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Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Congressional Reporter
Friday, August 11, 2006; 11:00 AM

Don't want to miss out on the latest in politics? Start each day with The Post Politics Hour. Join in each weekday morning at 11 a.m. as a member of The Washington Post's team of White House and Congressional reporters answers questions about the latest in buzz in Washington and The Post's coverage of political news.

Washington Post Congressional reporter Jonathan Weisman was online Friday, August 11, at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the latest in political news.

Political analysis from Post reporters and interviews with top newsmakers. Listen live on Washington Post Radio or subscribe to a podcast of the show.

The transcript follows.

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Arlington, Va.: If the British have been watching these guys for a year and sharing info with U.S. officials, I don't understand why someone in our Homeland Security Department didn't anticipate today's airport security mess. Is there any evidence someone thought to come up with liquid and gel security protocols in anticipation of these arrests?

Also, I assume Cheney, Rove and Snow were all aware of the impending arrests when they started describing the Lamont victory in Connecticut as a victory for terrorists (selecting the war on terror talking point rather than the cut and run in Iraq, or raise taxes on Americans or other theme). Isn't this a pretty creepy use of highly confidential intelligence?

Jonathan Weisman: I am not so sure the poobahs in the administration knew of the arrests at the moment the police were moving in, though they certainly knew they were imminent. Any move to change security procedures ahead of the arrests would surely have tipped off the plotters. Remember, the reason folks are kept under surveillance for a long time is to collect as much evidence as possible, identify as many plotters as possible and make sure the deal is real.

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Bremo Bluff, Va.: John Edwards: potential Presidential candidate in 2008? (I liked him in 2004.)

Any word on his wife's health?

Jonathan Weisman: Edwards has made every move to indicate he wants to give it another go. Lots of trips to Iowa and New Hampshire. Just this week, he jumped into the Connecticut fray and promised to campaign for Ned Lamont. He's a go, and the last I heard, his wife is doing well.

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Augusta, Maine: The British thwarting of this plot is unquestionably a major success, especially due to the fact that the British were able to accomplish it without trampling their citizen's civil rights. Do you think this event will be taken as evidence that it is possible to achieve national security objectives without significant infringement on civil rights for the citizenry, or do you think the Bush administration will use the evidence of ongoing terrorist threats as a justification for their current tactics?

Jonathan Weisman: Ummm, the latter. The White House is certain that debates over civil liberties versus anti-terrorism tactics (i.e. -- warrantless wiretapping, sleuthing of banking data, peeking at library check-outs) is the one true winner they have. They would love to have the debate you are picking.

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Indianapolis, Ind.: In light of the anti-war left's triumph in Connecticut, what do you think are the chances we'll se an Al Gore candidacy in 2008?

Jonathan Weisman: Gore has done lots to indicate he wants to be considered, but he has not done the nuts and bolts things like the requisite trips to Iowa. I think he's pretty happy with his high profile. I'm not sure he wants to jump back into the political fray that way.

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Carrboro, N.C.: Even the zaniest people I know on both extremes are not in disagreement about the importance of protecting the U.S. The broad disagreement is about HOW to do that, and whether or not "staying the course" in Iraq contributes to or ultimately detracts from preserving our country's safety.

Does Joe Lieberman know that when he goes around warning about the "anti-security" wing of the Democratic Party, he sounds like Bill O'Reilly? Is this an intentional rhetorical strategy that is just ugly to watch, or is he so unhinged that he thinks such a group really exists?

Jonathan Weisman: This is the big question for November. He has taken on the rhetoric of the Republicans when he blasts Democrats for being weak on national security and beholden to the left wing of the party. Republicans -- and Lieberman -- hope the weak-on-defense strategy will work as it did in 04 and 02. The question is, has the political atmosphere changed so much, mainly because of Iraq, that the old game plan only looks like more of the same in an election season based on the need for change.

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Washington, D.C.: President Bush said yesterday that we are at war with Islamic fascists who hate our freedoms. I can see--with some sadness--how such comments can be helpful to him and his party in domestic politics, but do they have any effect internationally, and if so, what effect?

Jonathan Weisman: I was actually struck how the rhetoric is beginning to line up more with Europe than his older lines. The "hate our freedoms" bit has been around for awhile, but invoking fascism is usually the purview of the left, not the right.

