The Note: Serenity



All news organizations and sensible political planners are building their day (weekend?) around the grave news about Pope John Paul II's health.

The lurking background b-stories -- Terri Schiavo, Social Security, the intel report, Tom DeLay -- are, appropriately, lurking in the background.

At 10:50 am ET, President and First Lady Laura Bush talk about helping America's youth at Paul Public Junior High Charter School in Washington, DC.

At 11:00 am ET, former Sen. John Edwards sits down for an interview on Iowa Public Television's "Iowa Press" in Johnston, IA. He'll hold a media availability at 11:30 am ET. He'll also talk about poverty at Urban Dreams with Rep. Wayne Ford in a closed-press meeting.

The Tar Heel visits Madison, WI tomorrow, before heading to Milwaukee to speak at the Democratic Party of Wisconsin's annual Founders' Day Gala. On Sunday, he goes to Jefferson County, MO to campaign for state Senate candidate Rick Johnson.

At 7:45 am ET today, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice introduced Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who delivered remarks at the annual meeting of the American Society of International Law.

The Labor Department reports this morning that the economy added 110,000 jobs in March -- considerably lower than the 220,000 jobs that were expected.

At 2:30 pm ET, the Living Wage Coalition hosts an event to celebrate Georgetown University's recent commitment to paying a living wage to all full-time employees, a promise that came after a nine-day hunger strike by students. AFL-CIO President John Sweeny, Metro Washington Central Labor Council President Jos Williams and other political, labor and religious leaders participate.

At 7:00 pm ET at the National Press Club, April Fool's Day jokesters Matt Cooper of Time magazine, James Rosen of Fox News Channel, David Corn of the Nation, and comedians Will Durst and Bob Somerby participate in a special tribute to the life and work of Hunter S. Thompson -- sponsored by the Hotline and the National Press Club.

Tomorrow night, New York City's version of the Gridiron dinner explodes into view at the annual Inner Circle event at the Hilton on Sixth Avenue. This year's installment is entitled, "Let's Get Ready to Fumble." Watch Bob Hardt dance!!! Watch Ernie Anastos be Ernie Anastos!! Watch boys watch Maggie Haberman!!! Watch Kevin Sheekey own the room!!! Watch more Diallo, stadium, and Giff-looks-young jokes than you could ever imagine!!! Watch Mayor Mike perform with the cast of some real Broadway show TBA!! LINK

Sunday on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," New York state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer sits down to talk about the burgeoning investigation into insurance giant AIG. Also, Sens. Dick Durbin and Jon Kyl will discuss the damning presidential report on the faulty intelligence on the weapons of mass destruction and the little we know about the current nuclear threats. And of course the latest on the Pope.

Social Security:

"House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) has acknowledged that President Bush's call for completion of a Social Security bill this year could be unrealistic and that the legislation might have to wait until 2006," writes the Washington Post's Mike Allen, who Notes that Hastert's comments come in today's National Journal and were immediately met by insistence by Republicans and the White House that an overhaul be signed this year. LINK

Once again, we ask: why do these congressional leaders keep blurting these things out? "Not helpful," thinks the White House, per our ESP.

President Bush still has his show on the road, but his song ain't cruising up the charts, write USA Today's William Welch and Richard Benedetto. LINK

The New York Times on the labor protests: LINK

White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove "spent a good part of his 26-minute speech pitching Bush's plan to revamp Social Security" in addition to talking up the re-election of Sen. Conrad Burns last night, the Helena (MT) Independent Record reports. LINK

Bloomberg's hyper-talented Heidi Przybyla looks at Democrats on the offense -- holding town meetings on Social Security in GOP-controlled congressional districts, and has Dick Armey saying there is "wariness" still within his own party.

