The Note: Brackets

WASHINGTON, March 18 --


May we present our favorite political pairs for the day.

A Note Notebook to anyone who can get any of these duos together to watch basketball this weekend:

1. Jim Nussle and Gordon Smith.

2. Chairman Greenspan and Sen. Clinton

3. John Kerry and Ann Lewis

4. Chris Lehane and the word "figuratively"

5. John McCain and Tom DeLay

6. a McCain operative and a DeLay operative

7. Jenny Backus and Jonathan Prince

8. Kevin Sheekey and Chad Clanton

9. Paul Wolfowitz and Paul Krugman

10. Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire

11. the Bushes and the Clintons (unless they are in fact already planning to watch together . . . )

President Bush heads to Pensacola, FL, this morning, for an 8:55 am ET conversation about Social Security at Pensacola Junior College. He visits with seniors in Orlando at 1:10 pm ET, then delivers remarks on Social Security at the YMCA Family Center, Orlando, FL.

Surely, today is not make-or-break for the President's push to change Social Security for future generations.

But this is the start of the Easter break; this is Florida; and interested observers will be watching (even on a Friday). So get out your scorecards.

Watch the language (safety nets, progressivity, compromise, empowerment, etc.).

The President then heads to his ranch in Crawford, TX, for the weekend.

Looking ahead, President Bush will meet with Mexican President Vicente Fox and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin at his ranch on March 23, and the White House announced today that President Bush will welcome Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to his ranch in Texas on Monday, April 11.

At 12:30 pm ET, Congressional Budget Office director Douglas Holtz-Eakin addresses a National Economists Club luncheon on the CBO's analyses of the proposals to change Social Security and their effects on the economy, the budget and beneficiaries.

The House convenes at 10:00 am ET.

At 9:00 am ET, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld holds a Department of Defense town hall meeting with Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

At 11:00 am ET, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff joins former DHS chief Tom Ridge and Commandant Admiral Thomas Collins in a U.S. Coast Guard 'Change-of-Watch' Ceremony at National Defense University.

Also Friday. Majority Leader/Dr./Sen. Frist begins a two-day visit to New Hampshire.

Tomorrow is the two-year anniversary of the war in Iraq.

On Sunday, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld joins George Stephanopoulos on "This Week" to talk about the war, how it's gone, and where things go from here. And Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) also joins, to talk about the baseball steroid hearings and Iraq.

Baseball's been very very good to . . . Congress:

The Washington Post's Dave Sheinin paints a genuinely tragic figure of homerun hero Mark McGwire and does a very good wrap of the days events and the controversy surrounding America's pastime. LINK

McGwire walked, writes the Washington Post's Dana Milbank. LINK

The Washington Post's Thomas Heath looks at how the players' testimony may affect public perceptions of their records. LINK

Los Angeles Times: LINK

The Boston Globe: LINK

Social Security:

The Orlando Sentinel's Tamara Lytle previews the President's visit to Florida to talk Social Security today, Noting the difficulty even sympathetic lawmakers have in supporting his plan, given their constituents' thoughts on it. LINK

"In Florida, especially, with its large senior population, any talk of revamping Social Security could be dangerous ground for politicians."

"Conservatives such as U.S. Rep. Tom Feeney, R-Oviedo, already have said they don't feel as obligated to 'fall in line' behind Bush on his second-term agenda. And though others, such as Rep. Ric Keller, R-Orlando, support private accounts, there is no consensus on how to settle the much tougher issue of Social Security's long-term solvency."

More from the Pensacola News-Journal, which Notes that Gov. Bush will be there. LINK

The New York Times' Simon Romero flew to Galveston, TX, where a Social Security experiment of sorts is being conducted to mixed reviews. LINK

The Times has yet another article on the Thrift Savings Plan, offering two different accounts of how successful the program is. LINK

The Times' Eduardo Porter looks at research purporting to show that most folks find it hard to manage their retirement, even without the burden of personal/private accounts. LINK

We want pizza too!

