Friday, July 07, 2006
New developments in the Jack Abramoff scandal
The United States Secret Service has just released previously undisclosed records (PDF) of convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff's appointments with the White House. A letter from the Department of Justice to the watchdog group Judicial Watch says that the Secret Service "unexpectedly discovered" computer files containing records relating to at least six white house appointments involving Jack Abramoff. In January, Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Secret Service seeking White House visitor logs involving Jack Abramoff since President Bush took office in 2001. After a lawsuit was filed when the agency failed to follow through with the request, Secret Service logs were released to Judicial watch in May showing that Jack Abramoff visited the White House on just two occasions.
Posted By The Situation Online Producers: 7/07/2006 08:01:00 PM ET | Permalink
The Situation Online: Biden's loose lips


There have been more than 60,000 wildfires in the U.S. so far this year.

Wildfire and warming
According to a new comprehensive study, the problem is getting worse. But this report asks a new question: Could global warming be to blame?

Biden's loose lips?
Senator Joseph Biden's way with words may be getting him into trouble. The 2008 Presidential hopeful made some colorful comments (RealMedia video) to a supporter on a recent trip to New Hampshire. Now his statement is causing a stir online.

NYC terror funding
Today, New York area lawmakers say the latest alleged terror plot reinforces their claim that the city deserves more money to fight terrorism from the Department of Homeland Security. Just last month, Republicans and Democrats teamed up by sending post cards of New York City landmarks to Secretary Michael Chertoff, reminding him of potential terror targets in the wake of federal cuts in terror funding. Senator Hillary Clinton says she will introduce an amendment next week to restore some of the funds. DHS says New York City receives more security funds than any other city.

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: 7/07/2006 05:21:00 PM ET | Permalink
Bush confidently predicts GOP wins in November


The first lady and President Bush speak with CNN's Larry King.

From The Morning Grind

President Bush predicted Thursday that Republicans would maintain control of Congress after the November elections and vowed to continue criss-crossing the country in the coming months to help elect GOP candidates.

"We're right on winning this war on terror, and we've got a good economic record," said a confident Bush, in an exclusive interview on CNN's 'Larry King Live.' "People are working under the leadership of this administration and the Congress."

Bush sidestepped a question about campaigning for the eventual Republican presidential nominee in 2008 by saying he was "trying to get through the '06 elections."

Today, Bush is in Illinois and will attend a fundraiser for GOP gubernatorial nominee Judy Baar Topinka. CNN's Robert Yoon reports that this is Bush's 44th fundraising event of his second term and he has raised over $155 million for GOP candidates and party committees since Jan. 2005. The Topinka campaign estimates they will raise $1.2 million from today's event that will be attended by about 500 people.

In the interview with CNN's King, Bush also spoke on subjects ranging from Osama bin Laden and Iraq to North Korea, immigration reform and the late Ken Lay.

Here is a full transcript of the interview.
Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/07/2006 10:53:00 AM ET | Permalink
Lieberman and Lamont trade barbs
From The Morning Grind

Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Connecticut) came out swinging last night against his primary challenger Ned Lamont, accusing him of running a campaign based on one issue: Iraq. In a one hour nationally televised debate, Lieberman also charged that Lamont was misrepresenting his relationship with President Bush and criticized the challenger for questioning his loyalty to the Democratic Party.

"I'm a Democrat with a 35 year record of fighting for progressive causes, for the middle class, for civil rights, for women's rights, for human rights and a lot more," Lieberman said. "I voted with my Senate Democratic colleagues 90 percent of the time. And when I have disagreed, I have had the courage of my convictions to say so. That's who I am. That's who I have been. And that's what I offer Connecticut voters for the next six years -- experience, principles and results."

For his part, Lamont did not shy away from the Bush-Lieberman comparison.

"Senator Lieberman, if you won't challenge President Bush on his failed agenda, I will," Lamont said. (Read down for full local and national coverage of the debate)

Lieberman's support for the Iraq war has fueled Lamont's campaign to win the Democratic nomination. Lieberman has acknowledged that he might lose the Aug. 8 primary. If this happens, Lieberman said he will remain a Democrat, but pursue an independent bid to win re-election. Several of his colleagues have already said they would not support him or will not commit to supporting him, if he lost the primary. The latest non-committer is Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Indiana), CNN's Sasha Johnson reports.
At an event in Des Moines, Iowa on Thursday, Bayh unequivocally said he would go to Connecticut to campaign for Lieberman prior to the primary if asked to do so. But when pressed about whether he would support Lieberman if he lost the primary, Bayh sidestepped the question by calling it "hypothetical." He added, "I think he is going to win the primary."

Bush would not weigh in on Lieberman's primary fight during an exclusive interview Thursday with CNN's Larry King.

"The Democrats have to sort out who their nominee is going to be and that's going to be up to the Democrats," Bush said.

When King tried to prod the President to elaborate on his answer by noting that he likes the Connecticut Democrat, Bush refused to take the bait.

"You're trying to get me to give him a political kiss, which may be his death," Bush said.

(To get an insider's perspective on the Lieberman/Lamont race, tune into CNN's Reliable Sources on Sunday at 10 a.m. ET. Hartford Courant Washington Bureau Chief David Lightman will be Howard Kurtz's guest).

Full transcript of the debate via The Washington Post

What Connecticut voters are reading this morning:

The Hartford Courant

Connecticut Post

Greenwich Time

AP/New Haven Register

Republican-American

Record-Journal

The New York Times


What bloggers are saying about the debate:

Dailykos
Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/07/2006 10:49:00 AM ET | Permalink
The GOP's DeLay dilemma
From The Morning Grind

Texas Republicans are appealing U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks ruling Thursday that former Rep. Tom DeLay's (R-Texas) name must remain on the November ballot. But what if they lose the appeal? What does DeLay do? Will the Hammer come out of retirement to run for a 12th term? Or will he remain on the sidelines? His daughter, Dani DeLay Ferro, released a statement yesterday predicting that Spark's "ill-advised decision ... will be overturned" and reiterated DeLay's claim that as a resident of Virginia he is ineligible to be on the Texas ballot. Ferro made no mention of the possibility that DeLay would run if the court decision stands. A source close to DeLay told the Grind it was highly unlikely that the former House majority leader would reverse course and run for the seat.

The source suggested DeLay would unequivocally state he would not run and would not serve in Congress if elected.

"He will do the smartest thing," the source said. The source noted that DeLay resigned from Congress because he realized re-election to this suburban Houston-based seat was in doubt and that "calculus" has not changed. And the source said that DeLay realizes that if he got back into the race it would also have national implications for other midterm contests. Still, there would be encouragement from state and national Republicans to vote for DeLay in November. If DeLay won and refused to serve, a special election would need to be held, thus allowing the GOP to put their nominee on the ballot.

"A vote for Tom DeLay is a vote for choice, and a vote for a Republican," the source said.

A half a dozen Republicans interested in replacing DeLay must now wait to see how things shake out. As for former Rep. Nick Lampson (Texas), the Democratic nominee, he has just gone up on the air with ads.
Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/07/2006 10:48:00 AM ET | Permalink
U.S. job growth weak again
From The Morning Grind

New employment numbers were released this morning. While more than 120,000 jobs were added, it fell short of the 160,000 figure that had been predicted. Read more from CNNMoney.com

The White House has a different spin. From a press release this morning:

Job Creation Continues -- 5.4 Million Jobs Created Since August 2003

Today, The Government Released New Jobs Figures - 121,000 Jobs Created In June. The economy has created about 1.85 million jobs over the past 12 months - and more than 5.4 million since August 2003. The unemployment rate is 4.6 percent - lower than the average of the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.
Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/07/2006 10:47:00 AM ET | Permalink
Colin Powell takes ill
From The Morning Grind

Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell was treated at an Aspen, Colorado hospital early Friday after feeling sick at a local restaurant, a hospital spokeswoman said.

