Morning Political Note: Jan. 28

This is not your typical "Days of 43" Monday, which are usually kind of sleepy and slow.

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News Summary

For our regular but impatient readers, here's the lead straight up (or at least as straight up as we can make the words accommodate the confusing reality):

The State of the Union address Tuesday meant this already was going to be a high-stakes week for the Bush administration. Throw in the seemingly likely prospect of an unprecedented GAO lawsuit against the administration to force the release of the energy task force records, due to be filed this week by a disgruntled GAO chief who says "Talk is cheap."

Add in that New York Times /CBS poll showing Americans "perceive Republicans as far more entangled in the Enron debacle than Democrats, and their suspicions are growing that the Bush administration is hiding something or lying about its own dealings with the Enron Corporation before the company filed for bankruptcy protection." ( )

Stir, and set pan aside.

Then get out a whole other mixing bowl because, despite the intense focus on the SOTU, the energy task force and Enron, and the economy, there are plenty of foreign policy stories simmering out there, any of which could boil over and overwhelm all things domestic.

Beyond the war on terrorism in general, there's captive Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, the big National Security Council meeting today to deal with the detainee question, and the ongoing chaos in the Middle East. Plus, the president's got some foreign travel coming up, and meetings with foreign leaders in Washington today and this week.

President Bush will meet with Afghan interim leader Hamid Karzai this afternoon. His only other currently scheduled public event is a photo op with the NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers. The Wall Street Journal says Bush will meet privately with members of both parties to talk about prescription drug costs.

And of course, to paraphrase the old joke, "How do you get to the Capitol to deliver the State of the Union?" "Practice, practice, practice." We'd expect the president to be doing some of that today, too.

If you don't know that the State of the Union will focus on three areas — the war against terror, homeland security, and the economy — well, then, the White House needs to recalibrate its effective pre-event message machine, because somehow you have slipped through the cracks.

Let's see how enduring the message of the speech winds up being the wake of many more Enron disclosures certain to come. That story is everywhere, from Time's cover to this morning's morning shows (new whistleblower Ceconi on Good Morning America, and Mrs. Lay and kids on Today, making the first serious bid to rehabilitate and recontextualize the image of Ken, complete with B-roll of the silent and strolling former corporate titan).

One paragraph from the Wall Street Journal puts the Big Speech in the political context within which some of our best sources view things: "With polls showing Americans united behind the president's war effort, aides believe his emphasis on security will overshadow political squabbles about Enron and the economy. Democrats, however, already are drafting a campaign to focus attention on the economy, deficits and Enron."

The anticipated soaring rhetoric of, and rousing response to, the SOTU will momentarily draw many eyes away from the undergirding budget numbers that will come out a week from now.

The New York Times ' Dick Stevenson previews that release with characteristic understatement, albeit right on the front page: "The budget that President Bush will send to Congress a week from Monday strays far from the agenda of small government and fiscal conservatism that the administration advocated on taking office a year ago."

"It will propose a spending increase of around 9 percent for next year, more than any big-government Democrat would dare to put on the table. It will cast aside all the promises about maintaining budget surpluses and paying down the national debt that both parties made in recent years, and instead will project at least several years of budget deficits."

USA Today adds: "Bush has made clear to White House staff that he does not want to repeat the mistake made by his father, former president George Bush, leading up to his State of the Union address in 1992. For two months, the elder Bush deflected questions about his economic strategy by saying he would have 'some new ideas' in his speech. But the speech failed to live up to its buildup." ( )

"House Democratic leader Richard Gephardt will give his party's response. He is expected to voice strong support for the war effort while trying to pin the blame for the continued sluggish economy on Bush's leadership."

We don't know how much rehearsing the president already has done, or whether internal debates are still going on at this late hour about what to leave in and what to take out, but here's a list of things to look for in the SOTU — some obvious, some long-range fliers, but all in our patented (well, not really) clip-'n'-save format:

1. Who'll sit with Mrs. Bush, besides Afghan interim leader Karzai? (We know a few governors will be in town, including the embattled Acting Governor of Massachusetts.)

