WASHINGTON, May 10
As the press goes gaga for 43 behaving like 42 (staying out late eating dinner, changing his schedule on the fly, boogying with a charismatic young foreign leader), check out this code breaking here at home:
1. E.J. Dionne in the Washington Post on WHY the Democrats are digging in on judges, Social Security, DeLay, and more. LINK
2. Brody Mullins in the Wall Street Journal on why those "non-partisan" Washington interest groups are often liberal fronts, and what you should do about it.
3. Nina Easton in the Boston Globe on Dr. Dean's prescriptions for Massachusetts Democrats. LINK
4. The opening and closing paragraphs in Dick Morris' New York Post column -- perfectly explaining why the David Rosen story is going to be with us for a while. LINK
5. The Los Angeles Times' Mary Curtius on the principle, pragmatism, and politics guiding the Hagel, Chafee, and Voinovich votes on Bolton. LINK
(Clue: if Sen. Hagel wants to ever be the Republican nominee for "higher office," it's pretty clear how he should vote . . . )
President Bush's public day is done; he met with the President of Georgia in Tblisi. He delivered a speech before a cheering crowd of thousands in "Freedom Square" in Tbilisi, Georgia (a.k.a. Lenin Square during Soviet rule). Bush praised the Georgian people and President Mikheil Saakashvili, who led the Rose Revolution in 2003 that overthrew a corrupt government.
He returns to the White House around 6:10 pm ET tonight.
Jury selection is scheduled to begin in California today for the federal criminal trial against Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's Senate 2000 finance director, David Rosen. Josh Gerstein's salivary glands are on overdrive already.
The Senate Judiciary Committee continues its look at the reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act. The full body continues debate on the highway bill and the supplemental appropriation for Iraq and Afghanistan.
Party policy luncheons are from 10:30 am ET to 12:30 pm ET, with an expected (TBD) visit to the cameras from Majority Leader Frist. The judges and the constitutional/nuclear option hangs heavy in the air.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee holds an oversight committee on the ways in which Saddam Hussein apparently manipulated the Oil For Food program. Witnesses include Steven Groves and Mark Greenblatt of the permanent investigation subcommittees, Thomas Schweich, the chief of staff to the US mission to the UN, and others. The Senate Commerce Committee tackles identity theft and data information services. Witnesses include executives from ChoicePoint and Lexis Nexis.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi speaks this morning to the AFL-CIO's Industrial Union Council, which is meeting at the Washington Hilton. Among the topics: CAFTA. Minority Whip Steny Hoyer has a pen-and-pad at 10:00 am ET.
The National Association of Realtors continues its legislative and trade exposition; speakers today include Sen. James Talent (R-MO), and Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA)
The New Democrat Network today will launch its New Politics Institute and holds an 11:00 am ET conference call with founders Simon Rosenberg, Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, and Andy and Deborah Rappaport.
The New York Times has a good overview if you missed yesterday's developments. LINK
Substantive highlights of the National Coalition To End Judicial Filibusters's press conference in Washington yesterday, with our own reporting/analysis intermixed.
-- the Lott-Nelson compromise, reported by Roll Call yesterday as being close to a done deal (allegedly) was rejected out of hand by conservative activists. The leaders of several groups, who are in close contact with Frist's office, said they had no reason to believe that the Republican Senate leadership would accept any "compromise" that didn't include an up-or-down vote for all nominees. (Leadership sources we spoke to yesterday agreed.)
-- Today, some of the most prominent conservative leaders will phone wavering Senators directly. Included: Focus on the Family's James Dobson.
-- Manuel Miranda, the former Frist aide who directs the coalition, said that "it will be bad for Frist" if he doesn't deliver up or down votes for all disputed nominees. And this comes from the gentleman who says Frist asked him to head the coalition efforts!
-- As we've been reporting for a while, the activists have been told that Texas State Supreme Court Judge Priscilla Owens is the likely candidate to trigger the filibuster rules change fight. (Charles Hurt in the Washington Times writes the same thing. LINK .)
