Friday, July 14, 2006
The Cafferty File: Fence funds
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 U.S. Senate votes to build a fence along the Mexican border, but then votes against the funding?

In November, the politicians can say they voted for keeping illegals out of the U.S. They don't care what happens; all they want are votes.
Hubert, Oberlin, Louisiana

It means that America is broke and that tax cuts are more precious than the security of America. We have spent and spent and spent and now we are reaping the rewards of this Congress' party-line voting.
Eileen, Bend, Oregon

It means they believe the American people are stupid and do not pay attention. Maybe we the people should elect the "fools" and then fail to pay them or their benefits or their perks.
Carolyn, Wentzville, Missouri

What does it mean if Iran is supplying missiles to Hezbollah?

It means Hezbollah is getting small arm supplies from Iran, while Israel gets advanced jets, tanks, satellite imagery, and guided missiles from us.
Sal, New York, New York

This is exactly why Iran should not have nuclear weapons. It has been proven that they supply weapons to terrorist organizations. What would make them refrain from giving the terrorist nukes? They must be stopped now before it gets worse!
Matt, New York

It simply means that, ultimately, Iran will have to be dealt with if peace is ever to be restored in the region. Like it or not, the U.S. will have to take on Iran in one way or another, and the end result will not be pretty! Everyone will lose!
Ted, British Columbia

Are Republicans in jeopardy of losing control of Congress in November?

There is no way the Republicans will lose in November. The war in Iraq and now the Israeli war in the Middle East will pave the way for victory. Get used to it, Jack, Republicans rule.
Maurice, Two Rivers, Wisconsin

We can only hope. Maybe it'll spark the more moderate members of the Republican Party to take control back from the fundamentalists that are running the party and the country into the ground.
Jon, Alpharetta, Georgia

I'm not sure I understand, Jack. What's in November? If by chance you're referring to that "event" where we all rush out and cast ballots that are then miscounted in favor of the Republicans, then I'd have to say don't hold your breath. These people have a firm hold of power and aren't letting it go.
Chris, Enoloa, Pennsylvania

One can only hope so. Let's make the lobbyists and the special interests work for their money by electing a new Congress.
Geoff, Alta Loma, California
Posted By Jack Cafferty, CNN Commentator: 7/14/2006 05:47:00 PM ET | Permalink
Edwards and Spratt call on DCCC to pull down web video
From The Morning Grind

Democratic Reps. Chet Edwards (Texas) and John Spratt (S.C.) have called on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to pull down a controversial web video that uses images of flag-draped coffins and a grave of a fallen soldier.

The two Democrats sent letters to DCCC Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Illinois) asking him to remove the video, "America Needs a New Direction" from its website after Republicans accused Democrats of trying to gain politically from the pictures. Emanuel urged political supporters in a fundraising e-mail sent Tuesday to view the video on the DCCC's website.

"I would not have included the clip showing the flag-draped caskets or the clip showing a soldier standing at the grave of a fallen comrade," Spratt wrote Thursday in his letter to Emanuel. "I strongly recommend that you pull this ad and delete both of these clips before running it again."

Chris Turner, Edwards' campaign manager, told the Grind that the Texas Democrat wrote a similar letter to the DCCC chairman.

A DCCC spokesman told the Grind this morning they had no comment on the letters. But House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) defended the video yesterday and pointed out that President Bush's top political adviser Karl Rove has spoken about how the GOP needs to capitalize politically on the war.

"I don't know why they are making an issue of this except that, again, it speaks truth to power about what is happening in Iraq," she said.

The video has raised new questions about how the Iraq war can be discussed in the November elections. Privately, Democrats acknowledge that Spratt and Edwards must condemn the video because they represent Republican districts.

In Edwards Waco-based district, Bush soundly defeated Sen. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) 70 percent to 30 percent in the 2004 presidential contest, while Edwards won re-election that same year by a 51 percent to 47 percent margin. Edwards is favored to win re-election again this year, but his GOP opponent Van Taylor is an Iraq war veteran and he is trying to capitalize on the DCCC video. In South Carolina, Spratt is also coming under fire from his GOP opponent, state Rep. Ralph Norman. Bush received 57 percent of the vote in Spratt's Rock Hill based-district in 2004 compared to Kerry's 42 percent. Spratt sailed to re-election that same year with 63 percent of the vote, but he is expected to face a tougher challenge from Norman.

House Republican leaders have urged candidates to speak out against the video this weekend as they travel throughout their districts. For example, Rep. Thelma Drake (R-Virginia) is holding a news conference with veterans in Virginia Beach this afternoon to condemn it.
Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/14/2006 11:56:00 AM ET | Permalink
Avoiding 'advice' overload
From The Morning Grind

First Lady Laura Bush told a German journalist in an interview that, of course, she gives President Bush advice but does so in small doses. And she noted that it is impossible not to discuss politics, after all they live "above the shop."

Excerpted from a transcript provided by the White House:

Q. Do you actually give advice to your husband, even critical or controversial advice?

MRS. BUSH: Sure, doesn't every wife give their husband some advice? But I also am aware that I don't want him to give me a lot of advice or criticism, so I refrain from criticizing too much.

Q. Do you actually discuss politics in your marriage at all?

MRS. BUSH: Sure, of course. I mean, we live politics. We live in the White House. We live above the shop, so to speak, because the Oval Office is right there where we both live and work. So we constantly discuss issues and politics. That's what we think about all day and that's what the President is faced with every day in his office, of course.

Q. Is it sometimes controversial? Do you have a different point of view sometimes?

MRS. BUSH: Sometimes we have a different point of view.

Q. What about?

MRS. BUSH: We also have been married for a long time; we have a real understanding of each other. So even when we might differ on an issue, I understand where he comes from on that issue and I think he understands my point of view, as well.
Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/14/2006 11:55:00 AM ET | Permalink
Hastert hospitalized
From The Morning Grind

House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois) was hospitalized Thursday for a skin infection that is expected to keep him off his feet for a few days. Doctors are treating Hastert for cellulitis, a bacterial infection that first appeared on his lower left leg a few days ago. If left untreated, it can spread quickly and be life threatening, according to the Mayo Clinic's website. But Hastert is expected to be back to work next week.
Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/14/2006 11:55:00 AM ET | Permalink
DAYAHEAD/Events making news today and this weekend
  • President Bush arrived in St. Petersburg and meets with Russia's Vladimir Putin before the G8 Summit.

  • The House is not in session. It returns on Monday, July 17 at 12:30 p.m. ET. The Senate gaveled into session at 9:45 a.m. ET and turns to Morning Business.

  • Valerie Plame and former Ambassador Joe Wilson announce a lawsuit against I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney and Karl Rove at 10 a.m. ET in the National Press Club.

  • The Senate subcommittee on Education and Early Childhood Development holds a 10:30 a.m. ET hearing on "A fresh start for New Orleans' children: Improving education after Katrina" at 400 Royal Street in New Orleans, Louisiana.

  • The Senate subcommittee on Bioterrorism and Public Health Preparedness holds a 1:45 p.m. ET hearing on "Lessons learned from Katrina in Public Healthcare" at 400 Royal Street in New Orleans, Louisiana.

  • Vice President Cheney attends a 6 p.m. ET fundraiser for GOP House candidate Ray Meier in Utica, New York.

  • Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman keynotes the Alabama Republican Party's Annual Summer Dinner at 8 p.m. ET in Birmingham, Alabama.

  • Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), a potential presidential nominee, attends a fundraiser tonight for GOP House candidate Mike Whalen in Cedar Falls, Iowa. On Saturday, McCain attends a fundraiser for GOP House candidate David McSweeney in Barrington Hills, Illinois. And he campaigns for Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Pennsylvania) in Malvern, Pennsylvania on Sunday.

  • Sen. George Allen (R-Virginia), a potential presidential nominee, speaks at the "Soul of Virginia Magazine's Know your history ... know your story" program at 12:30 p.m. Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia.

  • Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin), a potential presidential candidate, appears in Iowa at the Dubuque County Democratic Party headquarters at 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday. At 6 p.m. ET, Feingold attends a fundraiser for the Iowa State House Caucus in Dubuque. On Sunday, Feingold makes stops in Maquoketa, Clinton and Davenport, Iowa to meet with local officials and Iowa Democrats.
  • Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/14/2006 11:53:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Political Hot Topics
    PLAME, WILSON SUE CHENEY LIBBY AND ROVE: Former CIA officer Valerie Plame and her husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, filed a lawsuit yesterday against Vice President Cheney, presidential adviser Karl Rove and former vice presidential aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, accusing the three of violating their constitutional rights in retaliation for Wilson's criticism of President Bush. Plame and Wilson say that, after Wilson accused Bush of twisting intelligence about Iraq's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, Cheney, Rove and Libby conspired to "discredit, punish and seek revenge against the plaintiffs that included, among other things, disclosing to members of the press Plaintiff Valerie Plame Wilson's classified CIA employment." Washington Post: Vice President Sued by Plame And Husband

    BUSH "FREEFALL" OVER, BUT SOME SCARY NUMBERS FOR GOP: Republicans are in jeopardy of losing their grip on Congress in November. With less than four months to the midterm elections, the latest Associated Press-Ipsos poll found that Americans by an almost 3-to-1 margin hold the GOP-controlled Congress in low regard and profess a desire to see Democrats wrest control after a dozen years of Republican rule... The AP-Ipsos poll of 1,000 adults conducted Monday through Wednesday found that President Bush has stopped his political freefall, with his approval rating of 36 percent basically unchanged from last month... The AP-Ipsos survey asked 789 registered voters if the election for the House were held today, would they vote for the Democratic or Republican candidate in their district. Democrats were favored 51 percent to 40 percent. AP via Yahoo! News: Most Americans plan to vote for Democrats

    WH TO "TEST THE CONSTITUTIONALITY" OF WARRANTLESS WIRETAPS: After months of resistance, the White House agreed Thursday to allow a secret intelligence court to review the legality of the National Security Agency's program to conduct wiretaps without warrants on Americans suspected of having ties to terrorists. If approved by Congress, the deal would put the court, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, in the unusual position of deciding whether the wiretapping program is a legitimate use of the president's power to fight terrorism. The aim of the plan, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales told reporters, would be to "test the constitutionality" of the program. New York Times: Bush Would Let Secret Court Sift Wiretap Process

    "DEEPLY DIVIDED" ON DETAINEE RIGHTS: Three days of congressional testimony this week by senior Bush administration officials about U.S. treatment of detainees in the war on terrorism have made clear that the administration remains deeply divided on the issue and unsure how to replace a key policy that the Supreme Court declared illegal two weeks ago. Interagency divisions normally kept hidden from public view have been on unusual display as officials from the Justice Department and the Pentagon have offered starkly different accounts of the administration's reaction to the court's opinion, baffling members of Congress and other interested parties about U.S. intentions. Washington Post: Policy Rewrite Reveals Rift in Administration

    BUSH'S "BOAR BANTER": With the world's most perplexing problems weighing on him, President Bush has sought comic relief in a certain pig. This is the wild game boar that German chef Olaf Micheel bagged for Bush and served Thursday evening at a barbecue in Trinwillershagen, a tiny town on the Baltic Sea where the boar chef also serves as second deputy mayor... The president's host, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, started a serious ball rolling at this news conference in the 13th Century town hall on the cobblestone square of Stralsund. But Bush seemed more focused on "the feast" promised later. "Thanks for having me," Bush told the chancellor. "I'm looking forward to that pig tonight."... When an American reporter asked Bush whether he is concerned about the Israeli bombing of the Beirut airport and about Iran's failure to respond to an offer for negotiations that the U.S. and its European allies have made, Bush replied with more boar jokes before delving into the substance of the questions. "I thought you were going to ask about the pig," said the president, promising a full report from the barbecue. "I'll tell you about the pig tomorrow." Chicago Tribune: Hogging the humor spotlight

    VOTING RIGHTS ACT EXTENDED: The House voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to renew expiring provisions of the Voting Rights Act after supporters of it defeated challenges mounted by conservative opponents. The 390-to-33 vote on the landmark civil rights act capped a day of impassioned debate that heightened the politically charged atmosphere surrounding race and ethnicity, already aggravated by the recent fight in Congress over immigration. New York Times: After Challenges, House Approves Renewal of Voting Act

    VOTING FOR, AND PAYING FOR, TWO ENTIRELY DIFFERENT THINGS: Less than two months after voting overwhelmingly to build 370 miles of new fencing along the border with Mexico, the Senate yesterday voted against providing funds to build it. "We do a lot of talking. We do a lot of legislating," said Sen. Jeff Sessions, the Alabama Republican whose amendment to fund the fence was killed on a 71-29 vote. "The things we do often sound very good, but we never quite get there." Mr. Sessions offered his amendment to authorize $1.8 billion to pay for the fencing that the Senate voted 83-16 to build along high-traffic areas of the border with Mexico. In the same vote on May 17, the Senate also directed 500 miles of vehicle barriers to be built along the border. Washington Times: Senate denies funds for new border fence

    DCCC AD PROVOKES FUROR: Rep. Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco and House Republican leaders exchanged verbal blasts Thursday over an Internet ad produced by Pelosi's Democratic House campaign committee that shows the flag-draped coffins of American soldiers killed in Iraq. Republicans, sensing an opportunity to rally their conservative base in the midterm election-year campaign, said they were outraged and called on Democrats to pull the ad, which was posted July 2 on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's Web site. Refusing to back down, Pelosi scoffed at the criticism, saying the Republicans are "in denial of the consequences of their actions in Iraq." San Francisco Chronicle: GOP Slams Democrats Over Coffin in Ad

    HASTERT HOSPITALIZED: Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) was admitted to Bethesda Naval Hospital today for treatment of a skin infection, and is likely to remain hospitalized for several days. According to a statement from Hastert's office, "The Speaker's physician is requiring him to remain at the hospital over the weekend and be off his feet for at least 72 hours so that it can be properly treated with intravenous antibiotics before returning to his normal schedule next week." The skin infection has been diagnosed as cellulitis, which is common among diabetics like Hastert. Roll Call: Hastert Admitted to Hospital for Skin Infection

    GILLESPIE, GOP OFFICIALS COULD BE QUESTIONED IN PHONE-JAMMING SUIT: A judge yesterday allowed state Democratic attorneys to question a former Republican national chairman and other high-ranking GOP officials about an illegal election day 2002 phone-jamming operation. Attorneys for the national and state Republican parties did not object to the Democrats' request in Hillsborough County Superior Court prior to the ruling by Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Philip Mangones. But targets of soon-to-be-issued Democratic subpoenas will have the legal option of trying to have those subpoenas quashed in court, attorneys said. The targets include former Republican National Chairman Ed Gillespie, former White House political affairs official Alicia Davis and two former Republican Party officials who are now consultants well-known in political circles. The Democrats also want to examine cell phone records of former White House political affairs director Ken Mehlman, the current RNC chairman. Manchester Union-Leader: GOP officials to face jamming questions

