Friday, March 16, 2007
CNN Political Ticker AM
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Compiled by Stephen Bach
CNN Washington Bureau
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At 9:55 am ET, President Bush participates in a Shamrock Ceremony in the Roosevelt Room, then meets with Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern in the Oval Office at 10:10 am ET.
Bush departs for Camp David at 2:15 pm ET.
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(Today's top political stories from news organizations across the country)
JANUARY 2005 EMAILS SHED NEW LIGHT ON GONZALES ROLE IN SHAKEUP: Newly revealed White House e-mails show President Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, and then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales were involved in discussions of a shakeup of U.S. attorneys before Gonzales became attorney general. A January 9, 2005, e-mail discussing the prospect of replacing all 93 U.S. attorneys in Bush's second term noted that Gonzales aide Kyle Sampson discussed the matter with his boss "a couple of weeks ago." Gonzales was facing Senate confirmation as attorney general at the time. Sampson's e-mail came in response to a forwarded message originally from another White House aide, Colin Newman. Newman wrote that Rove had asked "how we were going to proceed regarding U.S. attorneys, whether we were going to allow all to stay, request resignations from all and accept only some of them or selectively replace them, etc." CNN: Rove, Gonzales discussed firings, e-mails show
WH "POINT MAN" ON DECIDING AG'S FUTURE: It was hardly a social call when Fred F. Fielding, the new White House counsel, turned up Wednesday afternoon on Capitol Hill. He had come to negotiate with Democrats, who are investigating whether politics played a role in the dismissal of eight federal prosecutors and demanding testimony from Karl Rove and other top aides to President Bush. But Mr. Fielding's real task is even bigger and more delicate: to serve as the point man for the White House as it decides the future of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, a longtime Texas friend and confidant of Mr. Bush. In bringing Mr. Fielding back to the West Wing this year, Mr. Bush turned to the kind of consummate Washington insider he disdained when he first came to town, a Republican who remained prominent in the capital as presidents of both parties have come and gone. New York Times: President Turns to an Insider to Negotiate on Dismissals
OR'S SMITH SECOND GOP SENATOR TO CALL FOR RESIGNATION: A second Senate Republican has suggested that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales should leave his post because of the way the Justice Department handled the firings last year of eight federal prosecutors. "For the Justice Department to be effective before the U.S. Senate, it would be helpful" if Gonzales resigned, Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., told USA TODAY [Thursday] afternoon. Meanwhile, other Republicans today had less harsh - but still serious - words about the attorney general. GOP Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota said he is "deeply concerned about how this whole process has been handled." Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., characterized the attorney general's explanations for the firings as "unacceptable" and "mystifying." USA Today: Second GOP senator suggests Gonzales should go
DEMS' IRAQ RESOLUTION DEFEATED IN SENATE: The Senate on Thursday rejected a Democratic resolution to withdraw most American combat troops from Iraq in 2008, but a similar measure advanced in the House, and Democratic leaders vowed to keep challenging President Bush to change course in Iraq. The vote in the Senate was 50 against and 48 in favor, 12 short of what was needed to pass, with just a few defections in each party. It came just hours after the House Appropriations Committee, in another vote largely on party lines, approved an emergency spending bill for Iraq and Afghanistan that includes a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq. The House will vote on that legislation next Thursday, setting the stage for another confrontation. New York Times: Senate Rejects Democrats' Call to Pull Troops
PLAME SPEAKS: She has been silent nearly four years. Today, the CIA officer whose unmasking fueled a political uproar and criminal probe that reached into the White House is poised to finally tell her own story -- before Congress. Valerie Plame's testimony will have all the trappings of a "Garbo speaks" moment on Capitol Hill, with cameras and microphones arrayed to capture the voice of Plame, the glamorous but mute star of a compelling political intrigue. But while she hopes to clear up her status as an agency operative when her name first hit newspapers in July 2003, America's most publicized spy is unlikely to betray any details in open session about her mysterious career. The reason: Plame remains gagged by the same secrecy rules that governed her 20 years as a CIA employee working overseas and at Langley in classified positions. Washington Post: Valerie Plame, the Spy Who's Ready to Speak for Herself
WALTER REED'S TOP-FLOOR "VIP" SUITES DRAW ATTENTION: Disclosures of substandard housing for troops treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center are prompting Congress to investigate whether the Army is running a plush ward at the complex for VIPs at the expense of ordinary war casualties. House investigators are asking "if the allocations of resources is in any way adversely impacting the treatment of the troops," Rep. John Tierney, D-Mass., told USA TODAY in response to inquiries about the six-suite ward. Tierney leads a House subcommittee investigating allegations of poor care at Walter Reed. "Our nation's military, our returning heroes, are the true VIPs," he said. The large, comfortable suites on the hospital's top floor are reserved for the president, the vice president, federal judges, members of Congress and the Cabinet, high-ranking military officials and even foreign dignitaries and their spouses. The only enlisted members of the military who are eligible to stay there are recipients of the Medal of Honor. USA Today: VIP ward at Walter Reed gets scrutiny
