WASHINGTON, May 20
If you want to attend the Gang of 500 brunch this Sunday at Lauriol Plaza, here's what you need to bring:
-- a well-honed appreciation for thumb-sucking about Senate traditions, including a love for the themes of generational change, pan-regional alliances, staff expertise, and the virtues of bipartisan deals. (Basically, you need to be -- or be able to channel -- David Rogers.)
-- a certitude that the President can't possibly find a way to pass Social Security reform with personal/private accounts. (Unless he does.)
-- a longing for the mythical Washington of yesteryear. (At a strength that, at a minimum, rivals Norm Ornstein's.)
-- no fewer than 200 words of your best Howard Fineman imitation explaining the cosmic significance of Bill Frist's trip to South Carolina today. (Hint: the first thirteen words should be "To win the nomination, Frist has got to be the candidate of the . . . ")
-- your own annotated copy of the DNC's aggressive Thursday press release attacking Bob Novak for attacking Howard Dean and an essay assessing the quality of points made by Novak's original piece and then the release.
-- a vague understanding of, and familiarity with, the issues in the David Rosen trial, and a sense of the odds that he will be convicted on at least one count. (6-1, if you are wondering.)
-- a belief that The Note's bond with its readers can be measured by the sheer number of filibuster haiku we received. (To say nothing -- we repeat -- nothing about the quality . . . )
-- a strongly held view about whether the President is more likely to have to veto the cloning bill or the highway bill. (The answer, we bet, is neither.)
-- a certainty that many momentous things are happening in politics and government while everyone is distracted by the filibuster battle. (We will reveal them next week in this space, but -- hint -- the Deputy Chief of Staff at the White House already knows what they are.)
With no sign of a filibuster compromise breakthrough -- and the talks seemingly on hold for the weekend, except for some phone work -- you have plenty of time to master the list above and make your brunch reservation now.
Today's schedule is surprisingly meaty.
President Bush delivered remarks at the 2nd annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast at 8:30 am ET. He meets with Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen in the Oval Office at 10:55 am ET, and meets with Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis at 1:15 pm ET.
Karamanlis meets with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar (R-IN) at 9:30 am ET, and with Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-MD) at 11:05 am ET.
First Lady Laura Bush arrives in Jordan. She travels to Israel on Sunday, where she will meet with the wife of Israeli President Moshe Katsav. In Cairo on Monday, she will meet with the wife of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist delivers the commencement address at the University of South Carolina medical school at 9:00 am ET
The National Clergy Council and the Christian Defense Coalition hold a news conference on the "misuse of the filibuster" at 10:00 am ET.
Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) speaks to the NARAL Pro-Choice America Summit at 10:00 am ET.
Reps. Dave Weldon, Charles Boustany, and Michael Burgess hold a news conference on alternatives to stem cell research at 11:30 am ET.
At 8:50 am ET, Treasury Secretary John Snow delivered remarks at the American Bar Association taxation meeting.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales delivers remarks at a National Missing Children's Day awards ceremony at an event held to honor law enforcement officers and citizens at 11:00 am ET. At 1:00 pm ET, he addresses a National Press Club luncheon about his first 100 days in office.
At 1:00 pm ET, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff delivers the keynote address at the Rutgers University law school commencement in Camden, NJ.
NRSC chair/Sen. Elizabeth Dole and Sen. Chuck Hagel attend a fundraiser for Nebraska Republicans in Omaha tonight -- the 2005 Founders Day reception.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger holds a fundraiser in Tampa Bay today, and events tomorrow in Miami and Orlando to raise cash for his ballot battle against Democratic lawmakers in California. Gov. Jeb Bush will join him, reports the Orlando Sentinel. LINK
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani delivers the commencement addresses at Loyola College in Baltimore, MD on Saturday. He delivers the commencement address at Middlebury College (VT) on Sunday.
