What's really happening in Washington this week.

A political calendar.
March 6 2006 7:44 AM

Tim Russert, Horse's Hindquarters?

What's really happening in Washington this week.

Monday

Iran: This time we (might) really mean it: The biggest event in Washington today will actually take place in Austria, where the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency weighs in on Iran's nuclear program, which will then be taken up by the U.N. Security Council. Because Iran failed to reach agreement last week in last-minute talks with Russia and the European Union, Mohamed ElBaradei, the IAEA's chief, will issue a bad report card to Iran Monday. While the Bush administration continues to insist that diplomacy is the remedy for Iran's disobedience, some hawks are getting itchy. On Tuesday, the Hudson Institute hosts a forum with the former chief of the Israel Defense Forces titled "Stopping the Iranian Nuclear Program: Is There an Israeli Option?" Wednesday, the Heritage Foundation hosts a talk titled "Iranian Support for Terrorism: The Shadow War."

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And what are you looking at, Hamas? The powerful America Israel Public Affairs Committee holds its annual policy conference in Washington, and Hamas is on its mind. A priority of this year's session is passage of legislation banning direct aid and prohibiting indirect aid to the Palestinian Authority until Hamas, which now controls the government, abandons terrorism. As usual, AIPAC plays host to pandering leaders of both parties. Monday morning, new House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and aspiring Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards (N.C.) make their pitches. Monday night, Sen. Even Bayh (Ind.), another Democratic would-be president, and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) pay homage. It's Vice President Cheney's turn Tuesday morning, along with House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). Absent this year: Israeli politicians, who, because of the election campaign at home, will address AIPAC via satellite. Present this year: The DC Anti-War Network, which plans to picket on behalf of the Palestinians and Iranians in a demonstration Monday evening.

Tuesday

The DeLay primary: The fallen House majority leader, now an indicted backbencher, faces three challengers for his Houston-area congressional seat in Tuesday's Republican primary. DeLay is forecast to best his foes: Tom Campbell, Michael Fjetland, and Pat Baig. Less certain is if he can get the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff. Then DeLay has to worry about former Congressman Nick Lampson, his well-funded Democratic challenger, in the fall.

Libertarians, out but not down: With the Bush administration vastly expanding the size of government and engaging in warrantless surveillance of some U.S. citizens, the libertarian wing of the Republican Party Bush once scolded as "leave us alone" conservatives has been in retreat. But on Tuesday, the libertarian Cato Institute takes a measure of revenge. It hosts a book discussion with Bruce Bartlett, author of Impostor: How George Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy. Also speaking: Andrew Sullivan, author of The Conservative Soul: How We Lost It; How To Get it Back.

Wednesday

Returning to the crime scene: Bush pays yet another visit to the Katrina-ravaged South. The hurricane last summer sent his presidency into a tailspin from which, as last week's polls showed, it has not emerged. Expect coverage of Bush's trip to New Orleans and Gulfport, Miss., to be spattered with references to last week's appearance of a pre-storm video in which Bush was warned about the New Orleans levees and the potential problems with the Superdome. Back in Washington, meanwhile, the endless Katrina hearings continue. The Senate appropriations committee spends two days inspecting Bush's latest spending request for hurricane recovery. And the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. on Wednesday examines "Hurricane Katrina: Recommendations for Reform."

Flat taxation without representation: The Senate's D.C. appropriations subcommittee holds a hearing "on the potential effects of a flat federal income tax in the District of Columbia."

Thursday

U.S. Department of Window Dressing: The House rules committee holds a hearing on whether to tighten the regulations regarding lobbyist-paid gifts and travel. A few weeks ago, an outright ban appeared likely; now the talk is of cosmetic change. Last week, senators killed a proposal that would have created an office of public integrity to clean up Congress after the Abramoff lobbying scandal. After big talk about sweeping proposals to reduce corruption, lawmakers are now moving toward easier measures, such as new disclosure requirements.

Friday

Early returns: Only 974 days until Election Day 2008, and the first ballots are being cast. Almost all of the Republican presidential candidates will be in Memphis, Tenn., Friday and Saturday for the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, the first dog-and-pony show of the GOP primary campaign. After listening to speeches from George Allen, Sam Brownback, Bill Frist, Mike Huckabee, John McCain, and Mitt Romney, attendees can cast ballots in the Hotline Straw Poll Saturday night. Missing from the speaking roster: Rudy Giuliani, who's a bit too Yankee for this affair.

Saturday

Tim Russert, horse's hindquarters? Washington's Silly Season reaches its pinnacle Saturday night with the Gridiron Dinner, the annual white-tie affair hosted by the éminences grises of the capital's print journalists. For the first time, the Gridiron has admitted television personalities—disparagingly dubbed "Sparklies" by the ink-stained wretches—which could make for some lively entertainment. The new initiates typically have to wear demeaning costumes—such as the rear part of an animal—in the Gridiron skits. With Cheney expected to be in attendance, rumor has it that the newbies may be forced to dress up as quail. Bob Novak, a fixture at the dinner, will skip it because of the ACC basketball tournament. But the rest of Washington's important (or at least self-important) will be on hand to hear stand-up routines by Lynne Cheney, Barack Obama, and Bush.

Dana Milbank writes the Washington Post's Washington Sketch column.