The Note: Nothing to Fear . . .

WASHINGTON, April 15

NEWS SUMMARY

Look elsewhere for childish men paid to write about public policy pretending that there is some higher meaning and metaphorical splendor to the baseball that justifies wasting 800 words.

Look elsewhere for ruminations on Tax Day as a prism through which to evaluate the messages and relative standing of the nation's two leading political parties.

Baseball might be about hope, and taxes might be about frustration, but our topic today (appropriate for a Friday, we think) is fear.

F-E-A-R.

What everyone on Capitol Hill fears today is that network news executives will -- after reading Brody Mullins' front-page Wall Street Journal story on how member of Congress (avec family and staff) are regularly flown worldwide to fun junkets on the dime of corporate interests -- remember the old adage that in Washington, what's outrageous is not what is illegal, but what is legal. LINK

The must-read Journal story starts out with a classic anecdotal lead about Tom DeLay and his wife spending five days in Hawaii on the tab of corporations and lobbyists that represent American airports and airlines.

But as the story makes clear -- as with many of DeLay's alleged "controversies" -- he ain't the only game in town. Many members of Congress and Hill staffers dine at the trough in question.

"A fast-growing trend in the business of influencing government is corporate-funded trips, carrying lawmakers, their staffs and often their spouses to attend industry seminars, tour plants and speak at annual meetings. Because the trips are paid for by corporations and trade associations -- and not the hired-guns who lobby for them -- such trips are permitted under House and Senate rules. The rules forbid only travel financed by registered lobbyists and foreign agents."

"Members of both parties are increasingly taking advantage. In 2004, U.S. corporations and business associations sponsored more than 1,900 trips for lawmakers and their aides, up from 1,400 in 2000. Last year's trips cost more than $3 million, a 50% increase since 2000, according to a Wall Street Journal review of all congressional travel records from those two years."

And it is the prospect that news organizations and the public will begin to treat L'Affaire DeLay as a wedge into getting outraged at how special interests rule the Hill roost that has some Republicans (and some lobbyists and some Democrats) most concerned about all this.

There are a hundred angles to spin off the Mullins story (Note to Brody: you should have made a bigger point about how the audiences for some of these events are paying customers, which means that the MOCs are being used as lures for profit . . . ).

F-E-A-R. Note it well.

The man who knows that the only thing he has to fear is fear itself, President Bush, meets with the President of Rwanda in the Oval Office at 10:15 am ET. Then he heads to Kirtland, OH, for a 1:50 pm ET Social Security event at Lakeland Community College.

Susan Jaffe of the Cleveland Plain Dealer curtain-raises the trip, Noting that instead of the usual speech or town-hall format, Bush will sit down members of the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System. PERS is the 16th largest retirement system in the U.S., with assets of $64.5 billion, and its members don't contribute to the Social Security system. It also has a personal account option President Bush is likely to use as an illustration of his ideas. LINK

Vice President Cheney delivers remarks and participates in a town hall meeting at Burlington County College in Pemberton, NJ at 11:45 am ET. Expect the New Jersey Democrats responding to the e-mail that went out yesterday to be outside protesting.

Today is the deadline for filing 2004 federal tax returns, and it's also the statutory deadline for the FY2006 budget resolution.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Richard Myers delivers the keynote address to the American Society of Newspaper Editors convention at 11:00 am ET in Washington, DC. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is the luncheon speaker at 12:30 pm ET.

Treasury Secretary John Snow hosts bilateral meetings with Brazil, France, Japan, Russia, United Kingdom in Washington, DC today. He hosts a post-G7 press conference on Saturday.

Energy Secretary Bodman addresses the U.S. Energy Association in Washington, DC at 10:30 am ET.

White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card keynotes Lincoln-Reagan day dinner in Burlington, VT at 6:30 pm ET.

The National Rifle Association opens its annual meeting today in Houston. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) delivers the keynote address at 9:00 pm ET Saturday.

RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman has another Conversations with the Community event in Las Vegas today. He speaks to an audience of Latino Republicans at the Gold Coast hotel at 4:30 pm ET.

DNC Chairman Howard Dean speaks at a 10:30 am ET breakfast for Access Now for Gay & Lesbian Equality in Los Angeles, CA. On Saturday evening, he's the special guest at the California Democratic Party's annual state convention dinner.

At 10:30 am ET, James Carville hosts a press conference at the DNC to unveil the new Web initiative by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Quarterly campaign finance reports are due for federal candidates.

Today is the primary filing deadline in Virginia.

