The Note: A Bee to a Crying Face

ByABC News
May 18, 2005, 9:58 AM

— -- WASHINGTON, May 18

Sure, there are other questions.

(Will the White House really "get to" veto the highway bill? What kind of mayor will Antonio Villaraigosa be? Why is Michael Whouley working for Anthony Weiner? What does Ari Fleischer think about John Dickerson's cagey move to Slate from Time? Will the President ever stop thinking the "Please be seated" joke is funny? Will Dan Bartlett ever stop thinking that joke is funny?)

(Answers: don't know, don't know, don't know, don't know, NO!!, and yes -- it happened several years ago.)

But all the most immediate and high-impact questions revolve the looming showdown in the Senate -- which won't clothe a single child, feed a single infant, extend health care to a single poor person, protect a single defenseless child, cut a single tax, or remove a single burdensome regulation.

And/but no doubts about these:

-- The Washington press corps seems to want a dramatic last-minute deal and would likely lionize the deal-makers with extravagant tick tocks (complete with what-kind-of-pie-was-served color).

-- The negotiating Senators want to find a compromise but are still finding that the baby won't split.

-- The macho, confident party is nearly certain it has the votes (if it comes to that); the touchy-feely party is sure the fence-sitters read the editorial pages of the Washington Post and New York Times, so they think they will probably have the votes (if it comes to that).

-- The Los Angeles Times' ed board's support for Frist's position is refreshingly contrary. LINK

-- The armies of the right (from Dr. Dobson to the Wall Street Journal ed board to talk radio to the bloggers) will show no compassion for or understanding of any Republicans who defect.

-- While the MSM normally reflexively portray the right's interest groups as more virulent about a cause than the left's, in this case, the conservative grasstops (and grass roots, if you believe some polls) are far more heavily invested in the outcome and have been far more effective at communicating their views to GOP leaders than the Alliance for Justice/PFAW have been at convincing Democrats that their credibility with their base would be (further) diminished by a perceived cave-in.

-- The left-leaning press is itching with the force of the most virulent athlete's foot imaginable to make a martyr of Senate Parliamentarian Alan S. Frumin. LINK

-- Sen./Leader/Dr. Frist is cagier than the Gang of 500 gives him credit for; Leader Reid is tougher than the Gang of 500 gives him credit for.

Very much up in the air:

-- How close are the compromisers to a deal? (Sen. Ben Nelson on CNN this morning was all upbeat . . . )

-- At what point is it too late for a deal?

-- If the compromisers reach a deal, who gets to tell the Leaders?

-- If that happened, would the Leaders be relieved or vexed?

-- Who is making money off of all this?

-- Which David has a better sense of humor about his serial portrayal in The Note: Rogers over his 101st Senator status, or Sanger over his "interest" in the North Korea story?

Per one Capitol Hill fly on the wall (apparently typing on one of those BlackBerry thingies):

"Deal not likely. But you may see d's break and vote for cloture and then we don't need deal and don't need nuclear option."

Per another such fly:

"The discussions continued late yesterday in back-to-back-to-back meetings with 10-15 senators interested in the compromise. Two meetings in John Warner's offices in Russell sandwiched around a meeting in the Capitol that featured both Senate Leaders. Staff were booted before it got interesting."

"Big Developments:"

"Profile in Confusion: Hagel tells GOPers he sides with the Union Leader over the Senate but he remains mum publicly."

"Profile in Courage: John Warner joins the group and hosts the discussions in his office."

"Best Battle: the GOP positioning for who can be the 7th signer of the agreement -- nobody wants that sixth slot."

"Best Line: Ben Nelson's 'Lining up Senators is like herding cats, only cats are more organized that Senators."

"Hardest Worker: Mark Pryor really wants to get this deal done and he is working diligently to do it."

"Best Development: More Senators declaring themselves interested in a compromise."

"Inside notes (sic): when finally all the Senators got together in the same room, major revisions to every section of the previously leaked MOU. Still working the Rubik's Cube on the combination of nominations, Dems still OK with the 'extraordinary circumstances' agreement on future nominations, and Repubs trying to find a 'release' from Nuke Option pledge if the Dems balk on a future nominee. By many accounts, the Dems are solid, but the Repubs are 2 short. No names to paper as of this morning."

