Compiled by Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau
Making news today...
* President Bush arrived at an air base west of Baghdad Monday on an unannounced visit, the White House said.
He plans to meet face-to-face with top military commanders, the U.S. ambassador, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and provincial tribal leaders.
* Offering "a contrarian voice to the calls by Senate GOP leaders for [Sen. Larry] Craig to resign," Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) said on Fox News Sunday that "he'd have liked to have seen Craig keep fighting for his seat." (Idaho Statesman)
* It's a very busy Labor Day for the '08 hopefuls, the "unofficial kickoff" to the campaign season. For a full rundown of candidates and events, see the Political Radar below.
"Now, the game gets very serious and people start paying attention." (LA Times' Top of the Ticket)
* The John Edwards campaign announced the endorsement of the United Steelworkers (USW) and the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) this morning. (Release)
* The new issue of Newsweek features Fred Thompson on the cover with the headline, "Lazy Like a Fox."
From the cover story:
"[A]s he prepares to formally begin his campaign for the White House this week, after months of 'testing the waters,' the conventional wisdom in Washington is that Thompson doesn't want it badly enough, isn't willing to work hard enough — put bluntly, that he is lazy." (Newsweek)
* And how surprised was Bill Clinton to hear that big Democratic fundraiser Norman Hsu was a wanted fugitive? Find out in Hot Topics below!
* President Bush stopped in Iraq en route Sydney for APEC Australia 2007.
Also on the Political Radar:
* Mitt Romney spends a busy Labor Day in the Granite State, with appearances in Moltonborough (8 am ET), Ashland (9 am ET), Concord (10:30 am ET), Milford (1 pm ET), Salem (3:40 pm ET), and Nashua, NH (6:30 pm ET).
* Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) kicks off her "Change We Need" Fall campaign with former President Bill Clinton. At 12 pm ET, they attend a Labor Day picnic hosted by the NW Iowa Labor Council and Woodbury Co. Democrats in Sioux City, IA. At 3:30 pm ET, Hillary and Bill stop by the South Central Iowa Federation of Labor rally in Des Moines.
* John Edwards participates in a 9 am ET Labor Day rally with union members in Pittsburgh before heading to Des Moines for the SCIFL event and community meetings in Osceola (4:45 pm ET), and Chariton, IA (6:15 pm ET).
* Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) attends an AFL-CIO breakfast at 9:35 am ET in Manchester, NH, then attends a Labor Day rally at Manchester's Veterans Memorial Park. He later rides in the Milford Labor Day parade at 1 pm ET, and holds a late afternoon ice cream social in Hudson, NH.
* Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) spends the holiday in South Carolina, joining the Chapin, SC, Labor Day parade at 9:30 am ET, and holding voter forums in Chapin (10:45 am ET), Greenwood (1 pm ET), and Fort Mill (7 pm ET). This afternoon he also attends the Simpsonville Labor Day Festival at 3:30 pm ET.
* Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) helps dedicate a Veterans memorial (11 am ET) and attends a Labor Day parade (12 pm ET) in Neola, IA. He also attends the Essex, IA, Labor Day parade at 3 pm ET.
* Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) marches in the Dubuque, IA, Labor Day parade at 10 am ET, and attends a Sioux City picnic at 2 pm ET.
* Bill Richardson breakfasts with Council Bluffs and Omaha union members at 9:30 am ET in Omaha, NE, before heading to IA for an 11:30 am ET house party in Little Sioux and the Sioux City picnic at 1:30 pm ET. He later holds "job interview" events in Ida Grove (4:15 pm ET), Denison (6:15 pm ET), and Harlan (8:30 pm ET).
