The Note: Mistaking Obstructionism for Progress



As masters of the obvious, let us say: Americans care about rising gas prices.

And/but in a Washington story as old as time itself -- or, at least, as old as the songs on the President's iPod -- the Chattering Class can get distracted.

People inside Washington (especially, dare we say it, on Capitol Hill) try really, really hard to stay in sync with the country and not get caught with a bad case of inside-the-Beltway-itis.

Washington reporters who work for New York-based news organizations try to avoid the same thing.

It doesn't always work out, however.

There are some issues on which we think DC perceptions might be a bit out of whack with the Fruited Plain at this point.

Here are things the Gang of 500 cares about that don't matter to Americans as much as those gas prices:

1. The methods Jack Abramoff is using to send (unfriendly) signals to Tom DeLay.

2. From whom John Bolton is separated at birth.

3. The Bush Administration's failure to address the Alternative Minimum Tax. (But Note well -- we know our past efforts to get y'all to read about this important topic have failed, but if you read only one story this year about this real-life problem for real Americans, read yesterday's New York Times masterpiece of clarity by Edmund Andrews. LINK)

4. What the Boston Globe thinks of the status of the Democrats' obstruct-obstruct-obstruct strategy.

5. That C-SPAN airs major political speeches -- such as Hillary Clinton's Minnesota head-turner -- opposite "Desperate Housewives."

6. That Howard Dean continues to refuse to debate Ken Mehlman.

7. What Bob Novak thinks of the New York Times and Tom DeLay.

8. What Chuck Schumer says on Sundays (OK: some Americans care about that . . . )

9. Why Sen. Lugar is having such elaborate and investigative Bolton hearings.

But it is gas prices that will probably dominate the news cycle and the President's day (Dan and Nicolle) as POTUS hosts Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on the ranch in Crawford, TX. Their opening photo op is at 10:50 am ET, and they hold a media availability at 12:55 pm ET. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is also in Crawford.

Will the President hit the gas soundbite with feel-your-pain clarity?

Only time, and live cable news coverage, will tell.

On Tuesday, President Bush talks about the war on terror in Killeen, TX, before having lunch with the troops.

On Wednesday, the President has a photo op with the President's Cup team captains in the morning, and another in the afternoon with the New England Patriots. More Bush-Kerry sports bonding?

On Thursday, President Bush delivers remarks to the American Society of Newspaper Editors Convention in Washington, DC. The Washington Nationals play their first home game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in Washington, DC, and the President will throw out the first pitch.

On Friday morning, Bush meets with the President of Rwanda in the Oval Office before heading to Kirtland, OH to talk about Social Security.

Vice President Cheney has no public events scheduled today.

Leader DeLay is scarce today, but Rep. Chris Shays speaks midday at Yale (Sen. Lieberman's there too, but we think we can see how the day might go), and DeLay has interesting Washington events all week.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee opens its hearing on the nomination of John Bolton to be the U.S. representative to the United Nations at 9:30 am ET.

At 3:00 pm ET, the Senate will begin considering the Iraq-Afghanistan Supplemental Appropriations bill. At 5:00 pm ET, it begins considering the nomination of Paul A. Crotty to be U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of New York.

The House is not in session today.

At 11:00 am ET, former President Bill Clinton holds a news conference announcing that his foundation will be helping to expand HIV/AIDS care and treatment to children and people living in rural areas in the developing world. He's joined at the event at his Harlem office by Dr. Paul Farmer, founding director of Partners in Health; Ambassador Stanislas Kamanzi, Permanent Representative of Rwanda to the United Nations; Stephen Lewis, United Nations Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, and Peter McDermott, Chief of HIV/AIDS at UNICEF.

At 10:30 am ET, the National Association for the Advancement for Colored People holds a news conference to announce the group's "Save our Social Security" Initiative. Julian Bond, chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors; Dennis Hayes, NAACP interim president and CEO; and Brandon Neal, national director of NAACP Youth and College Division, deliver remarks.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) is the luncheon speaker today at the Detroit Economic Club.

