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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Clinton: Delay the Delegate Count (Because I'll Lose)

The Hillary Clinton camp has tried every avenue to delay reporting on the delegates from the Texas primary. They tried to intimidate the Texas Democratic Party prior to the primary. That failed. On election night, they threw up a duststorm of objections about irregularities. Now, the Clinton camp us urging the state party to delay the March 29 county and senate conventions, where details of how 67 delegates picked in the county caucuses will be announced. @Mad Milly and the Monster by Wayne Slater

Why are they doing this? Because they are losing.

CNN projects that Barack Obama won the Texas caucuses with 38 convention delegates, compared to 29 for Clinton. The Texas primary is a complicated, two-step process. Clinton won more delegates than Obama in the popular-vote portion, 65 to 61. With his likely caucus-delegate haul, looks like Obama won the overall statewide delegate lead, 99 to 94 -- or once superdelegate endorsements are factored in, 109 to 106.

Hillary Clinton declared victory in Texas and moved on. As for these pesky details, like delegates, that's the last thing the Clinton campaign wants to talk about.

Here, after the jump, is the Clinton campaign letter urging Texas Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Ritchie to delay the March 29 county/state senate conventions:

March 14, 2008

AND FACSIMILE TO (512) 480-2500

Mr. Boyd L. Richie
Chairman, Texas Democratic Party
State Democratic Executive Committee
505 W. 12th Street, Suite 200
Austin, Texas 78701

Dear Chairman Richie:

We want to congratulate you on the extraordinary turnout of voters across the State of Texas who participated in the March 4 Democratic presidential primary and precinct conventions. We appreciate the unprecedented administrative challenges the high turnout presented. Fortunately, the Texas Democratic Party has under its Rules and the Texas Delegate Selection Plan requirements designed to ensure that the process in which eligible voters participate is fair and one in which they can have confidence, and when there are deficiencies, requirements to ensure that those deficiencies are rectified.

In this regard we are writing to express our concerns regarding the review and tally of the official results of the State Party's precinct conventions on March 4. As you are no doubt aware, there are significant questions about whether the precinct conventions were conducted in accordance with the Party's Delegate Selection Plan and Rules. On the night of the caucus itself we brought many instances of these irregularities to the attention of the State Party. The campaign received in excess of 2,000 complaints of rules violations, indicating widespread violations of the Party's rules, including the following specific occurrences that are clear violations of specific rules:

• Temporary Chair packets were released by the election judge prior to 7:00 pm
• Sign-in sheets were filled out before 7:00 pm
• Precincts were consolidated for purposes of holding a convention
• Precinct caucuses began before polls closed for the primary
• Ineligible participants voted or ineligible delegates were elected, including participants who were not registered voters, participants who did not vote in the primary, provisional voters whose votes were counted, and no verification was made of the eligibility of participants or delegates
• Accurate written records of participants, presidential preferences, and elected delegates were not kept
• Participants' names and presidential preference were entered on sign-in sheets by someone other than the eligible individual participant
• Results were taken from a head count or hand count rather than the written roll
• Delegate votes were not ratified by the precinct convention
• Failure to follow Robert's Rules of Order at the precinct convention

We have had several conversations with the State Party since March 4, including conversations with Chad Dunn, regarding the procedures that the State Party intends to follow to insure that the rules were followed and that only the votes of eligible participants would be considered. We understood that we were to receive a memorandum regarding that process, but were advised yesterday that instead we would be invited to a briefing on Monday, March 17.

Last week our Counsel, Lyn Utrecht, was told by Mr. Dunn that the State Party intended to verify the eligibility of participants and that the Party's IT people were working on a system for doing that electronically. On Tuesday the 11th, when Ms. Utrecht contacted Mr. Dunn to inquire about the status of the memorandum regarding the procedures, she was advised that the State Party no longer intended to verify the eligibility of participants or delegates because the Party would not have the ability to do that before the County Conventions. This was confirmed by Mr. Dunn yesterday.

Therefore, it is our understanding that the results will be counted and delegates awarded based on a count of votes without any determination by the State Party of eligibility of the participants, and without any certification by the Precinct Chairs or County and Senate District Chairs that they completed a thorough review of the eligibility of participants and delegate candidates.

Thus it will be left to the campaigns to file credentials challenges against those delegates awarded based on the votes of ineligible participants, without the State Party making any effort to identify ineligible participants. We were advised yesterday that we will begin to receive copies of the scanned sign-in sheets sometime early next week and that it will not be until the end of next week when we will receive all of this data. In order to review this, the campaigns will also need access to the voter rolls to determine who voted in the primary held that day. While the State Party has indicated that it will request this information from the larger counties and provide it, it is unclear how soon that information will be available. For the smaller counties, the campaigns must request it from each county.

We believe this is in direct contravention of the Rules, which require that the Party determine the eligibility of participants and that only the votes of eligible participants are counted. Moreover, if the Party's reason for not ensuring that only eligible participants are counted is based on the fact that the Party cannot complete the review process prior to the scheduled date of the County and Senate District Conventions, the campaigns can't possibly complete this review in a timely fashion. Credentials challenges are presently due March 26.
We believe that (1) it is a violation of the Party's Delegate Selection Plan and Rules for the Party not to ensure that the eligibility of participants was determined before their votes are counted; and (2) if the Party cannot complete this task in time to hold the next level conventions on March 29, those conventions must be postponed until such time as accurate presidential preference counts can be made based on a review of each and every sign in sheet to determine eligibility of participants and delegates.

It is a violation of the rights of legitimate participants to have their true vote count distorted by violations of the Party's Rules. It is the Party's responsibility to ensure the integrity of the precinct convention process by making sure that the Rules were followed and that the final official results of the precinct conventions are accurate and in compliance with the Rules.

Therefore, we respectfully request that the Party explain to both campaigns what procedures will be followed to ensure the accuracy and integrity of the precinct convention results and agree to postpone the County and Senate District Conventions until such time as that process can be completed.

We look forward to working with you to ensure that the votes of the people who participated in the March 4 primary and precinct conventions are accurately counted.



Garry Mauro
Authorized Representative

Guy Cecil
National Political and Field Director

Original here

Clinton Won't Release Earmark Requests Like Obama

Close observers of yesterday's reports on the efforts of McCain and Obama to get Sen. Clinton to disclose her earmark requests going back to 2001 may have noticed a strange thing about the statement her office issued at the end of the day.

It said all manner of things about earmarks, and moratoriums, and funding, and accountability. But it never said whether she would disclose her earmark requests going back to 2001.

We spent today back-and-forthing a few more times by e-mail with her press office, and the exchanges made it pretty clear that the oversight was intentional. The plan seems to be that since the NY press has never obsessed over Hillary's earmark requests, she can safely not release them as long as she doesn't say she won't and doesn't say why she won't.

Keep reading


Read how Clinton donors are threatening to withhold funds from the DNC


Read how Obama has admitted more extensive ties to Tony Rezko


Read a HuffPost blog written by Barack Obama.

Original here

Clinton role in health program disputed

Hillary Clinton headed to the Senate floor yesterday as all three major candidates returned to the chamber for key budget votes. A10. (Susan Walsh/Associated Press)

WASHINGTON - Hillary Clinton, who has frequently described herself on the campaign trail as playing a pivotal role in forging a children's health insurance plan, had little to do with crafting the landmark legislation or ushering it through Congress, according to several lawmakers, staffers, and healthcare advocates involved in the issue.

more stories like this

In campaign speeches, Clinton describes the State Children's Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, as an initiative "I helped to start." Addressing Iowa voters in November, Clinton said, "in 1997, I joined forces with members of Congress and we passed the State Children's Health Insurance Program." Clinton regularly cites the number of children in each state who are covered by the program, and mothers of sick children have appeared at Clinton campaign rallies to thank her.

But the Clinton White House, while supportive of the idea of expanding children's health, fought the first SCHIP effort, spearheaded by Senators Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, and Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, because of fears that it would derail a bigger budget bill. And several current and former lawmakers and staff said Hillary Clinton had no role in helping to write the congressional legislation, which grew out of a similar program approved in Massachusetts in 1996.

