Compiled by Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau
Making news today...
* Welcome back, Congress.
"After failing to push through their most important priorities in the last congressional session, Democratic leaders return to the capital today feeling increasing pressure to confront President Bush on the war in Iraq, terrorism, and domestic policy." (Boston Globe)
* President Bush made a surprise visit to an Iraqi air base Monday, saying fewer U.S. forces may be able to maintain security at its current level.
* In an AP interview, Mitt Romney took a jab at Fred Thompson's plans to appear on "The Tonight Show" Wednesday night: "We all get the chance to go on the talk shows. But it's not the sort of questions you get in the debates or the town meetings that I've had."
Romney also "jokingly" told reporters, "Well, I guess the only comment I'd make to Fred Thompson would be: Why the hurry? Why not take a little longer to think this over? ... From my standpoint, if he wants to wait until January or February, that would be ideal." (AP)
* The Clintons are all over the dial today: Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) appears on the season premiere of "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" and Bill Clinton appears on "Oprah" and "The Late Show with David Letterman."
President Clinton, who will also appear on CNN's "Larry King Live" tomorrow, releases a new book today, "Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World."
* And staffers for one campaign are referring to their operation as "Devil Wears Prada II" because of the antics of one leading lady. Which one? Find out in Hot Topics below!
* After a surprise trip to Iraq, President Bush arrives in Sydney this morning for APEC Australia 2007.
Tonight EDT (Wednesday morning in Australia), President Bush meets Prime Minister John Howard and they hold a joint press availability.
Also on the Political Radar:
* Special election primary in MA's 5th Congressional District.
* Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) holds a 9 am ET roundtable on "Restoring Trust in Government" at T.R. Brennan's in Manchester, NH. He later holds a 3:45 pm ET rally in Waukee, IA, and evening events in Guthrie and Carroll, IA.
* Rudy Giuliani gives a 4:20 pm ET speech at Hinds Community College in Pearl, MS.
* Bill Richardson holds "job interview" events in Creston (9:30 am ET) and Osceola, IA (11:15 am ET).
* Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) holds an 8:15 am ET student forum at Concord High School in Concord, NH, then heads to Manchester to visit Granite State Manufacturers at 11 am ET. Tonight, McCain holds a town hall meeting at 6:30 pm ET at Bow Fire Station in Bow, NH.
* Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) holds Social Security forums in Nashua (10:30 am ET), Manchester (12 pm ET), and Durham (7 pm ET).
* John Edwards holds a 6:45 pm ET "Small Change for Big Change" grassroots fundraiser in Missoula, MT.
* In addition to "Ellen," Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) speaks at the Alliance for Retired Americans' legislative conference at 2:30 pm ET at the Washington Hilton.
Political Hot Topics
(Today's top political stories from news organizations across the country)
BUSH SAYS IRAQ SECURITY MAY BE MAINTAINED WITH "FEWER AMERICAN FORCES": President Bush made a surprise visit to an Iraqi air base Monday, saying fewer U.S. forces may be able to maintain security at its current level. "Gen. [David] Petraeus and Ambassador [Ryan] Crocker tell me if the kind of success we're now seeing continues, it will be possible to maintain the same level of security with fewer American forces," Bush said during remarks at Al Asad Air Base in Anbar province. But Bush later warned Washington war critics who are pushing for quick troop withdrawals to temper their expectations. During a rally for troops at the base, Bush said any pullout would be made from a position of "strength and success." CNN.com: Bush: 'Fewer American forces' possible in Iraq
SURGE "HAS FAILED TO USHER IN NATIONAL RECONCILIATION": The U.S. military buildup that was supposed to calm Baghdad and other trouble spots has failed to usher in national reconciliation, as the capital's neighborhoods rupture even further along sectarian lines, violence shifts elsewhere and Iraq's government remains mired in political infighting. In the coming days, U.S. military and government leaders will offer Congress their assessment of the 6-month-old plan's results. But a review of statistics on death and displacement, political developments and the impressions of Iraqis who are living under the heightened military presence reaches a dispiriting conclusion. Los Angeles Times: Troop buildup fails to reconcile Iraq
WITH CONGRESS BACK, RENEWED CALLS TO END THE WAR: Democratic leaders will use the first week back from recess to renew their calls to wind down the Iraq War, seizing on anticipated bleak reports on Iraqi political progress to pressure Republicans who have voted in lock step with President Bush. New reports are due this week from the Government Accountability Office and an independent commission headed by Gen. James Jones, and Democrats plan to use them as a launching pad to criticize Bush's conduct of the war in a series of hearings. But Democrats have yet to agree on a legislative strategy for a massive looming war spending bill. Roll Call: Fall Brings New Fights Over Iraq
