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Sen. Ron Wyden's Healthy Americans Act

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

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Inauguration Preview by By Mike Luckovich

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The Queen of Pork

Nobody doles out taxpayer money like Hillary Clinton — or rakes in as much campaign cash from the companies she does favors for


by MATT TAIBBI

One Sunday about three months ago — on the day before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, in fact — I got out of bed very late and lazily switched on CNN. On the TV screen, Sen. Hillary Clinton was smiling broadly and wearing a black jacket over some strange Oriental get-up. She was standing next to influential black pastor Calvin Butts, in front of the latter's famous Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. Camera bulbs were flashing. An important announcement was about to be made.

Butts, it turns out, was endorsing Hillary over Barack Obama in the upcoming New York primary. I raised an eyebrow. It's not that I expected Butts — perhaps the most prominent black minister in New York — to automatically endorse Obama simply because he is black. But I certainly didn't expect to see Butts go on national television and make swipe after thinly veiled swipe at Obama, sounding like he was reading a script prepared for him by Hillary's campaign team.

"This is no time for waiting or hoping for solutions," quipped Butts, making an obvious reference to The Audacity of Hope author Obama and echoing the hope-ain't-shit theme that had been pounded on the campaign trail by the Clinton camp over and over again....(Click here for remainder of article).

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Bill Vs. Barack

by Ryan Lizza

On the Thursday before the Pennsylvania primary, Bill Clinton spoke to a crowd of college students at a gymnasium in Lock Haven. The event was typical of the stops—forty-seven of them—that the former President had made in the state during the seven weeks leading up to the vote. Lock Haven is a small town (pop. 9,000), hours away from Pittsburgh or Philadelphia, and the crowd was modest (half the gym’s floor space was empty). Within the campaign, Clinton’s enthusiasm for rustling votes in these remote corners was a source of amusement. When I asked what he was doing on Election Day, a Clinton campaign adviser said, “I think he’s leading a caravan of Wal-Mart greeters to the polls.”

On the stump, the former President dispensed idiosyncratic political analysis. “One of the reasons that she won Ohio that nobody wrote about,” he said, without explanation, “is that Ohio has a plant that produces the largest number of solar reflectors in America.” He offered commentary about his wife’s earlier limitations as a candidate: “I think Hillary’s become a much better speaker.” But, most of all, Bill Clinton talked about Bill Clinton:
The headquarters of my foundation is in Harlem. . . . My Presidential library and school of public service are in Arkansas. . . . I try to save this generation of children from the epidemic of childhood obesity. . . . I am working on rebuilding the Katrina area in New Orleans. . . . I have major global-warming projects in cities all around America. . . . Most of the time I am out in America on the streets. . . . I once gave a speech to a million people in Ghana.
...(Click here for remainder of article).

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Obama says rivals Clinton, McCain pandering on gas tax

By MIKE GLOVER and BETH FOUHY

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) — Democrat Barack Obama dismissed his rivals' calls for national gas tax holiday as a political ploy that won't help struggling consumers. Hillary Rodham Clinton said his stance shows he's out of touch with the economic realities faced by ordinary citizens.

Clinton and certain Republican presidential nominee John McCain are calling for a holiday on collecting the federal gas tax "to get them through an election," Obama said at a campaign rally before more than 2,000 cheering backers a week before crucial primaries in Indiana and North Carolina. "The easiest thing in the world for a politician to do is tell you exactly what you want to hear."

Clinton, who toured the Miller Veneers wood manufacturing company in Indianapolis, said "there are a lot of people in Indiana who would really benefit from a gas tax holiday.

"That might not mean much to my opponent, but I think it means a lot to people who are struggling here, people who commute a long way to work, farmers and truckers," Clinton said. She has called for a windfall tax on oil companies to pay for a gas tax holiday.

"Senator Obama won't provide relief, while Senator McCain won't pay for it," Clinton said. "I'm the only candidate who will provide immediate relief at the pump, with a plan."...(Click here for remainder of post).

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Was Jeremiah Wright's speech set up by a Clinton supporter?

by Andrew Malcolm

Well, here's a most interesting connection we just came across.

Everybody is talking today about how much the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's latest unrepentant militant remarks hurt his most prominent parishoner, Sen. Barack Obama, and his chances to win the Democratic presidential nomination and the general election. So much so that the Obama camp realized the latent danger overnight and the candidate was forced to speak out publicly a second time today, as The Ticket noted here earlier today.

There was little doubt left in today's remarks by Obama, who recently said he could no more disown Wright than he could the black community. He pretty much disowned Wright today. Obama described himself as "outraged" and "saddened" by "the spectacle of what we saw yesterday."

But now, it turns out, we should have been paying a little less attention to Wright's speech and the histrionics of his ensuing news conference and taken a peek at....

who was sitting next to him at the head table for the National Press Club event.

It was the Rev. Dr. Barbara Reynolds, a former editorial board member of USA Today who teaches at the Howard University School of Divinity. An ordained minister, as New York DailThe Rev. Dr. Barbara Reynolds and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright at the head table of the National Press Club event Monday which Reynolds helped arrange. News writer Errol Louis points out in today's column, she was introduced at the press club event as the person "who organized" it....(Click here for remainder of post).

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‘Daily Show’: Stephanopolous Sweet-Talks ‘Adorable’ McCain

Monday, April 28, 2008

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Bowling 1, Health Care 0

By ELIZABETH EDWARDS
Published: April 27, 2008


Chapel Hill, N.C.-FOR the last month, news media attention was focused on Pennsylvania and its Democratic primary. Given the gargantuan effort, what did we learn?

Well, the rancor of the campaign was covered. The amount of money spent was covered. But in Pennsylvania, as in the rest of the country this political season, the information about the candidates’ priorities, policies and principles — information that voters will need to choose the next president — too often did not make the cut. After having spent more than a year on the campaign trail with my husband, John Edwards, I’m not surprised.

