Thursday, December 21, 2006
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CNN Washington Bureau
Making news today...
"The military's request, if embraced by President Bush and approved by Congress, would boost this year's budget for those wars to about $170 billion."
"Still unresolved in the inspector general's report is one lingering mystery in the episode: Whether, as Mr. Berger's critics have charged, he was so cavalier as to stuff classified documents in his socks," the New York Times reports.
A Nancy Pelosi spokesman "called the filing 'appropriate' but signaled a wish the matter be resolved by the state courts."
"I know there are some people who would say, 'Your position is inconsistent,' but I don't believe it is," Romney said.
Political Hot Topics
(Today's top political stories from news organizations across the country)
"VICTORY IN IRAQ IS ACHIEVABLE": At an end-of-the-year news conference, Bush said he agrees with generals "that there's got to be a specific mission that can be accomplished" before he decides to dispatch an additional 15,000 to 30,000 troops to the war zone. But he declined to repeat his usual formulation that he will heed his commanders on the ground when it comes to troop levels. Bush sought to use the 52-minute session, held in the ornate Indian Treaty Room in a building adjacent to the White House, to sum up what he called "a difficult year for our troops and the Iraqi people" and reassure the American public that "we enter this new year clear-eyed about the challenges in Iraq." Asked about his comment to The Washington Post this week that the United States is neither winning nor losing the war, Bush pivoted forward. "Victory in Iraq is achievable," he said. Washington Post: President Confronts Dissent on Troop Levels
"WE'RE NOT WINNING. WE'RE NOT LOSING" - WHAT DOES IT MEAN? First there was the "mission accomplished" banner. Then, last year, there was a "plan for victory" and, just this past October, the presidential assertion, "Absolutely, we're winning." Now that President Bush is seeking "a new way forward" in Iraq, he is embracing a new verbal construction to describe progress there: "We're not winning. We're not losing." The latest shift in the official language of the war is begging the question: Well, which is it? A tie? A draw? Something else? New York Times: A New Phrase Enters Washington's War of Words Over Iraq
PENTAGON WANTS $99.7 BILLION MORE FOR IRAQ, AFGHANISTAN: The Pentagon wants the White House to seek an additional $99.7 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to information provided to The Associated Press. The military's request, if embraced by President Bush and approved by Congress, would boost this year's budget for those wars to about $170 billion. Military planners assembled the proposal at a time when Bush is developing new strategies for Iraq, such as sending thousands of more U.S. troops there, although it was put together before the president said the troop surge was under consideration. Overall, the war in Iraq has cost about $350 billion. Combined with the conflict in Afghanistan and operations against terrorism elsewhere, the cost has topped $500 billion, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service. AP via Yahoo! News: Pentagon wants $99.7B more for wars
CIA SIMULATION CONCLUDES U.S. LOSS IN IRAQ "WOULD EMBOLDEN AL QAEDA": The CIA this month conducted a simulation of how the Iraq war affects the global jihadist movement, and one conclusion was that a U.S. loss would embolden al Qaeda to expand its ranks of terrorists as well as pick new strategic targets, according to sources familiar with the two-day exercise. CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield confirmed to The Washington Times yesterday that the simulation took place in Northern Virginia. He declined to discuss its findings, saying that a final report is not finished and that the report will not be the intelligence community's official view. It will, however, be circulated within the community and possibly to U.S. policy-makers. The exercise involved 75 CIA analysts and outside specialists. It was conducted by the CIA's Office of Terrorism Analysis, within the agency's Counterterrorism Center. A source familiar with the simulation said it was a "red team" exercise in which participants played the role of global jihadists and war-gamed how the U.S. involvement in Iraq will influence their terror movement. Washington Times: CIA exercise reveals consequences of defeat
SEND MORE TROOPS, SOLDIERS TELL GATES: Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the rest of the Bush administration may be undecided on whether to send more troops to Iraq, but several soldiers he met with at Camp Victory here on Thursday morning here said extra forces would help. "Sir I think we need to just keep doing what we're doing," Spc. Jason T. Green, with the 101st Military Intelligence Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Infantry Division, told Gates during a breakfast session with about 15 U.S. soldiers. "I really think we need more troops here. With more presence on the ground, more troops might hold them off long enough to where we can get the Iraqi Army trained up." The troops may be somewhat at odds with military commanders, who worry that rushing thousands more Americans to the battlefront could prompt Iraqis to slow their effort to take control of their country. AP via Yahoo! News: Troops-to-Gates: Extra forces would help
