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Friday, January 05, 2007
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...


  • "President Bush is overhauling his top diplomatic and military team in Iraq," the Washington Post reports.

    Among the changes:

    Army Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus "will replace Gen. George W. Casey Jr. as commander of the multinational forces in Iraq," the Post reports.

    Admiral William Fallon, who oversees U.S. forces in the Pacific, has been tapped to replace Gen. John Abizaid as head of U.S. Central Command, a high-ranking military source told CNN Friday.

    Also, Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, is the leading candidate to be the next American ambassador to the United Nations, three Bush administration officials told CNN Thursday.

    Ryan Crocker, the current U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, is expected to be nominated by Bush to replace Khalilzad in Baghdad, two senior administration officials told CNN.

  • At a 6:30 pm ET newser yesterday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Bush said of the Saddam Hussein execution, "I wish, obviously, that the proceedings had been done in a more dignified way. But, nevertheless, he was given justice; the thousands of people he killed were not."

  • While Republicans looked "downcast, even funereal," Nancy Pelosi "took control of the House of Representatives on Thursday, declaring herself proud of her historic role as the first woman elected speaker and determined to offer 'a new vision, a new America,'" the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

  • Meanwhile, new Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) "was quickly eclipsed... not just by the ascent of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi but even by Bill Clinton's trip to the men's room," the Washington Post reports.

  • And what does ex-DNC Chief Terry McAuliffe REALLY think about John Kerry's '04 WH campaign? Check out some of the comments from his upcoming "scrappy memoir" in Hot Topics below!

    President's Schedule:

  • The President will announce his nominees for Director of National Intelligence and Deputy Secretary of State at 9:50 am ET in the Roosevelt Room.

    Also on the Political Radar:

  • Speaker Nancy Pelosi & Dem Leaders host an "open house for the people" this morning at 8:30 am ET in the Cannon House Office Building... but it's invitation only.

  • At 11 am ET, Reps. John Boehner, Roy Blunt, Adam Putnam, Kay Granger, David Dreier, and Paul Ryan hold a news conference on the Dem agenda in the House studio.

  • Senate Democrats will hold a 1 pm ET background briefing in the Capitol on S. 1, The Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act of 2007.

  • Sens. Harry Reid, Dick Durbin, Charles Schumer, Patty Murray, and others hold a 2:30 pm ET presser on "moving America forward in the 110th Congress" in Great Hall in the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress

  • The Senate Radio-Television Correspondents' Gallery Daybook

  • The House Radio-Television Correspondents' Gallery Daybook

    =================================================================
    Political Hot Topics

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

    WHITE HOUSE "OVERHAULING" IRAQ TEAM ON EVE OF STRATEGY ANNOUNCEMENT: President Bush is overhauling his top diplomatic and military team in Iraq, as the White House scrambles to complete its new war policy package in time for the president to unveil it in a speech to the nation next week, officials said. But the White House is struggling to overcome deep differences among advisers over both the deployment of additional U.S. troops and whether the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki can deliver long-delayed political and military actions, according to officials familiar with the debate. With significant policy details left to be worked out this weekend, the administration is nonetheless moving ahead on several personnel changes. Washington Post: Bush Making Changes in His Iraq Team

    BUSH HOLDS TWO-HOUR VIDEOCONFERENCE WITH MALIKI: President Bush, who will announce a new strategy for the Iraq war next week, spoke with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for nearly two hours yesterday, and said last night that he had been trying to determine whether Mr. al-Maliki "has the will necessary to do the hard work to protect his people." "I told him, I said that you show the will, we will help you," Mr. Bush said in a brief White House press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. "I believe Prime Minister Maliki has the will necessary to make the tough decisions. That's one of the things I learned today." Mr. Bush said he was "in the process of making up my final decision as to what to recommend" on a way forward in Iraq, where more than 3,000 U.S. troops have died since the war began in March 2003. Washington Times: Bush talks to al-Maliki, set to reveal new Iraq strategy

