The Note: Political Grandstanding

During a speech last night in Baltimore, Gen. Peter Pace presented an uncharacteristically gloomy picture of Iraq as "a place that is having some real difficulties right now." "Everything is in place if they want to have a civil war," Pace told the Baltimore Council on Foreign Affairs. "Everything is also in place if they want to have a united, unified future." Just eight days earlier, while appearing on "Meet the Press," Gen. Pace had offered this assessment of developments in Iraq: "I would say they're going very, very well from everything you look at."

That line caused some private grumbling in the Pentagon that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs was either spinning or clueless, reports ABC News' Jonathan Karl.

Last night, he said his words "didn't come across as precisely as I would have liked."

More from the Baltimore Sun: LINK

Peter Baker's bold Washington Post lede: "President Bush vowed for the first time yesterday to turn over most of Iraq to newly trained Iraqi troops by the end of this year, setting a specific benchmark as he kicked off a fresh drive to reassure Americans alarmed by the recent burst of sectarian violence." LINK

And/but. . .

More Baker: "How meaningful or achievable the president's new goal is seems uncertain." And a bit more: "What constitutes control, however, depends on the definition, since no Iraqi unit is currently rated capable of operating without U.S. assistance. And vast swaths of Iraq have never been contested by insurgents, meaning they could ultimately be turned over to local forces without directly affecting the conflict."

Bush blamed Iran yesterday for supplying lethal explosives to insurgents that led to deaths of U.S. soldiers, reports Washington Times' Stephen Dinan. LINK

The New York Times' Sanger places Vice President Cheney's "last throes" comments from ten months ago in paragraph four of his story on President Bush's latest Iraq speech. LINK

Mark Silva of the Chicago Tribune writes that throughout his recent and upcoming speeches, President Bush "is repeating a formula for success in Iraq that has yet to convince a majority of Americans" while "[his] weakened standing has undermined his ability to withstand controversy." LINK

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank sketches an optimistic President Bush despite the recent reservations that ideological allies of the President have expressed about his Iraq policy. LINK

". . . in remarks intended to shore up flagging support for the war, the president warned that despite those forces' best efforts, mayhem would continue," writes James Gerstenzang of the Los Angeles Times. LINK

The Los Angeles Times was apparently surprised to hear the President cite one of its stories as an example of information which "the enemy" can access and adjust accordingly. LINK

USA Today reports in its Page cover story that nearly two-thirds of Americans believe the Iraq war is defining Bush's legacy. LINK

Bush media guru and cyclist par excellence Mark McKinnon says: "There's no question the president's legacy will be dominated by Iraq."

2006:

Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-CA) "has reconsidered a last-minute decision to retire and will announce Tuesday that he intends to seek re-election this year after all, a move that comes at the urging of House leaders and members of California's GOP delegation, a knowledgeable source said late Monday," reports Roll Call's Drucker.

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