Monday, April 28, 2008

Obama's Voice of Doom

Dana Milbank on the Washinton Post on April 28, 2008: "The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, explaining this morning why he had waited so long before breaking his silence about his incendiary sermons, offered a paraphrase from Proverbs: "It is better to be quiet and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt."

Barack Obama's pastor would have been wise to continue to heed that wisdom.

Should it become necessary in the months from now to identify the moment that doomed Obama's presidential aspirations, attention is likely to focus on the hour between nine and ten this morning at the National Press Club. It was then that Wright, Obama's longtime pastor, reignited a controversy about race from which Obama had only recently recovered - and added lighter fuel.

Speaking before an audience that included Marion Barry, Cornel West, Malik Zulu Shabazz of the New Black Panther Party and Nation of Islam official Jamil Muhammad, Wright praised Louis Farrakhan, defended the view that Zionism is racism, accused the United States of terrorism, repeated his view that the government created the AIDS virus to cause the genocide of racial minorities, stood by other past remarks ("God damn America") and held himself out as a spokesman for the black church in America.

In front of 30 television cameras, Wright's audience cheered him on as the minister mocked the media and, at one point, did a little victory dance on the podium. It seemed as if Wright, jokingly offering himself as Obama's vice president, was actually trying to doom Obama; a member of the head table, American Urban Radio's April Ryan, confirmed that Wright's security was provided by bodyguards from Farrakhan's Nation of Islam.

Wright suggested that Obama was insincere in distancing himself from his pastor. "He didn't distance himself," Wright announced. "He had to distance himself, because he's a politician, from what the media was saying I had said, which was anti-American."

Explaining further, Wright said friends had written to him and said, "We both know that if Senator Obama did not say what he said, he would never get elected." The minister continued: "Politicians say what they say and do what they do based on electability, based on sound bites, based on polls."

Wright also argued, at least four times over the course of the hour, that he was speaking not for himself but for the black church.

"This is not an attack on Jeremiah Wright," the minister said. "It is an attack on the black church." He positioned himself as a mainstream voice of African American religious traditions. "Why am I speaking out now?" he asked. "If you think I'm going to let you talk about my mama and her religious tradition, and my daddy and his religious tradition and my grandma, you got another thing coming."

That significantly complicates Obama's job as he contemplates how to extinguish Wright's latest incendiary device. Now, he needs to do more than express disagreement with his former pastor's view; he needs to refute his former pastor's suggestion that Obama privately agrees with him.

Wright seemed aggrieved that his inflammatory quotations were out of the full "context" of his sermons -- yet he repeated many of the same accusations in the context of a half-hour Q&A session this morning.

His claim that the September 11 attacks mean "America's chickens are coming home to roost"?

Wright defended it: "Jesus said, 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.' You cannot do terrorism on other people and expect it never to come back on you. Those are biblical principles, not Jeremiah Wright bombastic divisive principles."

His views on Farrakhan and Israel? "Louis said 20 years ago that Zionism, not Judaism, was a gutter religion. He was talking about the same thing United Nations resolutions say, the same thing now that President Carter's being vilified for and Bishop Tutu's being vilified for. And everybody wants to paint me as if I'm anti-Semitic because of what Louis Farrakhan said 20 years ago. He is one of the most important voices in the 20th and 21st century; that's what I think about him. . . . Louis Farrakhan is not my enemy. He did not put me in chains, he did not put me in slavery, and he didn't make me this color."

He denounced those who "can worship God on Sunday morning, wearing a black clergy robe, and kill others on Sunday evening, wearing a white Klan robe." He praised the communist Sandinista regime of Nicaragua. He renewed his belief that the government created AIDS as a means of genocide against people of color ("I believe our government is capable of doing anything").

And he vigorously renewed demands for an apology for slavery: "Britain has apologized to Africans. But this country's leaders have refused to apologize. So until that apology comes, I'm not going to keep stepping on your foot and asking you, does this hurt, do you forgive me for stepping on your foot, if I'm still stepping on your foot. Understand that? Capisce?"

Capisce, reverend. All too well."

Obama on Fox News: Republicans "Smarter Ways of Doing Things"

Frm By: Ryan Grim
April 28, 2008 11:02 AM EST

"Barack Obama finally appeared on “Fox News Sunday,” stopping the "Obama Watch" clock at 772 days and change. And, believe it or not, it was a friendly exchange, touching on familiar themes.

Host Chris Wallace, who had started the clock because Obama has steadfastly refused to do his show, asked about Obama’s former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, as well as his Chicago connection to Weather Underground figure William Ayers. And he sought specific examples of how the Illinois senator has, or will, put into practice the bipartisanship that he preaches.

Obama pushed back against “top-down, command-and-control” regulation that was popular with the left in the ‘60s and ‘70s. He credited the GOP with pushing market-oriented solutions and cited his support of a cap-and-trade system for controlling carbon emissions.

“I think that the Republican Party and people who thought about the markets came up with the notion that, you know, what if you simply set some guidelines, some rules and incentives for businesses, let them figure out how they're going to, for example, reduce pollution. It's a smarter way of doing it,” he said.
On education, Obama said “we should be experimenting with charter schools” and “should be experimenting with different ways of compensating teachers.” Both positions run counter to those strongly backed by teachers unions, a core segment of the Democratic Party base.

Obama also cited a vote on tort reform that angered trial lawyers — another key segment of the Democratic base. And while he opposed the nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court, Obama noted that he took to the popular blog DailyKos in defense of colleagues who supported Roberts for chief justice.

“There are a lot of liberal commentators who think I’m too accommodating,” Obama said.

Wallace also pressed Obama on comments he made at the last Democratic presidential debate with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton about Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Ayers, the former member of the violent Weather Underground. Obama had said that he should no more be assumed to endorse Coburn’s position that doctors who perform abortions should face the death penalty than he should be assumed to endorse the Weather Underground’s embrace of violence in opposition to the Vietnam War.

Obama told Wallace that he called Coburn immediately after the debate to make sure he wasn't offended.

On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean refused to be pinned down on whether the candidate leading in elected delegates at the end of the primaries and caucuses — almost certain to be Obama — should necessarily win the nomination.

Dean, however, did acknowledge that he didn’t expect the superdelegates to overturn the will of the elected delegates. “That hasn’t happened” in the past, he said. “I don’t expect that to happen.”

He also hinted that some rule changes may be happen down the road. “Are there some rules I might change next time around? Yeah, maybe so,” he said.

Dean gave some fodder to the Clinton campaign as well, saying that the race is “essentially pretty close to a tie” — an assertion with which the Obama campaign has quibbled.

Pressed on the issue, Dean the elected delegates reflected the will of the people, but added that the superdelegates also reflect the will of the people.

He reiterated that he wanted all superdelegates to make their preferences known by the end of June. Superdelegates, he said, need to “just keep dribbling it in.”

Host Tim Russert also asked Dean about his pledge, before Democrats took back the Senate and the House in 2006, that Democrats would ensure that Osama bin Laden was captured.

“I was wrong,” Dean said, adding, in response to a follow-up question, that bin Laden hasn’t been captured because President Bush wasn’t interested in capturing him.

Russert then offered Dean a chance to back off, but Dean declined. “The proof is in the pudding,” he said.

On ABC, George Stephanopoulos hosted two pairs of Obama-Clinton surrogates on “This Week.” In Clinton’s corner were Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas). And in Obama’s corner were former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and Rep. Artur Davis (D-Ala.).

Bayh pushed early for superdelegates to rely on the popular vote in the primaries when deciding their preferences and argued that Florida votes should be counted despite the state’s violation of Democratic Party rules. That metric most favors Clinton.

Unsurprisingly, the Obama pair objected. “How do you cut out all those caucus states?” Daschle asked.

The South Dakotan also noted that Bayh voted to support an energy bill that Clinton is now thrashing Obama for having backed in 2005. Bayh, in turn, noted that Daschle had supported it, too.

Top Democratic campaign aides also assembled for CBS’ “Face the Nation,” with Clinton’s Howard Wolfson squaring off with Obama’s David Axelrod.

Wolfson pleaded for more time, arguing that “[w]e have Florida and Michigan yet to be decided.”

“After significant losses in Ohio and Pennsylvania on behalf of Senator Obama,” Wolfson said, “I think Democrats do have questions about whether or not he is going to be able to reach out and successfully win over the kind of blue-collar voters that Democrats need to win in order to take the White House back in November.”

Axelrod countered that Obama was at least as good a general election candidate as Clinton.

“There was a poll last week that showed us leading in her home state of New York by a point more than she was,” he noted."

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Obama Donor Received Illinois State Grant (after giving Obama a job)

By Chuck Neubauer and Tom Hamburger
Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

April 27, 2008

"WASHINGTON — After an unsuccessful campaign for Congress in 2000, Illinois state Sen. Barack Obama faced serious financial pressure: numerous debts, limited cash and a law practice he had neglected for a year. Help arrived in early 2001 from a significant new legal client -- a longtime political supporter.

Chicago entrepreneur Robert Blackwell Jr. paid Obama an $8,000-a-month retainer to give legal advice to his growing technology firm, Electronic Knowledge Interchange. It allowed Obama to supplement his $58,000 part-time state Senate salary for over a year with regular payments from Blackwell's firm that eventually totaled $112,000.

A few months after receiving his final payment from EKI, Obama sent a request on state Senate letterhead urging Illinois officials to provide a $50,000 tourism promotion grant to another Blackwell company, Killerspin.

Killerspin specializes in table tennis, running tournaments nationwide and selling its own line of equipment and apparel and DVD recordings of the competitions. With support from Obama, other state officials and an Obama aide who went to work part time for Killerspin, the company eventually obtained $320,000 in state grants between 2002 and 2004 to subsidize its tournaments.

Obama's staff said the senator advocated only for the first year's grant -- which ended up being $20,000, not $50,000. The day after Obama wrote his letter urging the awarding of the state funds, Obama's U.S. Senate campaign received a $1,000 donation from Blackwell.

Obama's presidential campaign rejects any suggestion that there was a connection between the legal work, the campaign contribution and the help with the grant. "Any implication that Sen. Obama would risk an ethical breach in order to secure a small grant for a pingpong tournament is nuts," said David Axelrod, Obama's chief political advisor.


Business relationships between lawmakers and people with government interests are not illegal or uncommon in Illinois or other states with a part-time Legislature, where lawmakers supplement their state salaries with income from the private sector.

But Obama portrays himself as a lawmaker dedicated to transparency and sensitive to even the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Recently, Obama expressed regret over a property deal with Illinois power broker Tony Rezko after Obama was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004. In an interview this spring with the Chicago Sun-Times, Obama said his regret was not just because the real estate and restaurant entrepreneur was under criminal scrutiny, but because he was "a contributor and someone doing business before the state."

Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs, who provided The Times with details of Obama's compensation from EKI, said Obama did nothing wrong acting on behalf of Killerspin. He said the state senator simply wrote a letter backing a worthy project developed by a constituent.

Killerspin's owner, Blackwell, was a political supporter and friend as well. Both men lived on Chicago's South Side. Blackwell, a savvy and successful entrepreneur, was one of the first donors to Obama's early campaigns, including the state senator's failed bid for a congressional seat in 2000. In the presidential race he is credited on Obama's website with committing to raise $100,000 to $200,000 for Obama's campaign.

