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Who's the Moral Relativist?

"'In a lot of these cases, the government has really oversold what it's got,' said Jenny Martinez, an associate professor of law at Stanford who was involved in the Jose Padilla terrorism case. 'They've held these huge press conferences at the beginning that set up these expectations that the government cannot fulfill.'

"The approach, analysts said, often smacked of politics."

Brown's Visit

Matt Spetalnick and Sumeet Desai write for Reuters: "Prime Minister Gordon Brown will meet all three major U.S. presidential candidates on Thursday before seeing President George W. Bush, a reminder that world leaders are now looking beyond Bush to his successor. . . .

"With Bush in the twilight of his presidency, Brown is expected to walk a fine line, keeping some distance on issues like the unpopular war in Iraq while preserving Britain's long-standing 'special relationship' with the United States.

"Brown said on Wednesday he would seek 'coordinated action' to shore up the global economy, plagued by a credit crunch, record oil prices and market turmoil.

"Determined to avoid being tagged as 'Bush's poodle' like his predecessor Tony Blair, Brown seems as eager to lay the groundwork for closer relations with the next president as he is to maintain ties with the current one."

Foreign Policy Watch

Massimo Calabresi writes for Time that "diplomatically speaking" things aren't looking so good for Bush. "When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi killed Bush's Colombia Free Trade deal on Capitol Hill Monday, she added to a growing list of dead and dying diplomatic initiatives the Administration had hoped would revivify his presidency in its fading months. Talks on Israeli-Palestinian peace, North Korean nuclear weapons and missile defense cooperation with Russia are all foundering, threatening chances for a White House signing ceremony that could soften a legacy dominated by the hard facts of the war in Iraq."

White House E-Mail Watch

William Branigin writes in The Washington Post: "Citing 'significant deficiencies' in the preservation of e-mail by the White House and federal agencies, House Democrats yesterday introduced legislation to strengthen and modernize electronic record-keeping requirements. But a private watchdog group called the bill inadequate and issued a report describing federal record-keeping as antiquated and chaotic. . . .

"Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and two other Democrats on the panel sponsored the bill after investigations showed that the White House under President Bush may have lost millions of e-mails.

"The bill, H.R. 5811, directs the National Archives and Records Administration to set standards for capturing, managing, retrieving and preserving White House e-mails and other electronic communications, and to certify whether the White House system meets those standards. The bill also directs the National Archives to issue regulations within 18 months requiring federal agencies to preserve electronic communications in an electronic format. The agencies would have up to four years to comply....

"Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group known as CREW, . . . yesterday issued a 42-page report concluding that the federal government is mismanaging its electronic records and clinging to outdated and inefficient paper record-keeping systems. It also faulted the National Archives, saying the agency has abdicated meaningful oversight responsibilities and 'assumed only a passive role' by providing agencies with little more than general guidelines."

IT expert David Gewirtz writes for (where I am deputy editor) about some overlooked points regarding the missing White House e-mails. The White House's e-mail archiving system, he says, is utterly inadequate, and he suggests that White House aides no longer be allowed to use non-secure communications channels for any of their communications.

Impeachment (Non) Watch

Lauren R. Dorgan writes in the Concord (N.H.) Monitor: "New Hampshire legislators yesterday debated whether they should petition Congress to impeach President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney before sidelining the bill at the request of leaders of both parties.

"The 227-95 vote to table the measure essentially kills it; resurrecting debate would take a two-thirds majority vote."

Cheney Humor

The Associated Press reports: "Vice President Dick Cheney has shown off his lighter side, filling in for his boss last night at the annual Radio and Television Correspondents Dinner in Washington. . . .

"The vice president worked in a reference to Democrat Barack Obama's controversial comments about 'bitter' voters and his own hunting mishap. He thanked the attendees for the kind welcome, saying, 'You're not the kind to look down on a bitter man who clings to his guns.'

"Cheney also quipped about his health issues, joking that he helps the environment by insisting on a hybrid ambulance every time he goes to the hospital.

"And the Veep recounted how he asked his wife at the breakfast table if it bugs her that people call him 'Darth Vader.' He said she answered, 'Not at all. It humanizes you.'"

Mark Silva, blogging for Tribune, has more Cheney lines and video.

The full transcript is here.

Said Cheney: "As the president said in his video message, he's hosting a dinner in honor of the visit of Pope Benedict, and I myself met with His Holiness this morning at the White House. So between that and this dinner with the media, it's been quite a day for me. I spent the morning with one infallible authority, and now I get to spend the evening with a thousand of them.

"I was glad to talk to the pope. It's rare that I run into somebody who's heard more secrets than I have. When the moment was right, I even took the pope aside and confided to him that I'd been thinking a lot of unkind thoughts lately about the news media. I went on and on, and finally said, 'Your Holiness, I just don't think they like me.'

"The pope replied, 'So?'

"It's always very exciting when the pope comes to town. And I am modest enough to realize that all of you would rather see the pope standing here than me. But instead of the successor to St. Peter, you're stuck with me, the successor to St. Al."

Referring to the MC for the night, comedian Mo Rocca, Cheney said: "Among his other credits, Mo used to host a TV show called 'Things I Hate About You.' I'm sure I've seen that program. Only I believe it's now called 'Countdown with Keith Olbermann.'"

Late Night Humor

Jay Leno, via U.S. News: "Actually, one really embarrassing moment -- you see this on the news? When the Pope blessed the crowd with holy water, well, some of it splashed on Dick Cheney, burned his skin."

Cartoon Humor

Tom Toles on Bush's global warming plan; Tom Stiglich, Nick Anderson and Rob Rogers on Bush and the pope; Jim Morin on Bush's moral relativism.

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