WASHINGTON (CNN) - Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Illinois, who stepped down from his Republican leadership post but remained in Congress when Democrats took back control of Congress in November 2006, announced Friday that he will not seek another term in 2008.
Hastert told supporters that he thought Congressional efforts to keep America safe after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks will ultimately prove to be the most important actions of the Republican-controlled Congress he helped to lead.
“On that dark day for our nation, Congressional leaders vowed to do whatever was necessary to protect our citizens from future attacks,” he said from the steps of the Kendall County Courthouse. “And, that is exactly what we did.”
Hastert’s decision to step down was not a surprise and opens up a seat in this Illinois district that is likely to be contested by Democrats.
- CNN Associate Producer Martina Stewart
WASHINGTON (CNN) - It may not be an endorsement Rudy Giuliani will embrace with open arms as he campaigns for the Republican presidential nomination.
"Gays for Giuliani," a satirical organization aiming to highlight the New York Republican's support of gay rights when he was mayor, is the creator of a popular YouTube video that features testimonials from gay New Yorkers on why they "support" the former mayor's White House bid.
"If Rudy Giuliani were here right now I'd want to take his hand and thank him for supporting civil unions because without that I wouldn't have a domestic partner right now," a man says in the video.
"I'm also grateful for domestic partnership plan he implemented in the city cause I've had no less than 5 domestic partners," another man says.
Ryan Davis, a gay New York City theater director and the creator of "Gays for Giuliani," told CNN he wants to highlight, in Davis' view, how Giuliani has backtracked on gay issues.
"He's completely done a 180 on his beliefs," Davis told CNN. "I'm just trying to remind people, hey this is the guy I knew when he was my mayor in NY."
"I would be hard pressed to think of any conservative politician who embraces the gay community like Giuliani does," he added. "I don't know how he can connect that with new persona as friend of the Christian Right."
Giuliani has said he is opposed to same-sex marriage, but supports domestic partnerships and legal benefits for same-sex couples.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Confronted with an 11 year-old YouTube clip at odds with a recent speech declaring illegal immigration solvable, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani told a New Hampshire audience Thursday new technologies can end the problem now.
"Back in 1994, '95, we didn't have the technology that we have today," Giuliani told a Derry, New Hampshire crowd, according to CNN affiliate WMUR.
Shortly after Giuliani declared, "I promise you, we can end illegal immigration" earlier this week, a YouTube clip emerged of a speech the then-mayor gave in 1996 at Harvard University seeming to argue the complete opposite: "We're never ever going to be able to totally control immigration to a country that is as large as ours."
"We're going to have 400,000, 450,000, maybe more, illegal and undocumented, living in the city of New York, and there's absolutely nothing I can do about it," the New York Republican added in the 1996 speech.
Giuliani's chief GOP rival Mitt Romney has criticized the former mayor on the issue, saying that he supported illegal immigration while overseeing New York City. Giuliani has repeatedly denied the charge.
Kevin Madden, a spokesman for Romney's campaign, called Giuliani's technology explanation, "nonsensical."
"Technology like night vision scopes and motion sensors all existed back in 1996," he told CNN. "And, before anyone goes looking for new excuses, electricity, telephones and even the wheel existed back in 1996, too.”
In New Hampshire on Thursday, Giuliani continued to defend his record on the issue as New York's mayor, saying "I took a city that had just about the highest illegality rates in the country and took it down to one of the lowest."
He added that if Romney's campaign continues to attack his immigration record, it will "backfire" on them.
- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney
Edwards is seeking to raise campaign cash over his lobbyist pledge.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards is seeking to capitalize financially on his opposition to accepting campaign contributions from lobbyists. The former North Carolina senator sent out a fundraising appeal Friday asking supporters for “clean money” to help fuel his bid for the White House.
“There is no middle ground – if we want to make our government work for all Americans, we can’t negotiate or compromise with special interest lobbyists or D.C. insiders – we have to stand up and fight back,” Edwards writes in the email note.
The fundraising plea comes one day after Edwards asked Illinois Sen. Barack Obama to join him in trying to eliminate federal lobbyist contributions to the Democratic Party. Obama is also seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.
Edwards first challenged his fellow Democrats to stop taking lobbyist contributions before a cheering crowd at the 2007 YearlyKos convention in Chicago.
- CNN Associate Producer Martina Stewart
DES MOINES, Iowa (CNN) - The state fair is where Fred Thompson will make his public Iowa campaign debut on Friday, but private meetings in the morning could be just as, if not more, important to his ultimate political strength here.