Harvard Crimson reporters take Note: Sen. Sam Brownback meets privately today with Harvard President Larry Summers to discuss stem cell research. Brownback then addresses an audience at the Harvard Law School before heading to Manchester, NH for a Saturday morning awards breakfast for the Cornerstone Policy Research Center. He'll present the True Blue awards to 13 state lawmakers "for their support of conservative causes."

Sen. George Allen speaks at the Oklahoma Republican Party convention at the Reed Center in Midwest City, OK, on Saturday.

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.

Steve Forbes keynotes the Republican Party of Iowa's annual Lincoln Day Dinner Saturday in Clive, IA.

Gov. Mark Warner (D-VA) will lead two back-to-back international trade missions, departing Virginia on Saturday. The first, to Japan, is a series of confidential recruitment meetings. Then, on April 24th, the Governor kicks off a six-day trade mission to India.

On Sunday, "This Week" hosts Sens. Trent Lott (R-MS) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to talk about ethics and House Minority Leader Tom DeLay, and a conversation with students from Catholic University and Georgetown about the future of the Catholic Church and the next Pope. The roundtable of Cokie Roberts, Sam Donaldson, and George Will will take a look at these issues and all of the week's events.

Ron Insana of CNBC apparently has an interview with President Bush on Monday. And the same day, Rudy Giuliani speaks to New York 1 News' Cheryl Wills about his battle against cancer and much more, per the Daily News.

Filibuster showdown:

Blaring off of its front page in typical New York Times style, the paper trumpets Sen./Leader/Dr. Bill Frist's plan to participate in an April 24th telecast of leading Christian conservatives who intend to portray the filibuster fight as one in which Democrats are "against people of faith" for "blocking President Bush's nominees." LINK

This story is a Red-Blue Rorschach test classic.

The Family Research Council Web site details the event itself. LINK

Sen. Schumer doesn't like the Sen./Leader/Dr.'s planned participation, but Tony Perkins of the FRC sure does.

The Times story also Notes Sen. McCain's unambiguous "Hardball" pledge to break with his party on the filibuster issue.

(McCain's break isn't entirely new of course, but it is something else he said that holds some potential danger for the GOP, and probably made ears perk up in the Reid war room: "'By the way, when Bill Clinton was president, we, effectively, in the Judiciary Committee blocked a number of his nominees,' Mr. McCain said.")

The Washington Post's Chuck Babington reports that Frist is "all but certain" to push to change the filibuster rules, eliminating the practice from judicial nominations, in the next few weeks. Given Frist's 2008 presidential ambitions, the decision has the potential to hand critics a mother lode of material, either allowing them to question his leadership abilities if the Senate stalemates, or angering conservative groups if he can't get the rules change through -- a quandary no doubt not lost on Sens. George Allen and Rick Santorum, fans of the filibuster ban and potential contenders for the GOP nomination, Babington writes. LINK

The Washington Post's Michael Fletcher writes that the conservative Judicial Confirmation Network is going on the air on cable and broadcast stations in five states and the District of Columbia criticizing "arrogant judges." LINK

Leader DeLay:

Republican Rep. Tom Tancredo tells the Denver Post in an interview: "it is 'probably not the worst idea' for embattled House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to step down while he deals with ethics allegations." LINK

Read the whole thing for the nuances.

The New York Times' Shenon and Stolberg preview a letter that 10 former Republican House members (most of whom Note readers will not recall) are sending to the House leadership calling on them to reverse the ethics committee rules changes that they believe were made to protect Tom DeLay. LINK

The New York Times' Elisabeth Bumiller looks at the history of the Bush-Bush-DeLay relationship and the CW that the White House is not inclined to pull the plug. LINK

The story posits that the White House needs the Leader on its legislative agenda, because the man gets it done.

E.J. Dionne writes that DeLay's expression of regret Wednesday is "the surest indicator that DeLay's days are numbered," and sees Democrats' decision to gun for the Leader as parallel to that of Newt Gingrich going after then-House Speaker Jim Wright for ethics infractions. LINK

Amy Fagan of the Washington Times reviews the status of the ethics committee probe of Washington state Democrat Rep. Jim McDermott. LINK

Goofy stunt alert: a 12-foot statue of Uncle Sam reprimanding Tom DeLay will circle the U.S. Capitol today -- we assume in a truck -- before heading to DeLay's home town. The statue is sponsored by TrueMajority.org, the group founded by Ben & Jerry's ice cream founder Ben Cohen.