At 3:00 pm ET, E.J. Dionne hosts a forum at the Brookings Institution to discuss a study by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, on youth, religion, and civic engagement.

Sen. John Thune (R-SD) serves as special guest speaker at a Virginians for Jerry Kilgore fundraiser, Richmond, VA.

Today is the primary filing deadline in New Jersey.

The United Steelworkers of America convention starts today -- and lasts until Thursday -- in Las Vegas, NV.

Tomorrow, RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman hits Colorado to speak at the Douglas County Lincoln Day dinner.

Republican pollster Whit Ayres and Democratic pollster Mark Mellman hold a pen-and-pad briefing on recent polling on Social Security and other issues at the National Press Club.

Maggie Williams, former chief of staff, the Clinton Foundation and chief of staff to first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, and former Clinton counsel David Kendall, will speak at the Harvard Institute of Politics on "Defending the Public Servant -- In the Legal Process."

On Wednesday, former Sen. John Edwards heads to Harvard's Institute of Politics as a visiting fellow, delivering an evening speech on "Restoring the American Dream." He heads to New York on Thursday to deliver a speech at the New School University.

Also on Thursday, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks at Silverton Casino in Las Vegas, NV.

Friday is the FY06 budget resolution statutory deadline.

Also on Friday, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card keynotes Lincoln-Reagan day dinner in Burlington, VT.

DNC Chairman Howard Dean speaks at a breakfast for Access Now for Gay & Lesbian Equality, Los Angeles, CA.

Quarterly campaign finance reports are due for federal candidates.

It's the primary filing deadline in Virginia.

And Friday's tax day!

The National Rifle Association opens its annual meeting in Houston, TX, on Friday. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay keynotes the banquet Saturday night.

On Saturday, DNC Chairman Gov. Howard Dean is the special guest at the California Democratic Party's annual state convention dinner, Los Angeles, CA.

Also on Saturday, Sen. Sam Brownback presents True Blue awards, Manchester, NH, and Sen. George Allen speaks at the Reed Center in Midwest City, OK. Gov. Ed Rendell (D-PA) keynotes the Michigan Democratic Party's Jefferson Jackson Day Dinner, Detroit, MI.

The National Association of Broadcasters opens its convention on Saturday, lasting until next Thursday, in Las Vegas, NV.

Social Security:

"The debate over Social Security has managed to drown out other longstanding issues in American society, including the widening gap between rich and poor and surging health-care costs," writes Greg Ip in the Wall Street Journal. "Yet these two phenomena play an important, though little appreciated, role in Social Security's problems. That is because they are eroding the base of taxable wages available to support Social Security benefits."

The Los Angeles Times' Tom Hamburger writes that the February meeting between White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove and business lobbyists about the President's Social Security plan did the trick in securing the support of trade associations -- nearly 100 state and national groups have joined CoMPASS and are on board, even though many individual companies are choosing to sit out the fight. But some are casting a wary eye on the alliance. LINK

"Each Friday, the RNC hosts representatives from the Business Roundtable -- made up of chief executives from 160 of the country's best-known corporations -- Compass and aligned organizations, along with staff from Rove's office.

"At these meetings, RNC staff tally their efforts to build support for the president's plan in key congressional districts. Compass offers similar campaign-style reports. The group's executive director, Derrick Max, said in an interview that his organization had generated 300,000 telephone calls to voters in key states on Social Security, organized 150 town hall meetings on the topic and is active in 70 congressional districts. It plans to spend $18 million backing the president's initiative."

"At the Business Roundtable, communications director Tita Freeman says her organization supports Bush's initiative not to side with the GOP but because 'it is the right thing to do for future generations. We are joining with any and every group that believes that this needs to be addressed now,' she said."

"Nonetheless, the Republican tilt has caught the wary eye of Democratic Party leaders. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and his staff have met with a few of the leading trade groups and questioned their close association with the White House campaign."

