White House Week
Democrats Find Their Courage in a New Round of Poll Numbers
Swing voters want Congress to stand up to President Bush more aggressively regarding Iraq, according to new focus groups sponsored by Democrats. Their polls also find that 60 percent of Americans disagree with the president's policy in Iraq. "People are angry," says a Democrat with access to the research. These findings, more anti-Bush and anti-Iraq war than public surveys, help explain why Democrats seem so eager for a showdown with Bush over the war. While a nonbinding Senate resolution criticizing Bush's troop surge was stopped by the GOP, Democratic senators have a new gambit: to try to repeal the 2002 resolution that authorized the Iraq war. For its part, the White House says it's not Congress's job to micro-manage a war. That's the argument that Bush advisers will take to Republican loyalists and Democratic centrists to try to slow down the antiwar movement on Capitol Hill.
Overexposure: You Can Get Burned
Strategists for some of the front-runners in the 2008 presidential race have a new worry-overexposure. "You can wear on voters," says one campaign adviser. The first caucuses and primaries, after all, aren't until next January. But don't expect the candidates to pull back yet. The consensus is that the time for lying low won't come until after the next round of financial disclosure reports is released in April. They will show which campaigns have raised the most money, and those that lag badly in contributions will have a hard time being taken seriously. The top contenders: Democrats Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards; Republicans Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, and Mitt Romney. "We've got to ride the wave while we can," says one of the big-name presidential wannabes.
Next We Bring Out the Thumbscrews
Even though House and Senate Democrats have so far held an estimated 70 oversight meetings and hearings into key elements of the war in Iraq and other administration programs, top leadership and committee aides this week said there will be no letup as the session continues. Indeed, the new budget presents new opportunities, and budget hearings will start soon. The immediate focus, said one aide, will be on spending for and management of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. One House official said that interest intensified after former Iraq envoy Paul Bremer said in a hearing that he didn't know what had happened to pallets of U.S. dollars shipped overseas to pay for goods. "How can that happen? We want to find out," said the aide.
Aluminum Tubes, Déjà Vu All Over Again
Christopher Hill, the top U.S. negotiator at the North Korean nuclear talks, noted last week that U.S. intelligence had learned North Korea had acquired aluminum tubes "entirely consistent" with a highly enriched uranium program. The charge had a certain ring: In 2003, then Secretary of State Colin Powell told the United Nations that Iraq was seeking high-strength aluminum tubes to use in uranium enrichment centrifuges. That claim was later discredited when it was found that the tubes were most likely for rockets. Former U.N. weapons inspector David Albright noted that the North Korean intelligence assessment was done about the same time as the one on Iraq.
With Kenneth T. Walsh, Paul Bedard and Thomas Omestad
This story appears in the March 5, 2007 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.