Non-substantive highlight of the press conference:
-- the wet-behind-the-ears state treasurer from West Virginia, Hiram Lewis, nervously but loudly lit into Sen. Robert Byrd for opposing filibuster reform but then somewhat awkwardly launched into his not-yet-memorized campaign speech about Republican values and terrorism. (One line insinuated Democrats were "evil.") At two points during this seven-minute, er, filibuster, one of his fellow presenters looked plaintively at Miranda to put an end to it. Miranda gently shook his head, squared his back and waited.
Rush Limbaugh's comments on judges are worth reading in full. LINK
"The thing that I guess is the most irritating to me about this, and I almost take this personally because I've found myself in similar circumstances over the years. It seems to me that the Senate Republicans are allowing themselves to be defined by their adversaries, the Democrats, the media. They are allowing themselves to be defined as the aggressors here, as the transgressors of Senate practice and the Constitution. What they ought to be doing is loudly and proudly making their case."
Geoff Earle of The Hill reports that there is no (Lott-Nelson) deal yet and Notes Judiciary Chairman Sen. Specter seems suspect of such "quid pro quo" deals. LINK
The Washington Post's Jim VandeHei and Chuck Babington report Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told reporters yesterday that the fight is about fairness, and Senate Republicans are looking more likely to pull the trigger on the rules change. LINK
"The president, who initiated the conflict by renominating judges whom Democrats had blocked during his first term and demanding new votes this year, is essentially guaranteeing a showdown that is as much about the power of the presidency as Democratic obstinacy, according to numerous government scholars. The result could be a more powerful White House, a weakened Congress and the possible erosion, if not end of, the most powerful tool available to the minority party, the filibuster, the scholars said."
The Chicago Tribune's Jill Zuckman and Andrew Zajac include a somewhat convoluted clarification by Gonzales spokesman Kevin Madden walking the Attorney General back from criticism he'd leveled against Owen -- which left-leaning groups are prominently citing in their campaigns against the filibuster change. LINK
Roll Call's Paul Kane Notes that the partisan fight got personal on Monday, with the NRSC's online ad going after Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid's compromise overtures, and Reid and his party going after Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's motives and accusing him of caving to the right wing.
Apparently, the Republicans didn't fully accept Sen. Reid's Friday night apology.
"The temptation to press your advantage when you enjoy a majority can be overwhelming. And the urge to break all of the toys in the sandbox when you don't get your way can also be tempting. We must hope that behind the public skirmishing over the filibuster, senators' self-interest, if not their good sense, will head off the nuclear option and the nuclear winter that will almost surely follow," Prof. Ross Baker ends his USA Today op-ed. LINK
James Gordon Meek of the New York Daily News focuses his story on the President's written statement reasserting his desire for up or down votes on the Senate floor. LINK
James Sensenbrenner's call for a judicial inspector general -- sans details -- makes it into the New York Times. LINK
Former Majority Leader (and current Walt-Disney-Company-which-owns-ABC chairman of the board) George Mitchell writes in a New York Times op-ed that "the principles of exercising independent judgment and preserving our system of checks and balances are at the heart of the Senate rules debate." LINK
The Wall Street Journal's Greg Hitt turns from sugar (no to CAFTA) to textiles (the industry is split).
"U.S. textile manufacturers have split over the Central American Free Trade Agreement, with one prominent trade group, the National Council of Textile Organizations, urging Congress to approve the pact."
"The endorsement gives Cafta -- President Bush's top trade priority for 2005 -- a boost on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers in the House and Senate have been reluctant to take up the agreement, which would bind together the economies of five Central American countries plus the Dominican Republic to create the U.S.'s second-largest trading partner in Latin America. The decision by the National Council of Textile Organizations could make it easier for the White House to attract votes among members of Congress from textile-producing regions."
