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Tuesday, November 28, 2006
CNN Political Ticker AM
For the latest, breaking political news, check for updates throughout the day on the CNN Political Ticker. All politics, all the time.

Compiled by Stephen Bach
CNN Washington Bureau

Making news today...

  • "There's a lot of sectarian violence taking place, fomented, in my opinion, because of these attacks by al Qaeda, causing people to seek reprisal," said President Bush this morning at a joint press conference with Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves.

    On his upcoming meeting with Iraqi PM Nuri Al-Maliki in Amman: "My questions to him will be: What do we need to do to succeed? What is your strategy in dealing with the sectarian violence?... I will ask him: What is required and what is your strategy to be a country which can govern itself and sustain itself?"

  • SecDef Nominee Robert Gates "is likely to assume the Pentagon post before year's end if he is confirmed by the Senate as expected," AP reports.

  • Condoleezza Rice's "intellectual soul mate" and counselor Philip D. Zelikow "said yesterday that he will resign at the end of the year," the Washington Post reports.

  • Republican Deborah Pryce was declared the winner in Ohio's 15th by a margin of 1,054 votes, "within the half-percent required to trigger an automatic recount," reports the Columbus Dispatch.

    Also, certified results from Virginia's Board of Elections show James Webb's margin of victory was just 9,329 votes, or .4%, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch

  • And who's the most popular politician in America, according to a new Quinnipiac poll? And who's at the bottom of the list? Find out in Hot Topics below!

    President's Schedule:

  • The President spent the morning in Tallinn, Estonia, meeting with President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Prime Minister Andrus Ansip, before boarding AF1 for the short flight to Riga, Latvia, where he'll attend a two-day NATO summit.

    Once in Riga, Bush will meet with Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga and NATO Secretary General Jaap De Hoop Scheffer.

    He is scheduled to speak at the University of Latvia at 9:15 am ET.

    Tonight, there is a working dinner and cultural event at the National Opera House scheduled for the NATO attendees.


    Political Hot Topics

    (Today's top political stories from news organizations across the country)

    SECTARIAN VIOLENCE "FOMENTED... BECAUSE OF THE ATTACKS BY AL-QAIDA CAUSING PEOPLE TO SEEK REPRISAL," SAYS BUSH: President Bush said Tuesday an al-Qaida plot to stoke cycles of sectarian revenge in Iraq is to blame for escalating bloodshed, and refused to debate whether the country has fallen into civil war. "No question it's tough, no question about it," Bush said at a news conference with Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves. "There's a lot of sectarian violence taking place, fomented in my opinion because of the attacks by al-Qaida causing people to seek reprisal." Bush, who travels to Jordan later in the week for a high-stakes summit with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, said an uptick in violence does not represent a new era in Iraq. The country is reeling from the deadliest week of sectarian fighting since the war began in March 2003. "We've been in this phase for a while," Bush said. AP via Yahoo! News: Bush: Iraq violence part of al-Qaida plot

    BUSH WILL ASK AL-MALIKI ABOUT "STRATEGY" FOR QUELLING VIOLENCE: Allowing that Iraq has grown "dangerous and violent," President Bush said today that he will press Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki this week for his "strategy" for confronting the sectarian violence there... "My question to him will be, 'What do we need to succeed?'" Bush said of his meetings planned on Wednesday and Thursday in Amman, Jordan. "What do we need to do ... about sectarian violence? ... I will ask him, 'What is required, and what is your strategy to be a country that can govern itself and sustain itself?'" Chicago Tribune: Bush to press Iraqi leader on 'strategy'

    CIVIL WAR? "WE ARE ALMOST THERE," SAYS KOFI: The Iraq Study Group began two days of intensive behind-closed-doors deliberations yesterday as the White House conceded that Iraq has moved into a dangerous new phase of warfare requiring changes in strategy. In a sign of the growing global concern about Iraq's fate, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan appealed for immediate steps to prevent the country from crumbling into all-out civil war. "Given the developments on the ground, unless something is done drastically and urgently to arrest the deteriorating situation, we could be there. In fact, we are almost there," Annan said when a reporter asked about the prospects of civil war in Iraq. Washington Post: Civil War in Iraq Near, Annan Says

