The Note

The New York Times editorial board Notes Rumsfeld's newsmaking ways and concludes "President Bush should ponder his defense secretary's latest musings about the war on terrorism, but firmly resist any further expansion of Mr. Rumsfeld's budget or bureaucratic empire." LINK

As for North Korea, the Wall Street Journal 's Robbins reports on the politics of multiparty talks. "Some campaign-minded Bush officials are already talking about how diplomatic progress might play in next year's presidential race — if, as one puts it, 'we can say he set out to change all three [countries] of the axis of evil and he succeeded.'"

For his part, Bill Clinton calls the Rumsfeld memo a "'candid statement of the facts,'" reports the Washington Times . LINK

Intel re-tell: The Washington Post 's Dana Priest previews a "blistering" report on pre-war intel now being prepared by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. At stake as campaign season nears: "Who gets blamed for misleading the American public if weapons of mass destruction are never found in Iraq — the president or his intelligence chief." LINK

(Our betting money will be placed on the latter.)

Remember that National Intelligence Estimate produced last fall? The Washington Post 's Pincus gets a "senior intelligence expert" to call it a 'cut-and-paste job, with agencies and officials given only one day to review the draft final product when they usually take months.'" LINK

Wilson: Writing on the leak investigation and its ongoing interviews, the New York Times reports "they were hopeful about identifying the person or people who disclosed the information to Mr. Novak. But they acknowledged the difficulty of finding a specific individual who could be prosecuted." LINK

The Washington Post reports "those who have submitted to voluntary interviews include Karl Rove, President Bush's senior adviser, and Scott McClellan, the chief White House spokesman" and Notes no grand jury subpoenas have yet been issued in the investigation. LINK

The FBI has interviewed dozens of Bush officials, including Karl Rove and Scott McClellan, in its pursuit for the source of the leak. LINK

Big Casino budget politics:

The Washington Post 's Amy Goldstein writes about the letter sent by 41 Senators (including one Republican) to President Bush "imploring him to intervene so that the negotiators, working to combine House and Senate Medicare bills, do not produce a deal that Democrats say the Senate would reject." LINK

Senate Democrats have raised the ante on Medicare, the Wall Street Journal 's Sarah Lueck reports, by threatening to vote down a final bill that doesn't meet their standards. Republican Senator Olympia Snowe and Independent Jim Jeffords signed on to the letter to President Bush, urging "bipartisan effort" on Medicare and spelling out a role for him to lean on hard-liners.

Vicki Kemper of the Los Angeles Times writes congressional talks over a prescription drug benefit for Medicare recipients have "bogged down." LINK

" … it is the stalemate over the administration-supported proposal to have the invisible hand of the market — rather than the bureaucratic hand of government — determine prices and premiums that poses the greatest threat to a years-long effort to expand Medicare benefits."

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