Tuesday, July 31, 2007

"Poll: Obama tied with Clinton in NH"

Chicago Tribune:
Bill Clinton's sojourn to New Hampshire earlier this month doesn't seem to have given his wife much help, according to a smallish-sample poll taken by the American Research Group.

The July poll shows Barack Obama in a dead heat with Hillary Clinton -- doubling his support over the last two months, a major danger sign if true. The poll only surveyed 400 Democrats (with 200 independents) with 5 percent error margin, so it's to be taken with a grain of salt. Still, it's clear Obama's trending upward and Clinton's losing some steam in the first primary state.

A CNN/WMUR poll take about two weeks ago shows Clinton with an 8-point lead over the Illinois senator -- but that's down from a 15-point lead in June. Expect stepped-up activity by Team Clinton in the Granite State sooner than soon.

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"Video: Audience Rated Hillary Clinton Low, Barack Obama High on Youtube Debate Responses"


Think On These Things with video (03:20):
CNN has the graphs for the audience reactions meters for candidates’ responses at the Youtube debate. This completely confirms my point that Hillary Clinton started this whole diplomacy fight because she was going to get really bad reviews out of that debate. Notice that they also rated her response to the gender question low and Obama’s response to the race question high. Ouch!

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"Obama's Television Ad: Take It Back" (with video)

Marc Ambinder:
Lots to say about this third television ad (00:31) of Barack Obama's, but for now, just know that it's remarkable how confidently Obama's wields his consensus-bipartisan message in front of partisan Democratic audiences. The ad begins tomorrow. The size and duration of the buy are unknown at this point.

OBAMA SYNC: I know that I haven't spent a lot of time learning the ways of Washington. But, I've been there long enough to know that the ways of Washington must change.

ANNCR V/O: In the Senate, Barack Obama challenged both parties to pass tough new ethics rules and rein in the power of lobbyists.

And he’s leading by example, refusing contributions from PACs and Washington lobbyists who have too much power today.

OBAMA SYNC: They think they own this government. But we're here today to take it back.

Howie P.S.: One of the first to comment on this post is Nicholas Beaudrot, one of the hosts of Seattle's "Drinking Liberally," happening on Tuesday nights @8pm at the Montlake Ale House.

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"Obama: Wouldn’t leave Iraq immediately"

CNN:
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said Monday if U.S. troops aren’t out of Iraq by the time he’s president, the first thing he’d do in office is order the Joint Chiefs of Staff to “get a plan to begin withdrawing” troops from Iraq. He was careful not to say he’d try to bring troops home immediately.“This will be a messy withdrawal,” Obama said. “People who say we’ll just pull them out are irresponsible.”
Obama made his comments at a town hall meeting in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to a group of about 600 people, according to the campaign.

The Illinois senator also devoted a substantial amount of time to ethics reform in Washington, taking a few shots at the Bush administration and “no-bid” contracts.

“When our government gives Halliburton seven billion dollars in taxpayer dollars to put out Iraqi oil fires that don’t exist, when we hand over Katrina contracts to more of George Bush’s FEMA friends, it doesn’t just violate the American people’s trust,” Obama said. “It takes away the tax dollars they’ve earned and the valuable services they need.”

Obama said that lobbyists “stop us from addressing issues that matter” and that the country needs to “change the way business is done in Washington.”

“It’s not our agenda being moved forward in Washington,” he said. “Special interests dominate on a day to day basis in terms of legislative activity. If we can’t change that, we’re not going to change anything.”

Touting what he says is his refusal to accept money from political action committees has become a staple in Obama’s bid for the nomination.

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Monday, July 30, 2007

"Obama touts himself as reformer"

Des Moines Register:
Cedar Rapids -- Barack Obama wants to be known as the president of political reform, he told a crowd of about 600 people here Monday.

Specifically, the U.S. senator from Illinois took another swing at political action committees and lobbyists who he says have derailed America˙s politics.
One example Obama used is the $1.1 billion in farm subsidies to 172,801 dead people given to people by the federal government between 1999 and 2005, according to a federal report released this month.

"That˙s a problem when your tax dollars are going to dead people," Obama said to the cheering at Roosevelt Middle School. "That˙s not just crazy, it˙s wrong."

Obama told the crowd that, as president, he would be like Theodore Roosevelt, in which the school is named for. Roosevelt, more than 100 years ago, helped break apart powerful monopolies "to give the American people a shot at the American dream," Obama said.

Obama emphasized his plan for healthcare, ending the war in Iraq and improving education, which he said can be more easily accomplished with campaign reforms, making "The White House the people˙s house."

"That's the reason I've offered the most far-reaching ethics and lobbying reform plan of any candidate in this race right now," Obama said.

Lobbyists are important in that they advocate and speak for, sometimes, hundreds of thousands of people, said Brian Pallasch, the president of the All American League of Lobbyists, based in Alexandria, Va. He cautioned against candidates or people stereotyping the profession and dismissing the good they do and have done for the country.

"The reality is, professional lobbyists, are pledged to abide by their code of ethics and we feel strongly that the lobbying profession provides a vital role in democracy," Pallasch said.

Obama does not accept campaign contributions from political action committees or federal lobbyists. Even so, his campaign reported raising at least $31 million between April and June for the general election, roughly $10 million more than national Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

"We don't take PAC money, we don't take money from federally registered lobbyists and you know what? It turns out the American people will lift you up when you do the right thing. We've raised some money," Obama said.

Obama said, as president, he would forbid anyone from his administration to lobby his administration after they leave the White House. He also vowed to end no-bid contracts and make ways for federal government to be more transparent.

Obama noted his work in Illinois, where he helped shape campaign finance laws that had previously allowed politicians to use campaign accounts for personal use.

Cedar Rapids resident Brad Kiburz asked Obama what would prevent him from becoming just like many other politicians, who make promises but are changed by Washington, D.C., politics.

Obama responded by reiterating key points in his speech. He also took aim at criticism that he is inexperienced, telling the crowd that "what Washington oftentimes means as experience is simply reciting the convention wisdom that's developed in Washington, even if it doesn't work," and that he is a candidate for change.

Kiburz, after the meeting, said he was a Republican until about four months ago. He now considers himself an independent voter.

"I listen to all the candidates and the more I hear him speak I see him being a real genuine, honest person who is trying to make positive change for his country," Kiburz said.

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"In Illinois, Obama Proved Pragmatic and Shrewd"

NY Times:
There was something improbable about the new guy from Chicago via Honolulu and Jakarta, Indonesia, the one with the Harvard law degree and the job teaching constitutional law, turning up in Springfield, Ill., in January 1997 among the housewives, ex-mayors and occasional soybean farmer serving in the State Senate.
Early Experience

The new senator, Barack Obama, was a progressive Democrat in a time of tight Republican control. He was a former community organizer in a place where power is famously held by a few. He was a neophyte promising reform in a culture that a University of Illinois political studies professor describes as “really tough and, frankly, still quite corrupt.”

“One of my first comments to Barack was, ‘What the hell are you doing here?’ ” said Denny Jacobs, a former senator and self-described “backroom politician, not one of those do-gooders that stands up front and says we got to make changes.”

Senator Obama’s answer? “He looked at me sort of strange.”

Mr. Obama did not bring revolution to Springfield in his eight years in the Senate, the longest chapter in his short public life. But he turned out to be practical and shrewd, a politician capable of playing hardball to win election (he squeezed every opponent out of his first race), a legislator with a sharp eye for an opportunity, a strategist willing to compromise to accomplish things.

