The Note: Plot So Fowl



There's something about the thermometer going above 70 degrees in Dupont Circle that turns the politico-media world's agenda into a mélange as variegated as the Treasury Department duck. LINK

Yesterday, we tried to give you a sense of where the stew stands (yes, yes, we know: stew doesn't stand . . . ), and we covered a range of issues (and/but one CAN cook stew on a range . . . ).

But, in all honesty, when representatives of the Gang of 500 meet at Lauriol Plaza for their Sunday night dinners, they only see four issues that really matter these days (besides the aforementioned Treasury duck and how it is turning Taylor Griffin from an anonymous bureaucrat into an international icon).

Those issues are (1) what the current game of chicken will cause the two parties to do on Social Security reform in the coming weeks and months; (2) if Howard Dean and the other Democratic leaders can find a way to improve the party's image on moral and national security issues; (3) what conservatives can do to try to cripple Hillary Clinton in '06, absent a strong opponent; and (4) what Bruce Springsteen thinks of Karl Rove.

Lucky for you -- and for us -- the answers to all four questions (at least: today's answers) were easily found by 1,000 well-briefed and well-intentioned Googling monkeys.


From the Wall Street Journal story on Social Security:

"Some Democratic aides on Capitol Hill said privately that the new details of the president's plan were pressing them to consider eventually putting forward their own fix . . . "

"Senate Republicans are considering seeking passage of a Social Security bill that abandons private accounts in favor of simply shoring up the program's long-term solvency through approaches such as the one Mr. Bush has embraced. If Mr. [Bill] Thomas could push his own plan through the House, a conference committee from both chambers could fashion a compromise and dare reluctant moderates in both parties to defeat it on a final up-or-down vote."

The first and last paragraphs from a front-page Boston Globe story about the upcoming Massachusetts Democratic Party confab (a story that does not seek a position from Sen. John F. Kerry):

"The Massachusetts Democratic Party is poised next week to add an endorsement of gay marriage to its platform, despite a nationwide backlash against same-sex marriage that led voters to approve bans in 11 states last fall . . . " LINK

"Also, delegates will hear from the national Democratic Party chairman, Howard Dean, as well as Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who is running for reelection in 2006."

From a New York Observer piece on how the anti-Hillary Clinton groups seem to be raising more money (indirectly) for her than they are for themselves:

"'Both Clintons have benefited from the fact that they drive Republican political consultants insane and we start to do things that, to the undecided voters, seem to be nutty,' said Nelson Warfield, who was the press secretary to Bob Dole's 1996 Presidential bid. 'It makes her a victim; it makes us seem like we're off-balance.'" LINK

From the San Bernadino Sun story about Monday's Bruce Springsteen concert at the Pantages Theatre:

"And while the evening's politics were more often implied than outright, Springsteen, who toured in support of Sen. John Kerry's campaign last year, did take a swipe at the convictions of President George Bush and adviser Karl Rove with 'Part Man, Part Monkey,' saying Bush will 'do what he has to do so he can do what he wants to do.'" LINK

Tying nearly all of these randomish threads together, President Bush talks Social Security again today, when he speaks to the Latino Coalition's Small Business Conference at 10:25 am ET in Washington, DC.

Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez participated in a discussion at the conference at 7:00 am ET. Reps. Chris Cannon (R-UT), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), and Tom Tancredo (R-CO) talked about immigration reform at 9:15 am ET. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Sen. George Allen (R-VA) and First Data Corp. CEO Charles Fote will participate in a session called "Policies to Promote Economic Development & Opportunity for All" at noon ET. RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman also addresses the conference at noon ET.

Reps. Grace Napolitano (D-CA) and Xavier Becerra (D-CA) respond to President Bush's address at 1:00 pm ET with a conference call criticizing his Social Security plan, which they say will lead to massive benefit cuts on the burgeoning Latino middle class.

First Lady Laura "Leno" Bush tours the exhibit, "Berthe Morisot: An Impressionist and Her Circle," at the National Museum of Women in the Arts with Marie-Cècile Jonas, wife of the French Ambassador to the United States, at 11:15 am ET.

The First Couple attend a Cinco de Mayo dinner at the White House at 7:00 pm ET.

