The Note: Over the Line

WASHINGTON, June 9

NEWS SUMMARY

Today's must-reads:

1. The Washington Post's Mike Allen graces A1 with reporting that the House ethics committee is stalled once again, over a staffing issue, and might not get around any time soon to making a decision on whether or not to investigate House Majority Leader Tom DeLay or other House members accused of ethics violations on lobbying and travel. Meanwhile, as reported, DeLay has retained another lawyer, former U.S. attorney and Virginia attorney general Richard Cullen of Richmond, to represent him before the ethics panel and possibly the Justice Department. LINK

"DeLay's emerging strategy . . . is to argue that the ethics panel should not focus on him alone, but should conduct a broad investigation of members' compliance with travel rules, including the many Democrats who did not file required disclosure forms."

Allen Notes that the panel hasn't met since May, and that the current dispute revolves around Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) wanting to name his chief of staff, Ed Cassidy, a co-director of the committee staff -- which ranking Democrat Alan Mollohan (D-WV) and his brethren oppose.

We wonder how many more times DNC Chairman/Dr./Gov. Dean will try to get mileage out of the whole "jail sentence" comment -- and how many Democrats will either cringe or write checks -- before the ethics committee makes a call on what it will do. Start the tally now . . .

2. Good news from the White House (or, at least, from the White House's perspective): "The White House, which hasn't had much good news since President Bush's second term began, is about to start spreading some: This year's deficit is coming in lower than anticipated, thanks to the economic recovery and higher-than-expected tax receipts," writes Jackie Calmes in the Wall Street Journal.

"While the administration and Congress won't officially revise their separate annual deficit projections until midsummer for fiscal 2005, which ends Sept. 30, government and private-sector analysts agree the shortfall is more likely to be about $350 billion, rather than the $427 billion the administration forecast in January. Treasury Secretary John Snow is expected to carry the tidings to London for this weekend's summit of finance ministers from the Group of Eight leading nations, who have harped on the growing American debt and foreign borrowing."

3. To the degree that one believes that Bob Novak has good sources in the Democratic Party, the following may be -- or may not be -- a must-read. " . . .. I checked with Democratic sources in California and found broad early resistance to (Hillary) Clinton. (Mark) Warner wowed listeners on a recent trip, though he was not as big a hit as (Evan) Bayh on his L.A. sojourn. The Hoosier senator may be a dull, moderate Midwesterner to the party cognoscenti who already have bestowed the nomination on Clinton, but he looked like a winner to the Hollywood crowd." LINK

4. Anything that comes up in your Google news search of "Howard Dean." (See below.)

And we wonder how much the White House will "clarify" the President's interview with Neil Cavuto that left open the possibility of closing Gitmo.

The Washington Post's Peter Baker says Bush "pointedly" didn't shoot down the idea of shutting it down. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, however, was quick to tell reporters traveling with him to Europe that he was unaware of anyone kicking around the idea. LINK

But/and Ian Bishop of the New York Post leads his write up of the President's Fox News appearance with Bush's rejection of the idea that Mrs. Bush may run for president. LINK

The full transcript: LINK

Today . . .

President Bush heads to Columbus, OH, to talk about the USA Patriot Act at the Ohio State Highway Patrol Academy at 11:05 am ET.

First Lady Laura Bush delivers remarks at the 2005 national Big Brothers Big Sisters conference at 9:00 am ET in Washington, DC.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice meets with Mohamed ElBaradei, director of International Atomic Energy Agency, at 11:15 am ET. ElBaradei meets with Energy Secretary Sam Bodman at 2:00 pm ET.

The Senate convenes at 9:30 am ET to resume consideration of the nomination of William Pryor to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. A vote is expected at 4:00 pm ET.

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan testifies before the Joint Economic Committee at 10:00 am ET.

Gov. Dean is just all over the Hill today -- first with a 10:45 am ET media availability with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Whip Dick Durbin to talk about the Democratic agenda. Then he's the featured guest at the Democratic Policy Committee's lunch -- with a photo op at noon ET. Will there be a behind-closed-doors mea culpa, or will it be a "Democrats need to be Democrats" pep talk? Again: place your bets.

