Building Codes

In a spacious Hilton ballroom yesterday, surrounded by middle-aged construction workers with their arms folded and collars unbuttoned, Joe Biden is barking into his microphone. "With or without your endorsement," he declares, "I'm going to be the best friend labor has ever had in the White House!" It's an outlandish claim--FDR? Harry Truman?--but not out of place.

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Coalition Unwilling

For all the bluster about the United States' democratization policy, military action remains America's principal weapon for confronting Islamist extremism. In many parts of the world, U.S. forces have teamed with the security and intelligence services of Muslim states to "take the fight to the enemy" and root out common foes. Muslim regimes from North Africa to Asia had been feeling the heat well before September 11 from Islamist groups that had labeled them apostate.

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The Character Issue

by David A. Bell Stephen Greenblatt has a terrific essay on "Shakespeare and the Uses of Power" the New York Review of Books.

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Broder Weighs In

Let's see. First Charles Krauthammer, and now David Broder gets the urge to downplay the attorney-purge scandal (which still needs a snappy nickname, no?): But a word of caution is in order. There is little here that suggests voters' opinion of Democrats is much higher than it was when they lost Congress in 1994. It seems doubtful that Democrats can help themselves a great deal just by tearing down an already discredited Republican administration with more investigations such as the current attack on the Justice Department and White House over the firings of eight U.S. attorneys. Indeed.

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Helen's Heroes

In this month's Vanity Fair, Helen Thomas answers the magazine's "Proust Questionnaire" feature (no link available). "Who are your heroes in real life?" the magazine asks. First on her list: Ramsey Clark. This is the Ramsey Clark who was on the Committee to Defend Slobodan Milosevic, who defended the PLO murderers of Leon Klinghoffer and who defended the Butcher of Baghdad. If you think I may exaggerating this man's nefarious career of representing terrorists and genocidal dictators, read The Nation's Ian Williams in Salon. Everyone knows Thomas is cranky.

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Lowering The Standard

Charles Krauthammer's op-ed in today's Post offers a remarkable glimpse into the evolution of conservatives' moral philosophy on the U.S. attorney firings. He begins by recommending Alberto Gonzales's ouster--not because there has been a scandal, mind you, but because he has allowed the appearance of one where there is "none." ("How could he allow his aides to go to Capitol Hill unprepared and misinformed and therefore give inaccurate and misleading testimony? [my itals]" he asks, employing every euphemism for "lie" he can get his fingers on.) Why was there no scandal? Because "U.S.

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Hot Seat

"I just saw him! And I think he's loaded for bear," a reporter whispered breathlessly, as the crowd scrambled to their seats at the Senate hearing yesterday afternoon. Most of the audience had come to see Al Gore testify before the Environment and Public Works Committee on the dangers of global warming. Over 100 people had been camped outside for hours, like ardent Star Wars fans, to make sure they would get inside. At least one RUN AL, RUN sign bobbed above the heads in line. But the reporter wasn't talking about Gore.

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Hillary Clinton proposes a second White House role for her husband. It's a good line. I still think at some point the Clintons will clearly need to discuss the job of "First Man" in more detail. --Michael Crowley

That Politico piece Jon flagged below caught my eye for a different reason: I think it was a smart explanation of the perils of the Straight Talk Express, version 2.0: The convergence of the enabling technology to post news on the fly and the appetite for that news by both news organizations and readers has radically changed politics and poses lethal danger to McCain's style of running.

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The New York Times's news analysis of the coming clash between Congress and the White House over the U.S. attorney purge makes repeated mention of how relatively infrequently Bush has asserted executive privilege. To wit: The Bush administration has few equals in its commitment to a broad conception of executive authority, and it has on several occasions argued for an expansive understanding of executive privilege and similar protections.

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