Compiled by Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau
Making news today...
* On CNN's "Larry King Live," Vice President Dick Cheney backed Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, saying "Al's a good man, a good friend, on a difficult assignment." He also "dismissed congressional investigations into the firings of nine U.S. attorneys as 'a bit of a witch hunt.'"
* "One day after FBI and Internal Revenue Service agents spent 10 hours searching his Alaska home, Sen. Ted Stevens (R) found little comfort Tuesday in the Capitol, where he spent much of the day being chased by reporters and received a decidedly cool reception from the bulk of his colleagues." (Roll Call)
Showing a great example of the game of cat and mouse often played by lawmakers and journalists, CNN's Ted Barrett and Dana Bash split up to catch the seven-term senator.
Did they succeed? Check out the full story on The Ticker.
* The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll has Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) leading Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), 43%-22%. John Edwards comes in third with 13%.
In a head-to-head matchup, Clinton leads Rudy Giuliani, 47%-41%. In a three-way race with NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Clinton leads Giuliani 42%-34%, with 11% opting for Bloomberg. ("Today")
* "'Anxious Xers' and 'angry independents' may replace 'soccer moms' as the object of desire for presidential candidates in 2008." (Bloomberg)
* And why is Sam Brownback demanding an apology from Mike Huckabee for a supporter's "prejudiced whisper campaign" about the Kansas senator's religion? Find out in Hot Topics below!
* The president had a 7 am ET breakfast with the bicameral bipartisan leadership at the White House.
Also on the Political Radar:
* Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, former JCS Chairman Richard Myers, and former CentCom Commander John Abizaid testify at a 10 am ET House Oversight and Government Reform committee hearing on the death of U.S. Army Corporal Patrick Tillman.
* Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) gives a major address on the fight against terrorism, "The War We Need to Win," at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.
From advanced excerpts of Obama's remarks:
"Because of a war in Iraq that should never have been authorized and should never have been waged, we are now less safe than we were before 9/11."
"When I am President, we will wage the war that has to be won, with a comprehensive strategy with five elements: getting out of Iraq and on to the right battlefield in Afghanistan and Pakistan; developing the capabilities and partnerships we need to take out the terrorists and the world's most deadly weapons; engaging the world to dry up support for terror and extremism; restoring our values; and securing a more resilient homeland."
* John Edwards participates in the Silicon Valley Leadership Group's "Road to the White House" Speaker Series at 1:15 pm ET at SVB Financial Group in Santa Clara, CA. Later Edwards holds a "Small Change for Big Change" event at Temple Nightclub in San Francisco.
* Mitt Romney hosts an 8:45 am ET meet and greet at Chunky's Cinema Pub in Pelham, NH. At 10:15 am ET, Romney tours Milford's Cirtronics and meets with employees. He later meets with residents at Moulton's Market in Amherst (11:45 am ET) and the Red Arrow Diner in Manchester (4:15 pm ET).
* CNN'S Anderson Cooper appears on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."
Political Hot Topics
(Today's top political stories from news organizations across the country)
CBO SAYS WAR COULD COST $1 TRILLION: The war in Iraq could ultimately cost well over a trillion dollars - at least double what has already been spent - including the long-term costs of replacing damaged equipment, caring for wounded troops, and aiding the Iraqi government, according to a new government analysis. The United States has already allocated more than $500 billion on the day-to-day combat operations of what are now 190,000 troops and a variety of reconstruction efforts. In a report to lawmakers yesterday, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that even under the rosiest scenario - an immediate and substantial reduction of troops - American taxpayers will feel the financial consequences of the war for at least a decade. Boston Globe: Analysis says war could cost $1 trillion
