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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

New polls show Obama surge in Pa.

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama is surging in Pennsylvania, according to several new polls. In one survey, released by Public Policy Polling this morning, Obama is now leading New York Sen. Hillary Clinton for the first time, 45 percent to 43 percent. That represents a closing of a 26-percentage-point Clinton advantage from only two and a half weeks ago.

The Pennsylvania Democratic presidential primary is scheduled for April 22.

Obama’s gains are largely due to a narrowing of the gap with white voters—29-percentage points according to PPP—but he continues to trail Clinton 49 to 38 percent among whites. In mid-March, according to PPP, Clinton led 63 percent to 23 percent among whites. That mid-March poll occurred prior to Obama’s race speech, at the height of the controversy over Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

The PPP poll of 1224 likely Democratic primary voters between March 31 and April 1, with a margin of error of 2.8 percent, found that Obama has improved by double digits with both white women and white men. Today, PPP has Clinton leading 56 percent to 31 percent with white women. Obama leads 44 percent to 43 percent with white men.

Obama also improved with black voters, long his base. He now captures the support of three in four African Americans in the state.

A Rasmussen Reports poll, released April 1, had Clinton leading Obama by five points, 47 percent to 42 percent. Clinton had a 13-point lead two weeks earlier, according to Rasmussen. Another poll released the same day by SurveyUSA shows Obama making more modest gains. That survey found that Clinton was still ahead by 12 points, though Obama had narrowed her lead by 7 points in the past three weeks.

Taken together, the polls suggest that Pennsylvania, a state that once looked to be a lock for Clinton, has become considerably more competitive. His surge is especially notable considering Pennsylvania’s demographics and its closed primary, two factors thought to be key advantages for Clinton.

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Obama: I'd Hire Gore

Former Vice President Al Gore discusses the First Amendment and the Internet during an event called "Accuracy, Privacy and the World Wide Web: The First Amendment and the Internet" held at Middle Tennessee State University, Thursday, March 27, 2008, in Murfreesboro, Tenn. (AP Photo/Bill Waugh)

WALLINGFORD, Pa. — Sen. Barack Obama said Wednesday he would give Al Gore, a Nobel prize winner, a major role in an Obama administration to address the problem of global warming.

At a town-hall meeting, Obama was asked if he would tap the former vice president for his Cabinet to handle global warming.

"I would," Obama said. "Not only will I, but I will make a commitment that Al Gore will be at the table and play a central part in us figuring out how we solve this problem. He's somebody I talk to on a regular basis. I'm already consulting with him in terms of these issues, but climate change is real. It is something we have to deal with now, not 10 years from now, not 20 years from now."

Since leaving the White House, Gore has gone on to become one of the world's leading voices for combating the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. His work earned him a share of the Nobel last year.

Popular among Democrats, Gore is perhaps the single most coveted endorsement up for grabs in the long-running competition between Obama and rival Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The relationship between Gore and the Clintons became strained after Gore limited Bill Clinton's campaigning on his behalf in the 2000 presidential race which elected George W. Bush.

Obama said he would use Gore to help forge a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions designed to lower pollution.

The Illinois senator cautioned that such a system could mean an increase in electricity bills from power companies that rely on coal-burning, and that some of the money generated from a cap-and-trade system may be used in the beginning to help lower income or fixed income customers with those bills.

He also called on individuals to do their part to lower energy consumption.

"All of us are going to have to change our habits. We are a wasteful culture," he said.

Using compact fluorescent light bulbs, energy efficient appliances, and unplugging power chargers when they're not in use are relatively simple solutions, he said.

"Those kinds of simple steps, if everybody takes them, can drastically reduce our energy consumption."

(This version CORRECTS Corrects thruout to DELETE reference to questioner asking about position higher than Cabinet.)

Original here


Obama would consider Gore for cabinet position

Chances for an Al Gore presidency may be all-but-nonexistent at this point in the campaign, but Barack Obama said Wednesday the former vice president might just have a spot in his administration, perhaps even cabinet-level.

A woman at a town hall meeting in Pennsylvania asked whether Obama, if elected, would tap Gore for such a position to address global warming issues.

"I would," Obama said. "Not only will I, but I will make a commitment that Al Gore will be at the table and play a central part in us figuring out how we solve this problem."

Obama said Gore is "somebody I talk to on a regular basis. I'm already consulting with him in terms of these issues, but climate change is real."

Gore won a Nobel Prize last year for his work on climate change, which was documented in the 2006 Oscar-winning film An Inconvenient Truth. He remains popular among Democrats, and some have even speculated that Gore could enter the Democratic nomination contest at the 11th hour to put an end to the sniping between Obama and opponent Hillary Clinton.

In a recent interview on CBS's 60 Minutes, Gore dismissed suggestions he would enter the race and said he had no interest in serving as a "broker" to find a conclusion to the Obama-Hillary contest.

With wire reports

This video is from CNN.com, broadcast April 2, 2008.



(with wire reports)

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Clinton Pastor Backs Reverend Wright

WASHINGTON — One of the Democratic presidential candidates has a pastor who opposed both Iraq wars, supports same-sex marriage, opposes the death penalty, and has been a passionate critic of American foreign policy. The clergyman isn't the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Senator Obama's spiritual leader who has become a household name and a campaign issue for his fiery rhetoric, but the Reverend Edward Matthews, a little-known Arkansas preacher who is the closest Senator Clinton has to a pastor of her own.

While Mrs. Clinton says she would have quit Rev. Wright's church, Rev. Matthews expressed sympathy for Rev. Wright in a 35-minute phone interview with The New York Sun.

"We preachers get irresponsible," Rev. Matthews, the former pastor of First United Methodist Church in Little Rock, said yesterday with a laugh. His take on Rev. Wright's now-infamous exclamation, "God Damn America," is that many pastors, himself included, say things "that if we had to say it over again we probably wouldn't say it in the same way."

Rev. Matthews served as pastor of the Little Rock church from 1990 to 1998, overlapping with the final two years that the Clintons lived in Arkansas capital before Bill Clinton became president. First United Methodist remains the only church of which Mrs. Clinton is a member, according to a campaign spokesman, despite the fact that she has not lived in Arkansas for 16 years.

Rev. Matthews stayed in touch with Mrs. Clinton during her years as first lady, performing the funeral service for her father, Hugh Rodham, and attending White House prayer breakfasts at Christmas.

More recently he campaigned for Mrs. Clinton late last year during the run-up to the Iowa caucuses, and he taped a testimonial for one of her Web site features, "The Hillary I Know."

n the interview with the Sun, Rev. Matthews voiced a sense of solidarity with the embattled Rev. Wright, the recently retired pastor of the United Church of Christ in Chicago, where Mr. Obama has been a member for more than 20 years. He bemoaned that clips of Rev. Wright's sermons had been taken out of context and said he understood and at one time in his life even shared some of his critical views of America.

Rev. Matthews, 73, cited in particular the period during the Vietnam War, when he spoke out against America's stance on colonialism. "I've come pretty close to saying in some sermons, I guess, what Jeremiah Wright did," Mr. Matthews, referring to a time in the 1960s after he returned from a stint as a missionary in the Congo. He described his preaching style as "about as blasé as they come" compared to Rev. Wright's, but he said that both his sermons during the Vietnam era and Rev. Wright's today shared a critique of American foreign policy and the belief "that America's going to have to get its act together, you know, that if we're going to be a leader, we can't just say, 'America right or wrong.'"

He said that Rev. Wright's sermon was "a totally different animal when you look at its full context," rather than the minute-long clips widely circulated on the Internet and played nearly on a loop on cable news, which focus on his exclamation, "God Damn America" and his racially charged criticism of Mrs. Clinton.

