The Note: Minister With Portfolio



All things -- apparently -- are possible.

Although we have not seen donkeys fly (yet), peace is breaking out in the Middle East; Wizards' losses are considered a surprise; and Karl Rove has been given more power.

If Democrats spent less time being afraid of Rove (and less time trying to mask their fear by using macho anti-Rove language in public), and more time trying to recognize the efficacy of the power of ideas (and the power of, uhm, power), they just might be better off.

With their leaders still seemingly flummoxed and organizing, the Democratic Party's best hope would seem to be that Rove will now have to spend even more time in meetings and dealing with personnel issues, and that could sink him.

That sounds like a plan!!!

(Let's see how quickly Sen. Reid's war room analyzes the preceding five paragraphs.)

Today, President Bush meets with President Kwasniewski of Poland at around 11:25 am ET; there is a pool spray at the bottom.

At 1:20 pm ET, Bush participates in a discussion about class action lawsuit reform legislation at the U.S. Department of Commerce. The Senate debates that bill beginning at 9:30 am ET.

The House Administration Committee holds a hearing on election system reform at 10:30 am ET.

At some point today, John Kerry will post a message on his Web site about the Democratic National Committee. We wait anxiously.

Tonight, the Washington Press Club Foundation holds its 61st Annual Congressional Dinner.

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean appears tonight at the Capitol City Brewery around 7:00 pm ET to thank his DC-based supporters.

Big Casino budget politics: Medicare spending:

The Washington Post's Ceci Connolly and Mike Allen report that the Medicare prescription drug benefit will end up costing more than $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years -- considerably higher than advertised when it passed in 2003, and a big boost from the $534 billion over 10 years figure that Mark McClellan quoted last September. LINK

AP prefers the $720 billion that McClellan said will be the bottom line on the program after savings and offsets. LINK

We're not saying the difference between $1.2 trillion and $720 billion is small, by any means. But both numbers are substantially higher than the $400 billion originally quoted when the drug benefit passed, or the $534 billion revision.

Writes Robert Pear in the New York Times: "Dr. [Mark] McClellan tried to reconcile the numbers on Tuesday night. He said the $345 billion figure and the $1.2 trillion showed 'gross costs' and did not reflect the premiums that would be paid by Medicare beneficiaries, compulsory contributions by states or savings to Medicaid that would result from the new law." LINK

We know what Democrats and the press think of this -- over to you, Rush Limbaugh, Paul Gigot, and small-guvmint congressional Republicans.

Big Casino budget politics: the budget:

Rep. Jim Nussle, the leader of the House Budget Committee thinks the White House might want to consider vetoing a budget it finds unacceptable. LINK

"Even raising the prospect of a veto illustrated how uncertain Republicans were that they could force through the spending bills that would be required to meet the administration's overall goals, even if the details were rearranged."

The Washington Post's Jim VandeHei writes a thumb sucker that says conservatives aren't thrilled with the size and scope of government that President Bush's budget proposes. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Janet Hook and Warren Vieth report that congressional Republicans are looking for ways to achieve at least some of the results proposed by the President's budget without exactly the same cuts. Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) says he's opposed to making tax cuts permanent, and Nussle is looking for political cover. LINK

An interesting nugget in the Wall Street Journal: "Mr. Bush singled out farm subsidies in his remarks again yesterday -- an indication that the administration is serious about its policy proposal and isn't proposing the cuts merely for their symbolic value to markets or voters, a senior administration official said. It also could be a touch of penance: Mr. Bush signed a generous farm bill in 2002 that many fiscal conservatives had urged him to veto."

A week after he was out promoting his Social Security plan, President Bush once again hit the road, this time to talk up his budget -- which, the Washington Post's Jim VandeHei Notes, "is only a blueprint for Congress to follow or ignore." LINK

And the pitch, writes the AP's Jennifer Loven, was that his ambitious agenda is necessary to sustain and keep growing the economy. LINK

Bush's theme yesterday: Business: you complained about spending, and I listened. LINK

Martin Peers of the Wall Street Journal details the budget's intention to cut an ornery corporate tax shelter which could throw a wrench into News Corp's plan to buy back shares from Liberty Media.

