Iraq Report Headed For Salad Bar?

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While Iraq Study Group co-chair James Baker said the White House must not treat the panel's report, released yesterday, "like a fruit salad," (you know, leaving behind the Honeydew and just eating the strawberries) it appears that President Bush may end up doing just that.

Following his statements during a joint news conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair yesterday, that is what the papers indicate will be Bush's much-anticipated response to the report. In this case, the Honeydew includes two of the panel's "most fundamental recommendations: pulling back American combat brigades from Iraq over the next 15 months, and engaging in direct talks with Iran and Syria," writes the New York Times.

Baker is not the only person concerned about a potential fruit-salad scenario. Ret. Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni told the Washington Post: "Cherry-picking ideas and sending them into the bowels of the stovepiped bureaucracy to execute will result in more of the same uncoordinated, differing priorities, mess." The quote everyone is mentioning came from Bush during the presser, telling a British reporter who inquired about Iraq, "I thought we would succeed quicker than we did, and I am disappointed by the pace of success," Bush said.

He is expected to "present his latest approach to Iraq in a speech to the nation before Christmas," writes the Los Angeles Times.

While Bush may be balking on some aspects of the ISG's recommendations, The Wall Street Journal reports that a "tentative plan" that "meshes with one of the key recommendations" from the ISG is under way among military commanders in Baghdad.

The strategy "could more than double the number of American troops involved in training Iraqi soldiers." The plan "isn't expected to require" adjustments in the number of American troops in Iraq, but it would shift many soldiers and marines into "advisory roles."

The Journal writes that the plan will likely be presented to incoming Defense Secretary Robert Gates, during his upcoming visit to Baghdad, and implementation may be one of his first decisions in the post. (That, and whether his office should be painted beige or dark green.) Military officials say that the speed with which the Iraqi army improves "could ultimately determine how quickly U.S. troops could withdraw from the country," writes the Journal.

Bleak Homecoming For Some GIs Back From Iraq

For those reservists and National Guard members who have returned home to the U.S., USA Today reports that those who have "been reassigned, lost benefits or been fired from civilian jobs after returning from duty has increased by about 30 percent since 2002."

The increase "reflects the extensive use of part-time troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, the largest call-up of reserves since the 1950-53 Korean War," writes the paper. Lt. Col. Marc Garcia, who has been deployed twice since Sept. 11, 2001 – to Afghanistan and in the U.S. – told the paper that "After the 1991 Gulf War, 'I was welcomed home with ticker tape. This time, I get the door slammed in my face.'"

OMG, Obama Like Totally Touched Hillary's Elbow

While sweeping changes in Iraq might not materialize by 2008, The New York Times reports that new federal guidelines will probably make electronic voting machines that don't leave a paper trail obsolete. Let's hope we don't get a bunch of candidates without paper trails. Then there will be no fun Jack Abramoff-esque e-mails to read.

In other 2008 election news (with only two years left, it's really down to the wire, people) The Washington Post offers a description of the U.S. Senate that makes our nation's most deliberative body sound a lot like my 6th grade home room -- a 6th grade home room in which Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are the coolest kids at school.

Writes the Post: "Neither Clinton nor Obama has formally declared a candidacy, but their rivalry is already the talk of the chamber, an amusing sideshow for Democrats and Republicans -- at least the handful who aren't weighing their own White House bids." Indeed, interactions between the two candidates – yet to actually announce their candidacies – are interpreted much like that of a diary entry submitted to Seventeen magazine.

"In the fishbowl of the Senate, interactions between Clinton and Obama are frequent and closely scrutinized. During a routine vote yesterday morning, Obama and Clinton brushed past each other on the Senate floor. Obama winked and touched Clinton on her elbow. Without pausing, she kept walking," writes the Post.

Sen. Ted Kennedy tells the paper that it's soooo not, like, a rivalry. The two are, like, totally friends. "There's no sort of pettiness or jealousy that I see. They understand the momentous nature of what the search for the presidency is all about," he said. Yes, Sen. Kennedy, we all look forward to the momentous nature of what the presidential campaign is all about.