(CNN) - Nearly six in ten Americans think that Obama administration officials should hold diplomatic talks with Iran without that country first making significant changes in its policies. Four in ten say that the administration should not hold talks with Iran until significant changes are made. Only about one in five view Iran as an immediate threat to the United States, although an additional 60 percent say that Iran represents a long-term threat.
The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll of 1,023 Americans was conducted by telephone April 3-5, before Wednesday's announcement that the United States would participate in talks with Iran, and has a margin of error of +/- 4.5 percentage points.
Results after the jump
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Illinois Democratic Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr said Wednesday he is cooperating with a preliminary congressional ethics probe into whether he was involved in any possibly improper efforts to secure President Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat.
In a written statement released by his office after a published report in the Chicago Sun-Times, Jackson said he was "eager to answer any questions and provide any information to the OCE (Office of Congressional Ethics) about my actions related to last year's vacant Senate seat."
He said he was notified last week about the investigation.
Federal prosecutors announced in December they were investigating then Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's alleged efforts to secure something in return for his appointment to the vacant Senate seat. Jackson was identified in the criminal complaint as someone Blagojevich discussed approaching, but prosecutors did not allege any criminal actions by Jackson.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – President Barack Obama is moving forward with his ambitious plans to reform the country's health care system.
Obama issued an executive order Wednesday that establishes the White House Office of Health Reform.
The new office "will provide leadership to the executive branch in establishing policies, priorities, and objectives for the Federal Government's comprehensive effort to improve access to health care, the quality of such care, and the sustainability of the health care system," Obama decreed in the order.
Among other things, the office will also coordinate public outreach conducted by the Obama administration and work with state, local, and community policymakers.
The order also directs the Department of Health and Human Services to establish its own office of health reform to work closely with the new White House health reform operation.
The new White House office will be headed by former Clinton administration official Nancy-Ann DeParle.
Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, Obama's nominee to head HHS, is yet to be confirmed by the Senate.
(CNN) - Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani said Monday that President Obama emboldened terrorists and looked like a pushover in his recent videotaped remarks to the people of Iran.
"Sending a videotaped message into Iran and the language and tone of that message, in my view, is the kind of thing terrorists look at and say 'we can take advantage, we can push,'" Giuliani said on MSNBC.
"I think it was a mistake. It needed balancing language about his recognition of the complete lack of freedom within Iran, even as a strong message to the Iranian people," he said of the White House video, which was posted online last month. "You get one chance to talk to the people of Iran. They're watching. You want to create a reformist element in Iran and you don't speak to that?"
"This is why terrorist would say, 'we can take advantage of a guy like that,'" he said.
Giuliani argued that because Obama failed to call out the Iranian government directly on matters such as human rights violations and the oppression of women, Iranian reformers probably became disheartened. "I think it turns off the reformers when they listen to a one-sided messages and they dont hear very strong language about what's going in their country," he said.
"He didn't talk about any of the things we need from them," Giuliani said of the president. "He is talking to a dictatorship. He is not talking to a liberal democracy. If you listen to that, you would think he was talking to a liberal democracy."
(CNN) - The war of words between the families of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Levi Johnston doesn't appear to be letting up.
In an interview with CBS, Johnston sharply refuted the Palins' claim he was lying about being permitted to live with onetime fiancé Bristol Palin, and suggested the Palin family is now essentially treating him as an outcast.
"I'm just trying to get my side of the story out there and letting people know who I am," he said in the interview with CBS that aired Wednesday, adding that the biggest misconception about him is "probably that my family is white trash."
In the interview, his second national television sit-down in the last week, Johnston also said his relationship with Bristol Palin began to go deteriorate when Sarah Palin returned to Alaska after the presidential election in Alaska.
"I think when she got back is when it went downhill," he said. "They don't think of me the same way anymore."
Johnston also said he was "heartbroken" when the relationship ended but added "I got an amazing little boy out of it."
Johnston's sister Mercede, also taking part in the interview, was even harsher in her assessment of the Palins, saying they are downright "snobby."
"Look what they are doing," she said. "They are lying trying to save themselves. They are the ones that asked for it. They brought him to the campaign. They should have known what was coming."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe has raised $4.2 million for his Virginia gubernatorial bid in the first quarter of 2009, his campaign announced today - an eye-popping figure for a first-time political candidate in a statewide race.
By comparison, current Virginia governor Tim Kaine raised $2.6 million in the first quarter of 2005 as the lone Democrat in that year's gubernatorial campaign - and more than half of that total came in the form of a $1.5 million gift from the DNC. Former governor Mark Warner raised $1.4 million in the first quarter of of his 2001 campaign.
