President Barack Obama vowed Wednesday to hold accountable those at the Internal Revenue Service involved in the targeting of conservative groups applying for federal tax-exempt status, beginning with the resignation of the agency's acting commissioner who was aware of the practice.
In a brief statement delivered to reporters in the East Room of the White House, the president announced that Treasury Secretary Jack Lew had requested - and accepted - the resignation of acting IRS Commissioner Steven T. Miller.
The president said the "misconduct" detailed in the IRS Inspector General's report released Tuesday over the singling out of conservative groups is "inexcusable."
A political debate isn't a good one without a few awkward and fiery moments. Tuesday night's Western Republican Presidential Debate in Las Vegas was certainly no exception. The candidates clashed over all kinds of hot button issues like taxes and health care. In today's Gotta Watch, we wanted to feature some of our best political debate smackdowns, starting with arguably the most heated exchange from the Vegas debate between Mitt Romney and Gov. Rick Perry.
Gloves come off – It's a really awkward exchange that includes a lot of yelling, bickering and even a condescending pat on the shoulder. Watch what ensues after Gov. Rick Perry accuses Mitt Romney of hiring illegal immigrants.
Neither movement wants to be identified with the other, but commonalities between Occupy Wall Street and the tea party – including being born out of anger and frustration – are hard to ignore.
"I think the target is different, but the frustration (among Wall Street protesters) is the same, and the frustration is a sense that these institutions are no longer working for average Americans," said Kate Zernike, a New York Times reporter and author of the book "Boiling Mad: Inside Tea Party America."
Some of the criticisms being levied against the Occupy Wall Street movement are the same as those made against the tea party in its infancy, according to Zernike.
"The portrayal of the Occupy Wall Street forces, fairly or not, has been people who don't really know what they are there protesting," Zernike said. "You can launch the same criticism about the tea party. Many people who showed up to tea party meetings or rallies didn’t really know what they were there protesting."
Click the audio player to hear the story from CNN Radio's Steve Kastenbaum:
The Libya conflict is the talk of Capitol Hill, with several hearings on the situation scheduled for today. CNN.com Live will be there for all the gavel-to-gavel coverage.
Today's programming highlights...
9:00 am ET - Gates, Mullen testify on Libya - Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen testify on the Libya conflict before the House Armed Services Committee. Gates and Mullen will appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee at 2:15 pm ET.
Winter weather – A winter storm is causing power outages and airport runway closings in the Northeast. New York and Boston are expected to receive 8 to 12 inches of snow before it's done, CNN meteorologist Sean Morris said. Both the District of Columbia government and district public schools will be closed all day Thursday.
Financial crisis final report – The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission will release its report on the causes of the financial and economic crisis. The report will be delivered to the president and Congress and will be available to the public on the commission's website, through the Government Printing Office, and as a paperback and an e-book. The commission reviewed millions of pages of documents, interviewed more than 700 witnesses, and held 19 days of public hearings in New York, Washington and communities across the country.
Senate Tea Party Caucus – Tea Party activists from around the country will gather on Capitol Hill on Thursday for a question-and-answer session with three senators at the first official gathering of the Senate Tea Party Caucus. "What we're trying to do, with Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and I'm sure eventually others, is to make sure all the activists know that we're still listening," Sen. Jim DeMint, R-South Carolina, told CNN. "We want to get their input, we want to keep them up to date with what we're doing. So it's more a forum than a caucus to keep that interaction going." DeMint, along with Paul of Kentucky and Lee of Utah, are currently the only three members of the Senate Tea Party Caucus.
State of homeland security – Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is expected to officially announce Thursday that the color-coded threat alert system in place for nine years will go away in April. It will be replaced by a new system, which Napolitano will unveil at what the department is calling the "State of America's Homeland Security address" at George Washington University.
Uprising in Egypt – Egyptian Nobel Peace Prize laureate and opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei is returning Thursday to the country, which has been convulsed by unprecedented protests for the past two days. ElBaradei will participate in protests himself on Friday, calling on longtime President Hosni Mubarak to retire, ElBaradei's brother says. Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood has called for its followers to demonstrate after Friday prayers – the first time in the current round of unrest that the largest opposition bloc has told supporters to go out on the streets.
