The Note

The politics of national security:

Robin Toner says Sunday's White House address has emboldened the Dems to step up on the subject of security. Says Stan Greenberg, "Democrats can engage in a robust debate on security and foreign policy issues and be more than competitive. There's no need to walk in trepidation behind a president who's a wartime leader." LINK But, says Ed Gillespie, "in their effort to appeal to their hard-core antiwar and anti-President Bush base in their party, are adopting a weak and vacillating foreign policy that will hurt them with their broader electorate."

Congressional Democrats are sensing some weakness for the White House over the president's $87 billion request for Iraq and Afghanistan, and they're trying to exploit a before-unheard of weakness on foreign policy and international issues, the Washington Post 's Juliet Eilperin writes. LINK "Democrats are still shaping their strategy in closed-door meetings, but some lines of attack have emerged. Senator Edward M. Kennedy (Mass.) has drafted an amendment to cut off funds for Iraq and Afghanistan at the end of October if the administration does not tell Congress how it plans to 'win the peace,' Kennedy spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said."

"Some congressional Democrats are citing the $87 billion request as they renew their call to suspend the scheduled tax cuts for upper-income Americans. Rep. Harold E. Ford Jr. (Tenn.) and Rep. John M. Spratt Jr. (S.C.), for example, want to suspend the tax cuts for those earning $1 million or more a year, and Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.) is considering a similar plan. 'We have far more unity on this than we've had in a while,' Ford said."

The New York Daily News writes up Terry McAuliffe's assessment that the Iraq war "wont' be an advantage to President Bush's reelection bid." LINK

California recall:

Power hitters Mark Z. Barabak and Michael Finnegan team up to take a must-read look at the Califronia Republican party's fight for its soul. LINK

"Facing a fresh chance to rejuvenate their party, California Republicans are falling into an old habit: feuding over whether they must compromise their conservative principles to elect a Republican governor."

"The question rests at the core of the increasingly intense competition between the two main Republicans left in the recall race, actor Arnold Schwarzenegger and state Senator Tom McClintock of Thousand Oaks."

More Barabak/Finnegan: "With the vote less than a month away, most Republicans believe their only hope of beating Bustamante is to quickly get behind a single candidate."

"'I ultimately believe that is the right thing to do, for a Republican to step aside for another one,' said Assemblyman Ray Haynes of Murrieta, who joined McClintock in pushing the recall but remains neutral in the replacement race because he is not convinced that his fellow conservative can win."

"The question then is, who should leave the GOP race? And that, in turn, suggests a larger question: Does victory lie in hewing to undiluted party principles? Or should the faithful compromise on certain bedrock beliefs in pursuit of victory?"

John Wildermuth at the San Francisco Chronicle covers the same ground with a look ahead to the expected "arm-twisting" at this weekend's GOP convention. LINK

"There aren't many people in the party who can call McClintock and persuade him to get out."

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