"The White House wasn't for it. We really roughed them up" in trying to get it approved over the Clinton administration's objections, Hatch said in an interview. "She may have done some advocacy [privately] over at the White House, but I'm not aware of it."

"I do like her," Hatch said of Hillary Clinton. "We all care about children. But does she deserve credit for SCHIP? No - Teddy does, but she doesn't."

Neera Tanden, policy director for the Clinton campaign, said that the senator had "always been pushing for SCHIP" and that the White House had opposed the 1997 Hatch-Kennedy amendment to create the program because President Clinton had made a deal with the then-GOP leadership not to back any amendments to a contentious budget bill. The SCHIP plan - which provides federal matching grants to help states' uninsured children - was to be paid for with a hefty tobacco tax, an idea many Republican and tobacco-state lawmakers opposed.

Chris Jennings, who was a Clinton healthcare adviser during her years as the wife of a president, said Clinton had been a longtime and tireless advocate for expanding children's healthcare, and Jennings was baffled by suggestions that she had not been instrumental in getting the plan approved. Jennings noted that SCHIP was indeed adopted, in a second attempt, that same year.

"She was very proactive. At every step of the way, she was always pushing" for the concept of expanding healthcare for children, Jennings said.

Tanden, the campaign official, suggested that politics were at play in the criticism of Clinton. She noted that Kennedy and others had earlier been complimentary of Clinton's role in SCHIP, but have been more critical since lawmakers started taking sides in the Democratic presidential primary.

more stories like this

"Obviously, some things have changed between last fall and now. Some people have endorsed other candidates," Tanden said.

Kennedy has endorsed Obama, a move that deeply upset the Clinton campaign. Hatch initially endorsed Mitt Romney for the GOP nomination, then switched to Senator John McCain of Arizona after Romney left the race. Hatch, a longtime Kennedy friend, said he didn't want to criticize Clinton, but felt that the record should be set straight about how the SCHIP program was developed.

Asked whether Clinton was exaggerating her role in creating SCHIP, Kennedy, stopped in the hallway as he was entering the chamber to vote, half-shrugged.

"Facts are stubborn things," he said, declining to criticize Clinton directly. "I think we ought to stay with the facts."

Many members of Congress said they believe Hillary Clinton has a deep and sincere commitment to children's health issues. She has sponsored numerous bills and amendments dealing with a plethora of healthcare matters.

But privately, some lawmakers and staff members are fuming over what they see as Clinton's exaggeration of her role in developing SCHIP, including her campaign ads claiming she "helped create" the program. The irritation has grown since Nov. 1, when Clinton - along with fellow senators and presidential candidates Barack Obama, Chris Dodd, and John McCain - missed a Senate vote to extend the SCHIP program, which was approved without the votes of those lawmakers.

Kennedy said he patterned the SCHIP plan on a similar program Massachusetts had approved in 1996. Kennedy's account was backed up by two Bay State healthcare advocates who met with Kennedy in Boston to discuss the possibility of taking the idea nationwide: Dr. Barry Zuckerman, director of pediatrics at Boston Medical Center, and John McDonough, then a Democratic state legislator and now the executive director of Health Care for All, a healthcare advocacy group.

Kennedy, Zuckerman said in an interview, was intrigued by the idea of using a cigarette tax to pay for children's health, but worried he would not be able to get it through Congress. "I said, 'Times have changed,' and he ran with it," Zuckerman said.

McDonough, a Democrat who has not endorsed a presidential candidate, also said it was Kennedy who developed the SCHIP idea after that meeting. "I don't recall any signs of Mrs. Clinton's engagement," McDonough said. "I'm sure she was behind the scenes, engaged in lobbying, but it is demonstrably not the case" that she was driving the effort, he said.

After meeting Zuckerman and McDonough, Kennedy sought out Hatch, and the two worked on the bill together, offering it as an amendment to a budget resolution. But President Clinton - much to the surprise and anger of Kennedy - lobbied Democratic lawmakers to oppose the Hatch-Kennedy amendment, the lawmakers and staff members said.

Gene Sperling, a former chief economic adviser in the Clinton White House, said the budget resolution never would have passed the House with the Hatch-Kennedy amendment in it. He said that both the president and his wife wanted the SCHIP program and that Hillary Clinton lobbied hard to get it included in subsequent legislation.

In fact, the SCHIP program was approved later in the year, a feat Sperling said would not have been possible without the White House negotiating with GOP leaders. And lawmakers in both parties acknowledge that administration support was needed and appreciated. But they said the effort was largely driven by Hatch, Kennedy, and others in Congress.

"It was a bipartisan bill. I don't remember the role of the White House," said Representative Henry Waxman, a California Democrat who has not endorsed a candidate in the presidential race and who was the chief Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, which deals with health matters. "It did not originate at the White House."

Original here

Clinton is losing

Let's count the ways that Obama is winning:

1.) Pledged Delegates: (Using AP's numbers, with Obama's count in parenthesis)

Obama: 1,390 (1,411)
Clinton: 1,248 (1,250)

2.) Popular vote: I updated this post with results from Mississippi. I took out the Texas caucuses just to give this the best pro-Clinton spin possible, though I still think the caucuses are a separate contest and need to be accounted for. (Obama ended up winning Mississippi by over 100,000 votes.)

Obama: 13,614,204
Clinton: 12,801,153

3.) Primaries Won: There are 37 total primary contests. All Obama has to do is win three more and he notches the lead in these contests. He can do that easily with just three out of Montana, South Dakota, Oregon, Indiana, and North Carolina.

Obama: 16
Clinton: 12

4.) Caucuses Won

Obama: 14
Clinton: 3

5.) Overall contests Won: It's a 2-1 Obama advantage (includes territories and Democrats Abroad).

Obama: 30
Clinton: 15

6.) Red and Blue States Won (including DC, not including territories or Democrats Abroad):

Obama: 16 Red, 11 Blue
Clinton: 8 Red, 6 Blue

8.) Money Raised (through February)

Obama: $168 million
Clinton: $140 million

So that leaves the Clinton campaign with what, exactly? Big states! Big states! Big states! I addressed that one yesterday.

Team Clinton has nothing except schemes of coup by super delegate, which they apparently think they can do by insulting entire Democratic constituencies and most of our nation's states.

But really, what else do they have? Their campaign is losing by every metric possible.

Original here

The debate over the Democratic popular vote

As pretty much every campaign observer knows by now, Barack Obama not only leads Hillary Clinton among pledged delegates, his margin is big enough that everyone (including the Clinton campaign) is confident that he’ll go to the convention with a comfortable delegate lead.

With that in mind, it doesn’t take long to reach the question on the minds of many: If Clinton is running second, and won’t be able to catch up, what’s the point of continuing? The answer, of course, is that Clinton believes superdelegates can give her the edge (and the nomination), but even that seems unlikely if superdelegates vote largely in line with earned delegates, as is likely.

There is, however, a catch. The Clinton campaign’s possible trump card is the Democratic popular vote. Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D), a key Clinton surrogate, emphasized this point today.

On a conference call with reporters moments ago, Rendell said: “Let’s assume that Senator Clinton goes ahead in the popular vote count.” He then asked, “which is more democratic” — choosing the winner of the popular vote or the winner of the pledged delegate count.

“The way we select delegates is not all that democratic,” Rendell continued, in a reference to caucus voting. “The rules were going in that super-delegates were there to exercise their judgment…as a super-delegate I want to make sure we win in the fall, and I’m gonna take the candidate who can do that.”

Rendell’s argument has plenty of merit. For all the talk about abiding by the “will of the people,” the Clinton campaign may very well want to make this argument literal — forget primaries, caucuses, states, and delegates, and just count up the voters. If one candidate, over the course of 53 or so contests, won more votes than the other, the argument goes, superdelegates would be foolish to dismiss this metric altogether.

Fair enough. The problem with the argument is that Obama leads in this category, too, and the available evidence suggests he’s also unlikely to relinquish this advantage.