When Blackwell sought backing for his table tennis tournament in 2002, other politicians, including U.S. Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, offered support for the event. But Obama was the only one who provided a letter that became part of the initial application for state funds, state records show. In addition, he wrote a state Senate proclamation heralding the first tournament and an official letter that welcomed “table tennis friends” to the 2004 contest and thanked spectators for helping to "make Chicago the table tennis capital of this nation."

Initially, the idea of table tennis receiving funds from a state tourism program -- designed to encourage overnight visits to Illinois -- was met with skepticism by one Republican state official. But the funding was granted at the $20,000 level that first year, grew to $200,000 in 2003 and totaled $100,000 in 2004.

High-dollar tourism grants from the state are often reserved for events like the Breeders' Cup, an internationally known horse race that brought 50,000 to the Chicago area in 2002. But Blackwell and his allies promised good attendance, hotel bookings and international attention. Today, Illinois Tourism Director Jan Kosner lauds the state's decision to support the table tennis tourneys and dismisses the role that letters from politicians play in the grant-making process.

Unofficial estimates place 3,000 to 6,000 spectators in the 8,000-seat University of Illinois-Chicago arena during some table tennis events. Blackwell said in a statement that "the 2002 and 2003 events were among the largest-ever table tennis events held on U.S. soil in terms of attendance."

Blackwell deployed high-wattage showmanship that put an international spotlight on his tournaments and his brand of table tennis equipment, DVDs and sportswear. Under a plan developed by Blackwell, the 2003 and 2004 tournaments were filmed at Killerspin's expense for occasional broadcast later by ESPN. The cost to Killerspin for the broadcast, laced with promotions for the company as well as Illinois tourism, was in effect defrayed by the state aid.

Blackwell said the grants -- which paid only part of the cost his company had to bear -- provided the state with "thousands of hours of domestic and international exposure via ESPN. . . . Additionally, hundreds of hotel rooms were occupied all three years that the state supported the event."

'A very dry period'

In his book "The Audacity of Hope," Obama tells how his finances had deteriorated to such a point that his credit card was initially rejected when he tried to rent a car at the 2000 Democratic convention in Los Angeles. He said he had originally planned to dedicate that summer "to catching up on work at the law practice that I'd left unattended during the campaign (a neglect that had left me more or less broke)."

Six months later Blackwell hired Obama to serve as general counsel for his tech company, EKI, which had been launched a few years earlier.

The monthly retainer paid by EKI was sent to the law firm that Obama was affiliated with at the time, currently known as Miner, Barnhill & Galland, where he worked part time when he wasn't tending to legislative duties. The business arrived at an especially fortuitous time because, as the law firm's senior partner, Judson Miner, put it, "it was a very dry period here," meaning that the ebb and flow of cases left little work for Obama and cash was tight.

The entire EKI retainer went to Obama, who was considered "of counsel" to the firm, according to details provided to The Times by the Obama campaign and confirmed by Miner. Blackwell said he had no knowledge of Obama's finances and hired Obama solely based on his abilities. "His personal financial situation was not and is not my concern," Blackwell said. "I hired Barack because he is a brilliant person and a lawyer with great insight and judgment."

Obama's tax returns show that he made no money from his law practice in 2000, the year of his unsuccessful run for a congressional seat. But that changed in 2001, when Obama reported $98,158 income for providing legal services. Of that, $80,000 was from Blackwell's company.

In 2002, the state senator reported $34,491 from legal services and speeches. Of that, $32,000 came from the EKI legal assignment, which ended in April 2002 by mutual agreement, as Obama ceased the practice of law and looked ahead to the possibility of running for the U.S. Senate. .

Blackwell said that "Barack worked extensive hours advising the company on compliance and human resource issues," negotiated contracts, reviewed confidentiality agreements and provided reports on topics requested by the company's senior management. Obama was not involved in soliciting city or state contracts for EKI, Blackwell said, and there was an agreement that he would not contact any government agencies.

Full disclosure

Illinois ethics disclosure forms are designed to reveal possible financial conflicts by lawmakers. On disclosure forms for 2001 and 2002, Obama did not specify that EKI provided him with the bulk of the private-sector compensation he received. As was his custom, he attached a multi-page list of all the law firm's clients, which included EKI among hundreds. Illinois law does not require more specific disclosure.

Stanley Brand, a Washington lawyer who counsels members of Congress and others on ethics rules, said he would have advised a lawmaker in Obama's circumstances to separately disclose such a singularly important client and not simply include it on a list of hundreds of firm clients, even if the law does not explicitly require it. "I would say you should disclose that to protect and insulate yourself against the charge that you are concealing it," Brand said.

An Illinois ethics advocate who worked with Obama to pass state ethics reforms, Cynthia Canary, said she was not troubled by Obama's handling of the Blackwell business. She said his listing of all the law firm's clients "was a more complete disclosure than you see 80% of the time in Illinois." Further, she said that Obama's letter on behalf of the table tennis tournament did not "rise to the level of a conflict of interest" because Obama did not have decision-making authority over the grant.

Obama's spokesman said that listing all clients was appropriate and that doing so allowed the public to see any and all potential conflicts for Obama and his law firm colleagues. "He was especially mindful of this responsibility as a leader of ethics reform," said Gibbs, his chief campaign spokesman.

Obama's wife, Michelle, then a member of the Commission on Chicago Landmarks, reported her husband's work for EKI on a city of Chicago financial disclosure form obtained by The Times. Gibbs said she had identified EKI on her form after consulting with her husband. Gibbs said the questions on the city form were different from the state's and required different answers.

Gibbs said the letter Obama wrote on behalf of the Killerspin-backed tournament was appropriate and entirely unrelated to any payments by Blackwell's other firm for Obama's legal services.

"He wrote the letter on behalf of a constituent" with a worthy cause, Gibbs said, noting that the contest was broadcast internationally, reaching as many as 200 million viewers in 156 countries.

Though Obama's formal efforts for Killerspin consisted of writing a letter and a proclamation, the nitty-gritty of obtaining state grants fell to a former state Senate and campaign aide to Obama, Dan Shomon.

Shomon, working part time for Obama's campaign and for Killerspin, helped prepare Killerspin's initial grant application in 2002. Still working part time with Obama, Shomon helped Killerspin secure a $200,000 grant for its 2003 tournament and a $100,000 grant for its 2004 tournament.

Obama Caught in Another Lie: It Turns Out that Terrorist Bill Ayers Used to be Obama's Boss

From "Barack Obama is not telling the truth about his relationship with Bill Ayers. There is more to this story than is already known, but Obama and his campaign are working hard to obfuscate and cover up the matter. Why? Because Barack Obama has had a close personal and business relationship with Bill Ayers that predates his run for the Illinois State Senate, and it is incumbent on the Senator from Illinois to come clean.

In fact, Barack worked for Bill Ayers for at least eight years and the press, so far, has not investigated this matter.

I predicted on this blog four months ago that Barack’s relationship with an unrepentant terrorist would become a heated issue in the presidential contest. Although Obama insists that he barely knows Ayers, this is not true. Democrats, beware — the problems of Obama’s associations with Ayers will create serious problems in the fall campaign if he is the candidate. Republicans take heart — if Barack is the nominee, your only problem will be deciding whether or focus your campaign attack ads on Obama’s questionable ties to the corrupt Tony Rezko, the racist Jeremiah Wright, the terrorist group Hamas, or the unrepentant bomber, William Ayers.

Can it be true that Obama is hiding the reality of the relationship? I will let you, the reader, decide for yourself.

In the ABC News debate in Philadelphia on April 16, Obama was asked about Ayers for the first time in a prominent public forum. It’s important to read the entire exchange in order to see that George Stephanopoulos’s question was precise in seeking information and that Obama’s answer was dismissive of the query and certain in refuting any close tie.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Senator, if you get the nomination, you’ll have to beat back these distractions.

And I want to give Senator Clinton a chance to respond, but first a follow-up on this issue, general theme of patriotism, in your relationships. A gentleman named William Ayers. He was part of the Weather Underground in the 1970s. They bombed the Pentagon, the Capitol, and other buildings. He’s never apologized for that.

And, in fact, on 9/11, he was quoted in the New York Times saying, “I don’t regret setting bombs. I feel we didn’t do enough.” An early organizing meeting for your State Senate campaign was held at his house and your campaign has said you are “friendly.”

Can you explain that relationship for the voters and explain to Democrats why it won’t be a problem?

OBAMA: George, but this is an example of what I’m talking about. This is a guy who lives in my neighborhood, who’s a professor of English in Chicago who I know and who I have not received some official endorsement from. He’s not somebody who I exchange ideas from on a regular basis.

And the notion that somehow as a consequence of me knowing somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8 years old, somehow reflects on me and my values doesn’t make much sense, George….

So this kind of game in which anybody who I know, regardless of how flimsy the relationship is, that somehow their ideas could be attributed to me, I think the American people are smarter than that. They’re not going to suggest somehow that that is reflective of my views, because it obviously isn’t.

Nice try, Barack. He conveniently forgot to mention what was already on the blogs — that Ayers held the first fundraiser at his home to help launch Obama’s state senate campaign in 1995; and that the two men have sat on the board of a private foundation in Chicago, the Woods Fund, for years, giving grants to, among others, a radical Palestinian activist named Rashid Khalidi.

But William Ayers was not just some guy who “lives in Barack’s neighborhood.” He is a well-known and controversial Professor of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago. And Obama wants you to believe that he knew nothing of Ayers views or politics even though Barack participated in public forums with him there? I don’t think so.

But that is not all. Barack also was essentially an employee of Bill Ayers for eight years.

In 1995, the Chicago Annenberg Challenge was created to raise funds to help reform the Chicago public schools. One of the architects of the Challenge was none other than Professor Bill Ayers. Ayers co-wrote the initial grant proposal and proudly lists himself on his own website as the co-founder of the Challenge.

And who did William Ayers, co-creator of the Challenge, help select as the new director of the board for this program? Barack Obama. Barack Obama was the first Chairman of the Board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge. This appointment came at a crucial time in Barack’s life. He was on the verge of challenging longtime state Senator Alice Palmer for her job. When Barack decided to run, it is no surprise that he turned to William Ayers and his wife, Bernardine Dohrn for help in organizing the campaign and in hosting his first fundraiser in the district.

Obama served on the board for eight years until the Challenge ended in 2003. Bill Ayers was intimately involved in the Challenge over this same time period.
Now, let’s revisit Obama’s claim about Ayers in the ABC debate:

“Not someone I’ve accepted endorsement of, it’s not someone I exchange ideas with on a regular basis…”

That is a lie. Both parts of Obama’s statement are obviously false. Obama not only evaded Stephanopoulos’s question, he was deliberately deceptive and misleading.

Ayers helped select Obama to exercise a leadership role on the Annenberg Challenge. And Obama wants us to believe they never talked? Never exchanged ideas? Never identified issues to raise and policies to pursue? What is Barack hiding?

Senator Obama, how did you become acquainted with William Ayers? When and how did you and Bill meet?

