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Friday, December 22, 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 Bac
CNN Washington Bureau

Making news today...


  • "President Bush only acceded to a jump in the number of U.S. Army and Marine Corps ground troops after intense pressure from senior officers, active and retired, including the Joint Chiefs," the Washington Times reports.

  • Defense Secretary Robert Gates said "he hopes to give a report to President Bush this weekend on what he learned during his three days of meetings with military and political leaders" in Iraq, AP reports.

  • Rep. Virgil H. Goode Jr. (R-VA) "reiterated yesterday that he will not apologize for a letter he wrote that laments the influx of Muslims to America and the use of the Quran in Congress," the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.

    On "The Situation Room" yesterday, Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, told Wolf Blitzer that Goode "has a lot to learn about Islam."

  • "Sen. John Edwards plans to announce his candidacy for president next week during a nationwide swing scheduled to include a stop Thursday in Des Moines," the Des Moines Register reports.

  • "On a scale associated with presidential inaugurations, Nancy Pelosi is planning four days of celebration surrounding her Jan. 4 swearing-in as the first female speaker of the House," the Washington Post reports.

    Find out what's planned in Hot Topics below!

    President's Schedule:

  • The President and Mrs. Bush participate in a visit to Walter Reed Army Medical Center at 9:55 am ET.

    At 11:35 am ET, they take part in a "Holiday Service Project" at Walter Reed.

    The family will spend the Christmas weekend at Camp David.

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

    Political Hot Topics

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

    4 CHARGED IN HADITHA KILLINGS: Four marines were charged yesterday with murder in the killings of two dozen Iraqi civilians, including at least 10 women and children, in the village of Haditha last year, military officials said at Camp Pendleton, Calif. Military prosecutors also charged four officers, including a lieutenant colonel in charge of the First Marine Regiment's Third Battalion, with dereliction of duty and failure to ensure that accurate information about the killings was delivered up the Marine Corps' chain of command. A military investigation has found evidence that Marine officers may have obscured certain facts in the case. New York Times: Marines Charge 4 With Murder of Iraq Civilians

    PUSH TO INCREASE SIZE OF MILITARY CAME FROM TOP BRASS: President Bush only acceded to a jump in the number of U.S. Army and Marine Corps ground troops after intense pressure from senior officers, active and retired, including the Joint Chiefs, defense sources said. Mr. Bush, who announced Wednesday that he will increase an active force that now stands at 1.4 million personnel, this month heard about the stressed Army and Marines Corps from a group of retired officers at the Pentagon. But the deal-clincher came when he traveled to the Pentagon and met with the six-member Joint Chiefs inside the super-secret "tank." There, the commander in chief listened to a request for more combat forces from Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, and Gen. James T. Conway, the Marine commandant, said defense sources briefed on the meeting. Washington Times: Bush caved to pressure on troops

    GATES HOPES TO REPORT "THIS WEEKEND" ON WHAT HE LEARNED IN IRAQ: Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday that he hopes to give a report to President Bush this weekend on what he learned during his three days of meetings with military and political leaders [in Iraq]. Gates declined to say whether he plans to recommend a short-term increase in U.S. troop levels. But he said he believes the U.S. and Iraqis have "a broad strategic agreement between the Iraqi military and Iraqi government and our military." "There is still some work to be done," Gates said. "But I do expect to give a report to the president on what I've learned and my perceptions." Speaking to reporters at Camp Victory, with the sounds of artillery fire and jet aircraft in the background, Gates said that "clearly there are more discussions that need to take place in Washington and more specific recommendations." AP via Yahoo! News: Gates plans report to Bush on Iraq

    MALIKI SAYS HE'LL "LET U.S. GENERALS DECIDE" ON SENDING MORE TROOPS: Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told visiting Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates that he would let U.S. generals decide whether there is a need for a "surge" in U.S. troops deployed in Iraq, according to Iraqi officials with knowledge of the meeting. In a news conference, Gates said his conversation with the Iraqi prime minister and defense minister included "no numbers... We were really talking in broader terms." Washington Post: Iraqi Prime Minister Tells Gates He'll Let U.S. Decide on Troop 'Surge'

