The Note: Peggy Noonan Has Never Met Belinda Carlisle

On "Meet the Press," Bill Thomas called Social Security a "problem," not a crisis, denied that he referred to the President plan as a "dead horse" in that it was dead on arrival and repeated his assertion that personal/private accounts were simply enough to galvanize a constituency. He also said things about race and gender that will be interesting in the days ahead.

The Washington Post's Mike Allen wraps the comments by Sen. Olympia Snowe and Thomas on the Sunday shows, where they expressed concerns about the President's plan. LINK

On Sunday, the Los Angeles Times' Joel Havemann and Maura Reynolds blocked out the fight over deficit control making itself felt through Social Security and Medicare, and the maneuvering that Senate Budget Committee Chairman Judd Gregg may undertake to ensure that Democrats don't hang up benefit cuts. LINK

As does the Los Angeles Times' Richard Simon. LINK

And USA Today's Jill Lawrence. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Janet Hook takes a fascinating look at Republican leaders in Congress, examining why their own careers and ambitions are leading them to somewhat different agendas than President Bush -- including health care for Senate Majority Leader Frist, immigration for House Speaker Hastert, taxes for House Majority Leader DeLay, and a different Social Security plan for Ways and Means Chairman Thomas. LINK

Iraq:

Reports Dexter Filkins of the New York Times: "The senior leaders of the United Iraqi Alliance, the coalition of mostly Shiite groups that is poised to capture the most votes in the election next Sunday, have agreed that the Iraqi whom they nominate to be the country's next prime minister would be a lay person, not an Islamic cleric." LINK

The Washington Post's Anthony Shadid looks at the protest by followers of Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada Sadr in Baghdad and towns in southern Iraq, signaling doubts about the Iraqi elections. LINK

Louise Roug and Patrick McDonnell of the Los Angeles Times look at how U.S. forces are attempting to crack down on Sunni insurgents in advance of this weekend's elections, with raids, patrols and round-ups and arrests of suspected guerillas that have boosted the detainee population to nearly 8,000. LINK

National security:

Newsweek's Mark Hosenball ruminates on the White House's pick for National Director of Intelligence, putting Gen. Tommy Franks; former CIA director Robert Gates; CIA Director Porter Goss; Lt. Gen. Michael Hayden, head of the NSA; and 9/11 Commissioner John Lehman into the mix. LINK

On Sunday, the Washington Post's Bart Gellman reported that the Pentagon has created a new clandestine intelligence arm and is giving Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld authority over operations abroad. LINK

"The Strategic Support Branch was created to provide Rumsfeld with independent tools for the 'full spectrum of humint operations,' according to an internal account of its origin and mission. Human intelligence operations, a term used in counterpoint to technical means such as satellite photography, range from interrogation of prisoners and scouting of targets in wartime to the peacetime recruitment of foreign spies. A recent Pentagon memo states that recruited agents may include 'notorious figures' whose links to the U.S. government would be embarrassing if disclosed."

DNC chair's race:

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