WASHINGTON (CNN) – Steve Schmidt, a key architect of John McCain's presidential campaign, is making his first public return to Washington a bold one.
Schmidt will use a speech Friday to Log Cabin Republicans, a gay rights group, to urge conservative Republicans to drop their opposition to same-sex marriage, CNN has learned.
"There is a sound conservative argument to be made for same-sex marriage," Schmidt will say, according to speech excerpts obtained by CNN. "I believe conservatives, more than liberals, insist that rights come with responsibilities. No other exercise of one's liberty comes with greater responsibilities than marriage."
Schmidt makes both policy and political arguments for a Republican embrace of same-sex marriage.
On the policy front, Schmidt likens the fight for gay rights to civil rights and women's rights, and he admonishes conservatives who argue for the protection of the unborn as a God-given right, but against protections for same-sex couples.
"It cannot be argued that marriage between people of the same sex is un American or threatens the rights of others," he says in the speech. "On the contrary, it seems to me that denying two consenting adults of the same sex the right to form a lawful union that is protected and respected by the state denies them two of the most basic natural rights affirmed in the preamble of our Declaration of Independence - liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
"That, I believe, gives the argument of same sex marriage proponents its moral force," Schmidt will say.
Politically, he will say that becoming more open and accepting is critical to reversing an alarming trend for Republicans - a shrinking coalition. He will note that Republicans should be especially concerned that McCain got crushed by Barack Obama among voters under 30, who are generally more accepting of gay couples and at odds with the GOP.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said Thursday that Republicans should "give the new administration a chance" and suggested that former Vice President Dick Cheney should tone down his criticism of President Obama's national security policies.
"I think Democrat or Republican, we should all agree that our current president, our former president would obviously want to do everything they could to keep us safe," the Republican governor said on ABC's Good Morning America Thursday. "I don't think we should question President Obama's patriotism or his intentions."
Cheney has been highly critical of Obama, saying on CNN's State of the Union last month that the president's policies will "raise the risk to the American people of another attack."
Responding to a question about Cheney's remarks, Jindal said it's fine for both parties to have an "honest disagreement" on the best way to handle America's national security and praised Obama for "showing more flexibility when it comes to Iraq than maybe some of the campaign rhetoric suggested."
Jindal, seen as a rising star of the Republican Party, was himself critical of Obama's message during his trip overseas earlier this month and said he would have liked to see the president offer "more substantive policies."
"We need to stop going overseas and apologizing, criticizing our predecessors," Jindal said. "I think it's great that he's certainly well-received in foreign capitals, but I'd like to see more substantive changes from our allies."
(CNN) – Log Cabin Republicans are getting some support from the McCain family.
Cindy and Meghan McCain will make an appearance at the gay rights organization's four day convention in Washington, which kicks off Thursday night.
"Of all the causes I believe in and speak publicly about, this is one of the ones closest to my heart," Meghan McCain, a vocal supporter of same-sex marriage, wrote in the Daily Beast this week. "If the Republican Party has any hope of gaining substantial support from a wider, younger base, we need to get past our anti-gay rhetoric."
Steve Schmidt, former senior strategist for John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign and manager of Arnold Schwarzenegger's gubernatorial reelection campaign in 2006, will also be in attendance. Schmidt will be speaking about the 2008 election and the GOP's comeback agenda.
In an interview Thursday with CNN, LCR Spokesperson Charles Moran said the organization is lobbying New York Republicans to help pass the same-sex marriage law championed by the state's Democratic Gov. David Paterson.
"We have people on the ground, we're identifying our bases of support, looking at our polling, looking at our research, so that we can be ready to assist the marriage coalition in New York with targeting those crucial GOP votes," Moran told CNN.
The group is also working on identifying the Republican players who will serve as the face of their organization's mission.
Moran citied Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, a Mormon Republican who has called for the adoption of civil unions, and Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, who acknowledged that gay Republicans have a place at the party's table.
"These are the types of leaders and luminaries within the Republican party," Moran said. "The party must move forward and regardless of where you are in the conservative spectrum, you definitely can be conservative and an openly gay Republican in this political climate."
"We don't just talk the talk but we actually are providing the boots on the ground, we're making those calls, and we're loyal Republicans," he said.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – The White House is not taking kindly to a report of a special wine created to commemorate President Obama's historic status as the country's first African-American commander-in-chief.
French winemaker Angela Bousquet-Keita has reportedly created an Obama cuvee – or vintage wine – to celebrate Obama's election, according to a report by Spiegel Online.
But the White House is responding with sour grapes to the news.
"The White House has a longstanding policy of disapproving uses of the President's name and likeness for commercial purposes," White House spokesman Ben LaBolt said in an e-mail to CNN.
But the French winemaker, who reportedly originally hails from the African nation of Guinea, may have some time to try to change the new administration's view. She told Spiegel Online that the wine should improve with age. "It would be much better when served during his second term," the Obama backer reportedly told the German outlet.
(CNN) – Sarah Palin will take a break from an increasingly bitter set of standoffs with state legislators Thursday to make her first public comments in the lower 48 states this year. Palin's appearance at a gathering of social conservatives will also increase speculation that she might be interested in running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012.