2. Will the president utter the word "Enron?" (Andy Card on Sunday made that seem unlikely.)

3. Word count on use of "workers."

4. How soon or how far into the speech does the president bring up the education package, and how strongly does the president stress his as-yet-unattended to, core campaign promises of Social Security reform, prescription drug benefits, and faith-based initiatives?

5. Does the president mention finding money for fixing the individual alternative minimum tax, in order to live up to his promise of tax relief for every American?

6. With the expectation that Cheney will attend, what Cabinet member doesn't? Thus elevating the traditional Cabinet member in absentia role to its highest-profile status ever?

7. Does the president expand the war/anti-terrorism rhetoric beyond Afghanistan to other countries?

See below for more SOTU preview.

On Cheney and the GAO, there is still some confusion about whether the White House is actually asserting executive privilege or not — and, if they are, how solid that claim is. The Administration appears to have cleverly asserted at least a pseudo claim, to try to bring the documents under that penumbra (we throw that legal word in there to signal that we are faking it a bit on this) without actually using the phrase in shielding the documents, because of its Watergate-y overtones.

Tout le Washington has decided that the normal rule applies here — "Documents that are famous for not being released eventually will have to be released" — and that Bush and Cheney are subjecting themselves to futile pain now because ultimate disclosure is inevitable. It's not clear what Walker and Cheney discussed in their recent conversation, or how seriously the White House has considered finding some other way to put out the material without compromising on the principle.

But as it stands now, Cheney made it clear Sunday that, for now, he doesn't see any overwhelming political imperative to back down and let the GAO have the documents. Still, all the questions to Cheney and others about the "political" imperative to turn the stuff over miss one very important point about Bush and Cheney that one overlooks at one's peril: these two guys have a highly principled and dogmatic view of the importance of the primacy of a strong executive branch, and they will take political hits galore in order to try and restore it.

As Time points out, the White House clearly is responding to Hill skittishness (and perhaps polling data) in going on the offensive, both substantively and politically, to show concern over Enron. From the invocation of the president's mother-in-law's failed stock investment, to the GOP's strategy of never failing to begin every Enron answer expressing concern for the workers, to Friday's announcement that the government is reviewing all Enron and Andersen contracts — this White House is engaging on all fronts to ward off Enron demons.

The wily Walker of the GAO has got kind of a hidden stiletto, which turns him from Wally Cox to Ray Liotta when he wields it. Look what he said to the New York Times : "Walker … responded this evening in an interview that it was now 'highly likely' that he would file a lawsuit against the Bush administration if Mr. Cheney did not turn over the documents by the end of this week. Of the vice president's assertion that the agency was overstepping its bounds, Mr. Walker, the comptroller general of the United States, replied, 'Talk is cheap.'"

"An administration official said today that it was likely that any court fight over the documents would take years, and that the White House was convinced it had a strong case."

Trent Lott looked mighty uncomfortable, at least to us, on Face the Nation Sunday in talking about this stuff, and we still aren't clear on why he and Senator Nickles last week made it sound like they thought a compromise was afoot shortly after they lunched with the VP. And/but check this out from the New York Times : "During the weekend, Mr. Fleischer said, Mr. Cheney previewed for the group the position he would take on the Sunday morning talk shows, which was to refuse once again to turn over documents demanded by Congress as part of an inquiry into workings of the administration's energy task force, including records of a meeting that Mr. Cheney had with Mr. Lay. No one disagreed with his position, Mr. Fleischer said."

USA Today makes this their lead story, even though they don't offer any new news. (

CNN is heavily promoting a King/Cheney interview which will air tonight at 8 p.m., where this is sure to come up some more.

