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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Hillary, Hillary, Hillary: An Open Letter to the Former Future President

Dear Hillary:
What happened? No really, what the fuck just happened to you? I can't for the life of me figure out how a once-promising presidential campaign -- a sure thing for Pete's sake -- turned into a pathetic embarrassment? You've had such a head start in this quest to occupy the Oval Office. I mean, literally, you and Bill have been planning it since at least January 1993 when he became president. Was there a more plausible, natural, inevitable scenario than you following in his larger-than-life footsteps? And Chelsea after you? The Clinton Dynasty. Has such a regal ring to it, doesn't it?

But then 2008 rolled around and something terrible happened. Both you and Bill lost that famous mojo. It started in Iowa, where you were all but certain to win. Everyone, including yourself, anointed you the Queen of the Ball before the dance even began. And then you lost. Some inexperienced kid named Barack Obama came out of nowhere and stole your thunder. And then you sat down and cried. In front of the cameras, and the good folks of New Hampshire felt sorry and gave you their state. And just like that The Comeback Twins came back yet again. Never count out a Clinton, huh?. Ahh, but then came February. Damn February. The junior Senator from Illinois, that pesky Kid, won big on Super Tuesday -- despite your pickups in NY, NJ, CA and a few others -- and later in the month racked up an impressive string of eleven consecutive wins. Ouch. That's when the chorus of "Hillary Should Quit" calls officially began. But you'd have nothing of the sort. This was a battle, and you were in it till then end. And we admired you for it.

March was much kinder to you, as was April and May. You won big key swing states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, and trounced The Kid in Appalachia. You even managed to obtain more delegates and popular votes in these three months than The Kid. But the "Hillary Should Quit" calls kept coming, weighing you down and casting an ominous cloud over your campaign. The endorsements kept going to Obama too (Richardson, Edwards, etc) and the superdelegates began to flow to your opponent in anything but a trickle, until he had more of them than you. Many even started to desert you, switching their allegiance. But you pressed on. Even with Bill out there accused of playing the race card and pissing off as many people as he once impressed, especially in the black community. To many, perhaps the "first black president" wasn't so black after all.

Then there were the many boneheaded comments you made. You remember, like the time you basically said that while you and the GOP's presumptive nominee, Sen. John McCain, were tough enough and experienced enough to be commander-in-chief, Obama merely had "a speech." Didn't you realize how that irresponsible blunder would come back to haunt the party in November? Or how about the one where you told everyone that the "hard-working whites" won't vote for Obama. Honestly, Hill, with all those fancy degrees and years of elite lawyering, didn't you realize that some things were meant to be privately thought but not publicly voiced? And so the "Hillary Should Quit" calls continued unabated. Yet we were still in your corner.

You vowed to stay in the race and fight until the very last American exercised his or her inalienable right to vote. You vowed to fight for women everywhere. To be a role model for young girls. To show them that women can be just as tough, just as resilient, just as determined, just as ambitious and just as successful as a man. Your campaign was no longer merely about becoming president. It became a lesson for the history books. A paradigm-changing feminist movement. And we applauded your determination and stuck by you.

You parsed and nuanced and molded the process to fit your end-goal of ultimately snagging the nomination from the grip of The Kid by convincing the superdelegates that you had the better narrative. That you were the more electable candidate. Since neither you or The Kid would end the campaign with enough pledged delegates to win, in an effort to make your case even more compelling, you threw as much shit up on the wall as you possibly could in the desperate hope that something would stick, ie that you had more popular votes; that we should re-seat Michigan and Florida's delegates; that only you could win back the Reagan Democrats. At this point, while we continued to support you, we grew a little leery of your motives and a tad weary of your disingenuousness.

No matter how many "Hillary Should Quit" cries we heard, we still believed in you and went along for the ride, no matter how bumpy. We defended you wherever and whenever we could. Like Bill, we made excuses for you, and chalked up your blind ambition and your regrettable gaffes to long days, late nights and the general stress of the campaign trail. We vowed to support your valiant fight till the end, right along with you, no matter how taxing it became.

And then the unthinkable occurred. When asked last week by South Dakota's Sioux Falls Argus Leader newspaper about all this "Hillary Should Quit" nonsense, you said: "My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right? We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California. You know I just, I don't understand it." Jeez, Hillary, are you out of your fucking mind? Even if you didn't mean it, to suggest that as a justification to stay in the race, Obama could be assassinated before the primary season is over, is perhaps the most shocking, shameful, morally reprehensible thing you could have possibly ever said. How could you? Do you realize that with that one comment you threw away whatever shot you may have had to fulfill your dream of convincing, brainwashing and/or bullying the super D's into handing you the nomination? How could you implode like that? It was a despicable act of desperation and, quite frankly, it was pathetic. With that one reckless opportunistic blunder you not only threw away the campaign, but your legacy as well. A once valiant warrior, you are now just a sad footnote in history. An embarrassment. I suspect you will never recover politically from your monumentally insensitive RFK comment, made in the very same week that Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy was diagnosed with a deadly brain tumor.

