The Note: Lede with the Lede



We begin this morning with two ABC News exclusives.

Staking out a grand jury is no easy business, and only a few (broadcast) entities chose to do that last Friday with the grand jury empanelled to hear evidence in the Wilson/Fitzgerald investigation.

Amazingly, given all the focus on the story, no one seems to have reported the identity of those who appeared.

Until now.

Based on ABC News sources (and our own video camera) it appears that at least two witnesses testified before the grand jury last Friday, both close associates of Karl Rove.

ABC News has learned that one was Susan Ralston, Rove's long-time right hand. The other, per ABC News' Jake Tapper, was Israel "Izzy" Hernandez, Rove's former left hand (and now a top Commerce Department official). It isn't clear if either had been asked to testify before last week.

Here is Ralston's latest Google News hit. LINK

And here is the first Google hit that comes back when one searches "Israel-Hernandez." LINK

We should Note that Ralston and Hernandez are two of the nicest people in Washington and their being called to appear is a necessary reminder of the Caputoean phenomenon from the Clinton Era, which some have forgotten. When there are special prosecutors, a lot of kind, innocent people can get caught up in the investigation, often saddling them with huge legal bills and emotional stress.

The biggest two questions in this case now involve just what prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has in mind.

First, what makes him interested in Judith Miller? And, second, who is on the list of people he thinks might have committed a crime? The appearances of Ralston and Hernandez suggests at least part of the focus remains on Rove, although his attorney tells ABC News that he still believes Rove is not a target of the investigation.

At press time, The Note was not able to satisfactorily source our reporting on the topics that Ralston and Hernandez were asked about, so that must wait for another day.

Our second exclusive involves the office of former President Clinton.

Jim Kennedy, or "James E. Kennedy" as the Grey Lady properly quotes him, worked for Joe Lieberman for nearly 20 years before hitting that rarest of staffing trifectas: working for Al Gore, and then BOTH Clintons of Chappaqua -- first as the Junior Senator's communications director in the early days -- when not every story touted her workhorsemanship and bipartisanship -- and then currently as 42's senior communications adviser.

Kennedy is hanging up his conference call participant codes and heading west to live every flacks dream as Sony Entertainment's SVP of Communications.

The Gang of 500 yesterday let out a collective "WOW!" as the press release circumnavigated the Beltway, and we all wish him nothing but the very best, and expect nothing less than the early casting scuttlebutt on Spidermen 3, 4 & 5.

ABC News has learned, according to a source familiar with familiarity, that Kennedy is being replaced in the Harlem office by another monosyllabically named aide with constant facial hair. The new communications director for former President William J. Clinton and the William J. Clinton Foundation will be the venerable Jay Carson.

Carson's Q rating among the 500 is up there, but for those not familiar with his impressive pedigree and orange undershirts: He most recently worked on New York City's 2012 Olympic bid after long stints with party titans Tom Daschle and Howard Dean. He's considered to be as loyal as they come, and we congratulate him on finally having the smarts to work someplace where one can dine out every night of the week like a civil member of society.

As for today's pending political news, you can take your pick: "Now, it's all up to the voters," "Nothing left to do now, but vote," or "It's all about who gets their base to the polls." We're pretty sure that if you are watching a midday newscast in southwestern Ohio today, you'll hear one of these lines just before, "back to you in the studio."

Schmidt (R) vs Hackett (D) will be the topic du jour in most political shops in DC and Ohio, as the two compete to replace Rob Portman in Ohio's strongly Republican 2nd District. As we suggested yesterday, if the Democrat wins, it will be quite a story. And, no, Rush, that is not bias -- simply fact.

Polls opened at 6:30 am ET this morning and will remain open until 7:30 pm ET. We should start seeing the first results not too long after that. Please don't call us about network exit polls and projections -- there won't be any.

Here's the Cincinnati Enquirer's wrap of the final day on the trail: LINK

In the day's other big race, on the face of it, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is in trouble. His tenure has been beset by personal financial scandals and questionable financial practices; his city has been hemorrhaging residents to the tune of thousands per year; his budget aims to cut hundreds of police and fire positions; and when the national press writes about his electoral prospects, they often use the word "grim." When Detroit was supplanted by San Jose as the tenth largest city in the nation, it was not Kilpatrick's best press cycle. Time Magazine has named him one of the nation's worst mayors. LINK

But there is a positive side. Despite his foibles, Kilpatrick remains popular and voters seem to like the 34-year-old's sense of fight. Economically, the city may be turning a corner. New housing stock has cleared overcrowding. The city center is in better shape than it's been in for years. And key businesses are opening new stores across the city; several key redevelopment projects are starting to bloom. Violent crime is down. Kilpatrick has not lost allies and he still commands a powerful political organization.