House Democrats and Republicans hold their respective (closed) party conferences at 9:00 am ET.

House Republican leaders will hold a news conference at 10:00 am ET to talk about the accomplishments of the first 100 Days of 109th Congress and urge their Democratic counterparts toward bipartisan cooperation. House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL), Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO), Conference Chairman Deborah Pryce (R-OH), and Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-CA) will speak.

Also at 10:00 am ET, Democratic leaders will talk about Social Security and criticize their Republican counterparts on the economy. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer; Democratic Caucus Chairman Robert Menendez; and Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman James Clyburn will speak.

Pelosi and senior House Democrats gather at 11:00 am ET for a briefing on health care proposals.

Reps Martin Meehan (D-MA) and Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) will do a presser at 12:30 pm ET in the House Radio and TV gallery to talk about their Lobbying and Ethics Reform Act of 2005, which would tighten disclosure rules for lobbying and any travel. More below.

Retired Gen. Wesley Clark has a big day around town, starting at 9:30 am ET, when he takes part in a discussion sponsored by the Center for American Progress, "No Place to Hide: Where the Data Revolution Meets Homeland Security," also featuring James Dempsey of the Center for Democracy and Technology, Nuala O'Connor Kelly of the Department of Homeland Security, and Robert O'Harrow of the Washington Post. At 6:30 pm ET, Clark delivers the keynote speech at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum's "Tribute to Liberators" dinner.

At 2:00 pm ET, TV talk show host Montel Williams joins Reps. Barney Frank (D-MA), Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), and Sam Farr (D-CA) for a news conference to introduce legislation to protect medical marijuana patients from arrest. At 6:00 pm ET, the Marijuana Policy Project holds its 10th anniversary gala, where Williams will receive the group's Public Face of Reform Award, and Farr will receive the Legislative Leadership Award from former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders.

[See (2) above.]

At 12:15 pm ET, TV Watch will hold a conference call to talk about a new poll showing that Americans prefer to make their own decisions about what they see on TV, not the government. More below about the group, whose executive director is former RNC communications director Jim Dyke. Pollsters Geoff Garin and Frank Luntz will be on the call.

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) headlines the Allegan County Lincoln Day dinner in Holland, MI.

Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) speaks at New England College in Henneker, NH.

Former President Bill Clinton keynotes the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce's 133rd Annual Dinner, Lancaster, PA

Social Security:

Write three Wall Street Journal reporters in a total must-read, "President Bush's proposed Social Security overhaul now boasts two new assets it didn't have a week ago: A solvency plan as Democratic adversaries have demanded and an energized champion in the House with a track record for getting things done."

That's Bill Thomas, who may ultimately propose smaller personal accounts and twin them with greater chances for retirement savings outside the Social Security system.

"To be sure, Mr. Thomas' resourcefulness can't push an overhaul plan through the Senate. So Democrats have preserved an insuperable wall of resistance there; Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid yesterday reiterated the demand that the president renounce his goal of private accounts. As Mr. Bush stumped for his plan yesterday in Mississippi, even home-state Republican Sen. Trent Lott complained that 'progressive indexing' would move Social Security toward becoming more of 'a welfare system' by protecting benefits for the poor while curbing them for the middle class and the affluent."

Bloomberg reports this morning that Thomas is considering "a broader legislative package that includes new savings incentives and long-term health-care benefits. The plan, according to people who have discussed it with Thomas in recent days, could be financed by replacing at least part of the Social Security payroll tax with some form of consumption tax."

"The strategy is a gamble that could draw in Democrats, who are unified in their opposition to the accounts, according to analysts. It could also backfire by deepening the public's skepticism about Bush's handling of Social Security and hurting Republicans in next year's mid-term elections."