Rev. Matthews is one of several clergymen who are likely to have influenced Mrs. Clinton over her lifetime. The pastor who made the most lasting impression, according to Mrs. Clinton's memoir, was Rev. Donald Jones, the youth minister at the Methodist church Mrs. Clinton attended while growing up in the middle class suburb of Park Ridge, Ill. She writes that Mr. Jones introduced her to the cause of social justice and the civil rights movement. He has also been credited with aiding her transformation from "Goldwater girl" to loyal Democrat.

During Mrs. Clinton's White House years, her pastor was J. Philip Wogaman, who served as minister of Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington, where she and her husband often attended services.

A Clinton campaign spokesman, Philippe Reines, would not identify who Mrs. Clinton now considers to be her pastor. "She is a practicing Methodist who attends church as often as her schedule allows," Mr. Reines said. As an explanation for why she has not joined a church in Washington or New York since leaving Arkansas in 1992, he indicated that it was customary for Methodists to only belong to one church at a time.

While Rev. Matthews said he could not recall any times when his sermons generated controversy for Mrs. Clinton, he characterized his position on several hot-button political issues as to the left of hers, citing specifically her support of the death penalty and her opposition to same-sex marriage. "She's disagreed with me on several things, but she remained a member of the church. We've remained close friends," he said.

Rev. Matthews said he "totally, consistently" opposed the Iraq war, and he also opposed the first Gulf War in 1991. Asked if he was disappointed in Mrs. Clinton's vote to authorize the American invasion in 2002, he said: "I disagree with her. Disappointed? That's probably too strong a word."

Rev. Matthews's view of the war is consistent with opposition by national leaders of the United Methodist Church. The church is now considering a move to divest from Israel, but Rev. Matthews said he had not taken a position on that issue and had never discussed it with Mrs. Clinton, who has voiced strong support for the Jewish state.

Rev. Matthews said he heard Rev. Wright deliver a sermon in February, when the Chicago minister was invited to speak at an Arkansas college as part of Black History Month. Rev. Wright, he said, was emotional and even "irate" at times.

"If you are very close-minded, you would have gotten up and walked out of that. But I appreciated what he was saying." Rev. Matthews said. "I wouldn't have said it that way. I wouldn't have been so animated."

After initially declining to comment on the matter, Mrs. Clinton injected herself into the Wright controversy by telling the editorial board of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, "He would not have been my pastor."

Her comments added fuel to the firestorm days after Mr. Obama had sought to defuse the issue with a speech on race in America in which he repudiated Rev. Wright's offensive statements but said, "I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community."

In the interview, Rev. Matthews said he had not spoken with Mrs. Clinton about Rev. Wright, but he tried to reconcile her statement, which he noted came during the course of a "hot" political campaign, with a woman that he described as "very open-minded" and tolerant of opposing viewpoints.

"It would be totally out of character for her to say, 'I'm going to leave a church because I'm mad at Jeremiah Wright,'" Mr. Matthews said. "She's just simply saying that if these were ongoing, regular kind of things, I probably would not stay a member of that church. That doesn't mean I would quit liking him or quit respecting him or quit wanting him to be able to say what he wants to say."

Original here

Barack Obama gets former Rep. Lee Hamilton's endorsement

In what could prove both a significant addition to his foreign policy credentials and a boost for the close Indiana primary, Ex-Rep. Lee Hamilton of Indiana, former head of the 9/11 commission and Iraq Study Group, endorses Illinois Senator Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination in advance of the party's May 6 primary thereSen. Barack Obama of Illinois this afternoon scored the endorsement of former Rep. Lee Hamilton, one of the Democratic Party's leading foreign affairs experts.

Hamilton, a 35-year House member from Indiana, which holds its presidential primary May 6, chaired the Committee on Foreign Affairs and co-chaired both the 9/11 commission and the Iraq Study Group.

“I read his national security and foreign policy speeches," Hamilton told Bloomberg News today, "and he comes across to me as pragmatic, visionary and tough. He impresses me as a person who wants to use all the tools of presidential power.”

The backing of Hamilton, who was said to be on the list of possible vice presidential partners for Bill Clinton in 1992, could help Obama, who's been criticized for his foreign policy inexperience.

Both his Democratic presidential competitor, Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, and the Republicans' presumptive nominee, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who has many years of foreign policy experience, have attacked some Obama foreign policy statements.

Hamilton said he particularly agreed with Obama's stand on meeting with adversarial foreign leaders without preconditions and on Obama favoring possible unilateral military action against terrorist hideouts, although in the case of Pakistan that would be attacking a staunch ally.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Clinton 'death watch' puts her chances below 10%

Is Hillary Clinton's candidacy dead? It's a question that's cropping up more and more. She was a shoe-in last summer. Now she's the underdog. She won Texas. Then she lost Texas.

Slate has hooked up a heart monitor and begun the bedside vigil to keep bookmakers and voters abreast of her odds. A feature on the organization's web site rates Clinton's chances of capturing the nomination.

Today her odds were up slightly from 9.7 percent to 9.9 percent.

"When you've got a 1-in-10 shot of winning the Democratic nomination, a day without any major screw-ups is a good one," declared Slate.

Her odds today were down from last week when Slate kicked off its deathwatch and opened her odds at 12 perecent.

But they had risen slightly from the weekend because organization's heart monitor determined she hadn't had made any missteps over the last severals days citing a collection of polls that showed her with modest gains.

She rose four points in Gallup's latest poll but that was balanced by several key endorsements that Obama recently received.

The New Observer reported that Obama was expected to win a couple of North Carolina endorsement's this week.

Slate promised to "adjust Clinton's odds as polls waver, surrogates resign, superdelegates bail, and, of course, voters vote. We'll also keep an eye on indicators like fundraising, political futures, media coverage (always reliable), and the wind chill factor in Scranton, Pa."

Not everyone agrees with Slate's assessment.

Intrade, today, gave Clinton a 14.8 percent chance of winning compared to an 82 percent for Obama.

Despite the predictions Clinton seems unlikely to die quietly.


"When it comes to finishing the fight, Rocky and I have a lot in common. I never quit. I never give up. And neither do the American people," she told a group of union supports this morning in Philadelphia, according to the New York Times.

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Obama to Clinton: 'Rocky' a movie

PHILADELPHIA — Barack Obama mocked rival Hillary Clinton this morning for comparing herself to the movie character Rocky Balboa as he offered Pennsylvania labor leaders a speech laden with red-meat economic populism.

Rocky

Clinton has made the theme song from the 1976 movie "Rocky," which was set in Philadelphia, a part of the soundtrack of her Pennsylvania primary campaign. When she appeared before the same Pennsylvania AFL-CIO state convention a day earlier, she invoked the fictional working-class boxing hero to explain her determination to continue her campaign, declaring that, like Rocky, “I never quit.”

“There’s been some talk about Rocky Balboa over the last couple days. And you know we all love Rocky,” Obama told the labor leaders.

“But we got to remember Rocky was a movie,” Obama continued. “And so is the idea that someone can fight for working people and at the same time, embrace the broken system Washington, where corporate lobbyists use their clout to shape laws to their liking.”

Obama pounded away at corporate excesses and Republican economic policies.

“We’re ready to play offense for organized labor,” Obama said. “It’s time we had a President who didn’t choke saying the word “union.” A President who knows it’s the Department of Labor and not the Department of Management.

“Over the last seven years,” he said, “we’ve had an administration that serves the interests of the wealthy and the well-connected, no matter what the cost to working families, and to our economy.”

As he has elsewhere during his bus tour through Pennsylvania, Obama attacked $19 million in bonuses given to the two top executives of Countrywide Financial, a subprime mortgage lender that issues many loans now in foreclosure. The executives negotiated a sale of the company with losses to investors but the new owner, Banc of America Corp., recently revealed bonuses to the same executives.

