Compiled by Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau
Making news today...
* Sen. Larry Craig said he "overreacted and made a poor decision" in pleading guilty to disorderly conduct after his June arrest following an incident in a Minneapolis, Minnesota, airport bathroom.
Tuesday, in his first public statement on the arrest, the Idaho Republican said he did nothing "inappropriate."
"Let me be clear: I am not gay and never have been," said Craig.
Craig said he had been "relentlessly and viciously harassed by the Idaho Statesman," which yesterday published a front-page story: "Men's room arrest reopens questions about Sen. Larry Craig."
Craig said the paper, "without a shred of truth or evidence to the contrary," had engaged in a "witch hunt." Read his full remarks here.
Idaho Statesman managing editor Bill Manny responded in a statement on the paper's web site: "As our story today demonstrated, we followed leads and asked questions. We worked hard and behaved responsibly, not publishing a story until it was ready. We didn't print anything until the senator pleaded guilty. Our story outlined what we've done and it speaks for itself."
* "Any crony is doomed" – A "Senate Democrat close to the confirmation process," on potential replacements for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. (New York Daily News)
* The International Association of Firefighters will endorse Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) at an 11 am ET press conference at the Capital Hilton. The nod is "an important boost to his underdog campaign." (Hartford Courant)
Full story on The Ticker
* "We are doing so poorly I thought maybe I would announce on this show that I'm running for president." – Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno"
Also, on Sen. Craig: "It's disgraceful and the people of Idaho will make a pretty rapid verdict in this situation... It harms our reputation with the American people, which is also already badly tarnished. I don't know if you saw a poll lately. It showed the approval rating of Congress' was at 18%, an historic low since Gallup has been taking polls. When get down that low, you're down to paid staffers and blood relatives."
* And Democratic fundraiser Norman Hsu "has funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions into party coffers, much of it earmarked" for Hillary Clinton, but as the LA Times reports today, he's been a fugitive for years. Check out the story in Hot Topics below!
* President Bush visits the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Charter School for Science and Technology in New Orleans, where he'll meet with education officials and make a 10:45 am ET statement on New Orleans rebuilding efforts.
Bush later heads to Bay St. Louis, MS, where he'll receive a briefing at Our Lady of the Gulf Parish Community Center and make a 2 pm ET statement on Mississippi rebuilding efforts.
The president and Mrs. Bush arrive at the White House at 5:05 pm ET.
Also on the Political Radar:
* Former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) holds a "Meet Mike Huckabee" event at the Pizza Ranch in Pella, IA.
* John Edwards gives a 12 pm ET speech on "One America" at Georgia Southwestern State University in Americus, GA. Former President Jimmy Carter will introduce Edwards.
Political Hot Topics
(Today's top political stories from news organizations across the country)
BUSH TO REQUEST $50 BILLION MORE FOR IRAQ: President Bush plans to ask Congress next month for up to $50 billion in additional funding for the war in Iraq, a White House official said yesterday, a move that appears to reflect increasing administration confidence that it can fend off congressional calls for a rapid drawdown of U.S. forces. The request - which would come on top of about $460 billion in the fiscal 2008 defense budget and $147 billion in a pending supplemental bill to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq - is expected to be announced after congressional hearings scheduled for mid-September featuring the two top U.S. officials in Iraq. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker will assess the state of the war and the effect of the new strategy the U.S. military has pursued this year. Washington Post: Bush Wants $50 Billion More for Iraq War
SENATE LEADERS REQUEST CRAIG ETHICS INVESTIGATION: Moments before Sen. Larry Craig held a news conference to declare "I am not gay," Senate Republican leaders Tuesday requested an Ethics Committee investigation into the Idaho Republican's arrest in a public restroom. The unusual move underscored the political difficulties facing Craig, who pleaded guilty earlier this month to a disorderly conduct charge and now says he regrets it... "This is a serious matter," said a statement issued by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and his four top deputies. "Leadership is examining other aspects of the case to determine if additional action is required." USA Today: GOP asks panel to look into senator's actions
THE LATEST "BIZARRE SPECTACLE" FOR REPUBLICANS: Just when Republicans thought things could not get any worse, Senator Larry E. Craig of Idaho confirmed that he had pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct after an undercover police officer accused him of soliciting sex in June in a Minneapolis airport restroom. On Tuesday, Mr. Craig, 62, held a news conference to defend himself, calling the guilty plea "a mistake" and declaring, "I am not gay" — even as the Senate Republican leadership asked for an Ethics Committee review. It was a bizarre spectacle, and only the latest in a string of accusations of sexual foibles and financial misdeeds that have landed Republicans in the political equivalent of purgatory, the realm of late-night comic television. New York Times: A Scandal-Scarred G.O.P. Asks, 'What Next?'
