The Note: Questionable Figures



Whatever happened to National Reporters Day? LINK

In the spirit of Congressman Goodling (and after feting our mothers yesterday), we'd like to restart the debate about the virtues of such a holiday.

It could be a day where political reporters can play the inside-the-Beltway game as well as any politician. We too would be able to downplay the kinds of things that affect our readers'/viewers'/listeners' lives in favor of the week's telltale Washington stories.

So think not so much about the solid and important jobs numbers from last Friday, a potential nuclear North Korea, improving gas prices, or Cold War redux. Instead, we focus your attention on the stories that may be reaching some climax among the Gang of 500 this very week.

We envision a National Reporters Day where we could pull aside the elected officials of our choice to satisfy our given curiosity for that news cycle. Today we'd like to get the answers to some of these:

For Sen. Reid: As your word choices begin to gain a reputation of its own, do you think that your public image will be more or less helpful in your negotiations with Sen. Frist over judges and with the White House over Social Security?

For Sen. Voinovich: Which phone call that you might have received during your overseas recess travel was the one that caused Senators Lugar and Hagel to hint that John Bolton's nomination will likely be moving to the Senate floor after Thursday's vote?

For Rep. DeLay: Which MOC will be assigned the task of taking attendance at Thursday night's gala? And what are the repercussions for those conference members not present?

For Sen./Dr./Leader Frist: If you don't pull the rules change trigger this week, will you be able to avoid being perceived as weak by those in your party who are actively seeking the change? Or will the compromise for which several editorial boards and opinion shapers seem to be clamoring put you in a place of strength as a leader who went to the brink of war and avoided it?

For John Edwards: All kidding aside, were you joking up at Harvard?

With the President overseas until tomorrow and blessed with a relatively light public schedule the rest of the week, the center of gravity this week lies somewhere between the Capitol building and the Senate office complexes, save for the brief intrusion of the EIA's weekly gas price survey numbers at 4:30 pm ET today.

Officially, the Senate will finish the conference report on the supplemental Iraq/Afghanistan spending tonight or tomorrow morning, and then resume deliberation of the highway bill, which will probably last the week. But unofficially, both parties plan to act as if the nuclear/constitutional option has already been triggered.

"The process leading to all 100 members deciding whether to restore the precedent of a fair up or down vote on judicial nominees could begin at any time," a senior Republican leadership aide says, even as Roll Call breaks news of the most concrete centrist deal floated to date.

Today is the four-year anniversary of the day the very first set of Bush appellate nominees was sent to the Senate. Sen. John Cornyn has an event at 11:00 am ET that mourns the Miguel Estrada episode, and Democratic Sens. Schumer, Leahy, and Kennedy will focus on the once filibustered-now-renominated Judge Priscilla Owen.

Dr. James Dobson's Focus on the Family radio program hosts Gary Bauer and Tony Perkins for a discussion on federal courts and the filibuster. LINK

A new conservative group led by former Frist aide Manuel Miranda releases an ad buy on judges today at the National Press Club. The National Coalition Against Filibusters says the buy is nationwide and "demands" an urgent vote on the "constitutional" option.

If energy and oil and judges and Iraq war spending isn't enough, insiders widely expect the Pentagon to send the list of bases it recommends for closure to the Base Realignment and Closure Commission late this week or early next, triggering a massive amount of local press ink, predictable (though not unwarranted) stories about how the economy of state "X" will crumble without base "Y" and unpredictable political ramifications along the lines of, say, certain Republican Senators becoming less (publicly) friendly to the Bush Administration if their base is on the list.

Also: The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday debates the latest version of the Specter-Leahy Asbestos Trust Fund legislation, which the business lobby believes will create a $140 billion tax burden. Free market activists like the Cannon-Pence-Flake, which focuses on very tight standards for claimants. (Note: sometimes on Mondays, we like to show off.) The House Ways and Means Committee holds a hearing on Social Security legislation on Thursday as well.

President Bush met early this morning with Russian President Vladimir Putin and commemorated the end of World War II in Europe. The presidential parties then participated in a garland laying ceremony, have lunch at the Kremlin, and ended his day with meetings. He departs this morning for Tbilisi.

