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Tuesday, March 13, 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...


  • Although President Bush's decision to send more U.S. troops to Iraq remains very unpopular, opposition to the plan has dropped since Bush first announced it in January, the latest CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll finds.

    37% now favor Bush's plan to send more troops to Iraq, while 59% oppose it. In January, 32% favored the plan and 66% opposed it.

    The poll, taken March 9-11, also finds most Americans favor a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, either immediately (21%) or within a year (37%). 39% believe the U.S. should keep troops in Iraq as long as needed.

    FULL STORY

  • Speaking to a Chicago Tribune editorial board, JCS Chairman Gen. Peter Pace said "he supports the Pentagon's 'don't ask, don't tell' ban on gays serving in the military because homosexual acts 'are immoral.'" (Chicago Tribune)

    AUDIO

  • AG Alberto Gonzales' Chief of Staff D. Kyle Sampson "is leaving the Justice Department in the first fallout from the department's bungled firing of U.S. attorneys last year." (Los Angeles Times)

  • "The reporters in Omaha were feeling had." (Washington Post's Milbank on Senator Chuck Hagel's non-announcement yesterday)

  • "What, me jealous?" (New York Daily News headline on Al Sharpton's criticism of Barack Obama)

  • And will Al Gore be making a return to Capitol Hill... as a rock promoter? Find out the latest in Hot Topics below!

    President's Schedule:

  • President Bush is in Mexico today, where at 11:30 am ET he holds a bilateral meeting with President Felipe Calderon at Hacienda Temozon.

    Later this afternoon, Bush will tour Mayan ruins at Uxmal, then return to Merida for a social dinner.

    Also on the Political Radar:

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader John Boehner address the AIPAC 2007 Policy Conference.

    From advanced excerpts of Pelosi's remarks: "In America's partnership with Israel, we have both given support and drawn strength. We share a common history - nations founded to be beacons of democracy, forged by pioneers, and fulfilled by immigrants in search of a better tomorrow."

    From advanced excerpts of Boehner's remarks: "Destroy Israel...That is the strategy outlined by al Qaeda leadership, indicating its long-term planning. If we lose Iraq, we lose Israel. If we do not use every means at our disposal and work with the international community to force Iran to dismantle its nuclear weapons programs and stop sponsoring terrorism, we lose Israel. If we do not take seriously the words and intentions of Islamic militants, we lose Israel."

  • Mitt Romney campaigns in Boise, ID, and Phoenix, AZ. He'll speak to media in both locations.

  • Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) continues his fundraising swing through California, with stops in Inland Empire, Los Angeles, and the Bay Area.

  • Republican Congressmen Duncan Hunter (R-CA), Ken Calvert (R-CA) and Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) hold a 1:45 pm ET presser to discuss their weekend CODEL to Iraq.

  • Wyclef Jean testifies at a 2 pm ET hearing of the House Foreign Affairs' Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere: "Haiti's Development Needs."

  • John Edwards holds a 4:15 pm ET college tour rally at Bennett College in Greensboro, NC.

  • 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)

    HOMOSEXUALITY "IMMORAL," SAYS PACE: Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Monday that he supports the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" ban on gays serving in the military because homosexual acts "are immoral," akin to a member of the armed forces conducting an adulterous affair with the spouse of another service member. Responding to a question about a Clinton-era policy that is coming under renewed scrutiny amid fears of future U.S. troop shortages, Pace said the Pentagon should not "condone" immoral behavior by allowing gay soldiers to serve openly. He said his views were based on his personal "upbringing," in which he was taught that certain types of conduct are immoral. "I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts," Pace said in a wide-ranging discussion with Tribune editors and reporters in Chicago. "I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way." Chicago Tribune: Top general calls homosexuality 'immoral'

    ARMY SURGEON GENERAL RESIGNS: Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley, the Army's surgeon general, agreed to step down from his position after weeks of intense public criticism stemming from revelations about poor conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, defense officials said yesterday. Though there had been repeated calls for Kiley to resign as the Army's top doctor during hearings on Capitol Hill, he refused to step aside even as he was grilled about horrid living conditions and a tangled bureaucracy at the Army's flagship hospital. Kiley at first played down reports of problems at Walter Reed-- where he had served as commander from 2002 to 2004 -- but later was far more contrite. Kiley submitted his retirement request on Sunday, according to an Army news release. Defense officials said Pete Geren, the acting secretary of the Army, had sought Kiley's removal in recent days. Washington Post: Surgeon General Of Army Steps Down

    MIERS RAISED PROSPECT OF FIRING ALL 93 U.S. ATTORNEYS: The chief White House lawyer floated the idea of firing all 93 U.S. attorneys at the start of President Bush's second term, but the Justice Department objected and eventually recommended the eight dismissals that have generated a political firestorm two years later. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Monday that then-White House Counsel Harriet Miers raised with an aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales the prospect of asking all chief federal district prosecutors to resign in 2004 as a logical way to start a new term with a new slate of U.S. attorneys. Perino also acknowledged Monday that complaints about the job performance of prosecutors occasionally came to the White House and were passed on to the Justice Department, perhaps including some informally from President Bush to Gonzales. AP via Yahoo! News: White House mulled firing all prosecutors

