The Note: Extraordinary-Circumstance Purgatory



An estimated 72 percent of Note readers don't know that the New York Times used to have a weekly news quiz.

It was a sharply written and clever conceived romp around a half fortnight of local, national, and international news, and it was fun as all heck.

As in so many areas when the Times cedes the field, ABC News rushes in and grabs the space (OK: sometimes we don't "rush," but we still get there first . . . )

So, starting today, every Friday, The Note will feature a news quiz aimed squarely at the sensibilities of our readers.

Here's how to evaluate how you do:

0-3 correct answers: You are our mothers.

4-6 correct answers: You are Warren Beatty.

7-8 correct answers: You are a Hill leadership aide who tells their staff (and their Member) to leave them alone from the moment The Note arrives each morning until the reading is done.

9 correct answers: You are Russell Hampton. LINK

10 correct answers: You are Mike Allen.

Answers will appear in Saturday's Note.*

Good luck.

1 What are three things that Scott McClellan would say from the podium these days that "disappoint" him?

2. Why do almost no newspapers today include the fact that Sen. Thune says he will vote against the Bolton nomination (broken by AP and confirmed by ABC News)?

3. If you were going to pick one American city in which to do a focus group on what voters think about the filibuster deal and its aftermath, what would that city be?

4. Who are Mary Lu Carnevale and Zachary Coile?

5. Which Republican leaders will see themselves in the mirror of today's lead Wall Street Journal editorial attacking the (allegedly) do-nothing Congress?

6. What two adjectives best describe how Elisabeth Bumiller will feel about today's Roland Betts quotes in the New York Post?

7. What African nation has a stamp "depicting an imaginary jam session featuring Elvis and a saxophone-toting (Bill) Clinton" that is on display at the Clinton library in Little Rock?

8. To which country did Sen. Daniel Inouye travel this week, causing him to miss the Bolton vote?

9. What strikes you as funny about this Liz Smith item: "Larry King has an all-star VIP lineup to mark his remarkable 20th anniversary. First, Vice President Cheney and his wife, Lynne . . . the former President George Walker Bush and his Barbara . . . after that former President Bill Clinton . . . then Dan Rather will appear in his first TV interview since he left the CBS anchor chair . . . after that comes Barbara Walters interviewing Larry on his own show! . . . and finally, the attorney Mark Geragos"?

10. What is the definition of a "Googling monkey"?

BONUS: Explain, in an essay, how the FEC ruling against Jesse Jackson and the Democratic Party and the Texas judge's ruling against TRMPAC differ in content, context, and implication, and assess the relative media coverage of the two decisions.

Teeing up for the summer recess and Memorial Day, Washington is relatively quiet this morning.

The Senate depressurizes after one of the toughest, roughest, most interesting weeks in recent memory. Opponents of John Bolton, who now include Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, have more than a week to pick off a few more Senators.

Sen. Lindsey Graham goes home to an adoring State and what conservatives hope is an angry state. Sen. Mike DeWine goes home to a politically ambitious son who doesn't approve of his compromising ways. The leadership prepares to re-enter battles over stem cells, reconciling the highway bills, appropriations, judges, and Social Security. Paul Gigot's voice mail is full by the end of the day.

Thune might be onto something about BRAC though: if enough Senators stew about the Pentagon's apparent failure to release back-up data on time, the bill Thune introduced with Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine requiring the DoD to provide Congress all of the BRAC data within seven days -- or the entire BRAC round will be terminated -- might just pass.

Snowe is particularly upset, we are told by a Senate aide, because the BRAC hearings on Maine bases are next week and/but she believes Pentagon hasn't released the data used to justify its proposed closings and realignments. (Defense officials have said they're concerned about classified data being inadvertently released and want more time to carefully vet the material.)

At 10:00 am ET, President Bush today attends the United States Naval Academy Graduation and Commissioning Ceremony in Annapolis, MD. He then choppers west to Camp David, where he spends the weekend.

Sen. John Kerry heads to Orlando, FL this morning to talk to the National Head Start Convention about his Kids First Health Care bill, which aims to give health care coverage to 11 million uninsured kids. This trip is his sixth stop on the tour to promote the legislation, and he wants to add to the 600,000 children co-sponsors already on it.

