Friday, July 28, 2006
The Cafferty File: Congress' summer break
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:

Does Congress deserve to take off the month of August?

Yes, it will be a preview of what it will be like for many of them after the elections in November when they no longer will be members of Congress. I agree with you, Jack, this bunch does more harm than good when they are in session. It's best for the country that they get out of town.
John, South Williamsport, Pennsylvania

Jack, I am so discouraged by our entire government. I never thought I'd ever say this, but our government is dangerous. I was relieved to hear that they are going to be out of Washington for 5 weeks. At last we get some good news!
Chef, Richmond, Virginia

My answer to that is easy: Hell no! I'm a teacher, and work two jobs just to make ends meet, and even when school is out, I have to work. Congress, already grossly over-paid, does not need to be off all month.
James, West Virginia

Definitely, Congress deserves a long August break and we as citizens deserve a break from them. If we're lucky, perhaps they won't come back at all.
Berdyne, Vero Beach, Florida

Is it a mistake for the U.S. and Britain not to push for an immediate cease-fire?

An immediate cease-fire will only help the bad guys. It allows Hezbollah time to regroup and re-arm. A cease-fire has never brought lasting peace in the entire history of the world. Only a convincing victory at the end of a real war has brought lasting peace. Let Israel do its job; they are doing the U.S. and the rest of the free world a huge favor by dealing so decisively with Hezbollah.
Russ, Elkhorn, Wisconsin

Yes, the longer the conflict goes on, the more world opinion turns against Israel and the U.S. - which hurts the war on terror, while moderates become radicalized, and Hezbollah's recruitment of militants grows exponentially.
Greg, Aurora, Colorado

Yes. By definition, a cease-fire saves lives and property. People live who would otherwise die. Divide the total number of mangled and dead on both sides by the number of war-days, and that's how many people could be saved tomorrow.
Dave, Vancouver

Yes, it is a huge mistake not to push for an immediate cease-fire. Not doing so shows the moral bankruptcy of this administration and certainly is increasing the ranks of those who are against the U.S.
Warren, Los Angeles, California

I think a cease-fire without getting the job done against Hezbollah would be a big loss for democracy and the free world. Let Israel destroy Hezbollah before any cease-fire.
J.F., Montreal, Quebec

How much longer do you think U.S. troops will be in Iraq?

You must be crazy to think that U.S. troops are leaving Iraq anytime soon. As violence increases, the chances of seeing U.S. troops coming back home decreases. It is as simple as that.
Jason, Cairo, Egypt

I am in the U.S. Navy. I think that our troops need to be there as long as it takes.
Gregory, Oak Harbor, Washington

If we are lucky, perhaps troops will be leaving after the country speaks next Election Day. Otherwise, not until we get us a new President.
Ralph, New York

That's an easy question, Jack. We've already built permanent bases there. So basically, as long as the Iraqis will tolerate U.S. troops in their country.
Denise, Tampa

I can see my grandkids being deployed to Iraq. We're not getting out of there any time soon, no matter what the neo-cons say. Had we gone in there at the beginning like we were supposed to, we'd be finished there now. But no, we had to do it on the cheap.
Dan, Portland, Oregon
Posted By Jack Cafferty, CNN Commentator: 7/28/2006 05:42:00 PM ET | Permalink
Don't call me moderate, I'm a centrist
From The Morning Grind

A word of advice if you speak to leaders of the Republican Main Street Partnership. Do not use the word moderate when talking about the organization's politics.

Members prefer being described as centrists, because the moderate tag conjures up thoughts of abortion and gay rights. And Main Street does not take a position on either of these issues.

Instead, the group of over 60 governors, representatives and senators advocates reducing the deficit, cutting taxes, focusing on education as well as environmentally friendly measures. The organization released its "Promise for America" agenda yesterday.

The battle of ideas within the Republican Party has not always been easy for Main Street members, who sometimes find themselves at odds with their own leadership. The latest disagreement was over President Bush's veto of stem cell legislation.

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Virginia), who serves as president of the organization, called it "a bad issue to make your first veto" in a recent meeting with a small group of political reporters. But Davis, a former National Republican Congressional Committee chairman, was very careful not to criticize Bush or Congressional Republican leaders, who are now pushing socially conservative measures under the "American Values Agenda," banner.

"They're doing a great job," Davis said. "They've got to govern. They've got to pull together a tough conference."

It appears, though, that several members of the organization have scored a victory by pressuring the GOP leadership to hold a vote on increasing the minimum wage. The vote will likely take place today, before the House adjourns for the August recess.

Still, while the organization counts anti-abortion rights lawmakers such as Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) as one of its members, there are also many others who are considered liberal on social issues. And these members vote that way, much to the heartburn of some Republicans.

"Their whole purpose is to present a more moderate view of Republicanism," said Stuart Rothenberg, editor of the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report. "And to the extent that they disagree with the party leaders or the top leader, the President of the United States, they run the risk of being perceived by party regulars of being disloyal."

One Republican who vocally criticizes Main Street is former Rep. Pat Toomey (Pennsylvania). As the president and CEO of the limited tax, pro-growth Club for Growth, Toomey is working to defeat a handful of his former GOP colleagues such as Rep. Joe Schwarz (R-Michigan). A headshot of the freshman lawmaker is featured prominently on the Club's website with a red headline "Joe Schwarz is a liberal." It also has launched a separate website attacking Schwarz, who faces a tough primary challenge on August 8 from a Club backed candidate.

"We don't see it as our mission to elect Republicans, regardless of what they believe in," Toomey said in a recent interview with the Grind. "The Republican Main Street Partnership has decided to try and elect liberal Republicans. What we are dedicated to is a set of principles."

The Club is also playing a prominent role in trying to defeat Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-Rhode Island) in the September 12 Republican primary.

Sarah Chamberlain Resnick, executive director of Main Street, contends the Club is being dishonest in saying it only targets people it disagrees with on economic matters. In fact, she claims it specifically goes after lawmakers it doesn't consider conservative enough on social issues.

"The facts speak for themselves," she said. "Of all the Members of Congress and open seat candidates the Club for Growth supported, they only supported one pro choice candidate. To articulate an example, they attacked (Sherwood) Boehlert (R-New York) two years ago and he voted 127 times for tax cuts. He never voted to raise taxes. However, he is pro-choice."

Toomey disputed Chamberlain's assessment that it is a social conservative organization. He called it a "dishonest charge.

"The reason they do this is because they are embarrassed by the economic liberalism of their members," he said.

For his part, Davis is blunt about Main Street's philosophy about challenging incumbent Republicans.

"We don't go after other Republicans," he said. "I believe in being an addition and not being a subtraction."

And Davis said if the GOP wants to maintain control of Congress this year and the White House after 2008, it needs to embrace a big tent philosophy.

"If you want to be a national party, be competitive in all regions, you need to be tolerant," Davis said.

The organization, founded in 1998, is on track to spend $7 million in the November elections, Chamberlain tells the Grind. The group receives funding from likeminded Republicans such as former Rep. Amo Houghton (R-New York) and Robert Ziff of Ziff Brothers Investments.

As for Main Street's attempt to re-brand, Rothenberg said, "One man's centrist is another man's moderate."

(An occasional Morning Grind feature in a series about organizations seeking to influence the 2006 and 2008 elections)
Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/28/2006 09:56:00 AM ET | Permalink
6 for '06
From The Morning Grind

Congressional Democratic leaders previewed six policy themes Thursday the party will promote in the coming months as it tries to wrest control of the House and Senate from Republicans in November. Under the overarching banner "A New Direction for America," Democrats said they are better equipped to provide real security, better jobs, access to college, energy independence, affordable healthcare and retirement security.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) described it as "a list of deliverables that can happen, God willing, if Democrats take back Congress." The first order of business, Pelosi said, was to enact the recommendations put forth by the 9/11 Commission.

Republicans dismissed the pledge as an election year stunt.

Still, Democrats were bullish on the prospect of taking back the House and Senate majorities, but refused to make any predications about what gains they would make in November.

"One hundred days out, I would rather be us than them," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Illinois), the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Emanuel also accused his counterpart, Rep. Tom Reynolds (New York), the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, of sitting on internal polling data because it spelled trouble for GOP candidates.

Playing off of Emanuel's training as a dancer, NRCC spokesman Carl Forti said Emanuel was doing nothing more than spinning away.

"I wouldn't expect anything less from a ballerina," Forti said.

Meanwhile, Reynolds will hold a 10 a.m. ET pen and pad with members of the media at NRCC headquarters.
Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/28/2006 09:55:00 AM ET | Permalink
Blair stops by the White House; fighting rages on
From The Morning Grind

President Bush's closest ally on the war on terror, Tony Blair, stops by the White House this morning to talk about how best to address the Israel and Hezbollah situation. Blair is expected to push Bush to support a United Nations resolution for a cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah, sources in Blair's office tell CNN's Robin Oakley.

A British government spokesman traveling with Blair said the prime minister believes that the United States will be willing to support a resolution next week in the expectation that Israel will by then have sufficiently weakened Hezbollah with its military action.

Meanwhile, the fighting rages on along the Israel-Lebanon border, CNN's team of reporters, who are on the ground scattered throughout the region report. The Israeli Air Force bombed at least 110 Hezbollah targets overnight as assaults between Hezbollah and Israeli forces entered their 17th day, the Israel Defense Forces said Friday morning. Targets included rocket launchers, Hezbollah structures, tunnels, a gas station and a base in the Bekaa Valley where the IDF said Hezbollah launched long-range missiles. At least 14 rockets had landed in northern Israel by midday Friday with most landing near Kiryat Shmona and Galilee, police in Haifa said.
Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/28/2006 09:54:00 AM ET | Permalink
DAYAHEAD/Events making news today and through the weekend
From The Morning Grind

  • President Bush meets British Prime Minister Tony Blair at 11:10 a.m. ET in the Oval office. At 12:30 p.m. ET, the two men will hold a joint press availability in the East Room. Bush then meets with the top 10 finalists of American Idol at 2:35 p.m. ET followed by a meeting with the 2006 Boys and Girls National Delegates.
  • The Senate gavels into session at 10 a.m. ET. The Senate Radio-Television Correspondents' Gallery Daybook.
    The House comes into session at 10 a.m. ET. The House Radio-Television Correspondents' Gallery Daybook.
  • Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman was scheduled to attend a grass roots breakfast fundraiser in Savannah this morning for former Rep. Max Burns (R-Georgia), who is running for Congress.
  • Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean was scheduled to address the National Urban League Convention in Atlanta, Georgia at 8:30 a.m. ET. On Saturday, he travels to Murravsville, Pennsylvania for a 10 a.m. ET for the "Democratic Reunion Canvass Kick-Off Event." At 2 p.m. ET, Dean holds a similar event in Mt. Pleasant Township, Pennsylvania.
  • Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska) will discuss U.S. Foreign Policy in the Middle East at 11 a.m. ET today at the Brookings Institution.
  • Former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman (R) heads to New Hampshire this weekend for a slate of events. Tonight, she attends a fundraiser for the Dan Hughes for state Senate campaign at 6 p.m. ET in Portsmouth. On Saturday, she attends the Strafford County Federated Women's Breakfast at 8:30 a.m. ET in Dover. At 12 p.m. ET, Whitman attends a New Hampshire GOP luncheon in Concord before heading to Manchester to sign copies of her book "It's My Party Too" at 3 p.m. ET.
  • Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R), a potential presidential candidate, attends the Republican Party of Iowa's Annual Chairman's Dinner in Cedar Rapids on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET.
  • Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tennessee), a potential presidential candidate, heads to Iowa Saturday to campaign for GOP candidates including Rep. Jim Nussle, who is running for governor and GOP Congressional candidate Mike Whalen.
  • Sen. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts), a potential presidential candidate, is in Iowa Saturday campaigning for Rich Olive, who is running for state Senate and Pete Roberts, who is running for state House. Kerry then closes the day by attending the Linn county Democrats Picnic in Cedar Rapids.
  • Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/28/2006 09:51:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Political Hot Topics
    NASRALLAH HIDING IN IRANIAN EMBASSY? Intelligence reports indicate the leader of Hezbollah is hiding in a foreign mission in Beirut, possibly the Iranian Embassy, according to U.S. and Israeli officials. Israeli military and intelligence forces are continuing to hunt for Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah's secretary-general, who fled his headquarters in Beirut shortly before Israeli jets bombed the building last week. "We think he is in an embassy," said one U.S. official with access to the intelligence reports, while Israeli intelligence speculates Sheik Nasrallah is hiding in the Iranian Embassy. If confirmed, the reports could lead to an Israeli air strike on the embassy, possibly leading to a widening of the conflict, said officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Foreign embassies are sovereign territory and an attack on an embassy could be considered an act of war. Washington Times: Hezbollah leader said to be hiding in Iranian Embassy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    SIR CHARLES IN 2010? Former basketball star Charles Barkley says he's switched political teams from Republican to Democrat and is again talking about running for governor in his home state, possibly in 2010. "I really believe I was put on Earth to do more than play basketball and stockpile money," said Barkley, known as the Round Mound of Rebound. "I really want to help people improve their lives, and what's left is for me to decide how best to do that." Barkley, a Leeds native who has been an NBA analyst with cable network TNT since his 2000 retirement, has been talking about running for governor of Alabama since he was playing with the Phoenix Suns in the 1990s. In 1995, he said he was considering running in 1998 as a Republican, but that never materialized. AP via Yahoo! News: Ex-NBA star Barkley eyes Ala. Governorship
    Posted By Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau: 7/28/2006 09:33:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Thursday, July 27, 2006
    The Cafferty File: America's business?
    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:

    Should the U.S. take the lead when it comes to international conflicts, or stay out?

    With a track record that looks like Swiss cheese when it comes to being a positive police force in other countries' problems, we need to just say "no," and sit back to take a break. Maybe we could just watch and see how other countries do, and possibly take a lesson from them.
    George, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

    When other countries get into squabbles, the U.S. should stay out unless asked to help. We cannot afford to bail out the world. A lot of times they made their beds, now let them lie in them. Clarence, Batesville, Mississippi

    America should just stay out of it. Hezbollah is an Israeli problem, always has been. America should focus on fixing Iraq and Afghanistan's problems.
    Justin

    Is the current law against spying on Americans without a warrant inadequate?

    This question is secondary. The first question that should be asked is, "Is the current enforcement of the law inadequate?"
    Eric, Los Angeles, California

    Absolutely not. The current law does provide for emergency situations. It allows law enforcement to act without a warrant; with the condition that a warrant be obtained after the fact within a certain time frame. There is absolutely no reason why the Bush Administration would need to change/alter or ignore this law.
    Maggie, Illinois

    When did we become the Soviet Union? Imprisonment without due process, torture, militarism, antagonizing the world, and now spying on our own citizens. Is the current law inadequate? No, it represents the freedom from oppression that we fought the cold war over. The freedom we are supposed to be defending in the "Global War On Terror."
    Richard

    Do the media overreact every time al Qaeda releases another tape?

    Absolutely not. Your reaction is probably the same as mine. I want to hear it exactly as it is...no fluff or hiding the truth! I believe al Qaeda is a terrorist organization most other terrorists groups emulate. When they speak, we listen! Because you know the other terrorist groups are all listening, too.
    Carol, Indiana

    Jack, Yes, the media pay too much attention to the latest tapes from the caves. Ignore the lunatics. The best way to discourage temper tantrums is to ignore them. As usual, our response is backwards. We ignored them before September 11 and broadcast every blurb since then.
    Connie

    The media overreact on everything from the weather to the price of gum. It is amazing how every little thing that happens in the world any more is the beginning of the end of the world.
    Mamie, Reno, Nevada
    Posted By Jack Cafferty, CNN Commentator: 7/27/2006 05:51:00 PM ET | Permalink
    The Situation Online: Mideast crisis online


    Israeli soldiers hold up a captured Hezbollah flag near the Israeli-Lebanonese border Thursday.

    Debating Bint Jbeil
    Israeli Defense Forces are calling the southern Lebanese border town of Bint Jbeil - Hezbollah's "terror capital." On Wednesday, a day after the Israeli military announced it had taken control of the village, eight Israeli soldiers were killed and nearly two dozen were wounded. As violence rages in Bint Jbeil, a Web site associated with the town is being visited by millions of people from dozens of countries around the world with many posting their raw opinions of the conflict in Arabic, English, Hebrew and even Chinese.