Leader Frist embarks on the road to rules change this morning, when he is expected to introduce the nomination of Priscilla Owen to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit at 9:30 am ET.

ABC News' Linda Douglass reports that the Senate will consider her nomination either with the Democrats agreeing by unanimous consent to proceed to the nomination, or there will be a motion to proceed to a vote. That motion is not debatable, and if it's made, it will pass with majority support of Republicans. This is not the test vote that triggers the rules change option; it just launches the Senate debate.

On Thursday or Friday, Republicans are expected to file a motion for cloture, to cut off debate. The Senate will vote on cloture on Monday or Tuesday. That would be the test vote. It is unlikely that there will be the 60 votes needed to cut off debate, Douglass reports, but it is likely that there will be more than 50 votes. That will prove that Owen is supported by a majority of Senators.

After that vote, Frist would move to change the Senate rules to ban filibusters against federal appeals court and Supreme Court judges.

The Coalition for a Fair and Independent Judiciary sponsors a news conference to condemn the option that would change the Senate rules and end judicial filibusters at 10:15 am ET. Speakers include Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Patty Murray (D-WA); Reps. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Lois Capps (D-CA); Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women's Law Center; and Eva Paterson, president of the Equal Justice Society.

House Democrats meet for a closed party caucus at 9:00 am ET. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, Caucus chairman Robert Menendez, and Rep. James Clyburn will talk about House Republicans' "abuse of power" at a press availability afterward.

That theme continues at 2:30 pm ET, when Pelosi and the House Democratic caucus join Sen. Reid and the Senate Democratic caucus on the Senate steps to show a united front against what they call the Republican power grab, and to make their case that they're fighting for the American people.

House Republicans also meet for their closed party conference at 9:00 am ET. Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Majority Whip Roy Blunt, Republican Conference chair Deborah Pryce, and Rep. Kay Granger will talk about economic policy afterward.

At the White House, President Bush meets with Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif in the Oval Office at 10:30 am ET. Nazif delivers a speech on politics and economics at the Council on Foreign Relations at 12:30 pm ET.

The President participates in the swearing-in ceremony of John Negroponte as Director of National Intelligence and Michael Hayden as Deputy Director of National Intelligence at 1:15 pm ET. He delivers remarks at the International Republican Institute Dinner in Washington, DC at 7:00 pm ET.

The White House has announced that First Lady Laura Bush heads to the Middle East this weekend, arriving in Israel on Sunday.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will visit the White House on May 26.

Los Angeles Mayor-elect Antonio Villaraigosa will hold a 12:30 pm ET press conference at the L.A. Urban League Automotive Training Center to "discuss the election results and reiterate his vision for Los Angeles," according to a schedule published by his campaign.

Defeated Los Angeles Mayor Jim Hahn will hold a 3:00 pm ET press conference at his campaign headquarters.

The third day of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) forum opens at 9:30 am ET. Testifying: Francis Harvey, Secretary of the Army; Gen. Peter Schoomaker, Army chief of staff, and other Army officials. The afternoon session starts at 1:30 pm ET.

At 8:30 am ET, the Senate Judiciary Committee opened its hearing to examine issues relating to protecting judges at home and in the courthouse. United States District Judge for the Northern District of Illinois Joan Lefkow, accompanied by her four daughters and two staff members, will discuss the murder of her mother and husband by a plaintiff in a civil malpractice suit which she dismissed. Others testifying: Jane Roth, United States Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit; Benigno Reyna, director of the United States Marshals Service; Kim Widup, United States Marshal for the Northern District of Illinois; and Samuel Alba, chief United States Magistrate Judge in Salt Lake City, UT.

New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer speaks at the Center for American Progress at 10:30 am ET.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities holds a telephone briefing to discuss retirement-related tax proposals that may be part of Rep. Bill Thomas' Social Security package at 2:15 pm ET.

The House Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection Subcommittee holds a hearing at 10:00 am ET on the Drug Free Sports Act with an impressive lineup of witnesses, including MLB commissioner Bud Selig; Don Fehr, the executive director of the MLB Players Association; NBA commissioner David Stern; Billy Hunter, the executive director of the NBA; NHL commissioner Gary Bettman; Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber; and Olympian gold medal distance runner Frank Shorter, former chairman of the United States Anti-Doping Agency, testify.

