And now the most revealing two minutes in television, the latest from Special Report's "Political Grapevine."

A split verdict

Bush administration officials are grumbling privately that the American Bar Association is up to what they consider its old tricks.  The ABA has given University of Utah law professor Paul Cassell an overall rating of well-qualified for the federal district judgeship for which  President Bush has nominated him.

But a minority of the ABA's evaluation committee found Cassell, "not qualified," the lowest possible rating.  Bush Justice Department officials say the evaluation is inexplicable given Cassell's experience and the fact, for example, that the U.S. Supreme Court asked him to argue an important case on suspects' rights there last year.

The administration has ended the ABA's role in screening judicial nominees before they're named, but the Senate continues to take ABA ratings into account and Cassell is now awaiting Senate action.

Forgot to check the mail?

Remember that letter House and Senate Democratic leaders sent President Bush yesterday?

It cited the recent reports showing a shrinking budget surplus and claimed the president is now poised to spend heavily from the Social Security trust fund.  It requested "an opportunity to meet with you to receive the benefits of your thinking on this matter."

Our Carl Cameron reports, though, that just such a meeting was scheduled with congressional leaders two weeks before that letter was sent.

With friends like Fritz...

Democratic Senator Ernest Hollings -- Fritz to his friends -- has now said publicly that his 98-year-old South Carolina Republican colleague Strom Thurmond is "not mentally keen."

In an interview with The Greenville News, the famously outspoken Hollings, 79, said, "He's alert, he's awake, and they get him to votes and lead him around.  Asked if Thurmond is mentally diminished,  Hollings said, "There is no question about that."

But when asked if he should step down, Hollings said, "No.  You don't want to ruin Hollings now.  Good God."

Save the whales, uh... sharks!

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals are using the case of 8-year-old Jessie Arbogast whose right arm was bitten off by a shark and later surgically replaced in its campaign to protect sharks.

The organization has gotten approval to put up this billboard in Pensacola, Florida.  PETA says, "Humankind has a meat addiction that kills more 50 million sharks and billions of other sea animals annually.  In contrast," it adds, "to the 10 people killed worldwide by sharks last  year."

It makes no bones that it's capitalizing on little Jessie Arbogast's injury.  A spokesman told The Gulfport Sun Herald, quote, "We'd rather go too far than not far enough."

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