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Inside Politics
The Morning Grind / DayAhead

A day for hearings, hostings

By John Mercurio
CNN Political Unit

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Stay with CNN for updates, reports and analysis of reactions to the testimony of FBI Director Robert Mueller, CIA Director George Tenet and others before the 9/11 commission in Washington.

Wednesday, April 14:

  • George Tenet, 9:30 a.m. ET
  • John Brennan, Lt. Gen. Patrick Hughes, John Pistole, James Pavitt, 11 a.m. ET
  • Robert Mueller, Maureen Baginski, 2:30 p.m. ET

    Watch CNN-USA for live coverage of these testimony sessions and ongoing analysis and updates on their impact.
  • more videoVIDEO
    President Bush discusses the September 11, 2001, attacks in his news conference.

    CNN's Kelli Arena on counterterrorism officials' defense.

    John Ashcroft denies accusations that he wasn't interested in terror threats.
    Gallery: Quotes from the 9/11 testimony

    • Transcript:  Declassified memo
    • Bush on Iraq
    • Transcript:  Rice testimony
    • Clarke vs. Rice:  At odds
    Whose version of events do you think the 'bin Laden' memo supports?
    The White House
    Richard Clarke
    The Morning Grind
    White House
    George W. Bush
    John F. Kerry

    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Three key storylines play out today: President Bush at the White House with Ariel Sharon. John Kerry in New York with Hillary Clinton. And the ongoing 9/11 commission hearings with George Tenet and Robert Mueller.

    Another story to watch: The Federal Election Commission hearings on 527 organizations, independent interest groups that aren't restricted by the same campaign-finance regulations enacted last year.

    The hearings get under way at 9 a.m. ET in Washington. We'll hear today from, among others, the Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO, which incidentally is running new TV ads today, and the NAACP National Voter Fund.

    A day after his rare prime-time news conference, Bush meets today with an unflinching ally. (Bush stands firm on Iraq, war on terror) Bush and Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, hold a joint press conference at the White House at 1:20 p.m. ET, where we're expecting news about U.S. recognition of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

    The topic at their presser will be the Israeli/Palestinian peace process. But maybe some reporter-type will feel compelled to press the president on a question he was surprisingly unable to field last night: Namely, why the White House is requiring that he and Dick Cheney appear together before the 9/11 commission.

    Asked this question last night, Bush said, "Because the 9/11 commission wants to ask us questions. That's why we're meeting." Pressed again a few minutes later, he replied, "Because it's a good chance for both of us to answer questions that the 9/11 commission is looking forward to asking us, and I'm looking forward to answering them."

    Well then. That settles that.

    Wait, what? Surely even Bush himself had a better answer than that prepared, for a question that has percolated in the press for weeks.

    Another unfortunate line: "Nobody likes to see dead people on their television screens. I don't." True. Neither do the families of the fallen soldiers.

    Moving on, because we have to ...

    On Capitol Hill, the 9/11 commission gavels to order at 9 a.m. First up: Tenet, the CIA director, with testimony beginning at 9:30 a.m. (Tenet: U.S. is 5 years from proper intelligence) Mueller, the FBI director, appears this afternoon at 2:30 p.m. (Watch CNN for live coverage and ongoing analysis of the testimony.)

    Meanwhile, outside the Beltway, Kerry holds a town hall meeting at noon at the City College of New York with the state's junior senator, Hillary Clinton, and Rep. Charlie Rangel. This evening, Kerry holds two private fundraiser's in Manhattan, followed by a "Kerry core" money event for young voters at Crobar, a popular nightclub.

    The intended headline today from Kerry's weeklong college tour: He'll call for a record expansion of national service, involving 500,000 young people over the next 10 years. (Kerry to put spotlight on college costs)

    The initiative will offer more affordable education in exchange for their service. It calls for 200,000 to serve for two full years and get four yeas of college aid, and another 300,000 to serve part-time. The program will focus on getting students involved in education programs, like pre-school programs, tutoring, etc. They're calling it "Compact with the Next Generation."

    "At the heart of my Compact with the Next Generation is this simple promise: If you're willing to do right by America, then America's willing to do right by you. That means if you are willing to serve your country, you're going to get an affordable college education in return," Kerry will say, according to a draft of his speech obtained by The Grind.

    "Young Americans are looking for ways to serve, and we're going to give them to them. We're not going to do what George Bush has done. We're going to expand opportunities and engage 500,000 more Americans in service."

    Last night in Boston, Kerry held a fund-raiser that drew 3,300 guests and raised roughly $4 million. (Not bad, considering the Bruins had a playoff game at the same time).

    New ads

    Also today, the AFL-CIO goes up with its second round of anti-Bush TV ads. A spokeswoman told CNN's Mark Rodeffer that the labor federation would spend roughly as much as it did on its earlier ad, for which it spent more than $1.7 million between April 5 to April 11, according to the Campaign Media Analysis Group, affectionately known as CMAG.

    Another new ad worth noting: The Club for Growth last night aired the first negative ad in the South Dakota senate race, against Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle. It is scheduled to run for 16 days in South Dakota and across the country. Daschle aides say the spot is misleading and distorts Daschle's record on the estate tax.

    The ad script: "You're born. You go to school. You work hard. You raise a family. You pay your taxes. And when you die, the IRS can tax you again. Taking as much as 55 percent of everything you've saved for your children. It's called the death tax and it's wrong. Sen. Tom Daschle wants to keep the death tax. Isn't a lifetime of taxes enough?"

    Clooney 'helps' dad's rivals

    And finally, because The Grind is committed to covering the lighter side of politics, we wanted to share an op-ed piece actor George Clooney wrote for The Cincinnati Enquirer about his dad Nick Clooney's congressional bid in Kentucky.

    The background: George was annoyed by a local GOP chair, Marcus Carey, who said Clooney and his dad "will go down with the ship," referring to the actor's movie, "The Perfect Storm."

    "It's probably not the best idea to use an actual event where six fishermen lost their lives as a lighthearted metaphor to hammer away at yours truly. For future insults, let me see if I can help," the actor wrote. "It should go something like this: Batman and his father are gonna be taught 'The Facts of Life' about Kentucky politics. 'The Peacemaker' and his old man have been campaigning 'From Dusk Till Dawn' to prove that a deficit that's 'Out of Sight' can hurt your paycheck. 'O Brother,' next they'll tell us that it would be 'Intolerable Cruelty' to send patients away if they can't afford services in the 'E.R.'

    "See? No references to any actual event where people died, yet filled with vim and vigor and a little zest. So, Mr. Carey, you have that one."

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