    NBC'S NOTABLE "SHIFT IN SEMANTICS": NBC News said Monday that its reporters and anchors would begin referring to the ongoing sectarian strife in Iraq as a "civil war," a move that reflects the news media's use of increasingly stark language to characterize the escalating violence gripping the country. NBC's decision, which came after a particularly deadly series of retaliatory attacks in Baghdad, makes it the first television network to officially adopt the term "civil war," a description the Bush administration has resisted. The Times was the first major news organization to formally adopt the description when it began to refer to the hostilities as a civil war in October, without public fanfare. No other major media outlet has made the phrase a matter of policy, although it has cropped up in various news reports. The White House has exerted pressure on the media not to use the term, journalists said, which led to newsroom caution over the issue. NBC's announcement spotlights a shift in semantics that has quietly taken place on the airwaves and in newsprint as the violence has worsened along with the public's view of the situation in Iraq. Los Angeles Times: NBC to use 'civil war' to describe Iraq

    STUDY GROUP MEETS AT "UNDISCLOSED LOCATION" TO REVIEW DRAFT REPORT: The Iraq Study Group met yesterday at an undisclosed location to discuss its first draft report that calls for increased diplomatic engagement in the region and new military moves to rescue Iraq from a descent into civil war. The panel's co-chairmen, James A. Baker III, secretary of state in the first Bush administration, and former Rep. Lee H. Hamilton, Indiana Democrat, finished work on the draft during the weekend. It contains an assessment of where violence-racked Iraq stands more than three years after the U.S. ousted Saddam Hussein. It also includes a list of recommendations on diplomatic and military fronts. A final report to President Bush is expected next month. Mr. Baker is said to be pushing a recommendation for the Bush administration to engage in direct talks with Syria and Iran, two U.S.-designated state sponsors of terrorism who are supporting various insurgencies and terrorist attacks in Iraq. Washington Times: Iraq panel inks draft report

    HEZBOLLAH TRAINING SHIITE MILITIAS IN IRAQ, SAYS INTEL OFFICIAL: A senior American intelligence official said Monday that the Iranian-backed group Hezbollah had been training members of the Mahdi Army, the Iraqi Shiite militia led by Moktada al-Sadr. The official said that 1,000 to 2,000 fighters from the Mahdi Army and other Shiite militias had been trained by Hezbollah in Lebanon. A small number of Hezbollah operatives have also visited Iraq to help with training, the official said. Iran has facilitated the link between Hezbollah and the Shiite militias in Iraq, the official said. Syrian officials have also cooperated, though there is debate about whether it has the blessing of the senior leaders in Syria. The intelligence official spoke on condition of anonymity under rules set by his agency, and discussed Iran's role in response to questions from a reporter. New York Times: Hezbollah Said to Help Shiite Army in Iraq

    GATES COULD BE INSTALLED BEFORE YEAR'S END: Robert Gates, the former CIA director who is President Bush's choice to replace Donald H. Rumsfeld as defense secretary, is likely to assume the Pentagon post before year's end if he is confirmed by the Senate as expected, officials said Monday. Eric Ruff, the Pentagon press secretary, said Gates will have his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee early next week, with a vote expected by the full Senate by Dec. 12 or 13. In preparation for the hearing, Gates is receiving a series of briefings by senior Pentagon officials, Ruff said. Even if Gates is confirmed as expected, it is unclear when he would be sworn in to his new duties, Ruff said. "It's somewhat of a fluid situation," he said. Another administration official, who would discuss the Gates matter only on condition of anonymity, said that if confirmation goes as expected, then Gates would be sworn in well before the end of the year. No date is set. AP via Yahoo! News: Gates may take Pentagon job in December

