The Note: "What I Want to Know Is . . . "

8 days to the Inauguration

With apologies (of sorts) to Howard Dean, what we want to know:

-- Does pushing simultaneously on immigration and Social Security (with tough budget cuts in the mix) create a zero-sum game in the GOP conferences on the Hill?

-- What is the cosmic meaning of the Chertoff and Mark McKinnon beards?

-- Where will Bob Shrum live in 2005-2006?

-- Who has learned "more" from his loses in the last election cycle -- John Kerry or Dean?

-- Does Katie Couric think Newt Gingrich has written a book to promote his presidential ambitions, or is feigning presidential ambitions to sell his book?

Outgoing Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge joined the Center for Strategic and International Studies for a breakfast on the international aspects of homeland security at 8:15 am ET.

The Supreme Court begins hearing oral arguments at 10:00 am ET.

President Bush talks about high school initiatives today at 10:30 am ET at J.E.B. Stuart High School, Falls Church, VA.

Scott McClellan gaggles at 9:45 am ET, and holds his on-camera briefing at 12:30 pm ET.

This afternoon, he and First Lady Laura Bush sit down for an exclusive interview -- their first for broadcast since the November election -- with Barbara Walters. Tune in to ABC's "20/20" on Friday for the full conversation.

At 12:30 pm ET, Sen. Ted Kennedy speaks at a National Press Club luncheon on "A Democratic Blueprint for America's Future." As always, watch for the Q&A section, when the man known as "EMK" is sure to get questions about the Bay State's junior Senator.

In his speech, Sen. Kennedy is expected to wade into that tricky and sticky wicket of "values," and talk about how his party should talk about what Americans are talking about -- as we said, values. Kennedy will also hit on Social Security, Iraq, and abortion -- a sort of para-state of the union, but with food.

At 3:00 pm ET/noon PT, Democrat Christine Gregoire will be inaugurated as Governor of Washington State. Chelan County Superior Court will hear Republicans' challenge to the election results on Friday.

The Commerce Department reported an all-time high U.S. trade deficit of $60.3 billion in November this morning -- up 7.7 percent from October.

Bush cabinet: Chertoff:

One news cycle down and there are three things we can say about Michael Chertoff:

A. The coverage and the reception on the Hill have been silky smooth;

B. The Gang of 500 has no earthly idea who performed the household chores in the Chertoff household for the last, say, 30 years;

C. How Sen. Clinton will vote on the nomination.

The New York Times' Eric Lichtblau on Chertoff's role in expanding the use of "material witness" warrants. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Elizabeth Shogren focuses on the "safe pick" aspect of the Chertoff nomination. LINK

John Mintz of the Washington Post looks at the post-9/11 policies that will be Chertoff's biggest source of criticism. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Richard Schmitt looks at the pros and cons of Chertoff's experience -- excellent managerial skills, but without the total specific knowledge of the Department's functions. LINK

The New York Times' Stevenson and Litchblau Note the cautious but generally favorable initial reaction from some Democrats. LINK

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