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Tuesday, December 19, 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...


  • "First lady Laura Bush had a skin cancer tumor removed from her right shin in early November but decided it was a private matter and did not reveal it publicly," AP reports.

    "The White House acknowledged the procedure Monday night after Mrs. Bush was noticed with a bandage below her right knee."

  • "A Pentagon assessment of security conditions in Iraq concluded Monday that attacks against American and Iraqi targets had surged this summer and autumn to their highest level," the New York Times reports.

    The report "found an average of almost 960 attacks against Americans and Iraqis every week, the highest level recorded since the Pentagon began issuing the quarterly reports in 2005"

  • The Washington Post reports the "Bush administration is split over the idea of a surge in troops to Iraq, with White House officials aggressively promoting the concept over the unanimous disagreement of the Joint Chiefs of Staff."

  • Iowa Governor/Democratic Presidential Candidate Tom Vilsack "embraced the parody" of his name on last night's Daily Show, and gave Jon Stewart a stuffed Aflac duck "sporting a Vilsack campaign button," the Des Moines Register reports.

    "So you're not going to run away from duck-related humor?" Stewart said.

    "I'm not going to duck the issue, that's right," Vilsack responded.

  • And why is Marion Barry "thinking about suing" the D.C. government and U.S. Park Police? Find out in Hot Topics below!

    President's Schedule:

  • The President signs three bills this morning in the Oval Office at 10:05 am ET:

    H.R. 6143, the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Modernization Act of 2006,

    S. 843, the Combating Autism Act of 2006,

    and S. 3678, the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act.

    Also on the Political Radar:

  • U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan holds his farewell press conference at 10:30 am ET.

  • Incoming House Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton holds a presser on the committee's agenda in the 110th Congress at 11 am ET.

  • Rudy Giuliani holds the first fundraiser for his 2008 presidential exploratory committee tonight at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square, NYC. Tickets cost $2,100.

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

    Political Hot Topics

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

    FIRST LADY ACKNOWLEDGES SKIN CANCER SURGERY: First lady Laura Bush had a skin cancer tumor removed from her right shin in early November but decided it was a private matter and did not reveal it publicly. The White House acknowledged the procedure Monday night after Mrs. Bush was noticed with a bandage below her right knee. The cancer was a squamous cell carcinoma, the second most common form of skin cancer, said Susan Whitson, her press secretary. A squamous cell carcinoma is a tumor that affects the middle layer of the skin. It is more aggressive than basal cell cancer, the most common form of skin cancer... Explaining why the procedure was not disclosed until now, Whitson said, "This medical procedure was a private matter for Mrs. Bush, but when asked by the media today, we answered the question."... Whitson said Mrs. Bush's tumor was removed under a local anesthetic. She called it "a little surgical procedure. It's no big deal. She detected it early. She caught it early." No further treatment was needed. AP via Yahoo! News: Laura Bush had skin cancer tumor removed

    WH PROMOTES TROOP SURGE OVER "UNANIMOUS DISAGREEMENT" OF JOINT CHIEFS: The Bush administration is split over the idea of a surge in troops to Iraq, with White House officials aggressively promoting the concept over the unanimous disagreement of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to U.S. officials familiar with the intense debate. Sending 15,000 to 30,000 more troops for a mission of possibly six to eight months is one of the central proposals on the table of the White House policy review to reverse the steady deterioration in Iraq. The option is being discussed as an element in a range of bigger packages, the officials said. But the Joint Chiefs think the White House, after a month of talks, still does not have a defined mission and is latching on to the surge idea in part because of limited alternatives, despite warnings about the potential disadvantages for the military, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the White House review is not public. Washington Post: White House, Joint Chiefs At Odds on Adding Troops

