The Note: Getting Over It

NEWS SUMMARY

There are only six pairs of questions that matter in American politics today.

1. Will there be any stories coming out of tomorrow's State of the Union address besides Social Security? And will the President's hand be stronger or weaker on that signature issue than it is now by Super Bowl kickoff?

(The Washington Post's Jim VandeHei and Jonathan Weisman report exclusively and must-readily that President Bush may be willing to compromise a little on his plan for personal/private Social Security accounts in order to calm jittery Republicans and court skeptical Democrats, entertaining limiting the costs and risks of moving to the new system by phasing in changes and offering more conservative investments for people as they near retirement. He's also allegedly said he's willing to explore ways to prevent lower-income workers from having their benefits cut. The duo also offer some detail about how Bush will outline his ideas in his State of the Union tomorrow night. LINK)

(Trial balloon or unplanned leak? As they said in the '70s: you make the call . . .)

2. Will anyone write more elaborate prose than The Note connecting the SOTU with Groundhog Day? And will punchy White House speechwriters begin uttering the catch phrase "It's in the hole" after they read this?

3. How can the President gain domestic political oomph from the successful vote in Iraq? And is there anyone of any power and influence in the Democratic Party who realizes that their current Tower of Babble on the issue is as self-destructive to them as it is inspirational to Karl Rove?

4. Will the self-styled budget hawks in the Republican conference squeal like stuck pigs when the real spending restraints in the President's budget start to hit their districts and states? And will the fallout from that intra-party discord impact the White House's overall legislative agenda?

5. How closely would Howard Dean as chair of the Democratic National Committee live up to the nightmare that so many Washington, Hill, and Clinton Democrats think he would be? And will Dean do anything -- anything -- stylistically or substantively in the next ten days to calm their nerves?

6. How will the endemic illness among United States Senators affect the capacity of the World's Most Deliberative and Delirious Body to do the people's business? And what can be done to end the madness?

Mitch McConnell has a runny nose.

Dan Akaka has a pain in his lower back. (It is more of a dull ache, really, than a sharp pain.)

Susan Collins' elbow kind of stings.

Jim Talent was sounding sort of hoarse, so his staff fed him some Echinacea and 500 milligrams of chewable vitamin C.

Pat Roberts was wearing sandals in his den yesterday, and stubbed his toe; there's a little swelling.

John Sununu HAD a headache, but he took a few Advil, and now he's feeling much better.

As Sir John Gielgud famously said, "I'll alert the media."

Today at 10:15 am ET, President Bush signs a presidential proclamation for National Heart Health Awareness Month in the Oval Office, joined by First Lady Laura Bush.

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