(CNN) – Connecticut’s senators are back on the same team: Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman will back Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd’s upcoming battle for re-election, three years after Dodd threw his weight behind Ned Lamont’s successful challenge to the former Democratic vice presidential candidate.
“They’ve been good friends for a long time, so it hurt him personally,” Lieberman spokesman Scott Overland said Thursday. “But their friendship has overcome it, and they’re as good of friends as they’ve ever been.”
When anti-war candidate Lamont challenged Lieberman in Connecticut’s Democratic primary 2006, Dodd backed the incumbent in the primary, but endorsed and actively campaigned for his friend’s opponent in the general election. Lieberman edged his Democratic challenger out in the final contest, and won as an Independent.
Lieberman’s support should be welcome news for Dodd, who seems headed for a tight race. The latest Quinnipiac University poll shows the possible Republican challenger, former Rep. Rob Simmons, getting 43 percent of the vote and Dodd with 42 percent.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – A top ally of embattled Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele called on GOP leaders and activists Thursday to publicly state their support for Steele, as criticism builds about his ability to lead the national party.
Related video: RNC chair faces criticism
“The RNC as a whole — including Republican Congressional leaders, grassroots activists, and Republicans nationwide — must speak forcefully in support of Chairman Steele and drown out the vocal minority,” Florida Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer wrote in a memo to members of the Republican National Committee. “To do anything less is a disservice to our party.”
The “vocal minority” Greer pointed to are critics who have, anonymously and publicly, voiced their displeasure with Steele following a handful of high profile gaffes, and charged that he has not moved fast enough to put a political operation into place.
Greer also asked his fellow Republicans to “be patient” as Steele works to assemble his political team in Washington. Earlier in the day, Steele announced that Ken McKay would be his chief of staff.
“Ultimately, we can and will have differences of opinion on the issues, and that is healthy for a party that seeks to grow and diversify,” Greer wrote in the memo sent to CNN. “As Chairman of one of the largest state parties and an RNC member, I welcome this dialogue. However, it is not constructive to launch assaults on the transition process or promote division within our party by openly criticizing our new Chairman.”
See Greer’s full letter after the jump
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Obama took aim Thursday at conservative critics who claim that he is using the economic crisis to ram through an unrelated, expansive domestic agenda.
The president told a group of business leaders that although he is not interested in increasing government's role in America, a sustained economic recovery will be impossible if the country fails to address long-term structural problems in its education, energy and health-care systems.
"I am not choosing to address these additional challenges just because I feel like it or because I'm a glutton for punishment," Obama said at a meeting of Business Roundtable members.
"I am doing so because they are fundamental to our economic growth and ensuring that we don't have more crises like this in the future."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Federal agents arrested a District of Columbia government official and a Washington-area businessman on conspiracy charges Thursday and searched the offices of the district's chief technology officer as part of a corruption probe.
Yusuf Acar, a contracting officer for Washington's city government, and Sushil Bansal, a former city employee, are accused of swindling the city out of several million dollars by inflating purchase orders and billing the city for work by non-existent employees of Bansal's companies. They made initial appearances in federal court on Thursday.
Both are charged with conspiracy to commit bribery and money laundering, while Acar faces separate charges of wire fraud and conflict of interest, according to court papers.
As part of the probe, agents raided the office of Washington's chief technology officer, the agency responsible for overseeing the city's telecommunications infrastructure. The raid came a week after the Obama administration named the office's former director, Vivek Kundra, as the White House chief information officer, but a law enforcement source with knowledge of the investigation told CNN that Kundra is not involved in the case.
The White House called the probe "a serious matter," but referred further questions to the Justice Department.
Updated: 6:22 p.m.
- CNN's Carol Cratty and Terry Frieden contributed to this report.
TOPICS: Barack Obama, Obama Approval on Issues, Hillary Clinton, Most Important Problem, Economy, Stimulus Package, Health Care, Education, Iraq
– Americans believe world leaders respect Obama
– Americans fear losing their quality of life
– Obama job rating high, mixed reviews on economy
– Unemployment concerns triple over past year
(CNN) - A chorus of leading conservatives continued to criticize GOP chairman Michael Steele Thursday over the Republican leader's comments on abortion in an interview with GQ magazine.
