Thursday, May 18, 2006
Political Hot Topics
"A HEARING WITHIN A HEARING": The appearance of Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Thursday will in a sense kick off not one but two hearings, and both could be dangerous for the White House. Most directly, senators will examine Hayden's qualifications to be the director of the beleaguered Central Intelligence Agency. But a hearing within a hearing will explore whether Hayden went too far or broke the law in sanctioning domestic eavesdropping programs in his former job as director of the National Security Agency. A recent report that the NSA has been collecting Americans' telephone records, which the White House has refused to confirm or deny, threatens to make Hayden's confirmation politically risky for President Bush and his administration that is already burdened by sagging approval ratings. Chicago Tribune: CIA nominee going under microscope

CLOSED-DOOR BRIEFINGS PREEMPT WIRETAP QUESTIONS: Classified briefings provided to lawmakers on Wednesday about a controversial domestic eavesdropping program have smoothed what might have been a contentious path toward confirmation for Gen. Michael V. Hayden... The closed-door sessions in the Capitol, on the eve of a confirmation hearing for General Hayden, were the first time the White House had provided briefings to the full Senate and House Intelligence Committees about the program... Lawmakers have said that even without Wednesday's briefing, by Lt. Gen. Keith B. Alexander, the current N.S.A. director, the Senate was likely to confirm General Hayden. Yet Wednesday's briefings diminished the prospect that the hearings, before the Senate Intelligence Committee, would become a focus of hostile questions from Democrats and Republicans on the panel who had not been briefed on the program. New York Times: Wider Briefing for Lawmakers on Spy Efforts

HAYDEN WOULD KEEP 4-STAR RANK; WON'T ANSWER TO RUMMY: With confirmation hearings on President Bush's nomination of Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden as director of the Central Intelligence Agency slated to begin today, GOP leaders and the Bush administration have agreed to take a series of unusual steps aimed at allowing Hayden to maintain his rank as a four-star general while suspending Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's authority over Hayden as a military officer while he serves as CIA director. Democrats and some Republicans have expressed concerns that if Hayden remains on active military duty, technically he'll be under Rumsfeld's command. At the very least, they say, this would create an impression that the strict lines dividing the military and civilian branches of government since the nation's founding were being blurred. Roll Call: Congress to Help Hayden Keep Rank

THE RADIOACTIVE "A" WORD: President Bush's oft-stated claim that providing illegal aliens a "path to citizenship," such as by allowing them to pay a fine or prove long-term employment, isn't amnesty rings hollow for critics who see it as rewarding lawbreakers. Political observers say disagreement over the very meaning of the word "amnesty" is fueling what was an already raging debate over pending immigration legislation. The word "amnesty" carries a certain "radioactivity," says pollster John Zogby. "Why? Simply because Americans favor playing by the rules," he said. "Anything that sounds illegal, unfair, it's tantamount to using steroids to hit home runs or to win a marathon. When the word amnesty comes up it means condoning actions of people who are not playing by the same rules." Washington Times: Americans don't like the sound of 'amnesty'

ROMNEY ASKS BUSH FOR DISASTER $$$: As thousands of residents returned to flood-ravaged homes, many began to grapple with another big problem: Nearly all of them lack flood insurance. Governor Mitt Romney officially asked President Bush yesterday to declare Massachusetts a disaster area and send financial help immediately. While the Federal Emergency Management Agency can offer short-term rental subsidies and help pay for minor repairs within days, more substantial help, in the form of low-interest loans for extensive repairs or replacement of property, is expected to take longer from a government already strained from last year's hurricanes. Boston Globe: For flooded, a fearful cost

ETHICS PANEL SPRINGS INTO ACTION: After 16 months of inactivity and partisan infighting, the House ethics committee launched investigations last night into bribery allegations against Reps. Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio) and William Jefferson (D-La.) and a separate inquiry into the widening scandal surrounding former congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.). The committee said it would have ordered another investigation, into the overseas trips of former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), had the once-powerful lawmaker not announced that he will resign from the House on June 9. Washington Post: Ethics Panel Starts 3 Probes

