The Note: There's Gotta be a Little Rain Sometimes


In their front page investigative must-read, Mike McIntire and Christopher Drew of the New York Times report: "Less than two months after ascending to the United States Senate, Barack Obama bought more than $50,000 worth of stock in two speculative companies whose major investors included some of his biggest political donors." LINK

More McIntire/Drew: "Mr. Obama has made ethics a signature issue, and his quest for the presidency has benefited from the perception that he is unlike politicians who blend public and private interests. There is no evidence that any of his actions ended up benefiting either company during the roughly eight months that he owned the stocks."

"Even so, the stock purchases raise questions about how he could unwittingly come to invest in two relatively obscure companies, whose backers happen to include generous contributors to his political committees."

Sen. Obama's first chance to respond is likely to come at 11:15 am ET in S-115 when he joins Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) for a press conference announcing the "Citizenship Promotion Act."

(Make your predictions now: Does he cancel? If not, what is his body language and tone like? Does he come with more facts? Does he refuse to take questions on this topic? Will there be live cable coverage? Does Obama call the reporters "guys" in that frustrated way of his? )

The story will now proceed on two levels:

1. Investigative: Other serious news organizations (including and especially the Chicago Tribune, whose humiliated editors thought they were going to be first out of the gate with this stuff) and the right-wing bloggers will scramble to fill in the holes that the Timesmen have dug.

2. What It Takes: How does Obama (and his handlers -- yes, he has handlers) deal with the swirl.

Good sign for Team Obama: They have already put out their, uhm, first response document, ahead of The Note's deadline.

Bad sign for Team Obama: Whitewater lost money too.

Good sign for Team Obama: Several potential spin-off problems -- such as a nexus between official acts and investments -- seem tabled for now.

Bad sign for Team Obama: There are a lot of unanswered questions (and, yes, that Geffen dust-up put blood in the water; and yes, it's a safe bet that you won't hear a peep on this one from the Clinton campaign anytime soon).

For more on the first draft of those unanswered questions, see below.

President Bush meets with former Sen. Bob Dole (R-KS) and former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, the co-chairs of the President's Commission on Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors, at 10:00 am ET.

Following this meeting, the President meets with the Interagency Task Force on Returning Global War on Terror Heroes - the commission that VA Secretary Jim Nicholson is heading up. There is no press coverage of this meeting. It will take place in the Roosevelt Room.

This task force is comprised of top-level officials from DOD, VA, Labor, HHS, HUD, Dept of Education, OMB and the SBA. It is independent from the President's commission headed by Dole and Shalala.

President Bush also speaks at a 1:35 pm closed press event to political appointees and Senior Executive Service employees in Washington, DC.

On Capitol Hill today, Bill Gates delivers 9:30 am ET testimony on strengthening American competitiveness to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in Hart 216. Later in the day, the computer whiz attends a 6:00 pm ET Center for Democracy and Technology dinner at the Ritz-Carlton in Washington, DC.

When Gates comes before Sen. Ted Kennedy's (D-MA) H.E.L.P. Committee, the Massachusetts Democrat plans to say: "The choice before us is clear. We can be swept away by the swift currents of globalization, or we can determine our own destiny through wise policies and decisive action. We should face the future not by lowering American wages, but by increasing American skills to equip our citizens to compete and win in the global economy."

Tiger Woods and the PGA's Tim Finchem hold an 11:00 am ET news conference at the National Press Club to discuss the PGA Tour tournament that will held in Washington, DC in July 2007.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) participates in an 11:00 am ET news conference on government waste at the Phoenix Park Hotel in Washington, DC, with Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste. Afterward, Sen. McCain gives a 6:00 pm ET address to the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce.

ABC News' John Cochran reports that this year's Congressional Pig Book on how taxpayers' dollars are spent will be, according to CAGW, "a smaller pig than usual."

Why the change in 2006 spending?

"Partly because only two of eleven spending bills were passed last year. Also, the new Democratic Congress enforced a moratorium on earmarks, the projects that members slip into appropriations legislation usually without full scrutiny by Congress."

"Even so, CAGW says 'there is still enough pork to cause concern for taxpayers.'"

(CAGW promises that live pigs Winnie and Dudley will be on hand for today's event).

