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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Rahm Emanuel: Obama Is Our Presumptive Nominee

About Sam Stein

Sam Stein is a Political Reporter at the Huffington Post, based in Washington, D.C. Previously he has worked for Newsweek magazine, the New York Daily News and the investigative journalism group Center for Public Integrity. He has a masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and is a graduate of Dartmouth College. Sam can be reached at

One of the most influential (and thus far subdued) voices in the Democratic primary all but declared the contest over on Friday morning.

"At this point, Barack is the presumptive nominee," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel during the New Yorker's magazine conference. "Hillary can't win but something could happen that could effect that Barack could lose the nomination."

Emanuel wouldn't go so far as to say that Clinton should drop out. "Next question!" he declared when asked. But his voice does carry political sway. The congressman has been staunchly non-committal throughout the primary process. And his ties to the Clinton administration and connections to fellow Chicago pol Obama make him one of the key figures who could help facilitate an end to the nomination battle.

Clearly, party unity was on Emanuel's mind.

"What Hillary does in the next month is important," he said. "If she spends her time contrasting with Senator McCain, drawing distinctions that help the Democratic Party, that's productive. If it's done in another way, that's not productive."

Emanuel suggested that Clinton's choice for a political path forward would come after consultation with her husband. Noting that this process has produced unpredictable results before, he nevertheless spoke about her candidacy in the past tense.

"She has a big career ahead of her," when asked by the New Yorker's Ryan Lizza what the future had in store. "As much as her ending it will... [he stopped himself] the loser ends it will determine the winner. How that story gets written will determine not only the winner's capacity to go on but also the person who didn't get the nomination."

He went on: "This is an incredible person with incredible resources, capacity. She's gone through Ken Starr. She's gone through her marriage being ridiculed. She's gone through being blamed for health care and she's still going."

In addition to addressing the Democrats, Emanuel also tried his hand at assessing the Republicans. He spoke optimistically about the general election, but cautioned not to take the GOP lightly.

"Nobody should assume these guys are gonna roll over and let you scratch their belly," said Emanuel. "They are going to cling to power and, like in 06, you gotta go take it from them."

As for Sen. John McCain, Emanuel insisted that the his candidacy constituted the myth of a maverick.

"I think he's an unbelievable hardcore Republican," he said. "Our job is to show who he really is."

Danny Shea helped report this story.

UPDATE: Sarah Feinberg, the communications director for the House Democratic Caucus, e-mails Marc Ambinder:

While I realize it's a slow news day, and all 08 reporters feel every news bit must be immediately made out to be breathless, breaking, and instantly analyzed in order to break thru, I would like to clarify two points:

1. All Rahm said was that Senator Obama is clearly now the frontrunner, which by and large means, because of the calendar, he is the presumptive nominee, at this point. He was stating the obvious. Its about the calendar.

2. The "presumptive" quote is only accurate if you ignore the several sentences proceeding this half sentence and the several minutes of conversation that followed it. I'd call it selective quoting. Congressman Emanuel also stated about 90 seconds after this that he thought Senator clinton can still win the nomination and he stands by that.

Original here

Hillary's Chances: Growing Chorus Says It's Not Going To Happen

The chorus from major news outlets saying Hillary Clinton's candidacy is almost impossible is growing louder as the Clintons continue to push on. The AP reports on the nine superdelegates Barack Obama picked up today. Clinton picked up one. This morning, ABC declared that according to their delegate tallies, Obama had won more superdelegate support than Clinton for the first time. This afternoon, AP's tally showed Obama within half a superdelegate of Clinton.

When asked about Clinton this morning on NBC and MSNBC, former Democratic contender John Edwards said, "it's very difficult to make the math work." Edwards has yet to make an endorsement.

Read excerpts from the various articles below:


Barack Obama all but erased Hillary Rodham Clinton's once-imposing lead among national convention superdelegates on Friday and won fresh labor backing as elements of the Democratic Party began coalescing around the Illinois senator for the fall campaign.


ABC News' Karen Travers Reports: For the first time this campaign season, Barack Obama has surpassed Hillary Clinton's support among superdelegates, according to the ABC News delegate estimate.

John Edwards on NBC and MSNBC
The former presidential candidate told interviewers on NBC and MSNBC that Barack Obama will probably top the Democratic ticket this fall.

Hillary Clinton has said that she can still win the nomination - but "it's very difficult to make the math work," said Edwards.
Original here

Rasmussen To Stop Polling Clinton Questions

National polling firm Rasmussen Reports announced on Friday that it will stop polling people about the presidential campaign of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton because her opponent, Sen. Barack Obama, will win the Democratic nomination.

The company's vice president of finance and operations, Michael Boniello, distributed an e-mail stating that after 19 months of tracking the Democratic race, it is now clear that Clinton will remain a close second.

Original here

John McCain Loses His Bearing With Microphone

McCain starts to address an audience and...ooops...which side is up?

Dare I say...Barack Obama is going to put things rightside-up?

Now to be completely fair, McCain figured out his mistake rather quickly. The entire moment was actually kind of endearing, sort of like a fond family memory, if you know what I mean. It's a still capture from a Jeannie Moos essay on the campaign. Here's the key part:

(Thanks to reader SQ for the tip!)

Original here

Obama picks up 9 superdelegates, union endorsement

Democratic presidential hopeful,  Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., leads a discussion on the economy at  Vernier Software & Technology in Beaverton, Oregon Friday,  May 9, 2008. (AP Photo/Steve Slocum)
AP Photo: Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., leads a discussion on the economy at...

WASHINGTON - Barack Obama all but erased Hillary Rodham Clinton's once-imposing lead among national convention superdelegates on Friday and won fresh labor backing as elements of the Democratic Party began coalescing around the Illinois senator for the fall campaign.

Obama picked up the backing of nine superdelegates, including Rep. Donald Payne of New Jersey, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus who had been a Clinton supporter.

In addition, the American Federation of Government Employees announced its support for Obama. The union claims about 600,000 members who work in the federal and Washington, D.C., governments.

Obama, who won a convincing victory in the North Carolina primary and lost Indiana narrowly on Tuesday, has been steadily gaining strength in the days since.

Clinton also gained a superdelegate.

The developments left the former first lady with 271.5 superdelegates, to 271 for Obama. Little more than four months ago, on the eve of the primary season, she held a lead of 169-63.

Superdelegates are party leaders who attend the convention delegates by virtue of their positions, and are not selected in primaries and caucuses.

In addition to Payne, Reps. Peter DeFazio of Oregon and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, two members of the Democratic National Committee from California and a party official in South Carolina announced they were supporting Obama. Superdelegates from New Mexico and Virginia also joined the migration.

So, too, John Gage, president of the AFGE.

"Our people, I think, recognize the enthusiasm and vitality behind Senator Obama's campaign," he said in a statement.

"The election is over, everybody knows that. Obama has won," said Vernon Watkins, one of the two Californians.

"After careful consideration, I have reached the conclusion that Barack Obama can best bring about the change that our country so desperately wants and needs," said Payne, who in a statement said that Clinton is a good friend and he still holds her in high regard.

Payne is one of at least 10 superdelegates who have switched allegiances from Clinton to Obama. None have publicly switched the other way.

In the overall race for the nomination, Obama leads with 1,859.5 delegates, to 1,697 for Clinton. Obama is just 165.5 delegates short of the 2,025 delegates needed to win it.

Clinton's new supporter was Rep. Chris Carney, D-Pa. His congressional district voted overwhelmingly for the former first lady in the Pennsylvania primary on April 22.

Both Obama and Clinton have courted superdelegates in recent days in private meetings at party headquarters not far from the Capitol.

Despite Watkins' assessment, Clinton has shown no signs she is ready to quit the race. She is heavily favored to win Tuesday's primary in West Virginia, and is in the midst of a two-day swing through several other states with upcoming elections.

