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Id be remiss if

I'd be remiss if I guest-hosted Josh's site and didn't mention this story from The Hill: House Republicans are holding a fundraiser on Wednesday to benefit the legal defense fund of two DeLay associates indicted on money laundering charges. What sort of fundraiser, you ask? A golf tournament, naturally!

US News World Report

US News & World Report has a big Jack Abramoff piece this week. I've followed the Abramoff story closely, and this installment is a pretty familiar rehash of the basic narrative. But a couple of things in it struck me. One is that the Justice Department has been poring through fully 500,000 of Abramoff's emails. That's a reminder of just how much of the conservative lobbyist's enthralling secret world remains unrevealed, despite all the national coverage to date. (It's also a reminder of Sam Rosenfeld's understandable surprise at why Democrats on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee haven't released more Abramoff emails and generally pushed the story harder.)

And in the wake of Abramoff's indictment earlier this month for his role in an allegedly fraudulent Florida business deal, there was also this interesting passage on the current state of the DOJ's investigation into Abramoff's general lobbying and political activities:

Prosecutors often like to use criminal charges from one inquiry as leverage in another, and that may well happen with the investigation underway in Washington. But people familiar with the investigations say prosecutors aren't in a big hurry. "There is no need to rush into this thing," says a person familiar with the Washington inquiry. "It is almost a foregone conclusion that [the grand jury] could indict him anytime [it] wanted to. For now, he spent a night in jail [in relation to the Florida charges]. Let's see what his mind-set is." Prosecutors would ultimately like to secure Abramoff's cooperation, the source added. With more than 40 FBI agents assigned to the case, there is every indication that prosecutors are interested in more than just a couple of lobbyists. The source also confirmed a recent Washington Post report that Scanlon, a former press aide to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, has been in discussions with Justice Department lawyers.

The Washington buzz about Abramoff has subsided for now. But this story is a long way from over. Later today or tomorrow we'll look at a question that has largely slipped through the media cracks about Abramoff, Tom DeLay, and potential Russian arms dealers. <$NoAd$>

The Sheehan Effect Tappeds

The Sheehan Effect? Tapped's Garance Franke-Ruta flags a new ARG poll that shows Bush's approval rating has plummetted to an astonishing 36 percent -- down six points from a month ago.

Update: A reader notes that the recently reliable Rasmussen poll (which almost precisely forecast the 2004 presidential vote) shows Bush at a far healthier 48 percent, which is up five points from early last week. (That's right around when the conservative anti-Sheehan backlash really got rolling, by the way.)

Incidentally, Rasmussen also shows that Americans aren't too crazy about Cindy Sheehan, and that nearly four in ten (and a clear majority of Democrats) think it's time to bring the troops home.

Senator Paul Hackett Youre

Senator Paul Hackett? You're all probably familiar with Paul Hackett, the anti-war Iraq veteran who recently made a stunningly strong showing in a special House election in a blood-red Republican district near Cincinnati. I saw the closing days of Hackett's campaign first-hand, and, while he wasn't always the smoothest candidate, it was amazing to watch how the one-liner "Just Back from Iraq" stopped people in their tracks and made them listen.

It now looks increasingly likely that Hackett will run for Senate next year, against the vulnerable Republican incumbent Mike DeWine. This Cincinnati Post article has current details, including the decision by one top Ohio Democrat to skip the race and the signal from another that he probably won't run -- developments which appear to make Hackett the Dems' de facto candidate.

That's got to terrify DeWine. Although a statewide campaign could test Hackett's raw political skills, he'd be an instant celebrity candidate on par with, say, Barak Obama. And given that Hackett, who thrilled liberals by calling Bush a chicken hawk and an S.O.B., raised around half a million dollars online for his House special election, imagine what he could do in a marquee Senate battle.

