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Is Woodward Calling Bush a Liar?
"In answer to inquiry on whether he had accepted gifts from Abramoff, Rove simply replied, 'afraid not.'"
The Detainee Bill
Rick Klein writes in the Boston Globe: "The Senate yesterday passed a sweeping measure authorizing military tribunals for some suspected terrorists and permitting aggressive interrogations of top terror suspects, handing President Bush a major victory five weeks before crucial congressional elections."
Charles Babington and Jonathan Weisman write in The Washington Post: "The Senate joined the House in embracing President Bush's view that the battle against terrorism justifies the imposition of extraordinary limits on defendants' traditional rights in the courtroom. They include restrictions on a suspect's ability to challenge his detention, examine all evidence against him, and bar testimony allegedly acquired through coercion of witnesses. . . .
"Democrats . . . nearly amended the detainee bill to allow foreigners designated as enemy combatants to challenge their captivity by filing habeas corpus appeals with the federal courts. But Republicans held fast, gambling that Democrats will fail in their bid to convince voters that the GOP is sacrificing the nation's traditions of justice and fairness in the name of battling terrorists and winning elections."
R. Jeffrey Smith writes in The Washington Post: "The military trials bill approved by Congress lends legislative support for the first time to broad rules for the detention, interrogation, prosecution and trials of terrorism suspects far different from those in the familiar American criminal justice system."
David G. Savage and Richard Simon write in the Los Angeles Times: "Bush is expected to receive a bill he can sign into law in the next few days, but legal challenges almost assuredly will be pursued against the prosecution process, which the administration considers a key element in its war on terrorism."
I'm still amazed that Democrats didn't filibuster the bill in the Senate. Indeed, 12 Democrats actually voted for it.
By contrast, Carl Hulse , writing in the New York Times, is amazed at how many Democrats voted against it: "The Democratic vote in the Senate on Thursday against legislation governing the treatment of terrorism suspects showed that party leaders believe that President Bush's power to wield national security as a political issue is seriously diminished. . . .
"It was a stark change from four years ago, when Mr. Bush cornered Democrats into another defining pre-election vote on security issues -- that one to give the president the authority to launch an attack against Iraq. At the time, many Democrats felt they had little choice politically but to side with Mr. Bush, and a majority of Senate Democrats backed him."
The White House released this statement from Bush last night: "Today, the Senate sent a strong signal to the terrorists that we will continue using every element of national power to pursue our enemies and to prevent attacks on America. The Military Commissions Act of 2006 will allow the continuation of a CIA program that has been one of America's most potent tools in fighting the War on Terror."
The Morning Visit
Ted Barrett writes for CNN: "President Bush barely mentioned the war in Iraq when he met with Republican senators behind closed doors in the Capitol Thursday morning and was not asked about the course of the war, Sen. Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, said.
"'No, none of that,' Lott told reporters after the session when asked if the Iraq war was discussed. 'You're the only ones who obsess on that. We don't and the real people out in the real world don't for the most part.'"
Gloves Come Off
Jim Rutenberg writes in the New York Times: "President Bush took on the Democrats on Thursday with some of his most pointed language yet this campaign year, telegraphing the start of the last, intensive phase of the election season for the White House. . . .
"'Five years after 9/11, the worst attack on the American homeland in our history, the Democrats offer nothing but criticism and obstruction and endless second-guessing,' Mr. Bush said at a fund-raising event for Gov. Bob Riley. 'The party of F.D.R. and the party of Harry Truman has become the party of cut and run.' . . .
"Mr. Bush has been honing his offensive against Democrats for weeks as his political team seeks to shift the election-year focus from a debate about him and the unpopular war to one about terrorism in general, his party's efforts to combat it and what he describes as the opposition's promotion of defeatism and retreat.
"But until now he had left the sort of hard-charging talk that he used here to his political strategist Karl Rove, Vice President Dick Cheney and the Republican national chairman, Ken Mehlman."
Here's the text of the speech in question.
Wall Street Journal Interview
John D. McKinnon writes in the Wall Street Journal: "President Bush said he would speed up his alternative-energy push during the remainder of his term with new spending focused on easing bottlenecks that are slowing the spread of ethanol in the market.
"In an interview with The Wall Street Journal on a swing through Alabama, Mr. Bush said he is seeking ways to overcome difficulties in transporting the fuel, and to increase the number of stations selling it."
Here's the transcript of the interview, in which Bush also suggested that if the elections go his way, he'll take another shot at entitlements.
"Q: Do you envision an entitlement reform combining those two into one effort? In other words, Social Security and Medicare?
"THE PRESIDENT: Well, it's an interesting strategy. I'm working with [Treasury] Secretary Paulson on that. We're obviously watching the elections closely, and we're strategizing internally."
Fighting Over History
President Clinton's fiery interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News last weekend, in which he revived charges that Bush didn't take the threat of terrorism seriously enough before Sept. 11, is still reverberating around Washington.
Michael Duffy writes for Time: "The Bush White House has always been hugely sensitive about this charge because, well, there is some truth to it. The new administration came into office and put terror about third or fourth down on its list of big worries, behind Russia, the ABM treaty, and sorting out that unexpected spy plane problem with the Chinese. (Many Republicans just refuse to believe this.)
"And the person (besides Bush himself) most responsible for ordering things that way was Condoleezza Rice, then the National Security Adviser, a longtime Russia expert. It was always my impression that Rice made it through all the after-action reviews of 9/11 surprisingly unscathed."
E.J. Dionne Jr. writes in his Washington Post opinion column that in the weeks and months after 9/11, "Democrats rallied behind President Bush. For months after the attacks, Democrats did not raise questions about why they had happened on Bush's watch. . . .
"Republicans were arguing simultaneously that it was treasonous finger-pointing to question what Bush did or failed to do to prevent the attacks, but patriotic to go after Clinton. Thus did they build up a mythology that cast Bush as the tough hero in confronting the terrorist threat and Clinton as the shirker. Bad history. Smart politics."
Two Presidents and a Comedian
Caren Bohan writes for Reuters: "When President George W. Bush hosts Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev at the White House on Friday, he will seek to bolster ties with an oil-producing Central Asian country that has lent Washington support on Iraq and Afghanistan.
"But Bush, who has made promoting democracy a centerpiece of his foreign-policy agenda, faces a difficult balancing act with Nazarbayev, whose autocratic ways have been criticized by human rights groups."
From a Washington Post editorial : "Mr. Bush has given numerous speeches in the past several years repudiating what he says was the mistake of backing corrupt authoritarian regimes in the Middle East in exchange for economic and security cooperation, as well as an illusory 'stability.' But that is exactly what he is doing in Kazakhstan -- and in Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Libya and Egypt, among other Muslim countries."
But it's comedy, not hypocrisy, that has Washington abuzz about Kazakhstan today.
Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts write in The Washington Post about Sacha Baron Cohen, the British comic who is currently playing the role of "Borat Sagdiyev -- an anti-Semitic, oversexed Kazakh journalist who spins tales about the national sport of killing dogs and the practice of keeping women in cages -- much to the continuing dismay of the Kazakh government. In a brilliant stunt to promote his movie 'Borat' (opening next month), Baron Cohen held a guerrilla news conference outside the embassy at 16th and O streets NW -- without ever breaking character."
Cohen then led the media hordes to the front gates of the White House.
Andy Sullivan writes for Reuters: "Secret Service agents turned away British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, in character as the boorish, anti-Semitic journalist, when he tried to invite 'Premier George Walter Bush' to a screening of his upcoming movie."
Here are Borat's adventures in photos .