Original here

Obama gathers support as he looks to November

By Deborah Charles

BEAVERTON, Oregon (Reuters) - Democrat Barack Obama turned his focus to a U.S. general election showdown with John McCain on Friday and said the Republican White House candidate would continue the "failed policies" of President George W. Bush.

Obama gathered momentum in his battle with Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination with endorsements from seven more senior party figures and a labor union, as well as strong praise from former Democratic rival John Edwards.

"Let's assume Barack is the nominee, because it's certainly headed in that direction," Edwards told NBC's "Today" show. He said Obama could unify the party and had a better chance than Clinton of winning November's election against McCain.

Obama, an Illinois senator, largely ignored Clinton during his first campaign stop since taking a commanding lead in the Democratic race on Tuesday by winning a primary election in North Carolina and narrowly losing Indiana.

But he took direct aim at McCain, saying he had fundamental differences with the Arizona senator on issues like the Iraq war, taxes, gasoline prices and health care.

"John McCain wants to continue George Bush's war in Iraq, losing thousands of lives and spending tens of billions of dollars a month to fight a war that isn't making us safe," Obama said in Beaverton, Oregon.

"Senator McCain is running for president to double down on George Bush's failed policies. I am running to change them and that is what will be the fundamental difference in this election when I am the Democratic nominee for president."

Obama picked up seven more "superdelegates" -- the group of nearly 800 party leaders and elected officials not bound by the state-by-state contests who are free to back any candidate at the Democratic nominating convention in August.

He was also endorsed by the American Federation of Government Employees, representing 600,000 federal workers.

Clinton, a New York senator and wife of former President Bill Clinton, won another superdelegate endorsement from Rep. Chris Carney of Pennsylvania.

"I'm gratified that we've got some superdelegates that are coming our way," Obama said during a lunch stop at a taco restaurant in Woodburn, Oregon. "And I think we've got a strong case to make that I will be a nominee that can pull the party together and take on John McCain in the fall."

He beamed as people in the taco shop broke into chants of "Viva Obama" and "Si se puede" -- "Yes he can" in Spanish.

Obama has now earned 13 superdelegate endorsements since Tuesday's contests, moving closer to winning the nomination. Superdelegate support has become critical as neither candidate can clinch the nomination without them.

Among those backing Obama on Friday were Reps. Donald Payne of New Jersey, a former Clinton supporter, and Peter DeFazio of Oregon.

"At this point, Barack is the presumptive nominee," Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, who has not endorsed anyone in the race, said at a conference in New York. "Hillary can't win but something could happen that Barack could lose the nomination."

With just 217 pledged delegates at stake in the final six primary contests, Clinton has no realistic chance of overtaking Obama's lead in pledged delegates won in the state-by-state battles that began in January.

Obama's campaign believes he will clinch a majority of those 217 delegates when Oregon and Kentucky vote on May 20.


Throughout the day, Obama found himself answering questions about whether he would pick Clinton as his vice presidential running mate or would consider helping pay off some of his rival's campaign debt.

Clinton has vowed to continue running until the voting concludes on June 3, but she and campaign aides have hinted she will step aside if it is clear that Obama will be the nominee.

An MSNBC count gives Obama 1,850 delegates to Clinton's 1,700 -- leaving him about 175 short of the 2,025 needed to clinch the Democratic nomination. More than 250 superdelegates remain undecided.

At an appearance in Portland, Oregon, Clinton criticized Obama's health care plan for potentially leaving 15 million Americans uninsured. The United States has an estimated 47 million uninsured now.

"This is a huge difference," Clinton said, calling health care reform "the unfinished business of our country that we have to resolve." Clinton's plan would require insurance for all Americans; Obama's plan requires it only for children.

Clinton argues that she has a better chance to beat McCain in November, particularly given Obama's difficulty in winning over white working-class voters in key battleground states.

Sixteen members of Congress and Clinton backers from states that will be critical in November's election published a letter on Friday supporting her argument she would be the strongest candidate to lead the party in swing districts like theirs.

(Additional reporting by Donna Smith and Chris Baltimore; Writing by John Whitesides; Editing by John O'Callaghan)

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

Original here

Letterman: Clinton ‘has substantial lead in the state of denial’

Last night, David Letterman joked about the Democratic Presidential nomination.

Partial Transcript

LETTERMAN: Are you folks sick and tired of the Democratic Presidential primary campaign? (cheers and applause)

LETTERMAN: That’s what i say. bllphh! Hillary Clinton by the way, and my gosh, talk about a fighter. A fighter. But too bad her campaign is running out of money. That’s right. And is very expensive. And they are not paying their bills. As a matter of fact, Today and this very sad, a collection agency repoed her pant suit. (laughter)

LETTERMAN: That is a true story. You can look that up. You can — bblllpphh. So here is what happened on Tuesday. Hillary Clinton barely won my home state of Indiana. And she lost in the State of North Carolina. But here is the good news. She has a substantial lead in the state of denial. Thank you so much. (applause)

LETTERMAN: I was thinking about this. And i’m no political genius. I’m no pundit but it occurred to me that Hillary Clinton has one thing in common with President Bush. Neither of them has an exit strategy. There you go. (laughter)

This video is from CBS’s Late Show with David Letterman, broadcast May 8, 2008.

Obama Camp Faces Major Obstacles In Plan To Help Clinton Pay Off Debt

About Thomas B. Edsall

Thomas B. Edsall is the political editor of the Huffington Post. He is also Joseph Pulitzer II and Edith Pulitzer Moore Professor at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. From 1981 to 2006, he was a political reporter at the Washington Post. He is the author of Chain Reaction and Building Red America. Tom can be reached at

Top officials of the Barack Obama campaign are privately exploring ways to help Hillary Clinton discharge her debts and pay back the $11.43 million she has loaned her organization, but they are running into two major stumbling blocks.

The first is obvious: the deep and growing animosity of Obama supporters towards Clinton, whom they see as raising issues of race and 'elitism' that will hurt the Illinois Senator in November.

In an interview with USA Today for example, Clinton declared: "I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on," citing an AP article "that found how Sen. Obama's support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me."

The second is less obvious: Mark Penn.

For many Obama backers, Penn, the former chief strategist for Clinton and head of one of the biggest PR-lobbying conglomerates in the nation's capital, is the quintessential Washington insider, capitalizing on political connections to become a multi-millionaire.

The immediate problem with Penn -- whose conflicts of interest plagued the Clinton campaign and ultimately led to his being publicly, if not privately, repudiated -- is that if Obama helps Clinton pay off her debts, a big chunk of those debts -- an estimated $10 million or more -- is owed to Penn.

Penn is the CEO of Burson-Marsteller, which has "a global network of 94 offices and 1600 employees that brings world-class public relations to companies around the world."

Burson-Marsteller is one of the 246 companies owned by WPP, a leading global advertising and marketing services group. WPP controls a powerful array of public relations, advertising and lobbying companies, including Hill and Knowlton; Dewey Square; Ogilvy and Mather; Public Strategies Inc.; AGB Nielsen Media Research; Quinn Gillespie and Associates; Timmons and
Company; Wexler and Walker Public Policy Associates; Young and Rubicam Brands.

Penn, who remains a top adviser to Clinton, was forced to step down as the face of the Clinton strategy team after disclosures that he was meeting privately with the government of Colombia to promote congressional approval of a trade agreement which Clinton - and her most loyal voters -- oppose.

Consideration by the Obama camp of providing financial help to Clinton would be part of a peace-making process in the event that she withdraws from the presidential nominating contest.

Under federal campaign finance law, the Obama campaign cannot directly pay off Clinton's debts, or the $11.43 million she has loaned the campaign, because that would violate campaign contribution limits. But if Obama is the nominee, he and his donor base could provide invaluable help to her in raising money through signed appeals, joint fundraisers and by other

The Obama campaign does not want to be identified as having discussions about Clinton's finances. Obama aides used the term "chit-chat" to dismiss any such discussions.