Rendell told reporters on the conference call, “Let’s assume that Senator Clinton goes ahead in the popular vote count.” As a thought experiment, it’s a legitimate exercise. As a practical matter, it’s a tough assumption to make. Mark Schmitt explained:

For the record, Senator Obama came out of the Mississippi primary with an advantage of 99,000 votes over Senator Clinton, more than I had predicted based on his edge in Alabama. That puts his margin in the nationwide popular vote — by a measure that includes Florida but not Michigan — at more than 500,000.

As I noted yesterday, it will take a colossal victory, almost 60%, for Clinton to get a 200,000 vote edge out of Pennsylvania. And if she does that, there is no plausible scheme under which she could pick up the remaining 300,000 votes to gain even the dubious moral claim of an edge in the popular vote.

It’s well past time to enter the gracious winding-down stage of this long, and until recently, healthy campaign. The last candidate I can remember to keep punching like this even after the race was effectively decided was Jerry Brown in 1992. I’m sure Clinton remembers the unpleasantness of that 1992 convention. I doubt that she wants to be that guy.

The point isn’t lost on the Obama campaign.

Buttressed by a victory in last night’s Mississippi primary, Senator Barack Obama’s presidential campaign claimed on Wednesday that it not only had a pledged delegate lead that would be hard to reverse, but also a popular vote advantage that Sen. Hillary Clinton would have difficulties overcoming.

“Although we don’t think this is the barometer on which the race will be decided, we have a big popular vote lead,” said campaign manager David Plouffe. “Our popular vote lead is up around a million. Which is obviously a significant edge and one they would have a very tough time reversing.”

There are different tallies available, but looking at RCP’s, Obama leads the popular-vote race by about 700,000 votes if we include primaries and caucuses sanctioned by the Democratic National Committee. If we include Florida, which the campaigns agreed shouldn’t count, Obama still has a 400,000 vote lead. If we include Florida and Michigan, which the candidates agreed shouldn’t count and where Obama wasn’t even on the ballot, Obama still leads, though by a modest 80,000-vote margin.

But here’s a twist — the RCP totals don’t include the popular votes from Iowa, Nevada, Washington state, and Maine, three of which Obama won by wide margins. (In other words, his sizable popular vote lead is even bigger than it appears.)

There are still eight states and two territories yet to vote. Couldn’t Clinton yet claim the popular vote lead? There are multiple reports explaining why that’s highly unlikely.

I suppose different Dems will have different priorities in terms of metrics, but if I were a superdelegate, I’d rank the data points in this order:

1. Pledged delegates
2. Popular votes
3. States won
4. Money raised
5. Polls

If one candidate has most, or all, of these metrics wrapped up, then it’s time to end the nominating process, start bringing the party together behind the winner, and get ready for the general election.

If Clinton can’t catch Obama in the popular vote totals, then we’re getting pretty close to that point.

Original here

Obama Campaign Annotates Clinton Press Release

The path to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue goes through Pennsylvania so if Barack Obama can’t win there, how will he win the general election?

[Answer: I suppose by holding obviously Democratic states like California and New York, and beating McCain in swing states like Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Virginia and Wisconsin where Clinton lost to Obama by mostly crushing margins. But good question.]

After setbacks in Ohio and Texas, Barack Obama needs to demonstrate that he can win the state of Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is the last state with more than 15 electoral votes on the primary calendar and Barack Obama has lost six of the seven other largest states so far – every state except his home state of Illinois.

[If you define “setback” as netting enough delegates out of our 20-plus-point wins in Mississippi and Wyoming to completely erase any delegate advantage the Clinton campaign earned out of March 4th, then yeah, we feel pretty setback.]

Pennsylvania is of particular importance, along with Ohio, Florida and Michigan, because it is dominated by the swing voters who are critical to a Democratic victory in November. No Democrat has won the presidency without winning Pennsylvania since 1948. And no candidate has won the Democratic nomination without winning Pennsylvania since 1972.

[What the Clinton campaign secretly means: PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE FACT THAT WE’VE LOST 14 OF THE LAST 17 CONTESTS AND SAID THAT MICHIGAN AND FLORIDA WOULDN’T COUNT FOR ANYTHING. Also, we’re still trying to wrap our minds around the amazing coincidence that the only “important” states in the nominating process are the ones that Clinton won.]

But the Obama campaign has just announced that it is turning its attention away from Pennsylvania.


This is not a strategy that can beat John McCain in November.

[I don’t think Clinton’s strategy of losing in state after state after promising more of the same politics is working all that well either.]

In the last two weeks, Barack Obama has lost ground among men, women, Democrats, independents and Republicans – all of which point to a candidacy past its prime.

[“A candidacy past its prime.” These guys kill me.]

For example, just a few weeks ago, Barack Obama won 68% of men in Virginia, 67% in Wisconsin and 62% in Maryland. He won 60% of Virginia women and 55% of Maryland women. He won 62% of independents in Maryland, 64% in Wisconsin and 69% in Virginia. Obama won 59% of Democrats in Maryland, 53% in Wisconsin and 62% in Virginia. And among Republicans, Obama won 72% in both Virginia and Wisconsin.

But now Obama’s support has dropped among all these groups.

[That’s true, if you don’t count all the winning we’ve been up to. As it turns out, it’s difficult to maintain 40-point demographic advantages, even over Clinton]

In Mississippi, he won only 25% of Republicans and barely half of independents. In Ohio, he won only 48% of men, 41% of women and 42% of Democrats. In Texas, he won only 49% of independents and 46% of Democrats. And in Rhode Island, Obama won just 33% of women and 37% of Democrats.

[I’m sympathetic to their attempt to parse crushing defeats. And I’m sure Rush Limbaugh’s full-throated endorsement of Clinton didn’t make any difference. Right]

Why are so many voters turning away from Barack Obama in state after state?

[You mean besides the fact that we’re ahead in votes, states won and delegates?]

In the last few weeks, questions have arisen about Obama’s readiness to be president. In Virginia, 56% of Democratic primary voters said Obama was most qualified to be commander-in-chief. That number fell to 37% in Ohio, 35% in Rhode Island and 39% in Texas.

[Only the Clinton campaign could cherry pick states like this. But in contrast to their logic, in the most recent contest of Mississippi, voters said that Obama was more qualified to be commander in chief than Clinton by a margin of 55-42.]

So the late deciders – those making up their minds in the last days before the election – have been shifting to Hillary Clinton. Among those who made their decision in the last three days, Obama won 55% in Virginia and 53% in Wisconsin, but only 43% in Mississippi, 40% in Ohio, 39% in Texas and 37% in Rhode Island.

[If only there were enough late deciders for the Clinton campaign to actually be ahead, they would really be on to something.]

If Barack Obama cannot reverse his downward spiral with a big win in Pennsylvania, he cannot possibly be competitive against John McCain in November.

[If they are defining downward spiral as a series of events in which the Clinton campaign has lost more votes, lost more contests and lost more delegates to us – I guess we will have to suffer this horribly painful slide all the way to the nomination and then on to the White House.]

[Thanks for the laughs guys. This was great.]

Original here

Obama increases lead in delegate count

(CNN) -- Sen. Barack Obama widened his lead over Sen. Hillary Clinton in the overall delegate count by picking up delegates in Mississippi and Texas on Tuesday.

Sen. Barack Obama claimed a big victory in Mississippi's Democratic primary.

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The Illinois Democrat won handily in the Mississippi Democratic primary Tuesday. Obama beat Clinton 61 percent to 37 percent with 99 percent of the precincts reporting.

With the victory, Obama added 17 delegates to his total while Clinton picked up 11, CNN estimates. The Mississippi win was Obama's second win in a row, having won the Wyoming caucuses Saturday.

CNN Tuesday also projected that Obama was the winner of the Texas Democratic caucuses that occurred March 4. Obama will be awarded 38 of Texas's delegates, while Clinton will win 29 delegates as a result of the caucuses, CNN estimates. Video Watch Obama talk about his win »

Clinton beat Obama 51 percent to 47 percent in the Texas primary that was also held on March 4, but Obama was expected to win a majority of the 228 Texas delegates due to his caucus win.

