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Sunday, April 6, 2008

Editorial: My Fellow Clintonites, It's Time For Obama

FOR SUPPORTERS of Senator Hillary Clinton, like me, it's time to get behind her rival, Senator Barack Obama.

The exposure of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr.'s outrageous and divisive remarks has injected the raw emotions associated with race relations into the presidential campaign. This new dynamic raises the stakes in an already high-stakes race. Our responsibility as progressive-minded voters is to show Americans a positive alternative to the toxic politics of race. Rallying around Obama now increases our chances of doing just that. Obama has run a positive and inspiring campaign, and has attracted a majority of pledged delegates. It is hard to envision a scenario in which Democratic superdelegates override the will of millions of primary voters and caucus participants. Obama will be the nominee.

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Clinton Aide Sacked Over Controversy On Colombia

WASHINGTON -- Hillary Clinton replaced the longtime chief strategist of her struggling presidential campaign after the disclosure that he was working with Colombia's government to help win congressional approval of a trade pact that she opposes. The move comes two weeks before the pivotal Pennsylvania Democratic primary, where trade issues are likely to play a big role.

In a statement, campaign manager Maggie Williams said that "after the events of the last few days, Mark Penn asked to give up his role as chief strategist." Clinton campaign advisers made clear that he was all but forced out for what Mr. Penn on Friday conceded was "an error in judgment" in helping a client of his private, public-relations firm at the same time he held a top role in the campaign.

Former adviser Mark Penn speaks to reporters following a debate.

The quick ouster of Mr. Penn, despite his long and close ties to both Hillary and Bill Clinton, reflects the potential damage done by his actions at a time when the New York senator is fending off calls within the Democratic Party to concede the presidential-nomination race to Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois.

It's Sen. Clinton's second big staff shake-up this year, following the replacement of her campaign manager two months ago. Mr. Penn's sudden fall came after The Wall Street Journal disclosed Thursday that he had met earlier in the week, in his noncampaign capacity, with the Colombian ambassador to the U.S.

Mr. Penn didn't respond to requests for comment.

With Sen. Obama ahead in convention delegates, popular votes and funds, Sen. Clinton has been hoping for a big win in Pennsylvania's potentially climactic Democratic primary April 22 to make the case that she would be the party's more electable nominee in November. She leads in polls there, though her edge has eroded.

While the Obama campaign so far hasn't publicly exploited Mr. Penn's controversy, and a spokesman again declined to comment last night, the strategist's actions pose a double-barreled threat the Clinton campaign had to address. First, free trade is a controversial issue in the struggling manufacturing state among working-class Pennsylvania Democrats, as it was in Ohio's primary last month.

Moreover, the disclosure that Sen. Clinton's chief strategist is advocating privately for a trade pact she opposes publicly raises questions of the candidate's credibility, a trait where polls already show her weak. Sen. Clinton won last month's Ohio contest by a big margin, in part due to her attacks on Sen. Obama's sincerity in his criticism of free-trade pacts. The Clinton criticisms of her rival were based on reports that his economic adviser had met with Canadian officials and reassured them that Sen. Obama's campaign rhetoric was harsher than his real beliefs about the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Sen. Clinton's spokesman reiterated Sunday that she will vote against the pact. President Bush has signaled that he could send the Colombia trade agreement to Congress this week.

Mr. Penn's polling firm -- Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates -- will continue doing work for the campaign, Ms. Williams said. But pollster Geoff Garin and communications director Howard Wolfson "will coordinate the campaign's strategic message team going forward," according to her statement last night.

Mr. Garin had only joined the Clinton campaign in recent days in what other advisers privately described as a diminution of power for Mr. Penn. Long before the Colombia controversy, Mr. Penn has been blamed by Clinton advisers and supporters for a flawed strategy that has left the New York senator, once seen as the inevitable nominee, instead struggling against Sen. Obama for the Democrats' nomination. He has long been criticized as the architect of a campaign strategy that emphasized Sen. Clinton's Washington experience in an election year when voters say they want change from the capital's ways.

Mr. Penn is chief executive of lobbying and public-relations giant Burson-Marsteller Worldwide, which last year got a $300,000 contract with Colombia to help win Congress's approval of the bilateral trade pact despite Democrats' resistance.

