Sunday, September 30, 2007

"Be Strong and Have Courage" (video)

An excerpt from Senator Obama's speech at Howard University's 2007 Opening Convocation (video, 01:58).


"Obama: Clinton No Break From the Usual"

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said Sunday that the front-runner for his party's nomination, Hillary Rodham Clinton, does not offer the break from politics as usual that voters need.
Both Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and her husband, former President Clinton, have criticized Obama for his lack of political experience.

Obama said he understands their argument.

"They want to make the argument that Senator Clinton is just an extension of the Bill Clinton presidency," Obama said in an interview with The Associated Press. "They've been the dominant political family in the Democratic Party for the last 20 years now. So it's not surprising that they want to focus on their longevity.

(AP) Democratic Presidential hopeful U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., left, speaks with Lynda Estep, the...
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But, Obama said: "My belief is that the American people are looking for a fundamental break from the way we've been doing business."

Obama said his opposition to the Iraq war before combat began shows his experience. Clinton voted to authorize military action in Iraq.

"On the single most important foreign policy issue of our time, I got it right," Obama said.

This week marks the fifth anniversary of a speech Obama gave in 2002 opposing the Iraq war, and he'll spend the week revisiting that address and discussing the foreign policy challenges he says it has created.

Obama's campaign on Sunday also announced that it had surpassed 350,000 donors for the year, a significant feat at this stage in any campaign. In a letter to supporters, Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said the donors represented more than 500,000 donations. At midyear, the campaign had reported getting contributions from more than 250,000 individual donors, meaning that about 100,000 new donors contributed to him during the past three months.

(AP) Democratic Presidential hopeful U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., left, accompanied by Rev. Charles...
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The campaign did not announce how much money it had raised during the last quarter. The number of new donors is less than what he attracted between the beginning of April and the end of June, but it would match the number of donors to his campaign in the first three months of the year, when he raised $25.7 million. By midyear, Obama had raised $58.5 million, making him the top fundraiser in the presidential race.

Obama attended religious services at Baptist churches Sunday, showing little apparent concern about the third-quarter fundraising deadline. He raised more than $58 million in the first six months of the year.

"We've done a remarkable job fundraising," Obama said, adding his campaign has more than 300,000 donors. "We have more donors giving $200 or less than all the other Democratic candidates combined."

He refused to say how much he had raised in the quarter ending Sunday night.

Obama faced questions earlier this week after his wife, Michelle, told Iowans that her husband had to win the state's caucuses. He said Sunday he will concentrate on Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

"We've got four early states and the premise of our campaign is we need to do well in all of those early states because we've been in the national spotlight for the shortest amount of time," Obama said. "The early states provide a wonderful launching pad for that. And so when we're in Iowa, we say to Iowans, 'You know, we really need you.' And when I'm in South Carolina, I tell South Carolinians I really need them."

Obama found stark contrasts at the two churches - one with a predominantly black congregation, the other mostly white.

At West Columbia's Brookland Baptist, one of the largest black churches in the Columbia area, worshippers stood, clapped and cheered as Obama slipped in through a side door. The service included references to his political aspirations and prayers for his safety, and he swayed to the music with the rest of the congregation.

A couple of miles away, Obama was barely noticed when he slipped in to the mostly white First Baptist Church. Traveling minister Joe White carried a pole on his shoulder into church, and swung an ax to make a cross and nail it together.

"That's some serious work he was doing," Obama said afterward.

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SEPTEMBER 30, 2007, NBC MEET THE PRESS (video, 10:21).

Howie P.S.: Ben Smith cautions against reading too much into this latest poll.

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"Obama visits Portsmouth"

Foster's Daily Democrat (NH):
PORTSMOUTH — A smiling Barack Obama surprised people spending lunchtime downtown on Saturday as he walked to the Portsmouth Brewery from his local campaign headquarters on Fleet Street.
The Illinois senator and Democratic presidential hopeful shook many hands as he made his way up Congress Street with an entourage of campaign staffers and Secret Service agents, asking each person's name, signing autographs and posing for pictures.

Peter Mitchell, 23, of Portsmouth, had to explain to his friends who Obama is, but the senator's message already was familiar to Mitchell, thanks to the Internet.

"I think he is the next great thing to pick up this country," Mitchell said, adding that he liked Obama's views on fixing the federal budget and health care.

"This is so awesome," Mitchell said as he was led to shake the candidate's hand.

