The Note: Hanging on the Telephone



Even with all the photo ops and talk-show banter, so much of what happens in politics and political media goes on behind the scenes.

And even with the advent of so much high-tech equipment attached to the hip, the old fashioned, Alexander Graham Bell telephone is still used with some regularity.

As we look forward to Congress' return to town (Between Easter and Schiavo, things have been oddly quiet in DC for March.), here are the pairs whose next telephone conversations we would most like to hear.

(Note Note: these duos weren't chosen at random.)

(Note Note 2: Google will pretty much solve any of these you don't know right off the bat.)

Rick Santorum and Tom Minnery

Al Hubbard and Daniel Luskin

Roy Blunt and Karl Rove

Eric Cantor and Roy Blunt

Paul Gigot and Stuart Roy

Stuart Roy and Dan Allen

Dan Allen and Tim Berry

Bill Frist and Shell Suber

Rick Santorum and Douglas Johnson

Bob Novak and Jack Kemp

Ron Klain and Joe Biden

Harry Reid and Howard Dean

Bill Richardson and Tom Vilsack

Ron Klain and Evan Bayh

Roberto Ramirez and Al Sharpton

Antonio Villaraigosa and Bill Carrick

Eliot Spitzer and Alan Hevesi

David Kirkpatrick and Ted Haggard

Gina Glantz and Carl Pope

Mitt Romney and Mike Murphy

Mike Murphy and John McCain

Mike Murphy and Jeb Bush

John Weaver and Mike Murphy

Mark McKinnon and John Weaver

Mike Allen and the last person he talks to at night

Mike Allen and the first person he talks to in the morning

Chris LaCivita and Dick Wadhams

George Lakoff and Howard Dean

Karl Rove and Don Fierce

John Ashcroft and John Danforth

Phillip Zelikow and Secretary Rice

Rudy Giuliani and a Red Cross official

John Danforth and Jack Oliver

Izzy Klein & Guinness Book of World Records (re: press releases per week)

Sen. McCain and Lindsey Graham

Bob Novak and a SAO

Dr. Dobson and Ken Mehlman

Bill Bradley and Mark Halperin

Bill Frist and Lee Bandy

John McCain and Scott Spradling

Leader Pelosi and Charlie Rangel

Brad Woodhouse and the FTC anti-spam department

Hillary Rodham Clinton and Pat D. Healy

Bill Burton & Rep. Lois Capps

Jack Abramoff and anybody

Trent Lott and Ron Bonjean

At 9:15 am ET, President Bush met with members of the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States regarding weapons of mass destruction in the White House Cabinet Room. He makes a statement on the panel's findings at 11:40 am ET.

That's the big political event of the day, and it would open up the Administration to political vulnerability, if the Democrats were (a) in town; (b) possessed of a unified, coherent message on national security.

First Lady Laura Bush is back from Afghanistan.

The board of executive directors of the World Bank are scheduled to hold a mid-morning meeting to review the nomination of Paul Wolfowitz to serve as the new president of the World Bank.

Opponents of Wolfowitz's nomination will protest outside the World Bank at 10:00 am ET with a "one-horse race" -- whatever that is.

Treasury Secretary John Snow talks about Social Security with local business leaders in Bismarck, ND, at 8:30 am ET, and addresses a government class at Bismarck High School at 11:30 am ET.

At noon ET, the AFL-CIO holds a mass demonstration outside the Washington, DC offices of Charles Schwab to protest the company's support for President Bush's proposal for personal Social Security accounts. Union president John Sweeney and Metropolitan Washington Council president Jos Williams join union and community leaders and workers, retirees, and students.

At 3:00 pm ET, the Advisory Committee to the Congressional Internet Caucus (ICAC) hosts a panel discussion on the implications for Internet campaigns of the FEC's possible change in rules to regulate online political activities.

At 8:15 pm ET in Arlington, VA, Former President Bill Clinton accepts the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Humanitarian Award from the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases for his work on HIV/AIDS. It's his first post-surgery public appearance. He'll speak at 8:30 pm ET.

White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove will deliver remarks at the Lewis and Clark County Republican Central Committee's annual Lincoln-Reagan Dinner in Helena, MT at 8:30 pm ET.

RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman holds one of his "Conversations with the Community" events at Howard University at 7:00 pm ET. The event, hosted by the Howard University College Republicans, focuses on "Empowering A New Generation."

