The Note: There Are No Public Events on the President's Schedule

WASHINGTON, Feb. 15 --

NEWS SUMMARY

The President of the United States is public event-less today, leaving the stage to others -- namely, the First Lady, Al Gore, Marty Kaplan, Robin Toner, Michael Bloomberg, Yvette Vega, and whoever is leaking all that stuff to the New York Post about Gov. Pataki.

Behind the scenes, the President is sitting down with John Negroponte, the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, meeting with members of Congress on the Committee on Aging to talk about Social Security, and is doing six regional newspaper interviews -- California, Alabama, Connecticut, Iowa, Florida, and Tennessee -- to assure their aging populations that they'll see no change in their Social Security benefits, ABC News' Ann Compton reports.

First Lady Laura Bush delivers a speech on the Helping America's Youth initiative at the Community College National Legislative Summit in Washington, DC, at 9:30 am ET.

Scott McClellan holds his on-camera briefing at 12:30 pm ET.

Former Vice President Al Gore holds a telephone press conference at 11:00 am ET to talk about the Kyoto Protocol, which goes into effect on Wednesday without the United States.

He's expected to talk about the "climate crisis" being caused by global warming and how the U.S. non-participation in the treaty is a disadvantage for the U.S. economy.

He'll also announce a campaign aimed at getting automobile executives to stop trying to block action on global warming and to drop their suit against California's new law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles.

Gore will talk further about global warming and the Kyoto Protocol in Los Angeles on Wednesday at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

The Senate holds a roll call vote on Chertoff at 4:00 pm ET.

Sen. John McCain joins Marty Kaplan, associate Dean of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and director of the Norman Lear Center, as Kaplan unveils the results of a study into campaign coverage in local news. It's at noon ET in the Russell Senate Office Building.

The House meets at 12:30 pm ET for morning business, and at 2:00 pm for legislative business. No votes are expected before 6:30 pm ET.

Senate Democrats and Republicans each hold their party caucuses at 12:30 pm ET.

Pat Robertson speaks to a National Press Club luncheon at 12:30 pm ET.

At 3:30 pm ET, John Negroponte, the US Ambassador to Iraq, meets with Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN).

Also at 3:30 pm ET, Sen. Jon Corzine (D-NJ) holds a presser on Social Security.

At 5:30 pm ET, New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg holds a rally at B.B. King's to start recruiting 50,000 volunteers for his campaign.

Today is of course the birthday of the very discerning Yvette Vega, who EPs Charlie Rose. LINK

Happy birthday, from all of us at The Note.

Social Security:

The President's two biggest obstacles to passing his Social Security reform principles: the united Democratic opposition and the lack of clear grassroots support for dealing with an entitlement in "crisis." (We could add that the MSM seems totally against it, but that would be premature and churlish . . . )

So the New York Times' Robin Toner sets out to describe what it would take to clear those boulders from the road in the day's only must read. Toner perfectly captures the current state of play.

"Republicans point to polls showing that personal accounts are, in fact, viewed positively, particularly among younger Americans." LINK

"Still, Republican leaders have been arguing, publicly and privately, that Mr. Bush cannot prevail on Social Security until he builds more intense grass-roots backing for his ideas. In recent days, Republican leaders have sent up what amount to a series of political flares to the White House, basically making the case that, as the House speaker, J. Dennis Hastert, put it, 'You can't jam change down the American people's throats.'

"Republican strategists say that until Democrats begin feeling the heat from a mobilized electorate, there is little incentive for them to join any bipartisan effort."

"'If they perceive no political threat, they'll stay where they are,' said a Republican strategist in the Senate, who asked for anonymity to speak more candidly. 'It's a big issue. The president is banging on it, but the most important thing is for there to be a recognition of its political potency. And if that doesn't come, Democrats will feel quite comfortable staying where they are.'"

Writes John DiStaso in the (Manchester) Union Leader; "As President George W. Bush prepares to lobby for his Social Security partial-privatization plan in Portsmouth tomorrow, he has his work cut out for him to win support in the Granite State, a new University of New Hampshire poll indicates." LINK

"Yet, the poll also shows that 53 percent of Granite Staters believe the country is generally headed in the right direction, while 40 percent believe it is on the wrong track."