On Saturday, the President heads to Grand Rapids, MI to deliver the commencement address at Calvin College. He attends the White House News Photographers' Association gala in Washington, DC in the evening.
Former DHS Secretary Tom Ridge will be the keynote speaker at Lafayette College's commencement in Easton, PA, on Saturday.
"This Week with George Stephanopoulos" will recap the filibuster fracas and look toward the showdown to come, and will also feature two views of the stem cell debate from Dana Reeve, widow of Christopher Reeve and Evangelist Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of the Rev. Billy Graham.
On Sunday evening, RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman and DNC Chairman Howard Dean (who Meets the Press on Sunday morning) address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee annual Policy Conference.
The filibuster fight:
The Washington Post's Dan Balz offers a brilliant must-read of the "story so far" ilk that lays out the extraordinary position that the Group of 12 finds themselves in as they attempt to negotiate a deal to stave off the filibuster rules change -- avec exceptional power to affect what the Senate can accomplish, completely independent from their respective parties' leadership. The nuances and fly-on-the wall-plus-30,000-foot perspective makes it obvious that Balz had many sources, but he makes good use of the narrative rather than citing too many of them. LINK
"In an era of polarized politics, in which party and congressional leaders have been increasingly responsive to their most ideologically driven activists, the bipartisan band of senators has attempted to steer a different course. Behind closed doors, they have tested whether it is possible to find language to codify the principles of trust and goodwill at a time when little of either is left in the political system."
"The senators involved have found it difficult to overcome deep-seated differences and suspicions that now govern the relationship between Republicans and Democrats. But they have acted with the knowledge that, if they strike a compromise, they alone have the power to control events from here forward in the battle over judicial nominees and the change in Senate rules that has come to be known as the 'nuclear option.' That, in the estimation of congressional analysts, has made their efforts almost without precedent in the legislative branch."
". . . Simple arithmetic gives the group potentially great power. If six Republicans and six Democrats reach agreement and stick to it, they can shut down any filibuster lodged by Democrats against a judicial nominee and block any effort by Frist to change the rules. They also can determine the fate of the nominees already on the Senate docket and can provide the balance of power in any fights over Supreme Court vacancies."
Robin Toner in the New York Times big-thinks the way polarization and partisanship are recooking the Senate's staid stew. Yes, the Senators of an earlier class, like Warner and Specter, are the ones most likely to seek a compromise, and the younger stalwarts fed on the spicy broth of House fights aren't concerned with "process worship," as ex-Gov. George Allen calls it. LINK
But "In fact, activists on both sides say it is not surprising that political passions are so intense -- what could be more fundamental than the shape of the courts, and eventually the shape of the Supreme Court? And why should the Senate be immune to the same sharp divisions that dominate the rest of American politics and have turned liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats into endangered species?"
Jeanne Cummings and David Rogers write in the Wall Street Journal that Sen. Robert Byrd is now leading Democratic negotiations and may bring in Sen. Daniel Inouye . . . . but Sen. Joe Lieberman appears to have "dropped out."
The New York Times' Sheryl Gay Stolberg has great insider-y details of the Senate Republican leadership's wargaming the fi . . sorry, that's peacegaming, the filibuster fight and mini profiles of the aides who are the center of the universe, from Frist consultant Martin Gold to Reid counsel Kevin Kayes to Frist COS Eric Ueland to someone named Stephanie Cutter. LINK
"No one doubts that President Bush is following the events on Capitol Hill closely," writes Carl Hulse in the New York Times. "When a presidential spokesman, Trent Duffy, was asked today whether Mr. Bush was worried that the fight over judgeships would detract attention from his other goals, like revamping Social Security, he responded somewhat indirectly." LINK
"'The president feels that the nominees that he has selected for the federal bench deserve an up or down vote,' Mr. Duffy said Aboard Air Force One, as Mr. Bush was traveling to Milwaukee. 'But he also strongly believes that Congress can do other things in the meantime.'"
