The Note: Approximately 3/5th of the Gang's All Here

Perhaps Dean will wait for Gov. Bill Richardson and Gov. Tom Vilsack and Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Nancy Pelosi to articulate those values and then articulate them with gusto.


Rep. Tim Johnson (R-IL) and Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) are looking to bring civility back to political discourse with the Center Aisle Caucus, their brainchild whose goal is to grow their personal collegiality into a more formal collective whose goal is policy and legislation with a touch of cross-party civility.

"This is not members getting together to sing kumbayah," said Israel spokesman Ryan Rudominer, who said the venture is going to be ongoing. "Steve Israel and Tim Johnson disagree on a lot of issues, and this doesn't mean they're caving in."

Johnson spokesman Matt Bisbee agreed, saying there can't be 100 percent, across-the-board agreement on every issue. "There are going to be issues where we're not going to find a middle ground."

Which may involve agreeing to disagree -- but in a civil way.

The duo, colleagues in the freshman class of 2000, floated the idea to former House former House Speaker Tom Foley (D-WA), former Republican leader Bob Michel (R-IL), and former Rep. David Skaggs (D-CO), who not only endorsed the plan but are showing up alongside them at the press conference today.

To start, the caucus will focus on Social Security and veterans' issues, and they'll get down to the business of recruiting following the President's Day recess, sending out a "Dear Colleague" letter, and ultimately forming a working group and steering committee.

Both MOCS say they're after a small, committed membership, and that response to the idea from other House members has been overwhelming. "We're not looking to have the biggest caucus out there," Bisbee said, indicating that there would be a "fairly rigorous process" to becoming a member. "We want to keep it kind of small, manageable, sincere -- and committed."

Sen. John Kerry:

The Los Angeles Times' Mark Mazzetti was at Sen. Kerry's breakfast meeting with Pentagon reporters, where he talked up his proposal to add 40,000 troops to the U.S. military and boost benefits for military families. He also talked about the tough time he had during his presidential campaign over raising national security issues. LINK

"'When you're running against an incumbent president of the United States, they've got a bully pulpit that you don't have and they have an automatic trust factor that [challengers] don't have,' Kerry said."

"'Americans accepted that I could be commander in chief,' he said. 'What they were unwilling to do was shift commanders in midstream. That's a tough argument. It's never happened in the course of a war. It didn't happen now.'"

USA Today's Tom Squitieri broadens the push for expanded money for military families to an effort by Senate Democrats, as outlined by Sen. Kerry, who will ask for up to another $8 billion for the troops and the families. LINK

Stem cell politics:

Sen. Kennedy has thrown down over Gov. Romney's proposal to ban cloning embryos for stem cell research, the Boston Globe's Rick Klein and Gareth Cook report. And Romney's looking to learn about ways to generate stem cells without embryos. Kennedy is signing on to a bill being introduced today and sponsored by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) that would allow research on embryos in fertility clinics that would-be parents have decided they don't want. LINK


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