The Note: Weekend Update

WASHINGTON, March 28

NEWS SUMMARY

What have we collectively learned since The Note was last published?

Leader DeLay's family decided to end his father's life after a crippling accident (and then sued a manufacturer for big money); the Wall Street Journal editorial page has unimplicitly joined the anti-DeLay camp; White House Social Security "allies" Steve Moore and Grover Norquist are not optimistic on Social Security and are anti-government intervention on Schiavo; White House Social Security ally Sen. Grassley is not all that optimistic on Social Security and still thinks the President has to do the heavy lifting; the Associated Press' Mike Glover is covering '08 like yellow on corn; the New York Times' Patrick D. "Pat D." Healy is going to cover the Gotham mayoral battle, and the '06 Empire State Senate and gubernatorial contests; and (courtesy New York Magazine) all sorts of must-read Kerik-supplied tick tock about what happened in the days and nights of Bernie's excellent White House adventure (including alleged conversations with Dina Powell!!!). LINK

What we have NOT learned since The Note was last published:

How long Terri Schiavo's life will continue; how the Schiavo case has impacted the Social Security debate; what members of Congress are hearing about Social Security while they are home; what exactly accounts for the President's droopy poll numbers; and what John Edwards will wear to his Des Moines Register ed board.

Oblivious to 25 percent of this (but keenly interested in the other 75 percent), President and First Lady Laura Bush return to Washington, DC from Crawford, TX this afternoon.

But not in time for the annual (and this year, very soggy) White House Easter Egg Roll, hosted by Education Secretary Margaret Spellings and Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt at 9:15 am ET.

At 3:00 pm ET, the President participates in a celebration of Greek Independence Day, along with Greek foreign minister Petros Molyviatis.

On Tuesday, President Bush delivers Rose Garden remarks about freedom and democracy, and on Wednesday he heads to Cedar Rapids, IA, to talk about Social Security. On Friday, he and Mrs. Bush talk about helping America's youth at a Washington, DC charter school.

All's quiet on The Hill -- the Senate is on Easter recess. It meets for morning business next Monday, April 4, and its next roll call vote is scheduled for April 5. The House next meets on Tuesday, April 5 at 2:00 pm ET.

Tonight, Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn and challenger Antonio Villaraigosa meet at 8:00 pm ET for the first debate of the Los Angeles mayoral runoff.

Tonight, RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman speaks at a Lincoln Day dinner in Polk County, FL. Tomorrow, he joins Sen. Mel Martinez for a town hall meeting in Orlando, FL to talk about the shared values of the Hispanic community and the Republican Party, followed by a Lincoln Day dinner in Lee County, FL.

Treasury Secretary John Snow hits the road today through Thursday to talk about Social Security in Portland, OR, Bozeman, MT, and Bismarck, ND. He meets with employees from FLIR System, Inc. in Portland today at 2:00 pm ET.

Today through Wednesday, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) visits Alabama to talk to Democrats and city leaders. Today, he stops in Greenville, tomorrow Montgomery and Birmingham, where he ends up on Wednesday.

Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez on Tuesday talks to Women in International Trade and the Washington International Trade Association about the Bush Administration's trade priorities.

Think tanks take the lead in talking about Social Security on Tuesday. The American Enterprise Institute holds a conference on personal Social Security accounts; and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, the New America Foundation, and the Urban Institute hold a briefing on the proposals to revamp Social Security as well.

And former Sen. John Edwards talks about poverty in Chapel Hill, NC. On Thursday, Edwards visits Iowa. He heads to Madison, WI, on Saturday for a stop at a health care center for the poor and then to Milwaukee to speak at the Democratic Party of Wisconsin's annual Founders' Day Gala.

Former EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman talks about her new book, "It's My Party Too: Taking Back the Republican Party -- and Bringing the Country Together Again," at the Council on Foreign Relations.

On Wednesday, Progressive Maryland holds its 2005 awards banquet, and among the honorees are former Sen. John Edwards, AFL-CIO president John Sweeney.

On Thursday, the AFL-CIO holds its mass demonstrations against Wall Street firms.

