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Morning Bulletin: Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A roundup of news, schedules, and key stories from CBS News Political Director Steve Chaggaris:

**President Obama arrived in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia just after 7:30am ET...

**Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor continues meeting with Senators; Newt Gingrich says his labeling of her as "racist" was "too strong and direct"...

**Gov. Pawlenty's retirement announcement raises speculation about his political future...

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
PRESIDENT'S OVERSEAS TRIP: "President Barack Obama began his latest bid to open a dialogue with the Muslim world by paying a call Wednesday on Saudi King Abdullah, guardian of Islam's sacred sites in Mecca and Medina," reports the Associated Press' Mark S. Smith.

"The monarch of Saudi Arabia greeted Obama at Riyadh's main airport with a ceremony when the new U.S. president arrived after an overnight flight from Washington. ... Perched on ornate chairs behind a flower arrangement, Obama and Abdullah then chatted briefly in public and shook hands, with cameras capturing the scene. Then, they retreated to hold private talks on a range of issues."

Regarding Mr. Obama's speech in Cairo tomorrow, writes the Washington Post's Anthony Shadid, "he will face the legacy of names like Haditha, Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, places that have become more symbol than geography over nearly a decade of perhaps the most traumatic chapter in America's relationship with the Muslim world.

"More than any other president in a generation, Obama enjoys a reservoir of goodwill in the region. His father was Muslim. His outreach in an interview with an Arabic satellite channel, a speech to Turkey's parliament and an address to Iranians on the Persian New Year have inclined many to listen. Just as important, he is not George W. Bush.

"But Obama will still encounter a landscape in which two realities often seem to be at work, shaped by those symbols."

5058537The Post's Dan Balz adds, "Interpretations of the speech in Cairo will also be influenced by what he says about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and, especially, Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons -- an issue of paramount importance particularly to Israel.

"A speaker as gifted as Obama should have no trouble finding appropriate words to call on all sides to find new ways to resolve their differences peacefully and to signal his commitment to establishing a new relationship with the Muslim world. But in the Middle East, details matter most, not sweeping statements. That is not necessarily the purpose of Obama's speech in Cairo. The details will come soon enough. But the ultimate measure of whether this week's visit is a success is whether what Obama says begins to change behavior among parties who have so often frustrated the efforts of previous presidents to make peace."

"One key audience for Mr. Obama is Muslim youth," report the Wall Street Journal's Margaret Coker and Ashraf Khalil. "Young adults make up about 30% of the region's population, while in countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran, the percentages are higher. Students from Cairo University and the city's Al Azhar seminary will be among the estimated 3,000 people attending the speech, according to Egypt's state-run press.

"Despite growing economies in parts of the region, the aggregate unemployment rate for young adults in the region is almost 25%, compared with a world average of 14%, according to the International Monetary Fund. Amid such disadvantage, Mr. Obama's personal history still strikes a chord, making him personally popular in Egypt and elsewhere in the Muslim world."

"The speech will be at 6:10 a.m. ET. The White House says the president plans to remind Muslims of his personal connection to them: His late father was a Muslim from Kenya, and the president spent some of his childhood living in Indonesia, which has the world's largest Muslim population — more than 206 million," adds USA Today's Mimi Hall.

"Obama is not likely to offer a point-by-point Arab-Israeli peace plan, but Muslims expect strong pro-Palestinian statements from him. Analysts say if he wants to earn credibility with the Muslim people, he'll have to offer something concrete beyond recent demands that Israel halt West Bank settlements."

"Obama meanwhile has said he is confident of reviving meaningful Israeli-Palestinian talks, but the White House has been coy on his strategy, following a flurry of meetings with regional leaders in recent weeks," reports Stephen Collinson of Agence France-Presse.

"The president has repeatedly backed a two-state solution to the conflict, despite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's reluctance to embrace such a position. Obama, who last week met Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, is expected to lobby Saudi Arabia and Egypt for gestures which would widen Netanyahu's room for political maneuver. 'I think the administration is interested in the April 2002 Saudi plan,' said Steven Cook, of the Council on Foreign Relations.

"The initiative calls for full normalization of relations between Arab states and Israel, a full withdrawal by Israel from Arab land, the creation of a Palestinian state and an 'equitable' solution for Palestinian refugees. The Hamas Islamist group, which rules the Gaza Strip, has been told by the Middle East Quartet -- the European Union, Russia, United Nations and United States -- that it must recognize Israel, renounce violence, and abide by prior agreements made by the Palestinians, in return for a place at the table."

His foreign trip itinerary: today, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; meets with King Abdullah. Thursday, in Egypt for meetings with President Hosni Mubarak, his speech and a visit to a mosque. Friday, he's in Germany for a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel, a speech at the Buchenwald concentration camp and a visit with injured troops at Landstuhl medical center. On Saturday, he's in France for a meeting with President Nicolas Sarkozy and D-Day commemoration in Normandy.

