WASHINGTON (CNN) - Rep. Rick Renzi, an Arizona Republican first elected in 2002, will retire when the 110th Congress comes to a close in 2008.
“I will not be seeking re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2008,” Renzi said in a prepared statement. “I am honored and thankful to serve Arizona’s first district and appreciate all that we have accomplished together over the past 6 years.”
Renzi is the fifth Republican in recent months to announce plans to leave Congress. Ohio Rep. Deborah Pryce, Illinois Rep. Ray LaHood, Mississippi Rep. Chip Pickering and Illinois Rep. Dennis Hastert have also said they will not seek reelection. Hastert served as House speaker before Democrats took back control of the House in 2006.
Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole, who chairs the National Republican Congressional Committee, said it will be one of his top priorities to keep this Arizona seat in GOP hands.
Will the 'Obama girl' defect to Clinton?
WASHINGTON (CNN) - It's an ongoing political saga: Who will YouTube's wildly popular "Obama Girl" support for president in real life?
Amber Lee Ettinger, the star of the online video that has been viewed well over three million times, has previously given mixed signals as to whether her enthusiastic support for the Illinois Democrat extends into real life.
According to the New York Daily News, however, "Obama Girl" may be leaning towards his chief rival, Hillary Clinton.
"I watched the recent debates and I liked a lot of her answers," the paper quotes Ettinger saying.
Reached by CNN Thursday, Ettinger added, "I’m excited that a woman is running for president… I think she’s doing a really good job."
Turns out Obama himself might not be too keen on Ettinger either. He told the Associated Press earlier this week that his own daughters became upset with the risqué video, saying, "You do wish people would think about what impact their actions have on kids and families."
But Ettinger told the paper she didn't take Obama's criticisms negatively.
"I think he's more concerned over his child's reaction to it. That's good parenting," said Ettinger. She added that, in her opinion, the video "shows him in a positive light."
The 'Obama girl' video and others like it are obviously parodies intended to inject humor into the political process. But they are also a sign of how YouTube users are clearly changing the political landscape– to the chagrin of candidates trying to control their message.
Warner is back from a recent trip to Iraq.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - One of the Senate's top Republicans has called on President Bush to start bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq by Christmas, telling reporters Thursday that a pullout was needed to spur Iraqi leaders to action.
Sen. John Warner, the influential former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he has recommended that Bush announce the beginning of a U.S. withdrawal in mid-September, after a report from the top U.S. officials in Iraq.
CNN's Ed Henry reports a GOP lobbying firm is seeking to undermine the Iraqi prime minister, above.
CRAWFORD, Texas (CNN) - A powerhouse Republican lobbying firm with close ties to the White House has begun a public campaign to undermine the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, CNN has confirmed.
This comes as President Bush is publicly taking great pains to reiterate his support for the embattled Iraqi leader, whose government has come under sharp criticism and scrutiny from Washington lawmakers and officials and Thursday's National Intelligence Estimate.
A senior Bush administration official told CNN the White House is aware of the lobbying campaign by Barbour Griffith & Rogers because the firm is "blasting e-mails all over town" criticizing al-Maliki and promoting the firm's client, former interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, as an alternative to the current Iraqi leader.
But the administration official insisted that White House officials are not privately involved or blessing the lobbying campaign to undermine al-Maliki. (TIME.com: Few good alternatives to al-Maliki)
"There's just no connection whatsoever," the official said. "There's absolutely no involvement.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – He didn't mention his chief presidential rival by name, but it was clear whom White House hopeful John Edwards was targeting in a fiery speech in New Hampshire Thursday morning.
The former North Carolina senator, who finds himself lagging significantly behind fellow Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in most national polls, told New Hampshire voters to reject "establishment elites" and "outdated answers…rooted in nostalgia."
"The trouble with nostalgia is that you tend to remember what you liked and forget what you didn’t," Edwards said. "It’s not just that the answers of the past aren’t up to the job today, it’s that the system that produced them was corrupt – and still is."
Clinton, the first lady from 1993-2001, often touts the successes of the Clinton administration on the campaign trail, as does her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
– CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
Joe Trippi says Karl Rove most fears John Edwards.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Many political watchers are wondering exactly why former top Bush aide Karl Rove has attacked New York Sen. Hillary Clinton so aggressively since he announced he was leaving the White House last week.
