While the focus was on South Carolina, it was a busy day in Washington: mourning the Rev. Jerry Falwell, a new war czar, more Iraq wrangling, progress (perhaps) on immigration reform, and more bad news for Paul Wolfowitz and Alberto Gonzales.
Developments on Capitol Hill continue to shape the 2008 race. The Senate today will take a round of Iraq votes -- it's all politics, no policy, since none of the proposals can or will pass -- pitting the Democratic candidates in a cat-and-mouse game. Carl Hulse and Jeff Zeleny of The New York Times call it a sign of how much "presidential politics have, once again, become intertwined with the debate in Congress." LINK
The quick version: Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) will vote for both Democratic proposals on Iraq -- including the one that would end funding for the war by next March -- even though neither of them fully favors either plan. Why? Pressure from liberal groups and rival candidates -- and unease in both camps over the proper political positioning on the war. Clinton aides like to say that Clinton and Obama have identical voting records on Iraq since Obama came to the Senate; here's guessing that they'll STILL have identical records when primary votes are cast early next year.
Immigration: Deal or no deal? The Senate's pushing back its votes into next week in the hopes of reaching a compromise, but this package has just enough moving pieces for everything to collapse. Would that be a good thing or a bad thing for McCain?
With the World Bank's directors considering Wolfowitz's fate today, it's time to restart the countdown. White House Press Secretary Tony Snow sent the message through six words delivered from his podium: "All options are on the table." Writes Peter S. Goodman of The Washington Post, "the White House has concluded, through conversations with counterparts in foreign capitals and from the committee report, that Wolfowitz can no longer effectively head the institution." LINK
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is still sticking around, but just when it looked like he'd weathered the political firestorm comes a scene you might have laughed at had it been on "24" -- with Gonzales in the role of the hapless functionary. In March 2004, Gonzales and Andrew Card -- then the White House counsel and chief of staff (let those titles sink in) -- shuttled between a hospital room and the White House in an (unsuccessful) effort to get then-attorney general John Ashcroft to sign off on extending a secret surveillance program.
What better stand-in for Gonzales' troubled tenure in the Bush administration than this image of him as errand boy, bungling an attempt to take advantage of an ailing man? All in "a dark-of-night attempt to emasculate the department he would soon lead," writes The Washington Post's Dana Milbank. LINK
The best argument for keeping the second tier around:
"Some of the people on this stage were very liberal in characterizing themselves as conservatives," former governor Jim Gilmore (R-Va.), promising to name more names today.
"I could use the bump," former governor Mike Huckabee (R-Ark.), practically begging Gilmore to work his name into his "Rudy McRomney" formulation. Suggestions? Maybe "Rudy McHuckney?" Or "Huck McRomniani?"
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