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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Firewall: Obama Wins NC primary

During a week of reverberations over the sayings of Reverend Wright, the political calculus in Clintonland hopefully reckoned that white voters would swiftly abandon the good ship Obama in a flight of fear following a paroxysm of soul-searching racial uncertainty.

The highly paid strategists of the Clinton campaign sharpened their pencils and carefully calculated their arcane political equations. Following a series of deft tactical maneuvers designed to manufacture a withering crisis, the MSM would subject Obama to another week on the defensive against the phantasmagorical sayings of Rev. Wright following his madcap spree of ill-advised press conferences manufactured to stimulate the undercurrents of racial intolerance still roiling just beneath the surface tension of America.

The Clintonian rationale for this round of "strategy" was at once stark and simple. The Reverend Wright machinations would be especially effective in the Jim Crow-obsessed South and that great state of Indiana, once the home of the national headquarters of the Ku Klux Klan where 30% of the white male population donned the iconic white hoods and robes of the Rolls Royce of race baiting organizations to march 500,000 strong down Pennsylvania Avenue proudly brandishing banners proclaiming their brand of lily white masculine supremacy.

The Clinton campaign's happy coincidence was simplicity itself for the North Carolina and Indiana primaries fell on the very same date. This miraculous synchronicity provided the sacred crucible for the latest media-driven experiment in race-baiting. In gambling terms - and that is precisely what the strategists were doing - they bet the house on the Reverend Wright gambit and then rolled the proverbial dice.

The results are now in hand. The latest CBS-New York Times poll indicates that Obama's support has held relatively firm in spite of the provocative statements of Reverend Wright. The majority of Democrats are now satisfied with Obama's handling of his former pastor.

Even more importantly, the early voting results in North Carolina suggest that Obama will carry that Southern state decisively. According to analyses from North Carolina's political experts, Obama is trouncing Clinton via a new and unanticipated surge in black turnout that was almost certainly triggered by the massive MSM overreaction to the stage-managed appearances of Reverend Wright.

In a nutshell, the Reverend Wright strategy backfired. Polls indicate that the early voting in Indiana is heaviest in counties where Obama has commanding leads. While Indiana is another "open primary" state, and Rush Limbaugh's legions of followers could effect yet another Clinton upset via Operation Chaos, it will not matter.

With a population of nearly nine million, North Carolina is the very last large state to hold its primary this year. If Hillary Clinton had upset Obama in North Carolina, the nomination calculus could have been rewritten. The Clintons mustered the governor, Mike Easley, to endorse her campaign last week in hopes of creating a surge of "white flight." The Clintons said that Easley's endorsement was politically significant especially with white, working class voters, but the final tally is not even going to be close.

That sagacious Congressman, G. K. Butterfield of Goldsboro, North Carolina warned the Clintons that they were in danger of permanently alienating the black vote. Between Governor Easley (now serving the final months of his last year in office) and the eloquent Congressman Butterfield, it is simply no contest. The trophy goes to Butterfield for intelligent candor.

The Southern state of North Carolina is going to be remembered as Barack Obama's firewall against the latest gasp of the politics of racial intolerance. The state that gave us the now rather unfashionable James K. Polk of manifest destiny fame who presaged the neoconservative visions of Leo Stern and William Kristol and Andrew Johnson who preceded Bill Clinton in the annals of impeachment, is also the home of Terry Sanford who nominated JFK and Sam J. Ervin, Jr. who removed Richard Nixon from his high office.

The Clinton calculus now goes into overdrive and moves into parliamentary procedure and resorts to Roberts Rules of Order to seat the outlaw delegations from Michigan and Florida. Hillary Clinton is winding down her campaign with hopes for minor state wins in West Virginia and Kentucky while Obama will roll on to win the majority of delegates in the remaining states.

In North Carolina, the last large state to cast its votes this primary season, Obama's firewall holds in the South, and none other than Dick Morris says that his nomination is now bankable.
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Paul Campaign Never Ended, Spokesman Says

As the Democratic presidential candidates held pre-primary rallies yesterday in Indiana and North Carolina, and presumptive Republican nominee John McCain spoke to the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, another major-party presidential candidate continued his own quest for nomination, headlining a "Freedom Rally" on a Fort Wayne, Ind., university campus.

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) told supporters in early March, through a Web video, that he knew he was no longer in the running for the presidency, and aides said his campaign would be "winding down." But it turns out Paul never stopped running for president.

"He put out a video in which he said victory in the conventional sense was not available to us, but there was still much the campaign could try to accomplish," Ron Paul 2008 spokesman Jesse Benton said yesterday. "People in the press reported that as him dropping out when he was not dropping out."

Paul's campaign has shrunk from a high of more than 150 staffers before Super Tuesday on Feb. 5 to around 15, according to Benton, and his record-breaking Internet fundraising operation has turned off its online ticker. But with more than $4 million in cash on hand, his campaign says there is no good reason to stop.

He is still racking up votes, for one thing, having garnered 16 percent of the vote in Pennsylvania's Republican primary on April 22. And his supporters are still active at the grass-roots level: GOP officials abruptly canceled the Nevada state convention when it became clear that Paul's backers outnumbered those for McCain and stood ready to take control of the delegate process.

Paul's campaign hopes to turn such support into upward of 50 delegates for the party's national convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul in September, where he is gunning for a speaking slot.

There's also the matter of Paul's book. "The Revolution: A Manifesto" hit stores on April 30. His campaign is prohibited from selling it, but a continued presence on the speaking circuit is sure to stoke sales. (The book debuted at No. 1 on Amazon.com's "Hot New Releases in Books.")

The former Libertarian Party nominee has "no plans and no intentions" to switch to any other party when the time comes to end his bid, Benton said.

"If it was just for the presidency, it would have ended a long time ago," says supporter Tom Martin, 50, a database administrator from State College, Pa. "The idea was to reinvigorate the Republican Party back to its principles and, more than that, to reinvigorate the American people back to its principles."

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The Winner (at Least on TV)

Tim Russert

Senator Barack Obama and his interviewer on “Meet the Press,” Tim Russert, were a much bigger draw in Indianapolis on Sunday than were Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and her interviewer on “This Week,” George Stephanopoulos.

According to data from Nielsen, “Meet the Press,” on NBC, was viewed in 91,000 households there, a third of all of those watching television at the time. “This Week,” on ABC, was watched in 14,000 households, just 4 percent of those watching television. The margin of victory for Mr. Russert over Mr. Stephanopoulos was larger than usual in Indianapolis.

This could be a good sign for Mr. Obama, who is believed to hold an edge in Indianapolis and needs to do well there to win the Indiana primary on Tuesday. Yet it could also speak to his edge with well-educated voters, who presumably are among the most likely to tune in to the Sunday public affairs programs. (Have some Russert with your latte).

Yet Mr. Stephanopoulos and Mrs. Clinton narrowly beat Mr. Russert and Mr. Obama in the Chicago television market, which reaches into Indiana. And, in North Carolina, which also holds its primary on Tuesday, they won by a similarly slim margin in Charlotte. But Mr. Russert and Mr. Obama won by substantial margins in Raleigh, Greenville and Greensboro.

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Olbermann: Only spin Clinton has left is ‘ladies first’

Some might say Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign has moved the proverbial goalposts so often in this primary season they must be on their ninth or tenth football field.

MSNBC host Keith Olbermann expects some new “metrics for what actually defines winning” to emerge from Team Clinton come Wednesday morning, especially if Barack Obama can top her in Indiana and North Carolina Tuesday night.

“We decided to prepare for tomorrows potential new re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re-definition by compiling the guidelines offered so far,” Olbermann said on Monday’s show. “By the time we finished, it seems the only yardstick they had not yet offered was ‘Ladies First.’”

Olbermann traces the efforts from Clinton, her husband, their aides and campaign surrogates to de-legitimize nearly every state Obama has won: South Carolina doesn’t count because Jesse Jackson won there, caucuses don’t count because they’re dominated by activists, red states don’t count because they won’t vote for a Democrat in the general election, et cetera. Don’t even get them started on Florida and Michigan.