76 SENATORS SAY THEY'VE BEEN TO IRAQ: At least 76 senators have visited Iraq in the four years of combat, including 38 who have made the trip in the last 12 months, according to a survey by The Hill. But at least 18 senators have not traveled there at all. As debate over the war reaches a tipping point in Washington, visiting Iraq has become a rite of passage for many lawmakers looking to bolster their credibility on national security. Many lawmakers feel that making a trip is important for their credibility when they are asked to weigh in on the war. As a recent case in point, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) alluded to his Iraq travel when he challenged Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) in a July 15 debate on NBC's "Meet the Press." Graham, who has gone to Iraq seven times, took Webb to task after the freshman senator said that less than half of the military believes that the U.S. should be in Iraq. The Hill: 'Have you been to Iraq?' — 76 sens. say they have
WARRANTLESS SURVEILLANCE "PART OF A MUCH BROADER OPERATION": The Bush administration's chief intelligence official said yesterday that President Bush authorized a series of secret surveillance activities under a single executive order in late 2001. The disclosure makes clear that a controversial National Security Agency program was part of a much broader operation than the president previously described. The disclosure by Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, appears to be the first time that the administration has publicly acknowledged that Bush's order included undisclosed activities beyond the warrantless surveillance of e-mails and phone calls that Bush confirmed in December 2005. Washington Post: NSA Spying Part of Broader Effort
FROM "POLITICAL EMBARRASSMENT" TO "LEGAL LIABILITY": U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has gone from being a political embarrassment to a legal liability for the White House. President George W. Bush resisted pressure to fire Gonzales, claiming Democrats in Congress were on a witch hunt. Lawmakers haven't backed off, hammering away at the attorney general's credibility. Gonzales now faces demands for a criminal investigation and calls for his impeachment. "Just when you think it couldn't get any worse, it gets worse," said Douglas Kmiec, a former Justice Department legal counsel in the Reagan administration. Bloomberg: Gonzales's Woes Create Legal Liability for Bush Administration
DIFFICULT MEDICAL DECISION FOR CHIEF JUSTICE: Despite his quick recovery from the seizure he suffered on Monday, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. faces a complex diagnosis and a difficult decision. Because the seizure was his second — he had a similar one in 1993 — he meets the criteria for epilepsy, and he and his doctors will have to decide whether he should take medication to prevent further seizures, said neurologists not involved in his care. (Neither the chief justice nor his doctors would comment yesterday.) The decision will involve weighing the risk of more seizures against the risk of side effects from the drugs. New York Times: Roberts Facing Medical Option on 2nd Seizure
STEVENS PROBE FOCUSES ON SEALIFE CENTER EARMARK: An ever-widening federal corruption probe into Alaska politics has zeroed in on a land sale involving the SeaLife Center in Seward and a former aide to U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens. Federal investigators are looking into earmarks that the state's senior senator steered to the research and tourist attraction near Seward's waterfront. They are specifically focusing on a $1.6 million Stevens-driven allocation to the SeaLife Center, which spent $558,000 of the money to buy a lot owned by lobbyist and former Stevens aide Trevor McCabe last year. Anchorage Daily News: Stevens investigation widens
...COLLEAGUES DON'T EXACTLY RUSH TO HIS DEFENSE: One day after FBI and Internal Revenue Service agents spent 10 hours searching his Alaska home, Sen. Ted Stevens (R) found little comfort Tuesday in the Capitol, where he spent much of the day being chased by reporters and received a decidedly cool reception from the bulk of his colleagues. Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-Miss.) was one of only a few lawmakers to quickly come to Stevens' defense. "We all know Ted Stevens as a good man, a tireless advocate for improving the quality of life in Alaska — a decorated veteran and a true patriot of our country. He's asked us to await all information during this investigation, and I will, while I'm standing by our longest-serving colleague," Lott said in a statement. Roll Call: Support for Stevens Tepid
HOUSE PASSES "HISTORIC" ETHICS BILL: The House gave final and overwhelming approval yesterday to a landmark bill that would tighten ethics and lobbying rules for Congress, forcing lawmakers to more fully detail how their campaigns are funded and how they direct government spending. The new lobbying bill would, for the first time, require lawmakers to disclose small campaign contributions that are "bundled" into large packages by lobbyists. It would require lobbyists to detail their own campaign contributions, as well as payments to presidential libraries, inaugural committees and charities controlled by lawmakers. The proposal would also put new disclosure requirements on special spending measures for pet projects, known as "earmarks." Washington Post: House Votes 411-8 to Pass Ethics Overhaul
