The Zeitgeist Checklist

Zeitgeist Checklist, Special Habeas Edition

What Washington is talking about this week.

Key Misjudgments War on terrorism. President Bush tries to counter leaks with more leaks, but the “key judgments” of a National Intelligence Estimate on terrorism pretty much confirm the original, unauthorized leak: that the Iraq war has increased jihad. White House takes solace in report’s finding that leaving Iraq now would make things even worse.

More Corpus, Less Habeas Torture. Congress blesses White House-McCain deal on military tribunals and interrogation rules for detainees. GOP’s Arlen Specter wing suffers a double defeat: His plan to extend habeas corpus to detainees is rejected, and his legislation on warrantless surveillance dies.

Pining for Halliburton Iraq. Army posts a help-wanted ad for a contractor to conduct polls and focus groups to assess coalition’s PR efforts in Iraq. Focus-group moderators will probably want to avoid asking about the $75 million Baghdad Police College, which is built so poorly that feces and urine pour through ceilings in student barracks; the builder, Parsons Corp., has botched 13 of 14 projects, investigators find.

Waiting for Woody State of denial. With a new Bob Woodward book coming out, Washington plays its biennial game of which media outlets can publish the famed Washington Post reporter’s scoops before he does so in his own newspaper. Last time it was Vanity Fair and NBC. This time the prize goes to CBS and the New York Times.

Do-Nothingest Midterms. With five weeks before the election, the House adjourns for the year without reaching 100 days in session, setting a record for the fewest working days. Even with a brief lame-duck session planned, the House will shatter the slothful standard set by the “Do-Nothing Congress” of 1948, when the House met for 110 days.

You’re Killing Me, Pervez! Diplomacy. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf takes a weeklong American book tour that includes an interview with Jon Stewart. But funnyman Musharraf finds a tough critic in Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who, visiting the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, says his neighbor is harboring Taliban leader Mullah Omar. reports that “Dictator Pervez Musharraf can be rearranged to spell ‘A true VIP from crazed trash.’ “

Oh, Deer Republicans. Poor George Allen’s re-election tour of cultural sensitivity grows more zany by the day, from macaca to the Virginia senator’s embrace of his Jewish ancestry to this week’s claim by a college football teammate that Allen put a severed deer’s head in a black person’s mailbox. But if Allen feels persecuted, it could be worse: Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., resigns after reports of e-mails he wrote to a 16-year-old boy asking for a photo and what he wanted for his birthday.

Rupert’s World Democrats. Bill Clinton attacks Chris Wallace on Rupert Murdoch’s cable news channel. Condoleezza Rice attacks Bill Clinton at editorial board of Murdoch-owned newspaper. Clintonistas say that by defending his terrorism record so vigorously—he even used the finger wag—he’s sending signals to Democrats to get tough. But it’s more likely that he’s helping Republicans change the subject from Iraq.

Far Out Science. NASA’s Mars rover Opportunity arrives at the rim of Victoria Crater and transmits images that thrill. The rover will spend the next several months looking for somebody on the red planet who can say whether Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Terrell Owens attempted suicide or merely suffered an allergic reaction to a large quantity of painkillers.

Jazzed Scandal. House investigation finds that Jack Abramoff had 485 lobbying contacts with White House officials over three years, including 10 with Karl Rove. One Abramoff e-mail reports Rove being “really jazzed” about getting tickets from the lobbyist; another orders Rove’s table at Abramoff’s restaurant to be given “wine on the house.”