Forgive the New York Times' Elizabeth Becker's lede: "Social Security is not the administration's only economic initiative that is in trouble in Congress."
She does have a nice overview of the obstacles in CAFTA's path. LINK
And good quotes from folks like Sen. Saxby Chambliss and Sen. Harry Reid:
"'I don't like Cafta; I am not going to vote for it; and I will do whatever I can to kill it,' said . . . Reid. . . . "We are approaching a trillion-dollar trade deficit. We can't survive as a viable, strong country doing that."
Rob Portman stumps for CAFTA in a Journal op-ed and asserts that CAFTA will give the U.S. leverage to raise labor standards elsewhere.
Writes Douglas Jehl in the New York Times: "A new portrayal of John R. Bolton describes him as having so angered senior State Department officials with his public comments that the deputy secretary of state, Richard L. Armitage, ordered two years ago that Mr. Bolton be blocked from delivering speeches and testimony unless they were personally approved by Mr. Armitage." LINK
"The detailed account was provided to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by Lawrence S. Wilkerson, a longtime aide to former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell. Mr. Wilkerson said that Mr. Bolton, who was then an under secretary of state, had caused 'problems' by speaking out on North Korea, the International Atomic Energy Agency and other delicate issues in remarks that had not been properly cleared."
"'Therefore, the deputy made a decision, and communicated that decision to me, that John Bolton would not give any testimony, nor would he give any speech, that wasn't cleared first by Rich,' Mr. Wilkerson said, according to a transcript of an hourlong interview with members of the committee staff last Thursday."
"In an e-mail message on Monday, Mr. Wilkerson said of the restrictions imposed on Mr. Bolton that 'if anything, they got more stringent' as time went on. 'No one else was subjected to these tight restrictions,' he said."
Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post Notes that Wilkerson admitted surprise at the endorsement of John Bolton by former deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage, who reportedly clashed with Bolton during their tenure at State. Committee Dems are now focused primarily on the Syria allegations. LINK
The Washington Post's Steve Barr profiles Voinovich, the former Ohio governor and Cleveland mayor whose reputation focused on independence and government management before his starring role in the Bolton hearings -- or rather, their delay -- put him in the spotlight. LINK
The politics of national security:
The Washington Post's John Mintz reports that officials at the Department of Homeland Security are kicking around the idea of changing the color-coded terror threat warning system and finding other ways to help the public understand the security risks without being confusing -- including polls, focus groups, and a lengthy public education campaign. LINK
Roll Call's Kate Ackley sets up the announcement of the military bases the Pentagon is proposing to close, with the list likely to be rolled out on Friday by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, and how both lobbyists and the Hill are gearing up to react.
Bush in Europe:
President Bush engaged in "a rare moment of ceding the limelight" during the extraordinary gathering of world leaders for the Victory Day celebration in Moscow's Red Square yesterday, the Washington Post's Peter Baker and Peter Finn report. LINK
President Bush got a roaring welcome in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, and he praised the nation as an example of how citizens can claim their freedom, AP reports. LINK
These are the kind of op-eds that we bet President Bush gets to read himself:
"The Russians would like to credit the U.S. for the Rose Revolution -- It's all a Yankee conspiracy; didn't Georgia send troops to Iraq? The truth is that the U.S. never really saw the Revolution coming. The Georgians invented the conditions for their own freedom. But now that freedom is a fait accompli, the fillip of President Bush's visit may tip history irrevocably in Georgia's favor," writes Melik Kaylan in the Wall Street Journal.
"The upside of [Bill] Thomas's strategy could be the enactment of Social Security reform. The downside could be that liberals and conservatives will both attack his bill as it goes down in flames," writes The Hill's Bob Cusack in his look at the not-quite-yet-completely clear Thomas strategy. LINK
Medicaid, Medicare and the states:
"The Bush administration announced on Monday that it would start paying hospitals and doctors for providing emergency care to illegal immigrants," the New York Times' Robert Pear reports. LINK
"The money, totaling $1 billion, will be available for services provided from Tuesday through September 2008. Congress provided the money as part of the 2003 law that expanded Medicare to cover prescription drugs, but the new payments have nothing to do with the Medicare program."
