The Note: Tough Duck



If the Bush White House weren't so completely distracted by the Wilson leak investigation, perhaps the President would be able to actually get something done -- besides sign CAFTA, the highway bill, and the energy bill into law; read all the improving economic figures; celebrate his still-bullet-proof Supreme Court nomination; and continue along semi-stealthily on 2006 fundraising and candidate recruitment.

And if the Democrats weren't so sure that a one-sentence party platform ("Karl Rove should be in jail.") was a sure winner, perhaps they would Notice that the Republican majority is likely to get at least some credit with voters for passing these laws; that the Bill Clinton Democratic Party of free trade just might have been dead and buried shortly after midnight; and that the AFL thing -- along with the America Coming Together thing, along with the DNC thing -- leaves the party with some serious money and organization questions.

And/but there's still the Iraq war and Social Security for the White House to deal with, but does anyone think Democrats are scoring political points galore on those?

And/but perhaps Democrats will be able to convince the country by votin' time that Washington is a corrupt, Republican-dominated cesspool of special interest greed and that the macro economic numbers mean nothing. (Just like in 2002 an7d 2004. . .)

So completes our snap-shot summary of everything you have to know about American politics in fewer than 250 words.

At this writing, President Bush's public schedule consists of a 3:00 pm ET photo op in the State Dining Room with representatives from the Future Farmers of America Organization's State Presidents Conference and his rescheduled remarks to be delivered this evening at 7:15 pm ET to the Boy Scout Jamboree in Fort A.P. Hill, VA. Hopefully it will be a bit cooler today for those waiting to hear from the President. LINK

Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-IL) holds a pen and pad briefing at 9:30 am ET where he will, no doubt, champion the passage of CAFTA and sing the praises of the highway and energy bills. We'll be listening to hear what he has to say about those 27 GOP defectors.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi holds a press conference at 10:45 am ET where she will, no doubt, decry the passage of CAFTA and express some concern about the energy bill. We'll be listening to hear what she has to say about those 15 Democratic defectors.

At 2:00 pm ET, Sen./Dr./Leader Frist will be joined by his colleagues in the majority leadership to "review the Republican agenda" in advance of the August recess.

Sens. Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA) meet with Judge John Roberts today.

At 2:15 pm ET, Democrats announce the launch of a new interactive website aimed at engaging Americans in the Supreme Court confirmation process. Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Hillary Clinton (D-NY) are scheduled to participate.

The Senate will reconvene at 9:30 am ET, at which time the Senate will be in morning business for one hour, and then will resume consideration of the gun liability bill. There should be a roll call vote on the Kohl amendment on trigger locks some time on Thursday morning.

Beginning at noon ET, the American Life League holds a series of protests targeting pro-abortion groups, including Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America, NOW, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, and Catholics for a Free Choice.

Note for the photogs: Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and John McCain (R-AZ) attend a 7:00 pm ET premiere of the film "The Great Raid" starring Benjamin Bratt and James Franco.

The first ever Note quickie book is due out August 1 from Ambchal Press. Details on the book tour are TBD (although our first stop is, naturally, The Factor), but here's a preview of the book from the introduction, which is a short history of errors made in The Note over the years:

People often ask us: what mistake do you make most often in The Note? The answer might surprise you. For a time, our most common mistake was spelling the "Elisabeth" in "Elisabeth Bumiller" with a "z" instead of an "s." But lately, we keep making the inexplicable error we made on Wednesday, July 27, 2005, when we referred, yet again, to "Howard Wolfson" as "Harold Wolfson." We aren't sure why we make this error so often. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that all of us have posters of Howard Ickes above our desks.

Be sure to check out our expanded daybook section below with more of the day's events.

Bush agenda:

"After nearly two years of political gridlock, congressional negotiators reached agreement Wednesday on a $286.5-billion highway and mass transit spending bill aimed at providing relief from everybody's favorite gripe: traffic congestion," reports Richard Simon of the Los Angeles Times. LINK

"The bill exceeds the $284 billion that President Bush had set as his spending limit, but the White House is expected to avoid a veto showdown with the Republican-controlled Congress over the popular bill."

