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Tuesday, January 16, 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...


  • "At a time when most high-profile Washington criminal defendants cop pleas to avoid the glare of the courtroom," the Lewis "Scooter" Libby case "should provide a rare display of political theater, a throwback to the days of Watergate and the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scandal," the Los Angeles Times reports.

  • Sen. Wayne Allard (R-CO) said Monday he will not seek reelection in 2008, honoring a pledge he made when first elected to only serve two terms. (The Ticker)

    "With Allard out of the mix, the race has gone from competitive to a dogfight, said Jennifer Duffy, managing editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report." (Denver Post)

  • Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) is preparing to file the necessary paperwork to create a committee to explore a bid for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, according to a source close to Obama and a local Chicago broadcast news report.

    "It's going to come this week," a source close to Obama told CNN. (CNN.com)

  • "Obama told reporters Monday that he still has reservations about his higher profile of late," Chicago's WMAQ reports.

    "Finding out that there was a photog lurking in the bushes when I was on the beach is a source of concern," Obama said.

  • "Rebellion is brewing among conservatives" over the push to make Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL) "general chairman" of the RNC, the Washington Times reports. Find out why in Hot Topics below!

    President' Schedule:

  • President Bush meets with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon at 1:15 pm ET in the Oval Office.

    At 2:35 pm ET, Bush photo-ops with the 2006 World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals

    Tonight, President Bush will appear on PBS' NewsHour with Jim Lehrer "for an extensive interview on his new Iraq strategy." Airs 6 pm ET.

    Also on the Political Radar:

  • Jury selection scheduled to begin today in the Lewis "Scooter" Libby trial.

  • 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)

    IRAQI PM MALIKI "THE BIGGEST OF POTENTIAL WEAK LINKS" FOR BUSH PLAN: President Bush's legacy is now in the hands of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the head of Iraq's government who is in a tenuous position in Baghdad and quickly losing the confidence of Congress and the Bush administration. "That is the biggest of potential weak links in the president's program because Maliki has, in a number of ways over a period of time, demonstrated he really can't be counted on for significant cooperation and assertive action," said James F. Hoge Jr., editor of Foreign Affairs magazine. In November, Mr. Bush met with Mr. al-Maliki in Jordan and declared him "the right guy for Iraq." The prime minister received no such praise in the president's major prime-time speech last week. Washington Times: Bush's legacy hinges on al-Maliki's actions

    BUSH "CALLING THE BLUFF OF DEMOCRATS" ON BUDGET: When he takes the House rostrum next week for the State of the Union address, President Bush will list among his goals a balanced federal budget, a shift for a president who has presided over record deficits while aggressively cutting taxes. Politically, analysts say, the president is calling the bluff of Democrats, who won control of Congress in part by accusing Bush of reckless fiscal policies. While Bush now shares the Democrats' goal to erase the deficit by 2012, the politically perilous work of making that happen -- cutting spending or raising taxes -- falls to the Democratic-run Congress. Washington Post: Burden Set to Shift On Balanced Budget

    MANY RNC MEMBERS ANGRY ABOUT MARTINEZ PICK: Rebellion is brewing among conservatives on the Republican National Committee over President's Bush's attempt to "impose" Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida as "general chairman" of the party, who favors "amnesty" for illegal aliens. "I will be voting against Senator Martinez if he is nominated for any chairmanship of the RNC," Tina Benkiser, Texas Republican Party chairman, told The Washington Times yesterday. Bill Crocker, the elected national committeeman from Texas, says that when the RNC convenes here tomorrow, "Absolutely, I will vote against Martinez." The conservatives -- one of whom accused the Bush White House of "outsourcing" party leadership -- say the general-chairman post does not exist under RNC rules, which can be changed only at the party's presidential nominating convention. Washington Times: Choice of Martinez sparks GOP rebellion

    DEMS "COMMITTED TO GOVERNING FROM THE CENTER": The promise may not outlast their political honeymoon, but Democratic Congressional leaders say they are committed to governing from the center, and not just on bread-and-butter issues like raising the minimum wage or increasing aid for education. They also hope to bring that philosophy to bear on some of the most divisive social issues in politics, like abortion. In their first days in session, Senate Democratic leaders reintroduced a bill that they said was indicative of their new approach: the Prevention First Act, which seeks to reduce the number of abortions by expanding access to birth control, family planning and sex education. In the House last week, Democrats showcased a vote on expanding federal financing for embryonic stem cell research, which, despite fierce opposition from many conservatives, has won bipartisan support among lawmakers — and voters — who are otherwise divided on abortion. New York Times: Democrats Seek the Middle on Social Issues

