WASHINGTON, June 8
Zarqawi is dead.
A decent interval has passed.
The politics has begun.
The briefed facts so far (safe house, killed by air, macho American tracking ingenuity, body recovered and fully identified, video documentation, few or no civilian or U.S. collateral damage, letting the Iraqis announce it, the simultaneous additions to the new government) could not be better politically even if General Rove had directed the operation. You are watching the rollout of a serious PR plan.
Major 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue tick-tocking has already taken place, and it will continue, unabated, throughout the day.
Things the White House cannot (totally) control:
When will the first public poll with presidential job approval numbers come out? (If CNN and Fox have different numbers, how will the nation -- and the on-air talent -- deal with that?)
When will be the first time that DeanPelosiReid speak out, starting the Rube Goldberg process LINK that goes from Karl-Rove's-ears-to-Ken-Mehlman's-BlackBerry-to-Tracey-Schmitt's-keyboard-to-Jack-Kingston's-talking-points-to-the-Limbaugh-Institute-for-Advanced-Conservative-Studies?
Will the tears of Ann Coulter's book publicist fill the large or extra large popcorn tub?
How much more violence will there be this week in Iraq?
Watch how Democrats handle today's news (and if they regret sending the that letter about Ambassador Khalilzad canceling his Senate briefing appearance).
Republicans will be watching to see if the death narrows/increases the national security gap between the parties in public opinion surveys.
For now, morning comments from President Bush and Sen. Biden sounded remarkably similar. Praise for the troops and the significant victory and caution the American people that there is much more work ahead.
President Bush got high marks from morning pundits for not using the words "mission accomplished" in his Rose Garden remarks.
President Bush also announced that he will be meeting with his top national security officials at Camp David next week as well as with Iraq's national security officials to discuss "how best to deploy America's resources in Iraq." President Bush cautioned, "We have tough days ahead of us in Iraq that will require the patience of the American people."
CNN's Candy Crowley Noted the President's emphasis on moving the ball forward in Iraq, and called his tone "pitch-perfect."
On "Good Morning America," ABC News' George Stephanopoulos called the killing of Zarqawi a "big shot in the arm for the White House." Stephanopoulos said the White House is hoping that Zarqawi's killing will be a "real booster shot for the Iraqi government" and a "circuit breaker" for the American people, allowing them to look at Iraq with "new eyes."
NBC's Matt Lauer said the President was "clearly elated, though cautious in his tone."
John Burns of the New York Times writes up the announcement, recalling the capture of Saddam Hussein and Noting that "this time, the mood of the American and Iraqi leaders was more cautious, though Mr. Maliki, opening the news conference with the formal announcement of the Zarqawi killing, was greeted by celebratory shouts." LINK
The Los Angeles Times' story Notes that local Iraqis tipped off security forces to Zarqawi's location (and reminds us that the U.S. was offering a $25 million reward for information leading to his capture or killing). LINK
Before the added Rose Garden appearance this morning, the President already had a pretty packed schedule. He addressed the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast at 8:00 am ET. Later this morning (10:10 am ET), he is scheduled to meet with governors on the line item veto. An hour later, President Bush is expected to meet with the President of Chile. At 3:00 pm ET, President and Mrs. Bush depart for Camp David.
Speaker Hastert is scheduled to appear before cameras at 10:15 am ET for an enrollment ceremony on the broadcast decency bill.
House Majority Leader Boehner holds an on-camera press availability at 10:30 am ET.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi holds an on-camera press availability at 10:45 am ET.
The Senate is expected to vote on cloture for the estate/death tax repeal bill at 10:45 am ET.
Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) addressed the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC at 8:30 am ET.
Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) is scheduled to deliver his farewell speech to the House at 3:00 pm ET. Tomorrow is his final day in Congress. And the Houston Chronicle reports on local Republican efforts to replace his name on the November ballot. LINK
Former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD) will lunch with New Hampshire Democrats in Manchester, NH and campaign with congressional candidate Jim Craig in Hooksett, NH this evening. He'll also take one of his "unscheduled driving tours" of Manchester, NH at 2:00 pm ET.
Zarqawi: news management:
ABC's Jessica Yellin has the tick-tock courtesy of White House press secretary Tony Snow:
"Yesterday at 3:30 pm ET President Bush was meeting with congressional leaders at the White House. At one point Rep. Ray LaHood (R-IL) said - you need to get Zarqawi. National Security Advisor Hadley left the room, came back, then left again and returned again. He was getting calls from Iraq."
"At 4:35 pm ET President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Rice, and White House chief of staff Bolten received an Oval Office briefing from Hadley in which he told them about the raid and that they think they have Zarqawi."
"President Bush said, "that would be a good thing." Mr. Bush also went on to say that that wouldn't be the end of things. He expressed appreciation and admiration for the special forces."
Members of the recent Iraq CODEL with the President in the White House at the time were: Cynthia McKinney, Elizabeth Dole, Steny Hoyer, Roy Blunt, and others.
