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Bush Challenged on Iraq

"1. The identity of all White House officials who have held RNC e-mail accounts;

"2. The total number of e-mails sent by each White House official through an RNC e-mail account during each calendar year;

"3. The total number of e-mails received by each White House official through an RNC e-mail account during each calendar year;

"4. The total number of e-mails sent by each White House official through an RNC e-mail account to a '.gov' e-mail account during each calendar year; and

"5. The total number of e-mails received by each White House official through an RNC e-mail account from a '.gov' e-mail account during each calendar year."

Rove Watch

Is the pressure getting to Karl Rove?

Rove gave a speech to a Republican group in Ohio yesterday in which he reportedly blamed 9/11 on Democrats, and the war in Iraq on bin Laden. Jim Carney writes in the Akron Beacon Journal: "Presidential confidant Karl Rove painted a bleak picture Wednesday of what would happen if the United States walked away from the global war on terror. . . .

"In a question-and-answer period after his speech, Rove was asked whose idea it was to start a pre-emptive war in Iraq.

"'I think it was Osama bin Laden's,' Rove replied."

But as Carney notes: "Bin Laden was based in Afghanistan when he orchestrated the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States. Bush acknowledged last year that Iraq under Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11, but the president portrays the Iraq war as the front line of the global war on terror."

Brian Gadd writes in the Coschocton Tribune: "On the general war on terror and in Iraq, Rove called the global threat of terror 'the defining issue of our generation,' and that we're in the present situation due to the 'feeble response' of the Clinton administration and Democrats in general to terrorist attacks on U.S. interests around the world in the years leading up to 9/11."

Thomas J. Sheeran writes for the Associated Press: "Rove told about 400 people at a Tuscarawas County Lincoln Day dinner that the 100-day mark of the Democratic-controlled Congress 'seems like 100 years, doesn't it?'"

Darfur Watch

Michael Abramowitz and Glenn Kessler write in The Washington Post: "President Bush unveiled a new package of sanctions against Sudan yesterday for failing to cooperate with international efforts to end what he described as the 'genocide' in the Darfur region -- but promptly postponed it to give the U.N. secretary general time to pursue a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

"Until Tuesday night, the White House had been planning to use the speech to impose a 'Plan B' for Sudan, a long-anticipated plan that includes new financial sanctions targeting 29 companies owned or controlled by the Sudanese government, as well as three people involved in fomenting violence in Darfur. Bush and his aides have been increasingly frustrated by their inability to prod Sudan to cooperate in efforts to end the humanitarian crisis in the troubled region, where as many as 450,000 people have died and more than 2 million have been made homeless after attacks from government-sponsored militias.

"But the administration plan was upended by a last-minute plea Tuesday from Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, requesting more time to work out a diplomatic solution with Sudan's president, Lt. Gen. Omar Hassan al-Bashir. . . .

"Bush's speech, timed for the week in which the country commemorates the Holocaust, was his most extensive discussion of the conflict in Darfur in nearly a year. It came while the president faces increasing pressure from lawmakers and humanitarian groups to deliver on promises to press Bashir to end his conflict with the rebels in Darfur and alleviate the suffering."

Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes in the New York Times: "Some of the advocates for peace in Darfur, who have long criticized the administration for inaction, expressed severe disappointment that he did not take stronger action. Still, some said the specter of the president laying out a specific plan for sanctions against Sudan to an audience of Holocaust survivors -- including Elie Wiesel, an author and Nobel Peace Prize winner -- signaled a new level of intensity."

He Just Knows

A revealing exchange at yesterday's press briefing with Dana Perino:

"Q In his speech on Monday, the President said, 'Families gathered here understand that our troops want to finish the job.' What evidence does he actually have for that? Because there doesn't seem to be any polling data whatsoever to support the idea that the troops do want to stay and finish the job rather than go home.

" MS. PERINO: Victoria, I think that there are many troops and there are many families, and the President hears it personally from them, asking to make sure that the President stays strong and completes the mission.

" Q The only polling data there seems to be is an Army Times poll that came out last December, which seems to show, really, that the doubts are whether the troops actually feel that they could finish the job and whether they wanted to finish it.