In a statement on Friday, he apologized and described his meeting with the ambassador, Carolina Barco Isakson, as "an error in judgment." That in turn offended the Colombian government, which on Saturday announced it was canceling the contract with Mr. Penn's firm. The embassy's statement said he showed "a lack of respect to Colombians."

Also outraged are the organized-labor groups so influential in the Democratic presidential nomination race. U.S. unions not only oppose the pact with Colombia, but they note as well that country's poor human-rights record against unionists. Two major U.S. union alliances, which have endorsed Sen. Obama, publicly called for Mr. Penn's ouster from the Clinton campaign on Friday.

"How can we trust that a President Hillary Clinton would stand strong against this trade deal when her top adviser is being paid by Colombia to promote it?" asked Teamsters head Jim Hoffa. His union has endorsed Sen. Obama.

From the start of the Clinton campaign 15 months ago, other advisers have complained that Mr. Penn kept the Burson-Marsteller job. It not only held distractions from the campaign, they said, but had the potential for conflicts of interest between the firm's clients and Sen. Clinton's political stands. Previous reports have noted the firm's work for subprime-mortgage lender Countrywide Financial Corp., and for security firm Blackwater, the focus of congressional investigations into private contractors' responsibility for civilian deaths in Iraq. As a candidate, Sen. Clinton has been an outspoken critic of both companies.

For months before the Colombia controversy, many Clinton campaign operatives had sought Mr. Penn's demotion or ouster. He and senior adviser Harold Ickes barely speak, aides say, and Mr. Penn has clashed also with media strategist Mandy Grunwald.

Campaign insiders, as well as many Clinton supporters and donors, had privately hoped for Mr. Penn's departure. After earlier losses in primaries and caucuses, Sen. Clinton replaced her original campaign manager, Patti Solis Doyle, with Ms. Williams, who had been Sen. Clinton's White House chief of staff when she was first lady.

Some Clinton advisers had hoped that Mr. Penn would be pushed out as well at that time. But he was said by the others to have just two allies within the campaign, and they were Hillary and Bill Clinton. Mr. Penn was pollster and strategist for Mr. Clinton's 1996 re-election and for his second term.

But his latest actions with Colombia, in leaving Sen. Clinton vulnerable to the same charges of hypocrisy that her campaign leveled against Sen. Obama in Ohio, apparently undercut that base of support. Sen. Clinton is favored to win in Pennsylvania, but the Colombia trade embarrassment is one that could cost her working-class and union support there.

In Ohio, Sen. Clinton had mocked Sen. Obama for what she called his "wink-wink" approach to Nafta, the 14-year-old trade agreement with Canada and Mexico -- criticizing it on the campaign trail, even as his economic adviser, Austan Goolsbee, had agreed to meet with a Canadian official concerned about future U.S. adherence to the pact. While Bill Clinton cites Nafta as a top achievement of his presidency, both Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama have said they would seek changes to toughen labor and environmental protections.

Reflecting her sense that the media treats Sen. Obama more kindly than it treats her, Sen. Clinton at one point during the Ohio campaign challenged a large group of reporters in regard to the Goolsbee matter, "I would ask you to look at this story and substitute my name for Sen. Obama's name and see what you would do with this story... Just ask yourself [what you would do] if some of my advisers had been having private meetings with foreign governments."

Aside from recycling that Clinton quote to reporters last Friday, the Obama campaign has not commented on the Penn contacts with Colombia's ambassador. Nor has Sen. Obama addressed it.

Last night, one Clinton adviser recalled that many at the campaign were saddened by the departure of Ms. Solis Doyle, even as they understood that the candidate had to take action to signal to supporters and donors that she was righting the campaign ship. But with Mr. Penn's demotion, the adviser said, "there won't be a tear shed here, I can assure you."

Mr. Penn, 53 years old, has long been considered a voice for centrist Democratic politics, which made him suspect among party liberals from the start.

Along with former Bill Clinton consultant Dick Morris, Mr. Penn helped engineer the former president's comeback strategy after Republicans took control of Congress in 1994, in what was seen as a repudiation of Mr. Clinton. Known as "triangulation," the strategy had Mr. Clinton taking the center against both conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats in Congress. The strategy didn't endear Mr. Clinton -- or Mr. Penn -- to many Democrats, but it did help restore Mr. Clinton's popularity and win his reelection. That accounts, Democrats say, for the Clintons' loyalty to Mr. Penn of late.

