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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

McCain's History of Blow-Ups: The Top Ten

As former GOP Senator Rick Santorum put it, "Everybody has a McCain story." Over his tenure in Congress, McCain has had angry, expletive-laced exchanges with a number of his colleagues and peers,- both Democrat and Republican alike- many of which have been covered extensively by local Arizona and nationwide news sources. Below are the ten most notable among them.

10. Senator Ted Kennedy - On August 6, 1993, the Boston Globe ran a story detailing a heated verbal exchange between Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy and McCain. Kennedy was at the lectern delivering remarks, when McCain began walking toward him from across the Senate floor, mocking the Massachusetts legislator. McCain shouted at Kennedy to "shut up." A stunned Kennedy fired back at McCain, telling him, "you shut up...and act like a Senator."

9. Democratic Rep. Marty Russo (D-IL) - In its December 1985 issue, Atlantic Monthly described an altercation that took place just a few years after McCain had been elected to the House for the first time. Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) found himself in the crossfire between the two Congressman, who were angrily shouting "seven-letter and twelve-letter" epithets back and forth at one another, when the exchange became violent and they began pushing and shoving one another. The two were separated from their tangle by a few other legislators who were nearby.

8. Former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson - Newsmax, the "conservative perspective" political publication run by Chris Ruddy, didn't cut McCain any partisan slack in a July 2006 article, in which it recounted a dust-up between McCain and some local government officials in his home state. Speaking at a luncheon at which McCain was in attendance, former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson was among a group of local mayors fielding questions from the Arizona Congressional delegation about local land issues. In the midst of one answer from Johnson, who helmed the city from 1990 to 1994, McCain blurted out, "Hold it a minute. Somebody write down everything this guy has to say. You know what, we need to record him. It's best to get a liar on tape."

Taken aback, Johnson offered the Senator a chance to speak privately, saying, "Senator, if you have a problem with me, why don't we go out in the hallway and talk about it."

McCain fired back: "You're God-damn right I have a problem with you! They've been treating you like a princess in Phoenix while they've been burning me over this damn deal, and I'm sick of it!"

7. Unidentified GOP Senator - Accounts of McCain's outburst at a Senate GOP policy lunch has reached near-epic proportion, having been written about by just about every blog and news site from Newsmax, to DailyKos, to the Huffington Post, to Wonkette, and so on. During a vitriolic exchange between McCain and another unnamed Senator who took a position contrary to that of his colleague from Arizona. McCain became infuriated, jumping from his chair and calling his fellow Republican a "shithead," prompting an immediate demand for an apology. McCain stood up again and issued it...sort of. "Okay, I apologize," he said. "But you're still a shithead."

6. Senator Pete Domenici - Newsweek's February 21, 2000 edition highlighted an exchange between McCain and Republican Senator Pete Domenici of New Mexico, Chairman of the Budget Committee. In staunch disagreement with a particular portion of a budget amendment, McCain exploded. "Only an asshole would put together a budget like that." Domenici, who'd been in the Senate nearly 30 years by that point, gave a restrained reply, noting that even in the most heated debated throughout his entire career, no one had ever used that kind of language toward him. McCain didn't back down. "I wouldn't call you an asshole unless you really were an asshole."

5. Unidentified GOP Senator- In 2006, Ron Kessler of Newsmax wrote that much of McCain's unpopularity in the Senate stems from his 2000 campaign, when the vast majority- in fact, all but four- of his colleagues backed George W. Bush in the GOP primary. One of McCain's top aides recounted a telephone conversation between McCain and another Senator, who was explaining that he'd already committed to supporting Bush. When he finished, McCain bristled. "Fuck you," he said, and hung up, never to speak to him again.

4. Senator Strom Thurmond - In an article titled "Senator Hothead," The Washingtonian recounted one particular encounter between McCain and then-92-year-old Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina. McCain was giving an opening statement at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing when Thurmond, the committee chairman, interrupted to inquire as to whether McCain was finished so that the proceedings could be moved along. McCain glared at Thurmond and thanked him for his "courtesy." McCain later confronted Thurmond on the Senate floor, and a "scuffle" ensued. "The two didn't part friends."

3. Senator Chuck Grassley - The same Newsweek article that outlined McCain's confrontation with Domenici pointed to a similar incident with Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa. The two were debating issues related to soldiers who had been reported Missing In Action in Vietnam. After a blistering commentary by McCain, Grassley took offense. "Are you calling me stupid?" he asked.

