The Note: February Sanity


Newbies: see previous Notes for explanation of the Rings.

Vets: Clip and save.

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Ring 1 (Iraq):
Congressional Democrats have rolled the boulder 1/9th the way up the short-term mountain, and in so doing, have unified 8/9th of congressional Republicans in support of the White House, and, in so doing, have not impacted the President's intentions one whit.

Ring 2 (the prospects for bipartisan legislative legacy compromises):
If you consider the shared Bolten-Schumer desire for a proper Gonzales outcome to be a legacy compromise, sure. Otherwise, the rest of it is deader and deader as the weeks go by, with Ring 1 still the biggest obstacle.

Ring 3 (2008):
In past presidential cycles of the modern era: (1) the de facto nominees have been determined in February, or, otherwise in March (which is just one month after February); (2) candidates always have tried to raise as much money as they can, starting early in the year before the election; (3) after Iowa and New Hampshire yield their results, candidates who don't finish in one of the top three slots are asked different versions of the same question ("When are you dropping out of the race?") 1,000 times a day, and they are asked NOTHING else; (4) campaigning in states other than Iowa and New Hampshire (and perhaps one or two others) has been through television advertising, free media, and tarmac-to-tarmac sprints; (5) wealthy and well-known candidates have had a big advantage; and, (6) candidates with real ideas for the nation have done well. All these things are likely to be true in 2008, but not MORE true than in the past -- and some of them might be LESS true.

On 2008 money, it is nearly time for campaigns (a) to start playing the expectations game -- in earnest -- regarding where they will finish in the first-quarter derby; and, (b) to decide when and how they will put out -- by leak or press release -- their actual numbers (with none of the Big 6, we would guess, leading their announcements with cash on hand).

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It is unclear at this writing whether or not Attorney General Gonzales will head to Capitol Hill to do some political outreach today.

Valerie Plame Wilson plans to testify before a 10:00 am ET hearing of the House Oversight Committee on whether White House officials followed appropriate procedures for safeguarding her CIA identity.

President Bush was scheduled to meet with his Commission on Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors at 9:00 am ET. At 9:55 am ET, President Bush participates in a Shamrock Ceremony in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, followed by a 10:10 am ET Oval Office meeting with Bertie Ahern, the Prime Minister of Ireland.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) continues his bus tour through Iowa with a 1:00 pm ET town hall meeting at the Pipac Center in Cedar Falls, IA. He then moves the operation to New Hampshire for a 7:00 pm ET roundtable on law enforcement and first response at the Nashua Fire House in Nashua, NH. He will remain in the Granite State throughout the weekend.

Also in New Hampshire today, Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) pays a 2:30 pm ET visit to residents of the Earl M Bourdon Centre in Claremont, NH, followed by a 6:30 pm ET town hall forum at Keene High School in Keene, NH.

Sen. Clinton heads to Texas for some Lone Star State fundraising.

Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R-NY) gives a 7:00 pm ET address for the Macomb County GOP Lincoln Day Dinner at the Best Western Sterling Inn in Sterling Heights, MI.

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) talks to media at 5:30 pm ET before delivering the 9:30 pm ET keynote address to the Peoria GOP Lincoln Dinner at the Pere Marquette Hotel in Peoria, IL.

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) delivers a 2:30 pm ET keynote address to the 25th annual United States Hispanic Leadership Institute Conference at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers in Chicago, IL. Fluent in Spanish, Dodd will do a bilingual presser after his speech, per the Chicago Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet.

Be sure to tune into "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" on Sunday as Sens. Leahy (D-VT) and Cornyn (R-TX) go head to head over the political fallout from the US Attorneys firings, the Iraq votes this week, and much more.

Please see below for our look at the political goings on this weekend.

Politics of prosecutorial independence:

"A second Senate Republican has suggested that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales should leave his post because of the way the Justice Department handled the firings last year of eight federal prosecutors," writes USA Today's Kiely and Johnson. LINK

"'For the Justice Department to be effective before the U.S. Senate, it would be helpful' if Gonzales resigned," said Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR).

