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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Chris Dodd: This Race Must End


In a new interview with National Journal, Sen. Chris Dodd says that continuing the Democratic primary race for the next several months would be "devastating," and that over the next several weeks, Democratic leaders "have to step up to the plate and say enough is enough."

A few excerpts from his interview:

Look, we've got five more months to go before the Democratic convention at the end of August and, candidly, we cannot go five more months with the kind of daily sniping that's going on and have a candidate emerge in that convention. My hope is that it will be Barack Obama, but if it's Hillary Clinton, she too will suffer, in my view, from this kind of a campaign that I think is undermining the credibility and the quality of the two candidates that we have. We have two very strong candidates. So I'm worried about this going on endlessly and to a large extent, Linda, the media, a lot of these cable networks, are enjoying this. It's what is keeping them alive financially. The fact that this thing is going on forever, back and forth every day, all night -- I don't think it's really helping the candidates or the political institutions.

Asked about the solution to ending the race:

Dodd: Well, the solution is -- look, we've got a contest coming up in Pennsylvania and one in North Carolina and Indiana very quickly afterwards. In my view, the outcome of those three races will determine -- I think the race has been determined, anyway, at this point. I think it's very difficult to imagine how anyone can believe that Barack Obama can't be the nominee of the party. I think that's a foregone conclusion, in my view, at this juncture given where things are.


But certainly over the next couple of weeks, as we get into April, it seems to me then, that the national leadership of this party has to stand up and reach a conclusion. And in the absence of doing that -- and that's not easy, and I realize it's painful. But the alternatives, allowing this sort of to fester over the months of June, and July and August, I think, are irresponsible. I think you have to make a decision, and hopefully the candidates will respect it and people will rally behind a nominee that, I think, emerges from these contests over the next month. That's my suggestion. That's what I would do.

...I mean, if a person wants to stay in the race, stay in the race. But if you have enough people rallying behind what appears to be the likely choice, and I believe the choice is Barack Obama, and I believe that will be the choice over the next several weeks, then I think you have to step up to the plate and say enough is enough. We want this to be over with. We want to get behind this candidate, and we want people to pull together to win that election in November, to build those majorities in the House and the Senate if we can, and then start doing the work on health care and Iraq and all these other issues that demand our attention.

Original here

EXCLUSIVE: McCain’s Foreign Affairs Speech Plagiarizes 1996 Address By Adm. Timothy Ziemer (UPDATED)»

UPDATE: It appears that Ziemer’s speech may have been plagiarized from McCain. According to the McCain campaign, the senator used these lines before Ziemer — in 1995. We regret the error.

UPDATE: As a blog that strives to maintain credibility and transparency, we would like to explain our mistake. When we were alerted to the tip that Adm. Ziemer gave a similar speech in 1996, we searched LexisNexis and McCain’s campaign site for whether the senator used the disputed phrases before that time. We did not find anything. After we published the post, the McCain campaign contacted us and pointed to a speech given by the senator in 1995, which appears on McCain’s Senate site. As soon as we were alerted to the error, we rushed to publish a correction. Once again, we regret the error.

Yesterday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) gave a foreign policy speech to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council. He stated:

I detest war. It might not be the worst thing to befall human beings, but it is wretched beyond all description. When nations seek to resolve their differences by force of arms, a million tragedies ensue. The lives of a nation’s finest patriots are sacrificed.

Innocent people suffer and die. Commerce is disrupted; economies are damaged; strategic interests shielded by years of patient statecraft are endangered as the exigencies of war and diplomacy conflict. Not the valor with which it is fought nor the nobility of the cause it serves, can glorify war. Whatever gains are secured, it is loss the veteran remembers most keenly.

Watch it:

These lines are not McCain’s own. As TP reader 5th Estate discovered, they were in fact taken largely from a 1996 speech by ret. Rear Adm. Timothy Ziemer. Below is a comparison of McCain’s address yesterday with Ziemer’s in 1996:

Ziemer McCain
War is awful and when nations seek to resolve their differences by fighting, a million tragedies ensue. [Link] When nations seek to resolve their differences by force of arms, a million tragedies ensue. [Link]
War is wretched beyond description. [Link] It might not be the worst thing to befall human beings, but it is wretched beyond all description. [Link]
Nothing, not the valor with which it is fought, nor the cause with which it serves can glorify war. [Link] Not the valor with which it is fought nor the nobility of the cause it serves, can glorify war. [Link]

Nowhere in yesterday’s speech does McCain give credit to Ziemer. Additionally, it’s not the first occasion that McCain has stolen Ziemer’s words, as 5th Estate notes. McCain also used these words on Aug. 20, 2007:

“We do share a secret, but it is not a romantic remembrance of war,” McCain said early in his speech. “War is awful. When nations seek to resolve their differences by force of arms, a million tragedies ensue. Nothing, not the valor with which it is fought nor the nobility of the cause it serves, can glorify war.

It’s unclear whether Ziemer is tied to the McCain campaign, but a search of both his campaign and Senate websites turned up no references to the admiral. He does, however, have ties to the Bush administration. In June 2006, Bush appointed Ziemer to head his President’s Malaria Initiative. Ziemer was also honored with a spot in First Lady Laura Bush’s box at the President’s 2007 State of the Union address.

Original here

In Major Speech, Obama Calls For Modernizing Our Regulation of Financial Markets

At Cooper Union, Obama stresses the need to recognize our obligations to each other-that what's good for Main Street is good for Wall Street

New York, NY - In a major economic address at Cooper Union today, Senator Barack Obama called for immediate relief for homeowners hit by the housing crisis, modernization of our regulatory framework, and an additional $30 billion stimulus package to jumpstart the economy and help protect families from the economic slowdown. As confidence in our financial markets wanes and Americans struggle in the face of a mortgage crisis, Obama stressed the importance of pushing back on the special interests and honoring our obligation to one another-and that doing so is not just a matter of altruism but a matter of self-interest.

"Under Republican and Democratic Administrations, we failed to guard against practices that all too often rewarded financial manipulation instead of productivity and sound business practices," Senator Obama said. "We let the special interests put their thumbs on the economic scales. The result has been a distorted market that creates bubbles instead of steady, sustainable growth; a market that favors Wall Street over Main Street, but ends up hurting both."

Obama was introduced at Cooper Union by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a legendary business executive who has shown deep commitment to community and family prosperity as mayor of America's largest city.

In his speech today, Obama made the case that while markets are the engine of American progress, the government's role as umpire and steward is critical to the function of the free market. For too long, he said, special interests have been able to bend the rules to maximize their profits on the backs of hardworking Americans.

Obama pledged to restore confidence in the markets, tackle the housing crisis and protect families from the economic slowdown by:

* Creating 21st century standards for transparency and oversight of the financial system in order to prevent future abuses and crises.

* Providing immediate relief to homeowners hit by the housing crisis.

* Enacting a second stimulus package to stabilize and strengthen the economy, provide aid to homeowners and states hardest-hit by the housing crisis, and extend and expand unemployment insurance.

A fact sheet detailing these steps, as well as Obama's principles for modernizing the regulatory framework for our financial markets, can be found (PDF)HERE.

A document containing statements of support from leading finance experts can be found (PDF)HERE.

