The Note: Pointy Fingers

ByABC News
September 27, 2006, 9:55 AM

— -- WASHINGTON, Sep. 27

While the New York tabloids, cable TV, talk radio, and bloggers of all stripes try to keep alive the "Godzilla versus King Kong" tong war (a/k/a: the Clintons versus the Bushes), others are peaking below the surface.

If you don't believe the Democrats can win the House and/or the Senate simply by being "not Republicans," you can grapple with the three biggest questions facing the minority-but-wants-to-be-the-majority party by taking time to read these brisk must-read pieces from the papers:

1. David Ignatius in the Washington Post on the Democrats' challenge in dealing with Iraq and actually presenting an alternative in the face of the NIE release. LINK

2. Peter Wallsten of the Los Angeles Times, rounding up the 42/43/44(?) feudin' by smartly leading with 43's base-stoking claims that the NIE leak was politically motivated. (Where's the evidence, sir?) LINK

3. When research is king: Adam Nagourney of the New York Times surveys the television campaign ad landscape and discovers that "at least 30 new campaign advertisements in contested House and Senate districts across the country on Tuesday. Of those, three were positive." LINK

More: "Across the airwaves, Democratic challengers are being attacked for having defaulted on student loans, declaring bankruptcy, skipping out on tax bills, and being a lobbyist, a trial lawyer or, even worse, a liberal. . . "

". . . Democrats are equally aggressive in their advertisements, going after Republicans on votes, ties to campaign contributors and, in the case of challengers, their own personal foibles."

Republicans will delight in how open Chairman Reynolds is about the strategy; Democrats will spit blood.

A man who knows the way to win, President Bush, attends a closed fundraiser for Republican Senate candidate Bob Corker at 12:00 pm ET in Memphis, TN. Later in the day Mr. Bush hosts President Musharraf of Pakistan and President Karzai of Afghanistan at the White House at 7:30 pm ET in Washington, DC.

The House Republican Conference on party matters takes place at 9:00 am ET at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington, DC. Meanwhile, the House Democratic Caucus holds a closed meeting at 9:00 am ET on party matters at DCCC headquarters.

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) present the 2005 George Meany-Lane Kirkland Human Rights Award at 6:00 pm ET in Washington, DC.

The Republican Main St. Partnership holds its annual dinner featuring Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) at 6:30 pm ET at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington, DC.

The Senate Select Intelligence Committee holds a closed briefing on intelligence matters at 2:30 pm ET in the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, DC.

Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) joins twelve vets running for Congress as Democrats at the Phoenix Hotel at 9:45 am ET to discuss the Bush Administration's military policies and record on issues of concern to veterans. Of the 12 veterans who will be on hand today, two of them are Iraq veterans: Patrick Murphy, who is running in PA-10, and Andrew Duck, who is running in MD-06.

Oprah Winfrey airs a taped interview with Elizabeth, John, and Cate Edwards to talk about Elizabeth Edward's new book, "Saving Graces: Finding Solace and Strength from Friends and Strangers."

Politics of scrutiny: Clinton v. Green:
The Atlantic Monthly has posted part of their 13,000 word cover story on Sen. Clinton. It's one of the few times on record that Sen. Clinton apparently loses her cool in front of a reporter. LINK

Journalist Josh Green writes that he was pressing her for an instance in which she took a political risk in the Senate. They had a back and forth, he says it got very tense and finally she said: "Everything I do carries political risk because nobody gets the scrutiny that I get. It's not like I have any margin for error whatsoever. I don't. Everybody else does, and I don't. And that's fine. That's just who I am, and that's what I live with."

The full piece also includes a story about Mark Penn and Clinton's first senate race. He reports during that race, Penn had a secret war room to analyze whether she could run for president shortly after winning her Senate seat. He reports, the polling showed that, nope, she couldn't.

Maureen Dowd's pricey New York Times column charting Sen. Clinton's transformation from "bulldozing alpha" to "coalition-building gamma," has lots of stuff on the Green interview. LINK

Politics of 9/11: Clinton v. Bush:

"A political showdown at high noon . . . at question: who fought terrorism best," said ABC News' Diane Sawyer on "Good Morning America"

"The Bush v. Clinton blame game is reaching new heights with Hillary Clinton stepping in to stand by her man," said ABC News' Claire Shipman.

On GMA, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said, "I think as the most experienced professional in the Democratic Party he didn't walk onto that set and suddenly get upset. I suspect he decided in advance he was going to pick a fight with Chris Wallace and he was going to become emotional. Although, I imagine he got away with himself. I don't think he intended to be leaning forward and punching Chris with his finger and be quite as visibly angry as he got. But I think he decided long before he went on that program that the first time they asked him a hard question he was going to attack Fox for this. . . Clinton's basic style is to counter punch by declaring any question about him as a sign you are a crazed right-winger and therefore the question is illegitimate."

More Gingrich: "As a calculated political decision, it is reasonably smart because Bill Clinton is more popular than Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid or Howard Dean or any Democrat who is not very well known and therefore he can rally the base in an off year election. . . On the other hand, it is very bad for the Democrats if they are looking to spend all of October arguing about terrorism because the country generally feels much safer with Republicans in fighting terrorism than they do with the Democrats."

On Don Imus' program, Chris Wallace of Fox News claimed he was "genuinely shocked" by Clinton's anger and instinctively thought "don't let him roll over me and don't get in a fight" while realizing "I got a helluva story."

ABC's Jake Tapper and Avery Miller break down the "war of words" incited by the hunt for Osama bin Laden. LINK

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who jabbed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pretty hard yesterday (". . . ask Secretary Rice how much attention they paid to terrorism in the first 8 months, ask them how many meetings they had about terrorism, ask them what they did with Dick Clark . . ."), is the featured guest lecturer at 10:00 am ET at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, Little Rock, AR.

Tapper has more on Albright on his Political Punch blog: LINK

"It's War," reads the New York Post wood with photos of Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton pitted against each other. LINK

"Hil Hits Back" reads the New York Daily News front page. LINK

The New York Times: LINK

Bloomberg News: LINK

NIE politics:
ABC's Jessica Yellin reports that one Bush Administration official in a position to know says: No, they won't be declassifying more of the NIE.

Asked if the NIE mad the case that the US is safer because of Iraq?

This Administration official wrote: "We believe the report doesn't make a judgment on the issue if we are less safe because we are in Iraq. It says there are several factors fueling their recruiting efforts, which includes Iraq."

The official wrote that the report makes it clear -- "that the difference between victory and defeat in Iraq has a direct impact on the global jihadist movement."

"It states: 'Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight."

"Portions of the report appear to bolster President Bush's argument that the only way to defeat the terrorists is to keep unrelenting military pressure on them. But nowhere in the assessment is any evidence to support Mr. Bush's confident-sounding assertion this month in Atlanta that 'America is winning the war on terror,'" writes David Sanger of the New York Times. LINK