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Inside Politics

New objectives

Rep. Peter Hoekstra, Michigan Republican, said yesterday he thinks the White House will be forced to give up on any hopes of establishing a Jeffersonian democracy in Iraq.

"I think there's going to be pressure on the administration, and I think rightfully so, to take a look and assess the objectives that they have established," Mr. Hoekstra told "Fox News Sunday."

"I mean, one of the objectives that I think we need to go back and re-evaluate is the president continues to talk about establishing Jeffersonian democracy in Iraq."

"I think he'd settle for less than that now," moderator Brit Hume responded.

"I think he would, too, and I think Congress would, saying that we need to focus on security and stability," Mr. Hoekstra said.

Nonetheless, he said he doesn"t think Congress will cut off funding for the war and that a full withdrawal will be tough to justify after the release of a new video from al Qaeda, Eric Pfeiffer of The Washington Times reports.

"I don't believe that Congress will vote to cut off money for the war," Mr. Hoekstra said.

"For my colleagues on the other side of the aisle who believe that or maybe even some Republicans who believe that this effort in Iraq is separate from the war with radical jihadists, I think they're going to find out that they're wrong."

Sticking with GOP

Sen. Chuck Hagel says he isn"t planning on quitting the Republican Party to run for president, but he thinks an independent campaign could have potential.

During an appearance on NBC"s "Meet the Press" yesterday, the Nebraska Republican was asked whether he was putting aside any plans to switch parties for a 2008 White House campaign. "For right now, I am," he said. "And what the world looks like next year, I don't know. But I have no plans to change parties or run for president as an independent."

He added: "That doesn't mean, by the way, that I don't think an independent does not have some renewed possibilities next year."

Mr. Hagel, who has repeatedly disagreed with the administration and fellow Republican lawmakers over Iraq policy, said he must also decide whether he will seek election to a third term in the Senate.

"And then if there might be a place for me along the presidential road somewhere to try to have some influence and change the course of this country, then I'll look at that. But the decision needs to be made soon, and I'll make it soon."

However, despite his opposition to the war, Mr. Hagel said he does not agree with Democrats who favor an immediate withdrawal, reports Eric Pfeiffer of The Washington Times.

"It has to be more than just withdrawal and timelines and phased withdrawals, responsible phased withdrawals," he said. "All these other things have to be dealt with as well. That isn't going to fix it. Yes, you'll pull your troops out. But the fact is, we still have interests in Iraq."

Poverty tour

John Edwards plans to visit parts of the country beset by poverty, a leading issue in his Democratic presidential campaign.

Mr. Edwards' three-day swing on his "Road to One America" tour will take him through New Orleans, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Memphis, Tenn., and eight other cities and eight states, beginning July 16.

The former North Carolina senator and Democratic 2008 presidential hopeful said the makeup of the poor has changed in the past 40 years to include a wide range of ages and a variety of ethnic and regional backgrounds.

"Many are hardworking men and women with full-time jobs who are still struggling to make ends meet. And their numbers are growing," he said.

Mr. Edwards also plans to visit towns hit by the loss of manufacturing jobs and cities with suburban poverty.

He is not the first to go on such a tour, the Associated Press reports.

President Lyndon Johnson declared the war on poverty in 1964 from eastern Kentucky's coal country, the same territory that would draw Robert F. Kennedy for a two-day caravan tour in 1968 a month before announcing he would run for president.

In 2005, Mr. Edwards helped create the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina law school.

Taxing question

Republican 2008 presidential hopeful Rudolph W. Giuliani heard jeers Saturday when he explained his opposition to elimination of the federal income tax and replacing it with a so-called "fair tax" based on consumption.

Mr. Giuliani addressed a group of about 500 people in a standing-room only crowd at a town-hall meeting at the University of North Florida, answering questions for about 30 minutes on a variety of topics from Iraq and Iran to Social Security and his plan for tax cuts.

Several dozen people jeered when Mr. Giuliani, in response to a question, said he would not be in favor of the fair tax, the Associated Press reports.

"I have to study it some more," the former New York mayor said. "I don't think a fair tax is a realistic change for America. Our economy is dependent upon the way our tax system operates."

Fair-tax proposals would abolish federal income taxes and other federal taxes and replace them with a form of national sales tax.

Mr. Giuliani emphasized he supported a simplified tax system and cuts in federal taxes, including elimination of the estate tax — called the "death tax" by its foes — but his response to the fair-tax question brought some cat calls and jeers. "I have a real question whether it would be the right transition for our economy," he said.

At a press conference after his speech, Mr. Giuliani said taxes would go down under his presidency, saying his philosophy was different from the Democrats. "They want to see them go up," he said.

Richardson's plea

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson urged South Carolina Democrats on Saturday to avoid making a hasty decision before next year's primary race.

Mr. Richardson met with about 100 party activists in Greenville as part of a two-day swing through the early primary state, the Associated Press reports.

"My only message here is don't make a decision based on who raises the most money, who has the greatest political pedigree ... but who has the best vision for America," he said. "Don't let the media tell you who the next president will be."

Mr. Richardson's 2008 presidential campaign reported raising $7 million in the year's second quarter, more than he raised in the first but far behindIllinois Sen. Barack Obama ($31 million), New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton ($21 million) and South Carolina native John Edwards ($9 million).

Burglar strikes

The Davenport, Iowa, campaign headquarters for Sen. Barack Obama, Illinois Democrat, was burglarized Friday night.

Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for the Obama campaign, said two laptop computers and some campaign literature were taken. A campaign worker discovered the burglary Saturday morning, and a report was filed with Davenport police, the Associated Press reports.

"It doesn't appear that it was anything sensitive or irreplaceable," Mr. Vietor said.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce @washington times.com.

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