The Note: Fiddle Sixes

ByABC News
May 26, 2005, 10:04 AM

— -- WASHINGTON, May 26

Six items hot on the griddle:
1. Waiting for the Rosen verdict (and wondering if it will have any political impact either way).

2. Watching the filibuster deal starting to fray over some of the ambiguities.

3. Measuring George Voinovich's emotional state as the Bolton vote approaches.

4. Calibrating if Sen. McCain's political stock is up or down since Monday in a macro sense, and in which direction it is headed.

5. Picking through the tea leaves on stem cells and the highway bill and trying to figure out what will happen.

6. Potential French rejection of the EU treaty and its effect on trans-Atlantic power balances (permit us a brief moment of wonkiness).

Six answers not known:
1. If the Gang of 500 has more respect for the competence of Sen./Dr./Leader Frist or that of Leader Reid.

2. What the White House hopes (realistically) happens next on Social Security.

3. How the White House is preparing to bypass the filter in the aftermath of a possible stem cell veto.

4. What John Thune hopes (realistically) happens next on base closings. And whether he thinks a front page New York Times article will make it happen.

5. What David Sanger's next North Korea story will say.

6. How precisely similar the facial expressions are when comparing that of Deborah Orin as she types the words "Hillary Clinton," "Bill Clinton," and "Viagra" in the same article and that of Vice President Cheney when (and if) Bolton is confirmed.

Six things that are known:
1. What George F. Will thinks of the Democrats, the filibuster deal, and Harry Reid.

2. What Paul Gigot thinks of ethanol.

3. How badly Bill Richardson wants to be president.

4. How high Sen. Grassley's frustration level is over Social Security.

5. How Michael Whouley reacted when Carlos Watson named him one of the five possible "next Karl Roves" on CNN.

6. How quickly the RNC will put out a press release on what Bob Rubin said yesterday to the House Democratic caucus.

Timing is, as they say, everything, and the timing on the Hill today is up in the air . . .

At 9:30 am ET, the Senate will immediately resume consideration of the Bolton nomination.

A cloture vote is scheduled for 6:00 pm ET. If cloture is invoked, the Senate will start to vote.

All this, unless Democrats decide to work to postpone the vote to next month in order to try and get those intelligence reports they've wanted.

From the AP: "The Commerce Department says the economy grew at a solid 3.5 percent annual rate in the first quarter of 2005, better than first estimated."

With that number perhaps dancing in his head, President Bush today meets with the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, in the Oval Office at 10:40 am ET followed by an 11:25 am ET joint newser in the Rose Garden.

Abbas is expected to ask the President for more aid; the President is expected to ask Mr. Abbas to commit publicly again to the road map despite U.S. support for Israel's unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza strip.

Abbas has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that's worth a good read. In a USA Today op-ed, Bill Frist urges the U.S., Europe, and the Arab world to at least double the financial assistance they've committed to the Palestinian people. LINK

Sen. Harry Reid lays out the principles for a Democratic agenda in a speech at the National Press Club today. Expect the theme to be "reform."

Here's an excerpt:

"We Democrats have something better to offer. A reform agenda that will cleanse Washington . . . give power to the people not special interests . . . and make sure that everyday Americans and their concerns get back on the Congressional calendar."

"Strengthening our national defense. Rebuilding our economy. Providing families with affordable health care. Making America energy independent. Securing our retirement. That's my agenda. That's America's agenda. But the Republican Congress has put all this and more on hold. I hope that now we can finally turn to the people's business."

The Senate Democratic caucus plans to unveil more specifics in June. And we wonder if Sen. Reid's staff has told him that this will make the network news tonight.

At 11:45 am ET, Sens. Rick Santorum and Jon Corzine will chat about asset building for children during a forum at the Capitol.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi holds a news conference at 10:45 am ET.

RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman travels to Virginia to endorse Ed Kilgore's gubernatorial bid. Mehlman then participates in an ed board meeting with African American reporters. DNC Chairman Howard Dean is in New York City.