Former Sen. John Edwards visits Iowa, where he attends a fundraiser for Rep. Leonard Boswell at the Hotel Fort Des Moines at 7:00 pm ET after meeting with Des Moines Register editors and reporters. He stays in the Hawkeye State to tape Iowa Public Television's "Iowa Press" Friday morning.


U.S. intelligence agencies were "dead wrong" in most of their conclusions about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq before the war, concluded the presidential commission appointed to investigate what went wrong. AP describes the report as "scathing." LINK

The Washington Post's Walter Pincus is already picking it apart. LINK

In the morning gaggle, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said President Bush "will carefully review each and every recommendation and act on them in a fairly quick period of time," ABC News' Jessica Yellin reports. He will consult with Congress within 90 days to discuss how he plans to move forward on the recommendations in the report. Most of the recommendations do not require statutory changes.

"We wanted an unvarnished look at the intelligence community," McClellan said, adding that in terms of North Korea and Iran the report finds, "we still know woefully little about their capabilities."

Asked about the Director of National Intelligence, McClellan said, "He will have the authority he needs to do his job," but would not comment on the reports recommendation that the DNI not conduct the President's daily briefing.

Joseph Curl and Bill Gertz, making their mark in the Washington Times, say the President will embrace the recommendations of his WMD Commission, faulting pre-war intelligence, citing poor inter-agency communication, and even eyeing former CIA Director George Tenet for particular criticism. Congressional Dems are sure to . . . oh, wait, Congress is still out for their Easter break. Nevermind. LINK

The complete 455-page report: LINK

Social Security:

The Washington Post's Jim VandeHei turns in a must-read with Sen. Grassley (who supports personal accounts) and Rep. Leach (who still isn't sure) sounding awfully pessimistic about the chances of President Bush's Social Security plan, as well as how the President has -- or hasn't -- been able to sell it. LINK

"'Today, the public has not found his personal account approach compelling,' Rep. Jim Leach . . . said in an interview late Tuesday, less than 24 hours before appearing with Bush at Kirkwood Community College here."

". . . Grassley, chairman of the Senate panel responsible for Social Security, said in a separate interview Tuesday afternoon: 'I don't think [Bush] has made much progress on solving the solvency issue or what to do about personal accounts. It concerns me because as time goes on, I was hoping the president would be able to make my job easier. We are not hearing from the grass roots that, by golly, you guys in Congress have to work on this.'"

Note also Grassley's comments that lawmakers may not have to pay a price with voters if Congress doesn't deal with Social Security this year.

Meanwhile, the Des Moines Register's Tom Beaumont has Grassley saying he's "gaining confidence." LINK

Grassley says he'll hold hearings on Social Security legislation in July, regardless of whether the public is ready for 'em. LINK

Warren Vieth wraps the President's Social Security pitch in Cedar Rapids for the Los Angeles Times, emphasizing Bush's belief that critics who don't come to the table will pay "political price" but also Noting the still-stiff opposition from older Americans and essential groups, such as the AARP. LINK

Des Moines' AARP members went to lobby against Bush's Social Security proposal, calling it "smoke-blowing and posturing." LINK

The Washington Times' Amy Fagen trails Deputy SSA Commissioner James (not Joe) Lockhart on a tough Social Security sell to Kansas. In an outright challenge to caucus voters in Iowa, Sylvester Zollichoffee, 71, "came to the meeting armed with a printed transcript of a recent Senate Budget Committee hearing and a press release from Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND)." Somewhere, Stu Nagurka is thinking, 'There's absolutely nothing wrong with Kansas.' LINK

Headlines aside, the Washington Times' James Lakely examines the President's mid-60-day tour trip to Iowa, taking stock of both the AARP's opposition and Sen. Grassley's essential role in the process. LINK

The New York Times' Edmund Andrews takes a stab at the "Admin assumes anemic GDP but stellar rate of return" apple. LINK

And he buries this nugget at the end:

"White House officials may be revising their assumptions. N. Gregory Mankiw, who recently stepped down as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, said Mr. Bush's proposed break-even rate of 3 percent on personal accounts may be too high. The yield on inflation-protected Treasury bonds is about 2 percent." LINK

"White House officials say they are open to proposals for changing the break-even point, which would raise the plan's cost, but Democratic lawmakers remain fundamentally opposed to Mr. Bush's plans."