    Capturing the conflict
    Photographers on the frontlines of the Mideast conflict continue to post their intimate photos online. Images posted on the popular photo sharing Web site Flickr offer insight into the devastation and turmoil in Israel and Lebanon. In Lebanon, we can see the wreckage of a house in the port city of Tyre, as well as distressed refugees fleeing from their homes. A short distance away in Israel, soldiers look over into Lebanon from Avivim, a border town which has been under fire. Another photo shows the destruction caused by a Katyusha Rocket in northern Israel. The photographer tells us this rocket killed a 15-year-old girl.

    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: 7/27/2006 04:20:00 PM ET | Permalink
    The most "representative" state: Wisconsin
    From The Morning Grind

    Looking for a state that is a microcosm of the whole country? You won't find it in Iowa or New Hampshire -- there are 25 states that come closer to average statewide measures on important characteristics such as race and income.

    What about Nevada or South Carolina? Nope. They're even further away from "real America" than New Hampshire -- or Utah, for that matter. Michigan? You're getting warmer, but there are 10 states that can claim to be more representative than Michigan.

    In fact, a politician looking for that mythical microcosm -- the most typical state in the country -- should look no further than Wisconsin.

    The Badger State comes closer than any other to state-by-state averages on 12 key measures, according to a new analysis by CNN Polling Director Keating Holland that takes a fresh look at U.S. Census data.

    "For years, politicians who put the presidential calendar together have wrestled with the question of which states really are the most typical or more representative of the country," Holland said. "Here is one way to determine that."

    Holland identified 12 key statistics -- four that measure race and ethnicity, four that look at income and education, and four that describe the typical neighborhood in each state -- and added up how far each was from the figures for the average state on each measure.

    Holland said he chose these 12 different categories because "they have a strong impact on the political landscape in every state."

    Close behind Wisconsin are four other Midwestern states that look most like a hypothetical average state -- Missouri, Kansas, Indiana and Ohio. Most of the least-typical states tend to come from the Northeast, including Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York. West Virginia is in 49th place, while Mississippi comes in dead last.

    Interestingly, West Virginia and Mississippi both petitioned the Democratic National Committee to be chosen for early slots on the party's presidential nominating calendar in 2008. So did Michigan. They all lost. The DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee recently recommended that Nevada and South Carolina join Iowa and New Hampshire for this coveted placement on the presidential nominating calendar. The full DNC membership is likely to ratify the recommendations next month.

    So, what makes Wisconsin so special -- or, to put it another way, what makes Wisconsin so average? It is about as close to the average state as you can get on most of the 12 measures included in this study.

    For example, let's take the number of college graduates who live in each state. Wyoming is dead center among all 50 states, with 30.22 percent of its population holding a college degree. In Wisconsin, the number is 30.24 percent.

    Or take housing values. On a state-by-state basis the median housing value, in North Carolina, is just over $111,600. The median housing value in Wisconsin is roughly $111,500. The Badger State is also fairly close to the state-by-state average on population growth, home ownership, population density, and the number of blacks and Hispanics who live there. The number of whites and blue-collar workers who live in Wisconsin is much further away from the average state's figures on those measures, but not enough to keep the Badger State from claiming the top spot.

    Mississippi, on the other hand, is about as far away from the average state as you can get on most of the 12 measures included in this study. By some measures, Mississippi is the poorest and most rural state in the country. The average house in Mississippi is worth only about $71,000. (Only Oklahoma has a lower median housing value.) When you add it all up, Mississippi is so far away from the typical state on so many different measures that it ends up at the bottom of the list.

    "It's important to note that there are hundreds of ways of making this same calculation, and dozens of states could all make a legitimate claim to being the most representative state in the nation," Holland said.

    To make the calculations easier to understand, Holland recalculated each state's score to produce a zero-to-50 scale -- there are 50 states, after all -- with a high score indicating a state that is more representative than a state with a lower score.

    A ranking of the 50 states

    1. Wisconsin 36.4
    2. Missouri 35.2
    3. Kansas 34.4
    4. Indiana 30.8
    5. Ohio 30.1
    6. Oklahoma 29.9
    7. Oregon 29.3
    8. Nebraska 29.0
    9. Georgia 27.3
    10. Minnesota 26.9
    11. Michigan 26.8
    12. Washington 26.3
    13. Wyoming 25.9
    14. North Carolina 25.8
    15. Florida 25.6
    16. Montana 25.3
    17. Virginia 25.3
    18. Alaska 25.1
    19. Pennsylvania 25.0
    20. Arizona 24.8
    21. Delaware 24.1
    22. Tennessee 22.3
    23. South Dakota 21.4
    24. Kentucky 20.3
    25. New Mexico 20.3
    26. Iowa 19.6
    27. Texas 19.6
    28. Illinois 19.5
    29. Rhode Island 19.0
    30. Maryland 18.9
    31. Colorado 18.8
    32. Louisiana 18.3
    33. Idaho 18.1
    34. Vermont 17.9
    35. Maine 17.4
    36. New Hampshire 17.4
    37. Utah 17.0
    38. Hawaii 16.3
    39. South Carolina 15.8
    40. California 15.3
    41. Arkansas 15.0
    42. Alabama 14.6
    43. North Dakota 13.8
    44. Nevada 13.5
    45. Connecticut 13.1
    46. Massachusetts 11.6
    47. New Jersey 11.4
    48. New York 6.5
    49. West Virginia 4.8
    50. Mississippi 2.8
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/27/2006 10:09:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Talking up Richardson
    From The Morning Grind

    New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson's top political aide is in Washington, D.C., this week talking to strategists and fundraisers about the New Mexico Democrat's re-election in November as well as his role as head of the Democratic Governors Association. But in many cases, the conversations with Dave Contarino, chairman of Richardson's gubernatorial re-election campaign, are turning to 2008.

    A source close to Richardson tells the Grind that laying the groundwork for 2008 is "not the primary reason" why Contarino is in town, but added "certainly when it comes up, he is not discouraging it.

    "He is willing to talk about the governor's resume and how he would be a strong candidate if he decides to run," the source said.

    The source said that Richardson, himself, "can't go anywhere these days without the presidential questions coming up.

    "Obviously, it is no secret the governor is considering it and we believe he has got the best resume of the group, particularly at this time in history where foreign policy, international relations and diplomacy is such a key part of what the next president is going to need," said the source. Before he was elected governor in 2002, Richardson served in the House, as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and as Energy secretary.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/27/2006 10:08:00 AM ET | Permalink
    19 hearings, 8 committees, 12 states
    From The Morning Grind

    House Republican leaders this morning will announce the newest round of field hearings on illegal immigration that will take place in 12 states over the August recess.

    The House and Senate remain at loggerheads over how to address the illegal immigration issue, a dispute that also pits House Republican leaders against President Bush. Specifically, House Republicans oppose a Bush/Senate backed plan that would create a system to allow current illegal immigrants living in the U.S. an opportunity to gain citizenship. House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois), just back from a fact-finding mission to the Southern border, will reiterate his opposition to the proposal when he unveils the new border hearing schedule.

    "Before we can look at other immigration issues, we must first secure our borders," Hastert will say, according to an advanced copy of his remarks obtained by the Grind. "I am disappointed that the Democrats support a plan for open borders and a plan for amnesty. Their plan is just plain unacceptable."

    Hastert will also emphasize Republicans' belief that "border security is an issue of national security," a GOP theme that is expected to be echoed on the campaign trail in the closing months of the 2006 campaign.

    "It is not a secret that terrorists and drug runners -- who want to do us harm -- are trying to find ways into our country, and I believe we must first do everything we can to stop them," Hastert will say.

    A complete list of House hearings

    Judiciary Committee

  • San Diego, CA on August 2nd -- How do illegal immigrants impact the costs of healthcare, local education, and other social services, and would these costs increase under Reid-Kennedy immigration bill?
  • El Paso, TX on August 17th -- What is the financial impact of illegal immigration on communities along the U.S. border, and could these costs rise under the Reid-Kennedy bill? What is the impact on efforts to extend a border security fence under the Reid-Kennedy bill's requirements regarding consultation with the Mexican Government? Will efforts to limit illegal immigration be inhibited by the Reid-Kennedy bill's provisions relating to local law enforcement?
  • Concord, NH on August 24th -- How do illegal immigrants impact the costs of healthcare, local education, and other social services, and would these costs increase under Reid-Kennedy immigration bill? What is the societal impact of the Reid-Kennedy bill's grant of amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants?
  • Upstate New York on August 25th -- What are the current risks of terrorists, narcotics smugglers, and human traffickers infiltrating the United States, and what role do secure identification documents play in limiting those risks? Does the Reid-Kennedy bill undermine efforts to limit those risks?
  • Evansville, IN on August 29th -- How are U.S. workers impacted, and potentially displace by the Reid-Kennedy bill?
  • Dubuque, IA on September 1st -- Do the Reid-Kennedy bill's amnesty provisions repeat the mistakes of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986?

    Armed Services Committee

  • Selfridge Air National Guard Base, MI on August 1st -- What are the unique challenges for the Department of Defense in supporting border enforcement along the Northern Border?
  • Yuma Marine Corps Air Station, AZ on August 2nd -- What are the operational and training impacts of a porous border on military bases along the border?

    Homeland Security Committee

  • Bellingham, WA on August 8th -- What are the border infrastructure successes since passage of the REAL ID Act and the 9/11 Commission Implementation Act, and what challenges still exist?
  • Austin, TX on August 17th -- What are the criminal consequences of illegal immigration along the Southern Border?

    Intelligence Committee

  • Sierra Vista, AZ on August 17th -- What is the state of technical surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities for monitoring the efforts of terrorists and drug cartels to infiltrate American soil through the Southern border?
  • Grand Rapids, MI on August 23rd -- What is the threat to the United States from Islamic extremists who abuse the legal immigration system?

    Education and the Workforce Committee

  • Plano, TX on July 31st -- Does the Reid-Kennedy bill weaken employment verification systems, making it easier for illegal immigrants to find work inside American borders?
  • Gainesville, GA on August 14th -- What is the impact on American workers and businesses of the Reid-Kennedy bill's provisions mandating Davis-Bacon wage rates for guest-workers?

    Energy and Commerce Committee

  • Nashville, TN on August 10th -- What is the impact of the Reid-Kennedy bill's amnesty provisions on the health care delivery system and for individual American taxpayers?
  • Dalton, GA on August 15th -- What is the impact of the Reid-Kennedy bill's amnesty provisions on the health care delivery system and for individual American taxpayers?

    Government Reform Committee

  • San Diego, CA on August 14th -- What is the impact on state and local governments, in terms of both societal costs such as policing and direct government costs such as health care and welfare benefits, of illegal immigration? Would the Reid-Kennedy bill impose huge unfunded mandates on state and local governments?

    Resources Committee

  • Santee, CA on August 5th -- What efforts need to be undertaken to prevent federal public lands from being harmed as they are used as a pathway for illegal immigration? Does the Reid-Kennedy bill compromise our federal lands?
  • Hamilton, MT on August 28th -- What efforts need to be undertaken to secure the federal lands along the Northern border to prevent drug trafficking and other illegal activities? Could the Reid-Kennedy bill make these efforts more difficult?
  • Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/27/2006 10:05:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Democrat's election year push
    From The Morning Grind

    House and Senate Democrats will huddle behind closed doors this afternoon for a part strategy session/part pep rally as the minority party begins a final push to try and take back Congress in November. A Democratic leadership aide tells the Grind the meeting is intended to talk about the party's "closing arguments" it will make to voters as to why "there needs to be a new direction for America."

    "Now is when Democrats begin to make Republicans pay for wasting the last 19 months catering to the radical right and rubberstamping George Bush," the aide said. "We're fanning out across the country to ensure every American who wants a new direction knows that's what they'll get in a Democratic Congress."

    Democratic leaders are book-ending the meeting beginning with an off-camera political briefing at the Mott House and closing with an on-camera news conference at the Russell Senate Swamp.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/27/2006 10:03:00 AM ET | Permalink
    A Senate Republican's worse nightmare
    From The Morning Grind

    For Republican senators, one Harry Reid is enough to contend with. But two could be downright aggravating. Even Reid would agree that two of him spells trouble.

    The Senate Minority Leader from Nevada discovered this week that he was a victim of identity theft after someone used his MasterCard number to charge about $2,000 at a Wal-Mart and other stores in Monroe, North Carolina, CNN's Ted Barrett reports.

    "It's not a tremendous inconvenience for me," he said. "I won't have to pay it."

    But Reid said he is steamed about the fact the perpetrator likely will never be caught. "Something has to be done," he said, holding up his now-deactivated card.

    Reid said he found out someone had obtained the number after opening his bill Tuesday night. Reid said he does not know how someone obtained the number or whether he has been the victim of a broader identity theft -- a problem that affects millions of Americans every year.

    The question is if the new Harry Reid can make a purchase at Wal-Mart, can he also launch a filibuster?
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/27/2006 10:02:00 AM ET | Permalink
    DAYAHEAD/Events making news today
  • President Bush signed the Voting Rights Act Reauthorization into law at 9:35 a.m. ET. He meets with the President of Romania at 11:15 a.m. ET. At 1:15 p.m. ET, Bush signs the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 into law. Bush then heads to the Grand Hyatt for a 1:50 p.m. ET speech to the National Association of Manufacturers.

  • Vice President Cheney delivers remarks at the 2006 Korean War Veterans Armistice Day ceremony at the Korean War Veterans Memorial.

  • The Senate gaveled into session at 9:30 a.m. ET. The Senate Radio-Television Correspondents' Gallery Daybook.

  • The House comes into session at 10 a.m. ET. The House Radio-Television Correspondents' Gallery Daybook.

  • Democratic leaders hold a pen-and-pad with reporters at noon in the Mott House across the street from the Hart Office Building. They then hold a 1:45 p.m. ET news conference at the Senate Swamp following their joint caucus.

  • Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman attends a fundraiser for Ralph Norman, who is running for Congress in South Carolina. Mehlman also speaks to the Urban League's 2006 conference in Atlanta. He then attends a GOP precinct chairs meeting in Macon, Georgia, and attends a fundraiser for former Rep. Mac Collins (R-Georgia), who is running for the House again.
  • Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/27/2006 10:00:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Political Hot Topics
    MOST AMERICANS BELIEVE MIDEAST CONFLICT "WILL LEAD TO A WIDER WAR": Americans are overwhelmingly pessimistic about the state of affairs in the Middle East, with majorities doubtful there will ever be peace between Israel and its neighbors, or that American troops will be able to leave Iraq anytime soon, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. A majority said the war between Israel and Hezbollah will lead to a wider war. And while almost half of those polled approved of President Bush's handling of the crisis, a majority said they preferred the United States leave it to others to resolve. New York Times: Poll Shows Skepticism in U.S. Over Peace in Mideast

    "THE FATE OF OUR COUNTRY AND YOURS IS TIED": Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki urged Congress Wednesday to continue backing the war in Iraq and the emerging democracy there, calling it essential to defeating terrorists worldwide. "The fate of our country and yours is tied," al-Maliki told a joint meeting of the House and Senate. "Should democracy be allowed to fail in Iraq, and terror permitted to triumph, then the war on terror will never be won elsewhere." Al-Maliki, speaking through an interpreter, did not mention the renewed Middle East conflict between Israel and Hezbollah militants in Lebanon. His refusal to condemn Hezbollah for attacks on Israel and his criticism of Israel's ongoing military response has drawn fire from lawmakers such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California. USA Today: 'Our duty to defeat this terror,' Iraqi leader tells Congress

    HOWARD DEAN CALLS AL-MALIKI "ANTI-SEMITE"...: Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean on Wednesday called Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki an "anti-Semite" for failing to denounce Hezbollah for its attacks against Israel. Al-Maliki has condemned Israel's offensive, prompting several Democrats to boycott his address to a joint meeting of Congress and others to criticize him. Dean's comments were the strongest to date. "The Iraqi prime minister is an anti-Semite," the Democratic leader told a gathering of business leaders in Florida. "We don't need to spend $200 and $300 and $500 billion bringing democracy to Iraq to turn it over to people who believe that Israel doesn't have a right to defend itself and who refuse to condemn Hezbollah." AP via Yahoo! News: Dean calls Iraqi PM an 'anti-Semite'

