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The Situation: Friday, August 19

Editor's Note: The Situation Report is a running log of dispatches, quotes, links and behind-the-scenes notes filed by the correspondents and producers of CNN's Washington Bureau. Watch "The Situation Room" with Wolf Blitzer on CNN 3 p.m. ET to 6 p.m. ET weekdays.

"Intensive diplomacy" for US ambassador as clock ticks to Iraq's constitution deadline,







John Roberts
Justice and Rights

Posted 6:45 p.m. ET
From Andrea Koppel and Elise Labott, CNN State Department Unit

US Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalizad on Friday skipped a previously-scheduled phone briefing with journalists on the Iraqi constitution process because he was too busy with what the State Department called "intensive diplomacy."

Deputy State Department Spokesman Adam Ereli said Khalizad was working all day with various Iraqi political groups in an effort to forge a compromise on the drafting of a constitution before Monday's deadline. "We are being asked to provide ideas and we are doing that," Ereli said.

China detains American

Posted 5:00 p.m. ET
From Elise Labott, CNN State Department Unit

The State Department finally admitted that an American suspected of spying for Taiwan has been under house arrest in China for more than two months.

State Department officials said Friday the Chinese government put Xie Chunren under "residential surveillance" in the province of Chendu on May 31 "under suspicion of espionage for Taiwan." Officials from the U.S. consulate in Chendu have visited Xie three times since his detention and are in regular contact with his son in the United States.

No one will say whether they believe the charges are true or false.

Major drug busts

Posted: 4:00 p.m. ET
From Terry Frieden, CNN America Bureau

Federal drug agents Friday arrested more than 160 people in New York, Los Angeles, New Haven, Connecticut and Des Moines in a series of operations designed to crush three major Mexican and Colombian drug trafficking rings, the Drug Enforcement Agency announced. Arrests were also made in Colombia and the Dominican Republic.

The DEA says agents carried out 65 search warrants in the four cities which resulted in the arrests as well as disrupting 27 drug distribution groups operating within the United States. Authorities say the ten month investigation showed the groups were involved in moving methamphatime, cocaine and heroin and other drugs.

The DEA sting carried out Thursday and Friday, dubbed Operation Three Hour Tour, resulted in seizures of more than 3,000 pounds of cocaine, 55 pounds of methamphetamine, and 15 pouneds of heroin, 10,000 doses of ecstacy and more than $5 million in cash. Marijuana and crack coacaine was also seized along with 58 vehicles and 52 firearms, the DEA announced. Officials say the three drug transportation rings busted were responsible for moving 4,000 pounds of cocaine, 20-30 pounds of heroin and in excess of 50 pounds of methamphetamine a month throughout the United States.

Flashback to 1994

Posted: 2:15 p.m. ET
From Wolf Blitzer, CNN Washington Bureau

When I heard about that rocket attack against two U.S. warships docked in Aqaba, Jordan, my mind flashed back more than a decade. It was 1994. I was then CNN's Senior White House correspondent covering the signing of the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty in Aqaba.

President Clinton had flown to the Jordanian port -- right next to the Israeli port town of Eilat -- for the ceremony. The late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the late King Hussein of Jordan joined hands with President Clinton for the historic event.

Jordan had become the second Arab country to enter into a full peace with Israel. Egypt's late President Anwar Sadat had signed his agreement with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Began on the north lawn of the White House in 1979. Jimmy Carter helped broker that deal.

Those were upbeat, seminal moments in the history of the Middle East, and I was privileged to cover both of them. The peace agreements between Israel and Egypt and Jordan remain in effect. That is very positive.

Now, there's hope the Israelis and the Palestinians might move their peace process forward. Let's hope.

Virus hits U.S. Customs' computers

Posted: 10:03 a.m. ET
From Mike Ahlers, CNN America Bureau

A virus struck U.S. customs computers in seven major airports Thursday evening, leading to delays in processing passengers arriving from overseas as officials resorted to manual methods, a Department of Homeland Security official said.

