March 3, 2009
Posted: 03:43 PM ET
From CNN's Lauren Kornreich
Palin was the target of an investigation, led by Elton.
(CNN) – Alaska State Sen. Kim Elton, one of the leading officials to pursue an investigation of Gov. Sarah Palin during the heat of the presidential campaign, has taken a high-level job in the Interior Department.
Palin reacted in a short statement Monday, the day Elton announced his move to Washington.
“Senator Elton pledged his allegiance to President Obama last summer,” said the governor. “We wish him well as he moves on and hope that he uses this job for Alaska’s benefit.”
Palin was the target of an official investigation last year over charges she improperly dismissed a public safety commissioner who refused to fire her sister’s ex-husband, a state trooper. Elton led the legislative investigation of the incident.
The report, released in October, said Palin had the authority to fire the public safety commissioner, and the governor said it cleared her of wrongdoing. But the report also said Palin had abused her power as governor, and had violated state ethics law.
Elton will serve as Director of Alaska Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Filed under: Sarah Palin
Posted: 03:35 PM ET
McAuliffe is trying to make Rush Limbaugh a campaign issue.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – As national Democrats eagerly point to Rush Limbaugh’s influence among Republicans, one Virginia Democrat is looking to make the radio host a flash point in this year’s governor’s race.
Terry McAuliffe, the former Democratic National Committee chairman now seeking his party's nomination for governor, sent a letter Tuesday to the de facto Republican nominee, former state Attorney General Bob McDonnell, asking him to reject Limbaugh’s recent statement that he wants President Obama to fail.
“I know that you and I disagree on many issues, but I'm hoping that we can agree on this: hoping for failure isn't the right way to get our economy back on track,” McAuliffe wrote in the letter. “That's why I'm asking you to join me in condemning the remarks Rush Limbaugh made wishing for the President to fail.”
McAuliffe wrote that Virginians are concerned with getting the economy back on track and that Limbaugh’s comments are not constructive.
“I hope you'll join me in calling for Rush to start taking an approach that reflects the best of what our system stands for,” McAuliffe wrote.
McDonnell’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Posted: 03:10 PM ET
From CNN's Sarah Parker
Just 26 percent of the state’s registered voters questioned in a Marist poll released Tuesday say they approve of Gov. David Paterson’s job performance.
(CNN) — More bad news for New York Gov. David Paterson: in a new poll, the governor's approval rating plummeted 20 points in a month.
Just 26 percent of the state’s registered voters questioned in a Marist poll released Tuesday say they approve of Paterson’s job performance — the lowest approval rating a New York state governor has received in the poll’s 30-year history, and a sharp decline from the governor’s January showing.
Fifty-three percent of those polled said they would vote for former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani if the 2010 vote for governor were held today, while 38 percent said they would back Paterson.
Paterson is losing ground against the former Republican presidential candidate – the two were in a statistical standoff in January's poll, and in November's poll the governor maintained a 51 percent to 41 percent lead.
The sitting governor does fare better than former congressman Rick Lazio. Forty-seven percent would support Paterson in a run against Lazio, while 35 percent would back the congressman. Eighteen percent are undecided.
Posted: 03:05 PM ET
From CNNMoney.com Senior Writer Tami Lubhi
Mortgage modifications have a bad rap, yet President Obama is depending on them to stop the foreclosure crisis.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) – Mortgage modifications have a bad rap, yet President Obama is depending on them to stop the foreclosure crisis.
Modifications continue to be pushed as the best way to get struggling borrowers back on their feet. The jury is out on whether modifications work long-term. One recent study showed about half of borrowers with modified loans fell behind within six months.
Still, Obama is giving modifications a central role in his $75 billion foreclosure prevention program.
The program, which starts on Wednesday, calls for loan servicers to lower struggling borrowers' interest rates to 31% of their gross income. The government will subsidize part of the reduction, as well as kick in incentives for the servicers, borrowers and mortgage investors to participate in the modifications.