The spin didn’t stop with the states, Olbermann says. Clinton’s team has argued that votes from college educated liberals, independents, young voters, party elites and others don’t count for various reasons, the host says. What a coincidence that those groups all prefer Obama.

“When you boil it all down in determining the Democratic party’s nominee,” Olbermann says. “Only one vote really matters: The 50-something, conservative, registered Democrat, who’s not independent, but not a part of the base, and skipped college…. Who votes on domestic issues — but not in a primary or caucus — in a big state, that doesn’t border in Illinois, that has elected female governors and members of Congress, but didn’t vote Republican in 2004, won’t vote Republican in 2008, and didn’t vote for Jesse Jackson in 1984 or 1988. During an all-day vote, except for the hours between 7 and 7:15 p.m.”

The most important criteria, if Clinton is to have a real shot at the nomination, though comes down to this, he says:

“Oh, and they don’t object to their vote being overruled by superdelegates.”

This video is from MSNBC’s Countdown, broadcast May 5, 2008.

Nigeria oil rebels say mulling Obama truce appeal

LAGOS (Reuters) - Rebels who have stepped up attacks on Nigeria's oil industry in the last month said on Sunday they were considering a ceasefire appeal by U.S. presidential hopeful Barack Obama.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) has launched five attacks on oil facilities in the Niger Delta since it resumed a campaign of violence in April, forcing Royal Dutch Shell to shut more than 164,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd).

"The MEND command is seriously considering a temporary ceasefire appeal by Senator Barack Obama. Obama is someone we respect and hold in high esteem," the militant group said in an e-mailed statement.

MEND did not say when or where Obama, the leading candidate for the Democratic ticket for November's U.S. presidential election, made the appeal. It said it hoped the government would use any ceasefire to improve conditions for its detained leader, Henry Okah.

The militant group also claimed responsibility for an attack on Shell facilities in southern Bayelsa state on Saturday, which caused a spill and prompted the company to shut some production.

The attack came a day after a federal court ruled that Okah should be tried for treason and gun-running in secret. Angered by the ruling, MEND had threatened prompt reprisals against the oil industry.

Peace talks between the government and militants to resolve the unrest in the Delta stalled after Okah was arrested in Angola in September. He was extradited to Nigeria in February to face trial.

The volatile Niger Delta is the heart of Nigeria's oil industry, which exports around 2.0 million barrels per day (bpd), but energy multinationals have been struggling to cope with a wave of violence in the vast wasteland.

As part of a campaign for greater local control over oil revenues, MEND launched violent attacks in early 2006 which shut a fifth of Nigerian output and drove up world oil prices.

The latest wave of attacks and an eight-day strike by senior oil workers at U.S. energy giant Exxon Mobil which ended on Thursday, had slashed Nigeria's output by 50 percent, helping to push oil prices to new records.

(Reporting by Tume Ahemba; editing by Daniel Flynn)

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Clinton disclosures didn't list $24 million of Bill's income

WASHINGTON — Sen. Hillary Clinton excluded nearly $24 million of her husband's earnings from Senate financial statements from 2004 through 2006, capitalizing on rules that permit senators to limit disclosures of some of their spouses' income.

Her decision, while fully consistent with Senate rules and norms, delayed the release of financial information about former President Clinton's soaring income until the couple released their tax returns in early April, under pressure from Democratic presidential rival Barack Obama. By then, about 40 states had completed their Democratic primaries and caucuses, meaning that those voters didn't get a clear look at Bill Clinton's finances.

Like Clinton, Obama listed his wife Michelle's salary and directors' fees only as ``over $1,000,'' which complies with Senate rules. Obama and his wife, a Chicago lawyer, aren't as wealthy as the Clintons, however, and their finances are less murky.

GOP candidate John McCain's wife, Cindy, is the heiress to a beer distributorship and has owned stock in oil and pharmaceutical companies, but the specifics are elusive. McCain has declined to release his wife's tax returns, saying they keep their finances separately.

Watchdogs say these scenarios not only raise issues about the candidates' openness, but also point to shortcomings in government ethics requirements.

Bill Buzenberg, the executive director of the Washington-based Center for Public Integrity, said that the disclosures by the Clintons and McCain were ``inadequate.''

``There's no other way to sugarcoat it,'' he said. ``It's not transparent. It needs to be because it does potentially involve all kinds of entangling things we don't know.''

The Clintons' tax returns show that Bill Clinton earned nearly $51 million from 2004 through 2006. His wife informed the Senate of about $27 million of it, consisting almost entirely of fees from his globe-trotting speaking tours, from which he has fetched as much as $400,000 for a single appearance.

Reporting rules for senators and presidential candidates allowed Hillary Clinton to describe the amounts of her husband's other income sources as ``over $1,000." These included his more than $10 million in advances and royalties from two book deals, as much as $11.5 million from offshore partnerships that invested in a Chinese media company and more than $2 million from a Nebraska firm whose chairman reportedly spent $900,000 flying the Clintons aboard corporate jets for personal, business and campaign trips.

The sketchy disclosures on Clinton's statements might help explain why many Americans were surprised to learn, upon release of the couple's tax returns and a summary of their 2007 income, that they earned $109 million over the last eight years after leaving the White House buried in debt in 2001.

Jay Carson, a spokesman for Clinton's presidential campaign, said that like Obama, Clinton ``reported all of her spouse's income in accordance with Senate ethics requirements, which are clearly spelled out.'' The rules require less information about spouses' income.

On at least three occasions in February, however, Clinton campaign officials reassured the public that her Senate disclosure forms offered a sufficient look into her finances.

"She has released, as part of the financial disclosure process as a senator, sources of her revenue every year she has been in office," Phil Singer, a campaign spokesman, told the Christian Science Monitor.

Obama was the first candidate to release a tax return, making public his 2006 filing early last year and stating that he wanted to set a new standard for openness.

In March he released full returns for the years 2000 to 2006 and beckoned Clinton to do the same. Obama's 2005 return revealed that his wife was paid $33,000 in directors' fees for Bay Valley Foods and $12,000 for serving on the board of Treehouse Foods.

In his Senate financial statements from 2004-2006, Obama reported that he and his wife earned about $1.4 million, mostly from his two books. In contrast, the couple's tax returns for those years, which include their salaries, listed gross income of about $2.9 million.

McCain didn't release his 2006 and 2007 tax returns until last month, after he had essentially locked up the Republican presidential nomination.

The returns don't mention his wife, but in a disclosure statement required of presidential candidates, McCain reported last year that his wife and their children had 2006 income of $2.3 million to $7.1 million from land in Arizona and California, family trusts and securities.

McCain's returns show that he earned $358,414 in 2006 and $386,527 in 2007. But his Senate statement put his 2006 income at $150,000 to $1.1 million, underscoring the vagueness of government financial statements, which list income and asset values in wide ranges.

Hillary Clinton's financial statements for the years 2001 through 2003 were more consistent with the couple's tax returns because her husband's income in his first years outside the White House came mostly from speaking fees that senators must disclose.

The financial gap between her Senate reporting and her husband's 2004 to 2006 earnings coincided with a period in which Bill Clinton began to enter private business deals that caused the couple's wealth to mushroom.

Watchdogs said this suggests the need to strengthen Senate reporting requirements aimed at guarding against conflicts of interest.

David Epstein, a Columbia University political science professor who specializes in congressional ethics, said he thinks that politicians shouldn't be compelled to release their tax returns every year, but ``that's the way things work'' because government disclosure rules are so weak that there's a clamor for further disclosure.

``My understanding was that Hillary was following the norms of the day in what she had to release,'' he said. ``But does that say something about how easy it is for politicians to do favors and get away with it? Sure. ... There may be something wrong with the reporting requirements. The Congress is notoriously lax about policing itself.''

The Center for Public Integrity's Buzenberg called the 1984 flap over the business activities of Democratic vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro's husband, New York real estate mogul John Zaccaro, ``small potatoes compared to the millions and millions (of dollars) we're talking about with the former president.''

He noted that Bill Clinton's presidential library in Little Rock, Ark., has refused to identify many of its donors.

