Morning Political Note: Jan. 25

Often, Friday is for casual dress, checking moviefone.com, and finalizing weekend plans. But if you're in the political media maelstrom, get ready for 110 hours of non-stop adrenaline from this moment through the return of Tuesday night's insta-polls and dial-meters gauging America's response to the State of the Union.

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News Summary

A LOT is going on in public and behind the scenes on politics, Enron, the economy, and the war.

But in our world, the story that may get the most attention today belongs (as it often does) to Mr. Richard L. Berke of the New York Times.

Democrats and reporters sniffing around the Enron story, not content to let it stay "just a big business scandal," have focused their attention on Karl Rove. Democrats seem certain that there's more to his Enron ties than has been revealed, even as Rove has "worked" the Enron matter, trying to reframe the perception of how close the President was to Ken Lay by injecting under-reported facts into the public ken, reminding reporters that much of what Enron did and got took place during the Clinton Administration, and directing an operation that has aggressively pointed out Democratic lobbyist and lawmaker ties to Enron.

Now Mr. Berke, who writes as much about the President's top political advisor as any other national reporter, leads the paper's business section today with a story about Rove, Republican strategist and Georgia state party chairman Ralph Reed, and Enron. ( http://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/25/business/25REED.html )

The undisputed facts: Reed worked as a well-paid consultant to Enron from September 1997 until just recently, and Rove said nice things about him to the folks at Enron.

According to anonymous "Rove associates" with whom Berke spoke, however, there is more to it than that: "The Rove associates say the recommendation, which Enron accepted, was intended to keep Mr. Reed's allegiance to the Bush campaign without putting him on the Bush payroll. Mr. Bush, they say, was then developing his 'compassionate conservativism' message and did not want to be linked too closely to Mr. Reed, who had just stepped down as executive director of the Christian Coalition, an organization of committed religious conservatives."

"At the same time, they say, the contract discouraged Mr. Reed, a prominent operative who was being courted by several other campaigns, from backing anyone other than Mr. Bush."

Rove and Reed emphatically deny these additional "facts" to Berke.

"But a friend of Mr. Bush recalled a discussion in July 1997 in which Mr. Rove took credit for arranging an Enron job for Mr. Reed. 'Karl told me explicitly of his concerns to take care of Ralph,' this person said. 'It was important for Karl's power position to be the guy who put this together for Ralph. And Bush wanted Ralph available to him during the presidential campaign.'"

"Mr. Rove was concerned, this person also said, that Mr. Reed not have a prominent public role in the campaign because 'Ralph was so evangelical and hard right, and Karl thought it sent the wrong signal.' Another Republican said: 'It was basically accepted that Enron took care of Ralph. It's a smart way to cut campaign costs and tie people up' so they do not work for other candidates."

If you can't see instantly what these blind quotes would do to the heart rates of those in attendance at Terry McAuliffe's morning DNC message meetings, well, you must never have spoken with these people before.

Berke quotes one expert suggesting that such an arrangement might have been illegal, but that seems unlikely to us, no matter what the facts.

What's biggest about this story is the chance that it will lead to Democrats crawling all over Rove to demand more answers, and the fact that Rove and Reed, who always have had a complex professional relationship, are now going to have to try to identify those anonymous sources who are, from their point of view, telling lies about them.

The story also describes Enron involvement with two other politicos: GOP pollster Frank Luntz did work for the firm around the 2000 elections, and Democratic raconteur James Carville interviewed for part of the job that Ralph Reed ultimately got, involving doing work for the company in Pennsylvania on an energy deregulation issue. Now, we know at this point that Enron has done some dumb things, and we think Carville is pretty talented at a lot of stuff, but the fact that they wanted to pay him a lot of money to work on a substantive issue … well … let's hope the Enron board hadn't approved THAT.

There was a lot of talk during the early days of the Bush campaign about exactly how Reed was tied to the campaign, both substantively and financially.