Two-thirds of the state's 193 delegates were at stake at the primary, while the remaining third were decided by the caucuses.

With the wins in Mississippi and Texas, Obama now leads Clinton 1,611 to 1,480 in the total delegate count, CNN estimates. Neither candidate is expected to obtain the 2,025 delegates needed to win the nomination outright before the national convention in August.

"What we've tried to do is steadily make sure that in each state we are making the case about the need for change in this country. Obviously the people in Mississippi responded," Obama told CNN after his win.

Clinton's campaign issued a statement congratulating Obama on his win, and said they "look forward to campaigning in Pennsylvania and around the country as this campaign continues." CNN's political team weighs in on the results »

The state's Democratic voters were sharply divided along racial lines, exit polls indicated. Video Watch what the results mean »

As has been the case in many primary states, Obama won overwhelming support from African-American voters. They went for him over Clinton, 91 percent to 9 percent. See the results

The state has a larger proportion of African-Americans (36 percent, according to the 2000 census) than any other state in the country. And black voters make up nearly 70 percent of registered Democrats.

But white Mississippi voters overwhelmingly backed the New York senator, supporting her over Obama, 72 percent to 21 percent.

According to The Associated Press, only two other primary states were as racially polarized -- neighboring Alabama, and Clinton's former home state of Arkansas.

The exit polls also indicated roughly 40 percent of Mississippi Democratic voters said race was an important factor in their vote, and 90 percent of those voters supported Obama.

In Ohio, roughly one in five voters said race factored into their decision. About 60 percent of those voters picked Clinton over Obama.

Pennsylvania is the next battleground for the Democrats. It holds its primary April 22 and has 158 delegates at stake.

Original here

Ferraro steps down from Clinton campaign

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former congresswoman and vice-presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro is resigning her fundraising position with Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign after controversial comments she made about Clinton's rival, Sen. Barack Obama.

Comments by former Rep. Geraldine Ferraro are drawing criticism from the Obama campaign.

"I am stepping down from your finance committee so I can speak for myself and you can continue to speak for yourself about what is at stake in this campaign," Ferraro wrote in a letter to Clinton.

"The Obama campaign is attacking me to hurt you. I won't let that happen."

Ferraro told CNN she sent the letter to Clinton Wednesday afternoon.

Ferraro stirred controversy with her recent remarks that Obama's campaign was successful because he was black.

She told CNN's Suzanne Malveaux Wednesday that she was "absolutely not" sorry for her comments.

"I am who I am and I will continue to speak up," she said.

The former congresswoman also criticized the Obama campaign for efforts she characterized as trying to block her First Amendment rights.

Ferraro -- who said she raised about $125,000 for Clinton's campaign -- said she was not asked to step down by Clinton or her staff.

Ferraro added she understands why Clinton distanced herself from her remarks, saying she was "perfectly fine" with that and that there were no hard feelings.

Ferraro told CBS' "The Early Show" that she would not stop raising money for the New York senator's presidential bid.

She also blamed Obama's chief strategist, David Axelrod, for misinterpreting her remarks.

Ferraro also told ABC's "Good Morning America" that "every time" someone makes a negative comment about Obama, they are accused of racism. Video Watch Ferraro's interview »

Late Tuesday, she told an interviewer that she felt she was being attacked because she was white.

"Any time anybody does anything that in any way pulls this campaign down and says let's address reality and the problems we're facing in this world, you're accused of being racist, so you have to shut up," she told the Daily Breeze of Torrance, California. "Racism works in two different directions. I really think they're attacking me because I'm white. How's that?"

In her first interview with the Daily Breeze, published late last week, Ferraro said: "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman, he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept."

She also said Clinton had been the victim of a "sexist media."

Obama responded Wednesday to Ferraro's comments, saying "I think that her comments were ... ridiculous. ... I think they were wrong-headed. I think they are not borne out by our history or by the facts."

"The notion that it is a great advantage to me, an African-American named Barack Obama, in pursuit of the presidency I think is not a view that has been commonly shared by the general public," he said during a campaign event at the Chicago History Museum. Video Watch Obama react to Feraro's comments »

"Divisions of race, gender, of region are precisely what has inhibited us from moving effectively forward to solve big problems like health care, energy, the war on terror," he said.

Obama's strategist, Axelrod, called for Clinton to cut ties with the former New York congresswoman, who served on her campaign's finance committee.

Clinton has said she does not agree with Ferraro's remarks.

Clinton campaign spokesman Mo Eleithee told CNN's Sasha Johnson Tuesday evening that "Ms. Ferraro is speaking for herself. We have made clear that we do not agree with her remarks."

This is not the first time Ferraro has made a racially sensitive remark about a black presidential candidate.

In an April 15, 1988, article in The Washington Post, Ferraro is quoted as saying that because of his "radical" views, "if Jesse Jackson were not black, he wouldn't be in the race."

Former congresswoman Ferraro is the latest Clinton surrogate to launch a firestorm with comments relating to Obama's heritage or ethnicity. Video Watch debate over the handling of Ferraro's comments »

Black leaders sharply criticized Clinton's husband, former President Clinton, for comments he made before the South Carolina primary, including comparing Obama's campaign with Jackson's 1984 run.

Shortly before the Texas primary, 84-year-old Clinton supporter Adelfa Callejo told CBS 11 News in Dallas, Texas, that Obama would have trouble attracting Latino support because he was African-American.

"When blacks had the numbers, they didn't do anything to support us," Callejo said. "They always used our numbers to fulfill their goals and objectives, but they never really supported us, and there's a lot of hard feelings about that. I don't think we're going to get over it anytime soon."

When Clinton was asked whether she would reject and denounce Callejo's remarks, she said, "People get to express their opinions," adding that "a lot of folks have said really unpleasant things about me over the course of this campaign."

Later, her campaign released a statement saying she had been unaware of the substance of the remarks during that interview and both denounced and rejected them.

Obama has faced his own headaches. Foreign policy adviser Samantha Power ended her connection with his campaign last week after telling a Scottish interviewer that Clinton was a "monster."

Power also made remarks about Obama's Iraq war policy that were used by the Clinton campaign in recent attacks.

Original here

Clinton Memo on Pennsylvania

MEMO: Keystone Test - Obama Losing Ground

To: Interested Parties
From: Clinton Campaign
Date: Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Re: Keystone Test: Obama Losing Ground

The path to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue goes through Pennsylvania so if Barack Obama can’t win there, how will he win the general election?

After setbacks in Ohio and Texas, Barack Obama needs to demonstrate that he can win the state of Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is the last state with more than 15 electoral votes on the primary calendar and Barack Obama has lost six of the seven other largest states so far – every state except his home state of Illinois.

Pennsylvania is of particular importance, along with Ohio, Florida and Michigan, because it is dominated by the swing voters who are critical to a Democratic victory in November. No Democrat has won the presidency without winning Pennsylvania since 1948. And no candidate has won the Democratic nomination without winning Pennsylvania since 1972.

But the Obama campaign has just announced that it is turning its attention away from Pennsylvania.

This is not a strategy that can beat John McCain in November.

In the last two weeks, Barack Obama has lost ground among men, women, Democrats, independents and Republicans – all of which point to a candidacy past its prime.

For example, just a few weeks ago, Barack Obama won 68% of men in Virginia, 67% in Wisconsin and 62% in Maryland. He won 60% of Virginia women and 55% of Maryland women. He won 62% of independents in Maryland, 64% in Wisconsin and 69% in Virginia. Obama won 59% of Democrats in Maryland, 53% in Wisconsin and 62% in Virginia. And among Republicans, Obama won 72% in both Virginia and Wisconsin.

But now Obama’s support has dropped among all these groups.

In Mississippi, he won only 25% of Republicans and barely half of independents. In Ohio, he won only 48% of men, 41% of women and 42% of Democrats. In Texas, he won only 49% of independents and 46% of Democrats. And in Rhode Island, Obama won just 33% of women and 37% of Democrats.

Why are so many voters turning away from Barack Obama in state after state?