Rick Klein of the Boston Globe writes of the bonded Democratic Party when it comes to Social Security reform and other GOP legislation. LINK

" . . . 100 days into the new Congress, Democrats have rarely strayed from the party fold. Senate Democrats for the first time have a communications team that operates out of a ''war room" on the third floor of the Capitol, an innovation that has helped solidify opposition to changing Social Security and to some of Bush's conservative judicial nominees. Democrats have resisted calls to offer a competing proposal to overhaul Social Security, preferring to attack Bush's plan."

"Republicans are roiling over how to proceed with Social Security when a united Democratic caucus can block a vote in the Senate. Fifty of the 55 Republicans must vote together to change Senate rules to outlaw filibusters of judicial nominees, and several moderate Republicans are considering joining Democrats in opposing the move."

Even with the to-be-sure paragraph, we aren't too sure about this one.

Congressional Republicans say they're wrapping up the first phase of their push for Social Security overhaul, and will soon start putting together a bill that could pass both the House and the Senate by early July, Roll Call's Emily Pierce reports. And they're ready for the President to start filling in his vague outline with specifics -- phase two is expected to start by May.

On Saturday, the Los Angeles Times' Warren Vieth wrote that some conservatives are concerned that after President Bush's difficulty in selling his plan for personal accounts within the Social Security system, he may have "laid the groundwork for what they regard as the worst possible outcome -- pressure for tax increases and benefit cuts to ensure Social Security's solvency, but a rejection of private accounts as part of the fix." LINK

Leader DeLay:

The Washington Post's Mike Allen wraps the Sunday talk shows on DeLay -- particularly the comments by Sen. Rick Santorum on "This Week," where he said DeLay needs to come clean and answer some questions about his travel and dealings with lobbyists. Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT) took it a step further at a town hall meeting in Greenwich on Saturday, saying DeLay should step down. Looking at the signs and despite the offensive of DeLay supporters he wrote about over the weekend, Allen seems to posit that the bricks may be beginning to tumble. LINK

The Santorum "explain yourself" and Shays "step down" comments get lots of AP and local paper treatment. LINK

"Tom's conduct is hurting the Republican Party, is hurting this Republican majority and it is hurting any Republican who is up for re-election," Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., told The Associated Press on Sunday.

The Houston Chronicle's Gebe Martinez includes this paragraph: "A top administration official also said Friday that DeLay has not yet become the political liability that Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., became in 2002, when he was pushed out of his leadership post by the White House in favor of Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., after making a political gaffe." LINK

The New York Times' Phil Shenon summarizes the probe into the conduct of superlobbyist Jack Abramoff and writes that the fallout could touch many members of Congress -- not just Tom DeLay. LINK

Members are feeling pressure, Shenon says, to detail their ties with Abramoff.

Newsweek's Michael Isikoff writes that Abramoff, at a Washington lunch last week, allegedly said that "DeLay knew everything" and gets Abbe Lowell to "hint" that Abramoff is cooperating with the Department of Justice. LINK

Bob Novak says that pressure from the press to bring down Tom DeLay may be what helps unite congressional Republicans around the sometimes "overbearing" lawmaker. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Mary Curtius, in an excellent wrap of all the back-and-forth, calls the comments more in the "cracks" in the "near-solid wall of public support" from Republicans for DeLay. And more George Soros comments from Dan Allen. LINK

The Washington Post's Mike Allen on Sunday turned in a must-read outlining the "aggressive media strategy" that House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's supporters are adopting, including calling in favors from conservative leaders to rally around the troubled lawmaker. So in addition to "swift, organized responses to journalists' inquiries" (fantastic!), expect more "liberal media attacks" talking points and more over-the-transom stuff about Democrats' trips and campaign finances -- all in service of DeLay's message that an attack on him is an attack on the conservative movement, Allen wrote. Meanwhile, DeLay plans to continue his message that the judiciary is out of control. LINK

Meanwhile, House Democrats plan to spin their "abuse of power" story this week, Allen reported.

