The Note: Just Born That Way

— -- WASHINGTON, Aug 4


Officially still mysterious to 4 out of 5 Googling monkeys and dentists:

1. What does the Right know about John Roberts to be so very, very sure he doesn't have Souterian tendencies? Today's para-blockbuster Los Angeles Times story about Roberts' work on behalf of gay rights in one of the biggest gay rights cases ever to reach the Supreme Court will now reverberate. Did the White House know about Robert's work in advance of nominating him? What will Dobson, Brownback, etal. have to say about it? Will the "he was just defending his client" defense work on this one? (For more on this, read the story here LINK , the already-vibrant Free Republic boards LINK , and our section below.) 2. What, if anything, does the Ohio 2 special election result mean to the future of the Republic(ans)? (See our section below, where some of the finest minds in American political journalism weigh in.)

3. Will the Republican Party ever pay a political price for its big-spending ways? (The voices out there today on this are interesting. And, yes, see below.)

4. Does the Democratic Party have anything real going for it at this point? (Note, yet again, to Rush: that question is analysis, not a "warning" or "advice.")

(Preliminary Note answers -- after much thought: dunno, dunno, dunno, and it appears not.)

At 11:05 am ET, President and Laura Bush welcome Colombian president Alvaro Uribe and his wife to Crawford, TX. At 12:30 pm ET, the two leaders have a joint press avail.

At 1:00 pm ET, there will be a teleconference hosted by Peter D. Hart Research discussing the latest poll data on the John Roberts nomination to the Supreme Court. The Alliance for Justice folks host.

Faith groups hold an 11:00 am ET news conference calling for public prayer and fasting for the confirmation hearings of Judge John Roberts. Expect an appearance by the National Clergy Council's Rev. Patrick Mahoney. Wonder what they'll say about the Los Angeles Times article.

DNC Chairman Howard Dean delivers remarks to the National Association of Black Journalists at 1:00 pm ET in Atlanta, Georgia.


Perhaps because he didn't argue the case or play a leading public role, Judge Roberts neglected to include in the Judiciary Committee questionnaire a mention of the gay rights pro bono case to which he contributed some time. The Los Angeles Times' Serrano looks at Roberts' involvement in helping prepare Romer v. Evans. LINK

Let's be clear: he worked with gay rights activists on their brief. And this was THE major gay rights case of the 1990s.

Was he a senior enough partner to decline to do the pro bono work?

Or did he accept the assignment with relish? Or somewhere in between?

We are breathless in wondering why the Times article does not include reaction from conservative activists or the White House or Sam Brownback? (We are trying to get us some reax our own ourselves.) Which conservative legal groups who support Roberts for the SCOTUS slot filed amicus briefs in that case against his side?

This thing could explode or go nowhere.

Actually, let's be more precise: this thing WILL explode on the blogs, but it is unclear if it will make the broadcast networks or even cable.

Presciently or because of what Hardy calls "hap," the Washington Blade's Lou Chibbaro Jr., this week wrote, "[a]lso under scrutiny is Roberts' potential view on the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. The clause was cited by the Supreme Court in another landmark gay rights case, Romer vs. Evans. In that decision, the court overturned a Colorado law that banned cities and towns within the state form adopting ordinances banning discrimination against gays in employment, housing and other areas." " LINK

"We have no way of knowing how Roberts feels on Romer," [said Michael Adams, an attorney and director of education and public affairs for Lambda Legal.]

Maura Reynolds follows up on Newsday's reporting in her Los Angeles Times look at lobbyist John Roberts. LINK

(New York) Timespeople Toner and Glater bang the Roberts drum on the Reagan-era civil rights fights again. LINK

Stylin' Hanna Rosin goes behind the scenes of the Democrats' "Nom Unit" in the Washington Post. LINK

Ohio's 2nd CD:

If you thought the nation's big-foot political reporters were going to take a "wait and see" approach in assessing the meaning of Tuesday's results out of the special election in southwestern Ohio, you'd be wrong.

