Friday, December 09, 2005

Morning copy 12.09.2005

ABC's The Note asked yesterday: "what [sic] national Democrat has the most credibility with the media and the public on national security issues these days?"

Senator John Kerry (D., Mass.) gave a speech in front of the Council on Foreign Relations, the same prominent thinktank that hosted George W. Bush earlier in the week. The coverage is underwhelming, with 15 stories on Google News at 0620 EST. Even the left-leaning Boston Globe -- the major daily from the Senator's home state -- uses the A.P. version of the story. And, former presidential candidate Kerry said that "at least" 100,000 U.S. troops need to be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of 2006, which would leave about 60,000 in the country -- or less.

If THAT is not news, I do not know what is.

Contrast Kerry's numbers (where they come from, I do not know) with Rumsfeld's own expectation that 20,000 could return home after the elections and more after that in 2006, as conditions dictate, A.P.

It is hard to get a good read on the media or the public insofar as Iraq. Just this week we have seen a Howard Dean "moment", a major speech by President George W. Bush, an indirect reference to the Irish Brigade by Dick Cheney, new polls, Rumors of Rumsfeld's retirement ... et cetera, et cetera.

The war over the war in Iraq (and wars in general)

Yesterday's New York Daily News story on Sec. Defense Donald Rumsfeld's rumored retirement caused a bit of a stir. "Those reports have been flying around since about four months after I assumed my post in 2001," Mr. Rumsfeld said to the New York Times. "I have no plans to retire," he also said.

On the very day that the Daily News ran rumors that Senator Joe Lieberman (D., Conn.) would replace Rumsfeld, the two had a one-on-one breakfast. The New York Post quotes: "Rumsfeld 'has breakfast with members of Congress all the time,' Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said."

Lieberman's political proximity to the president has resulted in frequent mention of the Senator by both the vice president and his boss. There have also been quips from Mr. Quip himself, Howard Dean -- who set Lieberman up as a rare example of Democratic difficulty on an Iraq consensus, which of course was nothing but spin.

Lieberman's luck just can't get any better. Who rises to his support? Fellow Connecticutian and congressional colleague Rep. Chris Shays (R., Conn.). David Lightman in the Hartford Courant: "Shays, in comments made at the end of an hour-long breakfast with national reporters, said, 'Joe Lieberman is one my heroes.'"

The Christian Science Monitor recounts recent events among the politicos, noting that the fracture lines are most noticeable in the Democratic caucus, but that the Republicans also are not racing to the defense of the president en masse. One expert tells Bloomberg News that the Democrats are "cross-pressured" between their reputation as soft on security and their constituents.

The Christian Science Monitor notes how frequently the word "victory" has been used by the president:
But the Bush team's definition of what would constitute victory in Iraq remains fuzzy, say critics. And in using such a powerful word - especially in phrases such as "complete victory" - US officials may have set themselves a dauntingly high goal. As the president himself has said, the nature of the Iraqi conflict means it won't end, as World War II did, with the finality of a signing ceremony on the deck of a US battleship.

"Ending any war is hard," says Lee Feinstein, executive director of the Task Force Program at the Council on Foreign Relations. "He'd have been better off to say, 'We'll leave Iraq better than we found it.'"
A U.S. official tells the A.P. that Iraq's economy will grow by 4 percent in 2006. A prominent London financial institution says that Iraq's oil production in 2005 will be less than 2004, A.P. The production level today is about half of what it was in 1990.

USA Today reports on an American military founded and funded press club in Iraq:
The Army acknowledges funding the club and offering "reporter compensation," but insists officers did not demand favorable coverage. "Members are not required nor asked to write favorably," said Lt. Col. Robert Whetstone. "They are simply invited to report on events." He said the military exercised no editorial control over the coverage.
A congressional committee is at a deadlock in Iraq documents, New York Times:
The resolution, proposed by Representative Maurice D. Hinchey, Democrat of New York, asks the president to turn over drafts and documents related to his October 2002 speech in Cincinnati and his State of the Union address in January 2003. Democrats want to find out why the president omitted from the earlier speech any reference to allegations that Iraq was seeking uranium in Africa but included such a claim in the State of the Union address.
Bush's approval rating in Iowa is at an all-time low, Des Moines Register.

The Washington Times reports that the Pentagon will stick with the plan (or the intention) to be able to fight two wars at once.

Reuters reports that negotiators are near a deal that will preserve most of John McCain's language in the so-called Torture Amendment, rebuffing the vice president and perhaps explaining Condoleezza Rice's statements that U.S. personnel shall not be inhumane. This lengthy lede from Catholic News Service shows some of the pressure the administration faces on this:
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Policies that are unclear about the torture of prisoners damage U.S. international interests and credibility and are an offense against human rights, said panelists who included a retired Army general, a former adviser to the departments of State and Defense and representatives of Jewish and Catholic organizations.
In an item related to torture's efficacy, the New York Times reports that current and former government officials say the link between al Qaeda and Iraq was established by a detainee who did not want "harsh treatment":
The officials said the captive, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, provided his most specific and elaborate accounts about ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda only after he was secretly handed over to Egypt by the United States in January 2002, in a process known as rendition.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, of Iran, suggested that Israel be moved to Europe and that the Holocaust never happened, Washington Post. Not related, except for the fact that it is troubling, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said this week that Iran is the "winner" with the U.S. in Iraq, Iran Focus. That is the point-of-view among some of their leadership. It is also the point-of-view of a former National Security Advisor, a former NATO commander, a former CIA officer. Need I continue?

More news...

Two more GOP congressmembers say that they want an election for a new majority leader, which would mean Tom DeLay's rule has ended, Houston Chronicle. Hmm.

GOP reaches a deal on Patriot Act, and a handful of Senators have protested already, CNN. The Washington Post: "But the agreement faces an uncertain future. No Democratic negotiators in the House or Senate embraced the bill that emerged from the conference committee, and a bipartisan group of senators complained that the proposed revisions do too little to protect the civil liberties of innocent Americans."

Sec. State Condoleezza Rice appears to have done well with NATO allies on the issue of inhumane detainee treatment, A.P.

"Diamond" Jim notes that GOP members value the president's cash appeal, if not his approval rating.

Another former partner of Jack Abramoff may soon have a plea deal, Washington Post.

The Manchster Union Leader on the "threat" of western primaries taking a great deal of focus off the Granite State.

Your dividends are safe, Boston Globe.

The NAACP and president Bush had a private meeting, as the relationship moves from arctic to, well, not quite luke warm, Baltimore Sun.

Senator Barack Obama (D., Ill.) has been nominated for a spoken word Grammy, Chicago Tribune.

New Mexico's Governor Bill Richardson (Dem.) says that his party must establish a broad message on security, economics and morality, Denver Post.

The Wall Street Journal is in favor of a guest worker program.

Only 12 percent of respondents say that they have done a great deal to prepare for a disaster, St. Louis Post Dispatch.


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