"The gap between the tenures of the former ambassador, John Negroponte -- now Mr. Bush's intelligence czar -- and the new one, Zalmay Khalilzad, is the longest interval with no top American diplomat in Iraq since Saddam Hussein was toppled in April 2003."
"The period has coincided with a difficult stretch for both the fragile Iraqi government and the U.S. So far, America and its allies in Iraq largely have failed to bring the country's embattled Sunni minority into the political process, a top priority for both governments."
Michael Fletcher and Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post recount President Bush's remarks to the OAS yesterday, encouraging Western hemisphere nations to support democracy by prosecuting corruption and embrace free-market economies -- as well as predicting that Cuba will ultimately become a democracy as well. LINK
The Washington Post's Peter Baker and Susan Glasser excerpt their book, "Kremlin Rising: Vladimir Putin's Russia and the End of Revolution," published today by Scribner, and take a look at the difference between the promise of stability and democracy that Russian President Boris Yeltsin rode to power in 2000 and the reality of how he consolidated power within the Kremlin as the focus of "Project Putin," which put the former KGB chief in office after teaching him how to work the political mechanics. LINK
Judicial nomination battles:
The Los Angeles Times' Maura Reynolds previews the day's debate on Judge Janice Rogers Brown. LINK
Carl Hulse of the New York Times tells us what's next: "As soon as the Senate disposes of the Brown nomination, Dr. Frist intends to bring up Judge Pryor, who is now serving on the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta, under a temporary appointment by Mr. Bush. The Senate leaders have also agreed to move ahead with three other, less-contentious judicial nominations." LINK
Maura Dolan of the Los Angeles Times looks at the factors that have shaped Brown's opinions and legal outlook. LINK
"Justice Brown is that rare nominee for whom one can draw a direct line between intellectual advocacy of aggressive judicial behavior and actual conduct as a judge," writes the Washington Post's editorial board, which encourages the Senate to reject her nomination. LINK
Judge Priscilla Owen took her oath of office yesterday for her seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. LINK
Sen. Chris Dodd says Democrats will compromise and not block John Bolton if the White House agrees to a compromise about the NSA intercepts, reports Douglas Jehl in the New York Times. LINK
The Washington Post's Paul Blustein sizes up just how unhappy the sugar lobby is with President Bush's support of CAFTA, and what kind of influence it wields in the halls of Congress. LINK
"As the House comes into session today, CAFTA supporters, who include many business and agriculture groups and most House Republicans, kick off a monthlong sprint to bring the agreement to a floor vote before the July 4 recess. Should they fail, it would lend ammunition to an already strong opposition consisting of labor unions, the sugar industry and most House Democrats," writes The Hill's Josephine Hearn. LINK
"Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said a puzzling decline in long-term interest rates may signal economic weakness ahead, but argued that they aren't as reliable a signal of such weakness as in the past," writes the Wall Street Journal's Greg Ip.