"In the hot seat -- mounting pressure on Karl Rove and the Attorney General," said ABC News' Robin Roberts in the headlines on "Good Morning America."

". . .more and more Rove himself is at the center of the controversy," reported ABC News' Pierre Thomas on the latest released emails from DOJ.

"He's in the fight of his life," said ABC News' George Stephanopoulos about Attorney General Gonzales.

"What will it take to get all the Republicans supporting the White House again," asked Stephanopoulos. "According to all of my reporting, I don't think that is going to happen until Alberto Gonzales resigns," he answered.

On CBS' "Early Show," Democratic strategist Mike Feldman Noted that even if Gonzales did step down, President Bush will have a possible battle getting a new Attorney General confirmed with a Democratically controlled Congress.

Speaking to the concern over the firing of federal prosecutors on NBC's "Today" show, Tim Russert said it was "dead serious," and advised -- "watch for the 2008 Senate re-election class" for more calls for the removal of Gonzales.

ABC News' Jan Crawford Greenburg was first to report the Karl Rove emails that show his more central involvement in the situation. The White House maintains that the emails are (mostly) consistent with their earlier statements. LINK

ABC News' Jon Garcia reports on Rove's comments yesterday while speaking at Troy University where he said, "I just ask the American people and ask Congress to look fairly and carefully at what's being said and done now." LINK

Watch the video here courtesy of Troy: LINK

The New York Times excerpts the Rove e-mails and ponders the particulars of just how involved the President and his aide were: "The White House has said Mr. Rove passed on complaints to the White House counsel's office, and perhaps to Mr. Bush, about prosecutors' failure to investigate voter fraud cases. He also pushed for the appointment of a former aide as the United States attorney in Arkansas, which outraged local officials and the state's senators because the prosecutor, J. Timothy Griffin, had limited experience." LINK

Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times examines the man who may be holding the pink slips, Fred Fielding. "In bringing Mr. Fielding back to the West Wing this year, Mr. Bush turned to the kind of consummate Washington insider he disdained when he first came to town, a Republican who remained prominent in the capital as presidents of both parties have come and gone." LINK

Politics of Iraq:

The Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman and Shailagh Murray report that Speaker Pelosi "still lacks" the 218 votes she needs to pass the Iraq bill next week, aides said, but they "insist she has the momentum." Pelosi met with Rep. Jessie Jackson, Jr., on Wednesday to appeal for his support. "And major events Monday to mark the fourth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq could add pressure on lawmakers to find a way out" of the Iraq conflict. LINK

"Given Republican opposition, House Democrats can afford few defections next week and unity will again be crucial. In a nod to moderates, the committee added language committing Congress to 'fully the support of needs' of U.S. troops overseas. But the greater test could be holding onto liberal members who want a faster, more certain withdrawal," reports the Wall Street Journal's David Rogers on the House Appropriations bill for war funding.

The New York Times highlights Sen. Smith as being the only Republican defector in the Senate vote yesterday. More from Robin Toner and Jeff Zeleny: "The action in both houses threw into sharp relief the Democratic strategy of ratcheting up the pressure, vote by vote, to try to force the White House to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq. But it also highlighted Republican unity in opposition." LINK

Washington Times on the Senate vote: LINK

Despite the outcome of the Senate vote, the Los Angeles Times sees "how much congressional support for the conflict has eroded in the four years since the invasion." LINK

The Los Angeles Times spotlights Sen. Murkowski as one of the many Republicans finding deciding how to vote on the war difficult. LINK

ABC News: "Iraq: Where Things Stand:"

In the fifth installment of the series "Iraq: Where Things Stand," ABC News will report extensively on how the country and its people are faring four years after the US-led invasion. On- and off-air reporters were dispatched to nearly two dozen cities and towns across the country, and ABC News commissioned an exclusive, national public opinion poll of more than 2,000 Iraqis. "Iraq: Where Things Stand" will begin airing across ABC News' broadcasts and platforms beginning Sunday, March 18. You won't want to miss it.