He positioned himself early on as a protégé of the powerful Democratic leader, Senator Emil Jones, a beneficiary of the Chicago political machine. He courted collaboration with Republicans. He endured hazing from a few black colleagues, played poker with lobbyists, studiously took up golf. (“An awful lot happens on the golf course,” a friend, Jean Rudd, says he told her.)

By the time he left Springfield in 2004, he had built not only the connections necessary to win election to the United States Senate but a record not inconsistent with his lofty rhetoric of consensus building and bipartisanship.

“He came with a huge dose of practicality,” said Paul L. Williams, a lobbyist in Springfield and former state representative who is a supporter of Mr. Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination. Mr. Williams characterized Mr. Obama’s attitude as, “O.K., that makes sense and sounds great, as I’d like to go to the moon, but right now I’ve only got enough gas to go this far.”

With the assistance of Senator Jones, Mr. Obama helped deliver what is said to have been the first significant campaign finance reform law in Illinois in 25 years. He brought law enforcement groups around to back legislation requiring that homicide interrogations be taped and helped bring about passage of the state’s first racial-profiling law. He was a chief sponsor of a law enhancing tax credits for the working poor, played a central role in negotiations over welfare reform and successfully pushed for increasing child care subsidies.

“I learned that if you’re willing to listen to people, it’s possible to bridge a lot of the differences that dominate the national political debate,” Mr. Obama said in an interview on Friday. “I pretty quickly got to form relationships with Republicans, with individuals from rural parts of the state, and we had a lot in common.”

Not everyone was impressed, at least initially. His “pedigree,” as Mr. Jones calls it with a chuckle, evoked some skepticism. Two black, Democratic state senators from Chicago, Donne E. Trotter and Rickey R. Hendon, who both now say they are Obama supporters, caricatured him as a privileged, know-it-all greenhorn. At times, they seemed to call into question his black credentials, foreshadowing complaints from some African-Americans today that Mr. Obama is “not black enough” because of his biracial heritage and his class.

“We could barely have meetings in caucus because Donne and Rickey would give him hell,” said State Senator Kimberly A. Lightford, a Democrat and former chairwoman of the Senate’s black caucus. “Donne would be, ‘Just because you’re from Harvard, you think you know everything.’ Barack was like the new kid on the block. He was handsome and he was mild mannered and he was well liked. Sometimes there was a little ‘Who’s this? He coming here, he don’t know anything.’ ”

In a Hurry?

His critics say Mr. Obama could have accomplished much more if he had been in less of a hurry to leave the Statehouse behind. Steven J. Rauschenberger, a longtime Republican senator who stepped down this year, said: “He is a very bright but very ambitious person who has always had his eyes on the prize, and it wasn’t Springfield. If he deserves to be president, it is not because he was a great legislator.”

Within three years of his arrival, Mr. Obama ran for Congress, a race he lost. When the Democrats took control of the State Senate in 2003 — and Mr. Jones replaced James Philip, known as Pate, a retired Pepperidge Farm district manager who served as president of the Senate — Mr. Obama made his next move.

“He said to me, ‘You’re now the Senate president,’ ” Mr. Jones recalled. “ ‘You have a lot of power.’ I said, ‘I do?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘Tell me what kind of power I have.’ He said, ‘You have the power to make a U.S. senator.’ I said, ‘I do?’ He said, ‘You do.’ I said, ‘If I’ve got that kind of power, do you know of anyone that I can make?’ He said, ‘Yeah. Me.’ ”

The route that had brought Mr. Obama to Springfield was far from typical. Born in Hawaii and raised for a while in Indonesia, he had worked as a community organizer in Chicago after graduating from Columbia College in 1983. Returning from Harvard to practice law and later teach at the University of Chicago, he had run a voter registration drive in the 1992 election.

Three years later, a congressman from the South Side of Chicago was convicted of having sex with a minor. A Democratic state senator from his district, Alice L. Palmer, decided to run for the seat. Carol Anne Harwell, Mr. Obama’s first campaign manager, said Ms. Palmer invited Mr. Obama, then 35, to run for her seat.

But after losing in the primary, Ms. Palmer had second thoughts. A delegation of her supporters asked Mr. Obama to step aside. He not only declined, but his campaign staff challenged the signatures on Ms. Palmer’s campaign petitions and kept her off the ballot. It was nothing personal: They did the same thing to every other Democrat in the race.

“He knocked off the incumbent, so that right there gave him some notoriety,” said Ron Davis, who served as Mr. Obama’s precinct coordinator. “And he ran unopposed — which for a rookie is unheard of.”

He added, “Barack is a quick learner.”

At the time, Mr. Obama said he was running to mobilize people to work for change. He wanted to apply techniques of community organizing to elected office. In a 1995 profile in The Chicago Reader, he said, “What if a politician were to see his job as an organizer, as part teacher and part advocate, one who does not sell voters short but who educates them about the real choices before them?”

But Springfield was not ideally suited for such an approach. Republicans outnumbered Democrats by 37 to 32 in the Senate when Mr. Obama arrived. Power resided almost exclusively with the “Four Tops” — the Senate president, the House speaker and the minority leaders in each chamber. They controlled committee assignments, the legislative agenda, the staff. They even disbursed campaign money.

“It’s power politics, and it’s politics as a business, and it’s winning and control,” said Kent Redfield, the political studies professor at the University of Illinois at Springfield. “The mind-set is, it is not the public’s business. That’s part of the culture: It’s about the politicians, and the politicians own the company.”

Asked why he ran for the Senate in a state where rank-and-file lawmakers have been called “mushrooms” (because they are kept in the dark and fed, uh, manure), Mr. Obama said: “Part of it was that the seat opened up. I was living in the district, and the state legislature was a part-time position. It allowed me to get my feet wet in politics and test out whether I could get something done.”

Forming Relationships

From his days as an organizer, Mr. Obama already knew the Democratic leader, Mr. Jones, who had come up through the Democratic organization in Chicago. He had helped Mr. Obama’s group acquire state money for a dropout prevention program that still operates today.

“Well, when he came here, first got elected, he came to me,” Mr. Jones said, ensconced in his corner office in the Statehouse, his head wreathed in a swirl of cigarette smoke. “And he said to me, ‘You know me, you know me quite well.’ He said: ‘You know I like to work hard. So feel free in giving me any tough assignments and everything.’ I said, ‘Good.’ ”

One of the first was campaign finance reform. Illinois had one of the least regulated campaign finance systems in the country and a history of corruption. Paul Simon, the former United States senator, was running a public policy institute at Southern Illinois University and asked each of the four legislative leaders to name a trusted lawmaker to work on a bipartisan ethics bill.

Mr. Jones recalls receiving a call from Abner J. Mikva, a former Chicago congressman, federal judge and friend of Mr. Simon. Judge Mikva, who had once tried to hire Mr. Obama as a law clerk, suggested him for the job. Mr. Jones says he knew that the new senator was hard-working and bright and that few others would want the assignment.

“He caught pure hell,” Mr. Jones said of Mr. Obama. “I actually felt sorry for him at times.”

The job required negotiating across party lines to come up with reform proposals, then presenting them to the Democratic caucus. Senator Kirk Dillard, the Republican Senate president’s appointee, said, “Barack was literally hooted and catcalled in his caucus.” On the Senate floor, Mr. Dillard said, “They would bark their displeasure at me, and then they’d unload on Obama.”

Mr. Obama entered the discussions favoring contribution limits, said Mike Lawrence, now director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University. But he realized they had no chance of passing. So the legislation, passed in 1998, banned most gifts by lobbyists, prohibited spending campaign money for legislators’ personal use and required electronic filing of campaign disclosure reports.