But unlike Kaine, who was unopposed for his party's nomination, McAuliffe is spending roughly half of what he's taking in. Kaine entered April 2005 with $5 million on hand, while McAuliffe began the month with around $2.5 million in the bank out of the $5.2 million he has raised in total, going back to last year. That means he has burned through about half of his donations so far while building a campaign operation and doing battle with his Democratic rivals.
McAuliffe is competing in a three-way primary against former House delegate Brian Moran and state senator Creigh Deeds. The winner of that June vote will face Republican Bob McDonnell, who is also expected to announce a sizeable cash haul of his own thanks, in part, to frequent fundraising help from prominent national GOP figures.
All of McAuliffe's rivals have conceded that they expect the well-connected ally of Bill and Hillary Clinton to outraise everyone else in the race.
Along with keeping a relentless campaign schedule, McAuliffe has been jetting around the country collecting checks from donors in places like New York, California, Florida and Arizona. The campaign did not announce how many donations came from voters inside Virginia, saying only that they have raised money from over 3,440 contributors since last fall.
(CNN) - A Texas businessman launched a Web site Tuesday that allows users to help defray Gov. Sarah Palin's legal costs.
The donations will be forwarded to the governor's attorney in Alaska.
The site, sarahpalinsdefensefund.com, is not business owner Clayton Paslay's first pro-Palin endeavor. He is also the man behind FreeAmericanCitizens.org, an independent political action committee which was formed in opposition to mandatory seat belt laws.
"I'd like to see the lady get a fair shake," Paslay told CNN Wednesday. As a business owner, Paslay says he's encountered "unwarranted" lawsuits. "While I came out okay, the legal side of it [in terms of costs] was the devastating side."
Palin currently owes more than a half a million dollars in legal fees incurred as a result of a number of ethics complaints she's faced since becoming Alaska's governor, according to a recent report by the Associated Press.
Paslay says that less than a day after it was launched, the Web site has received 29 donations totaling approximately $1100 from states as far afield as Hawaii, Arizona, South Carolina, and New York. The largest donation so far is $100, with donations in the range of $25-$50 being "the norm," Paslay told CNN.
Paslay plans to forward the money to an Alaska-based attorney that represents Palin. "I'm just helping out and also it's fun. . . . I hope this helps her," says Paslay.
Asked about his personal political leanings, Paslay resisted being labeled as a member of either of the two major political parties. "I'm a supporter of anybody that can check and balance Washington," said Paslay, who is also in the process of setting a Web site in support of former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. "We'll support a Democrat . . . if the Democrat looks to the people."
"I'm a free spirit," Paslay said. "I guess you could use the word 'independent.' My tendency is independent."
UPDATE, 2:44p.m.: Meg Stapleton, a spokesperson for the Palin family sent the following statement to CNN:
"The continuing generosity of Alaskans and Americans is overwhelming as many reach out to assist Governor Sarah Palin and her family with their legal bills.
However, the official legal defense fund for Governor Sarah Palin has not been formed and the Governor cannot accept monies for those obligations from any other entity than the one in formation. Numerous federal and state laws to need to be abided by and the official legal defense fund will have very strict donation guidelines.
We thank everyone interested in helping the Governor. The best way to assist her will be through this official fund which will launch later this month."
(CNN) –– Sheila Bair, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, is one of the few women in the generals' tent of the nation's economic war.
Forbes magazine calls her the second most powerful woman in the world, after German Chancellor Angela Merkel but well ahead of both Oprah Winfrey and Hillary Clinton.
"Watch out Angela!" laughed a good natured Bair in an interview with CNN.
By day Bair keeps the nations banks stable. But by night she wears a second hat - writing children's stories about saving and investing money. She's regularly published in the children's magazine Highlights and has written two books: "Isabel's Car Wash" and "Rock, Brock and the Savings Shock."
(CNN) - A organization of Christian physicians argued Wednesday against an impending rollback of a federal rule allowing health care workers to refuse to provide abortions, saying it's discriminatory.
The rule protects the rights of health care providers who refuse to participate in certain procedures.
The Bush White House proposed the rule in August, and it was enacted January 20, the day President Obama took office. It expanded on a 30-year-old law establishing a "conscience clause" for health care professionals who don't want to perform abortions.
Under the rule, workers in health care settings - from doctors to janitors - can refuse to provide services, information or advice to patients on subjects such as contraception, family planning, blood transfusions and even vaccine counseling if they are morally against it.
The Obama administration is expected to reverse the rule shortly, touching off a new wave of heated debate over what remains one of the most sensitive and emotional hot-button issues in American politics.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - In a major departure from previous policy, the United States will join direct talks between U.N. and European powers and Iran over Tehran's nuclear program, the State Department announced Wednesday.
The Obama administration has asked the European Union's international policy chief, Javier Solana, to invite Iran to new talks with the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany, State Department spokesman Robert Wood said.
Washington, which does not have diplomatic relations with Iran, has stayed out of those talks to date.