WASHINGTON (CNN) - Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is either about to score a major public relations coup for the Obama White House or wind up with some egg on his face.
On Thursday Salazar will be a guest on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," which is like playing with fire for politicians. Some emerge unscathed, while others get skewered by the host's sharp wit.
Another top Obama official, White House Budget Director Peter Orszag, appeared on the show earlier this year and generally won high marks after getting a chance to promote the president's economic plans - though he may have come close to getting burned after acknowledging the government's deficit is a "[bleep]ing big mess."
Interior officials are expecting Salazar to at least get ribbed about his trademark Stetson and bolo tie, which he showed off when Obama introduced him as Interior Secretary-designate during the presidential transition.
Interior spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff told CNN that Salazar is looking forward to talking about "his work implementing President Obama's vision for building a clean energy economy and his efforts to protect America's treasured landscapes. Time permitting, of course, the Secretary will be glad to offer Stewart some fashion tips, including how best to sport a cowboy hat and bolo tie."
It's probably a safe bet that Stewart will also tweak the secretary about the scandal in the previous administration, which featured Interior officials improperly getting sex and drugs from oil company executives they regulated.
The two made an unscheduled lunch stop Tuesday at independent burger joint Ray's Hell Burger in Arlington, Virginia.
Crowds filled the parking lot and lined the streets as the leaders ordered inside.
Biden took the lead ordering a swiss cheese burger with jalapeños and a root beer.
Obama opted for a basic cheddar cheese burger, with mustard, hold the ketchup, and a bottle of water. Disappointed at first when told that the restaurant didn't carry French fries, Obama decided to go with an order of the restaurant's special cheese and tater puffs.
Before settling his tab Obama made sure that the press did not go hungry. "Who wants a burger?" Obama asked.
The cashier offered lunch on the house, but the president declined saying, "We're paying, or these people [the press] are gonna write about how we're free-loading."
WASHINGTON (CNN) – After giving more than $16 million in political contributions, a group of Democratic donors is saying enough is enough – it's time for Congress to scrap the current campaign funding system and encourage a new hybrid model of small dollar donations and public financing.
The 58 deep-pocketed donors, under the umbrella of the Public Campaign Action Fund, will make their plea in a letter Wednesday to be delivered to every Democratic member of Congress, CNN has learned.
"With so much at stake in Washington today, we believe it is shortsighted to continue down the present unsustainable path of skyrocketing campaign spending," the donors write in the letter obtained by CNN. "The Fair Elections Now Act is a common sense idea whose time has come, a change that will set us on a better path in the years ahead."
The legislation would require candidates, who opt into this voluntary program, to collect contributions capped at $100 from a minimum number of in-state donors to prove viability. Once a candidate achieves viability, the candidate would receive a 4-to1 match – which varies from state to state – from the federal government. The candidate would still be able to raise money, but only in $100 or less increments.
Bottom line, a donor would only be allowed to contribute $300 per candidate, per election: $100 for candidate viability, $100 for the primary, and $100 for the general election.
In the Senate, Majority Whip Richard Durbin, D-Illinois, and Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pennsylvania, are sponsoring the legislation, while Rep. John Larson, D-Connecticut, and Rep. Walter Jones, R-North Carolina, have a similar bill in the House.
List of Democratic donors who signed the letter after the jump
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A new national poll indicates that a majority of Americans think that global warming is real, and that the federal government can do something to slow or stop the phenomenon.
Fifty-four percent of those questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Tuesday say that global warming is occurring and that Washington can take steps to slow the rate of global warming, or eventually stop it altogether. Twenty-seven percent agree that global warming is real, but think the federal government is powerless to stop it or slow it down, and 17 percent say that global warming is not occurring.
"Two-thirds of Democrats think that the government can do something about global warming, but only a third of Republicans feel that way," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "The same number of Republicans don't believe that global warming is happening at all. Only one in 20 Democrats think global warming is a myth."
The poll also suggests that a slight majority oppose a proposal called "cap and trade," which would allow the federal government to limit the emissions from industrial facilities such as power plants and factories that some people believe cause global warming. Companies that exceed the limit could avoid fines or higher taxes by paying money to other companies that produced fewer emissions than allowed. Forty-four percent support "cap and trade," which is backed by the Obama administration.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Don't expect to see a Supreme Court nominee in the next few days, the White House advised Tuesday.