    ROMNEY TAKES OVER AS OFFICIALS FIND MORE BIG DIG DEFECTS: Big Dig officials announced last night that the entire Interstate 90 tunnel network under South Boston is riddled with as many as 250 places where ceiling supports were pulling away from the tunnel roof - the flaw that apparently dropped a massive panel on a car, killing Milena Del Valle Monday. Shortly after last night's announcement, lawmakers passed emergency legislation proposed by Romney to let him take control of inspections from embattled Turnpike Chairman Matthew Amorello and embark on a "stem to stern" audit of tunnel safety. Boston Herald: Problems ignored in rush to wrap it up: Gov takes control

    TURNPIKE CHIEF REFUSES TO STEP ASIDE: The Legislature overwhelmingly passed a bill last night to strip Turnpike Authority chairman Matthew J. Amorello of much of his oversight over the Big Dig and give Governor Mitt Romney the power to decide when to reopen a tunnel where a 38-year-old woman was killed in a ceiling collapse this week. The nearly unanimous votes in the House and Senate showed how Amorello, a divisive figure in his four years leading the agency, lost the support of his most powerful Beacon Hill allies yesterday. Legislative leaders discussed plans to ease Amorello out of his job, but he continued to reject the pressure to step down. Boston Globe: Turnpike chief resisting pressure to step down

    UPDATE: KT'S "EITHER A LIAR OR DELUSIONAL": Republican senate candidate Kathleen (KT) McFarland bitterly broke with her whole family in 1992 when she accused her father of incest - an explosive charge her brother calls "complete baloney." "I'm not telling people how to vote, but she's either a liar or delusional," said Tom Troia, 52, who still lives in Wisconsin, where they grew up. "I've described her as evil. That's a pretty apt description." At a campaign event in Brooklyn, a poised McFarland, 54, refused to discuss her brother's stunning accusations. New York Daily News: KT's evil & a liar, cries bro

    61 PERCENT SAY YASSKY'S RACE SHOULDN'T DISQUALIFY HIM: Most voters don't think black politicians in a predominately black Brooklyn district should try to keep a white candidate out of the race, according to a poll released yesterday. The race to fill Rep. Major Owens' 11th District seat has been overshadowed by efforts by some black leaders to oppose the candidacy of Councilman David Yassky, who is white. But a Quinnipiac poll of voters across the city shows that 61 percent don't think Yassky should be discouraged from running just because he is white. New York Post: Poll: White Candidate Has Right to Run

    "JOE'S DEAD INTERN" AND THE HARRIS EXODUS: Katherine Harris' floundering U.S. Senate campaign lost its high-level staff again this week and is groping for a message -- which doesn't surprise Republican insiders who trace the seeds of her trouble to the story of "Joe's dead intern." This wasn't any old Joe. It was Joe Scarborough, host of the prime-time MSNBC show Scarborough Country and a former Pensacola Republican congressman who was courted last summer by national Republicans to run against Harris. But before he could announce he wouldn't, Harris called major donors and suggested Scarborough would have to answer questions about the strange death of a former staff member in 2001, according to two former high-level Harris staff members, a GOP donor and Scarborough. "That was the first clue that something wasn't right with Katherine Harris," Scarborough told The Miami Herald in a recent interview, noting that a medical examiner found his staff member's death was natural and not the result of foul play. Miami Herald: Story of 'Joe's dead intern' began Harris' slide, insiders say

    MENENDEZ RAISED TWICE AS MUCH AS KEAN IN Q2: Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez continues to outpace Republican challenger Tom Kean Jr. in fundraising for the New Jersey seat, amassing $2.58 million from April through June, more than double what Kean raised. Menendez has $7.4 million cash on hand, said campaign spokesman Matt Miller. He raised slightly more than he did in the first quarter of the year. Kean, the son of former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean, raised $1.1 million for the latest three-month period, $500,000 less than he raised in the first quarter of this year. Kean has $2.25 million cash on hand. The bulk of Kean's second quarter cash came from a June fundraiser hosted by first lady Laura Bush. AP via Yahoo! News: Menendez outpaces Kean in N.J. fundraising
    Posted By Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau: 7/14/2006 07:59:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Thursday, July 13, 2006
    The Cafferty File: Israel overreacting?
    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:

    Has Israel overreacted to the kidnapping of three of its soldiers?

    Israel has every right to defend itself by responding to kidnappers of its people. They are not overreacting, they are making a statement "Leave Our People Alone!"
    David, Plainview, Texas

    Absolutely, Israel has overreacted. I am pro-Israel, but I do not see how the world can let them bombard and destroy a neighbor over the lives of two soldiers. Reactions should be proportionate.
    Thomas, Chicago, Illinois

    Hell no! Time was, this country would have reacted even more strongly, before the age of political constipation arrived. Nice to know someone still acts on their citizens' interests.
    Mike, Blandinsville, Illinois

    Over-reacted? Supposing a rogue band of American thugs kidnapped two Mexican soldiers, would that give Mexico the right to bomb and cripple JFK, LaGuardia and Newark airports? Like America's invasion of Iraq, Israel's actions show a total disregard for the basic rule of law.
    John, Sarasota, Florida

    Why has the White House agreed to let a special court review the NSA domestic surveillance program?

    Ahhhh, come on Jack! We all know this is gonna be another dog and pony show. The secret court will ask for stuff from the White House and won't get it. You see, it's all secret. But the whole charade will continue until after the mid-terms are over. The name of the game from now till then is "smoke and mirrors"!
    Gary, Hollywood, Florida

    Because they are afraid they will lose control of the Senate and/or the House in the elections when us taxpayers are sick of no oversight and kick the Republican majority out! They are truly afriad.
    Melanie, Los Angeles, California

    Why? Only one reason, Jack, and that is the elections in November. Everything the White House does from now until election day will be carefully crafted to ensure a Republican victory in November, because it is the only thing that will prevent Bush from being impeached.
    Cara, Edgewood, New Mexico

    Should the U.S. have vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israel's military incursion into Gaza?

    The U.S. was absolutely wrong in vetoing that resolution. It is like a biased judge dismissing criminal charges against an accused only because the accused is the judge's personal friend.
    Al, Los Angeles, California

    I think the U.N. has long been biased against Israel. The nations that adopt and vote for these resolutions are the same nations that want to wipe Israel off the map.
    Francis, Ontario

    Amazing that the unoccupied Palestinian state still attacks... so much for Israel giving back the land argument... If you were Israel, would you not respond with even more force? Let the Crusades begin again
    B.

    No way should we veto a condemnation of Israel... How can we object when China vetoes anything negative about North Korea? The stupidity of our double standard is nauseating.
    Bill, Denver, Colorado
    Posted By Jack Cafferty, CNN Commentator: 7/13/2006 05:52:00 PM ET | Permalink
    The Situation Online: Wildfires burning


    Firefighters work the Sawtooth Complex Fire near Morongo Valley, California, on Wednesday.

    Merging wildfires
    Governor Schwarzenegger has just declared a state of emergency for San Bernadino county, California, where wildfires continue to burn for the fourth day straight. The latest incident reports and maps provide an inside look at how two California wildfires are threatening to merge.

    CIA leak lawsuit
    Former CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson has filed a federal lawsuit against Vice President Cheney, former Cheney Chief of Staff Scooter Libby, and White House advisor Karl Rove. The suit (PDF), filed by Plame and her husband, Joseph Wilson, a former U.S. ambassador, accuses Cheney, Libby, and Rove of conspiring to destroy her career by revealing her identity publicly.

    Watch "The Situation Room" at 4:00 PM, 5:00 PM, and 7:00 PM, ET for this story and more from our Internet reporters.
    Posted By The Situation Online Producers: 7/13/2006 05:00:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Hastert hospitalized with cellulitis


    Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Illinois

    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert was hospitalized Thursday for treatment of a skin infection, his office said in a written statement.

    Hastert, 64, was admitted to the National Naval Medical Center -- commonly called Bethesda Naval Hospital -- for treatment of cellulitis, a bacterial infection, and will remain hospitalized over the weekend and off his feet for at least three days "so that it can be properly treated with intravenous antibiotics," the statement said.

    A spokesman for the speaker, Ron Bonjean, said Hastert is in good condition, talking on the telephone and eager to get back to work.

    The infection appeared several days ago on his lower left leg.

    Its symptoms are a swollen, red section of skin that feels hot and tender. Untreated, it can spread quickly and be life-threatening, according to the Mayo Clinic's Web site.
    Posted By CNN's Congressional Unit: 7/13/2006 04:42:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Bill would require court review of intelligence gathering program
    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A bill proposed Thursday -- offered by Sen. Arlen Specter with the assent of the Bush administration -- would require a court to review the constitutionality of the National Security Agency's controversial intelligence-gathering program. (Full story)

    Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, unveiled the bill at a meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which he chairs. Soon after, the White House voiced support for the legislation, saying it shows "the president and the Congress ... coming together to codify the capacity of future presidents to take actions to protect the country."

    Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said the agreement reflects "a major, major change" in the White House's approach to the contentious issue.

    Electronic surveillance programs run by the secretive NSA have been under fire since December, when The New York Times disclosed that the government was listening in -- without obtaining a court order -- on international phone calls, e-mails and other communications between people in the United States and those overseas involving people suspected of having ties to terrorists.

    Some legal scholars have said the program is an illegal and unwarranted intrusion on Americans' privacy, but the Bush administration has defended it as a necessary tool in the battle against the al Qaeda terrorist network.

    --CNN's Ted Barrett and Dana Bash contributed to this report.
    Posted By CNN's Congressional Unit: 7/13/2006 12:01:00 PM ET | Permalink
    GOP criticizes new Democratic web video
    From The Morning Grind

    Republicans sharply criticized Democrats Wednesday for using images of flag-draped coffins and a makeshift grave of a fallen soldier in a new web-based video.

    The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee distributed a link to the video "America Needs a New Direction" on Tuesday to political supporters in a fundraising e-mail.

    "I hope you will watch it, forward it on to your friends and family and ask them to join our movement for a Democratic Congress and a new direction for America," DCCC Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Illinois) writes in the e-mail letter.

    National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (New York) charged that Democrats are trying to "blatantly exploit the sacrifices made by the men and women of our Armed Forces" for political purposes.

    "Regardless of what your views on the war may be, this crosses the line," Reynolds said in a statement released by the NRCC. "Rahm Emanuel owes our troops, their families, and the families of the fallen an apology."

    DCCC spokesman Bill Burton said there are no plans to take the video down and accused Republicans of going to "great lengths to obscure the pictures of these brave young men and women who come home having paid the ultimate sacrifice.

    "Perhaps if these Republicans had been able to summon up this same level of outrage when President Bush sent out troops off to war without the body armor they needed and the Humvee armor they required, so many wouldn't have come home in flag-draped coffins or with life changing injuries," Burton said in a written statement.

    The video shows at least 12 coffins covered with flags inside a cargo plane followed by an image of a soldier staring at a helmet propped up by a machine gun that is stuck in the ground. It also shows pictures of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, and successive photos of Bush, a mug shot of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), Jack Abramoff and Vice President Cheney.

    Republicans will continue to pressure Democrats to take down the video at a news conference today being held in the lobby of the Republican National Committee.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/13/2006 11:01:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Lose seats in 2006? Heck we are going to win more!
    From The Morning Grind

    House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois) predicted Wednesday that not only will the GOP maintain control of the chamber but also add to their majority, CNN's Deirdre Walsh reports. Hastert's declaration flies in the face of what the political pundits predict will be a bad and potentially catastrophic year for Republicans that could lead to a Democratic majority in the 110th Congress.

    "We're looking forward to increasing our majority next year," Hastert said. "It's the pundits that say we can't do it."

    Speaking specifically about the economy and Iraq, Hastert said, "We have a good story to tell, and we're going to move forward now and tell that story."

    And in order to effectively tell that story you need money and the Speaker noted he is not only asking GOP donors to contribute, but also his colleagues.

    "We're about to raise enough money from our own members, and we do this on an annual basis," he said. "People are anteing up."

    Democrats dismissed Hastert's prediction and suggested the tide is turning against Republicans.

    "It shows that Republicans are completely out of touch with what's going on in the country," said Jennifer Crider, a spokeswoman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California). "Americans have a choice between Republicans for more of the same or Democrats for a new direction."
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/13/2006 10:59:00 AM ET | Permalink
    England's Jack Abramoff or Duke Cunningham?
    From The Morning Grind

    A close friend of British Prime Minister Tony Blair was arrested Wednesday in connection with a political fundraising scandal, CNN's Robin Oakley and Angus Walker report.

    Lord Michael Levy is accused of offering political donors and lenders of Blair's Labour Party knighthoods and peerages in exchange for their financial support. Levy is the chief fundraiser for the Labour Party and often plays tennis with Blair.

    "He was arrested in connection with alleged offenses under the 'Honors (Prevention of Abuses) Act 1925 and Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000,'" police said in a prepared statement.

    A Levy spokesman said he "vigorously denies any wrongdoing."

    Oakley and Walker note that Levy's arrest comes at a difficult time for Blair, who faces mounting pressure to quit as party leader for his unwavering support of President Bush and the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/13/2006 10:57:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Iraq Prime Minister to visit White House
    From The Morning Grind

    The White House announced this morning that Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki will visit Washington on July 25. The administration sees the prime minister as someone who may be able to bring together Iraq's warring factions. Al-Maliki and President Bush will discuss how to proceed in Iraq.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/13/2006 10:57:00 AM ET | Permalink
    New poll on Latino views
    From The Morning Grind

    The Pew Hispanic Center released a new poll this morning that is likely to receive wide media attention.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/13/2006 10:56:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Quote of the day before 7 a.m. ET
    From The Morning Grind

    While it is still early in the day, it will be difficult to top this quote President Bush made at a joint news conference with Chancellor Angela Merkel in Stralsund.

    AP's Terry Hunt: Mr. President, were you surprised by President Putin replying to Vice President Cheney's criticism, saying that it was an "unsuccessful hunting shot?"

    Bush: Did I think it was a clever response? It was pretty clever. Actually, quite humorous -- not to dis my friend, the Vice President.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/13/2006 10:54:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Disagreement over the 2008 Democratic presidential nominating calendar
    From The Morning Grind

    Democrats are on the verge of taking a major step towards altering the 2008 presidential nominating calendar. The DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee meets later this month to vote on a proposal that would place a caucus between the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary as well as add a primary following the Granite State's contest. At this meeting, the Rules and Bylaws panel will also propose the two states to join Iowa and New Hampshire in this much sought after position on the calendar. If approved, as expected, the recommendation will be put to the full DNC membership for a vote in August at the Democrat's summer meeting in Chicago.

    Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, South Carolina and West Virginia are vying for the two early calendar slots. Nebraska, which initially asked to be considered for an early primary position, withdrew its application.