    THE NEW GUY... FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Where [Donald] Rumsfeld was volcanic and opinionated, [Robert] Gates has come across as humble and open-minded. Where Mr. Rumsfeld fought to keep troop levels in Iraq low, Mr. Gates is assumed to be inching toward recommending increasing American troop levels, even as he professes not to have made up his mind. When Mr. Gates vowed, as he has several times, to rely heavily on advice from the uniformed military, it was seen as a subtle signal that he would not run roughshod over the Pentagon brass the way Mr. Rumsfeld was widely criticized for doing. How valid these early impressions of Mr. Gates will prove to be, though, is still an open question. New York Times: At Pentagon, a New Personality Faces the Same Tough Calls

    GOODE WON'T APOLOGIZE FOR MUSLIM CRITICISM: Amid a political storm that now includes threatening phone calls, U.S. Rep. Virgil H. Goode Jr. reiterated yesterday that he will not apologize for a letter he wrote that laments the influx of Muslims to America and the use of the Quran in Congress. In a news conference at the Franklin County courthouse where a contingent of deputies guarded the doors, Goode, R-5th, told reporters that he will not back down from the views he expressed in the letter, which include his fear that one day "many more Muslims" may be "elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran [an alternate spelling]." On Tuesday, the Council on American-Islamic Relations called for Goode to apologize, and since then other Islamic groups have sought an apology. "I do not apologize, and I do not retract my letter," Goode said in a rising voice. Richmond Times-Dispatch: Goode refuses to apologize for letter

    ELLISON RESPONDS ON SITROOM: The Virginia lawmaker criticized for writing an "Islamophobic" letter to his constituents would be wise to learn more about Islam, the first Muslim elected to Congress said Thursday. Minnesota Rep.-elect Keith Ellison told CNN that he is not angry about a letter Virginia Rep. Virgil Goode wrote that said Ellison should not be allowed to place his hand on the Quran during his unofficial swearing in ceremony. "I think the diversity of our country is a great strength," Ellison told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "It's a good thing that we have people from all faiths and all cultures to come here." CNN: Ellison: Lawmaker has 'a lot to learn about Islam'

    PELOSI WILL CELEBRATE SWEARING-IN WITH 4-DAY CELEBRATION: On a scale associated with presidential inaugurations, Nancy Pelosi is planning four days of celebration surrounding her Jan. 4 swearing-in as the first female speaker of the House. She will return to the blue-collar Baltimore neighborhood where she grew up, attend Mass at the women's college where she studied political science, and dine at the Italian Embassy as Tony Bennett sings "I Left My Heart in San Francisco." But the hoopla is more than just a party. Pelosi is grabbing the moment to present herself as the new face of the Democratic Party and to restore the party's image as one hospitable to ethnic minorities, families, religion, the working class and women. Washington Post: Pelosi Aims To Recast Self, Party

    NEW FEMALE SPEAKER MAY ADDRESS "POTTY PARITY": The members-only House men's room, with its shoeshine stand, fireplace and television tuned to floor proceedings, is nestled a few paces from the House chamber, beside the speaker's lounge, flanked by Capitol police. How convenient. Reaching the women's equivalent is more challenging. It entails traversing a hall where tourists gather, or entering the minority leader's office, navigating a corridor that winds past secretarial desks and punching in a keypad code to ensure restricted access. Not so convenient. So when Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., takes the gavel, she may revisit, along with the Iraq war and raising the minimum wage, the question of potty parity. McClatchy News: As House gets its first female speaker, 'potty parity' is revisited