But a Hackett Senate bid would channel the same intraparty tensions discussed below. Many Democrats feel Hackett was too anti-Bush for his own good, that his blazing rhetoric may have scared off some war-weary Republicans who nevertheless respect the president. Needless to say, Hackett's liberal champions don't buy that. So if party consultants convince Hackett to hold back on the Bush-bashing in a Senate race, his liberal-blog-fueled fundraising could dry up fast. But Hackett's a cocksure, shoot-from-the-hip kind of guy -- he even lapsed into a Robert De Niro "Are you talkin' to me?" imitation during his House concession speech -- and it's not clear anyone can tell him what to say in the first place.

The Cincy Post says Hackett may soon visit Washington to meet with party leaders about the race. If so, I assume this would be a key topic of conversation.

Divided they fall After

Divided they fall? After the 2004 primaries, fractious Democrats were impressively united in the great offensive to unseat George W. Bush. The party remained fairly monolithic earlier this year, thanks mainly to its widespread loathing for Bush's Social Security plan. But lately solidarity has again given way to a familiar brand of infighting. Two big articles today in the Times and the Post chronicle surging tensions between the party's liberal base and its Washington establishment -- over Iraq on the one hand and the Roberts nomination on the other. Call for withdrawal from Iraq, or support the war while criticizing Bush? Go nuclear on John Roberts, or skip an uphill fight and focus on other issues? The debate rages -- and the wheels spin.

Even some key Democrats fall on different sides of different issues. Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold -- who is thinking about a run for president in 2008 -- is featured prominently as a voice of the base in the Post's story on Iraq. But in the Times, Feingold is lukewarm about pummeling Roberts for political gain.

So if you're wondering why Democrats aren't getting more positive traction out of Bush's dismal approval ratings, one reason is that they simply can't agree on what to do. You better believe that makes Karl Rove a happy man.

Hello TPM readers. Im

Hello TPM readers. I’m honored to be minding Josh’s store while he's gone. And I know that discovering a guest blogger at your favorite site can be like showing up at a ball game to find the star player benched with a pulled hamstring. So I hope to disrupt things as little as possible, sticking mainly to familiar TPM topics -- including one of my personal favorites, Jack Abramoff -- and to (mostly) resist such pet diversions as Bob Mould, The Andy Milonakis Show, and the astounding Grizzly Man.

I'll kick off with one 2008 GOP presidential hopeful's novel perspective on the Iraq mess. Sunday's Washington Post had a big front-pager on the highly ominous rise of Shiite and Kurdish militias within the U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces. It seems the militiamen are carrying out assassinations, abductions, and intimidation campaigns across the country. In Basra, for instance, some uniformed Iraqi policemen don't "serve and protect" so much as execute their enemies and dump their bullet-riddled bodies at night in a garbage-filled lot.

When Republican senator/presidential hopeful George Allen was on ABC's This Week today praising the Bush administration for its training of Iraqi security forces, George Stephanopoulos suggested that the Post's story has some pretty troubling implications for that utterly essential element of our success there. Not to worry, Allen said -- factional divisions are nothing new:

[Y]ou have that even in our United States. We have local police, we have state police, and you have the FBI.

Got that? Bloodthirsty Shiite militiamen really aren't so different from, say, Virginia state troopers. To which a startled-looking Stephanopoulos objected: "They're not militias going out and killing people outside the law!"

It's amazing, come to think of it, that Stephanopoulos didn't burst into laughter. There may be reassuring responses to the Post's story, but Allen's certainly wasn't one of them. Let's hope someone in the White House has a better answer. <$NoAd$>

I am going to

I am going to take advantage of this almost end of the summer week to take a short vacation -- a literal vacation and also a vacation from Talking Points Memo.

I may pop up once or twice this week here or at TPMCafe. But this will be my last regular post until next weekend.

This week I'm going to have two guest bloggers at the site who will hold down the fort while I'm away.

First, Mike Crowley of The New Republic will sign on for the first half of the week. And then he'll be followed in the second half of the week by Steve Clemons of The Washington Note and the New America Foundation.

I'll be back next weekend, with batteries recharged and back to regular posting as the political tempo begins to ramp up once again.