Vice President Cheney holds a campaign fundraiser for Rep. Marilyn Musgrave in Denver, Colorado at 2:35 pm ET.

The Supreme Court releases orders (but not decisions) at 10:00 am ET.

At noon, Judicial Watch has a news conference at the National Press Club to seek an ethics investigation in Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Friday, the group sent Senators a letter seeking a full probe of Sen. Clinton's ties to David Rosen.

Teamsters meeting in Las Vegas will hear today from five union presidents in a solidarity rally to push reform in the American labor movement.

Former Sen. John Edwards speaks at the Urban Institute's "Next Steps in the Working Families' Policy Agenda" forum at the Wyndham City Center Hotel at 7:15 pm ET.

Sen. George Allen keynotes the Greenville County GOP Bronze Elephant Banquet at 6:30 pm ET. Sen. John McCain headlines a fundraiser for state Republicans in New Jersey. Tonight, Sen. Chuck Hagel is the master of ceremonies at the Public Service Partnership award dinner at the Kennedy Center.

Tuesday, President and Mrs. Bush leave Tbilisi and return to the United States. They arrive at the White House around 9:30 pm ET. enters the world today.

Senators hold party policy luncheons at 12:15 pm ET and come to cameras. The Airland subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which includes Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, marks up a defense spending bill. The Senate Commerce Committee holds a hearing on identity theft and data providers, and witnesses include the CEO of Choicepoint. The Senate Judiciary Committee has a hearing on oversight of the Patriot Act.

Also Tuesday, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi holds a forum with members of the Democratic Women's Working Group. And the New Democratic Network relaunches itself, sort of. It introduces the New Politics Institute, which bills itself as a think tank for progressive politics. Virginia Gov. Mark Warner speaks to the Campaign for American Progress on education.

Wednesday, President Bush's schedule is TBD. Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour guests at a fundraiser for Terri Lynn Land, a Secretary of State candidate, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Gov.

Thursday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to vote on the confirmation of John Bolton to be U.N. Ambassador. (Chairman Dick Lugar yesterday predicted Bolton would pass his committee by a party line vote.)

The "Conservative Movement Salutes Tom DeLay" at the Washington Hilton, sponsored by the American Conservative Union.

President Bush has a CAFTA event with the presidents of Costa Rica, the Dominican Republican, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

Newt Gingrich begins a two-day swing through Iowa, with stop at Sioux City, Cedar Rapids and Iowa City. Fundraisers and book signings and private meetings are on the agenda. DNC Chairman Howard Dean holds a fundraiser in Oklahoma. The Young America's Foundation Freedom Fest kicks off in Las Vegas and continues through Sunday.

Friday, President Bush speaks to the National Association of Realtors in Washington, DC, which is quite interesting in light of the Page A-1 article in the Wall Street Journal about the Department of Justice's plans to sue the group for alleged anti-trust violations. The N.A.R is a political behemoth, and is increasingly threatened by online websites like Craigslist.

Also Friday, Bush visits with the 2004 NCAA champions. Sen. John McCain delivers the 2005 commencement address at the University of Oklahoma in Norman. Saturday, McCain delivers the commencement address at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Saturday, the Massachusetts State Democratic Party convention kicks off in Lowell, and Howard Dean is among the invitees. The delegates will debate a platform endorsing gay marriage. In Chicago, the DNC's commission on presidential nomination timing and scheduling meets at the O'Hare Hilton.

Sunday, President Bush speaks at the annual Peace Officers' Memorial Service at the U.S. Capitol. Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee delivers the commencement address at the University of Arkansas and Fayetteville.