Bush Administration agenda:

"Republican critics of the No Child Left Behind law flexed their growing muscle yesterday as 57 GOP lawmakers, including the national party chairman, endorsed legislation that would undermine President Bush's signature education initiative," reports the Washington Post's Amit Paley. LINK

The Washington Times' Amy Fagan on House leaders seeking options on NCLB. LINK

2008: Republicans:

Politico's Jonathan Martin: "I posed the question -- is homosexuality immoral -- to representatives of all three of the top Republican candidates. None answered it directly." LINK

The Boston Globe's James Pindell reports on a survey by Franklin Pierce College showing a tight three-way race in the New Hampshire GOP primary. LINK

Pindell writes, "The poll found McCain with 29 percent, Giuliani with 28 percent and Romney with 22 percent."

2008: Republicans: McCain:

On "Good Morning America," ABC News' Jake Tapper reported from aboard the "Straight Talk Express" and said that although McCain's campaign appears to be more cautious and somber this time around, McCain is still far more accessible to reporters than any of his rivals from either party.

You can get more of Jake's reporting from the Hawkeye State here: LINK

Tapper reports from Sen. McCain's Mason City, IA press avail last night, "Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., does NOT call for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales's resignation, but indicates the AG should testify before Congress and suggests that Karl Rove should testify, though he backs off from that almost immediately."

"McCain said 'it's very appropriate for Attorney General Gonzales and anyone else involved to appear before a hearing.' Asked if that included Rove, the Senator said, 'You get into this executive privilege issue, but I think they'd have to make a case for that. . . I think both sides probably have to cooperate on this issue, but I don't know exactly the relationship nor do I know how much there was involvement or non-involvement by Mr. Rove, so I would be careful about it.'"

"McCain also says he does not believe that 'politics should ever play a role' in firing US Attorneys."

McCain fired up the Straight Talk Express, but despite all the prep work the road ahead looks a bit bumpy, the New York Times' Nagourney reports. "As he began what was supposed to be a triumphant day with his first bus trip across Iowa on Thursday, he was instead faced with a sense among some Republicans that his campaign had faltered in the early going and that his political identity had been blurred rather than enhanced by his efforts to position himself as first in line for the nomination." LINK

Sen. McCain said Thursday that California's leap to near the front of the nominating calendar only stands to increase the significance of Iowa's leadoff caucuses, reports the Des Moines Register's Tom Beaumont. LINK

"'I may be wrong, but this even emphasizes the importance of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina,' McCain told reporters Thursday."

In an interview, Sen. McCain told the Des Moines Register that there is an "overwhelming majority of Americans, including Republicans, who feel that we need to have a comprehensive approach and realize you can't simply deport 12 million people. They don't want anyone rewarded for illegal behavior."

"But that is exactly what the proposal McCain introduced last year and is reworking this year does, Onawa Republican Dick Schlitter said."

"Pretty dang sweet" is how a high school basketball player described his meeting with Sen. McCain on the floor of the Iowa Senate, reports the Quad City Times. LINK

Scott Goldberg of Minneapolis' KARE News reports on Gov. Tim Pawlenty's (R-MN) downplaying of his vice presidential prospects as he stumped with Sen. McCain in Iowa. LINK

Politico's Roger Simon reports that a few reporters who were on the bus with Sen. McCain in 2000 showed up this time: "Jake Tapper, now of ABC News; John Dickerson, now of Slate; Jill Zuckman, now of the Chicago Tribune, and me." LINK

"'And where were you in 2000?' I mockingly asked Liz Sidoti of the Associated Press."

"'In high school,' she said."


