Private E-mails Next White House Worry?

Karl Rove
Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove leaves the White House with President Bush, not shown, Monday, Oct. 30, 2006, for a day trip to Georgia and Texas to attend political fund raisers before returning to Washington later tonight. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)

The Skinny is Joel Roberts' take on the top news of the day and the best of the Internet.

A private e-mail system used by Karl Rove and his top deputies at the White House may be the latest headache for the already migraine-addled Bush administration.

According to a report in Monday's Los Angeles Times, back in 2001, the Republican National Committee provided Rove and others with laptops and a "back channel email and paging system" to be used alongside their government-issued equipment. The purpose was to avoid charges that government resources were being used for political campaign purposes.

Now, Democrats say there's evidence suggesting the RNC's e-mail system was being used for political and government policy matters – which would be a violation of federal rules.

Further, Democrats say some e-mails obtained through ongoing inquiries suggest the system may have been used to conceal activities such as contacts with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Democratic congressional investigators are seeking access to the RNC-White House communications system, which, the Times says, was used by several top White House officials besides Rove.

That prospect has the White House nervous. Some Republicans fear the e-mails may contain previously unavailable inside information about the administration's political activities.

"There is concern about what may be in these e-mails," one GOP activist said.

The private e-mail system first came to light in the controversy over the firings of eight U.S. attorneys when a Rove deputy used an RNC e-mail account to correspond with the Justice Department about dismissing one of the prosecutors.

Is It Safer In Iraq?

Is the Bush administration's security push in Baghdad working, as the White House and supporters like Sen. John McCain assert? Or are conditions in the Iraqi capital as dangerous as ever, as Democratic critics claim?

Nearly two months after the push began, the New York Times offers an assessment of its progress Monday, and the results are decidedly mixed.

While overall death rates for all of Iraq have not dropped significantly, the Times says the number of victims of sectarian death squads in Baghdad has dropped, and some parts of the capital appear calmer, as more U.S. troops stream into the city.

But there's been little indication that the push is achieving its main goal of creating a stable environment in which rival Iraqi factions "can try to figure out how to run the country together." The Times says there's been "no visible move toward compromise on the main dividing issues, like regional autonomy and more power sharing between Shiites and Sunnis."

And Baghdad has become a far deadlier place for American forces. In the seven weeks since the push began, the rate of U.S. fatalities in Baghdad has nearly doubled from the previous period, from 29 to 53. The overall rate of U.S. deaths in Iraq has stayed about the same.

Clinton Inc.

The Wall Street Journal takes a look Monday inside the "potent political machine" that is the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign.

While the "charismatic" Barack Obama can generate media buzz and draw large crowds, and John Edwards has strong appeal to the Democratic Party's liberal base, Clinton's greatest asset, the Journal says, is the strength of her national political organization.

That organization helped Sen. Clinton top the field in first-quarter 2007 fundraising with a record $26 million.

The Journal says Clinton's staff is packed with experienced political professionals, including many former members of Bill Clinton's presidential campaign teams. Hillary Clinton's organization is "a direct descendant" of the one that propelled Mr. Clinton to victories in the 1992 and 1996 presidential races, and then helped her to easy wins in the 2000 and 2006 Senate contests in New York.

And what's Bill Clinton's role in his wife's campaign? The Journal says the former president is one of the campaign's "pillars," advising his wife and often making appearances on her behalf.

A NOTE TO READERS: The Skinny is now available via e-mail. Click here and follow the directions to register to receive it in your inbox each weekday morning.