Michelle’s mystique

Standard

Michelle Obama 

Hat Tip: By Carly Zakin, NBC News 

WASHINGTON – Since he stepped onto the national political stage, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., has been compared to a rock star, a superstar, and even an NBA all-star.

“I’m LeBron, baby,” he told Chicago Tribune reporter and biographer David Mendell, referring to LeBron James of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers.

But if the Cavaliers’ loss in this year’s NBA finals proves anything, it’s that even NBA all-stars aren’t always perfect.

And if Michelle Obama has shown voters one thing this campaign season, it’s that neither is her husband. He has big ears, she has said. A funny name, too. He doesn’t put the butter away. He has trouble making beds. He’s not the “next Messiah who’s going to fix it all. In the end, he’s just a man.”

Michelle Obama — a Princeton graduate, Harvard-educated lawyer and, until recently, vice president of the University of Chicago Medical Center — is the least famous spouse of the Democratic front-runners. Former President Bill Clinton is his wife’s biographer of her qualifications to be president and would be a roaming ambassador in a Hillary Clinton administration. Elizabeth Edwards, meanwhile, essentially serves as a second campaign manager to her husband and has made headlines by delivering punches to rivals and opponents.

But so far in this presidential race, it’s clear that Michelle Obama is playing a different kind of role in her husband’s campaign. She makes no qualms about checking Obama’s ego, appearing politically hesitant, and acting as an enforcer of sorts. But one facet remains a mystery: What kind of first lady would she be?

This question is something rarely asked of the better known and understood Bill Clinton and Elizabeth Edwards.

Despite their checkered marital history, the Clintons have publicly emerged as a true partnership on the campaign trail. At the Iowa State Fairgrounds earlier this month, he kept his arm around his wife’s shoulders, as she wrapped one arm around him.

“Who do you think will be the best president?” he asked the crowd — before answering his own question that even if she weren’t his wife he would still be campaigning for her.

“In 2008, I will celebrate my 40th year as a voter,” he said, “and in those 40 years… she is by a long stretch the best qualified non-incumbent I have ever had a chance to vote for in my entire life.” After his introduction, Hillary embraced her husband, only to then remind voters of their prevailing partnership. “We’ve traveled a lot of miles together over the last 35 years,” she told the crowd.

Elizabeth Edwards also has done the campaign drill before, and this time around has taken on a more active — and more outspoken — role as his fiercest protector and adviser. According a recent New York Times Magazine piece by Matt Bai, it was Elizabeth who told her husband not to listen to his advisers and to choose poverty as his primary focus. She also set off a national media frenzy by calling into MSNBC’s “Hardball” to ask that guest Ann Coulter stop attacking her husband. And most recently, in a not-so subtle shot at Hillary Clinton, she said in an interview that her husband would be a better advocate for women than Clinton would.

While Elizabeth Edwards takes on the role of a mother bear protecting her cub, the source of Barack Obama’s most frequent affronts — when they don’t come from his rivals — is his wife. First lady author and commentator Carl Sferrazza Anthony says that “she has been trying to kind of take [her husband] down a peg or two in public, not to so much emasculate him, but to say, ‘Hey, he’s a regular guy.’ She obviously loves him. Barbara Bush used to do that too.”

But her efforts to make Obama real also have attracted criticism. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wondered back in April why she didn’t like this realness with Michelle and Barack.

“I wince a bit when Michelle Obama chides her husband as a mere mortal — comic routine that rests on the presumption that we see him as a god,” she wrote. “But it may not be smart politics to mock him in a way that turns him from the glam J.F.K. into the mundane Gerald Ford, toasting his own English muffins. If all Senator Obama is peddling is the Camelot mystique, why debunk this mystique?”

Also, unlike Bill Clinton and Elizabeth Edwards, Michelle Obama has made it clear that she’s not a strategist for her husband’s campaign.

“My job is not a senior adviser,” she has said. ”I am here as a wife.”

Her spokeswoman, Katie McCormick Lelyveld, adds that Mrs. Obama serves as her husband’s “surrogate ear. Her expertise is who he is as a person,” and she relays that to voters and brings back their concerns to the senator. 

Michelle Obama has avoided offering details on what she will focus on as first lady. Her spokeswoman said that her first priority would be as a mother, wife, then “really assessing what the country needs” and “rising to the occasion.” For someone who does not hesitate to offer her opinion, Michelle will not interfere with her husband’s policies, McCormick Lelyveld said.