Political Hot Topics
(Today's top political stories from news organizations across the country)
IRAQ "FRONT AND CENTER" WHEN CONGRESS RETURNS: Lawmakers will return from the monthlong congressional recess this week to a Washington consumed by debate over the Iraq war. Front and center over the next two weeks will be a series of status reports on the conflict. The Government Accountability Office this week began circulating a draft of its findings. A commission headed by retired Marine Corps Gen. James Jones is expected to present its report to Congress next week. The following week, Congress will hear from the top commander in Iraq, Army Gen. David Petraeus, and the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, followed by the president's own progress report. Each report will likely serve as a lightening rod to galvanize ever more spirited debate over the future of U.S. engagement in Iraq. The Politico: Dems seize on draft of Iraq report
"AN INTIMATE PORTRAIT" OF "INTERNAL DISSENT" AT BUSH WHITE HOUSE: Karl Rove told George W. Bush before the 2000 election that it was a bad idea to name Richard B. Cheney as his running mate, and Rove later raised objections to the nomination of Harriet E. Miers to the Supreme Court, according to a new book on the Bush presidency. In "Dead Certain: The Presidency of George Bush," journalist Robert Draper writes that Rove told Bush he should not tap Cheney for the Republican ticket: "Selecting Daddy's top foreign-policy guru ran counter to message. It was worse than a safe pick - it was needy." But Bush did not care - he was comfortable with Cheney and "saw no harm in giving his VP unprecedented run of the place." Washington Post: Book Tells Of Dissent In Bush's Inner Circle
RICE HESITATED BEFORE TAKING TOP DIPLOMAT JOB: It was just two days after President Bush's reelection in 2004, and Condoleezza Rice was planning her move back home to California and to the tranquility of life at Stanford University. But Bush had other plans. In a private meeting at Camp David on the morning of Friday, Nov. 6, the president made his pitch: Colin Powell was out as secretary of state - though Bush hadn't told him yet - and the president wanted Rice to take the job. Rice hesitated. Four years as Bush's national security adviser - through Sept. 11 and two wars - had taken a toll. "I think you may need a new national security team," she said. "I do the hiring here," the president countered. Washington Post: Transformed By Her Bond With Bush
STUCK IN THE MIDDLE WITH LAMAR ALEXANDER: Senator Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Republican and career consensus seeker, finds himself in a familiar position when it comes to the war in Iraq: somewhere in the middle... Mr. Alexander, who is positioned to play a central role in the coming Iraq debate, is in neither camp, leaving both sides frustrated. He is opposed to the fixed withdrawal date sought by many Democrats but has bucked the administration by pushing for a change of mission in Iraq and the formal adoption of the recommendations put forward by the Iraq Study Group. New York Times: A G.O.P. Senator Charts a Middle Path
CRAIG HIRES VICK'S ATTORNEY: Senator Larry Craig is hiring some big guns from the legal world, including Michael Vick's lawyer, to represent him in his upcoming legal proceedings. Craig said he has retained Vick's attorney, Billy Martin, to handle most of his legal affairs. He said he has retained Stan Brand, who represented Major League Baseball in connection with the congressional investigation into Major League Baseball's steroid policies, to handle issues pertaining to an investigation by the Senate Ethics committee. The comments came in a question and answer session with Craig that his office released following his announcement he would resign his Senate seat effective September 30. The Ticker: Sen. Craig hires Michael Vick's attorney
SPECTER SAYS HE'D LIKE TO SEE CRAIG FIGHT THE CASE: A day after U.S. Sen. Larry Craig announced that he would step down because he "had little control over what people chose to believe" about his personal life, the Idahoan finally found an ally among his fellow Republicans in Washington. Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, offering a contrarian voice to the calls by Senate GOP leaders for Craig to resign, said he'd have liked to have seen Craig keep fighting for his seat. Although Craig pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct last month after a sex sting in a men's room in the Minneapolis airport, the evidence was flimsy, Specter told "Fox News Sunday." Idaho Statesman: GOP senator speaks in Craig's defense
NRSC CHAIR PROUD OF GOP'S "SWIFT ACTION" ON CRAIG: The Senate Republican campaign chairman said his party responded properly to outgoing Sen. Larry E. Craig's sexual-misconduct case and rejected Democratic claims of a double standard for dealing with other embattled lawmakers. "Larry had admitted guilt. This wasn't like he was just charged with something, especially something that he denied," said Sen. John Ensign, Nevada Republican and chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, during an appearance yesterday on ABC's "This Week." "That's one of the things I'm proudest about our leadership is the swift action," he said. "It was best for himself, best for his family and best for the institution of the Senate." Washington Times: GOP stands by Craig response