"Members of Congress from border states, like Senator Jon Kyl, Republican of Arizona, had sought the money. They said the treatment of illegal immigrants imposed a huge financial burden on many hospitals, which are required to provide emergency care to patients who need it, regardless of their immigration status or ability to pay."
House of Labor:
Writes the New York Sun's tireless Josh Gerstein from Las Vegas: "Addressing a Teamsters conference here yesterday, five chiefs of major labor unions urgently called for sweeping reforms to the country's largest labor federation, the AFL-CIO, and dismissed as woefully inadequate the restructuring plan put forward by the labor group's president, John Sweeney. In a series of salty and at times profane speeches to hundreds of Teamsters officials and organizers from across the country, the dissident labor chiefs warned that the labor movement is approaching irrelevancy." LINK
The Congressional Black Caucus refuses to cut ties to Wal-Mart lobbyists and executives simply because a powerful labor union has asked it to do so, reports The Hill. LINK
The Rosen trial:
"The Justice Department case against David Rosen, national finance chairman of Hillary Clinton's 2000 Senate race, is getting stronger, increasing the odds the aide will start cooperating with the government -- which could be disastrous for the senator's ambitions," writes Dick Morris in his New York Post column. LINK
And after hashing through the Times-Picayune report from over the weekend he offers this kicker graph: "On the tape, Rosen says he spoke to then-President Bill Clinton regularly -- at least once a week -- about the campaign fund-raising. What could the president have told him that the federal prosecutors would find interesting? We may find out."
The New York Post's Ian Bishop looks at Judicial Watch's ethics complaint filing against Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton claiming she should be held responsible for any fundraising laws that may have been broken by her indicted campaign fundraiser, David Rosen. LINK
The New York Daily News' Bazinet gets some Ann Lewis reaction for his story. LINK
The Los Angeles Times' David Rosenzweig and Greg Krikorian curtain-raise the trial and explain the allegations. LINK
The Newark Star-Ledger on McCain's $$$-raising for NJ GOPers last night. LINK
"Massachusetts Senator John Kerry roamed the stage in Baton Rouge, Louisiana's state capitol, raging about the failures of Washington. All that was missing was an attack upon Mr. Kerry by the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth to transport us back to the summer of 2004. But it is the spring of 2005, and the Bay State Democrat is either still fighting the lost presidential battle of 2004 or beginning his presidential campaign for 2008. Whichever is the case is irrelevant -- it is time for Mr. Kerry to abandon the campaign trail." LINK
"Massachusetts voters have a right to feel neglected these days. Governor Mitt Romney makes Massachusetts jokes and pushes a hopeless death penalty proposal, his gaze focused on the Republican presidential race on the distant horizon. Mr. Kerry remains locked in campaign mode, like some "Twilight Zone" politician doomed to run for office forever."
"In his attacks upon Washington, Mr. Kerry is adopting a puzzling strategy that could work for a governor but not for someone who is an entrenched member of the Washington elite. In Louisiana, the senator also repeated his disagreeable habit of pandering, telling his red state audience that Massachusetts Democrats should not install a plank endorsing gay marriage in the party's platform because it would be divisive. State Democrats should ignore that advice, and Mr. Kerry would have been wiser to point out that gay marriage has proved to be anything but divisive in Massachusetts."
Former Sen. John Edwards has been traveling the country talking to groups -- Democrats and others alike -- about poverty, his new center at UNC, and the work of his One America Committee, allowing him to continue to capitalize on the theme he hammered during the 2004 campaign and to stay in touch with voters and fundraisers who would remember and help him in 2008. Today he's announcing another role for himself: party builder. Over the next few months, he will help recruit candidates to run for state legislative races and will attend fundraisers for state legislative caucuses in New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Maine, Wisconsin, Missouri, South Carolina, and Michigan. He will also be trying to raise the profile of up-and-coming Dems on his www.OneAmericaCommittee.com Web site.