    The proposal has divided Democrats. The Morning Grind today offers readers two leading, but opposing voices on the issue. The order in which these opinion columns appear was determined by a coin flip.
    -- Mark Preston
    CNN Political Editor


    ***


    Iowa and New Hampshire plus two: A good recipe

    By Donna Brazile


    Today, while much of the world is focusing its attention on developments in North Korea, India and the Middle East, a small group of people, including reporters, are spending an inordinate amount of time discussing two small states that have traditionally held the key to the selection of the leader of the "free world."

    For years, Iowa and New Hampshire have been granted the privilege of holding the "first in the nation" Democratic presidential caucus and primary election, respectively. After a slow and lengthy process, the Democratic National Committee's Rules and Bylaws Committee has voted to recommend that the party include two additional states in the pre-window period. One will hold a caucus, the other a primary.

    While Iowa's and New Hampshire's respective distinction of holding the first Democratic presidential caucus and primary in the nation have been preserved and lauded, I am delighted that two additional states will play a role in winnowing out the field of Democratic presidential candidates.

    The Rules and Bylaws panel will select from among such diverse states as Arizona, South Carolina, Alabama, Nevada, Arkansas, Mississippi, Michigan and the District of Columbia. Judging from the many calls, letters and emails received by my colleagues on the committee from activists and political leaders in those states, they are eager to help select the next president of the United States.

    States have not only submitted plans describing ways to improve Democratic performance and turnout, some are raising large sums of money to help "promote the notion" that the voters of their state are stepping up to help make this important decision.

    I don't know about the people of Iowa and New Hampshire, but I am excited by the idea of allowing other states to do what Iowa and New Hampshire have done remarkably well. Candidates are free to campaign -- if they so desire -- wherever they see fit. But they will have additional options and numerous opportunities to listen to, learn from and stand up for many more Americans.

    Back home in Louisiana, we often compare politics to cooking a good Cajun or Creole meal. It's time we add more seasoning and a couple of diverse states to our recipe for early success in 2008.

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    Donna Brazile, an at-large member of the DNC and a CNN political commentator, is a member of the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee.

    ***


    Frontloading the calendar will lead to unintended consequences

    By Kathy Sullivan


    Soon, some of the Democratic Party's brightest minds will be meeting for two days in Washington. But instead of discussing strategy for the critical 2006 midterm elections, members of the Democratic National Committee's Rules and Bylaws Committee will determine the 2008 presidential nominating calendar.

    This untimely distraction is the result of a movement to change the calendar that is about to create a train wreck. With 14 or so states planning to hold events on Feb. 5, 2008, the plan will cram another four states into the two weeks preceding, so that candidates will face at least 18 elections or caucuses in 21 days.

    The under-funded, unknown insurgent candidate will not have the opportunity to surge, a kid will have no time to come back, and the nomination will be over before the rest of the country even knows the names of candidates.

    Motivation to change the calendar is twofold: provide racial, economic and geographic diversity early in the calendar and to strip what some see as too much influence by Iowa and New Hampshire. The proposed calendar is so compressed, however, that voters from diverse backgrounds and regions will not have the time or chance to reflect and make considered judgments. The candidates will race across the country, doing TV ad buys and campaign fly-bys.

    At one time, primaries in California, West Virginia, Florida, Wisconsin, and other states mattered greatly - and mattered more than Iowa and New Hampshire. Frontloading changed that and caused voters around the country to become frustrated with their lack of input. It is time for both the DNC and the Republican National Committee to address the real problem. It is a hard problem, as so many states are rushing to the front of the calendar. But by working together and recognizing the importance of providing a real opportunity for all voters across the country to have a say in the nominating process both parties and our country will be better served.

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    Kathy Sullivan is the chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party and a member of the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/13/2006 10:49:00 AM ET | Permalink
    DAYAHEAD/Events making news today
  • President Bush is in Germany. He held a news conference this morning with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and attends a dinner tonight.

  • The Senate gaveled into session at 9 a.m. ET and began consideration of the Homeland Security Appropriations bill. The House comes into session at 10 a.m. ET. It is expected to begin considering the Fannie Lou Hammer, Rosa Parks, and Coretta Scott King Voting Rights Act Reauthorization of 2006.

  • The Senate Foreign Relations Committee was scheduled to receive an update on Iraq from U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad at 9:30 a.m. ET. The hearing is taking place in room 419 of the Dirksen Building.

  • The Senate Armed Services Committee holds a 10 a.m. ET hearing to "examine the future of military commissions in light of the Supreme Court's decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld" in room 216 of the Hart Building.

  • House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) holds a 10:30 a.m. ET news conference in the House Radio and Television Gallery.

  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) holds a 10:45 a.m. ET press conference in room H-206 of the Capitol.

  • Senate Democrats hold a 10:45 a.m. ET news conference to discuss cyber security in room S-211 of the Capitol.

  • Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin (D-Illinois) and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Chuck Schumer (New York) hold a 12:15 p.m. ET pen-and-pad with reporters in room S-324 of the Capitol.

  • The Pew Hispanic Research Center holds a 12:30 p.m. ET telephone news conference to discuss the release of its new survey of Latino views on a wide variety of subjects.

  • Republican leaders hold a 1:30 p.m. ET news conference to criticize a new Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee video. The news conference will occur in the lobby of the Republican National Committee building, 320 First Street, S.E.

  • The Senate Judiciary Committee subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Property Rights holds a 2:30 p.m. ET hearing on "Renewing temporary provisions of the Voting rights Act: Legislative Options after LULAC v. Perry" in room 226 of the Dirksen building.

  • Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman attends a 6:30 p.m. ET fundraiser for America's Foundation PAC that is expected to raise $75,000. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania) serves as the honorary chairman of the political action committee.
  • Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/13/2006 10:45:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Political Hot Topics
    "DISTRACTED" WH PLAYS "MINOR ROLE" AS ISRAEL GOES TO WAR: President George W. Bush and U.S. diplomats, distracted by threats from North Korea to Iraq, are playing a minor role as an escalating confrontation between Israelis and Arabs risks wider Middle East violence. David Welch, U.S. assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, and Elliott Abrams, deputy assistant to the president, only arrived in the region yesterday, 17 days after the abduction of an Israeli soldier in the Gaza Strip set off the crisis. Bush hasn't spoken to any Middle Eastern leaders in the past couple of weeks, according to National Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones. Bloomberg: Bush Middle East Role Limited as Israel, Arabs Fight

    WH WANTS CONGRESS TO LIMIT DETAINEE RIGHTS...: A day after saying that terror suspects had a right to protections under the Geneva Conventions, the Bush administration said Wednesday that it wanted Congress to pass legislation that would limit the rights granted to detainees. The earlier statement had been widely interpreted as a retreat, but testimony to Congress by administration lawyers on Wednesday made clear that the picture was more complicated. New York Times: Administration Prods Congress to Curb the Rights of Detainees

    ...BUT CAN THE HOUSE AND SENATE FIND COMMON GROUND? House Republicans signaled a coming clash with the Senate over the future of military tribunals yesterday when Armed Service Committee members indicated they were inclined to give the Bush administration largely what it wants in the conduct of terrorism trials. The tone at the first House hearing since the Supreme Court tossed out President Bush's tribunals last month was markedly different from Tuesday's Senate hearing, where lawmakers from both parties said they wanted to make significant changes to the White House's plans. Washington Post: Battle Looms In Congress Over Military Tribunals

    GANG GET-TOGETHER: The bipartisan "Gang of 14" will meet for the first time in two months this afternoon in a gathering intended to determine group members' attitudes on a series of outstanding judicial nominations, according to sources. The seven Democratic and seven Republican Senators will meet at 1:15 p.m. in the office of Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.). While organizers said there was no firm agenda outlined for the meeting, Senators and aides speculated the session largely would focus on the pending nomination of William Haynes to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Pryor said there was no specific agenda, but that he anticipated a general discussion among the 14 Senators who last year brokered a deal to avert a procedural showdown that could have put an end to judicial filibusters. Roll Call: 'Gang' Returns As Fight Looms

    THE FIGHT FOR $7.15/HR: Democrats, seeking to energize voters over economic issues in much the way that Republicans have rallied conservatives with efforts to ban same-sex marriage, have begun a broad campaign to raise the minimum wage and focus attention on income inequality. The Democratic argument is straightforward: it has been more than eight years since Congress last raised the minimum wage, to $5.15 an hour, and inflation has reduced its real value to the lowest level in more than 20 years. At the same time, Democrats say, executive pay has risen to ever-higher levels and Congress has regularly approved pay raises for itself. New York Times: Democrats Link Fortunes to Rise in Minimum Wage

    PAPER: SENATE BILL WOULD PAY GUEST WORKERS MORE THAN AMERICANS: The Senate immigration bill would require that foreign construction laborers here under the guest-worker program be paid well above the minimum wage, even as American workers at the same work site could earn less. The bill "would guarantee wages to some foreign workers that could be higher than those paid to American workers at the same work site," says a policy paper released this week by the Senate's Republican Policy Committee. "This is unfair to U.S. workers, inappropriate, and unnecessary." The 11-page, harshly critical analysis of the Senate immigration bill on this one point reveals how torn Senate Republicans are over the larger issue of immigration. Washington Times: Senate bill seeks more pay for aliens

    ALABAMA-COUSHATTA TRIBE SUES REED, ABRAMOFF: An East Texas tribe sued disgraced Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff and former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed on Wednesday, claiming they illegally lobbied Texas officials to shutter the tribe's casino operations. The federal lawsuit, filed in Austin on behalf of the Alabama-Coushatta tribe of Texas, tells a tale of deceit and double-dealing. The tribe says the Washington figures conspired in 2001 to hide millions of dollars spent by a competing Louisiana tribe against a bill legalizing casino gambling for Texas tribes, including the Alabama-Coushattas. Austin American-Statesman: Texas tribe sues Abramoff, former Christian Coalition leader

    THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT HILLARY: Anna Shelley, a mother of three from Utah, says she is ready for a female president, and she is sure that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has what it takes. But Shelley, a Democrat, is not sure she could ever pull a lever for Clinton. Her reservations are vague but unmistakable: Something about Clinton leaves her cold... "I think she's a little hard," she said. "She may be strong, but at the same time, if you're driven sometimes you're perceived as not having sympathy. And perception is reality for most of us." It is a reality that Clinton's advisers are confronting as they seek to position the former first lady for a possible 2008 presidential run.... Never has a politician stepped onto a presidential stage before an audience of voters who already have so many strong and personal opinions about her, or amid arguments that revolve around the intangibles of personality and the ways people react to it. Washington Post: Beyond the Poll Numbers, Voter Doubts About Clinton

    CRISIS IN BEANTOWN AND MITT GOES ON VACATION: Gov. Mitt Romney rushed back to his bucolic New Hampshire vacation home yesterday as fast as he had hurried here Tuesday to demand the head of the Big Dig chieftain Matt Amorello. Meanwhile, state and federal officials hunkered down to do the hard work of finding out why a tunnel ceiling collapsed and killed a Jamaica Plain woman. "Unbelievable," state Sen. Marc Pacheco said when told Romney had quickly resumed his vacation, saying he was sending the governor a formal request to suspend Big Dig manager Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff from doing any more state work until all criminal investigations of the I-90 Seaport connector tunnel catastrophe are complete. "Maybe we'll have to send it by Pony Express," Pacheco added. Boston Herald: Mitt's MIA as bigs dig into tunnel tragedy

    SPOKESMAN LEAVES HARRIS CAMPAIGN: U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris' troubled campaign for U.S. Senate lost yet another top-level staffer Wednesday: Her office issued a statement confirming the departure of spokesman Chris Ingram. Neither Ingram nor other staffers could be reached late Wednesday to explain why. Harris, said by many to be feeling the pressure as her poll numbers sink while Republican leaders turn their backs on her, has weathered the departure of a number of high level staff members -- including Ed Rollins, a Reagan Revolution architect, former campaign manager Jim Dornan and seasoned Florida political consultant Adam Goodman. Miami Herald: Another staff member leaves Harris campaign

    SCHLESINGER "NUDGED" TO QUIT OVER "WAMPUM CARD": Gov. M. Jodi Rell and GOP State Chairman George Gallo publicly urged fellow Republican Alan Schlesinger to reconsider his candidacy for U.S. Senate after learning Wednesday that he gambled at the Foxwoods Resorts Casino under an assumed name while an elected official in the 1990s. Schlesinger said Rell and Gallo were overreacting to an innocent act: giving a fake name to obtain a Foxwoods "wampum card" that rewards casino patrons with meals, rooms and merchandise based on how much they gamble. "I am not going to let this bother me," said Schlesinger, who described himself as a recreational blackjack player. "I am going to continue in the race." Hartford Courant: Senate Hopeful Nudged To Quit

    VT DEMS MAKING WAY FOR AN INDEPENDENT? Vermont's Democratic Party is maneuvering to keep the Democratic candidates for the state's open US Senate seat off the November ballot, as party leaders seek to clear the way for independent Representative Bernard Sanders in his bid for the Senate. State Democratic leaders are spearheading efforts to gather signatures to put Sanders on the ballot as a Democrat, even though Sanders has repeatedly said he would turn down the party's nomination if he wins the primary. At least three other candidates have announced their intention to run for the Democratic nomination in the Sept. 12 primary, but party leaders prefer Sanders to any of them. Ian Carleton, the chairman of the Vermont Democratic Party, said the party's efforts to secure the nomination for Sanders is a concession to political reality: Polls indicate that Sanders is so popular in Vermont that no Democrat has a real chance of beating him. Boston Globe: Party shuns Vermont Democrats in race

    "GRANDMA" SUES TX SEC OF STATE: Independent gubernatorial candidate Carole Keeton Strayhorn sued the Texas secretary of state Wednesday in her attempt to have the nickname "Grandma" listed with her name on the Nov. 7 ballot. Strayhorn had promised to sue earlier this week after Secretary of State Roger Williams ruled that "Grandma" is a slogan, not a nickname permitted on the ballot. At the same time, Williams allowed independent candidate Kinky Friedman to be listed as Richard "Kinky" Friedman on the ballot. Friedman has used the nickname for years. Strayhorn's suit says that the Texas Election Code guarantees her the right to use her nickname. Her attorney, Roy Minton, has said that Strayhorn began using the name when she became a grandmother in 1994. AP via Yahoo! News: Texas gov. candidate sues over nickname

    NEW YORKERS NOT THRILLED ABOUT A BLOOMY '08 BID: City voters don't believe Mayor Bloomberg will launch a bid for the White House - and even if he did, they wouldn't rush to support him, a new poll found. Amid all the buzz about Hizzoner contemplating a run for President, 62% of registered city voters say it is "not too likely" or "not likely at all," according to a Quinnipiac University Polling Institute poll released yesterday. Bloomberg, 64, has denied any interest in a White House bid, but if he changed his mind, 48% said they "probably" or "definitely" won't vote for him, and 40% say they "definitely" or "probably" would vote for him. New York Daily News: N.Y.ers aren't bustin' to see Mike as Prez

    HARSH WORDS FOR SIS: The brother of GOP Senate candidate Kathleen Troia "KT" McFarland accused his sister yesterday of being "evil" and he vehemently denied her charges that their father was abusive. Tom Troia, of Janesville, Wis., accused his sister of conjuring up the allegations in a spiteful letter she gave to her parents in 1992 in hopes of killing her father with a heart attack while also rubbing in another brother's face that he was dying of AIDS. "It's a complete fabrication," Troia, 52, told The Post of his sister's charges. "If I had one word to describe my sister, it would be 'evil.'" Asked why his sister, who is in the middle of a Republican primary battle with former Yonkers Mayor John Spencer to take on Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, would make up horrendous charges about their father, Troia said, "Evil needs no reason." New York Post: KT Brother: Evil Sis Lied on 'Dad Abuse'
    Posted By Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau: 7/13/2006 09:36:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Wednesday, July 12, 2006
    The Cafferty File: Army ends Halliburton contract
    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:

    What does it mean that the Army is ending its contract with Halliburton?