Former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) holds fundraisers in Chicago, IL and Cincinnati, OH.

To help pay for the Palmetto State's party-run primary, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) speak between 6:30 pm and 7:00 pm ET at a South Carolina Democratic Party fundraiser at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill. Tonight's reception is being held in honor of Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) and Rep. John Spratt (D-SC). In advance of the fundraiser, the RNC sent a missive to reporters labeling the event the "Palmetto Pander Fest" and questioning why Sen. Obama is not listed as an attendee of today's event.

The AFL-CIO's presidential endorsement process will be unveiled by AFL-CIO President John Sweeney and AFSCME President Gerald McEntee during an 11:00 am ET press briefing in Las Vegas, NV which can be dialed into by phone.

Labor's goal is to give working people a greater voice in the process by engaging them "much earlier than we have ever engaged them before," according to AFL-CIO spokesman Steve Smith.

The Senate resumes consideration of a bill (S 4) that would implement unfinished recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. The first roll call votes are expected at 10 am ET on two amendments to the bill. Following the votes, the Senate will recess for an 11:00 am ET joint meeting with the House to receive King Abdullah II bin Al Hussein of Jordan.

Further votes are expected when the chamber reconvenes following the joint meeting.

See below for additional calendar items.

2008: Democrats: Obama:

The points the Obama campaign is likely to press with reporters today:

1. He didn't know he owned the stocks at the time of purchase or at the time of any action taken in areas related to the companies' goals.

2. As soon as he did learn of his ownership, he sold the stocks -- at a loss -- and restructured his blind trust to be -- well, uhm, again -- more blind.

Here's spokesman Bill Burton's statement: "In 2005, Barack Obama entered into a trust agreement -- the terms of which did not permit his stockbroker to solicit advice from Obama or consult him on the trades that were being made -- to manage his stock portfolio. As the New York Times reports today, Obama owned stock in two companies which he did nothing to help -- an investment that lost him $13,000. At the end of a thorough examination of Senator Obama's portfolio, it's apparent that his dealings were completely above board and his decisions were proactively made in the interest of avoiding the potential for conflict."

A couple of questions and answers.

1. Who made the decision to buy those stocks and based on what? Bill Burton's answer: "The broker made the decisions about the stock -- Obama had absolutely no role in their purchase."

2. How and when and by whom did Sen. Obama learn that he owned those stocks?

Per the Times, Bill Burton "said Mr. Obama had decided to sell the stocks after receiving a communication that made him concerned about how the trust was set up."

But if he didn't know about the stocks until that point -- that communication must not have simply caused concern about how the trust was set up, but maybe caused apparent conflict of interest concern about those particular stocks as well, right?

Bill Burton's semi-answer: "He didn't know about the specific stock holdings he had until he had to report the sale in his Senate disclosure form."

Some questions certain to be posed to the Senator and his team:

1. Who was his broker?

2. What conversations about investment strategy did Obama have with the broker?

3. Why did the broker put him in two speculative stocks -- in which Obama contributors were major investors?

4. Was that decision a wacky coincidence?

5. Will Sen. Obama release his communications with the broker?

6. What is his relationship with the Republican-leaning Mr. Abbruzzese?

7. Were the two stocks sold at the same time?

8. Does Sen. Obama plan on returning the donations he received from contributors involved with the businesses in which he owned the stock?

9. Why is he taking money from a Swift Boat donor? How many other Democratic '08ers have done that?

10. Was it a coincidence that he bought Skyterra on the same day that the company received a favorable FCC ruling?

11. Was the stock purchased before the ruling?

Libby: headlines and ledes:

New York Times: "Libby, Ex-Cheney Aide, Guilty of Lying in C.I.A. Leak Case" LINK

"Mr. Libby, 56, who once wielded great authority at the top levels of government, is the highest-ranking White House official to be convicted of a felony since the Iran-contra scandals of the 1980s," writes Neil Lewis of the New York Times.

