Compiled by Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau
Making news today...
* President Bush's approval rating "is at just 29 percent" in the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. "It's a drop of six points since April, and it represents his lowest mark ever on this question in the NBC/Journal poll."
Also, "only 23 percent approve of the job that Congress is doing, a decline of eight points since April." (NBC News)
Poll results (pdf via WSJ)
* "A Democratic challenge to Gen. Peter Pace indicates that uniformed officers no longer are exempt from the partisan fire on Capitol Hill once reserved for civilian policymakers." (AP)
"Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called Marine Gen. Peter Pace, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 'incompetent' during an interview Tuesday with a group of liberal bloggers, a comment that was never reported." (The Politico)
* "Steven Spielberg's endorsement of Hillary Clinton may not mean much to middle America, but in Hollywood it could send a clear signal that the New York senator is solidifying her support among traditional industry donors who may have been tantalized by the candidacy of Barack Obama." (Variety)
* And how is the NRSC helping GOP senate candidates avoid the next "macaca" moment? Find out in Hot Topics below!
* The president has a 9:50 am ET meeting in the Oval Office with the former Commanding General of Multi-National Security and Transition Command – Iraq.
Bush later speaks to the Associated Builders and Contractors at the Capital Hilton at 10:35 am ET.
Also on the Political Radar:
* Happy Flag Day.
* John Edwards holds a 9:30 am ET presser to talk about his universal health care plan at the East Riverside Health Center in Detroit, MI.
* Rudy Giuliani speaks at a 9:45 am ET Delaware GOP Rally at the Terrace at Greenhill in Wilmington, DE.
* Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) gives the Central High School Commencement Address at 6:30 pm ET at the Verizon Wireless Center in Manchester, NH.
Political Hot Topics
(Today's top political stories from news organizations across the country)
"OVERALL LEVELS OF VIOLENCE" IN IRAQ "HAVE NOT DECREASED": Three months into the new U.S. military strategy that has sent tens of thousands of additional troops into Iraq, overall levels of violence in the country have not decreased, as attacks have shifted away from Baghdad and Anbar, where American forces are concentrated, only to rise in most other provinces, according to a Pentagon report released yesterday. The report - the first comprehensive statistical overview of the new U.S. military strategy in Iraq - coincided with renewed fears of sectarian violence after the bombing yesterday of the same Shiite shrine north of Baghdad that was attacked in February 2006, unleashing a spiral of retaliatory bloodshed. Iraq's government imposed an immediate curfew in Baghdad yesterday to prevent an outbreak of revenge killings. Washington Post: No Drop in Iraq Violence Seen Since Troop Buildup
REID CALLS OUTGOING JCS CHAIRMAN PACE "INCOMPETENT": Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called Marine Gen. Peter Pace, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, "incompetent" during an interview Tuesday with a group of liberal bloggers, a comment that was never reported. Reid made similar disparaging remarks about Army Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said several sources familiar with the interview. This is but the latest example of how Reid, under pressure from liberal activists to do more to stop the war, is going on the attack against President Bush and his military leaders in anticipation of a September showdown to end U.S. involvement in Iraq, according to Democratic senators and aides. The Politico: Reid labels military leader 'incompetent'
TOP OFFICERS NO LONGER EXEMPT FROM LAWMAKERS' "PARTISAN FIRE": A Democratic challenge to Gen. Peter Pace indicates that uniformed officers no longer are exempt from the partisan fire on Capitol Hill once reserved for civilian policymakers. On Friday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates made the stunning announcement that he would not recommend Pace to serve a second two-year term as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Marine Corps four-star general had not been a target previously of Democrats' ire on the war, but Gates said lawmakers made it clear the confirmation process would be ugly. "It would be a backward looking and very contentious process," Gates said at a Pentagon news conference. The announcement was a surprise, particularly because the Senate in recent months confirmed other military officers with close ties to the Iraq war with little fuss. AP via Yahoo! News: Military officers now targets on Hill