Why? Here’s my guess: The vigorous press that was deemed an essential part of democracy at our country’s inception is now consigned to smaller venues, to the Internet and, in the mainstream media, to occasional articles. I am not suggesting that every journalist for a mainstream media outlet is neglecting his or her duties to the public. And I know that serious newspapers and magazines run analytical articles, and public television broadcasts longer, more probing segments....(Click here for remainder of article.)

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Al Gore: New thinking on the climate crisis

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

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McCain's GOP critics in Arizona continue to press their case

PHOENIX (AP) — Sen. John McCain's status as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee has done little to ease the criticism he faces from a small but vocal group of conservatives in his home state.

A week ago, Republican activists living in the same state legislative district as McCain rejected nearly all the names his campaign submitted as candidates to become delegates to the party's state convention on May 10.

Six people on McCain's slate eventually became delegates, said Rob Haney, the district's Republican chairman and McCain's most prominent critic in Arizona.

"The people who know him like him the least. He is a media darling, so the general population doesn't know his record — and conservatives do," Haney said, though noting he doesn't believe the development could derail McCain's campaign.

The group of conservatives has dogged McCain since he first ran for Congress in 1982, objecting to his views on illegal immigration and campaign finance, among other issues. They rallied around him during the "Keating Five" scandal but were turned off by his moderate positions in the 2000 presidential race.

While the group has at times been an embarrassment, McCain remains strong in Arizona. The latest polls show him with a sizable lead in the state in matchups against either of his two Democratic rivals....(Click here for remainder of article.)

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Clinton doesn't enjoy 'bitter' bounce

BY NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON | nia.henderson@newsday.com
9:49 PM EDT, April 15, 2008


PITTSBURGH - The "bitter" bounce Hillary Rodham Clinton was counting on to jump-start her flagging presidential campaign hasn't yet materialized, at least according to polls released Tuesday -- possibly dashing her hopes for blow-out wins in key states.

A Quinnipiac University poll gave Clinton a 50 percent to 44 percent edge over Barack Obama -- the same margin as a week ago -- and pollsters said there was no appreciable dip for Obama after his comments about blue-collar workers surfaced Friday.

A new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll also shows trouble for Clinton in all three states with primaries in coming weeks, posing a challenge for her to rack up enough delegates and popular votes to break Obama's hold on the lead.

The Times/Bloomberg poll puts Clinton with just a five-point lead in Pennsylvania's April 22 primary. In Indiana, where voters go to the polls May 6, Obama is up by five points. And the current Democratic front-runner has a 13-point edge in North Carolina, which holds its primary the same day....(Click here for remainder of article.)

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Republicans Just Can't Keep Their Mouths Shut

Talk about people who don’t know when they have it good and you are talking about Republicans. They have 2 Democratic contenders for president tearing each other to shreds and all the attention of the media focused on Barack Obama's remarks about the attitudes of small-town Pennsylvanians. All they have to do is sit on the sidelines and keep their mouths shut.

But nooooooo, not Republicans, they just can’t stand prosperity. Saturday night, at the Northern Kentucky 4th Congressional District Lincoln Day Dinner, Rep. Geoff Davis put his mouth in gear without engaging his brain and this came out:

"U.S. Rep. Geoff Davis, a Hebron Republican, compared Obama and his message for change similar to a "snake oil salesman."

He said in his remarks at the GOP dinner that he also recently participated in a "highly classified, national security simulation" with Obama.

"I'm going to tell you something: That boy's finger does not need to be on the button," Davis said. "He could not make a decision in that simulation that related to a nuclear threat to this country."
...(Click here for remainder of post.)

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Superdelegates pressured to back Obama

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Eager to stop intraparty fighting, dozens of local Democratic Party leaders are urging Virginia's superdelegates to unite around Barack Obama for president.

The petition was intended to push the state's uncommitted delegates into forsaking Hillary Clinton in her nomination battle with Obama.

It was signed by 36 local party chairmen, some of them from Virginia's largest localities, and five congressional district party chairs. Most of the signers, but not all, endorsed Obama, said Arlington Chairman Peter Rousselot, one of the architects of the petition.

There was no evidence Tuesday that the tactic was working, even on a superdelegate who endorsed Clinton but has wavered for weeks.

Jennifer McClellan, a member of the House of Delegates, said she won't make up her mind until all of the Democratic state conventions and caucuses are over.

"It's not clear to me because people aren't finished voting," said McClellan, of Richmond. In an interview Tuesday, she at times referred to herself as uncommitted. Finally, she described herself as a Clinton delegate who reserves the right to change her mind.

She also opposes any formal process for forcing superdelegates to decide the nomination before the August convention....(Click here for remainder of article.)

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So? ... A Note from Michael Moore

Friends,

It would have to happen on Easter Sunday, wouldn't it, that the 4,000th American soldier would die in Iraq. Play me that crazy preacher again, will you, about how maybe God, in all his infinite wisdom, may not exactly be blessing America these days. Is anyone surprised?

4,000 dead. Unofficial estimates are that there may be up to 100,000 wounded, injured, or mentally ruined by this war. And there could be up to a million Iraqi dead. We will pay the consequences of this for a long, long time. God will keep blessing America.

And where is Darth Vader in all this? A reporter from ABC News this week told Dick Cheney, in regards to Iraq, "two-thirds of Americans say it's not worth fighting." Cheney cut her off with a one word answer: "So?"

"So?" As in, "So what?" As in, "F*** you. I could care less."

I would like every American to see Cheney flip the virtual bird at the them, the American people. Click here and pass it around. Then ask yourself why we haven't risen up and thrown him and his puppet out of the White House.

The Democrats have had the power to literally pull the plug on this war for the past 15 months -- and they have refused to do so. What are we to do about that? Continue to sink into our despair? Or get creative? Real creative. I know there are many of you reading this who have the chutzpah and ingenuity to confront your local congressperson. Will you? For me?

