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.

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A Novel Approach

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

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Obama And Pakistan

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.

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Winning A Third Term

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.

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The Gop's Glum View

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.

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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.

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A Big Mess To Fix

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.

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You hear it over and over again, in casual conversation and in serious debates among experts: If we create universal health insurance here in the U.S., then we'll end up with less responsive, less advanced medical care. Few arguments have done as much political damage to the cause of universal health care.

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Via this morning's Hotline, I see that Fred Thompson told Hannity & Colmes last night that he'll probably announce his candidacy in September. His reasoning: "August is kind of a down month, not much going on, so it wouldn't make sense to do it in August." Sound familiar? It should. Here's Andy Card, explaining back in 2002 why the White House waited until September to start aggressively making the case for war with Iraq: "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August." And the Thompson analogies just keep on coming. --Jason Zengerle

Rawls Continued

By Jacob T. Levy A few days ago, Linda Hirshman (I apologize for having misspelled her name a few times below) wrote: Perversely, Rawlsian liberalism also produced a slippery slope into its opposite, complete selfishness. After all, unless you could achieve the degree of selflessness he required, there was no other place to stop.

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