Treasury Secretary John Snow addresses the American Iron and Steel Institute meeting in Washington, DC, at 11:50 am ET. Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) delivers the keynote at 9:00 am ET.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani addresses the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association in Washington, DC at 9:00 am ET.

At noon ET, Reps. Mike Pence (R-IN) and Albert Wynn (D-MD) hold a pen-and-pad briefing on "The 527 Fairness Act." Shortly before, at 11:30 am ET, the Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, Democracy 21, the League of Women Voters and Public Citizen hold a conference call to denounce the decision to mark up the bill.

At 12:15 pm ET, British foreign secretary Jack Straw delivers his first policy address since the May 5 British elections at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, discussing the UK's foreign policy priorities and the presidency of the European Union.

Chairman/Gov. Howard Dean will address the Young Democrats of America in Phoenix, AZ at 2:00 pm ET, and will talk about engaging and empowering young voters.

Sen. John Thune is the special guest at the Tennessee Republican Party fundraiser at Nashville's Opryland Hotel this evening.

The filibuster fight:
"Historically, Senate rules were designed to protect the interests of the minority and to slow the deliberative process. In fashioning those rules, the Senate set a much higher threshold for changes than a simple majority vote," write the Washington Post's Mike Allen and Jeffrey Birnbaum in a very good explanation of exactly how the fight over the filibuster will play out -- procedurally, at least. LINK

The Washington Post's Dan Balz and Shailagh Murray look at the furious negotiations aimed at heading off the filibuster rules change yesterday, Noting that they're expected to continue today and both sides are talking up their ability to either build or hold their coalitions. LINK

"Despite the Democratic optimism, Republicans predicted that, if compromise negotiations fail, Frist will be able to hold enough of his caucus to prevail in the critical floor vote. According to a Democratic source, Specter reported at a meeting of the bipartisan centrist caucus that Republicans are under great pressure to follow their leaders."

"The group, now working under the auspices of the revamped Centrist Coalition, says that enough Democratic and Republican Senators are considering signing the memo that heading off the imposition of the so-called nuclear option is now a real possibility," writes Roll Call's Paul Kane in his absolute must-read on where things stand. And Olympia Snowe says a compromise is "more likely than not."

David Rogers in the Wall Street Journal writes that "Centrist lawmakers met into last evening in hope of reaching a compromise to try to defuse the building confrontation. Sen. Chuck Hagel (R., Neb.), a crucial swing vote, balked at joining the effort, and conservative advocacy groups pressed to keep Republicans in line. But there was a sense of cautious hope last evening that a settlement might be found."

He continues: " . . . the fact that old Frist allies such as Mr. Warner are working behind the scenes to reach some compromise is significant. The Virginia Republican helped promote Mr. Frist in the leadership in 2002 and is a less contentious figure than Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.), the sparkplug behind the Republican opposition to the filibuster rules changes. Mr. Warner is still leery about being too public, but is clearly upset with the proposed changes and allowed his office to be used by the centrists to meet yesterday."

"Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson said he is still optimistic he can get six Republicans to agree with six Democrats to avoid the crisis," writes Bloomberg's James Rowley.

The New York Times has details of the day's earlier centrist coalition meeting: "Dr. Frist and Mr. Reid laid out their arguments to a bipartisan group of Senate centrists. More than 12 lawmakers crowded into an office off the floor for a 75-minute meeting with the leaders that, participants said, turned into a polite but firm standoff." LINK

Nothing more specific than that . . . .Heck, an "ordinarily talkative" John McCain even shooed reporters away!

Maura Reynolds of the Los Angeles Times tick tocks yesterday's developments and helps set the stage for today and next week. LINK

Chris Cillizza of Roll Call writes up the Democratic efforts to link Sen. Frist to Tom DeLay in that DoleGingrich kind of a way.

"A set of Democratic talking points being distributed by the office of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) urges Members to link Frist to DeLay."

"'Arrogant with power, rewriting the rules is what the Republican Party has done best in recent years,' the memo reads. 'Tom DeLay has done it in the House, and now Republicans are trying to do it in the Senate.'"