Ms. Solis Doyle had pushed, before her firing, to bring in Mr. Garin as a pollster, at least as a check on Mr. Penn's polling and advice. Others, including Mr. Ickes, agreed. Meantime, the advisers pressed for less focus on Sen. Clinton's claim to experience and strength -- Mr. Penn's emphasis -- and greater attention to helping Sen. Clinton come off as more human and likable to voters.

But the candidate and her husband stood by Mr. Penn. And in past interviews, Mr. Penn insisted that others were just as responsible for the campaign's strategy and message -- a claim that Mr. Wolfson, the now-elevated communications director, publicly disputed at one point.

Mr. Garin finally joined the team late last month. A well-regarded strategist who has advised many Democratic senators and governors, Mr. Garin has been unaligned in the presidential race since his choice -- former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner -- decided in late 2006 not to run. "I'm glad to have the chance to help her," Mr. Garin said in an email last night.

Write to Jackie Calmes at

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Obama's Secret Weapon - The Truth

Barack Obama is ready to be America's first black president because he is prepared to tell uncomfortable truths even to his closest relatives, according to his half sister.

Maya Soetoro-Ng, who grew up with the Democratic White House frontrunner in Hawaii and Indonesia, has told The Sunday Telegraph her brother exhibited presidential potential even when he dealt with family disputes in his formative years.

Maya Soetoro-Ng is Barack Obama's half sister

And she revealed that their white grandmother, who was thrust to the forefront of the election campaign when Mr Obama used her as an example of a "typical white person" troubled by black men on the streets, had no complaints about the way he described her in his now famous speech on America's racial divide.

In the first comments by a member of the Obama family about the senator from Illinois's approach to racial questions, she said: "Our grandmother loves Barack a great deal and is entirely supportive."

Mr Obama had been accused of using his grandmother, Madelyne Dunham, as an election tool to win support after revelations that his Chicago preacher, the Rev Jeremiah Wright, had spouted anti-American slogans from the pulpit.

In his speech on America's racial divisions, Mr Obama recounted how she had made racial comments that "made me cringe". But his sister, who lives near to their grandmother in Hawaii, says the frankness of these words was typical of Mr Obama's honest approach to life.

"I know that I have only ever known him to tell the truth and he has done this time and again when doing so was difficult," said Ms Soetoro-Ng, who works as a teacher in Honolulu.

"Even when it wasn't convenient or when it would generate discomfort with family, friends, or co-workers.

"I know that in the context of the campaign he has told teachers, car manufacturers, and others the truth even when it was politically inexpedient."

Ms Soetoro-Ng spoke out in the week that race was thrust back to the forefront of the campaign as Americans marked the 40th anniversary of Martin Luther King's assassination. She did admit that attacks he has endured from Democratic presidential nomination rival Hillary Clinton and her allies have hurt.

"Of course I feel protective," she said, "but he is so incredibly strong and weathers such storms with so much more grace than I could."

Mr Obama remains the hot favourite to secure the Democratic nomination and raised $40 million last month - twice Mrs Clinton's fundraising figure. Ms Soetoro-Ng said she believes her brother is "able to inspire, understand, and work with people from every corner of the United States".

She went on: "I lived with him during the summer of 1986 and watched him work as an activist and organiser. He mobilised people and moved them with both pragmatism and idealism. He challenged people without being acrimonious. He made people less apathetic.

"He was charismatic, brilliant, and strong and he had the capacity to transform communities, hearts and minds. He saw the many different cultures within out nation in a nuanced manner."

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Obama Blasting Publisher Gave Hillary Grand

Philadelphia Gay News publisher Mark Segal’s no doubt pleased with this week’s edition.

His paper made a splash yesterday when it published both an extensive interview with Hillary Clinton and a big, blank middle finger to Barack Obama, who PGN accuses of avoiding the pink press. But an Obama interview isn’t the only thing missing from the paper.

Segal - who did the Clinton interviewed and also penned an exhaustive editorial bashing Obama’s - failed to disclose that he donated $1,000 to the Clinton campaign back in March of 2007.

That would have made for a good front page.