    It means that an election is coming closer and the money-grab needs to come to an end... for now.
    Mike, Wethersfield, Connecticut

    It means that a colossal scandal involving Halliburton is about to be uncovered!
    Lee, Lithonia, Georgia

    The cost of the war will be cut in half.
    Don, Bradenton, Florida

    It means that the Army wants to get as far away as possible from that cesspool before the hearings get under way following the mid-term elections!
    Ken, Portland, Oregon

    Now that Karl Rove has been identified as a source in the CIA leak case, what should happen to him?

    Jeez Jack, I'm surprised you have to ask. He should be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom of course. Well, that, and a no bid contract to supply the Army. I hear there's one open.
    Steven, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

    I think the answer is simple. Bush said he would get rid of anyone associated with leaks in his administration, so, Karl Rove should be gone as soon as possible. The friendship must end for the sake of national security.
    Charles, Winston-Salem, North Carolina

    Hold Bush to his word when he said anyone that leaked information on his staff would be fired.
    Bill, Louisville, Tennessee

    What does it mean when a petting zoo and flea market are included on a government list of terror targets?

    It can only mean that this administration is a three-ring circus.
    Donald, Arkansas

    Dear Jack, If these locations aren't in the middle of New York, then we are really in big trouble.
    Kara, Smithtown, New York

    What does it mean? It means our only hope is that the terrorists attacking us are as moronic as the cretins defending us.
    Pete, Santa Monica, California

    Petting Zoos and Flea Markets...it means that the people running your government have the brains of a flea and they all belong in a zoo.
    Marg, British Columbia
    Posted By Jack Cafferty, CNN Commentator: 7/12/2006 05:41:00 PM ET | Permalink
    The Situation Online: Critical assets

    Critical assets?
    How does the Department of Homeland Security dole out its anti-terrorism dollars? According to a new report (PDF) from the DHS Inspector General, the Kangaroo Conservation Center, an Illinois apple and pork festival and the Tennessee Mule Day parade are among the thousands of locations and events cited as possible terror targets. We have details on how they made the list.

    Reaching across the aisle
    Several top-flight political advisers are coming together to launch a new Web site hoping to move American voters away from the angry partisan fringes. Styled in the online equivalent of a national town hall meeting, HotSoup will be a digital non-partisan forum where millions can discuss and dissect hot political topics. How is it being received online?

    MySpace #1?
    A new report says MySpace.com has leapt to the number one ranked site on the web. But is the social networking site really more popular than Yahoo and Google? We'll investigate.

    New text message: Evacuate now
    The Department of Homeland Security is using new technology to update a national alert system first created during the Cold War. A government sponsored text message may soon be your first warning in the event of an attack or national emergency.

    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: 7/12/2006 05:20:00 PM ET | Permalink
    DHS inspector general: Terror target database unacceptable
    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A report released Tuesday by the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general says the department's database of potential terror targets is too flawed to be used as a guide for the allocation of federal security funding.

    Outcries erupted in New York and Washington over the department's decision to cut security funding for the two cities by 40 percent. The original DHS assessment did not identify the Brooklyn Bridge or Statue of Liberty as terrorist targets -- but did cite a Sears Auto Center, a cookie shop and the Apple and Pork Festival held each September in Clinton, Illinois. (Full story)

    Calling many of the target listings "quirky" and "out-of-place," Inspector General Richard Skinner said the National Asset Database, which is an inventory of "critical infrastructure and key resources" in the country, is "not yet comprehensive enough to support the management and resource allocation decision-making envisioned by the National Infrastructure Protection Plan."

    The database of 77,069 targets, or "assets," names specific sites such as the Kangaroo Conservation Center in Dawsonville, Georgia, as well as non-specific entities, including one "Beach at End of (a) Street," as being potentially vulnerable.

    A DHS representative told CNN the purpose of the list has been misinterpreted.

    "The major point to get across is that this database is not a list of critical infrastructure across the United States," said DHS spokesman Jarrod Agen. "The states provided us with a list of assets in their area -- assets the states believe are critical."

    The report cited several examples of questionable assets, as well as entire categories it described as flawed, including racetracks, with 224 listed; retail stores, 234; and libraries, 130.
    Posted By CNN's Washington Bureau: 7/12/2006 05:08:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Crisis alert system would send messages to cell phones, PCs


    Emergency messages would appear on cell phones, as well as computers.

    ARLINGTON, Virginia (CNN) -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency conducted a test Wednesday of crisis alert technology that could one day allow urgent messages to be sent to cell phones and computers nationwide.

    A FEMA test message relayed through a public television satellite appeared on select cell phones, with text messages telling people to tune in to televisions and radios. The alert also went out to computers, with information appearing in the form of a red scrolling banner and a new window with a video announcement from a Department of Homeland Security official. (Watch a FEMA demonstration of the new alert system -- 2:03)

    "It's time for us to move this whole system into the 21st century," said FEMA Director David Paulison. "It's going to be quicker, more efficient and more reliable information that will not only reach our general public, but also our first responders and our government organizations across the country."

    The general public shouldn't expect emergency text messages from the government any time soon, however. Though the technology has made it through a one-year pilot phase, putting it into effect will require Congress to pass new legislation, and for a maze of Federal Communications Commission laws to be debated and negotiated by private-sector media distributors.

    "The barriers are not really technical," said John Lawson, head of the Association of Public Television Stations. "It's a question of funding, it's a question of private-sector partners figuring out how to do it and agreeing to do it."

    The federal government has spent $1 million so far on developing the new system. FEMA expects to spend $4.5 million more to complete its set-up, and $1 million a year to maintain it thereafter.

    For the time being, FEMA's sights are set on being able to use the new Digital Emergency Alert System to communicate with emergency operation centers in hurricane-vulnerable Gulf and Atlantic coast states by the end of this year. By the end of 2007, FEMA says, it plans to have the system deployed in all 50 states.

    With weaknesses exposed by such events as the September 11, 2001, attacks and Hurricane Katrina, the existing system has been criticized as an outdated Cold War relic. On June 26, President Bush issued an executive order requiring DHS to upgrade the nation's emergency alert system, to "ensure that under all conditions the president can communicate with the American people," including in cases of terrorist attack, war, natural disaster or other public danger."
    Posted By Justine Redman, CNN Washington Bureau: 7/12/2006 02:44:00 PM ET | Permalink
    David vs. Goliath
    From The Morning Grind

    Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Indiana) sent an e-mail yesterday to his political supporters telling them about his recent visit to Iowa to campaign and help raise money for no fewer than 10 Hawkeye State Democrats.

    Bayh made no mention of his own future political plans. He didn't have to. It is a given the Indiana Democrat is likely to run for president.

    Bayh is one of half a dozen or more Democrats beating a path to this Midwestern state to solicit support for a 2008 presidential bid. As the lead off for the presidential nominating process, a win in Iowa is critical if not altogether needed, to win the Democratic nomination. Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner (D) is in the state today. Sen. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) announced this morning he will visit Iowa in late July. Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin) spends time in the state this weekend, while former Sen. John Edwards (D-North Carolina) just wrapped up a visit. And Gov. Tom Vilsack (D), well he doesn't have to visit the state because he lives there.

    Visits to Iowa by these potential presidential candidates are no longer news. Rather it is an afterthought. The next big splash will come when Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-Iowa) decides to visit the state. So far, the "Goliath" of the Democratic presidential primary contest is steering clear of Iowa, focusing instead on her Senate re-election. But when she takes her first step into the state, the media wave will be gigantic. Dr. Selden Spencer, a Democratic challenging Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa) in November, told CNN's Sasha Johnson that people are talking about Clinton's first visit.

    "That does come up every now and then," he said. "It's going to be interesting, because I expect she'll come by somewhere along the way."

    But this weekend, Spencer, while not endorsing Bayh, offered words of praise for the Indiana Democrat. "Obviously, he would be a very special candidate and in the Midwest he would resonate very well," he said.

    And for Bayh, highlighting his Midwestern roots and success of being re-elected several times in a 'red state' appears to be major themes we will hear from the Indiana Democrat in the coming months.

    "If we are going to set a better course, you have to win," Bayh said in a very candid interview with CNN's Candy Crowley and Johnson during his Iowa visit. "So it might be better to have someone who's proven they can win in a red state, not just once or twice but hopefully several times."

    Bayh didn't mention Warner by name, nor did he single out any of his other potential rivals. But clearly he is trying to distinguish himself from a very crowded pack. Warner is heralded for winning one term in the red state of Virginia and helping to get Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine (D) elected. Bayh must also differentiate himself from the handful of senators who are also eyeing bids.

    "It would be helpful to have a nominee who has a track record as a governor with actually getting things done," he said. "Not just giving speeches and talking about things, but actually doing them."

    Then there is the early frontrunner: Clinton. "Is it a little bit of a David versus Goliath situation?" Bayh said. "Yeah probably. But as I recall, David did OK."

    Bayh said for the Democratic Party to be successful it must convince Americans that Democrats will help keep them safe.

    "As much as we want to have a conversation about health care and education and jobs and the environment and all those other important things, we're not going to get to have that conversation until people first trust us with their lives," he said.

    When will Bayh be back in Iowa? "Soon," he told his political supporters yesterday. "And I'll be sure to e-mail you before I head out."

    Round II of immigration hearings

    The debate over how to reform the nation's immigration laws rages on and Congress remains ground zero for the issue. House Republican leaders, who oppose President Bush's proposal to allow many illegal immigrants to earn citizenship, will announce a new round of hearings later this morning. Meanwhile, Republican and Democratic senators who support Bush's immigration reform plan will attend an "Interfaith Conference" on the issue. And Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez was scheduled to begin testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee at 9:30 a.m. ET in a hearing titled "Examining the Need for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, Part II."

    While the Senate has proven to be Bush's biggest obstacle as he tries to advance his legislative agenda through Congress, on this issue it is his otherwise reliable, likeminded, conservative House leadership that is blocking it. House Republicans argue that Bush's proposal is akin to giving amnesty to the illegal immigrants who are now living and working in the country.

    A well placed Republican House source provided the Grind with an early look at what the next round of House hearings will address and when they will happen:

    July 18th. Do the Reid-Kennedy bill's amnesty provisions repeat the mistakes of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986? House Judiciary Committee

    July 19th. What is the impact of the Reid-Kennedy bill on American workers and their workplaces? House Education and the Workforce Committee

    July 20th. How does the Reid-Kennedy bill compare to the House Border Security bill when it comes to enhancing border infrastructure? House Homeland Security Committee

    July 26th. What is the role of English in American education and society, and does the Reid-Kennedy bill undermine, rather than encourage, this role? House Education and the Workforce Committee

    July 27th. Will the Reid-Kennedy bill's amnesty provisions overwhelm the already overburdened U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services? Will 10-20 million new applicants for citizenship make it easier for criminals and terrorists to evade background checks? House Judiciary Committee

    July 27th. Does the Reid-Kennedy bill make it more difficult for law enforcement to expedite the removal of illegal aliens from the United States? House Homeland Security Committee

    July 27th. To what degree is illegal immigration an issue for countries in the Western Hemisphere, and does the Reid-Kennedy bill undercut American diplomatic efforts aimed at curbing illegal immigration? House International Relations Committee
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/12/2006 11:24:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Let the countdown begin
    From The Morning Grind

    Democrats are expected to take the Senate floor today to begin the "countdown" to the August recess in an effort to try and pressure Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tennessee) to focus the chamber on issues ranging from "college affordability" to a "real debate in Iraq," a Democratic source tells the Grind. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) and Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin (D-Illinois) will lead the effort and the leadership is urging other Democrats to join them, according to a copy of an e-mail sent to all Democratic press secretaries.

    "Our hope is that every day for the rest of this work period Democrats will take to the floor to amplify this message," the leadership states in the e-mail obtained by the Grind. The other issues Democrats will be pressing for action includes stem cells, gas prices and the voting rights act.

    Frist announced this morning that the Senate would turn its attention to stem cell legislation on Monday and finish voting on three different stem cell bills by Tuesday.

    "There's tremendous promise in stem cell research, and I've worked long and hard with my colleagues to bring this serious ethical issue to the floor in a way that encourages thoughtful discussion and deliberation," he said in a statement released by his office.

    For your vacation planning purposes, the Senate is scheduled to be in recess from August 7 through September 4, while the House is expected to be in recess from July 31 through September 4.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/12/2006 11:23:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Why run for re-election when you can sing?
    From The Morning Grind

    Move over Orrin, there is a new singer in town. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska) is the latest member of the "world's most exclusive club" to show off his pipes with a little diddy about what else? Growing up in a "Western Town in Nebraska," of course. Click here to hear the song on Nebraska's KFAB website.

    Nelson sings the song in the yet-to-be-released movie "Out of Omaha" that stars Dave Foley, Lea Thompson, Patricia Richards and Ethan Phillips.

    "I'm hoping this will really ignite my career," Nelson said yesterday. "I'm hoping I can get a Metamucil commercial or something."

    Nelson said that he is "following in the footsteps" of Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) "who sang in the movie Ocean's 12." Hatch is well known throughout the nation's capital for his "second career" of songwriting and singing.

    "Neither one of us is an American Idol quality, but we do enjoy singing," Nelson said. But Nelson did note that this is not his first brush with Hollywood fame. As governor, Nelson appeared in an episode of "Candid Camera."

    Still, all of his acting and singing experience apparently did not impress actor-turned-senator-turned actor Fred Thompson (R-Tennessee), who appears in NBC's crime drama "Law & Order."

    "I had dinner with him and (Sen.) John McCain (R-Arizona) and (Sen.) Joseph Lieberman (D-Connecticut) a couple of months ago," Nelson said. "I hinted as much as anyone could ever hint about a cameo on one of his episodes and he ignored every effort on my part to secure one of those. I just thought it would be professional courtesy with my background."
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/12/2006 11:22:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Hot Soup
    From The Morning Grind

    What does a dash of Ron Fournier, a sprinkle of Mark McKinnon, a teaspoon of Joe Lockhart, a tablespoon of Matthew Dowd, a cup of Carter Eskew, a quarter stick of Allie Savarino, a drop of Michael Feldman, a smidgen of John deTar, a bit of Chip Smith and a pinch of Bart Barden all mixed get you?

