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After the failure of Team USA to beat Ghana and advance in the World Cup tournament, most thought that Americans would wait until 2014 until they started paying attention to soccer again. But Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and a number of Republican colleagues aren't wiling to let soccer fade into obscurity!

She and a few colleagues from both sides of the aisle sent a letter to FIFA President Sepp Blatter today to try to convince him to allow America to host the World Cup in 2018 or 2022. Part of their sales pitch is America's vast immigrant population, and their dedication to watching their home country teams battle it out on U.S. soil.

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Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele has a released a new statement of his position on the war in Afghanistan, in the wake of his comments yesterday that were critical of the whole venture and blaming it on President Obama. Interestingly, Steele simultaneously walks back the implication that he does not support the war -- and sticks to his message of putting the outcome of the situation on Obama's head:

"As we enter the Fourth of July weekend, I proudly remember standing with Maryland National Guardsmen on their way to the Middle East and later stood with the mothers of soldiers lost at war. There is no question that America must win the war on terror.

"During the 2008 Presidential campaign, Barack Obama made clear his belief that we should not fight in Iraq, but instead concentrate on Afghanistan. Now, as President, he has indeed shifted his focus to this region. That means this is his strategy. And, for the sake of the security of the free world, our country must give our troops the support necessary to win this war.

"As we have learned throughout history, winning a war in Afghanistan is a difficult task. We must also remember that after the tragedy of September 11, 2001, it is also a necessary one. That is why I supported the decision to increase our troop force and, like the entire United States Senate, I support General Petraeus' confirmation. The stakes are too high for us to accept anything but success in Afghanistan."

Former President Bill Clinton referenced the late Sen. Robert Byrd's membership in the Ku Klux Klan as a young man during his eulogy for the longtime senator this afternoon in West Virginia. Clinton was the only speaker to reference this dark chapter of Byrd's history, which has been a topic of much discussion over the years.

Many of Byrd's colleagues have said that Byrd learned from the experience and that he championed civil rights later, and took pride in endorsing Barack Obama in his bid to become the nation's first black president.

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They keep rolling in. Erick Erickson, founder of the influential conservative site Red State, and sometime CNN contributor, says RNC chairman Michael Steele "must resign."

"I have heard Michael Steele's comments regarding Afghanistan and the President," Erickson writes.

I have read the RNC's statement on the matter.

The RNC statement is indecipherable in the context of what Michael Steele actually said.

The war in Afghanistan is not a war of Barack Obama's choosing. It is a war of Al Qaeda and the Taliban's choosing. We responded.

Michael Steele must resign. He has lost all moral authority to lead the GOP.

Emphasis mine. The Republican cries for Steele's ouster are growing. Though it's still unclear what the fallout of his resignation would be, or who would replace him.

Republican members of Congress heading home to campaign during the summer recess may find themselves face to face with the frustration of organized labor. The AFL-CIO is planning to target several prominent incumbent Republicans running in high-profile races over recess, hitting them with protests outside their district offices.

"Over the past Congress there have been many issues for Representatives to show which side they were on," AFL-CIO spokesperson Eddie Vale told TPMDC today. "And now we're going to start drawing contrasts, and blasting members who haven't been on the right side of jobs."

Vale didn't say exactly how many Republican incumbents will be included in the protests, but he said top targets for the action include Reps. Thad McCotter (MI), Michele Bachmann (MN), Patrick Tiberi (OH), Jo Bonner (AL), Adam Putnam (FL), Mario Diaz-Balart (FL), Joesph Cao (LA), Dan Lungren (CA), Ken Calvert (CA), Mary Bono (CA), Charles Djou (HI), Dave Reichert (WA), Jim Gerlach (PA) and Charlie Dent (PA). Maine's GOP Senate contingent, Susan Collins and Oympia Snowe, are also targets.

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Former Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ), who is challenging Sen. John McCain in the Republican primary, just can't avoid having to talk about his involvement in a 2007 infomercial for a company offering questionable seminars on how to receive "free money" from government grants. His latest, from a Wednesday interview on local radio: The grants really do exist! (Note: They really don't.)

"Oh yeah, it's the one where the, they call it an infomercial -- a video presentation. I recorded it back in 19 -- I beg your pardon, back in 2007, three years ago. And they're using all these false attacks saying, 'free money,'" said Hayworth.