The filibuster fight: news of day:
The Washington Post's Dana Milbank plays it relatively straight recounting both the rhetorical fireworks and just plain rhetorical "Star Wars" silliness yesterday. LINK
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recaps the rhetorical Hitler history in the debate over judges and has Sen. Santorum clarifying his remarks. LINK
"In early March, Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W. Va., linked the threat by Republicans to use the majority to bar judicial filibusters to the Nazi's use of majority power to push through their agenda in the 1930s."
"Santorum called on Byrd to retract his remarks at that time, stating that the words lessened 'the credibility of the senator and the decorum of the Senate' and that he should ask for pardon."
"Santorum issued his own clarification yesterday evening, stating that the reference to Hitler was 'meant to dramatize the principle of an argument, not to characterize my Democratic colleagues.'"
"'My point was that it is preposterous for someone to trample a well-established principle, and then accuse his opponents of acting unlawfully when they try to reestablish that principle,' Santorum said. 'Nevertheless, it was a mistake and I meant no offense.'"
The filibuster fight: the judges:
USA Today's Joan Biskupic takes her paper's looks at the differing styles of Judges Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown. LINK
This Washington Times article about the White House and SCOTUS is sort of interesting, but it misidentifies the solicitor general (it ain't Mr. Olson anymore). Three names conservatives have recommended to the White House are McConnell, Alito and Hollan Jones. LINK
Overlooked, perhaps, by the Pozen pronouncement on personal retirement accounts -- he thinks they're polarizing debate -- is what makes it into the New York Times: "This was one of two blows during the day to Mr. Bush's policies on Social Security and retirement saving. In the House, Representative Bill Thomas, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, disregarded the methods favored by the president to encourage workers to save for retirement -- mostly tax incentives for the affluent -- and offered completely different proposals of his own." LINK
But a Dick Stevenson article quotes Michael Tanner as saying the shift to the House is a good thing, potentially, since the Senate has judges on the brain.
More White House wine-tasting from Stevenson: "Congressional aides and people who have discussed the issue with administration officials said top Republicans recognized that partisan rancor and Democratic threats to slow the Senate's business to a crawl could make the already tense climate less conducive to a deal on Social Security." LINK
"Still, those people said, Mr. Bush is committed to a fight over judicial nominees, on principle and because he is intent on making sure that Democrats cannot use the filibuster to block a Supreme Court nomination. Despite the obvious risks to his agenda, they said, the president and his aides believe that public opinion will not allow Democrats to block legislation on issues of concern to voters, including Social Security and high energy prices."
The Washington Post's Peter Baker traveled with President Bush to the champagne of Midwestern cities yesterday for the "78th day of a 60-day roadshow" on Social Security that "has the feel of a past-its-prime Broadway production that has been held over while other, newer shows steal the spotlight" -- and hasn't managed to move poll numbers or make much headway in convincing the public, though it has to some degree begun to fade in terms of media interest. LINK
Note to White House officials of all stripes: Baker watches your every move.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Greg Borowski Notes the protesters outside the event as well. LINK
The Los Angeles Times' Warren Vieth looks at a memo to an outside group, Women Impacting Public Policy, that outlines how the President's Social Security event that they're sponsoring should be staged -- including very specific instructions on the kind of people (in this case, young workers) who the President should meet. LINK
Stem cell politics:
On the Washington Post's front page, Rick Weiss details the report from South Korean scientists that they have created nearly a dozen cloned human embryos and have isolated stem cells with the potential to replace failing tissues in the patients with whom they are genetic copies -- an experiment sure to play a role in the ongoing House argument and upcoming House vote to loosen the restrictions President Bush placed on federal funding for stem cell research in 2001. LINK
The Wysocki Jr./Cooper duo in the Wall Street Journal apply the newspaper's focusing lens to stem cells and the potential quandary faced by President Bush if the Hatch-backed stem cell bill passes both chambers of Congress.
