Tuesday, April 10, 2007
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CNN Washington Bureau
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According to advanced excerpts of his speech, Romney will "call for spending 4 percent of the nation's gross domestic product on defense, up from 3.9 percent. In addition, he [will propose] adding 100,000 troops to the armed forces." (AP)
Political Hot Topics
(Today's top political stories from news organizations across the country)
WH BARELY ACKNOWLEDGES ANNIVERSARY OF FALL OF SADDAM: As Iraq observed the fourth anniversary of the fall of Saddam Hussein yesterday, the lead item on the White House Web site, under the heading "LATEST NEWS," was a photograph of Clifford the Big Red Dog at the annual Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn. "There were many children's characters in attendance including Charlie Brown, Bugs Bunny, Arthur, and Curious George," said the caption under the photo, which alternated with a shot of Laura Bush and two Easter bunnies on the Truman Balcony and a painting of one of President Bush's Scottish terriers with a fiddle-playing butterfly. The president marked the anniversary by going to Arizona to give a speech -- about immigration. In his 24-minute address, he didn't so much as mention Iraq. The vice president, secretary of state and secretary of defense had no public events on their schedules yesterday. Washington Post: The White House Commemorates a Very Special Day
BUSH CITES "AMAZING PROGRESS" ON CURBING ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION: President Bush said Monday that tougher enforcement and a new fence at the Mexican border had sharply reduced the influx of illegal immigrants, and he pressed Congress to pass a sweeping revision of the nation's immigration laws. "It's amazing progress that's been made," Mr. Bush said on a return visit to a section of the border that he inspected 11 months ago. In the last six months, the White House said, Border Patrol reports showed that apprehensions of illegal immigrants along the Mexican border fell by 30 percent, to 418,184, from 594,142 in the comparable period a year earlier. In the Yuma sector, which spans parts of Arizona and California, apprehensions fell by 68 percent, to 25,217, from 79,131 in the comparable period a year earlier. New York Times: Bush Ties Drop in Illegal Immigration to His Policies
"DOUBLE DUTY" D.C. ASSIGNMENTS TAKE U.S. ATTORNEYS AWAY FROM DISTRICTS: A half-dozen sitting U.S. attorneys also serve as aides to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales or are assigned other Washington postings, performing tasks that take them away from regular duties in their districts for months or even years at a time, according to officials and department records. Acting Associate Attorney General William W. Mercer, for example, has been effectively absent from his job as U.S. attorney in Montana for nearly two years -- prompting the chief federal judge in Billings to demand his removal and call Mercer's office "a mess." ... The number of U.S. attorneys pulling double duty in Washington is the focus of growing concern from other prosecutors and from members of the federal bench, according to legal experts and government officials. Washington Post: Six U.S. Attorneys Given 2nd Posting in Washington
CONGRESSIONAL APPROVAL AT HIGHEST LEVEL IN A YEAR: Public approval for Congress is at its highest level in a year as Democrats mark 100 days in power and step up their confrontation with President Bush over his handling of the Iraq War, the issue that overshadows all others... The findings from an AP-Ipsos nationwide poll provide a snapshot of public sentiment in the days after the House and Senate triggered a series of veto threats from the president by passing separate bills that provide funds for the war, yet also call for the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops. Overall approval for Congress is 40 percent. The survey shows Bush's approval ratings remain in the mid-30 percent range, that a striking 39 percent strongly disapproves his handling of foreign policy and the war on terror, and that the public has scant hopes that the president and Congress can work together to solve the country's problems. AP via Yahoo! News: AP Poll: Congress approval up
"ZERO AND SEVEN IN '07": It's a familiar scenario for Harry Reid: a united minority party using the rules of the U.S. Senate to thwart action by the majority. As the minority leader in the previous Congress, the Nevada Democrat effectively blocked Republicans on issues from creating private Social Security accounts to permanently repealing the estate tax. As the Senate returns from the Easter recess, Reid, now the leader of a majority, confronts an energetic Republican opposition that threatens to sink his plans. Republicans are gloating because Democrats haven't managed to get final congressional approval for any of the initiatives the party set as first-round legislative goals this year. "They are zero and seven in '07," said Mississippi's Trent Lott, the Senate's second-ranking Republican. "They have achieved nothing." Bloomberg: Reid Hitting Roadblocks on Democrats' Agenda as Senators Return