“The system is broken – and over the weekend, we got a reminder of just how badly it’s broken,” Obama said, describing the bonuses. “That is an outrage. That’s not the America we believe in. It’s time to take on the special interests and level the playing field so that our economy works for working Americans.”

Obama pitched an economic agenda that includes middle-class tax cuts, a plan for universal access to health care, and stricter labor, environmental and safety provisions in trade agreements.

And he linked presumptive Republican nominee to the economic policies of the Bush Administration.

“John McCain said a few weeks ago that ‘the issue of economics is not something I’ve understood as well as I should’ – and that’s clear since all he’s offering is more of the same Bush policies that have put the American Dream out of reach for so many Americans,” Obama said.

Republican National Committee spokesman Alex Conant blasted Obama’s address as ““yet another example (of) an old-style, shifty political maneuver colliding with the empty rhetoric of his stump speech.”

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Is McCain Fanning the Obama-Clinton Flames?


With the Republican Nomination locked up for John McCain and his cross-party rivals duking it out, one would think that the GOP campaign staff would focus on raising money, finding a vice-president, and establishing a foundation of support.

Then again, if “one” were clever, they would be fanning the flames of the Democratic nomination race, pushing for Clinton to stay in as long as she can (or outright win, if that’s still possible) so they can continue to wear each other down.

While there is no way to be sure what is going on in the deepest bowels of the McCain camp, it can be assumed that a trusted handful of people are doing what they can to keep the Clinton-factor alive and well. Images leaked, memos publicized, voters contacted, all in the name of promoting Clinton as the better Democratic candidate.

McCain is on better footing against Clinton if she is able to pull off a miracle. While he has plenty of ammo against her, Obama is the anti-McCain. He is youthful, vibrant, and exceptionally well spoken. He pulls in the vote of the 20- and 30-somethings. Clinton does as well, but not nearly to the degree that Obama will in a head-to-head battle with McCain.

Then, there is the mudslinging aspect. Hillary and Bill are masters of mud, slinging it with such skill and precision that it’s a wonder how Bob Dole and George H.W. Bush even survived the onslaught. The problem they are having now is Obama lacks the experience that helps to accumulate mud. While Hillary was putting together a nice resume of lies and deniable sniper attacks, Obama was still in political grade school.

Where there’s a Clinton, there’s a way, and as long as the GOP can keep her active, she’ll be tossing a kitchen sink (full of knives) at the enigma that is Barack Obama. That is the McCain campaigns best ally - to stay squeaky clean for as long as possible while Clinton and Clinton work their voodoo on Obama.

In the end, it will be Obama versus McCain, but for now, some people behind the scenes are ready with the adrenaline shots to the heart for Clinton. The paddles are in hand and juiced up. They’ll keep it alive as long as they can.

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McCain compiles list of possible veeps

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., listens to questions from students at his alma mater, Episcopal High School, in Alexandria, Va., Tuesday, April 1, 2008. Sen. McCain attended school at Episcopal High in the early 1950's. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

PENSACOLA, Fla.—Sen. John McCain disclosed Wednesday he is in the "embryonic stages" of selecting a vice presidential running mate and hopes to unveil his choice before the Republican National Convention to avoid the type of problems that plagued Dan Quayle's debut two decades ago.

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"It's every name imaginable" he said of his list-in-the-making, about 20 in all.

He disclosed none of them and declined even to identify the individuals he has approached to supervise the vetting that will inevitably winnow the field.

In expressing his hope to announce his choice before the convention opens in September, McCain added, "I'm aware of enhanced importance of this issue because of my age." He is 71, and if he wins, would be the oldest president elected.

McCain's comments seemed to startle his top aides, who have scripted an elaborate weeklong series of events designed to introduce the Republican to a wider audience of voters and emphasize his military service.

The day's itinerary included stops at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., where McCain graduated in 1958, and Pensacola, Fla., where he took his flight training.

There, he drew a loud ovation when he said, "We could and should call on universities to allow ROTC a presence on their campuses. That they are frequently denied that privilege is disgraceful."

The Arizona senator's remarks on a vice presidential search made clear his campaign has entered a new phase after a month spent asserting control over the party apparatus, emphasizing fundraising and trying to heal the wounds of a hard-fought struggle for the GOP nomination.

"We've done a pretty good job of unifying our party," he told reporters as his campaign bus pulled away from the football stadium at the Naval Academy, where he had issued a call for citizen involvement. "Now we've got to energize our party."

Aides interjected at one point that polling data shows McCain's level of support among Republicans is on par with the backing President Bush had at the same point in his winning campaigns in 2000 and 2004.

McCain indicated that little or no significant vetting of potential running mates has occurred. "I've just started this process of getting together a list of names and having them looked at," he said, adding it could take months to complete.

Early speculation on a running mate has focused on his former rivals for the nomination, particularly former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, as well as a handful of sitting Republican governors, Charlie Crist of Florida and Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota among them.

In theory, Huckabee could help increase McCain's appeal among cultural conservatives who have been slow to warm to the Arizona senator. A governor might gain the GOP ticket support in a state that looms as critical in the fall general election.

McCain also might look toward the business sector. He holds Frederick Smith, the head of FedEx, in high regard and frequently praises him. Another name that's been mentioned is Rob Portman of Ohio, a former congressman who was one of Bush's budget directors.

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"If I had a personal preference I'd like to do it before the convention to avoid some of the mistakes that I've seen made in the past as you get into a time crunch and maybe sometimes don't make the announcement right or maybe they have not examined every single candidate," he said.

Later he referred specifically to Quayle's selection, although he was careful to absolve the former vice president himself of any blame.

George H. W. Bush placed Quayle on his ticket in 1988, but delayed an announcement until arriving at his convention city in an attempt to maintain the suspense. Quayle quickly found himself struggling to answer questions about his earlier decision to join the National Guard rather than serve in the active duty military during the Vietnam War.

Quayle "had not been briefed and prepared for some of the questions," McCain said.

He spoke with reporters on a day that was a blend of speechmaking and retail politicking.

He stopped at Chick & Ruth's Delly in Annapolis, the Maryland capital where crab omelets are on the menu and local and state politicians have gathered down the street from the Statehouse for decades of coffee and shop talk. An American flag hung over the counter and five stools as the Arizonan joined other patrons in observing a daily ritual: reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

A wind-swept outdoor pavilion at the Navy football stadium was the backdrop for his speech before an invited audience.

"If you find faults with our country, make it a better one. If you are disappointed with the mistakes of government, join its ranks and work to correct them," he said in a call to citizen involvement aimed at a wider audience.

He said he hopes more Americans will enlist in the military or run for office.


"But there are many public causes where your service can make our country a stronger, better one than we inherited. Wherever there is a hungry child, a great cause exists. ... Wherever there is suffering, a great cause exists."

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Clinton, Obama Claims Don't Hold Up

Fact Check
Checking the facts of campaign claims made by Democratic opponents Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, and Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.
(abc news)

Facts are stubborn things, but they often meet their match with politicians.

Campaigning in Pennsylvania, Tuesday, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., continued to argue she has opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement since 1992.

"I did speak out and opposed NAFTA," Clinton told an AFL-CIO audience in Philadelphia. "I raised a big yellow caution flag. I said, 'I'm not sure this is going to work.'"

But if Clinton "spoke out" against NAFTA, she did so quietly and behind closed doors, and made no mention of it in her 2003 autobiography "Living History."

Fact Check: Clinton's Anti-NAFTA Rhetoric

In fact, Clinton worked to sell NAFTA at a Nov. 10, 1993, meeting with business women detailed in her recently-released White House schedules.