"Facing dissent head-on is part of the job description for the leader of a free people," writes E.J. Dionne in his criticism of how the White House has handled dissenters -- i.e., thrown them out -- of President Bush's Social Security town meetings. LINK

The Washington Times' Donald Lambro warms the heart of the Administration by claiming evidence that "Just Say No' might not appeal to all Democrats on Social Security. LINK

The New Republic's Ryan Lizza writes of Al Hubbard's favorite non-Republican, Robert Pozen: "Rather than a middle-ground alternative that points the way toward a grand bargain, Pozen's well-intentioned ideas actually reveal why there is probably no room for one." LINK

Rep. Bob Beauprez said Thursday in a radio show interview that he didn't have anything to do with the expulsion of three Denver people from a town hall by the President on Social Security. He told AP his office did not "purify" or "homogenize" the audience.

"'This is a very independent thing from any of our offices whether it is the governor's office or one of our congressional offices or a senatorial office,' Rep. Bob Beauprez, R-Colo., said on KHOW-AM. 'The White House does the deal. They literally come in and take over.'"


The Washington Post's Walter Pincus and Peter Baker detail the "withering" criticism of the presidential commission that investigated pre-Iraq war intelligence, which, concerned that the same failures could plague estimates of Iran and North Korea's weapons capabilities, offered 74 recommendations to change the intelligence community from "an . . . apparatus plagued by turf battles, wedded to old assumptions and mired in unimaginative thinking." White House homeland security adviser Frances Townsend said changes would begin to be apparent in two weeks. LINK

Mark Silva's Chicago Tribune WMD story, like many others, gets swamped by breaking news but it's still a solid wrap of the report and its repercussions. LINK

The Washington Post's Dafna Linzer and Bart Gellman look more closely at the episodes of "fruitless dissent" on intelligence offered by the report. LINK

Greg Miller and Bob Drogin focus on 'Curveball' while Bob Drogin and Greg Miller take a look at the WMD Commission as a whole for the Los Angeles Times. LINK; LINK

The Washington Times' Joseph Curl on the "dead wrong" reports. LINK

Leader DeLay:

Check this item from the Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: " Lawmakers ponder leadership change if DeLay is indicted in Texas campaign-finance probe or steps aside. Potential successors: Majority Whip Blunt, Campaign Chief Reynolds and ex-Conference Chair Boehner. Top party strategists expect DeLay to hang on at least through 2006, but fret about battering from Democrats and conservative pundits. 'We may be reaching a tipping point,' says a White House adviser. DeLay's chances of succeeding Hastert as speaker are considered remote. Hastert postpones retirement until 2008 but aides cite White House wishes, not DeLay."

DeLay's Web site currently hosts a statement on the death of Terri Schiavo. (LINK) Beside the statement, there is a picture of a U.S. flag at half staff.

Currently, flags are indeed flying over the Capitol at half staff . . . in honor of the late Sen. Howell Heflin (D-AL), not Terri Schiavo.


As the Schiavo story turns from personal plight to pure politics, the Los Angeles Times' Ron Brownstein turns in a must-read, arguing the judicial battle in the Senate may now boil over as top Republicans believe the Schiavo case proved a need for the confirmation of conservative judges, while Democrats feel it displayed why they have resisted 10 nominations so far. LINK

The New York Times' Sheryl Gay Stolberg on the potential for new laws dealing with life and death. LINK

The Times on the political fight, part XXXVIII: LINK

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank assesses how both Republicans and Democrats are assessing how they can own the symbolism of Terri Schiavo's life and death. LINK

The Miami Herald's Lesley Clark writes that in the face of public opinion polls that show a majority of Americans support the removal of Schiavo's feeding tube, Republicans are treading carefully. LINK

Right-to-life conservatives are promising to force the issue to the top of Congress' agenda when it returns, write the Boston Globe's Joseph Williams and Nina Easton. And state legislatures are examining their options as well. LINK

'''The grass roots is not only chagrined at left-wing activist judges who impose their views on a whole host of areas, such as gay marriage in Massachusetts; there is also simmering anger at the Republican Party for not being careful enough with their court appointments,'" Gary Bauer told the Globe's Canellos and Easton. LINK

