The Note: There are Different Levels of Friendship



Indisputable truths:

1. There is an iron triangle of liberal interest groups, Democratic congressional staffers, and media jackals (both investigatively minded and liberally oriented) who have never identified with or liked Tom DeLay (and what he stands for) and are enjoying every minute of their conspiring to bring him down.

2. Almost every accusation swirling around DeLay involves actions by him that have exact analogues among other members of Congress of both parties (See, for example, today's front-page Los Angeles Times page-turner about MOCs employing relatives to do campaign work.).

3. If having close ties to self-interested and restaurant-owning lobbyists disqualified someone from a leadership position on Capitol Hill, it would be a body of all Indians and no chiefs. (Note Note: we refuse to indulge in the little boy game of being super excited about the return of the National Pastime to the Nation's Capital, but, yes, that "Indians" thing was for y'all and not meant to offend Native Americans. It was also an Abramoff reference.)

4. And/but without a functioning House ethics committee, there is no natural forum in which Leader DeLay can clear up the legit unanswered questions about some of his conduct. And/but his unwillingness to do it in the feeding frenzy of a packed press conference seems reasonable. May we suggest an interview with The Note, Dan Allen?

5. The Chicago Tribune's Jill Zuckman has an extraordinarily Sweet hold on the Office of the Speaker of the House. Check out her scooplet below with the thinking of a senior Hastert aide who is suggesting more DeLay DeSclosure.

6. Even people close to the White House (so close, in some cases, that they are actually INSIDE it) don't seem quite sure what the POTUS and DCoS/SA currently think about whether DeLay will survive or whether DeLay should survive. Trying to read Scott McClellan like he is a basket of tea leaves is -- let's face it -- silly as all get out.

7. DeLay's DeFenders will remain reasonably confident that their guy will survive, so long as the story stays largely inside the Beltway. The Richmond Times Dispatch ed board DeFection is not a good sign for them; nor was the USA Today cover story. And regularly making the late-night comedians' monologues ain't great either.

8. This is the Democrats favorite part of DeLay's interview with the Washington Times family:

Q. Have you ever crossed the line of ethical behavior in terms of dealing with lobbyists, your use of government authority or with fundraising?

Mr. DeLay: Ever is a very strong word.

9. The part the Democrats left out of DeLay's answer as he continued:

Let me start out by saying, you can never find anything that I have done for personal gain. Period. What I'm doing is what I believe in, I'm doing it the way I believe in it. Yes, I'm aggressive. I'm passionate about what I believe in, and I'm passionate about winning and accomplishing our agenda. I know since 1995 that everything that we have done has been checked by lawyers, double-checked by lawyers, triple-checked by lawyers, because I know I have been watched and investigated probably more than even Bill Clinton. They can't find anything, so they're going back to my childhood, going to my family, going to things that happened eight years ago. There's nothing there. And they can keep looking. There's nothing there. I have tried to act ethically, I have tried to act honestly. I have tried to keep my reputation -- to fight for my reputation -- while it's been besmirched, and I have tried to do it in a way that brings honor to the House.

10. We would love to have been a fly on the wall for two recent conversations: (a) when Team DeLay discussed whether he would apologize for his injudicious judicial remarks (and using what language); and (b) when the New York Times decided not to lead with the apology in today's DeLay story.

There are no events that will move the DeLay story forward one way or the other today, particularly since, as Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin told an audience in the LBJ room of the Capitol this morning, Hill business will grind to a halt by late afternoon, as members go see the Nationals play.

President Bush talks to sports writers for the Washington Post, the Washington Times, and USA Today at 10:45 ET this morning (after meetings with the Indian foreign minister (on whatever) and some House Republicans on Social Security), then delivers remarks to the American Society of Newspaper Editors convention in Washington, DC at 1:15 pm ET, and then throws out the first pitch at the Nationals home opener against the Arizona Diamondbacks at 6:50 pm ET.

The Senate meets at 9:30 am ET to continue consideration of the Iraq-Afghanistan supplemental appropriations bill. The Senate Judiciary Committee also meets.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence meets to consider the nomination of John Negroponte to be Director of National Intelligence at 3:00 pm ET.

The House meets at 10:00 am ET to consider the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi holds her weekly news conference at 10:45 am ET.

At 11:00 am ET, Sens. Rick Santorum (R-PA), Judd Gregg (R-NH), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Richard Burr (R-NC) hold a news conference to talk about overhauling the medical liability system.