    Apparently a bowl of steaming hot soup.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/12/2006 11:21:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Of historical note
    From The Morning Grind

    On this day in 1984, Democratic presidential nominee Walter Mondale chose Rep. Geraldine Ferraro (D-New York) to be his running mate.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/12/2006 11:20:00 AM ET | Permalink
    DAYAHEAD/Events making news today
    From The Morning Grind

  • President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush were scheduled to leave for Germany this morning and are expected to arrive in Rostock-Laage Airport in Rostock, Germany tonight.

  • The House gavels into session at 10 a.m. ET and will turn its attention to the Credit Rating Agency Duopoly Act. The Senate turned on the lights at 9:30 a.m. ET and continues debate on the Homeland Security Appropriations bill.

  • The Senate Judiciary Committee was scheduled to begin a hearing on "Examining the Need for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, Part II" at 9:30 a.m. ET in room 226 of the Dirksen Office Building. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez leads the list of witnesses testifying on the matter.

  • Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R), a prospective presidential candidate, was scheduled to attend an 8 a.m. ET fundraiser for Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Lynn Swann (R) in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. At 5 p.m. ET, Giuliani will attend a fundraiser for Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich (R).

  • Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner (D) begins day two of his visit to Iowa as he explores a presidential bid. At 9:45 a.m. ET, Warner tours the Bucktown Arts Center in Davenport and then meets with Davenport teachers at 10:15 a.m. ET. He attends a 1 p.m. ET fundraising lunch for state Sen. Roger Stewart (D) at Happy's Place Restaurant in Dubuque and then appears at the opening of Democratic Congressional candidate Bruce Braley's office at 5:30 p.m. ET.

  • House Republican leaders and Office of Management and Budget Director Rob Portman hold a 10 a.m. ET press availability at the Capitol Hill Club, 300 First Street, SE.

  • House Democrats hold a press availability outside room 345 of the Cannon Office Building to discuss the economy.

  • House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and GOP chairmen hold an 11 a.m. ET news conference in the House Radio and Television Gallery to announce a new round of border security/immigration hearings.

  • Sens. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts), John McCain (R-Arizona) and Reps. John Lewis (D-Georgia) and Howard Berman (D-California) attend the Interfaith Comprehensive Immigration Reform Conference at 11:30 a.m. ET. The conference is being held at Jones Day, 51 Louisiana, Avenue, NW.

  • AFL-CIO leaders and union members hold a noon ET rally at the National Labor Relations Board, 1099, 14th Street, NW. The group will "demand that (the board) protect their rights" and pledges to engage in "civil disobedience."

  • A civil lawsuit against disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff will be announced at noon ET in Austin, Texas.

  • Sen. Barack Obama (D-Illinois) delivers a 12:30 p.m. ET keynote address to the Campus Progress National Student Conference taking place at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) delivers the closing speech at 5:40 p.m. ET.

  • House and Senate Democrats hold a 12:30 p.m. ET news conference to "discuss Republican economic failures and rising gas prices" at the Congressional Exxon, 200 Massachusetts Ave, NE.

  • Senate Democrats hold a 1:45 p.m. ET news conference on the minimum wage in the Senate Radio and Television Gallery.

  • Rep. Mike Pence (R-Indiana) and others join Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist at his organization's "Annual Cost of Government Day Press Conference." The news conference will be held at 2:30 in room 441 of the Cannon House Office Building.

  • The House Rules Committee meets at 3 p.m. ET in room H-313 to report a rule on the Fannie Lou Hammer, Rosa Parks, and Coretta Scott King Voting Rights Act Reauthorization Act of 2006. The House is expected to take it up on Thursday.
  • Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/12/2006 11:14:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Political Hot Topics
    NOVAK NAMES ROVE, CIA'S HARLOW AS SOURCES IN COLUMN: "Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has informed my attorneys that, after 2-1/2 years, his investigation of the CIA leak case concerning matters directly relating to me has been concluded. That frees me to reveal my role in the federal inquiry that, at the request of Fitzgerald, I have kept secret. I have cooperated in the investigation while trying to protect journalistic privileges under the First Amendment and shield sources who have not revealed themselves. I have been subpoenaed by and testified to a federal grand jury. Published reports that I took the Fifth Amendment, made a plea bargain with the prosecutors or was a prosecutorial target were all untrue." Chicago Sun-Times: Novak: My role in Plame leak probe

    ADMIN WILL ADHERE TO GENEVA CONVENTIONS: The Bush administration has agreed to apply the Geneva Conventions to all terrorism suspects in U.S. custody, bowing to the Supreme Court's recent rejection of policies that have imprisoned hundreds for years without trials. The Pentagon announced yesterday that it has called on military officials to adhere to the conventions in dealing with al-Qaeda detainees. The administration also has decided that even prisoners held by the CIA in secret prisons abroad must be treated in accordance with international standards, an interpretation that would prohibit prisoners from being subjected to harsh treatment in interrogations, several U.S. officials said. Washington Post: U.S. Shifts Policy on Geneva Conventions

    BUSH TAKES "VICTORY LAP" IN ANNOUNCING NEW DEFICIT NUMBER: This year's federal deficit is now projected to be $296 billion, President Bush announced yesterday, $127 billion less than predicted just six months ago and leaving the administration a year ahead of its pledge to cut the deficit in half by 2009. "This economy's growing, federal taxes are rising, and we're cutting the federal deficit faster than we expected," Mr. Bush said, turning the administration's annual midsession budget review report to Congress into a victory lap for his tax-cutting policies during his first term. But Mr. Bush said tackling the deficit in the long run will require action on Social Security, and he challenged Congress to stop posturing on the issue and instead to have a "sense of obligation" to fix it. Washington Times: '06 projected federal deficit falls to $296 billion

    PUTIN CALLS CHENEY'S CRITICISM "AN UNSUCCESSFUL HUNTING SHOT": President Vladimir Putin lashed out at Vice President Dick Cheney ahead of this weekend's G-8 summit, calling his recent criticisms of Russia "an unsuccessful hunting shot," according to a television interview being broadcast Wednesday. The remark, from an interview with NBC, referred to the shotgun blast by Cheney on a hunting trip that accidentally wounded a companion. Cheney, in a May speech in the ex-Soviet republic of Lithuania, accused Russia of cracking down on religious and political rights and of using its energy reserves as "tools of intimidation or blackmail." AP via Yahoo! News: Putin rips Cheney's verbal 'hunting shot'

    "WHAT ELSE IS IT THAT WE DON'T KNOW?" The Republican chairwoman of a House subcommittee said Tuesday that the Bush administration had failed to inform Congress adequately that it was sifting through a vast international banking network in an effort to track terrorists' finances. The lawmaker, Representative Sue Kelly of New York, chairwoman of the House Financial Services subcommittee on oversight, was joined by members of both parties in accusing the administration of being too secretive and unaccountable to Congress about the program. Its existence was disclosed last month by The New York Times and other newspapers. "Many people in Congress who should have been briefed by the administration were not," Ms. Kelly said. "What else is it that we don't know?" New York Times: Republicans Criticize Lack of Briefings on Bank Data

    WILL THE "DO-NOTHING" LABEL HURT GOP IN THE MID-TERMS? Republicans head into the final stretch of what Democrats are calling a "do-nothing Congress" that has achieved none of the key items of President George W. Bush's agenda. Just a year and a half after Republicans increased their majorities in the 2004 elections, Bush's Social Security overhaul plan has been shelved, his vow to restructure the tax code postponed indefinitely and his calls for reshaping medical malpractice long-forgotten. The administration's current major initiative, an overhaul of the nation's immigration laws, is hanging by a thread on Capitol Hill. Republicans may pay a price for their inaction in this November's election, said David Mayhew, a congressional scholar at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. "If they get into September and they still have not done anything on immigration, then they are heavily subject to the charge that they can't tie their shoes," he said. Bloomberg: 'Do-Nothing' Label May Haunt Republicans in Congressional Races

    HOUSE APPROVES "CRACKDOWN" ON ONLINE GAMBLING: With bipartisan support and the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal haunting Republican efforts to pass antigambling legislation, the House approved a crackdown on Internet wagering that would ban not only sports bets but also online poker and other games that have become increasingly popular. Voting 317 to 93, the House approved a bill that would make it illegal for financial institutions or intermediaries to process payments to offshore casinos through bettors' electronic funds, checks, debits and other e-wallet transactions. In addition, the bill updates the Wire Act of 1961, which forbade the transmission of betting over telephone lines, to specifically outlaw online gambling through any communication network. New York Times: House Backs Crackdown on Gambling on Internet

    PELOSI WILL TAKE ATTENDANCE: With attendance typically struggling to crack the 50-Member mark, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) is cracking the whip, demanding that her fellow Democrats attend three "crucial" Caucus meetings between now and the August recess - an order supplemented by a fellow leader's hint that failure to cooperate could be detrimental to Members' futures. In a "Dear Colleague" letter sent early Tuesday afternoon, Pelosi told Members that attendance will be taken at the weekly hour-long sessions this morning and each of the next two Wednesdays, with Democrats using the sessions to discuss their "New Direction" agenda. "These crucial meetings will begin at 9:00 a.m. and end promptly at 10:00 a.m.," Pelosi wrote. "The meetings are mandatory and I have asked [Caucus Chairman James Clyburn (S.C.)] to take attendance." Roll Call: Pelosi Planning to Take Names

    INDIANA HAS THE MOST TERRORIST TARGETS: It reads like a tally of terrorist targets that a child might have written: Old MacDonald's Petting Zoo, the Amish Country Popcorn factory, the Mule Day Parade, the Sweetwater Flea Market and an unspecified "Beach at End of a Street." But the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security, in a report released Tuesday, found that the list was not child's play: all these "unusual or out-of-place" sites "whose criticality is not readily apparent" are inexplicably included in the federal antiterrorism database. The National Asset Database, as it is known, is so flawed, the inspector general found, that as of January, Indiana, with 8,591 potential terrorist targets, had 50 percent more listed sites than New York (5,687) and more than twice as many as California (3,212), ranking the state the most target-rich place in the nation. New York Times: U.S. Terror Targets: Petting Zoo and Flea Market?

    ROVE CHEERED, JEERED AT LA RAZA: White House political strategist Karl Rove touted "shared values" of faith and family and reiterated President Bush's support of broad immigration reform in a Los Angeles address Tuesday to one of the nation's largest Latino civil rights organizations. In a lunchtime talk at the National Council of La Raza's annual conference, the Republican advisor outlined Bush's plan for stronger border security, workplace enforcement, a guest worker program and earned legalization for undocumented immigrants. "He understands immigration is a positive force in this country... vital to keep this country going," Rove said, prompting applause from the crowd of a few thousand. But he drew scattered boos when he highlighted Bush's recent approval of $1.9 billion in funding for more border security, including deployment of National Guard troops, and was disrupted twice by hecklers who unfurled antiwar and anti-Bush banners. Los Angeles Times: Rove Tells of 'Shared Values' With Latinos

    LOCKHART, DOWD, McKINNON TO LAUNCH WEBSITE: A bipartisan group of prominent political strategists on Tuesday announced an Internet information venture designed to interact with America's opinion leaders and serve as an antidote to the right-left clash that typifies political discourse on the Web. The site, called Hotsoup.com, will debut in October and will be edited by Ron Fournier, former chief political writer for The Associated Press. Hotsoup is the brainchild of some of the best-known practitioners of partisan politics in Washington, including Matthew Dowd, chief strategist for the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2004, and Joe Lockhart, former White House press secretary under President Clinton and a senior adviser to Democratic Sen. John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign. AP via Yahoo! News: Political strategists to launch Web site

    ARMY SEVERS CONTRACT WITH HALLIBURTON: The Army is discontinuing a controversial multibillion-dollar deal with oil services giant Halliburton Co. to provide logistical support to U.S. troops worldwide, a decision that could cut deeply into the firm's dominance of government contracting in Iraq. The choice comes after several years of attacks from critics who saw the contract as a symbol of politically connected corporations profiteering on the war. Under the deal, Halliburton had exclusive rights to provide the military with a wide range of work that included keeping soldiers around the world fed, sheltered and in communication with friends and family back home. Government audits turned up more than $1 billion in questionable costs. Whistle-blowers told how the company charged $45 per case of soda, double-billed on meals and allowed troops to bathe in contaminated water. Washington Post: Army to End Expansive, Exclusive Halliburton Deal

    MARK WARNER LOOKING GENEROUS: Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner (D) has ramped up his fundraising for congressional Democratic incumbents and challengers, signaling a national organizing strategy to position the centrist Southerner for a White House bid in 2008... Since Warner began raising money after the 2005 November election, Forward Together has raked in $8.2 million and contributed $860,500 to 108 candidates and political committees. He has hired several top Democratic political consultants, including longtime Democratic operative Monica Dixon, pollster Peter Hart and New Democrat political guru and speechwriter Kenneth Baer. The Hill: Eyeing '08, Warner woos his party with $860,500

    REED'S CAMPAIGN PLAGUED BY ABRAMOFF CONNECTIONS: Former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed, whose campaign for Georgia lieutenant governor has been clouded by questions over his ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, is promoting himself as the candidate with "stronger values." His opponent, state Sen. Casey Cagle, has responded by calling Reed's campaign ads the "height of hypocrisy" and questioning publicly whether Reed could be charged with wrongdoing during the run-up to the November general election. Reed seemed unstoppable last year when he first announced his intention to run for the seat. In his first campaign for elected office, he broke early fundraising records and scared other would-be Republican contenders out of running in the July 18 primary. Cagle, though, has gained momentum and name recognition since concerns over Reed's ties with Abramoff have grabbed headlines across the state. AP via Yahoo! News: Questions hover over Reed campaign in Ga.

    ROMNEY CALLS FOR OUSTER OF TURNPIKE CHAIRMAN: With a Big Dig flaw now responsible for a death, state officials rushed yesterday to contain an unprecedented crisis of public confidence in the project, launching a sprawling criminal investigation and moving to oust the Turnpike Authority chairman. As fear and outrage mounted, Governor Mitt Romney said he does not believe anyone can feel safe driving through the tunnels. ``People should not have to drive through the turnpike tunnels with their fingers crossed," Romney said. Boston Globe: Mass. crisis of confidence

    SENATOR STEVENS REMIXED (mp3): It was hard enough getting used to Cher going techno. But Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska)? An unauthorized DJ remix of a rant on net neutrality that Stevens delivered at a recent hearing made a huge splash on the Internet on Tuesday. "Ted's Techno Tubes," created by an independent Web logger at www.boldheaded.com, might scare you at first. The remix features audio clips from Stevens' rather bizarre and disjointed speech at a June 28 hearing in the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, when he called the Internet "a series of tubes" and said, "It's not a big truck." Those words are now on a masterful remix, along with other things he actually said at the hearing, including this rambling gem: "Just the other day, an Internet was sent by my staff at 10 o'clock in the morning on Friday and I got it yesterday. Why?" You hear the pulsating techno beat, then Stevens' distinguishable voice shouting "tubes!" over and over. Roll Call: Techno Ted
    Posted By Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau: 7/12/2006 09:41:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Tuesday, July 11, 2006
    Recruiting drives
    Good news for the Pentagon this week: their latest figures showed that recruiting for active duty Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines are all on or ahead of their targets for the year.

