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Security Politics

The Financial Times: "Although [Bush] delivered a stern warning to North Korea over the consequences of its nuclear test, analysts say the US has few options but to rely on its international leverage, which has been severely weakened by the war in Iraq.  Critics say the Bush administration blundered in trying to confront North Korea in late 2002 just as it was committing itself to invading Iraq." 

"The story of Monday's announcement of a nuclear test is one of failed policies, neglect and missed opportunities by the Bush administration and its predecessors," the Los Angeles Times says.  "It is also the story of how a cagey dictator, Kim Jong Il, took advantage of the United States' entanglement in Iraq to advance his nuclear agenda."  The story suggests that normalization of relations between the United States and North Korea "appeared imminent" at the tail end of the Clinton Administration. 

The Washington Post points out that the Administration "has reached a crisis point with each" of the three nations Bush once called the "axis of evil."  "The deteriorating situation in Iraq has undermined U.S. diplomatic credibility and limited the administration's military options, making rogue countries increasingly confident that they can act without serious consequences.  Iran, meanwhile, will be watching closely the diplomatic fallout from North Korea's apparent test as a clue to how far it might go with its own nuclear program." 

Another Financial Times story, pointing to the "politically charged" statements issued yesterday by the GOP's Hill leadership, says, "With only a month to go before mid-term congressional elections many Republicans believe the tests could help restore their waning prospects...  Republicans almost always benefit from any rise in the 'fear factor' among voters in the US.  However, Monday's move by Pyongyang could cut both ways." 

NBC political analyst Charlie Cook writes in his CongressDailyAM column, "With four weeks to go, the nuclear test in Korea should serve as a reminder that events could shift this spotlight yet again on to more favorable, or at least less unfavorable, terms for the GOP.  For now, though, it is in a really bad place...  Four weeks is a lifetime in politics, and things could change a lot.  But for Republicans to salvage their majorities in the House and the Senate, a lot would have to change." 

MSNBC.com looks at how some Democrats pounced on the news.  "Where Democrats usually criticize Bush for what they call a 'go it alone' strategy in Iraq, on Monday some Democrats took the opposite tack, criticizing him for being too multilateral and not unilaterally negotiating with North Korea...  Most Democrats were not highly specific Monday about what they would do about Korea if they were in charge." 

Sen. John McCain (R) will hold a press conference on North Korea in Michigan today; he's there campaigning (for president and) for the GOP Senate nominee.

The Senate Democratic Policy Committee announced yesterday that their first field session on the Administration's conduct of the Iraq war will take place on Thursday in Chicago and will focus on the training of Iraqi security forces.  The scheduling of the hearing for Chicago may be designed to give a boost to Democratic House candidate Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran who lost both legs in combat and is now seeking to replace retiring Rep. Henry Hyde (R) in a traditionally GOP-leaning suburban seat.

"One year after the Army failed to meet its annual recruiting goal by the widest margin in two decades, the Pentagon is to announce this week that the ground forces, and the rest of the military, all reached their targets for recruits in 2006," the New York Times says.