"INCREASING PRESSURE" FOR DEM LEADERS: After failing to push through their most important priorities in the last congressional session, Democratic leaders return to the capital today feeling increasing pressure to confront President Bush on the war in Iraq, terrorism, and domestic policy. Many Democratic senators and representatives spent the long, hot August recess listening to voters and party activists back home who are enraged that the party did not find a way to rein in a deeply unpopular war after taking control on Capitol Hill last fall. The combination of conservative opposition and the disappointment of many liberals has pushed Congress's approval rating lower even than Bush's in most polls. Boston Globe: Congress returns, ready for confrontation
BREMER LETTERS DESCRIBE PLANS TO DISSOLVE SADDAM'S ARMY: A previously undisclosed exchange of letters shows that President Bush was told in advance by his top Iraq envoy in May 2003 of a plan to "dissolve Saddam's military and intelligence structures," a plan that the envoy, L. Paul Bremer, said referred to dismantling the Iraqi Army. Mr. Bremer provided the letters to The New York Times on Monday after reading that Mr. Bush was quoted in a new book as saying that American policy had been "to keep the army intact" but that it "didn't happen." New York Times: Envoy's Letters Counter Bush on Plan for Iraq
"CHANCES SIGNIFICANTLY GREATER" FOR RECESSION: The pain from higher borrowing costs may be spreading as consumers and businesses follow investors in shying away from risk, increasing the odds of a recession. "While there is no basis for predicting a recession right now, the risks have surely gone up," says former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, now a professor at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. "The combination of softness in the housing sector, contractions in credit, increased uncertainty and volatility, and losses in wealth make the chances significantly greater now." Bloomberg: Recession Risk Rises as Consumers Feel Pain of Tighter Credit
PRIMARY DAY IN RACE TO REPLACE MEEHAN: With the hours ticking down to today's primaries, candidates in the special election for the Fifth Congressional District crisscrossed cities and towns northwest of Boston yesterday, trying to track down voters on Labor Day and deliver final appeals. Despite months of phone calls, leaflets, TV commercials, door-to-door campaigning, and broadcast debates, they were also just trying to remind people to vote. "With all that everybody has done, nobody realizes that tomorrow is Election Day. Or few realize it," said state Representative James R. Miceli of Wilmington, one of five Democrats vying to replace former US representative Martin T. Meehan, who stepped down after 14-plus years in Congress to become chancellor of the University of Massachusetts at Lowell. Two Republicans will also face off in a primary today. Boston Globe: 5th District candidates labor on eve of primary
MANY GOP VOTERS STILL UNDECIDED ON '08 FIELD: Interviews with dozens of Republicans across the country this Labor Day weekend found that despite the already lengthy campaign, which started almost a year ago, many candidates have made either no impression or a negative one, and many voters are still chewing over their options. "The Republicans need to get their spunk back," said Leanne Stein, 41, who lives in Claridon, Ohio, and works at a retirement home. So far, Ms. Stein said, Rudolph W. Giuliani has shown a bit. "He's got style, and he has firsthand experience with how to run government in a way that deals with terrorism," she said. "But he needs someone to coach him on all the issues. All he talks about is terrorism. What about health care? What about education?" New York Times: Within G.O.P., Stumping Fails to Impress
GOP CANDIDATES "DON'T VEER FAR" FROM THE PRESIDENT: More than two-thirds of Americans say the country is "seriously off on the wrong track" under President Bush. Still, a remarkable thing is happening among Republican candidates for the White House: They are enthusiastically embracing Bush's major policies and principles - even some of the most controversial and unsuccessful ones. Mitt Romney wants to keep the Guantanamo Bay prison open - even expand it - and endorses Bush's failed plan to overhaul Social Security. Rudolph W. Giuliani, like Bush, sees tax breaks as the key to expanding health insurance coverage. Sen. John McCain of Arizona is a stalwart defender of a war that has left the nation unsettled. Los Angeles Times: GOP hopefuls are staying Bush's course
LABOR DAY A "MIDPOINT IN A MARATHON": For all the candidates for the White House, Labor Day was an occasion for parades, rallies and other celebrations marking summer's last holiday. There were hot dogs and hamburgers and ice cream - and among the contenders, a growing sense of urgency. One campaign manager noted the dwindling days, remarking, perhaps ominously, that the candidates were "turning the page on summer." There are 119 days left in the year and, as jockeying among the states for position on the primary calendar continues, a few days after New Year's could bring the Iowa caucuses, the first stop in what is certain to be the most front-loaded presidential voting schedule in history. While Labor Day is traditionally viewed as the informal kickoff of the presidential campaign season, this year, it felt more like the midpoint in a marathon. Washington Post: The Candidates Turn Up the Heat At Summer's End
"HARDWORKING AMERICANS," NOT RICH PEOPLE, "MADE AMERICA GREAT," SAYS HIL: Hillary Rodham Clinton unleashed some of her sharpest class-based rhetoric yesterday, as Barack Obama stepped up his efforts to paint the front-runner as a creature of Washington. "It is not rich people who made America great, it is hardworking Americans," Clinton told a crowd of 2,000 activists at a Labor Day picnic in Sioux City, Iowa. Later, at a labor rally in Des Moines, she inveighed against the "concentration of wealth, hoarding of power [and] smearing [of] dissenters" for which she blamed the present administration. New York Post: HILLARY'S KICK IN THE 'CLASS'
