WASHINGTON, July 11
On the two big stories consuming the Gang of 500 -- the terror attacks that hit London and the SCOTUS drama -- here are our thoughts:
We have nothing particularly smart or original to say about how what happened in London will affect American politics.
Most everything depends on a series of complicated judgments about mass national psychology and symbolism.
As they say on cable, only time will tell on this one.
As for that other story -- well, on that one, we have some stuff we would like to share with the class.
If you aren't a reporter working the story, an activist, or a would-be source, you can't possibly fathom how many person-hours have been spent in the last 125 hours playing the retirement guessing game. If the Chief doesn't announce his retirement in the next 72 hours, someone needs to go back and reconstruct where all the rumors came from.
For all the media breathlessness over how much money, preparation, and Boyden-versus-Ralph contretemps are involved, the REAL story is going to be how each side tries to impact public opinion.
Actually, strike that (and reverse it!). The REAL REAL story is that the press is so anxious for a battle that it ignores a basic reality: confirmation fights are only genuine fights if there is a chance that a nominee might not be confirmed and/or that members of the president's party might vote against him.
For all the huffing and puffing on the right (and in the Washington Post today. . .), does anyone really, truly think that a single Republican Senator would vote against a nominee for the Highest Court in the Land put forward by George W. Bush? (And, yes, we are including the Honorable Alberto Gonzales in that rhetorical challenge. . .)
So -- barring something we can't imagine -- the ONLY way the President's nominee(s) could be stopped would be by a filibuster. Neither side knows who would win the public hearts and minds if it came to that, but there ARE two things that can be said: (a) the left-wing groups overrate the chances of such a thing happening; and (b) the Republicans are more confident of winning that PR war than are the Democrats.
Also, allow us to do our best Bernie Goldberg imitation and posit that many in the press (with its bias towards conflict, mainly) are hoping the President nominates someone (or someones) who is deemed "out of the mainstream" by both Nan Aaron and Evan Bayh; who has a rich history of questionable land deals, complex investments, and overturned opinions; and who can instantly be characterized/caricatured as a cross between Robert Bork, Jerry Falwell, and (well) Clarence Thomas.
Barring any retirement from news from the Supreme Court this morning, the events likely to get the most play on the aforementioned foci will be President Bush's 10:40 am ET address on the war on terror in Quantico, Virginia and tomorrow morning's 7:00 am ET breakfast meeting the President will host at the White House with Sens. Frist, Reid, Specter, and Leahy.
ABC News' O'Keefe reports, "Chief Justice William Rehnquist arrived at SCOTUS at approximately 9:22am ET. He entered an underground garage with a full security detail. No cameras, no comment."
The Senate reconvenes after its July 4 recess to discuss the Department of Homeland Security's Appropriations Act at 2:00 pm ET.
In your look at the week ahead:
President Bush will meet with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong tomorrow.
In light of the London attacks refocusing everyone's attention on terror, we are likely to see some changes to transportation and border security provisions this week in the Senate.
Foreign operations appropriations will also be on the Senate's agenda this week. One Senate insider Notes that the schedule may be truncated again to allow for members attending the funeral of former Sen. Gaylord Nelson.
On the House side, possible action on highway bill conference report and energy conferees will be named by the House so they can begin to meet. Legislative bills this week are OSHA and WRDA reauthorization. There will be rhetoric on transit security, voting rights act, and Social Security.
Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Ted Kennedy (D-MA) join Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL) at 9:30 am ET on Tuesday for a full committee hearing on border security and North American cooperation.
On Wednesday, the Center for American Progress begins its first annual "Campus Progress National Student Conference" at 8:30 am ET. Don't miss the keynote address delivered by former U.S. President Bill Clinton at 12: 15 pm ET.
President Bush travels on Thursday to the Hoosier State to deliver remarks at an 11:45 am ET Indiana Black Expo Corporate Luncheon.
On Friday, governors across the nation gather in Des Moines for the 97th National Governors Association Meeting. The four-day bipartisan conference, hosted by Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, will focus on the results of the group's recent initiative, "Redesigning the American High School."
Also on Friday, the President is expected to travel to North Carolina, but details for that trip are still TBA.
On Saturday, July 16, the DNC holds its nomination calendar meeting in Washington.
Make sure to check out the rest of today's schedule items below.
SCOTUS: the preps:
The Washington Post's Mike Allen has Republican officials telling him that the President is not expected to name a nominee until the end of July. LINK
Sen. Specter's Sunday morning comments about President Bush possibly nominating the just retired Sandra Day O'Connor to Chief Justice (should a vacancy there occur) caught the attention of the New York Times' David Kirkpatrick who, in turn, writes this key graph: LINK
"Although Mr. Specter's seeming endorsement of the idea was highly speculative - Justice O'Connor, 75, has announced her retirement, while Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, 80, has not stepped down - it was the clearest of his several recent signals that he plans to steer his own course as he oversees hearings on a replacement for Justice O'Connor, independent of the president and of his party's conservative base."
