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Rose garden strategy

It was originally billed as a "statement" before the President departed for his Easter break -- then we learned he would take questions, and as we watched, this morning's Rose Garden session with reporters turned into a full-bore, all-out, seating chart-style formal Q&A affair, with the President's comments making news on several fronts. Immediately afterward, a friend who's a general officer in the armed forces called me to contrast the President's remarks with the points about Iraq contained in the "Seven Pillars" article (which I know I've flogged a lot, especially after our last Iraq trip) in Army magazine. He used the words "direct diametric collision" to describe the difference between the author's view and the President's view -- a judgment I happily leave to others.

Not long after the President spoke, Senator Reid was on the board with a quote of his own, and Speaker Pelosi's trip continues to receive a lot of attention. Tim Russert will be with us tonight to look at the state of play in politics. Also tonight, we'll check in on New Orleans -- our task tonight is frankly to sound alarm bells about what's happening there.


With Iran in the news each day, we have an eye-opening report FROM Tehran tonight on an aspect of Iranian society that the government is not particularly proud of -- and would much rather the world not see.

And coming on the heels of the re-deployment orders for both the 10th Mountain and 4th Infantry Divisions, we cover the impact of the news at Fort Hood in Texas, home of the 4th.

Our weather across the country deserves watching today. I am watching a live incoming feed from Talladega, Ala. (a place where I've spent some time thanks to the presence of the great Talladega Superspeedway), and as the reporter is speaking, with sirens sounding, in the background it is like watching a tornado clinic -- you can see the near-perfect counter-clockwise rotation at the base of a huge super-cell storm -- this may result in a rare live picture of the actual formation of a distinct funnel. It's pretty gripping live television.

The coolest videotape of the day (of a non-circulating object) just might be the TGV -- the high-speed train that the French are justifiably proud of. We'll air it tonight -- and it really does convey a forward speed of more than 350 mph. Waiters on board the train are famous for filling wine glasses almost all the way to the rim: that's how sure they are that the ride will be smooth and not a drop of their cherished export will be spilled.

A REPORT FROM THE FRONT
As you may know, correspondent Mike Taibbi is following a platoon of the Third Infantry Division as they arrive in Iraq. Mike (accompanied by a great crew, including our superb producer John Zito, who was just with us in Baghdad) has retired for the night back at the base, but this is advance notice that he is filing an extraordinary piece for our broadcast tomorrow night -- it's about the war at ground level, and it's not to be missed. It's been an eventful time for the group he's with, during only their initial days in country.

SOMEONE'S IN THE KITCHEN
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I couldn't resist publishing a photo from yesterday. While I didn't mean to be quite so slack-jawed with awe, what strikes you as a visitor to the sound stage (that IS Tony Soprano's kitchen) are the details that veteran viewers have come to know. The various objects and decorations... the Bose Wave Radio on the counter... the simulated daylight... the working faucet. A few minutes after this picture was taken, Edie Falco walked in, completing the picture. Just a few more days until our segment airs -- specifics to follow shortly. And to the reader who wondered if there was anything embedded in my dispatch from the set yesterday: I would sooner insult Tony, Phil and Johnny Sack than give away anything shared with us during our time with the cast and crew. A member of the cast told me that worries about secrecy this season have reached a new level: the actors are given only their own lines to read and rehearse, and they do not know how it fits into the overall plot until the shooting begins for each new episode. At ensemble "table readings" of episodes, the scripts stay behind... nothing leaves the room. As it should be.

We hope you will join us for tonight's Nightly News.

Photo by NBC's Subrata De.