The Note: The New Abnormal

Mary Curtius and Sonni Efron of the Los Angeles Times report that Democrats say they have "overwhelming evidence" that Bolton manipulated intelligence to fit his views, tried to punish those who disagreed with him, and didn't level with Senators about his actions. Republicans said "nice try," but delaying the vote for further investigation didn't produce anything new. LINK

The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler examines the argument over Bolton's behavior and the tensions among intelligence and diplomacy at the State Department, and tries to put it in context of the, as one Clinton Administration official put it, "pretty rough game" of policymaking in Washington. LINK

The New York Times' Doug Jehl curtain raises today's hearing, with some dancing on the head of Cuba and "independent" intelligence mini-dramas. Jehl leans into likely confirmation a bit. LINK

The Indianapolis Star says Dick Lugar's patience, maligned by conservatives initially, may be what proved the key to Bolton's (eventual?) nod. LINK

Times columnist David Brooks says a fair reading of the record is all Bolton needs for confirmation. LINK

Bob Novak goes way behind the scenes into the committee's closed-door hearings without leaving his comfort zone: Cuba, Otto Reich, Chris Dodd et. al. are all stars in today's column. LINK

DeLay tribute:

Sheryl Gay Stolberg --- she of the New York Times --- focuses on the relatively few number of House Republicans who plan to attend. But really: each ticket costs $250 a piece. LINK

Sylvia Moreno of the Washington Post reports that two political associates of DeLay on Wednesday asked a Travis County judge to throw out the indictments charging them with money laundering and accepting unlawful corporate contributions in 2002. The judge set a deadline of June 27 to rule on the requests. LINK

Roll Call's John Bresnahan reports that there's another tussle on the House ethics committee --- the status of senior staffers and a new chief counsel --- which could further postpone the panel getting up and running and beginning its investigation of DeLay's travel.

Meanwhile, leaders on both sides of the aisle are thinking about restricting floor access to former members of Congress, report Roll Call's Ben Pershing and Tory Newmyer.

Bush agenda:

The Los Angeles Times' Ed Chen previews President Bush's meeting today with six Latin American leaders to discuss the Central American Free Trade Agreement, which faces opposition and Congress and could end up sandbagged by Bush's fellow Republicans. LINK

"The battle over CAFTA, as the agreement is known, illustrates the crosscurrents that swirl through Congress whenever a major trade issue surfaces, as local political imperatives often trump party loyalty. The trade controversy also underscores the pitfalls of Bush's strategy of relying on his slim majorities in Congress to enact a Republican agenda."

"Moreover, it hints at the limits to the political capital that a newly reelected Bush had claimed only six months ago, now that his job approval ratings are declining amid rising gasoline prices and the resurgent violence in Iraq."

USA Today's Dave Moniz reports that the list of base closures won't be as bad as expected. But, then, Moniz probably does not derive his income or that of his community from a base. LINK

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