OBAMA TARGETS CLINTON, AND HER NEW STUMP SPEECH, IN NEW HAMPSHIRE: Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) had his sights on Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) during a Labor Day campaign swing here Monday. Though he never named his front-running rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, Obama repeatedly sought to portray her in a speech and other remarks as stuck in the politics of the past. Alluding to Clinton's new stump speech that emphasizes "change and experience," Obama retorted, "It's going to take more than just a change of parties to truly change." Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, were in New Hampshire Sunday trying to spread the new message, and Obama targeted it in his speeches time and again Monday. The Hill: Campaigning in N.H., Obama targets Clinton
EDWARDS PICKS UP TWO BIG ENDORSEMENTS IN PITTSBURGH: With the sun already high in the cloudless sky over Mellon Arena, shirtsleeves and shorts were the garb of choice for thousands of marchers and spectators gathering Downtown. But John Edwards ignored the rising temperatures, smiling and sweating under a blue jacket that allowed him to show off the emblems of the United Steelworkers and the United Mine Workers, and with them, the twin endorsements that gave a Labor Day shot of adrenaline to his campaign for the Democratic nomination for president. Appearing with the former senator on a stage at the base of the arena, USW President Leo Gerard and UMW President Cecil Roberts cited the three years of visits to picket lines and plant gates that Mr. Edwards has made since his last run for president at the side of John Kerry in 2004. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Steelworkers, miners endorse Edwards
BUSH WILL BE JUDGED "HARSHLY" BY HISTORY, SAYS BIDEN: President Bush's legacy is marred in missed opportunity that has turned the world against the United States, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said Monday. "George Bush is going to be judged very harshly by history," the Delaware senator said. "Not for the mistakes he has made, but for the opportunities he has squandered to unite this country and unite this world." Biden said Bush's legacy will carry over to Democrats if voters fail to nominate a qualified presidential candidate. "Folks, we Democrats will be judged harshly by history if we do not produce a nominee that understands the heart of the American people," he said. Des Moines Register: Bush legacy is a wreck, Biden says
ROMNEY "LIKES WHERE HE STANDS": Former senator Fred Thompson of Tennessee will grab most of the headlines this week as he enters the race for the White House, but Mitt Romney likes where he stands in the contest for the Republican nomination. "When I started running seven months ago, I was at 5 percent in the national polls," the former Massachusetts governor said at a question-and-answer session here. "Now I won the Iowa straw poll; I'm ahead here in New Hampshire, ahead in Michigan, ahead in the Nevada." The energetic Romney, who is shown jogging in a television ad that his campaign is running in the Granite State, put his energetic approach to work on Labor Day. Washington Post: Mitt Romney, Basking In the Momentum
ROMNEY JABS AT THOMPSON'S "TONIGHT SHOW" APPEARANCE: Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney in an interview Monday dismissed concerns he's too nice to be a viable candidate in a vicious race, proving it by taking a swipe at yet-to-announced GOP rival Fred Thompson. "We all get the chance to go on the talk shows. But it's not the sort of questions you get in the debates or the town meetings that I've had," Romney said in an Associated Press interview, alluding to plans by Thompson to formally announced his candidacy during a planned Wednesday night appearance on the "Tonight Show with Jay Leno." "The talk show circuit is fine, but the town meetings show you're willing to listen to people and take their questions," continued Romney. AP via Yahoo! News: AP Interview: Romney takes dig at rival
GIULIANI WILL TALK EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS, RESPONSE IN MS: Rudy Giuliani will head to Hurricane Katrina's backyard today to highlight his plans on emergency preparedness, an issue some see as his greatest strength – and others among his biggest vulnerabilities. Giuliani's presidential campaign has relied heavily on his image as the can-do chief executive who led the city through 9/11 – a portrait he hopes to burnish today during a speech in Mississippi, one of the Gulf Coast states ravaged by Katrina in 2005. The Republican front-runner is expected to call for a new program – dubbed ReadyStat – aimed at shortening the 72 hours it often takes the feds to mobilize their response to a major disaster, and for more training at the state and local level. New York Daily News: Rudy Giuliani talks hurricane, emergency preparedness in New Orleans
THOMPSON CAMP CALLED "DEVIL WEARS PRADA II": "The Devil Wears Prada" isn't just a fun beach read or an entry on your Netflix queue (we won't tell anyone, we promise). Instead, it's how some insiders are referring to the not-quite-campaign of presidential wannabe and former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.). According to a Republican consultant, some female staffers on the Thompson campaign have taken to referring to the operation as "The Devil Wears Prada II," comparing the campaign to the movie and Thompson's wife, Jeri, to the lead character played by Meryl Streep. You'll remember (oh, admit it, you watched it) that Streep plays a rhymes-with-witch tyrant who runs a fictional fashion magazine with an iron hand and antagonizes underlings with an impossible-to-please attitude. Roll Call: Prada, the Sequel