At 9:30 am ET, the House Budget Committee looks at the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation and whether taxpayers will end up having to pay for unfunded pension liabilities. David Walker, comptroller general at the Government Accountability Office and Douglas Holtz-Eakin, director of the Congressional Budget Office, testify.

Georgetown University sponsors a conference on bioterrorism and emerging infectious diseases at the Library of Congress. Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) and Rep. Christopher Cox (R-CA), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, speak during the first session starting at 9:15 am ET. Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Richard Burr (R-NC) speak during the third session, beginning at 11:45 am ET, on preparing for the inevitable in terms of security and health issues.

U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman talks about CAFTA to the Hispanic Alliance for Free Trade at 9:30 am ET.

Sens. Rick Santorum (R-PA), Arlen Specter (R-PA), and John Cornyn (R-TX) hold an 11:00 am ET presser to talk about legal reform.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) holds her regular news conference at 10:45 am ET.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former Rep. Vin Weber (R-MN), and Council on Foreign Relations fellow Steven Cook hold an on-the-record discussion at the council on democratic reform in the Arab world at 9:00 am ET.

Sen. John Thune (R-SD) addresses the Greater Des Moines Partnership on the Hill at 12:30 pm ET. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been invited to announce the World Food Prize laureate at the State Dept. on Friday.

At 5:30 pm ET, RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman holds a "Conversations with the Community" meeting with Jewish business and community leaders in Pittsburgh, PA.

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun arrives at 6:00 pm ET.

Bush agenda:

When the President touches down in the Buckeye State today, he will be greeted by headlines about the continued troubles at the state's Bureau of Workers' Compensation. LINK

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports today about a $215 million loss suffered by the Bureau and Democratic calls to explore the recall option for Gov. Bob Taft (R-OH).

If these problems (and the political connections associated with them) had come to light during last fall's presidential campaign, would it have affected the votes of, say, half the crowd at a Saturday Ohio State football game?

"A year after the United States persuaded allies to launch a campaign to spur democratic change in the Islamic world, the Bush administration faces growing criticism for failing to follow through or get tough enough with Arab governments, according to Arab activists, Middle East analysts, human rights experts and even some on its own foreign policy staff," reports the Washington Post's feisty Robin Wright. She gives some good ink to the report by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Rep. Vin Weber for the Council on Foreign Relations urging the Bush Administration to back its talk about democracy in the region with some financial incentives and some sticks for Arab leaders who appear to be less than zealous about political freedoms for their citizens. LINK

President Bush praised Turkey as a democratic ally in the Middle East, but if Prime Minister Erdogan was hoping for a concrete promise of greater help to defeat a Turkish terrorist organization, he came away from the White House disappointed, the Washington Post's Jim VandeHei reports. LINK

Judy Keen and Kathy Kiely of USA Today wonder if President Bush's stubbornness/persistence is doing him any favors in his second term. LINK

In her article on President Bush's promise to push harder for immigration reform (dutifully conveyed by Majority Leader DeLay), the New York Times' Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes that "Advisers to the White House said Mr. Bush had been working on a new immigration initiative that would most likely begin this summer." LINK

The Houston Chronicle looks at the Bush-DeLay meeting. LINK

Gail Russell Chaddock of the Christian Science Monitor examines the currently quite healthy relationship between Washington and big business. LINK

The New York Times' Andrew Revkin follows up on his scoop yesterday, Noting the White House claim that any editing of a climate report by Phil Cooney, a White House official, was done as part of the interagency review process and produced "sound" science. LINK

Acting FDA Commissioner Lester M. Crawford has been cleared of allegations that he had an affair with a subordinate and helped her win a promotion, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) announced Wednesday. Sens. Patty Murray and Hillary Clinton continue to block his nomination vote to try to get an FDA decision on whether the "morning after" pill can be sold over the counter. LINK

AP previews Friday's meeting between President Bush and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun. LINK

Social Security:

The Washington Post's Rich Morin and Jim VandeHei take a closer look at some of the data in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll about support for President Bush's Social Security plan, and found that 56 percent of Americans see the proposal to put new personal retirement accounts together with reduced guaranteed benefits will result in smaller checks for seniors. Sixty-three percent say they think the plan to include private accounts would not improve the stability of the entitlement program in the long run. And overall, they're not impressed with how Bush has been selling his ideas -- 62 percent said they disapprove of the job he's doing on the issue, and 48 percent support a voluntary plan to take some of their Social Security contributions and invest them in the stock market. LINK

