WASHINGTON, Feb. 16 --
The third Tuesday of every month, The Note gathers a representative sample of the Gang of 500 into the back room at Capitol Hill's Bistro Bis to discuss the state of play in American politics.
Last night's group was more than "representative" -- we had 344 of the full Gang on hand, which included 11 Senators; 14 House members; 4 bureau chiefs; 7 people who think John King walks on water; 7 people who think John King should have his mouth washed out with soap; 4 Washington Post reporters; Jim Rutenberg; 12 GOP lobbyists who mean "Paxon" when they say "Bill"; Gwen Ifill; three of the laziest partners from the Glover Park Group; two of the most aggressive partners from Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock; Mitch Bainwol; Steve McMahon; Tom Synhorst; Gina Glantz; Nina Easton; and Ron Kaufman (who BlackBerried with 41 the ENTIRE time!!).
Over moist rabbit with spaetzle, sautéed trout with capers, and pan-seared red snapper, the group reached its usual easy consensus:
1. Private accounts for Social Security are dead in the water; the only way the President is going to get a win on this issue is if he gets a massive (or gradual) shift in public opinion, or (more likely) if he gets a little bipartisan momentum for something in the Senate that will look nothing like he has proposed and that violates some of his bedrock principles.
2. Howard Dean hasn't screwed anything up yet, but hey, he's only been in the job for three days.
3. It is easy to see the rhetorical contours of the McCain and Clinton 2008 presidential campaigns -- but harder to see those contours for anyone else.
4. It is easy to see what Republicans will run negative-wise against McCain in '07; and/but no one can really imagine Bayh, Edwards, Kerry, Biden, or Richardson saying the words "billing records," "cattle futures," or "Ira Magaziner."
(OK -- maybe one CAN imagine Richardson saying them . . . .)
5. The Democratic nominee in '08 will likely run on three of the following four themes: "opportunity," "responsibility," "security," and "community," and she or he will likely not pay Al From a royalty.
6. The Republican nominee in '08 will likely come up with a great synonymous phrase for "compassionate conservative" -- and it won't be "kinder and gentler."
7. Glen Justice sees Tom Edsall in his nightmares; the Gang see Edsall in its dreams.
8. John Harwood just keeps getting handsomer and handsomer.
9. Legal precedents be darned -- we have to do everything we can to keep Matt Cooper and Judy Miller from spending even a moment's time in the pokey. LINK
10. It would be interesting to know who Gov. Romney is going to secretly meet with while he is in town for his NGA meetings; the Globe and/or Herald should probably stake him out, just in case a South Carolina paper is already planning to.
11. Why isn't anyone talking about the spat between Speaker Hastert and Congressman Emanuel, or about Emanuel's aggressive targeting of Republican House members on Social Security? LINK
12. We admired Will Lester asking a political question (disguised as a wonky question) of Al Gore on Tuesday's global warming conference call; we didn't quite know what to make of Gore seeming to take himself out of running for public office; and we L-O-V-E-D Gore's unbidden, unprompted reference to Jeff Gannon -- made with barely contained fascination and glee (once a journalist, always a journalist; once a Bush hater, always a Bush hater).