The Log Cabin Republicans hold their annual convention in New Orleans, LA, on Thursday and Friday.

Schiavo:

The New York Times' Sheryl Gay Stolberg on the renewed congressional push for futile care or end of life legislation. LINK

Sen. Harkin will be a big player.

A western Los Angeles Times trio succinctly wrap the Easter-weekend events in the Terri Schiavo case, including defense from the Senate's Majority Whip and defense from a rank-and-file House Dem. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Brownstein balances the polls and cultural issues in the right's take on life. LINK

Brownstein has strategists on both sides claiming they will gain political advantage, but no one's heart seems really in it.

On Sunday, the Los Angeles Times' Walter Roche and Sam Howe Verhovek took an absolutely fascinating look at the agonizing personal choice that House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's family faced in 1988 when his father suffered an accident, was incapacitated, and his family decided not to take "extraordinary measures to prolong life." DeLay's office, declining to comment on the private family matter, said the situation involving Charles Ray DeLay was different than the one involving Terri Schiavo. After Leader DeLay declined an interview, the account, including his role as a plaintiff in the family's wrongful death lawsuit, was assembled from court files, medical records, and interviews with family members. LINK

The Washington Post printed a mini-version of the Times story today, while the New York Times has its own rushed follow job. LINK

It will be interesting to see how the Leader responds to all this on camera (when the time comes and when the hyper-able Dan Allen can't answer for him).

And it would be interesting to know if the Leader (or his staff) knew that all those relatives were talking to the paper so colorfully.

On Saturday, the Washington Post's Shailagh Murray and Mike Allen wrote that after their intervention in the Schiavo case, Republican lawmakers "find themselves in a moral and political thicket," particularly in the face of polls that show most Americans don't agree with their actions. LINK

"The fracas over congressional involvement has taken many GOP lawmakers by surprise. Most knew little about the case and were acting at the direction of their leaders, who armed them with the simple argument that they just wanted to give Schiavo a final chance, and that they wanted to err on the side of life. But because of the rush to act and the insistent approach of the leadership, Republicans had no debate about whether their vote could be seen as federal intrusion in a family matter, or as a violation of the separation of powers between the judicial and legislative branches. Both issues are concerns of many voters responding to polls, and of some legislators themselves."

On Sunday, the Washington Post's Peter Baker looked at the miles logged by President Bush last week as he flew to Washington from his Crawford ranch and back again in an effort to appeal to the varying factions within his party -- or, as Baker put it, "a major Republican rupture." Loads of interesting comments from a cast of Republican strategist all-stars about whether or not the President's falling poll numbers signify trouble, of he's just done a good job at convincing people that government should have a limited role in the lives of citizens. LINK

Newsweek's Eleanor Clift writes that both sides bungled their political cases. LINK

Newsweek's Jonathan Alter writes that politicians confused law with theology and lost sight of what the "culture of life" really means. "Knowing that they cannot deliver on a gay-rights amendment or abortion ban, Karl Rove & Co. settled on bonding to the base with the Schiavo case," he writes. LINK

Social Security:

Sen. Grassley gets mixed messages from the informed, if not mostly gray, citizens of the Hawkeye State, forcing the Finance chair concluding this AP round-up with a killer quote: "I think it's very difficult for me to say today that we'll present a bill to the President." LINK

Yet, just a few clicks later, the Washington Times' Donald Lambro finds "Republican strategists (who) say they have won the debate about Social Security's long-term solvency"; see also, Mr. Grassley, re: a radically different perspective. LINK

Late Friday, the AP's Mike Glover published an interview with a pessimistic Grassley about Social Security, accompanying the Senator to a town hall meeting in Iowa. LINK

The Des Moines Register's Jane Norman on Sunday wrote of Iowa's role in the blitz to sell Social Security, from a Bush visit Wednesday to PFA field activities to a new AARP ad. LINK

Bloomberg's Jeff Bliss looks at the White House's thread-the-needle attempts at compromise, with Kent Conrad (D) open to personal accounts (with lots of caveats) and Arizona Rep. John Shadegg (R) open to tax increases (with lots of caveats), and/but still a long way to go to bridge that (and many other) gaps.