And so I can no longer support this destructive campaign of yours. It's time for me to say "Hillary Should Quit." You have taken your insatiable hunger for the presidency too far. You've let so many of us down. You will not be president. You will not be vice president. It's time to step aside and let the Democratic Party and the nation heal, ultimately with Obama as our nominee and hopefully our president as well. It's time for something different. You just convinced me that America needs more than politics as usual, especially your kind. I am so disappointed, Hillary.

Original here

Obama Practices Looking-Off-Into-Future Pose

Subtle muscular adjustments can show, from left, wistfulness, determination, and unbridled hopefulness.

CHICAGO—As the 2008 presidential election draws closer, Democrat Barack Obama has reportedly been working tirelessly with his top political strategists to perfect his looking-off-into-the-future pose, which many believe is vital to the success of the Illinois senator's campaign.

When performed correctly, the pose involves Obama standing upright with his back arched and his chest thrust out, his shoulders positioned 1.3 feet apart and opened slightly at a 14-degree angle, and his eyes transfixed on a predetermined point between 500 and 600 yards away. Advisers say this creates the illusion that Obama is looking forward to a bright future, while the downturned corners of his lips indicate that he acknowledges the problems of the present.

Interactive Graphic

The Science of Inspirational Poses

Obama's advisers have created a computer model to simulate the optimal looking-off-into-the-future pose.

"The senator spends six hours a day gazing resolutely off into the distance," said chief political strategist David Axelrod, who regularly analyzes video of the pose with Obama, pinpoints areas that need improvement, and makes necessary tweaks.

"It is critical to get every detail right," Axelrod continued. "If he looks up an inch too high, he appears aloof or confused. If he looks down too low, it appears that he is distracted by something in the back of the auditorium. If the curvature of his upper lip is not at the exact 0.87-centimeter radius, it reads that he does not care about preserving the environment for future generations."

The pose also requires Obama to arch his eyebrows at 32-degree angles, open his mouth to prevent the misconception that he is frowning about the future, and briefly flare his nostrils to convey faith in the nation's children.

He must then clench his jaw with sufficient force to express strength and decisiveness—if he uses too much force, Axelrod said, his supraorbital forehead vein becomes visible and makes it appear as though he is in physical pain.

"Every millimeter of that head vein costs him 150,000 votes," Axelrod said.

To complete the pose, Obama must then open his eyes at an aperture of 1.43 centimeters, tilt his chin slightly upward, and rotate his head 37 degrees to the left. His advisers stressed that he must always look to the left.

"When you look to the future, you look to the left," Axelrod said. "Looking to the right is an I-am-sorry-for-the-mistakes-I've-made-in-the-past-but-promise-to-work-my-hardest-for- this-great-nation-from-now-on pose. It's too early for that."

The biggest obstacle Obama has had to overcome in recent weeks is his proclivity to squint while looking toward the future, which aides say alienates voters.

"We've worked on the squinting," said Obama adviser Sam Hosking, who claimed it was a "death knell" for a candidate to appear to be struggling to see the nation's future. "It took a lot of work, but we were able to turn the squint into a solemn blink."

"The blink humanizes him," Hosking added. "But you have to be careful. Two blinks and people will start to question if he's a man of his word."

Obama has also worked on increasing the speed with which he can strike the pose. Advisers say that it is critical for him to be able to quickly and seamlessly transition into the looking-off-into-the-future pose at any moment, especially during applause breaks in his speeches, while being photographed from low angles, and whenever there is a large American flag waving gently behind him.

Obama's advisers have recently given him clearance to nod resolutely upon completing the looking-off-into-the-future pose.

"A nod is acceptable," Hosking said. "The American people respond well to nods."

Although Obama's pose has been modified and fine-tuned over the course of the campaign, some pundits claim that Obama's original looking-off-into-the-future pose was the strongest and most believable.

"I fell in love with the chin-three-inches-from-the-neck Barack Obama," said longtime Obama supporter and MoveOn.org employee Peter Koechley. "I just don't know if a chin-four-inches-from-the-neck or, even worse, a chin-two-inches-from-the-neck Obama is the same Obama that first inspired me."

As soon as Obama masters his looking-off-into-the-future pose, aides say he will begin honing his looking-straight-down-and-gripping-the-lectern-while-taking-a-deep-breath-to- communicate-both-his-rise-from-humble-roots-and-his-dedication-to-upholding- the-honor-and-responsibility-of-the-presidency-while-still-fully-understanding- the-historical-significance-of-the-moment pose.

Original here

White House Responds To Scott McClellan's Accusations

In this April 19, 2006 file photo, President Bush, right, walks with White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, right, at the White House in Washington, after McClellan announced that he is stepping down as White House press secretary. It's being reported that an upcoming book by McClellan says that President Bush relied on a propaganda campaign to sell the Iraq war in the place of honesty and candor. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds, File)

WASHINGTON — In a shocking turnabout, the press secretary most known for defending President Bush on Iraq, Katrina and a host of other controversial issues produced a memoir damning of his old boss on nearly every level _ from too much secrecy to a less-than-honest selling of the war to a lack of personal candor and an unwillingness to admit mistakes.

In the first major insider account of the Bush White House, one-time spokesman Scott McClellan calls the operation "insular, secretive and combative" and says it veered irretrievably off course as a result.