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Detroit, Mich.: If Bush was allegedly informed last Sunday of the terrorist plot in London to blow up planes with liquid explosives then why did the administration wait until Thursday to inform the TSA of this potential threat? Doesn't Bush's delay here in fact mean that for 3-4 days American air travelers were put at credible risk of being blown up while flying on U.S. planes?

Jonathan Weisman: As I said earlier, any change in security procedures ahead of the arrests may have tipped off the plotters. That was not gonna happen.

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Freiburg, Germany: Now that Republicans in Texas were forced to either keep Tom DeLay running in Texas 22 or go without a candidate on a ballot, it seems that Democrats are favored to win this seat, especially since already more than a couple of Republicans showed interest in running as a write in. Do you think Republicans will be able to overcome that disadvantage or is this seat, at least this year lost? I can't think of many successful write-in-candidacies in a general election for Congress besides Strom Thurmond's first senatorial campaign. Can you think of any others?

Jonathan Weisman: There have been a few. Republican Ron Packard won a California election as a write-in in 1982, as did Republican Joe Skeen in New Mexico in 1980. Arkansas Democrat Thomas Dale Alford won his seat the same way in 1958.

But this is much tougher. The Democrat, Nick Lampson, has more than $2 million in the bank and is an experienced former congressman. The Republicans have very little time to get behind one candidate, mount a campaign and educate voters about how to write in the name. And writing in will be no mean feat. Virtually all the polling places will use touch screen voting machines without keyboards. Voters will have to hunt and peck, translating numbers into letters, as I understand it.

The Republicans, with so many seats to defend, will have to think long and hard about how much money to dump into such an uphill climb.

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Bala Cynwyd, Pa.: Bush just started using the "Islamo-fascism" expression. Is that just a one-off speechwriter's turn of phrase or the beginning of a new characterization of the enemy? If so, what do you think the impact of this new communcation strategy will be?

Jonathan Weisman: As I said earlier, I think it is a significant change, more in line with European rhetoric. Fascism is a line slung usually by the left, not the right.

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Houston, Tex.: Yesterday, President Bush used the term "Islamic Fascists". While this term is thrown around a lot in the War on Terror / Iraq debate, this is the first that I recall the President or anyone in the administration using it publicly. How significant is this?

Jonathan Weisman: See above, twice

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Elizabethtown, N.J.: The Jerusalem Post reports that most of the new hires, as well as old counselors in the Bush administration are Jews. Bolton, et.al.. What effect do you think this has on American policy?

Jonathan Weisman: You're treading on difficult ground here. Josh Bolten is Jewish but he is no new hire. He has been very close to the president since the 2000 campaign, from deputy chief of staff to budget director to chief of staff. His most important counselor, of course, is Karl Rove, not Jewish, nor is his new Treasury Secretary, Hank Paulson. One of his most prominent first-term Jewish advisers, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, is no longer with the administration. Ditto Doug Feith. So I beg to differ.

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Washington, D.C.: Have you heard any broader definitions of "national security" than the one this administration is using? It seems that the politicians opposing the current administration's policies need to redefine the meaning of national security more broadly to include threat reduction at the political and strategic levels.

Jonathan Weisman: I was listening to the Brits this morning talking about this. Sounded like a way to distance the Blair administration and its successor from the White House.

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Alpharetta, Ga.: I've been pondering what the shift in the Democratic establishment might do for Lamont, and while I don't think politicians endorsements matter much, I do think that some of the interest groups, notably big labor, might lead to some small shifts. Any word on what some of the interest groups might be doing, especially those who supported Lieberman?

Jonathan Weisman: Not yet. All eyes are on the Connecticut AFL-CIO, which got behind Lieberman in a big way. I imagine they, like the Democratic politicians, will shift allegiance in deference to the Democratic Party. But it will be important to watch.

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Washington, D.C.: Re the earlier comment by Augusta, Maine: the British have much greater surveillance powers than is allowed in America. Basically they can check anything, anytime.

Jonathan Weisman: Yes, no bill of rights. I lived there for two years, ad you speak the truth.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Jonathan,

It is well reported that the Democratic leadership has moved solidly from Lieberman to Lamont, but what about the Democratic power groups? Are the labor unions and civil rights orgs sticking with Lieberman or is it still unclear?