In the address Kerry will talk about his frustration with Washington and what he sees as lawmakers' failure to address the real problems in the country by passing budgets that don't deal with deficits and sounding the alarm about Social Security without confronting the problems faced by education programs now. Congress has lost touch with the "mainstream values and priorities of the American people," he says in excerpts of the speech.

"If we still want America to be the land of opportunity, we have to work together to keep this Administration from destroying opportunity for so many children, and that starts with supporting Head Start. . . Head Start kids are 8% more likely to have proper immunizations and 58% more likely to have proper screenings for health and development. Kids with health insurance do 68% better in measures of school performance."

On "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," an exclusive interview with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. ABC News' Terry Moran, Linda Douglass, and George Will are on the roundtable.

Monday, in honor of Memorial Day, there will be no Note. We will be back Tuesday.

* = "Saturday's Note" and "answers" are literary constructs. Do not take literally.


Due to an unintentional typographical error (read: "brain lock"), we incorrectly identified the Republican running for governor of Virginia as Ed Kilgore. That man, is, in fact, Jerry Kilgore. We'd like to state for the record that we do not believe that Ed and Jerry Kilgore share the same first name, political philosophy, or accent. LINK

Even less excusable is how we somehow substituted the words "stem cell" for "parental notification" in a brief summary of John DiStaso's Granite Status column yesterday. We can't really come up with a joke to explain that one.

But we regret both errors. Deeply. Not enough to commit ritual seppuku, but pretty darn close.

Bolton vote postponed:

The Washington Post's Chuck Babington wraps yesterday's Bolton action and looks toward more "so much for bipartisanship" talk after the congressional recess. LINK

"Frist tried throughout the day to meet Biden's demand for information about records Bolton has requested over the past four years from the National Security Agency, the federal eavesdropping office that monitors overseas communications between Americans and foreigners," the Los Angeles Times' Mary Curtius writes. "According to a Frist aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity, the majority leader lobbied the administration to give Biden and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) access to the records sought by Bolton." LINK

The New York Times' Carl Hulse has a nice back and forth between Reid and Frist staffers over whether Reid told Frist he had the votes to stop his party from filibustering. LINK

A perhaps ironic paragraph from the New York Times' Douglas Jehl's recap of the day's events: "Among Mr. Bolton's supporters, Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, was among those who urged the Senate to cast aside the Democratic objections and vote on Thursday in favor of the nomination. 'Elections have consequences,' Mr. McCain said." LINK

Report the Wall Street Journal's Dreazen and Rogers: "While the vote was technically about a narrow parliamentary question, it carries broader political stakes. The Senate has been debating Mr. Bolton's nomination for months, and the White House had clearly been hoping to put it -- and the politically damaging questions about the administration's use of Iraq war intelligence that it was reopening -- behind."

They add: " . . . one issue now is whether the White House will be more forthcoming over the recess or take the option of making Mr. Bolton a recess appointment."

The New York Post editorial board's disdain for Sen. Voinovich falls under the headline, "Buckeye Boo-Hoo." LINK

Filibuster compromise fallout:

"In an effort to make sure the 'sin' of the father isn't visited on the son, Republican candidate Pat DeWine made it clear Thursday he doesn't approve of the role his father, Sen. Mike DeWine, played this week in brokering a deal with Senate Democrats over judicial filibusters," writes Howard Wilkinson of the Cincinnati Enquirer. LINK

Charles Krauthammer is disappointed in the Republicans who he said flinched and gave away part of the farm by coming to an agreement over the filibuster on Monday -- and wants to see who plays hardball when it's time to go back. LINK

"The best thing a Senate majority leader with presidential aspirations can do is quit. That was Bob Dole's strategy in 1996, when he resigned to run against President Clinton. And it may be part of Bill Frist's decision not to seek reelection in 2006. If so, Frist could hardly make a smarter move," argues the Los Angeles Times editorial board. LINK

Ethics, Jesse Jackson and Tom DeLay:

The AP reports that the Democratic Party, Rev. Jesse Jackson and two non-profit incorporated groups focusing in civil rights have been ordered to pay $200,000 in civil fines for campaign finance violations in the 2000 elections. LINK

"At issue in the Federal Election Commission case was about $450,000 in election spending by Jackson, the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition and the Citizenship Education Fund using funds from the groups. The two non-profit groups were incorporated, making their money corporate and subject to restrictions under federal campaign finance laws."

