Today, Bush meets with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and UN Ambassador John Bolton to talk about North Korea and attends a dinner with Muslim leaders. "North Korea's apparent nuclear test last week triggered the kind of partisan sniping rarely heard when the United States faces an international crisis," notes the Hartford Courant, which focuses on how it played in the already up-and-running presidential race.
"Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said in an interview with USA TODAY that his government will not force militias to disarm until later this year or early next year, despite escalating violence in Baghdad fueled by death squads and religious warfare. Al-Maliki's remarks point to a growing gap between the U.S. and Iraqi governments over how to handle growing sectarian violence... Al-Maliki also predicted a significant U.S. troop withdrawal starting early next year, despite the growing violence."
Sen. Chuck Hagel has joined his GOP colleagues John Warner and Olympia Snowe (as reported in First Read last week) in calling for a change of course in Iraq.
Former Secretary of State Jim Baker, now co-chair of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, does MSNBC's Hardball today. Baker's group "intends to propose significant changes in the administration's strategy by early next year," reports the Los Angeles Times. "Two options under consideration would represent reversals of U.S. policy: withdrawing American troops in phases, and bringing neighboring Iran and Syria into a joint effort to stop the fighting... If the panel recommends overhauling Bush's approach to Iraq, it could give a boost not only to critics of current policy but also to officials in the administration who have argued for broad changes."