Friday, June 23, 2006
The Cafferty File: Follow the Money
On "The Situation Room" today, we asked viewers the following three questions, and here are some of our favorite responses that we didn't get to read on air:

Should the government have access to Americans' financial records?

They already do have access, Jack. I'm not thrilled about it. Like everything else the government touches, it's less, not more secure... There should be some kind of judicial oversight to make sure they absolutely have a need to know.
Jim, Redwood City, California

Yes. If they are tracking terrorists and catching them, I don't care. I have nothing to hide. I believe the only people who would be against it are the law breakers and the terrorists.
Terry, Vestal, New York

This administration has repeatedly manipulated the system to violate the Constitution and the rights of its citizens. Once again we find the attitude that they are beyond the law.
Dianne, Lexington, Kentucky

*****

Do the arrests of the latest batch of terror suspects make you feel more secure or less?

No, I don't feel safer. Why don't they get Bin Laden or secure our borders?
David, Brunswick, Missouri

I feel more secure since the recent arrests of terrorists in the U.S. We need to hear specifics on what the FBI and CIA are doing for the citizens of the U.S.
Alisha

What terror suspects? This is no more than a publicity stunt on the part of the administration to try and justify their illegal actions to the American people.
Gene, Houston

*****

How do Westerners and Muslims change the perceptions each has of the other?

Do as religious people do, have a combined bazaar of crafts, foods and games. If the various Christian organizations and Muslim organizations reach out to socialize with each other, many would find huge similarities. If for no other reason, it will get these people away from the news media that paints EACH group in a very narrow vein. I find it insanely ironic that all religions preach LOVE, yet most often religion is the cause of WAR.
Robert, Port Richey, Florida

Westerners and Muslims can improve relations by lowering their voices and refraining from trying to force their religious beliefs on others. The history of religions is a sad one with great harm and suffering being dealt to others in the name of different faiths.
Mac, DeLand, Florida
Posted By Jack Cafferty, CNN Commentator: 6/23/2006 06:14:00 PM ET | Permalink
BREAKING NEWS: Navy data breach
Personal data on 28,000 U.S. sailors and their families appeared on a public Web site this week, the Navy said Friday. The Navy is encouraging affected servicemen to visit their Web site for more details.
Posted By The Situation Online Producers: 6/23/2006 06:06:00 PM ET | Permalink
The Situation Online


NASA's Project Exploration calls for
a human lunar mission by 2020.

To the Moon, Mars and beyond
World renowned physicist Stephen Hawking says humans could have a base on the Moon in 20 years and a colony on Mars in 40. We examine how close this is to becoming a reality. Project Constellation, NASA's answer to the 2004 Presidential mandate for space exploration, calls for a manned lunar mission within 12 to 14 years, which will pave the way to establishing a lunar outpost and eventually send humans to Mars and beyond. Watch how NASA's plans on sending astronauts back to the Moon.

Miami terror plot
We show you where to get the latest resources on the arrests of seven men allegedly involved in a plot to bomb the Sears Tower in Chicago, including photos and the indictment detailing the plans. (Read the indictment in PDF form)

Suing over spying
AT&T and the Justice Department are in federal court today asking a judge in San Francisco to dismiss a class action lawsuit that alleges AT&T provided the NSA access to customer phone and Internet communications. The Justice Department argues allowing the case to proceed could cause "grave damage to national security."

Demystifying "Swift"
The Bush administration today defended a newly revealed secret program, initiated in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, to track people suspected of funding terrorism. We examine the magnitude and reach of SWIFT, the international consortium used by the government to obtain data on the global movement of money.

The Internet offline
We examine the question: Is the U.S. prepared for a disabling cyber attack? A new study (PDF) spearheaded by some of the nation's top business leaders says no. Go to the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team's Web site to learn what the government is doing to plan for a possible cyber attack.
Posted By The Situation Online Producers: 6/23/2006 04:33:00 PM ET | Permalink
Mineta stepping down from Bush Cabinet


Mineta's resignation is effective July 7, the White House said.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta -- the only Democrat in the Bush Cabinet -- is resigning next month.

White House spokesman Tony Snow made the announcement at the White House briefing on Friday. He said Mineta wasn't forced out of the job and that the president was "happy" with him.(Full story)

"He has informed the president that after five and a half years he will be stepping down," Snow said, adding "that's a long time."

The resignation will be effective July 7.

Mineta served as a member of the House from 1975 to 1995, representing a district in California's Silicon Valley. Before he joined President Bush's administration, Mineta, 74, served as secretary of commerce under President Clinton.
Posted By CNN's Washington Bureau: 6/23/2006 11:45:00 AM ET | Permalink
The Morning Grind
DNC moves closer to changing the presidential primary calendar

Democrats took a step closer Thursday towards altering the party's 2008 presidential candidate vetting process when a Democratic National Committee panel voted overwhelmingly to recommend adding two more states to the early part of the nominating calendar.

The DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee did not choose the states, but decided that a caucus would be held between the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, followed immediately by an additional primary before other states would be allowed to hold presidential primary contests.

In July, the DNC Rules Committee will select the two states to recommend to the full DNC membership, which will vote on the proposal in August at the DNC's summer meeting in Chicago.

The vote all but assures that Iowa and New Hampshire will have to share their privileged status as the first proving grounds for Democratic presidential candidates in 2008.

A Republican rule adopted in 2004 prevents the GOP from changing its primary schedule until the 2012 presidential contest.

Don Fowler of South Carolina, a DNC Rules member and an outspoken critic of the plan, conceded at the outset of the vote that he did not have the support to prevent the proposal from moving forward and chose not to require a lengthy debate on the issue.

But two other DNC Rules members, Mark Brewer of Michigan and Kathy
Sullivan of New Hampshire, expressed opposition to the plan. Brewer argued that, in order to achieve the DNC's goals of infusing more ethnic, economic and regional diversity into the primary process, more states would need to be included early on in the primary process.

"I think we have to have at least three or four (states) to achieve those goals," he said.

Sullivan said she opposed the plan because it would encourage
front-loading of the primary calendar and might violate New Hampshire state law, which requires no other primary or caucus be held seven days before the New Hampshire primary.

John Distaso, the dean of New Hampshire political reporters, writes up a more detailed account of reaction from Granite State officials in today's edition of the New Hampshire Union Leader.

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, has withdrawn its application.

***

Fowler calls for additional DNC neutrality in 2008

A condition the 10 states and District of Columbia must meet in order to be considered for an early caucus/primary position is assurance that state party leaders would remain neutral in the presidential primary process. In a June 12 letter, the DNC asked the prospective contenders if a current rule is already in place governing this, and if not, "indicate the extent to which the prospective state is wiling to implement one."

During yesterday's conference call, Fowler asked how the DNC could impose such a restriction on state party leaders if it did not require all 30 members of the Rules committee to take a similar pledge.

"I just can't imagine you would establish that standard for state parties and not ourselves," Fowler said. "It is just inconsistent to not make any sense."

Fowler argued that since the Rules committee has considerable power within the DNC, a similar restriction would help avoid conflicts or the appearance of a conflict of interest during the presidential selection process. The DNC requires the chairman, officers and staff to remain neutral during the primary, but there is no such restriction on Rules committee members. Expect to hear more about this issue at the Rules committee's next meeting in July.

***

Edwards fined

Former Sen. John Edwards (D-North Carolina) 2004 presidential campaign was fined $9,500 for violating contribution laws in 2003, the Federal Election Commission announced Thursday. Tab Turner, the donor who solicited four $2,000 contributions from colleagues in Jan. 2003 for Edwards and then reimbursed them with a company credit card, was fined $50,000. Turner, whose law practice Turner and Associates is based in Little Rock, Arkansas, also used the credit card to make an illegal campaign contribution in his own name and to pay for various campaign expenses.

Federal law prohibits donors from making contributions in other peoples' names, and prohibits direct corporate contributions to a federal candidate.

Edwards, who is considering another run for president in 2008, did not contest the FEC's ruling and Edwards' spokeswoman Kim Rubey described the FEC's announcement to CNN's Robert Yoon as "old news."

"All the issues that were raised today had been addressed by the campaign back in 2003," she said, adding that the campaign returned all of the illegal contributions referenced in the FEC complaint.

***

Cheney speaks to CNN's King

Vice President Cheney sat down for an exclusive interview with CNN's John King yesterday and covered topics ranging from Iraq and North Korea to how people perceive him personally. On the 2008 presidential race, Cheney wouldn't acknowledge a favorite but noted "We may get involved eventually." To view the full transcript of the Cheney interview click on this link.
Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 6/23/2006 10:37:00 AM ET | Permalink
DAYAHEAD/Events making news today and tomorrow
  • President Bush attends the White House tee ball game at 1:20 p.m. ET on the South Lawn.

  • The Senate opens at 11 a.m. ET for Morning Business; there will be no votes today. The House is closed and returns Monday at 12:30 p.m. ET.

  • Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and other Justice Department officials hold a 10:30 a.m. ET news conference on last night's raid in Miami and arrests of suspected terrorists at DOJ headquarters. The U.S. attorney's office in Miami holds an 11:30 a.m. ET news conference on the same subject.

  • The Heritage Foundation hosts a panel with stars from the television show "24" on "24 and America's Image in Fighting Terrorism: Fact, Fiction or Does it Matter." The forum will be held from 10 a.m. ET to 12 p.m. ET at the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center.

  • Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack (D), a potential presidential candidate, addresses the NDN's annual meeting at 11 a.m. being held at the Mayflower Hotel. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York), who also is eyeing a 2008 presidential bid, was scheduled to speak at 9 a.m. ET.

  • Vice President Cheney delivers an 11:45 a.m. ET speech at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Cheney then speaks at 1:30 p.m. ET at a fundraiser for GOP candidate Dave McSweeney being held in the Chicago Hilton.

  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) travels to Rhode Island to appear alongside Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-Rhode Island) at a 3 p.m. ET news conference on health care.

  • Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R), a potential 2008 presidential candidate, attends a 5:30 p.m. ET fundraiser for Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) in Charleston, S.C.

  • Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), a potential 2008 presidential candidate, participates in an 8 p.m. ET forum at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.

  • Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean appears at 11 p.m. ET on ESPN II's "Quite Frankly with Stephen A. Smith" to talk sports.

  • Rep. John Murtha (R-Pennsylvania) delivers the Palm Beach County Jefferson-Jackson Dinner keynote speech at 7 p.m. ET Saturday at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach, Florida.
  • Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 6/23/2006 10:36:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Political Hot Topics
    ADMIN TAPPING INTO BANK RECORDS: Under a secret Bush administration program initiated weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, counterterrorism officials have gained access to financial records from a vast international database and examined banking transactions involving thousands of Americans and others in the United States, according to government and industry officials. The program is limited, government officials say, to tracing transactions of people suspected of having ties to Al Qaeda by reviewing records from the nerve center of the global banking industry, a Belgian cooperative that routes about $6 trillion daily between banks, brokerages, stock exchanges and other institutions. New York Times: Bank Data Sifted in Secret by U.S. to Block Terror

    HADLEY ACKNOWLEDGES U.S. MISSILE DEFENSE SYSTEM READY: Senior Bush administration officials said publicly for the first time yesterday that the United States is set to shoot down any North Korean missile launch that threatens the United States. National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley, briefing reporters during President Bush's brief visit here, said the United States has a missile defense system with "limited operational capability" that could be used to try to shoot down an incoming North Korean missile, but he added that U.S. officials were vigorously pursuing a diplomatic push to head off a test launch by Pyongyang. Washington Times: U.S. set to down Korean missile

    FBI ARRESTS SEVEN ALLEGEDLY PLOTTING TO ATTACK SEARS TOWER: FBI agents in an undercover sting operation arrested seven terrorism suspects in Miami on Thursday who allegedly were plotting to attack the Sears Tower in Chicago, the FBI headquarters in Miami and other U.S. buildings, officials said. The suspects had "aspirations" but "no means" to attack the Sears Tower or other buildings, a senior federal law-enforcement source said. The men were all Muslims who thought they were plotting "in conjunction with Al Qaeda" but they really were dealing with law-enforcement undercover agents, one law-enforcement official told The Miami Herald. The men, who told neighbors in the Liberty City area of Miami that they were starting a children's karate class at a warehouse, had been plotting for an undetermined amount of time, but their scheme was thwarted well before any attack could be carried out. Chicago Tribune: FBI: Sears Tower targeted

    SENATE VOTES DOWN BOTH IRAQ WITHDRAWAL PROPOSALS: The Senate on Thursday roundly rejected two Democratic proposals to begin pulling troops out of Iraq, as Republicans and Democrats staked out starkly different positions heading into Congressional elections this fall. The more far-reaching measure, calling for all United States combat troops to be withdrawn within a year, failed 86 to 13, with no Republican supporters. An alternative, backed by the Democratic leadership and calling for troop withdrawals to begin by the end of the year without setting a deadline for complete withdrawal, was also defeated, 60 to 39, with one Republican voting with the Democrats and six Democrats joining the Republican majority. New York Times: Senate Rejects Calls to Begin Iraq Pullback

    CHENEY ON CNN: "THE WORST POSSIBLE THING WE COULD DO IS WHAT THE DEMOCRATS ARE SUGGESTING": Withdrawing American troops from Iraq would embolden terrorists and leave the United States and its allies vulnerable to new attacks, Vice President Dick Cheney said Thursday. "The worst possible thing we could do is what the Democrats are suggesting," Cheney told CNN's John King in an interview at the vice president's residence... Neither an immediate nor phased withdrawal would confer any protection on the United States, Cheney said. "If we pull out, they'll follow us," he said of terrorists. "It doesn't matter where we go. This is a global conflict. We've seen them attack in London and Madrid and Casablanca and Istanbul and Mombasa and East Africa. They've been, on a global basis, involved in this conflict. CNN: Cheney: Iraq pullout 'worst possible thing we could do'

    Read the full Cheney interview transcript here.

