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ThinkFast: March 20, 2008

“As the economy sours, voters are increasingly demanding immediate government relief,” which is a problem for Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), “whose focus has been on longer-term solutions such as tax and spending cuts and free trade.” “The notion of ‘the market will straighten things out, be patient’ — that has photos of Herbert Hoover juxtaposed with it,” said pollster John Zogby.

Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-NY), a key player in covering up the Mark Foley page scandal, will reportedly announce his retirement today. Reynolds was recently the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, which has come “under fire after millions of dollars went missing in an accounting scandal during Reynold’s leadership.”

The LA Times reports that “turmoil over the war has increased” inside the Pentagon, with some commanders, including Gen. Davis Petraeus, advocating continued high troop levels in Iraq. On the other side “are the military service chiefs who fear that long tours and high troop levels” will leave “the Army and Marine Corps hollowed out and weakened.”

Five years after the invasion of Iraq, military recruiters acknowledge that much of the Middle Eastern immigrant community “remains deeply suspicious of the Army.” The military “has met recruitment goals for its translator program since 2006 after falling short in the first three years of the war.” In 2006, it recruited 277 translators, but dropped to 250 in 2007.

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Former U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix writes that “responsibility for the war must rest…on what those launching it knew by March 2003.” At the time, “Unmovic inspectors had carried out some 700 inspections at 500 sites without finding prohibited weapons. The contract that George Bush held up before Congress to show that Iraq was purchasing uranium oxide was proved to be a forgery.”

A senior Bush administration official told the Politico that confusion over a long-term agreement with Iraq resulted from a sloppy Arabic translation. But, as Jonathan Schwarz reports, Arabic experts say “the available Arabic versions of the Declaration of Principles are almost exactly the same as the official English version, and are likely direct translations from it.”

U.S. and European intelligence officials said that throughout the last ten years, “U.S. spy agencies have had little luck recruiting well-placed informants” within Al-Qaeda “and are finding the upper reaches of the network tougher to penetrate than the Kremlin during the Cold War.”

Vice President Dick Cheney visited Afghanistan today, meeting with President Hamid Karzai ahead of a NATO summit in April “where Washington will urge its allies to send more troops to the war-torn country.” At the same time, Cheney declared that there had been “remarkable progress” in the country, even though 2007 was its “most violent year since 2001.”

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said yesterday “that climate change and pandemic disease threaten international security as much as terrorism and that Britain must radically improve its defenses.” Brown met with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in London today.

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And finally: Tuesday was a “historic day at the Supreme Court” — it marked the first time “Oscar the Grouch entered the annals of Supreme Court jurisprudence.” Justice Antonin Scalia mentioned the character in a “tart rebuke aimed at Chief Justice John Roberts.” Scalia compared Washington state’s primary system to “allowing ‘Oscar the Grouch (Sesame Street’s famed bad-taste resident of a garbage can)’ to endorse Campbell’s soup repeatedly, without allowing the soup company to disavow his statement.”

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