[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/19/art.blunt.gi.jpg caption="Blunt announced Thursday he is running for Senate."](CNN) - Missouri Rep. Roy Blunt Thursday announced his intention to run for a seat in the U.S. Senate, a move that sets up what is likely to be a showdown between two prominent families in one of the country's most politically divided states.
Making the official announcement in St. Louis, the former House Republican Whip indicated he would run on a platform of keeping Democratic control of both Congress and the White House in check.
"Common sense and open debate are in danger of being suppressed by the overreaching liberal monopoly in Congress and the White House," he said according to prepared remarks. "Never has Washington been in greater need of hearing from people who work hard, pay their taxes, and want solutions to urgent economic problems and the ongoing threat of terrorism."
"My sense is Missourians and Americans are not well served by one-party rule," Blunt also said, citing the massive stimulus measure signed by President Barack Obama that won little Republican support.
The announcement comes two weeks after Democrat Robin Carnahan jumped into the race - another Missourian with prominent name recognition who enjoys widespread support.
"The Missouri Senate race is shaping up to be one of the most competitive races of the cycle," said Nathan Gonzalez, political editor of the Rothenberg Report. "It has attracted two of the biggest names of the state that has a history of closest elections."
Both Blunt and Carnahan are seeking the Senate seat set to be vacated by longtime Missouri Republican Kit Bond.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/19/art.steele.gi.jpg caption="Steele plans an agressive PR push for his party."](CNN) - Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele says his party is going to launch an "off the hook" public relations campaign that will update the GOP’s image by translating it to "urban-suburban hip-hop settings."
The new GOP leader told the Washington Times that the party’s defeat in states like North Carolina and Virginia made it clear they needed a new approach.
“We need messengers to really capture that region - young, Hispanic, black, a cross section...” he said in an interview published Thursday. “We want to convey that the modern-day GOP looks like the conservative party that stands on principles. But we want to apply them to urban-surburban hip-hop settings.”
He added, jokingly, that “we need to uptick our image with everyone, including one-armed midgets.”
Steele described the new multi-platform PR offensive as “avant-garde, technically. It will come to [the] table with things that will surprise everyone - off the hook.” Asked whether that meant cutting-edge tactics, Steele demurred. “I don't do 'cutting-edge,’” he said. “That's what Democrats are doing. We're going beyond cutting-edge.”
Steele, who began a massive personnel overhaul at the RNC shortly after his election, said he has started meeting weekly with congressional Republicans. He said he’ll be gathering input from House and Senate leaders, not giving instructions - but criticized national Republican leadership’s focus on party unity as a top priority, saying the failure to devote itself instead to developing fresh faces had cost the GOP.
“We missed the mark in the past, which is why we are in the crapper now,” he said. “We had the White House, the Senate and the House and were not building a farm team over the last years. We could have been ahead of Democrats and their 50-state strategy.”
OTTAWA, Canada - Ever wonder how President Obama decides which reporters to call upon at a news conference? Here in Canada, it appears to be a matter of the President soothing some bruised feelings by calling on two newspaper reporters he recently skipped over at his first White House press conference.
As I sit in the front row for the event about to start with the President and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the buzz among American reporters is that the lucky folks are David Jackson of USA
Today and Jonathan Weisman of The Wall Street Journal.
The behind-the-scenes story is that Jackson and Weisman, who work for two major papers, were not happy that the President didn't call on them at the big East Room newser earlier this month.
One way for White House officials to make it up to the gentlemen –and their sizable readerships - would be to call on them now. Sure enough, several reporters say Weisman and Jackson have been tipped that Obama will call on them today. And sure enough, both men have been given prime seats - front and center - here in Canada.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/19/art.getty.yes.oui.canada.jpg caption="Chants of “Yes we can! Yes we can!” could be heard as thousands of Canadians lined the streets to greet Obama’s motorcade."](CNN) – President Obama arrived in this snowy capital city for his first foreign trip greeted by 17 Canadian mounties – and thousands of ordinary fans chanting a familiar campaign theme.
Chants of “Yes we can! Yes we can!” could be heard as thousands of Canadians lined the streets to greet Obama’s motorcade. One hand-made sign simply said, “After God, It’s Obama.”
The President seemed to bask in the adulation as he arrived at the Parliament building for a working lunch with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
After walking into Parliament, Obama coaxed Harper to come outside the building so the beaming President could wave to the adoring crowd – a sharp contrast from the hostile anti-war protests that used to greet former President Bush’s trips north.
http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/02/19/holder.folo/art.holderrace.gi.jpg caption="Attorney General Eric Holder helps celebrate Black History Month at an event Wednesday at the Justice Department."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - America is "a nation of cowards" when discussing race. That sentiment from the country's first African-American attorney general, Eric Holder, has stirred up pundits, bloggers and readers.
"Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial, we have always been and we - I believe continue to be in too many ways essentially a nation of cowards," Holder told Department of Justice employees at an event Wednesday celebrating Black History Month.
And that impression of race in America has set off a firestorm of criticism.
"Holder doesn't want an honest dialogue about race. In the Age of [President] Obama, 'talking enough with each other about race' means the rest of us shutting up while being subjected to lectures about our insensitivity and insufficient integration on the weekends," conservative blogger Michelle Malkin wrote.
