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Inside Politics: Holder disturbed by reports of NYPD surveillance in Jersey

- - Thursday, March 8, 2012

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. says he's disturbed by what he's read about the New York Police Department conducting surveillance of mosques and Islamic student organizations in New Jersey.

Mr. Holder says the Justice Department is reviewing the matter.

The attorney general told a Senate hearing Thursday he has spoken to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who strongly emphasized his concerns about the surveillance program.

Mr. Christie has criticized the New York Police Department for what he and other New Jersey officials have described as less than full coordination and disclosure to them of what was going on.

Mr. Holder didn't say whether he was more concerned about the lack of coordination or the surveillance itself.

WHITE HOUSE

Obama, GOP governors share many education views

When it comes to education, President Obama and many Republicans are finding common ground.

GOP governors are pushing some of the most aggressive changes in education policy today. Many credit Mr. Obama with helping to pave the way.

The areas where they tend to agree include creating teacher evaluation systems with consequences, merit pay for teachers, holding schools more accountable for student learning, and the use of charter schools that use public dollars but are run by an independent third party.

They tend to disagree on the use of taxpayer-funded vouchers parents can use to help send their children to private schools. The administration opposes them, but many governors say parents need more choices.

The administration also opposes rollbacks to collective bargaining rights for teachers that some governors support.

CAMPAIGN

Gingrich looking weary on campaign trail

TUPELO, Miss. — It was an ominous introduction for Republican Newt Gingrich, whose future as a presidential candidate rests in Mississippi and Alabama.

"I can tell you right now, he's tired. He needs your prayers," former state Sen. Lee Yancey told a half-full Jackson hotel ballroom before the former House speaker took the stage.

Gingrich aides have said the candidate needs to win Alabama and Mississippi Tuesday to justify staying in the race. He scrapped weekend plans to campaign in Kansas ahead of the Saturday caucuses to stay in the South, his adopted home and the only place he's won in the 2012 campaign.

"I want your help next Tuesday so we can win the Republican nomination," Mr. Gingrich flatly told the group, his voice a little rough.

DIPLOMACY

Obama to take British leader to a March Madness game

Talk about getting the royal treatment: President Obama, an avid basketball fan, is taking British Prime Minister David Cameron to an NCAA tournament game in Ohio, showing off one of America's most popular sporting events.

The White House said the two men will attend a first round game in Dayton on Tuesday, preceding a state dinner on Wednesday. The trip to Ohio may carry political significance for Mr. Obama because Ohio is a key swing state.

In the official business of the trip, Mr. Obama and Mr. Cameron are expected to discuss the upcoming NATO and G-8 summits along with the Middle East, Iran and the global economy.

NEW JERSEY

Christie, SEAL veteran get into shouting match

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie got into a shouting match Thursday with a former Navy SEAL at a town-hall meeting over plans to merge two state universities, and ended up calling the man an "idiot."

Mr. Christie was telling an audience in Florence, N.J., about his plans to merge Rutgers University's law school in Camden with Rowan University when William Brown, 34, a second-year student at the law school, loudly voiced his opposition.

"Nobody at Rutgers wants it, nobody in South Jersey!" shouted Mr. Brown, a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who wore a T-shirt proclaiming his veteran status.

Mr. Christie, his voice rising, replied, "Let me tell you something. If, after you graduate from law school, you conduct yourself like that in a courtroom, your rear end's going to be thrown in jail, idiot."

Mr. Brown was then removed from the firehouse by local police officers and spoken to outside by a plain-clothed police officer for several minutes, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. He was not arrested.

"It's freedom of expression," Mr. Brown told the officers. "This is America."

CAMPAIGN

Obamas hit H Street with 'Dinner' winners

President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama broke bread with a group of small-dollar donors to his re-election campaign Thursday, gathering for an intimate dinner in a popular Washington neighborhood.

Mr. Obama's campaign staged its third "Dinner With Barack" event at Boundary Road, a restaurant along Washington's H Street, a once riot-scarred corridor that has undergone a massive redevelopment.

The campaign has offered meals with the Obamas and Vice President Joseph R. Biden to boost contributions online in preparation for the 2012 campaign. The Obamas sat at a table near exposed brick walls, chatting with supporters.

The Obama campaign said the dinner guests included: ReGina Newkirk, a nonprofit executive from Nashville, Tenn., and her father, Robert Newkirk Sr., a professor at Tennessee State University; Cathleen Loringer, a former social worker from Wauwatosa, Wis., and her husband, lawyer John Loringer; and Judy Glassman, a retired school administrator from Cambridge, Mass., and her artist husband, Mitch Glassman.

From wire dispatches and staff reports