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The Situation: Monday, April 17

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 4 p.m. ET to 6 p.m. ET and 7 p.m. ET to 8 p.m. ET weekdays.

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The Supreme Court Monday turned down an appeal from Jerry Falwell over a Web site with a name similar to his.

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Posted: 7:00 p.m. ET
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Today in "The Situation Room"

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How one Web siteexternal link critical of evangelist Jerry Falwellexternal link survives U.S. Supreme Court scrutiny.

1906 Quake in 2006
A new computer simulation sheds fresh light on what might happen (PDF) if a 1906-like quakeexternal link hit San Francisco today.

Debunking Da Vinci
With the movie still one month away, criticsexternal link pick up momentum. From a brand new Web siteexternal link to blogsexternal link to an Opus Dei movieexternal link, the filmmaker fends offexternal link criticism from all sidesexternal link.

The Morning Grind

Posted: 10:12 a.m. ET
From Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit

Falwell-McCain

The Rev. Jerry Falwell continued to heap praise on former arch enemy, Sen. John McCain, but stopped short Sunday of outright endorsing the Arizona Republican for president. Instead, Falwell left the door open to possibly backing another candidate, specifically mentioning Sen. George Allen (R-Virginia) as someone he could support for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008.

"It's far too early to endorse anybody, Falwell said on CNN's Late Edition. While Falwell said at this point he sees "no reason why I could not support" McCain, he added this could change.

"We have a Senator here in Virginia who's thinking the same thoughts like George Allen," said Falwell, whose Liberty University is located in Lynchburg.

The Falwell-McCain reconciliation comes as the Arizona Senator is wooing GOP donors and power brokers who backed President Bush in the 2000 presidential Republican primary contest. Allen, McCain, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) and a handful of other Republicans are weighing 2008 presidential bids. In early national polling, Giuliani and McCain are consistently chosen as the preferred candidates to be the Republican presidential nominee in two years, while Allen appears to be the choice of many Republican insiders.

Even though Giuliani is widely praised for his handling of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the polling does not factor in the elements of a Republican primary that is greatly influenced by socially conservative activists. Giuliani holds socially moderate views on abortion rights for women, affirmative action and gay rights.

"Well, everybody admires him," Falwell said. "And I'll never forget the great things he did on 9/11 and following. But of course, we have, as conservative Christians who take the Bible seriously, we have probably irreconcilable differences on life and family and that kind of thing.

Falwell added, "I'll never speak an ill word about him because he means so much to America. But ... I couldn't support him for president."

Many conservatives also have reservations about McCain, who has drawn scorn for his willingness to buck the party leadership and President Bush. But now McCain is one of Bush's most vocal supporters particularly concerning the war in Iraq and immigration reform, and he is bringing close Bush advisers into his political operation.

"John McCain is a strong conservative," Falwell said. "He's pro- life. He's strong national defense. He's a national hero. His view on family is just where most conservative Christians' views are."

In the 2000 presidential race, Falwell backed Bush and McCain described Falwell as one of the "agents of intolerance." The two men patched up their differences in Sept. 2005, and now McCain is scheduled to deliver Liberty's commencement address on May 13.

In other 2008 news, former Sen. Mike Gravel (D-Alaska) formally announces his candidacy for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination at a 10 a.m. ET National Press Club news conference. He joins 39 other people -- politically unknowns -- who have already filed papers to run for the White House, according to the Federal Election Commission. Once a candidate for federal office -- House, Senate or White House -- receives or spends more than $5,000 in contributions they must file a Statement of Candidacy with the FEC. But a candidate can file the paperwork before he or she reaches the $5,000 threshold and there is no fee to do so.

Gravel, who faded away from public life after losing his bid for re-election in 1980, told the Grind he is running because he is "extremely angry with the direction the nation is going."

"I am ashamed there is no leadership in the Democratic Party and the Republican Party is worse," said Gravel, who is considered a long shot to win his party's nomination.

The House and Senate remain shuttered as Congress enters the second of its two week April recess. This morning, Bush and First Lady Laura Bush participate in the Easter Egg Roll at 9:10 a.m. on the South Lawn at the White House. At 11:20 a.m. ET Bush tours Europa Stone Distributors in Sterling, Virginia and then holds a discussion on taxes and the economy at 11:35 a.m. ET. Gay and lesbian parents are wearing rainbow leis at the Easter Egg Roll to bring attention to the fact that they too are parents.