Senator Obama's remarks follow as prepared for delivery.

Renewing the American Economy Senator Barack Obama Cooper Union March 27, 2008

I want to thank Mayor Bloomberg for his extraordinary leadership. At a time when Washington is divided in old ideological battles, he shows us what can be achieved when we bring people together to seek pragmatic solutions. Not only has he been a remarkable leader for New York -he has established himself as a major voice in our national debate on issues like renewing our economy, educating our children, and seeking energy independence. Mr. Mayor, I share your determination to bring this country together to finally make progress for the American people.

In a city of landmarks, we meet at Cooper Union, just uptown from Federal Hall, where George Washington took the oath of office as the first President of the United States. With all the history that has passed through the narrow canyons of lower Manhattan, it is worth taking a moment to reflect on the role that the market has played in the development of the American story.

The great task before our Founders that day was putting into practice the ideal that government could simultaneously serve liberty and advance the common good. For Alexander Hamilton, the young Secretary of the Treasury, that task was bound to the vigor of the American economy.

Hamilton had a strong belief in the power of the market. But he balanced that belief with the conviction that human enterprise "may be beneficially stimulated by prudent aids and encouragements on the part of the government." Government, he believed, had an important role to play in advancing our common prosperity. So he nationalized the state Revolutionary War debts, weaving together the economies of the states and creating an American system of credit and capital markets. And he encouraged manufacturing and infrastructure, so products could be moved to market.

Hamilton met fierce opposition from Thomas Jefferson, who worried that this brand of capitalism would favor the interests of the few over the many. Jefferson preferred an agrarian economy because he believed that it would give individual landowners freedom, and that this freedom would nurture our democratic institutions. But despite their differences, there was one thing that Jefferson and Hamilton agreed on - that economic growth depended upon the talent and ingenuity of the American people; that in order to harness that talent, opportunity had to remain open to all; and that through education in particular, every American could climb the ladder of social and economic mobility, and achieve the American Dream.

In the more than two centuries since then, we have struggled to balance the same forces that confronted Hamilton and Jefferson - self-interest and community; markets and democracy; the concentration of wealth and power, and the necessity of transparency and opportunity for each and every citizen. Throughout this saga, Americans have pursued their dreams within a free market that has been the engine of America's progress. It's a market that has created a prosperity that is the envy of the world, and opportunity for generations of Americans. A market that has provided great rewards to the innovators and risk-takers who have made America a beacon for science, and technology, and discovery.

But the American experiment has worked in large part because we have guided the market's invisible hand with a higher principle. Our free market was never meant to be a free license to take whatever you can get, however you can get it. That is why we have put in place rules of the road to make competition fair, and open, and honest. We have done this not to stifle - but rather to advance prosperity and liberty. As I said at NASDAQ last September: the core of our economic success is the fundamental truth that each American does better when all Americans do better; that the well being of American business, its capital markets, and the American people are aligned.

I think all of us here today would acknowledge that we've lost that sense of shared prosperity.

This loss has not happened by accident. It's because of decisions made in boardrooms, on trading floors and in Washington. Under Republican and Democratic Administrations, we failed to guard against practices that all too often rewarded financial manipulation instead of productivity and sound business practices. We let the special interests put their thumbs on the economic scales. The result has been a distorted market that creates bubbles instead of steady, sustainable growth; a market that favors Wall Street over Main Street, but ends up hurting both.

Nor is this trend new. The concentrations of economic power - and the failures of our political system to protect the American economy from its worst excesses - have been a staple of our past, most famously in the 1920s, when with success we ended up plunging the country into the Great Depression. That is when government stepped in to create a series of regulatory structures - from the FDIC to the Glass-Steagall Act - to serve as a corrective to protect the American people and American business.

Ironically, it was in reaction to the high taxes and some of the outmoded structures of the New Deal that both individuals and institutions began pushing for changes to this regulatory structure. But instead of sensible reform that rewarded success and freed the creative forces of the market, too often we've excused and even embraced an ethic of greed, corner cutting and inside dealing that has always threatened the long-term stability of our economic system. Too often, we've lost that common stake in each other's prosperity.

Let me be clear: the American economy does not stand still, and neither should the rules that govern it. The evolution of industries often warrants regulatory reform - to foster competition, lower prices, or replace outdated oversight structures. Old institutions cannot adequately oversee new practices. Old rules may not fit the roads where our economy is leading. There were good arguments for changing the rules of the road in the 1990s. Our economy was undergoing a fundamental shift, carried along by the swift currents of technological change and globalization. For the sake of our common prosperity, we needed to adapt to keep markets competitive and fair.

Unfortunately, instead of establishing a 21st century regulatory framework, we simply dismantled the old one - aided by a legal but corrupt bargain in which campaign money all too often shaped policy and watered down oversight. In doing so, we encouraged a winner take all, anything goes environment that helped foster devastating dislocations in our economy.

Deregulation of the telecommunications sector, for example, fostered competition but also contributed to massive over-investment. Partial deregulation of the electricity sector enabled market manipulation. Companies like Enron and WorldCom took advantage of the new regulatory environment to push the envelope, pump up earnings, disguise losses and otherwise engage in accounting fraud to make their profits look better - a practice that led investors to question the balance sheet of all companies, and severely damaged public trust in capital markets. This was not the invisible hand at work. Instead, it was the hand of industry lobbyists tilting the playing field in Washington, an accounting industry that had developed powerful conflicts of interest, and a financial sector that fueled over-investment.

A decade later, we have deregulated the financial services sector, and we face another crisis. A regulatory structure set up for banks in the 1930s needed to change because the nature of business has changed. But by the time the Glass-Steagall Act was repealed in 1999, the $300 million lobbying effort that drove deregulation was more about facilitating mergers than creating an efficient regulatory framework.

Since then, we have overseen 21st century innovation - including the aggressive introduction of new and complex financial instruments like hedge funds and non-bank financial companies - with outdated 20th century regulatory tools. New conflicts of interest recalled the worst excesses of the past - like the outrageous news that we learned just yesterday of KPMG allowing a lender to report profits instead of losses, so that both parties could make a quick buck. Not surprisingly, the regulatory environment failed to keep pace. When subprime mortgage lending took a reckless and unsustainable turn, a patchwork of regulators were unable or unwilling to protect the American people.

The policies of the Bush Administration threw the economy further out of balance. Tax cuts without end for the wealthiest Americans. A trillion dollar war in Iraq that didn't need to be fought, paid for with deficit spending and borrowing from foreign creditors like China. A complete disdain for pay-as-you-go budgeting - coupled with a generally scornful attitude towards oversight and enforcement - allowed far too many to put short-term gain ahead of long term consequences. The American economy was bound to suffer a painful correction, and policymakers found themselves with fewer resources to deal with the consequences.

Today, those consequences are clear. I see them in every corner of our great country, as families face foreclosure and rising costs. I seem them in towns across America, where a credit crisis threatens the ability of students to get loans, and states can't finance infrastructure projects. I see them here in Manhattan, where one of our biggest investment banks had to be bailed out, and the Fed opened its discount window to a host of new institutions with unprecedented implications we have yet to appreciate. When all is said and done, losses will be in the many hundreds of billions. What was bad for Main Street was bad for Wall Street. Pain trickled up.