From an e-mail sent to House GOP press secretaries:

"* it's your turn . . . Have you been getting hard questions at town hall meetings? . . .* Do you have a question you've been dying to ask? . . . * Do you just want free pizza and coke? . . . Have your Press Secretary or Social Security staffer join our Vice Chairman Jack Kingston for a mock Social Security Town Hall Meeting."

"If you have good ideas or hard questions, bring them both!"

Terry Schiavo:

So rarely does Congress literally tussle over the fate of a single life, however tenuous and fragile, and the press statements sent out by Congressional leaders late yesterday alluded to the stakes, with Reps. DeLay/Hastert accusing Sen. Reid, of, well . . . and Sen. Reid accusing the House of, er . . .

Hastert/DeLay: "It's unconscionable that Senate Democrats led by Senators Harry Reid and Ron Wyden would not allow a vote to move forward on critical legislation the House passed last night to save and protect Terri Schiavo's life. House Republicans knew we had a moral obligation to act and we did just that last night. As Terri Schiavo lays helpless in Florida, one day away from the unthinkable and unforgivable, the Senate Democrats refused to join Republicans to act on her behalf."

Here's what Sen. Reid said in a statement:

"I am pleased Senator Frist and I were able to pass the bill that protects the life of Terri Schiavo by allowing her parents to go to federal court. If the House Republicans refuse to pass our bipartisan bill, they bear responsibility for the consequences."

Sen. Frist was more even toward his House colleagues in his statement. "I'm proud of today's Senate passage of the Terry Schiavo Bill. As a doctor and a Senator, I believe that Congress must do everything in its power to ensure that any life and death decision is based on a sound medical diagnosis of Terri's condition."

The politics of this are difficult to assess and uncomfortable to contemplate, but the Schiavo case has been terribly important to social conservatives for a long time, and we know we haven't heard the last of this debate, and we suspect that the Democrats will have a tougher time explaining a few dissenters than Republicans, even though House Republicans (before issuing subpoenas early this morning) knowingly passed a broad bill that was doomed to failure in the Senate.

Congress continues its insinuation. LINK

The New York Times has a good wrap of the day's events: LINK

Mary Curtius and John Thor-Dahlburg of the Los Angeles Times look at the fights in both Florida and Washington, DC. LINK

Bush agenda:

The Washington Post's Paul Blustein takes a closer look at the new nominee for U.S. Trade Rep: Rep. Rob Portman (R-OH). LINK

While the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Auster talks about Portman's presidential ambitions. LINK

The Washington Post's Peter Baker reports that Congress seems less enthusiastic than President Bush about helping along democracy in the Ukraine, cutting President Bush's proposed $60 million toward that end to $33.7 million, and Noting that "[t]he shrinking financial commitment to Ukrainian democracy highlights a broader gap between rhetoric and resources among budget writers in the Bush administration and on Capitol Hill as the president vows to devote his second term to 'ending tyranny in our world,' according to budget documents, congressional critics and democracy advocates." LINK

Reports John Harwood in the Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: "The Foreign Relations Committee, reflecting lack of enthusiasm for selection of Bolton as United Nations ambassador, won't hold confirmation hearings until second week in April. 'We could have done better,' says one Republican staffer."

"Republicans and Democrats alike privately question whether Bush confidante Hughes, skilled at election messages but inexperienced in foreign policy, can invigorate public diplomacy efforts at State. Two predecessors made little headway in changing the Muslim world's view of the U.S."

Big casino budget politics:

This will probably work out in the end for the White House, but yesterday's intra-GOP tussling was not pretty.

The Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman reports that the Senate looked at the House's proposals for deficit reduction in the budget, including cuts to Medicaid, education, and community development programs, and said "no" -- voting 51 to 49 to restore those cuts and offer up $134 billion in tax cuts over five years. Weisman tick-tocks the process and lays out the arguments. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's David Rogers writes that "House Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle (R., Iowa) was disparaging toward the Senate efforts, but when lawmakers return from their two-week spring recess, he and Mr. Gregg must try to avoid a repeat of last year's failure to reach any agreement. 'It is not the bill I would choose if I controlled the magic wand,' Mr. Gregg said of the Senate package. 'Hopefully it will evolve.'"