    ...AND ATTACKS KATHERINE HARRIS - "SHE IS NOT STALIN": "Thank God for Bill Nelson, because we'd have another crook in the United States Senate if weren't for him," Dean said. "He's going to beat the pants off Katherine Harris, who didn't understand that it is ethically improper to be the chairman of the campaign and count the votes at the same time. This is not Russia. And she is not Stalin. And she will go back to wherever she came from and Bill Nelson will be reelected to the United States Senate so we can have an honest person as a senator from the great state of Florida." Harris' campaign spokeswoman, Jennifer Marks, condemned Dean's "scurrilous attacks" and said Harris was upholding the state's elections laws during the 2000 recount. Palm Beach Post: Dean rips into Harris as a 'crook'

    DHS SPENDING "MARRED BY EXTENSIVE WASTE AND MISSPENT FUNDS": The multibillion-dollar surge in federal contracting to bolster the nation's domestic defenses in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has been marred by extensive waste and misspent funds, according to a new bipartisan congressional report. Lawmakers say that since the Homeland Security Department's formation in 2003, an explosion of no-bid deals and a critical shortage of trained government contract managers have created a system prone to abuse. Based on a comprehensive survey of hundreds of government audits, 32 Homeland Security Department contracts worth a total of $34 billion have "experienced significant overcharges, wasteful spending, or mismanagement," according to the report, which is slated for release today and was obtained in advance by The Washington Post. Washington Post: Homeland Security Contracts Abused

    "CLASH OVER EAVESDROPPING COMPROMISE": Senior Bush administration officials said Wednesday that it would be impractical for them to obtain individual warrants every time they needed to eavesdrop on a conversation suspected of involving Al Qaeda. They urged Congress to approve a proposal that critics said would give the president broad, unchecked powers. In testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, called the proposal, developed by Senator Arlen Specter and the White House, "a great opportunity" to modernize intelligence-gathering procedures in a way that would "protect our liberty and security."... Under the proposal, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which meets in secrecy to rule on usual government requests for warrants in intelligence cases, would decide whether the administration's program of monitoring international communications of Americans without warrants is constitutional. But critics attacked the agreement Wednesday as abdication to the White House. New York Times: Administration and Critics, in Senate Testimony, Clash Over Eavesdropping Compromise

    SPECTER INTROS "PRESIDENTIAL SIGNING STATEMENTS ACT OF 2006": Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter yesterday introduced legislation that would allow Congress to sue President Bush over his use of signing statements to claim the power to bypass laws, saying that lawmakers must push back against a White House power grab. "The president cannot use a signing statement to rewrite the words of a statute, nor can the president use a signing statement to selectively nullify those provisions he does not like," the Pennsylvania Republican said. "This much is clear from our Constitution." Boston Globe: Specter takes step to halt Bush signing statements

    DEBATING BOLTON... AGAIN: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee begins hearings Thursday on whether to make [John] Bolton's temporary appointment, which will expire in January, permanent. His appearance in Washington, where Democratic leaders have vowed to oppose Bolton, is expected to be as polarizing as his presence at U.N. headquarters. Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) said, "Mr. Bolton's performance at the U.N. only confirms my conviction that he's the wrong person for this job." He suggested that Democrats may filibuster a Senate vote unless the Bush administration releases documents Biden believes detail Bolton's use of National Security Agency intercepts involving U.S. citizens. Washington Post: The Bolton Nomination, Act II

    WA COURT UPHOLDS MARRIAGE BAN... "A BLOW TO GAY-RIGHTS ADVOCATES": The state Supreme Court's decision Wednesday to uphold Washington's gay-marriage ban leaves advocates of same-sex marriage looking to a Legislature that's not likely to help them out - at least not anytime soon. State Rep. Ed Murray, a gay state lawmaker from Seattle, promised disappointed plaintiffs that he would introduce legislation in January to bring marriage equality to the state. But he acknowledged that the votes don't exist for marriage or civil unions and that it could be years before such a measure is approved... The court's splintered 5-4 ruling in Andersen v. King County, which included six separate opinions over nearly 200 pages, delivered a blow to gay-rights advocates here and across the country who had counted on a win in Washington to help bolster the gay-rights movement. Seattle Times: Supreme Court upholds state gay-marriage ban

    AFTER OPPOSING LAW AS TX GOV, BUSH TO SIGN VRA: With his signature today, President Bush will renew a key part of the Voting Rights Act that singles out 16 states as still practicing voting discrimination, including his state of Texas, where he was governor for six years, and part of Florida, where his brother is governor. Less than a decade ago, Mr. Bush fought that exact part of the Voting Rights Act, with his appointed secretary of state, Antonio O. Garza Jr., calling the provisions a burdensome and unnecessary federal intrusion into Texas' affairs. "The Bush administration has really done a flip-flop on this," said Edward Blum, a senior fellow at the Center for Equal Opportunity who has studied Texas voting and the Voting Rights Act. "This is not where he was, and this is not the kind of philosophy that then-Governor Bush had when it comes to getting Texas out from under the thumb of the federal government." Washington Times: Bush to sign voting act that he once opposed

    70% IN CALI WANT NEW IMMIGRATION LAWS: A majority of California voters considers illegal immigration a very serious issue, and 70 percent want Congress to pass an immigration overhaul bill this year, according to a Field Poll released today. The statewide survey of 494 registered voters reached findings very similar to those in a national poll released Tuesday by the Tarrance Group and Lake Research Partners. That poll found that 71 percent of likely U.S. voters favor a comprehensive plan similar to a bill passed by the Senate in May. "This is a very hot issue, a very emotional issue," said Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo. "What has emerged is a consensus that this should be dealt with in a comprehensive way. Congress should attempt to not only address border security but guest workers and a path to citizenship... I was expecting more division, especially among Republicans and conservatives." San Francisco Chronicle: Poll says 70% of Californians want immigration reform

    STONE GETS HELP FROM THE SWIFT BOAT GUYS: Oliver Stone, that symbol of everything about Hollywood that conservatives love to hate, is getting help in marketing his newest movie from an unlikely ally: the publicity firm that helped devise the Swift boat campaign attacking John Kerry's Vietnam record in the 2004 presidential race... Mr. Stone said that he knew nothing of the firm's political work until he was contacted by a reporter on Wednesday. The director's "World Trade Center," a largely factual drama about the rescue of two police officers from ground zero after the 9/11 attacks, is to be released on Aug. 9 by Paramount Pictures. But it is already drawing rave reviews in some unlikely quarters. New York Times: Odd Bedfellows Align to Market Film About 9/11

    "PRESIDENT IS MY HOMEBOY," SAYS STEELE: Republican Senate candidate Michael Steele on Wednesday called President Bush his "homeboy," reversed course on having the president campaign for him and said he was joking when he described his Republican affiliation as a scarlet letter. The Maryland lieutenant governor, under fire for his comments, told WBAL radio that his remarks were supposed to be off the record with a handful of reporters. Instead, Steele's campaign confirmed Tuesday that he was the unnamed Senate candidate who had assailed the Bush administration and Republican-controlled Congress in a story in The Washington Post. "I've been quoted as calling the president my homeboy, you know. And that's how I feel... It's a term of affection and respect for his leadership of our country in a difficult time," Steele, who is black, said in the radio interview. AP via Yahoo! News: GOP candidate says criticism was a joke

    RUDY SHOULD RUN, SAY NEW YORKERS: New York Republicans overwhelmingly agree on two things: Rudy Giuliani should run for president and Gov. Pataki should not, according to a poll released yesterday. Lame-duck Pataki, according to the Siena College survey, has emerged as the Rodney Dangerfield of state GOP politics: He gets no respect. Just 9 percent of New York Republicans said they would vote for Pataki, who is exploring a race for president in 2008. Giuliani was an entirely different story. The poll of 407 likely Republican primary voters found 55 percent favoring the former mayor as their party's candidate for president, followed by 29 percent for Arizona Sen. John McCain. New York Post: Rudy Prez Timber, Gov Dead Wood: Poll

    SCULPTOR CREATES "STARTLING" HILLARY BUST: [Sculptor Daniel] Edwards, who courted controversy in April with his life-size nude of Britney Spears giving birth on a bearskin rug, has now come forth with his "Presidential Bust of Hillary Rodham Clinton." The startling sculpture shows an armless-but-bountifully-bosomed Hillary atop a pedestal declaring her "The First Woman President of the United States of America." The piece is due to be unveiled Aug. 9 at Fifth Ave.'s Museum of Sex, where director Daniel Gluck believes it will stir debate on whether a woman need "squelch her sexuality in order to succeed as leader of the free world." Edwards believes his work, which portrays HRC in a plunging evening gown, is anatomically correct. New York Daily News: Sculptor makes bust case for Prez Hillary

    BAYH "CLARIFIES" HIS POSITION ON NH PRIMARY: Granted, this whole DNC mess puts candidates in a tough spot. Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, for instance, got a headline in the Des Moines Register this week saying that he backed the Nevada move. The story didn't exactly say that. It said that while he opposed any calendar change, "whatever ends up being decided is what we'll need to do. If I do decide to run, I think you have to compete according to the rules as they are written and in the places and the order they come." Bayh spokesman Dan Pfeiffer further clarified yesterday, telling us Bayh would only "explore" campaigning in Nevada if it receives final approval from the full DNC (as expected), "but it would have no impact on his position on New Hampshire." Manchester Union-Leader: Bayh Clarify
    Posted By Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau: 7/27/2006 09:23:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Wednesday, July 26, 2006
    The Cafferty File: Diplomacy: no deal
    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:

    Was the United States right to balk at a cease-fire in the Middle East?

    I've always been a proud American, but our country seems to have thrown away its moral compass. The conduct of Ms. Rice in Rome was despicable as more and more innocent Lebanese die because of the blank check and the weapons of war we give Israel. And we wonder why we're hated so!
    Ralph, Plantsville, Connecticut

    Cease-fire agreement? Is that what you call it? Looked more like Hezbollah was asking for a time-out to reorganize its missiles and troops. This entire problem is that Lebanon has a weak central government that cannot keep Hezbollah in check.
    Lance, Lexington, Kentucky

    I know if we had missiles coming in from Mexico we would not have a cease-fire until the threat of missiles being fired at us again was stopped. Israel is defending itself and has a right to stop Hezbollah from firing missiles into their cities.
    William, Quarryville, Pennsylvania

    If Ms. Rice thinks that a military campaign alone is capable of disarming a terrorist organization, the whole country of Lebanon will be destroyed before that is the case. After a certain amount of hostilities there is a time for reasonable, civilized peoples to come to the discussion table to resolve their differences.
    Omar, Richmond, Virginia

    How should the Bush Administration proceed when it comes to terror suspects?

    If 9/11 continues to shred our own Constitution, as well as international constitutions, then it doesn't matter what we do anymore, the terrorists have already won.
    Rich, Waterford, Connecticut

    If we are fighting a war with people who have no rules of war then we are the idiots to play with rules.
    Axxel, New Jersey

    This shouldn't even be a question. We are a nation of laws. They should be afforded every right the Geneva Conventions give them. Let's not start down that slippery slope of denying rights to just a few people. Where will it lead?
    Donald, Highland, California

    Where do you think the "frontline" in the war on terror is?

    I think that the "front line" in the war on terror is here at home. Until we can start to take responsibility for the consequences of our actions nothing will change.
    Lily, Marietta, Georgia

    I think most people in America would agree that the frontline of the war on terror is in the Middle East. I think President Bush had it right with his assessment of the axis of evil and taking the fight to them on their soil. As for all those liberals who don't agree with the president, perhaps they won't be happy until the frontline becomes the shores of America. I wonder what their assessment of the war on terror would be then.
    Ed, Medford, New Jersey

    The frontline on the war on terror is the entire world. Hasn't anybody noticed that every war being waged around the world today is being waged by militant Islamic groups? They are at war with the whole world, and Israel is the only country with the courage to confront them!
    Maria, McAllen, Texas

    The frontline is in the hearts of the Palestinians and the hearts of Israelis. Missiles only harden these hearts and further terror in a future generation of both Israelis and Palestinians.
    Eugenia, Madison, Wisconsin

    The frontline of the war on terror lies in the living rooms of those of us who have family members on the frontline in Iraq and Afghanistan!
    Ginette, Danville, Indiana
    Posted By Jack Cafferty, CNN Commentator: 7/26/2006 07:50:00 PM ET | Permalink
    The Situation Online: Peacekeeper's urgent email


    U.N. troops Wednesday carry the body of a U.N. observer killed in an airstrike in Khiyam, Lebanon.

    UPDATE: Canada's Prime Minister has confirmed, in a statement posted online, that the Canadian UN observer missing and presumed dead is indeed Major Praeta Hess-von Kruedener.

    U.N. Observer's observations
    As Israel launches a full investigation into last night's air strike that killed four U.N. peacekeepers in South Lebanon, an email from a Canadian observer stationed at that very same U.N. outpost has surfaced online. The email is posted at Canada's CTV.ca.

    In the email, the peacekeeper - Major Praeta Hess-von Kruedener - writes an urgent, first-hand account of life in the crossfire between Hezbollah and the Israeli Defense Forces. He says that his position at Khiyam was under daily fire and that it was not safe for his group to "conduct normal patrol activities."

    Muslims on Hezbollah
    The Internet is playing an unprecedented role in how we understand the Middle East crisis. While Hezbollah militants and Israelis battle it out on the ground, Muslims fight amongst themselves online over how they view Hezbollah's actions. What are Sunnis and Shiites saying about one another? We examine a number of Web sites with translations and additional reporting from our CNN Bureau in Dubai, which continues to monitor these sites as well as posting stories at our Arabic counterpart.

    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: 7/26/2006 07:19:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Iraqi PM urges Congress not to waver
    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki urged members of Congress Wednesday not to waver in their commitment to Iraq, vowing that his country will repay the world by becoming "the graveyard for terrorism and terrorists."

    In a half-hour speech in a joint meeting of Congress, frequently interrupted by applause, al-Maliki sought to portray the United States and Iraq as kindred spirits in the battle against terrorism. (Full story)

    "Should democracy be allowed to fail in Iraq and terrorism permitted to triumph, then the war on terror will never be won elsewhere," he said.

    Al-Maliki said Iraq must be allowed time to build its own military forces before multinational forces are withdrawn. He urged that rebuilding begin immediately in peaceful areas that have remained peaceful, appealing directly to Congress for funds to carry out his plan.

    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was unimpressed with al-Maliki's performance, accusing him of having failed to condemn the activities of Hamas and Hezbollah.
    Posted By CNN's Congressional Unit: 7/26/2006 03:23:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Court: Govt. cannot examine seized Rep. Jefferson material


    Rep. William Jefferson denies wrongdoing amid the ongoing probe.

    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that the government -- temporarily, at least -- cannot examine material seized as part of a May 20-21 FBI search of Rep. William Jefferson's Capitol Hill office.

    In a written order, the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said the action would give the court time to consider a motion filed by Jefferson's lawyers, seeking to bar any use of the documents. That effort seeks to overturn U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan's ruling, issued earlier this month, that deemed the search constitutional. (Full story)

    The appeals court noted their order was temporary and "should not be construed ... as ruling on the merits" of Jefferson's legal motion.

    The Louisiana Democrat 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 home when it was searched last summer.

    The eight-term lawmaker has not been charged and denies wrongdoing.
    Posted By Kevin Bohn and Kelli Arena, CNN America Bureau: 7/26/2006 01:19:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Blitzer: Terror fears in Jerusalem
    By Wolf Blitzer, CNN

    JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israel is a different place than it was six months ago.

    I was last here in early January when then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had a stroke and went into a coma. He is now the former prime minister, he remains in a coma and his condition, according to his doctors, has deteriorated in recent days.

    At the time I went there, there was widespread fear in Israel that he was on the verge of death. That was the story then. Yes, there were tensions with the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. But there was no talk of the dangers to Israel lurking from south Lebanon.

    That has clearly changed over these past two weeks. Now, the talk of Israel and much of the world is the warfare between Israeli forces and Hezbollah militants in Lebanon.

    People here in Jerusalem do not believe they are in any immediate danger of those Hezbollah rockets and missiles -- in large part because they don't think the Islamist militants would fire their inaccurate rockets at Jerusalem...
    (Read more of Wolf Blitzer's column)

    Posted By The Situation Online Producers: 7/26/2006 11:55:00 AM ET | Permalink
    The controversy before al-Maliki's speech


    Iraq's Nouri al-Maliki, front, on Capitol Hill Wednesday.

