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Tuesday, December 12, 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...


  • In President Bush's meeting with "outside experts on Iraq" yesterday, "the three retired generals and two academics disagreed in particular with the [Iraq Study Group's] plans to reduce the number of U.S. combat troops in Iraq and to reach out for help to Iran and Syria," the Washington Post reports.

  • "Only 15% of 1,009 adults in a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken Friday through Sunday gave U.S. senators high or very high marks for honesty and ethical standards. Only 14% did so for U.S. representatives," USA Today reports.

    Scoring lower than members of Congress in the poll: Insurance salesmen (13%), HMO Managers (12%), Advertising practitioners (11%), and Car salesmen (7%).

  • Hillary Clinton "insisted yesterday she won't decide whether to make a 2008 run for the White House until next year," the New York Post reports.

  • Barack Obama on ESPN's "Monday Night Football": "Tonight, I'd like to put all the doubts to rest. I would like to announce to my hometown of Chicago and all of America, that I am ready... for the Bears to go all the way, baby!" YouTube video

  • And is Ted Kennedy on board for another John Kerry WH bid in '08? Find out in Hot Topics below!

    President's Schedule:

  • President Bush participates in a 9 am ET video teleconference with military commanders and Zalmay Khalilzad, the US Ambassador to Iraq, in the Roosevelt Room at the White House.

    At 1:45 pm ET, Bush meets Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi in the Oval Office.

    Also on the Political Radar:

  • Voters go to the polls in TX-23 for a runoff election between Ciro Rodriguez (D) and Rep. Henry Bonilla (R).

  • Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) will announce his candidacy for president at 12 pm ET at Cleveland City Hall.

    =================================================================

    Political Hot Topics

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

    EXPERTS SHARE WH "SKEPTICAL VIEW" OF ISG RECOMMENDATIONS: President Bush heard a blunt and dismal assessment of his handling of Iraq from a group of military experts yesterday, but the advisers shared the White House's skeptical view of the recommendations made last week by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, sources said. The three retired generals and two academics disagreed in particular with the study group's plans to reduce the number of U.S. combat troops in Iraq and to reach out for help to Iran and Syria, according to sources familiar with the meeting, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the session was private... The military experts met with Bush, Vice President Cheney and about a dozen aides for more than an hour. The visitors told the officials that the situation in Iraq is as dire as the study group had indicated but that alternative approaches must be considered, said one participant in the meeting. In addition, the experts agreed that the president should review his national security team, which several characterized as part of the problem. Washington Post: Experts Advise Bush Not to Reduce Troops

    BREAKING SADR'S INFLUENCE: After discussions with the Bush administration, several of Iraq's major political parties are in talks to form a coalition whose aim is to break the powerful influence of the radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr within the government, senior Iraqi officials say. The talks are taking place among the two main Kurdish groups, the most influential Sunni Arab party and an Iranian-backed Shiite party that has long sought to lead the government. They have invited Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki to join them. But Mr. Maliki, a conservative Shiite who has close ties to Mr. Sadr, has held back for fear that the parties might be seeking to oust him, a Shiite legislator close to Mr. Maliki said. Officials involved in the talks say their aim is not to undermine Mr. Maliki, but to isolate Mr. Sadr as well as firebrand Sunni Arab politicians inside the government. New York Times: Iraqis Consider Ways to Reduce Power of Cleric

    "WE NEED TO PUT THE ANGRY YOUNG MEN TO WORK": As Iraq descends further into violence and disarray, the Pentagon is turning to a weapon some believe should have been used years ago: jobs. Members of a small Pentagon task force have gone to the most dangerous areas of Iraq over the past six months to bring life to nearly 200 state-owned factories abandoned by the Coalition Provisional Authority after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Their goal is to employ tens of thousands of Iraqis in coming months, part of a plan to reduce soaring unemployment and lessen the violence that has crippled progress... "We need to put the angry young men to work," [Army Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli] said in a phone interview from Baghdad. "One of the key hindrances to us establishing stability in Iraq is the failure to get the economy going. A relatively small decrease in unemployment would have a very serious effect on the level of sectarian killing going on." Washington Post: To Stem Iraqi Violence, U.S. Aims to Create Jobs