And Berke seems to have forgotten to cite a clip of his own, a September 13, 1997 profile of Reed that contained this: "As much as Mr. Reed talks about helping unknowns, his biggest hope seems to be that he can play a major role in the campaign of whoever wins the Republican Presidential nomination in 2000. He said he would put off a decision about whom he will help, at least until late 1998; that way he can keep in contact with all of them, finding out who has the best prospects and 'offering them a lot of free advice.' Of the possible contenders at this early stage, Mr. Reed has the closest relationships with Governor Bush, Senator Ashcroft and former Vice President Dan Quayle."

It's not clear to us how much of the paint-splattering off of this story will infect the news leads heading into the weekend and into State of the Union, but as we noted, there's a lot of other stuff going on.

We knew that the Republican congressional leadership will head to Camp David today to huddle with President Bush after Bush retrurns from his quick trip to Portland, ME, but we didn't know they'd be watching "Blackhawk Down" or spending the night, as the Wall Street Journal reports they are (the Journal also notes from its joint poll with NBC: "Of presidential qualities polled, Bush rates lowest on 'working effectively with Congress").

They've got a lot to discuss, starting with what to do about economic stimulus, now that Alan Greenspan has kinda rained on their parade, and that pesky Shays-Meehan thing. Having campaign finance advocates achieve 218 signatures for the discharge petition yesterday while that Enron guy was taking the Fifth — well, it took about two seconds for the CW to form that House Republicans can't afford to look like they're obstructing CFR.

It's possible that those opposed to these kinds of changes (we resist calling them "reforms") might grudgingly decide that Enron lifts concern about this issue beyond just the ed boards and some Chevy Chase living rooms.

As the Washington Post neatly reads from Greenspan's testimony, "Greenspan's views on the economy are so influential — and Democrats and Republicans are still so far from a deal — that Greenspan's reluctance to endorse the legislation could prove fatal to a final agreement" on the economic stimulus package. ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A34955-2002Jan24.html )

"Responding to Greenspan's testimony, Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said he believes that a stimulus package is still needed but acknowledged there are 'mixed feelings' among senators on whether the need is fading."

On CFR, even with the discharge petition signed, there still are a lot of unknowns. Republican leaders will strategize this weekend about when to schedule the votes, with one GOP spokesman saying it might not be until June.

And, per the New York Times, "[o]nce the debate starts, the outcome is also not assured. The Shays- Meehan bill is only one of three that will be voted on. It will have to win more support than a less stringent measure sponsored by Representative Bob Ney, Republican of Ohio, and another bill to be submitted by Republican leaders. Whichever bill emerges from that faceoff is then subject to 20 amendment attempts." ( http://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/25/politics/25CAMP.html )

The Los Angeles Times notes, "Exactly when the new House debate on the issue will begin is unclear. Rep. Charles F. Bass (R-N.H.), who was one of those signing the petition Thursday, said that House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) promised him a vote in February. A spokesman for House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) said the GOP leaders would discuss the schedule at a party retreat this weekend." ( http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/front/la-000006403jan25.story?coll=la%2Dheadlines%2Dfrontpage

In case you missed Ari's briefing: "President Bush has not promised to sign the legislation, but White House spokesman Ari Fleischer reiterated yesterday, 'The president has made it very clear to Congress that they cannot count on him to veto campaign finance reform.'" ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A34921-2002Jan24.html )

"In a closed-door GOP meeting yesterday morning, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) warned colleagues of the approaching showdown. With Democrats poised to regain control of the House if they can gain six seats in November's election, the political stakes are huge, Hastert noted."

"'Six people wouldn't be here right now if it weren't for soft money,' Hastert said, according to a participant."

President Bush today travels to Portland, ME — Maine being home to four electoral votes; one Senator, moderate Republican Susan Collins, up for re-election in 2002; an open governor's race; and an open House seat. Bush will talk about border and seaport security. After leaving Portland, he proceeds directly to Hagerstown, MD, and from there to Camp David for his slumber party.