    CROWLEY NEXT AT DCCC? Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) has opened the door to chairing the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) next cycle, should the opportunity arise. "I would be open to talking" to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) about the job, he said yesterday. "I have offered myself in service to the caucus in many ways. I do recognize the demands of that job." Crowley is chairman of the DCCC's business council. Earlier this week, Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) said he would not serve a second term as chairman of the House Democrats' campaign operations so that he could spend more time with his family. The Hill: Rep. Crowley is 'open' to a bid for DCCC

    MORE PROBLEMS FOR NEY? In the fall of 2004, Rep. Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio) told Senate investigators that he was unfamiliar with a Texas Indian tribe represented by lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Days later, evidence emerged that the congressman had held numerous discussions with Abramoff and the Indians about getting Congress to reopen their shuttered casino. Ney's statements to staff members of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee were included in the panel's 357-page report on tribal lobbying, released yesterday after two years of hearings and investigation... Ney's comments to the panel could add to his problems with the Justice Department... A spokesman for Ney said yesterday that in his interview with the Senate committee, the congressman did not initially recognize the name of the tribe. Washington Post: Senators' Report On Abramoff Case Disputes Rep. Ney

    REED "A CENTRAL FIGURE IN MR. ABRAMOFF'S LOBBYING OPERATION": A bipartisan Senate report released on Thursday documented more than $5.3 million in payments to Ralph Reed, the former director of the Christian Coalition and a leading Republican Party strategist, from an influence-peddling operation run by the corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff on behalf of Indian tribe casinos. The report by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee portrayed Mr. Reed, now a candidate for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor in his home state of Georgia, as a central figure in Mr. Abramoff's lobbying operation, the focus of a criminal investigation by the Justice Department. New York Times: Senate Report Lists Lobbyist's Payments to Ex-Leader of Christian Coalition

    JOHN EDWARDS... "SOUNDING LIKE A CANDIDATE": Former Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards says he will do "anything" to get ordinary Americans to pay attention to poverty -- even at the risk of sounding like a 2008 presidential candidate. Edwards, who ran for the Democratic nomination in 2004 before joining Massachusetts Senator John Kerry on the ticket, has focused on the issue since he left the Senate last year, as director of the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. While the job has given him the opportunity to raise the visibility of poverty in the U.S., it has also given him plenty of opportunities to keep himself visible. One came yesterday, when Edwards, 53, visited Washington for a speech at the National Press Club. Bloomberg: Edwards, Sounding Like a Candidate, Calls for Fighting Poverty

    DUNCAN DROPS OUT; A "STARTLING MOVE THAT RESHAPES" THE RACE: Revealing that he received a diagnosis of clinical depression this week, Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan bowed out of the race for governor yesterday, a startling move that reshapes this year's contentious gubernatorial campaign. Duncan's decision eliminates the need for a long and costly Democratic primary that some had feared would leave the eventual nominee depleted of cash and politically bruised. In an attempt to unite his party, Duncan endorsed Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley in the fall contest against incumbent Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican. Baltimore Sun: Duncan bows out

    LIEBERMAN REJECTS WITHDRAWAL OPTIONS, HITS LAMONT FOR WAFFLING: By voting Thursday with Republicans to reject two Democratic proposals to set a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman once again egged on anti-war Democrats backing his challenger, Ned Lamont. But Lamont also gave Lieberman an opening: By urging the senator to support the less aggressive of the two withdrawal plans - one with no firm deadline - Lamont appeared to back away from comments in recent weeks supporting an immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces from combat. "I support the Levin-Reed Amendment on U.S. Policy in Iraq, and I urge Senator Lieberman to do the same," Lamont said in a statement posted Wednesday on his website... Lamont said Thursday night that he still supported an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from combat and would have voted for setting a firm deadline. Hartford Courant: Lamont Wavers, Rival Camp Says

    "VOTE 4 MISS ANGELA": An obscure candidate in a down-ticket Georgia race is getting some much-needed attention from a rap campaign song that pummels voters with a simple, mind-numbing lyric: "Vote 4 Miss Angela." That's Angela Moore, a 43-year-old medical personnel company owner making her first run for office in Georgia's packed Democratic primary for secretary of state. She was relatively unknown until her campaign rap, written and performed by a 12-year-old boy, began making the rounds on the Internet. It has received 26,000 hits in the three weeks since it's been posted on her campaign Web site. AP via Yahoo! News: Rap song draws attention to Ga. Candidate
    Posted By Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau: 6/23/2006 09:22:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Thursday, June 22, 2006
    The Cafferty File: Older Army Recruits
    On "The Situation Room" today, we asked viewers the following questions, and here are some of our favorite responses that we didn't get to read on air:

    What does it mean when the Army raises its enlistment age to 42?

    It means that there are not enough men and women signing up to go to Iraq and either get killed or come back with parts of their body missing. I doubt raising the enlistment age to 42 will help, because the older you get the smarter you become.
    Bill, Quarryville, Pa.

    It means that the administration is getting desperate for bodies and the draft can't be far behind this move.
    Burt, Sun Lakes, Ariz.

    Mr. Cafferty, it looks like it means we're going to see some new faces in the Situation Room pretty soon.
    John, New York

    ***
    Has U.S. foreign policy become a threat to global security?

    If you have to ask the question, you're not paying attention. U.S. policy is not only a threat to world peace and security, it has devastated the nation and it's about time someone said something and it's about time we hold this administration and both parties responsible.
    Seth, Los Angeles

    Of course not. If you honestly believe that a North Korean nutcase, with nuclear weapons and a desire to test an intercontinental missile, who can't feed his own people, but insists on keeping the 3rd or 4th largest standing army in the world to protect a country no one has an interest in isn't a threat, then you have forgotten all of your history.
    Vaughn, Springfield, Ill.

    Yes, our foreign policy is hurting our standing - we need more friends than enemies. We had plenty of friends after the 9/11 attacks even in the Arab world. The President has reduced our number of friends slowly and steadily, and it has made our situation all the more dangerous.
    Bud, Colorado Springs, Colorado
    Posted By Jack Cafferty, CNN Commentator: 6/22/2006 06:11:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Full Cheney interview transcript
    A complete transcript of John King's exclusive interview with Vice President Dick Cheney is now available.
    Posted By CNN's Washington Bureau: 6/22/2006 05:05:00 PM ET | Permalink
    House GOP plans new hearings on immigration
    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- House Republican leaders formally announced plans for a new
    round of hearings on sharply different immigration reform plans Thursday, a move critics say is likely to kill any chance of a bill passing this year.

    "We want to make sure that the Congress gets it done the right way, and
    not to be rushed just because it's an election year," House Speaker Dennis
    Hastert, R-Ill., told reporters.

    Hastert and other Republican leaders say they're still pushing for a
    compromise with a measure the Senate passed in May.

    But House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, said the hearings will take the immigration issue "out of Washington and probably past the election."
    Posted By CNN's Washington Bureau: 6/22/2006 05:00:00 PM ET | Permalink
    The Situation Online
    It's getting hot out here
    According to a panel of the top climate scientists in the world, the Earth is the hottest its been in 400 years. The study was conducted at the request of Congress and released online today by the National Academy of Sciences

    Abramoff scandal:
    After a two-year investigation, today Arizona Sen. John McCain's Senate Indian Affairs Committee issues their definitive report on how disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and former Tom Delay aide Michael Scanlon bilked six Indian tribes out of at least $66 million dollars.

    Bluegrass big brother?
    Did Ernie Fletcher, the embattled Republican Governor of Kentucky, block state employees from reading liberal Web sites? That's exactly what some liberals in the Bluegrass state allege. But a state spokesperson says it intends to block access to all Web sites where state employees spend too much time doing non-government related business including all blogs. Our Internet team investigates.

    Muslims vs. Westerners?
    A new report released today credits the war in Iraq as just one factor adding to worldwide mistrust between Muslims and Westerners.
    Posted By The Situation Online Producers: 6/22/2006 04:19:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Court backs woman punished after harassment complaint
    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A railroad worker who said she was punished on the job after complaining of sexual harassment won a unanimous victory Thursday at the Supreme Court, which upheld a jury award that held her supervisors accountable.

    The issue resolved around a federal law known as Title VII, which prohibits employers from retaliating against workers claiming sex or race discrimination.

    "The anti-retaliation provision protects an individual not from all retaliation, but from retaliation that produces injury or harm," wrote Justice Stephen Breyer for the other eight benchmates. "We believe that there was a sufficient evidentiary basis to support the jury's verdict."

    Three months into her job as a forklift operator at the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway yard in Memphis, Tennessee, Sheila White complained about sexual harassment and discrimination by her male boss, who had never supervised a woman worker before.

    Her immediate supervisor was investigated, suspended and ordered to take sensitivity training. But ten days after making her allegations, White was transferred to work as a regular track laborer, a more physically demanding yet equal paying job.

    After White complained to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, she was suspended without pay for 37 days for "insubordination." Lawyers for the railroad argued that her job transfer caused her to suffer "no economic effect."

    The case was closely watched by businesses and worker-rights advocates.

    In another decision, the Supreme Court placed a greater legal burden on criminal defendants seeking to prove they were coerced into committing a felony.
    Posted By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer: 6/22/2006 01:32:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Cheney: Iraq pullout 'worst possible thing we could do'


    "History will judge this president as a very successful, very effective leader," Cheney said.

    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Vice President Dick Cheney criticized Democratic efforts calling for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, predicting that such an act would still leave the United States vulnerable to terrorists. (Full story)

    "The worst possible thing we could do is what the Democrats are suggesting," Cheney told CNN. "And no matter how you carve it -- you can call it anything you want -- but basically, it is packing it in, going home, persuading and convincing and validating the theory that the Americans don't have the stomach for this fight." (Watch the interview at 7 p.m. on CNN's "The Situation Room")

    Some Democrats have advocated an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Others have pushed for a phased troop withdrawal. On Thursday, the Senate rejected two such Democratic efforts. (Full story)

    "If we pull out, they'll follow us," Cheney said of terrorists. "It doesn't matter where we go. ... And it will continue -- whether we complete the job or not in Iraq -- only it'll get worse. Iraq will become a safe haven for terrorists. They'll use it in order to launch attacks against our friends and allies in that part of the world."

    Cheney also spoke about the possibility that North Korea will carry out a missile test. U.S. and South Korean officials issued warmings, along with Japan and Australia, after saying earlier this month that they believed a North Korean Taepodong-2 missile was being fueled and readied for a test.

    "I think, at this stage, we are addressing the issue in the proper fashion," said Cheney.
    Posted By CNN's Washington Bureau: 6/22/2006 12:43:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Illegal immigrants suffer Supreme Court defeat
    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A Mexican national lost his appeal Thursday at the Supreme Court, which upheld a deportation order that prevented the former illegal immigrant from remaining in the United States and seeking legal residency.

    The justices voted 8-1 that a 1996 federal law tightening restrictions on illegal immigrants applied to Humberto Fernandez-Vargas. He had been in the United States for years prior to the passage of the Illegal Immigration and Immigrant Responsibility Act, which took away the right to appeal a pending deportation order. (Full story)

    The court concluded even long-time illegal immigrants were not immune, because the simple act of remaining in the United States represented "an indefinitely continuing violation" of their immigration status.

    There is broad disagreement over how many people this ruling would affect. David Gossett, Fernandez-Vargas' appellate attorney, said that as many as 100,000 people are in similar situations, but federal immigration authorities said the number is far fewer.
    Posted By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer: 6/22/2006 12:37:00 PM ET | Permalink
    The Morning Grind
    Warner builds '08 operation through PAC

    Just look at former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner's (D) fundraising as of late and there is no question he is running for president.

    Warner raised more than $1.1 million last month for his Forward Together political action committee and he has $4 million in the bank to help pay for travel, staff and make strategic contributions to candidates in key states such as Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina as he explores a White House bid. (See below for the Latest 2008 PAC rundown).

    He also unveiled a new networking effort Wednesday that will eventually give 10 Democratic candidates $5,000 each, with one of them getting the "grand prize" of having Warner host a fundraiser. Modeled after the NCAA March Madness college brackets, Warner's political supporters will choose five winners each from the East and West, and from this pool a grand prize winner will be announced.

    "Mark Warner is building a presidential campaign that involves raising a lot of money early and spending some money," said Stuart Rothenberg, publisher of the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report and a columnist for Roll Call. "This is the only vehicle for Mark Warner to raise money, so this is where we see he is running for president and putting together a national operation."

    Rothenberg is referring to the fundraising efforts by other potential 2008 Democratic candidates such as Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York) and Sen. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts), who are raising money in other federal accounts. For example, Clinton only has $100,000 in her PAC, but she has about $20 million in her Senate campaign account. And while Kerry's PAC shows a balance of $500,000, he has more than $14 million in other federal accounts.

    On the Republican side, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tennessee) and Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) have most actively employed their leadership PACs to explore presidential bids. (See below for the Latest 2008 PAC rundown).

    Rothenberg describes these "leadership" PACs as "getting around money ... to help collect chits and show the flag around the country."

    Getting around is precisely what Warner needs to do in the coming months as he tries to build a national base and position himself as the alternative to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York). Today, Warner kicks off the NDN's annual meeting in Washington.

    ***

    The latest 2008 PAC rundown

    Federal political action committees are often used by potential presidential candidates to help pay for travel, staff and as a pool of money to make donations from to candidates in key states such as Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. CNN's Robert Yoon gives Grind readers the latest look at some possible 2008 candidates' leadership PACs.

