BENTON HARBOR, Michigan (CNN) - Former President George W. Bush on Thursday repeated Dick Cheney's assertion that their enhanced interrogation program was legal and garnered valuable information that prevented future terrorist attacks.
In his largest domestic speech since leaving the White House in January, Bush told an audience in southwestern Michigan that after the September 11 attacks, "I vowed to take whatever steps that were necessary to protect you."
Although he did not specifically allude to the high-profile debate over President Obama's decision to halt the use harsh interrogation techniques, and without referencing Cheney by name, Bush spoke in broad strokes about how he proceeded after the capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in March 2003.
"The first thing you do is ask, what's legal?" he said. "What do the lawyers say is possible? I made the decision, within the law, to get information so I can say to myself, 'I've done what it takes to do my duty to protect the American people.' I can tell you that the information we got saved lives."
But Bush avoided the sharp tone favored by his former vice president in recent weeks, and went out of his way to stress that he does not want to disparage the new president.
"Nothing I am saying is meant to criticize my successor," Bush said. "There are plenty of people who have weighed in. Trust me, having seen it firsthand. I didn't like it when a former president criticized me, so therefore I am not going to criticize my successor. I wish him all the best."
The former president was speaking to nearly 2,500 members the Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan. The format of the speech was changed at the last minute when Bush decided to answer questions directly from the audience members, instead of responding to pre-submitted questions provided to a moderator.
(CNN) - A top Senate Republican is taking aim at recent statements from conservative commentators Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich suggesting Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor is a "racist."
"I think it's terrible," Sen. John Cornyn, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told NPR's "All Things Considered" Thursday. "This is not the kind of tone any of us want to set when it comes to performing our constitutional responsibilities of advise and consent.”
Both the popular radio host and former GOP House Speaker have suggested Obama's pick for the high court is a racist while referencing a 2001 speech at Berkeley during which Sotomayor said, "I would hope that a wise Latina woman, with the richness of her experiences, would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."
"Imagine a judicial nominee said 'my experience as a white man makes me better than a latina woman.' new racism is no better than old racism," Gingrich wrote on Twitter Wednesday.
"Here you have a racist – you might want to soften that, and you might want to say a reverse racist," Limbaugh said the day before on his radio program.
"We are all a product of our upbringing and who we are and I think it’s a fact people do have different backgrounds, but I don't think those background ought to determine what the law is," Cornyn said to NPR of Sotomayor's Berkeley comments.
The NRSC chief also brushed off the Limbaugh and Gingrich statements while noting neither man holds an elected office.
"Neither one of these men are elected Republican officials. I just don't think it’s appropriate. I certainly don't endorse it. I think it’s wrong," he said.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Bill Clinton's campaign-year resentment of President Obama is a thing of the past, according to a lengthy profile of the former president in Sunday's New York Times Magazine - but he hasn't quite come to terms with the Kennedy family's decision to back Obama over Hillary Clinton during the primary season.
Clinton reportedly has yet to make his peace with Sen. Ted Kennedy and the Massachusetts senator's niece, Caroline, over their high-profile endorsements of Barack Obama during the primaries.
The Times, also citing unnamed sources, says Clinton harbors hard feelings toward New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who held several posts in the Clinton administration but who chose to endorse Obama instead of Hillary Clinton.
The former president has adjusted to his wife's new role on the international stage. "She used to look forward to me coming home from wherever I've been," Clinton says in the magazine article. "Now I'm afraid I'll be second fiddle to whatever world leader she's just met.
Later, he added: "... We've reversed roles."
Clinton also made clear that his vast network of global contacts and knowledge of world affairs is always available to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. "'If she asks, I tell her what I think,'" the former president says in the profile. "And if there's something that's going on that I feel that I have particular knowledge of, I say that.'"
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, said Thursday he does not plan to vote to confirm Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, becoming the first Republican to explicitly state his opposition to President Obama's pick for the high court.
"With all due respect to the nominee and nothing personal, I do not plan to vote for her," Roberts told talk radio host Christ Stigall on Kansas station KCMO.
Roberts also noted he was one of the 28 Senate Republicans in 1998 who voted against confirming Sotomayor to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Sotomayor was ultimately confirmed to that court by a 68-28 vote.