    LIBBY TRIAL SET TO BEGIN: By his own account, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby was a very busy man on July 10, 2003. That day, according to his calendar, he had a senior staff meeting; an intelligence briefing with his boss, Vice President Dick Cheney; a CIA briefing; and lunch with Cheney and then-House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.). He was reviewing more than a dozen terrorist threats and checking up on trouble spots around the globe, such as the ouster of Liberian president Charles Taylor and North Korea's escalating plans for developing nuclear weapons. Libby also had been busy talking with reporters about a CIA operative who was married to an emerging critic of the Bush administration's march to war in Iraq. On that day in July, he said he had one such conversation, with Tim Russert of NBC News. Libby goes on trial in U.S. District Court [today], charged with lying to a grand jury about the conversations he had with Russert and other reporters and, in the process, obstructing a federal investigation. Los Angeles Times: Political theater awaited at Libby trial

    PLAN TO BEEF UP STAFFS OF ETHICS COMMITTEES: The Senate and House ethics committees plan to increase their staffs to police Congress better in the wake of lobbying and ethics reform legislation. This comes as nongovernmental watchdog groups temporarily back off their demand that Congress create an office of public integrity to crack down on violations. The watchdogs' lobbyists say opponents of a public-integrity office have long suggested strengthening the committee instead, but the watchdogs say that this would not address the problems plaguing Congress. The Hill: Ethics panels staffing up

    BILL WOULD STRIP SOME CONVICTED LAWMAKERS OF FEDERAL RETIREMENT CHECKS: Lawmakers who commit crimes in office may no longer be able to rely on a federal pension to pad their fall from grace. The House this week will take up a bill by freshman Rep. Nancy Boyda (D-Kan.) that would strip lawmakers convicted of ethics-related offenses of their federal retirement checks. The Senate on Friday overwhelmingly agreed to add a similar proposal by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) to that chamber's lobbying reform package. Boyda spokeswoman Shanan Guinn said the details were still being finalized, but the language is based on a provision from last year's House-passed lobbying bill. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Boyda's bill would reach the floor Friday. Roll Call: Hill Moves to Pull Pensions

    CIA DETAILS NEW 22-POINT STRATEGY: The CIA plans to increase its use of "open sources" such as newspapers and blogs and to outsource more software development to commercial contractors under a 22-point strategy being put in place. The CIA's "Strategic Intent," distributed to agency employees in December and posted on its public website this month, stresses improved flexibility and fewer barriers between departments. It contains several corporate-style flourishes, including ongoing employee input, an advisory board drawn from business and academia and "action teams" assigned to implement the plan. In a speech to CIA workers at the agency's Langley, Va., headquarters Jan. 4, CIA Director Michael Hayden said the plan aims to reassert the 60-year-old agency's primacy in the intelligence community. USA Today: CIA emphasizes flexibility in new strategy

    "UNION SPORTSMAN'S ALLIANCE" IS MARRIAGE OF LABOR, CONSERVATION GROUPS: In a first-of-its-kind alliance that could fundamentally reshape the environmental movement, 20 labor unions with nearly 5 million members are joining forces with a Republican-leaning umbrella group of conservationists -- the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership -- to put pressure on Congress and the Bush administration. The Union Sportsman's Alliance, to be rolled out in Washington on Tuesday after nearly three years of quiet negotiations, is to be a dues-based organization ($25 a year). Its primary goal is to increase federal funding for protecting wildlife habitat while guaranteeing access for hunters and anglers. Washington Post: Conservation Group, Unions Joining Forces

    ARNOLD AT THE GOLDEN GLOBES: When you have Jack Nicholson, Brad Pitt and Prince in the same room, it's hard to be the man everyone is whispering about, but then the governor of California knows how to work a room - even when he's not in it. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the man who 30 years ago this month picked up a Golden Globe as new male star of the year for his role in "Stay Hungry," did not sit for dinner with the other movie stars but, by the time he appeared at the show's close, he had been one of the hot topics of the evening. "It's going to be huge," Nicholson said of the ovation awaiting his old buddy. Nicholson is pals with the politico but there was reason to wonder how warmly Schwarzenegger would be embraced in a room that has seen him politically zigzag more recklessly than he skis (a recent mishap in the snow is why the governor was on crutches). Schwarzenegger handed out the night's final trophy to "Babel." The movie's Mexican director, Alejandro González Inarritu, joked when he took the stage: "I swear I have my papers governor, I swear." Los Angeles Times: Guess who terminated the show?