And CNN's Steve Brusk reports that even though McCain and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) are backing Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell's bid to become the next governor of Ohio, two of the state's most influential newspapers endorsed Attorney General Jim Petro in next month's GOP primary. The Columbus Dispatch and The Plain Dealer this weekend criticized Blackwell's proposal to limit state spending increases that is also an initiative on the November ballot.

"If the goal of this race were to produce provocative ideas, creative rhetoric and celebrity endorsements, Blackwell, 58, would be invincible," The Plain Dealer stated. "He is the superior politician. He mines the veins of populism as adroitly as any Ohio politician in memory, while simultaneously collecting national GOP endorsements the way a toll collector gathers change. But what Blackwell wants for Ohio would be disastrous for Ohio. His economic vision is premised on a flawed budgeting proposal that would damage the state and its thousands of political subdivisions. Blackwell's brand of leadership and past public positions strongly hint of sweeping degrees of intolerance and inflexibility."

The winner of the GOP primary will most likely face Rep. Ted Strickland (D) in the race to replace retiring Gov. Bob Taft (R).

Political Hot Topics

Posted: 10:12 a.m. ET
From Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau

BUSH'S INTENSE DISAPPROVAL MAY HELP GOTV FOR DEMOCRATS: Intense and widespread opposition to President Bush is likely to be a sharp spur driving voters to the polls in this fall's midterm elections, according to strategists in both parties, a phenomenon that could give Democrats a turnout advantage over Republicans for the first time in recent years. Polls have reflected voter discontent with Bush for many months, but as the election nears, operatives are paying special attention to one subset of the numbers. It is the wide disparity between the number of people who are passionate in their dislike of Bush vs. those who support him with equal fervor... The latest Washington Post-ABC News poll showed 47 percent of voters "strongly" disapprove of Bush's job performance, vs. 20 percent who said they "strongly approve." Washington Post: Anger at Bush May Hurt GOP At Pollsexternal link

FMR JCS CHAIRMAN DEFENDS RUMSFELD: Retired generals who are criticizing Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's prewar planning are out of line and need to remember who their boss is, top military and civilian officials -- including a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- said on yesterday's political talk shows. Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers said yesterday that the behavior and comments from six generals is "inappropriate" for military officers. "I think there are professional standards that you have when you are in uniform that carry on when you retire," he said. "It's inappropriate because it's not the military that judges our civilian bosses. We'd be in a horrible state in this country, in my opinion, if the military was left to judge the civilian bosses, because when you judge Secretary Rumsfeld, you're also judging the commander in chief, because that's the chain of command, and that's just not appropriate," Gen. Myers told ABC's "This Week." Washington Times: Gen. Myers says critics of Rumsfeld out of lineexternal link

WHAT HU'S VISIT MEANS FOR BUSH: President George W. Bush, under pressure from Congress to get tough with China, needs President Hu Jintao's help to show that it's better to engage than to alienate the world's biggest developing economy. Hu meets this week in Washington with a politically weakened Bush, who's trying to fend off legislation to punish the Chinese for alleged currency manipulation, unfair trade practices and product piracy. Atop the White House agenda is getting China to let its currency trade more freely, a move U.S. officials say would increase the value of the yuan and help cut the U.S. trade deficit. Bush may coax some positive rhetoric out of Hu, or win a slight movement of the yuan at best, analysts say. Bloomberg: Bush May Not Get Help He Needs From China's Hu Jintaoexternal link

BOLTEN BEGINS NEW JOB TODAY: As Joshua Bolten officially moves into the White House chief of staff's office today, he'll bring with him a collection of photos of President Bush  or, rather, of Bush's hands. The close-ups show Bush's hands at key moments: Signing the No Child Left Behind education bill. Holding the badge of a Port Authority officer slain on 9/11. Throwing out the first pitch of a 2001 World Series game at Yankee Stadium. Behind the images, friends say, is a Bolten philosophy. "He thinks of himself and the rest of the White House staff as 'the hands' of the president, to help him realize his vision," former White House aide Kristen Silverberg says. Now Bolten, former director of the White House's Office of Management and Budget (OMB), is in charge of all White House hands, taking over a team battered by Iraq, low approval ratings and friction with Congress. Bolten replaces chief of staff Andy Card, whose last day was Friday. USA Today: New chief of staff takes Bush's matters into his own handsexternal link

