Friday, August 04, 2006
The Cafferty File: Rice's responsibilities
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:

How much faith do you have in Secy. of State Condoleezza Rice to handle the crisis in the Middle East?

Since she has shown as much competence as the rest of the administration, I have zero faith in her handling any situation.
Brent, Iuka, Mississippi

I have absolutely no confidence Rice can handle the Mideast crisis, nor can this administration. They sat on their hands for six years. Why should they do any different now?
Richard, Bellen, New Mexico

Jack, I think Miss Rice is the most competent individual in the Bush Administration to handle this situation.
Deborah

How in the world could anyone believe that Ms. Rice can resolve the Middle East mess? It's been going on as long as I've been alive and I'm well over seventy. No one has ever managed to solve the problem and there sure were plenty of statesmen far wiser than Condoleezza trying to.
Bruce

The idea that Condoleezza Rice will have any impact whatsoever in the Middle East is preposterous. This country and its so-called leaders are irrelevant to any peace process since we are the enemy to the majority of those who are embroiled in this chaos.
J.J., Watertown, Massachusetts

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has delayed his summer vacation. Should President Bush do the same?

Yes, Jack, Bush should alter his vacation plans. He should extend his stay down in Texas. The longer he is away from Washington, the less chance for him to mess something up. In such case, the whole country benefits.
John, Mobile, Alabama

Of course President Bush should not postpone his vacation; he's working during it. Do you really think he can't work from any location in the world?
Liz, Commerce Township, Michigan

It seems our president has been on vacation for 7 years, ignoring what is happening around the world. Ten more days make no difference!
E.

President Bush has been on a permanent vacation from the hearts and minds of the American people for a very long time. The polls have shown that repeatedly. Maybe the question should be would it be better if he stayed on vacation for the rest of his term.
Anne, Naples, Florida

Why do half of Americans still believe Saddam Hussein had WMD in 2003?

Simple answer Jack: Because he did and we allowed him to relocate his inventory. Now the question is, who has them now?
Michael, Lorton, Virginia

Because most Americans would rather believe our government doesn't lie to us than believe our country overthrew a sovereign nation that had never done anything to us. We don't want to believe that our actions are responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent civilian Iraqis and a breakdown to complete civil war. We would rather keep our heads buried in the sand... no pun intended.
Chris, Gaithersburg, Maryland

There is only one explanation....Americans are ill-informed, operate out of hunches, lying talk show hosts or fear. Whatever the reason, this country is in a terribly sad state of affairs when Americans, with more information sources than ever before, think untruths, lies and fears are real; and then vote according to them.
Jay

Because more and more people are starting to realize that these WMD are now in Syria and Iran. The danger was never Iraq itself but the powder keg that is the Middle East itself. Going into Iraq was a strategic stepping stone in our war on terror. Although the battle is difficult I still believe it can be won.
Mike, New York
Posted By Jack Cafferty, CNN Commentator: 8/04/2006 05:44:00 PM ET | Permalink
Let the '08 debates begin

From The Morning Grind

The South Carolina Republican Party will host a presidential debate in May 2007, the first so far scheduled in the wide-open 2008 race for the White House.

Katon Dawson, chairman of the South Carolina GOP, made the announcement Thursday at the Republican National Committee's summer meeting in Minneapolis. The Republican debate, scheduled for May 15, will be held at the University of South Carolina in Columbia.

Dawson also repeated the state GOP's vow to hold the first Republican presidential primary in the South.

"South Carolina has proven to be a great testing ground for presidential candidates and a launching pad to the White House," Dawson said in announcing the debate.

South Carolina Republicans point out that since 1980 no GOP presidential candidate has lost the Palmetto State primary and gone on to win the Republican presidential nomination. Already, potential 2008 presidential candidates have been making pilgrimages to the state to meet with influential Republican leaders in the party. This weekend, a handful of governors eyeing White House bids are shoehorning in political events around the National Governors Association meeting in Charleston.

"The presidential race has been on for at least a year, so it is probably time for us to have a formal event kicking off the contest," chuckled Stuart Rothenberg, editor of the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report.

The South Carolina Democratic Party has not indicated whether they will hold an early debate for Democratic presidential candidates. But later this month, the Democratic National Committee is expected to ratify a plan that would grant South Carolina Democrats an early position on the party's presidential nominating calendar in January 2008.

Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 8/04/2006 01:38:00 PM ET | Permalink
You say goodbye and I say hello
From The Morning Grind

Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), who is fighting money laundering charges in Texas, retired earlier this year to give his party better odds in November at winning his suburban Houston House seat. And while he no longer draws a paycheck from the House, an effort by the Texas Republican Party to replace him with another Republican candidate has failed. A federal appeals court upheld a lower court ruling Thursday to keep DeLay's name on the ballot.

Tina Bensiker, chairman of the Texas Republican Party, immediately said the party planned to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

DeLay's spokeswoman, Dani DeLay Ferro, the former congressman's daughter, said her father is "exploring his options and has not made any decisions."

"Today's decision is just another step in the process to allow the voters of the 22nd District a choice on the ballot in November," she said. "It's our understanding that the Texas Republican Party is looking at all of their available legal options, including appealing to the Supreme Court. Mr. DeLay continues to reside and work in the Washington, D.C., area."

DeLay announced his resignation from Congress shortly after winning the GOP nomination for a 12th term in March. And in an effort to try and keep his seat in Republican hands, DeLay announced that he was changing his legal residence to Virginia -- a move he said would disqualify him from November's race and allow the GOP to pick a new nominee.

Late last year, DeLay was forced to relinquish his leadership post in the House after a grand jury in Austin indicted him on the state money-laundering charges. Prosecutors accuse him of improperly steering corporate funds to state legislative candidates in 2002, when Republican wins made the mid-census redistricting possible.

DeLay has denied any wrongdoing, telling colleagues in his June farewell speech on the House floor that he served "at all times honorably and honestly."

In addition to the money-laundering charge, he suffered politically from his association with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who pleaded guilty to a variety of corruption charges and has been cooperating with investigators looking into allegations of corruption on Capitol Hill.

While DeLay has not been linked to wrongdoing in the Abramoff probe, two of his former staffers -- Tony Rudy and Michael Scanlon -- have pleaded guilty to federal charges stemming from the investigation.

DeLay and Republican officials must now weigh the pros and cons of having him run for re-election. If DeLay decides to reverse course and seen election to his former seat, Democrats are sure to try and make this a national issue.

A spokesman for Nick Lampson, the Democratic nominee in the race, told CNN the former Texas House member is not focusing on the ruling and instead is looking forward to November.

"We think it is time to go ahead and move on with the election and put it to the voters," said Mike Malaise, Lampson's campaign manager. Malaise noted that Lampson was not involved in the lawsuit.
Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 8/04/2006 01:36:00 PM ET | Permalink
Job growth unexpectedly slows
From The Morning Grind

Job growth came in weak for the fourth straight month in July while the unemployment rate jumped, according to a government report released Friday that could give the Federal Reserve reason to pause when it meets next week, CNNMoney's Grace Wong reports.

The U.S. economy added 113,000 jobs in July, down from an upwardly revised gain of 124,000 jobs in June, the Labor Department said. Economists surveyed by Briefing.com were looking for a gain of 145,000 jobs. Read the full story.
Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 8/04/2006 01:34:00 PM ET | Permalink
Corker vs. Ford; Bryson vs. Bredesen
From The Morning Grind

Former Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker defeated former Reps. Ed Bryant and Van Hilleary last night for the Tennessee Republican Senate nomination. Corker will face Democratic Rep. Harold Ford Jr. in November. And Republican state Sen. Jim Bryson won his party's nomination and will challenge Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) for the right to lead the state. See the full results.

Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 8/04/2006 01:32:00 PM ET | Permalink
Dog day's of summer
From The Morning Grind

The dog days of summer have arrived on Capitol Hill. Check out Political Hot Topics for the latest on the Senate's frantic sprint to the finish line last night.
Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 8/04/2006 01:30:00 PM ET | Permalink
Grind trivia
From The Morning Grind

Cuban leader Fidel Castro currently holds the record as the longest-serving head of government in the world, but that streak may be broken soon. With Castro temporarily handing over power to his younger brother as he recuperates from surgery, CNN's Keating Holland poses a two-part question to Grind readers: Who will take the title as the longest-serving head of government if and when Castro dies? And name the world leader who would move into second place under this scenario. (Note that we're talking head of government, not head of state. Thai King Bumibol, who came to the throne in 1946, and Britain's Queen Elizabeth, who was crowned in 1952, each have held office longer than Castro, but neither wields any real power.) Keep in mind Castro has been in power since 1959.

The first person to answer this question correctly will receive all the glory that comes with being recognized as a Morning Grind reader. A winner will be announced Monday, unless nobody answers the question correctly. We will then reveal the answer on Tuesday. Send your answers to morning.grind@cnn.com. Good luck.

Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 8/04/2006 01:26:00 PM ET | Permalink
DAYAHEAD/Events making news today
From The Morning Grind

  • President Bush is at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

  • The Senate is in recess until September 5, 2006. (for more, see The Senate Radio-Television Correspondents' Gallery Daybook)

  • The House is in recess until September 6. (For more, see The House Radio-Television Correspondents' Gallery Daybook)

  • First Lady Laura Bush is in Cincinnati, Ohio for a 10 a.m. ET fundraising breakfast for Rep. Steve Chabot (R). She then heads to Denver, Colorado to speak at 4 p.m. ET at the "Helping America's Youth Second Regional Conference."

  • The National Governors Association is meeting in Charleston, South Carolina.

  • Gov. Tom Vilsack (D), a potential presidential candidate, attends a 10:30 a.m. ET economic press conference in Charleston, South Carolina with Democrat Tommy Moore, who is running for governor.

  • Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), a potential presidential candidate, was scheduled to attend an 8 a.m. ET breakfast with South Carolina GOP leaders in Columbia. At 9:30 a.m. ET, Huckabee meets with young Republicans on the University of South Carolina campus in Columbia. Huckabee will chair the NGA meeting in Charleston.

  • Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Chuck Schumer (New York) holds a 10:30 a.m. ET conference call with reporters to discuss the Tennessee Senate race.

  • Former Sen. John Edwards (D-North Carolina) speaks at 12:30 p.m. ET at the "2006 National Change Wal-Mart, Change America Tour" in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He then heads to New Hampshire for a 6 p.m. ET fundraiser for state Sen. Pete Burling in Cornish. Edwards wakes up in New Hampshire on Saturday and attends a 1:30 p.m. ET fundraiser for state Sen. Dave Gottesman in Moultonborough and at 3:30 p.m. ET attends a fundraiser in Rochester for Jackie Cilley, who is running for state Senate.

  • New York Gov. George Pataki (R), a potential presidential candidate, attends a noon lunch with Cheshire County Republicans in Keene, New Hampshire. At 6:30 p.m. ET, Pataki hosts a GOP cocktail party with former South Carolina Gov. David Beasley (R) in Charleston, South Carolina. On Saturday, Pataki hosts a "Thank You" event for White Middle School in West Columbia, which helped purchase a fire truck for New York City following the September 11 terrorist attacks. Pataki then heads to Dows, Iowa for a 7:15 p.m. ET event honoring Sen. Stew Iverson. He then attends an 8:15 p.m. ET "Alternative Energy Celebration" in Hubbard, Iowa. Pataki returns to South Carolina on Sunday to headline the Bronze Elephant Luau for the Spartanburg Republican Party.
Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 8/04/2006 01:10:00 PM ET | Permalink
Political Hot Topics
IRAQ AT RISK OF CIVIL WAR, TOP GENERALS TELL SENATORS: Two top U.S. generals said yesterday that the sectarian violence in Iraq is much worse than they had ever anticipated and could lead to civil war, arguing that improving the situation is now more a matter of Iraqi political will than of U.S. military strategy. "The sectarian violence is probably as bad as I've seen it," Gen. John P. Abizaid, commander of U.S. military operations in the Middle East, told the Senate Armed Services Committee. "If not stopped, it is possible that Iraq could move toward civil war." Washington Post: Iraq at Risk Of Civil War, Top Generals Tell Senators

BUSH STARTS 10-DAY VACATION: SHORTER SUMMER BREAK REFLECTS POST-KATRINA CRITICISM: President Bush arrived here Thursday evening to begin a 10-day stretch at his Prairie Chapel ranch, his longest planned period away from Washington during this summer vacation season. Bush's scheduled week and a half in Texas is a far cry from last year's working vacation, which was shaping up as the longest presidential retreat in more than three decades before it was rudely cut short by Hurricane Katrina after nearly a month. Washington Post: Bush Starts 10-Day Texas Vacation