The Wall Street Journal's editorial board blasts the AFL-CIO's efforts to pressure financial services firms to give up support for Social Security.

"With their membership falling, union leaders are finding it harder to influence companies or politics from the factory floor. Their new approach is to use their control over large employee pension plans to insert themselves directly into the boardroom. The result is what one observer has termed 'the new politics of capital,' in which liberal activists attempt to turn entire corporations into lobbyists for their social and political goals, their campaigns all neatly disguised as 'shareholder activism.'"

And they give the Laborers Terry O'Sullivan props . . . of sorts . . . for his proposal to consolidate labor's pension instruments into one powerhouse.

The attorney representing the three people thrown out of President Bush's Social Security town hall meeting in Denver on March 21 is sending a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, alleging their First Amendment writes were violated. The White House maintains that a "local Republican volunteer" pulled the group. LINK

The lawyer, Dan Recht, will also ask Gonzales to investigate whether the White House violated their civil rights and used taxpayer dollars for a political event.

The cost for campaign events are shared by the GOP and the White House according to a formula worked out by the FEC. Private events specifically labeled in advance are closed. Recht argues that "public events" are public in that anyone who lawfully obtains a ticket, passes security successfully, and doesn't disrupt the event has a right to participate.

A number of conservative/free-market groups joined with the Free Enterprise Fund's Steve Moore in writing to Republican leaders on the Hill today telling them they would not, not, not accept personal retirement accounts if the price were higher taxes, defined by raising the payroll tax cap.

The idea for a concerned effort came months ago when the White House first signaled it might be open to raising the amount of money subject to the Social Security tax but few of these folks wanted to get on board at the time because they didn't want to offend their patrons in Karl Rove's office or on the Hill.

But now, with support for accounts flailing and a sense that the White House is looking to compromise, they are publicly drawing the line in the sand about payroll tax cap hikes.

Few of these groups have that much actual grass-roots pull, though Morton Blackwell and others are very influential in the grass tops world of conservative politics.

From the letter: "Raising payroll taxes as part of Social Security reform, including lifting the cap on the maximum taxable income, would cost jobs and would reverse some of the gains in the hard-fought cuts in marginal income tax rates."

"We also doubt that a higher payroll tax will actually solve the financial crisis of Social Security. In 1983 Congress raised the payroll tax in an attempt to restore full solvency of Social Security and yet we face the very same predicament today that Congress faced back then. "

"As such, we urge you to make it known that you will oppose any Social Security "reform" plan -- even if the plan includes personal accounts -- that would raise payroll taxes, or introduce other new taxes. "

Big casino budget politics: Medicare:

Another victory for the AARP: " A federal district judge on Wednesday blocked a Bush administration rule that would have allowed employers to reduce or eliminate health benefits for retirees when they reach age 65 and become eligible for Medicare." LINK

Leader DeLay:

The Washington Post's Mike Allen fleshes out yesterday's Hill reporting about conservative groups rallying to House Majority Leader DeLay's defense, Noting that the Conservative Union and including the Heritage Foundation, Leadership Institute, and Family Research Council met with him last week and have promised to use their grassroots resources to do damage control on his ethics charges. They "also have talked about holding a salute or tribute dinner for DeLay. They said the proceeds would benefit a children's charity not associated with the majority leader." And in response to ads by Campaign for America's Future and the Public Campaign Action Fund going after DeLay, the Leader responded "Bring it on." Because that worked so well for the President and John Kerry. LINK

The Washington Times' Stephen Dinan conducts a battlefield report, as liberals and conservatives prepare for battle over House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Liberal advocacy groups Campaign for America's Future and Public Campaign Action Fund will run $100,000 in ads while the American Conservative Union and other conservative Republicans shore up support and plot the best way to help. Where the story goes next -- the Texas trial, Abramoff's indictment, House Ethics, or Mike Allen's laptop -- is anybody's guess. LINK

USA Today's Jim Drinkard ledes with liberal groups hoping to use DeLay's ethics issues as fundraising booster, offering a good roundup of the anti-DeLay activity -- including DeLay spokesman Dan Allen hitting back and playing the Soros card. LINK