The Portland Press previews the President's trip to Maine. ( http://www.portland.com/news/local/020125bushinmaine.shtml )

The Washington Post notes, "Although the allotment for first responders represents the biggest increase in the homeland security budget, it isn't the largest expense. Border security leads the list, with $11 billion, according to sources familiar with the proposal." ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A34753-2002Jan24.html )

Per Textor, the President will announce a series of spending increases on homeland security today that will result in the following totals: $10.7 billion for border security, $2.3 billion for Customs, $5.3 billion for the INS, and $2.9 billion for the Coast Guard, plus more spending for agricultural quarantine programs.

And back again to campaign finance reform, here's a nice pair of events happening today: Senate Majority Leader Daschle will headline a fundraiser for Senate candidate Alex Sanders in Columbia, SC (recent local press reports quote Sanders saying he didn't really want the big-time national Democrat to come, but who was he to say "no"); and Vice President Cheney will headline $1,000- and $200-per-person fundraisers for Rep. Rob Portman in Cincinatti.

Get ready for a raft of weekend State of the Union previews. The White House and its allies are already sending around this morning some boilerplate preview language.

The Wall Street Journal sneaks theirs into today's paper, and it is the consummate must-read, by the team of Seib and Harwood. So finish the Note, throw away the other half of that muffin (it's not health food; it's a gussied-up donut), get yourself a dollar and a dream and go buy the Journal and read this piece.

As with most must-reads, there's too much in here for us to excerpt, but the highlights are: 1) the President's approval ratings for the war don't necessarily translate into power to move his agenda at home, particularly because Enron is stoking sentiment for more government activism of the kind the President tends to oppose on principle; 2) two key Senators and a key GOP pollster say what any of you have traveled lately know — Enron is a bigger issue around the country with real people than most folks in Washington realize; and 3) Enron has changed the outlook for campaign finance reform, pension, financial derivative, and ANWR in Washington, and for energy deregulation in the states.

And 4) these SOTU previews:

The President's "aides are scurrying to find approaches to suit the voters' new embrace of government activism. An important element of his State of the Union Address next week is expected to be a proposal to tap the surge in community spirit since Sept. 11 by expanding the federally funded national service program. Most Republicans in Congress opposed that program when President Clinton proposed it nine years ago."

"Inside the White House, aides also are debating whether to couple that call for accepting personal responsibility toward fellow citizens with an Enron-inspired slap at corporate irresponsibility."

"Nobody expects Mr. Bush or his conservative team to fundamentally alter their business-oriented philosophy. Still, one senior Bush administration official says aides will embrace regulatory measures on the margins to 'save capitalism' from its excesses, much as Franklin D. Roosevelt claimed he was doing with government activism during his New Deal era."

"One possible administration step: A move to raise fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks by the middle of the decade, which would put the administration at odds with big automobile companies in the name of energy independence and environmental protection."

"His State of the Union address figures to be split about evenly between terrorism-related talk and domestic issues. Senior aides say the centerpiece will be strong language signaling the continued pre-eminence of the fight against terror."

Also this weekend:

On Saturday, Sen. John McCain will hold an amazingly well-timed Straight Talk America PAC meeting in Phoenix, and House Democrats will begin their weekend retreat at the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort and Spa in Pennsylvania. Also, former Miss Kansas Linda Daschle will address a women's conference in Pratt, KS.

On Sunday, Vice President Cheney will appear on "This Week with Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts," and on Fox, while designated Democratic party SOTU respondent Dick Gephardt will appear on "Meet the Press."