    Raised in May 2006

    Democrats:
    Wesley Clark (D) - WesPAC: $25,544
    Hillary Clinton (D-NY) - Hill PAC: $122,479
    Russ Feingold (D-WI) - Progressive Patriots Fund $270,968
    John Kerry (D-MA) - Keeping America's Promise $270,848
    Mark Warner (D-VA) - Forward Together PAC $1,129,893

    Republicans:
    Bill Frist (R-TN) - Volunteer PAC $466,211
    Rudy Giuliani (R-NY) - Solutions America $159,022
    Chuck Hagel (R-NE) - Sandhills PAC $19,469
    John McCain (R-Arizona) - Straight Talk America $488,214

    Spent in May 2006

    Democrats:
    Wesley Clark (D) - WesPAC: $57,805
    Hillary Clinton (D-NY) - Hill PAC: $150,235
    Russ Feingold (D-WI) - Progressive Patriots Fund: $112,402
    John Kerry (D-MA) - Keeping America's Promise $256,897
    Mark Warner (D-VA) - Forward Together PAC $508,060

    Republicans:
    Bill Frist (R-TN) - Volunteer PAC $449,052
    Rudy Giuliani (R-NY) - Solutions America $141,390
    Chuck Hagel (R-NE) - Sandhills PAC $60,400
    John McCain (R-Arizona) - Straight Talk America $803,517

    Cash on hand as of May 31, 2006

    Democrats:
    Wesley Clark (D) - WesPAC: $16,101
    Hillary Clinton (D-NY) - Hill PAC: $100,240
    Russ Feingold (D-WI) - Progressive Patriots Fund: $545,628
    John Kerry (D-MA) - Keeping America's Promise $501,869
    Mark Warner (D-VA) - Forward Together PAC $4,079,249

    Republicans:
    Bill Frist (R-TN) - Volunteer PAC $659,490
    Rudy Giuliani (R-NY) - Solutions America $241,294
    Chuck Hagel (R-NE) - Sandhills PAC $138,617
    John McCain (R-Arizona) - Straight Talk America $761,845

    ***

    Knitting together the Democratic factions

    Once a political action committee dedicated to electing centrist Democrats, the NDN has transformed itself in recent years into a center to bring the various factions of the Democratic Party together. Today, the organization kicks off a two-day conference and will hear from three potential presidential candidates: former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner (D), Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York) and Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack (D), as well as liberal blogger Marko Moulitsas and Service Employees International Union official Eliseo Medina.

    "We believe the only way we are going to succeed as modern progressives or new Democrats is by the whole progressive movement succeeding," NDN President Simon Rosenberg said in an interview with the Grind earlier this week. "We are really trying to help everyone work together. Our ideas and values are not going to win the big debate right now unless the whole progressive movement wins."

    And Rosenberg said he thinks Democrats want to hear potential presidential candidates explain their plan of "how we are going to get back into power."

    "Democrats want to win and there is a lot of optimism about '08 being a good year," he said.

    ***

    Lincoln saves Clinton

    Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York) owes Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Arkansas) a bowl of Senate bean soup for helping her dodge questions last night about a possible 2008 presidential run. Clinton and Lincoln appeared alongside the seven other Democratic women senators to discuss politics and policy on CNN's "Larry King Live." But when King asked the senators if they would support Clinton if she decided to run for the White House, the New York Democrat unsuccessfully tried to steer the conversation in another direction. That is when Lincoln stepped in.

    "She wants to take one step at a time and get it right," Lincoln said, referring to Clinton's Senate re-election campaign.

    The comment gave Clinton the split second time she needed to regroup.

    "We want to focus on what we can get done in this Congress," Clinton said. "And then we need to focus on our elections in November because, as you say, we're running for re-election."

    But we must note, Clinton never ruled out running for the White House in 2008.

    ***

    Edwards poverty crusade

    Former Sen. John Edwards (D-North Carolina) continues his crusade to end poverty today, outlining a plan to do so over the next 30 years during a lunchtime speech at the National Press Club. Edwards, who is considering another run for the White House, will also speak to the current debate among Democrats about the future direction of the party.

    "I believe in a party willing to take stances that are right, whether or not they are popular," Edwards will say, according to advanced excerpts of his speech provided to CNN. "This is the tradition of America, fighting for what is right regardless of the odds, regardless of the power of those on the other side. It is what the Democratic Party I believe in is all about. We do not have to posture or to accept mediocrity or compromise our values. We can decide to be great, we can address great problems, we can see great possibilities."

    Edwards will also say that if Democrats want to be leaders, "we have to represent something greater than our own self-promotion.

    "We have to believe that our country is more important than ourselves," Edwards will say. "These times are critical, so let me be clear: in this battle for the soul of our Party, no less than the future of America and the future of the world are at stake."

    ***

    The vote to pull out of Iraq

    The Senate is scheduled to vote around 11 a.m. on two different Democratic proposals concerning U.S. troops in Iraq. The first amendment -- that is supported by the Democratic leadership -- calls for the beginning of redeploying troops by year's end and requires President Bush to submit a more detailed redeployment plan to Congress. The second plan -- being advanced by Sens. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) and Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin) -- calls for the withdrawal of troops by July 1, 2007. Both amendments are expected to fail with the leadership backed plan getting close to 40 votes and Kerry-Feingold attracting as many as 15 supporters, Democratic sources tell the Grind.

    "Today, the real choice facing this body is a choice between doing nothing -- the so-called 'stay the course' option the President and his supporters advocate -- or changing the course and providing our troops and the Iraqi people a way forward," Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) will say just before the vote, according to excerpts of his speech provided to the Grind. Reid will not vote for the Kerry-Feingold amendment.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 6/22/2006 10:59:00 AM ET | Permalink
    DAYAHEAD/Events making news today...
  • President Bush is in Budapest, Hungary, meeting with political leaders and making a speech commemorating the 50th anniversary of that country's uprising against the Soviet Union's occupation. He returns to Washington, D.C. tonight.

  • The Senate gaveled into session at 9:30 a.m. ET and resumed debate over the Defense Authorization bill. The Senate will vote on two Democratic amendments, one that calls for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq by July 1, 2007 and another that requires the beginning of a redeployment of troops by the end of the year. The House comes into session at 10 a.m. ET.

  • House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) holds an on-camera Q&A with reporters at 10:30 a.m. ET in the House Radio & TV Gallery.

  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) holds an on- camera Q&A with reporters at 10:45 a.m. ET in room H-206 of the Capitol.

  • The Democratic organization NDN kicks off its annual meeting at 12 p.m. ET with a speech by former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner (D), who is considering running for president.

  • Vice President Cheney delivers a 12:20 p.m. ET speech at the U.S.-India Business Council's 31st Anniversary Leadership Summit being held at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

  • Former Sen. John Edwards (D-North Carolina), a potential presidential candidate, discusses his plan to end poverty in a 12:30 p.m. ET speech at the National Press Club.

  • Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman addresses the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials at 1 p.m. ET at the group's annual conference being held in Dallas, Texas. Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean addresses the group later in the day.

  • The DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee holds a 1 p.m. ET conference call to discuss the presidential nominating calendar.

  • House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois) holds a 2:15 p.m. ET news conference on border security in the House Radio & TV Gallery.

  • Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R), a potential presidential candidate, addresses the "South Carolina Upstate Republican Run-Off Rally" in Spartanburg, South Carolina, at 5:30 p.m. ET.
  • Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 6/22/2006 10:56:00 AM ET | Permalink
    U.S. general mulling modest troop reductions
    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. commanding general in Iraq is considering recommending a small reduction in troop levels, military sources told CNN.

    Gen. George Casey is mulling a cut that would gradually reduce, at most, the equivalent of as many as two brigades -- an estimated 6,000 to 10,000 troops. The United States now has about 127,000 troops in Iraq.

    Sources said it would be a gradual move, and could involve postponing or delaying troop rotations as opposed to a direct pullout. There would be a lot of options for Casey to make adjustments to the plan, depending on how he sees the security situation evolve.

    Casey and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld briefed key lawmakers in closed-door breakfast meetings on Thursday.
    Posted By CNN's Washington Bureau: 6/22/2006 10:28:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Political Hot Topics
    U.S. WANTS ANSWER FROM IRAN NEXT WEEK; AHMADINEJAD SAYS MID-AUGUST: Speaking firmly but softly, the Bush administration is looking for an answer from Iran as early as next week on a package of inducements designed to halt its development of what the United States fears are nuclear weapons. The U.S. and its partners are holding open the option of seeking a U.N. Security Council resolution to force Iran's hand if Tehran does not respond or if its response is unacceptable. By making a public show of unity with the Europeans, Russians and Chinese, the administration is both signaling Tehran there is little to be gained by trying to promote division and also closing ranks for any U.N. drive for sanctions against Iran. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday that his country would respond in mid-August to the package of incentives. AP via Yahoo! News: White House seeks prompt reply from Iran

    BUSH CALLS "THREAT" COMMENT "ABSURD": With thousands of anti-American protesters crowding Vienna's streets, an irked President Bush snapped yesterday at a suggestion U.S. foreign policy has become a threat to global security. "That's absurd," Bush barked at an Austrian reporter during a press conference with European Union President and Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel. "We'll defend ourselves, but at the same time, we're actively working with our partners to spread peace and democracy... It's an absurd statement." Europe's anti-Americanism flooded Vienna, where more than 3,000 Austrian police expected about 10,000 protesters at multiple demonstrations coinciding with the U.S.-EU summit. New York Daily News: No welcome mat for W

    GOP NOW "EMBRACES" IRAQ AS ELECTION ISSUE: Just a few weeks ago, some Republicans were openly fretting about the war in Iraq and its effect on their re-election prospects, with particularly vulnerable lawmakers worried that its growing unpopularity was becoming a drag on their campaigns. But there was little sign of such nervousness on Wednesday as Republican after Republican took to the Senate floor to offer an unambiguous embrace of the Iraq war and to portray Democrats as advocates of an overly hasty withdrawal that would have grave consequences for the security of the United States. Like their counterparts in the House last week, they accused Democrats of espousing "retreat and defeatism." New York Times: Rallied by Bush, Skittish G.O.P. Now Embraces War as Issue

    SENATORS TO VOTE ON WITHDRAWAL PLANS: Senators today will be forced to take a position on two different proposals for withdrawal of troops from Iraq, the votes coming in an election year where polls show support for the conflict is steadily declining. Democrats are sponsoring both plans, one to start a "phased redeployment" by Jan. 31, the other to pull out combat troops by July 1, 2007. Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, spent most of last night arguing for his pullout measure, offered as an amendment to the defense authorization bill. He said the money and resources used since the Iraq war began in March 2003 have distracted the United States from the war on terror. "We want their government to stand up. The best way to stand it up is to shift responsibility," he said. Washington Times: Senate to vote on Iraq pullout

    LARGE PROFITS RESULT OF EARMARKS? House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) made a $2 million profit last year on the sale of land 5 1/2 miles from a highway project that he helped to finance with targeted federal funds. A Republican House member from California, meanwhile, received nearly double what he paid for a four-acre parcel near an Air Force base after securing $8 million for a planned freeway interchange 16 miles away. And another California GOP congressman obtained funding in last year's highway bill for street improvements near a planned residential and commercial development that he co-owns. In all three cases, Hastert and Reps. Ken Calvert and Gary Miller say that they were securing funds their home districts wanted badly, and that in no way did the earmarks have any impact on the land values of their investments. But for watchdog groups, the cases have opened a fresh avenue for investigation and a new wrinkle in the ongoing controversy over earmarks -- home-district projects funded through narrowly written legislative language. Washington Post: Lawmakers' Profits Are Scrutinized

    SPECTER TO HOLD HIS OWN IMMIGRATION HEARINGS: One day after Republican leaders in the House of Representatives announced they will put a sweeping Senate immigration bill under summer-long scrutiny with a series of public hearings, Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., countered with plans for hearings of his own. Specter said his sessions, beginning July 5 and lasting through the summer, will highlight "the need for a comprehensive bill" instead of the more narrowly focused border-security legislation that the House approved last December. USA Today: Republicans plan dueling hearings on immigration

    BLOOMBERG, WILLIAMS TALK TERROR CUTS ON THE HILL: Protecting major American cities against terrorism requires investing federal dollars not just in high-tech gadgets but also in police officers working in uniform and under cover, the mayors of New York and Washington told a House committee on Wednesday. The joint message, from Mayors Michael R. Bloomberg of New York and Anthony A. Williams of Washington, came as the two protested a plan by the Department of Homeland Security to cut grants to the cities by 40 percent in the coming year... [T]heir allotments were cut, at least in part, because of plans to use the money to pay police officers instead of investing in antiterrorism tools or training, Mr. Bloomberg told the House Committee on Homeland Security, calling such a choice shortsighted. New York Times: Mayors Protest Cuts in Antiterrorism Funds

    WILLIAMS' LAST CANNONBALL: D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams made his last cannonball dive into a city swimming pool Wednesday morning. Since 1999, Williams has marked the beginning of the city's summer parks and recreation program with a dive into a city pool. News4's Tom Sherwood reported Wednesday that Williams probably holds the record for mayoral cannonballs, eight in eight years. "I'm hoping that my legacy will be that my successor, whoever that successor is, will do an annual cannonball," said Williams. NBC4: Mayor Makes Last Cannonball To Open Pools

    BID TO RAISE MINIMUM WAGE KILLED IN SENATE: A battle over whether to raise the minimum wage is spilling into the hard-fought congressional races, with several Democratic challengers staging campaign events on the issue and Democrats promising to increase the wage as one of their first acts should they win control of Congress... The fight heated up Wednesday as the Senate rejected a proposal by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) to boost the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour over the next two years. The vote was 52-46 in favor of the higher wage, with eight Republicans joining Democrats to back the change, but that left proponents eight votes short of the 60 necessary to prevail under a parliamentary deal between the two parties. Chicago Tribune: Senate kills minimum pay boost

    MOLLOHAN HELPED WIN CONTRACTS FOR HIS CHARITY'S BENEFACTORS: Representative Alan Mollohan helped funnel at least $179 million in U.S. government contracts over the last six years to companies that gave to the West Virginia Democrat's family-run charity, tax records and other documents show. The money went to 21 companies and nonprofit groups that contributed $225,427 to the Robert H. Mollohan Family Charitable Foundation in 2004 -- almost half of the charity's revenue, according to the documents. The congressman, an Appropriations Committee member whose finances are under federal investigation, is the secretary of the foundation, which is named for his father. The charity, which distributes scholarships to West Virginia students, raises most of its money from corporate sponsors of an annual golf tournament attended by Mollohan, 63. The event gives company executives an opportunity to meet with him in a casual setting without having to report the donations as lobbying expenses. Bloomberg: Mollohan Helped Steer U.S. Contracts to Family-Charity Donors

    AG. DEPT. HIT BY HACKER: A hacker broke into the Agriculture Department's computer system and may have obtained names, Social Security numbers and photos of 26,000 Washington-area employees and contractors, the department said Wednesday. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said the department will provide free credit monitoring for one year to anyone who might have been affected. The break-in happened during the first weekend in June, the department said. Technology staff learned of the breach on June 5 and told Johanns the following day but believed personal information was protected by security software, the department said. AP via Yahoo! News: Hacker enters Agriculture dept. computers

    SENATORS REFRAIN FROM PICKING A FAVORITE '08 COLLEAGUE: By the time the smoke clears from the 2006 elections, Senators on both sides of the aisle will be confronted with an unwelcome question: Who are you backing for president? For now, though, most of them are running away from the question of which Senator, of the 12 potential candidates now being talked about, gets their endorsement for president. "I don't expect to be picking a horse," said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). "It's really not my vote that counts. It's the vote of the Republican primary voters." "They're working very hard to get people on board," said one GOP Senate aide of the would-be presidents. "But unless it's a home-state Senator, they're asking a lot this far out. Tough to stick your neck out like that this early." Roll Call: Who's Your Favorite? Senators Stay Mum

    SPITZER LEADS BY AT LEAST 40 IN NY: Attorney General Eliot Spitzer is holding on to a huge lead over his two opponents - Republican John Faso and Democrat Tom Suozzi - in the race for governor, a new poll yesterday showed. The Quinnipiac University survey found Faso making no significant gains against Democrat Spitzer since knocking former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld out of the GOP primary earlier this month. Democrat Spitzer led Faso, a former Assembly minority leader, by a lopsided 66-20 percent, compared to the 67-16 percent lead he held a month ago. The poll of 1,204 registered voters also found Spitzer leading Suozzi, the Nassau County executive, 76-13 percent, compared to a 73-13 percent lead held by Spitzer four weeks ago. New York Post: Spitzer Miles Ahead in Poll

    MI GOV RACE NEARLY TIED IN POLLS: Michigan's gubernatorial race between Democratic incumbent Jennifer Granholm and Republican challenger Dick DeVos is close, according to a poll released Wednesday. Forty-six percent of 600 likely voters said they would vote for DeVos, while 44 percent said they would vote for Granholm. Ten percent were undecided. The poll, by Lansing-based EPIC-MRA, had a sampling error margin of plus or minus 4 percentage points. AP via Yahoo! News: Poll shows Michigan governor race close
    Posted By Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau: 6/22/2006 09:24:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Wednesday, June 21, 2006
    The Cafferty File: Grading our schools

    On the Situation Room today, we asked viewers:

    What does it mean when 7,000 students are dropping out of school every day?