MIERS, TAYLOR SUBPOENAED IN PROSECUTORS INQUIRY: The Senate and House Judiciary Committees issued subpoenas on Wednesday to Harriet E. Miers, the former White House counsel, and Sara M. Taylor, the former political director, ratcheting up the pressure on the White House to cooperate with the Congressional inquiry into last year's firings of federal prosecutors. The White House has rejected previous Congressional requests to interview presidential aides, offering to let them be interviewed in private if no transcript is kept. The judiciary panels, acting two days after Republicans blocked an effort to hold a no-confidence vote on Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, also sought White House documents about its involvement in the dismissals and efforts to respond to Congressional inquiries into whether as many as nine United States attorneys were removed for political reasons. New York Times: 2 Committees Subpoena Ex-Officials on Dismissals
BUSH APPROVAL AT 29 IN NBC/WSJ POLL: As President Bush attempts to revive the controversial immigration reform bill he supports, the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds that Republicans are abandoning the president, which has dropped his job-approval rating below 30 percent - his lowest mark ever in the survey. But he isn't the only one whose support is on the decline in the poll. Congress' approval rating has plummeted eight points, bringing it below even Bush's. And just one in five believe the country is on the right track, which is the lowest number on this question in nearly 15 years. NBC News: Republicans abandoning Bush
BUSH TAPS GILLESPIE AS BARTLETT REPLACEMENT: Ed Gillespie, a prominent Washington lobbyist, former chairman of the Republican National Committee and longtime adviser to President Bush, will join the White House inner circle as the next counselor to the president, Mr. Bush said Wednesday. Mr. Bush made the announcement in the Oval Office, with Mr. Gillespie and the aide he will replace, Dan Bartlett, by his side. In selecting Mr. Gillespie, Mr. Bush reached for a consummate insider, someone comfortable both in the ways of Washington and the White House itself. It was a revealing change of course for a president who came to Washington more than six years ago with a cadre of Texas outsiders who did not hide their disdain for the city's permanent bureaucracy. But as he approaches the end of his second term, Mr. Bush has been increasingly turning to members of the Washington establishment, including Tony Snow as press secretary, Fred F. Fielding as White House counsel, and now Mr. Gillespie. New York Times: Former Chairman of G.O.P. Will Join Bush's Inner Circle
AUDIT FINDS MANY FBI ERRORS THAT "POTENTIALLY VIOLATED THE LAW OR AGENCY RULES": An internal FBI audit has found that the bureau potentially violated the law or agency rules more than 1,000 times while collecting data about domestic phone calls, e-mails and financial transactions in recent years, far more than was documented in a Justice Department report in March that ignited bipartisan congressional criticism. The new audit covers just 10 percent of the bureau's national security investigations since 2002, and so the mistakes in the FBI's domestic surveillance efforts probably number several thousand, bureau officials said in interviews. The earlier report found 22 violations in a much smaller sampling. Washington Post: FBI Finds It Frequently Overstepped in Collecting Data
"ALWAYS ASSUME YOU'RE BEING RECORDED, AND ALWAYS RECORD YOUR OPPONENT": The Macaca moment has morphed into an official learning tool for the Republican establishment. It's right there, on pages 18 and 22 of an Internet guide from the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee that its chairman, Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), hopes will become scripture for the 2008 candidates. Always assume you're being recorded, and always record your opponent. The blogs - oh, scratch that - the Republican blogs are your friends, so use them for rapid response in good times and bad. "The paradigmatic example of failure to do so is the 'macaca' moment," reads the guidebook, referring to a remark last year by former Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) that was captured on video and sunk his reelection campaign. The Politico: GOP issues rules to avoid Macaca moments
EXCERPTS FROM NRSC CAMPAIGN INTERNET GUIDE (pdf)
NBC/WSJ: THOMPSON IN SECOND PLACE; McCAIN, ROMNEY TIED FOR THIRD: The race for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination has become wide open, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows. But the value of winning it has fallen sharply. The survey shows that without formally entering the race, former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson has risen to second place in the Republican field. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani continues to leak support, but leads the pack with 29% to Mr. Thompson's 20%, while former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has pulled even with Sen. John McCain at 14%... Among Democrats, Mrs. Clinton draws 39% of the vote, up from 36% in April, while Mr. Obama receives 25%, down from 31%. Former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, the 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee, receives 15%, with Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico and Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware lagging behind at 4%. Wall Street Journal: Republicans' Outlook Dims for '08
