WASHINGTON, April 8
Mrs. Ann Compton of ABC News, appropriately the United States radio news pooler this morning, reported at 7:28 am ET that the President was aboard Air Force One en route to Waco, TX and his ranch for the weekend.
(We presume his time will be full of preparation for Monday's meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as well as plenty of brush-clearing, breath-clearing relaxation.)
President Clinton, Compton reports, was on a presidential support plane headed back to Washington. (Do read David Sanger's eloquent travelogue of Clinton walking the streets of Rome: LINK )
So ends the week in Washington, rightfully eclipsed by matters religious and spiritual.
Under one metaphorical worldview, everything in the World of the Gang of 500 has been "frozen" while the media gaze has been elsewhere. (Imagine Congress and Howard Fineman as a series of Tussaudian wax figures -- about to come to life.)
Under the other metaphorical worldview, under the façade of the papal focus, political life has kept moving inexorably forward, and it will spring forth in the collective national consciousness first thing Monday morning. (Think of lifting up St. Peter's square and seeing a lavish ant farm with insects scurrying all over the place, as Howard Dean might say.)
It would take a conclave of Googling monkeys much bigger than the one we gathered last night to figure out which vision will prove correct, so we will table the discussion for now ("table" in the American sense, mind you, not the British one).
But we will hint at our gut feeling through a series of lists.
In each case, please provide the best name for the collection of items:
List One: The transcript of the 41/43 banter about 42 on the plane ride home; the stream of coconsciousness of Sen. Martinez as he reads his Florida clips (including editorials) in Rome this morning; and the contents of Sandy Berger's (likely) thank you Note to Paul Gigot.
List Two: The judiciary; the liberal media; the New York Times; and accomodationist Senators.
List Three: Gas prices; inflation; health care costs; Alan Greenspan's new research study, the CW on POTUS poll standing; the CW on the prospects of Social Security reform passage; and consumer confidence.
List Four: Minneapolis, Lake Geneva; Columbia; Minneapolis; and Little Rock.
List Five: Chairman Thomas; Chairman Grassley; luck; guile; an uptick in the Dow.
List Six: Conservative blogs; Howard Kurtz; Jeb Bush; and the Orlando Sentinel's editorial board.
List Seven: The nuclear option; the constitutional option; the Byrd option; the Lott option; and the Frist-Miller option.
List Eight: The Senate finance committee; the Department of Justice; the Senate Indian Affairs Committee; and Preston Gates.
List Nine: Congressional Hispanic Caucus; Rahm Emanuel; Sergio Bendixen; and South Texas.
List Ten: Mark Preston; Chris Cillizza; Alexander Bolton; Amy Keller; John Bresnahan; and Ben Pershing.
List Eleven: Moshe Katsav; Ariel Sharon; Bashar al-Assad; and Mohammad Khatami.
List Twelve: Dukakis '86; Bush '98; Santorum '06; Allen '06; Romney '06; Clinton '06.
Also today: White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove headlines a fundraiser for Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty a day after former Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson upbraided Mr. Pawlenty for his (conditional) support for an expansion of Indian gaming. See: LINK
Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman hosts a Lincoln Day dinner in Palm Beach County, FL.
Al Sharpton's National Action Network convention kicks off in New York. Sen. John Thune hosts the King County, WA Lincoln Day dinner in Seattle.
DNC Chairman Howard Dean speaks at a luncheon hosted by the Democratic Party of Arkansas and the Association of State Democratic Chairs in Little Rock, AR. He'll update them on his efforts to revamp the DNC and announce that he's going to start sending money to cash-starved state parties.
Theorist/journalist Chuck Todd celebrates a birthday, along with Leader DeLay and Kofi Annan.
Tomorrow, Dean has grits with Arkansas Democrats at a fundraiser. Sen. Hillary Clinton keynotes the Minnesota Democratic Party's Hubert Humphrey Day Dinner. Karl Rove keynotes the Rock and Walworth county Republican Party Lincoln Day dinner in Lake Geneva, WI. Former Sen. John Edwards keynotes the Liston B. Ramsey Spring Gala in Asheville, NC. Thune flies cross country to South Carolina for the state GOP's Silver Elephant dinner in Columbia.
On Sunday, Sen. John Kerry headlines a fundraiser for Rep, Marty Meehan in Lowell, MA.
On "This Week," George Stephanopoulos interviews Sen. Rick Santorum (Rome, judges, Schiavo), Sen. Chris Dodd (Rome, Schumer, Clinton), and the new president of Iraq, Jalal Talabani.
