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Friday, April 18, 2008

Catholic Priest Rips Fox News a New One

Looks like Fox News thought they were going to embarass Obama supporter Father Michael Pfleger, by sending out one of their henchmen to ambush him over his ties to and support of Barack Obama. Instead they got their tiny, little bigoted and ignorant heads handed to them.

Beautiful. Simply beautiful.


"Did Bill O'Rielly serve in the marines?" Oh man, that was choice.

Talk about someone speaking truth to power. Right on, Father Michael.

God Bless.

Original here

Clinton Slams Democratic Activists At Private Fundraiser

At a small closed-door fundraiser after Super Tuesday, Sen. Hillary Clinton blamed what she called the "activist base" of the Democratic Party -- and in particular -- for many of her electoral defeats, saying activists had "flooded" state caucuses and "intimidated" her supporters, according to an audio recording of the event obtained by The Huffington Post.

" endorsed [Sen. Barack Obama] -- which is like a gusher of money that never seems to slow down," Clinton said to a meeting of donors. "We have been less successful in caucuses because it brings out the activist base of the Democratic Party. MoveOn didn't even want us to go into Afghanistan. I mean, that's what we're dealing with. And you know they turn out in great numbers. And they are very driven by their view of our positions, and it's primarily national security and foreign policy that drives them. I don't agree with them. They know I don't agree with them. So they flood into these caucuses and dominate them and really intimidate people who actually show up to support me."

Listen to the audio below:

Clinton's remarks depart radically from the traditional position of presidential candidates, who in the past have celebrated high levels of turnout by party activists and partisans as a harbinger for their own party's success -- regardless of who is the eventual nominee -- in the general election showdown.

The comments also contradict Clinton's previous statements praising this year's elevated Democratic turnout in primaries and caucuses, and appear to blame her caucus defeats on newly energized grassroots voter groups that she has lauded in the past as "lively participants" in American democracy.

"You've been asking the tough questions," Clinton said in April of last year at a MoveOn-sponsored town hall event. "You've been refusing to back down when any of us who are in political leadership are not living up to the standards that we should set for ourselves... I think you have helped to change the face of American politics for the better... both online, and in the corridors of power."

Clinton's criticism followed MoveOn's endorsement of Obama in early February. The group was initially established in 1999 to oppose the Republican-led effort to impeach President Bill Clinton, and now claims 3.2 million members.

In a statement to The Huffington Post, MoveOn's Executive Director Eli Pariser reacted strongly to Clinton's remarks: "Senator Clinton has her facts wrong again. MoveOn never opposed the war in Afghanistan, and we set the record straight years ago when Karl Rove made the same claim. Senator Clinton's attack on our members is divisive at a time when Democrats will soon need to unify to beat Senator McCain. MoveOn is 3.2 million reliable voters and volunteers who are an important part of any winning Democratic coalition in November. They deserve better than to be dismissed using Republican talking points."

Howard Wolfson, communications director for the Clinton campaign, verified the authenticity of the audio, and elaborated on Clinton's charge that these same party activists were engaged in acts of intimidation against her supporters: "There have been well documented instances of intimidation in the Nevada and the Texas caucuses, and it is a fact that while we have won 4 of the 5 largest primaries, where participation is greatest, Senator Obama has done better in caucuses than we have." About Clinton's remarks suggesting dismay over high Democratic activist turnout, Wolfson said, "I'll let my statement stand as is."

In fact, the Nevada caucuses occurred prior to MoveOn's endorsement of Obama, and when Clinton made her remarks, the Texas caucuses had yet to take place.

The disclosure of Clinton's statement disparaging the prominence of party activists in the caucus process comes after she repeatedly suggested that Obama's electability had been compromised because he had allegedly offended other key Democratic constituencies.

This story was developed in cooperation with OffTheBus to which reporter Celeste Fremon is a regular contributor.

Original here

Ongoing nomination fight hurting Clinton more than Obama


WASHINGTON (AP) — In a dramatic reversal, an Associated Press-Yahoo! News poll found that a clear majority of Democratic voters now say Sen. Barack Obama has a better chance of defeating Republican Sen. John McCain in November than Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

While Obama and Clinton are both sustaining dents and dings from their lengthy presidential fight, the former first lady is clearly suffering more. Democratic voters no longer see her as the party's strongest contender for the White House.