Newsweek's Howard Fineman recognizes the signs of a Majority Leader fighting for his political life -- and the over-the-top move drawing a parallel between himself and Terri Schiavo put blood in the water. With his fund-raising machine under suspicion and even the Wall Street Journal expressing its . . . distaste, might not help Tom DeLay in the K Street corridors of power where he's "feared and hated" or the GOP leadership where he is "not beloved," Fineman writes. LINK

"This is a city dedicated to ambition, but also to the occasional ritual (and largely ineffective) cleansing. The goal of the truly power-hungry is to find new routes to the top without antagonizing a critical mass of the trampled and the angry. DeLay succeeded for quite some time; that time might be about to end. True, Republicans control both chambers of Congress. But just because DeLay won't be subpoenaed to testify on the Hill doesn't mean he is safe."

Bush agenda:

Coordination or control? The Washington Post's Michael Fletcher reports on A1 that President Bush is keeping his Cabinet close, requiring the department heads to spend as many as four hours a week working out of a special office created in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House and meeting with the President's policy and communications aides. LINK

Some see something evil; others see good coordination. Seems like the latter to us.

The New York Times reports that President Bush has nominated Vice President Cheney's son-in-law for a top Homeland Security post. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's John Wilke chronicles the complaints against Office of Special Counsel head Scott Bloch.

In a weird Wall Street Journal op-ed, Peter Robinson tries his best at a Safire-esque channeling of Ronald Reagan and asks him what he makes of the march toward democracy in the former Soviet states.

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

We LOVE this sentence on many levels: " Eibensteiner said that he had invited Rove 'a long time ago' to appear at a state party organization fundraiser, but that Rove said he preferred to help Pawlenty's campaign specifically." LINK

(Mr. Rove is in Helena, MT today: LINK)

Such a cute paragraph: " Unlike they were for Bush's visit, Secret Service preparations have been low key. The Helena Police Department said no extra officers would be on duty. Helena Regional Airport director Ron Mercer said he found out about the visit in the newspaper."

In our best Judy Woodruff: Question: How can a man recently promoted to coordinate policy for the most powerful man in the world travel so much?? Answer: he can do whatever he wants. And there IS a reason to this rhyme, incidentally, aside from a small-plane masochism.

Mr. Rove's showing up at so many local party functions instills goodwill with local activists and fundraisers and cements his reputation, helps Rove take the temperature of the party, and helps ensure that if he signs on with another candidate for 2008, these local activists will look super-kindly on him. And, most of all, it helps to build the party and support for the President's agenda.

The Reliable Source has Karl Rove reporting for jury duty on Tuesday, being excused and offering to come back!!! LINK

The first apparent fallout from Ben Smith's close look at Rudy Giuliani's charity fundraiser in South Carolina yesterday: a Republican state rep in the state seems to want Giuliani to "give back" his fee of (allegedly) $80,000 from a hospital foundation.

From a statement bearing the name of state Rep. Tracy Edge: "I was shocked and disappointed to learn that Mayor Giuliani charged our state hospital association $100,000 to speak at an event to benefit tsunami victims. What makes this most offensive is the fact that the occasion was widely publicized as a charitable event. No where was it disclosed that Mayor Giuliani was being paid for his appearance."

"Like all Americans, I admired Mayor Giuliani's leadership during the 9/11 tragedy. Frankly, his service in New York makes it even more troubling that he would ask for money to appear at an event designed to benefit the victims of one of the greatest human disasters in recorded history."

"As chairman of the budget committee that appropriates state support for health care, I can attest to the fact that funding for our hospitals and health service is becoming a serious challenge, as the cost of health care continues to rise. Knowing just how scarce health care funds are, it truly sadden me to see this type of profiteering in raising funds for a cause as important as tsunami relief."

"Therefore, I call on Mayor Giuliani to give the $80,000 back to the hospital association, so that those funds can be used for the noble cause for which they were raise."

The Note was not able to reach Rep. Edge or a spokesperson for Giuliani by deadline.

Dr./Gov./Chairman Dean:

Bloomberg's Dick Keil on Howard Dean's take-back-the-Red-States strategy: "Dean is girding for a long process. [The] . . . key . . . is finding candidates for lower-level posts such as county tax assessor and roads commissioner, in hopes that they will eventually become contenders for Congress or statewide office."

"DNC spokeswoman Laura Gross said Dean will travel within the next two weeks to Arkansas, and party officials said they expect he'll campaign in Nevada, Colorado and Georgia, all states won by Bush."