    DEM FRESHMEN WILL GET HELP FOR '08 WITH "INCUMBENT RETENTION PROGRAM": When newly elected Democratic members of Congress showed up here last month, they were taken on the traditional round of orientation, civic-minded lessons on how Congress works, tours of the Capitol and receptions with their new colleagues and leaders. But about 12 were singled out for a special type of orientation that has continued through this month. It is the "incumbent retention program," a detailed plan worked out after Democrats gained control of Congress to fortify the most politically shaky with plum committee assignments, prized bill sponsorship and an early start on fund-raising — all in preparation for their 2008 re-election campaigns. Yes, their 2008 re-election campaigns. New York Times: Eyeing '08, Democrats Nurse Freshmen at Risk

    CENSUS PROJECTIONS MAY SPELL TROUBLE FOR NEW DEM MAJORITY: Two weeks before Democrats take control of the U.S. House for the first time in 12 years, new Census estimates suggest they may have to battle demographic tides to keep it. Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, Texas and Utah are projected to gain seats in Congress after the 2010 Census, according to an analysis by Election Data Services. All six tilt Republican: President Bush won all in 2004, ranging from 50% of the vote in Nevada to 72% in Utah. Even more significant, Republicans control both chambers of the state legislature and the governor's office in five of those states, which gives the party the upper hand when state elected officials redraw congressional district lines every decade. (Arizona relies on a non-partisan commission.) USA Today: Growth trends could mean power shift in Congress after 2010 Census

    CONGRESS MAY TAKE UP MEDIA SHIELD LAW IN '07: The Bush administration is increasingly at odds with some Republicans over its efforts to make journalists reveal confidential sources. The controversy is reaching a flashpoint in San Francisco, where the Justice Department is expected to file papers today urging that two San Francisco Chronicle reporters face jail if they refuse to reveal their source for confidential grand-jury proceedings concerning baseball slugger Barry Bonds's alleged use of steroids. The issue also is expected to re-emerge on Capitol Hill next year, where two influential Republicans, Sen. Richard Lugar and Rep. Mike Pence, both of Indiana, plan to reintroduce legislation limiting the government's power to force journalists to disclose confidential sources. Many Democrats, whose party will control Congress next year, also support extending protection to reporters' sources and are expected to co-sponsor the legislation. Wall Street Journal: Media-Sourcing Debate on Deck at Capitol

    COURT RULING CREATES "LOOPHOLE" FOR ISSUE ADS: A divided three-judge court ruled yesterday that ads advocating for an issue and mentioning candidates can run during an election, creating a loophole in the law that sought to control the power of big money in elections. In a 2 to 1 ruling, the court found that the government had no compelling justification to regulate television ads such as the ones Wisconsin Right to Life Inc. broadcast in July 2004, which advocated stopping congressional filibusters against President Bush's judicial nominees. The ads ran when Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) was running for reelection and had opposed some of Bush's nominees. The ads made no mention of Feingold's record, instead urging Wisconsin residents to call their senators to express their dissatisfaction. Washington Post: Issue Advocacy Ads May Run During an Election, Three-Judge Court Rules

    BUSH "QUIETLY" TAPS "OUTSPOKEN CONSERVATIVE" FOR CPB BOARD: President Bush quietly appointed television sitcom producer Warren Bell to the board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting this week, overriding opposition from public broadcasting advocates who fear the outspoken conservative will politicize the post. Bell's nomination had been stalled since September because of concerns about his qualifications among several members of the Senate Commerce Committee, which must approve nominees to the board of the CPB, the private nonprofit that distributes federal funds to public television and radio stations. But Bush was able to circumvent the need for Senate approval by naming Bell to the board Wednesday evening as a recess appointee. His term will last about a year, unless a permanent nominee for the seat is confirmed before then. Los Angeles Times: A feud over Bush's pick

