"A Rare Public Appearance"

35 Days Until Inauguration Day

Day two of both the President's economic conference and the Harvard University's 2004 presidential campaign managers symposium.

Highlights of the economic conference:

-- 9:30 am ET: Session on financial challenges for today and tomorrow, with Time Warner Chairman Richard Parsons, Liz Ann Sonders of Charles Schwab and Co., Dean William Roper of the UNC School of Public Health, former Rep. Tim Penny, others.

-- 11:00 am ET: Session on preparing for 21st century jobs, with Kati Haycock of Education Trust, Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, others. Moderated by Labor Secretary Chao.

-- 1:30 pm ET: Closing remarks, President Bush.

It's the second day of talk, talk, talking about the campaigns' strategies and tactics in "Campaign for President: The Managers Look at 2004" at Harvard University's Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government -- starring Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign manager Ken Mehlman, Kerry-Edwards 2004 campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill, and many other key players.

This morning features sessions on the Democratic nomination fight and convention and Republican early strategy and convention, then a discussion of the general election in the afternoon.

The Boston Globe's Ann Kornblut reports Cahill conceded a campaign mea culpa on the way it handled attacks on Kerry's war record in a "rare public appearance" at Harvard Wednesday night. "In hindsight, maybe we should have put him out earlier," she said, while Ken Mehlman admitted they should have put down allegations about a reinstatement of the draft. LINK

As of tomorrow, there are only nine shopping days left until Christmas -- a fact not lost on chocolate-amped, tinsel-stringing Googling monkeys. So while they -- and we -- will be intently following the transition, the Democratic Party's search for leadership, the Washington governor race, and Inauguration preparations, we're going to take a little time away for the holidays. Friday, Dec. 17 will be the last Note of 2004. The Note will return revved and modeling holiday gifts on Monday, Jan. 3.

In other news . . .

At 8:30 am ET, The U.S. Chamber of Commerce holds a conference on the 2005 economic outlook, with a panel including Kathleen Cooper of the Commerce Department, American Express Co. Chief Economist Daniel Laufenberg, American Petroleum Institute Chief Economist John Felmy, National Association of Home Builders Chief Economist David Seiders, and others.

At 9:10 am ET, Secretary of State Colin Powell holds a closed-door bilateral meeting with United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

At 10:00 am ET, the Center for Public Integrity and the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at Brigham Young University hold a joint news conference and discussion on "The 527 Phenomenon: Its Impact on the 2004 Election" at the National Press Club. Participants are Charles Lewis, executive director, and Aron Pilhofer, database editor, of the Center for Public Integrity; and David Magleby of the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy.

At 11:00 am ET, the National Governors Association holds a press conference to release the biannual Fiscal Survey of the States.

Economic figures out this morning:

--The Labor Department releases weekly jobless claims figures -- the number of Americans making initial jobless claims fell by 43,000 to 317,000 last week -- the steepest decline in three years, Reuters reports;

--The Commerce Department releases November housing starts (fell 13.1 percent in November -- the biggest drop in 11 years, according to Reuters) and third-quarter current accounts figures (the trade deficit widened just 0.2 percent, which is better than expected, AP reports).

Coverage of the President's economic conference:

The New York Times: LINK

The Washington Post: LINK


The Wall Street Journal's John Harwood and John McKinnon look at how President Bush's second-term agenda to overhaul Social Security and the tax code is playing (answer: a wary, mixed reaction), Noting that "the president may have a tough selling job not just with Democratic lawmakers but also with Republicans wary of forcing through measures unpopular with important constituencies." The first Wall Street Journal/NBC poll since the election shows that 50 percent of the public thinks it's a "bad idea" to privatize Social Security by letting people invest their taxes in the stock market, as opposed to 38 percent who approve of the plan. LINK

The President provokes mixed feelings among independent voters and strong opposition from Democrats, Harwood and McKinnon write. "The upshot is that the president, to sell his legislative program, will have to repeat the winning formula for his 2004 campaign: add just enough middle-of-the-road support to his strong political base to form a narrow majority."

"Overall, the survey shows Mr. Bush in a middling position a month after besting John Kerry by 51% to 48% in the popular vote and carrying 31 of 50 states. His 49% job approval rating matches his standing in October, though disapproval has waned slightly since then to 44% from 47%."

Fifty-one also seems to be a magic number -- the number of those who approve of President Bush's handling of the war on terrorism, and the number who disapprove of his handling of the economy.