At 12:01 am ET, the Census Bureau released its portrait of the demographics of the 2004 election. Sixty-four percent of U.S. citizens over 18 voted, up from about 60 percent in 2000, the bureau says. Also: "In 2004, turnout rates for citizens were 67 percent for non-Hispanic whites, 60 percent for blacks, 44 percent for Asians and 47 percent for Hispanics (of any race). These rates were higher than the previous presidential election by 5 percentage points for non-Hispanic whites and 3 points for blacks. By contrast, the voting rates for Asian and Hispanic citizens did not change."

For the full release and lots of data, see: LINK

The Washington Post's Brian Faler wraps all the interesting demographic information. LINK

At 1:00 pm ET, the NDN political fund will release a major study by Sergio Bendixen of the growing importance of Hispanics in the national political universe. NDN President Simon Rosenberg will announce that Joe Garcia, the former executive of Cuban American National Foundation, will take over as NDN's Hispanic project director.

Stan Greenberg and Bob Borosage unveil a poll that will show, per a press release, that political attitudes since the November elections have changed significantly (and we'd just bet the poll shows the climate is favorable to progressives).

The Washington Post's Chuck Babington and Glenn Kessler look at the resumed Bolton fight, in which Democrats are carefully treading to stay away from the dreaded F word ("filibuster") while trying to stall for more debate time, saying that as the minority party, they have no other recourse to pressure the White House and register their discontent over the failure to release documents about Bolton's tenure at State. LINK

Paul Richter and Greg Miller of the Los Angeles Times put up fairly high the allegations made Wednesday by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) that Bolton may have shared information about an electronic intercept by the NSA with another State Dept. official without getting clearance. LINK

Sen. John Thune's whispering with the White House and unvarnished threats about the aftermath of the Ellsworth AFB closing make a great Sheryl Gay Stolberg article in the New York Times today. Stolberg doesn't doubt for a minute that Sen. Thune will actually vote to confirm Mr. Bolton, and she isn't quite sure what Thune can actually do so save Ellsworth in the near term. LINK

Steve Hildebrand gets plenty of chances to gloat.

Filibuster: the follow up:
"As Democrats tell it, this week's compromise on judges was about much more than the federal courts. If President Bush and congressional allies had prevailed, they say, the balance of power would have been forever altered. . . . Yet, amid the partisan rhetoric, a little-noticed fact about modern politics has been lost: Republicans have already changed how the business of government gets done, in ways both profound and lasting," writes the Washington Post's Jim VandeHei, who Notes that despite battles won or lost, the war is over consolidating power and marginalizing dissent from the other side. Known to civilians as "payback." LINK

Tom DeFrank of the New York Daily News ain't buying the "newfound comity" storyline on Capitol Hill. LINK

"A top Republican strategist echoed that pessimistic sentiment. 'If anything,' he said, 'this episode has cemented the growing polarity. The hard-line zealots on both sides have been reenergized.'"

Roll Call's Ben Pershing reports that House Speaker Dennis Hastert has had to change his leadership style a bit, meeting one-on-one with discontented lawmakers and getting involved directly in keeping the Republican conference on the reservation.

Maura Reynolds of the Los Angeles Times Notes that Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) crossed party lines to vote against Owen, while Gang of 14 members Sens. Robert Byrd (D-WV) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA) voted for her. LINK

David Kirkpatrick of the New York Times turns in a front-page portrait of Judge Owen. LINK

Lauren Whittington of Roll Call reports that the fight over the filibuster ginned up fundraising at the DSCC, giving the committee a $7.4 million balance as of April 30 -- compared to the $5 million balance of the NRSC.

Stem cell politics:
Sen. Arlen Specter's vow to find support (in the Senate) to override a Bush veto tops Sheryl Gay Stolberg's article on stem cell legislation in the New York Times. The House, of course, won't be going that route. LINK

The Washington Post's Mike Allen and Rick Weiss Note that House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-CA) joined with 49 other Republicans in voting to roll back President Bush's limits on stem cell research, and promised to work toward a compromise with the President -- who ain't buyin'. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Mary Curtius looks at the bipartisan group of senators pushing for a vote on the stem cell legislation. LINK

Roll Call's Mark Preston paints a gloomy picture of a coming showdown over federal money for stem cell research, with the measure's opponents looking to prevent an up-or-down vote on it in the Senate.