President Bush in Eastern Europe:

The Washington Post's Peter Baker Notes the change in protocol on President Bush's visit to Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, putting aside the customary press conference or speech in an effort to give Putin the floor on the 60th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany and dial back the testy back-and-forth of recent days regarding Soviet authoritarian rule in Eastern Europe after World War II. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Peter Wallsten and David Holley portray the Bush-Putin meeting as the end of a feud that emphasizes the personal chemistry between the two. LINK

On Sunday, Baker wrapped President Bush's comments on the legacy of World War II in Eastern Europe, saying that the U.S. is in part responsible for the division of the continent and promised that the trade of freedom for stability would never happen again. LINK

Social Security:

Ron Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times looks at a different kind of realignment that appears to be taking place -- that of the safety net, encompassing health care, pensions, and Social Security alike, increasingly becoming the domain of individuals rather than employers or the government. The large institutions that used to manage these benefits are pushing for the change, and are in a sense reaping the benefits as more responsibility and choice shifts to the individual, Brownstein writes. LINK

"These ideas raise distinct issues but present common philosophical choices. Like the parallel changes in the private sector, each GOP proposal compels individuals to bear more financial risk. In return, it offers them more choice (about how to invest their retirement money, for instance) and ownership (of assets like individual investment or health savings accounts)."

". . . Yet the public resistance to Bush's Social Security plan suggests that for now, the loss of guaranteed benefits in the workplace has made Americans prize such guarantees from government even more. Bush is right that rising costs eventually will force government to scale back its healthcare and retirement promises. But the Social Security debate makes clear he hasn't yet convinced the country that such a reexamination will require Washington to limit its own financial risk, as employers have already done, by transferring risk to workers and their families."

Writes Dick Stevenson in the New York Times, sucking on his thumb, "[w]hat President Bush needs most is the political cover for his party that Democrats would provide by expressing support for the benefit cuts, tax increases or other painful changes widely seen as necessary to assure Social Security's solvency as the population ages."

"So far, Democratic leaders in Congress have refused to play along, and there is little indication that they will change their minds. Their political reasoning is that Mr. Bush's approach is sinking of its own accord, and that there is no reason to jump in the quicksand with him."

"There is another good reason for Democrats to keep the focus on Mr. Bush's approach. To the degree that they acknowledge there is a problem that needs to be addressed -- and some Democrats say Social Security's problems are not so big or immediate that changes must be made now -- they would have little choice but to back some benefit reductions of their own, plus an array of tax increases that would no doubt induce something between heartburn and cardiac arrest in the electorate."

Writes Paul Krugman, also in the Old Gray Lady: "[L]et me deal with a fundamental misconception: the idea that President Bush's plan would somehow protect future Social Security benefits."

"If the plan really would do that, it would be worth discussing. It's possible -- not certain, but possible -- that 40 or 50 years from now Social Security won't have enough money coming in to pay full benefits. (If the economy grows as fast over the next 50 years as it did over the past half-century, Social Security will do just fine.) So there's a case for making small sacrifices now to avoid bigger sacrifices later. But Mr. Bush isn't calling for small sacrifices now. Instead, he's calling for zero sacrifice now, but big benefit cuts decades from now -- which is exactly what he says will happen if we do nothing. Let me repeat that: to avert the danger of future cuts in benefits, Mr. Bush wants us to commit now to, um, future cuts in benefits." LINK

"This accomplishes nothing, except, possibly, to ensure that benefit cuts take place even if they aren't necessary."

Interestingly, David Brooks in his Sunday column wrote off the same assumptions that Krugman today tries to demolish. LINK

Roll Call's Chris Cillizza has details of the $100,000, two-week ad buy by targeting House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas (R-CA) and Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM).

George Will on Sunday called progressive indexing another form of means testing, and likened the overhaul of Social Security to revamping welfare. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Joel Havemann on Saturday reported that congressional Democrats, in defiance of urging by strategists to come up with their own plan on Social Security, are refusing to do so in favor of continuing to drive home their criticism of President Bush's advocacy of private accounts. LINK


"If the Central American Free Trade Agreement goes sour on Capitol Hill, the reason will almost certainly be sugar," unapologetically writes Greg Hitt in the Wall Street Journal. "The American sugar industry has become the standard-bearer of opposition to President Bush's top trade priority for 2005. It's the clearest loser under the agreement, which would open the tightly regulated U.S. market to new imports from five Central American countries, plus the Dominican Republic."

"And while organized labor and textile manufacturers are also opposed, the sugar growers have waged by far the fiercest fight to defeat the pact, capitalizing on the unusual breadth of the industry's political geography. That stretches from the wetland states of Louisiana and Florida, where sugar cane is big part of the local culture, to the mountain West, where sugar is made from beets in places like Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. Petitions with the signatures of nearly 60,000 voters opposed to Cafta have been delivered to Capitol Hill. Farmers are pressuring local lawmakers back home, and many have flown to Washington this spring to underscore the message."