And the budget does not spare a favored aircraft carrier of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's either. LINK

And still no outcry over the President's proposal to raise the fee/tax on airline passengers.

Karl Rove: SMIP, AP, DCoS and SA -- BMOC:

The Washington Post's Peter Baker outlines the consolidation of Karl Rove's influence. Reporters continue to appear shocked, shocked that Mr. Rove cares about policy. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Peter Wallsten has more. LINK

USA Today's Judy Keen throws in some details about fabulous Rove accessories that we will immediately seek. LINK

The difference between "coordinating" the four policy councils and "managing" them appears lost on Democrats, but perhaps rightly so.

"In bureaucratic terms," writes the New York Times' Richard Stevenson, "the move struck some analysts as curious. As senior adviser, Mr. Rove has always operated with a relatively free hand and open access to Mr. Bush. In assuming the deputy chief of staff's job as well, he will take on what some White House officials said were mainly administrative duties." LINK

Explain to us again why it was okay for presidential advisers in past White Houses who have worked on politics to also work on national security matters, but it is somehow improper or questionable for Karl Rove to do just that.

Social Security:

The New York Times' David Rosenbaum and Robin Toner quote Bill Thomas' continued desire to deal with Social Security as part of a broader overhaul of taxes and entitlements; Secretary John Snow responds that that's not what the Administration wants to do. And what about the Bush plan? "Democrats on the Ways and Means Committee tried to coax Mr. Snow into providing more details about the president's plan, but he responded, 'The president at this point doesn't have a plan.'" LINK

And unless we're reading this wrong, Treasury Secretary John Snow went a bit off message while testifying on the Hill yesterday.

"Snow acknowledged that 'there is a major difference between not being fully funded and being bankrupt.' But he said Social Security is 'doomed by our country's demographics' and 'is offering empty promises to future generations.'"

The Washington Post's Robert Samuelson argues in his column that not only could he afford to have his Social Security benefits cut, and so could a lot of other retirees -- but that wouldn't be politically expedient, even though they're inevitable. LINK

Susan Page of USA Today takes another look at the USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll, which shows that two thirds of those surveyed say they think it's wise to limit retirement benefits for the wealthy and to apply payroll taxes to all wages, rather than just the first $90,000. LINK

Bush vs. Reid:

Don't miss Heard on the Hill -- Roll Call's Mary Ann Akers has details of the White House dinner party with the President and First Lady and Sens. Reid, Dodd, Shelby, and Smith and their wives.

". . . before the dinner, Bush pulled Reid aside and told him that he had nothing to do with the Republican National Committee mailing that got Reid so riled up."

We love the appearances by Miss Beazley, Barney, and the cat. "But the cuisine, the conversation and the comfort of pets did little to make peace with Reid, who further fanned the flames on the two-day-old story Tuesday by questioning Bush's integrity. He recalled personal conversations the two have had, including Bush's phone call to Reid the day after the election, when Reid sewed up the support to become Minority Leader."

The New York Times' Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes that "A Democratic aide said Mr. Bush pulled the senator aside at the dinner and assured him he knew nothing about it." LINK

Plausible deniability and all, but Republicans confirmed to us yesterday that the White House has not expressed any desire to nix the campaign against Reid.

Close readers of the RNC research that we are, we Noticed that one of the supporting planks for Sen. Reid's allegedly being out of touch was that he lived at the Ritz Carlton, whose other residents have included Michael Jordan (big huge money-maker), George Clooney (liberal) and Mia Hamm . . . Mia Hamm? Is the RNC insinuating that she is out of touch with mainstream America? She's from Selma, AL, for goodness sakes! LINK

Speaking of RNC research, the RNC will officially announce today that Matt Rhoades will serve as research director, Danny Diaz as deputy communications director, Tracey Schmitt as press secretary, and Tara Wall as director of outreach communications. (Her first release was last night's tout of Chairman Mehlman's community meeting in Prince George's County.). See: LINK

Bush agenda:

The Washington Post's Michael Fletcher traveled to Baltimore with First Lady Laura Bush yesterday, where she talked up an elementary school pilot program aimed at keeping elementary schools focused in the classroom as part of a larger effort to reach out to at-risk kids -- particularly boys -- through faith-based and community initiatives. LINK