"According to the FEC, the money was used for a partisan get-out-the-vote effort and voter registration speaking tour that was coordinated with the Democratic National Committee and included appearances by Jackson and Democratic House and Senate candidates."

From Majority Leader Tom DeLay's perspective, yesterday's TRMPAC development is not the best news, but it doesn't signal anything terribly ominous either.

Some Republicans are spinning the decision as the judge merely finding that TRMPAC simply reported its contributions incorrectly and didn't technically declare the entire process illegal on its face. And there are many Democratic campaign finance lawyers who hate DeLay but nonetheless don't think TRMPAC did anything that other groups didn't also do.

But that doesn't make it right, of course.

What would tie DeLay to TRMPACs doings is evidence that he knew specifically that TRMPAC (a) intended to break the law and (b) how they were going to do it.

Democrats think it is more likely that he had some sense of (b) but there's no evidence at all (yet) that suggests (a).

DeLay's associates and advisers are much more worried about the Travis County criminal case -- getting subpoenaed to testify, for example -- than they are about the civil case(s), although they realize that one will influence the other, that the media will speculate whether one of the TRMPAC defendants in the criminal case will "flip" somehow, and that scrutiny will never cease until all the trials end.

Note that the suit against Messieurs Colyandro and Ellis was postponed because of the criminal case in progress, so this ruling affects TRMPAC and its treasurer directly.

The biggest faux irony: a throw-away line on "Law and Order" -- and DeLay's protest of it -- may have distracted some of the cable news media from covering the more important story. See: LINK

The Houston Chronicle reports that some liberal groups are demanding further investigations into DeLay's involvement and want him step down from his post, but Bobby Burchfield, DeLay's attorney said, "the case really has nothing to do with Tom DeLay; he is not even mentioned in the decision." LINK

" . . . the decision was a symbolic victory for Mr. DeLay's critics, lending credence to accusations that his allies used illegal campaign finance tactics to win a Republican majority in the state for the first time in 130 years," the New York Times' Anne Kornblut Notes. LINK

"In a letter to lawyers summarizing his decision, the judge, Joseph H. Hart of District Court, concluded that Bill Ceverha, treasurer of the committee, had failed to report $532,333 in corporate donations that were spent on campaign activities rather than for administrative purposes. Under Texas law, as under federal law, corporate campaign donations are forbidden. Companies may help pay the administrative costs of certain political groups, but they cannot make contributions that help finance the campaigns themselves, as Judge Hart said companies did in the case."

"The corporate contributions 'were not, in fact, 'to finance the administration' of Trmpac and should have been reported,' Judge Hart wrote, using the acronym for the political action committee. "I find that all of the expenditures by Trmpac were made 'in connection with a campaign for an elective office' and fit within the statutory definition of 'campaign expenditure.''"

The Washington Post's Sylvia Moreno and R. Jeffrey Smith Note that the decision yesterday against TRMPAC's treasurer lays the groundwork for future actions against the committee and DeLay associates -- but before anyone starts jumping to conclusions about charges and jail sentences, Note well the words "DeLay associates." LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Scott Gold has loads of good detail and background. LINK

The Chairman of the Ohio Republican Party, Robert Bennett, says he is going to require all candidates seeking his party's support to undergo ethics training after several recent scandals involving republicans in his state. Politicians are often criticized for lacking in their ethical judgment, but this might be the first time that a state party chair is actually pushing to require his candidates receive assistance in ethics. LINK

John DiStaso wonders what the heck is wrong with the Republican Party of New Hampshire. It's a must-read. LINK

From the Wall Street Journal editorial on Congress:

The best three paragraphs:

"Five months in, Congress can point to the following achievements: a bankruptcy bill 10 years in the making, and a class-action reform watered down essentially to a jurisdictional change to federal from state courts. That's about it. Among the 2004 campaign promises that aren't close to being fulfilled are making the Bush tax cuts permanent, reforming Social Security and expanding the market for private health care. Instead of any of those big three, Congress next seems poised to pass a subsidy-laden energy bill and a highway bill with some 4,000 earmarks for individual Members. For this we elected Republicans?"