In a report that may soothe ruffled GOP feathers (and inspire even more SOTU cheering), Roll Call points out that President "Bush, Cheney and first lady Laura Bush will make as many as 50 appearances this year on behalf of Republican incumbents and challengers, according to House GOP officials, with Cheney accounting for approximately half of that total. The president would do roughly 15 events, and Mrs. Bush another 10 under the plan, although there are still questions about what role, if any, the first lady will have in the fall campaign. The appearances will be a mixture of fund-raisers and campaign events designed to exploit Bush's and Cheney's popularity." (

"Cabinet officials and other senior administration figures, including White House Chief of Staff Andy Card and Karl Rove, Bush's top political adviser, may be thrown into the mix to help, as well. Former President George Bush is also expected out on the campaign trail and has already raised money for Senate GOP candidates in Missouri and Minnesota."

"Cheney himself is scheduled to do fundraisers for GOP Reps. John Doolittle (Calif.) and Richard Pombo (Calif.) next month, and the White House recently pledged to have Bush take part in an upcoming fundraiser for Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.)."

President Bush will begin his day Tuesday by breakfasting with the congressional leadership, after which he will meet with House and Senate Republican leaders in the Cabinet Room. Those are the only two events currently on his public schedule, pre-SOTU.

Also on Tuesday, the Fed will convene for a two-day meeting, and the House Commerce Committee is scheduled to hold the first of two days' hearings on Enron.

The president's Wednesday schedule remains TBD, with some SOTU promotion likely. House and Senate Republicans will begin their retreat at The Greenbrier in West Virginia. And former President Clinton will headline a Democratic National Committee fund-raiser in Los Angeles.

On Thursday, Bush will meet with the Chancellor of Germany, and on Friday, he will meet with the King of Jordan. Oral arguments will begin in D.C. U.S. District Court regarding the Mary Frances Berry/Bush Administration U.S. Civil Rights Commission war. And Democratic Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes will deliver his State of the State address.

On Friday, King Abdallah of Jordan will visit Washington, while Democratic Sen. John Edwards will head to New Hampshire.

On Saturday, former Vice President Gore will headline a Tennessee Democratic Party fund-raiser in Nashville; we've been told not to expect Gore to commit any news. C-PAC will hold its annual conference in Crystal City, Va. And, state elections directors will gather in Washington for a two-day conference.

California will see a lot of Bill Clinton this week (both he and Al Gore seem to spend more time in the Golden State, with its record-breaking 55 electoral votes, than does the incumbent president). The Sunday Los Angeles Times rounded up Clinton's public week in the state, with fund-raisers for Senator Boxer and Governor Davis. ( )

Clinton also will give a speech on globalization at UC-Berkeley, make private appearances in Palo Alto and Santa Barbara, and, the Times says, do Florida and New York fund-raisers soon.

At his event today with the first lady, perhaps U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy could be prevailed upon to repeat his "unprecedented conversation" with some reporters Friday in which he said that "no moral justification for flying hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center," as reported by the Washington Times. (

From the ABCNEWS London bureau: Dozens of U.S. special forces and hundreds of Afghan forces stormed a Kandahar hospital where a group of al Qaeda fighters had been holed up for seven weeks … A Pakistani group seeking better conditions for the detainees in Cuba says it has kidnapped Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. A message sent to U.S. news organizations said Mr. Pearl was being held in inhumane conditions — similar, it said, to those experienced by al Qaeda suspects being held at Guantanamo Bay … The identity of the a Palestinian woman believed to be the first female suicide bomber in Israel remains unknown. The Guardian reports that in recent months, radicalized young Muslim women have said they want to be more involved with the armed struggle … At least 200 people are known to have drowned in a canal in the Nigerian city of Lagos while fleeing a series of huge explosions at an army munitions dump. A number of others died when fire ripped through the dump, setting off many bombs at the barracks. The fire finally was extinguished early this morning … The family of one of three Britons being held by the U.S. military as a Taliban or al Qaeda suspect has demanded to be returned to Britain … Saudi Arabia's interior minister, Prince Nayef, tells the state controlled Al-Watan newspaper that Saudi Arabia wants to conduct its own investigation of Saudi terror suspects now in U.S. custody.