And Politics Live, the all-politics-all-the-time show on ABC News Now, our 24-hour digital news network, is seeking your help.
The final segment of each Politics Live, "Stump Sam," invites viewers and scholars alike to stump Sam Donaldson with difficult presidential trivia questions. Questions can involve any aspect of presidential trivia, dating from 1950 to the present. (It's harder than you'd think to stump -- Sam is amazing.)
Click here to join in the fun of stumping Sam with your wittiest trivia and win the hottest new fashion accessory -- an orange ABC News Now baseball cap! HERE
Want to see if your question Stumps Sam? Subscribe to ABC News Now today and watch Politics Live live at 1:30 pm ET every week day: HERE
39, 41, 42, 43:
The Washington Post's Peter Baker tries to get to the bottom of the question of why former President Jimmy Carter, the only president ever to host a Pope at the White House, was not part of the U.S. delegation to his funeral. Both sides agree he was invited and that he ultimately bowed out, Baker writes, but the degree to which he was welcome remains in question -- and there remains to some outsiders at least a fuzziness. LINK
"The current tiff began over the weekend even before John Paul died, when [White House Chief of Staff Andy] Card first called Carter to ask if he would want to go to the funeral with the president, according to several accounts. Carter accepted. None of the other former presidents was going at that point. Gerald R. Ford has grown too weak to travel extensively, Clinton was recovering from recent surgery, and George H.W. Bush did not plan to accompany his son."
"Clinton, though, met with his doctor Tuesday and got clearance to go. George H.W. Bush, who has been working with Clinton on tsunami relief efforts in Asia, decided to go too."
"Accounts diverge at this point. According to one, Carter withdrew when told no other former president was going, and then Card called back and reported that the senior Bush was going and asked if Carter wanted to reconsider. Carter considered that a father-son pairing and declined, in this version."
"According to another, Card called back and said both Clinton and the senior Bush were going and Carter could be the fifth member. If he did not want to go, Card said, Rice was interested. In this variation, Carter felt that was a strong enough delegation without him and agreed to let Rice go in his place."
"Zesty" David Espo brings a semi-scoop to the wire:
Republican leaders in the Senate are mulling over whether to take personal accounts off the table while soliciting Democratic support for the President's Social Security plan, hoping to bring them back later -- and risk infuriating the White House, he reports. LINK
The Los Angeles Times' Jonathan Peterson takes a closer look at California's gas prices, which hit a new record of $2.554 a gallon on Thursday, and how they're expected to remain in that vicinity through 2006. LINK
USA Today's James Healey writes that the nationwide average for unleaded regular gas will peak next month at $2.35 and will be $2.28 for the summer driving peak, according to the Energy Information Administration. But that's not expected to put drivers off. LINK
The last few paragraphs of the New York Times' Stevenson/Wald write-up on gas prices are worth reading in full.
"'This is not just an economic problem,' said Mark Mellman, a Democratic pollster. 'It is also, in the public judgment, a national security problem. There is a widespread belief in the country that the problem could be solved or a real dent made in it, but that this administration, because it is tied to big oil, is unwilling to take the steps necessary to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.'" LINK
"Administration officials said they were assuming that the surge in prices would help put pressure on Congress to pass Mr. Bush's energy plan. Already, Republicans in the Senate have shown for the first time that they have the votes to include in that bill the authorization for drilling in a section of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge."
"The rise in oil and gasoline prices could also provide another reason for the nation to embrace Mr. Bush's call for the spread of democracy in the Middle East, a source of nearly 20 percent of the nation's oil. A more stable, democratic Middle East would presumably reduce concerns about interruptions in the flow of oil. For now, though, the first signs that the seeds of democracy are germinating in the region are being accompanied not by lower crude oil prices but by near-record highs. And Democrats say they intend to use gasoline prices to reopen issues they have previously invoked to hold up the Bush energy bill, among them their call for an increase in fuel economy standards."
Page A2 of the Wall Street Journal has a must-read about inflation forecasts creeping up, with some expecting prices to rise 2.5 percent this year. On the same page, Brody Mullins picks up the Hill rag reports about deal-making between John Kyl and Chuck Schumer over the estate tax.
