Friday, May 12, 2006
The Morning Grind
Pelosi has no plans for impeaching Bush

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) told colleagues and activists this week she would not pursue impeachment proceedings against President Bush should Democrats win control of the House in November.

After telling Democratic Members of her decision in a series of meetings over the past few days, she informed a small circle of party strategists and supporters in an e-mail last night.

"She is focused on Democrats' positive agenda for change," Brendan Daly, a Pelosi spokesman, wrote in the e-mail that was obtained by the Grind. "Despite Republican scare tactics, Democrats will not pursue impeachment, and she made that clear to her colleagues this week."

Jennifer Crider, a Pelosi spokeswoman, confirmed the e-mail's authenticity. "Democrats' positive agenda is about taking America in a new direction, not further the Republicans further divisive politics," she said.

In recent weeks, Democrats have become more vocal about their chances of winning back the House this year. Winning the majority would not only give them power to launch investigations into the administration but also the ability to launch impeachment proceedings against Bush for alleged abuse of power. Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan) is a leading voice for this approach.

But Pelosi, who favors investigations, is distancing herself from the more draconian action of impeachment. Instead the California Democrat is promoting a "new direction for America - one that works for all Americans, not just the privileged few," according one of the talking points in the e-mail to strategists and supporters.

"During the first week we control Congress, we will put the focus on our bold initiatives to energize Americans," Daly declared in the e-mail before ticking off a number of proposals ranging from raising the minimum wage and lowering the cost of prescription drugs to implementing the 9/11 Commission recommendations.

Ron Bonjean, a spokesman for House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois), told the Grind Republicans are confident they will hold the majority in November and charged Pelosi was backtracking on the impeachment comment.

"The Minority Leader is giving Americans political doubletalk," he said. "She admitted last Sunday that the Democrats would investigate the President and indicated that would lead to impeachment."

While House Democrats are laying the legislative groundwork on the chance that they win in November, the current Congress is facing a handful of controversial issues. The Senate will turn its attention to stalled immigration reform legislation on Monday and seven influential Democrats are asking for another hearing on a judicial nominee.

On immigration, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tennessee) and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) reached an agreement on how to proceed with the debate on the issue. Today, supporters of strict immigration laws roll into town for a rally on Capitol Hill. Members of the Minuteman Project gather at 11 a.m. ET in the Upper Senate Park to speak about their concerns. Members of this group are best known for staking out positions along the U.S. Mexico border and reporting the entry of illegal aliens.

Frist, Reid, Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pennsylvania) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) received a letter from the Democratic members of the "Gang of 14" last night requesting another hearing on Judge Terrence Boyle. Boyle was nominated by Bush to serve on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals and was reported out of committee last year.

"Since that time, new information regarding Judge Boyle has surfaced that we feel warrants a further exchange of information," the Democrats wrote the Senate leaders. "As members of the Senate who have a duty to cast a vote on judicial nominations, deliberations which are fully informed can only serve to benefit each of us in making the best possible decision on this nomination."

Back in the House, Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) announced yesterday he will resign his seat on June 9. DeLay decided to step down after acknowledging it would be difficult for him to win another term as he battles charges that he broke Texas campaign finance laws and is frequently mentioned -- but not charged -- in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. Before informing House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois) of his decision, DeLay appeared at a Space Transportation Association Breakfast, CNN's Xuan Thai reports. DeLay spoke exclusively about space an indication that he hopes part of his legacy in the NASA district he represented for 11 terms was his commitment to space.

"When I leave Congress this summer I will leave with the space program in a stronger position than it has enjoyed for years," DeLay said. He also praised Bush for his commitment to space exploration.

This morning, Bush met with former secretaries of State and Defense at 9:45 a.m. ET. At 1:55 p.m. ET, the President speaks at the "Celebration of Asian Pacific Heritage Month and Presentation of the President's Volunteer Service Awards. This afternoon, Bush heads to Camp David.

A glance at the schedules for potential 2008 presidential candidates shows that Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) delivers his much anticipated commencement address at Liberty University tomorrow; Sen. George Allen (R-Virginia) attends several events throughout his state this weekend; Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney attends a business luncheon and then a political dinner in Michigan today; Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Indiana) attends his campaign training school in Evansville this weekend; retired Gen. Wesley Clark (D) is in Iowa stumping for Rep. Leonard Boswell (D) today; and former Sen. John Edwards (D-North Carolina) attends a reception in New Hampshire for state Sen. Joe Foster (D) today and delivers the commencement address at the University of Maine tomorrow.

Edwards won a non-scientific online survey of potential 2008 Democratic candidates released by the South Carolina Democratic Leadership Council last night. He received 24 percent of the vote followed by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York), 18 percent. Former Vice President Al Gore and Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack tied for third each with 9 percent of the vote.

"It is really not particularly unprecedented in that Edwards carried South Carolina in the 2004 primary," Phil Noble, director of the South Carolina Democratic Leadership Council, told the Grind. "He is still popular here. Not to say that others aren't and it could not all radically change very quickly once the campaign becomes serious, and it will. It is just an interesting first look, if you will, among a non scientific group of South Carolinians."