Davos World Economic Forum – CEOs, world leaders and economists from all over the world are gathered in Davos, Switzerland, to discuss the future of the global economy. This year's theme is "The New Reality." Have CEOs changed the way they run their companies? Is the new reality that growth will be stuck in single digits? A forum spokesman said "a small firework went off at the back entrance" of the host hotel Thursday, causing a brief scare. Former President Bill Clinton is scheduled to attend a party Thursday night at the hotel, one of the most prestigious in Davos.
Challenger anniversary events – The 25th anniversary of the space shuttle Challenger accident is Friday, and several events are planned for Thursday:
NASA remembers the crews of Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia, and all those who have given their lives for the sake of exploration and discovery. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Deputy Administrator Lori Garver will lay a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia at 10 a.m.
A wreath will be laid at 10:30 a.m. at the Space Mirror Memorial at Kennedy Space Center. Kennedy Center director and former astronaut Bob Cabana will take part in the ceremony.
At NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Center Director Michael L. Coats will be joined by astronaut family members to lay a wreath at the Astronaut Memorial Tree Grove at 12:30 p.m. ET.
A roundup of today’s CNNMoney news:
8 least evil banks: As banks take turns inventing new fees and hiking existing ones, you may think there's no escaping your bank's dirty tricks. But we found eight with zero ATM fees, free checking and high-yielding accounts.
Hottest Web IPO sets the tone: The appetite for initial public offerings is heating up, starting with Demand Media - the biggest Web IPO since Google went public in 2004.
Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook page hacked: The Facebook founder’s fan page was hacked Tuesday when a status update appeared on his profile that opened with "Let the hacking begin." The status attracted more than 1,800 "likes" before it was removed from the page.
A call for jobs from the Swiss Alps: Executives attending the World Economic Forum are optimistic about the job outlook for 2011, but say we have a long way to go. Meanwhile, check out these Best Companies' cool perks.
What a Tea Party budget looks like: With Washington buzzing with proposals to cut the budget, Sen. Rand Paul and Rep. Michele Bachmann - two high-profile Tea Party members - have each released laundry lists of spending cuts.
Review of Obama's speech – If you missed President Barack Obama's speech to the nation Tuesday night, here's a full transcript and video. The president touched on many familiar themes, and CNN's iReporters tried to sum up all his points in a single tweet.
How about the "economy"? Obama said it's headed in the right direction but the country's priorities should change, especially when it comes to spending. The president called for increasing investments in key areas such as education and clean energy, but he also wants to make reductions in spending to help get America's deficit under control and proposed a five-year domestic spending freeze.
During another portion of the speech, he highlighted a small-business owner, describing the man's story as a symbol of the American dream. Obama also spoke of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who is recovering from a gunshot wound to the head after a gunman's rampage at a political meet-and-greet this month in Tucson, Arizona. The congresswoman's name was met with applause.
On Wednesday, the president will take his message on the road, discussing opportunities for job growth in clean energy during a stop in Wisconsin.
Here is a selection of reactions to President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech to Congress on Tuesday night in Washington:
Alex Altman, Time.com:
It was light on applause lines and suffused with a grim subtext: our competitors are gaining on us. Obama's task was to acknowledge the status anxiety sweeping across the U.S., identify the problems causing it, and map out a plan to solidify America's place in the world. ... The theme of the address was the way to "win the future," a slogan that sounds cooked up in a corporate boardroom. It may have been a nod to our hunger for digestible sound bites or a recognition that plenty of Obama's opponents remain unconvinced that he believes in American exceptionalism. But it was also a clear message that "the rules have changed," as Obama said. To the president, American exceptionalism is no longer a matter of Manifest Destiny, but a status secured with hard work, smart choices and grit.
Mark Halperin, Time.com:
The mingled seating of Democratic and Republican members of Congress, a symbolic show of a renewed commitment to bipartisanship, eliminated the tribal practice of one party sitting on its hands while the other stands and applauds, and it was an immense benefit to the president. The viewing television public saw a stream of cut-aways framing prominent Democrats and Republicans, side-by-side, clapping for the same words. The speech itself transcended party lines as well, including nearly 90% that could have been penned by a GOP leader – or by Bill Clinton, at his center-grabbing best. For the tens of millions of Americans who want Beltway residents to get along and get things done, it was the apex of bipartisan promise since the aftermath of September 11, 2001.
