The Note: Bet the Ranch

"The National Education Association's chief lawyer two years ago wrote a memo that said the No Child Left Behind Act was voluntary and not an unfunded mandate, a position that contradicts claims in a lawsuit the union has filed against Education Secretary Margaret Spellings," the Washington Times reported over the weekend. LINK

"Robert H. Chanin, the union's general counsel, told NEA state affiliate leaders and employees in a May 2003 memo that the federal No Child Left Behind Act is a mandate only if states accepted federal education funds."

In the Washington Post on Sunday, Michael Kinsley found "a remarkable amount of honesty and near-honesty" in President Bush's news conference last Thursday, from his comments on religion and public life, to the fight over the filibuster and Social Security, which Kinsley sees has the possibility to alienate voters from the GOP. LINK

"Despite having made a commitment to return power to the states, the Bush administration and the GOP- controlled Congress are using legislation and the legal system to quash state efforts to regulate industry, a trend state officials say is weakening hard-fought efforts to protect the health and safety of their constituents," wrote Susan Milligan of the Boston Globe in a Sunday near-must-read that raised flags about how the consolidation of power affects interstate commerce, energy, regulating medicine, and homeland security in states and for citizens. LINK

Newsweek's Holly Bailey and Richard Wolffe read the writing on the wall in gauging the difficulties President Bush is facing in his second term -- on John Bolton, gas prices, and Social Security, among other issues -- and wonder how the Administration found itself here. LINK

FLOTUS kills:

If you've seen references to Mrs. Bush's stand-up routine on Saturday night that don't include either the phrase "brought down the house" or "stole the show," e-mail us: politicalunit@abcnews.com

Elisabeth Bumiller writes of Laura Bush's Saturday night performance: "She brought down a very tough house, and she humanized her husband, whose sagging poll numbers are no match for her own." LINK

"Hurling terrific one-liners rapid-fire like she was shooting skeet," writes the New York Daily News' James Gordon Meek (in an article teased by a front page banner) who also tries to drive a wedge between the First Lady and Karen Hughes by reminding his readers of the less well received routine Ms. Hughes penned for the Bush twins at last summer's Republican National Convention. LINK

And here's the comedy writers reaction sidebar courtesy of the New York Daily News: LINK

The New York Post's Deborah Orin includes Sen. Schumer's positive review. LINK

Zing, zing, zing, writes the Los Angeles Times' Leslie Hoffecker. LINK

Lloyd Grove's Daily News column is solely dedicated to the WHCA dinner and takes a look at how the Washington crowd responds to "B-grade TV" personalities. LINK

On Sunday, the Washington Post's DeNeen Brown gave First Lady Laura Bush a rave review for her "outta the way, Mr. Excitement" performance on the dais. LINK

North Korea:

Clinton special advisor on North Korea Wendy Sherman pushes back on Andy Card's Sunday appearances by telling the New York Daily News, "The worst of this problem has happened on the watch of the Bush administration." LINK

Congress:

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