In the last few weeks, questions have arisen about Obama’s readiness to be president. In Virginia, 56% of Democratic primary voters said Obama was most qualified to be commander-in-chief. That number fell to 37% in Ohio, 35% in Rhode Island and 39% in Texas.

So the late deciders – those making up their minds in the last days before the election – have been shifting to Hillary Clinton. Among those who made their decision in the last three days, Obama won 55% in Virginia and 53% in Wisconsin, but only 43% in Mississippi, 40% in Ohio, 39% in Texas and 37% in Rhode Island.

If Barack Obama cannot reverse his downward spiral with a big win in Pennsylvania, he cannot possibly be competitive against John McCain in November.

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LAPD at March 15 Hollywood Anonymous Scientology Protest

How I’ve Come To Loathe the Democratic Party

I’m a registered Democrat, as many of my readers know. I’d like to write a little bit about the shame that I feel as a result of my party affiliation, but before I do that I will briefly explain my views on American politics as I see it.

American Guilt

By no means does my disgust with the Democratic party have any association to the shame I feel as an American citizen, it’s a different kind of shame.

For starters, when I say I’m ashamed of my country or “ashamed to be an American”, it isn’t because I’m ashamed of America’s rich history, opportunity, liberties and the life that I’ve enjoyed. My shame has nothing to do with the brave soldiers who die for our country. Instead, it saddens me that the leadership of our country is so terribly incapable, dysfunctional and responsible for our broken government. The hypocrisy inherent in politics is beyond disgusting at this point and it comes from both sides, making it highly difficult for any independent thinker to support. My only consolation as I struggle to come to terms with the future of American identity is that I’ve discovered libertarianism and my zest for liberty and justice is what gives me some sense of purpose on the intellectual front.

Republican Failures Under President Bush

Americans, in large part due to the Republican agenda and Democratic cowardice, have succumb to greed, corruption, struggles with sexuality and pointless nationalism.

Our country’s leadership is responsible for the deaths of 5,000 American soldiers, tens of thousands of wounded, and millions of Iraqi civilians. In addition to the deaths, as if it can get any worse, we’ve left our children with trillions of dollars of debt. Our laughable scholars see it as fashionable to embrace variations of torture for the good of the country and we gladly “debate the merits” of what constitutes torture and when it is appropriate to do so, instead of shaking our heads in disgust as any American would have prior to the 21st century.

But hey, September 11th changed everything didn’t it?

It would take me days to explain everything that is wrong with that statement, but suffice to say we’ve made the mistake of beginning and ending all history over the events that happened on that day. We’ve thrown away 200 years of history, dismantled a beautifully crafted constitution and we have the nerve to call ourselves “freedom fighters” when in reality we’re doing just the opposite in every conceivable way.

Democrats will inherit American leadership in 2008, so what’s the problem?

Sharing my political affiliation is humiliating for a number of reasons and that’s a sad statement considering the demise of the Republican party — the only other viable party in the U.S. At a time when Democrats should be stepping out of the political trenches to seize power and clean up Bush’s mess, the party seems intent on self-destructing prior to the 2008 election. Over the next few months, pundits will analyze and debate the propaganda put forth by Republican party strategists.

“How can Democrats lead America, if it is struggling to hang on to its base?”

The short answer is simple and we all know what it is. America is so strongly divided and polarization is the status quo making it impossible for the party tol fall apart as Republican strategists and foolish pundits will predict. Whenever I see such bold predictions, I laugh because I know what motivates such statements. Many politicos, especially the strong partisans, often make statements that are suggestive, hopeful, and derived from wishful thinking. It’s a form of propaganda and political manipulation that I know well, partially because I’ve participated in some spinning myself.

As they say, you can’t con a conman, so why do they bother? Pundits and strategists do it in hopes of being heard by uneducated or apathetic voters, perhaps reinvigorating the party loyalists and attempting to remain relevant on the national stage in the process. Democrats could have it easy this Fall, but they’ve managed to screw up like only Democrats could.

You might be wondering at this point, “if he doesn’t think the party is falling apart, why such intense anger for the democratic party?”

Battling hypocrisy and defending justice in America

The questions that analysts and pundits are asking are the wrong questions.

The Democratic Party will win the White House and strengthen their leadership in Congress because they’ve been “playing it safe.” No matter how much people like me shout and scream about failures to impeach the president, defend our constitution, and protect our liberties, the majority of Americans that go to the polls don’t have the time to keep abreast of American politics.

Let’s talk about the real problems that have come from poor Democratic leadership.

Exploiting Racism in the Democratic Primary

This one is simple, and it really bothers me that I even have to raise this point. In the past, I’ve given Bill Clinton a lot of credit for being a political genius, a mastermind, a one-of-a-kind politician, possibly the best politician in American History. Any Democrat would agree that Bill Clinton would have surpassed JFK as the most memorable political icon — and perhaps regarded among the greatest Presidents to ever lead — if not for his sexual shot heard ’round the world. Republican loyalists would strongly contest that argument, thus validating my point.

However, the Clinton campaign redux and part of Hillary Clinton’s supporter base has crossed a line that is unforgivable. A historian or political junkie can list prior uses of racial politics in order to achieve certain political goals. However, when Clinton’s staff and surrogates are responsible for attempting to paint a picture of Barack Obama entitled: “Would you vote for a nigger?”that is when a line has been crossed. The words the campaign and surrogates use are much more subtle, but they are there. They’d never stoop so low as to use those actual words because I know deep inside their Democratic hearts, they understand the struggle of minorities in America. That said, Clinton’s camp is now responsible for three despicable uses of race in order to create doubt in the minds of American voters.

Barack Obama the Muslim

First, there is the use of the Barack Obama photo in Kenya.

The photo of Barack Obama wouldn’t be problematic if distributed under a different context, but alongside the public release of that photo were e-mails and misinformation detailing Barack Obama as Muslim. In addition to these incidents, when responding on the issue, Hillary Clinton said to an audience, “As far as I know, Barack Obama isn’t Muslim.” Yes, Clinton is a lawyer. Yeah, it may even be clever politics, but it’s manipulation at its finest. It draws not only on the fears of Barack Obama’s ethnicity, but the fear of a terrorist (taking advantage of American ignorance and the association of Muslims and Terror) in the White House.

Comparing Barack Obama and Jesse Jackson

Next, Bill Clinton’s use of Jesse Jackson’s failed presidential bid as a reference point for depicting Barack Obama as another popular negro, but destined to fail because America isn’t ready for an African American president. This point is great to discuss in the classroom, heck it’s a fine talking point for political blogs and talking heads, but to use it to plant a seed of doubt in the minds of Americans is just downright disgraceful.

Not to be outdone, Hillary Clinton’s supporters are receiving media coverage over racial speech.

“If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept.”

According to CNN, Ferraro is a member of Clinton’s finance committee and a top fundraiser. She claims that the media has been hard on Hillary Clinton because of gender and not hard enough on Barack Obama because he is black.

“It’s been a very sexist media. Some just don’t like her. The others have gotten caught up in the Obama campaign. I was reading an article that said young Republicans are out there campaigning for Obama because they believe he’s going to be able to put an end to partisanship. Dear God! Anyone that has worked in the Congress knows that for over 200 years this country has had partisanship - that’s the way our country is.”

On the issue of Gender Politics

Ferraro also touched on this issue. Women have done very well in America, and though I admit the job is not done for Women’s rights and equality, they aren’t exactly holding the short end of the stick. Compare the amount of CEOs that are black versus white, or lawyers, doctors, other professionals below the Presidential level. I understand that shattering the glass ceiling — especially when it comes to the American presidency — is an enormous step for women. However, it is beyond my understanding why some women are so quick to dismiss the minority candidate using the reason that “women have had it worse” than black people in America? This argument defies all logic, either you have suffered from discrimination or you haven’t. The fact that some flavors of discrimination are different doesn’t make them more worthy of fighting for. It bothers me that the Democratic party would even divide itself on the issue of race and gender.