In Illinois, the race for governor is likely to get a little more crowded soon. So far, the race has been a low-key battle between a liberal Democrat and liberal Republican. Both are trying to avoid any connection with Pat Fitzgerald's corruption-fighting steam-roller. But now a potential third-party candidate, an African-American leader of a 10,000-seat mega church on Chicago's South Side, threatens to turn the race on its' head, CNN's Fuzz Hogan reports from Chicago. While Rev. James Meeks, who leads the Salem Baptist Church, has been a strong advocate for tax increases to help Chicago's struggling schools, he also would be the only major candidate to oppose both abortion and same sex marriage.

Meeks, a state Senator, tells CNN he will announce a slate of Independent candidates for statewide office next Saturday. He is laying the groundwork to launch his own gubernatorial bid.

"I've never seen a gubernatorial race where it seemed as if the core of both parties were not happy with their candidate or their choice," Meeks told CNN. "Seventy-five percent of the people stayed home during the primary, which means that neither party was able to interest people."

Meeks said he has put off an announcement until he could be sure he could win, and not just be a spoiler. He claims his own internal polling shows he would take votes away from Republican State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka as well as Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D). Meeks said the polls shows Blagojevich is ahead in a two-way race, 47 percent to 40 percent. Once Meeks is added to the mix, he has equal impact, taking away 6 percentage points each from Blagojevich and Topinka. But, after the respondents were asked several 'push' questions, which reinforced Meeks' religious affiliation and his position on opposing abortion and same sex marriage, he took four more percentage points from Blagojevich and 9 from Topinka, leaving the race: Blagojevich-37; Topinka-25; Meeks-25. Thirteen percent of the respondents were undecided in any scenario, he said.

Meeks' entry would represent a problem for Blagojevich, whose advisers had been trying to convince Meeks to stay out of the race. But if Meeks' polling is correct -- and we don't know if it is -- it represents an equally troubling scenario for Topinka. This, on top of the fact that each candidate has been wounded by corruption investigations by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. Former Gov. George Ryan (R) was convicted on corruption charges earlier this year, an embarrassment for Topinka, who was politically close to Ryan. Primary opponents used video of Topinka and Ryan dancing the polka. Fitzgerald also has ongoing investigations into the Blagojevich administration.

Next week's announcement is only the creation of the third party. Asked why he's not simply announcing his own gubernatorial candidacy, Meeks, said he wanted to ensure he got the required petition signatures to create the party and survive any petition challenges. But, he added, "we wouldn't be wasting our time" with this process if he didn't intend to run.

And we are sad to report that former U.S. Rep. Gillespie V. "Sonny" Montgomery (D-Mississippi), a decorated military veteran who successfully fought for more benefits for U.S. soldiers, died Friday morning. He was 85.
Posted By Greg Botelho, CNN Washington Bureau: 5/12/2006 12:59:00 PM ET | Permalink
Bush: '100%' behind Hayden

Gen. Michael Hayden

Many questions about NSA surveillance

White House spokesman Tony Snow said on Friday that the Bush administration is "100 percent" behind Gen. Michael Hayden, the nominee for CIA director who again is making the rounds on Capitol Hill to win support for the post.

This comes amid controversy concerning the surveillance programs that he led when he was head of the National Security Agency.

A newspaper report said that the NSA has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans with help from AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth hit the Senate. (Full story)

In another day of face-to-face sessions on Capitol Hill, Hayden met with senators on Friday in a bid to win them over before a Thursday confirmation hearing with the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., met with Hayden on Friday and told reporters he would be questioning Hayden about rights of privacy and domestic affairs during the upcoming confirmation hearing.

Hagel said the report on domestic surveillance requires further investigation. He has been nominated to replace CIA director Porter Goss, who recently resigned.
Posted By Greg Botelho, CNN Washington Bureau: 5/12/2006 11:50:00 AM ET | Permalink
Bush asks networks: Give me time
President Bush has asked the American TV networks for time to make remarks from the Oval Office at 8 p.m. Monday on immigration and related legislation.

The remarks are expected to be about 20 minutes.

White House spokesman Tony Snow made the request to bureau chiefs on Friday. The networks said they will get back to him. (Full story)
Posted By Greg Botelho, CNN Washington Bureau: 5/12/2006 11:06:00 AM ET | Permalink
Tax cut bill heads to White House

A contentious $70 billion tax-cut package awaits only President Bush's signature after the Senate on Thursday passed the measure 54-44, largely along party lines.

The bill extends tax breaks on capital gains and dividends through 2010 and changes the unpopular alternative minimum tax so that it includes 15 million fewer middle-class taxpayers.

The bill, which includes an extension of Bush's 2003 tax cuts, passed the House on Wednesday. It now needs only presidential approval.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tennessee, said that keeping the tax cuts would help the economy and cited 5.3 million new jobs and 18 straight quarters of economic growth since the cuts were first enacted.

"We will keep taxes low so that we can keep this great country of ours strong and growing," he said.