McCain didn't miss a beat. "No, I'm calling you a fucking jerk."

2. Senator John Cornyn - On May 18, 2007, The Washington Post reported that McCain had locked horns with another one of his GOP colleagues, this time Senator John Cornyn of Texas. The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill of 2007 had caused an enormous rift among Republicans, and the two Senators found themselves on opposite sides. Cornyn objected to a provision of the bill that allowed for what he perceived as too many judicial appeals for illegal immigrants. McCain called his objections "chicken shit" and accused Cornyn of making petty tactics to sabotage the whole bill. Cornyn took immediate offense.

"Wait a second here. I've been sitting in here for all these negotiations and you just parachute in here on the last day. You're out of line."

Then McCain, who'd been spending a lot of time away from Washington on his presidential campaign, got a little more out of line. "Fuck you!" he shouted. "I know more about this than anyone in this room!" McCain apologized shortly afterword.

1. His Own Wife, Cindy McCain - In his new book, The Real McCain, Cliff Schecter, a journalist and frequent contributor at the Huffington Post related perhaps the most disturbing of McCain's tirades. During his 2000 White House bid, the Senator was joined on the campaign trail by his wife, Cindy, his aides, and three journalists who spoke to Schecter on condition of anonymity, but independently confirmed each other's accounts of the incident. Cindy McCain playfully ran her fingers through the Senator's hair and teased, "You're getting a little thin up there." McCain reddened and fired back, "At least I don't plaster on the makeup like a trollup, you cunt." After he'd cooled down, McCain apologized, saying he'd had a long day.

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US elections: Barack Obama recruits team to tackle web smears

Barack Obama is recruiting senior staff to a new unit which will combat virulent rumour campaigns on the internet that threaten to cost him votes in the presidential election against John McCain.

The unit is part of a huge expansion of Obama's campaign team as he shifts from the Democratic nomination race to the campaign for November's election.

As well as the rumour-mongering problem, units are being set up to deal with other perceived vulnerable points, including off-the-cuff remarks by his wife Michelle. McCain's wife, Cindy, questioned Michelle's patriotism in February after she said: "For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country."

Brooks Jackson, director of the Washington-based FactCheck.org, an independent academic organisation set up in 2003 to monitor the factual accuracy of statements made in elections, said yesterday there had been false rumours on the internet about George Bush and John Kerry in the 2004 election.

"With Obama, it is particularly vicious," Jackson said. He added that one of the most persistent is that Obama, a Christian, is "some kind of Muslim Manchurian candidate, planted by Islamic fundamentalists to betray the country and it is very widespread".

McCain too suffers from rumours on the internet, mainly from former Vietnam veterans disputing his account of his five-and-a-half years in a Hanoi prisoner-of-war camp.

Obama yesterday began a three-week campaign through potential swing states in which he will focus on concerns about job losses, collapsing house prices and soaring petrol costs. McCain, short of funds compared with Obama, held fund-raising events.

The latest Gallup poll nationwide puts Obama on 46% against McCain's 44%. CBS has Obama on 48% and McCain on 42%. Obama is ahead in the key swing states of Ohio and Pennsylvania, while McCain leads in Florida. In Virginia, normally a state Republicans can rely on and Obama is targeting, McCain is only 1% ahead.

Obama delivered his speech in Raleigh, North Carolina, which he has only an outside chance of taking, but his campaign team said he wants to send a message he is going to compete in all 50 states, not just the swing ones.

Obama paid homage to McCain as an American war hero and acknowledged that the two shared many of the same goals such as tackling climate change.

But Obama said the two had fundamentally different views of how to deal with the economy. Reflecting Obama's strategy of tying McCain to the unpopular Bush, Obama said: "For all his talk of independence, the centrepiece of his economic plan amounts to a full-throated endorsement of George Bush's policies."

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Fox News Changes: "Terrorist Fist Jab" Anchor E.D. Hill Loses Her Show, Laura Ingraham In At 5PM


Perhaps feeling the ratings heat, Fox News is making changes to its afternoon lineup.

TVNewser reports that E.D. Hill, who hosts "America's Pulse" — and who raised many eyebrows this week after calling Barack and Michelle Obama's fist-pound a "terrorist fist jab"has lost her show:

America's Pulse anchored by E.D. Hill goes away, but Hill stays with the network in a capacity to be determined. Hill has been with FNC since 1998. She co-anchored Fox & Friends for several years before moving to the 11amET hour, then launching America's Pulse.