"According to party sources, top Republican aides now have a daily conference call in which they trade intelligence about upcoming DeLay stories so they can form a united front in responding."

"DeLay staff members are linking with outside lawyers -- including Barbara Comstock, former research director of the Republican National Committee -- to form what is essentially a campaign organization aimed at minimizing damage to DeLay and building support despite what they believe will be a continuing torrent of news stories about his travel, fundraising and dealings with lobbyists."

"One Republican familiar with the strategy, who asked not to be identified in order to be more candid, described the message as 'Clintonian' in that it emphasized the idea that 'there's no news, and they're out to get us' -- with the addition that 'liberal media, liberal Democrats' are to blame."

On Sunday, AP's Wendy Benjaminson wrote that Democrats are eyeing Leader DeLay's district, looking for an opening stemming from the ethics allegations. LINK


The New York Times' Carl Hulse and Robin Toner write about congressional Democrats oppositional positioning: the thematic charge that the GOP has become drunk with power. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Ron Brownstein looks at President Bush's seeming comfort with disagreement and relatively low approval ratings as long as he sticks to his principles and stays true to the base, and how it's affecting his relationship with Congress -- i.e., advancing much of his agenda, at least to this point. That said, the approach seems to make him more of a divider -- or at least a wedger -- than a uniter, and has added fuel to the fire of the coming High Noon over judicial filibusters, Brownstein argues. LINK

"Most ominous are the implications for the next Supreme Court vacancy. In a country so closely divided, Bush would best serve the national interest by selecting a nominee with broad appeal. He would be more likely to meet that standard if he chose someone who could attract 60 Senate votes. That's not as difficult as it sounds. Of the nine Supreme Court Justices, only Clarence Thomas was confirmed with fewer than 60 votes. All of the others, except Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, attracted at least 87 votes."

"If the filibuster falls, Bush might be more tempted to select a highly ideological Supreme Court nominee acceptable at most to half the Senate (and the country). Such a fight would make the bitterness over Terri Schiavo seem placid."

"Both parties have a responsibility to avert a filibuster showdown with a deal to approve some of Bush's backlogged judges and establish reasonable procedures for future consultation. But the greatest obligation rests with Bush. His political strategy and definition of leadership often seem to preclude the building of consensus. But that should be one of a president's highest priorities. In the impending fight over the filibuster, and the approaching likelihood of a Supreme Court vacancy, Bush can lead just his party, or transcend it to lead the country."

Brownstein also ledes a wrap of the Sunday shows with Sen. John McCain's appearance "Face the Nation," where he said banning filibusters is the top of a "slippery slope," urging caution that the move could come back to bite Republicans if Democrats hold the White House and the Senate. LINK

Sen. Rick Santorum last week assured worried conservatives that Senate Majority Leader Frist is ready to go ahead with his plan to cut judicial filibusters, The Hill's Alexander Bolton reports. LINK

Campaigns to impeach judges, and anger with the federal judiciary aren't unusual, writes the Washington Post's ed board member Ruth Marcus. "What's perhaps most astonishing is that this anger is being directed at a federal judiciary in general, and a Supreme Court in particular, that is far more conservative than the liberal bench that once provoked similar complaints." LINK

On Sunday, the Los Angeles Times' Ron Brownstein used Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid's Democratic radio address as a touching-off point to look at the growing tension over judicial nominations, wrapping the conflicting Republican opinions about eliminating the filibuster, look at Sen. Ben Nelson's compromise, and look ahead to this week's planned rally by Democrats. LINK

Newsweek's Howard Fineman examines Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid's strategy of letting Republicans strike their own knockout blow to themselves over the filibuster. LINK

Bush agenda:

The Wall Street Journal editorial board warns the Administration: "President Bush's first term got off to a bad trade start with steel tariffs; textile protectionism is no way to start the second."