Sferrazza Anthony finds it interesting, however, that seeing as “they both met through the legal profession… there are going to be issues that they discuss. She has sort of said she doesn’t influence his policy. I have found it interesting the press hasn’t looked deeper into what she means by that? Perhaps that means there is legislation they disagree on.”

McCormick Lelyveld maintains that the Obamas keep politics out their home.

But inside her home, Michelle Obama has also become something of an enforcer. As her smoking husband has tried to quit the habit, per his wife’s demand, Michelle’s brother Craig Robinson joked to The New York Times in May that Obama didn’t need a nicotine patch. “Michelle Obama! That’s one hell of a patch right there!”

At a May ice cream social in New Hampshire, Michelle Obama stood on what seemed to be a figurative and literal pedestal to introduce her husband. “I’m the better looking one. I’m smarter, too,” she said.

As the crowd laughed, her husband nodded, offered a half-smile, and looked down, rocking his body as if waiting for his wife’s latest ego-knockdown to end. When she finished, there was an awkward half-hug and kiss embrace, with neither spouse seeming to know how to interact with the other.

Spokeswoman McCormick Lelyveld said that when “she teases him, there is a method to her madness.” She shows that “ he is a real person, he is reachable, he is human and he is just one man.”

In other words, he’s not LeBron James after all.

Clinton/Obama 08: Never gonna happen

Standard

Clinton-Obama '08 Bumper Sticker

At some point, we need to give up on this fantasy ticket idea.  It is as likely as a Paris Hilton presidency. I entertained the delusion of a Clinton/Obama ticket actively-you can go back and check.  It’s dead. And like all dead things, it will never be resurrected.   The latest debate dustup over dictators and such is truly ridiculous posturing at its worst and should be completely disregarded as a serious statement of principle.   

Ain’t no principle been involved for these two for quite some time.  Principles would have meant that neither would have supported any funding for the B.S. in Baghdad.  Principle would have meant that  the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court would have been actively filibustered by both in a show stopping display we would still be talking  about. Principle would have meant that neither would have supported anti-labor free trade agreements like the Oman Free Trade Agreement.   

When you get down to brass tacks, neither Clinton nor Obama is progressive in any meaningful sense of the word.  There are those of us in the black community who support Obama because they think he represents the best we have to offer.  There are those of us that think the Clintons represent the halcyon days of 90’s prosperity and progressivism. The reality is that these are really misconceptions that have no basis in fact.  Draconian welfare reform, willful denial of genocide in Rwanda, and a craven capitulation to pharmaceutical company racism in the denial of anti-retroviral AIDS medications to African countries desperate for help, is the real legacy of the Clintons.  Barack Obama has done absolutely nothing to castigate their record or chart a different course that black folks could respect.  

Hooking up an already deficient brotha to that legacy of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy is really not what the Lord is calling for in these last and evil days.  It makes no sense at all, really. Respecting the principled legacy of the last serious black presidential candidate is one thing, equating Barack Obama with that same legacy is quite another.  They ain’t the same thing, no matter what Jesse says to the contrary.  

 

Senate subpeona’s Karl Rove

Standard

Hat tip: by Klaus Marre, the Hill 

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Thursday issued a subpoena for top White House adviser Karl Rove to compel him to testify about the firing of several U.S. attorneys.

“The evidence shows that senior White House political operatives were focused on the political impact of federal prosecutions and whether federal prosecutors were doing enough to bring partisan voter fraud and corruption cases,” Leahy said. “It is obvious that the reasons given for the firings of these prosecutors were contrived as part of a cover-up and that the stonewalling by the White House is part and parcel of that same effort.”

Leahy issued the subpoenas, one to Rove and one to White House aide Scott Jennings, after consulting with Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), the committee’s ranking member.

“The Bush-Cheney White House continues to place great strains on our constitutional system of checks and balances,” Leahy added. “Not since the darkest days of the Nixon administration have we seen efforts to corrupt federal law enforcement for partisan political gain and such efforts to avoid accountability.”

The move is a further escalation of the constitutional battle between Congress and the White House over whether Bush administration officials must provide testimony and documents to legislative branch investigators.

Leahy said he is not taking this step lightly and only decided to proceed after “[exhausting] every avenue seeking the voluntary cooperation of Karl Rove and J. Scott Jennings.”

The Judiciary Committee chairman concluded that the investigation has “reached a point where the accumulated evidence shows that political considerations factored into the unprecedented firing of at least nine United States attorneys last year.”

