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Remembering the Forgotten War

"But the cost of those wins could be high, both for the federal debt and for the president's own priorities.

"Bush's steadfast stand against Democratic spending, coupled with his equally resolute opposition to tax increases, could raise the federal debt this fiscal year by nearly $240 billion. As Democrats struggle to meet his demands, they are jettisoning renewable-energy and conservation incentives that Bush championed, and they may ax some of his most cherished programs."

The White House press office responded with a blistering memo to reporters, titled "The Washington Post Absurdly Argues Fight To Keep Spending Low Will Add To Deficit."

About That Deficit

Gail Russell Chaddock writes in the Christian Science Monitor that Bush and Congress are failing to make "the hard choices needed to get America's fiscal house back in order, say budget watchdogs.

"'Back when President Reagan was borrowing, government debt was $1 trillion. Now, we're borrowing on a credit card that's maxed out,' says Stanley Collender, of Qorvis Communications, a business consulting firm.

"The nation's fiscal situation is not unlike the plight of homeowners who signed on to adjustable rate mortgages and now risk losing their homes, Mr. Collender adds. 'What we're going to find after George Bush leaves office is that the national debt will be financed with much higher interest rates.'

"In a new report released last week, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said that the federal budget is on an 'unsustainable path.' The reason: The government is spending more and more for healthcare programs and for interest payments on the federal debt, now topping $9 trillion. . . .

"The CBO estimates that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could cost $2.4 trillion over the next decade. Nearly $700 billion of that cost will be interest on the debt to finance the wars.

"It's a cost that's largely invisible to the public now, but will be much more evident as interest rates increase. That's why it's important for Congress to take steps to address such issues now, say budget watchdog groups."

Torture Tapes Watch

Dan Eggen and Joby Warrick write in Saturday's Washington Post: "The Justice Department moved yesterday to delay congressional inquiries into the CIA's destruction of interrogation videotapes, saying the administration could not provide witnesses or documents sought by lawmakers without jeopardizing its own investigation of the CIA's actions.

"Congressional leaders from both parties alleged that Justice is trying to block their investigation and vowed to press ahead with hearings. . . .

"The growing feud is the first major confrontation with Congress for new Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey, who was narrowly confirmed last month amid controversy over his refusal to describe waterboarding -- a severe interrogation tactic that simulates drowning -- as torture."

And Eggen writes in Sunday's Post that, in court papers filed late Friday night, "the government also urged U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. not to seek further information about the tapes to avoid interfering with the inquiries of the Justice Department and the CIA's inspector general.

"'In light of the current inquiries by the political branches into the destruction of the tapes that occasioned petitioners' motion, it would not be appropriate to institute a judicial inquiry,' according to the filing by Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey S. Bucholtz and two federal prosecutors."

Who Likes Him More?

Richard Sisk writes in the New York Daily News: "President Bush reemerged as an issue in the GOP campaign Sunday as Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee sparred over who likes Bush best.

"Bush has rated hardly a mention recently among the GOP candidates vying to succeed him, but former Gov. Romney (R-Mass.) called on former Gov. Huckabee (R-Ark.) to take back his charge in Foreign Affairs magazine that Bush ran the war on terror with an 'arrogant bunker mentality.'

"Romney called the charge 'an insult' and said on NBC's 'Meet the Press' that 'Mike Huckabee should apologize to the President.'

"'We have a very difficult situation in Iraq,' Romney said, but Huckabee 'went over the line' in an attack on Bush.

"Huckabee shot back on CNN's 'Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer' that Romney hadn't read his full article in Foreign Affairs. Rather than trying to distance himself from Bush, Huckabee said, 'I supported the Bush tax cuts when Mr. Romney didn't. I was with President Bush on gun control when Mitt Romney wasn't.'"

Impeachment (Non) Watch

House Judiciary Committee Democrats Robert Wexler, Luis Gutierrez and Tammy Baldwin wrote Friday: "On November 7, the House of Representatives voted to send a resolution of impeachment of Vice President Cheney to the Judiciary Committee. As Members of the House Judiciary Committee, we strongly believe these important hearings should begin.

"The issues at hand are too serious to ignore, including credible allegations of abuse of power that if proven may well constitute high crimes and misdemeanors under our constitution. The charges against Vice President Cheney relate to his deceptive actions leading up to the Iraq war, the revelation of the identity of a covert agent for political retaliation, and the illegal wiretapping of American citizens."