The Clintons have taken other steps to comply with ethics standards, such as putting their investments into blind trusts and then selling their stocks — including shares in oil, chemical and pharmaceutical firms — last year as Hillary Clinton formally launched her presidential candidacy.

THE DISCLOSURE GAP:

2004 — Hillary Clinton reported on her Senate financial statement that her husband earned about $9.5 million in 2004, plus unspecified income from his writings, consulting and a partnership with private equity fund chief Ronald Burkle. The Clintons' tax return showed that he made $17.98 million that year, including as much as $4 million from the offshore partnership with Burkle, the billionaire founder of the Los Angeles-based Yucaipa Companies LLC.

2005 — Clinton reported on her Senate statement that her husband earned about $7.5 million in 2005, plus unspecified income from his writing and consulting. The Clintons' tax returns showed that he earned $17.33 million that year, including more than $5 million from the Yucaipa partnership.

2006 — Clinton reported on her Senate financial statement that her husband earned about $10.1 million in 2006, plus more than $3,000 in unspecified writing and consulting income. The Clintons' tax returns showed that the former president earned $16.42 million in 2006, including $400,000 from INFOUSA, an Omaha-based company that sells marketing information. He also received $2.6 million, some of it in ``guaranteed payments,'' from the Cayman Islands-based Yucaipa partnership, which invested in Xinhua Finance Media Ltd., China's leading, government-controlled financial and entertainment media company.

Original here

CNN's John Roberts Declares "Wright-Free Zone" For Obama Interview

NEW YORK -- CNN's John Roberts declared his interview with Barack Obama on Monday a "Rev. Wright-free zone" to telegraph he wouldn't ask the Democratic presidential contender about the controversy over his former pastor.

The reference was flip, but Roberts primarily talked about Iran, the gas tax and the economy during a six-minute interview with Obama that aired at 6:20 a.m. EDT.

During appearances last week at the National Press Club and elsewhere, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright repeated his beliefs that the U.S. government may have developed the AIDS virus to infect the black community and that the U.S. had invited the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Obama denounced the remarks.

The first 11 questions that NBC's Tim Russert asked Obama on "Meet the Press" on Sunday were about the Wright matter.

Roberts said it was clear that nothing new had been said about the issue for a week, and that many of his viewers believed it was time for CNN to move on.

"Rather than spend one second of time on an issue that isn't really relevant to people because there's been no news on it, I thought I'd spend the time talking to these candidates about issues that really matter to people," he said.

Roberts, co-host of CNN's morning program, interviewed Hillary Clinton an hour after talking to Obama. He didn't ask her about Wright, either.

The veteran anchor said he made the decision on his own, and has since received about 100 e-mails, all overwhelmingly positive, about it.

The declaration of a "Wright-free zone" wasn't done to telegraph to Obama that he was going easy on him, Roberts said. Rather, he was trying to tell viewers it was going to be a substantive interview, he said.

"All of the questions that are currently out there on this have been asked and answered," he said.

It doesn't mean he's closing the book on the issue, Roberts said. If Obama becomes the Democratic nominee and Republicans criticize his relationship to Wright, he'll likely return to it, he said.

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Clinton Comes to Indiana in a Populist Package

Sen. Hillary Clinton is a multimillionaire who has graced the cover of Fortune magazine with the glitzy headline "Business Loves Hillary!"

Clinton, Obama criss-cross North Carolina and Indiana before Tuesday's primary.

The former first lady has accepted millions in campaign donations from Wall Street, and she has a solidly liberal voting record in the Senate.

But on the campaign trail these days, Clinton, D-N.Y., has repackaged herself as a working class hero, while branding Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. — who grew up working class with a single mother sometimes on food stamps — an elitist.

Main Street Clinton

"There is a big difference between us and the question is this: Who will understand what you are going through, and who will stand up for you?" said the Wellesley and Yale Law School alumna, whose family reported more than $109 million in income since leaving the White House in 2001.

Many of the positions and rhetoric would have been unimaginable for Clinton right before the Iowa caucuses, when she worked to appease antiwar liberal Democrats.

Original here

Clinton Comes to Indiana in a Populist Package

Sen. Hillary Clinton is a multimillionaire who has graced the cover of Fortune magazine with the glitzy headline "Business Loves Hillary!"

Clinton, Obama criss-cross North Carolina and Indiana before Tuesday's primary.

The former first lady has accepted millions in campaign donations from Wall Street, and she has a solidly liberal voting record in the Senate.

But on the campaign trail these days, Clinton, D-N.Y., has repackaged herself as a working class hero, while branding Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. — who grew up working class with a single mother sometimes on food stamps — an elitist.

Main Street Clinton

"There is a big difference between us and the question is this: Who will understand what you are going through, and who will stand up for you?" said the Wellesley and Yale Law School alumna, whose family reported more than $109 million in income since leaving the White House in 2001.

Many of the positions and rhetoric would have been unimaginable for Clinton right before the Iowa caucuses, when she worked to appease antiwar liberal Democrats.

Original here

Will Hillary Repeal the Clinton Gas Tax?

Bill Clinton raised the gas tax and no one in the political press seems to remember that, including George Stephanopoulos, who helped him do it.

Most political reporters obviously have no idea that in his first year in office President Bill Clinton raised the gas tax. He did it in a package of tax increases that amounted to the biggest tax increase in history, and after a presidential campaign whose centerpiece was a middle class tax cut that he forgot about once in office. If reporters knew that President Clinton raised gas taxes by 4.3 cents, they would be peppering Hillary and Bill with questions about the Clinton gas tax hike like, if you think gas taxes are too high now, are you in favor of repealing the Clinton nickel?

Bill Clinton actually wanted a much higher gas tax within the structure of a new BTU tax on every form of energy we use, but a 4.3 cent increase in the gas tax was all that we could squeeze out of Congress. I say we because I was the chief of staff of the Senate Finance Committee where I helped strategize its passage by one vote. It passed the House and Senate by one vote. Many Democrats in Congress lost their jobs in the next election because of that vote -- a vote Bill Clinton begged them to cast.

I was sure that when Stephanopoulos got his chance to grill Hillary about her proposed temporary cut in gas taxes, he would bring up the Clinton nickel. But, no, not a word about it. And, of course, Barack Obama's lame TV commercial responding to Hillary's TV commercial attacking his elitist position on the gas tax does not mention the Clinton nickel. Hillary says she wants to give drivers a three month 18 cent a gallon cut in the gas tax after her husband forced drivers to pay an extra nickel per gallon for fifteen years and gets away with it because no one remembers the Clinton nickel. Anyone who votes for Clinton in order to save 18 cents per gallon for 3 months should not let her stop there; they should demand that she repeal the Clinton nickel. And then we'll find out if her pandering knows no bounds.

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Meanwhile, in his spare time...

..Obama seems to have brought peace to the Niger Delta. No joke.

Reuters:

Rebels who have stepped up attacks on Nigeria's oil industry in the last month said on Sunday they were considering a ceasefire appeal by U.S. presidential hopeful Barack Obama.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) has launched five attacks on oil facilities in the Niger Delta since it resumed a campaign of violence in April, forcing Royal Dutch Shell to shut more than 164,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd).

"The MEND command is seriously considering a temporary ceasefire appeal by Senator Barack Obama. Obama is someone we respect and hold in high esteem," the militant group said in an e-mailed statement.
Original here

It's Not About Hating Hillary

It's about believing in Barack.

When it comes to forgetting that, I'm as guilty as they come. Guilty of twisting myself into something more "anti-Hillary" than "pro-Obama." Guilty of letting righteous indignation cloud the big picture. Most of all -- I'm guilty of forgetting what drew me to the "skinny kid with a funny name" in the first place.

The past Sunday reminded me.

Like most of the world, I became aware of Barack Obama through "the speech." I remember feeling so excited that night -- feeling the first faint glimmer of hope that we might actually claw our way out of the partisan sinkhole we'd fallen into (and remain in). It was the same excitement I'd felt when I stuck a Clinton/Gore pin on my backpack in '92 -- before I was old enough to vote (funny how things change, huh?).

