WASHINGTON, May 13
Things we wouldn't bet against (but we wouldn't bet the whole farm on some of these):
Secretary Rumsfeld handling the base closing process like an old pro; Ron Brownstein's big-think, what-it-all-means Los Angeles Times analysis of the Bolton nomination (see below); either side winning the filibuster fight; Bolton being confirmed; analysis of the current state of play of the Social Security fight that stresses intra-Republican differences over partisan fights; more Abramoff stories on the way; Leader DeLay not reading the coverage of his tribute dinner; the Nebraska same-sex marriage ban strike-down being the buzz of conservative circles today.
Yesterday, we wrote about how the war in Iraq does not dominate America's media the way it might. As can happen with The Note, we didn't explain ourselves well enough. What we meant simply was that the story does not get covered in certain media quarters commensurate with its importance.
But we should have made two other points clear. First, there ARE news organizations in America (such as, we say proudly, our own ABC News) that do cover Iraq day in and day out. Second, in addition to our ongoing gratitude to the troops, everyone in this country owes a huge personal and professional debt of thanks to those journalists from all news organizations who are willing to risk their lives every day to cover this important story.
The biggest political story of this day is surely going to be the base closing list proposals. We've received more than dozen announcements of news conferences by members of Congress already. (Sen. Obama has four pressers scheduled; Rep. DeLay has one [2:15 ET at Ellington AFB], Sens. Clinton and Schumer have a conference call . . . etc.)
Here's what we know at this writing: At 9:15 am ET, Congress will be given the list of bases. At 10:30 am ET, the DoD's press conference will start. (Watch it here: LINK )
As many as 10 percent of the nation's military bases will be slated for closure. The projected savings to the Pentagon, per Bloomberg quoting Don Rumsfeld: about $48.8 billion. Lots of local stories lede with Rumsfeld's assertion that fewer bases will be BRACed than originally thought, potentially saving their own communities. The commission, which will visit all the bases, can modify the Pentagon's wish-list, but it seven votes out of nine to do so.
President Bush speaks to the National Association of Realtors at the Marriott Wardman Park at about 10:10 am ET. At 2:30 pm ET, he says hello to the 2004 NCAA spring and fall sports champions. Vice President Cheney speaks at Auburn University's commencement ceremonies at 11:00 am ET.
At 10:00 am ET, Sen. George Allen (R-VA) holds a press conference with law types to chat about the legal precedents for filibuster reform. The Senate itself finishes the highway bill (or does it?) and maybe proceeds to floor action on the Bolton nomination.
RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman today speaks at a fundraiser for Otto Banks, an Democrat-turned-Republican candidate for the city council in Harrisburg, PA.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks today on his health care initiatives at Cornell College in Mt. Vernon, IA. Tonight, Sen. John McCain delivers the commencement address at the University of Oklahoma. Tomorrow, in Tucson, Arizona, McCain speaks at the University of Arizona's commencement. And Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton does commencement honors at Agnes Scott in Decatur, Georgia. And, of course, Sen. Clinton will host a fundraiser for her reelection campaign while in town. LINK
The DNC's Commission on Presidential Nomination Timing and Scheduling, chaired by former U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman and North Carolina Rep. David Price, is scheduled to meet tomorrow at the Chicago O'Hare Hilton. The meeting will begin at 11:00 am ET and is scheduled to last through the afternoon.
On Sunday, President Bush delivers a speech at the annual peace officer's memorial service at the U.S. Capitol. His chief of staff, Andy Card, keynotes McIntosh College's graduation ceremony at the University of New Hampshire in Durham.
On ABC News' "This Week with George Stephanopoulos": Sen. John McCain and the latest news from Iraq.