SEN. CLINTON SAYS RUMSFELD SHOULD RESIGN: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday called on Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to resign, hours after excoriating him at a public hearing over what she called "failed policy" in Iraq. "I just don't understand why we can't get new leadership that would give us a fighting chance to turn the situation around before it's too late," the New York Democrat and potential 2008 presidential contender said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I think the president should choose to accept Secretary Rumsfeld's resignation." Tennessean: Sen. Clinton says Rumsfeld should resign

GOP BID ON WAGES, ESTATE TAX IS BLOCKED: Senate Democrats blocked a Republican bid to combine a tax cut for the wealthy with a wage increase for the working poor last night, adding a volatile economic issue to this fall's congressional campaigns. GOP leaders fell three votes short of the 60 needed to cut off debate and bring the package to the Senate floor, where it was considered certain to pass on a simple-majority vote. Republicans said Democrats will pay a price in November, contending that most Americans support the bill's call for an increase in the minimum wage and deep cuts in the estate tax. Washington Post: GOP Bid On Wages, Estate Tax Is Blocked

SENATOR FAULTS BID TO CLASSIFY REPORT ON IRAQ: The Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee lashed out at the White House on Thursday, criticizing attempts by the Bush administration to keep secret parts of a report on the role Iraqi exiles played in building the case for war against Iraq. The chairman, Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas, said his committee had completed the first two parts of its investigation of prewar intelligence. But he chastised the White House for efforts to classify most of the part that examines intelligence provided to the Bush administration by the Iraqi National Congress, an exile group. New York Times: Senator Faults Bid to Classify Report on Iraq

IN CONNECTICUT RACE, BLOGGERS ARE THROWING CURVES AND SPITBALLS: Senator Joseph I. Lieberman was on a roll, skewering Ned Lamont, his wealthy antiwar opponent in Tuesday's Democratic primary in Connecticut, for owning stock in the military contractor Halliburton. But within days, Mr. Lieberman was having to explain his own investments. An online blog called Firedoglake revealed that Mr. Lieberman owned shares in mutual funds that held Halliburton stock. Other blogs latched onto the July 20 item, Lamont aides alerted reporters and soon it had found its way into local newspapers, tempering Mr. Lieberman's attack. New York Times: In Connecticut Race, Bloggers Are Throwing Curves and Spitballs

APPEALS COURT REJECTS GOP'S BID TO REPLACE TOM DELAY ON BALLOT: A federal appeals court on Thursday rejected Republican efforts to replace Tom DeLay on the ballot, effectively ruling that the party's nominee in November will either be him or nobody. The bipartisan decision was a major victory for Democrats, who believe Mr. DeLay's ethics problems make him vulnerable in the fall. Republicans said they will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Dallas Morning News: Appeals court rejects GOP's bid to replace DeLay on ballot

HARRIS FOR SENATE ALERT: If signatures of support are what she's after, Rep. Katherine Harris (R-Fla.) has found the right guy to help her. Her new - fourth to be exact - campaign manager for her Senate bid, Bryan Rudnick, was involved in a petition controversy in Massachusetts in 2001. Roll Call: Harris for Senate Alert

BLACK POLITICIANS SEE NEW LANDSCAPE IN L.A. POLITICS: It's time to reach outside formerly 'safe' districts, veteran lawmaker Dymally and others say. In the final moments of a celebration to mark his 80th birthday, Assemblyman Mervyn M. Dymally (D-Compton) looked out over an emptying hotel ballroom and offered a thought about the future of black politics in Los Angeles. "There are no safe black districts anymore," he said. "We have to look at politics differently now." LA Times: Black Politicians See New Landscape in L.A. Politics

SCHWARZENEGGER TO PLAY PING PONG CHAMPION: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has agreed to play an 80-year-old pingpong champion who said he would donate to the Republican's re-election campaign only if he agreed to a match. "He should practice a bit," said Byng Forsberg, who has won nearly every table tennis trophy available to the senior set. "It'd be nice to have the ball go back and forth a few times." Boston Globe: Schwarzenegger to play ping pong champion

RIVAL TARS EMANUEL FOR CLOUT LIST LINKS: Forty of the more than 200 people who walked precincts gathering signatures to put Democratic U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel on this year's ballot have names that also appear on the secret clout list uncovered during the federal trial of Mayor Daley's patronage chief Robert Sorich. Chicago Sun-Times: Rival tars Emanuel for clout list links.

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U.S. PLANS FOR CUBA POWER SHIFT: After waiting nearly half a century for Fidel Castro to relinquish power, Washington is warily monitoring the provisional transition in Havana, confident it has plans in place to assist pro-democracy groups in Cuba and to head off any mass exodus from the island. As the 10th administration to square off against Mr. Castro, the Bush administration has made no secret of its contempt for the Cuban leader, establishing the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba in 2003 and then ratcheting up the pressure last year by creating the Office of Cuban Transition within the State Department. New York Times: U.S. Says It Is Prepared for Transition in Cuba

TWO BUSHES, TWO MIDEAST APPROACHES: When they first met as United States president and Israeli prime minister, George W. Bush made clear to Ariel Sharon he would not follow in the footsteps of his father. The first President Bush had been tough on Israel, especially the Israeli settlements in occupied lands that Mr. Sharon had helped develop. But over tea in the Oval Office that day in March 2001 -- six months before the Sept. 11 attacks tightened their bond -- the new president signaled a strong predisposition to support Israel. New York Times: Bush's Embrace of Israel Shows Gap With Father

A LONG WAY TO GO IN IRAQ: A flailing Iraq reconstruction effort that has been dominated for more than three years by U.S. dollars and companies is being transferred to Iraqis, leaving them the challenge of completing a long list of projects left unfinished by the Americans. While the handover is occurring gradually, it comes as U.S. money dwindles and American officials face a Sept. 30 deadline for choosing which projects to fund with the remaining $2 billion of the $21 billion rebuilding program. More than 500 planned projects have not been started, and the United States lacks a coherent plan for transferring authority to Iraqi control, a report released Tuesday concludes. Washington Post: Much Undone In Rebuilding Iraq, Audit Says

DEMS WORRIED ABOUT VOTER TURNOUT: Top Democrats are increasingly concerned that they lack an effective plan to turn out voters this fall, creating tension among party leaders and prompting House Democrats to launch a fundraising effort aimed exclusively at mobilizing Democratic partisans. At a meeting last week, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) criticized Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean for not spending enough party resources on get-out-the-vote efforts in the most competitive House and Senate races, according to congressional aides who were briefed on the exchange. Pelosi -- echoing a complaint common among Democratic lawmakers and operatives -- has warned privately that Democrats are at risk of going into the November midterm elections with a voter-mobilization plan that is underfunded and inferior to the proven turnout machine run by national Republicans. Washington Post: Democrats Scrambling To Organize Voter Turnout

9/11 PANEL DOUBTED PENTAGON'S STORY: Some staff members and commissioners of the Sept. 11 panel concluded that the Pentagon's initial story of how it reacted to the 2001 terrorist attacks may have been part of a deliberate effort to mislead the commission and the public rather than a reflection of the fog of events on that day, according to sources involved in the debate. Washington Post: 9/11 Panel Suspected Deception by Pentagon

CONN. RACE LEAVES DEMOCRATS CONFLICTED: As Senator Joseph I. Lieberman battles to retain his seat in Connecticut, some factions within the national Democratic Party are quietly preparing to campaign against the three-term senator if he loses the primary on Tuesday and runs as an independent in the general election in November, numerous Democrats said yesterday. Although Mr. Lieberman has attracted support from several of his Senate colleagues -- and former President Bill Clinton appeared with him in the state last week -- only a handful have pledged to remain loyal to him if he loses to his antiwar challenger, Ned Lamont, and mounts an independent campaign. New York Times: In Lieberman Fight, Some Faithful Feel Torn

FDA NOMINEE FACES QUESTIONS ON MORNING-AFTER PILL: Two years ago, the Food and Drug Administration indicated that only those 16 and older could safely use the morning-after birth control pill without first getting a doctor's prescription. Last year, the agency drew the line at 17. This week, the FDA proposed another change: women 18 and older. Those shifting age requirements prompted questions Tuesday for acting FDA Commissioner Andrew C. von Eschenbach, who faced skeptical Democratic lawmakers during a Senate hearing on his nomination to be the agency's permanent chief. A vote by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee has not been scheduled and is not expected until next month at the earliest. Los Angeles Times: FDA Nominee's Future Hinges on Pill

RUSTY GOP INCUMBENTS BEEF UP CAMPAIGNS: With the political winds blowing squarely against the GOP, several senior lawmakers are facing unusually serious challenges that have forced them to dust off campaign tools that, in some cases, are a bit rusty. In California, Rep. John T. Doolittle (R-Roseville) has agreed to debate a Democratic opponent for the first time in more than a decade. Rep. Richard W. Pombo (R-Tracy) has expanded his campaign staff beyond what had been a tight inner circle -- and spent more money in the process. Los Angeles Times: House GOP Incumbents Try New Stride to Beat Midterm Challenges

EX-AIDE SAYS KATHERINE HARRIS DECEIVED STAFF: U.S. Senate candidate Katherine Harris received a grand jury subpoena from federal investigators and concealed the fact from top campaign advisers hired to help her deflect negative publicity, her former campaign manager has disclosed. "Yes, there was a subpoena. She didn't tell us," said Glenn Hodas, Harris' third and most recent campaign manager. He said he learned of it in June while reviewing invoices from powerhouse Washington lawyer Benjamin J. Ginsberg and confronted his boss. Tampa Tribune: Ex-Aide: Harris Hid Subpoena

INCUMBENTS SURVIVE IN KANSAS: Republican Jan Beemer got her second chance Tuesday night, and in two other Kansas House races, voters overwhelmingly favored the incumbents -- Don Myers, R-Derby, and Delia Garcia, D-Wichita. Beemer's primary victory sets up a repeat of the 2004 race she lost for the same 86th District seat, facing the same opponent, Democrat Judy Loganbill. The Wichita Eagle: Beemer wins 86th District primary; Myers and Garcia retain House seats

EVOLUTION ROLLS ON AFTER VOTE: Conservative Republicans who approved new classroom standards that call evolution into question lost control of the State Board of Education in Tuesday's primary election. A victory by pro-evolution Republican candidate Jana Shaver over conservative Republican Brad Patzer, who supported the standards treating evolution as a flawed theory, meant conservatives would at best have five of 10 seats on the board. AP on Yahoo! News: Evolution opponents lose in Kan. primary

REPRESENTATIVES UNITE TO REDRAW TEXAS MAP: Texas Reps. Henry Bonilla (R), Henry Cuellar (D) and Lamar Smith (R) have banded together to recommend a new Congressional map to a federal court, hoping to limit the fallout new district boundaries could have on their political futures. With the Supreme Court ruling in late June that the 23rd district violates the Voting Rights Act and ordering it redrawn, Bonilla has the most to lose. But the ripple effect of adjusting Bonilla's seat could be wide depending on the fix ordered by the court --and several Members could find themselves running in radically reshaped districts on Nov. 7. Roll Call: Texas Maps Get Day in Court

BATTLE OF THE BULGE: President Bush's doctors pronounced him healthy and in better shape than most men his age Tuesday, but the president himself seemed a little upset about packing on some extra pounds. Doctors treated a small precancerous lesion on his left arm but indicated it was nothing serious. They told him to use sunscreen and wear a hat. Washington Post: Bush Passes Physical, but Adds 5 Pounds

Posted By Xuan Thai, CNN Washington Bureau: 8/04/2006 12:29:00 PM ET | Permalink
Thursday, August 03, 2006
The Cafferty File: Lieberman losing?
On "The Situation Room" today, we asked viewers the following questions, and here are some of our favorite responses that we didn't get to read on air:

What does it mean when the voters turn against a man of the caliber of Senator Joe Lieberman?

It demonstrates a trend that Congress can expect in November. If you are there now, expect to be gone soon!
Tim, New Caney, Texas

The Democrats are nuts if they are going to get rid of a fine politician like Joseph Lieberman. This is another sign of the Democratic Party's lack of solidarity. I hope the Connecticut voters reconsider the great mistake they are about to make.
John, Winnetka, Illinois

It means Joe Lieberman no longer represents the voters who elected him to his office.
Lavon, Bedford, Texas

It means that in at least some parts of this country, representative democracy still exists.
Fred, Northville, Michigan

What does it mean if there are three times as many illegal immigrants in the country as the government says there are?

I personally don't trust the United States government or the Minutemen to tell the truth regarding the number of illegal immigrants in the country. Both have reasons to distort the truth - be it greed or racism, neither can be trusted.
Mike, Ontario

Hmmm? There are 3 times more illegals here than originally thought. That means there is 3 times the drain on my taxes, and a 3 times higher likelihood a terrorist will get in and do horrible damage to our country.
Craig, Las Cruces, New Mexico

It is just one more example of what our democracy has become ... by the corporations, for the corporations.
Max, Sugarland, Texas

It probably means that there are three times as many idiots in Washington as we thought there are.
Mark, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

What's wrong with the U.S. military strategy in Iraq?

