The Note: The New Abnormal

WASHINGTON, May 12

NEWS SUMMARY

Brides gotta run, planes gotta stray, and cable news networks gotta find a way to fill a lot of programming hours as cheaply as possible. (CNBC gets to talk about the booming April retail sales numbers, and the NRA's television network will replay the Secretary of State on Larry King over and over.)

We say with all the genuine apolitical and non-partisan human concern that we can muster that the death and carnage in Iraq is truly staggering.

And/but we are sort of resigned to the Notion that it simply isn't going to break through to American news organizations, or, for the most part, Americans.

Democrats are so thoroughly spooked by John Kerry's loss --- and Republicans so inspired by their stay-the-course Commander in Chief --- that what is hands down the biggest story every day in the world will get almost no coverage. No conflict at home = no coverage.

Instead, think of the Bolton confirmation hearing, the Ways and Means Social Security kickoff hearing, and the evening tribute dinner for Tom DeLay (and the conservative movement) as classic Beltway set pieces, complete with (semi-)compelling casts of characters, dramatic arcs, conflicts galore, and pure unadulterated entertainment.

"Entertainment," that is, if you think, say, that debating "Resolved: Elizabeth Dole is having a better recruiting cycle to date than Chuck Schumer" is compelling.

To review the accumulated CW*:

1. Bolton will eventually be confirmed, because even if Sen. Voinovich votes "nay" in committee, the White House will find a way to get him to the floor. Sen. Dodd will out-Biden Biden at the hearing today. And Doug Jehl will go back to reading "Foreign Affairs," now that he is done excerpting ham-handedly leaked committee documents from Democratic staffers.

2. Social Security is still dead in the water. Chairman Thomas is a mercurial genius. Chairman Thomas knows how to think so far outside the box that sometimes people don't remember what box he is thinking outside of. Nothing that could win a majority of the majority in the House could get 60 votes in the Senate --- even on a secret ballot.

3. DeLay's dinner is too late for the network news evening newscasts, so it will be mostly a tree falling in the woods. DeLay is helped by all the revelations that other Members did comparable things ("everybody does it"); DeLay is hurt by all the revelations that other Members did comparable things ("get this guy out of here before more rocks get turned over"). No one has ever heard of Tom DeLay outside of Washington; DeLay is driving the Republicans congressional generic ballot number down.

So go practice in front of the mirror in your best Wolf Blitzer voice saying "In a moment, we'll take you live to Capitol Hill for all the latest," because nothing we type here will matter by the time the last glass is tickled tonight.

And all of today's action is wiped away by tomorrow's mega-cosmic base closings.

But first, as Wolf would say . . .

At 10:00 am ET, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee begins a day-long hearing to consider the nomination of John Bolton to be, ah, "U.S. Representative to the United Nations with rank of Ambassador and US Representative to the United Nations Security Council and to be U.S. Representative to Sessions of the United Nations General Assembly during his tenure of service as U.S. Representative to the United Nations."

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