Friday, July 28, 2006
Political Hot Topics
NASRALLAH HIDING IN IRANIAN EMBASSY? Intelligence reports indicate the leader of Hezbollah is hiding in a foreign mission in Beirut, possibly the Iranian Embassy, according to U.S. and Israeli officials. Israeli military and intelligence forces are continuing to hunt for Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah's secretary-general, who fled his headquarters in Beirut shortly before Israeli jets bombed the building last week. "We think he is in an embassy," said one U.S. official with access to the intelligence reports, while Israeli intelligence speculates Sheik Nasrallah is hiding in the Iranian Embassy. If confirmed, the reports could lead to an Israeli air strike on the embassy, possibly leading to a widening of the conflict, said officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Foreign embassies are sovereign territory and an attack on an embassy could be considered an act of war. Washington Times: Hezbollah leader said to be hiding in Iranian Embassy

CEASE-FIRE "MUST BE REAL," SAYS BUSH... "IT CAN'T BE FAKE": President George W. Bush said any cease-fire achieved between Israel and Hezbollah militants in Lebanon must be sustainable and not subject to later flare-ups caused by terrorists. "We're working hard diplomatically," Bush told reporters during a meeting with Romanian President Traian Basescu at the White House. "As soon as we can get this resolved, the better. But it must be real, and it can't be fake."... "The Middle East is littered with agreements that just didn't work," Bush said, and peace efforts are complicated by terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda, working to undermine Arab democracies in Lebanon and Iraq. Bloomberg: Bush Says Any Mideast Peace Reached 'Must Be Real'

RICE TO RETURN TO REGION: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday in Malaysia she will be returning to the Middle East to continue work to bring about a sustainable cease-fire between Hezbollah and Israel. "Let me be clear. I'm going to return to the Middle East. The question is, when is it right for me to return? We hope to achieve an early end to this violence. "It's important groundwork be laid so that I can make the most of the time I spend there," Rice said. A State Department official said Rice's departure from Malaysia was likely to be on Saturday, rather than Friday as earlier expected. With bags already packed, the itinerary change was unprecedented, as official trips are usually scheduled very tightly. Several reporters traveling with Rice had already checked out of their hotels. USA Today: Rice to go back to Middle East; EU offers peacekeepers

IN U.S., BOTH SIDES OF MIDEAST CONFLICT ACTIVATE LOBBYING OPERATION: With Israel at war again, American Jewish groups immediately swung into action, sending lobbyists to Washington, solidarity delegations to Jerusalem and millions of dollars for ambulances and trauma counseling, just as they always have. But this time there is a parallel mobilization going on in this country by Arab-Americans and Muslim Americans in support of Lebanese and Palestinian victims of the war. These Americans, too, are sending lobbyists to Washington, solidarity delegations to the Middle East and boxes of lentils, diapers and medicine to refugees. Both sides are worried about friends and relatives under bombardment or driven from their homes. Both are moved to act by the scenes on television of their suffering kin. New York Times: As Mideast Churns, U.S. Jews and Arabs Alike Swing Into Action

BOLTON "HAS DONE MORE HARM THAN GOOD," SAY SENATE DEMS: Senate Democrats unleashed a sharp volley of criticism of President Bush's foreign policy yesterday, arguing that John R. Bolton has done more harm than good as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and does not deserve an extended term. If Bolton's style were less divisive, they said, he might have achieved more reforms at the United Nations and tougher sanctions against Hezbollah and North Korea. But Republicans defended Bolton and the administration and said it would be unwise to change ambassadors when the Middle East is in crisis and Iran and North Korea are threatening nuclear advances. Democrats said it was unclear whether they would try to filibuster Bolton's nomination this fall, as they successfully did last year. Washington Post: Democrats Criticize Bolton as Ineffective

