Washington Anticipates Iraq Report's Release

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Some new ideas may surface in Washington this week in the form of recommendations from the Iraq Study Group. The release of the group's long-anticipated report will be the primary topic of conversation across the nation's capital.


Some new ideas may come in the form of recommendations from the Iraqi Study Group, which releases its long-anticipated report this week.

NPR's News analyst Cokie Roberts joins us now. Good morning.

COKIE ROBERTS: Good morning, Deb.

AMOS: The Bush administration has acknowledged that it has to make some changes in its Iraq policy. So is this going to be the blueprint?

ROBERTS: Well, as you just heard in David Greene's piece, the administration is looking around for a blueprint. And I think one of the reasons that you've seen the White House naming its own group to study the policy in Iraq and the reason you had the Rumsfeld memo is that the White House does not want the Baker-Hamilton report to be the only choice - to be dictated to by a creature of the Congress, which is what that commission was. So I think that what you're going to see is a variety of options being put out there, and then the question is does the president take one, does he does some sort of a mix of them - which is the most likely thing - or does he do nothing, which is the other possibility. I think all of that is on the table at the moment.

AMOS: A creature of Congress, yes, but you can already hear creatures of Congress saying different things about this report. So what is Congress likely to do with it?

ROBERTS: There's really not much it can do with it. I think that it has achieved the purpose that Congress had in mind when naming this commission, which was to get the conversation going and to shake up the administration, to say what's going on in Iraq right now is not working. And I think now you really do have a unanimity of everyone, except perhaps the president, saying that, saying that what is now the situation has got to be altered. And Baker-Hamilton have already achieved that purpose.

Now from what we understand it is also likely to call for a troop drawdown, and that achieves a purpose for people who do have to run in Canton(ph) for office, unlike the president, which is to try to get the troops out of Iraq before the 2008 elections because that is going to be very problematic for anybody running for anything at that point if the troops are still there.

AMOS: Oh, and let's talk about that very election, because Democrats seem to be coming out of the woodwork over the weekend. Can you talk a little bit about that?

ROBERTS: Well, it is remarkable that here we are in December of 2006 and you have people actually announcing for president in 2008. Tom Vilsack, the governor of Iowa, the outgoing governor of Iowa, announced last week, yesterday on ABC. Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana said - surprise, surprise, not at all - that he is also forming a committee to look into running. And most tantalizing for people who follow this news is that Hillary Clinton met over the weekend with the incoming Democratic governor of New York, Eliot Spitzer, to talk about her presidential run and is scheduling meetings with others to talk about that, and is apparently also, according to reports, interviewing staff.

And then you have other Democrats making the rounds of the early primary states - John Kerry, John Edwards, the team from the last time around. And in some ways casting the shadow over all of them, Barack Obama, who is really the John Kennedy of this election cycle, and we'll see if that follows through to the end. But the 2008 election is going to be the elephant in the room for everything that happens over the next couple of years.

People will be positioning themselves, particularly those who are currently in the Congress for that election, and making decisions based on it rather than based on how to get legislations through Congress. And that's going to be very difficult. We saw that with Bill Frist as the majority leader of the Senate, making it very hard for the Senate to operate, and now he has announced that he will not run for the Republican nomination. But it does have that effect, and I think we're going to be watching that play out over the next two years.

AMOS: NPR News analyst Cokie Roberts. Thank you very much.

(Soundbite of music)

STEVE INSKEEP, host: Here's another story we're following this morning. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations is stepping down. John Bolton was appointed temporarily by President Bush last year but not confirmed by Congress. Both Democrats and Republicans opposed him. The White House asked again this fall for him to be confirmed but didn't get far. And the White House says that Bolton will leave the U.N. when his term ends, no later than early January.


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