That is why the principle that I spoke about at NASDAQ is even more urgently true today: in our 21st century economy, there is no dividing line between Main Street and Wall Street. The decisions made in New York's high-rises have consequences for Americans across the country. And whether those Americans can make their house payments; whether they keep their jobs; or spend confidently without falling into debt - that has consequences for the entire market. The future cannot be shaped by the best-connected lobbyists with the best record of raising money for campaigns. This thinking is wrong for the financial sector and it's wrong for our country.

I do not believe that government should stand in the way of innovation, or turn back the clock to an older era of regulation. But I do believe that government has a role to play in advancing our common prosperity: by providing stable macroeconomic and financial conditions for sustained growth; by demanding transparency; and by ensuring fair competition in the marketplace.

Our history should give us confidence that we don't have to choose between an oppressive government-run economy and a chaotic and unforgiving capitalism. It tells us we can emerge from great economic upheavals stronger, not weaker. But we can do so only if we restore confidence in our markets. Only if we rebuild trust between investors and lenders. And only if we renew that common interest between Wall Street and Main Street that is the key to our success.

Now, as most experts agree, our economy is in a recession. To renew our economy - and to ensure that we are not doomed to repeat a cycle of bubble and bust again and again - we need to address not only the immediate crisis in the housing market; we also need to create a 21st century regulatory framework, and pursue a bold opportunity agenda for the American people.

Most urgently, we must confront the housing crisis.

After months of inaction, the President spoke here in New York and warned against doing too much. His main proposal - extending tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans - is completely divorced from the reality that people are facing around the country. John McCain recently announced his own plan, and it amounts to little more than watching this crisis happen. While this is consistent with Senator McCain's determination to run for George Bush's third term, it won't help families who are suffering, and it won't help lift our economy out of recession.

Over two million households are at risk of foreclosure and millions more have seen their home values plunge. Many Americans are walking away from their homes, which hurts property values for entire neighborhoods and aggravates the credit crisis. To stabilize the housing market and help bring the foreclosure crisis to an end, I have sponsored Senator Chris Dodd's legislation creating a new FHA Housing Security Program, which will provide meaningful incentives for lenders to buy or refinance existing mortgages. This will allow Americans facing foreclosure to keep their homes at rates they can afford.

Senator McCain argues that government should do nothing to protect borrowers and lenders who've made bad decisions, or taken on excessive risk. On this point, I agree. But the Dodd-Frank package is not a bailout for lenders or investors who gambled recklessly, as they will take losses. It is not a windfall for borrowers, as they will have to share any capital gain. Instead, it offers a responsible and fair way to help bring an end to the foreclosure crisis. It asks both sides to sacrifice, while preventing a long-term collapse that could have enormous ramifications for the most responsible lenders and borrowers, as well as the American people as a whole. That is what Senator McCain ignores.

For homeowners who were victims of fraud, I've also proposed a $10 billion Foreclosure Prevention Fund that would help them sell a home that is beyond their means, or modify their loan to avoid foreclosure or bankruptcy. It's also time to amend our bankruptcy laws, so families aren't forced to stick to the terms of a home loan that was predatory or unfair.

To prevent fraud in the future, I've proposed tough new penalties on fraudulent lenders, and a Home Score system that will allow consumers to find out more about mortgage offers and whether they'll be able to make payments. To help low- and middle-income families, I've proposed a 10 percent mortgage interest tax credit that will allow homeowners who don't itemize their taxes to access incentives for home ownership. And to expand home ownership, we must do more to help communities turn abandoned properties into affordable housing.

The government can't do this alone, nor should it. As I said last September, lenders must get ahead of the curve rather than just reacting to crisis. They should actively look at all borrowers, offer workouts, and reduce the principal on mortgages in trouble. Not only can this prevent the larger losses associated with foreclosure and resale, but it can reduce the extent of government intervention and taxpayer exposure.

Beyond dealing with the immediate housing crisis, it is time for the federal government to revamp the regulatory framework dealing with our financial markets.

Our capital markets have helped us build the strongest economy in the world. They are a source of competitive advantage for our country. But they cannot succeed without the public's trust. The details of regulatory reform should be developed through sound analysis and public debate. But there are several core principles for reform that I will pursue as President.

First, if you can borrow from the government, you should be subject to government oversight and supervision. Secretary Paulson admitted this in his remarks yesterday. The Federal Reserve should have basic supervisory authority over any institution to which it may make credit available as a lender of last resort. When the Fed steps in, it is providing lenders an insurance policy underwritten by the American taxpayer. In return, taxpayers have every right to expect that these institutions are not taking excessive risks. The nature of regulation should depend on the degree and extent of the Fed's exposure. But at the very least, these new regulations should include liquidity and capital requirements.

Second, there needs to be general reform of the requirements to which all regulated financial institutions are subjected. Capital requirements should be strengthened, particularly for complex financial instruments like some of the mortgage securities that led to our current crisis. We must develop and rigorously manage liquidity risk. We must investigate rating agencies and potential conflicts of interest with the people they are rating. And transparency requirements must demand full disclosure by financial institutions to shareholders and counterparties.

As we reform our regulatory system at home, we must work with international arrangements like the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, the International Accounting Standards Board, and the Financial Stability Forum to address the same problems abroad. The goal must be ensuring that financial institutions around the world are subject to similar rules of the road - both to make the system stable, and to keep our financial institutions competitive.

Third, we need to streamline a framework of overlapping and competing regulatory agencies. Reshuffling bureaucracies should not be an end in itself. But the large, complex institutions that dominate the financial landscape do not fit into categories created decades ago. Different institutions compete in multiple markets - our regulatory system should not pretend otherwise. A streamlined system will provide better oversight, and be less costly for regulated institutions.

Fourth, we need to regulate institutions for what they do, not what they are. Over the last few years, commercial banks and thrift institutions were subject to guidelines on subprime mortgages that did not apply to mortgage brokers and companies. It makes no sense for the Fed to tighten mortgage guidelines for banks when two-thirds of subprime mortgages don't originate from banks. This regulatory framework has failed to protect homeowners, and it is now clear that it made no sense for our financial system. When it comes to protecting the American people, it should make no difference what kind of institution they are dealing with.

Fifth, we must remain vigilant and crack down on trading activity that crosses the line to market manipulation. Reports have circulated in recent days that some traders may have intentionally spread rumors that Bear Stearns was in financial distress while making market bets against the company. The SEC should investigate and punish this kind of market manipulation, and report its conclusions to Congress.

Sixth, we need a process that identifies systemic risks to the financial system. Too often, we deal with threats to the financial system that weren't anticipated by regulators. That's why we should create a financial market oversight commission, which would meet regularly and provide advice to the President, Congress, and regulators on the state of our financial markets and the risks that face them. These expert views could help anticipate risks before they erupt into a crisis.

These six principles should guide the legal reforms needed to establish a 21st century regulatory system. But the change we need goes beyond laws and regulation - we need a shift in the cultures of our financial institutions and our regulatory agencies.

Financial institutions must do a better job at managing risks. There is something wrong when boards of directors or senior managers don't understand the implications of the risks assumed by their own institutions. It's time to realign incentives and compensation packages, so that both high level executives and employees better serve the interests of shareholders. And it's time to confront the risks that come with excessive complexity. Even the best government regulation cannot fully substitute for internal risk management.