    WITH ALLARD OUT, CO "RACE HAS GONE FROM COMPETITIVE TO A DOGFIGHT": U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard announced Monday that he would honor his pledge not to run for re-election after two terms, leaving Republicans jockeying to replace him in a 2008 race already considered one of the most competitive in the country. "In an age when promises are cast away as quickly as yesterday's newspaper, I believe a promise made is a promise kept," said Allard, 63, a Loveland veterinarian. He refrained from speculating on who his successor might be but said he would not endorse anyone in the event the GOP has a primary. Allard, who was joined in the state Capitol rotunda by his wife, Joan, and former and current staff members, said that when he ran for office he vowed to be a "citizen legislator" for a specified period of time before making room for a new lawmaker. Denver Post: Allard won't try for 3rd term

    BIDEN SAYS CONFEDERATE FLAG SHOULD BE MOVED AWAY FROM SC STATEHOUSE: Democratic presidential hopeful Joseph Biden said Monday he thinks the Confederate flag should be kept off South Carolina's Statehouse grounds... In Columbia, S.C., more than six years after the Confederate flag was taken down from the Capitol dome, its location in front of the Statehouse remains an issue. "If I were a state legislator, I'd vote for it to move off the grounds - out of the state," Biden said before an NAACP march and rally at the Statehouse. AP via Yahoo! News: Biden: Move Confederate Flag in S.C.

    EMILY'S LIST READY TO ENDORSE FIRST WH CANDIDATE: The biggest political action committee in the country has never engaged in a presidential campaign, but that is about to change. EMILY's List, the Democratic fundraising juggernaut that helps women candidates who support abortion rights, is poised to endorse Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) as soon as the former first lady announces her 2008 presidential bid — a move expected in a few weeks. While the group's level of participation in the Clinton campaign is an open question, some Democratic strategists already worry that the PAC's focus may shift to Clinton at the expense of Congressional candidates. Roll Call: EMILY's List Enters Next Political Level

    WILL THE FOB'S BECOME FOH'S? Six years after leaving office, President Clinton still has plenty of friends in New Hampshire and Iowa, the states that traditionally launch the presidential nominating process. And, many of the folks known as "Friends of Bill" count themselves as "Friends of Hill," as well. Some... are eager to rekindle the flame. Others, though, remain undecided on the 2008 race or have gravitated toward other candidates. It remains to be seen how much of her husband's network of supporters Mrs. Clinton, now a New York senator, can resurrect or what role they would play if she decides to get into the race, as expected. AP via Yahoo! News: Are Bill's friends Hill's friends, too?

    OBAMA TO FORM EXPLORATORY COMMITTEE "THIS WEEK": Sen. Barack Obama is preparing to file the necessary paperwork to create a committee to explore a bid for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, according to a source close to Obama and a local Chicago broadcast news report. "It's going to come this week," a source close to Obama, D-Illinois, told CNN. Chicago television station WMAQ, citing sources "who work for Senator Obama," also reported the exploratory committee papers will be filed by the end of the week and that Obama could make a campaign visit to Iowa this weekend. Obama, on CNN's "Larry King Live" last Wednesday, said he would "have an announcement fairly soon" about his presidential campaign intentions. CNN: Sources: Obama to form panel to explore presidential bid

    BLOOMBERG SAYS HE'LL ENDORSE RANGEL IN '08: As New Yorkers honored the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. yesterday, Mayor Bloomberg quipped that he would like to see one of the city's most powerful black politicians - Rep. Charles Rangel - throw his hat into the 2008 presidential race. Bloomberg made the lighthearted remark as the city joined the nation in celebrating what would have been the 78th birthday of the slain civil rights leader who preached a dream of equality and lived his life on the principles of nonviolent protest and public service. Speaking at the Convent Avenue Baptist Church in Harlem, Bloomberg referred to New York politicians on the presidential radar and added, "But my personal favorite, the person that I am going to endorse if he chooses to run as a New Yorker, is Congressman Rangel." New York Post: "Prez Charlie"
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