"[T]he White House signaled that Mr. Bush would be flexible if Congress had other ideas about how to close the projected long-term gap in Social Security's finances, reflecting the reluctance of many members of his own party on Capitol Hill to embrace any plan that could be portrayed as harming the middle class," the New York Times' Dick Stevenson reports. LINK

Michael Fletcher of the Washington Post wraps President Bush's visit to Mississippi yesterday, Noting that some workers there were intrigued by the idea of investing on their own. LINK

USA Today's Judy Keen focuses on the President's pressure on congressional leaders, saying that it's up to them to act to avoid tax increases or benefit cuts. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Warren Vieth has the President telling Nissan workers that his plan to make sure that workers don't retire into poverty would make FDR proud, and Notes the skepticism of Mississippi's Senators toward the plan. LINK

"Asked after Bush's event about the president's call to curtail benefits for future middle-income and higher-paid retirees, Lott said: 'I'm not overjoyed about that, because I think it does begin to move it more toward a welfare system, as opposed to its original intention. But I don't think we should be wed to romantic ideas if they don't get the job done.'"

" . . . Queried by a reporter, Cochran, Mississippi's other senator, stopped short of endorsing Bush's proposal for altering the way initial benefits are set for future retirees. 'We will work together on the details,' he said."

Iowans haven't budged in their attitude toward President Bush's plan to overhaul Social Security, either because they don't understand it or don't agree with the principle behind it, Sen. Chuck Grassley told the Des Moines Register's Tom Beaumont. But there might be a little support among Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee for the modified plan to keep the program solvent, he said. Traveling in eastern Iowa on Tuesday, Grassley talked to voters about modifying some of the ideas on the table, but opposes lifting the cap on payroll taxes entirely. LINK


USA Today's Barbara Hagenbaugh looks at the Fed's decision yesterday to raise interest rates by a quarter-percentage-point to 3 percent, the highest level in 3 1/2 years, and indicating that the Fed would likely continue to raise rates at a "measured" pace. LINK

ABC News' Daniel Arnall explains, "The Fed uses interest rates like a gas pedal for the economy."

"When the country faces a slowdown like the recent recession, the Fed will lower rates to make it cheaper for companies and consumers to borrow money and continue to spend. A low interest rate -- especially one as low as 1% -- is like pushing the economic gas pedal all the way to the floor."

"As the economy heats back up, the FOMC has to take its foot off the gas pedal by raising rates. Keeping rates low for too long can spark an inflationary cycle where the price of goods and services rise so quickly that the purchasing power of the dollar plummets."

"The Fed is raising rates in an attempt to bring the economic gas pedal back to a neutral point. Most economists believe that point is between 3.5-4.5%."

"If inflation pressures increase to a worrying level the Fed can put on the brakes by raising rates beyond this neutral point."

Abramoff, DeLay, travel, and ethics:

The Washington Post's R. Jeffrey Smith reports that Jack Abramoff apparently also paid at least a portion of the expenses for Reps. James Clyburn (D-SC) and Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and two DeLay staffers during two trips during the mid-1990s to the Northern Mariana Islands. Smith rounds up what exactly the trips were about, and Abramoff's lobbying business with the Marianas based on the travel receipts obtained and published by the AP yesterday. The clients paid Abramoff and Preston Gates $4.5 million to lobby for them between 1996 and 2000. LINK

Kate Zernike and Phillip Shenon in the New York Times follow up (with some new elements) on the AP's reporting about trips taken by Democratic and Republican lawmakers paid for by Jack Abramoff. LINK

The Times seems to have done its own FOIA.

Carl Hulse compares the lobbying trips disclosures with the House banking scandal of the early 1990s, though Norm Ornstein tells Hulse that there are important distinctions. LINK

"'It is quite possible we are going to find that all kinds of members were just careless in the way they handled their travels, ' said Norm Ornstein, an expert on Congress at the American Enterprise Institute. 'My guess is we are going to find a real distinction between people who did it once or twice and those who did it on a repeated basis.'"

Writes Suzanne Garment in the Wall Street Journal, "The jig is up if any of the investigations now in train, or to be launched, discovers evidence of criminal wrongdoing by Mr. DeLay. Short of such an event, however, his enemies have an uphill battle in trying to dislodge him; the most they can realistically hope for is to keep him pinned down under a blanket of fire."

And Republicans continued their push to accuse Minority Leader Pelosi of hypocrisy, the Washington Times reports. LINK

The Hill's O'Connor explores some recently filed travel disclosure forms filed by House staffers and finds that, despite reminders, some staffers still (incorrectly) listed lobbyists as the underwriters for a recent tech conference. LINK

"In a potential violation of congressional ethics rules, five members of Congress traveled to Ireland in 2003 at the expense of a lobbying firm, disclosure records show," reports The Hill's Hearn. Note how this sort of lead graph is the new normal on the Hill. LINK

Rep. Marty Meehan and Rep. Rahm Emanuel will announce today comprehensive legislation to tighten congressional rules on trips, travel and lobbyists.