    PATRICK WILL RESCIND MA IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT LAW: Governor-elect Deval Patrick said yesterday that soon after taking office he will rescind a just-signed agreement between Governor Mitt Romney and federal authorities that allows State Police troopers to arrest illegal immigrants. Speaking with reporters after a luncheon reception with state legislators, the incoming governor said for the first time that he believes he has the authority to overturn his predecessor's agreement. He said he believes that state troopers have enough to do without being required to enforce federal immigration laws. "If I have that power, I'm going to rescind that agreement," Patrick, a Democrat, told reporters. He added: "I do believe I have that power." Boston Globe: Patrick set to rescind plan for troopers

    CAN GOP RELIGIOUS ACTIVISTS RECONCILE ROMNEY'S MORMONISM? As a clean-living, church-going father and grandfather, Gov. Mitt Romney has a natural appeal among conservative Christians. The Massachusetts Republican, though, faces a delicate dilemma: How does a devout Mormon woo religious activists critical to winning the GOP presidential nomination when many of those same activists are openly hostile to a faith they consider no more than cult? For his all-but-announced presidential bid to succeed, Romney must win primary votes across the Bible Belt from people whose churches have a historical antagonism with his own Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. AP via Yahoo! News: Will Christians back a Mormon candidate?

    EDWARDS WILL VISIT IOWA NEXT WEEK AS PART OF NATIONWIDE SWING: Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards plans to announce his candidacy for president next week during a nationwide swing scheduled to include a stop Thursday in Des Moines, Democratic activists in early nominating states said... Thursday's news included that Edwards, the 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee, will visit Iowa and traditional first primary state New Hampshire, as well as Nevada and South Carolina, scheduled to hold early nominating events. The travel plans followed weekend news reports that Edwards, who waged an unsuccessful bid for the 2004 presidential nomination, planned to kick off his second White House campaign from an area of New Orleans hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina last year. Des Moines Register: Edwards to enter race, visit Iowa

    VILSACK ASKS SUPPORTERS TO PROTEST McCAIN'S PUSH FOR MORE TROOPS: Democratic presidential hopeful Tom Vilsack is going after potential 2008 contender Sen. John McCain, saying the Republican's call to send more troops to Iraq is a mistake. It's an Iraq policy strategy other Democrats seeking the presidency have mostly avoided -- instead, they are attacking President Bush or criticizing one another. Mr. Vilsack, the outgoing governor of Iowa, is asking his supporters to petition Mr. McCain in protest of his support for increasing deployments to Iraq. "We can't afford to make a big mistake even bigger," he said. "To me it's very clear. Deploying more troops to Iraq is not an option." Washington Times: Vilsack hits McCain's support for troop surge

    BROWNBACK SAYS "THERE'S ROOM IN THE FIELD" FOR A CONSERVATIVE LIKE HIM: Sam Brownback said Thursday that conservative values like opposition to abortion and gay marriage will distinguish him from others vying for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. "I think there's room in the field for someone with full-scale conservative values," the Kansas senator told about 80 people at a conference room of a branch of the Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System. "I don't think that end of the field's crowded." Brownback's visit comes one day after another possible GOP contender for the White House - former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating - visited South Carolina. Brownback, who said he will announce next month whether or not he will run, also spoke about this early voting state's importance in the nomination process. AP via Yahoo! News: Brownback touts conservative values

    FELLOW REPUBLICAN CALLS ON NY SEN. MAJORITY LEADER TO STEP ASIDE: Embattled Joseph Bruno came under fire for the first time yesterday from a fellow Republican, who called on him to step aside as state Senate majority leader during a just-revealed criminal investigation. Orange County Sen. John Bonacic said Bruno shouldn't lead the Senate while he is under investigation by federal authorities for his private business dealings. "He's been damaged and this ongoing investigation will impair his ability to lead," Bonacic told the Times Herald-Record of Middletown. "He should step down as majority leader, even if it's temporarily, until the cloud is removed." Bonacic is widely seen as a political ally of Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Nassau), who Bruno aides have long suspected has been plotting to oust their boss. New York Post: GOPER IN REBELLION VS. BRUNO
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