- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 31, 2007

‘Surreal’ debate

“Viewed from Iraq, where we just spent eight days meeting with American and Iraqi military and civilian personnel, the political debate in Washington is surreal,” Michael E. O’Hanlon and Kenneth M. Pollack write in the New York Times.

“The Bush administration has over four years lost essentially all credibility. Yet now the administration’s critics, in part as a result, seem unaware of the significant changes taking place,” said Mr. O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and Mr. Pollack, director of research at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the same liberal-leaning think tank.

“Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily ‘victory,’ but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.

“After the furnacelike heat, the first thing you notice when you land in Baghdad is the morale of our troops. In previous trips to Iraq, we often found American troops angry and frustrated — many sensed they had the wrong strategy, were using the wrong tactics and were risking their lives in pursuit of an approach that could not work.

“Today, morale is high. The soldiers and Marines told us they feel that they now have a superb commander in Gen. David Petraeus; they are confident in his strategy, they see real results, and they feel now they have the numbers needed to make a real difference.”

Stevens search

Federal agents yesterday searched the home of Sen. Ted Stevens, Alaska Republican, focusing on records related to his relationship with an oil-field services contractor jailed in a public corruption investigation, a law-enforcement official told the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.

Mr. Stevens, 83, has been under a federal investigation for a 2000 renovation project more than doubling the size of his home in Girdwood that was overseen by Bill Allen, a contractor who has pleaded guilty to bribing Alaska state legislators. Allen is founder of VECO Corp., an Alaska-based oil-field services and engineering company that has reaped tens of millions of dollars in federal contracts.

Agents from the FBI and Internal Revenue Service arrived at the senator’s home yesterday afternoon, said Dave Heller, FBI assistant special agent. A statement from Mr. Stevens‘ office said justice would be best served if he commented after the investigation.

Thompson crowd

Former Sen. Fred Thompson’s fundraiser at the J.W. Marriott ballroom last night drew about 300 people, two Republicans who attended the event told Ralph Z. Hallow of The Washington Times.

Admission was $1,000 a person, but some of those attending had already given the maximum allowed under federal law and did not have to pay to get in and get their pictures taken with the Tennessee Republican and former actor.

Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander introduced Mr. Thompson to the crowd, which included such prominent Republicans as former Rep. Bob Livingston of Louisiana, about 15 current House members, former presidential candidate Gary Bauer and conservative activists Grover Norquist and Clifford May.

It was announced during the fundraiser that between June 4 and June 30, Mr. Thompson’s political action committee raised $3.2 million.

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