High school students urged the president in a letter to "stop violations of the human rights of detainees."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Bush got a little more than he bargained for when he invited high school students from the Presidential Scholars Class of 2007 to the White House for an event promoting reauthorization of his signature No Child Left Behind education reform law.
CNN has learned that a couple of the high school students privately gave the president a handwritten letter before the official event, signed by 50 teenagers, urging the commander-in-chief to "do all in your power to stop violations of the human rights of detainees, to cease illegal renditions, and to apply the Geneva Convention to all detainees, including those designated enemy combatants."
The letter began, "We have been told that we represent the best and brightest of our nation. Therefore, we believe we have a responsibility to voice our convictions. We do not want American to represent torture."
A senior administration official confirmed that the president received the letter from the students and responded that the U.S. does not torture terror detainees. "We respect human rights," the president told the students, according to the senior official.
The confrontation with the students occurred on the same day White House spokeswoman Dana Perino faced a barrage of questions from reporters about a Washington Post four-part series suggesting the vice president has pushed the envelope in the war on terror. "All that we have undertaken has been lawful," Perino said, insisting the U.S. has not tortured detainees.
- CNN White House Correspondent Ed Henry
Sen. Richard Lugar calls for "downsizing and redeployment of United States military forces."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Republican support for President Bush's Iraq war policy suffered a significant crack Monday evening when Republican Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana urged the president to change course in Iraq "very soon."
The well-respected GOP voice on foreign affairs took to the Senate floor to urge Bush to avoid further damage to America's military readiness and long-term national security.
"Our course in Iraq has lost contact with our vital national security interests in the Middle East and beyond. Our continuing absorption with military activities in Iraq is limiting our diplomatic assertiveness there and elsewhere in the world," he said.
Compiled by Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau
Making news today...
* "The beleaguered immigration bill makes a much-anticipated return to the Senate floor" today. (Chicago Tribune)
"President Bush's team is predicting victory Tuesday on the effort to allow the bill — among the president's top domestic priorities — to go forward." (AP)
"Opponents declared yesterday that momentum and public opinion were on their side - that if they cannot kill the legislation tomorrow, they will stop it by the end of the week." (Washington Post)
* "Republican support for President Bush's Iraq war policy suffered a significant crack Monday evening when Republican Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana urged the president to change course in Iraq 'very soon.'" (CNN)
Full story here.
"Lugar's views carry extra weight because he's one of the leading foreign policy experts in Congress. He's also seen as someone who does not take partisan shots." (Indianapolis Star)
* "Republican Fred Thompson will be inching closer to a possible run for the presidency when he opens a 'testing the waters' office today" in Nashville, TN. "Meanwhile, a fundraiser is being held at music mogul and philanthropist Mike Curb's home in Nashville tonight, the first to be held in Tennessee for the former U.S. senator and Law & Order star." (The Tennessean)
* "The first Barack Obama television advertisements will begin in Iowa today, marking a new phase in the Democratic presidential candidate's grassroots national campaign. The documentary-style ads mostly chronicle the Illinois senator's experience." (Des Moines Register)
Also, "the first New Hampshire television ad for former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards' 2008 Democratic Presidential bid will hit the state's airwaves today." (NH Union Leader)
* Rudy Giuliani "has confronted a spate of bad news in recent days, from the drug indictment of his South Carolina chairman to criticism for skipping meetings of the Iraq Study Group... [W]ith a fundraising deadline looming Saturday, the timing couldn't be worse." (AP)
* "Mitt Romney said yesterday he had once more turned to his personal fortune to help finance his presidential campaign and might do so again, suggesting that his fund-raising has fallen off since the first three months of the year." (New York Times)
* And why might Romney appear as "Sticky or Uncooked Rice" on some Boston ballots? And Fred Thompson as "Virtue Soup?" Find out in Hot Topics below!
* President Bush participates in a briefing on comprehensive immigration reform in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at 9 am ET.
Also on the Political Radar:
* Special election in CA's 37th congressional district to replace the late Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-CA).
* The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee holds a 10 am ET hearing on violence in the media. FCC Chairman Kevin Martin and Fox Entertainment President Peter Liguori testify.
* Rudy Giuliani speaks at Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA, at 12:45 pm ET.
At 5 pm ET, Giuliani addresses the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington at B'nai Israel Congregation in Rockville, MD.
* The House Armed Services Committee's Military Personnel Subcommittee holds a 1 pm ET hearing on findings of an Independent Review Group of actions at Walter Reed.