We don't have a military strategy in Iraq. The war was planned and is being run by the worst administration in U.S. history. The only thing that the military is allowed to do is try to defend the bad decisions made by Secy. Rumsfeld.
Barbara, Middletown, New York

Strategy? What strategy? Our Secretary of Defense and the generals have no strategy.
Joe, Ft. Davis, Texas

The list is long however, taking Saddam Hussein out of power seems to be the biggest mistake. He seemed to know how to quell centuries of hatred better than we and probably with less bloodshed.
Mark, Freemont, California

What's wrong with US policy in Iraq? Simple, Jack, 3 words: It ain't working.
Diane, Baltimore, Maryland
Posted By Jack Cafferty, CNN Commentator: 8/03/2006 05:42:00 PM ET | Permalink
Lieberman accuses Lamont of lying about blogger relationships


Ned Lamont's Senate campaign has been bolstered by the support of liberal bloggers.

Joe Lieberman's Connecticut Senate campaign is accusing Democratic challenger Ned Lamont of lying about his relationship with bloggers after a liberal web site posted a doctored photo of Lieberman in blackface on the web.

Questioned by reporters after campaigning in Bridgeport, Conn. about the controversial graphic, Lamont reportedly said, "I don't know anything about the blogs. I'm not responsible for those. I have no comment on them."

The Lieberman campaign calls that characterization a "lie" and demanded Lamont to break any connections with the blogger who posted the blackface graphic.

Jane Hamsher of the pro-Lamont Web site Firedoglake.com posted the
graphic on HuffingtonPost.com. It portrays Lieberman campaigning in blackface alongside Bill Clinton, an apparent attempt to criticize Lieberman's appeals to black voters in Connecticut.

"The fact is she is a key force in [Lamont's] campaign, and it's time for him to take responsibility for her disgusting tactics," Lieberman's campaign manager Sean Smith said in a statement.

Liberal bloggers nationwide have supported the anti-war Lamont campaign since January, raising money for the candidate and even appearing in his campaign ads.

According to the fundraising site ActBlue.com, Hamsher and two other bloggers have raised over $50,000 for Lamont's Senate campaign.

Lamont's spokesperson, Liz Dupont-Diehl, said that the campaign has condemned the blackface image and asked for it to be removed from the site. She said Lamont will not sever connections with Hamsher, however.

"This is a distraction," she said. "This did not come from our campaign. Bloggers are independent entities, covering campaigns. Like reporters, they travel with campaigns and cover campaigns."

Responding to Lamont's quote about his knowledge of blogs, Dupont-Diehl added: "Of course the campaign knows about blogs."

Asked if it was fair to say the Lamont campaign has actively reached out to bloggers, she said, "No."

Lieberman's camp condemned the photo and disputed Dupont-Diehl's characterization of the relationship between Lamont and liberal blogs.

"That is a shameless lie," said Dan Gerstein, a spokesman for the Senator. "Reporters don't raise money for campaigns ... There are some gray areas with reporters, but this is not one of them."

In a video posted at the popular site YouTube.com, Lamont himself references "friends at Firedoglake" in an interview with Hamsher. There is also a link to Firedoglake.com at Ned Lamont's official campaign web site.

Hamsher denied working for the Lamont campaign. She said she has interviewed the candidate twice.

"I never checked with Ned before I printed anything," Hamsher said in a phone interview. "He has no control over what I post."

However, Hamsher said she removed the controversial image at the Lamont campaign's request.

On her web site, Hamsher apologized "to anyone who was genuinely offended by the choice of images accompanying my blog post."

Both Hamsher and the Lamont campaign say Lieberman is using the image controversy to "score political points."
Posted By Peter Hamby, CNN Internet Team: 8/03/2006 04:24:00 PM ET | Permalink
Lamont increases lead over Lieberman


Sen. Joseph Lieberman has come under fire for his support for President Bush's Iraq policy.

From The Morning Grind

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Embattled Sen. Joe Lieberman is trailing businessman Ned Lamont by double digits in the race for the Connecticut Democratic Senate nomination, a new poll released this morning shows.

The Quinnipiac University poll gives Lamont a 54 percent to 41 percent lead among likely Democratic primary voters and is the latest indication that the three-term incumbent is in serious danger of losing the Democratic primary next Tuesday. A poll released by the university on July 20 indicated that Lamont held a 51 percent to 47 percent advantage over Lieberman.

"Sen. Lieberman's campaign bus seems to be stuck in reverse," Quinnipiac University Polling Director Douglas Schwartz said in statement accompanying the poll's release. "Despite visits from former President Bill Clinton and other big name Democrats, Lieberman has not been able to stem the tide to Lamont."

But Schwartz added that with five days remaining, Lieberman still has time to turn things around.

What was once considered an easy re-election for Lieberman has turned into his toughest campaign since he defeated incumbent Sen. Lowell Weicker (R) in 1988. This year, Lamont has built his challenge against Lieberman on the Senator's support for the Iraq war. Lamont has been aided in his bid to defeat Lieberman by the Democratic "net roots," an increasingly influential liberal wing of the Democratic Party that interacts over the Internet.

While both camps took note of today's poll, spokeswomen for each candidate said they are focused on Tuesday.

"The only vote that counts, is the one on August 8," Liz Dupont-Diehl, Lamont's spokeswoman, said in an interview with the Grind. "We do hope this energizes our base and shows them this is possible."

Marion Steinfels, Lieberman's spokeswoman, said despite this latest poll, Tuesday's outcome is still up in the air.

"This race is very fluid and when it comes down to it, no one can predict what is going to happen next Tuesday," Steinfels told the Grind. "That's why we are working night and day and fighting our hearts out to make sure that Joe Lieberman wins on Primary Day."

Even if he doesn't win the primary, Lieberman has vowed to soldier on into the November general election -- running an independent campaign for re-election. But should Lieberman lose, it is unclear how much support he would receive from Democratic Party leaders or even his colleagues. Already, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York) has said she would support the winner of the August 8 primary. For now, Sen. Clinton has publicly endorsed Lieberman in the primary and her husband, former President Bill Clinton recently campaigned on his behalf. Others such as Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin) and former Vice President Al Gore -- who chose Lieberman as his running mate in the 2000 presidential contest -- have refused to back Lieberman in the primary.

As of now, it looks like Lieberman would win re-election in a three way general election contest if he launched an independent bid. Former Derby Mayor Alan Schlesinger is running for the GOP Senate nomination, although there is a move by some party leaders to recruit a stronger Republican challenger into the race.
Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 8/03/2006 11:28:00 AM ET | Permalink
The mud slinging ends in Tennessee
From The Morning Grind

A brutal primary battle for the Republican Senate nomination comes to an end today in Tennessee, as voters head to the polls to choose their candidates for November. Two former congressmen and a former Chattanooga mayor are competing for the GOP Senate nomination to take on the likely Democratic nominee, Rep. Harold Ford, Jr.

The race to replace Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tennessee), who is retiring and considering a run for president, has taken on national implications as Democrats would need to win this seat and five others to wrest control of the Senate from Republican hands.

"To take control of the Senate (Democrats) have to run the table which includes picking up this Republican leaning open state," said Amy Walter, senior editor of the non-partisan Cook Political Report. "If we think about the ability of the Democrats to take control of the Senate they can't do that just by beating a couple of incumbents."

For Republicans, there are concerns that this bruising Republican primary could leave the winner weakened heading into the general election. Each of the candidates aired negative ads and former Reps. Ed Bryant and Van Hilleary have questioned former Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker's conservative credentials. Corker is the favorite to win the nomination, but as is in any campaign turnout is the key and Van Hilleary or Bryant could emerge as the winner at the end of the day.

So far, more than $5 million has been spent by the three Republicans and Ford on television advertisements, with Corker accounting for them than $3.2 million. Bryant has spent about $700,000, Van Hilleary about $600,000 and Ford a little more than $800,000.

Evan Tracey of TNSMI/Campaign Media Analysis Group, CNN's consultant on television advertising spending, suggested that Corker's advertising dollars have been well spent.

"Corker's spending advantage is paying off in the polls," Tracey said. "If he wins, however, he'll have some repair work to do because Van Hilleary and Ed Bryant have spent the last 30 days attacking Coker's character and record on core conservative issues like immigration and abortion. Ford has had a free run thus far and has spent wisely of issue in the news like energy prices and port security."

Ford's decision to run for Senate has created very crowded Democratic and Republican contests to fill this Memphis based House seat.
Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 8/03/2006 11:26:00 AM ET | Permalink
The sweeteners
From The Morning Grind

All this week there has been a high stakes, behind the scenes battle between Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tennessee) and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) as they hunt for a few crucial votes on the last big vote of the summer, CNN's Dana Bash reports.

The question is whether the GOP gamble to link minimum wage with the estate tax will pay off.

Last time the estate tax cut came before the Senate, Republicans were just three votes shy of the 60 they needed to pass the bill. In order to get those votes this time, Bash tells us that Republicans have added some sweeteners beyond just a minimum wage hike. They are putting specific provisions into the bill that are designed to make it hard for some Democrats to vote against it.

To lure Sen. Robert Byrd (D-West Virginia), the GOP has added a provision to help clean up coal mines and pay for health care for miners. Byrd, who is running for re-election, could be in a tough spot.

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas) said that he really is torn over what to do. Republicans put a rural bonds provision in the bill to target him.

For Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Washington), Republicans added a tax break on lumber. A Democratic source tells Bash she is leaning towards voting against the measure, but she too is up for re-election.

It is going to go down to the wire. The vote was planned for Friday, but with the smell of jet fumes lingering in the Senate hallways, a vote could happen later today. The betting now is that it won't pass, but it is still too close to call to make a definitive prediction.
Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 8/03/2006 11:24:00 AM ET | Permalink
The Rumsfeld grilling
From The Morning Grind

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is testifying this morning on Capitol Hill about the war in Iraq, after initially refusing to appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Tune in to CNN throughout the day for updates to this developing story.
Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 8/03/2006 11:22:00 AM ET | Permalink
DAYAHEAD/Events making news today
From The Morning Grind

  • President Bush heads home today to tour the border and then deliver a speech on immigration reform. He arrives at McAllen-Miller International Airport in McAllen at 2:50 p.m. ET to tour Border Patrol and National Guard assets. At 3:30 p.m. ET, the President "views a demonstration of Border Patrol National Guard Skybox" in Mission, Texas. He then delivers his speech at 3:55 p.m. ET at Anzalduas County Park. Following his speech, Bush heads to his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

  • The Senate gaveled into session at 9:30 a.m. ET and resumed consideration of the Department of Defense Appropriations bill. (For more, see The Senate Radio-Television Correspondents' Gallery Daybook)

  • The House is in recess until September 6. (For more, see The House Radio-Television Correspondents' Gallery Daybook)

  • Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Chuck Schumer (New York) and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Illinois) hold a 3 p.m. ET conference call to discuss the political implications of the GOP minimum wage plan.

  • The Republican National Committee holds its annual summer meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and (R) and White House Political Director Sara Taylor address the meeting at 5 p.m. ET.