Zarqawi: first reax:
Sen. Joe Biden's (D-DE) -- the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a likely 2008 presidential candidate -- reaction to Zarqawi death on NBC's "Today":
"Great good news, there is a special place in hell reserved for Zarqawi and this is a significant hit." Biden went on to caution that "there is still a war in Iraq, a significant war. . . "
When asked if Rumsfeld deserves some credit for this, Biden replied, "Sure."
"There is still a guy named Sadr out there who has his own militia. . . There is still an insurgency made up of people not part of the Zarqawi network. . . We have a lot of work to do," Biden added. "But I don't want anything to take away from this event."
The Senator from Delaware also said that he hopes the event improves President Bush's approval ratings. "We get one president at a time. This election in November is not for President of the United States. . . I hope it does improve his standing and emboldens him to take bolder moves in terms of his policy in Iraq. . . His low ratings and his inability to rally support is a difficult position for the United States internationally."
While calling into Don Imus' program, Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) was asked about the political effect of Zarqawi's killing.
"Who knows what the political effect will be?" Sen. Lieberman said. "I've taken the position I have taken not for political reasons -- I would have to be crazy to to do that. I've taken it because I believe it is right for the security of the nation and the world."
Sen. Lieberman went on to swipe Ned Lamont, the anti-Iraq war millionaire who is opposing him in Connecticut's Democratic Senate primary, by saying that Lamont's anti-Bush campaign "doesn't take a lot of courage."
Sen. Lieberman said he is countering Lamont's plea that Democrats "send a message" to Washington by telling them to "send a Senator to Washington who can protect them and get something done for them over the next six years."
Imus told Lieberman that he was supporting his re-election bid despite his "absurd support for this idiotic war."
The Wall Street Journal's Jackie Calmes sees "an apparent anti-incumbent mood" in Tuesday's vote with several congressional incumbents losing a third or more of the primary vote to underdogs, including California Republican Reps. John Doolittle and Richard Pombo, who. . . have been linked to Mr. Abramoff, and Democratic Reps. Jane Harman, who faced an antiwar foe, and Bob Filner."
"With one eye on the November elections," writes the Wall Street Journal's Brody Mullins of Dr./Sen./Leader Frist, a bipartisan compromise over the estate/death tax repeal seems likely.
In a story that will likely bring a smile to Bill Burton's face, Adam Nagourney of the New York Times writes that Brian Bilbray's narrow win in California-50 "eased party anxieties Wednesday but signaled future difficulties." LINK
The Washington Post's Dan Balz and Jonathan Weisman report that Tuesday's special election in California offered "scant evidence of the highly energized Democratic electorate that analysts say would be needed to dislodge the GOP from power on Capitol Hill in November." LINK
The Los Angeles Times' Ron Brownstein and Janet Hook wonder if Bilbray's victory "demonstrated the limits of Democrats' ability to parlay President Bush's unpopularity and the public's disdain for a scandal-racked Congress into concrete gains." LINK
The New York Times writes up Sen. Specter's (R-PA) public letter scolding the Vice President for going behind his back to block testimony from phone company executives on the domestic surveillance program. It includes details on their non-encounter at the lunch buffet: LINK
The Los Angeles Times writes that Democratic candidate Phil Angelides "enters the fall campaign a decided underdog against Arnold Schwarzenegger, facing the weight of history and an audience already soured on him." LINK
The Washington Post's Robert Barnes looks at the DSCC's "extremely unusual" endorsement of Virginia Democratic Senate candidate Jim Webb, as well as the start of pro-Webb robo-calls to northern Virginia voters from Sen. John Kerry (D-MA). LINK
The Richmond paper has it too: LINK
"Anti-war Connecticut U.S. Senate candidate Ned Lamont has gained ground on Sen. Joseph Lieberman, and now trails the incumbent 55 -- 40 percent among likely Democratic primary voters" including leaners, per the latest Quinnipiac University poll.
The poll also Notes Lieberman's relatively good approval rating (56 %) and his ability to win a general election as an independent.
Bob Burns, a political science professor at South Dakota State University, tells USA Today's Judy Keen that the outlook for South Dakota's November referendum to rescind the state's abortion ban is bleak after yesterday's primary results. LINK
Ralph Z. Hallow of the Washington Times on the problems facing Lynn Swann in his bid for Pennsylvania governor, per his Keystone State GOP sources. LINK
Bloomberg's Roger Simon writes, "Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani ruled out running for president as an independent, blunting speculation that he would do better outside the Republican party." (Note the Colin Powell remarks on Iraq and the standing ovation for Bill Clinton as well.) LINK
The Hill reports Democrats plan to pivot off of the Republican week of same-sex marriage and estate tax initiatives to unveil their "family security" agenda aimed at highlighting the pocketbook issues they plan to promote this campaign season. LINK
(Just a reminder: President Bush plans to dominate the beginning of next week with his focus on Iraq.)
The New York Times on Sen. Clinton's harsh words for Ann Coulter: LINK
Any potential Democratic presidential candidate and everyone that works for one must read this Tom Beaumont story in the Des Moines Register on Iowa's labor movement failed attempt to get Mike Blouin the Democratic nomination for governor. LINK