    GONZALES CHIEF OF STAFF LEAVING DOJ: D. Kyle Sampson, the chief of staff to Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales, is leaving the Justice Department in the first fallout from the department's bungled firing of U.S. attorneys last year, people familiar with the situation said Monday night. Sampson, a top lawyer under Gonzales and his predecessor, John Ashcroft, had been identified by congressional Democrats as one of a handful of senior officials whom they wanted to question as part of the deepening investigation into who ordered seven federal prosecutors relieved of their duties in December and why. The Justice Department is expected to provide further details of its handling of the matter in briefings to congressional leaders this morning, said the sources, who declined to be identified because they were not authorized to speak and because it was a personnel matter. Los Angeles Times: Key figure in Justice Dept. to step down

    NOT "THE MOST PLEASANT OF TIMES" FOR THE VP, BUT HE'S NOT GOING ANYWHERE: With the cherry blossoms near glorious bloom, the silly season has returned to Washington. The know-nothing buzz is back: Might Vice President Cheney have to resign? Anyone who thinks Cheney will leave his post under his own steam doesn't know him, or his boss. As Cheney would surely say if pressed, which he wouldn't like: hogwash. Admittedly, these aren't the most pleasant of times for the veep. When the right-hand man to the right-hand man to the President is convicted on four felony counts, it's no legacy enhancer, for Bush or Cheney. But he isn't going to offer to go, and Bush won't ask him to offer. New York Daily News: Veep rumors hogwash

    DEMS STRIP IRAN FORCE APPROVAL MEASURE FROM SPENDING BILL: Democratic leaders are stripping from a military spending bill for the war in Iraq a requirement that President Bush gain approval from Congress before moving against Iran. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other leaders agreed to remove the requirement concerning Iran after conservative Democrats as well as other lawmakers worried about its possible impact on Israel, officials said Monday. The overall bill - which requires that the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq by Sept. 1, 2008, if not earlier - remained on schedule for an initial test vote Thursday in the House Appropriations Committee. AP via Yahoo! News: Dems abandon war authority provision

    BUSH RECEIVES "AN EARFUL" ON IMMIGRATION FROM GUATEMALAN PRESIDENT: President Bush yesterday said he wants the House and Senate to pass immigration bills by August but said the U.S. will continue to send home illegal aliens caught in the meantime, disappointing his Guatemalan hosts who wanted all deportations to end. "The United States will enforce our law. It's against the law to hire somebody who's in our country illegally, and we are a nation of law," Mr. Bush said. He said his plan is to find a bill "most Republicans are comfortable with" in the Senate, then begin working with Democrats in the Senate, before turning to the House. But he received an earful from Guatemalan President Oscar Berger, who said he was worried Guatemalans are being deported "without clear justification," based on a raid at a leather goods factory last week in Massachusetts. "The Guatemalan people would have preferred a more clear and positive response no more deportations, so to say," he said, according to a translation of his remarks at a joint press conference with Mr. Bush. Washington Times: Bush stresses immigration

    GOP FEELS THEY HAVE "DRIFTED FROM THE PRINCIPLES OF RONALD REAGAN": After years of political dominance, Republican voters now view their party as divided and say they are not satisfied with the choice of candidates seeking the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. In a survey that brought to life the party's anxieties about keeping the White House, Republicans said they were concerned that their party had drifted from the principles of Ronald Reagan, its most popular figure of the past 50 years. Forty percent of Republicans said they expected Democrats to take control of the White House next year, compared with 46 percent who said they believed a Republican would win. Just 12 percent of Democrats said they thought the opposing party would win the White House. New York Times: G.O.P. Voters Voice Anxieties on Party's Fate

    FULL POLL RESULTS: (pdf via NYTimes.com)

    DORGAN CALLS HALLIBURTON ANNOUNCEMENT "BIZARRE": [O]ver the weekend, the company now known as Halliburton announced that its chief executive, Dave Lesar, would move to a new corporate headquarters in Dubai to focus on business in the Middle East, Africa, Europe and Asia. The announcement sparked warnings from members of Congress, who suspected that the company once run by Vice President Cheney was trying to trim its tax bill and remove itself from the limelight here, where it has come under fire about the way it obtained and executed government contracts, especially those connected to troubled reconstruction projects in Iraq. "The CEO of Halliburton has decided to leave this country to move his offices to Dubai because he says it is 'a great business center.' That is a bizarre announcement," said Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.), who is a member of the Senate Commerce Committee. Washington Post: Halliburton Chief's Move to Dubai Evokes Warnings on Hill

