From Elizabeth Wilner, Mark Murray, Huma Zaidi, and Jennifer Colby.
There's a milestone for everyone, whether you're interested in 300 million Americans, the prospect of the Dow at 12000, or today marking three weeks until election day. You know which one the White House has in mind as it tries to re-center the midterm election debate on the war on terror, and re-center that debate on Iraq. "Iraq is the central front in the global war on terror that began five years ago," Vice President Cheney told members of the Army's 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell in Kentucky yesterday. "Al Qaeda has operatives in Iraq right now."
The White House is touting this day, on which President Bush will sign the compromise and controversial detainee trial and treatment bill into law, as an "historic day." NBC's Kelly O'Donnell reports that about 150 people will attend this morning's bill-signing, including much of the Administration's security team (minus the traveling Condoleezza Rice), and that Bush will seek to make the case that the legislation "will help prevent terrorist attacks."
Asked a battery of questions about the White House's view of the extent of the bill's provisions yesterday, White House spokesman Tony Snow said their legal counsel "is actually putting together a paper" to help him lay out the "definitions that outline what constitutes torture," which he plans to share with, but not release to, the press corps today. "It's not like a formal release, it's just me trying to do my homework," he told reporters. He also said there will be no presidential signing statement.
Critics, meanwhile, will continue to try to make Iraq central to their argument against the Administration's security policies -- that the war has weakened the Administration's ability to deal with, for example, the nuclear threat from North Korea.
Pennsylvania is starting to feel like the new Ohio -- the next state where a series of scandals may collectively turn voters off of the GOP. It's the only state with about as many endangered Republican-held seats, including a Senate seat and four House seats. Among other locations, the FBI has raided the homes of the daughter and close friend of one of those vulnerable members, Rep. Curt Weldon, who's being investigated for possibly steering lucrative consulting work their way. Another, Rep. Don Sherwood, for whom President Bush will campaign on Thursday, is endangered because of an adulterous affair. Sen. Arlen Specter, who's not on the ballot this year, is cooperating with a probe of whether one of his staffers directed business to her lobbyist husband.
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid announced yesterday that he'll amend his disclosure of a complicated land deal to more fully account for how the deal reaped him over $1 million. He also has Christmas bonus issues.
Per Democratic Rep. Dale Kildee, the House page board held a conference call yesterday "about other allegations... not about Mr. Foley," NBC's Mike Viqueira reports. Kildee refused to be more specific, repeating that these were "only allegations." He could have been referring to retiring GOP Rep. Jim Kolbe since, as NBC's Investigative Unit has reported, federal officials are investigating Kolbe's behavior on a camping trip with two House pages 10 years ago.
"Nobody is saying that Democrats will be picking up 50 seats, or even 40 seats. But could this hit 25 or 30 or 35 seats in the House? Heck yes," barring unforeseen circumstances, writes NBC political analyst Charlie Cook in his latest NationalJournal.com column. "Democratic voters are spitting nails and can't wait to vote while their Republican counterparts are showing signs of despondency and may be impervious to party pleas to turn out and vote, no matter how elaborate the program is. That's how midterm election debacles occur - disproportionate turnout."