Yes, he was inspiring, but there was nothing "Messianic" about him -- he was just offering good old-fashioned common sense. A reminder that the same stars and stripes fly on the front porches of Louisville and Los Angeles. That when a building falls in New York City, tears fall in Birmingham. That we're all in this together, and woe is the American who forgets it.

Four years later, I'd forgotten it. After supporting Hillary early on (call it pragmatism, call it brand loyalty), things, well... changed. I became disenfranchised. Disappointed. Disgusted. Hillary's implosion of inevitability became my must-rant topic at social gatherings. I was so angry that I started writing about how angry I was. It got so bad that every time I saw Hillary's face on the view screen of Wolf Blitzer's starship, I had the urge to spear my TV with a curtain rod.

But as the inimitable Powers Boothe once said to C. Thomas Howell in Red Dawn, "all that hate's gonna burn you up, kid."

Powers was right. I'd grown so incensed that I'd forgotten that feeling. That excitement. That hopefulness that we could tip the political scales -- even just a little -- from lesser evils to greater goods. Over the weekend, as I worked on a draft of another anti-Hillary rant ("Cinco de Lie-O," and it'll never see the light of day) I was overcome with exhaustion. I just didn't want to write about her anymore. I was tired of being "against." I wanted to be "for." All that hate was burning me up.

That was my state of mind when I sat down to watch Barack on Sunday's Meet the Press. In that hour, I remembered why I like the skinny kid with a funny name.

I watched him admit mistakes. Speak candidly about his campaign's troubles and stand his ground on the gas tax gimmick. I watched him speak about Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan without resorting to rhetoric, and defend his patriotism without attacking his detractors. He was poised, positive, and dare I say -- presidential.

I remembered that I believe in Barack.

This is not me singing "kumbaya" around the campfire. My opinion of Hillary isn't likely to change, and I'll continue to criticize her until she finally lets go of that snow globe and mutters "Rosebud." (I will, however, try and criticize her with a touch less vitriol -- but no promises).

And in the unlikely event that she secures the nomination? I'll blog from the mountaintops to get her elected. I won't feel good about it, because I don't believe in Hillary. But I won't cut off my nose to spite my country.

I believe in Barack. Maybe you don't.

But I don't hate you for it.

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Obama accuses Clinton of using the language of Bush on Iran

Barack Obama yesterday accused his rival for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton, of adopting the language of the Bush presidency in her approach to dealing with a nuclear Iran.

Ahead of Tuesday's hotly contested primaries in Indiana and North Carolina, the two Democratic contenders took to competing television networks and levelled at times pointed criticism at each other over foreign policy and the economy.

In the sharpest attack, Obama said that Clinton's threat to "totally obliterate" Iran should it attempt a nuclear attack on Israel was inappropriate. "It's not the language we need right now. It's language that's reflective of George Bush," he said.

Obama said it was time to get away from a foreign policy of "bluster and sabre-rattling and tough talk". He reminded Clinton that she had urged caution in terms of speculating about Iran on the campaign trail "yet a few days before an election she's willing to use that language".

Obama's comments, made on Meet the Press on NBC, were put to Clinton as she appeared simultaneously on ABC's This Week. She remained unapologetic: "I think we have to be very clear about what we would do. I don't think it's time to equivocate. [Iran has] to know they would face massive retaliation. That is the only way to rein them in."

Asked by George Stephanopoulos, a former aide to Bill Clinton in the White House, whether she had any regrets over her Iran remarks, she replied: "No, why would I have any regrets?"

Clinton has been buoyed by her recent victory in Pennsylvania, and by evidence that white working-class voters are increasingly swinging behind her. An Associated Press survey of exit polls from earlier primaries shows that white voters without a college education favoured her by 64% to Obama's 34%.

The New York senator has been trying to press home that advantage in Indiana, where polls suggest she has the lead, and in North Carolina, where she is behind but by a narrowing margin. The two states command 187 delegates.

On Saturday Obama added another victory to his tally, though the US territory of Guam had just four delegates riding on it. He won by seven votes.

During his interview with Tim Russert, Obama was quizzed about his relationship with the controversial pastor Jeremiah Wright. Asked why it had taken him so long to disassociate himself from the reverend, Obama said: "What became apparent to me was that he didn't know me as well as I thought he did, and I certainly didn't know him as well as I thought I did, and that was disappointing."

Original here

Clinton "Elite" Bashing A Shift For Campaign That Regularly Celebrates Experts

About Will Thomas

Will Thomas is an Associate News Editor and Political Reporter at the Huffington Post. Previously, he worked as a researcher for Talking Points Memo and TPMmuckraker. He lives in New York.

Hillary Clinton's acknowledgment this weekend to ignore expert assessments of her gas tax suspension is a marked shift for a candidate known for her interest in policy minutiae. In fact, Clinton has complained about this kind of from-the-hip policy advocacy by the current administration throughout her campaign.

On Sunday, Clinton was asked to name a credible economist who supported her plan to suspend the federal gas tax during the summer months while taxing windfall profits of oil companies. Clinton decided against naming a supporting economist (a task which is admittedly difficult) and instead dismissed such expert advice as "elite opinion":

"We've been for the last seven years seeing a tremendous amount of government power and elite opinion behind policies that don't work well for the middle class... I'm not going to put my lot in with economists."

These comments come on the tail of arguments from her strategist Howard Wolfson:

"There are times that a president will take a position that a broad support of quote-unquote experts agree with. And there are times they will take a position that quote-unquote experts do not agree with."

But it wasn't so long ago that Clinton saw the economic policy, and the role of economic experts, in a very different light. Last month she had this to say about the housing crisis:

"So we need a president who can restore our confidence, a president who is ready to confront complex economic problems with comprehensive solutions, a president who will act at the first signs of trouble, working with experts to identify the problem, with agencies to adapt regulations, with Congress to pass necessary legislation, working to prevent crises rather than just reacting too little too late."

At that time, she recommended addressing the economic crisis by relying on the analysis of a team of economic experts.

"That's why I'm proposing an Emergency Working Group on Foreclosures. It could be led by a distinguished, non-partisan group of economic leaders like Alan Greenspan, Robert Rubin, Paul Volcker."

Indeed, failing to heed experts of all sorts has been one of Clinton's consistent attacks against President Bush. In a speech last August she referenced an executive order that gives political appointees the power to overrule agency experts. She took issue particularly over interferences in healthcare and global climate change.

"It should not take an act of Congress or an act of a Senator to get the President to listen to health experts on a matter of women's health."
"A lawyer previously employed by the American Petroleum Institute, [a political appointee] had no scientific background. Nonetheless, he insisted on editing scientific documents on climate change to cast doubt and greater uncertainty than the experts felt warranted."

Clinton feels so strongly about the threat from subverting the analysis of experts that she has promised to sign an executive order that, according to her website, "restores expert-driven, evidence-based agency decision-making":

Hillary will return to the longstanding practice of giving experts a central voice in agency rulemaking and will direct agencies to pursue evidence-based decisions.

And while her executive order applies directly to the Bush administration's attack on scientific research, Clinton has in the past held the same respect for economic leaders as she has for scientific experts. A few examples of her invoking the calculations of economic experts to develop policy:

Expanding Pre-K

"We now have lots of evidence from hard-headed economists that investing in early childhood makes sense."

Repairing Infrastructure

"Economists estimate that every $1 billion spent on fixing crumbling infrastructure creates nearly 48,000 new jobs."

Of course, all candidates rely on the experience of experts. Clinton's campaign (like other candidates) continually emails reporters citing expert's praise for her myriad policies. She convenes military experts, economic planning experts and healthcare experts to appear with her at campaign events. In late December, her campaign even sent out a letter trumpeting support from over 200 foreign policy experts.

Indeed, there's a key question that remains unasked -- is there any other time, beyond this current gas tax flap, that Clinton has acted against what she saw as the expert consensus?

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Nigeria: Militants May Suspend Attacks After Obama's Plea

Ahamefula Ogbu
Port Harcourt

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) has said it is considering a temporary cessation of hostilities in the oil-producing region based on an appeal by United States presidential hopeful, Senator Barack Obama.