Maybe Barack met Bill Ayers through his wife, Michelle Obama? That is one possibility. Michelle started working at the Sidley Austin law firm in Chicago in in the summer of 1988 (and stayed there until 1991). Who else worked there? None other than Bill Ayers’ wife, Bernardine Dohrn, who worked at Sidley from 1984 through 1988. Indeed, she is widely thought in Chicago to have gotten this position due to the influence of her father-in-law, Thomas Ayers, former CEO of Commonwealth Edison, who was one of the law firm’s biggest clients.

In the aftermath of the ABC debate, no one in the mainstream media has dared probe into this relationship. The most informative article to appear since then has been written by Steve Diamond, law professor on the faculty of Santa Clara University School of Law in Santa Clara, California, on his blog, on April 22. None of what he reports has appeared in any major media outlet.

Here are key excerpts from Diamond’s report:

So, who “sent” Obama? The key I think is his ties…to the family of (in)famous former Weather Underground leader Bill Ayers – not just Bill Ayers, but Bill’s father Tom Ayers and his brother John as well. Obama was a community organizer from about 1985 to 1988, when he left for Harvard Law School. . . .

Active in the local control-from-below side of this effort was Bill Ayers who had returned to Chicago in 1987 as a professor of education at the University of Illinois’ Chicago Circle campus, after surfacing from the underground, as well as Barack Obama’s Developing Communities Project (DCP). . . .

Thus, Bill Ayers was a vigorous advocate of local control along with a related concept called “small schools,” most likely because he believes it gives him the potential to build a political base from which to operate. He has discussed these ideas in speeches and writings on his blog. As he said in a speech he gave in front of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela in late 2006: “Teaching invites transformations, it urges revolutions small and large. La educacion es revolucion!” . . . .

In the fall of 1988, however, Obama left the city to go off to law school. My best guess, though, is that it was in that 86-88 time frame that Obama likely met up with the Ayers family. I will explain why I believe that in a minute. Interestingly, after his first year in law school Obama returned in the summer of 1989 to work as a summer associate at the prestigious Chicago law firm of Sidley & Austin. This in and of itself is a bit unusual. Very few top-tier law students work for big law firms during their first summer. The big law firms discourage it because if you work for them in the first summer you are likely to work for a second firm the following year and then the firms have to compete to get you.

So, why or how did Obama — at that point not yet the prominent first black president of the Harvard Law Review (that would happen the following year) — end up at Sidley?

Coincidentally, or not, Sidley had been long time outside counsel to Commonwealth Edison. The senior Sidley partner who was their key outside counsel, Howard Trienens, was a member of the board of trustees of Northwestern alongside Tom Ayers (as well as Sidley partner Newton Minow). Coincidentally, or not, Bernardine Dohrn worked at Sidley also, hired there in the late 1980s, many contend, through the intervention of Tom Ayers, even though she is not a member of the bar (as far as I can tell) because of her past jail time for Weather Underground activities. . . .

It is highly unlikely that a 30-something second-year lawyer would have been plucked from relative obscurity out of a left wing law firm to head up something as visible and important in Chicago as the Annenberg Challenge by Bill Ayers — unless Ayers had not already known Obama very well. Obama likely proved himself to Ayers in the battle for local school control when at the DCP in the 80s.

One guess as to why Obama does not play up his educational experience more thoroughly now -– it certainly could be of use to him one would think in beefing up his “I have the experience to be President” argument -– is that it would lead to a renewed discussion of the Bill Ayers connection, which is clearly toxic for Obama. This likely explains why Obama tried a kind of head fake when asked about Ayers in the recent TV debate. Obama said Ayers was a “professor of english.” Yet, Obama chaired the Annenberg Challenge for three years and served on its board for another three years, working closely with Ayers on grants to Chicago schools. And he did not know that Ayers was a professor of education? That strains credulity.

One final curiosity: Here’s yet another bizarre incident involving Ayers, reported in The New Yorker in 2001. Did Obama happen to be at this neighborhood event? We imagine he wouldn’t recall.

Dohrn teaches law at Northwestern University and is, at fifty-nine, still notably glamorous. Ayers, who is fifty-six, teaches education at the University of Illinois at Chicago; his business card reads “Distinguished Professor, University Scholar, Educator, Activist, Peacemaker, Flash-of-Lightning.” The night I got to Chicago, the couple was giving a party, timed to coincide with the booksellers’ convention, which was being held downtown… Ayers’s memoir, titled “Fugitive Days,” is coming out this fall, and he was handing his guests promotional stick-on tattoos of the Weatherman symbol–a three-colored rainbow crossed by a lightning bolt. He showed me a larger version of the symbol tattooed on his upper back.

It is of vital importance to clarify Barack’s relationship with Ayers. This is not a casual relationship. It is not a recent relationship. And, as reported in an earlier piece on this blog, Ayers has not changed his tune of political radicalism. I don’t challenge his right to believe such things, but Ayers certainly does not reflect the views of most Americans, both Democrats and Republicans. Why is Barack lying about this relationship? That is the question voters deserve to have asked and answered. "

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Obama's "Self-Inflicted Confusion"

From NYT by Paul Krugman on April 25, 2008: "After Barack Obama’s defeat in Pennsylvania, David Axelrod, his campaign manager, brushed it off: “Nothing has changed tonight in the basic physics of this race.”

He may well be right — but what a comedown. A few months ago the Obama campaign was talking about transcendence. Now it’s talking about math. “Yes we can” has become “No she can’t.”

This wasn’t the way things were supposed to play out.

Mr. Obama was supposed to be a transformational figure, with an almost magical ability to transcend partisan differences and unify the nation. Once voters got to know him — and once he had eliminated Hillary Clinton’s initial financial and organizational advantage — he was supposed to sweep easily to the nomination, then march on to a huge victory in November.

Well, now he has an overwhelming money advantage and the support of much of the Democratic establishment — yet he still can’t seem to win over large blocs of Democratic voters, especially among the white working class.

As a result, he keeps losing big states. And general election polls suggest that he might well lose to John McCain.

What’s gone wrong?

According to many Obama supporters, it’s all Hillary’s fault. If she hadn’t launched all those vile, negative attacks on their hero — if she had just gone away — his aura would be intact, and his mission of unifying America still on track.

But how negative has the Clinton campaign been, really? Yes, it ran an ad that included Osama bin Laden in a montage of crisis images that also included the Great Depression and Hurricane Katrina. To listen to some pundits, you’d think that ad was practically the same as the famous G.O.P. ad accusing Max Cleland of being weak on national security.

It wasn’t. The attacks from the Clinton campaign have been badminton compared with the hardball Republicans will play this fall. If the relatively mild rough and tumble of the Democratic fight has been enough to knock Mr. Obama off his pedestal, what hope did he ever have of staying on it through the general election?

Let me offer an alternative suggestion: maybe his transformational campaign isn’t winning over working-class voters because transformation isn’t what they’re looking for.

From the beginning, I wondered what Mr. Obama’s soaring rhetoric, his talk of a new politics and declarations that “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for” (waiting for to do what, exactly?) would mean to families troubled by lagging wages, insecure jobs and fear of losing health coverage. The answer, from Ohio and Pennsylvania, seems pretty clear: not much. Mrs. Clinton has been able to stay in the race, against heavy odds, largely because her no-nonsense style, her obvious interest in the wonkish details of policy, resonate with many voters in a way that Mr. Obama’s eloquence does not.

Yes, I know that there are lots of policy proposals on the Obama campaign’s Web site. But addressing the real concerns of working Americans isn’t the campaign’s central theme.

Tellingly, the Obama campaign has put far more energy into attacking Mrs. Clinton’s health care proposals than it has into promoting the idea of universal coverage.

During the closing days of the Pennsylvania primary fight, the Obama campaign ran a TV ad repeating the dishonest charge that the Clinton plan would force people to buy health insurance they can’t afford. It was as negative as any ad that Mrs. Clinton has run — but perhaps more important, it was fear-mongering aimed at people who don’t think they need insurance, rather than reassurance for families who are trying to get coverage or are afraid of losing it.

No wonder, then, that older Democrats continue to favor Mrs. Clinton.

The question Democrats, both inside and outside the Obama campaign, should be asking themselves is this: now that the magic has dissipated, what is the campaign about? More generally, what are the Democrats for in this election?

That should be an easy question to answer. Democrats can justly portray themselves as the party of economic security, the party that created Social Security and Medicare and defended those programs against Republican attacks — and the party that can bring assured health coverage to all Americans.

They can also portray themselves as the party of prosperity: the contrast between the Clinton economy and the Bush economy is the best free advertisement that Democrats have had since Herbert Hoover.

But the message that Democrats are ready to continue and build on a grand tradition doesn’t mesh well with claims to be bringing a “new politics” and rhetoric that places blame for our current state equally on both parties.

And unless Democrats can get past this self-inflicted state of confusion, there’s a very good chance that they’ll snatch defeat from the jaws of victory this fall.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Boston Herald: Fact is Obama's Risky

From on April 22, 2008: "Barack Obama, meet John Adams.

Adams noted during the Boston Massacre trial that “Facts are stubborn things.” And it appears that, for the moment, the facts have caught up with Obama here in Massachusetts.

How else to explain the amazing, astounding and unthinkable results of the latest SurveyUSA presidential poll: Republican John McCain is tied with Barack Obama in the Bay State.

The last Republican to win Massachusetts? Ronald Reagan. The last Republican before that? Dwight Eisenhower. Even George McGovern managed to carry Massachusetts in 1972, the one Democratic holdout in Richard Nixon’s 49-state landslide.

Replace “McGovern” with “” and you’ve seized the essence of the Obama candidacy. He’s the most liberal U.S. senator, advocating tax increases on the “wealthy” and enjoying the support of Gov. Deval Patrick, Sen. Ted Kennedy, The Boston Globe-Democrat and every 9/11 conspiracy kook in the People’s Republic of Cambridge. He’s got all the players in Massachusetts behind him except the ones who actually vote.

While Hillary Clinton soundly beats McCain in Massachusetts in the new SurveyUSA poll, 56 percent to 41 percent, the Obama/McCain number is 48 percent to 46 percent, well within the margin of error.

A Democrat struggling here in 2008? An unpopular war, a collapsing housing market and $4 gas - if Britney Spears were running as a Democrat, she’d pull at least 50 percent of the Massachusetts vote.

Sixty percent if she kept her clothes on.

Holly Robichaud, the “Lone Republican” of Boston Herald fame, blames Patrick for Obama’s woes. “We’ve already elected one inexperienced candidate running on a vague platform of hope in Massachusetts, and it’s not working out. This is a classic example of ‘Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.’ ”

Not a bad theory, given that SurveyUSA also found only four in 10 residents approve of the job Gov. Patrick is doing.

But I think that the question driving Obama’s numbers down of late - Clinton passed him in Gallup’s national head-to-head this past weekend for the first time in weeks - is that liberals wonder if he can give them that which they crave most.

Not socialized medicine. Not surrender in Iraq. Not even higher taxes on evil, rich, white oil company executives.

What they want is victory - at virtually any cost.

Typical Americans want to know if Obama, a liberal community activist with little political or executive experience, is tough enough to face our enemies in a troubled world. Massachusetts Democrats could not care less - they just want to make sure he’s tough enough to take on McCain.

