The Note: Mistaking Obstructionism for Progress

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

Congress:

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."

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