Cheney spent Wednesday, the 5th anniversary of the war, not mourning the dead he killed, but fishing off the Sultan of Oman's royal yacht. So? Ask your favorite Republican what they think of that....(Click here for remainder of post.)

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Mehlman, Rove boost McCain campaign

Monday, April 07, 2008

By: David Paul Kuhn
March 8, 2008 11:33 AM EST


John McCain is getting much more than President Bush's endorsement and fundraising help for his campaign. He’s getting Bush's staff.

It’s no secret that Steve Schmidt, Bush’s attack dog in the 2004 election, and Mark McKinnon, the president’s media strategist, are performing similar functions for McCain now.

But other big-name Bushies are lining up to boost McCain, too.

Ken Mehlman, who ran Bush’s 2004 campaign, is now serving as an unpaid, outside adviser to the Arizona Republican. Karl Rove, the president’s top political hand since his Texas days, recently gave money to McCain and soon after had a private conversation with the senator. A top McCain adviser said both Mehlman and Rove are now informally advising the campaign. Rove refused to detail his conversation with McCain.

The list could grow longer. Dan Bartlett, formerly a top aide in the Bush White House, and Sara Taylor, the erstwhile Bush political adviser, said they are eager to provide any assistance and advice possible to McCain.

Rove explained that he and McCain “got to know each other during the 2004 campaign.” In a separate interview, Mehlman noted that “McCain was completely loyal to the president in 2004 and worked incredibly hard to help him get elected.” According to Taylor, “The Bush Republicans here in town are excited for John McCain.”...(Click here for remainder of post.)

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Fourth Penn. Poll in Five Puts Race Within Margin of Error

by Jonathan Singer, Mon Apr 07, 2008 at 02:09:42 AM EST

American Research Group, which doesn't have a particularly great track record thus far during the Democratic primaries, has a new poll up out of the Democratic primary in Pennsylvania, and the results look a little something like this:
Hillary Clinton: 45 percent (51 percent in late March)
Barack Obama: 45 percent (39 percent in late March)
From the internals of the poll:
Barack Obama leads Hillary Clinton 53% to 36% among men (46% of likely Democratic primary voters). Among women, Clinton leads 52% to 39%.

Clinton leads 52% to 36% among white voters (80% of likely Democratic primary voters). Obama leads 89% to 9% among African American voters (16% of likely Democratic primary voters).

Obama leads 52% to 38% among voters age 18 to 49 (52% of likely Democratic primary voters) and Clinton leads 52% to 38% among voters age 50 and older.

27% of all likely Democratic primary voters and 41% of likely Democratic primary voters age 18 to 49 say they would never vote for Hillary Clinton in the primary and 25% of likely Democratic primary voters say they would never vote for Barack Obama in the primary.
(Click here for remainder of post.)

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Top strategist for Clinton quits post amid uproar

By Susan Milligan
Globe Staff | April 7, 2008


WASHINGTON - Hillary's Clinton's chief strategist, Mark Penn, stepped down last night from his highly paid, high-profile role on the campaign after reports that he met with Colombian government officials to push a free trade agreement the Democratic presidential contender opposes.

Penn's meeting with the Colombian ambassador had nothing to do with the presidential campaign and was related to his work for Burson-Marsteller Worldwide, a public relations firm where Penn is chief executive. But the meeting rankled labor union activists, who questioned whether the meeting undermined Clinton's pro-labor message at a time when she must hold on to the working-class vote.

"After the events of the last few days, Mark Penn has asked to give up his role as chief strat egist of the Clinton campaign," Clinton campaign manager Maggie Williams said in a statement, not detailing the controversy. Penn and his political consulting firm will continue to provide advice and polling to the campaign, she said.

Penn is one of the most prominent consultants in Democratic politics and his political consulting firm has already collected some $10.8 million in fees from a campaign struggling to get ahead in the waning array of primaries and caucuses....(Click here for remainder of article.)

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Democrats' Hopes Rise for House Seat

By SUSAN DAVIS
April 7, 2008


A conservative firebrand with a connection to a former Ku Klux Klan leader will run for a Louisiana seat in the House of Representatives, raising Democrats' hopes they can pick up what has been a reliably conservative district for more than three decades.

After a weekend primary run-off, Democrats are hoping for victory in the Baton Rouge-based district of former Republican Rep. Richard Baker, who retired in February after holding the seat for 21 years.

Conservative Woody Jenkins won Saturday's Republican run-off, 62% to 38%, against lobbyist Laurinda Calongne, while state Rep. Don Cazayoux won the Democratic run-off, 57% to 43%, against fellow state Rep. Michael Jackson.

Republicans are expected to be on the defensive in the four weeks leading up to the May 3 general election, when Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Cazayoux face off.

Mr. Jenkins, a local newspaper editor, is well known in Louisiana politics as a conservative firebrand. He served in the state House and ran unsuccessfully in the 1996 Senate race against Democrat Mary Landrieu, who currently holds the seat....(Click here for remainder of article.)

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In Superdelegate Count, Tough Math for Clinton

By JOHN HARWOOD
Published: April 7, 2008


The hill that Hillary Rodham Clinton must climb to beat Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination will grow a little steeper on Monday, as it has most days lately.

Margaret Campbell, a Montana state legislator, plans to declare her support for Senator Obama, of Illinois. She becomes the 69th superdelegate he has picked up since the Feb. 5 coast-to-coast string of primary elections and caucus votes.

In the same period, Senator Clinton, of New York, has seen a net loss of two superdelegates, according to figures from the Obama campaign that Clinton aides do not dispute. That erosion may dim Mrs. Clinton’s remaining hopes even more than internal campaign turmoil, which led to the ouster on Sunday of the campaign’s chief strategist, Mark Penn.

Trailing by more than 160 pledged delegates — those chosen in state primaries or caucuses — Mrs. Clinton has counted on superdelegates to help her overtake Mr. Obama with a late surge before the party’s convention in August. The party’s rules for proportional allocation make it highly difficult for her to erase Mr. Obama’s pledged delegate lead, even if she sweeps the final 10 contests....(Click here for remainder of article.)