Per the AP: "Gov. Bill Richardson has raised $2.9 million for his re-election during the past year, including almost a half million dollars from another political committee affiliated with the governor."
Brody Mullins, in a Wall Street Journal must-read, details the links between Citizens for Responsive Ethics in Washington and Democrats, and writes of concerns that others in the watchdog community have with some of her tactics.
"The 'Citizens' behind the group have strong partisan ties. Board members of the group, including former Clinton White House pollster Mark Penn, have contributed $340,000 to Democratic causes in the past four years and $6,000 to Republicans. Melanie Sloan, executive director of the group, is a former aide to Democratic Rep. John Conyers of Michigan and Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware."
"Indeed, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington is hardly alone when it comes to government 'watchdogs' in Washington. Since 1999, directors at the most-active government watchdogs have contributed more than $1 million to Democratic campaigns, and just a few thousand to Republican coffers."
"Ms. Sloan has pursued the House Republican leader in her two years at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics. "Since I started, the main thing I wanted to do was to go after Tom DeLay," she says. 'DeLay is my top target.'"
"Her strategy has raised questions among some of her counterparts. She 'uses different approaches and tactics at times than others do,' says Fred Wertheimer, head of Democracy 21, a Washington group that aims to curb the sway of money on politics. Mr. Wertheimer says he hasn't decided 'whether at times some of these tactics are helpful, or may be counterproductive.'
"Ms. Sloan says the group doesn't spare Democrats."
The Hill writes up Political Money Line's look at the rush to file late travel reports. LINK
"House ethics guidelines require that members file disclosure reports for most types of privately funded travel within 30 days of the trip. However, reports filed within the past few weeks corresponded to trips as far back as 2000."
The Strickland-Coleman primary match-up in the Buckeye State is now official. LINK
What does it say about Michael Coleman that everyone from Hillary Rodham Clinton to Bill Clinton is urging Strickland to run against him in the primary? LINK
Nina Easton of the Boston Globe focuses Howard Dean's words to Massachusetts politicians days before their state convention. The DNC chair said he would like to avoid a "scorched earth" gubernatorial primary which could ruin the chances of a Democrat regaining the state's top office. LINK
Democratic candidates Thomas R. Reilly and Deval Patrick have been polite up until now, but Dean still advised that candidates take the ''high-road." Dean also commented on the pending same-sex marriage platform saying, "states can work these issues out for themselves. I'm not going to tell Massachusetts Democrats what to do."
The Associated Press got hold of a memo distributed to Bill Weld's investment firm partners (on the same day he was publicly musing about a run) that said in part, "While it has always been Bill's practice 'never to say never,' Bill is not running for governor of New York or for any other office." LINK
Fred Dicker of the New York Post has some details on Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi's speech, to be delivered today, in which he is expected to seek "common ground" on abortion while he still considers the possibility of a primary run against Eliot Spitzer for the '06 Democratic gubernatorial nomination. LINK
The Los Angeles Times' Michael Finnegan reports that Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn has made large gains among white voters in the San Fernando Valley and black voters in South Los Angeles, according to the latest Times poll, but overall still lags 11 points behind challenger Antonio Villariagosa. In addition, Hahn's job-approval rating is at a record low of 38 percent. LINK
Natural tightening or something fundamental? Only time -- and a smattering of run-off voters -- will tell.