    From The Morning Grind

    Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki met with Congressional leaders this morning as controversy continued to precede his speech to a joint meeting of the House and Senate.

    A group of Democrats have called on House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois) to rescind al-Maliki's invitation to address Congress, because he has condemned Israel in its ongoing conflict with Hezbollah. Hastert denied the request and this morning, with al-Maliki at his side, said "we are very honored today to have the Iraqi Prime Minister with us."

    Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), who also met with the Iraqi Prime Minister, released a statement praising him for having "a strong vision for the future of his country.

    "The Prime Minister has worked hard to form a consensus government that reflects the will of the Iraqi people, and America will stand by him as he works to reduce violence and rebuild his country," McConnell said.

    Prior to this morning's meeting with al-Maliki, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tennessee) said he agreed with al-Maliki's critics that "he has made some comments in the past which I don't think are balanced in terms of the crisis" between Israel and Hezbollah. But Frist added, "That is not the purpose of him being here."

    "He is our ally in the war on terror, as it's being fought out in Iraq, and we need to continue to support him and support him aggressively, ask tough questions, and that's the dialogue we'll have over the course of this morning," Frist said in an interview on CNN's American Morning.

    At his appearance with Hastert this morning, CNN's Deirdre Walsh reports that al-Maliki said he was "very honored to be at the Congress of America.

    "I come here carrying the difficulties of the American people," al-Maliki said through a translator. "I look forward to the cooperation and support to combat terror in Iraq for the sake of humanity."

    Expect some Democratic critics to boycott his 11 a.m. ET speech. Already, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) has said he would not attend, CNN's Dana Bash reports.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/26/2006 11:06:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Istook wins GOP gubernatorial nod
    From The Morning Grind

    Rep. Ernest Istook (R-Oklahoma) won the GOP nod last night to take on Gov. Brad Henry (D) in November, while the race to fill his seat won't be decided until next month. Istook took more than 54 percent of the vote, beating back four challengers for the Republican nomination. Businessman Bob Sullivan, who criticized Istook for "pork barrel" spending, came in second with about 31 percent of the vote. Henry easily won the Democratic nomination and is the early favorite to win in November.

    As for Istook's 5th District seat, Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin and Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett emerged from the crowded GOP primary field and will square off in an August 22 runoff. Fallin won 34.5 percent of the vote, while Cornett came in second with 24.2 percent of the vote. The winner will face Dr. David Hunter, who won the Democratic primary, in November. The predominately Republican 5th District is located right in the middle of the state.

    Full election results.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/26/2006 11:01:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Crist and Davis lead in Florida
    From The Morning Grind

    Two candidates have emerged in Florida's contested gubernatorial primary contests, but there is still plenty of time for voters to change their minds, a new Quinnipiac University Poll released this morning shows.

    Rep. Jim Davis holds a 47 to 19 percent lead over state Sen. Rod Smith among likely Democratic primary voters, while Attorney General Charlie Crist leads Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher by a 55 percent to 32 percent margin among likely Republican primary voters. In a press release accompanying the poll, the university said that "the Democratic race is more fluid because 33 percent of likely voters remain undecided and 64 percent of those who name a candidate say they might change their mind."

    Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said even though Crist's lead appears to be "a little more stable because both of those candidates are better known to Florida voters, and there are far fewer undecided voters in that race," he added that there is still time for Gallagher to gain the ground back.

    "The numbers in both the Republican and Democratic primaries remain fluid, however, because of the voters' general lack of familiarity with the candidates," Brown stated. "It is often difficult to change voters' perceptions in the final weeks of the campaign, but in these races -- and especially the Democratic one -- the candidates are still such blank slates to so many voters that anything could happen."

    The primary will take place on September 5.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/26/2006 11:00:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Cat's out of the bag
    From The Morning Grind

    It was Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, who made the not-so-flattering remarks about President Bush during a luncheon with media types on Monday.

    The story was the buzz in Washington yesterday and the Grind expects the debate over whether this helps or hinders Steele's senate campaign to continue for the foreseeable future. Questions to ponder as you consider this story: Did Steele plan to unleash this bomb at the lunch? Or was it an unintentional slip up? And if it was planned, did the White House know it was coming?

    As for how this affects Steele's campaign, a senior Republican operative summed it up this way to the Grind, "In the near term, it is a net negative."
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/26/2006 10:52:00 AM ET | Permalink
    The most "Representative" state
    From The Morning Grind

    Critics of the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary contend that those states don't represent "real America." States like Michigan and Delaware have claimed that they look most like the country as a whole. Even states like Arizona and Alabama have occasionally gotten into the act. Which state REALLY represents the whole country? Which state comes closest to the national average on important measures like race and income? Check out tomorrow's Morning Grind for an exclusive analysis of U.S. Census data that that may lay this debate to rest -- or start a whole new round of arguments.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/26/2006 10:51:00 AM ET | Permalink
    DAYAHEAD/Events making news today
  • President Bush meets and takes photos with the 2005 Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers at 10:45 a.m. ET. Bush then takes Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to Fort Belvoir in Virginia to have a 1 p.m. lunch with military personnel and their families. At 5:35 p.m. ET, Bush will be in Charleston, West Virginia to attend a fundraiser for Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-West Virginia).

  • Vice President Cheney participates in the swearing-in ceremony for Steve Preston to be administrator for the Small Business Administration at 4:45 p.m. ET at the agency's offices.

  • The Senate gaveled into session at 9 a.m. ET and votes and has a cloture vote scheduled at 10 a.m. ET on the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Bill. After the vote, the Senate will recess for the Joint Meeting of Congress with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The Senate Radio-Television Correspondents' Gallery Daybook.

  • The House gavels into session at 10 a.m. ET. The House Radio-Television Correspondents' Gallery Daybook.

  • The Federalist Society holds a noon luncheon to discuss the public financing of campaigns at the National Press Club.

  • Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean speaks to the Democratic Professional Forum at noon in West Palm Beach, Florida.

  • Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman attends a fundraising reception and dinner tonight for Sen. George Allen (R-Virginia).
  • Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/26/2006 10:46:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Political Hot Topics
    IRAQ LIMITS BUSH'S "MANEUVERING ROOM" ON ISRAEL-HEZBOLLAH CONFLICT: The conflict in Iraq is limiting President George W. Bush's maneuvering room as he seeks to influence events in a Lebanon caught in a bloody cycle of violence. U.S. efforts to broker an enduring halt to hostilities in Lebanon are complicated because its main adversaries in the region -- Iran and Syria -- are convinced that America is pinned down by troop deployments in Iraq and have taken advantage of Bush's previous reluctance to engage in Arab-Israeli peacemaking. "Bush finds himself in a very difficult position in this current crisis because the war in Iraq has left him with very little leverage and very little political capital with many of the key players," said Charles Kupchan, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington. Bloomberg: Bush's Options in Lebanon Limited by U.S. Commitment in Iraq

    BUSH TO SEND MORE TROOPS AS IRAQ WAR MOVES INTO "UNEXPECTED NEW PHASE": President Bush said yesterday that he will send more U.S. forces and equipment to Baghdad as part of a fresh strategy to put down rising sectarian violence, abandoning a six-week-old operation that failed to pacify the strife-torn Iraqi capital and opening what aides called an unexpected new phase of the war. Playing host to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki at the White House for the first time, Bush sounded unusually dour and acknowledged that the situation in Iraq in many ways has worsened lately. But he vowed to adjust tactics to deal with evolving threats and to keep U.S. forces in Iraq as long as necessary to fortify Maliki's government until it can defend itself. Washington Post: Bush to Add Troops in Baghdad, Citing 'Terrible' Sectarian Strife

    SOME MEMBERS PLANNING TO SKIP AL-MALIKI SPEECH TO JOINT SESSION: Congressional Democrats say Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki should condemn the Hezbollah attacks on Israel if he wants to deliver an address to a joint session of Congress today. Some members are considering skipping the planned speech, saying Mr. al-Maliki's July 19 remarks urging the world "to take quick stands to stop the Israeli aggression" are "troubling" because Iraq is supposed to be a U.S. ally. "No matter how politically expedient he thinks it may be: To stand with America, you have to stand against terrorism," said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat. "Before he speaks in front of the Congress and the American people, there is a very simple question we are asking the prime minister today: Which side is he on when it comes to the war on terror?" Washington Times: Democrats urge al-Maliki to clarify view on Hezbollah

    58% DISAPPROVE OF BUSH STEM CELL VETO: A majority of Americans disapprove of President Bush's veto of a bill expanding federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, though they say they believe he did so on principle, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll shows. The poll taken last weekend finds 61% say Bush rejected the bill last week for personal moral beliefs; 32% say he did it to gain political advantage... The poll shows a partisan gap: 61% of Republicans approve of the veto, compared with 19% of Democrats and 33% of independents. Among those expressing disapproval, 76% say they were "very" or "somewhat" upset by the veto; 24%, not at all. USA Today: Majority of public disapprove of Bush's stem cell veto

    RATING BUSH ON THE LEFT COAST: The war in Iraq has reached a new level of unpopularity with California voters, while disapproval of Republican President Bush and concern about the direction of the country remain at high levels, according to a new Field Poll. A record low 28 percent of the state's registered voters approve of the job Bush is doing in handling the war in Iraq, while 67 percent dislike what they're seeing. That's down from April's previous low approval rating of 31 percent. Although a perceived improvement in the national economy gave the president's personal approval ratings a slight boost in the latest poll, Bush remains desperately unpopular in the state. His 32 percent approval mark is up from 28 percent in a May poll, but 61 percent of California voters dislike the job he is doing as president. San Francisco Chronicle: Support in California falls to new low in poll

    BIG VICTORY FOR ABORTION OPPONENTS: The Senate voted yesterday to make it a crime to take a pregnant minor to another state to obtain an abortion without her parents' knowledge, handing a long-sought victory to the Bush administration and abortion opponents. The bill would help about three dozen states enforce laws that require minors to notify or obtain the consent of their parents before having an abortion. It would bar people -- including clergy members and grandparents -- from helping a girl cross state lines to avoid parental-involvement laws. Violations could result in a year in prison... The Senate voted 65 to 34 to approve the bill, which is similar to one the House has approved before, including last year. Washington Post: Interstate Abortion Bill Clears Senate

    WH PROPOSES NEW RULES FOR DETAINEE TRIALS: Legislation drafted by the Bush administration setting out new rules on bringing terror detainees to trial would allow hearsay evidence to be introduced unless it was deemed "unreliable" and would permit defendants to be excluded from their own trials if necessary to protect national security, according to a copy of the proposal... The 32-page bill preserves the idea of using military commissions to prosecute terror suspects and makes modest changes in their procedural rules, including several expanded protections for defendants, many of them drawn from the military's legal code. But the proposal also sets up a possible confrontation with lawmakers who have called for modeling the trials on the military's rules for courts-martial, which would allow defendants more rights. New York Times: White House Bill Proposes System to Try Detainees

    MURTHA WILL CAMPAIGN FOR DEMS AROUND THE COUNTRY: Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), who has suspended his race to become majority leader in the event that the Democrats capture the House, plans to campaign in 41 races around the country where he said party leaders believe he can be helpful. This is a dramatic increase in activity for Murtha, who did not campaign for House candidates in 2004, according to his spokeswoman. Helping Democratic candidates could pay dividends in a race for majority leader against Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). Murtha says he thinks such a race is likely and told The Hill that if the election were held now Democrats would be catapulted into the majority. The Hill: To raise profile, Murtha will stump for 41 Dems

    STEELE'S REMARKS NOT ANONYMOUS FOR LONG: The Iraq war, the unnamed Republican candidate for U.S. Senate said, "didn't work." The response to Hurricane Katrina was "a monumental failure of government." Fellow Republicans in Congress should "just shut up and get something done." For a few hours yesterday, the friendly fire that was launched anonymously in a newspaper story set the capital abuzz with speculation about the speaker - a parlor game that ended abruptly when a campaign spokesman confirmed that the GOP Senate hopeful was Maryland's Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele. With the first mystery solved, then, attention focused on the second: Was the public criticism of an administration that has enthusiastically supported his Senate bid a gaffe, or was it calculated? Baltimore Sun: Steele's blunt words stir up speculation

    ISTOOK WINS OK GOP GOV PRIMARY: U.S. Rep. Ernest Istook easily won the Republican gubernatorial primary Tuesday. Istook will face incumbent Democratic Gov. Brad Henry in the Nov. 7 general election. "People know my consistency, my conservative principles and my capabilities," Istook said. "Tonight is just the first step toward a historic victory. "I believe we are going to put the state on a path toward growth." Istook is leaving the 5th Congressional District to campaign for governor. With nearly 55 percent of the vote, Istook avoided a runoff election in the four-man race. Tulsa businessman Bob Sullivan came in second with almost 31 percent of the vote. Tulsa World: Istook captures GOP nod

    GRANHOLM'S BATTLE: When she was elected four years ago, the buzz on Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm was that she'd be president one day if only she hadn't been born in Canada. "Her combination of intelligence, charisma, and centrist politics make her the ideal spokesperson for Democratic politics in the early twenty-first century," gushed a cover story in The New Republic. That was then. Now, she is running no better than even against Republican Dick DeVos, a political neophyte who already has spent a record-shattering $10 million to air TV ads that depict him as a can-do businessman. Granholm is scrambling to channel voter angst over the state's economic travails toward President Bush, GOP policies, free trade and globalization - and away from her. USA Today: Mich. governor faces tough battle to stay in office

    HARRIS TRAILS 57-29: In only three months, U.S. Senate candidate Katherine Harris has lost almost half of the Republicans who planned to vote for her, according to a new poll that suggests the congresswoman has little chance of unseating Sen. Bill Nelson. "This candidacy was an uphill battle to begin with. But it can't even climb now. It just loses ground," Brad Coker, director for Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc., said Tuesday. Were the election held now, Nelson would best Harris 57 percent to 29 percent, according to the poll of 625 registered Florida voters that has an error margin of four percentage points. Only 14 percent were undecided. Miami Herald: Polls show Harris losing GOP voters

    HILLARY PRIMARY CHALLENGER MAKES NEWS: Jonathan Tasini, the antiwar candidate mounting a Democratic primary challenge against Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, said this week that Israel had "committed many acts of brutality and violations of human rights and torture." Mr. Tasini made the comments in a wide-ranging interview with a political blog, the Room 8, after he was asked if he believed Israel was a terrorist state, according to an audiotape posted Monday on the Web site, www.r8ny.com. "It's painful to say that, but when you fire missiles from sophisticated aircraft on unarmed civilians in Gaza, those are again, the definition to me of ... ," he said, pausing to find the right words. "Terrorism is a very heavily laden word," he continued. New York Times: Democratic Opponent of Clinton Criticizes Actions of Israel

    NYDN: Israel 'terror' slip by Clinton foe

    NYPost: Dem Rips Israel

    STAFFING THE MAYOR: No carbs. Just fish or chicken. And keep a takeout box handy in case he has to rush. Tea, please (green, with four packets of Splenda). Water (bottled, preferably room temperature.) And never leave his sight. In the year since he became mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa has undergone a transformation from garden-variety public official to something approaching a rock star, drawing crowds wherever he goes... It's up to a swarm of harried aides to keep the boss hydrated and happy, primped and pampered, ensuring that he has clean hands and fresh breath (he gobbles Listerine strips by the pack). Villaraigosa is chauffeured around town by police in a black GMC Yukon. Two personal assistants, assigned to him in alternating shifts, tend to his needs, shadowing him from morning to night and keeping him in view at all times should he need anything. Los Angeles Times: The Mayor Needs It -- Now

    CHIEF OF STAFF CAMPS OUT IN LONGWORTH: Rob Woodall, chief of staff to Rep. John Linder (R-Ga.), has been quietly slipping down to "the cage" on the first floor of the Longworth House Office Building to curl up and go night-night next to the office supplies. Woodall even has a blankie in his 5-by-10-foot space, a little mattress and other things to spruce it up and make it a little homier. As one source told HOH in an e-mail, "You can see a towel drying, his foam cot and some personal items (including a large assortment of ties, and for some reason, a decorative throw pillow) in the space." "Yes, it's totally weird," the source said. There is a bed in his life, somewhere: Woodall works full-time out of Linder's district office in Duluth, Ga., so he sleeps in the cage only when he's in Washington, D.C., which he estimates to be only "a couple of nights every couple of weeks." Roll Call: Sleeping With the Rats
    Posted By Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau: 7/26/2006 09:28:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Navy tests entire USS Reagan crew for tuberculosis
    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Navy officials are testing 6,000 sailors and civilians this week for tuberculosis after a sailor assigned to the USS Ronald Reagan became ill.