“I know he wanted to limit contributions by corporations or labor unions, and he certainly wanted to stop the transfers of huge amounts of money from the four legislative caucus leaders into rank-and-file members’ campaigns,” Mr. Dillard said. “But he knew that would never happen. So he got off that kick and thought disclosure was a more practical way to shine sunlight on what sometimes are unsavory practices.”

The disclosure requirement “revolutionized Illinois’s system,” said Cindi Canary, executive director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. By giving journalists immediate access to a database of expenditures and contributions, it transformed political reporting. It also, she said, “put Senator Obama on a launching pad and put the mantle of ethics legislator on his crown.”

His role, though, did not endear Mr. Obama to everyone.

Racial Friction Early On

By many accounts, there was already friction between him and Mr. Hendon, whose West Side Chicago district is among the poorest in the state, and Mr. Trotter. When Mr. Trotter and Mr. Obama both ran for Congress two years later — unsuccessfully, it turned out — Mr. Trotter told a reporter that Mr. Obama was viewed in part as “the white man in blackface in our community.”

Mr. Dillard said, “I remember Rickey chiding Obama that, ‘What do you know, Barack? You grew up in Hawaii and you live in Hyde Park. What do you know about the street?’ To which Obama shot back: ‘I know a lot. I didn’t exactly have a rosy childhood. I’m a street organizer by profession and a lot of my area, once you get outside the University of Chicago neighborhoods, is just as tough as your West Side, Rickey.’ ”

In an interview, Mr. Trotter said Mr. Obama had arrived “wanting to change things immediately,” as though he intended “to straighten out all these folks because they’re crooks.” But Mr. Trotter credited Mr. Obama with later “trying to make himself more regular” and “taking himself out of his cocoon, his comfort zone” and “not just pontificating through the press.”

Mr. Hendon, who says he is writing a book on electoral politics called “Backstabbers,” said ethics reform would have passed with or without Mr. Obama because of scandals that preceded it. He said the sponsors of ethics bills tended to be “wealthy kind of people, the same kind of people who vote against pay raises, who don’t need $5,000 a year. Whereas senators like me from poorer communities, we could use that $5,000.”

Mr. Hendon praised Mr. Obama, however, for later winning passage of what some in Springfield called “the driving-while-black bill,” which required the police to collect data on the race of drivers they stopped as a way to monitor racial profiling. Law enforcement groups had repeatedly blocked earlier versions while the Republicans were in control; when the Democrats took over, Mr. Obama brokered a compromise between the police groups and the A.C.L.U.

Mr. Hendon, sponsor of a previous bill, said Mr. Obama had “made some compromises that other members of the black caucus just weren’t willing to bend on” — perhaps, he said, because Senator Obama had never been abused by the police. But he added, “I’m not saying he gave up too much. In hindsight, it was best to go ahead with the weaker version because a lot of police attitudes changed when we passed it.”

Mr. Obama worked hard at building connections. Aside from taking up golf he joined a weekly poker game. One lobbyist said Mr. Obama played poker well, but “with more skill than luck,” adding, “It’s certainly not instinctive with him; it’s cerebral.”

In Springfield, Mr. Obama said, he learned early “that forming relationships a lot of times was more important than having all the policy talking points in your arsenal. That most of the time people at the state level — and in the U.S. Senate — are moved as much by whether or not they trust you and whether or not they think your values are sound as they are by graphs and charts and numbers on a page.”

Many of those relationships have proved helpful since. As Mr. Jones tells it, when Mr. Obama asked him to support his run for the United States Senate, the younger man had already figured out that the Senate president’s early backing could “checkmate” the mayor, the governor and organized labor.

Senator Terry Link, a forklift business owner who golfed and played poker with Mr. Obama, also provided assistance. Chairman of the Lake County Democratic organization, he informed the group that it would be backing the long shot, Mr. Obama, in the Senate primary.

“They all thought I’d lost my marbles,” said Mr. Link. “ ‘You’re nuts! We can’t support him.’ I said, ‘When you know him like I know him, you’ll all support him.’ The largest percentage in the primary came from my county. He carried every precinct.”

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Video: "We've got to change how we do business"


BarackObama.com:
In case you missed it, Barack gave a remarkable speech in New Hampshire this past week on the need for a new direction for American foreign policy. Here's a clip via the New Hampshire HQ blog at NH.BarackObama.com.

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

"Video: Who Won? Hillary or Obama?"

Several commentators debate who won the diplomacy debate–Hillary or Obama?

Think On These Things, with video (10:14):
One assumption these commentators make that I would disagree with is that Hillary would have been fine if she had not said anything. That is wrong. She would have had really bad press out of that debate if she had not attacked Obama. Obama had won the focus groups for the debate, as the guy in this video shows Obama had won in the room of the actual debate, also Obama would have been lauded for having called out Clinton on her Iraq War vote during the debate.

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"Defining Moment?"

E.J. Dionne (WaPo):
CHICAGO -- A dozen or so young staffers were gathered around a bank of television sets at Barack Obama's vast campaign headquarters here on Michigan Avenue. They were cheering on Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) as he took their candidate's side in the great Obama- Hillary Clinton debate over how presidents should negotiate with unfriendly dictators.

The mood was upbeat not only because the Obama loyalists judged Smith the winner in his Wednesday clash with Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) on MSNBC's "Hardball," but also because Obama had pulled the front-runner into a direct confrontation over foreign policy.

Obama's own confidence was clear yesterday morning during a conference call announcing that he had won the endorsement of Rep. Paul Hodes, a freshman Democrat from New Hampshire.

Politicians often underscore their own virtues by discovering the same traits in others, and Obama is no exception. He praised Hodes, an upset winner in the 2006 elections, as "a fresh new voice" who "spoke the truth" and "believed he could be an agent of change." Hodes, right on message, explained his support for Obama as an effort to "complete my mission" in politics, which is -- you guessed it -- "to make some change."

And in response to questions, Obama continued to fire away at Clinton, saying her stand on negotiations with dictators was a continuation of "Bush administration policy." In the Democratic contest, those are fighting words.

The Obama-Clinton confrontation might easily be written off as midsummer meaninglessness. It was set off during Monday's CNN-YouTube debate, when the candidates were asked whether they would "be willing to meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration . . . with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea, in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries."

Without hesitation, Obama replied: "I would." He dismissed as "ridiculous" the "notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them."

Clinton sensed an opening. "I will not promise to meet with the leaders of these countries during my first year," she said, adding, "I don't want to be used for propaganda purposes."

Figuring she had the high ground, Clinton continued on the attack Tuesday, calling Obama's position "irresponsible and frankly naive." Instead of backing off, Obama fired back. On Wednesday, he hit Clinton on one of her weak points -- her 2002 vote to give President Bush authority to go to war in Iraq. "I think what is irresponsible and naive is to have authorized a war without asking how we were going to get out,' " Obama said. As some of us who watched "Batman" on TV remember: Kapow!

In fact, Obama clearly sensed his own vulnerability and quickly tried to cauterize it. He was careful to say repeatedly that in talking with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other Muslim leaders, he would send them "a strong message that Israel is our friend."

He also pulled back ever so slightly, insisting that "the notion that I was somehow going to be inviting them over for tea next week without having initial envoys meet is ridiculous."

But the eagerness with which Obama's camp kept the battle going reflected a cardinal rule in politics: Front-runners should be wary of picking fights with challengers. In this case, Clinton allowed Obama to make one of her prime vulnerabilities, the Iraq vote, a central part of the campaign dialogue. She also let Obama place himself to her dovish side.