Elisabeth Bumiller scrolls through the First iPod:

"Mr. Bush's iPod is heavy on traditional country singers like George Jones, Alan Jackson and Kenny Chesney. He has selections by Van Morrison, whose 'Brown Eyed Girl' is a Bush favorite, and by John Fogerty, most predictably 'Centerfield,' which was played at Texas Rangers games when Mr. Bush was an owner and is still played at ballparks all over America. ('Oh, put me in coach, I'm ready to play today.')" LINK

On Sunday, the Washington Post's Spencer Hsu and Sarah Cohen reported that $120 million of the $145 million in anti-terrorism grants earmarked for the Washington, DC area has gone unspent, putting it in last place compared to the 50 states -- and curtain-raising last night's "60 Minutes" report about the funds. LINK

"Nationwide, U.S. aid to first-responders -- which the Bush administration estimates at $13 billion -- has been beset with bureaucratic problems since increasing 30-fold in the year after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Funds became stalled for months in federal and state administrative pipelines. Analysts warned that sparsely populated states received more per-capita aid than states with many targets such as New York. Cash-poor jurisdictions complained that they lacked the budgets to tackle big projects on a reimbursement basis, as required. Planning and accountability at all levels lagged."

On Sunday, the Washington Post's David Broder expressed sympathy for Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson, who have the unhappy task of trying to sell to Congress President Bush's proposal to shift the $4.7 billion Community Development Block Grant and 17 other programs from HUD to Commerce. LINK

In a Washington Post op-ed on Sunday, former Fed chairman Paul Volcker argued that the U.S. economy, which is consuming and spending about 6 percent more than it's producing and is getting about 80 percent of the net flow of international capitol, is at a dangerous imbalance with the economies of the rest of the world and is "skating on increasingly thin ice." LINK

White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove told Republican activists in Wisconsin on Saturday to take heart, that their work was not in vain even though Sen. Kerry won the Badger State. LINK

And there was another "smarty pants" line!!!

"After the next four years, Bush will 'be known as one of the great domestic reformers,' said Rove, a deputy White House chief of staff who has taken on a greater role coordinating policy since the election. The American people gave Bush a sweeping mandate to do so, he said." LINK

"'The next time one of your smarty pants Democrat friends tells you that he doesn't have a mandate,' Rove said, 'you just remind them of this: he got a higher percentage of the vote than any Democrat candidate for president since 1964.'"

Rove's fundraiser in Minneapolis on Friday night brought in at least $150,000 for Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. LINK


It's all (read: "mostly") about Sen. Chafee.

The Washington Post's Dafna Linzer curtain-raises today's hearings on the nomination of John Bolton to be the U.S. representative to the United Nations, focusing on Bolton's combative approach and adherence to hard-line foreign policy decisions, such as regime change, that "have made him perhaps the most controversial figure nominated to serve in Bush's second term." Is he too hardline, and therefore a hindrance to the President's foreign policy goals, or is he the embodiment of the truest form of the President's doctrine? His supporters and opponents are expected to duke it out, and the hearings will delve further into allegations that Bolton misused intelligence data to support his end goals, and tried to intimidate subordinates in the intelligence community. LINK

More from the AP: LINK

"NEWSWEEK has learned that in a closed-door interview with Senate intelligence-committee staffers last week, Stuart Cohen, former acting chief of the National Intelligence Council, a panel of senior intel analysts, said Bolton had visited his CIA office to demand that the council's top Latin America expert be removed from his post. Sources say the expert, who can't be identified because he serves undercover overseas, tangled with Bolton about the draft of a speech Bolton made in 2002 claiming that Cuba was pursuing a germ-warfare program. A Senate intel-committee report last year quoted another WMD analyst from the State Department as saying that Bolton had also tried to have him transferred because he raised questions about the same speech. (Neither analyst was reassigned.)" LINK

A group that supports Bolton's nomination, Move America Forward, is running a TV ad supporting him and knocking Democrats who oppose him, the Washington Post's Brian Faler and Dana Milbank report. The spot is set to run in Rhode Island as a nudge to Sen. Lincoln Chafee to vote for Bolton. LINK