Many of Obama's grassroots and netroots backers appear to be outraged at the thought that the Obama campaign might step in to lend a hand to get Clinton out of a financial hole -- and out of the race -- as was reported

The Huff Post web site was flooded with more than 1,200 complaints on this score:

"No! No! No!" wrote a commenter using the web name 'Realbluesky'. "The Clintons have proven what kind of scum they are." 'Dbrockx' wrote: "Why is she being rewarded for disrupting the Democratic party and trying to sabotage Obama?" 'Amber09' pulled no punches: "The Clintons would never help Obama if this was reversed! They would be laughing they asses off that a
black man could dare to think he could beat the Clinton machine! The Clintons created the mud pond, let them now stay in the mud they created!"

Both Obama and Clinton have broken all Democratic fundraising records. Through the first quarter of this year, Obama raised $234.7 million, and Clinton $189.1 million. As of March 31, the date of the most recent FEC filing, Obama had $51.1 million in the bank and just $662,784 in debt, for a net cash position of $50.4 million; while Clinton had $31.7 million in the bank, debts of $15.2 million, and had loaned the campaign $6.4 million. (The FEC lists debts and loans separately.) More recently, Clinton disclosed that she had made her campaign additional loans, bringing the total amount she has loaned to her effort to $11.4 million. At the same time, her campaign was running close to broke for much of last month. Details of fundraising and
spending for the month of April do not have to be filed until May 15.

Money is a central issue in the delicate negotiations that many expect to lead to a Clinton withdrawal. A winning candidate often offers to do whatever is legal to help a loser pay down debts. In this case, there is exceptional animosity between the two camps. Furthermore, Penn's interest in any negotiations are sure to be pressed very aggressively by the Clinton campaign's new Chief Operating Officer, Howard Paster. Paster was brought in immediately upon Penn's retreat, and, as it happens, Paster is Penn's boss. Paster is the executive vice president for public relations and public affairs at Burson-Marsteller's parent company, WPP.

In his new capacity as COO of the Clinton campaign, Paster is almost certain to be central in deciding how much of any money Obama might help raise for Clinton is used to pay off the debt to Penn. This set of relationships will undoubtedly impact the enthusiasm of Obama donors for a
Clinton-Obama pact.
Original here

Flawed Messengers and Wooden Soldiers: Why Obama Beat Clinton -- and Why He'll Beat McCain, Too

Despite the endless pontificating on TV, in the end it didn't come down to sideshow jive like the Reverend Wright Imbroglio or the Great Sniper Fire Lie. It didn't come down to micro-demographics, or gas prices, or the war in Iraq. Incredibly enough, it didn't even come down to the issues of race and gender. No -- in the end, I believe, it all came down to a hard-to-pinpoint, rarely discussed, but desperately important matter: the personal authenticity of two human beings.

Let me digress for a second, though it's not really digressing. The impetus for this piece actually came this morning, as I tried to keep my eyes open watching John McCain on TV. I do not recommend this as a morning regimen. Try it. You'll feel an overwhelming desire to crawl back under the covers. To the degree that you can force yourself to watch him sleepwalking around the dais and spouting empty syllables, you'll find yourself wondering about peripheral issues. Like: why does a man who seems to be simmering with rage use the phrase "my friends" so compulsively? What's the real skinny on that lacquered blond lobbyist? And how did they finesse the payoff he got from the Keating Five? Somehow, the man himself is just...not there.

He's a Wooden Soldier.

But that's the thing about McCain. It's not just that his so-called "straight talk" is obviously badly-bent nonsense. Stylistically as well as politically, he's everything wrong, everything wooden, everything false. Like Clinton, he seems to be missing a core, and that lack of authenticity makes every word he says immediately forgettable (unless it's so dumb as to lodge sideways in the mind, like the Hundred Years War threat or his Bomb Iran joke.)

Unfortunately for Clinton, she campaigned as a Wooden Soldier, too.

By the seventeenth time she claimed to have found, or re-found, or re-re-found her true "voice" -- first she was the Imperious and Inevitable One, then she was the nice-nice I'm-So-Honored One, followed (a day later!) by the Hateful Vicious Shame-On-You One, and still later the Weirdly Sarcastic The Skies-Will-Open One, and then the Shot-and-a-Beer Working-Class One, so dang down-home that you expected the next photo-op to show her smoking crystal meth in a trailer park -- until finally, with the Gas-Tax-Holiday Fake Populist One, she exhausted all the possibilities -- and exhausted the patience of America, too.

Meanwhile, Obama remained Obama. Quiet when called for, inspiring when given the chance, and once in a while a little obnoxious (remember when he told Hillary "you're likable enough?" I mean, admittedly she kind of asked for it, but it was pretty gratuitous.) In short: a human being. For me, a pivotal moment--unremarked-on by the robotic pundits on TV -- came in Obama's second Reverend Wright speech. I'm paraphrasing here, but he said it was crucial to remember the core meaning of his campaign, "even if the messenger is flawed."

Even if the messenger is flawed.

Here's a game that's zany fun for the whole family: try to imagine Senator Clinton saying such a thing.

That's right: never happen -- unless...

Unless Mark Penn told her that polling showed there was some kind of Flawed-Messenger Demographic out there yet to be milked for votes.

And here's zany family game #2: try to imagine Obama getting in front of the TV cameras on a night that gutted his entire campaign, pasting a transparently phony smile on his face, and crowing "it's on to the White House!" as Michelle and the kids fought off tears on the podium behind him...


I think people relate deeply to the concept of The Flawed Messenger, because who among us is not one--in our family-life, our work, our spiritual pursuits? Being a Flawed Messenger is innately heroic (the Messenger part) but also deeply humbling (the Flawed part) -- all in all, a perfectly respectable thing to be. And I believe that on some psychic level, people torn between Clinton and Obama felt more comfortable voting for a man who confessed to being a Flawed Messenger -- not just in the speech, but in the way he carried himself.

Clinton's ultimate gift, among many, to Obama was obviously the Gas Tax Holiday. It nailed down her credentials as a Wooden Soldier -- the epitome of the old-fashioned, say-anything, 20th-century politician. She went once too often to the voters-are-dullards well, and it finally pissed them off.

It's a mistake McCain will make, too, because like Clinton he just can't help it. Part of it is generational. Clinton and McCain came of age in a Nixonian universe -- and there has never been a more Wooden Soldier than Nixon. (In my own personal dictionary, when you look up Wooden Soldier, there's a photo of Nixon doing his ghoulish two-handed V-For-Victory salute.) And part of it is a choice, based on an outmoded belief that voters want an Impregnable Persona instead of a genuine human being.

But, in the early part of the 21st Century, that choice is dead wrong. The Democratic runoff proved it -- and (you heard it here, folks!) it will be proved once again, thank God, in November, when Obama defeats John McCain and becomes our next president.

NOTE: An earlier version of this piece contained a description of McCain's unique microphone-style that a few readers took as a reference to his war-related injuries. While obviously that was not my intent, and I would never do such a thing, I've removed it anyway--Flawed-Messenger style--because I don't want to derail the real conversation. Some remaining comments below may refer to the earlier version.

Original here

The Paulites Aren't Done Yet

Ron Paul deserves representation at the Republican national convention in proportion to the support he received in the primaries. And his supporters are prepared to fight like hell to make sure he gets it.

Across the country, at state and county GOP conventions, diehard supporters of maverick Ron Paul are staging uprisings in an effort to secure a role for Paul at the national convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul....
In Minnesota, Paul loyalists captured seven delegate slots at congressional district meetings, and in Nevada, the convention abruptly recessed on April 26 after balloting showed Paul supporters winning at least half of the initial contests for delegate slots to the national convention....

People are catching on.

Last weekend in Maine, McCain's forces were well organized, but Paul's activists nevertheless managed to pick up one of the 18 delegates at stake.
"They attempted fraud," [Julie O'Brien, executive director of the Maine Republican Party] asserted. "We knew what had happened in Nevada, so we really prepared in advance . . . to make sure everything was done by the book."