For supervisory agencies, oversight must keep pace with innovation. As the subprime crisis unfolded, tough questions about new and complex financial instruments were not asked. As a result, the public interest was not protected. We do American business - and the American people - no favors when we turn a blind eye to excessive leverage and dangerous risks.

Finally, the American people must be able to trust that their government is looking out for all of us - not just those who donate to political campaigns. I fought in the Senate for the most extensive ethics reform since Watergate. I have refused contributions from federal lobbyists and PACs. And I have laid out far-reaching plans that I intend to sign into law as President to bring transparency to government, and to end the revolving door between industries and the federal agencies that oversee them.

Once we deal with the immediate crisis in housing and strengthen the regulatory system governing our financial markets, our final task is to restore a sense of opportunity for all Americans.


The bedrock of our economic success is the American Dream. It's a dream shared in big cities and small towns; across races, regions and religions - that if you work hard, you can support a family; that if you get sick, there will be health care you can afford; that you can retire with the dignity and security and respect that you have earned; that your kids can get a good education, and young people can go to college even if they're not rich. That is our common hope across this country. That is the American Dream.

But today, for far too many Americans, this dream is slipping away. Wall Street has been gripped by increasing gloom over the last nine months. But for many American families, the economy has effectively been in recession for the past seven years. We have just come through the first sustained period of economic growth since World War II that was not accompanied by a growth in incomes for typical families. Americans are working harder for less. Costs are rising, and it's not clear that we'll leave a legacy of opportunity to our children and grandchildren.

That's why, throughout this campaign, I've put forward a series of proposals that will foster economic growth from the bottom up, and not just from the top down. That's why the last time I spoke on the economy here in New York, I talked about the need to put the policies of George W. Bush behind us - policies that have essentially said to the American people: "you are on your own"; because we need to pursue policies that once again recognize that we are in this together.

This starts with providing a stimulus that will reach the most vulnerable Americans, including immediate relief to areas hardest hit by the housing crisis, and a significant extension of unemployment insurance for those who are out of work. If we can extend a hand to banks on Wall Street, we can extend a hand to Americans who are struggling.

Beyond these short term measures, as President I will be committed to putting the American Dream on a firmer footing. To reward work and make retirement secure, we'll provide an income tax cut of up to $1000 for a working family, and eliminate income taxes altogether for any retiree making less than $50,000 per year. To make health care affordable for all Americans, we'll cut costs and provide coverage to all who need it. To put more Americans to work, we'll create millions of new Green Jobs and invest in rebuilding our nation's infrastructure. To extend opportunity, we'll invest in our schools and our teachers, and make college affordable for every American. And to ensure that America stays on the cutting edge, we'll expand broadband access, expand funding for basic scientific research, and pass comprehensive immigration reform so that we continue to attract the best and the brightest to our shores.

I know that making these changes won't be easy. I will not pretend that this will come without cost, though I have presented ways we can achieve these changes in a fiscally responsible way. I know that we'll have to overcome our doubts and divisions and the determined opposition of powerful special interests before we can truly advance opportunity and prosperity for all Americans.

But I would not be running for President if I didn't think that this was a defining moment in our history. If we fail to overcome our divisions and continue to let special interest set the agenda, then America will fall behind. Short-term gains will continue to yield long-term costs. Opportunity will slip away on Main Street and prosperity will suffer here on Wall Street. But if we unite this country around a common purpose, if we act on the responsibilities that we have to each other and to our country, then we can launch a new era of opportunity and prosperity.

I know we can do this because Americans have done this before. Time and again, we've recognized that common stake that we have in each other's success. That's how people as different as Hamilton and Jefferson came together to launch the world's greatest experiment in democracy. That's why our economy hasn't just been the world's greatest wealth creator - it's bound America together, it's created jobs, and it's made the dream of opportunity a reality for generations of Americans.

Now it falls to us. We have as our inheritance the greatest economy the world has ever known. We have the responsibility to continue the work that began on that spring day over two centuries ago right here in Manhattan - to renew our common purpose for a new century, and to write the next chapter in the story of America's success. We can do this. And we can begin this work today.

Original here

Democratic race over? Clinton doesn't think so


By John Whitesides, Political Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Somebody forgot to tell Hillary Clinton the Democratic presidential race is over and Barack Obama won.

Obama has captured more state contests, more votes and more of the pledged convention delegates who will help decide which Democrat faces Republican Sen. John McCain in November's presidential election.

But Clinton, a New York senator who has flirted with disaster before in the back-and-forth nominating battle with Obama, shrugs off growing predictions of doom and still sees at least a narrow path to victory.

"I hear it in the atmosphere," Clinton said of the increasingly loud chatter about whether she should drop out and let Democrats focus on the general election campaign.

"But the most common thing that people say to me ... is 'Don't give up, keep going. We're with you.' And I feel really good about that because that's what I intend to do," she told reporters on Tuesday.

Clinton has not been hearing those words of encouragement from a chorus of media commentators and Obama supporters who have questioned why she is pursuing her uphill fight to catch the Illinois senator.

The Politico newspaper declared Clinton "has virtually no chance of winning." A New York Times columnist called her campaign "the audacity of hopelessness" -- a pun on Obama's book "The Audacity of Hope."

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Cabinet member for her husband Bill, the former president, said it was time for Democrats to rally around Obama -- and was called a "Judas" by Clinton loyalist James Carville for his views.

Clinton and her campaign aides have worked hard to debunk the idea the race is over, holding daily conference calls to tout their viability and issuing a lengthy memo to rebut the "myth" that Clinton cannot win.

"In a campaign with dozens of unexpected twists and turns, bold prognostications should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism," the memo said.

But Clinton needs almost everything to go her way in the next few months.

She had a setback last week when her push for revotes in Michigan and Florida failed. Her victories there did not count because the contests were not sanctioned by the national party. She also faced an uproar this week over her misstatements about coming under sniper fire on her arrival in Bosnia in 1996.

TARGET: SUPERDELEGATES

The Clinton case for victory in the Democratic nomination fight is built on the backs of nearly 800 superdelegates -- elected officials and party insiders who are free to support anyone.

With 10 nominating contests remaining, Clinton lags Obama by more than 100 in the count of pledged delegates won in the state-by-state voting since January and has little chance of catching Obama.

But neither candidate is on track to win the 2,024 delegates needed to clinch the nomination -- making superdelegates the ultimate kingmakers.

Both camps have wooed them heavily, with Obama contending they should follow the will of Democratic voters. By the last nominating contests on June 3 in Montana and South Dakota, Obama says, he will have won the most votes and delegates.

Clinton says she offers the best chance of beating McCain in November.

To help her make that argument she needs to close the gap on Obama by rolling up big wins in many of the remaining contests, beginning on April 22 with Pennsylvania.

"The Obama campaign is trying to persuade everybody that this is over. I hope they don't get their hands on the federal budget because they surely can't count," said Clinton adviser Harold Ickes.

"We think that both candidates are going to be within a hair of each other by the time the last state votes. At the end of this process, neither candidate will have the nomination" and superdelegates will decide," Ickes said.

