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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

McCain’s Economic Policies Like A Third Bush Term? Blunt Says Yes!

Can America afford a presidential candidate who has to bring along an economic adviser in order to be coherent on the subject? Not after the last few years of Bush Administration arrogance in the face of failures, it can't.

Especially when that adviser (and rumored to be a leading contender for a McCain Treasury Secretary spot) is former Senator Phil Gramm (TX-Enron), whose out of touch tendencies led to many a Molly Ivins ribbing back in the day?

So what is McCain's economic strategy? Hell if I know -- or anyone else for that matter -- because it's one big mish-mash, other than the fact that he likes to throw out "spend less and tax the wealthy less for trickle down" platitudes like some magic fairy dust. Sounds like someone has a case of Jack Kemp-itis, without actually comprehending its ramifications on anyone not living in a gated community (YouTube) with deep water yacht slips.

What I do know, though, is that the GOP has put this country in a world of shit. And it seems that most Americans understand that all too well:

More than three-quarters of respondents say the country is heading in the wrong direction, up from 63 percent at the start of the year. The last time more than 70 percent of respondents said that was in 1992.

Among respondents with more than $100,000 in annual household income, 68 percent said the country is on the wrong track. Those with annual income under $60,000 had the highest levels of dissatisfaction, with more than eight in 10 saying the U.S. is going in the wrong direction.

There is a partisan divide in the way people view the country. Slightly more than half of Republicans say the U.S. is headed the wrong way, compared with 87 percent of Democrats.

People see the the cumulative impact of one bad decision after another each and every time they fill up their cars or try to buy food for their families. Including a majority of GOP voters. So, with that in mind, what in the hell were the Republicans thinking trotting out Roy Blunt for some seriously mixed up messaging yesterday?

On CNN's "Late Edition," Republican whip Roy Blunt said, when it comes to taxes, a McCain administration would be in effect a third Bush term.

"I think it would be. And I think that's a good thing," he said. (emphasis mine)

Well, even Roy Blunt finds the god's honest truth occasionally spilling out, I suppose...

(YouTube is a DNC ad -- McCain thinks the economy is going swimmingly. Probably just looks that way from the Sugar Momma Express.)

Original here

Top 10 Reasons Obama Defeated Clinton for the Democratic Nomination

Now that the outcome of the battle for the Democratic nomination has been settled beyond a reasonable doubt, it's worth looking systematically at the major factors that gave victory to Obama. After all, fifteen months ago, conventional wisdom viewed Obama as an audacious long shot. The very idea of a first-term African American senator with a name like Barack Obama defeating the vaunted Clinton machine seemed preposterous.

Here are my Top Ten reasons why lightning struck in the contest for the 2008 Democratic nomination (apologies to David Letterman ):

#10. Great Team. Obama assembled a great team that could work together. He stayed away from lobbyist insiders like Clinton's Mark Penn or McCain's Charlie Black, and choose political professionals who are committed to progressive values like David Plouffe, David Axelrod, Steve Hildebrand and Paul Tewes. From the first he insisted on one key rule: no drama. There was little of the infighting and division in the Obama operation that ate away at the Clinton campaign. Clinton had many capable staffers and consultants, but Penn's divisive leadership style and failures as a strategist doomed the campaign organization to dysfunction. When the brilliant Geoff Garin was tapped to succeed Penn as Chief Strategist in April, it was simply too late.

#9. All-State Strategy. Mark Penn was convinced that Clinton could sew up the nomination by Super Tuesday focusing only on the big states. In fact, some have reported that he mistakenly believed that California had a "winner take all" primary. Obama's team hunted for delegates in every nook and cranny of America - especially in the caucus states that Clinton really didn't contest. Obama ran an active, on-the-ground campaign in every contest, from California to Guam. As a consequence, as one anonymous Clinton insider reports, Clinton lost the nomination in February after Obama ran the table in 11 straight states.

#8. No Plan B. The Clinton campaign had no fall-back plan when it failed to capture the nomination on February 5. There was no money, no organization and no plan to contest the states that lie in the land beyond Super Tuesday.

#7. Excellence in Execution: Great Field. Obama ran the best field operation in American political history -- particularly in the all important Iowa Caucuses. His campaign left no stone unturned, or a vote on the table, in any state. It opened offices everywhere, hired and trained great staff, and managed through simple, streamlined structures. It would have been easy for Obama to squander the massive influx of volunteers who were mobilized through his inspirational message. But the campaign developed structures to integrate and effectively use volunteers, both on the ground and through the Internet. In particular, it developed highly sophisticated new Internet tools to allow volunteers around the country to participate meaningfully in voter ID and get out the vote operations.

#6. Explosive Obama Fundraising. Obama's ability to compete everywhere, to build great field structures and to out-communicate Clinton in the paid media rested squarely on the massive fundraising operation. Obama's traditional fundraising program ended up matching the vaunted Clinton fundraising machine. But the newly developed Internet operation provided a massive advantage. So far Obama has recruited over one-and-a-half-million donors. In other words, by the time the primary season ends, almost one of every ten Obama primary voters (so far there have been 16.3 million) will have made a financial contribution to his campaign. That is beyond unprecedented.

#5. Obama Out-Communicated Clinton Using One Consistent Message. Obama's message has been consistent from Day One. Clinton lurched from "experienced insider" to "populist outsider" from Margaret Thatcher-like "Iron Lady" to a "victim being bullied." And of course, Obama's huge small-donor-driven fundraising advantage gave him the ability to out-communicate her in the paid media - often by a factor of two-to-one.

#4. Hope and Inspiration trumped Fear and Anger. A core element of that Obama message has always been hope and inspiration. Early on, John Edwards hit an important cord of populist anger that is critical to any successful Democratic campaign. Right now especially, people want their leaders to be populist outsiders not "competent" insiders. But Edwards was unable to resolve that anger into hope. Obama touched the anger but also held out possibility. When Hillary "found her voice" as the fighting populist at the end of the campaign, she tapped into anger as well. She didn't hesitate to play the fear card -- both when it came to foreign policy, and by channeling the Republican frame that "elitist professional types" are trying to destroy your way of life. But she never managed to inspire and resolve that fear into hope.

Inspiration is the one political message that simultaneously persuades swing voters and motivates mobilizable voters who rarely come to the polls. The North Carolina landslide provided a striking example of how inspiration can generate massive mobilization at the same time it appeals to independent swing voters.

#3. Unity Trumped Division. Obama showed that appeals to division - whether from elements that stirred up fear that a "black candidate couldn't win" - or from his former pastor - could be overcome by America's overwhelming hunger for unity. Americans - and particularly young Americans - are sick of Republican appeals based on the things that divide us, particularly race. It isn't 1988 anymore. A whole generation has passed from the scene and been replaced by young people who simply don't get the passions that allowed the fear of "Willie Horton" to decide the 1988 presidential race.

#2. Change Trumped Experience. Clinton Chief Strategist Mark Penn's fundamental strategic error was to position Clinton as the "Experience" candidate, when America desperately wanted change. Eighty percent of the voters think America is on the wrong track. They want change in general - and most importantly, they want change in the way special interests dominate Washington. Mark Penn, the consummate lobbyist-insider himself embodied the very thing people believe is wrong in Washington. It's no wonder he made this catastrophic strategic blunder.

#1. Obama is an Extraordinary Candidate. Inspirational, articulate, brilliant, funny, attractive and naturally empathetic - his history as a community organizer, his experience abroad, his beautiful family, accomplished wife, and adorable kids: Obama is the kind of candidate any campaign manager would want in any year. But he is perfect for this year. While the Clintons represented the Bridge to the 21st Century, Obama is the 21st century. His own, multi-cultural story is the future of America. As the campaign tested him, he showed he was cool, deliberate and effective under fire.

In the end, people vote for people. Campaigns are ultimately about the qualities of candidates --about whether or not people want them to be their leaders. Potentially, Barack Obama could become an historic, transformational leader. But John McCain has many qualities that are attractive to swing voters as well. Nothing is preordained. Now it will be up to every Democrat, every Progressive, to take advantage of this historic opportunity to make Barack Obama the American President who leads the world into a new progressive era of unprecedented possibility.

Robert Creamer is a long time political organizer and strategist, and author of the recent book: Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, available on amazon.com
Original here

Hillary's Grotesque Insult to African-Americans

It's one thing to lack class, but it's quite another to deliberately try and wreck the presidential prospects of your party's likely nominee.

The Clintons have never understood how to exit the stage gracefully.

Their repertoire has always been deficient in grace and class. So there was Hillary Clinton cold-bloodedly asserting to USA Today that she was the candidate favored by "hard-working Americans, white Americans," and that her opponent, Barack Obama, the black candidate, just can't cut it with that crowd.

"There's a pattern emerging here," said Mrs. Clinton.

There is, indeed. There was a name for it when the Republicans were using that kind of lousy rhetoric to good effect: it was called the Southern strategy, although it was hardly limited to the South. Now the Clintons, in their desperation to find some way -- any way -- back to the White House, have leapt aboard that sorry train.

He can't win! Don't you understand? He's black! He's black!

The Clintons have been trying to embed that gruesomely destructive message in the brains of white voters and superdelegates for the longest time. It's a grotesque insult to African-Americans, who have given so much support to both Bill and Hillary over the years.

(Representative Charles Rangel of New York, who is black and has been an absolutely unwavering supporter of Senator Clinton's White House quest, told The Daily News: "I can't believe Senator Clinton would say anything that dumb.")

But it's an insult to white voters as well, including white working-class voters. It's true that there are some whites who will not vote for a black candidate under any circumstance. But the United States is in a much better place now than it was when people like Richard Nixon, George Wallace and many others could make political hay by appealing to the very worst in people, using the kind of poisonous rhetoric that Senator Clinton is using now.

I don't know if Senator Obama can win the White House. No one knows. But to deliberately convey the idea that most white people -- or most working-class white people -- are unwilling to give an African-American candidate a fair hearing in a presidential election is a slur against whites.

The last time the Clintons had to make a big exit was at the end of Bill Clinton's second term as president -- and they made a complete and utter hash of that historic moment. Having survived the Monica Lewinsky ordeal, you might have thought the Clintons would be on their best behavior.

Instead, a huge scandal erupted when it became known that Mrs. Clinton's brothers, Tony and Hugh Rodham, had lobbied the president on behalf of criminals who then received presidential pardons or a sentence commutation from Mr. Clinton.