I say boooo to Julie O'Brien. I hope there are enough Paulestinians at the national Republican convention to rouse some rabble. To paraphrase one of our commenters, Ron Paul tried to save the Republican Party. Sometimes I wonder why he bothered.

Original here

Clinton Rejects Latest Michigan Delegate Plan

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., turns after greeting supporters after entering a campaign event at the state capitol rotunda in Charleston, W. Va. Thursday, May 8, 2008. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
AP Photo: Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., turns after greeting supporters after entering a...

Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday rejected a compromise plan to seat Michigan's delegates to the national convention that would give 69 delegates to Clinton and 59 to Barack Obama.

"This proposal does not honor the 600,000 votes that were cast in Michigan's January primary. Those votes must be counted," Clinton spokesman Isaac Baker said.

The Michigan Democratic Party had approved the plan and intended to submit it to the Democratic National Committee meeting on May 31. Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer said in a statement that the plan was a "good step toward a solution that unites Democrats and ensures that our state will not face a McCain presidency."

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) had stripped Michigan of its delegation to the Democratic National Convention because the state party scheduled its Jan. 15 primary in violation of national party rules. Several plans have been proposed to find a way to seat Michigan's delegation.

Clinton's campaign has maintained that the delegation should be allocated according to the vote in the Jan. 15 primary (73/55) but Obama's campaign had argued the delegation should be split between the two candidates (64/64) because he was not on the ballot. Clinton won that contest with 55 percent of the vote but most of the other major party candidates, including Obama, had removed their names from the ballot because the state violated national party rules.

Since any plan must be approved by all the players -- the state and national parties and both candidates -- it is unclear what will happen now.

The Michigan Democratic Party's Executive Committee on Wednesday had endorsed the 69/59 plan offered April 29 by a group of senior Michigan Democrats including Sen. Carl Levin, Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, UAW President Ron Gettelfinger and DNC member Debbie Dingell.

Elizabeth Kerr, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Democratic Party, said the Clinton campaign's assertion that the votes "weren't honored" was "incorrect."

"This proposal honors the result of the January 15th primary but also takes into consideration that Obama's name was not on the ballot," she said.

If the state party ends up offering the plan to the national party, the DNC would consider it at the Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting in Washington on May 31. The DNC did not have any comment on the plan.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, who has endorsed Clinton, said the former first lady would not make any decision about the future of her campaign until the status of the Michigan and Florida delegations had been settled at the May 31 meeting. The Democratic National Committee stripped Florida of its delegates to the national convention because the state legislature set the primary for Jan. 29 in violation of national party rules.

Some Democrats have pushed Clinton to consider suspending her campaign, particularly after her narrow victory in Indiana and her heavy loss to Obama in North Carolina during the primaries Tuesday.

"She's going to make the decision when the time comes," Feinstein said.

Catharine Richert contributed to this story.

Original here

Sen. Clinton and the Campaign

There is a lot of talk that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is now fated to lose the Democratic nomination and should pull out of the race. We believe it is her right to stay in the fight and challenge Senator Barack Obama as long as she has the desire and the means to do so. That is the essence of the democratic process.

But we believe just as strongly that Mrs. Clinton will be making a terrible mistake — for herself, her party and for the nation — if she continues to press her candidacy through negative campaigning with disturbing racial undertones. We believe it would also be a terrible mistake if she launches a fight over the disqualified delegations from Florida and Michigan.

The United States needs a clean break from eight catastrophic years of George W. Bush. And so far, Senator John McCain is shaping up as Bush the Sequel — neverending war in Iraq, tax cuts for the rich while the middle class struggles, courts packed with right-wing activists intent on undoing decades of progress in civil rights, civil liberties and other vital areas.

The Democratic Party must field the most effective and vibrant candidate it possibly can. More attack ads and squabbling will not help achieve that goal. If Mr. Obama wins, he will be that much more battered and the party will be harder to unite. Win or lose, Mrs. Clinton’s reputation will suffer more harm than it already has.

She owes more to millions of Americans who have voted for her (and particularly to New Yorkers, who are entitled to expect that if she loses, she will return to the Senate with her influence and integrity intact).

In addition to abandoning the attack ads, Mrs. Clinton must drop her plans to fight to seat the delegations from Florida and Michigan, which defied the Democratic Party and moved up the dates of their primaries. A lot of people voted in Florida anyway, but Mrs. Clinton should not pursue this nuclear option. It would make the Democrats look unable to control their own, just when they want to make a case that they can lead the entire nation.

Both candidates have been vowing in the last two days to unite the party, and Mr. Obama could do more to rein in his anonymous campaign aides and other supporters who spend their days trashing Mrs. Clinton.

The undeclared superdelegates should stop their coy posing. With few exceptions, there is no reason left (other than the hope of making back-room deals) for those whose states have voted to keep their positions private. The rest should state their allegiance as soon as their primaries are held in the next few weeks.

There is a lot that Senators Clinton and Obama need to be talking about in coming weeks, starting with how they will extract the country from President Bush’s disastrous Iraq war. A robust debate about health care and the mortgage crisis would remind all American voters of what is at stake in this year’s election. It would also prepare whoever wins the nomination to be a better debater and campaigner in the fall.

We endorsed Mrs. Clinton, and we know that she has a major contribution to make. But instead of discussing her strong ideas, Mrs. Clinton claimed in an interview with USA Today that she would be the better nominee because a recent poll showed that “Senator Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again.” She added: “There’s a pattern emerging here.”

Yes, there is a pattern — a familiar and unpleasant one. It is up to Mrs. Clinton to change it if she hopes to have any shot at winning the nomination or preserving her integrity and her influence if she loses.

Original here

Cindy McCain's Business Relationship With Charles Keating and Why She Must Disclose Her Finances

On the Today Show this morning, Cindy McCain defended the McCain campaign's decision to withhold her tax returns, saying they would never make her tax returns public--not even if she becomes First Lady.

I think that's a serious problem and an untenable position for John McCain (R) to maintain. Considering that McCain fashions himself as a fighter for more public transparency, and the fact that both Barack Obama (D) and Hillary Clinton (D) have released their family's tax returns, this will dog McCain for the entire general election. Earlier today, the Democratic National Committee called on McCain to do what his opponents have already done and release his wife's returns.

Here's what Cindy McCain said this morning:

CINDY MCCAIN: You know, my husband and I have been married for 28 years and we have filed separate tax returns for 28 years. This is a privacy issue. My husband is the candidate.

QUESTION: You'll never release, you're saying?




QUESTION: Even if you're first lady?


QUESTION: Because that is, even though not an elected position, you would be in a very public role.

CINDY MCCAIN: I'm not the candidate.

[Click here for the video clip]

However, separate from this legitimate transparency issue, there are two far more compelling reasons for Cindy McCain to release her returns and disclose her sources of income.

First, as was well documented in a 20,000 word profile by the Arizona Republic on John McCain back in 1999, it was Cindy's own money that was used to get McCain elected to Congress in the first place:

Many have told the tale of John McCain winning the 1st Congressional District by wearing out three pairs of shoes. McCain's footwear definitely took a beating during the race, but it was more greenbacks than soles that swept McCain into the U.S. House of Representatives in 1982.

McCain's first campaign benefited from his wife's personal wealth, some of which had been tied up in a trust set up in 1971 by her parents, Jim and Marguerite ''Smitty'' Hensley.

In 1981, the trust expired and was dissolved, giving Cindy McCain a half interest in Western Leasing Co., a truck-leasing business controlled by her father, said Trevor Potter, general counsel to the McCain 2000 campaign and former chairman of the Federal Election Commission.

In 1982, Cindy McCain received $639,000 from Western Leasing, according to a financial disclosure report filed by McCain. Potter said that figure reflects Cindy's income on paper, not the actual cash she received, which was about $250,000.