The White House responded angrily Wednesday to McClellan's confessional memoir, calling it self-serving sour grapes.

"Scott, we now know, is disgruntled about his experience at the White House," said current White House press secretary Dana Perino, a former deputy to McClellan. "We are puzzled. It is sad. This is not the Scott we knew."

McClellan was the White House press secretary from May 2003 to April 2006, the second of four so far in Bush's presidency.

He reveals that he was pushed to leave earlier than he had planned, and he displays some bitterness about that as well as about being sometimes kept out of the loop on key decision-making sessions.

He excludes himself from major involvement in some of what he calls the administration's biggest blunders, for instance the decision to go to war and the initial campaign to sell that decision to the American people. But he doesn't spare himself entirely, saying, "I fell far short of living up to the kind of public servant I wanted to be.

He includes criticism for the reporters whose questions he fielded. The news media, he says, were "complicit enablers" for focusing more on "covering the march to war instead of the necessity of war."

And McClellan issues this disclaimer about Bush: "I do not believe he or his White House deliberately or consciously sought to deceive the American people."

But most everything else he writes comes awfully close to making just this assertion, all the more stunning coming from someone who had been one of the longest-serving of the band of loyalists to come to Washington with Bush from Texas.

The heart of the book concerns Bush's decision to go to war in Iraq, a determination McClellan says the president had made by early 2002 _ at least a full year before the invasion _ if not even earlier.

"He signed off on a strategy for selling the war that was less than candid and honest," McClellan writes in "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception."

The book, which had been scheduled for release on Monday, was being sold by bookstores on Wednesday after the publisher moved up its release amid intense media coverage of its contents.

McClellan says Bush's main reason for war always was "an ambitious and idealistic post-9/11 vision of transforming the Middle East through the spread of freedom." But Bush and his advisers made "a marketing choice" to downplay this rationale in favor of one focused on increasingly trumped-up portrayals of the threat posed by the weapons of mass destruction.

During the "political propaganda campaign to sell the war to the American people," Bush and his team tried to make the "WMD threat and the Iraqi connection to terrorism appear just a little more certain, a little less questionable than they were." Something else was downplayed as well, McClellan says: any discussion of "the possible unpleasant consequences of war _ casualties, economic effects, geopolitical risks, diplomatic repercussions."

In Bush's second term, as news from Iraq grew worse, McClellan says the president was "insulated from the reality of events on the ground and consequently began falling into the trap of believing his own spin."

All of this was a "serious strategic blunder" that sent Bush's presidency "terribly off course."

"The Iraq war was not necessary," McClellan concludes.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton referred to the book and its author while campaigning Wednesday in Rapid City, S.D., saying, "In this book this young man essentially apologizes for having been part of misleading America for three years."

Reporters in Los Angeles with John McCain, the Republicans' candidate for president, asked if he believed that Bush used propaganda or deception regarding the war in Iraq. "I have no information on that fact. I am glad for one that Saddam Husein is no longer there," McCain said. He declined to comment on other assertions in the book, saying he had not read it.

McClellan draws a portrait of Bush as possessing "personal charm, wit and enormous political skill." He says Bush's administration early on possessed "seeds of greatness."

But McClellan ticks off a long list of Bush's weaknesses: someone with a penchant for self-deception if it "suits his needs at the moment," "an instinctive leader more than an intellectual leader" who has a lack of interest in delving deeply into policy options, a man with a lack of self-confidence that makes him unable to acknowledge when he's been wrong.

McClellan also writes extensively about what he says is the Bush White House's excessive focus on "the permanent campaign."

"The Bush team imitated some of the worst qualities of the Clinton White House and even took them to new depths," he writes.

McClellan is most scathing on the topic of the administration's embrace of secrecy.

"The Bush administration lacked real accountability in large part because Bush himself did not embrace openness or government in the sunshine," he writes.

Three top Bush advisers come in for particularly harsh criticism.

McClellan calls Vice President Dick Cheney "the magic man" who "always seemed to get his way" and sometimes "simply could not contain his deep-seated certitude, even arrogance, to the detriment of the president."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was national security adviser earlier in Bush's presidency, "was more interested in figuring out where the president stood and just carrying out his wishes while expending only cursory effort on helping him understand all the considerations and potential consequences" of war. Rice "was somehow able to keep her hands clean, even when the problems related to matters under her direct purview," McClellan says, but he predicts that "history will likely judge her harshly."

And former Bush political guru Karl Rove "always struck me as the kind of person who would be willing, in the heat of battle, to push the envelope to the limit of what is permissible ethically or legally."

The White House was severely damaged by blunders beyond the war, McClellan says.

When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in August 2005, for instance, the administration went on autopilot "rather than seizing the initiative and getting in front of what was happening on the ground."

And Bush's drive to remake the Social Security program after his 2004 re-election failed in large part because the White House focused almost exclusively on "selling our sketchily designed plan" instead of doing behind-the-scenes work with lawmakers.

McClellan explains his dramatic shift from defender to critic as a difficult act of personal contrition, a way, to learn from his mistakes, be true to his Christian faith and become a better person. He says he started the book to explain his role in the CIA leak case, in which some of his own words turned out to be what he called "badly misguided," though sincere at the time.