Howard Dean speaks:

USA Today's Susan Page scored the first interview with Gov. Howard Dean since he was elected DNC chairman, in which he said his party has to be clear on the values it stands for, with a national message that respects Red State voters and allows them to come into the Democratic fold. Grassroots organizations and helping state parties use the Internet to raise cash are key, he said -- but so is re-casting the debate on issues like abortion to nudge the door open for voters who are more conservative on social issues but may agree with Democrats on economic issues and health care, Page writes. LINK

Dean tells Page (who discloses that he was on a cell phone in traffic in San Francisco!) that Democrats need to stop "speaking down to voters," especially those with more conservative social issues, and focus on turning out the Red State vote. She compares Dean's approval rating in the latest USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll (35 percent favorable, 33 percent unfavorable) to that of Leader DeLay (27 percent favorable, 31 percent unfavorable), and points to his commitment to investing in state parties as welcome solace to those on the ground. LINK

Social Security:

The Wall Street Journal's cool-handed Jackie Calmes turns in a must-read on the state of the Social Security debate, with a focus on the challenges facing both parties, particular the divisions within the GOP on how to move the legislative train when the votes for personal accounts aren't there (yet).

The characters, themes, and sticking points will be familiar to all Note readers, but it is a nifty little update, and the kicker is a reminder of Ms. Calmes all-access pass and the awkward relations that still exist between some of Washington's nicest and most powerful people:

"At this week's White House breakfast with party leaders, when Mr. Bush brought up Social Security's problems, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California said his plan wouldn't solve them. 'Any ideas, Nancy?' he asked. 'Yes,' she replied, without elaborating."

But, wait: Allan Hubbard, head of the National Economic Council and the White House's top economic adviser, said Thursday that President Bush is willing to consider making individual retirement accounts an add-on, depending on the final proposal, USA Today's Susan Page reports. Page Notes the marked switch in Hubbard's tone from a March interview in which he dismissed the idea. LINK

Modern poet Catherine Dodge (of Bloomberg News) tells us that Arizona Republican Rep. Trent Franks has a grandmother and a father back in Tennessee who aren't sold on personal accounts by any means. Franks himself is a supporter, but grandma has extreme doubts.

Bush agenda:

The Chicago Tribune's Rick Pearson writes that Architect Karl Rove urged Illinois Republicans to tend to their grassroots voter recruitment efforts and stay united at Will County's annual Lincoln Day dinner yesterday. "Greeted with a standing ovation by more than 700 people, Rove's visit was an essential part of efforts to reformulate a state GOP that has been tainted by scandal and, at times, viewed as bordering on irrelevancy." LINK

The Washington Post's Jim VandeHei was at President Bush's speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, and Notes President Bush's surprise at the policy change requiring U.S. citizens to show passports when re-entering the country from Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean -- a change a senior official said had been vetted "exhaustively" with the White House before it was announced. Also Noted: the President's comments that House Majority Leader DeLay has "been a very effective leader," and "I'm looking forward to working with him." LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Edwin Chen writes that President Bush responded to that surprise by asking State Department and immigration officials to find a "less burdensome" way to protect U.S. borders than requiring citizens to show their passports. LINK

The Houston Chronicle's Julie Mason delves deeper into possible alternatives to ID U.S. citizens. LINK

Bloomberg's Nicholas Johnston takes a soup-to-nuts view of the ways the immigration issue continues to divide George W. Bush's Republican Party.

The Chicago Tribune's Mark Silva ledes with the President's acknowledgement that there's "tension" between his Administration and the press. LINK

Someone is going to have to write a piece about Ken Herman and the President at some point.

The Wall Street Journal's McKinnon and Phillips look at the various Bush Administration officials -- including the Most Senior of All -- putting on the pressure for China to let its currency float.

The Washington Times' George Archibald says that Secretary of Education Spellings cancelled a peace-making trip to Utah as that state's Republicans continue to gripe about the strictures of No Child Left Behind. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Tom Hamburger reports that the White House is blocking the investigators from the Department of Education looking into the Administration's hiring of Armstrong Williams from interviewing some White House personnel. Inspector General Jack Higgins evidently told Rep. George Miller (D-CA) that there are two obstacles. LINK

"The first was the White House refusal to allow investigators to interview all officials who may have had knowledge of the Williams contract. Second was that Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings was considering deleting part of a draft copy of the inspector general's report, which has not been released."

