The Note, 12/05/08: Another Senator Kennedy?

ABC News' Jonathan Karl, filling in for Rick Klein today Reports: The Big Three can’t win for losing and it seems Barney Frank is already fed up with Barack Obama.  But first, an exclusive from The Note.

Another Senator Kennedy?  The crazy speculation about Hillary Clinton's Senate seat may not be so crazy after all.  A Democrat who would know tells ABC News that New York governor David Paterson has talked to Caroline Kennedy about taking the seat, which was once held by her uncle, Robert F. Kennedy.  It’s not exactly shocking that Paterson would reach out to one of the most highly respected public figures in New York, but this is:  Sources say Kennedy is considering it, and has not ruled out coming to Washington to replace Hillary Clinton in the Senate.

A few years ago, the famously private Caroline Kennedy would be the last Kennedy expected to serve in Congress, but of course, she took on a much more high-profile role during the presidential campaign and, if she does it, would be more than New York’s junior Senator; she’d have closer ties to the Obama White House than any of her colleagues, a direct line to the East Wing.

When Robert Kennedy, Jr. took himself out of the running for the seat earlier this week, he told Jonathan Hicks of the New York Times, “Caroline Kennedy would be the perfect choice if she would agree to it.”  And one more thing:  We hear that President-elect Obama has made it clear that he thinks Caroline Kennedy would be a great choice. 

But Obama spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter tells us, "President-elect Obama has a very high regard for Caroline Kennedy. But, he has not spoken with Governor Paterson or Caroline Kennedy about the race, and has no involvement in this process."

Back to reality as it now exists.

Two weeks ago, the CEOs of GM, Ford and Chrysler were chastised for flying into town in corporate jets and sent back to Detroit with a homework assignment.  As Speaker Pelosi said on November 20, “Until they show us the plan, we cannot show them the money.” 

Well, this time they arrived in impressive electric and hybrid cars and with detailed plans on how they’d use federal loans to turn their companies around.  Did it work?  Here’s the headline from the Detroit News:

“Auto aid deal dicey as Senate skeptics grill GM, Chrysler execs”

Dicey indeed.  The clearest sign that the votes are still not there for a Detroit bailout came shortly after the end of the hearing when Democratic leaders sent President Bush a missive saying, basically, you do it.

ABC’s Z. Byron Wolf reports: “Democrats sent a clear message to the White House tonight - make some of the $700 financial industry bailout money available to the domestic auto industry or else. And they want an answer by Friday.  …

“In a letter Thursday night, Democratic leaders in the House and Senate told President Bush he must commit funds from either the TARP or the federal reserve or they will be unable to pass anything in Congress. 'Your decision to utilize the TARP funds, or to work with the Federal Reserve to make available assistance through its existing lending programs, or both, are essential to the Congress’ ability to address this critical economic situation in a timely manner, and would also eliminate the uncertainties inherent in the legislative process,' say Senate Makority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic committee chairmen in the letter.”

The key phrase there:  “uncertainties in the legislative process.”

While Democrats leaders prod the outgoing president, they are also complaining about the lack of hands-in involvement by the incoming president on the auto bailout issue.  Until now, it’s been private gumbling, but no more. 

Barney Frank, it seems, has had enough with President-elect Obama’s oft-stated “one president at a time” rift. 

AP’s David Espo:  "He's going to have to be more assertive than he's been," Frank said of the president-elect. "At a time of great crisis with mortgage foreclosures and autos, he says we only have one president at a time. I'm afraid that overstates the number of presidents we have. He's got to remedy that situation."

Will this help Mark Penn?   Today Team Obama will send out an email to 3 million of their best friends asking to help Hillary Clinton pay off her campaign debt. 

The brilliant Beth Fouhy of AP has the details:  “At the beginning of November, Clinton owed $7.5 million to vendors from her failed presidential bid, campaign finance records showed. The largest share of the debt - about $5.3 million - is owed to the polling firm of Mark Penn, the Clintons' longtime political strategist. She owes hundreds of thousands of dollars for printing, equipment rental, phone banks and other services.