"The Democratic/media explanation for this performance is that Republicans are 'overreaching' and trying to 'govern from the right.' We should be so lucky. The fact is that they are governing from nowhere at all. Far from pushing their agenda, they seem cowed by their opposition into playing it safe and attempting too little."

"Any majority party is going to have differences, and compromises are inevitable. But an effective majority, and one that hopes to stay around for a while, has to be able to unite around some governing principles and face up to genuine problems. We'd have thought that for Republicans this would mean a philosophy of limited but energetic government when energy is needed, as it is on national defense and law enforcement."

Note to Gigot: how much do you blame the White House for this? (just wondering)

Note 2 to Gigot: do you recall that DeLay editorial you wrote a few weeks ago? (just wondering)

Bush agenda:

Please read the Wall Street Journal's superhandsome/talented Chris Cooper's must-read article on White House information flow in full.

"The event focused attention on how the White House handles the flow of information to Mr. Bush. Though White House officials say their system works well, they allow that at least two incidents -- including one where the president didn't know about a controversial policy shift -- have prompted them to consider recalibrating their briefings."

"It is difficult for any administration to figure out what to tell a president and when. Information floods the White House every day in staff briefings, official memos and formal communication between government agencies. As in any large organization, senior managers at the White House don't simply pass on that information but winnow it to what the president must know."

"White House management is particularly important to Mr. Bush, the first president to hold a master's in business administration and a man who takes pride in his ability to create an efficient organizational structure. He often has said effective leaders aren't afraid to delegate authority and remain above the daily fray. In his book, 'A Promise to Keep,' Mr. Bush cast himself as an information filter for his father when the elder Mr. Bush ran for president in 1988.'"

"Members of the president's staff say he shaped his White House structure at least partly in reaction to the system his father used. The elder Mr. Bush's White House was stratified, with most information flowing through John Sununu, his chief of staff. Some around the former president think Mr. Sununu was such a rigid gatekeeper that he may have choked out necessary information. The current presidency has a flatter organizational structure, and several staff members are free to bypass the chief of staff, walk into the Oval Office and offer their views."

"Mr. Bush may have less access to information coming from outside the White House, however. He has said he relies almost exclusively on his staff to keep him informed of current events -- and once even claimed he didn't read newspapers. Mr. Bush has since backed away from the claim, though White House aides say he only scans periodicals and watches almost no television news."

Boston Globe op-ed columnist Scot Lehigh thinks Bush's conservative positions are not appealing to enough Americans and stalling progress within his domestic agenda. LINK

"Less than seven months after Bush won reelection, strengthening his party's hold on Congress as he did so, the president has hit a wall with his domestic agenda. On major matters, he's clearly lost the public. And this week the Republican Congress itself started to revolt."

"Last November Bush said his election victory had given him some political capital and declared that he intended to spend it. He did win a few early victories, in the form of legislation to curb class-action lawsuits and change bankruptcy rules. But he's made little progress on the big issues, and for a simple reason. He took a relatively narrow victory and tried to turn it into a broad endorsement of policies that are too far out of the mainstream to be palatable to most people. Second terms have been problematic for American presidents, a period when energy dissipates and trouble arrives. Yet this is remarkably early for loss and lethargy to set in."