AP has Sen. George Allen (R-VA) ready to rumble. LINK

Former Sen. D'Amato provides some quotes, courtesy of the New York Daily News, for today's RNC press release on the topic. LINK

"A GOP E-mail obtained by The News said Frist and two other top Republicans will hit 'conservative [radio] talk shows' next Tuesday and Wednesday to talk about filibusters in a move 'timed for the expected climax of floor action.'"

"'Those of you who have participated in radio rows before are aware of the unique opportunity a radio row offers to speak directly to millions of conservative listeners,' the E-mail said," reports James Gordon Meek of the New York Daily News. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Janet Hook examines the swirl of outside activists applying pressure to both sides of the debate, Noting the "if you compromise we will not be happy with you" vibe that both liberal and conservative groups are sending. Also Note that when you go see "Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith," it's likely you'll get hit with leaflets and offered a cell phone to call your Senator while waiting in line. We only wonder what they have planned when "War of the Worlds" or "Herbie: Fully Loaded" open. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' John Horn and Chris Lee have details on MoveOn's "Star Wars" TV ad campaign. LINK

Nick Lewis of the New York Times writes of Justice Janice Rogers Brown, " . . . friends and opponents . . . might well agree that one of her most notable traits is her unrestrained willingness to offer her broad and admittedly provocative views on social issues. Where they most certainly disagree is on whether the views, vividly critical of government and staunchly conservative on issues like affirmative action and property rights, have any bearing on her fitness to be an appeals judge." LINK

Bennett Roth of the Houston Chronicle looks at Owen's time in Washington this week. LINK

The Washington Post's editorial board looks at the "carefully scripted Kabuki dance" that will begin after Frist introduces Judges Owen and Brown to the floor, and writes that while there are good, principled arguments both against and for filibusters, there is no good argument to change the Senate rules via the nuclear/constitutional option. LINK

Social Security:
AP looks at the deal sweeteners House Republicans are dangling to break through Democrats' unity on President Bush's Social Security plan, including shoring up private pension plans and improving non-retiree benefits for widows, children, and the disabled -- courtesy of House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas. LINK

Robert Samuelson argues in the Washington Post that what really needs to happen to sustain the Social Security system and strengthen the economy is to raise the retirement age to 70 -- which won't happen because of the bitter partisanship over the entitlement program. LINK

As the Labor Department announced this morning that consumer prices rose by 0.5 percent in April because of the biggest boost in energy prices in two years, something else caught our eye. Bush Administration officials are considering asking Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan to stay in the job at least a few months after his term expires on Jan. 31, the Washington Post's Nell Henderson reports. If Greenspan stays in office until May 11, he'll be the longest-serving Fed chairman ever, and it would buy the White House a little breathing room to broaden its search for a successor, possibly from the corporate world. LINK

Bush agenda:
AP: "The FBI on Wednesday said a grenade found amid the crowd during last week's speech by President Bush in this former Soviet republic was capable of exploding." LINK

"As anti-China sentiment rises in Washington, the Bush administration is caught in a complex balancing act: bashing Beijing enough to appease critics in Congress and stir action -- without provoking a trans-Pacific backlash," the Wall Street Journal's Jay Solomon and Greg Hitt report. See also the news analysis by WSJ deputy managing editor John Bussey.

Harvey Rosen, chair of the president's council of economic advisers, councils readers of the Wall Street Journal to focus on long term trends, not the statistic of the day.

"Eliminating the increasingly unpopular alternative minimum tax could require even more unpleasant tax changes, such as reducing deductions for mortgage interest, charitable contributions and health care costs, the leaders of President Bush's tax panel warned Tuesday," USA Today's Richard Wolf reports. LINK

The Washington Times' Nicholas K has a must-read insidery account of Secretary Rice's managerial style at State. LINK

"Access to the secretary is also an issue for many career officials. The most senior of them were only an e-mail away from Mr. Powell, who often replied within minutes. Now, they have to go through Miss Rice's chief of staff, Brian Gunderson, or [James] Wilkinson if they want to speak with her."

"Several senior officials -- assistant secretaries or equivalent -- have lost the only regular direct contact they had with the secretary. Since March, they have not been invited to her 8:30 a.m. senior staff meetings, which have been cut from daily to three times a week."