The New York Times' Eric Schmitt details the SecDef's Thursday curtain-raising lowering the expectations of how big the cuts will be. LINK
Local coverage everywhere:
Detroit, MI: LINK
Fort Hamilton's future is secure, but some upstate bases are on the chopping block, reports the New York Daily News' James Gordon Meek. LINK
Randy Hascall of the Argus Leader reports that Sens. Johnson and Thune, Rep. Herseth, and Gov. Rounds will be in Rapid City for a news conference at 1:30 pm ET, and that whether or not Ellsworth Air Force Base and Air National Guard 114th Fighter Wing would be targeted for closing has been a waiting game. Rapid City Mayor Jim Shaw is talking about possible redevelopment plans if the base does close. LINK
Ruth Rendon of the Houston Chronicle speaks with those in San Antonio as they nervously await to see if their base is on BRAC list. Ten years ago the Kelly Base in San Antonio was targeted to be closed, but the city government worked with the Air Force to keep the base intact and it is still open today. < LINK
In the late 1980s and early 1990s 29 bases were closed and California residents lost more than 93,000 jobs. California has more military installations than any other state which makes it a top contender for cuts and bases that are at risk this time around have been on the chopping block before. LINK
The AP reports that workers at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, ME have mixed emotions. They just found out they have won one of the Navy's highest honors for distinguished military achievement, but are waiting to see if their base is on the DoD cut list. LINK
In North Dakota, the AP reports that many have been through base closings before and are optimistic this time around. Reporter Dave Kolpack talks to those in the area who say a base shutdown would be hard on the community, but are hopeful of the regions economy. LINK
USA Today has one editorial that says base closings aren't the end of the world for local economies, which usually find a way to make up for the losses caused, and looks at the efforts by communities to fight closures. LINK
And Sen. Ted Kennedy offers a USA Today op-ed that argues for thorough study of the kinds of bases that should and will be closed, and how those closings will affect both local communities and national security. LINK
Dave Moniz of USA Today reports that with the severe recruiting shortage, the Army has begun offering 15-month active-duty enlistments, the shortest ever -- and the recruitment outlook remains bleak. LINK
Ron Brownstein's must-read Los Angeles Times story does the bigger-picture lessons of the Bolton fight:
"All the polarizing political dynamics of George W. Bush's presidency condensed into a single illuminating episode Thursday, as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted to advance the nomination of John R. Bolton." LINK
"Like so many of Bush's initiatives, the nomination of the blustery Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations energized conservatives, outraged Democrats and squeezed moderates in both parties."
"And, as he has many times before, Bush won the legislative fight by the narrowest of margins -- maintaining just enough support from Ohio Sen. George V. Voinovich and other committee Republicans critical of Bolton to overcome uniform Democratic opposition and move the nomination to the Senate floor on a party-line vote."
"The vote demonstrated again Bush's willingness to live on the political edge -- to accept achingly narrow margins in Congress and at the ballot box to pursue ambitious changes that sharply divide the country."
" . . . Thursday's committee vote underscores the powerful impulse among most congressional Republicans to side with the president, even when he pushes ideas beyond their ideological comfort zone."
Doug Jehl of the New York Times has Sen. Barbara Boxer placing a hold on the nomination, and some surface tick tock of the Lugar-Voinovich talks that led to the vote. LINK
The Wall Street Journal's Dreazen and Cummings raise the idea of a Democratic filibuster pretty straight-forwardly, and speculate about the cross-over votes on both sides.
Bloomberg's St. Onge and Zacharia quote a senior Democratic aide as saying a filibuster is unlikely.
The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler seems to buy the Administration's preliminary vote count, in a story that names some Democrats who might vote for the nominee, and/but says a filibuster is unlikely by a party worried about the "obstructionist" label. LINK
The Los Angeles Times' Efron and Curtius say simply (and perhaps prematurely), "A Republican majority in the Senate is expected to confirm him as early as next week." LINK
The Boston Globe's Farah Stockman seems unsure where the votes are. LINK
Colorful Dana Milbank fills the Washington Post with football metaphors from Sens. Allen and Biden, two men who each looks in the mirror and see a president. LINK
In short, last night's tribute dinner to Leader DeLay was well done and seemed to serve its purpose.
The highlight of the night, from The Note's perspective, was the story of Ena Feinberg of Boston, who described how DeLay and his wife Christine adopted her Russian "refusenik" family and worked tirelessly in the mid 1980s to convince the Russian government to secure exit visas for them.