The Washington Post's Shailagh Murray covers similar ground. LINK

With more of a focus on what it won't do than what it will do, the Los Angeles Times' Peltz and Simon catch you up on all you need to know about the energy bill, if you haven't been paying attention. LINK

In the Wall Street Journal, Homa Zaryouni takes apart the energy bill and gives it a nice "what it means to you" spin.

". . .concerns from Florida lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats, over a provision to assess oil and gas reserves along the nation's coasts isn't expected to derail one of the administration's highest, and most elusive, priorities," writes The Hill's Jim Snyder. LINK


On why it was important for the President to win this one:

"Congress has not rejected a major trade pact in more than four decades, and CAFTA's defeat could have undermined Bush's efforts to encourage the spread of democracy to combat terrorism, and to negotiate bigger hemispheric and global trade agreements," writes Warren Vieth of the Los Angeles Times. LINK

"CAFTA was also seen as an important test of Bush's ability to steer major legislation through Congress in his second term. The president's top domestic priority, Social Security restructuring, has stalled in the face of unexpectedly strong opposition and lukewarm Republican support."

The Washington Post's Mike Allen and Paul Bluestein, writing of the "dramatic" early morn, Note that "The last-minute negotiations for Republican votes resembled the wheeling and dealing on a car lot. Republicans who were opposed or undecided were courted during hurried meetings in Capitol hallways, on the House floor and at the White House. GOP leaders told their rank and file that if they wanted anything, now was the time to ask, lawmakers said, and members took advantage of the opportunity by requesting such things as fundraising appearances by Cheney and the restoration of money the White House has tried to cut from agriculture programs. Lawmakers also said many of the favors bestowed in exchange for votes will be tucked into the huge energy and highway bills that Congress is scheduled to pass this week before leaving for the August recess." LINK

Note how the RNC paints Sen. Clinton as un-DLC on this, and how the number of votes from House Democrats represents a low-water mark for the party on recent trade votes.

Roberts: the battle ahead:

The Turley-Durbin conflict, chronicled exhaustively (and relatively exclusively) by Charles Hurt in the Washington Times, (See: LINK) keeps trolling along. We do not profess to know why Prof. Turley's version of the NBC green room conversation does not jibe with Sen. Durbin's, nor why, if Sen. Durbin said something truly outrageous, Fred Thompson would defend him (channeling the Judge's recollection of the conversation).

Today, watch for Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL), the chairman of the House International Relations Committee, to send a letter to Durbin seeking clarification.

From a portion of the letter, obtained by ABC News: "'Practicing Catholics need not apply' cannot become a rallying cry of modern day religious bigots who would seek to drive from the public square all federal office candidates of faith. I hope that your question to Judge Roberts, if accurately reported, does not constitute an opening salvo in a process in which the candidate's faith will constitute sufficient justification to deny him a speedy confirmation."

USA Today's Mark Memmott on the slow boil of interest group activity, and why PFA might never spend those $18-21 million. LINK

The Wall Street Journal editorial board is not happy with the White House: "As for the 75,000 pages, Senate staffers and reporters are dissecting them, looking for material to use at the coming confirmation hearings. Writings on civil rights and school prayer are already being mentioned as possible 'trouble' areas, and they will certainly be taken out of their historical context. No thanks to the White House document dump, Judge Roberts's confirmation may now be harder than it should have been."

The Washington Post's Chuck Babington on the tax returns: "On the controversy over tax returns, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Roberts gave his federal returns for the past three years to the White House counsel's office while lawyers there were vetting him. Asked if the returns would be made available to Senate investigators, as they have been for previous high court nominees, McClellan said, 'There just hasn't been a request at this point.'" LINK

"By yesterday evening, Judiciary Committee Democrats stopped short of making such a request. But they expressed surprise with revelations that the Bush administration in 2001 had dropped the practice of routinely collecting and reviewing tax returns for nominees to all federal courts."

