Sen. Chuck Hagel
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican, lambasted President Bush's foreign policy on Iran and the Middle East in a speech sponsored by a Washington think-tank Thursday.
"I do not see how the collective actions that we are now taking will produce the results that we seek on Iran's nuclear program, in Iraq, on the Israel-Palestine issue, or on any issue," he said.
He added that he believes the United States should engage countries like Iran immediately, much like has been attempted with North Korea, because "each day becomes more and more dangerous."
"Now is the time for the United States to actively pursue an offer of direct, unconditional, and comprehensive talks with Iran. We cannot afford to refuse to consider this strategic choice any longer. We should make clear that everything is on the table, our issues and Iran's issues," he said.
Before the audience of academics and reporters gathered by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Hagel also accused the administration of using strong-arm tactics as diplomacy.
"Loose talk of World War III, intimidation, threats, bellicose speeches only heighten the dangers we face in the world. Without offering solutions and building international alliances we only strengthen the hand of those who prey upon and play to a confused, frightened and disorganized world."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell insisted Thursday that the Iraq war is "winding down," one of the most positive statements yet by a congressional leader.
It comes as Democrats are launching another attempt at pulling combat troops out of Iraq. In response, McConnell told CNN Radio that Democrats are making a mistake.
"The war is winding down. Next year's election is going to be about this Congress and what it failed to do," McConnell said in his Capitol office.
The Kentucky senator pointed to recent newspaper reports of lower death tolls and insisted there will be "fewer and fewer troops in Iraq, fewer and fewer casualties, more and more ... return to normalcy."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said Wednesday he is frustrated over the circulation of an e-mail that claims the Illinois senator refused to place his hand on his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance.
"This is so irritating," Obama said in response to a question about the claim at a town-hall event in Burlington, Iowa. "My grandfather taught me how to say the Pledge of Allegiance when I was one or two."
The e-mail in question shows a photo of Obama, as well as rival candidates Sen. Hillary Clinton and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson during Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin's steak fry in September. Harkin's wife, Ruth, is also pictured. Richardson, Clinton, and Harkin all have their right hands on their heart while Obama's hands are at his sides.
The e-mail goes on to say Obama "refused to not only put his hand on his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance, but refused to say the pledge."
Obama told the questioner the picture was actually taken during a playing of the national anthem and said, "During the Pledge of Allegiance you put your hand over your heart, during the National Anthem you sing."
"This is the classic dirty trick of the campaign," Obama said later Wednesday at an event in Cedar Rapids.
Related video: Watch Sen. Obama respond to the e-mail accusation.
– CNN's Dugald McConnell contributed to this report
Dodd's Iowa campaign pledges to forbid their staff and out-of-state volunteers from caucusing.
CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (CNN) - If you're not a true Iowan, you shouldn't be caucusing.
That's the message Democratic presidential candidate Chris Dodd's Iowa state director sent out Thursday to the five fellow Democratic campaigns with operations in the Hawkeye State.
But one of those campaigns has already dismissed the idea.
In an initial letter addressed to Dodd's opponents for the Democratic nomination, Dodd aide Julie Andreeff Jensen challenged her colleagues to "pledge that no campaign staff or out-of-state volunteers will be allowed to caucus or be counted as a caucus-goer."
Former President Bill Clinton.
CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN) – Former President Clinton was in the Windy City this week to speak at an environmental conference, but it was his presence at a rally, attended mostly by African-Americans, that has Sen. Barack Obama’s hometown talking.
A Chicago-based group of African-American pastors and civic activists, the 21st Century Alliance of Progressive Leaders, hosted Wednesday’s event that attracted nearly 600 people. But the media was kept away, even moved from sidewalks by Chicago police to across the street, according to Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell.
Clinton said he would have preferred that reporters be allowed inside.
But Thursday morning on my Chicago-based radio show on WVON the leader of the group said that a collective decision was made between his organization, the former president’s office and the campaign of Sen. Hillary Clinton, who is Obama’s chief rival for the Democratic presidential nomination.