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Barr forms presidential exploratory committee

By RHONDA COOK
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 04/05/08


KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Former Georgia Congressman Bob Barr eased into presidential politics Saturday with an announcement that he has formed an exploratory committee to gauge voter interest in his candidacy as Libertarian.

If there are "sufficient numbers" of people behind a Bob Barr presidential race, he's running, the former Republican said.

His announcement brought whoops and applause from the audience of 130 Libertarians, mostly from Midwestern states.

"We are at a tipping point," Barr said, "in terms of the willingness of voters, in significant numbers, to consider alternatives to the major [political] parties."

Barr conceded it was unlikely he could win, but he said his potential candidacy would be an opportunity to preach the Libertarian philosophy.

"I don't think any past performance by a Libertarian candidate is any benchmark," he said. "Are my expectations that the Libertarian candidate will win [the White House]? No. But with a credible candidate, anything is possible."

He added that the Libertarian Party "has been presenting itself as much more mainstream" as voter dissatisfaction increases with the decisions of Republican and Democrat officeholders.

In 2003, Barr left politics — he had represented a Cobb County-centered district since 1995” to return to practicing law, offering media commentary, consulting and teaching. He is a regular columnist for The Atlanta-Journal Constitution....(Click here for remainder of article.)

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Cheney Opposed Chemical Weapons Convention

Thursday, April 03, 2008

By Noah Shachtman

Vice President Dick Cheney opposed the signing ratification of a treaty banning the use chemical weapons, a recently unearthed letter shows.

183 countries pledged never to "develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile or retain chemical weapons, or transfer, directly or indirectly, chemical weapons to anyone" under the Chemical Weapons Convention, put into effect in 1997.

But in a letter dated April 8, 1997, then Halliburton-CEO Cheney told Sen. Jesse Helms, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that it would be a mistake for America to join the Convention. "Those nations most likely to comply with the Chemical Weapons Convention are not likely to ever constitute a military threat to the United States. The governments we should be concerned about are likely to cheat on the CWC, even if they do participate," reads the letter, published by the Federation of American Scientists.

The CWC was ratified by the Senate that same month. And since then, Albania, Libya, Russia, the United States, and India have declared over 71,000 metric tons of chemical weapon stockpiles, and destroyed about a third of them. Under the terms of the agreement, the United States and Russia are supposed to eliminate the rest of their supplies of chemical weapons by 2012. But that looks unlikely -- the U.S. government figures it will get the job done by 2017....(Click here for remainder of article.)

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Memo justified warrantless surveillance

Secret Memo That Justified Warrantless Domestic Surveillance Comes to Light

PAMELA HESS and LARA JAKES JORDAN
Apr 02, 2008 19:20 EST

(AP News) For at least 16 months after the Sept. 11 terror attacks in 2001, the Bush administration believed that the Constitution's protection against unreasonable searches and seizures on U.S. soil didn't apply to its efforts to protect against terrorism.

That view was expressed in a secret Justice Department legal memo dated Oct. 23, 2001. The administration on Wednesday stressed that it now disavows that view.

The October 2001 memo was written at the request of the White House by John Yoo, then the deputy assistant attorney general, and addressed to Alberto Gonzales, the White House counsel at the time. The administration had asked the department for an opinion on the legality of potential responses to terrorist activity.

The 37-page memo is classified and has not been released. Its existence was disclosed Tuesday in a footnote of a separate secret memo, dated March 14, 2003, released by the Pentagon in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union.

"Our office recently concluded that the Fourth Amendment had no application to domestic military operations," the footnote states, referring to a document titled "Authority for Use of Military Force to Combat Terrorist Activities Within the United States."...(Click here for remainder of article.)

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US declassifies 'torture' memo

The US justice department has released a declassified 2003 memo that approved the use of harsh interrogation methods on al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects held abroad.

The memo, which was subsequently overruled, said George Bush's authority as president superseded international bans on torture.

"Our previous opinions make clear that customary international law is not federal law and that the president is free to override it at his discretion," the memo, written by John Yoo, who was then deputy assistant attorney general for the US Office of Legal Counsel, said.

The document was released in response to a legal action launched by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) concerning the treatment of prisoners in US custody abroad.

Waterboarding

The memo also offered a defence in case any interrogator was charged with breaking US or international laws.

"Finally, even if the criminal prohibitions outlined above applied, and an interrogation method might violate those prohibitions, necessity or self-defence could provide justifications for any criminal liability," the memo concluded.

The Pentagon, unlike US intelligence bodies, specifically prohibited its interrogators from using certain harsh methods, including a simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding.

The memo was rescinded in December 2003, nine months after Yoo sent it to the Pentagon's top lawyer, William J Haynes....(Click here for remainder of article.)

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Democrats Fear Florida Backlash

A Failure to Seat Delegation Is Seen Hurting in November

By JUNE KRONHOLZ
April 3, 2008; Page A5


WASHINGTON -- Florida's congressional Democrats and the national Democratic Party are concerned about their November election prospects if the Florida delegation isn't seated at this summer's national convention in Denver, party chairman Howard Dean said in an interview.

Whether the state's 210 delegates are seated "makes a difference" in the congressional races in Florida, where the party hopes to pick up one or two seats, and in the presidential race, Mr. Dean said. "I don't think we can have a vote in Denver about whether or not Florida is to be seated" without prompting a divisive floor fight that could damage the party in the November polls, he added.

Florida was stripped of its Democratic convention delegates after defying national party rules and leapfrogging other states to hold its primary in January. Supporters of Hillary Clinton, who won the primary, have insisted that the delegates should be seated anyway.

Mr. Dean and Florida's state elected leaders said Wednesday that the state leaders had agreed to work together on a plan to seat the delegates. But it is still unclear how the votes would be divided or which candidate would benefit.

