(CNN) - Days after announcing an "aggressive new approach" in confronting President Obama, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said Friday that the president hadn't been properly vetted because he is black.
"The problem that we have with this president is we don't know him. He was not vetted, folks. He came out of nowhere," Steele told listeners to Bill Bennett's radio show Friday morning. "....We don't know his political background, we don't know his political philosophy, the ideology that shapes his thinking on policy.
"He was not vetted, because the press fell in love with the black man running for the office. 'Oh gee, wouldn't it be neat to do that? Gee, wouldn't it make all of our liberal guilt just go away? We could continue to ride around in our limousines and feel so lucky be alive and in an America with a black president,'" said Steele. "Okay, that's wonderful - great scenario, nice backdrop. But what does he stand for? What does he believe?
(CNN) - Yesterday - as his former vice president and his successor both gave major national security speeches in Washington, DC - former President Bush was nearly 1,900 miles away, telling a high school audience how "liberating" it felt to get some distance between himself and the burdens of governance.
"I no longer feel that great sense of responsibility that I had when I was in the Oval Office," he told listeners at New Mexico's Artesia High School, according to the Roswell Daily Record. "And frankly, it's a liberating feeling."
Former Vice President Dick Cheney, famously reluctant to grant mainstream interviews while still in office, has become an outspoken presence on the airwaves in recent months. In Washington Thursday, he offered a vigorous defense of the Bush administration's policies on national security and interrogation of terror suspects - and criticism of President Obama's approach - at a conservative think-tank in downtown Washington, just minutes after the new commander-in-chief addressed the same issues in an address at the National Archives.
(CNN) - President Obama has tapped former Georgia Sen. Max Cleland to serve as Secretary of the American Battle Monuments Commission.
The one-term Democratic senator, who lost a bitter re-election fight to GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss seven years ago, headed the Veterans Affairs Department under former President Carter, and had been considered a top candidate to fill that post in the Obama administration. The president instead nominated retired Gen. Eric Shinseki to lead the VA.
The White House announced Thursday that Cleland, who lost both legs and an arm while serving in the Army in Vietnam, has now been nominated to oversee the commission charged with creating and caring for military memorials.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court triggers a rare convergence of the highest levels of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches.
The President nominates a candidate, the Senate holds confirmation hearings and ultimately votes, and then the Chief Justice traditionally swears in the newest member of the nine-person panel.
Constitutional requirements, long-standing tradition, as well as a heavy mix of partisan politics, speculation, and public theater mark the process.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused to answer questions Friday about her stinging accusation last week that the CIA misled her about the use of waterboarding and Republican demands that she provide evidence.
"I have made the statement that I'm going to make on this. I don't have anything more to say about it," she pointedly told reporters. "I stand by my comment and - and what we are doing is staying on our course, and not be distracted from it."
The speaker changed the format of her weekly press conference Friday. Instead of appearing solo, Pelosi brought in three of her Democratic leadership colleagues. After the leaders gave 25 minutes of statements about their legislative accomplishments, Pelosi took just 5 minutes of questions from reporters, and only answered one about the back-and-forth over enhanced interrogation methods.
Despite repeated efforts by reporters to follow up on the issue, Pelosi dismissed them, saying, "I won't have anything more to say about it."
Pelosi may be ready to turn the page, but Republicans clearly aren't. Just minutes after the press conference, Ken Spain, spokesman for the National Republican Campaign Committee sent out a statement blasting her performance. "Speaker Pelosi stammered and filibustered around the elephant in the room because she knows full well that she has become a political liability to her fellow Democrats in Congress," he said.
"Her obsession with the previous administration and her disdain for America's intelligence officials has reduced her to cheerleader status within the far left wing of her party and a distraction to the substantive debate over how to best move our economy forward."
Updated at 1:00 p.m. with additional on-the-scene details.
(CNN) - The Republican National Committee Friday unearthed one of the most controversial political ads in American history to take aim at President Obama's decision to close the detention center in Guantanamo Bay.
Called "Daisy," The RNC's new 30-second Web ad uses footage of the now-infamous 1964 Lyndon Johnson commercial by the same name that showed a young girl picking off the petals of a flower as a nuclear explosion is heard in the background.
That ad, which only ran once but was widely criticized as being extreme, ends with the image of a mushroom cloud and Johnson declaring, "We must either love each other, or we must die."
The New RNC ad splices the image of the girl with Obama's earlier declaration suggesting that closing Guantanamo Bay is "easy." This time the girl asks "To close it? To close it not?" as she picks off flower petals.
It also shows Senate Democrats - including Majority Leader Harry Reid - appearing to take issue with proposals to relocate current Guantanamo detainees in the United States.
The new iteration, which forgoes the original's dramatic mushroom-cloud ending, comes days after RNC Chairman Michael Steele declared an end to the Obama administration's "honeymoon" and pledged more aggressive opposition from the GOP.
(CNN) - When President Obama delivers the commencement address at the U.S. Naval Academy on Friday, he will have a former presidential candidate and proud parent of one of the graduates in attendance.
John Sidney McCain IV, more commonly known as "Jack," will become the fourth McCain to graduate from the Annapolis, Maryland, service academy and the fourth with the same name.
About mid-day at the academy's commissioning and graduation ceremony, McCain will receive a Bachelor of Science degree, take the oath of office and be commissioned as an ensign in the U.S. Navy 103 years after his great-grandfather did the same.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Sen. Arlen Specter continues to feel the love from the White House, with Vice President Joe Biden penning a campaign e-mail Thursday for the Republican-turned-Democrat.
"Over the years, we've certainly had our disagreements," Biden writes in the note that was sent to 500,000 Pennsylvanians on the Democratic National Committee/Organizing for America e-mail list. "During that time, however, Arlen has been my friend, my confidant, and my partner in enacting many pieces of significant legislation."
The e-mail includes hyperlinks that direct people to a page dedicated to Specter on the DNC Web site.
President Obama and national Democrats pledged to support Specter in his 2010 re-election run after he switched his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat last month. For now, Specter does not have a primary opponent, but Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak has not ruled out a bid for the party's Senate nomination.
The Specter Web site is the only candidate presence on the DNC Web site, a spokesman told CNN.
"It provides a place for folks who want to learn more about Senator Specter's record of integrity and service, and when they visit we are sure they will see why the President and Vice President see Senator Specter as a key ally in helping to advance an agenda for change on major issues including reforming America's health care system," DNC spokesman Hari Sevugan told CNN.
Another one of the three bullet points highlighted by the DNC is "Judiciary Confirmations: Senator Specter has played an important role in nine different Supreme Court nominations since 1981."
What the DNC doesn't mention is that Specter voted for Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito to join the U.S. Supreme Court, and for then-Justice William Rehnquist to be chief justice. None of the men were exactly Democrats' most beloved justices on the Court.
Full text of Biden's e-mail after the jump