McClellan says Bush loyalists will no doubt continue to think the administration's decisions have been correct and its unpopularity undeserved. "I've become genuinely convinced otherwise," he says.

Indeed, former Bush aides joined current White House aides in expressing disbelief and disappointment at McClellan's account.

"Not once did Scott approach me _ privately or publicly _ to discuss any misgivings he had about the war in Iraq or the manner in which the White House made the case for war," McClellan's predecessor as press secretary, Ari Fleischer, said.

Said Fran Townsend, former head of the White House-based counterterrorism office and now a CNN commentator: "This now strikes me as self-serving, disingenuous and unprofessional."

Perino described Bush as "surprised" by the book but said the president wouldn't have anything to say about it. "He has more pressing matters than to spend time commenting on books by former staffers," she said.

Original here


Clinton's Two-State Two-Step

On Saturday, when the Rules Committee of the Democratic National Committee meets to determine the fate of Florida and Michigan's delegations to this summer's convention, it will have some company. A group of Hillary Clinton supporters has announced it will demonstrate outside.

That Clinton has impassioned supporters, many of whom link her candidacy to the feminist cause, hardly qualifies as news. And it's certainly true that along the campaign trail Clinton has encountered some outrageously sexist treatment, just as Barack Obama has been on the receiving end of bigoted treatment. (Obama has even been subjected to anti-Muslim bigotry despite the fact that he's not Muslim.) But somehow, a number of Clinton supporters have come to identify the seating of Michigan and Florida not merely with Clinton's prospects but with the causes of democracy and feminism -- an equation that makes a mockery of democracy and feminism.

Clinton herself is largely responsible for this absurdity. Over the past couple of weeks, she has equated the seating of the two delegations with African Americans' struggle for suffrage in the Jim Crow South, and with the efforts of the democratic forces in Zimbabwe to get a fair count of the votes in their presidential election.

Somehow, I doubt that the activists opposing Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe would appreciate this equation.

But the Clintonistas who have called Saturday's demonstration make it sound as if they'll be marching in Selma in support of a universal right to vote. The DNC, says one of their Web sites, "must honor our core democratic principles and enfranchise the people of Michigan and Florida."

Had Florida and Michigan conducted their primaries the way the other 48 states conducted their own primaries and caucuses -- that is, in accord with the very clear calendar laid down by the DNC well before the primaries began -- then Clinton's marchers would be utterly justified in their claims. But when the two states flouted those rules by moving their primaries outside the prescribed time frame, the DNC, which gave neither state a waiver to do so, decreed that their primaries would not count and enjoined all presidential candidates from campaigning in those states. Obama and John Edwards complied with the DNC's dictates by removing their names from the Michigan ballot. Clinton did not.

Seating Michigan in full would mean the party validates the kind of one-candidate election (well, 1.03, to give Dennis Kucinich, Chris Dodd and Mike Gravel, who also remained on the ballot, their due) that is more common in autocracies than democracies. It would mean rewarding the one serious candidate who didn't remove her name from the ballot when all her rivals, in deference to the national party rules, did just that.

What's particularly outrageous is that the Clinton campaign supported the calendar, and the sanctions against Michigan and Florida, until Clinton won those states and needed to have their delegations seated.

Last August, when the DNC Rules Committee voted to strip Florida (and Michigan, if it persisted in clinging to its date) of its delegates, the Clinton delegates on the committee backed those sanctions. All 12 Clinton supporters on the committee supported the penalties. (The only member of the committee to vote against them was an Obama supporter from Florida.) Harold Ickes, a committee member, leading Clinton strategist and acknowledged master of the political game, said, "This committee feels very strongly that the rules ought to be enforced." Patty Solis Doyle, then Clinton's campaign manager, further affirmed the decision. "We believe Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina play a unique and special role in the nominating process," she said, referring to the four states that the committee authorized to hold the first contests. "And we believe the DNC's rules and its calendar provide the necessary structure to respect and honor that role. Thus, we will be signing the pledge to adhere to the DNC-approved nominating calendar."

Not a single Clinton campaign official or DNC Rules Committee member, much less the candidate herself, said at the time that the sanctions imposed on Florida or Michigan were in any way a patriarchal plot or an affront to democratic values. The threat that these rules posed to our fundamental beliefs was discovered only ex post facto -- the facto in question being Clinton's current need to seat the delegations whose seatings she had opposed when she thought she'd cruise to the nomination.

Clinton's supporters have every right to demonstrate on Saturday, of course. But their larger cause is neither democracy nor feminism; it's situational ethics. To insist otherwise is to degrade democracy and turn feminism into the last refuge of scoundrels.

meyersonh@washpost.com

Original here

Obama May Turn Montana Blue

I have been saying it for months now, Barack Obama is the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party. And now that he has clinched a victory in pledged delegates the remaining contests in Puerto Rico, South Dakota and Montana are nothing more than a formality.

Of those three contests none appear to have a chance to play a roll in the General Election this fall; at least at first glance. Puerto Rico can’t even vote in the General, although Hillary will probably claim it can if she wins the primary there, and South Dakota hasn’t gone Blue since 1964 when Lyndon Johnson destroyed Barry Goldwater.

