CBS' choice for lead was Iraq. A quartet of retired generals appeared at a Capitol Hill hearing to discuss the President's troop reinforcement plan. It was fitting that David Martin should cover the panel from the Pentagon since he represented a neutral party. In favor of the plan was ABC consultant Jack Keane, but "even he acknowledged that success depends on an unknown quantity," the performance of the government in Baghdad. Opposed was NBC consultant Barry McCaffrey: "with all due respect it is a fool's errand," he testified. CBS' retired brass was not represented.

Yesterday, NBC's David Gregory reported on the jockeying among Democratic Presidential hopefuls over Iraq policy. Next it was ABC's turn. Jake Tapper (subscription required) outlined the "one-upsmanship" between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama and John Edwards. "I will see your cap and raise you a phased deployment. Welcome to the 2008 Presidential campaign," was the soundbite Tapper used from CNN's political analyst Paul Begala.

As for the Republicans, CBS' Bob Schieffer found "virtually no enthusiasm" for George Bush's build-up plan in the Senate. The GOP resolution may say no more than "the President has a right to do this--it will not say that his plan is a good one."

A second strand to the Iraq story was the status of the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

ABC's Dan Harris took the Baghdad angle, where it seems that al-Maliki may have decided to confront his long-time ally Muqtada al-Sadr, the preacher leader of the Mahdi Army militia. "The final attack against has started," Harris quoted al-Sadr in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica as declaring after 400 of his followers were reportedly arrested, "but the Mahdi Army will survive."

NBC's Gregory took the White House angle, where it seems that al-Maliki may have decided to confront his long-time patron, President Bush. In an interview to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Serra the Prime Minister criticized Bush's criticism of Saddam Hussein's execution: "He is overwhelmed by the media and politicians." In an interview with the London newspaper The Times he claimed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's words "are giving moral boosts to the terrorists."


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