A REMINDER ABOUT THE PITFALLS OF SOME ENDORSEMENTS: Long before the real primaries, presidential candidates compete in the endorsement primary, launching all-out efforts to land high-profile supporters to lead their campaigns in key states. Prominent backers can bring a ready-made organization of volunteers and fund-raisers, plus lend credibility to candidates, especially in states where they are not well known. But the story of US Senator Larry E. Craig's arrest is one more reminder of the potential downsides for candidates: guilt by association, questions about judgment in the friends they pick, and several news cycles of bad publicity. To avoid lasting damage, campaigns try to move quickly to limit the fallout from the story. Boston Globe: Scandals putting campaigns to test
"ANY CRONY IS DOOMED": President Bush's next pick for attorney general will be speedily confirmed if the nominee is seen as a respected caretaker for the Justice Department and not a political crony, experts said yesterday. Senior Democrats and Republicans, veteran federal prosecutors and legal analysts agreed that Bush will become bogged down if he taps anyone as underqualified as his pal Alberto Gonzales. "Any crony is doomed," a Senate Democrat close to the confirmation process told the Daily News. Gonzales was a real estate lawyer whom Bush recruited as his counsel in Texas when he was governor and then at the White House. He resigned as attorney general in disgrace on Monday. New York Daily News: Pols to Bush: Don't pick a pal for attorney general
JOHNSON MAKES PUBLIC APPEARANCE AT RALLY: In a long career in public service, Sen. Tim Johnson might never have a finer moment. He stood up from a wheelchair and with his wife, Barbara, at his side looked out over a crowd of about 1,000. With his familiar tight, rueful grin almost drooping off his face, and struggling to keep from slurring words, he said: "You guys are a sight for sore eyes. It's good to be home in South Dakota." Those two simple sentences from a man struggling to clearly enunciate them were a point of connection between a public official and his public that put the standard for such things into the stratosphere. Johnson's "Thank You, South Dakota" rally Tuesday at the convention center had been managed almost to the point of make-believe realism that commonly colors political events. Sioux Falls Argus-Leader: 'I am back'
47 MILLION WITHOUT HEALTH INSURANCE: The number of Americans without health insurance rose last year from 44.8 million, or 15.3% of the population, to 47 million, or 15.8%, the Census Bureau reported today. In a report on income, poverty and health insurance coverage, the bureau also said that the median household income - the income level of Americans at dead center of the U.S. economy - rose seven-tenths of one point to $48,201 last year, mainly because more people were working full time. Los Angeles Times: Number of Americans without health insurance climbs
GOP WON'T HESITATE TO PUNISH STATES THAT MOVE UP PRIMARIES: The Republican National Committee plans to penalize at least five states holding early primaries, including New Hampshire and Florida, by refusing to seat at least half of their delegates at the national convention in 2008, a party official said yesterday. Much of the focus in the primary scheduling fight up to now has been on the Democratic National Committee's moves to penalize Florida by not seating its convention delegates because of the state's decision to move up its primary. But the Republican rules are just as stringent, and the national party said yesterday that it would not hesitate to enforce them. New York Times: G.O.P. Plans Early-Primary Penalties
THE POTENTIAL FIRST LADIES... AND GENTLEMAN: The spouses of the 2008 Democratic White House hopefuls each would take a different approach to the role of first lady. Complicating the issue — one potential first lady isn't even a lady. The members of this club include a former president, a teacher, lawyers and even one vegan humanitarian. On the campaign trail, they are fundraisers, cheerleaders and sometimes attack their spouse's political rivals. Myra G. Gutin, author of "The President's Partner: The First Lady in the Twentieth Century," says a president's spouse can shape the role to suit herself, including advancing personal projects, and thus figures more prominently on the stump than ever before. Washington Times: 2008 spouses shape role from Democrats' sides
DEM "RAINMAKER" ACTUALLY A FUGITIVE: For the last 15 years, California authorities have been trying to figure out what happened to a businessman named Norman Hsu, who pleaded no contest to grand theft, agreed to serve up to three years in prison and then seemed to vanish. "He is a fugitive," Ronald Smetana, who handled the case for the state attorney general, said in an interview. "Do you know where he is?" Hsu, it seems, has been hiding in plain sight, at least for the last three years. Since 2004, one Norman Hsu has been carving out a prominent place of honor among Democratic fundraisers. He has funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions into party coffers, much of it earmarked for presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York. Los Angeles Times: Democratic fundraiser is a fugitive in plain sight