Timespeople Stolberg and Kirkpatrick look at the Senate questionnaire headed John Roberts way, with some still Cruzing to learn more about his role in the 2000 recount. LINK

Chuck Babington of the Washington Post delivers a second story with a nice look at the history of SCOTUS candidates refusing to answer questions about hot-button political issues, and fairly points out the ample merits on the GOP side. LINK

In your upcoming New York Times Magazine this weekend, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) claims that during the White House consultation process prior to the President announcing his Supreme Court nominee (a process Schumer sees as more about quantity than quality), no Democratic Senator was given Roberts' name prior to the announcement.

But our favorite part of Sen. Schumer's exchange with the New York Times' Deborah Solomon is this colloquy which begins with Schumer's description of a recent meeting he had with Judge Roberts:

SCHUMER: ". . .after about 10 or 15 minutes, I said, 'I would like to vote for you this time.' I gave him a list of about 50 questions that I am thinking of asking him so I wouldn't surprise him. I told him my key question is this: Is he an ideologue?"

NY TIMES: "Why would you ask him that? No one would openly call himself an ideologue."

SCHUMER: "Some people are proud to be ideologues."

NY TIMES: "Name one."

SCHUMER: "Lenin."

NY TIMES: "Who is not exactly current."

SCHUMER: "Thank God!"

(Press-shy Chuck gets the Ray Hernandez treatment in the Times today, with the junior-senior rivalry mentioned in passing. LINK)

Roberts: background:

"A government official said the FBI was moving quickly to complete its background check on Roberts, and that the check could be completed as soon as this week," reports The Los Angeles Times' Maura Reynolds. LINK

The New York Times' David Rosenbaum rounds up the Roberts paper trail to date, and finds the beating heart of a true-blue conservative. LINK

The Plame leak investigation:

Doug Jehl of the New York Times writes one of the most complicated stories EVER about the Wilson leak investigation, with pieced together information about the role Walter Pincus of the Washington Post has played and about Judy Miller. LINK

There is so much embedded in this text that you are going to have to read it twice at least (you must read it twice, if you know what we mean).

Lloyd Grove would like to know the name of Ari Fleischer's attorney and hints at what might end up being the biggest penny-wise-pound-foolish story of all time. LINK

House of Labor:

John Sweeney was re-elected to a third term, as "AFL-CIO delegates yesterday voted to boost the monthly dues it pays the federation to finance an emergency fund for some unions to guard against membership raids by the SEIU or the Teamsters. Such turf invasions have started happening already," reports Bloomberg's Kim Chipman.

"The dues increase calls for unions to pay an extra 4 cents for each member, generating an additional $4 million a month for the federation. The funds also will be used to help state and local labor bodies that will be financially hurt by the pullout of the SEIU and the Teamsters."

"Two big unions that broke away this week from the AFL-CIO are moving quickly to launch a new national labor federation by September. 'We're looking at Ohio or another Midwest battleground state for the founding convention,' a top source in the breakaway group told me yesterday," reports Juan Gonzalez in his New York Daily News column. LINK

Bob Novak on the unions and the Democrats: "James P. Hoffa of the Teamsters and Andrew Stern of the SEIU have rejected organized labor's political illusion. They may not know how to cure what ails the nation's unions, but they cannot buy Sweeney's notion that salvation lies in electing Democratic politicians." LINK

"James P. Hoffa of the Teamsters and Andrew Stern of the SEIU have rejected organized labor's political illusion. They may not know how to cure what ails the nation's unions, but they cannot buy Sweeney's notion that salvation lies in electing Democratic politicians."