TVNewser further reports that Martha MacCallum's "Live Desk" will be expanded to two hours and that she will take on a co-host, Trace Gallagher.

Further, the New York Times' Brian Stelter reports that the network will test Laura Ingraham in the 5PM hour (once occupied by John Gibson and filled of late by "America's Election HQ"):

The Fox News Channel, which has been seeking a new format for the 5 p.m. hour, will place a rotating series of personalities in the time slot beginning next week, including the conservative radio host Laura Ingraham.


Ms. Ingraham, one of the country's most popular radio hosts, frequently fills in for Bill O'Reilly, and Fox executives appear to be grooming her as a new talent for the network. Other people will also receive trial runs in the time slot.

Fox News Channel is expected to announce the changes later Tuesday. In February the cable network replaced John Gibson, the longtime host of the 5 p.m. hour, with Bill Hemmer and Megyn Kelly, two younger anchors who also host a morning show. Mr. Hemmer and Ms. Kelly's afternoon show, "America's Election HQ," covered the primary season. But now, with the party nominees known and two months until the political conventions, there may not be quite as much election news to cover.

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Clinton urging delegates to back Obama, not releasing them [Corrected]

Hillary Clinton told her convention delegates on a conference call last night that they should support Barack Obama.

"She did a call with delegates to thank them for all of their hard work during the campaign, to celebrate all we accomplished, and to urge them -- as she did on Saturday -- to do everything they can to elect Barack Obama," Clinton spokesman Mo Elleithee confirmed.

UPDATE: I'd initially failed to grasp a technicality here: Clinton has not formally released her delegates.

Harold Ickes started the call, a Clinton aide said, saying they weren't being released, citing historical precedence we discussed and saying we wanted everyone to stay united to keep fighting for the issues.

A pledged delegate from San Francisco who was on the call, David Serrano Sewall, emails while Clinton expressed her support for Obama, Ickes said "delegates can do what they want, any delegate can, but wanted us to hang with Hillary for now."

The Clinton aide said there's no power play here: Clinton just wants to make sure her supporters are slated in state delegates and sent to Denver. Her camp pointed to precedent: Bradley in 2000 and Dean in 2004 didn't formally release their delegates until the convention itself.

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Elizabeth Edwards Responds: Why Are People Like Me Left Out Of Your Health Care Proposal, Sen. McCain?»

Our guest blogger is Elizabeth Edwards, wife of former Presidential candidate John Edwards.

elizI freely admit that I am confused about the role of overnight funding in repurchase markets in the collapse of Bear Stearns. What I am not confused about is John McCain’s health care proposal. Apparently Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a senior policy advisor to McCain, thinks I do “not understand the comprehensive nature of the senator’s proposal.” The problem, Douglas, is that, despite fuzzy language and feel-good lines in the Senator’s proposal, I do understand exactly how devastating it will be to people who have the health conditions with which the Senator and I are confronted (melanoma for him, breast cancer for me) but do not have the financial resources we have. In very unconfusing language: they are left outside the clinic doors.

Senator McCain likes to start speeches with a litany of questions that, presumedly, less plain-spoken politicians would refuse to answer. Well, here are some questions he does not ask but, as that plain-spoken politician, he might want to answer:

1. Under your plan, Senator McCain, would any health insurer be required to sell you or me (or those like us with pre-existing conditions) a health insurance policy?

2. You say your plan is going to increase competition to the point that it actually lowers costs. Isn’t there competition today among insurance companies? Haven’t costs continued to go up despite that competition?

3. You say that under your plan everyone is going to pay less for health insurance. Nice words, I admit, but they are words we have heard before. You must know when American families calculate the actual cost of health care, they have to include those deductibles and co-pays and not just the cost of the insurance. Are you talking about cheaper overall or just a cheap policy that doesn’t kick in until after thousands of dollars of deductibles have been paid?

4. Isn’t the type of competition you are talking about really a rush to the bottom? As long as you allow insurers to underwrite and deny access, you encourage insurers to offer plans that may be cheap, but that get that way by avoiding people with cancer or other high-cost diseases or by limiting benefits and treatments, particularly if the treatment is expensive or might be needed for a long time. We all live in the real world; those of us lucky enough to have health insurance have seen how insurers cut coverage and up co-pays or deny particular treatments. The insurance company makes money when it doesn’t have to pay for our health care. (I suspect that if they could, they would write obstetrical-only policies for nuns.) Doesn’t your plan really encourage insurers plans to compete to avoid people with cancer or other high-cost diseases? Don’t you think that the kind of competition that starts with a decent level of required coverage, that doesn’t exclude the care we actually need, would be better?