A Meehan aide said the Lobbying and Ethics Reform Act of 2005 would increase disclosure rules for lobbying and any travel. It would try to slow the "revolving door" between business and government by extending the ban on government personnel entering lobbying to two years; it would require all entities sponsoring trips to be certified by the Congress before allowing members of Congress and staff to go on them; it would prevent lobbyists from arranging trips even if they don't pay for them.

It would also put teeth into the current rules by upping the fine for violating them to $100,000 and would direct the GAO to regularly investigate trips and travel.

The Democratic leadership is not yet behind the legislation, and given that the Committee on House Administration's chairman Bob Ney (R-Ohio) is under an ethical cloud of his own, chances for passage are not necessarily great. (Not that any Democratic bill with no GOP cosponsors (yet) has that much of a chance to begin with.)

Rick Klein of the Boston Globe has more details. LINK

Mike Allen of the Washington Post sizes up the budding race between former Rep. Nick Lampson (D-TX) and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, as Lampson files papers for his challenge today and Democrats beginning to frame the race as a marquee contest for 2006. LINK

"Although administration and GOP officials said yesterday that they consider Lampson a weak opponent, a vigorous challenge to DeLay would force Bush and Vice President Cheney to decide whether they want to risk their own political capital as DeLay is excoriated as a symbol of Republican excess."

A political action committee has posted billboards around Tom DeLay's Texas district that read, "Lobbyists sent Tom DeLay golfing; all you got was this billboard," the Houston Chronicle reports. But Harris County Republican Party Chairman Jared Woodfill scoffs, "This is northeastern liberal Democrats trying to come in and have an influence." LINK

Big casino budget politics:

The Washington Post's Shailagh Murray takes a closer look at the $82 billion emergency spending bill for Iraq and Afghanistan, tsunami relief, and immigration agreed upon yesterday by House and Senate negotiators. The bill contains more money for combat expenses, higher service member death benefits, and adds $100,000 in insurance for soldiers who have suffered traumatic injuries. The measure also earmarks as much as $50 million to support peacekeeping in Darfur, Sudan, and boosts international aid to $240 million. LINK

As ABC News' Tom Shine and others have pointed out, not every leading Member got what he or she wanted in the package.

The Los Angeles Times' Richard Simon gets the issue of keeping states from giving drivers licenses to illegal immigrants right up top. LINK

Hans Nichols of The Hill reports that some House Democratic leaders had hoped all of their members would have been around to vote on last week's budget resolution to at least force some potentially vulnerable Republicans to side with the GOP leadership and vote for a budget they might have rather voted against. LINK

Filibuster battles:

". . . [S]ocial conservatives are anticipating from conversations with Frist's staff that the controversial move will take place next week and are predicting a conservative backlash if Senate Republicans delay any longer," writes The Hill's Alexander Bolton on the potential timing of the rules change. LINK


The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler sifts through 10 transcripts of interviews conducted by Senate staffers about John Bolton, and finds that the portrait that's emerged is more nuanced, though still depicting "a hard-charging official with strong opinions and little interest in accommodating views significantly different from his own," but unearthing no new allegations of abusive behavior. LINK

The politics of national security:

John Mintz of the Washington Post looks at a report released yesterday by the Congressional Research Service that found the government's color-coded terrorism threat warning system has been undermined by confusing and conflicting statements about the gravity of threats. LINK

Bush agenda:

The New York Times' Edmund Andrews writes that the impending nomination of Robert Kimmitt to be deputy secretary of the Treasury "could signal an important transition at the Treasury Department, which has been struggling to replace a long list of top officials who have left since the elections in November." LINK

Some ask: If Kimmit is confirmed, does that mean that Bob Zoellick is not longer the smartest person in the government?