    But has the Pentagon lowered the bar to raise troops? Over the past year, the Army has loosened their age limit, the tattoo ban, and the aptitude requirement. In addition, recently revealed Army figures show that over the past five years, the number of recruits who needed waivers to join up has steadily increased, from 10% to 15% of the incoming class.

    The number of recruits who needed waivers because of misdemeanors on their records increased since 2001, from 3% to 6% of the Army total. Recruits with serious crimes remained under 1%, recruits with substance abuse waivers decreased to 1%, and 7% got medical waivers.

    The numbers, released after a Freedom of Information request from the Chicago Sun, are becoming public just when the conduct of soldiers is coming under heightened scrutiny. The Army and the Marines are investigating several allegations of misconduct, including rape and murder, against Americans in uniform in Iraq.

    Is there a risk in granting more waivers for misdemeanors? "If you're scraping the bottom of the barrel, you'll get what's at the bottom," says Prof. Jay Williams, a retired Navy captain who studies military issues at Chicago Loyola. But there is no evidence, he points out, that the soldiers currently accused of wrongdoing were among those granted misdemeanor waivers.

    Army Spokesman Douglas Smith tells CNN that while more recruits may have applied for waivers, the Army's stringent requirements for new soldiers have not changed, and additional background checks have made the vetting more thorough than ever.

    "Waiver authorities apply the 'whole person' concept when considering waiver applications," he tells CNN. "Clearly, young people can change; they can overcome mistakes made earlier in their life."
    Posted By Dugald McConnell, CNN Washington Bureau: 7/11/2006 10:26:00 PM ET | Permalink
    The Cafferty File: Stem-cell veto?
    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 President Bush use his first veto against a stem-cell bill?

    G. W. Bush is 100% correct on this one! Ending one life to save another life makes absolutely no sense! And Bush remains consistent with the position he held prior to the 2004 election.
    Jim, N. Haverhill, New Hampshire

    He won't, if someone tells him stem-cell research is the best hope to cure independent thought.
    Gordon, Sedgwick, Maine

    It really won't matter. Unless something is done to provide insurance for all Americans and health care costs are controlled, who could afford the price tag of the treatments that this life-saving/life altering research will provide!
    Pam, Reynoldsburg, Ohio

    I hope he does... it would be fun to see him get bitch-slapped by Nancy Reagan.
    Al, Lawrence, Kansas

    Should Internet gambling be illegal?

    No! This is just more 'in-your-face' government. It is past time for the government to get out of our lives.
    R.A., LaPorte, Texas

    No. For a country that allows people to carry concealed weapons, drink all the alcohol they can consume, smoke all the cigarettes someone wants, drive autos at 200 miles an hour as entertainment, and participate in extreme activities, internet gambling doesn't compare to any of this nonsense.
    George, Dunedin, Florida

    Absolutely. Laws are often made in order to protect people from themselves. Speaking of which, can I borrow a few bucks, Jack? I hear that number 9 in the 9th at Arlington today is a sure thing. I promise I'll pay you back tomorrow. Honest.
    Louie, Las Vegas, Nevada

    At what point can the U.S. claim victory in Iraq?

    Since things are clearly getting worse on a daily basis in Iraq, and it appears we are in the midst of a civil war, there will be no victory. Victory in this instance will be defined as cutting our losses and getting the hell out as soon as possible before more brave soldiers get killed.
    Carol, Southbury, Connecticut

    When the media stops using the withdrawal as a lead story.
    Roy, Dana Point, California

    If, by asking that, you mean "When can we leave Iraq?" the answer, obviously, is never. Isn't that the whole point of this neo-colonialist stupidity?
    Dan, Pompano Beach, Florida
    Posted By Jack Cafferty, CNN Commentator: 7/11/2006 05:41:00 PM ET | Permalink
    The Situation Online: All bets are off
    Betting the House
    The House has just passed a bill that would prevent Internet gamblers in the United States from cashing in over the Web. The bill's sponsors have tried for years to fight the $12 billion industry, which exists mostly offshore. We have the details on what the bill means for millions of online gamblers, and what happens next.

    Banning blogs?
    We examine a new lawsuit that alleges embattled Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher censored a political Web site.

    India Bombings
    We'll bring you first-hand accounts online, citizen journalism photos, maps, and digital details of the blasts in Mumbai.

    Gas prices rising
    Some bad news for American drivers today: The U.S. government's top energy forecasting agency raised its estimate for the average price American drivers will pay for gasoline this summer to $2.88 a gallon (PDF), 12 cents higher than they first anticipated. But we're already paying an average of nearly $3.00 a gallon. So what gives? We explain. Plus, where can you find the cheapest gas in your area?

    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: 7/11/2006 04:36:00 PM ET | Permalink
    House takes aim at Internet gambling
    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. House voted resoundingly Tuesday to bar banks and credit card companies from making payments to Internet gambling sites in a move designed to make it tougher to gamble online.

    "There are hundreds and hundreds of these illegal, unregulated, untaxed, offshore sites that are sucking billions of dollars out of the country," said Rep. Robert Goodlatte, the Republican sponsor of the bill from Virginia. "This [has] all the ills that come from gambling without any of the regulation."

    Opponents of the bill said many credit card companies already don't allow payments for online gambling, and added that people who want to gamble on the Internet will still find ways to do so. The growth of Internet poker in recent years has helped fuel attention to the issue.
    Posted By CNN's Congressional Unit: 7/11/2006 03:41:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Jefferson appeals ruling that OK'd Capitol Hill search


    Despite the situation, Rep. William Jefferson is still seeking re-election.

    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Louisiana congressman implicated in a federal bribery probe filed papers Tuesday to keep records seized from his Capitol Hill office under seal while he appeals a federal judge's order allowing investigators to review them. (Full story)

    In May, federal agents searched the office of Rep. William Jefferson, the subject of a criminal probe into allegations he accepted bribes in return for using his office to facilitate business ventures in Africa. The eight-term lawmaker has denied wrongdoing, but House Democrats vowed to strip him of his seat on the powerful Ways and Means Committee.

    Chief U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan ruled Monday that the Constitution's "speech and debate" clause -- which gives members of Congress immunity while conducting their official duties -- does not shield them from execution of valid search warrants. (Full story)

    Lawyers for Jefferson, a Democrat whose district includes much of the New Orleans area, filed notice Tuesday that he would appeal that decision.

    House leaders had complained loudly about the raid, arguing it violated the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of government.

    Amid the uproar, Bush ordered the solicitor general's office to take custody of the materials for 45 days -- a "cooling-off" period that expired Sunday -- while House lawyers and the Justice Department tried to resolve the impasse.
    Posted By CNN's Congressional Unit: 7/11/2006 03:00:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Gitmo detainees to get Geneva Convention protections
    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- All detainees under U.S. military custody -- including those being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, -- are to be granted protections spelled out by Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, the White House said Tuesday. (Full story)

    The detainees covered include those suspected of being members of al Qaeda.

    Previously, the White House had said those detainees were not prisoners of war and thus the United States was not required to give them protection under Article 3, which states, "Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed 'hors de combat' by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely."

    White House spokesman Tony Snow said Tuesday's announcement does not represent a fundamental change, only codifies current practice.

    "Humane treatment has always been the standard, and that is something that they have followed at Guantanamo," he told reporters.
    Posted By Barbara Starr, CNN Pentagon Bureau: 7/11/2006 11:53:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Bush hails revised deficit number
    From The Morning Grind

    President Bush hailed new budget figures released this morning that shows the deficit is $127 billion less than what he predicted earlier this year.

    Bush credited the revised number to his economic policies including tax cuts, efforts to rein in federal spending as well as his pro-growth policies.

    "This good news is no accident," he said in a short speech from the White House. "It is the result of the hard work of the American people and sound policies in Washington, D.C."

    Earlier this year, Bush suggested the deficit would be $423 billion, but the mid-year budget review released this morning shows the revised figure to be $296 billion. The news conference had a political flavor to it as embattled Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Montana) joined Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and several House members in the audience.

    Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tennessee), too, praised Republican policies for the good news and suggested the GOP will do more in the future.

    "We're making progress to bring our spending and revenue into line, but we cannot rest on the progress made to date," he said in a statement released by his office prior to Bush's speech. "As we strive to achieve fiscal balance, more needs to be done to help hard working families meet the cost of living."

    But Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-New Jersey) charged that it is Bush's stewardship of the economy that has caused the deficit and accused the President of now wanting to cut social programs to help balance the budget.

    "President Bush dug us into a deep hole, and now he wants to cut Social Security and Medicare to get us out," Lautenberg said in a statement. "Those misplaced priorities speak for themselves."

    OMB Director Rob Portman answers questions on the budget at 11 a.m. ET before giving a noon speech at the National Press Club. Democrats deliver their assessment in the Senate Radio and Television Gallery at 1:45 p.m. ET.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/11/2006 11:04:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Jefferson vows to fight on
    From The Morning Grind

    Rep. William Jefferson (D-Louisiana) will appeal a decision by a federal judge, who ruled Monday a search of his Capitol Hill office was constitutional, CNN's Deirdre Walsh and Terry Frieden report.

    "We respectfully disagree with his conclusion," Jefferson's attorney, Robert Trout, said in a written statement in which he called the search "unprecedented, unnecessary and unconstitutional."

    Chief U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan ruled that the Constitution's "speech and debate" clause, which gives members of Congress immunity while conducting their official duties, does not shield them from execution of valid search warrants, as Jefferson's attorneys had argued in a motion asking for return of the materials seized during the May search.

    "Congressman Jefferson's interpretation ... would have the effect of converting every congressional office into a taxpayer-subsidized sanctuary for crime," Hogan said in his ruling. "Such a result is not supported by the Constitution or judicial precedent and will not be adopted here."

    Hogan also ruled that the Justice Department can begin reviewing the materials seized from Jefferson's office, which have been held by the solicitor general's office under an order from President Bush.

    Legal sources connected to Jefferson's office said he will ask Hogan to stay his order releasing the seized materials to the Justice Department, pending the appeal.

    Meanwhile, congressional negotiators and Justice Department officials are close to reaching an agreement on procedures for future searches of lawmakers' offices by federal agents with an announcement likely to come "soon," a senior Justice official told CNN.

    Jefferson is the subject of a criminal probe into allegations he accepted bribes in return for using his office to facilitate business ventures in Africa. In court documents, prosecutors said $90,000 in cash was found in the freezer of his Washington house when it was searched last summer. Jefferson, who has not been charged with any crime, has denied wrongdoing and vowed to continue his bid for re-election in November. However, a Kentucky businessman and a former Jefferson staffer have both pleaded guilty to corruption charges and agreed to cooperate with investigators.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/11/2006 11:03:00 AM ET | Permalink
    A GOP cup of Hawaiian 'Coffee'
    From The Morning Grind

    Former Navy Captain turned motivational speaker Jerry Coffee will be introduced at a news conference today by Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle (R) as the Hawaii GOP's candidate for Senate, a well placed Republican source tells the Grind. Republicans hope a combination of Lingle's popularity, a primary fight for the Democratic nomination and Coffee's military resume will help Republicans take this seat out of the Democratic column. Coffee served 28 years in the Navy, seven of which were as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War. Sen. Daniel Akaka (D) is currently locked in a primary battle with Rep. Ed Case (D) for a seat Akaka has held since being appointed in 1990. Despite the divisive primary and Lingle's popularity, Democrats will still be favored to win the seat in November. The primary will be held late September.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/11/2006 11:00:00 AM ET | Permalink
    $1.2 billion -- no joke
    From The Morning Grind

    The money-in-politics wizards at PoliticalMoneyLine report that lobbying expenditures for the second half of 2005 exceeded $1.2 billion. That means influence peddlers spent an average of more than $200 million a month to lobby the executive and legislative branches. PoliticalMoneyLine, a non-partisan data collection company, notes that the healthcare sector led the way by spending more than $183 million during this six month time period followed by the communication and technology industry that spent nearly $159 million.

    Overall, PoliticalMoneyLine estimates that $2,363,102,190 was spent on federal lobbying in 2005.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/11/2006 10:59:00 AM ET | Permalink
    DAYAHEAD/Events making news today
    From The Morning Grind

  • President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush greeted Peru President Alejandro Toledo and his wife Ms. Karp at 9:10 a.m. in the Oval Office. Bush then spoke about the deficit at 9:40 a.m. ET in remarks from the East Room. At 11:35 a.m. ET, Bush takes photos with members of the National Council on the Arts. He heads to Wisconsin this afternoon for policy and political events. Bush visits Allen-Edmonds Shoe Bank at the Factory in Port Washington, Wisconsin at 4:55 p.m. ET. The President then heads to Milwaukee for a fundraiser for Rep. Mark Green (R-Wisconsin), who is running for governor.

  • The Senate gavels into session at 9:45 a.m. ET and resumes consideration of the Homeland Security Appropriations Bill. The House came into session at 9 a.m. ET and is expected to vote on the Internet Gambling bill at 2:15 p.m. ET.

  • Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) was scheduled to attend a 7:30 a.m. ET fundraiser for GOP gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson in Little Rock, Arkansas and then speak to the Arkansas Governor's School in Conway at 9 a.m. ET. Later in the day, he heads to Chicago, Illinois for a fundraiser for GOP gubernatorial candidate Judy Baer Topinka followed by a fundraiser in Pittsburgh for Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania).

  • Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte was scheduled to give a classified briefing to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at 9 a.m. ET.

  • The Senate Judiciary Committee began a hearing on "Hamdan v. Rumsfeld: Establishing a Constitutional Process" at 9:30 a.m. ET in room 216 of the Senate Hart Office Building.

  • Democratic Sens. Hillary Clinton (New York), Ken Salazar (Colorado) and Charles Schumer (New York) hold a 10:15 a.m. ET news conference on "a new direction to secure America's ports and borders" in room S-207 of the Capitol.

  • Democratic Sens. Joe Biden (Delaware) and Jack Reed (Rhode Island) hold an 11 a.m. ET press conference on their recent trip to Iraq in the Senate Radio and Television Gallery.

  • House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) holds an 11:30 a.m. ET off-camera briefing in room H-107 of the Capitol.

  • Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner (D) visits Iowa as he continues to explore a presidential bid. Warner attends a 12 p.m. ET education roundtable with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chet Culver in Des Moines and at 1 p.m. ET hosts a reception for Polk County Democrats. Warner then discusses the budget at 4 p.m. ET with the Iowa Democratic Party in Cedar Rapids followed by a 6:30 p.m. ET event with the Phoenix Club.

  • OMB Director Rob Portman holds a noon briefing on the "Mid-Year Budget Review" at the National Press Club.

  • Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Michigan) speaks at noon on "The Captured Iraqi Intelligence Documents: What Do They Reveal and How Should They Be Handled" at the Heritage Foundation.

  • House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) holds an off-camera briefing at 12:30 p.m. ET in room H-306 of the Capitol.

  • U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad provides a 1 p.m. ET update on Iraq at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

  • Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Rep. John Spratt (D-S.C.) hold a 1:45 press conference on the OMB's FY 2007 mid-session review in the Senate Radio & Television Gallery.

  • White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove speaks to the National Council of LaRaza at 3:30 p.m. ET at the organization's annual conference in Los Angeles.
  • Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/11/2006 10:55:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Political Hot Topics
    WH MAY "REWORK" TERROR TACTICS: Five years after the attacks on the United States, the Bush administration faces the prospect of reworking key elements of its anti-terrorism effort in light of challenges from the courts, Congress and European allies crucial to counterterrorism operations... Accustomed to having its way on matters related to the nation's security, the administration is being forced to respond to criticism that it once brushed aside. Washington Post: Rethinking Embattled Tactics in Terror War

    JUDGE RULES JEFFERSON SEIZURE IS LEGAL: While acknowledging the unprecedented nature of the F.B.I. search of Representative William J. Jefferson's legislative offices, a federal judge ruled Monday that the seizure of records there was legal and did not violate the constitutional separation of powers between Congress and the executive branch... Mr. Jefferson's lawyer, Robert F. Trout, quickly announced that he would appeal. And while Judge Hogan said the documents seized in an overnight raid May 20 and 21, including computer hard drives and boxes of records, could now be turned over to investigators, the defense is likely to seek a stay of that release. New York Times: Judge Upholds F.B.I. Search of Lawmaker's Office

    THE "CONNECTICUT FOR LIEBERMAN" PARTY: Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman took steps Monday to secure a place on the November ballot as a member of his own party, Connecticut for Lieberman, should he lose the Aug. 8 Democratic primary to challenger Ned Lamont. And Lamont aired an offbeat new television commercial that parodies what his campaign says are Lieberman's negative ads. Lieberman, who announced last week he would gather petition signatures as insurance against a primary loss to Lamont, had two options Monday: to take out papers to petition as an individual, or as a candidate with a party designation. Hartford Courant: Senator Would Form Party

    LIEBERMAN STILL HAS FEW "UNCONDITIONAL" SUPPORTERS: More than a week after announcing that he will run as an independent if he loses the Democratic nomination, Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman can count his unconditional Democratic Caucus supporters on one hand - and still have fingers left over. Centrists Mark Pryor (Ark.), Ken Salazar (Colo.) and Ben Nelson (Neb.) are the only Democrats who have indicated they will back Lieberman if he loses the Aug. 8 primary to businessman Ned Lamont and seeks reelection without a party affiliation, according to a survey conducted by The Hill and a review of other news reports. The Hill: No big rush to support Lieberman

    "PIT BULL" SENSENBRENNER REALLY DOESN'T LIKE ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS: Representative F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. has no tolerance for illegal immigrants, either in his political life or personal life. "My housekeeper in Wisconsin was born in Wisconsin," says Mr. Sensenbrenner, the Republican congressman and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. "My housekeeper here is a naturalized U.S. citizen from Nicaragua." Mr. Sensenbrenner is so loath to risk dealing with illegal immigrants that when his Cadillacs need cleaning, he prefers do-it-yourself car washes that require tokens. "They don't have Montezuma's picture on the front of them," Mr. Sensenbrenner says of the tokens. New York Times: 'Pit Bull' of the House Latches On to Immigration

    DALEY SAYS HE "SHOULD HAVE EXERCISED GREATER OVERSIGHT" IN HIRING: Mayor Richard Daley said Monday that he has acted "honestly and lawfully" but acknowledged he could have done more to avert a hiring scandal that led to the convictions of four former aides on corruption charges. "It is fair criticism to say I should have exercised greater oversight to ensure that every worker the city hired regardless of who recommended them was qualified and that proper procedures were always followed," Daley said in his most extensive comments since the convictions last week that rocked City Hall. Chicago Tribune: Daley: I could have done more

    JEB NOW "UNDER FIRE" FOR HIRING: His prison boss took bribes. His law enforcement chief compared two black leaders to criminals. The top man at his child-welfare department had cozy ties to lobbyists. Nearly eight years after promising ''the most ethical administration in Florida history,'' Gov. Jeb Bush has watched several of his leaders become mired in controversies that threaten to blemish his well-polished reputation as a reformer -- the envy of other governors and political opponents alike. The most recent scandal came Wednesday, when federal prosecutors revealed that James Crosby -- the man Bush tapped to lead the long-troubled Department of Corrections -- admitted his part in a $130,000 bribery and kickback scheme with a snack-bar vendor. Miami Herald: Governor's hires under fire

    GAY MARRIAGE MAY GO ON THE BALLOT IN MA: The Supreme Judicial Court delivered a major victory yesterday to opponents of same-sex marriage, validating a proposed constitutional amendment that seeks to outlaw gay weddings in a 2008 ballot measure. In a unanimous decision, the court rejected a claim by gay-rights advocates that Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly erred last year in deciding that the proposed amendment was constitutional. The court ruled that voters had a right to decide whether such a ban belongs in the state constitution. Yesterday's decision sets the stage for a highly anticipated joint session of the Legislature tomorrow, when lawmakers have the power to advance or kill the ballot initiative altogether. Boston Globe: Gay-marriage opponents get SJC go-ahead

    JCS CHAIRMAN PACE MOVED TO TEARS AT HEARING: A congressional hearing on immigration came to a dramatic pause Monday when Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, choked up as he talked about his Italian immigrant father and the opportunities that America had given to his family. A hush fell over the auditorium at Miami Dade College as Pace, a Marine who was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and grew up in Teaneck, N.J., was overcome with emotion and struggled to continue reading from his statement as the opening witness at the field hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Pace was explaining his family's origins to the committee and the opportunities he and his three siblings enjoyed in America when he lost his composure, much to the surprise of the 150 people gathered in the hearing room and to the five senators, who sat riveted as the general paused. Washington Post: General Speaks of Immigrant Father

    CONGRESS TAKING ON ONLINE GAMBLING: The U.S. House of Representatives is nearing passage of a measure making it illegal for credit-card companies to collect payments for Internet casinos and requiring financial institutions to help law-enforcement agencies shut down money transfers to illegal gaming sites. The House is scheduled to vote tomorrow on the bill, which combines two measures sponsored by Republican Representatives James Leach of Iowa and Bob Goodlatte of Virginia. The lawmakers predicted passage of the measure, which would then go to the Senate, where previous measures to crack down on Internet gaming have failed. Online gambling is illegal in the U.S. under a 1961 law against using telephone lines to place interstate bets. Bloomberg: U.S. House Measure Would Restrict Online Gambling

    DOOLITTLE'S PACS SPENT THOUSANDS AT SAKS, TIFFANY AND RITZ-CARLTON: In the past two years, campaign and political action committees controlled by Rep. John T. Doolittle (R-Calif.) paid ever-larger commissions to his wife's one-person company and spent tens of thousands of dollars on gifts at stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Tiffany & Co. and a Ritz-Carlton day spa. The use of such committees, especially "leadership" PACs, for purposes other than electing politicians to Congress is a common and growing phenomenon, but campaign finance watchdogs say Doolittle has taken it to new heights. Washington Post: Lawmaker Criticized for PAC Fees Paid to Wife

    TX SOS SAYS "KINKY" CAN STAY: "Kinky" is in; "Grandma" is out. That's the word from Secretary of State Roger Williams, who ruled Monday on the use of ballot nicknames by independent gubernatorial candidates Carole Keeton Strayhorn and Kinky Friedman. Strayhorn won't get to use "Grandma" on the Nov. 7 ballot because it's a slogan, Williams ruled. Friedman gets to use "Kinky," although his first name, "Richard," must also appear. Both had sought approval from Williams -- the state's chief elections officer -- for what they described as nicknames on the ballot. Fort Worth Star-Telegram: 'Kinky' is permitted on the November ballot, but 'Grandma' isn't

    RUDY RAISING $$$ ON THE ROAD: Rudy Giuliani took off yesterday on a five-state stumping tour for GOP candidates that could also help him should he decide to run for president in 2008. The former mayor began with a fund-raiser for Sen. Mike DeWine last night in Ohio... Today, Giuliani is to hit Clinton's former home turf, Arkansas, before heading to Illinois, then on to Pennsylvania for an event with GOP Sen. Rick Santorum. The jaunt is to wrap up in Delaware tomorrow. New York Post: Giuliani Hits Road for GOP

    FALLUJAH MAYOR ENDORSES RHODE ISLAND CANDIDATE: A candidate for the Rhode Island Legislature has gotten an unusual endorsement - from the mayor of Fallujah, Iraq, praising him as that city's "favorite USA colonel." Republican James Haldeman, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel, had re-entered the Marine Corps to go to Iraq, where he ran a civil-military operations center last year in Fallujah. He oversaw the reconstruction of schools, a power plant, water treatment plant and other facilities. Now back in military retirement, the American Airlines pilot is running for the seat held by Democratic state Rep. John Patrick Shanley Jr. AP via Yahoo! News: Iraqi mayor backs Rhode Island candidate

    DeLAY WANTS THE DESK: Former Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) wants to take an expensive piece of history with him into retirement. DeLay is seeking the House Administration Committee's approval to buy a George Washington desk, a 35-year-old replica of the one Washington used while president when the capital was New York City. DeLay needs the permission of committee Chairman Vern Ehlers (R-Mich.) to buy the $14,000 mahogany writing desk, which the government purchased in 1971, because it is considered "a special inventory item, [which] may or may not be available for purchase," according to the committee's Guide to Outfitting and Maintaining an Office of the U.S. House of Representatives. The Hill: DeLay tries to acquire storied Washington desk
    Posted By Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau: 7/11/2006 09:32:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Monday, July 10, 2006
    The Cafferty File: World War III?
    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:

    Has World War III begun?

    Yes, Jack, it has. But it's not a war as we normally understand it. This is a war of economics and we're losing--badly. The war started some time ago, but the losses started piling up after 2001, when the administration tried to convince us that deficits don't matter, that a trade deficit was good for us, and that there are "jobs that Americans won't do."
    Mike, Novato, California

    No, but it is just around the corner. When Japan attacks North Korea, it will happen.
    Edwin, Scottsville, Texas

    There's been a world war going on for several thousand years. There have been short breaks, cease fires and truces, but it will continue as long as we have fools running things.
    Andy, Sun Valley, Nevada

    World War III has not begun and never will. In spite of all the leaks from the news media that truly threaten our national security, the world leaders will not let such an event occur.
    Maurice, Two Rivers, Wisconsin

    Has the era of President Bush's "cowboy diplomacy" come to an end?

    What do you mean come to an end? It never started. Bush is about as diplomatic as a dead cactus on his Texas ranch.
    Mike, Hot Springs, Arkansas

    No, besides his "diplomacy" is not much different from that of the 42 presidents before him.
    Mongere, Lewisville, Texas

    Bush's "cowboy diplomacy" did not have an "era." It was just a string of failures, one after another.
    Greg, Denver, Colorado

    What does it mean when congressional oversight committees find out about secret government programs by accident?

    It means George Bush can't even be honest with members of his own party. Why he wouldn't tell them in the first place is silly... they rubber stamp everything he does.
    Patricia, Palmdale, California

    It means the president has callous disregard for the law and should be impeached were it not for the fact the Congress is controlled by the elephants.
    Joe, Atlanta, Georgia

    It means George Orwell was only 20 years or so off... not bad.
    Lonnie, Baltimore, Maryland
    Posted By Jack Cafferty, CNN Commentator: 7/10/2006 05:50:00 PM ET | Permalink
    The Situation Online: Raid on Congress

    Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA)
    Raid on Congress
    A federal judge has just ruled that the May 20 raid on Louisiana congressman William Jefferson's Capitol Hill offices was constitutional, despite objections from several members of Congress. Jefferson's lawyer maintains that the raid was "unprecedented, unnecessary, and unconstitutional." What exactly were Justice Department officials looking for? We have details (PDF).

    Building bystanders
    Witness accounts and images online provide us with an in-depth look of the building that collapsed today in New York City following an explosion.

    Political "face" time
    Thanks to Facebook.com, one of the most popular Web sites ever to hit college campuses, politicians will soon have a new way to reach out to millions of young voters.

    Military profiles on MySpace
    We explore what appear to be the MySpace.com profiles of two soldiers charged in the rape and murder of Iraqi civilians in the Mahmoudiya criminal case.

    Shuttle spacewalk
    The Internet provides an unprecedented glimpse (Windows Media video) into the astronaut spacewalk today as they make repairs on the International Space Station.

    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: 7/10/2006 05:09:00 PM ET | Permalink
    New York City building collapses
    From The Morning Grind

    An explosion ripped through a New York City building this morning, causing it to collapse and catch fire, CNN's Katy Byron and Cheryl Bronson report.

    Firefighters are on the scene, and at least three people including a firefighter, have been transported to the hospital, firefighters tell CNN. The building, located at E. 62nd Street, housed doctors' offices and residential units. FDNY Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta tells CNN he thinks it "appears to have been a gas explosion."

    Smoke from the fire could be seen across Midtown and Upper East Manhattan. Emily Rahimi, a spokeswoman for the New York Fire Department, said they first received a call reporting the explosion at 8:40 a.m. ET.

    Tune into CNN to see the latest in this developing story.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/10/2006 10:45:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Rudy hits the road
    From The Morning Grind

    Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) is back on the campaign trail this week helping to raise money for two embattled incumbent Republican senators, a GOP governor and three other Republican gubernatorial hopefuls. Giuliani's latest fundraising tour comes as syndicated columnist Robert Novak writes that the former Big Apple mayor "intends" to run for the White House. Novak notes that Giuliani's positions on "abortion, gay rights, and gun control" will not be embraced by the conservative wing of the party, seriously hindering his presidential bid. But here in July 2006, Giuliani could really help an embattled Republican who is "right" on all of the issues. Giuliani will be in Pittsburgh Tuesday night to attend a fundraiser for Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania), who is trailing in the polls to Democratic challenger Bob Casey, Jr.

    CNN's Dana Bash spent last week in Pennsylvania and reports that Santorum is highlighting aspects of his legislative record other than his positions and sometimes fiery rhetoric on the hot button issues.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/10/2006 10:43:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Primary support, but...
    From The Morning Grind

    Sen. Barbara Boxer (California) is the latest Democrat to say she will support Sen. Joe Lieberman in the primary, but would not commit to backing him if he loses and launches an independent bid for re-election. Appearing on CNN's 'Late Edition,' the left-of-center Boxer said she plans to campaign for the right-of-center Lieberman and praised him for his work on the environment and his position on abortion.

