Prosecutors, War Funds and White House E-Mail

Debate is raging in Washington, D.C., over the firing of eight U.S. attorneys, the conduct of World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, funds for the Iraq war and missing White House e-mails. Much of the furor can be attributed to the Bush team's second-term blues.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

The attorney general's testimony is hardly the only thing occupying Congress as it returns from spring break. Joining us now for some analysis is NPR's Cokie Roberts.

Good morning.

COKIE ROBERTS: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: The funding for the Iraq war is still front and center.

ROBERTS: And the president and vice president both, over the weekend, made strong cases against the Democratic plan to set a time period for U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq. The president and vice president both called the Democratic plan irresponsible. The president went on the radio to say the surest route to failure in Iraq was the Democratic plan.

And the vice president took the rare moment of going to the press, which he hardly ever does. He appeared on the CBS program "Face the Nation" to be very critical of the Democrats, particularly Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid. Again calling the Democratic plan to withdraw ridiculous and saying - and irresponsible - and saying that he was sure that eventually the Congress would pass what he called clean legislation, something that would just give the troops their money and have no strings attached.

MONTAGNE: What is the Congress likely to do about the money to keep the war going?

ROBERTS: Well, the congressional leadership goes to the White House on Wednesday morning to meet with the president on this, but it does not appear -the vice president says they're not going to negotiate, the president's just going to tell them what they want.

Senator Reid has said, look, the troops are going to get the funding they need. And Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin says, well, if the timeline is out - he implies that that could be the case - that there will still be, quote, "very strong, clear statement to Iraq that it must meet the benchmarks in the legislation to keep the soldiers in Iraq and to take responsibility for its own war."

Look, Renee, we know this is a huge fight in Washington and the Iraq war is an enormous problem for this administration. Today in the Washington Post, one of the people that the administration has asked to serve as a quote, unquote, "war czar" overlooking both Afghanistan and Iraq explains why he didn't take the job.

Retired Marine General John Sheehan says the White House doesn't have a clear view of what it wants to do in Iraq, so he couldn't take on the job of overseeing the war. This will continue to be the biggest problem facing the administration, with lots of other problems as well.

MONTAGNE: And one of the chief architects of the Iraq war, Paul Wolfowitz -formerly of the Defense Department, now of course head of the World Bank - he's caught up in a scandal.

ROBERTS: He is, indeed. Over the weekend, a World Bank committee said it was very concerned about his role in giving a girlfriend, his girlfriend, a job. She did work for the World Bank. He went to work there, he moved her out of the bank and into a very high-paying job at the State Department.

Today, the New York Times had an editorial saying Wolfowitz should quit. Not because of his role in the war, says the Times, but because he went in to the World Bank on an anti-corruption platform and now he is somewhat tainted.

Wolfowitz says he will stay on. Again, this is one of those situations where Paul Wolfowitz has ruffled a whole lot of feathers in Washington. And people have been looking for ways to get him, and he now seems to have given them one.

And even though he is not officially part of this administration anymore as head of the World Bank, although in a position appointed by the president of the United States, it's indicative of what happens six years into an administration. Everybody starts to get tired and arrogant and sloppy, and administrations start to fall apart at this point.

MONTAGNE: And Cokie, just briefly, the president's right-hand man, Karl Rove, he continues to be the object of Democratic scrutiny.

ROBERTS: Another case where he has given his enemies some ammunition. Congress has called for White House e-mails dealing with the firings of the U.S. attorneys we heard about earlier, and a whole batch of his are missing. So it gives the opposition the opportunity to talk about such things as the 18 minutes of missing tapes from the Nixon White House, and they're doing that.

MONTAGNE: Thank you very much, NPR News analyst Cokie Roberts.

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