    Here are some of our favorite responses that we didn't get to read on air:

  • The dumbing down of America is in full swing. Destruction of our public school system is essential in creating a low-wage underclass. An educated populous capable of critical analysis, independent thought and mental acuity wouldn't tolerate what we have for government in this country today.
    -- Steve, Charlotte, North Carolina

  • How would you like to sit all day in a classroom learning things you're not interested in and will never use? Kids are no different than us. They have the basics by 4th grade, then give them computers and help them pursue their own creativity.
    -- Elaine, Cleveland, Ohio

  • This scale of attrition points in only one direction: the United States is quickly becoming a third-world nation and will soon drop out of super power status. If the schools can teach anything at all, Chinese might be in order.
    -- Gypsy

    ***


    We also asked:

    When it comes to voting rights, should some Southern states be watched more closely?

    Here's what our viewers had to say about that:

  • Yes I do agree that "certain" Southern States should be watched closely when it comes to civil rights and voting. We as Americans would like to believe that racism is dead, but we know better.
    -- Sondra, Los Angeles, California

  • Not just the South. Don't forget the Ohio fiasco. And Florida, which no true Southerner thinks of as "the South." We need to police every voting place and do everything possible to keep the pubs from stealing yet another election.
    -- Carla, Birmingham, Alabama

  • Jack, the 1965 Voting Act has done its work as a nice civil law. It now is certain that a new law needs to be written to focus upon the laws being broken both before and during Election Day. May the microscope be focused again on the Great South and may it reveal that which is broken needs to be fixed quickly.
    -- Rodney, Council Grove, Kansas

    ***


    And, we played around with this one:

    Who will the voters hold responsible for the nation's immigration problems in November?

    Viewers weighed in with:

  • The voters haven't been holding anyone responsible for anything so far, which indicates that voters are dumber than dirt. So what makes you think they will do anything right this time? While they may get the government they deserve, what about those of us who are being dragged into mess after mess created by that government.
    -- Dave, Jenkintown, Pennsylvania

  • The voters of this country won't hold anybody in Congress up to the light for this. The voters of this country are as gutless as its government.
    -- Guy, Green Bay, Wisconsin

  • Personally, I don't think there is anyone in Washington who knows what the word "responsible" means. All the same, anyone who voted for the Senate bill on amnesty will not get my vote! Anyone who likes the idea of a "Guest Worker Program" to allow millions more to come here will not get my vote! Anyone who worries more about illegal immigrants' rights than my citizen rights will not get my vote. Is there anyone left?
    -- Sandy, Thousand Oaks, California
  • Posted By Jack Cafferty, CNN Commentator: 6/21/2006 06:18:00 PM ET | Permalink
    The Situation Online
    Minding MySpace
    MySpace is implementing new security measures protecting users under the age of sixteen. Will they work? This week a fourteen year-old girl sued the popular Web site, alleging she was sexually assaulted by an older man she met on the site.

    Your personal records
    House lawmakers invited, and in some cases, subpoenaed companies in the business of selling other people's personal information to testify on Capitol Hill today. Listen to archived audio of the hearing revealing the type of information these companies provide, to whom, and under what conditions. CNN has acquired some of thousands of subpoenaed documents (PDF) that the committee is reviewing, so you can see for yourself the details of how these companies work.

    Vet victims
    The Veterans Affairs Department has just announced that it will cover the cost of credit monitoring services for any of the millions of veterans potentially at risk for identity theft following a data security breach last month involving a laptop computer.

    World refugee reponse
    We examine reaction to yesterday's World Refugee Day and explore a new global campaign from the UN Refugee Agency. Click here for a response to CNN's coverage of the global refugee crisis.

    Watch "The Situation Room" at 4:00 PM, 5:00 PM, and 7:00 PM, ET for these stories and more from our Internet reporters.
    Posted By The Situation Online Producers: 6/21/2006 05:30:00 PM ET | Permalink
    VA offers free credit monitoring in wake of data theft
    WASHINGTON (CNN)-- The Department of Veterans Affairs will offer a free credit-monitoring service to all veterans effected by the data theft of confidential information on veterans, VA Secretary Jim Nicholson announced Wednesday.

    About 26 million listings -- including names, Social Security numbers and other sensitive information -- were on a laptop computer stolen from the Silver Spring, Maryland, home of a VA employee. About 17.5 million people are actually at risk, said Nicholdson, because millions of names were duplications, were for deceased people or did not list an address.

    Nicholson said there is "no evidence" the data has been used inappropriately to this point. Neither the laptop nor the data have been recovered.

    Weterans will receive a letter with a personal PIN number, so they can monitor their credit, according to Nicholson. The company providing this service will be chosen after a competitive bidding process.

    Nicholson would not put a price tag on the service, but said it's "not going to be cheap."

    The employee who took the data home did so without approval, and is on administrative leave while the investigation continues. Nicholson said he wanted the employee fired but was told he couldn't fire him because of the "due process rights" the employee has.
    Posted By CNN's Washington Bureau: 6/21/2006 01:25:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Sources: 8 U.S. servicemen face murder, other charges
    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Seven U.S. Marines and a Navy medical corpsman will face charges ranging from murder to making false statements in connection with the April 26 killing of an Iraqi civilian near the town of Hamdaniya, Pentagon sources said Wednesday.

    The charges are scheduled to be announced Wednesday afternoon at Camp Pendleton, California, the Marine base where all eight have been held during a military investigation.

    A Pentagon official familiar with the results of the investigation told CNN the charges against all eight will include murder, kidnapping, conspiracy, larceny and making false official statements. (Full story)
    Posted By Jamie McIntyre, CNN Senior Pentagon Correspondent: 6/21/2006 12:26:00 PM ET | Permalink
    The Morning Grind
    GOP holds a $15 million cash advantage heading into midterms; but Senate and House Democrats flex fundraising muscles

    Republicans hold an overall cash advantage on Democrats heading into November, new campaign finance disclosure reports show. But when viewed by individual campaign committees, Senate and House Democrats have more money in the bank for the midterm elections than their GOP counterparts.

    The $15 million gap that separates Republicans and Democrats is due to the fact that the Republican National Committee has four times more money available than the Democratic National Committee. As of May 31, the RNC had $43.1 million in the bank, while the DNC reported $10.3 million in its war chest.

    The combined cash-on-hand for the DNC, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is $68.3 million, while the RNC, National Republican Senatorial Committee and National Republican Congressional Committee total is $83.3 million.

    The RNC's fundraising dominance over the DNC can be attributed to several factors, led by the Republican control of the White House. Still, some Democrats are angry and are questioning DNC Chairman Howard Dean's ability to raise funds as well as his decision to invest in rebuilding party infrastructure in "red states" instead of spending all of its resources in trying to take back control of the House and Senate. For his part, Dean defends the 50-state strategy, and he released a letter yesterday from Utah State Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Holland, Jr. praising it. Georgia State Democratic Party Chairman Bobby Kahn and other state Democratic leaders have told the Grind they, too, support Dean's initiative.

    Meanwhile, Senate Democrats have $15 million more than Senate Republicans; while in the House ,Democrats have a $2.6 million cash-on-hand advantage over the GOP at this point in the election cycle. President Bush helped to raise $27 million for the NRSC and NRCC earlier this week, so these numbers could change dramatically next month.

    ***

    Casey leads Santorum by 18

    In one of the most closely watched Senate races this year, Pennsylvania state Treasurer Robert Casey, Jr. holds an 18 point lead (52 percent to 34 percent) over incumbent Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania), a new Quinnipiac University poll set for release this morning shows. A previous Quinnipiac poll had Casey leading Santorum by 15 points.

    The university also noted that 44 percent of Pennsylvanians who back Casey "say their vote is mainly against Santorum."

    "Sen. Santorum appears to be his own worst enemy in his battle for re-election," Clay Richards, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said in a statement accompanying the poll results. "More than 40 percent of those who say they will vote for Democrat Bob Casey say they are really voting against Santorum. And less than 40 percent of all voters say Santorum deserves to be reelected."

    ***

    Interesting ad placement

    The Times-Reporter, a newspaper located in Rep. Bob Ney's (R-Ohio) district, writes up the conviction of David Safavian in the ongoing Jack Abramoff corruption probe. Check out the web ad from Ney -- who is also being investigated for his ties to Abramoff -- that wraps around the story in today's edition.

    ***

    Michael Chertoff as Jack Bauer

    Let's face it, most of the think tank panels that examine pressing issues of the day can be, well, down right boring. But the Heritage Foundation has come up with a format to spice it up. On Friday, Heritage uses the wildly popular television drama "24" to talk about national security. Three actors and two of the show's executive producers/writers will appear on a panel to discuss "24 and America's image in Fighting Terrorism: Fact, Fiction, or Does it Matter." President Charles Logan (Gregory Itzin), Chloe O'Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub), and Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard) will participate in the discussion.

    Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff is a big fan of the show and will also be on the panel, Heritage's Khristine Bershers tells the Grind. Conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh will serve as the moderator.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 6/21/2006 10:56:00 AM ET | Permalink
    DAYAHEAD/Events making news today...
  • President Bush attends the U.S.-European summit in Vienna, Austria. Later today, Bush leaves for Budapest, Hungary.

  • The Senate reconvened at 9:30 a.m. ET and resumed consideration of the Defense Authorization bill. This afternoon, the Senate will consider a Democratic leadership backed amendment that calls for the beginning of redeployment of U.S. troops from Iraq. The Senate will also consider an amendment sponsored by potential presidential candidates, Sens. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) and Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin) that would require the removal of U.S. troops from Iraq by July 1, 2007. The House gavels into session at 10 a.m. ET. It is scheduled to address the Voting Rights Act.

  • The nine Democratic women senators were scheduled to hold a 9 a.m. ET news conference at the Sewall Belmont House to criticize the GOP's stewardship of Congress. Tonight, these senators appear as guests on CNN's "Larry King Live."

  • House Republicans will address "efforts to rein in wasteful spending and exercise fiscal restraint" at 10 a.m. ET outside room HC-6.

  • House Democrats hold a 10 a.m. ET news conference on increasing the minimum wage outside room 345 of the Cannon House Office Building.

  • Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (R) speaks to the National Federation of Independent Business "Small Business Summit" at 10:15 a.m. ET at the Grand Hyatt. This morning, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (New York) and National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Elizabeth Dole (North Carolina) were scheduled to address the association. At 12:15 p.m. ET, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Georgia) delivers the keynote luncheon address.

  • Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-Ohio) and others "tout Congressional efforts in the battle against childhood Cancer & recognize 2006 Gold Ribbon Days" at 11 a.m. ET on the East Front Steps of the Capitol.

  • Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and other senators hold a news conference to discuss legislation that "would require manufacturers and distributors of dietary supplements and over-the-counter drugs to report all serious adverse events to the Food and Drug Administration." The news conference is at 1:30 p.m. ET in room S-324 of the Capitol.

  • The House Rules Committee holds a 2:30 p.m. ET hearing to create a rule for the "Legislative Line Item Veto Act of 2006" in room H-313 of the Capitol.

  • Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman delivers a 7 p.m. ET speech to the St. Mary's County, Maryland, Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner at the Crystal Room in Callaway, Maryland.
  • Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 6/21/2006 10:54:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Political Hot Topics
    HOUSE GOP HAS "LARGELY GIVEN UP" ON IMMIGRATION REFORM BEFORE NOVEMBER: In a move that could bury President Bush's high-profile effort to overhaul immigration law until after the midterm elections, House GOP leaders yesterday announced a series of field hearings during the August recess, pushing off final negotiations on a bill until fall at the earliest. The announcement was the clearest sign yet that House Republicans have largely given up on passing a broad rewrite of the nation's immigration laws this year. They believe that their get-tough approach -- including building a wall along the border with Mexico and deporting millions of illegal immigrants -- is far more popular with voters than the approach backed by Bush and the Senate, which would create a guest-worker program and allow many illegal immigrants to apply for U.S. citizenship. Washington Post: GOP Plans Hearings on Issue of Immigrants

    "IT IS NOT RIGHT FOR OTHERS TO TELL US WHAT TO DO ABOUT OUR SOVEREIGN RIGHTS": North Korea declared today that it has a right to carry out long-range missile tests, a day after U.S. officials said the Pentagon has activated a new missile defense system and as several countries called for Pyongyang to refrain from launching a missile. "It is not right for others to tell us what to do about our sovereign rights," Han Song-ryol, the deputy chief of North Korea's mission to the United Nations, told a South Korean news agency, although he also said his country was open to talks with the U.S. on the issue. "The United States says it is concerned about our missile test launch. Our position is, 'OK then, let us talk about it,'?" Mr. Han told Yonhap. Washington Times: Pyongyang asserts 'right' to test-fire missiles

    KERRY'S IRAQ STANCE RANKLES DEMS: When Senator John Kerry was their presidential nominee in 2004, Democrats fervently wished he would express himself firmly about the Iraq war. Mr. Kerry has found his resolve. But it has not made his fellow Democrats any happier. They fear the latest evolution of Mr. Kerry's views on Iraq may now complicate their hopes of taking back a majority in Congress in 2006... [T]he Democratic leadership wants its members to rally behind a proposal that calls for some troops to move out by the end of this year but does not set a fixed date for complete withdrawal. Mr. Kerry has insisted on setting a date, for American combat troops to pull out in 12 months, saying anything less is too cautious. New York Times: On Iraq, Kerry Again Leaves Democrats Fuming

    "I'M NOT SURE WE'RE DOING A WHOLE LOT OF GOOD": While Staff Sgt. Randy Myers was dodging roadside bombs in Iraq, his congressman was calling the war a lost cause. Sixteen-term Rep. John Murtha, a decorated Vietnam veteran and military hawk, has become the face of the Democrats' anti-war movement since he called for the withdrawal of U.S. troops last fall. His oft-repeated criticism of the Bush administration's war policies also has earned him the wrath of Republicans. In Murtha's southwest Pennsylvania district, however, many share the war critic's views... Myers said he backs Murtha, an opinion echoed by a number of other troops and their families. Several share his frustration with the conflict. "I'm not sure we're doing a whole lot of good," Myers, 46, said of the U.S. presence in Iraq. AP via Yahoo! News: Troops echo frustration over war in Iraq

    SAFAVIAN FOUND GUILTY: A federal jury found former White House aide David H. Safavian guilty yesterday of lying and obstructing justice, making him the highest-ranking government official to be convicted in the spreading scandal involving disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Safavian, a former chief of staff of the General Services Administration, was convicted in U.S. District Court here of covering up his many efforts to assist Abramoff in acquiring two properties controlled by the GSA, and also of concealing facts about a lavish weeklong golf trip he took with Abramoff to Scotland and London in the summer of 2002. This was the first Abramoff-related legal action to go to trial and face a jury. Washington Post: Ex-Aide To Bush Found Guilty

    "THREE MORE MONTHS OF FREEDOM": A federal judge Tuesday granted disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff and ex-partner Adam Kidan three more months of freedom before they must begin their prison terms for fraud convictions. The delay will give the two more time to cooperate with investigations into official corruption in Washington and the 2001 murder in Fort Lauderdale of businessman Konstantinos "Gus" Boulis, who was killed a few months after selling SunCruz Casinos to the pair. U.S. District Judge Paul C. Huck agreed to a motion from prosecutors and defense attorneys to delay the start of their prison terms to Oct. 2. Both men had been ordered to report to prison by next Thursday. AP via Yahoo! News: Judge in Fla. grants Abramoff, Kidan delay

    WHAT GETS VOTERS TO THE POLLS? Ever since 11 anti-gay-marriage initiatives helped carry President Bush to re-election in 2004, political activists have become convinced that placing measures on the ballot can pay dividends in boosting voter turnout for their side in Congressional and statewide races. At this point in the year, the landscape for statewide ballot initiatives is ever-changing, with many measures still only in the signature-gathering phase. But there's enough activity to get a rough idea about what issues are poised to make a splash on this fall's ballot. Here is a status report, based on spadework by the Initiative and Referendum Institute, the National Conference of State Legislatures and the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center.

    Measures With Strong Turnout Potential
  • Same-Sex Marriage.
  • Minimum wage.
  • Abortion.
  • Stem Cells.

    Measures With Less Certain Turnout Potential
  • Eminent Domain.
  • Affirmative Action.
  • End-of-Life Issues.
  • Criminal Justice.
  • Judges.
  • Taxes and Spending.
  • Education.
  • Marijuana.
  • Smoking.
  • Renewable energy.
  • Election Reform.
    Roll Call: Ballot Initiatives Could Play a Role in Election Outcomes This Fall

    DEMS HAVE MORE MONEY IN THE BANK FOR MIDTERMS: Senate and House Democrats, optimistic about their election-year prospects, have more money in the bank for the midterm contests than their Republican counterparts. Some four months before the voting, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has $33.5 million cash on hand compared to $18.3 million for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the groups said Tuesday. The Democrats raised $4.7 million in May; the Republicans collected $4.3 million in the month... House Democrats said they had $24.5 million cash on hand after raising $5.5 million last month. House Republicans said they had $21.9 million at the end of May after collecting $5.6 million. AP via Yahoo! News: Congressional Democrats pass GOP in funds

    JUST ONE CYCLE FOR EMANUEL AT THE HELM OF DCCC: Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) will step down from the House Democrats' campaign operation after the November elections to spend more time with his family, he told The Hill yesterday. Emanuel has been a leading strategist, fundraiser, cheerleader and recruiter for House Democrats as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) since the beginning of last year. His uncommon pairing of cunning efficiency and profanity-laced outbursts has won him both plaudits and opprobrium, but nearly all Democrats concede that he deserves substantial credit for their rosy election prospects this year. The Hill: Rahm nixes second term

    FORD'S TENNESSEE CHALLENGE: [Harold] Ford attempts a feat never before achieved: becoming the first black U.S. senator from the former Confederacy since Reconstruction. The seat he hopes to take is being vacated by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, whose departure is not supposed to create a successful race for Democrats. Ford and his strategists have studied the harsh precedents: the failed Senate candidacies in 1990 of Harvey Gantt in North Carolina and in 2002 of Ron Kirk in Texas, two states still colored by racial fault lines. Ford and his team feel they are forging a different path. He is only 36, but his style and ideology were formed long after the civil rights movement that shaped the liberal views of his father, former Rep. Harold E. Ford Sr., whose congressional seat he took over 10 years ago. Los Angeles Times: This Black Democrat Has a Chance in Tennessee

    LIEBERMAN THE INDEPENDENT? Should Sen. Joe Lieberman (D) opt to run as an Independent for re-election if he is defeated in Connecticut's August Democratic primary by political upstart Ned Lamont, Senate Democratic leaders could find themselves in uncharted political waters in deciding which candidate to back against Republican Alan Schlesinger and whether sanctions would be imposed on Lieberman for leaving the party even temporarily. Although the Senate has twice before seen incumbents launch Independent re-election bids following a primary defeat - including, ironically, an unsuccessful 1970 run by the late Sen. Thomas Dodd (D-Conn.), the father of Connecticut's other Democratic Senator, Chris Dodd - neither of those instances seems likely to provide a precedent for Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.), according to Associate Senate Historian Don Ritchie. Roll Call: Lieberman Could Put Leaders in Bind

    WHO WORKS HARDER FOR THE EMPIRE STATE? Score a big win for Chuck Schumer in his quiet rivalry with potential Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton. A poll released yesterday found New Yorkers rating Sen. Schumer, the state's senior Democratic senator, twice as effective in fighting for the state than Sen. Clinton, one of the nation's best-known political figures. The Siena College Research Institute survey found 44 percent of state voters saying that Schumer - widely known for aggressively conducting Sunday press conferences throughout the state - is "more effective" in helping New York. Twenty-two percent said the former first lady was "more effective." Another 22 percent of voters rated the pair equally effective and 12 percent said they didn't know who had done the most. New York Post: Chuck Twice As Good As Hill: Poll

    "CYBERSQUATTERS" SITTING ON '08 DOMAINS: With little more than two years until the 2008 presidential election, cybersquatters are prepped for the next presidential race. Many of the political domain names have been bought as investments with the intention of being sold to the potential presidential campaigns. Other buyers acquired the Web addresses to post endorsements or bash the presidential hopefuls. Either way, the cyberbrigade has hit almost all the presidential hopefuls... SuperDomainStore.com, devoted to selling domain names, is offering to sell condoleezarice.com for $29,000. It is the highest-priced political domain name listed on the site. Whoever pays for that domain name may have buyer's remorse, however, because Rice has two z's in her first name, not one. The Hill: 2008 domain names going, going, gone

    THE GUY WHO "NEARLY SUFFOCATED" BUSH WITH A BEAR HUG: [A]fter six years of undergraduate school and 4,872 demerits, [Gabriel] Whitney, 25, of Nashua, N.H., could hardly restrain himself. With more reason than most to be overjoyed, the 6-foot-7 midshipman stepped onto the stage to accept his degree and hugged Vice Adm. Joseph D. Stewart, the academy's superintendent. Then he raised both arms in a victorious salute as his classmates roared their approval. Elated and with his arms still upraised, he turned toward President Bush, who had just delivered the commencement address. Mr. Bush, wearing a quizzical expression, responded by raising his arms as well and moved in for a hug. The midshipman - almost unwittingly - found himself squeezing the president in his powerful arms. When the president caught his breath, he shook Mr. Whitney's hand. New York Times: A Graduate So Happy, He Hugged the Speaker

    BRIDGEPORT MAYOR APOLOGIZES, WON'T STEP DOWN: Mayor John M. Fabrizi admitted Tuesday he had abused cocaine while in office and said he wanted to apologize "to all the people of the city" but had no plans to resign. The admission followed the inadvertent release of an FBI document in which an alleged drug dealer claimed an associate had a videotape of the mayor using cocaine. In a tearful speech to about 200 city employees and residents in City Council chambers Tuesday, Fabrizi said he had not used drugs in 18 months and had sought help for a drug addiction that he had hoped to handle privately. AP via Yahoo! News: Conn. mayor won't quit over drug use
  • Posted By Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau: 6/21/2006 09:29:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Tuesday, June 20, 2006
    The Cafferty File: PA city cracks down on illegal immigrants
    On the Situation Room today, we asked viewers:

    Should towns and cities crack down on illegal immigrants on their own?

    Here are some of our favorite responses that we didn't get to read on air:

    Absolutely, Jack, for either hell will have frozen over, or we'll all be speaking Spanish before the federal government gets around to doing anything about the illegal alien crisis in this country.
    Marie, Las Vegas, Nevada

    Sure, and at the same time, they should staff their own restaurants, clean their own houses, baby sit their own kids, mow their own lawns, and pick their own fruits and vegetables.
    John, San Marcos, California

    Simply, yes, the cities and states, counties should act. Here in Tulare County, the illegals line our streets openly. It is obvious our national leaders won't do anything.
    Ralph, Visalia, California

    The Congress and President have done absolutely nothing concerning illegal immigration. It's not working from the top down... maybe bottom up will. Bravo, Mr. Mayor!
    Peter, Burlington, Massachusetts



    We also asked:

    Should the Pentagon classify homosexuality as a mental disorder?

    Here's what our viewers had to say about that:

    I think that instead of claiming homosexuality as a disorder, we should openly allow them to join and serve.
    Steve, Calico Rock, Arkansas

    Great idea! Then they can start doing experiments on them, taking out parts of the brain, to find out how to make them straight. Maybe infidelity should be a mental disorder, too.
    Allen, Mountain Home, Idaho

    The leadership at the Pentagon should be classifying the guys who claim that the "insurgency" is in its last throes with the mental disorder.
    Michael, Lynchburg, Virginia



    And, we posed the question:

    How should the U.S. respond if North Korea goes ahead with its missile test?

    Viewers of the Situation Room said:

    If North Korea goes ahead with its missile test, the U.S. should put President Bush on primetime TV and have him do one of his famous "bring it on" speeches.
    T., Omaha, Nebraska

    The U.S. should respond by explaining to North Korea the concept of MAD. Do they wish to live in this world or do they wish to be annihilated?
    Bill, Holland, Michigan

    I think we should shoot it down. Then reply that we were just testing, too.
    Larry, Janesville, Wisconsin
    Posted By Jack Cafferty, CNN Commentator: 6/20/2006 06:05:00 PM ET | Permalink
    The Situation Onlne
    Ask Arnold
    If Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger could be any color, what color would he be? Tune in to "The Situation Room" to get that answer and plenty more in this unprecedented live Web cast where the Governor interacts directly with California residents online.

    World refugee resources

    From comprehensive facts to fundraising, extraordinary online resources on World Refugee Day are only a mouse click away.

    Your phone records
    A growing number of online data brokers are selling your phone records to anyone for the asking. But is law enforcement also taking advantage of such services in lieu of getting a subpoena or warrant? Starting Wednesday the House Committee on Energy and Commerce will hold two days of hearings on what data brokers procure, how they do it, who's purchasing it, and how law enforcement agencies use the information as an investigative tool or resource. Part of the concern deals with this GAO report (PDF) that states the U.S. government spent $30 million in 2005 buying personal information from information resellers.

    Watching wildfires
    Near Sedona, Arizona, over four hundred personnel are using four air tankers, thirty-one fire engines, and eight helicopters to try to put out the fire scorching some fifteen hundred acres. The Northern Arizona Incident Management Team is keeping local residents updated with the latest evacuation and wildfire information.

    Disorder or discrimination?
    Despite extensive scientific and medical evidence to the contrary, a Pentagon memo, discovered by University of California researchers, reveals that the Defense Department still classifies "homosexuality" as a mental disorder. A Pentagon spokesperson told CNN that the document is under review.

    Watch "The Situation Room" at 4:00 PM, 5:00 PM, and 7:00 PM, ET for these stories and more from our Internet reporters.
    Posted By The Situation Online Producers: 6/20/2006 04:07:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Ex-administration official, Abramoff associate convicted
    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A federal jury Tuesday convicted former Bush administration official David Safavian on four of five counts of obstruction of justice and making false statements. (Full story)

    The trial focused largely on the ties between the former chief-of-staff at the General Services Administration, an agency that manages federal property, and Republican former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who has admitted to illegally peddling influence with public officials.