Aides said the former Tennessee senator will court roughly 45 politically active Iowans in the morning sessions - one with conservative activists and one with state legislators and perhaps some other elected officials. (Related video: Has Thompson waited too long?)
In those sessions, as in public, Thompson walks a careful legal line – he can't directly ask for support because doing so would cross the line between testing the waters and being an official candidate, which would bring more stringent fund-raising and spending rules into play.
That official announcement is on the books for the first week of September.
In the meantime, the advisers say Thompson and top aides decided the Iowa State Fair was a good opportunity to raise his profile in this important early voting state as he wanders through the fairgrounds meeting Iowa voters.
- CNN Chief National Correspondent John King
Related: I don't think I'm late to the race
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Michelle Obama told Iowa voters Thursday that her desire not to have her children grow up in a "fear" based society was enough for her to fully embrace her husband's quest for White House.
“The reason why I said yes was because I am tired of being afraid," she told voters at a campaign stop in Council Bluffs. "I am tired of living in a country where every decision that we’ve made over the last 10 years wasn’t for something but it was because people told us we have to fear something.”
“I am so tired of fear and I don’t want my girls to live in a country, in a world based on fear,” she added.
This is the latest insight Obama has given about supporting her husband's, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama's, bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.
The senator's wife, who has taken on an important surrogate role in the campaign, appeared with him in this western Iowa town and introduced him to supporters.
“Whenever I get in front of an audience, I get pumped up because I’m very passionate about this race," she said. "I’m passionate about my husband in this race because I know that and I’m trying to convey to all of you that there is something very special about this man."
- CNN Associate Producer Martina Stewart
Compiled by Stephen Bach, CNN Washington Bureau
Making news today...
* Fred Thompson heads to the Hawkeye State today to meet and greet supporters at Iowa State Fair in Des Moines. He's scheduled to speak at the fair's Des Moines Register Soapbox at 2:15 pm ET.
CNN's John King reports the state fair is where Fred Thompson will make his public Iowa campaign debut today, but private meetings in the morning could be just as, if not more, important to his ultimate political strength here.
Full story on The Ticker
"If Fred Thompson wants a place in an already full-blown campaign for the Iowa caucuses, he will have to begin hustling today to explain who he is and why he ought to be president, Republican leaders and undecided GOP caucusgoers in Iowa say." (Des Moines Register)
Thompson has "offered few, if any, specifics" and "Republicans rushing to embrace" his "would-be presidential candidacy might have trouble figuring out what he would do if he actually won the White House." (AP)
* Mitt Romney won the IL GOP inaugural state fair presidential straw poll Thursday, "though with fewer than 1,000 ballots cast, its impact is limited at best." (Chicago Tribune)
Check out full results on The Ticker
* Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) is going on the air across Iowa with a series of TV ads starting Sunday. No further details could be provided by the campaign.
* And why does Steven Seagal want an apology from the FBI? Find out in Hot Topics below!
* The president remains in Crawford, TX, through the weekend.
Also on the Political Radar:
* Rudy Giuliani holds a 9:30 am ET town hall at GT Solar in Merrimack, NH. He stops by a Manchester restaurant at 11:30 am ET and visits his Manchester campaign HQ at 12:30 pm ET. He later meets local residents in New Boston (2 pm ET), Peterborough (3:30 pm ET), and Milford (4:45 pm ET).
* Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) attends a 2:45 pm ET rural policy summit at South Tama County High School in Tama, IA. At 4:45 pm ET, he'll help mark the grand opening of the Vera Sun Ethanol Plant in Charles City, IA. Finally, he keynotes the Wing Ding dinner at 8 pm ET at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, IA.
* John Edwards continues his "Fighting for One America" Iowa bus tour with community meetings in Centerville (10 am ET), Bloomfield (11:15 am ET), Keokuk (2 pm ET), Burlington (3:45 pm ET), and Wapello (7:15 pm ET).
* Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) holds kitchen table events in Newton (1 pm ET) and Muscatine (4:30 pm ET). He holds a "Quad Cities Town Hall" at 7:30 pm ET in Eldridge, IA.
* Bill Richardson holds "job interview" events in Ottumwa (1:45 pm ET), Oskaloosa (3:45 pm ET), Knoxville (5:45 pm ET), and Des Moines (8 pm ET).