"REVOLVING DOOR" FOR ELECTION OFFICIALS, VOTING MACHINE INDUSTRY: While federal ethics rules require lawmakers to wait a year after leaving office before they can take a job lobbying their former colleagues, no such rules exist for election officials, creating a revolving door between election administration and the voting machine industry. In recent years, top election officials in at least five states have moved from government posts directly into jobs as lobbyists for the voting machine industry, which itself grew immensely after Congress allocated billions of dollars to help states update equipment. Accusations of overt impropriety or bias are rare. But voting experts and a growing number of lawmakers say the perception of conflicts of interest undermines public confidence in the integrity of the voting process. New York Times: Voting Officials Face New Rules to Bar Conflicts
CANDIDATES "CRACKING WISE" ON THE TRAIL: On the "Late Show With David Letterman" last night, actor Seth Rogen peddled his new movie, "Superbad," the story of two teenage friends on an obscenity-laden journey toward adulthood. Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) was also there, pitching a different kind of journey: the one he hopes to make to the White House. He warmed up the seat for Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), who is set to join Dave on Aug. 30... Between campaign-produced YouTube videos, late-night television appearances and off-the-cuff sartorial critique, all the candidates are cracking wise while courting votes. Washington Post: No Front-Runner So Far In the Contest for Laughs
WHAT IS THE NEXT BIG GROUP OF SWING VOTERS? "Anxious Xers" and "angry independents" may replace "soccer moms" as the object of desire for presidential candidates in 2008. It's the time in the campaign season when Washington's legions of pollsters, policy wonks and political consultants go looking for that elusive bloc of swing voters large enough in number and cohesive enough in outlook to make the difference in a close election. Some of the nominees for the target group of 2008 include "anxious Xers," members of the so-called Generation X worried about job security, income inequality and the environment, "angry independents," those non-aligned voters fed up with the government, "populist conservatives," working-class voters worried about their jobs in the global economy, and "waitress moms," economically struggling single parents. Bloomberg: Campaigns Hunt Votes Among `Anxious Xers,' `Angry Independents'
THOMPSON'S $$$... "NOTHING TO WRITE HOME TO MOM ABOUT": The nearly $3.5 million Fred Thompson collected in June for his likely White House bid fell short of his goal but exceeded what several other GOP candidates collected during the first month of their fundraising. Tuesday's filing with the IRS provides the first public view of the former Tennessee senator and actor's finances since he launched a committee in early June to explore a presidential bid. Thompson reported spending nearly $626,000 — less than $1 of every $5 raised. In late May, Thompson asked more than 100 supporters to raise $4,600 each, setting expectations the campaign would raise $5 million in June. The report comes days after a shake-up of his staff. Still, Thompson said he was pleased. "The level of support and enthusiasm from people across this country is inspiring," he said in a statement. "It's a respectable number, but it's nothing to write home to Mom about," GOP pollster Tony Fabrizio said. USA Today: Fred Thompson's money hunt misses its target
ROMNEY STRUGGLING FOR "TRACTION" IN THE SUNSHINE STATE: Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) is struggling to gain "traction" in the new early-voting state of Florida, even though his campaign has been on the ground with an extensive organization since last year. Romney's campaign said Monday that organization is only the first step, and they expect his poll numbers to improve once he is introduced to the wider state electorate. But officials said a number of factors, including the presumed candidacy of ex-Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) and Romney's inability to lure supporters of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), as well as the expensive advertising market, further complicate Romney's efforts to win the GOP primary in the Sunshine State. The Hill: Romney's campaign stalls in Fla.