* John Ratzenberger (AKA "Cliff" on "Cheers") appears at a Congressional Manufacturing Caucus event with Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) at Rayburn, 2 pm ET.
* Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) holds an 8:30 pm ET conversation with Warren Buffett at the Sheraton Hotel in NYC.
Political Hot Topics
(Today's top political stories from news organizations across the country)
"DISCUSSION OF ISSUES CANNOT BE SUPPRESSED...": The Supreme Court yesterday substantially weakened restrictions on the kinds of television ads that corporations and unions can finance in the days before an election, providing special interest groups with the opportunity for a far more expansive role in the 2008 elections. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote the 5 to 4 decision, saying the McCain-Feingold campaign finance act's prohibition against the use of a candidate's name in such ads in the days before an election was an unconstitutional infringement on the groups' rights to advocate on issues. "Discussion of issues cannot be suppressed simply because the issues may also be pertinent in an election," Roberts wrote. "Where the First Amendment is implicated, the tie goes to the speaker, not the censor." Washington Post: 5-4 Supreme Court Weakens Curbs on Pre-Election TV Ads
CRUCIAL DAY FOR IMMIGRATION BILL: The beleaguered immigration bill makes a much-anticipated return to the Senate floor Tuesday, with some senators saying that a crucial procedural vote will signal whether the legislation will be defeated or eventually clear the Senate. If Tuesday's showdown vote - on a motion to officially revive the bill - fails to procure the 60 votes necessary to pass, it will likely be the end of the road for comprehensive immigration reform this year. But if the vote passes, senators are predicting - some quite grudgingly - that it will herald Senate passage of the measure by week's end. The bill then would go to the House for more debate. The complicated measure, among other things, aims to improve border security, introduce employee verification procedures to make sure workers are in the U.S. legally and put an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants already in the country on a pathway to citizenship. Chicago Tribune: Immigration issue back with senators
LUGAR CALLS FOR CHANGE IN IRAQ STRATEGY: U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar called Monday for a change in U.S. strategy in Iraq - a departure for the senior Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who had been generally sticking by the Bush administration. "The costs and risks of continuing down the current path outweigh the potential benefits that might be achieved," Lugar said in a lengthy speech on the Senate floor. "Persisting indefinitely with the surge strategy will delay policy adjustments that have a better chance of protecting our vital interests in the long term." Arguing that time for coming up with a "thoughtful Plan B" is running out, Lugar said President Bush must downsize the U.S. military's role in Iraq and place more emphasis on diplomatic and economic options. Indianapolis Star: Lugar: Sun setting on a 'Plan B' for Iraq
SENATORS THREATEN TO CUT BUDGET FOR CHENEY OFFICE: Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) yesterday warned Dick Cheney that his office would risk losing its budget unless the vice president agrees to follow a presidential directive ordering the protection of classified information. Durbin chairs the Appropriations subcommittee on financial services and general government, which writes the executive-branch spending bill that funds the vice president's budget. Durbin's warning came as Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), No. 3 in Democratic leadership, said that he would "seriously consider" joining House counterparts in seeking to yank funding for Cheney's office after the vice president contended that his office is a hybrid entity that is neither legislative nor executive. The Hill: Secrecy may cost Cheney, Dems warn
FORMER WH AIDES SPEAK OUT AGAINST NCLB; SUPPORTERS WORRY ABOUT RENEWAL: President Bush urged lawmakers yesterday to renew No Child Left Behind, his landmark education initiative, but one of his biggest political liabilities in achieving that goal comes from an unlikely source: his former aides. Five years after they helped craft and implement the initiative, senior administration officials from Bush's first term are speaking out against the law with increasing boldness. The shift, combined with mounting criticism from both the political right and left in Congress, is causing supporters of the law to worry that it might not win renewal this year. Speaking in the East Room of the White House yesterday, Bush repeated his plea for speedy passage of the law. "The No Child Left Behind Act is working, and Congress needs to reauthorize this good piece of legislation," he said. Washington Post: Ex-Aides Break With Bush on 'No Child'
