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Security politics

The new Gallup poll shows Bush's job approval rating at 44%, his highest in that survey in a year.  Democrats are tied with Republicans on the generic congressional ballot test among likely voters.  "The new poll found likely voters more prone to vote for candidates who support Bush on terrorism, 45%-28%, and evenly divided on those who support and oppose Bush on Iraq.  More than a quarter said Iraq is their top concern this fall.  For the first time since December 2005, a majority of people did not say the war there was a mistake; the split was 49%-49%.  Bush's terror-fighting techniques drew mixed reviews." 

Not surprisingly, the White House got some questions yesterday about the chances of Bush and Iranian President Ahmadinejad winding up in the same room.  A Bush spokesperson noted that they aren't keeping track of Ahmadinejad's schedule, but added he isn't scheduled to speak until 6:00 pm and Bush isn't scheduled to be there at the time.

The Houston Chronicle says that Bush will urge "skeptical" world leaders to join his campaign against Islamic radicalism and Iran's nuclear program.  "Bush is hampered by an increasingly unpopular occupation of Iraq, and he is expected to face an uphill battle in persuading the other leaders to follow his vision for spreading democracy throughout the Middle East." 

Also in his speech today, Bloomberg says, Bush plans to name "former aid chief Andrew Natsios as special envoy for Sudan." 

On detainee policy, the New York Times notes that when Bush talks about the need for clarity for "'alternative interrogation techniques,'" what he really wants "is latitude so the interrogators can use methods that the military is barred from using under a recently issued Army field manual.  Despite his call for clarity, the president has been vague in talking about the alternatives." 

McCain supporter Colin Powell tells the Washington Post in an interview that "he decided to publicly oppose the Bush administration's proposed rules for the treatment of terrorism suspects in part because the plan would add to growing doubts about whether the United States adheres to its own moral code." 

According to the Financial Times, McCain added another former secretary of state to his list of supporters yesterday: George Shultz. 

The AP: "In a further hint of problems for the administration, House officials said their chamber was postponing a vote planned for Wednesday on a bill mirroring Bush's proposal.  Republican officials... said they have encountered resistance and were no longer certain they had enough votes to push the measure to passage through the GOP-run House." 

A day after First Read did it, a couple of papers consider the implications of the detainee policy fight for McCain's presidential bid.  "McCain's willingness once again to confront Bush raises questions about how he will position himself toward the Republican Party's conservative base, which he has aggressively cultivated over the past year," says the Washington Post

The Los Angeles Times also says McCain risks losing support among GOP conservatives, but also that "the high-profile battle could burnish the Arizonan's credentials among admirers who have been concerned about his moves to court the GOP establishment."  Also: "As McCain's profile in the interrogation debate has risen,... Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, widely seen as a leading competitor for McCain's centrist appeal, has forcefully endorsed Bush's position." 

More from the AP: "'Maverick status is looked upon as a strength in Congress, but a maverick in the White House is not looked upon with great admiration from our folks,' Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said Monday." 

Senate Democrats plan to call today for an investigation into the hiring practices of the Coalition Provisional Authority now that "published reports" have shown that "loyalty to the Bush administration trumped qualifications like language skills in hiring staff in Iraqi Reconstruction efforts," which Senate Democrats charge is "more evidence of Bush cronyism and incompetence."