Clinton says she has won more big, diverse states crucial to Democratic hopes in November like Ohio, New Jersey and California, proving her worth in a general election battle.

The longer she continues, the more chance Obama might slip up and make a mistake that turns the tide of the campaign. Clinton has made it clear she will not consider bowing out of the race until all of the states have concluded their voting.

At that point, Democrats hope, a winner will emerge without the battle continuing all the way to the August party convention in Denver.

"I think that what we have to wait and see is what happens in the next three months, and there's been a lot of talk about what-if, what-if, what-if. Let's wait until we get some votes," Clinton said.

(Editing by Patricia Wilson and Frances Kerry)

(To read more about the U.S. political campaign, visit Reuters "Tales from the Trail: 2008" online at http:blogs.reuters.com/trail08/)

Original here

Clinton Owes Obama An Apology

The past few months I've tried to defend Bill and Hillary Clinton against some of the more unreasonable attacks from their critics. Just last weekend on CNN's Ballot Bowl, I defended Bill Clinton when critics accused of him of questioning Barack Obama's patriotism. The critics may have misinterpreted Clinton's remarks, I said, giving the former president the benefit of the doubt.

I've also defended Barack Obama in recent weeks against unreasonable charges directed at him because of his association with his church and his pastor. It seems obvious to me that Barack Obama loves his country and is not an anti-white bigot.

Maybe I'm too close to the two Democrats to be against either one. I went to law school with Barack Obama and worked in the Clinton White House, so I have connections and allegiances to both candidates. That's why I've never understood the rabid Hillary haters or the angry Obama opponents. To me, all three candidates -- including John McCain -- are good and decent Americans who have served their country with distinction.

I wish Hillary Clinton would acknowledge that fact too. In the past few weeks, I've been increasingly disturbed by the gratuitously negative tone of the Clinton campaign.

First, during an interview with 60 Minutes host Steve Croft, Sen. Clinton cleverly stoked the rumors that Obama might be a closet Muslim. "No, there is nothing to base that on," she told Croft. But then she slyly added, "As far as I know."

Next, she all but endorsed McCain over Obama for president. "I have a lifetime of experience that I will bring to the White House," she said. "I know Senator McCain has a lifetime of experience that he will bring to the White House. And Senator Obama has a speech he gave in 2002."

Then came the Jeremiah Wright story. Based on the previous tactics used by her campaign, I did not expect Clinton to say much of anything about the Wright story. As Napoleon Bonaparte famously said, "Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake." And after all, the Clintons have relied on the support of controversial black pastors, include Rev. Jeremiah Wright, to save their own hides several times in the past.

But as time went by, and the Wright story lingered on, it seemed Clinton was perfectly willing to let the uninformed public get the misimpression that Barack Obama is moonlighting as an anti-American black nationalist racist. She knows better, and she ought to be ashamed for not speaking up on his behalf.

Just last month, in one of the many near-death experiences that forced her into a moment of vulnerable humility, Senator Clinton told a debate audience in Austin, Texas that she was proud to sit beside Barack Obama. "No matter what happens in this contest -- and I am honored. I am honored to be here with Barack Obama. I am absolutely honored," she said to applause. For a moment, it seemed the Democratic contest might become civil but competitive. For a moment.

Then on Tuesday of this week, apparently dissatisfied that the Jeremiah Wright story had failed to derail Obama's campaign, Clinton broke her silence on the issue and told a newspaper in Pennsylvania (188 delegates) that Rev. Wright "would not have been my pastor."

She repeated her criticism at a press conference later in the day. "You know, we don't have a choice when it comes to our relatives. We have a choice when it comes to our pastors and the churches we attend," she said.

She ought to be ashamed. A month ago she stoked the fears that Obama might be a Muslim and now she plays on the fears of Pennsylvanians that the Illinois senator is a radical black Christian. I would expect that kind of nonsensical fear mongering from a Republican, but I'm disappointed when it comes from a fellow Democrat.

Even John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has acknowledged that Clinton and Obama are both honorable Americans. When a conservative radio host attacked Obama at a Cincinnati McCain rally last month, the Arizona senator stood up for his Democratic opponents and apologized for the attack. "I have repeatedly stated my respect for Senator Obama and Senator Clinton," he said and promised to "treat them with respect." That was much classier than Hillary Clinton's comments on Jeremiah Wright.

As a New Yorker, I have been proud of Hillary Clinton's service in the Senate, and I harbor no ill will toward her. If she somehow manages to wrangle the nomination from Obama, I will actively support her general election campaign. But I cannot remain silent any longer while my own senator destroys the Democratic Party, and her own reputation, in a desperate and degrading effort to appeal to the lowest common denominator.

It's time for Senator Clinton to act like a leader that I know she can be. Hilary Clinton not only needs to defend Barack Obama, she needs to apologize to him.

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Obama’s Speech on the Economy

Barack Obama spoke about the economy on Thursday at Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York. (Photo: Damon Winter/The New York Time)

In a speech at Cooper Union in New York, Senator Barack Obama proposed relief for homeowners and an additional $30 billion stimulus package to address the nation’s economic woes.

Mr. Obama outlined six principles that he said “should guide the legal reforms needed to establish a 21st century regulatory system.”

But he cautioned that the “change we need goes beyond laws and regulation – we need a shift in the cultures of our financial institutions and our regulatory agencies.”

He also criticized John McCain’s economic plan as something that “amounts to little more than watching this crisis happen.

“While this is consistent with Senator McCain’s determination to run for George Bush’s third term, it won’t help families who are suffering, and it won’t help lift our economy out of recession,” he said.

Video

Michael Powell and Jeff Zeleny have this report.

Obama's Speech on the Economy Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg introduced Senator Obama. (Photo: Alex Brandon/Associated Press)

Mr. Obama was introduced by New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who said that while he was not endorsing the Democratic candidate, he was happy to introduce Obama and “not just because he picked up the check when we had breakfast together.”

Here is the full transcript of his speech.

Another superdelegate for Obama

Illinois Rep. Dan Lipinski, who represents Chicago's whitest and most conservative Democratic district, announces his support. Rahm Emanuel, who is uncommitted, is the only remaining member of the Illinois congressional delegation not backing Obama.

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Hillary's Approval Rating Plummets In NBC/WSJ Poll

As expected, one of the two major Democratic candidates saw a downturn in the latest NBC/WSJ poll, but it's not the candidate that you think. Hillary Clinton is sporting the lowest personal ratings of the campaign. Moreover, her 37% positive rating is the lowest the NBC/WSJ poll has recorded since March 2001, two months after she was elected to the U.S. Senate from New York.

The poll was conducted Monday and Tuesday this week by Hart-McInturff and surveyed 700 registered voters, which gives the poll a margin of error of +/- 3.7%. In addition, we oversampled African-Americans in order to get a more reliable cross-tab on many of the questions we asked in this poll regarding Sen. Barack Obama's speech on race and overall response to last week's Rev. Jeremiah Wright dustup.

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By Fred Lucas

(CNSNews.com) - The legal and political implications of a Hollywood mogul's lawsuit against Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton are not yet clear, but legal experts are not holding their breath.