On the surface Montana seems like an impossible pick-up for the Democrats as well, but it may be the one remaining contest to watch for signs of a potential General Election upset in Barack Obama’s favor come November.

A poll done by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc. out of Washington D.C. taken May 19th through the 21st shows John McCain with a solid 8-point lead in Big Sky Country, 47-39.

A closer look at the Mason-Dixon poll however reveals trouble for McCain. For starters 14% of the Montana electorate is undecided, plus there’s a 4% margin of error, that makes the now famous “Keith Number” 18%.

14% undecided is a huge number in one of the reddest of the red states.

In 2000 and 2004 Bush won by 25% and 20% respectively.

As a side note Bill Clinton was able to win The Treasure State in 1992...with the help of a whopping 26% of the vote going to Ross Perot, undoubtedly costing Bush Montana’s three Electoral Votes.

But back to the topic at hand, there should be no question as to whether or not John McCain should win in Montana on November 4th, but the Mountain West seems to be buying what Barack is selling; change. And in order to solidify a victory in Montana, John McCain is going to have to make sure that those 14% of undecided voters don’t break towards Obama. That is a pretty tall order considering that everywhere Obama spends time his numbers improve.

As people get to know Barack Obama they like him more and more. Montana is no different. So if Obama and his campaign decide to make Big Sky Country a battleground it will be.

What should be of even further concern to John McCain is that the Mason-Dixon poll left out one of Obama’s core constituencies, first time voters.

In the May 19-21 poll Mason-Dixon surveyed 625 registered voters who all said they regularly vote in Montana elections. As we have seen time after time throughout this campaign Barack Obama does exceedingly well with first time voters.

Sen. Obama inspires people who have never voted in their lives to get out and cast a ballot for hope and change.

So come June 3rd, when watching the returns from South Dakota and Montana, the real concern is not who will win. The same Mason-Dixon poll mentioned above also has Sen. Obama beating Sen. Clinton on June 3rd by a 52% - 35% margin.

On top of that, Clinton has a 29% favorable rating compared to a whopping 50% unfavorable rating. Those numbers give her almost no room to improve.

The real number to watch next Tuesday night is not the number that determines who wins or loses, it is the turnout, particularly among young and new voters.

If that number is higher than expected, and the percentage of young voters is higher than expected then watch out John McCain, you could be in for a surprise in Montana this November. And that’s before we have even considered Brian Schweitzer as Obama’s running mate.

Original here

Obama urges supporters not to demonstrate at crucial DNC meeting

Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-Ill.) campaign is urging its supporters not to demonstrate at Saturday’s highly anticipated Democratic National Committee (DNC) meeting on how to handle the delegates of Florida and Michigan.

In an internal campaign e-mail obtained by The Hill, the Obama campaign states, “We look forward to the meeting proceeding smoothly — and we’re asking our supporters not to show up to demonstrate, passionately as they feel about this campaign.”

This weekend’s meeting of the DNC’s 30-member Rules and Bylaws Committee (RBC) at a Marriot Wardman Park hotel in Washington, D.C. is expected to be a media circus, and will likely attract many supporters of Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).

But the Obama campaign wants to avoid heated intraparty confrontations that would attract national headlines and be replayed on the cable news networks. Saturday’s potential public relations nightmare comes as the Obama campaign is taking steps to unify the party as the Democratic primary process appears to be winding down.

The DNC stated on its Web site that demand for the meeting was extremely high: “Just a quick note if you tried to register for the RBC meeting this morning. First, yes, it did go online. For about a minute. There was a lot if demand and we’re sorry if you didn’t get a spot...they were gone pretty quickly.”

The difference between nabbing a spot and falling short “was a matter of seconds,” the DNC stated.

The Obama campaign “talking points” e-mail cautions supporters not to speculate about what will happen on Saturday though it emphasizes that the Illinois senator will campaign vigorously in both states for the general election.

In a Q&A section of the e-mail, a question reads, “Sen. Obama has such a large lead that the outcome of this nomination is all-but academic. Why not just seat the delegates as they voted so that Sen. Clinton has one less reason to continue her campaign?”

The answer states, “That’s not Sen. Obama’s decision to make. The rules for this nomination contest were designed and are enforced by the Democratic National Committee. That’s why our campaign is working to forge a fair agreement that will ensure Democrats from Florida and Michigan will be able to participate in our convention.”

The Clinton campaign has repeatedly stressed that all the votes should be counted, including those cast in Florida and Michigan. Both states were punished by the DNC because they violated the committee’s rules by moving up their primaries.

The DNC bylaws meeting is seen as Clinton’s last-ditch effort to make up significant ground on Obama in the delegate count. Clinton won both states easily, but Obama pulled his name off the ballot in Michigan and, like the former first lady, did not actively campaign in Florida.

The talking points memo provides some answers to potential questions about Saturday. One reads, “I don’t think that any of us are in a position to speculate about possible outcomes at the meeting — but what I do know is that the Obama campaign is as eager as anyone to see this situation resolved fairly, which reflects the desire of these delegations to be seated and the fact that we and all the candidates competed under rules in which there were no delegates to be awarded and no campaigning took place.”