Jonathan Weisman: See above answer.

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Cincinnati, Ohio: As I head the news about the fantastic work the U.K. security services did to arrest the two-dozen people involved in the plot, it occurred to me that the people who detest President Bush might well say the administration raised the alert level to Red for political reasons. This way, the conspiracy might go, this could distract the public from Iraq and the Middle East.

I'm not a huge fan of the Iraq war, but I disagree with the Ned Lamonts of the world, and I've seen what the Daily Kos has speculated in the past.

Any thoughts--or am I as off-base as I think this possible speculation is?

Jonathan Weisman: Actually, I would have expected those charges as well, but I have not seen any evidence of it. Since the arrests were in Britain, I imagine the left does not think it has a leg to stand on this go-round.

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Baltimore, Md.: Hello. I'm bothered to no end that the thwarting of this most recent terrorist plot will somehow translate into a bump for conservatives here. I'm wondering if voters truly believe that Democrats would really be any less vigilant about terrorism. And why do they believe that? When will Democratic candidates stand up and say, "This is crazy. Of course I'll be tough on terrorism"? Or have they already and conservatives are shouting louder?

Jonathan Weisman: We will have to watch polls in the wake of the arrests. An AP poll out this morning but taken before the news shows a distinct Democratic advantage in the handling of terrorism. That may indeed slide. Remember, one of the real hits to the president's approval rating came after Katrina on the question of competence. The administration looked very competent yesterday. That's gotta help.

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Medford, Mass.: Exactly how is it that our sitting Vice President can get away with saying basically that people who exercised their constitutional right to vote for change (ie: Conn. primary) are helping terrorists? How is this not the headline of a story, instead of a footnote?

Jonathan Weisman: The vice president also said the insurgency in Iraq is in its death throes, and that U.S. troops would be greeted as liberators. I'm afraid to say his utterances are losing their news value.

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San Francisco, Calif.: Good morning, Jonathan, and thanks for chatting with us this morning. Meaning no disrespect, can you tell us about the day of a Post during the August recess? Are there stories to research and cover? Isn't just about everybody you'd speak with out of town now? Thanks!

Jonathan Weisman: Wow, someone interested in the news process. The bureaucracy goes on in Washington, as does the news. I always expected August to busier than I hoped, with so many investigations on-going and news like yesterday's terrorism plot always popping up. More importantly, we political reporters have to focus on the election now. I'll be heading to Arizona to look at the House races there next week. My colleagues on the congressional team are on the campaign trail right now. It's gonna be a busy month.

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Washington, D.C.: Seems to me that we could do what the Brits did in terms of surveillance if it were approved by a court. Those of us unhappy with the current administration's trampling of civil rights would be much happier if only there were some independent, probably judicial, oversight; at least I would. George Pataki hit the right note on this last night on Hardball. Why can't the Dems do it?

Jonathan Weisman: I think the Democrats have been saying that over and over, so much so that, to their chagrin, we've grown tiring of repeating it.

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Washington, D.C.: After 9-11 N.Y. forged an alliance with Interpol to have more leads and better info on Terrorists.

Why doesn't the Fed do the same? FBI and CIA are slightly less than spectacular.

Jonathan Weisman: They have. The foiling of the plot in Britain involved intelligence agencies on three continents, ours included. Let's give some credit where credit is due.

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Lieberman's petitions: Are you looking into the story on Lieberman's petitions for his Connecticut for Lieberman line? I read that 29 people collected 18,000 signatures and that strains credulity.

Jonathan Weisman: Good tip. Thanks.

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Louisville, Ky.: In these discussions, the fact that 60% of Americans are now against the Iraq War is seldom brought up. I highly doubt that 60% of the country makes up the "anti-war left."

Perhaps voting out war supporters may become a more common theme as November approaches. When such a solid majority of the country is against the Iraq adventure, silly labels like the "anti-war left" are no longer relevant.

Jonathan Weisman: I think you're right on this. When Joe Lieberman says he'll bring independents out in droves in November, he's neglecting to recognize that independents have turned against the war in numbers almost as great as Democrats. The Republicans are pursuing a risky strategy. Most believe they cannot credibly turn against the war at this point, so they hope that when voters actually enter the voting booth, they will -- as they have done before -- decide that for all its faults, the GOP has kept us safe.