Three attendees of that closed-door briefing told ABC News last month that Clinton's comments were supportive of the trade deal eventually signed into law by her husband.

Laura E. Jones, executive director of the United States Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel, who was there, said, "There was no question that everyone who spoke, including the first lady, was for NAFTA. It was a rally on behalf of NAFTA to help it get passed. It's unquestionable. And there are many people out there who were there, who remember the incident, who work in this industry."

Julia K. Hughes, senior vice president of the same organization, is likewise incredulous of the Clinton campaign's claims.

"This is such a non issue to us, because, obviously, it was a pro-NAFTA group and a pro-NAFTA event," said Hughes. "It was a 100 percent pro-NAFTA event. No one suggested any inklings of doubt, since part of the agenda was to promote enthusiasm for passage of NAFTA."

Did that include then-first lady Clinton?

"Absolutely. She was the highlight of the event. She was absolutely the capper to the event. It was a positive rally. I assure you, if there had even been a hint of waffling from her — because we were in the last days before NAFTA passed, and it was a pretty hectic time — we would have freaked out."

"It wasn't a drop-by — it was organized around her participation," said one attendee. "Her remarks were totally pro-NAFTA and what a good thing it would be for the economy. There was no equivocation for her support for NAFTA at the time. Folks were pleased that she came by. If this is still a question about what was Hillary's position when she was first lady, she was totally supportive of NAFTA."

A second attendee recalled, "They were looking for women in international trade who supported NAFTA. Sen. Clinton came by at the end. And, of course, she asked for our support and help in passing NAFTA."

Claiming Credit for Children's Health Insurance Bill

In another instance of campaign rhetoric not matching the facts, when Clinton talks about health care reform on the campaign trail, she claims credit for the multibillion-dollar children's health insurance program S-CHIP as one of her signature accomplishments.

Enacted in 1997, the program has provided $24 billion over 10 years to states to cover more than 6 million children whose families cannot afford private insurance, but who earn too much to be eligible for Medicaid.

A Clinton campaign TV ad says she "got health insurance for 6 million kids."

As first lady, Clinton did help by pushing her husband, former President Bill Clinton, to support the program. However, the bill was written and the charge led by Sens. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

"Where I think she has gone too far is when she drops the qualifier, and she says, 'I created S-CHIP,' and in that case, that's not true," Bill Adair of Politifact.com said.

Obama's Oil Slick

However, Clinton isn't the only Democratic candidate making dubious claims on the campaign trail.

In a new TV ad about gas prices, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., says: "I don't take money from oil companies."

While it's true that Obama doesn't take donations from the oil companies' political action committees, he has taken $213,884 from people in the oil and gas industry, much of it raised by two oil company CEOs, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

"I'm not quite sure why a bunch of individuals, who are executives at oil companies, giving the limit, which may add up to $30,40,50,000, would be less significant and less potentially influential on the candidate than PAC money," Viveca Novak of Factcheck.org said.

Obama avoids credit for answers in a 1996 questionnaire supporting a complete ban on handguns and taking other liberal positions he now says he never held.

The Obama campaign blames the answers on a staffer and says the senator "never saw or approved" the questionnaire.

However, in a copy of that questionnaire obtained by ABC News, Obama took notes on it — calling into question the claim he "never saw" it.

ABC News' Avery Miller contributed to this report.

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Bill Clinton's tirade stunned some delegates

The Bill Clinton who met privately with California's superdelegates at last weekend's state convention was a far cry from the congenial former president who afterward publicly urged fellow Democrats to "chill out" over the race between his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Barack Obama.

In fact, before his speech Clinton had one of his famous meltdowns Sunday, blasting away at former presidential contender Bill Richardson for having endorsed Obama, the media and the entire nomination process.

"It was one of the worst political meetings I have ever attended," one superdelegate said.

According to those at the meeting, Clinton - who flew in from Chicago with bags under his eyes - was classic old Bill at first, charming and making small talk with the 15 or so delegates who gathered in a room behind the convention stage.

But as the group moved together for the perfunctory photo, Rachel Binah, a former Richardson delegate who now supports Hillary Clinton, told Bill how "sorry" she was to have heard former Clinton campaign manager James Carville call Richardson a "Judas" for backing Obama.

It was as if someone pulled the pin from a grenade.

"Five times to my face (Richardson) said that he would never do that," a red-faced, finger-pointing Clinton erupted.

The former president then went on a tirade that ran from the media's unfair treatment of Hillary to questions about the fairness of the votes in state caucuses that voted for Obama. It ended with him asking delegates to imagine what the reaction would be if Obama was trailing by just 1 percent and people were telling him to drop out.

"It was very, very intense," said one attendee. "Not at all like the Bill of earlier campaigns."

When he finally wound down, Bill was asked what message he wanted the delegates to take away from the meeting.

At that point, a much calmer Clinton outlined his message of party unity.

"It was kind of strange later when he took the stage and told everyone to 'chill out,' " one delegate told us.

"We couldn't help but think he was also talking to himself."

When delegate Binah - still stunned from her encounter with Clinton - got home to Little River (Mendocino County) later in the day - there was a phone message waiting for her from State Party Chairman Art Torres, telling her the former president wanted him to apologize to her on his behalf for what happened.

Still, word of Clinton's blast shot all the way back to the New Mexico state Capitol, where Richardson spokesman Pahl Shipley reiterated Tuesday that his boss had never "promised or guaranteed" Bill and Hillary his endorsement.

All points bulletin: Even before the Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to condemn China's human rights record, San Francisco police were bracing for massive protests - and huge overtime - with next week's arrival of the Olympic torch.

Two months ago, police brass issued a department-wide bulletin that canceled days off on April 9 for all 2,245 members of the force to ensure a major law enforcement presence along the torch route.

On any given day, as many as 600 patrol officers are off duty - and pulling them back on assignment could translate to upward of $360,000 in police overtime.

Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin said he's been told the department's full overtime costs on torch day could top $400,000.

It's the kind of OT that helps explain why 393 police officers - 20 percent of the force - earned more than $150,000 in 2007.

Police spokesman Sgt. Neville Gittens said the OT cost for the upcoming torch run "was not that clear cut" because the department could decide to bring officers in early for shifts or keep them a little later. He declined to provide any actual cost estimate, however, citing security concerns.

And it won't just be San Francisco police picking up overtime when the torch comes through. The California Highway Patrol and federal agencies, including the FBI, are also being called in to assist with crowd control, Gittens said.

"You can't encourage every event - every demonstration, every All Star event - to come to San Francisco and then not understand that there is a price to pay for this in the form of police overtime to provide public safety," said police union boss Gary Delagnes. "But these politicians want it both ways. They want the events, but then they complain about overtime being exorbitant."

Delagnes' remarks brought a quick retort from pro-Tibet resolution sponsor Supervisor Chris Daly, who shot back on his personal blog. Daly said that despite the board's approval this year of a $407 million police budget, the department "has already blown $7.5 million past their entire overtime budget ... (and) meanwhile, our city homicide rate is through the roof.

"We've encouraged no protest that has contributed to the outrageous police overtime incurred so far," Daly said. "Second, it is our understanding that Police Department brass has been meeting with the Newsom administration and Chinese officials for months, discussing every detail of the proposed torch route."

In other words, Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi said, the cops knew well in advance that this day was coming and had plenty of time to budget accordingly.

Bottom line, no matter where you stand on the torch run, the pot is getting stirred for another big political show - and a big police overtime bill to boot.

In the pocket: The hottest ticket in San Francisco this weekend may well be the $2,300-a-head reception for Democratic hopeful Barack Obama at the Pacific Heights mansion of billionaire couple Ann and Gordon Getty.

We're told more than 400 guests are expected, but not Mayor Gavin Newsom, who - despite his close business and family ties to the Gettys - remains a big-time Hillary Clinton backer.