Just one day after Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch told reporters he wouldn't be surprised if a Supreme Court justice nominee announcement was imminent, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters, "It's not going to happen this week."
"The president is…working with the team to get a look at the people that he thinks are best qualified for this position," Gibbs said at Tuesday's press briefing. "And obviously we want to move this process along in a timely fashion."
The press secretary repeated his previous statements that President Obama wants a justice seated before the court's term resumes in October.
(CNN)– Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari Tuesday is rejecting U.S. concerns some of his country's nuclear weapons are at risk of being acquired by members of the Taliban.
"They are in safe hands," Zardari told CNN's Wolf Blitzer in a Tuesday interview on The Situation Room. "There is a command and control system under the president of Pakistan.
The comments come two days after the New York Times reported senior American officials are increasingly worried Taliban militants could acquire unsecured weapons in Pakistan's arsenal. The concerns have particularly grown in the last several weeks after Taliban forces Buner, a district 60 miles from Islamabad, Pakistan's capital.
In the interview with CNN, Zardari said the region is not at risk of falling into the Taliban's control.
"We have a 700,000 [man] army. How could they take over?" he said.
Zardari also brushed aside U.S. concerns Taliban sympathizers within Pakistan's army could help the organization acquire some of the country's nuclear weapons.
"There aren't any, sir, sympathizers for them," he said. "There is a mindset in the local area maybe who feel they are akin to the same religion, God, etc, etc. But nothing that should concern anybody as far as the nuclear arsenal or other instruments of such sort."
Zardari also reacted to the New York Times' report that Pakistani officials have repeatedly denied American requests for more information on the location of the country's nuclear weapons.
"I think it's on a need-to-know basis information," he said of the weapons' location. "If it comes up we might and I might not share it with them, it depends."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Obama administration wants to spend $63 billion to fight disease in impoverished countries, expanding a Bush administration program that concentrated on AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, the White House announced Tuesday.
"We need to harness the energy and focus that has made such a difference in addressing HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB to tackle this broader range of health-care challenges," said Deputy Secretary of State Jack Lew.
Lew said the money would be spent over six years and would focus on improving treatment for a range of tropical diseases. He said the program would be a way for the United States to use "soft power" to head off future conflicts in poor countries.
Details remain to be worked out, but Lew said the proposal would roughly double what the government currently spends.
The proposed funding includes money for family planning and reproductive health care. Lew dodged questions about whether the money would pay for abortions, telling reporters, "That's not what this funding is about."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A day after House Democrats rejected President Obama's funding request to close down the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba - arguing the administration hasn't presented its plan for moving the prisoners - a senior Senate Democrat said he and other key senators may still support the president's request.
"The president has already said he's going to close it down, " said Sen. Tom Harkin, "and we ought to put the money there to continue on the pathway and get it done before the year is out."
The Iowa senator also dismissed Republican concerns that the detainees now at Guantanamo cannot be safely housed in federal prisons in the United States - if that's what the administration proposes - and said he'd welcome them in Iowa if his state had a maximum-security prison.
"I never could understand why people are afraid of these people being in jail. It's like, they can't go anywhere," Harkin said. "Do they think they're going to create some activity outside the prison? I mean, that never made sense to me. If they're in jail, they're in jail."
Republican leaders have urged the administration to abandon its announced policy to close the prison until it has developed a plan to deal with the prisoners.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Afghanistan's president Tuesday praised U.S. plans to provide more civilian help to his country, and expressed hope that the country will grow and become less dependent on international partners in coming years.
But President Hamid Karzai - citing the words of U.S. President Barack Obama's point man on Afghanistan and Pakistan, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke - stressed that Afghanistan's stability depends on whether Taliban strongholds in neighboring Pakistan are confronted.
"Ambassador Holbrooke had the best remark that I've ever heard from from a U.S. official," Karzai said. "He said no matter how economically powerful Afghanistan is or becomes, no matter how effective a government Afghanistan has, no matter how powerful an army and the security institution of Afghanistan is, unless the sanctuaries of our neighbors, the training grounds of our neighbors go away, Afghanistan will not be stable or peaceful."
Addressing the re-emergence of Taliban militants, who were chased from power by the U.S.-coalition after the September 11, 2001, attack on the United States by the al Qaeda terror network based in Afghanistan, Karzai said, "We did not address the question of sanctuaries in time," a reality, he said, that hurts both Afghanistan and Pakistan.