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The Morning Grind / DayAhead

Menace no more

By John Mercurio
CNN Political Unit

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The 9/11 commission is expected to recommend intelligence reforms.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- One day after reaffirming his belief that "we have to be in Iraq," John Kerry wins backing today from Dennis Kucinich, whose antiwar base threatened to be a mild distraction from Kerry's coronation in Boston.

And between the city's union strife, Hillary Clinton, gay marriages and fallout from the Berger probe, the last thing they needed was another one of those.

Kucinich, who says he has always intended to back his party's nominee (he was just looking for the right time), will emerge from the late-afternoon endorsement with a prime-time speaking slot next Wednesday, during which, we're told, he'll talk about Iraq, the economy and the intense battle for his native Ohio. (Kucinich to endorse Kerry)

He'll also have some choice words for his friend Ralph Nader.

"If there's a place within the Democratic Party and the Kerry campaign for Dennis Kucinich, there's certainly a place for Ralph Nader and his supporters," Kucinich spokesman Doug Gordon told The Grind in a minipreview of the congressman's speech. "The congressman looks forward to campaigning wherever Senator Kerry feels he could appeal to the Nader voters."

Discussing gang violence

Returning to the campaign trail after five days in Nantucket, Kerry talks to the Urban League conference in Detroit this morning about gang violence. He'll offer a $400 million, 10-year plan to combat the problem and take a swipe at President Bush by noting that gang-related murders have jumped 40 percent on his watch.

(Camp Kerry blames Bush cuts in community policing. Bush-Cheney says they've increased overall funding for law enforcement dramatically.)

"We can do so much better," Kerry will say, according to prepared remarks obtained by The Grind, "better for the communities that are living in fear because of gang violence, and better also for these young people who have a real future if we reach out to them. We need to send young people a strong, clear message that there's another path, and if they are willing to take that path, we will be there with them with job training, job opportunities, and drug treatment."

Bush gets his chance to reply tomorrow when he addresses the conference.

Today, he signs a bill at the White House and then travels to Illinois to tour the Northeastern Illinois Public Training Academy and later, talks about homeland security. Bush ends the day at a fund-raising dinner in Winnetka.

Later tonight, Kerry travels to Denver, Colorado, where he meets up with John Edwards and prepares to launch his pre-Boston barnstorm tomorrow morning.

Commission report expected

Of course, today's day-driver is the September 11 commission's report, due out this morning, which will call for the creation of a multiagency czar assigned to fight terrorism and a single director of national intelligence. (Sources: 9/11 report blames 'institutional failings')

All 10 commissioners will hold a press conference at the Commerce Department at 11:30 a.m. ET. Co-Chairmen Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton will make brief statements. Then Q&A will be open to all members of the panel.

Reaction and response (there's a difference) will soon flow from all corners of the capital. At 2 p.m. ET, Joe Lieberman and John McCain, co-authors of the legislation that created the commission, will hold a press conference to discuss the final report. They'll be joined by Sens. Evan Bayh and Arlen Specter, as well as Kean and Hamilton. (Message: Bipartisanship is cool!)

In a disappointment to both parties, however, the report apparently finds flaws with both the Bush and Clinton administrations. For those who said Bush's suggestion yesterday that Clinton also "would have moved heaven and earth to protect America" revealed a gesture of bipartisanship, we suggest another view: Bush was just reminding us, as the commission does, that Clinton's hands aren't clean either.

Showing them the money

Meanwhile, Congressional Republicans raised some $23 million last night at the President's Dinner at the Washington Convention Center. ($1 million more than last year's haul, but $7 million less than their pre-McCain-Feingold take in '02.) About 7,000 people attended last night. Aides say they were adding tables and chairs up until the event started.

For his part, Edwards raised $1.4 million at three NYC fund-raisers on the first day of his pre-convention campaign swing. Most of the money came from a closed event at the home of Lehman Bros. executive Woody Young. The rest came from open events at two very hip nightclubs. At the second club, Crobar, Edwards' daughter Cate introduced dad -- and somehow managed to keep her tongue in her mouth the whole time. (Jenna Bush jokes with photographers)


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