WASHINGTON (CNN) - After Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, unveiled his comprehensive plans to deal with terrorism this week, he became his Democratic presidential rivals' collective punching bag.
In an interview with the Associated Press on Thursday, Obama was asked if he would use nuclear weapons to defeat terrorism and Osama bin Laden. "I think it would be a profound mistake for us to use nuclear weapons in any circumstance, involving civilians," Obama said to the Associate Press. "Let me scratch that. There's been no discussion of nuclear weapons. That's not on the table."
New York Sen. Hillary Clinton criticized his comments at a press conference. "I don’t believe any president should make any blanket statements in respect to the use or non-use of nuclear weapons," she said. She and Obama had an ongoing fight last week over how to handle diplomacy with rogue countries like North Korea, Iran and Venezuela.
Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd sent out a statement attacking Obama. "Over the past several days, Senator Obama's assertions about foreign and military affairs have been, frankly, confusing and confused. He has made threats he should not make and made unwise categorical statements about military options," Dodd said.
A spokeswoman for the campaign defended Obama for saying that he would not use nuclear weapons against terrorist targets.
"If we had actionable intelligence about the existence of high-level al Qaeda targets like Osama bin Laden, Senator Obama would act and is confident that conventional means would be sufficient to take the target down. Frankly we're surprised that others would disagree," spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
Across the board, most of his opponents came out swinging against his major counter-terrorism speech on Wednesday.
"It is dangerous and irresponsible to leave even the impression the United States would needlessly and publicly provoke a nuclear power," Dodd said in a statement. "I disagree with his plan to leave troops in Iraq indefinitely. We still would be militarily overextended," New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said in a statement. And Delaware Sen. Joe Biden called Obama's talking points a "Johnny-come-lately position."
–CNN Associate Producer Lauren Kornreich
Compiled by Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau
Making news today...
* The I-35W disaster in Minneapolis prompted U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters on Thursday to urge all states to immediately inspect all bridges of the same design. (CNN.com)
House Transportation Chairman Jim Oberstar (D-MN) "announced that his committee had moved quickly to make available $250 million in emergency transportation funds to assist the Twin Cities." (The Hill)
* "With pessimism growing about the ability of a troop injection to overcome Iraq's sectarian violence," Mitt Romney "and other Republicans who embraced the plan are gingerly laying the groundwork for a possible shift away from White House appeals to stay the course." (Bloomberg)
* A new Washington Post-ABC News poll of Iowa voters finds "the Democratic contest in the Hawkeye State is a deadlock, with Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards in a virtual tie for first place." (Washington Post)
* After Barack Obama "unveiled his comprehensive plans to deal with terrorism this week, he became his Democratic presidential rivals' collective punching bag." (The Ticker)
Also, "Obama: Nukes 'not on the table'" (AP)
He will actually be on TWO covers. Check them out here
* And what's the latest on Mirthala Salinas, the Telemundo anchor who covered LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa "while they were romantically involved?" Find out in Hot Topics below!
* The president signs H.R. 1, Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007, at 10:15 am ET in the Oval Office.
At 10:40 am ET, Bush arrives at the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building for meetings with the Counterterrorism Team and Homeland Security Team. He'll make a statement at 11:45 am ET.
At 3:25 pm ET, Bush departs The White House en route Camp David.
Also on the Political Radar:
* As part of a previously scheduled trip to Minneapolis, First Lady Laura Bush will visit the I35W bridge collapse overlook and visit an emergency operation command center at 11:25 am ET.
President Bush travels to Minneapolis tomorrow to visit the collapse site.
* Mitt Romney lunches with the Bull Moose Club at 12 pm ET at Raccoon River Brewing Co. in Des Moines, IA.
* John Edwards is in "The Situation Room." CNN, 4 pm ET.
* Bill Richardson holds "job interview" events across IA: in Mt. Pleasant (10:45 am ET), Keokuk (1:15 pm ET), Fort Madison (3 pm ET), Burlington (4:45 pm ET), and Wapello (7:15 pm ET).
