The Situation: Wednesday, August 10
Editor's Note: The Situation Report is a running log of dispatches, quotes, links and behind-the-scenes notes filed by the correspondents and producers of CNN's Washington Bureau. Watch "The Situation Room" with Wolf Blitzer on CNN 3 p.m. ET to 6 p.m. ET weekdays.
Video shows Navy SEAL identity card
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Posted 6:00 p.m. ET
A U.S. Navy official tells CNN a military identification card shown in a purported Al Qaeda video appears to be that of Petty Officer Second Class Danny Dietz who was killed June 28 in Afghanistan as part of a four man SEAL reconnaissance team.
The video also shows an M4 carbine weapon of the type that Navy SEALS use in the field, he said. He could not verify that the computer shown on the tape was a Navy computer. But he said SEALS often do take computers on missions to help provide data on maps, locations, targeting and insurgent activities.
The video also shows an apparent dead body from the shoulders up, with a helmet on the head. No face is showing. Navy officials say they cannot confirm anything about that part of the video except to say it is not how SEALS dress in the field.
Reflecting on Jennings
Posted: 2:33 p.m. ET
I am still haunted by the shocking death of our friend and colleague, Peter Jennings. Once again, my heart goes out to his family and everyone at ABC News.
The fact that he died from lung cancer -- he had been a smoker for much of his life -- should remind all of us how dangerous smoking can be. What is so distressing to me is the fact that so many young people are smoking these days, despite all the scientific evidence.
When I see teenagers -- boys and girls -- smoking, I just want to reach out to them and urge them to stop immediately. I know they think it may be cool or they will lose weight, but someone should be screaming at them with warnings. The Peter Jennings death should be an alarm bell for everyone.
Yes, you can be a non-smoker and still get lung cancer. Dana Reeve has just been diagnosed with it and she doesn't smoke. But the odds of serious illness increase dramatically with every cigarette. And don't forget that secondary smoke is also dangerous. Bottom line: quit.
The Morning Grind
Posted: 9:30 a.m. ET
"Tell me more, Tell me more."
Summer days are decidedly not "drifting away." "Charging ahead" is more like it -- with all of the activity today it seems like there are a whole lot of people in Washington pretending that it is September, not August. President Bush signs his Highway Bill today; Jeanine Pirro formally announces her bid to take on Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in New York; DNC Chairman Howard Dean travels to New Hampshire for a fundraiser; it is Day Number Three of CNN"s "The Situation Room." All that -- plus the nomination "process" for Judge John Roberts which seems to have outgrown "skirmish" proportions, with telltale "battle" signs looming -- including unhappy Democrats, an ongoing ad frenzy, and some conservatives who may have fallen of the band wagon.
Today on airwaves in Maine, Rhode Island, and, don't forget -- National Cable - $500,000 worth of an anti-Roberts ad sponsored by the abortion-rights group NARAL rolls out, complete with footage of Emily Lyons, a survivor of an abortion clinic bombing, and an announcer who says, "Supreme Court nominee John Roberts filed court briefs supporting violent fringe groups and a convicted clinic bomber." The ad goes on to say, "America can't afford a Justice whose ideology leads him to excuse violence against other Americans."
NARAL's offensive will be met tomorrow by a counter-strike from Progress for America (same exact ad buy) -- asserting that the NARAL ad is a "desperate and false attack." And while viewers of these ads will get to witness some mudslinging first-hand, it's only the tip of the spear; NARAL continues to defend its attack, but conservative groups allege that the ad is blatantly false -- and have an independent watchdog on their side.
Factcheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, sent out a release late yesterday saying that "the ad is false." "The ad misleads when it says Roberts supported a clinic bomber," Factcheck.org goes on to say, "It is true that Roberts sided with the bomber and many other defendants in a civil case, but the case didn't deal with bombing at all. Roberts argued that abortion clinics who brought the suit had no right use an 1871 federal anti-discrimination statute against anti-abortion protesters who tried to blockade clinics. Eventually a 6-3 majority of the Supreme Court agreed, too. Roberts argued that blockades were already illegal under state law." And still more hand-slapping: "The images used in the ad are especially misleading. The pictures are of a clinic bombing that happened nearly seven years after Roberts signed the legal brief in question."
During Monday's press conference to unveil the ad, NARAL President Nancy Keenan said, "I want to be very clear that we are not suggesting that Mr. Roberts condones or supports clinic violence. I know he said he finds bombing and murder abhorrent, but still, his ideological views of the law compelled him to go out of his way to argue in support of someone like Michael Bray who had already been convicted of a string of bombings."
But later in the press conference, Keenan was pressed by reporters to explain why, if she said NARAL was not "suggesting" that "Roberts condones or supports clinic violence," the ad says that Roberts' "ideology leads him to excuse violence."
Keenan was asked, "Aren't "condone" and "excuse" the same thing?"
She responded, "I think there's a difference with the...the brief that he filed was purely discretionary. And I think that is why when he, as the government, came in and he, as a political appointee, as deputy Solicitor General, said that the law did not cover as a civil rights law that protects those of us as Americans, that it did not cover the violence, or the groups in protecting women's lives in these clinics. So again, this was a way that he proactively ...proactively ...went and supported these groups that were perpetrating violence against women's clinics."
Keenan was pressed again, "So does he condone clinic violence or does he not?"
Her response, "Again, I don't think he does condone clinic violence. We are not saying that..."
Keenan was interrupted with another question, "but you say he excuses it."