"Mr. Bush on Thursday plans to ramp up his campaign for Cafta, hosting the presidents of the six signatory countries in an effort to dramatize the regionwide importance of the agreement. He will need to use his bully pulpit aggressively. Because, so far at least, he is losing to the sugar industry, which is raising deep concerns among loyal Republicans and normally reliable free-trade legislators about the pact."

The economy:

"Score one for Alan Greenspan over the bond market," writes John Hilsenrath in the Wall Street Journal.

"Last month was dominated by two conflicting worries about the U.S. economy. The bond market was concerned that the economy had hit another soft patch. That drove long-term bond yields lower. The second worry was that inflation pressures were slowly building. That drove short-term interest rates higher, as Mr. Greenspan and his team at the Federal Reserve concluded that price pressures were the greater of two evils."

"It looks like Mr. Greenspan had his priorities right. A string of reports last week -- on jobs, car sales, retail sales and tax revenue -- suggests that the economy is on a more solid footing than it appeared to be just a few weeks ago. That means economists are going to be spending more time in the weeks ahead sniffing out signs of incipient inflation. It also means the odds have improved for another quarter-point increase in the federal-funds rate to 3.25% by the Fed in June -- and probably more to follow."

The above piece was a news article (!) . . . the following is from a Journal op-ed:

"It was too good to be true. After two accounting scandals and years of denial, Congress finally seemed ready to protect taxpayers from the financial high-flying of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. But that was before Republican Mike Oxley and others on Capitol Hill decided to ride to their rescue."

Bob Novak writes that Alan Greenspan wants to end his tenure without a recession or inflation period attached to his name. LINK


Good news for Bolton from Sen. Chuck Hagel: "Four Republicans on the panel have expressed reservations about Mr. Bolton's nomination, but the White House has pressed them to support it." LINK

"One of the four, Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, said Sunday on the ABC News program 'This Week' that he was still awaiting answers to some of his questions, but that 'I know nothing as of this moment that would -- my guess -- would stop him from being voted out of committee.'"

Based on the Sunday shows, more confidence from Senate Republicans that Bolton's nomination ultimately will succeed. LINK

Doug Jehl of the New York Times weighs in today with a piece on Dr. Rice and the withholding of some Syria-related documents. LINK

The politics of national security:

Wonder why some hard core conservatives are uneasy about Attorney General Alberto Gonzales? How about a New York Times story about the United States Department of Justice trying to soften its image featuring Gonzales worrying that he received too few Democratic confirmation votes.

"In his first months in the job, Mr. Gonzales is promoting a softer image for the Justice Department and seeking to burnish two legacies: the department's often strained relations with Congress under his predecessor, John Ashcroft; and criticism of his own role in formulating the Bush administration's policies on torture, which led to a closer-than-expected Senate vote of 60 to 36 in favor of his confirmation." LINK

"In public appearances, one of his most frequent and emotional focal points has been youth issues - a focus reminiscent of the administration of Janet Reno, who was characterized by some as much a social worker as a prosecutor in her years as attorney general under President Bill Clinton."

Filibuster battles:

"A bipartisan coalition of Senators believe it is close to a deal that would avert the looming showdown between Republicans and Democrats over judicial filibusters," Roll Call's Paul Kane reports.

"The potential deal, spearheaded by Sens. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), would involve at least a half-dozen Senators from each party signing a letter or memorandum of understanding that signals how they would proceed to vote on all matters related to judicial nominations."

"The six Senate Republicans would commit to opposing the so-called nuclear option to end judicial filibusters, which would leave GOP leaders short of the 50 votes they need to execute the parliamentary move to abolish the procedure."

"In exchange, the six Senate Democrats would pledge to allow votes on four of the seven circuit court nominees who were already filibustered in the 108th Congress and have been renominated."

"Perhaps more importantly, the six Democrats would pledge to vote for cloture to end filibuster attempts on all other judicial nominees named by President Bush, including Supreme Court picks, except in 'extreme circumstances' according to a senior aide familiar with the discussions."