"He felt unwell at the restaurant, came in for observation," said Aspen Valley Hospital supervisor Belinda Faulhaber.

The Associated Press reports that Powell was in Aspen for the Ideas Festival that draws "some of the world's leading thinkers."
Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/07/2006 10:46:00 AM ET | Permalink
DAYAHEAD/Events making news today and through the weekend
  • President Bush wakes up in Illinois this morning and starts his day by having breakfast with area business leaders at 9:35 a.m. ET in Chicago. At 10:50 a.m. ET he makes a statement and holds a press conference at the Museum of Science and Industry. Bush mixes politics and policy with this visit when he attends a 1:15 p.m. ET fundraiser for GOP gubernatorial nominee Judy Baar Topinka at the Drake Hotel. Following the fundraiser, Bush visits Aurora to tour the Cabot Microelectronics Corporation at 3 p.m. ET, followed by a 3:25 p.m. ET statement on his "American Competitiveness Initiative."

  • The Senate is not in session. It returns at 2 p.m. ET on July 10. The House is not in session. It returns at 2 p.m. ET on July 10.

  • Texas Democratic Reps. Charlie Gonzalez, Ruben Hinojosa, Silvestre Reyes and Texas Democratic state Rep. Richard Raymond hold a 10:30 a.m. ET news conference at the La Posada Hotel and Suites in Laredo, Texas, to talk about immigration reform.

  • The House International Terrorism and Nonproliferation subcommittee holds an 11 a.m. ET hearing on illegal immigration at the La Posada Hotel and Suites in Laredo, Texas.

  • Vice President Cheney and Sen. George Allen (R-Virginia) visit Naval Station Norfolk (Virginia) to welcome home the Nassau Expeditionary Force at 3 p.m. ET.

  • Former Sen. John Edwards (D-North Carolina), who is considering another run for president, is in Iowa today and attends a 12:45 p.m. ET fundraiser in Cedar Rapids for Democratic candidate Dave Loebsack, who is running against Rep. Jim Leach (R-Iowa). At 2:15 p.m. ET, Edwards holds a press conference in Cedar Rapids after meeting with victims of predatory lenders. Edwards then attends a 7 p.m. ET BBQ for Warren County Democrats in Indianola. On Saturday, Edwards heads to Cincinnati, Ohio to "join the Ohioans for a fair minimum wage coalition to support its effort to raise Ohio's minimum wage" at 2:45 p.m. ET. Edwards speaks on Sunday to the 2006 ACORN National Convention being held at Ohio State University in Columbus.

  • Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Indiana) begins his second day in Iowa touring the state and attending fundraisers for state Democrats as he weighs a presidential run. He tapes an interview with Iowa Public Television at 10:45 a.m. ET. Bayh attends a 6:15 p.m. ET event with state Sen. Roger Stewart (D) and state Rep. Polly Bukta (D) in Clinton. He then attends an 8:15 p.m. ET event in Davenport for Democratic candidate Bruce Bailey, who is running for the House seat being vacated by Rep. Jim Nussle (R-Iowa). On Saturday, Bayh attends a 10:30 a.m. ET event honoring state Rep. Nathan Reichert (D) in Muscatine and at 1 p.m. ET he stops by an event honoring state Sen. Tom Courtney (D). In the evening, Bayh attends an event for Democratic candidate Dave Loebsack, who is running against Rep. Jim Leach (R-Iowa). Bayh wraps up the night by attending an 8:15 p.m. ET event for Democratic state House candidate Jan Kvach, Tyler Olson and Art Staed in Cedar Rapids.

  • Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R), a potential presidential candidate, attends a 12:40 p.m. ET fundraiser in St. Louis, Missouri for former Rep. Asa Hutchison (R), who is running for governor of Arkansas. At 6:30 p.m. ET, Romney attends a fundraiser for House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) in Springfield, Missouri.

  • Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), who is also exploring a presidential bid, is in Iowa Saturday and attends a fundraiser for GOP state House candidate Connie Jacobsen in Atkins. On Sunday, Huckabee attends events for GOP state House candidates Matt Reisetter and Patrick Grassley as well as Republican state Rep. David Lalk.
  • Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/07/2006 10:44:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Political Hot Topics
    BUSH WANTS NATIONS TO ADDRESS NORTH KOREA WITH "ONE VOICE": President Bush pressed the leaders of China and Russia yesterday to join the United States in sending a tough message to North Korea for this week's missile launches, and said the world needs to speak with "one voice" to force the communist nation to adhere to international rules. But a U.S. drive for tough sanctions against North Korea encountered immediate obstacles. In his first comments about the controversy, Russian President Vladimir Putin said concern about the missile tests should not trigger an emotional response that would "drown out common sense." Washington Post: After Missiles, Calls Go Out

    W ON LKL: President Bush isn't troubled by some of the weakest approval ratings of his presidency, he said Thursday in a wide-ranging birthday interview with CNN's "Larry King Live." "When history looks back, I'd rather be judged as solving problems and being correct, rather than being popular," Bush said. "The president that chases the opinion poll is the president that will have failed policy," Bush said in an exclusive joint interview along with his wife, Laura, at the White House. CNN: Bush: I'd rather be right than popular

    Full transcript available here.

    HARPER'S SURPRISE SPOILED BY REPORTER: Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, visiting the White House, also brought birthday greetings and a surprise gift. But Bush found out about it during a joint press conference in the East Room. A Canadian reporter blew the secret. "Before I ask you a question, I'm just curious, what do you think of that belt buckle the prime minister gave you as a birthday gift, and are you wearing it?" the reporter asked Bush "I hadn't seen it yet," the president replied, laughing. "You gave it away." The reporter continued on with another question but Bush kept talking about the present. "Anyway, thanks for the belt buckle in advance," Bush told Harper. "No problem at all," the prime minister responded. AP via Yahoo! News: President Bush says turning 60 not so bad

    PLOT TO BOMB HOLLAND TUNNEL, FLOOD LOWER NYC: The FBI has uncovered what officials consider a serious plot by jihadists to bomb the Holland Tunnel in hopes of causing a torrent of water to deluge lower Manhattan, the Daily News has learned. The terrorists sought to drown the Financial District as New Orleans was by Hurricane Katrina, sources said. They also wanted to attack subways and other tunnels. Counterterrorism officials are alarmed by the "lone wolf" terror plot because they allegedly got a pledge of financial and tactical support from Jordanian associates of top terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi before he was killed in Iraq, a counterterrorism source told The News. It's not clear, however, if any cash or assistance was delivered. New York Daily News: Bomb tunnel, flood city

    NY COURT RULES AGAINST GAY MARRIAGE: New York's highest court rejected yesterday a broad attempt by gay and lesbian couples across the state to win the right to marry under state law, saying that denying marriage to same-sex couples does not violate the State Constitution. By a 4-2 majority, the Court of Appeals found that the State Legislature, in laws dating back nearly 100 years, intended to limit marriage to a union between a man and a woman, and that the Legislature had a rational basis for doing so. The court said it would be up to lawmakers to decide whether same-sex marriage should be permitted, and the ruling had politicians and others mobilizing immediately for a fight in Albany. New York Times: New York Judges Reject Any Right to Gay Marriage

    DeLAY WILL STAY ON TX BALLOT: U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks ruled Thursday that former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, cannot be replaced on the November ballot simply because he moved to the Virginia condominium he has owned for a dozen years. Sparks barred Texas Republican Party Chairwoman Tina Benkiser from allowing party chiefs to replace DeLay, who quit his public office in June after winning the Republican nomination despite having been indicted on money-laundering charges and facing a tough re-election battle because of those legal woes. That leaves DeLay, a lightning rod for Democrats both in Texas and nationally, on the ballot and a line of possible GOP successors in limbo. The Republican Party has promised to appeal, but if it loses, Sparks' decision sets up the odd prospect of DeLay, now a self-proclaimed Virginian, possibly being re-elected and returning to Congress if he moves back to Texas by Election Day. Austin American-Statesman: Judge's ruling keeps DeLay on Texas ballot