  • Former Sen. John Edwards (D-North Carolina) attends a fundraiser for the Oklahoma House Democratic Caucus at 7 p.m. ET in Oklahoma City.
  • Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 8/03/2006 11:19:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Political Hot Topics
    RUMMY FLIP-FLOPS, OPTS TO TESTIFY: Under criticism, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld reversed course late Wednesday and agreed to testify Thursday at a public hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Signs of simmering tensions between Mr. Rumsfeld and some members of the committee had emerged earlier in the day when Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, sent him a letter expressing frustration at his decision not to testify. New York Times: Rumsfeld, in Reversal, Agrees to Testify at Senate Hearing

    OPPOSITE DAY IN SENATE OVER MINIMUM WAGE: For years, organized labor has worked hard to raise the minimum wage, while business groups have campaigned to block such a change. This week in the Senate, however, the AFL-CIO is pushing to kill the wage increase while practically the entire business lobby is demanding that it pass. The reversal is the product of election-year politics and clever -- critics say devious -- legislative packaging that has been dubbed the "trifecta." In the same bill, senators are being asked to raise the minimum wage (the liberals' goal), cut the estate tax (the conservatives' objective) and approve a laundry list of popular, though narrowly targeted, tax breaks. Washington Post: An Estate Tax Twist Reverses Party Roles On Minimum Wage

    BIG OIL GETS A BOOST FROM CONGRESS: Big oil has been pressing Congress for years to expand its rights to drill for domestic offshore oil and gas, with little to show for its efforts. But with tensions in the Middle East and gasoline prices at home rising, the industry's fortunes on Capitol Hill may be changing. Both houses of Congress have now passed legislation on new exploration, and though the bills differ, any final version is expected to liberalize offshore drilling for the oil companies. New York Times: Senate Bill Lifts Hopes of Big Oil Offshore

    GOP, DEMS GET READY TO RUMBLE: Republican and Democratic Senators sought to stake out ground in their upcoming monthlong battle for the majority on Wednesday, using the Washington, D.C., megaphone one last time to build early momentum for their messages to voters. As GOP Senators ramped up their case for remaining in charge by touting a laundry list of accomplishments from the 109th Congress, Democrats continued their election-year push for a "New Direction for America" -- the party's platform for a prospective majority. Roll Call: Ready to Exit on a Feisty Note

    IN REVERSAL, SENATE OKS BORDER FENCE: The Senate did an abrupt about-face yesterday, voting overwhelmingly to begin paying for 370 miles of fencing and 500 miles of vehicle barriers on the U.S.-Mexico border, just three weeks after voting against the same spending. The amendment's sponsor said senators were so embarrassed by that July 13 vote that most felt they had to reverse course and vote for it this time -- especially after so many were on record in May voting to build the fence in the first place. The amendment, which provides nearly $2 billion for the project, passed 94-3, with 66 senators switching from "no" to "yes" votes since last month. Washington Times: Senate votes to fund the fence

    EX-BUSH AIDE ADMITS GUILT: Former White House adviser Claude A. Allen is expected to plead guilty tomorrow to a misdemeanor theft charge after reaching a deal with Montgomery County prosecutors that probably will spare him from jail, according to court documents filed yesterday. As part of the agreement, Allen's attorneys and Montgomery prosecutors plan to recommend to a District Court judge in Rockville that Allen be given an $850 restitution fine. Washington Post: Ex-Bush Aide Makes Plea Deal in Thefts

    GOP HOPE TO WIN OVER JEWISH VOTERS Republicans are hoping a strong defense of Israel translates into greater support among Jewish voters this fall, but the biggest political benefits are likely to come long after the 2006 campaign concludes, according to political and demographic experts studying Jewish voting trends. The Jewish group proving most receptive to Republican overtures over the past decade is among the smallest: Orthodox Jews. Right now, they account for roughly 10 percent of the estimated 5.3 million Jews in the United States, hardly enough to tip most elections. Washington Post: Future of Orthodox Jewish Vote Has Implications for GOP

    RANGEL: I'M OUT IF DEMS DON'T WIN:: Representative Charles B. Rangel, the dean of New York's Congressional delegation, said on Wednesday that he would leave Congress if Democrats failed to win control of the House of Representatives in the fall elections. In an interview, Mr. Rangel, a Democrat from Harlem, expressed exasperation at the prospect that Americans might vote to keep Republicans in power yet again given what he said was the troubling direction the nation has taken. New York Times: Rangel Plans Exit if Party Fails

    LIEBERMAN TARGETS RIVAL'S RICHES: His great-grandfather was J. P. Morgan's right-hand man and partner. His great-uncle ran the American Civil Liberties Union. The main undergraduate library at Harvard bears the family's name. So does an earth science observatory at Columbia University and a dormitory at Smith College. Now, as Ned Lamont campaigns to unseat United States Senator Joseph I. Lieberman in next week's Democratic primary, his wealth and family pedigree have become an issue in one of this year's most closely watched election campaigns. Facing his first serious challenge in 18 years as a senator, Mr. Lieberman has sought to brand Mr. Lamont as a wealthy dilettante who is trying to buy his way into office, and who is out of touch with ordinary Americans. One of Mr. Lieberman's first advertisements began: "Meet Ned Lamont. He's a Greenwich millionaire." New York Times: Lieberman Uses Rival's Wealth as Issue in Race

    CRAZY AND CUTTHROAT IN NEVADA: Nevada's wide-open race for governor is being fought with sock puppets, cardboard cutouts, "Star Wars" parodies and Internet close-ups of an elephant's backside. With no incumbent in the race and no hand-picked successor to popular Republican Gov. Kenny Guinn, the Democrats and the Republicans are locked in primary contests that have given rise to zany personal attacks and not much debate on the issues. Washington Times: Nevada campaigns get personal

    POLITICS GETS PERSONAL ON VACATION: The new cable network Plum TV, playing in a number of high-end vacation destinations, recently debuted a program to show the personal side of America's most influential people in politics. "Beyond Politics," hosted by author Stan Pottinger, aims to "personify people that too often get pigeonholed into one or two quotes" by holding one-on-one, informal conversations, said producer Graham Veysey. So far, Plum has aired two episodes, one with Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and the other with Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.). Roll Call: Politics Goes on Vacation
    Posted By Xuan Thai, CNN Washington Bureau: 8/03/2006 10:26:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Wednesday, August 02, 2006
    The Cafferty File: 9/11: The Real Story?
    On "The Situation Room" today, we asked viewers the following questions, and here are some of our favorite responses that we didn't get to read on air:

    What does it mean if the 9/11 commission suspected the Pentagon wasn't telling the truth about the day of the attacks?

    Jack, it's a very sad day when our own officials have no obligation to tell us the truth, about anything. The commission was lied to, we know it, and they know it.
    Norma, Roseburg, Oregon

    It simply is one more link in the chain of lies that led us to war against Iraq. If they had told the truth, the incompetency would have been evident. So now we have 9/11, the War, Katrina and the list is growing. Oh, and where is Osama?
    Mike, Austin, Texas

    It means that there is something to cover up and the commission should have followed their instincts and referred this to the Justice Department. Not that that would have made a difference; at the very least it would be an appearance of doing the right thing.
    Laura, Trumbull, Connecticut

    A top House Democrat, Rep. John Conyers, says the Constitution is in crisis. Do you agree?

    The Constitution of the United States hangs by a thread, and the Republicans have the scissors in hand.
    Dan, Ann Arbor, Michigan

    Jack, why would anyone pay attention to anything Conyers says? He is the male version of Cynthia McKinney... He is a far left-wing Democrat and what else would you expect to come out of his mouth?
    Bill, Wichita, Kansas

    Our Constitution isn't in danger. Our Constitution is dead. It is sad it has taken Americans this long to even question its being in danger.
    Shaun, New Castle, Pennsylvania


    How will the current conflict change the equation in the Middle East?

    It won't. The better question is: How will it change the equation in the U.S.?
    Sarah, Altamonte Springs, Florida

    The equation? The current equation is and always has been "Middle Eastern country #1 + Middle Eastern country #2 = stuff constantly blowing up." How is this or any conflict ever going to change that?
    Aaron, Watertown, Wisconsin

    Should Israel be successful in eradicating the Hezbollah thugs and Lebanon becomes a sovereign nation not held hostage by the Hezbollah gangster, there may be a time when Israel can enforce a peace on the area.
    Gene, Lake Oswego, Oregon

    The Middle East has been at war, on and off, for thousands of years. Why is the current tiff any different?
    P.J., Pewaukee, Wisconsin

    The current invasion of Lebanon will create a new generation of hatred toward Israel building long-term support for Hamas and Hezbollah in years to come. Also, this invasion may build some alliances among Arabs which do not exist.
    George
    Posted By Jack Cafferty, CNN Commentator: 8/02/2006 05:48:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Rumsfeld: Iraq violence not a 'classic civil war'


    Calling the violence "unfortunate," Rumsfeld pointed to "good trend lines" in Iraq.

    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld noted sectarian violence in Iraq, but said Wednesday it was confined and did not constitute "a classic civil war at this stage."

    "People are being killed: Sunnis are killing Shias, Shias are killing Sunnis," said Rumsfeld, noting that some Shiites have moved out of Sunni neighborhoods and vice versa. "Does that constitute a civil war? I guess you can decide for yourself ... Certainly, it isn't like our civil war" or those in other countries.

    Calling the violence -- which he deemed "unfortunate" -- largely contained to four of the country's 14 provinces, he said the Iraqis "need a reconciliation process."

    The secretary applauded the Iraqi government for "doing basically the right things," and cited plans for Iraq to disarm some militias while boosting its security forces from 275,000 to 325,000 by year's end.

    Despite the unrest, Rumsfeld said Iraq's currency is "fairly stable," schools and hospitals are open, and people can function.

    "Some good trend lines ... are occuring," he said.
    Posted By CNN's Washington Bureau: 8/02/2006 03:08:00 PM ET | Permalink
    9/11 commissioner: Panel mulled criminal probe of Pentagon


    A military official watches smoke spew from the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.

    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A 9/11 commissioner said Wednesday that panel members so distrusted testimony from Pentagon officials that they considered asking the Justice Department to look into a possible criminal probe.

    "We were extremely frustated with the false statements we were getting," said Tim Roemer, noting that the commission referred their concerns to the Pentagon's inspector general. "We were not sure of the intent, whether it was to deceive the commission or merely part of the fumbling bureaucracy."

    The issues centered around Pentagon officials' testimony concerning the timeline of events on September 11, 2001, when terrorists hijacked four U.S. airliners and crashed them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a rural Pennsylvania field.

    A Pentagon spokesman said the DOD inspector general's probe found mistakes, which were corrected, but "nothing ... that indicates testimony by DOD was knowingly false."

    The Washington Post reported that the commission discussed how the military and Federal Aviation Administration officials provided "inaccurate information" -- generally, suggesting that U.S. forces reacted quickly and were ready to shoot down United Airlines Flight 93 if it threatened Washington. In fact, the commission said according to the Post, the military never had any of the hijacked airliners in its sights.
    Posted By CNN's Washington Bureau: 8/02/2006 01:03:00 PM ET | Permalink
    U.S. on Cuba: 'We stand ready to help'
    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The White House said Tuesday that the administration has no plans to reach out to Raul Castro, who has temporarily ascended to power in Cuba as his brother Fidel recovers from surgery.

    "We want to ... continue to assure the people of Cuba that we stand ready to help," White House press secretary Tony Snow told reporters. (Full story)

    Snow added that "there is no reason to believe" Castro is dead, but blamed Cuba's "closed society" for the paucity of information.

    Also Tuesday, Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez said the United States is prepared to offer the Cuban people help in transition to democracy once the communist island's ailing leader is gone.
    Posted By CNN's Washington Bureau: 8/02/2006 12:58:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Senator's nephew killed in Iraq


    Cpl. Phillip E. Baucus, pictured in an August 19, 2005, wedding photo provided by the family, died in Iraq.

    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The nephew of Montana U.S. Sen. Max Baucus was among four U.S. Marines killed in western Iraq on Saturday, Baucus' office said Tuesday.

    Cpl. Phillip E. Baucus, 28, of Wolf Creek, Montana, was a member of the Marines' 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, an element of the California-based 1st Marine Division.

    "Our family is devastated by the loss of Phillip," Sen. Baucus said in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon. "Phillip was an incredible person, a dedicated Marine, a loving son and husband, and a proud Montanan and American."

    Baucus, a six-term Democrat, is the ranking minority member on the Senate Finance Committee. He voted to authorize giving the president the option to invade Iraq in 2002. In June, he voted for a Democratic proposal that would have required the Bush administration to present a plan for a limited withdrawal of U.S. troops by the end of 2006, but voted against a rival measure that would have demanded a complete pullout within a year.

    -- CNN Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash contributed to this report.
    Posted By CNN's Congressional Unit: 8/02/2006 12:49:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Investigators cross borders with fake IDs, names


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

    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In the latest test of U.S. border security, Government Accountability Office investigators penetrated all nine U.S. border crossings they checked using fake IDs and phony names, according to the agency.

    Terrorists or criminals can "pass freely into the United States ... with little or no chance of being detected," the GAO concludes in testimony to be delivered Wednesday to the Senate Finance Committee. (Full story)

    Using readily available computers and software to create counterfeit driver's licenses and documents, investigators tested crossings in California, Texas, Arizona, Michigan, New York, Idaho and Washington state.

    In all cases, Customs and Border Protection agents "never questioned the authenticity of the counterfeit documents," the GAO said. Similar tests in 2003 produced similar results.
    Posted By Jeanne Meserve, CNN America Bureau: 8/02/2006 12:32:00 PM ET | Permalink
    The fighting rages on in Lebanon


    Smoke rises from Aita Al-Shaab, near the Israel-Lebanon border, as an Israeli tank rolls back to its base.

    From The Morning Grind

    (CNN) -- Rockets continue to rain down on Israel Wednesday, as Hezbollah militants launched 190 of them across the border including one that reached the Palestinian-controlled are of the northern West Bank, CNN's team of correspondents in the region report. It was the farthest Hezbollah militants have fired a rocket from their positions in southern Lebanon into Israel.

    Meanwhile, Israeli special forces raided a hospital in the Hezbollah stronghold of Baalbeck, which is located about 70 miles north of the Israeli border. They captured five militants and killed 10 others, according to the Israeli army. (Full story)

    The push into Baalbeck comes a day after the Israeli security Cabinet approved an expansion of the campaign in Lebanon.

