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Senate to Hold Hearings on Haditha Killings

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Joining us now for some analysis, as she does every Monday, is NPR's Cokie Roberts. Cokie, good morning.

COKIE ROBERTS, reporting:

Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: How damaging is all this to the Bush administration?

ROBERTS: Well, at a time when they're trying to get out good news about what's happening politically in Iraq, obviously it's damaging. And you have Democrat John Murtha and Republican John Kline, members of Congress and both former Marines, charging a cover-up.

I think it's just another awful example of why Iraq is pulling the president down so much and why you're hearing more talk of a troop drawdown sooner rather than later.

INSKEEP: Mm-hmm. And it happens in a moment when the president is having a wide range of problems with Congress. House and Senate negotiators have been in the middle of trying to work out differences on an immigration bill the president wants.

ROBERTS: Yeah, and that' looking very tough, Steve. Even moderate House Republicans are balking at the guest-worker program and the Senate bill. And here's where the president's lack of clout with his own party becomes an enormous problem.

He's looking at long-term solutions for the country and political gains for the Republicans. They're looking at the short-term - the election of this year. And that frustration between the two boiled over at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue last week in the wake of the FBI raid on Congressman Bill Jefferson's office.

Democratic and Republican leaders protested, saying it was a violation of the separation of powers. The president tried to placate them, and that led several FBI higher-ups to threaten to resign.

So now there's a 45-day cooling off period where both ends of the avenue -again, the investigators into the alleged corruption of Congressman Jefferson are figuring out what they need from his office, and the Congress is trying to figure out what is acceptable to give to them.

It's not much of a win situation for Congress, explaining this to the American people. The cartoons on it have been absolutely devastating, so I think that, in the end, the Congress caves.

INSKEEP: And then are the Democrats, who are watching all this and thinking not only about this fall's election, but about who they might run in 2008.

ROBERTS: And an ABC poll released yesterday on the subject of Hillary Rodham Clinton, certainly the presumed front-runner at this point, gives her some hope and some problems.

Fifty-four percent said they had a favorable view of Senator Clinton, but here's what the Democratic challengers, who there seem to be more and more of these days - here's what they will seize on. Forty-two percent said they would definitely not vote for her. Now, that's versus just 28 percent who said they would definitely not vote for the presumptive Republican front-runner John McCain.

Now, this is all silly before a campaign really begins, Steve, and Senator Clinton will say that she's just getting ready for her Senate campaign and that will start with a video at the Democratic state convention this week in Buffalo. It features her husband saying the so-called experts have counted her out a lot of times and that she should not be counted out.

That Senate campaign is expected to be a cakewalk, and then we'll worry about 2008.

INSKEEP: Okay, thanks Cokie. That's our expert: NPR News Analyst, Cokie Roberts. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Cokie Roberts
Cokie Roberts was one of the 'Founding Mothers' of NPR who helped make that network one of the premier sources of news and information in this country. She served as a congressional correspondent at NPR for more than 10 years and later appeared as a commentator on Morning Edition. In addition to her work for NPR, Roberts was a political commentator for ABC News, providing analysis for all network news programming.
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