SENATORS ASK DOJ FOR MORE DOCS ON FIRINGS: Four senators said Monday that they suspected that the Justice Department had failed to turn over all relevant documents related to the dismissals of eight United States attorneys. The department has released more than 3,000 pages of e-mail messages and other files. But, the senators wrote in a letter to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, "We are concerned that additional documents relevant to the committee's investigations are missing or have been withheld." The letter expressed skepticism about whether lawmakers had all the material they needed to evaluate the motives for the removals and raised questions on the scope and methods used to assemble the material. A spokesman for the department, Brian Roehrkasse, said officials would not comment until they had reviewed the letter. New York Times: Senators Press for More Files on Removing Prosecutors
SHOULD CONFLICT-OF-INTEREST RULES APPLY AT STAFF LEVEL? While House and Senate lawmakers agreed in February to new rules requiring them to notify the public of any conflicts of interest they may have in pushing for earmarks to legislation, there remain no such guidelines for disclosure by another category of public servants - Congressional aides. Though in recent years significant attention has been paid to the lobbyist relatives of lawmakers - including the sons of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) - little public scrutiny has been paid to similar situations at the staff level. Neither chamber has established rules to address financial or personal conflicts of interest staffers may have in working on earmarks, and watchdog groups fear that absence represents a major loophole in Congressional ethics guidelines. Roll Call: Aides Escape Conflict Rules
REDUCED SENTENCE FOR ABRAMOFF? Disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff may be getting out of jail earlier than he expected, NBC News learned on Monday. A federal judge Monday granted the government's request for a new hearing to determine an appropriate reduction in Abramoff's sentence, a reward based on his continued cooperation with investigators in several federal probes. Abramoff is currently serving a five-and-a-half-year sentence for his conviction in the Florida-based SunCruz Casinos gambling boat fraud case. In Miami, U.S. District Judge Paul Huck granted the request from prosecutors once they told him Abramoff's cooperation in the investigations is fully completed. NBC News: Abramoff could get reduced sentence
KERRY "TAKING A PAGE" FROM THE GORE PLAYBOOK: Sen. John Kerry isn't running for president, but he's assumed the vocal and visible roles of campaign fundraiser, Iraq critic, political author and, now, global warming expert. The Massachusetts Democrat has inserted himself into every issue on Capitol Hill -- from conditions at veterans' hospitals to Major League Baseball -- keeping his public profile as prominent as it was during his failed 2004 White House bid. "Hopefully, now I have a chance to talk about these things and people know it's coming from my heart and my gut, not from a political strategy," Mr. Kerry said Sunday on ABC's "This Week." The senator appeared with his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, as the two touted their new book, "This Moment on Earth: Today's New Environmentalists and Their Vision for the Future." He assessed the 2008 field and said no candidate so far is doing a great job staking out progressive environmental policy. Washington Times: Kerry conspicuous even out of '08 fray
NY JOINS THE "BIG-STATE STAMPEDE" ON FEB. 5: Gov. Eliot Spitzer Monday signed a law moving New York's primary up a month to Feb. 5, a shift that will favor native son Rudolph Giuliani and transplanted native daughter Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. New York joins a big-state stampede to the front of the primary calendar, but the move could have an unintended effect, making the earlier primary and caucus states -- Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina -- even more important, some analysts say. "This is all creating the opposite of what New York and the other big states want to do," said Joe Trippi, who piloted Howard Dean's 2004 campaign. "Whoever wins New Hampshire or Iowa or Nevada will have momentum going into Feb. 5, and they'll win many of the big states on that day. It will amplify the importance of the early states and shorten the race. Candidates won't have time to recover." Newsday: New York gets a primary primary
MOVEON LAUNCHES "VIRTUAL TOWN HALL": Seven candidates for the 2008 Democratic Party nomination will take part tonight in a live "virtual town hall" forum about the Iraq war, in what is being billed as the largest and most ambitious experiment yet in harnessing the power of Internet technology to reshape participatory democracy. Calling in by telephone, candidates Joseph Biden, Hillary Clinton, Christopher Dodd, John Edwards, Dennis Kucinich, Barack Obama, and Bill Richardson will each answer several questions about Iraq. The liberal activist group MoveOn.org , which is hosting the event, asked members to vote on which questions to ask from among 6,800 queries proposed by members for the forum. About 10,000 MoveOn members are expected to gather in about 950 living rooms around the country to listen to the event, which begins at 7 p.m. and will be streamed live on the group's website and broadcast on the liberal talk radio network Air America. The group will conduct a straw poll afterward among its 3.2 million members about which candidate gave the strongest answers. Boston Globe: Campaigning gets a new Web version
