Zeitgeist Checklist, Aspersions Edition
What Washington is talking about this week.
What, Us Hurry? Iraq. American and Iraqi officials figure the country has about 90 days to prevent an utter collapse. But James Baker and Lee Hamilton's Iraq Study Group declares that it won't release its recommendations until after the midterm elections to avoid political impact at home. This is little comfort in Baghdad, where violence climbs yet again and generals shelve plans for U.S. troop reductions.
Torturous Compromise Torture. White House deal on torture ends impasse with McCainiac GOP rebels and gives Bush cudgel to use on Democrats. Deal doesn't sanction abuse but doesn't forbid it, and it grants amnesty—not to immigrants but to past violators of Geneva Conventions.
Good for the Jews? Republicans. Who knew? Sen. George Allen, R-Va., qualifies as a Jew under Rabbinic law. The football and cowboy-boot-loving senator bristles at a question about his Jewish heritage at a campaign debate, but his mother, just in time for Rosh Hashana, confirms that she was raised Jewish. This should play well for Allen in Alexandria, but it could be considered an "aspersion," as the senator puts it, in the southern part of the state.
Crazy Foreigner, Part 1
Iran. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in New York for the U.N. meeting, gives his version of a charm offensive, granting interviews to CNN, Time, the Washington Post, and, over the objections of the Bush administration, the Council on Foreign Relations. He again questions the Holocaust and proposes that the United States stop making nuclear fuel and buy Iran's at a 50 percent discount.
Crazy Foreigner, Part 2 Venezuela. President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, which is in a tight race with Cuba and Syria for the final wild-card slot in the axis of evil, repeatedly calls Bush the "devil" in his U.N. speech. Chávez waves a Noam Chomsky book and says Bush had left behind the diabolic scent of sulfur. Chávez sends Chomsky book Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance, into the top 10 on Amazon from 20,664 the day before.
Not in a Million Years Science. Discovery of a well-preserved 3.3 million-year-old fossil of a girl raises hopes that John McCain, 70, will not be considered too old to be president. The ape-girl is believed to have died after eating a bag of prewashed organic spinach.
Bottom Dwellers Scandal. Scientists discover a species of shark off Indonesia that uses its fins as legs to walk on the seafloor. It is the second discovery of a walking shark this month; the first was former Chairwoman Patricia Dunn of Hewlett-Packard, which spied on journalists and board members.
Doctrine of Papal Fallibility Religion. The pope tries twice more to walk away from his remarks on Islam but stops short of a retraction. He says he was merely reading a medieval emperor's view that Islam is violent. But Muslims continue to react with anger and, well, violence.
Captain Freedom White House. Bush extols his "freedom agenda" in his U.N. speech. But White House fails to get advance text of his remarks to Bangkok, Thailand, where a military coup ousts elected Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra while he is at the United Nations learning about the freedom agenda.
Dana Milbank writes the Washington Post's Washington Sketch column.