The Washington Post's Chuck Babington wraps the filibuster lobbying that's on the verge of a boil as the Senate returns from recess this week. LINK

On Sunday, the Los Angeles Times' Janet Hook portrayed the fight over the filibuster as a train wreck no one can look away from, and compared it to the government shutdown of 1995-96. She also made an especially salient point about issues like the filibuster and its importance to both sides' core constituencies, though not necessarily to voters at large, and the risk that both parties are taking by moving toward noisy fights that most interest their respective corners and not the middle. LINK

On Sunday, the Boston Globe's Charlie Savage offered up a great examination of the boiling rhetoric and outside influences that have greatly changed the process of selecting judges from a quiet search and consultation with the American Bar Association to litmus tests and ideological gamesmanship. LINK

On Sunday, the Washington Post's Shailagh Murray profiled Baptist minister Rick Scarborough of Texas, a key -- if perhaps less well-known -- player in the movement by Christian conservatives to push for the change in Senate rules to get rid of filibusters on judicial nominees. And one close to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and conservatives in the Senate. LINK

"It is a key test of the Christian right's political clout since last year's election, when Bush won a second term and Republicans strengthened their hold on Congress -- thanks in part to a record turnout of so-called 'values voters.' Anytime Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN.) or other GOP leaders appear to be backing away from a showdown with the Democrats over the filibuster, Scarborough and his backers are there to give them a shove. This helps to explain the protracted nature of the dispute and the challenge to GOP leaders to work out a compromise."

On Sunday, David Broder argued that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist should compromise and Senate Democrats should take a deal on the filibuster rule. LINK

Charles W. Pickering, Sr., he of recess appointment onto the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, calls for new legislation to ensure timely confirmation of judicial nominees in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.

Big casino budget politics:

As chronicled by Tom Fahey in Saturday's Manchester Union Leader, with the approaching onslaught of retiring baby boomers, Sen. Judd Gregg foresees big bad bills from the big three -- Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid -- public distribution projects. "He argued the nation needs to find a way to control spending on entitlement programs, and to boost the economy through business-friendly tax policy." Afraid the federal government may be wading into deep water sans life preserver with the addition of the Medicare prescription plan, he Notes uneasily, "It's $8 trillion of unfunded liability that was added." LINK

Medicare and the states:

The New York Times' Robert Pear reports that that the National Governors Association and the National Conference of State Legislatures close to agreement on sweeping changes to state Medicaid programs that would trim (or cut) as much as $10 billion - the sum the governors assume will be missing from the budget. LINK

"State officials say their goal is not just to save money, but also to avoid wholesale cuts in coverage like those in Tennessee, which is dropping more than 300,000 people from its Medicaid rolls, and in Missouri, which is dropping 90,000. They believe states should be allowed to impose higher co-payments and deductibles on Medicaid recipients with higher incomes. The groups are still refining their proposals, with the aim of getting their recommendations to Congress for action this year."

Pear's dateline is "Nashville," and another Times reporter, Shaila Dewan, looks at Tennessee's dual system for driver's licenses: one for those who can't prove they're hear legally, and the other for those who can.

House of Labor:

The great Harold Meyerson weighs in with a fair piece that describes why the SEIU may be a victim of its own success.

"But this [dissident] endeavor has been complicated by the SEIU's growing sense of exceptionalism, which is causing rifts not only with its adversaries in labor but with its allies as well. At one level, that sense of exceptionalism is understandable: While most unions have struggled to stay afloat, the SEIU has grown by close to 750,000 new members since Stern became president in 1996. In the past month alone, it has picked up 90,000 new members in two mega-organizing campaigns (among child-care workers in Illinois and home-care workers in Michigan)." LINK

"Part of the problem is that (John) Wilhelm, or any candidate of change, cannot assemble a majority at the AFL-CIO's convention without the support of unions that are not entirely committed to the SEIU's agenda of change. The SEIU, for instance, favors restricting union's organizing campaigns to their core industries -- a prescription that the United Auto Workers (UAW), which has tried to augment its shrinking numbers in the auto industry by organizing teaching assistants on university campuses, might well view as a death sentence. In Vegas, UAW President Ron Gettlefinger sided with Stern, Wilhelm, and Teamster President James P. Hoffa on Hoffa's proposal to create the rebate for organizing. He's hardly likely, however, to agree to a labor restructuring that condemns his union to go down with General Motors and Ford."

