is being finalized but will be introduced later this week, probably tomorrow." LINK

"'In addition to calling for a cap on U.S. troops at the level they were at on Jan. 1, 2007 (prior to the President's escalation plan),' Reines wrote, 'it will further the Senator's longtime call for a phased redeployment from Iraq, which she voted for in November 2005 and again in June 2006, and is a step she has called 'long overdue.'"


Susan Page of USA Today reports on a new USA Today/Gallup Poll that shows Sen. Clinton with a 19-percentage-point lead over Sen. Obama among Democrats and Mayor Giuliani with a 16-point margin over Sen. McCain among Republicans. LINK

Apparently, the GOP front-runners have more difficult hurdles to overcome with voters, as "more than four in 10 say they wouldn't vote for a 'generally well-qualified person' for president who was 72 years old -- the age McCain will reach in August 2008. Three in 10 say they wouldn't vote for someone who had been married three times, as has Giuliani. In contrast, just 11% rule out voting for a woman and 5% for a black."

In general election matchups, Mayor Giuliani would defeat both Sens. Clinton and Obama, but both Democrats would edge out Sen. McCain.

Per Los Angeles Times' Nancy Vogel, a bill that shifts the California primary to Feb. 5 instead of June 3 passed in the California Senate, and is expected to both pass easily in the Assembly next week and be signed by the Governor. LINK

"The advertising war for the 2008 presidential campaign is already under way online, as candidates buy space on search engines, blogs and other sites popular with political junkies and donors," reports the Wall Street Journal's Amy Schatz. LINK

On the same day as Romney's formal declaration and Vilsack's major energy policy speech, ABC News' Teddy Davis looks at the ways in which both former governors are casting themselves as Washington outsiders. LINK

The AP reports that in a hypothetical subway series matchup, New York voters favor Senator Clinton over Mayor Giuliani by 10 points, according to a Quinnipiac University poll. LINK

2008: Republicans:

On "Good Morning America," ABC News' Jake Tapper took a look at the GOP presidential hopefuls' "Fight for the Right". On the heels of Gov. Romney's official entrance into the 2008 race, Tapper said that he "has some work to do to win over social conservatives." Tom Minnery of Focus on the Family said that Romney will have to convince conservatives that "he really means it when he himself says he's a social conservative because he's a fairly new convert."

Tapper also explored the difficulties that the other GOP frontrunners face with conservatives. While Rev. Jerry Falwell, a former McCain adversary, has said that Sen. McCain still has the potential to be a hero to the conservative movement, Tapper said, "he could, but he ain't there yet."

Summing up the GOP search for a true conservative, Tapper asked, "Do they go with the candidate that they're with 100% who's a long shot, or someone that they're not crazy about who has a descent chance of winning?"

"Former first lady Nancy Reagan is inviting the leading GOP candidates to the first-ever debate at her husband's library in Simi Valley, Calif. 'Ronnie always hoped the library would be a place where policymakers will debate the future,' she said. 'This presidential debate provides the opportunity to fulfill his wishes.'" LINK

The Kansas City Star's Matt Stearns reports this morning that Brownback and Romney traded jabs on Tuesday over allegations of late conversions to the anti-abortion side of politics. Both are vying for the conservative base to bolster their campaigns. LINK

2008: Republicans: McCain:

The McCain camp announced today in a press release that Nashua Mayor Bernard Streeter will support Sen. McCain "should he decide to seek the presidency." Kevin Landrigan of the Nashua Telegraph has more. LINK

Citing what they claim as the "shirking" of his duties to the state of Arizona, a drive has begun to recall Sen. McCain, reports Dan Norwicki of the Arizona Republic. The recall application accuses McCain of acquiescing "in his role as a member of the legislative branch to strongly check the power of the chief executive, who has for all intents and purposes become a king." LINK

This is the second such drive levied against McCain, who faced an attempted recall in 2001 due to conservative opposition to campaign finance reform and gun control. This time, "Organizers oppose McCain's continued support of the unpopular Iraq war and consider him complicit in what they perceive as the erosion of American civil liberties associated with the war on terror."

2008: Republicans: Romney:

In a story that Notes Romney's openness to ending the long-standing U.S. practice of granting citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants born in the United States, ABC News' Teddy Davis looks at the inroads Romney has made among illegal immigration foes in the House despite a Boston Globe report that a landscaping firm he used at his home allegedly employs illegal workers. LINK

Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA), an outspoken opponent of illegal immigration who has joined Romney's congressional whip team, reacted to the Boston Globe story by telling ABC News: "A person of good will can make an inadvertent mistake. I certainly would not hold that against him."