Democrats, however, had the same major gripe they had in 2003 -- that the cuts amounted to a government handout to the wealthy.

Saying the bill "caters to an elite group of wealthy Americans at the expense of the middle class," Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said extending the cuts was fiscally irresponsible, especially during an era of high budget deficits.

"I've heard, and I always thought, Republicans were the party of fiscal integrity," Reid said. "This has been blown sky high."
Posted By Greg Botelho, CNN Washington Bureau: 5/12/2006 10:17:00 AM ET | Permalink
Thursday, May 11, 2006
The Situation Online
Today in "The Situation Room"

Suing over spying
Today's allegation that America's three largest phone companies shared phone records with the NSA is drawing fire from critics, but three other lawsuits are taking aim at the NSA's domestic surveillance program.

Not your grandmother's GOP
Taking a page from popular social networking site MySpace, the Republican Party launches "MyGOP," which hopes to bolster the conservative movement online.

Feds reject feds
Lawmakers get some bad news in their quest to find out what role the Justice Department played in authorizing the NSA's domestic surveillance program.
Posted By The Situation Online Producers: 5/11/2006 06:01:00 PM ET | Permalink
The Morning Grind
Can Democrats ride a wave to victory?

Americans dissatisfaction with President Bush's leadership, the ongoing Iraq war, skyrocketing gas prices and unease about the economy is helping fuel predictions that Democrats will regain control of the House and Senate for the first time since the 1994 Republican Revolution.

Right now, Democrats hold a 14 point lead over Republicans, 52 percent to 38 percent, in the generic ballot question, a new CNN poll shows. As many as three dozen or more House seats are in play in November as are a handful of Senate seats. Democrats need a net pick up of 15 seats to be catapulted into the majority in the House, while six would give them control of the Senate.

House Democrats are already taking curtain measurements for the spacious office suites in the U.S. Capitol that Republicans now occupy and are talking about their legislative agenda for the 110th Congress. In the Senate, the giddiness is a little less visible but certainly is apparent. Do Democrats really have a chance? It depends on who you talk to.

"The American people have spoken loud and clear -- they are sick and tired of the Republican Congress' focus on the special interests over the priorities of American families," Sarah Feinberg, a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokeswoman, told the Grind. "The American people want change and a new direction for the country, and that change is coming in November."

But Republicans are borrowing one of the more famous political lines uttered by none other than legendary Democratic House Speaker Tip O'Neill (Massachusetts).

"Voters show a clear ability to differentiate between what is going on nationally and their support for their Member of Congress, which is why Tip O'Neill was exactly correct when he said, 'All Politics is local," Carl Forti, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said in an interview with the Grind. "Those numbers show that generically people feel bad, but they still like their representative."

The Iraq war seems to be the biggest hurdle for Republicans at this point, the CNN poll shows and GOP leaders acknowledge. Fifty eight percent of Americans disapprove with the decision to go to war with Iraq, while 39 percent support it, according to the CNN poll of 1,021 adults conducted by Opinion Research Corporation last weekend. House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) told CNN's Wolf Blitzer yesterday he believes the negative news about Iraq has hurt Republicans in the eyes of some people.

"I think it's a problem," Blunt said in the interview on 'The Situation Room.' "I have been concerned -- particularly concerned about it since about the middle of January."

But Blunt added that he thinks the formation of a permanent Iraqi government, the scheduled drawn down of U.S. troops, and the GOP's argument that the nation is safer because of the U.S. war on terror will ease voters' concerns.

"I think that will begin to make a difference in the mind of Americans who understand that we have enemies in the world, and we've got to figure out a way to combat those enemies," he said.
Another priority for Republicans in the coming months is to promote positive economic news. A majority of Americans, 52 percent, believe that economic conditions in the country are good, but this is a decrease of seven percentage points in two months, the CNN poll shows.

House Republicans went right to work yesterday on this matter with the successful passage of a $70 billion tax cut bill over Democratic objections. The Senate is expected to vote today on the measure.

While the polling looks good for Democrats now, it is unclear whether it is enough for them to seize the majority in the Senate or the House.

"The numbers indicate the Democrats will gain seats, but will they gain enough?" said CNN's Polling Director Keating Holland.

"Fourteen points doesn't necessarily translate into 15 seats," Holland added, specifically referencing the House situation.

The expected tax cut vote is just one of many events occurring today on Capitol Hill. House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) holds a 10:30 a.m. ET on-camera briefing in the House Radio & TV Gallery; House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and other Democrats release their energy plan at 10:30 a.m. ET in HC-9 of the Capitol; Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) and several other Democrats hold a 10:30 a.m. ET news conference in the LBJ Room in the Capitol to express opposition to an insurance bill authored by Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming); Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) and other Democrats hold a 12 p.m. ET presser in the Senate Radio & TV Gallery calling for immediate debate on stem cell legislation; and Sen. Max Baucus (D-Montana) and other Democrats talk about the tax bill in a 1:30 p.m. ET news conference in the Senate Radio & TV Gallery. Pelosi, House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois) and Reps. Donald Manzullo (R-Illinois) and Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-California) address the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Summit between 3:30 p.m. ET and 4:30 p.m. ET in the Cannon Caucus Room. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Georgia) speaks to the group at the Grant Hyatt at 9:30 a.m. ET followed by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York).

