The Note: The Flames Go Higher


Review our three political rings:

Ring 1: Iraq.

Ring 2: other legislative business.

Ring 3: 2008.

As we do every Friday, then, let's prep you for the Friday cocktail hour by going over how the rings are interacting.

Ring 1 is largely determining the contours of Ring 3.

Ring 1 is bringing Ring 2 to a grinding halt.

Ring 3 is also limiting progress in Ring 2.

To be more specific:

Ring 1 (Iraq): See ABC News' Jon Karl's second consecutive worldwide exclusive interview with Vice President Cheney, in which he continues to question Speaker Pelosi's judgment (but never ever her patriotism) on Iraq. LINK See the Democrats in Congress not falling into the Republicans' trap (yet) and avoiding a stop-the-war strategy that will (fully) open them up to charges of abandoning the troops. As they tinker with various legislative efforts to achieve their goal of bringing American troops home, Democrats have three main goals: (1) appease their base; (2) keep their coalition together; and (3) most of all, pressure enough Republicans to demand that the President change course. Oh: and: as a political matter, is the surge working?

Ring 2 (other legislative business): If you think that the Bush-Cheney posture on the war is putting Pelosi and Leader/boxer Reid in the mood to bipartisanly strategize about how to pull off tough victories on health care, entitlements, energy, education, and/or immigration, we have a Presidio we would like to sell you. And if you think that the weakened Bush White House can deliver, say, the 70 Republican House votes on possible deals that the Democrats will demand, we have a mountain in Wyoming we want to sell you. Watch the Pelosi body language on the Leno couch. The longer Ring 1 produces distrust and animous between the Democratic leaders and the White House-Hill Republicans, the less likely there will be progress in Ring 2. And the closer that hatred (yes, "hatred") pushes potential action to January, 2008, the more likely it is that congressional Democrats (and, also, congressional Republicans) will say that they are going to wait for their presidential nominee's plans on all these things before moving forward.

Ring 3 (2008): Both frontrunners this past week tried to deal with the reality that Iraq is ruining their campaigns. Hillary Clinton pulled her "vote for someone else if you don't like my record" act out on the issue, and also tried to turn the focus to the future. (She had some success, but then was Geffened.) John McCain tried to have a high-profile event that wouldn't be dominated by Iraq by appearing with Arnold Schwarzenegger on global warming. (He had some success, but then he was Cheneyed.)

Beneath the Geffen cloud, watch closely these 2008 developments:

1. The Clinton campaign is the first (of the Big 6) to go for a high-profile Howard Dean-style Internet baseball bat-type fundraising drive. Launched on Geffen Day by a Bill Clinton mass e-mail, the goal is to raise $1 million on the web in one week. Three days in, they are nearing $400,000. If you don't know why this is key, you aren't paying enough attention. LINK

2. Watch closely the nearly-below-the-radar efforts of McCain to eliminate Mitt Romney, and wonder when either McCain or Romney will decide it is time to start to eliminate Rudy Giuliani.

3. Wait to see just how big a crowd Barack Obama draws in Austin, Texas today. Note prediction: very big. LINK

4. John Edwards passed with flying colors his first test of "How to Sneak up the Middle" against Clinton and Obama. But there are more tests coming.

5. Those outside the Big 6 learned again: it is going to be tough to break in.

Making it tougher still to break in: the media's obsession with the man who would make the Big 6 the Big 7. Basically, the political press wants to tempt Al Gore into the race, and then they will destroy him as a flip-flopping, exaggerating, stiff, loser. And Gore knows this.

As the world awaits the former Vice President's Sunday "red carpet" moment and his plans – win or lose -- to attend the Governor's Ball and Vanity Fair parties, Sen. Barack Obama's (D-IL) campaign is anticipating more than 10,000 people at a 3:00 pm ET rally at Auditorium Shores in Austin, TX. LINK

Keying off of Tony Blair's troop withdrawal announcement, Obama plans to reiterate his call for beginning a phased troop withdrawal on May 1 with the goal of removing all combat troops by March 31, 2008. The Obama plan currently has 30 supporters in Congress including two co-sponsors in the Senate and 28 sponsors on the House companion bill (HR 787). (The two Senate co-sponsors of Obama's bill are the Green Mountain State duo of Leahy and Sanders.)