Political Hot Topics
(Today's top political stories from news organizations across the country)
PETRAEUS, CROCKER WILL TESTIFY OPENLY: The White House on Thursday sought to alleviate concerns that Gen. David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker would not testify before Congress, as Democrats ratcheted up their rhetoric on the issue. White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe told reporters in Crawford, Texas, that stories indicating Petraeus and Crocker would not testify openly before Congress were inaccurate. "General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker will testify to the Congress in both open as well as closed sessions prior to the September 15th report," he said. The Hill: White House: Petraeus will testify
MUELLER'S NOTES SHED LIGHT, CONTRADICT AG ON ASHCROFT HOSPITAL VISIT: Then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft was "feeble," "barely articulate" and "stressed" moments after a hospital room confrontation in March 2004 with Alberto R. Gonzales, who wanted Ashcroft to approve a warrantless wiretapping program over Justice Department objections, according to notes from FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III that were released yesterday. One of Mueller's entries in five pages of a daily log pertaining to the dispute also indicated that Ashcroft's deputy was so concerned about undue pressure by Gonzales and other White House aides for the attorney general to back the wiretapping program that the deputy asked Mueller to bar anyone other than relatives from later entering Ashcroft's hospital room. Washington Post: FBI Director's Notes Contradict Gonzales's Version Of Ashcroft Visit
TREASURY SECRETARY STAYS LARGELY ON SIDELINES DURING MARKET SWINGS: What happened to the Hammer? After decades at Goldman Sachs, where his nickname came from his aggressive deal-making, Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. was hailed last year when he took office as especially equipped to manage potential market crises. But the financial disorder this August has brought few public appearances and only general reassurances on economic fundamentals from Mr. Paulson, who has left it to the Federal Reserve to act. There has been no talk of bailouts, policy changes, new federal regulations or other Treasury actions to stem the contagion in global markets. New York Times: At Treasury, the Secretary Waits It Out
WHITE HOUSE WEDDING? Jenna Bush, President and Laura Bush's daughter, is engaged, the White House said Thursday. Jenna Bush, 25, is marrying Henry Hager, 28, a former White House aide who used to work with Karl Rove. His father, John Hager, is the chairman of the Virginia Republican Party. "President and Mrs. George W. Bush are happy to announce the engagement of their daughter, Jenna Bush, to Mr. Henry Hager, son of the Honorable and Mrs. John H. Hager of Richmond, Virginia," press secretary Sally McDonough said in a statement. Hager proposed in Maine on Wednesday, according to the first lady's office. CNN: Jenna Bush gets engaged
AN "UNLIKELY" LEADER, HASTERT "DIDN'T SEEK THE SPOTLIGHT": Following such Speakers of the House as Joseph Cannon, Sam Rayburn, Tip O'Neill and Newt Gingrich, former high school wrestling coach Dennis Hastert seemed an unlikely choice for the job. Hastert, who today becomes the fourth House Republican in three weeks to say he won't seek re-election next year, didn't so much seize power as accept it. He didn't seek the spotlight. Yet for eight years, from 1998 to 2006 — longer than any other GOP speaker — he helped unite Republicans against Bill Clinton and behind George W. Bush, pushing tax cuts, education and health care overhauls, and the response to the 9/11 attacks through the House. USA Today: Hastert united the GOP after unlikely ascension
HASTERT FELT LIKE "PRISONER" AS SPEAKER: Rep. J. Dennis Hastert on Thursday said he had felt like a "prisoner" of his office as House speaker, unable to enjoy the camaraderie of his fellow lawmakers. As Hastert prepares to formally announce today his decision not to seek reelection to the Illinois seat he first won in 1986, he reflected on a political career in which he became the longest-serving Republican speaker. After the 2006 election gave Democrats the majority, ending Hastert's eight-year reign as speaker, he lost the trappings of a grand office, plane service to and from Washington, and the security detail provided to the second in the succession line to the presidency (after the vice president). Los Angeles Times: Illinois' Hastert details decision to leave
ALASKA'S LONG-SERVING BENEFACTOR: [Ted] Stevens is the longest-serving Republican in the history of the Senate. His former interns are now executives, lobbyists and community leaders. The airport here is named for Mr. Stevens. Runways and windmills and septic systems in remote Alaska Native villages were built with money he helped push through Congress. In the more than six years that he was chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, the money that Alaska received from the federal government doubled. The state still receives more money per capita than any other. Yet fears of the unknown have been stirring in the outsize soul of the Last Frontier. New York Times: Stevens and Alaska, a Longtime Partnership
