Sarah Palin's Clambake: Sign of Many More Gatherings to Come?

Randy Snyder/Getty Images(PORTSMOUTH, N.H.) -- Is it the end or just the beginning? Sarah Palin made what might be the last major stop of her Northeast tour Thursday evening in Seabrook, N.H., where she attended a clambake at the summer home of one of her staffer's families.

She arrived to a crowd of the usual media folk and two protesters.

Both male college students, they held signs saying "Idiot Queen" and "Palin for President, Do It for the Lulz." (Lulz is another way to say LOLs, online lingo for laughter.)

She spoke with them as soon as she arrived, asking, "Aren't you proud to be an American?"

After they nodded, she said, "Right on, that's good to know, we have that in common."

The ex-Alaska governor answered questions from the press before and after the dinner.

Much of what she said at the clambake, she's said before -- she spoke about how her tour is meant to celebrate what's great about America, her mixed feelings about jumping into the 2012 presidential race, and her disapproval of President Obama's handling of the economy and the country's foreign entanglements.

The clambake itself drew about three dozen people who mingled in the backyard of the seaside cottage despite blustery conditions.

Piper, Palin's youngest daughter, palled around with other children; Palin shook hands and posed for pictures. They both donned sweatshirts brandished with "New Hampshire" and an American flag to brave the cold.

Before jumping in her SUV and reportedly heading to another home to tape an interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity, Palin said she's looking forward to doing more clambake-like events where she gets to meet and greet potential voters.

But only after going back to Alaska to do laundry and load up the bus with more kids.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Michael Brown: Karl Rove ‘Micromanaged’ Katrina Response

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Former FEMA director Michael Brown is out with a new book that makes an explosive charge: that Bush White House political guru Karl Rove sought to “micromanage search and rescue efforts from afar” in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Brown’s clear implication was that Rove was playing political favorites in the wake of the tragedy. Brown writes that “Karl Rove became interested in Louisiana for the very practical reason” that a once solidly Democratic state could be turned red.

On ABC’s Top Line webcast Thursday, Brown was asked if Rove sought to inject himself into response and recovery efforts after Katrina.

“Oh absolutely, and it’s amazing to me that -- that you guys shouldn't be surprised by that,” Brown told ABC News. “What was happening was -- it boils down to this: Everybody was trying to gain some sort of advantage during the storm.”

“And if you had a favorite parish, or you had somebody you were trying to help, Karl was stepping in and he was making phone calls back to my staff saying, ‘Why aren’t we doing something over here?’ or 'Let’s go do this over here,’ or ‘This person in this parish needs this.’ Totally irrespective of what the overall game plan was to respond to this disaster.”

Rove responded to Brown’s charge that he sought to “micromanage” the Katrina response with a terse statement to ABC News: “Any such suggestion is not accurate.”

Asked if Rove reached out directly to him, Brown said no, but he said Rove did contact members of his staff. Brown said he has emails that prove that, and promised to provide them to ABC News.

Brown -- made famous as “Brownie” by President George W. Bush, who praised him as doing a “heckuva job” in the aftermath of the devastating 2005 storm -- was pushed out of his position as FEMA director after a response that was widely criticized as disorganized and inadequate.

Brown’s book -- Deadly Indifference: The Perfect (Political) Storm -- gives his side of the well-documented events surrounding Katrina. And he argues that FEMA remains ill-equipped to respond to natural disasters.

Copyright 2011 ABC News radio


Newt Opts Out of Faith & Freedom Coalition Conference

Jessica McGowan/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Despite the attendance of a large portion of the 2012 Republican field, Newt Gingrich will not attend the Faith & Freedom Coalition conference in Washington, D.C., this weekend due to scheduling conflicts.

"He and Mrs. Gingrich had planned time off early in the campaign, and it coincided with the event," Rick Tyler, spokesman for Mr. Gingrich, told ABC News.

Instead, Newt recorded a video, which will be shown to the social conservatives attending the conference.

"It's an important event. It brings together an important constituency, many of whom we've talked to before," Tyler said. "They've been gracious enough to allow us to send a video."

Newt spoke to the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition in March and attended last year's national conference.

While Newt skips this year's event, all of the other official candidates and a number of potential contenders eying a 2012 run will speak at the conference.  The speakers list includes Rep. Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, and Rick Santorum.

Newt's next event will be a screening of his documentary, Nine Days That Changed the World, on June 8 in New Hampshire.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


NJ Gov. Christie to Reimburse State for Helicopter Rides

ABC/ IDA MAE ASTUTE(TRENTON, N.J.) -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says he'll reimburse his state more than $2,000 after critics say he misused the services of a state police helicopter.

Christie, an outspoken critic of wasteful spending, recently traveled by state police helicopter to his son's high school baseball game and then to the governor's mansion to meet with Iowans who are urging him to run for president.

The governor said he was told there was nothing improper about the trips because the pilots need to log the hours, but he's reimbursing the state, he said, to avoid the issue becoming a political distraction.