At 3:00 pm ET, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is speaking at a luncheon event being co-presented by the Discovery Institute which ABC News' Jake Tapper refers to as "the controversial organization that promotes intelligent design theory and combats Darwinism" in his curtain raiser. LINK

Although the luncheon is being formally hosted by the CityClub of Seattle and the Seattle World Affairs Council, McCain is "being hammered" by the liberal "Campaign to Defend the Constitution" for associating with the Discovery Institute which is one of several organizations "co-presenting" the event.

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) attends a luncheon at 3:00 pm ET at the Sheraton Palace Hotel in San Francisco, CA. Be sure to read Variety's recap of Sen. Clinton's Tinseltown fundraising on Thursday including a meeting with the CAA partners. LINK

?categoryid=18&cs=1">LINK (And ignore the New York Post's reporting that Bill Clinton is raising Gotham coin today; he actually did it last night in Westchester.)

Former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) has a 9:00 am ET tour of GT Solar, Inc in Merrimack, NH followed by 10:00 am ET media availability.

As Republican '08ers continue to prepare for the March 1 straw poll in South Carolina's Spartanburg and Cherokee Counties, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) participates in a 11:00 am ET breakfast with the anti-tax group FreedomWorks in South Carolina. And, yes, thanks to Brian Lamb, we all now know that Rick Beltram IS Rocky.

Former Gov. Tommy Thompson (R-WI) delivers an 6:30 pm keynote address at a College Republican fundraiser at the West Des Moines Marriot in Iowa.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) appears on NBC's "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."

Maintaining his energy focus, President Bush holds a 10:35 am ET meeting with transportation fuel experts and researchers in the Roosevelt Room at the White House. The President then views a demonstration of alternative fuel automobiles on the South Lawn of the White House at 11:25 am ET.

President Bush is aiming to reduce gasoline consumption by 20 percent over the next 10 years.

The jury in the trial of Scooter Libby begins its third day of deliberations today.

The Senate is in recess until Monday, Feb. 26. The House is in recess until Tuesday, Feb. 27.

On ABC News' 'This Week', ABC News' George Stephanopoulos interviews former President Jimmy Carter. The roundtable is a classic with ABC News' Sam Donaldson, Cokie Roberts, and George Will. And this week's voices will be Patrick Dempsey from Grey's Anatomy.

See below for weekend calendar items including the start of the NGA, DGA, and RGA activities.

Politics of Iraq:

"Senate Democratic leaders intend to unveil a plan next week to repeal the 2002 resolution authorizing the war in Iraq in favor of narrower authority that restricts the military's role and begins withdrawals of combat troops," reports the Washington Post's Shailagh Murray and Jonathan Weisman. LINK

"House Democrats have pulled back from efforts to link additional funding for the war to strict troop-readiness standards after the proposal came under withering fire from Republicans and from their party's own moderates." That strategy was championed by" Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) and endorsed by Speaker Pelosi.

More on the Democrats' plan to restrict U.S. military efforts in Iraq from Politico's John Bresnahan. LINK

The AP's David Espo: LINK

Needing someone to fight against Democrats' assault on President Bush's handling of the war, House Republicans have turned to Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX), a former Vietnam cell mate with Sen. John McCain, reports The Los Angeles Times' Richard Simon. LINK

Cheney v. Pelosi:

"My statement was that if we adopt the Pelosi policy, is that we will validate the strategy of Al-Qaeda," Vice President Cheney told ABC News' Jonathan Karl today in Syndey, Australia. "I said it and I meant it." LINK

In a second exclusive interview with ABC News' Karl, Cheney said he stands by his criticism of Speaker Pelosi.

"I didn't question her patriotism, I questioned her judgment . . . My statement was that if we adopt the Pelosi policy, that then we will validate the strategy of al Qaeda. I said it and I meant it."

In the interview, the Vice President refused to acknowledge any failure of US policy in Iraq. "A failed strategy? Let's see: We didn't fail when we got rid of Saddam. We didn't fail when we held elections. We didn't fail when we got a constitution written. Those are success stories," Cheney said in a sit-down interview in Sydney, Australia.

Asked about the American death toll, the Vice President responded, "You always regret when you have casualties, but we are at war and we have to succeed where we've begun this venture. And we can."

When asked about Iran's nuclear standoff, Cheney responded that all options are on the table. The military option? "We haven't taken any options off the table."