By the way, the gathering is being co-hosted by another Newsom business partner, Joe Cotchett, former state Controller Steve Westly (a possible Newsom rival for governor in 2010) and District Attorney Kamala Harris (who has been on the Obama bandwagon from the start.)

EXTRA! Catch our Web page at www.sfgate.com/matierandross. Play the Moammar Khadafy greets Bashar Assad caption contest. Pick the best reason for taking in a major-league baseball game.

Chronicle columnists Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross appear Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays. Phil can be seen on CBS-5 morning and evening news. He can also be heard on KCBS radio Monday through Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 5:50 p.m. Got a tip? Call them at (415) 777-8815 or drop them an e-mail at

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Which Rocky are we talking about, Sen. Clinton?

by Adam Bulger

It’s time for Hillary Clinton to bone up on her classic ’70s cinema. Attempting to pander to a Philadelphia crowd, she compared herself to Philly’s most famous fictional son, the Italian Stallion, Rocky Balboa.

The AP reports:

“Let me tell you something, when it comes to finishing a fight, Rocky and I have a lot in common. I never quit. I never give up. And neither do the American people,” Clinton said in excerpts of prepared remarks to be given Tuesday to a meeting of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO.

It’s a hack reference, and it’s a little distressing that she included it in her “prepared remarks” — she needs crib notes for pop culture references? But what’s worse is that it’s an inaccurate one. In her attempt to appear more human by invoking the name of the scrappy underdog fighter, she revealed that there’s a good chance she’s never actually seen the movie. Mrs. Clinton evidently doesn’t realize that in the movie Rocky, the titular character lost the fight - to a black dude!

The victory he celebrates at the end of the movie is about how he “went the distance” in the fight and because he recently won the love and respect of his new girlfriend Adrian. It’s only in the shittier sequels that Rocky actually wins fights. So unless Clinton’s ready to go home and be happy that she tried her best and has gained Bill’s love and respect, she can only liken herself to Rocky II through Rocky V.

Adam Bulger is a reporter for the Hartford Advocate. A recent interview of his with comedian David Cross will appear in the May issue of The Believer. He also conducted one of the last interviews with Hunter Thompson.

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From Maverick to Prostitute: The Untold Story of John McCain

As much as anything else, presidential campaigns are won and lost by the media narratives that rightly or wrongly come to define a candidate. In the case of Repubican nominee John McCain, the seemingly unshakable narrative of the political "maverick" could not be further off the mark. At almost every turn, McCain in his eternal quest for the White House has reversed long-held positions, compromised core principles and swallowed his pride in order to curry favor with both the leading lights of the conservative movement and right-wing Republican primary voters. The untold story of campaign 2008 is simply that of John McCain's transformation from maverick to prostitute.

As the record shows, the selling of John McCain encompasses virtually the entire gamut of issues, foreign and domestic. (Use the jump links below to navigate.)

  1. Embracing "Crazy Base World"
  2. Closing Borders - and Minds - to Immigration
  3. Campaign Finance Fraud
  4. Going Over to the Supply Side on Taxes
  5. Attention: Deficit Disorder
  6. Let's Overturn Roe v. Wade After All
  7. Supreme Courtship of the Right
  8. France-Basher to Alliance Builder
  9. A Tortured Position on Torture
  10. A Hate-Love Relationship with George W. Bush

1. Embracing "Crazy Base World"

No development symbolically reflects McCain's descent into political whoredom more than his born-again embrace of Christian conservative leaders such as Pastor John Hagee and Reverend Rod Parsley.

In his failed 2000 primary run against George W. Bush, McCain famously branded the likes of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson as "agents of intolerance." During the decisive South Carolina primary, he paid a steep price for it.

So by early 2006, candidate McCain began his journey to what Jon Stewart termed "crazy base world." In May of that year, McCain delivered the commencement address at Falwell's Liberty University, where the late minister praised his former foe, "the ilk of John McCain is very scarce, very small." Confronted by Tim Russert weeks before as to whether he still viewed Falwell as an agent of intolerance, McCain grudgingly owned up to his flip-flop, "no, I don't."

In the fall of 2007, McCain's rhetorical outreach to the GOP's evangelical base assumed comic proportions. In September, he said, "The most important thing is that I am a Christian." One month later in October, the Episcopalian-turned-Baptist McCain declared, "I would probably have to say yes, that the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation." (Facing a backlash from the Anti-Defamation League and others, McCain relented and acknowledged, "Yes, I believe a Muslim could be president.")

Still, the distance from Falwell's Lynchburg campus to the stages shared with John Hagee and Rod Parsley was a short one. In February, McCain declared himself "very proud" and "very honored" to have Hagee's endorsement. The End-Times Texas pastor and head of Christian United for Israel (CUFI) isn't merely an anti-Catholic bigot (he called the church "the great whore" and a "false cult system"), but an advocate of accelerating Armageddon by promoting a nuclear showdown with Iran. As for Parsley, whom McCain deemed his "spiritual guide, the gay-bashing Ohio minister said of Islam that "America was founded, in part, with the intention of seeing this false religion destroyed."

Yet McCain appears to be enjoying a free ride from his past principles into the arms of evangelical voters. While the Jeremiah Wright controversy has been portrayed by many (myself included) as challenging Barack Obama's own narrative of a united, post-racial America transcending group cleavages and identity politics, John McCain remains unscathed after selling his soul.

2. Closing Borders - and Minds - to Immigration

McCain's craven surrender to political expediency even extends to issues where he has taken a high-profile leadership role. Nowhere is his cowardice in the face of conservative GOP primary voters more pronounced than on immigration reform.

Throughout 2005 and 2006, John McCain along with Ted Kennedy (D-MA) led the Senate fight for comprehensive immigration reform combining a guest worker program, new paths to naturalization for current illegal aliens and improved border security. But despite its general popularity with Americans overall, the legislation was torpedoed by McCain's own party in Congress. (That might explain Mr. Straight Talk's March 2007 tirade against his GOP colleague from Texas, John Cornyn: "F**k you! I know more about this than anyone else in the room.")

It wasn't that defeat, but the overwhelming xenophobia of the Republicans' primary electorate that led McCain to abandon his leadership role - and principles - on immigration. As the Washington Times and Meet the Press detailed, McCain underwent a conversion on the road to the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis. As the ultra-right Times noted on January 14, 2008:

The Arizona Republican now says that, in the wake of last summer's defeat of "comprehensive immigration reform," he has "gotten the message" that the border must be secured before the status of illegals already in the United States can be dealt with.

The chilly reception McCain's immigration record received among Republican primary voters might just have something to do with his now-perpetual pledge to "secure the borders first." In January, a crowd in Michigan booed McCain as he spoke about his past views on illegal immigration. It's no wonder he grew testy the previous week when Russert dredged up McCain's 2003 assessment that "I think we can set up a program where amnesty is extended to a certain number of people who are eligible." With illegal immigration at or near the top of the list of most important issues for GOP voters in Iowa, South Carolina and Nevada, neutralizing his exposure was a priority for McCain.

3. Campaign Finance Fraud

If immigration reform is one of John McCain's signature issues, campaign finance is surely the other. And there, too, McCain decided not to practice what he preached when the politics of push came to shove.

As the Boston Globe reported on Monday, the McCain campaign violated the very laws Mr. Straight Talk was instrumental in setting up:

John McCain has officially broken the limits imposed by the presidential public financing system, according to spending reports filed last week by the campaign.

The senator from Arizona has spent $58.4 million on his Republican primary effort. Those who have committed to public financing can spend no more than $54 million on their primary bid.

