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A painful past sparks concern about Obama's safety

Monday, February 25, 2008

Monday, February 25, 2008

DALLAS: There is a hushed worry on the minds of many supporters of Senator Barack Obama, echoing in conversations from state to state, rally to rally: Will he be safe?

In Colorado, two sisters say they pray daily for his safety. In New Mexico, a daughter says she persuaded her mother to still vote for Obama, even though the mother feared that winning would put him in danger. And at a rally here, a woman expressed worries that a message of hope and change, in addition to his race, made him more vulnerable to violence.

"I've got the best protection in the world," Obama, of Illinois, said in an interview, reprising a line he tells supporters who raise the issue with him. "So stop worrying."

Yet worry they do, with the spring of 1968 seared into their memories, when the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Senator Robert Kennedy were assassinated in a span of two months.

Obama was 6 at the time, and like many of his admirers, he has only read about the violence that traumatized the nation. But those recollections and images are often invoked by older voters, who watch his candidacy with fascination, as well as an uneasy air of apprehension, as Democrats inch closer to selecting their nominee.

Obama has had Secret Service agents surrounding him since May 3, the earliest a candidate has ever been provided protection. (He reluctantly gave in to the insistent urging of Senator Richard Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, and others in Congress.) As his rallies have swelled in size, his security has increased, coming close to rivaling that given to a sitting president....(Click here for remainder of article).


Sarcasm reigns as Hillary Clinton attacks Barack Obama's campaign

Monday, February 25th 2008, 4:00 AM

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Hillary Clinton's assault on Barack Obama shifted from outrage to heavy sarcasm Sunday, with the former First Lady mocking her rival as much as chewing him out for his tactics.

Framing Obama as both a deceiver and a dream weaver, Clinton said "none of the problems we face will be easily solved."

Then oozing derision, Clinton cracked, "Now, I could stand up here and say, 'Let's just get everybody together. Let's get unified. The sky will open. The light will come down. Celestial choirs will be singing, and everyone will know we should do the right thing and the world will be perfect.'"

Her remarks drew chuckles from a supportive audience gathered at Rhode Island College.

"Maybe I've just lived a little long, but I have no illusions about how hard this is going to be," she said. "You are not going to wave a magic wand and have the special interests disappear."

Clinton's mockery of Obama came a day after she railed, "Shame on you, Barack Obama," decrying what she termed deceptive mailings in Ohio about her stances on universal health care and the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Later, in Boston, Clinton signaled she would continue her more aggressive approach against Obama. "I just have this sense that finally my opponent is getting maybe a little bit of scrutiny," she said....(Click here for remainder of article).


Taking Blows From All Sides and Weighing When to Punch Back

LORAIN, Ohio — Senator Barack Obama of Illinois is getting the customary greeting that the political tribe accords to apparent front-runners: He has taken rhetorical mortar shots from all sides.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, his opponent in tight Democratic presidential primary races in Ohio and Texas next week, sarcastically described his message on Sunday as naïve and suggestive of “magic wands” and “celestial choirs.”

Ralph Nader, who on Sunday announced his plan to run for president, said Mr. Obama leaned toward the “pro-corporate side.”

And conservative blogs and television commentators accuse Mr. Obama of all manner of unpatriotic derelictions.

Mr. Obama has fired back a few shots of his own, even as his advisers say they and the candidate weigh on a daily basis when it is wisest to remain silent.

“Senator Clinton has gotten mad because I said she supported” the North American Free Trade Agreement, he told an overflow crowd of 10,000 supporters on Sunday in Toledo, Ohio. “I said, ‘Well, hold on a second. The Clinton administration passed Nafta, signed Nafta.’ ”

“You can’t just take credit for the good things,” he added.

As for criticisms that have re-emerged that he is unpatriotic for declining to wear a flag lapel or for failing once last autumn to put his hand on his heart during the national anthem, Mr. Obama offered a tight smile. He was asked about it during a news conference in Lorain....(Click here for remainder of article).


Obama, Clinton rekindle NAFTA debate

The Associated Press

LORAIN, Ohio | Barack Obama accused Democratic presidential rival Hillary Clinton on Sunday of trying to walk away from a long record of support for NAFTA.