Slamming Speaker Pelosi for her call to the President complaning about Vice President Cheney, the New York Post ed boards writes that Speaker Pelosi has nothing to be upset with Cheney's "I think in fact if we were to do what Speaker Pelosi and Congressman Murtha are suggesting, all we'll do is validate the al Qaeda strategy." LINK

2008: Clinton v. Obama:

In a telephone interview, Barack Obama responds to the New York Times and says he was unaware of the back and worth in which his communications director Robert Gibbs was a participant because of a haircut, among other things. Obama seemed to suggest that he was not going to allow his campaign to be drawn into such skirmishes in the future. LINK

More from the paper's Nagourney, who declares Clinton the winner of the face-off: "Mr. Obama said he had been on a red-eye flight, getting a haircut and taking his daughters to school as the fight broke out, and strongly suggested he had told his aides he wanted to stay above the fray. 'I told my staff that I don't want us to be a party to these kinds of distractions because I want to make sure that we're spending time talking about issues,' Mr. Obama said. 'My preference going forward is that we have to be careful not to slip into playing the game as it customarily is played.'"

The Houston Chronicle has Obama bemoaning the politics of "tit for tat." LINK

The Los Angeles Times editorial board writes that David Geffen was right to point out that Sen. Clinton needs to address the perception that the White House is home to political dynasties. LINK

"Criticism by media mogul Geffen, a onetime ally of Bill and Hillary Clinton, underscores concerns among Democrats that controversies over candor and personal behavior could embroil 2008 ticket. Clinton team's attack on Geffen's new favorite, Obama, aimed to quash such discussion, but a top adviser laments that the tactic "gave it too much attention,"' reports CNBC's Wirey John Harwood, implicitly joining in the Clinton "top adviser" definitional derby.

The San Francisco Chronicle's Carla Marinucci finds that there is "zero tolerance" for "dalliances" on Sen. Clinton's Tinseltown turf. LINK

Debra J. Saunders at the San Francisco Chronicle laments the opportunity missed by Sen. Obama (who she identifies as "Sen. Barack Obama, D-swim trunks)," who skipped the Nevada forum on Wednesday, and blasts the Senators who did show up, saying, "I cannot respect senators who voted for a war, then walked away from it when public support deflated." LINK

The New York Times chronicles the friendship that was and why things went sour between the Clintons and Geffen. LINK

"Fight! Fight!" exclaims Jake Tapper in his Political Punch blog, where he has his video report on the Obama-Clinton scuffle, and spurs discussion on who's right, and who wins. LINK

Dust-up in the desert: winners and losers:

Peggy Noonan on/in the opinionjournal says that Clinton not only lost, but showed a new vulnerability. (And Noonan does NOT HEART Howard Wolfson.) LINK

The AP's Beth Fouhy seems to suggest that Clinton lost too. LINK

The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne says that the Democratic Party and its agenda emerged as a loser this week and he raises the specter of 1988 when Gary Hart and Joe Biden imploded. LINK

The Daily News' Washington bureau chief sees Obama and Clinton both emerging as losers, along with the Democratic Party. LINK


For Time magazine, Joe Klein looks at how front runners McCain and Clinton have, for now, "lost their edge." LINK

2008: Republicans: Giuliani:

The New York Times with an ironic must-read on the friendly, softball-lobbing audiences Giuliani is seeing on his campaign. LINK

Under a "Giuliani visits deli, finds New York state of mind" header, the Palm Beach Post looks at the Democrats who swooned over the former New York City mayor. LINK

The New York Daily News sees love blossoming between Giuliani and "fat cats." LINK

Giuliani sets his sights on a $10 million goal and plans to hit the road to make it happen, the New York Post reports. LINK

2008: Republicans: Romney:

The Boston Globe's Scott Helman reports that Romney's tough rhetoric on Iran in South Carolina's Spartanburg County "seemed designed to paint himself as a strong voice on national security and to provoke Clinton, whom Romney has hammered for advocating engagement with the Iranian government as a means of preventing it from developing nuclear weapons." LINK

The editors of National Review caution Romney in a piece that moving to far to the right too fast and simply "checking all the conservative boxes" has its dangers. LINK

2008: Republicans: Huckabee:

Former Gov. Mike Huckabee plans to announce that Rep. Don Young (D-AK) has signed on as his congressional chairman of his exploratory committee, says the campaign, aftere Mike Allen of Politico said it too. LINK