Supporters of Barack Obama, while agreeing that Florida should have a vote, have done little to promote a seating plan because it probably would narrow his delegate lead over Sen. Clinton. The state party's efforts to hold a mail-in revote collapsed two weeks ago....(Click here for remainder of article.)

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A Reprise of the 3 A.M. Call

By KATHARINE Q. SEELYE
Published: April 3, 2008


This 30-second television commercial for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, began running statewide in Pennsylvania on Wednesday. Within hours, Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, released a similar advertisement as a rebuttal.

PRODUCERS The Clinton media team.

THE SCRIPT Announcer: “It’s 3 a.m., and your children are safe and asleep. But there’s a phone ringing in the White House, and this time the crisis is economic. Home foreclosures mounting, markets teetering. John McCain just said the government shouldn’t take any real action on the housing crisis; he’d let the phone keep ringing. Hillary Clinton has a plan to protect our homes, create jobs. It’s 3 a.m., time for a president who’s ready.”

ON THE SCREEN The commercial opens with images of children sleeping, then the ominous ring of the telephone in the middle of the night. There is a stark image of a crumpled dollar bill, then tax forms and various worried people appear, struggling over their bills and taxes. At the end, Mrs. Clinton, dressed and wearing glasses as if she had been up anyway, answers the phone.

ACCURACY Economists and lawmakers generally agree that the country faces a crisis over the collapse of the housing and residential mortgage markets, and Congress is set to act on the matter. Mr. McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, initially said he would be reluctant to give aid to homeowners because they were speculators themselves, but after being criticized, he has said he would be open to other approaches. He has not said he would let the phone keep ringing. Mrs. Clinton has called for direct federal intervention to help affected homeowners, including a $30 billion fund for states and communities to help those at risk of foreclosure....(Click here for remainder of article.)

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Why the Democratic race could end in N.C.

By Susan Page, USA TODAY

RALEIGH, N.C. — The end could be near.

Or the endgame, at least, of a surprisingly drawn-out Democratic presidential contest. Four months and 42 states after the opening Iowa caucuses, the primary in North Carolina on May 6 now looms as a pivotal final showdown between Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Obama starts with a double-digit lead in polls here, a state where 2,400 free tickets to his rally at the War Memorial Auditorium in Greensboro last week were gone within three hours of the announcement he would appear. But Clinton has appeal in the Tar Heel State, too, and is competing hard. The day after Obama's rally, she drew 1,000 supporters to the gym at Terry Sanford High School in Fayetteville for a town hall meeting.

"I really believe May 6 has the potential to be everything," says Joe Trippi, a strategist for the presidential bids of former North Carolina senator John Edwards this year and Howard Dean in 2004. "Every day you see increased pressure on Hillary Clinton about why she's staying in, and if she could win in North Carolina it would shut down that kind of talk and open up the possibility she could get there" to the nomination.

"But if he wins in North Carolina," Trippi says of Obama, "I think you're going to see things close up very quickly. You'll see a lot of superdelegates line up behind him."

The Pennsylvania primary comes first, on April 22, with 158 convention delegates at stake. Clinton is favored there, though a Quinnipiac University Poll released Wednesday showed her lead narrowing to single digits, 50%-41%. An unexpected victory by Obama would dash her hopes for a comeback, but a win by Clinton wouldn't be the sort of surprise that could reshape the race. Indiana, which also votes May 6, is considered a tossup....(Click here for remainder of article.)

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The Obama Doctrine

By John Fund

Barack Obama is a skillful candidate, but also one who has never had to deal with foreign policy pronouncements on the fly before. Sometimes it shows. Last year he blundered by publicly declaring he would intervene in Pakistan if that nation's government didn't cooperate in the war on terrorism.

This week, Mr. Obama stumbled again after he declared he wants to withdraw from Iraq but "leave enough troops in Iraq to guard our embassy and diplomats, and a counter-terrorism force to strike al Qaeda if it forms a base that the Iraqis cannot destroy."

John McCain quickly leaped on the notion of keeping a "strike force" in Iraq and noted it was in direct contradiction to previous Obama statements that he would fully withdraw almost all troops. Mr. McCain had a series of questions: "I think it might be appropriate to describe exactly what that means. Does that mean 100,000 troops? Where are they based? What is their mission?"...(Click here for remainder of article.)

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Clinton’s Persistence Could Help Obama

By KATHARINE Q. SEELYE
Published: April 2, 2008


PITTSBURGH — For someone supposedly in a heap of trouble, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is looking pretty relaxed these days.

She hopped out of her motorcade at the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre airport on Tuesday afternoon, chatted with some residents and then took a relatively long stroll across the tarmac to her plane. The sun was out for the first time in days. Her bright fuchsia jacket — gone was the dark coat of winter — drew the eye, and she gave a jaunty nod as she bounded up the stairs of her plane.

Earlier, she had staged a somewhat elaborate April Fool’s stunt, with a mock-serious news conference, and later she had drolly told reporters about her days playing half-court basketball and bowling at Camp David. Thursday night she is to appear on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno and on Monday, “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”

This is not to say she has gone soft. When it is message time, Mrs. Clinton is focused.

But at moments she seems almost carefree, which is a jarring image for someone who has been called upon by members of her party to give up her quest for the Democratic presidential nomination. Her rival, Senator Barack Obama, has more delegates and more total popular votes. The longer Mrs. Clinton persists, her critics say, the more damage to the Democrats in the fall....(Click here for remainder of article.)

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The Obama difference

Unlike most presidential Dems in recent memory, the Illinois senator is at ease with himself -- even while bowling gutter balls in Pennsylvania.

By Walter Shapiro

April 3, 2008 | PHILADELPHIA -- "I've been running now for 15 months," Barack Obama would announce with a whiff of weary wonder in his voice at virtually every stop on his just-completed six-day Pennsylvania bus trip. Then the Democratic front-runner would add the punch line that underscored the absurdity of this presidential marathon: "Which means that there are babies that have been born and now are walking and talking."