State of the Union Preview

The Washington Post's Allen and Goldstein lead a detail-packed SOTU preview (18 drafts as of last Friday, they note) with the news that Bush plans to encourage "more neighborhood and international volunteerism," but the domestic stuff is where the political hay will be made. Bush "will advocate longer unemployment benefits for the newly jobless, prescription drug coverage for Medicare patients, and tax cuts for all Americans. He will call on Congress to promote job growth by passing an industry-friendly energy policy, new limits on lawsuit damages and another round of improvements to education." ( )

"Bush plans to call on Congress to bring the same spirit of cooperation to problems at home that has prevailed for the war, according to senior aides."

"Bush hopes to burnish his image as a different kind of Republican … , when some of the newest news in his speech will be the least controversial. A senior administration official, pointing to the neighborliness engendered by the terrorist attacks, said Bush will … announce a program to 'preserve and extend the great good that we've seen come out of the evil of September 11th, and extend values like this throughout America and throughout the world.'"

"Officials said that among other elements, the program will expand the Corporation for National and Community Service, created under President Bill Clinton to administer AmeriCorps, which provides tuition and student loan repayment in return for community service."

"On health care, Bush is planning to focus on ways to improve access to health insurance for displaced workers, in sync with the administration's theme of economic recovery. The White House will do this, according to one industry source, by borrowing the idea of insurance tax credits for Americans who have lost their jobs, part of the economic stimulus package adopted last month by the House. The administration also may seek to expand health care tax credits to broader groups of people, an idea that some congressional Republicans have long advocated."

"Similarly, Bush is preparing to focus on job security in the administration's proposal for extending the overhaul of the welfare system. Those changes, begun in 1996, will expire in October, unless Congress reauthorizes them this year … At the same time, policy analysts say, the president plans to embrace part of the conservative social agenda on welfare, either by giving states credit for trying to enlist fathers in providing more support for their children or by seeking new funds to promote marriage."

"In another nod to conservatives, the president is expected to propose an education tax credit for private school tuition and school supplies for poor and middle-class families. The initiative would be an effort to recover from the elimination of the controversial idea of private school credits from the education changes the president pushed through Congress last year."

"On Medicare, the federal health insurance program for the elderly, the administration plans to revive its proposal from last summer, which called for a new prescription drug benefit, greater reliance on private health plans and looser regulation of the health care industry and, for the first time, special help for patients with especially large medical bills. The president is proposing $190 billion for such changes — less than Congress indicated it was prepared to spend last year."

The Wall Street Journal says the President will make "an impassioned plea to Congress to immediately pass an economic (stimulus) package" that includes tax cuts, "[e]ven (though) top congressional Republicans are privately conceding that the time may no longer be right — at least politically — to cut taxes further."

Rick Berke offers his preview in the New York Times : "Mr. Bush's advisers said he would seek to turn his popularity as commander in chief into an asset in taming the recession … White House officials said they hoped to highlight the war, and the heroes of Sept. 11, by including in the audience the interim Afghan leader, Hamid Karzai, as well as members of the military, police officers and firefighters." ( )

Even after last week's story, Berke apparently is still getting free and easy Karl Rove quotes: "Still, even Karl Rove, the president's chief political adviser, said it was not easy striking the appropriate tone and message. 'This is a very difficult challenge because we're in the middle of a war,' Mr. Rove said. To come up with a comparable moment, he said, 'You'd have to go back to the '60s when Lyndon Johnson was coming aboard as a new president dealing with the war — or when Franklin Roosevelt was thrust into a war.'"

Rove, on process: "'The president wants to lay out a big vision about the war and homeland security,' Mr. Rove said. 'He said, "I don't want micro programs."' The speech was essentially written several days ago, Mr. Rove said, adding that by late last week Mr. Bush was 'taking a very sharp pencil' to it."

And he's got a pro forma quote from Republican (and former Enron) lobbyist Ed Gillespie, a big-time outside communications consultant to the administration, quoted outside his now usual Enron context.

Time adds, "aides indicated last week that (the President) … will also get behind efforts to strengthen the rules that require companies to disclose information about hidden liabilities. He will call on Congress to make sure that employees have ways to diversify their retirement savings so that other Enrons don't happen."