INSIDE THE STATE DEPT PLAME MEMO: Contrary to published reports, a State Department memorandum at the center of the investigation into the leak of the name of a CIA operative, Valerie Plame, appears to offer no particular indication that Ms. Plame's role at the agency was classified or covert. The memo, drafted by the then head of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research and addressed to the then secretary of state, Colin Powell, was carried aboard Air Force One as President Bush departed for Africa in July 2003. A declassified version of the document was obtained by The New York Sun on Saturday... "In a February 19, 2002, meeting convened by Valerie Wilson, a CIA WMD manager, and the wife of Joe Wilson, he previewed his plans and rationale for going to Niger," the memo from the State Department intelligence chief, Carl Ford Jr., said. Mr. Ford also drafted an earlier version of the memo, addressed to an undersecretary of state, Marc Grossman. New York Sun: No Hint Seen in Memo that Plame's Role Was Secretexternal link

UAE LIKES BILL, NOT HIL: After helping scuttle the lucrative U.S. ports deal with a Dubai-based conglomerate, New York's two senators are about as popular in the United Arab Emirates as Iran is with the White House. Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer are rapped by Emirates officials, as well as many in the U.S. expatriate community, as political opportunists, according to sources familiar with the views of the UAE government. Schumer was even accused by an Arab scholar of playing racial politics with the deal, which would have allowed a government-owned company to operate six U.S. ports, including Manhattan's cruise ship terminal and the Port Authority's Newark container port. As far as Emirates officials are concerned, the only good Clinton is former President Bill Clinton, who was touting the deal as his wife was trashing it. New York Daily News: Dubai loves Bill, not Chuck & Hilexternal link

TOM DeLAY THE LOBBYIST: Tom DeLay was the elephant in the room at a recent lobbyists' dinner -- and not because of his political party. The Texas Republican had announced his resignation from Congress the day before the event. He was compelled to that decision in large part because of his ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and the actions of two former aides, who pleaded guilty to their own misdeeds. In response, the watchword of the evening was "integrity." Congressman-turned-lobbyist Vic Fazio (D-Calif.) asked the audience to "rededicate" itself "to integrity." Other speakers at the Bryce Harlow Foundation dinner used the term as well. But what was happening outside the room showed how complicated living up to that word can be. While dinner participants were praising the many good deeds they do, other lobbyists around town were expressing their eagerness to hire DeLay. As long as he isn't forced to wear an orange jumpsuit (and possibly even then), those lobbyists said, DeLay could easily become a lobbyist himself and make a lot of money. Washington Post: Lobbyists Say DeLay Could Be One of Themexternal link

SANTORUM'S HURDLES: Since 1990, [Rick] Santorum, 47, has proven to be a canny, come-from-behind campaigner who has risen to the Senate GOP's third-highest leadership post. But this year, Democrats say, his charmed political life may end as he faces an unusually imposing set of challenges. They start with the sagging, 38 percent approval rating of President Bush, to whom Santorum is closely tied. Pennsylvanians also say Santorum has suffered self-inflicted wounds since 2000, when he won reelection despite the belief of some that he is too conservative for this centrist state. He published a book that seemed to slight public schools and mothers who work outside the home. He endured widespread criticism when it was learned in 2004 that Pennsylvania paid about $70,000 through an online program to educate his children at their home in Leesburg. Washington Post: Santorum Facing Multiple Obstacles In Reelection Bidexternal link

CANDIDATES RESIST THE '08 QUESTION ON SUNDAY SHOWS: They know they want to be in political office come January 2009. Which office, though, they have not decided upon yet. Three potential presidential candidates  Republican Sen. George Allen of Virginia, Democratic New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Democratic Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut  shied away from stating any presidential aspirations on Sunday's news programs. All contended that they were intent on winning re-election, not gaining the nomination for president in 2008.

Allen: "My father was the football coach of the Redskins here, and one of his famous exhortations was, 'The future is now.' I'm paying attention to the present. When you get to the future, I'll make decisions then."

Richardson: "I'm going to give you the same answer Senator Allen did, and that is that I want to get re-elected. I'm running for re-election."

Dodd: "I'm focusing on Connecticut. We're a long way away from the nomination process." AP via Yahoo! News: Potential 2008 Candidates Coy About Plansexternal link

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