DeLay's quip upon taking the microphone: "I love Ina Feinberg dearly, but now she's given the press another trip to write about."
(There were no golf courses in Moscow during that time, DeLay Noted.)
Celebrity sightings include Bud Paxon and Susan Molinari; Frank Gaffney and James Guckert, heads together in a serious conversation; RNC chairman Ken Mehlman looking slightly uncomfortable as Morton Blackwell repeatedly called Nancy Pelosi a "San Francisco socialist"; Phyllis Schlafly telling DeLay he should be glad he wasn't Ann Coulter; Bob Novak looking slim and healthy; and Roy Blunt, being sufficiently self-deprecating.
The protests outside were lackluster. The attendees inside -- a bit more than 900 of them -- gave DeLay three standing ovations. We would describe the crowd as enthusiastic but sober.
DeLay's speech was steady and passionate; he seemed to grow angry only once, when describing how Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid called President Bush a "loser." (Reid has since apologized.)
Anne Kornblut of the New York Times wondered why there were so many empty seats at Grover Norquist's table, and where Grover himself was, since he was absent from the dais. LINK
(We saw him in the lobby for the pre-party, meeting and greeting old friends.)
Democrats have no ideas and "no class," DeLay said last night, per AP. LINK
The Washington Post's Mark Leibovich has this: "At various points, the New York Times, The Washington Post, Dan Rather, Frank Rich and Bob Woodward were singled out and duly hissed, to varying degrees, by the audience." LINK
The Los Angeles Times' Tom Hamburger has the precise guest count (912) and this: "Despite the tough talk, a significant portion of the evening, broadcast on the C-SPAN cable-TV network and well attended by reporters, was designed to present a softer impression of DeLay, whose tactics earned him the nickname 'the Hammer.'" LINK
Reports Bloomberg's Jonathan Salant: "House Majority Leader Tom DeLay gave more money to U.S. congressional candidates than any lawmaker in the last decade. That investment may now be paying off as Republican colleagues stick by him in the face of ethics questions."
Mike Kranish of the Boston Globe establishes that (1) the President of the United States met with Native Americans who were the tribal clients of Grover Norquist on several occasions; (2) Grover has earned a lot of moolah from tribes; and, (3) Grover sent some money from an Indian tribe to an anti-gaming initiative. Kranish seems to see problems here with this; Grover does not. LINK
Phil Shenon of the New York Times widens the Abramoff circle to include Democrat and Bushman Brian Lunde and Democrat lobbyist Lottie Shackleford, who both says they did nothing wrong and don't know Jack. LINK
The politics of national security:
The Wall Street Journal's Murray Hiebert looks at religious conservatives in the United States and their interest in the North Korea issue.
Filibuster battles and the judiciary, part I:
Writes Kevin O'Hanlon of the AP: "Nebraska's ban on gay marriage was struck down by a federal judge who ruled the measure interferes with the rights of gay couples and people in a host of other living arrangements, including foster parents and adopted children. The constitutional amendment, which defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman, was passed overwhelmingly by the voters in November 2000." U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Batailon refused to hold up a law he felt severely diminished the rights of gays, banning them from many of the benefits allowed for heterosexual partners, such as health insurance. LINK
Dr. James Dobson responded in a statement:
"Today's ruling marks the first time a marriage-protection amendment has been overthrown by the whim of a federal judicial tyrant. In the guise of 'equal protection,' Judge Joseph Bataillon has single-handedly rejected the will of 70 percent of Nebraska's voters, who amended their state constitution in 2000 to protect the traditional definition of marriage. But to argue that supporters of same-sex marriage are disenfranchised by the amendment is ludicrous; they have every right to undertake the amendment process themselves and get a different measure passed -- that's the way democracy is designed to work."
"I call on the members of Congress to act without delay to send a marriage-protection amendment to the states for ratification – our government 'of the people, by the people, for the people' demands nothing less. Either marriage will be enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, or we will see an untenable patchwork of marriage definitions, forever subject to the federal judiciary."