The latest AP-Ipsos poll shows Bush's job approval at 44 percent, with 54 percent disapproving. Only 37 percent have a favorable opinion of the work being done by the Republican-controlled Congress. LINK
The Washington Post's David Ignatius surmises that the reason President Bush's poll numbers have slumped and public image has suffered isn't because of the big ideological fights -- Terri Schiavo and Social Security -- that he's engaged in. It's because, Ignatius argues, leadership involves getting in the trenches and being a responsible steward with Congress, and his desire for the grand-slam homeruns has kept him from stepping up to the plate. LINK
Previewing Monday's Crawford confab with Ariel Sharon, two reporters for the Wall Street Journal write that "The U.S. domestic politics of Mr. Bush's settlement stance will only get stickier once all sides move toward a new round of peace talks, an event not likely until late this year at the earliest. Most of the U.S. Jewish community opposes the settlements, but the minority is very vocal and has increased its clout within the White House, in part through allying with a number of conservative Christian groups."
Stick before the carrot: A New York Times editorial bashes the heck out of John Bolton LINK
And then another urges Laura Bush to speak out in favor of more federal money for libraries. LINK
Sen. Lincoln Chafee inches closer to voting in Bolton's favor, it seems. LINK
USA Today's Barbara Slavin writes that Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) are at least two Democrats who say they will oppose Bolton's nomination. Boxer predicts that Bolton will have a hard time getting any Democratic support. LINK
Many states seemed to like Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings' newly expressed NCLB flexibility, but not Connecticut. LINK
"The Bush administration has told states that they cannot steer Medicare beneficiaries to any specific prescription drug plan, even if state officials find that one or two insurance plans would provide the best deals for elderly people with low-incomes," writes Robert Pear in the New York Times. LINK
The Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman examines the accounting strategy that will give California $2 billion more in federal Medicaid money than it might normally be able to receive, by which counties, universities, and hospitals send their "contributions" to Sacramento to allow the state to ask for matching funds, and then get the money back. It's a years-long tradition among many states that the federal government has essentially sanctioned, but with this year's budget battle, has caused a rift between the White House and governors. LINK
And the Times' David Chen writes of cuts to federal housing programs, which an official defends quite candidly as efficiency-based. LINK
The Washington Post's Carol Leonnig reports that Justice Department officials made the case to a federal appeals court yesterday that President Bush should be allowed to prosecute and sentence al Qaeda terrorists for war crimes outside the U.S. court system, disagreeing with a district judge's earlier ruling that military commissions designed for such proceedings were unfair to the accused. LINK
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's memo last week giving one of his aides the authority to improve Pentagon intelligence is now being interpreted as giving the Undersecretary for Defense Intelligence rein to interfere with the work of the newly designated Director of National Intelligence, the Washington Post's Walter Pincus reports. LINK
The Schiavo memo:
The Washington Post's victory-lapping-with-dignity Mike Allen reports that Sen. Mel Martinez's office is investigating whether counsel Brian Darling, who claimed authorship of the Schiavo memo, distributed it to other offices, and whether other senior aides had a role -- despite Martinez's statement Wednesday night that Darling was the only one responsible for the document, and that the matter had already been investigated. LINK
Second day coverage in Florida is not kind to Sen. Martinez. The Miami Herald headline calls him a "rookie."
"Supporters of Martinez, including Gov. Jeb Bush, rallied Thursday to his side, but some Republicans anguished privately that the latest and most high-profile misstep marks a major debacle for the freshman senator." LINK
"The memo and Martinez's handling of it, those supporters said, could damage his relationship with other senators and portray him as driven more by political partisanship than conviction. It also could lead to questions about his level of oversight of his staff and raise doubts about his attention to detail, as Martinez acknowledged that 'unbeknownst' to him, he handed the explosive memo to Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa."
Editorials are equally as brutal, with the St. Pete Times waxing incredulously. LINK
And the Orlando Sentinel, which endorsed Martinez, is very, very, very disappointed. LINK
The Des Moines Register covers the local guy's role in it all: LINK
The Los Angeles Times' Janet Hook and Mary Curtius take a very interesting look at the political odd-couple partnership of Speaker Hastert and Leader DeLay, writing that it's being put to the test in the face of DeLay's ethics accusations, when the controversy is for some overshadowing Congress' legislative agenda, and the duo see itty-bitty cracks emerging in the relationship. LINK
The New York Times' Carl Hulse and David Kirkpatrick write up DeLay's call for more Congressional intervention into the judiciary at a conservative conference in Washington and quote several top Congressional GOP officials as expressing support, although Sensenbrenner seems a bit less enthusiastic. LINK
Those news desks who thought DeLay's being in Rome would mean he couldn't address the conference on "Confronting the Judicial War on Faith" have, apparently, never heard of "video."
The Houston Chronicle on Dems seeking to challenge Delay in 2006: LINK
Happy Birthday, Mr. Leader.
