The Note: The Special Relationship

WASHINGTON, July 28

President Bush meets with Prime Minister Tony Blair in the Oval Office at 11:10 am ET before the two proceed to the East Room of the White House to participate in a 12:30 pm ET joint press conference. ABC News' Ann Compton reports that President Bush can be expected to announce at his presser that Secretary Rice is heading back to the Middle East this weekend on her way back from Asia.

And then for the really important stuff befitting a nation at war, POTUS moves over to the Oval Office for a meeting and photo op with the Top 10 American Idol finalists at 2:35 pm ET.

Important: "Bush, Blair to discuss Mideast turmoil" -- Associated Press. LINK

Really important (semiotically): "Political Stage Is Next for `Idol' Stars" -- Los Angeles Times on "American Idol" reaching the "pinnacle of political validation." LINK

Important for 2006 midterms: "U.S. Hopes of Cutting Iraq Troop Levels Dim" -- Los Angeles Times on the Pentagon extending the tours of 3,500 soldiers to help bolster security in Baghdad. LINK

Important for 2006 midterms: "House to Vote on Increase in Minimum Wage" -- Washington Post on House GOP leaders "bowing to pressure from their politically embattled moderates." LINK

Vital for 2007 and 2008: "Hillary Clinton v. Howard Dean" Tom Edsall in the pages of the New Republic on "The Grudge," including some background quotes from the Hillary Clinton camp on 2008 that you won't believe were uttered (even on background), and Edsall ignoring Chris Cilizza's reporting on all the fundraising the Clintons have done for the DNC. LINK

Vital for 2006, 2007, and 2008: "Poll Position: The Ascendant Candidacy of John Edwards" – The New Republic's Ryan Lizza on why Edwards "may be Hillary Clinton's greatest threat in 2008," with appropriate attention paid to the labor strategy, but not enough to the fundraising piece. LINK

Vital for all eternity: "Media Mogul Summons the Powerful to Expound" -- Los Angeles Times on Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, Shimon Peres, LA Police Chief William Bratton, Al Gore, Bono, John McCain, Newt Gingrich, and Larry Summers speaking to 250 News Corp. executives at a "posh" California seaside resort. LINK

In addition to his Blair and Idol meetings, President Bush is doing a 2:50 pm ET photo op with the 2006 Boys and Girls Nation Delegates in the East Room.

The focus on the Hill continues to be on the situation in the Middle East, with a slew of events scheduled throughout the day on the topic. First is a Senate Democratic Policy Committee forum featuring Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Mark Dayton (D-MN) to discuss the $243 million contract to improve Iraq's healthcare crisis at 11:00 am ET. The Arab American Institute (AAI) sponsors "Understand the Conflict and the Role of the U.S." -- a discussion on Lebanon, Hezbollah, Israel and the Palestinians -- at the Capitol at 12:00 pm ET. The New America Foundation (NAF) will host a discussion with Thomas Ricks, author of "Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq" at 1:00 pm ET. And Lt. Gen. Nasier Abadi, the deputy commander of the Iraq Joint Forces, is scheduled to address the U.S. Institute of Peace forum entitled "When Will Iraq Stand Up?" at 2:00 pm ET.

At 11:00 am ET, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) addresses the Brooking Institution's 90th Anniversary Leadership Forum with a discussion about U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East followed by a Q&A session from 11:00 am - 12:00 pm ET.

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