As long as I could remember, the party’s mantra was about equality for all people and helping to “level the playing field”. Yet, the moment that the party has an opportunity to place a minority candidate into the White House, some segments of the party suddenly have issues with putting ‘that black man’ or ‘that woman’ into the White House. I’d expect Republicans to say, “I’d love to have a woman in the White House, just not that woman!” Now, Ferraro is using a similar line of rhetoric, just this time it’s “I’d love to have a black man in the White House, just not that man!” The qualifications used are different, but either way they are both similarly disheartening and problematic for Democrats.

The Iraq War Quagmire

Democrats have given Republicans a lot of hell over the Iraq War and rightly so. This is an instance where actions speak much louder than words. We’ve all heard the rhetoric, “Give us the power and we’ll end the war.” Easier said than done, huh? The fact is that Iraq is a lot more complicated than simply packing up the bags and sending all the troops home to their families. This isn’t a mess that can be undone overnight, it’s going to take time. Our exit strategy will require a continued presence overseas if not to defend Iraq’s political interests, then to defend our own.

Our Democratic leadership knows very well that even if troops are removed from Iraq, our candidates intend to pay Afghanistan a visit in search of Osama Bin Laden. To suggest to the American people that the war will be over is deceptive at best. Not until the new president is inaugurated will all of the facts come to light for the future Presidential administration. As President Bush has led a very secretive administration, it’s impossible to know how the occupation will end or if it will end any time soon.

Reality and Hypocrisy

When Barack Obama claims that he will bring hope back to America, help make partisan politics a thing of the past and be a step ahead your typical Washington politician, forgive me if I remain skeptical. In fact, I’d argue the opposite: Barack Obama’s biggest asset is his ability to play politics and his words will help him deliver to an extent. Democrats have failed our country by promising to end the war, they will fail our country by promising to put politics aside when they know it is an impossible feat. My guess is that Americans will continue to struggle because Democrats with power will continue to make promises that they know they cannot keep.

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Our Favorite Atheists

Christopher Hitchens (author), Dan Savage (columnist), Shashi Tharoor (author), and

Harry Shearer (comedian) on Real Time with Bill Maher (02.29.08).

Discussion topic: religion and its absurdity. All panelists are funny as hell, as usual.

NYT: Stolen oil profits keep Iraq's insurgency running

While many US officials and politicians routinely point to jihadism or Islamofascism as key motivating factors for Iraq's insurgency, a growing number of officers on the ground are blaming economic conditions instead, according to an article slated for the front page of Sunday's New York Times.

Richard A. Oppel Jr. reports that "there are officers in the U.S. military who openly question how much a role jihadism plays in the minds of most people who carry out attacks. As the U.S. occupation has worn on and unemployment has remained high, these officers say the overwhelming motivation of insurgents is the need to earn a paycheck."

"Ninety percent of the guys out here who do attacks are just people who want to feed their families," Maj. Kelly Kendrick, operations officer for the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne Division in Salahuddin, tells the Times.

Stolen oil profits are helping to keep the insurgency running, according to Sunday's report.

The Times notes, "The sea of oil under Iraq is supposed to rebuild the nation and then make it prosper. But at least one-third, and possibly much more, of the fuel from Iraq's largest refinery here is diverted to the black market, according to U.S. military officials. Tankers are hijacked, drivers are bribed, papers are forged and meters are manipulated -- and some of the earnings go to insurgents who are still killing more than 100 Iraqis a week."

"It's the money pit of the insurgency," Capt. Joe Da Silva, a commander of several platoons stationed at the refinery, tells the paper.

Excerpts from article:


Money from swindles in Iraq and from foreign patrons in places like Saudi Arabia allows a disparate, decentralized collection of insurgent cells to hire recruits and pay for large-scale attacks.

But the focus on money is the insurgency's weakness as well as its strength, and one reason why loyalties can be traded. For now, at least 91,000 Iraqis, many of them former enemies of the U.S. forces, receive a regular American-paid salary for serving in neighborhood militias.

"It has a great deal more to do with the economy than with ideology," said one senior U.S. military official, who said that studies of detainees in American custody found that about three-quarters were not committed to the jihadist ideology. "The vast majority have nothing to do with the caliphate and the central ideology of al-Qaida."

Original here

Come Saturday Morning: While Our Newsreaders Drooled Over Pictures of Call Girls…

The Pentagon on Wednesday canceled plans for broad public release of a study that found no pre-Iraq war link between late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and the al Qaida terrorist network.

Rather than posting the report online and making officials available to discuss it, as had been planned, the U.S. Joint Forces Command said it would mail copies of the document to reporters — if they asked for it. The report won't be posted on the Internet.

The reversal highlighted the politically sensitive nature of its conclusions, which were first reported Monday by McClatchy.

In making their case for invading Iraq in 2002 and 2003, President Bush and his top national security aides claimed that Saddam's regime had ties to Osama bin Laden's al Qaida terrorist network.

But the study, based on more than 600,000 captured documents, including audio and video files, found that while Saddam sponsored terrorism, particularly against opponents of his regime and against Israel, there was no evidence of an al Qaida link.

ABC's Jonathan Karl had more:

The Bush Administration apparently does not want a U.S. military study that found no direct connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda to get any attention. This morning, the Pentagon cancelled plans to send out a press release announcing the report's release and will no longer make the report available online.

The report was to be posted on the Joint Forces Command website this afternoon, followed by a background briefing with the authors. No more. The report will be made available only to those who ask for it, and it will be sent via U.S. mail from Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia.

It won't be emailed to reporters and it won't be posted online. Asked why the report would not be posted online and could not be emailed, the spokesman for Joint Forces Command said: "We're making the report available to anyone who wishes to have it, and we'll send it out via CD in the mail."

Another Pentagon official said initial press reports on the study made it "too politically sensitive."

Suppressing information it doesn't like is a hallmark of the Bush family. Kitty Kelley revealed in her book The Family that the official Bush family tree has been severely pruned of several ex-wives and two mentally retarded family members, as acknowledging divorce or any other sort of percieved imperfection is anathema. George Herbert Walker Bush suppressed the Sandia Labs study -- the one that debunked key tenets of the conservative anti-public-school tract "A Nation At Risk" -- and it wasn't allowed to see the light of day until Bill Clinton took office. And since George W. Bush is a distillation of all the worst traits of the Bush family, with very few of its better features, this latest suppression shouldn't surprise anyone.

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House Rejects Eavesdropping Immunity

WASHINGTON — After its first secret session in a quarter-century, the House on Friday rejected retroactive immunity for the phone companies that took part in the National Security Agency’s warrantless eavesdropping program after the Sept. 11 attacks, and it voted to place greater restrictions on the government’s wiretapping powers.

The decision, by a largely party-line vote of 213 to 197, is one of the few times when Democrats have been willing to buck up against the White House on a national security issue. It also ensures that the months-long battle over the government’s wiretapping powers will drag on for at least a few more weeks and possibly much longer.

With President Bush and Democratic leaders squaring off almost daily on the wiretapping question, neither side has shown much inclination to budge. The question now moves to the Senate, where lawmakers passed a bill last month that was much more to the liking of the White House. Unlike the bill approved Friday by the House, it would give legal immunity to the phone providers that helped in the National Security Agency’s wiretapping program, which President Bush says is essential to protect national security.

The House bill approved Friday includes three key elements: it would refuse retroactive immunity to the phone companies, providing special authority instead for the courts to decide the liability issue; it would add additional judicial restrictions on the government’s wiretapping powers while plugging certain loopholes in foreign coverage; and it would create a Congressional commission to investigate the N.S.A. program.

Even if the House bill were to gain approval by the Senate — a prospect that appears unlikely — a veto by the White House appears certain. The margin by which the House vote was approved was far short of the two-thirds needed to override a veto.

A White House Press Secretary, Tony Fratto, called the House action “a significant step backward in defending our country against terrorism.” But he added: “The good news is that the House bill will be dead on arrival in the Senate and, in any event, would be vetoed by the president if it ever got to his desk.”

Even before the first vote was cast in the House, Mr. Bush assailed the Democrats’ proposal in remarks at the White House on Thursday, calling it “a partisan bill that would undermine America’s security.”

