[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/09/18/art.hclinton.0918.gi.jpg caption="Secretary of State Hillary Clinton outlines sweeping agenda for U.N. conference."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton laid out an ambitious U.S. agenda Friday for next week's United Nations gathering, citing issues such as nuclear non-proliferation, climate change, women's rights and ongoing wars.
She also strongly defended the Obama administration's decision to scrap Bush-era plans for a missile defense shield in Europe, calling it a decision that will ultimately leave the United States and its allies better positioned to defend against a potential threat from Iran.
"Our agenda is ambitious," she told an audience at the Brookings Institute when discussing the highly anticipated U.N. session. It stems from
President Barack Obama's belief that the United Nations is "a critical, central institution."
Obama is slated to makes his first appearance before the U.N. General Assembly next week. He is scheduled to address a meeting on climate control on Tuesday, address the General Assembly on Wednesday, and chair a special session of the U.N. Security Council dealing with nuclear non-proliferation on Thursday.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/09/18/art.obama.0918-3.gi.jpg caption="The Democratic National Committee has launched a tough new campaign to push back against GOP critics."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A little more than a week after President Obama pledged to "call out" opponents who make what he calls irresponsible arguments about his health care plan, the Democratic National Committee launched a tough new campaign to push back against GOP critics.
The DNC is asking supporters to pressure individual foes of the president's plan via phone and social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. Democrats are also launching an online "action center."
"Every Republican official must understand: If you lie about reform, the American people will call you out!" DNC Executive Director Jennifer O'Malley Dillon told supporters in a Friday e-mail.
First in the crosshairs: Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, who has taken an increasingly high-profile national role this year. The DNC's Friday e-mail asked Democrats to call his office to complain about recent comments over the controversial "death panels" debate, and to take a new Web video slamming the Minnesota governor viral.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/09/18/art.obama0918-1.gi.jpg caption="Barack Obama's approval as president is holding steady in the mid-50's, according to new CNN Poll of Polls."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama's approval rating is holding steady in the mid-50's, according to a new CNN Poll of Polls.
Fifty-five percent of Americans approve of how Obama's handling his duties in the White House, according to the CNN Poll of Polls, which averaged the six national surveys taken since the president addressed a joint session of Congress on September 9. Thirty-nine percent, on average, disapprove.
The 55 percent approval rating is almost identical to the 54 percent mark that Obama had in August, according to an average of national surveys conducted last month. "The early part of the summer was a bad time for Obama, whose average approval dropped 7 points during that period. But since then, his average approval rating has stabilized in the mid 50s," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
Protests at health care town halls held by members of Congress in their home states and districts received a lot of attention in the news media in August and early September. Many of those demonstrations were directed against the President and his proposals on health care reform.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/09/18/art.0918-1.jpg caption="Gov. Rick Perry is currently battling Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison for the GOP nomination."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Texas Gov. Rick Perry was originally included on 2012 Presidential Straw Poll ballot at this weekend's Values Voter Summit in Washington, but his staff requested that his name be removed.
A spokesman for Perry's re-election campaign told CNN that the request was made because the two-term governor is not thinking about running for President, but is instead "focused on running for governor." Perry is currently battling Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison for the GOP nomination.
The governor, however, is still attending the conference and is slated to speak on Saturday.
The potential Republican candidates on the straw poll ballot are: former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.
JERUSALEM (CNN) - The hopes for renewed Israeli-Palestinian talks dimmed Friday despite the fast-paced shuttle diplomacy efforts of top U.S. diplomat George Mitchell.
Mitchell, the U.S. envoy for the Middle East, capped off a week of diplomacy in the region with a second round of talks with both sides. He met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Mitchell has been working to broker a last-minute deal before the start of the the Jewish New Year, which begins at sundown on Friday, and the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday this weekend. The deal would allow a trilateral meeting among Netanyahu, Abbas and President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly next week in New York.
One of the sticking points has been the Israeli settlement freeze issue.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/08/27/kennedy.senate.clout/art.kennedysenate.gi.jpg caption="The Massachusetts Senate is scheduled to consider a measure Friday that would allow the governor to appoint an interim U.S. senator to serve in the four month stretch of time before a special election is held to fill the late Sen. Ted Kennedy's seat."](CNN) - The Massachusetts Senate is scheduled to consider a measure Friday that would allow the governor to appoint an interim U.S. senator to serve in the four month stretch of time before a special election is held to fill the late Sen. Ted Kennedy's seat.