Obama was in town to fire up volunteers undergoing training before an afternoon of canvassing.

About 50 people ranging from high school students to retirees crammed into the small office space, plastered with "Obama '08" posters, learning how to correctly fill out canvassing sheets and getting advice from Obama, who started his career in community organizing in Chicago.

"Sometimes it could be a little discouraging, but sometimes people would be excited, almost as if they had been waiting for me to show up," Obama said to cheers and laughter from the group.

He said the entire campaign is about going out and talking to people at a grassroots level.

"Even if you don't get (someone) signed up, you have helped spark ideas in their mind and listened to them," Obama said. "You guys are our eyes and ears."

Obama said volunteers also have an opportunity to correct misinformation people may have.

In regards to the war in Iraq, Obama said troops would be needed to protect a United States embassy and for civilian and humanitarian reasons, but he hopes to get combat troops out.

At Wednesday night's Democratic debate at Dartmouth College, front-runners Obama, U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and former U.S. Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina all conceded that they couldn't guarantee a full troop withdrawal by the end of the next presidential term.

Obama said this didn't imply he was not going to work to withdraw troops immediately upon entering office.

He left most of the political commentary in Concord, where at a rally earlier in the day he spoke about bringing an open and transparent approach to major challenges like health care reform. In Portsmouth, he focused on meeting voters.

"As you know, Iowa and New Hampshire are more important than ever," he told volunteers.

"Fire it up! Ready to Go," the group cheered as Obama exited the campaign office.

Once at the Portsmouth Brewery, he poured a pint of Smuttynose's Old Brown Dog for a customer before enjoying a hamburger, french fries and a glass of ice water as he chatted with supporters.

On the way out, general manager Brennen Rumble gave Obama a T-shirt that read "Make Beer Not Bombs," which the senator said he liked.

Morgan Crowley, a 16-year old student at Winnacunnet High School in Hampton, said she was drawn to Obama because she feels he's really paying attention to her generation.

Ashlee Peek, a 15-year old sophomore at Spaulding High School in Rochester, got teary-eyed as he spoke and was overjoyed to receive a hug from him.
"I find him very inspiring," Peek said. "I love his speeches and ideas on how to try and make this a better country."

She said she thinks it is important for students her age to know about and be involved in the political process and is working to encourage her peers to volunteer.

Obama encouraged supporters not to lose heart and to have fun.

"We are the underdogs, so we have to work harder, but it makes it more fun," Obama said.

Earlier in Concord, Obama said his public service experience trumps Clinton's. He said his background as a community organizer, lawyer, professor and state senator is more valuable than Clinton's experience "working the system" as first lady and in other roles.

Obama quoted comments Bill Clinton made in a 1992 debate with the first President Bush to make his point.

"The same old experience is not relevant. ... And you can have the right kind of experience and the wrong kind of experience," Clinton said at the time.

"He's exactly right," Obama said at the rally. "What we need to do is put an end to the wrong kind of experience."

He cited his success in helping enact campaign finance reform as an Illinois legislator and an ethics overhaul while in the U.S. Senate. He said the nation does not need "the kind of experience that tinkers around the edges instead of doing something fundamental about how lobbyists operate in Washington."


"Iowa Trip to Mark New Intensity for Obama Campaign:Tour's Theme: 'Judgment and Experience'"

"Barack Obama accepts an honorary law degree before speaking at Howard University. A new poll shows him leading the field in Iowa."

On Tuesday, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois will embark on a four-day campaign swing through Iowa, starting off with events that will mark the fifth anniversary of a speech he gave opposing the war at a rally in Chicago. His advisers have labeled it the "Judgment and Experience Tour," and Obama's success in persuading voters he has both may hold the key to his presidential aspirations.
The tour signals the intensification of Obama's bid for the Democratic presidential nomination and a commitment to spend more time in key early states such as Iowa and New Hampshire and fewer days in the Senate, where he will miss virtually all votes next week. And it will also mark increased engagement with his main rival, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.

Obama's effort comes as Clinton has solidified her position atop the field of Democratic candidates. A race that once was seen largely through the prism of Obama vs. Clinton has evolved into a contest in which Obama finds himself jockeying with former senator John Edwards of North Carolina to be seen as the clear alternative to Clinton.

National polls suggest that Obama has gained no significant ground on Clinton since the race began, and a new survey in New Hampshire showed the gap between the two widening, giving rise to concern even among Obama's supporters that he has not yet found his groove as a candidate.