For its part, the McCain camp claims that their man is no longer subject to the spending cap, despite his desperate campaign having used the prospect of federal matching funds as collateral to secure a highly questionable loan back in 2007. The Federal Election Commission has yet to grant the public financing withdrawal request submitted by the McCain team.

Given the Democrats' massive fundraising lead and that violation of the law entails the "risk of stiff fines and up to five years in prison", John McCain better hope the FEC sides with him.

4. Going Over to the Supply Side on Taxes

John McCain's gymnastic flip-flop on the Bush tax cuts ranks among his greatest acts of political contortion. What he once opposed as fiscal recklessness and a massive giveaway to the wealthiest Americans, McCain now backs as the price of admission to the Republican presidential nomination.

As McCain took his Straight Talk Express to the Florida primary, he faced the dual prospects of jitters on the economy and a desperate Rudy Giuliani making what could be his final stand in the Sunshine State. And that meant fidelity to George W. Bush's tax cuts would be paramount. Sure enough, Giuliani threw down the gauntlet, "John voted against the Bush tax cuts, I think on both occasions, and sided with the Democrats."

McCain's response is typical of his Republican primary tightrope walk. The Bush tax cuts he once labeled unfair to the middle class and fiscally irresponsible should now be made permanent.

As the laissez-faire fanatics at the Club for Growth detail, McCain is proof that evolution is reversing when it comes to the Bush tax gambit. In June 2001, McCain proclaimed his opposition to Round 1 of President Bush's treasury-financed redistribution of wealth:

"I cannot in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us at the expense of middle-class Americans who need tax relief."

By December 2007, however, that message sounded more like John Edwards than Ronald Reagan, so candidate John McCain needed a different rationale. As by the National Review's Rich Lowry on Fox News if he thought it had been a mistake to vote against the Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, McCain claimed in the name of fiscal discipline he would do it all again:

"No, because I had significant tax cuts, and there was restraint of spending included in my proposal. I saw no restraint in spending. We presided over the greatest increase in the size of government since the Great Society. Spending went completely out of control. It's still out of control. Wasteful earmark spending is a disgrace, and it caused us to alienate our Republican base."

Of course, the spending cuts never came from the Bush White House or the Republican Congress. But with a presidential bid in the offing, McCain decided the third time was a charm. As Tim Russert noted on January 6th, McCain not only voted for the budget busting tax cuts the third time around, but now believes they should be made permanent:

SEN. McCAIN: ...unless we cut spending then, then we are going to end up in a - the serious situation we're in today. I will cut spending. And I will continue to support making the tax cuts permanent, which I've voted already twice.

MR. RUSSERT: But you voted the third time for the tax cuts, but there weren't spending cuts.

SEN. McCAIN: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. No, but I thought that we ought to keep the tax cuts permanent because if we had increased taxes, which that would have had the effect of, if I had voted in the other way...

In his book, The Big Con, Jonathan Chait summarized John McCain's conversion from supply-side apostate to tax-cutting zealot. In 2000, Jack Kemp proclaimed of McCain's 2001 opposition to the Bush tax cuts, "John McCain, who's a friend of mine, has done a – has made a huge mistake." By 2006, McCain had drunk the Koolade and signed on supply-side godfather Arthur Laffer to his economic team. By 2007, he mouthed the party line, "tax cuts, starting with Kennedy, as we all know, increase revenues."

5. Attention: Deficit Disorder

Of course, the corollary to McCain's kowtowing to the Bush tax cuts is accepting the massive federal budget deficits they produce.

In the run-up to the 2004 election, President Bush pompously promised to slash the deficit by half by 2009. But his sleight of hand trick, which depended both on a wildly inflated baseline deficit figure and ignoring the impact making his tax cuts permanent in 2010, collapsed last month. The faltering economy and the costs of the stimulus package are now forecast to produce $400 billion in red ink this year.

As ThinkProgress meticulously detailed, John McCain's proposed economic package would be "worse than Bush." The same John McCain who warned Tim Russert about "serious situation we're in today" has thrown budgetary caution to the winds in a proposal that even his top economic adviser admitted " will make deficits expand up front:"

Our analysis suggests that the McCain plan shares five key characteristics of Bush policies. First, it is enormously expensive, costing more than $2 trillion over the next decadeand essentially doubling the Bush tax cuts. Second, the McCain plan would predominantly benefit the most fortunate taxpayers, offering two new massive tax cuts for corporations and delivering 58 percent of its benefits to the top 1 percent of taxpayers. The Bush tax cuts provide 31 percent of their benefits to the top 1 percent of taxpayers.

Third, the McCain tax plan continues the shift of the tax burden from investment income onto earned income. Fourth, the plan not only fails to address current tax shelter problems in the tax code but in fact will lead to increased sheltering. Fifth, McCain cannot pay for his tax cuts without massive reductions in Social Security, Medicare, or other key programs that benefit the vast majority of Americans.

Of course, that message brings a smile to the face of far-right anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist, who famously said of the federal government that his goal was "to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub." Norquist, who once called McCain "that nut-job from Arizona," now praises McCain for adopting "the Americans for Tax Reform's entire agenda."

Given that McCain's fuzzy math makes George W. Bush's look like differential calculus, it should come as no surprise that the Republican nominee admitted in 2005:

"I'm going to be honest: I know a lot less about economics than I do about military and foreign policy issues. I still need to be educated."

And with the dual crises in the housing market and financial system, it's all the more frightening that John McCain recently pointed to Alan Greenspan as his mentor:

"The issue of economics is not something I've understood as well as I should. I've got Greenspan's book."

6 Let's Overturn Roe v. Wade After All

McCain's courtship of the religious right did not end with fawning embrace of demagogues he once denounced. The reliably pro-life McCain just as predictably stepped up his anti-abortion rhetoric to please his new Christian conservative masters.

As ThinkProgress documented in November 2006, McCain in the run-up to his '08 presidential bid reversed course on the issue of overturning Roe v. Wade. In 1999, the supposed maverick was supposedly concerned about the health and safety of American women:

"I'd love to see a point where it is irrelevant, and could be repealed because abortion is no longer necessary. But certainly in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade, which would then force X number of women in America to [undergo] illegal and dangerous operations."

But by 2006 with his knee-bending to Falwell and others now well underway, McCain announced he not only wanted to see Roe overturned, but supported a constitutional amendment banning abortion as well:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me ask one question about abortion. Then I want to turn to Iraq. You're for a constitutional amendment banning abortion, with some exceptions for life and rape and incest.

MCCAIN: Rape, incest and the life of the mother. Yes.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So is President Bush, yet that hasn't advanced in the six years he's been in office. What are you going to do to advance a constitutional amendment that President Bush hasn't done?

MCCAIN: I don't think a constitutional amendment is probably going to take place, but I do believe that it's very likely or possible that the Supreme Court should - could overturn Roe v. Wade, which would then return these decisions to the states, which I support.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And you'd be for that?

MCCAIN: Yes, because I'm a federalist. Just as I believe that the issue of gay marriage should be decided by the states, so do I believe that we would be better off by having Roe v. Wade return to the states. And I don't believe the Supreme Court should be legislating in the way that they did on Roe v. Wade.

7. Supreme Courtship of the Right

John McCain's hard right turn extends well beyond Roe and reproductive rights. Throughout the 2008 campaign, he has gone to great lengths to reassure conservatives that President McCain would put their kind of people on the Supreme Court.

During the 2005 "up or down vote" controversy over Bush judicial nominations, McCain earned the wrath of conservatives for his membership in the so-called Gang of 14. McCain, after all, was one of the leaders of the bipartisan group of 14 Senators seeking a middle ground between the Democrats' filibuster threats and Majority Leader Bill Frist's nuclear option.