In any case, that same year, the McCains lent $169,000 of their own money to the campaign. Western Leasing, in part, made those loans possible, Potter said.

''Her financial assets played a part in allowing them to loan money to the campaign,'' Potter said. ''And her financial assets included the income from Western Leasing.''
(Page 19)

Cindy McCain was no ordinary bystander to her husband's political career. It was her own money that helped to get him elected in the first place.

But even more significant is her involvement in the scandal of McCain's career -- The Keating Five.

In spinning his side of the Keating story, McCain adopted the blanket defense that Keating was a constituent and that he had every right to ask his senators for help. In attending the meetings, McCain said, he simply wanted to make sure that Keating was treated like any other constituent.

Keating was far more than a constituent to McCain, however.

On Oct. 8, 1989, The Republic revealed that McCain's wife and her father had invested $359,100 in a Keating shopping center in April 1986, a year before McCain met with the regulators.

...When the story broke, McCain did nothing to help himself. When reporters first called him, he was furious. Caught out in the open, the former fighter pilot let go with a barrage of cover fire. Sen. Hothead came out in all his glory.

''You're a liar,''' McCain snapped Sept. 29 when a Republic reporter asked him about business ties between his wife and Keating.

''That's the spouse's involvement, you idiot,'' McCain said later in the same conversation. ''You do understand English, don't you?''

He also belittled the reporters when they asked about his wife's ties to Keating.

''It's up to you to find that out, kids.''

And then he played the POW card.

''Even the Vietnamese didn't question my ethics,'' McCain said.

The paper ran the story a few days later. At a news conference, McCain was a changed man. He stood calmly for 90 minutes and answered every question.

On the shopping center, his defense was simple. The deal did not involve him. The shares in the shopping center had been purchased by a partnership set up between McCain's wife and her father. (Page 27)

But it only got worse for Cindy's personal and financial involvement with Keating.

From a December 1989 Newsday story:

The Senate Ethics Committee will seek a detailed study of a real estate partnership involving developer Charles Keating Jr. and the wife of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), according to Senate sources.

Involved is an investment by Cindy McCain and her father, James Hensley, in a $15-million Phoenix, Ariz., shopping center. The $359,000 investment, made through a Hensley company subsidiary in which Cindy McCain had 41 percent ownership and her father 51 percent, makes them the largest single investors in the project originally financed, built and managed by Keating. The investment by the senator's relatives was made in 1986 after Keating was already in a bitter feud with federal regulators alarmed over his operation of Lincoln Savings and Loan.

Ultimately, the Ethics Committee reprimanded McCain for his involvement in the Keating 5, calling it an exercise in "poor judgment."

But the fact that Cindy McCain's own money was tied-up in business dealings with Keating himself provides an even more compelling reason for her to now publicly reveal her finances and business relationships.

Given that Mrs. McCain 1) already tapped her personal money for the purposes of directly helping her husband's political career and 2) was the she was the largest investor in a real estate deal managed by Keating and for which records were sought by the Senate Ethics Committee which reprimanded her husband for his actions on behalf of her business partner, she loses the right to avoid disclosure under the premise that she's "not the candidate" and then calling her finances "a privacy issue."

The problem with her argument is that Cindy McCain isn't in fact separate from her husband's obligations of disclosure as a candidate for president. She was an active participant in its start and whose business dealings were the subject of one of the biggest Senate scandals in a generation.

While McCain has received a free pass while Clinton and Obama have battled, that is coming to an end very shortly. It's time that John McCain practices what he preaches about ethics and transparency. His wife's finances are absolutely germane to this race and the public has a right to know about her finances and her business relationships.

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Clinton Supporters Send Last-Ditch Obama Attack Emails To Supers

As the Democratic primary nears its long-awaited conclusion, undecided superdelegates have been drowned under a sudden deluge of angry, sometimes vicious emails from Hillary Clinton supporters urging them to not fall in line behind Barack Obama.

The letter writing campaign picked up steam late Thursday evening when several superdelegates confirmed that a coordinated effort had been launched, apparently independent of Clinton's campaign, to raise last-minute concerns about Obama's candidacy and present the specter of voter defections should the Illinois Democrat become the nominee.

In more than dozen messages sent yesterday evening and shared with The Huffington Post, supporters of Clinton emailed a laundry list of political and exceedingly personal attacks on Obama's candidacy, including criticisms of his prior associations and claims that he, not Clinton, had played the race card. The letters underscore the high emotional pitch of the late stage Democratic primary as well as the utter conviction among many supporters of both campaigns that their candidate is solely worthy of the nomination.

Such campaigns targeting superdelegates have mostly been avoided out of fear that the party officials would react negatively to outside pressure. And at least four superdelegates on the receiving end of yesterday's emails suggested that they did more harm to Clinton's cause than good.

In one exchange, Donna Brazille, Al Gore's campaign manager and a stalwart of the Democratic Party, responded with frustration to a writer's threats of defection. "Honestly, this is the 9th email today," she wrote before 8:00 pm. "So I believe you're ready to not only destroy Roe versus Wade, voting rights, civil liberties and civil rights. Perhaps adding trillions more to the deficits through non-stop tax cuts to the wealthy and 100 more years in Iraq. Yes, please join Rush and McCain asap. The train has left. Catch it."

The Clinton campaign did not return a request for comment as to whether it was behind the email campaign. One author said that she was responding not to the senator's staff, but to commenters on the blog of Taylor Marsh, a committed supporter of the New York Democrat whose readers had gotten a hold of a list of email addresses.

"It was a 'spur of the moment' idea brought about by a blog (Taylor Marsh)," explained Shirley Luther, a Texas Democrat who threatened to vote for McCain should Obama be the nominee. "Tonight several of our bloggers came up with the idea of writing the super delegates. Someone on the blog found a list of emails and posted it.... Everything I wrote is the truth about my political background. The exit polls show I am not alone in refusing to vote for Obama and opting to McCain. This probably would not be possible if there was any other Republican running. But there are a lot of moderate Democrats who do respect his service."

[Added Later]: Taylor Marsh denied any involvement in the affair, saying her readers and commenters were responsible for their own actions.

Luther's email, compared to the nearly dozen provided to The Huffington Post, was mild in tone. Beyond threatening defection from the party, authors attacked Obama for his relationship with Reverend Jeremiah Wright and William Ayers, the unrepentant Weather Underground member who is a Chicago acquaintance of the senator. One writer accused the Illinois Democrat of playing the "race card" against the Clintons -- a proposition most political observers argue is reversed -- while several others called him a misogynist.

"How can we elect someone who has never accomplished anything, refuses to take stands on issues, befriends anti-American terrorists, attends a church for 20 years with Wright, and denies ever hearing anything controversial, and then stages a *public fight* so he can finally denounce him, takes credit for bills in the Senate that he had nothing to do with, and is propped up as the candidate of change??" wrote one Democrat.

Added another: "Obama, in my opinion, will NOT survive the general election against McCain. But even if he does, he will be beholden to the old-time politics, politicians and bundling interests that raised him up to where he is. It's not new, better politics. It's a sales job that's been done by the old power guards... Look at the presidential loser's club that has lined up behind Obama: Walter Mondale, George McGovern, Gary Hart, Ted Kennedy, Bill Richardson, Chris Dodd, and John Kerry. Agents of change? Hope, Unity? A new way to do politics?"

At least two other party insiders wrote the Huffington Post expressing concern over the scope ("I've received emails like this for weeks but tonight it started in mass) and negativity of some of the Obama attacks, including one red-state Democrat:

"I spent my entire life in the two reddest states in the entire U.S. so please excuse me if I fail to discern the nuances of the arguments sent my way this evening in what appears to be an orchestrated campaign to intimidate the remaining unpledged delegates by threatening to leave the party and vote for a third Bush term if I and others like me don't vote for Sen. Clinton," wrote the exasperated superdelegate. "I have been uncommitted throughout this campaign because I wanted to see how the candidates performed in a variety of settings. I am proud of them both. But I am horrified by this effort to threaten votes for McCain if super delegates don't vote for Sen. Clinton. I have received hundreds of emails from both sides - but I can say without exception that I have not received a single email from an Obama supporter that threatened a vote for McCain if I didn't support Sen. Obama. You really ought to be ashamed."


