"Saddam to Declare Candidacy for Iraqi Elections," reads the headline in Zaman Online, which styles itself as the first Turkish paper on the Internet.

Saddam Hussein's lawyer, Giovanni di Stefano, apparently recently told a Danish newspaper that Hussein has decided he is going to run in January for the interim national assembly, which is to write a new constitution.

Di Stefano said there was no law that prevented Hussein from appearing on the ballot, adding that Hussein hopes to regain his presidency and palaces via the democratic process.

"Saddam has no chance to be tried before the elections," Di Stefano argued, according to the report, and "no international law prevents him from coming forward."

These elections are parliamentary, so Hussein would not have to run nationwide, only from a district, presumably Tikrit. Makes television ads and fundraising a lot easier. Even nationwide, Hussein seems to be making something of a comeback. Di Stefano cited a recent Gallup poll that he said indicates that 42 percent of the Iraqi people want their former leader back.

That's not much lower than what John F. Kerry's polling.

Hearts and Minds Dept.

Meanwhile, some public relations firms are doubtless scurrying for what could be the last chance this year to feed at the Iraqi trough. The U.S. government recently solicited proposals for "aggressive" public relations and advertising to shore up faltering Iraqi support for the U.S.-led operation there, according to a trade newsletter.

The problem, the government feels, is that the Iraqis are not sure what Washington's goals are in Iraq, according to Jack O'Dwyer's Newsletter. The contract will be with something called the Multi National Corps-Iraq, or MNC-I.

MNC-I said in its request for information that "recent polls suggest support for the Coalition is falling and more and more Iraqis are questioning Coalition resolve, intentions and effectiveness," the newsletter said.

So what we've got here is a huge failure to communicate. That's where this PR effort comes in. The idea is to make sure the coalition's "core themes and messages" get more support. Unclear how big this contract is.

Baghdad Calling -- Collect

Maybe part of the problem with Iraq is that it's a very tough crowd to please. Take the reaction of one caller on "Viewpoint," an award-winning, call-in show that airs Sundays on WNVC in Virginia.

Host James Zogby of the Arab American Institute was discussing Iraqi interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's visit here with Gen. William Nash when a call came from Baghdad.

Allawi's speech to Congress may have played well in the United States, the caller said -- in accented but very good English -- but not so well in Baghdad. Part of the problem was how Allawi kept talking about things getting better in Baghdad, the caller said, when they are not.

And one of the most disturbing things for Iraqis, the caller told Zogby, was hearing their own prime minister's speech translated into Arabic because Allawi addressed Congress in English.

Puh-leeze. So now they want the administration to feed Allawi his lines in Arabic?

Kneed to Know

Lawyers can sometimes do the impossible. Acclaimed First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams was praised by New York Times columnist William Safire this week for being "no pushover" when it came to standing firm against prosecutorial trickery to get reporters to reveal confidences.

The trick, now being used by special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald in the Valerie Plame affair, is to get a "written waiver" of confidentiality from a presumed source -- something government employees could be forced to sign -- and then demand the reporter reveal what the employee said or go to jail for contempt of court.

Abrams's toughness, we learned, stood in sharp contrast to some "weak-kneed Time Inc. lawyer" who allowed Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper to reveal what Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, talked about. Abrams was retained by the Times to represent its reporter Judith Miller, who also is jousting with Fitzgerald.

So who would the pathetic, weak-kneed lawyer be? Time lawyer Robin Bierstedt? No, no, no, Abrams told us. She's a "powerful and aggressive and militant defender of the First Amendment." So who is this loser?

Turns out that would be the very same Floyd Abrams. But how can Abrams be steadfast and weak-kneed at the same time?

First, he said, because Time didn't buy the waiver ploy. "But it was their view that where I spoke personally to Libby's lawyer, who said in clear and explicit fashion that Libby did not object to Matt testifying," then it would be okay.

Meanwhile, we're told Washington Post reporters Walter Pincus and Glenn Kessler, also targeted by the prosecutor, got similar assurances from Libby's lawyer and told the prosecutor they didn't talk about Plame.

As Safire noted, the New York Times a few years back helped out former national security adviser Robert C. McFarlane when he was accused of being the source of a leak.


Author! Author! The latest among federal employee/authors is C.S. Miller, a former reporter who's been working at the Justice Department's public affairs operation for the past 91/2 years. His first novel, a mystery called "Natural Causes," is about lots of people who turn up dead of natural causes -- or maybe not. The paperback is published by PublishAmerica in Baltimore.