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Laura Bush's Disastrous Diplomacy

"Eight months before the end of his second term, President Bush is forgotten but not gone. Power has shifted to Congress, attention has moved to the campaign trail, and the White House seems at times to be just going through the motions. For many reporters who remain on the White House beat, it has become a time to phone it in -- literally.

"Four minutes after the scheduled start time for yesterday's White House briefing, only 14 of the 49 seats were occupied -- and the 14 included flamboyant radio host Lester Kinsolving, who sat in the Bloomberg News seat; Raghubir Goyal of an obscure Indian American publication, who occupied the New York Times chair; and a foreign journalist in the back row, perusing the White House's Cinco de Mayo dinner menu. Though attendance eventually swelled to 28, many of the nation's leading news outlets left their chairs empty. . . .

"To react to the main news of the day -- thousands of deaths from the cyclone in Burma -- Bush sends his wife out to make a statement. She criticizes the Burmese government for its failure 'to issue a timely warning to citizens in the storm's path' and 'to meet its people's basic needs.' Reporters, too tactful to draw parallels to New Orleans, quiz her instead about daughter Jenna's wedding."

Show Trials a No-Show

Josh White writes in The Washington Post from Guantanamo Bay: "At the end of a tattered, sunbaked runway dotted with large green tents here is a building aptly called the Expeditionary Legal Complex Courtroom, surrounded by coils of concertina wire, where the most notorious alleged terrorists in U.S. custody are supposed to face charges related to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

"Nearly seven years later, however, not one of the approximately 775 terrorism suspects who have been held on this island has faced a jury trial inside the new complex, and U.S. officials think it is highly unlikely that any of the Sept. 11 suspects will before the Bush administration ends.

"Though men such as Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the alleged Sept. 11 mastermind, are expected to be arraigned in coming months -- appearing publicly for the first time after years of secret detention and harsh interrogations -- officials say it could be a year or longer before worldwide audiences will see even the first piece of evidence or testimony against them. . . .

"Although defense officials have said they want to start the Sept. 11 trials before the Bush administration ends -- and one high-ranking Pentagon officer has been quoted talking about the 'strategic political value' of doing so before the November elections -- those involved privately agree that opening statements could be a year or more away. . . .

"'This is a self-inflicted wound,' said Michael Berrigan, deputy chief defense counsel for the military commissions and a former longtime Army lawyer. 'It's a sad day in the history of this republic when we have abandoned the rule of law.'"

Back in December, when the administration announced to great fanfare the capital murder charges against half a dozen men allegedly linked to the 9/11 attacks, Steven Lee Myers wrote in the New York Times that charges would likely "bring the election-year focus back on Bush's favorite issues."

The cases "represent a major part of 'the unfinished business' that Mr. Bush and his aides talk about when they vow 'to sprint to the finish.'"

More From Sanchez

Sig Christenson writes in the San Antonio Express-News about Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez's description of a White House videoconference on the second day of fighting between Marines and entrenched guerrillas in Fallujah in April 2003.

"Sanchez, in a memoir to be released Tuesday, said Bush 'launched into what I considered a kind of confused pep talk' about the battle for Fallujah and an upcoming campaign to kill or capture radical anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and cripple his militia.


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