It adds, “Obviously, the May 31 meeting will be an important part of reaching an agreement that’s in the best interests of Florida and Michigan voters and in the best interests of the Democratic Party.”

Original here

Clinton Casts Wide Net of Exaggeration, Claims to Lead in “Every Poll”

From CBS News’ Fernando Suarez:


BILLINGS, MONT. -- During an evening rally in Montana’s largest city Tuesday night, Hillary Clinton explained to the crowd why she should be the Democratic Party’s nominee, but what ensued was a list of overstatements and exaggerations as she made her case. “You have to ask yourself, who is the stronger candidate? And based on every analysis, of every bit of research and every poll that has been taken and every state that a Democrat has to win, I am the stronger candidate against John McCain in the fall,” she said.

The problem is, there are a number of polls that show Clinton in a close race with John McCain, many within the margin of error, not including a few that show Barack Obama beating McCain by a larger margin than Clinton. The comment was intended to prove to voters that despite Obama’s popularity, she has what it takes to beat John McCain. Clinton said that voters have to ask themselves, “Who is the stronger candidate against John McCain? We have not gone through this exciting, unprecedented, historic election, only to lose,” she said.



For days, Clinton has been grasping at almost anything to make her case to voters as the clock in the campaign winds down. Most recently Clinton compared the plight of Florida and Michigan voters to the struggles of the early suffragists and likened the primaries of those states to the fraudulent election that took place in Zimbabwe.

Original here

Ex-White House spokesman: Bush used 'propaganda' to sell war

Update: Bush 'didn't remember' whether he'd tried cocaine, McClellan writes

In a new tell-all memoir on sale next week, former White House press secretary Scott McClellan writes that President Bush depended on propaganda to sell the Iraq war to the American public, The Politico reports.

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, McClellan also reveals new details about allegations regarding Bush's former drug use that shadowed his 2000 campaign.

McClellan tracks Bush's penchant for self-deception back to an overheard incident on the campaign trail in 1999 when the then-governor was dogged by reports of possible cocaine use in his younger days.

The book recounts an evening in a hotel suite "somewhere in the Midwest." Bush was on the phone with a supporter and motioned for McClellan to have a seat.

"'The media won't let go of these ridiculous cocaine rumors,' I heard Bush say. 'You know, the truth is I honestly don't remember whether I tried it or not. We had some pretty wild parties back in the day, and I just don't remember.'"

"I remember thinking to myself, How can that be?" McClellan wrote. "How can someone simply not remember whether or not they used an illegal substance like cocaine? It didn't make a lot of sense."

Bush, according to McClellan, "isn't the kind of person to flat-out lie."

"So I think he meant what he said in that conversation about cocaine. It's the first time when I felt I was witnessing Bush convincing himself to believe something that probably was not true, and that, deep down, he knew was not true," McClellan wrote. "And his reason for doing so is fairly obvious — political convenience."

In the years that followed, McClellan "would come to believe that sometimes he convinces himself to believe what suits his needs at the moment." McClellan likened it to a witness who resorts to "I do not recall."

McClellan's "surprisingly scathing" and "often harsh" What Happened: Inside the Bush White House... also contains, as Mike Allen writes for Politico, other standout revelations such as:

  • Bush and his aides "confused the propaganda campaign with the high level of candor and honesty so fundamentally needed to build and then sustain public support during a time of war";

  • Some of McClellan's assertions before the White House press corps were, in retrospect, "badly misguided";

  • Karl Rove and Lewis "Scooter" Libby "had at best misled" McClellan about their roles in the notorious CIA leak case, even as McClellan publicly defended them;

  • The White House was in a "state of denial" during the first week after the Hurricane Katrina disaster;

  • Bush was "steamed" about his top economic adviser telling The Wall Street Journal that a possible Iraq war could cost as much as $200 billion. "He shouldn't be talking about that," said Bush, according to McClellan;

  • The press was "probably too deferential to the White House" when it came to public discourse over the choice to go to invade Iraq. McClellan also says the "White House press corps went too easy on the administration," reports Allen.

Despite the book's criticisms of the administration he once worked for, McClellan writes, "I still like and admire President Bush," reserving most of his rancor for Bush's top advisers, especially Karl Rove.

Excerpts from the Politico article, available in full at this link, follow...

#

The book begins with McClellan's statement to the press that he had talked with Rove and Libby and that they had assured him they "were not involved in ... the leaking of classified information." ...

"[President Bush] too had been deceived, and therefore became unwittingly involved in deceiving me. But the top White House officials who knew the truth – including Rove, Libby, and possibly Vice President Cheney – allowed me, even encouraged me, to repeat a lie."

McClellan also suggests that Libby and Rove secretly colluded to get their stories straight at a time when federal investigators were hot on the Plame case. "There is only one moment during the leak episode that I am reluctant to discuss," he writes. "It was in 2005 during a time when attention was focusing on Rove and Libby, and it sticks vividly in my mind. ... Following [a meeting in Chief of Staff Andy Card's office] ... Scooter Libby was walking to the entryway as he prepared to depart when Karl turned to get his attention. 'You have time to visit?' Karl asked. 'Yeah,' replied Libby.

