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Hardball Briefing for Tues., May 22

By Tammy Haddad and Shelby PoduchIf you walked by Cafe Milano last night and heard the laughter and saw the women leaning into the center of the table, then you

By Tammy Haddad and Shelby Poduch

If you walked by Cafe Milano last night and heard the laughter and saw the women leaning into the center of the table, then you should have leaned in yourself because the information was flying fast and furious.  National Review’s Kate O’Beirne, looking very Italian in chocolate brown and wearing David Yurman jewelry, Meet the Press’ Betsy Fischer, Victoria Toensing and her photog daughter Amy (back from Tonga), Hilary Rosen (wow... a Democrat!), as well as the Romney campaign’s Barbara Comstock and Holland and Knight’s Kathryn Lehman on the manifest. 

Here’s what you missed: the Vice President and the missus threw a “welcome to spring” party which some tablemates attended at the VP’s residence along with some others at their new Eastern Shore home.  Among the guests, the Fred Barnes, the Krauthammers, Brit Hume, the Fred Thompsons.  Hmmm... is an endorsement in the works?  The table decided “not” since the Cheneys have also entertained the Romneys. With style and pizzazz, Mrs. Cheney takes the lead at these festive occasions and the Vice President ends the evening with this line: “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.”

One of our usual girls’ night compradres, Jeri Thompson, has been busy somehow, but it will be at her own risk because she was talked about.

Hilary wouldn’t confirm that the Clinton camp would most like to run against Giuliani and least like to run against Romney, but that was the crowd’s view.  Your faithful reporter could have seen more notables if it hadn’t been for the tour bus that pulled up to the curb blocking our view.

After backing down on enforced benchmarks and setting a date for troop withdrawal, Democratic leaders in Congress say they’re close to agreement with the White House on the Iraq war funding bill and hope to have a compromise on the president’s desk by Friday.We’ll have the latest on the compromise tonight on Hardball.  Plus, as Washington continues to debate when the troops will come home, the AP reported today that the Iraqi government is making contingency plans for a full US pull-out this fall.      

Then, bring on the hot topics.  Anne Kornblut from the Washington Post and Mark Leibovich from the NY Times will be here to hash out all the hot issues dominating water cooler conversation inside and outside the Beltway.

Meanwhile, Democratic contender Sen. Barack Obama (IL) spent the day pounding the pavement in Philadelphia.  We’ll get the lowdown on today’s rally from Obama’s campaign communications director Robert Gibbs.  And later in the show, tonight’s Hardballers - California Attorney General Jerry Brown and former Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Karen Hanretty - will be here to sort through the rest of today’s ‘08 news.