CANDIDATES PUSH ELECTABILITY: Voters [in Des Moines] say it's tough to distinguish between the platforms of the Democrats running for president. So the hopefuls are downplaying their differences and instead, each is promising to be the most electable of the bunch. Sen. Barack Obama tells crowds he can win Mississippi in a general election; for New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, the Southwest will no longer be red terrain; and Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. says Kentucky would be up for grabs if he is the 2008 Democratic nominee. Former Sen. John Edwards told The Washington Times yesterday he can win Tennessee and his home state of North Carolina, and says he would have captured them in 2004 had he been the presidential nominee and not the vice-presidential candidate. Washington Times: Democrats vie for most electable
OBAMA RECALIBRATES, DROPS LAID-BACK TONE: Senator Barack Obama has moved in recent weeks to sharpen his tone noticeably as he fights for the Democratic presidential nomination, increasingly drawing sharp contrasts with his rivals and seeking to turn criticism of his foreign policy credentials into a fresh argument for change. The recalibration of the campaign is a marked departure from a laid-back tone Mr. Obama often had taken in the first six months of his candidacy. It comes as he is working to persuade voters of his judgment and erase perceptions among party leaders in states like this that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York is establishing herself as the front-runner after a series of debates and what some Democrats have viewed as slip-ups by Mr. Obama. New York Times: Obama Takes Sharper Tone to the Trail
RICHARDSON SEES OPPORTUNITY AS EDWARDS LEAVES NV: New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson's (D) presidential campaign announced that it is expanding its Nevada campaign operation the same day reports came out that former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) is moving some of his staff from there to other early-voting states. Edwards's move prompted a warning from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that candidates who ignore the Western state's caucus "do so at their own peril." Perhaps sensing an opening, Richardson's campaign then announced it was adding staff to the state, one the governor's staff has called critical to its campaign strategy. The Hill: Richardson's operation expands in Edwards's vacuum
AFTER TWO DECADES, BIDEN RETURNS TO NASHUA ROTARY CLUB AS CANDIDATE: Before Sen. Joseph Biden takes the mike at the Nashua Rotary Club luncheon, the audience plays a round of "Dead or Alive?" where celebrity names are tossed out and members answer with their status: Ginger Rogers (dead), Larry Hagman (alive), Elvis Presley (in dispute). When Biden gets up to speak, he points out that he is, in fact, alive. Twenty years ago, as he was running for president and speaking to the same group in the same ballroom, Biden had to leave the podium, stricken by a monster headache that presaged a life-threatening brain aneurysm. Biden, a six-term Democrat from Delaware, is giving the White House and the Rotary lunch a second shot. His campaign is focused on his foreign policy experience and his plan for restructuring Iraq. Still, he continues to face the issue that forced him out of the 1988 race: talking himself into trouble. USA Today: Biden has better visit to club 20 years later
BEAU BIDEN MAY SOON BE HEADING TO IRAQ: Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden is preparing to don his National Guard uniform and head to Iraq next year, potentially leaving the state Department of Justice in someone else's hands for 12 months. At a campaign stop in Iowa Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Joe Biden, Beau's father, noted that his son's unit - the 261st Signal Brigade - has been placed on alert for an Iraq deployment sometime next year. The brigade specializes in setting up communications and Biden serves as a captain and a Judge Advocate General's Corp officer - a military lawyer. Wilmington News Journal: Beau Biden could be deployed to Iraq in '08
DODD DEBUTS PLAN TO HELP PAY FOR COLLEGE: Democratic presidential candidate Chris Dodd on Thursday unveiled a plan to reduce the cost of college loans and provide free community college education to all Americans. The Connecticut senator told an audience of around 40 at Des Moines Area Community College's Urban Campus that expanded access to higher education would strengthen the middle class, solidify the United States' position in the global economy and protect American democracy. "The Constitution is a sophisticated document that requires an educated population to support it," he said. Des Moines Register: Dodd discusses college loan help