“Companies that may have helped us save lives should be thanked for their patriotic service, not subjected to billion-dollar lawsuits that will make them less willing to help in the future,” the president said. “The House bill may be good for class action trial lawyers, but it would be terrible for the United States.”

In fact, while some private lawyers are assisting in the litigation, the groups leading the efforts, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union, are nonprofit advocacy groups.

Mr. Bush also blasted the requirement in the legislation to create a bipartisan commission with subpoena power to examine the workings of the N.S.A.’s program. Democrats say it may be the only way they will learn how the program was really run, but Mr. Bush called it “a redundant and partisan exercise that would waste our intelligence officials’ time and taxpayers’ money.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was sharply critical of the president’s assessment that the legislation would not make America safer. “The president is wrong, and he knows it,” she said on Thursday.

Republicans convinced Democratic leaders to convene a secret session of the House on Thursday evening to discuss classified intelligence related to the phone companies’ role in the N.S.A. program. Republicans said the session was critical to understand what role the companies had played, but Democrats accused their counterparts of political grandstanding. It was the first secret session since 1983, when the House met behind closed doors to consider funding for the contra rebels in Nicaragua.

An earlier version of this article reported the results of a preliminary vote on the bill, not the final vote.

Original here

Secret session aims to sway House

President Bush said the Democrats' version of a revised Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act would "make our country less safe."

President Bush threatened to veto the latest House version of an update to foreign surveillance law, as the chamber's members last night held their first "secret session" since 1983 and only their sixth since the end of the War of 1812 to hash out the issue.

Mr. Bush said the Democrats' bill would "make our country less safe." A vote is expected today after an open debate.

The House went into secret session last night, at the behest of Republicans who wanted to speak more freely about the nature of intelligence threats and to explain past cooperation by telecommunications companies with the government. The House often held such sessions in the republic's early years, but before yesterday there had been only five since 1815.

The White House is seeking legal immunity for these telecom companies, which is a major sticking point for Democrats.

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, agreed to the unusual session and overcame initial resistance to it from members of his party, such as Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee of Texas, who said the term "secret session ... sounds ominous."

"We walk a very delicate balance this evening. Let us hope that we walk it right," Rep. David Scott, Georgia Democrat, said moments before agreeing to drop his objection to the session.

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, argued that the session was "necessary so that we can have an honest debate about this critical national security program."

"Democratic leaders consistently cite a lack of access to classified information as their reasoning for not acting responsibly and passing the Senate bill," Mr. Boehner said. "Democratic leaders cannot hide behind these excuses any longer."

Democrats who had been briefed on classified details of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act by the White House and intelligence officials were skeptical of the session.

"My colleagues who joined me in the hearings and reviewed the administration's documents have walked away with an inescapable conclusion: The administration has not made the case for unprecedented spying powers and blanket retroactive immunity for phone companies," said House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr., Michigan Democrat.

"Whether this is a worthwhile exercise or mere grandstanding depends on whether Republicans have groundbreaking new information that would affect the legislative process," Mr. Conyers said. "I have my doubts."

In addition to immunity for telecoms, the Bush administration wants Congress to remove due process rights for surveillance targets overseas that have crept into the law unintentionally because of changes in communication technology.

The Senate acquiesced last month to these demands, passing the bill by a vote of 68-29, but the House refused to pass the measure.

House Democratic leaders insist that telecom companies be liable to lawsuits, that intelligence activities be probed and that surveillance of targets outside the U.S. be subject to the same judicial review that protects Americans.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, voted against the bill. He said the president was trying to "bully the Congress and mislead the American people."

"The president wants Congress to pretend that his administration did not conduct a massive, illegal, domestic warrantless surveillance program that was one of the most outrageous abuses of executive power in our nation's history," Mr. Kennedy said.


These are the five occasions, before last night, since 1825 in which the House went into secret session.

Dec. 27, 1825: To receive a confidential message from the president regarding relations with Indian tribes

May 27, 1830: To receive a confidential message from the president on a bill regulating trade between the U.S. and Britain

June 20, 1979: Implementing legislation on the Panama Canal Act of 1979

Feb. 25, 1980: Involvement of Cuba and other Communist-bloc countries in Nicaragua

July 19, 1983: U.S. support for anti-Communist "contras" in Nicaragua

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Monk Protests in Tibet Draw Chinese Security

Correction Appended

BEIJING — Chinese security forces were reportedly surrounding three monasteries outside Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, on Thursday after hundreds of monks took to the streets this week in what are believed to be the largest Tibetan protests against Chinese rule in two decades.

The turmoil in Lhasa occurred at a politically delicate time for China, which is facing increasing criticism over its human rights record as it prepares to play host to the Olympic Games in August and is seeking to appear harmonious to the outside world.

Beijing has kept a tight lid on dissent before the Games. But people with grievances against the governing Communist Party have tried to promote their causes when top officials may be wary of cracking down by using force.

Qin Gang, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, confirmed Thursday that protests had erupted in Lhasa, but declined to provide details. He described the situation as stable.

“In the past couple of days, a few monks in Lhasa have made some disturbances in an effort to cause unrest,” Mr. Qin said Thursday at a news conference. “Thanks to the efforts of the local government and the democratic administration of the temples, the situation in Lhasa has been stabilized.”

Tibet was taken militarily by China in 1951 and has remained contentious, particularly because of the bitter relations between the Communist Party and the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism. Sporadic talks between China and the Dalai Lama’s representatives have produced no results, and Beijing continues to condemn him as a “splitist” determined to sever the region’s ties to China. The Dalai Lama has said that he accepts Chinese rule but that Tibetans need greater autonomy to practice their religion.

China plans to have the Olympic torch carried into Tibet over Mount Everest — a route that has brought protests from many Tibet advocacy groups. Fearing more demonstrations, officials said they would prohibit climbing on the north face of Everest until after the torch ceremony.

The defiance reported this week in Lhasa is highly unusual. Security is heavy there, and the penalty for protesting is harsh. News of the protests has been censored in the Chinese news media, and Beijing does not allow foreign journalists to travel to Lhasa without permission. But accounts from Tibetan advocacy groups, from the United States-financed Radio Free Asia and from tourists’ postings on the Internet suggest that protests emerged from three of the most famous monasteries in Tibetan Buddhism.

Robert Barnett, a Tibet specialist at Columbia University who has communicated with Tibetan exiles, said the initial incident occurred Monday when about 400 monks left Drepung Loseling Monastery intending to march five miles west to the city center. Police officers stopped the march at the halfway point and arrested 50 or 60 monks.

But Mr. Barnett said the remaining monks held the equivalent of a sit-down strike and were joined by an additional 100 monks from Drepung.

“They were demanding specific changes on religious restrictions in the monastery,” Mr. Barnett said. He said monks wanted the authorities to ease rules on “patriotic education” in which monks are required to study government propaganda and write denunciations of the Dalai Lama.

On Tuesday morning, the Drepung monks apparently agreed to return to the monastery.

But another protest was under way in the heart of the city, outside the Jokhang Temple, the most sacred temple in Tibet. About a dozen monks from the Sera Monastery staged a pro-independence demonstration, waving a Tibetan flag. Police officers arrested the monks. Foreign tourists posted video on the Internet of officers shooing onlookers away.

The arrests set off another protest on Tuesday. Witnesses told Radio Free Asia that 500 or 600 monks poured out of the Sera Monastery, about two miles north of the Jokhang Temple. They shouted slogans and demanded the release of their fellow monks.

“Free our people, or we won’t go back!” the monks chanted, Radio Free Asia reported. “We want an independent Tibet!”

Witnesses said the police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd.

A protest was reported on Wednesday at the Ganden Monastery, 35 miles east of Lhasa.

Radio Free Asia reported Thursday that two monks at Drepung had attempted suicide.

The protests were timed to coincide with the 49th anniversary of the failed 1959 Tibet uprising that forced the Dalai Lama to flee to India. Mr. Barnett said they were the largest in Lhasa since 1989, when protests by monks from Drepung and Sera led to a bloody clash with Chinese security forces.