In other events off the Hill, Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin (D-Illinois) delivers a speech on "Affordable Health Insurance for Every American by 2010" at the Center for American Progress; and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Illinois) and others discusses the midterm elections at a 12 p.m. ET forum hosted by Emily's List.

Bush and First Lady Laura Bush are equally busy today with separate trips out of town. The President meets with Chinese Human Rights Activists at 10:55 a.m. ET in the White House and then heads south to deliver a 3:10 p.m. ET commencement speech to the Gulf Coast Community College in Biloxi, Mississippi. Meanwhile, the First Lady speaks to seniors at Vanderbilt University's Senior Class Day this morning and then attends an afternoon Republican National Committee lunch that is expected to raise $325,000 for the party.

And even though White House spokesman Scott McClellan is stepping out from behind the podium, he is not stepping away from the spotlight, CNN's Ed Henry reports. McClellan is scheduled to appear on 'The Tonight Show with Jay Leno' on Tuesday. "It will be fun," McClellan said.
Posted By The Situation Online Producers: 5/11/2006 05:58:00 PM ET | Permalink
Political Hot Topics

NSA SECRETLY COLLECTS PHONE RECORDS OF AMERICANS: The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, people with direct knowledge of the arrangement told USA TODAY. The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans -- most of whom aren't suspected of any crime. This program does not involve the NSA listening to or recording conversations. But the spy agency is using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity, sources said in separate interviews. "It's the largest database ever assembled in the world," said one person, who, like the others who agreed to talk about the NSA's activities, declined to be identified by name or affiliation. USA Today: NSA has massive database of Americans' phone calls

DOJ LAWYERS REFUSED SECURITY CLEARANCE FOR NSA PROBE: The government has abruptly ended an inquiry into the warrantless eavesdropping program because the National Security Agency refused to grant Justice Department lawyers the necessary security clearance to probe the matter. The Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility, or OPR, sent a fax to Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., on Wednesday saying they were closing their inquiry because without clearance their lawyers cannot examine Justice lawyers' role in the program. "We have been unable to make any meaningful progress in our investigation because OPR has been denied security clearances for access to information about the NSA program," OPR counsel H. Marshall Jarrett wrote to Hinchey. AP via Yahoo! News: NSA Stymies Justice Dept. Spying Probe

"ANATOMY OF A TURF WAR": As befits the CIA's former spy chief, Porter Goss' only public comment on his surprise resignation last week has been that the reasons behind it would have to remain a "mystery." But a senior U.S. intelligence official with firsthand knowledge of events says Goss was dismissed as CIA director after the White House became convinced that strong disagreements with his immediate boss, John Negroponte, were beyond resolution. Those disputes involved changes that Goss feared would limit the agency's scope and influence, undercutting its role in analyzing intelligence. The disagreements, the official said, had been "ongoing for a couple of months" before Goss' departure. In an ironic twist, it was Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, whom President Bush has nominated to fill Goss' position, who began the critical assault on Goss by complaining of his performance to a CIA civilian oversight body. Goss, Negroponte and the new White House chief of staff, Josh Bolten, met recently "and came to the conclusion that this is pretty much a place that they weren't going to get past," the official said. Chicago Tribune: Anatomy of a turf war for the CIA

DEAN VS. DCCC ON NOVEMBER $$$: Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean and the leader of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have clashed angrily in recent days in a dispute about how the party should spend its money in advance of this fall's midterm elections. Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), who is leading the party's effort to regain majority status in the House, stormed out of Dean's office several days ago leaving a trail of expletives, according to Democrats familiar with the session... Emanuel's fury, Democratic officials said, was over his concern that Dean's DNC is spending its money too freely and too early in the election cycle -- a "burn rate" that some strategists fear will leave the party unable to help candidates compete on equal terms with Republicans this fall. Washington Post: Democrats Are Fractured Over Strategy, Funds

WH LOGS SHOW ABRAMOFF MEETING WITH ROVE: Newly disclosed White House visitor logs involving the lobbyist Jack Abramoff refer to a 2001 visit in which Mr. Abramoff talked with Karl Rove, President Bush's top political adviser, about hiring two people for jobs at the Interior Department, a Bush administration official said Wednesday night. The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the Justice Department's continuing investigation of Mr. Abramoff's illegal lobbying, said that neither person got a job at the Interior Department, an agency of special interest to Mr. Abramoff because of his multimillion lobbying work on behalf of Indian tribe gambling operations. The administration official said there was nothing improper about the March 2001 meeting with Mr. Rove, whose ties to Mr. Abramoff have come under review by federal investigators in recent months. New York Times: Abramoff Visits in White House Logs Are Linked to Rove and a Budget Aide

