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Security Politics

The New York Times says that the suicide bombing outside the US military base in Afghanistan "killed and wounded American soldiers and Afghan and Pakistani truck drivers and laborers waiting for access at the gate.  The incident was at the first security gate of the base, far from where Mr. Cheney was staying."  More: "Mr. Cheney's trip to the region had been shrouded in unusual secrecy…  This appeared to reflect growing concern about the strength of Al Qaeda and Taliban forces in the region." 

President Bush today takes part in the swearing-in of his new Deputy Secretary of State, John Negroponte.  Iraq and the war on terror will surface in several other venues in the Senate this week, Strick advises.  Today, Iraq war costs and troop funding will likely come up when Condoleezza Rice and Robert Gates testify about Bush's emergency funding request.  And there will more talk about war costs on Thursday, when the Budget Committee hears from Pentagon officials about their annual funding request.  The war in Afghanistan also goes under the microscope on Thursday when the Armed Services panel hears from mid-level military types.

A group of Senate Democrats and the head of the party's governors' association hold a press conference to call for changes in Bush's war policy to protect the National Guard.

And Sen. Joe Biden holds a town hall on Iraq at Dartmouth tonight, which his campaign bills as the first of many he'll be holding throughout the country.  He previews his visit with a Boston Globe op-ed calling for a new Iraq war resolution. 

Roll Call notes that today's caucus meeting will mark the first time that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid "will be able to meet with his rank-and-file membership to discuss the" proposed 2002 war resolution repeal "following the surprise announcement of the reauthorization strategy more than a week ago." 

A new Washington Post/ABC poll shows that "a majority of Americans" -- 53% -- "now support setting a deadline for withdrawing U.S. forces from the war-torn nation," while 58% "support putting new conditions on the military that could limit the number of personnel available for duty there…  The poll also registered a new low on the question of whether the Iraq war was worth fighting.  Thirty-four percent responded that it was, while 64 percent said it was not -- 51 percent strongly."  Bush's job approval rating is 36%. 

The Wall Street Journal puts Democratic lawmakers' dilemma this way: "Can Congress continue to fault U.S. policy from a distance, or must lawmakers take hold of it and risk owning the outcome?...  In the wake of their election losses in November, Republicans have their own divisions over the president's policy.  But Democrats face greater pressure, and the debate exposes internal politics and warring personalities, especially in the House."