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The most important panel of the past week didn’t take place on any of the Sunday Head Shows. It took place in Las Vegas, where even the slots are liberal.  CSPAN has the video.

I should qualify that statement by acknowledging that I didn’t see This Week with George Stephanopolous, which was preempted by the Iran vs. Mexico World Cup Match. (Mexico won, 3-1.) But I don’t imagine that either the George Will/Donna Brazile roundtable or Will’s chat with Grover Norquist were particularly newsworthy.

Meet the Press was also preempted, by the French Open, but was finally broadcast in the late afternoon. Today’s program led with retired General Barry McCaffrey, filling in for the schedule-conflicted, non-retired General George Casey.

McCaffrey says the death of al-Zarqawi is good news, but no turning point. The threat of civil war is as great as ever, and the deployment of United States forces cannot be maintained at its present pace. Special Operations cannot maintain its pace of deployment. If we don’t draw down to a level of 50,000-100,000 troops by next summer, we "risk breaking the force."

On Iran, McCaffrey thinks Iran will get nuclear weapons within five to ten years,  George Bush’s belligerent and impotent rhetoric notwithstanding.

In the second segment of the program, Markos Moulitsas Zuniga faced off against National Review Cruise gigolo Byron York. Russert starts off with a softball, allowing Kos to agree that blogs are to liberal activists what talk radio is to conservative activists. (Are Limbaugh’s dildoheads really activists?)

Tim then throws a spitter, quoting moose molester and DLC nonentity Marhsall Wittman, who damns liberal blogs as "hyper-partisan and very liberal." Kos swats this one out of the park, pointing out that moderate Harry Reid and centrist Governor Mark Warner were the first and second politicians to speak at YearlyKos. Kos names Mark Warner, General Wesley Clark and Russ Feingold as the top Democratic presidential hopefuls among those in attendance. Senator Hillary Clinton is not favored because she is seen as part of the Democratic establishment. Vice President Al Gore would have a lot of support, were he to enter the race.

Little Lord Byron trots out a quote from Midget Mickey Kaus to bash Kos, and claims that the Kosovars would rather defeat Joe Lieberman than the Republican Senate candidate in Connecticut. As if on cue, Russert shows Ned Lamont’s campaign commercial featuring Kos. Kos decimates York by laying out the bill of particulars on Holy Joe: His support for Bush’s Wars on Iraq and Social Security Recipients, and his consistent undermining of the Democratic caucus. Kos explains that the only litmus test is "don’t undermine the Democratic party." He also explains the obvious: that the Democrats will have no trouble defeating the Republican candidate if Lamont wins. Kos says Dems would support Lieberman against the Republican if he becomes the nominee (but doesn’t mention Lieberman refuses to make that same commitment in the event of a Lamont victory).

Little Lord Byron trots out the preemptive excuse that the 2006 elections will not be a referendum on wingerism; Republican losses will be the result of Bush alienating the base on Harriet Miers, the Dubai Ports World deal and immigration. On CA-50, Russert, quoting the Los Angeles Times, suggests the Bilbray victory shows Bush’s unpopularity alone won’t translate to Democratic gains in November. Kos points out that the Republicans threw $11 million into the race in a traditional Republican district, but also chastises the Dems for failing to follow the Republican lead and throw everything they had into the race.

Fox News Sunday is all about al-Zarqawi and Bush’s "unprecedented two day War Council." 

General Casey, AWOL at MTP, turns up at FNS. He is happy that al-Zarqawi is dead. The DNA’s not back yet, but the late Al-Queda in Iraq leader has been identified positively by his fingerprints and Born to Jihad ass tat. The suggestion that an injured Zarqawi was beaten by U.S. forces is "baloney;" he died while American soldiers attempted to save his life. Casey refused to comment on the need for more or less troops, or the idea of redeploying troops within Iraq to Baghdad.

Chris Wallace then assembled his own Fox News "War Council," comprised of Jane Harman (D-CA), Newt Gingrich and Dan Senor. Harman has a 2-point plan: (1) dump Rummy; and (2) redeploy out of Iraq: the only solution is a political solution, not a military one. The death of al-Zarqawi is a great achievement, but it won’t reduce the insurgency because al-Queda in Iraq is only a small part of the insurgency. 

Newt, as nutty as ever, says we can’t have a political solution unless we kill all the insurgents first.  Newt says we should rely on the opinions of Generals Abizaid and Casey regarding troop levels, but we can’t cut and run. Senor suggests that troops be redeployed to Baghdad, in effect making the entire city of Baghdad a Green Zone. Senor says "If we can’t do Baghdad we can’t do Iraq." And we can’t.

Gingrich also upgraded the reading on his Presidential Run Egometer from "very unlikely" to "unlikely."

During the roundtable, Brit Hume and Bill Kristol both opined that the death of al-Zarqawi is a "very, very big deal" because al-Zarqawi was "an extraordinarily effective leader" (Hume’s words).  Hume also hyped the Bilbray victory and described the 2006 elections as the Culture of Corruption vs. the Culture of Defeat. Hume described Jane Harman as a "person who I much admire," but then claimed that if the Democrats won (the 2004 elections?) al-Zarqawi would still be alive.

Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer Wolf speaks with Neal Puckett, a lawyer for one of the Marines (a staff sergeant) involved in the Haditha incident. Puckett says that everything happened in response to an IED explosion (a point neither disputed nor relevant), that there was no massacre and that the Marines followed the rules of engagement. Puckett’s client has been reassigned (in the United States), has not been charged, is not locked up, and has no restrictions on his liberty.  Reportedly, the client also has the full support of his chain of command.

From Iraq, General Mark Kimmitt says the Haditha Marines should be tried in a military court, not on CNN.

Kimmitt also thinks Osama bin Laden will be located in the future.  In response to Blitzer’s belief that bin Laden is in Pakistan, Kimmitt states "I think if we knew where bin Laden was, we would be going after him at that location."

Wolf also interviews retiring Washington D.C. Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, who has apparently reached mandatory retirement (unless you’re the Pope) of age at 75.  Wolf effusively flatters Bishop Ted, telling his Eminence that he’s just "hitting his prime." Mindful of the Commandments, McCarrick didn’t return the compliment.

On immigration, Bishop Ted agrees with L.A. Archbishop Roger Mahoney that the Catholic Church will not comply with the Administration’s planned prohibition on offering assistance to undocumented workers. The Church can get around the ban by simply offering assistance without inquiring as to immigration status.  McCarrick disagrees with Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) that the Federal Marriage Amendment is an Act of bigotry. McCarrick claims the Amendment doesn’t prohibit civil unions, and suggests that is something the Church could live with as long as marriage was prohibited.  Blitzer, who often looks uncomfortable on topics of sexuality not involving a Democratic politician, paraphrases the Archbishop’s position as "you wouldn’t oppose civil unions between gays and lesbians but wouldn’t want them to be able to get married." McCarrick affirms that bizarre characterization.

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