In a letter to Rove, Leahy gives the White House official a week to appear before the panel and testify under oath.

“I hope that the White House takes this opportunity to reconsider its blanket claim of executive privilege, especially in light of the testimony that the President was not involved in the dismissals of these U.S. Attorneys,” Leahy said in his letter. “I am left to ask what the White House is so intent on hiding that it cannot even identify the documents, the dates, the authors and recipients that they claim are privileged.”

New Orleans Cop acquitted of police brutality in beating of black senior citizen

Standard

Hat Tip: Associated Press, NPR’s News andViews blog. 

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (AP) — A former police officer accused in the videotaped beating of a man in the French Quarter after Hurricane Katrina was acquitted Tuesday by a judge who heard the case without a jury.

“I didn’t even find this a close call,” said District Judge Frank Marullo.

Robert Evangelist, 37, had been charged with beating Robert Davis, 66, during an arrest videotaped by an Associated Press Television News crew the night of October 8, 2005, about six weeks after Katrina.

Evangelist, who elected to have his case heard by Marullo without a jury, pleaded not guilty to second-degree battery and false imprisonment. Marullo acquitted him of both counts.

Marullo watched videotapes of the beating and its aftermath and he noted that Davis could be seen struggling on the tape for several minutes.

“This event could have ended at any time if the man had put his hands behind his back,” the judge said.

Evangelist and Lance Schilling were fired after being accused of the beating. Schilling killed himself June 10.

A third officer, Stuart Smith, was accused of a misdemeanor charge of simple battery against Associated Press producer Richard Matthews. Marullo threw out that charge because prosecutors improperly used a statement he made to police, said Smith’s attorney, Eric Hessler.

Smith served a 120-day suspension and remains on the force.

The officers said Davis, who had returned to New Orleans to check his property, started a confrontation after they stopped him on suspicion of being drunk. Davis, who was booked with public intoxication but never charged, said he hadn’t been drinking.

Davis testified Tuesday that he was headed to buy cigarettes in the French Quarter when he asked a police officer what time a curfew took effect that night. Before the officer could answer, a different officer cut him off, Davis said.

“Those were ignorant, unprofessional and rude officers,” Davis recalled saying as he walked away from the policemen.

Moments later, an officer grabbed him from behind, threw him against a wall and punched his face, Davis testified. His assailant uttered a racial epithet during the attack, he said.

“I don’t remember very much after that point,” Davis said.

Franz Zibilich, one of Evangelist’s attorneys, said his client “acted appropriately and well within police standards.”

Dr. Frances Smith, who treated Davis at an emergency room, testified that he suffered facial fractures. Davis said he still feels lingering physical effects from the attack.

I suppose Lance Shilling killed himself because he knew that some Klansman on the bench would acquit him.

House Judiciary Committee finds a pair and issues contempt of congress charges against Bolton and Miers

Standard

The House Judiciary Committee found a pair, manned up, and issued contempt of congress charges for the White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolton and former White House Counsel Harriet Miers.   Wow.  The Republicans actually called this move unnecessary and unprecedented with straight faces.   Incredible.  

Let me get this straight, y’all can call President Clinton’s secretary to testify in front of Congress about some hat pin he gave Monica Lewinsky but Bush’s White House Chief of Staff and Counsel cannot testify before Congress about the selective firing of U.S. Attorney’s who refused to comply with orders to investigate and indict Democrats on spurious claims of vote fraud to save GOP members of Congress in last year’s election.   Hmmm.

Obama courts black voters

Standard


Associated Press Writer

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is reaching out to fellow blacks in his first advertising effort in South Carolina, a minute-long spot scheduled to begin airing Wednesday on 36 radio stations with predominantly black listenership.

The Illinois senator has been careful not to be defined strictly as a black candidate and risk alienating white voters, but he and rival Hillary Rodham Clinton are in a close fight for the black voters who traditionally make up half of the Democratic primary turnout in South Carolina. The radio ad allows Obama to target his appeal to black audiences.

Presidential hopeful, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., waves at supporters after speaking at the National Council of La Raza conference in Miami Beach, Fla., on Sunday, July 22, 2007. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

Clinton enjoys strong support in the black community and is married to former President Clinton, who is wildly popular among black voters. Obama’s advisers say their biggest challenge is introducing him to voters who certainly know who Clinton is, but may not know much about Obama or even that he is black.

The ad makes it clear with excerpts from Obama’s speech to the NAACP. He ticks off problems facing the community — more black men in prison than in college, serious illnesses disproportionately affecting blacks and the argument that it takes a hurricane to show the rest of the country about problems of race and poverty.