It's not the first time Christie's use of government resources has been questioned. When he was U.S. Attorney, the Justice Department flagged his choice of pricey hotels for trips to Washington.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Mitt Romney Announces He's Running for President

Darren McCollester/Getty Images(STRATHAM, N.H.) -- Mitt Romney, flanked by hay bales and a larger-than-life American flag on a Stratham farm, announced Thursday that he's running for president, declaring that President Obama has "had his chance.”

"We the people on this farm and citizens across this country are the people who are just getting started," said Romney.

"Today we are united not only by our faith in America. We are united also by our concern for America," said Romney. "This country we love is in peril. And that, my friends, is why we are here today."

Romney spent much of his speech criticizing the Obama's handling of the struggling economy.

"Barack Obama has failed America," said Romney. "When he took office, the economy was in recession. He made it worse. And he made it last longer.

"From my first day in office, my No. 1 job will be to see that America once again is No. 1 in job creation," Romney vowed. "You know, if you want to create jobs, it helps to have had a job."

In a one-on-one sit down interview earlier Thursday with ABC News, Romney went into further detail about his policy plans and the first things he would do if he is elected president in 2012.

Romney said if he is "lucky enough" to get elected, he will work to return America to being the "No. 1 place for creating jobs."

"I know how to do that. It's what I've spent my life doing. And that's what I want to bring to the White House," he said.

Asked if he would sign the plan written by Rep. Paul Ryan that would restructure Medicare if it reached his desk as president, Romney said yes. But he quickly added that it is not his own plan, and that he would be offering a different plan. When pressed on details, Romney said, "Well, mine has more choice, and I'll leave it at that. It's something we're working out."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Is Mitt Romney 'Conservative Enough' to Lead GOP?

TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- On the same day that Mitt Romney announced his presidential ambitions, the former Massachusetts governor came under attack by a Tea Party group that says he isn't conservative enough to represent conservatives.

The Western Representation PAC, a Nevada-based group led by the former Alaska Senate candidate and Tea Party darling Joe Miller, launched its "Stop Romney" campaign Thursday, designed to prevent Romney from becoming the GOP candidate.

"In a matchup against Obama, Tea Party voters are looking for a consistent constitutional conservative," Miller said in a statement. "We will never get behind Mitt Romney. On issues like gun rights, gay rights, abortion, immigration, and health care, Romney has flipped more than John Kerry flopped."

A spokesman for the group said it's too early to say how much money it will spend on the campaign, but the PAC will focus its efforts in New Hampshire, where Romney made his announcement Thursday.

"If we can stop Romney from winning New Hampshire, we can stop him from winning the nomination," Executive Director Bryan Shroyer told ABC News.

As part of the campaign, the PAC will mobilize its grassroots efforts and air broadcast ads. The group hasn't officially supported any candidate in the Republican lineup so far, but says it's targeting Romney because it doesn't believe he can win a race against President Obama.

"We just know that if Mitt Romney wins the nomination, we'll be looking at a repeat of Bob Dole's feckless 1996 campaign and a landslide defeat," Shroyer said.

Western Representation PAC, which raised about $410,000 in the 2010 election cycle, isn't the first Tea Party group to attack Romney. According to recent reports, FreedomWorks, an influential umbrella organization for Tea Party groups, is also going after the GOP contender.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


White House Counsel Bob Bauer Returning for 2012 Campaign

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- White House Counsel Bob Bauer is leaving the administration and returning to his previous position as general counsel to the president's reelection campaign, the White House announced Thursday. Current Principal Deputy Counsel to the President Kathryn Ruemmler will take over as White House Counsel.

Expect Bauer to be an aggressive force within the Obama reelection campaign from his perch at the private law firm Perkins Cole, where he has previously served as chair. In 2008, Bauer created a reputation for himself by crashing a Clinton campaign conference call and publicly dismissing complaints lobbied by McCain's campaign counsel.

Bauer, who is married to former White House communications director Anita Dunn, took over the position of White House counsel from Greg Craig in December 2009 after months of speculation about Craig's departure. At the time Craig, who spearheaded the White House effort to close the detainee center at Guantanamo Bay, had been criticized for recommending that President Obama order Gitmo to close within a year.

Bauer's departure is expected to come at the end of June. At Perkins Cole, he will focus on the reelection campaign, serve as general counsel to the Democratic National Committee, and will also resume serving as personal lawyer to the president, a position he held prior to joining the White House.

Ruemmler, who has served as Bauer's deputy since January 2010, joined the Obama administration in 2009 as the Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General at the Department of Justice. Prior to joining the administration, Ruemmler was a litigation partner in the D.C. office of Latham & Watkins.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Gates: Joint Chiefs Selection Was About Team-Building

Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images(SINGAPORE) -- In his first public comments about the selection of the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Gen. Martin Dempsey's nomination to the post was about maintaining the cohesiveness of the Obama administration's national security team.