McCAIN PUSHES IRAQ PROGRESS AT PRESSER: Sen. John McCain returned from his visit to Iraq playing down the extreme security precautions taken during his shopping trip at a war-torn Baghdad marketplace and insisting that the United States can still salvage victory if the American public doesn't abandon hope. "Of course, it isn't entirely safe, but it certainly is a functioning market, and progress is being made there," McCain said Monday at an afternoon news conference in Phoenix. "I talked to literally hundreds of Iraqis in the over an hour that we were in that market, and, although worried, and specifically worried about a sniper that was operating in the area, every one of them that I talked to said they were making progress and things were better," he added. Arizona Republic: McCain emphasizes progress made in Iraq
CLINTON, OBAMA DROP OUT OF FOX DEBATE: Sen. Barack Obama escalated his war with Fox News yesterday by bailing out of a network-sponsored debate - effectively killing the Sept. 23 talkfest in Detroit. Obama had been under pressure from liberal activists to stiff the debate, as former Sen. John Edwards did on Friday. Because the event was also being sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus, to which Obama belongs, his decision to pull out gave other candidates the cover to walk away, too. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) said she would not attend, either. Accusing Fox of conservative and anti-black bias, a group called ColorOfChange.org had petitioned the black caucus to quit "dancing with the Devil" by hosting debates with Fox. Without the three marquee candidates, it was likely Fox would scrap the debate. A Fox spokeswoman could not be immediately reached for comment. New York Daily News: Bam tunes out Fox debate
OBAMA DRAWS BIG BUCKS, CELEBS IN NYC: Riding a first-quarter fund-raising wave that came within close reach of Senator Clinton's surge, Senator Obama swept through New York City last night to attend three overlapping fund-raisers and appear on "Late Show with David Letterman." Mr. Obama emerged from a black sport-utility vehicle with a wide smile on his face shortly after 6 p.m. yesterday to attend the first reception, at the Upper West Side home of Kenneth Lerer, co-founder of a political Web log, the Huffington Post. Mr. Lerer cohosted the fund-raiser with a former AOL Time Warner chief operating officer, Robert Pittman. The $2,300-a-head event drew dozens of supporters, many of whom arrived outside the El Dorado building on Central Park West in chauffeured cars. Several celebrities stood out in the crowd, including sportscaster Ahmad Rashad, film director Ron Howard, and former television news anchor Tom Brokaw, who said on his way in: "I'm here as a freebie." New York Sun: Hot Fund-Raiser Obama Barnstorms New York City
FICTITIOUS TRIP TO LIBYA: There's a story pinging around the Internet about how Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) paid a visit to Libya in 1984 and met with Louis Farrakhan, the Chicago-based Nation of Islam leader whose anti-Semitic remarks have long inflamed relations between blacks and Jews. But it wasn't Obama who took the 1984 trip. It was his pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. The error made its way to the Internet a couple of weeks ago, when a conservative Christian leader -- who was actually trying to defend Obama's position on Israel -- apparently confused the two men when speaking to a reporter for a religious news Web site. Chicago Tribune: Mythical trip started with an error
RICHARDSON SAYS "HE HAS A BETTER CHANCE THAN THE OTHER UNDERDOGS": Allies and critics agree that Richardson, 59, has become the dominating force in New Mexico politics. But it's not so on the national scene, where Richardson - perhaps best-known as a former U.N. ambassador and a freelance negotiator in international hotspots - faces an uphill battle for the Democratic presidential nomination. He lags far behind front-runners Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, and also trails John Edwards. Richardson's advisors say they're not worried - it's too early for longshots like the governor to pull ahead, and they expect his unvarnished, outsized personality to charm primary voters. He contends he has a better chance than the other underdogs: "I'm perfectly content to be the only candidate in the second tier." Once voters learn about what Richardson has done in New Mexico, they'll pay attention, supporters say. Even the governor's opponents in the state acknowledge that he's a formidable political figure. Los Angeles Times: Richardson content to start slow in White House race
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