I am not confused about your reputation: you are the straight-talker, you like to say. This is about health care, Senator McCain. Doesn’t the American voter deserve some straight answers to these questions? As one of those with a pre-existing condition, I sure would like some straight talk.

– Elizabeth Edwards

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Threatening Iran

Israeli leaders spent last week talking tough about Iran and threatening possible military action. The United States and the other major powers need to address Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, but with more assertive diplomacy — including greater financial pressures — not more threats or war planning.

The Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, who is bedeviled by a corruption scandal that could drive him from office, led the charge. “The Iranian threat must be stopped by all possible means,” he said in Washington, a day before meeting President Bush at the White House.

Then Israel’s transportation minister, Shaul Mofaz, who is jockeying to replace Mr. Olmert as head of the ruling Kadima Party if the prime minister is forced to resign, declared that an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear sites looks “unavoidable.”

We don’t know what’s going on behind closed doors in Washington — or what Mr. Olmert heard from Mr. Bush. But saber-rattling is not a strategy. And an attack on Iran by either country would be disastrous.

Unlike in 1981, when Israel destroyed Iraq’s nuclear reactor at Osirak, there is no single target. A sustained bombing campaign would end up killing many civilians and still might not cripple Iran’s nuclear program. Tehran also has many frightening ways to retaliate. And even Arab states who fear Iran shudder at the thought of America, or its ally Israel, bombing another Muslim country and the backlash that that could provoke.

Mr. Olmert may be trying to divert attention from his political troubles. Still, there is no denying a growing and understandable sense of urgency in Israel, which Iran’s president has threatened with elimination. A recent report by United Nations inspectors on Iran’s nuclear progress, and worrisome links to military programs, has only fanned those fears.

Javier Solana, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, is scheduled to visit Tehran later this month to discuss, in more detail, an incentives package first offered in 2006 by the United States and other major powers. It is likely to fall far short — both in incentives and punishments — of what is needed to get Tehran’s attention.

There is no indication it will contain tougher sanctions — including a broader ban on doing business with Iranian banks and bans on arms sales and new investments. It also needs a stronger commitment from Washington to lift sanctions and to fully engage Iran if it abandons its nuclear efforts. The United States is the only major power not sending a diplomat with Mr. Solana.

Senators Barack Obama and John McCain disagree on holding direct talks with Iran (Mr. Obama would; Mr. McCain would not). But last week, both endorsed enhanced sanctions, including limiting gasoline exports to Iran. That is an idea well worth exploring. Iran relies on a half-dozen companies for 40 percent of its gasoline imports. The United Nations Security Council is unlikely to authorize a squeeze, but quiet American and European appeals might persuade some companies to slow deliveries, and it would grab Tehran’s attention.

On his trip to Europe this week, President Bush is expected to press the Europeans to further reduce Iran-related export credits and cut ties with Iran’s financial institutions. He also must make clear that America will do its part on incentives. We wish he had the will and the skill to propose a grand bargain — and to send Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to deliver it. Unfortunately, there’s no sign of that. At a minimum, he should send a senior official with Mr. Solana to Tehran.

If sanctions and incentives cannot be made to work, the voices arguing for military action will only get louder. No matter what aides may be telling Mr. Bush and Mr. Olmert — or what they may be telling each other — an attack on Iran would be a disaster.

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President, Congress offer no immediate help on gas prices

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Before departing the White House early Monday for a farewell tour of Europe, President Bush stole a page from his predecessor and suggested he feels American consumers' pain.

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Democrats and Republicans are deadlocked over how to address the rising gas prices.

"A lot of Americans are concerned about our economy," Bush said. "I can understand why. Gasoline prices are high, energy prices are high. I do remind them that we have put a stimulus package forward that is expected to help boost the economy. And of course, we'll be monitoring the situation."

Americans are looking for more action, though, than monitoring the situation.

But while gas prices keep soaring, the chances of Washington finding a solution keep dropping because Democrats and Republicans are deadlocked over how to fix the problem.

Bush talks mostly about increasing supply through more oil drilling in places like Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

"I've proposed to the Congress that they open up ANWR, open up the Continental Shelf, and give this country a chance to help us through this difficult period by finding more supplies of crude oil, which will take the pressure off the price of gasoline," Bush said Monday. Video Watch how Congress could affect gas prices »

But Democrats like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are vehemently opposed to increasing production on environmental grounds, so the president's plan has virtually no chance of passage in the current Congress.