NEW ETHICS RULE "TOO AMBIGUOUS": A new congressional ethics rule is causing headaches for lawmakers as they scrambled to meet Thursday's deadline to request funding for projects in their districts. The new rule, instituted on the first day of the new Democratic-controlled Congress in response to recent scandals, requires members to certify that they have no financial interest in projects they seek to fund. But the rule is too ambiguous, congressional aides said, making lawmakers unsure of what constitutes a financial interest and whether a favorable comment about a project would be considered a request. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) Thursday for clarification, calling the issue "a matter of profound concern to many of our members on both sides of the aisle." The Politico: Members Confused By New Ethics Rule
DC VOTE BILL SET FOR FLOOR VOTE: A bill granting the District its first full-fledged seat in the House of Representatives passed the Judiciary Committee yesterday, clearing the final hurdle before a vote by the entire House, expected next week. The House Democratic leadership has vowed to pass the legislation and send it to the Senate, where it faces an uphill battle. The House floor vote will mark the first time since 1993 that the chamber has considered a House seat for the District, and proponents hope that a victory there would create a wave of support. "The key thing here is we're gaining great momentum, and we're going to build on it," Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) declared at yesterday's hearing. Washington Post: D.C. Vote Bill Sent To House Floor
"K STREET PROJECT" HISTORY IN A MATTER OF MONTHS: The Republicans' loss of power in Congress is mirrored by a swift reversal of fortune in some key precincts of lobbying influence. Gone in a matter of months was a years-long effort to build a permanent majority through an alliance with lobby firms and trade groups, which supplied high-paid employment to Republicans. Those lobbyists in turn made lavish campaign donations to the party to help keep it in power. Instead, as soon as the Republicans lost control of Congress, even as they retained the presidency, lobby shops shook off the vestiges of what was known as the "K Street Project," after the Washington boulevard where many firms are located. One of the highest-profile Republican hires was replaced by a Democrat. One trade group brought in a Democrat -- himself a project target -- to replace its Republican president. "To coin a phrase, the K Street Project has been consigned to the dustbin of history," said Craig Shirley, a Republican consultant. Bloomberg: Republicans' Lobbying Grip Crumbles After Congressional Shakeup
"A DE FACTO NATIONAL PRIMARY": Having already forced many campaigns to rethink their strategies, California made it official Thursday: The state's presidential primary will advance to Feb. 5. The shift, signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, vaults California ahead of most other states in the national scramble to choose candidates. It has sent ripples across the country, pushing other states to follow and setting up Feb. 5 as a de facto national primary. But many analysts say that won't diminish the importance of the two traditional proving grounds, Iowa and New Hampshire. In fact, the experts say, the need to build early momentum could make the two leadoff states more important than ever. Los Angeles Times: California now near head of the voting line
CLINTON'S "NEW TOUGH STANCE" ON WAR: After recently vowing to quickly end the Iraq war if she becomes president, Hillary Rodham Clinton is now stressing a plan to keep some U.S. forces there indefinitely - a shift that analysts say shows she's feeling heat from both Barack Obama and Rudy Giuliani. Sen. Clinton's new tough stance is an attempt to convince voters she has the gravitas to be the first female commander in chief, political pros say. In a surprising move, Clinton has begun emphasizing her plan to keep U.S. troops, mostly special forces, in Iraq to hunt down al Qaeda remnants in Anbar province and protect Israel and other countries in the region from Iran after pulling the bulk of U.S. combat forces out of Baghdad. New York Post: HILL REDRAWING HER BATTLE LINE
BILL TAKES ON THE TIMES: THE long love affair between Bill and Hillary Clinton and The New York Times seems to be over. At a fund-raiser Tuesday night at the Trump World Tower apartment of mortgage mogul Keith Kantrowitz, the former president spoke for two hours to a select group that had contributed the maximum $2,300 to Hillary's presidential campaign, and much of his talk was devoted to attacking the Times. "He said his wife wasn't getting a fair shake from the Times," said Curtis Sliwa, the WABC Radio host, who was there as a guest. ("I'm a Rudy guy," Sliwa explained.) "Clinton said the Times is attacking Hillary because she won't apologize for her vote on the war in Iraq," Sliwa said. "The Times has always been supersupportive. It's the equivalent of Rudy Giuliani attacking The New York Post." "We were surprised," Prudential Douglas Elliman superbroker Dolly Lenz corroborated. "He went into great detail criticizing the Times. He was really upset." New York Post: BILL RIPS TIMES' HILL BASHING
