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MediaWatch:Print
Daily Column
US Papers Saturday: Don't Talk about the War
Iraq-Related Coverage a Desert Waste in Today's Dailies
By GREG HOADLEY 12/15/2007 01:55 AM ET
Iraq-watchers seeking fresh news will survey a harsh and barren landscape in Saturday's papers. Not one of the big dailies published today runs a single Iraq-datelined item, and all Iraq-related coverage is buried deep in stories about something else. Didn't anything happen?

With a nod to Dana Milbank for jogging the classic Basil Fawlty reference in his Post column yesterday, we slash open the spiny cacti and probe for whatever moisture we might find within.

Jonathan Weisman's front-pager in the Post examines at the potential fiscal, and political, repercussions of the President Bush's apparent victory in the latest budget battle with the Democratic Congress. One of the fronts in which the president seems to have prevailed is in avoiding tax increases, including holding down growth of the Alternative Minimum Tax, and blocking any new taxes to cover the hole in the budget. Along with this, the president's demand for $200 billion in funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, without tax increases or spending cuts, means that the deficit is about to grow much larger. Click through for much more detail about the other spending issues involved.

As the case of the CIA's prewar relationship with then-Iraqi foreign minister Naji Sabri illustrates, intelligence obtained through clandestine relations with foreign officials is not considered reliable, since anyone passing information on to a foreign intel agency could be a double agent planting a false story. Joseph Weisberg writes in the Post that while Sabri told the CIA that Iraq did not have a WMD program, and this information found its way into official reports, Sabri's association with the Iraqi regime meant that his trustworthiness could not be established, and ultimately the information he provided did not affect policy. "Unfortunately, everyone expects the CIA to recruit sources with access to important secret intelligence, and both Congress and the public count it as a 'human intelligence failure' when there aren't any such sources to tip us off before major events," Weisberg writes, with the debate about American intelligence on Iran's nuclear program in mind.

Presidential candidate Sen. John McCain argues that the Republican base did not "desert" the party in the November 2006 elections because of the war in Iraq, but rather because of the "Bridge to Nowhere," presumably referring to the controversial Gravina Island, Alaska proposal. The senator visited the Wall Street Journal for 75 minutes and Brian Carney, a member of the WSJ editorial board, wrote up the softball interview. McCain also sounds bombastic notes over the US war in Iraq and the Bush "surge" policy, challenging Sen. Clinton to stand by her statement that one would have to "suspend disbelief" to conclude that the surge is "not working."

NEW YORK TIMES

Tumbleweeds.

USA TODAY, CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

No weekend edition.

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