The measure easily passed the Massachusetts House of Representatives by a 95-58 vote Thursday night. While the bill will be brought to the floor Friday afternoon in the state's Senate chamber, Republicans are expected use a procedural motion to delay a vote until next week, said Dave Falcone, a spokesman for the state Senate Majority leader.
State Democrats are strongly pushing the measure to ensure Massachusetts has two votes in the U.S. Senate during the battle over health care reform. With the now-vacant seat, Democrats only have 59 votes in the U.S. Senate - one short of preventing a likely Republican filibuster against a Democratic health care bill.
But Republicans in Massachusetts argue it was Democrats who changed the Senate succession rules in 2004 to prohibit an interim appointment. At the time Democrats wanted to prevent then-Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican, from handpicking a replacement for Sen. John Kerry if the Democratic presidential nominee won the White House that year.
While state Democrats have a clear majority in the Senate (35-5), it remains "speculative" whether there are enough votes to pass the bill, Falcone said.
Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick has stated he supports the rule change and would sign the bill if it passes the Senate. Former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis is reportedly on the top of the list to be named to the seat should the measure pass, according to the Boston Globe.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/09/14/art.youlie.gi.jpg caption="South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford says he can feel Joe Wilson's pain."](CNN) - South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford says he can feel Joe Wilson's pain.
Sanford on Thursday compared the scrutiny of Wilson - the Republican congressman who was formally reprimanded by the House of Representatives for shouting at President Obama - to the ongoing political war he has faced since revealing an extramarital affair in June. Sanford called it "the same dynamic."
"The guy apologized, and then you can have a bunch of other people come back and say, 'We want you to apologize again and again and again,'" Sanford told CN2 News in Rock Hill, South Carolina. "But what do people want out of federal representation? They want somebody representing them up in Congress."
"At some point in all of life, the question is not, 'When is someone going to make a mistake?', but 'When do the rest of us move on?,'" he said. "He apologized to the president. Does he have to issue 25 more apologies before folks will leave him alone?"
"Having seen some of this process a little up close and personal, my thought is it's time to move on," he concluded.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/09/17/art.robmiller.com.jpg caption="Rob Miller first challenged Republican congressman Joe Wilson in 2008."]WASHINGTON (CNN) - Rep. Joe Wilson's Democratic challenger Rob Miller has collected more than $1 million online since Wilson shouted "You lie!" at President Obama, but next week Miller will be raising money the old-fashioned way.
The South Carolina Democrat, who has yet to make a public appearance since Wilson's outburst, will head to Washington for a pair of fundraisers on Capitol Hill.
A group of ex-staffers for former South Carolina Sen. Fritz Hollings and Rep. Jim Clyburn will host an event for Miller at a Capitol Hill restaurant on Wednesday, with a minimum suggested donation of $250, according to an invitation provided to CNN.
Later in the evening, Miller will head over to a Pennsylvania Avenue bar for a low-dollar meet-and-greet with "young professionals." The entry fee for that gathering is $20.10.
Wilson, meanwhile, continues to soak up online donations - the Republican has raised nearly $1.8 million since last Wednesday, including several thousand dollars since he was formally punished by the House on Tuesday for his outburst.
Follow Peter Hamby on Twitter @hambypCNN
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/09/08/art.pawlenty.gi.jpg caption="Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty will speak at the conference on Friday evening."]WASHINGTON (CNN) - Conservatives will descend upon the nation's capital Friday for the 2009 "Values Voter Summit," the fourth annual gathering of like-minded political activists who will plot 2010 strategy and hear several potential presidential prospects discuss the GOP's future.
In-between speeches, attendees will also participate in forums with titles ranging from “Thugocracy: Fighting The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy” to “Global Warming Hysteria.”
Perhaps the most anticipated event of the weekend will be "2012 Presidential Straw Poll," the results of which are scheduled to be announced Saturday.
The potential Republican candidates on the ballot are: former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.
Romney won a similar straw poll in February at the Conservative Political Action Conference, which was held at the same hotel and featured many of the same speakers. Romney also won the last Values Voter straw poll - in October 2007 - when he narrowly defeated Huckabee in a vote that was open to both attendees and people who signed up to vote on the internet. This year’s survey will only be open to conference-goers.