“Clinton has slowly been trimming the debt since suspending her campaign last June, partly with Obama's help. But her fundraising efforts will be curtailed if she is confirmed as secretary of state and becomes covered by the Hatch Act, which regulates political involvement by federal employees.

And if Obama’s help is not enough, there’s always Ugly Betty.

The star of ABC's "Ugly Betty" has agreed to help Hillary Clinton retire her campaign debt before a federal law prevents Barack Obama's choice for Secretary of State from being personally involved in raising funds.

Clinton's presidential campaign committee sent an e-mail to supporters on Thursday, inviting them to participate in a conversation with the former first lady in New York City on Monday, Dec. 15, which will feature special guest Bill Clinton and will be hosted by America Ferrera, the "Ugly Betty" star who first announced her support for Clinton in January 2008 and campaigned for her in Nevada and Pennsylvania. The purpose of the event, which is scheduled to take place at Manhattan Center Studios, is to help the former first lady retire her sizable campaign debt.

Charles Krauthammer is right that the landmark agreements ratified by Iraq yesterday should not go unNoted:

“The barbarism in Mumbai and the economic crisis at home have largely overshadowed an otherwise singular event: the ratification of military and strategic cooperation agreements between Iraq and the United States.

"They must not pass unnoted. They were certainly noted by Iran, which fought fiercely to undermine the agreements. Tehran understood how a formal U.S.-Iraqi alliance endorsed by a broad Iraqi consensus expressed in a freely elected parliament changes the strategic balance in the region.

"For the United States, this represents the single most important geopolitical advance in the region since Henry Kissinger turned Egypt from a Soviet client into an American ally. If we don't blow it with too hasty a withdrawal from Iraq, we will have turned a chronically destabilizing enemy state at the epicenter of the Arab Middle East into an ally.

"Also largely overlooked at home was the sheer wonder of the procedure that produced Iraq's consent: classic legislative maneuvering with no more than a tussle or two -- tame by international standards (see YouTube: "Best Taiwanese Parliament Fights of All Time!") -- over the most fundamental issues of national identity and direction."

Jeb Bush’s friends tell TIMEs Tim Padgett that he’ll likely make a decision in January on whether to run for Senate.  Padgett finds several good reasons for a Jeb candidacy, including the obvious one:   “Jeb Bush is, without a doubt, one of the smartest politicians the beleaguered Republican Party has at its disposal today.

“Which is why the possibility of his running for Martinez's seat probably shouldn't be such a surprise after all. When a party, to quote Jeb's former-President father, is in the kind of deep doo-doo the GOP stepped into on Nov. 4, it can't afford to let one of its top talents spend any more time taking it easy in Miami.”

More:  “The timing is convenient for Bush as well. If he's now willing to consider a Senate run, then it's fair to assume he's also now open to a presidential bid, either in 2012 or 2016, when the Senate term would end.”    Another President Bush?

The President-elect’s first scandal:  Zunegate.    The Washington Times picks up on a story quietly broken by Philadelphia’s City Paper:

“President-elect Barack Obama is embroiled in his first mini-scandal - one that techies have dubbed Zunegate.

“While Obama insists he loves his iPod music player, he was spotted recently at a Philadelphia gym with the Zune competitor.

"I've seen a Zune in action. I know what it looks like," said Neal Santos, a reporter at the gym who surmised that Obama's Zune may have been borrowed.

“An Obama spokesman said yesterday the incoming prez is an iPod user.”

Quick:  What’s the one thing Phil Singer and Brent Bozell agree on?  Chris Matthews should be off the air. 

And that’s today’s abbreviated version of The Note.  Rick Klein, after a much-deserved day off, will be back on Monday.

Kicker

"I think she has great instincts. She's not a genius, but she has very good political instincts."- PA Governor Ed Rendell in more open-mike comments caught by the eagle-eared Jake Tapper.

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ABC News' Hope Ditto contributed to this report.

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