The Situation: Tuesday, May 16
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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A new Web site ranks Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tennessee, as the most powerful senator.
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Bush gains support, but not from his 'target audience'
An overwhelming majority of Americans who watched President Bush outline his immigration goals last night reacted positively to his proposals, a CNN poll of speech watchers surveyed immediately following the nationally televised address shows.
But it is unlikely the president got through to his main target audience: conservative House Republicans.
The poll indicated that not only did people have a positive reaction to Bush's proposals, but the president also gained some ground with critics outside the Beltway. Overall, 79 percent of speech watchers said they had a "very positive" or "somewhat positive" reaction to his plan, while only 18 percent had a "negative" view.
Before the speech, only 42 percent of speech watchers said they had a positive opinion of Bush's immigration policies, but this number jumped to 67 percent after he delivered the prime time address. As for specific proposals, 75 percent of speech watchers approve of Bush's plan to send National Guard troops to the Mexican border; 69 percent favor his guest worker program; and 74 percent approve of the president's proposal to allow illegal immigrants to remain the U.S. and earn citizenship.
The poll, conducted for CNN by Opinion Research Corporation, surveyed 461 adult Americans who watched Bush's speech. Full poll results here.
While Bush was able to gain support from Americans, CNN's Bill Schneider said it is "doubtful" he changed the minds of conservatives on Capitol Hill. The main point of contention between Bush and conservatives is the president's drive to enact a guest worker program and his goal of establishing a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already living in the country. Bush said it was unrealistic to think that the estimated 11 million to 12 million illegal aliens currently in the U.S. could be captured and deported. He described his proposal of earned citizenship as "rational middle ground."
"Illegal immigrants who have roots in our country and want to stay should have to pay a meaningful penalty for breaking the law, to pay their taxes, to learn English and to work in a job for a number of years," Bush said. "People who meet these conditions should be able to apply for citizenship, but approval would not be automatic, and they would have to wait in line behind those who played by the rules and followed the law."
Bush said a distinction would be made between an illegal immigrant with a family who has lived in the country for several years and someone who recently crossed the border illegally. Such assurances, though, did little to change the minds of conservative Republicans such as Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (California).
"If they are here illegally and you make them here legally, that is an amnesty," Rohrabacher said in an interview last night on CNN's 'Larry King Live.'
Jim Gilchrist, a leading voice for strict immigration laws, said on the same program that he too believes Bush is advocating amnesty. "It was everything I expected it to be, just another head fake," Gilchrist, founder of the Minuteman Project, said of the speech.
Bush's proposal to send 6,000 Guardsmen to the U.S.-Mexico border to provide logistical support to border control agents and build infrastructure to help fortify the border received mixed reviews from Republican and Democratic elected officials.
"The decision to send troops is the shot in the arm we need to strengthen our borders and protect our families," said House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois). "We must do everything we can to protect Americans from terrorism, and that means using the tools we have available: troops; Border Patrol agents; cameras; and in some cases, physical barriers. These troops will help to protect our borders from terrorists, criminal gangs, drug runners and others who are crossing to harm Americans."
But California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) expressed uncertainty about the plan to deploy the Guard to the border.
"It remains unclear what impact only 6,000 National Guard troops will have on securing the border," he said. "I am concerned asking National Guard troops to guard our nation's border is a Band-Aid solution and not the permanent solution we need."
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) echoed Schwarzenegger's skepticism during an interview on 'Larry King Live.'
"My big question as the New Mexico governor is, of the 6,000, how many are coming to New Mexico? And they couldn't give me an answer on that," he said. "It seems this policy is being made on the fly, and that's what's discouraging."
Meanwhile, Congressional Democratic leaders, who support Bush's guest citizenship plan, said the pressure is now on the president to convince Republicans to support it.
"The president has the power to call up the National Guard, but now he must summon the power to lead his own Republican forces in Congress to support a bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform," said Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin (D-Illinois).
The Senate resumes debate on the issue this morning. Also, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will "discuss the need for bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform" at 3 p.m. ET in Reid's Capitol office. At the same time, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus holds a news conference in the House Radio & TV Gallery to discuss the immigration issue.
We are likely to learn more about the House Republican leadership's reaction to Bush's speech at House Majority Leader John Boehner's (R-Ohio) pen-and-pad session with reporters at 11:30 p.m. ET in his Capitol office. Congressional Republicans will try to shift the topic of discussion this afternoon to the recently approved tax cut bill. Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tennessee) will be joined by the owner of a Newport News, Virginia, electrical company at a 4 p.m. ET enrollment ceremony on the East Front steps on the House side of the Capitol. The owner of this small business will then follow the bill in his pick up truck as it is delivered to the White House for Bush's signature.