    Hezbollah fighters were using the hospital and its surrounding area as a logistical base, housing many of its leaders, according to Israeli Army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz.

    Three weeks after Israel began operations to suppress Hezbollah following the kidnapping of two of its soldiers and killing of three others, 570 Lebanese and 55 Israelis have been killed. The Israeli military estimates that it now has 25,000 soldiers operating in nine southern Lebanese villages near the Syrian border.

    Tune into CNN for the latest developments in this ongoing conflict.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 8/02/2006 11:48:00 AM ET | Permalink
    50 is a charm
    From The Morning Grind

    When President Bush appears at a fundraiser later today for Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell (R), who is running for governor, it will be the 50th time he has done so for Republicans this election cycle, CNN's Robert Yoon and Xuan Thai report.

    While many Republicans are nervous that Bush's low approval ratings could hurt the GOP in the midterm elections, he has proven to be an asset when it comes to raising money. Bush has helped to raise about $160 million for various candidates and the party since being sworn-in for a second term last year.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 8/02/2006 11:47:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Hmm, New Hampshire?
    From The Morning Grind

    A note to New Hampshire Republicans: Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tennessee) appears to be heading north later this month. The only question is will the potential 2008 presidential candidate be hosting a clambake? A clambake you ask. Why a clambake? Well, the Tennessee Republican let it slip Tuesday during remarks on legislative business that he thinks the best place to have a clambake is New Hampshire.

    "Others in the minority argue that they can return to conference on pensions to haggle further over the pensions and change this or that or talk about the taxes, and I don't know exactly what we would do if we went back to conference with that," Frist said in a speech on the Senate floor. "Arguments such as 'Where's the best place to have a clambake?'

    "And Mr. President, for the record, I'd like to have my clam bakes in New Hampshire," he added.

    At least Frist didn't say Iowa.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 8/02/2006 11:45:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Speaking of Iowa
    From The Morning Grind

    Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R), who some considered a contender for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination until he took himself out of the running earlier this year, is heading to the Hawkeye State later this month to help raise money for Iowa House Republicans. He will also attend a news conference with GOP state Reps. Danny Carroll and Mike Grinnell, who helped Mississippi in the recovery effort following last year's devastating hurricane.

    While Barbour was adamant in February about not pursuing a White House bid or making a play for the vice presidential slot, the August 16 visit is likely to renew speculation that he is reconsidering his decision.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 8/02/2006 11:41:00 AM ET | Permalink
    What will Drudge think?
    From The Morning Grind

    Some Democrats have long accused Matt Drudge of a having a Republican bias in his postings and links to news stories on his popular Web site, drudgereport.com. But the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee unveils a new website today modeled after Drudge's that will serve as a clearinghouse of unfavorable or embarrassing news stories about Republican Senate candidates. The DSCC will be advertising www.fudgereport.net on other Web sites to help draw attention to it.

    Chalk this one up in the "imitation is the greatest form of flattery" category.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 8/02/2006 11:40:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Kansas primary results
    From The Morning Grind

    Kansas Republicans chose state Sen. Jim Barnett (R) as their candidate Tuesday to challenge Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) in November. Barnett emerged from a crowded primary to win the GOP gubernatorial nomination. Also, Democrat Garth McGinn bested three other candidates to win his party's nomination to challenge Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R), while Republican Chuck Ahearn easily defeated three others for the right to run against Rep. Dennis Moore (D). These were the only two contested House primaries in Kansas this year.

    The full results can be viewed on the Kansas Secretary of State's Web site.

    As for the well publicized fight over the teaching of evolution, scroll down to Political Hot Topics to find out what happened.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 8/02/2006 11:37:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Murtha being sued
    From The Morning Grind

    Lawyers for a Marine staff sergeant connected to the civilian killings in Haditha late last year announced Tuesday they are suing Rep. John Murtha (D-Pennsylvania) for spreading "false and malicious lies" about the plaintiff, CNN's Lauren Kornreich reports.

    Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich is charging Murtha with libel for repeatedly accusing him and several other Marines stationed in Haditha of intentionally killing 24 civilians on November 19, 2005 and for covering it up for months afterwards, according to court documents.

    Wuterich said after one of his colleagues was killed by an IED, he and his Marines searched for insurgents in the neighboring homes and killed people they believed were threats. The story that the Marines intentionally killed civilians "is either a horrendous misunderstanding or intentional lie," according to court documents.

    The document quotes Murtha from appearances on CNN and other media outlets. "There was an IED attack, it killed one Marine, and then they overreacted and killed a number of civilians without anybody firing at them," Murtha said on CNN on May 19.

    Wuterich's lawyers blame Murtha for ruining their client's reputation and causing him potential harm. They also said Murtha's comments may cause the Department of Defense to pursue criminal charges against him, according to court documents. Wuterich is asking Murtha for monetary damages of more than $75,000, a public retraction and apology, an injunction to stop any future allegations against him and a trial by jury, according to court documents. Lawyers for Wuterich will formally announce these charges at a press conference today at U.S. District Court.

    Murtha responded with a statement criticizing the Bush administration's policy in Iraq.

    "I don't blame the staff sergeant for lashing out. When I spoke up about Haditha, my intention was to draw attention to the horrendous pressure put on our troops in Iraq and to the cover-up of the incident," the Pennsylvania Democrat said. "Our troops are caught in the middle of a tragic dilemma."
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 8/02/2006 11:34:00 AM ET | Permalink
    DAYAHEAD/Events making news today
    From The Morning Grind

  • President Bush keeps a private schedule most of the day until he leaves the White House for Ohio at 2:50 p.m. ET. He participates in a briefing at the Lake County Emergency Management Agency at 5 p.m. ET and at 6:25 p.m. ET he attends a fundraiser for Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell (R), who is running for governor.

  • The Senate gavels into session at 9:30 a.m. ET and continues debate on the Department of Defense appropriations bill. (For more, see The Senate Radio-Television Correspondents' Gallery Daybook)

  • The House is in recess until September 6. (For more, see The House Radio-Television Correspondents' Gallery Daybook)

  • Lawyers for Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich announce a civil lawsuit against Rep. John Murtha (D-Pennsylvania) at 11:30 a.m. ET outside U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and Rep. Colin Peterson is in Minnesota this morning touring an ethanol plant. A media availability is scheduled for 11 a.m. ET outside the plant, located in Benson. The two Democrats then head over to the 25th annual Farmfest in Redwood County and hold 1:45 p.m. ET media availability, followed by a forum on renewable energy.

  • The Republican National Committee begins its summer meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
  • Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 8/02/2006 11:30:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Political Hot Topics
    U.S. PLANS FOR CUBA POWER SHIFT: After waiting nearly half a century for Fidel Castro to relinquish power, Washington is warily monitoring the provisional transition in Havana, confident it has plans in place to assist pro-democracy groups in Cuba and to head off any mass exodus from the island. As the 10th administration to square off against Mr. Castro, the Bush administration has made no secret of its contempt for the Cuban leader, establishing the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba in 2003 and then ratcheting up the pressure last year by creating the Office of Cuban Transition within the State Department. New York Times: U.S. Says It Is Prepared for Transition in Cuba

    TWO BUSHES, TWO MIDEAST APPROACHES: When they first met as United States president and Israeli prime minister, George W. Bush made clear to Ariel Sharon he would not follow in the footsteps of his father. The first President Bush had been tough on Israel, especially the Israeli settlements in occupied lands that Mr. Sharon had helped develop. But over tea in the Oval Office that day in March 2001 -- six months before the Sept. 11 attacks tightened their bond -- the new president signaled a strong predisposition to support Israel. New York Times: Bush's Embrace of Israel Shows Gap With Father

    A LONG WAY TO GO IN IRAQ: A flailing Iraq reconstruction effort that has been dominated for more than three years by U.S. dollars and companies is being transferred to Iraqis, leaving them the challenge of completing a long list of projects left unfinished by the Americans. While the handover is occurring gradually, it comes as U.S. money dwindles and American officials face a Sept. 30 deadline for choosing which projects to fund with the remaining $2 billion of the $21 billion rebuilding program. More than 500 planned projects have not been started, and the United States lacks a coherent plan for transferring authority to Iraqi control, a report released Tuesday concludes. Washington Post: Much Undone In Rebuilding Iraq, Audit Says

    DEMS WORRIED ABOUT VOTER TURNOUT: Top Democrats are increasingly concerned that they lack an effective plan to turn out voters this fall, creating tension among party leaders and prompting House Democrats to launch a fundraising effort aimed exclusively at mobilizing Democratic partisans. At a meeting last week, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) criticized Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean for not spending enough party resources on get-out-the-vote efforts in the most competitive House and Senate races, according to congressional aides who were briefed on the exchange. Pelosi -- echoing a complaint common among Democratic lawmakers and operatives -- has warned privately that Democrats are at risk of going into the November midterm elections with a voter-mobilization plan that is underfunded and inferior to the proven turnout machine run by national Republicans. Washington Post: Democrats Scrambling To Organize Voter Turnout

    9/11 PANEL DOUBTED PENTAGON'S STORY: Some staff members and commissioners of the Sept. 11 panel concluded that the Pentagon's initial story of how it reacted to the 2001 terrorist attacks may have been part of a deliberate effort to mislead the commission and the public rather than a reflection of the fog of events on that day, according to sources involved in the debate. Washington Post: 9/11 Panel Suspected Deception by Pentagon

    CONN. RACE LEAVES DEMOCRATS CONFLICTED: As Senator Joseph I. Lieberman battles to retain his seat in Connecticut, some factions within the national Democratic Party are quietly preparing to campaign against the three-term senator if he loses the primary on Tuesday and runs as an independent in the general election in November, numerous Democrats said yesterday. Although Mr. Lieberman has attracted support from several of his Senate colleagues -- and former President Bill Clinton appeared with him in the state last week -- only a handful have pledged to remain loyal to him if he loses to his antiwar challenger, Ned Lamont, and mounts an independent campaign. New York Times: In Lieberman Fight, Some Faithful Feel Torn

    FDA NOMINEE FACES QUESTIONS ON MORNING-AFTER PILL: Two years ago, the Food and Drug Administration indicated that only those 16 and older could safely use the morning-after birth control pill without first getting a doctor's prescription. Last year, the agency drew the line at 17. This week, the FDA proposed another change: women 18 and older. Those shifting age requirements prompted questions Tuesday for acting FDA Commissioner Andrew C. von Eschenbach, who faced skeptical Democratic lawmakers during a Senate hearing on his nomination to be the agency's permanent chief. A vote by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee has not been scheduled and is not expected until next month at the earliest. Los Angeles Times: FDA Nominee's Future Hinges on Pill

    RUSTY GOP INCUMBENTS BEEF UP CAMPAIGNS: With the political winds blowing squarely against the GOP, several senior lawmakers are facing unusually serious challenges that have forced them to dust off campaign tools that, in some cases, are a bit rusty. In California, Rep. John T. Doolittle (R-Roseville) has agreed to debate a Democratic opponent for the first time in more than a decade. Rep. Richard W. Pombo (R-Tracy) has expanded his campaign staff beyond what had been a tight inner circle -- and spent more money in the process. Los Angeles Times: House GOP Incumbents Try New Stride to Beat Midterm Challenges

    EX-AIDE SAYS KATHERINE HARRIS DECEIVED STAFF: U.S. Senate candidate Katherine Harris received a grand jury subpoena from federal investigators and concealed the fact from top campaign advisers hired to help her deflect negative publicity, her former campaign manager has disclosed. "Yes, there was a subpoena. She didn't tell us," said Glenn Hodas, Harris' third and most recent campaign manager. He said he learned of it in June while reviewing invoices from powerhouse Washington lawyer Benjamin J. Ginsberg and confronted his boss. Tampa Tribune: Ex-Aide: Harris Hid Subpoena

    INCUMBENTS SURVIVE IN KANSAS: Republican Jan Beemer got her second chance Tuesday night, and in two other Kansas House races, voters overwhelmingly favored the incumbents -- Don Myers, R-Derby, and Delia Garcia, D-Wichita. Beemer's primary victory sets up a repeat of the 2004 race she lost for the same 86th District seat, facing the same opponent, Democrat Judy Loganbill. The Wichita Eagle: Beemer wins 86th District primary; Myers and Garcia retain House seats

    EVOLUTION ROLLS ON AFTER VOTE: Conservative Republicans who approved new classroom standards that call evolution into question lost control of the State Board of Education in Tuesday's primary election. A victory by pro-evolution Republican candidate Jana Shaver over conservative Republican Brad Patzer, who supported the standards treating evolution as a flawed theory, meant conservatives would at best have five of 10 seats on the board. AP on Yahoo! News: Evolution opponents lose in Kan. primary

    REPRESENTATIVES UNITE TO REDRAW TEXAS MAP: Texas Reps. Henry Bonilla (R), Henry Cuellar (D) and Lamar Smith (R) have banded together to recommend a new Congressional map to a federal court, hoping to limit the fallout new district boundaries could have on their political futures. With the Supreme Court ruling in late June that the 23rd district violates the Voting Rights Act and ordering it redrawn, Bonilla has the most to lose. But the ripple effect of adjusting Bonilla's seat could be wide depending on the fix ordered by the court --and several Members could find themselves running in radically reshaped districts on Nov. 7. Roll Call: Texas Maps Get Day in Court

    BATTLE OF THE BULGE: President Bush's doctors pronounced him healthy and in better shape than most men his age Tuesday, but the president himself seemed a little upset about packing on some extra pounds. Doctors treated a small precancerous lesion on his left arm but indicated it was nothing serious. They told him to use sunscreen and wear a hat. Washington Post: Bush Passes Physical, but Adds 5 Pounds
    Posted By Xuan Thai, CNN Washington Bureau: 8/02/2006 10:57:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Tuesday, August 01, 2006
    The Cafferty File: Extreme Makeover?
    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 the White House need a new high-tech briefing room to deliver its message to the public?