Political Hot Topics
(Today's top political stories from news organizations across the country)
GATES SAYS POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS IN IRAQ "SOMEWHAT DISCOURAGING": Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Thursday that he was discouraged by the resignation of the Sunnis from Iraq's cabinet and that the Bush administration might have misjudged the difficulty of achieving reconciliation between Iraq's sectarian factions. In one of his bluntest assessments of the progress of the administration's Iraq strategy, Mr. Gates said, "I think the developments on the political side are somewhat discouraging at the national level." He said that despite the Sunni withdrawal, "my hope is that it can all be patched back together." New York Times: Gates Offers Blunt Review of Progress in Iraq
WHAT DEMOCRATS WANT TO HEAR IN SEPTEMBER: Democrats, including the party's conservative "Blue Dogs," say it will take "monumental" improvement in Iraq — not the current blips of success — to sway them from pushing for a U.S. troop withdrawal after a September progress report. "The military victories are just episodic," said Rep. Jane Harman, a hawkish California Democrat and chairman of the Homeland Security intelligence subcommittee. "It is doubtful that there will be a silver bullet, or even a brass bullet, in this report that will turn this thing around." Rep. Charlie Wilson, a freshman Democrat from a conservative blue-collar Ohio district, said he "would definitely need monumental proof, not just an isolated improvement." Washington Times: Democrats need 'monumental' progress in Iraq
"FRESH URGENCY" FOR INSPECTING, REPAIRING BRIDGES: Against the shock of a mighty span's inexplicable fall — at rush hour, into the nation's greatest river — bridge experts offer this reassurance: The same federally mandated inspections that show one-quarter of U.S. bridges to be "structurally deficient" or "functionally obsolete" also indicate they're in very little danger of collapsing. Of course, that's what the same experts would have said about the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis before it crashed down Wednesday. As rescue crews searched the Mississippi River on Thursday for what could be up to 30 more victims beyond the four confirmed dead, it was clear that the bridge's sudden failure — like a similar one 40 years ago in West Virginia that inspired the inspection system — could put a new focus on the nation's decaying bridges. USA Today: Across the USA, a new urgency to fix bridges
TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE APPROVES $250 MILLION FOR TWIN CITIES: House Transportation Chairman Jim Oberstar (D) on Thursday called for an increase in gas taxes and more investment in roads and bridges in the wake of the Minneapolis bridge collapse in his home state Wednesday. Speaking at a news conference, Oberstar also announced that his committee had moved quickly to make available $250 million in emergency transportation funds to assist the Twin Cities. Oberstar said under-funding did not directly lead to the collapse. The death toll was four by late Thursday but the number is expected to rise. Oberstar added, however, that the tragedy was "a wake-up call for the nation's infrastructure. We have to make more investments." The Hill: House panel OKs $250M for Twin Cities
WHY USE THE RNC EMAIL ACCOUNT? WH WOULDN'T GIVE HIM A BLACKBERRY: A young White House political aide was grilled inconclusively by the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday about the firings of U.S. attorneys after Karl Rove, the president's senior political adviser, failed to show up at the committee's hearing in response to a subpoena. J. Scott Jennings, 29, the deputy political director for the White House, refused to address the firings but tried to explain how thousands - or possibly millions - of White House e-mails to and from the political office were transmitted only through communications accounts controlled by the Republican National Committee... Jennings offered a stripped-down explanation: He wanted a White House-supplied BlackBerry and was told no, and so he got one from the RNC, as many other political affairs aides had done. Washington Post: Bush Aide Addresses Missing RNC E-Mails
DEMS IN CONGRESS WANT "TO RAISE YOUR TAXES," SAYS BUSH: President Bush yesterday said the Democrat-controlled Congress wants "to raise your taxes," and he ridiculed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's calling of the $22 billion that Democrats want to add to the president's spending proposal a "very small difference." "Only in Washington can $22 billion be called a very small difference," said Mr. Bush as he stood in the White House Rose Garden after meeting with his Cabinet. "There's only one way to pay for all this new federal spending without running up the deficit, and that is to raise your taxes." Mr. Bush has threatened to veto nine of the 12 annual spending bills for fiscal 2008, which begins Oct. 1. Washington Times: Bush sees taxes in Democrats' spending
SO THAT EXPLAINS THE "FEVERED EFFORTS" ON FISA...: A federal intelligence court judge earlier this year secretly declared a key element of the Bush administration's wiretapping efforts illegal, according to a lawmaker and government sources, providing a previously unstated rationale for fevered efforts by congressional lawmakers this week to expand the president's spying powers. House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) disclosed elements of the court's decision in remarks Tuesday to Fox News as he was promoting the administration-backed wiretapping legislation. Boehner has denied revealing classified information, but two government officials privy to the details confirmed that his remarks concerned classified information. Washington Post: Ruling Limited Spying Efforts