In turn, Democrats talk mostly about lowering demand for gasoline through research into alternative fuels -- something the president talks about too -- and more funds for mass transit.

"It's got to involve investing in alternative fuels, so that we can have some alternatives to gas and significant investment in public transit," Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, a key supporter of Barack Obama's presidential bid, said Sunday.

These types of plans will take a long time to implement, so no quick fix there either.

And with the federal government now more than $9 trillion in debt, where would Congress find the money to pour into public transit and research into alternative fuels?

With the parties deeply divided on solutions, it's not surprising that last week a Senate bill requiring major cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions failed.

Only 48 of 100 senators voted for it amid charges by White House press secretary Dana Perino that the bill would have a devastating impact on the economy and thus might not really help cut the price in gasoline.

But six absent senators, including Obama and Republican John McCain, said they would have voted yes to end debate and move forward on the bill. That led some in Congress to declare that Congress will have the momentum to take action next year on reducing America's dependence on foreign oil.

All that means, however, is that there's optimism the next president might be able to find an energy compromise in 2009.

In other words, don't expect any help from Washington any time soon.

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Barack Obama's victory stirs Mississippi ghosts


Michael Schwerner, left, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman disappeared near Philadelphia, Miss., June 21,1964. The three civil rights workers were abducted and killed.
In the town where three civil rights workers were slain in 1964, his candidacy uniquely resonates. The county supported him in the primary. But some say little can change here.

PHILADELPHIA, MISS. -- Some places are defined by a single event. Roswell, N.M., will always be known for space aliens, Dallas for assassination. And this little town in the Piney Woods of eastern Mississippi will forever be the site of one of the most brutal crimes of the civil rights era.

But Philadelphia -- situated in a county once dubbed Bloody Neshoba -- can now add a remarkable footnote to its most nefarious chapter: The rural county where three men were killed for trying to help black people vote has cast the majority of its ballots to put a black man in the White House.

Much has changed here since African Americans like Sylvia Campbell, now 74, were told they couldn't vote unless they correctly answered how many bubbles were in a bar of soap.

But much is the same. For all the excitement about Barack Obama and his history-making run for president, there is anxiety, too, because the present is still a hostage to the past. Everything in this slow town of one-way streets and more than 80 churches is viewed through the lens of race. Obama's success makes some people as anxious as it makes others proud.

"It's just the impossibility of it," Campbell said again and again of the presumed Democratic nominee. She had just come from a weeknight Bible study at her church, Mt. Zion United Methodist, which the Ku Klux Klan once burned down. "I know Mississippians. Barack Obama will never change the uneducated whites from the South. I don't care what he does. If he made some of them millionaires, he'll never change them."

Obama's victory in the primaries comes just as Philadelphia prepares to mark the 44th anniversary of the killings that put it reluctantly on the map. Racial tensions are not as violently overt as they were then; today the slights are subtle, from the glance averted on the street to the job application that is never considered. With five months of fierce presidential campaigning ahead -- black against white -- there is a sense that simmering racial tensions are about to boil again.

"What happened all those years ago -- that just keeps coming up," said Doris Gray, 81, who is white. The presence of an out-of-town newspaper reporter in her son's chili cafe not 24 hours after Obama cinched the nomination confirmed her fear that people are going to start poking around in matters better left be.



Around here, that always leads to the same date, June 21, 1964, Father's Day to be exact. Mt. Zion, a black church on the outskirts of town, lay in charred rubble, and three civil rights workers -- two white and one black -- came on the heels of that violence to register black people to vote.

The three were stopped by law enforcement officers in league with the Ku Klux Klan and were jailed for speeding. Released that night, they were chased down a country road and shot, their bodies found six weeks later in an earthen dam outside town.

Eighteen reputed Klansmen went to trial on federal civil rights charges, including Edgar Ray Killen, the part-time Baptist preacher believed to have masterminded the plan. An all-white jury deadlocked in Killen's case. The story was fodder for the 1989 movie "Mississippi Burning," which played right here at the old State Theatre. A new trial held in 2005 finally sent an 80-year-old Killen to prison.

With every turn of events, the media converged on Philadelphia, an otherwise uneventful town with a population of more than 7,000 -- 55% white, 40% black. But no one ever seemed interested in its friendly people, low crime rate, quaint shops or the county fair that brought visitors in from all over.