    The sailor developed TB symptoms shortly after returning from the aircraft carrier's six-month maiden cruise in the Pacific and Persian Gulf regions, according to a Navy spokesman. He was officially diagnosed earlier this month, and is now recovering under quarantine at his home in San Diego County, California.

    In addition to 4,200 sailors and air wing members on the Reagan, 1,200 guests who visited the ship recently will also be tested. The Navy is trying to determine if some high-ranking military officers of the People's Republic of Chine who recently visited the ship should be tested.

    Of the 776 sailors tested as of last Sunday, 34 tested positive for TB, though none have any active symptoms. The disease can only spread if someone has active TB.

    Ship-wide tests are rare, but no unprecedented. The last time was July 1998, when the crew of USS Wasp was tested after several crew members developed active TB.
    Posted By Larry Shaughnessy, CNN Pentagon Bureau: 7/26/2006 08:54:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Senate votes to ban interstate transport of minors for abortions
    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Senate passed a bill Tuesday making it illegal to take a minor to another state to get an abortion in order to dodge state laws requiring parental notification or consent.

    A similar measure passed last year in the House, and the bill will now go to a conference committee to resolve differences. (Full story)

    The measure is one of several targeted bills passed by the GOP-controlled Congress aimed at curbing abortions. Democratic leaders charged last week that this bill was timed to energize the conservative Republican base before the mid-term elections.

    Proponents of the latest measure say the bill helps protect young women from abusive men who drag them across state lines for secret abortions. Opponents say victims of incest and abusive parents will be trapped into carrying unwanted pregnancies.
    Posted By CNN's Congressional Unit: 7/26/2006 08:47:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Tuesday, July 25, 2006
    The Cafferty File: Whose troops?
    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:

    Which countries should be part of an international peacekeeping force?

    France has always been the protector of Lebanon. I believe they should lead the international peacekeeping force. Lebanon was under the French mandate after the First World War and Lebanon owes lots of its infrastructure to France.
    Elias, Montreal, Quebec

    I believe Morocco would be a good candidate because there are many Jews and Muslims living peacefully together in Morocco.
    Rafik

    I think the best way to stop the fighting is to deploy a peacekeeping force comprised of troops from Egypt, Pakistan, Germany, and France. A demilitarized zone between the two nations must also be established. Finally, the Lebanese army, with international assistance if required, must hunt down and disarm the Hezbollah militia once and for all.
    Chris, Victoria, British Columbia

    A Southern Lebanon peacekeeping force should consist of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon with Israel and Syria opening a dialogue regarding the Golan Heights.
    Richard, Seattle, Washington

    An international peacekeeping force should be sent from Mars or Neptune. These aliens from other worlds are much more trustworthy than any human form. However, as I understand it, Martians are on the side of the Bush Administration, so we'd better stick with only the Neptunians... I hear that they are peaceful, loving folks.
    Peter, Denver, Colorado

    Should the U.S. send more troops to Baghdad?

    My granddaddy used to say "Don't throw good money after bad." Somehow that comes to mind when thinking of sending more American troops to Baghdad. We need to cut our losses and just plain get out now. This sectarian fighting has gone on since the dawn of time and will continue long after we leave. Our brave men and women don't deserve to be mixed up in this any longer.
    Elaine, Florence, Oregon

    Absolutely. Squash the insurgents, finish the job, and just win. We as a nation cannot continue to allow these radicals to run around bombing and killing innocent people.
    Michael, Petaluma, California

    Absolutely not! The Bush administration had their chance at the beginning of this campaign but made a fatal decision by trying to do this on the "cheap." Once again, too little, too late.
    Karen, Johnston, Rhode Island

    Can Israel and its Arab neighbors ever live in peace?

    No. Israel and the Middle East are embroiled in a conflict that will never end, it seems. Both the Israelis and the Arabs have such extremist positions that they'll never be able to negotiate an end to their hatreds, and live in peaceful coexistence.
    Mac

    Unless and until the Arab nations are convinced that the Zionist dream of "Greater Israel" will be abandoned, and until the Israeli military arrogance is controlled, there can be no peace. From the U.S. standpoint, Mideast peace will be unattainable until we stop allowing Tel Aviv to direct the foreign policy of the U.S.
    Al, Pocono Summit, Pennsylvania

    They will never be able to live in peace until they are able to forget the past, and that would take too many lobotomies region-wide. Unfortunately, they will continue to pass this hatred on to their children.
    Pat, Naperville, Illinois
    Posted By Jack Cafferty, CNN Commentator: 7/25/2006 05:49:00 PM ET | Permalink
    The Situation Online: Aiding Lebanon


    A forklift picks up aid at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut for transfer to the International Red Cross.

    Aiding Lebanon
    With an estimated 700,000 people displaced from their homes in Lebanon, organizations around the world are mobilizing to send humanitarian aid to the Middle East region. The U.S. Embassy in Beirut announced today that the first U.S. shipment of a promised $30 million in humanitarian assistance has arrived in Lebanon. The United Nations, in an emergency appeal, has asked for nearly $150 million in aid to Lebanon over the next three months. In addition, an emergency team from the UN Refugee Agency is currently providing assistance in Beirut, but the agency reports that supplies for more than 20,000 displaced persons are stuck in Syria, awaiting the opening of safe passages. For information on more organizations providing humanitarian aid in the Middle East, check out the comprehensive online hub ReliefWeb, which is run by a UN Agency, continuously updates aid information from around the world.

    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: 7/25/2006 05:14:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Border Patrol: Drop in traffic, arrests on U.S.-Mexican border


    A U.S. Border Patrol agent arrests a suspected illegal immigrant last spring near Yuma, Arizona.

    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The number of illegal immigrants caught along the U.S.-Mexican border has dropped significantly in recent weeks, a decline authorities attribute to the use of National Guard troops to augment Border Patrol agents.

    On May 15, President Bush announced Operation Jump Start, in which National Guard troops perform non-patrol functions to free Border Patrol agents for frontline border jobs. Since then, 166,299 people have been arrested on the border -- down from 302,447, or 45 percent, in the 69 days before the speech.

    The decline cannot be totally linked to the move, as migration and arrests often decline during the hot summer months. (In 2005, for example, apprehensions went down 27 percent from that spring.) Furthermore, one Border Patrol office told CNN that many would-be immigrants are under the misperception that the U.S. has militarized its southern border.

    Regardless, Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar said, "Operation Jump Start has been tremendous, has been real, and has been very positive."

    As of Tuesday, the National Guard troops have freed up 250 Border Patrol agents, who moved from non-enforcement roles to patrol duty, said Aguilar. In addition, Border Patrol has added 598 agents and is training another 654 more.

    Aguilar said that, while arrests of illegal immigrants have fallen, drug busts -- totalling 1.2 million pounds of drugs this year -- have increased, which he credited to the increased manpower.

    He also said Customs and Border Protection is flying 150 illegal immigrants daily to cities in Mexico's interior, part of a program to prevent illegal immigrants from making repeated attempts to cross the border.
    Posted By Jeanne Meserve and Mike Ahlers, CNN America Bureau: 7/25/2006 03:13:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Bush: More U.S. troops destined for Baghdad


    Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and President Bush address the press Tuesday.

    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush said Tuesday there are plans to increase the number of U.S. troops in Baghdad, site of rising sectarian violence, to support Iraqi security forces.

    Bush, appearing at a joint news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, said Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, made the recommendation. The change, to be made in the next few weeks, will party involve shifting U.S. forces now stationed elsewhere in the country. (Full story)

    The visit was Al-Maliki's first to the White House, where he and the president met privately before facing reporters. The Iraqi leader will address a joint meeting of Congress on Wednesday.

    The two men discussed the situation in Lebanon and Israel, with al-Maliki calling for an immediate ceasefire -- which the Bush administration has resisted. The Shiite leader did not directly address a question about his recent criticism of Israeli bombing missions, focusing on the destruction and civilian deaths and hardships in Lebanon.
    Posted By CNN's Washington Bureau: 7/25/2006 01:24:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Top Democratic Senators press Iraqi PM on Israel comments
    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Three Senate Democratic leaders wrote a letter criticizing Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and questioning his leadership, a call coming days after the Iraqi leader condemned Israel's "agression" against Lebanon and a day before he was set to address Congress.

    Last week, al-Maliki said Iraq was urging the international community "to stop this aggression against Lebanon, to stop the killing of innocent people and to stop the destruction of infrastructure ... What is happening is an operation of mass destruction and mass punishment and an operation using great force that Israel has -- and Lebanon does not."

    In their letter to al-Maliki, the authors -- Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, Senate Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois and Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York -- said al-Maliki's comments are troubling.

    "Your failure to condemn Hezbollah's aggression and recognize Israel's right to defend itself raise serious questions about whether Iraq under your leadership can play a constructive role in resolving the current crisis and bringing stability to the Middle East," the letter said.

    The senators said some Democrats are considering boycotting his speech before Congress.
    Posted By CNN's Congressional Unit: 7/25/2006 12:11:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Sen. Clinton presents Democratic '06 economic platform


    Sen. Hillary Clinton addresses the Democratic Leadership Council.

    DENVER, Colorado (CNN) -- Wary of losing an opportunity to regain control of Congress this fall, some Democrats are hoping that a return to the "middle class values agenda" will help focus the party's fall message and capitalize on a tough political environment for Republicans.

    "America needs to work for everyone, not just the privileged and the powerful," Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY., told the Democratic Leadership Council's (DLC) 10th annual "National Conversation" in Denver, which ended Monday. "Democrats can be the change agents our country needs." (Full story)

    During the two-day meeting, nearly 400 state and local Democratic officials from around the country tried to develop a central message for mid-term candidates and lay the groundwork for reclaiming the presidency in 2008.

    "In the end, if it's going to be a Democratic year and if we're going to build the foundation for taking the White House back, we're going to have to do it by what we stand for, by the values and ideas that we promote," said DLC CEO and founder Al From.

    Clinton helped design and unveil what the DLC is calling "The American Dream Initiative," a policy agenda aimed at expanding economic, health care and educational opportunities for the middle class.
    Posted By CNN's Congressional Unit: 7/25/2006 12:05:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Comparing campaign coffers
    One of the few tangible ways to handicap the 2008 presidential field at this early stage of the race is to compare the various political bank accounts of those who are thinking about running. While there are no announced candidates or any official presidential campaigns, the amount of money that White House hopefuls raise for non-presidential committees can speak volumes about a candidate-to-be's ability to raise money down the road when it really counts.

    Money raised for some committees, like a U.S. Senate or House campaign, can be used for a future presidential bid, but money raised for a "leadership PAC" or other political action committee cannot. Here's how the most frequently mentioned presidential possibles stack up against each other in terms of money in the bank, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission last week.

    Cash-on-Hand Rankings as of 6/30/2006:

    GOP Hopefuls - Federal Campaign Committees:
  • George Allen (R-Virginia):        $6,617,620.10
  • Rudy Giuliani (R-New York):      $2,013,862.55
  • John McCain (R-Arizona):         $1,112,476.74
  • Sam Brownback (R-Kansas):      $636,367.60
  • Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska):       $156,073.36

    GOP Hopefuls - Leadership PACs:
  • John McCain (R-Arizona):      $  1,697,088.03
  • Rudy Giuliani (R-New York):     $1,425,396.90
  • George Pataki (R-New York):    $1,126,167.34
  • Mitt Romney (R-Massachusetts): $909,773.82
  • Bill Frist (R-Tennessee):             $613,962.81
  • Sam Brownback (R-Kansas):      $125,887.06
  • George Allen (R-Virginia):         $119,997.28
  • Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska):       $81,392.62

    Democratic Hopefuls - Federal Campaign Committees:
  • Hillary Clinton (D-New York):    $22,000,937.48
  • John Kerry (D-Massachusetts):  $13,983,190.61*
  • Evan Bayh (D-Indiana):           $10,363,520.01
  • Joe Biden (D-Delaware):           $3,267,834.91
  • Chris Dodd (D-Connecticut):      $1,881,089
  • Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin):     $1,452,114.31

    *Note: John Kerry has cash in several federal committees, including three from his 2008 failed presidential bid. Most of this money, but not all, can be used in a future presidential bid. A breakdown of Kerry's campaign cash is listed below:

    Kerry federal campaign committees:
  • John Kerry for President:        $8,213,832.19 (can be used in a 2008 bid)
  • Kerry-Edwards 2004 GELAC:  $5,376,244.41 (can be used in a 2008 bid, with restrictions)
  • Senate campaign committee:  $178,579.16 (can be used in a 2008 bid)
  • Kerry-Edwards 2004:             $214,534.85 (cannot be used in a 2008 bid)

    Democratic Hopefuls - Leadership PACs:
  • Mark Warner (D-Virginia):          $4,171,627.81
  • Evan Bayh (D-Indiana):               $1,303,341.20
  • John Kerry (D-Massachusetts):    $646,222.42
  • Chris Dodd (D-Connecticut):       $507,144.82
  • Joe Biden (D-Delaware):              $462,021.90
  • John Edwards (D-N. Carolina):     $295,434.58
  • Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin):      $286,131.61
  • Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota):    $156,412.01
  • Hillary Clinton (D-New York):       $57,072.59
  • Wesley Clark (D-Arkansas):           $17,064.60
  • Posted By Robert Yoon, CNN Washington Bureau: 7/25/2006 11:36:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Bush meets with the Iraqi Prime Minister as some in Congress question alliance
    From The Morning Grind

    President Bush is meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki this morning to talk strategy, as Congressional Democrats are beginning to question their alliance with him.

    The Bush administration is hoping that al-Maliki is able to bring together warring factions in Iraq, but critics are charging that U.S. foreign policy goals are at odds with those of the Iraqi leadership. Democratic Reps. Rahm Emanuel (Illinois), Rosa DeLauro (Connecticut) and Jan Schakowsky (Illinois) are asking colleagues to sign a letter urging House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois) to rescind his invitation to al-Maliki, who is scheduled to address Congress tomorrow. The lawmakers are incensed at al-Maliki's comments condemning Israel for its actions in Lebanon.

    "With evidence mounting that the Iraqi leadership's goals are not in the best interests of the United States -- nor the Middle East -- Prime Minister Maliki's address is inappropriate," the lawmakers write in the letter that has yet to be delivered to Hastert. "We are unaware of any prior instance where a world leader who actively worked against the interests of the United States was afforded such an honor. We urge you to cancel the address."

    Ron Bonjean, Hastert's spokesman, dismissed the letter and said Emanuel, as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, is making the request solely for political reasons.

    "This is political gamesmanship during an election year by the chairman of the DCCC to cover for Minority Leader (Nancy) Pelosi's (D-California) refusal to cosponsor the resolution supporting Israel," Bonjean said in a statement sent to the Grind late this morning.

    While not going as far as their House colleagues, Senate Democratic leaders will call on al-Maliki later this morning to "denounce Hezbollah terrorism" before his address to Congress.

    But not all Democrats and Republicans support the call to disinvite al-Maliki to address the House and Senate.

    "I abhor what he said, but we have to listen to him," Rep. John Murtha (D-Pennsylvania), one of the most outspoken critics of the Iraq war, told CNN's Deirdre Walsh. "I've disagreed with a lot of things he's said - saying he wants amnesty for Iraqis who kill Americans. I disagree with the fact that he's said they're making progress. Criminalizing Israel and not condemning Hezbollah? For Christ sakes, that's terrible but I'm going to listen to what he has to say."

    And Rep. Eric Cantor (Virginia), the GOP deputy majority whip and only Jewish Republican in the House, told CNN's Andrea Koppel it would not be the right move now because, "150,000 American troops are in Iraq."

    Cantor described al-Maliki's statement as "dead wrong" and said he "can't emphasize enough how strongly I disagree" with it. Cantor added he planned on raising the matter with al-Maliki during his visit tomorrow.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/25/2006 10:52:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Santorum's wingman
    From The Morning Grind

    Pennsylvania Republican Sens. Arlen Specter and Rick Santorum are polar opposites politically, at least within the context of their own party. But in the "if you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" world of politics, the two senators are joined at the hip. It was the conservative Santorum after all who helped the more moderate Specter overcome a near fatal career primary challenge in 2004 from avowed conservative Rep. Pat Toomey (R). Now, Specter is returning the favor. He has been open about his pledge to help Santorum win re-election and reiterated that fact during a meeting with a group of Pennsylvanians outside a Judiciary Committee hearing last week, CNN's Terry Frieden reports.