    PENTAGON REPORT FINDS "ALMOST 960 ATTACKS"/WEEK AGAINST AMERICANS, IRAQIS: A Pentagon assessment of security conditions in Iraq concluded Monday that attacks against American and Iraqi targets had surged this summer and autumn to their highest level, and called violence by Shiite militants the most significant threat in Baghdad. The report, which covers the period from early August to early November, found an average of almost 960 attacks against Americans and Iraqis every week, the highest level recorded since the Pentagon began issuing the quarterly reports in 2005, with the biggest surge in attacks against American-led forces. That was an increase of 22 percent from the level for early May to early August, the report said. While most attacks were directed at American forces, most deaths and injuries were suffered by the Iraqi military and civilians. New York Times: Attacks in Iraq at Record High, Pentagon Says

    FULL PENTAGON REPORT: "Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq" (pdf via defenselink.mil)

    "FAILURE IN IRAQ... WOULD BE A CALAMITY THAT WOULD HAUNT OUR NATION": Defense Secretary Roberts M. Gates took the oath of office yesterday and immediately said the U.S. must win in Iraq or face a "calamity" that would "endanger Americans for decades to come." Sworn in at the Pentagon by Vice President Dick Cheney, Mr. Gates has the daunting challenge of finding a way for 135,000 U.S. troops in Iraq to turn the tide of battle that has Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims killing each other and inciting violence throughout Greater Baghdad... "Failure in Iraq at this juncture would be a calamity that would haunt our nation, impair our credibility and endanger Americans for decades to come," Mr. Gates told an audience that included the Joint Chiefs of Staff, civilian service secretaries and rank-and-file Pentagon workers. Washington Times: Gates warns defeat in Iraq would 'endanger' U.S.

    THE BATTLE FOR BAGHDAD'S ELECTRICITY: Over the past six months, Baghdad has been all but isolated electrically, Iraqi officials say, as insurgents have effectively won their battle to bring down critical high-voltage lines and cut off the capital from the major power plants to the north, south and west. The battle has been waged in the remotest parts of the open desert, where the great towers that support thousands of miles of exposed lines are frequently felled with explosive charges in increasingly determined and sophisticated attacks, generally at night. Crews that arrive to repair the damage are often attacked and sometimes killed, ensuring that the government falls further and further behind as it attempts to repair the lines. And in a measure of the deep disunity and dysfunction of this nation, when the repair crews and security forces are slow to respond, skilled looters often arrive with heavy trucks that pull down more of the towers to steal as much of the valuable aluminum conducting material in the lines as possible. New York Times: Iraq Insurgents Starve Capital of Electricity

    EX-ELECTRICITY MINISTER ESCAPES FROM BAGHDAD JAIL: A Chicago-area engineer facing corruption charges from his tenure as Iraq's minister of electricity has mysteriously vanished from a police station in central Baghdad, allegedly escaping custody with the help of men wearing what appeared to be American military uniforms, Iraqi officials said Monday. The alleged jailbreak by Aiham Alsammarae is the latest twist in the saga of the dual Iraqi-American citizen, who moved to the Chicago area 30 years ago, then returned to Iraq and served as a minister in the first postwar Iraqi government, only to find himself accused of corruption and locked in a cell. Alsammarae, of Oak Brook, Ill., had repeatedly expressed fears for his safety and recently had received information that government officials were plotting to kill him, said his daughter, Dania Alsammarae, who is living in Dublin. She speculated that he had made his way to Irbil in Kurdistan, the northern Iraqi province, but she said she hadn't spoken to him since Friday. Chicago Tribune: Iraqi official: Ex-minister from Oak Brook flees custody

    FMR. NSC OFFICIAL SAYS WH CENSORED HIS OP-ED: A former National Security Council official said Monday that the White House tried to silence his criticism of its Middle East policies by ordering the CIA to censor an op-ed column he wrote. Flynt Leverett, a former senior director for Middle East affairs at the National Security Council, or NSC, and a former CIA analyst, said the White House told a CIA censor board to excise parts of a 1,000-word commentary on U.S. policy toward Iran that he had offered to the New York Times. Leverett, who has criticized the administration for failing to deal directly with Tehran, said the board wanted to remove references to prior U.S. contacts with Iran. Leverett said the events he wrote about were widely known. He said the agency's action "was fabricated to silence an established critic of the administration's foreign policy incompetence at a moment when the White House is working hard to fend off political pressure to take a different approach." Los Angeles Times: White House accused of censorship