Ben Boyd, Mr. Stern's top communications adviser, said in response to the article, "Mr. Stern has given Mr. Wilhelm his every assurance that if he runs on the right platform that the will certainly support him and he will remain in the federation."

2008: Republicans: has a straw poll favorable to Republicans who aren't socially conservative on social issues. And then to George Allen. LINK

On Saturday, the Boston Globe's Frank Phillips reported that Eric Kriss, Gov. Romney's top budget adviser, is the third official in the administration to announce in recent weeks that he's leaving. LINK

And just as Romney proposed that the state borrow nearly $1 billion for a variety of construction projects, the Globe reported Saturday. LINK

A Washington meeting of Romneyites gets whispered into Bob Novak's ear and will inspire another round of questions at the Statehouse. No hard specifics, but Novak writes that attendees got the impression that the Massachusetts governor is not going to run for re-election in 2006. LINK

Andrew Miga follows up. LINK

The Rosen trial:

The Times-Picayune of New Orleans got a partial transcript of that now infamous Morton's Steakhouse meal in Chicago shared by former Hillary Clinton fundraiser (and self proclaimed "guinea pig) David Rosen and Sen. Kennedy's brother-in-law turned government informant Raymond Reggie. LINK

"In a detailed discussion of the event, Rosen acknowledges that the gala probably cost far more to produce than he reported on federal campaign forms, a criminal offense and the central question at issue in the case."

And make sure you read why Raymond Reggie will never work for Al Gore again!

The New York Sun's Josh Gerstein picks up some of the details from Saturday's Times-Picayune story for his trail curtain-raiser. LINK

"With the trial of a key finance official on Senator Clinton's 2000 campaign set to open tomorrow, a secretly recorded audiotape at the core of the case could prove embarrassing to politicians, political operatives, and wealthy donors to the Democratic Party."

Ray Hernandez has a good overview of the case. LINK

And AP story also got wide World Wide Web pickup over the weekend.

2008: Democrats:

We're not sure what to make of this squiblet in the New York Times under the headline "The White House Weighs In."

Sara Taylor and a deputy visited NY GOP Chairman Steve Minarik and his deputy, and someone briefed a Times reporter, apparently.

Writes Patrick D. Healy, "[T]the focus was on divining Gov. George E. Pataki's future -- re-election in '06? a run for the presidency in '08? -- and finding an appealing moderate Republican who could cause trouble for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's re-election bid next year." LINK

"Specifically, the Rove camp is concerned that Mrs. Clinton is positioning herself as a centrist Democrat on issues like abortion and defense in order to broaden her appeal for a possible White House bid in 2008, according to people who were briefed on the Friday discussions. Fielding a moderate Republican challenger, the thinking goes, could force Mrs. Clinton to adopt liberal positions to energize her base of support, and thereby sully her moderate image and weaken her in advance of '08."

Recall, when reading Joe Klein's dissertation on why he thinks nominating Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton would be disastrous for the Democratic Patrty, the tangled relationship not only between Klein and the Clintons, but between Klein and the Clinton staff. LINK

Two points:

1. Klein suggests that Clinton is temperamentally unfit to be president, comparing her "pained" demeanor after losing the '94 health care battle to the ever bigger challenges ahead. But don't people change in 10 years, and hasn't Clinton quite specifically weathered the storm of the burdens of public office quite nicely since then?

2. He suggests she isn't brilliant enough a politician to break the "ultimate glass ceiling," which may be true, especially if she polarizes the nation as Klein thinks she will. But in the same vein, he's suggests she's matured, moderated her image, and has some good ideas about how to mature and moderate even further. And what if the electorate surprises everyone and doesn't polarize as neatly as Klein assumes it must?