And because the answer is “probably not,” Obama is struggling among what should be his most ardent admirers. Massachusetts liberals like him as a guy, and they certainly support his politics. But they really hate losers. Especially after the last eight years.

From the 2000 election controversy - “selected, not elected” to “Bush lied, people died” - the Democratic passion for victory is palpable. The sting of 2004, when exit-poll reporting had John Kerry supporters cheering at 4 p.m. and crying at midnight, is a painful memory.

For a while, Obama was the golden child. His campaign allegedly inspired Obamacans to abandon the GOP in red states like Montana. As long as he looked like a winner, the Obama Express could not be stopped.

Now, it’s the post-Rev. Wright Obama - insulting “clinging” rural voters, running attack ads of questionable veracity, making public statements on things from gun control (for it) and higher taxes (for them, too) that are demonstrably

This may be the righter “left” way to govern, but is it the way to beat McCain?

Until Democrats have an answer, Hillary Clinton won’t be dropping out of the race. Why should she?"

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Obama Claimed His Handwriting Wasn't on Survey: Another Lie

Obama tied to lobbyists, but boasts of not taking money

From USA Today on April 16, 2008: "WASHINGTON — Barack Obama often boasts he is "the only candidate who isn't taking a dime from Washington lobbyists," yet his fundraising team includes 38 members of law firms that were paid $138 million last year to lobby the federal government, records show.Those lawyers, including 10 former federal lobbyists, have pledged to raise at least $3.5 million for the Illinois senator's presidential race. Employees of their firms have given Obama's campaign $2.26 million, a USA TODAY analysis of campaign finance data shows.
Thirty-one of the 38 are law firm partners, who typically receive a share of their firm's lobbying fees. At least six of them have some managerial authority over lobbyists.

"It makes no difference whether the person is a registered lobbyist or the partner of a registered lobbyist, if the person is raising money to get access or curry favor," said Michael Malbin, director of the Campaign Finance Institute, a non-partisan think tank.
Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor said that while Obama's refusal to take money from lobbyists "isn't a perfect solution or symbol, it does reflect Obama's record of trying to change the way that Washington does business." He declined to elaborate.

Lobbyists have long played key fundraising and policymaking roles for candidates, and lobbyists are raising money for both Hillary Rodham Clinton and John McCain.

Obama fundraisers who work for law firms that lobby and share the fees include:

•Allan Katz, a Florida lawyer who chairs the government relations practice of Akerman Senterfitt. The firm took in $3.6 million for Washington lobbying last year, according to public records compiled by the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics. The firm touts on its website "an enviable level of access" for clients.

•Mark Alderman, managing partner of Philadelphia's WolfBlock law firm. The firm's lobbying subsidiary earned $930,000 in Washington last year representing clients including defense contractor Lockheed Martin, records show.

•Scott Blake Harris, managing partner of Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis, a Washington telecommunications law firm. Harris withdrew as a lobbyist for Microsoft and Cisco in June, but his partners still lobby, he said.

"My practice isn't going to be helped by this at all," said Harris, who said he got involved with Obama after his 14-year-old son interned in the senator's office. "I went to see him because of how nice he'd been to my kid, and I was captivated by his vision."

Katz, who got to know Obama over dinner, said his lobbying business "will be fine whether he wins or whether he loses."

Alderman said he was "just blown away" after meeting Obama. "This is not a business proposition for me," he said.


These 38 fundraisers for Barack Obama's presidential campaign work for law firms that have lobbying operations in Washington, D.C. The dollar figure reflects the minimum amount each has pledged to raise for the campaign.


Scott Harris $200,000 DC Harris, Wiltshire and Grannis

Allan J. Katz
$200,000 FL Akerman Senterfitt

Michael Lawson $200,000 CA Skadden, Arps

John Levi $200,000 IL Sidley Austin

Karol Mason $200,000 GA Alston & Bird

Thomas J. Perrelli $200,000 VA Jenner & Block

Thomas A. Reed $200,000 VA Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Preston Gates Ellis

Christina Tchen $200,000 IL Skadden, Arps

Tony West $200,000 CA Morrison & Foerster

Mark L. Alderman $100,000 PA Wolf, Block, Schorr and Solis-Cohen

Timothy M. Broas $100,000 MD Winston & Strawn

Peter Bynoe $100,000 IL DLA Piper

Gregory B. Craig $100,000 DC Williams & Connolly

Norman Eisen $100,000 DC Zuckerman Spaeder

Nicole Lamb-Hale $100,000 MI Foley & Lardner

Andrew Schapiro $100,000 NY Mayer Brown

Charles C. Adams Jr. $50,000 Switzerland Hogan & Hartson

David Burd $50,000 DC Arnold & Porter

Tom Cole $50,000 IL Sidley Austin

Michael H. Dardzinski $50,000 China Reed Smith

Howard W. Gutman $50,000 MD Williams & Connolly

Jeff Horwitz $50,000 NY Proskauer Rose

David C. Jacobson $50,000 IL Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal

Hrishi Karthikeyan $50,000 DC Covington & Burling

Ronald Kirk $50,000 TX Vinson & Elkins

William T. Lake $50,000 DC WilmerHale

Edward Lazarus $50,000 CA Akin Gump

Jack Levin $50,000 IL Kirkland & Ellis

Kenneth G. Lore $50,000 DC Bingham McCutchen

Charles B. Ortner $50,000 NY Proskauer Rose

Susan Pravda $50,000 MA Foley & Lardner

Paul N. Roth $50,000 NY Schulte Roth & Zabel

John Schmidt $50,000 IL Mayer Brown

Robert M. Sussman* $50,000 DC Latham & Watkins

Kathryn Thomson $50,000 VA Sidley Austin

Barry B. White $50,000 MA Foley Hoag

Steven M. Zager $50,000 TX Akin Gump

Robert S. Litt n/a MD Arnold & Porter

* Robert M. Sussman retired as a partner on December 31, 2007.
Source: Obama for America, Center for Responsive Politics, Public Citizen

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Obama Almost Voted to Confirm Roberts to Supreme Court (until his staff explained why that would be a bad thing)

From and The "It was the fall of 2005, and the celebrated young senator -- still new to Capitol Hill but aware of his prospects for higher office -- was thinking about voting to confirm John G. Roberts Jr. as chief justice. Talking with his aides, the Illinois Democrat expressed admiration for Roberts's intellect. Besides, Obama said, if he were president he wouldn't want his judicial nominees opposed simply on ideological grounds.

And then Rouse, his chief of staff, spoke up. This was no Harvard moot-court exercise, he said. If Obama voted for Roberts, Rouse told him, people would remind him of that every time the Supreme Court issued another conservative ruling, something that could cripple a future presidential run. Obama took it in. And when the roll was called, he voted no."

12 reasons 'bitter' is bad for Obama

FRom By: Mike Allen
April 13, 2008 09:08 AM EST

"A Clinton comeback was looking far-fetched. But operatives in both parties were buzzing about that possibility Saturday following the revelation that Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) told wealthy San Franciscans that small-town Pennsylvanians and Midwesterners “cling to guns or religion” because they are “bitter” about their economic status.

Obama at first dug in on that contention Friday after audio of the private fundraiser was posted by The Huffington Post. Altering course, on Saturday in Muncie, Ind., he conceded that he “didn’t say it as well as I should have.” And he told the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal that “obviously, if I worded things in a way that made people offended, I deeply regret that. ... The underlying truth of what I said remains, which is simply that people who have seen their way of life upended because of economic distress are frustrated and rightfully so."

Here is what he said April 6, referring to people living in areas hit by job losses: “[I]t’s not surprising, then, that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

The Obama campaign contends that coverage of the San Francisco remarks is overheated and distorted. One aide said that “any logical analysis” would make it obvious that the brouhaha will not “change the pledged delegate count” — the key to the Democratic presidential nomination.

In fact, this is a potential turning point for Obama’s campaign — an episode that could be even more damaging than the attention to remarks by his minister, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, since this time the controversial words came out of his own mouth.

Here are a dozen reasons why:

1. It lets Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) off the mat at a time when even some of her top supporters had begun to despair about her prospects. Clinton hit back hard on the campaign trail Saturday. And her campaign held a conference call where former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, a Pittsburgh native, described Obama’s remarks as “condescending and disappointing” and “undercutting his message of hope.”

2. If you are going to say something that makes you sound like a clueless liberal, don’t say it in San Francisco. Obama’s views might have been received very differently if he had expressed them in public to Pennsylvania voters, saying he understood and could alleviate their frustrations.

3. Some people actually use guns to hunt — not to compensate for a salary that’s less than a U.S. senator’s.

4. Some people cling to religion not because they are bitter but because they believe it, and because faith in God gives them purpose and comfort.

5. Some hard-working Americans find it insulting when rich elites explain away things dear to their hearts as desperation. It would be like a white politician telling blacks they cling to charismatic churches to compensate for their plight. And it vindicates centrist Democrats who have been arguing for a decade that their party has allowed itself to look culturally out of touch with the American mainstream.

6. It provides a handy excuse for people who were looking for a reason not to vote for Obama but don’t want to think of themselves as bigoted. It hurts Obama especially with the former Reagan Democrats, the culturally conservative, blue-collar workers who could be a promising voter group for him. It also antagonizes people who were concerned about his minister but might have given him the benefit of the doubt after his eloquent speech on race.

7. It gives the Clinton campaign new arguments for trying to recruit superdelegates, the Democratic elected officials and other insiders who get a vote on the nomination. A moderate politician from a swing district, for example, might not want to have to explain support for a candidate who is being hammered as a liberal. And Clinton’s agents can claim that for all the talk of her being divisive, Obama has provided plenty of fodder to energize Republicans.

8. It helps Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) frame a potential race against Obama, even though both of them have found support among independents. Now Republicans have a simple, easily repeated line of attack to use against Obama as an out-of-touch snob, as they had with Sen. John F. Kerry after he blundered by commenting about military funding, “I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.”

9. The comments play directly into an already-established narrative about his candidacy. Clinton supporters have been arguing that Obama has limited appeal beyond upscale Democrats — the so-called latte liberals. You can’t win red states if people there don’t like you. “Elites need to understand that middle-class Americans view values and culture as more important than mere trickery,” said Paul Begala, a Clinton backer. “Democrats have to respect their values and reflect their values, not condescend to them as if they were children who’ve been bamboozled.”

10. The timing is terrible. With the Pennsylvania primary nine days off, late-deciding voters are starting to tune in. Obama and Clinton are scheduled to appear separately on CNN on Sunday for a forum on, of all topics, faith and values. And ABC News is staging a Clinton-Obama debate in Philadelphia on Wednesday. So Clinton has the maximum opportunity to keep a spotlight on the issue. Besides sex, little drives the news and opinion industry more than race, religion, culture and class. So as far as chances the chattering-class will perpetuate the issue, Obama has hit the jackpot.

11. The story did not have its roots in right-wing or conservative circles. It was published — and aggressively promoted — by The Huffington Post, a liberally oriented organization that was Obama’s outlet of choice when he wanted to release a personal statement distancing himself from some comments by the Rev. Wright.

