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Friday, January 26, 2007
Political Ticker AM
Compiled by Stephen Bach
CNN Washington Bureau

Making news today...

  • "The Bush administration has authorized the U.S. military to kill or capture Iranian operatives inside Iraq as part of an aggressive new strategy to weaken Tehran's influence across the Middle East and compel it to give up its nuclear program," the Washington Post reports.

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has traveled to Iraq for a fact-finding visit and a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, CNN has confirmed.

  • Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) "has scheduled a hearing next Tuesday in his Judiciary Committee subcommittee to explore whether Congress has the authority to cut off funding for the U.S. military campaign in Iraq," The Politico reports.

    Feingold "will force Democrats to consider an option many consider politically suicidal: denying funds to the military and U.S. soldiers to force a quicker end to the war."

  • Former Cheney spokeswoman Cathie Martin "gave testimony in the trial of I. Lewis Libby Jr. on Thursday that directly contradicted Mr. Libby's version of events during a crucial period that is at the center of the perjury case against him," the New York Times reports.

  • And yesterday, Rev. Al Sharpton "threatened to again seek the Democratic presidential nomination," the Washington Times reports. What would force him into the race? Find out in Hot Topics below!
President's Schedule:
  • The President meets with the Secretary of Defense, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Incoming Commander of Multi-National Force - Iraq in the Oval Office at 9 am ET.

  • Bush then travels to Cambridge, MD, where at 12:10 pm ET he'll deliver remarks to the House Republican Conference at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay resort.
Also on the Political Radar:

  • The Senate Armed Services Committee holds a closed hearing on Chinese anti-satellite testing at 9 am ET.

  • Mitt Romney travels to Iowa with his son, Tagg, to meet local voters and receive a briefing at Hawkeye Renewables, an ethanol producer in Fairbank, IA.

  • Former New York Governor George Pataki gives an 11 am ET speech, "A Way Forward in Iraq," at Georgetown's Center for Peace and Security Studies.

  • The National Review Institute hosts a conservative summit, "Claiming the Future," at the J.W. Marriott, through January 28. Speakers include Jeb Bush, Tony Snow, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and John Boehner.

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

U.S. MILITARY AUTHORIZED TO "KILL OR CAPTURE" IRANIANS INSIDE IRAQ: The Bush administration has authorized the U.S. military to kill or capture Iranian operatives inside Iraq as part of an aggressive new strategy to weaken Tehran's influence across the Middle East and compel it to give up its nuclear program, according to government and counterterrorism officials with direct knowledge of the effort. For more than a year, U.S. forces in Iraq have secretly detained dozens of suspected Iranian agents, holding them for three to four days at a time. The "catch and release" policy was designed to avoid escalating tensions with Iran and yet intimidate its emissaries. U.S. forces collected DNA samples from some of the Iranians without their knowledge, subjected others to retina scans, and fingerprinted and photographed all of them before letting them go. Washington Post: Troops Authorized to Kill Iranian Operatives in Iraq

PELOSI IN IRAQ: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has traveled to Iraq for a quick fact-finding visit that will include a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The congressional delegation traveling with the Democratic speaker from San Francisco includes Rep. Tom Lantos, D-San Mateo, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., who more than a year ago urged President Bush to withdraw American forces from Iraq and is chairman of the appropriations subcommittee that oversees the military budget. The delegation is scheduled to return to Washington on Monday. San Francisco Chronicle: Pelosi to meet with al-Maliki in quick visit to Iraq

FEINGOLD WILL EXPLORE CUTTING OFF WAR FUNDS: Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., has scheduled a hearing next Tuesday in his Judiciary Committee subcommittee to explore whether Congress has the authority to cut off funding for the U.S. military campaign in Iraq. The move comes as Congress prepares to vote on a congressional resolution opposing President Bush's escalation of the war. Feingold, a fierce war critic, will force Democrats to consider an option many consider politically suicidal: denying funds to the military and U.S. soldiers to force a quicker end to the war. Democratic leaders have privately called on members to restrain from cutting off funding and focus on congressional resolutions condemning the Bush policy. The resolutions are nonbinding and therefore symbolic. The Politico: Feingold Pushes Plan to Cut Off War Funds

WARNER WON'T NEGOTIATE FOR SINGLE RESOLUTION ON IRAQ: The leader of a bipartisan effort to rebuke President Bush's Iraq strategy said Thursday he would not strike a compromise with a harsher Democratic resolution the Senate will debate next week. Sen. John Warner, R-Va., former chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said he won't negotiate with Democrats to develop a single proposal on Iraq. His comments - along with the emergence of other resolutions the Senate might consider - underscored how a Congress largely against Bush's proposal to send more troops to Iraq remained divided over what to do about it. Warner's decision bolsters chances that his resolution will be the one to win final Senate approval. Democrats are expected to vote for his proposal if their measure fails, and several Republicans said they prefer Warner's approach because it is less divisive. AP via Yahoo! News: No compromise seen on Iraq resolutions