'Crap' sells – Nampa, Idaho, residents are a little perplexed when a giant lighted sign that says "CRAP" appears in their neighborhood.
State of the Union
President Obama's State of the Union speech will emphasize "winning the future" for America by strengthening the nation's ability to compete in a changing world, according to a Democratic source. Excerpts are expected to be released by the White House a few hours before the address.
Two CNN contributors, Roland Martin and Erick Erickson, offer their opinions on what the president should say:
Martin: "What is needed Tuesday in the State of the Union address isn't lofty ideals but clearly established priorities to get this nation moving again."
Erickson: "I will personally be interested to hear Obama's suggestions for entitlement reform and whether he will lead substantively with suggestions or say he wants reform while offering little on exactly what changes he wants. ... Obama will also need to address Afghanistan."
Watch for who sits with whom in Obama's audience. As members of Congress pair off to show bipartisan unity in the wake of the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, even Rep. Joe ("You lie!") Wilson plans to sit with a couple of Democratic colleagues during the speech.
The official Republican response to Obama's address will be delivered by House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin). To accentuate the GOP's emphasis on fiscal responsibility, Ryan will speak from the Budget Committee room in the Cannon House Office Building. The GOP response will start exactly five minutes after the president leaves the House chamber.
A second response, from the conservative Tea Party wing, will come from Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota), five minutes after Ryan finishes. Bachmann is the founder of the first Tea Party Caucus in Congress and has been a supporter of the Tea Party since its inception.
Guantanamo detainee sentencing
Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani could face life behind bars following a landmark case that made him the first Guantanamo detainee tried in U.S. civilian court. The former bodyguard and cook for Osama bin Laden faces sentencing Tuesday after he was convicted on one charge in connection with the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. The 36-year-old Tanzanian was convicted by a federal jury in November on a single conspiracy charge to destroy buildings and U.S. property in a pair of attacks that killed 224 people, including 12 Americans. He faces a minimum of 20 years in prison but could be handed a life sentence, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney's office for the Southern District of New York.
Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor and 2008 Republican presidential candidate, talked Tea Party, taxes and the best (and worst) day of his life in a lively interview with CNN's Piers Morgan that airs at 9 ET Monday night.
Overall, the Tea Party is a "good" movement, Giuliani said, but it has also attracted "a couple of people that are a little crazy ... "
When he first launched his bid for the White House several years ago, he recalled that "there was a big anti-war movement in this country against the Iraq War, people hanging President Bush in effigy, people saying President Bush should be killed."
"Well, those people weren't the core of that movement," he said.
"The core of that movement legitimately opposed the war in Iraq. I didn't agree with them, but they had every right to do it. They were very emotional. They're very angry. But they were respectable people who opposed it, with some extremists who made them look bad. The Tea Party, the same thing - respectable people. They have a legitimate political point. A couple of people that are a little crazy who take it to an extreme."
Will the Tea Party help or hurt the GOP's odds of taking the White House in 2012?
" ... If they keep us on a strict focus on economic issues, they'll help us a lot. If they take us off on other issues, then you just - you just don't know, they could hurt us," Giuliani said.
Morgan also asked if the ex-mayor would raise taxes if he were president. Giuliani said he would not. He answered that he would rather cut expenses, and he compared what he did in his time as mayor to what he would do in the Oval Office.
"When I became mayor of New York City, I had a $2.4 billion deficit and everybody wanted me to raise taxes. I said if I raise taxes, I'll drive people out of New York City and then I'll be raising taxes again. So what I did was I cut expenses by 15 percent. I cut everything but the police department, because I had too much crime. I cut schools. It was very unpopular. I mean, I cut every single thing - things that I thought were good and things that I thought were bad." He said federal spending must be cut "to the level of realistic federal revenues."
Morgan asked Giuliani to describe his best day.
Giuliani talked about September 11, 2001.
"I don't think I ever saw more heroism, more, just, tremendous outpouring of love, people to people," he said. "And when I say 'day,' I mean period of time. You know, you showed a picture of Hillary Clinton and me there. You know, people couldn't imagine. I imagine that Hillary Clinton - and particularly at that point - and me could work together," he said. "And we worked together very, very, very closely."