“I know what you know,” Obama says. “Despite all the progress that’s been made we have more work to do.”

Soft jazz plays in the background as a deep-voiced announcer describes Obama as a Christian family man, a former civil rights lawyer and state legislator. “It’s time for Barack Obama,” the announcer says repeatedly.

Obama is running two ads on television in Iowa, but the radio spot is his first in South Carolina.

A poll of South Carolina adults by CNN/Opinion Research Corp. conducted last week found Clinton leading with 39 percent, followed by Obama with 25 percent. A poll last month by a different pollster, Mason Dixon, had Obama narrowly ahead.

A final word on the Debate

Standard

Having won both High School and College Student Government elections, I am struck by the unoriginal observation that running for President these days bears an uncomfortable resemblance to the shallow preening and empty symbolism employed by children trying to impress and influence each other.   

The so-called mainstream press has labeled Hillary and Barack the cool kids to be admired and emulated because they possess magical leadership qualities that are nothing more than cynical pronouncements about how much money they’ve raised. 

Eight years ago, we were right where we are now and the belated love the press corps has found for Al Gore after five years of the mess in Mesopotamia was non-existent.   Eight years ago, former Senator Bill Bradley was keeping pace with Al Gore’s fundraising.  Eight years ago, Bill Bradley was speaking with true candor about a great many issues with a forthrightness altogether lacking in our distinguished former Vice President.  Bradley twisted a rhetorical knife in Al Gore’s gut at Iowa’s Black and Brown forum over racial profiling.  He made the point that Al Gore had the power to get Clinton to act in a way nobody else could.   

Bill Bradley spoke about the racial divide and the racial disparities in our nation with an eloquence and conviction that Gore didn’t.  None of it mattered in the end.  Gore out organized Bradley and wiped the floor with him on Super Tuesday, blowing him away in a front loaded calendar from coast to coast.  That’s what Hillary is fixing to do with the “Safe Negro” formerly known as Barack Obama.   

The game is rigged for the organization candidate and Hillary is the organization candidate.  The stumblebum, tone-deaf days of the listening tour are over. Hillary got her shit together and she’s kept it together. There won’t be any mistakes from here on out. It’s one thing to speak to an advanced crowd of 10 or 20 thousand, its another to turn the same folk out to vote for you.  That’s the difference between a movement and a machine.  Hillary has a machine and it’s programmed to crush Obama’s aspirations like a steamroller and to leave him broken and alone licking his wounds.  

The Clintons have never and will never lose a national election-period.  It is not going to happen.  Barack Obama will not be asked to join Mrs. Clinton’s ticket no matter what Mr. Bruce and others have speculated.  I think it will cause her profound problems in the black electorate. It will if we haven’t all fallen asleep. It should because most of us are in the profound grip of the delusion that the President is something other than the chief guardian of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. A black man cannot flip that script no matter what magical powers we believe him to wield. The genius of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy is that we are all its servants, no matter how we resist.

Cindy Sheehan arrested in capitol protest

Standard

Hat tip: WASHINGTON (AP) — Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan was arrested Monday at the Capitol for disorderly conduct, shortly after saying she would run against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the California Democrat’s refusal to try to impeach President Bush.

art.sheehan.ap.jpg

Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan says “Impeachment is not a fringe movement.”

Sheehan was taken into custody inside Rep. John Conyers’ office, where she had spent an hour imploring him to launch impeachment proceedings against Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Conyers, D-Michigan, chairs the House Judiciary Committee, where any impeachment effort would have to begin.

“The Democrats will not hold this administration accountable, so we have to hold the Democrats accountable,” Sheehan said outside Conyers’ office after the meeting. “And I for one am going to step up to the plate and run against Nancy Pelosi.”

Sheehan and about 200 other protesters had walked to Conyers’ office from Arlington National Cemetery. She said Conyers told her there weren’t enough votes for impeachment to move forward on the issue.

Forty-five of Sheehan’s fellow protesters also were arrested. Capitol Police spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider said that after they are processed, the arrested activists could each pay a $50 fine to be released.

“Impeachment is not a fringe movement, it is mandated in our Constitution. Nancy Pelosi had no authority to take it off the table,” Sheehan told her group of orange-clad activists before they began their march from the national cemetery.

Sheehan, whose 24-year-old son, Casey, was killed in Iraq, has been saying for two weeks that she would seek to oust Pelosi from office by running against her as an independent in her San Francisco district if Pelosi didn’t change her mind by July 23 on trying to impeach Bush.