The Washington Times' Bill Sammon says that "pro-lifers" have already "declared war" on the judiciary. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Elizabeth Mehren and Sam Howe Verhovek on the surprising impact of Terri Schiavo on the nation's political discourse. LINK

The Chicago Tribune's William Neikirk takes a look at the Schiavo lessons learned and questions raised. LINK

The New Republic's Noam Scheiber has a typically sharp piece about the narrow bullet Democrats may have dodged. Read the whole thing. LINK

Ed boards:

The Washington Post's editorial board calls Leader DeLay a bully for his comments about judges who did not grant the Schindlers' requests to hear their case or reinstate Terri Schiavo's feeding tube: "Such crude threats of retribution against judges of both parties who were only doing their jobs is, indeed, a mark of an arrogant and out-of-control federal power -- but that power is the legislature, not the judiciary." LINK

The Chicago Tribune's editorial board doesn't like the Democratic filibuster threat, calling the Dems an "obstinate minority," but then again it doesn't like the Republican plan to bust the filibuster either. Echoing George Will, the Trib suggests the GOP make Dems pay at the ballot box rather than permanently altering the ground rules in the Senate. LINK

The Washington Times' editorial board defends the many attempts to intervene in the case of Terri Schiavo and marvels at the "miraculous power of a single life." LINK


Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and civilian leaders of the military services that the recommendations of a Rand Corp. report sharply criticizing the Pentagon for its post-war planning in Iraq "'are worth our careful consideration,'" report the Washington Post's Bradley Graham and Tom Ricks. LINK

2008: Republicans:

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani says opening a law firm this year "doesn't rule out anything" in his political future. LINK

The Manchester Union Leader reported yesterday -- in hard copy, not online -- that Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) will be in Manchester April 16 to present Cornerstone's True Blue Awards to 13 state legislators for their support of conservative causes.

More from the AP, which claims it got "some of the most detailed comments the Kansas Republican has made about a possible bid for president." LINK

2008: Democrats:

The Des Moines Register's Tom Beaumont writes that on his editorial board visit (wearing a dark suit and blue tie, we're told by sources familiar with Edwards' sartorial life), former Sen. John Edwards said he believes Congress had no business getting involved in the Schiavo case. LINK

The Quad-City Times' headline: "Edwards schmoozes in Iowa, lays '08 foundation." LINK

On Sen. Clinton and the right-wing attack machine: LINK

Stem cell politics:

The Massachusetts House passed the stem cell research bill with a veto-proof margin. ''The governor will not sign into law a bill that permits the cloning of human embryos for research," a Romney spokesperson said. LINK; LINK

The Clintons of Chappaqua:

Just before 5:00 pm ET Thursday, the hustle and bustle of Washington's historic Union Station experienced a momentary pause for an unusual sight: the fresh-from-round-two-surgery former Commander-in-Chief.

Emerging from Club Acela, an oasis for frequent Acela riders, a lean and slow-moving former President Bill Clinton made his way through a stunned crowd of Amtrak supporters who gasped alternatively at the unexpected appearance.

Clinton, flanked by Secret Service and armed local police, passed Escada and Swatch, wisely avoided President Cigars, walked through the Main Hall and into the East Hall, where a store called Appalachian Spring caught his eye.

As the President shopped, the crowd swelled, whispering excitedly and snapping pictures as Clinton perused pottery and woodwork creations.

After 10 minutes of purchase-free browsing, Clinton dipped into the warmth of the crowd, shaking hands and smiling, although his face flushed and his pace again seemed slow.

CBS News' stunning Allison Davis waded into the crowd to ask, "How are you feeling?"

Placing his right hand over his heart, Clinton replied, "I'm feeling good, I'm feeling good. This is the first time I've been out since my surgery a few weeks ago. My friend has an event here every year so I took the train down."

The former President then made his way back to the Club Acela.