    BUDGET WAR IS OVER IN NJ: Gov. Jon Corzine and Assembly Democrats settled their weeklong budget dispute yesterday, signaling an end to the government shutdown that put tens of thousands of New Jerseyans out of work, paralyzed the courts, closed parks and halted gambling in Atlantic City casinos for the first time in history. With the agreement, Corzine won his battle to raise the state's sales tax to 7 percent, which he called the first step in overcoming "years of failed fiscal policy and one-shot gimmicks" that left state finances in distress. Newark Star-Ledger: State Budget War is Over

    CASINOS COULD OPEN TONIGHT: Slot machines could be ringing and dealers could be shuffling again in New Jersey's casinos as soon as Friday evening after lawmakers and Gov. John S. Corzine reached a state budget deal that could end a six-day government shutdown. Committees in the Senate and Assembly were set to consider the legislation Friday, clearing the way for a budget vote. Corzine would have to sign an executive order to formally end the shutdown, which also closed state agencies, parks, lottery sales and threw more than 80,000 people out of work. AP via Yahoo! News: N.J. casinos await word to reopen

    A "RESOUNDING BLOW" AGAINST CHICAGO'S NEW POLITICAL "MACHINE": Striking a resounding blow against what prosecutors called "a new machine" in Chicago politics, a federal jury Thursday convicted Mayor Richard Daley's longtime patronage chief of scheming to reward political workers with city jobs. The prosecution of Robert Sorich and three other former city officials has reached more deeply into Daley's administration than any previous federal case, and prosecutors quickly promised that they are not done at City Hall. "I really can't say anything more than 'stay tuned,'" said First Assistant U.S. Atty. Gary Shapiro. Chicago Tribune: Daley jobs chief guilty

    JEFFERSON HIRES "CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS CONSULTANT": U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, the target of a high-profile public corruption probe, has hired a crisis communications consultant whose past clients have included Monica Lewinsky and the family of murdered Washington intern Chandra Levy. Judy Smith, a lawyer who did media relations for former President Bush, will be speaking for Jefferson's legal team, headed by Washington lawyer Robert Trout, said Melanie Roussell, the spokeswoman for his congressional office. Roussell said she will continue to be the spokeswoman for Jefferson's congressional activities. Jefferson, an eight-term Democrat, is listed in FBI documents as the major target of a nearly 16-month federal corruption probe that has produced guilty pleas by a former Jefferson aide and the CEO of a Kentucky company. New Orleans Times-Picayune: Jefferson hires crisis-seasoned PR aide
    Posted By Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau: 7/07/2006 09:36:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Thursday, July 06, 2006
    The Situation Online: FBI Hacks and brand new words


    President Vladimir Putin said he wanted to touch the boy "like a kitten."

    Peppering Putin
    Russian President Vladimir Putin raised eyebrows last week by lifting up the shirt of a young boy and kissing him on the stomach. Today, thousands of Russians are using the Internet to ask, "Why?" That topic and others - including North Korea - were covered in a Web cast with Putin that took place today.

    Diversifying the dictionary
    Merriam Webster has added 100 new words to their 2006 lexicon. And yes, "google" is a verb.

    FBI gets hacked
    A former government contractor is pleading guilty for hacking into the FBI's classified computer system, uncovering secret passwords for tens of thousands of FBI agents, including director Robert Mueller. The government also says the system contained sensitive information on the witness protection program. How did he do it? Quite easily, it turns out. And he did so with computer programs found easily on the Internet.

    Bush birthday wishes
    Republicans online are engineering birthday wishes for the 60-year-old President, and are using the occasion as a fundraising opportunity. They are not alone, however, as one prominent abortion rights group is soliciting donations today to support Senate candidates who advocate abortion rights. We also learned that Nintendo has sent President Bush a video game aimed at baby boomers.

    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: 7/06/2006 05:17:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Lieberman and Lamont set to square off
    From The Morning Grind

    After months of trading jabs in the press, Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Connecticut) and businessman Ned Lamont face off in their first debate tonight in what has become the most talked about primary contest of 2006.

    While Lieberman leads in the polls, Lamont has built a credible challenge to the three term incumbent by criticizing Lieberman's support for the Iraq war. Fueled by the "netroots" and his own personal fortune, Lamont has forced Lieberman to invest heavily into campaigning for re-election and just this week the Connecticut Senator acknowledged there is a chance he might lose the Democratic primary. Even if he loses on Aug. 8, Lieberman has vowed to run an independent campaign in November.

    Tonight, Lamont is likely to focus on Iraq as well as criticize Lieberman for being too close to President Bush, while the Connecticut Senator is expected to highlight his long legislative record. The debate is being televised in Connecticut on Hartford's NBC affiliate and nationally on C-SPAN. The Hartford station is allowing viewers to pose a question to the candidates.

    Should Lieberman lose and run an independent campaign, it could be a lonely affair. Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York), Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin) and now John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) have declared they would support the Democratic nominee in November, while Democratic leaders have not committed to backing Lieberman in he loses in August. Feingold, in a recent interview on Meet the Press, said he would not get involved in the primary and a Kerry spokeswoman released a statement this morning indicating the Massachusetts Democrat, too, would stay neutral.

    "Since he has made his personal mission for 2006 electing veterans to the House and Senate, he's likewise only taken sides in Democratic primaries to back candidates who are veterans," said Amy Brundage, Kerry's spokeswoman. "His view: Connecticut Democrats will choose the Democratic Senate nominee, and John Kerry will support him."

    Clinton and Democratic leaders are supporting Lieberman in the primary, but the New York Democrat said earlier this week she would support whoever wins the Democratic nomination in November. Other Democrats are taking an active role in trying to make sure Lieberman is re-elected. The Associated Press reports that Sens. Joe Biden (D-Delaware), Barbara Boxer (D-California) and Ken Salazar (D-Colorado) plan to visit Connecticut to campaign on Lieberman's behalf in the coming month.

    Still Republicans, who are often accused of turning on their own, are finding great pleasure in the Democratic Party infighting. Brian Nick, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, noted that the GOP leadership is totally committed to re-electing Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-Rhode Island), who often votes with Democrats.

    "Rather than letting our incumbent blow in the wind, we are publicly supporting Senator Chafee's re-election, including financially," Nick said.

    Nick noted that if Lieberman loses the primary and launches an independent bid, then the NRSC might consider sending some money to the likely Republican nominee Alan Schlesinger.

    "We would be foolish not to re-evaluate a potential three-way contest and how this looks for putting the seat in the Republican column," he said. "It would certainly put this race into a different category."

    Phil Singer, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, dismissed the NRSC's talk of investing in this race.

    "Considering how much money they got in the bank, it is not much of a threat," he said. "This is the political equivalent of a Hail Mary pass."

    Nathan Gonzales, political editor of the Rothenberg Political Report, said he thinks the NRSC is "bluffing" about spending money in Connecticut adding that "their money will be needed elsewhere.

    "Republicans will be spending the bulk of their money defending seven of their own incumbents and an open seat before they even think about taking over a Democratic seat," Gonzales said.

    For his part, Schlesinger tells the Grind that in a three way general election contest, "I become almost the frontrunner." Schlesinger, a former mayor of Derby and state Representative, so far has failed to catch on with Connecticut voters and will report having raised only $100,000 to $150,000 later this month. But Schlesinger said he will match each contribution up to $500,000 and claimed that should help him reach the $1 million mark by Sept. 30.

    "Our game plan is to get Republicans to support us over Lieberman," he said. "When they come home to our camp it will further weaken Lieberman to get us within striking distance of 37 percent," he said.

    But Schlesinger acknowledged that if Lieberman wins the primary the odds of him winning drop dramatically.

    "If it is not a three way race, it is a tough road," he said.