Conyers introduced a bill last term calling on Congress to determine whether there are grounds for impeaching Bush. Pelosi has steadfastly dismissed any talk of impeachment, saying Democrats should focus their efforts on ending the war in Iraq.

CNN Debate Tonight

Standard

The first of six officially sanctioned Democratic debates will be held tonight with CNN and Youtube as co-sponsors.  Tonight’s debate will be availble in its entirety on this space as soon as Youtube makes it available and I can put it up.  

The pundit class has been chattering actively that its put up or shut up time for Barack Obama.  Senator Clinton continues to solidify her poll numbers even as Obama outraises her.   She, however, has plenty of cash to end his Presidential aspirations and enough street cred with African American women to prevent him from solidifying and expanding his base with black folks.  Mama is perfectly positioned to take her place as the head of the Clintonista’s in this era of dynastic politics.

It would take a pretty big applause line and counterattack on Obama’s part, and a weak comeback on Hillary’s, to make this debate seem more than routine.   I’m not looking for any surprises.   Debate time commences in less than one hour.  Stay tuned here for a re-cap.

UPDATE: the debate has been lively and intersting. The questions sent in via Youtube have been excellent.  From Reparations to Iraq, from Same-Sex marriage to Darfur, they have truly been great.  Gravel drew some blood from Obama pointedly revealing the fact that despite Obama’s good government spiel, he has the CEO of foreign owned UBS bank bundling contributions for him.

Obama also dodged the reparations question deftly as did Edwards-Kucinich came out for it strongly.   Edwards stumbled on the same-sex marriage question by a North Carolina minister and they had the minister in the audience do a follow up and said that he didn’t really answer.

Senator Gravel’s point about following the money in this race is important and it says more about the state of our democracy than we think.  In 2008, a candidate willing to raise money under federal campaign finance guidelines to receive matching funds cannot win the Presidency.  The state of our Union is rotting from the inside out and an honest candidate willing to rise or fall by trusting the people cannot be elected.

New California PAC launched to promote Obama

Standard

The website for Vote Hope 2008 has the look and feel of Barack Obama's official page, but the group is a political action committee trying to garner votes for Obama in California.

WASHINGTON — The website has the look and feel of Barack Obama’s official page, and the headline says it all: “Bank it for Barack.” The site asks for contributions of up to $5,000 per person to help the Illinois Democrat win the crucial state of California.

The effort employs a tactic that could transform the way campaign-related money is collected and spent in presidential campaigns .

The group sponsoring the Web page is not Obama’s campaign, but an independent political action committee called Vote Hope 2008, which says that its goal is to help Obama become president and that it will spend $2 million to get out the vote for him.

Federal law prohibits political action committees, or PACs, from spending more than $5,000 in support of a candidate.

But Vote Hope’s founders argue that this restriction does not apply to their group because they do not plan to coordinate their spending with Obama’s campaign. Thus, there’s no limit to what they can spend promoting him, they said. What’s more, the group said contributors who have given the maximum $2,300 individual do nation to Obama’s campaign can give $5,000 to Vote Hope 2008, the maximum individual donation to a PAC.

Vote Hope then would spend these donations promoting Obama, giving donors a way to nearly triple their maximum contribution to Obama’s cause. The implications are potentially dramatic, according to campaign finance specialists, especially if other PACs follow Vote Hope’s example for Obama or other candidates.

“I haven’t seen another one like this,” said Kent Cooper, a former Federal Election Commission official and co founder of PoliticalMoneyLine, a nonpartisan group that tracks money and politics. If the group is able to raise money successfully, it could be copied by others and that in turn “would create a wide new avenue for campaign-related cash.”

The pro-Obama PAC was set up by a group of liberal activists, including Steve Phillips, a former president of the San Francisco Board of Education and son-in-law of Herb and Marion Sandler, who are high-profile backers of Democrats.

Bill Burton, Obama campaign spokesman, when asked about the effort, distanced the campaign from Vote Hope 2008, saying: “We appreciate the tremendous grass roots. But if people want to help out our campaign, we prefer they would do it directly through our campaign.”

The creators of Vote Hope consider themselves pioneers, working to find a way to elect Obama in a state that they say will be crucial for Obama but that has not received as much attention as early-voting states such as New Hampshire, which has a tentative primary date of Jan. 22.

