The Note: Oh, Somewhere in This Favored Land the Sun Is Shining Bright

WASHINGTON, March 17 --

NEWS SUMMARY

Even The Note is not dumb enough to try to entice you into a Talmudic parsing of the President's words on Social Security from one of his now-routine second-term press conferences from yesterday. (Or why Rob Portman is leaving Congress to become the U.S. Trade Representative -- and maybe some day the governor of Ohio . . . )

All eyes turn to Capitol Hill's hearing-cum-mediafest concerning the (alleged) drug use of (over)grown men who hit and throw balls for a living.

With the restraint that comes from professional decorum and having seen this movie before, we implore every Member of the committee: before you speak, think about your motives and about the public interest.

(Whom are we kidding???)

As you get ready for the pipsqueak players to face off against those giant elected officials in their raised seats, read these:

Curtain-raisers:

New York Times: LINK

USA Today: LINK

Washington Post: LINK

Los Angeles Times: LINK

The Wall Street Journal's lede is dismissive (of Congress): "When Congress takes up baseball's steroids issue, fans can likely expect the equivalent of a lot of dugout chatter but not many runs scored."

The hearings begin at 10:00 am ET and are expected to last all day. The House Government Reform Committee will hear from Baseball Hall of Famer and Sen. James Bunning (R-KY); former MLB players Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire; current MLB players Rafael Palmerio, Curt Schilling, Sammy Sosa and Frank Thomas; and Bud Selig, commissioner of Major League Baseball.

Also on the Thursday political schedule:

At 9:30 am ET, President Bush will announce Rep. Rob Portman (R-OH) as the new U.S. Trade Representative.

At 10:30 am ET, the President and First Lady Laura Bush meet with Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern and participate in the traditional "Shamrock Ceremony" in the Roosevelt Room. At 12:30 pm ET, the President attends a St. Patrick's Day luncheon, sponsored by House Speaker Dennis Hastert.

At 8:30 am ET, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce hosted a discussion on "Insuring America's Economy Against Terrorism." Speakers include Thomas Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Senate Minority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), Reps. Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Paul Kanjorski (D-PA).

At 9:30 am ET, the Senate Judiciary Committee meets to vote on President Bush's pending judicial nominations.

CIA Director Porter Goss and DIA Director Lowell Jacoby testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee at 9:30 am ET.

Also at 9:30 am ET, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) delivers a "major speech" on the budget at a program hosted by the Center for National Policy. More on that below.

At 10:15 am ET, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) hold a news conference to discuss a proposed amendment to invest in programs to help prevent unintended pregnancy, as well as increase funding for contraceptives and emergency contraceptives, family planning services, and teen pregnancy programs.

At 11:30 am ET, Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) hold a news conference to discuss the President's Social Security plan.

At 1:30 pm ET, Sens. Sam Brownback and Mary Landrieu, and Reps. Dave Weldon and Bart Stupak hold a news conference to reintroduce a bill to ban all forms of human cloning.

At 7:00 pm ET, Sen. Barack Obama receives the Newsmaker of the Year Award from the National Newspapers Publishers Association foundation.

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