The Los Angeles Times' Warren Vieth examines the critically important role of Fed chairman Alan Greenspan in the Social Security debate. LINK

Big Casino budget politics:

The Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman breaks down President Bush's $82 billion supplemental budget request for action in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as tsunami relief, pointing out that "[t]he sum exceeds the president's combined 2006 funding request for the departments of Homeland Security, Justice, and Housing and Urban Development, and it is nearly five times the savings Bush is seeking next year in cuts to discretionary spending." LINK

We assume someone with a great sense of humor at the Post let this paragraph get into Weisman's story:

"'This is a lot of money,' said Steven Kosiak, director of budget studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments."

More from the Los Angeles Times' Mark Mazzetti and Richard Simon. LINK

"In a controversial move, a large portion of the funding for the troop increase will be paid out of supplemental funding in 2005 and 2006. The Pentagon will move those costs into its regular budget in 2007," writes Dave Moniz of USA Today. LINK

Judicial politics:

The Washington Post's Michael Fletcher and Chuck Babington look at President Bush's renomination yesterday of 12 federal appeals court candidates (among the total of 20 renominations) whose nominations Democrats took down in his first term, including Terrence W. Boyle, Priscilla Richman Owen, Janice Rogers Brown, and William J. Haynes II. Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) reportedly told colleagues he'd rather start with the less controversial nominees first, and then work up to the tough ones after gaining a little traction. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Henry Weinstein sets up the Senate and outside factions. LINK

Bush agenda:

David Kuo, former deputy director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives during President Bush's first term, writes on Beliefnet.com that he believes President Bush has not followed through on his promises on faith-based initiatives to help the poor, and in his experience the Administration has been more concerned with the politics of faith-based initiatives than committing to seeing them through. Not only were Republicans not committed enough to the agenda, Kuo claims, but the White House didn't put force behind the proposals. LINK

"Capitol Hill gridlock could have been smashed by minimal West Wing effort. No administration since LBJ's has had a more successful legislative track record than this one. From tax cuts to Medicare, the White House gets what the White House really wants. It never really wanted the 'poor people stuff.'"

The Washington Post's Alan Cooperman and Jim VandeHei write smack on the front page that "Kuo's remarks were a rare breach of discipline for an administration that places a high premium on unity among current and former officials, and they mark the second time a former high-ranking official has criticized Bush's approach to the faith-based issue." LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Peter Wallsten and Tom Hamburger Note that Kuo says programs such as the anti-gang initiative announced during President Bush's State of the Union address and led by the First Lady, aren't actually new, but the $50 million cost is coming out of the $100 million request for the faith-based Compassion Capital Fund. LINK

The Post's Cooperman also profiles H. James Towey, the current head of the President's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. LINK

Page A4 in the Wall Street Journal features complains by big-city mayors that the Administration's budget harms them disproportionately.

But before you're convinced that there's a there there, read the Journal's editorial on what the states owe the federal government and rejigger your thoughts a little.

Writing up President Bush's calls for an enhanced PATRIOT Act, Eric Lichtblau in the New York Times Notes the implicit veto threat in case Congress decides to water down existing anti-terror legislation. LINK

Iraq:

Rick Klein of the Boston Globe takes a look at the evolution of congressional Democrats' criticism of President Bush and the Iraq war, switching from the premise of the war to accountability in how it's being conducted -- particularly with regard to contractors and how the funds for the war are being spent. But solidifying their agenda is, well, like herding Democrats. LINK

"Still, Democratic leaders do not have unity within their party on Iraq. About 20 House Democrats who are part of an informal Iraq working group met earlier this month and were unable to agree on fundamental issues such as whether there should be a timetable for troop withdrawal and whether Democrats should vote for Bush's funding requests."

Environmental politics:

Clear Skies is deadlocked in committee, writes Michael Janofsky in the New York Times, and lobbyists are feverishly trying to tip the balance. A vote is scheduled for Wednesday. LINK

USA Today's Tom Kenworthy looks at the dull roar of drilling and controversy the Bush Administration's energy exploration is creating in Western states. LINK

Bush administration personality and strategy:

Following up on our "reporting" yesterday on the latest Fineman/Isikoff look at the power of Karl Rove, here's what the White House press secretary said yesterday:

MR. McCLELLAN: I wouldn't read anything into it. I certainly wouldn't read into it what Newsweek reported.

DNC Chairman Howard Dean:

As the Flournoyian transition begins, the only significant opposition to Gov. Dean's short tenure has come from a Jewish political group -- and Republican state parties.