And her answer: "He sided with groups that supported clinic violence. He sided...the government did not have to file in amicus. They could have stood down on that issue, and they did not. He, in that leadership role, decided to file that amicus brief as a friend of the court to say that these groups had a right to be outside of these clinics and protest as they were doing."
The tit-for-tat is sure to continue today, overshadowed by annoyed Senate Democrats clamoring for the Bush Administration to release more of Roberts' record in the form of over 50,000 pages of documents. One senior aide to a Democratic Senator summed up today's message for the Grind, "The [NARAL] ad highlights one of the fundamental rights of all Americans protected by the Court and underscores the need to know more about Judge Roberts' record."
Life is a Highway
Meanwhile, not back at the Ranch (sorry, couldn't resist), President Bush heads to House Speaker Dennis Hastert's district in Illinois today to sign his Highway Bill. GOP aides are touting the trip in part, because it is a form of a political "thank you" from the President to the Speaker for tenaciously getting the bill finished, despite a couple years of fits and starts. And while Bush is taking some hits from fiscal conservatives over the price tag of this law (and the pork in it), GOP strategists see it as a major weapon in their effort to keep control of the House majority in 2006.
During some late night sleuthing for the Grind, a senior House GOP aide told CNN's Ed Henry that Republican leaders had a strategy to get the highway bill done by August recess so that GOP lawmakers fretting about the political winds can have projects to tout to the folks back home during the whole recess. "All politics is local," crowed this GOP aide, who noted that while the Wall St Journal editorial page has been slamming the bill, "editorial boards in districts from coast to coast" have been touting the new roads and bridges included in the bill.
And, in case you were wondering if she's still there, CNN's Steve Redisch reports that Cindy Sheehan continues her vigil about four miles away from the President's ranch.
DNC Chairman Howard Dean is also on the road today -- he heads to New Hampshire for a fundraiser for the New Hampshire State Democratic party at the Common Man restaurant in Concord. Expected to attend the fundraiser a.k.a "yet another reason why Governor Dean would never ever, ever change New Hampshire's coveted spot on the primary calendar"- State party Chairwoman Kathleen Sullivan, and also Paul Hodes, who is challenging Republican congressman Charlie Bass for New Hampshire District 2 in 2006.
The Grind, who incidentally is also quite curious about the 2008 Primary calendar, asked a spokesman for the DNC how Governor Dean would respond today when almost certainly asked about his views on the matter. With all the caveats about trying to forecast what will come out of Governor Dean's mouth this afternoon aside, the spokesman said that Dean will say something along the lines of he, "is very interested in the results of the DNC's Commission on Presidential Nomination Timing and Scheduling. The commission is making recommendations about what calendar should look like...and the goal of the commission is to put together a primary process that makes the strongest Democratic nominee in 2008." Boy, we're sure the New Hampshire Dems will be satisfied with that answer.
The Commission is set to meet again in October and they are supposed to make a recommendation to Governor Dean on a primary calendar by the end of the year.
** Westchester District Attorney Jeanine Pirro formally makes her announcement to challenge Senator Hillary Clinton for her Senate seat in 2006. The announcement takes place at 11 a.m. With continuing buzz over the prominent absence of Pirro's husband, who spent almost a year in prison for tax fraud, on her campaign website, we wonder whether he will attend this morning's festivities.
Political Hot Topics
Posted: 9:30 a.m. ET
PARTY ON, MR. PRESIDENT: President Bush is signing a whopping $286.4 billion transportation bill that lawmakers stuffed with plenty of cash for some 6,000 pet projects back home. Bush is hitting the road Wednesday to sign the highway bill into law in Aurora, Ill., the second time this week he's traveling from his Texas ranch to highlight recently passed legislation. Yahoo! News: Bush to Sign $286.4B Highway Bill in Ill.
WH SCRAMBLES TO SCREEN ROBERTS RECORDS: White House aides are delaying the release of tens of thousands of documents from the Reagan administration to give themselves time to find any new surprises before they are turned into political ammunition by Democrats. Before Roberts's July 19 selection by President Bush, there was no comprehensive effort to examine the voluminous paper trail from his previous tours as an important legal and political hand under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Washington Post: Roberts Papers Being Delayed
SHARPENING THE ANTI-ROBERTS MESSAGE: A coalition of liberal special-interest groups is settling on three major criticisms of Supreme Court nominee John Roberts that it hopes will resonate with two key Democratic constituencies: African-Americans and women. "If I had to pick three overall areas: civil rights, access to justice and, I think, privacy," said Elliot Mincberg, head of the liberal coalition's research task force. The Hill: Left group refine plans on Roberts
MORE STATES WANT A PAPER TRAIL: Three years into a national debate over the security and reliability of computerized voting machines, the skeptics are winning. In the past month, legislatures in five states - Connecticut, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York and Oregon - have passed laws requiring computer-based voting machines to produce a paper backup that can be verified by the voter, according to Electionline.org, which monitors voting systems. That brings to 25 the number of states that require a paper trail. Fourteen other states and the District of Columbia are considering similar legislation. USA Today: High-tech voting accessory: Paper
"JUST AN OLD MAN LOOKING AFTER CEMETERIES": After snubbing his Democratic Party to deliver the Republican keynote address for President Bush, former Georgia Sen. Zell Miller seemed a good bet for an ambassadorship, adviser post or maybe even a Cabinet office. On Tuesday, the White House revealed Miller's choice: a seat on the American Battle Monuments Commission. "I'm just an old man looking after cemeteries," Miller said in an interview Tuesday after President Bush tapped him for the job. Yahoo! News: Bush Taps Miller to Oversee War Monuments
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