GOP criticizes new Democratic web video
By Mark Preston
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Republicans sharply criticized Democrats Wednesday for using images of flag-draped coffins and a makeshift grave of a fallen soldier in a new web-based video.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee distributed a link to the video "America Needs a New Direction" on Tuesday to political supporters in a fundraising e-mail.
"I hope you will watch it, forward it on to your friends and family and ask them to join our movement for a Democratic Congress and a new direction for America," DCCC Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Illinois) writes in the e-mail letter.
National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (New York) charged that Democrats are trying to "blatantly exploit the sacrifices made by the men and women of our Armed Forces" for political purposes.
"Regardless of what your views on the war may be, this crosses the line," Reynolds said in a statement released by the NRCC. "Rahm Emanuel owes our troops, their families, and the families of the fallen an apology."
DCCC spokesman Bill Burton said there are no plans to take the video down and accused Republicans of going to "great lengths to obscure the pictures of these brave young men and women who come home having paid the ultimate sacrifice.
"Perhaps if these Republicans had been able to summon up this same level of outrage when President Bush sent out troops off to war without the body armor they needed and the Humvee armor they required, so many wouldn't have come home in flag-draped coffins or with life changing injuries," Burton said in a written statement.
The video shows at least 12 coffins covered with flags inside a cargo plane followed by an image of a soldier staring at a helmet propped up by a machine gun that is stuck in the ground. It also shows pictures of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, and successive photos of Bush, a mug shot of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), Jack Abramoff and Vice President Cheney.
Republicans will continue to pressure Democrats to take down the video at a news conference today being held in the lobby of the Republican National Committee.
Lose seats in 2006? Heck we are going to win more!
House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois) predicted Wednesday that not only will the GOP maintain control of the chamber but also add to their majority, CNN's Deirdre Walsh reports. Hastert's declaration flies in the face of what the political pundits predict will be a bad and potentially catastrophic year for Republicans that could lead to a Democratic majority in the 110th Congress.
"We're looking forward to increasing our majority next year," Hastert said. "It's the pundits that say we can't do it."
Speaking specifically about the economy and Iraq, Hastert said, "We have a good story to tell, and we're going to move forward now and tell that story."
And in order to effectively tell that story you need money and the Speaker noted he is not only asking GOP donors to contribute, but also his colleagues.
"We're about to raise enough money from our own members, and we do this on an annual basis," he said. "People are anteing up."
Democrats dismissed Hastert's prediction and suggested the tide is turning against Republicans.
"It shows that Republicans are completely out of touch with what's going on in the country," said Jennifer Crider, a spokeswoman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California). "Americans have a choice between Republicans for more of the same or Democrats for a new direction."
England's Jack Abramoff or Duke Cunningham?
A close friend of British Prime Minister Tony Blair was arrested Wednesday in connection with a political fundraising scandal, CNN's Robin Oakley and Angus Walker report.
Lord Michael Levy is accused of offering political donors and lenders of Blair's Labour Party knighthoods and peerages in exchange for their financial support. Levy is the chief fundraiser for the Labour Party and often plays tennis with Blair.
"He was arrested in connection with alleged offenses under the 'Honors (Prevention of Abuses) Act 1925 and Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000,'" police said in a prepared statement.
A Levy spokesman said he "vigorously denies any wrongdoing."
Oakley and Walker note that Levy's arrest comes at a difficult time for Blair, who faces mounting pressure to quit as party leader for his unwavering support of President Bush and the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
Iraq Prime Minister to visit White House
The White House announced this morning that Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki will visit Washington on July 25. The administration sees the prime minister as someone who may be able to bring together Iraq's warring factions. Al-Maliki and President Bush will discuss how to proceed in Iraq.
New poll on Latino views
The Pew Hispanic Center released a new poll this morning that is likely to receive wide media attention.
Quote of the day before 7 a.m. ET
While it is still early in the day, it will be difficult to top this quote President Bush made at a joint news conference with Chancellor Angela Merkel in Stralsund.
AP's Terry Hunt: Mr. President, were you surprised by President Putin replying to Vice President Cheney's criticism, saying that it was an "unsuccessful hunting shot?"
Bush: Did I think it was a clever response? It was pretty clever. Actually, quite humorous -- not to dis my friend, the Vice President.
Disagreement over the 2008 Democratic presidential nominating calendar
Democrats are on the verge of taking a major step towards altering the 2008 presidential nominating calendar. The DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee meets later this month to vote on a proposal that would place a caucus between the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary as well as add a primary following the Granite State's contest. At this meeting, the Rules and Bylaws panel will also propose the two states to join Iowa and New Hampshire in this much sought after position on the calendar. If approved, as expected, the recommendation will be put to the full DNC membership for a vote in August at the Democrat's summer meeting in Chicago.
Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, South Carolina and West Virginia are vying for the two early calendar slots. Nebraska, which initially asked to be considered for an early primary position, withdrew its application.
The proposal has divided Democrats. The Morning Grind today offers readers two leading, but opposing voices on the issue. The order in which these opinion columns appear was determined by a coin flip.
-- Mark Preston, CNN Political Editor
Iowa and New Hampshire plus two: A good recipe
By Donna Brazile
Today, while much of the world is focusing its attention on developments in North Korea, India and the Middle East, a small group of people, including reporters, are spending an inordinate amount of time discussing two small states that have traditionally held the key to the selection of the leader of the "free world."
For years, Iowa and New Hampshire have been granted the privilege of holding the "first in the nation" Democratic presidential caucus and primary election, respectively. After a slow and lengthy process, the Democratic National Committee's Rules and Bylaws Committee has voted to recommend that the party include two additional states in the pre-window period. One will hold a caucus, the other a primary.
While Iowa's and New Hampshire's respective distinction of holding the first Democratic presidential caucus and primary in the nation have been preserved and lauded, I am delighted that two additional states will play a role in winnowing out the field of Democratic presidential candidates.
The Rules and Bylaws panel will select from among such diverse states as Arizona, South Carolina, Alabama, Nevada, Arkansas, Mississippi, Michigan and the District of Columbia. Judging from the many calls, letters and emails received by my colleagues on the committee from activists and political leaders in those states, they are eager to help select the next president of the United States.
States have not only submitted plans describing ways to improve Democratic performance and turnout, some are raising large sums of money to help "promote the notion" that the voters of their state are stepping up to help make this important decision.
I don't know about the people of Iowa and New Hampshire, but I am excited by the idea of allowing other states to do what Iowa and New Hampshire have done remarkably well. Candidates are free to campaign -- if they so desire -- wherever they see fit. But they will have additional options and numerous opportunities to listen to, learn from and stand up for many more Americans.
Back home in Louisiana, we often compare politics to cooking a good Cajun or Creole meal. It's time we add more seasoning and a couple of diverse states to our recipe for early success in 2008.
Donna Brazile, an at-large member of the DNC and a CNN political commentator, is a member of the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee.
Frontloading the calendar will lead to unintended consequences
By Kathy Sullivan
Soon, some of the Democratic Party's brightest minds will be meeting for two days in Washington. But instead of discussing strategy for the critical 2006 midterm elections, members of the Democratic National Committee's Rules and Bylaws Committee will determine the 2008 presidential nominating calendar.
This untimely distraction is the result of a movement to change the calendar that is about to create a train wreck. With 14 or so states planning to hold events on Feb. 5, 2008, the plan will cram another four states into the two weeks preceding, so that candidates will face at least 18 elections or caucuses in 21 days.
The under-funded, unknown insurgent candidate will not have the opportunity to surge, a kid will have no time to come back, and the nomination will be over before the rest of the country even knows the names of candidates.
Motivation to change the calendar is twofold: provide racial, economic and geographic diversity early in the calendar and to strip what some see as too much influence by Iowa and New Hampshire. The proposed calendar is so compressed, however, that voters from diverse backgrounds and regions will not have the time or chance to reflect and make considered judgments. The candidates will race across the country, doing TV ad buys and campaign fly-bys.
At one time, primaries in California, West Virginia, Florida, Wisconsin, and other states mattered greatly - and mattered more than Iowa and New Hampshire. Frontloading changed that and caused voters around the country to become frustrated with their lack of input. It is time for both the DNC and the Republican National Committee to address the real problem. It is a hard problem, as so many states are rushing to the front of the calendar. But by working together and recognizing the importance of providing a real opportunity for all voters across the country to have a say in the nominating process both parties and our country will be better served.