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Anonymous: Can I just respond to Cincinnati Ohio's comment about Bush detesters? I am a totally liberal dem, and can't stand too much more of this Administration. But I find no conspiracy theories, nor do I have a problem with how the plot/arrests went down. I'm glad to see that terrorists can be caught and stopped. I also don't have a problem with the raised alert level, although I find it to be irrelevant. What I do have a big problem is people implying that if any other person were president of this country, those airplanes would have exploded and all us liberals, democrats, and people opposing the war would somehow be pleased by it. That's what bothers me most.

Jonathan Weisman: Respond away.

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Harrisburg, Pa.: Please answer this, since it has been lost amid Ned Lamont and terror alerts: Any chance that Ohio Democrats sue to to keep Bob Ney on the ballot in Ohio, similar to what was successfully done with Tom DeLay in Texas? I understand Ohio election statutes allow the party to choose a successor even after a candidate has won a primary, but there is now case law on the Democrat's side (albeit from a different Federal Appeals Court).

Jonathan Weisman: No chance. Ohio election law is different. Ney is off the ballot and the Ohio attorney general ruled that the Republicans' hoped-for successor, state Sen. Joy Padgett, can run. That will be a tough race, but Republicans must be heartened by recent events.

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Brooklyn, N.Y.: Hi-

Why no story about the fact that the RNC has a doctored photo of Howard Dean that makes him look like Hitler on their Web site? Why no press outrage? Also, why can't the press get it straight. Ned Lamont is not anti-war, he's anti-Iraq war. Have heard of any Democrat say that they were against the invasion in Afghanistan? So why must the media continue to paint all Democrats with a wide brush?

Jonathan Weisman: I have to tell you, I looked at that photo and it is very hard to see whether that's a Hitler moustache or a shadow. The only people looking at it are true partisans anyway. It is not being used in a way that would give it mass exposure. There are far more important things for us to spend limited resources on.

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Harrisburg, Pa.: While we are worried about terrorism, isn't it ironic that our own negligence is causing damage as well? We're worried about terrorists blowing up the pipeline, and then the pipeline fails due to negligence. My question: What is this report about the NSA uses so much electricity that there are fears the NSA could soon short itself out? Is that report for real, and, if so, what is being done about it?

Jonathan Weisman: I have not heard it, but somehow, I doubt it. Fort Mead, where the NSC is located, is a very big place. If the NSA needs more power, the NSA will build more capacity. Zoning ain't gonna preclude it.

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Houston, Tex.: On Tom Delay, the talk among us real citizens (not political junkies or journalist) is that we re-elect Tom and then he can resign and the party will appoint someone to his seat thus keeping it in the party. Can this not happen as he is still real popular around here.

Jonathan Weisman: That could have happened if DeLay had chosen to stay on the ballot, but he didn't. His statement Monday said his decision to move to Virginia and go into business is irrevocable. You could mount a write-in campaign for him, but you would only be dividing Republican votes further.

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New Orleans, La.: Mr. Weisman, The arrests yesterday in the British plot seem to indicate that in many ways the war on terrorism is being fought more effectively with traditional policing (as it was prior to 9/11), including the use of intelligence and surveillance rather than with the military as in Iraq. How does this jibe with the assertions made after 9/11 that policing terrorism had failed, and that this war was dependent on military rather than police action? And, how have our resources been spent? Have they favored the military approach, over the police/intelligence approach?

Jonathan Weisman: Well, funding for the FBI has doubled. Counterterrorism now takes up half its budget. Perhaps you could make the case that more can be done, but law enforcement hasn't been ditched altogether.

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Glenside, Pa.: What do Republicans in CT plan on doing? Supporting Lieberman, getting the GOP Senate candidate replaced with a more, solid viable one?

Jonathan Weisman: The GOP has not given up finding a stronger Republican candidate, but the three embattled Republican House members, Chris Shays, Nancy Johnson and Rob Simmons, all put out statements Wednesday praising Lieberman. Shays pledged to vote for him. That would indicate they want Lieberman to draw out lots of independent and Republican voters opposed to Lamont, and by aligning themselves with him, they hope to get those votes. They will also associate themselves with every Lieberman blast at a Democratic Party weak on defense and beholden to the loony left.

