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Washington Wrap

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

Commander Dean: In a speech Monday to the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean said his stance against war with Iraq does not mean he lacks the toughness to be commander in chief. Dean also said being against the war showed a willingness to go against the politically popular grain.

"I stood up to this administration and even when 70 percent of the American people supported the war, I believed the evidence was not there and I refused to change my view," Dean said to the standing-room only crowd.

"I do not accept that a candidate's national security credentials should be considered suspect for opposing a war in Iraq," said Dean, who acknowledged on Sunday's "Meet the Press" that there are concerns about his awareness and positions on national security. "Sure there are because just like President Reagan, President Clinton and President Bush, I did not have extensive -- I do not have extensive experience with national security," Dean said.

On Wednesday morning, Dean compared his lack of foreign policy experience to that of President Harry Truman when he took office in 1945. Like Truman, Dean said, his underlying morals would guide him.

"Harry Truman had faith, as I have faith, and as I believe the American people have faith, that if we are wise enough and determined enough in our opposition to hate and our promotion of tolerance, in our opposition to aggression and our fidelity to law, we will have allies not only among governments but among people everywhere," Dean said.

In another attempt to portray himself as the heir to the Democratic presidential mantle, Dean compared his anti-war position with Kennedy's handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

"Some in the Democratic Party claim that a candidate who opposed the war cannot lead the party in the great national debate that lies ahead. I remind them that during the Cuban Missile Crisis, President Kennedy took on the hawks among the Joint Chiefs of Staff as well as the me-too'ers in Congress. The president and his advisers used toughness, patience and diplomacy. The missiles came out of Cuba," Dean said.

Dean also unveiled a new ad slated to run in Iowa as part of a $300,000 television campaign, the first by any of the presidential candidates in any state. In the ad, Dean says: "I opposed the war with Iraq when too many Democrats supported it."

The format of the ad is similar to the first one he ran in Iowa, beginning earlier this month, with the candidate looking straight into the camera and speaking. Dean says, "The only way to beat George Bush is to stand up to him."

Recalling Gray: California state officials announced today that the recall campaign to oust Democratic Gov. Gray Davis reported 376,000 valid voter petitions, doubling their May total. According to The Washington Post, Republicans are confident they will reach the necessary 900,000 signatures by Sept. 2, while Davis and his supporters call the effort "partisan mischief by the right wing."

The number of valid signatures was far less than the 700,000 that recall leaders have been touting for the past few weeks. However, they claim to have several hundred thousand more signatures under their belts that were not verified in time to send to state officials for the latest reporting deadline.

Recall critic Carroll Wills, a spokesman for Taxpayers Against the Governor's Recall, downplayed the recent numbers. "This is just another indication that the recall hype doesn't match the evidence," she told the Post.

Should the recall campaign succeed, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who has spent $1 million financing the effort, has declared he would be on the ballot. Issa, a multimillionaire who built his fortune selling car alarms, also, ironically, has an auto-theft background. The San Francisco Chronicle reported Wednesday that Issa and his brother were prosecuted on two different occasions for car theft, but both the 1980 and 1972 cases were dropped.

Among other Republicans, Arnold Schwarzenegger said he would consider a run if the Republicans need him. But the San Francisco Chronicle reports that in an interview Tuesday with his "friend," the controversial TV and radio personality Howard Stern, Schwarzenegger sounded more like a movie star than a governor-in-waiting. Plugging Terminator 3, Schwarzenegger discussed everything from the nude scenes to his female co-star, but when Stern asked him about legalizing marijuana, he replied, "I don't want to get into any of the issues."

Davis may run unopposed on the Democrat side of the ballot since most of California's top officials have promised not to oppose him. Sen. Dianne Feinstein vowed not to run and called the recall "one of the worst things that could happen to the state of California."

Solidarity? Not Quite: AFL-CIO President John Sweeney is using all his negotiating skills these days trying to heal a breach inside the union movement over how to conduct political affairs in the 2004 elections. Roll Call reports that there will be a political committee meeting on Thursday attended by AFSCME President Gerald McEntee and SEIU President Andy Stern at which Sweeney will try to "mediate a nasty internal dispute" over a planned multi-million dollar political operation run by former AFL political director Steve Rosenthal.

McEntee left the board of the new tax-exempt 527 organization, Partnership for America's Families, that was formed this year by Rosenthal to try to deal with the restriction imposed by the McCain-Feingold bill on using union money for political purposes. Rosenthal was hoping to raise $30 million from unions and other liberal donors for a massive get-out-the-vote program to help Democrats in 2004, when the fight erupted over how to best target minority voters.

Democratic Party officials are nervous that the split will hurt their campaigns next year, but are powerless to do anything to mend it. "It is very, very important for them to be united," said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa. "I am very sorry there's a split but I hope they can heal it and pull together."

As it stands now, McEntee may put together his own 527 while Stern is sticking with Rosenthal. In fact, many believe what this is really about is which one will succeed Sweeney as head of the AFL-CIO. McEntee and Stern are the two biggest union players in Democratic political campaigns and are now jockeying for top-dog status.

Democrats worry that the fight will hurt both groups ability to be effective. "The more controversy there is around something, the harder it is to raise money," one Democratic strategist told Roll Call.

Tauzin Isn't Going Anywhere: Rumors have been swirling around Capitol Hill over the future of powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Billy Tauzin, R-La.

For weeks, there's been a buzz that Tauzin would leave the Hill after this term to take a lobbying job. Yesterday, "well-placed" GOP sources were quoted repeating that rumor in the National Journal's CongressDailyAM. A Tauzin spokesman responded: "It's absolutely not true – Chairman Tauzin is not going anywhere… People who claim to know his thinking are full of crap."

Well, it seems that spokesman was absolutely correct. CQToday reports this morning that Tauzin will be sending a "Dear Colleague" letter to his fellow House Republicans as early as today stating his plan to stay in Congress and run for re-election in 2004.

"Billy has no intention of leaving the chairmanship," spokesman Ken Johnson told CQ. "He worked very hard to get to the top of the mountain."

Some of the rumors included Tauzin leaving the House to replace Jack Valenti as the head of the Motion Picture Association of America, or Hilary Rosen as CEO of the Recording Industry of America.

But Reps. Joe Barton, R-Tex., and Mary Bono, R-Calif., both members of Tauzin's committee, said Tuesday that Tauzin told them he wasn't leaving. On top of that, Tauzin has rehired his staff director and hired a longtime friend as chief counsel for energy and the environment.

"Those aren't the signs of a guy who had his foot out the door," Johnson said.

Quote of the Day: "We will not get our word out with these guys. Our presidential candidates don't know if they want to be Democrats now." - Democratic Rep. Lorretta Sanchez, D-Calif., on the party's presidential field. (Roll Call)