The Clinton and Obama campaigns are clashing over the meaning of one of Obama’s answers.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – A day after appearing on the same stage during the CNN/YouTube Democratic debate in Charleston, South Carolina, the campaigns of Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are disputing whether the Illinois Democrat committed a serious gaffe when he said he would meet with leaders who are openly hostile to the United States.
Asked if the candidates would be willing to meet “with leaders of Syria, Iran, Venezuela" during their first year in office, Obama immediately said yes and added, “the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them — which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration — is ridiculous.”
Meanwhile, Clinton answered the question differently, promising “a vigorous diplomatic effort” but adding “you don’t promise a meeting until you know the intentions. I don’t want to be used for propaganda purposes and don’t want to make a situation worse.”
While the differences in the two answers were not revisited during the remainder of the debate, Clinton’s campaign distributed a memo to members of the press Tuesday morning, asserting, “There is a clear difference between the two approaches these candidates are taking: Senator Obama has committed to presidential-level meetings with some of the world's worst dictators without precondition during his first year in office.”
“Senator Clinton is committed to vigorous diplomacy but understands that it is a mistake to commit the power and prestige of America’s presidency years ahead of time by making such a blanket commitment,” the memo added.
But a similar memo from Obama’s campaign, also distributed Tuesday morning, notes Obama performed well in Monday’s debate according to CNN and FOX focus groups, and “offered a dramatic change from the Bush administration's eight year refusal to protect our security interests by using every tool of American power available – including diplomacy.”
Obama’s camp also suggested Clinton’s answer constituted a departure from the New York Democrat’s previous stance, pointing out that she said in April, “I think it is a terrible mistake for our president to say he will not talk with bad people.”
TIME.com: Grading the candidates
– CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Attorney General Alberto Gonzales disputed testimony Tuesday from his one-time deputy, who said Gonzales and another White House official tried to pressure then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, when he was hospitalized in 2004, to reauthorize a surveillance program against terror suspects.
Former Deputy Attorney General James Comey testified in May that officials wanted Ashcroft to reverse a Justice Department opinion that the warrantless wiretapping program was illegal. He said Gonzales, then-White House counsel, and former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card went to the hospital where Ashcroft was in intensive care to get him to sign off on the program, which the administration supported.
Ashcroft had turned his authority over to Comey while he was ill, and Comey said when he heard that Gonzales and Card were going to the hospital, he rushed over there.
Gonzales testified Tuesday that Ashcroft had been backing the program for at least two years, likely from its inception, and there was no disagreement over it.
"The disagreement that occurred, and the reason for the visit to the hospital, senator, was about other intelligence activities. It was not about the terrorist surveillance program that the president announced to the American people," Gonzales told Sen. Arlen Specter, ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
"Mr. Attorney General, do you expect us to believe that?" Specter asked impatiently.
A top aide to Fred Thompson resigned Tuesday.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A top adviser to possible Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson has submitted his resignation, Republican sources told CNN Tuesday.
Tom Collamore joined the nascent Thompson effort after being recruited away from his post at Altria, the parent company of such brands as Kraft Foods and Philip Morris.
The Thompson campaign said that former GOP Sen. Spencer Abraham - who served as Energy Secretary from 2001 to 2005 - would come aboard in a top campaign role along with veteran Florida Republican strategist Randy Enright.
A campaign spokeswoman said Collamore would remain as a senior adviser.
In a telephone conversation with CNN, Collamore confirmed he has resigned from his position at Friends of Fred Thompson.
"It was an honor to be part of getting things started, and I believe I helped get things ready for the next level," he said.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Who's a better cook, Bobbie Edwards or Martha from Kitty's Soul Food? Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards got the chance to see if someone else's food could beat his mom's home cooking at a local joint in Charleston, South Carolina on Tuesday morning.
"I'm looking forward to eating the food," Edwards said. "And I tell you, I want to see if your country cooking's as good as my mother's, who's sitting right over there. It's a tough competition."
Edwards' wife, Elizabeth, and his parents Bobbie, 74, and Wallace, 75, joined him in sampling the fare at the local restaurant. They were all in town for the CNN/YouTube debate on Monday night.
This is not the first time Edwards' parents have joined him on the campaign trail.
– CNN Associate Producer Lauren Kornreich
Giuliani campaigned in California Tuesday.
(CNN) – Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani charged his Democratic counterparts of being soft on terrorism in last night’s debate.
"I am becoming increasingly concerned that the Democrats don't mention the term 'Islamic terrorism' during their debates,” he told reporters at a campaign stop today in Riverside, California. “I almost get the sense that they are debating as if there isn't an Islamic terrorist threat to this country.”
