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Strategy Memo: Time Out

Good Thursday morning. The Tampa Bay Rays keep making life difficult for the Red Sox with a dramatic extra-inning win last night at Fenway. Can't say we're not a little bit happy about that. Here's what Washington is watching today:

-- The Senate is still considering the defense authorization bill, while House Democratic leaders put off consideration of their comprehensive energy plan until next week. Both chambers will pause at various points today to remember those who died seven years ago. President Bush, Vice President Cheney and other Cabinet officials will visit the Pentagon today to dedicate a new memorial to victims.

-- Seven years ago today, on a bright blue Tuesday morning, the world changed, and we're still feeling the fallout. From wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to higher gas prices and a flagging economy, no event in the last three decades has had as dramatic an impact as the events of that morning. John McCain and Barack Obama are largely taking the day off from politics in remembrance.

-- Both presidential candidates will be at Ground Zero in New York City today for their first joint appearance since June. They won't be making speeches or pressing the flesh, but the two will walk down a ramp into what used to be the basement of the World Trade Center, Bloomberg's Julianna Goldman writes.

-- Later tonight, McCain and Obama will make back-to-back appearances at a forum on public service at Columbia University, which will be broadcast live on CNN. Both candidates have called for a renewed commitment to public service and have advocated rewards for those who dedicate a few years of their lives to serving in one capacity or another.

-- Even Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is feeling the effects of September 11. Palin arrived home last night for the first time since she was named McCain's vice presidential nominee, a day before her son's unit ships out to Iraq. Palin was greeted by a crowd of about 3,000 when she landed, the campaign estimated, and she'll speak at the deployment ceremony later today.

-- But as both campaigns pause to recognize the terrorist attacks from seven years ago, voter concerns with terrorism are at their lowest point in that same period, CNN's Alexander Mooney writes. A new CNN/Opinion Research poll shows 30% of Americans think a terrorist attack is likely in coming weeks or months. That's half the number that thought the same thing a year after the attacks took place. But President Bush gets no credit; just 37% say Bush's policies are the reason the country hasn't been attacked.

-- Pending Crisis Of The Day: Seven years later and still on the hunt for Al Qaeda and Taliban operatives in the mountainous region between Afghanistan and Pakistan, President Bush approved orders to allow U.S. Special Operations soldiers into Pakistan to conduct ground assaults, the New York Times reports today. Raids into the lawless Pakistani tribal areas will come with notification for Pakistani officials. But sources told the Times that the situation in Pakistan is untenable. Afghanistan and Iraq may have U.S. troops in theater, but Pakistan has the bomb, an unstable democracy on the best of days and a significant terrorist presence. It's a country the next president, whether Obama or McCain, is going to have to deal with frequently.

-- Today On The Trail: McCain starts his day in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where United Airlines flight 93 crashed in 2001. Obama has a lunch date with President Clinton in New York. Later, McCain and Obama appear at Ground Zero and speak at the Service Nation Summit candidate forum. Joe Biden is in Parma, Ohio meeting with first responders, while Palin is in Alaska for her son's deployment ceremony.