The Boston Globe suggests this could be Bush's first speech in which he faces raised, rather than lowered expectations. "With his popularity still soaring, President Bush finds himself in an unfamiliar spot as he prepares for the State of the Union address tomorrow night: for perhaps the first time, many Americans have reason to expect an outstanding performance." ( )

White House spokesperson Dan Bartlett echoes something Karl Rove said not too long ago: "'This is not a typical sophomore State of the Union speech from a president, because this is a nation at war.'" We're still trying to puzzle out what the White House is trying to do with its use of this adjective …

The Washington Times offers a contrary view to the Globe's, suggests that this speech might wind up not even ranking among Bush's top three, given "that's he has already delivered "high-pressure speeches on the war against terrorism, stem-cell research and his narrow victory in the post-election recount wars." (

Speechwriter Mike "Gerson's work on earlier speeches, which were praised by liberals and conservatives alike, has served to mitigate the pressure on Mr. Bush to hit a home run tomorrow."

USA Today offers a clip-'n'-save of their own, on what Bush promised during his speech to the joint session of Congress last February, and what he has delivered on — and not. ( )

Budget Politics

More from Mr. Stevenson's New York Times story: "That Mr. Bush is making his proposals backed by stratospheric job-approval ratings does not hurt his case, either. Still, even before he sends it to Capitol Hill or outlines it in his State of the Union address on Tuesday, the president's approach to the budget is generating opposition — or at least disquiet — on both sides of the aisle. Getting what he wants may be more complicated for Mr. Bush than it appears."

"Some of Mr. Bush's Democratic opponents are beginning to view the forthcoming budget as another example of how this administration regularly repackages positions it has advocated all along to take advantage of changing circumstances."

"The president's call last week for the biggest defense buildup since Ronald Reagan — $48 billion in additional spending on the military next year — includes $10 billion for the direct costs of the war on terrorism."

While Democrats also are mulling over the same things about tax cuts, conservatives are unhappy too: "Few members of Mr. Bush's party are willing to put any daylight between themselves and the commander in chief at this point, but some conservatives are concerned that the administration is not fighting hard enough to keep spending down."

"Conservatives do not quarrel with a big Pentagon spending increase. But some say they would like to see the administration do more to squeeze nondefense spending."

"The administration has signaled that it will propose a spending increase of no more than 3 percent next year for programs outside the Pentagon and domestic security. That is roughly what it would take to keep up with inflation. But because some nondefense programs, like the National Institutes of Health, will get substantial increases, many others are sure to be cut."

Dan Mitchell of the Heritage Foundation breaks the code on this: "'The reason for that politically … is that the Bush administration has decided, probably for pretty good reasons, that there are other priorities right now, and getting into a fight with Congress that would not be easy to win would undermine those priorities,'" but the article suggests that avoiding the fight might come at the expense of diluting the party's image as the party of fiscal discipline.

From the Wall Street Journal : "Mr. Bush, who plans to steer clear of the Enron debacle in his speech, will paint his economic package in broad strokes. But the political devils may lie in the details … Mr. Bush is expected to cut $850 million from education and training assistance programs, including money for dislocated workers. He also is expected to eliminate grants to assist youth offenders and to train high-skilled workers sought by technology companies."

"Hoping to deflect criticism from such budget cuts, the administration is touting increases in other popular programs. Mr. Bush will boost funding for the National Institutes of Health by $3.7 billion. And senior administration officials said the president Monday will announce that the U.S. will contribute $200 million for the new Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria."

Roll Call neatly phrases Democrats' quandary: "Some Democratic strategists suggest that the party is caught between a fear of seeming to advocate raising taxes and an inability to make the case for its 'priorities' without revisiting last year's tax cut." ( )

The Economy

Fred Dicker in the New York Post says the first study to price out the cost of September 11 to the U.S. economy will peg it at $639.3 billion and 2 million jobs. ( )


Regarding the Today interview with the Lay family: in a big group interview, one of Lay's daughters said, "His generosity is beyond anything I've ever seen." Lay's wife did some serious crying on tape.