Very tough talk from Dean on Sen. Rick Santorum last night in Pennsylvania. LINK

2008: Democrats:

John DiStaso's Granite Status Notes that Gov. Bill Richardson has a June 8 visit to New Hampshire planned. LINK

The New York Post's Deb Orin asks where Sen. Clinton stands on Schiavo and assesses the political consequences of a "yes" or "no." LINK

We aren't certain Tom Harkin's advocacy will mean all that much for Iowa in 2008, however.

Sen. Clinton sent out an end-of-quarter fundraising appeal that had, surprisingly, only five sets of scare quotes and a mere three exclamation points. Seems restrained to us.

From the letter:

"That brings me to tomorrow's deadline. The FEC reporting deadline for the first quarter of the year is at midnight on Thursday, March 31st. Our opponents will use it to judge the intensity and depth of our support. We need to send them an unmistakable message. We have to make it clear that we have no intention of backing down -- and the best way to do that is to show the largest possible grassroots support for my campaign."

"You and I will never give in to their bullying tactics. Our opponents will do anything rather than talk about the issues. They don't want to talk about their plans to destroy Social Security, to roll back our civil and constitutional rights, to undermine American security by reducing the number of allies who will work with us around the world."

The New York Sun calls her e-mail "hyperbole." LINK

Former Sen. John Edwards heads to Missouri on April 3 to campaign for state Senate candidate Rick Johnson. LINK

Then he heads to Phoenix to keynote a health care forum sponsored by Arizona State University's W.P. Carey School of Business April 5 and 6. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich will address the group as well. LINK


Last night the U.S. Supreme Court denied the Schindlers' appeal to restore their daughter's feeding tube.

The Washington Post's Manuel Roig-Franzia wraps the U.S. Supreme Court's decision, and Notes that Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) visited the Schindler family to pray with them on Tuesday night. LINK

More from USA Today's Laura Parker. LINK

"A decision by Pope John Paul II's doctors to feed him through a nasal tube takes the treatment of the chronically ill pontiff closer to the ethically and religiously wrenching decisions of what medical measures should be taken to prolong life and for how long," writes the Washington Post's Daniel Williams. LINK

Republicans and Democrats:

In May's Atlantic Monthly, the absurdly talented Joshua Green takes on the George Lakoff Fetish that (in the view of some) afflicts the Democratic Party. It's a must-read, including this unselfconscious quote from Howard Dean: that he would "make George Lakoff the Democrats' Frank Luntz." The piece explores the Lakoffian message-makers ensconced in the Democratic regime, and, well, makes fun of them. LINK

"One of the minor ridiculous figures in Washington these days is an Internet entrepreneur named Richard Yanowitch, who is pointing down another path to enlightenment. He has put together a jargony memo and a working group dedicated to 'branding' the Democrats -- the thought apparently being that, as if it were a flagging brand of soda, the party can be revived with snazzier packaging and a new sales pitch. And while Lakoff enjoys the sponsorship of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Yanowitch has set up shop under the auspices of her Senate counterpart, Harry Reid."

"Yanowitch has established what has been described to me as a 'secret messaging group.' Though he rebuffed requests for an interview, a member of this Masonic cabal leaked to me a roster of potential saviors of the Democratic Party even unlikelier than Lakoff. Along with the usual pollsters and strategists it includes the internationally best-selling mystery writer Harlan Coben, creator of the Myron Bolitar series, about the adventures of 'a hotheaded, tenderhearted sports agent' (as describes it). Another member is R. J. Cutler, the reality-TV impresario behind last summer's Showtime series American Candidate (modeled after American Idol), which put the lie to H.L.Mencken's maxim that you can never go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people. As the show was conceived, viewers would select a 'candidate' to run for president in the serious, if alarming, hope that the winner would actually enter the race. (The show flopped. Given Cutler's political affiliation, it failed on another level, too: viewers chose a thirty-eight-year-old Republican.) The idea seems to be that people like Coben and Cutler, having moved the masses with their art, possess mysterious alchemical skills that can just as easily be applied to politics."

"Of course, buzzwords are not going to rescue a failing party. That so many Democrats have achieved the Olympian state of denial necessary to believe otherwise suggests that the tempting abstractions of language and messaging have diverted them from a truth that ought to be perfectly clear: rather than being misunderstood, they were understood all too well."