12. It undermines Democratic congressional candidates who had thought that Obama would make a stronger top for the ticket than Clinton. Already, Republican House candidates are challenging their Democratic opponents to renounce or embrace Obama’s remarks. Ken Spain, press secretary for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said: “There is a myth being perpetuated by Democrats and even some in the media that an Obama candidacy would somehow be better for their chances down ballot. But we don’t believe that is the case.”

Oops....Obama shows his elitism

"You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns, or religion, or antipathy to people who aren't like them, or anti-immigrant sentiment, or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."
-- Sen. Barack Obama, quoted by the Huffington Post.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Electibilty is the Name of the Game

From on April 1, 2008 by John Fouts: "Barack and Michelle Obama sent a message to the media early in the primary season. Barack said:
"I'm confident that I will get her [Clinton] votes if I'm the nominee, it's not clear that she would get the votes I got if she were the nominee."
Then Michelle said on supporting Hillary Clinton:

"I'd have to think about that. I'd have to think about that, her policies, her approach, her tone."
The logic behind those statements went unquestioned by the media. Ever since, the media has begun saying how Obama supporters would defect from a Clinton candidacy, ruining the Democratic party and handing the election to Sen. John McCain.

A poll last week put that thesis to shame. Gallup polled Democrats on their likelihood to defect from a Democratic candidate and crossover to support McCain: 28% of Clinton supporters chose McCain over Obama, while only 19% of Obama supporters abandon Clinton for McCain.

Enough said for the lazy analysis in the media.

This is bad news for Obama come a general election. Clinton has very strong support among women, and this election offers a classic scenario they know well: A lesser experienced man gets all the breaks on the way to being promoted to a better position. The media forgets sexism and intently focuses only on race.

Furthermore, Clinton has strong support among Latinos. Some of those Latinos may defect from Obama to McCain as the Arizonan can boast a reasonable record on immigration. McCain has no plans to demagogue illegal immigration in the general election, which would hurt many Republicans with the Latino vote.

Clinton also has strong support from older voters. Those voters may choose to vote for McCain over Obama. Obama has created a generational divide in his campaigning and chosen to cede seniors to Clinton. McCain proves popular with seniors, and white seniors may prefer McCain to Obama. In his speech on race, many pundits thought Obama threw his white grandmother "under the bus" by pointing out her racism. I think this will hurt Obama in this age group.

Nevertheless, so-called McCain Democrats (defectors) appear to exist. McCain has gained in national polls in recent weeks, running much stronger against either Democrat. If defections come from Democratic candidates in sufficient numbers, it may swing the election to McCain in November.

Yet, the media for the most part has ignored the poll, instead blasting Clinton for remaining in the race. In the words of media columnist Howard Kurtz:

"This is the new media narrative that the former first lady is confronting, that she is prolonging the agony and is just being selfish by refusing to pack it in."
The turnaround is stunning considering the huge controversy over Obama's pastor two weeks ago. Even Obama stated over the weekend Clinton had no reason to exit the race, despite high profile statements from some of his surrogates such as Sen. Chris Dodd (D., Conn.) and Gov. Bill Richardson (D., N. M.).
Blue States vs. Red States
The myopic media coverage made its way into analysis of another recent poll. A MSNBC/WSJ poll showed that Obama has rebounded from the Rev. Jeremiah Wright scandal. The poll showed Clinton and Obama tied at 45% apiece among Democrats. The media said the poll proves Obama is poised to continue his romp over Clinton. Of course, it should surprise nobody Obama has rebounded with Democrats. The media has ensured this with cozy coverage, lauding his speech on race in America.
But we shouldn't jump so fast to conclusions as something critical went missing in their analysis. Here's the money quote many failed to notice:

"While the senator's support among Democrats is little changed, he did slip among conservatives and Republican voters, groups that had shown some attraction to Sen. Obama's message of changing partisan politics in Washington."
Obama had convinced many in the media that his campaign remains different. He will unite the country and overcome the blue state-red state divide with his bipartisan tone. Maybe, maybe not; it's an unproven thesis.
The media missed the true problem with his pastor's well publicized diatribes that appeared in sermons. Patriotism will become an issue, not race. Wright's statements of "God Damn America" will be repeated again and again in the general election. Republicans feel queasy attacking Obama on race, but patriotism has long been fair game.

The attacks won't come from the McCain campaign; he has denounced racial attacks. But given what they did to Sen. John Kerry, a fellow Vietnam veteran, in 2004, it does seem likely some conservative group will run "swift-boat" style ads on Obama's patriotism. They will talk about him not wearing a flag pin; they will play the tape of his wife saying she's never been proud of her country. Lastly, they will play Pastor Wright's anti-American statements.

Obama's favorability ratings could drop like a stone in middle America, including key swing states such as Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin. Obama may recover by giving another speech on patriotism. But if the attacks come late in the election, it may be too late for him to recover.

Obama's unifying message sounds wonderful, and I wish it were possible. But I believe it won't happen in this election. Whether some people like it or not, the presidential election map still comes down to the electoral college math plain and simple. States still appear blue and red on close observation.

Turning back to 2004, George Bush beat John Kerry by 286 electoral votes to 251. Two key swing states in the election were Florida and Ohio. McCain maintains solid margins over Obama in both of these states according to the running average at McCain has even pulled ahead of Obama in the blue state of Pennsylvania.

Should Obama lose those states, he would need to find other swing states to turn the tide. Some had pointed to Missouri as one of those states or Virginia, but a new Rasmussen poll has McCain opening up a wide lead in Missouri over both Clinton and Obama. The blue state-red state divide stays intact.

Clinton polls marginally worse than Obama in national polls against McCain. But she fares much better in the swing states of both Ohio and Florida. If she were to win one of those races, now McCain would be behind the eight-ball needing to pull off some upsets. Winning the national vote guarantees nothing in a presidential election -- just ask Al Gore.

The Delegate Race Looks to the General Election
Clinton likely wishes the Democrats used the electoral college to determine the election or winner-take-all. She would have sewn up the nomination with her big states already. Instead, Obama leads because of proportional representation of delegates and wins in many caucuses.
The Democratic delegate system has come under intense scrutiny. The close and quirky contest has revealed several problems for the Democrats that they may have to solve to avoid a brokered convention come August in Denver.

First, the Democratic party has to deal with two renegade states that attempted to buck the primary system: Florida and Michigan. The party penalized the states by nullifying the primaries and declining to seat their delegates. The Republicans, on the other hand, removed half of the delegates maintaining the competitive nature of those primaries. Clinton scored "victories" in both of the contests, which have been questioned.

The wins appeared valid to others, especially Clinton. In Michigan, Obama's campaign decided to delete his name from the ballot in the state in preference to focusing on South Carolina. This was a campaign strategy -- not a requirement. At the time, Clinton had great support among superdelegates and unions in the state. Voter turnout was small.

In Florida, all of the candidates pledged not to campaign there in adherence to the approved early state primaries schedule. Again, the strategy favored Obama. He did not have to waste resources in a state where Clinton held huge leads in the polls. Voters in the sunshine state turned out strong for Clinton, and she won handily on huge voter turnout. She, in fact, received several hundred thousand more votes in the state than the winner of the Republican primary, McCain.

But a new investigative piece by Wayne Barrett throws new light on these two states. Barrett argues that Republicans were critical in leading the charge to move up both of these primaries, and in Florida tied the bill to ensuring a paper trail to electronic voting. Worse, the Democratic party did not have to create such a harsh punishment for the two states. It makes one question why Howard Dean's 50-state strategy shrunk to 48 states.

The Clinton campaign has been pushing for these wins to count. The Obama campaign has been coy about their status and has not made any effort to support a re-vote or any other simple solution. It's a stalemate at this point where the delegates stay in limbo.

The Democratic delegate system is complex having both pledged delegates and superdelegates. Pledged delegates are mostly decided by either caucuses or primaries, basically representing the voters. Superdelegates are elected officials or party officials with strong ties to the party. A superdelegate vote counts for the same amount as a pledged delegate.

The system sounds decidedly undemocratic. Yet in this very close race between Clinton and Obama, neither side seems likely to arrive at a majority without winning a large number of the superdelegates, approximately 796. Clinton holds a slight margin of superdelegates, while Obama holds a wider margin among pledged delegates. She requires more superdelegates than Obama to win the nomination.

If the contest continues an essential tie, the superdelegates will be forced to decide on a candidate. It would be a first since the system was created in 1980 by the Democratic party and many hope it happens before the convention in August.

Those superdelegates will have to decide on the electability argument, and I think many may find Clinton has a better chance to defeat McCain in the general election based on an analysis of electability in swing states and their effect upon the electoral college. "

Obama Puts Democrats in Peril

From The on April 8, 2008 by John Fout: "Sen. Barack Obama (D., Ill.) has asked voters -- Democrats, independents and Republicans -- to see him as a unifying force, a once-in-a-lifetime politician who can overcome the partisan divide and change politics in Washington. He presents a bold vision.
Unfortunately, Obama has failed in his first test to unify his own party. His campaign has failed to recognize the results of the Florida primary -- and Michigan -- for political gain over his opponent, a decision that could disgruntle Democratic voters in Florida in November and years beyond.

The Democratic National Committee, led by Howard Dean, got caught in a trap set by Florida Republicans and has been trying to escape it ever since. The Republican-run Florida Legislature rammed through a bill to move up Florida's primary.

Democratic legislators had little power to stop the bill, and they wound up endorsing the bill when it included a verifiable paper trail for elections. The move violated both the rules of the DNC and the Republican National Committee.

Florida Democrats had been fighting for a paper trail ever since the 2000 election debacle with its hanging "chads." This was a win for them. The DNC chose not to see it that way, and its rules committee decided the only appropriate action was a "scorched earth" strategy. They refused to recognize the result of an early primary for breaking the rules, and thus denying the state delegates. The RNC, on the other hand, docked Florida only half of its delegates. The primary put Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) on track to win the nomination.

The DNC did not treat other offenders in similar fashion. Wayne Barrett, writing at The Huffington Post, noticed that not all Democrats received equal treatment:

"Back in June, a DNC spokeswoman, for example, told The Associated Press that neither Dean nor the Rules Committee "has the power to waive the rules for any state," explaining that "these rules can be changed only by the full DNC." Yet a few months later, on the same day that the Rules Committee stripped Michigan of its delegates, it waived the rules for New Hampshire, Iowa, and South Carolina, each of which had also moved up their primaries."
The DNC appears to have chosen to treat Florida and Michigan voters differently.
Democratic voters in Florida ignored the edict from the DNC and showed up to vote in great numbers. About 1.7 million Democrats voted, easily eclipsing the Republican turnout by several hundred thousand. Clinton trounced Obama by 300,000 votes. Neither candidate had campaigned in the state, though Obama had a big win in South Carolina a few days before. His campaign also ran national cable ads seen in the Florida; Clinton did not run ads there.

Obviously, it remains in Obama's best interest to ignore the result because Clinton would get the benefit of catching up to him in both pledged delegates and the popular vote count. Obama has chosen to ignore the voters. This contradicts the efforts of many activists in the Democratic Party who have pushed for voting reform and greater transparency in our democracy.

