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First thoughts

From Mark Murray and Domenico Montanaro
*** Gonzo Gone: Breaking news from the New York Times: "Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, whose tenure has been marred by controversy and accusations of perjury before Congress, has resigned." Per NBC's Pete Williams, Gonzales will appear before cameras at 10:30 am ET to announce the news. Williams says the word of his resignation has caught the Justice Department entirely off guard. As for the rumor that Michael Chertoff would replace him, a senior Homeland official tells Williams that Chertoff has many things he'd like to accomplish at Homeland. The official knows of no plans for Chertoff -- who is in town today -- to make any change. Edwards was the first presidential candidate out of the gate with a statement, and it was only this: "Better late than never."

Video: NBC's John Yang reports on the Gonzales resignation.

*** Another Anti-War Badge For Hillary: On Thursday, the highly disciplined Clinton made what seemed to be a pretty big faux pas: She suggested that Republicans would benefit if there's a terrorist attack between now and November 2008, and that she would be the best Democratic candidate to deal with that GOP advantage. That remark -- which was picked up by the national press on Friday, but then virtually disappeared from the papers over the weekend -- was roundly criticized by rivals Dodd, Edwards, and Richardson. Yet the comment will most certainly be eclipsed not only by the Gonzo news, but also by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's sharp criticism of the New York senator for complaining about his leadership. Is there a better way to bolster one's national security and anti-war credentials than by coming under attack from someone who seems to be even more unpopular than President Bush?

*** Experience Doesn't Matter? Speaking of foreign affairs, the New York Times' Helene Cooper made this interesting point over the weekend: that previous foreign-policy experience isn't a prerequisite for an aspiring commander-in-chief. In fact, some with the most experience had mixed foreign-policy records as president. "'I think experience is a terribly overrated idea when it comes to thinking about who should become president,' said [historian] Robert Dallek… 'Experience helped Richard Nixon, but it didn't save him, and it certainly wasn't a blanket endorsement. He blundered terribly in dealing with Vietnam." With this -- and also with Carter national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski essentially endorsing Obama over Clinton -- are we beginning to see a shift in the CW on Obama and the issue of national security?

*** The DNC-Florida Dem Showdown: On Saturday, the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee voted to strip the Florida Democratic Party of all of its delegates for the state moving up its primary to January 29 -- if the party doesn't come up with some sort of compromise within 30 days. Per a DNC official, the delegate reductions would be effective without further action from the full DNC or its executive committee. Yet this could all amount to nothing, even if the DNC acts. If we get a Democratic nominee by early February, as many expect, that person would effectively control the convention and would seat the Florida delegates. But what happens if -- and it's a big if -- there's a brokered convention (i.e., the nomination is still up for grabs)? Could Florida's 200-some delegates be the difference between someone winning and losing? 

*** The Tour de Iowa: In Cedar Rapids, IA beginning at 11:00 am ET, four Democratic presidential candidates -- Clinton, Edwards, Richardson, and Kucinich (in that order) -- participate today in the LIVESTRONG presidential cancer forum, moderated by MSNBC's Chris Matthews and Lance Armstrong. Each candidate will have two minutes for an opening statement, and then will engage the moderators for 13 minutes in Q&A. Tomorrow, the Republican candidates -- just Brownback and Huckabee -- will have their turn speaking to Matthews and Armstrong. Brownback is a cancer survivor, while Edwards' and Huckabee's wives have battled with cancer. Yet there are some cancer survivors who will be no-shows at the forum, including Giuliani, McCain, and Fred Thompson. Armstrong told Tim Russert on Meet the Press yesterday that he was disappointed with the no-shows: "I think the future commander-in-chief needs to show up and talk about what kills 600,000 Americans a year." Also, this will be the first forum/debate that Obama, whose mother died of ovarian cancer, has skipped since his campaign declared that it would begin limiting the senator's appearances at debates and forums.

*** Katrina Politics: The other big event today is Katrina Recovery Summit in New Orleans, which Clinton, Edwards, Huckabee, and Hunter will address. Besides Iraq and the numerous GOP corruption scandals, no other event/situation hurt the Bush White House and the Republican brand more than Hurricane Katrina -- whose two-year anniversary comes on Wednesday. It also has raised a new threshold question for the presidential candidates: Can your administration effectively respond to a natural disaster and its aftermath? On Sunday, in fact, Obama unveiled a plan to speed up New Orleans' recovery.

*** On The Trail: Sandwiched between her appearances at the LIVESTRONG forum and the Katrina summit, Clinton participates in a conversation with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Florida; Huckabee also meets with the union in Florida; and Fred Thompson visits the Minnesota State Fair. 

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