Tony Rodham helped get a pardon for a Tennessee couple that had hired him as a consultant and paid or loaned him hundreds of thousands of dollars. Over the protests of the Justice Department, President Clinton pardoned the couple, Edgar Allen Gregory Jr. and his wife, Vonna Jo, who had been convicted of bank fraud in Alabama.

Hugh Rodham was paid $400,000 to lobby for a pardon of Almon Glenn Braswell, who had been convicted of mail fraud and perjury, and for the release from prison of Carlos Vignali, a drug trafficker who was convicted and imprisoned for conspiring to sell 800 pounds of cocaine. Sure enough, in his last hours in office (when he issued a blizzard of pardons, many of them controversial), President Clinton agreed to the pardon for Braswell and the sentence commutation for Vignali.

Hugh Rodham reportedly returned the money after the scandal became public and was an enormous political liability for the Clintons.

Both Clintons professed to be ignorant of anything improper or untoward regarding the pardons. Once, when asked specifically if she had talked with a deputy White House counsel about pardons, Mrs. Clinton said: "People would hand me envelopes. I would just pass them on. You know, I would not have any reason to look into them."

It wasn't just the pardons that sullied the Clintons' exit from the White House. They took furniture and rugs from the White House collection that had to be returned. And they received $86,000 in gifts during the president's last year in office, including clothing (a pantsuit, a leather jacket), flatware, carpeting, and so on. In response to the outcry over that, they decided to repay the value of the gifts.

So class is not a Clinton forte.

But it's one thing to lack class and a sense of grace, quite another to deliberately try and wreck the presidential prospects of your party's likely nominee -- and to do it in a way that has the potential to undermine the substantial racial progress that has been made in this country over many years.

The Clintons should be ashamed of themselves. But they long ago proved to the world that they have no shame.

© 2008 The New York Times

Original here

Obama to America's Veterans - A Must Read

From a speech that Barack Obama made in West Virginia. His commitment to American Veterans is unwavering. Here, in his own words:

And I want to thank the people of West Virginia – particularly those who have worn the uniform of our country. More of you are veterans here than in almost any other state in the nation. So many Guard members from this very armory have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan on tour after tour, year after year. And that means there are more West Virginians who’ve had to say goodbye to these heroes; who’ve borne the burdens of their absence in ways that are often immeasurable – an empty chair at the dinner table or another Mother’s Day where mom is some place far away. Your sacrifice and the sacrifice of your loved ones is immense, and it must never be forgotten.

There is an election here tomorrow. I’m honored that some of you will support me, and I understand that many more here in West Virginia will probably support Senator Clinton. But when it’s over, what will unify as Democrats – what must unify us as Americans – is an unyielding commitment to the men and women who’ve served this nation and an unshakable fidelity to the ideals for which they’ve risked their lives.

Without that commitment, many of us wouldn’t be here today. I am one of those people. My grandfather – Stanley Dunham – enlisted after Pearl Harbor and went on to march in Patton’s Army. My grandmother worked on a bomber assembly line while he was gone, and my mother was born at Fort Leavenworth. When he returned, it was to a country that gave him the chance to college on the GI Bill; to buy his first home with a loan from the FHA; to move his family west, all the way to Hawaii, where he and my grandmother helped raise me. Today, my grandfather is buried in the Punchbowl, the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, where 776 victims of Pearl Harbor are laid to rest.

I knew him when he was older. But whenever I meet young men and women along the campaign trail who are serving in the military today, I think about what my grandfather was like when he enlisted – a fresh-faced man of twenty-three, with a heart laugh and an easy smile.

These sons and daughters of America are the best and the bravest among us. They are a part of an unbroken line of heroes who overthrew a King for the sake of an ideal; who freed the slaves and faced down fascism; who fought for freedom in Korea and Vietnam, from Kuwait to the Balkans – who still wake up every day to face down the gravest dangers in Iraq, Afghanistan, and all over the world.

When our troops go into battle, they serve no faction or party; they represent no race or region. They are simply Americans. They serve and fight and bleed together out of loyalty not just to a place on a map or a certain kind of people, but to a set of ideals that we have been striving for since the first shots rang out at Lexington and Concord – the idea that America could be governed not by men, but by laws; that we could be equal in the eyes of those laws; that we could be free to say what we want and write what want and worship as we please; that we could have the right to pursue our individual dreams but the obligation to help our fellow citizens pursue theirs.

Allegiance to these ideals has always been at the core of American patriotism – it’s what unites a country of so many different opinions and beliefs. It’s why some of us may disagree on our decision to start this war in Iraq, but all of us stand united in our support for the brave men and women who wage it. That’s how it should be. But it’s not how it’s always been.

One of the saddest episodes in our history was the degree to which returning vets from Vietnam were shunned, demonized and neglected by some because they served in an unpopular war. Too many of those who opposed the war in Vietnam chose to blame not only the leaders who ordered the mission, but the young men who simply answered their country’s call. Four decades later, the sting of that injustice is a wound that has never fully healed, and one that should never be repeated.

The young men and women who choose to serve are defending the very rights and freedoms that allow Americans to speak out against government actions we oppose. They deserve our admiration, respect and enduring gratitude.

At the same time, we must never forget that honoring this service and upholding these ideals requires more than saluting our veterans as they march by on Veterans Day or Memorial Day. It requires marching with them for the care and benefits they have earned It requires standing shoulder-to-shoulder with our veterans and their families after the guns fall silent and the cameras are turned off. At a time when we’re facing the largest homecoming since the Second World War, the true test of our patriotism is whether we will serve our returning heroes as well as they’ve served us.

We know that over the last eight years, we’ve already fallen short of meeting this test. We all learned about the deplorable conditions that were discovered at places like Fort Bragg and Walter Reed. We’ve all walked by a veteran whose home is now a cardboard box on a street corner in the richest nation on Earth. We’ve all heard about what it’s like to navigate the broken bureaucracy of the VA – the impossibly long lines, or the repeated calls for help that get you nothing more than an answering machine. Just a few weeks ago, an 89-year-old World War II veteran from South Carolina told his family, “No matter what I apply for at the VA, they turn me down.” The next day, he walked outside of an Outpatient Clinic in Greenville and took his own life.

How can we let this happen? How is that acceptable in the United States of America? The answer is, it’s not. It’s an outrage. And it’s a betrayal – a betrayal – of the ideals that we ask our troops to risk their lives for.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Not in this country. Not if we decide that this time will be different. There are many aspects of this war that have gone inalterably wrong, but caring for our veterans is one thing we can still get right. When I arrived in the Senate, I sought out a seat on the Veterans Affairs Committee so I could fight to give our veterans the care they need and the benefits they deserve. We fought to make sure that the claims of disabled veterans in Illinois and other states were being heard fairly, and we forced the VA to conduct an unprecedented outreach campaign to disabled veterans who receive lower-than-average benefits. I passed laws to get homeless veterans off the streets and prevent at-risk veterans from getting there in the first place. I led a bipartisan effort to improve outpatient facilities at places like Walter Reed, and slash red tape, and reform the disability process – because recovering troops should go to the front of the line, and they shouldn’t have to fight to get there. I passed laws to give family members health care while they care for injured troops, and to provide family members with a year of job protection, so they never have to face a choice between caring for a loved one and keeping a job.

But there is so much more work that we need to do in this country.

It starts with being honest about the sacrifices that our brave men and women are making. For years, this Administration has refused to count all of our casualties in uniform. In Iraq alone, tens of thousands of troops who were injured or fell ill have not been counted in our casualty numbers, going against the military’s own standards from past wars. It’s time to stop hiding the full cost of this war. It’s time to honor the full measure of sacrifice of our troops, and to prepare for the cost of their care.

That’s why I’ve pledged to build a 21st century VA as President. It means no more red tape – it’s time to give every service-member electronic copies of medical and service records upon discharge. It means no more shortfalls – we’ll fully fund VA health care, and add more Vet Centers, particularly in rural areas. It means no more delays – we’ll pass on-time budgets. It means no more means-testing – it’s time to allow every veteran into the VA system. And it means we’ll have a simple principle for veterans sleeping on our streets: zero tolerance. As President, I’ll build on the work I started in the Senate and expand housing vouchers, and launch a new supportive services housing program to prevent at-risk veterans and their families from sliding into homelessness.

I’ll also build on the work I did in the Senate to confront one of the signature injuries of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – PTSD. We have to understand that for far too many troops and their families, the war doesn’t end when they come home. Just the other day our own government’s top psychiatric researcher said that because of inadequate mental health care, the number of suicides among veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan may actually exceed the number of combat deaths. Think about that. Think about how only half of the returning soldiers with PTSD receive the treatment they need. Think of how many we turn away – of how many we let fall through the cracks. We have to do better than this.

In the Senate, I’ve helped lead a bipartisan effort to stop the unfair practice of kicking out troops who suffer from them. And when I’m President, we’ll enhance mental health screening and treatment at all levels: from enlistment, to deployment, to reentry into civilian life. We also need more mental health professionals, more training to recognize signs and to reject the stigma of seeking care. And we need to dramatically improve screening and treatment for the other signature injury of the war, Traumatic Brain Injury. That’s why I passed measures in the Senate to increase screening for these injuries, and that’s why I’ll establish clearer standards of care as President.

We have called on our troops and their families for so much during these last years, but we haven’t always issued that call responsibly. Yes, we need to restore twelve month Army deployments, but we also need to restore adequate training and time at home between those deployments. My wife, Michelle, met with Army spouses the other day in North Carolina who told her about the toll it takes to watch your loved one serve tour after tour of duty with little to no time off in between. And they told her something we all need to remember: “We don’t just deploy our troops overseas, we deploy families.” That’s why we also need to provide more counseling and resources to help families cope with multiple tours.

And when our loved ones do come home, it is time for the United States of America to offer this generation of returning heroes the same thanks we offered that earlier, Greatest Generation – by giving every veteran the same opportunity that my grandfather had under the GI Bill.

There is no reason we shouldn’t pass the 21st Century GI Bill that is being debated in Congress right now. It was introduced by my friend Senator Jim Webb, a Marine who served as Navy Secretary under President Ronald Reagan.. His plan has widespread support from Republicans and Democrats. It would provide every returning veteran with a real chance to afford a college education, and it would not harm retention.

