WASHINGTON, March 4 --
In this corner -- weighing still more than he would like -- the President of the United States, George W. Bush!!!
And in THIS corner -- weighing all sorts of different things -- various United States Senators of the Democratic stripe.
It is a day of big-time dueling photo opportunityish, campaign-style, rough-and-tumble Social Security events in the Tri-State area.
The President conducts his half of the long-distance slugfest over Social Security from the Garden State, as he heads to Westfield to talk at 10:40 am ET.
He then is off to the Midwest in the afternoon for another conversation on Social Security at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, IN, at 4:20 pm ET.
This morning, some leaders of the effort on the other side take their swings in the Social Security argument in Gotham City, as Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid joins Sens. Clinton, Schumer, Durbin, Dorgan, and Kerry at Pace University for a 10:00 am ET event.
If you are a betting sort, wager now: which of these events will make the network news tonight on broadcast television and what will the soundbites be?
Will the President's "money" words be about:
A. personal accounts?
B. the need for the country to bravely face the necessity of benefit cuts to save the system for future generations?
C. how he has just begun to fight?
D. how the Democrats are the do-nothing party?
And out of the marquee Democratic event in downtown Manhattan, will the Senator most likely to make the news be:
Place your bets now. The answers come at 6:40 pm ET, or whenever the Martha Stewart packages clear off of the first block.
And if you are a strategist on either side of this fight, you would be wise to heed the words of the Smartest Man in the World -- Jim Baker, who told the President's panel on tax reform something that is equally applicable to the Social Security fight.
Per the New York Times, Baker said this yesterday:
"'This is a political exercise as much as it is an economic exercise,' Mr. Baker noted. (sic) 'A basic recognition of political reality will help you shape recommendations that can survive the legislative process.'"
Amen to that, Brother Baker of Houston.
At 2:00 pm ET, Sens. Reid, Durbin, and Dorgan join Gov. Ed Rendell and Reps. Chaka Fattah, Bob Brady, and Allyson Schwartz at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia for another Social Security event.
On Saturday, Reid, Durbin, and Dorgan head for Phoenix, where they join Rep. Ed Pastor and Raul Grijalva at 1:00 pm ET. Then the Senators Three hit the bright lights of Vegas for a 5:00 pm ET event at UNLV.
At 8:40 am ET today, President Bush announced Steven Johnson as his choice to be the new EPA Administrator.
The Labor Department announced this morning that 262,000 jobs were created in February -- a healthy number that surprised forecasters. The unemployment rate rose 0.2 percent to 5.4 percent, reflecting a larger number of job hunters entering the market.
Leader/Sen./Dr. Frist is in New Hampshire this weekend.
Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) is the keynote speaker at the Colorado Democratic Party's Jefferson Jackson Day dinner tomorrow night in Denver.
The National Association of Counties Conference kicks off today in Washington, DC.
On "This Week" Sunday, Sen. Ted Kennedy joins George Stephanopoulos to talk about Social Security and judicial appointments and Treasury Secretary John Snow talks about the economy and the "60 stops in 60 days" Social Security tour. Joining George Will in the roundtable: the New York Times' John Tierney and former NAACP president Kwiesi Mfume.
Happy 79th birthday (Sunday), Chairman Greenspan.
Social Security: the politics:
The Washington Post's Chuck Babington and Mike Allen look at Senate Majority Leader Frist's abrupt about-face on the Senate floor yesterday, saying that the Social Security overhaul needs to happen this year -- a sharp contrast from his comments on Tuesday that the vote might not happen this year that without question prompted a flurry of phone calls and a stern talking to. For their part, Democratic Senators appear to be finding a collective backbone with their letter to the President saying that private accounts need to be taken off the table -- a gimme handed to them earlier this week by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA). Meanwhile the spinning continues. LINK
Robin Toner of the New York Times rounds up the day's news, with the President's show of confidence, Democratic unity, and Frist and Grassley walk-backs. LINK
The Washington Times' Amy Fagan Notes congressional Republicans recommitment to the President's Social Security plan and getting it passed this year -- as evidenced by the Frist/Grassley back-tracks. LINK
The Des Moines Register's Jane Norman examines how Sen. Grassley's comments about taking personal accounts off the table rocked the White House, but his office said there was no contact from the Administration, and he told Iowa reporters he hasn't backed off his statements. LINK
The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire says: "Republican National Committee touts new poll showing "shift of historic proportions" away from Democrats on the issue, but bruised lawmakers want stronger party 'grass-roots' effort for upcoming Easter recess. Because so many districts are strongly partisan, ex-Reagan strategist Rollins says, Republicans probably can't lose the House in any case unless many senior lawmakers decide to retire next year."