MEND also said in an e-mail that its ceasefire was to enable the federal government to have a rethink over the way it has handled the matter concerning its leader, Mr. Henry Okah.

The spate of attacks in the last two weeks has led to more volatility in the crude oil market with substantial production cuts in Nigeria.

The militant group also advanced reasons why it carried out several attacks on pipelines in the South-south region, saying it was "in chief" to prove to the oil companies and the Federal Government that they could not protect facilities by the "force of gunboats".

"The MEND command is seriously considering a temporary ceasefire appeal by Senator Barack Obama. Obama is someone we respect and hold in high esteem. The period of halting attacks, we hope, when considered, will afford the Nigerian government the opportunity to address the issues with Henry Okah, including improving his living conditions and having access to a bible which he has requested for but was denied," they said.

On the reasons why they stepped up attacks, especially in the last one week, on Shell facilities in Bayelsa State, MEND said: "This attack was prompted by four factors. (1) To support small cells like the ones that attacked Chevron in Delta state. (2) To let the oil companies know that we consider the military gunboats and soldiers guarding their facilities as mere ornaments and can confront them at will. (3) To dispel the assurances of ensuring peace by some compromised militants who have sold their birth rights. (4) The kangaroo court ruling insisting on a secret trial for Henry Okah".

In the statement signed by Gbomo Jomo, the militant group admitted that the man who led the attack on Chevron facility in Delta State, one Emmanuel Awala, died from injuries he sustained in the attack.

They however denied any involvement of its men in the kidnap of 56-year-old Mrs. Margaret Idisi, saying it is a taboo to take women into MEND camps where they perform their war rites, maintaining that they were not interested in taking local hostages.

They alleged that most kidnappings had "insider" involvement.

Meanwhile, Azuka, wife of Henry Okah, has said the refusal of her husband to concede to other means of settling the Niger Delta problem led to his being "set up" and incarcerated.

According to a statement she sent to THISDAY through the official e-mail address of MEND, said in an effort to resolve the problem, Vice- President Goodluck Jonathan, had met him at the Sheraton Hotel, Pretoria, South Africa on July 7, 2007 where her husband insisted in 50 per cent derivation "or nothing".

According to her, some other influential Nigerians also met and tried to represent Okah in the negotiations, but she said her husband rejected offers of oil blocks to abandon the campaign.

She wrote: "The vice-president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in a presidential jet with other top government officials and other Niger Delta stakeholders visited my husband on the 7th of July 2007. They had a four-hour long meeting at Sheraton Hotel in Pretoria. There is a disparity between this visit and my husband's arrest at 1400hrs on the 3rd of Sept in Luanda, Angola, and the reason for his illegal extradition to Nigeria.

"Sometime in August 2007, before he travelled, my husband informed me that President Yar'Adua phoned him in [on] finding a lasting solution to the Niger Delta crisis. My husband will also avail [unveil] at the main trial, the taped telephone conversation he had on him on that fateful day the 7th of July 2007 in Pretoria South Africa and every taped telephone conversation he held with all politicians and stakeholders of the Niger Delta. He has instructed me that this must be done to avail [unveil] the political cloud that befalls him unjustly.

"My husband had told me back then that the discussion having hinged on the Niger Delta crisis, that he had bluntly refused any and all monetary inducement, including oil blocks. He stated that the lasting solution for him was fiscal federalism and the 50% derivation as obtained in the 1960/1963 Nigerian constitutions.

"The world, Nigerians, politicians and everyone concerned on this matter should know that this is a Northern agenda to keep on milking perpetually the resources of the oppressed Niger Delta minorities without any protest. This is my testament."


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Women’s Voices, Women Vote Engage in Vote Suppression

Looks like a bit of vote suppression by some of Clinton’s well-wishers in North Carolina. An outfit called Women’s Voices, Women Vote is calling black people in North Carolina with messages that appear designed to sow confusion about registration procedures and deadlines. The organization claims it’s an innocent mistake, and perhaps it was, except that they’ve apparently been caught up in similar controversies in 10 other states. Each time, the response is, “oopsie!”

The non-profit’s board members include Clinton supporters such as Joe Goode, a pollster for Bill’s 1992 campaign and John Podesta, former Clinton White House chief of staff. The organization claims to organized for the purpose of registering unmarried women to vote. At the very least, the organization seems to make a *lot* of mistakes for a well-funded outfit chock-full of experienced political operators.

Update I liked the following from Majikthise on the subject:

One might assume this was an innocent mistake, but the behind the calls turns out to have disseminated inaccurate voter information in multiple states. Page Gardner of Women’s Voices Women’s Votes says the whole thing was just a misguided attempt to register women voters. Somehow they ended up targeting a fair number of people who were neither women, nor unregistered, and telling them to do things that couldn’t possibly help them register. WVWV also forgot to identify itself as the sponsor of these calls. Finally, they forgot to specify whether submitting one’s application now would register someone for the primary or the general election, if indeed they weren’t registered already.

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Did the US Supreme Court deliver the Indiana Primary to Hillary Clinton?

Imagine Hillary Clinton's luck.

When she needed to win a primary in New Hampshire, the machines glitched up, and she emerged with an unexpected margin of victory. Whether it was due to electronic voting breakdowns is not clear. But there was never a a full recount or a thorough investigation of the serious problems that plagued the vote count in that state.

When she needed a victory in Ohio, Republican voters -- urged on by Rush Limbaugh -- crossed over in droves and helped give her one. Cross-over voting may also have been a factor in her critical victory in Pennsylvania. There were also numerous instances of computer tabulation glitches in the Pennsylvania secretary of state's office.

Now the Indiana primary looms ahead. Less than a week prior, the US Supreme Court has delivered a devastating decision on voter ID that could again make a big difference in Clinton's favor.

Contrary to two centuries of American election law, the Court has ruled 6-3 that it is legal for a state to require official photo ID in order to vote. The lead decision in this case, written by liberal Justice John Paul Stevens, acknowledges that there is no evidence of voter fraud to make this requirement vital to the security of the election process. Indeed, it is clearly stated in the minority opinion that requiring photo ID to vote discriminates heavily against citizens who are young, poor, elderly and of color.

The Indiana primary will now be the first in US history with a Supreme Court-certified requirement for photo ID. GOP stalwarts -- led by Limbaugh -- are positively ecstatic. There is simply no doubt this requirement will eliminate hundreds of thousands of Democratic voters in November. It is in place not only in Indiana, but in Florida, Michigan, Louisiana, Georgia, Hawaii and North Dakota. Other Republican-controlled legislatures will hasten to duplicate the requirement, though it's unclear how many can pull it off before this November.

In the meantime, despite indisputable proof that electronic voting machines are the perfect engine for stealing elections, millions of Americans will still be voting on them this fall. In Ohio, e-voting will occur 53 of 88 counties even though Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner's study documented the critical vulnerabilities of Ohio's electronic voting machines.

Whether that will guarantee the election of John McCain remains to be seen, but it certainly won't hurt him.

And whether the photo ID requirement now enshrined in Indiana will deliver the Hoosier State's primary votes to Hillary Clinton is also unclear.

But much of that may be up to Barak Obama. Obama did not rise to help Dennis Kucinich obtain a recount in New Hampshire. He's said little or nothing about GOP cross-over voting in Ohio and Pennsylvania or the electronic glitches. Neither he nor Clinton has taken on the electronic voting machines that were crucial to delivering the White House to George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004.

Nor has Obama risen up the challenge this latest GOP disenfranchisement machine, the photo ID requirement.

In the interim, it seems clear the Republican Party and its conservative bloviator corps is pushing Clinton, and fear the Obama phenomenon.

But will Obama step forward in Indiana -- as did Bobby Kennedy on April 4, 1968 -- to side with the people? If not, then what is the real substance of his campaign?

Justice Steven's lead opinion is worded in a way that leaves open the door to challenge this photo ID law. Obama and/or Clinton can and must file a lawsuit on behalf of every Hoosier State voter who is disenfranchised by this law. If we're to preserve any semblance of democracy in America, there must be a real test of how this law is applied in Indiana on Tuesday.