2008: Republicans: Hunter:

The Associated Press on Rep. Hunter's new South Carolina recruits. LINK

2008: Democrats:

Because you can never have too many debates or forums, Democratic presidential hopefuls are wasting no time preparing for the next round of televised face-offs. The Las Vegas Review Journal's Molly Ball has the story. LINK

Gay rights issues could become a key issue to Democratic hopefuls and Joshua Lysen writes that the dark horse candidates are different on the issues then the frontrunners. LINK

South Carolina:

Several 2008 Democrats will be the featured guests at a March 7 fundraiser in Washington to help underwrite the South Carolina presidential primary, the Washington Post's Chris Cilliza reports. LINK

2008: Democrats: Clinton:

In a splashy above-the-fold page one story (with nothing new or newsworthy in it), the Washington Post's John Solomon and Matthew Mosk take a look at the $40 million fortune former President Clinton has amassed on the speech circuit since he left office and the potential for Sen. Clinton to have a large nest egg to pull from if she forgoes public financing in her presidential campaign. LINK

Sen. Clinton's decision not admit she's sorry may work in general election where a nominee needs independents but it will only hurt her among Democratic nomination contest voters writes the Washington Post's Eugene Robinson. LINK

The New York Post has Sen. Clinton proving she's still in with the in-crowd... and can still bring in the Hollywood money from the likes of Warren Beatty and Madonna. LINK

The New York Post's Liz Smith suspects that "the other undisputed king of Hollywood" Jack Nicholson will now back Sen. Clinton to spite rival Geffen. LINK

The New York Daily News on the same: LINK

Sen. Clinton lands helpful ($$$) endorsements in South Carolina, the New York Post's Ian Bishop reports. LINK

The Washington Times' Deborah Simmons opines on the push for black support in South Carolina and the state of racial politics, writing, "Like a carpetbagger, Hillary Clinton tethers a black man to a $10,000-a-month leash and garners his endorsement. Thank the heavens that is an inaccurate picture of the state of black America." LINK

2008: Democrats: Obama:

In a story looking at who Sen. Obama has taken money from over the years, the Los Angeles Times' Dan Morain reports that Obama sat on a subcommittee with authority over nuclear energy and accepted $81,000 from the nation's largest nuclear power generator and its subsidiary. Alert Common Cause!!!! LINK

Although Obama's money over the years has mostly come from academic circles, "(the Senator) has taken $1.3 million from PACs for insurers, motorcycle makers, attorneys, healthcare providers, telephone companies, banks, builders, environmentalists, brewers, distillers, sugar producers, labor unions and more."

In a piece that will make the Clintons glad they have spent all that Rupert time, the New York Post's ed board writes: "Anyone who says he is inspired by the prospect of Barack Obama's ascension to the White House at this stage in his career is delusional." LINK

ABC News' Paul Fidalgo curtain raises Obama's Austin speech. LINK

Looking for clues as to what style of politics Sen. Obama would bring to the White House, the Wall Street Journal's Jackie Calmes revisits the Senator's years as in the Illinois legislature. Obama was a "lawmaker of lofty, liberal rhetoric who nonetheless pragmatically accepted bipartisan compromises that won over foes--and sometimes left supporters dissatisfied," Calmes writes.

Richmond Mayor Douglas Wilder (D-VA), who was also the first the nation's first elected black governor, expresses his approval of Sen. Obama's approach to campaigning to the Washington Times' Seth McLaughlin. "The worst mistake one can make, in my judgment, is to try to tailor a message to a group and to say: 'I am the person for your group.' He should be the person for the American people," said Wilder, who added, "Even at [former Secretary of State] Colin Powell's height, he did not get these kinds of crowds, and Colin was not chopped liver." LINK

The FEC drafts an opinion on campaign fundraising -- an indication of how they will rule on public financing next Thursday -- and the New York Times sees it as (one more point for Obama and) a "fund-raising truce." LINK

More from the Chicago Sun Times: LINK

The Washington Post's ed board writes that the FEC's draft advisory to Sen. Obama offers some hope to save the public campaign financing system LINK

Brian DeBose of the Washington Times on some leaders' questions about Sen. Obama's commitment to issues important to black Americans. LINK

2008: Democrats: Edwards:

The Union Leader's John DiStaso has an interview with Edwards on his war vote and Clinton's. LINK