Voters of all types have gotten a better sense of Obama, who was an obscure Illinois legislator just four years ago. As more people moved from the "I don't know him" category in the AP-Yahoo! News poll, more rated Obama as inexperienced, unethical and dishonest. And 15 percent erroneously think he's a Muslim, thanks in part to disinformation widely spread on the Internet.

But Obama's positive ratings have climbed as well, while Clinton — widely known since the early 1990s — has been less able to change people's views of her. And when those views have shifted, it has hurt her more than helped.

The New York senator's ratings for being honest, likable, ethical and refreshing have fallen since January, and Obama scores higher than she does in all those categories.

Gains and Losses. Who has the best chance to win?

In late January, before Obama scored 11 straight primary and caucus victories, 56 percent of Democrats saw Clinton as the stronger nominee, compared to 33 percent for Obama. Now, Obama leads on that question, 56 to 43 percent.

Still, the poll, conducted by Knowledge Networks, contains some worrisome signs for the first-term senator. Those rating him as "not at all honest," for example, jumped from 18 percent last fall to 27 percent in April. It came as he was put on the defensive over incendiary comments by his former pastor. But many holding such views are Republicans or conservative independents, who would be unlikely to vote in a Democratic primary or support a Democrat in the fall, anyway.

The most encouraging sign for Obama is that many Democrats who previously saw Clinton as their party's best hope now give him that role. About one-third of them still prefer Clinton, but they have lost confidence in her electability.

"I would love to vote for Hillary," said Nancy Costello of Bellevue, Ky., one of the more than 1,800 randomly selected adults whose opinions are rechecked every few months. "I'm 67, and I'll probably never get another chance to vote for a woman."

But Obama now appears to be the stronger candidate, she said, and electing a Democrat in November is paramount. If McCain wins and continues many of President Bush's economic and foreign policies, Costello said, "I think I would just sit down and cry."

By tracking the same group throughout the campaign, the AP-Yahoo! News poll can gauge how individual views change. It suggests that Clinton has paid a price for hammering Obama since early February on several issues as she tries to overcome his lead in delegates and the popular vote. Among those Democrats who no longer consider her the more electable of the two, most now see her as less likable, decisive, strong, honest, experienced and ethical than they did in January.

Meanwhile, those same voters are more likely to see Obama as strong, honest and refreshing than before.

Beulah Barton of Leesburg, Fla., said she initially backed Clinton, partly because she liked Bill Clinton's record as president.

"But the more I hear her talk, and the more I hear him talk, the more put off I am," said Barton, 69. "I think she's brash, I think she's rude. I get the feeling that she feels she deserves to be president" and doesn't need "to earn it."

Barton said she likes Obama, and ignores e-mails suggesting that he refuses to salute the flag or is somehow threatening "because of his name."

"People try to make him look like a traitor," she said. "I think he has risen above most of that stuff."

Some misinformation sticks, however. The great majority of the poll's participants said this month they did not know the religious affiliation of Clinton (a Methodist) or Obama (United Church of Christ). But 15 percent ventured that Obama, whose father was Kenyan, is a Muslim.

That group includes more Democrats than Republicans, and it doesn't necessarily worry them.

Randi Estes, a Democrat from Ada, Okla., said she prefers Clinton but feels Obama is likely to win the nomination. "He's gotten very strong media coverage, and Bill Clinton's not helping her a bit," said Estes, 36, who has four children under the age of 6.

Speaking of Obama, she said, "I have a sense he's a Muslim."

If Obama wins the nomination, the poll indicates he will need to mend his image a bit as he battles McCain for independents and soft Republicans. His favorability rating among all voters has declined, with those ranking him as "very unfavorable" growing from 17 percent in January to 25 percent in April. Most of them are Republicans and independents.

In January, 30 percent of Republicans rated Obama very unfavorably. That grew to 43 percent in April. Among the coveted independents, 12 percent had a very unfavorable view of Obama in January. That has nearly doubled to 23 percent.