"Many of those who no longer attend the meetings come from the so-called management bureaus, prompting some officials to question Miss Rice's commitment to the department's management needs."

The New York Post's Deborah Orin has the details on Laura Bush's upcoming trip to the Middle East. LINK

The Washington Post's Dan Eggen reports that FBI documents to be released today will show that anti-war protesters who were questioned last summer before the party conventions in Boston and New York were participating in "pretext interviews" that did not lead to information about criminal activity, despite the claims at the time from investigators and Attorney General John Ashcroft that they were based on indications that some protesters were planning violent demonstrations. LINK

Bush Administration personality/strategy:
Our favorite part of New York Times Magazine Deborah Solomon's Q&A with Education Secretary Margaret Spellings set to appear in the upcoming issue this Sunday:

NYT Magazine: Does the president have a nickname for you?
Secretary Spellings: Yes. It's Margarita.

NYT Magazine: Is that something you like to drink?
Secretary Spellings: I do.

NYT Magazine: With salt?
Secretary Spellings: Frozen, no salt. Although my own self, I'm a little salty, as you can tell.

Newsweek retracts:
You could kind of guess from listening to Elisabeth Bumiller question Scott McClellan at the briefing yesterday that the headline on her article the next morning would be "White House Presses Newsweek In Wake of Koran Report." LINK

Read on:

"Republicans close to the White House said that although President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were genuinely angered by the Newsweek article, West Wing officials were also exploiting it in an effort to put a check on the press."

"'There's no expectation that they're going to bring down Newsweek, but there is a feeling that there is no check on what you guys do,' said one outside Bush adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he did not want to be identified as talking about possible motives of the White House."

"'In the course of any administration,' he continued, 'you have three or four opportunities, at most, with a high-profile press mistake. And if you're going to make a point -- and no White House is ever going to love the way it's covered -- you have to highlight those places where there is a screw-up.'"

The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz offers a profile of Newsweek editor in chief Mark Whitaker. LINK

The Congress:
The New York Times' Carl Hulse writes that Senate GOPers want a quick conference on the highway to present to the White House but are under no illusion about avoiding a presidential veto if $11 billion can't be trimmed. Sen. George Allen gets a cameo for his "officious nanny" seatbelt amendment. LINK

Adds the Wall Street Journal editorial board: "If Senate Republicans want to drive a Mack truck over their own budget resolution, and defy their President in the process, the honest and transparent way to do it is by proposing an increase in the gas tax to pay for new spending. In other words, Mr. Grassley and company might consider challenging Mr. Bush forthrightly instead of pretending this bill doesn't violate his veto message."

"While most millionaires favor changing the estate tax, those with inherited wealth say the rich should bear more of the nation's tax burden, according to a new survey," Robert Frank of the Wall Street Journal reports.

"More than three out of four millionaires favor overhauling the estate tax, while 22% want it repealed, according to the study by Prince & Associates, a Connecticut-based wealth-research firm, sponsored by Resource Network Ltd., a wealth-management firm. Most said that raising the exemption for the estate tax was more important than lowering the rates. The study, due to be released today, surveyed 483 millionaires."

The Des Moines Register's Jane Norman and Madelaine Jerousek sum up Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack's education testimony -- disputing the stereotype that kids are just plain lazy -- yesterday on Capitol Hill. He and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney concurred with Chairman John Boehner (R-OH), who is nervous about proposed NCLB high school level amplification. Vilsack lamented that as it is, states need an increase in their federal allowance to fall in line with the legislation's current requirements. LINK

The Washington Post's Mark Leibovich takes on the House hearing yesterday taking on the Whizzinator. Read it and understand why Leibovich is beloved. Either that or why it's so much fun to write the word "Whizzinator." LINK

Roll Call's "Heard on the Hill" has a great story proving once again that the House is where things come to blows, as Rep. Rick Renzi (R-AZ) allegedly went after Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) for conducting polling on stem cell research in Renzi's district without letting him know. Also, don't miss Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) going after Newsweek's Mike Isikoff on the House floor.