Filed under: President Obama
Posted: 02:45 PM ET
From CNN White House Producer Xuan Thai
Prime Minister Gordon Brown and President Obama met in the Oval Office on Tuesday.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – One day after the stock market fell to its worst showing in more than a decade, President Obama suggested the current situation offered great investment opportunities for some Americans.
“What you’re now seeing is profit and earning ratios are starting to get to the point where buying stocks is a potentially good deal, if you’ve got a long-term perspective on it,” Obama told reporters Tuesday.
The president and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, visiting Obama in the White House for the first time, took questions in the Oval Office.
Obama dismissed doubts over his plans to reform the banking system. “Well, let me say this: I'm absolutely confident that they will work,” he said. “And I'm absolutely confident that credit is going to be flowing again, that businesses are going to start seeing opportunities for investment, they're going to start hiring again, people are going to be put back to work.
“What I'm looking at is not the day-to-day gyrations of the stock market, but the long-term ability for the United States and the entire world economy to regain its footing. And, you know, the stock market is sort of like a tracking poll in politics. It bobs up and down day to day, and if you spend all your time worrying about that, then you're probably going to get the long-term strategy wrong.
Both leaders also stressed the “special relationship” between the U.S. and Great Britain, and even discussed the possibility of a tennis match, reportedly Brown’s sport of choice.
“I don’t think I could ever compete with you at basketball,” said Brown. “Perhaps tennis.”
This is the second meeting President Obama has hosted with a world leader at the White House since taking office. He met with Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso in February.
Posted: 01:57 PM ET
From CNN Political Producer Peter Hamby
Limbaugh is 'the godfather' of the GOP, said DNC chairman Tim Kaine.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – The chairman of the Democratic National Committee persisted Tuesday in calling attention to his Republican counterpart Michael Steele’s apology to Rush Limbaugh, describing the radio host as “the Wizard of Oz” and “the godfather” of the GOP.
DNC Chairman Tim Kaine told CNN that Steele’s backpedaling from earlier criticisms of the talk show host proves that Limbaugh is "the Wizard of Oz, you know, who kind of oversees everything" in the Republican Party.
Earlier in the day, Kaine told MSNBC that Limbaugh is “clearly the godfather, or the he-who-must-be-obeyed in Republican politics these days.”
“When Chairman Steele over the weekend pointed out that the kinds of comments that Rush Limbaugh has been making, hoping the president will fail, pointing out that those were ugly and incendiary, I thought that that took some guts to say that,” Kaine told CNN.
“But then the fact that he backtracked immediately leaves me wondering, okay, so is Rush Limbaugh the guy that's really in charge of the party?”
Democrats are eager to highlight the GOP skirmish: Kaine made several cable appearances Tuesday and released two statements criticizing Steele after the RNC chair called Limbaugh to apologize for calling him an “entertainer” and saying his comments can be “ugly.”
Posted: 01:56 PM ET
From CNN Congressional Producer Deirdre Walsh and CNN Senior Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md, insisted Tuesday that Congress, not President Obama, would decide whether to put more limits on earmarks in upcoming spending bills.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md, insisted Tuesday that Congress, not President Obama, would decide whether to put more limits on earmarks in upcoming spending bills.
Asked about a statement by White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs Monday that the Obama Administration was formulating guidelines for earmark reform, Hoyer said flatly, "I don't think the White House has the ability to tell us what to do." He paused deliberately and quipped to reporters in the room, "I hope you all got that down."
He added, "It is certainly appropriate for the White House to suggest ways of going forward so that we can have agreement between the White House and ourselves."
Hoyer pointed out that Democrats have cut down the number of earmarks and now require that all requests get posted on the internet. But he conceded "I think there are additional things we can do and consider." He said Congressional leaders already talked to the White House about "concerns it had,” but refused to offer any specifics.
Filed under: Steny Hoyer
Posted: 01:55 PM ET
From CNN's Jack Cafferty
Join the conversation on Jack's blog.
Rush Limbaugh is the face of the Republican Party — at least that’s how some Democrats want it.
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel calls Limbaugh the “voice and intellectual force and energy” behind the GOP and Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says he’s “a national spokesperson for conservative views.” This after the radio host recently repeated his claim that he wants President Obama to fail.