    AFGHANISTAN IS TOPIC A FOR NATO LEADERS: President Bush will seek fresh troops and equipment for the fight in Afghanistan, and fewer restrictions on how they can be used, when he sits down this week with NATO allies to review the state of the dangerous mission there, according to senior U.S. officials. Bush flew Monday to this scenic capital, on his way to a summit of NATO's leaders in Riga, Latvia, that begins Tuesday. There, U.S. officials say, they are hoping allies will renew their commitments in Afghanistan, where a stepped-up Taliban insurgency is posing stiff new challenges for some 33,000 NATO troops, about a third of them American. The mission is shaping up as the major issue for discussion among Bush and the leaders of the 25 other NATO member countries, who are gathering for the first time in two years. A failed operation in Afghanistan would threaten NATO's ambition to one day play a more robust role in helping address the world's crises. Washington Post: Bush to Pursue Fresh NATO Commitments

    RICE'S "INTELLECTUAL SOUL MATE" ZELIKOW TO STEP ASIDE: One of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's closest advisers said yesterday that he will resign at the end of the year, depriving her of a key sounding board at a time when she is still searching for a new deputy and faces difficult challenges in the Middle East. Philip D. Zelikow, 52, holds the unassuming title of "counselor," but in many ways he is Rice's intellectual soul mate, and he plays a critical role in formulating policy at the State Department. In his resignation letter, he cited professional and personal obligations, including a need to return to an endowed chair that the University of Virginia has held vacant for four years and to pay "some truly riveting obligations to college bursars" for his children's education. Washington Post: Close Adviser to Rice Plans to Resign

    DOJ IG OPENS WIRETAP REVIEW: After months of pressure from Congressional Democrats, the Justice Department's inspector general said Monday that his office had opened a full review into the department's role in President Bush's domestic eavesdropping program and the legal requirements governing the program. Democrats said they saw the investigation as a welcome step that could answer questions about the operations and legal underpinnings of the program, which allows the National Security Agency to monitor, without obtaining court warrants, the international communications of Americans and others inside this country with suspected terrorist ties. "This is a long overdue investigation of a highly controversial program," said Representative John Conyers Jr., the Michigan Democrat who will take over as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. New York Times: Justice Official Opens Spying Inquiry

    "CREW" CALLS FOR HASTERT LAND DEAL PROBE: A government watchdog group Monday called for an official investigation into whether House Speaker Dennis Hastert broke the law by pushing for federal funding of a highway project near land he owned west of Chicago. Hastert (R-Ill.) and two partners turned a profit of more than $3 million last year on land they bought and sold near the proposed route of the Prairie Parkway—earnings that the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington say the investors got because of federal funding pushed by Hastert. The group is asking the Justice Department to investigate Hastert's actions. "It looks like Hastert may have broken the law," said Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW. "You are not allowed to use the legislative process purely for your own personal financial benefit, which is what appears to have happened here." Chicago Tribune: Group wants Hastert deal investigated

    SOUTHWEST LANDOWNERS HAVE DOUBTS ABOUT BORDER FENCE: "They're not gonna build it," [Ranching magnate Bill] Moody says flatly. "We darn sure don't need a wall. Everybody knows the Great Wall of China wasn't worth a damn."... "Trust me, it's not gonna happen," [Val Verde County Sheriff D'Wayne] Jernigan says. "There's not gonna be a fence. I have landowners here who put it this way: 'Over my dead body.'" USA Today: Fence plan alarms landowners