I have great respect for John McCain’s service to this country and I know he loves it dearly and honors those who serve. But he is one of the few Senators of either party who oppose this bill because he thinks it’s too generous. I couldn’t disagree more. At a time when the skyrocketing cost of tuition is pricing thousands of Americans out of a college education, we should be doing everything we can to give the men and women who have risked their lives for this country the chance to pursue the American Dream.

The brave Americans who fight today believe deeply in this country. And no matter how many you meet, or how many stories of heroism you hear, every encounter reminds that they are truly special. That through their service, they are living out the ideals that stir so many of us as Americas – pride, duty, and sacrifice.

Some of the most inspiring are those you meet at places like Walter Reed Army Medical Center. They are young men and women who may have lost a limb or even their ability to take care of themselves, but they will never lose the pride they feel for their country. They’re not interested in self-pity, but yearn to move forward with their lives. And it’s this classically American optimism that makes you realize the quality of person we have serving in the United States Armed Forces.

This, after all, is what led them to wear the uniform in the first place – their unwavering belief in the idea of America. The idea that no matter where you come from, or what you look like, or who your parents are, this is a place where anything is possible; where anyone can make it; where we look out for each other, and take care of each other; where we rise and fall as one nation – as one people. It’s an idea that’s worth fighting for – an idea for which so many Americans have given that last full measure of devotion.

I can still remember the day that we laid my grandfather to rest. In a cemetery lined with the graves of Americans who have sacrificed for our country, we heard the solemn notes of Taps and the crack of guns fired in salute; we watched as a folded flag was handed to my grandmother and my grandfather was laid to rest. It was a nation’s final act of service and gratitude to Stanley Dunham – an America that stood by my grandfather when he took off the uniform, and never left his side.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives. But I also like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him.”

There is no doubt that we are a nation that is deeply proud of where we live. But it is now our generation’s task to live in a way that Stanley Dunham lived; to live the way that those heroes at Walter Reed have lived; the way that all those men and women who put on this nation’s uniform live each and every day. It is now our task to live so that America will be proud of us. That is true test of patriotism – the test that all of us must meet in the days and years to come. I have no doubt that this nation is up to the challenge. Thank you, and may God Bless the United States of America.

Our Veterans deserve not only our respect - but also our action in their behalf. John McCain has shown that he may be a war hero but he is no hero to this generation of American Veterans.

Original here

Obama takes superdelegate lead on eve of expected loss

(CNN) -- Sen. Barack Obama took the lead in the race for superdelegates on the eve of a contest that's expected to fall easily into Sen. Hillary Clinton's column.

Rep. Tom Allen of Maine, Dolly Strazar of Hawaii, Sen. Daniel Akaka of Hawaii and Keith Roark of Idaho all endorsed Obama Monday, giving him a lead of four superdelegates for the time being.

Obama and Clinton face off Tuesday in West Virginia, where polls show Clinton ahead by more than a 40-point margin.

Under pressure from some to withdraw from the race, Clinton insists that West Virginina, where only 28 delegates are at stake, is a key state in the fight for the White House.

She said again Monday that no Democratic candidate since 1916 has gone on to win the White House without first winning West Virginia.

"West Virginia is making a decision that has far-reaching consequences to send a message to people what you expect from your next president," she said at a stop in Clear Fork, West Virginia.

Clinton currently trails Obama across all fronts -- superdelegates, pledged delegates and the popular vote, according to CNN's latest estimates.

Obama leads in the race for superdelegates, 277 to Clinton's 273, and he's ahead in the overall delegate count, 1,869 to 1,697.

At the beginning of the year, Clinton led the superdelegate race by more than 100.

Clinton has vowed to stay in the race until someone gets enough delegates to clinch the nomination.

The focus of the Democratic race has largely turned to the superdelegates because they outnumber the remaining pledged delegates up for grabs.

Superdelegates are party leaders and officials who will vote for the candidate of their choice at the Democratic convention in August. Some have already committed to vote for a particular candidate and some have not.

Clinton's campaign says she would be more electable in a general election because she has done well in swing states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, as well as Florida and Michigan, which were stripped of their delegates.

West Virginia is also a key swing state. Bill Clinton won in 1992 and 1996, and George Bush carried it in 2000 and 2004.

Obama spoke in Charleston, West Virginia, on Monday, sounding patriotic themes and saying he expected Clinton to win on Tuesday.

"But when it's over, what will unify us as Democrats -- what must unify us as Americans -- is an unyielding commitment to the men and women who've served this nation and an unshakable fidelity to the ideals for which they've risked their lives," Obama said.

Clinton's campaign says if she leads in the popular vote, she should become the Democratic nominee.

"Hillary is within striking distance of winning the popular vote nationwide -- a key part of our plan to win the nomination," campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe said in a letter to supporters Sunday.

Her campaign is trying to turn out the vote in the remaining six contests, hoping the popular vote argument will persuade superdelegates to endorse her instead of Obama.

West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, an uncommitted superdelegate, said the delegate numbers are in Obama's favor, but the popular vote is important to the people of his state. Video Watch what Manchin says about Tuesday's contest »

"I think we see what happened in 2004, when Al Gore won the popular vote, and where the country has gone and the feelings toward government since then. I put a lot of stock in that," he said on CNN's "American Morning."

"If the people believed that it was over, they wouldn't be voting maybe in the way they might vote tomorrow or in the next few campaigns," he said.

Clinton is expected to trounce Obama in West Virginia, but Manchin said he thinks Obama would also be able to carry the state in the general election.

Clinton had a 43-percentage-point advantage over Obama in West Virginia, 66 percent to 23 percent, according to a survey from the American Research Group released Friday.

The poll was conducted after last Tuesday's contests and carries a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

"This state is really Hillary Clinton's wheelhouse. It's an older population, socially conservative, blue-collar workers," said Kennie Bass, a political reporter for WCHS in West Virginia.
Original here

BREAKING: McCain Loses Bearings in Speech on Constitution; Campaign Covers Up Error

I was sitting here puttering at my computer a little while ago, and trying to force myself to get up and grade some papers, so I turned the TV to C-Span, figuring there wouldn't be anything there with a plot that would suck my attention away from my duties.

A few minutes after I tuned in, they started showing McCain's speech at Wake Forest University last week, which I figured was suitably boring, and had the advantage of being too annoying for me to watch or listen to very intently; after several months of Obama's speeches, I can barely tolerate McCain speaking.

But since it was on a subject that I'm familiar with and somewhat interested in, I kept one ear tuned in. One ear was just barely enough; if I'd been paying any less attention, I might have missed John's Big Boo-Boo -- and it really is a big one. Follow below the fold for the latest reason this man should not be elected president.

I smirked but didn't get too excited when he said he was glad to be at "West Virginia," rather than Wake Forest, when he pronounced the word "relevance" as though it was spelled "revelance," when he talked about the people in "Warshington," or even when he laid this little gem on the Wake Forest students:

I'm the living proof that an undistinguished academic record can be overcome in life -- or at least that's the hope that has long, long sustained me.

But then he started getting into the substance of his speech -- basically that judges have become too activist. A few minutes into his discussion of this topic, this is what I thought I heard:

The year 2005 also brought the case of Susette Kelo before the Supreme Court. Here was a woman whose home was taken from her because the local government and a few big corporations had designs of their own on the land, and she was getting in the way. There is hardly a clearer principle in all the Constitution than the right of private property. There is a very clear standard in the Constitution requiring not only just compensation in the use of eminent domain, but also that private property may NOT be taken for "public use." But apparently that standard has been "evolving" too.

My head whipped around, and I thought, "HUH?????" Granted, it's been 25 years since my Constitutional Law class, but . . . isn't the whole point of eminent domain that the government CAN take private property for public use, as long as the owner is fairly compensated for the taking?

Quickly went to Wikipedia to make sure that I hadn't lost my own bearings and misremembered some relevant nuance of the Fifth Amendment. Nope, there it is,

. . . nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

OK, I must have mis-heard what he said. So, off I went to McCain's website, figuring I would watch it there. Ah, yes, there it is, right on the front page -- a button that says "Qualified Judges." I clicked, and it took me to a page where I found both the written text of the speech and a video. Oh, happy day.

But wait -- transcript says,

The year 2005 also brought the case of Susette Kelo before the Supreme Court. Here was a woman whose home was taken from her because the local government and a few big corporations had designs of their own on the land, and she was getting in the way. There is hardly a clearer principle in all the Constitution than the right of private property. There is a very clear standard in the Constitution requiring not only just compensation in the use of eminent domain, but also that private property may be taken only for "public use." But apparently that standard has been "evolving" too.

Hmmm. Maybe I really did mis-hear. Check out the video. (Twiddle thumbs, waiting for it to get to the right part.) Ahh, here we go:

The year 2005 also brought the case of Susette Kelo before the Supreme Court. Here was a woman whose home was taken from her because the local government and a few big corporations had designs of their own on the land, and she was getting in the way. There is hardly a clearer principle in all the Constitution than the right of private property.

Then there was the case of the man in California who filed a suit against the entire United States Congress, which I guess made me a defendant too. This man insisted that the words "Under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance violated his rights under the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

Wait -- WTF? Back the video up, listen again, watch carefully. Oh, how interesting. Right before the sentence I'm listening for, there's this white line across the screen showing that they're skipping forward to the next segment of the speech. I guess maybe I DID hear it right; someone in the campaign who knows more about the Constitution than McCain apparently cleaned up his video for him.

So off to YouTube to review me some video. Unfortunately, there were only three videos of the speech there. Two of them were short clips that didn't contain the portion I was interested in. The third was the official video from the McCain website.

Tapping foot . . . . OK, how about C-Span? Yep, there it is on C-Span.org.. What? I need a newer version of RealPlayer. Sigh. OK. I'm a concerned American citizen; I will put off grading my papers even longer to get to the bottom of this. Downloaded the new version, FINALLY got to watch a real video of what I had seen on my teevee (he starts talking about the Kelo case at 11:53). Sure enough, there is McCain, using very emphatic, manly hand motions as he practically shouts,

There is a very clear standard in the Constitution requiring not only just compensation in the use of eminent domain, but also that private property may NOT be taken for "public use."

Vindication. But surely, I thought, others also noticed this? A little googling turned up this article in Washington Wire, which mentioned but didn't seem to think it was a big deal.