2008: Republicans:
Sen. Santorum (R-PA) scores the cover of this upcoming Sunday's New York Times Magazine in an 8,000-plus word profile by Michael Sokolove in which the "man on dog" quote makes an appearance in paragraph one.

Sokolove gets former Santorum aide, Sean Reilly, to call the Senator a "Catholic missionary who happens to be in the Senate." Santorum isn't quite sure he agrees. The article looks closely at Santorum's faith and the role it plays in his political life.

"Santorum has never entirely shed his image as someone not quite fit for polite political company -- he is the senator as hyperactive political pugilist, quick to engage in combat, slow to yield the floor, a little too eager crush opponents. His instinct runs more toward total victory than to meeting somewhere in the middle. He has become important, a man for the political times, partly because he understands the Senate's courtly veneer as just that -- a fiction. He likes to fight from the extremes and disdains political moderation as wishy-washiness. He respects Democrats like Representative Henry Waxman of California; Senator Russell Feingold of Wisconsin; and the late Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota -- determined, passionate liberals. 'They're out there because they really believe this,' he said. 'This is from their core. They're true believers, God bless them. That's what political discourse is all about. You bring in your moral code, or worldview, and I bring in mine.'"

The Rosen trial:
The New York Times' trial scribe Leslie Eaton captures the judge's surprise after the prosecution sought to have the Ray Reggie tapes prevented from being used. LINK

We wonder if Ken Lovett enjoys his Los Angeles dateline more than his Albany one. The New York Post scribe calls the prosecution's decision to not admit the Reggie tape into evidence a "courthouse shocker." LINK

Former door-to-door salesman David Rosen gets Ben Smith's New York Observer profile treatment, and there is color and detail here you haven't read before. LINK

Los Angeles mayor's race:
Antonio Villaraigosa rode "a huge wave of voter discontent" to beat incumbent James Hahn and become the first Latino mayor of Los Angeles since 1872, the Los Angeles Times' Michael Finnegan and Mark Barabak write. Villaraigosa won by nearly 77,000 votes. The duo Note that Hahn was the first city mayor since the Great Depression who didn't win a second term. LINK

And now the new mayor has to get off the mark in a hurry with concrete plans to follow through on his promises about transportation, public safety, and schools, write the Times' Noam Levey and Jessica Garrison. LINK

Finnegan Notes that Villaraigosa's victory puts him in the upper echelons of the country's Latino leaders and gives him a national presence in the Democratic Party. LINK

Noam Levey of the Los Angeles Times takes a look at how this loss caps the highs and lows of James Hahn's political career. LINK

Jim Rutenberg writes of the new Bloomberg ads: "In an unusually early start for a New York mayoral campaign, the first batch of television ads showed the mayor using his newly learned Spanish to appeal to Hispanic voters, a traditional base of Fernando Ferrer, the Democrat whom Bloomberg campaign aides expect the mayor to face in the fall. Mr. Ferrer is of Puerto Rican descent." LINK

"By advertising now, Mr. Bloomberg is putting his record in the best possible light months before his Democratic opponents are likely to advertise in any substantial way. That huge advantage may be somewhat dampened by anti-stadium advertisements that question his priorities when the city has other needs."

"Democrats tried to build on that theme yesterday, arguing that his high spending on the advertisements was offensive and that the city economy was not quite as rosy as depicted in the spots shown yesterday, especially among black and Hispanic residents."

"Latin Lover," blares the New York Post's front page complete with a "photo composite" of Mayor Bloomberg in Mariachi band dress.

Describing the Bloomberg campaign's decision to start its ad blitz in Spanish as a "raid onto the home turf" of Fernando Ferrer, the New York Post's David Seifman writes, "The expectation in the Bloomberg camp, said one insider, is that Ferrer still has a 'very good chance' of coming out on top in the September Democratic primary." LINK

"Ferrer responded to the ads by saying, 'Bad policies are bad policies in any language and Mayor Bloomberg's policies are indefensible no matter how many millions he spends.'"

And the New York Post's Sandra Guzman provides an ad review: LINK

"The courageous mayor's enunciation is so poor that at the end of the ad, when he's making his final appeal for voter support, he sounds like he's asking for más pollo (an extra helping of chicken) instead of su apoyo (your help)."

