— -- WASHINGTON, March 30
Hell freezes over and pigs fly:
The Wall Street Journal editorial page runs an op-ed celebrating Clay Shaw's add-on Social Security idea.
Bill Bradley writes a New York Times op-ed (with help?) demonstrating more brilliant and complete understanding of how the two parties relate to ideas and electoral success (and the media!!!) than he ever let on he had as a candidate. (must-read) LINK
In a companion op-ed, Jack Danforth suggests the Republican Party has become too beholden to religious conservatives. (must-read) LINK
The New York Post criticizes President Bush in a front-page editorial in the Schiavo case.
Hell is very hot and pigs are earth-bound:
The New York Observer suggests that Rudy Giuliani plays by different rules regarding his business dealings and future aspirations. (must-read) LINK
The New York Times looks at DeLay, Inc., with lots of murky implications.
Mary Matalin -- in announcing the Mary Cheney book deal -- is the picture of confidence and elegance.
Iowa is the center of the political universe.
President Bush heads to Cedar Rapids for a 1:10 pm ET conversation on Social Security, with Sen. Charles Grassley at Kirkwood Community College, which is in Rep. Leach's district (Rep. Leach is regarding Social Security a candidate for the LaHood Award).
The President is also doing an interview with WHO Newsradio at 12:15 pm ET, which should be interesting.
There is much anti-personal-accounts bracketing that will go on on the ground in Iowa.
First Lady Laura Bush is in Afghanistan on a trip focusing on Afghan women, a meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, a tour of a teacher training institute, and remarks to U.S. troops at Bagram Air Base. Mrs. Bush, who is traveling with Education Secretary Margaret Spelling, will also award $21 million in education grants as part of the U.S. effort to spread democracy in Muslim countries: $17.7 million for the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul and $3.5 million for the International School in Afghanistan, a K-12 school.
At 10:00 am ET, People for the American Way Foundation holds a news conference to launch a multimillion-dollar national advertising and grassroots campaign to urge Senators to preserve filibusters on judicial nominations.
At 11:00 am ET, the Campaign for America's Future will hold a conference call to unveil its new TV ad urging Congress to "wash its hands" of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.
At 12:30 pm ET, the Center for American Progress and Washington Monthly hold a discussion whether a military draft is needed. Among the participants: former Army Capt. Philip Carter, contributor to the Washington Monthly; and Lawrence Korb, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, participate.
At 7:00 pm ET, Progressive Maryland holds its 2005 awards banquet, and among the honorees are former Sen. John Edwards, AFL-CIO president John Sweeney.
In an exclusive report with interesting implications, The Hill's Bob Cusack reports that congressional Democrats are in fact putting together their own plan for retirement savings that doesn't call for any change to the existing Social Security system. LINK
"Democratic senators on the Finance Committee this week quietly floated a document titled "Savings Options," which sources say is designed to as a counter to Bush's plan for personal accounts in Social Security. The document, obtained by The Hill, details several legislative possibilities, including a mandate on employers to provide payroll-deduction savings options for all employees."
The Des Moines Register's Tom Beaumont curtain-raises President Bush's Social Security stop with Sen. Grassley in Cedar Rapids, IA, and writes that "White House sources said Bush's visit isn't aimed at anyone in particular." LINK
As we said above, the President's appearance will be bracketed by Democratic Party surrogates and the AARP, which has a new poll out showing that Iowans don't support his proposals. AARP is already flooding the state with TV, radio and print ads, and a group called TrueMajority says it plans a $27,000 radio ad buy in three of Iowa's Congressional districts coinciding with the President's visit.
Also: there will be several protests, including the Iowa adjunct of Americans United to Protect Social Security, which will organize a demonstration outside Kirkwood College at noon ET.
The True Majority spot is a 60-second "Harry and Louise"-style ad called "The Kids," set to run in Iowa's 1st, 2nd, and 4th congressional districts.
Script for "The Kids":
Female voice: This is terrible Frank. When President Bush and his Wall Street pals privatized Social Security, they never told us we could actually lose our money.