Phil Singer, a spokesman for Clinton, emails to say that the campaign knows nothing about the emails. Meanwhile, two readers write in to say they saw the campaign being coordinated at the friendly Clinton website, as well as the blog page on Clinton's own website.

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Obama Now Takes The Lead in Superdelegates Too

ABC News' Karen Travers Reports: For the first time this campaign season, Barack Obama has surpassed Hillary Clinton's support among superdelegates, according to the ABC News delegate estimate.

Sen. Obama, D-Ill., picked up two superdelegates this morning giving him a new metric to tout in addition to his current commanding leads in pledged delegates, popular votes, states won, and money raised.

Rep. Donald Payne, D-N.J., switched his endorsement from Clinton to Obama and Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., endorsed Obama. DeFazio was previously uncommitted.

With these endorsements, Obama has the support of 267 superdelegates and Clinton has 265 superdelegates.

Every news organization's superdelegate count is a little different because it is an imperfect science. Since October 2007, the Political Unit has continuously reached out to the nearly 800 superdelegates to determine their candidate preference. We also reach out regularly to the Obama and Clinton campaigns for their superdelegate lists and work to confirm any that they include on their lists.

Clinton’s advantage among superdelegates was once massive and has been dwindling steadily since Super Tuesday, when she was ahead by over 60 superdelegates.

Clinton’s institutional support from within the Democratic Party allowed her to build a commanding lead in superdelegates over Obama in the early part of this nomination battle.

Despite several rough weeks on the campaign trail, Obama has maintained momentum in picking up superdelegates. Obama has outpaced Clinton at every marker of this campaign since Super Tuesday -- after the controversial comments of Rev. Wright came out, after Clinton’s big win in Pennsylvania and after the Indiana and North Carolina primaries.

Below are the superdelegate tallies, as of this morning, from other news organizations:






New York Times


Washington Post (uses AP statistics)

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Finance Director of Democratic congressional campaign: Hillary is destroying us

I received this email last night from a reader who is also the finance director for a Democratic congressional campaign. While the letter below is anonymous, I know the name of the author and the candidate they work for - this is for real.


I got home tonight from my job as finance director for a top-tier Democratic Congressional challenger and read your post regarding the negative impact of Hillary's staying in the race upon our Congressional candidates' fundraising. I can say definitively that what you wrote is absolutely true. My candidate speaks every day to donors who tell him directly that they're more focused on the Presidential right now, or that they're tapped out because they've given so much to the Presidential. Or simply, as you say, because they're just pissed off about the Presidential.

And that's not even counting those who simply don't return our calls, or blow the candidate off when we do get them on the phone. We'll never know how many of those people would have been max-out donors to us, but are simply too involved in (or turned off by) the Presidential race to give a damn about someone who's running for a House seat.

We had a good 1st Quarter anyway, but I don't think we can continue to reach our fundraising targets unless this thing gets settled, and quickly. For her to wait until June is a nightmare that may well guarantee that not only my guy, but dozens and dozens of other challengers will come up badly short of their goals for the 2nd Quarter. And my candidate is in the very top level of targeted races. I can only imagine what the lower tiers of challengers are facing (well, no, actually I've heard from some of them, including the finance chair for a candidate in the Midwest to whom I spoke today).

We need her to drop out now, not only for the sake of our real Presidential nominee winning in November, but so that the rest of us can finally have a fighting chance with donors.
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Hillary's "white Americans" comment causing a quick firestorm

In another bad sign for Hillary Clinton's sinking campaign, the blogosphere -- and the mainstream media -- is all over her racially divisive comments to USA Today about her white support (read alvernon90's diary), and the verdict is not good. The broad consensus is that Hillary's comments are clearly deepening rifts in the Democratic party and hurting the party's chances in the fall. Are you listening superdelegates?

Kate Phillips at the New York Times Caucus blog (under the headline "Hillary Touts White Support") notes that Hillary's latest race-baiting comments come on the heels of the tense exchange between Donna Brazile and Paul Begala on Tuesday night:

As if the divisions between race and gender in the Democratic Party hadn’t been further exposed through Tuesday night’s exit polls — and by a very heated exchange on CNN between high-profile Dems Donna Brazile and Paul Begala, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s interview with USA Today on Wednesday is further mining those tense depths.

Ben Smith at Politico is suspicious of the timing of Hillary's "white Americans" comment, and surprised by how upfront Hillary is becoming with her racially divisive ways:

Now, the press has talked about the race in these terms constantly, so I won't feign shock. But it's a bit strange to hear it so bluntly from the candidate's mouth, and probably not a great way to endear herself to African-American voters.

And it's also noteworthy that the blunt talk on appealing to whites surfaces the day after the last round of primaries in which there's a substantial number of black voters.

Translation: Hillary's comments were carefully orchestrated.

And Chuck Todd over at MSNBC First Read clearly understands the problem that Hillary is causing for the Democratic party, and shares some stern words for Hillary from Chris Dodd:

It's comments like that one that might drive more supers toward Obama pretty quickly. Why? Because they know the math, but they don't want her to spend three weeks making a case that Obama can't win. It will only weaken him. Here’s what Obama backer Chris Dodd said yesterday, per NBC’s Ken Strickland. "You're going to be asking a bunch of people [in West Virginia] to vote against somebody who's likely to be your nominee a few weeks later? And turn around and ask the very same people a few weeks later to reverse themselves and now vote for [Obama] on election day?"

Right on Senator Dodd.

Superdelegates, I have a question for you. If you are truly concerned about party unity, then are you comfortable with headlines like "Hillary Boasts of White Voter Support" and "Clinton's 'white Americans'" coming right after the party's presidential nominee has been decided? If you aren't concerned, then God help the Democratic party.


On a related note, I'd like to give a well-deserved shout-out to Rachel Maddow. On MSNBC's post-election coverage on Tuesday night, all the male commentators were gushing, some with their eyes welling up, over Hillary's election night speech, calling it "whistful" and saying she was clearly going to end her campaign with "grace" and "dignity." But Maddow said she heard something completely different in Hillary's speech, and predicted that Clinton would continue her scorched-earth strategy. Maddow was roundly pooh-poohed by all the commentators, including KO, but it turns out, sadly, that she was spot on. It is beyond too late for Hillary to end her campaign with grace and dignity. "Sad" and "pathetic" is the best she can hope for now.

Here's a link to Rachel's prophetic comments, which are about 5 minutes into the clip. But it's worth hearing the other comments that precede hers.


More reactions to Hillary's latest race-baiting comments:

From Jack and Jill Politics, a leading African American political blog:

Apparently not satisfied with her plummeting approval ratings among black voters, Hillary Clinton decided to remind us again that our votes don't actually count...

This kind of comment is less a description than an agitator, it's meant to give white voters the impression that they would be "disenfranchised" by an Obama win. It's a not so subtle effort to evoke racial resentment over Obama's success...

That's what the "elitist" charge has always been about, appealing to the sentiment that "this black guy thinks he's better than you." It will be the same against the Republicans. The difference is that they now have Democrat saying the same things to further legitimize this line of "argument".

And from Mike Barnicle over at Huffington Post:

Now, faced with a mathematical mountain climb that even Stephen Hawking could not ascend, the Clintons -- and it is indeed both of them -- are just about to paste a bumper sticker on the rear of the collapsing vehicle that carries her campaign. It reads: VOTE WHITE.