Enron Investigative

The Los Angeles Times looks at the difficulties in prosecuting corporate fraud cases and how the "prospect of serious criminal convictions of corporate executives is far from certain." ( )

Enron Politics

A popular, war-time president heading into his first State of the Union surely would expect better from Time magazine than a shadowy, diminishing picture of the White House with the header, "The Enron Mess: How Sticky Will It Get?"

Time is one of the few news organizations to make its own run at the Karl Rove/Ralph Reed story (or, at least, to publish the fruits of its individual reporting). But, despite giving each man his own sidebar (like a taco bar, just not as good), and mentioning it in the main story, they don't really move things along. Time makes several references to how people who know about campaigns are buzzing about what they think the facts are in this case, but this account doesn't change much about the New York Times had last Friday, and in fact doesn't even get as far, without the killer blind quotes on which the original story was hung.

The story does say, regarding Rove and his Enron stock, "the shares he owned were bought out of his own pocket," an oblique reference to what we suspect is viewed as an urban myth within the White House.

Highlights: "No wonder nervous Bush aides reached out last week to at least one prominent Republican who had been critical of the administration and asked him to tone it down … For reasons no one can explain, it went through with its plans to make one of Enron's former lobbyists, former Montana Gov. Marc Racicot, the new Republican National Committee boss (ABC editorial note: no one has really pinned down that we have seen exactly what Racicot did for Enron.)."

And who thinks that the person who uttered this was engaged in wishful thinking? "A senior (administration) official predicted to Time that voters who care about Enron and its White House ties will lose interest after the next big bombing raid."

The New York Times profiles Republican committee chair and Enron prober James Greenwood, complete with the fact that he let NBC into his home at 5 a.m. on Saturday for an interview. ( )

Democrats seem to view the two biggest areas of "vulnerability" now, beyond the energy task force records fight, as the alleged influence that Lay had over FERC and other appointments, and the India power plant. Congressman Waxman's Friday letter, per DeVogue, upped the ante on the second area because it tells the story with a timeline, showing Rove's and Cheney's calls were more "timely" than had been thought.

Per the New York Times , House Majority Whip Tom DeLay at Camp David this weekend found Ken Lay's Clinton-era signature in the guest book, and the former president's spokesperson couldn't confirm or deny he stayed there then. ( )

Bob Novak says the replacement at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission of Hebert by Wood (read: of Lott's guy by Lay's guy) had less to do with Enron's influence than with Texas cronyism (leading to anti-free market decisions). ( )

Janet Hook looks at what Enron has done to Congress' legislative agenda. (

Enron Media

Mr. Kurtz summarizes in the Washington Post: "More journalists who got Enron cash are struggling to explain themselves. Lawrence Kudlow, a National Review contributing editor and co-host of CNBC's America Now, disclosed last week that he'd gotten $50,000 from Enron — two $15,000 speaking fees and a $20,000 subscription to his New York economic research firm … Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, was paid $100,000 for serving on an Enron advisory board over two years. In November, the Standard disclosed his service in a largely positive article about Enron by contributing editor Irwin Stelzer, who served on the same advisory board, which was assembled by former CEO Kenneth Lay … Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan … got $25,000 to $50,000 for helping Lay with a speech and annual report … New York Times columnist Paul Krugman … got $50,000 from the Enron advisory board." ( )

Legislative Agenda

The Wall Street Journal looks at the politics (with some substance thrown in for good measure) of the president's troubled prescription drug discount card plan, saying it might get a push in the SOTU.

