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Security politics I: the NIE

The AP on lawmakers' reactions yesterday: "Democrats hoped the report would undermine the GOP's image as the party more capable of handing terrorism as the campaign enters its final six-week stretch...  Three leading Republicans -- Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee, Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky -- defended the war in Iraq and said it is vital that U.S. troops stay in the fight.  None of them had seen the classified report, but were responding to press coverage of it." 

The White House's view, per a spokesperson, "is that much of the radicals' rage at the United States and Israel goes back generations and is not linked to the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq."  The White House is also arguing that the press accounts of the NIE didn't represent the entire document. 

In Connecticut, where Bush is traveling today, Democrats are clubbing their pro-war opponents with the NIE.  Joe Courtney is attacking Rep. Rob Simmons (R): "Rob Simmons should be ashamed of his vote to support George Bush's 'stay the course' policy in June of this year."  Also, with Sen. Joe Lieberman scheduled to give a "major speech on the future of Iraq" today, Democratic opponent Ned Lamont sent him a letter challenging him on the NIE: "With this report being released on the eve of your major address on Iraq, I and thousands of other citizens in Connecticut expect to hear your response to this news in your speech, considering you have echoed President Bush's claim that the Iraq War has made our country safer, and that staying the course will help keep us safe."  Lamont also calls Lieberman "the primary author of the Senate resolution backing the Iraq War policy," and charges that he "opposed every single resolution in Congress that would urge an end to the Iraq War."

(The Hartford Courant reports that in his speech today, "Lieberman intends to offer a new approach for Iraq, without calling for a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops.") 

And on Capitol Hill, Senate Democrats will focus on the NIE in their first unofficial hearing on the Administration's approach to the Iraq war.  The AP says the retired generals who will appear, all of whom served in Iraq and are on the record as critics of the war, will focus on Rumsfeld in their remarks.  "It is unusual for retired military officers to criticize the Pentagon while military operations are under way, particularly at a public event likely to draw widespread media attention." 

A top House Democratic aide says the party's ranks in that chamber also plan to highlight the NIE this week.