In a Democratic primary, that's not where she wants Obama to be. It was Obama's good fortune that as the controversy was building, Iowa Democrats were receiving a campaign mailing headlined: "Barack Obama said No to the war in Iraq from the start."

The most intriguing aspect of this controversy is that both campaigns were operating from their respective positions of strength. Clinton has successfully cast herself as the toughest candidate of the Democratic bunch and has Washington experience that Obama can't match. Obama, precisely because he exudes newness in so many ways, promises the most obvious break with the past.

If Obama wins the nomination, Republicans will try to make him pay a price for his negotiation-friendly attitude.

But this week, at least, Clinton started a battle about experience and Obama turned it into a debate about change.

This dynamic, over a stray comment in a single debate, could be remembered as the moment that defined the Democratic presidential contest. Clinton faces trouble if she allows Obama a monopoly on the future.


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"Video: Barack at CDA"

BarackObama.com:
Barack got a thunderous reception this afternoon at the College Democrats of America conference here in Columbia, South Carolina. Watch the video to see how Barack is motivating the next generation of American leaders.

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"New polls: Obama strongest in general election, Romney leading GOP in Iowa"

USA Today:
Real Clear Politics has posted the results of three new polls. One shows Democrat Barack Obama to be a stronger general-election candidate than fellow Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton. A second shows a three-way statistical tie for the Republican nomination. A third shows Democrat John Edwards and Republican Mitt Romney leading in Iowa, the first caucus state.

• The bipartisan Battleground Poll finds that Republican Rudy Giuliani beats Clinton by 6 percentage points but loses to Obama by 9 points. Both Democrats would beat Republican Fred Thompson -- Clinton by 2 points and Obama by 23 points.

• A national poll sponsored by Hotline, the online daily roundup of political news, puts Giuliani first in the GOP field at 20%, followed by Thompson at 19% and John McCain at 17%. Romney trails at 8%. Clinton has a 9-point edge over Obama.

• A Research 2000 poll of Iowa has Edwards at 27% followed by Clinton at 22%, Obama at 16% and Bill Richardson at 11%. On the Republican side, it's Romney at 25%, Thompson at 14%, Giuliani at 13% and McCain at 10%.

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Obama Banner Ads: "One Candidate..."

First Read (NBC):
From NBC's Domenico Montanaro
Clinton is not the only one trying to capitalize on the controversy. The Obama campaign has bought flashy Web banner ads in Iowa and New Hampshire with the message:

--One candidate had the judgment to oppose the war from the start.
--One candidate knows it's irresponsible to send troops to war without a plan to bring them home.
--One candidate believes it's naïve to believe we can resolve conflicts without talking to our adversaries.
--Ready for a new direction?"

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Friday, July 27, 2007

"Video: Obama Takes On Clinton for Diplomacy Comments"

"Clinton-Obama rhetoric getting hotter"

Newsday:
The week-long battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama took a nasty turn Thursday when Clinton mocked Obama's "Politics of Hope" speech, suggesting his call for altruistic politics in 2004 is now an empty political slogan.
The fight began during Monday night's YouTube-CNN debate, when Obama said he'd negotiate with foreign despots unconditionally during his first year in office; Clinton said she wouldn't -- to deprive enemies of a "propaganda" coup.

Seizing a chance to portray the first-term Illinois senator as a foreign-policy rookie, Clinton called his position "naive" and "irresponsible." Obama used the same language to describe her support for the 2002 Iraq invasion, and the fight was on.

"I'm not afraid to lose the PR war to dictators," said Obama, keeping the fight alive Thursday during a speech in Concord, N.H. "I'm happy to look them in the eyes and say what needs to be said. ... I don't want Bush-Cheney Lite."

In a later conference call, Obama explained, "Part of the Bush doctrine has been to say 'no' [to negotiating with foreign leaders]. You'll have to ask Senator Clinton what differentiates her position from theirs."

Clinton, on CNN, upped the ante by taking a shot at Obama's reputation-making 2004 Democratic National Convention speech, in which he urged voters to reject cynicism and embrace the "Politics of Hope."

"I've been called a lot of things in my life, but I've never been called George Bush or Dick Cheney, certainly," she said. "We have to ask what's ever happened to the politics of hope?"

After months of smiling with pained sincerity across debate podiums, Clinton and Obama have set upon each other with stunning vehemence since the YouTube debate, exposing a reservoir of mutual disdain. Yesterday, Clinton hinted that the era of good feelings isn't likely to return anytime soon.

"I think that we do have some disagreements, and those are obviously going to start coming out because this is a very intense period, for the primaries," she told CNN's John King. "I welcome that debate."

The fight has advantages for each candidate. Clinton, who has been embarrassed by Obama's fundraising superiority, is going for the jugular on experience. Obama, who trails Clinton by 15 points, needs to demonstrate their differences and must quell murmuring among supporters that he's been too civil.

The one scintilla of civility in evidence yesterday came from an unusual quarter. Defense Secretary Robert Gates apologized to Clinton after a Pentagon subordinate accused her of requesting deployment information he said would endanger U.S. troops.
Howie P.S.: I said I would be offline until Sunday, but the campground was full and we had to get a room in town. There's a free computer in the lobby, so I took this as a sign from "The Higher Power" to stay "engaged," as Michelle Obama requested.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Michelle Obama in Seattle (photos)





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"Video: Barack Speaks to National Council of La Raza"

"The Clinton/Obama Non-Controversy"

Booman:
Todd Beeton looks at all the Republican praise for Hillary Clinton's debate performance last night and asks, "Is Clinton proving that she CAN run a primary and general election campaign all at once? It's starting to look like it."

Yeah, maybe so. But only if the primary voters are suckers.

Hillary thrilled conservatives by saying that she would not meet with foreign leaders like Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, Bashar al-Assad, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Then she called Barack Obama 'irresponsible and naive' for suggesting that he might be willing to meet with them. Let me be blunt. Screw Hillary Clinton and her right-wing frames.

I don't advocate meeting controversial and even adversarial foreign leaders for the hell of it or if nothing productive can be announced afterwards. But don't try to score political points by being close-minded. American presidents met with Soviet premiers throughout the Cold War. It was a good thing. Nixon went to China.

Hillary Clinton thinks she is clever. She actually said that she wouldn't meet with these leaders until after 'lower-level diplomatic contacts [were] conducted'. What? Does she think Obama would just fly to Havana without any prep-work from the State Department? I am sick of this idiotic level of debate. Conservatives respond to this kind of empty rhetoric. Progressives should be repulsed by it.

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"Congressman Paul Hodes Endorses Obama"


Campaigns & Elections:
Congressman Paul Hodes of New Hampshire's Second District announced today that he is endorsing Senator Barack Obama's campaign to change American politics. Congressman Hodes was elected to the U.S. House last November on a platform of change-including an insistence on ending the war in Iraq and a commitment to cleaning up the mess in Washington.
Hodes, who soon after being sworn in was elected president of the newest class of Democratic members of congress, said he sees Obama's grassroots movement as the natural extension of the new representatives' dedication to fix our broken political system and address the critical problems that we face.

"Barack and I share an optimistic vision for this country and we share the belief that change is possible when people come together," Congressman Hodes said. "Campaigning across New Hampshire this fall, people told me that they believe this country can be great again-but they know that we need a new kind of politics if we're going to make progress on the issues that confront us around the world. In Barack Obama, we have a leader who will turn the page on our narrow-minded foreign policy, a leader who will end the war in Iraq and who realizes, just like JFK and Ronald Reagan did, that being a strong nation means having the strength to talk to our enemies."