2008: Republicans:

Don Walton of the Lincoln Journal Star ventured north to Plymouth, NH with Sen. Chuck Hagel on Tuesday, where the 2008 hopeful talked up his conservative philosophies and the kind of independent streak Granite Staters are fond of, saying, for example, that he's willing to vote against John Bolton going to the U.N. if he thinks the allegations against him are serious enough. Walton also throws in a little analysis from St. Anselm's Dante Scala, who gives Hagel high marks and Notes the baggage he's not carrying yet -- as long as Sen. McCain doesn't take up all of his oxygen. LINK

The Boston Globe's Frank Phillips has a confusing story about who paid what (and got what) for/from a party that Mitt Romney threw at the RNC convention in New York last summer. LINK

2008: Democrats:

The Hill's Alexander Bolton takes a look at John Kerry's positioning himself for a 2008 run should he choose to make the race. Nothing much new here, (3 million people strong e-mail list, saying thank you to donors and supporters, Giesser) but a nice compilation of the post-campaign Kerry activity. And there are some on the record quotes on both sides of the pondering equation. LINK

Yesterday, you could feel the reverberations of people banging their keyboards all up and down the Washington-New York axis in response to the New York Post Web site refusing to cooperate. This morning hasn't proved much easier. But this "sightings" item from Page Six was too good not to excerpt here for you:

"Sen. John Edwards and Democratic fund-raiser Jim Neal at a power breakfast at the Regency hosted by John Kerry's national campaign finance director, Bob Farmer."

The Clintons of Chappaqua:

A "trim and vigorous" President Clinton kicked off his initiative to combat childhood obesity yesterday.

"The alliance, which initially plans to work with the food industry, schools, health care providers and the media, will seek to encourage children, particularly those ages 9 to 13, to take charge of their own health and lead healthier lives," reports Dr. Lawrence K. Altman in the New York Times. LINK

"It will try to further efforts by food manufacturers and restaurants to serve smaller portions of healthier foods. And it plans to work with professional and health care groups to create tools and continuing education opportunities for better prevention and treatment of obesity in children. Schools will be encouraged to serve healthier foods and to increase physical activity among students."

Clinton said of Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, "He is about half the size when I first met him. While I am always trying to shrink the ranks of Republicans, I never really thought this was the way to do it."

House of Labor:

The Washington Post's Amy Joyce reports that the AFL-CIO announced to 167 employees yesterday that they'd be laid off in a reorganization, but that they'll have an opportunity to apply for 61 new jobs. The jobs will be phased out gradually, and four departments eliminated, Joyce writes -- politics and field work will become one department, and policy, safety, health, and legislation will become another. Some of the international affairs operation will be folded into organizing, which will get a $10 million boost. The federation's magazine will cease publishing, and administrative and consulting costs will be scaled back as well. LINK

We told you yesterday that the AFL-CIO began the process to cut many headquarters jobs; the New York Sun's Josh Gerstein Notes that AFL-CIO Pres. John Sweeney was in Paris at an OECD conference while all of this was happening. LINK

Steven Greenhouse writes on UniteHere's dispute with CWA and its implications for John Wilhelm's potential AFL-CIO presidential candidacy. LINK

Greenhouse also files a nice look at whether Wal-Mart can afford to pay its employees more. LINK

And Wal-Mart Watch is out trying to call Gov. Robert Ehrlich (R-MD) on the carpet, saying if he's going to veto the bill in the Maryland legislature that would require the company to either spend more on employee health benefits or contribute to state health insurance for the poor, at least he should stop taking contributions from the company.

Chairman/Gov. Howard Dean:

It's been an open secret that DNC chair Howard Dean has been on holiday in Australia (G'day, Doctor!), but he couldn't resist adding at least one bit of business to his pleasure.

Tuesday morning, he spoke to about 200 Democrats in Sidney at Bar Broadway, just south, we are told, of the city's central business district. One Democrat who was there e-mails us to say that "Howard was Howard: powerful, energized, scathing, passionate, determined."

Some of his zingers: "The level of respect for the greatest country on Earth is the lowest I have seen in over 50 years. . . . . The most destructive thing Bush has done is destroy our sense of community."

On Iraq : "We are really stuck. He has really screwed us up."