    Isn't this the same way the communist countries deliver propaganda to their people?
    R., Texas

    Jack, The White House doesn't need a hi-tech, low-tech or any other room to get out its message - no one is listening.
    Sandy, California

    Absolutely the White House needs the biggest, best, most high-tech briefing room possible -- the bigger the lie, the harder the sell.
    Jim

    How delightfully Orwellian!
    Bryn, Toronto, Ontario


    Should Rep. Cynthia McKinney's district send her back to Washington?

    Being a Georgian, I was very disturbed by Ms. McKinney's actions, which were irresponsible. She should be replaced. What happened to good old Southern hospitality?
    Kelley

    McKinney is being demonized because of her stance on 9/11 and the Middle East, which is not in line with the administration. Her opponent doesn't need a platform, just opposition to hers.
    Ella

    Don't send anyone back to Washington. That's what's wrong with this country. They get there and become a part of the machine that seems to be in place, and they don't "represent the people." I'm astounded at what our Congress has become!
    Norman, Kansas City, Missouri

    If the voters in Georgia re-elect Rep. Cynthia McKinney, they're shooting themselves in the foot. No one in Congress respects her and even if they did, no member wants to be associated with her.
    Courtney, Redondo Beach, California

    Should the U.S. get involved in trying to bring democracy to Cuba?

    Castro is an anachronism, and the U.S. should do everything it can to aid democracy in Cuba. Let the marketplace show the Cuban people what Castro withheld from them, and then ask them to decide which form of government the majority desire.
    Dave

    We haven't managed to bring democracy to Florida or Ohio, and our Iraq project looks a little shaky also. Maybe Mexico or Canada should have first crack at giving the Cubans democracy.
    Mike, Montebello, California

    Even though we're currently dealing with several other issues around the world, if an opportunity arises to transform the country to democracy, we should take it.
    Scott, Mt. Prospect, Illinois

    No, we shouldn't. Castro is doing a better job with disaster preparedness than the U.S. Maybe we should be taking lessons from him.
    Valerie, Memphis, Tennessee
    Posted By Jack Cafferty, CNN Commentator: 8/01/2006 05:52:00 PM ET | Permalink
    News of Castro's illness leaves senator optimistic, 'emotional'
    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sen. Mel Martinez reacted with glee, speculation and optimism Tuesday to a report that Cuban President Fidel Castro has ceded power temporarily while he undergoes surgery.

    "My hope is that there will be an opportunity for voices of freedom to be heard in Cuba, that this could begin a moment of transformation and transition to a better life and a better day," the Cuban-American Republican from Florida told reporters.

    Martinez described his reaction to word about Castro's condition as "intensely emotional." Despite admittedly not being privvy to inside information about the 79-year-old Cuban leader's condition, Martinez nonetheless speculated that Castro is either gravely ill or dead -- assertions a U.S. intelligence official dismissed.

    A 2003 appointee to the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba -- which recently issued a report on the Cuban political situation -- Martinez called it important to keep outside forces, including Venezuela and the United States, from interfering with Cuban affairs.

    He added that all voices within Cuba should be heard, voicing hope some Cuban officials would support "a different tune for the Cuban people, one in which repression, oppression and tryranny was not the way."

    Martinez described Castro's heir apparent and brother, Raul, as "not well-liked, without charisma."
    Posted By CNN's Congressional Unit: 8/01/2006 01:02:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Recent U.S. report urges shift to democracy in Cuba


    Fidel Castro, left, confers with his younger brother, Raul, in 2003.

    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A recent U.S. diplomatic report predicted Cuba's current regime will fight to maintain power should anything happen to Fidel Castro and gave ideas for U.S. officials opposed to the Caribbean island's communist government.

    The report, done by a panel commissioned by the White House in 2003, came out July 10, before the Cuban government announced Castro would temporarily transfer power to his brother Raul while in the hospital for surgery. (Full story)

    "Fidel Castro and his inner circle have begun a gradual but intrinsically unstable process of succession," wrote the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba in the document.

    The Havana regime "is feverishly working to forestall any opportunity for a genuine democratic transition on the island," the report said.

    In an attempt to undermine those efforts, the report recommended "strengthening support to civil society, breaking the regime's information blockade, (and) a diplomatic strategy to undermine the regime's succession strategy by supporting the Cuban people's right to determine their future."
    Posted By Paul Courson, CNN Washington Bureau: 8/01/2006 11:43:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Gingrich continues to warn of World War III
    From The Morning Grind

    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Georgia) painted a grim picture for a group of young conservatives Monday, telling them that unless terrorism is defeated overseas then the United States will be fighting this war on the home front.

    "The morning they get nuclear and biological capabilities, the war is not going to be over there," Gingrich said in a speech before the Young America's Foundation.

    He told the college-aged students that "we are in an emerging third world war" -- a warning he has been expressing both publicly and privately. On Monday, he cited North Korea, Iran, the various terrorist organizations and Venezuela and Cuba as proof of the "scale" of the threat.

    "If our enemies get a nuclear or biological weapon, they are going to use it," he said. "This is not the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union was a tired, atheist, bureaucracy.

    "If you are an atheist and then you become a suicide bomber you don't get to go anywhere," he added, referencing the religious glory some suicide bombers are promised for sacrificing their lives.

    Gingrich, who was forced to step down following the 1998 elections, is now considering a run for president in 2008.

    "I will think about it, next fall of '07," Gingrich said in an interview with the Grind following his address.

    A Republican source familiar with Gingrich, told the Grind that Gingrich is seeking to "create a position for himself as sort of the idea person and see where it is in a year from now.

    "If the environment is right then he can decide whether he wants to run for president or not," the source said. "And if he doesn't run, he can still contribute to the dialogue."

    Gingrich used his appearance to rally the young Republicans on a range of conservative issues such as health savings accounts, regulatory reform and less taxes. Gingrich offered little criticism of his own party, although he noted his opposition to the White House's failed approach to implementing Social Security reform and he questioned the loyalty of some Republicans serving in the Senate.

    "It is amazing we have a handful of Republican senators who are more trial lawyer than they are Republicans," he said.

    In the interview after his speech, Gingrich said he was not surprised he didn't get any inquiries from the audience about a possible presidential bid during a question and answer period.

    "We are a long way from '08," Gingrich said. "I encourage them to talk about this year's debate, this year's solutions (and) this year's ideas."
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 8/01/2006 10:46:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Saved from Lebanon
    From The Morning Grind

    Freshman Rep. Joe Schwarz (R-Michigan), who is battling a primary challenge from his right, is running a new television ad featuring a family thanking him for helping them escape the war zone that has become Lebanon. As sounds of artillery and machine gun fire roar in the background and images of destruction and tanks flash across the screen, a young mother cradling a sleeping baby explains that she was "waiting for the final adoption papers when war broke out.

    "We were stuck and we didn't know how to get the baby home," the women said. "That's when my husband called Joe Schwarz. Congressman Schwarz made arrangements to bring our baby home safely."

    Evan Tracey of TNSMI/Campaign Media Analysis Group, CNN's consultant on television advertising spending, said this is the first ad of its kind that alludes to the ongoing war between Israel and Hezbollah. The primary is August 8.

    Schwarz has posted the ad on his Web site.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 8/01/2006 10:40:00 AM ET | Permalink
    McKinney accuses opponent of being cozy with GOP
    From The Morning Grind

    Another incumbent facing a primary challenge, Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Georgia), accused her opponent during a debate Monday night of being indebted to the GOP for accepting financial contributions from Republicans in his bid to defeat her.

    "If you take money from Republicans, if you take votes from Republicans, then you have to be one of the Republicans' men in Congress," said McKinney, who also criticized her opponent, former DeKalb County Commissioner Hank Johnson, for past personal financial problems, including unpaid taxes, as well as for ties to developers when he was a county commissioner.

    Johnson dismissed McKinney's attacks on him as "desperate" and sought, as he has throughout the campaign, to put the focus on McKinney, calling her the "candidate of polarization and divisiveness" with a "pitiful" record as a legislator.

    "She can't work with people," he said. "If you can't work with people, you can't get anything done in Congress. I'm going to be an effective legislator. I'm not going to be a divisive one who polarizes and divides people and then sits back and does nothing."

    He also dismissed McKinney's charge that he is too cozy with Republicans.

    "I am a lifelong Democrat. I'm a progressive Democrat," he said.

    "Congresswoman McKinney knows that I'm a Democrat. And so this is another desperate attempt by a desperate candidate."

    A run-off election was triggered after neither candidate emerged with 50 percent of the vote on July 18. McKinney won 47 percent of the vote, while Johnson took 44 percent. They face voters a second time on August 8 and the winner is expected to win the seat in November.

    Surprisingly, there was only one mention of McKinney's much publicized physical altercation in March with a Capitol Hill police officer that forced her to apologize for the incident on the House floor. A District of Columbia grand jury reviewed the case, but did not return an indictment. When asked if she thought the controversy prevented her from winning an outright majority on July 18, she responded, "The fact of the matter is, I was never charged with anything."
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 8/01/2006 10:38:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Incumbents appear safe, but what about evolution?
    From The Morning Grind

    Kansas voters head to the polls today. Republicans will choose candidates to challenge Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) and Rep. Dennis Moore (D) in November, while Democrats will pick an opponent for Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R).

    These incumbents are expected to win re-election in November, but political observers will still be closely watching today's election results. A battle for control of the state Board of Education is taking place with the issue of teaching evolution front and center. The New York Times has an excellent explainer in today's edition.

    The Kansas Secretary of State's office will begin posting results starting at 8 p.m. ET on its Web site.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 8/01/2006 10:35:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Dayahead/Events making news today
    From The Morning Grind

  • President Bush was scheduled to have his annual physical at 8 a.m. ET at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

  • The Senate gavels into session at 9:45 a.m. ET and resumes debate on the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security bill. (For more, see The Senate Radio-Television Correspondents' Gallery Daybook)

  • The House is in recess until September 6. (For more, see The House Radio-Television Correspondents' Gallery Daybook)

  • British Prime Minister Tony Blair delivers what is being billed as a "major policy address" before the Los Angeles World Affairs Council at 3 p.m. ET in Los Angeles.

  • Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean attends a Delaware Democratic Party fundraiser at 4 p.m. ET in Wilmington, Delaware.