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Hillary Clinton: I Started Criticizing Iraq War Before Obama

During a campaign stop in Oregon, Hillary Clinton fielded testier questions from the audience, more so than she has in quite a while. It was a typical campaign rally where Clinton delivered her now typical campaign speech, but twice during her remarks Clinton was heckled by a gentleman who wanted to know why Clinton voted for No Child Left Behind and the war in Iraq. Clinton remained unfazed by the man's outbursts. But it wasn't until the question and answer period where Clinton drew her greatest challenge....

Obama has been credited with foreseeing a troublesome war in Iraq primarily due to a speech he gave in 2002 while he was a state senator, where he spoke out against the war. Clinton said, "I started criticizing the war in Iraq before he did. So, I'm well aware that his entire campaign is premised on a speech he gave in 2002 and I give him credit for making that speech. But that was not a decision."

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In Oregon, Clinton Makes False Claim About Her Iraq Record Vs. Obama's

Jake Tapper is ABC News' Senior National Correspondent based in the network's Washington bureau. He writes about politics and popular culture and covers a range of national stories.

In Eugene, Ore., Saturday. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., attempted to change the measure by which anyone might assess who criticized the Iraq war first, her or Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., by saying those keeping records should start in January 2005, when Obama joined the Senate. (A measure that conveniently avoids her October 2002 vote to authorize use of force against Iraq at a time that Obama was speaking out against the war.) She claimed that using that measure, she criticized the war in Iraq before Obama did.

But Clinton's claim was false.

Clinton on Saturday told Oregonians, "when Sen. Obama came to the Senate he and I have voted exactly the same except for one vote. And that happens to be the facts. We both voted against early deadlines. I actually starting criticizing the war in Iraq before he did."

It's an odd way to measure opposition to the war -- comparing who gave the first criticism of the war in Iraq starting in January 2005, ignoring Obama's opposition to the war throughout 2003 and 2004. (And Clinton's vote for it.)

But even if one were to employ this "Start Counting in January 2005" measurement, Clinton did not criticize the war in Iraq first.

Scrambling to support their boss's claim, Clinton campaign officials pointed to a paper statement Clinton issued on Jan. 26, 2005, explaining her vote to confirm Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State.

"The Administration and Defense Department's Iraq policy has been, by any reasonable measure, riddled with errors, misstatements and misjudgments," the January 2005 Clinton statement said. "From the beginning of the Iraqi war, we were inadequately prepared for the aftermath of the invasion with too few troops and an inadequate plan to stabilize Iraq."

But Obama offered criticisms of the war in Iraq eight days before that, directly to Rice, in his very first meeting as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Jan. 18.

Obama pushed Rice on her answers to previous questioners regarding the effectiveness of Iraqi troops, and he criticized the administration for conveying a never-ending commitment to a US troop presence in Iraq.

"I am concerned about this notion that was pursued by Senator Biden and others that we've made significant progress in training troops," Obama told Rice "Because it seems to me that in your response to Senator Alexander that we will not be able to get our troops out absent the Iraqi forces being able to secure their own country, or at least this administration would not be willing to define success in the absence of such security. I never got quite a clear answer to Senator Biden's question as to how many troops -- Iraqi troops -- don't just have a uniform and aren't just drawing a paycheck, but are effective enough and committed enough that we would willingly have our own troops fighting side-by- side with them. The number of 120,000 you gave, I suspect, does not meet those fairly stringent criteria that Senator Biden was alluding to. I just want to make sure, on the record, that you give me some sense of where we're at now."

Obama concluded his brief q&a by saying "if our measure is bring our troops home and success is measured by whether Iraqis can secure their own circumstances, and if our best troops in the world are having trouble controlling the situation with 150,000 or so, it sounds like we've got a long way to go. And I think part of what the American people are going to need is some certainty, not an absolute timetable, but a little more certainty than is being provided, because right now, it appears to be an entirely open-ended commitment."


The misrepresentation of the record is symbolic of the re-writing of history Clinton has attempted on her record regarding the war in Iraq.

Because the larger context is more important. And Clinton's written criticism of the war in a press statement in January 2005 received little attention compared to the press surrounding her trip to Iraq the next month, in February 2005.

Upon returning she argued that setting a deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops would aid the enemy.

“I don’t think it’s useful to set a deadline because I think it sends a signal to the terrorists and the insurgents that they just have to wait us out,” she said.