Obama would be the first black president, and the survey detected some evidence of racial discomfort in voters' minds. It found that about 8 percent of whites would be uncomfortable voting for a black for president. It produced an estimate of about 13 percent of Republicans who would feel that way, but suggested very few if any Democrats would now be uncomfortable. In November, about 5 percent of Democrats indicated discomfort at voting for a black person for president.

For Allen Lovell, a moderate Democrat in Everett, Wash., race is unimportant, but replacing Bush with a Democrat is vital. And lately he has concluded that Obama probably has the better chance of beating McCain.

"I am leaning towards him, not because he's black — because I'm white — but because we definitely need a change," said Lovell, 50.

He said the Democratic campaign has lasted too long, but there is one topic he'd like to hear more about. Lovell, who guessed that Obama is "either Christian or Muslim," said: "I don't think we're getting enough information on religion" from the candidates.

The survey of 1,844 adults was conducted April 2-14 and had an overall margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.3 percentage points. Included were interviews with 863 Democrats, for whom the margin of sampling error was plus or minus 3.3 points, and 668 Republicans, with a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.8 points.

The poll was conducted over the Internet by Knowledge Networks. It initially contacted people using traditional telephone polling methods, and followed with online interviews. People chosen for the study who had no Internet access were given it for free.

— AP News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.

Original here

Howard Dean: SuperDelegates need to decide now

If this isn't a reaction to last night's debate debacle, I don't know what is.

An increasingly firm Howard Dean told CNN again Thursday that he needs superdelegates to say who they’re for – and “I need them to say who they’re for starting now.”

“We cannot give up two or three months of active campaigning and healing time,” the Democratic National Committee Chairman told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “We’ve got to know who our nominee is.”
Dean clearly wasn't happy with what he saw last night. It's no longer just Hillary using right-wing talking points in an effort to destroy the guy who will be running against McCain in the fall, now the mainstream media has bought into the "let's destroy Obama" game. As Ben Smith notes, this is the first time the mainstream media has delved into the William Ayers issue, one of the many below-the-belt zingers that Hillary has been trying to throw at Obama:
Barack Obama took his first public grilling on his relationship with Bill Ayers last night, and between the moderators' pressing and Clinton's follow-up, it had exactly the effect the Clinton campaign hoped: finally injecting the issue into the public discussion.

At the moment, "Ayers" is the fifth most searched term on Google, according to Google Trends; "Ayers Obama" is 15th. "William Ayers" is 26th.
ABC, with Hillary's help, has now made yet another right-wing talking point a legitimate point of public debate about Obama. If this keeps up, every Swift Boat style attack against Obama will be considered a serious issue by the media, all because Hillary made it so. Dean has, in my opinion, had enough. He's watching Hillary's kamikaze attack on Obama metastasize into a media feeding frenzy against the guy who won our nomination two months ago. Hillary isn't going to win, Dean knows it, we all know it. The only question is whether she's going to take all of us down with her. Howard Dean is apparently now, finally, belatedly, saying "no."

Get ready for the Hillary donors to once again threaten to destroy our majority in the Congress, and help John McCain become president, if Hillary's divine right of kings isn't honored.

ABC may have just ended Hillary's run for the presidency.

Original here

Heilemann: Robert Reich to Endorse Obama

Secretary of Labor Robert Reich with Hillary Clinton at an education event in Washington, 1994.Photo: Corbis

If the Democratic presidential race were a poker game, by now you'd have to suspect that Barack Obama's campaign is dealing from the bottom of the deck: Rarely a day goes by when it doesn't slap another ace down on the table. The aces in this (possibly strained) metaphor are endorsements, and it often seems as if the Obama operation has an inexhaustible supply at its disposal. In the past week alone, it has announced the support of congressmen from North Carolina and Indiana; the Utah state party chair; the Oklahoma state party's chief fundraiser; 25 South Dakota state legislators; the owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers; and, not least, The Boss. Some of these endorsers are superdelegates, and thus of no small consequence to the outcome of the race. Others are simply window-dressing, deployed to create a sense of ineluctable momentum in Obama's direction. But none have the particular resonance of the endorsement that's coming — unbeknownst to the campaign — a little later today.

The endorsement in question is that of Robert Reich, Bill Clinton's first Secretary of Labor and a friend of both the former president and his wife for four decades. Around 1 p.m. EST, Reich informs me, he intends formally to declare his support for Obama on his blog.