The way it looked to some, everything boomeranged to the town's racist past. Ronald Reagan chose the fair to announce his 1980 candidacy for president -- Nancy sat on his lap in a wood rocker, red Mississippi mud on her white shoes -- and critics questioned whether he was implicitly condoning racism by deciding to come here at all.



Now there's Obama, Philadelphia's most sensitive subject personified.

"I just wish he'd stop talking about race," said Taneil Long, 30, who owns a nail salon on Beacon Street.

A client walked in, a young black woman, with her daughter in tow. Most of Long's patrons are black, ever since seven years ago when word got out that she was dating a black man. Most of her white clients deserted her. Her white landlady told her to move out. Her cousin from Memphis hasn't spoken to her since.

Long is biracial -- part Vietnamese and part white. A Democrat, she likes what Obama has to say, but the subject of race repels her. It runs against the local grain to discuss the matter openly, and it's hard to avoid it whenever Obama's face comes on TV. In fact, that's when she usually changes the channel.

She doesn't think an Obama presidency would change the minds of people who haven't changed their minds already.

"It's just unbelievable how hateful some people can be," she said. But then she decides that maybe a black president isn't such a bad idea. "If he goes in there and does a remarkable job, maybe some will say, 'Hey, maybe I didn't have the right feeling about that situation.' But as far as Neshoba County goes? You will never get nobody to admit it."

The South of the Old Confederacy is changing, outpacing the rest of the country in population growth and jobs -- CNN, Coca-Cola and FedEx are headquartered there. Once-rural states like Georgia, Florida and Tennessee now have more racially tolerant metropolitan centers.

But in Deep South states like this one, change has come more slowly. Two Indian casinos outside of town have boosted the economy, and Philadelphia is, as they like to say, fixin' to get a bowling alley.

A stronger black leadership has stepped up to demand better police protection and community services, such as equal distribution of parks money, making sure the one in the black neighborhood doesn't get short shrift.

James Prince, editor and publisher of the Neshoba County Democrat, framed the progress this way: "There are people who, if they could get away with not doing the work in the black park, probably would, but they are not going to get away with it."

Patricia Madison is a clerk at All About Her, a boutique that sells purses a few doors down from Long's nail salon. It's owned by a young black woman, and that in itself is a departure from how things used to be.

Still, Madison, a 39-year-old African American, can point to uneasy moments. A restaurant with an all-white staff advertised for a waitress, but wouldn't give her a second look. When her white friend invited her to her wedding and the groom's parents objected, she stayed away so as not to create a disturbance.

Maybe Obama's candidacy -- or presidency -- could help break stubborn stereotypes, she mused, sipping a soda between customers. "Maybe people might view us different -- see that we are not ignorant. Some of us have class. We can do more than work in the kitchen and be somebody's housekeeper."



Just about any adult you talk with here has experienced racial prejudice from one side or the other. Steve Wilkerson, a white lifelong resident of Philadelphia, worked in high school for a service station with one bathroom for men, one for women and one for "coloreds." The first two were cleaned daily, the third once a week.

Now Wilkerson, 55, owns Steve's on the Square, a landmark clothing store downtown. He is a member of a multiracial commission that has worked to bring healing to Philadelphia: The attorney general issued a formal apology, and Highway 19 now bears the names of the activists who died there: Andrew Goodman, a 20-year-old white college student from New York; Michael Schwerner, a 24-year-old white social worker also from New York; and James Chaney, a 21-year-old black man from nearby Meridian.

But Obama's strong performance in a county that is 65% white is less a sign of racial tolerance than of white flight to the Republican Party. Those voting in the Democratic primary were mainly African American or white liberals.

Wilkerson predicted Obama will have a hard time winning Mississippi's white voters in November. Those who do support him will do so discreetly.

"They won't have bumper stickers and lawn signs. It would not be comfortable."

On this warm, humid night, Margaret White, 54, stood outside Mt. Zion, the church she has attended all her life. Today it is rebuilt in fire-resistant brick rather than wood. The old bell -- all that was left from the arson -- is in place and a gray stone engraved with three names stands outside the sanctuary, laid with a wreath every June.

It's a proud time for the church, but there are no high-fives or yelps for Obama's victory. "Low-key is the way," the Rev. Willie Young tells his flock.

White went into work clapping her hands the morning after Obama won. But she was careful not to flaunt her enthusiasm in front of her white colleagues at Mississippi State University, where she works as a program assistant teaching nutrition. "Here, you have to know somebody to get a job," she said. "You can't afford to tick people off."