    "My number one priority for 2006 is the re-election of Senator Santorum," Specter said in response to a question about Santorum's re-election bid. "If it weren't for Santorum's help in my election, I probably wouldn't be here."

    Specter is probably right and Santorum hopes that his "wingman" can help convince enough independent and undecided Keystone State voters to beat back a challenge by state Treasurer Bob Casey, Jr. (D) in November.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/25/2006 10:50:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Oklahoma primary
    From The Morning Grind

    Rep. Ernest Istook (Oklahoma) leads a crowded Republican gubernatorial primary today for the right to challenge Gov. Brad Henry (D) in November. The seven-term Congressman is expected to win the GOP nomination in the intra-party battle that includes a state senator, businessman and an engineer. As of now, Henry, who eked out a victory over then-Rep. Steve Largent (R-Oklahoma) in 2002, is favored to win re-election.

    Istook's decision to retire from the House opens up a seat in Congress sparking primary fights on both sides of the aisle. Corporation Commissioner Denise Bode, state Rep. Kevin Calvey, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin, state Rep. Fred Morgan and Dr. Johnny Roy are vying for the GOP nod, while Dr. David Hunter and veteran Burt Smith are competing for the Democratic nomination. The Istook seat is likely to stay in the Republican column.

    Polls opened at 8 a.m. ET and close at 8 p.m. ET. At that time the Oklahoma State Election Board will begin updating results on this Web site.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/25/2006 10:48:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Blocking the 'state' borders
    From The Morning Grind

    In the GOP's latest effort to pass narrowly targeted bills aimed at curbing abortions, the Senate is expected to approve legislation today that makes it illegal to take a minor to another state to get an abortion, CNN's Ted Barrett reports.

    A similar measure, enacted to end the practice of circumventing state laws that require parental notification or consent, passed the House last year. President Bush is expected to sign the bill into law. Other measures approved by Congress aimed at ending abortions include banning a particular procedure and granting legal rights to fetuses.

    Proponents of the latest measure argue the bill is aimed at protecting young women from abusive men who drag them across state lines for secret abortions. Opponents say victims of incest and abusive parents will be trapped into carrying unwanted pregnancies.

    Democratic leaders have charged the timing of the bill is aimed at energizing the conservative Republican base before the election. Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin (D-Illinois) also claimed it is an opportunity for self-described "pro-life" Republicans who voted in favor of the embryonic stem cell funding bill to "make-up" for that vote.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/25/2006 10:47:00 AM ET | Permalink
    DAYAHEAD/Events making news today
  • President Bush meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki at 9:30 a.m. ET in the Oval Office. Bush and al-Maliki then appear at a joint press availability in the East Room at 11:25 a.m. ET. The President then meets with the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army Leader at 1:10 p.m. ET in the Oval Office.

  • The Senate reconvenes at 9:45 a.m. ET and resumes consideration of the nomination of Jerome Holmes to be a U.S. Circuit Judge for the Tenth Circuit. After two hours of debate, equally divided between the two parties, a vote on the nomination will occur. The House gaveled into session at 9 a.m. ET.

  • Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tennessee) was scheduled to hold a 9:30 a.m. ET dugout in the Senate chamber in the Capitol.

  • Sen. Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island) and members of the Center for American Progress hold a 9:30 a.m. ET news conference to discuss a "mid year report on Iraq" in room S-207 of the Capitol.

  • Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) holds a news conference on immigration at 10 a.m. ET in the Senate Radio and Television Gallery.

  • Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer (California), Hillary Rodham Clinton (New York), Ken Salazar (Colorado) and Chuck Schumer (New York) hold a 10:30 a.m. ET news conference on gas prices in the room S-207 of the Capitol.

  • Senate Democratic leaders hold an 11 a.m. ET news conference on Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's recent comments about Israel in the Senate Radio and Television Gallery.

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

  • Democratic Reps. Rahm Emanuel (Illinois) and Jan Schakowsky (Illinois) hold an 11:30 a.m. ET news conference on the Cannon Terrace to discuss their efforts to have Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki disinvited from addressing Congress tomorrow.

  • House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois), House Intelligence Committee Chairman Pete Hoekstra (R-Michigan), Rep. Jane Harman (D-California), Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Arizona) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-California) hold an 11:45 a.m. ET briefing on the House fact-finding mission to the Mideast in H-230 of the Capitol.

  • House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) holds a 12:30 p.m. ET pen-and-pad with reporters in room H-306 of the Capitol. Hoyer then leads a new conference to announce a new energy bill.

  • Former Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole's (R-Kansas) portrait is unveiled at a 3:30 p.m. ET ceremony in the Old Senate Chamber in the Capitol.

  • Former President Bill Clinton speaks at an 8 p.m. ET fundraiser for his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York), being held at Capitale in New York City.
  • Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/25/2006 10:44:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Political Hot Topics
    IRAQI PM VISITS WH TODAY: When Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki visits the White House on Tuesday for the first time, he is expected to make requests that clash sharply with President Bush's foreign policy, Iraqi officials say, signaling a widening gap between the Iraqis and the Americans on crucial issues. The requests will include asking President Bush to allow American-led troops in Iraq to be tried under Iraqi law, and to call for a halt to Israeli attacks on Lebanon, according to several Iraqi politicians, and to a senior member of Mr. Maliki's party who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak for the prime minister. Mr. Maliki is also expected to demand more autonomy for Iraqi forces, though he will not ask for a quick withdrawal of the 134,000 American troops here, the officials say. New York Times: Top Iraqi's White House Visit Shows Gaps With U.S.

    NEW BILL PRESSURES ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS TO "SELF-DEPORT": In an attempt to strike a pre-election Republican compromise on immigration, two conservative lawmakers will unveil a plan today that would allow most of the 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States a chance to work here legally, but only after the government certifies that U.S. borders have been sufficiently secured, two congressional aides said. The proposal -- sponsored by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (Tex.) and Rep. Mike Pence (Ind.) -- would pressure illegal immigrants to "self-deport" to their home countries within two years of the law's enactment and apply for a new kind of visa that would allow them to return to the United States quickly and work legally if a job awaits them. They would have to work here for 17 years, however, to be eligible for U.S. citizenship. Washington Post: Immigration Bill Aims to Bridge Republican Divide

    TX, AZ SENS ASK BUSH FOR $3.5 BILLION TO SECURE BORDER: Two of President Bush's most loyal supporters in Congress yesterday asked him to request that more than $3.5 billion in "emergency" funding be spent immediately on securing the border -- rejecting the White House's assertion that enough is being done along the border. Republican Sens. John Cornyn of Texas and Jon Kyl of Arizona -- who have long shared Mr. Bush's view that immigration reform should include a guest-worker program as well as increased border security -- said "comprehensive" legislation is dead this year unless the federal government proves that it is serious about enforcing current immigration laws by spending billions along the border. "What we are offering today is what I believe is the last best hope for a comprehensive immigration reform to pass before the end of the year," Mr. Cornyn told reporters yesterday. Washington Times: Cornyn, Kyl seek $3.5 billion more for security

    SPECTER PREPARING BILL TO SUE BUSH OVER SIGNING STATEMENTS: A powerful Republican committee chairman who has led the fight against President Bush's signing statements said Monday he would have a bill ready by the end of the week allowing Congress to sue him in federal court. "We will submit legislation to the United States Senate which will...authorize the Congress to undertake judicial review of those signing statements with the view to having the president's acts declared unconstitutional," Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said on the Senate floor. Specter's announcement came the same day that an American Bar Association task force concluded that by attaching conditions to legislation, the president has sidestepped his constitutional duty to either sign a bill, veto it, or take no action. AP via Yahoo! News: Sen. Specter readies bill to sue Bush

    AFTER VETO, CA AND IL GOVS APPROVE STATE FUNDS FOR STEM CELL RESEARCH: President Bush's veto of legislation to expand federally financed embryonic stem cell research has had the unintended consequence of drawing state money into the contentious field and has highlighted the issue in election campaigns across the country. Two governors seized the political moment Thursday, the day after the veto, to raise their ante for stem cell research. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, a Republican who helped Mr. Bush win a second term but has long disagreed with him on this research, cited the veto as he lent $150 million from the state's general fund to pay for grants to stem cell scientists. In Illinois, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich, a Democrat opposed to most every White House initiative, offered $5 million for similar grants in his state. New York Times: Stem Cell Work Gets States' Aid After Bush Veto

    ROVE, ALBRIGHT REPORT FOR DUTY: Yesterday was shaping up as a routinely dull day in the jury pool holding pen at D.C. Superior Court until a clerk called a couple dozen names into the courtroom of Judge Rafael Diaz. Two immediately greeted each other. "Hello, Karl," said Madeleine Albright. "Hello, Madame Secretary," said Karl Rove. Then everyone in the room dived for their portable communication devices. "It reminded me of why I moved to Washington!" one witness gasped to us from a courthouse broom closet. Washington Post: Even Bigwigs Have to Take a Dip in the Capital's Jury Pool

    HILLARY RELEASES "AMERICAN DREAM INITIATIVE": While the American dream can mean many things to many people, New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton hopes it may mean a ticket to the White House. Along with the Democratic Leadership Conference, a centrist think-tank, Clinton today released a 20-page "American Dream Initiative" containing programs, grants, plans and tax credits to help America's middle class and those who want to join it. "This agenda all about restoring the American Dream," said Clinton, 58, "but there is nothing dream-like about it. Democrats stand ready to lead again. Now all we have to do is win elections." Bloomberg: Democrats, Clinton Unveil Plan to Draw Middle Class

    "JOE LIEBERMAN IS A FRIEND OF MINE": For 23 minutes, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman couldn't stop smiling Monday. That's how long Bill Clinton spoke, urging Democrats to save the embattled senator's career. "Joe Lieberman is a friend of mine," said Clinton, headlining a rally before more than 2,000 Democrats at the Palace Theater. "I love him. He's in a tough race."... "We don't agree on Iraq," Clinton said of Lieberman. "But the real issue is, whether you were for it or against it, what are you going to do now? Let me tell you something. No Democrat is responsible for the mistakes that have been made since the fall of Saddam." With Lieberman by his side, Clinton took the stage at 5:40 p.m. A sound system played Clinton's campaign anthem, the upbeat Fleetwood Mac tune "Don't Stop." Hartford Courant: Bill Stands By Joe

    MD SEN CANDIDATE CHARGED WITH RAPE: A Baltimore County man running for the U.S. Senate has been charged with raping his wife, a recent immigrant from Latvia. David Brian Dickerson, 43, of Sparks is accused of assaulting her July 17 in their apartment, court records show. Dickerson, a candidate in the Democratic primary for the Senate, was arrested Saturday and charged with second-degree rape, a fourth-degree sex offense, and second-degree assault, according to Baltimore County police and court records. Through his lawyer, Dickerson, denied the allegations. Dickerson's wife is mentally ill and is "creating an entire story of things that never happened," Craig Kadish, Dickerson's attorney, said Monday. Baltimore Sun: Wife accuses U.S. Senate candidate of assault

    PRIMARY DAY IN OK: About 600,000 people are expected to go to the polls Tuesday in Oklahoma primaries for governor, statewide offices, legislative offices, prosecutors and other positions... The Republican gubernatorial primary pits U.S. Rep. Ernest Istook of Oklahoma City against Tulsa businessman Bob Sullivan, Sen. James Williamson, R-Tulsa, and Jim Evanoff of Mustang. As in all partisan primaries with more than two candidates, if no candidate gets a majority of the votes, the two top vote getters face one another in the runoff primary on Aug. 22. Tulsa World: Primary: Vote Today: 600,000 expected at polls

    CAN ISTOOK GET PAST THE PIG AD? Republican [Ernest Istook] has to get past an opponent in Tuesday's primary who has run a commercial with a comedian wearing an Istook mask and making pig noises. Millionaire Tulsa businessman Bob Sullivan, who has tried to position himself to the right of the highly conservative Istook, has outspent his opponent and shook up the race with the commercial. It criticizes Istook for voting for pork barrel spending in other states, specifically for tattoo removal in California and $1 million "to put gorillas in Kentucky." The ad stars "Hee-Haw" comic Gailard Sartain. AP via Yahoo! News: Congressman seeks Okla. Governorship

    "BOB SULLIVAN HATES PORK" [OINK] (VIDEO)

    SCRATCH-OFF LOTTO TICKET INVENTOR SUGGESTS CHANGES TO ELECTORAL SYSTEM: A Stanford University computer science professor has come up with an idea to circumvent the more than 200-year-old Electoral College system and institute a national popular vote to elect the president of the United States. The proposal by John Koza, who also invented the scratch-off lottery ticket, is receiving serious consideration by lawmakers in several states. Legislators in California, New York, Colorado, Illinois and Missouri have sponsored bills to enact such a plan. Koza's scheme calls for an interstate compact that would require states to throw all of their electoral votes behind the winner of the national popular vote, regardless of which candidate wins in each state. San Francisco Chronicle: Stanford professor stumps for electoral alternative

    COLBERT STAR WEXLER INVITES REALITY CREW INTO CAPITOL: House Republican leadership aides are ticked off that Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) - Mr. "I enjoy cocaine because it's a fun thing to do" - did not seek permission before allowing reality-TV cameras into his office to film the upcoming Sundance Channel series "The Hill." Be they jealous or be they genuinely mortified that the sanctity of Congress' hallowed halls has been violated, GOP aides are peeved that Wexler didn't get written permission from the House Office Building Commission before signing on to take part in the Sundance series. Under the rules of the House, commercial and news filming is prohibited "absent prior written permission from the commission or its designee." However, it seems that few, if any, Members really follow that rule, since most have camera crews tromping through their offices all the time. Roll Call: 'Rep. Reality' Irks Republicans
    Posted By Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau: 7/25/2006 09:05:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Monday, July 24, 2006
    The Cafferty File: U.S. Special Envoy?
    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:

    Who would make a good special envoy to the Middle East?

    If anyone can broker a lasting peace settlement between cats and dogs, they get my vote to be special envoy to the Middle East. There can never be peace in the Middle East. It's written in the Bible. It's in their contract to fight.
    Barrett, Jackson, Mississippi

    Madeleine Albright knows the players, is tough, and is a good negotiator. She also knows a lot more about the Middle East and North Korea than anyone in the Bush Administration. This is global crisis, not limited to the Middle East.
    Patricia, Gig Harbor, Washington

    Presidents Carter or Clinton or just about anybody that is not on the Bush team. Thanks for letting me say something that makes sense for a change.
    Ronald, Gold Hill, Oregon

    Kinky Friedman, the guy's on a roll!
    Ray, Texas

    The U.S. should send Tony Soprano.
    Den, Gwinn, Michigan

    How compatible are U.S. weapons for Israel and U.S. humanitarian aid for Lebanon?

    Let me see if I understand the question. The U.S. is sending weapons to Israel so they can bomb Lebanon. Then, we're sending aid to Lebanon to help clean up the mess that we, in part, helped create. Are you really asking if the administration has lost their minds? I'd have to say yes.
    Amy

    It's quite simple. The U.S. weapons being supplied to Israel are being used to combat the Hezbollah terrorists. Unfortunately there is, as in every war, collateral damage being sustained by the innocent Lebanese people. In this case, the U.S. is sending aid to alleviate this unfortunate side-effect of their weapons. Doesn't seem too complicated to me.
    Stephen, Montreal

    The hypocrisy of the U.S. government is overwhelming and certainly not lost on the Palestinians and Lebanese people. They rush weapons to the Israelis, and what then, body bags for Lebanon? Is that their idea of humanitarian aid?
    Kate

    Humanitarian aid to Lebanon and weapons to Israel are fine if you remember we are fighting a war on terror. Ask the right questions or go see a doctor.
    Yvan


    Should Arab countries be supporting Israel's fight against Hezbollah?