At 11:30 am ET, Sens. Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Byron Dorgan (D-ND) hold a press conference to introduce "Dru's Law," named after Dru Sjodin, to create a national sex offender database that the public can access online, require state prisons to notify state attorneys whenever high risk offenders are about to be released, and require states to more strictly monitor offenders deemed most likely to commit another crime.

At 11:30 am ET, Virginia Gov. Mark Warner joins award-winning former ABC News correspondent and Kaiser Family Foundation vice president Jackie Judd to talk about states' challenges with Medicaid and other health-related issues.

The National Conference of State Legislatures releases its "State Budget Update: April 2005," NCSL's newest quarterly look at states' finances.

At 9:30 am ET, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-TX), House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo (R-CA) and House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas (R-CA) hold a news conference to talk about gas prices and the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

At 10:00 am ET, Govs. Ernie Fletcher (R-KY) and Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS) join Labor Secretary Elaine Chao and Education Secretary Margaret Spellings in testifying about lifelong education before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.

At 9:30 am ET, Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Reps. Kevin Brady (R-TX) and John Linder (R-GA) hold a news conference to discuss a measure to change from income taxes to a personal consumption tax.

The Tax Foundation releases the results of a Harris Interactive poll showing Americans find taxes too high and too complicated at the National Press Club at 10:00 am ET.

Former Sen. John Edwards delivers the keynote address on changing the tax system at the New School University in New York's "fairness" conference at 6:00 pm ET. After the speech, New School president/former Sen. Bob Kerrey will lead a Q&A session.

It's day four of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund 2005 spring meetings. Outgoing World Bank president James Wolfensohn holds a press briefing at 9:00 am ET, and IMF managing director Rodrigo de Rato holds a press briefing at 10:30 am ET -- both at IMF headquarters in Washington, DC.

At 7:00 pm ET, former Secretary of State James Baker III delivers a speech on plans for future U.S. involvement in the Middle East and Iraq at the University of Maryland, College Park -- part of UMD's annual Anwar Sadat Lecture for Peace.

RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman is in California.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks at the Silverton Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas at 10:00 pm ET.

Jane Fonda speaks at the National Press Club at 6:30 pm ET.

Tonight at 10:00 pm ET, ABC News' Chris Cuomo sits down for an exclusive interview with former New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik to talk about his rise and fall, and the media attention on his personal life, even before the confirmation process began on his nomination to be secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

An excerpt:

KERIK: What many people do not know is that I had already declined the job [to run DHS] . . . I received another call . . . I was told that the President would really like you to do this. You don't say no to the President

. . . CUOMO: You used the nanny as the only reason that you were going to decline the nomination. Was it really the reason?

KERIK: It was the only reason. It was absolutely the only reason. There was no other issue on the table. There was nothing else said, there was no other inferences, innuendo.

Leader DeLay:

The Washington Post's Mike Allen writes up yesterday's pen-and-pad briefing by Leader DeLay, in which he apologized for his comments about that "the time will come" for the federal judges involved in the case of Terri Schiavo to "answer for their behavior": "'I said something in an inartful way, and I shouldn't have said it that way, and I apologize for saying it that way,' [DeLay] said. 'It was taken wrong. I didn't explain it or clarify my remarks, as I'm clarifying them here. I am sorry that I said it that way, and I shouldn't have.'" LINK

DeLay also said he wouldn't answer any more questions about his travel or relationships with lobbyists, and pulled one right from his talking points, saying that while he's willing to talk with the ethics committee, the Democrats' protests haven't allowed the panel to meet.

A good summary of the day in DeLay comes from the New York Times' Sheryl Gay Stolberg, who leads with more judicial oversight comments. Newt Gingrich repeated his belief that DeLay needs to go public to defend himself. Scott McClellan limns the presidential friendship matrix. LINK

But still no smoking gun for a media eager to lap up every hint of discord.

The Chicago Tribune's Jill Zuckman puts up high the Notion (put forth by a senior aide) that House Speaker Dennis Hastert thinks that DeLay may soon need to publicly answer the questions about travel and fundraising. LINK

"'I'm not sure why he doesn't lay it out, regardless of whether the ethics committee ever meets or not,' said the Hastert official, who spoke on condition of not being identified."

"'Take whatever there is and say, "Here it is,"' the official said. 'You have to at one point say, "Here I am, here it is, what's the question.'"

But no Pink Press Conference for the Leader, says this unnamed official. (Note question: was this unnamed official unmasked on the Leader's 7:30 am strategists call today?)

