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Fear Rules the Day

The Washington Post editorial board writes: "There is still time for the administration and Congress to fine-tune the commissions. This should be done if for no other reason than to ensure that the outrage felt by the world on Sept. 11 remains focused on those who perpetrated the atrocities -- and not on the country that would punish such murderers. More fundamentally, doing so is essential to preserving the bedrock American values of fairness and justice that al-Qaeda aimed to destroy."

The New York Times editorial board writes: "This is just what we feared would happen as a result of President Bush's decision to go outside the law in dealing with terrorism: men who may well have committed crimes against humanity are being put on trial in a system so flawed that the results will seem unjust."

Another Contempt Deadline Comes -- and Goes?

Carl Hulse writes in the New York Times: "Democratic House leaders plan to force a vote as early as Thursday on holding Joshua B. Bolten, White House chief of staff, and Harriet E. Miers, former White House counsel, in contempt of Congress.

"Senior Congressional officials said the House leadership had essentially decided to go ahead with the vote, which is expected to spark a fight with Republicans over what they see as a politically inspired inquiry.

"The contempt citation, approved in July by the Judiciary Committee on a party-line vote, stems from the refusal of the two to testify before the panel in the investigation into whether several United States attorneys were dismissed for political reasons."

Foreclosure Watch

Michael M. Grynbaum writes in the New York Times: "A Bush administration plan to delay foreclosures for some troubled homeowners met a cool reaction on Tuesday from politicians and investors who questioned its ability to stave off what could be a long and painful string of mortgage defaults.

"The plan, called Project Lifeline, was endorsed by six major mortgage lenders and described by administration officials as a much-needed balm for the pained housing market.

"Wall Street analysts, however, said the plan fell short of the broad reforms necessary to help people meet mortgage payments as home values drop and foreclosures rise."

Ruth Simon and Tom McGinty write in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required): "As the Bush administration announced a fresh plan to aid homeowners overburdened by their mortgages, initial figures suggest much-touted earlier efforts have done little to help most troubled borrowers.

"An earlier plan, brokered in December by the Treasury Department, called for the mortgage industry to freeze interest rates or expedite refinancing for potentially hundreds of thousands of subprime borrowers, so long as they were current on their payments. In a companion move, the administration announced a toll-free number for homeowners, but the hotline has provided counseling to just 36,000 borrowers in the past two months, and representatives have suggested loan workouts for fewer than 10,000 of them -- a small fraction of borrowers in need."

The New York Times editorial board writes that "it's unclear why the administration continues to believe that urging the industry to do more is the most effective way to cope with the foreclosure crisis."

Stimulus Watch

Julie Hirschfeld Davis writes for the Associated Press about the economic stimulus plan: "Democrats and Republicans who put aside deep differences to craft the plan and rush it to enactment were to join the president at the White House for an afternoon signing ceremony.

"The package is designed in part to inoculate lawmakers from vote blame should the economy continue to lag as the November elections bear down. . . .

"In the meantime, economists are debating how effective the rebates will be, with critics arguing that debt-burdened consumers will use the money to pay bills rather than spending the checks and spurring growth."

Hate Crime Watch

Michael Abramowitz and Hamil R. Harris write in The Washington Post: "President Bush warned yesterday that the United States is at risk of losing sight of past racial suffering, describing recent displays of nooses and jokes about lynching as 'deeply offensive' in a speech to a largely African American audience invited to the White House.

"Responding to news coverage of such episodes since the 'Jena Six' case in Louisiana last fall, Bush said: 'These disturbing reports have resulted in heightened racial tensions in many communities. They have revealed that some Americans do not understand why the sight of a noose causes such a visceral reaction among so many people.'"

James Gerstenzang writes in the Los Angeles Times: "The president's focus on race coincides with the attention being devoted to the role of race in politics, with Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) in contention to be the first African American candidate to receive a major political party's presidential nomination. He is drawing the support of a cross section of voters and is finding a deep well of votes in states with large white populations."

Trust Us

The secretaries of state and defense, Condoleezza Rice and Robert Gates, write in a Washington Post op-ed: "Our troops and diplomats have made untold sacrifices to help put Iraq on the path to self-sufficiency. A crucial phase in this process will unfold in the coming months, when our ambassador in Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, begins negotiating a basic framework for normalized relations with the Iraqi government -- to include what is known as a 'status of forces' agreement. We encourage Congress and the public to support the efforts of our senior diplomats and military officers as they forge ahead with these talks -- which we believe are essential to a successful outcome in Iraq and, by extension, the vital interests and security of the United States. . . .

"Nothing to be negotiated will mandate that we continue combat missions. Nothing will set troop levels. Nothing will commit the United States to join Iraq in a war against another country or provide other such security commitments. And nothing will authorize permanent bases in Iraq (something neither we nor Iraqis want). And consistent with well-established practice regarding such agreements, nothing will involve the U.S. Senate's treaty-ratification authority -- although we will work closely with the appropriate committees of Congress to keep lawmakers informed and to provide complete transparency. Classified briefings have already begun, and we look forward to congressional input."

Left unaddressed, however, is why the initial agreement announced by the White House in November went far beyond what Rice and Gates now describe, including for instance, the United States "providing security assurances and commitments to the Republic of Iraq to deter foreign aggression against Iraq that violates its sovereignty and integrity of its territories, waters, or airspace."

Did they not mean it then? Or do they not mean it now?

Worst President Ever?

A new Harris Poll is out: "When asked to say who they think was the worst president since World War II, many more people (34%) choose George W. Bush than pick anyone else. . . .

"Fully 58 percent of Democrats and 37 percent of Independents, but only 9 percent of Republicans think George W. Bush the worst recent president."

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Cartoon Watch

Dan Wasserman and John Sherffius on the surveillance state; Tony Auth on aid and comfort for the enemy; Tom Toles on the stimulus package; Ed Stein on the 9/11 president.

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