Lucan L. Johnson II of the Associated Press reports on Sen. Edwards' support for union workers at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, as he pushed for a "living wage." Wrote Sen. Edwards in a letter to the university, "No one who works full-time should ever have to live in poverty." LINK

2008: Democrats: Richardson:

The New York Times lovingly profiles Bill Richardson as the candidate with the "broadest resume," complete with a recent move to ban cockfighting in his state of New Mexico. LINK

2008: Democrats: Dodd:

F.T. Norton of the Nevada Appeal has the heart-wrenching story of Whit McGuiness, who just wanted Sen. Dodd to sign his baseball. LINK

Libby trial:

The jury in the Libby trial begins its third day of deliberations today. So far, all the Associated Press knows about what is going on in there is that they have asked for Post-it notes. LINK

ABC News' Pierre Thomas writes on Vice President Cheney's "micromanaging of the media" that set off the Plame scandal, and writes, "Libby's trial revealed a Vice President fixated on knocking down allegations the Bush administration manipulated intelligence leading to the Iraq War." LINK

You can hear audio of Libby's testimony here (LINK), here (LINK), and here (LINK).


"Lieberman Says War Vote Could Prompt Party Switch," blares the Politico. LINK

"Will He or Won't He?" asks ABC News' Z. Byron Wolf. "Probably not." LINK

Time Magazine's Massimo Calabresi on the "lonely prude" turned "one-man tipping point." LINK

Bush Administration agenda:

The New York Times takes Note of Wall Street's influence on the Bush Administration -- especially when it comes to the decision not to monitor hedge funds more closely. LINK

Georgia special:

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue (R ) has set June 19th for a special election to fill the vacant 10th district seat of the late Rep. Charlie Norwood who passed away last week. Roll Call's Lauren W. Whittington has more. LINK

Saturday politics:

On Saturday, the nation's governors gather for the 2007 National Governors' Association (NGA) winter meeting at the J.W. Marriot hotel in Washington, D.C. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) and newly elected Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA), the nation's only African-American governor are expected to be part of a large turnout when the meeting opens at 10:00 am ET with a news conference at the J.W. Marriot hotel in Washington, DC. NGA chairwoman Gov. Janet Napolitano (D-AZ) plans to unveil her year-long "Innovation America" initiative which focuses on the intersection of education and economic development in a global economy. On Sunday, the governors take part in a State Dinner with President Bush at 8:00 pm ET the White House. The governors also meet with the President on Monday to discuss No Child Left Behind.

The DGA breaks away from the general meeting to hold a roundtable discussion on energy at 12:15 pm ET. Gov. Napolitano serves as moderator and participants include: Gov. Bill Ritter (D-CO), Gov. Ruth Ann Minner (D-DE), Gov. Chet Culver (D-IA), Gov. Brain Schweizer (D-MT), Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D-NY), Gov. Chris Gregoire (D-WA) and Gov. Joe Mancin III (D-WV).

The RGA will hear from President Bush on Monday at an evening fundraiser.

Sen. John Edwards is in New Hampshire where he attends house parties in Nashua, Salem, Manchester and Concord.

Gov. Bill Richardson is the featured speaker at the Broward County Democratic Jefferson Jackson Dinner.

Rep. Duncan Hunter headlines a 11:00 am ET fundraiser in San Diego, CA.

Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) attends a 9:00 pm ET reception at a private residence in Pembroke, NH.

Former Gov. Thompson begins his day with a 9:00 am ET breakfast with College Republicans in Des Moines, IA. Thompson then has a 12:30 pm ET meet and greet in Waterloo, IA. He then has a 3:00 pm ET event in Dubuque, IA followed by a 5:30 pm ET meet and greet in Davenport, IA. His last event is a 7:15 pm ET GOP fundraiser dinner in Clinton, IA.

Sunday politics:

On Sunday, President and Mrs. Bush takes part in a 8:00 pm ET State Dinner for the Nation's Governors followed by 9:20 pm ET entertainment at the White House.

Former Vice President Al Gore walks the "red carpet" and hangs out with Hollywood's biggest stars when he appears at the 79th Annual Academy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 25. Mr. Gore's film "An Inconvenient Truth" is up for the Best Documentary Feature award.

Sen. Obama hosts a low-dollar fundraiser at the Marriott Downtown in Louisville, KY.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appears on CBS's "Face the Nation."