Capitol Hill is turning into a prominent dateline. Just this week, both House and Senate hearings into military healthcare have made headlines and a Senate panel has probed the firing of federal prosecutors. Now both ABC and CBS again choose the Hill for their lead: a Senate inquiry into bank credit card abuses. Only saturation coverage from NBC, with anchor Brian Williams on day three of his reporting mission to Baghdad, blocked the banking hearings from the top spot. Singlehandedly, NBC made the War in Iraq the Story of the Day.

NBC's Williams explained the system of Joint Security Stations that US and Iraqi forces have devised to try to pacify Baghdad. He flew by helicopter to the neighborhood of Karada with Gen John Campbell to explain the plan--and was clearly more impressed by its difficulty than by its accomplishments. He called them "small victories dwarfed by continuing major attacks." The Blackhawk had to "fly fast and low" to avoid gunfire--that same flight had been hit only yesterday. The police station was isolated, "a tiny piece of real estate in a much wider war." Translators have to work behind masks for fear of reprisals for collaboration. The general and the news crew had to hide for self-protection in a bombed-out building to wait for the flight back to base.

Meanwhile NBC's Richard Engel went on patrol in a "hardline Sunni neighborhood" in western Baghdad. The USArmy cavalry unit in which he was embedded was attacked by mortar fire and snipers--and none of the locals showed any interest in helping the soldiers root out the assailants. A resident explained: "The Americans are part of the problem. In four years they have brought assassinations and civil war. We still do not have gas or electricity. Why should I help them?" Williams checked in with Tim Russert back in Washington DC on the latest NBC News poll on popular sentiment about the prospects for victory in Iraq: 69% are pessimistic; 20% optimistic.

CBS did not file from Iraq but ABC did, and struck a less bleak note. Jim Sciutto offered an inspirational view of the bravery of Iraqi men and boys. Death squads may walk the streets and carbombs may tear markets apart--but the beautiful game is still beautiful. "Soccer! Just about any field or street will do."


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