Peter Beinart argues in the Washington Post that the big story of Hillary Clinton moving to the center in anticipation of 2008 isn't really a move and it isn't really big -- she entered the scene in the center, he writes, and it'll be up to those watching and covering her to look at the whole and not just the stereotype. LINK

Newsweek's Jonathan Darman describes an awkward moment last month when John Edwards visited Harvard's Institute of Politics last month -- which Kim Rubey protested to Darman was a misunderstanding -- as he continues to make the rounds on poverty and keep himself in the public eye in advance of 2008. After speaking at the Urban Institute today, Edwards is in Washington DC this week on business for his poverty center at UNC before heading to Oklahoma on Saturday. LINK

On Sunday, the Boston Globe's Ellen McNamara wrote that in his ongoing work to maintain national name recognition and policy influence - and saying that adding same-sex marriage to the Massachusetts Democratic state party platform is a bad idea, Sen. John Kerry is "falling out of step with the state party that nurtured his political career." LINK

Rick Klein of the Boston Globe Notes that Sen. John Kerry has been on a cross-country tour revamping his image and message. Kerry spoke to a crowd in Louisiana last week saying that Washington is out of touch with American families and leaders like President Bush and Tom DeLay are only focused on their own agenda. Although Kerry has not decided yet whether to run again in 2008 he has been busily touring the country touting his healthcare plan for children and visiting local campaign headquarters to support local candidates. LINK

Steve Wiseman of The State writes that high school steroid use is becoming more of an issue resulting in action by state leaders. Bill Richardson of New Mexico has already committed funding to begin random statewide testing and South Carolina legislature are also beginning to recognize the issue. LINK

Abramoff, DeLay, travel, and ethics:

The New York Times reports that Jack Abramoff is again under investigation for a 1997 trip to Pakistan with lawmakers. Abramoff brought lawmakers over to the country and failed to disclose that he was on the Pakistan payroll as he aided with group meetings. < LINK

The Washington Post's John Harris and Mike Allen take an interesting look at the way House Majority Leader Tom DeLay has hunkered down as the controversy around him has continued and deepened, a Noticeably changed man who has stepped back a bit from the high-profile, mix-it-up persona he's known for -- including absences from party news conferences and strict ground rules in his briefings. LINK

"Suddenly, the old Texas brio that carried him through years of smaller controversies is on the wane. The leader recognizes -- belatedly, some GOP colleagues say -- that the latest questions about his relationships with lobbyists are a problem threatening his career and the GOP majority he helped to build and sustain since coming to the House 20 years ago. Everywhere there are signs of a politician in retreat."

" . . . As explained by insiders, the DeLay survival strategy is to attack the critics, including questioning the motives of reporters and the funding sources of watchdog groups; leak data making it clear that Democrats engaged in many of the same practices; and relentlessly curry loyalty with his two bases outside the Capitol -- national conservative groups and Republicans in his district."

". . . . The long knives are out for DeLay now. He has a legal defense fund and he also has his share of enemies even within his own party. But whatever happens to him, it is safe to say that he won't go quietly and he won't go meekly," wrote the Chicago Tribune's Michael Tackett at the end of his Sunday look at DeLay's modus operandi these days. LINK

On Sunday, the Chicago Tribune's Jeff Zeleny, Mike Dorning, and Michael Tackett spearheaded their paper's look at the privately funded congressional travel -- and find that the Illinois congressional delegation and their staffs, with at least 835 such trips since 2000, have had quite a time, and in many cases didn't file reports or didn't realize they had to report on them. LINK

Bush agenda:

On Saturday, the Washington Post's Jim VandeHei and Peter Baker took a look at how world events are keeping President Bush from fully turning his attention to his domestic agenda. And, according to come critics and supporters, he's paying a separate price for not engaging on North Korea and Iran. LINK

In a news analysis on Saturday, the Los Angeles Times' Barbara Demick examined the options that the U.S. and its allies have to deter North Korea from testing nuclear weapons. The answer: there are none. LINK

On Saturday, the Washington Post's Mike Allen recounted the exceptionally un-politic way that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid described President Bush on Friday, calling him a "loser" to a group of high school juniors -- and Reid's apology to Karl Rove. LINK