Stephan Tawney, writing on the American Pundit blog, said a glimpse at the national political landscape - namely the country's first black president - suggests otherwise.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/03/art.getty.sarah.palin.jpg caption="Palin supports the last-minute Bush administration regulation."](CNN) - Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin wrote the Interior Department on Wednesday to express her support for a last-minute Bush administration regulation that allows the carrying of concealed weapons in national parks.
Palin said the new measure provides Alaskans with a means of self-defense in a state with vast swaths of federally-protected wilderness.
"As you know, my state contains vast, pristine areas where the ability to carry firearms can address a potentially life-threatening situation, enabling citizens to respond to bear and other wildlife conflicts," Palin wrote in a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
She added that "many urban and rural hunters utilize firearms in the pursuit of wildlife to satisfy their nutritional and cultural needs."
The Bush administration lifted a 25-year-old federal ban on carrying loaded weapons in national parks and wildlife refuges in December, a policy change backed by the National Rifle Association but opposed by a coalition of park rangers and conservation groups who argued that wildlife areas would become less safe.
The new rule took effect on January 9, but Salazar has ordered a 90-day review of the environmental impact of the decision. Just last week, however, the Obama Justice Department defended the Bush regulation, arguing that it would not adversely impact the environment or public safety.
Under the regulation, park-goers carrying weapons must abide by state gun laws when visiting parks, laws Palin said are adequate and "will not detract from the purposes of national parks and wildlife refuges."
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/19/art.getty.adolfo.carrion.jpg caption="Two-term Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion will serve as Director of the Office on Urban Affairs."](CNN) - The newly-launched Office on Urban Affairs will have a Big Apple flavor.
Two-term Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion will lead the office, reporting directly to the president, bringing attention to urban areas and coordinating federal programs. Derek Douglas, who served as the state’s chief lobbyist in Washington, will be named Special Assistant to the President for Urban Affairs
The new office “ will focus on wise investments and development in our urban areas that will create employment and housing opportunities and make our country more competitive, prosperous, and strong," said President Obama in a statement released Wednesday.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/19/art.burrisscrum0219.gi.jpg caption="A spokesman for Illinois Democratic Sen. Roland Burris has resigned."]
(CNN) - A spokesman for embattled Illinois Sen. Roland Burris resigned Thursday in the wake of new disclosures about requests that Burris raise money for disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich while seeking a U.S. Senate appointment.
"I initially began helping the Senator on a temporary basis because he is a long term friend who I served several years when he was (Illinois) Attorney General," Jason Erkes said in a written statement to CNN.
"It is now time for me to get back to focusing on ... my newly formed strategic communications business."
The statement did not comment on his feelings about the new disclosures.
A defiant Sen. Burris insisted Wednesday that he was innocent of any wrongdoing in his appointment to President Barack Obama's former Senate seat, even as calls for his resignation intensified.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/02/17/buy.american/art.obama.walk.gi.jpg caption="Obama has said he will overturn Bush's restrictions on embryonic stem cell research."](CNN) - A group of six moderate House Republicans have written to President Obama urging him to lift President Bush's ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.
"We are writing to respectfully urge that you immediately lift the current federal restrictions on funding for embryonic stem cell research," they wrote Wednesday, also requesting that the president ask the National Institutes of Health to issue "appropriate guidelines."
The letter was signed by Reps. Fred Upton of Michigan, Charles Dent of Pennsylvania, Brian Bilbray of California, Michael Castle of Delaware, and Mark Steven Kirk and Judy Biggert of Illinois.
Bush announced in August 2001 that his administration would allow federal funding only for research on about 60 stem cell lines that existed at the time, but Obama stressed on the campaign trail that he planned to reverse Bush's regulations and emphasize science over ideology.
"I guarantee you that we will sign an executive order for stem cells," Obama told a retreat of House Democrats in Virginia earlier this month. But some supporters of stem cell research have griped that Obama has not acted quickly enough to overturn Bush's ban.
"While we have been encouraged by recent news reports that you plan to issue an Executive Order soon, we cannot stress enough the importance of swift action," the moderate GOP members of Congress wrote Wednesday. "After the current restrictions are lifted, we stand ready to work with you and our colleagues in Congress on adopting complimentary legislation."
The Republicans said that stem cell research holds "great promise" for Americans suffering from afflictions like Parkinson's disease, spinal cord injuries and diabetes.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/02/19/clinton.koreas/art.clinton.gi.jpg caption="Hillary Clinton has said any North Korean missile launch would be very unhelpful to relations with the U.S. "]
SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton headed for South Korea on Thursday on the third leg of her four-nation tour of Asia.
The visit comes at a time of escalating tensions on the Korean peninsula and after U.S. officials cited evidence that North Korea was gearing up for a launch of a long-range missile.
North Korean officials have disputed the claim, saying in the country's official news agency that Pyongyang was preparing to launch a satellite.
But Pyongyang said Thursday that it was ready for an "all-out confrontation" with South Korea, calling President Lee Myung-bak a traitor and accusing him of "frantically inciting hostility" toward North Korea and "kicking up ... war hysteria," North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency said.
Seoul called the North's statement a repeat of past bluster.
"It's seen as an attempt by North Korea to increase uneasiness about security and widen the ideological divide within South Korea," said Kim Ho-Nyun, a spokesman for the South Korean Unification Ministry.
Speaking at a news conference with Japanese Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone this week, Clinton warned that a possible North Korean missile launch would be "very unhelpful in moving our relationship forward."
She said the United States is "watching very closely" actions by North Korea.