Between the Lines: By Mark Halperin

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After Mitt Romney spent several days trying--and failing--to kindle national-security criticism of the Administration, the White House played A-plus power politics by fusing the anniversary of Osama bin Laden's death with a surprise Afghanistan visit ... Displaying its inner Karl Rove, the White House used President Obama's flash trip to send twin messages: the unpopular war is ending, but U.S. troops will remain in the country for at least a decade ... Republicans will continue to charge that the President is "politicizing" national security ... Meanwhile, Obama's team delights in the ease with which an incumbent Commander in Chief can dictate the political conversation and dominate the news whenever he likes ... With Bill Clinton appearing in Obama--Joe Biden campaign videos and helping his party raise political cash, the Democrats have a supersurrogate that Team Romney can't match ... Battleground states are already seeing millions of dollars' worth of TV ads and frequent candidate visits. The reason? The Democrats need to define Romney's image for voters, and the Republicans need to spotlight the economy; neither side can afford to wait to shape the contest ... On a parallel battlefield: a series of budget face-offs between the House and Senate that strategists from both parties believe will help them in November ... The skirmishes are less about unraveling the deficit-and-spending mess than rallying each side's troops for Election Day ... The only glimmer of hope: a large, bipartisan group of Senators secretly caucusing to find a way out of the thicket after the election.

NEW HEIGHTS

Six years after building began at the 9/11 attack site, 1 World Trade Center touched a height of 1,271 ft. (387 m) on April 30, becoming Manhattan's tallest tower. Within two years it will reach the symbolic height of 1,776 feet (541 m), making it the world's third tallest building.

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EDUCATION

The Ads on the Bus Go ...

Cigarettes and junk food on the side of a school bus? It may not be as far-fetched as it seems. As school districts scrounge for cash, nine states already permit advertising on the iconic yellow vehicles, including Texas, Arizona and Colorado. Missouri may soon join the list; its house of representatives approved a bill in April to allow commercial images on both the interior and exterior of public school buses. If the measure becomes law, schools will get half the precious funds raised, with the rest helping to cover transportation costs. But these laws pose challenges. Their fine print only sometimes prohibits tobacco, alcohol, political or junk-food ads. (Missouri's would bar cigarettes and booze but not junk food.) And safety advocates warn that bus ads can distract motorists and obscure the bright yellow safety coloring. One state heeded the concerns: California's senate killed a similar bill on April 25.

WORD OF THE WEEK

Hispandering v. manipulating one's rhetoric or actions to court Hispanic voters

See: Mitt Romney playing up his father's Mexican birthplace, a Mormon-American community where he lived before moving to the U.S. at age 5--irking Hispanic actor Esai Morales. "I'm surprised I'm not seeing him in a photo op outside of a taco stand," he quipped on CBS's Face the Nation

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