Well, Joe Trippi, one of former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards' top strategists, thinks he knows the answer: Rove "doesn't want John Edwards to win the Democratic nomination."
"Rove knows that Democrats will rally around whomever he attacks—so he attacks the candidate he thinks Republicans can most easily defeat," Trippi wrote to supporters in a fundraising e-mail. "It may seem backwards, but Rove and his cronies did the same thing last time around. In 2004, they were scared of John Edwards, so they attacked John Kerry."
"Rove is using his sneaky, underhanded tactics to try and trick Democrats into rallying around a candidate who won't be as strong as John in the general election," Trippi added.
Rove, who announced he is leaving his post at the White House at the end of the month, has repeatedly criticized Clinton, arguing her "high" disapproval numbers render her a "fatally flawed" candidate.
– CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
Edwards campaign reacted Wednesday to critical comments from the Clinton campaign.
(CNN)–The war of words over Iraq between the campaigns of Democratic White House hopefuls Senator Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards, intensified on Wednesday.
"The issue of Iraq is one of the most important issues facing the country and the Clinton campaign knows that," said Chris Kofinis, communications director for Edwards. "The attempt to belittle these serious concerns by suggesting that this is about poll numbers is insulting to the American people and the brave men and women who are waiting for a leader to come up with a real solution to end this war," Kofinis said on Wednesday.
"Senator Edwards has a specific plan that will end this war, but after yesterday's speech, voters have a right to be confused about what Senator Clinton's plan for Iraq is," Kofinis went on to say. "Does Senator Clinton support George Bush's surge or not? Does Senator Clinton have a specific timetable for withdrawing troops or not? Does Senator Clinton have a specific plan for ending the war in Iraq or not? The American people deserve specific answers, not more rhetoric, and surely not more personal Washington-style attacks."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Vermont is a picture perfect place - its rivers and mountains and covered bridges are a draw to some 10 million visitors a year.
Yet, the Green Mountain State is the forgotten place in the crowded travelogue of President Bush - the only state he has failed to visit in his presidency.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders - a self described socialist - is a fierce Bush critic whether the issue is the Iraq war, the economy, or climate change. Callers to his office, Sanders says, often demand that the president be impeached.
But Sanders all but dares Bush to visit, saying he would benefit from sitting down with his critics. His Senate Web site even displays a banner with the headline "Bush stays away from Vermont."
"If he comes up in the fall – he can see the changing of the leaves,” Sanders told CNN. “He'll have a good visit.”
"[He] might be able to learn something," he added. "This president will probably go down in history as the least popular president in history of this country - he should go forward and find out why that is so."
Compiled by Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau
Making news today...
* From CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr: The intelligence community's latest assessment of the situation in Iraq expresses doubts about Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's leadership, according to administration officials who have seen the report.
The report's conclusion is that Maliki may not have the ability or capacity to "push forward" with legislative reforms, according to an administration official who has seen the National Intelligence Estimate.
* "President Bush opened the history books Wednesday to justify standing firm against the insurgency in Iraq." (Kansas City Star)
"Bush's bold decision to compare Iraq to Vietnam, a conflict that took more than 58,000 American lives, caused a stir among political analysts and historians. They said most Americans regard the US involvement in Vietnam, which lasted for more than a decade, as a historic blunder and stinging military defeat." (Boston Globe)
* Freedom Watch, "a new group formed to pressure members of Congress to continue supporting U.S. military efforts in Iraq," "launched a $15 million ad campaign Wednesday that mostly targets members of both parties who have voted or spoken out against continued operations in that country." (The Hill)
* "Run or keep your mouth shut!... If you want to bash people, jump into the pool. We're waiting for you." – Giuliani NY Co-Chairman Guy Molinari on Fred Thompson's recent swipes at the GOP frontrunner. (New York Post)
* Re: Rudy Giuliani, "Republicans have never had a presidential candidate like this — half Woody Allen, half Rambo and 100% cerebral." (USA Today)
* "It's always a shock to the system when Sunday morning you wake up and you're face to face with Mike Gravel." – Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), on the Dems' 8 am CT debate in Des Moines last weekend. (Daily Show)
Full story on The Ticker
See the full interview here
* And why does the Washington Post suspect NRCC Chairman Tom Cole may have a "counting problem?" Find out in Hot Topics below!
* The president is in Crawford, TX, with no public events.
Also on the Political Radar:
* Sen. John Warner (R-VA) holds a 2 pm ET press conference on his trip to Iraq.
* Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) gives a 1 pm ET address on healthcare quality in Lebanon, NH. She later visits MainStreet Bookends in Warner, NH (3:15 pm ET), and attends two house parties in Concord and Manchester.
* Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) tours JV Martin Middle School in Dillon, SC, where he'll hold a 1:30 pm ET roundtable on education. This evening, Obama holds a 6 pm ET rally at Coastal Carolina University's Kimbel Arena in Conway, SC.
* John Edwards kicks off his Fighting for One America bus tour in New Hampshire with a 10:30 am ET town hall at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH.
Edwards will "make an aggressive challenge to his Democratic rivals, charging their 'change rhetoric' doesn't match their policies and voters shouldn't pick based on nostalgia." (AP)
From advanced excerpts of Edwards' remarks:
"The choice for our party could not be more clear. We cannot replace a group of corporate Republicans with a group of corporate Democrats, just swapping the Washington insiders of one party for the Washington insiders of the other."
After Dartmouth, Edwards holds three more town halls today in Keene (1:30 pm ET), Peterborough (4 pm ET), and Hooksett, NH (6:30 pm ET).
* The Indigenous Democratic Network holds a presidential forum, Prez on the Rez, hosted by the Morongo Band of Mission Indians in Cabazon, CA. Dennis Kucinich, Bill Richardson, and Mike Gravel will attend.
Political Hot Topics
(Today's top political stories from news organizations across the country)
BUSH INVOKES VIETNAM, OFFERS "FRESH SUPPORT" FOR MALIKI IN VFW REMARKS: President Bush opened the history books Wednesday to justify standing firm against the insurgency in Iraq. “If we were to abandon the Iraqi people, the terrorists would be emboldened…” he warned. “Unlike in Vietnam, if we withdraw before the job is done, this enemy will follow us home. “As long as I am commander in chief, we will fight to win,” the president said to ringing applause at the 108th annual National VFW Convention. Bush used his 43 minutes in Bartle Hall to make what the White House billed as major foreign policy remarks. That involved a fresh expression of support for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has absorbed withering criticism of late from lawmakers. Kansas City Star: President Bush cites history in defense of Iraq policy
VIETNAM COMPARISON CAUSES STIR AMONG HISTORIANS, PUNDITS: The president's speech - which likened the current struggle against Islamic terrorists to wars against imperialist Japan and communists in Indochina - was given just a few weeks before General David Petraeus, the top US commander in Iraq, will deliver a much-anticipated report on military and political progress, which is likely to reignite the heated congressional debate on the war. Bush's bold decision to compare Iraq to Vietnam, a conflict that took more than 58,000 American lives, caused a stir among political analysts and historians. They said most Americans regard the US involvement in Vietnam, which lasted for more than a decade, as a historic blunder and stinging military defeat. "I couldn't believe it," said Allan Lichtman, an American University historian, adding that far more Vietnamese died during the war than in the aftermath of the US withdrawal. Boston Globe: President compares Vietnam, Iraq wars
MALIKI: WE "CAN FIND FRIENDS ELSEWHERE": Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki warned the Bush administration after talks with longtime U.S. adversaries in Syria on Wednesday that Iraq "can find friends elsewhere" if Washington doesn't like how he runs his country. Maliki's defiant rhetoric followed criticism from the White House and congressional leaders in recent days of his efforts to unite his Cabinet and improve stability, which would permit a reduction in the number of U.S. troops here. Together with his recent overtures to Iran and Syria, Maliki's words raised questions about his diplomatic priorities and sensitivity to U.S. concerns about two neighboring countries Washington accuses of supporting terrorism. Los Angeles Times: U.S. criticism draws a blunt Iraqi retort
FREEDOM WATCH LAUNCHES $15 MILLION PRO-WAR AD CAMPAIGN: A new group formed to pressure members of Congress to continue supporting U.S. military efforts in Iraq launched a $15 million ad campaign Wednesday that mostly targets members of both parties who have voted or spoken out against continued operations in that country. Freedom Watch, which counts former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer among its supporters, is targeting several Republicans who are deemed vulnerable in 2008, including Reps. Heather Wilson (N.M.), Jon Porter (Nev.) and Jim Gerlach (Pa.). The group says it is “dedicated to fighting to protect the ideals and issues that keep America strong and prosperous” and wants to refocus the Iraq debate on the threat to U.S. security. The Hill: Pro-war group spends millions on ad campaign
