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Thursday, March 15, 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...

  • The latest CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll finds Americans' attitudes toward the economy have taken a nose-dive since January, with only a bare majority telling interviewers over the weekend that the economy is in good shape.

    At the start of the year, 63% felt that the economy was in good shape; in the poll conducted this past weekend, that figured dropped to 52%.

    46% say the economy is in poor shape. 53% predict that the economy will be in good shape a year from now; 42% don't feel that way. (Release)


  • "Attorney General Alberto Gonzales's hold on his job is slipping after President George W. Bush, his chief benefactor, said he has some explaining to do and others, including a Republican senator, called for him to step down." (Bloomberg)

  • PROGRAMMING NOTE: GOP Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney and his wife Ann join CNN'S Larry King tonight at 9 pm ET.

  • On NBC's "TODAY," Meredith Vieira asked Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) about "the marriage factor and how that will play in the race."

    VIEIRA: Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Newt Gingrich, all married multiple times. Plus, Hillary Clinton has had her marriage troubles as well. Do you think that the personal lives of candidates give us any indication of what kind of leaders they will be?

    OBAMA: You know, I think ultimately people are going to make decisions on the basis of their track record - a candidate's track record in the public sphere. Everybody has personal issues, and I think, ultimately, what people want to know is, what are you going to do on behalf of the American people, and that's how it should be.

    VIEIRA: Will you make the personal issues of other candidates an issue in your race?

    OBAMA: Absolutely not.

  • Kicking off the Straight Talk Express bus tour in IA this week, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) - having "become the very picture of the highly managed presidential candidate he once scorned" - is now "hoping to regain the front-runner status that has slipped away from him and rekindle the insurgent spirit of his first presidential bid." (Washington Post)

  • And Rahm is putting his foot down... NO MORE COLBERT. Why not? And will freshmen reps take heed? Find out the latest in Hot Topics below!

    President's Schedule:

  • The president meets with the Iraqi Vice President Adil Abdul-Mahdi at 10:05 am ET in the Oval Office.

    President Bush goes to Capitol Hill for a St. Patrick's Day luncheon at 12:30 pm ET.

    Tonight, Bush makes remarks at the 2007 National Republican Congressional Committee March dinner, 6:45 pm ET at the Washington Hilton.

    Also on the Political Radar:

  • Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) jumps back on the Straight Talk Express and holds two events in IA - a 1:15 pm ET town hall in Ames, and a 6:15 pm ET town hall in Mason City, IA.

  • Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) addresses the National Community Reinvestment Coalition Annual Conference, 11:30 am ET at the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill. Clinton "will announce an initiative to address the growing crisis facing those holding subprime mortgages." (Release)

  • Karl Rove speaks at Troy University's Hall School of Journalism at 12 pm ET.

  • John Edwards delivers a "major policy address" at 11:30 am ET at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College in Manchester. There will be "an emphasis on ending U.S. poverty and combating world poverty." (Release)

  • 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)

    "RESPONSIBLE FOR THE 9/11 OPERATION, FROM A TO Z": Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the suspected mastermind of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, admitted to those attacks and numerous others during a U.S. military hearing on Saturday, according to an edited transcript of the hearing released by the Pentagon Wednesday. In a statement from him, read by a U.S. military representative, he said, "I was responsible for the 9/11 operation, from A to Z." The transcript continues with a list of operations he acknowledged responsibility for, including Richard Reid's attempted shoe bombing of an airliner over the Atlantic, the Bali nightclub bombing in Indonesia and the 1993 World Trade Center attack. He also accepts responsibility for several foiled attacks. CNN: Transcript: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed confesses 9/11 role

    BUSH "NOT HAPPY ABOUT" AG'S EXPLANATION OF PROSECUTORS' DISMISSAL: President Bush, his trip to Latin America disrupted by a firestorm over the dismissal of eight federal prosecutors, said Wednesday he is "not happy" with the Justice Department's public explanation of the firings and added that Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales has "got work to do" to repair relations with Capitol Hill. Bush insisted he had not lost confidence in Gonzales, but his attempt to deflect criticism of the White House's involvement in the firing of the U.S. attorneys last year is likely to increase pressure on the attorney general, a longtime friend from Texas, who faces calls for resignation from leading members of Congress. Chicago Tribune: Unhappy Bush says firings not political

