Senator Chuck Hagel, R-Nebraska
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska won't run for president in 2008 and will leave the Senate when his term ends in January 2009, a source close to the Nebraska Republican told CNN Saturday.
The source said Hagel - a vocal critic of the Bush administration - will hold a news conference in Omaha on Monday.
Hagel, 60, was a decorated infantry sergeant in Vietnam. He supported the 2002 congressional resolution that authorized the invasion of Iraq the following
year, but has become increasingly critical of the way the president has handled the war.
He called Bush's plan early this year to send thousands of additional U.S. troops to Iraq "the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam."
Hagel was the only Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to back a measure condemning the decision to deploy an additional 30,000 troops in an effort to end the sectarian violence.
Despite his break with the party on Iraq, the North Platte native has an otherwise-orthodox GOP voting record.
He supported the Bush tax cuts in 2001, received a perfect score on abortion issues from the National Right to Life Committee and backed efforts to open part of Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration.
Hagel, who was first elected in 1996, is latest Republican to announce he is voluntarily leaving the Senate.
On August 31, Sen. John Warner, R-Va., a foreign policy expert who also has criticized the administration's handling of Iraq, announced he would not seek a sixth term.
Warner, once secretary of the Navy, chaired the Armed Services Committee until Democrats seized both houses in the 2006 midterm election.
- CNN Capitol Hill Correspondent Dana Bash
WASHINGTON (CNN) - First lady Laura Bush was "resting comfortably at the White House" Saturday following a successful surgery to relieve pinched nerves in her neck, according to a statement from her press secretary, Sally McDonough.
McDonough said the 2 1/2-hour procedure was conducted at the George Washington University Hospital by a team led by Dr. Anthony Caputy, chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery and co-director of the Neurological Institute. Dr. Richard Tubb, U.S. Air Force brigadier general and physician to the president, consulted in the procedure, she said.
The procedure, called a posterior cervical foraminotomy, was described as "minimally invasive."
McDonough said the first lady spoke with President Bush, who was aboard Air Force One on his way back from Australia, after the surgery. Bush attended the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Sydney.
Mitt Romney campaigned in Iowa on Saturday
CHEROKEE, Iowa (CNN) - Adding to his comments on the release of a new Osama bin Laden tape, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said Saturday that the Al Qaeda leader is "almost incomprehensible for people of this country to understand, how someone can be so deluded."
At an event in rural Iowa, Romney told reporters, "I think when he makes tapes like this it hurts his effort, doesn't help it."
The former Massachusetts governor also said the United States is facing "unusual times" and undergoing "challenges."
"They're so significant, these challenges, that I'm convinced America is going to have to change course in some respect," Romney said.
He cited the U.S. Revolutionary War and Civil War as other examples of times when the nation has changed it's path.
"There have been some changes in Americas history. One of those I think is occurring now, because of the forces that are going to be upon us. One of those forces is the radical Jihadist movement around the world, trying to bring down civilization and us in particular."
Romney also touched on the subject of Iran.
"I want to indict [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad for incitation to genocide. There is a genocide convention that calls what he has been saying as a violation of that convention."
Romney said he wants to make it clear to the people of Iran that nuclear proliferation is the wrong answer, and he said this message should be delivered to a specific group of the population.
"I think they have 75,000 bloggers in Iran, people who are on the internet.
I want to communicate to them that becoming a nuclear nation is not a source of pride, it's a source of peril."
He continued, "It's a very dangerous thing to become a nuclear nation. They need to understand these things. I hope that will convince them that they need to pull back their nuclear ambition."
- CNN Iowa Producer Chris Welch
McCain said his presidency would be Al Qaeda's 'worst nightmare'
(CNN) – Republican presidential contenders had different takes Friday on the significance of Osama bin Laden, as his first videotape in nearly 3 years was released.
Aboard his campaign bus in Iowa, former Senator Fred Thompson of Tennessee told CNN’s John King , “I think bin Laden is more of a symbolism than he is anything else.”
En route to an appearance in Mason City, Thompson said, “I think he shows and demonstrates to people, once again, that we're in a global war. Bin Laden being in the mountains of Afghanistan or Pakistan is not as important as the fact that there's probably al Qaeda operatives inside the United States of America.”
Asked if the United States should have waited to go to war in Iraq until bin Laden was caught or al Qaeda was further weakened, Thompson said, “It's not an either/or situation; sometimes you don't have a choice. Saddam Hussein was on the cusp as having defeated the United Nations and the free world and the United States. He had certainly had weapons of mass destruction and had the capability of reviving his nuclear program. In light of what Iran is doing today with their nuclear program, he certainly would have gotten back on the stick and gotten there again...you're not served up these issues one at a time. They come when they come and you have to deal with them. Some might say, ‘Stop efforts in other parts of the world and concentrate on Iraq.’ We don't have that luxury.”
In Florida, Rudy Giuliani said capturing or killing bin Laden should not be a “secondary” goal. He told reporters outside a police station in Largo, “The way Islamic terrorism works, individual figures are enormously important. There is a charismatic impact that they have. A perverse one, but a charismatic impact they have. So that if you could take them out, prosecute them, remove them, or take them out of circulation I think you'd have an impact on their ability to function particularly if you could take him out and take some of his lieutenants with him.”
