What Washington is talking about this week.

What Washington is talking about.
July 15 2006 12:52 AM

The Zeitgeist Checklist

What Washington is talking about this week.

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1. New This Week Strong UP arrow
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A Foul Whiff of Freedom
Middle East. Something is spreading in the region, and it isn't democracy. White House blames Iran and Syria for Hezbollah raid into Israel, which bombs Beirut airport, Lebanese bases, and TV station. While Israel also fights Hamas in Gaza and rockets reach Haifa, Bush vows to send Iran's nuke program to the Security Council. Does a regional apocalypse loom? Oil: $77 a barrel. Gas: Fuhgedaboudit.

2. * Reappearing Strong UP arrow

Cruel: More Unusual
War on Terror. Bush's moves to give Geneva Conventions rights to terrorism detainees and to subject his warrantless wiretapping program to court review are seen on the Hill as major caves. Meantime, judicial nomination of Pentagon counsel William Haynes founders over his role in torture memos. Has Congress found its nerve? Don't count on it: A forum at the center-right American Enterprise Institute finds that Congress is at its wimpiest and most dysfunctional in more than a century.

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3. Last week: 1 Weeks on list: 3 Weak DOWN arrow

Next Time, We'll Really, Really Mean It
North Korea. Kim Jong-il appears to have called the U.S. bluff successfully. The United States and Japan pushed for a resolution with teeth—but China and Russia agree to sign on only after removing mandatory sanctions for noncompliance.

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4. *Reappearing weak UP arrow
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All Terrorism Is Local
Homeland Security. India blames Kashmir rebels for bombs on trains in Mumbai (née Bombay), but New York, Washington, Los Angeles, and Atlanta, taking no chances, step up mass-transit security. Senate Republicans join the Bush administration in concluding N.Y. and D.C. are not in harm's way: The chamber knocks down an attempt to restore $750 million in anti-terrorism money taken from the two for the likes of Omaha. Internal review finds DHS thinks a mule festival, ice-cream parlor, and kangaroo conservation center are all critical terrorism targets.

5. Last week: 4 Weeks on list: 3 Flat arrow

He's No Judy Miller
Scandal. Columnist Bob Novak, whose story about Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson started the CIA leak case, confesses that he outed his sources to Fitzgerald. Further indictments are unlikely—but Wilson and Plame try to keep hope alive by filing a civil suit against Cheney, Rove, and Libby.

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6. Last week: 2 Weeks on list: 3 weak DOWN arrow

Crime Emergency
Iraq. In observance of a visit by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, the sectarian violence spreads to horrendous new levels as scores are killed in one of the bloodiest weeks yet. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announces a trip to Washington later this month, but we have our own problems: Police Chief Ramsey declares his own "crime emergency" because of 14 killings this month and robberies on the National Mall.

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7. Last week: 7 Weeks on list: 2 Flat arrow

Chilling Effect
Democrats. Court gives Congress—not to mention Rep. William Jefferson, D-La.,—the cold shoulder, deciding it was OK for the administration to search Jefferson's office after $90,000 of alleged bribe money was found in his freezer. Bad for House GOP leadership's balance-of-power claims; good for GOP midterm campaigns.

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8. Last week: 9 Weeks on list: 2 weak UP arrow

Tubes and Trucks Technology. The tech world is fascinated by Chris Anderson's book The Long Tail about how Internet retailers are spurring a revival of niche products. But Washington, sans Al Gore, isn't so savvy. The House votes to crack down on online gambling. And Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, announces at a hearing that the Internet is "not a big truck" but a "series of tubes." Further, he discloses, "an Internet was sent by my staff at 10 o'clock in the morning on Friday and I got it yesterday."

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9. Last week: 8 Weeks on list: 3 weak down arrow

Now Where Is That Veto Stamp?
Culture wars. President Bush has been in office for five and a half years without vetoing a single piece of legislation. But he's threatened to veto legislation expanding federal support for stem-cell research. The House has already passed a bill defying Bush, and the Senate takes it up this week after overcoming reluctance to debate a social issue that favors Democrats.

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10. Last week: 6 Weeks on list: 3  strong DOWN arrow

Great Expectations
Economy. Stocks plunge over oil fears while Bush gets little credit for a bullish budget forecast. Everybody downplays the crowing after economists friendly to Bush call a lower deficit forecast the result of earlier, inflated forecasts. A reminder that Medicare and Social Security are going bust comes in paragraph 31 of Bush's 39-paragraph East Room speech.

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