(CNN) - The chairman of the Republican Governors Association used his speech at the annual meeting of the National Rifle Association Friday to rally support not for gun rights, but for energized involvement in this year's midterm elections.
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour told conservatives at the gathering that they should not have their sights set on 2012 as the time to retake political control of the country. Instead, Barbour said, conservatives should focus on 2010.
"This year's an enormous election," Barbour told the gathering of 2nd Amendment rights activists.
Although the anti-incumbent, anti-Washington mood of the country would seem to help conservatives and the GOP in the next six months, Barbour warned conservatives not to become complacent.
"I want to remind you that this election is not until November – that it is not a foregone conclusion that we're going to win," he said. "It is not foreordained that everybody who is for us today is going to be for us in November. Or that everybody who is for us today is actually going to vote in November."
So, Barbour told the gathering, that he had one message for them.
"We can't wait 'til 2012 to start taking our country back," the former chairman of the Republican National Committee said to applause. "This year's election is the election that matters."
(CNN) - President Obama on Friday criticized executives from BP and two other companies for blaming each other for the continuing oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico.
"I did not appreciate what I considered to be a ridiculous spectacle during the congressional hearings into this matter," the president said after meeting with Cabinet members to discuss the situation. "You had executives of BP and Transocean and Halliburton falling over each other to point the finger of blame at somebody else. The American people could not have been impressed with that display, and I certainly wasn't."
"I understand that there are legal and financial issues involved, and a full investigation will tell us exactly what happened. But it is pretty clear that the system failed, and it failed badly. And for that, there's enough responsibility to go around. And all parties should be willing to accept it," he said.
"It is absolutely essential that going forward, we put in place every necessary safeguard and protection so that a tragedy like this oil spill does not happen again.
"This is a responsibility that all of us share," he said. "The oil companies share it. The manufacturers of this equipment share it. The agencies in the federal government in charge of oversight share that responsibility. I will not tolerate more finger-pointing or irresponsibility."
Updated: 4:31 p.m.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – The White House is asking Congress to approve $205 million to help Israel build a new short-range rocket defense system, Obama administration officials confirmed Friday.
Called the Iron Dome, the security system "addresses Israelis' worries about errant rockets being fired into their homes" and is designed to intercept incoming rockets fired from Lebanon and Gaza, a senior administration official said.
White House spokesman Tommy Vietor explained the administration's rationale, saying, "The president recognizes the threat missiles and rockets fired by Hamas and Hezbollah pose to Israelis, and has therefore decided to seek funding from Congress to support the production of Israel's short-range rocket defense system called Iron Dome."
Washington (CNN) – As the energy and climate debate in Congress faces partisan gridlock and new problems caused by the massive oil spill in the Gulf, one expert says the U.S. is already changing energy policy without Capitol Hill.
"We have action at all levels of government," said Prof. Marilyn Brown, an energy policy expert at Georgia Tech.
Brown points to President Obama's directives to raise gas mileage in cars and trucks as well as state and local tax credits for more efficient cars and homes.
"We have a renewable fuel standard put in place," Brown said, stressing that the oil debate is not the only piece of the energy equation. "We have electricity and have biofuels and we are pressing hard on both of those."
But, could a major energy or climate bill get through this year? Many in Washington doubt it.
Brown says that the BP oil spill has killed Democrats' strongest olive branch to Republicans: potential expansion of offshore drilling.
"Bill proponents don't have that leverage any more, they can't trade off with a Republican desire for offshore drilling," Brown insisted. "That's a thing of the past."
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Washington (CNN) - Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin hit the campaign trail Friday, delivering the keynote address at a fundraiser for a prominent anti-abortion group supporting socially conservative women running for office in the upcoming midterm elections.
"All across this country, women are standing up and speaking out for commonsense solutions," Palin said at the Susan B. Anthony List Celebration of Life Breakfast. They are forming a "new conservative feminist movement" that will help make "government work again for us," she said.
The Susan B. Anthony List describes itself on its website as part of the "nerve center of the pro-life movement and political process." In 2008, the group founded "Team Sarah," a coalition of women supporting Palin's vice presidential bid.
During her speech, Palin ripped abortion rights opponents in the Democratic Party who "promised to hold firm" during the health care debate, but ultimately backed "the most pro-abortion president who ever occupied the White House."
"We won't forget," she promised. "Elections have consequences."
Palin mentioned, among other things, her daughter Bristol's decision not to have an abortion after becoming pregnant at age 17. "It was an embarrassing time for her," Palin told the audience. But "choosing life was the right road."
Palin said national media coverage of the pregnancy "kind of made it rough" on Bristol and sent a not-too-subtle message to other young women that it's easier to choose to have an abortion.
During a Rose Garden ceremony, Obama paid homage to the officers who, he said, risked their lives to save countless others.
"The men and women here today have jumped into cars to rescue victims held at knifepoint. They have pulled trapped children from burning cars seconds before it was engulfed in flames," Obama said.
"They weren't thinking about medals or commendations. I'm pretty sure they weren't thinking about being honored at the White House. Instead, they were focused on their partners, the face of a child who was in harm's way, a victim, the innocent bystander who desperately needed their help," he said.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) – Pressure is mounting on loan servicers and investors to reduce troubled homeowners' loan balances...but the two largest owners of mortgages aren't getting the message.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which are controlled by the federal government, do not lower the principal on the loans they back, instead opting for interest rate reductions and term extensions when modifying loans.
But their stance is out of synch with the Obama administration, which is seeking to expand the use of principal writedowns. In late March, it announced servicers will be required to consider lowering balances in loan modifications.
And just who would tell Fannie and Freddie to start allowing principal reductions? The Obama administration.
Asked whether they will implement balance reductions, the companies and their regulator declined to comment. The Treasury Department also declined to comment.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) – Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh is having a tough time saying adios to New York City. But it's not because he'll miss the Big Apple. Rather, he's been forced to cut the asking price for his Fifth Avenue penthouse to $12.95 million.
Limbaugh originally listed his spacious digs in March, asking $13.95 million. He bought the 10-room condo at 1049 Fifth Ave. in 1994 under the name of R H Trust, according to city property documents.
Luxury broker Corcoran Group is listing the property, but the firm chose not to release photos or confirm the celebrity resident. Limbaugh was not available for comment.
The pad sprawls across nearly 5,000 square feet and two of its terraces overlook Central Park and its famous reservoir.
(CNN) - A U.S. congressman said he will launch a formal inquiry Friday into how much oil is gushing into the Gulf of Mexico after learning of independent estimates that are significantly higher than the amount BP officials have provided.
A senior BP official, however, said the company stands by its estimate of 5,000 barrels leaking a day.
Rep. Edward Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, said he will send a letter to BP and ask for more details from federal agencies about the methods they are using to analyze the oil leak.
Markey, who chairs a congressional subcommittee on energy and the environment, said miscalculating the spill's volume may be hampering efforts to stop it.
"I am concerned that an underestimation of the oil spill's flow may be impeding the ability to solve the leak and handle the management of the disaster," he said in a statement Thursday. "If you don't understand the scope of the problem, the capacity to find the answer is severely compromised."
WASHINGTON (CNN) – William Hague, Britain's new foreign secretary, will make his first official visit to the United States on Friday since being named to the post.
Hague is scheduled to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the State Department said.
Hague's visit comes as Afghan President Hamid Karzai is in Washington meeting with Clinton and President Barack Obama.
Afghanistan could be one of the topics of conversation.
"She looks forward to the discussion. She has met William Hague before," said P.J. Crowley, a State Department spokesman.