Male voice: Please don't cry, Honey. But that's the stock market for you, it goes up, but now, that we need the money, it's down.
Female voice: How much of our Social Security have we lost in the market?
Male voice: I can't even think about it. I can't believe that this is what privatization did to Social Security -- instead of guaranteed benefits, now we've got this mess, Social Insecurity.
Male announcer voice: This could be you when you're getting ready to retire. Only Social Security, and not the stock market, can guarantee you the retirement benefits you've worked for all your life. For decades, millions of retired Americans have received the monthly checks they counted on. By privatizing Social Security, President Bush is gambling with our futures.
Female voice: Frank, what are we going to do?
Male voice: Maybe the kids will take us in.
Announcer voice: Call Congressman Jim Leach . . . and ask him to oppose the scheme to privatize Social Security. This ad has been paid for by TrueMajority ACTION.org, which is solely responsible for its content.
And speaking of the AARP, the Washington Post's Jeffrey Birnbaum turns in a fantastic profile of the power and influence of the group in the battle over revamping Social Security and politics in general, describing how the massive and wealthy organization has gained its power, and how it continues to wield it. LINK
He leads with the specifics of the AARP's intensive lobbying efforts against President Bush's plan to make personal accounts part of the Social Security system, this week churning out two news conferences, a national poll, TV and radio spots, and full-page newspaper ads to greet the President when he talks up his plan in Iowa today. The total for this week's and last week's efforts, he writes, is $5 million -- vastly outspending the groups who support Bush's idea. Not to mention the on-the-ground troops mobilizing in states with swing-vote Senators.
"Bush has bashed as 'scare tactics' commercials by AARP and like-minded groups, and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) called AARP 'incredibly irresponsible' for rejecting 'a solution that hasn't even been written yet.' Yet behind the scenes, Novelli and his staff have been consulting with Bush aides Karl Rove and Allan Hubbard about finding common ground, and talking with congressional leaders of both parties."
There's yet another plaintive opinion piece from yet another respected economist in the Wall Street Journal complaining of circumlocutions and distortions in the Social Security debate. Michael Boskin's piece is as well-written a work as you will find defending the outlines of the likely/possible Bush "plan."
And/but Holman Jenkins endorses Rep. Clay Shaw's Social Security fix.
The Washington Post's Jim VandeHei picks up on a story the DNC was pushing yesterday about three Denver residents who allege that they were evicted from one of President Bush's town hall meetings on Social Security because of a bumper sticker on their car protesting the Administration's policies in the Middle East. At first they accused the Secret Service of acting to eject them, but later came to believe that a "Republican staffer" removed them from the crowd. LINK
VandeHei Notes that the three had not disrupted the event before being shown out, and White House spokesman Scott McClellan said they were asked to leave out of concern that they might try to disrupt the event. "He said the White House welcomes a variety of voices into events but discourages people from coming to heckle the president or disrupt town hall forums. 'If someone is coming to try to disrupt it, then obviously that person would be asked to leave,' he said. 'There is plenty of opportunity outside of the event to express their views.'"
The Secret Service is investigating, and the ejectees haven't decided whether to sue yet, but, if they do, discovery will be fascinating. LINK
Bloomberg's Jay Newton-Small talks to Charlie Stenholm about personal accounts.
The Los Angeles Times' Warren Vieth trails Leanne Abdnor, a former business lobbyist turned "policy entrepreneur" who leads both For Our Grandchildren, and Women for a Social Security Choice, two member-less groups which promote the President's bid for private retirement accounts. Abdnor's supporters hail her "expertise" while detractors label her an Administration voicebox with no constituency. LINK
Republicans and Democrats:
Dueling op-eds in the New York Times take on the future of social conservatives and Republican politics, and liberals and the Democratic base.