Congressman Hodes will serve as a national co-chair of the Obama campaign.

"Paul represents the very best in American politics," Obama said. "In the face of deep skepticism he ran a true grassroots campaign on the values that Granite Staters hold dear: accountability, responsibility, and common sense. Like me, he ignored the insiders who said it was too risky to oppose the war in Iraq , and instead he spoke his conscience. One year later, he's a leader in Washington and a phenomenal representative for New Hampshire. I'm thrilled to have his support for this movement for change."

Paul Hodes began service to New Hampshire in 1978 when then-Attorney General David Souter hired him as an Assistant Attorney General. Hodes distinguished himself as a prosecutor, cracking down on white collar crime, seeking justice in homicide cases, and winning the state's first criminal conviction of an environmental polluter. A longtime community leader in his hometown of Concord, Hodes came from behind to oust six-term Republican congressman Charlie Bass in the 2006 midterm elections. In Congress he has been an outspoken advocate for ending the war in Iraq and raising ethics standards in Washington.

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"Obama: 'Better Judgment' on Foreign Policy"

ABC News:
At a closed-door, off-the-record meeting with media mavens and corporate titans at the Time Warner Center in Manhattan Tuesday evening, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., the freshman senator who just three years ago was an Illinois state senator, said he had better judgment about foreign policy than any presidential candidate in either party.
"One thing I'm very confident about is my judgment in foreign policy is, I believe, better than any other candidate in this race, Republican or Democrat," Obama said.

Others in the race have spent decades in the foreign policy world, including Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., who visited 82 countries as first lady, Vietnam veteran Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., and former Vietnam prisoner of war Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

But Obama said, "The notion that somehow from Washington you get this vast foreign policy experience is illusory."

The Clinton campaign begged off commenting, but campaigning in New Hampshire and told of Obama's remark, Sen. McCain, R-Ariz., offered a sarcastic reply.

"Well, I also think I'm the most qualified to run the decathlon because I watch sports on television all the time," McCain said, according to the Associated Press.

More pointedly, McCain criticized a debate answer Obama gave Monday night in which he said he would meet with various leaders of countries hostile to the U.S. within the first year of his presidency and with no preconditions.

"I think that Senator Obama showed a degree of naivete when he advocated direct talks with the leader of North Korea and the president to Iran and of all these other people who are sponsoring terror all over the world," McCain said.

Obama Goes Beyond Iraq

Obama told the crowd of roughly 125 that he didn't base his boast "simply on the fact that I was right on the war in Iraq, but if you look at how I approached the problem. What I was drawing on was a set of experiences that come from a life of living overseas, having family overseas, being able to see the world through the eyes of people outside our borders."

The speaking event, which was not a fundraiser but included a full bar and appetizers, and Time Warner Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer Richard Parsons sitting on a stage with Obama, interviewing him for more than an hour.

According to sources at the event, other attendees included Time Inc. Editorial Director John Huey, Time Magazine Managing Editor Richard Stengel and Time.com Washington Editor Ana Marie Cox; superstar journalists Charlie Rose, Bryant Gumbel, Harry Smith, Frank Rich, Ken Auletta and Barbara Walters; hip-hop mogul Damon Dash; actresses Edie Falco and Mariska Hargitay; musician Jon Bon Jovi, "The View" co-host Joy Behar and various employees of the Time Warner media empire, all of whom were repeatedly told the talk was off the record and could not be reported.

Several sources, none of them with ABC News, told this reporter about Obama's Tuesday night comments.

ABC News questioned the Obama campaign that night about the remarks, and the Obama campaign provided a partial transcript Wednesday and played a recording of the remarks over the phone.

Asked about his foreign policy credentials on ABC News' "Good Morning America" in January, Obama said his "experience in foreign policy is probably more diverse than most others in the field. I mean, I'm somebody who has actually lived overseas, somebody who has studied overseas. You know, I majored in international relations."

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Michelle Obama in Seattle---SHOUTOUT for Photos

If you've got any photos from yesterday's visit please send them my way so I can post them. My email address is in my profile over on the right side of this page. I will be offline later today until late Sunday, so please excuse any delay, but I will post them! BTW, I saw only one elected official at the event, Sen. Ed Murray.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Michelle Obama in Seattle: "What will you do when confronted with The Real Deal"?

Howie reports from today's luncheon with Michelle Obama at the Bell Harbor International Conference Center in Seattle:
As I told my wife earlier today, it's harder to write up a post about Michelle Obama than most other public figures because she seems so authentic, so articulate, so grounded and so much wiser than most of us. How can I do her remarks justice? She came to talk about Barack's campaign, using her personal evaluation and life experiences with him to talk about his qualifications for the job of President of the United States. In the process, she passed the audition for First Lady with flying colors.
Michelle started out talking about how important it was for her family to remain strong and connected during this campaign. Parents need to "put their family and children first," she said, and Michelle and Barack are striving to be a role model for this. This is important for the individual family members as well as for our communities and the overall health and well-being of our nation.

Michelle talked about the values she heard in the "voice of my father"; hard work, daily diligence, strength in face of adversity. Her Dad was "The Real Thing" and family members used to tease her that she would never find a man like that to marry. She talked about the qualities that Barack showed her that finally convinced her he, too, was "for Real"; the ability to connect with people, a willingness to walk the path towards his dreams and priorities and the same capacity for hard work that she grew up with. She also said, "He's the smartest man I know."

Then she talked about how Barack sees the challenge of leading our nation to a place where more of our citizens have the opportunity to live their dreams and realize the promises our nation has made to them. Michelle sees the campaign now as an effort to engage the citizens of our nation before the next President is inaugurated, so they will be personally involved in working for an agenda for change when the next President takes office, not afterwards.

Here is how Michelle defined leadership, not "so many years in Washington:"

Barack's ability to connect with people and work along side them to initiate new solutiions to old problems.


Michelle told the audience that Barack's opponents intend to offer "shreds of doubt" to the electorate, so it will fall back into the "familiar and comfortable" ways of thinking that have gotten us where we are today. Therefore, she needs all of us to "get engaged" ourselves and be messengers for Barack. "If you don't engage, you won't get the Real Deal--you'll get what you've got now," Michelle said.

Finally, she asked the audience to be willing to give up some of what they feel they need or want to hear from Barack, to be willing to compromise, in order to win the larger victory for the greater good. She promised Barack would not pander and would talk straight with them. That's what "The Real Deal" is all about.

Michelle spent a lot of time just talking with people individually and in small groups. She seemed very comfortable doing this. Unfortunately, I didn't have the audacity to approach her myself, even though I was just a few feet away for long periods of time. I did get some photos, which I will be posting here in the next several days.
Howie P.S.: I was planning to call this post "I've Got A Crush On Obama (Michelle, that is)," but her message and persona deserve a much less trivial headline than that and, fortunately, she helped me write one with her remarks today.

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"OBAMA HITS CLINTON--HARDER" (with video)


NBC (Andrea Mitchell):
Sen. Obama has ESCALATED his criticism of Hillary Clinton -- taking it to political defcon three -- in an exclusive on-camera interview with NBC News.

It is a lot tougher than what he said in the debate -- or in the Iowa newspaper interview yesterday.
During a stakeout outside his senate office, Obama said in part:

"I think what is irresponsible and naive is to have authorized a war without asking how we were going to get out -- and you know I think Senator Clinton hasn’t fully answered that issue.

"The general principle that I was laying out is that we should not be afraid as America to meet with anybody.