FEDS INVESTIGATING APPROPS CHAIRMAN: Federal prosecutors have begun an investigation into Rep. Jerry Lewis, the Californian who chairs the powerful House Appropriations Committee, government officials and others said, signaling the spread of a San Diego corruption probe. The U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles has issued subpoenas in an investigation into the relationship between Lewis (R-Redlands) and a Washington lobbyist linked to disgraced former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Rancho Santa Fe), three people familiar with the investigation said. The investigation is part of an expanding federal probe stemming from Cunningham's conviction for accepting $2.4 million in bribes and favors from defense contractors, according to the three sources... Lewis said Wednesday that he was not aware of any investigation, had not been contacted by any investigator and did not know why he would be investigated. "For goodness sake, why would they be doing that?" Lewis asked. Los Angeles Times: Lewis Surfaces in Probe of Cunningham

McCLELLAN HANDS OUT BROWNIES AS HE SAYS FAREWELL: Outgoing White House press secretary Scott McClellan had already said goodbye to the television cameras. On Wednesday, he spent his final day on the job accompanying President Bush on Air Force One -- handing out farewell brownies. Bush and the small cadre of aides who travel with him gathered in the plane's wood-paneled conference room for a private goodbye party on the way back to Washington from Florida. There was a round of short speeches -- and platters of brownies that McClellan's wife, Jill, had made and sent along. The always-gentlemanly spokesman appeared afterward in the press cabin to share the baked goods. He indulged a few photos, but made sure photographers stopped shooting long enough to partake. AP via Yahoo! News: McClellan Spends Last Days Under the Radar

PATAKI APPROVAL RATING AT 30%: Gov. Pataki's approval rating has fallen to its lowest level ever - and is the lowest of any governor in the 23 years that Marist College has been conducting such polls. Pataki's anemic 30 percent job-approval rate is below the lowest rating ever given Mario Cuomo, who lost to Pataki in 1994, according to a Marist survey released yesterday. The poll found that just 30 percent of New York voters approve of Pataki's performance in office, while 67 percent disapprove. Pataki, who is not seeking re-election but is exploring a run for the Republican presidential nomination, was rated poorly in all regions of the state. New York Post: Pataki is the Pits with State Voters

BENSE SAYS NO TO SENATE RUN: House Speaker Allan Bense rejected the high-level push from the White House, the governor and their political network Wednesday and decided not to enter the U.S. Senate race, leaving U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris the lone Republican. And he handed his party a mess to mend. Bense told Gov. Jeb Bush and others Wednesday that he preferred to head home to Panama City rather than seek the Republican nomination to challenge U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in November -- despite warnings this week from Bush that Harris "can't win" and pledges from Bush-family backers to send Bense money and support. "It was a great time to do some soul-searching and figure out what I'm going to do when I grow up, but I decided that the U.S. Senate was not something I could do right now," said Bense. Miami Herald: Bense won't run for Senate

"IT'S GOT NOTHING TO DO WITH ANYTHING OTHER THAN HER SENATE RE-ELECTION": News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch, owner of Fox News and the New York Post, said [Wednesday] that he his standing by his decision to host a political fundraiser for Sen. Hillary Clinton later this year. During a conference call about his company's robust earnings report, I asked Murdoch what conservatives are to make of his willingness to support the liberal New York senator. "It will be pretty modest support," Murdoch said. "It's giving the opportunity to people in our office who want to join us at a breakfast. "We think that she's been effective on state issues and local issues here in a New York. She's been an effective and good senator. And if people want to come to breakfast for $1,000, they're welcome. It's no big deal. It's not a million-dollar raising. It's got nothing to do with anything other than her Senate re-election." Human Events: Murdoch Defends Plan to Host Hillary Fundraiser; Calls Her 'Effective, Good Senator'

"BUSH 44"? 45? 46?... Could there be a third President Bush? The current chief said Wednesday that younger brother Jeb would make a great one, too, and has asked him about making a run. The first President Bush likes the idea as well. Jeb Bush, the Republican governor of Florida, has one asset that his presidential brother doesn't right now - approval from most of his constituents. While George W. Bush's approval ratings are in the low 30s, some 55 percent of Florida voters surveyed last month by Quinnipiac University said Jeb was doing a good job. The governor has repeatedly said he won't be a candidate for president in 2008, but that doesn't stop his family from encouraging him to go for it some day. AP via Yahoo! News: Another President Bush? First 2 Are for It

Posted By The Situation Online Producers: 5/11/2006 05:51:00 PM ET | Permalink
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
The Situation Online
Today in "The Situation Room"

The Abramoff logs
How complete are the Secret Service logs (PDF) of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff's two visits to the White House since 2001? Compare these logs to the same type of information (PDF) provided during the Clinton Administration.

Survivor's staircase
Remnants from two of America's worst disasters, September 11 and Hurricane Katrina, are already being added to a list of America's Most Endangered Historic Places.