Near the end of their story, USA Today's Kathy Kiely and Jim Drinkard round up Republicans' media defense of DeLay. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Richard Simon, Chuck Neubauer, and Rone Tempest take a deep breath in the midst of all the breathlessness to offer a must-must-read reminder: "At least 39 members of Congress have engaged in the controversial practice of paying their spouses, children or other relatives out of campaign funds, or have hired companies in which a family member had a financial interest, records and interviews show." And there's a whole list. LINK

Family members can't work on congressional payrolls, but campaign staffs are a different story. May not pass the smell test to some, but it ain't illegal.

More on the list of lawmakers whose relatives work on their campaigns, including Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) and Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) from AP: LINK

The Houston Chronicle has more on the Republican-Democrat attacks and counter-attacks. LINK

DeLay did a long ed board with the Washington Times yesterday. Read the transcript here: LINK

The questions are tough -- about Republican congressional spending, immigration, DeLay's disagreements with parts of his caucus.

He declines to answer a question about whether he plans to push judicial impeachments, and says this of the courts:

"I blame Congress over the last 50 to 100 years for not standing up and taking its responsibility given to it by the Constitution. The reason the judiciary has been able to impose a separation of church and state that's nowhere in the Constitution is that Congress didn't stop them. The reason we had judicial review is because Congress didn't stop them. The reason we had a right to privacy is because Congress didn't stop them." LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Maura Reynolds has some details about yesterday's meeting of the House ethics committee. LINK

The Hill's Hans Nichols reports that DCCC Chairman Rahm Emanuel yesterday vetted Richard Morrison, DeLay's 2004 challenger, with an eye toward another. LINK

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank looks at the sitting-at-the-lunch-table-alone circumstance that Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT) finds himself in with colleagues in the wake of his criticism of DeLay. Shays reiterates his accusation that the GOP's leadership has grown arrogant and tells Milbank that since he knows he'll never be Speaker of the House, he has the freedom to say what he wants. LINK

Judicial nominations:

In the search for a non-nuclear compromise, Sen. Bill Frist met privately yesterday afternoon with Sen, Harry Reid and the two discussed the judicial nomination procedures, according to a Senate source.

The meeting was described as cordial and productive. Staff for both Senators declined to reveal anything further.

Democrats expect Frist to trigger the filibuster reform legislation fight next week, and our best guess is that the Senator will do it when he thinks he has the votes or when he thinks that a pending vote, combined with more intense pressure from conservative activists, will push a few of the undecideds.

More on the meeting and the respective war rooms from The Hill's Alexander Bolton, in which Republicans are going for some page-turning "we were behind, but we'll catch up now" rhetoric. LINK

Roll Call says that RNC Chair emeritus Ed Gillespie is going to slide over to the NRSC to work the issue.

The Christian Science Monitor's Warren Richey looks at President Bush's makeover of the federal appeals courts. LINK

Social Security:

Bloomberg's Jeff Bliss looks at the central role Ways and Means topper Bill Thomas is playing in the Social Security debate. It is a nicely drawn profile from which this jumps out:

"Senator Conrad Burns of Montana [(R)] said in an interview yesterday[,] `It might be introduced this year, but I doubt if it's passed this year. And then you get into next year, which is an election cycle, and that doesn't bode well.'"

The Des Moines Register's Jane Norman reports that Americans United for Social Security admitted Wednesday that the group was responsible for the thousands of robo-calls to Iowans asking them to protest the President's plan to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA). Communications director Brad Woodhouse on Wednesday reversed the group's public position that they didn't make the calls. Grassley's office said the calls, which said "Iowa Senator Charles Grassley has admitted that George Bush's privatization plan would either triple the national debt or require large cuts in guaranteed Social Security benefits," mislead voters on Grassley's position. LINK


The cryptic reason why a Bolton vote was delayed: Chris Dodd wants a third hearing to determine whether Bolton acted improperly by obtaining NSA intercepts of another U.S. officials' conversations, per the New York Times' Doug Jehl. LINK

Or maybe it has to do with Dodd wanting a new relationship with Cuba, says Bob Novak, who also Notes that Republican former State intel chief Carl Ford has given money to Democratic candidates. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Sonni Efron has more. LINK

Writes David Brooks in the New York Times of Bolton: "[he] is just the guy to explain why this vaporous global-governance notion is a dangerous illusion, and that we Americans, like most other peoples, will never accept it." LINK

The Washington Post's Richard Cohen has, er, a problem with John Bolton's temperament. LINK

Otto Reich defends Bolton and offers his personal perspective on the "Mr. Smith" affair in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.

