Friday, May 19, 2006
Power-ful aftershocks of political rankings

Who has the most sway on Capitol Hill?

Politicians, bloggers weigh in
Washington, one could argue, is all about power -- amassing it, dispensing it, and lambasting those who employ it. No wonder, then, Knowlegis's inaugural "Power Rankings" of lawmakers generated buzz on Capitol Hill and online.

The effort marked the culmination of five months of work by the young company, an affiliate of Capitol Advantage whose official aim is to "enhance customers' capabilities to interact with elected officials." Knowlegis measured and weighted 15 criteria -- including committee memberships, legislative activity, media profile and campaign contributions -- to give scores to each legislator. (Full story)

"We offer it up as a ... gauge," said Brad Fitch, CEO of Knowlegis. "We tried to represent the things that actually represent a power and a put a point value on it."

Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-North Carolina), for instance, issued a press release stating he was "humbled by the recognition" of being the House's 44th most influential member.

Others were less enthusiastic. A spokesman for Ohio Rep. Deborah Pryce, ranked 32, called the ordering "ridiculous," according to The Hill. The bottom dwelling senator and congressman -- Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Rep. John Campbell of California, both Republicans -- downplayed the results, the Washington Post reported. DeMint pointed to his Palmetto State roots in claiming he'd hopefully have "another 50 years or so to prove 'em wrong" -- a reference to Sen. Strom Thurmond, who represented the state for 47 years. A Campbell spokesman said dryly, "I guess we're not that insignificant if The Washington Post is calling us."

Such reactions are no surprise, said Fitch, given the never-ending struggle for influence inside the Beltway.

"Anybody who comes to Washington wants power, like moths to a flame," he said. "It's not just to fill your ego or get a good seat at the theater. ... They want the power because they want to do the 'right' things."

The political blogosphere also lit up. Online commentators from Cleveland, Ohio, to Orange County, California, weighed in -- expressing surprise, insight, and criticism with where local luminaries stood.

Republicans routinely scored higher than their Democratic counterparts, largely by virtue of the fact that they control both chambers of Congress and the White House. Ohio GOP chair Bob Bennett fed off of this trend, telling the Cleveland Plain Dealer that the results showed Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Strickland and senate candidate Sherrod Brown "clearly [have] no influential ability."

Several left-leaning blogs -- including Breaking Blue and a discussion on Gen. Wesley Clark's PAC page -- deemed the findings "interesting." Others were sharply critical, perhaps best laid bare in a two-word entry on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's blog: "Big joke."

Fitch himself couldn't resist the chance to chime in, posting to the generally left-of-center Carpetbagger Report. Among other things, the commentary said "the results unfairly favor Republicans" and called the rankings "infotainment," a "gimmick" and "stunt" by a "for-profit company."

Fitch, a "Hill Rat" for 13 years under Democratic congressmen (though his first Capitol Hill job was for former Rep. Jack Kemp, a Republican) before working for five years at the nonpartisan Congressional Management Foundation, denied any "nefarious motives" in his online response. He also admitted "these rankings don't paint a complete picture."

Fitch elaborated in an interview with, noting "definite limitations of the research." But the self-professed "political junkie" defended the rankings, calling it "one tool" that can be used by citizens, businesses and organizations to assess specific Congressmen's influence.
Posted By Greg Botelho, CNN Washington Bureau: 5/19/2006 06:16:00 PM ET | Permalink
The Situation Online

Discovery rolls out of the Vehicle Assembly Building on Friday.

Shuttling towards blast off
With its roll-out to the launch pad today, the space shuttle Discovery is on track for a July launch.

New Orleans election
The run-off election in New Orleans is tomorrow, but thousands displaced by Katrina have already cast their vote for Mayor.

English only?
A newly approved Senate amendment would prevent the government from offering services "in any language other than English" unless previously authorized. A few clicks from the mouse show that many federal agencies post information in other languages, including the White House.

Operation graduation
With a little help from the Internet, seven high schools near Fort Campbell, KY are offerings parents deployed in Iraq the chance to watch their children graduate.

Suing over spying
Another lawsuit - this one filed in Texas - has been filed against AT&T for allegedly sharing its customer records with the NSA. BellSouth and Verizon have also been sued.

Posted By The Situation Online Producers: 5/19/2006 04:41:00 PM ET | Permalink
Bush, Cheney multi-millionaires and then some

President Bush received numerous gifts, including an iPod from Bono.

President Bush reported owning assets valued between $7.5 million and $21.4 million while Vice President Cheney reported assets valued between $20.1 million and $94.6 million, in annual financial disclosure reports filed earlier this week with the federal Office of Government Ethics.

The reports provide only a glimpse into the wealth of both men, as federal ethics laws require only that public officials provide broad ranges of their financial holdings, and do not require them to report the value of other key assets, such as a primary residence. The reports cover the year 2005.

The most expensive assets the president reported were his 1,583-acre ranch near Crawford, Texas, and a qualified diversified trust, each valued between $1 million and $5 million.

The president also received numerous gifts, including a bicycle valued at $5,474, an iPod and book from U2 singer Bono valued at $440, and a chain saw with accessories valued at $351. The president also received a $400 pair of binoculars from Cheney and his wife, Lynne, as well as a fly-fishing rod and reel from GOP Sens. Larry Craig and Mike Crapo of Idaho, among other gifts.

The bulk of Cheney's assets are in various stock and bond investment funds. His two largest assets are investments with The Vanguard Group and American Century Investments International Bond Fund, both valued between $5 million and $25 million.

He also continues to receive benefits from Halliburton, the Texas-based energy services corporation where he served as CEO from 1995 to 2000. In 2005, he received $211,465 as part of a pre-determined, multiple-year deferred compensation plan, and he owns more than $6.9 million in stock options. According to the filing, "383,333 Halliburton Company stock options were exercised in 2005 and the proceeds were donated to charity on a tax-neutral basis."

The vice president and his wife each receive benefits and fees from various corporations and organizations that they have served in some capacity, such as Union Pacific and Proctor and Gamble for Cheney and Reader's Digest for
his wife.

Cheney reported receiving almost $40,000 in gifts last year, including a $338 steel-framed hammock from the president and an autographed, leather-bound copy of the Warren Commission report from former president Gerald R. Ford, valued at $489. Ford was a member of the Warren Commission that investigated the assassination of President Kennedy.

The vice president also received an engraved, hand-made reproduction of a Lewis & Clark rifle valued at $1,000, a Smith and Wesson revolver worth $950, and a historic single-action Colt 45 revolver, valued at $6,125, which was donated to the Cody Firearms Museum.
Posted By Robert Yoon, CNN Washington Bureau: 5/19/2006 02:23:00 PM ET | Permalink
Scalia: Improper for Congress 'to direct the Supreme Court'

Justice Antonin Scalia

Justice Antonin Scalia on Thursday joined his Supreme Court benchmates in expressing concern over congressional interference into federal judicial matters.

Addressing a group on Capitol Hill that included about a dozen members of Congress, the 70-year-old justice said separation powers between the branches of government should be respected.

He said it is not proper for Congress "to direct the Supreme Court" in how it does its job. At the same time, Scalia added that he has long opposed trying to legislate from the bench, and that courts sometimes have taken on too much regulatory power best left to Congress.

"All you have to do is pass the statute and it's not up to us to tell you otherwise," he added. "Let us make our mistakes just as we let you make yours," which brought heavy laughter from the crowd.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her retired colleague Sandra Day O'Connor have been especially outspoken on the issue recently.

Ginsburg earlier this month labeled as "a really scary idea" a congressional proposal to create an inspector general to serve as a watchdog over the federal courts.

"My sense is that the judiciary is under assault in a way that I haven't seen before," she said.

O'Connor said in March that lawmakers who threaten to impeach judges or reduce their authority make her "very, very angry." She called it a "serious threat" to the independence of the courts.

"I am against judicial reform driven by nakedly partisan attempts to strong-arm the judiciary," she said.

Scalia's comments were far more conciliatory, noting each branch of government has a distinct role to play.
Posted By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer: 5/19/2006 12:23:00 PM ET | Permalink
The Morning Grind
Race, economics or union density?

Does a Hispanic population that is double the national average give Arizona the edge in the competition to join Iowa and New Hampshire as one of the nation's first presidential proving grounds for Democratic candidates in 2008? Or will having the fourth largest black population in the country -- as in South Carolina's case -- be enough to convince the Democratic National Committee to choose the Palmetto State for this right?

Perhaps, geography should be a deciding factor. Wait, what about economics and union strength? Hmmm, experience in conducting such an important early contest?

How about all of the above?

The DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee is struggling with these questions and more as it debates how many and what specific states should be awarded the opportunity to play a key role in deciding the Democratic Party's next presidential nominee.

Arizona and South Carolina join 10 other states (including the District of Columbia) vying for a coveted "pre-window" position on the nominating calendar. Historically, this right has been reserved for Iowa and New Hampshire, but the DNC will choose between one and four states to move their nominating contests up into this time frame. The other states vying for an early spot include: Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Hawaii, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada and West Virginia.

"We still have not decided the number of states that will go forward within the pre-window, nor have we decided the dates," Alexis Herman, co-chair of the RBC, said yesterday during a telephonic meeting of the committee.

Still, early signs point to the DNC slotting a caucus between the Iowa Caucuses and New Hampshire Primary to help preserve each state's unique status. An additional primary would be added after the New Hampshire contest, but before the window opens up to allow every state to schedule nominating contests. And early odds are that one contest would be held in the West and another in the South.

RBC members were presented a four page chart yesterday that broke down each state's racial demographics, labor presence, population estimates, percentage of registered Democrats and the party's recent presidential results, among other statistics, to help in the decision making process.

The goal of many RBC members is to reach a decision on specific states and dates by July 23 and then present the recommendations to the full DNC for a vote. But some dissenting members, such as South Carolina's Don Fowler oppose the idea of naming the states until after the November elections. And during yesterday's meeting, he argued that the RBC needs to formally vote to adopt the recommendations of a special DNC commission that endorsed the idea of changing the nominating calendar.

Despite some minor protest to Fowler's request, it was agreed the RBC will further discuss the merits of changing the calendar. And the RBC also decided to ask follow-up questions of each state. The next RBC meeting will occur telephonically on June 22 with an in-person meeting taking place on July 22 and 23.

President Bush's approval rating might be stuck in the low to mid 30's these days -- 36 percent in a new CNN poll -- but he told CNN's Suzanne Malveaux yesterday that he has no plans to change course.

"We've had a very strong legislative record," he said in an interview at the U.S.-Mexico border. "I will continue to sign good law because I'm working with members of the House and Senate. We're going to win the war on terror. I'm doing my job, what the American people want me to do."