"His key message ," according to our correspondent, "was that Democrats need to have a systematic political campaign capacity throughout the country -- in every state -- not just the ability to put on a strong presidential campaign every four years. "


Quinnipiac University is out with some new Empire State poll numbers this morning showing pretty much what its February 10 poll showed: Governor Pataki's approval rating is still less than desirable (36 percent approve, 47 percent disapprove) and he would still get trounced by Eliot Spitzer (53 percent to 32 percent). Quinnipiac also asked voters statewide about the proposed West Side stadium in the city, but breakouts for Shelly Silver and Joe Bruno's districts were not available.

Ken Bazinet's Daily News dispatch focuses on Sen. Clinton's latest fundraising appeal too. Note to Ken: Check the tape on the "blinded by self-loathing" quote, just in case Jim Kennedy asks for a correction. LINK

"The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) announced yesterday that Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) would co-chair the 2005 President's Dinner, the largest annual fundraising dinner for congressional Republicans," reports Patrick O'Connor of The Hill. LINK

And here's the (low?) expectations setting graph: "The NRCC expects to raise $14.5 million at the dinner while the NRSC hopes to raise $8 million as the two committees restock their campaign coffers for the 2006 midterm elections."

Looks like millionaire businessman Richard Tarrant is getting into the race for the Republican Senate nomination in Vermont. LINK


Peter Vallone endorsed Gifford Miller for Mayor, which "could bring Speaker Miller, a born-and-bred Manhattanite who has been trying to burnish his credentials in the other boroughs, added credibility with middle-class white voters in Queens." LINK

New York 1 reported last night that only two reporters attended the event, but, hey a Times story is a Times story!!!

In response to the Congressman's seventh policy address yesterday, The New York Daily News' Michael Saul gets some of the best anti-Weiner quotes of the cycle (thus far) from his opponents' campaigns. Be sure to Note Stu Loeser's clever use of "mind bogglingly." LINK

Michael Saul also Notes more praise for Mayor Bloomberg from New York's senior senator. LINK

And check out what Lloyd Grove gets Hizzoner to say on the record about why he didn't attend the annual Costume Institute ball at the Met. No doubt the Mayor's tongue was firmly planted in his cheek. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Michael Finnegan and Richard Fausset look at the hard-core slam Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn leveled against Antonio Villaraigosa on TV Tuesday with an ad accusing Villaraigosa of doing special favors for Florida contributors. Hahn's spot responds to Villaraigosa's own nasty ad whacking the mayor for criminal investigations of city contracting and his fundraising. LINK

You probably knew this already from checking The Note's political calendar (LINK), but in case you missed it the special primary and general election dates have been set to replace Rob Portman in the House of Representatives. LINK

"Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is expected to take a major step today toward holding a special election by turning in signatures for a proposed ballot initiative that changes teacher tenure provisions," reports the San Francisco Chronicle. LINK

Prepare yourselves: These ballot initiatives will be part of one of the most covered special elections in California since . . . well, the recall.

And John Wildermuth of the Chronicle looks at how much money each side spent in the first quarter of the year. LINK


The New York Observer's (prolific) Ben Smith offers up a Transom item on the demise of Al Sharpton's Spike TV reality show and the former presidential candidate's new endeavor on TV One. LINK


Roll Call's Chris Cillizza writes that Democrats are increasingly unhappy with legislation aimed at regulating 527s, worried that it will cramp their voter registration and GOTV efforts for 2006 and beyond. Cillizza does a great job laying out the activities and the concerns of all involved.

Kate Ackley of Roll Call looks at the amendment to the Senate's version of the measure that would require broadcast stations to charge federal candidates and parties working on their behalf the lowest ad rate available throughout the year -- which really makes the broadcasters happy.

"After first resisting a judge's order to allow a 13-year-old in state custody to get an abortion, Gov. Jeb Bush's administration changed course on Tuesday and said it would abandon the legal fight," reports Abby Goodnough in the New York Times. LINK

"The reversal was a striking change for Governor Bush, who has intervened in several recent cases to fight for what he calls the sanctity of life. In 2003, he asked a court to appoint a guardian for the fetus of a severely retarded rape victim, persisting with the case even after a judge ordered that the pregnancy be carried to term. He lost on appeal."