    "LIVE EARTH" MAY BE HELD AT CAPITOL: The Capitol grounds could be home to one part of a seven-continent, 24-hour concert event this summer designed to raise awareness of climate change - and that happens to be organized by Vice President-turned-activist Al Gore. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) introduced a concurrent resolution last week that would allow the North American part of the worldwide "Live Earth" concerts to be held at the Capitol. Sponsored by Save Our Selves, a group led by Gore and Kevin Wall, who produced predecessor "Live 8" in 2005, concerts would be held on July 7 at seven spots worldwide and feature more than 100 artists and musicians. Roll Call: Global Rocking

    REPORTERS IN OMAHA "FEELING HAD": The 19th-century German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was a giant in the field of logic. The 21st-century philosopher Chuck Hagel? Not so much. The Republican senator from Nebraska, flirting with a 2008 presidential run, scheduled "an announcement on my political future" for yesterday morning in Omaha. Media types flew in from across the country. The state's governor and attorney general, along with 15 television cameras, crowded the room. Cable networks carried the event live while pundits went wild: Would Hagel jump into the race? Run for reelection? Become an independent? Quit politics entirely? "I'm here today to announce that my family and I will make a decision on my political future later this year," Hagel declared in front of a presidential-blue curtain. That was the announcement? The cable networks quickly broke away. The reporters in Omaha were feeling had. Washington Post: When No News Is Strange News

    METHOD TO HIS MADNESS: The strategy Sen. Chuck Hagel adopted Monday - waiting to decide about a presidential bid - carries plenty of risk. It didn't work for past candidates, such as Democrats Wesley Clark in 2004 or Bob Kerrey in 1992. Is this year different? Given the already overheated skirmishing among the announced presidential candidates, there could be a method to the Nebraska Republican's madness. His hope is that voters will become tired of the current field and ready to embrace a fresh face by the fall. "There is some logic to it. On the other hand, it's very difficult to run for president unless you're running for president," said Kerrey, the former Nebraska senator who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination in 1992. Omaha World Herald: Hagel's delay may make him a 'really long shot'

    HILLARY TAKES LOBBYIST DOUGH, WHILE OBAMA DECLINES: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) has a network of lobbyists and political insiders three times the size of her closest Democratic rival, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), but many influential party members inside the Beltway are holding back to see how their race plays out. Clinton has the support of several of the most prominent Democratic lobbyists, such as Thomas Boggs, Pat Griffin, Joel Johnson, Steve Ricchetti, and Mike Berman, who can raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for her campaign. Citing what he suggests is a new brand of politics, Obama has taken an extraordinary step for a presidential candidate by declining contributions from lobbyists. He is even shunning money they might raise for him from non-lobbyists. This will force him to rely heavily on grassroots and Internet fundraising, a strategy that former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D) used to considerable early success in the 2004 presidential race. The Hill: Clinton nabs K St. backers her rivals shun

    ROMNEY TARGETS BIG APPLE CASH: Governor Romney of Massachusetts is planning to plunge into the heart of Giuliani country next week in an attempt to raise big dollars for his campaign. The Romney campaign has scheduled a $2,300-a-head leadership reception, to be followed by a general reception at $500 a ticket, for March 21 at the Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers. Mayor Giuliani's campaign is holding a $2,300-a-person fund-raiser at the same location tomorrow, at which the master of ceremonies will be comedian and television personality Dennis Miller. New York Sun: Romney Sets Foray Into Giuliani Country

    SHARPTON NOT READY TO ENDORSE OBAMA: The Rev. Al Sharpton said Monday he is not ready to throw his support behind Sen. Barack Obama's White House bid and suggested the country's only African-American senator was taking the black community's support for granted. "Why shouldn't the black community ask questions? Are we now being told, 'You all just shut up?'" Sharpton told local New York City station WCBS Monday. His office confirmed to CNN that he made the comments. "Sen. Obama and I agree that the war is wrong, but then I want to know why he went to Connecticut and helped [Sen. Joe] Lieberman, the biggest supporter of the war," he added... "I'm not going to be cajoled or intimidated by any candidate not for my support," he said. The Ticker: Sharpton criticizes Obama, says he will not be 'cajoled' for support

    RUDY "REASSURES RIGHT" WITH VITTER AT HIS SIDE: Rudy Giuliani angled to shore up his conservative standing yesterday by rolling out his newest presidential campaign supporter: Southern social conservative Sen. David Vitter. Vitter, a Louisiana Republican who opposes abortion, gay marriage and gun control, was introduced yesterday as Giuliani's Southern regional chairman and immediately assured conservatives that America's Mayor's isn't running "to advance any liberal social agenda." Meanwhile, as Giuliani moved to lock up the GOP base, a new CNN/Opinion Research poll showed him opening a double-digit lead over chief rival John McCain. New York Post: RUDY'S BAYOU BOOSTER REASSURES RIGHT
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