As Sen. McCain's Straight Talk Express wheels into New Hampshire, Kevin Landrigan of the Nashua Telegraph explores the Senator's change from an "insurgent assault" in 2000 to his current position as "vulnerable top dog." LINK

The Nashua Telegraph's Dean Shalhoup previews Sen. McCain's appearance on behalf of Harbor Homes of Nashua's Veterans F.I.R.S.T. program. LINK

2008: Republicans: Giuliani:

Most people know the post-9/11 Rudy, but Human Events contributor Deroy Murdock seeks to highlight the accomplishments of pre-9/11 Rudy during his service as Mayor. LINK

The New York Post's Haberman takes a look at a new anti-Giuliani website, LINK

Page Six of the New York Post writes up what many saw as Judith Giuliani's less than stellar appearance at Wednesday's big Gotham fundraiser for her husband. LINK

2008: Republicans: Romney:

Scott Helman of the Boston Globe, reporting on Gov. Romney's "swoop" into Sen. McCain's home turf, compares the governor's sharp turn against Sen. McCain's positions on immigration, which in 2005 he described as "reasonable proposals." LINK

Gov. Romney pushes his economic record in Massachusetts to the forefront, including in his first commercial which calls him "the Republican governor who turned around a Democratic state." The New York Times on how it will play in his campaign: LINK

New Hampshire professor and veteran Michael Moffett, who supported John McCain in 2000, writes a well-placed and well-times New Hampshire Union Leader op-ed explaining why he has switched his allegiance to Mitt Romney this cycle. LINK

The Fresno Bee's John Ellis reports on Gov. Romney's swing through California's San Joaquin Valley, where he was described by one resident as "fabulous." LINK

Lee Davidson of the Deseret Morning News reports on talk show host Hugh Hewitt's coming book, "A Mormon in the White House? 10 Things Every American Should Know about Mitt Romney." Said Hewitt, "if Romney can be bled via an assault on the rationality of his faith, the next candidate of firm religious view can expect more of the same." LINK

2008: Republicans: T. Thompson:

Eating DiStaso's dust, James Pindell of the Boston Globe reports that Gov. Thompson has hired New Hampshire-based consulting firm Meridian Communications to start his state organization. LINK

2008: Republicans: Brownback:

ABC News' Jake Whitman writes about Brownback's letter to President Bush where he sided with Chairman Peter Pace and his comments regarding the "immorality" of homosexuality. LINK

2008: Republicans: Hagel:

The Washington Post's William Arkin offers his "dream" that Sen. Hagel will be the next president of the United States. LINK

2008: Democrats:

The AP's Beth Fouhy reports on Sen. Clinton's coming "test of strength" as fundraising report deadlines approach, and the major Democratic candidates try to "outfox one another in the expectations game." LINK

Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama offered statements Thursday maintaining that they do not think homosexuality is immoral. The Clinton and Obama clarifications came one day after the two senators skirted queries from journalists on the subject, report ABC News' Teddy Davis, Jonathan Greenberger, and Eloise Harper. LINK

"The Thursday clarifications from Clinton and Obama came after members of their staff came under pressure from a leading advocate for gay rights."

"'I spent the whole morning talking with these campaigns and telling them that they needed to issue a clear, unequivocal answer to this question,' Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign told ABC News. 'And as you can see, they've done that.'" The New York Daily News on the same: LINK

The New York Times: LINK

Maggie Haberman of the New York Post writes up some recent polling in key early states in the Democratic contest showing Sen. Obama "within striking distance." LINK

2008: Democrats: Clinton:

Page Six's lede: "The long love affair between Bill and Hillary Clinton and The New York Times seems to be over." LINK

Curtis Sliwa's retelling of Bill Clinton's assessment of the Gray Lady's coverage of the Democractic nomination fight is a gossipy must-read.