"THE SCOURGE OF CORPORATE AMERICA": As the Democrats' 2004 vice presidential nominee, John Edwards ran as an ever-smiling optimist. These days, as he tries to catch up to better-funded rivals in Iowa's crucial caucuses, Edwards sounds more like the scourge of corporate America. In campaign speeches and conversations with voters, the presidential candidate calls some companies "robber barons." Business lobbyists have "rigged" the system to block fair trade policies and efforts to curb reliance on overseas oil, he says. Drug and insurance companies are to blame for 83-year-old Marguerite Erickson's $3,000-a-year health bill, he told her at a rally in Perry this week. Bloomberg: Edwards Attacks 'Robber Barons,' Lobbyists to Win Votes in Iowa
ROMNEY WINS IL GOP STRAW POLL: Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won Illinois Republicans' inaugural state fair presidential straw poll Thursday, though with fewer than 1,000 ballots cast, its impact is limited at best. Still, Romney's win, with 40.4 percent or 373 votes, marked his second straw-poll victory in a week. On Saturday, Romney won the much larger and more influential Iowa straw poll, a massive fundraiser for the GOP in the first-in-the-nation caucus state, with 31.6 percent. Although more than 14,000 votes were cast in the Iowa straw poll, only 922 ballots were cast at the Illinois event, which was held in rainy weather as part of Republican Day at the Illinois State Fair. Chicago Tribune: Vote not much to crow about
ROMNEY PUSHES HIMSELF AS GOP'S "CANDIDATE OF CHANGE": He's a Republican running to extend his party's eight-year grip on the White House. Yet Mitt Romney is increasingly casting himself as the "change" candidate, promising voters that he's the one who would bring conservative reform to Washington. A new TV ad launched this week in Iowa shows Romney telling a cheering crowd after he won the Ames straw poll last weekend, "If there's ever a time we needed to see change in Washington, it's now." The change argument, which Romney increasingly weaves into his regular stump speech, seems designed to distance himself from President Bush's dismal approval ratings and voters' dismay with the war in Iraq... But portraying himself as the candidate of change carries some inherent awkwardness for Romney. Boston Globe: For Romney, a nuanced cry for change
ROMNEY-GIULIANI IMMIGRATION SPAT CONTINUES: The two leading Republican presidential candidates have turned the GOP primary campaign into a nasty, week-long debate about illegal immigration, accusing each other of supporting efforts to give undocumented residents sanctuary from federal immigration laws. At campaign stops, in radio ads and with increasingly hostile statements by supporters, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani are talking about little else as they position themselves on an issue critical to conservatives in their party. Washington Post: Romney, Giuliani Escalate Their Immigration Fight
THOMPSON OFFERS FEW SPECIFICS: Republicans rushing to embrace Fred Thompson's would-be presidential candidacy might have trouble figuring out what he would do if he actually won the White House. On most public policy issues, the former Tennessee senator and "Law & Order" actor has offered few, if any, specifics. Even on the dominant issue of the 2008 campaign — the war in Iraq — Thompson has carefully stopped short of wading into what he would do about the conflict should he inherit it, although he has generally backed President Bush. And while not yet offering a broad foreign policy vision, some of Thompson's statements on the subject border on the impolitic, including comments maligning the Mexican, French and Russian governments. AP via Yahoo! News: Thompson is sparse on policy positions
HOW MUCH TIME DID RUDY SPEND AT GROUND ZERO? As Rudolph W. Giuliani campaigns around the country highlighting his stewardship of New York City after the Sept. 11 attacks, he is widely hailed for bringing order to a traumatized city. But he has also raised the hackles of rescue and recovery workers by likening his experience to theirs. On at least three occasions, in responding to accusations that the city failed to adequately protect the health of workers in the wreckage, he has boasted that he faced comparable risks himself. In one appearance he declared that he had been in the ruins "as often, if not more" than the cleanup workers who logged hundreds of hours in the smoldering pile. New York Times: For Giuliani, Ground Zero as Linchpin and Thorn
SEAGAL WANTS APOLOGY FROM G-MEN: Not long ago, Steven Seagal was one of the best-paid action stars in Hollywood. The martial arts master played crime-busting anti-heroes in films that generated more than $1 billion in ticket and DVD sales during the 1990s. Now he appears in low-budget productions that go straight to video. Seagal says he knows why: Five years ago, he was implicated in a plot to frighten two journalists out of writing unflattering stories about him and his former business partner. An FBI affidavit detailed allegations that Seagal hired private eye Anthony Pellicano to terrorize one of the reporters, a freelancer working for the Los Angeles Times... The actor was never charged, and federal authorities have privately told reporters they have no persuasive evidence against him. But the FBI has never publicly cleared him. Seagal said the publicity has been devastating to his career. He wants an apology. Los Angeles Times: Action star Seagal wants FBI apology