    KHALILZAD MAY BE NEXT MAN IN NEW YORK: The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, is the leading candidate to be the next American ambassador to the United Nations, three Bush administration officials told CNN Thursday. However, two of the sources indicated that President Bush was not yet prepared to make an announcement of the appointment. Ryan Crocker, a veteran Middle East diplomat who is the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, is expected to be nominated by Bush to replace Khalilzad in Baghdad, two senior administration officials told CNN. If nominated for the U.N. job, Khalilzad would replace John Bolton, whose recess appointment to the post ended Thursday. Despite nearly two years of trying, Republican leaders could not push his permanent confirmation through the Senate. Khalilzad, 55, a native of Afghanistan and a Sunni Muslim, has been the U.S. ambassador to Iraq since June 2005. He was previously U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan. CNN: Sources: U.S. Iraq ambassador in line for U.N. job

    WHY DID NEGROPONTE GIVE UP A CABINET-LEVEL POST? From the start, John D. Negroponte felt miscast as the nation's first director of national intelligence, a diplomat who never seemed comfortable in spook's clothing, colleagues and friends of his said. Even at age 67, Mr. Negroponte longed to be back in the thick of policymaking, they said. But he knew it was the one role he was barred from playing as long as he remained the nation's top intelligence chief, whose role is to step into the Oval Office each morning as a neutral, impartial adviser on the threats lurking around the globe. It was because of this, officials said, that he agreed to do something generally unheard of in a city obsessed with the bureaucratic totem pole: trade a cabinet-level job for a subcabinet post as deputy secretary of state, a job that essentially requires him to handle tasks that Condoleezza Rice would rather not deal with. New York Times: Spy Chief's Choice to Step Back Feeds Speculation

    MIERS STEPS ASIDE AHEAD OF EXPECTED "LEGAL CLASHES" WITH DEM CONGRESS: President Bush accepted the resignation of White House counsel Harriet Miers yesterday as he remakes his legal team to prepare for what aides expect to be a sustained struggle with a new Democratic Congress eager to investigate various aspects of his administration. Miers, a longtime Bush loyalist whose nomination to the Supreme Court was withdrawn in 2005 as a result of conservative opposition, led an office that will oversee legal clashes that could erupt if Democrats aggressively use their new subpoena power. Bush advisers inside and outside the White House concluded that she is not equipped for such a battle and that the president needs someone who can strongly defend his prerogatives. Washington Post: Miers Steps Down As White House Gears Up for Battle

    NUCLEAR SECURITY CHIEF OUSTED BY ENERGY SECRETARY: Tens of millions of dollars and repeated security reviews haven't stopped embarrassing security breakdowns in the government's nuclear weapons program - and now the man in charge has been sent packing. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman on Thursday ousted the head of the National Nuclear Security Administration, which maintains the nuclear weapons stockpile and oversees the nation's weapons research laboratories. "I have decided it is time for new leadership at the NNSA," Bodman said in announcing that the agency's chief, Linton Brooks, would resign within the month. Brooks, a former ambassador and arms control negotiator, said he accepted the decision, one he understood was "based on the principle of accountability that should govern all public service." AP via Yahoo! News: Nuclear agency head dismissed for lapses

    PELOSI MAKES HISTORY: Rep. Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco took control of the House of Representatives on Thursday, declaring herself proud of her historic role as the first woman elected speaker and determined to offer "a new vision, a new America." The 233 jubilant Democrats in the new 110th Congress cheered and clapped as they voted unanimously for their 66-year-old party leader. The election capped Pelosi's remarkable rise through the congressional ranks since her first election in June 1987, culminating in what she called the shattering of the "marble ceiling" that had blocked women from the House's top post since the chamber was organized in 1789. The 202 Republicans -- looking downcast, even funereal, after losing their 12-year majority in November's elections -- voted for their leader, Rep. John Boehner of Ohio. San Francisco Chronicle: Madam Speaker

    REID "ECLIPSED" BY PELOSI'S ASCENT, BILL CLINTON'S TRIP TO RESTROOM: Harry Reid is often called the man from Searchlight, Nevada. Nobody has ever called him the man from Spotlight. The soft-spoken Democrat became the most powerful figure in the United States Senate yesterday. But the newly minted majority leader was quickly eclipsed -- not just by the ascent of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi but even by Bill Clinton's trip to the men's room... Reid was bound to be overshadowed yesterday. Pelosi was the first woman to become speaker in American history. Reid was merely the 20th man to become Senate majority leader since the position was created 87 years ago. Washington Post: Reid Takes Center Stage, but He's Hardly the Star of the Show

