The Note: And the Benny Goes to . . .

Best mocking rhetoric (tie): Conservatives regarding those Republicans open to the huge tax increase embodied by raising the cap, and Democrats regarding those (other) Democrats who think it's time to offer a plan of their own for saving Social Security.


ABC News' Jonathan Karl reports that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will release a statement today announcing a US agreement with Europe to offer Iran incentives to cooperate with outside bodies on its nuclear program. The US will also hint of countermeasures if they don't cooperate. (Read more in the New York Times: LINK)

Senators in town will take up budget room on the Hill, but little action of interest is expected.

President Clinton continues to recover from surgery, and the Washington Post's David Brown has all of Clinton's post-op details. LINK, as does Dr. Altman in the New York Times. LINK.

Rest up, sir.

After his travel today, the President high tails it back to the White House for the weekend, and tomorrow night's Gridiron Dinner.

Tomorrow, the Democratic National Committee's commission on the nomination calendar meets in Washington, D.C. Sen. John Kerry travels to Florida from closed-press political events.

On "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and Jose Canesco.

Social Security: the politics:

The Washington Post's Chuck Babington and Jim VandeHei conclude from a shoe-leathery survey of the Senate that opposition to the President's Social Security plan is so strong that it may not even come to a vote. The key to the coalition, numbering between 42 and 44, is the opposition to private accounts, to borrowing to set them up, and the benefit cuts or higher taxes needed to replace the diverted money. LINK

"Unlike recent battles over tax cuts, the threat of Bush campaigning for their defeat does not appear to be scaring Democratic senators, White House officials concede. Some aides are surprised at the unified and stubborn opposition of Democrats and, in a tone that sounds more pessimistic than a few weeks ago, talk of how a defeat of the Bush plan this year could lead to GOP congressional and gubernatorial losses in 2006."

(Note that that is the opposite view expressed by some Bush supporters -- who claim a Bush defeat on the issue would lead to punishment of balky Democrats . . . )

USA Today linguist Judy Keen Notes the President's "safety net" rhetoric, a move away from his "crisis" rhetoric. "Bush's strategy, modeled on his campaign tactics, is to repeat a few simple arguments that will stick in people's minds and maybe prompt them to act," she writes. LINK

And there's a must-clip chart of what Bush said then, and what he says now.

The Los Angeles Times' Peter Wallsten and Warren Vieth write the closest thing to a déjà vu campaign story we remember, complete with carefully screened audiences and a couple of protesters sneaking in to President Bush's Social Security stops aimed as seniors in the South. LINK

The Memphis Commercial Appeal curtain-raises President Bush's visit today. LINK

And the paper analyzes the local-media strategy as he continues the road show. LINK

The Shreveport Times looks at local Democrats who aren't interested in the President's visit. LINK

Unlike the President's December 2002 visit, this time Shreveport's Democratic mayor, Keith Hightower, has been invited to be at the President's event today. LINK

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