Per the Hotline's Marc Ambinder, the Romney media team is exploring the cost of buying early TV ads in Iowa and New Hampshire. LINK

2008: Republicans: Giuliani:

The New York Times' Richard Perez-Pena takes a look at Mayor Giuliani's delicately leaving himself some breathing room should President Bush's troop surge -- which he supports -- fail. LINK

"'Giuliani may be in the best position of any of the Republican primary candidates on this because he uses very strong language in support of the war and its goals, but he doesn't have to take simple up-or-down votes, like McCain does,' said Dan Schnur, a Republican political consultant who worked for Mr. McCain in 2000 but said he expected to sit out 2008. 'He can voice the same ambivalence the voters feel.'"

ABC News' Tahman Bradley writes up Giuliani's appearance on Sean Hannity's radio program where he blasted of congressional Democrats and the Republicans who side with them on the non-binding Iraq resolution. LINK

First Lady hopeful Judi Giuliani put her nursing skills to work on a Florida-bound flight last week, per the New York Post's gossipy Page Six. LINK

2008: Republicans: Thompson:

In a recap of yesterday's unveiling of the "No Child Left Behind" commission findings, the Washington Post's learned Amit Paley has former Gov. Tommy Thompson (R-WI) saying: "You're never going to hit a home run unless you swing for the fences, and this is swinging for the fences." LINK

Per a press release, "Charlotte Mohr, who served as Governor Terry Branstad's state chair from 1978 -- 1998, has joined the Thompson for President Exploratory Committee as an honorary state chair in Iowa."

2008: Republicans: Tancredo:

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) called Capitol Hill police last week to come tell Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) to put out his cigar although the police said that Tancredo has the right to smoke in his office. The Hill's Betsy Rothstein has more. LINK


Roll Call's Erin P. Billings reports on Senatorial ambitions to the vice presidency. "I know this: Somebody has got to stay in the Senate," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). "I may be one of three Senators left. We can't all be running for president or vice president."

2008: Democrats: Obama:

Molly Ball of the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports this morning about Obama's skipping of the Carson City forum being held next week because he'll be in Iowa. "What he neglected to mention was that he'd be flying over Nevada right around that time." LINK

Today is another rough day for Sen. Obama on the New York Post's editorial page. LINK

Clarence Page pens in a Chicago Tribune op-ed that Australian Prime Minister John Howard's criticism of Obama's Iraq proposal actually helped the Senator spotlight his ideas. LINK

2008: Democrats: Clinton:

The New York Observer's Jason Horowitz delves into Sen. Clinton's press operation that has the ambitious goal "to keep control of every aspect of the message--from day to day or, as the rapid-fire exchange with the Obama campaign demonstrated, from hour to hour." The operation according to James Carville is "exceptionally good at keeping information from leaking and protecting their candidate." LINK

Horowitz leaves out that Clinton had a press conference in Iowa, but kudos to him for getting access to the "closed" Cipriani event, and providing news and color from there.

Note too, the graf about the Senator declaring in a meeting last week with her fundraiser that "We're winning."

The Washington Post's Ruth Marcus columnizes that the mood in New Hampshire this year is different from 2004 when voters "weren't so much swept away by" Kerry as "calculating that he had the best shot of winning." LINK

"Today, the mood feels different -- whether it's because that electability strategy didn't work out so well; that Bush will be out no matter what; that Democrats seem favored to win in 2008; that Iraq is more of a disaster; or that the primary is far enough away that voters can vent now and strategize later."

"For the moment," writes Marcus, "Democratic primary voters don't want" the "Kerryesque parsing" they are getting from Sen. Clinton.