I think it's a big deal when a candidate for the Presidency of this country, who starts a speech talking about how the President must swear an oath to protect, preserve and defend the Constitution [insert emphatic hand motions here], just a few minutes later erroneously alters his scripted speech to completely change the meaning of a phrase describing what he says is one of the clearest principles enunciated in the Constitution.

Yes, there is a clear principle in the Consitution, but it is not what he said it is. Does he really not understand what eminent domain is? Did he forget, because he is tired from his hard work on the campaign trail? Who knows?

To those who have been saying that bringing up McCain's age is "ageism," or that it is beneath us as the supporters of a man who is seeking to avoid the politics of personal attack, I say, res ipsa loquitor -- one of those fancy Latin legal phrases meaning, "The thing speaks for itself." His age is a legitimate issue.

Original here

W Virginia keeps distance from Obama

Like most people in Mingo County, West Virginia, Leonard Simpson is a lifelong Democrat. But given a choice between Barack Obama and John McCain in November, the 67-year-old retired coalminer would vote Republican.

“I heard that Obama is a Muslim and his wife’s an atheist,” said Mr Simpson, drawing on a cigarette outside the fire station in Williamson, a coalmining town of 3,400 people surrounded by lush wooded hillsides.

Mr Simpson’s remarks help explain why Mr Obama is trailing Hillary Clinton, his Democratic rival, by 40 percentage points ahead of Tuesday’s primary election in the heavily white and rural state, according to recent opinion polls.

A landslide victory for Mrs Clinton in West Virginia will do little to improve her fading hopes of winning the Democratic nomination, because Mr Obama has an almost insurmountable lead in the overall race.

But Tuesday’s contest is likely to reinforce Mrs Clinton’s argument that she would be the stronger opponent for Mr McCain in November, and raise fresh doubts about whether the US is ready to elect its first black president.

Occupying a swathe of the Appalachian Mountains on the threshold between the Bible Belt and the Rust Belt, West Virginia is a swing state that voted twice for George W. Bush but backed Democrats in six of the eight prior presidential elections.

No Democrat has been elected to the White House without carrying West Virginia since 1916, yet Mr Obama appears to have little chance of winning there in November. Recent opinion polls indicate that Mrs Clinton would narrowly beat Mr McCain in the state but Mr Obama would lose by nearly 20 percentage points.

West Virginia is hostile territory for Mr Obama because it has few of the African-Americans and affluent, college-educated whites who provide his strongest support. The state has the lowest college graduation rate in the US, the second lowest median household income, and one of the highest proportions of white residents, at 96 per cent.

A visit to Mingo County, a Democratic stronghold in the heart of the Appalachian coalfields, reveals the scale of Mr Obama’s challenge – not only in West Virginia but in white, working-class communities across the US. With a gun shop on its main street and churches dotted throughout the town, Williamson is the kind of community evoked by Mr Obama’s controversial comments last month about “bitter” small-town voters who “cling to guns or religion”.

“If he is the nominee, the Democrats have no chance of winning West Virginia,” said Missy Endicott, a 40- year-old school administrator. “He doesn’t understand ordinary Americans.”

Ms Endicott was among roughly 500 people who crammed into the Williamson Fire Department building on Friday to attend a rally by Bill Clinton, the former president. He told them his wife represented “people like you, in places like this”, and urged voters to turn out in record numbers on Tuesday to send a message to the “higher-type people” who were trying to force her out of the race.

Local leaders said Mr Clinton was the most important visitor to Williamson since John F. Kennedy passed through during the 1960 election campaign. Mr Kennedy’s victory in the West Virginia primary that year was a crucial step towards proving his electability as the first Catholic president. Nearly five decades later, the state appears less willing to help Mr Obama break down barriers to the White House.

None of the 22 Democrats interviewed by the Financial Times at the Clinton rally would commit themselves to voting for Mr Obama if he became the nominee, and half said they definitely would not. The depth of opposition is particularly striking considering that Mingo County is one of the most Democratic places in West Virginia, having cast about 85 per cent of its votes for the party in the 2006 midterm elections. If Mr Obama cannot win there in November, he has little chance of carrying the state.

Most people questioned said they mistrusted Mr Obama because of doubts about his patriotism and “values”, stemming from his cosmopolitan background, his exotic name and the controversy surrounding “anti-American” sermons by Jeremiah Wright, his former pastor. Several people said they believed he was a Muslim – an unfounded rumour that has circulated on the internet for months – despite the contradiction with his 20-year membership of Mr Wright’s church in Chicago. Others mentioned his refusal to wear a Stars and Stripes badge and controversial remarks by his wife, Mich­elle, who des­cribed America as “mean” and implied that she had never been proud of the US until her husband ran for president.

Conservative commentators have questioned Mr Obama’s patriotism for months and the issue is expected to be one of the Republicans’ main lines of attack if he wins the nomination. “The American people want a president who loves their country as much as they do,” said Whit Ayres, a Rep­ub­lican strategist. Obama supporters believe patriotism is being used as code to harness racist sentiment.

Josh Fry, a 24-year-old ambulance driver from Williamson, insisted he was not racist but said he would feel more comfortable with Mr McCain, the 71-year-old Vietnam war hero, in the White House. “I want someone who is a full-blooded American as president,” he said.

Original here

Clinton Team Acknowledges $20 Million Debt

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton receives a giant Mother's Day card from supporters during a rally in Grafton, W.Va. She is a strong favorite to beat Sen. Barack Obama in tomorrow's West Virginia primary.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton receives a giant Mother's Day card from supporters during a rally in Grafton, W.Va. She is a strong favorite to beat Sen. Barack Obama in tomorrow's West Virginia primary. (By Joe Raedle -- Getty Images)

CLARKSBURG, W.Va., May 11 -- With her campaign falling ever deeper into debt, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton spent a rainy Mother's Day seeking votes ahead of Tuesday's primary here, turning a deaf ear to calls for her to leave a Democratic presidential contest she has little hope of winning.

Clinton aides continued to insist that she will remain in the race even while confirming that she is $20 million in debt. "The voters are going to decide this," senior adviser Howard Wolfson said on "Fox News Sunday," acknowledging the $20 million figure. "There is no reason for her not to continue this process." Wolfson said he has seen "no evidence of her interest" in pursuing the second-place spot on the Democratic ticket, contrary to rumors that she is staying in the race to leverage a bid for the vice presidential nomination.

With the primary season nearing its close, Sen. Barack Obama's advisers are beginning to consider the question of his running mate with more urgency as they focus more openly on the general election. Although Obama himself has been careful to insist that the Democratic race is not over as long as Clinton stays in it, his advisers have planned a trip to Missouri -- a state that held its primary on Feb. 5 but appears certain to be a key November battleground -- this week.

While not dismissing the states entirely, Obama's campaign is making it clear he will not aggressively contest West Virginia or Kentucky, which holds its primary a week from Tuesday. Obama is likely to win in Oregon, also a May 20 primary state. Clinton has campaigned hard in West Virginia, and her aides said Sunday that she will hold a victory celebration at the Charleston Civic Center on Tuesday night.

With nearly everyone -- including, privately, many on her own team -- contemplating when, not if, she will quit the race, the questions surrounding Clinton now go largely to her motivation. Publicly, her campaign argues that victories in West Virginia and Kentucky could shift the growing tide of momentum for Obama back to her by demonstrating that she has appeal in states that Democrats must to win to take back the White House in November. What is unclear is whether she hopes strong performances will make Obama consider her for the No. 2 slot or at least help her retire her growing debt.

"I don't believe that Senator Clinton is looking for a deal," Obama strategist David Axelrod said on the same Fox show on which Wolfson appeared. Saying that Clinton "competed hard" and is "playing it out as she sees fit," he said the Clinton campaign is capable of deciding how to leave for itself. "I don't think she's waiting for a cue or a signal from us or an offer of financial assistance. And I think that would demean her to suggest otherwise," he said.

Axelrod added: "I don't think even under any scenario . . . that we were going to transfer money from the Obama campaign to the Clinton campaign. We obviously need the resources we have. We have a great task ahead of us."

There was, Axelrod said, "a misunderstanding out there about that." After reports that Michelle Obama, the senator's wife, has rejected the possibility of an Obama-Clinton ticket, Axelrod flatly said: "That's false." He said there have not been overtures made to the Clinton team to negotiate her departure from the campaign.

Clinton has spent the better part of the past year on the campaign trail, with almost every holiday doubling as a campaign opportunity. Mother's Day was no exception: After holding a fundraiser in New York, Clinton and her daughter, Chelsea, went to West Virginia and toured the birthplace of Anna Jarvis, the woman who founded the holiday a century earlier. Clinton told reporters that she had gotten flowers from her daughter and husband, as well as a vase and a perfume bottle made in West Virginia. She continues campaigning here Monday with stops in four towns, Montgomery, Clear Fork, Logan and Fairmont.

Original here

Hillary accepted & signed the DNC rules barring MI & FL !


Judge Him by His Laws

Barack Obama

Barack Obama (Charlie Neibergall - AP)

People who complain that Barack Obama lacks experience must be unaware of his legislative achievements. One reason these accomplishments are unfamiliar is that the media have not devoted enough attention to Obama's bills and the effort required to pass them, ignoring impressive, hard evidence of his character and ability.

Since most of Obama's legislation was enacted in Illinois, most of the evidence is found there -- and it has been largely ignored by the media in a kind of Washington snobbery that assumes state legislatures are not to be taken seriously. (Another factor is reporters' fascination with the horse race at the expense of substance that they assume is boring, a fascination that despite being ridiculed for years continues to dominate political journalism.)

I am a rarity among Washington journalists in that I have served in a state legislature. I know from my time in the West Virginia legislature that the challenges faced by reform-minded state representatives are no less, if indeed not more, formidable than those encountered in Congress. For me, at least, trying to deal with those challenges involved as much drama as any election. And the "heart and soul" bill, the one for which a legislator gives everything he or she has to get passed, has long told me more than anything else about a person's character and ability.

Consider a bill into which Obama clearly put his heart and soul. The problem he wanted to address was that too many confessions, rather than being voluntary, were coerced -- by beating the daylights out of the accused.

Obama proposed requiring that interrogations and confessions be videotaped.