One day after Clinton angrily accused him in mass mailings of distorting her record on the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Illinois senator was eager to rekindle the long-distance debate, using passages from the former first lady’s book as well as her own words.

“Ten years after NAFTA passed, Senator Clinton said it was good for America,” Obama said. “Well, I don’t think NAFTA has been good for America — and I never have.”

“The fact is, she was saying great things about NAFTA until she started running for president,” Obama told an audience at a factory that makes wallboard in a working class community west of Cleveland.

Later, at a rally in Toledo, he rebutted Clinton’s statement that her husband had merely inherited NAFTA when he won the White House from George H.W. Bush.

President Bill Clinton “championed NAFTA,” passed it through Congress and signed it into law, Obama said....(Click here for remainder of article).


Dean says McCain skirts election law with campaign loan

From Alex Mooney-CNN

(CNN) -- Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean accused Republican presidential front-runner John McCain of trying to skirt campaign finance laws Sunday by trying to opt out of public financing for his primary campaign.

Dean told reporters McCain has already used the prospect of nearly $6 million in federal matching funds -- which he now says he won't claim -- as collateral for a January campaign loan and to obtain automatic ballot access in every state.

Dean said he was filing a complaint with the Federal Election Commission to block McCain from quitting the public financing system, which imposes a spending cap on candidates.

"The law is very, very clear," Dean said. "He cannot be let out of the matching fund program if he has already used the promise of matching funds for loan collateral, and it's already clear from his FEC report that he has used that promise."

FEC Chairman David Mason raised similar questions about the loan agreement in a letter to the McCain campaign last week. But the Arizona senator's campaign has said its existing request with the FEC was never part of the terms of the loan, merely the possibility of future payouts....(Click here for remainder of article).


Democrats Seek FEC Probe of McCain

WASHINGTON (AP) — The national Democratic party wants campaign finance regulators to investigate whether Sen. John McCain would violate money-in-politics laws by withdrawing from the primary election's public finance system.

McCain, who had been entitled to $5.8 million in federal funds for the primary, has decided to bypass the system so he can avoid spending limits between now and the GOP's national convention in September.

Federal Election Commission Chairman David Mason notified McCain last week that he can only withdraw from public financing if he answers questions about a campaign loan and obtains approval from four members of the six-member commission. Such approval is doubtful in the short term because the commission has four vacancies and cannot convene a quorum.

"John McCain poses as a reformer but seems to think reforms apply to everyone but him," Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said Sunday.

he DNC said it plans to formally seek an FEC investigation Monday....(Click here for remainder of article).


For Hispanics in South Texas, the Choice Is Tough

SAN ANTONIO — As recently as two weeks ago, Rudy Davila III, a pharmacist, was part of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s political firewall, the bloc of Hispanic voters from here to the border with Mexico whom she counted on to keep her presidential campaign from collapse. But the firewall is showing signs of cracking.

The Davila family has been doing business in this overwhelmingly Mexican-American city for more than 100 years, beginning with a corner grocery that in four generations has become a $16 million medical supply company. The same neighborhoods that propelled the Davilas’ business gave rise to powerful Mexican-American civil rights organizations, whose leaders built a following that has largely remained loyal to the Democratic Party.

It was loyalty to Mrs. Clinton that initially motivated Mr. Davila to support her candidacy. He said that not only had his family’s business prospered during Bill Clinton’s time in the White House, but that he also saw improvements across the city’s impoverished West side.

Mr. Davila’s loyalty weakened, however, after Mrs. Clinton began losing primary after primary. Then, after watching the effect Senator Barack Obama had on his community last week, feelings of loyalty were overcome by a sense of pragmatism.

“The lines to get into the plaza went more than a mile,” said Mr. Davila, showing photographs his assistant had taken at the Obama rally held less than half a block from his pharmacy. “The crowd was one-third white, one-third black and one-third Latino. I had never seen anything like it in San Antonio. And I knew right then he was the best candidate to defeat the Republicans in November.”

