- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Obama administration is accelerating diplomatic efforts to get Israel and the Palestinians back to peace talks although there is little evidence the two sides are ready to resume direct negotiations.

With most Mideast experts focused on the crisis in Syria and political upheaval in Egypt, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has stepped up contacts with Israeli and Palestinian officials over the past week to persuade them to return to the table, beginning with a high-level meeting between Israeli Deputy Premier Shaul Mofaz and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

WHITE HOUSE

Liberals urge president to hit Wall Street harder

Message from liberals to President Obama: Your economic message is muddled, go after Wall Street harder.

With the November election looming, some of the president’s most ardent backers are fretting that the incumbent Democrat isn’t successfully making the case for a second term at a time of economic turmoil. And they argue that he should sharpen his message by taking a firm stand against the financial sector’s excesses.

“If he really took on Wall Street big time, if he told the story of how Wall Street are villains, made them the enemy, we could take them down,” Paul Sasso, a 47-year-old liberal from San Diego, said this week. “To me, that could win him the election, I’m sure.”

It was a sentiment similarly expressed by more than a dozen other self-described progressive activists attending this week’s Take Back the American Dream conference in the District.

WISCONSIN

Tommy Thompson holds lead in latest Senate poll

Former GOP Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson holds an 8-percentage-point lead over Democratic U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin for the Badger State’s open U.S. Senate seat, according to a new independent poll.

Results of the Marquette University Law School poll released Wednesday shows Mr. Thompson with a 49 percent to 41 percent advantage among likely voters.

The poll was conducted June 13 through Saturday by phone. The November matchups have a margin of error of 4.1 percentage points, while the Republican primary results have a margin of error of 5.4 percentage points.

CAMPAIGN

Women’s group airs ad criticizing health care law

NEW YORK — A conservative women’s group Wednesday launched a $6 million ad campaign in presidential battleground states criticizing President Obama’s health care reform law.

The 60-second ad from Concerned Women for America features a family physician, Ami Siems, warning that patients may be denied care under the new law and might not be able to choose their own doctor. Siems previously appeared in ads criticizing the health care reform proposal sponsored by another conservative group, Americans for Prosperity, in 2009 when the plan was being considered by Congress.

CAMPAIGN

Ron Paul supporters sue GOP, claiming intimidation

Supporters of GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul have filed a lawsuit against the Republican National Committee and nearly every state party claiming they improperly helped Mitt Romney during the primaries while using intimidation and threats of violence to thwart them.

The Paul campaign says the Texas congressman doesn’t support the lawsuit. An RNC official called it frivolous.

The lawsuit asks a federal court in California to clarify whether delegates attending the national convention in August can vote for any candidate they choose, even if they were won by Romney. Most state parties require delegates to vote for the candidate who won them in primaries or caucuses.

CAMPAIGN

Romney retreat will not include Rubio

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney will hold an exclusive retreat this weekend for an elite group of his closest supporters and donors with one notable absence: Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.

The event, billed as the “Romney Victory Founding Members Retreat,” will take place at the Chateaux in Park City, Utah, from Friday to Sunday and include appearances from several potential vice presidential candidates.

The exclusion of Mr. Rubio adds to speculation that the conservative rising star is not on a serious short list to become Mr. Romney’s running mate, according to a report in the Daily Caller.

Those planning to make appearances include such contenders as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, Sen. John Thune of South Dakota and Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

PENTAGON

Probe: Bad judgment in military school Islam class

Poor judgment and poor oversight led to the teaching of anti-Islamic material at a military school for officers, according to a Pentagon report Wednesday

An Army lieutenant colonel who taught the class has been relieved of his teaching duties.

Materials in a course for military officers at Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Va., portrayed the U.S. as at war with Islam. That’s an idea counter to repeated assertions by U.S. officials that the war being fought by America is one against terrorists.

HOUSE

FDA fee bill sent to Senate for final vote

The House on Wednesday passed a major bill affecting the Food and Drug Administration that will increase inspections of drug manufacturing facilities overseas, while also funding review of new drugs at home.

Under the bill, approved by majority voice vote Wednesday, the FDA will have more flexibility to inspect sites in China, India and other countries. The number of U.S. drugs produced overseas has more than doubled in the past decade.

The underlying legislation renews an agreement under which drug companies pay the FDA to review new products. The FDA will collect $6.4 billion in fees from companies over the next five years.

POLLS

Obama has 13-point lead in new Bloomberg survey

President Obama holds a big lead over Republican rival Mitt Romney in the presidential race, a new poll shows.

Results of a Bloomberg National Poll released Wednesday showed Mr. Obama leading Romney 53 percent to 40 percent among likely voters, despite 6 in 10 respondents saying the nation is going down the wrong track. The 13-point lead for the president was far bigger than in most other recent national polls, which show a much tighter race.

Fifty-five percent of respondents said Mr. Romney is more out of touch with average Americans, compared with 36 percent who said the president is more out of touch. The survey also showed 39 percent of voters hold a favorable opinion of Mr. Romney, while 48 percent view him unfavorably.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports