The Note: Google "Howard-Dean" and "SSMIP" for Three Hits . . .

2 days to the Inauguration

NEWS SUMMARY

Inaugural anticipation builds; Rice takes center stage; the RNC convenes in festive, chilly Washington; Dean moves closer to chairdom; New York politics becomes even more interesting and Kennedyesque; and The Note begins to experiment with new, semicolon-laden formats.

Take your carrot-cinnamon scone and English Breakfast tea and spread open the Shipley-lickin'-good op-ed page of the New York Times and read every word of all four must-read pieces:

There are three conservatives for every two liberals, David Brooks writes in the Gray Lady, and that makes it tough for Democrats to employ a Newt Gingrich, scorched earth strategy. Gingrich needed to persuade the conservative base to vote Republican; the Democrats, Brooks says, need to persuade middle class moderates to vote Democratic.

"The truth is that Democrats probably need a leader who will make liberals feel uncomfortable, the way Clinton did, not someone who will make them feel righteous and good." LINK

Brooks might not have it exactly right, but he seems to be giving better advice to Democrats than most Democrats are.

Then Paul Krugman compares the selling of Social Security to the selling of the Iraq war, and his take implicitly tries to take on Brooks. LINK

Move on to psychiatrist Joshua Freedman, who was part of a team that analyzed the brains of Democratic and Republican partisans during last year's elections and found that "[w]hile viewing their own candidate, both Democrats and Republicans showed activity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, an area associated with strong instinctive feelings of emotional connection. Viewing the opposing candidate, however, activated the anterior cingulate cortex, which indicates cognitive and emotional conflict. It also lighted up the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, an area that acts to suppress or shape emotional reactions."

It is a largely a bunch of hoo-hah, but it makes for interesting reading. LINK

Finally, filmmaker and moveon-er Errol Morris suggests that Sen. Kerry's recollection of his Vietnam war record casually erased his post-war actions (which Morris admires) thus leaving Kerry. LINK

While it's certainly true that Kerry might have reacted less sluggishly to the Swift Boat veteran charges had he himself brought up his post-Vietnam agita, it doesn't follow that voters would have appreciated the same nuance and complexity and anti-war sentiments that Mr. Morris admires.

Or that Kerry could have better explained his opposition to the Iraq war. Or that Kerry wouldn't have said he voted for the $87 billion before he voted against it. Or that Karl Rove and Ken Mehlman wouldn't have built the world's most aggressive, most impressive, get-out-the-vote machine ever.

But it just might be a better explanation of why Kerry lost than, say, blaming the staff. (And you know who you are, (Senator).)

Today is a busy day in Washington. See if you can read our whole daybook look without a book mark.

At 9:00 am ET, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee began it hearings to confirm Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State.

At 12:30 pm ET, Gregory Mankiw, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, talks Social Security at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, DC.

At 1:30 pm ET, Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND), chairman of the Democratic Policy Committee, holds a news conference to discuss a new DPC report on Social Security.

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