"Now, they may not like what we want to hear -- so if I’m talking to the President of Iran, I’m going to inform him that Israel is our stalwart ally, and we are going to do what's necessary to protect them -- that we will not accept a nuclear bomb in Iran, but that doesn’t mean we can’t say that face to face. And obviously, the diplomatic spadework has to be done ahead of time.

"The notion that I was somehow going to be inviting them over for tea next week without having initial envoys meet is ridiculous.

"But the general principle is one that I think Senator Clinton is wrong on -- and that is if we are laying out preconditions that prevents us from speaking frankly to these folks, then we are continuing with Bush-Cheney policies, and I am not interested in continuing that.

"I know that she has said in the past that we have to talk to our enemies -- well that’s what this is about. And if we say that we will not talk to them unless they meet a series of preconditions, then that’s the same position that Bush and Cheney have maintained over the last six years, and it has made us less safe. And that’s what I think is going to be a significant part of this debate in 2008.

"We responded to her in this situation, and I think there is a genuine difference, if there isn’t a difference, then Senator Clinton should explain it. I think that we should talk to everybody.

"That ultimately is what’s going to create the environment in which we can reduce some of the threat levels we are facing. To fail to do that is the same conventional Washington thinking that led many including Senator Clinton to go ahead with the war without having asked adequate questions."

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"Audio: Obama Responds to Clinton’s Fabricated Controversy on Diplomacy"

Think On These Things, with audio from the Quad City Times (IA):

(h/t MSNBC’s First Read)

Listen to Clinton’s remarks here.

Listen to Obama’s response here.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

QUOTE OF THE DAY

Barack Obama:
"If anything's irresponsible and naive it was to authorize George Bush to send 160,000 young American men and women into Iraq apparently without knowing how they were going to get out," he said.
Howie P.S.: It is hardly necessary to add that it was equally "irresponsible and naive" for the Senator from New York to fail to demand an exit strategy before giving her support for this war.

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"Why Obama Got it Right"

Katrina vanden Heuvel (The Nation):
In Monday's debate, and with the benefit of having time to think through her response, Hillary Clinton posed as the foreign policy sophisticate to Barack Obama the bold leader who did not hesitate to say that he would meet with the leaders of Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria, and Venezuela. My colleague David Corn argues that Obama has committed a major blunder reflecting his lack of foreign policy experience.
(My colleague Ari Berman posted his smart and sharp counter to David's argument on behalf of those like Hillary Clinton who are "steeped in the nuances, language and minefields of foreign policy." But I feel strongly enough to weigh in on this debate.)

Those "nuances and minefields" can also be traps. Witness how far Clinton's nuanced experience got her when confronted with the 2002 Iraq war resolution.

David may well be right that Obama's opponents will try to exploit his response. But from a foreign policy point of view was Obama's response so wrong and Clinton's so right? Her husband's administration generally followed Hillary's approach; during his two terms President Clinton did not meet with Fidel Castro or with Hugo Chavez or with the leaders of Iran, Syria, and North Korea --while generally pursuing a policy of trying to isolate these countries. But what did the Clinton approach actually accomplish? The respective regimes of Castro in Cuba and Chavez in Venezuela have only grown stronger, and more influential in Latin America. Although Syria was forced to withdraw its military forces from Lebanon last year, the regime of Bashar Assad is as firmly entrenched in power as was his father's. And in spite of the odious politics and qualities of Ahmadinejad, Iran carries more weight in the Middle East than it did doing the early 1990s while American power and standing has declined considerably.

Indeed, both Clinton and Bush may have missed a historic opportunity to open a new chapter with Iran when reformer Mohamed Khatemi was elected in 1997. Had President Clinton taken the bold step Obama suggested and had met without precondition with President Khatemi in 1998 or '99 instead of pursuing sanctions, might not the democratic reformers be in power in Iran? Might we not have a healthy and growing trading relationship with an economically reformed Iran? Might Iran have capped its nuclear program and cooperated with us in managing regional relations including the peaceful downfall of Saddam Hussein? We do not know because the foreign policy sophisticates thought it was too politically risky for President Clinton to make such a bold move.

Above all, foreign policy is a matter of simultaneously projecting American confidence and American humility. In signaling that he was willing to meet with the leaders of these countries, Obama was signaling that the United States has the confidence in its values to meet with anyone. But he also signaled a certain humility that reflects the understanding that the next president must reach out to the rest of the world and not merely issue conditions from the White House and threaten military force if it does not get its way.

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"Experience is Overrated"

Ari Berman (the Nation):
Mark Schmitt had an excellent op-ed in the New York Times today about how detailed presidential policy papers are given far too much credence. I'd like to suggest that "experience"--a buzzword every election cycle--is also overrated.
At every turn Hillary Clinton invokes her years as First Lady and New York Senator as a not-so-subtle contrast to Barack Obama's supposed inexperience. In his piece criticizing Obama this morning, my colleague David Corn writes that Clinton and John Edwards are "steeped in the nuances, language, and minefields of foreign policy."

That tenure prompted both Clinton and Edwards to support the war in Iraq, along with virtually the entire Democratic foreign policy elite. They had years of PhDs, postings abroad and negotiations with dictators (the kind bemoaned by Clinton and embraced by Obama in last night's YouTube debate) under their belt. And they came down on the wrong side of the biggest foreign policy question of their generation.

So it's a little disturbing to see Clinton surrogates like former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright giving reporters a tutorial today on how to negotiate with hostile regimes. In a follow-up interview with a newspaper in Iowa, Hillary piled on by calling Obama's comments "irresponsible and frankly naive."

Let's step back a second. The Obama camp could argue that it was "irresponsible and frankly naive" for Senator Clinton to hand President Bush a blank-check to go to war and then claim that she was only giving the Administration the authorization to win over the United Nations and keep weapons inspectors in Iraq until they finished the job. It was painfully obvious, except maybe to Senators and their advisors in Washington, that Bush would use Congressional approval as a mandate to invade.

Hillary's evolution on the war appears to some as more motivated by calculation than conviction. She supported the war for the better part of four years, began to express a few qualified misgivings and then, once she entered the presidential ring, quickly introduced a withdrawal proposal and a plan to de-authorize the war.

Convenient timing. So next time the Clinton campaign touts her foreign policy experience, why doesn't the Obama campaign accuse her of pandering?

Ironically, David reminds me that George H.W. Bush tried to use Bill Clinton's inexperience in foreign policy against him in 1992. Al Gore employed the same tactic against George W. Bush in 2000.

Those were legitimate questions. Experience matters. But good judgement matters more.

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"Video: Barack Obama at the Youtube/CNN Debate"

Think On These Things:
Should African Americans Get Reparations?


Would You Work for the Minimum Wage?


Are You Black Enough? Is Clinton Feminine?


The Time for Judgment on Iraq


Sex Education


Do Your Kids Attend Public or Private Schools?

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"First Thoughts"

MSNBC's First Read:
Obama: ...(snip) Obama has really improved from his earlier performances -- he's much better answering questions in 60 seconds, and he did a very good job tonight of getting key parts of his biography in his answers. Perhaps more importantly, he unanimously won the post-debate instant-polls. Why did Obama do so much better in the various focus groups, but Clinton did better among the pundits? It's realism vs. idealism on display. While the chattering class watches these debates with an eye on the general election, many of us may very well underestimate the pull of idealism among Democratic primary voters. Also, Obama may have also done better in the focus groups, because the last 30 minutes of the debate was his strongest -- and last impressions can have a greater influence on these people.
Obama also got "the most favorable in terms of the best performance" from the 24 people in CNN's focus group.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

CNN/YouTube Debate: "Obama Challenges Clinton on the War"

Chris Cillizza (WaPo):
Obama, as promised, just went on the offense against Clinton over the war.