The Hill's O'Connor reports on Speaker Hastert's efforts in urging the Ethics Committee to create new rules governing privately funded travel for Members of Congress. LINK

"The Senate Select Committee on Ethics is expected to end its investigation of alleged classified leaks by Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) in the next eight to 10 weeks, according to a source familiar with the probe," reports The Hill's Alexander Bolton. LINK

2008: Republicans:

Michael "Coop-a-Loop" Cooper of the New York Times gets the "word" "Patakidämmerung" into the paper in his wrap up of George Pataki's big announcement, and quotes some prominent Pataki supporters urging him to run for "national" office. LINK

"Gov. Pataki and his inner circle might really believe he could be President one day. But observers outside of Pataki-land, on both the left and the right, aren't buying it," writes New York Daily News columnist Bill Hammond who gives Grover Norquist and Howard Wolfson some play. LINK

The New York Daily News reports: "Hours later, [Pataki] held a reception at the East Side's swank Water Club to thank deep-pocket contributors - the kind who could help bankroll a presidential run." LINK

"Several people in attendance said he also made a joking reference to his newfound love for Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina - all early stops on the way to the presidency."

New York Daily News editorial board: "Ten-plus years have produced a decidedly mixed record, but the clock is still running. Pataki has 17 months to recover his early verve and add to the positive side of the ledger, starting at Ground Zero." LINK

The New York Post ed board has mixed feelings about Pataki's record and possible "national" run. LINK

And in the same space, John Podhoretz leads a chorus of voices saying Pataki shouldn't run for president (although the Pod sees a Senate run -- sans HRC -- as the right move). LINK

Sen. Bill Frist gets ink in USA Today for his gun liability vote maneuvers. LINK

Roll Call's Paul Kane on McCainiana: "Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has taken a pair of recent steps that could help lay the groundwork for a White House bid in 2008, severing his official ties with a nonprofit reform group and restarting his political action committee."

"While his Straight Talk America PAC gives him a renewed political platform, McCain also has formally stepped down from the board of the Reform Institute, a group he formed with his top strategists to push his signature issue of campaign ethics."

Gov. Romney can't get rid of Massachusetts fast enough, writes Boston Globe columnist Adrian Walker. LINK

The results from Sen. Santorum's Christian Monitor breakfast as heard by the Philadelphia Inquirer: LINK

"After saying Monday in an online chat with a newspaper's Web site that his intention was not to run for president in 2008, Sen. Rick Santorum (R., Pa.) yesterday said he would not completely rule out the possibility."

2008: Democrats:

Deborah Orin writes with the subtly of Dick Morris in looking at Sen. Clinton's Roberts' decision, concluding: ". . .the Roberts vote may force Clinton to move to the left to protect herself in the 2008 Democratic primaries -- undermining all her efforts to position herself as a centrist." LINK

On the Wall Street Journal's op-ed page, Stephen Moore (with some help from Jim Jordan) sets up Gov. Mark Warner (D-VA) as the likely anti-Hillary Clinton Democratic presidential hopeful, before tearing him down as "a fairly boilerplate tax-and-spend liberal."

"Gov. Tom Vilsack warned Wednesday that the long-term deployment of National Guard units in combat zones is robbing states of basic equipment they need to combat natural disasters," writes the AP's Mike Glover. LINK

Vilsack also enjoyed some national media exposure on Charlie Rose last night.

The Sioux City Journal's Dan Gearino writes of Vilsack's call for sacrifice at home to fight terror abroad. LINK

New Hampshire:

John DiStaso's Granite Status has New Hampshire Democrats drooling over the negative response to Rep. Charlie Bass' MtBE proposal, Gov. Mitt Romney packing plenty of New Hampshire time into his summertime schedule, a couple of Granite State 527s slamming down their fists (and throwing up ads) at Dr./Leader/Sen. Frist, and Kerry and Edwards as separate but equivalently-timed guests of state pols, including Louuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu. LINK

The potential presidential candidate Granite State travel schedule can be a bit dizzying, even in 2005. The AP gets the likes of Jim Demers and Warren Henderson to explain the importance of such visits. LINK