    CLINTON "ALMOST MADE NEWS" WHEN ASKED ABOUT IRAQ PLAN: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-New York, began her second term in the Senate Thursday with a former commander-in-chief by her side. Clinton's husband, ex-President Bill Clinton, did his best to stay out of the spotlight as his wife took the oath and speculation swirled about whether she, herself, will seek the presidency. But the former president almost made news when asked his thoughts about President Bush's plan to increase the number of U.S. troops in Iraq. The ex-president started to answer, but an aide to Sen. Clinton quickly cut off the conversation. Clinton stopped himself and then responded, "Ask me again tomorrow." As the Clinton's, accompanied by daughter Chelsea and the senator's mother, walked through the hallways they bumped into Sen. Robert Byrd, who holds the title of longest serving senator in history. The West Virginia Democrat, who wields considerable power and influence on Capitol Hill, appeared star struck at the chance meeting. CNN: Former president cedes spotlight to wife

    WH TRYING TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH NEW "POWER BROKERS": A few years ago, when President Bush announced plans to dump nuclear waste in Sen. Harry Reid's state, it was a political insult so stinging that the Nevada Democrat responded by calling the nation's commander in chief a liar. Now Reid, the new Senate majority leader, is getting the red-carpet treatment. The administration treated Reid to two military plane rides in one week. He was invited to an intimate White House party, where Bush politely asked what books Reid had been reading lately. The contrast is a measure of how the deeply ingrained habits of partisan vitriol are being tested - and may be starting to break down - as control of Congress changes hands. After Republicans' resounding defeat in the fall election, Bush and his lieutenants are paying attention to Democratic power brokers they had all but ignored for years. The new speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, got a Christmas Day phone call from Bush at home in San Francisco. Los Angeles Times: Bush reaches out to skeptical Democrats

    NO CHANGE TO MAIL LAW, SAYS SNOW: The White House said Thursday that President Bush was not claiming any new executive authority last month when he issued a statement suggesting that postal inspectors could open mail without a warrant in emergency circumstances. Tony Snow, the White House spokesman, said the statement Mr. Bush issued in signing postal legislation was merely a restatement of existing law allowing mail to be opened without a warrant in “exigent circumstances” to protect public safety. “All this is saying is that there are provisions at law for, in exigent circumstances, for such inspections,” Mr. Snow said. “It has been thus. This is not a change in the law. This is not new.” The questions arose after The New York Daily News published an article on Thursday drawing attention to the Dec. 20 signing statement and legal questions surrounding it. New York Times: White House Denies Switch in Mail Policy

    REHNQUIST SUFFERED "DELUSIONS," FEARED "CIA PLOT AGAINST HIM" AFTER STOPPING SEDATIVE: The late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist took a powerful sedative during his first decade on the Supreme Court and grew so dependent on it that he became delusional and tried to escape from a hospital in his pajamas when he stopped taking the drug in 1981, according to newly released FBI files... During its routine 1986 investigation of Rehnquist's background, the FBI concluded that Rehnquist began taking the drug Placidyl for insomnia after back surgery in 1971, the year before he joined the court. By 1981, he apparently was taking 1,500 milligrams each night, three times the usual starting dose... Doctors interviewed by the FBI told agents that when the associate justice stopped taking the drug, he suffered paranoid delusions. One doctor said Rehnquist thought he heard voices outside his hospital room plotting against him and had "bizarre ideas and outrageous thoughts," including imagining "a CIA plot against him" and "seeming to see the design patterns on the hospital curtains change configuration." Washington Post: Sedative Withdrawal Made Rehnquist Delusional in '81

    McAULIFFE CALLS KERRY CAMPAIGN "DISTRACTED AND INCOMPETENT" IN NEW BOOK: Former Democratic Party boss and Clinton friend Terry McAuliffe is lambasting John Kerry's unsuccessful presidential campaign, calling his effort to unseat President Bush "one of the biggest acts of political malpractice in the history of American politics." In his scrappy memoir, McAuliffe criticizes the 2004 campaign that he was responsible for defending but ultimately lost to what he describes as a more organized Republican machine. McAuliffe calls the Kerry campaign gun-shy, distracted and incompetent. McAuliffe is close to Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton and will support her presidential bid if the New York senator runs in 2008. McAuliffe's book, published by Thomas Dunne Books, could serve as the opening salvo against a potential Clinton rival as Kerry weighs another bid. However, McAuliffe has kind words for other possible candidates, such as Sens. Barack Obama and Chris Dodd and Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack. AP via Yahoo! News: Ex-Dem. Party boss blasts Kerry in book

