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Head East

As many get ready to head east, west and other directions to attend the Yearly Kos convention in Las Vegas, we head back to the swamps of Sunday morning journaltainment.

Meet the Press  How does Tim do it? Every week an exclusive. This week an exclusive one-on-one with the reclusive, self-effacing Senator Joe Biden (D-DE).

Tim starts the interrogation of Rogaine Joe — a "Democrat who would like to be President" — by quoting a David Brooks column praising Bush for his impressive accomplishments regarding Iran. Biden responds that he and Republican Dick Lugar have been advocating direct talks with Iraq for over a year. Russert asks if "we" should go to war with Iran if it continues to seek nuclear weapons. Biden replies that war with Iran should be a last resort; further, Bush will have no credibility in calling for war with Iran given events in Iraq.

Later, Tim pulls out Biden’s quotes from 2002/2003 in support of the Iraq war, and asks whether that support was a mistake. Biden says "misunderstanding this administration" was the worst mistake he made in his career. (So if Bush has no credibility on Iraq, what does Biden have?)

On Iraq, Biden asserts that Prime Minister al-Maliki is questioning the U.S. occupation based on "pressure from his constituency." (As opposed to the Iraqi banking industry.) Russert quips that "All politics is local, whether in Wilmington or Baghdad." Biden thinks Maliki is criticizing the U.S. to shore up his political standing; Russert worries that the P.M.’s comments will threaten American troops.   

Iraq is perilously close to civil war, Biden says. Both Iraq and Afghanistan will fall if we don’t "get smart." But Biden isn’t responsible, because the Bush Administration hasn’t listened to him (and after all he’s done for them!).

The second guest, former United Nations weapons inspector Dr. Hans Blix, has to school Pumpkinhead on the obvious: Telling Iran to end enrichment isn’t negotation. He also educates Tim on the Iraq war: Bush spun the intelligence on WMDs; the war could have been avoided; the WMDs were destroyed in 1991; they weren’t "fed" to some other country.

In the roundtable, Tim exclusively welcomes friend-of-Condi Gwen Ifill and friend-of-Bush John Harwood to discuss the 2006 and 2008 elections. Ifill claims that San Diego Democrat Francine Busby’s "on the wrong side" on immigration even though she’s wrapped herself in John McCain on the issue. Harwood says both parties are predicting a narrow Busby win, despite the fact the G.O.P. has outspent the Dems 2 to 1. 

On 2006, Harwood outlines the attack on Dems as the party of taxes and "defeat and retreat." Russert helpfully sketches a G.O.P. attack ad which depicts liberal Dems taking control of "committee structures." On 2008, Ifill suggests that support for Bush’s war is — as Tony Snow might put it — the napalm baby for Presidential hopefuls of both parties.

This Week with George Stephanopolous hosts Vice President Al Gore, ostensibly to talk about global warming and his book and movie, An Inconvenient Truth. Geo. Steph. asks Gore whether he is an alarmist or, alternatively, whether he fails to offer any solutions. Gore says no. Gore says there is a 10 year window of opportunity to take the necessary measures to reverse or halt the advancement of global warming. 

The Vice President thinks Iraq policy should involve withdrawal of American troops with Iraq, but in an manner consistent with the moral obligation not to make circumstances worse than Bush has already made them.  Gore declines to endorse Senator Kerry’s call to have troops out of Iraq by the end of the year.

But Geo. doesn’t really care about these topics, it’s the 2008 Presidential election that matters. Gore says he no plans to run for president, and he can’t imagine running.  The highest and best use of his time is to address the threat of global warming. This is Geo.’s cue to badger Gore with several more questions on 2008, culminating with two theories supposedly bobbing in the septic tank of Beltway wisdom: Gore will get in the race only if Hillary decides to run, or he is waiting for Hillary not to run before entering the race.  Displaying superhuman patience, Gore refrains from sighing heavily.

Geo. then assembles his roundtable (George Will, Robert Reich, and Cokie’n’Steve manques Claire Shipman and Jay Carney) to dicuss whether Gore is lying. Carney and Shipman both believe that Gore "wants to be begged to run." Shipman implicitly accuses Gore of lying when he says he isn’t going to run. The panel also discusses Senator Clinton’s presidential ambitions, with Reich asserting that there will be 11 Dems in the field in addition to Clinton, and Fwill asserting that Kerry, Edwards and Feingold will all run to the left of Clinton.

Other highlights: Carney praising Bush for his shrewd selection of Henry Paulson and Tony Snow (!), and a chat with John Updike about his novel of a teenage Muslim terrorist obsessed with the publishing industry and the sexual mores of middle-class suburbanites.

Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer (Second Hour) featured Army Major General John Batiste, who questions the competency of Donald Rumsfeld. The United States went to war on Rummy’s plan alone, under-resourced and without the recommended 380,000 coalition troops. Rummy overrelied on high tech and doesn’t understanding counterinsurgency operations. Because Rummy didn’t anticipate the insurgency, he allowed the insurgency to take root.

Wolf then assembles his "panel of top generals," "the best in the business." Major General Don Shepperd and Brigadier Generals James Marks and David Grange all disagree with Batisite to one degree or another, asserting that Rummy was not derelict in his duty. Rather, Rummy simply relied on his flawed input from his immediate subordinates and failed to anticipate the size, nature and ferocity of the opposition to invasion. Mission accomplished!

Wolf also debriefed Canada Ambassador Michael Wilson on the terror arrests in Great White North. Wilson didn’t know much. He said the suspects had accepted delivery of ammonium nitrate. He couldn’t explain how the suspects were "inspired by Al Queda" as Canadian authorities have asserted. Wilson said "the internet played an important part" in the suspects’ activities, but "couldn’t say" what part the internet played. Wilson was certain the plot didn’t involve targets in the United States.

Fox News Sunday welcomed back Condoleezza Rice for her first appearance in the last two weeks. (Rice also appeared on Face the Nation and Beard the Wolf; to say the Administration lacks a deep bench is an understatement.) Iran refuses to negotiate regarding its nuclear activities if any preconditions are set, but Rice doesn’t consider that stance a rejection of the European Union proposal since the E.U. hasn’t made a proposal yet. The proposal will be made this week, and Rice won’t discuss its terms because Iran should be allowed to consider it first. Iran must suspend its activities to obtain and enrich uranium, but that’s not an American condition, it’s a European/IAEA/U.N. condition. And Rice won’t set a timetable for the Iranian response, although Iran must respond within a matter of weeks, not months. Success is inevitable.

Host Chris Wallace asks Rice about Prime Minister’s al-Maliki’s assertion that coalition troops are killing Iraqis on a suspicion or hunch. Rice explains that the Prime Minister was speaking about the "concerns of the Iraqi people for greater security."  Well … yes.  She also stated, with not even  the hint of a threat in her voice, that Maliki understands that he needs U.S. forces in his country. 

Rice reaffirmed her assurances from two weeks ago that the Iraq government would have its Interior and Defense ministers in place within "the next few days." Repeat as necessary.

Wallace then spoke with Lindsey Graham (R-SC) Jack Reed (D-RI), who had been recently briefed on Haditha. Reed says the Marines were under tremendous pressure, and that Haditha provides another "strong indication" for the need for rapid redeployment out of Iraq. Graham repeatedly invokes "rule of law principles" and asserted that the matter shouldn’t be tried in the press. Regarding Iraq’s ongoing search for a Defense minister, Graham explains that the ongoing vacancy is due to the fact that "the groups in Iraq don’t trust each other enough to give weapons to the other side." Someone tell Condi.

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