Elise Castelli of the Los Angeles Times has more details on the research behind the good-behavior program. LINK

The Washington Post's Mike Allen Notes the differences between House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) and the President on immigration and the guest worker program proposed by Bush. DeLay wants illegal immigrants to return home to apply for temporary legal status, but said yesterday that "people are trying to make this a bigger schism than it really is." LINK

On the other hand, a short item in the New York Times says the President and the House might cooperate on an immigration bill after all. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Maura Reynolds previews the movement through Congress of a bill to give more jurisdiction over class-action lawsuits to the federal government. LINK


In an e-mail to Democracy for America subscribers last night, Dean thanked them, asked them for money and assured them that DFA would continue.

Cragg Hines of the Houston Chronicle questions Dean's managerial skills and intentions. LINK

Robert Kuttner, writing in the Boston Globe, is more hopeful, but Notes that Dean "is a great organizer, he is not famous for being well organized." LINK

Why is Tim Roemer the only "critic" (and he's not really a critic) of Dean's who will speak to the media on le record? LINK


Another ethics hit for Mayor Hahn: LINK

Is there a disjunction between Mayor Mike Bloomberg's words and his administration's actions on gay marriage? LINK


Still a draw: Former Sen. John Edwards has accepted an initiation to speak to the Kansas Democratic Party on March 4.

Two reporters for the New York Times examine the story of Democratic donor Peter Paul, his attempts to influence the Clintons, and that gala 2000 Hollywood fundraiser. LINK

A must-read for Clinton haters.

We read it closely and we saw no mud flecks kick up and land in Chappaqua. But this one isn't over.

Clinton expert Dick Morris thinks drafting Secretary Rice is the way for GOPers to stop Sen. Clinton. LINK

Sen. Bill Frist will attend a a Greater Cincinnatti Chamber of Commerce meeting on Feb. 24; the Enquirer writer is a bit fanciful in his speculation about why Sen. Frist is coming to the Buckeye State, but not by much. LINK

The New York Times' Verlyn Klinkenborg, an Iowa ex-pat, on the state's proposal to stop brain drain by eliminating state income taxes for the under-30 crowd. LINK

The Granite State:

The Washington Post's Jonathan Finer reports that Allen Raymond, a Republican consultant convicted of jamming New Hampshire Democratic Party phone lines on Election Day 2002, was sentenced yesterday to five months in prison. LINK

James Pindell of on Gov. James Lynch's new school funding plan for New Hampshire.

"In short, Lynch explains that his plan will do away with the statewide property tax and donor towns and increase aid to the very towns that need it. Whether or not it will be approved by the Legislature or pass constitutional muster by the state Supreme Court will be the most important questions now." LINK

"His plan uses a formula that calculates a community's need for state aid. Among the factors in this formula are property value, the average income of residents, elementary test scores, how many students are non-English speakers, and graduation rates. He then plugs in the numbers for each city or town, compares it to the statewide averages and then comes up with a score for each community, called the Education Equity Index. "

"The New Hampshire House is scheduled to vote today on a bill that would end a primary voter's right to reclaim independent voter status right after voting," the Union-Leader reports. "The current primary system lets an undeclared voter cast either a Democratic or Republican Party ballot, then re-register as an undeclared voter before leaving the polling place. Independent voters, who are not registered with either party, make up roughly a third of all New Hampshire voters." LINK


Martin O'Malley dominates the Beltway political scene this morning; he addresses rumors about an affair here: LINK ; and he semi-defends comments comparing Bush's budget to 9/11 here: LINK

Both must-reads for a certain type of Note reader (and you know who you are).

The American Federation of Government Employees is ginning up for a fight over new rules governing workers at the Pentagon that the union says will hurt their jobs and their rights, the Washington Post's Christopher Lee reports. LINK

Catch Matthew Dowd on Texas Monthly Talks, and learn that he doesn't want to be the next Karl Rove, why voters trusted President Bush, how much BC04 spent on radio, the difference between a counsel and a counselor to the President, why Dowd wanted to run against John Kerry all along, why Dean might have made a better presidential candidate for Democrats, and much more. LINK