In some ways, it's old news with a new twist. The alleged corruption in high places occurred in 2000, when the then-first lady was seeking her first term as a U.S. senator from New York. That's when Hollywood mainstay Peter Paul produced a fundraising event that he says amounted to a nearly $2 million in-kind campaign contribution.

Paul at the time was majority co-owner, with comic book icon Stan Lee, of a publicly-traded Internet company, Stan Lee Media. The company later collapsed -- as did Paul's relationship with Bill and Hillary Clinton.

What is new is the potentially incriminating videotape of Hillary Clinton speaking with Paul, Lee and director Aaron Tonkin in the summer of 2000 about the forthcoming fundraiser, which featured such celebrities as Cher, Diana Ross and Brad Pitt.

The star-studded August 2000 event was later deemed to be a violation of federal campaign finance laws: The Clinton campaign had to pay a $35,000 fine to the Federal Elections Committee. Clinton's campaign finance director David Rosen was accused of lying to the FEC, indicted, but eventually acquitted.

Throughout, Clinton's staff said she played no role in planning the fundraiser. Yet the tape depicts Clinton expressing enthusiasm about the event and telling Paul to contact her aide any time to further plan details.

If Clinton helped to plan the event, it could legally constitute a direct hard money donation to her Senate campaign, rather than to her joint fundraising committee, "New York Senate 2000." If that is the case, the donation from Paul would be more than a thousand times the legal limit for an individual donation. Knowingly soliciting a contribution of $25,000 or more is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

If a California appeals court allows the video as evidence in the case, it may have some consequences for next year's campaign.

(The California Court of Appeals, Second Appellate District, is considering a case brought by Paul, who is appealing a California Superior Court ruling dismissing Clinton from an earlier lawsuit on the grounds it was frivolous. In his original lawsuit, Paul is suing Hillary and Bill Clintons and others, claiming their actions cost him his multi-million dollar Internet venture. Paul contends that in exchange for producing the fundraising event, President Clinton agreed to work as a rainmaker for the company after leaving the White House. Paul says the former president reneged.)

The case presents the classic question of what Clinton knew and when she knew it, said election lawyer John Armor. He said the tape shows that Clinton allegedly committed at least four felonies pertaining to illegal campaign fundraising and obstructing subsequent federal investigations into the matter.

"Following on that question is how many people lied for her in how many venues and violated how many laws in order to keep anyone from finding out how much she knew, when she knew it and what she herself did wrong," said Armor. He is not directly involved in the Paul case, but was interviewed for the documentary on the case, produced by Paul.

But according to Paul Ryan, associate legal counsel for the Campaign Legal Center, the tape is not necessarily a slam dunk against Clinton or her 2000 Senate campaign. In-kind contributions can be especially difficult, said Ryan, who when he spoke to Cybercast News Service had not yet seen the video.

"The problem with soft money was loopholes," Ryan said. "Hard money is determined by who the check is written to. Knowledge is not the defining factor - it's control and benefit. The further away a candidate gets from direct control, the harder it is to prove a coordinated in-kind contribution."

'Historic'

At no point on the tape did Clinton suggest that the event and the Paul donation were not going directly to her campaign, and the other three in the conversation referenced it repeatedly. At one point, Tonkin said the celebrities are "coming out in full force knowing this is for your Senate race, it's unbelievable."

Clinton replied, "I'm just thrilled. I'll check in with you from time to time because I know that putting something like this together is challenging even when people are enthusiastic and looking forward to doing it."

Clinton also says on the tape that Paul and her chief campaign aide "talk all the time, so she'll be the person to convey whatever I need."

Paul calls the release of the five-minute taped conversation -- which he obtained in April after the U.S. attorney's office in New York released about 90 tapes -- historic.

"No presidential candidate was ever caught on videotape engaged in felony," Paul told Cybercast News Service. "No candidate [has ever been] engaged in major civil fraud suit [that] she was forced to testify in."

If Clinton is required to testify, as Paul hopes, it could be a major distraction during her campaign.

Neither Clinton's campaign office nor her attorney, David Kendall, responded to requests for comment on this story.

In a written declaration for the California court filed on April 7, 2006, Clinton said only that she did not remember discussions with Paul about the fundraiser.

"I have no recollection whatsoever of discussing any arrangement with him whereby he would support my campaign for the United States Senate in exchange for anything from me or then-President Clinton," Clinton wrote.

"I do not believe I would make such a statement because I believe I would remember such a discussion if it had occurred," she added.

The Clinton attorneys in recent briefs point out that Paul is a convicted felon. He pleaded guilty to manipulating his company's stock price in 2001 and pleaded guilty to a previous felony of defrauding the Cuban government in 1979.

Paul accuses the Clinton camp of bringing up his history in a bid to divert attention away from the facts of the case. "I was held accountable for what I did," he said. "When are they going to be held accountable?"

Even if Clinton is forced to testify under oath in 2008, and if Paul's assertions are proven true, some experts do not foresee significant political and legal ramifications.

From a political perspective, the public stopped caring about alleged misdeeds by either of the Clintons, said Gary Rose, political science professor at Sacred Heart University.

"When it comes to the Clintons, they are generally immune to public condemnation regarding ethical lapses and violations of the law," Rose told Cybercast News Service. "If this case continues into the general election, we'll see how it affects swing voters and independents, but it is not going to derail her bid for the nomination. I still remember Bill Clinton's polls, and two-thirds of voters said they didn't trust him but voted for him irrespective of his morality or ethics."

Even critics of Clinton don't think the case will harm her politically.

"She's going to hold the highest office in the country. She's got the money, the organization and the FBI files," James Nesfield, president of the Equal Justice Foundation of America (EJFA), said in an interview.

Nesfield, who helped the New York State Attorney General's office target corporate corruption, is not a disinterested party, having bought the troubled Stan Lee Media firm.

He said the EJFA's broad and longer-term aim is to inform government and corporate whistleblowers of their rights and encourage them to come forward, but its key focus for the immediate future will be educating the public about the Paul case.

If Clinton won't face justice, the public should at least know of her misdeeds, Nesfield said.

"I'm not anti-Hillary," he added. "I'm just anti-not following the law."

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Coke dealers, Heroin pushers, Crack sellers...the Bush pardons...

I am not sure how Bush (more likely his handlers) selected the following people for the rare Bush pardon, but I find the crimes of those selected most interesting. My comments about each person are pure speculation, but something to consider nevertheless:

William Marcus McDonald Wetumpka, Alabama
Offense: Distribution of cocaine, possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, use of cocaine, possession of cocaine, use of marijuana;
Article 134, U.C.M.J.

Sentence: May 2, 1984; U.S. Air Force general court-martial convened at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia; four years confinement at hard labor, forfeiture of $300 pay per month for four years, reduction in rank to basic airman, and a bad conduct discharge.

So, an Air Force officer is running coke, during the period of Iran- Contra (not saying as part of Iran Contra, just the time-frame). I cannot find much on McDonald. Was he wrongly convicted? What is the reason for the pardon? He only got four years for distributing coke? Wow, assuming this guy was rightly convicted, seems to me that he got off rather light to begin with.