Bush hits the campaign trail today, as does his wife, First Lady Laura Bush. The president attends a 12:40 p.m. ET fundraiser for Rep. Thelma Drake (R-Virginia) in Virginia Beach and then heads off to a 3:45 p.m. ET event at Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights, Kentucky, to make remarks on the "American Competitiveness Initiative." At 5:35 p.m. ET, Bush puts his campaign hat back on and attends a fundraiser for Rep. Geoff Davis (R-Kentucky) at the Hilton Cincinnati Airport in Florence, Kentucky. He arrives back at the White House in the evening. Meanwhile, the First Lady attends a fundraiser in Essex Junction, Vermont for Martha Rainville, who is running for Vermont's congressional seat. At 6:20 p.m. ET she attends a fundraiser for Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-Rhode Island) in Providence, Rhode Island. On Saturday, the First Lady delivers the commencement address at Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island.

Vice President Cheney delivers the commencement address at Louisiana State University today at 1 p.m. ET in Baton Rouge. Tomorrow, Cheney travels to Nashville, Tennessee, to attend a Tennessee Republican Party event.

House Democrats hold an 11 a.m. ET news conference today on the Cannon Terrace to blast the Republican Party on a number of issues; the Senate Democratic Policy Committee holds a 10 a.m. ET hearing in room 138 of the Dirksen Building to examine "FEMA Trailer Maintenance Contracts; and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) travels to Cleveland Saturday to join Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) -- who is running for the Senate -- in a discussion about the Democratic energy plan.

And a busy weekend for potential 2008 presidential candidates, kicking off with Sen. John McCain's (R-Arizona) 2:30 p.m. ET commencement address today at The New School in New York City. Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is scheduled to address the Wisconsin Republican Convention in Appleton, Wisconsin and Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Indiana) attends the Polk County Democrats Spring Dinner in Des Moines, Iowa.

On Saturday, Bayh spends the day in Iowa attending fundraisers for state Rep. Mike Reasoner and state Rep. Paul Shomshor as well as speaking at the Woodbury County Democrats Truman Club Dinner. Sen. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) delivers the commencement address at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio; retired Gen. Wesley Clark (D) gives the commencement address at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York; McCain attends fundraisers for Rep. Mike Castle (R-Delaware) and Rep. John Sweeney (R-New York).

On Sunday, former President George H.W. Bush (41) and former First Lady Barbara Bush serve as commencement speakers at the George Washington University in Washington, DC; Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York) delivers the commencement address at Genesee Community College in Batavia, New York; and New York Gov. George Pataki (R) speaks at New England College's graduation in Henniker, New Hampshire.

And if you are wondering if former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota) is seriously considering a run for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, well, we will let his own words speak for themselves. Earlier this week, the Associated Press reported that Daschle was planning to visit Iowa and New Hampshire. Now, Daschle is e-mailing political allies an article from a South Dakota newspaper detailing his upcoming travel schedule.

"I thought you might like to see this article," the former Democratic leader writes in an e-mail obtained by CNN's Ed Henry. "I am deeply grateful for the encouragement that I have been given. I want to emphasize that this is only exploratory. We will certainly keep you up to date. Tom"

Enough said.

While Bush might be Cheney's boss, the Vice President is wealthier than the President, according to annual financial disclosure reports filed with the Office of Government Ethics earlier this week. CNN political researcher Xuan Thai estimates that Bush is worth between $7.5 million and $21.4 million, while Cheney has assets worth between $20.1 million and $94.6 million. So much for being the Leader of the Free World.

GRIND EXTRA -- A Ford, Not a Lincoln

By Robert Yoon
CNN Political Research Director

We asked our alert readers to name the presidential offspring who played a small but pivotal role in the 1989 film "When Harry Met Sally." No, it was not Tad Lincoln. Nor was it Grover Cleveland's son Francis in two non-consecutive scenes.

The answer, as many of you guessed, is none other than Steven Ford, the third son of Gerald and Betty Ford. Steven Ford, who incidentally celebrates his 50th birthday today, played "Joe," Meg Ryan's pre-Billy Crystal love interest. He was the tall blonde fellow kissing Sally in the airport early in the film, and his character ultimately was responsible for Harry and Sally's first romantic encounter.

"I didn't have the sense at the time that this was going to be a classic that would last the years," Ford told the Grind from his office in southern California. "Not all films are going to go down in history."

Since that airport scene, Ford has gone on to appear in over a dozen feature films including 1997's "Contact" with Jodie Foster and the 1998 blockbuster "Armageddon." But it was his roles in "When Harry Met Sally" and the 2001 film "Black Hawk Down," about a disastrous 1993 Army mission in Somalia, that he considers his proudest cinematic work.

"Both are important films today. One makes you laugh; the other makes you rethink world politics," he said. "I've really been blessed to have these roles in movies that will last forever."

Ford recalls asking his father what he and his mother thought of "Black Hawk Down," and the former president said, "I really, really enjoyed it, but your mom ... it was too intense for her so she had to leave after the first half-hour."

Steven Ford began his acting career in 1981, several years after his father had left the White House. He had a bit part in a Western where "they needed a guy who could fall off horses and do stunts." He then landed a seven-year gig on the daytime soap "The Young and the Restless" as Detective Andy Richards, whom he doesn't recall ever actually solving any cases.

Times were lean in those early years. Ford had a four-year contract where he could be fired for no reason every 13 weeks. Fearing sudden unemployment, this son of a former president saved money by living out of his car.

"I showered and changed in the studio, and after work, I would drive my Honda Civic to a residential neighborhood, put down the seat and sleep in a sleeping bag. My parents would ask, 'Where are you living in L.A.? Where can we call you?' and I would say, 'Uh, I don't have a phone number yet.'"

Ford has long since moved out of his car and still takes on a few acting jobs a year "just to keep the insurance up." He still gets residual checks from his various television and movie appearances over the past 25 years. Recently, he received a check for a guest spot he did on a 1981 episode of "Happy Days." The amount: 9 cents. After taxes, it was 6 cents.

"I stopped cashing them," he says. "I'm gonna start framing them and screw up some accountant somewhere trying to track down 6 cents."

Today, Ford spends most of his time giving corporate speeches, as well as motivational talks to student groups on a topic very important to his family: alcoholism. Despite his mother's well-publicized battles with addiction, Steven Ford also suffered from alcoholism for part of the 1980s and early 1990s.

"That shows you how sneaky a disease it is, because Betty Ford's son should know better," he says. "It's that tough. Even when you have all the information at hand, you can still make those bad choices that lead you down that road."

The younger Ford, now sober for 13 years, was once reluctant to talk about his past, but now uses humor to broach the delicate topic, with the hope that he can help others learn from his mistakes.

"I remember telling mom, 'I can't go to the Betty Ford Center. That's like going to the high school where your mom is the principal,'" he said. "But maybe I could have gotten the family rate."

He estimates that in the past few years, he's spoken to over 65,000 students about his experiences.

Ford describes himself as a "moderate Republican" and a "fiscal conservative." He says that he is "not happy with the way Congress has been spending." And although he considers himself "politically active," he has no desire to be a political figure himself, beyond playing one on TV. His political acting roles to date have been a U.S. Senate candidate on a TV show he can't quite remember anymore, and "Secret Service Agent #2" in the 1981 film "Escape from New York."

As for the health of his famous father, who was hospitalized for pneumonia earlier this year, Steven Ford says, "He's doing well. He still reads five newspapers a day. I'm going down there in a couple of weeks, and he wants to play a round of golf, which is always a good sign."

** Congratulations to our neighbor to the north Don Berkowitz of Maple, Ontario, Canada, who not only answered "Steven Ford," but also was randomly selected from among the correct answers by CNN's own senior political analyst Bill Schneider. You win a highly sought-after CNN refrigerator magnet. You'll be the envy of all of Maple, Ontario. **
Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 5/19/2006 10:16:00 AM ET | Permalink
Political Hot Topics
BACK OFF THE CIA A LITTLE BIT: Gen. Michael V. Hayden, President Bush's choice to lead the CIA, strongly defended the administration's policies on domestic surveillance and the treatment of detainees during his confirmation hearing yesterday, and urged senators to suspend debate about CIA failures and give the agency a chance to rebound. "It's time to move past what seems to me to be an endless picking apart of the archaeology of every past intelligence success or failure," Hayden said. "CIA officers... deserve recognition of their efforts, and they also deserve not to have every action analyzed, second-guessed and criticized on the front pages of the morning paper." Although accountability is important, he said the "CIA needs to get out of the news as source or subject and focus on protecting the American people by acquiring secrets and providing high-quality all-source analysis." Washington Post: Hayden Urges CIA Critics to Refrain

"CONGRESSIONAL EQUIVALENT OF A TEMPER TANTRUM": There were two types of senators at Thursday's confirmation hearing for Gen. Michael V. Hayden: the briefed, and the briefed-nots. The former were mostly polite. The latter, especially Democrats, threw the Congressional equivalent of a temper tantrum. General Hayden, President Bush's nominee to run the Central Intelligence Agency, invoked what he termed "a very crude airman's metaphor" in suggesting he believed lawmakers should have been informed earlier by the White House of its secretive domestic eavesdropping program, which he oversaw when he ran the National Security Agency. "If you want people with the craft," the general said, "you've got to put them on the manifest." New York Times: Senators Left Out of Loop Make Their Pique Known

BELLSOUTH DEMANDS RETRACTION: BellSouth asked USA TODAY on Thursday to "retract the false and unsubstantiated statements" about the company that it contends were in a May 11 story about a database of domestic calling records maintained by the National Security Agency. In a letter to the newspaper's publisher, Craig Moon, the company noted that the story said BellSouth is "working under contract with the NSA" to provide "phone call records of tens of millions of Americans" that have been incorporated into the database. "No such proof was offered by your newspaper because no such contracts exist," stated the letter, portions of which were read by spokesman Jeff Battcher. "You have offered no proof that BellSouth provided massive calling data to the NSA as part of a warrantless program because it simply did not happen." USA Today: BellSouth calls for a retraction of report it cooperated with NSA

"MAKES SENSE" TO USE SOME FENCE: President Bush traveled on Thursday to a blistering stretch of scrub land surrounding the nation's busiest Border Patrol station and declared that he supported fencing some but not all of America's 1,950-mile border with Mexico. "It makes sense to use fencing along the border in key locations in order to do our job," Mr. Bush said in a speech at the headquarters of the Yuma Sector Border Patrol. "We're in the process of making our border the most technologically advanced border in the world." Mr. Bush has in the past indicated he is opposed to fencing, and White House officials were kept busy on Thursday trying to explain the change in his position. New York Times: Bush Now Favors Some Fencing Along Border