Bush agenda:

The New York Times' Michael Janofsky writes that Delaware Sen. Tom Carper has yet to decide whether to hold up EPA nominee Stephen Johnson when his confirmation vote hits the Senate floor. LINK

After his nomination was scheduled to come to a vote yesterday, FDA nominee Lester Crawford is again on hold. " . . . [C]ommittee spokesman Craig Orfield added that Enzi had requested that the FDA's Office of Internal Affairs 'open an investigation into allegations concerning Dr. Crawford made by an anonymous FDA employee.' Orfield said an FDA employee anonymously delivered the allegations to the committee and that Enzi had forwarded them to the White House," AP's Michael Sniffen reports. LINK


The Washington Post's Shailagh Murray takes a look at how Sen. Trent Lott has hunkered down and held on since his fall from Majority Leader, working the levers of the Senate like an expert to rebuild a power base and willing to both ingratiate himself with his colleagues and say what he wants, unbound from adhering strictly to the party line by having nothing to lose. LINK

And all the way at the end:

"Some observers, including senators and aides who do not care for Lott, speculate that he is engaging in advance damage control, in the event his forthcoming memoir portrays those behind his downfall in a harsh light. Lott says the book will look broadly at his entire career. But he said he does 'make it clear' that he was not pleased with how Bush responded to the controversy over his 2002 Thurmond birthday party remarks, and that 'I would have been leader today if Frist hadn't made his move.'"

In two places at once, Ms. Murray also looks at the vote yesterday in the Senate to expand veterans' benefits as part of the emergency bill authorizing more money for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. LINK

Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge moved one step closer to fruition yesterday when the House Resources Committee approved it, the Washington Post's Justin Blum reports. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Tom Hamburger reports that things are looking good in the House Energy Committee for a Halliburton-developed oil and gas drilling technique criticized for its possible threats to drinking water supplies. The panel appears close to approving legislation that would exempt the technique, hydraulic fracturing, from regulation, Hamburger writes. LINK

Blum and his colleague Tom Edsall profile Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the point man helming the energy bill -- and look at the oil, gas, electricity, nuclear, coal, and chemical interests that have found him interesting to the tune of $1.84 million since 1997. LINK

Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) is pushing a plan to allow illegal immigrant workers to legalize their status -- and has attracted critics calling it amnesty. LINK

Death and taxes:

The House voted 272 to 162 to permanently repeal the estate tax yesterday, after a debate in which House Democrats argued that the tax cut would cost $290 billion over 10 years didn't make sense in the face of budget deficits, the Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman reports. Now it's on to the Senate, where Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) is pushing for a deal on the tax cut that will win proponents a filibuster-proof 60 votes by cosmetically adjusting the value of estates subject to tax. LINK

More from USA Today's Jim Hopkins. LINK

The New York Times' David E. Rosenbaum writes that the Kyl/Schumer/Nelson negotiations about the estate tax/death tax repeal have not yet born fruit, although several top Democrats we know have essentially conceded defeat. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Joel Havemann explains the alternative minimum tax. LINK


"Disappointing March retail sales, reported yesterday, along with slowing job growth and a drop in consumer confidence, add to evidence that the U.S. expansion lost steam as the first quarter drew to a close. The U.S. consumer has been the locomotive of global growth in recent years, and signs of weakness could make it harder for other countries to expand," write Greg Ip and John Hilsenrath in the Wall Street Journal.

"U.S. consumers have defied past predictions of retrenchment. Higher oil prices slowed economic growth last summer, but the effect was brief. Economists don't expect the latest setback to push the economy into recession. But they are shaving estimates for economic growth this year. With household saving rates already close to zero, households appear to have limited resources to propel growth the way they have for the past few years."