This seemed likely to stop the beatings, but the bill itself aroused immediate opposition. There were Republicans who were automatically tough on crime and Democrats who feared being thought soft on crime. There were death penalty abolitionists, some of whom worried that Obama's bill, by preventing the execution of innocents, would deprive them of their best argument. Vigorous opposition came from the police, too many of whom had become accustomed to using muscle to "solve" crimes. And the incoming governor, Rod Blagojevich, announced that he was against it.

Obama had his work cut out for him.

He responded with an all-out campaign of cajolery. It had not been easy for a Harvard man to become a regular guy to his colleagues. Obama had managed to do so by playing basketball and poker with them and, most of all, by listening to their concerns. Even Republicans came to respect him. One Republican state senator, Kirk Dillard, has said that "Barack had a way both intellectually and in demeanor that defused skeptics."

The police proved to be Obama's toughest opponent. Legislators tend to quail when cops say things like, "This means we won't be able to protect your children." The police tried to limit the videotaping to confessions, but Obama, knowing that the beatings were most likely to occur during questioning, fought -- successfully -- to keep interrogations included in the required videotaping.

By showing officers that he shared many of their concerns, even going so far as to help pass other legislation they wanted, he was able to quiet the fears of many.

Obama proved persuasive enough that the bill passed both houses of the legislature, the Senate by an incredible 35 to 0. Then he talked Blagojevich into signing the bill, making Illinois the first state to require such videotaping.

Obama didn't stop there. He played a major role in passing many other bills, including the state's first earned-income tax credit to help the working poor and the first ethics and campaign finance law in 25 years (a law a Post story said made Illinois "one of the best in the nation on campaign finance disclosure"). Obama's commitment to ethics continued in the U.S. Senate, where he co-authored the new lobbying reform law that, among its hard-to-sell provisions, requires lawmakers to disclose the names of lobbyists who "bundle" contributions for them.

Taken together, these accomplishments demonstrate that Obama has what Dillard, the Republican state senator, calls a "unique" ability "to deal with extremely complex issues, to reach across the aisle and to deal with diverse people." In other words, Obama's campaign claim that he can persuade us to rise above what divides us is not just rhetoric.

I do not think that a candidate's legislative record is the only measure of presidential potential, simply that Obama's is revealing enough to merit far more attention than it has received. Indeed, the media have been equally delinquent in reporting the legislative achievements of Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, both of whom spent years in the U.S. Senate. The media should compare their legislative records to Obama's, devoting special attention to their heart-and-soul bills and how effective each was in actually making law.

Charles Peters, the founding editor of the Washington Monthly, is president of Understanding Government, a foundation devoted to better government through better reporting.

Original here


Ron Paul's forces quietly plot GOP convention revolt against McCain

Virtually all the nation's political attention in recent weeks has focused on the compelling state-by-state presidential nomination struggle between two Democrats and the potential for party-splitting strife over there.

But in the mTexas Rep. Ron Paul and his libertarian-minded GOP backers are collecting delegates at the local level and planning a revolt against Sen. John McCain at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul in Septembereantime, quietly, largely under the radar of most people, the forces of Rep. Ron Paul have been organizing across the country to stage an embarrassing public revolt against Sen. John McCain when Republicans gather for their national convention in Minnesota at the beginning of September.

Paul's presidential candidacy has been correctly dismissed all along in terms of winning the nomination. He was even excluded as irrelevant by Fox News from a nationally-televised GOP debate in New Hampshire.

But what's been largely overlooked is Paul's candidacy as a reflection of a powerful lingering dissatisfaction with the Arizona senator among the party's most conservative conservatives. As anticipated in late March in The Ticket, that situation could be exacerbated by today's expected announcement from former Republican Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia for the Libertarian Party's presidential nod, a slot held by Paul in 1988.

Never mind Ralph Nader, Republican and Democratic parties both face ...

... potentially damaging internal splits that could cripple their chances for victory in a narrow vote on Nov. 4.

Just take a look at recent Republican primary results, largely overlooked because McCain locked up the necessary 1,191 delegates long ago. In Indiana, McCain got 77% of the recent Republican primary vote, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney, who've each long ago quit and endorsed McCain, still got 10% and 5% respectively, while Paul took 8%.

On the same May 6 in North Carolina, McCain received less than three-quarters of Republican votes (74%), while Huckabee got 12%, Paul 7% and Alan Keyes and No Preference took a total of 7%.

Pennsylvania was even slightly worse for the GOP's presumptive nominee, who got only 73% to a combined 27% for Paul (16%) and Huckabee (11%).

As Politico.com's Jonathan Martin noted recently, at least some of these results are temporary protest votes in meaningless primaries built on lingering affection for Huckabee and suspicion of McCain.

Given the long-since settled GOP race, thousands of other Republicans in these states, who might have put up with a McCain vote, crossed over to vote in the more exciting Democratic primaries, on their own for Sen. Barack Obama or at the urging of talk-show host Rush Limbaugh, who sought to support Hillary Clinton and prolong Democratic bloodletting.

According to a recent Boston Globe tally, Paul has a grand total of 19 Republican delegates to Romney's 260, Huckabee's 286 and McCain's 1,413.

In the last three months, Paul's forces, who donated $34.5 million to his White House effort and upward of a million total votes, have, as The Ticket has noted, been fighting a series of guerrilla battles with party establishment officials at county and state conventions from Washington and Missouri to Maine and Mississippi. Their goal: to take control of local committees, boost their delegate totals and influence platform debates.

Paul, for instance, favors a drastically reduced federal goNobody told these supporters of Texas Rep. and Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul that the French can't vote in American electionsvernment, abolishing the Federal Reserve, ending the Iraq war immediately and withdrawing U.S. troops from abroad.

They hope to demonstrate their disagreements with McCain vocally at the convention through platform fights and an attempt to get Paul a prominent speaking slot. Paul, who's running unopposed in his home Texas district for an 11th House term, still has some $5 million in war funds and has instructed his followers that their struggle is not about a single election, but a long-term revolution for control of the Republican Party.

So eager are they to follow their leader's words, that Paul's supporters have driven his new book, "The Revolution: A Manifesto," to the top of several bestseller lists.

While Paul has consistently refused a third-party bid, he has vowed not to endorse McCain, a refusal mirrored by hundreds of his supporters who have left comments on The Ticket in recent weeks. And, no doubt, they'll flock back here today to spread the gospel below.

-- Andrew Malcolm

Photos: Associated Press and RonPaul.com

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Clinton's records vanished after warning of 'very serious' problems


Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton greets supporters and signs autographs during a campaign event in Clear Fork, W. Va., today in anticipation of the state's primary election tomorrow.

Hillary Rodham Clinton's Rose Law Firm billing records, found in the White House residence in January 1996 two years after they had been subpoenaed by government regulators, disappeared shortly after the first lady was warned that the firm's billing problems were "very serious" and the then-ongoing Whitewater investigation could result in criminal charges, newly obtained records show.

More than 1,100 pages of grand jury testimony, investigative reports, memos, charging documents, chronologies, narratives and draft indictments, previously undisclosed but now being "processed" at the Library of Congress, say Mrs. Clinton knew considerably more about the firm's billing problems and their potential ramifications than she publicly acknowledged at the time.

According to the documents, given to the Library of Congress by the estate of Sam Dash, former ethics adviser to Whitewater Independent Counsel Kenneth W. Starr, Mrs. Clinton also knew that her former Rose partner Webster L. Hubbell was both the focus of the firm's billing concerns and a federal conflict-of-interest investigation, in which he was suspected of lying in a sworn statement to regulators about the firm's representation of a failed Arkansas savings and loan.

While Mrs. Clinton told the public at the time that Mr. Hubbell's March 14, 1994, resignation as associate attorney general involved an "internal billing dispute" with his Rose partners that "likely would be resolved," three months earlier she had been advised by another Rose partner, Allen Bird, that the "billing problems were very serious," according to the newly disclosed records.

The records also said Mrs. Clinton was aware that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) and the Resolution Trust Corp. (RTC) had begun an investigation in December 1993 into a suspected conflict of interest involving a $400,000 payment to the Rose firm to defend the business practices of Little Rock's Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan Association. At the time, Mrs. Clinton was publicly dismissing the seriousness of accusations against Mr. Hubbell, which were being widely reported by the media.

Madison was at the heart of the Whitewater investigation, which persisted through most of the eight years of the Clinton administration but eventually was shut down without charges against either President Clinton or Mrs. Clinton. Fourteen other persons pleaded guilty or were convicted.

Mrs. Clinton is now the junior senator from New York and a Democratic presidential-primary candidate. Her campaign has dismissed the new documents.

"This is a baseless accusation which was looked into over a decade ago in an investigation that took $71.5 million and eight years to determine there was no case," said spokesman Jay Carson.
A Feb. 28, 1994, memo by White House Associate Counsel W. Neil Eggleston described Mr. Hubbell's extensive role in the Rose firm's legal representation of Madison, contradicting his sworn testimony to the RTC.The memo, forwarded to Mrs. Clinton on March 1, 1994, by White House Deputy Chief of Staff Harold Ickes, noted concerns by the FDIC and the RTC as to whether the Rose firm had disclosed its prior legal representation of Madison in an FDIC lawsuit against the thrift's former auditors.

That same month, the RTC issued its first subpoena for Rose firm documents, including billing records for various Madison projects. The documents show that both Mr. Hubbell and Mrs. Clinton were involved in doing legal work for the failing thrift despite Mrs. Clinton's public denials.

The Eggleston memo said an "ultimate finding" of nondisclosure would mean that "Mr. Hubbell was not truthful in his recollection." It also said that while it was "not clear" whether the FDIC or the RTC would review the accusations under an actual conflict standard, there was the possibility of sanctions in the case, including "criminal liability."

On Jan. 5, 1996, the White House released copies of the billing records showing Mrs. Clinton's work for Madison and its projects while a partner at the Rose firm after they were discovered in the White House by Carolyn Huber, special assistant to the president.

Until that time, the White House had said they never existed, since Mrs. Clinton did little, if any, legal work for Madison.

Mrs. Huber, former office manager at the Rose firm who moved to Washington in 1992 with the Clintons, later told the Special Senate Whitewater Committee she initially and unexpectedly found the long-lost copies in August 1995 on a table in the White House residence's "book room," whose access was limited to the president, Mrs. Clinton and "selected houseguests."