She doesn't hold much hope that Obama's rise will reform old-school Southerners, but she can't help but notice the changing attitude of the next generation drawn to his candidacy.

Color is not the dividing wall it once was. While neighborhoods remain somewhat segregated, workplaces are more diverse, biracial couples more common. Children -- black and white -- play together on sports teams; they grow up not only to attend each other's weddings, but to take part as bridesmaids and groomsmen.

"One day, the old history will just die off and race will still be there, but it won't matter so much," White said, swatting away the mosquitoes as children, freed from Bible study, ran in circles around the memorial stone, oblivious to its meaning.

faye.fiore@latimes.com

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Dennis Kucinich Sums It Up

Dennis Kucinich deserves our thanks today.

I'm not a disgruntled supporter from the primaries. I agreed with most of what he had to say, but it was obvious he wasn't going to be the nominee.

No, he deserves our thanks and gratitude for standing on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives this afternoon and reading the thirty-five Articles of Impeachment of George W. Bush.

Even those who say, "We must look forward, we know how bad the Bush administration has been, but why waste our time on this," must stop and listen.

The breadth and length of Kucinich's articles are astonishing. They sum up Bush's evil reign succinctly and to hear them recited been said on the floor of Congress makes me wonder how American could have possibly put up with this despotic murderer and thief for so long.

He should be impeached and removed. He won't be. I can understand why the current Democratic leadership, in its myopic lack of vision takes what they think is the safe political stance. I also understand that they don't want to distract the electorate during an election.

But 75% of the American public thinks he's a rotten president and a large percentage of that public think he's the worst president in American history.

I don't think we should shut up about that.

Bush should not be able to just leave office and slink on back to Texas or Kuwait or wherever he's going to end up and live off the millions made from the blood of American soldiers.

Is there anybody here who wouldn't send him to jail?

I know our nightmare is about to be over, but I do not forgive.

Will update links as they become available.

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Abramoff's White House "Fruit"

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Despite administration denials, superlobbyist-turned-felon Jack Abramoff did have political traction in the White House, according to a damning draft report released Monday by Rep. Henry Waxman's (D-Calif.) House government oversight committee. Among the findings: Before he was disgraced, Abramoff provided gifts and meals to White House officials, met with President George W. Bush at least six times, and influenced a State Department dismissal and a presidential political endorsement.

While the draft report does not allege that Abramoff influenced any decision taken by President Bush himself, the latest revelations seem to confirm the conclusions of an earlier oversight committee report sketching out Abramoff's influence in the White House. The first report, issued in September 2006, used billing records and emails from Abramoff's firm as its main sources of information. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino subsequently attacked the first report for being based on "fraudulent" records, and then-White House spokesman Tony Snow claimed Abramoff "got nothing" from his efforts at 1600 Pennsylvania.

Instead of giving up in the face of the administration's attacks on the committee's first report, Rep. Waxman requested the White House's own information about its contacts with the superlobbyist. The White House's own records confirmed what Tony Snow had denied: Abramoff often got what he wanted from the White House, even when what Abramoff wanted went against the advice of the president's own party. In the new report, the committee hammers the administration for allowing its representatives to initially mischaracterize Abramoff's relationship with the White House: "the White House failed to conduct even the most basic internal investigation of the White House relationship with Mr. Abramoff before making public statements characterizing the connection between Mr. Abramoff and the White House."

The latest findings strongly imply that Abramoff's success was at least partially due to his use of what one administration official referred to as "fruit": Gifts including meals and sports tickets. According to the White House documents and testimony, White House officials asked for or received tickets from Abramoff associates on 21 confirmed occasions. The report says:

The White House documents corroborate that White House officials joined Abramoff team members for expensive meals and that White House officials were offered and accepted expensive tickets to sporting and entertainment events from Abramoff associates. In fact, the White House documents contain numerous examples of tickets offered to White House officials that were not reflected in the [documents the 2006 report was based on].
Whether or not the "fruit" was actually part of a quid pro quo, the new findings make clear that Abramoff got results for his White House lobbying efforts. Perhaps Abramoff's greatest success in lobbying White House officials was to force the dismissal of Alan Stayman, a State Department employee. Stayman was in charge of the federal government's relationship with the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, a major Abramoff client. Stayman had taken actions in a previous government job that displeased the CNMI government. The CNMI, and, by extension, Abramoff, wanted him gone. According to the committee’s 2006 report:
Stayman was an official in the Department of the Interior's Office of Insular Affairs during the 1990s who advocated labor reforms for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands that Abramoff opposed on behalf of his client, which was the Commonwealth.