FRED THOMPSON'S ABORTION STANCE IN LINE WITH McCAIN, ROMNEY: Many Republicans hail Fred Thompson as a candidate who brings an unmatched combination of conservatism and electability to the presidential race, but his stance on at least one key social issue — abortion — is similar to that espoused by Senator McCain and Mitt Romney, two of his top potential rivals. While the former Tennessee senator opposes the Roe v. Wade decision and built a solidly anti-abortion record in Congress, he has indicated that he would not move to outlaw the procedure. That position puts him roughly in line with Messrs. McCain and Romney, but for some hard-line abortion foes, it falls short. They say that even with Mr. Thompson in the race, many voters who oppose abortion rights may still view Senator Brownback of Kansas and a former Arkansas governor, Michael Huckabee, as the only acceptable choices. That could spell trouble for Mr. Thompson, whose viability may hinge on attracting supporters away from the top-tier contenders. New York Sun: Thompson Scrutinized on Abortion
GIULIANI WOULD CONSIDER ADDING TROOPS IF PETRAEUS ASKED: Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani said he would consider adding U.S. troops in Iraq if the head of military operations there, U.S. Army General David Petraeus, asked for them. "If he said the strategy was working, and we needed more soldiers to make it work," Giuliani said in an interview yesterday, "of course I'd look at that and consider that." Giuliani, 63, said he knew such a decision would be unpopular. "Leadership is about sometimes doing the things that you know are right" and then educating the public, he said. Bloomberg: Giuliani Says He'd Consider Increasing U.S. Troops in Iraq
McCAIN LAUNCHES "BROADSIDE" AGAINST ROMNEY OVER ABORTION: The campaign of Senator John McCain launched a new broadside against Mitt Romney yesterday over Romney's reversal on abortion, but Romney's campaign quickly hit back by saying McCain's move was borne out of desperation. The back-and-forth began when the Arizona Republican's aides, trying to stir up controversy before Romney's address to the National Right to Life convention in Kansas City tomorrow, sent an e-mail to reporters questioning Romney's rhetoric on abortion. The e-mail, under the header "Mitt vs. Fact," included a link to a YouTube video of Romney saying in May 2005 that he was committed to maintaining the "status quo" on Massachusetts abortion laws... Romney's campaign responded by saying the video had been edited selectively. His aides released a fuller transcript of Romney's remarks that day, in which he explains his ethical objections to a certain kind of embryonic stem cell research. Boston Globe: McCain camp hits Romney on abortion
CLINTON WINS SUPPORT OF HOLLYWOOD MEGA-MOGUL: Steven Spielberg's endorsement of Hillary Clinton may not mean much to middle America, but in Hollywood it could send a clear signal that the New York senator is solidifying her support among traditional industry donors who may have been tantalized by the candidacy of Barack Obama. Still to be determined is just how much time and energy Spielberg will have to co-host a future fund-raiser for Clinton, or contribute in some other way to the campaign. There are no plans as yet to do so, and Spielberg will be busy in the near future with the next installment of the "Indiana Jones" franchise. But Clinton's backers say that the nod still gives her a boost not just because of Spielberg's obvious cachet, but because he's an example of a high profile figure who did the due diligence of meeting with other hopefuls and considering their views, and in the end decided to go with Clinton. The hope is that his nod will help convince donors still on the fence, or lure those who threw their support initially to Obama to her side. Variety: Spielberg endorses Clinton
HILLARY'S CAMPAIGN MANAGER IS FIRST LATINA TO RUN A PREZ BID: The new role has thrust the publicity-shy [Patti] Solis Doyle into the most public of roles, and at times the fit has been uncomfortable. Though her family has some prominence in Chicago politics—her brother, Danny, is 25th ward alderman—she has been almost exclusively a behind-the-scenes power. That is rapidly changing. As the first Latina to run a presidential campaign, she is trying to help elect the first woman president. And that is a powerful package both politically and personally. "I couldn't imagine running for president without her by my side," Clinton said in an interview. And of her patron, Solis Doyle responds in kind: "She's my friend, I will do anything for her." Chicago Tribune: Clinton's campaign boss a pioneer, too
OBAMA-REZKO RELATIONSHIP ON NYT A1: Antoin Rezko, an entrepreneur of considerable charm who found riches in fast food and real estate, is known around Chicago as a collector of politicians. Back in the 1990s, Mr. Rezko's office was adorned with framed photos of candidates he viewed as up-and-comers. Among them was Barack Obama, a state legislator whose first campaign donations included $2,000 from Mr. Rezko's companies. As Mr. Obama built a career that carried him to the Senate in 2004, Mr. Rezko was there with him, holding fund-raisers and rallying support. Now, as Mr. Obama runs for president, the once-beneficial relationship with his old friend and patron has become problematic. New York Times: An Obama Patron and Friend Until an Indictment
