Barron YoungSmith

The 527 group Vets for Freedom is running a new ad accusing Barack Obama of skipping Senate votes and "voting against funding for our troops." The organization, which has been around since 2006, calls itself "a nonpartisan organization established by combat veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. ...

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  In the debate, Barack Obama called North Korea's nuclear re-boot a symptom of the country's internal politics. But this nuclear breakdown may have less to do with Pyongyang than it does with internal divisions in Washington, D.C. This summer, Kim delivered on his part of the nuclear bargain: providing an account of his nuclear activities, submitting the North's plutonium program to safeguards, and destroying Yongbyon's cooling tower.

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Woodward's book is strikingly silent on the Other War Within--over North Korea and Iran policy. Here's one of the few times he does address Iran: "I think we need to do something to get engaged with these guys," Fallon said. Iraq shared a 900-mile border with Iran, and he needed guidance and a strategy for dealing with the Iranians. "Well," Bush said, "these are assholes." Fallon was stunned. Declaring them "assholes" was not a strategy. Lots of words and ideas were thrown around at the meeting, especially about the Iranian leaders. They were bad, evil, out of touch with their people.

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It's possible to skip the interminable first section of Bob Woodward's book and peek at a two-page summary of his conclusions about the war on pp. 320-21.

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Here's how President Bush chose Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense, according to Woodward. The atmospherics are exceedingly murky:  Bush says he first considered Gates because "a friend he had gone to college with, whom he declined to identify, had first made the suggestion."   Bush is adamant on the fact that he didn't consult George H.W. Bush about Gates.

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Chapter 4 seems like it's about to reveal the inner workings of the Iraq Study Group, showing us Colin Powell's private testimony before the panel. But Powell gives us no new information and it becomes clear that Woodward is just taking the chance to paint a portrait of the Great Man Laid Low: So the 10:30 A.M. meeting on this Friday was both a mission of accommodation and penance.

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Whether or not they agree on the wisdom of the surge, most people believe that the adoption of counterinsurgency tactics--known by their shorthand as "clear, hold, and build"--has been the key to reducing violence in Iraq. It turns out that Donald Rumsfeld and General Casey were opposed to this strategy, considering it a "bumper sticker." They were more concerned with a disastrous attempt to pump out Iraqi army recruits as fast as possible, so U.S. troops could leave. (The insurgency spiraled out of control during this 2004-2006 period of the war, while U.S.

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The first thing you notice out in the early pages of Bob Woodward's The War Within are the showy indictments of President Bush, who leans on poor General George Casey, Jr. like a fraternity pledge-master disappointed with his charge. Casey, who's something of an academic (he studied IR at Georgetown and the University of Denver, and he'd never been in combat) accuses Bush of focusing on body counts, an attitude that Casey identifies with the "Kill the bastards!

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Reading through Bob Woodward's The War Within, one thing that jumps out is the devastating portrait of National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, who's often considered something of a dud and enabler in his position, on the model of first-term (2001-2005) Condoleezza Rice. Here he is on pages 8 and 27-28: Hadley believed he had developed as close a relationship with his president as any national security advisor in history. He was ever present. ... Hadley said of their relationship, "If I feel it, he feels it.

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  Unlike Katrina in 2005, the government--as well as the aspiring governments of John McCain and Barack Obama--dropped everything for Hurricane Gustav. But how good was the response this time? TNR spoke with Jane Bullock, FEMA's chief of staff during the Clinton administration under James Lee Witt, who is considered the agency's best director, to assess: I think a few things made this response better than Katrina: I think that DHS and FEMA knew that they would be under the microscope, so they pulled out all the stops.

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