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Security Politics

Summing up President Bush's striking speech in Birmingham, AL yesterday, the Los Angeles Times says that in addition to the "cut and run" line, he "angrily accused Democratic leaders... of misrepresenting" the NIE, "said they favored policies that would increase the nation's vulnerability to terrorist attacks," and "singled out statements by... the top Democrats on the House and Senate intelligence committees, although he quoted neither by name." 

Among the details in Woodward's new book, the New York Times says, is that the White House ignored a plea in November 2003 from a top adviser in Iraq that more US soldiers were needed there to stop the insurgency. 

On the detainee bill, the Financial Times reminds us that the Bush Administration had appeared to be on the defensive on the issue earlier this summer, but that a "turning point came on September 6, when Mr Bush reframed the debate about tribunals by announcing plans to transfer 14 high-profile al-Qaeda suspects... to Guantanamo Bay to await trial.  The move transformed an abstruse legal debate into a more personalised one about how to treat those accused of being behind the worst terrorist attack on US soil." 

The Los Angeles Times says "legal challenges almost assuredly will be pursued against the prosecution process." 

The New York Times notes that all the possible Democratic presidential candidates voted against the bill, while Sen. Joe Lieberman voted for it.  "It was a stark change from four years ago, when Mr. Bush cornered Democrats into another defining pre-election vote on security issues - that one to give the president the authority to launch an attack against Iraq." 

The Financial Times previews Bush's meeting today with Kazakh President Nazarbayev: "Mr Bush is expected to seek assurances that US oil companies' interests in huge Kazakh oil projects will be protected,... that Mr Nazarbayev will smooth negotiations for the delivery of his oil," and that Kazakhstan will "approve construction of a natural gas export pipeline across the Caspian." 

While Washington has focused intently on detainee and NSA policy, the Washington Post reports from a nine-day road-trip through the Ohio River Valley that the "debates over Iraq and President Bush shadow virtually every competitive race, but they do not dominate the conversation -- which suits many Democrats just fine.  This month's intense debate over policy toward terrorism detainees, meanwhile, carried hardly any echo at all." 

In his weekly National Journal column, NBC political analyst Charlie Cook repeats what he said earlier in the week: that if the focus in the next six weeks is on terrorism and falling gas prices, then Republicans will likely hold onto Congress; if it's on Iraq, they probably won't.  "My hunch is that the pendulum will swing halfway back, giving the Democrats a better than even chance of taking the House but making the Senate a longer shot."

In the competitive House contest in Iowa between Bruce Braley (D) and Mike Whalen (R), Sen. John McCain will hold a conference call with reporters, sponsored by the Iowa GOP, in which he'll criticize Braley for allegedly suggesting, per the Iowa GOP, that troop funding in Iraq should be cut off.  Will McCain do other conference calls for GOP candidates?  A spokesperson for the Republican National Committee said the party welcomes any help McCain can bring, but to the best of his knowledge, this is the only one planned so far.