The Note: What Doesn't Kill You Only Makes You Stronger

3 days to the Inauguration


At the start of a week of celebration of the re-inauguration of George W. Bush, at least one thing is clear: none of the dangers lurking derive from the strength(s) of the Democratic Party.

Disorganized, distracted, distraught, and down, the Democrats (sort of) have plenty of time to get their act together.

As they grope for a party chair and moan and groan about the prospects of X, Y, and Z (also knows as "G," "K," and "D") running for president in 2008, Democrats haven't figured out how to push back effectively on the President's agenda, let alone come up with one of their own. ("One" being both an agenda and a president . . . )

But -- make no mistake -- there are threats out there to Mr. Bush's second-term vision.


1. Iraq.

2. Some ticking-time-bomb personnel error that will disrupt Cabinet harmony.

3. The unshackled mutiny of Hill GOPers (on the war, immigration, Social Security, the budget), as the LaHood Award becomes more and more coveted.

4. The secretly written tell-all book by Dick Cheney, to be published in March by Simon & Schuster. (Just kidding about that one . . .)

5. The wasted government time come the spring, as staffers try to figure out if all those blind quotes in accounts of past Administration decisions from "a former government official familiar with Powell's version of events" are in each case from Colin Powell or Richard Armitage.

6. The unforeseen. (We got that one from Dan Bartlett . . . )

7. Paralysis in the White House communications shop caused by longing for the days of Milbank and Allen.

8. Did we mention Iraq?

9. A fatal miscalculation about sequencing that brings the domestic legislative agenda down like a house of cards.

10. Rising interest rates and/or the bursting of the housing bubble.

But none of that is likely to come acropper this week, so we can focus on the here and now.

As for your reading, it appears a lot of people had a lot of the same ideas in the last 72 hours:

A. Read the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times from Sunday on the apparent use of the Social Security bureaucracy to sell change. LINK and LINK

B. Read the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times from Sunday on Newt Inc. LINK and LINK

C. Read John Harris in today's Washington Post and the Boston Globe's Peter Canellos on the Bush dynasty. LINK and LINK

D. Read the Sunday New York Post on the alleged effort to get Bob Kerrey to run for DNC chair and CNN's coverage of Tim Roemer's lament. LINK and LINK

E. The New York Times' Todd Purdum, the Washington Post's Glenn Kessler, and the Los Angeles Times' M.Z. Barabak all curtain raised the confirmation hearings of Dr. Rice. LINK and LINK and LINK

This week . . .

Today at 10:00 am ET, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Celebration Day Committee holds its Annual King Celebration. There's an interfaith "Prayer, Peace and Praise" service at the Tenth Street Baptist Church in Washington, DC, and a wreath-laying ceremony at the African-American Civil War Memorial at 12:30 pm ET.

At noon ET, the U.S. Conference of Mayors opens its 73rd winter meeting in Washington, DC, beginning with a luncheon honoring the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. From 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm ET, mayors meet for a session on new best practices.

At 4:00 pm ET, President Bush delivers remarks at Georgetown University's "Let Freedom Ring" celebration at the Kennedy Center in honor of Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Kennedy Center. He issued a proclamation honoring Dr King, calling him a "visionary American" who "believed deeply in liberty and dignity for every person."

On Tuesday at 8:00 am ET, The National Journal holds a forum at the National Press Club on what a second term means in the modern presidency and what to expect of the Bush administration in the next four years.

Dan Bartlett, counselor to President Bush and former White House communications director; Leon Panetta, White House chief of staff during the Clinton Administration; Ed Rollins, White House political director during the Reagan Administration; Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform; Celinda Lake, pollster and Democratic political strategist; Gene Sperling, national economic adviser during the Clinton administration; and Jody Powell White House press secretary during the Carter Administration, participate.

At 8:30 am ET, John Walters, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy; and Miami Mayor Manuel Diaz deliver remarks at the U.S. Conference of Mayors Winter meeting. At 9:30 am ET, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley speak at the opening plenary session.

At 2:30 pm ET, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, Sugarland, TX Mayor David Wallace, Laredo, TX Mayor Elizabeth Flores, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and David Hagy of the Department of Homeland Security discuss homeland security and cities.

At 6:00 pm ET, the National Conference of Democratic Mayors holds puts the candidates for DNC chair through their paces. Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, former Reps. Martin Frost and Tim Roemer, former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, Democratic strategist Donnie Fowler, former Ohio state chair David Leland, and Simon Rosenberg, head of the New Democratic Network, have been invited.

On Wednesday at 7:30 am ET, Tom Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, speaks at the Mayors' Conference breakfast.