"They just appeared there," Mrs. Huber said, noting that she visited the room regularly in the course of her White House duties every two or three days. "I thought they had been left there for me to take down to put in the file."

She said she left them where she found them until their rediscovery five months later.

The committee had sought the records after hearing testimony in December 1995 from Clinton confidante Susan Thomases, a New York lawyer, who said Mrs. Clinton — contrary to her public statements of "little or no" involvement in the Madison case — had numerous conferences with Madison officials, reviewed documents, made calls to discuss a preferred stock plan aimed at keeping the failing thrift afloat, and "did all the billing."

Mrs. Huber said she did not realize until she looked at the records again on Jan. 4, 1996, that they were the same documents that had originally been sought by the RTC in February 1994 and by the Whitewater committee under subpoena since October 1995. She said she was sure the records were not in the room "two or three days" earlier.

"I don't think I could have missed them," she said, adding that she had "no idea" who might have left them sitting on books on the corner of a table in the center of the room.

The Rose firm's original billings for Madison have never been found, but the new documents show the Whitewater investigators thought that White House Deputy Counsel Vincent W. Foster Jr. had collected copies of them during the 1992 presidential campaign. Notes in red ink and in Mr. Foster's handwriting are on the copies and appeared to be addressed to Mrs. Clinton.

Mr. Foster, whose July 1993 death at Fort Marcy Park in Virginia has been ruled a suicide, also served at the time as the Clintons' personal attorney. He had expressed concern over the Clintons' involvement in Whitewater Development Corp., an Arkansas real estate venture that also involved Madison's owners, James and Susan McDougal, and he is thought to have been involved in removing records from the Rose firm in 1992 that later turned up at the Clinton campaign headquarters.The Clinton administration never explained how Rose billing records got to the White House nor why they were not produced in response to separate subpoenas by the RTC, Mr. Starr's office and the Whitewater committee.Ronald M. Clark, managing partner at the Rose firm, told the Select Senate Whitewater Committee that the billing records showed Mrs. Clinton was involved with Madison and a project known as Castle Grande that federal regulators later described as a "sham." He said the records showed that she charged more than her usual $125-an-hour rate for the work.

Mr. Clark also said he had not found the original billing records despite an extensive search, that he did not know how they got to the 1992 Clinton presidential campaign, and that Mrs. Clinton never told her law partners about her business dealings with Mr. McDougal or the Whitewater venture.

Mr. Hubbell pleaded guilty on Dec. 6, 1994, to defrauding his Rose firm partners and clients of $482,410 in overbillings and of failing to pay $143,747 in federal income taxes. He was sentenced to 21 months in prison under a plea bargain and released after serving 16 months. In the agreement, he promised to cooperate in the Whitewater investigation, although federal authorities have described that cooperation as less than expected.

Court records said some of the overbilled funds were used by Mr. Hubbell for questionable personal expenses, including purchases at a lingerie shop.

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Obama: How He Learned to Win

Barack Obama had not been in politics for long when he got his tail whipped by a veteran Chicago Congressman in his own backyard. For a brief period that followed, Obama seemed a bit unsure about what to do with his life--the same kind of unsettling early stumble made by others who went on to seek--and often win--the presidency. Yet within four years, Obama had won a seat in the U.S. Senate. Less than four years after that, he has all but clinched the Democratic nomination for President.

How did the man who is virtually certain to face John McCain in the fall come so far so fast? Much of the answer can be traced to the lessons of his first thumping. It was after that brief race in 2000, say dozens of aides and associates who spoke with TIME, that Obama learned how to be a politician. He jettisoned his Harvard-tested speaking style for something more down-home. He learned how to cultivate those in power without being defined by them. And he learned how to be different things to different people: a reformer groomed by an old-fashioned machine boss, an African American heavily financed by white liberals, a Harvard lawyer whose bootstrapping life story gained traction with white ethnics. Abner Mikva, a former federal judge and Congressman from Chicago, credits Obama with figuring out "how to appeal to different constituencies without being inconsistent."

At various points during Obama's bid for the Democratic nomination, all those skills have been on display. This is the story of how he mastered them.

Gambling--and losing

In the great midcentury heyday of Chicago's Democratic machine, politics was open only to those with a sponsor--"We don't want nobody nobody sent," a ward boss famously said. By the time Obama got into the game in the 1990s, it was no longer an exclusive club. The centrally controlled party organization had splintered into a loose group of ward committees that operated like autonomous fiefs. Still, old practices died hard; the same virtues of loyalty and familiarity were rewarded by new bosses who expected political newcomers to pay their dues--and wait their turn.

One exception was Hyde Park, a small, integrated, partially gentrified neighborhood of professionals and University of Chicago professors, with a long tradition of independent politics. Obama moved there as a newly minted lawyer specializing in civil rights cases and lecturing at the university's law school. In 1996 he won his first political election to represent Hyde Park in the state senate, using legal challenges to keep rivals off the ballot. But after three years in the state capital of Springfield, he got restless and turned an eye to the seat for the First Congressional District of Illinois.

The First had the longest continuous black representation and one of the highest percentages of African Americans of any district in Congress. Since 1992, the First had been represented by a man with his own claim to history. Bobby Rush co-founded the Illinois Black Panther Party before going mainstream as an alderman and ward committeeman. But Rush stumbled badly in early 1999 when he challenged incumbent Richard M. Daley in the Democratic primary for the mayor's job. Rush lost, doing poorly among black voters and failing to carry his own ward.

His misstep made Obama think he could take Rush on. So in Obama jumped--only to discover he would have to fight for every vote. Rush started off with 90% name recognition, vs. 9% for Obama, a poll showed. The challenger had hoped to find common ground with Daley, but the mayor saw no percentage in crossing a sitting Congressman. Daley, according to his brother Bill, told Obama that just because Rush had been creamed for the mayoralty didn't mean he could be dethroned by a newcomer. "You're not going to win," Daley said.

Obama argued that Rush had failed in leadership and vision. But his delivery was stiff and professorial--"more Harvard than Chicago," said an adviser who had watched Obama put a church audience to sleep. The problem was deeper than speaking style. Obama was a cultural outsider. Rush attacked his Ivy League education, using the E word for the first time. "He went to Harvard and became an educated fool," the Congressman told the Chicago Reader. "We're not impressed with these folks with these Eastern-élite degrees." Not growing up on the South Side raised other suspicions about Obama. So did his white mother and his Establishment diction. Obama's first encounter with racial politics was over the perception that he wasn't black enough. "Barack is viewed in part to be the white man in blackface in our community," state senator Donne Trotter, who was also running for Rush's job, told the Reader.

The contest raised another question that haunts Obama to this day: Does he have the will to win? Halfway through the race, he took his family to Hawaii for Christmas, missing a key vote in Springfield on legislation to make illegal gun possession a felony. The measure was intended to deter violence in the kind of gun-ravaged neighborhoods he was seeking to represent. Illinois's governor, who called a special session to pass the measure, pleaded with Obama to come back. His staff did too. But Obama, who had previously supported the bill, refused to return for the vote on grounds that his 18-month-old daughter was sick. When the bill lost narrowly, Obama came in for a large share of the blame. Rush, whose 29-year-old son had been gunned down on the South Side a couple of months earlier, said there was no excuse for missing "one of the most important votes in memory."

It fell to Bill Clinton to deliver the coup de grace. The President broke his policy of staying neutral in primaries and endorsed Rush in a glowing radio spot. When it was over, Rush piled up 61% of the vote, compared with 30% for Obama. He lost the most heavily black wards by more than 4 to 1. The race was called before Obama could even make his way to a would-be victory party at the Ramada Inn in Hyde Park. "I confess to you," he told about 50 supporters on a chilly March evening, "winning is better than losing."

Once more, with friends

The campaign left him $60,000 in debt and unsure of his future. At 38, he was a state legislator in a party out of power, a black politician trounced in the black heartland, an outsider in the tribal world of Chicago politics. His long absences from home had angered his wife. "He was very dejected when it was over," said Mikva, "and thinking of how else he could use his talents." When a nonprofit group dangled a high-paying job, as director, Obama was so nervous--for fear that he might get it--that his hands were shaking on the way to the interview, a former aide reported.

From the ashes, though, Obama could see a way out. The only ward he had won was the largely white working-class Irish Catholic 19th ward, where the local party organization had endorsed Rush but a state legislator, Tom Dart, broke ranks for Obama. Dart walked the precincts and marched with Obama at the annual South Side St. Patrick's Day parade, passing out O'BAMA buttons with shamrocks. Nearly three-quarters of the ward--a conservative community of cops, firefighters and schoolteachers--went for Obama, suggesting a wider reach among white voters. "He didn't need to be pigeonholed in his Hyde Park base," said Dart.

But if Obama was going to make his great leap forward, he would need the help of men like Emil Jones. A former sewer inspector in Chicago, Jones worked his way up the Democratic machine on the Far South Side to become Illinois's senate president in 2003, a pork-barreling, wheeling-and-dealing powerhouse. Early that year, he met privately with Obama at the statehouse. Obama had passed up various statewide races but now had found one to his liking: the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Peter Fitzgerald, a quirky maverick up for re-election in 2004. If Obama were to have any hope of becoming the Democratic nominee, he would have to overcome two weaknesses exposed in 2000: shaky support among working-class blacks and the dearth of party regulars. Jones, now president after a Democratic takeover of the state senate, held the key to both problems. "You've got a lot of power," Obama told him. "You have the power to make a United States Senator." Jones asked Obama who, exactly, he might have in mind. Obama then described his strategy for getting elected. Jones recalls that the two men discussed the idea for a while and then he said, "Let's go for it."

By embracing Obama early, Jones stopped pivotal endorsements of rivals. Candidate Blair Hull, who made a fortune in securities trading, had a claim on the support of Governor Rod Blagojevich, whose 2002 victory Hull had helped underwrite. But, as Jones put it, "the governor needs support for his initiatives, so naturally he's not going to take a chance at alienating me." Blagojevich stayed neutral. Illinois comptroller Dan Hynes was the presumptive favorite, the son of a former state senate president, longtime 19th-ward boss and close Daley ally. The AFL-CIO was gearing up for an early endorsement of the younger Hynes. Jones caught wind of the plans and called its president. "If you proceed in that direction, you lose me," Jones told her. The union backed off, giving him and Obama time to line up support from affiliates that had large and heavily black memberships--teachers, government employees and service workers.