After Clinton referenced a letter sent by a Pentagon official that castigated her for asking questions about a withdrawal plan, Obama used an unrelated question to take on Clinton.

Sen. Barack Obama
Sen. Barack Obama (AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain)

"It's terrific that she is asking for plans from the Pentagon," said Obama. "The time for us to ask how we are going to get out of Iraq is before we went in....That is something too many of us failed to do."

This is the first time Obama has directly taken on Clinton over the war. Let's see if she finds a way to hit back.

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"Obama‘s neighborhood Rich in diversity, history "


AP:
Barack Obama could have lived anywhere. He was born in Hawaii, had family in Kenya, worked in New York and went to school in California and Massachusetts.

But he settled here, in a prominent neighborhood on Chicago's South Side that has a history of influential residents. In many ways, the Democratic presidential candidate is the epitome of the place he calls home: a mix of black and white residents who are wealthy, well-educated and liberal-leaning.
Ringed by communities where people are poorer and more likely to have a high school diploma and not a college degree, the neighborhood where the Obamas live is an urban island of intellectual and financial prosperity, although it too has residents living below the poverty line.

Just off the south shore of Lake Michigan, the Hyde Park-Kenwood area is a showcase of high-rises, condominiums, vintage homes and stately mansions. It has generic national chain stores and unique local businesses like the barber shop where Obama gets his hair cut, the pizza place his family calls for takeout and the island-inspired restaurant where Michelle Obama fancies the grilled tilapia.

"Can you believe every time she comes she gives me a hug? ... I'm just her waitress," said the Calypso Cafe's Mina Lewis, who talks fondly of the days before the presidential campaign when Michelle Obama would come in with her daughters and friends.

With the intellectual vibe of a college town and the tree-lined streets to match, Obama's neighborhood is dominated by the prestigious University of Chicago, where he once taught constitutional law.

High achievement and diversity are hallmarks of his Hyde Park-Kenwood community, technically two adjoining neighborhoods but usually referred to collectively. The community has been home to a long list of well-known residents, from the nation's first black woman senator and Chicago's first black mayor to legendary Scopes Trial defense attorney Clarence Darrow and an assortment of Nobel Prize winners and business magnates.

With a university at its core, it's not surprising the community far outpaces surrounding neighborhoods when it comes to the number of residents holding advanced college degrees.

The neighborhood is also much more prosperous than some of the city's South Side communities that border it. Homes sell for a median price of almost $300,000 (EUR 217,000), more than three times that of the nearby Woodlawn neighborhood.
The median family income of $57,460 (EUR 41,629) in Hyde Park and $43,554 (EUR 31,554) in Kenwood also are three times greater than the median incomes in some neighboring communities, according to the latest census data.

The face of the neighborhood is mixed. Hyde Park is close to evenly split between blacks and whites with a small Hispanic population and Kenwood, which is smaller, has almost four times as many blacks as whites. Surrounding communities are predominantly black.

Hyde Park-Kenwood is a community that prides itself on an independent-minded brand of politician - something Illinois' junior senator is selling in his bid to become the country's first black president.

Rabbi Emeritus Arnold Jacob Wolf, whose landmark Jewish temple is across the street from Obama's home, said he sensed the political promise in the as-yet-unknown Obama when he met him a decade ago during Obama's successful run for the Illinois Senate.

"I said to him, 'Mr. Obama, someday you will be vice president of the United States,' and he said to me, 'Why vice president?"' said Wolf of KAM Isaiah Israel, a Chicago landmark that boasts the city's oldest Jewish congregation.

Obama came to the area when he moved to Chicago in the mid 1980s to work as a community organizer before he left for Harvard Law School. Later, the neighborhood was a natural fit for him and his wife Michelle, who grew up on the South Side, because they both had history there.

"Family and community are extremely important to us. We have a strong community of friends and of course my Mom lives in the area," Michelle Obama said in a written statement provided by the campaign. Michelle Obama's father died before she married Obama in 1992.

Today, the Obamas are raising their two young daughters in a million-dollar-plus home in a ritzy part of the neighborhood's Kenwood section, a landmark district.

With grand homes set back on deep lots, a street sign designating the historic district touts how it once was home to leading industrialists who had their residences designed by such famous architects as Frank Lloyd Wright.

Just down the block from where he lives is an honorary street designation for the pioneering black woman who in 1946 was the first to get her law degree from the University of Chicago. That woman, Jewel Lafontant-Mankarious, is also the late mother of close Obama adviser John Rogers Jr.

To Rogers, the neighborhood is an "oasis" of diversity and intellectualism. "What better way to define what you're all about than where you choose to live and bring up your family."

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

"Obama: I will fight for workers"

Des Moines Register:
Union membership may be declining nationally, but organized labor's clout remains strong in the Iowa Democratic Party.
That was clear the past three days in Des Moines, when five Democratic presidential candidates, and one candidate spouse, wooed public service employees at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 61 convention.

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama was the featured speaker Saturday night, and he left no doubt that he was on their side.

"We are facing a Washington that has thrown open its doors to what I believe is the most anti-union, anti-worker forces that we've seen in generations," he said.

The senator reminded the AFSCME crowd that Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968 in Memphis, where he had gone to support striking sanitation workers.

"What those workers made real in Memphis, and what we need to make real today, is the idea that, in this country, we value the labor of every single American worker, and we're willing to respect that labor, and reward it, with a few basic guarantees."

Those guarantees, he said, included livable wages, health care, secure retirement plans and safe working conditions.

"That's the America that you fought for," he said. "That's the America that I promise we will have again when I am president of the United States of America."

Obama said it was time that organized labor won some of the battles it has lost in recent years under the Bush administration.

"You fight for health care, but the drug and insurance industry fights back by spending $1 billion over the last 10 years to lobby Congress and block reform," he said. "It's time we won that fight."

Obama pledged to get a form of universal health care passed before the end of his first presidential term.

Other Democratic presidential candidates who addressed the group this week included New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd. Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards spoke to the AFSCME executive board, while his wife, Elizabeth, addressed the larger group.

Organized labor remains a potent asset for Democratic candidates. The Center for Responsive Politics reported that labor gave $53.6 million to Democratic candidates and party committees in 2004.

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Saturday, July 21, 2007

"We're going to have to put some pressure on them" (video)


BarackObama.com, with video (01:37):
Barack spoke on the need to back up words with actions on Iraq and bring our troops home yesterday in New Hampshire.

"We've got a couple Senators here in New Hampshire who say they agree we need a new course, but didn't vote like that in Washington," said Barack. "We're going to have to put some pressure on them to tell them that if they understand that this war is no longer helping make us safer, that they've got to vote in that fashion."

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"Why Clinton vs. Obama seems like iPods vs. Windows"

Tom Bevan (Chicago Sun-Times):
Having spent more than a decade in the world of advertising, I suppose it's only natural I tend to view political candidates and their campaigns as brands. Brands can be broken down into two components: a rational offer (I buy Product X because it does Y) and an emotional appeal (I buy Product X because it makes me feel Y). Of course, the most successful brands do both, presenting a compelling reason for consumers to choose one product over another.
In the race for the Democratic presidential nomination right now we're witnessing a battle between two powerful brands. Yes, John Edwards remains a factor in Iowa and Bill Richardson has the aura of a potential dark horse, but in reality it has boiled down to a two-person contest between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama much more quickly than many expected.

And if you look at the head-to-head clash between the brands of Clinton and Obama, you can see a very apt analogy in the long (and ongoing) battle between two of the most successful brands in U.S. history: Microsoft and Apple.