The Washington Post's John Harris writes that President Clinton looked "fit and well-rested" last night, shaking hands and posing for photos after he accepted the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Award for Humanitarian Contributions from the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases at a rather historic (or at least notorious) Ritz-Carlton in Northern Virginia. In his remarks, Clinton said it was "'unconscionable' how little wealthy countries are doing to prevent a public health catastrophe in Africa and other regions with rampant HIV." LINK

Democrats and Republicans:

Ken Mehlman gets good, respectful press for his outreach to African-Americans.

Howard Dean gets good, respectful press in the Red States he visits. But his comments sometimes echo.

When he says, in Canada, that Republicans are "brain dead," Republicans Notice and some Democrats cringe, because while Dean by reputation is thought to be outspoken, his position as party chair makes it easier for the GOP to use his lack of reticence and verbal sobriety to raise money and tar Democratic office-seekers as liberals.

In Philadelphia Wednesday, Dean called Sen. Rick Santorum "a liar" for voting against a budget resolution that included funding for Amtrak and then writing an op-ed supporting the railroad's existence.

Now -- if the story was "Dean dings Santorum on Amtrak," it'd be a good thing, presumably, for Democrats, because it highlights an issue they've been trying to push all week.

But when you call someone a "liar," the story tends to become about the use of the word "liar."

And when the writer chooses to focus most of the story on Dean's (uh, ironic?) call for "message discipline," his own comments yield further scrutiny.

Republicans say that the facts are not really on Dean's side here anyway, and if his comments cause some attention to be drawn to Amtrak, well, that's not a terrible thing for Santorum because Santorum knows very well that he'll be able to fund Amtrak during the appropriations process, and he'll go back to his home state, hold a huge event at the train station and say, "I got it done."

"Look at the facts . . . Rick Santorum has a history of saying one thing and doing another," responds Karen Finney, the DNC communications director. "Most recently, he said he would support funding for Amtrak, but he went ahead and voted against funding. Then, a week later, he had the audacity to write an op-ed supporting increased Amtrak funding. The people of Pennsylvania deserve to know the truth."

But Note there are still a lot of Republicans publicly and privately celebrating Dean's presence at the DNC. It's early yet, of course, but the Good Doctor has not made them eat those words -- stylistically or substantively.


Sen. Robert Byrd penned (or at least signed) a DSCC fundraising e-mail yesterday, focusing on judicial appointments and Senate Republicans' threats to enact the "nuclear option" on filibusters. Byrd pointed potential donors to the DSCC's Web site, where they can find their own copy of the Constitution to carry around -- as he does -- and urged them to be "the new Paul Revere" by telling friends and neighbors that "our free speech is under attack."

"Senate Republicans are ready to nuke debate in the Senate and stand the Senate rules on their head by severely restricting our right to filibuster these nominees. They want to change the rules in the middle of the game so they can force on us far right-wing judges, all in an effort to gag the world's greatest deliberative body."

"We cannot let them do it."

"Their view of the Constitution is based on the opinions of a fancy Washington law firm. Our view of the Constitution is based on the plain words of the Framers who wrote it. Now you can use your own personal Constitution to share those powerful words with your friends and family."

MoveOn PAC, which is ginning up its own fundraising apparatus for Sen. Byrd's reelection race in 2006, reports that they raised more than $817,400 in 48 hours from more than 19,000 contributors.


The Note normally eschews jokes on April Fool's day (known around here as "Amateur Day"), but we L-O-V-E-D's briliant send-up that had Bill Bradley entering the New Jersey gubernatorial race against Jon Corzine. The Doug Berman cameo is an instant classic, and the whole thing is a must-read. LINK

Second-best April Fool's pegged piece: the New York Times on Sidd Finch. LINK

The New York papers do some political analysis on Bloomberg's stadium win, with the usual press caveats. LINK and LINK

Rep. Charles Rangel endorsed Virginia Fields for mayor of New York. LINK


Former White House national security adviser Sandy Berger will today plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge and will admit intentionally removing and destroying copies of a classified document about the Clinton administration's record on terrorism from the National Archives, the Washington Post's John Harris and Allan Lengel report. The Justice Department and Berger's lawyers negotiated an agreement, to be approved by the judge, that he would pay a $10,000 fine and have his national security clearance suspended for three years. LINK


Berger reportedly will admit he destroyed documents and wasn't truthful at times.