ETHICS PACKAGE "REPRESENTS A CULTURAL SHIFT" ON THE HILL: The Senate gave final approval Thursday to a far-reaching package of new ethics and lobbying rules, with an overwhelming majority of Republicans and Democrats agreeing to improve policing of the relationship between lawmakers and lobbyists. If President Bush signs the bill into law, members of Congress would face a battery of new restrictions. The legislation, approved by the Senate on a vote of 83 to 14, calls for bans on gifts, meals and travel paid for by lobbyists and makes it more difficult for lawmakers to capitalize quickly on their connections when joining the private sector. The measure, which grew out of scandals that have tarnished the image of Congress, represents a cultural shift in the traditions of Capitol Hill. While proponents hailed the measure as the most significant reform since Watergate, open questions remained on how some provisions would be enforced and whether the measure would change lawmakers' ability to secure pet projects known as earmarks. New York Times: Congress Backs Tighter Rules on Lobbying
McCAIN, FEINGOLD SPLIT ON REFORM: Two men whose names are synonymous with so-called reform in Washington, Senator McCain of Arizona and Senator Feingold of Wisconsin, have parted company over Congress's latest stab at cleaning up its act. The Senate voted yesterday 83–14 to approve legislation forcing the disclosure of earmarked expenditures in appropriations bills, requiring campaigns to pay more for the use of corporate jets and preventing departing senators from lobbying their former colleagues for two years. Mr. Feingold stood as a key supporter of the ethics measure, but Mr. McCain denounced it in no uncertain terms. New York Sun: McCain and Feingold in a Divorce
RENZI "APPEARS TO BE LEANING TOWARD THE EXIT DOOR": Embattled Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.) tapped down speculation Thursday that he is telling his allies that he will not seek re-election — but he appears to be leaning toward the exit door rather than seeking a fourth term. "To be honest, I was never going to be here a great while," Renzi told Roll Call on Thursday. "I'm a businessman at heart." Renzi said he would make his plans known in the next couple of weeks. "I haven't announced anything, but I usually make that decision over the break," he said, noting that he had told his staff that he would make an announcement in August. A senior leadership source said they expected Renzi to retire, but that he had not formally informed GOP leaders yet of his intentions. Roll Call: Feeling Pressure, Renzi to Decide on Re-election This Month
'08 REPUBLICANS "GINGERLY" STEPPING AWAY FROM WH ON IRAQ: For Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, the difference between "real" and "reasonable" is the distance he's traveled on President George W. Bush's Iraq war policy. In April, Romney said Bush's plan to rush more than 150,000 additional troops to Iraq had a "real chance" of succeeding. On July 26, he was more equivocal, saying in an interview: "I don't give that a high probability, I give it a reasonable probability." With pessimism growing about the ability of a troop injection to overcome Iraq's sectarian violence, Romney, 60, and other Republicans who embraced the plan are gingerly laying the groundwork for a possible shift away from White House appeals to stay the course. Bloomberg: Romney, Giuliani Change Their Tone on Bush's Iraq Troop Buildup
ROMNEY CALLS FOR HIGHER STANDARD OF ETHICS IN GOVERNMENT: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, in Iowa on Thursday, took aim at his own party, calling for a higher standard for ethical conduct in the White House and Congress. The former Massachusetts governor proposed stripping federal employees convicted of official misconduct of their government pensions. "I've been dis- appointed in these last many years, whether it's Congress, the Senate, the administration, whether it's Republican or Democrat. Of course, I'm most disappointed in my own," Romney told reporters after a campaign event in Urbandale. "I expect more of the people in our party." Des Moines Register: Romney 'disappointed' in GOP's ethics standards
RUDY TALKS TERROR AT JERSEY DINER: Republican presidential front-runner Rudy Giuliani told New Jersey beach residents yesterday that America must remain on offense against Islamic terrorism, citing the thwarted plan to blow up the Fort Dix military base. "America is under pressure by Islamic terrorists," Giuliani told customers at the popular Ocean Bay Diner in Point Pleasant. "We thank God that we haven't been attacked in the last five... years. I think the policies of being on the offensive have helped to do that." Giuliani also rapped Democrats for demanding a timetable to pull troops out of Iraq. New York Post: RUDY RIDES JERSEY 'WAVE' OF SUPPORT