He is trailing in most polls, though he should make it to the run-off. Polls close at 9:00 pm ET.

His main challenger in is Freman Hendrix, a former deputy mayor and a former chief of staff to former mayor Dennis Archer. He lacks Kilpatrick's distinctive "style" and/but observers say his personal morality is beyond reproach. He has promised to keep the city's books in balance. If he advances with Kilpatrick as is expected, he is likely to play the character card. That's be about the only way he can distinguish himself from Kilpatrick. His message: I can do what Kilpatrick promised, but failed, to do.

Looming over the race is the 2006 Super Bowl, which Detroit gets the privilege of hosting. Who gets to front the city -- and what that means, brand-wide -- is certainly on voters' minds.

Sharon McPhail, a city council member who promises to cut crime by half in a year, is also expected to finish in the top three.

Today, President Bush signs DR-CAFTA at 11:15 am ET in the East Room. He departs for Crawford at 4:00 pm ET. John Bolton will go through the official UN process of presenting his credentials to the Secretary General this morning at 11:30 am ET.

The Fitzgerald investigation:

Cox Newspapers' Ken Herman ledes his write up of President Bush's interview with Texas print reporters with the President's confidence in Karl Rove and his repeated refusals to comment on an ongoing investigation. LINK

"'Karl's got my complete confidence. He's a valuable member of my team,' Bush said, adding that internal fact-finding has been hampered by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's request that the White House not discuss the inquiry."

"Asked if he feels he knows the facts about what his staff's involvement might be in any leaks, Bush said, 'We have been cautioned about talking about this issue.'"

"Asked if that caution covered internal White House discussions, Bush said, 'Yes.'"

(NASA, Roe v. Wade, and the Texas 2006 GOP gubernatorial primary all get some ink as well.)

David Jackson's Dallas Morning News story also plays the President's confidence in Rove up high. LINK

(And Note the refusal to tip his hand on immigration reform.)

Anne Kornblut of the New York Times examines whether Bob Novak used "Who's Who" to get the "Plame" name. LINK


Former Clinton foreign policy advisor Nancy Soderberg tells the Los Angeles Times that Bolton's past criticism of the United Nations will cause him more heartache than the fact that he arrived via a recess appointment. LINK

"'They'll get over that,' Soderberg said. 'Frankly, the rest of the world doesn't understand why the president has to have a confirmation process anyway.'"

"Bolton arrives at the United Nations as major crises are unfolding in Iran -- which threatened last weekend to restart its uranium-reprocessing program -- and Sudan, where the death of former rebel leader John Garang has threatened to disrupt the peace process. And the war in Iraq seems to cast a shadow over every U.N. debate," write the Washington Post's Jim VandeHei and Colum Lynch. LINK

"U.N. diplomats said that not securing Senate confirmation would have only a limited impact on Bolton's ability to do his job. More important to his influence, they say, is the recognition that Bolton enjoys the backing of President Bush and Vice President Cheney, who has been a powerful patron within the administration."


The Washington Post's Peter Baker analyzes the Administration's executive privilege claim about the Roberts documents: "The principle at stake is one that has been a source of friction over the limits of presidential power since George Washington. Under President Bill Clinton, multiple clashes with Congress, the judiciary and independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr chipped away at attorney-client and executive privileges on sensitive documents and conversations. But since coming to power, Bush has doggedly reclaimed turf that eroded under Clinton, asserting the power of his office to shield everything from energy policy deliberations to the papers of past presidents." LINK

Mr. Robert Pear, who covers it all for the New York Times, rounds up the Roberts/Solicitor General days, including thumbnailing the key cases. LINK

E.J. Dionne, Jr. argues that it's wrong "not to" question Judge Roberts about his faith. LINK

Bush agenda:

The AP writes up President Bush's comments to Texas journalists that he believes local school boards should, if they choose, include "intelligent design" in the curriculum alongside with evolution. LINK

John Podhoretz leans into the lame duck theme in his New York Post column. LINK

Big Casino budget politics:

Writes Dennis Cauchon, "The nation has so vastly extended taxpayer-funded Medicaid to the working poor this decade that it has produced the biggest expansion of a government entitlement since the Great Society was launched in the 1960s, a USA TODAY analysis has found." LINK

2008 Republicans:

The New York Times continues its obsession with Northeastern Republican governors who the paper is convinced are moving to the right on social issues in order to position themselves for "national" office.