Robert Michael Milroy Cinnaminson, New Jersey
Offense: Importation of heroin; 21 U.S.C. §§ 960(a)(1), 952(a), and 843(b).
Sentence: April 2, 1975; Eastern District of Virginia; seven and one-half years imprisonment, six years special parole, and three years probation.

Again, the time-frame of the sentence is most intriguing. Again, the same questions apply with regard to why this man was pardoned.

William L. Baker Spokane, Washington
Offense: Distribution of a controlled substance, 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 841(b)(2); falsifying records, 21 U.S.C. §§ 827(a)(3), 843(a)(4).
Sentence: July 15, 1980; District of Wyoming; 24 months imprisonment, one year special parole.

Not a clue what this guy is about or why someone who served a two year sentence 28 years ago needs a pardon now. Was he wrongly convicted?

William Bruce Butt London, Kentucky
Offense: Bank embezzlement; 18 U.S.C. § 656.
Sentence: June 20, 1990; Eastern District of Kentucky; three years probation.

Okay, this guy never put a foot in jail. He got probation almost 20 years ago. But the time-frame would place this guy in the period of the S&L scandals. I am of course speculating, but since we are not yet given the reason for this and the other pardons, speculation will have to do for now - and a bit of Google-digging I think.

Mariano Garza Caballero Brownsville, Texas
Offense: Dealing in firearms without a federal firearms
license; 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(a)(1) and (2).
Sentence: November 1, 1984; Southern District of Texas; 34 days imprisonment, four years probation, and a $1,000 fine.

This guy spent 34 days in jail over 20 years ago. Again, I have to ask why this man needs a pardon. Was he wrongly convicted?

Anthony C. Foglio, Santee, California aka Tony Foley
Offense: Distribution of marijuana
; 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). Sentence:
October 15, 1996; Northern District of West Virginia; three years probation.

Yet another guy who appears to have served no jail time. Does anyone find this odd?

Carl Harry Hachmeister Denton, Texas
Offense: Conspiracy (to commit wire and mail fraud);
18 U.S.C. § 371.
Sentence: January 22, 1985; District of Utah; three years probation and $39,330 restitution.

And again another person who serves no jail time over 20 years ago.

Among all of the more pressing cases of people sitting on death row, our president pardons mostly drug dealers, an arms dealer, and an embezzler and fraudster, all of whom spent little to no time in prison to begin with, 20+ years ago at that. What, there were no better and more urgent candidates to pardon?

On a side note, two guys selling bird parts were pardoned as well. I think we need to do some digging into these people. Who suggested them and why? Consider the countless cases of wrongful conviction, or civil liberties violations, or an extreme sentence for a non-violent crime. Surely there are plenty of people who would be better served by a pardon, as would justice, no?

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"Liberating Iraq Would be a Cakewalk"

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Grandma, grandpa get owned by Illinois' failed gaming law

In 2005, Illinois sought to make the sale of violent or sexually-explicit video games illegal, with a $5,000 fine or a year in jail for anyone selling the games to minors. Like similar attempts at legislating games, it failed, with the ESA then suing the state for the legal fees it had to pay to defend the case. The ESA won the case, and Illinois was ordered to pay over $500,000 in attorneys' fees. This dust-up continues to be a case study in just how badly attempts to pass unconstitutional legislation can go, as Illinois Auditor General William Holland is raising some questions about where the money to pay the ESA's legal bills came from. It turns out that 14 percent of the money was paid from the Public Health Department budget.

The way the legal fees were paid has been an ongoing concern. In May of 2007 we discovered that the governor raided funds throughout state government to pay for the litigation. Some of the areas money was taken from included the public health department, the state's welfare agency, and economic development department. If you had cash, you gave your funds to pay for the failed legislation, whether or not the department had anything at all to do with the law itself.

Illinois has been plagued with budget crises over the past several years, and being forced to raid the Public Health Department budget to pay for unconstitutional legislation is the price the state's taxpayers are paying. Illinois nursing homes are being forced to wait excessively for payments from the state. "Across the board the state of Illinois does not have a good track record for paying in terms of paying for Medicaid recipients—whether it's health care or nursing homes—it's something [that is] quite frankly an embarrassment to us in Illinois," state senator Dave Koehler (D) told a Peoria TV station. Governor Rod Blagojevich promised to speed up payments to 45 days during the last election, but the turnaround has gone in the other direction, with homes now waiting as long as five months for payments.

Tracking down exactly how much money came from which organization is proving difficult. "Auditor William Holland says Public Health has no documents showing how costs were allocated among agencies paying for the unsuccessful defense of [the law]," reports the Associated Press. Six state agencies were reportedly forced to chip in for the legal bills.

This is, frankly, an embarrassing situation to be put in, and the outrage over this use of funds could be growing with the auditor's investigations over where the money came from and why. It would be easier to defend the state's efforts at fighting for the law if there weren't so many strong precedents: by the time Illinois got around to writing its gaming law, Missouri, Indiana, and Washington had already tried to pass similar laws, only to fail on constitutional grounds. There was very little evidence that the law had any chance of succeeding in Illinois, but Gov. Blagojevich saw the law as a politically safe move.

The then-president of the ESA, Doug Lowenstein, had strong words for the legislation and the use of public money to pay for its missteps. "From the day Governor Blagojevich announced that he would seek anti-video game legislation, it was clear to everyone that the proposal would be found unconstitutional and would waste taxpayers dollars in a protracted legal fight that would leave parents no better off," Lowenstein said. "That is precisely what happened. As we said from the outset, we would have preferred to spend our resources on cooperative programs to help parents ensure their kids play appropriate games, rather than divert money to respond to politically motivated attacks on video games."

Attempts to legislate video games continue, and are expected to continue failing. Hopefully the black eye that Illinois is receiving from their own attempts to pass this law will be a good object lesson that writing legislation for purely political gain can have far-reaching consequences. Sadly, it's a lesson Illinois taxpayers are learning the hard way.

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U.S. jets escort Russian bombers off Alaska coast

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Two U.S. Air Force F-15s escorted two Russian Bear long-range bombers out of an air exclusion zone off the coast of Alaska, U.S. military officials said Wednesday.

art.f15.afp.gi.jpg

Two U.S. Air Force F-15s were dispatched to meet the Russian bombers.

U.S. radar picked up the Russian turbo-prop Tupolev-95 planes about 500 miles off the Alaska coast.

The U.S. fighters from Elmendorf Air Force Base were dispatched to meet the bombers and escorted them out of the area without incident, the officials said.

The United States maintains the air exclusion zone off the coast of Alaska, barring unidentified aircraft or aircraft that don't file flight plans inside that area.

The last case of Russian aircraft approaching the U.S. coastline or ships in the Pacific was in February.

Then, four Bear bombers flew near the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, with one of them flying about 2,000 feet from the Nimitz's deck.

Russia's Defense Ministry said at the time there was no violation of flight regulations during the incident. A ministry official described the flights as standard operating procedure for air force training.

Meanwhile, U.S. military officials say the incidents are not a concern. They say it's the Russian military flexing its ability and presence.

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New evidence suggests second shooter killed RFK

Forty years after Democratic rising star Robert F. Kennedy was killed at a Los Angeles hotel during his presidential run, new evidence suggests the man serving a life sentence for his murder did not fire the shots that killed the charismatic senator.