Hillary Clinton, of course, is like Microsoft. Her campaign is a disciplined corporate behemoth that is based almost entirely around a rational offer (in this case, experience) but has very limited emotional appeal. That's not to say Democrats don't view her favorably -- they do -- but she does not excite the kind of emotions in voters that make her a compelling choice.

Even Clinton's strategy is based on a model similar to the one that fueled Microsoft's rise: Gobble up enough money, talent and endorsements (i.e., market share) to squeeze out smaller competitors and become the ''inevitable'' choice.

Microsoft achieved dominance not necessarily because people felt any joy in buying its products but because at the end of the day, thanks to ruthless tactics and execution, it became impractical for most people to choose anything else. Clinton hopes to achieve the same.

Barack Obama, on the other hand, is like Apple. His brand is driven primarily by its emotional appeal: He is exciting and fresh to some, hip and cool to others. Most important, his brand inspires hope and optimism, two exceedingly powerful emotions that allow people to make a statement about themselves by casting a vote for him.

Apple achieved a great deal of success -- though not parity with Microsoft -- in much the same way by cultivating its image as hip, cool, and anti-authoritarian. For many people, buying a Mac has been as much about making a statement about who they are as it has been about buying a piece of electronics.

Incorporated in 1980, Apple caught the public imagination in 1984 with a visually arresting ad that perfectly captured the essence of its brand and juxtaposed it with that of Microsoft, and so it's fitting that one of the first real intriguing moments of this year's campaign was a re-creation of that ad on YouTube pitting the upstart Obama against the front-runner Clinton.

Seven months into the campaign, that imagery has lasted much longer and developed more fully than most expected. Clinton remains the front-runner, but Obama has shown that his brand has staying power while Clinton's now looks less dominant than it once did.

Of course, we know what happened with the Microsoft-Apple rivalry. Microsoft effectively vanquished Apple as a serious threat before turning around and forming a strategic alliance with it in 1997. It's too early to say whether the analogy will play itself out the same way with Clinton and Obama, but it's certainly not out of the question. Then again, maybe the analogy falls apart, and this time Apple wins.

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"Obama: Don't stay in Iraq over genocide"

AP:
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 magnet 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."

Obama, who has expressed reservations about capital punishment but does not oppose it, said he would support the death penalty 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."

In response to criticism from Republican Mitt Romney, Obama said the former Massachusetts governor was only trying to "score cheap political points" when he told a Colorado audience that Obama wanted sex education for kindergartners.

"All I said was that I support the same laws that exist in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, in which local communities and parents can make decisions to provide children with the information they need to deal with sexual predators," Obama said.

Romney on Wednesday targeted Obama for supporting a bill during his term in the Illinois state Senate that would have, among other things, provided age-appropriate sex education for all students.

"How much sex education is age appropriate for a 5-year-old? In my mind, zero is the right number," Romney said.

Obama said Romney was wrong to take the shot and incorrect on its basis.

"We have to deal with a coarsening of the culture and the over-sexualization of our young people. Look, I've got two daughters, 9 and 6 years old," Obama told the AP. "Of course, part of the coarsening of that culture is when politicians try to demagogue issues to score cheap political points."

"What we shouldn't do is to try to play a political football with these issues and express them in ways that are honest and truthful," Obama said. "Certainly, what we shouldn't do is engage in hypocrisy."

Romney himself once indicated support for similar programs that Obama supports.

In 2002, Romney told Planned Parenthood in a questionnaire that he also supported age-appropriate sex education. He checked yes to a question that asked: "Do you support the teaching of responsible, age-appropriate, factually accurate health and sexuality education, including information about both abstinence and contraception, in public schools?"

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"Obama courts Iowa union activists"

AP:
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.

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"Obama: Big business, lobbyists blocking change"

Boston Globe:
HAMPTON, NH -- Health insurers block progress toward universal health care. Big Oil corrupts our energy policy. Banks and lenders make money on the backs of college students forced to repay huge loans. Agribusiness benefits from government subsidies at the expense of small farms.

This was Barack Obama's populist message this morning at the Adeline C. Marston Elementary School here, one of three public campaign stops in the last two days in New Hampshire. To Republicans, casting business as an enemy of change may sound like a tired trope of the left. But Obama laid the blame for inertia on health care, energy independence, and other issues squarely at the feet of select industries and their lobbyists.

On health insurance, for example, Obama repeated his pledge to sign a universal health care bill by the end of his first term, saying, "I shouldn't have better health insurance than you since you're paying the bill for my health insurance."

"Every four years somebody promises to fix this and it doesn't get fixed," he continued. "And the reason is because HMOs, drug companies, and insurance companies are doing very well under the status quo, and they will fight to block change. And we've got to overcome that resistance."

At this morning's event, which Obama's campaign said drew around 600 people, the Illinois senator also criticized Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, vowing to appoint an attorney general who Obama said would represent the people, not him. And he again called for diverting the billions being spent every month in Iraq to domestic programs, such as broadband network expansions and other infrastructure improvements in rural areas.

"I still can't get a cell phone signal when I'm driving through New Hampshire," he said. "How can you do business when you can't get a cell phone signal?"

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Friday, July 20, 2007

"Obama hopes for country, end of war in Iraq"

AP:
MANCHESTER, N.H. --Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama told New Hampshire voters Friday that President Bush grossly misunderstands his role as commander in chief.
"When President Bush says, 'I just want to give the commanders what they want, listen to the generals,' he doesn't understand how we work here in America. Civilians control the military and we are supposed to set the mission for the generals and then the generals should carry out the mission," Obama said at an outdoor town hall meeting.

"The military has done all we asked. We just asked the wrong things of them. That's not their fault. That's the president's fault. And we've got to stop enabling him to do it."

He said, though, that negotiations might be pointless with some terrorists.

"There are only about 20,000 -- let's say -- activist extremists. I don't have the precise number, but it's in that range. Most intelligence estimates are there are 10,000 to 30,000 people who are actively involved in extremist movements," said Obama, a longtime critic of the war in Iraq. "We are not going to be able to negotiate with them. We have to hunt them down and take them out."

Earlier, in Hampton, Obama told voters the change in direction needed to end the war in Iraq begins with them.

"Change in America never starts from the top down. It starts from the bottom up," the first-term senator from Illinois told a crowd at an elementary school.

"The country is ready for change. It's hungry for change. If we put our shoulder against the wheel, we can move our country in a better direction. That's how we brought an end to segregation. ... That's how we brought an end to the Vietnam war, and that's how we'll bring an end to the war in Iraq."

He also said he opposed any move to withdraw from Afghanistan.

"I do not believe we get out of Afghanistan now. Al-Qaida is gathering there and they are a tremendous threat. Bin Laden is still there, un-captured. We haven't handled Afghanistan well because we've been distracted," Obama said.

Obama's early opposition to the war in Iraq has helped him do as well as he has. Iraq was the top issue in this week's poll.

The latest University of New Hampshire poll for CNN and WMUR-TV of likely Democratic primary voters, released this week, gave Obama 25 percent to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's 33 percent. It's a gap that has remained nearly constant in state polls.

"We've got a war that leaves us with no good options. We've got bad options and worse options," Obama said in a line he uses repeatedly. "We can still act responsibly. We can be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in."

Even so, Obama said he remains hopeful he would convince voters his optimistic message is enough to build support.

"Sometimes the Washington press corps sounds cynical. ... 'People with experience don't talk about hope.' They say, 'he's a hope-peddler. He's a hope monger,'" Obama said in Manchester.

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