Politics Daily's Lynn Sweet reports, "The East Wing has not announced it, but First Lady Michelle Obama will head to Paris next week, after accompanying President Obama to Normandy to mark the 65th anniversary of the June 6, 1944 landing of Allied troops on French shores.

(AP Photo)
Mrs. Obama's press office only disclosed that the First Lady would be in Normandy on Saturday. 'She'll have no public events beyond Normandy,' I was told on Tuesday afternoon. But it turned out there was a high-level leaker in the White House -- President Obama -- who dropped the news in an interview with a French television outlet that Mrs. Obama's visit to France is likely to be more extended. Obama told Canal Plus reporter Laura Haim in an 'interview exclusive de Barack' about Mrs. Obama's travel plans. 'I think she's definitely coming to Normandy with us. And then I think she may be staying in Paris for a few days,' Obama said."
(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
SOTOMAYOR: Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor heads back to Capitol Hill today for another round of meetings with senators including: Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.; Patty Murray, D-Wash.; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Ben Cardin, D-Md.; Herb Kohl, D-Wisc.; Olympia Snowe, R-Maine; Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.; Judd Gregg, R-N.H.; Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

"Graham ... a senior Republican on the Judiciary committee ... harshly criticized the nominee's 2001 remarks that a Latina would make 'better' decisions than a white man," reports CBSNews.com's Michelle Levi.

(CBS)
"'That statement did not strike me particularly appropriate,' the senator told CBS News' Political Consultant John Dickerson Tuesday. ... 'As a matter of fact, I thought it was inappropriate,' he said. 'I think she deserves a second chance [but] I don't know if I would have gotten one.' The senator, in the most damning words yet from a senator, said he will not be basing his entire decision on the remarks but thinks Sotomayor should apologize.

"'I think it needs to be addressed and...she needs to apologize because it offended me,' he admitted to Dickerson. Graham said that as a white male he has been 'knocked around' but conceded that other Americans have been through 'far worse.' 'To say those experiences make one better, a person better than anyone else is just not what you want in a judge,' he argued. Graham said, '[I]f I find myself in court, I want to believe that that judge is going to fairly evaluate me and quite frankly she's got to convince me if I found myself in litigation with a Latina woman, that I'd get a fair shake.' Dickerson bluntly asked the senator if he thinks he will get an apology Wednesday in his one-on-one meeting with Sotomayor. 'I'll leave that up to her,' Graham responded."

Meantime, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who called Sotomayor "racist" last week for her aforementioned comments, pulled back in his newsletter for Human Events.

(CBS)
"My initial reaction was strong and direct -- perhaps too strong and too direct. The sentiment struck me as racist and I said so. Since then, some who want to have an open and honest consideration of Judge Sotomayor's fitness to serve on the nation's highest court have been critical of my word choice. With these critics who want to have an honest conversation, I agree. The word 'racist' should not have been applied to Judge Sotomayor as a person, even if her words themselves are unacceptable (a fact which both President Obama and his Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, have since admitted). So it is to her words -- the ones quoted above and others -- to which we should turn, for they show that the issue here is not racial identity politics. Sotomayor's words reveal a betrayal of a fundamental principle of the American system -- that everyone is equal before the law."

"Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said that he had discussed the remark with Judge Sotomayor and that she had agreed to let him publicly recount their conversation about it to help clarify what she meant," report the New York Times' David M. Herszenhorn and Carl Hulse.

"'What she said was, of course one's life experience shapes who you are, but ultimately and completely — and she used those words, 'ultimately and completely' — as a judge you follow the law,' Mr. Leahy said. 'There's not one law for one race or another. There's not one law for one color or another. There's not one law for rich, a different one for poor. There's only one law. And she said 'ultimately and completely' a judge has to follow the law no matter what their upbringing has been.'"

During her visit to the Hill yesterday, "She found Democrats enthusiastic and Republicans wary and somewhat skeptical," reports McClatchy Newspapers' David Lightman.

"While Republican senators vowed to ask tough questions about affirmative action and judicial activism, however, few were willing to rule out backing the 54-year-old federal appellate judge. ... They quizzed her on the controversies that have surfaced in recent days, notably her views on abortion rights and her 2001 comment that a 'wise Latina woman' could reach 'a better conclusion than a white male.'

"Democrats, who control 59 Senate seats, emerged largely satisfied and unsurprised by what they heard. 'I don't think she's vulnerable at all,' said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. 'Is there a serious impediment to her nomination? I don't see it,' said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., a committee member who met with Sotomayor. Republicans on the committee were less enthusiastic. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said he thought that the 'wise Latina' comment 'was not an isolated incident,' while Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, thought that 'some of the things that have been said are troubling.'"