So did the former president tell the Chicago media one thing, and his staff decided another?
Bishop Tavis Grant initially told me that the event was billed as a conversation with Bill Clinton on a variety of issues, including global warming, but he later admitted that it was a rally for the senator’s presidential campaign.
Biden delivered a speech on Pakistan Thursday.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - In what his campaign called a major foreign policy address, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden Thursday warned of dire consequences should extremists take control in Pakistan, and said the United States must adjust its policy in the region to ensure moderates have more influence.
"Pakistan has strong democratic traditions and a large, moderate majority," the senator from Delaware said in a speech at New Hampshire's Institute of Politics. "But that moderate majority must have a voice in the system and an outlet with elections."
"If not, moderates may find that they have no choice but to make common cause with extremists, just as the Shah’s opponents did in Iran three decades ago," Biden said. "But unlike Iran, Pakistan already has nuclear weapons."
The U.S. policy toward Pakistan has become a hot topic on the campaign trail since Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency last weekend, effectively suspending the country's constitution and strengthening executive power.
Musharraf has insisted the declaration was a necessary step in the country's fight against terrorism and will not derail its slow progress toward democracy. But opposition leaders accuse him of moving to shut down the judiciary just as the Supreme Court was set to nullify the parliamentary vote that gave him a third term.
In his speech Thursday, Biden said, "We’ve got to move from a policy concentrated on one man - President Musharraf - to a policy centered on an entire people, the people of Pakistan.
Biden is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and often touts his foreign policy credentials on the campaign trail. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who promotes his record of engaging in international diplomacy, also spoke at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics Thursday.
– CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Joe Andrew announced Thursday he was endorsing Sen. Hillary Clinton for president.
“I have seen her up close – her intellect, character, and fortitude – and I am convinced she is the best prepared to handle these challenging times,” Andrew said in a statement released by the New York Democrat’s campaign.
Andrew was head of the DNC from 1999 to 2001 and was one of the youngest national chairmen in the Democratic Party’s history.
– CNN Associate Producer Martina Stewart
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said Thursday he made a "mistake" in not thoroughly vetting former New York City Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik.
But the Republican presidential frontrunner argued voters should instead focus on his entire mayoral record when evaluating his candidacy.
"I think voters should look at it, and what they should say is in that particular case I made a mistake," Giuliani said during a press conferred in Dubuque, Iowa. "I made a mistake in not clearing him effectively enough, and I take the responsibility for that"
"But when you balance that mistake against all the successes that we had and the reality that you make some mistakes and you make some correct decisions, I think the overwhelming record is a record of great success," the New York Republican added..
Giuliani's comments come the same day federal prosecutors are expected to indict Kerik on charges of tax fraud, corruption, and conspiracy counts.
Related video: Watch Giuliani discuss Kerik
Related video: Will Kerik be a problem?
– CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
The Army Corps of Engineers works on levee improvements in New Orleans, Louisiana.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Despite President Bush's objections, the Senate voted Thursday to authorize $23 billion in new water projects. Combined with a House vote on Tuesday, it marks the first override of a veto by President Bush.
The vote was 79-14. Approval by two-thirds of the Senate, 67 members, was required for passage.
Bush spiked the measure Friday despite its overwhelming bipartisan support, calling it too costly and complaining that the 900 projects it authorized would overtax the Army Corps of Engineers.
The House of Representatives vote Tuesday was 361-54.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Sen. Hillary Clinton and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani are neck-and-neck with Connecticut voters in a hypothetical presidential election match-up, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday.
The Democratic senator from New York and the former New York City mayor are the frontrunners in their respective presidential primary races. Clinton has the support of 45 percent of Connecticut voters, while 44 percent support Giuliani, the poll found.
Nutmeg State voters view Giuliani (52 percent) more favorably than Clinton (48 percent). But while Clinton's favorable rating has remained virtually unchanged since May, Giuliani has dropped 9 percentage points during that time.
Both candidates have more than 20-point leads over their closest rivals for their individual party nominations.