    During the trial, prosecutors displayed snapshots showing Abramoff, Safavian, Ohio Republican Rep. Bob Ney, and others at a ritzy Scottish golf resort. Abramoff organized the August 2002 trip.

    The jury found that Safavian concealed his assistance to Abramoff in GSA-related activities and lied to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs when he "falsely stated in a letter to the committee that Mr. Abramoff did not have any business with GSA at the time Mr. Safavian was invited on the trip to Scotland, when in truth and in fact, Mr. Safavian well knew, prior to the August 2002 Scotland trip that Mr. Abramoff was seeking to lease or purchase GSA-controlled property."
    Posted By Paul Courson, CNN Washington Bureau: 6/20/2006 12:38:00 PM ET | Permalink
    The Morning Grind
    At least half the country might vote for you

    Half of the country would definitely or at least consider voting for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York), Sen. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) or former Vice President Al Gore (D) if any of them decided to run for president.

    The only problem is that an equal amount would definitely vote against them if they ran for president, a new CNN poll conducted by Harris Interactive shows. Gore, who has said repeatedly he will not run, received the highest negative rating among these three Democrats with 48 percent of Americans saying they would not vote for him, while Clinton and Kerry each received 47 percent. Two of the most often mentioned Republicans eyeing presidential bids, Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani did much better. Only 34 percent of Americans said they would definitely vote against McCain, while 30 percent said they would never vote for Giuliani.

    "The Democrats obviously face a problem in that their three best known potential candidates start out with nearly half the public voting against them," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

    Democrats might find some solace in knowing that Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) received the highest negative response in the poll. Only 35 percent of Americans said they would definitely vote for or consider voting for the Florida governor if he ran for the White House, while 63 percent said they would definitely vote against him.

    ***

    We all don't scream for ice cream! At least from lobbyists

    The International Dairy Foods Association describes last week's Capitol Hill Ice Cream Party a success, scooping the frozen concoction to about 10,000 staffers, Congressional leaders and their families. The IDFA says that it went through 1,500 gallons of frozen yogurt, ice cream and sherbet as well as 44 cases of syrup. But while many staffers were satisfying their sweet tooth, Sen. Dick Durbin's (D-Illinois) aides could only look on longingly. It seems that Durbin takes lobbying reform so seriously that he forbids his staffers from accepting gifts from lobbyists even if it comes in the form of a cone.

    "Senator Durbin has asked that we comply scrupulously with the Democratic bill and one of our general counsel's interpretations of that bill is that events hosted by lobbyists are events we should avoid," Joe Shoemaker, Durbin's spokesman told the Grind. "So that is what we did."

    Chip Kunde, IDFA's senior vice president for government affairs, took the snub in stride noting that this is the 24th year his organization has been hosting ice cream day on the Hill.

    "We just do it to celebrate all the good things that dairy has to offer," Kunde said in an interview with the Grind. "I think the vast majority of people come out and enjoy some of America's favorite desert."

    Kunde noted that dairy state Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin) asks for the value of the event and then reimburses the association for his staff's cones.

    But Durbin is no Grinch about ice cream. His staff had their own ice cream social on Friday with sprinkles, syrup and all the fixings for a sundae.

    ***

    A short European trip

    President Bush is somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean this morning heading to the U.S.-European summit being held in Vienna, Austria. And while Bush will be there for one day, he is expected to face a full agenda of talks on issues ranging from Iraq and Iran's nuclear ambitions to calls for the shut down of Guantanamo Bay's military prison, CNN's Elaine Quijano reports.

    On his way home, Bush will make a stop in Budapest, Hungary to speak at the 50th anniversary commemorating the Hungarian Revolution, where tens of thousands of Hungarians rose up to demand an end to Soviet rule. Quijano notes that Moscow will likely be monitoring Bush's remarks, because Putin has been upset with recent U.S. comments critical of Moscow for "backsliding" on Democracy. Bush returns to the White House Thursday evening.

    ***

    Iraq debate

    Potential 2008 presidential rivals, Sen. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) and Feingold will offer an amendment today that calls for U.S. combat troops to be removed from Iraq by July 1, 2007. Originally, Kerry wanted troops redeployed by Dec. 31, 2006, but yesterday he extended the deadline by six months. The amendment differs from a broader plan for Iraq being promoted by Democratic leaders that calls for beginning the redeployment of troops by year's end and then requires Bush to present a more comprehensive redeployment plan to Congress.

    At a Republican fundraiser last night, Bush bushed off the Democratic proposals.

    "An early withdrawal, before we completed the missions, would say to the United States military, your sacrifices have gone to vain," Bush said. "There will be no early withdrawal so long as we run the Congress and occupy the White House."
    ***

    Taking a page from the GOP playbook

    While most Democrats are trying to tailor their party's message for the midterm elections in an attempt to take back the House and Senate, a small group of Democrats are focusing on the long term. Democratic speechwriters/authors Kenneth Baer and Andrei Cherny unveil a new magazine today titled "Democracy: A Journal of Ideas." The goal is to help formulate new thoughts for the party and "re-energize progressive politics."

    The pair argues that Democrats need to "update their ideas about government in the 21st Century and stop living off the New Deal legacy." Baer and Cherny readily acknowledge the magazine is modeled after conservative publications such as "Commentary," "National Interest," and "Public Interest" that helped spawn ideas such as supply-side economics and compassionate conservatism. Baer, who served as senior speechwriter to former Vice President Al Gore, and Cherny who was director of speechwriting for Sen. John Kerry's (D-Massachusetts) presidential campaign, launch the magazine at a news conference (see details below in Dayahead) this afternoon.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 6/20/2006 11:53:00 AM ET | Permalink
    DAYAHEAD/Events making news today...
  • President Bush is en route to Vienna, Austria for the U.S.-European summit.

  • The Senate gaveled into session at 9:45 a.m. ET and temporarily adjourns at 12:30 p.m. ET for Republicans and Democrats to attend weekly policy lunches. The House opened its doors this morning at 9:30 a.m. ET.

  • House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) holds an 11:30 a.m. ET pen-and-pad meeting with journalists in room H-107 of the Capitol.

  • Sens. Lincoln Chafee (R-Rhode Island), Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) talk about the need to "close the SUV loophole and raise the average fuel economy for all vehicles" at 11:30 a.m. ET in the Senate Radio and TV Gallery.

  • Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President Cheney, delivers 12:15 p.m. ET remarks and reads to school children at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham, Alabama.

  • House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) holds a 12:30 p.m. ET pen-and-pad with journalists in room H-306 of the Capitol.

  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and other Democrats hold a rally with college students to "call on Republicans to reverse the raid on student aid" at 1 p.m. ET in room HC-5 of the Capitol.

  • Democratic speechwriters/authors Kenneth Baer and Andrei Cherny launch the new magazine "Democracy: A Journal of Ideas" at a 1 p.m. ET news conference in the National Press Club.

  • Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), a potential 2008 presidential candidate, holds a 1:30 p.m. ET press conference on stem cells in the Russell Senate Park.

  • Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts), Hillary Rodham Clinton (New York), Durbin, and Reps. George Miller (D-California), David Obey (D-Wisconsin) and Hoyer hold a 3:30 p.m. ET news conference in the Senate Radio and TV Gallery to call for an increase in the minimum wage.

  • Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) attends a 4:30 p.m. ET fundraiser in Bloomfield, Michigan for gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos.
  • Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 6/20/2006 11:48:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Political Hot Topics
    DEMS TALK IRAQ WITHDRAWAL (WITHOUT SAYING THE WORD "WITHDRAWAL"): Trying to bridge party divisions on the eve of a Senate debate, leading Democrats called Monday for American troops to begin pulling out of Iraq this year. They avoided setting a firm timetable for withdrawal but argued that the Bush administration's open-ended commitment to the war would only prevent Iraqis from moving forward on their own... [T]he Senate proposal, a nonbinding resolution, was carefully worded to deflect any accusations that the Democrats were "cutting and running," as their position has been depicted by Republicans. The Democrats behind the measure did not even use the word "withdrawal," and talked about how to guarantee "success" for Iraq, not about any failures of the war. New York Times: Senate Democrats Urge Beginning of an Iraq Pullout This Year, but Avoid a Firm Schedule

    KERRY WANTS ALL TROOPS OUT BY JULY 1, 2007: Senator John F. Kerry is pushing back by six months the deadline he wants to set for removing combat troops from Iraq, as he seeks to build support in the Senate for his plan for troop withdrawal. The proposal to be offered by Kerry today would require President Bush to remove nearly all US troops from Iraq by July 1, 2007. The Massachusetts Democrat's initial plan -- to remove troops by the end of 2006 -- received just six votes in the Senate last week, and the later date is intended to build support for the proposal, said April Boyd, a Kerry spokeswoman. "Every vote for a deadline withdrawal is Congress saying to President Bush that we will not accept war without an end policy in Iraq," Boyd said. Boston Globe: Kerry extends troop withdrawal date

    U.S. EFFORTS ABROAD HAVE PREVENTED NEW TERROR ATTACKS, SAYS CHENEY: Vice President Dick Cheney said Monday that aggressive U.S. action is responsible for preventing new terror attacks since the Sept. 11 strikes. "Nobody can promise that we won't be hit," Cheney said. But he credited a determined offense against terrorists abroad, improved intelligence-gathering and preventive steps at home for thwarting or discouraging terror attacks on U.S. soil. AP via Yahoo! News: Cheney sees success in warding off attacks

    N. KOREA LAUNCHING A SATELLITE OR TESTING A LONG-RANGE MISSILE? North Korea may be preparing to launch a satellite rather than testing a missile, South Korea's ruling party said, citing Unification Minister Lee Jong Seok. "It is difficult to discern whether the launch vehicle is a missile or a satellite," Uri Party spokesman Woo Sang Ho said today after party leaders met Lee, who also serves as the nation's security chief. The meeting follows reports that North Korea is preparing to test a long-range ballistic missile. The missile may eventually have the capacity to strike the U.S., the New York Times reported yesterday, citing former National Security Council aide Gary Samore. The U.S., Japan and Australia have warned North Korea against test-firing such a missile. Bloomberg: North Korea May Be Preparing to Launch a Satellite

    U.S. MISSILE DEFENSE IS IN "OPERATIONAL MODE": The Pentagon activated its new U.S. ground-based interceptor missile defense system, and officials announced yesterday that any long-range missile launch by North Korea would be considered a "provocative act."... Two Navy Aegis warships are patrolling near North Korea as part of the global missile defense and would be among the first sensors that would trigger the use of interceptors, the officials said yesterday. The U.S. missile defense system includes 11 long-range interceptor missiles, including nine deployed at Fort Greeley, Alaska, and two at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The system was switched from test to operational mode within the past two weeks, the officials said. Washington Times: N. Korean threat activates shield

    BUSH TALKS TOUGH ON IRAN AT MERCHANT MARINE COMMENCEMENT: On the day before he was to depart for a meeting with European allies in Vienna, President Bush issued a stiff warning to Iran on Monday, saying it should suspend its uranium enrichment program now or face "progressively stronger" economic sanctions and further political isolation. Mr. Bush reiterated the United States' offer to join multinational talks with Iran, but only if it immediately ceased uranium production. If Iran rejects that offer, he said, "It will result in action before the Security Council, further isolation from the world and progressively stronger political and economic sanctions." New York Times: Bush, at Merchant Academy, Warns Iran on Nuclear Program

    FIRST PRESIDENT IN HISTORY TO ADDRESS MERCHANT MARINE GRADUATES: To most Americans coming off the final weekend of spring, President Bush's commencement address here Monday was just another graduation speech, one of more than 4,000 this year on campuses across the country. But to the staff, faculty, midshipmen and friends of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, it was a huge deal, a dream come true - the first time in the service academy's 63-year history that a president accepted an invitation to address the graduates. Bush underscored the point in his address: "I hope it's worth the wait," he quipped when he took the podium Monday. USA Today: Bush's visit, speech thrill midshipmen

    BUSH RAISES $27 MILLION AT GOP "PRESIDENT'S DINNER": President Bush suggested last night that Republicans must remain in control of Congress for the country to effectively combat terrorism and keep the economy healthy, speaking at a $27 million fundraiser meant to provide a needed boost to the campaign war chest of congressional Republicans... Bush addressed about 5,000 of the GOP's strongest supporters at the "President's Dinner," the largest fundraiser of the year for the Republicans' two congressional campaign committees. Washington Post: Bush Raises $27 Million for GOP

    ABRAMOFF MAY SPEND THREE MORE MONTHS JAIL-FREE: The Justice Department and attorneys for disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff have agreed to postpone for at least three months the day he has to report to federal prison — the latest sign that Abramoff's continued cooperation with an ongoing corruption probe in Washington, D.C., is proving helpful to prosecutors. Abramoff had been scheduled to surrender himself to the Bureau of Prisons on June 29 to begin the 70-month prison sentence handed down by Judge Paul Huck of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida... Justice officials and Abramoff's lawyers filed a joint motion with Huck on Friday night asking for a three-month reprieve for Abramoff, who is cooperating with federal prosecutors in an ongoing probe that has roiled official Washington. Roll Call: Abramoff May See Delayed Sentence

    STATE #2 TO LEAVE FOR GOLDMAN SACHS: Deputy Secretary of State Robert B. Zoellick, one of the administration's most prominent figures in foreign and economic policy, said yesterday that he is resigning to join the Wall Street investment firm Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Zoellick's interest in leaving his high-profile post had long been rumored, but it leaves a large hole in Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's foreign policy team... In a ceremony in the Benjamin Franklin Room of the State Department, Rice said she was "deeply honored" that Zoellick had agreed to be her deputy and was making the announcement "not without considerable sadness." Washington Post: Rice's Top Deputy to Leave State Department

    IMMIGRATION ESTIMATE "A PERFECTLY TIMED STATISTICAL BOMB": As obvious as the question seemed, nobody had really calculated how many more people the Senate's immigration bill would add to the U.S. population when the Senate opened debate on the issue last month. So when a think tank analyst projected more than 100 million over the next 20 years -- raising the U.S. population by a third, or nearly three Californias and perhaps even twice that -- it landed like a perfectly timed statistical bomb. Now, as the bill moves forward, the debate isn't just about the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants already living in the county -- but the tens of millions of new legal immigrants the legislation might produce in the future. San Francisco Chronicle: Senate swayed by analyst's immigrant count