The New York Daily News' Maggie Haberman pored through the campaign filings and writes up how much each candidate is spending on consultants. LINK

Fourth grade reading scores are up, reports the New York Daily News, and we have a sneaking suspicion Mayor Bloomberg will have something to say about that at his daily Q&A with the press. LINK

Ben Smith of the New York Observer delves a little deeper into the Sharpton/Ferrer relationship. Smith explains that it isn't simply Ferrer's controversial comments over Diallo that has Sharpton questioning his ability to support Ferrer this time around. LINK

Rep. Anthony Weiner's campaign portrays his hiring of Michael Whouley as a "sign of strength." LINK

The Washington Post's Lee Hockstader pens a column looking at the "renegade realism" of self-proclaimed "independent Republican" Virginia state Sen. Russ Potts in his campaign for the GOP gubernatorial nomination. LINK

Ken Bazinet of the New York Daily News got a peek at a Hillary Clinton Hollywood fundraiser slated for June 1. We wonder if the Rosen trial will be over by then. LINK

Chairman/Gov. Dean emphasized the need for Democratic unity at a Maryland rally last night, reports the Washington Post's John Wagner, "[b]ut the likelihood is that Democrats will spend 16 of the remaining 18 months before the November 2006 election skirmishing with one another, in potentially bruising -- and financially costly -- primary fights that Republicans might very well avoid." And Maryland Democrats, which Wagner Notes are already throwing elbows -- particularly in the gubernatorial race -- are less inclined to join hands and form a circle just yet. LINK

Gov. Dean tells the Arizona Republic's Jon Kamman that he thinks Majority Leader DeLay is guilty of committing crimes that could put him in jail, standing by his comments at the Massachusetts Democratic Party convention that DeLay "ought to go back to Houston, where he can serve his jail sentence." LINK

"Sending Sanders to the Senate would make Vermont look even kookier than Howard Dean did. And most Vermonters don't seem to have a problem with that," writes the Manchester Union Leader's editorial board. LINK

Thomas Beaumont of the Des Moines Register reports that Rep. Jim Nussle has already started training for the Iowa gubernatorial race and should officially sign up on June 1. LINK

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's name continues to be bandied about as a possible candidate for Texas governor, and Samantha Levine of the Houston Chronicle writes that GOP leaders may want her to avoid the race. Sen. Mitch McConnell said yesterday he would like Hutchinson to stay in the Senate and, "spend a long time with us." LINK

Scot Lehigh of the Boston Globe wonders what Massachusetts Democrats have learned about how to position themselves. LINK

The AP reports that Florida's chief financial officer, Tom Gallagher, is expected to announce his gubernatorial bid -- his third -- today. LINK

Lee Bandy of The State wonders whether Gov. Mark Sanford, even though his poll numbers are up, can prevail when his legislation keeps getting blocked by the state legislature. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' John Balzar reports that Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown will spend his honeymoon after his June 18 wedding campaigning for attorney general. LINK

House of Labor:
AFL-CIO president John Sweeney told supporters Tuesday he would challenge his leading critics more aggressively amid concerns that his so far unopposed bid for re-election is close to attracting a challenger and is dividing the labor movement.

Participants at the early morning meeting included Sweeney, R. Thomas Buffenbarger, the president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers; Gerald McEntee of AFSCME; Ed McElroy of the American Federation of Teachers; and Harold Schaitberger, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters.

The main purpose of the meeting was for Sweeney to inform these presidents about his proposals and solicit their feedback.

This account is based on interviews with numerous well-placed labor sources from different unions and the AFL-CIO who insisted their names not be used in order to speak freely about a sensitive subject.

Schaitberger's presence indicates that Sweeney still considers him a confidant, even though last week Schaitberger publicly questioned Sweeney's leadership and resigned from a key AFL-CIO coordinating committee. That move led the presidents of several anti-Sweeney unions to hope that Schaitberger would publicly defect and renounce his endorsement of Sweeney's re-election.

According to three sources from different unions who were updated by participants, Sweeney's allies were told that he would more directly rebut the public pronouncements of SEIU president Andrew Stern and his allies, and present a case that the current leadership of the AFL-CIO is committed to revamping the organization.