WH OFF-LIMITS CLAIM AT ODDS WITH OWN WEB SITE: The Bush administration argued in court papers this week that the White House Office of Administration is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act as part of its effort to fend off a civil lawsuit seeking the release of internal documents about a large number of e-mails missing from White House servers. The claim, made in a motion filed Tuesday by the Justice Department, is at odds with a depiction of the office on the White House's own Web site. As of yesterday, the site listed the Office of Administration as one of six presidential entities subject to the open-records law, which is commonly known by its abbreviation, FOIA. Washington Post: White House Declares Office Off-Limits
ADMIN CRITICIZED FOR EMPLOYING "THOUSANDS OF UNAUTHORIZED WORKERS": If President Bush is serious about getting tough on U.S. employers who hire illegal aliens, he can start with his own administration, which employs thousands of unauthorized workers, says the top Republican on the House immigration subcommittee. A 2006 audit showed federal, state and local governments are among the biggest employers of the half-million persons in the U.S. illegally using "non-work" Social Security numbers — numbers issued legally, but with specific instructions that the holders are not authorized to work in the U.S. Washington Times: Bush hit over jobs for illegal workers
NRCC COUNTING DOWN TO DECEMBER '08? Do Republicans have a counting problem? At the rate he's going, Tom Cole, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, might wind up a dollar short and a month late come Election Day. Cole (Okla.) this week e-mailed a fundraising letter, laden with exclamation points, to GOP supporters asking them to join the NRCC's "Campaign for 16" - named for, among other things, the number of seats needed to regain the majority and the number of months (he thought) until the election... "We only need to win back 16 Congressional seats," Cole declared in his e-mail, and "we have only 16 months in which to make it happen!" No, Mr. Cole, you don't have 16 months. Ya barely got 15! Sixteen months from the date you sent your letter, it'll be Dec. 21, and the ballots will have been cast and counted. Washington Post: Election Sneaking Up on GOP?
"ACCELERATED UNCERTAINTY" IN PRIMARY SCHEDULE: The uncertainty of the 2008 presidential calendar intensified Wednesday as the Michigan Senate voted to move the state’s primary to Jan. 15 and leaders of the Florida Democratic Party said they had no intention of delaying their nominating contest. The jockeying among states over the dates of their primaries and caucuses has injected an element of accelerated uncertainty into the race for the White House. Already, Iowa and New Hampshire are likely to move their contests up and nearly two dozen other states have set their contests for Feb. 5. New York Times: Uncertainty on Vote Dates Intensifies
EDWARDS, CLINTON CAMPS ENGAGE ON IRAQ: The war of words over Iraq between the campaigns of Democratic White House hopefuls Senator Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards, intensified on Wednesday. "The issue of Iraq is one of the most important issues facing the country and the Clinton campaign knows that," said Chris Kofinis, communications director for Edwards. "The attempt to belittle these serious concerns by suggesting that this is about poll numbers is insulting to the American people and the brave men and women who are waiting for a leader to come up with a real solution to end this war," Kofinis said on Wednesday. The Ticker: Edwards to Clinton: 'No more personal attacks'
OBAMA IN BROOKLYN... NOT READY TO "CEDE ANY NYC TURF": Senator Clinton may have a home field advantage over Senator Obama, but the presidential hopeful from Illinois doesn't appear ready to cede any New York City turf just yet, especially in Brooklyn. During a swing through the city yesterday, Mr. Obama topped off his visit with a rousing speech in Brooklyn, where he pumped up volunteers and supporters at a sold-out fund-raiser. "Every single place we go it looks like this, people from all walks of life, you got black folks, white folks, Asian folks, Latino folks, and Native American folks and disabled folks," Mr. Obama said, NY1 reported. New York Sun: Obama Opportunity in Brooklyn Is Seen
ROMNEY TRYING TO "THREAD A NEEDLE" ON ABORTION? Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney said this week that as president he would allow individual states to keep abortion legal, two weeks after telling a national television audience that he supports a constitutional amendment to ban the procedure nationwide. In an interview with a Nevada television station on Tuesday, Romney said Roe. v. Wade should be abolished and vowed to "let states make their own decision in this regard." On Aug. 6, he told ABC's George Stephanopoulos that he supports a human life amendment to the Constitution that would protect the unborn. Washington Post: Romney Struggles to Define Abortion Stance