(It is worth noting that some on the right, such as the National Review's Adam White and Kevin White, now laud McCain precisely because he protected the ability of Republicans to filibuster future Democratic judicial nominations. "When that moment arrives," they wrote, "conservatives will call on the Republican minority to utilize every tool in the Senate minority playbook to thwart those nominations--especially the filibuster.")

Still, McCain's greater act of apostasy came on the types of judges he himself would support on the Supreme Court bench. Earlier this year, McCain faced a firestorm of right-wing criticism when John Fund, writing in the Wall Street Journal, claimed McCain was opposed to the nomination of a hardline conservative like Justice Samuel Alito:

More recently, Mr. McCain has told conservatives he would be happy to appoint the likes of Chief Justice John Roberts to the Supreme Court. But he indicated he might draw the line on a Samuel Alito, because "he wore his conservatism on his sleeve."

In a fiery January 2008 column titled, "Is McCain a Conservative?" Robert Novak backed up Fund's account:

"Wouldn't it be great if you get a chance to name somebody like Roberts and Alito?" one lawyer commented. McCain replied, "Well, certainly Roberts." Jaws were described as dropping. My sources cannot remember exactly what McCain said next, but their recollection is that he described Alito as too conservative.

Aware of the consequences with the conservative movement, McCain was quick to proclaim his fealty to their far-right judicial ideals. As he told the National Review's Byron York:

"Let me just look you in the eye," McCain told me. "I've said a thousand times on this campaign trail, I've said as often as I can, that I want to find clones of Alito and Roberts. I worked as hard as anybody to get them confirmed. I look you in the eye and tell you I've said a thousand times that I wanted Alito and Roberts. I have told anybody who will listen. I flat-out tell you I will have people as close to Roberts and Alito [as possible], and I am proud of my record of working to get them confirmed, and people who worked to get them confirmed will tell you how hard I worked."

8. France-Basher to Alliance Builder

On foreign policy as well as domestic issues, John McCain has dumped past postures as part of his presidential quest. His amnesia regarding his past belittling of key American allies is just one case in point.

In Paris last weekend, McCain adopted what the New York Times called "soothing tones" in a "love-fest" with French President Nicolas Sarkozy. And in what his campaign billed as a major foreign policy address today, John McCain declared, "We need to listen to the views and respect the collective will of our democratic allies."

Sadly, the John McCain of 2008 seems unacquainted with the John McCain model of 2003. With his vitriolic France-bashing in the run-up to the war in Iraq, John McCain stood shoulder to shoulder with the Paris-hating purveyors of "freedom fries" and "old Europe."

As President Bush prepared to pull the trigger on the Iraq war in February 2003, John McCain was at the forefront of those browbeating the Chirac government for France's refusal to back the U.S. at the United Nations. On February 11, 2003, McCain co-sponsored a Senate resolution praising 18 European nations backing U.S. enforcement of UN demands for Saddam's disarmament and echoed Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in thundering at the France and Germany of "old Europe:"

"The majority of Europe's democracies have spoken, and their message could not be clearer: France and Germany do not speak for Europe...most European governments behave like allies that are willing to meet their responsibilities to uphold international peace and security in defense of our common values. We thank this European majority for standing with us."

McCain's venom towards the French was on full display two days later during a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. On February 13, 2003, McCain warned of "new threats to civilization [which] again defy our imagination in scale and potency" portrayed Iraq as "threat of the first order." He proclaimed that "the United States does not have reliable allies to implement a policy to contain Iraq" and pointed the finger squarely at France:

"Compare our great power allies in the Cold War with those with whom we act today in dealing with Iraq. France has unashamedly pursued a concerted policy to dismantle the UN sanctions regime, placing its commercial interests above international law, world peace and the political ideals of Western civilization. Remember them? Liberte, egalite, fraternite."

Just days later on February 18, 2003, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Lateline program showed a furious McCain foaming at the mouth over France:

"They remind me of an aging movie actress in the 1940's who is still trying to dine out on her looks but doesn't have the face for it."

That the American media seem to have overlooked McCain's turnabout comes as no surprise. They have yet to hold John McCain to account for a five-year reign of error on Iraq in which he had everything - Saddam's WMD, the needed U.S. troop strength, Americans being greeted as liberators, the safety of Baghdad streets and so much else - completely wrong.

9. A Tortured Position on Torture

As a prisoner himself tortured during his Vietnam captivity in the Hanoi Hilton, John McCain has been an outspoken opponent of torture by the United States during the global war on terror. But when that position put him at odds with both the Republican leadership and GOP primary voters, McCain turned his tail and fled.

With his "no" vote in February on the Senate bill to ban waterboarding by the CIA, John McCain caved in the face of yet another betrayal by George W. Bush. President Bush, after all, stabbed McCain in the back with a 2005 signing statement that defanged the Detainee Treatment Act the now-presumptive GOP presidential nominee championed in the Senate. But in his never-ending quest to appease his party's conservative base, McCain revealed that no humiliation at the hands of George Bush is too great.

Predictably, John McCain kowtowed to the White House in just his latest affirmation of a de facto Bush third term. As the Washington Post noted:

But McCain sided with the Bush administration yesterday on the waterboarding ban passed by the Senate, saying in a statement that the measure goes too far by applying military standards to intelligence agencies. He also said current laws already forbid waterboarding, and he urged the administration to declare it illegal.

"Staging a mock execution by inducing the misperception of drowning is a clear violation" of laws and treaties, McCain said.

Not according to George W. Bush. After all, it was President Bush's December 30, 2005 signing statement on McCain's amendment to the Detainee Treatment Act that made waterboarding and other acts of torture the continuing policy of the United States.

With his signing statement, Bush himself sought to create a legal basis for his administration's past and future criminality. In a nutshell, Bush signed into law a bill he had every intention of continuing to violate.

Bush, of course, had opposed John McCain's torture bill throughout the fall of 2005. But when the House and Senate passed McCain's amendment to the defense authorization bill by veto proof margins, Bush held a December 15 press conference with McCain, announcing his support for the language explicitly saying that that the cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of detainees in US custody is illegal regardless of where they are held.

As the Boston Globe reported, that supposed compromise lasted just as long as it took for President Bush to issue his signing statement two weeks later on December 30. When it comes to what constitutes "cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of detainees," the President proclaimed that he indeed would be the decider.

And despite today's protestations to the contrary ("We can't torture or treat inhumanely suspected terrorists we have captured"), John McCain has just gone along with it.

10. A Hate-Love Relationship with George W. Bush

Of course, nothing about John McCain's pining for the White House is more emblematic than his newfound love of George W. Bush.

In early March, McCain accepted Bush's endorsement at a Rose Garden press conference, describing the President as "a man who I have a great admiration, respect and affection" for. But while John McCain now is only too eager for Bush's embrace, eight years ago John McCain told him to "take your hands off me."

McCain's past hatred for George W. Bush is the stuff of legend. As Time reported in March 2000, McCain showed a visceral disgust towards Bush and his scorched earth campaign:

But many close McCain advisers think the personal rift between the two men is too wide to bridge, at least in the near term. After all, the last time Bush tried to smooth things over-at a South Carolina debate in early February-the result was less than promising. During a commercial break, Bush grasped McCain's hands and made a sugary plea for less acrimony in their campaign. When McCain pointed out that Bush's allies were savaging him in direct-mail and phone campaigns, Bush played the innocent. "Don't give me that shit," McCain growled, pulling away. "And take your hands off me."