Sweeney's most ardent backers have tried to stall Stern's crusade by associating his ideas, which they think many in the labor movement believe are sensible, with his personality, which they view as radioactive. But Teamster President James Hoffa, an almost universally admired figure in the movement, has become a prime mover of AFL-CIO change and Stern is happy to play the role of being one among many, according to several of his associates. Some union presidents want to isolate Stern from his cause and his allies by portraying him as self-centered and uninterested in compromise.

By contrast, Sweeney's opponents hope that that he has fundamentally undermined his campaign by failing to include union presidents as co-signers for his own proposal and by making an executive decision that might alienate building trades unions.

The New York Sun reported Tuesday that the presidents of the United Food and Commercial Workers, the American Federation of Teachers, the International Association of Fire Fighters, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and several other unions met privately Monday to calm what these presidents see as heated rhetoric from both sides that threatens to impede change.

Two senior officials from participating unions said the group wants to work with both sides to resolve the long-standing dispute, but won't form an alliance to jointly accept or reject specific proposals. "It was about how to put the genie back in the bottle and not letting things go too far," one of the officials said. "So far as we're concerned, there is only one announced candidate, and that's John Sweeney."

Joe Hansen of the UFCW, who has voted with Stern in the past on overhaul proposals, is viewed as pivotal. He refrained from sign on to a plan proffered Monday by Stern, Hoffa, Laborers president Terence O'Sullivan, UniteHere's John Wilhelm, and Bruce Raynor, though he released a statement praising it. Hansen had joined the four union unions at a press conference in Las Vegas two months ago.

Hansen's presence at the Monday meeting of Sweeney allies and his favorable gestures to Sweeney's opponents has signaled to all factions in the debate that he is being prudent about putting the weight of his union behind any particular faction.

Stern and others have reached out to Doug McCarron, the iconoclastic president of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, who took his union out of the AFL-CIO in 2000 after disputes with Sweeney over the direction of the labor federation and the role of its building trades unions. Sweeney responded by ordering that state labor federations under the AFL-CIO's aegis prevent the Carpenters' locals from retaining their membership. Sweeney opponents and building trades unions defeated that move, and fostered mistrust among the latter group. A shaky truce in 2002 led McCarron to formally rejoin the Building Construction and Trade Department (BCTD), an office with considerable power under the AFL-CIO's constitution.

More recently, Sweeney said the BCTD will cut all ties to the Carpenters unless they rejoin the AFL-CIO by the end of July, which could affect McCarron's relationship with the Heavy & Highway committee, an outside group of AFL-CIO unions that helps the transportation industry deal effectively with crafts that work on major highway, dam and rail projects.

Sweeney's vow to oust the Carpenters from participating in the labor federation's programs is the subject of debate among the building and construction trades' 15 affiliated unions, according to labor officials. Some unions support Sweeney's decision to enforce the AFL-CIO constitution. Others, even as they express frustration with the Carpenters, worry about the decision's effect on major construction and highway projects involving many unions working together. A few see it as an implied threat to Stern.

The Laborers' O'Sullivan has taken the lead in talking to McCarron about what would happen if the Carpenters were ousted from the BCTD. Those discussions have focused mainly on how the unions would interact with contractors.

Though McCarron's disaffiliation in 2000 left him with fewer friends inside the AFL-CIO, it in many ways catalyzed the movement to change. His chief complaint: the AFL-CIO had too much bureaucracy and devoted too little to organizing new workers at a time when labor's share of the workforce was rapidly declining.

Union presidents will vote on the overhaul proposals at the AFL-CIO convention in Chicago, which begins July 25.

Write Alan Judd and Jim Galloway of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Ralph Reed delivered what was expected as a consultant to two Alabama anti-gambling campaigns: victories over proposals for a state lottery and video poker, and donations totaling $1.15 million." LINK

"But Reed didn't tell the campaign organizations -- and, he insists, he didn't know -- that the money came from a Mississippi Indian tribe trying to protect its casinos from competition."

David Postman of the Seattle Times reports that at the trial over the gubernatorial election that begins next week, Republicans will allege fraud -- via stuffed ballot boxes or stolen valid ballots, and Notes, "[t]hey haven't shown specific evidence of either of those things." Regardless of sides, however, King County was a mess. LINK