The Note

ByABC News
May 11, 2004, 12:27 PM

W A S H I N G T O N, May 11, 2004&#151;<br> -- NOTED NOW




There are two kinds of people in America: those with a direct role to play in the prison abuse scandal and those without one.

Most Note readers are in the first group, but for the 61 of you who aren't, here's a handy guide to what we are all doing:

Gang of 500: Taking one glancing look at the new Gallup numbers and issuing a collective swoon, "THE PRISON ABUSE SCANDAL IS HURTING THE PRESIDENT'S POLL NUMBERS!!!! THE PRISON ABUSE SCANDAL IS HURTING THE PRESIDENT'S POLL NUMBERS!!!!"

Anchor bookers: Looking for the mother of all gets the first (teary) interview with a pictured abuser, explaining the moment and pointing fingers upward.

The Kerry campaign: Trying to take maximum political advantage of the prison abuse scandal without appearing to try to take maximum political advantage of the prison abuse scandal.

White House officials: Resigning themselves to "this" the incessant questions, the way it infects EVERYTHING, the distractions, the unexplored practical and psychological implications on the nation, the world, and the president's election-year schedule (including those foreign trips).

Investigative reporters: E-mailing DOD sources, looking to bust something open.

Congressional staffers: Wondering when their bosses will realize that being portrayed in the media as demanding to see photos that involve sexual acts is, well, sort of odd.

Pentagon officials: Saying the right things (mostly) on the record; leaking like a sieve off the record and on background.

Bush campaign staffers: Hoping for a return to issues under the president's control.

Fox News Channel executives: Dialing back the use of the abuse photos and attempting to put them in context.

White House speechwriters: Doing a lot of research.

Rush Limbaugh: Continuing to throw whatever he can up against the wall and waiting to see what sticks like a brand new Wacky Wall Crawler.

Broadcast network executives: Wondering how much more of these events should be taken live to the full network.

Tad Devine, Mike Donilon, Mark McKinnon, Russ Schriefer, and Stuart Stevens: Reminding themselves of the old adperson's adage: "All human beings were born to do three things: eat, breathe, and critically judge advertising."

Focus group mediators of all stripes: Trying to decide whether to show the photos to the groups, or just talk about them, and asking about opportunity, responsibility, and community.

Donald Rumsfeld: Secretly considering resigning, or having no plans to resign whatsoever.

The Iraqi people: Letting their hearts and minds wander every which way.

The late night comics: Having a field day.

The book publishers: Scheming at Michael's and the Four Seasons about when to pull the trigger (and with whom).

Today, Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen Cambone and others testify before a two-part Senate Armed Services Committee hearing about the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison.

President Bush begins a three-day focus on education, traveling to Van Buren, Ark., to speak about the No Child Left Behind Act.

Sen. Kerry continues his focus on health care, touring a family health center and speaking in Louisville before attending a fundraising luncheon there. Later Kerry participates in a campaign rally in Jacksonville, Fla., before flying to Orlando.

(Before you say that Kerry is not breaking through with his health care message because of the prison abuse scandal, check out the local TV and print coverage.)

Vice President Cheney undergoes a routine check-up to examine his pacemaker. Officials say the Vice President will be back to work by midday.

The Senate resumes debate of the corporate tax bill.

West Virginia voters head to the polls today for their gubernatorial primary. West Virginia's Democratic Gov. Bob Wise decided to not run for another term last fall after being caught up in a sex scandal with a state employee, and so it would seem about half of the state decided to apply for his job, including the ex-husband of the woman with whom Wise had the affair. The AP previews the race. LINK

On the Republican side, fmr. tax commissioner Rob Capehart, South Charleston Mayor Richard Robb, and two businessmen, Dan Moore and Monty Warner, lead a pack of nine candidates. On the Democratic side, Sec. of State Joe Manchin and former state Sen. Lloyd Jackson lead a field of eight candidates.

The polls are open from 6:30 am to 7:30 p.m. ET.

"The Best Secretary of Defense":George F. Will, who has long argued for a more conservative (minus the neo) policy in Iraq, subtly and sadly tenders the facts and precedents for Secretary Rumsfeld's resignation.

This is an important piece that will be widely read in Corridors of Power.

"Testifying to Congress last week, he seemed saturated with a sadness that bespeaks his deep decency and his horror at the vast injury done to the nation by elements of the department he administers. He knows that he failed the president. And he knows that his extraordinary record of government service few public careers, including presidential ones, can match Rumsfeld's has been tarnished." LINK

"One question is: Are the nation's efforts in the deepening global war the world is more menacing than it was a year ago helped or hindered by Rumsfeld's continuation as the appointed American most conspicuously identified with the conduct of the war? This is not a simple call. But being experienced, he will know how to make the call. Being honorable, he will so do."

"He knows his Macbeth and will recognize the framing of the second question: Were he to resign, would discerning people say that nothing in his public life became him like the leaving of it?"

The New York Times' Stevenson and Hulse tag team on the president's seemingly strong support for his Defense Secretary. To all of you seeking the political prism through which to view this, go no further than these four must-read graphs: LINK

"Advisers to the White House said Mr. Bush had never seriously considered firing Mr. Rumsfeld. They said that once it was clear Mr. Bush wanted Mr. Rumsfeld to stay, it became important to show the world that he meant it, and that the event at the Pentagon had been put together with that goal in mind."

"But one adviser said White House officials were well aware that Mr. Rumsfeld's job could still be on the line, especially if there are further revelations of abuse, and that Mr. Bush's embrace of him was a calculated risk."

"'The question now is whether the drip, drip, drip will kill Rumsfeld,' the adviser said. 'That's a difficult problem.'"

More Stevenson/Hulse: "Republicans in Congress will intensify their effort to help the White House in coming days by suggesting that Democrats are politicizing the issue, the adviser said. House Republicans in particular have already sought to equate criticism from Democrats with a lack of support for fighting terrorism."

The Wall Street Journal 's Robbins and Hitt only will go so far to write that Rumsfeld's job is safe "for now."

"Still, there are signs of ferment behind those forceful words. Some White House advisers are angry that Mr. Rumsfeld didn't do more to deflect the prisoner-abuse problem or prepare the president for the storm."

The duo goes on to read tea leaves from the likes of Will and Novak and then size up replacement candidates for the Pentagon's top job undermining all their work by fantasizing that George W. Bush would make John McCain his SecDef!!!!!

The Washington Post has good detail about the debate over how to release the new photographs.

"A White House official said some of Bush's aides have argued that the photos are certain to become public, and that it would be better to 'put it out now on our terms than wait for it to come out later.' These aides fear that holding back the photos could prolong saturation news coverage of the scandal, which is preventing the White House and Bush's reelection campaign from drawing attention to other issues." LINK

"Pentagon officials have fought to continue withholding the photos, pointing to the ongoing criminal investigations, and the possibility of lawsuits based on privacy issues."