(AP Photo/John Watson-Riley)
PAWLENTY IN 2012?: "Clearing the way for what could be an attempt at higher office, Gov. Tim Pawlenty abruptly announced Tuesday that he would not seek a third term -- a move widely seen in political circles as the first step in a possible presidential run," reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune's Patricia Lopez.

"Pawlenty, who has 19 months left in his term, denied that he had any national aspirations or, in fact, any plans at all. 'I don't know what the future holds for me,' he said with a smile and a shrug to a packed reception room of reporters and supporters at the State Capitol. 'I'm not ruling anything in or out.'

"Later he acknowledged plans to travel to Washington, D.C., on Friday to address a gathering of College Republicans and has been in contact with national Republicans 'a lot.' Pawlenty has been similarly coy in the past about his future."

"If there was buzz about his 2012 plans before his no-third-term announcement, there was a cacophony after it. One online news outlet, Politico, even said his decision not to run for governor again was an 'overt 2012 move,'" reports the St. Paul Pioneer Press' Rachel E. Stassen-Berger.

"There is good reason to speculate. Pawlenty is considered a young, rising star in a party that is struggling to find its national voice. He has an attractive blue-collar background and, while he's very much a conservative in Minnesota, he could be considered moderate or mainstream in national Republican circles. Pawlenty already has some powerful fans — ranging from national fiscal conservative guru Grover Norquist, who recently called the governor "impressive, gutsy," to national political commentators like David Brooks, David Broder, George Will, Bill Bennett and the crew at 'Fox and Friends.'"

Those who have known Pawlenty for years say his announcement Tuesday wasn't an overt entry into anything. They say to take the governor at his word that he doesn't know what he is going to do next."

Meantime, the New York Times' Adam Nagourney notes, "Many potential Republican candidates for president have emerged from governors' mansions. Others who party leaders think are considering running include Sarah Palin of Alaska, Haley Barbour of Mississippi, Mark Sanford of South Carolina and Mitch Daniels of Indiana. Mr. Pawlenty's advisers said he had taken note of advantages that some former governors were enjoying — notably Mitt Romney of Massachusetts — in building support and giving speeches without the obligation of having to deal with issues back home."

SOTOMAYOR

NY Times' David M. Herszenhorn and Carl Hulse, "Parties Plot Strategy as Sotomayor Visits Capitol"

Wall Street Journal's Naftali Bendavid, "Sotomayor Makes Senate Rounds"

LA Times' Michael Muskal, "Sotomayor and senators make nice for now"

Washington Post's Robert Barnes, "Conservative Judges Echo Sotomayor in Gun Ruling"

Politico's Glenn Thrush, "Chris Dodd dodges New Haven firefighter case"

Washington Post's Philip Rucker profiles Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., "A Senator Who's Seen the Other Side"

HEALTH CARE

Bloomberg News' Kim Chipman and Laura Litvan, "Obama Says August 'Make or Break' for Health Care"

Boston Globe's Lisa Wangsness, "Obama urges Senate Democrats to settle healthcare issues"

Washington Post's Ceci Connolly, "President Pivots on Taxing Benefits"

NY Times' Robert Pear and Sheryl Gay Stolberg, "Obama Urges Quick Action on Insurance"

CIA INTERROGATIONS

Washington Post's Paul Kane and Joby Warrick, "Cheney Led Briefings of Lawmakers To Defend Interrogation Techniques"

Associated Press' Liz Sidoti, "Poll: US divided over torture, closing Guantanamo"

GM BANKRUPTCY

LA Times' Jim Puzzanghera and P.J. Huffstutter, "GM, White House tackle a big sales job"

OBAMA ADMINISTRATION

NY Times' Raymond Hernandez, "House Republican Is Choice for Secretary of the Army"

Wall Street Journal's Stephen Power and Jonathan Weisman, "Nuclear Sites Posted Online Accidentally"

FUTURE RACES

2009 NY-23 Special Election: Watertown Daily Times, "McHugh's seat draws suitors"

2009 NY-23 Special Election: CQ Politics' Jonathan Allen and Emily Cadei, "Democrats Vet Hopefuls for New Shot at Old GOP District in New York"

2009 NJ Governor: Newark Star Ledger's Josh Margolin and Claire Heininger, "Christie clobbers Lonegan"

2009 VA Governor: Washington Times' Sarah Abruzzese, "Money can't buy McAuliffe an easy race"

2009 VA Governor: Richmond Times-Dispatch's Olympia Meola and Jeff E. Schapiro, "Deeds captures narrow lead over rivals in new poll"

2010 FL Senate: Florida Times-Union's Brandon Larrabee, "Brown weighs Senate bid; will decide within 6 months"

2010 NC Senate: Fayetteville Observer, "Burr polls ahead of possible Senate rivals"

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