On Sunday, the Washington Post's Michael Dobbs took a look at the fight in Connecticut as education officials have refused to implement the standardized testing required by President Bush's No Child Left Behind law. LINK

Time on Laura Bush's mission. Humanize her husband . . . yes . . . but, there's more. LINK


The New York Post's Fred Dicker reports, "Aides to Gov. Pataki have privately told Bloomberg adminis tration officials to get the NYPD to drop its resistance to construction of a Freedom Tower at Ground Zero -- or risk losing the state's help with a West Side stadium." Everyone start your clocks and watch to see how long it takes City Hall and Albany to try and debunk this story. LINK

In a 90-minute interview with the New York Daily News, Westchester DA Jeanine Pirro attempts to separate herself (in a spirited fashion) from her husband's troubled past. We wonder if this story will give the White House some pause. LINK

On Sunday, the Los Angeles Times' Josh Getlin turned in a blockbuster profile of New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, with descriptions we only wish we could've written. (Ichabod Crane-meets-Dudley Do-Right was great, but the general touring the battlefield poking corpses with bayonets was particularly vivid.) LINK


Randy Archibold did some amusing web sleuthing and found out that the man behind the Web site is "gadfly" John Fisher, "a Hell's Kitchen community advocate and a past critic of Ms. Fields's." LINK

"The man who answered the registry phone number called back from a number that matches a directory listing for Mr. Fisher's home."

"He declined to discuss the Web site unless granted anonymity and, when refused that deal, denied he was behind the Web sites."

Mayor Bloomberg will be a no-show at the upcoming teachers' union candidate forum and Gifford Miller knows the price of milk in Manhattan. It's all here in Michael Saul's Daily News mayoral roundup. LINK

Superscribe Phoebe Eaton provides this week's New York Magazine readers with a profile of Judge Leslie Crocker Snyder who is forcing the 85 year old incumbent Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau back onto the campaign trail in the twilight of his long storied career. LINK

Sunday's Los Angeles Times offered up profiles of Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn and his opponent, Antonio Villarigosa. Hahn Villaraigosa

New Hampshire:

The Manchester Union Leader's Shawne Wickham provided an in-depth look Sunday at how a 2002 Supreme Court ruling is sucking some (NH) district attorneys' wells dry. Requiring that child pornography only be deemed such when it can be established that actual children, rather than simply virtual images, were involved, "there will be cases dropped in New Hampshire because prosecutors, particularly in smaller counties, cannot devote the manpower, time and expertise to tracking down the origin of pornographic images of children." LINK

< Iowa:

With the potential renewal of their own terms around the corner and still halfway down the street, Jane Norman of the Des Moines Register casually reflected on the brief respite taken by Sen. Chuck Grassley and Sen. Tom Harkin from the unavoidable campaign-dollar pursuit. During their respective holidays, Harkin (who belongs to the Senate class of 2008) has donated $4,000 to Sen. Robert Byrd's 2006 campaign -- in the hopes of reinstating the WV Democrat for a NINTH (wow!) term in office -- while Grassley has been wholly ingrained in the Finance Committee's Social Security saga. LINK


Despite her efforts to bring her party caucus back together, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi still faces some Democrats who are frustrated and grumbling that she hasn't done enough, Roll Call's Erin Billings reports.

Jim Drinkard of USA Today looks at how questions about backups for computerized voting machines are confusing efforts by state and local governments to upgrade election equipment. LINK

The Washington Post's Adam Bernstein remembers consummate Washington lawyer Lloyd Cutler. LINK

The Spokane Spokesman-Review's Mike Prager has the latest chapter in the sex scandal involving Spokane Mayor Jim West -- a he-said, she-said argument over what West allegedly said he did in his City Hall office. LINK

West responded to allegations over the weekend. LINK

Spokesman-Review editor Steve Smith will take questions in a live chat at 6:00 pm ET. LINK

On Sunday, the Washington Post's Dan Balz turned in a fantastic analysis of the state of British politics and its lessons for the American system, writing that despite being bruised a bit in last week's election, Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Labor Party offer American Democrats a blueprint of success even with a leader who despite abundant political gifts faces increasing opposition, and successfully occupying the center and strengthening the party to a point where the opposition is pushed to the margins. LINK