A bipartisan group of Senators will hold an 11 a.m. ET news conference on stem cell research in room 138 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building. At 10 a.m. ET, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-District of Columbia) and fellow members of the Congressional Black Caucus stage a protest and expect to be arrested outside the Sudanese Embassy.
This morning, Bush and First Lady Laura Bush welcomed Australian Prime Minster John Howard and his wife at the White House. Bush has a 10 a.m. ET meeting with Howard in the Oval Office and at 11:45 a.m. ET the two world leaders hold a joint press conference. At 1:25 p.m. ET, Bush meets with the 2005 WNBA Champions and at 2:40 p.m. ET he holds a meeting of his Cabinet. At 7 p.m. Bush hosts a dinner for Howard and his wife.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is likely to make it back to the White House in time for the afternoon Cabinet meeting after delivering the 11:30 a.m. ET commencement address to the Virginia Military Institute. Today, also marks the first on-camera briefing by new White House press secretary Tony Snow. He takes the podium at 12:30 p.m. ET.
And Americans United, a progressive advocacy group, releases its second "national security" themed television ad today aimed at discrediting Bush and bolstering Democrats on this issue before the midterm elections. The 30 second commercial is scheduled to run nationally on CNN and Fox as well as the Fox affiliate in Crawford/Waco viewing area with a total buy between $100,000 and $200,000. Titled 'Father Knows Best' it contrasts Bush and his father's comments on the leaking of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity to revelations the current president knew about it. Check out the ad here.
Grind Extra - The Mother of All Contests
Posted 10:45 a.m. ET
While most of America was paying tribute to motherhood this weekend, faithful Grind readers were cloistered away with their Almanacs of American Politics as well as the collective works of Dr. Spock all to pursue a dream: to win the first-ever Morning Grind Mothers' Day Quiz.
That honor, as well as the highly coveted 2004 commemorative CNN Reporter's Notebook, goes to one Kenneth Schultz of Cambridge, Massachusetts. We should note that Schultz is a former CNN intern, but was unpaid and currently has no official affiliation with The Most Trusted Name in News. Former Intern Kenny answered four out of five questions correctly, as did CNN's Chuck Hurley. Chuck is ineligible for the prize, but is probably resourceful enough to find his own commemorative notebook.
For the less resourceful among you, here are the answers:
Q: Who was the first member of Congress to give birth while in office?
Q: Name the three senators or representatives who gave birth during the 104th Congress.
Q: Who was the only governor to have given birth while in office?
Q: Name two elected officials who have given birth to twins while in office.
Q: Name a sitting female senator who adopted two children in 2001.
Political Hot Topics
Posted: 10:45 a.m. ET
"WE DO NOT YET HAVE FULL CONTROL OF THE BORDER": President Bush said last night that he will dispatch 6,000 National Guard troops starting next month to help secure the porous U.S.-Mexican border, calling on a divided Congress and country to find "a rational middle ground" on immigration that includes providing millions of illegal workers a new route to citizenship. In a rare prime-time speech from the Oval Office, Bush said the nation must move immediately to stanch the flow of illegal immigrants from its southern border by sending in the National Guard to free up U.S. Border Patrol agents in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas. The Guard troops will provide intelligence, surveillance and logistical assistance over the next two years -- not armed law enforcement. "We do not yet have full control of the border, and I am determined to change that," Bush said. Washington Post: On Immigration, Bush Seeks 'Middle Ground'
193 MILLION NEW IMMIGRANTS BY 2026? The Senate immigration reform bill would allow for up to 193 million new legal immigrants -- a number greater than 60 percent of the current U.S. population -- in the next 20 years, according to a study released yesterday. "The magnitude of changes that are entailed in this bill -- and are largely unknown -- rival the impact of the creation of Social Security or the creation of the Medicare program," said Robert Rector, senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation who conducted the study. Although the legislation would permit 193 million new immigrants in the next two decades, Mr. Rector estimated that it is more likely that about 103 million new immigrants actually would arrive in the next 20 years. Washington Times: Bill permits 193 million more aliens by 2026
BELLSOUTH DENIES ROLL IN NSA PROGRAM: BellSouth said yesterday that it had not shared customer calling records with the National Security Agency, denying a report last week that it was among three major telephone companies to have done so. BellSouth, the country's third-largest local phone company, said that after an internal review it had found no evidence that it had even been contacted by the agency. "From the review we conducted, we cannot establish any link between BellSouth and the N.S.A.," Jeff Battcher, the company's spokesman, said in an interview. "We wouldn't have made this bold statement if we weren't confident about this." New York Times: BellSouth Denies It Handed Over Telephone Records to the N.S.A.