We'll keep saying it as long as the announcements keep trickling out: there's a lot of regulating and de-regulating activity going on within the administration on environmental matters, some of which must be politically important, but it's kind of hard to keep track. "The Bush administration will ask Congress for $21 million for fiscal 2003 to create a new program within the Environmental Protection Agency aimed at restoring pollution-damaged streams and rivers," the Washington Post reports. "With the new program, the agency plans to choose 10 watersheds that deserve more protection through grants to states, tribes and local communities, EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman said last week" in an interview. ( )

ABC 2004: The Invisible Primary

One of Dick Gephardt's top aides is doing some expectations-setting of his own, regarding his boss' SOTU response: "'It's hard to compete with a guy in front of a cheering audience and standing ovations talking about a subject in which there is virtual partisan unanimity," said Steve Elmendorf, chief of staff to Representative Richard A. Gephardt … 'The president is at 85 percent popularity. Give me an example of a State of the Union over the last 20 years that the president has not used successfully.'" ( )

"As a result, Mr. Elmendorf said, Mr. Gephardt's speech would — albeit gingerly — raise questions about the nation's economic security and 'focus more on the real differences between Bush and the more extreme elements in the Republican Congress.'"

Hey, we still think the Rams play in Los Angeles, and we couldn't locate Foxboro on a map if you paid us, but we should point out that we expect a fried-ravioli-for-lobster (or, Dad's-cookies-for-bad-pizza) bet between wannabes Gephardt and Kerry. ( for (

As during his gab with Russert on Sunday, Gephardt didn't commit any news at his Monitor Breakfast (as the former Sperling functions now are called) last Friday, either, but here's the link to some excerpts, for the curious. ( )

Every 2004 wannabe has a homestate political reporter who writes the occasional piece for the constituents on the prospect's prospects. We will predict right now that Glen Johnson of the Boston Globe (writing about Sen. John Kerry, whom we view as the Democrat just about most likely to run) will win the 2002 piece-count title. Johnson's latest ran Sunday, on Kerry's efforts to run and attack, with a caveat strategy. ( )

The Washington Post's Kamen reports on " … This is your chance to 'keep up to date and participate in the re-election of our rightful president, Al Gore,' we are told. There are 'New Gore Videos' you can watch, and there's the Gore News Network featuring everything you want to know about what the former vice president is doing these days. The site, set up by a Gore fanatic in Everett, Wash., insists it's not affiliated in any way with Gore or the Democrats." ( )


Here's a little more from that Sunday Los Angeles Times report on FPOTUS' renewed travels on behalf of his party. "With an eye on history and an ear to the ground, Clinton is hoping to help shape the political debate this election season and beyond, cementing the changes he brought to the Democratic Party and putting a retrospective gloss on his stormy presidency. This week, Clinton will headline events for Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) in San Francisco and Gov. Gray Davis and the Democratic Party in Beverly Hills. In between, the former president will give a speech on globalization at UC Berkeley and make private appearances in Palo Alto and Santa Barbara." ( )

"Paul Maslin, a Davis adviser, is delighted Clinton will be stumping for the governor at Thursday night's event in Beverly Hills. The dinner, hosted by billionaire Ron Burkle, is expected to raise $1.5 million for Davis' re-election effort. 'He dwarfs everyone else: the congressional leadership, [former Vice President Al] Gore, any governor,' Maslin said of the former president. 'He's still our No. 1 guy.'"

Does HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson like California Gov. Gray Davis? Well, he says he does. Even though the Los Angeles Times had a charming narrative Sunday about how the federal government seems to be playing favorites before the Republican gubernatorial primary, by giving a classic "heads up" to former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, the man the White House picked to run — before fully realizing, we think, just how mercurial Riordan is. And if the Clinton White House did this, the GOP would go nuts. ( )

Riordan is targeting those same quirky coastal voters on whom the GIO hasn't been able to rely in recent big elections. (

Richard Riordan is Catholic and pro-life, but at the vanguard of the GOP pro-choice wing. ( )

In Orlando this weekend, Gov. Jeb Bush told the Florida Republican Party that he will use the just-begun legislative session to answer his critics, who contend that his policies are to blame to for the state's revenue crisis. (One note of poesy: the party conference was held at Disney's Coronado Resort … Disney is the linchpin of Florida's tourism industry … and Florida's tourism industry is one of the reasons why Florida doesn't have an income tax … which is the main reason why Florida is so sensitive to economic downturns.) ( )

For those of you nostalgic for that political-media touchstone of yesteryear (reporter spends time with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., reporter given incredible access, reporter sees McCain do impersonations, reporter decides McCain will be or should be president — or both), grab yourself this week's New Yorker in which Nick Lemman hints at another McCain run for president in 2004 as an independent. It'll fill that aching hole. Just let us know if you see anything in the piece that's at all new from what we've heard out of McCain or his aides and advisers before.