"SEE YA", MR. CHAIRMAN: A Senate committee approved a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage Thursday, after a shouting match that ended when one Democrat strode out and the Republican chairman bid him "good riddance." "I don't need to be lectured by you. You are no more a protector of the Constitution than am I," Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., shouted after Sen. Russ Feingold declared his opposition to the amendment, his affinity for the Constitution and his intention to leave the meeting. "If you want to leave, good riddance," Specter finished. "I've enjoyed your lecture, too, Mr. Chairman," replied Feingold, D-Wis., who is considering a run for president in 2008. "See ya." AP via Yahoo! News: Feingold, Specter Clash Over Gay Marriage

SENATE VOTES FOR ENGLISH AS NATIONAL LANGUAGE: The Senate voted on Thursday to designate English as the national language. In a charged debate, Republican backers of the proposal, which was added to the Senate's immigration measure on a 63-to-34 vote, said that it was equivalent to establishing a formal national anthem or motto and that it would simply affirm the pre-eminence of English without overturning laws or rules on bilingualism. "We're free to say what we want, speak what we want, but it is our national language," said Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee. The amendment was proposed by Senator James M. Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma. It is not clear, though, that the measure will be included in any final bill after negotiations with the House. New York Times: Senate Votes to Set English as National Language

COUNTDOWN TO NOLA RUNOFF: Like the countless forums that preceded Thursday's final televised debate between incumbent Ray Nagin and Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu before Saturday's mayoral runoff election, the candidates admitted that at the root, their plans to resuscitate the hurricane-ravaged city are basically the same. But bubbling to the top of the otherwise agreeable discourse were a pair of issues that embodied the questions of competence and character that have framed the political fight throughout: the uncertain state of City Hall's finances; and whether New Orleans's recovery should be led by a businessman prone to shooting from the hip or a career politician from a family of elected leaders. New Orleans Times-Picayune: Mayoral candidates face in final debate

NAGIN SAYS VICTORY WOULD "SEND A MESSAGE ON RACE": Mayor C. Ray Nagin says a victory in tomorrow's election will send a message on race that "will echo throughout America." "This election will say in spite of American prejudice, I was able to attract votes from all races and classes and move forward with the process of healing," said Mr. Nagin, who has hinted that whites locally and nationally are working to unseat him from the post, which blacks have held for nearly 30 years. Mr. Nagin questions the source of "$6 million" that opponent Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu has raised, hinting at an effort to return the city to the "good-old-boy system," and says Hurricane Katrina exposed the soft underbelly of race and class in America. Washington Times: Nagin says win would send racial message

"NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS," SAYS SCALIA: Justice Antonin Scalia rebuked fellow conservatives on Capitol Hill yesterday, saying they have gone too far in trying to prevent the Supreme Court from using foreign law in its constitutional rulings. Scalia dissented vigorously from the court's recent decisions that invoked foreign law to help strike down the death penalty for juveniles and laws against consensual homosexual conduct. In Congress, conservative Republicans responded angrily to the rulings and introduced bills that would either condemn or ban the court's use of foreign legal authorities. But in his speech to a National Italian American Foundation luncheon attended by several House members, Scalia said, in effect, that he does not need any help. "It's none of your business," he said, referring to Congress. "No one is more opposed to the use of foreign law than I am, but I'm darned if I think it's up to Congress to direct the court how to make its decisions." Washington Post: Scalia Tells Congress to Mind Its Own Business

DEMS TARGETING THEIR OWN: Democratic activist groups that mounted an aggressive campaign against President George W. Bush in the 2004 election have a new target: Democrats who support his policies. A loose network of organizations, ranging from women's groups to Internet bloggers, is pressuring incumbents such as Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut and Representatives Jane Harman of California and Melissa Bean of Illinois, in some cases by backing insurgent candidates in primary elections. The groups charge that these and other Democrats have been too supportive of Bush on issues like Iraq and trade, and say they're trying to energize voters disillusioned with a party that has failed to draw clear distinctions with Republicans. Bloomberg: Democratic Activists Seek to Punish Their Own for Backing Bush

RUDY AND RALPH IN GA: Looking to shore up his right flank, Rudy Giuliani embraced former Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed as the man with "the right ideas" at a campaign fund-raiser yesterday in Georgia. With maverick Sen. John McCain emerging as his main GOP competition for 2008, the socially moderate ex-mayor played up leadership as he boosted Reed in a close primary race for lieutenant governor. "He's a person that has the right ideas and the right direction and the right goals," Giuliani said as he headlined a luncheon of more than 250 people in a part of the country where many believe he'd face a tough time in a GOP primary. New York Post: Rudy Turns Right into Heart of Dixie to Back Pal

HOW DEEP WILL THE DUKE PROBE GO? [C]ourt papers indicate that the investigation that snared Cunningham -- in which the California Republican, now serving a 10-year sentence in federal prison, admitted that he took millions in bribes -- and led Wade to take a plea deal could go much deeper. At least three other federal investigations involving members of Congress are also underway, linked to questions about whether lawmakers traded the power and influence of their offices for hefty campaign contributions and lavish gifts. "There is some increasing panic among members who worry that there may be e-mails in which they sort of promised to do something that is contemporaneous with campaign contributions," said Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution. Boston Globe: Congress bribery probe could deepen

SCHWARZENEGGER DISTANCES HIMSELF FROM BUSH: With a methodical series of public gestures, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is distancing himself from President Bush and fellow Republicans in Congress as he seeks to avoid harm to his reelection effort from their declining political fortunes. Schwarzenegger has challenged Bush on border security and global warming regulations. He publicly threatened to sue the Bush administration over Medicare regulations. He has tacitly sanctioned at least three other state lawsuits against the federal government. He has demanded that Bush dispense more money to the state to cover the costs of disasters, immigration and welfare, and chastised Republican efforts in Congress to expand offshore oil drilling. In the last few weeks, he has labeled actions by Bush and Congress as terrible, irresponsible, unacceptable and embarrassing. Los Angeles Times: Gov. Widens His Distance From Bush
Posted By Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau: 5/19/2006 09:52:00 AM ET | Permalink
Thursday, May 18, 2006
The Situation Online
"Saving the Internet"
Why is pop star Moby on Capitol Hill? With the help of a Congressman, he's trying to make Internet access an issue that voters should care about. But some see the issue of "net neutrality" differently.

Church's challenge
The Catholic Church goes online to make their case against the Da Vinci Code. Hollywood welcomes the discussion.

No love for Lieberman?
The fight for the Democratic Senate nomination in Connecticut is hitting the airwaves, as challenger Ned Lamont launches three new "edgy" ads aimed at taking down incumbent Joe Lieberman.

Guzzling gas
Will high pump prices affect your summer travel plans? Not according to a new AAA report. If you are planning a Memorial Day vacation, we'll show you where to fill up, and how to avoid burning a hole in your wallet.
Posted By The Situation Online Producers: 5/18/2006 04:12:00 PM ET | Permalink
Probe of former CIA exec includes cigars, ex-girlfriends

Kyle "Dusty" Foggo formerly headed the CIA's day-to-day operations.

Family photographs, bank account information, computer hard drives, as well as Cuban cigars were among items seized by federal agents who raided the home of former CIA executive director Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, Foggo's attorney William Hundley said Wednesday.

Foggo's house in Virginia was raided last Friday as part of investigations by the FBI, CIA, and other law enforcement agencies into his relationship with defense contractor and longtime friend Brent Wilkes, who is in turn linked to the bribery case of former Congressman Randy "Duke"

Cunningham pleaded guilty in November to accepting $2.4 million in bribes. Foggo denies any wrongdoing.

"When they served the papers they indicated what they were looking for," Hundley told CNN. "They indicated they were looking for Cuban cigars, so they scored."

Hundley described the other items the FBI stated its interest in as, "all stuff that in (the government's) view would link him with Brent -- a lot of family photos ... none of which we ever denied."

Foggo had come under scrutiny by the CIA before the current Inspector General's investigation into whether there was any impropriety in a contract Foggo awarded to Wilkes. Hundley confirmed reports that while posted to Europe, the CIA investigated whether Foggo's relationships with various women presented any security or counter intelligence risk. Hundley said his client underwent polygraph tests, and that the CIA determined there was no threat.

Foggo's attorney further revealed that the investigation was revisited by the CIA when Foggo was a candidate for Executive Director -- the third ranking executive at the agency -- and that again, "they decided there was nothing there."

The CIA declined to comment.
Posted By Greg Botelho, CNN Washington Bureau: 5/18/2006 03:02:00 PM ET | Permalink
The Morning Grind

Gen. Michael Hayden
Let the questioning begin

Gen. Michael Hayden is expected to get grilled over the National Security Agency's wiretapping operation this morning when he appears before the Senate Intelligence Committee for a hearing on his confirmation to lead the CIA.

"This issue will be central to the committee's deliberations on General Hayden's nomination," Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) said earlier this week.

Hayden, principle deputy director of National Intelligence, oversaw the NSA's program as that agency's director when it was approved by President Bush following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. In the past, details of the wiretapping program had been revealed to only a handful of Congressional leaders, but this circle was widened yesterday to include all members of the Senate and House intelligence panels. Hayden could also be asked about a USA Today story that alleges the NSA tracks Americans' telephone calls. The hearing begins at 9:30 a.m. ET.

After successfully prodding enough moderates to join them, House Republican leaders successfully muscled through a $2.8 trillion budget blueprint at about 1 a.m. ET this morning, CNN's Deirdre Walsh reports. Twelve Republicans joined the entire Democratic Caucus in opposing the measure, but that was not enough to prevent its passage. The final vote was 218 to 210. Predictably, House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois) praised the measure for "reining in spending, reducing the federal deficit and continuing America's strong economic growth," while House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) criticized the plan because it "cuts homeland security funding by over $450 million" next year and by "$6 billion over five years."

Roundly criticized for its failure to probe the alleged misdeeds of fellow congressmen, the leaders of the House Ethics Committee announced yesterday it was opening investigations into whether Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) and Rep. William Jefferson (D-Louisiana) performed official acts in return for bribes. The Justice Department is conducting its own inquiries into the congressmen. Ney and Jefferson have not been charged and both have declared their innocence.

The Ethics panel also announced it would examine whether other House members or staffers were involved in the recent bribery scandal that forced Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-California) to trade his House seat for a prison cell. Cunningham admitted to taking bribes from a defense contractor, while Ney is being investigated for allegedly taking gifts and a lavish trip from disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff in return for official acts. Jefferson is being examined for taking cash in return for promoting a business and making it eligible for federal contracts. And Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) appears to have dodged a bullet by announcing he would resign from Congress next month. The Ethics committee said it would have taken up an investigation into DeLay's activities had he remained in Congress. While not charged in the Abramoff affair, two of his former aides have pled guilty in that corruption probe. The Texas Republican continues to battle charges back home that he broke state campaign finance law.