The Note has published several pieces criticizing the Lakoff view and politics as linguistics -- and we'd like to hear from his defenders. Send your correspondence to:

The New York Times Magazine's Deborah Solomon has a cool Q and A with quixotic evangelical lobbyist Richard Cizik:


""Creation care'' sounds like a division of Medicare."

It's still better than environmentalism.

"What is wrong with that term?"

"It's not the term. It's the environmentalists themselves. I was recently speaking with the leadership of the Sierra Club and the National Wildlife Federation, and I told them, 'Gentlemen, I respect you, but at this point don't plan on any formal collaborations.'"

"Why? Because they lean to the left?"

"Environmentalists have a bad reputation among evangelical Christians for four reasons. One, they rely on big-government solutions. Two, their alliance with population-control movements. Three, they keep kooky religious company."

"What is your idea of a kooky religion?"

"Some environmentalists are pantheists who believe creation itself is holy, not the Creator."

"And what's No. 4?"

"There's a certain gloom and doom about environmentalists. They tend to prophecies of doom that don't happen. Look at the movie 'The Day After Tomorrow,' in which New York City freezes over."

The West Wing:

"The West Wing" has been great this season. It really has.

With a few glaring exceptions (ahem, Cuba), the episodes have been rejuvenated, daring, weirdly evocative of the campaign trail, well-cast.

So much so, that we are willing to overlook the consistently pretentious English Lit 101 titles (Yeats! The Bible!); the baffling, lightning-speed transformation of Mary McCormack's character from a buttoned-up, tightly-coiffed, military drone to a slatternly, mermaid-tressed spy; and the incessant, cutesy visual reminders that the sublime Kristin Chenoweth is equally suited to play a munchkin as Galinda.

But after countless seasons and a new administration in the offing, it would be nice to catch more than 40 percent of the celebrated dialogue. Perhaps the actors are method mumblers, or the sound mixers aren't mixing properly, or the boom operators are sadists.

Right now, however, the culpability for this chronic annoyance is hovering over the heads of the old-time West Wingers -- newbie Fauxval Office hopefuls Smits and Alda seem perfectly articulate and intelligible. Something to boast about during the general.

Stem cell politics:

The Boston Globe's Scott Greenberger has all the details of the bill passed by the Massachusetts Senate promoting stem cell research -- including approving therapeutic cloning, and thereby risking a veto by Gov. Romney. LINK

The Globe's Joan Vennochi says the fight over stem cells in Massachusetts is a another cultural battle in a war called Kennedy v. Romney. LINK

The Globe's editorial board writes that Romney's ads opposing the bill "inadvertently revealed the weakness of his partial opposition to this potentially life-saving work." LINK

Romney continues to run his daily radio ad campaign. LINK

Meanwhile, the Washington Post's John Wagner writes, Democrats in the Maryland Senate are holding their bill authorizing state money to pay for stem cell research until they can muster the votes to shut down a filibuster. LINK

Big casino state budget politics:

The New York Times' Fox Butterfield takes a quick look at the big casino budget politics in states -- literally -- as gambling expands and states depend on its revenues more and more. LINK

"In Rhode Island, South Dakota, Louisiana, Oregon and, most of all, Nevada, taxes from casinos, slot machines at racetracks and lotteries make up more than 10 percent of overall revenues, according to a new report. In Delaware, West Virginia, Indiana, Iowa and Mississippi, gambling revenues are fast approaching 10 percent."

Tom Vilsack's Iowa gets props for being innovative.

The Schwarzenegger era:

On his visit to Sacramento, David Broder found surprisingly little resistance to the rationale behind Gov. Schwarzenegger's proposal to turn redistricting over to judges rather than the legislature -- and surmises that if it passes, it might be the impetus to get other states moving and actually allow moderate centers in both Congress and state legislatures. LINK

Chris Lehane calls Maria Shriver's office the go-to place for Democrats in California these days, in a profile in the New York Times of the Cali First Lady. LINK

"Early on, Ms. Shriver was widely credited with helping to persuade her husband to restore a cut in state programs for the developmentally disabled."

Be warned: lots of Hillary Rodham Clinton comparisons in the article.

