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How Lame a Duck?

Fouad Ajami outdoes everyone, writing to Bush from the Wall Street Journal op-ed page: "Scooter Libby was a soldier in your -- our -- war in Iraq, he was chief of staff to a vice president who had become a lightning rod to the war's critics. . . .

"The prosecutor, and the jury and the judge, had before them a case that purported to stand alone, a trial of one man's memory and recollections. But you have before you what they and the rest of us don't -- a memory of the passions and the panic, and the certitude, which gave rise to the war. And a sense, I am confident, of the quiet and selfless man who sat in the outer circle when your cabinet deliberated over our country's choices in Iraq, and in those burning grounds of the Arab-Islamic world. Scooter Libby was there for the beginning of that campaign. He can't be left behind as a casualty of a war our country had once proudly claimed as its own."

Legal Scholars Rush In

Carol D. Leonnig writes in The Washington Post: "A dozen of the country's most respected constitutional scholars have leapt to I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby's aid. . . .

"The group argued in a six-page brief that Libby, who was convicted of lying to investigators probing the leak of Plame's identity, has a decent shot at appeal on the question of Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald's appointment to investigate that leak. That appointment was likely inappropriate, they argued, because Fitzgerald lacked any supervision that would make his superiors 'politically accountable.'"

Here, courtesy of The Next Hurrah blog, is the brief; here is Judge Reggie Walton's order allowing it to be submitted, complete with an extremely sarcastic footnote:

"It is an impressive show of public service when twelve prominent and distinguished current and former law professors of well-respected schools are able to amass their collective wisdom in the course of only several days to provide their legal expertise to the Court on behalf of a criminal defendant. The Court trusts that this is a reflection of these eminent academics' willingness in the future to step to the plate and provide like assistance in cases involving any of the numerous litigants, both in this Court and throughout the courts of our nation, who lack the financial means to fully and properly articulate the merits of their legal positions even in instances where failure to do so could result in monetary penalties, incarceration, or worse. The Court will certainly not hesitate to call for such assistance from these luminaries, as necessary in the interests of justice and equity, whenever similar questions arise in the cases that come before it."

Pace's Departure

Is Peter Pace stepping down as chairman of the joint chiefs -- or was he fired? Is the reason for his departure that Democrats threatened a fiery reconfirmation hearing -- or that Gates is cleaning house of boot-lickers from the previous regime?

Josh White and Thomas E. Ricks write in The Washington Post: "Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced yesterday that Marine Gen. Peter Pace will step down as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in September, a move that Gates said will avert the contentious congressional hearings that would be needed to reconfirm the nation's top military officer. Pace will leave after just two years in the post, the shortest stint as chairman in more than four decades.

"The surprise announcement yesterday at the Pentagon amounts to Pace being fired before a customary second two-year term. . . .

"Gates said that his decision was rooted in political considerations and that he took guidance from members of Congress who warned that Pace could face a maelstrom on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers would dissect the military's failures in Iraq. . . .

"Pace's departure -- along with the simultaneous retirement of Adm. Edmund Giambastiani, his vice chairman -- completes a nearly clean sweep of top military advisers linked to the tenure of Donald H. Rumsfeld as defense secretary. Both military officers were close to Rumsfeld and have been criticized for not challenging him."

Gonzales Watch

The New York Times editorial board writes: "The Senate has scheduled a no-confidence vote today on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. No one who has followed the news needs to be told why it is necessary. Mr. Gonzales is the Michael Brown of the Justice Department, smilingly presiding over incompetence, chaos and malfeasance, while President Bush insists that he is doing a heck of a job. Today's vote should get the support not only of Democrats, but of every Republican senator concerned about the American justice system."

USA Today reports: "The White House on Sunday dismissed Senate plans to hold a no-confidence vote on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales today and said the outcome will not undermine President Bush's support of him.

"'Not a bit. Purely symbolic vote,' presidential spokesman Tony Snow said. He was asked on Fox News Sunday whether Bush might reconsider his decision to support Gonzales should a sizable number of Republican senators vote for the no-confidence resolution."

Lawyering Up

Ron Hutcheson writes for McClatchy Newspapers: "President Bush is signing up legal help as he girds for battle with the Democratic-led Congress.

