The Note: Hanging on the Telephone

N.C. Aizenman of the Washington Post wraps the First Lady's trip to Afghanistan. LINK

Linda Feldmann of the Christian Science Monitor looks at Mrs. Bush's new diplomatic role. LINK

The Washington Times' Bill Sammon writes under a headline describing the President's "plunge" in polls that domestic issues, such as immigration, Social Security, and even Terri Schiavo, are sinking the ship. With headlines like these, who needs enemies? As the vicious, cyclical formula goes, bad poll numbers = lack of political clout = waffling support on Capitol Hill = bad poll numbers. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Paul Richter says the Senate may be one vote away from rejecting the nomination of John Bolton to be the next U.S. ambassador to the U.N. in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. All of the Committee's Democrats intend to oppose Bolton and lukewarm Boltonites such as chair Richard Lugar (R-IN), Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) and moderate Senator Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) as seen as the top picks for a potential defector. (But really only Chafee; and watch Feingold too, flipping the other way, the story says.) But, whether the President gets his pick or not, sparks are set to fly when the Senate returns. LINK

The Congress:

Writes Bob Novak this morning in a time-capsule classic: "The quiet of Easter recess on Capitol Hill was interrupted last week by stunning news that Republican leaders of the House had changed their position on allowing a vote for federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research opposed by President Bush." LINK

The reason, he says: a vote swap. By allowing the vote for stem cell research, Speaker Hastert guaranteed enough votes to win passage of the budget resolution.

Novak sneers that Rep. Mike Castle of Delaware is to blame for the move, which he says might cause the Bush White House to cast ink up the veto stamp for the President.

Concludes Novak: "Hastert won his budget but opened the door to a bitter fight on a party-splitting issue. Bush got a taste of this recently when he invited moderate-to-liberal Republican House members to the White House for a pep talk on Social Security reform. Castle responded that while Social Security means a lot to the president, stem cell research means much to him. Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey, a liberal on many issues who is ardently pro-life, then spoke up in opposition to Castle."

The Chicago Tribune's Jill Zuckman treads the quiet halls of Congress to track the Easter recess activities of freshman Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK). It seems the good Doctor, in violation of a Senate Ethics rule established in 1977, is, well, moonlighting as an OB/GYN. The Oklahoman received a waiver to practice medicine while serving in the House but the Senate, on both sides of the aisle, seem divided. There is a bipartisan pledge for resolution but will the Ethics Committee set a new precedent by allowing the determined Doctor to do both jobs at once? LINK

George Will seems to think the tax proposal of Rep. John Linder (R-GA), which would abolish the IRS and the federal tax system and replace it with a 23 percent national sales tax on personal consumption, sounds pretty good -- particularly for what it would do to the powerful on K Street. LINK

2008: Republicans:

This one goes in 2008 just to tease: Karl Rove will be in Minneapolis on April 8 for a fundraiser for Gov. Tim Pawlenty. LINK

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