Giuliani, New York City's mayor when the 9/11 attackers struck, said of bin Laden messages, “I have to separate myself from my own personal feelings about it, which are very strong.” He said he had not yet seen the videotape but “the good part that emerges from it is he is obviously in hiding. It obviously restricts what he can do. That's a good thing. The bad thing is we haven't caught him yet. We haven't brought him to justice....that is a very important thing to do.”
Senator John McCain, R-Arizona, campaigned Friday in the Los Angeles area. In a statement, McCain said, “Osama bin Laden and his henchmen must be hunted down - and as president, I will. Al Qaeda terrorists and the violent, aggressive ideology they propagandize must be defeated across the globe, in Afghanistan and in Iraq, which bin Laden's top lieutenant calls al Qaeda's central battlefront against the United States. My presidency will be al Qaeda's worst nightmare.”
In northern New Hampshire, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney told an audience in Berlin: “We’re under attack by people who want to cause the collapse of civilization and draw us back to the eighth or ninth century.” He called the terrorist plots “a threat unlike what we’ve faced before” that will take a “different nature of effort on our part” to defeat.
- CNN Political Desk Managing Editor Steve Brusk
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, R-California
(CNN)–Arnold Schwarzenegger says his party is losing numbers, and it is time to welcome independents and centrists to the ranks of the California Republican party.
"In movie terms, we are dying at the box office. We are not filling the seats," the California governor said. "Now, while the number of California Republicans has been declining, the number of independents has been growing. They may well outnumber both political parties in just 20 years." Schwarzenegger made the comments in an address to the California Republican party state convention.
"The real opportunity for Republicans is that independents generally agree with our core principles," he said. "I want to make the Republican Party welcoming to these Independents."
Schwarzenegger has been critical of some Republicans who have proposed that independents not be allowed to vote in Republican primaries.
Schwarzenegger said the goal of any party is to win elections, to become a majority and advance its ideas. "How do we succeed at that?," he asked. "By including, not excluding. By being open to new ideas, not rejecting them out of hand. By expanding into the center, not falling back upon ourselves into a smaller and smaller corner."
"If our party doesn't address the needs of the people – the needs of Republicans themselves," he said, "the voters, registered Republicans included, will look elsewhere for their political affiliation."
Although he stressed the importance of including people with more centrist and moderate views in the party, Schwarzenegger still made it a point to burnish his own credentials. "I have been a Republican since Nixon."
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg made news earlier this year when he announced he was leaving the Republican party and becoming an independent
Schwarzenegger made the comments Friday night in Indian Wells, California.
- CNN Political Desk Editor Jamie Crawford
Dodd said it is time to chane U.S. policy toward Cuba.
(CNN)–Senator Chris Dodd says the current U.S. policy toward Cuba is not working, and offered his own proposal.
"Our Cuba policy has neither served America's interests nor brought democracy to Cuba. It has only served to strengthen the current regime," the Democrat from Connecticut said in a campaign release. "I am proposing these changes to the current policy because they make sense and are the right thing to do – for the Cuban people, but more importantly for America. And I refuse to let Fidel Castro or his successor determine the timetable for setting America's policy."
Dodd, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, said he would end the U.S. trade embargo with Cuba, open Cuban markets to American farmers, bring families closer together by lifting travel restrictions and cap remittances, and opening a full American embassy in Havana.
Dodd spoke in Miami on Saturday, a day before he and the other Democratic candidates are to appear in a debate hosted by Univision.
- CNN Political Desk Editor Jamie Crawford
Thompson campaigned in Iowa Friday.
(CNN) - Critical of Fred Thompson's decision to skip Wednesday night's Republican debate, Mike Huckabee sent a letter to the newest contender for the GOP presidential nomination on Friday encouraging him to participate in a one-on-one debate.
“Senator, let’s lead by example and get the ball rolling,” Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor, wrote Thompson.
Thompson, a former Tennessee senator, said in an interview on Fox News he would rather participate in a series of Lincoln-Douglas styled debates, where two candidates discuss a specific issue for at least an hour. Huckabee wrote to Thompson to "officially accept" his offer.
"I agree that what is needed is a real discussion by the candidates about their vision for the future of our country," Huckabee wrote.
On Thursday, Huckabee was critical of Thompson for skipping the debate and said he should have been shoulder-to-shoulder with the rest of the candidates.
"He has certainly sucked up a lot of the oxygen as it relates to media attention," the former Arkansas governor said in a conference call with reporters.
Kanye West has a new cause
COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CNN) - The "Ed in '08" campaign, which is pushing for greater emphasis on education in the presidential campaigns, has a new spokesperson: rapper Kanye West.
West appears in a new public service announcement for "Ed in '08" that is now being pushed in the early caucus and primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada.
"Becoming a music superstar took hard work," West says in the ad. "But it also took a solid education."
Of course, the album that rocketed West to stardom was his 2004 debut, "The College Dropout," on which he recounts how he quit college to pursue his music career.
Then again, West's third album, which releases on Tuesday, is called "Graduation."
Just in time for 2008.
- CNN South Carolina Producer Peter Hamby