JUDGES UNEASY ABOUT SECRET PROCEDURES IN NSA SUITS: The Bush administration has employed extraordinary secrecy in defending the National Security Agency's highly classified domestic surveillance program from civil lawsuits. Plaintiffs and judges' clerks cannot see its secret filings. Judges have to make appointments to review them and are not allowed to keep copies. Judges have even been instructed to use computers provided by the Justice Department to compose their decisions. But now the procedures have started to meet resistance. At a private meeting with the lawyers in one of the cases this month, the judges who will hear the first appeal next week expressed uneasiness about the procedures, said a lawyer who attended, Ann Beeson of the American Civil Liberties Union. Lawyers suing the government and some legal scholars say the procedures threaten the separation of powers, the adversary system and the lawyer-client privilege. New York Times: Secrecy Is at Issue in Suits Opposing Spy Program

SOME DEMS FACING THE "WRATH" OF MOVEON.ORG:'s 3.3 million members are friends to Democrats during election seasons. Now that the party controls Congress, some of its lawmakers are facing the group's wrath. MoveOn, one of the first Internet-centered political groups, was founded eight years ago by two Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who wanted the Congress to "move on" past then-President Bill Clinton's impeachment. The group helped elect dozens of Democrats last year as it rose to become the second-biggest political action committee, raising $27.3 million. Now MoveOn and other groups opposed to the Iraq war are pressing the Democrats, who are split over whether to curb funds for it and when to withdraw troops, to confront President George W. Bush. "It is political malpractice for the Democrats not to work to stop the president," said Tom Matzzie, Washington director for MoveOn. Bloomberg: MoveOn, Showing New Muscle in Washington, Challenges Democrats

EX-CHENEY SPOKESWOMAN "DIRECTLY CONTRADICTED" LIBBY VERSION OF EVENTS: A former spokeswoman for Vice President Dick Cheney gave testimony in the trial of I. Lewis Libby Jr. on Thursday that directly contradicted Mr. Libby's version of events during a crucial period that is at the center of the perjury case against him. Cathie Martin, Mr. Cheney's former spokeswoman, testified that she had a clear memory of telling both Mr. Cheney and Mr. Libby that a prominent war critic's wife worked for the C.I.A., days before he contends he first learned it from a reporter. Ms. Martin was the fourth witness for the prosecution in the trial of Mr. Libby, who is charged with lying during an investigation of who leaked the name of the C.I.A. operative, Valerie Wilson. New York Times: Ex-Cheney Aide Contradicts Libby

SPOTLIGHT ON WHITE HOUSE MESSAGE CONTROL: It is unclear whether the first week of the trial will help or hurt Libby or the administration. But the trial has already pulled back the curtain on the White House's PR techniques and confirmed some of the darkest suspicions of the reporters upon whom they are used. Relatively junior White House aides run roughshod over members of the president's Cabinet. Bush aides charged with speaking to the public and the media are kept out of the loop on some of the most important issues. And bad news is dumped before the weekend for the sole purpose of burying it. With a candor that is frowned upon at the White House, [Former Cheney Communications Director Cathie] Martin explained the use of late-Friday statements. "Fewer people pay attention to it late on Friday," she said. "Fewer people pay attention when it's reported on Saturday." Washington Post: In Ex-Aide's Testimony, A Spin Through VP's PR

CALL FOR CIVILIAN RESERVE CORPS... "HEAVY ON RHETORIC BUT LACKS AN ACTUAL PLAN": President Bush's proposal in his State of the Union speech to establish a "Civilian Reserve Corps" marks the latest call to mobilize Americans following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but like other calls to national service by Bush and both parties in Congress -- most of which have not materialized -- it is heavy on rhetoric but lacks an actual plan. Bush called for an army of civilians on Tuesday that he said "would ease the burden on the armed forces by allowing us to hire civilians with critical skills to serve on missions abroad when America needs them. And it would give people across America who do not wear the uniform a chance to serve in the defining struggle of our time." But when asked yesterday to provide details on the president's proposal, White House aides had little to offer. Boston Globe: No specifics in Bush's call for civilian service

TANCREDO CALLS FOR END TO "DIVISIVE, RACE-BASED CAUCUSES": White House hopeful Tom Tancredo said Thursday the existence of the Congressional Black Caucus and other race-based groups of lawmakers amount to segregation and should be abolished. "It is utterly hypocritical for Congress to extol the virtues of a colorblind society while officially sanctioning caucuses that are based solely on race," said the Colorado Republican, who is most widely known as a vocal critic of illegal immigration. "If we are serious about achieving the goal of a colorblind society, Congress should lead by example and end these divisive, race-based caucuses," said Tancredo, who is scheduled to pitch his long-shot presidential bid this weekend in New Hampshire. AP via Yahoo! News: Tancredo: Abolish race-based caucuses

GINSBURG "LONELY" ON THE ONE-WOMAN COURT: It's been a year since Sandra Day O'Connor retired from the Supreme Court after a quarter-century tenure and left Ruth Bader Ginsburg as the lone woman on the nine-member court. Although it's unclear how O'Connor's departure will affect the law, this much is certain: Ginsburg misses her friend, and worries about the message court visitors get when they see only one woman on the bench. "The word I would use to describe my position on the bench is lonely," Ginsburg, 73, said in an interview with USA TODAY. "This is how it was for Sandra's first 12 years," she said, citing the time from O'Connor's appointment in 1981 to Ginsburg's arrival in 1993. "Neither of us ever thought this would happen again. I didn't realize how much I would miss her until she was gone." USA Today: Ginsburg 'lonely' without O'Connor