Here in the heart of Hispanic Texas, voters like Mr. Davila are being pulled hard from both directions. It is hard to interview a Clinton supporter at a coffee shop or taco joint without next running into someone supporting Mr. Obama. A P.T.A. meeting that started with polite applause during the presentation of the bilingual spelling bee awards ended in prickly political debate....(Click here for remainder of article).


Got a Problem? Ask the Super

AS the race for the Democratic presidential nomination nears its end and attention turns to the role of so-called superdelegates in choosing the nominee, it is instructive to look at why my party created this class of delegates.

After the 1980 presidential election, the Democratic Party was in disarray. That year, Senator Ted Kennedy had challenged President Jimmy Carter for the presidential nomination, and Mr. Kennedy took the fight to the convention floor by proposing 23 amendments to the party platform. When it was all over, members of Congress who were concerned about their re-election walked away from the president and from the party. The rest of the campaign was plagued by infighting.

In 1982, we tried to remedy some of the party’s internal problems by creating the Hunt Commission, which reformed the way the party selects its presidential nominees. Because I was then the vice chairwoman of the House Democratic Caucus, Tip O’Neill, the speaker of the House, appointed me as his representative to the commission. The commission considered several reforms, but one of the most significant was the creation of superdelegates, the reform in which I was most involved.

Democrats had to figure out a way to unify our party. What better way, we reasoned, than to get elected officials involved in writing the platform, sitting on the credentials committee and helping to write the rules that the party would play by?

Most officeholders, however, were reluctant to run as delegates in a primary election — running against a constituent who really wants to be a delegate to the party’s national convention is not exactly good politics.

So we created superdelegates and gave that designation to every Democratic member of Congress. Today the 796 superdelegates also include Democratic governors, former presidents and vice presidents, and members of the Democratic National Committee and former heads of the national committee....(Click here for remainder of Op-Ed).


Obama fights back on questions about his patriotism

(CNN) -- Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama defended himself and his wife Sunday against suggestions that they are insufficiently patriotic.

After a town hall meeting in Lorain, Ohio, a reporter asked Obama about "an attempt by conservatives and Republicans to paint you as unpatriotic."

The reporter cited the fact that Obama once failed to put his hand over his heart while singing the national anthem.

Obama replied that his choice not to put his hand on his heart is a behavior that "would disqualify about three-quarters of the people who have ever gone to a football game or baseball game."

The reporter also noted that the Illinois senator does not wear an American flag lapel pin, has met with former members of the radical anti-Vietnam War group, Weather Underground, and his wife was quoted recently as saying she never felt really proud of the United States until recently.

Asked how he would fight the image of being unpatriotic, Obama said, "There's always some nonsense going on in general elections. Right? If it wasn't this, it would be something else. If you recall, first it was my name. Right? That was a problem. And then there was the Muslim e-mail thing and that hasn't worked out so well, and now it's the patriotism thing....(Click here for remainder of article).


At Governors’ Meeting, a Vice Presidential Buzz

WASHINGTON — Energy policy, health care and highways were the top issues on the agenda of the National Governors Association here Sunday, but many governors were consumed with presidential politics, buzzing about the possibility that the next vice president would come from their ranks.

At their winter meeting, many governors were, in effect, auditioning for the role of running mate for the leading presidential candidates, Senators John McCain of Arizona, Barack Obama of Illinois and Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.

In both parties, most of the leading contenders for the No. 2 spot are governors, who could offer executive experience that none of the three senators have.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, an early and ardent supporter of Mr. McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, is chairman of the National Governors Association and is often listed as a possible running mate.

“Half the governors here are on some list,” Mr. Pawlenty said.

Republican governors said that Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, a former member of Congress who has just raised $10 million for the war chest of the Republican Governors Association, was another contender.

Gov. Edward G. Rendell of Pennsylvania, a former general chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said: “Governors have executive experience that is much akin to what a president does. They have to make quick decisions. That’s the plus side. On the minus side, very few of us, with the exception of Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, have foreign policy experience.”

Mr. Rendell is a strong supporter of Mrs. Clinton....(Click here for remainder of article).



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