His campaign has consistently said that the DNC is following rules and that rules matter. His campaign has made no positive effort to resolve the situation, whether it be a revote or calling for Florida's delegates to count based on the actual primary result. The Obama campaign appears less concerned about it than the DNC. It provokes the question: Is he really the candidate who will change Washington, or is he just another candidate playing the political game?

Chairman Dean has publicly expressed concern because of the effect the decision might have on congressional races in Florida. Furthermore, the DNC issued a ruling to make it more likely the delegates will be seated at the convention. The convention credentials committee will decide the delegates' fate. The DNC recently ruled that the committee would include members from both Florida and Michigan, making it more likely to vote in favor of seating the two states at the convention.

The DNC is working its way out of the trap. Will Obama follow its lead anytime soon? He may want to take some action or face the wrath of Florida voters in the fall. A recent poll taken in Florida shows that as many as 25% of Florida voters will stay at home in the fall if the result does not count. That spells defeat for Democrats in the state.

(To see more of John Fout's political commentary, click here.

Obama already polls much worse than Clinton in Florida vs. McCain, and it will be difficult to win the general election without Florida. I explained this last week. Florida Republicans have already used the DNC ruling as a campaign issue there in January and almost certainly plan to do so again.

Obama has a dilemma: Face criticism in a critical swing state where he's in essence supporting disenfranchising Democrats because of a Republican ploy and against securing a verifiable paper trail for elections or recognize the results of the primary. The former choice places Democrats in a poor position for years to come in Florida. "

Obama's Big Donors

"By Matthew Mosk and Alec MacGillis
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, April 11, 2008
Sen. Barack Obama credits his presidential campaign with creating a "parallel public financing system" built on a wave of modest donations from homemakers and high school teachers. Small givers, he said at a fundraiser this week, "will have as much access and influence over the course and direction of our campaign that has traditionally been reserved for the wealthy and the powerful."

But those with wealth and power also have played a critical role in creating Obama's record-breaking fundraising machine, and their generosity has earned them a prominent voice in shaping his campaign. Seventy-nine "bundlers," five of them billionaires, have tapped their personal networks to raise at least $200,000 each. They have helped the campaign recruit more than 27,000 donors to write checks for $2,300, the maximum allowed. Donors who have given more than $200 account for about half of Obama's total haul, which stands at nearly $240 million.

Obama's success in assembling bundlers offers another perspective on a campaign that promotes itself as a grass-roots effort. While the senator from Illinois has had unprecedented success generating small donations, many made online, the work of bundlers first signaled the seriousness of his candidacy a year ago and will be crucial as he heads into the final Democratic primaries with a lead against Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.).

The bundler list also sheds light on those who might seek to influence an Obama White House. It includes traditional Democratic givers -- Hollywood, trial lawyers and Wall Street -- and newcomers such as young hedge fund executives, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, Chicago-based developers and members of the black business elite. One-third had never contributed to a presidential campaign, much less raised money.

The list includes partners from 18 top law firms, 21 Wall Street executives and power brokers from Fortune 500 companies. California is the top source, with 19 bundlers. Both Illinois and Washington, D.C., have six, and five hail from New York.

Among the group are businessmen such as Kenneth Griffin, a famously private 39-year-old billionaire who threw his support behind Obama's presidential campaign just as he hired a team of lobbyists to urge Congress to preserve a lucrative tax loophole.

A year ago, Griffin invited Obama to speak to employees of his Chicago hedge fund, Citadel Investment Group, and in subsequent months, employees and their families gave the candidate nearly $200,000. Griffin had previously backed Republicans, including Obama's initial U.S. Senate opponent.

Obama resisted Citadel's lobbying push, but a hedge fund executive who knows Griffin said he suspects Griffin's continued support owes to more than a desire to sway the senator on the tax issue. "Ken's a smart guy, and I guess he's done the math and decided that Barack is the best candidate," said Daniel Loeb, the chief executive of Third Point Management in New York.

Several on Obama's list at least appear to have interests in conflict with his platform. There is the billionaire casino developer who plans to put a slot parlor in Philadelphia; Obama has decried gambling for its steep "moral and social cost." And there is the director of General Dynamics, the military supplier that has seen profits soar since the onset of the Iraq war and that has benefited from at least one Obama earmark.

The use of bundlers was perfected by George W. Bush, who in 2000 and 2004 set some fundraising records that Obama has shattered. Bush established a competitive hierarchy of "Rangers" and "Pioneers," with tracking numbers to monitor fundraisers' progress and silver cuff links and belt buckles for high achievers.

Obama's bundlers help make up a more loosely defined "national finance committee," whose members are made to feel part of the campaign's inner workings through weekly conference calls and quarterly meetings at which they quiz the candidate or his strategists. At one meeting, bundlers urged the campaign to link Iraq war costs with the faltering economy. And they got an advance copy of Obama's Philadelphia speech in which he addressed the incendiary remarks of his longtime pastor.

Obama policy advisers also meet with bundlers and other top givers. Anthony Lake, who served as President Bill Clinton's national security adviser, has met with so many Obama contributors that, in an unusual move, the campaign credits him for funds raised when he conducts the meetings. He's on the top bundler list. "This is the first time I've ever gotten involved in this kind of work in a campaign," Lake said.

Bush bundlers openly discussed the system's transactional nature -- more than 100 of the 246 Pioneers in 2000 received an administration job or appointment, and 23 became ambassadors. Obama's fundraisers say they see their work more selflessly.

Boston financier Alan Solomont, who leads Obama's Northeast fundraising, said many are rallying to the candidate because they expect that he will break with old traditions, such as rewarding big fundraisers. "There's nobody with their hand out," Solomont said. "People are doing this because they believe in this candidate."

The campaign maintains that its fundraising success among average Americans has lessened its reliance on big donors. Donations of less than $200 account for nearly half of Obama's contributions, compared with a third of Clinton's and a quarter of Sen. John McCain's, according to the Campaign Finance Institute. More than 1 million people have given money to Obama's campaign.

"In this campaign, outsized influence is given to the small donors," Obama spokesman Bill Burton said.

Still, Obama wants to hold his own against Clinton in attracting big donors. He began assembling his bundlers well before announcing his bid in February 2007. Chairing his national finance committee was Penny Pritzker, heiress of Chicago's Hyatt hotel fortune, who raised money for his 2004 Senate campaign. Running day-to-day fundraising was North Carolina native Julianna Smoot, who had raised money for the national trial lawyers association and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Smoot put together a list of wealthy Democrats, and Obama, with only two years in Washington under his belt, deftly courted them. On Feb. 5, 2007, for example, Florida investment manager Mark Gilbert flew to Washington to meet with Obama but got only a short evening meeting before the candidate broke off for another engagement.

Obama did not realize that Gilbert had come just to see him, and when he found out, he quickly made amends. Gilbert got a call that night at his hotel. "It was the senator," he said. "He said he didn't realize he was going to have so little time," and he invited Gilbert to breakfast. "I was very impressed that someone trying to build a national team would reach out like that," he said.

The bundlers grew to include perennial Democratic money men, including Louis B. Susman, the Citigroup executive who headed fundraising for Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.) in 2004. Kirk Wager, a Florida trial lawyer and Kerry fundraiser, had planned to sit out this election before Obama persuaded him to come on board.

"Barack called me and said, 'I really need your help.' He said, 'No, Kirk, I really mean it. I literally know less than five people in the state of Florida,' " Wager said.

But because Clinton had already enlisted many reliable party backers, Obama also had to appeal to newcomers, said James L. Hudson, a D.C. developer and Obama bundler. "It required some stretching," he said.

New faces included Scott Blake Harris, a Washington telecommunications lawyer whose son worked as an intern in Obama's Senate office. Harris avoided Obama's ban on accepting money from federal lobbyists by cutting off his work for such companies as Microsoft, Cisco and Sprint-Nextel at the end of 2006.

"I had never raised a nickel for anybody," Harris said. "But I just found him to be totally captivating and moving."

Chicago offered more opportunities. Obama knew he could count on longtime supporters in the African American business community, such as his wife's friend, Desiree Rogers, head of the Peoples Gas utility. Her ex-husband, John W. Rogers, the head of Ariel Capital Management, is also a bundler.

A $1,000-a-person fundraiser that Desiree Rogers hosted in January attracted 600 people and spilled over to a neighbor's apartment. Obama repeated his pitch three times, she said.

"He listens intently to . . . questions, and he answers them in as long and personable way as he can. He has an uncanny ability to remember names and the subject area someone is interested in," Rogers said.

The Chicago contingent also includes James Crown, a director of General Dynamics, the military contractor in which his family holds a large stake. The company has been the beneficiary of at least one Obama earmark, a request to spend $8 million on a high-explosive technology program for the Army's Bradley Fighting Vehicle. The program got $1.3 million.

The descendants of Henry Crown, architect of a great American fortune, James Crown and his family donated more than $128,000 to Obama's U.S. Senate race in 2004. Crown was among the first people Obama approached as he contemplated a White House run.

Crown said he and Obama never discussed General Dynamics, which, with its focus on Army programs, is a defense contractor that has benefited directly from the Iraq war. Obama's opposition to the war never meant that he wanted the armed forces to be poorly equipped, Crown said.

"I stand in agreement with what he has said [about the Iraq war.] Those who work in the defense industry are extremely focused on the national defense," he said. "That doesn't mean we want to be fighting wars."

The Chicago finance elite has been a major hub of Obama's fundraising, led by Pritzker. Another major figure is billionaire Neil G. Bluhm, a hotel and office building developer. But Bluhm has posed a symbolic problem for Obama in Pennsylvania, site of an April 22 primary, because his latest endeavor is a push to open a controversial casino along the Philadelphia waterfront.

Bluhm's path crossed Obama's in 2003, when Bluhm pursued a gaming license for a Chicago riverboat. That June, he gave the first $1,000 of what would become more than $78,000 in contributions from him and his family.

In 2006, Pennsylvania awarded Bluhm one of two coveted Philadelphia gambling licenses. Last year, his partners in the project, called SugarHouse, made $2,300 donations to Obama, including nearly $50,000 from the Philadelphia law firm Cozen O'Connor, which represents him in the deal.

Bluhm said that the gaming project "has got nothing to do with" his support for Obama and that the two have never discussed it. "My interest in him is, I think he's inspirational, I think he will enormously improve our economy and our relations with other countries," he said.

The Obama-Bluhm connection startled members of Philadelphia's anti-casino groups who knew that the senator had resisted efforts to legalize gambling. It was "really surprising to find [Bluhm] in Obama's corner," said Debbie King, who helped start Mothers Against SugarHouse. "I was inclined to vote for Hillary. But when I heard Obama's criticism about gambling, I thought about changing my vote. Now I'm not sure what to do."

Then there is Griffin, the hedge fund executive. Of his $230,000 in contributions since 2003, slightly more has gone to Republicans than to Democrats, including $2,000 to President Bush's reelection campaign. When Obama ran for Senate, Griffin backed Jack Ryan, Obama's original GOP opponent.

But Obama's presidential campaign launched just as Griffin's Citadel sought to go public, and the investment group moved to enlarge its Washington presence, vastly increasing its lobbying spending to $790,000 last year. Its focus: fighting a proposal to apply the higher corporate tax rate to private equity firms and hedge funds that go public.