DHS spokesman Russ Knocke said computers were knocked out for about four or five hours, but that security was not compromised.

The virus hit computers at JFK Airport in New York, Dallas-Fort Worth, Miami, Houston, San Francisco and Laredo, Texas. While delays varied at the different airports, officials at Miami reported what seemed to be the worst.

"It didn't happen at the same time at all the different places," Knocke said, but all of the computers were restored by late Thursday night and are now operating normally, Knocke said.

The Morning Grind

Posted: 9:15 a.m. ET
From John Mercurio, CNN Political Unit

John Roberts' lady problem

As they say on Broadway, we're going dark next week, and the week after that, to try to salvage some fun out of the final weeks of summer. We'll still be chained to our desks, of course, workin' like dogs, shakin' those trees for those big late-August scoops and beatin' down doors for those big interviews. Just like all of you are doing, right?

See you all Sept. 6th.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, on with the show. (No applause, please).

More than 38,000 pages of documents released yesterday give us a better sense of John Roberts and what some now call his "lady problem." All's quiet at Camp Casey today after Cindy Sheehan left to care for her ailing mother. So today, we're all about Roberts.

CNN's Bill Mears, Joe Johns, Robert Yoon, Melissa McNamara, David DeSola, and Xuan Thai reviewed the latest dump of documents, which covered Roberts' work as a White House lawyer in the Reagan administration from '82 to '86. Here are some findings:

Most notably, Roberts dismissed a corporate award for women over age 30, saying, "some might question whether encouraging homemakers to become lawyers contributes to the common good."

The young lawyer made the comment as a personal aside after being asked to examine whether Linda Chavez, then the White House director of public liaison, could nominate one her aides to a "rising star" award sponsored by the Clairol beauty care company. The $1,000 grant was designed to honor women who "made a significant change in their field" after turning 30.

The aide, Linda Arey had left teaching to enter law school. She had encouraged many former homemakers to enter law, while working as a dean at Richmond Law School. Roberts, whose job in part was to decide conflict of interest and ethics issues, concluded that the award was proper.

The comment, one of many flip remarks Roberts made in official documents being reviewed this summer, annoyed women across the ideological divide yesterday. "It kind of sounds like a smart alecky comment," Phyllis Schlafly, the president of the conservative Eagle Forum, who entered law school when she was 51, told the Washington Post. Schlafly noted that Roberts was "a young bachelor and hadn't seen a whole lot of life at that point."

But, she added, "I don't think that disqualifies him. I think he got married to a feminist; he's learned a lot."

White House spokesman Steve Schmidt defended Roberts, saying he's guilty of nothing more than having a "good sense of humor."

Also, in September '83, Roberts argued against supporting an Equal Rights Amendment for women. Roberts wrote that the "idea is neither theoretically nor practically sound." He said that the administration's "support of a modified ERA would be a dramatic shift- would likely cause more harm than good."

We were also interested in an analysis Roberts wrote of a review of Laurence Tribe's "God Save This Honorable Court" be Donald Lively. Roberts, who served as a legal aide to William Rehnquist, said, "I am not entirely unbiased, but I found Lively's critique of Rehnquist's views and some of his judicial opinions not only shallow and unconvincing, but an offensive 'bashing' calculated to endear the author to liberal academia. Rehnquist's views, for example, are labeled 'careless,' 'reckless,' 'self-serving' and 'disingenuous.'

Even more notable from this writing, however, was Roberts' view on the Senate's role in voting on SCOTUS noms. "Frankly, neither this review nor what I have read of Tribe's book strike me as a serious undertaking worthy of response," he wrote. "Some justices live up to the expectations of those who appoint them; some do not. The Senate is free under the Constitution to consider whatever it cares to consider in voting on a nominee."

Later in '83, Roberts and Fielding were wrestling with a mini-controversy over a tricked-up postcard that depicted Reagan's wife as "Queen Nancy."