Giuliani was speaking at a fundraiser in San Fransisco last night and didn’t get a chance to watch the debate, but was able to review transcripts this morning.
Giuliani, who served as New York's mayor during the September 11th attacks, has made leadership on terrorism a primary theme of his presidential campaign.
– CNN's Mark Norman
“It’s Barack Obama time,” says the ad’s narrator. “A Christian family man, community organizer, civil rights lawyer, courageous legislator, and U.S. senator who’s told the truth as a soldier for justice.”
Obama senior national adviser Rick Wade acknowledged the phrase “soldier for justice” has strong civil rights and Christian overtones.
“Sen. Obama is someone who has fought for the poor. That phrase does represent who he is,” Wade told CNN. “We think the phrase will resonate with voters in South Carolina.”
Obama’s South Carolina state director Stacey Brayboy said the ad will play in 36 urban and gospel radio stations across the state.
– CNN South Carolina Producer Peter Hamby
Ravenel faces federal cocaine charges.
(CNN) – Saying he was “deeply sorry” to his family and the state, South Carolina Treasurer Thomas Ravenel resigned from office Tuesday on the day he faces cocaine charges in court.
The former state chairman for Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani was indicted June 19 on a federal charge of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. He resigned the position with Giuliani last month.
Leaving the federal courthouse in Columbia after a court appearance, Ravenel said, “I’m deeply disappointed in myself for the circumstances surrounding my presence here today to due to the personal mistakes I’ve made in my life. I want to offer a heartfelt apology to South Carolina. To the people of South Carolina and to my family, I am deeply sorry.”
The 44-year-old had been suspended from his elected position by Governor Mark Sanford in the wake of the indictment. Formally stepping down, Ravenel told reporters in a soft voice, “Now in the best interest of our state, I believe I must resign the position of Treasurer of the State of South Carolina, and I have so informed the Governor, effective today.”
He took no questions as he walked to a car with his family at his side.
Tuesday was the first time Ravenel went before a judge. He has previously entered a not guilty plea through his attorneys while in rehabilitation.
– CNN Political Desk Managing Editor Steve Brusk
Obama is targeting black voters in South Carolina with a new radio ad.
The ad, which will air on three dozen stations across the Palmetto State, according to The Associated Press, hits the airwaves a day after Obama faced his seven Democratic rivals for the nomination at the CNN/YouTube debate in Charleston.
During the debate, one YouTube questioner asked the Illinois Democrat how he would respond to African-Americans who say he is not black enough.
“When I’m catching a cab in Manhattan,” Obama replied, “I have… my credentials.” Laughter then broke out as the senator’s remarks trailed off and he segued into a broader stump answer.
“Race permeates society,” he added, “and I do believe in the core decency of the American people.”
The early primary state is an important one for Obama because African-Americans could make up nearly 50 percent of Democratic primary voters in the state.
Meanwhile, a recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll indicates Obama continues to battle chief rival Hillary Clinton’s popularity in the African-American community. The poll, conducted on July 16-18, showed the New York Democrat had a 14-point lead over Obama overall in the state and among black Democratic voters, her lead over Obama was 16 points.
– CNN Associate Producer Martina Stewart
(CNN) - Sure, what the candidates say is important, but body language can also make an important impression on voters.
A body language expert, Jo Ellan Dimitrius, studied all of the candidates throughout the two-hour debate and decided that Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York, won the battle of the body language. Sen. Clinton stood confidently behind the podium and kept her hands on top of the lectern, rather than nervously grabbing onto the sides, Dimitrius observed.
According to Dimitrius, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, also had a strong performance by using confident hand gestures and keeping consistent eye contact with the audience.
During the questions about gay marriage, former Sen. John Edwards, D-North Carolina, had a nervous look, and he put his hands in his pockets, which is also a classic sign of nervousness, Dimitrius said.
– CNN Producer Ted Metzger
Veterans’ health care is front-and-center in a new Richardson ad.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson released a new ad a few hours before the CNN/YouTube debate on Monday night targeting health care for veterans and demanding better life insurance to aid families of soldiers that die in battle.
The ad, "Heroes," calls for a "Heroes Health Card," which would give veterans the opportunity to use other hospitals if they live far from designated veterans' facilities. It also highlights a law he passed in New Mexico that increased the life insurance policy for fallen National Guard soldiers from $12,000 to $400,000.
"This ad shows how the governor has long supported our troops and has fought to honor their service with meaningful life insurance benefits and a health care proposal that would make health care much more accessible for veterans who live great distances from VA hospitals," campaign manager Dave Contarino said in a statement.
–CNN Associate Producer Lauren Kornreich