The Los Angeles Times' Ron Brownstein explores the factors that contributed to Hackett's strong performance in the heavily Republican district and wonders what it tells us, if anything, about what to expect in 2006. Note Charlie Cook coming down on the side that it may have had to do more with Taft dissatisfaction than Bush/Iraq dissatisfaction. LINK

One senior GOP strategist offered this up to Brownstein, blindly: "In a district that Republican, these are things you should take very seriously."

Dr. Brownstein made sure to include this blind quote as well: "'I think it means nothing for next year,' said one GOP strategist familiar with White House thinking."

Michael Barone on the US News website looks at the data, checks the blogs, and concludes "...if I were Karl Rove or Republican National Chairman Ken Mehlman, I would be thinking hard about how to motivate the Republican base." LINK

Newt Gingrich warns the GOP to stay on its toes in light of Ohio 2. More, from Dan Balz and Thomas Edsall of the Washington Post:

"Republican apathy, dissatisfaction with Bush and congressional Republicans, a GOP scandal in Ohio, and Hackett's energetic, anti-Iraq campaign all may have contributed to keep the race closer than expected, according to strategists in both parties." LINK

"GOP officials in Washington said the race carried no significant implications for the 2006 elections. They noted (sic) that special elections are often poor predictors of election trends and said they saw nothing to suggest real unhappiness with Bush or the GOP congressional leadership."

"White House spokesman Allen Abney said the president is pleased with Schmidt's victory. President Bush called Schmidt from his Texas ranch about 5:30 p.m. Wednesday to congratulate her on her win, Abney said," reports the Cincinnati Enquirer. LINK

More from the Enquirer: "Ohio Republican Party spokesman Jason Mauk conceded that the race was a 'wake-up call' to Republicans, reminding them that Ohio remains a competitive, two-party battleground state."

Big Casino budget politics:

A trifecta of must reads:

Bob Novak in his column LINK Jeff Jacoby in his Boston Globe column LINK and Jonathan Weisman in the Washington Post Note the allegedly unabashed profligacy of congressional Republicans, including on the energy and transportation bills. LINK

Rep. Jeff Flake is portrayed throughout as a lonely dissident.

And Carl Hulse of the New York Times gets too wonky for even The Note in talking about the highway bill's sneaky bloatedness. LINK

Bush agenda and Republicans:

Dick Stevenson of the New York Times looks at the President's decision to verbally endorse the concept/nomenclature of the "war on terror." LINK

The classy Ed Chen of the Los Angeles Times wraps the President's remarks to conservative state legislators yesterday and provides a peek at his upcoming bill signing schedule. LINK

Notes Jim VandeHei in the Washington Post: ". . . . the president faces several challenges to the agenda he laid out in the early days of the second term, including Social Security, expanding the No Child Left Behind education law to cover high schools and changing the immigration system."

"It is also unclear whether Congress will restrain spending enough for Bush to meet his goal of cutting the deficit in half by 2009. The White House recently projected the budget deficit will slip to $333 billion this fiscal year from $412 billion in 2004, as a result of an unexpected surge in tax receipts."

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's James O'Toole previews the RNC summer meeting: "With political antennae already sensitive to portents for the next presidential election, an unstated part of the agendas of the formal and informal gatherings in the Omni William Penn Hotel will involve handicapping the prospects of the party's would-be successors to Bush. More overtly, the GOP hierarchy will be focused on preserving its majorities in next year's midterm elections."

"One of them, U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum's anticipated challenge from state Treasurer Bob Casey Jr., will be highlighted throughout the GOP meetings. Santorum is one of the featured speakers at the RNC session tomorrow. Beyond whatever applause he receives there, party members will have an opportunity to demonstrate more tangible support at a fund-raising reception tomorrow night at the Sen. John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center in the Strip District." LINK

From the Wall Street Journal's Greg Ip: "The White House search for a successor to Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, who is scheduled to retire in January, has intensified and goes beyond the three candidates mentioned most often, said people familiar with matter. For months, the three candidates cited most frequently have been economists Martin Feldstein of Harvard University, Glenn Hubbard of Columbia University and Ben Bernanke, chairman of President Bush's Council of Economic Advisers. But the White House also is looking at other candidates, including former Bush adviser Lawrence Lindsey, said several people familiar with the process. They said the White House hasn't rejected the three main candidates but doesn't want to limit its choice prematurely. There appears to be no clear favorite."