Now, in one sense, the Reich endorsement comes as no great surprise. For some time, it's been clear to anyone paying attention that Reich favors Obama. Back in December, in a blog post titled "Why is HRC Stooping So Low?," Reich loudly and sharply criticized Clinton's conduct in Iowa and defended Obama's proposals for health-care and Social Security reform. Two days before the race-charged South Carolina primary, he assailed Bill Clinton's "ill-tempered and ill-founded attacks" on Obama, arguing that they were "doing no credit to the former president, his legacy, or his wife's campaign." And all throughout the primary season, he has spoken and written of Obama's candidacy with evident admiration and enthusiasm.

But Reich insists that the endorsement does indeed come as a surprise — to him. As we chatted in Washington, where Reich had come from Berkeley, where he teaches, to give a speech and meet with some Democrats on Capitol Hill, he explained that, despite the criticisms he's made of the Clintons ("I call it as I see it"), he had planned to refrain from offering an official backing for Obama out of respect for Hillary. "She's an old friend," Reich said. "I've known her 40 years. I was absolutely dead set against getting into the whole endorsement thing. I've struggled with it. I've not wanted to do it. Out of loyalty to her, I just felt it would be inappropriate."

So what's changed? I asked Reich.

"I saw the ads" — the negative man-on-street commercials that the Clinton campaign put up in Pennsylvania in the wake of Obama's bitter/cling comments a week ago — "and I was appalled, frankly. I thought it represented the nadir of mean-spirited, negative politics. And also of the politics of distraction, of gotcha politics. It's the worst of all worlds. We have three terrible traditions that we've developed in American campaigns. One is outright meanness and negativity. The second is taking out of context something your opponent said, maybe inartfully, and blowing it up into something your opponent doesn't possibly believe and doesn't possibly represent. And third is a kind of tradition of distraction, of getting off the big subject with sideshows that have nothing to do with what matters. And these three aspects of the old politics I've seen growing in Hillary's campaign. And I've come to the point, after seeing those ads, where I can't in good conscience not say out loud what I believe about who should be president. Those ads are nothing but Republicanism. They're lending legitimacy to a Republican message that's wrong to begin with, and they harken back to the past twenty years of demagoguery on guns and religion. It's old politics at its worst — and old Republican politics, not even old Democratic politics. It's just so deeply cynical."

The Clinton campaign will, no doubt, shrug off the Reich endorsement of Obama. (And hey, who knows, maybe James Carville will get into the act and declare Reich a Benedict Arnold!) They will say that it's unlikely to move any votes, and that, since Reich is not a superdelegate, it does nothing tangible to move Obama even one inch closer to the nomination.

All of which is true enough, as far as it goes. But beyond the bald fact of Reich's support for Obama, the Clinton campaign should pay heed to the reasoning behind it. In his disgust with Hillary's increasingly harsh tactics, Reich is hardly alone. Indeed, the feeling seems to be spreading more broadly in the party with every passing day. It's been clear for some time that Hillary's attacks on Obama were driving up her negatives. You could certainly argue this might be a price worth paying if those attacks were amping up doubts about him. But it's hard to see any logic — or even sanity — in the tactic if the result is to drive even people who once regarded Hillary dearly into Obama's arms. — John Heilemann

Related: Superdelegates Making Howard Dean Just Want to Scream [NYM]
Gibson and Stephanopoulus Criticized After Debate [NYM]
How Barack Obama Lost The Debate — And Whether It Matters [NYM]
Is John McCain Bob Dole? [NYM]
Hillary Clinton and the Feminist Reawakening [NYM]

For a complete and regularly updated guide to presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain — from First Love to Most Embarrassing Gaffe — read the 2008 Electopedia.

Original here

Clinton Bashes Obama's Weathermen Connection, But What About Her Own?

"I wish you could conduct a campaign on policy and policy differentiation," Howard Wolfson, Senator Hillary Clinton's campaign communications director, said in a conference call with reporters on Thursday morning. He added that Clinton "would like nothing more."