    TOO LATE FOR BUSH TO "WOO" DEMS? Hoping to avoid a lame-duck final two years in the White House, President Bush is openly wooing moderate and conservative House Democrats as potential allies on a variety of issues as their party prepares to take control of Congress in January. But the president's effort is running up against a major obstacle. The Democrats he has targeted for cooperation are the same lawmakers who are most critical of the huge budget deficits and increased national debt that have been amassed during Bush's six years in the presidency. They also want major changes in Bush's Iraq policy and have pledged their support for Democratic Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi's "six for '06'' platform of major legislative items that she will push in the early days of the new Congress. Bush met with leaders of the 44-member Blue Dog Coalition and the 62-member New Democrat Coalition at the White House last Friday, at his invitation, and all pledged to try to cooperate in the new Congress. But beneath the surface, the tension and the Democrats' pique at being ignored by the Bush White House until now were obvious. San Francisco Chronicle: Bush courts Democrats -- but may be 6 years too late

    BUSH APPROVAL AT 38% IN NEW USATODAY/GALLUP POLL: As President Bush weighs changing course in Iraq, Americans are increasingly pessimistic about the war and want most U.S. troops withdrawn within a year, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken Friday through Sunday says. Three of four support the major recommendations unveiled by the Iraq Study Group last week. Most predict the administration won't implement the bipartisan commission's proposals, however. And fewer than 1 in 5 have "a great deal" of trust in Bush to "recommend the right thing" for the United States to do in Iraq. Confidence in Democratic congressional leaders to chart the proper course is even lower, at 14%... The president's job-approval rating is 38%, up 5 percentage points from the survey taken immediately after congressional elections last month. USA Today: USA more pessimistic on Iraq war

    MORE IRAQ POLL RESULTS (via USATODAY.com)

    FEW GIVE CONGRESS HIGH MARKS FOR ETHICS, HONESTY: Members of Congress have never been the most trusted members of society, but they rated higher than lawyers and stockbrokers five years ago. Now, two months after an election that ousted dozens of incumbents, they're on par with insurance salespersons. Only 15% of 1,009 adults in a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken Friday through Sunday gave U.S. senators high or very high marks for honesty and ethical standards. Only 14% did so for U.S. representatives. Both are down from 25% in 2001, when members of Congress got their best score since the survey began in 1976. "It's not surprising that in a year of huge scandals, people's faith in government has fallen," says Peggy Kerns, director of the Center for Ethics in Government at the National Conference of State Legislatures. "This is a big concern," she says, and makes some people less likely to seek office or even vote. USA Today: Poll: Washington scandals eating away public trust

    MORE ETHICS POLL RESULTS (via USATODAY.com)

    RUNOFF IN TX-23 - WILL IT BE AN "EXCLAMATION POINT" ON '06? Today's runoff between U.S. Rep. Henry Bonilla and Ciro Rodriguez either will be an exclamation point at the end of the Democratic takeover of Congress or a question mark hinting at a potential Republican comeback down the road in two years. Voters in Congressional District 23 will be the last to cast ballots this campaign season. But Bonilla, a seven-term incumbent and San Antonio Republican, said Monday he considered the race the first of the 2008 cycle - a contest that, if he wins, could give the GOP something to rally around after Democrats picked up 29 seats in the November election. Rodriguez, for his part, urged supporters to continue the shakeup of Congress at a rally Sunday that featured former President Clinton. On Monday, Bonilla responded with own VIP - hosting George P. Bush, President Bush's nephew. San Antonio Express-News: Runoff may hint at 2008 landscape

    PRYCE WINNER AFTER OH-15 RECOUNT: After the official recount showed her no closer to winning a central Ohio congressional seat, Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy conceded defeat [Monday] to Rep. Deborah Pryce. Pryce, a six-term incumbent from Upper Arlington, edged Kilroy by 1,062 votes out of more than 220,000 cast at the end of a machine recount completed over the weekend. The recount widened Pryce's lead by seven votes, giving her 50.24 percent of the vote in the 15th Congressional District comprised of western Franklin County as well as Union and Madison counties. Kilroy refused to concede the race after election-night results showed Pryce leading by some 3,000 votes with 20,000 absentee and provisional ballots remaining to count. Once those ballots were factored into the total, Pryce's lead shrank to 1,055, triggering an automatic recount under Ohio law since the margin was less than 0.5 percent. The recount ended with Pryce gaining 25 votes and Kilroy picking up 18. Columbus Dispatch: Pryce winner of 15th District race after recount