As Democratic lawmakers get their Social Security road show underway, the DNC is getting into the act with its first paid media foray in this legislative fight -- two 60-second radio ads titled "Cuts" going after the President on his plan. The party claims it is a "real" ad buy with significant money behind it, but for now, it is tailor-made for free media coverage because it will run in the states to which Mr. Bush plans to travel. The scripts vary only with the Congressmen they urge voters to contact: Rep. Chris Chocola in South Bend, IN, and Rep. Mike Ferguson in Westfield, NJ.
This week President Bush brought his risky plan for Social Security to South Bend -- a plan that would end Social Security's guaranteed benefits and tie our retirement savings to the ups and downs of the stock market.
How does President Bush plan to pay for this risky scheme you ask.
First, he'll borrow $4.5 trillion from foreign countries. Then he'll cut benefits by up to 40%.
Cutting benefits and borrowing trillions from foreign nations won't solve Social Security problems -- it WILL make them worse.
Call Congressman X at X and tell him tell him you do not want your benefits cut.
Call Congressman X and tell him to oppose President Bush's risky scheme that would put in jeopardy our social security benefits here in X.
We cannot afford to be silent.
The Republican National Committee is sending a document to reporters and supporters today, claiming that GOP candidates who've grabbed on to the third rail of politics with ungloved hands have gone on to win elections.
This RNC clearly wants the media to remember and report that Republicans can tout personal accounts and win elections, and more importantly, wants to try and give skittish Republicans up for re-election some cover by pointing to history.
Social Security: the policy:
The Los Angeles Times' Peter Wallsten and Richard Simon write that the Bush Administration is not only going after African-American support for its Social Security plan, but targeting Latinos as well. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez penned a Spanish-language op-ed in La Opinion, in which he said that the Latino community has the most to lose if the President's plan doesn't take effect, with the growing number of young Latinos in the workforce, coupled with the dependence of Latino retirees on the program. LINK
"Administration officials said that the Gutierrez message -- written as a response to a Monday editorial in La Opinion warning that Latinos stood to lose from private accounts -- would be repeated in White House staff briefings with Latino leaders and in speeches to gatherings of Spanish-speakers across the nation as part of the broader push to convince the public and Congress to back private accounts."
"Opponents of the accounts also elevated their Latino outreach, with one advocacy group backed by the AFL-CIO planning a series of town hall meetings in heavily Latino areas, and a leading Cuban American Democrat sending an e-mail to Spanish-speaking supporters. The e-mail warned that a shift to worker-owned accounts could hurt lower-income Latinos who had less experience with private investing than other groups did."
The New York Times ed board disses Chairman Greenspan. LINK
Paul Krugman disses Chairman Greenspan. LINK
Greenspan on Thursday came out as a fan of taxing personal consumption more than income as a way to encourage people to save, the Los Angeles Times' Joel Havemann reports, reasoning that the accumulated capital could be invested in the economy. LINK
The New York Times Edmund Andrews writes up Chairman Greenspan's words to the President's tax panel supporting tax reform of the consumption nature. LINK
USA Today's Barbara Hagenbaugh makes Greenspan's idea sound much more even-keeled, suggesting a mix of consumption and income tax. LINK
The Washington Post's Dan Balz Notes Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid's smackdown on Greenspan yesterday, with a personal attack ("hack") that, as Balz puts it, quite clearly reflects Democrats' frustration over Greenspan's support for the private accounts President Bush has proposed in his Social Security plan. LINK
Balz doesn't come right out and say it, but his piece gives implicit voice to those Democrats worried that Reid's sharp tongue could use a well-timed holding now and then.