Describing her trip to Iraq, she said, "It’s regrettable that the security needs have increased so much. On the other hand, I think you can look at the country as a whole and see that there are many parts of Iraq that are functioning quite well."

She also interpreted a series of suicide bomb attacks as an indication that the insurgency was failing.

“The concerted effort to disrupt the elections was an abject failure," she said. "Not one polling place was shut down or overrun. The fact that you have these suicide bombers now, wreaking such hatred and violence while people pray, is to me, an indication of their failure.”

In an interview with NBC's Meet the Press on Feb. 20, 2005, Clinton said that withdrawing some troops or setting a date for withdrawal would be a "mistake."

"I don't believe we should tie our hands or the hands of the new Iraqi government," Clinton said. "We don't want to send a signal to the insurgents, to the terrorists that we are going to be out of here at some, you know, date certain."

"We have just finished meeting with the current prime minister, the deputy prime minister and the finance minister, and in our meetings, we posed the question to each of them as to whether they believed that we should set a firm deadline for the withdrawal of American troops," Clinton said. "To a person, and they are of different political parties in this election, but each of them said that would be a big mistake, that we needed to make clear that there is a transition now going on to the Iraqi government. When it is formed, which we hope will be shortly, it will assume responsibility for much of the security, with the assistance and cooperation of the coalition forces, primarily U.S. forces."

Clinton said that "what the American people need to know is, number one, we are very proud of our young men and women who are here," and second, "there can be no doubt that it is not in America's interests for the Iraqi government, the experiment in freedom and democracy, to fail. So I hope that Americans understand that and that we will have as united a front as is possible in our country at this time to keep our troops safe, make sure they have everything they need and try to support this new Iraqi government."

She soon told New York Daily News editors and reporters that it was important for Democrats to combat the idea that they're soft on national security issues like Iraq.

"If you can't persuade a majority of people that you're going to be strong and tough where we need to protect America and our [national] interests, you can't cross the [electoral] threshold," she said.


That same month, while Clinton was talking up the need for Democrats to project strength, and claiming a withdrawal deadline would be sending a signal to the terrorists, Obama was meeting with his constituents, sounding quite skeptical about the war and reiterating his opposition to the decision to go to war to begin with.

The Bloomington, Ill., Pantagraph reported that during a town hall meeting, asked about the Iraq war, "Obama said poor planning by the Bush administration has left Iraq woefully incapable of handling its own security. He expressed hope that more intensive training will be provided for Iraqi forces, saying such measures could allow most American troops to return home next year. While Obama said the recent Iraqi election is an encouraging sign for democracy, he questioned Bush’s rationale for the Iraq invasion. ’I didn’t see the weapons of mass destruction at the time, I didn’t think there was an imminent threat from Saddam Hussein.'"

Clinton made this latest questionable claim the same day that she came under fire for repeatedly telling a story that turned out not to be true about a poor pregnant woman losing her baby and her own life after being denied hospital treatment because she couldn't afford a $100 fee. The New York Times discovered that the woman in question was never denied treatment, and that she did have insurance. “We implore the Clinton campaign to immediately desist from repeating this story,” said a representative of the hospital.

The Clinton campaign said that the senator had been told the story by a sheriff's deputy, and had not been able to fully check its accuracy. "We did try but were not able to fully vet it,” Clinton campaign spokesman Mo Elleithee said. “If the hospital claims it did not happen that way, we respect that."

This latest incident also comes less than two weeks after Clinton had to back off a description of a plane landing during a 1996 trip to Bosnia that she had claimed was under sniper fire. Video evidence surfaced proving that claim false and Clinton admitted that she "misspoke."

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Hillary Clinton Asks Obama Pledged Delegates In North Dakota To Switch

Sen. Hillary Clinton made a blunt appeal to North Dakota delegates to switch their support to her, despite the fact that Sen. Barack Obama handily defeated her in the state's caucus in February.

In an indication of how tense the battle has become for each Democratic delegate, Obama abandoned the campaign trail in Pennsylvania and scooted to North Dakota for the state party's annual dinner last night, despite the fact that he's already won 14 of the state's 21 delegates as well as six of the state's seven superdelegates.

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Clinton Family Loan Mystery

Jake Tapper is ABC News' Senior National Correspondent based in the network's Washington bureau. He writes about politics and popular culture and covers a range of national stories.