California has moved its primary to Feb. 5, but the state is so expensive for campaigns that many candidates are putting off major expenditures there. That is where Vote Hope sees its opening: It wants to tap donors who have already given the maximum to Obama’s campaign in order to raise more money to help the senator win in California.

“The combination of unbridled grass-roots volunteer energy and an unprecedented number of maxed-out donors this early in the calendar makes something like Vote Hope possible in states that are expensive to organize and have a large donor base,” said Vote Hope spokeswoman Jenifer Fernandez Ancona.

She said the group will help elect Obama by working to “identify infrequent voters in communities of color and young people in California” and getting them to vote. Vote Hope said campaign finance laws allow a PAC to solicit individual donations of up to $5,000 and then to spend unlimited funds on Obama as long as certain conditions are met.

The rules say that donors to PACs cannot “give with the knowledge that a substantial portion will be contributed to, or expended on behalf of, that candidate.” The same rule says, however, that such donations are permissible if donors don’t retain control over how the money is spent.

Vote Hope maintains that because its donors can’t specify how their money will be spent, these contributions to the PAC are legal. “Everything Vote Hope is doing is above board and permissible under the law,” said Vote Hope’s lawyer, Joseph M. Birkenstock, who served from 1998 to 2003 as chief counsel for the Democratic National Committee.

The Globe interviewed a number of specialists in campaign finance who said they could think of no other example of a major PAC being set up specifically to work for the election of a candidate during a presidential primary, aside from PACs set up to draft candidates or established by the politicians for themselves.

“It is a novel idea that hasn’t been utilized in this fashion before that I’m aware of at the presidential level,” said Keith Davis of Huckaby Davis Lisker, a firm that works with Republican campaigns on compliance with federal election law.

“If it works, then, obviously, there will be a lot of people who try to do the same thing . . . in both parties,” he said. “The same structure could be used for House and Senate campaigns.”

Davis and other specialists said a key question is whether enough people who have contributed the maximum $2,300 to Obama’s campaign will also want to contribute $5,000 to Vote Hope for the organization to meet its $2 million goal. Ancona said the group has raised $108,000, and “there are more than enough donors in California who are inspired by Vote Hope’s strategy to get us” to $2 million.

Separately, Vote Hope has set up what is known as a 527 organization, which can collect unlimited funds from individuals but is not allowed to support a candidate directly. Both Vote Hope groups have the same name, which has led to some confusion, including reports that a few wealthy individuals are contributing large amounts to a Vote Hope 527 formed to elect Obama.

In fact, the organizers said, only the PAC will work explicitly for an Obama victory by getting Californians to register and vote by mail starting Jan. 9 , and have 500,000 Obama votes “in the bank” by the primary on Feb. 5.

Vote Hope is distinct from PACs set up by many candidates. For example, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney established his federal Commonwealth PAC and state affiliates prior to announcing his candidacy. He used those PACs to travel and support other candidates. Funds from such PACs cannot be transferred to Romney’s campaign.

According to the Romney campaign, there does not appear to be an independent PAC working on behalf of Romney in the way that Vote Hope is helping Obama. But campaign specialists said that could change quickly if Vote Hope’s tactic proves viable. 

Obama feeds labor a line

Standard

 

Hat Tip:  By MIKE GLOVER, Associated Press Writer/photo by jay mallin

Democrat Barack Obama is telling union activists he would walk a picket line as president if organized labor helps elect him in 2008.

The Illinois senator also criticized President Bush’s policies toward working people.

`We are facing a Washington that has thrown open its doors to the most anti-union, anti-worker forces we’ve seen in generations,” Obama said in remarks prepared for delivery Saturday night. “What we need to make real today is the idea that in this country we value the labor of every American.”

Obama was scheduled to speak to Iowa’s largest union representing more than 20,000 state workers.

Four other Democratic presidential candidates have courted activists at the annual convention of Council 61 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Like his rivals, the Illinois senator challenged Bush’s labor policies and said he was committed to union causes.

“I stood on the picket line and marched with workers at the Congress Hotel in Chicago last week,” Obama said. “I had marched with them four years earlier and I told them when I left that if they were still fighting four years from now, I’d be back on that picket line as president of the United States.”

In his prepared remarks, Obama cited his years as a community organizer in Chicago. Because of that experience, Obama said he has closer ties to people who are struggling. He asked union activists to keep that in mind in choosing a candidate to support in January’s Iowa caucuses, which begin the presidential nominating process.