Brown on levee breach
Just released online, an extensive database of Michael Brown's emails show early confusion over what happened when Katrina struck New Orleans.
Posted By The Situation Online Producers: 5/10/2006 07:37:00 PM ET | Permalink
The Morning Grind
Clinton's common ground
Don't expect Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to move too far to the left anytime soon. For that matter, don't look for her to lean too far to the right. And as for the center, well, it is a political place the New York Democrat intends to keep visiting.Clinton told a largely non-political audience last night a willingness by people to find "common ground ... is where America works best," and it is her duty as an elected official to seek out solutions to problems.

"As a senator from New York, I think it's my job to try and work with people to try and find that common ground that makes for ideas based on efforts at solving problems," she told more than 220 people who attended the "American Conversation" speaker's series sponsored by the National Archives.

Clinton, who is considered the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination should she seek it in 2008, acknowledged that this political position "may not satisfy ideologues or the extremists or the people who have a commercial or partisan stake," but she added, "I think that is the best place to be, it is the most comfortable place for me."

It is statements such as this one by Clinton that cause blood boiling in liberal activists who argue she should not be the next Democratic presidential nominee. But other Democrats suggest Clinton must walk this center line if she is to have a chance in the general election. Last night, though, it was not about a future presidential bid. Or was it? U.S. Archivist Allen Weinstein never asked Clinton directly if she planned to run for the White House, but he did give her an opportunity to "make news."

"Well what do you have in mind," a laughing Clinton quickly responded. There was no doubt what Weinstein had in mind or for that matter what was on the minds of the 200-plus people sitting in the audience. Clinton -- in what has become a common routine -- deftly sidestepped the question.

But Weinstein did get Clinton to talk about her long-term vision for the nation that included strengthening the economy, making the country energy self-sufficient, providing affordable healthcare for everyone, fighting the global war on terror and to reestablish the U.S. standing with the international community. If one thought twice about Clinton's goals, it may have sounded like the makings of a campaign stump speech. But this wasn't about running for president. Or was it?

She even had nice things to say about President Bush, thanking him for the help he provided to New York following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. She described him as "someone who has a lot of charm and charisma." Another comment that is sure to make some on the left grit their teeth.But again, this wasn't about a 2008 White House run. Or was it? After spending 15 minutes signing autographs and snapping pictures with the audience members, Clinton introduced Weinstein to a half dozen reporters who stopped by to see the speech as "my base." She then quickly corrected herself.

"That is John McCain's line," a smiling Clinton said of the Arizona Republican Senator, who is also eyeing a 2008 presidential bid. But this wasn't about 2008. Or was it?While most of the recent news concerning the midterm elections predicts disastrous results for the GOP, the party has scored an early "hat trick" by recruiting three prominent black Republicans to run for statewide offices. In the blue state of Pennsylvania, former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Lynn Swann is running for governor and in the Democratic stronghold of Maryland, Lt. Gov. Michael Steele is running for Senate. In the red state of Ohio, Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell won the GOP gubernatorial nomination last week. (Swann is expected to secure the Republican nomination next week, while Steele is the favorite to get the official GOP nod in September.)

"This is a banner year," Alvin Williams, co-founder of Black America's Political Action Committee, told the Grind in an interview last week. "This is probably the best slate of candidates I have seen."Tara Wall, a Republican National Committee official, said the successful recruitment of these high-profile candidates is a demonstration of RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman's commitment to reach out to minority communities.

"Our aggressive efforts and our chairman's efforts are really starting to pay off," Wall said in an interview with the Grind last week. "Obviously, we have a long way to go, but we are making great strides."Democrats dismissed Republican claims that these black candidates have broad appeal, and instead suggested their conservative views would not resonate with either African American or white voters.

"We will run against these candidates like we would any others," said Jon Summers, spokesman for the Democratic Governors Association.

Another black Republican, Rev. Keith Butler, is seeking the GOP Senate nomination in Michigan but he is not expected to win the primary.

Stuart Rothenberg, publisher of the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report, described Blackwell, Steele and Swann as "underdogs" to win in November. But he noted their statewide candidacies are an important step for Republicans as they try to draw minorities into their tent."These are serious African American candidates," said Rothenberg, who also writes a column for the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call. "Having these three candidates running in these three states starts to shatter the image that the Republican Party is a white guy's party."Even Williams, whose non-partisan PAC gives exclusively to conservative candidates, acknowledges winning all three contests would be difficult.

"Having each of these guys win would just be supersonic," he said. "If we have one win, I think it would be historic."

Bush wraps up his trip to Florida today with a 9:30 a.m. ET "Conversation on the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit" at the Asociación Borinqueña de Florida Central, Inc. in Orlando. In the neighborhood of 300 people are expected to attend. Prior to this event, Bush met with a select group of Florida-based reporters. He returns to the White House in time for a 1:40 p.m. ET event with "Victims of Identity Theft."

Meanwhile on Capitol Hill, House Democrats hold a 10 a.m. ET briefing in the Cannon Rotunda to urge Bush to extend the deadline to sign up for the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan. Later, House leaders join Senate Democrats at a 1:30 p.m. ET news conference in the Russell Caucus Room to echo their call for a deadline extension. House Republicans will talk about their "Commitment to Protecting Our Homeland & Supporting Our Troops" at 10 a.m. briefing in the Capitol. At 2 p.m., Republicans join Treasury Secretary John Snow on the West Front Steps of the Capitol for a "Tax Rally."

