ThinkFast: July 25, 2006

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said of the Mideast violence that has claimed hundreds of lives, “We’re seeing here is, in a sense, the growing — the birth pangs of a new Middle East.”

“Despite jubilation within conservative ranks” over the renomination of John Bolton as U.N. Ambassador, “it remains unclear” whether conservatives “will be able to muster enough support to break an expected Democratic filibuster, Senate aides on both sides of the aisle said.”

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Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) is readying a bill that would allow Congress to sue President Bush over his use of presidential signing statements “with the view to having the president’s acts declared unconstitutional.” The House and Senate leadership have decided to put off a vote to lower estates taxes until after the August recess. The delay is considered a “major blow” to the estate tax effort because “the legislative calendar will be crowded with other measures” when Congress returns from its break.

Most Americans blame Hezbollah “a great deal” for initiating the current Mideast crisis, a new USA Today poll shows, though half also say Israel was justified in responding but has now “gone too far.” “Two-thirds say President Bush does not have a clear Mideast policy.”

The White House said yesterday it has long known about Pakistan’s growing nuclear program that was revealed publicly in yesterday’s Washington Post. “It just didn’t feel like telling Congress, which instead learned about it a few days ago from independent analysts.”

The Christian Science Monitor finds, not surprisingly, that the practice of earmarking is “ingrained in Capitol Hill culture.” Case in point: Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) “is attempting a major expansion of the FBI in his state, earmarking millions of dollars for Huntsville facilities the White House did not ask for.”

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President Bush’s stem cell veto has “had the unintended consequence of drawing state money into the contentious field,” as Govs. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) and Rod Blagojevich (D-IL) backed millions of dollars in grants to stem cell research.

37%: Bush’s job approval rating, which “seems to have reached a plateau in the 37% to 40% range since mid-June.” Only 35 percent of Americans approve of Bush’s handling of Iraq.

And finally: Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman has proposed a new punishment for graffiti vandals: bind them in a medieval-style stocks and give the public a chance to paint their faces. “I want to see if it falls under cruel or unusual punishment. If not, great. Let’s put it into effect.”

What did we miss? Let us know in the comments section.