LAT LOOKS AT GIULIANI'S TENURE AT DOJ: In the winter of 1981, with President Reagan freshly moved in to the White House, the nation's newly appointed attorney general summoned a young man from Manhattan to interview for a hugely important job, the No. 3 slot in the Justice Department. Rudolph W. Giuliani, a former assistant prosecutor who had taken on organized crime in New York, was only 36 and had only recently become a Republican. But he was bursting with energy and ideas... Years before he would become the swaggering, crime-busting U.S. attorney in Manhattan, before he would serve two terms as mayor and help lead New York through its darkest day, Giuliani already was demonstrating a florid sense of self, a high degree of self-confidence and a daring to pull the levers of bureaucratic power. Los Angeles Times: Rudy Giuliani displayed a bold flair early
"TOO SOON TO TELL" HOW RUDY WILL FARE IN GRANITE STATE: On a trip [to Derry, NH] last week, Giuliani, 63, was thanked time and again for his leadership after the 9/11 attacks and almost as often for making New York a livable city. Those are the pillars of his candidacy, and he promotes them to the hilt. "I was mayor of a city that's larger than most states," he told voters at a town meeting here. "Nobody held office as long as I did or in as difficult situations as I was." "More than any other candidate, I understand the threat that we face," he said later at a gentrified "country store" in Nashua. "I'm the one with by far the strongest record of success. I've had the most executive experience of all." How's it playing in the state that holds the first primary? It may be too soon to tell. Giuliani began staffing up and running radio ads about three weeks ago. USA Today: Giuliani out to win a state 'made for him'
GIULIANI GETTING HIT FOR IMMIGRATION, GUN CONTROL RECORD AS MAYOR: Rudolph W. Giuliani has showcased his record running the city of New York as he has campaigned for the presidency. But his performance as mayor is now being turned against him as two of his opponents have begun challenging him on two of the biggest issues in the Republican primary: gun control and immigration. This week, Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, started running radio advertisements in Iowa and New Hampshire referring to New York City as a “sanctuary city” in an effort to portray Mr. Giuliani as liberal on immigration... Fred D. Thompson, who is not yet officially in the race, threw down the gauntlet with a commentary on his Web site that criticized New York gun laws and mentioned the Giuliani administration’s efforts to sue gun makers. New York Times: Opponents Attack Giuliani’s New York Record
RUDY FRIEND FIRES BACK: A top ally to Republican front-runner Rudy Giuliani yesterday blasted Fred Thompson for attacking the former mayor – and New York City – before even declaring his candidacy for president. "Run or keep your mouth shut!" snarled Guy Molinari, New York co-chairman for the Giuliani presidential campaign. "If you want to bash people, jump into the pool. We're waiting for you," Molinari added. Giuliani's adviser called Thompson out of bounds for penning a column on his blog blasting New York City's gun-control laws under Giuliani and his successor, Mayor Bloomberg. "He's not just attacking Rudy. He's attacking every resident of New York City," Molinari charged. New York Post: 'RUDY' RIP AT FRED
NO PLANS TO SEE "SEPTEMBER DAWN," SAYS ROMNEY: Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney says he won't be attending "September Dawn," a movie about the killing of 120 unarmed Arkansas pioneers by Mormon settlers in Utah in 1857. Romney's ancestors include Parley Pratt, a prominent Mormon murdered in Arkansas several months before the massacre at Mountain Meadows on Sept. 11, 1857. "That was a terrible, awful act carried out by members of my faith," Romney said during an interview Wednesday. "There are bad people in any church and it's true of members of my church, too." AP via Yahoo! News: Romney shrugs off Mormon history film
BRUNO ADVISER CANNED AFTER ALLEGED CALL TO SPITZER'S DAD: Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno fired Republican political consultant Roger Stone yesterday for the "despicable" comments he allegedly made in a bizarre and threatening call to Gov. Spitzer's 83-year-old father. Bruno (R-Rensselaer), the target of a dirty tricks scandal that has enveloped the Spitzer administration, said Stone's comments were "despicable enough" to warrant his dismissal, despite Stone's claim to be the victim of what he called "Spitzer's ultimate dirty trick." Bruno, who hired Stone in June as a $20,000-a-month consultant to the Senate GOP campaign committee, said the longtime political operative "has agreed to resign and end his relationship with us at our request. New York Post: GOP 'SLEAZE' AXED IN GOV-DAD THREAT