For a moment in time, Giuliani said, "there were no Republicans, no Democrats, just - just trying to help people. ... In a way, it was the worst and the best - and the best day, largely because of the way the people - the people reacted."
In a lighter moment after the interview with Morgan, the New Yorker predicted how the Yankees will do in 2011.
Some video highlights from the interview:
Giuliani doubts Palin could beat Obama
Giuliani impersonates Marlon Brando
The wife of Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping is "China's most dazzling folk singer," according to a profile in Newsweek.
Peng is arguably more famous than her husband. She has millions of fans, thanks to frequent appearances on China Central Television over many years. She is a major general in the People's Liberation Army and is China's AIDS ambassador to the United Nations.
When Xi succeeds Hu Jintao as president next year, as most observers expect, China's first couple "will approach the glamour of the Kennedy administration," Kent Ewing writes in Asia Times.
"China will have a first family that mixes fame and beauty with power and privilege," Ewing observes.
Mary Reed's 17-year-old daughter, Emma, was a congressional page last summer for Gabrielle Giffords but never got a picture with her. So Reed and her daughter went to the constituent event at a Safeway in Tucson, Arizona, on Saturday, hoping for a photo opportunity.
Suddenly, gunfire broke out, and Reed was struck in the left arm. She pinned Emma to a wall to protect her and then took two more bullets in her right arm and back.
"He was literally going to have to go through me, and that wasn't going to happen," Reed told CNN affiliate KPHO.
Reed, who is recovering at home, is more concerned now with the psychological scars than the physical ones.
"My children had to witness people being killed, people dying right by them, blood everywhere. It's a very hard thing to acknowledge that's what my children had to experience," she told KPHO.
Road to 2012 – Wednesday belongs to Republicans. The GOP knocked Democrats out of at least 10 governorships on Tuesday and grabbed the majority in the House by winning at least 60 seats. That means John Boehner is likely to be the next speaker of the House, and President Obama called to congratulate him. Democrats held on to power in the Senate, with Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada beating Tea Party-backed candidate Sharron Angle. The day brought victory for some other Tea Party-backed candidates, but the winning group did not include Christine O'Donnell, who lost to Democrat Chris Coons in the contest for the Senate seat vacated by Vice President Joe Biden.
But what everyone is really talking about is two years away. The race to 2012 begins today.
Jobs – The victorious vibes are already transitioning into pressure to deliver. Voters are concerned about the economy, and the burden is on those elected Tuesday to deal with it. According to the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas, employers announced nearly 38,000 job cuts last month. In a separate report, payroll processor ADP says private-sector jobs increased by 43,000 in October. Economists are predicting steady growth, which could improve Obama's chances of holding onto his job.
Shipping and terror – With the new focus on safety in package shipments, Greece suspended air shipments of all mail and packages for 48 hours due to parcel bombs mailed from Athens this week. Packages were sent on Tuesday to the leaders of Germany and Italy. At least nine other bombs were sent to embassies in Athens. Authorities in Europe are scrambling to safeguard the public. One aviation chief is calling for a complete security overhaul within the industry.
Click to watch video
Missing girl's medical records sought – North Carolina authorities have been in contact with Zahra Baker's biological mother in Australia and have asked for the medical records of the missing 10-year-old girl. Officials did not specify what kind of medical records they were seeking. Dental records are sometimes used to identify a body.
Although authorities believe Zahra is dead, her remains have not been found. Burke County Sheriff John McDevitt has said that Zahra's disappearance is being investigated as a homicide. CNN will watch for updates and bring you any new information available.
Tylenol's headaches – Johnson & Johnson reported a sales drop in its third quarter Tuesday, saying that successive recalls of its over-the-counter drugs have "significantly impacted" its business.
Wisconsin levee failing – As many as 100 homes could be affected by floodwaters in Wisconsin as forecasters anticipate the total failure of a 120-year-old sand levee along the Wisconsin River. The levee, near the city of Portage in Columbia County, began failing Sunday night, according to the National Weather Service's Milwaukee/Sullivan office.
"Once the levee completely fails ... it is unknown how far south the flood waters of the Wisconsin River will travel," the National Weather Service says.