In July, Griffin told the New York Times that his initiative would be diminished if his tax rates went up. "I am proud to be an American," he said. "But if the tax became too high, as a matter of principle I would not be working this hard.''

That month, Obama came out for closing the loophole, and he later decried the legislation's collapse in October, after opposition by Citadel and others. "If there was ever a doubt that Washington lobbyists don't actually represent real Americans, it's the fact that they stopped leaders of both parties from requiring elite investment firms to pay their fair share of taxes," he said.

A Citadel spokeswoman declined to comment. Stephen Brown, a finance professor at New York University, said it is hard not to discern self-interest. Hedge funds "have a strong interest in becoming involved in the political process, and that is really the whole story behind their support of Obama," he said. "In their analysis -- and they have good analysts -- Obama is likely to be successful, so it is very much in their advantage to have a strong voice with him."

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Truth About Obama's Foreign Policy Claims

From on Tuesday April 6, 2008: "Barack Obama explained to a fundraising crowd in California this week why his VP nominee would not need extensive foreign policy experience. It's because he has it. Was he joking? No.

Not only that, here's how he described and differentiated his experience from Hillary's to conclude he's more experienced than Hillary or McCain:

"It's ironic because this is supposedly the place where experience is most needed to be Commander-in-Chief. Experience in Washington is not knowledge of the world. This I know. When Senator Clinton brags 'I've met leaders from eighty countries'--I know what those trips are like! I've been on them. You go from the airport to the embassy. There's a group of children who do native dance. You meet with the CIA station chief and the embassy and they give you a briefing. You go take a tour of a plant that [with] the assistance of USAID has started something. And then--you go."

"You do that in eighty countries--you don't know those eighty countries. So when I speak about having lived in Indonesia for four years, having family that is impoverished in small villages in Africa--knowing the leaders is not important--what I know is the people. . . ."

"I traveled to Pakistan when I was in college--I knew what Sunni and Shia was [sic] before I joined the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. . . ."


Obama says he's passed the good judgment test while Hillary and McCain have not." The journalist-author of the linked article notes:

Secondly, even though I've researched and written on Hillary Clinton's trips abroad and consequently been critical of her claims, my estimation of her foreign travels is that they were sometimes quite a bit more than a dance, a briefing and a tour. What Barack Obama's remarks last night in San Francisco reveal, however, is his self-confidence--to the point of cockiness--right now. This is exactly the same demeanor on display last week in Pennsylvania.

Cockiness is an understatement. He lived in Indonesia from the ages of 6 to 10. He didn't visit Africa until he was an adult -- his first trip was in his late 20's, his second 14 years after that.

Does he really believe that being a child in a foreign country and having poor relatives in Africa makes one prepared to be Commander in Chief? Can he really think it compares to Hillary's years of service on the Armed Services Committee? If this is an indication of his "good judgment" I can't wait to see what his poor or mistaken judgment is like.

More on Obama's foreign policy decisions, from the Chicago Tribune:

After being sworn in as U.S. Senator, it took him 11 months to make a major speech on Iraq.

When did he first introduce legislation setting a timetable for troop withdrawal from Iraq? "In January 2007,shortly after announcing his presidential exploratory committee."

Obama the candidate for U.S. Senate spoke out forcefully against the Iraq war. For most of his tenure in Washington, though, Obama the U.S. senator has not been a moving force on Iraq.

He left it to others to lead public opinion. Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) emerged as the strongest voices against the war. Those critics all spoke out before Obama gave his first major policy speech on the war -- 11 months after he took office.

Several advisers said that during that time Obama wrestled with how to proceed, concerned about the worsening news from Iraq and convinced the public's mood was turning against the war more rapidly than most members of Congress appreciated.

In keeping with the pattern of his political career, he moved cautiously. During the summer of 2005 he considered proposing a plan to partition Iraq. But he backed off the idea as advisers raised two key concerns: that the proposal was fraught with complexities and that he could be seen as overstepping his expertise.

Ultimately Obama delivered a more modest speech in November 2005, five days after Murtha's call for a troop withdrawal. In that address, he called for reductions in U.S. troop strength but not a timetable for withdrawal.

In a Senate debate the following June, Obama voted against an amendment proposed by Feingold and former presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) to set such a timetable.

Only after Obama announced his presidential exploratory committee did he introduce legislation this January that sets a date for withdrawal of U.S. combat troops. By then the high-profile, bipartisan Iraq Study Group also had endorsed a deadline for troops to leave."

Obama Claims More Foreign Policy Knowledge Then Clinton & McCain

From "Last night at a fundraiser in San Francisco, Barack Obama took a question on what he's looking for in a running mate. "I would like somebody who knows about a bunch of stuff that I'm not as expert on," he said, and then he was off and running. "I think a lot of people assume that might be some sort of military thing to make me look more Commander-in-Chief-like. Ironically, this is an area--foreign policy is the area where I am probably most confident that I know more and understand the world better than Senator Clinton or Senator McCain."
"It's ironic because this is supposedly the place where experience is most needed to be Commander-in-Chief. Experience in Washington is not knowledge of the world. This I know. When Senator Clinton brags 'I've met leaders from eighty countries'--I know what those trips are like! I've been on them. You go from the airport to the embassy. There's a group of children who do native dance. You meet with the CIA station chief and the embassy and they give you a briefing. You go take a tour of a plant that [with] the assistance of USAID has started something. And then--you go."

"You do that in eighty countries--you don't know those eighty countries. So when I speak about having lived in Indonesia for four years, having family that is impoverished in small villages in Africa--knowing the leaders is not important--what I know is the people. . . ."

"I traveled to Pakistan when I was in college--I knew what Sunni and Shia was [sic] before I joined the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. . . ."

"Nobody is entirely prepared for being Commander-in-Chief. The question is when the 3 AM phone call comes do you have somebody who has the judgment, the temperament to ask the right questions, to weigh the costs and benefits of military action, who insists on good intelligence, who is not going to be swayed by the short-term politics. By most criteria, I've passed those tests and my two opponents have not."

There are a number of interesting things about Senator Obama's remarks. If Senators Clinton and McCain have not passed "those tests," likely they will be surprised to hear it. Secondly, even though I've researched and written on Hillary Clinton's trips abroad and consequently been critical of her claims, my estimation of her foreign travels is that they were sometimes quite a bit more than a dance, a briefing and a tour. What Barack Obama's remarks last night in San Francisco reveal, however, is his self-confidence--to the point of cockiness--right now. This is exactly the same demeanor on display last week in Pennsylvania.

So Bill Richardson and Joe Biden--to name two with foreign policy experience--should put aside any transient veep thoughts.

Another area--and this one is policy--in which Obama is not an expert is energy. Case in point is his ode to ethanol, which he delivered last week on his Pennsylvania bus tour at Molly's Amerigreen gas station in Manheim. This does not mean that he's going to give Al Gore the veep call--and by the by, Obama never said at the Wallingford, PA town hall meeting that he might offer Gore a cabinet position. He was very careful not to reply in the affirmative when he took the question about whether he would consider Gore. Obama said, "I will make a commitment that Al Gore will be at the table in figuring out these [global warming] problems." Well, at the table is one of Obama's favorite locutions. I've heard him say on several occasions that all Americans will be at the table one time or another. Obama's table is going to be a long one.

Last night Senator Obama had a few more words on the subject of choosing a vice president. "That last thing I'd say about a vice president is--obviously, you want someone who can be president and who shares a broad vision of where I want to take the country; don't have to agree with me on every particular, but shares with me a bias for opening up government, adding a rational discourse about how we're gonna solve problems, a bias towards empowering individual citizens." Those seats at the table again.

Note Obama's delicate sentence constructions. Never a gender pronoun--a he or a she--anywhere.

The San Francisco fundraiser was Senator Obama's fourth and final of the day. He had made appearances earlier in Atherton, Marin and around the corner at another Pacific Heights mansion. Even the Obama Campaign, I suppose, can never have too much money. The folks who came out on Sunday were not the very rich, even though these events were for people who have "maxed out" their donations. The very rich have long since given. The fact that so many middle class Californians are giving $2300 to Obama shows both the depth of prosperity in the state and the allure of the scent of victory.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Newsweek and Debunks Bogus Claims about Obama's legislative record

"Jess Henig
Newsweek Web Exclusive
Updated: 12:42 PM ET Apr 1, 2008
A misleading e-mail has been making the rounds, alleging that Clinton has fewer legislative accomplishments than Obama, and that they are less substantive. We've had questions about it from a number of readers, and blogs have jumped into the fray. So what's the real story on the Senate careers of the Democratic presidential candidates?

We find that the e-mail is false in almost every particular:

It sets up a face-off between apples and, well, broccoli, comparing only the Clinton-sponsored bills that became law with all bills sponsored or cosponsored by Obama, whether they were signed into law or not.

It includes legislation Obama sponsored in the Illinois state Senate, a very different legislative body.

It tells us that Obama has sponsored more legislation than Clinton, when in fact he has sponsored less.

It implies that Obama has passed more bills into law than Clinton, when the opposite is true.
Contrary to the e-mail's assertions, Clinton's and Obama's contributions are not qualitatively different, and quantitatively, Clinton has the edge.

Several alert readers have passed on the following e-mail, which purports to compare the legislative effectiveness of Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.). We reprint it verbatim:

You judge for yourself!

Quite impressive!! It?s unfortunate that this information is not being communicated effectively.

Let's take a closer look at who's really qualified and or who's really working for the good of all of us in the Senate. Obama or Clinton.

Records of these two candidates should be scrutinized in order to make an informed decision.

Senator Clinton, who has served only one full term - 6yrs. - and another year campaigning, has managed to author and pass into law - 20 - twenty pieces of legislation in her first six years.

These bills can be found on the website of the Library of Congress , but to save you trouble, I'll post them here for you.

1. Establish the Kate Mullany National Historic Site.
2. Support the goals and ideals of Better Hearing and Speech Month.
3. Recognize the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.
4. Name courthouse after Thurgood Marshall.
5. Name courthouse after James L. Watson.
6. Name post office after Jonn A. O'Shea.
7. Designate Aug. 7, 2003, as National Purple Heart Recognition Day.
8. Support the goals and ideals of National Purple Heart Recognition Day.
9. Honor the life and legacy of Alexander Hamilton on the bicentennial of his death.
10. Congratulate the Syracuse Univ. Orange Men's Lacrosse Team on winning the championship.
11. Congratulate the Le Moyne College Dolphins Men's Lacrosse Team on winning the championship.
12. Establish the 225th Anniversary of the American Revolution Commemorative Program.
13. Name post office after Sergeant Riayan A. Tejeda.
14. Honor Shirley Chisholm for her service to the nation and express condolences on her death.
15. Honor John J. Downing, Brian Fahey, and Harry Ford, firefighters who lost their lives on duty.

Only five of Clinton's bills are, more substantive.
16. Extend period of unemployment assistance to victims of 9/11.
17. Pay for city projects in response to 9/11
18. Assist landmine victims in other countries.
19. Assist family caregivers in accessing affordable respite care.
20. Designate part of the National Forest System in Puerto Rico as protected in the wilderness preservation system.

There you have it, the fact's straight from the Senate Record.