And surprisingly, Republicans and Democrats have different takes on the announcement of the investigations. Hastert's spokesman Ron Bonjean suggested Rep. Alan Mollohan (West Virginia), who recently stepped aside as the panel's senior Democrat to defend himself from allegations he improperly used his own office for personal gain, was blocking the probes.

"Isn't it interesting that when the chief Democrat quits the stalled ethics panel under scrutiny, his replacement is able to easily work with House Republicans to move the process forward?" Bonjean said.

Mollohan was replaced by Rep. Howard Berman (D-California).

"The Republican blame game on ethics is laughable," Jennifer Crider, Pelosi's spokeswoman, told the Grind this morning. "If Republicans want to see who was slow walking the ethics process, they need only to look in the mirror. The fact is Republicans couldn't sustain their obstruction of ethics process after one Republican Member was indicted, another Republican Member was sent to prison for bribery, and Democrats continue to insist that all Members - Republicans or Democrats - must obey the law and follow the rules or be held accountable."

There will be lots of flashbulbs going off in the Capitol today when the CEOS of the big three auto makers meet with Congressional leaders. Hastert and House Republicans kick off the day with an 11 a.m. ET meeting; followed by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) and Senate Democrats at 12:45 p.m. ET; Pelosi and House Democrats at 1:45 p.m. ET; and ending with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tennessee) at 3:45 p.m. ET. Other notable Capitol Hill events include House Majority Leader John Boehner's (R-Ohio) 10:30 a.m. ET briefing in the House Radio & TV Gallery; Pelosi's 10:45 a.m. ET press conference in H-206; and the House GOP Conference's 11 a.m. ET Medicare event on South Capitol Street in-between the Rayburn and Longworth House Office Buildings.

Meanwhile, Bush heads to Arizona for the day where he tours the Yuma Sector Border at 2:10 p.m. ET; attends a briefing on the Yuma Sector at 4:25 p.m. ET and "makes remarks on Border Security and Immigration Reform" at 4:45 p.m. ET. He returns tonight to the White House.

File this under the "go-figure" category. After allegedly striking a Capitol Hill police officer and then criticizing the police force, Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Georgia) has signed on to a House resolution praising the force. McKinney, who is waiting word on whether she will be charged in the incident, became the 41st cosponsor on Tuesday.

And for you Clintonphiles, the former president is writing a new book that will focus on stories of individual activism. It is scheduled to be released in late 2007 or early 2008.

"Since leaving public office, I have met so many good people who are doing tremendous work to help improve the lives of people in the U.S and around the world," Clinton said. "We all have the capacity to do great things like this, and I am writing this book to encourage others to join their ranks."

Alfred A. Knopf, who will publish the book, would not disclose the financial terms of the deal.

GRIND EXTRA - I'll Have What She's Having. . .
By Robert Yoon
CNN Political Research Director

The movie that dared to ask whether women and men can really be friends is the inspiration for our latest Grind Quiz:

Q: Which son or daughter of a former U.S. president played a small but important role in the 1989 film "When Harry Met Sally"?

Submit your answer to Answer the question correctly and win a delightful CNN refrigerator magnet (refrigerator not included). Please include the city and state where you live in your reply. In the event of a tie, a winner will be selected at random from among the correct responses. CNN employees, their families, Rob Reiner, Meg Ryan, and Former Intern Kenny are magnet-ineligible, but are of course encouraged to play nonetheless. The winner will be announced in Friday's Grind. Good luck and may there never be too much pepper on your paprikash.
Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 5/18/2006 10:21:00 AM ET | Permalink
Political Hot Topics
"A HEARING WITHIN A HEARING": The appearance of Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Thursday will in a sense kick off not one but two hearings, and both could be dangerous for the White House. Most directly, senators will examine Hayden's qualifications to be the director of the beleaguered Central Intelligence Agency. But a hearing within a hearing will explore whether Hayden went too far or broke the law in sanctioning domestic eavesdropping programs in his former job as director of the National Security Agency. A recent report that the NSA has been collecting Americans' telephone records, which the White House has refused to confirm or deny, threatens to make Hayden's confirmation politically risky for President Bush and his administration that is already burdened by sagging approval ratings. Chicago Tribune: CIA nominee going under microscope

CLOSED-DOOR BRIEFINGS PREEMPT WIRETAP QUESTIONS: Classified briefings provided to lawmakers on Wednesday about a controversial domestic eavesdropping program have smoothed what might have been a contentious path toward confirmation for Gen. Michael V. Hayden... The closed-door sessions in the Capitol, on the eve of a confirmation hearing for General Hayden, were the first time the White House had provided briefings to the full Senate and House Intelligence Committees about the program... Lawmakers have said that even without Wednesday's briefing, by Lt. Gen. Keith B. Alexander, the current N.S.A. director, the Senate was likely to confirm General Hayden. Yet Wednesday's briefings diminished the prospect that the hearings, before the Senate Intelligence Committee, would become a focus of hostile questions from Democrats and Republicans on the panel who had not been briefed on the program. New York Times: Wider Briefing for Lawmakers on Spy Efforts

HAYDEN WOULD KEEP 4-STAR RANK; WON'T ANSWER TO RUMMY: With confirmation hearings on President Bush's nomination of Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden as director of the Central Intelligence Agency slated to begin today, GOP leaders and the Bush administration have agreed to take a series of unusual steps aimed at allowing Hayden to maintain his rank as a four-star general while suspending Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's authority over Hayden as a military officer while he serves as CIA director. Democrats and some Republicans have expressed concerns that if Hayden remains on active military duty, technically he'll be under Rumsfeld's command. At the very least, they say, this would create an impression that the strict lines dividing the military and civilian branches of government since the nation's founding were being blurred. Roll Call: Congress to Help Hayden Keep Rank

THE RADIOACTIVE "A" WORD: President Bush's oft-stated claim that providing illegal aliens a "path to citizenship," such as by allowing them to pay a fine or prove long-term employment, isn't amnesty rings hollow for critics who see it as rewarding lawbreakers. Political observers say disagreement over the very meaning of the word "amnesty" is fueling what was an already raging debate over pending immigration legislation. The word "amnesty" carries a certain "radioactivity," says pollster John Zogby. "Why? Simply because Americans favor playing by the rules," he said. "Anything that sounds illegal, unfair, it's tantamount to using steroids to hit home runs or to win a marathon. When the word amnesty comes up it means condoning actions of people who are not playing by the same rules." Washington Times: Americans don't like the sound of 'amnesty'

ROMNEY ASKS BUSH FOR DISASTER $$$: As thousands of residents returned to flood-ravaged homes, many began to grapple with another big problem: Nearly all of them lack flood insurance. Governor Mitt Romney officially asked President Bush yesterday to declare Massachusetts a disaster area and send financial help immediately. While the Federal Emergency Management Agency can offer short-term rental subsidies and help pay for minor repairs within days, more substantial help, in the form of low-interest loans for extensive repairs or replacement of property, is expected to take longer from a government already strained from last year's hurricanes. Boston Globe: For flooded, a fearful cost

ETHICS PANEL SPRINGS INTO ACTION: After 16 months of inactivity and partisan infighting, the House ethics committee launched investigations last night into bribery allegations against Reps. Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio) and William Jefferson (D-La.) and a separate inquiry into the widening scandal surrounding former congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.). The committee said it would have ordered another investigation, into the overseas trips of former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), had the once-powerful lawmaker not announced that he will resign from the House on June 9. Washington Post: Ethics Panel Starts 3 Probes

MEL MARTINEZ HOLDS ON TO $250K IN JACK-RELATED FUNDS: When U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez shed $2,500 in January that his campaign took from an Ohio congressman tied to lobbyist Jack Abramoff, a spokeswoman said the Florida senator wanted no contributions with "even a hint of impropriety." But Martinez continues to hold on to $250,000 that his 2004 campaign collected at a Washington kickoff fundraiser that was co-chaired and attended by the now disgraced lobbyist. Abramoff pleaded guilty in January in Miami and Washington to a variety of fraud, tax and corruption charges. The $1,000-per-person reception at the Ronald Reagan Republican Center was held Feb. 10, 2004 -- two months after Martinez stepped down as President Bush's secretary of Housing and Urban Development. At the time, Martinez told The Miami Herald he didn't recognize any lobbyists in attendance who had done business at HUD. But U.S. Senate lobbyist disclosure records show that Abramoff was registered to lobby at HUD for the Michigan-based Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe during much of Martinez's tenure. Miami Herald: Funds link Martinez, Abramoff

THE "FOOT SOLDIERS" ARE "DISGRUNTLED": Conservative Republicans gathering to talk about the upcoming elections normally would be a welcome event for national party leaders. But not this year. The Republicans who got together last month for the Pennsylvania Republican Assembly (PARA), a grassroots group dedicated to electing conservatives, represent what could be the biggest threat to the GOP this year: a disgruntled conservative base. "It's pretty clear at some level that Republicans in Washington have lost their way," former Pennsylvania Rep. Pat Toomey told the group at a Pittsburgh Holiday Inn. "We're discovering that a lot of Republicans are very disappointed with this Republican Congress. It most likely will manifest itself with low turnout if something doesn't happen to turn this around." CNN: Conservatives' ardor for GOP cooling down

"WE ARE THE PARTY OF THE FUTURE": President Bush vowed Wednesday to lead an aggressive campaign this fall to maintain Republican control of Congress, saying there was a "stark difference" between the two parties. The president, speaking at a Republican National Committee fund-raiser, left little doubt that the White House would return to the same themes it used over the past six years, portraying Democrats as weak on terrorism and committed to higher taxes and government spending. As he did in 2002 and 2004, he repeatedly invoked the memory of the attacks of Sept. 11. "It's a stark choice," Mr. Bush said. "And I'm going to keep talking about it because we have a record to run on." "We are the party of the future, and our candidates will be running against the party of the past - a party that offers no new ideas like the Republican Party, a party that can only offer opposition," Mr. Bush said. New York Times: Bush Pledges Vigorous Fight to Retain Republican Control of Congress

"ROCK 'N' ROLL GOVERNOR" WANTS TO BE A.G.: [Oakland's] mayor doesn't dwell on his previous incarnations. Never mind the training to become a Jesuit priest, the gubernatorial romance with singer Linda Ronstadt or those stints with Mother Teresa and Buddhist monks. As the indefatigable Jerry Brown embarks on yet another quest for statewide office, he's brushing by his storied past as California's rock 'n' roll governor. Brown's focus heading into the June 6 primary for attorney general is on cops and capitalism. For nearly eight years, Oakland has been Jerry's town. He rolled into the mayor's office in 1998 on a four-prong plan to revive a dying downtown, tame crime, energize underperforming schools and enliven the civic arts. With the election drawing near, he's waving a list of accomplishments - an urban housing boom that by the decade's turn will deliver 10,000 new residents, a 30% decline in serious crimes, dozens of new charter schools and a budding collection of art galleries. Los Angeles Times: Brown Touts His Record as Mayor in Race for New Post

SPITZER LOOKS GREAT IN NEW POLL: State government is broken and only Eliot Spitzer can fix it, a poll of New York voters revealed yesterday. The Quinnipiac University survey showed that 72 percent of voters believe that state government is a mess. The voters said only Attorney General Spitzer - of the four gubernatorial candidates - would be able to enact the changes that would make state government function well once Gov. Pataki leaves office at the end of the year. Fifty-four percent of voters, including 46 percent of Republicans, picked Spitzer as the one who has what it takes to fix government. Only 22 percent of voters said they had confidence that Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, Spitzer's Democratic primary rival, who has built his campaign around the theme of "fixing Albany," could do the job. New York Post: Voters Say Spitzer's Mr. Fixit

NH PHONE JAMMER GETS 10 MONTHS: Republican consultant James Tobin, of Bangor, Maine, was sentenced to 10 months in federal prison today for his involvement in a scheme to jam get-out-the-vote phone lines at Democratic offices and union halls on Election Day in 2002. In addition to the time in prison he was also fined $10,000 and will serve two years probation. Tobin is the third person convicted on phone jamming. Also found guilty were former State Republican Party Executive Director Chuck McGee and Republican consultant Allen Raymond of Virginia. PoliticsNH: Tobin sentenced to 10 months for role in 2002 phone jamming
Posted By Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau: 5/18/2006 09:48:00 AM ET | Permalink
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
The Situation Online

Sen. Bill Frist wields a great deal of power on Capitol Hill.