Lawyer to the stars – It seemed Lindsay Lohan and her lawyer, Shawn Chapman Holley, were everywhere this summer. The scrape was minor, the coverage major. Lohan spent 13 days in jail for violating probation in a case involving a 2007 DUI arrest, and then got into more trouble for allegedly failing a drug test. And Holley, a former public defender who also worked on O. J. Simpson’s so-called defense Dream Team, was suddenly the “it girl” on the Los Angeles legal scene.
CNN.com Justice producer Ann O’Neill profiles Holley, a quipping quote-master (“There’s the OJs and the NoJs," she says of the types of clients she has had) who wears $695 red-soled Christian Louboutin pumps and talks about Living La Vida Lohan.
Hotly energized social conservatives took aim at Washington's political establishment Friday, gathering to celebrate a string of GOP primary upsets this year and promising a revolution at the polls in November.
Speaker after speaker slammed the Obama administration for advancing what was characterized as a left-wing agenda threatening to undermine the country's economy, security and moral foundation.
The fifth annual Values Voters Summit, held in the nation's capitol, is a veritable "who's who" of rising Republican stars and possible 2012 presidential contenders: Sens. Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, among others.
Also scheduled to appear at the two-day gathering is the right's newest celebrity, surprise Delaware GOP Senate nominee Christine O'Donnell.
Tea Party victories – The Tea Party movement basked in the glow of victory Wednesday after its favorites won two primary elections the night before over more mainstream Republicans, demonstrating again the clout of the political right.
Now the question is whether the right-wing candidates can also defeat Democratic rivals in November's congressional elections, when the stakes are higher and the full electorate is deciding. The result highlighted the last major day of primary voting before the upcoming election in just under seven weeks. We take a look at the result and impact of the big races in Delaware, New Hampshire, Washington, D.C. and New York, as well as why the wins meant a big night for Sarah Palin.
And our columnists and analysts weigh on why Christine O'Donnell's win is good for Dems, why midterms matter, and what these races mean for the general election in November.
Support rally for center – Some family members of 9/11 victims will rally Wednesday in support of a controversial mosque and Islamic center that is scheduled to be built near New York's ground zero. September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows will be joined by at least 40 religious and civic organizations and is expected to announce the creation of a coalition called New York Neighbors for American Values. The coalition's goals include support of "religious freedom and diversity" and the rejection of "crude stereotypes meant to frighten and divide us." The rally is scheduled to be outside a municipal building in Manhattan. Plans to build the community center and mosque near the site have stirred emotions and provoked debate nationwide.
Primaries – On the day after Tuesday's elections, Alaska's GOP Senate race is still up for grabs. Sen. Lisa Murkowski is trailing Joe Miller, largely a political unknown who has the Tea Party's support as well as the backing of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Voters also were deciding on gubernatorial nominees in Alaska. Gov. Sean Parnell, who replaced Palin when she resigned last year, faced two challengers in the GOP primary. With 84 percent of precincts reporting, Parnell had 49 percent of the vote, according to an unofficial Associated Press vote count.
Michigan joins recall list – Eggs are being recalled from another state – Michigan. That raises the total number of states to 23 that received potentially contaminated eggs from Wright County Egg or Hillandale Farms, the distributors at the center of the recall of more than half a billion eggs. The Michigan Department of Agriculture said Tuesday that eggs associated with the recall have been distributed in the state. Also Wednesday, Thomas R. Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is scheduled to address the Atlanta Press Club. Frieden likely will discuss the recall.
Twenty-four hours of Shirley Sherrod – What a difference a day makes for the former U.S. Department of Agriculture official who resigned under pressure after a video clip surfaced of her discussing how she treated a white farmer more than 20 years ago. Initially the comments, given at a recent NAACP dinner, seemed to suggest Sherrod withheld services from the farmer. But Sherrod defended herself on CNN, saying there was more to the story, and the full tape should be shown. The white farmer also defended Sherrod. He called accusations that she's racist "hogwash."
And on Wednesday morning, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack pledged to review whether the department had treated Sherrod fairly.
Sherrod said that decision is "bittersweet" but hinted that she has moved on and doesn't want to go back to work for the Agriculture Department.
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