First up is Rev./Ambassador John Danforth (R), a minister, who writes: "I do not fault religious people for political action. Since Moses confronted the pharaoh, faithful people have heard God's call to political involvement. Nor has political action been unique to conservative Christians. Religious liberals have been politically active in support of gay rights and against nuclear weapons and the death penalty. In America, everyone has the right to try to influence political issues, regardless of his religious motivations." LINK
"The problem is not with people or churches that are politically active. It is with a party that has gone so far in adopting a sectarian agenda that it has become the political extension of a religious movement."
He is particularly agitated about stem cells. We wonder if he let the White House know this was coming.
Bill Bradley (D-Knicks) writes, in a Rob Steinish kind of way, about the inverted pyramid structure of the Democratic base: "Democrats who run for president have to build their own pyramids all by themselves. There is no coherent, larger structure that they can rely on. Unlike Republicans, they don't simply have to assemble a campaign apparatus - they have to formulate ideas and a vision, too. Many Democratic fundraisers join a campaign only after assessing how well it has done in assembling its pyramid of political, media and idea people." LINK
"There is no clearly identifiable funding base for Democratic policy organizations, and in the frantic campaign rush there is no time for patient, long-term development of new ideas or of new ways to sell old ideas. Campaigns don't start thinking about a Democratic brand until halfway through the election year, by which time winning the daily news cycle takes precedence over building a consistent message. The closest that Democrats get to a brand is a catchy slogan."
These two quiet men are going to create quite the buzz today, and Rush Limbaugh and Fred Barnes will probably attack them both!!!!
The New York Observer's Ben Smith did a little digging into Rudy Giuliani's finances, concluding that "[a] close examination of the details of the front-runner's choices in his career as a business mogul show that success, growth and money seem to rank higher than the careful calculations of Republican primary politics." LINK
Smith writes about Giuliani's acceptance of his usual large speaking fee in connection with a South Carolina tsunami fundraiser and some of the other choices Giuliani has made in his business dealings that have long led some observers to wonder if the former New York City mayor was leaving himself to the tender mercies of opposition researchers around the world (in a possible run for governor or president).
"The former Mayor's decision to profit from a fund-raiser for tsunami victims in a politically sensitive state is only the most vivid example of how small a role his political ambitions have apparently played in his personal calculations. At times, he has shown a willingness to trade in political capital for, well, real capital. He has given his speeches to a wide range of organizations around the world with little apparent attention to American politics. And his firm hasn't been shy about taking on politically unpopular clients, including the owner of the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Westchester and the pharmaceutical industry."
Sunny Mindel and Michael Hess defend Rudy, but this piece is going to reverberate.
Note well Mark Green's sly Noriega reference and Howard Wolfson's work on behalf of at least two clients.
Our guess: Mr. Giuliani will see this piece as a baseless attack and do absolutely zero soul-searching or political calculus in its wake.
Our analysis: they play for keeps in New York (and in GOP nomination politics).
Patrick D. Healy, writing about the new shingle of Bracewell and Giuliani in New York (Rudy's becoming a partner at a law firm, too), interviewed the former New York mayor briefly about his political plans: LINK
"'At some point I'll probably want to run again but I don't know,' Mr. Giuliani said in a telephone interview from Los Angeles, where he was taping an appearance on the "Tonight Show" for NBC."
"Asked if opening a law firm in 2005 would rule out a run for governor of New York in 2006, about which there has been some speculation, Mr. Giuliani said, 'If it does, it does, and if it doesn't, it doesn't.'"
The Houston Chronicle has more. LINK
In the meantime (and not unrelatedly) Fred Dicker has a New York Post item about a Conservative Party activist who is circulating old Rudy quotes that will not appeal to social conservatives tempted to support the former mayor. LINK
The Hill's Hans Nichols reports that the DGA is quietly interviewing candidates to replace executive director B.J. Thornberry, now a Vilsackian. LINK
USA Today's Oren Dorell outlines First Lady Laura Bush's trip to Afghanistan. LINK
The Washington Post's Walter Pincus and Peter Baker do an admirable job in playing catch up to yesterday's New York Times scoop and write that the commission appointed by President Bush to investigate the intelligence failures leading up to the war in Iraq will release a report tomorrow arguing for changes to encourage more dissent rather than consensus-seeking in intelligence gathering and organize the war on terror. Among the changes: "more competitive analysis and information-sharing by intelligence agencies, improved tradecraft training, more 'devil's advocacy' in the formation of national intelligence estimates and the appointment of an intelligence ombudsman to hear from analysts who believe their work has been compromised." LINK
The commission will also propose a new national nonproliferation center as the main coordinator on weapons of mass destruction, and encourages the government to keep specialists scattered throughout intelligence agencies rather than centralized.