More from USA Today's Greg Toppo, Jim Drinkard and Mark Memmott. LINK

The Washington Post's Marc Kaufman steps carefully into the charge against Lester Crawford, President Bush's nominee to be FDA commissioner, that came in "an anonymous letter, badly spelled, badly written, in terrible condition," according to Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY), alleging a personal relationship with a senior member of the FDA staff. LINK

As does the Los Angeles Times' Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar. LINK

EPA nominee Stephen Johnson found his nomination blocked by Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) on Thursday, who said the EPA must give an "ironclad" guarantee that it will review alternatives to the President's Clear Skies initiative. LINK

Intel:

The nominations of John Negroponte to be Director of National Intelligence, and his deputy, Lt. Gen. Michael V. Hayden, are moving to the Senate floor, reports the Washington Post's Walter Pincus, who also offers an overview of Hayden's interesting testimony. LINK

And none too soon, judging from the critical letter from the President's commission on intelligence regarding what it called "business as usual" plans to modernize the FBI and CIA. LINK

"The future of U.S. intelligence is up for grabs, almost literally," writes the Washington Post's David Ignatius, who argues that it's time for smart and independent analysts to tell the Administration what it might not want to hear, and an Administration willing to admit mistakes. LINK

Congress:

The Los Angeles Times' Maura Reynolds reports that the House signed off yesterday on new bankruptcy rules putting a means test on those who file for protection and requiring them to repay at least some of their debts. LINK

MoveOn PAC has been ready to roll with radio ads targeting members who voted for the bill, and as of Thursday raised more than half a million dollars from MoveOn members to pay for them. The spots say half the number of people who file for bankruptcy do so because of medical bills, and cite the campaign contributions from banks and credit card companies that individual members have gotten, and urge voters to call the members in protest.

The Washington Post's Caroline Mayer takes an interesting look at how easy it is to get credit cards after declaring bankruptcy. LINK

Big casino budget politics:

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire says, "White House battles health-policy resistance. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey shows just 9% of seniors plan to sign up for Medicare prescription-drug benefit; about half don't know enough to decide. Forty-four House Republicans write Budget Chair Nussle opposing Bush Medicaid cuts. Of 15 states on administration 'hit list' for Medicaid accounting maneuvers, nine have Republican governors and a 10th, Illinois, is home to House Speaker Hastert."

Knight Ridder's Tony Pugh reports that 44 moderate Republicans are off the White House reservation on Medicare cuts, urging House Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle (R-IA) to reject $20 billion in proposed cuts to Medicaid. The White House has said Medicaid spending can be cut by $60 billion over 10 years by getting rid of abuses, waste and fraud. LINK

The Wall Street Journal editorial board says that the Democrats' concerns about the Alternative Minimum Tax should be used as a bridge to get a real tax reform dialogue going, but we wonder if Gigot and Co. really don't see any substantive difference in regards to lowering taxes on the super wealthy versus on the middle class or the ultra wealthy. (Assuming we all agree that the "super wealthy" are richer than the "ultra wealthy.")

Bolton:

Democrats, John Harwood of the Wall Street Journal says on the Wire, still think they might be able to stop the Bolton nomination on the Senate floor, although no explanation of "how" is given.

"His attire was not merely bland but careless. His hair was so poorly cut, it bordered on rude," the Washington Post's Robin Givhan writes of John Bolton during his confirmation hearings. LINK

The politics of same-sex marriage:

AP's William McCall looks at the decision yesterday by the Oregon Supreme Court to nullify nearly 3,000 marriage license given to same-sex couples last year by Multnomah County, saying that a county cannot take action counter to the state's marriage laws. LINK

Lots of detail from the Los Angeles Times' Tomas Alex Tizon and Lynn Marshall. LINK

2008:

In a short "we hear" squib, Page Six alleges tension between Govs. Richardson and Rendell over DGA staffing. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire says, "After hearing from Tenet and Bremer on Iraq war, an audience of 5,000 at Universal City Amphitheater in Los Angeles applauds mention of 2008 presidential contenders McCain, Clinton, Romney and Edwards. Crowd assembled by the University of Judaism boos mention of Frist, in headlines lately because of the Terri Schiavo case."

Note the breezy way that Frank Phillips, in his Deval Patrick story, writes this: '''Come on in; the water's fine,' said Romney, who aides say is weighing whether to seek reelection as governor or focus instead on a bid for the 2008 presidential nomination." LINK

Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS) said Thursday he's flattered by the kind of buzz Howard Fineman talked about, but he doesn't intend to run for president in 2008. LINK; LINK

Hardly Shermanesque, that.