Also today, according to USA Today and others, Bush's foreign policy team will huddle to decide how to punish Arafat for trying to buy weapons from Iran. "Severing ties, the most drastic step, could undercut Bush's anti-terrorism campaign by stoking anti-American feelings among Muslims already angry over U.S. support for Israel in its conflict with the Palestinians." ( http://www.usatoday.com/hlead.htm

From the ABCNEWS London Bureau: A Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up in a pedestrian mall in Tel Aviv, wounding two dozen people and killing himself. No immediate claim of responsibility … The Times of London reports that 5,000 Taliban soldiers with 450 tanks, armored carriers, and pick-up trucks is locked in a tense stand-off with US special forces in Afghanistan … UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has arrived in Afghanistan to show his support for Hamid Karzai's interim government … Karzai said today that the United Nations has completed a list of 21 people whose task will be to organize a tribal grand council, or loya jirga, to decide on Afghanistan's next government. He said he recognized a few of the names but not the majority, which is, he says, a proof of impartiality.

And lastly for this section, US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor gave an interview to Joan Biskupic and said rumors that Bush might tap her to replace a retiring Chief Justice Rehnquist are "'nonsense,'" and that she has not thought about her own retirement yet. ( http://www.usatoday.com/usatonline/20020125/3803945s.htm

Enron

The hard-copy New York Times has more than six full pages devoted to Enron today, and not one with an ad, unless you count the picture of Lorraine Bracco (who attended the House hearing) as a teaser for the return of "The Sopranos."

Ken Lay's $51 million severance package is left hanging in the balance by the company's Chapter 11 filing. ( http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/front/la-000006407jan25.story?coll=la%2Dheadlines%2Dfrontpage )

"Help wanted: 'savvy restructuring officer.'" We should know within a few days who's going to replace Lay and other top leaders at the company. ( http://www.usatoday.com/money/energy/2002-01-25-enronCEO.htm )

Apparently the political king of Texas is not George W. Bush — it is, err, was, Kenny Boy. ( http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/asection/la-000006445jan25.story?coll=la%2Dnews%2Da%5Fsection )

The Washington Post gives Style section treatment to Enron whistleblower Sherron Watkins. ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A35005-2002Jan24.html )

Enron Investigative

The New York Times and USA Today update the latest on Army Secretary Thomas White, a former Enron executive, who remains clearly in Democrat and journalist sights. ( http://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/25/business/25WHIT.html ) and . ( http://www.usatoday.com/money/energy/2002-01-26-usat-white(enron).htm )

The Washington Post looks at how the National Security Council, "[f]or a moment last year, … also acted as a sort of concierge service for Enron Chairman Kenneth L. Lay and India's national security adviser, Brajesh Mishra." ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A34646-2002Jan24.html )

Enron Politics

Lots of this story has been reported before, but the Washington Post nicely describes how the Gramms just can't get away from Enron, no matter how hard they've tried. ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A34668-2002Jan24.html )

Read this Washington Times piece on how Democratsic efforts to really saddle the GOP with Enron — beyond just bad atmospherics — may not work. ( http://www.washtimes.com/national/20020125-258408.htm )

There's a really good op-ed in the Wall Street Journal by Virginia Postrel about why the Administration is treating big steel differently than it treated Enron — chalking it up to politics, since the President already owns Texas, he didn't need to help the bankrupt energy giant.

Paul Krugman defends himself from the conservative attack on his alleged semi-non-disclosure of his ties to Enron, and takes a little swipe at Bill Kristol in the process. If you are part of the Mickey Kaus/Jonah Goldberg chattering class, this one is a must-read; too inside for most of you to care. ( http://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/25/opinion/25KRUG.html )

And Don Hewitt has an op-ed in the same paper about politics, television, and money that we confess we don't quite understand, but he seems to be calling for some sort of changes. ( http://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/25/opinion/25HEWI.html )

Enron Media

The New York Times has a whirling piece on how television covers Enron, with nuggets galore. ( http://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/25/business/25MEDI.html )

But first of all, an editing snafu caused us to fail to include our review of NBC's "Inside the Real West Wing" special two nights ago, so here's a mini-version. We wonder if Bush speechwriter Mike Gerson still will be able to work quietly, as he frequently does, at the Starbucks down the street from the White House, now that the world has been told that's what he does.