Today, Reid will put out a statement calling the President's plan a privatization that will cut benefits, add to the debt, and not help the program -- an approach he says that the American people are rejecting. Reid offers a three-pronged Democratic approach: first do no harm to the current system; pay back the trust fund; and give Americans more ways to save. He also accuses Republicans of wanting to cut benefits to seniors and by pegging benefits to inflation rather than wages, taxing benefits, and borrowing for the plan and driving it further into debt.
Big casino budget politics:
Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times looks at the House Appropriations efforts to nip and tuck the President's budget, kicking off some serious budgeteering work on the Hill. LINK
The Washington Post version was a little bit more glass-half-full for the Bush Administration. LINK
More from AP's Alan Fram. LINK
The Wall Street Journal's David Rogers ends his budget story with this tidbit: "Mr. Bush's budget has set a target of $61.6 billion in program savings and user fees over the next five years, for example, to reduce budget deficits. But some of these assumptions, especially for the Medicaid health-care program for the poor, could be substantially overstated according to a analysis by the Congressional Budget Office expected today. And a big question next for budget committees is whether they still stay with the president's savings total or step back and use a smaller target that promises less but is more likely to be enacted."
The Washington Post's Jim VandeHei and Peter Baker take a look at President Bush's turn back toward wartime and national security concerns with a rare mention of Osama bin Laden at the ceremony to swear in Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. The duo also look at what appears to be a growing concern among lawmakers that the President isn't putting adequate resources toward or attention to protecting particularly the nation's borders. LINK
AP writes that the border security issue is rapidly becoming an area of bipartisan criticism of the President. LINK
AP's Katherine Shrader uses the bin Laden mention as a jumping off point to take a look at doubts about the U.S.' resources and ability to track and ultimately capture public enemy number one. LINK
The Los Angeles Times' Greg Miller wraps the President's buck-up-the-troops visit to the CIA on Thursday. LINK
The Washington Times' Joseph Curl Notes in a classic second-dayer that CIA Director Porter Goss' address at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on Wednesday, where he said he is being overwhelmed by the duties of his job. However, "CIA staffers said the director was being lighthearted about the situation and had been misinterpreted." LINK
The Washington Post's Robin Wright reports that President Bush is looking to build on whatever gains he may have picked up in Europe by seeking cooperation from European nations to punish Iran if the country doesn't agree to give up its nuclear weapons ambitions. But there's skepticism in the Administration and Congress that Europe will follow through with a promised stick. LINK
The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne looks at Democrats' skepticism coupled with reluctant optimism about favorable movement toward democracy in the Middle East. LINK
If you are a hawkish Democrat, read the quotes (and weep) at how hard it is for Democrats to express unbridled support for American successes abroad.
David Rogers of the Wall Street Journal, in his trademark meticulous style, follows up on the National Journal's reporting about Tom DeLay's trip to Europe with Jack Abramoff, and one gets the sense that Mr. Rogers has the bit in his mouth on this one.
The Washington Times' Charles Hurt looks at the long-time-coming hearings for Terrence Boyle, President Bush's nominee to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals -- and the very even-handed comments by Judiciary chairman Arlen Specter about bipartisan blame for escalating fights. LINK
In a Washington Post op-ed, Sen. Robert Byrd outlines the specifics of the "nuclear option," what it's designed to do and the purpose of how the Senate was designed (leave the rough stuff to the House) -- without the objectionable comparisons he drew earlier in the week. LINK
The House of Labor:
Steven Greenhouse of the New York Times highlights the end of the AFL meeting and the next/last stand of President Sweeney. LINK
The Washington Post's Harold Meyerson paints a fairly bleak picture of two angry union camps coming out of the AFL-CIO meeting, with threats of disaffiliation being thrown around as SEIU makes noise to exit and points fingers at AFL president John Sweeney. LINK
The Los Angeles Times' Nancy Cleeland looks at what the fights over territory say about the cracks in the united front. LINK
Note to Laura Gross: get this Grand Rapids TV station to find a new file photo of your principal. LINK
A must-read if your name is "Sheekey," "Clanton," or "Weiner": the New York Times Jimbo Rutenberg lets you know what happens when Roberto Ramirez conducts a fundraising meeting over an open phone line after leaving a short voice message for a reporter and then failing to actually hang up the phone. LINK
Note to Roberto (and Bluestein): y'all are SO lucky nothing worse was said!!!