    HOMOSEXUALITY A "MENTAL DISORDER," SAYS DOD: A Pentagon document classifies homosexuality as a mental disorder, decades after mental health experts abandoned that position. The document outlines retirement or other discharge policies for service members with physical disabilities, and in a section on defects lists homosexuality alongside mental retardation and personality disorders. Critics said the reference underscores the Pentagon's failing policies on gays, and adds to a culture that has created uncertainty and insecurity around the treatment of homosexual service members, leading to anti-gay harassment. AP via Yahoo! News: Pentagon lists homosexuality as disorder

    SD ABORTION BAN IN VOTERS' HANDS: South Dakota voters will decide in November whether they agree that life begins at conception and that the state should outlaw most abortions. Secretary of State Chris Nelson said Monday that a petition to refer the new abortion law to a public vote has enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, making official a matter that is expected to dominate political debates this year. The referred law says life begins at conception. A doctor could be charged with a felony for performing an abortion except to save the life of a pregnant woman. The ban, passed by the 2006 Legislature and signed by Gov. Mike Rounds on March 6, was slated to become law July 1. The successful petition drive puts the law on hold until after November's vote. Sioux Falls Argus-Leader: Petition a success, abortion on ballot

    BLUNT TAKES ON MOVIE'S PG RATING: Filmmakers regularly gripe that the movie-ratings system is arbitrary and unfair, but it's uncommon for a lawmaker to entangle himself in the process. House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) did that, however, just last week that by weighing in on the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) decision to rate a film about a football team at a Christian high school as PG instead of G. Franklin, Tenn.-based Provident Films declared in a press release last month that its picture, "Facing the Giants," was "rated PG for explicit Christian content."... In a letter sent to MPAA Chairman and CEO Dan Glickman last week, Blunt expressed his concern that the ratings system might be seriously flawed if the small-budget feature is deemed too religious by the MPAA's Classification and Rating Administration. The Hill: Blunt weighs in on movie's PG rating

    SCHWARZENEGGER TO HEADLINE LOG CABIN REPUBLICANS FUNDRAISER: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger plans to headline a fundraiser for gay Republicans in Hollywood next week, in what would be his first appearance in front of a gay audience since he took office, according to the event's organizers. The June 29 fundraiser for Log Cabin Republicans comes as Schwarzenegger considers whether to veto a bill that would require chapters from gay history to be added to public school textbooks in California. The governor already has indicated that he opposes the measure. The governor's stock has been down with gay rights groups since he vetoed a gay marriage bill in September. AP via LA Times: Schwarzenegger to Headline Gay Republican Fundraiser

    CHICAGO PROSECUTORS UNVEIL "CLOUT LIST": A who's who of Chicago political power brokers and the job seekers they sponsored was unveiled Monday by federal prosecutors in the City Hall corruption trial. The list of more than 5,700 politically connected job applicants became public as a longtime secretary in Mayor Richard Daley's office testified for federal prosecutors against former Daley patronage chief Robert Sorich. Although city officials insisted for years that they did not engage in patronage hiring, secretary Patricia Molloy said aides in the mayor's office kept track of job seekers and their political sponsors, beginning shortly after Daley's election in 1989 and during much of his 17-year tenure. Chicago Tribune: They've Got Clout

    TOMMY THOMPSON WON'T RUN FOR SENATE: The sun continues to set on Tommy Thompson's political career, after the former GOP governor announced Monday he would not run for U.S. Senate against incumbent Democrat Herb Kohl. Thompson, 65, had held open the possibility of taking on the three-term senator from Milwaukee at the state Republican Convention in Appleton last month after opting not to run for governor and joining U.S. Rep. Mark Green's gubernatorial campaign instead. But the same factors that prompted him not to run for that office also applied in this case, said confidant and former administration secretary Jim Klauser: his family's opposition to another campaign, his desire to focus on helping Green beat incumbent Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, and his business commitments. Wisconsin State Journal: No Senate race for Thompson

    CT MAYOR CONFESSES TO DRUG USE: [Bridgeport, CT] Mayor John M. Fabrizi, tearful and clutching his wife's hand, admitted Monday he has used cocaine while serving as the city's chief elected official, but maintained he quit using the illegal drug well over a year ago. "I'm ashamed. I'm humiliated for myself. I never meant to let the world know. I didn't want my family to know," Fabrizi said. "I owe the Connecticut Post this. I owe the city of Bridgeport this," the mayor said, referring to his confession. Fabrizi, 49, said he also stopped drinking alcohol four months ago. He said he initially had stopped drinking in early 2005, but resumed imbibing during last year's holidays. He said he soon returned to sobriety. The mayor asked the public for forgiveness for past drug use. Connecticut Post: Fabrizi: I used coke
    Posted By Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau: 6/20/2006 08:47:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Monday, June 19, 2006
    Cafferty File: Presidential ambitions distract Senate?
    On the Situation Room today, we asked viewers:

    Is the 2008 White House race distracting the Senate from getting its business done?

    Here are some of our favorite responses that we didn't get to read on air:

    I think everything is distracting the Congress from getting their jobs done. What we need is a presidential candidate that has never been in politics, who is a straight-talker, ethical, honest, and trustworthy!
    Barbara, Woodruff, Wisconsin

    Let's hope so. Until the voters can clean house in November, the best we can hope for from Congress is that they do no (more) harm.
    Craig, Aberdeen, Maryland

    Jack, We have long ago learned that the first thing that Senators do after winning an election is that they run for re-election or for a higher job (President). They still do not get it, that they are put in the Senate to do what the people put them there for.
    Harley, New York

    We also tackled the question:

    The president of Shell Oil Company says that "energy independence is going too far." Do you agree?

    Here is what our viewers had to say about that one:

    An oil company -- especially a foreign company -- setting energy policy is foolish. Their interest is always going be their bottom line not the consumer. Ask any Californian about Enron.
    Alex, Escondido, Calif.

    What do you expect an oil company executive to say? Energy independence is possible with today's technology. All that is missing is political will.
    Steve, Olive Branch, Miss.

    If we were talking about food instead of oil would you want to depend on those desert rats for your next meal? I think not. For most people in this country affordable energy is a must in order to get food. I'll vote for independence, thank you.
    Steve, New Windsor, Maryland
    Posted By Jack Cafferty, CNN Commentator: 6/19/2006 06:00:00 PM ET | Permalink
    The Situation Online


    Prime ministers of Finland, Norway, Sweeden, Iceland and Norway attend Monday's ceremony for seed bank.

    Arctic "Noah's Ark" of seeds
    We examine a Norwegian government project to preserve some of the world's most valuable seeds in the event of a global catastrophe.

    Lost in translation?
    Pennsylvania Democratic Senatorial candidate Bob Casey complains Republican incumbent Rick Santorum took too long to update the Spanish version of Santorum's campaign site to accurately reflect his most recent views on immigration. Casey, by contrast, does not have a Spanish version of his campaign site. But he isn't alone. According to a recent study, only 14% of Senate candidates have a Spanish Web site.

    Just the facts
    The left wing of the Internet had a significant impact on the 2004 campaigns. Now a new Democratic think tank hopes a new monthly Web magazine launched today can weed out the rhetoric, replacing it with real numbers.

    Driving disaster relief
    Hurricane Katrina was at the heart of a surge in charitable donations by Americans last year. View the key findings (PDF) of a new report that reveal an unprecedented $7.37 billion in 2005 donations.

    Watch "The Situation Room" at 4:00 PM, 5:00 PM, and 7:00 PM, ET for these stories and more from our Internet reporters.
    Posted By The Situation Online Producers: 6/19/2006 05:13:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Rice: N. Korea missile test would be 'very serious'
    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Monday that the test firing of a missile by North Korea would be regarded as a "very serious matter" by the United States.

    "It would be a very serious matter and, indeed, a provocative act, should North Korea decide to launch that missile," she told reporters after meeting with Spain's foreign minister.

    "We will obviously consult on next steps, but I can assure everyone, it would be taken with utmost seriousness." (Full story)
    Posted By CNN's Washington Bureau: 6/19/2006 05:08:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Cheney stands by 2005 'last throes' prediction


    In 2005, Cheney told CNN: "Those who have predicted the demise of our efforts since 9/11 ... did not know what they were talking about."

    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Vice President Dick Cheney on Monday stood by his year-old prediction that the insurgency against U.S. troops in Iraq was in its "last throes" but said the United States underestimated the strength of that insurgency.

    Cheney said in a May 2005 interview with CNN that he believed the insurgency in Iraq was in its "last throes." About 850 U.S. troops and thousands of Iraqis have been killed since then, but Cheney said Monday that he still believes that.

    "I think the key turning point when we get back 10 years from now, say, and look back on this period of time with respect to the campaign in Iraq, will be that series of events when the Iraqis increasingly took over responsibility for their own affairs," he told reporters at the National Press Club.

    Bush administration officials have pointed to the establishment of a democratic government in Iraq since December's elections as a sign of progress in the conflict.

    "I think that will have been, from a historical turning point, the period that we'll be able to look at and say that's when we turned the corner, that's when we began to get a handle on the long-term future of Iraq," Cheney said.
    Posted By CNN's Washington Bureau: 6/19/2006 03:25:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Split court limits scope of clean water protections
    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A sharply divided Supreme Court limited the reach of federal regulators to block private development that might affect water quality, in an important property rights dispute that exposed deep divisions among the justices.

    The court on Monday concluded 5-4 that the Army Corps of Engineers exercised undue regulation in two cases involving plans by two Michigan landowners to build a shopping center and condominiums on land that contained wetlands. But the justices failed to agree on the broader issue of whether the government's reach extends to tributaries -- the many lakes, streams, swamps, dikes, canals, and even temporary ponds and drainage ditches that often cross state lines and feed a maze of larger so-called "navigable" waterways.

    That division left courts, the government, and developers with no clear guide over when wetlands would be subject to regulation.

    Chief Justice Roberts in a brief note lamented the lack of consensus among his colleagues to interpret the scope of the Clean Water Act.

    "Lower courts and regulated entities will now have to feel their way on a case-by-case basis," he said.

    An estimated 100 million acres of wetlands in the lower 48 states are at the center of the debate, which pits the federal government and environmental groups against developers and business leaders. Many states and cities are split on the issue.
    Posted By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer: 6/19/2006 12:56:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Bush threatens sanctions against Iran if it fails to agree to U.S. offer
    KINGS POINT, N.Y. (CNN) -- President Bush on Monday said the United
    States would push for sanctions and would not enter into direct talks with Iran
    until the country's leaders accept the U.S. demand that it halt its nuclear
    activities "that mask efforts to acquire nuclear weapons."

    The United States has offered to meet with U.S. allies and Iranian
    representatives "as soon as Iran suspends enrichment and reprocessing
    activities," Bush told graduates of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings
    Point, where he delivered the keynote address.

    Bush accused Iran's leaders of sponsoring terrorism and denying liberty
    and human rights to its people and threatening the existence of Israel.
    "Nuclear weapons in the hands of this regime would be a grave threat to
    people everywhere," he said.

    Bush said he has discussed the issue with the leaders of Great Britain,
    Germany, France, Russia and China, and that he hopes to solve the problem
    diplomatically, but that it is up to Iran's leaders to comply.
    Posted By CNN's Washington Bureau: 6/19/2006 11:08:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Zoellick to quit 'in the coming weeks'
    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, the
    department's No. 2 official, will leave his job "in the coming weeks,"
    Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters Monday.

    "Today, American diplomacy is on track; it is stronger than ever and that
    is due, in no small part, to Bob Zoellick," she told reporters.

    "I've accomplished what I've set out to do, and it's time for me to step
    down," said Zoellick, who entered public office in 2001 as the U.S. trade
    representative.

    He said he plans to join the investment banking firm Goldman Sachs.
    Posted By CNN's Washington Bureau: 6/19/2006 11:07:00 AM ET | Permalink
    The Morning Grind
    The Democratic plan for Iraq

    Senate Democrats will unveil a plan this afternoon that calls for the beginning of a phased redeployment of U.S. forces in Iraq this year, and require the administration to submit plans to continue redeployment next year.

    Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California), in offering a broad outline of the proposal on CNN's "Late Edition" yesterday, said "an open-ended time commitment is no longer sustainable."

    "I don't think it's sustainable from the military point of view in terms of troops commitments," she told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "I don't think it's sustainable in terms of what Americans think about the war. A timetable, some goals, some discussion with the Congress by the administration. The President might not have wanted to have done that early on, but three years and three months and a bogging down, I think, suggests that the time has come for some discussion as to where we go from here."

    CNN's Dana Bash reports that Democrats today will not call for an immediate withdrawal of troops, but want to make clear that they do not support President Bush's current Iraq policy.

    "There is some skittishness about drawing a hard and fast timeline, but there is a feeling that it is time to end this open ended commitment," a senior Democratic aide told CNN's Bash last night.

    Expect Republicans to frame the proposal as the Democrat's latest "cut-and-run" plan for Iraq.

    ***

    Bush to help GOP pad NRCC and NRSC war chests

    Much has been made about how some Republican candidates are choosing to distance themselves from Bush, whose job approval rating remains stuck in the 30's. Despite this concern, the commander-in-chief still remains the fundraiser-in-chief and will help House and Senate Republicans pad their war chests tonight to the tune of $23 million. Bush headlines the President's Dinner, an event that specifically raises money for the National Republican Congressional Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. The NRCC estimates that 5,000 people will attend the fundraiser being held at the Washington Convention Center.

    White House Press Secretary Tony Snow told CNN's Blitzer yesterday that the President plans to be very active on the campaign trail this year and noted that Bush attended fundraisers for Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Washington) and the Washington State Republican Party in Medina as well as an event for Rep. Heather Wilson (R-New Mexico) in Albuquerque on Friday.

    "Look, a lot of Republican candidates are happy to have him," Snow said on "Late Edition." "He did two events on Friday. He's done more fund-raising events this year than he did in an analogous period in the year 2002. The president is going to campaign vigorously for Republican candidates. He's going to do what he can to help."

