Pakistan, Clinton, Elections

Pakistan is facing new unrest, and offering a new challenge to U.S. officials hoping for good relations as an ally in the war on terror. Democrats vying for president have been attacking frontrunner Hillary Clinton. A number of states hold elections Tuesday; at stake are districts to be drawn for the 2010 census.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

Steve Inskeep is in Boston visiting member station WBUR.

And here in Washington, D.C., the foreign policy establishment is looking anxiously east of Iraq today - over Iran, past Afghanistan, to Pakistan. Over the weekend, Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency, suspended the constitution and appointed new members of the Supreme Court. Here, he's heard citing Abraham Lincoln's civil war presidency as a model.

President PERVEZ MUSHARRAF (Pakistan): He broke law. He violated the Constitution. He usurped arbitrary party, trampled individual liberties. His justification was necessity.

MONTAGNE: That's Pervez Musharraf. His move has prompted protests mainly by Pakistan's legal establishment. It also poses enormous challenges to the Bush administration. The administration has supported Musharraf as a crucial ally in the war against terrorism.

Joining us, as she does on Mondays for analysis, is NPR's Cokie Roberts. Good morning, Cokie.

COKIE ROBERTS: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: The political turmoil in Pakistan comes as more and more public opinion polls show Americans are unhappy with the direction of this country. Is the Pakistan situation likely to add to that concern?

ROBERTS: Well, it's another country that is at unrest. And there's some sense here that the war on terrorism - the United States continues to support the government in Pakistan because it's an ally in the war on terror, at least in theory, and that the - it is taking its toll on the democracy - I mean, hearing Pervez Musharraf quote Abraham Lincoln, or invoke Abraham Lincoln, is a little much. But - so I think it's likely to be just another area of upset to American voters. And what you're seeing in the latest polls, within all the polls, is about three quarters of the country is saying that we're off on the wrong track. Now that's mainly about the war in Iraq - and to some degree Afghanistan. But it's also unease about the economy, about health care, about a whole variety of issues. And it spells bad news for incumbents of all stripes.

MONTAGNE: And in all of these polls, Senator Hillary Clinton does remain the clear frontrunner among the Democrats. But she's certainly been taking it on the chin since the Democrat's debate last week.

ROBERTS: Indeed. The Democratic candidates all did pile on on her in that debate. And her campaign put up something on their Web site called piling on or politics of piling on. And then everybody said, oh, she's playing the gender card. She went to Wellesley College and said this all women's college prepared me for the all-boy game of presidential politics, which is essentially a statement of truth. But look, she's being accused of having it both ways, but of course, all the candidates have it both ways. They have the advantages and disadvantages of whatever it is they have, whether it's being mayor of New York, that's an advantage and a disadvantage for Rudy Giuliani.

She is clearly doing well with women. In the latest ABC poll, in a head-to-head match-up with Giuliani who's the Republican frontrunner. She gets 56 percent of the women and wins the poll. He gets 51 percent of the men and looses. So is she using the gender card? Sure, she is. But she's going to - the disadvantages of being a woman as well.

MONTAGNE: And Cokie, just as - very quickly. With all these talk about the presidential election next year, there's a real election to tomorrow that could affect the make up of Congress.

ROBERTS: Well, that's right. They're - the state legislature elections of Virginia and New Jersey, Louisiana and there are state House - one House in each place that could be up for grabs. The 2010 census will be drawn. The districts from that census will be drawn by legislatures that get elected tomorrow. And that could have a tremendous impact on how they come out for members of Congress.

MONTAGNE: Cokie, thanks very much. NPR's senior news analyst, Cokie Roberts.

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