Fifteen months from now -- if his luck holds -- President Obama will be nearing his half-year mark in the Oval Office. Which means -- if presidential history is any guide -- that the fledgling president will already have survived a contentious confirmation battle over a top appointee, signed a major piece of domestic legislation and weathered an unanticipated foreign crisis.

Yes, we are rather cavalierly dismissing formidable obstacles named Hillary Clinton and John McCain. But so much of the current campaign dialogue is fixated on the ephemeral (the latest Pennsylvania polls, the latest fracas over 3 a.m. phone calls) that it is easy to forget that the presidency will test Obama -- or either of his two rivals -- in ways that we cannot now imagine. Sometimes in the midst of a campaign (especially during slow news weeks), there is merit in stepping back and trying to envision a would-be president like Obama in a new light.

Pennsylvania provides something of a laboratory for Obama. The Illinois senator can use the April 22 primary as an opportunity to quiet doubters by increasing his vote share among blue-collar Democrats, while simultaneously beginning to test-market themes designed to sway swing voters in the fall election. At a Tuesday town meeting in Scranton both sides of the equation came together when a man with a booming voice asked Obama how he could reach out to Republicans while remaining true to his political values....(Click here for remainder of article.)

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Democrats spar over Rocky, NAFTA

By Mike Dorning and Rick Pearson | Tribune correspondents
April 2, 2008


PHILADELPHIA — The Democratic presidential campaigns engaged in a contentious, long-distance debate Wednesday with barbs over movie characters, NAFTA and loose-lipped advisers as they sought to fill the period before the next primary and a real debate more than a week away.

Sen. Barack Obama mocked rival Sen. Hillary Clinton for comparing herself to the Sylvester Stallone film character Rocky Balboa, and his campaign challenged her truthfulness in claims Clinton has made that she has opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Before the Obama conference call on Clinton's NAFTA record began, her campaign made a pre-emptive strike. A Clinton spokesman e-mailed reporters to suggest the call include Austan Goolsbee, an Obama adviser described in a leaked Canadian government memo as assuring a diplomat that Obama's anti-NAFTA rhetoric was "political positioning."

Like Rocky, Clinton released a sequel of her own—an update of her controversial 3 a.m. phone call ad that showed her as ready to handle a crisis, this time portraying presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain as unable to answer a call for economic help....(Click here for remainder of article.)

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Obama Would Give Gore Key Role Shaping Climate Policy

By Kim Chipman

April 2 (Bloomberg) -- Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said that if elected he would ask former Vice President Al Gore to be a key contributor in shaping U.S. climate policies.

Obama, in response to a voter's question today while campaigning in Pennsylvania, said he would consider offering Gore a cabinet-level position focused on tackling global climate change.

"Al Gore would be at the table and play a central part in us figuring out how we solve this problem," Illinois Senator Obama said during a town hall meeting in Wallingford, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. "He's somebody I talk to on a regular basis. I'm already consulting with him in terms of these issues."

Obama is proposing a carbon credit trading system to cut global warming pollution 80 percent by 2050. Such a program would generate billions of dollars to invest in alternative energy sources, he said. Some of the money also would be used to help offset higher energy bills, the likely short-term result of coal- fired power plants being required to cut their carbon emissions.

"That's going to cost them money. They are going to try to pass on those costs through higher electricity prices," Obama said today. "We are going to have to reimburse people on fixed and low incomes to make sure they don't get hurt by spikes in electricity prices." ...(Click here for remainder of article.)

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Former Indiana Rep. Hamilton Endorses Obama

By Alec MacGillis and Jonathan Weisman

No, Lee Hamilton is not a superdelegate. Nonetheless, there are several reasons for Barack Obama to welcome the support of the longtime Indiana congressman and co-chairman of the 9/11 Commission, who announced his endorsement of Obama this morning.

Hamilton's support helps Obama in Indiana, where the May 6 primary looms as perhaps the most evenly matched of the remaining contests, and thus a possible media bellwether. Until now, Hillary Clinton has held an edge in establishment support in the state, thanks mostly to her backing from Evan Bayh, the senator, former governor and son of a former senator.

As importantly, the nod from the respected co-chairman of the 9/11 commission bolsters Obama's claim as a credible candidate for commander in chief, a point on which the rookie senator has been hammered by both Clinton and McCain. (In fact, Hamilton is not the first 9/11 commission member from Indiana to endorse Obama -- former congressman Tim Roemer came out for him last month.) There is the added twist of the 9/11 commission co-chairman passing over the senator from the state that suffered the worst of the attacks, though the symbolism is not as stark as it was when Tom Kean, the former New Jersey governor and Republican co-chairman of the panel, endorsed McCain instead of Rudy Giuliani, the presidential candidate most closely identified with the attacks....(Click here for remainder of article.)

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Wyoming governor backs Obama

By MEAD GRUVER

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal, a former Clinton administration appointee, announced Wednesday that he will support Illinois Sen. Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Freudenthal said he was impressed by the large, enthusiastic crowds that turned out to see Obama when he visited Wyoming ahead of last month's caucuses.

"They paid attention and were riveted and reactivated, and trying to be part of an America that's bigger than just their own self-interest," Freudenthal told The Associated Press. "And you hope that can work. Because something has got to dig us out of this morass that we've gotten into, where it's sort of gotcha politics."

Freudenthal is the second Western governor and former Clinton appointee to endorse Obama in recent weeks. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, former energy secretary and UN ambassador under Clinton, announced his support for Obama two weeks ago.

Former Indiana Rep. Lee Hamilton, who was the top Democrat on the Sept. 11 Commission, also endorsed Obama on Wednesday.

As governor, Freudenthal is a superdelegate to the party's national convention this summer. In the close contest between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Obama, the superdelegates — elected officials and party leaders — could ultimately decide the Democratic nominee....(Click here for remainder of article.)