FIREFIGHTERS' NOD WILL BOOST DODD'S CAMPAIGN: The International Association of Fire Fighters Wednesday will endorse Connecticut Sen. Christopher J. Dodd for the presidency, an important boost to his underdog campaign. The 280,000-member union, whose backing was sought by most major candidates, will provide Dodd with an instant network of local workers throughout the country as well as some potential for more fundraising. The union, which in 2004 endorsed Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kerry, has long been close to Dodd, who wrote major legislation in 1999 to provide more federal dollars for training and equipment. Hartford Courant: Firefighters Union To Endorse Dodd
FIDEL CALLS CLINTON-OBAMA TICKET "INVINCIBLE": Add another name to the list of political observers who think a Clinton-Obama ticket would be unbeatable: Cuban leader Fidel Castro. In an editorial in Cuba's communist party newspaper, Granma, the ailing dictator said the pairing of the two White House hopefuls seemed "invincible," according to an English translation on the paper's Web site. Castro, who has overseen communist rule of Cuba since 1959, did, however, make it clear that he is no fan of the two Democrats' support of democratic reform in Cuba. The Ticker: Where Castro stands on '08 race, Gore too
RICHARDSON A "FIRM FOURTH," BUT AIMS FOR TOP THREE: New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said Tuesday that he's aiming to be one of the top three Democrats in the Iowa caucuses, and he believes momentum for his campaign is building. "I think that in order for me to do well, I have to beat one of the three major contenders," Richardson said in a phone interview during a campaign swing through northeast Iowa. "But I will try to do even better than that. I hope to finish within the top three or higher." Statewide polls within the past month show that Richardson is a firm fourth in the Democrat race, generally attracting between 10 percent to 14 percent of Iowa Democrats surveyed. Des Moines Register: Richardson targets top-three finish
GOP'S FIRST TIER SKIPS LIVESTRONG CANCER EVENT: The biggest names in the GOP presidential primary — Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney and Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) — skipped the first-ever forum on cancer sponsored by Lance Armstrong's Livestrong Foundation. Two Republican candidates who appeared, Sen. Sam Brownback (Kan.) and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, promised to rejuvenate a "war on cancer" as president, but disagreed over the need for a federal ban on smoking in public places. The Hill: First-tier Republicans skip cancer forum
ROMNEY TALKS ECONOMY: Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who has taken the lead in the early Republican presidential contests by convincing social conservatives he has changed his position on issues such as abortion, is now focusing on economic matters, especially taxes. He has tough competition. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who maintains a healthy lead over all other Republican candidates in national polls largely because of his anti- terrorism image, also is stressing economic issues. Romney said in an interview yesterday that he would make President George W. Bush's tax cuts permanent and lower corporate tax rates. He also said the U.S. government should "take a good, hard look" at implementing a consumption tax. Bloomberg: Romney Focuses on Economy, Pledges to Cut Income, Company Taxes
McCAIN ELIGIBLE FOR MATCHING FUNDS... BUT SHOULD HE TAKE THEM? Sen. John McCain on Tuesday became the first presidential candidate to be eligible for matching funds from the federal government, but his campaign still hasn't decided whether to take the money. McCain, an Arizona Republican, applied to the Federal Election Commission for public money earlier this month... The public financing could be a lifeline for McCain's campaign, which has struggled to raise money and has spent nearly all of what it has taken in... But accepting the federal matching funds would subject McCain to strict spending caps in each state, potentially crippling his campaign financially if he did emerge from the primary season as the GOP nominee. Arizona Republic: McCain faces tough choice on campaign aid from feds
BLOOMBERG DISSES NATS: Either New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg really isn't running for president, or he's going to run as a true Washington outsider. After all, he doesn't win many friends here when he rubs our baseball team's noses in its misfortune. Bloomberg was on hand Tuesday at the National Press Club to speak about poverty. After being introduced by the Brookings Institution's Strobe Talbot, he said that because of Brookings' nonpartisan status, Talbot must have the second-toughest job in Washington — "the toughest being the manager of the last-place Nationals." Poor Manny Acta! What did he ever do to Mayor Mike? Acta's Nats have lost 8 of 12 games to the first-place Mets so far this year, which of course just turns Hizzoner into a sand-kicking bully. Yeas and Nays: Bloomberg dumps on Manny Acta