Sure, he's controversial, writes the Washington Post's editorial board, but "[s]o far, there is no compelling case for denying Mr. Bush his choice." LINK


Writes Eric Schmitt in the New York Times, "Interviews with more than a dozen senior American and Iraqi officers, top Pentagon officials and lawmakers who have visited Iraq yield an assessment that the combination of routing insurgents from their sanctuary in Falluja last November and the Iraqi elections on Jan. 30 has given the military operation sustained momentum, and put the Bush administration's goal of turning Iraq over to a permanent, elected Iraqi government within striking distance." LINK

41, 42, 43:

Newsweek's Holly Bailey takes Note of the buddy-buddy-buddy relationship that reared itself among the Presidents Bush and Clinton during their trip to Rome for Pope John Paul II's funeral, and goes so far as to call the current President "positively Clintonesque" in his Air Force One gabfest with reporters. LINK

The Clintons of Chappaqua:

AP reported Sunday that former President Bill Clinton will spend at least two years working as the top United Nations envoy focusing on tsunami relief and accountability for the money pledged by countries and individuals. Clinton is expected to make his first public appearance as special envoy on Wednesday, when he will meet with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and hold a news conference. LINK

Stem cell politics:

The Washington Post's Matthew Mosk and John Wagner take a look at the filibuster over a stem cell research bill that's threatening to hold up work in the last day of Maryland's legislative session. LINK

On Sunday, the Boston Globe's Alan Scher Zagier took an in-depth look at the intra-party fight among Missouri Republicans over legislation to ban therapeutic cloning for embryonic stem cell research. LINK

2008: Republicans:

The marriage of Arthur Finkelstein to his long-time partner and his Stop Hillary Now got lots of press this weekend, which leads us to think, conspiratorially, that somewhere, some fundraiser for Mr. Finkelstein's group didn't dream up publicizing all this as a way of letting donors know that the 527 was open for business . . . but that's just a thought.

The New York Times' Adam Nagourney actually had a brief conversation with Mr. Finkelstein. LINK

The Boston Globe Noted that Finklestein once conducted a poll for Gov. Mitt Romney. LINK

More from the New York Daily News on Stop Hillary Now and the appeal to Republicans saying her bid for the White House is "paved with her lies and distortion." "'This is not merely a race for New York,' state Republican chairman Stephen Minarik writes in the letter. 'It's a race for America.'" LINK

The New York Daily News gives their own opinion on Rudy for President 2008. LINK

Mexico City officials hired Giuliani Partners to reduce crime and they don't seem happy with the results, the New York Sun says. LINK

South Carolinians rallied to raise almost $200,000 at the State's Silver Elephant Dinner Saturday night, where Sen. John Thune delivered the keynote speech. LINK

2008: Democrats:
Former Lieberman aide Dan Gerstein begins a Wall Street Journal editorial with harsh words for Frank Rich and George Lakoff but ends by concluding that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is getting it just right: "But the fact is that Sen. Clinton has been strong and steady in her advocacy for overwhelmed parents ever since coming to Washington. She's been smart, too: She does not demonize cultural producers, overstate the extent of the problem, or let parents off the hook. She frames the culture's influence as a public-health issue as much as a moral one, and cites research showing the potentially harmful effects of screen sex and violence. And she is honest about the limits of that research, which is why she has joined with Sen. Joe Lieberman in introducing a bill to fund more studies of the electronic media's impact on children."