He said he doubted that the protests were coordinated, though he said the small group of Sera monks arrested Monday must have anticipated a confrontation. Their photographs have already been forwarded to Tibetan exiles in India and posted on the Internet by groups that support independence for Tibet.

He said that Chinese troops seemed to be more restrained than in the past, even as the protesters took the bold step of waving the Tibetan flag.

The Olympics also have emboldened protesters outside China. Tibetan exiles in northern India who vowed this week to march to Lhasa over six months to protest China’s control of their homeland were arrested Thursday. They then began a hunger strike that they said would go on until they were released.

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Bush "Envious" Of Soldiers Serving "Romantic" Mission In Afghanistan

President Bush let his inner adventurer out while discussing the state of the war in Afghanistan with military and civilian personnel. While those in Afghanistan detailed the logistical and diplomatic problems via teleconference, the President took a much more whimsical approach to their mission. Via Reuters:

"I must say, I'm a little envious," Bush said. "If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed."

"It must be exciting for you ... in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger. You're really making history, and thanks," Bush said.

Meanwhile, over 40 Taliban insurgents were killed in a battle in Southern Afghanistan, and six Afghani civilians were killed in a suicide bombing aimed at an American convoy.

Read Huffpost's Warwire.

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Sally Kern Has a Gay Son?

The Internet is abuzz with rumors that homophobic Oklahoma lawmaker Sally Kern, who was caught on tape saying that gays are "a worse threat to the US than terrorists or Islam," has a gay son.Sally Kern

According to yet unnamed sources, one of Kern's sons, Jesse, is a homosexual, and Kern has disowned him because of his sexuality.

Kern has been asked to apologize for her homophobic remarks, but has chosen to vigorously stand by her hurtful speech.

During her talk show Wednesday, lesbian talk show host Ellen DeGeneres tried to reach the anti-gay lawmaker on the phone for a comment. Unfortunately, Kern was not available and her mailbox was full.

Below is a video clip from Ellen's show:

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McCain's Spiritual Guide: Destroy Islam

Washington Dispatch: Televangelist Rod Parsley, a key McCain ally in Ohio, has called for eradicating the "false religion." Will the GOP presidential candidate renounce him?
Senator John McCain hailed as a spiritual adviser an Ohio megachurch pastor who has called upon Christians to wage a "war" against the "false religion" of Islam with the aim of destroying it.

On February 26, McCain appeared at a campaign rally in Cincinnati with the Reverend Rod Parsley of the World Harvest Church of Columbus, a supersize Pentecostal institution that features a 5,200-seat sanctuary, a television studio (where Parsley tapes a weekly show), and a 122,000-square-foot Ministry Activity Center. That day, a week before the Ohio primary, Parsley praised the Republican presidential front-runner as a "strong, true, consistent conservative." The endorsement was important for McCain, who at the time was trying to put an end to the lingering challenge from former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, a favorite among Christian evangelicals. A politically influential figure in Ohio, Parsley could also play a key role in McCain's effort to win this bellwether state in the general election. McCain, with Parsley by his side at the Cincinnati rally, called the evangelical minister a "spiritual guide."

The leader of a 12,000-member congregation, Parsley has written several books outlining his fundamentalist religious outlook, including the 2005 Silent No More. In this work, Parsley decries the "spiritual desperation" of the United States, and he blasts away at the usual suspects: activist judges, civil libertarians who advocate the separation of church and state, the homosexual "culture" ("homosexuals are anything but happy and carefree"), the "abortion industry," and the crass and profane entertainment industry. And Parsley targets another profound threat to the United States: the religion of Islam.

In a chapter titled "Islam: The Deception of Allah," Parsley warns there is a "war between Islam and Christian civilization." He continues:

I cannot tell you how important it is that we understand the true nature of Islam, that we see it for what it really is. In fact, I will tell you this: I do not believe our country can truly fulfill its divine purpose until we understand our historical conflict with Islam. I know that this statement sounds extreme, but I do not shrink from its implications. The fact is that America was founded, in part, with the intention of seeing this false religion destroyed, and I believe September 11, 2001, was a generational call to arms that we can no longer ignore.

Parsley is not shy about his desire to obliterate Islam. In Silent No More, he notes—approvingly—that Christopher Columbus shared the same goal: "It was to defeat Islam, among other dreams, that Christopher Columbus sailed to the New World in 1492…Columbus dreamed of defeating the armies of Islam with the armies of Europe made mighty by the wealth of the New World. It was this dream that, in part, began America." He urges his readers to realize that a confrontation between Christianity and Islam is unavoidable: "We find now we have no choice. The time has come." And he has bad news: "We may already be losing the battle. As I scan the world, I find that Islam is responsible for more pain, more bloodshed, and more devastation than nearly any other force on earth at this moment."

Parsley claims that Islam is an "anti-Christ religion" predicated on "deception." The Muslim prophet Muhammad, he writes, "received revelations from demons and not from the true God." And he emphasizes this point: "Allah was a demon spirit." Parsley does not differentiate between violent Islamic extremists and other followers of the religion:

There are some, of course, who will say that the violence I cite is the exception and not the rule. I beg to differ. I will counter, respectfully, that what some call "extremists" are instead mainstream believers who are drawing from the well at the very heart of Islam.

The spirit of Islam, he maintains, is one of hostility. He asserts that the religion "inspired" the 9/11 attacks. He bemoans the fact that in the years after 9/11, 34,000 Americans "have become Muslim" and that there are "some 1,209 mosques" in America. Islam, he declares, is a "faith that fully intends to conquer the world" through violence. The United States, he insists, "has historically understood herself as a bastion against Islam," but "history is crashing in upon us."

At the end of his chapter on Islam, Parsley asks, "Are we a Christian nation? I say yes." Without specifying what actions should be taken to eradicate the religion, he essentially calls for a new crusade.

Parsley, who refers to himself as a "Christocrat," is no stranger to controversy. In 2007, the grassroots organization he founded, the Center for Moral Clarity, called for prosecuting people who commit adultery. In January, he compared Planned Parenthood to Nazis. In the past Parsley's church has been accused of engaging in pro-Republican partisan activities in violation of its tax-exempt status.

Why would McCain court Parsley? He has long had trouble figuring out how to deal with Christian fundamentalists, an important bloc for the Republican Party. During his 2000 presidential bid, he referred to Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell as "agents of intolerance." But six years later, as he readied himself for another White House run, McCain repudiated that remark. More recently, his campaign hit a rough patch when he accepted the endorsement of the Reverend John Hagee, a Texas televangelist who has called the Catholic Church "the great whore" and a "false cult system." After the Catholic League protested and called on McCain to renounce Hagee's support, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee praised Hagee's spiritual leadership and support of Israel and said that "when [Hagee] endorses me, it does not mean that I embrace everything that he stands for or believes in." After being further criticized for his Hagee connection, McCain backed off slightly, saying, "I repudiate any comments that are made, including Pastor Hagee's, if they are anti-Catholic or offensive to Catholics." But McCain did not renounce Hagee's endorsement.

McCain's relationship with Parsley is politically significant. In 2004, Parsley's church was credited with driving Christian fundamentalist voters to the polls for George W. Bush. With Ohio expected to again be a decisive state in the presidential contest, Parsley's World Harvest Church and an affiliated entity called Reformation Ohio, which registers voters, could be important players within this battleground state. Considering that the Ohio Republican Party has been decimated by various political scandals and that a popular Democrat, Ted Strickland, is now the state's governor, McCain and the Republicans will need all the help they can get in the Buckeye State this fall. It's a real question: Can McCain win the presidency without Parsley?

The McCain campaign did not respond to a request for comment regarding Parsley and his anti-Islam writings. Parsley did not return a call seeking comment.

"The last thing I want to be is another screaming voice moving people to extremes and provoking them to folly in the name of patriotism," Parsley writes in Silent No More. Provoking people to holy war is another matter. About that, McCain so far is silent.

David Corn is Mother Jones' Washington, D.C. bureau chief.

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