"Most likely, say some Republican strategists, is approval by both the House and the Senate, followed by a conference committee where the White House becomes engaged in the process and a compromise gets worked out to satisfy all sides. They point to campaign-finance reform as a possible roadmap. Like the stem-cell issue, campaign-finance reform divided moderate and conservative Republicans. After President Bush repeatedly said he would veto the bill, he ultimately signed a version of the legislation in March 2002, angering some conservatives in his party."
"Some conservative Republican members of Congress, while opposing the use of embryonic stem cells, are promoting the expanded use of adult stem cells and of umbilical-cord-blood stem cells, which they say have more scientific promise than the embryonic kind and pose none of the religious and ethical problems of embryonic cells."
The Boston Globe reports that state lawmakers have rejected Gov. Mitt Romney's proposed modifications to the Massachusetts stem cell bill and have placed it back on his desk for a signature. A Romney spokesman said he would veto bill, but both the House and Senate have majorities that will likely override him. LINK
"U.S. officials are taking a more central and visible role in mediating among political factions, pushing for the government to be more inclusive and helping resuscitate public services. At the same time, Washington is maintaining pressure on Iraqi officials to upgrade the nation's fledgling security forces," the Los Angeles Times' Paul Richter and Ashraf Khalil report, as the scaling back that the Bush Administration tried to do before and after the Iraqi election isn't proving effective in the face of a re-escalating insurgency. LINK
A potential compromise on women in combat? "Women may continue to serve in Army units supporting ground combat forces under legislation approved early Thursday by the House Armed Services Committee, but the Pentagon would need congressional approval to open any additional jobs to women in combat zone," writes Thom Shanker in the New York Times. LINK
The New York Times' Tim Golden investigates the death of a detainee at Bagram Collection Point in 2002. LINK
Washington Wire has a wealth of poll data, including "The administration idea of letting illegal immigrants apply for temporary-worker status draws 41% support from liberals, but just 34% from conservatives. Small-town and rural voters are especially negative, with two-thirds opposed."
EPA chief to Congress: 5 percent reduction in our budget is just fine, thank you. LINK
"The Bush administration has backed legislation that could substantially reduce Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's investment holdings, part of an accelerating push to shrink the size and influence of the mortgage companies," reports the Washington Post's Annys Shin. LINK
AP reports that President Bush will head to Gleneagles, Scotland for the July 6-8 meetings with leaders from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United Kingdom to discuss economic, political and security issues. LINK
ABC News' Ann Compton reports that First Lady Laura Bush, on the flight to her refueling stop in Shannon, Ireland, said her speeches on this Middle East trip would focus primarily on children, women, and women' rights in the Middle East, and addressed the problems with the United States' image abroad: "We've had terrible happenings that have really really hurt our image in the United States they are very atypical. They're not any sort of typical thing from the United States."
On the Newsweek retraction, Compton reports, she said, "In the United States if there is a terrible report people don't riot and kill people." She continued ". . . can't blame it all on Newsweek but at the same time it was irresponsible and that's too bad."
Mrs. Bush also talked briefly about the upcoming elections in Egypt and the prospect of peace between the Israelis and Palestinians: "I really truly believe that we're as close as we've ever been to peace."
"John Bolton's prospects of being confirmed by the Senate as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations appear strong at this time with at least four Democrats saying they might support him and only one Republican saying he'll vote against," writes Bloomberg's Janine Zacharia.
"Republican George Voinovich of Ohio, whose opposition cost Bolton the recommendation of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he'll vote no. Democrats Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Mark Pryor of Arkansas are all considering voting for Bolton, according to aides."
Zacharia is sure to include this caveat: " . . . although it's not clear when a vote will be held and whether minds might change as a result of the parties' bitter dispute over President George W. Bush's judicial nominees and Democrats' option to filibuster."
