The Note: Totally Machiavellian and Self-Loathing

The Washington Post's Jim VandeHei wraps President Bush's meeting on the ranch with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, where he made it clear that the U.S. opposes Israeli plans to expand West Bank settlements and urged him to stick with the road map toward an independent Palestinian state and Middle East peace. No new ground was broken, VandeHei writes, but the peace process appears to be continuing on track. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Peter Wallsten and Tyler Marshall have the two men clashing and the nature of relations remaining fragile, and do an excellent job of explaining the two leaders' different priorities and pressures on the road map, settlements, and a two-state solution. LINK

Palestinians were pleased with Bush's stance, writes the Chicago Tribune's Mark Silva. LINK

AP writes that Sharon "brushed off a warning" from President Bush about keeping West Bank settlement growth under control. LINK

More from the Boston Globe and the Houston Chronicle. LINK; LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Ron Brownstein curtain-raises a study to be released today in affiliation with the National Jewish Democratic Council, which found that while Jewish voters stayed mostly in the Democratic column in the 2004 elections, those who attend services regularly were more likely to support Mr. Bush. LINK

The U.S. will offer financial aid for the agreement that ended Sudan's civil war, on the condition that the government does something about Darfur, the Washington Post's Glenn Kessler reports. LINK


AP has details of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's visit to Baghdad, where he urged Iraq's new leadership to keep pushing forward on developing their constitutional government and fighting the insurgency. LINK


The Washington Post's Chuck Babington and Dafna Linzer turn in an excellent round-up of the first day of John Bolton's hearings to confirm his nomination to the United Nations, Noting that Bolton spent a good bit of time on the meta-defensive trying to clarify the past statements criticizing the U.N. that some Democrats have cited as proof he is "the wrong person" for the job. In addition, Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI), Democrats' one shot at getting a Republican to vote against Bolton, said he's inclined to support Bolton's nomination because his colleagues across the aisle didn't make as strong a case against him as he thought they would. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Sonni Efron makes Bolton sound far more combative, and works in the "midlevel munchkin analyst" comment Bolton allegedly used in complaining about an intelligence specialist who took issue with wording in a speech Bolton was supposed to give stating that Cuba had a biological weapons program and went to the CIA for approval on alternate language. LINK

Reports the New York Times' Steven R. Weisman: if today is a repeat of yesterday for Bolton, "a favorable vote in the full Senate would then appear nearly certain." LINK

USA Today's Barbara Slavin ledes with Bolton's pledge to help build up the U.S.' partnership with the U.N. LINK

The New York Times' Sheryl Gay Stolberg looks at the pressure Sen. Chafee faces from right and left and center. LINK

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank saw the hearing as an opportunity for Democrats -- particularly the "histrionic" tactics of Sen. Barbara Boxer -- to hammer Bolton and try to rattle him, to no avail. In fact, Milbank basically declares game, set, match. LINK

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