    A Quinnipiac University poll released in June shows that 87 percent of Connecticut voters had not heard enough about Schlesinger to form an opinion.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/06/2006 11:01:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Sixty candles
    From The Morning Grind

    President Bush turns 60 today and spends part of his birthday with CNN's Larry King. King sits down with the President and First Lady Laura Bush for an hour long interview that will air at 9 p.m. ET. Bush celebrated his birthday on July 4th with family and friends. As of now, there are no other festivities planned for the day.

    King previews the interview on cnn.com

    Have a question for the President?
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/06/2006 10:59:00 AM ET | Permalink
    A nail biter in Mexico
    From The Morning Grind

    Conservative candidate Felipe Calderon holds a slim lead over leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in Mexico's presidential election, according to the latest results reported this morning.

    Calderon has 35.6 percent of the vote to Obrador's 35.59 percent of the vote. Several candidates have split the remaining vote and are not within striking distance of the frontrunners.

    Forty two million ballots were cast in the election to replace President Vicente Fox and a winner could be announced as early as Friday. But each candidate has until next Thursday to challenge the result. Obrador has already indicated he would challenge the results.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/06/2006 10:58:00 AM ET | Permalink
    New York does not have to allow same sex marriages
    From The Morning Grind

    New York's highest court ruled this morning that the state does not have to allow same-sex couples to marry, CNN's Rose Arce reports. The ruling said only the state legislature, and not the courts, can give that right.

    The state argued that it had a compelling interest in preserving marriage as the union of a man and woman because ideally, traditional families should be the ones to procreate and care for children. The state said that any change in that practice should be addressed by the legislature and not the courts.

    "Our conclusion that there is a rational basis for limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples leads us to hold that that limitation is valid under the New York Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses, and that any expansion of the traditional definition of marriage should come from the Legislature," the court said in its decision.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/06/2006 10:57:00 AM ET | Permalink
    DAYAHEAD/Events making news today
    From The Morning Grind

  • President Bush celebrates his 60th birthday. He begins the public portion of his day by meeting with the 2006 March of Dimes national ambassador at 10:15 a.m. ET in the Oval Office. At 10:40 a.m. ET, Bush then meets with Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper followed by an 11:45 a.m. ET media availability. Bush then huddles with the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq at 1:25 p.m. ET. He is interviewed by CNN's Larry King this afternoon before leaving the White House for an 8 p.m. ET dinner with Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and others in the Windy City. Press Secretary Tony Snow conducts a 9:30 a.m. ET gaggle and a 12:40 p.m. ET on-camera press briefing.

  • The Senate is not in session. It returns at 2 p.m. ET on July 10. The House is not in session. It returns at 2 p.m. ET on July 10.
    Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta delivers his final address before retiring on "challenges facing America's transportation system" at 11 a.m. ET before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

  • The George Washington University holds a panel discussion on the November elections at 11 a.m. ET in room 112 of the Cannon House Office Building.

  • Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili addresses the American Enterprise Institute at 1 p.m. ET.

  • Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-Mississippi) and Corrine Brown (D-Florida) hold a 1 p.m. ET conference call to discuss legislation that would "close critical security vulnerabilities on America's rail and mass transit."

  • The American Federation of Government Employees holds a D.C. mayoral candidate forum at 6 p.m. ET in the Washington Court Hotel.

  • Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) delivers the keynote address at the Arkansas Republican Party's 2006 Governor's Dinner at 7 p.m. ET in Little Rock, Arkansas.

  • Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Indiana) heads to Minnesota today to attend a fundraiser for Democratic Senate candidate Amy Kloubachar as well as participate in an 11:30 a.m. ET press conference in St. Paul with Democratic state Attorney General candidate Matt Entenza to discuss a plan that would protect active duty members of the military from losing their homes to foreclosure. Bayh then heads to Iowa for several days of fundraisers and meetings as he explores a presidential bid. At 6:30 p.m. ET, Bayh attends the Joint Truman Fund event for the Iowa State House and Senate in Des Moines. He then attends an 8:15 p.m. ET fundraiser in Adel for Democratic candidate Selden Spencer, who is running against Rep. Tom Latham (R).
  • Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/06/2006 10:53:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Political Hot Topics
    HAPPY BIRTHDAY, GEORGE: ...Bush's birthday party Tuesday was a low-key affair -- a buffet dinner of fried chicken, Cajun shrimp, potato salad and roasted corn, plus an oversize three-tiered chocolate cake. His actual birthday today will be business as usual. Bush will meet with the prime minister of Canada, then fly to Chicago, where the most powerful Baby Boomer (and Republican) in America will spend the evening he turns 60 having dinner with civic leaders and Mayor Richard Daley -- a Democrat. New York Times: A Touchy Topic: Boomer in Chief Hits the Big 6-0

    NORTH KOREA THREATENS TO TEST MORE MISSILES: A defiant North Korea on Thursday threatened to test-fire more missiles and warned of even stronger action if opponents of the tests put pressure on the country, amid signs of further activity at the reclusive regime's launch sites. The further show of bravado by Pyongyang came amid intense diplomatic jockeying by the United States and its allies to prod the U.N. Security Council to take stern action against the North's seven missile tests Wednesday. In its first statement on the launches, North Korea's Foreign Ministry insisted the communist state had the right to test its missiles and argued the weapons were needed for defense. AP via Yahoo! News: U.S. dismisses N. Korea's 'wild' threats

    CLOSED CASINOS COSTING MILLIONS FOR NJ: New Jersey's unprecedented government shutdown extended yesterday to Atlantic City's casinos, one of the most visible and lucrative casualties of the budget impasse between Gov. Jon Corzine and his fellow Democrats. The 12 casinos, which generate $1.3 million in revenue for the state each day and power the city's economy, officially went dark at 8 a.m., leading to an exodus of irritated gamblers and the furlough of some 20,000 casino workers, from pit bosses to busboys. New Jersey's two horse-racing tracks also were shuttered, along with state parks, beaches and historic sites. The state health commissioner warned that if the budget deadlock continued into next week, it would imperil funding for a prescription drug program that aids 190,000 senior citizens and disabled people. Newark Star-Ledger: In shutdown, all bets are off

    "SAD DAY" FOR THE DONALD: Casino mogul Donald Trump yesterday called it "a sad day indeed" and said "Las Vegas is laughing" at New Jersey after Atlantic City's 12 casinos closed shop because of the budget crisis. "Nobody thought a thing like this would happen," said Trump, whose three eponymous Atlantic City casinos - the Taj Mahal, the Marina and the Plaza - stopped taking bets along with the other gambling halls at 8 a.m. yesterday. "I'm in Los Angeles now... and the biggest story out here is that the Atlantic City casinos closed," Trump told The Post. "I think it's a sad day for Atlantic City." New York Post: Trump: You Bet I'm Sad

    HOW HASTERT MADE MILLIONS: During his long career in public service, House Speaker Dennis Hastert has amassed a multimillion-dollar fortune through real estate holdings that belies the humble image of a former small-town high school wrestling coach. He lives on a 127-acre homestead near Plano that includes farmland, a pond and woods, situated along a creek and adjacent to a private forest preserve. Based on the price Hastert received for a sale of adjoining undeveloped farmland in December, his land alone is now valued at more than $4.5 million. In all, Hastert's net worth has soared from no more than $290,000 to more than $6 million during his 19-year tenure on Capitol Hill that has seen him rise from the back benches of Congress to speaker of the House. Chicago Tribune: Hastert's wealth is grounded in land

    FEC NAMES PERMANENT STAFF DIRECTOR: After a shake-up spurred on by a sexual harassment lawsuit involving top officials of the Federal Election Commission, the agency has hired a new permanent staff director. Patrina Clark, formerly the regional executive director for the Naval District Washington, will begin her new job July 10. Clark will replace Robert Costa, who had been serving as both acting staff director and the agency's top audit officer since October 2005. That's when the former staff director, Jim Pehrkon, was placed on leave and the FBI began investigating whether he and other former agency officials tried to settle a sexual harassment complaint by attempting to embezzle $100,000. Roll Call: FEC Names New Staff Director

