From Elizabeth Wilner, Mark Murray, Huma Zaidi, and Jennifer Colby
President Bush heads to Amman to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki as a leaked November 8 memo written by National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley has Hadley questioning whether Maliki is up to the job, the Iraq Study Group tries to finish up its work, and the Pentagon prepares a $127 billion-plus supplemental spending request for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the broader war on terror.
NBC's Andrea Mitchell reports that per a member of the Iraq Study Group, they are "pretty far along" in agreeing on draft proposals. They had planned to complete their work yesterday, Mitchell reports, but failed to reach a consensus on key recommendations, so they're meeting again this morning. An official close to the deliberations says there are new ideas in the draft report, but some members of the panel are becoming increasingly discouraged about the odds that the White House and Congress will accept them. The group's target for releasing a report is next week, and the tentative plan is for co-chairs Jim Baker and Lee Hamilton to go to the White House and the Hill to brief principals on the morning of the release, then unveil their findings at a news conference. Earlier this week, the group paused to pose for a class photo taken for a magazine (not Vanity Fair) and shot by celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz.
On Capitol Hill, incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi has avoided a potential security flap, as well as an ethical problem, by passing over Rep. Alcee Hastings (D) for chair of the Intelligence Committee. Hastings is the panel's most senior member behind outgoing chair Jane Harman, but as a former federal judge who was impeached, his baggage would have caused Democrats a headache had he been installed at the helm of this particularly sensitive committee.
There's an unsettled feeling all through the House corridors of the Capitol this week, reports NBC's Mike Viqueira. If 126 or so Republican members have never before served in the minority, consider how many Republican staffers are now grappling with that concept -- or the idea of losing their jobs. Dejected leadership aides wander in and out of the offices they will soon vacate to make way for victorious Democrats. They're wearing jeans and their shirt collars are open. Some are carrying personal effects from their work spaces. Others clutch résumés. The younger ones joke about how their offices have become a "job fair;" the older ones lament the tightening GOP job market in Washington.
Pelosi took a tour of her soon-to-be offices the other day, offices currently occupied by outgoing Speaker Dennis Hastert. They're decorated in all red -- one thing that presumably will have to change, Viq observes. Portraits of Hastert's fellow Illinois Republican Abraham Lincoln, which currently hang in the conference room, are also likely to go.
Pelosi's man in charge of the transition is Rep. Mike Capuano of Massachusetts. His portfolio is soup to nuts, from coordinating the assemblage of the new House rules, including the new ethics guidelines, to divvying up the vast expanse of House-side real estate that has come under Democrats' control as the majority party. Capuano tells Viq that over the past few days, he has inspected rooms around the House chamber that, as a member of the minority for his entire four terms, he had no idea even existed.
He does have one bit of news: Unlike back in 1995 when Republicans claimed the majority, he says that Pelosi wants to give departing GOP committee staffers a severance package. One reporter asked why, after getting it in the neck for 12 years, Democrats would want to take care of Republicans. "Because that makes us better people," Capuano said.
Another group of unsettled Republicans will gather in Miami today as the party's governors meet to dissect the midterm election results, which upended the gubernatorial breakdown from 28 Republicans and 22 Democrats to 22-28. Outgoing Republican Governors Association chair and 2008 presidential candidate Mitt Romney will preside. Apparently Romney's recent efforts to distance himself from his adopted home state of Massachusetts don't extend to his campaign HQ, which the Boston Globe reports will likely be based in the North End.
And among other 2008 news, the community of Mt. Pleasant, IA is hosting a potluck supper tonight for the media horde descending upon the town in advance of Gov. Tom Vilsack's announcement tomorrow that he's running for president. And DraftObama.org has launched, just as the Senator's office has announced that he will set foot in New Hampshire for the first time in his life on December 10.