    ***

    Kennedy and Edwards

    There was a point in the 2004 presidential race where it appeared as though Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) was leaning towards supporting then-Sen. John Edwards (D-North Carolina) in the Democratic primary. But Kennedy chose to back fellow Bay Stater, Sen. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts), and has pledged to do so again if Kerry decides to run in 2008. But what if the junior senator from Massachusetts decides to forgo another run? Would Kennedy then throw his support to Edwards? The two men from different parts of the country do share common goals such as increasing the minimum wage and eliminating poverty. Kennedy vowed late last week to offer an amendment this week to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 and noted the House Appropriations Committee had just approved such an increase.

    "The Republican leadership will pull out all the stops to block our plan from becoming law," Kennedy said in a statement released by his office Friday. "But momentum is on our side as more and more Americans understand how shameful it is for Congress to raise its own pay year after year while leaving hardworking people out in the cold."

    Less than 24 hours later, Edwards e-mailed his political backers telling them he just spoke to Kennedy and asked them to support the cause.

    "I was honored and excited that Senator Kennedy had learned about the power of our online community," Edwards said in the e-mail sent Saturday afternoon. "He's put his faith in us. Now we need to deliver our signatures to him."

    If Kerry chooses not to run in two years, will Kennedy help "deliver" Democratic primary voters to Edwards?

    ***

    Minutemen Target McCain

    The Minuteman Project is putting a billboard up in Arizona criticizing Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) for his position on illegal immigration. The billboard is the first of several the group plans to erect across the country in the coming months to pressure Senators into adopting strict immigration laws, founder Jim Gilchrist announced this morning.
    Gilchrist vowed to work against candidates in 2006 and in the 2008 presidential race -- McCain -- unless they supported the Minuteman's position on immigration.

    "Senator McCain has been one of the most outspoken supporters of amnesty for illegal aliens," Gilchrist said in an e-mail released this morning. "It is time we sent a message to McCain and any other senator who decides to ignore the overwhelming majority of Americans: We will not sit by and watch you sell out our country. There will be a price to pay when you run for reelection or higher office."
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 6/19/2006 10:10:00 AM ET | Permalink
    DAYAHEAD/Events making news today...
  • President Bush delivers the commencement address to graduates of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at 10 a.m. ET in Kings Point, New York. He arrives back at the White House at 1:35 p.m. ET and this evening attends the 2006 President's Dinner at the Washington Convention Center to benefit the NRCC and NRSC.

  • Vice President Dick Cheney delivers a 12:30 p.m. ET speech at the Gerald Ford Journalism Awards lunch being held at the National Press Club. At 9 a.m. ET, the National Archives began a two hour program about President Ford with ex-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and presidential adviser/political analyst David Gergen, among others, expected to participate.

  • The House gavels into session at 12:30 p.m. ET. The chamber tackles the Department of Defense Appropriations bill tomorrow. The Senate turns the lights on at 2 p.m. ET and resumes consideration of the Department of Defense Authorization bill. At 4 p.m. ET, the chamber then considers Sandra Ikuta nomination to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the 9th Circuit. A vote on her nomination will take place at 5 p.m. ET.

  • The Senate Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Citizenship holds a 2 p.m. ET hearing on the "Immigration Enforcement at the Workplace: Learning Mistakes of 1996" in room 226 of the Dirksen Building.

  • Sens. Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island) and Sen. Carl Levin (D-Michigan) outline the details on a Democratic amendment about redeploying troops in Iraq at 2 p.m. in the Senate Radio and TV Gallery.

  • "The Democratic Strategist" a new web based magazine from Democrats Stan Greenberg, Bill Galston and Ruy Teixeira is unveiled today at a 12:30 p.m. ET news conference at the National Press Club.

  • The NRCC and NRSC hold the 2006 President's Dinner at the Washington Convention Center. The event begins at 7 p.m. ET and is expected to raise $23 million for the two campaign committees. Bush keynotes the dinner.
  • Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 6/19/2006 10:07:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Political Hot Topics
    DEMS TO INTRODUCE "PHASED PULLOUT" LEGISLATION: Congressional Democrats, seizing on public discontent over the war in Iraq, will offer legislation this week calling for a phased withdrawal of troops from Iraq and a shifting of forces to other nations, where supporters say American soldiers will be less likely to come under attack. The resolution, crafted by Democratic Senators Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Carl Levin of Michigan, will headline a second week of debate in Congress over the state of the war. It is the first real debate Congress has held on the war since the US invasion in early 2003. Senate Democrats, many of whom voted to authorize force in Iraq but have become critics of the war, will unveil a resolution today demanding that President Bush begin phasing out US troop presence in Iraq this year. Boston Globe: Democrats set to call for phased pullout

    "PULLING OUT WOULD BE AN ABSOLUTE, UNMITIGATED DISASTER": President Bush understands there is growing U.S. concern over his handling of the Iraq war but will not rely on polls to determine when to withdraw troops, his spokesman said Sunday. "The president understands how a war can wear on a nation," White House press secretary Tony Snow said. "Whatever the bleakness is, whatever the facts are on the ground, you figure out how to win. You can't do that by reading polls." "Most people realize simply pulling out would be an absolute unmitigated disaster," Snow said. AP via Yahoo! News: Snow: Polls won't influence Iraq strategy

    ROVE "CHAMPIONED" THE WAR "ON HIS BIG, FAT BACKSIDE," SAYS MURTHA: Representative John P. Murtha, the Pennsylvania Democrat and Vietnam War veteran pushing for a quick withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, on Sunday mocked Karl Rove, the president's senior adviser, for championing the war while "sitting in his air-conditioned office on his big, fat backside." Mr. Murtha, in an appearance on the NBC News program "Meet the Press," was responding to a speech Mr. Rove delivered in New Hampshire last week attacking Democrats for what he called "that party's old pattern of cutting and running." New York Times: Murtha, a War Critic, Assails Rove Over Speech

    "REVERSAL OF FORTUNE" FOR W? What a difference a month makes. Just four weeks ago, President Bush was in free fall, racing toward lame-duck status faster -- and earlier -- than any modern president had and plummeting in the polls to a scant 29 percent approval rating. He also was reeling from dramatic missteps that sent his once loyal conservative base running for the hills. But just as emboldened Democrats began to predict a landslide victory in this November's midterms, everything changed, as it often does inside the Beltway during an election year. Washington Times: President enjoys reversal of fortune

    CYANIDE PLOT SHOWS WHY NYC NEEDS $$$, SAYS SCHUMER: Democratic lawmaker seized on a reported plot by al-Qaida terrorists to kill thousands in the city's subways to renew his call for the Homeland Security Department to restore New York's anti-terrorism funds. "This is just more evidence that what Homeland Security did to us was terribly misguided and just wrong," Sen. Charles Schumer said Sunday after the alleged plot to spread cyanide gas in the subway was revealed. "It shows that New York is the prime target, and shows the importance of prior intelligence and of manpower." AP via Yahoo! News: Schumer: NYC is 'prime target' for attack

    BOLTEN MAKING HIS MARK: [A]fter months in which the White House has suffered from plummeting presidential approval ratings and missteps, its new detail man is making a mark. He has brought new people to critical jobs, has worked to repair frayed relationships with Republicans on Capitol Hill and has tried to ensure that the White House takes advantage of its breaks, like the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the jihadist leader in Iraq... There is a long way to go before Mr. Bolten can say he has turned the White House around. The president's job approval ratings remain low, hovering just below 40 percent. A majority of the public still believes that going to war in Iraq was a mistake. Republicans in Congress have yet to agree on immigration legislation and remain in danger of losing their majority in the midterm elections this fall. New York Times: An Eye for Detail and the Resolve to Push Change

    BENNETT, BORK, AND SCHLAFLY SIGN LETTER TO BUSH ON IMMIGRATION: Top conservative leaders have written President Bush telling him to drop his insistence on a guest-worker program and a path to citizenship for illegal aliens and instead support the 85 percent of congressional Republicans who want to tighten law enforcement first. Signers include William J. Bennett, Robert H. Bork, Ward Connerly, David A. Keene, Phyllis Schlafly and a number of think-tank academics and pundits. The immigration debate is the first major issue on which Mr. Bush finds himself opposing a majority of Republicans in Congress and depending on Democrats to deliver a victory. In their letter, the conservatives tell Mr. Bush to side with his fellow Republicans in Congress or risk repeating the 1986 immigration law that promised enforcement and amnesty but delivered only the amnesty. Washington Times: Letter urges Bush to join House bill

    JUDGE "INCLINED TO RULE AGAINST" CHALLENGE TO JEFFERSON RAID: A federal judge on Friday signaled that he was inclined to rule against Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) and a bipartisan group of House leaders as they challenged the constitutionality of an FBI raid on the Louisiana Democrat's office last month. Chief Judge Thomas Hogan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, who approved the search warrant for the FBI raid, said he would file an opinion in the case soon. Several lawyers close to the matter predicted Hogan's decision could come as early as this week. Following the session, Hogan spoke to the assembled lawyers and packed courtroom, saying he was "not sanguine about the argument advanced by Mr. Jefferson's attorney and the House counsel." Roll Call: Jefferson, House Find Raid Case a Hard Sell

    PROJECT M(ORAN): Over the past decade Vibration & Sound Solutions Ltd., a small Alexandria defense contractor, has received a steady flow of federal contracts to work on "Project M" -- $37 million in all from annual "earmarks" by congressional supporters such as Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.). Project M, a technology involving magnetic levitation, was conceived as a way to keep submarine machinery quieter, was later marketed as a way to keep Navy SEALs safer in their boats and, in the end, was examined as a possible way to protect Marines from roadside bombs. All the applications have one thing in common: The Pentagon hasn't wanted them. Washington Post: The Project That Wouldn't Die

    2008 "DISTRACTS" NEARLY A DOZEN SENATORS: There are so many lawmakers considering a run for president that they are practically tripping over each other. The outbreak of ambition adds an "every man for himself" dynamic to an institution that is already struggling to build consensus on important issues such as how to combat illegal immigration and high gas prices. The Senate has always been an incubator for presidential aspirations, but the bug is now especially widespread. No fewer than eleven senators have announced they are considering a presidential bid. Los Angeles Times: Presidential Ambitions Distract Senate

    ANOTHER "HILLARY'S NATIONAL APPROACH" STORY: A recent fundraising letter from Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is seeking re-election this year in New York, does not mention the state, but it slips eight references to "America" or "Americans" into two pages. The letter points to a fact of life in the world of New York's junior senator, who many think may be a contender for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination: The national stage is there, and she is making use of it. AP via Yahoo! News: Sen. Clinton taking her politics national

    ANOTHER "GORE LOOKS LIKE HE'S RUNNING" STORY: He's walking the red carpet as the star of a new film. He chatted with Jay Leno on late night television. He's made the cover of Vanity Fair. And he kicked off an episode of Saturday Night Live by talking about all the world's problems he would have solved as President Gore. Of course, Al Gore isn't the leader of the free world, but the way he's been popping up all over the national landscape lately, you could believe he's been thinking about it. Gore, 58, has been devoting himself to a more-than-30-year passion - the threat of global warming - as he promotes his new film and book, "An Inconvenient Truth." Some speculate Gore is, once again, refining his image - so long stiff and dull, hello witty and relaxed - to set up another run for national office. Nashville Tennessean: Al Gore finds himself in convenient new spotlight

    OBAMA '08? Barack Obama, a first-term Democratic senator from Illinois, seems to be hitting the right notes these days. During Senate recesses, he has been touring the country at breakneck pace, basking in the sudden fame of a politician turned pop star. Along the way, he has been drawing crowds and campaign cash from Democrats starved for a fresh face and ready to cheer what Obama touts as "a politics of hope instead of a politics of fear."... [T]he potential Obama is demonstrating as a political performer -- less than two years after his elevation from the Illinois state legislature -- is prompting some colleagues to urge him to turn his attention to 2008 and a race for the presidency. Obama's Profile Has Democrats Taking Notice

    SPELLCHECK YOUR CAMPAIGN ADS! The Democratic challenger to Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-Ohio) was quick to jump all over a new Pryce TV ad in which her campaign - drum roll, please - misspelled Pryce's name. The campaign of Mary Jo Kilroy gleefully sent out a press release, complete with a frame-grab photo of the ad showing a smiling Pryce with a "U.S. Congress" logo. And underneath, in uppercase letters, her name: "DEBOARAH PRYCE" with an extra "a." The ad was Pryce's first TV ad of the campaign season in her tougher-than-expected re-election bid. "Deborah Pryce and her campaign are so 'wildly' out of touch, they don't even know who they are anymore, or even how to spell the candidate's name," said Scott Kozar, campaign manager for Kilroy. Roll Call: Spelling Bee Blunder

    THE MAYOR WHO WON'T WEAR PANTS: Not even the president of the United States can get Eddie Favre to wear pants. Like many of his constituents, the mayor of Bay St. Louis lost everything but the clothes he was wearing when Hurricane Katrina flattened Mississippi's Gulf Coast. Favre turned his misfortune into a vow: He's not shedding his Bermuda shorts until his city is back on its feet. President Bush joked about Favre's attire when they shared a stage. Journalists gawked at his black shorts and tuxedo top when he showed up in March at the annual Radio & Television Correspondents' Association dinner in Washington. Favre, 52, welcomes the ribbing and stares as long as it keeps a spotlight trained on his city, which, before Katrina plowed ashore Aug. 29, was known for beachfront summer homes, quaint shops and a thriving art colony. AP via Yahoo! News: 9 mos. after Katrina, mayor still in shorts

    ROUGH WEEKEND FOR JERSEY CITY MAYOR: Jersey City's mayor was arrested after a scuffle with police outside a Jersey Shore bar this weekend - two years after he won election despite photos showing him drunk and nude on his front stoop. Mayor Jerramiah Healy - a former Municipal Court judge and assistant prosecutor - said cops beat him up after he tried to break up an argument early Saturday. Cops say Healy interfered with an investigation and resisted arrest in the Bradley Beach incident. "I did absolutely nothing wrong," said Healy, 55. "The officers went overboard. I'm absolutely innocent." New York Daily News: 'Nude' Jersey mayor cuffed in bar dustup
    Posted By Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau: 6/19/2006 09:22:00 AM ET | Permalink
    ABOUT THE BLOG
    The Situation Room blog 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 "Situation Room" with Wolf Blitzer on CNN 4-6 p.m. and 7-8 p.m. ET Monday-Friday.


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