    COPELAND LOWERY'S "INADVERTENT" ERROR? A Washington lobbying firm at the center of a federal corruption probe failed to disclose at least $755,000 in income from 17 nonprofit organizations and governmental entities, and $635,000 from 18 other clients between 1998 and 2005, according to the firm's recently amended filings with the clerk of the House. Lawyers for the Copeland Lowery Jacquez Denton & White firm say that the errors were inadvertent. But some experts have called them unusual and suggested that Copeland Lowery might have been trying to play down how much money it was paid by those who received federal grants the firm arranged, particularly the clients who paid its lobbying fees with tax-exempt or public funds. Washington Post: Lobbying Firm Underreported Income

    PROMINENT BEANTOWNERS TAKE ON MITT: Taking on Governor Mitt Romney and the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, 165 prominent business and civic leaders are publicly calling for the Legislature to reject a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. The group, which includes leading bankers, healthcare executives, lawyers, and leaders of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, has purchased an ad in The Boston Globe that says the amendment would "take away rights." It urges lawmakers to"`move on to other important issues like strengthening the economy, improving our schools, and protecting our neighborhoods." The signers include Patriots owner Robert Kraft and his wife, Myra; real estate developer Robert Beal; Mayor Thomas M. Menino; chamber president Paul Guzzi, and more than 20 members of the chamber's board of directors; architect Graham Gund; author Robert B. Parker; venture capitalist Richard M. Burnes Jr.; Boston Foundation president Paul S. Grogan; and Stacey Lucchino, who is married to Red Sox chief executive Larry Lucchino. Boston Globe: Leaders oppose bid to ban gay marriage

    FOR MCCAIN, GOP NOMINATION IS "HIS TO LOSE": Some top Republicans at odds with Sen. John McCain on core conservative issues say privately that the party's 2008 presidential nomination is "his to lose." They cite the Arizona senator's head start in fundraising, a primary calendar that is shaping up in his favor and a growing belief that he enjoys the tacit support of President Bush. In state after state, Mr. McCain has been passing out money to Republican candidates for other offices, to state party organizations and even to Republican county chairmen. Extending such largess to the county level is unheard of in pre-nomination campaign maneuvering, party officials say. Now, one of the most widely respected conservatives in the country says he is ready to help pull the McCain campaign bandwagon whenever the senator makes his 2008 Republican presidential run official. Washington Times: McCain sitting pretty for 2008 race

    WHAT BACKING LAMONT MEANS FOR HILLARY: Leading Democrats in the Senate - including Senator Charles E. Schumer, the head of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, and Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts - are also planning to back [Lieberman's] challenger, Ned Lamont, if he defeats Mr. Lieberman in the primary next month, their advisers said yesterday. But for Mrs. Clinton, the announcement had a special tactical significance. It allowed her to signal to her party's liberal base that she is not in lockstep with Mr. Lieberman in defending the war in Iraq, without actually changing her own position that her vote in 2002 to authorize the war was justified by what she knew then. New York Times: Clinton Moves a Bit From Lieberman, and the War

    BIDEN, BOXER, AND SALAZAR TO CAMPAIGN FOR JOE: Embattled Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman is getting a little help from his Senate friends as he tries to fend off an anti-Iraq war challenger in an intraparty fight. Sens. Joe Biden of Delaware, Barbara Boxer of California and Ken Salazar of Colorado plan to campaign in Connecticut for Lieberman between now and the Aug. 8 primary. Their goal is to reassure the party faithful of the three-term senator's loyalty to Democratic causes, including women's issues, labor and the environment. AP via Yahoo! News: Senate colleagues to help Lieberman

    BLOOMBERG'S GOT HIS BACK: Veering sharply from Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Mayor Bloomberg said yesterday he would support Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman if he loses in the Democratic primary and runs as an independent. "I don't agree with Sen. Lieberman on everything, but what this country needs are people who have their beliefs and go out and overlook partisan politics and express their views," Bloomberg said in Philadelphia. "We need more people like Joe Lieberman to be out there, even if they're people that we don't necessarily happen to agree with. New York Post: A Boost for "Indy" Joe

    LAMONT READY TO SPEND $1 MILLION OF HIS OWN MONEY: Businessman Ned Lamont said Wednesday that he is prepared to dump more of his own money, perhaps $1 million more, into his Democratic primary battle against U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman. Lamont, a Greenwich multimillionaire who founded a cable television company, wouldn't say how much he plans to spend between now and the Aug. 8 primary. His campaign has cost $1.5 million so far. "It depends. Let's see what happens over the course of the next 30 days," Lamont told The Associated Press. "If the senator says, 'I'm going to put up a million dollars on TV and start hammering Ned Lamont and where he's from,' then I'll have to match that." AP via Yahoo! News: Lamont prepared to spend vs. Lieberman

    WHITE CANDIDATE FACES HURDLES IN BROOKLYN: David Yassky has a solid résumé, lots of campaign cash and plenty of ideas for improving the slice of Brooklyn he wants to represent in Congress. In another Democratic stronghold, he might be the runaway favorite. But in New York's 11th District, Yassky's candidacy has touched off a controversy about race and turned a sleepy primary contest into an emotionally charged debate over minority political representation. The 11th District is one of the dozens of majority-black seats created in the aftermath of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act. And Yassky, unlike his three primary opponents, is white. The City Council member's bid has not been well received by the district's black establishment. Washington Post: Candidacy Fosters A Debate On Race

    BRENNER DROPS NY SENATE BID: A Republican long shot vying to challenge U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton quit the race Wednesday, leaving two front-runners to battle over the party's nomination. William Brenner, a tax attorney, said collecting the 15,000 signatures needed to make the Sept. 12 primary ballot was too expensive and daunting, given his business responsibilities. "However, we have two good Republican candidates," Brenner said in an interview with The Associated Press. Polls have shown a tight race developing between former Yonkers Mayor John Spencer and Reagan-era Pentagon official Kathleen Troia "KT" McFarland. Clinton is far ahead of either potential competitor in those polls. AP via Yahoo! News: Long shot Republican ends Senate race
    Posted By Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau: 7/06/2006 09:28:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Wednesday, July 05, 2006
    The Cafferty File: Collapsed economy?
    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:

    New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg says the U.S. economy would collapse if all illegal immigrants were deported. Do you agree?

    Deport all the illegals, and maybe the high unemployment rate among legal minorities will go down and pay rates for low-skilled jobs will go up… so that people are earning more than they get from welfare, which would encourage more people to choose to work.
    Karen, California

    I'm not sure if it would collapse our economy, but even the mention of this possibility should shake Congress off of their duffs. Their lack of partisan effort on this important matter shows us all their re-election is more important than this country's future.
    Drew, Greer, South Carolina

    I totally agree with the mayor. Deportation of all illegals will lead to higher costs of labor and decreasing output. It's simple economics.
    Kevin, Naperville, Illinois

    What should the U.N.'s role be when it comes to North Korea?

    Jack, The U.N. should do what they always do, which is nothing. We should let China work with North Korea, or we will have World War III.
    James, Pottsville, Pennsylvania

    The U.N. should indeed provide a united front. For years they have always waited for the U.S. to take the lead on difficult issues... By combining all nations together in a united front to condemn these tests, even the North Koreans and their idiot leader should have enough sense to understand that they just simply can't win conducting business like this.
    Herb, Altavista, Virginia

    I don't believe the U.N. should have a role in the North Korea issue. I believe what North Korea did could be considered a declaration of war and I think we need to liberate and free the people of the North and relieve Kim Jong Il of his position.
    Jeremiah, Flint, Michigan

    Sen. Hillary Clinton says she won't support Sen. Joe Lieberman if he loses the Democratic primary. Is she right?