BUSH'S "DOWN-HOME," CASUAL STYLE "BOTH A BLESSING AND A CURSE": His aides say Bush likes to show a lighter side, taking the edge off weighty matters that come with his job. Some critics, though, say some of these moments demonstrate a lack of seriousness. For example: Bush's recent trip to Europe to visit German Chancellor Angela Merkel and meet with world leaders in Russia at the annual Group of Eight summit of industrialized nations caused a stir. He could be heard cursing over a live microphone, talked longingly about "slicing the pig" at a barbecue in his honor, and gave an impromptu neck massage to a startled Merkel that was seen around the world via the Internet. White House spokesman Tony Snow said the president believes in "putting people at ease, so that you can have a candid conversation." USA Today: Bush's 'regular guy' mode can backfire

SHEEHAN BUYS CRAWFORD PROPERTY: [Cindy] Sheehan has purchased a 5-acre plot in Crawford, saying she did so with some of the insurance money she received after her son, Casey Sheehan, was killed in Iraq. "We decided to buy property in Crawford to use until George's resignation or impeachment, which we all hope is soon for the sake of the world," Sheehan said in a newsletter, scheduled to be sent to her supporters today. "I can't think of a better way to use Casey's insurance money than for peace, and I am sure that Casey approves." Now an official resident of Crawford, like Bush, Sheehan predicted in the newsletter that she and her supporters will "enjoy a cordial relationship with everyone." Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Sheehan buys plot in Crawford with son's insurance money

"POLITICAL VALIDATION" FOR "IDOL": "American Idol" will reach the pinnacle of political validation today when President Bush welcomes this year's winner, Taylor Hicks, and the show's nine runners-up to the White House. It's not as if the blockbuster Fox show needs more publicity. The season's finale drew 36.38 million viewers, behind only the Super Bowl and the Academy Awards this year, and its 10 top performers are in the midst of a summer concert tour. But Bush could use a ratings boost - for months, polls have consistently shown fewer than four in 10 Americans approve of his job performance. It's the first time "American Idol" stars - or those from any reality TV show - have earned a White House meeting. Hicks, along with Katharine McPhee, Elliott Yamin and the show's other finalists, will visit Bush in the Oval Office this afternoon, give him a gift and pose for pictures. Los Angeles Times: Political Stage Is Next for 'Idol' Stars

HOUSE GOP WORKING TO RAISE MINIMUM WAGE: Under intense pressure from their moderate wing, House Republican leaders moved on Thursday toward allowing a vote Friday on an increase in the minimum wage before sending anxious lawmakers home for a month of campaigning in the battle for control of Congress. House Republicans were still assembling a proposal Thursday night. But the momentum had clearly shifted in favor of considering an increase of at least $2 in the $5.15 an hour minimum wage, despite strong resistance from conservative Republicans and the party's allies in the business community. "I have a high degree of confidence that we are going to have a package presented tomorrow," said Representative Sherwood Boehlert, Republican of New York and a centrist who has been clamoring for a wage vote, as he left a meeting on Thursday in the office of Speaker J. Dennis Hastert. New York Times: Republicans Near a Vote to Increase U.S. Wage

STANDARDS CMTE REVIEWS DAVIS RELATIONSHIP WITH CONSULTING FIRM: Two months before Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) became chairman of the powerful House Government Reform Committee in January 2003, one of his close friends formed ICG Government, a consulting company for technology firms seeking government contracts. Donald W. Upson had risen with Davis through the burgeoning Northern Virginia technology community, where they worked side by side as executives at a company that sold computer systems to the government... One of Upson's first hires [at ICG] was Jeannemarie Devolites, a Virginia politician who later married the congressman. ICG has a record of satisfied clients, who say the firm has provided them with access to the congressman and his staff. In an opinion issued this week, the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct told the congressman that his wife can work for the consulting firm as long as the couple does not personally benefit from any official acts by the congressman. Washington Post: Wife, Friend Tie Congressman to Consulting Firm