Fineman's msnbc column has still not been changed to correct "Carl" to "Karl" (as in "Rove"). Note to Howard: the beauty of the Internet is that it can be updated. How about it? LINK

In Daniel Henninger's Wonder Land column on the Pope, tradition, and values in the Wall Street Journal, the news is NOT how he rakes Sen. Hillary Clinton over the coals -- the news is how MILD the raking is.

The New York Times' Alexei Barrionuevo (quite a name, that) writes all about the MTBE controversy, with a mention of Tom DeLay, but nary a one of 2008 contenders. LINK

2005:

There is some pressure on Mayor Bloomberg (and some Democrats) to distance themselves from Lenora Fulani's failure to distance her own self from comments about Jews and Israel she made many years ago, the New York Times power duo Rutenberg and Slackman report. LINK

It is the shared interest in the Independent Party line that allows the newspaper and the Mayor's critics to call Ms. Fulani "an important political ally" of Mr. Bloomberg.

Former Assembly Speaker and Los Angeles mayoral hopeful Bob Hertzberg has thrown his support to City Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa, the Los Angeles Times' Patrick McGreevy and Patricia Ward Biederman report, giving Villaraigosa a boost in the Valley, which Hertzberg represented for six years in the state Assembly. LINK

Former attorney general Jerry Kilgore has some competition for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in Virginia now, after Warrenton Mayor George Fitch turned in 16,092 signatures Thursday to put him on the ballot. LINK

Free Matt Cooper and Judith Miller:

"Compelling reporters to testify, and in particular to reveal the identity of their confidential sources, hurts the public interest," write Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) and Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) in a Washington Post op-ed outlining their Free Flow of Information Act, co-sponsored by Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT) and Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA), which would set national standards for subpoenas issued to reporters by a representative of the federal government. Among the provisions: in cases dealing with confidential sources, reporters cannot be compelled to reveal them; in cases dealing with other information, civil litigants or prosecutors must meet certain tests before compelling reporters to turn over information. LINK

"It is important to note what the bill does not do. It doesn't give reporters a license to break the law in the name of gathering news. It doesn't give them the right to interfere with police and prosecutors who are trying to prevent crimes. It leaves laws on classified information unchanged. It simply gives journalists certain rights and abilities to seek sources and report appropriate information without fear of intimidation or imprisonment, much as, in the public interest, we allow psychiatrists, clergy and social workers to maintain confidences."

The Schwarzenegger era:

State Controller Steve Westly announced yesterday that he's exploring challenging Schwarzenegger for the GOP gubernatorial nomination in 2006. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Peter Nicholas profiles Patricia Clarey, who has what sounds like one of the toughest jobs in politics: chief of staff to Gov. Schwarzenegger. LINK

Politics:

Sandra Froman is expected to be elected president of the National Rifle Association at the convention beginning today -- the second woman to lead the 4 million member organization, the Los Angeles Times reports. LINK

It's not every day a governor gets profiled in Elle magazine, so be sure not to miss Alexandra Starr's enthusiastic treatment of Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) as one of the new Democratic rock stars. If you're not familiar with Granholm's bio and political rise, be sure to check it out -- and Note that Starr waited until the 4th paragraph to talk about her looks.

If this doesn't make you want to go to the University of Texas at Austin, at least to audit, nothing will.

A new class called "The Modern Political Campaign: starts this fall at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, to be taught by Matthew Dowd, BC04 chief strategist; Mark McKinnon, BC04 and 00 media guru; Wayne Slater, Austin bureau chief of the Dallas Morning News and co-author of "Bush's Brain; How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential"; and Paul Stekler, the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning documentary filmmaker whose films, including "George Wallace: Settin' the Woods on Fire" and "Last Man Standing: Politics, Texas Style," you should see if you haven't.

The graduate-level class will cover everything from strategy to media development and press coverage, and will have a string of bipartisan guest lecturers to talk about how it's all done. And we're available to be TAs.

Media:

Great news for fans of political documentaries: LightYear Multimedia Studios has purchased the rights to make Craig Shirley's excellent book about the 1976 presidential campaign into a full-length feature. Congratulations to Craig, and best of luck.

On Monday, ABC News' John Donvan will moderate a National Press Club panel about "BLEEP! Censoring Hollywood?," a new movie that tackles film sanitizing technology and its effects on the movie industry. Rep. Lamar Smith, producer Marshall Herskowitz, and others will participate. The film itself, produced by ABC News Productions for AMC, will air on April 26.