"An interim federal audit of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's (R-Tex.) principal fundraising committee has found that the group engaged in some inappropriate accounting of receipts and expenditures, prompting it to revise all campaign reports for 2001 and 2002, according to a knowledgeable government official and public records," the Washington Post's R. Jeffrey Smith and Derek Willis report, and get Jan Baran to weigh in on what Americans for a Republican Majority reported wrong. The new listing of a $121,456 debt from ARMPAC's campaign account to a different account that took in unregulated money in 2001 and 2002 "evidently means that ARMPAC improperly used unregulated campaign contributions to finance certain expenses during those years and now must pay that sum back to comply with the rules," he said. LINK
The Houston Chronicle reports that the Texas Republican Party has called on county prosecutor Ronnie Earle to resign from his state job. The call came after Earle spoke at a local fundraiser calling Tom DeLay a "bully." Earle has been the attorney prosecuting members of a PAC group founded by Tom DeLay for fundraising abuses. LINK
House of Labor:
Business Week's Aaron Bernstein cuts to the chase and writes that "Five unions that want to unseat AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney are considering leaving the federation should he win reelection when his term expires in July, BusinessWeek has learned."
"Those unions, which account for roughly 40% of AFL-CIO membership, include the Service Employees, the Teamsters, the Food & Commercial Workers, the Laborers, and UNITE HERE, the needletrades group."
We think the word "consider" is a bit too strong for the UFCW and Teamsters and Laborers, and perhaps even for UniteHere, though folks in all of these unions have begun to think about, as Bernstein reports, how to get along in a world where they weren't part of the AFL-CIO.
And it is certainly more likely now that if Stern leaves the AFL-CIO, he may have company.
RNC v. DNC:
USA Today's Jill Lawrence reads the tea leaves -- or in this case, the itineraries -- of RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman and DNC Chairman Howard Dean and excellently tells the tale of two parties' missions: for the Democrats, secure and rally the base (and Noting that Dems do not yet have a political director); for the Republicans, go on a hunt for new segments of the population to add to theirs. For our money, a Dowd v. Jordan quote faceoff is a great way to start the day. LINK
The New York Post editorial board takes a whack at Howard Dean prior to his Sunday TV gig. LINK
Democrats have to get their act together for the transforming moment when their role needs to turn from the politics of "no" to the politics of "yes" -- which includes actually understanding what they'd be saying "yes" to, writes the Washington Post's E.J. Dionne. LINK
The Rosen trial:
But Cher DID sing!
Leslie Eaton is fast becoming a household name (almost Gersteinian!) in her coverage of the David Rosen trial:
"For all the flamboyant figures swirling around the criminal trial of Hillary Rodham Clinton's former chief fund-raiser, the most damaging testimony against him may well have come from a tiny woman in Mary Janes who had the manner of a high school accounting teacher." LINK
"Her name is Whitney W. Burns, and she took the stand for the prosecution on Thursday . . . ."
"The prosecution has said that Mr. Rosen had hoped that underreporting the fund-raiser's cost would help Mrs. Clinton's campaign or his own career. As Ms. Burns walked jurors through various budgets for the event, she said that shortly before the Aug. 12, 2000, gala, Mr. Rosen told her that the expenses had dropped by about $100,000."
"Mr. Rosen, she said, had an explanation -- an explanation that was untrue, according to other evidence presented to the jury."
"When pressed by prosecutors about the reason for the falling expenses, Ms. Burns said that Mr. Rosen 'mentioned that Cher had dropped out and there wouldn't be any expenses for her band.'"
"But Cher did perform at the gala -- the jurors have seen a DVD of her with crimped hair and silvery clothes, singing two numbers. They have also heard testimony that more than $31,000 was spent on a private plane that Cher and her entourage shared with another musical group."