Robin Toner and Dick Stevenson of the New York Times write two crisp paragraphs on where the Finance committee stands on Social Security:

"Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa and chairman of the Finance Committee, has already given up the idea of reaching a bipartisan package, at least initially. In fact, he has yet to find a consensus among the 10 other Republicans on his committee on how to shore up Social Security's finances. The Republicans on the committee will meet Thursday morning, and Mr. Grassley is expected to push hard for agreement -- soon -- on how to assure the system's solvency." LINK

"Even if they reach agreement on that front, Republicans on the committee are unlikely to agree unanimously on and produce a majority for investment accounts of the sort sought by Mr. Bush. Senator Olympia J. Snowe, a Republican from Maine and a member of the committee, is opposed to the accounts."

The economy:

The Los Angeles Times' Joel Havemann wraps the White House's economic forecast of 3.5 percent growth and lower interest rates than predicted by private economists. LINK

"A day after General Motors announced it was cutting 25,000 jobs and as concern is rising about the ability of the government to guarantee many troubled corporate pension plans, the president's economic advisers said the economy would expand a solid 3.4 percent this year, down from 3.5 percent forecast six months ago," writes the Chicago Tribune's William Neikirk. LINK

Judicial nomination battles:

The Washington Post's Chuck Babington wraps the confirmation of Judge Janice Rogers Brown. LINK

The New York Times' David Kirkpatrick profiles Brown and writes that her animating principle of jurisprudence appears to be based on her strong abhorrence to subtle forms of slavery. LINK

Despite all the doomsayers, "the centrist bloc met its first commitment" with the cloture votes on Janice Rogers Brown and William Pryor, writes David Rogers in the Wall Street Journal.

The Houston Chronicle examines how the politics of race was a factor in Brown's confirmation. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Maura Reynolds looks at what Brown's confirmation means to Gov. Schwarzenegger's plans to appoint her successor to the California Supreme Court. LINK

Congress:

Per the Wall Street Journal: "The Congressional Budget Office is expected to tell a House panel today that the federal agency insuring private pension plans has a deficit that will likely more than triple to $71 billion in the next decade, creating more urgency for Congress to consider pension-overhaul legislation."

The Washington Post's Albert Crenshaw looks at the pension bill to be introduced today by Reps. John A. Boehner (R-OH), and Sam Johnson (R-TX) to require companies with underfunded pension plans to fund them fully within seven years -- and in some cases more rapidly. LINK

Dean's Democrats:

The Washington Post's Shailagh Murray wraps the Dean flap and tries to give some context in terms of other . . . outspoken DNC chairmen. LINK

Nina Easton and Rick Klein of the Boston Globe look the effects of Dean's recent remarks. LINK

"(A). . . top aide to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton," Howard Wolfson, called Dean's most recent controversial comments "unhelpful," "over the line," and "not appropriate." The New York Post's Fred Dicker has the story. LINK

Nancy Pelosi tells the San Francisco Chronicle's Carla Marinucci that the possibility of Dean resigning over the current flap is "ridiculous" and "unthinkable." LINK

DeLay:

"Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) has positioned himself as a driving force behind an ambitious plan to overhaul the congressional budgetary rules, aligning himself with House conservatives with whom he has recently clashed on the issue," writes The Hill's Alexander Bolton. LINK

"DeLay has also asked the chairman of the Appropriations Committee to work with fiscal conservatives to implement budget reforms, bringing together two factions of the GOP conference that have been mutually antagonistic."

Note: if you don't know how serious the President is about this issue, you haven't paid enough attention to the wonky side of George W. Bush.

"Values" politics:

"Emboldened by the political right's growing influence on public policy, opponents of school activities aimed at educating students about homosexuality or promoting acceptance of gay people are mounting challenges to such programs, at individual schools, at statehouses and in Congress," writes Michael Janofsky in the New York Times. LINK

"Chief among the targets are sex education programs that include discussions of homosexuality, and after-school clubs that bring gay and straight students together, two initiatives that gained assent in numerous schools over the last decade."