    KUCINICH TO ANNOUNCE CANDIDACY: Democrats jazzed by the hype that political stars Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton might run for president will have to settle for Rep. Dennis Kucinich, at least for now. Five weeks after being elected to a sixth term in the U.S. House, the former Cleveland mayor will announce today that he is running for president, his second bid in 2.5 years. While the presidential spotlight has focused on Obama, Clinton and other better-known potential candidates, Kucinich is only the second Democrat to officially launch his campaign. Outgoing Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack announced his campaign for president earlier this month. Best known locally as a populist politician who presided over the city when it slid into default in the late 1970s, Kucinich has earned a national reputation as an anti-war activist, in part thanks to his proposal to create a Cabinet-level department of peace. Cleveland Plain Dealer: Kucinich, talking of peace, to run again for president

    NANCY'S DILEMMA: WHAT TO DO ABOUT JEFFERSON? House Democratic leaders, who have vowed to run a more ethical Congress, are struggling with how to respond to the reelection of Rep. William J. Jefferson, the Louisiana Democrat whose Washington home freezer once held $90,000 in alleged bribe money. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), poised to be the next speaker, stripped Jefferson of his seat on the influential Ways and Means Committee in June and has hinted that she may place him on no committee when the 110th Congress convenes next month. But a source close to Pelosi said yesterday that she is more likely to place him on a lower-profile committee and hope the controversy dies down. Washington Post: Pelosi May Give Jefferson a Lesser Committee Assignment

    PELOSI VOWS CHANGES TO PROTECT PAGES: Add House page program reform to the list of issues that the 110th Congress will address in the early days of its newly elected Democratic majority. "As I assume responsibility for the operation of the House, Congress will protect the young people who serve as Pages," incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) declared in a statement released by her office today. Pelosi said she will move forward soon after Congress reconvenes in January with the introduction of legislation that would overhaul the membership of the House Page Board, which is charged with managing the program, and increase oversight to better protect the teenagers who work and live on Capitol Hill. More specifically, the legislation would require an equal number of Democrats and Republicans on the board, add the parent of a current House page and a parent of a former page to the board's membership and require the board to meet regularly. Roll Call: Pelosi to Offer Legislation to Reform Page Program

    DEMS EXTEND CURRENT BUDGET LEVELS, FREEZE EARMARKS: Democratic leaders declared a temporary moratorium on special-interest provisions known as earmarks as they attempt to cope with a budget crisis left by the outgoing Republican-led 109th Congress. Congress adjourned early Saturday, having completed work on two of the 11 spending bills for the 2007 fiscal year that began Oct. 1. As a short-term fix, lawmakers extended current funding levels until Feb. 15. But the incoming Democratic chairmen of the House and Senate Appropriations committees announced yesterday that they would extend current levels until the 2008 fiscal year begins next Oct. 1... [The new chairmen, Rep. David R. Obey (Wis.) and Sen. Robert C. Byrd (W.Va.)] also said they would place a moratorium on all earmarks until lobbying changes are enacted. Those special spending provisions included in the unfinished fiscal 2007 bills will be eligible for consideration next year, the chairmen said, subject to new standards. Washington Post: Democrats Freeze Earmarks for Now

    KENNEDY WANTS TO KNOW WHERE KERRY STANDS: Senator Edward M. Kennedy yesterday dropped his public commitment to support Senator John F. Kerry in a 2008 presidential race, saying that he won't wait "indefinitely" for Kerry to declare his intentions while the Democratic primary field takes shape. Hours later, Kerry aides promised that the senator would make a decision "shortly after the turn of the year," despite recent signals that Kerry could wait until late spring before deciding. A Kennedy spokeswoman said Kennedy would continue to support Kerry if the junior senator jumps into the race on that time line. But in an hourlong interview with Globe reporters and editors, Kennedy offered strong praise for two of Kerry's possible presidential rivals: senators Barack Obama of Illinois and Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, calling them "formidable figures" who are connecting with rank-and-file Democrats. Boston Globe: Kennedy wants sign of Kerry's plans for '08