The Washington Post's Harold Meyerson writes that Sen. Clinton is "almost uncannily positioned to become the Ed Muskie of 2008." LINK

The Associated Press reports that Sen. Clinton has picked up the endorsements of two of South Carolina's African-American state senators, Charleston Senator Robert Ford and Hopkins Senator Darrell Jackson. (And be sure to Note another example of how the would-be future First Gentleman is working the phones.) LINK

Of former President Clinton's call to him asking that he endorse Sen. Clinton over Obama, South Carolina State Senator and key African American politician Bill Ford said "That made somebody like me feel real honored," reports the New York Post's Maggie Haberman. LINK

McClatchy's Steven Thomma weighs the journalistic validity of some of the media's questions regarding Sen. Clinton's marriage, voice, and hair, reminding us, "Remember Al Gore's bald spot? The debate over whether Ronald Reagan dyed his pompadour? Or how about potential Clinton rival Rudy Giuliani's comb-over? Silly? Sure. Demeaning? Probably. Human? Inevitably." LINK

2008: Democrats: Edwards:

ABC News' Jake Tapper has the story on the second resignation in the Edwards campaign's blogger episode. LINK

The Associated Press on the latest in the blogger tale. LINK

The Edwards campaign announced via press release yesterday "that Jennifer O'Malley would join the campaign as the Iowa State Director and Beth Leonard would join as the New Hampshire State Director."

2008: Democrats: Vilsack:

ABC News' Matthew Zavala writes up Gov. Vilsack's energy policy proposal that he released yesterday calling for more energy efficient automobiles and cutting greenhouse emissions. Vilsack also said by continuing to rely on oil, "we, as a nation, are funding both sides of the war on terrorism." LINK

Thomas Beaumont of the Des Moines Register has the details on Gov. Vilsack's energy plan, pointing out Vilsack's assertion that corn-based ethanol will fail to meet the nation's renewable energy needs, and writes, "Although all the Democrats seeking the 2008 nomination stress cutting petroleum use, Vilsack is the first to present a detailed plan." LINK

2008: Democrats: Dodd:

Led by Sen. Dodd, a group of Senate Democrats introduced legislation yesterday "that would restore habeas corpus rights to all detainees in U.S. custody and would narrowly define what it means to be an 'enemy combatant' against the United States," reports the Washington Post's Josh White. LINK

"'I take a backseat to no one when it comes to protecting the country from terrorists,' Dodd said in an e-mail statement yesterday.

Big Casino budget politics:

"Congress is poised to send President Bush a $463.5 billion spending bill that bears the imprint of the new Democratic majority and presages budget battles over defense and domestic priorities," reports the Wall Street Journal's David Rogers.

House of Labor:

As a House committee is set to begin work today on the Employee Free Choice Act, the Wall Street Journal's Jeanne Cummings reports that business interests are "raising millions of dollars to defeat" the proposal which would "ease labor-organizing efforts." LINK

2008: Democrats: Gore:

An influential Democratic insider says that close associates of Vice President Gore "have communicated to him and other prominent fund-raisers who are uncommitted to the other '08 candidates that Mr. Gore will consider entering the race -- if an opening presents itself -- in September," reports the New York Observer's Steve Kornacki. LINK

On Gore delaying his possibly entry into the race Kornacki writes, "(w)ith his Oscar and Nobel Prize nominations, upcoming Congressional testimony on global warming, and an international day of concerts to promote climate-change awareness that he's organizing for early July, Mr. Gore figures to receive more prominent news coverage in the months ahead than many of the announced candidates."

The Valentine's Day tradition continues:

Despite rain, sleet, and snow, the political world's finest Valentine's Day tradition continues today, with Democratic Man Fred Hochberg hosting 75 lovely, clean, and articulate (mostly) Democratic ladies who lunch in Gotham City to talk about politics -- with the focus, natch, on 2008.

Expected to attend today at the East Side's fashionable Tocqueville restaurant are the bookish Nancy Bass, the clever Maria Cuomo Cole, the determined Patricia Duff, the historic Geraldine Ferraro, the maternal and tough Karenna Gore Schiff, the mayoral Christine Quinn, the catalogueist Lilian Vernon, the transportational and academic Iris Weinshall, and the extraordinarily well-wired Maureen White.

Expect M&Ms with candidate names, as well as cheddar cheese gougers and tuna tartare on gaufrette potatoes, cato farm cheddar cheese salad with roasted bosc pear, shaved fennel, and hazelnut dressing. The main course: wild salmon wrapped in savoy cabbage with beluga lentils, fennel marmalade, watercress salad and a light bagna calda broth. Dessert will be a selection of Valentine's Day cookies and truffles.

And there will be a secret survey about 2008 -- preferences and predictions. According to the New York Post, if Hillary Clinton doesn't get all 75 votes on the Democratic nomination question, she is toast.