WHITMAN DEFENDS ASSERTIONS ABOUT LOWER MANHATTAN AIR QUALITY AFTER 9/11: Testifying at a Congressional hearing on Monday about the government's environmental response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, Christie Whitman staunchly defended her statements assuring the public that the air in Lower Manhattan was safe in the days immediately after the attack. Facing some of her toughest Congressional critics, Mrs. Whitman, the former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, repeatedly denied the critics' assertions that there had been a deliberate attempt to play down health risks or that the White House had improperly influenced statements she made in the weeks after 9/11. She said that she was addressing residents of Lower Manhattan — not workers at ground zero — when she said a week after the attack that the air was safe to breathe. She said that the agency issued strong and repeated warnings to workers on the debris pile to wear protective equipment, but that her agency had no ability or authority to enforce that requirement. New York Times: Ex-E.P.A. Chief Defends Role in 9/11 Response
SCHUMER'S INFLUENCE "SUPREME" AFTER LEADING PARTY TO VICTORY: As the mastermind behind his party's takeover of the Senate in 2006, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has seen his stock skyrocket in recent months among his Democratic colleagues. But even more importantly, Schumer has won himself critical influence with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), and Senators in both parties say the brazen New Yorker's stamp can be witnessed on most every move the new majority makes these days. "In my opinion, his influence is supreme," offered Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), one of Schumer's top Republican rivals. "He's everywhere." Now in his second tour as the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee after wrenching six seats from the GOP in 2006, Schumer also has won himself an official place at Reid's elite leadership table as the Caucus vice chairman. Roll Call: Schumer Reaps Rewards of 2006
NEW WY SENATOR GOES TO WORK: Dr. John Barrasso began his rounds on Capitol Hill [Monday], meeting with Republican leaders and learning how to be a senator. Barrasso, a conservative surgeon who was until now a state senator, was scheduled to be sworn in this afternoon. Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal selected him to become the state's newest senator on Friday, filling the seat of Republican Craig Thomas. Thomas died while being treated for leukemia June 4. At a photo opportunity with Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Wyoming's other senator, Republican Mike Enzi, Barrasso gave a quick comment for the cameras, saying that his predecessor was a great man and that he would, like Thomas, plan to be home in Wyoming often. AP via Casper Star-Tribune: Wyoming's new senator is learning the ropes, quickly
THE NEW, WEALTHY WASHINGTONIANS: There are the staff hands and press aides who became multimillionaires a few years after leaving the White House for public relations and lobbying shops. There are the Capitol Hill assistants who know they can command ample six-figure salaries at trade associations and private firms in their late 20s or early 30s. These sums are changing typical Washington career arcs. And they are transforming the professional culture of a capital city that historically has been defined by comfortable salaries but not by genuine wealth and its gilded accoutrements. Lobbyists and consultants who even a decade ago typically had distinctly upper-middle-class lifestyles now dine at trendy restaurants run by celebrity chefs (like BLT Steak, where the Japanese Kobe beef costs $26 an ounce), assemble modern art collections (Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta has one of Washington's best), wear suits tailored in London or Milan and, like Hillary Clinton pollster Mark Penn, own first homes in Georgetown and second ones by the Chesapeake. The Politico: The Gilded Capital: Power/money connect
FRED THOMPSON HIRES TOP IA REPUBLICAN AS MIDWEST POL. DIRECTOR: Former Sen. Fred Thompson has taken his first step toward organizing a campaign for Iowa's leadoff presidential nominating caucuses by hiring a top Iowa Republican campaign staff member, aides to Thompson confirmed Monday. Thompson has signed Andrew Dorr to serve as his Midwest political director should the actor and Tennessee Republican run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008. "This is the kind of stellar team Senator Thompson is attracting as he continues to move forward in his determinations," Thompson spokesman Mark Corallo said. "It means Senator Thompson will be ready, should he decide to run, and will have the right team in place to be successful when it's time to go to the caucuses." Des Moines Register: Hire puts run closer for Fred Thompson
...ALSO OPENS OFFICE IN NASHVILLE: Republican Fred Thompson will be inching closer to a possible run for the presidency when he opens a "testing the waters" office today in the historic Fall School Building on Eighth Avenue, a source close to his potential campaign said Monday. That's one rung below a formal "exploratory" committee phase — which is just behind a full-blown campaign announcement. Workers were trimming hedges, sweeping and otherwise sprucing up Monday around the historic Fall School Building at 1130 8th Ave. S., where U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander — himself a former presidential contender — has an office. Meanwhile, a fundraiser is being held at music mogul and philanthropist Mike Curb's home in Nashville tonight, the first to be held in Tennessee for the former U.S. senator and Law & Order star. The Tennessean: Office puts Fred Thompson step closer to running