"I have no idea what they discussed, but it seemed suspicious for these two, whom I had never noticed spending any one-on-one time together, to go behind closed doors and visit privately. ... At least one of them, Rove, it was publicly known at the time, had at best misled me by not sharing relevant information, and credible rumors were spreading that the other, Libby, had done at least as much."

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2. Halliburton Charged with Selling Nuclear Technologies to Iran

Faculty Evaluator: Catherine Nelson
Student Researchers: Kristine Medeiros and Pla Herr

According to journalist Jason Leopold, sources at former Cheney company Halliburton allege that, as recently as January of 2005, Halliburton sold key components for a nuclear reactor to an Iranian oil development company. Leopold says his Halliburton sources have intimate knowledge of the business dealings of both Halliburton and Oriental Oil Kish, one of Iran’s largest private oil companies.

Additionally, throughout 2004 and 2005, Halliburton worked closely with Cyrus Nasseri, the vice chairman of the board of directors of Iran-based Oriental Oil Kish, to develop oil projects in Iran. Nasseri is also a key member of Iran’s nuclear development team. Nasseri was interrogated by Iranian authorities in late July 2005 for allegedly providing Halliburton with Iran’s nuclear secrets. Iranian government officials charged Nasseri with accepting as much as $1 million in bribes from Halliburton for this information.

Oriental Oil Kish dealings with Halliburton first became public knowledge in January 2005 when the company announced that it had subcontracted parts of the South Pars gas-drilling project to Halliburton Products and Services, a subsidiary of Dallas-based Halliburton that is registered to the Cayman Islands. Following the announcement, Halliburton claimed that the South Pars gas field project in Tehran would be its last project in Iran. According to a BBC report, Halliburton, which took thirty to forty million dollars from its Iranian operations in 2003, “was winding down its work due to a poor business environment.”

However, Halliburton has a long history of doing business in Iran, starting as early as 1995, while Vice President Cheney was chief executive of the company. Leopold quotes a February 2001 report published in the Wall Street Journal, “Halliburton Products and Services Ltd., works behind an unmarked door on the ninth floor of a new north Tehran tower block. A brochure declares that the company was registered in 1975 in the Cayman Islands, is based in the Persian Gulf sheikdom of Dubai and is “non-American.” But like the sign over the receptionist’s head, the brochure bears the company’s name and red emblem, and offers services from Halliburton units around the world.” Moreover mail sent to the company’s offices in Tehran and the Cayman Islands is forwarded directly to its Dallas headquarters.

In an attempt to curtail Halliburton and other U.S. companies from engaging in business dealings with rogue nations such as Libya, Iran, and Syria, an amendment was approved in the Senate on July 26, 2005. The amendment, sponsored by Senator Susan Collins R-Maine, would penalize companies that continue to skirt U.S. law by setting up offshore subsidiaries as a way to legally conduct and avoid U.S. sanctions under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA).

A letter, drafted by trade groups representing corporate executives, vehemently objected to the amendment, saying it would lead to further hatred and perhaps incite terrorist attacks on the U.S. and “greatly strain relations with the United States primary trading partners.” The letter warned that, “Foreign governments view U.S. efforts to dictate their foreign and commercial policy as violations of sovereignty often leading them to adopt retaliatory measures more at odds with U.S. goals.”

Collins supports the legislation, stating, “It prevents U.S. corporations from creating a shell company somewhere else in order to do business with rogue, terror-sponsoring nations such as Syria and Iran. The bottom line is that if a U.S. company is evading sanctions to do business with one of these countries, they are helping to prop up countries that support terrorism—most often aimed against America.

UPDATE BY JASON LEOPOLD

During a trip to the Middle East in March 1996, Vice President Dick Cheney told a group of mostly U.S. businessmen that Congress should ease sanctions in Iran and Libya to foster better relationships, a statement that, in hindsight, is completely hypocritical considering the Bush administration’s foreign policy.

“Let me make a generalized statement about a trend I see in the U.S. Congress that I find disturbing, that applies not only with respect to the Iranian situation but a number of others as well,” Cheney said. “I think we Americans sometimes make mistakes . . . There seems to be an assumption that somehow we know what’s best for everybody else and that we are going to use our economic clout to get everybody else to live the way we would like.”

Cheney was the chief executive of Halliburton Corporation at the time he uttered those words. It was Cheney who directed Halliburton toward aggressive business dealings with Iran—in violation of U.S. law—in the mid-1990s, which continued through 2005 and is the reason Iran has the capability to enrich weapons-grade uranium.

It was Halliburton’s secret sale of centrifuges to Iran that helped get the uranium enrichment program off the ground, according to a three-year investigation that includes interviews conducted with more than a dozen current and former Halliburton employees.

If the U.S. ends up engaged in a war with Iran in the future, Cheney and Halliburton will bear the brunt of the blame.
But this shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone who has been following Halliburton’s business activities over the past decade. The company has a long, documented history of violating U.S. sanctions and conducting business with so-called rogue nations.

No, what’s disturbing about these facts is how little attention it has received from the mainstream media. But the public record speaks for itself, as do the thousands of pages of documents obtained by various federal agencies that show how Halliburton’s business dealings in Iran helped fund terrorist activities there—including the country’s nuclear enrichment program.