Adds John Harwood in his Washington Wire column: "With senators blocking Bush's Medicaid curbs, health-care interests predict Congress will target Medicare reimbursements to hospitals. That could spark a lobbying war, since the administration wants Congress to leave Medicare untouched until after the program's drug benefit begins in 2006."

The Washington Times calls Judd Gregg "despondent" and has Rep. Blount predicting that the cuts will be restored in conference, owing to the President's legislative muscle. LINK

Sheryl Gay Stolberg in the New York Times writes that "In a surprise move, the Senate also voted to approve a total of $134 billion in tax cuts, $34 billion more than President Bush requested and $64 billion more than the Senate Republican leadership had initially proposed." LINK

As does the Los Angeles Times' Joel Havemann. LINK

Medicaid remains intact in the Senate, ledes AP's Alan Fram. LINK

The devil's in the un-sexy budget details, writes the Washington Post's E.J. Dionne. Because the budget resolutions are crafted to make sure that Congress doesn't consider both budget cuts and tax cuts at the same time, it allows a sleight of hand in keeping people from linking big budget deficits and tax cuts. LINK

On the House-passed highway bill, the Wall Street Journal's Amy Schatz Notes that even some fiscal conservatives "went along for the ride." The Journal's editorial board Notes disapprovingly that the White House probably won't veto a bill that passed by 417 to 9.

Judicial politics:

The nomination of William G. Myers to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will move to the Senate floor after Easter. LINK

The New York Times' Neil Lewis previews the Democratic arguments against Myers:

"Mr. Myers, who spent much of his career lobbying for mining and ranching industries, has a long record of pungent criticism of the environmental movement and especially federal environmental laws. He was a leading voice in the 'sagebrush rebellion' in which large Western landowners deplored federal regulators. He once said that federal environmental regulations were akin to George III's tyranny over the American colonies." LINK

"Besides using Mr. Myers's own comments to pummel him, Democrats noted that some of his decisions as chief lawyer in the Interior Department in Mr. Bush's first term were heavily tilted to the mining interests that once employed him."

"At the Interior Department, he once drafted a ruling allowing a foreign-owned gold mine to be established on Indian land in California. A federal judge later ruled that Mr. Myers's opinion misconstrued the 'clear mandate' of a federal law that, the judge said, was intended to prevent degradation of land."

The Los Angeles Times' Henry Weinstein and Maura Reynolds anticipate the fight over judicial nominees, and Note that Senate Republicans softened their language a bit on the filibuster. LINK

We aren't sure where the Frist-Reid colloquy on compromise leads, if anywhere.

The Washington Post's Chuck Babington takes a look at the last large-scale filibuster on a Supreme Court nomination -- the 1968 "talkathon" opposing Justice Abe Fortas' nomination to Chief Justice, which Democrats are using to remind their colleagues across the aisle that filibusters aren't unprecedented. LINK

Wolfowitz and the World Bank:

The Washington Post's Paul Blustein and Richard Leiby report that European leaders are digging in at least somewhat in opposition to the Wolfowitz nomination. Even though the odds are likely that Wolfowitz will get the job, it looks as though there will be weeks of dustup before the board gives him the nod. LINK

"Adding fuel to the controversy is concern within the bank staff over Wolfowitz's reported romantic relationship with Shaha Riza, an Arab feminist who works as a communications adviser in the bank's Middle East and North Africa department."

" . . . Bank policy allows spouses and partners to work on the staff as long as neither reports directly to the other, so the Wolfowitz-Riza relationship may not run afoul of those rules. But some staffers, speaking anonymously for fear of offending their prospective boss, said sentiment is running high that the ethics requirements should be stricter in cases involving the chief executive. Through a spokesman, Wolfowitz said in response to a query from The Post: 'Needless to say, if a personal relationship presents a potential conflict of interest, I will comply with bank policies to resolve the issue.'"