GIULIANI COULD USE A FEW GOOD HEADLINES THIS WEEK: Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani has confronted a spate of bad news in recent days, from the drug indictment of his South Carolina chairman to criticism for skipping meetings of the Iraq Study Group. Every campaign faces bad news at one time or another, but with a fundraising deadline looming Saturday, the timing couldn't be worse. Most voters are not tuned in, but for those who are giving and raising money for the former New York mayor, the heartburn-inducing headlines may make them think twice. The string of events — some Giuliani's making, some out of his hands — comes as national polls continue to show him ahead of his rivals, but surveys in early voting states have him trailing or losing ground. AP via Yahoo! News: Giuliani facing bad news at a bad time
ROMNEY TO DIP INTO PERSONAL FORTUNE FOR CAMPAIGN: Mitt Romney said yesterday he had once more turned to his personal fortune to help finance his presidential campaign and might do so again, suggesting that his fund-raising has fallen off since the first three months of the year. Mr. Romney, who spoke to reporters at a news conference in Boston, declined to say how much of his own money he had put into his campaign this time, although the amount will become clear soon, when second quarter fund-raising results are released. In January, Mr. Romney said financing his own campaign would be "akin to a nightmare." But his campaign said yesterday that he had put in more money to maintain the gains he had made, especially in the early voting states Iowa and New Hampshire. New York Times: Romney to Tap Own Money for Campaign
"STICKY RICE" FOR PRESIDENT? Mitt Romney could be read as Sticky or Uncooked Rice, Fred Thompson as Virtue Soup, and Tom Menino? Rainbow farmer - or worse. That's one translation of their names into Chinese, according to Secretary of State William F. Galvin, and if the US Justice Department's voting rights division has its way, that is how they could appear on many Boston ballots in 2008. Under a 2005 agreement, which Galvin is now challenging in court, the federal government required Boston to translate election ballots - including the candidates' names - into Chinese characters in precincts with prominent Chinese-speaking populations. Galvin said that he has supported, even pushed for the ballots to be printed in Chinese, as long as the surnames remain in Roman letters. Translating them into Chinese, he said, would create chaos and imbalance in an electoral system that needs to be as precise as possible. Boston Globe: Ballot translations could mean too much
McCAIN SAYS POLL SHOWING HIM IN SINGLE DIGITS "JUST NOT TRUE": Republican presidential candidate John McCain on Monday dismissed polls that show him slipping into single digits, arguing that his campaign is going through the typical ups and downs and will be fine this fall. In an interview with The Associated Press, the Arizona senator also defended his support for a bipartisan immigration bill, a stance that has undercut his bid in early voting South Carolina. The top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee acknowledged that his backing for the Iraq war has hurt his candidacy elsewhere in the country... A recent [SC] state poll showed McCain at just 7 percent in the race with top rivals Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani, and Fred Thompson close to announcing. A survey in Iowa also showed McCain in single digits. "That poll is just not true," McCain said in the interview, referring to the South Carolina poll. With "veterans alone, we are doing much better than that." AP via Yahoo! News: McCain dismisses drop in polls
OBAMA ADS HIT AIRWAVES IN IA: The first Barack Obama television advertisements will begin in Iowa today, marking a new phase in the Democratic presidential candidate's grassroots national campaign. The documentary-style ads mostly chronicle the Illinois senator's experience. "The reality is that for a lot of Americans, they don't know a lot about Senator Obama except for what happened after his Democratic National Convention speech in 2004," said Tommy Vietor, the campaign's Iowa press secretary. "We think that if people know he was a community organizer, a civil rights attorney, an Illinois state senator for eight years, as well as a United States senator, they are very impressed by the experiences he has and believe that he is extremely well qualified." Des Moines Register: Obama's television ads begin in Iowa
EDWARDS AD TO DEBUT IN NH: The first New Hampshire television ad for former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards' 2008 Democratic Presidential bid will hit the state's airwaves today, his campaign has announced. "It's time for the President of the United States to ask Americans to be patriotic about something other than war," Edwards says in the 30-second spot. The clip shows close-ups of the former North Carolina senator as he addresses a crowd of supporters, telling them Americans "know what needs to be done to lift families out of poverty, to strengthen the middle class." His wife, Elizabeth, makes a brief appearance. "Will we make America the country of the 21st century? That depends on all of us," Edwards says. The ad is Edwards' first in New Hampshire this cycle. New Hampshire Union Leader: Edwards campaign to unveil NH TV ad