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Monday, April 30, 2007
CNN Political Ticker AM
Compiled by Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau

Making news today...

  • In a letter written Saturday to former CIA Director George Tenet, six former CIA officers described their former boss as "the Alberto Gonzales of the intelligence community," and called his book "an admission of failed leadership."

    The writers said Tenet has "a moral obligation" to return the Medal of Freedom he received from President Bush.

    They also called on him to give more than half the royalties he gets from his book, "At the Center of the Storm," to U.S. soldiers wounded in Iraq and families of the dead. (CNN.com)

    Read the letter: (pdf)

  • White House Press Secretary Tony Snow, who's back at work today, spoke about Tenet on CNN's American Morning:

    SNOW: "The president defended George Tenet through thick and thin and continues to thank George Tenet for his service as CIA director... It seems to me that there's a lot of umbrage taken with the term "slam dunk." Yeah, that was in Bob Woodward's book. But on the other hand, there doesn't seem to be any dispute about the fact that the best intelligence available to the United States, to the intelligence committees on Capitol Hill, to intelligence services around the world, was that Saddam had some weapons of mass destruction and was pursuing further weapons of mass destruction."

  • PROGRAMMING NOTE: Former CIA Director George Tenet will appear on CNN's Larry King Live, 9 pm ET.

  • Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton "have been collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars from donors who funded one or both of Mr. Bush's campaigns for the White House. In the first quarter of this year, more than 150 former Bush donors pitched in for Mrs. Clinton's campaign, while a similar number anted up for Mr. Obama." (New York Sun)

  • Speaking to CA Dems yesterday, Bill Richardson joked "that when he told his mother he was running for president, she asked: 'President of what?'"

    "That's exactly where I am," Richardson said. "I can't even count on my mother." (San Francisco Chronicle)

  • And if Dennis Kucinich had his choice of an alternate career, he'd be an astronaut. Sam Brownback? A farmer. Mike Huckabee? Bass guitar player for a touring rock band.

    What other professional paths would the top '08ers choose? Find out in Hot Topics below!

    President's Schedule:

  • The president meets with EU leaders, including German President Angela Merkel and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, at 10 am ET in the Oval Office. They'll hold a joint press availability at 1:25 pm ET.

    Later, Bush meets with the TransAtlantic Business Dialogue at 2:15 pm ET in EEOB, and photo-ops with the FIRST Award Winners back at the White House at 3:45 pm ET.

    Also on the Political Radar:

  • John Edwards holds a 3 pm ET town hall at UNLV in Las Vegas, NV.

  • Elizabeth Edwards helps open the official Edwards for President NH HQ in Manchester at 10 am ET, then attends events with former NARAL President Kate Michelman in Manchester (11:30 am ET), Concord (1 pm ET), Portsmouth (3:45 pm ET), and Durham (4:45 pm ET). At 6 pm ET, Mrs. Edwards participates in a Save Darfur Coalition Rally at UNH in Durham.

  • Former Sen. Bill Bradley on The Colbert Report.

  • 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)

    RICE MAKES SUNDAY SHOW ROUNDS AHEAD OF TENET BOOK RELEASE: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice defended herself on Sunday against the assertion by the former C.I.A. director, George J. Tenet, that she had dismissed his warnings in July 2001 of possible terrorist attacks by Al Qaeda. In his new book, "At the Center of the Storm," to be published on Monday, Mr. Tenet wrote that there had been no "serious debate" within the Bush administration about whether Iraq posed an imminent threat or on how a long American military presence in Iraq might play out; and that his early efforts to warn Ms. Rice and others of Al Qaeda's threats were treated too lightly. Ms. Rice, who appeared on several Sunday television talk shows, said on the CBS News program "Face the Nation" that the administration had tried many ways to deal with Iraq, over "an extended period of time," including efforts to tighten international sanctions. New York Times: Rice Rebuts Tenet's Assertion That '01 Warning Was Ignored

    WE WON'T "TIE OUR OWN HANDS" ON IRAQ, SAYS RICE: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday that President Bush will reject any attempt by Congress to require the Iraqi government to meet benchmarks as a condition for US troops remaining in Iraq, in a blow to emerging efforts to craft a compromise war-funding bill. Bush, who plans this week to veto a measure that would require a troop withdrawal to begin by this fall, wants a bill that gives American officials complete flexibility in conducting military and diplomatic efforts in Iraq, Rice said. "What we don't want to do... is to tie our own hands so that we cannot act creatively and flexibly to support the very policies in Iraq that we're trying to enforce," she said on ABC's "This Week." Though Democratic leaders in Congress are not yet sure how they will respond to the president's veto, Rice's comments represent an effort by the Bush administration to shape that debate. Boston Globe: Rice says president won't let Congress set Iraq benchmarks