Forensic scientists met at a conference in Connecticut this week to discuss their independent findings that cast serious doubt on the Kennedy assassination. Sirhan Sirhan is serving a life sentence in Kennedy's death, but the conference presenters argue he could not have fired the fatal shot that killed Kennedy.

One investigator, Dr. Robert Joling, has studied the Kennedy assassination for nearly four decades. He determined the fatal shot came from behind Kennedy, while Sirhan was four to six feet in front of the senator and never got close enough to shoot him from behind, an NBC affiliate reports.

Analysis by another forensics engineer, Philip Van Praag, of a Canadian journalists tape recording, known as the Pruszynski recording, determined that 13 shots were fired while Kennedy was killed, although Sirhan's gun only held eight bullets, according to the NBC reporter. This suggests that a second shooter was involved in the assassination.

Van Praag's analysis led him to conclude that a second gun that was fired matched a type owned by one of the security guards in Kennedy's entourage.

"When that security guard was asked about owning that gun at first he admitted, 'Yes I owned that kind of gun but I got rid of it two months before the assassination.'" correspondent Amy Parmenter said on MSNBC Wednesday. "It turns out upon further investigation, in fact, he did not get rid of that gun until five months after the shooting. Of course, you can see where we're going with this. ... That security guard, was in fact behind Senator Kennedy when the fatal shot was fired."

This video is from MSNBC News Live, broadcast March 26, 2008.



Hillary Clinton: Truth or Consequences

Hillary Clinton has many admirable qualities, but candor and openness and transparency and a commitment to well-established fact have not been notable among them. The indisputable elements of her Bosnian adventure affirm (again) the reluctant conclusion I reached in the final chapter of A Woman In Charge, my biography of her published last June:

"Since her Arkansas years [I wrote], Hillary Rodham Clinton has always had a difficult relationship with the truth... [J]udged against the facts, she has often chosen to obfuscate, omit, and avoid. It is an understatement by now that she has been known to apprehend truths about herself and the events of her life that others do not exactly share." [italics added]

As I noted:

"Almost always, something holds her back from telling the whole story, as if she doesn't trust the reader, listener, friend, interviewer, constituent--or perhaps herself--to understand the true significance of events..."

The Bosnian episode is a watershed event, because it indelibly brings to mind so many examples of this tendency -- from the White House years and, worse, from Hillary Clinton's take-no-prisoners presidential campaign. Her record as a public person is replete with "misstatements" and elisions and retracted and redacted and revoked assertions...

When the facts surrounding such characteristic episodes finally get sorted out -- usually long after they have been challenged -- the mysteries and contradictions are often dealt with by Hillary Clinton and her apparatus in a blizzard of footnotes, addenda, revision, and disingenuous re-explanation: as occurred in regard to the draconian secrecy she imposed on her health-care task force (and its failed efforts in 1993-94); explanations of what could have been dutifully acknowledged, and deserved to be dismissed as a minor conflict of interest -- once and for all -- in Whitewater; or her recent Michigan-Florida migration from acceptance of the DNC's refusal to recognize those states' convention delegations (when it looked like she had the nomination sewn up) to her re-evaluation of the matter as a grave denial of basic human rights, after she fell impossibly behind in the delegate count.

The latest episode -- the sniper fire she so vividly remembered and described in chilling detail to buttress her claims of foreign policy "experience" -- like the peace she didn't bring to Northern Ireland, recalls another famous instance of faulty recollection during a crucial period in her odyssey.

On January 15, 1995, she had just published her book, It Takes a Village, intended to herald a redemptive "come back" after the ravages of health care; Whitewater; the Travel Office firings she had ordered (but denied ordering); the disastrous staffing of the White House by the First Lady, not the President -- all among the egregious errors that had led to the election of the Newt Gingrich Congress in 1994.

On her book tour, she was asked on National Public Radio about the re-emergence of dormant Whitewater questions that week, when the so-called "missing billing records" had been found. Hillary stated with unequivocal certainty that she had consistently made public all the relevant documents related to Whitewater, including "every document we had," to the editors of the New York Times before the newspaper's original Whitewater story ran during Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign.

Even her closest aides -- as in the case of the Bosnian episode18 years later -- could not imagine what possessed her to say such a thing. It was simply not true, as her lawyers and the editors of the Times (like CBS in the latest instance) recognized, leading to huge stories about her latest twisting of the facts. "Oh my God, we didn't," said Susan Thomasas, Hillary's great friend, who was left to explain to the White House lawyers exactly how Hillary's aides had carefully cherry-picked documents accessed for the Times in the presidential campaign. The White House was forced -- once again -- to acknowledge the first lady had been 'mistaken;" her book tour was overwhelmed by the matter, and Times' columnist Bill Safire that month coined the memorable characterization of Hillary Clinton as "a congenital liar."

"Hillary values context; she does see the big picture. Hers, in fact, is not the mind of a conventional politician," I wrote in A Woman In Charge. "But when it comes to herself, she sees with something less than candor and lucidity. She sees, like so many others, what she wants to see."

The book concludes with this paragraph:

"As Hillary has continued to speak from the protective shell of her own making, and packaged herself for the widest possible consumption, she has misrepresented not just facts but often her essential self. Great politicians have always been marked by the consistency of their core beliefs, their strength of character in advocacy, and the self-knowledge that informs bold leadership. Almost always, Hillary has stood for good things. Yet there is a disconnect between her convictions and her words and actions. This is where Hillary disappoints. But the jury remains out. She still has time to prove her case, to effectuate those things that make her special, not fear them or camouflage them. We would all be the better for it, because what lies within may have the potential to change the world, if only a little."

The jury -- armed with definitive evidence like the CBS tape of Hillary Clinton's Bosnian adventure -- seems on the verge of returning a negative verdict on her candidacy.

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Lies, Damn Lies, and Mispeakings

The Hillary camp is now saying that the candidate simply mispoke in concocting an elaborately detailed Bosnian war story of sniper fire and corkscrew maneuvers and running, heads down to armored vehicles.

Balderdash.

Hillary is a habitual teller of tall tales. She’s far worse than Al Gore ever was.

Let us not forget that she long claimed to be named after Sir Edmund Hillary, long after it was pointed out that Edmund was an anonymous beekeeper in New Zealand at the time of her birth, when, she long claimed, her mother read a news clipping of Eddie’s exploits and gave his name to a daughter who was also destined for great heights. (Shortly before she jumped into presidential politics, Hillary kinda sorta fessed up that this just wasn’t true.)

And then there’s this idea that Clinton, in 1975, attempted to become one of the Few. The Proud. The Marines. Right after moving to Arkansas and marrying Bill. Really, I’m not making this up.

But she may well have been.

Hillary claims she was turned away for being a bespectacled woman. Not entirely improbable. But fishy, because it’s almost identical to another mythical tale from her childhood, in which Clinton says she wrote away to NASA, asking what it would take for her to become an astronaut, only to have her childhood hopes dashed by the sexist culture of the space program.

I for one am less troubled by the fact that the senator is a teller of parables and tall tales, than by the fact that she cannot, for the life of her, admit fault.

She didn’t misspeak.

She was caught in a whopper. Perhaps several.

Don’t compound the error with double talk.

It’s time to fess up.

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