The money, literally, is moving to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales as the pick to succeed Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court, according to Sportsbook.com, the giant online betting operation.
The betting opened Tuesday with Gonzales a clear favorite: The odds were 6-5 that President Bush would pick him, followed by federal appellate judge Emilio M. Garza at 6-1. Appellate judges Janice Rogers Brown, Edith Jones, Edith Brown Clement, Michael Luttig and Samuel Alito all came in at 8-1. Judges Michael McConnell, John G. Roberts and J. Harvie Wilkinson were 10-1.
But these preliminary numbers, spokesman Patrick Erlich said, were based on a team of oddsmakers' assessments over the past two weeks based on news accounts -- and they were working on the assumption that Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist would be the first to quit.
Then the gamblers weighed in. Bush widely praised Gonzales, and the odds changed sharply for him. By late yesterday, Gonzales had moved to a 5-9 favorite. "That means he's getting a lot of action," Erlich said. "The betting public is firmly behind Gonzales."
Clement zipped up to 4-1, Garza dropped to 7-1, and others faded, with Luttig and Roberts surprisingly dropping back to 15-1. Erlich wouldn't say how many bets had been placed but allowed as how the average bet so far is $61, which is "pretty good" for a non-sports, non-racing event in what's called the "novelty" category.
"If we see a huge wad of money" on one person, said Marketing Director Alex Czajkowski, "coming from, say, D.C. or Texas, where the news may have been leaked, we'll tell you who the next justice will be."
Would a Ballfield Sweeten the Deal?
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) is leading the Senate effort to undercut the Supreme Court's controversial ruling that allows the government to grab your family home for a relative pittance not just for a public project but to help out some private-sector fat cats.
A bipartisan coalition in the House, where a fellow Texan Republican, Majority Leader Tom DeLay, is leading the charge, passed legislation last week to deny federal funding to local governments that use their power of eminent domain for profit-making projects.
But this is a more complex matter than it seems. Sometimes such government "takings," even to enrich private companies, also can be of great benefit for the local and even national good.
Texas has not had a lot of experience in this area. The first time the power of eminent domain was used to help a private organization there was only 14 years ago. That was when state and local officials seized 13 acres of land from the heirs to television magnate Curtis Mathes so that the Texas Rangers could build their new stadium in Arlington.
This reportedly made the Rangers -- owned then in part by now-President Bush and his buddy, now the ambassador to Japan, Tom Schieffer -- a much more valuable property.
Cornyn and DeLay may argue that these kinds of takings are not right -- Bush has not said anything about the ruling -- but let's remember that without that little land deal, years of spectacular hitting (okay, so the pitching was a tad weak) might have been denied to the people of Texas, including the golden years of Rafael Palmeiro, Juan Gonzales, the young Alex Rodriguez (who signed the biggest contract in the history of baseball to leave Seattle -- 10 years at $252 million) and of course the certain Hall of Famer, Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, now with Detroit.
A West Wing Reunion of Sorts
Sean McCormack, the new assistant secretary of state for public affairs, has put the finishing touches on his team, which, like the department itself, has many White House veterans on it.
Former White House assistant press secretary Gordon Johndroe, an aide to President Bush before Bush was even a governor, who was also at the Department of Homeland Security and then first lady Laura Bush's spokesman, has been tapped to be director of the office of strategic communications and planning.
Pamela Stevens, who was radio-TV liaison at the White House, handles inquiries and interview requests for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Deputy Secretary Robert Zoellick. Josie Duckett, former deputy director of White House press advance, is doing events and media advance for Rice and doing media and events advance internally. Emily Miller, who is available for "special projects," is said to be leaving in the near future.