August 06, 2007

Occupational Hazard
12:00 AM

'Take off your veil!" the Somali soldier shouted at the woman in the mostly empty street. Steadying his assault rifle with his right hand, he ripped away the woman's black niqab with his left. "Why are you coming so close to us? You have explosives?" He leveled the muzzle of his gun against the bridge of her nose. Her mouth, suddenly embarrassed and exposed, broke into a jester's forced grin. "I just want a juice," she pleaded. Except for a handful of armed soldiers, the only other person on the deserted street was a man selling mango juice from behind a table.

August 03, 2007

The Senate Gets Veto-proof
12:00 AM

There's not a ton of good news coming out of Congress these days, so it's nice to see that the Senate passed a bipartisan SCHIP bill with a 68-31 majority--enough to override the promised White House veto. Most senators, in the end, weren't scared off by conservative rants about "socialized medicine" and Michael Moore. What a surprise. So as it stands now, the Senate bill would cover 4 million low-income children who would otherwise go uninsured.

Fredo Lives!
12:00 AM

Why is Alberto Gonzalez still our Attorney General? Time explains it all. The gist: Because he's protecting the White House from even more investigations. Sweet. There's also news of some possible horse-trading that makes me wish even more that Gonzalez be given the heave-ho: "In private, Democrats say that if Gonzales did step down, his replacement would be required to agree to an independent investigation of Gonzales' tenure in order to be confirmed by the Senate." Too bad it won't happen any time soon. --Ben Wasserstein

August 02, 2007

Baby, You Dropped Obama On Me
12:00 AM

Barack Obama's speech yesterday about Islamic extremism, and especially the part about Pakistan, struck me as spot on. Some of the reactions I've seen from left and right, however, seem pretty strange. First, here's the key section: There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will.

A Novel Approach
12:00 AM

Today's Senate judiciary hearing on the attorney firings, mainly called, it seems, so that Karl Rove wouldn't show up, was notable for little new information and much senatorial outrage about White House deputy political director Scott Jennings's refusal to answer questions based on Bush's invocation of executive privilege (he used the phrase, "Pursuant to the president's assertion of executive privilege, I must respectfully decline to answer that question at this time," at least ten times--Chairman Patrick Leahy, who cut him off a couple of times before he got to "assertion," grumpily called

August 01, 2007

Obama And Pakistan
12:00 AM

So it looks like Obama is getting to the right not only of Hillary but of Bush on the issue of Pakistan. He's giving a speech at the Wilson Center later today in which, according to excerpts released by his campaign, he'll say: I understand that President Musharraf has his own challenges. But let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005.

Winning A Third Term
12:00 AM

Charlie Cook has an interesting column about some challenges facing the Republican contenders in '08. Still, this part of his argument was entirely unconvincing: The fundamentals are quite clear. Four out of five times in the post-World War II era, the party holding the White House for two consecutive terms failed in their attempt to win a third term. In 1960, 1968, 1976 and 2000, the party occupying the White House saw its string end with two terms. Well, okay. Or you could say that the score is really 2-1-2 rather than 4-1.

The Gop's Glum View
12:00 AM

Along with several other reporters today I attended a background lunch (held at 101 Constitution Avenue, naturally) with a prominent Republican senator. It doesn't seem like much fun to be in his shoes right now. He could barely mount a case for a Republican comeback in the short term, and even fretted about the possibility of Democratic numbers in the Senate growing to the point where Harry Reid can easily break filibusters. Particularly telling was his response when someone asked which issues he thought the GOP could ride back into power.

July 31, 2007

More Pollack/o'hanlon
12:00 AM

I feel like I need to get a last word in on Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack's New York Times op-ed. Greg Sargent yesterday criticized O'Hanlon for being hypocritical: his Brookings index was pessimistic on Iraq, but his Times op-ed is optimistic: [I]n the low-profile precincts of Brookings' own Iraq Index, O'Hanlon is quietly concluding that the "surge" has basically failed to live up to expectations.

July 30, 2007

A Big Mess To Fix
12:00 AM

The New York Times Magazine had a fascinating piece yesterday written by an Iraqi "fixer." As anyone who has ever worked with a fixer (savvy locals who translate, drive, arrange interviews and generally keep their clients--reporters--from getting killed) can relate, these people are the unsung heroes of international journalism. The former Times fixer who wrote the piece, Ayub Nuri, is now studying at Columbia University. Despite his stellar credentials, it wasn't easy for him to get there.