Wexler on Friday also launched an online petition drive calling for hearings. He was hoping for 50,000 signatures. As of midday today, he had 76,000 and counting.

Bush's America

David Cay Johnston writes in the New York Times: "The increase in incomes of the top 1 percent of Americans from 2003 to 2005 exceeded the total income of the poorest 20 percent of Americans, data in a new report by the Congressional Budget Office shows.

"The poorest fifth of households had total income of $383.4 billion in 2005, while just the increase in income for the top 1 percent came to $524.8 billion, a figure 37 percent higher.

"The total income of the top 1.1 million households was $1.8 trillion, or 18.1 percent of the total income of all Americans, up from 14.3 percent of all income in 2003. The total 2005 income of the three million individual Americans at the top was roughly equal to that of the bottom 166 million Americans, analysis of the report showed."

Bailing Out

Two more late-Friday announcements from the White House: Chief congressional liaison Candi Wolff and chief speechwriter Bill McGurn are quitting, joining a long line of recent departures.

Michael Abramowitz writes in The Washington Post: "Wolff will be replaced by Dan Meyer, a former Hill staffer and private lobbyist who joined the administration earlier this year. The new chief speechwriter will be Marc Thiessen, a onetime Pentagon wordsmith and aide to former senator Jesse Helms (R-N.C.).

"Neither Wolff nor McGurn, a former Wall Street Journal editorial writer, have said what they will do next, according to press secretary Dana Perino, who said both had advised chief of staff Joshua M. Bolten long ago that they were planning to leave by the end of the year. McGurn will a stay on a bit longer to help out with next month's State of the Union address."

The Answer to So Many Questions

John Cook blogs for Radar Online: "Federal spending on paper shredding has increased more than 600 percent since George W. Bush took office."

How much of that, I wonder, was done here?

The End Is Near

Jenn Abelson writes in the Boston Globe: "The titles are grim: 'His Days Are Numbered,' 'The End is Near,' and 'The Official Countdown.'

"But these are not your ordinary apocalyptic tales lining the shelves at area bookstores. Instead, they are calendars, many, many calendars, counting down the days until the end of the Bush administration.

"As President George W. Bush enters his final year with some of the lowest approval ratings in his two terms in office, publishers are seizing on a disgruntled America and hoping to cash in this holiday season with a bounty of Bush-bashing calendars and handbooks. The countdown products feature celebratory exclamations like 'Yes, the End is Near!' or 'Hang in there! It's almost over!' along with unflattering pictures of Bush and quotes from the president."

Psych 101

Jonathan Haidt writes in an open letter to Bush on the Los Angeles Times op-ed page: "As a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, I sympathize with your pique toward that pesky reporter who tried to analyze your body language at a news conference this month, A National Intelligence Estimate had just reported that Iran had abandoned its nuclear weapons program in 2003. The reporter said that 'you seem somehow dispirited' by the news. . . .

"You were right to dismiss him by saying that you felt 'spirited,' and that 'kind of Psychology 101 ain't working.'

"I agree, it ain't.

"But it could! I know how busy you are, so I have shrunk my semester-long Psychology 101 course down to six easy lessons, ready to apply to our struggle with Iran."

For example: "Week 3: Cognitive psychology. . . . When we want to reach a particular conclusion, we search only for evidence that supports the conclusion. When we find some evidence, any evidence, we stop thinking. We don't lift a finger to seek out disconfirming evidence. So be sure before your next big foreign policy gamble that you consult some experts who don't share your hopes and values."

Bush Counts the Silverware

From Friday's short appearance before reporters in the Rose Garden, the day after the White House holiday receptions for the media: "I hope you enjoyed the holiday bash as much as I did. I noticed some of the silverware is missing. (Laughter.) We'll be taking a full inventory. (Laughter.) Happy holidays."

How Dare They?

ThinkProgress has a clip of White House Press Secretary Dana Perino appearing on Fox News that same morning, bemoaning the audacity of non-supportive reporters -- as opposed to those who work for Fox News -- asking for an invitation.

Anchor Steve Doocy: "[H]ow weird is it to have, Dana, people who appear on other channels, who bash the president all the time, and then, one night a year, they come into the White House, they bring their kids, and they say, 'Hi, how are you', as if they haven't been bashing the president all year long?"

Perino: "It's a little awkward. And it was amazing to me, being in charge of taking the requests for invitations this year, how audacious some people are to call and ask to be invited to the president's Christmas party."

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