[cnn-photo-caption image="http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/12/07/art.rendell.cnn.jpg" caption="Gov. Ed Rendell said he would have made the same comment if 'Jim Napolitano' had been nominated."]WASHINGTON (CNN) - Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell defended his recent off-microphone remark about Homeland Security Secretary-designate Janet Napolitano, calling the comment “100 percent true.”
While having a private conversation at the National Governor’s Association meeting in Philadelphia on Tuesday, an open microphone picked up Rendell labeling Gov. Napolitano, D-Arizona, as “perfect” for the cabinet position because she has no family, and the position requires a person with “no life.”
On Tuesday CNN’s Campbell Brown railed against the governor, commenting that it was a sexist statement that would have never been uttered had Napolitano been a man.
But the outspoken Pennsylvania Democrat shrugged off the criticism in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Sunday.
“What I said about Janet is true. I think she's the gold standard for governors. She works hard, she's dedicated, she's focused,” he said on Late Edition.
“Campbell Brown, who I love, as a person and respect as a newsperson, couldn't have been more wrong. She said that it was somehow sexist or a comment on single women. Let me tell you—If Janet Napolitano was Jim Napolitano and had no family, I would have said the exact same thing,” Rendell confidently stated.
Though Rendell claimed that he sent the Arizona governor a hand-written note apologizing for any discomfort he caused her, he strongly defended his controversial comment.
“Wolf, we've gotten really far off field in the way we cover news if that statement which is absolutely 100 percent true is construed as something. I would have said it about man or woman in similar position. It was meant to comment on how tough the job is and how great a choice Janet is,” Rendell told Blitzer.
[cnn-photo-caption image="http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/12/07/art.condi.afp.gi.jpg" caption="Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says Iraq will be viewed as 'strategic achievement.'"]WASHINGTON (CNN) - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Sunday took partial responsibility for the troubled occupation of Iraq, saying the government was not properly structured to handle the problems the United States faced after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime.
When asked by Fox News' Chris Wallace if former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had mismanaged the occupation in Iraq, Rice said the war started well but that it was a mistake not to give responsibility for the occupation solely to the military.
"I take responsibility for that, too," she said. "We just didn't have the right structure."
Rice was President Bush's national security adviser when the U.S. invaded Iraq in the spring of 2003 and was responsible for coordinating the activities of the Defense Department, the State Department and other national security agencies.
Rice, however, said she believes that the overthrow of Hussein would eventually be viewed as a "great strategic achievement" for the Bush administration and the United States.
"You now have a young democratic, multi-ethnic, multi-confessional Iraq that has just signed an historic agreement with the United States establishing a long-term relationship. ... That's a trade up," she said.
Rice also echoed the sentiments of her boss, President Bush, saying she wished the intelligence about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs had been better.
"I would give anything to be able to go back and to know precisely what we were going to find when we were there," she said. "But that isn't the way that these things work."
But Rice said the administration's decision to invade Iraq was the right one at the time, saying the risk that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction was unacceptable.
"While it's fine to go back and say what might we have done differently, the truth of the matter is we don't have that luxury. And we didn't at the time," she said.
[cnn-photo-caption image="http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/POLITICS/12/07/obama.shinseki/art.shinseki.gi.jpg" caption="Retired Gen. Eric Shinseki is President-elect Barack Obama's choice for Veterans Affairs secretary."](CNN) - President-elect Barack Obama announced Sunday that retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki is his pick for secretary of Veterans Affairs.
The nation needs "a 21st Century" Department of Veterans Affairs "that will better serve all who have answered our nation's call," he said at a news conference in Chicago.
"And there is no one more distinguished, more determined, or more qualified to build this VA than the leader I am announcing as our next Secretary of Veterans Affairs - General Eric Shinseki. No one will ever doubt that this former Army chief of staff has the courage to stand up for our troops and our veterans. No one will ever question whether he will fight hard enough to make sure they have the support they need."
He said Shinseki "understands the changing needs of our troops and their families. And he will be a VA secretary who finally modernizes our VA to meet the challenges of our time."
Shinseki, who stepped to the microphone after Obama, made a vow to his fellow veterans. If confirmed, he said, he will "work each and every day" to ensure the nation is serving them "as well as you have served us."
In an interview that aired earlier on NBC's "Meet The Press," Obama said, "When I reflect on the sacrifices that have been made by our veterans and I think about how so many veterans around the country are struggling even more than those who have not served - higher unemployment rates, higher homeless rates, higher substance abuse rates, medical care that is inadequate - it breaks my heart," Obama told NBC's "Meet the Press."
"And I think that General Shinseki is exactly the right person who's going to be able to make sure that we honor our troops when they come home."
The official announcement took place in Chicago on Sunday, the anniversary of Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.
[cnn-photo-caption image="http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/12/07/art.gregory.brokaw.gi.jpg" caption="NBC's David Gregory, left, shakes hands with Tom Brokaw on the set 'Meet the Press' Sunday."]WASHINGTON (CNN) – Venerable newsman Tom Brokaw handed the reins of NBC’s “Meet the Press” over to David Gregory, marking a generational shift at the Sunday morning institution.
