(Still) Casting (About) and Counting

37 Days Until Inauguration Day

Today at 11:30 am ET, President Bush awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Ambassador Paul Bremer, Gen. Tommy Franks (Ret.), and former CIA Director George Tenet at the White House.

The President and Mrs. Bush attend a reception for the Diplomatic Corps at Blair House this evening.

And the Prune Book's out!!

The two most evocative lines of the political day so far come from the morning papers. First, from the Union Leader, U.S. Magistrate Judge James Muirhead, referring to James Tobin, the former New England chairman of President Bush's re-election campaign who was arraigned on two criminal counts yesterday, said, ""He's no different than a street hooker in Manchester. If he's guilty, then I find his crime as offensive as any other crime." LINK

Second, in Washington state, where some newly found votes might allow the Democrats to pull ahead in the ongoing recount, a Republican lawyer got off this beauty at a state Supreme Court hearing (per the Seattle Times):

"'Your election law is not a blank coloring book to be filled at the desire of a candidate because they don't like the way a recount is going,' Mark Braden said." LINK

After that, it's all down hillish, with Kerik becoming a (mostly) local story, and no Homeland Security nominee in obvious sight.

The AP reports the tide could be turning to favor Democratic gubernatorial candidate Christine Gregoire in Washington state -- where 500 uncounted votes have been discovered in Democratic-leaning King County which were mistakenly rejected after the election. Meanwhile, the state Supreme Court heard arguments where Democrats asked county officials to reconsider all of Washington's rejected ballots, "including those thrown out because of voter errors such as failing to sign the ballot or missing a deadline to verify a signature." LINK

The decision from the court could come at any time.

The Seattle papers look at the newly found votes and the Supreme Court arguments. LINK and LINK

And the arguments are actually pretty interesting stuff.

With some serious trade deficit numbers out today, gas prices have fallen for the sixth straight week, AP reports. LINK

David Brooks of the New York Times decodes what he thinks will happen during the President's economic conference this week -- i.e., no news, and lots of agreeing with the President. We've never seen a reference to Englebert Humperdink in a column about economic policy before, but it's kind of charming. LINK

And it is now apparent that the left-wing commetariat is going to be going hammer and tong against personal savings accounts, and we'll all have to see whether that matters or not.

The Boston Globe's Tom Oliphant gets in the queue today. LINK

The New York Times' Edmund Andrews does a great job of laying out the issues involved in the various plans to overhaul Social Security, although he doesn't quite get at the "lowering of the guaranteed minimum benefit raison d'etre" part of all this. LINK

"Because Mr. Bush has yet to spell out any details of how he would overhaul the system, his stated principles sound like a free lunch: benefits for people at or near retirement should not go down; taxes should not go up; people who do not want private accounts should be able to keep drawing benefits."

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