The New York Post's Ian Bishop, getting his own Clinton interview and apparently believing that all positions taken by politicians are taken for political expediency rather than principle, examines Clinton's motives for rethinking her Iraq strategy, "a shift that analysts say shows she's feeling heat from both Barack Obama and Rudy Giuliani. Sen. Clinton's new tough stance is an attempt to convince voters she has the gravitas to be the first female commander in chief, political pros say." LINK

The New York Daily News has Sen. Clinton's comments on a pullout from Iraq, " 'We made this mistake before.' " LINK

Josh Gerstein of the New York Sun Notes Sen. Clinton's working to shore up her African American support, while Mark Penn cites polling and Howard Wolfson cites Black History Month. LINK

Deborah Solomon interviews Clinton friend and billionaire financier Ron Burkle for this weekend's New York Times Magazine, in which he says of Sen. Clinton, "I think to the extent that people miss who she is, she's actually a very nice, warm, thoughtful, caring person, and I don't think that comes across generally."

Of David Geffen's unflattering comments about the Clintons, Burkle said, "I was surprised by it, and in many ways taken aback by it. But I have known David for a long time. David is very aggressive in his comments and very aggressive in his thoughts on everything."

2008: Democrats: Edwards:

John DiStaso of the New Hampshire Union Leader reports that Sen. Edwards portrayed his global anti-poverty initiative as critical to America's national security interests. LINK

The AP's Holly Ramer reports on Sen. Edwards' "audacious plan" to create a cabinet-level position to combat global poverty. LINK

"Edwards presents 'big ideas,'" reads the Concord Monitor headline. LINK

The high-profile ONE Campaign issued a supportive press release on Sen. Edwards' speech.

"'We're proud that Senator Edwards is speaking with New Hampshire voters about America's leadership role in saving lives in Africa and the world's poorest countries,' said ONE New Hampshire Field Organizer Matt Bartlett.

Lynn Sweet writes about Edwards' trip to Chicago to hit the "Dem ATM', mostly from trial lawyers. Although, Chi-Town is Obama turf, there is still a lot of financial support that is up for grabs. LINK

2008: Democrats: Obama:

Sen. Obama's presidential campaign "could spur record voter registration among black voters the same way the Rev. Jesse Jackson's campaign did in 1984 -- though new registrants won't just 'miraculously appear,'" reports the Washington Times' Brian DeBose. LINK

2008: Democrats: Richardson:

ABC News' Teddy Davis reports on Richardson's belief that an earlier primary date in California can only help because of strong ties to the West. LINK

Richardson's signing of a bill in New Mexico that will allow the use of medical marijuana is drawing heavy criticism, but Richardson maintains it was the right thing to do, writes Jeff Jones and Trip Jennings of the Albuquerque Journal. "Sure I'll catch national grief over this," said Richardson, "but I don't tailor my style, or what I stand for, to primary states." LINK

Leslie Linthicum of the Albuquerque Journal has "Richardson Watch." LINK

2008: Super-Duper Tuesday:

The Washington Times' Ralph Z. Hallow has Romney spokesman Kevin Madden defending a closed Republican primary in California, saying, "Republicans want their party's nomination process to be a reflection of members of the Republican Party. I expect there to be a natural aversion from party activists to allow folks not registered in the party to influence the process." LINK

"'The current primary structure in California favors our ability to work congressional districts with our organization and to secure the votes and the delegates to win,' Mr. Madden said."

"The tightly controlled Giuliani campaign wasn't answering any questions yesterday about rules opening the primary in California or the Feb. 5 move."

"Ron Nehring, the state Republican chairman, said yesterday that he has not taken a position on whether to open the Republican primary to independents but that if a move to do that comes up at the September state party convention, he would make sure it 'gets a fair hearing.'"

The New York Times' Steinhauer covered Gov. Schwarzenegger's announcement and found "some flowery remarks and a good backdrop." LINK

ABC News' Tahman Bradley writes about the potential financial ramifications for the campaigns as they may need to adjust their television ad purchases in key states in the run up to the February 5th Super Tuesday. LINK

On "Today," Tim Russert said the rush of states to move earlier in the nomination calendar means that "this is going to be hotly competitive, with robust debates," and asserted, "no doubt about it, Iowa will become more important now" as it may vault its winner into locking up the nomination.