    CLINTON SAYS '08 DECISION WILL BE MADE NEXT YEAR: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton insisted yesterday she won't decide whether to make a 2008 run for the White House until next year. "I'm talking to people who have opinions about what our country needs to do going forward, and whether or not I make any decisions I can't really confront until after the first of the year," Clinton told reporters in upstate Rome, where she made a string of Senate-related stops. It was Clinton's most extensive public remarks about her timetable for deciding her future since she started making calls to donors, New York lawmakers and Democratic Party bigwigs in presidential proving-ground states. New York Post: HILL VOWS NEW YEAR'S PREZOLUTION

    IOWANS TO HILLARY: LOOSEN UP AND LET YOUR HAIR DOWN! That's a key bit of advice some Iowa Democrats have for Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) as she entertains a dozen fellow Hawkeye Staters today to get their take on her presidential prospects. Clinton and her crew are notoriously disciplined, known for running a tight ship, sticking closely to their message and getting the word out to surrogates with remarkable efficiency. But in Iowa, home of the first-in-the-nation 2008 contest, Democrats told the Daily News the former First Lady will have to let her hair down and get her feet dirty if she wants to do well. "I don't know that you can win in the Iowa caucuses and be a control freak," said former Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Gordon Fischer. Fischer is a fan of Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, who is already in the White House race. New York Daily News: Hil's got to loosen up, say Iowa Dems

    NY POST REMINDS VOTERS HAVE "A LOT TO LEARN" ABOUT OBAMA: Barack Hussein Obama is a soaring political superstar right now - but he also sports one of the most liberal voting records in the Senate and has a shady land deal in his recent past. Democratic activists are swooning over Obama as the party's presidential alternative to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, but critics say voters still have a lot to learn about the first-term Illinois Democrat. Largely overlooked in the hubbub over the Democrats' election sweep last month was Obama's backpedaling over a questionable land deal he struck in 2005 with a tainted political fund-raiser, Tony Rezko, who has since been indicted by feds in an alleged pay-to-play scheme. New York Post: BARACKGROUND INFO

    GORE'S LATEST CAMPAIGN (FOR NOW)... OSCAR NOD: Al Gore is waging a fierce campaign for recognition and an Oscar statuette for his global warming documentary, while reviving talk that he's pursuing a bigger prize: the presidency. His recent itinerary has been the ultimate in high profile. The former vice president made self-deprecating jokes on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno," offered ideas on preserving the environment to Oprah Winfrey and her daytime audience and parried questions on Iraq from Matt Lauer on the "Today" show. This Saturday Gore is hosting a network of 1,600 house parties across the country to watch and discuss his documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth," with the Democrat planning to address the gatherings by satellite hookup. The movie is on the short list of feature-length documentaries being considered for Oscar nominations. AP via Yahoo! News: Gore chases Oscar nod, possible 2008 bid

    DALEY ANNOUNCES BID FOR SIXTH TERM AS WINDY CITY MAYOR: On the surface it looked a lot like past campaigns for mayor, with Richard Daley touting his record in office and declaring his passion for the job and the city. But while Daley was talking Monday about seeking a sixth term, his aides were filing nominating petitions with fewer than 25,000 signatures. That figure was far from the political power plays of the past, when Daley's campaign filed as many as 200,000 signatures. It was a sign that things are a little different this time around for the mayor. Since the 2003 election, the mayor's loyal political street organizations have suffered at the hands of an ongoing federal investigation into illegal hiring that rewarded campaign workers. "All this means is that he doesn't have as many street workers this time around," said Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd). "Four years ago, the federal government wasn't breathing down his neck." Chicago Tribune: Daley says he has 'more to give'

    DeLAY BECOMES BLOGGER: Former Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) yesterday began the long haul to restore the GOP to power and to repair his personal reputation following a year of scandal and bruising electoral defeat. His vehicle for both is a blog and grassroots political organization hosted at www.tomdelay.com. "I've got the election behind me and I'm looking forward to the future and I'm very excited about the opportunities that having a Democratic majority offers to conservatives," DeLay said in an interview with The Hill on Monday. Sitting forward in an attitude of calm determination, in a conference room adorned with mementos and pictures from his tenure in Congress, DeLay explained how his blog was aimed at improving Internet communication between conservatives. And he acknowledged that Democrats were well ahead in this area. The Hill: Tom DeLay launches comeback
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