    If Senator Lieberman should lose the primary, then Ned Lamont will be the Democratic nominee for Senate in November 2006. If you are a Democrat, you support the Democratic nominee. Seems pretty simple and clear-cut to me.
    Sue, West Hartford, Connecticut

    As a lifelong Democrat, I find it difficult to understand why my Democratic leaders are backing Lieberman during the primary. On second thought, we true Democrats don't have any leaders anyway. What a bunch of cowards!
    Rod, North Attleboro, Massachusetts

    I agree with Senator Clinton completely. Senator Lieberman has been a frequent, convenient "enabler" of the misguided Iraq policy of President George W. Bush. In so doing, he has undermined the Democratic party and, much worse, he has done a huge disservice to the people of the United States.
    Trent, Toronto, Ontario
    Posted By Jack Cafferty, CNN Commentator: 7/05/2006 06:30:00 PM ET | Permalink
    The Situation Online: Discovery and Democratic discord


    An onboard camera shows Discovery's external fuel tank in flight.

    Discovering damage?
    Shortly after the launch of space Shuttle Discovery, video taken from onboard cameras captured debris and small pieces of foam flaking off the shuttle. NASA officials reviewed the video today, but did not express concern over the debris. Discovery's crew examined the shuttle for damage today before docking with the International Space Station tomorrow morning. Take a look online to see if Discovery is flying over your town.

    Jolting Joe
    Liberals online are staunch supporters of Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman's Democratic challenger, businessman Ned Lamont, and are pressuring Senate leadership to support whomever wins the Democratic primary. How are they reacting to Senator Clinton's announcement that she will not endorse Lieberman if he loses the primary and runs under as an unaffiliated candidate?

    Peppering Putin
    A Russian Web site solicits questions from the public for a webcast interview with President Vladimir Putin tomorrow. It what seems like a good chance to talk petropolitics and North Korean missiles has turned into a clearinghouse questions on "giant humanoid combat robots" and Putin's kiss on a little boy's stomach.

    Lower Manhattan reborn
    Governor George Pataki and Mayor Michael Bloomberg introduce a newly designed Web site that takes a fresh look at the changes happening downtown Manhattan with video, a live Web cam, and up-to-the-minute construction updates. It's part of the new "This is 2010...It's Happening Now" campaign, aimed at reassuring New Yorkers that ground zero construction will pay off.

    Media & missiles
    We bring you headlines from around the world after North Korea's "provocative" missile tests.

    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: 7/05/2006 05:55:00 PM ET | Permalink
    North Korea's shot over the bow
    From The Morning Grind

    North Korea test fired a seventh missile Wednesday, drawing a strong rebuke from the U.S. and other nations. The United National Security Council is meeting this morning to discuss the situation.

    North Korea fired one long range rocket and five shorter range missiles early Wednesday and a seventh missile was fired later in the evening, according to the North American Aerospace Defense Command and the Japanese Defense Agency. The long range missile, a Taepodong-2 believed capable of reaching the West Coast, failed within one minute of being launched, U.S. officials said.

    The White House issued a statement that "strongly condemns" the missile launches and U.S. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley described them as "provocative behavior," but said they posed no immediate threat to the United States. The White House dispatched Christopher Hill, its top negotiator in the six-party talks with North Korea, to consult with U.S. allies in Asia after the tests, he said. The six-party talks have been aimed at convincing North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program. It's likely that Japan and the United States will push for some kind of firm action such as a statement from the full U.N. Security Council -- all 15 members -- against the test firing.

    Tune into CNN throughout the day for the latest on this developing story.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/05/2006 11:08:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Immigration debate rages on
    From The Morning Grind

    The debate over how to address illegal immigration moves from Capitol Hill to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and San Diego, California Wednesday as Congress holds field hearings on the issue. In Philadelphia, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pennsylvania) and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) hold a 10 a.m. ET hearing, while two hours later on the West Coast, House International Terrorism and Nonproliferation Subcommittee Chairman Ed Royce (R-California) holds a similar hearing.

    The House and Senate remain deadlocked over how to address the illegal immigration issue, which has moved beyond the traditional Republican versus Democrat political fight. A majority of the Senate endorses President Bush's immigration plan that includes a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants, while a majority of the House opposes it.

    And the debate over illegal immigration is no longer a policy discussion. It is a political issue. The Minuteman Project, a group that endorses strict immigration laws, has erected a billboard in Arizona criticizing Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) for supporting the Bush plan. And the President has found an unlikely ally in Democrats who are chastising House Republicans for not supporting Bush's proposal. A House Democratic aide tells the Grind that they "will not miss an opportunity to highlight Republicans' wrong direction on border security and comprehensive immigration reform" at this hearing and another scheduled later this week in Laredo, Texas. The Democratic National Committee is also launching a radio campaign on Spanish language stations featuring Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) that "calls on Republicans in Washington to stop scapegoating immigrants for political gain and join Congressional Democrats in fighting for comprehensive immigration reform." The ad coincides with the House hearings and will run in markets in California and Texas.

    In a letter to the editor published Monday in The Wall Street Journal, House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-Wisconsin) pledged to work with the White House and Democrats to try and pass immigration reform legislation, but added that House Republicans will not bend on what they describe as amnesty for illegal immigrants.

    "House Republicans will ... not support any bill that includes amnesty, weak border enforcement, weak interior enforcement, weak work site enforcement, or other provisions that the public doesn't support," he wrote. "In November, voters will judge members of Congress based upon whether they lead with an understanding of voters' concerns, as House Republicans are committed to doing, or whether they ignore voters by enacting legislation, such as the Senate amnesty bill, that the public doesn't support."
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/05/2006 11:07:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Lieberman's Clinton problem


    Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Connecticut)

    From The Morning Grind

    Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (New York) is the latest Democrat to express support for Sen. Joe Lieberman's (Connecticut) re-election bid, but noted she would not back her colleague if he loses the Democratic nomination next month.

    In a statement released yesterday, Clinton noted that she has known Lieberman for three decades and "hope that he is our party's nominee."

    She added, "But I want to be clear that I will support the nominee chosen by Connecticut Democrats in their primary. I believe in the Democratic Party; and I believe we must honor the decisions made by Democratic primary voters. The challenges before us in 2006 call for a strong, united party, in which we all support and work for the candidates who are selected in the Democratic process."

    Clinton's statement comes one day after Lieberman announced he would run an independent campaign if his primary challenger Ned Lamont wins the party nomination on Aug 8. To do so, Lieberman must collect 7,500 signatures. Lamont, a wealthy businessman, has criticized Lieberman for his support of the Iraq War and has energized anti-war Democratic activists to rally around his campaign. Lamont has been greatly helped by liberal bloggers such as Daily Kos, who oppose the war.

    Lieberman told CNN's John King on Monday that he was "going to work my heart out to get the Democratic nomination," and laid out the reasons as to why he would continue to run for re-election even if he loses the primary.

    "The first is I am very loyal to the Democratic Party, but I have a loyalty higher than that to my party," Lieberman said. "That is to my state and my country. And I feel so deeply that I can do a better job for my state and my country than either the Democratic or Republican opponents against me that I'm prepared, if necessary, to take my fight to November as a petitioning Democratic candidate."

    Read the full transcript of the Lieberman interview.

    Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin) and former Vice President Al Gore have already said they will not get involved in the Democratic primary. Feingold, who acknowledged his positions are more in line with Lamont's, noted he would campaign for the candidate that wins the Aug. 8 nomination. Clinton, herself, has come under fire for supporting the invasion of Iraq, but while Lieberman continues to back President Bush on this issue, Clinton has been critical of him.

