Tough truth is that taxpayers will almost certainly wind up paying for something they ordinarily wouldn't have paid had the spill not happened. ... Meanwhile, Congressional leaders are getting quite concerned with the White House's inability to manage the optics of the crisis, even as they are sympathetic to the notion that there is nothing the administration can do. The White House knows that so long as the oil is gushing the optics are going to ... well, suck.
2. Will Senate Democrats bring up an energy-only climate change bill or a comprehensive version that includes cap and trade? In a committee chairs meeting today, it became clear to many that there aren't 60 voters for the latter version. A final decision will be made by the caucus next Thursday.
3. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has no plans to endorse any candidate in the race to succeed him, at least not for the time being. (As a Republican, one would have expected that he'd endorse GOPer Meg Whitman.) In an interview today, Schwarzenegger ruled out ever running for U.S. Senate, defended his rocky but colorful tenure in office, and offered advice for his successor. Watch for it tomorrow on this page.
4. Labor peace? With the White House? It fell to White House political director Patrick Gaspard to meet with senior labor leaders today, trying to quell anger at some blind quotes published in this space and elsewhere about White House frustration with labor's decision to spent $10 million to knock off Blanche Lincoln. Labor was happy to hear Gaspard acknowledge that it was able to make its own decisions about spending, and the White House was happy to point out instances where labor had publicly knocked Obama. Tempers did not flair and the mood was cooperative when the meeting ended.
5. Gen. Stanley McChrystal said that most of the current coalition plan is "on track," though he acknowledged that the mission to secure Kandahar will take longer than anticipated. He addressed reports that the U.S. planned to maintain a detention facility in Afghanistan beyond the transition point by saying that the U.S. planned to "hand over all detention operations at the defense -- or the detention facility at Parwan to the Afghans in January 2011. That will constitute all our detention operations." He said that special operations forces have tripled their footprint in the country since last year. McChrystal made a note of saying that he would accompany Afghan President Hamid Karzai to several additional shura throughout the country over the next few days. Bottom line: when will the transition to an independent Aghan army be complete? "... the exact start date is something that I don't think has been affixed. I do know the commitment to move forward with transition as rapidly as possible." ... Biggest external concern right now: new violence in Khygyzstan, which is already at war with the Pentagon over a key U.S. refueling-base lease.
6. Detente between the White House and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence? OMB director Peter Orszag informed chair Dianne Feinstein today that it would NOT recommend a veto of the intelligence authorization act based on the compromise language that's been worked out. Seems to be a heck of a victory for the White House, though: most of the tougher oversight provisions (Senate confirmable intelligence positions, more scrutiny of the budget, more disclosure of the National Intelligence Program) have been dropped. ... This paves the way for an earlier confirmation process for DNI nominee James Clapper.
7. Did you know that Bloomberg News, which is beefing up its presence in DC big-time, requires new applicants to take a test? It's intense. According to someone who took it a few weeks ago, one of the questions asks applicants to write as many headlines as possible from a single press release. Because Bloomberg reports, you know, break news in the headlines. Other questions are factual: what are futures? Scary. (Note to my bosses: I do not have first-hand knowledge of this test.)
8. No, I have no idea what to make of Alvin Greene.
9. The real cult in the White House isn't the Chicago machine: it's the Stuy Studs. A number of senior White House officials, and other senior administration officials, are graduates of New York City's best public school, which is now located a few blocks away from the World Trade Center site: Stuyvesant High School. Stuy grads include Attorney General Eric Holder and senior advisor to the President David Axelrod, who will give the school's commencement address next week. Holder and Axelrod went to Stuy when it was near Stuyvesant Town, west of 1st Ave.