    HILLARY WON'T BITE ON OBAMA "EXPERIENCE" QUESTION: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has again dodged a question about potential 2008 Democratic presidential primary rival Sen. Barack Obama's "experience." "I'm not thinking about any of that," Clinton told NY1 last night when asked to comment on the political experience of the party's rising star from Illinois. Clinton opted instead to underscore her own political savvy. "I'm working to bring my experience to bear on getting results for New York, and that is the No. 1 issue today," she said. Clinton allies have suggested experience will be a key issue if the re-elected New York junior senator and Obama, who's midway through his first Senate term, duke it out for the presidential nomination. New York Post: Hillary Evasive on Obama

    RUDY HOSTED "BEVY OF" GRANITE STATERS NEW YEAR'S EVE: Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani has held a New Year's Eve bash in his Times Square offices for years, but this year he had some special guests: a bevy of New Hampshire political activists. The contingent from the Granite State - home to the first-in-the-nation presidential primary - snacked on sushi and watched the ball drop from inside the cozy confines of Giuliani's 22nd-floor offices. He kept the chit-chat personal, but those in attendance said they left with the unmistakable sense that Giuliani is putting together a real campaign staff in New Hampshire and elsewhere as he mulls a 2008 presidential bid... There was more evidence of that yesterday: Aides to Giuliani announced they'd hired Katie Levinson, the communications chief of California Gov. Schwarzenegger's successful reelection campaign, as well as the top spokeswoman for Republican Jim Nussle's failed bid for governor of Iowa, Maria Comella. New York Daily News: N.H. bigs see Rudy Prez run

    SANTORUM'S DEPARTURE LEAVES VOID FOR SENATE SWEET TOOTHS: With Democrats back in control of Congress for the first time in years, much is changing in the nation's capital, including a longtime tradition in the U.S. Senate: the "candy desk." For a decade until his defeat last year, Sen. Rick Santorum, a Pennsylvania Republican, stocked the desk with donations from home-state candy makers including Hershey Co. and Just Born Inc., maker of Hot Tamales and Peanut Chews. With Mr. Santorum gone, the desk, which is dipped into by many members, has been turned over to Sen. Craig Thomas, a Republican from Wyoming. But his state is better known for bison than bonbons -- and that's a big problem. Wall Street Journal: In New Senate, The 'Candy Desk' Gets a Kiss-Off

    PATRICK INAUGURATION DRAWS THOUSANDS OF AFRICAN-AMERICANS: As Patrick took the oath of office, many in the Beacon Hill establishment looked out at a crowd of thousands, including hundreds of African-Americans who filled Beacon Street and spilled onto Boston Common to watch the ascension of the state's first black governor. When Patrick put his hand on a Bible that had once belonged to slaves, many thrust up their hands to capture the moment on cameras and cellphone cameras . A loud cheer thundered. "We, the people of color, are very proud of him for being elected governor of Massachusetts," said Josh Saint-Fleur, 32, who is studying medicine at Harvard University. "We understand it is a great accomplishment, and the road was not easy." Martin Joseph of Dorchester brought his 13-year-old son, Jordan, to meet the new governor, queuing up in a long receiving line after the swearing-in. "It's history in the making," he said, hugging his son to him. "I think he's going to make good changes for all." Boston Globe: African-Americans revel in embrace of history

    DALEY RIVAL CHALLENGES MAYOR'S SIGNATURES: Chicago election authorities said Thursday they will review about 1,200 nominating signatures for Mayor Richard Daley's re-election campaign to assess a rival's claim that the mayor should be kicked off the ballot. Two supporters of mayoral challenger William "Dock" Walls have contested the validity of the signatures gathered to put Daley on the Feb. 27 ballot. At a hearing on the request, a lawyer for Daley called the allegations "ridiculous." The lawyer, former Chicago and state election board chairman Michael Lavelle, said more than 90 percent of the mayor's signatures are valid. Walls' supporters had asked for a full review of almost 29,000 signatures submitted by Daley because they said they could prove that 19,000 are invalid. Candidates for mayor need 12,500 valid signatures from registered voters to qualify for the ballot. Chicago Tribune: Daley challenger: Throw mayor off ballot
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