"Cheney's Fall Guy," blares the New York Daily News wood. LINK

ABC News' Pierre Thomas, Jason Ryan, and Theresa Cook cover all angles of Libby's conviction. LINK

Libby: politics:

In a must-read analysis, the Washington Post's Peter Baker writes that the conviction of Libby has "coincided with a string of investigations into the mistreatment of injured soldiers and the purge of federal prosecutors, putting the operations of" the Bush Administration "into harsh relief." LINK

The story includes a warning to Democrats from "former Bush aide" Nicolle Wallace.

"'They bring up sort of old Washington,'" said Wallace. "'The Democrats have to walk a fine line and be careful. People don't want to turn on the TV and see every story being about the obstruction of people trying to do things. . . . The people who will stand out in Washington are the ones who will look forward."

Mike Allen and Jeanne Cummings of Politico ponder how the Libby verdict may impact the 2008 race for the White House and pose these three questions. LINK

"1. Will Bush pardon Libby?"

"2. Was Libby the tip of the iceberg?"

"3. Does this make Bush more radioactive for the Republicans seeking the presidential nomination?"

Chicago Tribune's Mark Silva: "Libby falls but Cheney, Rove emerge untouched" LINK

"The verdict contributed to the sense of a White House under siege, with good news scarce and Mr. Bush struggling to wield the presidential megaphone with the same success he did in his first term. Mr. Bush has just over 22 months left in office to regain his political footing," writes Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times in his political memo which includes some advice from former White House press secretary Scott McClellan urging the White House to deal with the guilty verdict directly. LINK

"'It does change things in the public's perception to some extent when a former high-level administration official is found guilty of a crime,' said Scott McClellan, the former Bush press secretary. 'It raises more questions in people's minds and increases their suspicions.'"

Note, too, Ken Duberstein's tally sheet of the last news cycle in the kicker.

In her look at the political impact the investigation and trial of Scooter Libby has had on Vice President Cheney, the New York Times' Stolberg includes this assessment from Scott Reed: "'The trial has been death by 1,000 cuts for Cheney,' said Scott Reed, a Republican strategist. 'It's hurt him inside the administration. It's hurt him with the Congress, and it's hurt his stature around the world because it has shown a lot of the inner workings of the White House. It peeled the bark right off the way they operate.'" LINK

Per Los Angeles Times duo Maura Reynolds and James Gerstenzang, "[David] Gergen said that Bush was unlikely to consider a pardon until after the 2008 presidential campaign. Even then it would be politically difficult, unless Libby's expected appeal was past and he was already serving his sentence." LINK

Edwin Chen and James Rowley of Bloomberg News have Gergen saying of President Bush: "It seems very unlikely like he's going to get of the hole, unless there's a miracle in Iraq." LINK

In his Political Punch blog, ABC News' Jake Tapper invites you discuss whether Libby is "a metaphor for the Bush administration's credibility issues with the public." LINK

Libby: op-eds and editorials:

"FREE SCOOTER LIBBY," reads the headline above the New York Post's lead editorial. LINK

The Wall Street Journal editorial board believes that President Bush owes Libby a pardon. LINK

Politics of Iraq:

"White House's Tactics Threaten War-Funds Bill," headlines the Wall Street Journal's David Roger's article that looks at the White House's continued alienation of Democrats. And vice versa.

The New York Times' Zeleny and Toner write up the current Democratic disarray on Iraq. Caucus Chairman, Rep. Rahm Emanuel, said the remaining differences among House Democrats on how to proceed with the Iraq funding bill and the desire of some to end the war will be worked out over the next two weeks. LINK

On the other hand: Mike Soraghan writes in the Hill that House Democrats believe a consensus is in the works over troop withdrawal legislation. Leaders think they will be able to have a floor vote before the Easter recess, which begins April 2. LINK

Josephine Hearn and John Bresnahan of Politico look at the Out of Iraq caucus' attempts to get a vote on troop withdrawal before agreeing to sign on with the funding bill. LINK

Democratic agenda:

The Boston Globe's Rick Klein looks at Democratic efforts to amend the Alternative Minimum Tax to shift the burden back on the upper echelon of wealthy Americans. LINK


Jill Lawrence reports on the USA Today/Gallup poll showing that, even at this early stage, nearly half of the American public is giving "quite a lot" of thought to the 2008 presidential election. Taken after the Academy Awards, the poll shows that the honors given to Al Gore's documentary "put him in the news and solidified his spot in the top tier of a contest he says he has no plans to enter." LINK