EXPANDING THE MILITARY... WHAT IT WILL TAKE: Meeting President Bush's goal of a larger Army and Marine Corps will require more time and money to recruit volunteers, retain the officers needed to lead them and outfit new units. Bush said Wednesday that he asked Defense Secretary Robert Gates to quickly come up with a plan for expanding U.S. ground forces, not just for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but for the larger struggle against what he called "extremists and radicals." He pledged to work with Congress "to see that this becomes a reality." The Pentagon has increased incentives and lowered standards in recent years to keep the military at its current size, particularly as recruiting fell short of goals. Enlarging the military will require more of that, experts say. USA Today: Cost, effort, time of military expansion plan likely to have 'enormous' impact
PENTAGON PLANS "AFRICOM": President Bush is expected to create a new military command for Africa, for the first time establishing an independent operations headquarters that will focus on anti terrorist operations and humanitarian aid, according to administration officials. The US Africa Command, or AFRICOM, would oversee strategic developments and military operations across the entire continent, where a combination of problems -- natural disasters, civil wars, chronic disease, and the growing presence of Islamic radicals -- has destabilized some countries and created an increasing threat to global security, White House and Defense Department aides said. The Pentagon proposal, which the White House is expected to approve in coming days, is overdue, according to Africa specialists. Boston Globe: Pentagon plans new command to cover Africa
KERRY AND DODD MEET WITH SYRIA'S ASSAD: Sens. John Kerry and Christopher Dodd met with Syrian President Bashar Assad on Wednesday and discussed the need for Damascus to cooperate with efforts to maintain the unity and stability of war-ravaged Iraq, state media reported. The U.S. Embassy in Damascus said the meeting, which lasted two and a half hours, covered "a full-range of topics relating to U.S.-Syrian relations and regional issues." "I feel quite confident in saying this was a conversation worth having and that the (Bush) administration ought to pursue it," Kerry said in a telephone interview with the Associated Press from Jerusalem where he traveled after the meeting with Assad. "I feel very strongly about that...It's worth following up on a number of avenues." Kerry said he told Assad the new Democratic-controlled Congress has serious concerns about issues such as the flow of "money, weapons and terrorists" through Syria into Iraq and Lebanon. AP via Yahoo! News: Kerry, Dodd meet with Syria president
VA REP. TAKES SWIPE AT HOUSE'S FIRST MUSLIM: In a letter sent to hundreds of voters this month, Representative Virgil H. Goode Jr., Republican of Virginia, warned that the recent election of the first Muslim to Congress posed a serious threat to the nation's traditional values. Mr. Goode was referring to Keith Ellison, the Minnesota Democrat and criminal defense lawyer who converted to Islam as a college student and was elected to the House in November. Mr. Ellison's plan to use the Koran during his private swearing-in ceremony in January had outraged some Virginia voters, prompting Mr. Goode to issue a written response to them, a spokesman for Mr. Goode said. In his letter, which was dated Dec. 5, Mr. Goode said that Americans needed to "wake up" or else there would "likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran." New York Times: Congressman Criticizes Election of Muslim
BROOKS BROS. BENEFITS FROM PORK-LADEN "END-OF-SESSION" BILL: Christmas arrived Wednesday for the kidney dialysis industry. That's when President Bush signed into law the last major piece of legislation approved by the outgoing Congress. It was a lavish hodgepodge that included a $100 million-a-year boost in the Medicare reimbursement rates for dialysis providers who proved to be generous contributors to important legislators, notably House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas of Bakersfield. The dialysis folks were among many special interests benefiting from a piece of legislation that was designed to simply extend existing tax cuts and credits - but ended up freighted with billions of dollars in new spending earmarks for the coal industry, Brooks Brothers and various other interests... Brooks Brothers, an upscale clothing purveyor, walked away a winner. The company was part of a coalition that won about $32 million in refunds of tariffs that it said had penalized the declining domestic shirt-manufacturing industry. The measure also aids domestic cotton growers, many of which are in California. Los Angeles Times: Congress closes with a pork-filled flourish