And while President Bush is wagering with his private Social Security accounts plan that stocks will continue to yield strong returns even if the economy slows down (based on projections of 2-percent economic growth from the Social Security Administration), Bloomberg's Alison Fitzgerald and Michael Forsythe found that some economists and economic strategists are calling his outlook overly optimistic.

Leader DeLay:

The Wall Street Journal's editorial board assesses the ethics questions asked of Majority Leader DeLay and concludes thusly:

"Taken separately, and on present evidence, none of the latest charges directly touch Mr. DeLay; at worst, they paint a picture of a man who makes enemies by playing political hardball and loses admirers by resorting to politics-as-usual."

"The problem, rather, is that Mr. DeLay, who rode to power in 1994 on a wave of revulsion at the everyday ways of big government, has become the living exemplar of some of its worst habits. Mr. DeLay's ties to Mr. Abramoff might be innocent, in a strictly legal sense, but it strains credulity to believe that Mr. DeLay found nothing strange with being included in Mr. Abramoff's lavish junkets."

"Nor does it seem very plausible that Mr. DeLay never considered the possibility that the mega-lucrative careers his former staffers Michael Scanlon and Mr. Buckham achieved after leaving his office had something to do with their perceived proximity to him. These people became rich as influence-peddlers in a government in which legislators like Mr. DeLay could make or break fortunes by tinkering with obscure rules and dispensing scads of money to this or that constituency. Rather than buck this system as he promised to do while in the minority, Mr. DeLay has become its undisputed and unapologetic master as Majority Leader."

"Whether Mr. DeLay violated the small print of House Ethics or campaign-finance rules is thus largely beside the point. His real fault lies in betraying the broader set of principles that brought him into office, and which, if he continues as before, sooner or later will sweep him out."

On Sunday, the New York Times' Adam Nagourney and Carl Hulse teased the political implications from Rep. DeLay's sudden drop from the Schiavo spotlight. LINK

Bush agenda:

Elisabeth Bumiller on a buoyant-mooded, 8-lbs-lighter, jokey, flirty President Bush, who holds his head high at Social Security meetings. LINK

Yes, yes: Mark McKinnon, Roland Betts, and Clay Johnson all get to testify, but it is the Margaret Spellings' quote that will catch your eye.

We were just thinking that we hadn't read an "All Roads Lead to Rove" profile in the New York Times lately.

But Dick Stevenson manages to write a solid one with some new nuggets, including his personal advocacy to Jack Kemp, his dual (triple?) (quadruple) hats of chief policy coordinator and political strategist, his ability to keep up with Charles Blahous in arcane Social Security discussions, and his duty roster: "allocating time on Mr. Bush's schedule for policy discussions, helping set the president's travel schedule and keeping track of daily policy developments for Mr. Bush and Mr. Card, Mr. Rove participates in a separate set of meetings devoted to Social Security. Twice a week he sits down to plot legislative strategy, and roughly as often participates in high-level meetings about the substantive issues in play." LINK

Stevenson also details the White House coordination effort on Social Security.

New York Magazine's John Heilemann takes his own look at the Rove agenda. LINK

More Roving: the White House Deputy Chief of Staff is scheduled to speak at Waukesha County's Lincoln Day Dinner in Wisconsin on April 9.

The Washington Post's Walter Pincus looks at a report issued last week by the Congressional Research Service that concludes the creation of the National Counterterrorism Center and the new Director of National Intelligence have put the nation's counterterrorism policies in conflict. LINK

The Washington Post's Chuck Lane previews the oral argument before the Supreme Court today on a case in Texas in which President Bush intervened, telling state courts to uphold a hearing ordered by the International Court of Justice for a Mexican citizen convicted of murder and sentenced to death -- and then making sure that the U.S. would not face a similar ruling by the ICJ in the future. LINK

The Washington Post's Jim VandeHei reports that the possible White House press room remodel doesn't exactly have everyone in the press corps jumping for joy. LINK

On Sunday, the VandeHei took a tremendously interesting look at the big gains that Fortune 500 companies are reaping after they spent millions of dollars to help President Bush and his Republican colleagues get elected -- particularly on issues like bankruptcy laws, drilling for oil in ANWR, and protecting companies from class-action lawsuits. Of course, there are no quid pro quos necessarily here -- just a shared agenda.