Ranking members
A brand new Web site rates and ranks lawmakers based on legislative activity, "sizzle" and political influence. Who's number one?

Theories of 9/11
Will the newly released video from the 9/11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon put an end to conspiracy theories involving American Airlines Flight 77.

Immigration and hate
A new report by a civil-rights organization says that immigration is the number one issue fueling the spread of hate groups. Are there hate groups in your state?

Suing over spying
AT&T subcribers say they have proof the phone company shared customer data with the NSA. Today, lawyers are in court trying to get that evidence released to the public.

Posted By The Situation Online Producers: 5/17/2006 05:02:00 PM ET | Permalink
The Morning Grind
Dissension before unity

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Republican lawmakers will rally around President Bush tonight at the Republican National Committee's 2006 Presidential Gala, but prior to the fundraiser his senior political adviser will try to convince skeptical Republicans to back Bush's immigration reform plan.

Karl Rove is being dispatched to Capitol Hill this morning to meet with House Republicans, who have become the biggest obstacle to Bush's calls for a guest worker program and the creation of a path to earned citizenship for illegal immigrants. Despite opposition to Bush's proposal, a senior GOP aide suggested the House Republican Conference is interested in his analysis and the political consequences of the issue in the midterm elections.

"People recognize that Karl is a political genius," the aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told the Grind this morning. "At the end of the day, he knows politics probably better than anyone else in that room."

The House approved an immigration reform bill late last year that does not include these provisions and Republican critics suggest the earned citizenship proposal is amnesty cloaked in a different name.

"It offers a perverse incentive - the longer and more flagrantly you have broken immigration laws, the easier it will be to get on the so-called path to citizenship," Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-Arizona) said in an interview with CNN. "I don't believe the American people will appreciate that. The law should deal with illegal immigrants in a humane fashion, but you cannot excuse or dismiss the law with a nudge and a wink."

Bush delivered a nationally televised prime time address on immigration reform Monday, the first day the Senate renewed debate on the issue. The Senate could pass an immigration reform bill including the guest worker and citizen provisions by month's end, forcing a showdown with the House on the legislation's final language.

House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), who personally supports the House bill, acknowledged it will be a struggle to reach a compromise with the Senate on immigration reform.

"I don't underestimate the difficulty in the House and Senate coming to an agreement on this issue, but I do think it is possible because I think the American people expect us to do something responsible here," Boehner said yesterday. "But it is a very difficult issue."

This afternoon, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner (R-Virginia) holds a hearing on Bush's decision to deploy 6,000 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border to provide logistical support to border control agents. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense Paul McHale; Lt. General James T. Conway, director of the Operations, J-3, the Joint Staff; and Lt. General H. Steven Blum, chief, National Guard Bureau; are scheduled to testify at the 4 p.m. ET hearing being held in room 216 of the Hart Senate Office Building.

Tonight, internal GOP differences on immigration will be set aside as Bush headlines the RNC fundraiser at DAR Constitution Hall. The event is expected to be attended by 800 people and raise $17 million. The theme is "Race to Victory" and Diamond Rio provides the entertainment. The program begins at 5:30 p.m. ET, and Bush is expected to arrive at 6:25 p.m. ET. The president begins the public portion of his day at 10:20 a.m. ET making remarks and taking photos with the 2006 U.S. Winter Olympic and Paralympics Teams. At 1:50 p.m. ET, Bush signs the "Tax Extension Reconciliation Act of 2005."

While Republicans are cutting a rug at Constitution Hall, Democrats will be gathering at the National Geographic Society's 17th and M Street location for the screening of former Vice President Al Gore's much hyped documentary on the consequences of global warming. "An Inconvenient Truth" was directed by Davis Guggenheim and produced by Lawrence Bender, both of whom are expected to be in attendance tonight. There are no tickets available for the 7 p.m. ET screening. But if you are a red carpet gawker, VIP's are scheduled to arrive at 6:30 p.m. ET.

A busy day on Capitol Hill as the Senate continues debating immigration reform and the House seeks to pass a budget resolution. Senate Democrats will send a letter this morning to Bush calling on him to take several steps to reduce the nation's dependence on oil. Among a handful of other energy saving measures, Democrats suggest requiring that 25 percent of new vehicles sold in the U.S. in 2010 be able to run on alternative fuel and the "federal fleet should reduce its petroleum consumption by 20 percent over the next five years, and save at least 40 percent by 2020," according to the letter obtained by the Grind.

Senate Democrats, who describe "America's dependence on oil" as "one of the greatest economic and national security challenges faced by our generation," hold a 10:15 a.m. ET news conference at the Senate Swamp to unveil their plan. House Democrats talk about energy at 10 a.m. ET in the Cannon House Office Building rotunda following their weekly meeting.

House Republican leaders will use their post meeting news conference to discuss their "continued commitment to work for real solutions, from preventing tax increases and restraining spending to securing more borders." The news conference begins at 10 a.m. ET outside room HC-6 in the Capitol.

Rep. John Murtha (D-Pennsylvania) uses the six month anniversary of his call for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq to "discuss the real consequences of this war" at noon in the House Radio & TV Gallery.

Should she or shouldn't she? For that matter, should he or shouldn't he? New Yorkers are split over whether Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York) and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) should run for the White House, according to a new WNBC/Marist poll. Forty nine percent of registered New York voters want Clinton to seek the Democratic nomination, while 44 percent oppose it. Giuliani fared slightly better with 51 percent of registered New York voters endorsing a presidential bid by the former Gotham mayor, while 43 percent opposed it. Not bad numbers considering that only 22 percent of registered New York voters supported a presidential bid by New York Gov. George Pataki (R).

And the Grind is wondering if Sen. Joe Biden (D-Delaware) will try to score some free Amtrak tickets from his son, Hunter, if the Senate approves the younger Biden's nomination to serve on the Amtrak Board. Hunter, a principal in the law firm Oldaker, Biden & Belair, was nominated by Bush yesterday to replace former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis (D), whose term expired. The elder Biden, who regularly rides the rails between Washington and his Delaware home, is a fierce defender of Amtrak.
Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 5/17/2006 10:18:00 AM ET | Permalink
Political Hot Topics
55 PERCENT WANT TO ELECT SOMEONE ELSE IN NOV: Public confidence in GOP governance has plunged to the lowest levels of the Bush presidency, with Americans saying by wide margins that they now trust Democrats more than Republicans to deal with Iraq, the economy, immigration and other issues, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll that underscores the GOP's fragile grip on power six months before the midterm elections... When asked whether they were inclined to reelect their current representative to Congress or look around for someone new, 55 percent said they were open to someone else, the highest since just before Republicans captured control of Congress in 1994. That suggests that some Democratic incumbents could feel the voters' wrath, although as the party in power Republicans have more at risk. Washington Post: Confidence In GOP Is At New Low in Poll

Full poll results here.

VERIZON JOINS BELLSOUTH IN DENYING NSA COOPERATION: Verizon said in a statement Tuesday that it is not providing customer calling information to the National Security Agency. "One of the most glaring and repeated falsehoods in the media reporting," the statement said, "is the assertion that, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Verizon was approached by NSA and entered into an arrangement to provide the NSA with data from its customers' domestic calls. This is false." Last Thursday, USA TODAY reported that the NSA has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, BellSouth and Verizon, citing people with direct knowledge of the program. On Monday, BellSouth denied providing records to the NSA. AT&T has refused to confirm or deny that it gave records to the NSA. USA Today: Verizon says it isn't giving call records to NSA

INTEL CMTES. TO BE BRIEFED ON WIRETAPS: Reversing a position it has held for months, the White House on Tuesday agreed to brief all members of the House and Senate intelligence committees on a controversial domestic wiretapping operation - just as the architect of the program is facing a contentious confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill. In making the concession, the Bush administration is seeking to improve the prospects of the president's nominee to be the next CIA director, Air Force Gen. Michael V. Hayden, by preempting attacks from lawmakers angry that they have been kept in the dark on domestic spying activities... Ever since news reports revealed last year that President Bush had authorized the NSA to eavesdrop on U.S. residents without court warrants, the White House has insisted it was too risky to reveal details of the program to more than a select group of lawmakers. Los Angeles Times: President Backs Off Wiretap Secrecy

PICK FOR CIA #2 IRKS INTEL CHAIRMAN: The chairman of the House intelligence committee, already opposed to President Bush's pick to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, said the president's choice for deputy director was guilty of "gross insubordination." Rep. Peter Hoekstra said yesterday that it is clear the White House did not want congressional input on the nominations of Air Force Gen. Michael V. Hayden as CIA director and Stephen R. Kappes as the No. 2 official at the agency. "You would think that on the No. 2 person they might have just said, 'Hey, what do you think of this guy,' but they never did," Mr. Hoekstra, Michigan Republican, said yesterday during a 90-minute meeting with editors and reporters at The Washington Times. New York Times: Divide Remains as Bush Pushes Immigration Plan

HOUSE WILL BE A HURDLE: A fragile Senate coalition backing a broad overhaul of the nation's immigration laws survived its first legislative test yesterday, beating back efforts to gut provisions to grant millions of illegal immigrants a path to citizenship and hundreds of thousands of foreigners a new guest-worker permit. But President Bush's efforts to win House conservatives to his immigration proposals still faced an uphill climb... House Republicans, who passed legislation last year to crack down on illegal immigration without offering new avenues to legal employment, were not budging. "I understand what the president's position is. I have made it pretty clear that I have supported the House position," said House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio). Washington Post: Immigration Proposals Pass Test In Senate

WHO'S GOT THE POWER ON THE HILL? The best-known members of Congress aren't necessarily the most powerful. The Democrats' last presidential candidate, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, for example, is ranked 61st in terms of clout among the Senate's 100 members, according to a new analysis. A much junior colleague and likely competitor for the party's White House nomination in 2008, New York Sen. and former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, ranks 41st. Both are well behind lesser-known Republican Reps. Jerry Lewis of California and Don Young of Alaska, respectively chairmen of the House Appropriations and Transportation committees and listed as the third and fourth most powerful House members. AP via Yahoo! News: Not-So-Famous Among Capitol Power Brokers

Full power rankings by Knowlegis.