Second, as the New York Times story points out: "Several (television) executives, referring to what they called the administration's efforts to manage the Enron story, pointed to comments made by Ari Fleischer, President Bush's spokesman, in an NBC program on the White House on Wednesday night. Mr. Fleischer was portrayed as expressing satisfaction that he had steered the network newscasts away from the White House's connection to Enron, at least for a day."

"'All right,' Mr. Fleischer said in the NBC report. 'Look what made it onto the air. The business scandal side of it. All the political stuff they're ignoring.'"

Budget Politics

James Dao in the New York Times has a must-read-for-budget-hawks piece on how the President is using his war-time carte blanche to ask for more military spending than even he (Bush, not Dao) had envisioned as a candidate, and how some budgeteers see a threat that over the years, this massive spending will make a return of DAFATECS (pronounced "dayfatecks," and standing for "deficits as far as the eye can see") inevitable. ( http://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/25/politics/25PENT.html )

The Economy

Greenspan had something for both parties in his testimony yesterday. For Republicans, he predicted the economy is coming back and said the Bush tax cut helped. For Democrats, he semi-endorsed tax-cut and spending triggers, and paid homage to fiscal discipline, of which the Administration can't claim to be an undisputed champion at this point.

The Los Angeles Times takes the lead in writing up the Pew study released yesterday showing "that Latino family income, employment and poverty rates are unlikely to return to pre-recession levels until late 2004 at the earliest." The Times calls this a business story; we view it otherwise. As we noted before the study came out, we bet the White House and the Republican National Committee — calling pollster Matthew Dowd — are paying close attention to this one. ( http://www.latimes.com/business/la-000006290jan25.story?coll=la%2Dheadlines%2Dbusiness )

Legislative Agenda

The Wall Street Journal has a really good look at the history and prospects of the President's faith-based initiative, and the story is fairly bullish on its prospects for passage.

Get used to it: the New York Times today and most every day (it will seem to us and to Senator McConnell) editorializes on their support for Rube Goldberg-style campaign finance law changes. ( http://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/25/opinion/_25FRI2.html ) and ( http://www.rube-goldberg.com/html/pencil_sharpener.htm

As the Administration continues to roller-coaster its way through its relationship with labor, here comes another test, says the Wall Street Journal: "The Labor Department next week could unveil workplace rules to reduce repetitive-stress injuries, replacing those Congress killed last year. Secretary Chao missed her fall deadline and a planned Jan. 11 unveiling didn't happen; Bush that day made his controversial recess appointment of Labor Solicitor Eugene Scalia, whom Senate Democrats had blocked over his opposition to ergonomics rules. A Labor spokesman blames the delays on post-Sept. 11 distractions."

Remember when this was the biggest thing out there? While all the stimpak and budget stuff is going on, the Senate is more quietly holding hearings on a possible ban on human cloning. ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A33787-2002Jan24.html )

ABC 2004: The Invisible Primary

The new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll says: "For 2004, Gore leads the pack of potential Democratic nominees: Of Democratic respondents only, 35% picked him, while seven other aspirants drew single digits. 'Not sure' is second at 14%. If a rematch were held Friday, Bush would beat Gore by 63% to 28%."

Gephardt's big-think economic speech yesterday gets a lot of play, mostly on how his middle-of-the road ideas and the staging of the speech itself are indicative of higher political ambitions. See ( http://www.abcnews.go.com/sections/politics/DailyNews/gep_020124.html ).

The Washington Post's Dionne leads his coverage with, "Dick Gephardt made a bid yesterday to become the next Bill Clinton." ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A35180-2002Jan24.html )

"On the one hand, Gephardt made a point of denouncing 'the name-calling that greeted Senator Daschle's principled address a few weeks ago.' On the other, Gephardt wasn't going to be caught dead challenging tax cuts in an election year: 'It's my view that we shouldn't be reconsidering tax cuts in the middle of a recession.' Count on Bush administration representatives repeating Gephardt's line all over the Sunday talk shows."