And/but Deborah Orin won't let the sock thing go. LINK

The Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman reports that the investigation of Henry Cisneros has to date cost $21 million, with some recent spending that will shock all Note readers. LINK

Former Connecticut Gov. John Rowland will be designated prisoner No. 15623-014 as he enters jail today to serve a one-year sentence. LINK

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was reported "resting comfortably" at home Thursday after an angioplasty procedure, AP reports. LINK

Rev. Falwell says he's "making progress" and he reportedly got a call from Karl Rove. LINK

Correction: Yesterday we mistakenly referred to someone named Louise Capps when of course we meant the esteemed Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA). We regret the typo.

The Lakoff debate:

Yesterday, we asked readers to send us their best defense of Berkeley linguist George Lakoff and his contributions to Democratic political practice. We got more critiques than defenses. Here's a sampling:

From "Cyberian":

"I think the Dems' awakening to message discipline is long overdue. Lakoff's work is not "theories", it's "Message 101", a skill mastered by the GOP long ago. The author of the article I just read seems to believe, as do most arrogant Rethuglycans, that the reason for their "mandate" is that they are more "in touch with mainstream American values". The "mandate" is an opiate pipe dream, and as the private-account and Schiavo debacle prove, they have lost whatever touch they once had with mainstream values. They can be had. But Dem ideas have stopped resonating; since Ronald Reagan's legacy and the creation of the Right-Wing media machine, the GOP has been much more successful at framing debates and issues to Americans on their terms. Lakoff's contribution is crucial to a new and rising Donkey; he focuses on and brings the power of totems, icons, associative words, and subliminal messages to the task of communicating to Americans a basic, essential message: "Elect the Democrat" for WHATEVER post is at stake. The GOP takes this message framing for granted; their structure takes care of framing, issue ID, and message delivery at a very fundamental level (pun intended). But as Bill Bradley showed in his remarkable Op-Ed in the NYT yesterday, it is a skill sadly lacking in the upside-down pyramid Dem model he posited."

From Keith Powers, University of Dayton:

"After reading Lakoff's book, I found myself in disagreement with many of Lakoff's ideas -- big and small. In fact, I disagreed with his entire premise that linguistics can save progressives. I did, at times, agree with some of his smaller points though. Nevertheless, four months later I find myself in some agreement with his linguistic principles."

"The effect of these 'framings' won't be apparent right away, if they work it will take years. It IS a total reconstruction of peoples ideas. Also, as a young person with state-level campaign experience, I've realized that many campaigns begin with your base and end with the middle. This is what I see happened in 2004. The Democrats may have been hurt by the Christian conservatives, but they lost in the middle. The Republicans, after years of work, convinced middle America that their values were correct, it's absurd to think otherwise, and portrayed themselves as strong and organized. The Republicans used language and arguments to trivialize outside beliefs. I think your typical middle class mother can be swayed left or right, she can identify with family values but she also might have attended a liberal college and is a pro-choice. The way to win these middle Americans is to use all tools -- including language."

"Anyways, I think the Democrats are fools if they think Lakoff will save their party. They need organization, money, and direction. But, I think its the kind of forward thinking the party needs and a step in the right direction. Anyone who's played a game of darts (or who actually knows the game) knows something: always stay on offense, never play defense. That is what the Democrats are finally doing. It might take years, it might not work as they expect, but it will do something . . . eventually."

"So, I think its important to consider Lakoff's ideas, not as the platform for the Democrats, but as a tool for change."