Filibuster battles and the judiciary, part II:
The Los Angeles Times' cagey Maura Reynolds reports with an air of exclusivity:
"Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) reported progress on a compromise under which six Republican senators and six Democrats -- enough to deny either party a majority -- would band together to stop a showdown over the filibuster by refusing to vote with their side." LINK
"The Democrats would pledge to vote with Republicans to end any judicial filibusters. The Republicans would pledge to vote against banning the filibuster for judicial nominees."
"Nelson spokesman David DiMartino said that if the agreement was reached, GOP Senate leaders would be told that they did not "'ave the votes for the "nuclear option,"' and Democratic leaders would be informed that they did not 'have the votes to maintain the filibuster, except in extreme cases.'"
"Nelson's discussions are taking place with Frist's blessing, even though the GOP leader has said he is unwilling to accept any compromise that leaves open the possibility of a Democratic filibuster of future judicial nominations, especially one for the Supreme Court."
The New York Times Carl Hulse and Nick Lewis have the day's wrangling, highlighted by the Frist-Reid floor show. LINK
The Washington Post's Fletcher and Babington have this little thing that will make the staff of the Leader/Sen./Dr. crazy: "A Democratic activist with close ties to senators said Reid's strategy is 'simply to make Frist look rigid and extreme and unwilling to deal on any level.'" LINK
People for the American Way launches their "closing ads" on the filibuster fight starting this Sunday, alleging that "The Constitution is under attack by the Radical Right," who "want to trigger the nuclear option, destroy the 200-year-old filibuster, sweep away our constitutional checks and balances."
PFAW is boosting their spending significantly for next week and targeting Senators in Pennsylvania, Alaska, and Maine. These are in addition to the spots that are already up in several target states, Washington, DC, and national cable.
The Washington Times' Charles Hurt writes an article about how Harry Reid mentioned the confidential FBI file of a judicial nominee yesterday . . . LINK
But so did Hurt, in June of 2004. (Hat tip: Daily Kos.) LINK
The New York Times' Robin Toner says the first Ways and Means hearing on Social Security showed committee members engaged in partisan ways and being mean. LINK
The Los Angeles Times' Joel Havemann plays up the partisan fighting too. LINK
But the Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman plays up the divisions in GOP ranks keying of the hearing and highlights these two nuggets:
"And for the first time, Rep. E. Clay Shaw Jr. (R-Fla.) suggested that Congress be satisfied with ensuring Social Security's solvency for 40 or 50 years, rebuffing Bush's demand for a permanent fix . . . " LINK
"On Wednesday, White House National Economic Council Director Allan B. Hubbard told the Associated Press that Bush's benefit plan would cut promised survivor benefits for middle- and upper-income children and widows in the future, although he said those cuts may be made up in investment gains from private accounts."
The Wall Street Journal's Jackie Calmes looks at the tea leaves suggesting that Republicans in Congress might start to support raising the retirement age.
Jane Norman of the Des Moines Register also writes of the ruminations in Congress on whether to raise the retirement age and the general state of things. LINK
Per Norman: Eugene Steuerle of the Urban Institute suggests it would be wise to "increase the early and normal retirement age, even if there were no shortfall in Social Security." House Ways and Means Committee Chair Bill Thomas harbors some doubts -- feeling that working longer could be grueling for workers whose employment is primarily physical in nature. Sen. Chuck Grassley, acknowledging there is some popularity for such a measure among Iowans, believes that such a move would slow, but not plug, the swelling leak of Social Security funds. Nonetheless, Grassley is ready to get to work on Social Security. "I'm about to write a bill," he said. "If we don't write a bill for eight or nine months it's going to be eight or nine years."
Holly Rosenkrantz and Craig Torres of Bloomberg News delve into the Cheney/Greenspan friendship and ponder the role the Vice President will play in choosing the Fed Chairman's successor. (Answer: A "central" one.) Check out this insta-classic lede: "Only one guest attended both Alan Greenspan's 50th birthday party and his 75th: Vice President Dick Cheney."