"Think of Gephardt's speech as a reasonable first draft of the Democratic strategy. But it was also testimony to the political box that Bush's tax cut has built around Democrats. Every new Democratic proposal that involves spending will face that old, annoying question: How will you pay for that without increasing the deficit? That's exactly the effect Bush hoped his tax plan would have."

Gotham competitor Neal Travis reads tea leaves on a Sen. Chris Dodd presidential run. Some of our sources say it's a sure thing; others spit up laughing at it. ( http://www.pagesix.com/nealtravis/nealtravis.htm )

Politics

The Los Angeles Times' Brownstein was in New York yesterday covering what turned out to be a mea culpa from former President Clinton on the Middle East. "Clinton supported President Bush's handling of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis and critiqued his own foreign policy in an impromptu debate with panelists at a conference here Thursday. Edging back into a public role, Clinton defended the broad thrust of U.S. policy in the Middle East under his and Bush's administrations. But Clinton also said he believed he had not done enough in office to push Arab states toward democracy." ( http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/asection/la-000006437jan25.story?coll=la%2Dnews%2Da%5Fsection )

"Still, Clinton seemed to gently separate himself from his successor by suggesting that Anthony C. Zinni, Bush's special envoy to the Mideast, should be more active in the region. 'I think Gen. Zinni ought to go out there to stay; both sides seem to like him and they have confidence in him, and I hope he will,' Clinton said."

USA Today's Nichols also covered Clinton's appearance: "Looking tired but tan from a recent visit to the Middle East, Clinton continued his post-Sept. 11 stance of expressing unqualified support for Bush's conduct of the war against terrorism." Nichols reports on a classic Clinton moment: "Clinton joked that on a recent trip to Israel, a man shouted out at him, 'Arab-lover!' Clinton said he turned to the person next to him and said, 'Yes, I am.'" ( http://www.usatoday.com/usatonline/20020125/3803817s.htm )

Coming this Sunday in the Washington Post Magazine: the book-leaved John Harris cover-stories Senator Clinton ("The Liberation of Hillary"), complete with a rare interview with former President Clinton, who theorizes about his wife's Senate career. Harris spent two days with the Senator for the story and found that "Against the stereotype of a scheming, messianic shrew, she projects a picture of good-humored normality." The story is filled with balance.

"But her surface conventionality can't obscure another truth: If those people who actively dislike Hillary Clinton could spend a day with her, they would surely find many of their preconceptions ratified. There is a reason why conservatives are skeptical that the carefully modulated centrist agenda on which she campaigned for senator is the genuine item. For while she invokes bipartisanship constantly, she becomes demonstrably more passionate when she is talking about the role of government as leveler, protector and moral agent."

"Within this busy life, Bill Clinton is a welcome part whenever they both can find the time, according to both of them. He says they aim to be together four nights a week, with him coming to Washington for a night during the work week. But even her loyalists call this a fantasy, given both their travel schedules. He's not here very often,' says one Hillary Clinton aide who offers a slightly odd affirmation that the romance is genuine: 'Her scheduler stays in contact with his scheduler.'"

Marc Racicot made his Imus debut this morning in his new capacity as Republican National Committee chair. The I-Man asked about Enron, but no news was committed.

On the issue of "is canceling a tax cut scheduled to take effect in the future a tax increase?" Racicot stayed firmly on the White House reservation with as full-throated a defense of that position as we've heard, but he wasn't asked about the Governor of Florida.

There's a debate in political circles that goes like this: if you are running for governor this year to succeed a term-limited or retiring governor of your own party in a time of tough budget and economic conditions, are you better off or worse off than an incumbent seeking re-election? On the one hand, you might not be blamed as much by the voters for the hard choices and tough times. On the other hand, you might suffer the downside of your party's woes, without any of the upsides of incumbency.

The New York Times looks at one of the best test cases of this, in Illinois, where the retiring GOP incumbent certainly is going to make things tough for whoever his party nominates. ( http://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/25/national/25ILLI.html )

Most of the Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire is taken up by their new poll. No startling numbers, but do like the Washington insiders do and read every word like it is the Rosetta Stone.