Many of you have inquired about Gordon Fischer's new blog that was referenced in Monday's Note. It's called "Iowa True Blue" and can be found here: LINK


Pat Healy of the New York Times surveys the post-Pataki Empire State landscape and says Pirro will pick AG or Senate soon; Lazio and Weld are meta in play for governor; and Golisano is "leaning" towards running for governor as a Republican. LINK

The New York Daily News Joe Mahoney's list of five possible GOP gubernatorial candidates: LINK

Roll Call's Lauren Whittington has the scoop on the first NRSC ads of the cycle: "The National Republican Senatorial Committee is set to launch its first television ads of the cycle, targeting Sen. Robert Byrd (W.Va.) and charging that the longest-serving Senate Democrat has grown out of touch with voters back home."

"Republican strategists would not reveal the total cost and scope of the ads, but said that the NRSC is spending in the range of tens of thousands of dollars on its first television buy of the cycle. The initial buy, which will be concentrated in the large media markets in the state, may be expanded later."


Giff in Tab Flap over Slumlord Cash (per the New York Post). LINK

Weiner in Campaign Cash Flap (per the New York Post). LINK

Dean's Democrats:

There's an awesome only-in-Roll Call article from Erin Billings and Mark Preston on the Democratic Party's message guru, but why Roll Call call him "Peter?"

"National Democratic leaders are poised to drop a much-hyped message guru they turned to just a few months ago to help re-brand the party, looking instead for different voices to provide them with a sharper political message, sources said."

"Senior Democratic sources said New York marketing expert and former Internet executive Peter Yanowitch, is perceived by many in the party as moving too slowly, and has yet to wow party leaders with a solid game plan. The sources said that Congressional leaders and the Democratic National Committee, working together on an overhaul of the party's image, are ready to turn to seasoned media firms and other non-Washington communications experts to help spread the Democratic agenda beyond the Beltway."

"'Everyone is deeply appreciative about Richard Yanowitch's contributions to the process, but there is an agreement that now is the time to turn to a commercial firm," said a senior Democratic aide who requested anonymity. "At this point, there is a general agreement from both chambers and the DNC that it is time to move forward with a united front and pursue messaging with professionals outside the Beltway.'"


This paragraph appears in a sidebar story by Al Baker of the New York Times regarding a conference call on which New York's Republican state senators yucked it up before an after they were addressed by a dignified George Pataki: LINK

". . .a reporter listened in on after being invited to do so by a Republican operative. Participants in the call were not asked to identify themselves."

In other words: a must read for anyone who works in politics anywhere on the planet.

Other Thursday schedule items:

Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff addresses the Commonwealth Club of California at 12:30 pm ET in Santa Clara, CA.

At 2:00 pm ET, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims marks up legislation that would eliminate the diversity immigrant program.

At 10:00 am ET, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hold an oversight hearing titled "NASA Passenger Aircraft Mission -- Required or Expensive Perk?".

At 11:00 am ET, Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), John Warner (R-VA) and Hillary Clinton (D-NY) join Reps. C.W. "Bill" Young (R-FL) and Henry Hyde (R-IL) for a news conference to announce a major effort to build a rehabilitation center for the National Armed Forces in San Antonio, TX.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL) attend an event titled "The Black Male: Endangered Species or Hope for the Future?" at 2:15 pm ET at the Washington Convention Center.

At 2:30 pm ET, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee holds a hearing on balancing copyright protection and technological innovation in light of the MGM v. Grokster decision.

FairVote kicks off a national campaign calling for the direct election of the president at a news conference beginning at 9:00 am ET.

Former Secretary of State and National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger attends a noontime luncheon to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act.

At 1:00 pm ET, FreedomWorks Chairman Dick Armey and Congressman Patrick McHenry (R-NC) hold an invitation-only conference call to discuss their strategy for pressuring Congress on "critical issues" during the August recess.