WHO COULD POSSIBLY WANT THAT JOB? Governor Mitt Romney turned his attention yesterday to finding a new manager for the largest and one of the most troubled public works projects in the nation, after Turnpike Authority chairman Matthew J. Amorello announced his resignation under pressure following the death of a passenger crushed in a car in a Big Dig tunnel. Amorello's resignation, which takes effect Aug. 15, caps a 3 1/2-year effort by Romney to take control of the Turnpike Authority. The governor had won control over safety inspections of the Big Dig under a bill passed by the Legislature two weeks ago, and now Amorello's resignation effectively hands him everything else he's wanted: control over who leads the Turnpike Authority, oversight of the $14.6 billion project, and an end to the bitter wrangling between his administration and the independent agency. Boston Globe: A vacancy at the helm

BILL TO HEADLINE IA HILLARY EVENT: Bill Clinton looks like the surrogate-in-chief for wife Hillary, with a star turn in the first presidential test state of Iowa, where he'll headline a Democratic dinner on Oct. 14. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) could use a boost in Iowa, where a shocking Des Moines Register poll last month found potential 2008 rival John Edwards leading her, 30 percent to 26 percent. Analysts say she's paying a price for backing the Iraq war in a state where Democrats are anti-war - and Edwards, the former North Carolina senator and 2004 vice-presidential nominee, has spent a lot of time there. New York Post: Bill a Hill Shill in Iowa

PIRRO'S BREWER BACKERS: Beer companies are pouring contributions into Jeanine Pirro's campaign for state attorney general, according to her latest campaign filings. The GOP golden girl collected donations from Heineken, Coors, Miller Brewing, Barton Beers in Chicago, High Grade Beverage distributors in New Jersey and the Beer Institute, a Washington-based lobbyist, the Daily News has learned. In the past six months, these beer bigwigs padded her war chest with $9,418, which includes an intimate reception that Heineken hosted for her in Washington in May. Pirro and several of the beer companies credit her crackdown on underage drinking and DWI cases as Westchester district attorney for the donations. New York Daily News: Pirro coffers foaming over

"GRANDMA" DROPS NICKNAME LAWSUIT: After suffering a courtroom setback Thursday, independent candidate for governor Carole Keeton Strayhorn announced she is dropping her legal fight to get on the ballot using the nickname "Grandma." "You will hear people across this state calling me by my nickname," Strayhorn said. "I just won't be on the ballot with my nickname." Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams had refused to let Strayhorn use the nickname on the ballot, saying it was only a means of getting a reminder on the ballot of her campaign slogan: "One tough Grandma." Houston Chronicle: Strayhorn loses one tough fight on nickname

HARRIS DEMANDS DEAN APOLOGY: U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris' campaign has called for an apology from Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean. "Howard Dean's extreme comments reflect a lack of understanding and basic decency," Stanley Tate, finance chairman for the Friends of Katherine Harris campaign, said in a statement. "It is inappropriate to engage in partisan mudslinging against a woman who has a proven record of advocating for the interests of Floridians and for supporting noble humanitarian causes worldwide," he said. Dean called Harris, a Republican from Longboat Key, a "crook" during lunchtime remarks Wednesday to the Democratic Professionals Forum in West Palm Beach. Palm Beach Post: Harris asks DNC's Dean to apologize

SIR CHARLES IN 2010? Former basketball star Charles Barkley says he's switched political teams from Republican to Democrat and is again talking about running for governor in his home state, possibly in 2010. "I really believe I was put on Earth to do more than play basketball and stockpile money," said Barkley, known as the Round Mound of Rebound. "I really want to help people improve their lives, and what's left is for me to decide how best to do that." Barkley, a Leeds native who has been an NBA analyst with cable network TNT since his 2000 retirement, has been talking about running for governor of Alabama since he was playing with the Phoenix Suns in the 1990s. In 1995, he said he was considering running in 1998 as a Republican, but that never materialized. AP via Yahoo! News: Ex-NBA star Barkley eyes Ala. Governorship
Posted By Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau: 7/28/2006 09:33:00 AM ET | Permalink
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