The New York Times Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Michael Janofsky psychoanalyze Democrats' recent toughness against Bush nominees. LINK
Writes John "Ace" Harwood of the Wall Street Journal: "Disapproval of lawmakers rises to 46% in [the Journal/NBC] poll. 39% approve of Congress's performance. The shift follows the end-of-life controversy over Terri Schiavo, angst over high oil prices and broader concerns about the nation's direction."
"Americans 'clearly are discontented with both the climate and gas prices,' say Journal/NBC pollsters Peter Hart and Bill McInturff. Frist's negative ratings inch up to 14% from 8% two years ago, nearly matching his 15% positive ones. The poll's margin of error is 3.1 percentage points. Seeking to deepen DeLay's troubles, Democrats say writer of a controversial Senate Schiavo memo once worked with the House majority leader's associates."
"A DeLay spokesman said that is an 'absurd' insinuation showing 'the lengths Democrats will go to attack.'"
Read the whole Wire today for more on the public's impression of the media, a Harwood scoop about the Treasury, and much, much more.
The Wall Street Journal's editorial page bashes Sen. Pat Leahy for stalling asbestos legislation. (And then it bashes conspiratorial conservatives for peddling alleged misinformation about the Sandy Berger settlement.)
Dude! From a press release: "Katon Dawson, Chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party, announced today that Luke Byars will be leaving the State Party as Executive Director and taking a new position as State Director of Senator Jim DeMint's South Carolina offices. Dawson also announced the addition of Scott Malyerck as interim Executive Director."
If you don't know who Scott Malyerck is or who he worked for or why Katon Dawson gets mad props and Jim DeMint gets a great new state director, you're not paying close enough attention.
We wonder where Minnesota Public Radio got THIS idea: LINK
Massachusetts pays a Boston Herald op-ed columnist, per the Boston Globe. LINK
The presidential copter war between Schumer/Clinton and Dodd continues, with Schumer calling Dodd's actions a "sneak attack and Senator Clinton saying she's ready for a fight. LINK
Sen. Mark Dayton appears to be aboard the HRC bandwagon for 2008. LINK
Sen. Clinton's speech to Seventh Day Adventists was ably chronicled by the New York Sun, which reports that previous speakers at the gala in past years included Sen. Sam Brownback and Rep. Chris Smith. LINK
Feel better, Sen. Kerry (who has two weeks on crutches ahead of him after some knee surgery). LINK
Consultants to Mike Bloomberg: Don't let people know you're a rich billionaire who weekends in the Caribbean! LINK
The New York Times' Pat Healy gets seven participants in a meeting to spill the advice they gave the mayor's campaign team about how he needs to take back control of his public image. A must-read for Gotham politicos. LINK
House of Labor:
Score for SEIU and 49,000 child workers in Illinois. LINK
But why did the SEIU press release seem to put SEIU's victory in contrast to an AFSCME loss?
"The final vote total was 13,484 for SEIU and 359 for no union. Another union, AFSCME, which pulled out of the election after most of the votes had already been cast, received minimal support. Overall, SEIU outpolled AFSCME by a 5-to-1 margin, receiving 82 percent of the vote to 16 percent for AFSCME. Two percent of the votes were for no union."
(Well, we know why, but . . . )
Gov. Schwarzenegger backed off his plan to revamp the state's public pension system with personal accounts this year in a surprise news conference on Thursday, reports John Hill of the Sacramento Bee. LINK
"The move represents a huge political defeat for Schwarzenegger that illustrates the perils of governing by initiative. Unions and Democrats said the governor's retreat would help open the way for discussions of problems they said were more pressing to most Californians."
"The governor said he had listened to the concerns of survivors of public safety officers killed in the line of duty and others who claimed the initiative would end death and disability payments. While the governor said the initiative was never intended to end the special benefits, he acknowledged that the criticism had clouded the issue."
"He denied that he was swayed by public pressure."
The Washington Post's Jeffrey Birnbaum looks at a study by the Center for Public Integrity concluding that the government has failed to keep track of the billions of dollars that lobbyists spend yearly. Last year, corporations, labor unions, and interest groups spent more than $3 billion in 2004, up from $1.6 billion in 1998, Birnbaum reports, but there hasn't exactly been strict observance of lobbying regulations -- with 14,000 required disclosure documents not filed. LINK
More trouble in Washington as King County election officials say they don't know how closely the number of absentee ballots returned matches the number counted, prompting a call for an investigation by former Secretary of State Sam Reed. In the past week, election officials said 93 absentee ballots weren't counted. LINK