Karl Rove is scheduled to speak in Helena, MT, on Thursday at the Lewis and Clark County Republican Central Committee's annual Lincoln-Reagan Dinner.
Bob and Mary Schindler, the parents of Terri Schiavo, on Tuesday night asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit to re-hear their case to reinstate her feeding tube, and the judges have agreed to consider their motion. LINK; LINK
Something . . . perhaps . . . we don't know . . . Rev. Jesse Jackson? . . . convinced the New York Post that this was turning into a circus. LINK
We like the New York Times' detail of how Rev. Jackson arrived in Pinellas Park in a white limo. LINK
USA Today's Larry Copeland writes that Jackson "received a reception befitting a rock star." LINK
Robert Kuttner goes after the religious right's behavior in the Schiavo case in a Boston Globe op-ed. LINK
Howie Kurtz in the Washington Post looks at the talking points controversy. LINK
Per the New York Times: "The next showdown over physician-assisted suicide could be in Vermont, where a group of citizens has begun an effort to pass a bill patterned on Oregon's seven-year-old law allowing doctors to prescribe suicide drugs for terminally ill patients who request them." LINK
The Washington Times' Julia Duin explores the life of now-bodyguard clad Judge George W. Greer, the first in a line of many judges who have dismissed legal attempts to intervene in the Terri Schiavo case, including now numerous threats on his life. LINK
In his review of DeLay, Inc., the New York Times' Glen Justice writes about $100,00 worth of ads being broadcast in Leader DeLay's own district accusing him of corruption.
"The Campaign for America's Future, which is calling for Mr. DeLay's resignation, is spending about $75,000 to run commercials in the majority leader's home district in Texas. The advertisement opens with a man wearing cuff links and a Rolex watch walking down the stairs into a basement, where he begins washing his hands. An announcer ticks off cases surrounding Mr. DeLay as the figure tries harder and harder to get clean." LINK
The Washington Post's Mike Allen previews ads targeting DeLay. We look forward to the morph morph morphing in 2006! LINK
The Houston Chronicle has the RNC's articulate Tracey Schmitt calling CAF "dubious at best." LINK
Conservative Republicans are planning their grassroots rally around DeLay, The Hill reports. LINK
Former President Bill Clinton will make his first post-surgery public appearance tomorrow in Washington, DC to accept the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Humanitarian Award for his work on HIV/AIDS from the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, a group of medical and scientific professionals.
Those looking for a public appearance more political in nature will find it at the beginning of May. On Wednesday May 4, Clinton will be the featured speaker at the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce's 133rd Annual Dinner at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, PA. (It's a very Red county in a Blue (purple-ish) state with a high profile 2006 Senate race. LINK)
Wolfowitz and the World Bank:
The governments of the EU yesterday gave Paul Wolfowitz the thumbs-up to be president of the World Bank. LINK
The Washington Post's Jim VandeHei wraps President Bush's comments yesterday that Iraq is on the verge of creating a diverse government that the various factions will create by working out their differences themselves. LINK
The Washington Times' Bill Sammon figures the President's best defense against falling poll numbers is the Iraq offense. LINK
Oil for food:
The Washington Times' Betsy Pisik aims straight for the gut, headlining bluntly: "Probe Faults Annan." LINK
The Los Angeles Times' detail-filled review, courtesy of Maggie Farley, is mixed but the Annan & Son show was perilously close to two thumbs down. LINK
Wrapping for the Chicago Tribune, Stevenson Swanson simply summarizes a (rough) day-in-the-life of Kofi Annan. LINK
The politics of gas prices:
The Washington Post's Robert Samuelson argues that China's energy demands may have just ushered in a new era of high oil prices that aren't going down. LINK
The politics of national security:
A must-read investigative piece in the New York Times about a detainee, an alleged rendition, and those corporate jets. LINK
And is Gordon England in line to be the next deputy secretary of defense? LINK
Stem cell politics:
The Boston Globe's Scott Greenberger listens to Gov. Romney's new radio ad launching today, paid for by his PAC, which calls the state Senate's stem cell measure a "radical cloning bill" and seeks to defeat it. Polls show the public has strong doubts about the ethics of cloning human cells, Greenberger writes. LINK
"'Cloning would mean creating new human life, new embryos, just for experimentation,' Romney says in the 60-second ad, which will run on stations statewide, paid for by his political committee. 'If like me you support stem cell research but you oppose cloning human embryos, please tell your legislator. Help me oppose the radical cloning bill now on Beacon Hill.'"