This afternoon, four former House Members will be awarded the Distinguished Service Award. Vice President Cheney, former Central Intelligence Director Porter Goss, former Ambassador Lindy Claiborne Boggs and Father Robert Drinan will be bestowed this honor by House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) at a 2:30 p.m. ET ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda.

And former Sen. John Edwards (D-North Carolina), who is also eyeing a run for the White House, joins SEIU President Dennis Rivera outside New York City Hall for a 10 a.m. ET rally to urge for an increase in benefits and salary for home healthcare workers.
Posted By The Situation Online Producers: 5/10/2006 07:22:00 PM ET | Permalink
Political Hot Topics
BUSH JOB APPROVAL AT 31%; HANDLING OF GAS AT 13%: Americans have a bleaker view of the country's direction than at any time in more than two decades, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. Sharp disapproval of President Bush's handling of gasoline prices has combined with intensified unhappiness about Iraq to create a grim political environment for the White House and Congressional Republicans. Mr. Bush's approval ratings for his management of foreign policy, Iraq and the economy have fallen to the lowest levels of his presidency... Mr. Bush's overall job approval rating hit another new low, 31 percent, tying the low point of his father in July 1992, four months before the elder Mr. Bush lost his bid for a second term to Bill Clinton. New York Times: Poll Gives Bush His Worst Marks Yet

HAYDEN'S NEW JOB NOT A "POWER PLAY" FOR DEFENSE, SAYS RUMMY: Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld dismissed the idea that he has been involved in a bureaucratic power play to boost the military's role in intelligence-gathering, and strongly supported Air Force Gen. Michael V. Hayden's nomination to be the next director of the CIA, describing him yesterday as a seasoned professional. "He did not come up through the operational chain in the Department of Defense, and at the last minute slide over into the intelligence business," Rumsfeld said of Hayden at a news conference. "He's a person who's had assignment after assignment after assignment in the intelligence business, and clearly, that is what his career has been, and he's been very good at it." Rumsfeld was even more emphatic in denying that tensions exist inside the government over the Pentagon's growing role in intelligence. Washington Post: No Power Play, Rumsfeld Says

STAGE SET FOR "CLASH" BETWEEN CIA, DOD: President Bush's selection of Gen. Michael V. Hayden to be the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency sets the stage for new wrangling with the Pentagon, which is rapidly expanding its own global spying and terrorist-tracking operations, both long considered C.I.A. roles... The C.I.A. has the lead role in managing "human intelligence," or spying in the government. Whether by design or circumstance, though, much of the growth in the military's spy missions has come in the Special Operations Command, which reports to Mr. Rumsfeld and falls outside the orbit controlled by John D. Negroponte, the director of national intelligence. New York Times: Clash Foreseen Between C.I.A. and Pentagon

DEMS WON'T FOCUS ON WIRETAPS AT HEARINGS: Democrats say they will focus their fire on Michael Hayden's military background and suitability to head the Central Intelligence Agency when Senate confirmation hearings begin next week -- and won't emphasize the nominee's role in running a much-criticized eavesdropping program. Bush administration officials and their Republican congressional allies have said they would welcome a fight over the surveillance program, which Hayden initiated during his tenure as director of the National Security Agency. Democrats say they won't oblige them. "I'm sure the administration is going to make this about the NSA," said Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat and member of the Intelligence Committee, which will consider the nomination. "But for me credibility is the issue first and foremost." Bloomberg: Democrats Won't Focus Hayden Hearing on Surveillance

BUSH TALKS MEDICARE IN FL: The White House sees Medicare's new prescription-drug plan as good political medicine. As President Bush travels through Florida warning that the May 15 sign-up deadline is rapidly approaching, polls show rising popularity for the new program. "This is a good deal for America's seniors," Bush said Tuesday in this planned community for the elderly near Tampa. He discusses the program again today in Orlando. During a question-and-answer session, Bush confronted complaints that have dogged the program since sign-up began in November. The program went into effect Jan. 1. Asked about the sometimes-dizzying array of plans offered, Bush said people can pick the one that best meets their individual needs: "I think (the) more choices for consumers, the better off we are." USA Today: In Florida, Bush touts drug program as 'good deal'

REPUBLICANS NARROW FOCUS, AIM TO PLEASE BASE: Republican leaders in Congress have all but abandoned efforts to pass major policy initiatives this year, and are instead focusing their energies on a series of conservative favorites that they hope will rally loyal voters in November's congressional elections. The House and Senate agendas are packed with bills that, even supporters concede, have no chance of passing but that social and fiscal conservatives clamor for, like constitutional amendments banning flag-burning and gay marriage. By bringing them up, Republicans hope to inspire a constituency that has fractured in its support for President Bush and the party. They also hope to cast Democrats as obstructionists by drawing their plentiful "no" votes. But some GOP moderates fear the strategy risks alienating moderate voters, whom vulnerable Republicans need at the polls in November. Boston Globe: GOP narrowing its congressional agenda