This weekend, the Republican Jewish Coalition, the leading group for, you guessed it, Jewish Republicans, opened a newspaper ad campaign criticizing Dean and alleging that his selection as DNC chair shows that Democrats don't take Jewish concerns seriously.

The full-page advertisement is running in major Jewish newspapers around the country, including papers in California, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, New York, and Pennsylvania. To get to Hill elites, it's also running in Roll Call.

It features a comment by Dean in reference to the Middle East: "It's not our place to take sides."

(Contextually, the ad is a bit misleading, as Dean's position has been very Clintonesque . . . but it never seems to come out of his mouth that way.)

The ad also features quotes by prominent Democrats expressing concern about Dean and Israel.

The buy is small enough so that it won't distract the Dean transition train, but it will certainly get pick-up (like in The Note!!!), and it will remind some Democrats who are nervous about Dean why they are nervous about Dean.

The National Jewish Democratic Committee responded with an e-mail broadside yesterday, alleging that " GOP leaders launched a vicious smear campaign against him within the American Jewish community -- a campaign that dangerously politicizes support for Israel, threatening the crucial legacy of bipartisan support for Israel. Moreover, it blatantly mischaracterizes Howard Dean's record of support for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship."

While they fight it out, a long-time Democratic commissioner in Hamilton County, Tennessee announced Monday that he's switching parties. A release from the State Republican Party pegged Curtis Adams' move to Dean, but a spokesman for the state party tells us that "local party officials have left the option open for Commissioner Adams to join the Republican Party for some time, and I think he has been watching the direction that his party has been taking and decided that now was the right time."

Said Adams yesterday: "For almost 18 years in office as a Democrat I believed in what they were -- not what it is today. The Republican Party is a party of conviction, a party of change. Their values, goals and beliefs are mine."

Whether there's more in that pot o' gold remains to be seen.

It is true that GOP state parties have access to a suspiciously large amount of opposition research against Dean; over the weekend, we received e-mails from the Republican Party of Iowa and the North Carolina Republican Party featuring a list of allegedly controversial statements Dean has made.

The North Carolina e-mail starts with Dean's feigned wish to be the first gay president and the "fact" that Dean is an infrequent churchgoer.

Dean, the e-mail says, does not "share [our] values."

The New York Post's Kenneth Lovett writes of a "stunning attack" by the New York Republican Party chair on Dean and the Democrats. LINK

"State GOP Chairman Steven Minarik, commenting on the selection of Howard Dean as the national Democratic leader, called Democrats the party of Lynne Stewart, who was convicted last week for aiding convicted terrorist Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman."

"'The Democrats simply have refused to learn the lessons of the past two election cycles, and now they can be accurately called the party of Barbara Boxer, Lynne Stewart, and Howard Dean,' Minarik said."

More from Marc Humbert: LINK

Dean certainly shares Paul Krugman's values, who hails Dean today as a "fighting moderate" and praises Democrats for being, actually, for once, effective. LINK

"By standing firm against Mr. Bush's attempt to stampede the country into dismantling its most important social insurance program, Democrats like Mr. Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Dick Durbin and Barbara Boxer have, at a minimum, broken the administration's momentum, and quite possibly doomed its plan. The more time the news media spend examining the details of privatization, the worse it looks. And those Democrats have also given their party a demonstration of what it means to be an effective opposition."

"In fact, by taking on Social Security, Mr. Bush gave the Democrats a chance to remember what they stand for, and why."

Paul Begala on Imus suggested he was still worried about Dean as chair (and that Diane Friday likes the cut of Imus' jib . . .)

Cindy Adams has her (own) views of Harold Ickes, Howard Dean, and HRC. Pay attention to what mother is telling you, kiddies. LINK

As for the transition, we are told that Flournoy is boosting morale with a "relaxed air of confidence"; that Dean is planning to be in the office a couple of days a week and that he has been touring the building asking lot of questions. He also did some satellite interviews with local stations in five states yet, although we don't know much about that.

Republicans and conservatives:

We eagerly anticipate the start of CPAC, our favorite late winter political fest, which begins Thursday.

There is nothing else like it in American politics, and liberal conventions and conferences don't even come close, although Mike Lux and Cecile Richards could mind meld with Roger Hickey and try . . . .