The Bloomberg duo sizes up the contenders as well: "Ben Bernanke, Martin Feldstein, and R. Glenn Hubbard topped the list of people Bush is most likely to choose for the chairmanship in a survey of 87 Wall Street professionals" with Bernanke garnering more than half the votes.
Big casino budget politics:
In a New York Times op-ed, Bob Rubin sleekly presents the pressing threat of the federal deficit, and calmly offers his Op on how to handle the problem, regarding taxes, Medicare, and Social Security. LINK
Pardon our yawning and gnashing: Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes one of those New York Times "Ode to the Senate's Moderate Republicans" that makes those conservatives looking to criticize the tone of the paper feel they have good cause. LINK
USA Today's Judy Keen looks at the struggle for privacy by President Bush and his predecessors, and the inevitable battle between personal and public lives for politicians. LINK
The Rosen trial:
In a droll account, The New York Times' Leslie Eaton covers the testimony of self-proclaimed "dear" FOB and Rosen mentee James Levin in the David Rosen trial. Eaton captures yesterday's "Perry Mason moment" (the witness and the defense lawyer met at Rosen's wedding), Levin's assertion that "Mr. Rosen had told him that 'The cost of this event will never be the cost of this event - meaning we will never admit how much we had spent;'" Levin's go-go bar; the apparent dullness (to dozing and impatient jurors) of the definitions of soft money and hard money; and the non-definition of the non-word "experlative," which apparently required translation from the judge. LINK
The New York Sun's underpaid Josh Gerstein has Thursday's developments, including the Rosen nuptials and David Kendall's no comment. LINK
The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire blares: "2008 White House hopefuls hit the graduation-speech circuit. Sen. Clinton addresses Agnes Scott College in Georgia this weekend, while New Mexico Gov. Richardson speaks at Suffolk University in Boston this month. Among Republicans, Sen. McCain addresses the University of Oklahoma today, and Rudy Giuliani talks to Maryland's Loyola College next week."
Who is the first reporter to ask Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton about the McCain-Kennedy temporary worker bill? (We received a blast e-mail from Tom Tancredo late last night. Suffice it to say, he is not a supporter.)
NB: Sen. Sam Brownback is a co-sponsor.
Bret Hayworth of the Sioux City Journal writes that former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich would like to see a shift in the conversation of politicians and government officials in years to come. Maintaining that the "Contract with America" proved beneficial, he foresees a King in the future of conservative politics -- Rep. Steve King, that is -- the Iowan now at the helm of the Conservative Opportunity Society in the U.S. House of Representatives, an organization that Gingrich helped found and chaired. Not wishing to estrange any potential supporters during his conversation with the editorial board, Gingrich diplomatically "said he didn't think national politics are overly polarized or 'poisoned' in 2005, but that distinct differences between the views of Democrats and Republicans have brought things to the current point." Gingrich gave props to Pres. Bush for taking on Social Security, but feels he should chew a little slower and just worry about private accounts. LINK
Tm Beaumont writes sweepingly in the Des Moines Register:
Carl Levin might not like it, but there are those who claim openly, "observers say, as some [DNC nominating] commission members do privately, that it's unlikely Iowa and New Hampshire will lose their coveted positions as the first major nominating contests in 2008." This will brighten many an Iowan's day, as the state relies heavily on the revenue from campaigning in addition to priding themselves on their specially-timed caucus and the political prestige it carries. LINK
Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack was in Boston and Scot Lehigh of the Boston Globe got an interview and the full "corn matters/competitiveness matters/I just want to be helpful to my party" spiel. LINK
Ray Hernandez gets prime New York Times real estate to make a second-day stab at putting more meat on the bones of the Hillary Clinton/Newt Gingrich amity, exclaiming "Mr. Gingrich has been talking up Mrs. Clinton's presidential prospects in 2008, to the chagrin of conservative loyalists who once regarded him as a heroic figure" and Noting "For Ms. Clinton, standing side by side with her husband's onetime nemesis gives her the chance to burnish her credentials among the moderates she has been courting during her time in the Senate." LINK
Hernandez dips into the similarities the two share, despite their contentious past, including like-mindedness on health care and national defense, and lets Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf explain the connection: "It's mutually beneficial…He gets to appear to be a mainstream figure and she gets to appear as someone who is willing to work with everyone, no matter their ideology."