    WHO'S WHISPERING IN PELOSI'S EAR? All eyes in the capital are fixed on Rep. Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco as she prepares to be sworn in Jan. 4 as the nation's first female House speaker. But less notice has been paid to the lawmakers, lobbyists, aides, business leaders and friends who will be whispering in her ear as she leads a new Democratic Congress. Among the group: a pioneering Silicon Valley investment banker; a San Francisco politician with a penchant for expressing himself in four-letter words; and a 32-year veteran of Congress from the East Bay whom President Bush dubbed "Big George." Financier Bill Hambrecht, former state Senate leader John Burton and Democratic Rep. George Miller of Martinez are just a few of the insiders who make up House Speaker-to-be Pelosi's circle of advisers and confidants. Not surprisingly, the list includes many of the Bay Area's best-known power brokers, from former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown to California Sen. Barbara Boxer to Rep. Anna Eshoo of Palo Alto, who is one of Pelosi's closest friends in Congress. San Francisco Chronicle: Pelosi seeks input from diverse array of confidants

    BONO FRUSTRATED AFTER HILL MEETINGS: Even with Democrats poised to control the government's purse strings next year, U2's Bono still hasn't found what he's looking for when it comes to U.S. funds to combat AIDS. The disappointed U2 frontman stormed away from high-level meetings with incoming Democratic leaders late last week without assurances that $1 billion in proposed U.S. support would become a reality next year. "I'm alarmed we could not get a commitment from the Democratic leadership to prevent the loss of $1 billion in the continuing resolution to fight AIDS, malaria and extreme poverty," the rock star said in a statement. President Bush had proposed that amount in the past. "I don't know who's to blame. Democrats are blaming Republicans, Republicans are blaming Democrats," Bono added. Congressional leaders are expected to freeze the budgets of federal agencies, making it unlikely additional funds will be provided. New York Post: BONO SLAMS DEMS' $1B AIDS DODGE

    MANY MEMBERS' PRIVATELY FUNDED TRIPS NOT DISCLOSED ON TIME: In 2005, 53 members of the House and Senate did not publicly report trips paid for by outside groups within 30 days of the travel, according to PoliticalMoneyLine, a research firm that tracks money in politics. Instead, the trips were reported months later when lawmakers filed yearly reports that outline their personal finances and list gifts, including travel. Altogether, the group found 157 domestic and overseas trips paid for by outside groups on the annual reports in 2006, that had not been disclosed in 2005. The group found trips by 28 Republicans, including former representative Tom DeLay of Texas who resigned in June, and by 25 Democrats. It's not clear how much these trips cost. Lawmakers don't have to provide that information in their annual reports. Late travel filings are a "chronic problem," said Melanie Sloan, executive director of the liberal-leaning Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group. That means the public lacks real-time information on whether the privately funded trips influence pending legislation, she said. USA Today: Late filings 'chronic problem' in Congress

    VILSACK EMBRACES AFLAC PARODY: Call it the "funny" primary. Gov. Tom Vilsack introduced himself Monday to a television audience of millions as a guy who can take a joke while appearing as the guest on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart." The Iowa Democrat, who announced his candidacy for president in November, went head-to-head with faux anchorman Stewart, who weeks earlier began poking fun at the little-known Midwesterner's name. Vilsack embraced the parody, a takeoff on the insurance company Aflac's signature duck, by giving Stewart a stuffed duck sporting a Vilsack campaign button. "So you're not going to run away from duck-related humor?" Stewart said. "I'm not going to duck the issue, that's right," Vilsack responded. Des Moines Register: Vilsack gives duck to TV host