John DiStaso's Granite Status Notes that Sen. Evan Bayh will be appearing in New Hampshire in late October as the #1 man at the state Democrats' #2 money-gathering gathering -- the Jefferson-Jackson fundraiser. Mark Warner could pop out of a Granite State corner even sooner. DiStaso also mentions an arguably unknown talent of Dr./Leader/Sen. Frist: making negative New Hampshire ad campaigns disappear. All it took was his promotion (of stem cell research) and a promise (to send the death tax bill to the floor). LINK

2008: Democrats:

As Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) prepares for a possible 2008 presidential bid, Indianapolis Monthly serves up a colorful and comprehensive analysis of the junior Senator's politics and political ambitions, stopping along the way to diagnose all that is ailing his fellow True-Blues.

According to Chris Cillizza, John Kerry's 2004 defeat signals five deep-seated problems in the Democratic Party best addressed by a "Midwesterner, moderate Democrat, former red-state governor, family man," in short, a man like Bayh. LINK

"What Bayh's supporters see in their man is a new kind of Democrat who understands the needs and concerns of folks living in the country's vast middle because he shares them," Cillizza writes. Despite talk of Bayh's qualifications and political ambitions, however, the IM also takes Note of his relatively low name-recognition which has sparked many to urge the Senator to turn on the charisma and court a national audience now. Cillizza's conclusion: the Hossier politician is approaching his run for the presidential office the same way he approaches a marathon: slow and steady, but likely with a few surprises up his sleeve.

Gordon Fischer had dinner (at Centro, not 801) with Sen. Bayh and others Tuesday evening. Fischer's blog has all the details including the Senator's familiarity with the film "Zoolander" and his "perfect" hair. LINK

"Sen. Hillary Clinton is in tip-top shape as she prepares to run for reelection, with a new poll showing her drubbing two possible Republican rivals, Westchester District Attorney Jeanine Pirro and Manhattan lawyer Ed Cox," writes Joe Mahoney of the New York Daily News in his look at the latest Quinnipiac University poll numbers. LINK

The Quad City Times reports that a ruling yesterday determined that Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack could not free himself from a temporary order "barring him from automatically granting voting rights to felons who have served their prison sentences." LINK

2008: Republicans: George Will defends Sen. Frist in a must-read, spot-on column on stem cell research. LINK

Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) chews the fat with New York Times reporter Deborah Solomon in the upcoming New York Times Magazine "Questions for" column. They discuss everything from state sovereignty to his possible bid for the 2008 presidency. But the focus is more on America's failing bill of health than Huckabee's politics or future plans. And, of course, the Huckabee one-liners are included.

"'It's one of those few times when a politician actually likes to lose,' the Governor laughs. 'It…means that I am a much smaller target than I used to be.'"

And what's the skinny on why Huckabee deems diet and exercise so crucial? The "best-known dieter in politics" reckons America's current lifestyle excessive, lazy and as much in need of immediate reform as Social Security.

Correction from the Boston Globe: "Because of a reporting error, a story about Governor Mitt Romney's upcoming trip to Israel < LINK in yesterday's City & Region section incorrectly stated that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee contributes directly to political campaigns. It is restricted under law from making political donations. Political figures have received donations from members of AIPAC's 50-person board of directors."


Fred Dicker takes to the New York Post op-ed page to look at Jeanine Pirro's options and to slap Gov. Pataki and his consultants for failing to build a GOP farm team. LINK

Bense: " no " to a Katherine Harris primary challenge in Florida. LINK

The Philadelphia Inquirer on Sen. Santorum's PAC, controversy, and political support. LINK


David Kocieniewski of the New York Times leads in muted-yet-explosive tones: LINK

"Senator Jon S. Corzine provided a $470,000 mortgage to the president of a union that represents thousands of New Jersey state employees in late 2002, then forgave the debt two years later." "The union president, Carla Katz, was Mr. Corzine's girlfriend at the time…."

