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Washington Wrap

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Dotty Lynch, Douglas Kiker, Steve Chaggaris and Joanna Schubert of The CBS News Political Unit have the latest from the nation's capital.

Dr. Nice Guy: Apparently unsatisfied with picking fights with just Sen. John Kerry, Howard Dean has now turned his charm on another of his Democratic rivals, Florida Sen. Bob Graham.

Just a few days after Dean said he was the only major candidate who'd actually appointed judges as a governor – apparently forgetting Graham's two terms as Florida governor – politicsNH.com reports that Dean threw this bomb during an appearance in Bedford, N.H.: "Bob Graham is a wonderful, decent human being, but at this time he's in single digits in all the states you can't be in single digits. I have enormous respect for Bob Graham, but at this point he's not one of the top-tier candidates. I think that's widely recognized."

Dean later backtracked a bit, saying, "that's not to say he couldn't get to be one.''

Dean also called the Graham campaign to apologize for his comments, politicsNH.com reports. But Graham spokesman Jamal Simmons said Dean's comments were ill-advised.

"I don't know why Dr. Dean continues to pick fights with other Democrats, but he underestimates the former governor of the fourth largest state at his own peril," Simmons told the AP "With all due respect, Bob Graham created twice as many jobs when he was governor of Florida as there are people in the state of Vermont."

This makes three of eight rivals that Dean has now taken on. As everyone knows, he has a running feud with Kerry, who he accused of flip-flopping on the war against Iraq. And earlier this year, Dean accused Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., of avoiding discussing his pro-war stance in a speech to the largely anti-war California Democratic convention. (As it turned out, Edwards had, in fact, mentioned his support for the war in his speech, and was booed and jeered by the crowd. Dean later sent Edwards a hand-written apology note.)

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Graham – along with Sen. Joe Lieberman and potential candidate Wesley Clark – will speak to the New Democrat Network meeting in Washington. Kerry will talk to the group via telephone. (As of Thursday night, the NDN thought that Dean was sending a video presentation, but a Dean spokeswoman tells CBS News that Dean won't be there in person or via video.)

Edwards, meanwhile, will be across town at Georgetown University outlining his new tax policy proposal to a group of MBA students. Edwards' plan would cut taxes by $160 billion for middle-class voters, his campaign said, including a $5,000 tax credit for moderate-income first-time home buyers. Edwards would pay for the new tax cuts by repealing the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for people making more than $240,000, as well as raising the capital gains tax to 25 percent for those making more than $350,000 a year.

Small Is Beautiful: Carol Moseley Braun announced Monday that she will consolidate her presidential campaign to one office in her hometown of Chicago to save some much-needed money, the AP reports. The downsize of an already struggling campaign may cause some trouble for Braun as she looks for some serious financial backing to lend credibility to her presidential bid.

Braun, the former Illinois senator and U.S. ambassador to New Zealand, put it simply, telling the Chicago Sun-Times, "I don't have money to burn." The money crunch comes right before the end of the second quarter when candidates will be required to submit their financial reports to the Federal Election Committee. In the first quarter, Braun raised $72,450, the least of the nine Democratic candidates, putting her far behind the leader John Edwards, D-N.C., who raised $7.4 million in the first three months of this year.

With limited funding, Braun cannot afford to keep a large paid staff or keep up her national offices. Braun's press secretary, Alison McLaurin left the campaign on Sunday to work for a new magazine in Washington. And Braun's campaign chief, Andy Pringl,e may contribute in the future, but for now will stay in Washington. The campaign will also have to do without its issues consultant, but Braun will keep her campaign finance lawyers in Washington. A volunteer Braun spokesman, Kevin Lampe, told the AP that two or three staffers will concentrate the fundraising efforts from Chicago while Braun builds a professional staff.

Braun, who announced her exploratory bid last February, is not out of the race ... yet. Money has been a continual problem for her campaign as her opponents build operations in key early primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire, while she mainly appears in joint candidate events. "We've got the bare bones we need to function," Braun told the Sun-Times. Braun said last week that she would make a final decision about her candidacy by Labor Day.

Not Their Fault: The Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security has concluded that its efforts to find the plane transporting the Texas Democratic legislators "did not divert the Department from its essential mission of fighting terrorism" the Dallas Morning News reports.

The agency spent only 40 minutes and eight phone calls hunting for the plane they thought was missing. "The officer believed he was searching for a missing aircraft, and the minimal amount of time he spent doing so did not constitute the improper use of federal resources," spokesman Brian Roehkasse told the paper.

The report included phone conversations between the Texas Department of Public Safety and the federal agency. "Hope you can help me out. We had a plane that was supposedly going from Ardmore, Oklahoma to Georgetown, Texas. It had state representatives in it and we cannot find this plane," DPS officer Lt. Willis Crais said. When the federal official suggested a "search and rescue mission," Crais responded, "We don't want to go that far."

The report said Texas DPS refused to tell them who asked the state agency to contact Homeland Security. (Crais said that "someone outside his office had given him the phone number which he thought was the Customs Department" and that DPS had "destroyed all notes memoranda or other correspondence related to the incident.")

Democrats are not satisfied. Rep. Lloyd Doggett said the IG report "does not offer any reassurance that resources dedicated to the war on terrorism cannot be exploited for personal or political purposes."

House Dems Vow To Fight: Frustrated by what they say are GOP efforts to render them mute, House Democrats are now vowing to use obscure procedural tactics to fight back, reports The Hill.

House Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Democrats would "turn up the heat on Republicans, in whatever way we can, to bring some attention to the way we are being shut out of the debate."

"We are certainly going to frustrate their efforts to run the House because we are being shut out by the arrogance of the leadership," Hoyer continued.

Democrats are being vague about the specific ways they'll try to gum up the works, though some aides implied that calling for frequent adjournment votes was one idea being considered, the newspaper reports.

Republicans don't seem too concerned about the move. "These kind of tactics tend to backfire," said John Feehery, a spokesman for House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.

It's not just liberals and the Democratic leadership that are frustrated. Even conservative Democrats, like Rep. Charlie Stenholm, D-Tex., have indicated they're on the same page as Hoyer. "We still have some additional arrows in our quiver and when we pull them out, you'll know," Stenholm said.

There are some Democrats who are uncomfortable with the strategy, however, but some are resigned to the fact that, as a party, they should try to fight. "I am an institutionalist," said Rep. David Obey, D-Wisc. "I intensely dislike using some of those means, but we are left with no choice."

And while Democrats don't expect to completely stall legislation in the House, they feel they need to stand up on principle, suggesting it could be detrimental if the GOP continues to shut out Democrats.

"We don't expect to win many of these votes, but it's not healthy for the long-term interest of the Congress," Stenholm said about the Republicans' way of running the House. "I say that as a Democrat who watched my own party do the same thing in the '80s and '90s, and some of us went to our leaders and said, 'this isn't right.'"

Quote of the Day: "I think we have Kerry on the run, he is beginning to take a tremendous beating in the press, but let's not let him up, let's destroy this young demagogue before he becomes another Ralph Nader." – President Nixon's White House Counsel, Chuck Colson, writing about a rising star in the anti-Vietnam War movement, John Kerry, in a 1971 secret memo. (The Boston Globe)