This was moments after Wolfson and Phil Singer, another top Clinton aide, had hammered Barack Obama for having held a fundraiser during his first state senate campaign in Illinois at the home of William Ayers, a professor of education at the University of Illinois and a former aide to Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, who was a member of the radical Weather Underground Organization, which was responsible for several bombings in the early 1970s. Ayers was never arrested for his activities. But in 2001, he did say, "I don't regret setting bombs." The issue had come up during the previous night's debate. Responding to a question about Ayers, Obama had said, "the notion that somehow as a consequence of me knowing somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago when I was 8 years old, somehow reflects on me and my values, doesn't make much sense." Wolfson, this morning after, insisted that Obama had "to be more forthcoming about that issue" and state clearly whether it had been "appropriate" to attend a fundraiser at Ayers' home.

When it came time for questions for Wolfson, I asked an obvious one: Did Hillary Clinton believe that it had been appropriate in 2001 for President Bill Clinton to have pardoned two members of the Weather Underground as he left office? The two recipients of Clinton's munificence were Linda Evans, who was sentenced to five years in prison for her participation in a string of 1980s bombings, and Susan Rosenberg, who was charged with participating in a bank robbery that left one guard and two police officers dead. And, I continued, has Senator Clinton ever criticized this decision? Has she ever said anything publicly about it? Rosenberg, I noted, had been apprehended with 740 pounds of explosives in her possession.

Wolfson replied, "I am not aware of Linda Evans or Susan a political event for Senator Clinton."

I interrupted to note that I had not asked whether they had. I had asked whether Clinton had supported or opposed her husband's pardons for these two women. (I resisted the urge to throw in Marc Rich.)

Wolfson responded that while I have the right to ask questions the way I see fit, he has the right to answer them in the manner he chooses--and then I can evaluate his reply. (Given that the Clinton aides do take many questions from all comers, I could not argue with him on that.) Wolfson went on to accuse the Obama campaign of trying to conflate the pardons and the Ayers issues. And indeed it is. The Obama campaign did disseminate email about the Weather Underground radicals pardoned by Bill Clinton. Wolfson then maintained the critical difference here is that Ayers had been a "key supporter" of Obama.

I tried again: the question is whether Senator Clinton believes the pardons for Rosenberg and Evans were appropriate. Wolfson replied "I am not an expert on the pardons....I don't know what she said" about them.

Could he find out and get back to us? Yes, he said.

During the call, Wolfson said, "voters deserve as much information about the candidates as possible." And Clinton's view of the Weather Underground pardons, given her campaign's effort to pump up the volume of the Ayers matter, certainly meets that standard.

By the way, Wolfson added that neither Linda Evans or Susan Rosenberg had ever hosted an event for Senator Clinton--just in case any of the reporters had missed that point. He added that Clinton had not raised the issue at the debate on Wednesday night. True, but now her campaign had--and it was signalling it would keep doing so, as part of an effort to tie Obama to a "terrorist." The ploy was a clear one. In this instance, you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

Original here

What If ABC Held a Debate, but Forgot to Show Up?

All night long, every time I'd think about the ABC "debate" (sic), three reactions rose up - 1) grind my teeth to an angry pulp, 2) let my head explode, or 3) type something to let the steam out.

This morning, I still can't believe I was able to make it through 45 minutes of the broadcast.

This was topflight journalism at its worst. This was ABC's old, flimsy history with threadbare sizzle packaged as news. It was a tabloid debate with tabloid questions. Matt Drudge come to life on a respectable stage. From what I subsequently discovered, they actually, eventually got around to real issues -- after over an hour. But watching it for a mere 45 minutes made me feel almost seedy. I wanted to shower to get the smarm off. I love news, I admire professional journalists, I cherish the Mainstream Media, even when they flounder, because it is the core of democracy. But this was embarrassing. This was pathetic. This was just a cheesy press conference with cheesy questions.

Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos should be ashamed. I'm sure they have all of their reasons wrapped nicely with a bow, explaining why they asked what they asked and why it was proper and good and noble. Sorry, it wasn't. They put this on in prime time across the nation, and turned it into a slimy, Fox Network reality show. A cross between Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire? and Temptation Island. Something like, So, You Want to Be President?!

This was a disservice to America.