With Hull and Hynes likely to split the white vote, Obama would need blanket support from African Americans. But in seven years in Springfield, he was best known for passing ethics reform. The GOP majority hadn't made it any easier to pass social-justice legislation. Now Jones was in control of the body and its agenda. He picked Obama to steer and ultimately get credit for laws that passed in the second half of 2003 after years of demands by the black community: death-penalty reform, taping of homicide interrogations, fattening tax credits for the working poor and a measure to curb racial profiling.

Though Jones leaned on the black caucus to get behind Obama, many saw him as an undeserving outsider who jumped the line, who wore ambition on his sleeve. Some were "very upset" to see Jones hand important bills to Obama instead of spreading out the goodies to other Democrats, said Delmarie Cobb, a black Democratic consultant who supports Hillary Clinton for President. Jones was less successful outside Springfield. Some old-line black politicians in Chicago backed Hynes out of loyalty to his father. Rush endorsed Hull.

Obama, meanwhile, had junked his starchy speaking style in favor of something that helped him shore up his base. Dan Shomon, his campaign manager against Rush, believes Obama learned the art of public speaking at the scores of black churches he visited in 2000, absorbing the rhythm and flourishes of pastors and watching how their congregations reacted. David Mendell notes in his biography of Obama how the candidate would "drop into a Southern drawl, pepper his prose with a neatly placed 'ya'll' and call up various black colloquialisms." He rarely missed a chance to speak at Sunday services in black churches, where, Mendell writes, he linked his candidacy to the larger march forward of African Americans. He emphasized his Christian faith and often mentioned his pastor, Jeremiah Wright. While Wright has been a liability to Obama this year, in 2004, when Obama faced doubts on racial authenticity, he was a campaign asset. "It affirmed his roots," said Cobb.

Obama drew from other parts of his life story to broaden support among whites. His rise from a modest upbringing to the pinnacle of U.S. education drew a connection to the life struggles of ordinary people. Even his rival Hynes admired Obama's appeal to "anybody who may have shared his passion for trying to make it." Partly as a result, Obama won the endorsements of some white lawmakers from small towns whom he'd gotten to know in legislative battles and occasional poker games played amid cigars and beer.

And while Obama couldn't win the support of the Daleys' political machine--he knew they would back Hynes--he shrewdly planted some political seeds. He wrote Bill Daley, a longtime Democratic wise man, saying that while it was only right for the Daleys to support a loyal friend, he hoped they would be for him if he won the primary. "I thought, that's a very smooth move," said the younger Daley, who now supports Obama for the White House.

"I guarantee you, I can win"

Obama was now politicking at a high level and building a different kind of organization to pay for it. In the 2000 loss to Rush, Obama raised $600,000, an eye-popping figure for a first-time congressional candidate. Now, four years later, Obama laid down a challenge to Marty Nesbitt, a top fund raiser, as he eyed the U.S. Senate. "If you raise $4 million, I have a 40% chance of winning," Nesbitt recalls him saying. "If you raise $6 million, I have a 60% chance of winning. You raise $10 million, I guarantee you I can win." Said Nesbitt: "It was a matter of having the money to tell his story."

Obama had already opened a rich vein of political cash in Chicago's black business élite, a new generation of corporate executives, capital managers, consultants, manufacturers and bankers. He put a flamboyant Chicago real estate tycoon named Tony Rezko on his finance committee to hit up the developer crowd. But to raise $10 million, he would have to win over Chicago's biggest political donors, many of them Jewish professionals and business owners, known as lakeside liberals. They lived along the North Shore of Lake Michigan, and most had had no personal contact with Obama.

Many of them did know Obama's black inner circle, however. Nesbitt was close to Penny Pritzker of the Hyatt hotel clan, who had helped finance Nesbitt's airport-parking company. Riding home together from a board meeting in 2002, Nesbitt mentioned Obama's Senate plans and asked her to lend a hand. She was initially skeptical--"Didn't he just lose a congressional race to Bobby Rush?" she asked--but agreed to hear Obama out. She invited Obama to her Michigan summer home for a weekend. He won her over, landing on his finance committee a Pritzker whose Rolodex contained the names of Chicago's leading business, cultural and philanthropic figures.

Obama raised almost $6 million in the primary, and some of it came from sources Obama now shuns--$180,000 from political-action committees and $40,000 from lobbyists, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. More than half his war chest came from people working for industry groups--legal, securities, real estate, banking, business services, health care, publishing, utilities and insurance among them. Rezko raised $160,000 for the primary and later general election--funds Obama gave to charity after Rezko was indicted on corruption charges for which he's now being tried. Obama's contributor list made some uncomfortable. "Is he really reform-minded, transcendent, clean, fresh and new, or is this just another politician?" asked a donor wooed by Obama but signed by Clinton. "The answer is, he's just another politician."

Obama's lunge for high office would not prove much of a contest. His Democratic rivals tore each other up, letting Obama's mostly keep to the high road. He never threw a lot of punches, but he never had to take one either. He lured both blacks and whites to his coalition without facing a clash of their interests. And the speech that turned out to be his most important won him the least attention. Not long before he announced his Senate candidacy, he agreed to speak at a downtown rally against the U.S. invasion of Iraq. "I don't oppose all wars," he said, "what I'm opposed to is a dumb war." Obama wasn't even mentioned in a Chicago Tribune story the next day. But his prophetic words would power his campaign for the nomination four years later.

The Senate race turned into a rout, with Obama taking nearly 53% of the vote in a three-way race. Not only did he score a landslide victory in the African-American community, but he also handily won a pair of ethnic-white wards on Chicago's Northwest Side. And he won a third of the vote in downstate Illinois, backed by college students and farmers.

The commitment of Obama's new coalition was never really tested in a difficult campaign; Obama went on to crush a Republican stand-in, Alan Keyes, after the incumbent decided not to run and the GOP's nominee had to withdraw amid a scandal. But the seeds of Obama's political future were planted during that Democratic primary campaign. At his primary victory party in May 2004, he noted the improbable triumph of a "skinny guy from the South Side with a funny name like Barack Obama." And then he repeated a line that had capped his campaign commercials: "Yes, we can. Yes, we can."

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Glenn Greenwald

Glenn Greenwald drawing

Glenn Greenwald's Unclaimed Territory

I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. I am the author of two New York Times Bestselling books: "How Would a Patriot Act?" (May, 2006), a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, and "A Tragic Legacy" (June, 2007), which examines the Bush legacy. My third book, "Great American Hypocrites: Toppling the Big Myths of Republican Politics", examines the manipulative electoral tactics used by the GOP and propagated by the establishment press, and will be released in April, 2008, by Random House/Crown.

CNN, the Pentagon's "military analyst program" and Gitmo

The Pentagon has posted to its website the roughly 8,000 pages and audio tapes it was forced to provide to the New York Times regarding its "military analyst" program. Anyone who reads through them, as I've now done, can only be left with one conclusion (other than being extremely impressed with David Barstow's work in putting together this story): if this wasn't an example of an illegal, systematic "domestic propaganda campaign" by the Pentagon, then nothing is.

Despite this, the truly extraordinary blackout by the major television and cable news networks -- which were complicit in this program -- continues. Howard Kurtz of CNN and The Washington Post previously called this blackout "pathetic", and yesterday, The Politico published a relatively impressive article further documenting the "deafening silence" from the networks at the center of this story. As the article noted:

While bloggers have kept the story simmering, Democratic congressional leaders also are speaking out, calling for investigations that could provoke the networks to finally cover the Times story — and, in effect, themselves.
Beyond the networks' keeping this scandal completely concealed from their viewers, The Politico story noted that only two network executives -- CNN's President Jim Walton and ABC's President David Westin (.pdf) -- even bothered to respond to the letters sent by Rep. Rosa DeLauro to all networks demanding answers with regard to their complicity in this program. When responding, the two executives -- exactly as Brian Williams was when he was finally forced by blog-inspired commenters to respond (on his blog, but not on NBC) -- were casually dismissive of the entire matter, insisting that they had done nothing wrong (other than CNN's acknowledgment that they failed to detect a conflict of interest with regard to a single military analyst they had used).

Let's just lay out some of the relevant facts about what happened -- looking at one episode illustrating how this entire program worked and what CNN specifically did. Then, we can see whether CNN served as an eager instrument for a corrupt domestic propaganda campaign by the Pentagon, or whether, as Walton claims, CNN acted with perfect propriety. Tomorrow, we'll do the same with regard to ABC.

* * * * *

In June of 2005, communications officials in the Pentagon began planning a military-sponsored trip to Guantanamo for selected retired military officers who were currently working as "news analysts" for various television networks and magazines. Amnesty International had just issued its most scathing report yet about Gitmo, as part of its 2005 report on America's "new gulag of prisons around the world beyond the reach of the law and decency." It specifically called Gitmo "the gulag of our times," and detailed years of extreme abuses that had taken place there.

To counter Amnesty's findings, the Pentagon planned the Gitmo trip over the course of two weeks in mid-June. They eventually confirmed June 24 as the date for the tour, with a list of ten participants, including retired Gen. Don Shepperd of CNN, along with various "military analysts" from MSNBC and Fox.

From the beginning, the whole trip was transparently propagandistic, and there was no possibility that the participants could learn anything meaningful about Gitmo. It was a one-day itinerary (pp. 7476-7477). They left Andrews Air Force Base at 6:45 a.m. on June 24, and did not land in Cuba until 10:00 a.m. Virtually the entire 3 hour plane ride was filled with "briefings" by various DoD officials, and after they landed -- and before they were taken to the detention camps -- they were given another 90 minutes of briefings.

They did not even arrive at Camp Delta -- where the detainees are kept -- until 12:35 p.m. that afternoon. After a 50-minute lunch with the troops, they began a guided tour of Camp Delta at 1:20 p.m. which lasted a grand total of one hour and 25 minutes. Packed into that 85-minute tour was a viewing of an interrogation, a tour of an "unoccupied cellblock," and a visit to the detention hospital. That was all the time they spent touring Camp Delta: 85 minutes.