It also comes at the same time as a dust-up within conservative ranks between Limbaugh and Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee. Over the weekend, Steele called Limbaugh an “entertainer” whose comments are “ugly.”
Needless to say, Limbaugh has had a field day with all the finger-pointing, going after both the Democrats and Steele on his radio show. Limbaugh insists he’s not in charge of the GOP and doesn’t want to be. He says considering the sad state of the Republican Party, he would quit if he were chairman.
To read more and contribute to the Cafferty File discussion click here
Filed under: Cafferty File
Posted: 01:55 PM ET
WASHINGTON (CNN) — While taking questions from reporters during a meeting with the British Prime Minister, President Obama also touched on a letter between himself and the President of Russia.
Watch: Obama explains Russia letter
Posted: 01:49 PM ET
From CNN Political Producer Peter Hamby
A conservative Club for Growth is criticizing three Republican supporters of the president's stimulus bill.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – The Club for Growth has bestowed the three moderate senators who supported President Obama’s stimulus plan with their monthly “Comrade of the Month” award.
The small government advocacy group announced Tuesday that 86 percent of its members chose to give the February award to Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, who broke with their party last month to give the White House the 60 votes needed to pass the stimulus package.
“As future generations of American taxpayers struggle to pay off the country’s mountain of debt, they will have these three Republican Senators to thank,” said Club for Growth Executive Director David Keating in a press release.
According to the group, the dubious honor “is awarded at the end every month to the public official or figure who best lives up to the policies of big government and favors restrictions on economic freedom.”
The jab at Specter is particularly eyebrow-raising because it comes one day after the Club’s president, Pat Toomey, said he is considering challenging the Pennsylvania senator in next year’s Republican primary. If Toomey runs, it would set-up a re-match of the bruising 2004 GOP primary battle that Specter ultimately won.
Posted: 01:40 PM ET
From CNN Associate Producer Martina Stewart
A group of Christian leaders issued a statement in support of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, the President's choice to lead HHS.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, President Obama’s nominee to head the Department of Health and Human Services, is getting some support from Christian leaders in what could be a brewing battle over her position on abortion policy.
Sebelius, who is Catholic and personally opposed to abortion, has nonetheless angered some religious groups with her policy positions on abortion during her tenure as governor.
In a statement issued Monday, a group of Christian leaders said that under Sebelius, the number of abortions in the state had decreased, pre-natal care had expanded, adoption funding and incentives increased, and legislation passed that protected the unborn from crime.
“Such a record demonstrates a commitment to results rather than rhetoric on life issues,” the group said.
Citing her appeal in a heavily Republican state, the group also suggested Sebelius has the ability to bridge ideological divides. “Her record and her relationships with leaders in both parties are proof that pro-choice and pro-life leaders can work together to advance a pro-family agenda….Efforts to discredit her will no doubt arise,” they said, but Sebelius “deserves a fair hearing in Congress and in the public square.”
Posted: 12:01 PM ET
From CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser
t's a crowded ballot today in Chicago, where nearly two dozen candidates are running in a special primary election to replace former Rep. Rahm Emanuel.
(CNN) – It's a crowded ballot today in Chicago, where nearly two dozen candidates are running in a special primary election to replace former Rep. Rahm Emanuel.
Twelve Democrats, six Republicans and five Green Party candidates are vying to succeed Emanuel, who was re-elected in November to a fourth term but stepped down at the beginning of this year to serve as President Obama's White House Chief of Staff.
The winners of each party's primary will face off in a general election contest on April 7.
The district stretches from Chicago's wealthy North Side along Lake Michigan to more middle class ethnic enclaves in the northwest part of the city to suburban areas in neighboring Cook County. The district is dominated by Democrats. Emanuel won 78 percent of the vote in his re-election last November.
"This is a solidly Democratic district. It went overwhelmingly for Barack Obama. A Democrat has make an effort to lose that seat," says CNN Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider.
Posted: 12:00 PM ET
From CNN's Lauren Kornreich
RNC chair Michael Steele sent a letter to help raise money for Norm Coleman.