A Rasmussen poll apparently suggests that 49 percent of Americans are ready to put a woman into the Oval Office, per Deb Orin. LINK

Sen. Hillary Clinton went after the Bush Administration and "sounded like a candidate for national office" at the $200,000 fundraiser for the Minnesota Democratic Party on Saturday night. LINK

The St. Paul Pioneer Press called her speech part pep rally, part screed. LINK

She also raised money for herself at a private house party earlier in the day. LINK

Will Leecia Eve, a top aide of Clinton's, run for lieutenant governor next year? LINK

Tricks and intimidation kept many voters from the polls in 2004, Sen. John Kerry said Sunday at an event sponsored by the Massachusetts League of Women Voters, saying that leaflets were handed out telling people to vote on the wrong day, and that people were called and told that they couldn't vote if they had parking tickets. AP Notes, however, that Kerry never disputed the vote count in Ohio, where President Bush won by 118,000 votes. The U.S. should spend as much time promoting democracy at home as it does abroad, Kerry said. LINK

Kerry consultant Jenny Backus told the Boston Herald's Andrew Miga that Kerry's all about helping Democrats win in 2005 and 2006 -- hence his fundraiser for Sen. Clinton in Boston in early May. LINK

In Arkansas last week, Gov. Howard Dean focused on his 50-state strategy, criticized President Bush's fiscal performance, and said Democrats are more in the center than Republicans think. He also said he welcomes "pro-life" Democrats. LINK

On Sunday, the Des Moines Register's Jane Norman looked at the study by the Progressive Policy Institute that Notes the cultural stances that Democrats have failed to capitalize on with voters -- especially those who are married with children, who have misgivings with popular culture. LINK


Reports Kenneth Lovett in the New York Post: "State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has received thousands of dollars in campaign donations from lawyers at a prominent Manhattan law firm hired by AIG -- even as the insurance giant is under investigation by Spitzer's office, The Post has learned." LINK

Sen. Barack Obama has raised more than $1 million for colleagues this year, with the biggest chunk of it going toward Sen. Robert Byrd. LINK

Here come the special interest groups looking to weigh in on the DSCC's 2006 primary picks, write Roll Call's Josh Kurtz and Nicole Duran.

Based on The Hill's Hans Nichols' account, it looks as though there's still some talking to do to get an agreement between the DCCC and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. LINK


Sheldon Silver tells Fred Dicker that Freddy Ferrer's campaign is in "freefall." LINK

Schwarzenegger era:

The Los Angeles Times' George Skelton says Gov. Schwarzenegger's tactical retreat on restructuring state pensions with private accounts was a smart move. LINK

In Sunday's Los Angeles Times, Peter Nicholas and Robert Salladay painted a must-read gray picture of where the Schwarzenegger agenda has ended up, writing that the "year of reform" has "foundered amid a series of missteps, compromises and clashes with a well-organized opposition" -- the Governator gets it, he just couldn't sell it, they wrote. LINK


"The FBI is investigating fund-raising related to the Rev. Al Sharpton's 2004 presidential campaign -- in part because of wiretaps from the Philadelphia City Hall probe, according to people familiar with the matter," report the Philadelphia Inquirer's John Shiffman and Mark Fazlollah report. Sharpton said no one in his campaign has been contacted by the FBI, and called the allegations "a 'politically motivated smokescreen' to disguise a personal attack by the U.S. Justice Department." LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Yochi Dreazen assesses the glut of off-season issue ads.

Sen. Tom Coburn may be able to continue to practice medicine on a "not-for-profit" basis if the Senate Rules Committee signs off on a bill changing the definition of compensation for outside work, backed by Sen. Trent Lott, Roll Call reports.

The Los Angeles Times' Stephanie Simon takes a closer look at Kansas' state attorney general, Phil Kline, currently controversial because of his demand for access to patient medical records from abortion clinics. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Jessica Garrison takes an interesting look at the national and international -- but not local -- nexus between the power and the glitter: Hollywood is interested and involved in national politics and international causes, but don't bring much interest or effort to the table of local politics. LINK

Newsweek's Brad Stone seems skeptical, yet open to watching, former Vice President Al Gore's Current TV network. LINK

The owners of the Merrimack Restaurant are asking $1.65 million for it as well as the two-story building where it's located, the Union Leader's Michael Cousineau reported Saturday. Never fear, however; the two buyers who are fighting over it want to keep the restaurant in place (thankfully). LINK

Imagine the implications if Steve Forbes buys it.

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