Then, at 2:45 p.m., they were brought to Camp V for 10 minutes, followed by a tour of Camp X-Ray for 35 minutes. Then they left Cuba -- to fly home, with the "wheels up" on their plane at exactly 4:30 p.m. the same day, arriving back at Andrews that night at 7:45 p.m. They were then brought back to the Pentagon at 8:00 p.m. They spent a grand total of 3 hours and 55 minutes at the Guantanamo detention facilities, with almost one hour of that devoted to lunch with the troops. That was the sum total of their grand tour of the detention facility: less than 3 hours. And then the propaganda campaign to malign and dispute the extensive, amply documented findings of Amnesty was unleashed in full.

* * * * *

In a "trip report" he filed with his Pentagon handlers, CNN's Gen. Shepperd explicitly acknowledged both the blatantly propagandistic purpose of the trip, as well as the extremely limited and controlled scope of information to which he had access in a single-day trip (7434). Shepperd stated:

"Did we drink the 'Government Kool-Aid?' -- of course, and that was the purpose of the trip." In his Pentagon report, Shepperd added the obvious: that "a one day visit does not an expert make," that "the government was obviously going to put its best foot forward to get out its message," and that "former military visitors are more likely to agree with government views than a more appropriately skeptical press."

Shepperd's statement as to the purpose of the GITMO trip -- to have the pro-government analysts "drink the government Kool-Aid" -- was unquestionably accurate, as multiple Pentagon documents reflect. As but one example, a planning email from Pentagon official Dallas Lawrence, dated June 21, 2005, highlighted the importance of scheduling the Gitmo trip to ensure that The American Spectator's Jed Babbin could participate, noting (7486):

He is hosting a number of radio shows this summer. I would have to think he would have every member of Congress on to talk about their trip together -- a definite plus for us looking to expand the echo chamber.
Shepperd, despite being employed by CNN as an "analyst," clearly had as his first priority ensuring the success of the Pentagon's messaging mission. Upon returning from the Gitmo trip, Shepperd, on June 25, sent an email to Pentagon officials praising the Gitmo tour and telling them: "let me know if I can help you." He signed the email: "Don Shepperd (CNN military analyst)" (7470):

Demonstrating how controlled by the Pentagon were these "analysts," Shepperd's email to "help" was forwarded to top Rumsfeld aide Larry Di Rita, who replied (7470): "OK, but let's get him briefed on Khatani so he doesn't go too far on that one" -- referring to the so-called 20th hijacker Mohammed al-Khatani, whose Guantanamo interrogation had been particularly brutal, as he "was stripped naked, isolated, given intravenous fluids and forced to urinate on himself, and exercised to exhaustion during interrogations that lasted 18 to 20 hours a day for 48 of 54 days."

* * * * *

"Helping" the Pentagon is exactly what Shepperd, pretending to be an "independent analyst" on CNN, then proceeded to do. In numerous appearances on CNN talking about Gitmo, no mention was ever made of Khatani or other specific, documented abuses. To the contrary, Shepperd's "analysis" -- broadcast all over CNN -- was exactly what it would have been had Rumsfeld himself written the script.

Shepperd -- after his half-day visit -- went on several CNN shows and opined emphatically about how great things were at Guantanamo and how reports from Amnesty were "totally false." On the day of the Guantanamo "tour" -- June 24, 2005 -- CNN's Betty Nguyen conducted a live telephone interview with Gen. Shepperd that went as follows:

NGUYEN: We have just established a line to Guantanamo Bay, to our military analyst General Don Shepperd. He arrived there as part of a trip put together by the Pentagon in wake of that human rights report that criticized conditions at the U.S. prison for war detainees. General Shepperd on the phone with us right now.

General Shepperd, what do you see so far while being there?

MAJ. GEN. DONALD SHEPPERD, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, . . . I tell you, every American should have a chance to see what our group saw today. The impressions that you're getting from the media and from the various pronouncements being made by people who have not been here, in my opinion, are totally false.

What we're seeing is a modern prison system of dedicated people, interrogators and analysts that know what they are doing. And people being very, very well-treated. We've had a chance to tour the facility, to talk to the guards, to talk to the interrogators and analysts. We've had a chance to eat what the prisoners eat. We've seen people being interrogated. And it's nothing like the impression that we're getting from the media. People need to see this, Betty. . . .

I have been in prisons and I have been in jails in the United States, and this is by far the most professionally-run and dedicated force I've ever seen in any correctional institution anywhere.

Here's what Shepperd reported about the hand-picked interrogation he watched:
NGUYEN: Let's back up for just a moment, because you said you said watched an interrogation.

SHEPPERD: Yes.

NGUYEN: Kind of explain to us how that played out. And were there any instances of abuse or possible abuse?

SHEPPERD: Absolutely not. These -- when I sat and watched them, I want to be very careful in describing them. And I don't want to describe how we watched or anything of that sort. But basically, you're able to observe interrogations. They have various ways of monitoring the interrogations and what have you and letting you see what's going on. With the interrogations that we watched were interrogators, there were translators that translated for the detainee and there were also intelligence people in there.

And they're basically asking questions. They just ask the same questions over a long period of time. They get information about the person's family, where they're from, other people they knew. All the type of things that you would want in any kind of criminal investigation. And these were all very cordial, very professional. There was laughing in two of them that we...

NGUYEN: Laughing in an interrogation?

SHEPPERD: ... in the two of them that we watched. Yes, indeed. It's not -- it's not like the impression that you and I have of what goes on in an interrogation, where you bend people's arms and mistreat people. They're trying to establish a firm professional relationship where they have respect for each other and can talk to each other. And yes, there were laughing and humor going on in a couple of these things. And I'm talking about a remark made where someone will smirk or laugh or chuckle.

NGUYEN: All right. General Don Shepperd, we appreciate your time and that look inside Gitmo, with you being there on this tour. Thank you for that.

CNN then put a transcript of the interview on CNN.com with this headline:



On June 27, Gen. Shepperd appeared on CNN with Soledad O'Brien, who introduced him as a "CNN military analyst" just back from Gitmo. Shepperd "reported":
What we saw in Guantanamo bears no resemblance to what we are reading in the print press out there. Most of the people writing about this, I believe, have never been there.

What I saw is we have -- we have impressions of an old facility, Camp X-ray, that was closed three years ago. What we have now is a modern, well-constructed prison, guarded by very, very dedicated people, doing an extremely tough job in the midst of very, very dangerous people, Soledad.

Shepperd then went on to claim that interrogators are still getting "valuable information" even from detainees held there for years. In fact, "we have really gotten a lot of information to prevent attacks in this country and in other countries with the information they're getting from these people. And it's still valuable."

Shepperd managed to reach all of these findings -- and to label Amnesty's findings "totally false" -- by virtue of a single, three-hour guided tour. Shepperd is the President of The Shepperd Group, which "provides expert guidance and consulting services to defense contractors." CNN's viewers were never told about that.

* * * * *

All television and print appearances of what the Pentagon called "our analysts" were meticulously tracked. Shepperd's live CNN call was particularly celebrated at the Pentagon, in an email entitled "Transcript of Don Shepperd's Remarks on CNN a little while ago" 7471):

The Pentagon's analysts faithfully reported back to their handlers with pride about their success in getting booked on shows and being able to spout their talking points. From an email sent by one of the Gitmo trip participants, Gordon Cucullu, to top Pentagon aides (7444):

["I did a Fox & Friends hit at 0620 this morning. Good emphasis on 1) no torture, 2) detainees abuse guards, and 3) continuing source of vital intel"].

Those who served the Pentagon's messaging mission were rewarded. The American Spectator's Babbin emailed the Pentagon a column he had written defending Gitmo, lambasting "the outrageous lies of the Democrats," and attacking Dick Durbin, who had criticized Gitmo the prior week ("if you watch the video of Durbin's speech, you'll see . . . his face morphing into that of Jane Fonda's"). Babbin's email header about Durbin (7496): "The man disgusts me." The same day, Pentagon officials excitedly noted that "Bill O'Reilly read [Babbin's] GTMO article and wants Jed on the show Thursday." That prompted this email from top Rumsfeld communications aide Larry Di Rita (7495):

Conversely, those whose media commentary displeased the Pentagon had their access cut off. In May, 2006, Greg Kittfield wrote a cover story for National Journal featuring criticism by numerous retired generals of Rumsfeld's war management. In response, Pentagon official Bryan Whitman circulated an email which read: "Given this cover story by Kittfield, I don't think we need to find any time for Kittfield on the Secretary's calender."

The Pentagon comprehensively tracked every word uttered by their "surrogates," as their chosen messengers, back from Gitmo, spread out over MSNBC, CNN, ABC, Fox, and various newspapers and magazines -- all presented as independent analysts -- proclaiming Gitmo to be the very model of human rights and sterling respect for detainees. Here is the DOD's self-satisfied summary of the tidal wave of propaganda produced by its three-hour, staged tour (7416):

Just to underscore how these retired military officers were anything but "independent news analysts," here is an email memorializing how two of them -- NBC's Montgomery Meigs and Jack Jacobs (the latter of whom was specifically praised by Brian Williams as an independent journalist) -- actually engaged in media strategy sessions with the Pentagon in order to maximize the efficacy of the Pentagon's Gitmo messaging program (7442):

These same individuals, after planning media strategies with the Pentagon, were then repeatedly presented to MSNBC viewers as independent analysts to assess the Pentagon's conduct at Gitmo. From the Pentagon's tracking summary of Meigs' and Jacobs' post-trip media appearances:

* * * * *

This Gitmo trip and the ensuing "analysis" was but one small -- though highly representative -- episode that was part of the Pentagon's five-year propaganda program aimed at shaping domestic opinion on the Iraq war, the "War on Terrorism" generally, and virtually every controversy relating in any way to the Pentagon. It is difficult to see how this could be anything but illegal [for an analysis of laws prohibiting covert domestic propaganda activities, see here, here, here, and here< (.pdf)].

But what is most extraordinary about all of this is that huge numbers of Americas who were subjected to this propaganda by their own Government still don't know that they were, because the television networks which broadcast it to them refuse to tell them about it, opting instead to suppress the story and stonewall any efforts to find out what happened. As corrupt as the Pentagon was here, our nation's major media outlets were at least just as bad. Their collective Pravda-like suppression now of the entire story -- behavior so blatantly corrupt that even the likes of Howie Kurtz and The Politico are strongly condemning them -- has become the most significant and revealing aspect of the entire scandal.

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