At the 9:30 am ET plenary session, outgoing Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), Henry Heimlich, president of the Heimlich Institute; Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH); Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and Housing and Urban Affairs Secretary Alphonso Jackson speak. At noon ET, Senate Minority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) and Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta deliver remarks at a closing luncheon.

On Wednesday at 8:30 am ET, the Labor Department issues the Consumer Price Index, weekly jobless claims numbers, and the Real Earnings for December.

At 9:00 am ET Wednesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee begins its hearing to confirm Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State.

At 9:00 am ET, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee opens day two of Rice's confirmation hearings.

At 2:00 pm ET, the Senate Finance Committee holds its hearing on the nomination of Michael Leavitt to be Secretary of Health and Human Services.

At 2:30 pm ET, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds its hearing on the nomination of Samuel Bodman to be Energy Secretary.

On Thursday, the Senate meets to attend the Inauguration, and then goes into session at 3:00 pm ET to consider morning business, including presidential nominations. Roll call votes are expected.

The House meets at 10:00 am ET to attend the Inauguration. No votes are expected.

Inauguration events:

Tuesday at 8:00 am ET, D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton holds a pen and pad only briefing with members at the National Press Club to discuss funding and security of Inauguration 2005.

President and First Lady Laura Bush attend "America's Future Rocks Today: A Call to Service" at the DC Armory at 6:45 pm ET.

On Wednesday at 5:00 pm ET, President Bush participates in "A Celebration of Freedom" event on the Ellipse, and then attends three candlelight dinners and the Texas State Society's Black Tie and Boots Ball in the evening. The ball begins at 8:00 pm ET and features performances from Robert Earl Keen, Yolanda Adams, Del Castillo, Lyle Lovett, Clay Walker, Neal McCoy; Asleep at the Wheel, the Derailers and the Gourds. If organizers thought Kid Rock's language is salty, we can't wait to hear a review of the Gourds' cover of Snoop Dogg's "Gin and Juice."

Also on Wednesday at 8:00 pm ET, the North Carolina Society of Washington holds an inaugural ball, as does the Illinois State Society. At 9:00 pm ET, the Organizing Committee for the Entrepreneurs Opportunity also holds an inaugural ball.

On Thursday:

--9:00 am ET: President Bush attends morning church service at St. John's Church. Vice President Cheney also attends

--Noon ET: President Bush and Vice President Cheney are sworn in to a second term at the Capitol

--12:05 pm ET (approximately): President Bush delivers his inaugural address. Then he signs Cabinet nominations and joins invited guests in Statuary Hall for the congressional luncheon

--2:30 pm ET: The President attends his inaugural parade. The parade route at the intersection of Constitution and Pennsylvania and continues down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House

--7:45 pm ET: The President and First Lady attend the Constitution Ball

--8:30 pm ET: The President and First Lady attend the Freedom Ball

--8:45 pm ET: The President and First Lady attend the Texas-Wyoming Ball

--9:05 pm ET: The President and First Lady attend the Liberty Ball

--9:25 pm ET: The President and First Lady attend the Independence Ball

--9:45 pm ET: The President and First Lady attend the Stars and Stripes Ball

--10:05 pm ET: The President and First Lady attend the Patriot Ball

--10:25 pm ET: The President and First Lady attend the Democracy Ball

On Friday at 10:00 am ET, President and First Lady Laura Bush and Vice President and Mrs. Cheney attend the National Prayer Service at National Cathedral.

On Saturday, President and Mrs. Bush attend The Alfalfa Club Dinner.

Bush agenda:

The New York Times picks up Dan Bartlett's reassurances on behalf of the President, whose comments to the Post about the federal marriage amendment, were, natch, solely about the realities of vote counting. LINK

Bob Novak has a weird column about Michael Chertoff, questioning whether his "intransigence as a Justice subordinate will characterize him as a Cabinet member." LINK

We're looking forward to checking out the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll tonight.

Time's pre-election poll gives the President a job approval rating of 53 percent but contains land mines about Social Security.

According to a new Associated Press/Ipsos poll, 60 percent of Americans say they're hopeful about a second Bush term, and 53 percent said they think Iraq is the President's highest priority. LINK

On Sunday, the Washington Post's Jim VandeHei and Michael Fletcher wrote up their tete-a-tete with President Bush, and he offered up some utterly fascinating tidbits he didn't let loose in his other interviews last week. Among them: his re-election was an approval of his policy in Iraq and "that there was no reason to hold any administration officials accountable for mistakes or misjudgments in prewar planning or managing the violent aftermath"; he won't press the Senate for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage (sort of); and he does not plan to cut benefits for Social Security disability and survivor payments. LINK

"With the Iraq elections two weeks away and no signs of the deadly insurgency abating, Bush set no timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops and twice declined to endorse Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's recent statement that the number of Americans serving in Iraq could be reduced by year's end. Bush said he will not ask Congress to expand the size of the National Guard or regular Army, as some lawmakers and military experts have proposed."