Thus, Pam Belluck on the front page does yet another take on Mitt Romney LINK

Baker and Hernandez do George Pataki's pounding from the left and the right on the morning after pill decision LINK and the ed board bashes from just the left. LINK

Fred Dicker in the New York Post highlights the annoyed remarks of the Republican Senate Leader – Mr. Bruno – with Pataki's move. LINK

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, two Medicaid experts give props to Jeb Bush's "consumer-driven program that fundamentally alters Medicaid's power equation: it allows consumers to allocate their own health care, instead of bureaucrats doing so on their behalf."

In the Washington Times, Christina Bellantoni details Sen.George Allen's football-based national fundraising strategy. LINK

Sen. Bill Frist gets a mostly positive Los Angeles Times editorial for his stem cell decision, but the paper's editorial board still finds some of his observations "illogical." LINK

Peter Cannelos of the Boston Globe, however, slobbers so effusively on the Dr./Sen./Leader that we hope that they are both wearing doctor's coats (or lobster bibs). LINK

2008: Democrats:

The Indianapolis Star's Maureen Groppe details Sen. Evan Bayh's aspirations of carving out an Iowa support niche during his three-day jaunt. The Indiana Democrat is crossing his fingers that his recently vocalized revelation of Candidate-Most-Similar to-the-Iowa-Governor will perk up Hawkeye ears. LINK

Ms. Groppe also breaks down the PAC money that keeps rolling in, in all (2008 campaign) directions. LINK

Hillary Now's AP ink: LINK

In a Washington Post op-ed, Sen. Joe Biden urges tighter security for hazardous-material-carrying rail cars. LINK

Dear Governor Vilsack: check out the latest proof that Jeff Zeleny has hit the big time. LINK


Fodder for campaigns in 2006? Reports the Wall Street Journal's John Fialka, "A provision in the massive energy bill that cleared Congress last week is likely to shrink the nation's gasoline supplies next spring and could boost prices eight cents a gallon or more. The provision removes the congressional mandate, in place since 1977, that supports using the gasoline additive methyl tertiary butyl ether."

In the Quad City Times, Dan Gearino snaps Iowa Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Nussle's shots at the recognition for state economic turnaround scooped up by Gov. Tom Vilsack. LINK

Pat Healy compares the still waffling Jeanine Pirro to Mario Cuomo in the New York Times, and has her leaning against Senate and (sort of) against attorney general, and towards governor. LINK


Correction: Yesterday, The Note made the erroneous characterization that New York Daily News scribe Michael Saul was following the New York Times' reporting about Ferrer campaign ads. Of course, Mr. Saul was following his own reporting, as he too had the details over the weekend. LINK

We apologize for the error.

Today, Saul writes the "Bill Thompson for Fernando Ferrer" endorsement press conference "turned awkward when the duo was reminded of Thompson's prior praise for Mayor Bloomberg." LINK

Dave Saltonstall of the Daily News looks at Mayor Bloomberg's efforts to get the Liberal Party line on the ballot providing what would likely be a third line for him should he be successful. LINK

The New York Times rounds up the days events in the mayoral race, including Bloomberg's quest for the Liberal line. LINK

The New York Times' Diane Cardwell looks at the (growing?) prospect that Ferrer could win without a run-off and that might actually give the Democrats a chance to win the general. LINK


President Bush said yesterday that when his service to the nation ends, he'll probably live wherever his presidential library is located. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Dan Morain and Nancy Vogel peek at the fundraising numbers for the first half of the year to discover Gov. Schwarzenegger and his allies have raised a bit less than large labor unions that make up their opposition. (And don't miss that $2.1 million in Gov. Schwarzenegger's reelect account.) LINK

The Washington Post's Chip Crews writes that "Current TV, like the morning news shows, is probably best sampled, not swallowed whole. It appears that the channel's success really will rest largely on the quality and number of contributions it draws from viewers." LINK

The Washington Times's Jennifer Harper writes that "the network cannot shake its heavily Democratic pedigree or accusations from critics who categorized the network as a shameless attempt to woo youthful voters before the 2008 presidential election." LINK

Howard Dean, matchmaker. LINK