Sen. Ted Kennedy will be in the Bay State today promoting the bill.
The politics of same-sex marriage:
The State's Lee Bandy writes that South Carolina Senate members could approve measure this week that would decide whether to define marriage between a man and a woman in the state constitution. The amendment also would prohibit South Carolina from recognizing same-sex marriages approved in other states. LINK
More fun with Perry v. Hutchison. LINK
"Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean, scheduled to appear tonight at a Center City fund-raiser, said the party would do "anything we can" to defeat Republican Sen. Rick Santorum next year," the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. LINK
MoveOn PAC has taken up the mantle of fundraising for the 2006 campaign of Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV), sending an e-mail to its members yesterday -- complete with a letter from Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), who writes, "Remember, in order to win back the Senate majority, we need Robert Byrd." MoveOn tells us that 15,112 members contributed more than $634,000 in less than 24 hours.
Michael Finnegan has seen this tactic somewhere before. The Los Angeles Times ace boils down Mayor Hahn's new strategy for fending off fellow Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa's aggressive challenge for the L.A. mayoral crown. LINK
Just how damaging have those Amadou Diallo remarks been to Fernando Ferrer's campaign for the Democratic nomination for mayor?
According to a new Quinnipiac University poll out today Ferrer's comments may have contributed to his move back below the magic 40-percent mark.
From Quinnipiac's press release: "Among black voters who know of the Diallo remarks, 57 percent think less favorably of Ferrer."
Here are the primary horserace numbers: (margin of error is +/-3.4%) Ferrer: 36 percent; Fields: 21 percent; Wiener: 11 percent; Miller: 10 percent.
And in general election match-ups the poll shows Ferrer besting Mayor Bloomberg, Miller and Fields both locked in a tie with the mayor, and Weiner trailing in a possible November contest.
The Reliable Source offers an early preview of Mary Cheney's memoir, due to be published in May 2006 by Mary Matalin's new Simon & Schuster outfit, in which she'll reportedly address being a political "target" during the 2004 presidential campaign. LINK
The New York Daily News writes that she'll respond to Sen. John Kerry, who raised her homosexuality, and to Alan Keyes. LINK
From the New York Times' David Kirkpatrick and Edward Wyatt's account of the book deal "People familiar with the proposal said Ms. Cheney promised fly-on-the-wall accounts of her father's campaigns and a portrait of the vice president different from his public persona." LINK
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) writes in a Washington Post op-ed that he hates the idea of a federal ID card -- and not just because it's an unfunded mandate for states to take on -- but approached correctly, it may be a necessity.LINK
The Los Angeles Times' editorial board raps the knuckles of Gov. Schwarzenegger for refusing to even consider higher taxes, calling the Gov's insistence that Cali will get more love from Washington a "pipe dream" and pleading for the life of the "old California dream". LINK
Our thoughts are with the family and friends of former Sen. Howell Heflin, who died on Tuesday at age 83. LINK
Rev. Jerry Falwell is in the hospital in Lynchburg, VA, in stable but critical condition with his second case of viral pneumonia in five weeks. LINK
Get well soon.