“So I want you to remember one thing, because you’ll hear from a lot of candidates between now and January,” Obama said. “When I talk about hope, when I talk about change, when I talk about holding America up to its ideals of opportunity and equality, this isn’t just the rhetoric of a campaign for me, it’s been the cause of a life — a cause I will work for and fight for every day as your president.”

Obama portrayed himself as a political outsider, saying it takes a new figure in Washington to break the gridlock.

“We’ve heard promises and slogans about change before,” said Obama. “The road to Washington is often paved with good intentions, but it always ends in the same divisive, polarizing politics that’s blocked real progress for so many years.”

The union plays an important role in Iowa Democratic politics. In addition to campaign money, the union’s endorsement brings into play a legion of talented organizers throughout the state.

Former Sen. John Edwards, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chris Dodd and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson also spoke to the union leaders.

Dodd, D-Conn., told delegates at a lunch that he had supported labor issues during his 30-plus years in Congress and urged them to consider backing candidates not now in the top tier of the crowded field.

“I hope over the next 180 days you’ll give us all a chance to be heard,” Dodd said. “I know I’m not as well known as some of the people you’ll be seeing, nor am I as well-heeled financially.”

I am so tickled that the laughter is hard to stifle.  The idea of a sitting President walking a picket line is almost radical.   Barack has clearly veered off his mainstream talking points and will be reigned in any minute now.   If he keeps trying to steal Edwards’ applause lines, he might actually become a progressive and then his money will dry up.

Sheila Dixon removes Baltimore Police Chief

Standard

Bowing to the political and empirical reality that the time had come to install new leadership at the helm of the beleaguered Baltimore Police Department, Mayor Sheila Dixon asked for the resignation of Baltimore Police Chief Leonard Hamm and pledged a national search for his replacement.   The latest citywide poll expressed no confidence in the past leadership of the Baltimore Police Department and Mayoral opponents Jill Carter and Keiffer Mitchell, have both called for substantial changes in the direction and leadership of the Department. 

Delegate Carter has been explicit, “In the past five years our city has moved from officers on the streets to watching crime take place through a closed-circuit television system. Drive through some of the city’s worst neighborhoods and the only police presence you will see is a flashing blue light attached [to] a police camera mounted on a light pole. The net result has been a sky rocketing murder rate and crime statistics that lead the state.”

Councilman Mitchell has been equally blunt, “In the last six months, 146 people have been murdered in our city and our citizens have lost faith in the interim-Mayor’s ability to address this crisis. As we slip back to the days of 300 murders per year, residents have been waiting to see her offer the leadership needed to stop this wave of violence. Instead, the interim-Mayor has only offered slogans, PR stunts, and failed plans. While the voters will have a chance to hold her accountable in September, we cannot wait that long to address this crisis.”

“So, the time has come for a change of leadership at the police department. Today, I am calling for Police Commissioner Hamm to step down.”

With the resignation of Hamm, the commencement of a national chief search, and a refocusing of police priorities, Mayor Dixon has stepped up to the plate and offered more than “slogans, PR stunts, or failed plans.”   She has offered the leadership Baltimoreans have been asking for and she has acknowledged their legitimate concerns by acting decisively.  Her recent actions confirmed my initial impression that the Mayor has the experience, vision, and integrity to lead, and reinforced my opinion that Baltimore needs to continue giving Sheila Dixon a chance to make the city the best it can be-they won’t be disappointed.    

Obama leading McCain and Romney 47% to 38%,

Standard

Barack ObamaJohn McCainMitt Romney

Hat Tip: Rasmussen Reports

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone poll finds Illinois Senator Barack Obama (D) with a nine point lead over Arizona Senator John McCain (R). It’s Obama 47% McCain 38%. That’s little changed from a month ago and the fourth straight monthly poll in which Obama has enjoyed an advantage over McCain. For the two months before that, they were tied.

McCain has had a terrible month of July including a shocking report that his campaign was nearly out of money, staff defections, and declining poll numbers. Among those seeking the Republican nomination, he is currently in fourth place in the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll. Early in the month, his favorability rating fell to 44% and, for the first time ever, a larger percentage offered an unfavorable opinion of the Senator. Polling released this week showed that McCain’s decline has stopped for the moment–45% now have a favorable opinion of him while 46% hold an unfavorable view.

Last December, McCain had been viewed favorably by 59% of voters. As recently as two months ago, 55% had a positive assessment of the Senator from Arizona.

As McCain seeks to keep his campaign afloat, he does so with a tremendous disadvantage—40% of Republican voters have an unfavorable opinion of him. No other candidate in either party approaches that level (the closest is former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, viewed unfavorably by 31% of Republicans).