DSCC CHAIR SAYS CRAIG'S SEAT IN PLAY: Less than an hour after Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) announced his resignation on Saturday, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Democrats can win his seat next year. Schumer, head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, called the bathroom incident that led to Craig's political demise "a tragedy" and said the senator "did the right thing by stepping down." In his released statement, Schumer added, "Democrats can win in Idaho, and we intend to run a competitive race." Idaho Gov. Butch Otter (R) will select Craig's replacement, who will serve out the remainder of Craig's term after the senator leaves the upper chamber on Sept. 30. The Hill: Schumer: Dems can win Craig's seat
"MAJOR BOOST" TO IA, NH, SC, AND NV'S "PRIMACY": Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards on Saturday joined three other Democrats who say they will skip states that break party rules by holding early primaries. Their decision is a major boost to the primacy of four early voting states – Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina – and a welcome development to the Democratic National Committee. "We believe Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina play a unique and special role in the nominating process," Clinton campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle said. "And we believe the DNC's rules and its calendar provide the necessary structure to respect and honor that role." Des Moines Register: Clinton, Edwards, Obama to uphold order of contests
SCREENING THE BUNDLERS: Sant S. Chatwal, an Indian American businessman, has helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaigns, even as he battled governments on two continents to escape bankruptcy and millions of dollars in tax liens. The founder of the Bombay Palace restaurant chain, Chatwal is one of a growing number of fundraisers in the 2008 presidential campaign whose backgrounds have prompted questions about how much screening the candidates devote to their "bundlers" while they press to raise record amounts... Ordinarily, campaigns have their legal, finance or research staffs run the names of major fundraisers - also called "bundlers" because they deliver checks to candidates in bunches - through public records such as newspaper clips, court filings and government databases to identify problems. Some controversies still slip through. Washington Post: When Controversy Follows Cash
BILL "TOTALLY SHOCKED" TO HEAR HSU A FUGITIVE: Ex-President Bill Clinton said yesterday he was "totally shocked" when he learned that Norman Hsu, one of his wife's big campaign contributors, was a wanted fugitive. "You could have knocked me over with a straw," the former president said when asked about the controversy while touring the Hopkinton State Fair here. "Especially when I learned the L.A. people had been allegedly looking for him for 15 years, when he was in plain view for years and years and years," he added. New York Post: BILL HAD NO CLUE ON HSU
CLINTONS HIT GRANITE STATE: The tag team of Hillary and Bill Clinton, in carefully choreographed rallies yesterday, cast the New York senator as a battle-tested leader and the Democrat best suited to win the White House. The one-day swing through New Hampshire kicked off her fall campaign, a time in which the poll leader aims to shore up support and plug any leaks. The couple traveled down memory lane between stops at the State House, the Hopkinton Fair and downtown Portsmouth. The former president called 2008 an urgent election, for domestic policy and for foreign affairs. "I know we don't have a moment to waste to turn this country around," he said. New Hampshire Union Leader: Clintons double-team NH
HILLARY LAYS OUT "FOUR BIG GOALS" IN NEW STUMP SPEECH: Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York unveiled a new stump speech on Sunday, outlining the "four big goals" she would have as president and saying she was willing to "work within the system" and make "principled compromises" to achieve them. Praising the leadership styles of Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson, Mrs. Clinton described herself as a pragmatist and an alliance-builder. Without naming names, she said her strategies would yield more results than those of her two chief rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois and former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina. New York Times: With a New Speech, Clinton Lays Out Goals as President
IS THOMPSON "LAZY?" There's no doubt Thompson looks the part; there's a reason Hollywood directors have sought him out to play wise Washington hands in the movies. His deeply lined, gently scowling face exudes authority, and he knows how to use his LBJ-size frame to impress and intimidate. And there is that disarming rumble when he speaks, a voice so grand that John McCain jokes he would be president if only he had Thompson's vocal cords. But as he prepares to formally begin his campaign for the White House this week, after months of "testing the waters," the conventional wisdom in Washington is that Thompson doesn't want it badly enough, isn't willing to work hard enough—put bluntly, that he is lazy. Newsweek: Grin and Bear It
CINDY McCAIN TOUTING JOHN'S SERVICE: Sen. John McCain is obviously uncomfortable talking about his military service. Although he and fellow Republican candidate Duncan Hunter are the only ones with actual war experience running for president in 2008, McCain has shied away from making much of his Navy flying career, which included six years of torture and incarceration as a POW in North Vietnam where his broken arms healed so poorly he can't really raise them anymore. But those experiences could be very helpful in selling his qualifications and credibility as a potential commander in chief. How to get around that? Answer: Have his wife Cindy talk about it. Los Angeles Times: New twist for McCain: More talk of his military service