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are running for President of the United States. It's a job that really, seriously matters. There are critically important issues facing the nation, right now. Last week, 81% of Americans said that they felt that the country had pretty seriously gotten off-track. There's the five-year Iraq War with 4,000 Americans dead and trillions spent. A national deficit pushing the country to recession. The G8 nations have expressed their tottering concern about the dollar. Global warming has put the entire globe at risk. The president and his top cabinet advisor are discovered in a memo to have discussed how to allow torture.

And for the first hour, the very first things these moderators could think of asking the two people in line to become the most powerful person in the world was -- what one of their pastors said? Who else also sat on a community board with him? Whether he used the best syntax in describing anger in America?

This was shameless. Hurtful.

And for all the post-debate commentators saying how "on the defensive" Barack Obama was -- most of them should be ashamed, as well, not pointing out how ghastly the questions were. They failed, as well.

What I saw during the "debate" (sic) made me completely agree with Senator Obama saying repeatedly that these questions are about things that don't matter in the lives of Americans. He wasn't "defensive." He was right. There's a difference. He answered the questions - same as he'd answered the questions before. But --

What his pastor said...Does Not Matter.

Who he served on a community board with...Does Not Matter.

Whether he is elitist for using the word "bitter"...Does Not Matter.

What matters is that there are angry people in Pennsylvania, and in America. What matters is what issues Barack Obama was dealing with on that community board he was a member of. What matters is what Barack Obama himself says.

What matters is the Iraq War. Torture. The Economy. Education. The price of gas. Domestic spying on Americans. Global warming. National security.

If Mr. Gibson and Mr. Stephanopoulos felt so-deeply compelled to toss in some of their Questions Lite -- even though they'd been asked and addressed repeatedly through the past weeks -- that's fine, ask them, at least the ones that dance on the edge of substance. But have the decency to hold them to later, after you've established the gravitas of the debate. Because otherwise, when you start by throwing out chum for the first hour, what you establish is that these are the things that "matter." And what comes later, nah, that's just afterthought.

Republican pundits do themselves no good pushing these empty topics, which they do only because they have no platform to run on. And Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos bought into it.

And Hillary Clinton did herself no good either by repeating that these things matter -- saying that "the Republicans will bring them up." News Flash: the Republicans will bring up just as much about her. And those won't substantively matter either. Or even necessarily be true.

Hillary Clinton has much good in her abilities. She has qualities that could make her an excellent president. But we are watching a person disintegrate before our eyes, throwing out the quality of her past and risking her future.

But this isn't about Hillary Clinton. This is about Charles Gibson, George Stephanopoulos and ABC "News." They were given a high responsibility to broadcast in the public interest. Instead, they spent the time in the empty gutter.

For the network of Lost and Desperate, they were both.

Original here

Joe Scarborough Walks Off MSNBC's "Race To The White House" After Exchange With Rachel Maddow

Update from MSNBC spokesman Jeremy Gaines to Huffington Post:
"Joe didn't walk off. He chose not to participate in the final couple of minutes of the discussion because he felt the conversation didn't fit his role as a political analyst."


Did Joe Scarborough walk out of David Gregory's show "Race to the White House" Thursday night on MSNBC? It seems that way by the video below. Joe was a panelist on the show along with Air America's Rachel Maddow, CNBC's John Harwood and former Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford, Jr.

The panel was discussing the effect of Sen. Obama's personal and professional relationships on his campaign when Rachel and Joe disagreed. Joe started to challenge Rachel's argument that relationships only become an issue when a political opponent makes them an issue, but she cut him off, "Let me make my point and then you can dismiss me." She then finished with an example of a McCain campaign co-chair in Florida's bathroom activities.

After a commercial break, Joe prefaced his rebuttal to Rachel's point by saying "I don't engage in Crossfire-type debates and certainly I don't want to talk about what people do in bathrooms." When he finished speaking, and after David Gregory had shut Joe vs. Rachel down, John Harrow came on camera. Then, viewers can hear Joe taking off his microphone (2:47 into the below video). When the panel picture came back, no Joe.