  • Former Sen. John Edwards (D-North Carolina), a potential presidential candidate, addresses the Iowa State Education Association Summer Conference at 7:30 p.m. ET in Storm Lake, Iowa.
  • Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 8/01/2006 10:32:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Political Hot Topics
    ISRAEL EXPANDS MILITARY OPS: Ground fighting intensified Tuesday morning along the Israel-Lebanon border, hours after the Israeli cabinet approved a broadening of military operations that officials described as a precursor to the arrival of an international stabilization force. "As of today, we've greatly expanded our front," said Marcus Sheff, a spokesman for the Israeli military forces stationed on the western half of the border. "We're trying to clear an area of Hezbollah to make way for the international forces." Clashes were concentrated in three areas along the border, military officials said: Taibe to the east, and Maroun al-Ras and Aita al-Shaab to the west. Senior Israeli officials said the campaign could eventually stretch to the Litani River, which at some points winds 18 miles north of the border, the Associated Press reported. Washington Post: No Cease-Fire Soon, Israeli Leader Says

    ALL EYES ON CUBA: After a night of unexpected news on the health of Cuban president Fidel Castro -- and spontaneous celebration among Cuban exiles in South Florida -- dawn brought quieter reactions and a question in both Miami's Little Havana and the actual Havana: Would the announcement Monday night that Castro, 79, was temporarily stepping down from his presidential powers because of health concerns truly mean the end of his nearly 47-year reign? Answers were slow in coming. Radio Havana offered no new information or commentary in its 7 a.m. broadcast -- merely a re-reading of Monday's announcement that the Cuban leader had undergone surgery to correct "a sharp intestinal crisis with sustained bleeding." Miami Herald: After power shift, no word on Castro's condition

    TOP DEMOCRATS UNITE ON IRAQ: After months of struggling to forge a unified stance on the Iraq war, top congressional Democrats joined voices yesterday to call on President Bush to begin withdrawing U.S. troops by the end of the year and to "transition to a more limited mission" in the war-torn nation. With the midterm elections three months away, and Democrats seeing public discontent over Iraq as their best chance for retaking the House or Senate, a dozen key lawmakers told Bush in a letter: "In the interests of American national security, our troops and our taxpayers, the open-ended commitment in Iraq that you have embraced cannot and should not be sustained. . . . We need to take a new direction." Washington Post: Hill Democrats Urge Bush to Begin Iraq Pullout

    MINIMUM WAGE, ESTATE TAX LINK HAS SENATE TIED UP: The Senate is on a collision course this week between backers of a higher minimum wage and supporters of a sharply reduced estate tax. Leaders in both parties were busily taking temperatures and counting votes yesterday, saying the outcome is too close to call. Most Democrats support the minimum-wage hike and oppose the estate tax cut. Most Republicans take the opposite stand. But their choices will not be easy because the House -- with Senate GOP leaders' blessings -- approved both proposals in one bill Saturday and then left town for the summer. The legislation will preoccupy the Senate during a hectic week that also will include action on offshore drilling, military spending and a rewrite of pension law. Washington Post: Drama in the Senate -- Rich Plan, Poor Plan

    BUS FILLED WITH IRAQI SOLDIERS BOMBED: Bombings and shootings across Iraq killed at least 52 people Tuesday, including 24 people in a bus destroyed by a roadside bomb. The attacks further damage the U.S.-backed government's efforts to establish control over the country. The bus, carrying many Iraqi soldiers, was struck in the northern industrial city of Beiji, killing everyone on board, said Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Askari. Police earlier said that 20 Iraqi soldiers were killed on the bus. Al-Askari confirmed that many of the passengers were soldiers, but said he did not know how many. He said the bus was not being escorted by U.S. troops, as earlier believed. AP on Yahoo! News: At least 52 dead in latest Iraq carnage

    BUSH PUT TO THE TEST: President Bush is getting checked and prodded and poked at his annual physical exam. The 60-year-old president was expected to spend about four hours Tuesday at the National Naval Medical Center in suburban Washington. An avid mountain bike rider, Bush goes out of his way to maintain his fitness. His last exam was on July 30, 2005, when the president was pleased to learn he had lost 8 pounds since his last exam in December, 2004, when he weighed 199.6 pounds, six pounds more than in the summer of 2003. He attributed the weight gain then to munching too many doughnuts during his re-election campaign. AP in USA Today: Bush undergoes annual physical exam

    ONLINE, ALL ABOUT MOUSSAOUI: Officials at the federal court in Alexandria posted on the Web yesterday nearly all the evidence presented during the sentencing trial of Sept. 11, 2001, conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, marking the first time a federal court has provided such extensive online access in a criminal case. The 1,202 exhibits capture the drama -- and occasional drudgery -- of the death penalty hearing of the only person convicted in the United States on charges stemming from the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Although courts nationwide have increasingly put documents online in recent years, it is unclear whether others will follow the Alexandria federal court's example. Washington Post: Federal Court Posts Online Nearly All Evidence From Moussaoui Trial

    BLAIR, SCHWARZENNEGER SIDESTEP WH ON GLOBAL WARMING: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and British Prime Minister Tony Blair signed an agreement on Monday to work together to curb greenhouse gas emissions, promote clean-burning fuels and collaborate on research to fight global warming. Blair and Schwarzenegger announced the agreement at a meeting at the Port of Long Beach with prominent California and European business leaders on climate issues. "California will not wait for our federal government to take strong action on global warming," said Schwarzenegger in a statement. At the meeting, Blair called global warming "long term, the single biggest issue we face." Los Angeles Times: Governor, Blair Reach Environmental Accord

    EVOLUTION DEBATE AROUND AGAIN IN KANSAS: God and Charles Darwin are not on the primary ballot in Kansas on Tuesday, but once again a contentious schools election has religion and science at odds in a state that has restaged a three-quarter-century battle over the teaching of evolution. Less than a year after a conservative Republican majority on the State Board of Education adopted rules for teaching science containing one of the broadest challenges in the nation to Darwin's theory of evolution, moderate Republicans and Democrats are mounting a fierce counterattack. They want to retake power and switch the standards back to what they call conventional science. The Kansas election is being watched closely by both sides in the national debate over the teaching of evolution. New York Times: Evolution's Backers in Kansas Start Counterattack
    Posted By Julie Hofler, CNN Washington Bureau: 8/01/2006 10:08:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Dems slam Bush's Iraq policy, urge troop withdrawal


    U.S. soldiers secure the site of a Baghdad explosion last month.

    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Bidding to shake the perception of internal divisions on Iraq and apply pressure on Republicans, House and Senate Democratic leaders joined to urge President Bush to start brining U.S. troops home this year.

    "In the interests of American national security, our troops and our taxpayers, the open-ended commitment in Iraq that you have embraced cannot and should not be sustained," twelve top Democrats wrote President Bush on Sunday. (Full story)

    Democratic senators and aides said the letter intended to illustrate a unified party position on the war, after June congressional debates exposed differences that the GOP tried to exploit.

    The party leaders critized the White House for what it called the lack of "a coherent strategy to stabilize Iraq and achieve victory, ... diplomatic effort to resolve sectarian differences, ... regional effort to establish a broader security framework [and] attempt to revive a struggling reconstruction effort."

    Despite increased violence and decreased support for the war, GOP leaders and the Bush administration are urging Republicans not to run from Iraq, but rather to brand Democrats as weak on national security.

    A spokesman for House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois) criticized the Democrats for waving "the white flag of surrender ... Our soldiers know that by going into harm's way, they are keeping American freedoms safe."
    Posted By CNN's Congressional Unit: 8/01/2006 09:33:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Report: Missile defense for airliners possible, but not soon


    Installing anti-missiles on jetliners, like this Airbus plane, could cost more than $1 million per plane.

    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Anti-missile systems on military aircraft can be adapted for commercial airplane use, the Department of Homeland Security told Congress Monday, while noting that several key issues must be addressed first.

    In a 75-page report, DHS raised several questions about maintenance costs, liability in the event of a mishap, and whether the systems can defend against two missiles. That said, the report indicated an anti-missile system probably can be manufactured and installed in wide-bodied jets for the target price of $1 million a plane.

    Even with expedited purchase procedures, the report predicted production and initial installation could begin in 18 to 24 months, and it could more than two decades to outfit the nation's considerable fleet of jetliners.

    "Considerable risks impede successful deployment within the commercial aviation industry," the report says, pointing to technical, policy and regulatory risks.

    Rep. Steve Israel, the New York Democrat who has led the charge for such systems, called for quick action. He said the report confirmed "existing technologies that are protecting military aircraft can protect commercial aircraft and ... it won't be cheap."

    "But it will be much cheaper than the cost of a $5,000 shoulder-fired missile hitting a $130 million 767," he said. "The ultimate cost in that event is the end of the aviation industry as we know it."
    Posted By Jeanne Meserve and Mike Ahlers, CNN America Bureau: 8/01/2006 09:17:00 AM ET | Permalink
    DOJ approves sale of Calif. newspapers
    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In a move closely watched by the U.S. newspaper industry, the Justice Department's Antitrust Division gave the go-ahead Monday to the sale of two Northern California newspapers to a group already with five Bay Area publications.

    Under the deal, The McClatchy Company will sell the San Jose Mercury News and Contra Costa Times to MediaNews Group, publisher of the Oakland Tribune and 21 other California newspapers.

    DOJ lawyers, who opened an investigation into the sale, "determined that the transaction is not likely to reduce competition substantially."

    "The Division concluded that following the acquisition, MediaNews will continue to face competition for the sale of newspapers and newspaper advertising in the East Bay from the San Francisco Chronicle, which is owned by the Hearst Corporation," the Justice Department said.

    The department vowed an investigation if MediaNews and Hearst made any future deals.
    Posted By Terry Frieden, CNN Washington Bureau: 8/01/2006 09:04:00 AM ET | Permalink
    Monday, July 31, 2006
    The Cafferty File: Changing the war?
    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:

    How does Israel's attack on Qana change the war?

    Both the U.S. and Israel have shown that neither give a damn what the rest of the world thinks, so it changes very little. Israel will not stop and we will not try to stop them until they bomb Lebanon back to the Stone Age. And, as long as the media focus its entire output on this war, all sorts of things will be going on in Iraq and this administration will be able to accomplish more illegal deeds while no one is looking.
    Phil, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

    I don't like what is happening in general, but why blame Israel for civilian casualties? When you fire missiles from locations within civilian areas, those civilians are in danger.
    Mark, California

    Apparently, it changes nothing on the Lebanese front. U.N. peacekeepers, dirt-poor farming families in Qana, are but collateral damage to the greater good of a noble Israel. On the media front it changes everything. Israel loses. Not even President Bush and traditional U.S. ties can save her now.
    Dave, Vancouver

    Should voters be required to show proof of citizenship and photo ID?

    Yes, photo ID for voting is a good idea. Here in Mexico, the federal institute for elections issues voters a voter registration card with one's photo on it. It keeps us gringos living down here (legally or illegally) from voting in national elections.
    Jim, Victoria, Mexico

    Absolutely! The privilege of voting should be limited to those who are entitled to vote. As a "resident alien," I was not allowed to vote (taxation without representation), so I eventually became a citizen so I could vote, and hopefully vote out some of these idiots we currently have in office.
    Mel, Raleigh, North Carolina

    In America, you have to show proof of identity when you do most anything. For example, when you cash a check you have to provide proof of identity. If this is necessary to safeguard our economy, why shouldn't proof of identity be required to safeguard our liberty?
    Johnnie, Carthage, Texas

    Hey Jack, How could people vote early and often if we require ID?
    Gail, Ohio

    Would the U.S. attitude toward war be any different if more politicians' children served in the military?

    You want to see the troops come home? Make it mandatory for the children of elected officials to enlist and serve. You want to see public schools improve? Require the children of elected officials to attend their local public school. Oh, and health care would improve if congressmen had to sit in the waiting rooms, fill out forms, and pay the out-of-pocket expenses like my family has to do.
    Sheila, California

    Only if there is a draft. If they volunteer, it wouldn't make any difference.
    Rob, Delray Beach, Florida

    No Jack, the U.S. attitude would not change if more politicians' children served, but it would absolutely change if no one was exempt. If everybody's children, including all those children of the people that are profiting from these wars, had to go, America wouldn't be so fast to go to war.
    Cali, Hewlett, New York

    Yes, Mr. Cafferty, I have always said if President Bush had a son serving in the military, his decisions would be wiser. Too many of our children are dying in a country where they can't defend themselves very well since they don't even know the language.
    Yvonne
    San Juan, Puerto Rico

    My father, a very wise man who landed on Utah Beach on D-Day and returned from the war with three Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star, told me that it was his opinion that most people who thought war was a good idea had never been shot at.
    Russ, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
    Posted By Jack Cafferty, CNN Commentator: 7/31/2006 05:49:00 PM ET | Permalink
    FDA mulls prescription-free 'morning-after' pill


    The emergency contraceptive Plan B is only available by prescription in the United States.

    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Food and Drug Administration will consider allowing over-the-counter sales of a morning-after-pill to women ages 18 and over, the government said Monday, moving closer to a decision put off for some time. (Full story)

    Duramed, a subsidiary of Barr Pharmaceuticals, has been trying for more than two years to get its drug, called Plan B, available without a prescription.

    The pill works by stopping ovulation or, if a woman's egg has been fertilized, by increasing the chance it won't attach to the uterus. When used within 72 hours of unprotected sex, Plan B lowers the risk of pregnancy by almost 90 percent.

    The government had agreed Plan B was safe, but resisted delayed allowing its over-the-counter sale due to fears teenagers may use it. The FDA now says, in order to limits its distribution to those 18 and over, the pill will be sold like cigarettes are now, with a pharmacist checking the age of women before selling them the pill.

    The agency wanted to outline its thinking on Plan B before acting commisioner Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach appears at his Senate confirmation hearing this week, an FDA spokeswoman said.
    Posted By CNN's Washington Bureau: 7/31/2006 01:26:00 PM ET | Permalink
    From the economy to abortion, politicians speak on hot-button issues
    From The Morning Grind

    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- With 100 days until the midterm elections, Republicans and Democrats are using various backdrops today to speak out on major policy issues, and it appears as though some of them are delivering these addresses with one eye looking beyond November.

