The Range

So You Say You Want a Resolution?

The latest declassified National Intelligence Estimate suggests that the situation in Iraq continues to go straight to hell.

The Washington Post reports that the estimate "outlines an increasingly perilous situation in which the United States has little control and there is a strong possibility of further deterioration."

The NIE doesn't come right out and say the words "civil war," but it does warn that the Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence has surpassed al-Qaida as the leading cause of murder and mayhem. It indicates that without U.S. troops, the Iraqi government would likely collapse and predicts that the country isn't likely to stabilize before the middle of 2008, according to the Post, which notes that U.S. Sen. John McCain chewed the ass of Gen. George W. Casey Jr., who is looking for a promotion to Army chief of staff.

WaPo staff writers Karen DeYoung and Walter Pincus report: "In acid remarks yesterday to Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the departing U.S. commander in Iraq, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) noted that 'things have gotten markedly and progressively worse' during Casey's 2 1/2-year tenure, 'and the situation in Iraq can now best be described as dire and deteriorating. I regret that our window of opportunity to reverse momentum may be closing.'"

In a later appearance on ABC's This Week last Sunday, McCain condemned a proposed bipartisan Senate resolution that criticizes the Bush administration's war strategy.

"I don't think it's appropriate to say that you disapprove of a mission and you don't want to fund it and you don't want it to go, but yet you don't take the action necessary to prevent it," McCain said.

McCain, who remains coy about his plans to run for president (although The Range has gotten two phone calls asking us to be "one of the first Arizonans" to support his presidential run), teamed up with eight other senators to introduce an alternative resolution calling on Congress to support the troops and the new man in charge, Gen. David Petraeus, and establish benchmarks for the Iraqi government.

"In order for us to have a solid chance of success in Iraq, both Americans and Iraqis must fulfill certain responsibilities," McCain press-released. "We must provide the resources and support that our fighting men and women need as they carry out their mission in Iraq."

In a speech on the Senate floor, U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl urged his colleagues to carefully consider the impact of any resolution.

"We cannot send that message to our troops and to their families that we disagree with the mission that we're putting them in harm's way to try to achieve," Kyl said.

Paycheck Politics

Elsewhere on the D.C. beat: The U.S. Senate voted 94-3 to increase the federal minimum wage to $7.25 over 26 months. Unlike the House version, the Senate bill included an estimated $8.3 billion in tax breaks for businesses over the next decade, according to The Associated Press.

Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl was one of three Republicans to vote against the bill, saying it would hurt small business.

"Without Republican tax relief proposals, there would be no help for small businesses, which will have to pay the bulk of the minimum wage increase," said Kyl, who saw his amendment to load the bill with more tax cuts for small businesses defeated. "Even so, this legislative package does not go nearly far enough in providing meaningful tax relief for small businesses."

On the Rebound?

Here's hoping the Arizona Wildcats hit rock bottom last Thursday, Feb. 1, when Washington State beat them 72-66 at McKale Center. The Cats, who have struggled throughout January, couldn't hit three-pointers, threw the ball away and generally looked like a shattered shell of their former selves as they allowed themselves to get swept by Washington State for the first time in Coach Lute Olson's Arizona career.

A different Wildcats squad took the court on Saturday, Feb. 3, when the Cats manhandled the Washington Huskies, winning 84-54. The Cats showed a whole new confidence with a formidable offense and dominating defense. Sadly, however, The Range noted a lot of empty seats, even in the student section. Where were you, you wussy students? Too busy studying at the library?

The Cats are now 15-7 on the season.

Bye-Bye, Bud

E.S. "Bud" Walker, a former Pima County supervisor and state lawmaker, died last week at age 80. Walker, a cement-head supreme, served on the county board between 1972 and 1984, when he was ousted in a Democratic primary by Ed Moore.
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