The highlights this year are many: DCOS/SA/ATP Karl Rove's rare, open press speech on Thursday afternoon; Vice President Dick Cheney's address on Thursday night; speeches by Sen. George Allen of Virginia (he gives the closing speech on Saturday -- it's a coveted slot!), Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota, and former House speaker Newt Gingrich . . . Rep. Paul Ryan, Kayne Robinson (remember what he did before the NRA?), Michael Barone, Novak v. Donaldson, Pat Buchanan, Zell Miller, Sen. John Sununu on Social Security, Ken Mehlman (introduced by Morton Blackwell!!!) and much much more.

You'll hear lots about LOST -- the Law of the Sea Treaty, which conservatives vociferously oppose. There's a press conference Friday morning announcing unified opposition to it. See LINK and LINK

There's also a Craig Shirley book signing!!!

CPAC has asked pollsters Tony Fabrizio and John McLaughlin to conduct a straw poll of the estimated 4,000 delegates; the questions include:

--Of the following whom do you believe Democrats will nominate for President in 2008? 1. Evan Bayh. 2. Wes Clark. 3. Hillary Clinton. 4. John Edwards. 5. Russ Feingold. 6. John Kerry. 7. Bill Richardson. 8. Tom Vilsack. 9. Mark Warner. 10. Other.

(Sen. Clinton will win this category easily, we betcha.)

--Thinking ahead to the 2008 Presidential election, who do you think will be the next Republican nominee for President? 1. George Allen. 2. Haley Barbour. 3. Bill Frist. 4 Newt Gingrich. 5. Rudy Giuliani. 6. Chuck Hagel. 7. Mike Huckabee. 8. John McCain. 9. Bill Owens. 10. George Pataki. 11. Tim Pawlenty. 12. Condi Rice. 13. Mitt Romney. 14. Mark Sanford. 15. Rick Santorum. 16. Other.

We'll be looking to see if any of the above (or their consultants/operatives/supporters) dares to campaign . . .

Other questions of Note, according to someone who has seen them: amnesty for illegal immigrations, a question about the Patriot ACT, whether conservatives would forgive a payroll tax increase for Social Security reform and more.

In short -- the first "real" poll of what grass tops conservative activists are thinking.

Here's the only thing we object to about the RNC's new "Off The Record" video series. And that's its name: Off the Record. There are still far too many members of the political world who don't take those words seriously enough or confuse them with "don't pin this on me" or "you can use it, but just say it came from a Republican."

If Sen. John Thune were really going off the record, we'd ask about the AMT, tax reform, discipline in the Senate Republican conference, his honest thoughts on whether Social Security reform will pass in any recognizable way, and what he thinks of the '06 and '08 landscapes.

Instead: "Senator Thune, who had just returned from Iraq, speaks about the emotional trip, life as a Senator and some personal favorites -- certainly more than you get from an average TV soundbite." LINK

Congress:

Roll Call's Mark Preston Notes that freshman Sens. Obama (D-IL) and Thune (R-SD) are in high demand for speaking engagements and at fundraisers for their brethren, throwing in the obligatory quotes about rock stars and giant killers.

Roll Call's Paul Kane looks at Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid's new role as Democratic fundraiser.

The politics of same-sex marriage:

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush says there's no need for a state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage because no court in the state is prepared to sanctify gay nuptials. LINK

A ballot fight is in the offing, as petitioners need more than 600,000 valid signatures to place it on the ballot, subject to a Florida Supreme Court review.

The Schwarzenegger era:

The Governator hits the Hill this week to lobby the California delegation (sitting down with them for the first time in a year) to get more cash for the Golden State, and will complain duly that California puts a lot more into the country's political and economic well-being than it's getting out -- a sentiment that Democrats have been preaching loudly. LINK

"The problem for California is being a rich state, full of millionaires. Federal money is generally doled out based on per-capita income. Poorer states get more. That leaves California getting 79 cents back for every dollar its residents pay in federal taxes. New Mexico, on the other hand, gets $2."

". . . Whatever the outcome of Schwarzenegger's push, Democrats stand to gain. Should the governor succeed, they can say, 'I told you so.' Should the governor fail, they can accuse him of not making good on his promise to secure more money -- and not getting anything in return from President Bush after helping elect him to another term in the White House, contrary to the wishes of most voters in the heavily Democratic state."

Roll Call's Ben Pershing writes that despite his steadfast support of Gov. Schwarzenegger, Rep. David Dreier isn't biting on the Governator's push for redistricting.