    Both Feingold and Clinton are considering 2008 presidential bids and there is some speculation that they are trying to curry favor with the increasingly influential "netroots" activists such as Daily Kos. But Clinton's relationship with Lieberman is more complex. As the New York Democrat noted she has known Lieberman for 30 years. Her husband, former President Bill Clinton, worked on Lieberman's campaign for state Senate in the early 1970's and Lieberman was an early supporter of Clinton's 1992 presidential bid. And then there was the 1998 speech at the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Lieberman became the first prominent Democrat to chastise Clinton for the Lewinsky affair. Lieberman did so in Sept. 3, remarks from the Senate floor and while he did not endorse impeachment or censure, the Connecticut Democrat did call for "some measure of public rebuke and accountability" of Clinton.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/05/2006 11:03:00 AM ET | Permalink
    All bets are off
    From The Morning Grind

    New Jersey's 12 casinos began shutting down at 8 a.m. ET, a victim of the ongoing stalemate between Gov. Jon Corzine and the legislature over a new budget. Non essential government agencies including the Casino Control Commission, which is responsible for overseeing Atlantic City's gambling industry, have been ordered closed. The closing not only hits casino workers in the wallet, but also the state, which earns $1.2 million in tax revenues each day from the casinos.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/05/2006 11:01:00 AM ET | Permalink
    DAYAHEAD/Events making news today
    From The Morning Grind

  • President Bush meets with the President of Georgia at 1:15 p.m. ET in the Oval Office. Press Secretary Tony Snow is scheduled to hold a press gaggle at 9:45 a.m. ET and an on camera briefing at 12:15 p.m. ET. North Korea will dominate the discussion.

  • The Senate is not in session. It returns at 2 p.m. ET on July 10. The House is not in session. It returns at 2 p.m. ET on July 10.

  • Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pennsylvania) and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) hold a news conference on immigration at 9:30 a.m. ET in the National Constitution Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The senators will then hold a 10 a.m. ET hearing on "Examining the Need for Comprehensive Immigration Reform." Witnesses scheduled to testify: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson; Hazelton, Pennsylvania Mayor Louis Barletta; Dept. of Labor Chief Economist Ronald Bird; Rev. Luis Cortes, Jr., president and CEO of Esperanza, U.S.A.; state Rep. Arthur Hershey (R-Pennsylvania); Carol Rossi, corporate director of Human Resources, the Harrisburg Hotel Corporation; Dan Eichenlaub, president of Eichenlaub, Inc.; Eileen Connelly, executive director of the SEIU Pennsylvania State Council.

  • First Lady Laura Bush participates in an 11 a.m. ET discussion with members of the U.S.-Afghan Women's Council at the Department of State.

  • House International Terrorism and Nonproliferation Subcommittee Chairman Ed Royce (R-California) holds an immigration hearing titled "Border Vulnerabilities and International Terrorism" at 12 p.m. ET in the Imperial Beach Border Patrol Station, San Diego, California. Witnesses scheduled to testify: Darryl Griffen, chief patrol agent of the Border Control, San Diego Sector; San Diego County Sheriff William Kolender; Webb County, Texas, Sheriff Rick Flores; Gregory Kutz, managing director of the Forensic Audits and Special Investigations, U.S. Government and Accountability Office; T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council; University of Missouri-Kansas City Law School Professor Kris Kobach; Andy Ramirez, chairman of the Friends of the Border Patrol.

  • Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) and Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Illinois) hold a 12:15 p.m. ET conference call with reporters to discuss immigration.
  • Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/05/2006 10:59:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Political Hot Topics
    "PROVOCATIVE BEHAVIOR": North Korea test-fired another missile today, at least its seventh such launch in 48 hours, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi told reporters in Tokyo. Koizumi, speaking this morning, also said he could not rule out further launches, said Japan's Kyodo News Agency... North Korean test-fired at least six missiles yesterday, including its long-range Taepodong-2, senior U.S. officials said, defying warnings from the United States and regional powers in Asia. The controversial long-range missile failed less than a minute after launch, falling into the Sea of Japan, along with the other, less-sophisticated missiles. Diplomatic and military officials played down any imminent threat yesterday, but Stephen J. Hadley, President Bush's national security adviser, called the display of firepower on the Fourth of July "provocative behavior." Washington Post: North Korea Test-Fires Seventh Missile

    "NO DANGER" TO THE U.S.: The Bush White House condemned North Korea for its defiant missile tests and accused Pyongyang of trying to "intimidate other states" but said the missiles posed no danger to the United States... For now, talking is the order of the day. Japan asked the U.N. Security Council to hold an emergency session Wednesday. Tokyo was expected to present a U.N. resolution protesting the missile tests, which sent U.S. officials scurrying to telephones for urgent, long-distance diplomacy. AP via Yahoo! News: White House: Missiles pose no U.S. threat

    BUSH TAKES "RARE STEP" OF SAYING NUMBER OF IRAQ WAR DEAD: In a rousing Independence Day speech to hundreds of soldiers and their families, President Bush warned on Tuesday that setting an artificial timetable for withdrawal of Iraq would be "a terrible mistake" and took the rare step of mentioning the precise number of war dead. "I'm going to make you this promise," Mr. Bush told a cheering throng under a blistering late-morning sun. "I'm not going to allow the sacrifice of 2,527 troops who have died in Iraq to be in vain by pulling out before the job is done." New York Times: Addressing Soldiers, Bush Denounces Early Pullout in Iraq

    DO TAPES SIGNAL BIN LADEN'S "COMMAND AND CONTROL" OVER AL QAEDA? The flurry of messages from Osama Bin Laden and his deputy this year suggests the pair is regaining control over Al Qaeda operations for the first time since the U.S. toppled the Taliban, two top experts told the Daily News. "It means their command and control over Al Qaeda is probably stronger than we thought it was," said Michael Scheuer, who ran the CIA's Osama Bin Laden unit and is the author of "Imperial Hubris." Bin Laden has issued five audiotapes since he ended a 14-month silence in January. His deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri has released eight audio- or video-taped anti-Western speeches this year. New York Daily News: Bin Laden clout on rise?

    "A NEW WILLINGNESS TO NEGOTIATE" ON IMMIGRATION: On the eve of nationwide hearings that could determine the fate of his immigration bill, President Bush is signaling a new willingness to negotiate with House Republicans in an effort to revise the stalled legislation before Election Day. Republicans both inside and outside the White House say Mr. Bush, who has long insisted on comprehensive reform, is now open to a so-called enforcement-first approach that would put new border security programs in place before creating a guest worker program or path to citizenship for people living in the United States illegally. New York Times: Bush Signaling Shift in Stance on Immigration

    IMMIGRATION HEARINGS IN SAN DIEGO, PHILLY START TODAY: Congressional Republicans considering an overhaul of the nation's immigration laws are leaving Washington to examine labor needs and the vulnerabilities of the nation's borders. A subcommittee meeting Wednesday at a San Diego Border Patrol station will examine security lapses that could make the U.S. more exposed to terrorism. Meanwhile, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., will host a hearing in Philadelphia about a need for foreign workers. The San Diego hearing - and another by the same panel Friday in Laredo, Texas - are likely be filled with references to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida. AP via Yahoo! News: Republicans launch immigration hearings

    INSIDE THE DEMOCRATIC CAMPAIGN MACHINE: [Rep. Rahm] Emanuel, 46, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and [Sen. Chuck] Schumer, 55, head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, have deployed tactics reminiscent of the smoke-filled rooms of yore. They have hand-picked candidates, crafted campaign themes, set fundraising goals and micromanaged staff hiring decisions for candidates around the country. In the process, these two big-city pols - Emanuel from Chicago, Schumer from Brooklyn - are injecting a dose of discipline and drive among traditionally unruly Democrats, who often suffer from the image that they are too soft. "Both in terms of raising money and recruiting candidates, no one is more focused and disciplined," said Steve Elmendorf, former top aide to ex-House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.). "They do this 24/7 at 100% velocity every day. This is the focus we need." Los Angeles Times: Meet the Powers Behind the Democrats' Strategy