Here's an important story (I): "The Senate Intelligence Committee failed to reach final agreement on Thursday on a proposal that would expand the Federal Bureau of Investigation's powers to demand records and monitor mailings in terror investigations, but officials said they were confident that the committee would come to a consensus on the issue," reports Eric Lichtblau in the New York Times. "The committee's inability to reach a quick consensus on the legislation suggested continued internal dissension over the question of whether the government's antiterrorism powers should be restricted or expanded." LINK

Here's an important story (II) : "Spurred by President Bush's No Child Left Behind law, educators across the nation are putting extraordinary effort into improving the achievement of minority students, who lag so sharply that by 12th grade, the average black or Hispanic student can read and do arithmetic only as well as the average eighth-grade white student," the New York Times' Sam Dillon writes. "Whether all the new activity will have any long-term effect is a matter of debate. Some academics are skeptical that the gap, a measurable condition of American education since the advent of standardized testing at mid-century, will narrow significantly in response to any short-term policy shift." LINK

Here's an important story (III): "The House of Representatives has soundly rejected an attempt by opposition Democrats to require President Bush to send Congress a plan for a U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq. Debate over the issue came during House consideration of legislation overwhelmingly approved by a vote 390 to 39, authorizing just over $490-billion in spending on defense and other needs for the 2006 fiscal year," reports Voice of America. LINK

If Democrats press the President for an exit strategy but Brent Scowcroft has yet to write a New York Times op-ed about it, will anyone listen?

The Washington Post's Peter Baker and Glenn Kessler look at the meeting between President Bush and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the huge turnaround in the relationship between the White House and the Palestinians now that Arafat is gone, the $50 million pledge for direct aid, and the promise to send secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the region for an extended trip. The duo also Note that "Palestinians believed that the chemistry between Bush and Abbas was "'very, very good.'" You know what that means. LINK

USA Today's Judy Keen decodes the President's press conference comments. LINK

A brief in the New York Times by Michael Janofsky begins: "President Bush's moribund air pollution initiative got unexpected life on Thursday when the Environmental Protection Agency agreed to analyze competing legislation, satisfying a months-old request from the Senate." LINK

Timeswoman Felicity Barrenger writing in Oregon files another Bush/environment story: "A federal judge in Oregon ruled Thursday that the Bush administration had arbitrarily limited and skewed its analysis of the harm that 14 federal dams cause to endangered Columbia and Snake River salmon and steelhead." LINK

Social Security:

The Wall Street Journal's Mary Lou Carnevale writes in Washington Wire that "White House aides say the president has reached out privately to moderate Senate Democrats besides Conrad of North Dakota, whose recent White House visit made news. 'They haven't wanted to publicize' the contacts, says a Republican, for fear Democratic foes will pressure their colleagues."

"Aides say Bush will step up lobbying once Senate Finance Chairman Grassley of Iowa drafts a bill. Grassley, plainly frustrated after this week's final public hearing, says he is 'not very close' to a draft. Democrat Baucus of Montana stands by a demand for Bush to drop private accounts."


The Washington Post's Josh White and Dan Eggen report that there have been incidents of Koran "mishandling" and "desecration," Pentagon officials acknowledge. So is it a matter of who's controlling the story? LINK

"[Joint Task Force Guantanamo commander Brig. Gen. Jay] Hood's comments marked the first time the Pentagon has confirmed mistreatment of the Muslim book at Guantanamo Bay. Captives and some military personnel there have made claims of Koran desecration, but in a statement last week, Pentagon spokesman Lawrence T. Di Rita said the Defense Department had received no credible claims of such abuse. Nevertheless, he said, officials were reviewing the allegations."

"Over the last 12 days, investigators reviewed 31,000 documents dating back three years, Hood said. They found 13 allegations that the Koran had been mishandled by U.S. troops," reports John Hendren of the Los Angeles Times. LINK

E.J. Dionne turns in a must-read alleging that the Administration found it easier to divert attention from the unsavory activities happening in Guantanamo by going after Newsweek, and writes that it was part of a brilliant attack on the media by conservatives. LINK

The elections of 2005:

Following up on yesterday's New York Times reporting ( LINK)

about a pro-stadium lobbying phone call placed from one Andrew Card to one Joe Bruno, the New York Post's Tom Topousis gets presidential friend and New York point man Roland Betts to chat about why getting the 2012 Olympic Games to New York is important to the White House. LINK

"Seven years from now, Ground Zero will take shape and will look spectacular. To have a moment to celebrate that would be fantastic. . . The White House is very aware of that," said Betts.

More: "Asked if there would be more than just phone calls made to help convince Silver and Bruno, Betts would only say, 'No comment.'

