The Note: "Nervously Watching"



And so we wait.

While we are all waiting for an updated report on the Chief's status, Matt Cooper's Time Magazine account of his experience testifying before the grand jury, and a new Shuttle launch date, we thought we'd provide you with your absolute must-reads of the day.

1. From Ron Fournier's latest news analysis: "Still, several top GOP officials -- including some White House advisers -- said the fight was becoming a distraction to Bush's agenda. The GOP officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to avoid looking disloyal, said the president may face a credibility problem because his spokesman said in September that anybody involved in the leak would be fired." LINK

"These Republicans, all admirers of Rove, said they were surprised and disappointed when Bush stopped short of publicly backing his longtime aide."

2. Key paragraphs in John Harwood's write up of the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll:

"A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows how much Mr. Bush's political standing has been weakened as he confronts controversy over a top aide's discussion of a Central Intelligence Agency operative's employment, a Supreme Court vacancy, his Social Security plan and Iraq. Majorities of Americans disapprove of the president's handling of the economy, foreign policy and Iraq. And a plurality rates Mr. Bush negatively on "being honest and straightforward" for the first time in his presidency."

"Nevertheless, the president continues to benefit from resilient support for the U.S. presence in Iraq even after two years of insurgent attacks. By 57% to 42%, Americans say it is important to maintain the nation's military and economic commitment to Iraq until it can govern and control itself. And by 61% to 34%, they agree with Mr. Bush's assertion, which he recently reiterated in a nationally televised speech, that the war in Iraq is part of the broader war against terrorism."

"Just 17% of Americans rated terrorism and homeland security their top priority for the government, slightly down from 20% in January; the poll's margin of error is 3.1 percentage points. The Iraq war and the economy were both rated as slightly greater concerns. Fully 63% of Americans say it would be a move in "the right direction" to pick a justice who backs displaying the Ten Commandments on government property, a popular stance with the Republican Party's conservative base."

"Yet 55% of Americans also applaud the idea of a justice who would uphold affirmative action, a key demand of liberals. More problematic for the right, which for three decades has blasted the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, a robust 65% of Americans say the court shouldn't overturn Roe. As the party in control of the White House and Congress, Republicans have the most to lose from broad public unease. By 45% to 38%, Americans say they would prefer that the 2006 elections produce a Democratic-controlled Congress rather than a Republican-controlled Congress."

"Yet Republicans can take some solace from the fact that Democrats aren't winning much public applause either. The Democratic Party is rated negatively 36% to 34%, while Republicans are rated negatively 41% to 38%."

3. And the latest USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll finds "overwhelming support for putting another woman on the court. Three of four favored appointing a woman to replace Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman to serve on the high court." LINK

"On Bush, nearly two-thirds of those surveyed said he was likely to appoint someone who would let religious beliefs inappropriately influence legal decisions. On the Senate, an overwhelming 86% said Democrats were likely to try to block Bush's nominee for inappropriate political reasons."

4. "Two of the Democrats most often mentioned as contenders for the White House in 2008 are currently paying staff to work for local candidates in New Hampshire, home of the nation's first presidential primary," writes Roll Call's Chris Cillizza.

"Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, who shared the national ticket in 2004, are both using their leadership political action committees to pay the entire salary of a staffer working through the state party. Kerry is paying for Geoff Wetrosky to work to re-elect Manchester Mayor Bob Baines (D), while Edwards is underwriting Angie Siecker's efforts on behalf of state Sen. David Gottesman's bid for another term."

And, yes, although number four looks a little different than the others, it is a must-read nonetheless.

Chief Justice Rehnquist is still at the Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, VA as of this writing.

President Bush heads to Indianapolis this morning to deliver an address to the Indiana Black Expo Corporate luncheon at 11:45 am ET.

Scott McClellan appears to be taking a bit of a breather today with neither a gaggle nor a press briefing on the schedule at this writing.

Both RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman and DNC Chairman Howard Dean are courting African-American voters this morning at the NAACP's 96th annual convention in Milwaukee, WI. Dean heads over to Denver later in the day for a 6:00 pm ET grassroots fundraiser.

An interesting excerpt from Mehlman's speech as prepared for delivery: "Under Alberto Gonzales' leadership, this Administration will protect the voting rights of all Americans through the strictest enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. As Congress re-authorizes this important law, the party of Lincoln welcomes your thoughts and advice for continuing to ensure that we protect every single American's fundamental right to vote."

And Mehlman also reveals that his grandfather, Joe Mehlman, was a long-time member of the NAACP in Baltimore. And he expresses regret, as Mike Allen Notes, for the "southern strategy." LINK

This speech will make some waves.

DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff visits both the House and Senate Homeland Security committees today to discuss DHS's reorganization and policy plans.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), David Walsh, President and Founder, National Institute on Media and the Family, and others will hold a press conference to discuss legislative solutions to protect children from "inappropriate video game content" in light "Grand Theft Auto"/"Hot Coffee" controversy.

The First Lady visits Zanzibar and Rwanda today to speak on education and democracy for women before heading home tomorrow.

At 11:30 am ET , Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) addresses the Center for American Progress and American Constitution Society on the types of questions that should be asked in the nomination hearings for the President's yet-to-be-named Supreme Court pick. Schumer will also release a letter from law professors listing "10 acceptable questions on a judge's philosophy."

Please be sure to check out the rest of the day's events in our expanded schedule section below.


Buried in the Washington Post's news of day story is this tidbit: "Several people familiar with the investigation said they expect Fitzgerald to indict, or at least force a plea agreement with, at least one individual for leaking Plame's name to conservative columnist Robert D. Novak in July 2003." LINK

"Mr. Bush neither criticized nor defended Mr. Rove. But Mr. Rove sat directly behind him as he spoke, sending a visual signal that he remained on the job and at the president's elbow, where he has been throughout Mr. Bush's political career," writes The New York Times' Stevenson. LINK

And Stevenson's final graph is pretty key too: "There was no sign that Republicans on Capitol Hill would break ranks with the White House, with a growing number of them coming to Mr. Rove's defense."

Ed Chen and Richard Schmitt of the Los Angeles Times on President Bush's reserving judgment and the Republican and Democratic messages of the day: LINK

The President's lack of a full-throated statement of support for Rove surprised "aides who'd predicted he'd publicly rally behind his political guru, Karl Rove," reports the New York Post's Deb Orin. LINK

The New York Post editorial page uses a lot of space to claim Rove did the right thing and that the villain in this story is Joe Wilson. LINK

The RNC collected every supportive quote by Republican leaders in Congress and wrapped them into one handy dandy press release for reporters last night. One of our favorites: "Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA): 'I Support Karl Rove.'"

Jamie Gangel's exclusive interview with former Ambassador Joe Wilson on "Today" this morning was devoid of news, but her quoting Dana Milbank in her live tag was priceless.

"The alleged crime at the heart of a controversy that has consumed official Washington -- the "outing" of a CIA officer -- may not have been a crime at all under federal law, little-noticed details in a book by the agent's husband suggest," writes USA Today's Mark Memmott. LINK

"In The Politics of Truth, former ambassador Joseph Wilson writes that he and his future wife both returned from overseas assignments in June 1997. Neither spouse, a reading of the book indicates, was again stationed overseas. They appear to have remained in Washington, D.C., where they married and became parents of twins."

"The column's date is important because the law against unmasking the identities of U.S. spies says a "covert agent" must have been on an overseas assignment "within the last five years." The assignment also must be long-term, not a short trip or temporary post, two experts on the law say. Wilson's book makes numerous references to the couple's life in Washington over the six years up to July 2003."

The San Francisco Chronicle's Carolyn Lochhead Notes the briefing room dynamic. LINK

"McClellan was pounded for a third day with questions, but he declined further comment."

"'I think we've exhausted discussion on this the last couple of days,' McClellan said. A reporter replied, 'You haven't even scratched the surface.'"

And take a look at Lochhead's use of the word, "privately."

"Privately, Republicans concede the controversy hurts and wonder why Bush does not simply say Rove did not break the law and clarify that when he said he'd fire anyone in his administration for revealing classified information, he specifically meant someone who broke the law."


"Chief Justice Rehnquist, 80, remained at the Virginia Hospital Center on Wednesday as a precautionary measure and for tests, a court spokeswoman said. No information was released about the nature or severity of his condition," report the New York Times' Kornblut and Altman. LINK

Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times previews this morning's meeting of the Gang of 14 and explains how a battle over a Supreme Court nominee will be the Gang's ultimate test. LINK

Note, too, this quote from Sen. Pryor: "'We do not want to be the new Judiciary Committee,' Mr. Pryor said. 'We do not want to be a superbody within the Senate.'"

The Grey Lady's Linda Greenhouse reminds her readers about the tradition (abandoned of late) of President's going outside of the judiciary to pick Supreme Court nominees. LINK

David Brooks uses his New York Times op-ed column to briefly float Harvard Law Professor Mary Ann Glendon's name as a possible nominee before quickly moving on to write his advocacy for Michael McConnell. LINK

The Washington Post's Charles Lane reports that White House officials are taking a closer look at the possibility that a Justice Gonzales would have to recuse himself from all manner of cases. LINK

The Wall Street Journal picks up the same story, Noting that "Those people say that should Mr. Bush's advisers determine that Mr. Gonzales's work as White House counsel and attorney general would prevent him from voting in big cases, his prospects for nomination could be further complicated. Already Mr. Gonzales has come under fire from some social conservatives who say he is an uncertain advocate for their positions. Democrats also have been critical of Mr. Gonzales for legal opinions concerning the rights of suspected-terrorist detainees."