"In what many experts consider the best opportunity in years for Washington to gain voting rights in Congress, Representative Thomas M. Davis III, Republican of Virginia, introduced legislation on Tuesday that would give District of Columbia residents a seat in the House of Representatives," the New York Times' James Dao reports. LINK

More from the Washington Post's Spencer Hsu. LINK

A coalition of industry groups and anti-regulation watchdogs have put together a new group called TV Watch, which aims to marshal public opinion against further government regulation of television.

The group will spring into existence today and release a poll conducted by Democrat Geoff Garin and Republican Frank Luntz showing that respondents oppose further government regulation of television and prefer that parents get more involved.

Jim Dyke, the former communications director for the Republican National Committee, will serve as executive director.

The group is open about its funding sources, which include major television corporations, but includes on its board legal scholars, libertarians, and a mix of Democrats and Republicans.

It comes as lawmakers, including House Judiciary Committee chairman James Sensenbrenner and Sen. Sam Brownback, have signaled their willingness to expand government regulations on the content of cable television shows.

"The new president of the Club for Growth promises that the group -- despite a recent rift that led to the ouster of its former president -- will redouble its efforts this year, spending earlier in the campaign cycle and, for the first time, recruiting candidates," writes The Hill's Savodnik. And Note the Mallory Factor news too!! LINK

Todd Ackerman of the Houston Chronicle follows U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) as she plans on drafting federal legislation that would allow guardians to override hospital doctors and ethics committees in their decisions to remove life support from a patient. LINK

"After an alternately comic and fiery debate -- punctuated by several lawmakers waving pompons -- the state House on Tuesday approved a bill to restrict 'overtly sexually suggestive' cheerleading to more ladylike performances." Well thank goodness someone's solving the real problems. LINK

"Quit Digging Your Grave With a Knife and Fork" by Mike Huckabee: The Note Review:

Our Googling monkeys are not immune to the battle of the bulge; too many banana-flavored ProCals and, well, pasta, render them sleepy and listless. So they're always on the look out for diet advice, and welcome it especially when it comes in a short, readable book by a gentleman governor who as recently as Monday did not rule out running for president in 2008.

The thing you've got to remember about Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's weight loss is that he did it with help. A medical weight loss program at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences set him on his path to health. These plans tend to be expensive and not covered by too many insurance programs, which means that doubters can very legitimately ask: why should we buy a book about weight loss by a guy who can afford a fancy doctor-supervised weight loss regimen?

It's a fair question, but it doesn't detract from the message of the book, which is what Huckabee learned from the program he believes can help millions lose millions of pounds and, to square the circle, reduce long term health care costs.

Huckabee's weight loss program consisted initially of a protein-sparing period, where he dramatically reduced his consumption of starchy foods. Unlike Atkins or many other diets, though, Huckabee also dramatically cut calories to a point requiring intense medical supervision. (Your body can live on a very low calorie diet quite comfortably so long as you get adequate vitamins and enough protein to keep your muscles from melting . . . but only under a doctor's care.)

His advice for others mimics the lessons he learned on his program: stop consuming trans fats; eat fruits and veggies; don't eat refined sugars; reduce your portion sizes; eat all meals; pay close attention to calories; eat five or six smaller meals a day; drink lots of water; avoid foods high on the glycemic index like potatoes, some types of pastas, and white bread.

He devotes a chapter to procrastinating. His message: STOP. Another takes on cultural barriers to weight loss: his advice is to acknowledge the role genes and society play but to move beyond them. This conservative's conservative emphasizes choice, first and first foremost. It's your choice to watch your calories even if your genes are prompting your body to demand more food.

It's when we hit Chapter Three ("STOP Sitting On The Couch ") that we realized how ingenious (and we mean that in a good way) his book is: he uses weight loss as lens through to look at other aspects of his life, from his military service to his band-playing to the pride of his life (his family) to his marriage to his job as governor to his thoughts about willpower and intention.

The book is not a must-read, and it doesn't say anything that we haven't read in diet books before, but it's easy to understand, provides what seems to be quite useful (if uncomplicated) advice, makes you want to give the vulnerable governor a big hug, and just might help you associate your future weight loss with a folksy, iconoclastic Arkansas governor who battled his bulge and won.