GIULIANI KNOCKS DEM PLANS AS "SOCIALIZED MEDICINE": Charging that Democrats' health care proposals would lead to "socialized medicine," Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani said Tuesday he wants to give American citizens more control over their health care. "We've got to do it the American way," Giuliani said during a town hall forum in Rochester, New Hampshire. "The American way is not single-payer, government-controlled anything. That's a European way of doing something; that's frankly a socialist way of doing something." "That's why when you hear Democrats in particular talk about single-mandated health care, universal health care, what they're talking about is socialized medicine." Giuliani's health care plan, unveiled at the forum, includes giving taxpayers tax credits to purchase private health insurance. The highlight of Giuliani's plan: a $15,000 tax deduction for each family to buy private health insurance. CNN.com: Giuliani attacks Democratic health plans as 'socialist'
BROWNBACK WANTS APOLOGY FROM HUCKABEE: Republican presidential hopeful Sam Brownback said rival Mike Huckabee should apologize for a supporter's "prejudiced whisper campaign" against him for being Catholic. Huckabee issued a statement Tuesday night that didn't apologize for the remarks but said they were neither approved nor condoned by his campaign. He said he was glad that the supporter had issued his own apology and clarification. The supporter, a pastor in Windsor Heights, Iowa, had sent an e-mail to Brownback supporters pointing out that Huckabee is an evangelical Protestant and Brownback is not. Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor, is an ordained Baptist minister. "I know Senator Brownback converted to Roman Catholicism in 2002," Rev. Tim Rude, pastor of Walnut Creek Community Church, wrote in the e-mail. "Frankly, as a recovering Catholic myself, that is all I need to know about his discernment when compared to the governor's." AP via Yahoo! News: Brownback complains about Catholic slur
CLINTON NOTES "RESPECT SHORTAGE" FOR TEACHERS: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton told teachers at a union conference that she will be "your partner in every way that I can" to help educate the next generation. "I will set the tone. I will support the programs," she said. "I will provide the resources being spent in the right way." Clinton complimented Iowa for its open-enrollment policies, for the teacher-pay increase the Legislature approved this spring, and for all Iowa teachers' hard work. But there's still a "respect shortage" that leaves teachers feeling ignored, she said. Des Moines Register: Clinton pledges to respect teachers
CHENEY WEIGHS IN ON HILLARY-DOD SPAT: Vice President Cheney yesterday accused Sen. Hillary Clinton of playing politics with the Iraq war by requesting Pentagon contingency plans for a U.S. withdrawal. Cheney seconded a written response to Clinton (D-N.Y.) by Undersecretary of Defense Eric Edelman, a Cheney protege, who suggested she was unpatriotic for asking for the plans. "What we don't do is we don't get into the business of sharing operational plans – we never have – with the Congress," Cheney told CNN's Larry King. "To respond to the political charges, such as those that Sen. Clinton made, I think would be unwise." Clinton plans to write today to President Bush asking that he weigh in, since Cheney is contradicting Defense Secretary Robert Gates' reaction to the Edelman letter. New York Daily News: Hil's outta line, irate Cheney sez
EDWARDS CAMP GAUGES SUCCESS BY WEB TRAFFIC: Most presidential campaigns mark their progress by how they are doing in the polls and how much money they are raising. John Edwards's campaign has another barometer of success: a 90-day calendar that tracks, in a jumble of red, green and black numbers, the spikes and dips in traffic to the campaign's Web site. The calendar is taped on the wall of Joe Trippi, a senior campaign adviser, who can connect each spike to some effort to stir voters, including the video Mr. Edwards showed at a Democratic debate mocking the media for writing about his $400 haircut, and the time Elizabeth Edwards confronted the conservative commentator Ann Coulter on television. New York Times: Edwards's Campaign Tries to Harness Internet
OBAMA TO GIVE MAJOR SPEECH ON TERRORISM: Fresh off his protracted fight over diplomacy with Senator Clinton, Senator Obama will seek to bolster his national security credentials today with a major Washington speech on counterterrorism. The address is titled "The War We Need To Win," and in it Mr. Obama will discuss how the war in Iraq and missteps by the Bush administration have made America "less safe" since the attacks of September 11, 2001, as well as his plans to "fight the right war on the right battlefield," according to the Illinois senator's campaign. The speech, which his campaign insists has been long scheduled, signals both Mr. Obama's willingness to escalate the foreign policy debate and his need to avoid appearing weak on terrorism in light of his commitment to meet with foreign dictators. New York Sun: Obama Seeks To Bolster Security Credentials
BLOOMBERG TAKES PAIR OF SUVS TO SUBWAY STATION: He is public transportation's loudest cheerleader, boasting that he takes the subway "virtually every day." He has told residents who complain about overcrowded trains to "get real" and he constantly encourages New Yorkers to follow his environmentally friendly example. But Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's commute is not your average straphanger's ride. On mornings that he takes the subway from home, Mr. Bloomberg is picked up at his Upper East Side town house by a pair of king-size Chevrolet Suburbans. The mayor is driven 22 blocks to the subway station at 59th Street and Lexington Avenue, where he can board an express train to City Hall. His drivers zip past his neighborhood station, a local subway stop a five-minute walk away. New York Times: A Mayor Who Takes the Subway — by Way of S.U.V.