". . . The president said there is no reason to press for the amendment because so many senators are convinced that the Defense of Marriage Act -- which says states that outlaw same-sex unions do not have to recognize such marriages conducted outside their borders -- is sufficient. 'Senators have made it clear that so long as DOMA is deemed constitutional, nothing will happen. I'd take their admonition seriously. . . . Until that changes, nothing will happen in the Senate.'"

Newsweek's Howard Fineman offers up a who's who of power players on the Hill, who will have a lot to do with what exactly President Bush is able to accomplish in his second term: Sens. Frist, McCain, Reid, and Nelson, and Reps. Emanuel and Blunt. LINK

In this week's New Yorker, Seymour Hersh writes that the Bush Administration has been conducting secret reconnaissance missions in Iran, and that in his second term, sources say Bush intends to expand the war on terror and give Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the Pentagon control of it. LINK

"The President has signed a series of findings and executive orders authorizing secret commando groups and other Special Forces units to conduct covert operations against suspected terrorist targets in as many as ten nations in the Middle East and South Asia. . . . The President's decision enables Rumsfeld to run the operations off the books -- free from legal restrictions imposed on the C.I.A."

Newsweek's Richard Wolffe sketches out the goals and challenges President Bush faces -- and looks to debunk some popular perceptions -- as he embarks on his second term. LINK

". . . those closest to Bush . . . make a compelling case that the president is a more complex and engaged character than his popular image suggests. And that he -- not Karl Rove, Dick Cheney or anyone else -- bears the full weight of responsibility for the ultimate successes and failures of his reign."

And Tom Wolfe's "I am Charlotte Simmons" is on his reading list!

Bush Cabinet:

On Sunday, the Washington Post editorial board took a hard line against the confirmation of Alberto Gonzales as attorney general. LINK

Time magazine brought out a dream team of Duffy, Bennett, Bacon, Burger, Cooper, Shannon, Thompson, and Frank to look at the aftermath of the abuses at Abu Ghraib and the policy changes on defining torture, and what standards they've created for the military, intelligence, and prisoners today. LINK

The inauguration:

According to inaugural officials, both the New York Times and the Washington Post have incorrectly reported that Barbara and Jenna Bush are hosting the Youth Concert. While Barbara Bush works at the Inaugural Committee, neither daughter is an official host of the event.

On Sunday, the New York Times' David Rosenbaum previewed the major policy themes in the President's inaugural address -- namely, the vision of an "ownership society," which includes an overhaul of Social Security, making tax cuts permanent, minimize taxes on investment income, health insurance, and home ownership for low-income families. LINK

Elisabeth Bumiller's profile of Michael Gerson includes few hints about the substance of the President's inaugural remarks, except for this:

"'It was very important for leaders like Truman and Kennedy at the beginning of the cold war to explain directly to the American people what the stakes of the war were and how the government was going to proceed,' Mr. Gerson said. 'We're in an analogous situation: we're at the beginning of another generational struggle. It's to some extent a requirement of leadership for the president to inform Americans about that struggle and how we will proceed.'" LINK

The New York Times' otherwise fine article on the "private" corporate events taking place this week in Washington strikes us as just a bit breathless in tone, though we do like the device of following a single lobbyist -- in this case Alex Vogel -- from legislation writing through Charlie Palmer luncheon with Senators. LINK

And kudos to Mr. Vogel for giving out all those quotes and saying nothing unseemly or untoward!!