Those of us old enough to recall the 1990s can remember presidential half-brother and pardon recipient Roger Clinton, as well as presidential brothers-in-law Tony and Hugh Rodham -- all of whom were caught up in the pardon-gate controversy.

None of them has been seen much (or at all) during Sen. Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, not without good reason. I don't want to be too harsh, but let's just say they all firmly seem to fall into the Bill Carter mold of presidential siblings.

The reason I bring them up is because according to Bill and Hillary's just-released tax returns from 2000-2006, the Clintons paid interest on loans to family members every year from 2001-2006. (The Clintons applied for an extension on their 2007 filing.)

Who were these loans to and how much are they for? Were Roger, Tony and Hugh among the recipients?

Clinton campaign spokesman Jay Carson politely says that's none of our bee's wax.

"The Clintons made interest-free loans to some of their family members," Carson says. "The amount reported is imputed interest on those loans. The IRS requires that an amount of interest be assigned to interest-free loans; it then taxes the loan giver as if he or she actually received that 'imputed' interest. Thus, imputed interest is not actually paid by the loan recipient nor received by the loan giver. The loans to family members are personal; the Clintons are going to respect their family members’ privacy."

Roger Clinton received a presidential pardon from his brother; Tony and Hugh were involved in that pardon controversy. Is it really none of the public's business if Sen. Hillary Clinton and her husband "loaned" any of them money?

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Howard Dean Gets Heated With Clinton Donors At Private Meeting

Leading donors to the Clinton and Obama campaigns sat down together last night with DNC chairman Howard Dean at a meeting at the Fifth Avenue apartment of super-bundlers Maureen White and Steven Rattner.

According to the accounts of several attendees, things quickly got contentious when Clinton donors raised the issue of seating the delegates from Florida and Michigan. Dean, who was there to appeal for more fund-raising for the party, found himself on the defensive for not being aggressive enough in pursuing a solution to the problem.

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Biden calls surge a failure

Senator Joe Biden.
Senator Joe Biden.

WASHINGTON (AP) – A leading Democrat on Saturday declared last year's troop buildup in Iraq a failure.

Sen. Joe Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the military push didn't succeed because U.S. troops remain committed there in large numbers and political reconciliation has not been achieved.

"The purpose of the surge was to bring violence in Iraq down so that its leaders could come together politically," said Biden, D-Del., in this week's Democratic radio address. "Violence has come down, but the Iraqis have not come together."

He later added, "There is little evidence the Iraqis will settle their differences peacefully any time soon."

Biden offered an early rebuttal to next week's testimony by Gen. David Petraeus, the top military commander in Iraq, and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador there. Petraeus and Crocker are expected to say the recent buildup in troops has succeeded in improving security. But they also likely will say that a period of assessment is needed this summer before officials can decide whether troop withdrawals can continue.

Democrats have called this approach unacceptable and said they would pursue an alternative policy through legislation. They said their focus will be on restoring the strength of the Army and Marines and refocusing the nation's resources on fighting terrorists in Afghanistan.

"I believe the president has no strategy for success in Iraq," Biden said. "His plan is to muddle through, and hand the problem off to his successor."

Republicans say they are satisfied with the recent drop in violence and that more time is needed to improve the situation there.

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Top Seven Workplace Plays and Maneuvers

All office politicking relies upon a simple concept: the biggest help (and the biggest hindrance) to reaching your goals is other people. What’s the right way to win friends and influence people? The most effective moves build alliances, sell your ideas, and solve problems. They also involve risk — so proceed with caution. With the help of top managers and management consultants, we’ve devised a list of the seven best office-politics plays and maneuvers, when they work best, and what to watch out for.

The Hand Off

Share credit for wins, says Glenn Renner, chief operating officer of HomeSphere. You’ll earn respect from above and below you, while tactfully promoting your own accomplishments. “If you can emphasize the ‘we’ aspect, that’s how you can talk about it,” Renner says. Spread the news through email, a company newsletter, or by personally speaking with the people your coworkers most want to impress.

Caution: Don’t overdo it — you’ll look like a suck-up. When your team fails, take the heat yourself. Spreading blame is petty.

Works best: For team projects, particularly those that required extra work or involved conflict.