    WAR CZAR... HADLEY "HOPES TO FILL THE JOB SOON": [National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley] is interviewing candidates, including military generals, for a new high-profile job that people in Washington are calling the war czar. The official (Mr. Hadley, ever cautious, prefers "implementation and execution manager") would brief Mr. Bush every morning on Iraq and Afghanistan, then prod cabinet secretaries into carrying out White House orders. It is the kind of task - a little bit of internal diplomacy and a lot of head-knocking, fortified by direct access to the president - that would ordinarily fall to Mr. Hadley himself. After all, he oversaw the review that produced Mr. Bush's troop buildup in Iraq. New York Times: Quiet Bush Aide Seeks Iraq Czar, Creating a Stir

    SNOW BACK AT THE PODIUM: Don't get him wrong. Tony Snow appreciates all the cards and flowers and prayers. He's likely to choke up talking about the outpouring of support he has received since learning that his cancer has returned. But after weeks out of the office, Snow says, "you get buggy." So the White House press secretary plans to return to duty today, raring to get back to representing a besieged president and jousting with journalists. With investigators bearing down, various appointees under fire and the president in a veto showdown with Congress, there will be no shortage of hard questions. And Snow can't wait. "I'm feeling great and I'm in good shape," he said in an interview Friday. "I'm eager to get back at it. I actually don't feel any different from when I left." Washington Post: After Hiatus, Snow's Happy Return

    WOLFOWITZ TO APPEAR BEFORE WORLD BANK DIRECTORS: Paul Wolfowitz, fighting to keep his job as World Bank president, will tell bank directors today that he was only carrying out their orders when he gave his companion a pay increase and a promotion. Wolfowitz will appear before a panel of seven directors and argue that the board's ethics committee twice signed off on the deal under which Shaha Riza was moved to the State Department, said his lawyer, Robert Bennett. The former U.S. deputy defense secretary has said his fate is in the hands of the board. The strategy may not be enough to keep Wolfowitz in office as employees, aid agencies and some European governments press for his resignation. Opposition to Wolfowitz is hardening among World Bank directors, said an aide to one of them, as they consider how best to shore up the group's credibility. Bloomberg: Wolfowitz to Defend Himself as Opposition to Leadership Mounts

    SO, WHO IS THE SPECIAL COUNSEL? When Special Counsel Scott J. Bloch put his obscure federal agency at the center of one of the furthest-reaching political investigations in the nation last week, it surprised many, but for different reasons than one might expect. Bloch and the Office of Special Counsel aim to learn whether officials from Karl Rove on down used federal time and resources for Republican politicking, or pressured federal employees into doing the same... Like the office he heads, Bloch is little-known in Washington. He is a lawyer who spent a decade at a Lawrence, Kan., firm before riding into town in 2001 to become deputy director of the Justice Department's office of faith-based initiatives. In 2004, Justice Clarence Thomas swore him in as special counsel. Washington Post: The Investigated Investigator

    "LAST-DITCH ATTEMPT" ON IMMIGRATION: Lawmakers who back immigration reform, recognizing that their chances are dwindling rapidly, are girding for a last-ditch attempt to pass a sweeping bill before their efforts are swallowed up by an early campaign season and an acrimonious political mood. An unusual bipartisan group of senators hopes to present this week the outlines of an immigration plan designed to win crucial support from conservatives. If they succeed, President Bush is expected to throw his support behind the plan, which could be his final chance for a major domestic accomplishment in his second term. This effort comes against the backdrop of expected mass marches and demonstrations supporting immigration rights on Tuesday in major cities, including Chicago. Chicago Tribune: Senators grasp at a chance for reform

    BIG COMPANIES SHIFTING MONEY TO TOP HOUSE DEMS: For the new Democratic bosses in the House, power has quickly translated into money, as many big companies have shifted more of their campaign contributions to the new congressional majority, and away from longtime Republican allies. The top four House leaders -- Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, Majority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland and their main lieutenants -- raised a combined $2.24 million in the first quarter of 2007, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission. That was more than three times as much as the $697,694 they raised in the first quarter of 2005, the comparable period in the previous two-year election cycle. Wall Street Journal: Companies Shift More Donations To Democrats