Big Casino budget politics:

The Washington Post's John Weisman writes this wet blanket paragraph on the deficit figures: "Independent budget experts cautioned that a number of debatable assumptions underpin the White House's deficit projections. The improved budget picture for 2005 is almost all the result of $87 billion in unanticipated tax receipts, much of which may have resulted from one-time events, such as a one-year corporate tax holiday enacted last year." LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Vieth and Simon write that the Administration's revised budget forecast provides "ammunition to supply-side advocates who contended that tax cuts helped pay for themselves." LINK

The politics of terror:

The New York Times' Eric Lipton has the details of Secretary Chertoff's plan to reorganize the Department of Homeland Security. LINK

"Chertoff vowed to carry his campaign for a guest worker program as well as other changes to Capitol Hill in the weeks ahead," writes the Los Angeles Times' Gaouette. LINK

"By linking the controversial subject of immigration policy to the popular goal of thwarting terrorists, Chertoff's plan could give new impetus to President Bush's stalled proposal for an expanded guest worker program and enhanced border security."

"A high-level military investigation into complaints by F.B.I. agents about the abuse of detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, concluded in a report released Wednesday that their treatment was sometimes degrading but did not qualify as inhumane or as torture," writes the New York Times' Neil Lewis. LINK

Clintons of Chappaqua:

The former President was in fine form yesterday at the Campus Progress conference. The Washington Post's Brian Faler wraps it up. LINK

By the way: What does Clinton think about Thomas Frank's "What's the Matter With Kansas?" He liked it… but not the parts about his trade policy.

"In his speech, Mr. Clinton also criticized press coverage of statements his wife, Senator Clinton, has made recently in which she appeared to stray from a doctrinaire line advanced by abortion rights advocates," writes Josh Gerstein of the New York Sun. LINK

"'If you're a Democrat and you have sort of normal impulses, you're a sellout, like when Hillary said, 'Abortion is a tragedy for virtually everybody who undergoes it. We ought to do what we can to reduce abortion,' ' Mr. Clinton said."

"'But if John McCain, who's pro-life, works with Hillary on global warming, he's a man of principle moving to the middle. If President Bush appoints a moderate to the Supreme Court, we won't say he sold out. We'll say, 'Oh, how grand he is,' ' the former president said, throwing his hands in the air."

Santorum takes on the Bay State:

The Boston Globe's Susan Milligan writes up Sen. Kennedy's "rare personal rebuke of a colleague" in his response to Sen. Santorum's repeating his view (initially expressed in 2002) that a "''basic liberal attitude' in Boston fostered an environment where sexual abuse of children could occur." LINK

ABC News' Linda Douglass requested an interview with Sen. Santorum yesterday. An aide to the Senator responded thusly: "This is all about politics. It's all about politics. The Democratic National Committee is using you to push its agenda, and you know that. You know this is not a story. They are just using you."

The aide declined the interview request and then went on to argue that Santorum's remarks to the Boston Globe reporter were not made in an "interview." The aide said the Globe reporter "just caught him in the hallway." (Note Note: The Boston Globe clearly disagrees.)

Douglass goes on to report that the Santorum aide confirmed that the statements portrayed in the Boston Globe story yesterday were indeed correct.

The Boston Globe was also rebuffed by Santorum's office and sent to the NRSC's Ronayne for comment.

"Hard facts and rigorous analysis need to prevail in place of Santorum's ridiculous stereotyping by geography," writes the Boston Globe editorial board. LINK

"Santorum wouldn't budge. As he has done other times he has upset the political left, Santorum flicked aside the criticism yesterday," writes the Philadelphia Inquirer's Budoff. LINK

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette leads its coverage with the Bay State Senators' demand for an apology. LINK

Social Security:

"U.S. House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas hopes to attract votes to his Social Security legislation by including a provision that stops short of fully repealing the estate tax, a senior Republican lawmaker said," per Bloomberg's Bliss and Donmoyer.

Bush Administration:

The Wall Street Journal's Chris Cooper has a cutesy B1 look at the best of the Ask the White House chats.