MARKEY WANTS FCC PROBE: U.S. Rep. Edward Markey yesterday demanded the Federal Communications Commission either launch an investigation into telecommunications companies that provided millions of customers' phone records to the National Security Agency or explain how the program is lawful. In a letter sent to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, Markey (D-Malden) said major telecommunication companies - including AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth - might have broken customer privacy laws by supplying phone records to the NSA's massive spy program. "I would like to know what the Commission intends to do with respect to probing these apparent breaches" of customer privacy laws, Markey said in the letter. Markey also asked for the "legal reasoning" should the FCC decide not to investigate the telecommunications companies. Markey requested a response from the FCC by the close of business yesterday. "We are reviewing it carefully and will respond accordingly," said FCC spokesman David Fiske. Boston Herald: Mass. rep demands FCC action in NSA phone-spy case
"PEOPLE LIKE THIS PRESIDENT... THEY'RE JUST SOUR RIGHT NOW ON THE WAR": Presidential adviser Karl Rove blamed the war in Iraq on Monday for dragging down President Bush's job approval ratings in public opinion polls. "People like this president," Rove said. "They're just sour right now on the war." Rove said that Bush's likeability ratings are far higher than his approval ratings. "There is a disconnect" because of the Iraq conflict, Rove told the American Enterprise Institute. "I think the war looms over everything. There's no doubt about it," Rove said during a question-and-answer session after a speech on the economy at the conservative think tank. Rove, who is deputy White House chief of staff and Bush's top political adviser, brushed aside a question on his own role in the federal CIA-leak investigation, saying he would not go beyond statements by his attorney. "Nice try," Rove told the questioner. AP via Yahoo! News: Rove Blames Iraq War for Low Bush Numbers
JEFFERSON BLAMES CHARGES ON "OVERZEALOUS PROSECUTORS": In a defiant speech that may presage his legal strategy in a federal bribery investigation, U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, D-New Orleans, proclaimed his innocence Monday and vowed to fight any charges that might be brought against him. In a news conference on the steps of the Hale Boggs Federal Building, Jefferson suggested the case has more to do with overzealous prosecutors than the weight of the evidence. "No one wants to be indicted," Jefferson said, reading a statement. "I certainly do not and I certainly do not want anyone -- a family member or a close associate -- to be indicted. But I am prepared to answer these charges formally when and if the time comes... I would take full responsibility for any crime that I committed, if that were the case. But I will not plead guilty to something I did not do, no matter how things are made to look and no matter the risk." New Orleans Times-Picayune: Jefferson declares he'll fight any charges
CELL PHONE-ONLY CROWD WORRIES POLLSTERS: Justin Globus is part of a fast-growing group -- approaching one in 10 Americans -- who have given up traditional telephones and depend only on their cell phones. That trend is making pollsters uneasy. For Globus, a 25-year-old salesman from New York, "It was a fiscal decision -- a matter of chopping down to one bill." But the rapid growth of the cell-only crowd isn't so simple for pollsters. Their survey research depends on contacting random samples of households with landline phones. They worry that if the trend continues they could miss a significant number of people and that could undermine their ability to accurately measure public opinion. There could be implications for politics, government policy, academia, business and journalism. AP via Yahoo! News: Cell-Phone-Only Crowd May Alter Polling
BUSH WORTH UP TO $21 MILLION; CHENEY NEARLY $95 MILLION: President Bush and his wife, Laura, had assets valued between $7.2 million and $20.9 million last year, up from as much as $18.1 million a year earlier, annual disclosure forms released last night showed. Bush, who says his economic policies have helped Americans increase their wealth, is still making up ground from the start of his first term in 2001, when he and his wife reported assets of as much as $24 million. Vice President Cheney disclosed a portfolio worth as much as $94.6 million in 2005. New York Times: Bushes' Assets May Top $20 Million; Cheneys', $94 Million
'08ERS "DIP TOES" IN TAR HEEL STATE: North Carolina, a state rarely mentioned as a national battleground, got its fair share of White House hopefuls Monday. Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner delivered a brief, policy-free commencement address at Wake Forest University. In Raleigh, about 100 miles to the east, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani raised money for the state Republican party, while former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, the 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee, lobbied at the state legislature for a minimum wage increase. A Democrat hasn't won North Carolina since Jimmy Carter's presidential bid in 1976. AP via Yahoo! News: Warner, Edwards, Giuliani Dip Toes in N.C.
WARNER PUTS A STAFFER IN NH: Mark Warner's Forward Together political action committee is funding a staff position for the New Hampshire Senate Democratic caucus, the latest sign that the former Virginia governor is laying the groundwork for a 2008 presidential bid. Forward Together made a contribution to the Senate caucus, which provided the group sufficient resources to hire a staffer charged with research and communications. Warner's PAC recommended Audra Tafoya to fill the slot; Tafoya has been on the job for two weeks, according to Warner aides. WashingtonPost.com: Warner Is Latest Democrat to Place Staffer in N.H.
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