For example, the African-American woman who challenged the law in the first place had been prevented from voting because her photo ID was an expired driver's license. She also had two additional current identity items including a utility bill showing she lived at the same address. But she was still barred from voting.

You can bet that white suburbanites and rural Republicans will not be held to the same rigid or stringent standards as urban minorities. As Justice Souter noted in his dissent, roughly 6-10% of voting age Americans lack photo IDs. And it's clear who they are.

If Obama doesn't stand up for these disenfranchised voters, he will drop the bottom out of the "Obama Phenomenon". If Clinton is aided to victory in the Indiana primary by this GOP engine of targeted disenfranchisement, and ultimately gets the nomination, it could nonetheless lead to her ultimate downfall.

For only one thing is certain: if this photo ID law is not challenged, and it spreads to other states, or becomes a major factor in November in the key states where it's already in place, it could render this entire Hillary-Obama-Drama moot by putting John McCain in the White House.
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Obama Indiana campaign office vandalized

MSNBC Reports: “We’re just getting these pictures in to us at MSNBC. What you’re looking at is a Barack Obama campaign office in Vincent, Indiana — it’s been vandalized around 2:00 am in the morning. A store front shattered and American flag stolen.”

“This was an office for an office in Indiana for Obama.”

This is the second time an Obama office has been vandalized in the state. Last month, police arrested a man in Indianapolis after he broke a window at an Obama campaign office. “The suspect admitted he vandalized the Senator’s office when volunteers were inside,” a local television affiliate wrote.

“I think it’s an unfortunate situation,” Nick Kimball with the Obama campaign told the network.

This video is from MSNBC’s News Live, broadcast May 5, 2008.


More Clinton Superdelegates ready to jump ship to OBAMA


Hillary Rodham Clinton, stung last week by the defection of a prominent superdelegate, could lose the backing of more of these Democratic Party leaders and elected officials if she fails to make significant gains in the remaining month of presidential nominating contests, several California superdelegates said this weekend.

Two of the five superdelegates aligned with Clinton who spoke at the annual California Democratic Convention here said they would reconsider their support if rival Barack Obama maintained his lead in elected delegates and the popular vote after the last contests on June 3.

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Economists Criticize Clinton, McCain Gas-Tax Plans (Update1)

May 5 (Bloomberg) -- More than 200 economists, including four Nobel prize winners, signed a letter rejecting proposals by presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and John McCain to offer a summertime gas-tax holiday.

Columbia University economist Joseph Stiglitz, former Congressional Budget Office Director Alice Rivlin and 2007 Nobel winner Roger Myerson are among those who signed the letter calling proposals to temporarily lift the tax a bad idea. Another is Richard Schmalensee of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who was member of President George H.W. Bush's Council of Economic Advisers.

The moratorium would mostly benefit oil companies while increasing the federal budget deficit and reducing funding for the government highway maintenance trust fund, the economists said.

``Suspending the federal tax on gasoline this summer is a bad idea, and we oppose it,'' the letter says. Economist Henry Aaron of the Brookings Institution is among those circulating the letter. Aaron said that while he supports Obama, the list includes Republicans and Clinton supporters.

The gas-tax suspension has become a flashpoint in the race for the Democrat presidential nomination between New York Senator Clinton and Illinois Senator Barack Obama. Clinton and Republican McCain tout the proposal as an example of their concern for struggling middle-class families. Obama, who estimated it would save the average driver less than $30, calls the idea a ``gimmick,'' rejecting it on similar grounds as the economists.

Dismiss the Objections

McCain and Clinton dismissed the objections.

``I find people who are the wealthiest who are most dismissive of a plan to give low-income Americans a little holiday'' so they have ``a little more to give to their children and enjoy the summer a little more,'' McCain said today. ``Thirty dollars means nothing to a lot of economists -- I understand that. It means a lot to some low-income Americans.''

Clinton said yesterday on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos that ``I'm not going to put my lot in with economists'' because ``we would design it in such a way that it would be implemented effectively.''

The proposal has been rebuffed by House Democratic leaders including Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank of Massachusetts.

The environmental group Friends of the Earth endorsed Obama over the weekend and called Clinton and McCain's moratorium proposals ``sham solutions that won't ease the pain at the pump.''

Rivlin, who headed the CBO before running the White House budget office during the Clinton administration, was among the Clinton backers signing the letter.

``I don't have to agree with everything she says, and I think she was wrong on this one,'' Rivlin said in an interview today. ``If anything, we need higher gas taxes.''


To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Faler in Washington at bfaler@bloomberg.net

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Spinning? Fine. Spinning AND Lying? Not Cool.

Spin, as we usually refer to it, is trying to take facts and present them in a way that is good for one or another candidate. We see this most often when it comes to setting expectations. Candidates try to spin things to set expectations in a given election one way, so that when they meet or break expectations the media writes positive stories about said candidate having "momentum."

Lying, by contrast, is either saying things contrary to the facts, or pretending the facts just don't exist. We saw this most often in the Bush administration's lead-up to the Iraq war, and more recently, in Hillary Clinton pretending that she never supported NAFTA, when, in fact, a decade of public speeches shows she did. Now, Clinton is doing something fairly new: spinning AND lying -- all at the same time.

Here's what ABC News reports that Clinton is now saying:

"We came from so far behind in Indiana. We're still the underdog."

Clinton is trying to set expectations in advance of Tuesday's Indiana primary, with the goal of making it seem as if a victory in Indiana would be "unexpected" and proof that she has "momentum." The spinning part -- the expectations part -- is fine, and no surprise. That's what candidates do, and that's part of politics. What's not fine is the dishonest basis of the storyline. Clinton has been ahead in Indiana from the beginning -- and in, fact, has been ahead in the majority of Democratic primary polls done in the Hoosier state.

As Real Clear Politics shows, Clinton has been ahead or tied with Barack Obama in 12 out of 18 Indiana primary polls. In fact, she's never been behind by more than 5 points -- basically the margin of error in these polls. Put another way, Clinton has been either ahead or right on the cusp of the margin of error in 100% of the polling done in Indiana.

This isn't surprising. Indiana is squarely within the Race Chasm (ie. the group of states whose black populations are above 6% and below 17% of the total population). Clinton has won most of her victories in Race Chasm states. I believe that is, at least in part, because of her deft use and exploitation of racial politics. In other words, Indiana is precisely the kind of state Clinton's scorched earth campaign has proven adept at winning in a Democratic primary -- her being consistently ahead or close is not news because it is to be expected.

But that's not the point here -- and frankly, I don't really care who has been ahead or behind in polls. What's notable -- and disturbing -- is that Hillary Clinton feels the need to lie in very obvious fashion, as if everyone is just too stupid to look up the easily verifiable facts. I'm going to capitalize this and boldface it for emphasis: SHE HAS BEEN EITHER AHEAD OR AT THE MARGIN OF ERROR IN EVERY SINGLE MAJOR POLL* DONE IN INDIANA, YET IS CLAIMING WITH A STRAIGHT FACE THAT "WE CAME FROM SO FAR BEHIND IN INDIANA."

This is not normal human behavior -- not by a long shot. It's actually rather scary, and it gets to a deeper issue -- the issue of trust. Why does Clinton feel the need to lie in the face of verifiable facts? She did it with NAFTA, she did it with Bosnia and now she's doing it with polling numbers. I just don't get this - and I say that not as a "Hillary hater" but as an honest declaration of frustration. Her behavior tells me she's either so arrogant that she's fine with insulting the public's intelligence with such in-your-face lying, or she's a pathological liar that has gotten so used to lying that she doesn't even know she's doing it anymore.

Look, it's one thing to spin -- it's another thing to spin and lie, all at once. It is that penchant for brazenly trampling the truth that troubles so many people about Clinton.

If you can't trust her to at least acknowledge the verifiable facts, how can you trust that she's serious about doing what she says she'll do as president? I mean, really, would anyone be surprised if - seeing this pathological behavior now -- Clinton gets into the White House, and then pretends she never made all the promises she made as a candidate? I think not -- and that trust issue, more than anything, is what polls show makes so many people uncomfortable with her candidacy.