    "I am going to spend a couple of hours there in Connecticut, just telling the people what I know about Joe," Boxer said on Sunday. "He and I disagree completely on the war on Iraq. I disagree with a lot of people on the war in Iraq. It is up to the people in Connecticut. And they're going to make a decision, and let's see what it is."

    When pressed by CNN's Wolf Blitzer about backing Lieberman if he loses the primary to anti-war candidate Ned Lamont, Boxer said, "I think we'll all have something to say at that time. But the people of Connecticut will make their choice."
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/10/2006 10:40:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Let the "Republican" debate begin
    From The Morning Grind

    The South Carolina Republican Party is planning a presidential debate in May 2007 for GOP candidates running for the White House.

    "Since 1980, no candidate has ever lost the (South Carolina) primary and gone on to be elected president," Scott Malyerck, executive director of the state GOP, writes in an e-mail. "We believe it is a great test for Republican candidates."

    Specific details for this forum are still being worked out.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/10/2006 10:39:00 AM ET | Permalink
    If only a locker could talk
    From The Morning Grind

    Disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff once wined and dined congressmen and staffers in his MCI Center luxury box until his world came crashing down on him. Abramoff is no longer one of the most powerful influence peddlers in town and the arena has changed names from MCI to Verizon. But as the Washington City Paper points out, Abramoff still has a presence in the Capitals and Wizards home.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/10/2006 10:37:00 AM ET | Permalink
    DAYAHEAD/Events making news today
    From The Morning Grind

  • President Bush meets with the Prime Minister of Slovenia at 10 a.m. ET in the Oval Office. At 11:10 a.m. ET, Bush attends the swearing-in ceremony of Henry Paulson to be the new Treasury secretary at the Treasury Department. The President and First Lady Laura Bush host a 7:25 p.m. ET dinner to honor the Special Olympics in the State Dining Room, followed by entertainment at 9 p.m. ET. Press Secretary Tony Snow holds an off-camera gaggle at 9:30 a.m. ET, followed by an on-camera briefing at 12:30 p.m. ET.

  • The House and Senate both gavel into session at 2 p.m. ET. The House postpones any votes on eight suspension bills until 6:30 p.m. ET, while the Senate considers the Homeland Security Appropriations bill.

  • Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York) was scheduled to speak at 8:30 a.m. ET to the ACORN National Convention at Ohio State University.

  • First Lady Laura Bush participates in the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Awards at 10:30 a.m. ET in the East Room.

  • Senate Armed Services Chairman John Warner (R-Virginia) and Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts), Mel Martinez (R-Florida), John McCain (R-Arizona) and Bill Nelson (Florida) hold a field hearing in Miami Dade College in Miami at 11 a.m. ET on immigrants in the Armed Forces. A media availability will take place at 1:15 p.m. ET.

  • Vice President Cheney attends a 12:30 p.m. ET lunch for the National Republican Congressional Committee at the Detroit Marriott in Troy, Michigan. At 1:30 p.m. ET, Cheney delivers remarks to the Michigan National Guard and Joint Services in Selfridge, Michigan. At 7 p.m. ET, Cheney speaks at a reception for Rep. Ron Lewis (R-Kentucky) at a private home in Owensboro, Kentucky.

  • Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte speaks at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce at 1 p.m. ET.

  • The Senate Democratic Policy Committee holds a forum on the "impact of repeated cuts in federal funding for law enforcement programs" at 1:30 p.m. ET in room 192 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

  • Sen. John Edwards (D-North Carolina) attends two rallies to raise the minimum wage in Arizona: 3:30 p.m. ET in Tucson and 8:30 p.m. ET in Phoenix.

  • Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) attends a 5 p.m. ET fundraiser for Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) in Cleveland, Ohio.

  • Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) attends a news conference with Iowa Senate candidate Larry Noble.

  • Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) attends a 5 p.m. ET Florida Victory 2006 Dinner with Gov. Jeb Bush in Orlando.

  • White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove attends a rally of Colorado grassroots Republican volunteers at 8:30 p.m. ET in Parker, Colorado.
  • Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/10/2006 10:31:00 AM ET | Permalink
    DAYAHEAD/Events making news today
  • President Bush meets with the Prime Minister of Slovenia at 10 a.m. ET in the Oval Office. At 11:10 a.m. ET, Bush attends the swearing-in ceremony of Henry Paulson to be the new Treasury secretary at the Treasury Department. The President and First Lady Laura Bush host a 7:25 p.m. ET dinner to honor the Special Olympics in the State Dining Room, followed by entertainment at 9 p.m. ET. Press Secretary Tony Snow holds an off-camera gaggle at 9:30 a.m. ET, followed by an on-camera briefing at 12:30 p.m. ET.

  • The House and Senate both gavel into session at 2 p.m. ET. The House postpones any votes on eight suspension bills until 6:30 p.m. ET, while the Senate considers the Homeland Security Appropriations bill.

  • Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York) was scheduled to speak at 8:30 a.m. ET to the ACORN National Convention at Ohio State University.

  • First Lady Laura Bush participates in the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Awards at 10:30 a.m. ET in the East Room.

  • Senate Armed Services Chairman John Warner (R-Virginia) and Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts), Mel Martinez (R-Florida), John McCain (R-Arizona) and Bill Nelson (Florida) hold a field hearing in Miami Dade College in Miami at 11 a.m. ET on immigrants in the Armed Forces. A media availability will take place at 1:15 p.m. ET.

  • Vice President Cheney attends a 12:30 p.m. ET lunch for the National Republican Congressional Committee at the Detroit Marriott in Troy, Michigan. At 1:30 p.m. ET, Cheney delivers remarks to the Michigan National Guard and Joint Services in Selfridge, Michigan. At 7 p.m. ET, Cheney speaks at a reception for Rep. Ron Lewis (R-Kentucky) at a private home in Owensboro, Kentucky.

  • Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte speaks at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce at 1 p.m. ET.

  • The Senate Democratic Policy Committee holds a forum on the "impact of repeated cuts in federal funding for law enforcement programs" at 1:30 p.m. ET in room 192 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

  • Sen. John Edwards (D-North Carolina) attends two rallies to raise the minimum wage in Arizona: 3:30 p.m. ET in Tucson and 8:30 p.m. ET in Phoenix.

  • Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) attends a 5 p.m. ET fundraiser for Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) in Cleveland, Ohio.

  • Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) attends a news conference with Iowa Senate candidate Larry Noble.

  • Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) attends a 5 p.m. ET Florida Victory 2006 Dinner with Gov. Jeb Bush in Orlando.

  • White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove attends a rally of Colorado grassroots Republican volunteers at 8:30 p.m. ET in Parker, Colorado.
  • Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/10/2006 10:31:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Political Hot Topics
    FOR IRAN, "THE TIME TO CHOOSE HAS COME": U.S. officials yesterday accused Iran of stalling negotiations and said the deadline has arrived for the country to halt nuclear production or face sanctions in the United Nations. "We offered them two paths, negotiations or Security Council action," Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns told "Fox News Sunday" discussing the incentives offered to Iran if it gives up its nuclear ambitions. "The Iranians can choose, but the time to choose has come." Five weeks ago, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Iran had weeks, not months, to respond to the offer made by an international coalition including the United States, the European Union, China and Russia. Iranian officials so far have rejected public pressure to accept or reject the offer. Washington Times: U.S. warns Iran to halt nukes or face 'action'

    KIM JONG IL JEALOUS OF AHMADINEJAD ATTENTION? Jerrold Post, who was the CIA's top expert on Kim Jong Il, said he thought a major reason why the North Korean dictator launched missiles this week was resentment over the attention that Iran's nuclear program is receiving from the U.S. "I believe that he, as a fellow resident of the 'axis of evil' with the Iranian leadership, has really been affronted that we have been devoting so much attention to Iran," said Post, who was the Central Intelligence Agency's leading psychological profiler of foreign leaders until he retired after a 21-year career. President George W. Bush, in his 2002 State of the Union speech, called Iran, Iraq and North Korea an "axis of evil" in the world. Kim, said Post, is "kind of saying, 'I'm the biggest and baddest of them all. I do have a nuclear capability'." Bloomberg: Kim Resents Attention U.S. Gives to Iran's Threat, Expert Says

    HE'LL GET SOME ATTENTION THIS WEEK FROM GOP: Congressional Republicans, on the defense over the unpopular war in Iraq, are hoping this week to shift the national security debate to the North Korea missile crisis and to countering terrorism... [S]ome Republicans are turning the international crisis caused by North Korea's missile launch into a political weapon, assailing Democrats for not supporting full funding for the national missile defense program. Boston Globe: GOP turns its focus to N. Korea, terror

    WHISTLE-BLOWER, NOT WH, TOLD HOEKSTRA OF "SIGNIFICANT" INTEL PROGRAM: The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said Sunday that the Bush administration briefed the panel on a "significant" intelligence program only after a government whistle-blower alerted him to its existence and he pressed President Bush for details. The chairman, Representative Peter Hoekstra, Republican of Michigan, wrote in a May 18 letter to Mr. Bush, first disclosed publicly on Saturday by The New York Times, that the administration's failure to notify his committee of this program and others could be a "violation of law." Mr. Hoekstra expanded on his concerns in a television appearance on Sunday, saying that when the administration withholds information from Congress, "I take it very, very seriously." New York Times: Congressman Says Program Was Disclosed by Informant

    FRIST WANTS TO WRAP BY OCTOBER...: With a number of GOP incumbents facing difficult re-election contests this year, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have scrapped plans to keep the Senate in session through the beginning of October, and will instead look to wrap up work on as many appropriations bills and other "must pass" measures before Sept. 27, GOP aides said. In adjusting the calendar, Frist is aiming to give Members as much time in their home states as possible. The Majority Leader also is hoping to stick to his pledge to complete the work of the 109th Congress by Thanksgiving and is planning a brief week-and-a-half work session following the elections to wrap up work on outstanding appropriations bills. Roll Call: Senate Plans Earlier Recess

    ...DESPITE "LONG LIST OF UNFINISHED" BUSINESS: U.S. lawmakers returning from a weeklong break on Monday will take up a long list of unfinished -- and possibly insurmountable -- tasks that could help decide whether voters will re-elect them in November. Action or inaction on a series of contentious issues including immigration, pensions, energy and federal spending will determine whether this Congress sheds the impression that it has made few legislative achievements. "I'm not sure what this Congress has accomplished," said Dick Armey, the former House Republican leader. Reuters via Yahoo! News: Congress faces long list of unfinished tasks

    DETAINEE DEBATE "EXPECTED TO CONSUME" CONGRESS FOR REST OF SUMMER: The Supreme Court decision striking down the use of military commissions to bring terrorism detainees to trial has set off sharp differences among Republicans in Congress over what kind of rights detainees should be granted and how much deference should be shown the president in deciding the issue. The debate is expected to consume the rest of the summer in Congress as lawmakers head into an election season expected to be dominated by issues of national security. The issue reflects the difficult legal, diplomatic and political choices the government faces in dealing with terrorism suspects. New York Times: Detainee Rights Create a Divide on Capitol Hill

    BILL CLINTON CALLS IMMIGRATION DIVISIVE, "DISTRACTING" ISSUE: Former President Clinton told one of the nation's largest Latino civil rights groups Saturday that the conservative wing of the Republican Party is using the immigration issue to divide Congress and the nation. "It is a way of creating a divided community and distracting people from the real challenges facing the country, whether it is in Iraq and Afghanistan, or homeland security, or how to build a clean energy future, or how to solve the healthcare crisis, or how to create new jobs for America," he said. Clinton made the remarks, some of his most extensive since the issue of illegal immigration heated up in Washington this year, before several thousand people at the opening session of the four-day National Council of La Raza convention in Los Angeles. Los Angeles Times: Clinton Speaks Out on Illegal Workers

    45-DAY "COOLING-OFF PERIOD" FOR JEFFERSON DOCS ENDS: Prosecutors and investigators building a bribery case against Rep. William Jefferson have been unable to examine the documents and computer files seized in a search of the lawmaker's Capitol Hill office. The materials were placed off limits by President Bush for 45 days, a cooling-off period that ended Sunday. Yet there has been no resolution of the court fight or talks between congressional leaders and the Justice Department. The president acted after congressional leaders denounced the FBI's search on May 20 and May 21 as an unprecedented and unconstitutional intrusion on their turf by federal agents. AP via Yahoo! News: Papers from Jefferson office raid in limbo

    GOP OFFICIAL SAYS DeLAY WILL RUN IF HIS NAME'S ON THE BALLOT: Could Tom DeLay be headed back to the House? A source close to the ex-Congressman tells TIME that DeLay is planning an aggressive campaign to retake the House seat he quit in June if an appeals court lets stand a ruling by a federal judge last week that his name must stay on November's ballot--even though he has moved to Virginia. "If it isn't overturned, Katy bar the door!" says a G.O.P. official. "Guess he'll have to fire up the engines on the campaign and let 'er rip." TIME: Delay Redux?

    CONGRESSMAN "NO": Republican Ron Paul missed out on the 19th century, but he admires it from afar. He speaks lovingly of the good old days before things like Social Security and Medicaid existed, before the federal government outlawed drugs like heroin. In his legislative fantasies, the amiable Texas congressman would do away with the CIA and the Federal Reserve. He'd reinstate the gold standard. He'd get rid of the Department of Education and leave the business of schooling to local governments, because he believes that's what the Constitution intended... Paul, 70, has earned the nickname Dr. No for his habit of voting against just about anything that he sees as government overreach or that interferes with the free market. Washington Post: Congressman Paul's Legislative Strategy? He'd Rather Say Not

    HOYER WANTS STEELE TO REMOVE PHOTO FROM WEBSITE: Although he's laughing in a photo with GOP Senate candidate and Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) wasn't laughing when the image wound up on Steele's campaign Web site. Hoyer asked the Steele camp on Friday to remove the photo. But it didn't look like the Steele campaign was budging. The photo is part of a rolling slide show of snapshots of Steele with different folks at events around the Old Line State. There's even one of Steele, the presumptive GOP nominee, and Democratic Senate candidate Kweisi Mfume, as well as the one of Steele and Hoyer at a July Fourth event in Bowie, Md. Roll Call: Candid Camera

    "FRIEND"-ING THE CANDIDATES: Starting in September, politicians will be able to buy profiles on networking site Facebook.com accessible to its 8 million members. That should help pols court a group of voters who are hard to reach. Facebookers will be able to "friend" any candidate they like--linking to a profile as they would a classmate's. Facebook says politicians won't pay anything near the tens of thousands of dollars that corporate advertisers do to set up on the site. Politicians should log on, says Markos Moulitsas of the Daily Kos politiblog, because young people "hang out in places like ... Facebook and MySpace," which plans a similar initiative. TIME: Be My Voter
    Posted By Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau: 7/10/2006 09:33:00 AM ET | Permalink
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