Other Washington news:
The first paragraph and a half of a blistering Washington Post op-ed: "LAURA BUSH'S tour of the Middle East was cast as a way to earn badly needed goodwill for the United States in a region that her husband seeks to transform. Mrs. Bush duly promoted women's education in Jordan and the peace process in Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Yet when the first lady arrived in Egypt she chose to lavish her own goodwill not on that country's struggling pro-democracy movement but on 77-year-old strongman Hosni Mubarak. Mr. Mubarak plans to extend his 24-year tenure in office through a September election from which most of his opposition is excluded. Hundreds of political activists have been arrested in recent weeks for trying to peacefully protest that plan, and even legal opposition candidates have been forcibly prevented from campaigning."

"The Bush administration says that it is committed to supporting such dissidents. But Mrs. Bush sided squarely with Mr. Mubarak, who frequently condemned the U.S. democracy initiative in the Middle East before abruptly announcing elections on his own terms."

"The drive to restructure Social Security appeared to have hit a wall in the Senate on Wednesday, as Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley said that he has been unable to make much headway in crafting a Republican-only bill," writes Jane Norman in the Des Moines Register.

"The Iowa Republican held his final hearing on an overhaul of the retirement program but said afterward that he is 'not very close, I'm sorry to say' to writing a bill. 'We have not made a lot of progress in the three meetings we've had with our members,' he said." LINK

Grassley also says an increase in the retirement age -- maybe to 67 -- "has got to be part of the package."

In re: Bob Rubin on the Hill:

"'Putting out a Democrat plan on Social Security would be a horrible mistake because right now it's the president's principles against our principles,' Rubin said, according to a Democratic leadership aide. The aide added that Rubin told his party colleagues that it would be hard to win a battle of specifics," writes Hans Nichols of The Hill. LINK

The Washington Times' Rowan Scarborough has the best article on the House GOP's backing down on women in combat. LINK

The Washington Post's Dan Eggen and Josh White look through the FBI documents released Wednesday that show allegations by detainees in Guantanamo Bay that their interrogators were abusing them and mistreating the Koran date back to 2002. The release of the documents follows the Amnesty International report calling the U.S. "a leading purveyor and practitioner" of torture and prisoner mistreatment and the Guantanamo prison "the gulag of our time" -- accusations that White House spokesman Scott McClellan dismissed as "ridiculous and unsupported by the facts." LINK

Writes Yochi Dreazen in the Wall Street Journal: "The escalating probe into the United Nations' ill-fated oil-for-food program in Iraq has all the components of a political scandal: subpoenas, leaks, high-profile Washington lawyers and heated allegations of coverups and document theft."

"But that isn't the action at the U.N. itself. It is the sparks flying between the rival sets of investigators looking at the world body's role in the scandal: those running the three probes being pursued for the U.S. Congress and those working for a U.N.-appointed panel led by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker."

Other political news: Occasionally, in our rare sleep cycles, we dream of dream teams. Like, say, Blaine Bull, Matthew Dowd, Tucker Eskew and James Taylor . . . forming their own management and communications consulting firm.

Dreams do come true. The four will announce today they've created a firm called ViaNovo, which " applies its own, new proprietary process --AIMD (Audience, Insight, Message and Delivery) -- across a range of services, including strategic planning and communications, threat assessment and competitive positioning, crisis communications, brand strategy, media relations, issue campaigns, alliance and coalition building, and grassroots mobilization."

"Drawing on their combined 100 years experience -- on the ultimate testing grounds of U.S. presidential campaigns and the White House, as well as with Fortune 500 businesses, coalitions, and governments -- the ViaNovo partners join forces to help clients find new ways to win."

Best of luck to them!