Now, I would post those of Obama's, but the list is too substantive, so I'll mainly categorize.
During the first - 8 - eight years of his elected service he sponsored over 820 bills. He introduced
233 regarding healthcare reform,
125 on poverty and public assistance,
112 crime fighting bills,
97 economic bills,
60 human rights and anti-discrimination bills,
21 ethics reform bills,
15 gun control,
6 veterans affairs and many others.

His first year in the U.S. Senate, he authored 152 bills and co-sponsored another 427. These inculded **the Coburn-Obama Government Transparency Act of 2006 - became law, **The Lugar-Obama Nuclear Non-proliferation and Conventional Weapons Threat Reduction Act, - became law, **The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act, passed the Senate, **The 2007 Government Ethics Bill, - became law, **The Protection Against Excessive Executive Compensation Bill, In committee, and many more.

In all, since entering the U.S. Senate, Senator Obama has written 890 bills and co-sponsored another 1096.

An impressive record, for someone who supposedly has no record according to some who would prefer that this comparison not be made public.

He's not just a talker.

He's a doer.

Pass it on....It's impressive!

What impresses us is how misleading the e-mail is. Its anonymous author doesn't apply the same standards to Clinton's record and Obama's, thus leading to false conclusions about their legislative records. For Clinton, the e-mail claims to examine bills that the senator has sponsored and that were passed into law during her Senate career. For Obama, however, it counts both sponsored and cosponsored bills, whether they were passed or not. And – something the e-mail doesn't state clearly – it counts bills Obama sponsored in the Illinois state Senate, before he was a United States senator.

Just counting bills sponsored by a particular senator is a poor way to gauge legislative clout or effectiveness, in our judgment. For example, one of the accomplishments that Clinton often boasts about – expanding health coverage for National Guard and Reserve troops – came about as a result of an amendment, not a bill. And Obama claims credit for having helped "lead the Senate to pass" an ethics and lobbying bill that he never sponsored or even cosponsored, on grounds that it "drew key provisions" from a bill that he and two other senators cosponsored in 2007. The e-mail falsely claims that Obama sponsored the ethics legislation that became law, which he did not.

Nevertheless, we dug into the records and produced a true tally of the bills for which Sens. Obama and Clinton were in fact the sole, original sponsors. We take no position on which senator deserves credit for the most or best legislation overall. What we can demonstrate is that the numbers in this e-mail are all wrong.

Here's how tallies the real breakdown of bills and resolutions sponsored by the candidates in the U.S. Senate.

Obama Clinton
Years in Senate 3 7
Bills sponsored* 129 358
Bills passed by Senate 7 32
Bills signed into law 2 19
Sponsored, per year 43 51.1
Passed by Senate, per year 2.3 4.6
Signed into law, per year 0.7 0.7
*Sole original sponsor

We counted only bills for which Obama or Clinton was the sole, original sponsor. The e-mail inflates Obama's numbers by counting his cosponsored bills, but Sarah Binder, a fellow at the Brookings Institution and an expert on legislative politics, tells that often "cosponsorship does not require a commitment of time, energy or resources – let alone the political or policy ingenuity that might generate a bill idea in the first place." Tallying sponsored bills, says Binder, is "a better metric of a senator's agenda, efforts and interests."

Clinton has been in the Senate a little more than seven years; Obama, a little more than three. Using the numbers above, we calculate that Clinton has been the sole sponsor of a few more bills and resolutions per year – 51, to Obama's 43. And she has steered twice as many through the Senate and almost four times as many into law per year, on average, as Obama has.

Clinton's Real Numbers
Clinton's campaign claims that 22 of the senator's solely sponsored bills have become public law, and the e-mail claims 20. We counted 19, three fewer than the campaign because it included several Clinton-sponsored provisions that were part of other major bills. (The measures were substantive, having to do with such issues as improving treatment for wounded service members, but they didn't fit the rules of this tally.) Nine of her successful bills had to do with naming post offices or courthouses, but others involved building safety, unemployment assistance and support for family caregivers.

The list of her accomplishments in the e-mail, though, is not, as the author claims, a rundown of Clinton-sponsored bills that became law; it is in fact a mishmash of some that became law and others that were only passed by the Senate, without being a complete roster of her bills in either category. She actually sponsored, by herself, 32 bills and resolutions that passed the Senate, including all of those mentioned specifically in the e-mail plus 12 others. The omitted bills include a resolution calling for the immediate and unconditional release of soldiers of Israel held captive by Hamas and Hezbollah, and a resolution condemning the murder of an American journalist. And she has been sole sponsor of a total of 358 bills in her seven-year Senate career.

Here's our list of bills solely sponsored by Clinton that became law (descriptions of each are verbatim from, the Library of Congress' database of legislative information):

110th Congress:
S. 694, A bill to direct the Secretary of Transportation to issue regulations to reduce the incidence of child injury and death occurring inside or outside of light motor vehicles, and for other purposes.

109th Congress:
S. 272, A bill to designate certain National Forest System land in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico as a component of the National Wilderness Preservation System.
S. 1283, A bill to amend the Public Health Service Act to establish a program to assist family caregivers in accessing affordable and high-quality respite care, and for other purposes.
S. 2376, A bill to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 80 Killian Road in Massapequa, New York, as the "Gerard A. Fiorenza Post Office Building."
S. 2722, A bill to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 170 East Main Street in Patchogue, New York, as the "Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy Post Office Building."
S. 3613, A bill to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 2951 New York Highway 43 in Averill Park, New York, as the "Major George Quamo Post Office Building."
S. 3716, A bill to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 100 Pitcher Street in Utica, New York, as the "Captain George A. Wood Post Office Building."
S. 3910, A bill to direct the Joint Committee on the Library to accept the donation of a bust depicting Sojourner Truth and to display the bust in a suitable location in the Capitol.

108th Congress:
S. 1241, A bill to establish the Kate Mullany National Historic Site in the State of New York, and for other purposes.
S. 1266, A bill to award a congressional gold medal to Dr. Dorothy Height, in recognition of her many contributions to the Nation.
S. 1425, A bill to amend the Safe Drinking Water Act to reauthorize the New York City Watershed Protection Program.
S. 2838, A bill to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 10 West Prospect Street in Nanuet, New York, as the "Anthony I. Lombardi Memorial Post Office Building."
S. 2839, A bill to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 555 West 180th Street in New York, New York, as the "Sergeant Riayan A. Tejeda Post Office."

107th Congress:
S. 584, A bill to designate the United States courthouse located at 40 Centre Street in New York, New York, as the "Thurgood Marshall United States Courthouse."
S. 1422, A bill to provide for the expedited payment of certain benefits for a public safety officer who was killed or suffered a catastrophic injury as a direct and proximate result of a personal injury sustained in the line of duty in connection with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
S. 1622, A bill to extend the period of availability of unemployment assistance under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act in the case of victims of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
S. 1892, A bill to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 375 Carlls Path in Deer Park, New York, as the "Raymond M. Downey Post Office Building."
S. 2496, A bill to provide for the establishment of investigative teams to assess building performance and emergency response and evacuation procedures in the wake of any building failure that has resulted in substantial loss of life or that posed significant potential of substantial loss of life, and for other purposes.
S. 2918, A bill to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 380 Main Street in Farmingdale, New York, as the "Peter J. Ganci, Jr. Post Office Building."

A Legislative Powerhouse?
The e-mail claims that Obama "authored 152 bills and co-sponsored another 427" during "his first year in the U.S. Senate." According to, this number is an accurate count of bills and amendments that Obama sponsored during the 109th Congress, which actually covered his first two years in the Senate, not one. (Amendments are changes to bills that were spearheaded by other lawmakers.) Discounting amendments and cosponsorships, Obama sponsored 66 bills during those two years. Clinton sponsored 90 in the same period. In his three years in the Senate, Obama has been the sole original sponsor of 129 bills.

The e-mail says Obama sponsored "over 820 bills" in the first "eight years of his elected service," never mentioning that for most of that time, Obama was in the Illinois Senate. Since the rules and operations of that body are quite different from those of the U.S. Senate, we hardly think it's fair to include the proposed legislation to which his name was attached in Springfield in any tally that's being compared with Clinton's record.

An accurate comparison with the Clinton bills listed in the e-mail would have included only the bills Obama has sponsored that have been signed into law. This comparison favors Clinton heavily, since 19 of her bills in seven years have become law, while Obama has had just two in his three years:

S. 2125, A bill to promote relief, security, and democracy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
S. 3757, A bill to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 950 Missouri Avenue in East St. Louis, Illinois, as the "Katherine Dunham Post Office Building."

The Meaning of Fluff
The question of whether a bill is "substantive" is often subjective. But the Clinton bills that the e-mail seems to characterize as frivolous have to do with such goals as recognizing and establishing national observances, honoring individuals' memories, marking important events and congratulating sports teams. Five of the seven Obama-sponsored bills passed by the Senate have similar goals. So do more than 40 percent of all the bills that have been passed by the Senate since the beginning of 2008.

Surely we don't elect senators just to name post offices. But given the contention that meatier bills can prompt, it's much easier to push a seemingly frivolous bill through Congress. Every one of the Clinton and Obama bills that passed the Senate did so by unanimous consent. Bills that generate more opposition, meanwhile, can be struck down or left to languish. According to, a legislative research site, 308 of 356 bills Clinton has sponsored haven't made it out of committee. In the current (110th) Congress, that includes several bills on foreign policy, nuclear safety, poverty, housing and education, not to mention 19 bills regarding public health and coverage, 13 benefiting the armed forces, and 12 addressing children's care and safety. Likewise, 120 of Obama's 129 sponsored bills haven't made it past the committee level – including, in the 110th Congress, nine bills on energy and environmental policy, nine on public health and eight benefiting the military and veterans, as well as multiple bills on education, foreign policy, product safety and voter access. These bills, being more substantive than, for instance, Clinton's regarding the men's lacrosse team or Obama's on National Summer Learning Day, are also more likely to die in committee.

Blog Showdown
Several blogs have picked up and repeated the idea that Obama has sponsored more, or more important, legislation than Clinton has. One writer on the political blog Daily Kos looked at the senator's record in detail but did not evaluate Clinton's legislation. Another went through legislation from each candidate, analyzing the impressiveness of each bill from her perspective. On the other side, noted blogger Ezra Klein wrote, in his blog for the liberal magazine The American Prospect, that the second Kos article was "not anything even approaching a fair comparison of [the candidates'] legislative records" and that Clinton had in fact proposed important bills.

Since the value of a piece of legislation is so often a matter of opinion, that's a blogspat we won't get into. We can say for sure, though, that Clinton has been the sole original sponsor of more bills than Obama at a slightly higher annual rate; that she's been more successful than Obama at passing bills through the Senate and into law; and that, while she has sponsored a number of seemingly frivolous bills that were signed into law, these are comparable to many of Obama's bills and common in the Senate generally.

One final thought: Recently we published a special report warning readers about the high level of inaccuracy in chain e-mails. This one is no exception. In fact, with its anonymous author and grammatical errors, not to mention a redundancy or two, it's a classic of the genre. If you find one of these e-mails in your in-box, our suggested course of action remains the same: Just hit delete.

Republished with permission from . "