The Note

In a meeting with reporters at the end of his two day visit to the land of pommes frites, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said, "'We've got very good allied support in Iraq'" and "most, if not all" allies "'have pledged'" to "'sustain their contributions, and to not be dissuaded by the fact that there have been some high-profile casualties that have been taken by some of the coalition countries.'" LINK

Meanwhile, embarking upon his own five-nation, four-day journey, Secretary of State Colin Powell is "hoping to mend fences with Europeans upset by the American strategy in Iraq and to stiffen the resolve of North African nations rattled by terror attacks to continue to fight Islamic militants," reports the New York Times . LINK

The Washington Post reports "U.S. civilian and military leadership in Iraq has decided to form a paramilitary unit composed of militiamen from the country's five largest political parties to identify and pursue insurgents who have eluded American troops and Iraqi police officers," an acknowledgement that "the Bush administration's strategy of relying on Iraqi police officers and civil defense forces has been insufficient to restore security." LINK

Glenn Kessler and Robin Wright examine the realities versus the rhetoric of the Bush Administration's promotion of democracy in the Middle East. LINK

Speaking of democracy, the Los Angeles Times reports the "American opposition to the religious Shiites' agenda puts the U.S. in the odd position of resisting what is arguably the most democratic of processes: a free election. They also worry that the Americans have not carefully considered the worst-case scenarios." LINK

The Wall Street Journal 's Glenn Simpson looks at the military's dearth of Arabic speakers, finding "the Pentagon never recruited and trained Islamic language and cultural experts with the same determination it used to understand the Soviet Union."

Nearby, the Journal's ed board raises the specter of a "crisis" in the Strait of Taiwan should the president accept "a proposal being floated inside his foreign policy team" that would "change U.S. policy on Taiwan independence from one of neutral 'non-support' to active and presumably public 'opposition.'"

Big Casino budget politics: Medicare:

The Wall Street Journal 's David Rogers looks at the way "well-placed lawmakers" such as Senator Specter (R-Pa.) are working the Medicare research budget to funnel money to fund hospital staffs in their states.

We are going to start a new soap opera: "As the Door Revolves."

Robert Pear reports Medicare's architect, Thomas Scully, is the "object of a bidding war among five firms hoping to hire him to advise clients affected by the measure." LINK

However, the Wall Street Journal reports, Scully cannot lobby either the Department of Health and Human Services or the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for one year. For those of you who are betting, the Journal also provides a short list of possible successors.

Big Casino budget politics:

The House will vote soon on a $373 billion measure that finances the bulk of the government's domestic agencies, reports the AP's Alan Fram. LINK

Big casino state budget politics:

After months of justifiable hand-wringing over budget shortfalls and fiscal crises in the states, recovery is at hand, the Wall Street Journal 's editorial board writes.

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