DEMS COURT NETROOTS: With his laptop open and his luggage still in tow, Tom Tucker sat in a lobby of the sprawling McCormick Place on Thursday afternoon frantically typing a new post for a blog mostly read by political junkies back home in Rochester, N.Y. Across the way, also armed with an open laptop, sat Matt Thompson, a 17-year-old high school student who is trying to politically organize Native Americans in his home state of South Dakota. And down another hallway was Justin Krebs, a New York City man who helped found drinkingliberally.org, a nationwide online community that meets in taverns to discuss progressive politics. Chicago Tribune: Dems go where the blogs are
THREE-WAY TIE IN THE HAWKEYE STATE: Less than six months before Iowa voters open the 2008 presidential nomination battles, the Democratic contest in the Hawkeye State is a deadlock, with Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards in a virtual tie for first place, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. While Clinton has a clear and consistent lead over Obama in national polls, with Edwards generally running a distant third, the contours of the campaign in Iowa appear far different. Edwards's strong base of support, built on the foundations of his second-place finish in the state's precinct caucuses in 2004, has turned Iowa into the most competitive early state for the Democratic field. Washington Post: Three Top Democrats Share Lead In Iowa Poll
OBAMA BECOMES "PUNCHING BAG" AFTER NUKE REMARKS: After Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, unveiled his comprehensive plans to deal with terrorism this week, he became his Democratic presidential rivals' collective punching bag. In an interview with the Associated Press on Thursday, Obama was asked if he would use nuclear weapons to defeat terrorism and Osama bin Laden. "I think it would be a profound mistake for us to use nuclear weapons in any circumstance, involving civilians," Obama said to the Associate Press. "Let me scratch that. There's been no discussion of nuclear weapons. That's not on the table." New York Sen. Hillary Clinton criticized his comments at a press conference. "I don't believe any president should make any blanket statements in respect to the use or non-use of nuclear weapons," she said. CNN: Obama draws fire from Democratic contenders
CONTROVERSIAL BISHOP ENDORSES OBAMA: The Episcopal Church's first openly gay bishop backed Democrat Barack Obama for President this morning, saying the Illinois senator "represents our greatest hope." Bishop Gene Robinson, who is at the center of a worldwide controversy that threatens to split the Anglican church, promised, "I will not be speaking about the campaign from the pulpit or at any church function. That is completely inappropriate. "But as a private citizen, I will be at campaign events and help in any way that I can," Robinson told reporters on a conference call. Obama supports civil unions but not gay marriages. New Hampshire Union Leader: Bishop Robinson backing Obama
OBAMA'S GOOD VIBE: Barack Obama is now officially hot — he's on the cover of Vibe magazine. In a profile for the 14th anniversary issue of the music and lifestyle glossy, the Democratic presidential candidate clarifies his views on rap. Though he had a high-profile meeting with rap star Ludacris last fall, he was also quoted by The Associated Press in April as saying that rappers were "degrading their sisters. That doesn't inspire me." Obama told Vibe that he was misquoted — he was talking about the culture as a whole, not rappers in particular. "I stand by exactly what I said, which was that the degrading comments about women that (radio host Don) Imus said is language that we hear not just on the radio, not just in music. We ourselves perpetuate that, and we all have to take responsibility for that." AP via Yahoo! News: Obama to Vibe: Rap creates own reality
JUST SAY NO TO NEWS CORP., SAYS EDWARDS: John Edwards criticized Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday for taking more than $20,000 in donations from News Corp. officials, arguing that the company's Fox News Channel has a right-wing bias and Democrats should avoid the company. Edwards led the Democratic candidates' boycott of Fox's plans to host a Democratic presidential debate. Now he is objecting to News Corp.'s purchase of Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones & Co. and highlighting the relationships that Clinton and other rivals have with the company's executives. "The time has come for Democrats to stop pretending to be friends with the very people who demonize the Democratic Party," Edwards said in a statement. He challenged his rivals to refuse contributions from executives of News Corp., and return any they had already received. AP via Yahoo! News: Edwards assails rivals over News Corp.
TELEMUNDO ANCHOR SUSPENDED FOR REPORTING ON LA MAYOR (WHILE DATING HIM): Los Angeles television newscaster Mirthala Salinas was suspended without pay for two months — but not dismissed — Thursday from KVEA-TV Channel 52 for covering Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa while they were romantically involved, a relationship that journalism experts said damaged the station's credibility. Three of Salinas' superiors with the Telemundo network also were disciplined, including the top two station officials. KVEA General Manager Manuel Abud was reassigned to another position, and News Director Al Corral was suspended for two months without pay. The highest-ranking executive, Ibra Morales, who oversees the network's 16 Spanish-language stations, was reprimanded in the unfolding scandal that Telemundo President Don Browne said flagrantly violated Telemundo's journalistic standards. Los Angeles Times: Newscaster suspended over affair