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The morning after a bill calling for a U.S. pullout from Iraq cleared the House, there are a variety of stories in the morning newspapers on the status of the war and the political battle at home – none of which offer much solace for the Bush administration.
The Wall Street Journal reports on a new poll showing the public backs Congress in its showdown with the White House over Iraq.
The WSJ/NBC poll finds that by 56-37 percent Americans support setting a withdrawal date for U.S. troops. The poll also finds only 12 percent see improvement in Iraq since the start of President Bush's troop "surge."
That lack of progress is echoed in a new U.N. report cited by USA Today which finds that the humanitarian crisis In Iraq is "rapidly worsening," and violence rising. The report also accuses the Iraqi government of withholding figures on civilian deaths because the data could undermine public opinion – a charge the government dismissed.
And despite the Bush administration's arguments to the contrary, the Los Angeles Times reports Iraqis themselves are unconvinced that their lot has improved. Interviews throughout Iraq found "a minority of Iraqis said the security plan had made their lives better." Most cited "continued violence and additional headaches brought about by checkpoints and road closures."
Meanwhile, both the New York Times and Washington Post point out that Democrats plan to send their final troop withdrawal legislation to President Bush early next week, nearly four years since Mr. Bush's infamous "Mission Accomplished" speech. The Post calls that a "particularly pungent political anniversary" for the start of what's expected to be a brutal veto fight.
White House Defends Political Briefings
In more Washington political drama, the Washington Post reports that the White House has disclosed some details about controversial meetings at which senior government officials were briefed on GOP electoral prospects.
The Post says White House officials held 20 such briefings for officials in at least 15 government agencies last year to apprise them of "which seats Republican candidates might win or lose, and how the election outcomes could affect the success of administration policies."
While government employees are barred under the Hatch Act from engaging in partisan political activity, the administration maintains that the meetings "were appropriate." Officials told the Post they were merely "informational briefings about the political landscape."
At least one of those meetings, though, is being investigated by the Office of Special Counsel. And the chairman of the House oversight committee, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., wants to know more. "Politicization of departments and agencies is a serious issue," Waxman said.
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