"Faced with a flurry of document requests and expanding congressional investigations, the White House announced Friday that Bush had hired nine lawyers, including five who'll fill new jobs in the president's legal office. The recruits have solid experience in white-collar crime, government investigations and constitutional law.

"Legal experts said the hires indicated that Bush was gearing up to fight congressional inquiries that he considered an encroachment on presidential power. . . .

"After six years with a compliant Republican-led Congress, the White House is facing a host of congressional investigations and demands for top presidential advisers to testify."

Here's the White House announcement.

Bush on Kosovo

Michael A. Fletcher writes for The Washington Post that Bush on Sunday "reiterated his support for the independence of Kosovo, a Serbian province under U.N. supervision. Ethnic Albanians make up the vast majority of Kosovo's population.

"'At some point in time, sooner rather than later, you've got to say: Enough's enough -- Kosovo is independent,' Bush said.

"Responding to a reporter's question in Rome on Saturday, Bush had said a deadline should be set for a U.N. resolution on Kosovo's independence. 'In terms of the deadline, there needs to be one,' he said. 'This needs to come -- this needs to happen.'

" Asked Sunday about when he would like that deadline set, Bush seemed flummoxed. 'I don't think I called for a deadline,' he said. Told that he had, Bush responded: 'I did? What exactly did I say? I said, 'Deadline'? Okay, yes, then I meant what I said.'"

Cheney's Heart

The Associated Press reports: "Vice President Dick Cheney's routine checkup on Friday revealed no new blockages in his heart, but doctors said he needs a new battery for a special pacemaker he has in his chest, a spokeswoman said.

"The battery in his implanted cardiac defibrillator is reaching its limit, said Megan McGinn, deputy press secretary for the vice president. She said doctors must replace the entire device to replace the battery, and that the surgery will be scheduled this summer at a convenient time for the vice president."

Trip Odds and Ends

Americablog's John Aravosis catches Bush on Thursday drinking non-alcoholic beer -- which, as he correctly notes, does actually contain some alcohol.

On Friday, Bush called in sick for several hours. Jennifer Loven writes for the Associated Press: "An upset stomach kept Bush in his hotel room for several hours, aides said later, forcing him to miss part of the third and final day of work at the Group of Eight Summit of industrialized democracies, held in this seaside resort."

On Saturday, reports Reuters, "Bush's limousine briefly stalled during a ride to the American embassy in Rome and then could not squeeze through its gates, prompting him to get out, wave to the crowd and enter on foot."

Among those receiving the blessing of the pope during Bush's visit: Chief of Staff Josh Bolten, national security adviser Stephen Hadley, political adviser Karl Rove, counselor Dan Bartlett and Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte.

Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes for the New York Times from Albania: "His poll numbers may be in the basement, but when he zipped through this small, relentlessly pro-American nation on Sunday, President Bush was treated like a rock star. . . .

"[W]hen the president jumped out of his limousine during a stop near the prime minister's villa in the town of Fusche Kruje, the crowd, chanting 'BOOSH-Y! BOOSH-Y!' went wild, turning a presidential visit into a virtual mosh pit.

"Hands were reaching for the president from all directions, grabbing his sleeves, rubbing his graying hair. Women kissed him on both cheeks. Men jostled to get close to him, as Secret Service agents encircled him. As he stood on the running board of his limousine, waving before ducking back in the car, a second limousine pulled up to protect him from the rear."

And William J. Kole writes for the Associated Press today: "The Bulgarian capital was aflutter with American flags to honor President Bush. There was just one glitch to the patriotic welcome: Every second flag was facing the wrong way."

Karl Rove and the Sopranos

Yes, that really was Karl Rove hopping around on the Sopranos last night. Tony's son, A.J., and his new girlfriend were shown snickering as they watched a video clip of Rove rapping at the Radio and Television Correspondents' Association dinner in March. There was also a short clip of Bush dancing.

Cartoon Watch

Jeff Danziger on the Cheneys and the Sopranos; Tony Auth on Libby; Ann Telnaes on ballast. And an animation from Telnaes on Bush and global warming.

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