    HILLARY DROPS "HINTS" ON NPR, "TODAY": Sen. Hillary Clinton said yesterday she doesn't know if the country is ready for a female President, but added, "We need to try." Clinton has said she won't make up her mind about running until early next year, when she gets through talking to advisers and friends and weighing other factors. One of those factors clearly is her gender. She was asked by National Public Radio yesterday whether a woman could win the White House. "Well, we won't know until we try. I think that's a fair statement, and I don't know whether we're ready or not, but I think at some point we need to try," Clinton (D-N.Y.) told the network. In another interview, the former First Lady seemed to suggest that she has already experienced the pressures of the White House. "I saw it in an upclose-and-personal way for eight years," she said on the "Today" show. The two statements suggested Clinton was inching closer to a decision that she will run. New York Daily News: Hil drops a couple of hints

    CAN "SOCIALLY LIBERAL" GIULIANI CONVINCE CONSERVATIVES? [Giuliani] is showing the early signs of a serious candidacy: Giuliani's presidential exploratory committee throws its first major fundraiser in a hotel near Times Square on Tuesday evening, and he recently hired the political director of the Republican National Committee during 2006. A Washington Post-ABC News poll released last week found that Republicans give Giuliani an early lead over Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who is far ahead of the former mayor in organizing a national campaign. Despite that lead, conservative party strategists and activists in key primary states are skeptical and warn that the socially liberal Republican faces a difficult campaign. They question whether a Republican who has had one marriage end in annulment and another in divorce, and favors abortion rights, gun control and immigrant rights, has much retail appeal in the evangelical and deeply conservative reaches of the GOP. Washington Post: Giuliani's Primary Hurdle

    RANGEL JOKES ABOUT RUDY'S KERIK PROBLEM: Never say New Yorkers don't have sense of humor - especially when they can stick it to the other side. A powerful New York Democrat, a mischievous gleam in his eye, is offering an early endorsement in the 2008 presidential race, where the field includes many hometown hopefuls like former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Gov. George Pataki and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. "I'm supporting Giuliani for the Republican," Rep. Charles Rangel said Monday, pausing briefly before delivering the punchline. "Kerik, as well," he added, referring to Giuliani's disgraced former police commissioner Bernard Kerik. Kerik pleaded guilty earlier this year to misdemeanor charges of taking money from contractors with alleged mob ties, when he was the city's corrections chief. He was also President Bush's choice to head the Department of Homeland Security, but the nomination was scrapped after questions arose about his background. Political observers say Giuliani's relationship with Kerik could be a problem if the former mayor goes ahead with a run for president. AP via Yahoo! News: Rangel: I support Giuliani-Kerik ticket

    RISKY TIMING FOR EDWARDS ANNOUNCEMENT? Former Senator John Edwards will announce his second presidential bid next week in the storm-ravaged Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. Mr. Edwards has made addressing poverty central to his campaign and sees this as a way to dramatize what he argues have been White House failures. More perplexing, at least from a conventional point of view, is why Mr. Edwards would announce his candidacy in the last week of the year, a dead time for news, when it can be hard to win voters' attention. Democrats said his campaign was gambling that the television networks and cable news programs would find New Orleans a compelling setting in a week when they were desperate for news and when many Americans would be in front of their television sets, albeit looking for football more than politics. New York Times: Hungry for Coverage

    MARION BARRY MAY SUE DC: Marion Barry said that he is talking to his lawyers and thinking about suing the D.C. government and the U.S. Park Police after he was stopped, arrested and then released this past Saturday. Barry said that he was driving to a holiday party around 4:30 p.m. Saturday when U.S. Park Police officers, who said that he was driving too slowly, stopped him. They asked him for his license and registration and then said that his license was suspended. Barry told them that it was mix-up and that it could be straightened out by making a couple of phone calls, but they ignored that and cuffed him. NBC 4: Marion Barry Upset By Being Falsely Arrested
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