Clinton may have the most recognizable spouse in former President Bill Clinton, but this election will bring other candidate's husbands and wives front and center. The Hill's Aaron Blake offers a look at the front runner's wives role so far in this election cycle. LINK

2008: Republicans: Giuliani:

The New York Daily News' Saltonstall writes up Giuliani's upcoming trip to Iowa. LINK

The San Francisco Chronicle's Tom Chorneau and Carla Marinucci report on Mayor Giuliani's moves to woo California conservatives, with help from some celebrities and Bush technology adviser Floyd Kvamme. LINK

The Boston Herald's Jay Ambrose pens an op-ed on Giuliani on both his success in New York City and the threat of those pictures of Giuliani as Marilyn Monroe. LINK

"The list of first family follies goes on and on," writes ABC News' Bill Redeker, as he compares consequences of the public discontent amongst the Giuliani family to the misbehaviors of past presidential kin. Redeker says, "The reality is that the sins of the children are rarely visited on their fathers come election day." LINK

An photo gallery walks us down memory lane with a look at past familial matters: LINK

2008: Republicans: McCain:

McCain is set to pick up the endorsements of the attorney generals of seven states, including pivotal South Carolina, writes Alexander Bolton of the Hill LINK

The McCain camp is reportedly working for a change in GOP presidential nomination rules in California to allow independents to vote in the Feb. 5 primary, which could be "potentially damaging" to former Gov. Mitt Romney, reports the Washington Times' Ralph Hallow. LINK

Whoops! Apparently, Sen. D'Amato likes to announce his endorsements on his terms and the McCain campaign didn't seem to play by those rules. Maggie Haberman of the New York Post has the story. LINK

2008: Republicans: Hagel:

Roughly five and one-half weeks after the Washington Post reported that Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) was within six weeks of making a decision about 2008, ABC News' Teddy Davis reports that Sen. Hagel's decision to tell two labor groups that he wants to participate in their upcoming presidential "cattle calls" might be showing his hand, according to the firefighter and construction groups which are slated to hear from the Nebraska senator in Washington, DC over the next three weeks. LINK

"'It was made absolutely clear to him that he was coming to speak at a forum where all the major presidential candidates were invited to speak,' said Jeff Zack, a spokesman for the International Association of Fire Fighters, regarding Hagel's decision to speak to the firefighters in Washington, D.C. on March 14."

"'I think it's fair to say that if Sen. Hagel is accepting the invitation to be a participant in a presidential candidates' forum that he is, in fact, a candidate for president,' said Helen Corbertt, the communications director for the Building and Construction Trades Department, the alliance of craft unions which is slated to hear from Hagel on March 28."

Jake Thompson and Robyn Tysver of the Omaha World Herald are smelling a candidacy on Sen. Hagel, reporting that "speculation was running high among key Nebraska Republicans that Hagel might announce something Monday." LINK

2008: Republicans: Huckabee:

"Clacker" of the political humor blog GreenMountain1 spoke with Gov. Huckabee for a 10 1/2 question e-mail interview, where the governor uses his "say something nice about one of your opponents" question to praise Sen. McCain, and responds to conventional wisdom about his weak standing in the money primary, saying, "Well, let's see, if the Gang of 500 each wrote me a check for $2300, that would be good start!" LINK

2008: Republicans: Brownback:

In a podcast interview with ABC News' Jake Tapper, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) explains why he finds Ann Coulter's comments "disgusting," how Gov. Romney is "mischaracterizing" his position on abortion, and why he goes to two churches on Sunday. LINK

2008: Democrats:

SEIU and the Center for American Progress announced that Sen. Clinton, Sen. Dodd, Sen. Edwards, Sen. Gravel, Rep. Kucinich, Sen. Obama, and Gov. Richardsion will appear at a health-care forum on Saturday, March 24 at 12:30 pm ET at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Beth Fouhy of the Associated Press reports on the phenomenon of "second-tier lament," as Gov. Richardson and Sens. Biden and Dodd try to use "stellar resumes" to overcome the celebrity power of Sens. Clinton and Obama. LINK