"I did not feel she was appropriate on the appeals court," Roberts said of his 1998 vote. "Since that time, she has made statements on the role of the appeals court I think is improper and incorrect."
"I think that we should be judging people not on race and gender, or background or ethnicity or a very compelling story," Roberts continued. "There are a lot of people who have that."
(CNN) – Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said Thursday he's keeping an open mind when it comes to Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, but added he finds some of her past statements "troubling."
"There are some things she said that are troubling for those of us who believe that the job of a justice is to follow the law and the constitution, not to create law," said Romney during a forum with business leaders in Washington, DC. "But let's give her the chance to explain her views, to describe her record, and to be party to a full and complete and fair process. And let's do it in a very civil and respectful manner."
Romney's comments are in line with the majority of Republicans on Capitol Hill, who have expressed reservations about President Obama's pick for the high court but have said they will withhold final judgment until her confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
"I think our process in giving the justice – or the nominated justice – an opportunity to state her case, to describe her judicial philosophy, to take us through the decisions she's made in the past, and to have a complete and thorough review, should be a process which is carried out in depth," said Romney, who sought the GOP presidential nomination in 2008. "It should be a civil response to her position."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Justice Department is dropping charges against the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and two of its members who were allegedly involved in voter intimidation on Election Day at a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania polling station.
A Justice spokesman said the department decided to take this action after winning an injunction earlier this month against a third member, Samir Shabazz, that prevents him from ever brandishing a weapon outside a polling place again as he was charged with doing last November.
Shabazz was one of the three persons, along with the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, charged with voter intimidation last January in a lawsuit filed under the Voting Rights Act. Shabazz will not face any jail time or a fine.
(CNN) - Since President Obama named Sonia Sotomayor Tuesday as his pick for the Supreme Court, much attention has been given to a 2001 speech the federal appeals court judge gave at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.
One line in particular from that address has sparked sharp reactions from critics: "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."
The following is a complete text of the speech, which was delivered on October 26, 2001, at a legal symposium titled "Raising the Bar: Latino and Latina Presence in the Judiciary and the Struggle for Representation." The event was co-sponsored by the La Raza Law Journal, the Berkeley La Raza Law Students Association, the Boalt Hall Center for Social Justice, and the Center for Latino Policy Research. The speech, "A Latina Judge's Voice," was also published in the La Raza Law Journal in 2002.
(Complete text of speech after the jump)
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A poll conducted immediately after President Barack Obama announced his nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court suggests that nearly half of Americans have a favorable opinion of the president's choice.
Forty-seven percent of those questioned in the Gallup survey, which was released Thursday, say they rate Sotomayor as an excellent or good choice for the high court, with one in three respondents saying she is a fair or poor nominee. One in five people questioned had no opinion.
"People may have an image of Judge Sotomayor - Latina, modest origins, impressive achievements. But they don't know much about her views or her personality. Those will have to be filled in," CNN Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider said.
The 47 percent in the Gallup poll who rate Sotomayor an excellent pick is slighly higher than the 43 percent who suggested they felt the same way about Samuel Alito immediately after he was nominated by President George W. Bush to the high court in November 2005. But it's slightly lower than the 51 percent who indicated they thought John Roberts was an excellent or good pick right after he was nominated by Bush in July 2005.
The Gallup poll was conducted on May 26, with 1,015 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor shared her views on judicial activism with members of the Senate during her two previous federal court confirmation hearings in 1992 and 1997.
A Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire from 1997 asked the judge to "discuss your views" in writing on judicial activism.
Her complete response to that question is available after the jump:
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, will endorse former eBay executive Meg Whitman Friday for governor of California, a Whitman spokesman said.
Although Whitman hasn't officially announced her candidacy, McCain will endorse the Republican at a town hall meeting in Orange County and then join her in Fresno for a news conference. Whitman's spokesman Mitch Zak said that McCain's support "continues the campaign's momentum."
"John McCain is an American hero," Zak said of the 2008 Republican presidential nominee. "We're honored and humbled to have his endorsement. We're looking forward to working with him to improve California."