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Iowa: Two invitations received to a picnic for John Edwards tonight and one for a luncheon with Evan Bayh on Monday. And I am assuredly not a major Dem. party donor. How long till those caucuses?

Jonathan Weisman: If you're not into the politics, get out of the state. You ain't seen nuthin yet.

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Ft. Myers, Fla.: I've noticed that Condi Rice uses the phrase "I don't think anyone could have anticipated..." quite a bit, most notably immediately following another one of the administration's catastrophic failures. I've also notice that, without fail, in every instance some actually had anticipated exactly such a thing, wrote it down or otherwise had it published, and then handed it to someone in the administration.

Will this affect her prospects for elected office?

Jonathan Weisman: I don't gather she has those prospects or wants to pursue them. In this political atmosphere, anyone so closely aligned with President Bush's foreign policy is pretty toxic.

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Washington, D.C.: Isn't Ohio's attorney general an elected republican official? I don't see any reason at all that his interpretation of state law would be the final word. I mean, this is why we have state courts, isn't it?

Jonathan Weisman: Yes, I think he is a Republican, but I have heard no rumblings from Ohio Democrats about a suit. His opinion on the matter was pretty strong.

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Pennsylvania: "The administration looked very competent yesterday."

I'm not sure I follow. Didn't the British uncover this plot? Didn't the British manage the investigative process? Didn't the British make the arrests and coordinate with Pakistani intelligence? How does Bush get to claim any credit for this one? Furthermore, this incident proves the stupidity of buying into one favorite Administration sound bite, namely "we are fighting them over there (in Iraq) so we don't have to fight them here at home". Seems to me that there are plenty enough terrorists to go around. Obviously fighting in Iraq is not draining their resources to attack us in our backyard.

Jonathan Weisman: All true, but Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, heretofore known for his Katrina performance, held lots of press conferences, interviews and media availabilities. Attorney General Gonzalez was by his side, and as anyone who was at an airport knows, the U.S. did respond. Atmospherics are important, especially in a political season.

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Dean's picture: People, please, get real. I'm a Democrat but even I recognize there's no mustache there. What's more interesting is that the home page for the GOP site includes a big banner attacking the Democrats as "Defeat-ocrats" while the Democrat home page features a headline saying "America's Safety Must Come First." Very telling example of the two parties' approach to communicating with the rest of the world.

Jonathan Weisman: Ya see, I'm not the only one who failed to see Hitlerian undertones.

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Rockville, Md.: It is true that computers use a lot of power and have they have grown smaller the density has increased. But industrial processes (like aluminum) use much more power and they were active in the Maryland area until prices went up. I think there is plenty of power for NSA. I would worry more about getting people who know what to do.

Jonathan Weisman: Turn down the AC and let the NSA have its juice.

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Memphis, Tenn.: Recent world events indicate that terrorist activity and attempts to foment terror will be around for the foreseeable future. If you accept that premise, is it practical for the U.S. to assume the problem can be solved militarily? Assume, God forbid, the London plot had been successful or there is another successful attack on U.S. territory, what nation would we then preemptively invade? I fear the nation is on the brink of being in a perpetual state of war just as is our ally Israel. And that's not good.

Jonathan Weisman: It's also very expensive. And good point about a military response. Would we invade Pakistan or South London?

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San Diego, Calif.: The Republicans are trying to spin the latest terror plot as a sign that public opinion will change on the war in Iraq. But isn't the real problem for them that the voters have figured out that the war in Iraq has nothing to do with responding to the 9/11 attacks?

Jonathan Weisman: Actually I think it's just the opposite. The GOP has done such a good job kinking the war on terror to the war in Iraq that the morass in Iraq is coloring opinions on the Republicans' handling of terrorism. They've become inextricable, so bad news in Iraq, or even South Lebanon, has raised questions about the party's biggest strength.

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Atlanta, Ga.: Reading some of the profile accounts of the campaigns, it seemed that Lamont really did a nice job on the technicals of the campaign in terms of understanding how to deal with these grievances, most notably the war, but also identifying small cities where Lieberman had 'lost touch', and he picked folks that really worked for him like Tom Swan and Bill Hillsman. Have you heard about how team Lamont is planning on retooling their campaign team?