That's the underlying message propping up a failed candidate. Check it out, you superdelegates: the buttoned down black guy is having trouble with blue collar white guys so cast your vote with the white chick who has transformed herself into an arm-wrestling, shot and a beer, kitchen table advocate for the working class and now it's on to West Virginia and Kentucky where she'll prove it.

So, after all the years they have been with us, after all the triumph and tastelessness, the accomplishments and embarrassments, we're about to watch them act out an updated, mixed gender re-make of Thelma and Louise with Bill behind the wheel, the two of them sharing a knowing look, a wink, in the front seat as they take the Democrat (sic) party right off the cliff, the whole thing crashing and burning in a racial divide both he and she sought to heal all those years ago in Little Rock and then Washington.

Barnicle ends by noting that Hillary is "on the edge of writing a truly ugly chapter for all to see." Mike, she's not on the edge of writing that chapter. The chapter has been written and is at the publisher.


Pam Spaulding over at Pam's House Blend points out how Hillary's message was very carefully crafted, honed and targeted, and that Hillary has clearly decided to throw all subtlety out the window in her latest attempts to use race and race-baiting as a political tool -- a sure sign of the desperate last throes of her campaign: "White dog whistles no more":

You see the problem and beauty of Senator Clinton's statement is that it boldly embraces the undiscussed fear in this Reagan Democrat demographic, the people who do consider race a major factor -- concern that white privilege is being threatened, that somehow Barack Obama as president would exact retribution against "hard working white Americans" for past or present institutionalized racism...

The frame is specific -- that's why Clinton referred to hard working white Americans. What happened to "blue collar Americans?" Oh wait, there are a lot of hard working black and brown blue collar/working class Americans, and many of them they voted for Obama, so she had to slice that demo down to the bottom line. Dog whistles no more.


The mainstream media is also joining in the growing criticism of Hillary Clinton for her racially divisive comments.

In an editorial for its Friday edition, the New York Times weighs in on this controversy and has some harsh words for Hillary. Perhaps the paper is trying to redeem itself for endorsing Clinton:

But we believe just as strongly that Mrs. Clinton will be making a terrible mistake — for herself, her party and for the nation — if she continues to press her candidacy through negative campaigning with disturbing racial undertones. We believe it would also be a terrible mistake if she launches a fight over the disqualified delegations from Florida and Michigan...

We endorsed Mrs. Clinton, and we know that she has a major contribution to make. But instead of discussing her strong ideas, Mrs. Clinton claimed in an interview with USA Today that she would be the better nominee because a recent poll showed that "Senator Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again." She added: "There’s a pattern emerging here."

Yes, there is a pattern — a familiar and unpleasant one. It is up to Mrs. Clinton to change it if she hopes to have any shot at winning the nomination or preserving her integrity and her influence if she loses.

The Times editorial also noted that Hillary owes it to the people of New York to "return to the Senate with her influence and integrity intact." Fat chance of that. By the way, the Times is welcoming comments to this editorial, so you might want to hop over there and share your two cents.

Over at the Washington Post, the always-great Eugene Robinson shares his views on "The Card Clinton Is Playing":

Let's examine those premises. These are white Democrats we're talking about, voters who generally share the party's philosophy. So why would these Democrats refuse to vote for a nominee running on Democratic principles against a self-described conservative Republican? The answer, which Clinton implies but doesn't quite come out and say, is that Obama is black -- and that white people who are not wealthy are irredeemably racist.

The other notion -- that Clinton could position herself as some kind of Great White Hope and still expect African American voters to give her their enthusiastic support in the fall -- is just nuts. Obama has already won a majority of the Democratic primary contests; within a couple of weeks, he almost certainly will have won a majority of the pledged convention delegates and will be assured of finishing with more of the popular vote. Only in Camp Clinton does anyone believe that his supporters will be happy if party leaders tell him, in effect, "Nice job, kid, but we can't give you the nomination because, well, you're black. White people might not like that."...

"It's still early," Clinton said Wednesday, vowing to fight on. At some level, she seems to believe the nomination is hers. Somebody had better tell her the truth before she burns the house down.

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Obamamania sweeps the Hill

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.)
Photo: AP

Rep. Robert A. Brady (D-Pa.) was driving toward Washington on Thursday morning when he got a call from Barack Obama. Brady asked Obama where he was, and the man fast approaching ‘presumptive nominee’ status told him he was in the Senate.

Brady had an idea: Obama should pop on over to the House chamber and say hello. And that’s just what the Illinois senator did.

When he walked onto the floor, said Brady, Obama made straight for the Pennsylvania corner. “See, Bob,” he said. “I listen to you sometimes.”

“You got to listen to me all the time,” Brady, an uncommitted superdelegate, said he joked in response.

Brady’s casual suggestion turned into quite a scene, as Obamamania — fueled by Tuesday night’s results in Indiana and North Carolina — descended onto the floor of the House in full force.

As Obama made his way slowly through the House mob, reporters piled up outside the nearest door to the House floor, craning their necks to get a look. Security guards pressed through the media crowd, repeatedly asking the Fourth Estate to keep a lane open for lawmakers.

Supporters and opponents alike maneuvered to get face time, whether it was 73-year-old Rep. James L. Oberstar (D-Minn.) patiently waiting his turn or Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (D-Fla.), a Clinton supporter, giving Obama a big hug.

Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) had the man autograph today's copy of the NY Daily News. (Cover: "It's his Party.") Reps. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.), a Clinton backer, and Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) gave him bear hugs on the floor, as well.

Even Republicans were star-struck. Rep. Illeana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) said she was escorting a group of elementary school students onto the House floor when Obama made his entrance.

Ros-Lehtinen said the children noticed the presidential hopeful and screamed, “It’s Barack Obama!” in unison. The congresswoman then led the students across the aisle and over to Obama, who chatted briefly with the three students.

“The kids were very excited,” said Ros-Lehtinen. “Like rock star excited.”

Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), an Obama supporter, said that a number of Republicans crossed the aisle to congratulate him. “One told me that if he wins, he looks forward to working with him,” said Conyers, who would not give the member’s name. “I’ve worked with [the congressman] before on some things, but that still surprised me.”

Conyers suggested that Obama’s primary opponent needs to repeat the cross-chamber journey. “Hillary’s got to come now,” he said.

Twice, it looked like Obama was about to leave the chamber, but he got pulled back in by superdelegates — both committed and uncommitted.

Obama himself, apparently mindful of his shadow, bowed before House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.).

Obama’s core constituency — young voters — was fully represented, too, though most of the pages in the chamber won’t be voting until 2012. But they made their opinion clear.

Obama posed for photos with giddy pages on the staircase leading up to the House gallery. The normally staid and deferential pages, who walk the halls quietly on their best behavior, returned the favor, giving Obama a rousing ovation. Security guards reprimanded reporters and tourists for snapping photos with their phones — something that is strictly forbidden in many parts of the chamber unless you are a credentialed photographer — but to little avail.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) arrived after Obama and said she was not sure who had invited him. "I don't know if he was invited by members," Pelosi said. The visit to the speaker’s chamber, however, didn’t sway her from her officially uncommitted position, she said. "Me, I like combat," Pelosi said. "The best training for campaigning is campaigning."

Not all Republicans, though, were thrilled to see him. Asked if he crossed the aisle to meet Obama, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), shook his head. “Lord no,” he said. “Lord no.”

And Obamamania can have consequences for one's day job. The Senate voted a few minutes after Obama’s victory lap through the House, but Obama was nowhere to be found. He skipped a Senate roll call vote on a budget point of order on a flood insurance bill.

John Bresnahan, Martin Kady II, Patrick O’Connor, Amie Parnes and Daniel W. Reilly contributed to this story. This story has been corrected.
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Why Torture Doesn't Make Us Safer

"We tortured an insane man"

The author of "The One Percent Doctrine," Ron Suskind, talks about what the U.S. really got out of Abu Zubaydah and why waterboarding doesn't make America safer.