Traveling to Singapore to attend a security conference, Gates rejected news reports that the one-time front runner for the post, Gen. James Cartwright, was passed over for the job because of his stance during the administration's policy debate over the strategy for Afghanistan.

It was long believed that Cartwright's current job as the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff put him on the inside track to becoming the president's top military advisor. Bob Woodward's book, Obama's War also described him as President Obama's "favorite general."

However, it was Dempsey, the Army's newly installed Chief of Staff, who was announced Monday to succeed Adm. Mike Mullen in the fall.

Some news reports suggested Cartwright's stance during the Obama administration's 2009 policy debate for a new Afghanistan strategy may have been a factor.

On Thursday, Gates denied that, saying, "I will tell you that some of the negative things that have been reported as influencing the decision, for example the Afghan piece, are completely wrong. It had nothing to do with it whatsoever."

During the policy debate, Cartwright had reportedly favored a counterterror approach that required fewer troops in Afghanistan and focused more on specifically targeting Taliban and al Qaeda operations. That stance was contrary to the counterinsurgency approach, favored by other top military officials that would require more troops and time. Ultimately, President Obama chose a slightly scaled-down version of the counterinsurgency approach that led to the surge of 30,000 more U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

On Thursday, Gates praised Cartwright as "one of the finest officers I have ever worked with, I think he has been an outstanding vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff" and said he considered him a friend.

He said his focus for the past year had been to maintain the cohesiveness of the Obama administration's national security team which he described as "an extraordinary asset for the president and for the country."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Sarah Palin: Romney Will Face Challenges

Andrew Burton/Getty Images(BOSTON) -- Sarah Palin is adamant that her road trip to visit important American historical sites is not a campaign tour. But she is on her way to the early primary state of New Hampshire in a bus emblazoned with her name and during a stop at Bunker Hill in Boston Thursday, she took a political shot at Mitt Romney.

Palin said Romney, who would be a potential rival if she jumped into the race and announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination Thursday in New Hampshire, will face a "challenge" in getting Tea Party support.

She also said that she didn't intend to step on his toes by going to New Hampshire Thursday, saying his presence there "never was a consideration at all."

"In fact, if he would be offended by me stepping foot in a state he was in, I wouldn't do it." But she doesn't believe that's the case at all.

Palin's bus tour stopped in Boston along the famous Freedom Trail on Thursday. At Bunker Hill, Palin took the official tour from a park ranger and signed autographs.

Palin's exact schedule in New Hampshire remains a mystery. There are reports that she will attend a clambake in Seabrook on Thursday night.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Exclusive: Pelosi Says Dems Have 'Very Good Chance' to Retake House

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told ABC News in an exclusive interview that Democrats "have a very good chance of winning the House" majority in the 2012 elections, pointing to Medicare as the key issue that could propel her party back into control of the lower chamber of Congress.

"We just take it, as I say to the members, one day, one good day, one good week, one good month, one good quarter at a time," said Pelosi, D-Calif.

Asked directly whether she thinks she will be elected speaker again, Pelosi pointed to 63 congressional districts that President Obama carried in 2008 that are now held by Republicans.  House Democrats need to win just 24 of those seats to regain control of the House.

"It takes a strong message...which enables us to have the mobilization at grass-roots level," Pelosi said. "I was talking about the M's: message, mobilization, the money to get the message out, and management -- management of the campaign by the candidates so that it can be effective."

"What we're about is policy," she added.  "What we want is to change the view that the Republicans have that it is OK to abolish Medicare [and] to make seniors pay more for less while we give tax breaks to big oil. That's not a formula that I think works for the middle class."

Pelosi said that cuts to seniors' benefits are "absolutely" off the table in the ongoing deficit reduction negotiations, but suggested that Congress could improve Medicare by working to eliminate fraud and also by giving the Secretary of Health and Human Services unilateral authority to negotiate for lower prices for the endangered entitlement program.

"When you talk about Medicare, the first thing I would do if I ruled the world would be to allow the secretary of HHS to negotiate for lower prices.  That would save tens of billions of dollars," Pelosi said.  "The last place we need to go -- we don't ever have to go there -- is to what the Republicans are doing: Eliminate Medicare [and] make seniors pay more for less as you give tax breaks to big oil and say that's how we have to reduce the deficit.  We don't subscribe to that."

Pelosi said the election in 2012 "is not about Paul Ryan [the architect of the Republicans' budget and Medicare proposals].  It is about the Republicans in Congress."

"I wish we could change the minds of Republicans on abolishing Medicare," she said.  "The public is going to have to help us do that either before the election or at the time of the election."

"If the Republicans are convinced of that over the next 18 months, that they will change their mind on it, then that is less of an issue in the campaign," she said.  "We'd rather solve the problem than have the issue.  But we are determined to fight for the issue."

After a said-to-be tense meeting between Republicans and President Obama at the White House Wednesday, Ryan took to the airwaves to again assert his plan does not abolish Medicare, and again warn the president and key Democrats to stop "demagoguing" the Medicare issue.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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