California Gov. Gray Davis got dinged as his Republican would-be challengers filed their campaign finance reports yesterday. Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard "Riordan not only outpaced the other candidates in the Republican primary contest, but also raised more than the governor he hopes to defeat in November … Riordan collected $605,804 between Jan. 1 and Jan. 19, far outdistancing businessman Bill Simon Jr. and Secretary of State Bill Jones as the GOP contest entered a crucial period. Davis received $472,810 in the reporting period." Of course, Davis still has a lot more money in the bank. ( http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-000006346jan25.story?coll=la%2Dheadlines%2Dcalifornia )

Gulp! The Boston Herald reports that fiery populist Robert Reich will not appear at this Saturday's Democratic candidate forum. Instead, he'll be in New Orleans, getting $40,000 for speaking to IBM. ( http://www2.bostonherald.com/news/local_regional/reic01252002.htm

California's two Democratic Senators, who happen to be women, announced their support for Gary Condit's chief primary opponent. ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A35096-2002Jan24.html )

The US Supreme Court is fast-tracking the Utah-v.-North Carolina dispute over the Tarheel State's new congressional district, which Utahns believe should be theirs, with the fate of the Bush Administration-favored, statistical sampling means of conducting redistricting hanging in the balance. ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A35241-2002Jan24.html )

Former Time magazine correspondent and Clinton deputy secretary of state Strobe Talbott has been tapped to run the Brookings Institution. ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A35243-2002Jan24.html )

Bush Administration Strategy/Personality

Vice President Cheney, per the Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire, "will spend less time in undisclosed locations, and more on Sunday talk shows and appearances pushing Bush's agenda. At Bush adviser Rove's urging, Cheney blocks out big time to campaign and raise money for GOP candidates, including California Reps. Pombo and Doolittle next month."

The Washington Post chooses to put its coverage of First Lady Laura Bush's Capitol Hill testimony yesterday in the Style section, but even so, it's a nice account of how Mrs. Bush finally got to deliver the testimony she was supposed to give on September 11. ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A35254-2002Jan24.html )

The Washington Times updates its entertaining niche coverage of the ongoing brawl between the Administration and the US Commission on Civil Rights, which started over the Commission chair's refusal to seat a Bush appointee (due for a court hearing Thursday). Now, the Commission "has issued subpoenas to three Bush Cabinet members and the EPA's chief for a Feb. 8 hearing on environmental justice … The summons are the first from the commission to involve sitting Cabinet members in at least 20 years. No one from President Clinton's Cabinet was subpoenaed." ( http://www.washtimes.com/national/20020125-82652908.htm )

"The orders were issued to Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez, and Christie Whitman, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. The commission also sent a letter to Secretary of Interior Gale A. Norton, advising her that she would receive a subpoena. As of yesterday, the order had not arrived."

"The government's management of Indian trust funds is in such disarray that a federal judge is considering whether to place the job in the hands of a receiver,' the Washington Post reminds us, reviving a story that's been brewing for months below the radar. "That would be a huge embarrassment to Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton, who is facing a contempt charge for failing to clean up the mess." The Post reports that Norton's proposed solution to the problem, by creating "a new Bureau of Indian Trust Asset Management," is ticking off the Native Americans even more because they (probably smartly) don't view the creation of a new agency as a real fix — but even more so because Norton proposed this with both consulting with them. ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A35211-2002Jan24.html )

White House counsel Alberto Gonzales has a Wall Street Journal op-ed pressing the Senate to confirm more judges.

Although Senators Lott and Nickles have said intriguing things lately suggesting that they thought the White House was about to release the energy task force records, this news cycle has some Mary Matalin quotes and other indications that the Administration isn't backing down (or is it "off"?). ( http://chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-0201250308jan25.story?coll=chi%2Dnewsnationworld%2Dhed