    "VOICE OF THE HOUSE" RETIRES: Longtime House Reading Clerk Paul Hays, a devout Republican, likes to joke that he voted for Bill Clinton the first time he ran for president — of Georgetown University's freshman class in October 1964. "I haven't voted for him since," quipped Hays, who attended college with the future commander in chief. The 61-year-old Hays, who will retire today after 41 years of service to the House, famously went on to read the articles of impeachment against Clinton on the House floor in 1998. For better or worse, those 12 and a half minutes - "The only thing I ever rehearsed," he said - will be the moment for which Hays is best remembered. Hays' distinctive stentorian bass has been a fixture on the House floor (and on C-SPAN) since then-Minority Leader Bob Michel (R-Ill.) elevated him to reading clerk in 1988. And last week, several Members lauded him as an institutional treasure nonpareil. Roll Call: Voice of the House Ends Four Decades of Service

    CORZINE TO LEAVE HOSPITAL; UNCLEAR WHEN HE'LL RESUME DUTIES: Gov. Jon Corzine will leave a hospital in Camden today, 18 days after being seriously injured in a crash on the Garden State Parkway, his spokesman said last night. Doctors expect to discharge Corzine from Cooper University Hospital at about 1:30 p.m., spokesman Anthony Coley said. Coley said Corzine will be moved to Drumthwacket, the official residence in Princeton, in a GMC Savana custom van the governor recently purchased. The van will afford him more room for his injured leg when he travels with aides and troopers, Coley said. A state trooper will drive the vehicle. It is unclear, however, when the governor will resume his official duties. "That will be entirely determined by him and when he feels he's ready to," Coley said. Newark Star-Ledger: Corzine to leave hospital today

    FMR. BUSH DONORS BACK CLINTON/OBAMA: As senators Clinton and Obama crisscross the country seeking the Democratic presidential nomination and sharply criticizing President Bush, they have been collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars from donors who funded one or both of Mr. Bush's campaigns for the White House. In the first quarter of this year, more than 150 former Bush donors pitched in for Mrs. Clinton's campaign, while a similar number anted up for Mr. Obama, according to an analysis of Federal Election Commission data performed for The New York Sun by the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics. New York Sun: Clinton and Obama Raiding Donors Who Backed Bush

    HILLARY'S CAUTIOUS MESSAGE CHIEF: While not her campaign manager in name, [Mark] Penn controls the main elements of her campaign, most important her attempt to define herself to an electorate seemingly ready for a Democratic president but possibly still suffering from Clinton fatigue. In the four months since Clinton officially became a candidate, Penn has consolidated his power, according to advisers close to the campaign, taking increasing control of the operation. Armed with voluminous data that he collects through his private polling firm, Penn has become involved in virtually every move Clinton makes, with the result that the campaign reflects the chief strategist as much as the candidate. Washington Post: Clinton's PowerPointer

    OBAMA'S PERSONAL SEARCH FOR RELIGION: Members of Trinity United Church of Christ squeezed into a downtown hotel ballroom in early March to celebrate the long service of their pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. One congregant stood out amid the flowers and finery: Senator Barack Obama, there to honor the man who led him from skeptic to self-described Christian. Twenty years ago at Trinity, Mr. Obama, then a community organizer in poor Chicago neighborhoods, found the African-American community he had sought all his life, along with professional credibility as a community organizer and an education in how to inspire followers. He had sampled various faiths but adopted none until he met Mr. Wright, a dynamic pastor who preached Afrocentric theology, dabbled in radical politics and delivered music-and-profanity-spiked sermons. New York Times: A Candidate, His Minister and the Search for Faith

    OBAMA RECALLS RIOTS IN LA APPEARANCE: Invoking images of Los Angeles in flames, Sen. Barack Obama argued Sunday - the 15th anniversary of the nation's most violent modern civil uprising - that little had been done to fix the chronic social and economic conditions that gave rise to a three-day rampage that killed at least 53 people. And although the riots occurred in L.A., the conditions that spawned them persist across the nation, Obama told an overflow crowd at South-Central's First AME Church. The Illinois Democrat is seeking his party's presidential nomination. "There wasn't anything going on in Los Angeles that was unique to Los Angeles," Obama said. "If you traveled to Chicago, you would see the same young men on street corners without hope, without prospects, and without a sense of any destiny other than ending up in prison or in a casket." Los Angeles Times: Obama reaches out to blacks in L.A.