Mike Allen and Chuck Babington had the best preview of the SCOTUS confirmation hearings we've seen, including Specter's 1600 defiance, Durbin and Schumer media-savvy "glib"ness, the schedule (four days -- how could anyone know???!!!) and much more. LINK
Roll Call's Paul Kane details the voice-mail trading by President Bush and members of the Gang of 14.
The Washington Post's Edsall and Fletcher on Neas, Aron, and Henderson. LINK
The New York Times' Kirkpatrick takes a very interesting look (in the MSM's ongoing obsession with the cultural conservative vs. fiscal/business conservative factions on the right side of the ideological spectrum) at how Christian conservative groups are mobilizing their troops around opposition to the eminent domain decision recently handed down by the Supreme Court. LINK
Grover's mantra: "If you are Jerry Falwell, it is probably wise to spend some of your time reminding the head of the chamber of commerce why he and you are on the same team. . ."
The Los Angeles Times' Richard Simon writes of some of the legislative priorities that may be overshadowed by a Supreme Court nomination battle. LINK
SCOTUS: the candidates:
Bob Novak weekend's column has conservatives pushing Edith Jones as a pick that would satisfy gender and ideological criteria. LINK
Over the weekend, George Will stumped for Judge Wilkinson. LINK
On Friday, The State reported that Sen. Lindsey Graham told Karl Rove his recommendation for the U.S. Supreme Court nominee would be William W. Wilkins, a chief judge of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond Va. Wilkins brother, David Wilkins, became the ambassador to Canada last month. LINK
Who will break the story of that murky alleged conversation between Justice O'Connor and some unnamed Senators to lobby her to become Chief?
In the Boston Globe today Cathy Young examines Dahlia Lithwick op-ed piece from The New York Times on July 2nd which explores Justice Sandy Day O'Connor's gender and how it may have or may have not influenced her role on the court. LINK
SCOTUS: politics and campaigns:
The New York Times' Toner and Liptak provided an excellent Sunday look at Roe v. Wade's 6-3 status, therefore centering the abortion battle around the more complicated 5-4 status of issues such as partial-birth abortion. LINK
The first battleground for the new, abortion-sensitive political arena: Virginia LINK
The politics of terror:
The politics of Iraq:
The Daily Mail's Iraq troop pull out memo makes Page A1 of the Washington Post. LINK
The politics of national security:
The New York Times leads today's paper with the "sharp decline" in Reserve and National Guard troops serving on active duty since the peak in the immediate aftermath of the invasion into Iraq. LINK
The New York Times editorial board votes "no" on the administrative subpoena under consideration as part of Patriot Act II. LINK
The New York Daily News' James Gordon Meek writes up Fran Townsend's Sunday morning show pushback on Rep. Jane Harman's (D-CA) recent critical comments about some of the Administration's rhetoric on the war on terror. We wonder if the pushback will cause some Democrats to rethink this line of attack. LINK
The Washington Post's Josh White writes that "it is still unknown whether Rove is a focus of the investigation. Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, has said that Special Prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has told him that Rove is not a target of the probe. Luskin said yesterday that Rove did not know Plame's name and was not actively trying to push the information into the public realm." LINK
"Instead, Luskin said, Rove discussed the matter -- under the cloak of secrecy -- with Cooper at the tail end of a conversation about a different issue. Cooper had called Rove to discuss other matters on a Friday before deadline, and the topic of Wilson came up briefly. Luskin said Cooper raised the question."
The Wall Street Journal's Joe Hagan reports that "the disclosure that Mr. Bush's top political strategist discussed the CIA employment of Mr. Wilson's wife amounts to a political embarrassment for Mr. Rove and the White House. A presidential spokesman had previously given what appeared to be an unequivocal public assurance that Mr. Rove hadn't been involved in the disclosure of Ms. Plame as a CIA operative. Discovery that earlier denials may have been carefully parsed would represent another blow to the administration's credibility, compounding damage from the underlying issue that initially brought Mr. Wilson into the spotlight."
A trio of New York Times reporters looks at how Matt Cooper came to believe (not once, but twice in this investigation) that his sources provided him with a personal waiver of any confidentiality. LINK
Big Casino budget politics:
Bloomberg reports that "President George W. Bush's administration will report this week that surging tax revenue is shrinking this year's budget deficit from the record 2004 level, possibly by as much as $90 billion, giving him a shot at fulfilling his deficit reduction promise three years early."
"With tax revenue running $1 billion a day ahead of the 2004 pace in late April and May, the deficit will likely decline to about $325 billion from $412 billion last year, according to the Congressional Budget Office and private forecasters such as Stephen Stanley, chief economist at RBS Greenwich Capital in Greenwich, Connecticut."
Paul Krugman offers a pre-buttal in his New York Times column. LINK
We just wanted to take this opportunity to remind you all that Congress will be back in session today, closing this particular window for a recess appointment.