Watch Rachel and Joe make their points, hear Joe unplug, and then (after a jump) see the panel after Joe has gone:

Pictures of before and after:
Original here

What is Really Means to 'Support Our Troops' [PIC]

Original here

Pentagon institute calls Iraq war 'a major debacle' with outcome 'in doubt'

US soldiers patrol the village of Mullah Eid, 8 kms south of Baquba, as the sun rises in February 2008. About 300,000 US military veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan currently suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or major depression, an independent study released Thursday estimates.(AFP/File/Patrick Baz)
AFP/File Photo: US soldiers patrol the village of Mullah Eid, 8 kms south of Baquba, as the...

WASHINGTON — The war in Iraq has become "a major debacle" and the outcome "is in doubt" despite improvements in security from the buildup in U.S. forces, according to a highly critical study published Thursday by the Pentagon's premier military educational institute.

The report released by the National Defense University raises fresh doubts about President Bush 's projections of a U.S. victory in Iraq just a week after Bush announced that he was suspending U.S. troop reductions.

The report carries considerable weight because it was written by Joseph Collins , a former senior Pentagon official, and was based in part on interviews with other former senior defense and intelligence officials who played roles in prewar preparations.

It was published by the university's National Institute for Strategic Studies , a Defense Department research center.

"Measured in blood and treasure, the war in Iraq has achieved the status of a major war and a major debacle," says the report's opening line.

At the time the report was written last fall, more than 4,000 U.S. and foreign troops, more than 7,500 Iraqi security forces and as many as 82,000 Iraqi civilians had been killed and tens of thousands of others wounded, while the cost of the war since March 2003 was estimated at $450 billion .

"No one as yet has calculated the costs of long-term veterans' benefits or the total impact on service personnel and materiel," wrote Collins, who was involved in planning post-invasion humanitarian operations.

The report said that the United States has suffered serious political costs, with its standing in the world seriously diminished. Moreover, operations in Iraq have diverted "manpower, materiel and the attention of decision-makers" from "all other efforts in the war on terror" and severely strained the U.S. armed forces.

"Compounding all of these problems, our efforts there (in Iraq ) were designed to enhance U.S. national security, but they have become, at least temporarily, an incubator for terrorism and have emboldened Iran to expand its influence throughout the Middle East ," the report continued.

The addition of 30,000 U.S. troops to Iraq last year to halt the country's descent into all-out civil war has improved security, but not enough to ensure that the country emerges as a stable democracy at peace with its neighbors, the report said.

"Despite impressive progress in security, the outcome of the war is in doubt," said the report. "Strong majorities of both Iraqis and Americans favor some sort of U.S. withdrawal. Intelligence analysts, however, remind us that the only thing worse than an Iraq with an American army may be an Iraq after a rapid withdrawal of that army."

"For many analysts (including this one), Iraq remains a 'must win,' but for many others, despite obvious progress under General David Petraeus and the surge, it now looks like a 'can't win.'"

The report lays much of the blame for what went wrong in Iraq after the initial U.S. victory at the feet of then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld . It says that in November 2001 , before the war in Afghanistan was over, President Bush asked Rumsfeld "to begin planning in secret for potential military operations against Iraq ."

Rumsfeld, who was closely allied with Vice President Dick Cheney , bypassed the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the report says, and became "the direct supervisor of the combatant commanders."

" . . . the aggressive, hands-on Rumsfeld," it continues, "cajoled and pushed his way toward a small force and a lightning fast operation." Later, he shut down the military's computerized deployment system, "questioning, delaying or deleting units on the numerous deployment orders that came across his desk."

In part because "long, costly, manpower-intensive post-combat operations were anathema to Rumsfeld," the report says, the U.S. was unprepared to fight what Collins calls "War B," the battle against insurgents and sectarian violence that began in mid-2003, shortly after "War A," the fight against Saddam Hussein's forces, ended.

Compounding the problem was a series of faulty assumptions made by Bush's top aides, among them an expectation fed by Iraqi exiles that Iraqis would be grateful to America for liberating them from Saddam's dictatorship. The administration also expected that " Iraq without Saddam could manage and fund its own reconstruction."

The report also singles out the Bush administration's national security apparatus and implicitly President Bush and both of his national security advisers, Condoleezza Rice and Stephen Hadley , saying that "senior national security officials exhibited in many instances an imperious attitude, exerting power and pressure where diplomacy and bargaining might have had a better effect."