The politics of national security:

International Freedom Center honcho Richard Tofel gets to answer his critics in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. Let's just say . . . we don't think his critics will be sedated.

Bolton:

Geoff Earle of The Hill looks at John Thune's decision to link the potential closure of Ellsworth Air Force Base to John Bolton's nomination to the U.N. LINK

"Some Republicans have privately questioned the wisdom of linking two such apparently unrelated issues -- one GOP source called it a rookie mistake. But several GOP senators expressed an appreciation for Thune's position. He campaigned on his close ties to the White House, pledging to use his access to prevent closure of the base."

"'The [base closing] thing obviously hurts South Dakota tremendously,' said Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah). 'He has to demonstrate to his folks back home that he's willing to fight for it.' Asked whether fellow Republicans understood Thune's position, and his decision to oppose the Bolton nomination, Bennett replied, 'I think so, and I think the White House does.'"

Bush legacy:

Warren Vieth and Ed Chen of the Los Angeles Times assess the plans in motion for the George W. Bush Presidential Library. LINK

Campaign finance:

"The House Administration Committee, acting with the support of the Republican leadership, yesterday approved legislation to dismantle many of the campaign contribution and spending limits enacted over the past 30 years. Under the bill, one donor could direct as much as $1 million in support of a candidate for federal office," reports the Washington Post's Tom Edsall. LINK

The Clintons of Chappaqua:

The Indy 500, Clinton style: LINK

2005:

"Even though their nascent general election campaigns are still five months -- 153 days, to be precise -- away from Election Day, both candidates seemed to be spoiling for the fight," write Deborah Howlett and Jeff Whelan of the Newark Star Ledger of the New Jersey gubernatorial contest. LINK

The New York Post's Stefan Friedman tells cautionary tales about caller ID and quick apologies in his campaign column on the Gotham mayoral race. LINK

2006:

"What's the matter with Texas?" asks the Wall Street Journal editorial board.

"If you think gridlock has taken hold in Washington, get a load of politics in the Lone Star State. What was supposed to be the most productive session of the Texas legislature in history ended last week in a legislative version of the Alamo."

"Republicans control every lever of political power in Austin for the first time since Reconstruction and had promised a sweeping reform agenda. Property tax relief. Vouchers for kids in failed inner-city public schools. An end to Robin Hood school financing. And passage of a fiscally tight budget."

"This entire legislative agenda was ambushed. The school voucher pilot program for 20,000 mostly minority kids was rejected by the very Democratic legislators representing the families who would have benefited from the opportunity to attend private and parochial schools that actually work. The depressing fact that nearly half of the black and Hispanic children in the state fail to graduate from public high schools wasn't perceived as a sufficient crisis to give choice a chance."

Perhaps coincidentally, in a separate op-ed, writer J.R. Labbe criticizes Texas Gov. Rick Perry: " . . . the community of faith, even in the Lone Star State, is not a monolith. Plenty of Texan Christians were put off by what they perceived as Gov. Perry's use of religion as a theatrical prop. Witnessing oneself as a godly governor might be more effectively demonstrated if religion weren't turned into a sideshow."

Leader DeLay praises Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson's Senate tenure as speculation continues over whether or not she'll challenge Gov. Rick Perry. LINK

The Globe reports that Gov. Mitt Romney will not attend Boston's annual gay pride parade this weekend, but Democratic gubernatorial candidate Deval Patrick will be there. LINK

Arkansas Attorney General Mike Beebe is expected to announce his candidacy for the state's Democratic gubernatorial nomination on June 14. LINK

Roll Call's Lauren Whittington looks at the polling data that gets Democrats all ginned up over a possible race against Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), including some noise from former Rep. Tim Roemer's corner that he might go for the Democratic nomination. Lugar's office responds, in effect, here we go again.

Doug Racine has not yet ruled out a run for Sen. Jeffords' seat. LINK

Roll Call's Erin Billings has details of the private retreat that the House's New Democrat Coalition held on Tuesday.

2008:

Roll Call's Mark Preston writes that the gas additive methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) that's responsible for contaminating groundwater, could be a touchy subject in the 2008 presidential race, and New Hampshire voters are likely to carefully watch how possible White House contenders vote on any energy bill that offers a federal liability shield for those who produce it.