Kathy Sullivan is the chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party and a member of the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee
DAYAHEAD/Events making news today
POLITICAL HOT TOPICS
Compiled by CNN's Stephen Bach
"DISTRACTED" WH PLAYS "MINOR ROLE" AS ISRAEL GOES TO WAR: President George W. Bush and U.S. diplomats, distracted by threats from North Korea to Iraq, are playing a minor role as an escalating confrontation between Israelis and Arabs risks wider Middle East violence. David Welch, U.S. assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, and Elliott Abrams, deputy assistant to the president, only arrived in the region yesterday, 17 days after the abduction of an Israeli soldier in the Gaza Strip set off the crisis. Bush hasn't spoken to any Middle Eastern leaders in the past couple of weeks, according to National Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones. Bloomberg: Bush Middle East Role Limited as Israel, Arabs Fight
WH WANTS CONGRESS TO LIMIT DETAINEE RIGHTS...: A day after saying that terror suspects had a right to protections under the Geneva Conventions, the Bush administration said Wednesday that it wanted Congress to pass legislation that would limit the rights granted to detainees. The earlier statement had been widely interpreted as a retreat, but testimony to Congress by administration lawyers on Wednesday made clear that the picture was more complicated. New York Times: Administration Prods Congress to Curb the Rights of Detainees
...BUT CAN THE HOUSE AND SENATE FIND COMMON GROUND? House Republicans signaled a coming clash with the Senate over the future of military tribunals yesterday when Armed Service Committee members indicated they were inclined to give the Bush administration largely what it wants in the conduct of terrorism trials. The tone at the first House hearing since the Supreme Court tossed out President Bush's tribunals last month was markedly different from Tuesday's Senate hearing, where lawmakers from both parties said they wanted to make significant changes to the White House's plans. Washington Post: Battle Looms In Congress Over Military Tribunals
GANG GET-TOGETHER: The bipartisan "Gang of 14" will meet for the first time in two months this afternoon in a gathering intended to determine group members' attitudes on a series of outstanding judicial nominations, according to sources. The seven Democratic and seven Republican Senators will meet at 1:15 p.m. in the office of Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.). While organizers said there was no firm agenda outlined for the meeting, Senators and aides speculated the session largely would focus on the pending nomination of William Haynes to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Pryor said there was no specific agenda, but that he anticipated a general discussion among the 14 Senators who last year brokered a deal to avert a procedural showdown that could have put an end to judicial filibusters.Roll Call: 'Gang' Returns As Fight Looms
THE FIGHT FOR $7.15/HR: Democrats, seeking to energize voters over economic issues in much the way that Republicans have rallied conservatives with efforts to ban same-sex marriage, have begun a broad campaign to raise the minimum wage and focus attention on income inequality. The Democratic argument is straightforward: it has been more than eight years since Congress last raised the minimum wage, to $5.15 an hour, and inflation has reduced its real value to the lowest level in more than 20 years. At the same time, Democrats say, executive pay has risen to ever-higher levels and Congress has regularly approved pay raises for itself. New York Times: Democrats Link Fortunes to Rise in Minimum Wage
PAPER: SENATE BILL WOULD PAY GUEST WORKERS MORE THAN AMERICANS: The Senate immigration bill would require that foreign construction laborers here under the guest-worker program be paid well above the minimum wage, even as American workers at the same work site could earn less. The bill "would guarantee wages to some foreign workers that could be higher than those paid to American workers at the same work site," says a policy paper released this week by the Senate's Republican Policy Committee. "This is unfair to U.S. workers, inappropriate, and unnecessary." The 11-page, harshly critical analysis of the Senate immigration bill on this one point reveals how torn Senate Republicans are over the larger issue of immigration. Washington Times: Senate bill seeks more pay for aliens
ALABAMA-COUSHATTA TRIBE SUES REED, ABRAMOFF: An East Texas tribe sued disgraced Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff and former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed on Wednesday, claiming they illegally lobbied Texas officials to shutter the tribe's casino operations. The federal lawsuit, filed in Austin on behalf of the Alabama-Coushatta tribe of Texas, tells a tale of deceit and double-dealing. The tribe says the Washington figures conspired in 2001 to hide millions of dollars spent by a competing Louisiana tribe against a bill legalizing casino gambling for Texas tribes, including the Alabama-Coushattas. Austin American-Statesman: Texas tribe sues Abramoff, former Christian Coalition leader
THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT HILLARY: Anna Shelley, a mother of three from Utah, says she is ready for a female president, and she is sure that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has what it takes. But Shelley, a Democrat, is not sure she could ever pull a lever for Clinton. Her reservations are vague but unmistakable: Something about Clinton leaves her cold... "I think she's a little hard," she said. "She may be strong, but at the same time, if you're driven sometimes you're perceived as not having sympathy. And perception is reality for most of us." It is a reality that Clinton's advisers are confronting as they seek to position the former first lady for a possible 2008 presidential run.... Never has a politician stepped onto a presidential stage before an audience of voters who already have so many strong and personal opinions about her, or amid arguments that revolve around the intangibles of personality and the ways people react to it. Washington Post: Beyond the Poll Numbers, Voter Doubts About Clinton
