The Note: McCain hits bottom


Democrats are already casting the "Scooter" Libby commutation as a data point in the "culture of corruption" argument. Check out the angry statements from the '08ers. "Politics of cynicism and division" and "ideology above the law" (Obama); "clinically incapable of understanding that mistakes have consequences" (Edwards); "abdicate responsibility" (Dodd); "blatant disregard for the rule of law" (Biden, who also called for the public to "flood the White House with phone calls" today -- guess the switchboard will see how big his e-mail distribution list is). Even Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., forgot about Marc Rich long enough to weigh in: "This commutation sends the clear signal that in this administration, cronyism and ideology trump competence and justice."

Bush has done right by the narrow slice of his base that's been lobbying for leniency for loyal Libby, "but the move's practical impact on the president's diminished popularity is likely to be minor," write John McKinnon and Evan Perez of The Wall Street Journal. "While prominent conservatives applauded the move, it could wind up putting pressure on some Republican presidential candidates to defend the commutation for the remainder of the campaign. And some rank-and-file Republican foot soldiers were disappointed that Mr. Bush didn't go further."

The Journal's editorial page was among those not impressed by Bush's move: "By failing to issue a full pardon, Mr. Bush is evading responsibility for the role his administration played in letting the Plame affair build into fiasco and, ultimately, this personal tragedy."

Amid all of this news, remember that yesterday was supposed to be Bill Clinton's big day. The former president was side-by-side with his wife for the first time on the campaign trail, and they were popular as ever at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines. "I would be here tonight if she asked me to [even] if we were not married," Bill Clinton said. (He consumed only a third as much time as his wife, and his bright yellow shirt clashed with her peach outfit, per ABC's David Wright and Sunlen Miller.)

The Washington Post's Dan Balz and Anne Kornblut cast Bill Clinton as "the ultimate surrogate" as the Clinton campaign seeks to reenergize a flagging Iowa operation. "The former president came to offer validation for his wife, and his appearance underscored the campaign's determination to deal with what has become a nagging problem in a state that could be crucial in determining who wins the Democratic nomination: Hillary Clinton leads in national polls, but she has been struggling in the state with the first caucuses of the nomination process," Balz and Kornblut write.

How's this for classic Clinton? "A chorus of whoops went up from the audience of several thousand Democratic activists, Clinton supporters and curious Iowans as the couple strode up the steps together side by side -- albeit an hour later than scheduled," , writes the Des Moines Register's Thomas Beaumont.

Also in the news:

The Christian Broadcasting Network's David Brody reports on conservatives' concerns over former governor Mitt Romney's, R-Mass., service on the board of directors of Marriott, which offers in-room pornography in many of the hotels it manages. "Some of these conservative grassroots activists want to know whether he spoke up or tried to put a stop to Marriott's business dealings back then," Brody writes.

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