BILL'S NCAA PICKS: On Thursday, former President Bill Clinton shared his NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament picks with former adviser James Carville and Luke Russert (son of "Meet the Press" host Tim) on their "60/20" sports radio show (the show airs today and will be rebroadcast this weekend on XM Satellite Radio). Clinton, who attended the University of Arkansas, went with the chalk, picking Florida, North Carolina, Ohio State and Kansas to make the Final Four, although he added, "Emotionally, I'm pulling for Georgetown because it's my alma mater" (for law school). When asked which team he'd favor if Georgetown played Arkansas, he replied, "You know, I'm not running for anything anymore. Usually, I just try not to say anything that'll hurt Hillary. But, on this one, I'm going to plead politics. That's my business." Examiner: Clinton, Carville give their pool picks
THE "ALL-BUT-INEVITABLE" NOMINEE? NOT SO MUCH: Senator John McCain of Arizona worked hard for years to make himself the all-but-inevitable 2008 Republican presidential nominee, assembling a formidable machine of advisers and contributors, repairing his relationship with the Bush White House and reaching out to conservatives long wary of his views. As he began what was supposed to be a triumphant day with his first bus trip across Iowa on Thursday, he was instead faced with a sense among some Republicans that his campaign had faltered in the early going and that his political identity had been blurred rather than enhanced by his efforts to position himself as first in line for the nomination. New York Times: Far From Inevitable, McCain Retunes '08 Engine
McCAIN TALKS IMMIGRATION IN IA: Republican presidential candidate John McCain promoted in Iowa on Thursday an immigration plan that would allow undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States, even in the face of resistance from some Iowa conservatives. The Arizona senator also said California's leap to near the front of the nominating calendar only stands to increase the significance of Iowa's leadoff caucuses. McCain, who bypassed Iowa during his previous bid for the presidential nomination, was making his second trip to the state in a month - and the first with his campaign bus. He is scheduled to campaign in northern Iowa today. McCain said Thursday that the frustration he has encountered from Republican activists in Iowa about immigration stems from Congress' failure to enact legislation making it tougher to cross the U.S.-Mexican border, not opposition to earned citizenship. Des Moines Register: McCain touts immigration plan
BROWNBACK CALLS PACE CRITICISM "UNFAIR AND UNFORTUNATE": Republican presidential candidate Sam Brownback is backing the Pentagon's top general over his remarks that homosexual acts are immoral. The Kansas senator planned to send a letter on Thursday to President Bush supporting Marine Gen. Peter Pace, who earlier this week likened homosexuality to adultery and said the military should not condone it by allowing gay personnel to serve openly. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs also said in an interview with the Chicago Tribune: "I believe that homosexual acts between individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts. I do not believe the United States is well-served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way." Lawmakers of both parties criticized the remarks, but Brownback's letter called the criticism "both unfair and unfortunate." AP via Yahoo! News: Brownback supports Pace's remark on gays
RICHARDSON EXPECTED TO SIGN "RISKY" MEDICAL MARIJUANA BILL: Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson, poised to sign a bill making New Mexico the 12th state to legalize medical marijuana, said Thursday he realizes his action could become an issue in the presidential race. "So what if it's risky? It's the right thing to do," said Richardson, one of the candidates in the crowded 2008 field. "What we're talking about is 160 people in deep pain. It only affects them." The legislation would create a program under which some patients - with a doctor's recommendation - could use marijuana provided by the state health department. Lawmakers approved the bill Wednesday. The governor is expected to sign it in the next few weeks. AP via Yahoo! News: Richardson to legalize medical marijuana
MA'S PATRICK SHAKES UP STAFF: After two months of escalating political setbacks, Governor Deval Patrick brought in two State House veterans yesterday to help stabilize his new administration and announced the resignation of his wife's $72,000 chief of staff, whose position will be abolished. Patrick turned to one of Senate President Robert E. Travaglini's top aides, David Morales, to become his senior adviser on policy and strategic planning. He also moved Joseph Landolfi, a veteran press officer who has led the communications operations at several high-profile state agencies, from Administration and Finance into the governor's inner office to take over day-to-day media operations. Aides hope that the departure of Diane Patrick's chief of staff, Amy Gorin, will stem some of the heavy criticism the governor has taken for creating the position. She resigned less than a week after Patrick announced that his wife was suffering from exhaustion and depression. Boston Globe: Patrick moves to shore up his staff
DEAN '16? Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean has been meeting with world leaders to repair "the extraordinary damage" that the Bush administration has done to America's image and to prepare the way for a new Democratic president. "I am trying to build relationships with other governments in preparation for a Democratic takeover," Dean told me. "I want to make clear that there is an opposition in America and that we are ready to take power and that when we do, we are going to have much better relationships with them." In an hour-long interview at Democratic National Committee headquarters Tuesday, Dean also revealed that he has been quietly meeting with well-known Christian evangelical leaders in order to build new bridges between them and the Democratic Party. The Politico: The New Dean Political Plan
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