The New York Sun's Josh Gerstein has more details of the testimony from "the bookish" Ms. Burns. LINK
The Los Angeles Times' David Rosenzweig has details of Raymond Reggie's testimony yesterday. LINK
Kelly Craighead is fast becoming the front-runner for best supporting role in the Rosen trial. The New York Post's Ken Lovett reports of an alleged "hissy fit" Craighead threw over the high costs of the event, which Lovett Notes, " . . . netted [Clinton's] Senate campaign a paltry $57,820." (Some '06 and '08 Fox News poll numbers are buried here for you as well.) LINK
Los Angeles mayor's race:
Jill Stewart has a must-read Wall Street Journal op-ed about Antonio Villaraigosa's political center, which is not as left of the, eh, center, as one might think. "With all that mudslinging, it's little wonder that few voters ever heard about one of the most fascinating periods in Mr. Villaraigosa's up-from-the-streets life: his time as Speaker of the California State Assembly from 1998 through 2000. Naturally, Mr. Villaraigosa excelled at the age-old Sacramento parlor game of launching entitlement programs for which California taxpayers then get soaked. But he surprised everyone by being fair-minded and reaching across the political aisle to find common ground with conservatives. To the consternation of the left, he consistently refused to paint the private sector as 'bad.'"
The New York Times' Cardwell and Hicks write about the lessons Freddy Ferrer can take from Antonio Villaraigosa's victory, principally that "If Mr. Ferrer is to be elected New York City's first Hispanic mayor, one thing he cannot afford to do is lose ground with Hispanic voters. And although it is still early in the race, political strategists and his opponents believe he may be vulnerable among the Latinos he is counting on to build a multiethnic coalition." LINK
"New York's Hispanic population was once dominated by Puerto Ricans like Mr. Ferrer, but it is increasing in diversity, and the other mayoral candidates are moving to chip away at his Latin base."
The New York Post's David Seifman sizes up the smooch Mayor Bloomberg received from Bertha Lewis (of ACORN and Working Families Party fame) in response to his affordable housing plan included in the $2.5 billion Atlantic Yards project. LINK
"'If Bloomberg makes deep inroads with them, this race is over,' said one political insider."
Lindsay Lohan didn't make it to that Gifford Miller fundraiser last night, reports the New York Post's Frankie Edozien. LINK
The Boston Herald reports that Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey has decided to pocket ambitions to run for Congress and will run for governor if Romney decides not to seek re-election. LINK
The Washington Post's Paul Farhi does an excellent job at sorting through the accusations of political bias in public broadcasting leveled by Kenneth Tomlinson, the chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the heated retorts of Bill Moyers and the ongoing political hot potato that the institution represents. LINK
PBS President and CEO Pat Mitchell will no doubt answer some of these charges as she lays out a plan for the future of PBS at a National Press Club luncheon next Tuesday.
Spokane, WA Mayor Jim West is back at work, reports the Spokesman-Review's Mike Prager. LINK
But a second recall petition has been filed. LINK
"National Republican and Democratic party leaders are rounding up cash to help cover the legal bills that keep piling higher in Washington's disputed governor's election," including Ken Mehlman at a fundraiser last night, reports Ralph Thomas of the Seattle Times. Sen. John McCain and Gov. George Pataki have agreed to host fundraisers for the cause in their home states, Thomas Notes. LINK
Al Kamen makes the best STD-slide-show-and-pizza jokes we've seen yet. LINK
Filibuster haiku: The Internet isn't big enough to fit all the filibuster haiku you sent us yesterday, but here are some of the best we got. Thanks to one and all for your contributions.
Yesterday they spoke.
Today they are not speaking.
Congress is like that.
Frist wants many things
But hopes that his body will
Advise and consent.
Senate showdown looms.
Voices raised loud in anger.
Veep waits for call.
--Charles H. Riggs, III
Frantic vote counting
Shady deals behind closed doors
Lott. Nelson. Abdul.
Frist courting favor
won't help in two-thousand eight
if Dick Cheney runs.
--Michael Patrick Truman
to get my name mentioned
I write a haiku.