OBAMA AND CLINTON TAKE "DIFFERENT PATH" ON TRAIL: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has a former president plugging for her and helping her rake in millions. Sen. Barack Obama is walking door to door, telling supporters that a $5 contribution to his campaign can help spur political change. For those keeping a close eye on the two front-runners for the 2008 Democratic nomination, Mrs. Clinton's and Mr. Obama's schedules this past weekend illustrate how each is taking a different path in hopes of securing their party's nod for the presidency. Mrs. Clinton spent Saturday courting labor voters and helping raise funds for Iowa Democrats; Mr. Obama joined his grass-roots supporters in Iowa as they and "Obamaniacs" across the country knocked on 350,000 doors... Mrs. Clinton, of New York, is running a tightly organized campaign and has been successful in wooing many of the traditional left-leaning groups and longtime Democrats who were loyal to her husband, former President Bill Clinton. Washington Times: High-profile takes on low-key
OBAMA RAISES MORE FROM WEALTHIER BLACK VOTERS: Democrat Barack Obama is surpassing rival Hillary Rodham Clinton in campaign contributions from areas with blacks of above-average income, a USA TODAY analysis shows. The Illinois senator has received more than double the number of campaign contributions from ZIP codes with sizable concentrations of upper-income blacks than Clinton, according to the analysis of first-quarter campaign records. Obama collected more than 2,200 donations from ZIP codes that ranked above average in both the share of black households and black household incomes, the analysis found. Clinton received 1,000 donations from these areas. Overall, Obama raised nearly as much as the New York senator did in the first quarter from all sources. USA Today: Upper-income black donors back Obama over Clinton
OBAMA GENERAL COUNSEL MAKES CASE FOR LIBBY PARDON: Sen. Barack Obama's (D-Ill.) top lawyer publicly made the case yesterday for a presidential pardon for convicted White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Obama general counsel Robert Bauer did not ask his boss, a presidential candidate, for permission to write the article, published on HuffingtonPost.com. But Obama's campaign said the senator would not ask for Bauer's resignation, adding that he is "still our lawyer." Obama's campaign and Bauer told The Hill yesterday that Bauer was not speaking on behalf of Obama when he wrote the piece, and the blog entry carries a disclaimer to that effect. The Hill: Obama aide wants Libby pardoned
EDWARDS TO TALK HEALTH CARE IN DETROIT: Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards wants to reduce the cost of U.S. health care by removing patents for breakthrough drugs and requiring health insurance companies to spend at least 85 percent of their premiums on patient care. The former North Carolina senator was expected to discuss details of a universal health care proposal he released in February during an appearance Thursday at the Riverside Health Center. Edwards' plan would remove long-term patents for companies that develop breakthrough drugs and then reap large profits because of the monopolies those patents provide, according to a statement by Edwards obtained Wednesday evening. Edwards said offering cash incentives instead would allow multiple companies to produce those drugs and drive down prices. AP via Yahoo! News: Edwards to detail health care plan
IA HQ SHOWS "WE'RE SERIOUS," SAYS HUCKABEE: Roughly 50 supporters joined Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee Wednesday at his Iowa campaign office grand opening in downtown Des Moines. The event, he said, shows that he's serious about competing for the Republican nomination, and that Iowa is an important state for the former Arkansas governor to garner support to achieve that goal. "Obviously by coming to Des Moines and opening up a headquarters, we have put a flag in the ground and said we're serious, we're here to stay, and we're here to play," Huckabee said at the new campaign office, located on the bottom floor of the Des Moines Building, 405 Sixth Ave. Des Moines Register: Huckabee says office shows he's serious
NOT MUCH FACE-TO-FACE CAMPAIGNING IN CALI: This wasn't how the campaign was supposed to unfold in California, according to the chatter earlier this year when the state Legislature moved up the 2008 presidential primaries to Feb. 5, near the front of the electoral calendar. An early primary was supposed to mean that the candidates would take the state and its issues seriously and not just stop by to pick up cash to spend elsewhere. Yet seven months before the first absentee ballots can be cast, California voters' interactions with the candidates have been few and far between. And although the candidates talk about the political importance of California, some, at least, acknowledge the state isn't a top priority. Los Angeles Times: So far, candidates just visiting California for the cash