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Where's the Accountability?

The White House press office was so delighted with Broder's column that it sent it out to the entire White House press corps this morning at 6:44 a.m., under the heading: "In Case You Missed It."

Commenters on are not being so kind.

Glenn Greenwald blogs for Salon: "Beltway pundits have long been petrified of the reality that most Americans have turned against the President permanently and with deep conviction. Because the David Broders of the world propped up the Bush presidency for so long, they are deeply invested in finding a way to salvage it."

Either Broder is in the vanguard -- or he's in an incredible minority.

More typical of the view of Bush these days is a Seattle Times editorial from this morning: "Watching President Bush's press conference earlier this week, our minds wandered. More words. We had heard them before. What drew our attention was the face. It was the face of a man with no confidence in what he was saying.

"By sending more soldiers, the U.S. government could 'help the Iraqis secure the capital.' This, in turn, could provide 'political breathing space' for Iraqi politicians to do the work of 'reconciliation.'

"Those were the words. The quivering lip, the just-woke-up manner, the movement of the eyes, were saying something different. Here was a man who knew that the great gamble of his life had not paid off. He knew the people watching him knew it. He was proposing another roll of the dice at odds none too good, but that postponed admitting a major mistake."

And then Al Neuharth had this admission in his USA Today column: "A year ago I criticized Hillary Clinton for saying 'this (Bush) administration will go down in history as one of the worst.'

"'She's wrong,' I wrote. Then I rated these five presidents, in this order, as the worst: Andrew Jackson, James Buchanan, Ulysses Grant, Hoover and Richard Nixon. 'It's very unlikely Bush can crack that list,' I added.

"I was wrong. This is my mea culpa. Not only has Bush cracked that list, but he is planted firmly at the top."

Poll Watch

The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press reports on its latest poll: "Public support for the war in Iraq continues to decline, as a growing number of political independents are turning against the war. Overall, a 53% majority of Americans believe the U.S. should bring its troops home as soon as possible - up five points in the past month and the highest percentage favoring a troop pullout since the war began nearly four years ago. . . .

"President Bush's standing with the public has changed little over the past few months. Just a third approve of the president's job performance, unchanged from last month."

Pew once again asked respondents to come up with their own one-word description of Bush.

"In the current survey, nearly half (47%) describe Bush in negative terms, such as 'arrogant,' 'idiot,' and 'ignorant.' Just 27% use words that are clearly positive, such as 'honest,' 'good,' 'integrity,' and 'leader.'

"As was the case a year ago, the word mentioned more frequently than any other is 'incompetent.'"

Never Give an Inch

More evidence yesterday that the White House will admit to almost nothing, and that press secretary Tony Snow will say just about anything.

From yesterday's press briefing:

"Q Slides from a pre-war briefing show that by this point, the U.S. expected that the Iraqi army would be able to stabilize the country and there would be as few as 5,000 U.S. troops there. What went wrong?

"MR. SNOW: I'm not sure anything went wrong. . . .

Coming Home to Roost

Murray Waas has a fascinating story in the National Journal, chronicling how Vice President Cheney's obsession with other people's leaks may have ended up costing him his chief of staff. It's kind of hard to summarize.

Scooter Libby Watch

Richard B. Schmitt writes in the Los Angeles Times: "In his opening statement three weeks ago in the federal perjury trial of I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, defense lawyer Theodore V. Wells Jr. dropped a bombshell. In dramatic tones, Wells declared that Libby had been the victim of a White House conspiracy to make Libby the fall guy for the CIA leak scandal.

"But when the jury begins deliberating the fate of the former vice presidential aide next week, it will have seen virtually no evidence to back up the provocative claim.

"The difference between what Wells promised and delivered, and how it will play with the 12-member panel, is just one of the wild cards as the trial winds up. Libby himself did not take the stand, and the unusually spare defense seemed built on the hope that prosecutors did not make their case."

Congress v. Bush

Jonathan Weisman and Shailagh Murray write in The Washington Post: "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) yesterday linked her support for President Bush's war-funding request to strict standards of resting, training and equipping combat forces, a move that could curtail troop deployments and alter the course of U.S. involvement in Iraq. . . .

"Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), a Pelosi ally, is rewriting the president's spending request to limit Bush's options in prosecuting the war, and Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said he will seek to repeal the 2002 congressional authorization for Bush to wage war in Iraq and substitute legislation that would narrow the mission of troops there and begin to bring some home."

Michael Abramowitz writes in The Washington Post: "President Bush has not been shy about asserting robust powers for the presidency in waging war, but lately he has seemed to concede that Congress has a role to play as well. Lawmakers, he has indicated, are within their rights to try to cap total deployments or limit where troops can go in Iraq. . . .

"But as the debate in Congress shifts from nonbinding resolutions of disapproval for adding troops in Iraq to attaching conditions on funding for the war, a constitutional clash between the legislative and executive branches may be inevitable, say lawmakers and legal scholars with close ties to the administration. . . .

"[A]dministration allies in the conservative legal world predicted that the White House would eventually chafe at such restrictions."

The Army and the Surge

Ann Scott Tyson writes in The Washington Post: "Outgoing Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker said yesterday that the increase of 17,500 Army combat troops in Iraq represents only the 'tip of the iceberg' and will potentially require thousands of additional support troops and trainers, as well as equipment -- further eroding the Army's readiness to respond to other world contingencies. . . .