"The loan was not illegal, and Mr. Corzine said he took care of the required gift tax on the money he ended up giving to Ms. Katz."

"But if Mr. Corzine succeeds in his race for New Jersey governor this fall against the Republican candidate, Douglas R. Forrester, he could find himself negotiating opposite Ms. Katz, whose union, Local 1034 of the Communications Workers of America, represents 9,000 state workers and is one of a handful of labor groups that will seek billions of dollars from the state for wage increases and a bailout of the state's troubled health care and pension funds."

Mayor Bloomberg's Republican primary foe was knocked off the ballot yesterday due to an insufficient number of valid signatures, which leaves Bloomberg running unopposed for the GOP nomination. LINK

Anthony Weiner did the official campaign kickoff thing yesterday, which seemed to be a bit too late in the season to avoid hearty skepticism from the New York City political press corps and his rivals. LINK

New York Times mayoral coverage includes Weiner entering LINK ; Miller keeping landlord cash LINK ; and Ognibene losing a bid for a ballot line. LINK

Dean's Democrats:

Jim Wallis sounds much like Al From in a New York Times op-ed piece saying Democrats need new ideas to go with any new sloganeering language. LINK

Joan Vennochi of the Boston Globe argues that Democrats need to recharge and redirect their focus from the embittered nominee process and start listening to voters and winning campaigns. "Winning on election day is what it takes to derail nominees like Bolton and Roberts." LINK


The Chicago Tribune's well-dressed Jeff Zeleny crunches the numbers of Sen. Obama's Hopefund PAC for the first six months of the year. Zeleny Notes that Obama has already donated the maximum allowable amount to all of his Democratic colleagues up for reelection in 2006. LINK

"Through the first six months of the year, Obama reported raising $851,674. But he also reported spending $406,564 on fundraising expenses, ranging from hiring caterers to paying his political consultant, David Axelrod of Chicago. Robert Gibbs, Obama's communications director in the Senate, also received a salary from the Hopefund."

"According to the report, Obama raised $234,000 from Illinois donors, followed by contributions from California, New York and Texas. He had $445,110 on hand as of June 30."

Wednesday's Note incorrectly reported that Sen. Obama was scheduled to speak to the Young Democrats Convention in San Francisco yesterday. We regret the error.

"For many years, Congress has regularly responded to the public's anger over the power of moneyed interests by reining in campaign donations and limiting the ways that lobbyists can enrich the lawmakers they're paid to influence," Notes Jeff Birnbaum in the Washington Post. "But lawmakers and lobbyists have often found ways to get around the restrictions -- on 'soft money,' on gifts, on travel and the like. What lobbyists get is extra access to federal decision-makers that average citizens rarely have." LINK

The Washington Post's Allen Lengel writes up the FBI raids on Rep. William Jefferson's homes. LINK


The Washington Post has an interesting look on the front of Metro about the daily life of Judy Miller. LINK

In sunnier Gray (Lady) news: Close Note readers are constantly on the lookout for news regarding Richard Leland "Rick" Berke and rocker Jim Roberts -- both of the New York Times. Apparently, their past coverage of politics is not hurting their prospects at the paper. Congratulations, fellas. LINK

Other calendar items:

At 2:00 pm ET, Rep. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) boards the USS Sequoia yacht along with former Washington Redskins Raleigh McKenzie and Brig Owens, for an event honoring a group of soldiers severely injured in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

The Young America's Foundation continues its 27th Annual National Conservative Student Conference with events beginning at 8:30 am ET. Be sure to catch an address by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) at 3:00 pm ET and dinner remarks by author and columnist Ann Coulter at 7:30 pm ET.

At 9:30 am ET, ABC's own Cokie Roberts joins Bob Woodson to kick off a three day volunteering conference sponsored by the Points of Light Foundation and Corporation for National and Community Service. The convention is dedicated to the sharing of practical knowledge, networking, and training the leaders of America's national service movement.

At 9:30 am ET, the Heritage Foundation hosts the Evolving Workforce Conference dedicated to a discussion of technology, labor markets, labor laws and the need for reform. Be sure to stick around for the keynote address by Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao at 11:30 am ET.