When I asked Wendy Hall, a spokeswoman for Halliburton, a couple of years ago if Halliburton would stop doing business with Iran because of concerns that the company helped fund terrorism she said, “No.” “We believe that decisions as to the nature of such governments and their actions are better made by governmental authorities and international entities such as the United Nations as opposed to individual persons or companies,” Hall said. “Putting politics aside, we and our affiliates operate in countries to the extent it is legally permissible, where our customers are active as they expect us to provide oilfield services support to their international operations. “We do not always agree with policies or actions of governments in every place that we do business and make no excuses for their behaviors. Due to the long-term nature of our business and the inevitability of political and social change, it is neither prudent nor appropriate for our company to establish our own country-by-country foreign policy.”

Halliburton first started doing business in Iran as early as 1995, while Vice President Cheney was chief executive of the company and in possible violation of U.S. sanctions.

An executive order signed by former President Bill Clinton in March 1995 prohibits “new investments (in Iran) by U.S. persons, including commitment of funds or other assets.” It also bars U.S. companies from performing services “that would benefit the Iranian oil industry” and provide Iran with the financial means to engage in terrorist activity.

When Bush and Cheney came into office in 2001, their administration decided it would not punish foreign oil and gas companies that invest in those countries. The sanctions imposed on countries like Iran and Libya before Bush became president were blasted by Cheney, who gave frequent speeches on the need for U.S. companies to compete with their foreign competitors, despite claims that those countries may have ties to terrorism.

“I think we’d be better off if we, in fact, backed off those sanctions (on Iran), didn’t try to impose secondary boycotts on companies . . . trying to do business over there . . . and instead started to rebuild those relationships,” Cheney said during a 1998 business trip to Sydney, Australia, according to Australia’s Illawarra Mercury newspaper.

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Diplomatic Battle Begins Over Arctic

Five Arctic coastal countries will meet in Greenland on Wednesday to discuss how to carve up the Arctic Ocean, which could hold up to one-quarter of the world's undiscovered oil and gas reserves, far more than Saudia Arabia’s.

A third of Arctic sea ice has disappeared since 2005, which could open up the Northwest Passage

Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States are squabbling over much of the Arctic seabed and Denmark has called them together for talks in its self-governing province to avert a free-for-all for the region's resources.

Russia angered the other Arctic countries last year by planting a flag on the seabed under the North Pole in a headline-grabbing gesture that some criticised as a stunt.

Russia’s lead explorer Artur Chilingarov, declared at the time,: "The Arctic is ours," thereby staking Moscow's claim to 460,000 square miles of ocean floor, more than five times the area of Britain.

Canada, apparently taken by surprise, responded with a military build-up, as have Denmark in Greenland and the United States in Alaska.

Now the Danish foreign minister, Per Stig Moller, and the premier of Greenland's government, Hans Enoksen, will meet the Norwegian and Russian foreign ministers Jonas Gahr Stoere and Sergei Lavrov, United States deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte and Canada's Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn for a two-day conference in the town of Ilulissat.

Environmentalists have not been invited and they dissent from the Danish view that existing treaties provide an adequate basis for resolving the disputes and the potential threat to the marine environment posed by oil and gas prospecting.

The issue has gained urgency because one third of the Arctic sea ice has disappeared since 2005 and some scientists say that all the floating ice could be lost in summer within 5 years.

This would improve drilling access and open up the Northwest Passage, a route through the Arctic Ocean linking the Atlantic and Pacific that would reduce the sea journey from New York to Singapore by thousands of miles.

Countries around the ice-locked ocean are rushing to stake claims on the Polar Basin seabed and its hydrocarbon treasures - made more tempting by rising oil prices - and have taken their arguments to the United Nations.

Under the 1982 United Nation’s Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), coastal states own the seabed beyond existing 200 nautical mile (370 km) zones if it is part of a continental shelf or shallower waters.

Some shelves stretch hundreds of miles before reaching the deep ocean floor, which belongs to no state.

While the rules aim to fix clear geological limits for shelves' outer limits, they have created a tangle of overlapping Arctic claims.

Lars Kullerud, president of the University of the Arctic, an international cooperative network based in the circumpolar region, said: "The Law of the Sea Convention will basically give most of the Arctic Ocean bed to the five countries, but it is also likely that there will be two smaller areas that will not be controlled by any country."

Despite shrinking ice cover, it will be decades before it is possible to harvest oil outside the already established 200 nautical miles.

Kullerud said it was likely the process would produce areas where countries agree to disagree on mutual borders and that would fall under joint stewardship until agreement was reached.

Denmark has urged all those involved to abide by U.N. rules on territorial claims and hopes to sign a declaration that the United Nations would rule on the disputes.

Both it and Norway have said there is no need for a special treaty.

Environmentalists say there need to be stricter rules as there are no techniques available for dealing with an oil spill on the ice.

Dr. Neil Hamilton, director of WWF International’s Arctic programme, said: “We take a very different view. UNCLOS provides a solid foundation on which to build, but by itself is not enough to meet the changes and the challenges facing us in the Arctic in the 21st Century."

"What we need now is a new legal mechanism for Arctic governance to protect this most critical and vulnerable marine environment."

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