"Schoomaker, in one of his last congressional testimonies as Army chief, also made it clear that he had raised concerns in advance about President Bush's plan to increase troops in Iraq because it would further deplete Army units at home. . . .

"Still, Schoomaker added that 'our mission now is to support the commander in chief.'"

Afghanistan Watch

Peter Baker and Karen DeYoung write in The Washington Post: "President Bush vowed yesterday to make a sustained new military and political effort to beat back resurgent Taliban forces as he turned his attention back to Afghanistan and a conflict that has been overshadowed for the past couple of years by the larger war in Iraq. . . .

"The president acknowledged the escalating violence in Afghanistan, but critics said that he underestimated the depth of the problem. 'We're talking about much more serious problems than the president discussed today,' said Anthony H. Cordesman, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. In testimony to the House Foreign Relations Committee earlier in the day, Cordesman said any victory in Afghanistan will take five to 10 more years."

Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes in the New York Times: "The remarks, to the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative research organization here, amounted to an unusually high-profile acknowledgment from Mr. Bush of the precarious state of the effort to stabilize Afghanistan, a country the administration long held up as a foreign policy success story.

"The speech renewed criticism from Democrats that had the United States not been tied down in Iraq, the situation in Afghanistan would not have turned dire. At the same time, some Republican lawmakers said Mr. Bush's new strategy would not do enough to tamp down the Afghan drug trade. Outside experts criticized the president for painting too rosy a picture."

Al Kamen writes in The Washington Post: "Bush-bashers often accuse him of not being aware that his riffs on Iraq and Afghanistan can be a bit stale sometimes. On the contrary, President Bush is acutely aware of the problem. He demonstrated that in a speech yesterday before the conservative American Enterprise Institute at the Mayflower Hotel.

"Noting a number of administration officials attending, Bush said it was great to see them and that 'I fully expect you to stay awake for the entire address.' Apparently they did, but at least one member of the audience was spotted dozing peacefully in the back."

White House Fingerprints

David Johnston writes in the New York Times: "A United States attorney in Arkansas who was dismissed from his job last year by the Justice Department was ousted after Harriet E. Miers, the former White House counsel, intervened on behalf of the man who replaced him, according to Congressional aides briefed on the matter.

"Ms. Miers, the aides said, phoned an aide to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales suggesting the appointment of J. Timothy Griffin, a former military and civilian prosecutor who was a political director for the Republican National Committee and a deputy to Karl Rove, the White House political adviser."

The Arkansas Democrat Gazette reports that Griffin has now announced he will not try to win Senate confirmation.

"He said he will continue to serve in the top law enforcement position in the state's eastern district as long as the White House keeps him there under the interim title or 'gets someone else that I can help transition into this job.

"'But to submit my name to the Senate would be like volunteering to stand in front of a firing squad in the middle of a three-ring circus.'"

Bush and the Black Caucus

Josh Richman writes in the Oakland Tribune: "Rep. Barbara Lee and more than two dozen other Congressional Black Caucus members met Thursday with President Bush, giving him a piece of their minds on Hurricane Katrina recovery, the federal budget and the war in Iraq.

"'On most issues the president was fairly noncommittal, I would say, but we had a good discussion,' Lee, D-Oakland, said later Thursday.

"Lee said she was one of three caucus members tasked with questioning the president about the war. She asked him to clarify whether he intends to maintain permanent military bases in Iraq, something she has introduced legislation to prevent; she said the president told her that will be left up to the Iraqi government."

David Nitkin writes in the Baltimore Sun: "Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Baltimore . . . said he tried to be emotional in conveying the concerns of military families he has met but did not think Bush was open to reconsideration on Iraq. 'I wanted him to hear me, and I wanted to speak soul to soul,' he said. 'It was already closed down. His mind was shut tight.'"

Executive Orders

Kenneth T. Walsh writes for U.S. News: "With President Bush unable to get much traction so far in moving his agenda through Congress or in improving his job-approval ratings with the public, White House advisers are casting about for ways to jump-start his final two years, including issuing executive orders to get things done without having to ask for support from the Democratic-controlled Congress."

Ignore the Earmarks.

Here's another way for Bush to rebel against congressional earmarks (now that Congress is controlled by Democrats): Ignore them!

Stephen Dinan writes in the Washington Times: "The Bush administration no longer will be bound by most congressional pork-barrel spending requests, the director of the White House's Office of Management and Budget said yesterday in a memo on how federal departments and agencies should treat money in the new spending bill the president signed into law."

Bush to Support Tax Increase on the Rich?

Sarah Lueck writes in the Wall Street Journal that a "possible bargain" between Congressional Democrats and Bush "centers on the Alternative Minimum Tax, a kind of parallel income tax that hit 3.5 million U.S. taxpayers in the 2006 tax year. Congressional Democrats are eager to keep the AMT from ensnaring millions more middle-class taxpayers. . . .

"In recent days, Bush administration officials have signaled they may not oppose a likely method of covering those costs: raising taxes on the nation's wealthiest citizens.....

"[A]dministration officials have been quietly suggesting that he wouldn't necessarily object if Democrats passed a 'revenue neutral' bill that cut taxes paid under AMT and raised them elsewhere to offset any revenue lost to the Treasury."

Late Night Humor

Jon Stewart tries to make sense of the administration's allegations against Iran.

Cartoon Watch

Tom Toles on the Libby trial; Ann Telnaes on withdrawal; and John Sherffius on Bush's press conference.

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