The Los Angeles Times coverage reflects similar analysis. LINK

2008: color:

ABC News' Jennifer Parker reports on Obama and McCain's agreement that the Florida Gators basketball team will be in the Final Four. Obama said that he thinks Florida will take it all -- again, while McCain thinks it will be the Tar Heels of North Carolina who emerge champions. LINK

2008: House:

President Bush pledged to House Republicans that the GOP will retake both congressional chambers and "hold the White House in 2008," reports the Washington Times' Joseph Curl. LINK

The Washington Times' Christina Bellantoni on the GOP's offensive against Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA) starting early. LINK

Political potpourri:

Jonathan D. Salant of Bloomberg writes about the difficulty that Republican lobbyists are facing after the 2006 shake up. LINK

The Washington Post's Reliable Source reports that Sen. Schumer is still angry about a "B" he received from Bill Bennett for a paper he wrote on "building a more effective Congress." Bennett was a Harvard Law student who was teaching the undergraduate social studies course. LINK

Weekend politics:

Sen. McCain's Straight Talk Express travels through New Hampshire over the weekend, where the Senator holds a 10:00 am ET town hall meeting at Milford Elementary School in Milford, NH, followed by a second such meeting at Lebanon High School in Lebanon, NH at 3:15 pm ET.

Sen. Clinton spends St. Patrick's Day in Houston, TX. Sen. Clinton plans to lead a conversation with Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) and community leaders and address the future of the AME Church conference.

Sen. Obama holds a 6:00 pm ET rally at the Oakland City Hall Plaza in Oakland, CA.

Gov. Thompson travels through Iowa (and presumably gets his fill of pizza) on Saturday, beginning with a 9:00 am ET party fundraiser at the Pizza Ranch in Manchester, IA, followed by an 11:30 am ET meet and greet at Bill's Pizza and Steakhouse in Independence, IA, and wrapping up with a 1:00 pm ET visit to the Brown Bottle in Waterloo, IA.

Rep. Hunter headlines the 2:00 pm ET Lincoln Day Luncheon in Phoenix, AZ.

Sen. Brownback meets with media at 12:00 pm ET at the Downtown Embassy Suite in Des Moines, IA, before marching in a 1:00 pm ET St. Patrick's Day Parade.

Sen. Dodd brings his campaign to New Hampshire beginning with a 10:00 am ET reception at the Old Town Hall in Bedford, NH, a 12:30 pm ET visit to Fire Station #2, and a 2:00 pm ET visit to the Old Salt in Hampton, NH, and finishing with a 5:30 pm ET appearance at the Merrimack County Democrats' St. Patrick's Day dinner at the IBEW Hall in Concord, NH.

Sen. Biden attends the Bobby Stephen's Fund for Education's 29th Annual St. Patrick's Day Celebration in Manchester, NH at 6:00 pm ET.

On Sunday, Sen. McCain holds a 3:00 pm ET meeting at Exeter Town Hall in Exeter, NH, and 5:00 pm ET remarks to the Greater Hudson Chamber of Commerce 38th Annual Awards Dinner at the Castleton Banquet & Conference Center in Windham, NH.

Sen. Dodd is still in Manchester, NH, Sunday and attends a 9:00 am ET St. Patrick's Day breakfast with the Manchester Democratic Party at the Tower Café, and makes an 11:00 am ET appearance at the St. Patrick's Day Parade outside the Brady Sullivan Building.

Sen. Biden attends the annual St. Patrick's Day Breakfast at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in Boston, MA at 10:00 am ET.

Sen. Obama holds a 7:00 pm ET fundraiser at the Sherman Street Event Center in Denver, CO.

Gov. Richardson holds a 1:30 pm ET private fundraiser in Oklahoma City.

Former President Bill Clinton throws a "celebratory dinner" to raise funds for Sen. Clinton's presidential campaign in New York City.