    GOVT. CONTRACTORS GET READY TO GO "UNDER THE MICROSCOPE": After riding high for five years, government contractors are bracing themselves for increased oversight, tighter budgets and stepped-up regulations as Democrats take over on Capitol Hill and vow to keep a closer eye on how companies spend taxpayer dollars. Every company that does business with the government could feel the impact, but contractors that benefited most from work in Iraq and Afghanistan, from homeland security initiatives or from Hurricane Katrina are especially likely to be under the microscope. Big-ticket weapons programs are also expected to garner special attention, and it may become more difficult to get a no-bid contract, according to industry observers. Washington Post: Contractors Face More Scrutiny, Pinched Purses

    PRYCE DECLARED VICTOR, BUT...: Republican Deborah Pryce was declared the winner this morning of a central Ohio congressional race that remained too close to call until 20 days after the Nov. 7 election. The four-member Franklin County Board of Elections certified final vote totals that gave Pryce the victory over Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy by 1,054 votes, a net loss of 2,482 from Pryce's unofficial election-night count. The tighter margin is within the half-percent required to trigger an automatic recount, director Matthew Damschroder said. Pryce, who declared "semi-victory" hours after the polls closed, will return to Washington for an 8th term if the results hold. She said this morning that she was surprised the race came down to about 1,000 votes out of more than 200,000 cast, but doesn't expect a recount to change the outcome. Columbus Dispatch: Pryce declared winner by 1,054-vote margin

    WEBB'S OFFICIAL MARGIN OF VICTORY JUST 9,329 VOTES, OR .4%: It's official -- Democrat Jim Webb won the U.S. Senate race by 9,329 votes over Republican incumbent George Allen. The state Board of Elections yesterday officially certified the results of the Nov. 7 election. Webb edged Allen by four-tenths of 1 percent. Webb, making his first bid for elective office, took 1,175,606 votes, or 49.6 percent of the vote, to Allen's 1,166,277 votes, or 49.2 percent. Independent Gail Parker got 1.1 percent of the ballots cast, or 26,102 votes. Statewide, 53 percent of registered voters went to the polls. Richmond Times-Dispatch: Webb won race by 9,329 votes

    VILSACK WON'T KEEP '08ERS OUT OF IA: He may be Iowa's governor, but Tom Vilsack's home-field advantage isn't enough to force rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination to cede him the game - far from it. Not only won't Vilsack get a pass in Iowa's 2008 Democratic caucuses, but party leaders are bending over backward to keep the start-off of the contest evenhanded, key activists and strategists said. It will not, they say, be another 1992, the year Tom Harkin - the Hawkeye State's popular U.S. senator - ran for president. Harkin's Democratic rivals skipped the Iowa caucuses, arguing that it wasn't possible to compete with him on his home turf. As a result Harkin won Iowa easily, but got none of the caucuses' famous momentum and media attention. He wound up quickly leaving the Democratic race in which Bill Clinton later prevailed. Vilsack, who is leaving office in January after two terms,is to make a formal announcement about a presidential bid Thursday and then begins a five-state tour. AP via Yahoo! News: Vilsack to face challenge on home turf

    GIULIANI HOLDS TOP SPOT IN QUINNIPIAC POPULARITY CONTEST: Rudolph W. Giuliani is the most popular politician in America, according to a new survey. The former New York City mayor, a likely candidate for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, tops a list of 20 leaders whose popularity with registered voters was measured in a new survey by Quinnipiac University. The survey asked respondents to rate their feelings about the 20 leaders on a "thermometer reading" scale of 0 to 100. Mr. Giuliani finished with a 64.2 rating. Trailing closely were Sens. Barack Obama, Illinois Democrat, and John McCain, Arizona Republican, who tallied 58.8 and 57.7. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was the top-ranking woman in the survey, finishing just behind Mr. McCain with a 56.1 rating. "As we enter the presidential campaign of 2008, Giuliani and McCain are in enviable positions," said Quinnipiac assistant poll director Peter A. Brown. "They are well-regarded, and most Americans are quite familiar with them. Obama's showing is impressive, but 4 in 10 Americans still don't know enough about him to have an opinion." Washington Times: Giuliani tops most popular U.S. politician polling

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