CRISIS IN BEANTOWN AND MITT GOES ON VACATION: Gov. Mitt Romney rushed back to his bucolic New Hampshire vacation home yesterday as fast as he had hurried here Tuesday to demand the head of the Big Dig chieftain Matt Amorello. Meanwhile, state and federal officials hunkered down to do the hard work of finding out why a tunnel ceiling collapsed and killed a Jamaica Plain woman. "Unbelievable," state Sen. Marc Pacheco said when told Romney had quickly resumed his vacation, saying he was sending the governor a formal request to suspend Big Dig manager Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff from doing any more state work until all criminal investigations of the I-90 Seaport connector tunnel catastrophe are complete. "Maybe we'll have to send it by Pony Express," Pacheco added. Boston Herald: Mitt's MIA as bigs dig into tunnel tragedy
SPOKESMAN LEAVES HARRIS CAMPAIGN: U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris' troubled campaign for U.S. Senate lost yet another top-level staffer Wednesday: Her office issued a statement confirming the departure of spokesman Chris Ingram. Neither Ingram nor other staffers could be reached late Wednesday to explain why. Harris, said by many to be feeling the pressure as her poll numbers sink while Republican leaders turn their backs on her, has weathered the departure of a number of high level staff members -- including Ed Rollins, a Reagan Revolution architect, former campaign manager Jim Dornan and seasoned Florida political consultant Adam Goodman. Miami Herald: Another staff member leaves Harris campaign
SCHLESINGER "NUDGED" TO QUIT OVER "WAMPUM CARD": Gov. M. Jodi Rell and GOP State Chairman George Gallo publicly urged fellow Republican Alan Schlesinger to reconsider his candidacy for U.S. Senate after learning Wednesday that he gambled at the Foxwoods Resorts Casino under an assumed name while an elected official in the 1990s. Schlesinger said Rell and Gallo were overreacting to an innocent act: giving a fake name to obtain a Foxwoods "wampum card" that rewards casino patrons with meals, rooms and merchandise based on how much they gamble. "I am not going to let this bother me," said Schlesinger, who described himself as a recreational blackjack player. "I am going to continue in the race." Hartford Courant: Senate Hopeful Nudged To Quit
VT DEMS MAKING WAY FOR AN INDEPENDENT? Vermont's Democratic Party is maneuvering to keep the Democratic candidates for the state's open US Senate seat off the November ballot, as party leaders seek to clear the way for independent Representative Bernard Sanders in his bid for the Senate. State Democratic leaders are spearheading efforts to gather signatures to put Sanders on the ballot as a Democrat, even though Sanders has repeatedly said he would turn down the party's nomination if he wins the primary. At least three other candidates have announced their intention to run for the Democratic nomination in the Sept. 12 primary, but party leaders prefer Sanders to any of them. Ian Carleton, the chairman of the Vermont Democratic Party, said the party's efforts to secure the nomination for Sanders is a concession to political reality: Polls indicate that Sanders is so popular in Vermont that no Democrat has a real chance of beating him. Boston Globe: Party shuns Vermont Democrats in race
"GRANDMA" SUES TX SEC OF STATE: Independent gubernatorial candidate Carole Keeton Strayhorn sued the Texas secretary of state Wednesday in her attempt to have the nickname "Grandma" listed with her name on the Nov. 7 ballot. Strayhorn had promised to sue earlier this week after Secretary of State Roger Williams ruled that "Grandma" is a slogan, not a nickname permitted on the ballot. At the same time, Williams allowed independent candidate Kinky Friedman to be listed as Richard "Kinky" Friedman on the ballot. Friedman has used the nickname for years. Strayhorn's suit says that the Texas Election Code guarantees her the right to use her nickname. Her attorney, Roy Minton, has said that Strayhorn began using the name when she became a grandmother in 1994. AP via Yahoo! News: Texas gov. candidate sues over nickname
NEW YORKERS NOT THRILLED ABOUT A BLOOMY '08 BID: City voters don't believe Mayor Bloomberg will launch a bid for the White House - and even if he did, they wouldn't rush to support him, a new poll found. Amid all the buzz about Hizzoner contemplating a run for President, 62% of registered city voters say it is "not too likely" or "not likely at all," according to a Quinnipiac University Polling Institute poll released yesterday. Bloomberg, 64, has denied any interest in a White House bid, but if he changed his mind, 48% said they "probably" or "definitely" won't vote for him, and 40% say they "definitely" or "probably" would vote for him. New York Daily News: N.Y.ers aren't bustin' to see Mike as Prez
HARSH WORDS FOR SIS: The brother of GOP Senate candidate Kathleen Troia "KT" McFarland accused his sister yesterday of being "evil" and he vehemently denied her charges that their father was abusive. Tom Troia, of Janesville, Wis., accused his sister of conjuring up the allegations in a spiteful letter she gave to her parents in 1992 in hopes of killing her father with a heart attack while also rubbing in another brother's face that he was dying of AIDS. "It's a complete fabrication," Troia, 52, told The Post of his sister's charges. "If I had one word to describe my sister, it would be 'evil.'" Asked why his sister, who is in the middle of a Republican primary battle with former Yonkers Mayor John Spencer to take on Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, would make up horrendous charges about their father, Troia said, "Evil needs no reason." New York Post: KT Brother: Evil Sis Lied on 'Dad Abuse'
The Morning Grind
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