"But sources familiar with the effort to build the stadium expect more pressure to come from Washington. Among the projects on Silver's wish list is the Second Avenue subway, which will depend heavily on federal funding."

"A spokesman for Bruno said that despite the calls, the upstate Republican's position has not changed."

Note: If you are not sure why a story about White House involvement in the battle for a West Side stadium is in the "2005" section, you haven't been paying enough attention and you probably did really badly on the quiz.

The New York Post's David Seifman reports despite Lenora Fulani's controversial comments, Mayor Bloomberg is expected to receive and accept the Independence Party's endorsement (and ballot line). LINK

"But unlike most endorsements, no public event is scheduled with the mayor - a sign no doubt of how wary Team Bloomberg still is of putting the mayor on the same stage as Fulani," writes Dave Saltonstall of the New York Daily News. LINK

The New York Times' Mike McIntire is positively Elisabethian (as in "Bumillerian") in his send up of a joint Bloomberg/Silver appearance. LINK

Nick Confessore teases out the political implications of Gifford Miller's stepped up mayoral campaign and his role in sheparding the city council through arduous budget negotiations. LINK

Chung Seto, the Tabasco loving card shark managing Virginia Fields' mayoral campaign, gets the Public Lives treatment. LINK

2008 Democrats:

USA Today's Susan page looks at the latest poll by America's Newspaper, CNN, and Gallup, which suggests that for the first time, more than half of Americans -- 53 percent, to be exact -- say they would consider voting for Sen. Hillary Clinton if she ran for president in 2008. Pew's Andy Kohut comments that "Clinton fatigue" has faded over time. LINK

Deb Orin of the New York Post leads her Hillary 2008 poll story with the 40 percent of respondents who said they are "not at all likely" to vote for Sen. Clinton for president. LINK

Al Sharpton's take on the Wednesday night dinner with black leaders John Kerry hosted at his home (as told to Rush & Molloy): LINK

"'He took the criticism very well,' said Sharpton. 'He gave no indication about whether he was going to run for President again.'"

"Asked if he'd support the senator, Sharpton said, 'I haven't decided whether I'm going to run again.'"

The Rosen trial:

While he waits for the verdict, the New York Post's Ken Lovett writes up the Rosen memo requesting a stock transfer to the Working Families Party and Notes ". . .the memo was not introduced as evidence during the trial into whether Rosen illegally under-reported costs of the Hollywood gala. . ." LINK

A mysteriously unnamed New York Sun reporter reports that the jurors asked to re-watch an ABC News story during deliberations yesterday.

The Clintons of Chappaqua:

David Hammer of the Associated Press strolls through the "World of Music" exhibit at the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock. LINK


The New York Post reports Rev. Al Sharpton is headed for afternoon drive time radio. LINK

House of Labor:

The United Auto Workers President Ron Gettlefinger yesterday endorsed AFL-CIO President John Sweeney's re-election campaign.

One Sweeney sympathizers writes, "In a roll call vote, one in which the paid per capita membership is counted, you're looking at a 61-36 percent margin. In terms of convention delegates, the margin is projected to be 73-26 percent margin."

"This fight is far from over. But as of right now, that old adage 'you can't beat somebody with nobody' still holds true."

Tom Edsall of the Washington Post asks why Gettlefinger seemed to change his mind, moving from an anti-Sweeney posture. Edsall Notes, however, that the splintering off of Unite Here, the Laborers, the Teamsters, and the Food and Commercial Workers, is far from off the table. LINK

Washington gubernatorial election trial:

Judge Bridges decided yesterday to allow Republicans to present their evidence alleging that felons voted in the Washington state gubernatorial race, and will figure out how much weight to give it later on, reports the Seattle Times' David Postman. It's part of a specific tactic Bridges is employing to make sure that when the case is retried, it's not sent back to him because of any decisions not to allow evidence, questionable or no. LINK

Gregory Roberts of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer further explains the Republicans' controversial statistical sampling methods. LINK

The Schwarzenegger Era:

Our favorite San Jose resident quote on Gov. Schwarzenegger's pothole filling press conference, courtesy of the San Francisco Chronicle's Carla Marinucci: "For paving the streets, it's a lot of lighting . . ." LINK