Paul Krugman sees the World Bank turned into the Ugly American Bank, with Mr. Wolfowitz at its head. LINK

Jon Podhoretz writes that Bolton and Wolfowitz are "there in part because they're controversial -- because they were willing to break free of the mold of foreign-policy convention." LINK

"And that's what they've continued to do during the Bush administration -- under the direction and say-so of the Commander in Chief. They have looked at the new world through new eyes. They have developed new strategies and new approaches. They are making new policies and remaking old institutions. It was their boldness, not their timidity, that got them to the top. That's something new, shockingly new, in the world of American foreign policy."

House of Labor:

Excerpts from a very good musing on the AFL-CIO from Ruy Texiera, which was posted on the Center for American Progress Web site Wednesday and circulated through labor land yesterday. We can't find it on the Web site now, for some reason.

"I am more sympathetic . . . to the structural reforms Stern and others are proposing, but it is hard to argue with the proposition that the AFL-CIO is in urgent need of a leadership change.

"It isn't that Sweeney's record isn't much better than Kirkland's in the all-important area of union members and unionization. It's that it's been no better at all. Sweeney's leadership, in this sense, has been an utter failure."

"But wait, say Sweeney's defenders, what about labor's big success in political mobilization, boosting union household turnout from 18 percent of voters in the 1992 election and 14 percent in the 1994 election, to 24 percent in 1996, 23 percent in 1998, 26 percent in 2000, and 24 percent in 2004? This would indeed be impressive if it happened. But it almost certainly did not."

"The reason is simple: the figures above are all from exit polls from the respective years and the low apparent union turnout in the 1992 and 1994 exit polls was primarily driven by a change in question wording in those years."

"So the reality is that Sweeney's leadership has produced precious little real gain for the labor movement anywhere. Clearly new leadership is needed and the sooner the better. The problem is, as Judis points out, the current faction fighting in the labor movement may make it harder, not easier, to produce that leadership change. One can only hope that Stern and his allies will learn from their defeat in Las Vegas and start focusing more realistically on what it will take to get Sweeney and his ineffectual regime out of office."

Chairman/Gov. Dean:

Though much of Gov. Howard Dean's DNC staff has yet to be formalized, today is big R day for many of the McAuliffe holdovers at the DNC -- the date their previously submitted resignations kick in.

For example, Jano Cabrera is headed overseas for vacation in an anonymous tropical paradise.

Some Familiar Names will soon be announced for top jobs, but (as you've no doubt heard everywhere around town) the DNC already has on board Mike Gehrke to take the DNC research director's job. Gehrke, of course, was research director for the Kerry-Edwards campaign, a veteran of President Clinton's staff, and DSCC operative.

Also, Karen Finney (who now works for Sen. Stabenow of Michigan but previously worked for the Empire State's Junior Senator . . . ) will be communications chief.

Former Gephardt aide Moses Mercado will play a key role in liaisoning with members of Congress, governors and mayors.

No political/field directors hired yet.

Lindsay Lewis, as we've previously reported, will head the finance team. Former Lieberman aide Matt Nugen will play a key role in Dean's personal office.

Sen. John Kerry:

The Los Angeles Times' Ron Brownstein looks at Sen. Kerry's assault on President Bush's budget yesterday, taking on -- dare we say it? -- a Gore-like role as Administration critic, and able to back it up with an e-mail list and grassroots organization. Kerry continues to try to build on this role and keep his profile high amid laughable criticism that he's just "partisan." LINK

Hillary Clinton adviser Ann Lewis calls Kerry's 2004 campaign "inconsistent," and that causes an Associated Press dust-up by Marc Humbert, who sees every Clinton-related utterance as wire-able. LINK

A must-read in Clinton and Kerry quarters.

