The Note: The New Abnormal

Still having dreams/nightmares about the lists of donors who attended coffees and stayed overnight at the Clinton White House? Well, surprise surprise, it happens in the Bush Administration too, write USA Today's Judy Keen and Jim Drinkard. The duo point out that the list also includes family, Administration officials, and politicians. LINK

"Larry Noble of the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan watchdog group, said that while the practice of inviting donors to spend the night at the White House and the presidential retreat isn't new, it doesn't look any better than when it sparked a scandal during the Clinton administration."

Full list: LINK

As Ann Lewis would say, however, the difference is between "old" friends and "new" ones.

The politics of national security:

David Sanger of the New York Times writes up his sources' latest too-ing-and-fro-ing on whether or not the North Koreans have nukes (or nukes on the way). Note way Sanger allows one of his sources to walk back prior confirmation, all chalked up to the Hermit Kingdom's riddle-wrapped-in-an-enigma status. LINK

Nobel economist Gary Becker has a sober piece on rail safety under the headline "The Nuclear Option" and a subhead of "This is not a piece about Frist and judges."

Filibuster battles:

The Hill's boffo Alexander Bolton has a great scooplet on Sen. Frist's aides doing their best to calm conservative leaders' nerves about the timing of pulling the nuclear/constitutional option trigger. LINK

"Eric Ueland, Frist's chief of staff, and Bill Wichterman, a senior Frist aide who handles outreach to outside groups, held a conference call with about 30 conservative activist leaders to tell them that the majority leader has moved slowly and deliberately in an effort to put Republicans in a strong position heading into a showdown with Democrats, according to participants."

"The call was considered sensitive enough that Frist's staff used a scrambling device to prevent it from being recorded by participants."

Roll Call's Paul Kane reports that Sen. John McCain has become the Republican point person working with Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) on a compromise plan on the filibuster, as Sen. Trent Lott is pulling back from it. Don't miss Lott's quotes about the prospect of a deal and his role.

Roll Call's Mark Preston profiles Senate Parliamentarian Alan Frumin, a key player in how the Senate rules are interpreted and applied --- particularly in the filibuster showdown. Preston Notes how Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid looks to be trying to draw Frumin into the fight, as well as Sen. Lott's famous ambivalence about the arbiter's role.

"Not since then-Majority Leader Lott fired Robert Dove in 2001 has the Parliamentarian been drawn into such a highly publicized political fight. And the nuclear option, if it materializes, is likely to put Frumin, a career Senate staffer, in an awkward position of appearing to favor one political party over another."

The heat is being applied to both of Nebraska's senators over the filibuster fight. Check out this subtle tactic being employed in today's Lincoln Journal Star by Wendy Long, the Judicial Confirmation Network's legal counsel. LINK

"'I hope and believe Senator Hagel at the end of the day will do the right thing because it's so important to the Republican base,' Long said."

"'I grew up in New Hampshire and this is of tremendous importance to the Republican base there.'"

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