And be on the lookout for upcoming legal protections for drug companies, doctors, gun manufacturers, and asbestos makers, as well as corporate tax breaks, Vandehei wrote.

He also Noted that, in an exceptionally commonplace fashion, business PACs gave slightly more to Democrats in 1993-94 -- when Democrats held the White House and had control over both houses of Congress. LINK

In his Sunday column, Michael Kinsley angrily accused Republicans and general -- and President Bush specifically -- of taking up the mantles of Social Security and Terri Schiavo as a way to get involved in people's lives -- to a point on one hand, and too much on the other. "What Bush's tinkering with Social Security and his meddling in the right to die have in common is that both make life's last couple of chapters seem less predictable and secure. LINK

The Congress:

Roll Call's Paul Kane looks at the pre-emptive strikes already revving up from Senate Democrats and their allies among interest groups over Republicans' efforts to end judicial filibusters, reporting that the ad campaign that's starting will include big labor -- and a meeting today at AFL-CIO headquarters gets that coalition underway. Hitting the airwaves: national and regional cable TV spots by the Alliance for Justice, produced by Will Robinson, as well as a "multimillion-dollar" slate of spots on TV, radio, and in print by People for the American Way, produced by the Glover Park Group.

Roll Call's Chris Cillizza analyzes the polls showing sinking approval ratings for both President Bush and Congress, and gets a veritable polling who's who to speculate on whether or not the surveys indicate long-term effects on how people view Washington and their government.

And Roll Call's Kate Ackley writes that America's Health Insurance Plans jumps into the lobbying/ad fray today with a shark-jaw campaign on city buses and Metrorail stations against medical malpractice lawsuits.

Iraq:

Borrowing a phrase from the Boss (George, not Bruce), the Pentagon pushes the Notion that Iraq is "turning the corner." LINK

(Of course, speaking of Bruce: LINK!!!!!!!)

Quoting a Sunni political organizer: "Don't try to keep track of all these Sunni groups or figure out which ones are representative; you will get a headache." Nonetheless, the Los Angeles Times' Boudreaux boils it down to a thousand words. LINK

Bob Novak's sources say Condoleezza Rice is keen on a quick pull-out of U.S. troops from Iraq. And then he throws in a mystifyingly and insultingly irrelevant "willowy, vulnerable-looking woman" description of the Secretary of State. LINK

Wolfowitz and the World Bank:

The Washington Post's Sebastian Mallaby looks at the camps that have sprung up over the nomination of Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz to head the World Bank: praising his gravitas, worrying that the institution will end up tarnished because it will be seen as a tool of U.S. foreign policy and ideology, and a third: being happy that the World Bank will be seen as a tool of U.S. foreign policy and ideology. LINK

"The problem with the Bush administration has not been that it bent the World Bank to its foreign policy. It's been that it often failed to do so. The planning for postwar Iraq might have been smarter if the administration had consulted the bank's experts early. The expansion of U.S. bilateral development aid that President Bush promises would have been more effective if the money had been channeled through the World Bank. If Bush had handed the World Bank presidency to some CEO campaign contributor, this malign neglect might have continued. Now that he's installing a valued lieutenant, cooperation should improve."

Big casino budget politics:

The Wall Street Journal's Sarah Leuck forecasts a double-digit premium increase for Medicare beneficiaries.

Big casino state budget politics:

On Sunday, the Washington Post's T.R. Reid took a look at the Republican governors, including Gov. Kenny Guinn (NV), Sonny Perdue (GA), Bob Taft (OH), Mitch Daniels (IN), Bill Owens (CO) and Dirk Kempthorne (ID), who once promoted state tax and spending limits but who are now singing a different tune in the face of federal tax cuts that have left them responsible for bigger Medicaid and education bills. LINK

Speaking of, tax breaks are emerging as a center-stage issue in the Virginia gubernatorial race, reported the Washington Post's Peter Whoriskey and Michael Shear on Sunday. LINK

The Schwarzenegger era:

The Washington Post's Dan Balz writes that in the face of his fight with public-sector unions over pensions, education, and health care, and Democrats in the state legislature, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who as a candidate promised to be an ally to those on both sides of the aisle, is increasingly partisan. LINK

" . . . during an interview in his spacious Capitol office, the celebrity governor gave every indication that he relishes the opportunity to defeat, not compromise with, his opponents. When it was suggested that Schwarzenegger sounded as though he would be disappointed if a face-off were averted by compromise, he responded without hesitation. 'There's something very attractive about it,' he said. 'You're absolutely right.'"