By Alex Koppelman

Sep. 07, 2006 | Harsh interrogation works -- that's the argument President Bush made on Wednesday even as he announced that al-Qaida operative Abu Zubaydah and 13 other alleged al-Qaida operatives will be transferred to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to face trial. Acknowledging for the first time the existence of secret CIA prisons where the 14 men had been held, Bush claimed that the extreme interrogation techniques used on Zubaydah, whom he called "a senior terrorist leader," and others in the "war on terror," were justified. Bush said that Zubaydah, under the pressure of what Bush referred to as the CIA's "alternative set of procedures," had given up information that proved vital to the United States.

But Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Suskind paints a more complicated picture of Zubaydah. In one of the most hotly discussed sections of his book "The One-Percent Doctrine," Suskind reveals that at least one top FBI analyst considered Zubaydah an "insane, certifiable, split personality" and that he was mainly responsible only for logistics like travel arrangements. According to Suskind's reporting, the interrogation methods used on Zubaydah -- waterboarding and sleep deprivation, among others -- only yielded information about plots that did not exist.

Salon spoke with Suskind about how the Bush administration has tended to oversell Zubaydah's significance and why sophisticated "soft" interrogation techniques have been the most effective.

What did you think of the president's speech?

Well, I don't think that the president contradicted anything that's in the book. I say in the book that we did get some things of value from Abu Zubaydah. We found out that "Muktar" -- the brain, that's what it means in Arabic -- was Khalid Sheik Mohammed. That was valuable for a short period of time for us. We were then able to go through the SIGINT [signal intelligence], the electronic dispatches over the years, and say, "OK, that's who 'Muktar' is." Zubaydah, of course, is showing up on signal intelligence as Zubaydah.

Also, we essentially said, "You've got to give us a body, somebody we can go get," and he gave us [Jose] Padilla. Padilla turned out to not be nearly as valuable as advertised at the start, though, and I think that's been shown in the ensuing years. So that's what we got from Zubaydah.

At the same time, I think we oversold [Zubaydah's] value -- the administration did -- to the American public. That's indisputable. As well, what folks inside the CIA and FBI were realizing, even as the president and others inside the administration were emphasizing the profound malevolence and value strategically to the capture of Zubaydah, is that Zubaydah is psychologically imbalanced, he has multiple personalities. And he was not involved in various events that we thought he was involved in. During various bombings in the late '90s, he was not where we thought he would be. That's shown in the diaries, where he goes through long lists of quotidian, nonsensical details about various people and what they're doing, folks that he's moving around, getting plane tickets for and serving tea to, all in the voices of three different characters; page after page of his diary, filled, including on dates where, I'm trying to think, it was either the Khobar Towers or the Cole, where we thought he was involved in the bombing and he clearly wasn't.

So that's the real story of Zubaydah, more complicated than the administration would like, and maybe more complicated than the president at this point feels comfortable saying in an election season. It's one of the many instances where you could shine a light through this prism and see an awful lot about some of the dilemmas of the war on terror.

In the case of Zubaydah, when it comes to some of the harsh interrogation tactics he was put through, what occurred then was that he started to talk. He said, as people will, anything to make the pain stop. And we essentially followed every word and various uniformed public servants of the United States went running all over the country to various places that Zubaydah said were targets, and were not.

Ultimately, we tortured an insane man and ran screaming at every word he uttered.

And what do you think of the interrogation procedures the president described?

The fact is that the history of interrogation shows that you do not do particularly well when you confirm expectations, when everybody plays their preordained role. In this case, al-Qaida operatives are trained to believe that the United States, and representatives of the U.S., are bloodthirsty mobsters who will dismember and disembowel. The fact is, when we use harsh techniques we essentially say, "We are going to confirm your expectations."

What has largely worked in all the interrogations, what we got -- and in many cases it's not very much -- but whatever we got, for the most part occurred because we were, let's just say, a little more clever than that. Instead of going medieval, which is the tactic our enemies here embrace, we essentially find a way to confuse their expectations. In many cases, just by treating them as human beings we have created an environment where we get what we so desperately need, which is information that might help save American lives.

That's the key. The key is to not give in to anger, but to do whatever works best. There's clearly been a learning curve on that; some of the harsh techniques used early on have been I think largely abandoned because they didn't work.

That's what we're finding today, in terms of these competing press conferences. The president vs. the Pentagon; the Pentagon folks are listing out two dozen or so techniques that we'll use, which are fairly tame. Going forward, the president is saying, well, we got some valuable things from using these harsh interrogation techniques. Ultimately, one is message, the other is reality. This is the way the White House does a very careful bit of calibration to say that we thought at the beginning it wasn't quite right in terms of using harsh or extra-legal methods, many of them qualifying as torture, on the folks who've been captured.

What techniques have they dropped?

Death threats, waterboarding, profound deprivation issues, heat, cold, denial of medical attention -- those are now abandoned.

One of the dark moments in the so-called war on terror, as I disclosed in the book, along with all the other stuff, is that we threatened Khalid Sheik Mohammed's children to get him to talk. According to those involved in that incident, he pretty much looked them straight in the eye and said, "Fine, they'll be in a better place with Allah." Once you threaten someone's children there's pretty much nowhere else to go in terms of building the kind of relationship where they at some point tell you things that you really need to hear.

The president said today that Zubaydah was a "senior terrorist leader" and a "trusted associate of bin Laden," and that the "intelligence community believes he had run a terrorist camp in Afghanistan where some of the 9/11 hijackers trained, and that he helped smuggle al-Qaida leaders out of Afghanistan after coalition forces arrived." What do you think of that characterization?

Zubaydah was not involved in key operational planning for al-Qaida. He was involved largely in logistics.

So you think describing him as a "senior terrorist leader" and a "trusted associate of bin Laden" is an overstatement?

I think, again, that the president is overstating a little less than the overstatements when Zubaydah was first captured, but nevertheless, still a bit of an overstatement.

The president also talked about Zubaydah giving away "what he thought was nominal information -- and then stopp[ing] all cooperation," and then they used these harsher tactics and he gave up what the president said was "information on key al-Qaida operatives, including information that helped us find and capture more of those responsible for the attacks on September the 11th. For example, Zubaydah identified one of KSM's [Khalid Sheik Mohammed] accomplices in the 9/11 attacks -- a terrorist named Ramzi bin al Shibh. The information Zubaydah provided helped lead to the capture of bin al Shibh. And together these two terrorists provided information that helped in the planning and execution of the operation that captured Khalid Sheik Mohammed."

Zubaydah gave us the information he gave us because, in using softer techniques, we convinced him that his religious belief in predetermination was such that he believed that he wasn't killed, but captured, when other people died, obviously, that he was wounded and captured for a reason, and the reason was to give us some information. That was why he gave us some information, that was the rationale he used. That was what one would consider more sophisticated, "soft" interrogation techniques, where we got the stuff of value.

So the stuff about bin al Shibh, that came through softer interrogation tactics?

Bin al Shibh, no. I'm not talking about the bin al Shibh stuff or the KSM stuff. Ultimately, we ended up getting the key breaks on those guys, KSM and bin al Shibh, from the Emir of Qatar, who informed us as to their whereabouts a few months before we captured bin al Shibh. That was the key break in getting those guys. KSM slipped away; in June of 2002, the Emir of Qatar passed along information to the CIA as to something that an Al Jazeera reporter had discovered as to the safehouse where KSM and bin al Shibh were hiding in Karachi slums. He passed that on to the CIA, and that was the key break. Whether Zubaydah provided some supporting information is not clear, but the key to capturing those guys was the help of the Emir.

So considering the parts of the speech we've just discussed, how do you feel about it generally now?

The president is trying to stick to message here, and it's not easy, because the facts are more complex, and in some cases contradict the claims of the U.S. government. This is the White House trying to do a bit of a recalibration as to the views and strategies in terms of interrogation and the handling of prisoners without having to admit that it made mistakes early on and maybe even learned something along the way.

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