2008: Democrats: Clinton:

Bloomberg's Amithy Shales reports that Clinton may be breaking traditional family economic standards by suggesting that too much free trade is a bad thing. Clinton said, "we can too easily be held hostage to the economic policies that are being made, not in Washington and not in the markets of New York, but in Beijing, Shanghai, Tokyo and elsewhere." LINK

Ian Bishop of the New York Post writes up the entertaining EMILY's List video (played at yesterday's gathering before Clinton spoke to the group) imagining what it would be like to have a woman (who looks a lot like Hillary Clinton) take the presidential oath of office. LINK

The New York Daily News' McAuliff writes up Sen. Clinton's woman strategy too. LINK

2008: Democrats: Edwards:

The Des Moines Register's Thomas Beaumont writes that Sen. Edwards has become the first Democratic presidential candidate to claim he had won over some of former Gov. Tom Vilsack's (D-IA) supporters, releasing a list of 100 names of Iowa Democrats who had previously backed Vilsack but now support the son-of-a-millworker. LINK

2008: Democrats: Richardson:

Joe Mahony of the New York Daily News reports that Gov. Richardson has been invited into Sen. Clinton's home turf to speak at the April 28 gathering of New York Latino legislators. (Sen. Clinton is expected to attend as well.) LINK

2008: Democrats: Dodd:

Sen. Dodd introduced legislation yesterday to provide funding for National Guard readiness.

"The National Guard is integral to performing critical missions here at home and abroad," Sen. Dodd said in a statement, "We must provide them with the funding and equipment required for completing their missions as safely and effectively as possible."

South Carolina:

The State reports on a Winthrop University poll showing that the presidential race's two New Yorkers, Sen. Clinton and Mator Giuliani, have the highest favorability ratings with South Carolina voters in their respective parties. LINK

Politics of prosecutorial independence:

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales writes in the USA Today that the firings of the seven U.S. Attorneys in December were based on performance not politics. LINK

USA Today: "It's possible, of course, that some of the eight deserved to be replaced, but the shifting explanations raise serious doubts about the whole process." LINK

The Hill's Susan Crabtree reports on a Ed Cassidy, former chief of staff to Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA), who is the latest name implicated in the probe into the firings of eight U.S. attorneys. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Richard Serrano on the six fired U.S. attorneys' congressional testimonies, including one who felt "sick" after to GOP lawmakers called him. LINK

The Washington Post's Dan Eggen and Paul Kane on yesterday's testimony: LINK

Other calendar items:

First Lady Laura Bush attends a 6:40 pm ET event at the Kuwaiti ambassador's Residence in Washington, DC.

Sens. Richard Durbin (D-IL), Jack Reed (D-RI), Evan Bayh (D-IN), and Tom Carper (D-DE) hold a 10:30 am ET press conference to release a new report on terrorism strategy at the Capitol.

Sens. Harry Reid (D-NV), Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), and Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) held a 8:30 am ET briefing to discuss comprehensive immigration reform in S-111 of the U.S. Capitol.

The legislative conference of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce continues at the Ronald Reagan Building today. Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) holds a 9:30 am ET discussion on small business. Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL), chairman of the RNC, joins Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), chair of the House Intelligence Committee, for 7:00 pm ET remarks to the Legislative Awards Dinner at the Mayflower Hotel.

Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-MS) and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) deliver 9:30 am ET testimony on antitrust immunity at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee hears 1:30 pm ET testimony from Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker, Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Richard Cody, and Army Surgeon General Lt. Get. Kevin Kiley, acting commander of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center on the conditions at Walter Reed in the Rayburn House Office Building. Note: Rescheduled from March 5.

The Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee hears 10:00 am ET testimony on Defense Department medical programs in the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

The Senate Veteran's Affairs Committee began a 9:30 am ET hearing on the Veterans Affairs adjudication process in the Russell Senate Office Building.

House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank (D-MA) delivers an 8:45 am ET keynote address to the Networks Financial Institute's Insurance Reform Summit at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, DC. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) follows at 10:30 am ET.

House Republican Conference Chairman Adam Putnam (R-FL) and House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) hold a 1:45 pm ET pen and pad briefing in H-307 of the U.S. Capitol.