Former Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, arguably the most high profile conservative to weigh in on the matter, said Steele's subsequent clarification "doesn't explain why he would ever say what he did in the first place."
"For Chairman Steele to even infer that taking a life is totally left up to the individual is not only a reversal of Republican policy and principle, but it's a violation of the most basic of human rights–the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," Huckabee wrote in an entry on his Web site.
In the GQ interview, Steele called abortion an "individual choice" and said the matter should be left up to the states to decide. He later issued a statement saying he has always been pro-life.
Earlier: Steele clarifies abortion comments
But Ken Blackwell, a former rival of Steele for the RNC chairmanship, told the conservative Web site Townhall.com that Steele needs to "re-read the Bible, the U.S. Constitution, and the 2008 GOP Platform."
"He then needs to get to work - or get out of the way," added Blackwell, who ultimately put his support behind Steele in the contentious race last month to lead the party.
Meanwhile Lou Engle, founder of TheCall and a leading pro-life, pro-family voice, called Steele's comments "extremely disappointing."
(CNN) – Michelle Obama toured the Fort Bragg military base Thursday in North Carolina in her first official out-of-state trip since her husband took office.
Greeted with cheers and applause, the first lady posed for pictures and chatted with soldiers and civilians in the Iron Mike dining room, before meeting for a private lunch with military families and base volunteers.
Watch: First lady in the limelight
Support of issues facing military families is a platform Mrs. Obama supported during her husband's presidential campaign and has continued through her role as first lady.
Obama will travel to neighboring Fayetteville later in the day, speaking at the city's Arts Council to recognize community organizations providing assistance to families of military members.
South Carolina's Republican Governor has become the nation's first to reject some of the economic stimulus money. Mark Sanford says he'll turn down about $700 million of his state's $2.8 billion share unless Washington lets him use it pay down the debt.
He insists taking the money would harm his state's residents in the long run by increasing the federal budget deficit and building expectations for government programs that can't be sustained.
Funny but it seems like the folks in South Carolina are hurting pretty bad right now. The state has the second highest unemployment rate in the country — having shed many jobs in manufacturing, tourism, construction and retail. Its unemployment rate is at 10.4 percent, second only to Michigan.
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WASHINGTON (CNN) – Embattled Republic National Committee Chairman Michael Steele announced Thursday that he had tapped Ken McKay as the RNC’s new chief of staff.
The new chairman has begun to rebuild the organization after a major staff shake-up in the wake of his election to head the GOP’s national committee earlier this year.
“I am excited to have such an outstanding leader become part of our team,” Steele said in a statement. “Ken’s background and expertise will help revitalize the RNC and elect more Republicans.”
Prior to joining the RNC, McKay managed the 2002 and 2006 gubernatorial campaigns of Rhode Island’s GOP Gov. Donald Carcieri and served as the governor’s chief of staff. McKay, a lawyer, was most recently a partner with the law firm Brown Rudnick.
As the RNC’s chief of staff, McKay will be responsible for the committee’s “the day-to-day operations . . . including overseeing personnel and managing resources,” the RNC said in a statement Thursday.
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) - Muntadher al-Zaidi, the man seen as a hero in some circles for throwing his shoes at then-U.S. President George W. Bush, was sentenced to three years in prison Thursday by an Iraqi court.
Al-Zaidi threw his shoes at Bush during a news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in December in Baghdad.
Neither shoe hit the president, and other people in the room quickly knocked al-Zaidi to the ground before security officials arrested him.
Family members and journalists were cleared from the courtroom before Thursday's verdict.
After news of the verdict reached family members, al-Zaidi's brother appeared close to fainting. Other family members were seen crying and shouting curses about al-Maliki and Bush.
Al-Zaidi was a journalist who worked for the television network al-Baghdadia. The network also called for his release shortly after the incident.
He explained his actions during an hourlong appearance last month in the Central Criminal Court of Iraq. Asked whether anyone pushed or motivated him, al-Zaidi said he was spurred by the "violations that are committed against the Iraqi people."
In the Middle East, throwing shoes at someone is traditionally a sign of contempt.
Al-Zaidi's angry gesture touched a defiant nerve throughout the Arab and Muslim world. He is regarded by many people as a hero, and demonstrators took to the streets in the Arab world and called for his release shortly after the incident.