John McCain could certainly be forgiven for his anger, given the painful memories of character assassination, smears and lies the Bush camp dished out during the 2000 campaign. After McCain's upset win in the New Hampshire primary, Bush operatives during the critical South Carolina contest phoned voters with push polls implying McCain was anti-Catholic, his wife Cindy a drug addict, and that he had fathered an illegitimate black child with a prostitute. (In reality, the McCains had adopted a baby from an orphanage in Bangladesh.) McCain even received an early version of the Swift Boat treatment, with allegations that his Vietnam War captivity in Hanoi left him mentally unstable. All of these slurs came as candidate Bush chastised McCain that he couldn't "take the high horse and then claim the low road." It's no wonder he angrily rejected Bush's feigned attempt in 2000 to bury the hatchet.

But by 2004, John McCain was looking towards his next White House run - and life after Bush. McCain's presidential ambitions let him forgive sins past in order to rebuild relations with Bush and the Republican establishment. McCain's long road back began during election 2004. McCain not only stumped for George W. Bush, but joined the chorus of the Swift Boat hacks by stating that "what John Kerry did after the war is very legitimate political discussion." (Only the previous month, McCain himself called the attacks on Kerry "dishonest and dishonorable.") Dana Perino was exaggerating only slightly when she claimed that "in 2000 and 2004, Senator McCain went on to work his tail off to help this president."

From there, the selling of John McCain's soul proceeded quickly and his Faustian bargain began to pay dividends. At the Southern Leadership Conference in March 2006, McCain used the venue to offer a full-throated support of President Bush and his Iraq policy, proclaiming "We elected him, we need him, he needs to do well and the country needs him." McCain turned his vitriol towards the President's critics, claiming that anyone who said Bush lied about WMD in Iraq "was lying." By mid-2006, McCain had secured the backing of much of the Bush financial machine.

Conclusion: The Maverick's Free Ride

And so it goes. On issue after issue, John McCain has changed gears, abandoned past positions and discarded his principles in order to garner his party's nomination for President. No disgrace is too profound, no indignity too great and no compromise too painful for John McCain to endure in his unquenchable thirst for the White House.

And to date, McCain has paid little price for selling his soul to George W. Bush and the Republican right. The media perpetuates the McCain as maverick narrative even in the face of his betrayal of American voters - and himself. While some voices, such as Kevin Drum ("McCain's Cred") and authors David Brock and Paul Waldman (Free Ride: John McCain and the Media), are now shining a spotlight on McCain's duplicitous transformation, a fawning mainstream media continues to sing McCain's praises.

We can only hope that, ultimately, McCain's chickens will come home to roost. Hopefully, as the New Republic's Michael Crowley suggested last August, John McCain will soon learn "you can't un-sell out."


** Crossposted at Perrspectives **

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Obama Wins Backing of 9/11 Commission Co-Chairman Lee Hamilton

April 2 (Bloomberg) -- Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama won the support of one of his party's top foreign policy figures, Lee Hamilton, a former U.S. House member from Indiana, where an important primary vote occurs May 6.

Hamilton, who co-chaired the commission that investigated the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and headed the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said he was impressed by Obama's approach to national security and foreign policy.

``I read his national security and foreign policy speeches, and he comes across to me as pragmatic, visionary and tough,'' Hamilton said in an interview yesterday. ``He impresses me as a person who wants to use all the tools of presidential power.''

Hamilton, 76, also sided with Obama, 46, on two foreign policy stances that have been criticized by Senator Hillary Clinton of New York, Obama's rival for the Democratic nomination, and Senator John McCain of Arizona, 71, the presumptive Republican nominee. Both have dismissed the Illinois senator, saying he doesn't have the experience to deal with critical foreign policy matters.

``He wavers from seeming to believe that mediation and meetings without preconditions can solve some of the world's most intractable problems, to advocating rash, unilateral military action without cooperation from our allies in the most sensitive region of the world,'' Clinton, 60, said Feb. 25 in Washington.

Hamilton said he agreed with Obama's position on meeting with U.S. adversaries such as the leaders of Iran without conditions. Also, Obama's consideration of unilateral military action against terrorist hideouts in Pakistan is already U.S. policy, Hamilton said.

Tight Race

The endorsement from Hamilton, who was on the short list of former President Bill Clinton's 1992 vice presidential picks, may give a boost to Obama in Indiana, where polls show a tight race ahead of the primary.

Hamilton, who was also a co-chair of President George W. Bush's Iraq Study Group, served for 35 years in Congress, retiring in 1999. He is the president and director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and serves on Bush's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and his Homeland Security Advisory Council.

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You Capitalists Think You Are So Smart [pic]

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Treasury says Bear Stearns deal 'necessary' to maintain financial stability

Thomson Financial delivered by Newstex) -- A top Treasury Department official told members of the Senate late last week that JP Morgan Chase's pending buyout of Bear Stears was 'necessary' to maintaining stability in the financial markets.

'Treasury is very supportive of this agreement, as well as the merger agreement between JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM PRH) (NYSE:JPM PRX) (NYSE:JPM PRK) (NYSE:JPM PRJ) (NYSE:JPT) (NYSE:JPM) and Bear Stearns (NYSE:BSC) ,' Assistant Secretary of Treasury for Legislative Affairs Kevin Fromer said in a March 28 letter to Senate staff.

'Among other things, these agreements were necessary and appropriate to maintain stability in our financial system at a critical juncture,' he wrote.

The letter was in response to a Senate request for information about the agreement, in particular whether the agreement might end up costing taxpayers.

In answer to this question, Fromer attached a March 17 letter from Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to Federal Reserve Bank of New York President Tim Geithner. In this letter, Paulson said the NY Fed is loaning JPMorgan $29 billion for the buyout, and is taking billions of dollars worth of mortgage-backed securities owned by Bear as collateral.

Paulson acknowledged that this transaction could lead to losses at the NY Fed if those securities lose value, and agreed that in turn, this 'may reduce the net earnings transferred by the FRBNY to the Treasury general fund.'
Despite this potential risk, Fromer said Treasury and the Fed worked to minimize the risk posed to taxpayers. Fromer also said the private parties to the deal have the information requested by the Senate on issues such as full descriptions of the assets and more details about the transaction.

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Students Make a Case for Carrying Guns to School

Virginia Tech students
Mario Tama

Virginia Tech students carry white balloons to honor the 32 victims who died in an April 2007 shooting at the university. Getty Images

The Bryant Park Project, March 19, 2008 · After deadly shootings at schools in Illinois and Virginia, 12 states are considering legislation to allow guns on college campuses. Stephen Feltoon, a director for Students for Concealed Carry on Campus (SCCC), is part of a movement that says college students should have the same gun ownership rights as others.

Feltoon says he purchased his first gun for recreation. "Now I own it for defense," he says. "I can take a firearm anywhere that's not a college campus, a liquor establishment, or any business that posts a 'no gun' sign. When am I carrying it? That's the beauty of conceal and carry. You'll never know until I need it."

He says SCCC started a day after the Virginia Tech shootings and that when he first learned of the group, he signed on immediately. "I believed that my right to self-defense was being infringed on college campuses," he says. "College campuses are vulnerable and I didn't want to be defenseless."

Feltoon says Virginia Tech is home to the SCCC's largest group of conceal and carry advocates. As for the SCCC's total enrollment, Feltoon says it has doubled in the last month, bringing the total to 22,000 members just one year after its founding.

"The Illinois shooting made people realize college campuses aren't as safe as administrators would have them believe," Feltoon says, explaining the recent jump in members.

Feltoon says the group's core mission is simple: "We're pushing universities to allow law-abiding citizen to carry guns on college campuses, just as you would into malls and movie theaters."

Feltoon says most SCCC members are men and women over 21 years old who already have licenses to carry a gun. "We're just asking for them to carry guns to one more location," he says.

Beginning on April 21, Feltoon says, 3,000 SCCC members have pledged to visit college campuses wearing an empty holster to indicate that, because of state or school policy, when they reach campus, they're obliged — for now — to leave their guns behind.

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