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US Papers Saturday: Allies or Gangsters?
Fast-tracking the "Surge," Maliki's Drawdown Talk, Bush-Whacking
By EASON JORDAN 01/27/2007 01:55 AM ET
Today's papers feature mini-scoops, solid reporting, a miss or two, and a double dose of NY Times Bush-whacking.

Comments by Defense Secretary Robert Gates during a Pentagon news conference yesterday resulted in starkly different reports in the NY Times and the Washington Post today. In a report headlined “Gates Working to Accelerate Deployment,” the Washington Post's Ann Scott Tyson quotes Gates at a Pentagon news conference as saying he's working to fast-track the deployment of US forces to Iraq. This development seems to have been overlooked altogether by the NY Times (unless I’m missing it), whose David Cloud report on Gates's comments mostly examined the stark differences between Gates and Rumsfeld when it comes to news conferences. The Cloud report, which focuses more on style than substance, includes this choice paragraph:

“I have no idea,” Mr. Gates said in response to a question about the number of Iranian operatives in Iraq. If posed to Mr. Rumsfeld, such a question might have prompted a long discourse about “known knowns” and “known unknowns” and “unknown unknowns,” the subtext of which was that the press was slightly ridiculous for even asking.

Now on to the rest of what's in the papers.

NEW YORK TIMES

Playing catch-up after the Washington Post’s scoop yesterday, Mark Mazzetti and David Cloud report on President Bush and his deputies justifying American actions against Iranian operatives in Iraq. The exclusive nugget in this report: the US ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, will hold a Wednesday news conference at which he’ll supposedly present a damning dossier of evidence against the Iranians in Iraq.

From Baghdad, Marc Santora reports on the horrific bombing at the Baghdad pet market, where 15 people were killed, as were many animals. “In the chaos after the blast, snakes slithered through bloody streets where animal carcasses were jumbled with human remains,” Santora reports.

From Washington, Kate Zernike reports on Iraq-related Hill developments, including House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer saying “Congress might consider legislation revising the authorization it game President Bush in 2002 to use military force in Iraq.” Buried in this story is a sentence that calls for a reality check: Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki telling US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during her surprise Baghdad visit that Iraqi forces are ready to take on the country’s security. Either that’s a misquote or he’s delusional.

Former NY Governor George Pataki -- a potential Republican president candidate -- broke ranks with President Bush by opposing boosting US forces in Iraq unless the Iraqi government does more to prove itself worthy. Raymond Hernandez reports Pataki’s remarks came during a speech at Georgetown University.

A double dose of Bush-whacking on the editorial pages today.

First, in a column headed "Daffy Does Doom," Maureen Dowd rips both Bush and Cheney. She describes the vice president as beyond delusional and says of the duo: “It requires an exquisite kind of lunacy to spend hundreds of billions destroying America’s reputation in the world, exhausting the U.S. military, failing to catch Osama, enhancing Iran’s power in the Middle East and sending American kids to train and arm Iraqi forces so they can work against American interests.”

The paper offers an editorial of its own, entitled "Bait-and-Switch White House." The gist of it: Bush’s State of the Union olive branch of bipartisanship ended a day later with Cheney telling CNN that whatever Congress does on Iraq, “it won’t stop us.” The editorial says, “We were left asking, once again, Who exactly is running this White House.”

WASHINGTON POST

"Bush Defies Lawmakers to Solve Iraq," reads the headline of the report by Michael Abramowitz and Joanthan Weisman. This story covers Bush decribing himself as the “decision maker,” quotes Defense Secretary Gates as saying “Any indication of flagging will in the United States gives encouragement” to the enemy, and quotes a GOP Bush loyalist, Mitch McConnell, as saying time is running out for the president on Iraq.

From Baghdad, Ernesto Londoño scoops with Iraqi PM Maliki telling Nancy Pelosi that he'd like the U.S. to reduce its troop presence in Iraq by 50,000 by the end of the year.

Walter Pincus reports General Petraeus's thought of perhaps using the Iraqi Facilities Protection Service (FPS) force of 150,000 men as part of Plan Baghdad is causing concern on Capitol Hill because the FPS is renowned for its sectarian allegiances and was not long ago described by Iraqi PM Maliki as big trouble.

From Ramadi, Joshua Partlow reports on US forces teaming up with tribal sheikhs to reduce violence and increase the number of police recruits in troubled Anbar province. One potential problem: Some in the area believe the tribal sheikhs are “gangsters.”

From Washington, Michael Ruane reports on plans for a big anti-war march in DC today, with speakers including Jane Fonda, Danny Glover, Susan Sarandon, and Jesse Jackson.

Hamil Harris pens an obit for Army 1st Class Sgt. Floyd Lake who was among those killed when a US chopper crashed in Iraq's Diyala province last weekend. He previously worked at the National Guard headquarters in Arlington and was one of four soldiers from the DC area killed in that helicopter crash.

WALL STREET JOURNAL

No original reporting.

USA TODAY

No weekend edition.

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

No weekend edition.

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