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40 years after MLK's killing, RFK's anguished words still resound

By Kevin Cullen
Globe Columnist | April 2, 2008


Friday will be 40 years, 40 years to the day, that Bobby Kennedy climbed some steps to a platform in Indianapolis.
more stories like this

Kennedy was running for president, and he was in Indiana looking for votes. But as he looked out over a sea of black faces, the stump speech was in his pocket, and the words he spoke came from some place much deeper.

Few in the crowd knew that Martin Luther King Jr. had just been shot in Memphis. Kennedy had only found out when he got off the plane in Indianapolis. The police advised him against making the appearance, in a poor black neighborhood, fearing that news of King's assassination would trigger violence. But Kennedy climbed onto the platform and broke the news.

There was a sharp intake of breath, and then the crowd fell silent. And in that void, Bobby Kennedy spoke, as fine and as important and as dignified a speech as has ever been given by any politician anywhere. If you've never heard it, here is a link to the speech.

His plea for calm and restraint, as he reminded those tempted to lash out violently that his brother had also been killed by a white man, is raw and real and achingly poignant....(Click here for remainder of post.)

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Colorado Proposes Tough Law on Executive Accountability

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

DENVER — For 30 years, Lew Ellingson loved being a telephone man.

His job splicing phone cables was one that he says gave him “a true sense of accomplishment,” first for Northwestern Bell, then US West and finally Qwest Communications International.

But by the time Mr. Ellingson retired from Qwest last year at 52, he had grown angry. An insider trading scandal had damaged the company’s reputation, and the life savings of former colleagues had evaporated in the face of Qwest’s stock troubles.

“It was a good place,” he said wistfully. “And then something like this happened.”

Now, Mr. Ellingson is the public face of a proposed ballot measure in Colorado that seeks to create what supporters hope will be the nation’s toughest corporate fraud law.

Buttressed by local advocacy groups and criticized by a Colorado business organization, the measure would make business executives criminally responsible if their companies run afoul of the law. It would also permit any Colorado resident to sue the executives under such circumstances. Proceeds from successful suits would go to the state.

If passed by voters in November, the proposal would leave top business officers having unprecedented individual accountability, said Mr. Ellingson, a member of Protect Colorado’s Future, a coalition of advocacy groups that supports the initiative.

“If nothing else, these folks in charge of the corporations and companies will think twice about cutting corners to make themselves look more profitable than they really are,” he said.

The plight of Mr. Ellingson’s former employer, Qwest, based in Denver, was a motivation for the proposal, said Jess Knox, executive director of Protect Colorado’s Future.

Last April, a jury in Denver convicted Qwest’s former chief executive, Joseph P. Nacchio, of 19 of 42 counts of insider trading. Mr. Nacchio was sentenced to six years in prison and ordered to pay a fine of $19 million and forfeit $52 million in money he earned from stock sales in 2001.

In March, however, a federal appeals court panel reversed the conviction on the grounds that a judge had improperly excluded expert defense testimony.

The panel ordered that Mr. Nacchio receive a new trial in front of a different judge....(Click here for remainder of article.)

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Letter from Sen. Ken Salazar RE: Iran

[Seems to me that Sen. Salazar is towing the Republican party line on this! What is with these blue-dog Democrats? Do they not pay attention? "Sen. Salazar, you represent Colorado. If you haven't noticed, it's become quite the blue state. Get on board or get replaced!"]

Dear Bret:

Thank you for contacting me regarding Iran. I appreciate hearing from you.

I am deeply concerned about Iran’s continuing violation of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Taking these clandestine nuclear activities together with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinajad’s inflammatory statements regarding Israel and the West, and it is clear this emerging challenge deserves our attention. Accordingly, I am a co-sponsor of legislation, the Iran Counter-Proliferation Act (S.970), which would impose sanctions on Iran and on other countries for assisting Iran in developing a nuclear program.

I am also troubled by reports of continuing Iranian support for Shia militias in Iraq that fuel violence and target American troops. In response to this, I recently supported a Sense of the Senate amendment (S.A.3017) to the National Defense Reauthorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 which states it shall be the policy of the United States to combat and contain Iran's violent activities and destabilizing influence inside Iraq.

Let me be clear, however: the United States should make every attempt to resolve the Iranian challenge through diplomatic and economic channels. This includes working with our Security Council partners in the United Nations to ensure Iran cooperates with nuclear weapons inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, and, failing that, expanding upon the economic sanctions against the Iranian regime that are already in place.

I recognize the concern of many, both in Congress and throughout the country, that the Bush administration is planning military action against Iran. In response, there are a number of legislative initiatives in the Senate aimed at restricting the ability of the President to do so:

· S.759, introduced by Senator Jim Webb (D-VA), would prohibit the use of funds for military operations in Iran except pursuant to a specific congressional authorization;
· S.Res.356, introduced by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), would resolve that any offensive military action taken by the United States against Iran must be explicitly approved by Congress before such action may be initiated;
· S.J.Res.23, introduced by Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), would state that nothing in the Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Iraq of 2002, any act that serves as the statutory authority for Executive Order 13382 or Executive Order 13224, any resolution previously adopted, or any other provision of law including Executive Order 13382 or Executive Order 13224 shall be construed to authorize, encourage, or in any way address the use of the U.S. Armed Forces against Iran; and,
· S.Con.Res.13, introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), would affirm that initiating military action against Iran without congressional approval does not fall within the President's "Commander-in-Chief" powers under the Constitution; and (2) seeking congressional authority prior to taking military action against Iran is not discretionary, but a legal and constitutional requirement.

These bills currently await action in the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Though I am not a member of this committee, please rest assured I will keep your concerns in mind should the full Senate consider legislation pertinent to this very important issue.

Again, thank you for taking the time to share your views.

Sincerely,

Ken Salazar
United States Senator

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USA 2008: The Great Depression

Food stamps are the symbol of poverty in the US. In the era of the credit crunch, a record 28 million Americans are now relying on them to survive – a sure sign the world's richest country faces economic crisis

By David Usborne in New York
Tuesday, 1 April 2008


We knew things were bad on Wall Street, but on Main Street it may be worse. Startling official statistics show that as a new economic recession stalks the United States, a record number of Americans will shortly be depending on food stamps just to feed themselves and their families.