Jonathan Weisman: My colleague, Shailagh Murray, did an excellent story on just this point, showing how Lamont won it in the trenches, with a truly great grassroots organization. It will be more of the same until November. The real question will be, can Lieberman respond?

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Kansas City, Mo.: Maybe it's just that I don't follow politics enough but it seemed in 2004 when John Kerry said something about the need for more policing on terrorism the GOP ridiculed him saying terrorism wasn't a law enforcement matter. Are we going to see the GOP now praise the law enforcement efforts that took down this plot?

Jonathan Weisman: Your memory serves you well. The Republicans mocked Kerry mercilessly for calling terrorism a law enforcement issue. I doubt they will change their tune, since military action is still very much in evidence.

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washingtonpost.com: Democratic Leadership Welcomes Lamont, (Post, Aug. 10)

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New Jersey: We kept hearing that bin Laden's organization was so "degraded" that they would be unable to mount anything large scale. But, here they are, back again, and I think that there's been enough time and money spent that we should not be hearing from them.

Also, I read the Post's long Tuesday article by Karen DeYoung on the disorganization among national security institutions, and I do NOT think the Bush administration can claim much success. The war in Iraq has drained our resources.

washingtonpost.com: A Fight Against Terrorism -- and Disorganization, (Post, Aug. 9)

Jonathan Weisman: I recommend Karen's article as well, along with her article linking the British plot to al Qaeda in today's paper. But hey, it didn't succeed. So the talking point remains.

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Los Angeles, Calif.: I am wondering about the interesting timing of the UK terror discovery. Elections back in the U.S? Eyes of the world on Israel as it pounds Lebanon while the U.S. gives it a green light? I just think it is interesting how the media is blowing it up so much, makes me wonder if the U.K. and the U.S. governments waited for this moment to take action.

Jonathan Weisman: Ah ha, we were waiting for this. And I had just said the left would not repeat the charge of political motivation, since the British did the surveillance and set the time for the arrests. Do you think Scotland Yard cares so much about the mid-term elections in the United States? Maybe they should have waited until after Nov. 7.

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Fargo, N.D.: Don't you find it an odd coincidence that "U.S. and U.K. officials" decided to crackdown on the latest plot after Lieberman's defeat in Connecticut? Was it just a coincidence that Cheney said that Lamont's victory "would embolden al Qaeda types?" Cheney was following the U.K. investigation daily. Do you think anyone in the press corps will have the nerve to ask about the timing, or will the threat of terrorism once again stifle the voices of a free press?

Jonathan Weisman: Ugh. See above.

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Baltimore, Md.: It sounds to me like Joe Lieberman is campaigning to win the Republican and Independent votes this November in order to beat Lamont. If he continues on the route of trashing the democrats (and scaring everyone else) to win, would he even be welcomed into the caucus? Or are things much more pragmatic than that?

Jonathan Weisman: That is a good question. Lieberman says he is campaigning as an independent Democrat and still intends to caucus with the party. But boy would he have a lot of fences to mend. On the other hand, in a Senate that could very well be split 50-50 next year, Democratic leaders will take all the votes for Harry Reid they can get.

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Washington, D.C.: Good morning. As a conservative Republican, and as an American, I have always respected and admired the thoughtful Newt Gingrich. However, by his comments with respect to "an emerging third world war", I must say that I am far more troubled by his rhetoric than I am of getting on a plane.

I believe that there are too many in this country, not just abroad, who are interested more in doing battle than in finding solutions.

Jonathan Weisman: It is interesting that in recent weeks, the conservative wing of the Republican Party is really finding its voice against the neo-conservative wing. Republicans used to believe in minimizing if not avoiding foreign entanglements, and the likes of yourself and George Will have really become more vocal, especially as the neo-conservatives clamor for U.S. military involvement in Iran, and perhaps the Israel-Lebanon conflict. Republicans have harped on Democratic divisions over national security. I think by November, the schisms in the GOP will become much more evident.

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Los Angeles, Calif.: Re: your response to Kansas City, what military action was in evidence in apprehending the British terrorist? It was law enforcement. I think the public gets the difference between the Iraq war & fighting terrorists even though the media does not -- yet.

