Political Roundup: Iraq Update, Clinton in the News

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Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker this week will update members of Congress about the progress in Iraq. Also on Capitol Hill, thoughts are on the presidential race: Hillary Clinton's top strategist quit the campaign Sunday.


We turn now to NPR News analyst Cokie Roberts for the inside track on all things political. Good morning, Cokie.

COKIE ROBERTS: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Now the big event this week in Congress will be testimony from General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker about progress in Iraq, and the three presidential candidates will be there very much in the thick of it.

ROBERTS: Absolutely. This is where being a member of Congress has its pluses and minuses for the presidential candidates. I think that you're going to see a lot of the debate about Iraq and the Iraq war going on in the course of these hearings from those candidates. John McCain is expected to make a speech today on foreign policy, and, of course, he has said that the surge is working and that we should stay the course, allowing the United States to quote, "win," in Iraq.

The Democrats will, of course, point out the political failures in Iraq. And also, Democrats are more and more turning to the tie between the war in Iraq and the bad economy here. That is something they are stressing, saying all these billions of dollars being spent in Iraq, and they could be spent on the home front. You can be sure that they will not be attacking General Petraeus. That certainly backfired on them before.

And I don't think you're going to see much - too much confrontation at all. There's a sense on Capitol Hill that the voters have had it with confrontation. That's why Senators came together last week on the housing bill, excuse me, and there's more to come on that legislation, particularly in the House. And that all gets tricky for these candidates, because they have to vote on a lot of things that can be very dicey for them. For instance, trade agreements are coming down the pike, and that can be another really hard issue for these candidates.

MONTAGNE: Well, speaking of trade, that issue has just forced Hillary Clinton's top strategist to quit the campaign.

ROBERTS: Mark Penn has been forced out of her campaign, and that is because in his - wearing his other hat as a PR man for corporate entities as the head of a big PR firm, he met with the Colombian government to work on promoting their trade agreement at a time when Candidate Clinton is saying she's against that trade agreement when - because the Pennsylvania primary is a couple weeks away, and trade is very unpopular there. You know, this is a big problem with political consultants, Renee. They wear these other hats with other clients, usually corporate clients. And Barack Obama's strategist David Axelrod has another PR firm, a separate firm, same address as his political firm. And the longer this campaign goes on, the bigger problem it becomes for these men who run these firms because their corporate clients start getting antsy thinking they're ignoring them.

MONTAGNE: Now we're about a week away from tax day, and late Friday Senator Clinton made public her tax returns. That made headlines, $109 million she and her spouse, Bill Clinton, have earned since 2000. Now the spotlight's on John McCain. What do we expect there?

ROBERTS: Well, Hillary Clinton, of course, released those forms after a lot of pressure from Barack Obama, and now McCain is getting that pressure. He says he'll release his April 15th or there abouts, and his health records, too - a bigger issue for him because of his age and sometimes bad health. And that keeps coming up, and that makes his vice presidential pick a bigger issue, which he says himself. And interesting reports this week that Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State, might be running for that job.

MONTAGNE: Cokie, thanks very much. Analysis today and every Monday from NPR's Cokie Roberts. And you are listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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