" MS. PERINO: I'm not familiar with that poll. I do know that the President feels confident that when he describes what he hears from the troops, that he's being as forthcoming as he can with the American people. And you just have to -- I think that a lot of it could be anecdotal, but I'm not a polling expert and we don't, as you know, make decisions based on polls.

" Q So this isn't based on any empirical data; this is based on people he's spoken with?

" MS. PERINO: I think people he's spoken with, generals he hears from that are over there on the ground, people that he talks to. I mean, he talks to many outside experts. Yes, I think that he feels very comfortable that the troops, families of the troops believe that this mission should be completed."

Bush's Day

Bush today travels to Tipp City, Ohio, to deliver a speech on the war on terror.

The Associated Press reports: "A contractor in Tipp City, Ohio, faxed the White House a couple of weeks ago to invite President Bush to come speak, and was flabbergasted when the White House faxed back, accepting. . . .

"Steve Bruns is former head of the Tipp City Area Chamber of Commerce and is a Bush backer. He says he wanted the president to explain why the 'fight against the terrorists and victory in Iraq are so important.'

"White House spokesman Alex Conant says it's a 'good opportunity to visit Ohio and talk about the war.'"

Nancy Bowman writes in the Dayton Daily News that although the speech is being held at Tippecanoe High School, the audience will be made up of about 500 people invited by the chamber of commerce.

"Most students at Tippecanoe High School will watch the speech via a simulcast. Around 40 advanced government class students have been invited to attend.

"Schools Superintendent John Kronour said school representatives have been meeting with those planning the event, but said planning is being done by The White House staff, not the schools. School officials have heard complaints about the event not being open to more students."

In a separate story, Bowman writes that "Chamber executive Matt Owen said the chamber was working with the president's staff to incorporate local people and experiences in the president's speech."

Mike Kelly writes in the Trip City Herald that Mike McDermott, chairman of the board of directors for the Tipp City Area Chamber of Commerce, said invitations went out to "'a real mixture of folks from the entire Miami Valley.' He said a lot of Bush's political supporters, chamber members, county officials and business supporters have been invited to the event.

"Although McDermott said he does not know how the event is being moderated, he believes President Bush will open up to questions.

"'I believe it is just going to be a speech,' McDermott said. 'But, one of the things that is very unique about this president is he is very willing to go out into the crowd and answer questions and connect with his constituents.'"

On Friday, Bush uses yet another midwest high school as a backdrop. Mark Hornbeck and Deb Price write in the Detroit News: "President Bush will deliver a policy address on the war in Iraq and the global battle against terrorism on Friday afternoon at East Grand Rapids High School.

"The speech, to be hosted by the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan, is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. at the high school Performing Arts Center. . . .

"White House spokesman Alex Conant said Bush will tell the audience that 'the consequences of failure in Iraq would be death and destruction in the Middle East and here in America.'"

Al Jazeera Revisited

Luke Baker reports for Reuters: "The trial began yesterday for two men accused of leaking a secret memo on the Iraq war in which U.S. President George W. Bush is reported to have threatened to bomb TV station Al Jazeera.

"Prosecutors told the court the Britons, a civil servant and a political researcher, leaked the memo detailing 'highly sensitive' talks between Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair at the White House on April 16, 2004, because they opposed the Iraq war.

"Britain's Daily Mirror reported in November 2005 that the memo quoted Bush as saying he wanted to bomb Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based satellite broadcaster whose coverage of the Iraq war has angered U.S. officials.

"The Mirror quoted an unnamed government official as suggesting Bush's threat was a joke but cited another unidentified source as saying Bush was serious. It said Blair had talked Bush out of the idea.

"The White House has described the Mirror report as 'outlandish' and Blair's spokesman last year denied allegations about the contents of the memo."

But as I wrote in my December 2, 2005 column, the White House has never provided a straight answer to this question: Did President Bush raise the idea of bombing the headquarters of the al-Jazeera television network with Blair that day -- and if so, was he serious or was he joking?

Crackberry Watch

Ken Herman blogs for Cox News Service: "The Blackberry system breakdown that knocked many of the devices off the air took its toll at the White House.

"'We're 14 hours into no Blackberrys,' said spokesman Tony Fratto. 'So you can imagine how things are.'

"'We've already started a 12-step group,' he joked."

Cartoon Watch

Ben Sargent and Pat Oliphant on Gonzales; John Sherffius on what do with Karl Rove.

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