Obama is now viewed favorably by 54% of voters nationwide and unfavorably by 37%. He remains in second place among those seeking the Democratic Presidential nomination. Obama and New York Senator Hillary Clinton are clearly in a league of their own at this point in the nomination process.

McCain also trails Clinton and former North Carolina Senator John Edwards in general election match-ups.

Obama leads Romney and is in close races with Republican frontrunners Fred Thompson and Rudy Giuliani.

Obama’s political expediency is showing

Standard

 

Hat Tip: By Philip Elliott, Associated Press

Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said Thursday the United States cannot use its military to solve humanitarian problems and that preventing a potential genocide in Iraq isn’t a good enough reason to keep U.S. forces there.

“Well, look, if that’s the criteria by which we are making decisions on the deployment of U.S. forces, then by that argument you would have 300,000 troops in the Congo right now — where millions have been slaughtered as a consequence of ethnic strife — which we haven’t done,” Obama said in an interview with The Associated Press.

“We would be deploying unilaterally and occupying the Sudan, which we haven’t done. Those of us who care about Darfur don’t think it would be a good idea,” he said.

Obama, a first-term senator from Illinois, said it’s likely there would be increased bloodshed if U.S. forces left Iraq.

“Nobody is proposing we leave precipitously. There are still going to be U.S. forces in the region that could intercede, with an international force, on an emergency basis,” Obama said between stops on the first of two days scheduled on the New Hampshire campaign trail. “There’s no doubt there are risks of increased bloodshed in Iraq without a continuing U.S. presence there.”

The greater risk is staying in Iraq, Obama said.

“It is my assessment that those risks are even greater if we continue to occupy Iraq and serve as a magnate for not only terrorist activity but also irresponsible behavior by Iraqi factions,” he said.

The senator has been a fierce critic of the war in Iraq, speaking out against it even before he was elected to his post in 2004. He was among the senators who tried unsuccessfully earlier this week to force President Bush’s hand and begin to limit the role of U.S. forces there.

“We have not lost a military battle in Iraq. So when people say if we leave, we will lose, they’re asking the wrong question,” he said. “We cannot achieve a stable Iraq with a military. We could be fighting there for the next decade.”

Obama said the answer to Iraq — and other civil conflicts — lies in diplomacy.

“When you have civil conflict like this, military efforts and protective forces can play an important role, especially if they’re under an international mandate as opposed to simply a U.S. mandate. But you can’t solve the underlying problem at the end of a barrel of a gun,” he said. “There’s got to be a deliberate and constant diplomatic effort to get the various factions to recognize that they are better off arriving at a peaceful resolution of their conflicts.”

The Republican National Committee accused Obama of changing his position on the war.

“Barack Obama can’t seem to make up his mind,” said Amber Wilkerson, an RNC spokeswoman. “First he says that a quick withdrawal from Iraq would be ‘a slap in the face’ to the troops, and then he votes to cut funding for our soldiers who are still in harm’s way. Americans are looking for principled leadership — not a rookie politician who is pandering to the left wing of his party in an attempt to win an election.”

An opponent of the death penalty, Obama said he would make an exception for Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks.

“The first thing I’d support is his capture, which is something this administration has proved incapable of achieving,” Obama said. “I would then, as president, order a trial that observed international standards of due process. At that point, do I think that somebody who killed 3,000 Americans qualifies as someone who has perpetrated heinous crimes, and would qualify for the death penalty. Then yes.”

Adrian Fenty to endorse Obama

Standard

IMG_7639.JPG

Hat tip: Washington Post by David Nakamura

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty plans to endorse Illinois Sen. Barack Obama‘s bid for the Democratic nomination for president today, sources said yesterday.

Fenty (D) had been noncommittal, though he has said he would endorse a Democrat.

Some city officials had speculated that he might not endorse anyone until he knew whether New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (I) would run.

Fenty has patterned key initiatives after Bloomberg’s programs, including his takeover of public schools.

But Fenty’s support of Obama looked more probable recently when a Fenty adviser, Jim Hudson, organized a fundraiser for Obama that collected $600,000 and endorsements from three D.C. Council members: Yvette M. Alexander (D-Ward 7), Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6).

“Jim helped me get to where I am,” Obama said at a fundraiser two weeks ago.

Fenty would join other Democratic big-city mayors, including Chicago‘s Richard Daley and Newark‘s Cory Booker, in endorsing Obama.