Alaska's governor and last year's GOP vice presidential nominee will speak briefly at the Vanderburgh County Right to Life dinner in Evansville, Indiana tonight. She will follow Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, who is the keynote speaker at the sold-out event, which is billed as the nation's largest right to life banquet.
Tomorrow morning, Palin is scheduled to attend a breakfast with members of S.M.I.L.E., a non profit support organization for people with family members who have Down Syndrome. Palin's son, Trig, has Down Syndrome.
On Monday, Palin's office blasted Alaska state Democrats for criticizing her decision to leave the state and travel to the speaking appearances during the closing days of the legislative session. The governor has also come under fire from members of her own party for this trip. Palin has opted to skip several major conservative gatherings this year, citing state legislative demands.
Over the past few weeks, public faceoffs with lawmakers over her nominee for state attorney general, her reluctance to request all the stimulus funds available to the state, and a series of her picks to fill a Democratic legislative seat that have all been rejected by members of the party.
Palin's still considered a possible candidate for 2012 Republican presidential nomination. There is no clear frontrunner for the next GOP nomination battle, but in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation national poll of Republicans conducted in February, Palin won the support of 29 percent of those questioned, slightly ahead of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, both 2008 presidential contenders.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Donald is backing The Macker.
Donald Trump is just one of many big name donors funding Terry McAuliffe's campaign to win the Virginia governor's mansion this fall, according to newly released financial disclosure reports - and he isn't even among the most generous givers.
The New York real estate magnate cut McAuliffe a check for a whopping $25,000 in late March, but that's just a drop in the bucket compared to the largest single donation in McAuliffe's report - a $251,000 gift from billionaire media tycoon Haim Saban in January. That check narrowly bested a $250,000 contribution the following month from Steve Bing, another big fish in the entertainment industry.
McAuliffe raised $4.2 million in the first quarter of 2009, and thanks to Virginia's permissive fundraising laws, more than 80 percent of his cash came from donors who live outside the state.
In all, McAuliffe listed 87 donations of $10,000 or higher. By comparison, his Democratic rivals Creigh Deeds and Brian Moran reported 15 and 12 donations of $10,000 or higher, respectively. The Republican candidate, Bob McDonnell, reported 25.
Like many of McAuliffe's contributors listed in the quarterly filing, Saban and Bing are longtime friends and financial patrons of Bill and Hillary Clinton. McAuliffe aggressively tapped into the Clinton network over the last three months, even hitting up the former president himself for a donation of $10,000 in January.
Seven McAuliffe donors who gave $5,000 or more to his campaign actually stayed in the Lincoln Bedroom during the Clinton administration, including Alan Patricof, who was a finance chairman for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.
(CNN) - President Obama visits Mexico with many issues on the table, but reinstating the ban on assault weapons in the U.S. isn't likely to be one on which the two countries can reach agreement.
Mexican officials say criminals use assault weapons from the U.S. in the violent border region.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Arturo Sarukhan, Mexico's ambassador to the U.S., say reinstating the ban would stop the deadly flow of weapons across the border.
Under the Clinton administration in 1994, Congress banned possession of 19 military-style assault weapons. The ban was allowed to expire 10 years later during the Bush administration.
Earlier this year, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said that Obama would like to reinstitute the ban on the sale of assault weapons, noting, "I think that will have a positive impact in Mexico at a minimum." Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last month that as a senator, she supported a measure to reinstate it.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Obama administration will release four Bush-era memos on terror interrogations Thursday, according to a senior administration official.
The administration has also informed CIA officials they will not be prosecuted for past waterboarding
HAVANA, Cuba (CNN) – When President Obama arrives in Trinidad and Tobago this week for the Summit of the Americas, the one country in the region not present may be the one he hears the most about: Cuba.
Latin American leaders overwhelmingly oppose the U.S. trade embargo imposed on the communist island in 1962 - years after Fidel Castro led a revolution to overthrow Cuba's Batista dictatorship.
Although Castro was credited with bringing social reforms to Cuba, he has been criticized around the world for oppressing human rights and free speech.
Several Latin American leaders have said they'll bring up the trade embargo at the summit. But this time it's not just Washington's usual critics.
Last month at the White House, Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva urged the U.S. to normalize relations with Cuba. Obama and Lula da Silva are among the leaders scheduled to attend the Summit of the Americas this week.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Relations between Republican governors and congressional GOP leaders is the best it has been in at least a decade, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said Thursday in a conference call with reporters.
Barbour, vice chairman of the Republican Governors Association, singled out former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole for reaching out to governors during the 1990s, but noted that the state and national GOP leaders "sort of drifted away" from each other over the past 10 years. The Mississippi governor delivered the Republican weekly address in March.
Barbour, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, also said the RGA and the RNC are "like-minded" in that both campaign organizations are focused on the 2010 midterm elections.
"I do think the RNC agrees with us at RGA that we don't need to talk about anything past 2010," Barbour said.
Next year, one-third of the Senate and the entire House will be up for election, and 36 gubernatorial races will take place. This year, two gubernatorial races are scheduled in New Jersey and Virginia.
And when asked if recent news stories about Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, a potential 2012 Republican presidential candidate, had been a distraction, Barbour said he didn't think so.