USA Today's Jill Lawrence takes a look at the big protests set for Thursday. LINK

Bill Nichols of USA Today used his Bluegrass expertise to profile a family that just loves the inaugural thing. LINK

Many Dems are getting out of town, and Bob Shrum might not even make it to Bob Novak's fete! LINK

On Sunday, the New York Times' John Tierney pondered the question of tone for an inauguration during wartime. LINK

Also on Sunday, the New York Times' David Rosenbaum looked at the historical pitfalls of second presidential terms. LINK

Social Security:

Robert Pear writes up Dan Bartlett's response to Pear's Sunday article on intragovernmental cheerleading for Social Security reform. LINK

On Sunday, George Will made the case that the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., as it relates to the unpredictable and fragile airline industry, "should not, but probably will, complicate the task of persuading the public to make necessary changes in Social Security." LINK

Time magazine's Joe Klein tries to piece together why President Bush is expending political capital on Social Security as opposed to tax reform, and says the plan proposed by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) "approaches fiscal sanity." LINK


The Los Angeles Times' Alyssa Rubin and Doyle McManus look at the day-after-election issues that both U.S. and Iraqi officials are going to be dealing with: "Among them are a probable Shiite Muslim-led government that may ask for assurances that U.S. troops will leave the country, a Sunni minority that is likely to feel even more disenfranchised, a long process of drafting a constitution that tries to knit the country back together and an insurgency that may even gather strength." LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Ron Brownstein Notes that even President Bush's conservative allies are taking issue with the way the war in Iraq is causing strains on the military, particularly the National Guard and Reserve, because the Administration has not increased the size of the full-time military enough to deal with demands -- and it's hard to figure out how to have a bigger military when there's a huge and growing budget deficit and no plans to raise taxes. LINK

"These dissents signal an important shift in the political weather as Bush begins his second term. Until recently, complaints about the Pentagon's personnel strategy came from Democrats and a few maverick Republicans such as Sen. John McCain of Arizona. But it's a more ominous sign for the White House when a GOP leader such as Blunt, ordinarily a loyal soldier for Bush, breaks ranks."

The budget numbers " . . . highlight the fundamental contradiction between Bush's expansive vision of America's mission to bring democracy to the Islamic world and his crimped approach to funding the government that must implement it. By failing to provide means to match his ends, Bush is violating the classic test of statecraft that columnist Walter Lippmann laid down in World War II: 'bringing into balance . . . the nation's commitments and the nation's power.'"

Again, as he has before, Brownstein stresses that during past wars, presidents have raised taxes -- not cut them.

DNC chair's race:

A relatively quiet week is on tap for the candidates. Several of them will chat with Democratic mayors in Washington on Tuesday, and several Democratic governors plan one-on-one meetings with the candidates, too.

Jo Mannies recaps Saturday's forum and gives her last paragraph to a cheer-inducing slogan by Donnie Fowler. LINK

Lee Bandy on Donnie Fowler, the South and Democratic politics. LINK

On Saturday, the New York Times' Adam Nagourney examined how the candidates for DNC chair are approaching the gig, and the guiding philosophies they espouse -- don't need to become Republicans to win, have become so identified with particular issues that it's keeping Dems from successfully appealing to a majority -- and what the Democrats face in trying to make a choice. LINK

Dems regroup:

The New York Times' David Kirkpatrick on Jim Wallis, the liberal evangelical who is the new Democratic Party go-to guy on religion. LINK

Same-sex marriage:

The Washington Post's Evelyn Nieves reports that as 11 states consider bans on same-sex marriage this year, lesbian, bay, bisexual, and transgender groups are banding together for the first time to advance an agenda that includes same-sex marriage rights. LINK

Judicial politics:

On Sunday, the Washington Post's Chuck Babington took a look at how Republican moderates in the Senate -- Sens. Snowe, Collins, Chafee, and McCain -- are resisting Majority Leader Bill Frist's "nuclear option" to outlaw filibusters during the confirmation process of judicial nominees. Given that others have refused to publicly state their views, on it, these four could have company soon. LINK

On Sunday, the New York Times' Linda Greenhouse pondered how long is too long for justices to sit on the Supreme Court? LINK


Stu Loeser, Patrick Brennan, and Kevin Fullington are all headed to Mayor Mike Bloomberg's re-election team. LINK


Gov. George Pataki was "coy" on his future political plans to Gabe Pressman. LINK

Could Al D'Amato endorse Eliot Spitzer? LINK

Frank Phillips of the Boston Globe Notes that Deval Patrick, formerly President Clinton's assistant attorney general for civil rights, is considering a bid for governor of Massachusetts, leading at least one Democratic adviser to gin up the comparisons to Sen. Obama. LINK


On Sunday, the Des Moines Register's Tom Beaumont wrote that the next three and a half months, the 2005 session of the Iowa Legislature, represents Gov. Vilsack's last chance to solidify his record -- and thereby a possible presidential run -- and looks at the road ahead. LINK

David Yepsen on Sunday argued for Vilsack and key lawmakers to make some tough decisions on the budget that don't involve tax cuts -- and offers some ideas: school mergers and local charter commissions. LINK


Ray Hoffman was be named chair of the Iowa Republican Party over the weekend. LINK