The Huddle

Ask a coworker to coffee or lunch. People lighten up when they get away from the office, and small talk nurtures relationships. Ask about the fun stuff first — what she did on her vacation, how his kids like school. “If he asks about my family or my background, I follow suit,” says longtime human resources executive Susan DePhillips. “If she doesn't ask much about my personal life, I will tread lightly.”

Then move on to work. What he’s working on and how it’s going? Casual conversation establishes the rapport you need to speak openly about a work problem or an idea you have. You can also tactfully promote yourself by relaying recent accomplishments in the context of what you’re working on.

Caution: This is your coworker’s downtime, so keep the discussion light unless she enlists your help on a problem. If you want to ask a favor or her opinion, state up front that you’d like to buy her lunch and explain why. Otherwise she may feel duped when she realizes lunch was about advancing your agenda, not about making friends.

Works best: Anytime you want to work on a relationship or for dealing with an important issue in a more relaxed environment.

The Critical Inch

Dive in and spend most your time and energy on the company’s most important problem or initiative. If you succeed, the 15 smaller issues you’re charged with resolving become a lot less important to the CEO. Show you’re someone with vision and someone who takes action.

Caution: Before you do it, you must be confident your effort will make a significant difference for the company. Otherwise, you’ll be that person with the monumental flop who also fell short on a long list of responsibilities.

Works best: When the problem or initiative is mission critical and time sensitive, and when those around you can’t or won’t make a decision on how to proceed.

The Power Reverse

Use reverse psychology. Let’s say your company’s other offices have installed new software that reduces customer response time. The team in your office is resisting it. Instead of pushing harder, pull the idea away from them, says management consultant Dan Coughlin. “You say, ‘This software has worked for five offices, but it might not be right for everybody. Maybe this group isn’t ready for it.’ People think, ‘Why isn’t it right for me?’”

“You’re redirecting their energy,” he says. “Now they’re going to fight to do the idea.”

Caution: By offering options, you run the risk that they’ll choose “no.”

Works best: If the employee or team has already shown resistance to the idea you’re advocating.

The Option

If you’ve got teammates who get defensive when told what to do, give them a choice about how to approach a task or which task to do first. This requires them to think it through, it acknowledges their capabilities, and it gives them a sense of control.

Caution: Some people want to be told what to do. Watch how people work: Do they like to make decisions, and do they make good ones?

Works best: When the relationship-building benefit of giving someone else a choice is greater than the consequences of them making a bad decision.

The Silent Strategy

When you present a new idea, it’s human nature that some colleagues will play devil’s advocate. Let them. They’re not necessarily against you, they’re just stress-testing your idea. Say enough to show you’re receptive (“I see your point,” or “right, uh-huh, yes …”) but don’t argue. “The more you talk, the more they come out with counterpoints,” Coughlin says. “If you just stay quiet, a lot of times the group or the individual will come up with reasons they should help you.”

Caution: Your audience may not come around or may interpret your silence as a lack of zeal for your idea. If they don’t come around on their own, ask an open-ended question like, “That’s great input. So how can we integrate these suggestions into the proposal?” “You’re not fighting them, you’re redirecting the flow of the conversation by changing the question,” Coughlin says.

Works best: When you feel confident that you have a great idea. Also good when a colleague is upset with you. Let the person vent. It shows respect, and while you wait for his blood pressure (and maybe your own) to drop, you can formulate your response.

The Chance Meeting

Use chance encounters to your advantage. Say an influential leader asks to share your taxi at a conference. Introduce yourself and explain what your job is, who you work for, Renner says. Mention a point from the conference you found valuable. “Then, stop talking,” he says. You’ve offered enough to prompt a question or two. “Once that happens, just relax and have a good conversation. Keep them talking more than you do,” he says. “This isn’t about telling them about you, it’s about making a positive impression, and the best way to do that is by asking questions.”

This means you need to be prepared. Who are the 10 most important people in your industry? Do you know what they look like and what they’re working on? Would you know enough to chat one of them up, should the opportunity arise?

Caution: Be genuine. She’s used to employees sucking up at every opportunity. If you’re not on your game, talk about the weather or follow her lead. If she asks you about ideas for her husband’s birthday gift, go with it.

Works best: When it’s truly a chance encounter, not an orchestrated opportunity for you to get a minute of her time. If you need to discuss a problem or want to propose an idea, schedule a meeting.

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