Here's a sneak peak at another must-read poll from the folks at the Hotline and Westhill Partners. The theme is Sen. Clinton and perceptions of her as commander in chief. And comparisons with Sec. of State Rice. A generic "woman" performs 10 points better on the "tough enough" to be president question among Democrats than when Clinton is named. But Rice outperforms Clinton on every national security question. See today's Hotline for full details.

Stu Rothenberg unfavorably assesses Ed Cox's chances of doing harm to Sen. Clinton in 2006: "Arguing that Clinton is more interested in the White House in 2008 than in representing New York in the Senate also isn't likely to stick. She is sure to deflect questions about her long-term ambitions until after her re-election, and if that line of argument worked at all, it would also be problematic for Sen. George Allen, the Virginia Republican who is also running for re-election as he lays the groundwork for a 2008 White House bid."

2008: Republicans:

Gov. Mitt Romney who is pro death penalty will be pushing pro capital punishment legislation up on Beacon Hill hoping to make Massachusetts the 39th state to approve the sentence. Massachusetts officially abolished the death penalty in 1984. LINK

2008: Democrats:

The New York Times' Ray Hernandez on Sen. Clinton's Grand Theft Auto press conference today: "Politically, Mrs. Clinton's decision to wade into the controversy over Grand Theft Auto is noteworthy. She singled out the game when many Democrats were trying to figure out ways their party can match Republicans on the issue of family values." LINK

Sen. Clinton also led the charge yesterday in urging an increase in the size of the Army by some 80,000 troops. LINK

The New York Post's Deb Orin writes that Sen. Clinton "sounds shrilly left wing" of late. LINK

House of Labor:

Report Bloomberg's Chimpman and Hunt, "Service Employees International Union, which represents 1.8 million U.S. workers, likely will split with the AFL-CIO to pursue its own plan for reviving a weakened labor movement, SEIU President Andrew Stern said."

And we'll add that the SEIU won't be the only departers.


Thomas Beaumont of the Des Moines Register lays out the weekend schedules of some governors through a 2008 lens. LINK

Des Moines Register columnist David Yepsen is a bit skeptical as to how this governors gathering will play out. There will be a great temptation to stump, for one thing. For another, some state executives were unable/unwilling to waste valuable time to attend, implying a low rank on many governors' priority list. Yepsen argues that brainstorming of state initiatives should take center stage -- as that's where lies potential tangible results. LINK

New Hampshire:

In this week's Granite Status, the Manchester Union Leader's John DiStaso tests the waters of New Hampshire reaction to Sen. Judd Gregg's potential SCOTUS nomination. Democratic Chair Kathy Sullivan, for one, wasn't consulted by Sen. Reid before he open the floodgates for a Gregg consideration. Also to be Noted, New Hampshire Democrats are heading down to D.C. to hear testimony regarding their primary status. LINK


Jim Rutenberg and Steven Greenhouse splash across the New York Times front page that Michael Bloomberg has received the endorsement of DC 37, the city's largest municipal labor union. LINK

Michael Saul and Lisa Colangelo of the New York Daily News call the endorsement a "stunning blow" to the Democratic candidates. LINK

The endorsement probably has Mayor Bloomberg in such a good mood that the constant ringing of his home telephone may not bother him. LINK

Former Virginia Fields consultant, Joe Mercurio, keeps the photo flap story alive by releasing some emails sent to the candidate and her staffers that included the doctored photos for them to see. LINK

The Schwarzenegger Era:

The Los Angeles Times reports the fitness magazine consulting deal Gov. Schwarzenegger signed two days before taking office may be worth roughly $8 million. LINK

Other schedule items:

House Leader Tom DeLay joins Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-KS) to announce the House Economic Competitiveness Caucus at a 9:00 am ET news conference.

A subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee holds a hearing at 9:30 am ET on military justice and terrorist detention policies.

At 10:00 am ET , the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee discusses possible public health responses to a terrorist attack.

The House Budget Committee receives the OMB's mid-session budget review at a 10:00 am ET hearing.

The use of cell phones on commercial airliners is the topic of a 10:00 am ET hearing by a subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Activists are taking advantage of Washington's cooler temperatures today to organize protests -- three of them, to be exact. Members from Generation Life, with the help of Rev. Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition, stage a protest adjacent to the White House at 11:00 am ET. At noon, the Stop CAFTA Coalition voices opposition to the trade legislation at the Cannon Terrace. Finally, at 2:30 pm ET, MoveOn Political Action marches in front of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to urge President Bush to hand a pink slip to Karl Rove.

TV Watch, the industry -backed group advocating against more government control of television content, has posted a web video "expos[ing] the hypocrisy of those agitating for even more government control of television." TV Watch's video says "special interest" groups are discouraging parents from using the V-Chip by implying they don't know how to use it. LINK