The Los Angeles Times' legendary George Skelton looks at the first, official anti-Arnold candidate, state Treasurer Phil Angelides, who jumped in the race 15 months early, to raise his profile and begin the long process of chipping away at the Governator's sky-high favorables. LINK


With Rep. Patrick Kennedy saying "no" to a Senate race in Rhode Island, Secretary of State Matt Brown (and his pro-choicer-funded campaign bankroll) is the Democrat to beat. LINK


Another one of Howard Wolfson's dreams makes it to reality, courtesy of Patrick D. Healy:

"The chairman of the state Republican Party expressed concern about the 'discipline and focus' of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's re-election effort on Wednesday, citing Mr. Bloomberg's recent kind words for the party's bĂȘte noire, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton." LINK

"The Republican chairman, Stephen Minarik, said in an interview that he was not happy with Mr. Bloomberg's suggestion Monday night that he might endorse Mrs. Clinton's expected re-election campaign in 2006. Mr. Minarik said he was concerned that the mayor's comment on someone as divisive as Mrs. Clinton showed a lack of disciplined adherence to his political message promoting his record, which Mr. Minarik praised."

The New York Post on the latest Quinnipiac poll: "Democratic mayoral front-runner Fernando Ferrer got the bad news he most feared yesterday -- black voters are defecting in droves because of his controversial comments about the Amadou Diallo case." LINK

Every paper seems to have gotten the same call about the Jets stadium at the MTA: LINK

Former New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen is stumping for C. Virginia Fields this morning, John DiStaso Notes. LINK

Scott Glover and Matt Lait headline the Los Angeles Times, detail the L.A.P.D.'s $70 million settlement of over 200 civil, police abuse lawsuits which have already caused 100 overturned convictions and 12 officers to resign. LINK

'Flip-flopper' versus 'Corrupt Part Timer'. It's just another day on the L.A. mayoral campaign trail as the Los Angeles Times' Jessica Garrison and Richard Fausset witnesses Mayor James Hahn and challenger Antonio Villaraigosa vie for Jewish and Valley voters. LINK

Sen. Corzine made his gubernatorial run official on Wednesday, talking up restoring ethics to New Jersey government. LINK


The Boston Globe's Rick Klein Notes the fight between Sen. Kerry and all 10 of the Bay State's House members and Sens. Kennedy and Reid over an appointment to the National Transportation Safety Board. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Scott Gold details the Roman Catholic church's plans to open the first all-male missionary dedicated to fighting only euthanasia and abortion. Priests will be trained in media relations, lobbying and, they will learn how to conduct voter registration drives, although endorsing or opposing a political candidate would jeopardize their tax-exempt IRS status. LINK

The AP reports William Kristol got a pie in the face during a foreign policy speech at Earlham College. He didn't stop talking -- and we applaud his aplomb. LINK

The Washington Times' Jennifer Harper details the turbulent existence of liberal talk radio Air America, through bounced checks, fluctuating audiences and a host of CEOs. They haven't stopped talking either. LINK

Attention actors, writers, producers, and directors: If your publicist gets you approved, The Creative Coalition will fly you to April 30's White House Correspondents' Association Dinner -- if you qualify. You'll get round-trip, first-class airfare, deluxe accommodations, ground transportation, private VIP receptions all weekend, and . . . SCHWAG!!! If you qualify. And you'll even get what an e-mail sent out by the Coalition promises as "full press/pr services," presumably to keep Robin Givhan away from mal-dressed stars and starlets.

If you qualify. If your publicist gets you approved.

We had imagined somehow the Creative Coalition sifting D listers from A listers, but the reality isn't that interesting: Creative Coalition executive director Robin Bronk said that the Coalition has a limited number of seats, "so we try to spread it out between actors, writers and producers and directors."

The Coalition e-mail describes the WHCA dinner as "the ultimate Black-tie event that brings together living legends from the White House, Congress, Cabinet, and Hollywood for this roast of President George W. Bush."

The Coalition will co-sponsor a VIP reception that night with The Atlantic Monthly.

Cedric the Entertainer, who we last saw a record mogul/gangster in "Be Cool," delivers the monologue.

Rev. Falwell's condition is improving, reports the Washington Post's Michelle Boorstein. Doctors say he doesn't have pneumonia, and they're investigating the possibility that he has heart disease. LINK

Our condolences to Eleanor Clift and the others in the family of Tom Brazaitis. LINK