THE STUFFED-SOCK QUESTION REMAINS: Samuel R. Berger, the former national security adviser to President Bill Clinton, went to such lengths to conceal his theft of classified material from the National Archives that he hid some of the documents under a trailer at a construction site, according to a government report released Wednesday. The report, prepared by the National Archives inspector general, provided new details about an episode that caused a brief stir in the 2004 presidential campaign and led to a guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge by Mr. Berger a year later... Still unresolved in the inspector general's report is one lingering mystery in the episode: Whether, as Mr. Berger's critics have charged, he was so cavalier as to stuff classified documents in his socks. New York Times: Report Details Archives Theft by Ex-Adviser
BUSH BACKS WAGE HIKE: President Bush for the first time endorsed a specific plan for raising the federal minimum wage yesterday, as he embraced Democratic calls to boost it by $2.10, to $7.25 an hour, over two years. The president's backing greatly enhances the prospects for congressional approval next year of the first hike in the federal minimum wage since 1997. He stressed, however, that it should be accompanied by tax breaks and regulatory relief that would cushion the blow for small businesses. "I believe we should do it in a way that does not punish the millions of small businesses that are creating most of the new jobs in our country," Bush said during a news conference. "So I support pairing it with targeted tax and regulatory relief to help these small businesses stay competitive and to help keep our economy growing." Washington Post: Bush Supports Democrats' Minimum Wage Hike Plan
BUSH PLEDGES TO WORK WITH DEMS TO HELP U.S. OIL ADDICTION: President George W. Bush pledged to reach across the partisan divide next year and work with the Democratic-controlled Congress to wean the U.S. from oil imports by spending more to develop other sources of fuel. "There is a consensus that we need to move forward with continued research on alternative forms of energy," Bush said at a press conference in Washington. "The American people expect us to reduce our dependence on foreign oil." The U.S. Congress didn't approve any major legislation in 2006 aimed at heeding Bush's State of the Union call last January, when he declared the U.S. "addicted" to oil and set a goal of cutting Middle Eastern oil imports by 75 percent by 2025. To accomplish that target, he asked Congress for a 22 percent increase in research spending on fuel from solar, wind, nuclear power, ethanol and hydrogen power. Bloomberg: Bush Pledges to Work With Democrats in 2007 to Cut Oil Imports
FL-13 DEM WANTS CONGRESS TO INVESTIGATE UNDERVOTE: The dispute over the congressional seat once held by Rep. Katherine Harris landed in the nation's Capitol on Wednesday, with Democrat Christine Jennings asking Congress to investigate "pervasive malfunctioning" of Sarasota's voting machines, and possibly order a second election. The move came as Jennings fights the November election in the Florida courts and Republicans stepped up calls for her to give up the contest. But Jennings, in Washington to personally deliver the papers calling for an investigation into why 18,000 votes went missing, remained undaunted. "Thousands of people had no voice in this election," Jennings said in an interview. "It's a good thing, what we're doing. It's a good thing for the people of this country." A spokesman for incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the filing "appropriate" but signaled a wish the matter be resolved by the state courts. Miami Herald: Jennings to Congress: Vote machines 'malfunctioned'
MORE E-VOTING HEADACHES... PAPER JAMS: The paper ballots and hanging chads that marred the 2000 presidential election have almost vanished from polling places, replaced by electronic-voting machines that are supposed to eliminate recount chaos. But now election directors have a new worry: printer jams. The new machines spool out a small paper receipt of each vote cast to verify the machine correctly recorded the vote and to provides a hard copy during a re-count. Some states like Maryland have been using paperless systems using touch-screen ATM-like computers that record and tabulate votes. But that has produced its own problems and legislation is likely to be filed in Maryland next year to switch from touch-screen to optical-scanning devices, leaving a paper trail. AP via Yahoo! News: Paper jams a problem for electronic voting