2005:

The New York Times' Randy Archibold on Rep. Anthony Weiner and his standing so far in the mayor's race. LINK

2006:

Roll Call's Chris Cillizza writes that New York Republicans and their national counterparts are beginning to wring their hands that Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) might not get that competitive a race in 2006, leaving her in the 800-lb. gorilla position for a presidential bid in 2008. (We'll pretend she isn't there already.)

"Despite a pledge in late 2003 from then-National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman George Allen (Va.) that he was already working on recruiting a challenger to Clinton, there appears to be little or no official effort at either the state or national level to rally around a single GOP candidate."

". . . In the event that Clinton faces no serious re-election challenge and is able to conserve the millions she raises into her campaign account, she would be allowed to transfer her entire war chest into a presidential account. At the end of 2004, Clinton had $5.5 million on hand."

Look out below: Gov. Pataki's approval ratings continue to drop in a New York Times survey that also has good news for Democratic pols named "Clinton," "Schumer," and "Spitzer." And New Yorkers seem to see more 1600 in Rudy than George right now. LINK

How does David Catalfamo take Fred Dicker's calls without a lump in his throat and a bellyache? LINK

Once again, Dicker "advances" the Libby Pataki story and we ask, for the umpteenth time: where is all this coming from?

By the way: this National Review cover story about Pataki is worth reading. LINK

Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) announced yesterday he would seek re-election -- which made Sen. Schumer happy. LINK

Meanwhile, the NRSC is wooing Rep. Heather Wilson to challenge him. LINK

Yesterday in mentioning his candidacy for U.S. Senate in Minnesota, The Note incorrectly identified Rep. Mark Kennedy as a Democrat. He is a Republican. We regret the error. (The "Kennedy" thing might have confused us.)

2008:

The Boston Globe's Peter Canellos takes an excellent and withering look at Gov. Mitt Romney and the strong national pull on Massachusetts politicians with presidential ambitions, calling Romney's evidently ever-growing national campaign, when added to those of William Weld and Paul Cellucci, a "chain of selfishness over service." LINK

It appears that Canellos links reading The Note to having presidential ambitions, so those of you reading this should look in the mirror and raise your right hand.

Gov. Mike Huckabee's covenant marriage vows make it into the New York Times. LINK

Washington governor:

The Seattle Times' David Postman reports that attorneys for Dino Rossi and Washington state Democrats will be back in court on Friday. LINK

Politics and the media:

Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich won a court ruling yesterday that we guess is a mere fantasy in the minds of many politicians -- a U.S. District Judge dismissed the case brought by the Baltimore Sun seeking access to the governor and state employees. Ehrlich issued an order in December banning employees from speaking to Sun State House bureau chief David Nitkin and columnist Michael Olesker, saying that they weren't objectively reporting on the administration. Judge William Quarles Jr. said the newspaper was seeking special access. The Sun plans to appeal the ruling in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, VA. LINK

USA Today's Mark Memmott reports that a Poynter Institute study coming out today concludes that politics has faded from the landscape of local news -- local politics, that is. "In the month leading up to last Election Day, just 8% of the local evening newscasts in 11 of the nation's largest TV markets devoted time to local races and issues, researchers say. . . . Over the same period, 55% of the newscasts included reports about the presidential race." LINK

Here's a Los Angeles Times correction from today:

"An article Saturday in Section A about the resignation of Eason Jordan, CNN's vice president and chief news executive, said that a website called Easongate.com offered a clearinghouse of criticism related to Jordan's statements about journalists killed by U.S. troops in Iraq, including a link to 'mainstream columnists such as Roger L. Simon.' In fact, one link is to a website and blog by Roger L. Simon, a mystery writer and screenwriter, not Roger Simon, the columnist for U.S. News & World Report." LINK

Here's our draft for the Times for tomorrow's correction page:

"A correction yesterday referred to Roger Simon as "mainstream" -- and not as a current fellow at Harvard University's Institute of Politics. Both the characterization and the non-characterization were grievous errors, which the Times regrets with all its might." LINK

Politics:

Fixes to voting machines and administration saved a million votes in 2004 that would have been discounted, according to a new report by the Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project. LINK

Phillip Stutts, the RNC's 72-Hour Task Force guru for 2004, is forming his own political and public affairs firm. Stutts is a former top aide to Dan Quayle, John Thune, Bobby Jindal and has several cycle's worth of experience with the NRSC and RNC.

Aspiring '08 GOP hopefuls should give him a close look; the guy knows GOP coalitions and GOTV efforts better than almost anyone.