CARTER APOLOGIZES FOR "IMPROPER AND STUPID" WORDING IN BOOK PASSAGE: Jimmy Carter has apologized for what he called a "stupid" passage in his book that critics say is a de facto endorsement of Palestinian violence against Israelis. The former president had spent most of the past two months defending his new book, "Palestine: Peace not Apartheid," after 15 board members at his Atlanta-based Carter Center resigned in protest of the book's content. "I apologize to you personally and to everyone here," Mr. Carter said when asked about the passage by a student during his appearance at Brandeis University on Tuesday. After explaining that the passage was "worded in a completely improper and stupid way," Mr. Carter said he has asked publisher Simon & Schuster Inc. to change the wording in future editions of the book. Washington Times: Carter apologizes for 'stupid' book passage

THE GOP'S VERY OWN "LIEBERMAN"... DOES HAGEL HAVE AN EYE ON '08? His Republican colleagues regard him warily. The White House barely speaks to him. He is reviled by his party's conservative base. Looks as though Sen. Chuck Hagel is on a roll. Both parties have their Iraq war contrarians. For the Democrats, it is Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, whose steadfast support for President Bush nearly cost him his seat last year and forced him to run as an independent. The Republican version is Hagel, a career maverick from Nebraska and the only GOP senator to call for an end to the war. Hagel's sharp criticism of the war has placed him squarely in the mainstream of public opinion on Iraq and revived long-dormant speculation about his presidential ambitions. Washington Post: Hagel Ponders White House Run As War Criticism Raises His Profile

HUNTER JUMPS IN: Rep. Duncan Hunter, warning about mounting threats to U.S. security from China, Iran and North Korea, became an official presidential candidate yesterday with a pledge to champion Ronald Reagan's doctrine of "peace through strength." In a kickoff speech to about 250 supporters at a rally [in Spartanburg, SC], the Alpine Republican did not spare the Bush administration. He accused a recent high-level delegation to Beijing led by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke of appeasement for failing to take the Chinese leadership to task for illegally manipulating its currency to gain an unfair advantage in trade with the United States. San Diego Union-Tribune: Hunter makes presidential run official with S. Carolina kickoff

HOLLYWOOD LOVES OBAMA: Star quality: It's what Hollywood was built on. And there's no question that to the many powerful Democrats in the entertainment community, Sen. Barack Obama has loads of it. George Clooney calls him a friend. Halle Berry has said she'd "collect paper cups off the ground to make his pathway clear." Oprah Winfrey says he's her man. And three of the most powerful men in Hollywood - Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen - have just invited Democrats to a truly high-profile fundraiser: a Feb. 20 reception for Obama at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, with a dinner later at Geffen's home for top donors. But despite all that, political analysts note that being the "next big thing" can be fleeting. AP via Yahoo! News: Obama excites entertainment community

OBAMA "PRETTY CONFIDENT" HE'LL "DO JUST FINE" WITH BLACK VOTERS: Sen. Barack Obama said Thursday that he's not worried about how he will fare with fellow African Americans should he launch a bid for the presidency, as he is expected to do in February. "If you look at my black vote in my U.S. Senate race or my approval ratings back in Illinois," Obama (D-Ill.) said, "I feel pretty confident that, once folks know who I am, we'll do just fine." The remarks came as some detractors have been quietly asking whether Obama, a biracial Harvard-educated lawyer, will prove "black enough" to black voters in a national election. Chicago Tribune: Obama certain of his appeal to black voters

OBAMA SCORES KEY KERRY FUNDRAISER: One of John F. Kerry's chief fund-raisers, Alan D. Solomont , said yesterday he has signed on to help the presidential campaign of Illinois Democrat Barack Obama despite his longstanding ties to another Democratic hopeful, Hillary Clinton of New York. Solomont, an entrepreneur and philanthropist who lives in Weston, had been contacted by several candidates in the Democratic field with whom he has relationships; but he held off until Kerry announced this week that he would not run for president again. Solomont said he would help on Kerry's Senate reelection campaign next year. Boston Globe: With Kerry out, key aide shifts to Obama

SHARPTON "THREATENS" TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT: The Rev. Al Sharpton yesterday threatened to again seek the Democratic presidential nomination unless current contenders, including four senators he visited on Capitol Hill, commit to focusing attention on civil rights issues. Mr. Sharpton, a New York-based activist and perennial candidate for various posts, said strong attention must be placed on affordable housing, access to wealth, retirement security, health care and education. "If somebody picks up a strong agenda, I won't. But if not, maybe, and we'll see or we should see by late spring or the summer if someone does," Mr. Sharpton said. Mr. Sharpton's comments came as he visited Democratic Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, Barack Obama of Illinois and Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, the four senators seeking the party's nomination. Washington Times: Sharpton: Step up or I'll run in '08
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