Villaraigosa's trying to widen the gap, or at least stave off further erosion, with a new ad blitz attacking Hahn's record, the Los Angeles Times' Jessica Garrison and Richard Fausset report. LINK
"The campaigns of Fernando Ferrer, a Democratic candidate for mayor, and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg clashed yesterday over Mr. Ferrer's claim that industrial jobs are being threatened by the rezoning of the North Brooklyn waterfront. The city's plans include taking over two parcels where a storage business and a fuel company now operate to create a 28-acre park with an aquatics center that is part of the Olympic bid," the New York Times' Diane Cardwell reports. LINK
"But Ferrer, who is campaigning for the Democratic nomination for mayor, was unable to point out which jobs will be lost, other than at a warehouse on the waterfront," writes Lisa Colangelo of the New York Daily News. LINK
Unlike Stu Loeser, senior Bloomberg campaign aide Bill Cunningham takes a different approach in David Seifman's New York Post story. Cunningham tries to make the development project a Democratic primary campaign issue. LINK
The New York Daily News' Saltonstall breaks down the politics involved in yesterday's battle of the badges at City Hall and Ray Kelly demonstrates he may have a future career as a political analyst. LINK
Responding to the rape and murder of a 10-year-old Cedar Rapids girl in March, Iowa Senators yanked funding from "what is being talked about as the smartest, toughest meth bill in the nation" to augment their -- now -- ultra hard-line position on sex offenders: the Des Moines Register's Lee Rood transcribes. LINK
Noelle Straub of the Boston Herald follows up on a claims that Sen. Edward Kennedy received property tax credits on his Washington home. The Senator primarily resides in Massachusetts, but apparently cashed in the tax credits in 2003 and 2004. The Senator called it an error and said he would repay the DC government. LINK
Mayor James West of Spokane, WA, said Monday he would take a few weeks of leave in order to muster his defense against allegations that he molested at least two boys and abused his office to solicit sexual relationships with young men. LINK ; LINK ; LINK
The Spokesman-Review unearths new allegations that West allegedly offered city jobs to two young men he met in a gay Internet chatroom. LINK
The New York Post's headline blares, "Sharpton Fund-Raiser Found Guilty," but it takes until the second graph to get this: "Sharpton was not implicated in the case . . . " LINK
Page Six hears that New School University board members were none too pleased with Bob Kerrey's recent flirtation with running for City Hall and will now require their president to get clearance by the board before making any future political or policy statements. LINK
Liz Smith has a few nuggets on tomorrow evening's "The Nation Honors Nancy Reagan" festivities. LINK
Note to tabloid photogs: Liz says, "BILL CLINTON sold over 1,000 books in Austin, Texas last week. He'll be in N.Y.C. tonight at a dinner of top Democrats given by former Treasury Secretary Bob Ruben."
Note to Liz's copy editors: It's "Rubin."
"Everything's big in Texas, and, if powerful Republican Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst has his way, that will soon include the state budget," a Wall Street Journal op-ed begins.
"For almost a decade now Texas has been grappling with court orders to provide 'equitable' financing for the state's school system. The Republican-controlled legislature has now interpreted this to mean that the entire tax system in Texas has to be scrapped to raise more money. That makes us as skittish as a cat near a bathtub, because Texas's status as one of only nine states without an income tax is in serious peril. Both the state Senate and House have endorsed what Mr. Dewhurst -- whose post of Lieutenant Governor is nearly as powerful as Governor in the state -- is calling a 'wage tax.'"
Who wrote President Kennedy's 1961 inaugural speech? Surely, Ted Sorensen . . . but at least one historian suggests that Kennedy himself wrote the speech's most famous line, the New York Times' busy Ed Wyatt says . . . LINK
The Washington Post's Brian Faler looks at the poll memo released yesterday by Lake Snell Perry Mermin & Associates Inc., concluding that women are beginning to vote Democratic again as their priorities shift to jobs and the economy from national security. LINK
Roll Call's new White House beat reporter, Chris Cillizza, offers up his picks for the top 10 Senate races of the past 50 years. We'd like to talk to him about the runners-up.
Evan Weiner in the DC Examiner looks at the intersection of stadium funding and local politics. LINK