The Washington Post's Judy Sarasohn has her take too. LINK

John DiStaso's column today regales readers with details of Gov. John Lynch's dilemma on stem cells, Reps. Bass and Bradley on stem cells, and upcoming New Hampshire visits by Richardson, Edwards, and Clark. LINK

"Gov. Jeb Bush signed a bill Wednesday that requires physicians to tell Florida parents when a minor daughter seeks an abortion," AP reports. LINK

USA Today's Dennis Cauchon reports -- are you listening Don Evans!!!??? -- that after a five-year dry spell of budget and revenue shortfalls, state governments are feeling the flood -- tax collections rose to $600 billion in the states last year, up 7.2 percent over 2003.

Don't miss an excited Gov. Romney (R-MA) quoting a Virginia Slims ad.

Massachusetts Attorney General and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Thomas Reilly is playing on both sides of the gay marriage issue after he issued his continued support of a 1913 state law that bans out-of-state gay couples from marrying, the Boston Globe reports. LINK

Gov. Schwarzenegger's plans for a fall special election and his proposed budget cuts drew protests from thousands of teachers, nurses, and government workers in front of the Capitol and in downtown Los Angeles yesterday, the Los Angeles Times' Evan Halper and Nicholas Shields report. The crowd in Sacramento reportedly numbered as many as 10,000, while an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 amassed in L.A.'s Pershing Square. Teachers in particular are angry at Schwarzenegger's plan to close the budget gap by taking spending off the table, the duo report, and they're not happy that he's willing to spend up to an estimated $80 million on a fall special election to cap state spending on schools. LINK

More: "Schwarzenegger was on the attack himself Wednesday, using an appearance at a state Chamber of Commerce-sponsored breakfast to ridicule the Democrat- controlled Legislature. Noting that a state commission voted Monday to give lawmakers a 12 percent pay increase . . . " LINK

Roll Call's Chris Cillizza takes Note of the more high-profile presence of retired Gen. Wesley Clark as spokesman and foreign policy adviser on the Hill over the last few months.

The Wall Street Journal's editorial board slams Republicans who change their mind on ethanol.

David Cook of the Christian Science Monitor has the lowdown on Democratic strategy to regain control of the Senate next year, courtesy of this week's Monitor Breakfast special guest, DSCC Chairman Chuck Schumer. LINK

The New York Daily News' Juan Gonzales on labor unrest -- at the AFL-CIO. LINK

Stefan Friedman's "City Confidential' column in the New York Post includes this priceless kicker quote updating his column from earlier in the week: LINK

"'It may not be the best idea on the planet.' -- Fernando Ferrer on his proposed stock-transfer tax, a day after City Confidential revealed that political ally Eliot Spitzer dissed the plan. Ferrer is still committed to it."

The Seattle Times' David Postman lays out the Republican case so far regarding discrepancies in absentee-ballot counts in King County. LINK

Gregory Roberts of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer writes that it's unclear whether allegations about King County's sloppiness will help the Republicans case. LINK

Leslie Eaton of the New York Times writes that "[a]s the trial of Hillary Rodham Clinton's former chief fund-raiser drew to a close, federal prosecutors said on Wednesday that the defendant, David F. Rosen, had accepted lavish, secret gifts that were 'clearly meant to buy influence and access.'" LINK

The New York Post's Deborah Orin does her best to drive a Viagra wedge between Bill and Hillary Clinton. Note how Jim Kennedy refuses to take the bait. LINK

"When he was a sheriff's deputy, the man who is now Spokane's mayor sodomized a sixth-grade boy, according to allegations in court documents released Wednesday by an attorney for Spokane County," writes Bill Morlin of the Spokesman-Review. LINK

The New York Times' David Brooks says yay to evangelical leaders who want to broaden the movement's legislative agenda (two cheers for Rev. Richard Cizik) and concludes thusly:

"I see evangelicals who are more and more influenced by Catholic social teaching, with its emphasis on good works. I see the historical rift healing between those who emphasized personal and social morality. Most of all, I see a new sort of evangelical leader emerging." LINK

"Millions of evangelicals are embarrassed by the people held up by the news media as their spokesmen. Millions of evangelicals feel less represented by the culture war-centered parachurch organizations, and better represented by congregational pastors, who have a broader range of interests and more passion for mobilizing volunteers to perform service. Millions of evangelicals want leaders who live the faith by serving the poor.

He also attempts a Jewish joke which may or may fall flat, depending on your point of view.