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Daily Column
US Papers Saturday: "Months, Not Years"
While McCain Bemoans "Watching This Train Wreck"
By EASON JORDAN 01/13/2007 02:53 AM ET
This is the first Saturday in months when New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wasn’t the author of the toughest commentary of the day on President Bush. Today, that prize goes to conservative Peggy Noonan, whose withering op-ed appears in the Wall Street Journal.

NEW YORK TIMES

The Times scoops with a report by David Sanger and Michael Gordon quoting Condoleezza Rice as saying President Bush authorized U.S. military forces to instigate a tough crackdown on alleged Iranian troublemakers in Iraq, prompting the arrest of several Iranians in raids condemned by Iraqi leaders.

In a story whose headline focuses on Senate Republicans Rallying to Bush’s Defense, David Cloud and Jeff Zeleny go well beyond that headline to report on the more meaningful news: that Defense Secretary Gates predicted the "surge" of U.S. forces in Iraq would like last "months, not years." He also said if Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki doesn’t step up and deliver, he runs the risk of fed up Iraqis choosing someone else to run the country.

From London, Alan Cowell provides two stories. The first article looks at Tony Blair urging "his successors to maintain thr warlike foreign policy that he promoted, sending troops into battle in Africa and the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Iraq." The second story: a global round-up of reaction to Bush's Iraq speech, with most of it negative.

Back in Washington, Helene Cooper and Thom Shanker report on a spat between Condoleezza Rice and Senator Barbara Boxer. Here’s the story’s second graph: “In an interview with The New York Times on Friday, Ms. Rice suggested that Ms. Boxer had set back feminism by suggesting during the hearing that the childless Ms. Rice had paid no price in the Iraq war.”

Mystery of the day: why no Iraq-datelined reporting in the paper today?

Columnist Maureen Dowd is her usual snarky, sarcastic, Bush-hating self, writing, “I feel good about the new war with Iran.... I say bring it on. If a pre-emptive war in Iraq doesn’t work, why not try a pre-emptive war on Iran in Iraq.”

WASHINGTON POST

The Post fronts three Iraq stories.

The U.S. could derail the troop "surge" before completion if the Iraqi government fails to deliver on its promises, said Defense Secretary Gates in Senate testimony. Correspondents Josh White and Ann Scott Tyson quote Gates as saying we’ll know within months whether the “surge” is successful and that troops could be drawn down before year’s end.

John McCain is anguished and furious because of "this train wreck" in Iraq, write correspondents Dan Balz and Shailagh Murray in a story headlined “The War Within Sen. McCain.” McCain, a booster of the “surge,” says he believes the way the Iraq war has been handled thus far “will go down in as one of the worst” mistakes in U.S. military history.

From Baghdad, Nancy Trejos reports that the U.S. and Moqtada al-Sadr are in a battle for the hearts of Iraqi soldiers, many of whom are Sadr loyalists. The story ends with quotes from disillusioned U.S. soldiers.

The Post features two Iraq-focused commentaries.

Columnist Colbert King says it's time for America to take a lesson from Dr. Martin Kuther King, who voiced his opposition to the Vietnam war in a speech entitled: "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” Colbert King’s message: Americans must heighten their opposition to the war and demand the troops come home.

In a commentary by a correspondent who usually writes in the Post’s Style section, Henry Allen sarcastically calls on Americans to "give the president everything he wants for the war in Iraq" so America can learn a bitter lesson and not repeat the mistakes of Iraq.

WALL STREET JOURNAL

In a commentary headlined “The Two Vacuums,” long-time Republican speechwriter and author Peggy Noonan opens this way: "I had the odd and wholly unexpected experience of feeling supportive of a troop increase until I saw the president's speech arguing for it." Must-read.

USA TODAY

Dark weekends.

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

Dark weekends.

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