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First thoughts

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro 
*** 9/11 Remembrances Take Back Seat To 9/11 Politics: Since that tragic day exactly six years ago, 9/11 and the run-up to the anniversary have served as a time for politics to take -- sometimes ever so slightly -- a backseat to remembrances. But this 9/11 is a bit different, thanks to the Petraeus report and the fact that the GOP front-runner is the front-runner because of 9/11. Politics takes a break today -- but only for a few hours. That's what happens when the anniversary takes place in the heat of a campaign and a major policy debate. Today, President Bush has already attended a service of prayer and remembrance and has participated in a moment of silence on the White House's South Lawn. Hillary Clinton also took part in a commemoration ceremony in New York, and Romney attended a wreath-laying ceremony in Boston.

*** Rudy In The Spotlight: Yet perhaps no one will be in the spotlight more than the man who earned the nickname "America's Mayor" after the 9/11 attacks -- but who also has come under plenty of criticism for his actions before and after that day: Rudy Giuliani. This morning, he speaks at a 9/11 memorial event at Ground Zero. Despite receiving some negative comments for mixing the remembrance of the attacks while running for president, a new USA Today/Gallup poll finds that a whopping 92% of respondents believe that it's appropriate for Giuliani to attend these memorial services. (Similarly, 85% say it's appropriate for Clinton to attend them as well.) In addition, the poll shows that 60% think that Giuliani should be able to refer to his role in the 9/11 attacks to demonstrate his qualifications for president. Yet a smaller percentage -- 51% -- say that his experience makes him more qualified to handle terrorism as president; 48% say it doesn't make him more qualified.

*** Mission Accomplished? Today's 9/11 anniversary is also Day Two of Petraeus' and Crocker's testimony on Capitol Hill. Yesterday, as liberal columnist EJ Dionne writes this morning, the pair's assessment of the surge seemed to provide the White House with what it wanted all along: more time. Today, Petraeus and Crocker go before the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees, where they might face more hostile questioning than they received yesterday -- due in large part to the Democratic presidential candidates who sit on those panels. Biden chairs Foreign Relations, which also includes Dodd and Obama. And Clinton and McCain serve on Armed Services. 

*** MoveOn, MoveOn -- These Aren't The Droids You're Looking For: So who was testifying yesterday on Capitol Hill? Petraeus and Crocker? Or MoveOn's Eli Pariser? The GOP lawmakers found their talking points, as it seemed two minutes didn't go by without a Republican lawmaker mentioning the print MoveOn ad attacking Petraeus. While congressional Democrats were clearly uncomfortable defending MoveOn, one can't help but wonder if the GOP doth protest too much. The party's message machine was so focused on MoveOn that they didn't actually talk much about what Petraeus said. The attacks on MoveOn's very low-key newspaper ad begs the question: Did they not want to debate the surge on its merits?

*** Hsu-ing Away A Problem? You've heard of dumping bad news on a Friday evening? Well, the Clinton campaign found an even better time to dump the bad news that it was returning $850,000 raised by Norman Hsu -- the evening before 9/11, which just also happens to coincide with the busiest news day in the Iraq war (at least in terms of Washington coverage) in six months. The campaign may have found as good of a day as they could to bury this story, but they ought to realize this will come back. The next time we'll hear Hsu's name? In about 20 days when the campaign reports its 3rd quarter fundraising. Docking themselves nearly a $1 million is not good for the bottom line. By the way, did the campaign overlook Hsu's questionable tactics a few months ago because they were so desperate to keep up with Obama's fundraising?

*** Tennessee, We Have A Problem: Yesterday, we said Thompson hadn't yet made a flub like Wes Clark did in 2003 (when he couldn't answer reporters' questions whether or not he would have voted for the 2002 Iraq war resolution -- a big no-no for someone campaigning as the anti-war general). But now, we're not so sure: Can a Republican presidential candidate really flub what they'd do with Osama, not once (symbolism) but twice (due process)?

*** On The Trail: Elsewhere today, Gravel holds a press briefing in New York on foreign policy; McCain begins his "No Surrender" tour in Iowa; and Paul speaks at a foreign policy forum at Johns Hopkins' School of Advanced International Studies in DC.

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