Iowa's David Yepsen, in a column Al Gore would love, urges Iowans to think about building better roads — telecommunication roads. ( )

North Carolina Democratic Senate candidate Erskine Bowles took in $160,000 at a Raleigh fund-raiser late last week. ( )

With all the focus on campaigns and finances and reform, a significant win in Massachusetts for those who support the right of candidates to limit their own fund-raising and get state money in return. The Supreme Judicial Court has ruled that the state's clean election law, referendumed by voters in 1999, must be funded by the legislature. (House Speaker Tom Finneran had essentially refused to fund the provision). It's now in effect, and will affect this year's numerous statewide races. ( )

Roll Call looks at the red-carpet treatment House Majority Leader Dick Armey's son Scott, who is running to replace his dad, received from Washington GOP political, PAC and lobbying circles. ( )

A name you've probably never heard of but should keep in the back of your mind: Georgette Sosa Douglass — she works on behalf of Republican and Hispanic causes in South Florida and, according to a Miami Herald profile, she has so few aspirations herself that she doesn't carry a cell phone. ( )

Utah and 2002 Winter Olympics Republican Gov. Mike Leavitt delivers his State of the State address today.

Bush Administration Strategy/Personality

Mr. Brownstein in the Los Angeles Times today makes the case that 43 handled America's response to September 11 better than 42 would have, while concluding that 43 might do well to listen to the ideas of 42 now. "The issue isn't whether Clinton would have used force to retaliate for the attacks. He demonstrated in Bosnia and Kosovo (over enormous Republican resistance) that he was willing to use military power to advance U.S. goals. And no president would have accepted the outrage of Sept. 11 without delivering a powerful blow in response. But it's likely that Clinton would have felt a need to balance force with gestures to reach out to the Muslim and Arab world. Those ideas have a time and place. But this isn't it." (

The Washington Post runs the second part of their eight-part Balz/Woodward "George and Dick (and Condi and Rummy, etc.): The Early War Years," with more of their incredible access (an interview with the president, access to NSC documents, the the president's heretofore unrevealed diary). ( )

The New York Times ' Elizabeth Bumiller continues her role as hostess/analyst with the mostest, with another stylistically strong Monday White House letter with these details, built around a listing of the president's busy social schedule last week: "'The president does everything fast, including eating dinner,' said Ari Fleischer. 'He's not a lingerer.'" Another source said the president will "'eat your dessert, too, if you let him.'" ( )

And this from Camp David with the congressional leaders, "Mr. Bush asked the members if anyone would like to run with him. The president, who is now averaging a 6:50 mile during his three-mile runs through the Camp David woods, got no takers. 'Everybody started looking at their feet,' Mr. Fleischer said."

E.J. Dionne in Sunday's Washington Post Outlook section had an excellent piece on the president's long-term project of trying to unite his party's economic and cultural conservatives. He ends the piece with this "His project is not simply to get reelected, but to remake American conservatism," but he might have added this: "and to remake America." ( )

Ever since Wall Street Journal columnist Robert Bartley visited then-Governor Bush in Austin in December of 1999, he has been a big fan of the guy. Today's column continues the lovefest, with ample praise for all the president's best traits, a shot at the media-elite CW, and a plea for the president to push hard on more and faster tax cuts and Social Security reform (the latter of which Bartley is resigned to seeing passed only in the president's second term!).

Cindy Adams, who writes one of the best four gossip columns in the New York Post, has some theory we can't quite understand about Dick Cheney's future, and quotes Mrs. Clinton as saying she isn't moving from the Chappaqua house. ( )

Rep. Rob Portman, an administration point person in the House but perhaps better known as the guy who's constantly trying to shake off questions about his possibly replacing Andy Card, is starting a PAC. ( )