    CRITICS SAY GONZALES "FAILED TO DISTANCE" HIMSELF AND DOJ FROM WH: The attorney general's accumulating critics point to the removal of seven prosecutors in December as evidence that Mr. Gonzales, a longtime Bush loyalist, had failed to distance himself and his agency from the White House and its political agenda. As attorney general, Mr. Gonzales became a vocal defender of some of the administration's most contentious antiterrorism initiatives, including the National Security Agency's eavesdropping program, for which he helped develop the legal rationale while at the White House... Former prosecutors say that in dealings with lawmakers, administration officials and others who had complaints or were pushing causes, his department took no apparent steps to ensure that its decisions were free — or at least appeared free — of political taint. New York Times: Gonzales's Critics See Lasting, Improper Ties to White House

    SUNUNU - "IF I WERE PRESIDENT, I WOULD FIRE THE ATTORNEY GENERAL": Calls for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' ouster escalated late Wednesday when the first Republican lawmaker joined in. "If I were the president, I would fire the attorney general," Sen. John Sununu, R-N.H., told USA TODAY. Sununu, whose father served as a chief of staff to Bush's father, and a growing list of Democrats are calling for Gonzales to go after revelations that the firing of several federal prosecutors was initiated by the White House. The Justice Department had given Congress assurances that poor performance, not politics, led to the decisions. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., accused Gonzales of "not telling the truth." USA Today: I'd fire Gonzales, says GOP senator

    WILL ROVE AND MIERS BE CALLED TO THE HILL? The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to vote Thursday on whether to authorize subpoenas to 14 current and former administration officials, including White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove and former White House Counsel Harriet Miers, John Bresnahan reports. Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), the panel's ranking Republican, are expected to convene the committee Thursday to vote on the subpoenas for Rove, Miers and William Kelley, a former top aide to Miers. The committee will also vote to subpoena six of the fired U.S. Attorneys and five Justice Department officials, including Kyle Sampson, the recently fired chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Since Rove, Miers and Kelley were just added to the schedule for Thursday's committee meeting, panel rules allow any member to postpone consideration of the subpoenas for one week. The Politico: Senate Judiciary Set To Vote On Subpoenas For Rove And Miers

    DEBATE FILLED WITH "SADNESS AND DISMAY IN BOTH PARTIES" OVER COURSE OF WAR: In the face of determined opposition from the Bush administration, the Senate on Wednesday began an impassioned debate over an exit strategy from Iraq, headed toward a vote on a Democratic resolution aimed at a pullout of American combat troops in 2008. Underscoring the mounting tensions between the Democratic Congress and the White House, administration officials immediately issued a veto threat, even though the measure is considered unlikely to win final passage. The administration's statement denounced the Democratic plan in forceful terms, declaring that it would "embolden our enemies" and "hobble American commanders in the field."... The Senate's long-awaited debate over Iraq, twice blocked last month by Republicans, opened along bitterly partisan lines. But it was also filled with sadness and dismay in both parties about the course of the war. New York Times: Democrats' Measure for Iraq Pullout in 2008 Nears Senate Vote; White House Threatens Veto

    PELOSI PUSHES HARD TO GET IRAQ BILL OUT OF COMMITTEE: Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has executed an aggressive push to keep Democratic members of the Appropriations Committee in line as the panel takes up the $124 billion Iraq War spending bill this morning, while Democratic leaders prepare to whip the full Caucus next week. "This is an unprecedented effort," one Democratic member of the Appropriations Committee said of recent meetings convened by Pelosi and Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), who chairs the Appropriations subcommittee on Defense. "She's doing her job to get that bill passed." the lawmaker added. The measure is scheduled to be marked up in the full Appropriations Committee this morning. "We're not going to get every vote, but we'll get it out of committee." Roll Call: Pelosi Pushes for Clean Iraq Bill

    GOP DISSIDENCE ON NCLB: More than 50 GOP members of the House and Senate -- including the House's second-ranking Republican -- will introduce legislation today that could severely undercut President Bush's signature domestic achievement, the No Child Left Behind Act, by allowing states to opt out of its testing mandates. For a White House fighting off attacks on its war policy and dealing with a burgeoning scandal at the Justice Department, the GOP dissidents' move is a fresh blow on a new front. Among the co-sponsors of the legislation are House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a key supporter of the measure in 2001, and John Cornyn (R-Tex.), Bush's most reliable defender in the Senate. Rep. Eric Cantor (Va.), the House GOP's chief deputy whip and a supporter in 2001, has also signed on. Washington Post: Dozens in GOP Turn Against Bush's Prized 'No Child' Act

    BUSH "OPTIMISTIC" ABOUT CHANCES FOR IMMIGRATION REFORM THIS YEAR: President Bush said yesterday he has proved his commitment to securing the U.S.-Mexico border and members of Congress now can turn to broad immigration overhaul. In a press conference here, he told Mexican President Felipe Calderon he is "optimistic" about chances for reform this year, "because the mood in the Congress seems like it has changed, from skepticism last year to knowledge that getting a comprehensive bill will be in the nation's interests." Mr. Bush said part of the reason for the change is he has taken steps to boost border security himself, leaving those lawmakers "more open-minded" to taking the next step. Washington Times: Bush 'optimistic' on immigration reform