Collins ends his report by quoting Winston Churchill , who said: "Let us learn our lessons. Never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter. . . . Always remember, however sure you are that you can easily win, that there would not be a war if the other man did not think that he also had a chance."

Original here

Stephanopoulos Once Criticized The Tactics He Put To Use In Debate

ABC News' George Stephanopoulos can continue to defend his decision to lead off his debate with an hour's worth of questions that mined the electoral sideshow (Lapel Pins, Tuzla, Weather Underground) for material at the expense of informative questions that cut to the needs of real Americans, but the facts are these: Back when the shoe was on the other foot, and Stephanopoulos' job was that of a campaign insider, he insisted that the media hold itself to a higher standard, as this clip from The War Room demonstrates.


STEPHANOPOULOS: What he's going to do in this campaign is focus on what's important to the American people, on the jobs and the education. That's what the American people care about. They want to move into the future. They don't want to be diverted by side issues, and they're not going to let the Republican attack machine divert them

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Congressman introduces bill to decriminalize personal marijuana use

Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) has made good on his promise to introduce what he called the "Make Room for the Serious Criminals Bill" on a March 21, 2008 appearance on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher. Co-sponsoring the bill are Reps. Ron Paul (R-TX), Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Sam Farr (D-CA).

Text of Thursday's press release, from Rep. Frank's Congressional website, follows.


Congressman, 4th District, Massachusetts 2252 Rayburn Building · Washington, D.C. 20515 · (202) 225-5931


Congressman Also Files Bill Permitting Medical Use of Marijuana in States that Choose to Allow it with Doctor’s Recommendation

Congressman Barney Frank today introduced bi-partisan legislation aimed at removing federal restrictions on the individual use of marijuana. One bill would remove federal penalties for the personal use of marijuana, and the other – versions of which Frank has filed in several preceding sessions of Congress – would allow the medical use of marijuana in states that have chosen to make its use for medical purposes legal with a doctor’s recommendation. Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) joined Frank as a cosponsor of the federal penalties bill. The cosponsors of the medical marijuana bill are Rep. Paul, along with Reps. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), and Sam Farr (D-CA).

Congressman Frank released the following statement explaining the legislation.

“I think it is poor law enforcement to keep on the books legislation that establishes as a crime something which in fact society does not seriously wish to prosecute. In my view, having federal law enforcement agents engaged in the prosecution of people who are personally using marijuana is a waste of scarce resources better used for serious crimes. In fact, this type of prosecution often meets with public disapproval. The most frequent recent examples have been federal prosecutions of individuals using marijuana for medical purposes in states that have voted – usually by public referenda – to allow such use. Because current federal law has been interpreted as superseding state law in this area, most states that have made medical use of marijuana legal have been unable to actually implement their laws.

"When doctors recommend the use of marijuana for their patients and states are willing to permit it, I think it’s wrong for the federal government to subject either the doctors or the patients to criminal prosecution. More broadly speaking, the norm in America is for the states to decide whether particular behaviors should be made criminal. To make the smoking of marijuana, whether for medical purposes or not, one of those extremely rare instances of federal crime – literally, to make a ‘federal case’ out of it – is wholly disproportionate to the activity involved. We do not have federal criminal prohibitions against drinking alcoholic beverages, and there are generally no criminal penalties for the use of tobacco at the state and federal levels for adults. There is no rational argument for treating marijuana so differently from these other substances.”

To those who say that the government should not be encouraging the smoking of marijuana, my response is that I completely agree. But it is a great mistake to divide all human activity into two categories: those that are criminally prohibited, and those that are encouraged. In a free society, there must be a very considerable zone of activity between those two poles in which people are allowed to make their own choices as long as they are not impinging on the rights, freedom, or property of others. I believe it is important with regard to tobacco, marijuana and alcohol, among other things, that we strictly regulate the age at which people may use these substances. And, enforcement of age restrictions should be firm. But, criminalizing choices that adults make because we think they are unwise ones, when the choices involved have no negative effect on the rights of others, is not appropriate in a free society.”

“If the laws I am proposing pass, states will still be free to treat marijuana as they wish. But I do not believe that the federal government should treat adults who choose to smoke marijuana as criminals. Federal law enforcement is a serious business, and we should be concentrating our efforts in this regard on measures that truly protect the public.”

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