In this issue:
Congressional intra-party leadership elections are usually significant only to the truly politically obsessed. Not so the three-way race to replace Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) as House Majority Leader. The outcome will give a clear indication of where the rank-and-file GOP members see themselves heading into this November's elections.
Acting Majority Leader Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) is the status quo, "everything is fine" candidate. Blunt has been part-and-parcel of the GOP spending binge. Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) is the "yeah, we might have an ethics-perception problem with various lobbying scandals, and we need a new face" candidate. But he is no reformist. Boehner has cycled in and out of leadership ever since the GOP took the House in 1994.
That leaves Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) as the change agent in the race. Shadegg has at least raised questions about the pace of federal spending and invokes Ronald Reagan as something other than an applause line, which makes him a rarity in the current Congress. Should be interesting.
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It took Al Gore jumping up and down over the Bush administration's domestic spying program, but the White House has finally deployed in force the argument you knew was lurking in the wings. Bush may have spied, but so did Bill Clinton. Nah-nah. This might be useful in deflecting partisan outrage but otherwise precisely misses the point.
The various excesses and assertions of executive power by the Clinton administration have always been a necessary condition of the expansion of the executive pushed by the Bush team. It is the extent of the Bush push that is breathtaking. When Attorney General Alberto Gonzales argues that it is sufficient that the president's Justice Department's has vetted the necessity and propriety of the wiretapping, he is effectively claiming that judicial input is simply not relevant to any matter the president ropes off as involving "national security."
The potential for serious abuse of this standard should be obvious. If not, maybe Bush partisans should imagine Hillary Clinton wielding that power.
The CIA air strike on suspected al-Qaeda targets in a Pakistani village close to the Afghan border has lifted the veil on U.S. operations in the region. In addition to the CIA's Hellfire-equipped Predator drones, the U.S. is probably inserting teams across the border to monitor and "spotlight" ground-targets for further air strikes or perhaps long-range artillery barrages.
The government of Pakistan is walking a fine line. Thousands of protesters took to the streets in response to the strike that killed 18 local villagers along with a reported 4 or 5 al-Qaeda. But at least some of the local tribal structure appears to be eager to excise the al-Qaeda influence, either due to financial incentives offered by the U.S. or because the terrorist influence has simply become too much trouble.
For its part, the Bush administration would love to definitively bag a high-value al-Qaeda target as questions swirl in Washington about the focus and efficacy of its anti-terror efforts.
Quote of the Week
"We'd chase a number, find it's a schoolteacher with no indication they've ever been involved in international terrorism-case closed. After you get a thousand numbers and not one is turning up anything, you get some frustration." -Unnamed former F.B.I. official on the value of the information that the Bush administration's domestic wiretapping operation turned up.
Heresy: Macs Running Windows
Just one fallout from Apple using Intel processors: The possibility that Macs could run Windows. The horror!
Dick on the Move
Vice President Dick Cheney travels to Egypt and Saudi Arabia to meet with leaders and discuss the war effort in Iraq and the nuclear standoff with Iran.
Iranian Enrichment, in Russia
One possible compromise in the Iran nuclear matter has Iran conducting nuclear enrichment activities at a facility in neighboring Russia. The idea is that international inspectors would surely detect any attempt to make weapons-grade material that way.
Alito flunks the most pressing test of today and tomorrow. Matt Welch
Katrina's Racial Paranoia
An equal-opportunity hurricane after all. Cathy Young
The One On the Right Was On the Left…
The political puzzle of country music. Jesse Walker
And much more!
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