Dismal projections by the Congressional Budget Office in Washington suggest that in the fiscal year starting in October, 28 million people in the US will be using government food stamps to buy essential groceries, the highest level since the food assistance programme was introduced in the 1960s.

The increase – from 26.5 million in 2007 – is due partly to recent efforts to increase public awareness of the programme and also a switch from paper coupons to electronic debit cards. But above all it is the pressures being exerted on ordinary Americans by an economy that is suddenly beset by troubles. Housing foreclosures, accelerating jobs losses and fast-rising prices all add to the squeeze.

Emblematic of the downturn until now has been the parades of houses seized in foreclosure all across the country, and myriad families separated from their homes. But now the crisis is starting to hit the country in its gut. Getting food on the table is a challenge many Americans are finding harder to meet. As a barometer of the country's economic health, food stamp usage may not be perfect, but can certainly tell a story....(Click here for remainder of article.)

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Obama picks up new endorsement

Mon Mar 31, 9:55 AM ET

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (AFP) - US Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar has endorsed Barack Obama to become the party's presidential nominee, adding new pressure on trailing rival Hillary Clinton, Obama's campaign announced Monday.

Obama "has inspired an enthusiasm and idealism that we have not seen in this country in a long time," Minnesota Senator Klobuchar said in a statement. She said that he speaks "with a different voice, bringing a new perspective and inspiring a real excitement from the American people."

"My endorsement reflects both Barack's strong support in my state and my own independent judgment about his abilities," Klobuchar said.

"Barack has been a proven agent for change and advocate for middle-class Americans."

The announcement of support came in the wake of Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey's endorsement of Obama last week, and Senator Patrick Leahy's call for Clinton to drop out of the race, saying that there was no way she could win it.

According to Obama's campaign, Klobuchar is the 64th "superdelegate" to the party's August convention to endorse the African-American senator since the February 5 Super Tuesday primaries gave him a solid lead over Clinton in regular committed delegates....(Click here for remainder of article.)

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Cash-strapped Clinton fails to pay bills

By KENNETH P. VOGEL | 3/30/08 7:00 AM EST Updated: 3/31/08 6:04 AM EST

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s cash-strapped presidential campaign has been putting off paying hundreds of bills for months — freeing up cash for critical media buys but also earning the campaign a reputation as something of a deadbeat in some small-business circles.

A pair of Ohio companies owed more than $25,000 by Clinton for staging events for her campaign are warning others in the tight-knit event production community — and anyone else who will listen — to get their cash upfront when doing business with her. Her campaign, say representatives of the two companies, has stopped returning phone calls and e-mails seeking payment of outstanding invoices. One even got no response from a certified letter.

Their cautionary tales, combined with published reports about similar difficulties faced by a New Hampshire landlord, an Iowa office cleaner and a New York caterer, highlight a less-obvious impact of Clinton’s inability to keep up with the staggering fundraising pace set by her opponent for the Democratic presidential nomination, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.

Clinton's campaign did not respond to recent, specific questions about its transactions with vendors. But Clinton spokesman Jay Carson pointed on Saturday to an earlier statement the campaign issued to Politico, asserting: "The campaign pays its bills regularly and in the normal course of business, and pays all of its bills."...(Click here for remainder of article.)

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U-turn on sanctioned states

[Can someone please explain to me as to why Clinton has surrounded herself with the likes of Ickes? To me, this is just further indication that Clinton doesn't give one iota about the Democratic Party or the country, but only for the future of Hillary Clinton! That's just pathetic and destructive.]

Clinton aide who backed early-vote penalty wants delegates to count
By Hope Yen
The Associated Press


WASHINGTON — Harold Ickes, a top adviser to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign who voted for Democratic Party rules that stripped Michigan and Florida of their delegates, is arguing against the very penalty he helped pass.

In a conference call Saturday, the longtime Democratic Party member contended that the DNC should reconsider its tough sanctions on the states, which held early contests in violation of party rules. He said millions of voters in Michigan and Florida would be disenfranchised but then acknowledged he had favored the sanctions.

Campaigning in Wisconsin, Clinton agreed that a suitable arrangement could be worked out to seat the Michigan and Florida delegations.

"The rules provide for a vote at the convention to seat contested delegations," she said. "This goes back to the 1940s in my memory. There is nothing unusual about this. My husband didn't wrap up the nomination until June. Usually it takes awhile to sort all this out. That's why there are rules. If there are contested delegations, the convention votes on it."

Ickes explained that his different position essentially is due to the different hats he wears as both a DNC member and a Clinton adviser in charge of delegate counting. Clinton won the primary vote in Michigan and Florida, and now she wants those votes to count.

"There's been no change," Ickes said. "I was not acting as an agent of Mrs. Clinton. We had promulgated rules, and those rules said the timing provision . . . provides for certain sanctions, automatic sanctions as a matter of fact, if a state such as Michigan or Florida violates those timing provisions.

"With respect to the stripping, I voted as a member of the Democratic National Committee. Those were our rules, and I felt I had an obligation to enforce them," he said. ...(Click here for remainder of article.)

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Jackson Resigns as HUD Secretary

[For those of you keeping score at home, Jackson is the last of Bush's Texas cabal to leave office. This one is a doozy! Sayonara you corrupt bastard!]

Longtime Bush Friend Is Facing Cronyism Investigations

By Dan Eggen and Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, April 1, 2008; Page A01


Embattled Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson announced his resignation yesterday, leaving the Bush administration without a top housing official in the midst of a vast mortgage crisis that has shaken the global economy.

Jackson, a longtime friend and former neighbor of President Bush, departed after the White House concluded he had too many controversies swirling around him to be an effective Cabinet member, several HUD officials said privately.

Jackson has been accused of favoritism involving HUD contractors for two years, and the FBI and the Justice Department are investigating whether he steered business to friends....(Click here for remainder of article.)

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