    There's no way Arab countries are going to support Israel. The Arab pride has been assaulted by their powerlessness in Iraq, Gaza and now Lebanon. You can't fight a war against cockroaches like Hezbollah. They will disappear into the woodwork, and wait for Israel to pull back; then they will take over again. The only ones suffering are the innocents.
    Chris, Summit, New Jersey

    You'd think at the very least the Sunni countries should support Israel, if only to kill the Shia Muslims which is what they do in Iraq. The difference here is in Lebanon they can have Israel do their dirty work.
    Steve, New York

    Maybe a good thing about U.S. struggles in Iraq is that moderates in the Middle East must now solve these issues as a group, acting together. The U.S. will not be able to lead or even help all that much.
    Ken, Dallas, Texas

    Not only should the Arab countries, but Lebanon should also join the fight with Israel to end Hezbollah and the terror. No aid until Lebanon joins in the right fight. It is the only way this war will mean anything to any side... I can't believe we are offering aid without Lebanon lifting a finger to earn it
    George, Charleston, South Carolina
    Posted By Jack Cafferty, CNN Commentator: 7/24/2006 05:44:00 PM ET | Permalink
    The Situation Online: Life in a war zone


    Israeli troops carry an injured soldier Monday across the border after fighting in southern Lebanon.

    Inside Israeli Defense Forces
    In the midst of what may seem like a constant barrage of rockets firing from both sides, the Israeli Defense Forces are putting many details and videos of their military operations online, often updated by the minute. The move is just one more example of how the Internet is changing how we observe modern warfare.

    Life in a war zone
    What's it like to be a civilian living in Beirut right now? How are people passing the time in Israeli bomb shelters? The Internet is providing profound glimpses into how Lebanese and Israelis live amongst warfare. A twenty-four year old in Beirut constantly updates his site with images and video. Some who have left Lebanon describe their journeys while others express sadness over leaving. In Israel, a seventeen-year-old in Haifa updates us from inside a bunker, and members of a kibbutz keep us posted on life near the Lebanese border through photos and a message board.

    Muslims on Hezbollah
    The Internet is playing an unprecedented role in how we understand the Middle East crisis. While Hezbollah militants and Israelis battle it out on the ground, Muslims fight amongst themselves online over how they view Hezbollah's actions. What are Sunnis and Shiites saying about one another? We examine a number of Web sites with translations and additional reporting from our CNN Bureau in Dubai, which continues to monitor these sites as well as posting stories at our Arabic counterpart.

    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: 7/24/2006 04:34:00 PM ET | Permalink
    FBI investigating suspicious letters sent to NAACP
    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The FBI is investigating suspicious letters sent to three local NAACP offices, a FBI spokeswoman told CNN Monday. Letters were sent to offices in Baltimore, New York and Norfolk.

    The Baltimore letter was opened late Friday afternoon and contained a white powder that tests later showed was boric acid and therefore not a health threat, spokeswoman Michelle Crnokovich said.

    More extensive testing is being done now.

    An NAACP official told reporters the Baltimore letter was hate crime in nature and included derogatory language. Since the letter was sealed as evidence after agents arrived at the scene, the FBI has not read it yet, Crnokovich said.

    The FBI said a Baton Rouge return address was handwritten out on the envelopes of all three letters.

    NAACP officials could not be immediately reached for comment.
    Posted By Kevin Bohn and Kelli Arena, CNN America Bureau: 7/24/2006 04:31:00 PM ET | Permalink
    FEMA revamps distribution of emergency money, housing aid
    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Saying it wants to remain a "compassionate" agency but avoid the waste, fraud, abuse and inefficiencies that marred its response to Hurricane Katrina, the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Monday announced major changes to the way it will distribute emergency funds, housing assistance and cleanup help after the nation's next major catastrophe.

    Key among the changes:
    -- FEMA will give displaced families only $500 in emergency aid after major disasters, down from the $2,000 per household given to victims of Katrina and Hurricane Rita.
    -- It will begin registering evacuees before storms make landfall, giving the agency a head start in distributing money and finding temporary residences for people if their homes are badly damaged. And it won't move them from emergency shelters to apartments and other temporary homes until after verifying their identities.
    -- It will speed up phone-in registrations by pressing into service 3,000 Internal Revenue Service call-takers. The agency also is testing five mobile registration intake centers and hand-held registration devices it can deploy into disaster zones.
    -- And the agency will ask state and local governments to sign contracts with local companies before storms for removal of any debris in the event of a disaster.

    The changes come amid congressional demands that FEMA speed up services while simultaneously preventing abuses that were rampant after last year's storms. More than $1 billion distributed to hurricane victims was misspent, congressional auditors said, including $3,700 for jewelry, $2,000 for New Orleans Saints season tickets, $600 for strippers and $300 for "Girls Gone Wild" videos.
    Posted By Jeanne Meserve and Mike Ahlers, CNN America Bureau: 7/24/2006 04:22:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Vegas baby, Vegas
    From The Morning Grind

    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Nevada and South Carolina will likely join Iowa and New Hampshire as kickoff states for the Democratic presidential nominating process in 2008 after a panel voted Saturday to recommend the measure to the party's national committee.

    The full Democratic National Committee is expected to approve it when it meets next month in Chicago, Illinois. From Full story

    The DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee chose Nevada and South Carolina over eight other states and the District of Columbia, which petitioned the DNC for an early position on the presidential primary and caucus calendar. Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Hawaii, Michigan, Mississippi and West Virginia were also vying for early slots.

    If the measure is approved, Democrats will schedule four nominating contests before February 5, 2008, forcing the party's presidential hopefuls to expand their campaign efforts beyond the Hawkeye and Granite states.

    Scroll down to Political Hot Topics for more coverage from the Union Leader.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/24/2006 12:12:00 PM ET | Permalink
    '08 intrigue at RBC meeting
    From The Morning Grind

    Harold Ickes made no bones about why he would not vote to choose South Carolina as the additional primary state. His reason was summed up in one name: John Edwards. Prior to the vote, Ickes, a DNC Rules member from the District of Columbia, tried to persuade his colleagues that if South Carolina was selected, it wouldn't be taken seriously by other Democrats because Edwards, a former Democratic senator from neighboring North Carolina, would be considered the hometown favorite. This drew loud protests from Don Fowler and Carol Khare Fowler, DNC Rules members from South Carolina.

    While Ickes lost, he continued to stress his point in an interview with the Grind following the vote.

    "The fact is that if he runs, and I think he is running, that South Carolina will be considered almost his home state," Ickes said. "The purpose of moving these states up is that they will be taken seriously and will affect the process. If Edwards runs, I just don't think South Carolina is going to be taken seriously by the other candidates."

    But did Ickes have other motivations, say perhaps, trying to boost the candidacy of another potential 2008 candidate, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York)?

    "Look if she runs, I don't know what she is going to do, if she runs I am going to support her," Ickes said. "But it has nothing to do with Hillary or non-Hillary. This is a big deal to move states outside the window and it should not be done lightly. And for us to move a state outside the window, the likelihood of which the state will be discounted because of Edwards, I think doesn't make any sense."

    Mame Reiley, a DNC Rules member from Virginia, also made a surprising speech by publicly voicing her support for Arizona to be chosen for the caucus slot even as it appeared as though it had sewn it up. Why was it surprising? Reiley is one of former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner's (D) top political aides, and Warner is one of at least 10 Democrats exploring a presidential bid. In an interview following the vote, Reiley told the Grind it was a very difficult choice, but it came down to two factors: Native American representation and the leadership of Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano (D).

    "Governor Warner gave me no directive here other than to follow my conscience and do the right thing," she said. "He sees my membership of the DNC totally separate from my job, as I do."

    She added, "It was almost a draw between Arizona and Nevada for me. It came down for me that Arizona has a higher percentage of Native Americans, which I felt did not have a voice around this table today. And I chose to give my vote because of that and also because of the leadership of a women governor, Janet Napolitano."

    Only time will tell if there will be any political fallout in Nevada for Warner. For some unnamed senator, Nevada's selection could hurt his presidential campaign. Don Fowler noted during the meeting that a senator had recently told him that his vote to place a nuclear waste repository in Yucca Mountain, just outside of Las Vegas, is likely to cost him dearly. Fowler would not say which senator said this to him.

    One idea discussed at the meeting that is sure to generate a lot of buzz in Democratic circles is a proposal to punish candidates who campaign in states that refuse to follow the DNC's rules established for the nominating calendar. Carol Khare Fowler, who authored the proposal, said that if it is enacted then candidates who campaign in "rogue" states would not be allocated delegates they won in those states.

    "You might get all the hoopla for winning that primary, but it doesn't really do you any good because you don't get any of the delegates," she told the Grind in an interview.

    She added, "Every cycle we have about one or two states that violate the rules and we penalize the state parties a little bit, but that doesn't keep them from violating the rules. I believe if no presidential candidates would come to their states they would not move their process outside the rules."

    The proposal will be discussed further next month at the DNC's meeting in Chicago.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/24/2006 12:08:00 PM ET | Permalink
    'Talking' in Denver
    From The Morning Grind

    Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York) headlines the second day of the Democratic Leadership Council's 10th annual "National Conversation" -- a policy smorgasbord with a healthy side of '06 and '08 politics, CNN Sasha Johnson reports from Denver.

    This morning, Clinton will unveil the group's "American Dream Initiative," an "aggressive" policy roadmap for Democratic candidates, according to Iowa Governor and DLC chair Tom Vilsack (D).

    Before she takes the stage, Clinton will drop by a breakfast fundraiser for Colorado Democrats, an event that is expected to raise around $50,000 for the party according to Colorado Democratic Party Chair Pat Waak.

    "A lot of the Mountain West has not made up its mind" when it comes to '08, Waak said. "There are a lot of die-hard Democrats and women" that are "evaluating" the field and trying "to get as close as they can" to as many potential candidates as possible, she said, something western states don't often get to do.

    Vilsack's role as DLC chair allowed him to talk policy and test possible '08 campaign themes in a series of meetings with members and delegations from New Hampshire, Iowa and a smattering of southern states. Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Indiana), another potential 2008 candidate, plans a "get to know you lunch" with Colorado House and Senate Democrats after his morning remarks on national security. He too made the rounds Sunday with attendees from key states.

    Despite a push to keep the focus on upcoming mid-term elections, DLC founder Al From acknowledged the '08 undertones of the "conversation," pointing out the absence of former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner (D) from the meeting.

    "Mark Warner who called me yesterday from Spain ... He's on a long planned family vacation, and he just wanted everybody to know he would've liked to have been here but that vacation has called him to Spain and today he's in Italy," From said. Warner, too, is exploring a presidential bid.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/24/2006 12:02:00 PM ET | Permalink
    A look at '08 money: Who is raising and who is spending
    From The Morning Grind

    Republicans and Democrats eyeing potential presidential bids are raising money into various federal and non-federal campaign accounts and spending it at a fast clip, CNN's Xuan Thai and Robert Yoon report. In the case of Sen. George Allen (D-Virginia), he is now focusing primarily on his own re-election campaign in November. Others, such as former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner (D), continue to use these accounts to make strategic contributions to candidates and pay for staff and travel as they weigh possible White House bids. Here is a snapshot look at the financial ledgers of possible '08 candidates.

    REPUBLICANS

    Sen. George Allen (R-Virginia)
    Senate re-election committee (Friends of George Allen):

  • $614,363.35 contributions raised 2nd quarter
  • $788,414.89 total raised 2nd quarter (includes transfer)
  • $1,733,477.02 total spent 2nd quarter
  • $6,617,620.10 cash-on-hand as of 6/30/2006

    Leadership PAC (Good Government for America Committee):
  • $31,582.50 contributions 2nd quarter
  • $31,582.50 total raised 2nd quarter
  • $66,290.15 total spent 2nd quarter
  • $119,997.28 cash-on-hand as of 6/30/2006

    Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas)
    Senate re-election committee (Friends of Brownback):

  • $11,595.00 contributions 2nd quarter
  • $14,217.16 total raised 2nd quarter
  • $31,227.11 total spent 2nd quarter
  • $636,367.60 cash-on-hand as of 6/30/2006

    Leadership PAC (Restore America PAC):
  • $100,037.50 contributions 2nd quarter
  • $100,037.50 total raised 2nd quarter
  • $63,472.38 total spent 2nd quarter
  • $125,887.06 cash-on-hand as of 6/30/2006

    Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tennessee)
    Leadership PAC (Volunteer PAC):

  • $533,075.91 contributions in June
  • $533,075.91 total raised in June
  • $578,602.61 total spent in June
  • $613,962.81 cash-on-hand as of 6/30/2006

    Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R)
    2000 Senate committee (Friends of Giuliani Exploratory Committee):
  • $0 contributions 2nd quarter
  • $45,857.47 total raised 2nd quarter
  • $26,449.86 total spent 2nd quarter
  • $2,013,862.55 cash-on-hand as of 6/30/2006

    Leadership PAC (Solutions America PAC):
  • $1,487,839.99 contributions in June
  • $1,488,028.46 total raised in June
  • $303,925.76 total spent in June
  • $1,425,396.90 cash-on-hand as of 6/30/2006

    Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska)
    Senate re-election committee (Hagel for Senate):

  • $60,720.47 contributions 2nd quarter
  • $60,933.82 total raised 2nd quarter
  • $48,955.98 total spent 2nd quarter
  • $156,073.36 cash-on-hand as of 6/30/2006

    Leadership PAC (Sandhills PAC):
  • $24,500.00 contributions in June
  • $24,757.55 total raised in June
  • $81,982.27 total spent in June
  • $81,392.62 cash-on-hand as of 6/30/2006

    Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona)
    Senate re-election committee (Friends of John McCain):

  • $11,000 contributions 2nd quarter
  • $30,028.34 total raised 2nd quarter
  • $19,311.67 total spent 2nd quarter
  • $1,112,476.74 cash-on-hand as of 6/30/2006

    Leadership PAC (Straight Talk America):
  • $1,646,180.63 contributions in June
  • $1,660,246.67 total raised in June
  • $725,004.14 total spent in June
  • $1,697,088.03 cash-on-hand as of 6/30/2006

    Leadership PAC (Straight Talk America-Arkansas):
  • $0 contributions 2nd quarter
  • $3,000 total raised 2nd quarter (transfer)
  • $2,949.23 total spent 2nd quarter
  • $50.77 cash-on-hand as of 6/30/2006

    Leadership PAC (Straight Talk America-Florida):
  • $12,542.00 contributions 2nd quarter
  • $12,542.00 total raised 2nd quarter (transfer)
  • $12,491.35 total spent 2nd quarter
  • $50.65 cash-on-hand as of 6/30/2006

    New York Gov. George Pataki (R)
    Leadership PAC (21st Century PAC):

  • $645,068.00 contributions 2nd quarter
  • $645,068.00 total raised 2nd quarter
  • $165,978.10 total spent 2nd quarter
  • $1,126,167.34 cash-on-hand as of 6/30/2006

    Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R)
    Leadership PAC (Commonwealth PAC):

  • $1,078,573.50 contributions 2nd quarter
  • $1,079,019.45 total raised 2nd quarter
  • $432,310.94 total spent 2nd quarter
  • $909,773.82 cash-on-hand as of 6/30/2006

    DEMOCRATS

    Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Indiana)
    Senate re-election committee (Evan Bayh Committee):

  • $670,051.14 contributions 2nd quarter
  • $747,573.43 total raised 2nd quarter
  • $210,360.80 total spent 2nd quarter
  • $10,363,520.01 cash-on-hand as of 6/30/2006

    Leadership PAC (All America PAC):
  • $827,510.43 contributions 2nd quarter
  • $863,239.58 total raised 2nd quarter
  • $527,352.31 total spent 2nd quarter
  • $1,303,341.20 cash-on-hand as of 6/30/2006

    Sen. Joe Biden (D-Delaware)
    Senate re-election committee (Citizens for Biden):

  • $801,444.19 contributions 2nd quarter
  • $823,170.53 total raised 2nd quarter
  • $252,597.28 total spent 2nd quarter
  • $3,267,834.91 cash-on-hand as of 6/30/2006

    Leadership PAC (Unite Our States):
  • $375,895.06 contributions 2nd quarter
  • $375,895.06 total raised 2nd quarter
  • $158,115.99 total spent 2nd quarter
  • $462,021.90 cash-on-hand as of 6/30/2006

    Retired Gen. Wesley Clark (D-Arkansas)
    Leadership PAC (WesPac - Securing America’s Future):

  • $34,205.18 contributions in June
  • $50,100.89 total raised in June
  • $49,136.82 total spent in June
  • $17,064.60 cash-on-hand as of 6/30/2006

    Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York)
    Senate re-election committee (Friends of Hillary):