Sen. John Edwards is the commencement speaker at the Wayne State law school this weekend. LINK
The New York Times' Jennifer Steinhauer coolly observes Gov. Pataki's "pains to portray the situation downtown as one that has moved from a dreaming and planning process to active construction" after being "on the hot seat in recent weeks over the stalled progress at the site." Steinhauer details Pataki's appointment of James Kallstrom to oversee security at the WTC site, his intimation that the role of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation will be scaled back, his promise of financial packages, and his pleading tap-dance to piqued Goldman Sachs executives. LINK
Correction: Boston Globe Pulitzer Prize winner Gareth Cook did indeed interview Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney about stem cells Wednesday. We implied he had not, and we regret the error.
The Los Angeles Times' Carla Hall presents a lengthy, lively piece about the four "quintessential political junkies so well-known that, like 'J.Lo' and 'Britney,' people refer to them by single monikers: Ace, Parke, Kam and Carrick, asking "So what are they doing that's so valuable the candidates pay them hefty fees for less than a year's work? And hire them again, even when they lose?" Asserting that Ace Smith, Parke Skelton, Kam Kuwata, and Bill Carrick are in the game for the personal/professional victory as well as for the victory of their various candidates, Hall offers up nifty little portraits of each fella. LINK
Lloyd Grove has "gossipy politicos" speculating that the meet-and-greet Clinton/Podesta pal Clyde Williams hosted for Mayor Bloomberg was an anticipatory trade for an eventual Bloomberg endorsement for HRC 2008. LINK
In a major booking coup, the first wide-ranging televised debate (or as the candidates likely prefer; "forum," "discussion," or "meeting") is set to take place in the Democratic primary for mayor. All four Democrats will join WCBS-TV's Andrew Kirtzman for his feared and admired grilling at this morning's taping of "Kirtzman & Company." The exchange of ideas (and perhaps a few barbs) will be broadcast on Sunday morning at 11:00 AM ET. Don't fret, you'll be able to read all about it in your Saturday papers as the press corps has been invited to attend the taping.
In his New York Post column, Stefan Friedman reports some grumbling from within Gifford Miller's camp about spending too much of his campaign money this early in the contest. LINK
On Gifford Miller's proposal to reinstate a commuter tax and halt all MTA expansion projects until the current system is up to snuff, the New York Daily News' Maggie Haberman ledes thusly: "Struggling to gain traction in the mayor's race, Democrat Gifford Miller took on two familiar issues yesterday - but did so with a twist." LINK
Democrat Tim Kaine tries to burnish his Southwest Virginia credentials with a new radio ad. His opponent, Jerry Kilgore, calls it damage control. LINK
Jonathan Singer interviews Phil Angelides, who compares Arnold Schwarzenegger to Jesse Ventura. LINK
The New York Times' Pat Healy plays up the Pirro speculation for 2006 and first identifies Ken Mehlman as the Bush 2004 campaign manager before getting to his current job title. LINK
. Karl Rove is also on the bandwagon.
Free Matt Cooper:
We missed it yesterday, but don't make the same mistake of not catching Jack Shafer's piece in Slate, where he assesses the petition before the Supreme Court drafted by former Solicitor General Theodore Olson, accompanied by counsel of record Miguel Estrada, which asks the justices to review a lower court's decision ordering Cooper to name his confidential sources. Shafer argues that this tack is smart because it avoids asking them to rethink the precedent about reporter privilege set by Branzburg v. Hayes in 1972, and avoids the argument that journalists have an absolute privilege to keep their sources confidential. LINK
"Quite smartly, it asks the Supreme Court to review several precedents that suggest it's a violation of the Constitution's guarantee of due process to imprison a witness for contempt of court based on secret evidence that only the judge and the prosecutor know about. 'Even in cases involving classified information that directly implicates national security -- such as enemy combatant cases -- the government has made this information available to defendants or their security-cleared counsel,' the lawyers argue."