" . . . The governor said the battle is not Democrats vs. Republicans. But his opponents see him and his agenda as part of a partisan and ideological battle that echoes the priorities of President Bush and the Republicans in Washington. Schwarzenegger, they say, has turned from conciliator to partisan by embracing an economic agenda championed by wealthy corporate interests. They contend that he turned increasingly partisan after candidates he backed lost a series of legislative elections last November."

Make sure you read the awesome kicker.

On Sunday, the Washington Post's David Broder looked at Gov. Schwarzenegger's mind-plus-matter success with initiatives and budget battles, and theorizes that until someone comes along to challenge him by showing at least as much confidence, he'll continue to succeed. LINK

2008:

The AP's Mike Glover chronicles the early courting of Iowa's political elite, including John Kerry's call to John Norris, John Edwards' call to Tom Courtney, George Pataki's inaugural ticket friendliness to Stewart Iverson, Mitt Romney's call to Doug Gross, and more. LINK

We looked twice and did not see the words "Clinton" or "McCain" in this must-read story.

2008 Republicans:

Massachusetts Republicans are talking about the party's options if Gov. Romney, with his eye on the 2008 GOP presidential nomination, opts against seeking a second term next year. LINK

And what's up with New York Lt. Gov. Mary Donahue? Writes Fred Dicker: " . . . Gov. Pataki's most loyal subordinate, has gone AWOL from her job and wants to get out, The Post has learned." LINK

"The little-known Donohue, next in line should Pataki leave office early, has been increasingly absent, against direct orders from Pataki and his senior staffers, a source close to the administration said."

On Sunday, The State's Lee Bandy wrote that South Carolina's status as the "gateway to the South" for Republicans seeking their party's presidential could be threatened. Some states down South are moving up their primaries to the first Tuesday following the New Hampshire primary. LINK

2008: Democrats:

Former Sen. John Edwards heads to Madison on Saturday to talk about health care for the poor and to visit the Harambee Center, collection of 10 public and private agencies dealing with health care and education for the city's poor. LINK

2006:

The Washington Post's Matthew Mosk sizes up the possible field of contenders for the Senate seat to be left open by retiring Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-MD). LINK

The New York Post's Vincent Morris gives Sen. Chuck Schumer props for being a certified D.C. power player, saying he has "begun wielding enormous power inside Democratic ranks -- raking in untold millions of dollars, making controversial decisions about who will and who won't run for Senate around the country, and even instructing colleagues in his specialty -- the art of getting media attention." LINK

2005:

A New York Post story suggests that Freddy Ferrer is not anxious to debate his Democratic opponents. LINK

C. Virginia Fields is also looking to nationalize the mayor's race; a victory for her would portend good things for women in New York City, according to her campaign, as chronicled in the New York Times. LINK

Politics:

The Los Angeles Times' Brownstein chides the media's obsession with one impending death while all but ignoring ten others in Red Lake, MN, lauding "smart guns" and challenging the gun-(regulation) shy President to address the enduring problems of youth and gun violence. LINK

The Washington Post's Ann Gerhart puts faces on those changes to federal government work rules, and how they're affecting government workers even before they take effect in 2009. LINK

Media:

Writes the Wall Street Journal's editorial board: "The latest turn in the Valerie Plame "leak" investigation is that the very same press corps that cheered on the appointment of a special prosecutor to harass the Bush Administration and conservative columnist Robert Novak now doubts whether any crime was ever committed."

Howard Kurtz gives CBS News' Bob Schieffer and his chatty style a thumbs-up. LINK

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