(CNN) – Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele sent a letter to GOP supporters Tuesday asking for contributions to “stop liberal Democrat comedian Al Franken from stealing Norm Coleman’s U.S. Senate seat in Minnesota.”
“I’m no stranger to the gutter campaign tactics and shady legal maneuverings of the Left Wing,” Steele said in the letter. “They don’t fight fair, and they’ll stop at nothing to consolidate the power they crave. This outrageous power grab by Al Franken and Harry Reid must not stand.”
The nail-biting election between Coleman and Franken for the Minnesota senate seat was forced into a recount, which ended with a slim 225-vote lead for Franken. Coleman took the recount to court in January, alleging that thousands of ballots were improperly rejected. The judges overseeing the trail said the ballots were not legally cast under Minnesota law.
In his letter, Steele called the continuing Senate battle in Minnesota “unfinished business” for the GOP, and urged Republicans to contribute to Coleman’s recount fund. He also criticized President Obama’s “outrageous, pork-laden stimulus package” and said with Coleman in office, it would have been more difficult to pass the legislation.
Posted: 11:30 AM ET
From CNN's Ed Hornick
Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius is said to have a great personal relationship with President Obama.
WASHINGTON (CNN) — Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' experience working with both Democrats and Republicans in her home state could be an asset to President Obama as he embarks on an effort at bipartisanship in reforming health care.
Obama on Monday nominated Sebelius to be his health and human services secretary.
Sebelius is a two-term Democratic governor in a Republican-leaning state. She previously served as a state insurance commissioner and oversaw Kansas' Medicaid program.
In a show of her bipartisan appeal, Republican governors such as Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and Jon Huntsman of Utah commended her selection.
Schwarzenegger said Sebelius "has a well-earned reputation of working across the political aisle," and Huntsman called the appointment "a welcome announcement."
Republicans from Sebelius' home state also threw their support behind the governor.
Former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kansas, and Kansas GOP Sen. Pat Roberts, attended the announcement at the White House on Monday.
Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback released a statement with Roberts congratulating Sebelius and expressing an eagerness to work with their fellow Kansan on health issues.
But Brownback and Roberts came under criticism from some Republicans because they oppose abortion while Sebelius supports a woman's right to choose.
Brownback, who ran for the GOP presidential nomination, is considered one of the leading anti-abortion voices in the Senate.
Posted: 11:28 AM ET
From CNN Political Editor Mark Preston
RNC chairman Michael Steele said he was "all good" with Rush Limbaugh after speaking with the conservative radio talk show host on Monday night. (Photo Credit: Getty Images/File)
WASHINGTON (CNN) — Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said Tuesday he has spoken with Rush Limbaugh about his comments regarding the conservative radio talk show host.
"We had a nice conversation last night," Steele said in a statement sent to CNN. "We are all good."
RNC officials described the call as private and did not elaborate on the details of the conversation between the two men.
Posted: 11:10 AM ET
The President visited the Department of Transportion Tuesday.
WASHINGTON (CNN) — President Barack Obama announced Tuesday that the country is already "seeing shovels hit the ground" on the first infrastructure repair project funded through the Transportation Department's share of the $787 billion stimulus bill.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood added, "The work begins today in Montgomery County, Maryland, where a work crew is starting on a project to resurface Maryland State Highway 650 — a very busy road that has not been fully repaired in 17 years."
Obama and LaHood made the announcement during an appearance before federal workers at the Transportation Department.
Posted: 10:16 AM ET
Sen. McCain's daughter, pictured on the left, is speaking out on the impact of her father's latest presidential campaign on her personal life.
(CNN) — Meghan McCain says that "nothing kills my libido quite like discussing politics" — and that the presidential election "killed my personal life."
"OK, maybe killed is a bit of an exaggeration," she wrote in a blog post for The Daily Beast published Monday. "But it does seem to be on life support. Of all the things people warned would happen post-election, no one ever said anything about how complicated dating would become. Especially if your dad loses the election. There are things that have been difficult, but nothing quite as tough as dating. I fear the election has destroyed my ability and desire to date. Now, I cannot say at any point in my life that I have been very good at dating. But I have become something I used to despise: people who let politics dictate his or her attraction to someone."