The politics of same-sex marriage:

The Connecticut House of Representatives passed a bill Wednesday to allow same-sex civil unions -- the first unprompted by court action, the Washington Post's Jonathan Finer reports. The state Senate passed its version last week, and Gov. Jodi Rell (R) has said she will sign the bill. Note, however, the amendment to the bill defining "marriage" as a union between a man and a woman. LINK


The Washington Post's Doug Struck sketches out the relationship between Canada's labor movement and Wal-Mart, which announced it will close its store in Jonquiere, Quebec on May 6 after its employees voted to make it the first unionized store in North America. LINK

2008: Republicans:

Chuck Hagel, Sam Brownback and Newt Gingrich make it into John DiStaso's latest Granite Status. LINK

Howard Fineman turns talk at the FOX party at the Radio and Television Correspondents Association dinner into a list of reasons to take Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS) seriously as a possible presidential candidate, in addition to the main one: filibuster. Note to Howard: we love it when you use words like El Jefe. LINK

Note to Howard's editors: Rove spells "Karl" with a "K"; you had a "C" last we checked the Web site.

2008: Democrats:

Shrewd Newt thinks Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton will run, could win, and might even (well, he doesn't say this but we suspect he thinks it at some level ) make a good president, says the New York Times KQS. LINK

Over to you, Gary Bauer.

Deb Orin notices a Boxerian (as in Barbara) rhetorical moment from Sen. Clinton and also updates the Dodd-Schumer-Clinton helo wars. LINK

And Lloyd Grove senses some internal Glover Park Group tension over Arthur Finkelstein: "Hillary loyalists from the Glover Park Group Democratic consulting firm were embarrassed by Bill Clinton's remarks, because they're working closely with Finkelstein -- and they're all getting paid handsomely by Cablevision -- to thwart plans for a taxpayer-funded stadium on the West Side." LINK

Alexander Bolton of The Hill turns in the first in a series of weekly features profiling the 2008 presidential hopefuls -- this week: Hillary Clinton. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's editorial board chides Sen. Kerry for not being nasty enough to the leader of North Korea, and also for chiding John Bolton, who was in Kerry's opinion too nasty.

What do former Sen. Bill Bradley and Howard Stern have in common? One word: Sirius. Bradley will create and host a show called "American Voices," to be launched on Sirius Talk Central in May, the company announced Wednesday. LINK

AP wraps former Sen. John Edwards' speech on poverty at Harvard yesterday. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's John Harwood Notes that Edwards may be gaining from various strategies to stay visible, podcasts aside. The article also Notes the questions over whether Edwards' work at UNC is more of a vehicle for his political future than a bonafide policy think tank. The article quotes Charlie Black as suggesting Edwards do some foreign travel.

Tonight, Edwards keynotes a conference on fairness at the New School University in New York, where he'll focus on taxes -- specifically, how he thinks Republicans have shifted the tax burden to reward wealth over work, and to signal to Democrats that this is a core issue to focus on.

Some excerpts:

"We must take away the biggest shelter in the current tax code: the fact that the very wealthiest are able to shelter capital gains and dividends from the Alternative Minimum Tax. The very purpose of the AMT is to make sure the very wealthy pay their fair share and leave the middle class alone. But thanks to this administration, the AMT is doing exactly the opposite. It is increasingly hitting middle class families, including a large number of New Yorkers. President Bush likes to talk about himself as a tax-cutter, but the truth is that the AMT is a big tax-raiser on many middle-class families.

"At the same time, the AMT is not taxing many of the multimillionaires it was meant to tax. Why? Because the wealthy have the sweetest shelter in the business: their capital gains and dividends get special breaks from the regular rate in the AMT."


Milton, MA lawyer Deval Patrick is expected to make it official today, announcing his bid to seek the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in Massachusetts. Patrick will be the first major African-American candidate for governor, and the first serious challenger to state Attorney General Thomas Reilly for the nod. His entry may also nudge Secretary of State William Galvin to take the plunge, AP reports. LINK

The Democratic Governors Association announced that Penny Lee, currently Gov. Ed Rendell's communications director, will be its new executive director.

And the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee will finish the first quarter with a slight cash on hand advantage over the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

The DS raised $9.5 million and has $5.6 million in the bank. The NRSC raised more -- $9.8 million, but has $2.4 million banked.

The Florida Democratic Party had its worst fundraising quarter in a long while, the Gainesville Sun reports. LINK


Even key endorsement press conferences for Freddy Ferrer are marred by Diallo questions, with Carl McCall unhelpfully pointing out that he and Ferrer differ on the case. LINK


Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle (D) is de-clawing the proposal to legalize killing feral cats. (Sorry -- it was there, so we took it.) LINK

Former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) will be a visiting professor at Georgetown University's Public Policy Institute this fall, The Hill reports. LINK


The FCC ruled Wednesday that broadcasters must disclose to the public that they're using government-produced video news releases when they run them, the Washington Post's Frank Ahrens reports. LINK