    THE $2,000,000,000 ELECTION: Romney is buying $800,000 in television air time. Candidates are purchasing voter lists in the early states - $100,000 for the Iowa Democratic Party's list and $60,000 for the South Carolina version. And the entire presidential field is buying jet fuel by the planeload. At the start of a campaign season that is already moving at lightning speed, presidential candidates are spending money at unprecedented rates. And these are only the initial investments in an election that strategists from both parties predict could cost each major party's nominee $500 million. It's a number that's hard to fathom - a $1 billion contest. It would not only be a record amount but nearly double what President Bush and Democrat John Kerry combined spent just three years ago. With an open field in both parties, total spending by all candidates this year and next could surpass $2 billion. And the big spending is yet to come. AP via Yahoo! News: Presidential camps spend more than ever

    McCAIN HOPING TO "REKINDLE INSURGENT SPIRIT" OF '00 BID: In the seven years since John McCain and his "Straight Talk Express" nearly derailed George W. Bush's White House ambitions, the blunt-spoken senator from Arizona has become the very picture of the highly managed presidential candidate he once scorned... As McCain departs today on a five-day jaunt across Iowa and New Hampshire in his campaign bus (actually four buses, two in each state), he is hoping to regain the front-runner status that has slipped away from him and rekindle the insurgent spirit of his first presidential bid. "It's very difficult to capture lightning in a bottle twice," said Tom Rath, a Republican strategist in New Hampshire and an adviser to former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, a contender for the party's presidential nomination. "The idea that you simply get on a bus, call it the 'Straight Talk Express' and do the things you did eight years ago -- I don't think even they think that works." Washington Post: McCain Fighting to Recapture Maverick Spirit of 2000 Bid

    IA'S JEWISH DEMS REACT TO OBAMA REMARK ABOUT PALESTINIAN "SUFFERING": Democrat Barack Obama's expression of sympathy for the Palestinian people while campaigning in Iowa this week prompted questions from some Jewish Democrats in Iowa, a small but active group in the leadoff presidential caucuses. The comments are not expected to cost the Illinois senator politically in his quest for the 2008 nomination, but they illustrate the importance of the Jewish vote for Democrats, national political observers said. The Illinois senator said Sunday that he supports relaxing restrictions on aid to the Palestinians, provided the Palestinian government renounces terrorism. Obama's comments, including "nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people" as a result of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, ran Monday in a Des Moines Register article, which was widely read on the Internet. Des Moines Register: Obama remark draws fire from Jews

    DON'T DO COLBERT, SAYS DEM CAUCUS CHAIRMAN: Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), the Democratic Caucus chairman, has told new Democratic members of Congress to steer clear of Stephen Colbert, or at least his satirical Comedy Central program, "The Colbert Report." "He said don't do it … it's a risk and it's probably safer not to do it," said Rep. Steve Cohen. But the freshman lawmaker from Tennessee taped a segment that last week was featured in the 32nd installment of the "Better Know a District" series. Colbert asked Cohen whether he was a black woman. He isn't. Eyes (but thankfully, not heads) roll in Emanuel's office when other freshmen stumble, such as the time Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) got into a debate about the merits of throwing kittens into a wood-chipper, or when Rep. Zack Space (D-Ohio) explained that he is not his predecessor, convicted felon Bob Ney (R). The Hill: Emanuel tells freshmen to avoid Stephen Colbert

    LOBBYIST-PROVIDED BOOZE? OK. FREE CAB RIDES? BETTER CHECK THE RULES: One can commit plenty of potential party faux pas at a St. Patty's bash. Failure to wear green, for one. Ordering a domestic beer or bashing U2 are other no-nos. How about running afoul of ethics rules? Better add that to the list. Staffers and Members who turned out for the annual St. Patrick's Day bash thrown Tuesday night by the makers of Guinness beer were feted with the party's usual trappings: lots of Irish beer and spirits, Erin-go-bragh décor, and free cab rides for partygoers who had a bit too much of the Irish spirit in them to steer themselves home. But this year, the cab ride came with a new disclaimer. A sign posted near the exit warned potential cab passengers that accepting the cab ride might put them on the wrong side of new House gift rules. So, let's get this straight: drinking lobbyist-provided booze is OK, but accepting cab fare might not be? Event coordinators tell HOH that the sign was intended as a friendly red flag. Roll Call: Fare Game
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