And it gives the Edwards people a short break!!!

2008: Democrats:

Fred Dicker writes that "Pro-choice Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton sought 'common ground' again on the hot-button abortion issue yesterday, joining pro-life Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic leader, to back a measure she said would reduce abortions." LINK

"'We can find not only common ground, but common sense in the 'Prevention First' amendment we are offering today,' said Mrs. Clinton, touting a $100 million plan to expand access to contraception devices and birth-control information."

The San Francisco Chronicle's Carla Marinucci writes that former Sen. John Edwards would not say whether he promised to stay out of the race in 2008 if Sen. Kerry decides to run again. In both a sit-down interview and a speech Thursday to the San Francisco Bar Association, Edwards continued on his signature "two Americas" theme, and said he's committed to his work on poverty. We're also glad to hear that Mrs. Edwards is doing well. LINK

Also in his speech, Edwards said the Democrats may have lost in 2004, but the party knows what it stands for, and had nice words for Gov. Dean. LINK

A "non-partisan" Gen. Wes Clark told crowd at UNLV yesterday that America needs a unified military strategy. LINK

Sen. Russ Feingold's Senate campaign registered, .org, and .net, the Wisconsin State Journal reports. LINK

2008: Republicans:

ABC News' Jonathan Karl sat down with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice yesterday for a conversation about Afghanistan, democracy in Pakistan, North Korea -- and 2008.

Karl: Everybody has asked you if you were going to run for president, you have answered that many, many times but nobody has asked you if you consider being on a ticket as vice president

Rice: Jon, I don't want to be elected to anything. I've been telling people, I don't think I ever ran for class president at any time in the time when I was in school. My desire is to do the very best job that I can do as Secretary of State, this is a great time, there are a lot of challenges, if we do this well, the United States uses diplomacy effectively in this time when there is so much change in the world, that I think we have a chance to leave a better world for generations much the way that the people who responded at the end of World War II left a better world for generations, and so that's what I'm going to concentrate on, then it's either Stanford or the NFL.


The headline on Winnie Hu's piece in the New York Times about two marchers at the St. Patrick's Day parade in New York City: "Bloomberg and Giuliani Together: The Cheers Are 'Rudy! Rudy!'" LINK

And/but Rudy did re-endorse Mayor Mike again.

With Rep. Portman as the new trade Rep, the scramble is on to fill his seat in Congress. LINK; LINK

The earliest a special election could be held is May, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. LINK

Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine (D-VA) rolled out his homeowner tax plan yesterday. LINK


The Washington Times has a touching story about former Sen. Bob Dole's latest injury and his rehab efforts. LINK

David Yepsen's not happy that the Iowa state House has taken up the banner of banning same-sex marriage -- and turns in a scathing warning for politicians who take action for politics' sake over principle or other state priorities end up reaping what they sow. LINK

Former Connecticut Gov. John Rowland is asking a judge for leniency in his sentencing on corruption charges. LINK

"Even as Republicans are ferreting out any illegal votes they can find in the 2004 governor's election, Democrats continue looking to add any ballots that were wrongfully excluded by elections officials," reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's Gregory Roberts. LINK

Friday night lights are important, but evidently there aren't other problems for at least one Texas legislator to worry about. "The Friday night lights in Texas could soon be without bumpin' and grindin' cheerleaders. Legislation filed by Rep. Al Edwards would put an end to 'sexually suggestive' performances at athletic events and other extracurricular competitions." LINK


In Sunday's New York Times Magazine, Deborah Solomon talks with James Guckert/Jeff Gannon (he prefers the latter), and learns some . . . interesting (?) things: he doesn't know whether or not Bobby Eberle had special access to the White House; he's not interested in same-sex marriage; his dog, Winston, likes him no matter what; and that he hopes to get a job in journalism again. Er . . . excellent use of ad page space, NYTM!

Congratulations to Philip Gourevitch, new editor of the Paris Review. LINK