The politics of immigration:
Ron Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times explores the "will not" versus the "cannot" sides of the immigration debate and writes wisely, "Each side in this debate thus needs the other. Without a greater investment in enforcement, it probably won't be possible to modernize the immigration laws through an effective guest worker plan. But without modernized laws, a greater investment in enforcement probably won't yield much more control over the border." LINK
David Broder gives props to Democracy Corps and writes that "their findings illuminate the most striking failure of the Democratic National Committee under the chairmanship of Howard Dean -- the reluctance to create the kind of policy arm that has rescued the party from similar doldrums past." LINK
"When I interviewed Dean recently, he readily acknowledged that 'people think they know what the Republicans stand for, and they can't say that about the Democrats.' But he said he has his staff collecting ideas from Democratic officeholders, activists and contributors about the party's agenda, and he hopes at the DNC's September meeting in Phoenix to find agreement on "three or four broad things we all have in common," then use them in his speeches and on the Web. But when it comes to specific policies, he said, 'we will follow the lead of Pelosi and Reid.'"
"There's a better model available, should Dean have the courage to follow it. In the late 1950s, after Adlai Stevenson had lost to President Eisenhower for the second time, DNC Chairman Paul Butler created the Democratic Advisory Council as a policy voice for the party. Its membership included a number of governors, major figures from past Democratic administrations, party leaders and a few members of Congress willing to ignore the objections of the two Texans who then ran Congress, Sam Rayburn and Lyndon Johnson, both of whom distrusted Butler's motives."
Lee Bandy of The State offered up a Sunday story about the latest 2008 poll numbers which show Sen. McCain and Sen. Clinton as the front runners, but some South Carolina Republicans say if McCain were to run he has a lot of in-state work to do. LINK
Thomas Beaumont of the Des Moines Register covered Tom Tancredo's journey to Iowa, where the Colorado congressman reiterated his I'll-run-if-I-must (read: "if-no-other-GOP-candidiate-speaks-up-for-tighter-immigration-control") '08 stance. LINK
Howie Kurtz in the Washington Post neatly does a column's worth of reasons why Ed Klein's book has been virtually shut out by most news entities. LINK
The Washington Post's Michael Shear writes that Gov. Mark Warner "gave a speech to the Arizona Heritage Dinner that focused on where national Democrats need to go -- and what kind of person they need to pick -- if they want to recapture the White House and the Congress from Republicans." LINK
"Warner is 'very impressive. He's got all the right stuff,' said Judy Kennedy, the chairwoman of the Maricopa County Democratic Party."
"'He's still a diamond in the rough when it comes to presidential politics,' Kennedy said after listening to Warner's 35-minute speech. 'We loved Hillary. But I think we're realists. I don't know whether she could win the election.'"
(Note question: how do other Post Metro reporters feel about Shear busting the budget on these out-of-state trips? Or is National picking this up?)
Scott Brooks of the Manchester Union Leader reports on Evan Bayh's (not-yet) presidential candidate status as the Senator visits the Granite State. Note the Buckley/Bayh banter too. LINK
Perhaps an editor at the AP insisted on a strong lede or perhaps the AP writer in Colorado had not yet heard Sen. Clinton's 2005 standard stump speech, but we don't see much that is new or newsworthy here. LINK
And here is Sen. Clinton using the Alfred E. Neuman line with the New York Daily News editorial board in April 2005: LINK
In a Sunday Des Moines Register op-ed, Gov. Tom Vilsack explains how, when you build Iowa's economy, the National Governors Association will come. LINK
Virginia Gov./National Governors Association chairman Mark Warner envisions spending some gubernatorial class time on high school enhancement -- so he says in a Des Moines Register op-ed. LINK
The Schwarzenegger Era:
George Skelton lists what he sees as Gov. Schwarzenegger's self-inflicted wounds and urges the Governor to cancel the special election. As good as all that is, you should read this Los Angeles Times piece for the brilliant Todd Harris take on the recent 2006 head-to-head poll numbers. LINK
Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times got Michael Bloomberg to throw on his political pundit hat (not one he often wears in public) while in Singapore. LINK
The New York Post editorial board lays into Mayor Bloomberg for his Olympic and West Side stadium failures and wonders if he is "a mayor, or a mouse." LINK
After last week's Fields/Mercurio dust-up, Al Sharpton comes to the Manhattan Borough President's defense, reports the New York Post. LINK
And the New York Post's Stefan Friedman reports of no plans to replace Mercurio. LINK
Maggie Haberman of the New York Daily News looks at possible fundraising woes for the Fields campaign. LINK
Fred Dicker of the New York Post reports that the state's top Democrat, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, may soon endorse Fernando Ferrer in the race for mayor. LINK
If you are looking to brush up on your understanding of Sen. Jon Corzine, look no further than Craig Horowitz' must-read New York Magazine dispatch. LINK
The Quad City Times' Dan Gearino writes that the country's governors will collectively ask what they can do for their states when they meet in Iowa this week. LINK
Other Monday schedule items:
At 9:30 am ET, The 9/11 Public Discourse Project, non-profit successor to the 9/11 Commission, parlay on Congressional reform for the post 9/11 Era. Expect appearances by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KA), the 9/11 Commission's Slade Gordon, and former Speaker of the House Thomas Foley (D-WA).
Sen. Arlen Specter chairs an 11:00 am ET hearing of the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Subcommittee to review funding of public broadcasting.