* UPDATE: A commenter pointed out that in a tiny-sample poll way back in February, Obama was up 15 points. This poll was so insignificant as to not be listed even by RCP, and I think it's a huge stretch to say Clinton -- with all the rest of the polling data over the last few months -- isn't deliberately lying to create a storyline about being "an underdog." Nobody -- not a single honest observer of politics, nor anyone who knows even a shred of political data about Indiana -- thinks Hillary Clinton was "an underdog" in Indiana. It's blatantly ridiculous -- and those who rest that claim on one tiny early, wildly outlying poll are showing they are actually willing to accept pathological lying as truth. All of that said, in the interest of getting all of the data out there, I just wanted to flag it now that someone pointed it out to me.

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With her donors tapped out, Clinton turns to Internet

WASHINGTON — Running out of high-dollar donors, Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign is stepping up its Internet appeals in hopes of attracting enough contributions to keep afloat financially in the last stretch of Democratic primaries, aides say.

As the marathon money chase has strained the limits of traditional campaign fundraising, Clinton aides have sought increasingly to shadow rival Barack Obama's Internet juggernaut that has raised more than $112 million via the Web,

Through March 31, Clinton had corralled 70 percent of her $148 million in individual primary donations in amounts over $200, including $82 million from those giving between $1,000 and the maximum of $2,300, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Campaign Finance Institute.

Now, a senior Clinton fundraising operative confided, big donors are nearly tapped out.

``I think the tank is empty,'' said the fundraiser, who spoke without authorization and insisted upon anonymity. ``This is just unprecedented money raising. It's like the movie that wouldn't end. Hillary excelled at all of this major donor money, but there's a limit. Where there is money left is on the Internet.''

Internet appeals, which have brought more than $60 million to Clinton's campaign this year, have already helped the New York senator rebound twice from near insolvency.

In February, Clinton loaned her campaign $5 million and sent a message to her supporters.

``When she made the $5 million loan, she was essentially telling her supporters and potential small donors that she needed them. She was able to communicate with them quickly and cheaply over the Internet," said Michael Malbin, the executive director of the Campaign Finance Institute.

At the time, the campaign had raised $30 million in credit card contributions over the Web, said Clinton Internet director Peter Daou.

On April 22, Clinton was another $10.3 million in debt when she won the Pennsylvania Democratic primary. Over the next 24 hours, 100,000 mostly first-time Internet donors contributed $10 million, aides said.

The instant surges of cash underscore the Internet's arrival as a significant player in American politics — one that can change a race's dynamic overnight by accelerating the fundraising process.

Behind the scenes, Internet fundraising involves assembling massive email lists and crafting targeted appeals.

Obama has led the way, first pioneering the creation of social networks that Malbin likened to ``the electronic equivalent of precinct organizations.''

In Indiana, ahead of Tuesday's primary, Obama supporters can go to a campaign web page devoted to the state, type in their ZIP codes and locate the closest pro-Obama group, such as Bloomington for Obama, or Central Indiana for Obama.

``There are 8,000 of these groups that have formed across the country,'' said Joe Rospars, Obama's 27-year-old new media director. The campaign boasts that 800,000 people have set up on-line accounts with MyBarackObama.com.

The networks ultimately created legions of contributors.

``The concept of a donation is just one of those things that we ask folks to do to increase their level of involvement,'' Rospars said.

One highly successful strategy, he said, entails inviting supporters to match contributions from first-time donors — a process that ends with the two donors emailing each other about how and why they got involved in the campaign.

Daou, 43, was a keyboard player who recorded 500 albums with the likes of Mariah Carey and Janet Jackson before he was drawn to environmental and human rights activism and wound up working with the Kerry-Edwards campaign in 2004.

Daou said that the Clinton campaign tries to coax involvement from Internet viewers interested in a particular issue, such as those backing Clinton's call for President Bush to boycott the Olympics' opening ceremony in Beijing to protest China's treatment of Tibet.

If people sign up on the Internet site to back that issue, he said, ``we then — respectfully, of course — ask them if they'd like to take more action on behalf of the campaign, if they're interested in other issues.''

``Then to see if you can expand the relationship into more activism and contributions,'' Daou said.

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Clinton Defections Should Raise Eyebrows

Rev. Jeremiah Wright has proven to be Barack Obama's cross to bear. Wright's recent road show, specifically his National Press Conference speech and subsequent press conference, raises questions for some about Obama.

It may not always be fair, but we are judged by the company we keep. What then does it say about the company we no longer keep? If Wright's behavior raises questions about Obama, are not similar questions raised by the defectors within the Clinton camp?

This week, former Democratic National Committee Chair and superdelegate, Joe Andrew switched his support from Clinton to Obama. On the heels of the Indiana primary, Andrew, who lives in Indianapolis, also stated he planned to call the other superdelegates he knows, lobbying them to back Obama.

Bill Clinton appointed Andrew chair of the DNC in 1999, he led the party through the disputed 2000 presidential race before resigning in 2001. He originally endorsed Hillary Clinton's presidential candidacy last year.

Given the context of Jeremiah Wright and the contested Indiana primary the Andrew defection is big not only because of his superdelegate status, but because he worked with the Clintons. But he is hardly the first.

Former Ambassador to Chile Gabriel Guerra-Mondragon, a major fundraiser for Hillary Clinton, recently left the campaign apparently to hold a similar position with Obama. It was reported that he raised nearly $500,000 for Clinton. Guerra-Mondragon was appointed Ambassador to Chile by President Clinton in 1994 and served until 1998.

According to NBC News, among the reasons for Guerra-Mondragon's defection included his uneasiness with the tone of the Clinton campaign and was beginning to worry about what this would mean for the general election.

Former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich, recently endorsed Obama. In addition to serving in the Clinton administration, Reich's personal relationship with Bill and Hillary Clinton spans five decades.

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson's recent endorsement of Obama has been viewed by some as duplicity of the highest order. Former Clinton campaign strategist James Carville, referred to Richardson, the former Clinton Energy Secretary and former presidential candidate as "Judas."
In addition, Greg Craig, who served as special counsel to Bill Clinton during his impeachment; Anthony Lake, former National Security Adviser, have thrown their support to Obama. Even Obama's chief political strategist David Axelrod worked for Hillary Clinton during her Senate campaign.

Then there are the members of the Senate who have known and worked with Bill and Hillary Clinton for the past two decades who have decided to support Obama, including John Kerry, Ted Kennedy, and former presidential candidate Christopher Dodd.

There have been several reported cases of heated telephone conversations, most notable, between the former president and Kennedy as well as Richardson after they decided to endorse Obama.

Is this string of defections merely politics as usual? Are they the residue of angry former employees? Or is there something else at play?

The first hint of defection came in early 2007 when Hollywood media mogul David Geffen, once a Clinton supporter who was reported to have raised $18 million for the former president, decided to hold a fundraiser for Obama.

Geffen told New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, "Everybody in politics lies, but they do it with such ease, it's troubling." Geffen described Hillary Clinton as "incredibly polarizing" and Bill Clinton as "reckless."

The adjective Geffen used to describe the former president conjures memories of Monica Lewinsky, a subject the Clinton's have deemed off limits during the primary season but may be reexamined in the post Jeremiah Wright world.

If Wright's association with Obama has done damage to the senator's image, is it not fair to ask what the myriad defections by a number of highly respected aides and supporters say about Clinton? Moreover, a number of these defections have occurred since "bittergate," the Pennsylvania primary, and Jeremiah Wright.

Many of these defectors are not immune to power. Some, in all likelihood, have made their own Faustian bargains at times for a seat at the table. For whatever reason the possibility of sitting at that table with the Clintons is no longer as appealing as it once was.