HILLARY ON "THE VIEW": Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton yesterday stumbled on to the national stage - literally. In her rush to gab with the ABC gals on "The View," the Democrats' 2008 presidential front-runner narrowly avoided an embarrassing face-plant as she misstepped on to the stage during her introduction. A smiling Clinton quickly made light of her foot fumbling, quipping, "I was laughing so hard backstage, I didn't think I'd get up" the step. Once safely on stage, Clinton jumped into the holiday spirit by waxing nostalgic about Christmas decorations, and chitchatted about the country's political mood - hinting it might be time for a mom to move into the Oval Office. "We've never had a mother who ever ran for or held that position," she said. Asked if many of the nation's woes could best be cured by a woman's touch, Clinton said, "We will never know that until somebody tries, because it's such a leap of faith and I am well aware of that - it is, like, way out there." New York Post: HILL'S CAMPAIGN 'TRIP'
ROMNEY'S RIGHT TURN: As he prepares for a 2008 presidential campaign, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) has championed the conservative principles that guided President Ronald Reagan, become an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage and supported overturning the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. It was not always so. Twelve years ago, Romney boasted that he would be more effective in fighting discrimination against gay men and lesbians than Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), distanced himself from some conservative policies of the Reagan administration, and proudly recalled his family's record in support of abortion rights. The apparent gulf between the candidate who ran for the Senate in 1994 and the one getting ready to run for president has raised questions as to who is the real Mitt Romney. Washington Post: Mass. Governor's Rightward Shift Raises Questions
ROMNEY DEFENDS POSITIONS IN IOWA: Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney affirmed his opposition to gay marriage while visiting Iowa on Wednesday. The stop marked the Republican presidential prospect's first trip back to the leadoff caucus state since questions about his gay-rights position re-emerged last week. "I feel very strongly that we should preserve traditional marriage and at the same time preserve our heritage of respect for people who make different choices in their life," said Romney, governor of the only state to have legalized gay marriage. "I know there are some people who would say, 'Your position is inconsistent,' but I don't believe it is."... Romney's opposition to gay marriage puts him in line with the views of Iowa's social conservatives, a group that factors heavily in the caucuses and has flexed its political muscle in helping President Bush carry the state in 2004. Des Moines Register: Romney courts social conservatives
"NO TENGO FUTURO," SAYS JEB: The shadow of President Bush seemed to loom large over his younger brother on Wednesday, as the outgoing Florida governor ruled out any plans to return to elected office. "No tengo futuro (I have no future)," Jeb Bush told Spanish-language reporters in Miami, when asked about any possible political ambitions after he steps down next month. The popular, two-term governor has often been touted as a savvy politician with a good chance of following both his brother and father, George H.W. Bush, into the White House... Bush did not elaborate on his terse "no future" comment. But he has said repeatedly over the past year that he would not run for president in 2008 and has never seemed comfortable with talk about Bush III or the Bush presidential dynasty. Reuters via Yahoo! News: "I have no future" -- Jeb Bush tells reporters
GIULIANI PLANS GRANITE STATE VISIT: Rudy Giuliani will pay a visit to first-in-the-nation primary state New Hampshire at the end of next month, part of his initial foray as he mulls a run for the White House in 2008, officials told The Post. The former mayor will address the New Hampshire Republican Party's annual meeting in Manchester on Jan. 27. State party Executive Director Andy Leach said several hundred people attend the yearly event, making it a broad early platform within the party. New Hampshire is a crucial proving ground where potential GOP rival Sen. John McCain had electoral success in the 2000 presidential primaries and has maintained deep ties. It is expected to be the first trip Giuliani will make to the Granite State since he formed his exploratory committee a few weeks ago. New York Post: GIULIANI WILL HIT ROAD FOR NEW HAMPSHIRE
CANADA'S HARPER WON'T BE A PASSENGER ON HIS WIFE'S HOG: Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who is regularly mocked by the media for his weight and dress sense, said yesterday he did not want to ride as a passenger on his wife's motorcycle because it would harm his image. Harper's wife Laureen, a generally more colorful figure than the prime minister, is fond of riding her Yamaha bike around town. Harper blanched when asked whether he planned to tag along as her passenger. "You've got to worry a little bit about image. I don't want to be on the back with my wife driving," he told CTV television in an interview. Reuters via Newark Star-Ledger: Wife's bike makes PM an uneasy rider
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