    MICHELLE OBAMA IMPRESSES ON THE TRAIL: There seems to be an instant connection people make with the wife of Sen. Barack Obama from the first words she speaks. "She commands a room," said New Hampshire-based political talk-show host Arnie Arnesen, who was on hand to listen to Michelle Obama at the opening of the Obama campaign's Granite State headquarters. Although not easily impressed with politicians and their wives having, as she says, "been around the block too many times," Mrs. Arnesen was extremely taken with Mrs. Obama. "She is a tall statuesque woman; I would say a handsome woman; she's not drop-dead gorgeous so as to alienate you but beautiful in her presence," she said. "She is not a frivolous woman but a woman of substance. She has an image, and she actually lives up to the image she projects when she speaks ... in a way that is not scripted and not uncomfortable." That's a lot of accolades from a first impression, and Mrs. Arnesen was prepared to offer more. But Mrs. Obama, 43, a lawyer and vice president for community and external affairs for the University of Chicago Hospitals has earned them. In addition to her professional titles she is also a successful wife and mother of two young daughters, Malia and Sasha. Washington Times: Obama's wife 'commands a room,' seen as an asset in '08

    EDWARDS "OPEN" TO HIGHER TAXES FOR RICH: Democratic presidential contender John Edwards said Sunday he would consider raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy to fund programs such as universal health care. Edwards has long said he wants to repeal the tax cuts on upper-income earners enacted during the Bush presidency, but Sunday he seemed to go further, by saying he was open to raising them higher than they were before George W. Bush took office. He also said he would consider taxes on "excess profits," including those made by oil companies. Edwards said it was more important to level with voters than to worry about the political consequences of advocating higher taxes. "It's just the truth," Edwards said during a news conference following his speech to the California Democratic Party convention. "It's the only way to fund the things that need to be done." AP via Yahoo! News: Tax hikes on rich possible, Edwards says

    RICHARDSON JOKES ABOUT UNDERDOG STATUS: New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, the first major Latino candidate in the race for the White House, addressed California Democrats on Sunday, joking that when he told his mother he was running for president, she asked: "President of what?" "That's exactly where I am," Richardson said. "I can't even count on my mother." The Democratic governor and former U.N. ambassador, one of seven presidential candidates who addressed the California Democratic Party Convention in San Diego this weekend, isn't put off by the considerable challenge of competing in a race dominated by New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama. "I don't have their money," said Richardson, adding that delegates should consider his experience over the party front-runners even though "I don't have their celebrity status." San Francisco Chronicle: State Dems hear from underdogs

    ...A LITTLE CONFUSED ABOUT JUSTICE WHITE: Presidential hopeful Bill Richardson yesterday refused to accept that Justice Byron White was one of two Supreme Court members who dissented from the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that established a right to abortion. In last week's debate in South Carolina, Mr. Richardson, the governor of New Mexico, named Justice White as the model of a justice he would appoint to the Supreme Court -- a statement that has upset some Democrats, particularly because of Justice White's dissent on Roe and later abortion decisions. Asked about the choice at a press conference yesterday, Mr. Richardson told a reporter that he had his facts wrong and insisted Justice White served too early to be part of that decision. "Are you sure? Roe versus Wade?" he said at a press conference after his speech to California Democrats' convention. "He was in the '60s. I think an opponent of mine gave you that." Justice White served from 1962 to 1993 and joined Justice William H. Rehnquist in dissenting in the 7-2 Roe decision. Washington Times: Richardson confuses justice's abortion view

    "IF I WEREN'T RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT, I'D BE A...": If the presidential candidates were living the life of their idle dreams, Rudy Giuliani would be chattering in the announcer's booth at Yankee Stadium while Bill Richardson plays center field. Barack Obama and Joe Biden would be designing houses and Sam Brownback tilling the fields back in Kansas.

    The alternate career choices of the presidential candidates:

    DEMOCRATS:

    Delaware Sen. Joe Biden: Architect.

    New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton: "Continue to work for causes and issues I care about, in a setting like a university or foundation."

    Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd: Teacher.

    Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards: Mill supervisor.

    Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich: Astronaut.

    Illinois Sen. Barack Obama: Architect.

    New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson: Center field, New York Yankees.

    REPUBLICANS:

    Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback: Farmer.

    Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani: Sports announcer.

    Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee: Bass guitar player for a touring rock band.

    California Rep. Duncan Hunter: Outdoor writer.

    Arizona Sen. John McCain: Foreign service.

    Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney: Auto company chief executive.

    Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo: President.

    AP via Yahoo! News: Personal side of presidential hopefuls
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