She said one fan of her mother, Cindy McCain, recently told her she could be "his Cindy," and asked if she ever wore pearls like her mother did. "Any guy that has a fetish for older women in pantsuits and large pearls obviously only finds my last name attractive about me," she wrote.
McCain said she did not care who her friends supported during the campaign, and that she believed political views were personal — "but when it comes to dating, it's become an entirely different subject. And I promise, no one is more surprised by this revelation than I am. … If I am adult enough to understand that voting is one of the most personal things a person can do, why am I letting it affect how attracted to someone I am? I know that no one can really explain sexual attraction and why you are drawn to someone or not — but at this point in time, nothing kills my libido quite like discussing politics."
She said she was "turned off" both by supporters of President Obama — and her father's backers. "Recently, over dinner, a guy started explaining his reasons for supporting President Obama during the election (I didn’t ask, I think the poor guy felt guilty) and I immediately found any attraction I had previously had dissipate," she wrote. "But same thing happens if a guy starts talking about all the reasons why my father should be president. I have the ultimate Catch-22 in post-election dating. So where does that leave me, and who exactly am I attracted to? Let’s just say I’m spending a lot of time writing and even more time with my girlfriends."
Posted: 10:00 AM ET
Thousands of conservatives from across the country gathered in Washington late last week to consider the future of the movement. The first Conservative Political Action Conference since last fall’s election took place in a radically different environment than the one held right after the last presidential cycle: That year, there was widespread talk of a permanent GOP majority, and a never-ending housing boom. Now, Democrats sit in the White House and hold the power on Capitol Hill — and the housing bubble seems like a distant memory.
This year’s event was held as financial woes mount nationwide, and elements of President Obama’s blueprint for economic recovery continues to make its way through Congress. As House Republicans face an uphill climb in their quest to help shape the country’s fiscal agenda, Rep. Paul Ryan — ranking Republican on the Budget Committee, and the first speaker at CPAC this year — gave CNN's Bob Costantini his take on the latest developments.
To subscribe to the podcast go to cnn.com/podcast.
Filed under: CNN Radio Political Notebook
Posted: 09:53 AM ET
From CNN Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jill Dougherty, CNN White House Correspondent Suzanne Malveaux
President Obama wrote Russian President Dmitry Medvedev seeking help in talks with Iran, sources say.
WASHINGTON (CNN) — President Obama has told Russia that the United States might not proceed with a missile defense system in eastern Europe if Iran drops plans for producing nuclear weapons, senior administration officials said Tuesday.
Obama raised the possibility in a letter to Russia seeking help in trying to end Iran's nuclear program, a senior administration official said. Contrary to news reports, it was not a secret letter, the official said.
Obama told Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in the letter that the U.S. missile defense system in Russia's backyard would not be necessary if Iran stopped it own ambitions to build nuclear warheads and long-range ballistic missiles, the officials said.
The letter suggested Russia could have a role in reducing Iran's nuclear threat, and therefore could dissuade the United States from going forward with its plans to establish a missile base in Poland and a radar facility in the Czech Republic.
Posted: 08:58 AM ET
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets with Israeli President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem on Tuesday.
JERUSALEM (CNN) — The U.S. government will dispatch two officials to the Syrian capital to explore Washington's relationship with Damascus, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced Tuesday.
"There are a number of issues that we have between Syria and the United States, as well as the larger regional issues that Syria obviously poses," she said.
She said the officials — a representative from the White House and one from the State Department — would explore "some of these bilateral issues."
"We have no way to predict what the future with our relations concerning Syria might be," she said.
"We don't engage in discussions for the sake of having a conversation. There has to be a purpose to them, there has to be some perceived benefit."
Clinton noted that members of the U.S. Congress have visited Damascus in recent weeks and months.
Last week, the State Department's top Middle East official, Jeffrey Feltman, met with the Syrian ambassador to the United States, marking a resumption of diplomatic dialogue after nearly five years.
The United States withdrew its ambassador from Syria four years ago, in protest of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
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