Jonathan Weisman: I was not thinking of the UK plot. The military is fighting insurgents in Iraq who are certainly using terrorist tactics, whether you think Iraq is part of the war on terrorism or not. And let's not forget U.S. and NATO military action that is on-going in Afghanistan, where the Taliban are showing new strength in the south.

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Arlington, Va.: I'm stunned.

Jim VandeHei and Peter Baker's piece this morning said, "Campaigning in Connecticut, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, who lost Tuesday's Democratic primary and is now running as an independent, said the antiwar views of primary winner Ned Lamont would be 'taken as a tremendous victory by the same people who wanted to blow up these planes in this plot hatched in England.'"

So Lieberman is now campaigning on the link between Iraq and al Qaeda?

The only step remaining seems to be for him to declare himself a Republican.

washingtonpost.com: Both Parties Claim Edge as Terror Is Reinforced as a Campaign Topic, (Post, Aug. 11)

Jonathan Weisman: Lieberman has long seen those links. That was part of Lamont's reasoning for running.

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Boston, Mass.: What are the implications of Bob Ney losing his seat? How likely is a Democratic pickup now?

Jonathan Weisman: The Democrats have less of a chance of winning the Ney seat now that Ney won't be in it. The Democratic candidate, Zack Space, built his whole campaign around beating Bob Ney, Now he will have to make a bank shot, saying the new Republican, Joy Padgett, was handpicked by Ney and Ohio's very unpopular Republican governor, Bob Taft. That's much harder to do. Really, the Dems win that seat if there is a real tidal wave against Republicans in general, and if that happens, they win lots more seats you haven't heard of.

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Rockville, Md.: Is there anyone in the Administration truly reminding Bush and friend the cost of this unsuccessful war being waged in Iraq? I saw on one of the morning shows that it will cost $22 bil to upgrade the screening equipment, and this feat would not be completed for at least another 15 years. I feel sorry for the coming generations of Americans. Thanks!

Jonathan Weisman: The war itself has cost more than $300 billion, all of that money borrowed, and much of it borrowed from abroad. Cost has never been an issue, but it will some day.

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Re: Who to Invade?: Do we know how many of the arrested terrorists are Iraqi?

Jonathan Weisman: None that I know of. Virtually all were British of Pakistani origin or Pakistani. Your point?

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Steamboat Springs, Colo.: Kind of an inside baseball question: Do other Dem. Senators get personally offended when Lieberman describes himself, in essence, as the only Democrat who cares about national security?

Jonathan Weisman: No doubt.

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Richmond, Va.: Who didn't know the GOP would, in a nanosecond, seek to exploit this alleged terror plot for its own campaign? But in the same nanosecond, the Dems, instead of falling apart on how to respond, crafted a message that laid the blame for such plots right at the feet of the Republicans -- saying they have diverted funds to Iraq that could have been used for security. Does such a Democrat response mean there is a new confidence -- perhaps supported by the polls over the last six months, and lately the Lamont win? Or do such plots work in the Republicans favor?

Jonathan Weisman: By the end of the day, Republican leaders were decrying the Democrats' "politicizing" yesterday's arrests. It does seem that both sides are playing the game with aplomb. I think the net effect is to cancel each other out and let us think about the real news of the events, not the politics.

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re: Houston: Shoot! Because I'm a political junkie, I'm not a real citizen? Man, that stinks!

Where do I turn in my passport? Do I have to move now? What do all the informed, interested, fake citizens do?

Jonathan Weisman: Dude, turn in your passport and your hair gel and get to Heathrow. There's a customs inspector waiting.

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Land of cynicism: It's just amazing the timing these terrorists have. Every even-numbered year they try to pull something which causes the terror alert to jump to orange or red. By the way, have we found the man who attacked us on Sept. 11 yet? It's been almost five years.

Jonathan Weisman: Alright everyone in the land of cynicism, I will say it again, then sign off cause my time is up. Pulleeze, Scotland Yard does not give a damn about the U.S. midterm elections. Osama bin Laden probably doesn't either, although he was keenly watching the presidential campaign. If the plot had succeeded, the political effects would have been overwhelming. So maybe, in the land of cynicism, somebody is wishing they had.

Be thankful for British law enforcement and get on with your lives.

Til next week, salaam aleikum.

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