    President Bush will talk about the economy, while Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) will discuss abortion. Sen. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) unveils his health care plan, while Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York) talks about the concerns of rural America. And former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Georgia) speaks to the next generation of GOP leaders who are attending the Young America's Foundation "National Conservative Student Conference."

    Bush, who is working to save his political legacy by trying to prevent Democratic gains in Congress, delivers a speech on the economy in Florida after touring the National Hurricane Center. But his message of economic growth is likely to be overshadowed by the latest events in the Mideast. Traveling with the President, CNN's Ed Henry reports that Bush will "address the violence in the Mideast at the top of his remarks" and will "discuss the way forward" in that region.

    The President has been seeking to bring attention to the economy but his efforts to do so have largely fallen on deaf ears due to the Iraq war. While in Florida, Bush will also attend a Republican National Committee fundraiser -- dollars that will be used to help House and Senate Republican candidates in November. As for his drop-in at the National Hurricane Center, it appears as though the President is seeking to show that his administration is prepared if another devastating hurricane such as Katrina sweeps ashore.

    Meanwhile, in a speech before the Center for American Progress, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) takes aim at the GOP leadership's "American Values Agenda" a series of policy initiatives favored by the conservative GOP base. Reid, an anti-abortion rights lawmaker, also tackles this issue and will argue that the focus needs to be on preventing unwanted pregnancies.

    "Passions run high on both sides, and it's unrealistic to think either will suddenly abandon its deeply held beliefs," Reid will say, according to excerpts of his speech provided to the Grind. "But there is common ground, if we're willing to seize the opportunity instead of stoking fears.

    "As a pro-life Senator in the Democratic Party, I know this common ground exists, and it's called prevention. If we're serious about breaking the stalemate in the abortion debate, both sides must stop posturing and start seeking the positive results we share."

    Reid also will seek to show that the GOP's priorities are misplaced because it is focusing its efforts on protecting the American Flag and trying to pass a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage instead of working to boost the federal minimum wage.

    "If we were serious about protecting families, we'd forget about amending the constitution in the name of a crisis that doesn't exist, and take actual, real life steps that will keep our families strong," Reid will say. "The first thing we'd do is stop playing politics and pass a real minimum wage increase."

    While Clinton, a possible presidential candidate, is speaking about rural issues in New York, Sen. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts), a potential rival in 2008, will talk about his healthcare proposal at historic Faneuil Hall in Boston. Kerry will call for every American to receive the same type of coverage as offered to Members of Congress; have all children covered by next year with every American covered by 2012. Kerry's office said his plan would be paid for by repealing Bush's tax cuts for people earning more than $200,000.

    "Americans have a choice here, in 2006, if the Congress won't fix health care, then Americans can fix the Congress," Kerry will say according to excerpts of his speech provided to the Grind. "Some have suggested that I offer a new health care plan so it can sound new. What I put forward in 2004 works. It was a good plan then, and it’s a good plan now. I'm not willing to give up that fight. What we need is a new Congress this year and a new president in 2008 to make sure we finish the job."
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/31/2006 12:58:00 PM ET | Permalink
    All alone
    From The Morning Grind

    The Senate's lights remain on this week, as the House has already gaveled out of session for the summer recess. Amy Call, spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tennessee), tells the Grind he "plans to take up offshore drilling, (Department of Defense Appropriations), pensions as well as the tax extensions, death (or estate) tax and minimum wage package" before the Senate goes into recess at the end of the week.

    Jim Manley, spokesman for Minority Leader Reid, tells the Grind that Democrats will work to defeat the estate (or death) tax bill.

    "Senator Reid is confident that the Senate will defeat this fiscally irresponsible estate tax, as we have in the past," he said.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/31/2006 12:55:00 PM ET | Permalink
    The race for endorsements in Connecticut
    From The Morning Grind

    Democrat Ned Lamont picked up The New York Times endorsement over Sen. Joe Lieberman (D) to be the Connecticut Democratic Senate candidate in November. But the incumbent received the backing of the state's two largest newspapers. The Hartford Courant and the Connecticut Post threw their support behind Lieberman, who also got the backing of The Washington Post over the weekend. The primary is August 8.
    Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/31/2006 12:50:00 PM ET | Permalink
    DAYAHEAD/Events making news today
    From The Morning Grind

  • President Bush was scheduled to attend an 8 a.m. ET breakfast with Florida business leaders in Miami. At 9:10 a.m. ET, Bush was scheduled to tour the National Hurricane Center in Miami. The President then delivered a 10:10 a.m. ET economic speech at the U.S. Coast Guard Integrated Support Command in Miami. He toured the Port of Miami at 11:05 a.m. ET. At 1:45 p.m. ET, Bush then attends a Republican National Committee luncheon fundraiser at a private home in Coral Gables. He arrives back at the White House late this afternoon.

  • The Senate gavels into session at 2 p.m. ET. The chamber moves to period of morning business and then turns its focus on the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security bill. For more, see the Senate Radio-Television Correspondents' Gallery Daybook

  • The House is in recess until 2 p.m. ET on September 2, 2006. For more, see the House Radio-Television Correspondents' Gallery Daybook

  • Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York) delivers what is being billed as a "major policy address on rural issues" at noon in Lockport, New York.

  • Sen. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) unveils his health care plan at noon during an address in Boston's Faneuil Hall.

  • Paul Wolfowitz, president of The World Bank Group, delivers a noon address before the Heritage Foundation on "Foreign Aid, Challenges and Opportunities."

  • Israeli Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres participates in a Web cast sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations at noon.

  • Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) delivers a speech on "American Values" at 12:30 p.m. ET at the Center for American Progress Action Fund in Washington, DC.

  • Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Georgia) speaks to the Young America's Foundation "National Conservative Student Conference" at 1 p.m. ET being held in the George Washington University Marvin Center.
  • Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 7/31/2006 12:46:00 PM ET | Permalink
    Political Hot Topics
    RICE SAYS GENERAL CEASE-FIRE AGREEMENT SET: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she has achieved general agreement on terms to end hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah, and predicted that a ceasefire could take hold this week. Israel's defense minister, meanwhile, told the Israeli parliament the army would "expand and strengthen" its ground campaign against Hezbollah even as it implements a 48-hour pause in aerial bombardments in southern Lebanon. Washington Post: Cease-Fire Framework in Place, Rice Says

    JAPANESE NAVY MAY EXTEND STAY: Japan is considering a one-year extension of its naval mission to support U.S.-led troops in Afghanistan, a news report said today. Japan's navy has provided fuel for coalition warships in the Indian Ocean since November 2001 under a special law set to expire Nov. 1. The measure has already been extended twice. Los Angeles Times: Support for U.S.-Led Mission May Continue

    CONGOLESE VOTE IN HISTORIC ELECTION: Jules Mabuisi had waited a long time for this. At the age of 80, he has been ruled by Belgians, dictators and a cadre of warlords who carved up his country and then watched it rot. On Sunday, for the first time in decades, he was allowed to cast a meaningful vote. "Where do I mark?" Mr. Mabuisi asked, staring at a ballot with hundreds of names and little faces on it. He was among the millions of Congolese who streamed to polling places on Sunday -- on foot, by bike, even by log canoe -- for the first multiparty vote since shortly after independence in an election meant to bring peace to Congo and elsewhere in Central Africa, one of the poorest, most violent regions on earth. Nearly four million people have died as a result of fighting and chaos in Congo since 1998, according to the International Rescue Committee. New York Times: Congo Holds First Multiparty Election in 46 Years

    MIDEAST CRISIS MAY DERAIL BUSH PLANS:The Israeli bombs that slammed into the Lebanese village of Qana yesterday did more than kill three dozen children and a score of adults. They struck at the core of U.S. foreign policy in the region and illustrated in heart-breaking images the enormous risks for Washington in the current Middle East crisis. With each new scene of carnage in southern Lebanon, outrage in the Arab world and Europe has intensified against Israel and its prime sponsor, raising the prospect of a backlash resulting in a new Middle East quagmire for the United States, according to regional specialists, diplomats and former U.S. officials. Washington Post: Crisis Could Undercut Bush's Long-Term Goals

    BUSH CONCENTRATES ON DOMESTIC MATTERS: With crucial midterm congressional elections just three months away, President Bush tried Sunday to return to his domestic agenda even while the latest eruption in the Middle East continued to dominate his administration's attention. Bush flew here after going for a Sunday bicycle ride and hosting a children's T-ball game on the South Lawn of the White House to have dinner with Miami community leaders. Washington Post: Bush's Focus in Florida Is on Domestic Agenda

    STEM CELLS, MINIMUM WAGE TOP DEMS AGENDA:Democrats will spend August stumping on issues they say matter most to voters -- such as raising the minimum wage and funding stem-cell research -- as they scramble to try to regain control of the House or the Senate. Some optimistic members of the minority party say a focus on middle-class matters could lead to Democrats' recapturing both chambers. By contrast, Republicans next month plan to highlight a need to strengthen the porous borders and to keep the conversation either on local issues or security matters, such as terrorism. Democrats say domestic topics give them the edge as they try to appeal to voters who are disenchanted with the way the majority is running the country. Washington Times: Democrats see minimum wage, stem cells as hot issues

    STRATEGY DEBATE AS VOTING RIGHTS ACT RENEWED: There were celebrations last week when President Bush renewed key provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1964, which eliminated segregation at the ballot box. The act helped form political districts where black voters are in the majority, which sent the first wave of African-American representatives to Congress since Reconstruction -- and creating, over time, loyal Democratic voters. But the renewal overshadowed a quiet but growing debate among Democrats: whether mostly black voting districts in cities like Petersburg -- which helped elect the state's first African-American House member in more than 100 years -- should be diluted to spread around liberal voters and help elect more Democrats get to Congress. Boston Globe: Voting Act Overshadows Race Debate

    PAPERS SHED LIGHT ON '04 PROTEST BAN: When city officials denied demonstrators access to the Great Lawn in Central Park during the 2004 Republican National Convention, political advocates and ordinary New Yorkers accused Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of squelching demonstrations that could embarrass fellow Republicans during their gathering. The Bloomberg administration denied being guided by politics in banning the protests. Instead, officials said they were motivated by a concern for the condition of the expensively renovated Great Lawn or by law enforcement's ability to secure the crowd. But documents that have surfaced in a federal lawsuit over the use of the Great Lawn paint a different picture, of both the rationale for the administration's policy and the degree of Mr. Bloomberg's role in enforcing it. New York Times: In Court Papers, a Political Note on '04 Protests

    BRITAIN, CALI JOIN FORCES AGAINST WARMING: Britain and California are preparing to sidestep the Bush administration and fight global warming together by creating a joint market for greenhouse gases. British Prime Minister Tony Blair and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger plan to lay the groundwork for a new trans-Atlantic market in carbon dioxide emissions, The Associated Press has learned. Such a move could help California cut carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases scientists blame for warming the planet. President Bush has rejected the idea of ordering such cuts. AP in the Los Angeles Times: UK, Calif. to Strike Global Warming Deal

    ROMNEY SORRY FOR 'TAR BABY' COMMENT: Governor Mitt Romney yesterday apologized for using the expression "tar baby" -- a phrase some consider a racial epithet -- among comments he made at a political gathering in Iowa over the weekend. "The governor was describing a sticky situation," said Eric Fehrnstrom, the governor's spokesman. "He was unaware that some people find the term objectionable, and he's sorry if anyone was offended." In his first major political trip out of the state since a ceiling collapse in a Big Dig tunnel killed a Boston woman on July 10, Romney told 200 people at a Republican lunch Saturday about the political risks of his efforts to oversee the project. Boston Globe: Romney apologizes for use of expression

    ABORTION DEBATE DOES IN LAKOTA PRESIDENT: Abortion politics in South Dakota has spilled over into a power struggle within the Oglala Sioux Tribe of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Cecelia Fire Thunder, the first female president of the Oglala tribe, was removed from office in June -- five months before the end of her two-year term. Thunder ran afoul of other tribal leaders when she said the reservation would make abortions available -- circumventing a new state law banning most abortions. UPI in the Washington Times: Lakota president ousted, abortion politics

    KENNEDY SLAMS NEW JUSTICES: Now that the votes are in from their first term, we can see plainly the agenda that Roberts and Alito sought to conceal from the committee. Our new justices consistently voted to erode civil liberties, decrease the rights of minorities and limit environmental protections. At the same time, they voted to expand the power of the president, reduce restrictions on abusive police tactics and approve federal intrusion into issues traditionally governed by state law. Washington Post: Opinion -- Roberts and Alito Misled Us
    Posted By Xuan Thai, CNN Washington Bureau: 7/31/2006 11:58:00 AM ET | Permalink
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