MEL MARTINEZ HOLDS ON TO $250K IN JACK-RELATED FUNDS: When U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez shed $2,500 in January that his campaign took from an Ohio congressman tied to lobbyist Jack Abramoff, a spokeswoman said the Florida senator wanted no contributions with "even a hint of impropriety." But Martinez continues to hold on to $250,000 that his 2004 campaign collected at a Washington kickoff fundraiser that was co-chaired and attended by the now disgraced lobbyist. Abramoff pleaded guilty in January in Miami and Washington to a variety of fraud, tax and corruption charges. The $1,000-per-person reception at the Ronald Reagan Republican Center was held Feb. 10, 2004 -- two months after Martinez stepped down as President Bush's secretary of Housing and Urban Development. At the time, Martinez told The Miami Herald he didn't recognize any lobbyists in attendance who had done business at HUD. But U.S. Senate lobbyist disclosure records show that Abramoff was registered to lobby at HUD for the Michigan-based Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe during much of Martinez's tenure. Miami Herald: Funds link Martinez, Abramoff

THE "FOOT SOLDIERS" ARE "DISGRUNTLED": Conservative Republicans gathering to talk about the upcoming elections normally would be a welcome event for national party leaders. But not this year. The Republicans who got together last month for the Pennsylvania Republican Assembly (PARA), a grassroots group dedicated to electing conservatives, represent what could be the biggest threat to the GOP this year: a disgruntled conservative base. "It's pretty clear at some level that Republicans in Washington have lost their way," former Pennsylvania Rep. Pat Toomey told the group at a Pittsburgh Holiday Inn. "We're discovering that a lot of Republicans are very disappointed with this Republican Congress. It most likely will manifest itself with low turnout if something doesn't happen to turn this around." CNN: Conservatives' ardor for GOP cooling down

"WE ARE THE PARTY OF THE FUTURE": President Bush vowed Wednesday to lead an aggressive campaign this fall to maintain Republican control of Congress, saying there was a "stark difference" between the two parties. The president, speaking at a Republican National Committee fund-raiser, left little doubt that the White House would return to the same themes it used over the past six years, portraying Democrats as weak on terrorism and committed to higher taxes and government spending. As he did in 2002 and 2004, he repeatedly invoked the memory of the attacks of Sept. 11. "It's a stark choice," Mr. Bush said. "And I'm going to keep talking about it because we have a record to run on." "We are the party of the future, and our candidates will be running against the party of the past - a party that offers no new ideas like the Republican Party, a party that can only offer opposition," Mr. Bush said. New York Times: Bush Pledges Vigorous Fight to Retain Republican Control of Congress

"ROCK 'N' ROLL GOVERNOR" WANTS TO BE A.G.: [Oakland's] mayor doesn't dwell on his previous incarnations. Never mind the training to become a Jesuit priest, the gubernatorial romance with singer Linda Ronstadt or those stints with Mother Teresa and Buddhist monks. As the indefatigable Jerry Brown embarks on yet another quest for statewide office, he's brushing by his storied past as California's rock 'n' roll governor. Brown's focus heading into the June 6 primary for attorney general is on cops and capitalism. For nearly eight years, Oakland has been Jerry's town. He rolled into the mayor's office in 1998 on a four-prong plan to revive a dying downtown, tame crime, energize underperforming schools and enliven the civic arts. With the election drawing near, he's waving a list of accomplishments - an urban housing boom that by the decade's turn will deliver 10,000 new residents, a 30% decline in serious crimes, dozens of new charter schools and a budding collection of art galleries. Los Angeles Times: Brown Touts His Record as Mayor in Race for New Post

SPITZER LOOKS GREAT IN NEW POLL: State government is broken and only Eliot Spitzer can fix it, a poll of New York voters revealed yesterday. The Quinnipiac University survey showed that 72 percent of voters believe that state government is a mess. The voters said only Attorney General Spitzer - of the four gubernatorial candidates - would be able to enact the changes that would make state government function well once Gov. Pataki leaves office at the end of the year. Fifty-four percent of voters, including 46 percent of Republicans, picked Spitzer as the one who has what it takes to fix government. Only 22 percent of voters said they had confidence that Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, Spitzer's Democratic primary rival, who has built his campaign around the theme of "fixing Albany," could do the job. New York Post: Voters Say Spitzer's Mr. Fixit

NH PHONE JAMMER GETS 10 MONTHS: Republican consultant James Tobin, of Bangor, Maine, was sentenced to 10 months in federal prison today for his involvement in a scheme to jam get-out-the-vote phone lines at Democratic offices and union halls on Election Day in 2002. In addition to the time in prison he was also fined $10,000 and will serve two years probation. Tobin is the third person convicted on phone jamming. Also found guilty were former State Republican Party Executive Director Chuck McGee and Republican consultant Allen Raymond of Virginia. PoliticsNH: Tobin sentenced to 10 months for role in 2002 phone jamming
Posted By Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau: 5/18/2006 09:48:00 AM ET | Permalink
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