Bob Casey Jr. blew by two lesser-known challengers yesterday to secure the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate. That was the easy part. Although a dour electorate has helped Casey maintain a steady lead over U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R., Pa.), not everything will go as smoothly as yesterday's primary for the Democrat in what is expected to be the most fiercely fought contest in the country. For Democrats, the Pennsylvania race is a chance to take down the Senate's third-ranking GOP leader - the 2006 response to the 2004 defeat of Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D., S.D.). Philadelphia Inquirer: For Casey, fierce fight takes shape

NEW YORKERS DON'T LIKE HILLARY OR RUDY FOR PREZ: New Yorkers believe Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani will run for the White House but don't think either can win, a new poll shows. "Both of them are popular in New York but neither is getting a huge sendoff right now," said Marist College pollster Lee Miringoff. "There's a lot of skepticism about their electability." Sixty percent of the state's registered voters think Clinton, New York's junior senator, will run for President in 2008, but 66% - including 57% of Democrats - don't think she will get elected. Voters are split 45%-41% on whether former Mayor Giuliani will run; 52% think he's unlikely to be elected President. New York Daily News: Hil, Rudy bids panned

GORE FOR PREZ? "I'M A RECOVERING POLITICIAN ON ABOUT STEP 9": Al Gore is running to California, New York, Utah, Washington, France and points in between to promote "An Inconvenient Truth," a film chronicling his elaborate slide shows to educate people about global warming. But is the former vice president running for president again? The answer, he says, is no. Some Democrats are not so sure. "I'm a recovering politician on about Step 9," Gore told The Associated Press. "But I'm on a different kind of campaign now - to persuade people to take action to solve the climate crisis, and it's always easier when you're focused on one thing." AP via Yahoo! News: Is Al Gore Running for President Again?
Posted By Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau: 5/17/2006 09:51:00 AM ET | Permalink
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
The Situation Online
Your phone records
In the company's latest statement, Verizon denies allegations that it gave phone records to the National Security Agency. Compare this to what they said last week after the the NSA story broke. AT&T and BellSouth have also responded to claims that they turned over records of millions of their customer's phone calls to the NSA.

Controlling call records
In a new lawsuit, customers across the country sue Verizon, AT&T and BellSouth for allegedly handing over their call records to the NSA. Another lawsuit filed against Verizon was amended today to include the other two telecoms, and a third lawsuit, filed in January,targets AT&T for providing customer data directly the NSA.

Ranking members
A brand new Web site rates and ranks lawmakers based on legislative activity, "sizzle" and political influence. Who's number one?

Rocker at the reins
What would Bono write if he ran a British newspaper? See for yourself, as the U2 front man guest-edits today's special edition of The Independent newspaper as part of his campaign aimed at fighting AIDS in Africa.
Posted By The Situation Online Producers: 5/16/2006 07:06:00 PM ET | Permalink
The Morning Grind
Bush gains support, but not from his 'target audience'

An overwhelming majority of Americans who watched President Bush outline his immigration goals last night reacted positively to his proposals, a CNN poll of speech watchers surveyed immediately following the nationally televised address shows.

But it is unlikely the president got through to his main target audience: conservative House Republicans.

The poll indicated that not only did people have a positive reaction to Bush's proposals, but the president also gained some ground with critics outside the Beltway. Overall, 79 percent of speech watchers said they had a "very positive" or "somewhat positive" reaction to his plan, while only 18 percent had a "negative" view.

Before the speech, only 42 percent of speech watchers said they had a positive opinion of Bush's immigration policies, but this number jumped to 67 percent after he delivered the prime time address. As for specific proposals, 75 percent of speech watchers approve of Bush's plan to send National Guard troops to the Mexican border; 69 percent favor his guest worker program; and 74 percent approve of the president's proposal to allow illegal immigrants to remain the U.S. and earn citizenship.

The poll, conducted for CNN by Opinion Research Corporation, surveyed 461 adult Americans who watched Bush's speech. Full poll results here.

While Bush was able to gain support from Americans, CNN's Bill Schneider said it is "doubtful" he changed the minds of conservatives on Capitol Hill. The main point of contention between Bush and conservatives is the president's drive to enact a guest worker program and his goal of establishing a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already living in the country. Bush said it was unrealistic to think that the estimated 11 million to 12 million illegal aliens currently in the U.S. could be captured and deported. He described his proposal of earned citizenship as "rational middle ground."

"Illegal immigrants who have roots in our country and want to stay should have to pay a meaningful penalty for breaking the law, to pay their taxes, to learn English and to work in a job for a number of years," Bush said. "People who meet these conditions should be able to apply for citizenship, but approval would not be automatic, and they would have to wait in line behind those who played by the rules and followed the law."

Bush said a distinction would be made between an illegal immigrant with a family who has lived in the country for several years and someone who recently crossed the border illegally. Such assurances, though, did little to change the minds of conservative Republicans such as Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (California).

"If they are here illegally and you make them here legally, that is an amnesty," Rohrabacher said in an interview last night on CNN's 'Larry King Live.'

Jim Gilchrist, a leading voice for strict immigration laws, said on the same program that he too believes Bush is advocating amnesty. "It was everything I expected it to be, just another head fake," Gilchrist, founder of the Minuteman Project, said of the speech.

Bush's proposal to send 6,000 Guardsmen to the U.S.-Mexico border to provide logistical support to border control agents and build infrastructure to help fortify the border received mixed reviews from Republican and Democratic elected officials.

"The decision to send troops is the shot in the arm we need to strengthen our borders and protect our families," said House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois). "We must do everything we can to protect Americans from terrorism, and that means using the tools we have available: troops; Border Patrol agents; cameras; and in some cases, physical barriers. These troops will help to protect our borders from terrorists, criminal gangs, drug runners and others who are crossing to harm Americans."

But California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) expressed uncertainty about the plan to deploy the Guard to the border.

"It remains unclear what impact only 6,000 National Guard troops will have on securing the border," he said. "I am concerned asking National Guard troops to guard our nation's border is a Band-Aid solution and not the permanent solution we need."

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) echoed Schwarzenegger's skepticism during an interview on 'Larry King Live.'

"My big question as the New Mexico governor is, of the 6,000, how many are coming to New Mexico? And they couldn't give me an answer on that," he said. "It seems this policy is being made on the fly, and that's what's discouraging."

Meanwhile, Congressional Democratic leaders, who support Bush's guest citizenship plan, said the pressure is now on the president to convince Republicans to support it.

"The president has the power to call up the National Guard, but now he must summon the power to lead his own Republican forces in Congress to support a bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform," said Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin (D-Illinois).

The Senate resumes debate on the issue this morning. Also, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will "discuss the need for bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform" at 3 p.m. ET in Reid's Capitol office. At the same time, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus holds a news conference in the House Radio & TV Gallery to discuss the immigration issue.

We are likely to learn more about the House Republican leadership's reaction to Bush's speech at House Majority Leader John Boehner's (R-Ohio) pen-and-pad session with reporters at 11:30 p.m. ET in his Capitol office. Congressional Republicans will try to shift the topic of discussion this afternoon to the recently approved tax cut bill. Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tennessee) will be joined by the owner of a Newport News, Virginia, electrical company at a 4 p.m. ET enrollment ceremony on the East Front steps on the House side of the Capitol. The owner of this small business will then follow the bill in his pick up truck as it is delivered to the White House for Bush's signature.

A bipartisan group of Senators will hold an 11 a.m. ET news conference on stem cell research in room 138 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building. At 10 a.m. ET, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-District of Columbia) and fellow members of the Congressional Black Caucus stage a protest and expect to be arrested outside the Sudanese Embassy.

This morning, Bush and First Lady Laura Bush welcomed Australian Prime Minster John Howard and his wife at the White House. Bush has a 10 a.m. ET meeting with Howard in the Oval Office and at 11:45 a.m. ET the two world leaders hold a joint press conference. At 1:25 p.m. ET, Bush meets with the 2005 WNBA Champions and at 2:40 p.m. ET he holds a meeting of his Cabinet. At 7 p.m. Bush hosts a dinner for Howard and his wife.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is likely to make it back to the White House in time for the afternoon Cabinet meeting after delivering the 11:30 a.m. ET commencement address to the Virginia Military Institute. Today, also marks the first on-camera briefing by new White House press secretary Tony Snow. He takes the podium at 12:30 p.m. ET.

And Americans United, a progressive advocacy group, releases its second "national security" themed television ad today aimed at discrediting Bush and bolstering Democrats on this issue before the midterm elections. The 30 second commercial is scheduled to run nationally on CNN and Fox as well as the Fox affiliate in Crawford/Waco viewing area with a total buy between $100,000 and $200,000. Titled 'Father Knows Best' it contrasts Bush and his father's comments on the leaking of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity to revelations the current president knew about it. Check out the ad here.

Grind Extra - The Mother of All Contests
From Robert Yoon, CNN Political Unit

While most of America was paying tribute to motherhood this weekend, faithful Grind readers were cloistered away with their Almanacs of American Politics as well as the collective works of Dr. Spock all to pursue a dream: to win the first-ever Morning Grind Mothers' Day Quiz.

That honor, as well as the highly coveted 2004 commemorative CNN Reporter's Notebook, goes to one Kenneth Schultz of Cambridge, Massachusetts. We should note that Schultz is a former CNN intern, but was unpaid and currently has no official affiliation with The Most Trusted Name in News. Former Intern Kenny answered four out of five questions correctly, as did CNN's Chuck Hurley. Chuck is ineligible for the prize, but is probably resourceful enough to find his own commemorative notebook.

For the less resourceful among you, here are the answers:

Q: Who was the first member of Congress to give birth while in office?
A: Rep. Yvonne Brathwaite Burke (D-California). Burke, who served from 1973 to 1979, gave birth to a daughter, Autumn, in November 1973.