At Fielding's request, Roberts drafted a letter stating the administration's opposition to the card, which took a stock shot of the First Lady and then superimposed a crown and robe. But, as Roberts wrote, "the draft was not easy to prepare because as I have indicated in my original memorandum, I do not believe we have any recourse to stop publication of this postcard." In his draft letter to the greeting card company Roberts said the postcard is in "extremely poor taste," but he stopped short of demanding they discontinue the card.

Five months later, Roberts notified Fielding of another distasteful postcard, this one showing Nancy Reagan snorting cocaine. Roberts wrote that it does little good to contact the card company and that its "better simply to ignore them."

* And finally today, an update to our ** Scarborough Senate Decision Watch ** ...

Slightly ahead of the schedule we laid out yesterday, Joe Scarborough is hinting that he won't run to challenge Rep. Katherine Harris in the GOP Senate primary in Florida next year. Scarborough said he's listening to NRSC and RNC officials "out of respect," but will probably decide in the next "few" weeks not to run.

"I'm not eager to do it," he told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune newspaper. "I'll listen though."

Political Hot Topics

Posted: 9:15 a.m. ET
From Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau

ROBERTS OPPOSED WOMEN'S RIGHTS LAWS: Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr. consistently opposed legal and legislative attempts to strengthen women's rights during his years as a legal adviser in the Reagan White House, disparaging what he called "the purported gender gap" and, at one point, questioning "whether encouraging homemakers to become lawyers contributes to the common good." In internal memos, Roberts urged President Ronald Reagan to refrain from embracing any form of the proposed Equal Rights Amendment pending in Congress. Washington Post: Roberts Resisted Women's Rightsexternal link

NEW METH PLAN JUST A PR PLOY, CHAIRMAN SAYS: A federal anti-methamphetamine plan unveiled Thursday by the Bush administration is yet another example of how the administration is floundering in its efforts to combat the nation's top drug problem, Republican members of Congress said. "If this is a cohesive national policy, it is embarrassing," said GOP Rep. Mark Souder of Indiana, chairman of the House subcommittee that handles national drug policy. He suggested that the initiatives announced Thursday may be just a public relations ploy aimed at curbing congressional criticism of the administration's lack of response to the illegal meth problem. USA Today: GOP lawmakers bash administration proposal on methexternal link

SHEEHAN LEAVES CAMP: Cindy Sheehan, who lost her soldier son last year in Iraq, abandoned her anti-war vigil near President Bush's ranch Thursday to return home to California to be with her ailing mother. Shirley Miller, 74, had suffered a stroke, Ms. Sheehan told supporters at her roadside camp. She did not know when she might return. "I'll be back as soon as possible, if it's possible," Ms. Sheehan said as she left abruptly with her sister, who's been at her side in Texas the last two weeks. Ms. Sheehan's soft-spoken but dramatic announcement came on Day 13 of her vigil to demand a meeting with the president on the war in Iraq. Dallas Morning News: Protesting mom to visit ailing motherexternal link

WELD TO RUN FOR NY GOV: William F. Weld, the colorful former Republican governor of Massachusetts, said yesterday that he planned to run for the same job in New York next year, hoping his platform of tax cuts and social liberalism will make him the first two-state leader since Sam Houston. Mr. Weld, a native New Yorker who is now an investment adviser in Manhattan, said he had been encouraged to run by former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, an old friend, among others. New York Times: Weld Tries Again to Be Governor, but in New Yorkexternal link

PA GOP WANTS RULING ON NEWSPAPER AD: The Pennsylvania Republican Party asked the Federal Election Commission yesterday to investigate a Scranton Times-Tribune advertising campaign that the GOP says unfairly advocates the Democratic U.S. Senate candidacy of State Treasurer Robert P. Casey Jr. The party filed a complaint seeking a ruling on whether the TV, billboard and bus advertisements, which feature a mock newspaper with the headline "Casey to run for Senate," constitute an illegal corporate contribution in one of the country's most closely watched 2006 Senate races. Philadelphia Inquirer: GOP seeks inquiry on newspaper's adexternal link

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