    COULD DEMS' IN-FIGHTING HURT THEM IN NOVEMBER? Four months before the midterm congressional elections, Democrats are mired in a ferocious battle for control of the House and Senate. Among themselves. A feud within the ranks of party leaders is creating concern and consternation about Democrats' ability to capitalize on the bountiful political advantages the GOP has dealt them. Democrats are beset by competing messages, quarreling messengers and conflicting visions for the future of the party, all of which could complicate and impede their fall election strategy. Chicago Tribune: Democrats fear rifts risk midterm victory

    "NEW JERSEY IS CLOSED": An emergency legislative session and impassioned plea from Gov. Jon Corzine couldn't break the state's billion-dollar budget impasse yesterday, fueling a raging political war and sending taxpayers a message that might echo for days: New Jersey is closed. On the fourth day of the shutdown Corzine ordered for all nonessential state government services, he declared the situation had gone "from unfortunate to unacceptable" and urged legislators to adopt his spending plan and the sales tax increase it includes. "Make no mistake," the governor told a packed chamber he called to the Statehouse for an unprecedented holiday session, "people are being hurt, and more will be hurt in the days ahead." Newark Star-Ledger: Special budget talks fail to curtail state shutdown

    CASINOS CLOSED: New Jersey's casinos ushered out the last of the gamblers Wednesday morning as a state government shutdown claimed its latest victims. It was the first state-ordered shutdown in the 28-year history of Atlantic City's legalized gambling trade. AP via Yahoo! News: Atlantic City casinos close their doors

    ROMNEY'S RELIGION "GOING TO BE A FACTOR": Religion hasn't been an issue in American presidential politics since 1960. That may change in 2008 if Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, a Mormon, remains a leading candidate for the Republican nomination. More than a third of registered voters -- 35 percent -- say they wouldn't vote for a Mormon for president, the latest Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll finds. That's considerably more than say they wouldn't vote for a Catholic, Jew or evangelical Christian. Only a Muslim gets a higher negative response. Among all respondents, 37 percent say they wouldn't vote for a Mormon. More than two in five Democrats say they wouldn't do so, while about a third of both Republicans and independents say they wouldn't. Females are slightly more negative toward a Mormon candidate than males. "It's a sign that this is going to be a factor in Romney's campaign," said Scott Rasmussen, an independent pollster and president of Rasmussen Research in Ocean Grove, New Jersey. Bloomberg: Romney's Religion May Be Hurdle in Presidential Bid

    LIEBERMAN SEES ANGER FIRST-HAND AT PARADE: Senator Joseph I. Lieberman was smiling past the hecklers yesterday in this town's massive Independence Day parade. "Shame on you!" one yelled. "War-monger!" screamed another. "You're a traitor, Joe!" came a third voice... A day after sending a jolt through the political establishment by saying he will run for a fourth term even if he loses the Democratic nomination, Lieberman confronted face-to-face much of the anger that has fueled the campaign of Lamont. The cheers for Lieberman still generally swamped the boos, but the senator saw up close what he's up against in the final month of the Democratic primary campaign. Lieberman pronounced himself unconcerned about the reaction, calling his critics a "distinct minority." He said he still thinks he'll win the Aug. 8 primary, and said members of all parties in Connecticut will ultimately support him because they respect his heartfelt belief that the war in Iraq remains necessary. Boston Globe: Lieberman faces his war critics

    JOE "IN A LOT OF TROUBLE": Anti-war candidate Ned Lamont is gaining on Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman in a tightening Democratic primary that threatens to deny the former vice presidential candidate his party's nomination for a fourth term. Mr. Lieberman, whose unwavering support for President Bush's war policies in Iraq has turned many of his once-loyal Democratic supporters against him, has seen his nearly 20 percentage point lead over Mr. Lamont in early May slide to 15 points last month, according to a Quinnipiac University poll. "He's in a lot trouble. He certainly can still win, but he is definitely in a big fight," said Jennifer Duffy, Senate elections analyst at the Cook Political Report. Washington Times: War foe gaining ground on Lieberman

    HILLARY WILL BACK LAMONT IF HE WINS PRIMARY: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, a longtime supporter of Sen. Joseph Lieberman, said Tuesday she will not back the Connecticut Democrat's bid for re-election if he loses their party's primary. "I've known Joe Lieberman for more than 30 years. I have been pleased to support him in his campaign for re-election, and hope that he is our party's nominee," the former first lady said in a statement issued by aides. "But I want to be clear that I will support the nominee chosen by Connecticut Democrats in their primary," the New York Democrat added. "I believe in the Democratic Party, and I believe we must honor the decisions made by Democratic primary voters." AP via Yahoo! News: Clinton draws line on backing Lieberman
    Posted By Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau: 7/05/2006 09:07:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Monday, July 03, 2006
    The Cafferty File: Gotta have faith?
    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:

    How would a candidate's religion affect your vote for the White House?

    A candidate's religion does not bother me unless he/she uses that religion to try to impose his/her beliefs on me (i.e. the candidate's definition of marriage or what my children can learn in the public schools).
    Cathy, Minneapolis, Minnesota

    I try to separate my political inclinations from personal matters like religion and sexual preferences; but I might have a problem with a Muslim candidate at this time.
    Harold, Anchorage, Alaska

    Only if he or she was a conservative evangelical who wanted to use the office as a pulpit to bully me into believing their way.
    Tim, Fresno, California

    Is it OK to tell kids they're fat?

    Here's an idea: don't let your kids get fat. You don't have to tell them they're fat if you take them out and exercise with them, give them healthy food, and prevent obesity in the first place. Like everything else, fatness is easier to prevent than cure.
    Cat, Columbia, Missouri

    Political correctness should be abolished. Is it OK to call a kid a thief, or is that to be called "obtained money/goods without permission"?
    Gerald, Las Vegas, Nevada

    Come on, Jack. You're such a meanie. These poor little angels would have no self esteem if we call them fat. Just like you don't use red pencils in grading their tests, or don't flunk them in spelling when they get one word correct out of 100. Just think of our bright future: a nation of fat, stupid people. We'll be begging for illegal border crossers!
    Joseph, Oceanside, California

    Just tell them what to eat. The other kids will tell them they are fat.
    John, Battle Creek, Michigan

    Is shutting down the government the best way to resolve budget problems?

    Of course shutting down the government is the way to go. When I run out of money, I have to stop spending. Why should it be any different for a government: local, state or national?
    Gerald, Phoenix, Arizona

    The N.J. state government's response to the budget crisis is to shut down, among other things, money makers like the lottery and casinos. Where is the logic in that? If that represents the quality of decision-making in Trenton, it's no wonder the state budget is in crisis.
    Alexander, Holmdel, New Jersey

    Shut it down and wake the people up. No one pays attention or communicates their wishes unless there is a crisis. Do not leave it to the politicians to think they know what they are doing.
    John, Boca Raton, Florida
    Posted By Jack Cafferty, CNN Commentator: 7/03/2006 05:52:00 PM ET | Permalink
    The Situation Online: Safety in outer space and MySpace


    The crack covers a bracket that connects the liquid oxygen feedline to Discovery's external fuel tank.

    News from NASA
    The space agency's Web site keeps people updated on a crack found in the space shuttle Discovery's external fuel tank. Could the fractured foam impact tomorrow's scheduled launch? Read NASA's official launch blog tomorrow for minute-by-minute shuttle happenings.

    Online safety 101
    Colleges are now warning incoming students about the dangers of social networking sites like Facebook.com and Myspace.com.

    Connecticut & the netroots
    How did Ned Lamont get this far in the Democratic Senate race in Connecticut? With a little help from the Internet. In addition, we have the latest on what liberal Web sites are saying about Senator Joseph Lieberman's announcement that he may run as an independent if he loses the August primary.

    Tracking sexual predators
    The Department of Justice, in its ongoing crackdown on sex offenders, announces that information on sex offenders in all 50 states will now be available on a single Web site.

    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: 7/03/2006 04:22:00 PM 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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