Poll results: LINK

N. Gregory Mankiw of the Council of Economic Advisers makes the case for personal Social Security accounts on the Wall Street Journal's op-ed page. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's David Wessel offers up some criteria for evaluating the various plans to overhaul Social Security. LINK

The Wall Street Journal editorial board uses a bit of a hyperbolic approach to smack around the President's opponents who it says are using hyperbole to worry people about the state of the Social Security system. LINK

Greg Ip, G. Thomas Sims and Andrew Morse of the Wall Street Journal report that the President tried to mitigate European fears about a weak dollar and sooth the U.S.' trading partners by saying that a lower budget deficit and higher interest rates balance out the problem. LINK

The Financial Times reports that Fed chairman Alan Greenspan nixed the idea of going to Treasury to replace Secretary John Snow. LINK

The New York Times' Todd Purdum looks at Republican criticism of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. LINK

Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post Notes, "If Don Rumsfeld has lost Bill Kristol, he's losing his conservative base." LINK

The Washington Post's Walter Pincus reports President Bush is looking to hire not only a new director of national intelligence but also for three other senior officials to work under the DNI. Goss is still a potential nominee worthy of speculation: "If Goss were named DNI, he would inevitably be questioned in depth about the personnel troubles and retirements at the CIA after he arrived, bringing with him four Republican former staff members from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, administration and congressional sources said." Pincus says Bush 41 appointee Brent Scowcroft may have blown his chances when he criticized the war in Iraq. Gen. Tommy R. Franks, sporting a shiny new Presidential Medal of Freedom and Adm. William O. Studeman, a former CIA deputy director are also considered possibilities. LINK

Some former military lawyers are kicking around ways to oppose the nomination of White House counsel Alberto Gonzales for attorney general, based on his decisions and comments with regard to detainees, the New York Times reports. LINK

The New York Times' Robert Pear reports that Rep. Billy Tauzin will become president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the main lobby for brand-name drug companies. The salary for Tauzin, one of the key authors of the new Medicare drug law is speculated to be $2 million or more, given the trade group's comment that it would be comparable to pay at other large associations. LINK

The Washington Post's Helen Dewar follows up on Shailagh Murray's Wednesday story, Noting that the GOP's boost in the Senate has brought new optimism for ANWR drilling. LINK

The New York Daily News reports that Giuliani gave Kerik a good scolding. LINK

The White House is standing by the Kerik vetting conducted by Alberto Gonzales, the Daily News reports. LINK

The Bronx District Attorney's Office said it will investigate the alleged connection between Kerik and a mob-connected contractor. LINK

The New York Times' Nina Bernstein and Robin Stein try to unravel the mystery of Kerik's nanny. LINK

In a story that headlines "The Return of the Hanging Chad," the AP's John Nolan reports at least 35 of Ohio's 88 counties had completed their recounts or were starting Wednesday. LINK

"A divided King County Canvassing Board yesterday took the first step toward counting 573 previously rejected ballots that are expected to boost Democratic gubernatorial candidate Christine Gregoire's vote total," report the Seattle Times' Keith Ervin and Susan Gilmore. By a 2-1 vote decided by Democrats, the board is directing election workers to take another look at absentee ballots that county election officials say were put aside because the signatures weren't entered into the computer system. Three more counties completed their recounts last night, the duo report, and Republican Dino Rossi gained 79 votes, giving him a total lead of 121. LINK

Neil Modie of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer Notes that the decision will likely bring more legal moves by Republicans LINK

The Seattle Times' David Postman interviewed King County elections director Dean Logan, who surmised that the counting errors in the governor's race have shaken voters' confidence in the system. LINK

Andrew Garber of the Seattle Times reports that Gov. Gary Locke is expected to propose a $500 million tax hike to offset a projected $1.5 billion budget deficit -- a move that both Rossi and Gregoire opposed during the campaign. LINK

Bob Novak has 80 percent perfect pitch in sizing up the race for DNC chair, with trepidation about Howard Dean and no savior in sight. LINK

Note well the Bill Richardson section.

Former Texas Democratic Party chair Molly Beth Malcolm is mulling over running for the DNC's chief post after the petition drive to nominate her.

Meanwhile, in the Granite State, Dem Party chair Kathy Sullivan is running again. LINK

The latest poll numbers aren't looking grand for Mayor Bloomberg -- he'd lose to Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer 51 percent to 39 percent if the race were tomorrow, according to a new Marist poll. LINK

George Will profiles Mitt Romney, Republican governor "of the bluest state." Will Notes there could be very reason to get to know him. "Until recently, he has not been raising money at a clip that indicates a firm commitment to seek reelection in 2006. He says he anticipates running again, but if he wants to be in the 2008 presidential mix, he might benefit from a Washington job with national security dimensions." LINK

Yesterday we got a little happy with the consonants again and spelled the Boston Globe's Scot Lehigh's name with an extra t. We regret the error.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg says she does not expect Chief Justice Rehnquist to lead Christmas carol singing at the annual Christmas party, as is tradition. LINK

Pauline LaFon Gore passed away Wednesday at age 92. The AP's Teresa M. Walker reports as a young woman Mrs. Gore "worked her way through Vanderbilt University Law School as a waitress, meeting her future husband at the coffee shop where she worked. In 1936, Mrs. Gore was one of the law school's first female graduates." LINK

Our condolences to former Vice President Gore and his family.