"First of all, I never ever used that term. I made it very clear that no money that comes to the government is free -- that it comes through taxation. But there are grants. And just as - well, let me use my old days at Channel 10. We wouldn't beat up Dave Munsey for telling us, 'You know, it's gonna be hot today, in the triple digits.' We might not be happy with that news. It might not comport with what we'd like to have happen. But it's reality, in terms of the weather forecast. The fact is, those grants exist."

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1||June 29, 2010: The Senate Judiciary Committee kicks off its hearings to confirm Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan.

Here's a look back at other great moments in Supreme Court history, from confirmation hearings to swearings-in. Here, Sandra Day O'Connor is sworn in as a Supreme Court Justice by Chief Justice Warren Burger on September 25, 1981. Her husband, John O'Connor, holds the bible.||Newscom/National Archives/MCT&&

2||1920s: Chief Justice William Howard Taft, with President Warren G. Harding and former Secretary of War Robert Todd Lincoln.||Wikimedia Commons&&

3||1954: Attorneys George E.C. Hayes, Thurgood Marshall, and James M. Nabrit rejoice outside the Supreme Court after the decision ruling out school segregation in Brown vs. Board of Education. ||Newscom/Zuma&&

4||April 29, 1970: Harry A. Blackmun, center, before his confirmation hearings begin. Blackmun was nominated by President Nixon, and was later confirmed on May 12, 1970. To his left is Sen. Walter Mondale (D-MN), and to his right Sen. Eugene McCarthy (D-MN). ||Newscom/Arnie Sachs / CNP &&

5||November 4, 1971: Lewis Powell during his confirmation hearing. ||Newscom/UPI&&

6||December 1975: President Gerald Ford, Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger, and Justice John Stevens.||Newscom/UPI&&

7||July 15, 1981: President Ronald Reagan and O'Connor at the White House.||Wikimedia Commons&&

8||July 29, 1986: Supreme court nominee William Rehnquist talks to senators at his confirmation hearing. ||Newscom/Zuma&&

9||September 26, 1986: Rehnquist is sworn in as Chief Justice by his predecessor, Burger. Justice Antonin Scalia and his wife, left, and President Reagan, right, look on.||Wikimedia Commons&&

10||September 15, 1987: Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE), left, listens as Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA), right, gives his opening statement against the nomination of Judge Robert Bork. ||Newscom/Arnie Sachs / CNP&&

11||October 9, 1987: Bork, right, in the Oval Office with President Reagan, who nominated him to the Supreme Court.||Newscom/White House / CNP&&

12||1987: Anthony Kennedy at his confirmation hearings. ||Newscom/Zuma&&

13||July 24,1990: Supreme Court nominee David Souter with Ted Kennedy. ||Newscom/Zuma&&

14||October 11, 1991: Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) talks with Senate Judiciary Chair Biden and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) before the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearing. ||Newscom/DDP&&

15||October 1991: CThomas during his confirmation hearing.||Newscom/DDP&&

16||1993: Sen. Patrick Moynihan (D-NY), Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Biden during a press conference in Biden's office on Capitol Hill.||Newscom/RollCall&&

17||1994: Stephen Breyer during his confirmation hearing.||Newscom/SC&&

18||September 15, 2005: John Roberts prepares to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee during the fourth day of his confirmation hearings. ||Newscom/UPI&&

19||January 11, 2006: Samuel Alito, Jr. sits before U.S. Senators during his third day of confirmation hearings.||Newscom/SHNS&&

20||September 8, 2009: President Obama talks with Justice Sonia Sotomayor prior to her investiture ceremony at the Supreme Court.||Official White House Photo by Pete Souza&&

Republicans are furious with RNC Chairman Michael Steele, who was caught on camera saying that the war in Afghanistan is a doomed effort launched by President Obama. Steele has no shortage of enemies in the GOP and many of them sense an opportunity here. In fact, several, both privately and publicly, are saying this is the last straw: Steele should resign.

"Needless to say, the war in Afghanistan was not 'a war of Obama's choosing,'" reads an open letter to Steele from Weekly Standard editor and influential GOP voice Bill Kristol.

It has been prosecuted by the United States under Presidents Bush and Obama. Republicans have consistently supported the effort. Indeed, as the DNC Communications Director (of all people) has said, your statement "puts [you] at odds with about 100 percent of the Republican Party."

....There are, of course, those who think we should pull out of Afghanistan, and they're certainly entitled to make their case. But one of them shouldn't be the chairman of the Republican party.

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