GOP FIELDS BLACK CANDIDATES IN THREE HOT RACES: When J. Kenneth Blackwell took the stage here on May 2 to claim the Republican nomination for governor, he became something more than his party's standard-bearer in a bellwether state. The Ohio secretary of state -- a crusading conservative with an appetite for political combat -- also assumed a leading role in his party's latest effort to break the Democrats' decades-long grip on the black vote.Blackwell, who will face Democratic Rep. Ted Strickland in November, is now the third prominent African American on a statewide Republican ballot this fall. In Maryland, Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, whose candidacy has benefited from his friendship with two Republican National Committee chairmen, is the party's nominee to fill the seat of retiring Democratic Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes. In Pennsylvania, former Pittsburgh Steelers star Lynn Swann is challenging Democratic Gov. Edward G. Rendell. Washington Post: The Year of the Black Republican?

DEMS' OWN TROUBLES "DULLS THE MESSAGE" ON ETHICS: For the past year, Democrats have been jockeying for the high ground on congressional ethics, hoping a largely Republican lobbying scandal would help propel them into the majority come November's elections. But the issue is proving to be a two-edged sword, as Democrats themselves have come under scrutiny for allegations of bribery and conflicts of interest. "You can attack one party for having a lack of ethics, but if any of your own members have problems, it dulls the message with the American people," said Leon Panetta, an ex-Democratic congressman from California and chief of staff under President Clinton. "They begin to put everybody in the same box. It clearly loses some of its impact as a clean campaign issue." USA Today: Democrats' own ethics trouble 'dulls the message'

OOPS... WH SKED FOUND IN TRASH: How much do you think Osama bin Laden would pay to know exactly when and where the President was traveling, and who was with him? Turns out, he wouldn't have had to pay a dime. All he had to do was go through the trash early Tuesday morning. It appears to be a White House staff schedule for the President's trip to Florida Tuesday. And a sanitation worker was alarmed to find in the trash long hours before Mr. Bush left for his trip. It's the kind of thing you would expect would be shredded or burned, not thrown in the garbage. Randy Hopkins could not believe what he was seeing. There on the floor next to a big trash truck was a thick sheaf of papers with nearly every detail of the President's voyage... The documents details the exact arrival and departure time for Air Force One, Marine One and the back up choppers, Nighthawk 2 and Three. It lists every passenger on board each aircraft, from the President to military attaché with nuclear football. It offers the order of vehicles in the President's motorcade. WUSA: EXCLUSIVE: Presidential Plans Found In Trash

HILLARY "GRATIFIED" BY MURDOCH'S SUPPORT: Hillary Clinton defended her warming relationship on Tuesday with Rupert Murdoch, the conservative media mogul. Commenting on Mr Murdoch's decision to host a fundraiser for her Senate-election campaign, Mrs Clinton said: "He's my constituent and I'm very gratified that he thinks I'm doing a good job." Mr Murdoch's New York Post tabloid newspaper initially attacked the New York Democrat's decision to stand for the Senate, running front-page headlines pleading "Don't Run". Mrs Clinton is the leading Democratic candidate for president in 2008. But one person involved in the event said Mr Murdoch's decision to support her reflected his opinion of her as a senator for New York rather than as a presidential candidate. Financial Times: Hillary Clinton defends link with Murdoch

CAN HILLARY SAY ANYTHING NICE ABOUT BUSH? Asked to say one nice thing about President Bush, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton went one better: She named two things. "He is someone who has a lot of charm and charisma, and I think in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, I was very grateful to him for his support for New York," Clinton said Tuesday night during a talk at the National Archives about her life in politics. Clinton, a potential presidential candidate in 2008, said that despite their "many disagreements about many, many issues," she has always had a good personal relationship with the president. "He's been very willing to talk. He's been affable. He's been good company," said Clinton, D-N.Y.AP via Yahoo! News: Sen. Clinton Says Bush Has Charm, Charisma

NEW SCHOOL STUDENTS AND FACULTY "UP IN ARMS" OVER MCCAIN VISIT: Bob Kerrey, the former senator and longtime friend of Senator John McCain, said it was only logical to invite his fellow iconoclast and Vietnam veteran to be the commencement speaker at the New School, the storied bastion of liberalism of which Mr. Kerrey is president. Graduation ceremonies need speakers, after all, and the bigger the name the better. "I think he's one of the world's most important leaders at the moment," Mr. Kerrey said in a telephone interview. But instead of welcoming Mr. McCain, an Arizona Republican who is considered a possible presidential candidate, hundreds of students and faculty members are up in arms, calling the invitation a prime example of what they see as the disconnect between Mr. Kerrey, the onetime Democratic senator from Nebraska, and the institution he leads. New York Times: Protesters Object to McCain as New School Commencement Speaker
Posted By The Situation Online Producers: 5/10/2006 07:17:00 PM ET | Permalink
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