And you foolishly thought it might not come after all. The Los Angeles Times' Michael Finnegan and Noam Levey write that Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn hit his opponents with both barrels with a negative ad up yesterday knocking challengers Bob Hertzberg and Antonio Villaraigosa for seeking a drug trafficker's early release from prison. Villaraigosa went after Hahn for "corruption" and "scandals" in his administration, and Hertzberg went after Hahn on principle of his ad, with a side of slam on schools, taxes, and cops. LINK
Sen. John Kerry:
Andy Miga of the Boston Herald writes up the "word" that was put out that Sen. Kerry raised money this week for Sen. Clinton, and plans to party down in Boston tonight for Edward M. Kennedy. LINK
Sen. Clinton gets a very positive clip in the New York Daily News for her Armed Services work: "In a rare Washington moment, something actually got done yesterday on Capitol Hill, where Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) won agreement from military bureaucrats to stop messing with the pay of wounded troops." LINK
According to Ann Lewis of Sen. Clinton's PAC, the Senator will attend a fundraiser in Manhattan tonight for her campaign (not the PAC). The event will be hosted by Democratic bigwig Hassan Nemazee at his apartment. When asked the size of the event and the nature of the group, Lewis politely told ABC News: "The names of all donors will be made public in our regular filing. As is our practice, we don't get into any other details before then."
And practice makes perfect.
Deborah Orin of the New York Post writes up her ed board's time with the President (mostly about 9/11, Syria, and -- newslessly -- Social Security).
In a sidebar, this happens:
"President Bush yesterday sidestepped a question about whether superstar Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would make a good president -- but praised her to the skies as 'a remarkable woman.'"
"'If I catch her thinking that way, I'm going to remind her that I picked her to be secretary of state, because I'm confident that she can do a good job,' Bush told The Post editorial board." LINK
The Boston Globe's Scott Greenberger reports that Gov. Romney played coy yesterday on his presidential ambitions, saying he loves his (current) job and plans on keeping it, but wouldn't yet disclose his 2006 plans -- you know, like whether he'll seek re-election -- until the fall. LINK
The Boston Globe's Scot Lehigh takes an interesting look at the one-of-these-people-is-not-like-the-other relationship among Gov. Romney and Sens. Kennedy and Kerry. LINK
High Point (NC) University will play host to Rudy Giuliani on May 7. LINK
Instead of running for Governor in 2006, Rep. Mark Udall is running for Senate in 2008, Roll Call's Josh Kurtz reports.
More from the Denver Post. LINK
The Schwarzenegger era:
The Los Angeles Times' Dan Morain looks at a deep-pocketed donor, Univision chairman A. Jerrold Perenchio, who has given $1.5 million to the campaign for Gov. Schwarzenegger's initiatives. LINK
"Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger suffered a major potential setback Thursday when a judge tentatively ruled that he illegally blocked a law boosting the number of nurses needed to staff California's hospitals," AP reports. LINK
The Washington state Republican Party has released its "felon list" -- the names of more than 1,000 people it alleges illegally cast votes in the 2004 gubernatorial election, the Seattle Times reports. The list is part of Republicans' lawsuit looking for a re-vote. LINK
The Washington Post's Sylvia Moreno examines the money laundering charges against a TRMPAC fund-raiser. LINK
In National Journal's Congressional Insiders' Poll this week, members of Congress rated the National Rifle Association the most effective interest group on the Hill -- followed by AARP, AIPAC, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the National Federation of Independent Business. Check out National Journal for the complete list.
Al Kamen floats a job move for Gordon Johndroe to the NSC, and announced Susan Whitson as First Lady Laura Bush's new press secretary. LINK
In this Sunday's New York Times, Frank Rich's column goes after the media, with a special emphasis on the Jeff Gannon story that is tailor-made for the Frank's rich sense of bathos, pathos, and richness. LINK
The Boston Herald is getting plenty of glee in following the story of Boston Globe reporter/blogger/Kerry critic/Bush supporter Hiawatha Bray -- particularly with Democrats criticizing the Globe. LINK