The Note: Summer Slam


Obama may well regret that his response wasn't more precise, but is Clinton ending the week second-guessing her decision to enter the fray? "The eagerness with which Obama's camp kept the battle going reflected a cardinal rule in politics: Front-runners should be wary of picking fights with challengers," writes Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. "In this case, Clinton allowed Obama to make one of her prime vulnerabilities, the Iraq vote, a central part of the campaign dialogue. She also let Obama place himself to her dovish side."

As for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, it wouldn't be a day at the office without someone in the Bush administration contradicting you, and members of Congress calling you a liar. "Politicians usually shun using words like 'lying' -- they prefer to use tamer diction such as 'misleading,' " report ABC's Jake Tapper, Z. Byron Wolf, Jason Ryan, and Theresa Cook. "Not so at a Thursday press conference held by four Senate Democrats, who called for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate Gonzales for perjury after mounting challenges to his sworn testimony before Congress."

The latest blow to Gonzales came via FBI director Robert Mueller, who "sharply conflicted" with Gonzales' account of a key 2004 meeting that Democrats say Gonzales has been lying about, per The New York Times' David Johnston and Scott Shane. Now comes a subpoena with Rove's name on it -- meaning this will all get more political before it's resolved. Anyone willing to trade places with Tony Snow today?

The president, meanwhile, stepped up his criticism of Congress, demanding that they finish a defense bill before they flee town for much of August. "I'll hang around if they want me to get the bill passed," Bush said. (No Crawford? Guess he's serious.) Writes Michael Fletcher of The Washington Post, "With his once-ambitious domestic agenda in tatters, his administration facing multiple congressional investigations and his approval ratings at near-historic lows, the president has targeted the one institution that polls show is less popular with the public than he is: Congress."

Also in the news:

The Defense Department closed the loop on its letter-writing spat with Clinton yesterday -- and it's Clinton 1, Pentagon 0. "I emphatically assure you that we do not claim, suggest or otherwise believe that Congressional oversight emboldens our enemies, nor do we question anyone's motives in this regard," Defense Secretary Robert Gates wrote to Clinton yesterday. Where would she have gotten that idea? That's right, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Eric Edelman, who wrote last week, "Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda."

Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., only appears to have lost one more staff member yesterday, but with the still-unannounced candidate not getting into the race until at least September, that's a whole extra month for more pre-campaign chaos. August is "kind of a down month -- not much going on," Thompson told Fox News' Sean Hannity. He wasn't asked about the staff defections, but he did say that the attention to his wife and his relationship with trial lawyers are only surfacing because he is "not playing by their rules" by going at his "own pace" in announcing his candidacy, per ABC's Christine Byun.

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