Notes Preston, "Congress is expected to address the MTBE issue in the coming months, when House and Senate negotiators try to reach agreement on a bill to overhaul the nation's energy policy. The House has already approved an energy bill that includes liability protection for MTBE producers. The Senate may begin considering its bill as early as next week, but it does not contain liability protection language."

Leader DeLay favors the liability protection; Leader Frist is far more cagey.

The Manchester Union Leader's John DiStaso is pleased as punch (not to mention a bit amazed, considering the New Mexico governor's Hispanic background) at Bill Richardson's sanctioning of the Granite State's primary status. The presidential aspirant envisions a simple solution to up-front minority involvement. "I believe that as long as primaries following New Hampshire have diverse constituencies, the problem is resolved." Richardson's New Hampshire visit concluded yesterday with dos dinner dates: one with environmental organizations, the other with the Democratic State Committee. DiStaso also Notes other potential '08 candidates buzzing around: Virginia Sen. George Allen will be welcomed at a Lilac Luncheon (another presumably flower-laden event) on June 25; while U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo (CO) will join the Republican State Committee on Saturday for breakfast over issues; and Wesley Clark will get his morning coffee while he keynotes the Democratic Committee's Flag Day breakfast on Sunday. LINK

2008: Democrats:

Jane Norman of the Des Moines Register keeps a close eye on Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh as he assesses the odds of an '08 White House bid. At a Greater Des Moines Partnership meeting in DC yesterday, he declared his intention to stop by/stump through Iowa in August. LINK

The Indianapolis Star goes all Boston Globey on Bayh, writing that his travel plans hint at a future presidential bid. LINK

"Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana told an audience of Iowa business people yesterday that he is 'doing the practical things' to keep open the option of running for president in 2008," reports the Louisville Courier-Journal's James Carroll. LINK

More: "Afterward, Bayh told reporters that he is going to Iowa -- an early caucus state in presidential campaigns -- in August."

The AP reports that the state Republican Party is funding radio ads that are running in New Mexico and New Hampshire calling out New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson on his "rich" lifestyle. The Republican ad was fueled by news that the Richardson administration has ordered a $5.5 million jet for use by state officials and that the governor has "three personal chefs." The Richardson camp rebutted the claims saying the governor rarely takes the state aircraft and Richardson has one chef, not three. LINK

A New Hampshire Democrat sends this along: "I received a letter yesterday from the New Hampshire Senate Democratic Caucus signed by State Sen. Sylvia Larson, NH Senate Democratic Leader:"

" . . . Speaking of helping in a big way, I wanted to invite you to a very special dinner with Senator John Edwards."

"We will be welcoming Senator Edwards, along with the NH Senate Democrats, for an intimate dinner at our Concord home on Tuesday, June 21. We hope that you can join us."

"This dinner will be a very special opportunity to spend quality time with Senator Edwards and my senate colleagues. We are asking each guest for a minimum contribution of one thousand dollars for the NH Senate Democratic Caucus for us to prepare for the 2006 elections."

"I hope that you can join us for this special occasion. Please let us now soon, as space is limited for this special dinner. Thank you so much for making a difference to New Hampshire."

Ouch. LINK

2008: Republicans:

The Hill's Geoff Earle profiles Sen. Chuck Hagel through the potential presidential candidate lens and wonders if there is enough room for two "mavericks" in the campaign for the Republican nomination. LINK

The politics of demographics:

Writes the Los Angeles Times' Solomon Moore, "Latinos now account for one of every seven Americans and will continue to drive overall population growth, posing numerous economic challenges and benefits, according to demographers' analysis Wednesday of preliminary U.S. census estimates." LINK

Haya El Nasser and Lorrie Grant of USA Today take a closer look at the complexities revealed in the latest Census Bureau population estimates. LINK

Among the findings: immigration is creating not only a racial divide, but a generational one as well. LINK

Politics:

The Washington state Supreme Court will still consider other legal challenges to the 2004 gubernatorial race, reports the Seattle Times' David Postman. LINK

A ruling on the petition to recall Spokane Mayor Jim West has been delayed until next week, reports the Spokesman-Review. LINK

The New York Daily News' DeFrank attended the Gerald Ford tribute/reunion dinner out in California and reports the former president is once again swimming laps and squeezing in a few holes of golf as well. LINK

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