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Without question, the Iraq prison abuse controversy is going to dramatically impact the presidential election.
Unless it doesn't.
It's a story so big that for the foreseeable future it is sure to blot out gas prices, health care needs, jobs, the country of origin of buses, shrapnel wounds -- even Nicole Devenish's appearances on FNC.
With Sen. Kerry largely staying out of the picture so far (although he is sure to address the matter in at least a muted way when he begins to engage with a questioning media today), the electoral contours of this story are anything but clear.
Political sharpies can make up scenarios projected towards the fall in which all this swirl hurts the President's chances for re-election, but the odds of those outcomes are still pretty low.
Nonetheless, as we sit here today, all the elements of a politically damaging, fully engulfing Washington scandal have entered the water like so many streams of blood:
1. Endless process and procedures for the media to cover -- investigative, legal, journalistic.
2. A chance for Senators Biden and McCain to demand answers ad infinitum on any TV show that will have them.
3. Bipartisan outrage and calls for accountability, including from Republican leaders such as Tom DeLay.
4. New "characters" emerging every day.
5. Blind-quote-fed intra-Administration fighting and finger pointing.
6. Questions about "what did the President know and when did he know it?"
Which is why President Bush plans to give interviews from the Map Room to Al Hurra and Al Arabyia television networks. He then meets with the Prime Minister of Singapore and makes remarks on Cinco de Mayo at the White House. Later he attends an RNC gala fundraiser in Washington.
Sen. Kerry campaigns with his wife Teresa Heinz Kerry today and speaks at Woodrow Wilson High School in Los Angeles, Calif. He also tapes interviews with PBS' Tavis Smiley Show and Univision's Jorge Ramos.
Vice President Cheney speaks at the annual National Fire and Emergency Services Dinner in Washington tonight.
The Senate Select Intelligence Committee holds a closed hearing on the abuse of prisoners in the Abu Ghraib detention facility in Iraq.
The Senate resumes debate of the FSC-ETI Jobs bill today.
The politics of national security: the prison controversy:
The New York Times' Schmitt and Stevenson Note that after more revelations of Iraqi prisoner abuse "the Bush administration went into high gear on Tuesday to contain the diplomatic and political damage, offering its first apologies and pledging to show the world that the people responsible would be brought to justice." LINK
Note the massive finger pointing in this account, involving the White House, State Department, and the DOD.
"The Bush administration's top foreign policy officials publicly apologized yesterday to the Arab world for abuse of Iraqi detainees by U.S. personnel at notorious Abu Ghraib prison, and officials said President Bush plans to join the effort to limit damage from the revelations as early as today," reports the Washington Post's Robin Wright. LINK
The Washington Post's Graham and Babington Note that Condoleezza Rice appeared on Arabic TV in attempt to quell some of the controversy over the mistreatment of prisoners in Iraq. LINK