Byron Williams is an Oakland pastor and syndicated columnist. He is the author of "Strip Mall Patriotism: Moral Reflections of the Iraq War". E-mail him at byron@byronspeaks.com or go to his website, byronspeaks.com
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Five Things Indiana Voters Should Know Before the Primary

Voters in Indiana have received a barrage of campaign statements and posturing over the past few weeks, as their role in this Democratic Primary is becoming central to the future of the 2008 election. But among all of that information, there are five important facts (not opinions, guesses, or ruminations...100% demonstrable facts) that all Hoosiers should know:

1. Hillary Clinton supports NAFTA

Policy wise, Hillary Clinton is out of step with 90% of working middle class Americans. Despite her current claim that she never backed it, Clinton's support of the North American Free Trade Agreement (which made outsourcing US jobs a no-brainer for corporations who care more about their bottom line than their employees) is well-documented. In his book Take This Job and Ship It, Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota cited NAFTA as one of the key pieces of legislation still burdening American workers today. And Clinton knew that workers would be hurt, disregarding the vociferous objections of their unions. In her own memoir, Living History, Clinton wrote, "although unpopular with the Unions, expanding trade opportunities was an important goal of the Administration," even at the expense of thousands of American jobs. On multiple occasions, she's given speeches praising both the trade deal and its primary architects, putting it on par with other "successes" of the Clinton White House, like the Brady Bill. To this day, her closest and most visible advisor, Bill Clinton, continues to defend NAFTA and the effect it has had on the American economy. The San Francisco Chronicle said Clinton's stance on NAFTA was "clearly a flip-flop." You have to ask yourslef, would Hillary Clinton honestly work to undo one of the most "important victories," as she herself called it, of her husband's White House?

Then consider the fact that Mark Penn, Clinton's chief strategist until a few weeks ago, when he was demoted to "top adviser," attended meetings in South America with the express goal of expanding free trade to some of the nations there.

And look at the state in question: Indiana is one of the most important manufacturing states in the entire country. The Calumet region in northwestern Indiana is the single largest producer of steel in the United States. The Hoosier State also produces an incredible amount of transportation equipment, and is a mainstay of the American mining and pharmaceutical industries. It is these manufacturing jobs that suffer most under trade agreements that put American workers at a serious disadvantage to those in foreign countries. And because history is the best indicator of what's to come, it's safe to say that there is a strong likelihood that Hillary Clinton will espouse policies that sell the Indiana worker short, along with all the other laborers across the country.

Contrast that against Obama, who supports fair trade, rejects free trade and the burden it places on the American job market, and calls for an immediate restructuring of the plan in place.

2. The Bosnia Lie Was More than Just A Punchline for Latenight TV

It's not just getting caught telling a little white lie on the campaign trail. It goes far beyond that. What Hillary did with her Bosnia tale was beyond forgivable. She told a story about her own heroism - and foreign policy "experience" - that she knew to be false. But she thought she could get away with it. It raises questions about her integrity in other areas that very well may have a large impact on the shape of this nation in the next four years (i.e., NAFTA, immigration, and the war).

But beyond that, Clinton's slip-up was an all-too-vivid reminder of the dishonesty that plagued an otherwise effective White House during the 1990s. It was a White House that- for all it's successes with balancing the federal budget, peace in foreign policy, and domestic civil liberties- denied accountability to the bitter end. From "I never smoked marijuana," to "I did, but I never inhaled." From "I never had sexual relations with that woman," to "I did, in fact hace an inappropriate relationship with Ms. Lewinsky." It made their utter denial of wrongdoing in the Whitewater deal that much harder to accept. And now, with Hillary's talking about a return to the greatness of those days, one has to consider the deceit that comes with it.

And certainly, with moments like the Bosnia speech, Hillary is giving us every reason to believe that it's a valid concern.

Plus, imagine what would happen if John McCain- like it or not, a real war hero who sacrificed his body and put his life on the line in defense of our country- gets a hold of Clinton and her tall tale. He will make a mockery of the patriotism of the Democratic Party, contrasting someone who has given his all against someone who has merely lied about it.

3. Hillary Clinton is NOT the More Experienced Candidate

It's hard to figure exactly what Hillary Clinton means when she touts her "35 years of experience." She's been in elective office for seven. That leaves the other four-fifths of her accounting up for debate.

"First Lady" is a ceremonial title. In fact, the official capacity of the presidential spouse is "hostess of the White House." That hardly screams ‘hands on training."

Hillary Clinton spent eight years as First Lady of the United States after spending another stint as First Lady of a Southern state before that. But guess what: so did Laura Bush, and it's difficult to see how that constitutes presidential pedigree. Simply being along for the ride does not qualify as experience. There were many, many individuals- like Leon Panetta, or Erskine Bowles- whose involvement in the Clinton White House far exceeded that of Mrs. Clinton. They were key ingredients in policy decisions every single day. Not one of them has considered his time there fodder for a White House bid. Where do you draw the line? Chelsea was there, too. Is she the next Clinton candidate?

Compare Clinton's seven years in real office to Obama's eleven (8 in the Illinois State Senate, three in the U.S. Senate). That's over a decade of making policy, gathering support, and enacting law. And don't be fooled into thinking that state government is somehow the minor leagues of legislating- it's grittier, harder, and more hands-on than anything on the federal level. It just doesn't come with the national notoriety.

Clinton was more than a presidential sidekick, but not by much. She never served in any official capacity whatsoever until Bill left Washington. To convolute that stint into "35 years of experience" is simply dishonest...but we already covered that.

4. Hillary Clinton is NOT more likely to win in November

Don't believe the hype. Hillary Clinton is not more likely than Barack Obama to win in November.

In 2004, there were sixteen states that were decided by margins of victory of 9% or less (there were actually 19, but I've subtracted those states whose primaries have either not been held or certified). Of those, the 16 most competitive states of the most recent election, Obama has won the primaries in 10 of them, as compared to just 6 for Clinton.

And if you tabulate the number of electoral votes attributable to each of those states, it's more good news for Obama. His 10 primary victories count for 82 electoral votes. Clinton's count for 70. Mind you, this is including Hillary's "big-state wins" in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

But it doesn't stop there. Look at Clinton's margins of victory on the states that she did win: 3 points in New Hampshire. 6 points in Nevada. 1 point in New Mexico. Even in the states she won, she never did it by a whole lot. Compare that to Obama, who's won more than a few blowouts. On average, Clinton's average margin of victory in those most competitive of states was 6.7%. Obama's total is more than triple that, at 20.7%. Remember his 29-point victory in Virginia, or his 34% wins in Minnesota and Colorado, both of which are among the top 16 in 2004.

The fact is, Obama opens up new electoral markets, presenting the possibility of victory in the South in a way that neither of the last two Democratic presidential candidates could even hope for.

5. Hillary's flip-flops on the war and immigrant drivers' licenses were more than just slip-ups.

Example 1: In the run-up to the Texas Democratic Primary, Bill Clinton made an interesting (albeit completely false) assertion: he claimed to have opposed the Iraq War from the outset. He vehemently denied ever backing the plan, maintaining that he was in the right all along. But his claim brought up another question: if that was the right side to be on all along, why wasn't Hillary against the war, too?

At least John Edwards had the decency to outright apologize for his vote in favor of the war, calling it the biggest mistake of his career. Hillary maintains that she made the right decision.

Example 2: In one of the early Democratic presidential debates, Hillary Clinton contradicted herself in a matter of one minute. In the same breath, Clinton both claimed she supported then- New York Governor Eliot Spitzer's plan to give illegal immigrants access to drivers' licenses, and that she opposed it as well. After she got a chance to confer with her advisers on the more politically expedient position, she clarified. It took weeks for her to come back from that slip up. In the meantime, Barack Obama took a stance- one that was unpopular with many, many voters- and stuck to it. That's principle.

What these two scenarios exemplify is that Hillary Clinton- just as it became apparent during the 1990s that Bill was as well (then pollster Dick Morris had a legendary stranglehold on the president's ear)- is a slave to the opinion poll. She makes her decisions based on what is popular, not on what is right. And even when the course of events calls her actions into question, her utter hubris prevents her from admitting any wrongdoing, as Edwards did. That's not leadership.

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Indiana voters are going to have a lot to sift through when it comes to deciding who their candidate will be. But in doing so, it's important to remember that- as I said before- an individual's past is a true indicator of their future disposition. And with Clinton's history of contradiction and outright dishonesty, there are serious concerns with what her future would mean for this country.

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