  • $5,367,121.78 contributions 2nd quarter
  • $5,679,413.01 total raised 2nd quarter
  • $3,381,896.69 total spent 2nd quarter
  • $22,000,937.48 cash-on-hand as of 6/30/2006

    Leadership PAC (Hill PAC):
  • $136,695.00 contributions in June
  • $136,734.56 total raised in June
  • $179,902.14 total spent in June
  • $57,072.59 cash-on-hand as of 6/30/2006

    527 (HILLPAC-NY):
  • $0 raised 2nd quarter
  • $1000 spent 2nd quarter

    Former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota)
    Leadership PAC (New Leadership for America PAC):

  • $12,495.00 contributions raised 2nd quarter
  • $44,791.50 total raised 2nd quarter
  • $128,925.12 total spent 2nd quarter
  • $156,412.01 cash-on-hand as of 6/30/2006

    Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Connecticut)
    Senate re-election committee (Friends of Chris Dodd):

  • $9,900 contributions raised 2nd quarter
  • $37,006 total raised 2nd quarter
  • $154,846 total spent 2nd quarter
  • $1,881,089 cash-on-hand as of 6/30/2006

    Leadership PAC (Citizens for Hope Responsibility Independence and Service PAC - CHRIS PAC):
  • $382,900.00 contributions raised in June
  • $383,070.40 total raised in June
  • $46,905.72 total spent in June
  • $507,144.82 cash-on-hand as of 6/30/2006

    Former Sen. John Edwards (D-North Carolina)
    Leadership PAC (One America Committee):

  • $413,796.58 contributions 2nd quarter
  • $615,081.44 total raised 2nd quarter
  • $326,805.71 total spent 2nd quarter
  • $295,434.58 cash-on-hand as of 6/30/2006

    Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin)
    Senate re-election committee (Feingold Senate Committee):

  • $584,249.65 contributions 2nd quarter
  • $595,742.18 total raised 2nd quarter
  • $255,316.07 total spent 2nd quarter
  • $1,452,114.31 cash-on-hand as of 6/30/2006

    Leadership PAC (Progressive Patriots Fund):
  • $94,715.30 contributions in June
  • $95,385.87 total raised in June
  • $354,882.08 total spent in June
  • $286,131.61 cash-on-hand as of 6/30/2006

    Sen. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts)
    Senate re-election committee (Friends of John Kerry):

  • $324,353.57 contributions 2nd quarter
  • $798,858.62 total raised 2nd quarter (includes $400,000 transfer from John Kerry for President committee)
  • $788,609.48 total spent 2nd quarter
  • $178,579.16 cash-on-hand as of 6/30/2006

    Leadership PAC (Keeping America's Promise):
  • $570,726.90 contributions in June
  • $590,095.68 total raised in June
  • $445,741.93 total spent in June
  • $646,222.42 cash-on-hand as of 6/30/2006

    Previous federal committee (John Kerry for President):
  • $0 contributions 2nd quarter
  • $62,105.53 total raised 2nd quarter (other receipts, dividends, interests, etc…)
  • $404,870.58 total spent 2nd quarter
  • $8,213,832.19 cash-on-hand as of 6/30/2006

    Previous federal committee (Kerry-Edwards 2004):
  • $0 contributions 2nd quarter
  • $154,496.91 total raised 2nd quarter (other receipts, dividends, interest, etc…)
  • $139,661.79 total spent 2nd quarter
  • $214,534.85 cash-on-hand as of 6/30/2006

    Previous federal committee (Kerry-Edwards legal/accounting fund):
  • $0 contributions 2nd quarter
  • $333,652.65 total raised 2nd quarter
  • $232,579.56 total spent 2nd quarter
  • $5,376,244.41 cash-on-hand as of 6/30/2006

    Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner (D)
    Leadership PAC (Forward Together PAC):

  • $1,200,935.80 contributions in June
  • $1,209,137.17 total raised in June
  • $1,116,758.19 total spent in June
  • $4,171,627.81 cash-on-hand as of 6/30/2006
  • Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/24/2006 11:08:00 AM ET | Permalink
    The latest in the Middle East crisis
    From The Morning Grind

    Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice touched down in Beirut today to meet with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, as Israeli Defense Forces continued to exchange fire with Hezbollah fighters in southern Lebanon. Following her meeting, Rice will head to Israel for meetings with Israeli officials. Rice's stop in Lebanon was not announced for security reasons. She is in the region to assess the humanitarian situation, paving the way for increased relief aid and to discuss ways to end the crisis, a senior U.S. State Department official said.

    The official said it was Rice's idea to stop in Beirut, despite the security risks, to show the Lebanese people "we are here, we are concerned."

    "The fact that we are going to go right into Beirut after all that has happened is a dramatic signal to Lebanon and this government," the official said.

    Rice's visit follows trips by European and United Nations' diplomats to the region who supported Lebanon's calls for a cease-fire. The United States has not called for an immediate end to the fighting, arguing that leaving Hezbollah in place on Israel's northern border would only make further conflict inevitable.

    Rice said she has been consulting with U.N. and Israeli officials about elements of a cease-fire that would ensure Lebanon controls its country.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/24/2006 11:03:00 AM ET | Permalink
    DAYAHEAD/Events making news today ...
  • President Bush visits Walter Reed Army Medical Center at 10:10 a.m. ET to make remarks at a naturalization ceremony. At 2:25 p.m. ET, Bush signs H.R. 42 "Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005" into law. He attends a Republican National Committee reception at 5:35 p.m. ET being held at Evermay.

  • The House convenes at 12:30 p.m. ET. The Senate will gavel into session at 2 p.m. ET for a period of morning business and at 3 p.m. ET the chamber begins considering the nomination of Jerome Holmes to be a U.S. Circuit Judge for the Tenth Circuit.

  • Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-California) makes two stops for Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Connecticut) this morning. The first stop is at 10:45 a.m. ET in Norwalk, followed by a fundraiser at 11:45 a.m. ET in Stamford. Former President Bill Clinton attends a 4 p.m. ET campaign rally for Lieberman in Waterbury.

  • Former Sen. John Breaux (D-Louisiana) and former White House Press Secretaries Ari Fleischer and Mike McCurry "Discuss Health Care Reform Messages for (the) White House and Capitol Hill" at 11 a.m. ET in the St. Regis Hotel.

  • Vice President Cheney attends a 1:25 p.m. ET fundraiser in Springdale, Arkansas for former Rep. Asa Hutchison (R), who is running for governor. At 6 p.m. ET, Cheney travels to Dothan, Alabama, to attend a fundraiser for Gov. Bob Riley.

  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) speaks to the Agribusiness Club at 12:45 p.m. ET in the Washington Court Hotel.

  • Sen. Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey), who is running for his own six-year term in the Senate, joins Democratic members of the New Jersey delegation to make what is being billed as "a major campaign announcement" in Trenton, New Jersey, at 2 p.m. ET.

  • Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman makes remarks to the AIPAC Summer Seminar for Washington interns at 3:30 p.m. ET and then attends the RNC fundraiser with Bush this evening. Eighty people are expected to attend the event that will raise $1 million, an RNC official said.
  • Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/24/2006 10:57:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Political Hot Topics
    AS BOLTON'S POST COMES UP FOR RENEWAL, SOME DEMS VOW A FIGHT: Senate Democrats have promised a "bruising fight" over the administration's nomination of John R. Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations... Mr. Bolton's temporary appointment is set to expire this fall, when Congress adjourns. However, the Senate has scheduled a debate this week on extending Mr. Bolton's appointment through the end of the Bush administration. On Thursday, Mr. Voinovich announced that he no longer is opposed to Mr. Bolton, all but guaranteeing that his nomination will be sent to the Senate floor with a positive recommendation... Democrats have not said whether they intend to filibuster the nomination again. However, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., the ranking member on the Foreign Relations Committee, hinted that a filibuster was possible. Washington Times: Democrats pledge to fight Bolton nod

    MEMBERS INTERVIEWED ON LEAKS: The FBI is close to finishing a series of interviews with the top Congressional leaders and other key Members in both chambers as part of its wide-ranging criminal probe of alleged leaks of the previously classified domestic surveillance program. The agents and Justice Department officials are investigating whether any of the 15 current and former Members briefed earlier this decade about the National Security Agency spying program were a source for a New York Times report about the issue last December... The interviews, which came about after extensive negotiations this spring between the Justice Department and the counsels for the House and Senate, are taking place in Members' Congressional offices, usually with two FBI agents and one Justice Department lawyer in attendance. Members are also permitted to have a House or Senate counsel on hand if they wished. Roll Call: Leak Probe Progressing

    ABA TO ISSUE CRITICAL REPORT ON "SIGNING STATEMENTS": A panel of legal scholars and lawyers assembled by the American Bar Association is sharply criticizing the use of "signing statements" by President Bush that assert his right to ignore or not enforce laws passed by Congress. In a report to be issued today, the ABA task force said that Bush has lodged more challenges to provisions of laws than all previous presidents combined. The panel members described the development as a serious threat to the Constitution's system of checks and balances, and they urged Congress to pass legislation permitting court review of such statements. Washington Post: Bush's Tactic of Refusing Laws Is Probed

    DEMS CHANGE PRIMARY CALENDAR... NH MAY AS WELL STAND FOR "NOT HAPPY": As criticism continued in New Hampshire, the national Democratic rules committee yesterday formally adopted a 2008 delegate selection rule that breaks up the long Iowa-New Hampshire one-two tandem and places a Nevada caucus between them. There was no debate as the Democratic National Committee's Rules and Bylaws Committee inserted a new Rule 10-A into its official plans for selecting delegates to the party's 2008 Democratic National Convention... When the committee decided on Saturday that Nevada would hold a caucus between the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary, Secretary of State William Gardner gave a strong indication that the move is grounds for triggering a state law allowing him to move the primary ahead of Nevada and possibly even Iowa as well, regardless of any DNC rule. He said the move "diminishes the value and dishonors the tradition" of the primary. Manchester Union-Leader: With no debate, Dems 'trample' primary

    GOP "VIRTUALLY CERTAIN TO LOSE GROUND"... BUT HOW MUCH? Less than four months before the mid-term elections, there is one question that is preoccupying candidates around the country: How big will the Republican losses be in November? History suggests, and operatives in both parties agree, that Republicans are virtually certain to lose ground. The party that holds the White House almost always loses House seats in the midterm elections held in the sixth year of a two-term presidency. Only once in the past century has that pattern not held. There are no signs this year will be an aberration. President Bush is suffering from low approval ratings, and there is widespread discontent over the war in Iraq. Polls likewise show frustration with the Republican majority in Congress and an increased willingness to give Democrats the leadership reins. Washington Post: Issues That Will Shape The 2006 Elections

    AFTER $1.4 BILLION IN "FRAUD AND ABUSE," DHS CUTS CASH HANDOUTS: The Department of Homeland Security, responding to months of criticism and ridicule, is revamping several of its core disaster relief programs, enacting changes that will include sharply cutting emergency cash assistance for victims of major disasters, and more carefully controlling access to free hotel rooms. Immediate emergency aid would not exceed $500 under the new rules, instead of the $2,000 per family previously allowed. And it would be handed out only after identities and addresses were checked. Such precautions were not taken consistently last year after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, an oversight auditors said led to fraud and abuse of up to $1.4 billion. New York Times: U.S. Government Plans Overhaul in Disaster Aid

    GET READY FOR "OIL-PRICE SHOCK": Oil prices that more than doubled over the last three years have left a surprisingly small imprint on the U.S. and world economies. That may be about to change. The latest jump in prices, triggered by the Israel-Hezbollah conflict in Lebanon, comes at an inopportune time for the global economy. U.S. growth is slowing and inflation is rising... "It makes for an ugly situation," says Allen Sinai, president of consultant Decision Economics in New York and the top-ranked economist in the Wall Street Journal's latest forecasting survey. The 5 percent increase in crude-oil prices over the last month comes "on top of a U.S. economy that's vulnerable" and with a Federal Reserve that's "pretty stuck," he says. Bloomberg: Oil-Price Shock May Strike World Economy at Vulnerable Moment

    SMOKIN' IN THE HOUSE: During a series of votes, members stroll in and out of the chamber to relax in the Speaker's Lobby -- an exclusive spot where they can put up their feet, crack jokes, read newspapers, make phone calls and, yes, smoke cigarettes, cigars and pipes... It is perfectly legal for members to light up in the Speaker's Lobby, an unventilated room adjoining the House chamber on the second floor of the Capitol. The room's rules are set by House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, an Illinois Republican who does not smoke. "Members are required to be here for long hours and oftentimes need to be near the floor for votes and other legislative business," said Hastert spokeswoman Lisa C. Miller. "To provide them a small designated area for smoking gives them the opportunity to be close by." Leaving the vast building for a puff outside the Capitol could take members 10 minutes, sometimes more than they can spare. "As long as people have smoked, there's been smoking in the Capitol," said former House historian Ray Smock. Washington Times: House's own smoke-filled room

    INVESTIGATOR FINDS ABUSE OF "BLACK BUDGETS": An independent investigation has found that imprisoned former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham took advantage of secrecy and badgered congressional aides to help slip items into classified bills that would benefit him and his associates. The finding comes from Michael Stern, an outside investigator hired by the House Intelligence Committee to look into how Cunningham was able to carry out the scheme. Stern is working with the committee to fix vulnerabilities in the way top-secret legislation is written, said congressional officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because the committee still is being briefed on Stern's findings. Cunningham's case has put a stark spotlight on the oversight of classified - or "black" - budgets. Unlike legislation dealing with social and economic issues, intelligence bills and parts of defense bills are written in private, in the name of national security. AP via Yahoo! News: Probe finds ex-Rep. abused 'black' budgets

    FRESHMAN THUNE SAYS HIS WORDS WERE "MISCHARACTERIZED": Shortly after the news broke last week that Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) had told an audience he would advise Republican candidates to distance themselves from President Bush on the Iraq war, the aspiring freshman began working the Republican Conference to extinguish the flames. Thune - a rising GOP star who's eyeing a bid to chair the National Republican Senatorial Committee during the 2008 cycle - quickly began telling colleagues that his remarks, delivered Wednesday at the National Press Club, had been taken out of context and that he strongly supports Bush's policy on Iraq as well as Republican efforts to highlight Democratic disunity on national security. News outlets quoted Thune as saying if he were a candidate in 2006, "you obviously don't embrace the president and his agenda."... Almost as quickly as those news reports began spreading through the Conference, Thune started reaching out to his fellow Republican Senators to explain that his words had been mischaracterized. Roll Call: Thune Clears the Air

    DESPITE HUGE LEAD, NELSON KEEPS RAKING IT IN: Sen. Bill Nelson's best-known Republican rival in Florida's U.S. Senate race is churning through campaign staffers, trailing by 30 points in the polls and wounded by ties to a scandal-linked lobbyist. Yet the Democratic senator is shattering Florida fundraising records, raising more than $15 million for his reelection bid -- already more than Republican Sen. Mel Martinez raised in his successful 2004 race... Nelson, who has $12 million in the bank, says he's simply being prudent. The incumbent notes it takes a lot of money to compete in Florida. His campaign is likely to go on TV as the November general election approaches -- at a cost of between $1.5 million and $2 million a week to reach saturation in the state's 10 television markets. And he says he isn't taking any chances on Republicans gunning for him after the Sept. 5 primary. His best-known opponent, Rep. Katherine Harris, R-Sarasota, has $2.6 million on hand, has lent her own campaign nearly $3 million and insists she's aggressively raising money. Miami Herald: With big margin, Nelson's building Senate war chest

    FITZ LOOKING AT IL GOV'S HIRING PRACTICES: Gov. Rod Blagojevich's office was approving candidates by name for state jobs as late as fall 2004, nearly 18 months after aides said a "blind" hiring system was created, documents show. Well into Blagojevich's second year in office, his chief of staff and personnel director continued to sign off on names of candidates for such jobs as secretary, auto mechanic and film office intern, nearly 300 employment forms obtained by The Associated Press reveal. Blagojevich's hiring practices are the subject of an investigation by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who says he has found witnesses to "very serious allegations of endemic hiring fraud." Blagojevich, a first-term Democrat, has not been charged with any wrongdoing. AP via Chicago Tribune: Ill. Gov. Hired by Name Well Into '04
    Posted By Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau: 7/24/2006 09:20:00 AM ET | Permalink
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