Q: Name the three senators or representatives who gave birth during the 104th Congress.
A: Then-Reps. Blanche Lambert Lincoln (D-Arkansas), Susan Molinari (R-New York), and Enid Greene Waldholtz (R-Utah).

Q: Who was the only governor to have given birth while in office?
A: Jane Swift (R-Massachusetts). Technically, Swift was the ACTING governor when she gave birth in 2001, since she assumed office after Paul Cellucci became ambassador to Canada. So the title of first ELECTED governor to give birth in office remains wide open!

Q: Name two elected officials who have given birth to twins while in office.
A: We at the Grind had two women in mind with this question: the aforementioned Blanche Lincoln and Jane Swift. But alert Grind readers David Byowitz of Princeton, New Jersey, and Miriam Kleiman of McLean, Virginia, both point out that Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Florida) gave birth to twins in 1999 when she was serving in the Florida state legislature. Kleiman, a public affairs specialist at the National Archives, also points out that former British Parliament member Tess Kingham and fictional "West Wing" congresswoman Andrea Wyatt both had twins while in office. Kingham, a Labour Party MP from 1997 to 2001, had twins in January 2000 while representing the good folks of Gloucestershire, England. Wyatt, ex-wife of the equally fictional Toby Ziegler, gave birth to "Molly" and "Huck" in Season 4 of the recently axed presidential drama.

Q: Name a sitting female senator who adopted two children in 2001.
A: Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas). The most popular answer to this question was Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana), who has indeed adopted two children, but not in 2001. She adopted a daughter in July 1997, shortly after joining the Senate, and a son while she was Louisiana state treasurer. Don't feel bad if you missed this one; not a single person answered this correctly.
Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 5/16/2006 11:16:00 AM ET | Permalink
Political Hot Topics

"WE DO NOT YET HAVE FULL CONTROL OF THE BORDER": President Bush said last night that he will dispatch 6,000 National Guard troops starting next month to help secure the porous U.S.-Mexican border, calling on a divided Congress and country to find "a rational middle ground" on immigration that includes providing millions of illegal workers a new route to citizenship. In a rare prime-time speech from the Oval Office, Bush said the nation must move immediately to stanch the flow of illegal immigrants from its southern border by sending in the National Guard to free up U.S. Border Patrol agents in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas. The Guard troops will provide intelligence, surveillance and logistical assistance over the next two years -- not armed law enforcement. "We do not yet have full control of the border, and I am determined to change that," Bush said. Washington Post: On Immigration, Bush Seeks 'Middle Ground'

The Senate immigration reform bill would allow for up to 193 million new legal immigrants -- a number greater than 60 percent of the current U.S. population -- in the next 20 years, according to a study released yesterday. "The magnitude of changes that are entailed in this bill -- and are largely unknown -- rival the impact of the creation of Social Security or the creation of the Medicare program," said Robert Rector, senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation who conducted the study. Although the legislation would permit 193 million new immigrants in the next two decades, Mr. Rector estimated that it is more likely that about 103 million new immigrants actually would arrive in the next 20 years. Washington Times: Bill permits 193 million more aliens by 2026

BELLSOUTH DENIES ROLL IN NSA PROGRAM: BellSouth said yesterday that it had not shared customer calling records with the National Security Agency, denying a report last week that it was among three major telephone companies to have done so. BellSouth, the country's third-largest local phone company, said that after an internal review it had found no evidence that it had even been contacted by the agency. "From the review we conducted, we cannot establish any link between BellSouth and the N.S.A.," Jeff Battcher, the company's spokesman, said in an interview. "We wouldn't have made this bold statement if we weren't confident about this." New York Times: BellSouth Denies It Handed Over Telephone Records to the N.S.A.

MARKEY WANTS FCC PROBE: U.S. Rep. Edward Markey yesterday demanded the Federal Communications Commission either launch an investigation into telecommunications companies that provided millions of customers' phone records to the National Security Agency or explain how the program is lawful. In a letter sent to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, Markey (D-Malden) said major telecommunication companies - including AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth - might have broken customer privacy laws by supplying phone records to the NSA's massive spy program. "I would like to know what the Commission intends to do with respect to probing these apparent breaches" of customer privacy laws, Markey said in the letter. Markey also asked for the "legal reasoning" should the FCC decide not to investigate the telecommunications companies. Markey requested a response from the FCC by the close of business yesterday. "We are reviewing it carefully and will respond accordingly," said FCC spokesman David Fiske. Boston Herald: Mass. rep demands FCC action in NSA phone-spy case

"PEOPLE LIKE THIS PRESIDENT... THEY'RE JUST SOUR RIGHT NOW ON THE WAR": Presidential adviser Karl Rove blamed the war in Iraq on Monday for dragging down President Bush's job approval ratings in public opinion polls. "People like this president," Rove said. "They're just sour right now on the war." Rove said that Bush's likeability ratings are far higher than his approval ratings. "There is a disconnect" because of the Iraq conflict, Rove told the American Enterprise Institute. "I think the war looms over everything. There's no doubt about it," Rove said during a question-and-answer session after a speech on the economy at the conservative think tank. Rove, who is deputy White House chief of staff and Bush's top political adviser, brushed aside a question on his own role in the federal CIA-leak investigation, saying he would not go beyond statements by his attorney. "Nice try," Rove told the questioner. AP via Yahoo! News: Rove Blames Iraq War for Low Bush Numbers

JEFFERSON BLAMES CHARGES ON "OVERZEALOUS PROSECUTORS": In a defiant speech that may presage his legal strategy in a federal bribery investigation, U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, D-New Orleans, proclaimed his innocence Monday and vowed to fight any charges that might be brought against him. In a news conference on the steps of the Hale Boggs Federal Building, Jefferson suggested the case has more to do with overzealous prosecutors than the weight of the evidence. "No one wants to be indicted," Jefferson said, reading a statement. "I certainly do not and I certainly do not want anyone -- a family member or a close associate -- to be indicted. But I am prepared to answer these charges formally when and if the time comes... I would take full responsibility for any crime that I committed, if that were the case. But I will not plead guilty to something I did not do, no matter how things are made to look and no matter the risk." New Orleans Times-Picayune: Jefferson declares he'll fight any charges

CELL PHONE-ONLY CROWD WORRIES POLLSTERS: Justin Globus is part of a fast-growing group -- approaching one in 10 Americans -- who have given up traditional telephones and depend only on their cell phones. That trend is making pollsters uneasy. For Globus, a 25-year-old salesman from New York, "It was a fiscal decision -- a matter of chopping down to one bill." But the rapid growth of the cell-only crowd isn't so simple for pollsters. Their survey research depends on contacting random samples of households with landline phones. They worry that if the trend continues they could miss a significant number of people and that could undermine their ability to accurately measure public opinion. There could be implications for politics, government policy, academia, business and journalism. AP via Yahoo! News: Cell-Phone-Only Crowd May Alter Polling

BUSH WORTH UP TO $21 MILLION; CHENEY NEARLY $95 MILLION: President Bush and his wife, Laura, had assets valued between $7.2 million and $20.9 million last year, up from as much as $18.1 million a year earlier, annual disclosure forms released last night showed. Bush, who says his economic policies have helped Americans increase their wealth, is still making up ground from the start of his first term in 2001, when he and his wife reported assets of as much as $24 million. Vice President Cheney disclosed a portfolio worth as much as $94.6 million in 2005. New York Times: Bushes' Assets May Top $20 Million; Cheneys', $94 Million

'08ERS "DIP TOES" IN TAR HEEL STATE: North Carolina, a state rarely mentioned as a national battleground, got its fair share of White House hopefuls Monday. Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner delivered a brief, policy-free commencement address at Wake Forest University. In Raleigh, about 100 miles to the east, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani raised money for the state Republican party, while former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, the 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee, lobbied at the state legislature for a minimum wage increase. A Democrat hasn't won North Carolina since Jimmy Carter's presidential bid in 1976. AP via Yahoo! News: Warner, Edwards, Giuliani Dip Toes in N.C.

WARNER PUTS A STAFFER IN NH: Mark Warner's Forward Together political action committee is funding a staff position for the New Hampshire Senate Democratic caucus, the latest sign that the former Virginia governor is laying the groundwork for a 2008 presidential bid. Forward Together made a contribution to the Senate caucus, which provided the group sufficient resources to hire a staffer charged with research and communications. Warner's PAC recommended Audra Tafoya to fill the slot; Tafoya has been on the job for two weeks, according to Warner aides. Warner Is Latest Democrat to Place Staffer in N.H.

Posted By Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau: 5/16/2006 09:21:00 AM ET | Permalink
Monday, May 15, 2006
The Situation Online
Qwest for privacy?
Today Verizon and AT&T are at the receiving end of two class action lawsuits. Both cases were filed by customers upset over what, if any, roles the companies played in the NSA spy program. Then there's telecom giant, Qwest: that company is being praised online for reportedly refusing to comply. But has Qwest always been the digital darling?

Channeling Cheney
Did Vice President play a role in the leak of a CIA officer's name? We examine what was going through Cheney's mind when he read the Joseph Wilson 2003 New York Time's Op-Ed. (Read article with Cheney's notes)

Political posturing
Is the President's proposal to add National Guard troops to the border a reasonable step in the debate over immigration or a political ploy? Bloggers take preemptive strikes at Bush's prime-time speech.
Posted By The Situation Online Producers: 5/15/2006 11:29:00 PM ET | Permalink
The Morning Grind

President Bush tonight will call for the deployment of National Guard troops to help secure the Southern border, as he seeks to build support within his own party for a guest worker program and coerce Congress to approve comprehensive immigration reform legislation this year.

The Senate resumes debate this afternoon on the immigration issue after lawmakers failed last month to reach agreement on it. Bush will use a prime time address from the Oval Office to outline his plan that includes deploying the Guard along the U.S.-Mexico border. A senior administration official tells CNN's Ed Henry that less than 10,000 troops would be pressed into service and they would act in a "supportive role" to existing border control agents. The Guard would not be apprehending immigrants illegally crossing the border, but would focus instead on conducting surveillance and building security infrastructure.

Early reaction to the Guard proposal has been mixed and it prompted Mexican President Vicente Fox to call Bush yesterday to express concern about a move to "militarize" the border. Bush reassured the Mexican president that he "considers Mexico an ally and a friend," according to a statement released by Fox's office following the conversation. White House spokeswoman Maria Tamburri said Bush told Fox the proposal being considered "is not a militarization of the border, but support of border patrol capabilities on a temporary basis by National Guard personnel."

"The President reiterated to President Fox his commitment to comprehensive immigration reform," Tamburri said.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) is just one of many Democratic and Republican voices in Congress who argue the Guard is already overextended by its service in Iraq and the Gulf Coast.

"We're stretching them pretty thin now," Leahy said on CNN's 'Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer.' "We're going to make a border patrol out of them?"

But Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tennessee) told Blitzer on the same program that such concern amounted to "whining" and "moaning."

"We've got to secure our borders, we hear it from the American people," he said. "We've got millions of people coming across that border -- first and foremost, secure the border whatever it takes. Everything else we've done has failed. We've got to face that. And so we need to bring in, I believe, the National Guard."

Stephen Hadley, Bush's national security advisor, noted that this is not a new idea and the Guard is already working along the border.

"This is something that's actually already being done," Hadley said on 'Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer.' "It's not about militarization of the border. It's about assisting the civilian border patrol in doing their job, providing intelligence, providing support, logistics support and training and these sorts of things."

In tonight's 8 p.m. ET speech, Hadley said Bush would "indicate where he stands and what he believes the way forward is on the issue of immigration." In addition to securing the border and promoting a guest worker program, the President will also talk about internal enforcement, Hadley said.

The President is gambling that his plan to police the border with U.S. troops will be enough to persuade conservative Republicans, mainly in the House, to accept his guest worker program. Many conservatives view this proposal as being too lenient on illegal immigrants. Frist predicted the Senate would approve a bipartisan bill by the end of the month.

"You're going to see the very best of the United States Senate as we have open amendment, open debate, take it to the floor, improve the bill that's on the floor, and we'll have it off before Memorial Day," he said.

But any legislation the Senate passes must then be reconciled with a House bill approved last year that does not include the guest worker program.

Tonight's speech will be Bush's 21st nationally televised prime-time address and a senior administration official tells CNN's Henry it's "crunch time" on getting a compromise on immigration reform.

Prior to his speech on immigration, Bush makes 12 p.m. ET remarks at the Annual Peace Officers' Memorial Service. He stays at the Capitol following his address and returns to the White House at 2:10 p.m. ET. Bush has no public schedule until his speech tonight.

First Lady Laura Bush marks today's deadline to sign up for the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan by attending an 11:05 a.m. ET enrollment event at the Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) is scheduled to discuss the deadline in a 3 p.m. Senate floor speech. He sent out a biting news release yesterday accusing the administration of hurting "millions of seniors and disabled citizens" by failing to extend the deadline and urged Bush to support a Democratic bill to fix it.

"It's shameful that the new Medicare Drug Program did not put the interests of seniors first," he said. "I hope that the administration turns its attention to those seniors who will soon be facing huge gaps in their coverage called the 'doughnut hole' and support our legislation to fix it before it's too late."

Look to an 11 a.m. ET speech by Bush's top political advisor, Karl Rove, to see what he has to say on illegal immigration, the Medicare Prescription Drug Program and the midterm elections. The speech will take place at the American Enterprise Institute.

How well received was Sen. John McCain Saturday at his much hyped commencement speech to Liberty University graduates? The Arizona Senator didn't stick around for the reviews, as he was off to attend a Republican event in Salt Lake City. But the university's chancellor, Dr. Jerry Falwell described it in glowing terms. He said the reception McCain received was "indicative" that "if he continues on the track he's on, he could in fact co-opt the religious conservatives in the country the same way George Bush did, to help win the White House," CNN's Steve Brusk reports from Lynchburg, Virginia.

Arch enemies in the 2000 campaign, Falwell and McCain have since reconciled their differences and the influential Christian political activist has all but endorsed the Arizona Senator for the GOP's presidential nomination. But Falwell left the door open to supporting a handful of other Republicans in 2008 such as Sen. George Allen (R-Virginia), Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania) or Frist.

In fact, Falwell said he could back any candidate "as long as he or she espouses the same values that we espouse," and then he added for good measure, "Anybody but Hillary." Falwell is referring to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (New York), who is the early favorite to win the Democratic presidential nomination.

And tonight perhaps we will learn more about the rift between Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean and Democratic Congressional Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Illinois) and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Chuck Schumer (New York). Dean is scheduled to appear on 'The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.'
Posted By Mark Preston, CNN Political Unit: 5/15/2006 04:19:00 PM ET | Permalink
Political Hot Topics
BUSH TO SEND NATIONAL GUARD TROOPS TO MEXICAN BORDER: President Bush tried to ease the worries of his Mexican counterpart yesterday as he prepared for a nationally televised address tonight unveiling a plan to send thousands of National Guard troops to help seal the nation's southern border against illegal immigrants. Mexican President Vicente Fox called to express concern over the prospect of militarization of the border, and Bush reassured him that it would be only a temporary measure to bolster overwhelmed Border Patrol agents, the White House said… A number of Democrats and even a few key Republicans voiced skepticism or outright opposition to the reported plan yesterday, calling it a politically motivated move that will only further strain units already stretched by duty in Iraq without solving the underlying problem of illegal immigration. USA Today: Poll: 51% oppose NSA database

53 PERCENT THINK THE PROGAM "GOES TOO FAR": According to the latest NEWSWEEK poll, 53 percent of Americans think the NSA's surveillance program "goes too far in invading people's privacy," while 41 percent see it as a necessary tool to combat terrorism... Americans think the White House has overstepped its bounds: 57 percent said that in light of the NSA data-mining news and other executive actions, the Bush-Cheney Administration has "gone too far in expanding presidential power." That compares to 38 percent who think the Administration's actions are appropriate. NEWSWEEK: Poll: Americans Wary of NSA Spying

HADLEY MAKES THE ROUNDS ON SUNDAY SHOWS: As senior Republican and Democratic lawmakers vowed to strongly question the former head of the National Security Agency this week about its surveillance programs, a top adviser to President Bush said Sunday that the programs were lawful and had not invaded the privacy rights of millions of Americans. The adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, the assistant to the president for national security affairs, declined to confirm the details of a telephone surveillance program operated by the N.S.A. that was publicly disclosed on Thursday in an article in USA Today. But Mr. Hadley said that surveillance efforts had been "narrowly designed" and pointed out that the USA Today article had emphasized in its description of the program that it did not involve listening to individual calls. New York Times: Bush Aide Defends Acts by N.S.A.

"LOT OF QUESTIONS WHICH GEN. HAYDEN HAS TO ANSWER": Key Senate Republicans yesterday said confirmation hearings for the man nominated to head the CIA will center on questions about the Bush administration's post-September 11 domestic eavesdropping program, which some lawmakers say is illegal. Hearings are scheduled to begin Thursday for Air Force Gen. Michael V. Hayden, who oversaw the domestic surveillance program until last year as director of the National Security Agency. "There's no question that his confirmation is going to depend upon the answers he gives regarding activities of NSA," said Sen. Chuck Hagel, Nebraska Republican and a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican and head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said, "There are a lot of questions which General Hayden has to answer." Washington Times: Hayden hearings to be battleground

HOUSE GOP LEADERS BREAKING WITH SENATE: From immigration policy to energy to emergency spending, House Republican leaders are publicly breaking rank with their counterparts in the Senate, fearing that Senate efforts at compromise are jeopardizing the party's standing with conservative voters. The breach in congressional leadership has been especially stark in the past two weeks. As the Senate returns to the immigration issue this week, House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said House Republicans will not agree to any plan granting illegal immigrants a path to citizenship that does not require them first to return to their home countries. House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) dismissed Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's proposed $100 rebate for gasoline as "insulting" and "stupid." And House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) declared a Senate-passed, $109 billion bill to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, hurricane relief and a bevy of home-state pet projects "dead on arrival." San Francisco Chronicle: GOP in Congress must produce to avoid defeat

VEEP ACTUALLY A "BIG, WARM, FUZZY GUY": Mary Cheney is here to tell you that her father, Vice President Dick Cheney, is not the Darth Vader of the Bush administration but a "big, warm, fuzzy guy." He was the father who said he loved her and wanted her to be happy when she broke the news in high school that she was gay, she said. Years later, he was the adviser she turned to when she nearly quit the 2004 Bush campaign over the president's support for an amendment banning gay marriage. New York Times: Cheney's Daughter Finally Has Her Say

WHAT'S IN A NAME? With the 2008 race for president now wide open, [Jeb] Bush has what every potential Republican candidate covets: national name recognition, access to his family's powerful fundraising machinery and, as the gathering of Christian supporters illustrated, a sterling reputation among the core of the GOP base. One recent poll reported his approval rating across Florida at 63% -- a strong position in what is the nation's most populous battleground state. And yet the very factor that fosters many of these advantages -- the Bush family name -- is holding this Bush back. With his older brother, President George W. Bush, showing approval ratings that are among the lowest of any modern president, many GOP activists and strategists believe the nation would not elect another Bush, at least not now. Even so, some players in the 2008 campaign appear to find Jeb Bush's political capital too tantalizing to ignore. Los Angeles Times: Benefit of a Name Is Relative

A FRONTRUNNER McCAIN WOULD STILL BE A "MAVERICK": John McCain once asked whether he could stay true to his maverick political persona "if by some unexpected turn of events" he was transformed from a presidential long shot into a front-runner. McCain concluded in a 2002 book that, "I was unlikely to get close enough to the prize where such temptations would become a concern." Today, with the Arizona senator leading the Republican pack in polls that also show him ahead of Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, the Democratic front-runner, in the 2008 general election, the issue is no longer academic. So does McCain worry that, as he prepares for a new presidential run, he will betray his positions to achieve victory? "No, no, that would be a hollow victory," he said in an interview. "My strength is my credibility. It is as simple as that." Bloomberg: McCain, Eying White House Bid, Seeks More Than 'Hollow Victory'
Posted By Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau: 5/15/2006 03:53:00 PM ET | Permalink
The Situation Online
In the "The Situation Room"
(Friday, May 12th)

Onward & upward
The space shuttle Discovery was rolled out Friday from its hangar to an assembly building, an important milestone in preparing the spacecraft for a July launch.

Iranians online
Is freedom of speech alive and well in Iran? Is it safe for Iranians to blog? We explore Iran's troublesome record record of regulating speech online.

Moussaoui's latest move
Attorneys for convicted 9-11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui appeal a court order denying him a chance to withdraw his guilty plea and request a new trial.

Corruption crackdowns
In the wake of high profile corruption convictions involving Congressman Duke Cunningham and lobbyist Jack Abramoff, The Federal Bureau of Investigation is taking the fight against public corruption online.

Fighting crime online
Which Police Department has the best Web site? The LAPD adds to their array of online tools and resources today by launching a blog written by the Police Chief. Other police departments finding new ways to use the Internet include Boston, Atlanta, San Francisco, Las Vegas, and San Diego.
Posted By The Situation Online Producers: 5/15/2006 12:29:00 PM ET | Permalink
The Situation Room blog is a running log of dispatches, quotes, links and behind-the-scenes notes filed by the correspondents and producers of CNN's Washington Bureau. Watch "Situation Room" with Wolf Blitzer on CNN 4-6 p.m. and 7-8 p.m. ET Monday-Friday.

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