Brokaw, who was named the interim host of the talk show after Tim Russert died in June, encouraged Gregory, 38, to bring a new generation of voices to the program, which has been on the air since 1947.
“I really encourage you to reach to your generation and get some fresh new voices who are out there because it’s a very impressive crowd of young journalists who are coming of age.”
Gregory said he was humbled that he was succeeding Brokaw, the former NBC anchorman.
"This is an incredible honor, and to have it come from you is also really special because of what you've meant to me in the course of my career here and the course of my life," Gregory told Brokaw.
Gregory said he would try to live up to the legacy established by Russert, who hosted “Meet The Press” for 17 years.
"I'm not Tim, but, along with this great team, I can just work real hard to make him proud."
[cnn-photo-caption image="http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/POLITICS/12/04/clinton.analysis/art.clinton.portrait.gi.jpg" caption="Sen. Hillary Clinton is preparing to move from Capitol Hill to Foggy Bottom."]WASHINGTON (CNN) - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday that she believes Sen. Hillary Clinton will "do a great job" as secretary of state.
In an interview with CNN, Rice also addressed President-elect Barack Obama's victory, saying she believes Americans were "wise in wanting change."
Speaking to CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer," Rice said she has spoken with Clinton since Obama named the former first lady as his pick to be the nation's top diplomat.
"I talked with her and we're going to sit down, and I'm really looking forward to it. I've known her a long time and she is someone that I admire."
Though the two are from opposite political parties, Rice seemed to spare no praise for Clinton, who lost her battle for the Democratic presidential nomination to Obama.
"I've known her for a long time, ever since she brought her freshman daughter to Stanford, when I was provost at Stanford. I think she's going to be terrific," Rice told ABC's "This Week."
She added, "President-elect Obama has made his choice, and he's made a terrific choice. Hillary Clinton is somebody of intelligence, and she'll do a great job. She also has what's most important to being secretary of state, and that is that you love this country, and you represent it from a basis of faith in its values. And I know that she will do that.
"I've watched her - I watched her do it at the conference in Beijing on women. I know that she was someone who felt strongly about the Balkans and the need to stop that terrible killing there. So, from that point of view, she's going to be great."
In her interview with CNN, Rice described Obama's national security team as "people I know, and they are all people of substance. And the most important thing is that they are all people who are going to have the fundamental interests and values of the United States at the core of what they do."
Having grown up in segregated Birmingham, Alabama, Rice said Obama's election was "quite a moment. It means this country has come an enormous distance. "It means that the United States of America is what it claims to be, which is a place of opportunity for all. I don't think, by the way, that we're still color-blind. It's remarkable that we have an African-American president.
We've had back-to-back African-American secretaries of state. We have African-American heads of major corporations. "But still, we see race and that's fine. But increasingly we don't see race as all-defining, of who one is and what one can be. As long as we pay attention to opportunity - to making educational opportunities available, which is really what got me to where I am and I think President-elect Obama would tell you the same thing."
Asked whether she would help Obama if he asks, Rice responded, "He is not going to need my help. He has got plenty of help. But of course, he is someone that I admire. He was on my committee, the Foreign Relations Committee. We have talked a number of times. He is going to do very well for the country.
"But eight years is a long time. The American people are wise in wanting change. Two terms is plenty. And I'm going to go back to California and on to other things."
[cnn-photo-caption image="http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/POLITICS/12/06/louisiana.congress/art.jefferson.gi.jpg" caption="Louisiana Democratic Rep. William Jefferson has been embroiled in a bribery scandal."](CNN) - Nine-term Democratic Rep. William Jefferson, who has been battling scandals and a federal indictment for the past three years, lost his bid for re-election on Saturday.
Republican challenger Anh "Joseph" Cao, an attorney and community organizer, defeated Jefferson in the Louisiana 2nd Congressional district race. He will become the first Vietnamese-American elected to Congress.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Cao had almost 50 percent of the vote to Jefferson's 47 percent.
The 2nd Congressional district, in and around New Orleans, is mostly African-American and heavily Democratic, and Jefferson appeared to be favored to win re-election going into the election.
[cnn-photo-caption image="http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/POLITICS/12/07/caroline.kennedy.senate/art.caroline.kennedy.gi.jpg" caption="Caroline Kennedy could join her uncle Edward in the U.S. Senate. "](CNN) - Caroline Kennedy, who spent most of her life looking to steer clear of the spotlight, is capping off a year of unusually public - and political - activity with interest in the Senate seat that would be vacated by Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton.
And her interest in that seat could mean the continuation of a Kennedy legacy in the Senate that began 56 years ago with the election of her father, John F. Kennedy, as the junior senator from Massachusetts.
Her uncle Edward has represented Massachusetts in the Senate for more than four decades. Her uncle Robert served as junior senator from New York from 1965 until he was assassinated in 1968.
"Remember, [Clinton's] seat in the Senate was once held by Robert Kennedy," CNN Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider said Saturday. "Her other uncle, Ted Kennedy, is ill right now. If [New York Gov. David] Paterson appoints Caroline Kennedy to the Senate, it means there could be a Kennedy staying in the Senate for quite a long time."