What Washington is talking about this week.

What Washington is talking about.
July 8 2006 7:10 AM

The Zeitgeist Checklist

What Washington is talking about this week.

1. Missile Dysfunction

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North Korea: The Bush administration is relieved that North Korea's long-range missile misfired in a Fourth of July test, but it still backs a Japanese U.N. Security Council resolution to punish Kim Jong-il. The Chinese and Russian judges give the resolution low scores, putting the issue, along with Iran, into another classic U.N. stalemate. This time, Bush is eager to avoid a confrontation; pre-emption is messier when the other guy has nukes.

2. Uppity Maliki

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Iraq: The drip-drip-drip of allegations about atrocities by U.S. troops continues—and the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki wants to rethink the immunity given American soldiers. Maliki isn't mollified by U.S. charges filed against a former Army private in a rape-and-murder case; he plans to open his own probe. Meanwhile, violence spreads in the region: Israel invades Gaza and calls airstrikes in response to Palestinian rocket attacks and the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier.

3. ¿Cómo Se Dice "Chad"?

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Mexico: In blatant imitation of the U.S. political system, Mexicans hold their own disputed presidential election, and the script is familiar. The conservative, Felipe Calderón, wins the official count, but the leftist candidate, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, refuses to concede and vows a court fight. The dispute appears headed for the Mexican equivalent of the Supreme Court (and a 5-4 decision?). Fortunately, the next president doesn't take office until Dec. 1, which gives Katherine Harris plenty of time to straighten things out.

4. Stiff Sentence

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Enron: The Jack Abramoff and Valerie Plame scandals have (temporarily) dropped from the Zeitgeist because of a lull in the action. But Enron re-emerges as Kenneth Lay, awaiting sentencing for fraud and conspiracy, suffers a fatal heart attack. The White House eulogizes "Kenny Boy" by reminding everybody that he was only an "acquaintance" of Bush and not a "friend." At least Lay's lawyers can now ask the court to erase his conviction.

5. Let's Take This Outside

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Immigration: House Republicans, determined to defeat the "guest worker" program favored by Bush and the Senate, start "field hearings" to try to prove that the Senate plan would be a boon to terrorists. The Senate judiciary committee retaliates with a pro-guest-worker hearing in Philadelphia. Bush goes to Dunkin' Donuts. Nobody's terribly optimistic about agreement on an immigration bill this year although everybody professes to want one.

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