The committee’s latest report corroborates the 2006 report's information about the firing of Alan Stayman. Three pieces of evidence highlighted in the new report indicate that Stayman’s firing was politically motivated (i.e., came from the White House). The first is a deposition by Monica Kladakis, then-Deputy Associate Director in the White House Office of Presidential Personnel (OPP), in which Kladakis confirmed, according to the report, that "OPP became involved in Mr. Stayman's removal after White House officials were contacted by Mr. Abramoff's team." The second piece of evidence is a July 2001 e-mail in which Stuart Holiday, then-Associate Director of OPP, says: "We pulled the plug on [Stayman]." Finally, according to the report, "in the internal White House communications about Mr. Stayman's case, White House officials repeatedly noted they would be giving status reports to Abramoff lobbyists." The new evidence corroborates the information from Abramoff's firm's records, which include a report by an Abramoff associate that then-White House political director had promised to get Stayman "fired."

The White House documents highlighted in the new report seem to indicate that, like the fired U.S. attorneys, Stayman was dismissed despite good reviews from his superiors and general support in the State Department for extending his tenure. A 2001 memo from James Kelly, the Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of East Asia and Pacific Affairs, asked that Stayman remain in his position "until at least November 4, 2003." And Kladakis testified that Kelly had been "very upset at the idea of us having Stayman leave."

The White House documents in the new report also provide evidence that the White House sought Abramoff's input when making decisions about political appointments to the Office of Insular Affairs (OIA), which, according to its website, “has administrative responsibility for coordinating federal policy” in the Pacific island territories where Abramoff had clients. In one example, Matthew Schlapp, the Director of the White House Office of Public Affairs from 2003 to 2005, asked a White House staffer to send an Abramoff associate the resume of a candidate for a position at OIA. The same day, Schlapp sent then-Karl Rove assistant (and former Jack Abramoff assistant) Susan Ralston an email. In the email, Schlapp told Ralston that he had asked the Abramoff associate to “check out” the candidate for the OIA position. As it turned out, Mr. Abramoff opposed the candidate, who did not receive the appointment.

In addition to orchestrating Stayman's removal and influencing OIA personnel decisions, Abramoff got the White House to agree to refrain from endorsing the Republican candidate in CNMI gubernatorial election. (Abramoff supported a third-party candidate). According to the 2006 report, Abramoff's efforts prompted Ralston, Karl Rove's assistant, to email Abramoff, writing, "You win :). KR said no endorsement.”

Perhaps most shockingly, the new report provides evidence that Abramoff's preferences even took precedence over those of the Republican National Committee, which supported endorsing the GOP candidate. According to the report, on October 17, 2001, an Abramoff associate emailed Matthew Schlapp and Ken Mehlman (then the director of the White House Office of Political Affairs). The Abramoff associate asked Schlapp and Mehlman for a “huge favor”: that the White House avoid endorsing the GOP candidate in the CNMI gubernatorial election. In a follow-up email, the Abramoff associate sent Schlapp background on the gubernatorial candidate Abramoff wanted the White House to avoid endorsing. Mehmlan got right on it:

Mr. Mehlman forwarded the [Abramoff associate’s] request to Leonard Rodriguez, who worked under Mr. Mehlman in the Office of Political Affairs, instructing, "Please advise on whether to do this or not, reaching out to the relevant people at the RNC." Mr. Schlapp forwarded the background [on the candidate] to Mr. Rodriguez. Mr. Rodriguez then followed up with the RNC, was told that the RNC's Western Regional Political Director "strongly recommends that [the candidate] receive an endorsement from President Bush," and forwarded this information to Mr. Mehlman and Mr. Schlapp.

Needless to say, the recommendation of the RNC's Western Regional Political Director was ignored: No endorsement came. Despite administration officials' denials, it seems that in the Bush White House, Jack Abramoff and his clients had more pull than the President's own party.

(Mother Jones has covered Jack Abramoff extensively in the past. For background on Abramoff's life story, see Barry Yeoman's story from the September/October 2005 issue, "The Fall of a True Believer." More recently, in November 2006, Peter Stone explained how Abramoff created a network that funneled money all over D.C. And in April 2006, Steven Hill explained how far beyond Abramoff the problem actually goes.)

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