At the same time, third-quarter fundraising reports, which will be released in the next few days, are expected to show that the novice candidate and first-term senator has raised $75 million or more in his nine months of campaigning. On Thursday, Obama's aides said, the candidate drew more than 20,000 people to a rally in New York's Washington Square Park. And a poll of Iowa Democrats released by Newsweek yesterday showed Obama leading the Democratic field among people likely to attend the caucuses.

Obama advisers remain confident, saying they are laying the groundwork for strong finishes in the early states that will propel Obama to victory.

"Our campaign was never geared and the plan was never written to win the nomination in September and October," said Robert Gibbs, Obama's communications director. "It's planned and written to win this in January and February when people vote."

Obama's chief strategist, David Axelrod, said that "there is this fascination in the political community and Washington to treat every day like Election Day."

"It's our view that the election process begins in January," Axelrod said. "I don't think what counts is what you produce in a national poll or transient polls along the way. It's whether you are building a foundation that will produce what you need next year."

Obama has begun to sharpen his criticism of Clinton, something many supporters have been urging. At last week's debate at Dartmouth College, he criticized "Hillary" by name for using a task force that had closed meetings during her health-care reform effort in the 1990s as first lady. In New York the next day, he poked fun at Clinton for not answering a question in the debate about whether the Illinois native would cheer for the Yankees or the Cubs if they both made the World Series, then turned serious in criticizing Clinton for ducking a question about what she would do to reform Social Security.

But Axelrod emphasized that there will be no all-out assault on the New York senator.

"I know there's a tremendous blood lust out there in the political community who want us to be in a steel-cage match with her," he said. "Barack Obama didn't get in this race to tear Hillary Clinton down or anybody else down. He got into the race to lift the country up. No doubt we have differences, and he will draw those differences. But he's going to resist the thirst for gratuitous combat, because that's part of his critique of the political process."

In a campaign that has been defined as a contest between change and experience, Clinton seems to have the advantage. In recent weeks, Obama has retooled his stump speech to more directly address the experience question, casting his opponents as people simply with more "years in Washington." And he will emphasize this point by arguing that it was sound judgment, not deep Washington experience, that led him to oppose the Iraq war, in contrast to Clinton and other Democratic candidates.

Yesterday, Obama responded to former president Bill Clinton's criticism in an interview last week that the senator is too green to be commander in chief. "I remember what was said years ago by a candidate running for president," Obama told a crowd in Concord, N.H. "He said: 'The same old experience is not relevant. You can have the right kind of experience and the wrong kind of experience.' Well, that candidate was Bill Clinton, and I think he was absolutely right."

But David Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager, acknowledges that Obama needs more time to explain why he is qualified for the presidency after only two years in the Senate. "Obviously, there are voters saying Obama is an untraditional candidate," he said. "This is something they're processing. They're probably evaluating him differently, so I think we do have a little bit more work to do than some of the other campaigns."

One of the challenges of his campaign is that on most major issues, Obama and Clinton have little difference in views, one of the reasons Obama has had to rely so much on his initial opposition to the war to distinguish himself from her. His early war opposition remains one of his strongest applause lines on the campaign trail. But even among Democrats who want a quick withdrawal of troops from Iraq, polls show that Clinton is the favored candidate.

Seeking to cast Clinton as a Washington insider, Obama has touted his non-Washington credentials to argue that he can reform a system dominated by lobbyists and special-interest money. But it's not clear how effective that line of criticism has been.

"The lobbyist stuff is inside baseball," said Marilyn Katz, an Obama fundraiser. "The question remains: Who do you believe has the leadership capacity?"

In many ways, the same questions that hovered around Obama's candidacy when he announced last winter remain today. One is whether he can convert the enthusiasm that propelled him unexpectedly from first-term senator to presidential candidate into actual votes in Iowa and New Hampshire. Another is whether he can expand his support from a base built on well-educated, relatively affluent Democrats to the kind of broader coalition that has been the hallmark of every winning candidacy in past Democratic races.

Obama advisers said they plan no significant adjustments to their overall strategy but predicted there will be changes around the edges of the campaign. Valerie Jarrett, a longtime friend of Obama's, has begun to play a more active role inside the campaign. Obama's Senate chief of staff, Pete Rouse, is likely to shift his focus from the Senate to the campaign as the primary-caucus season nears.

And they continue to express confidence in Obama's ability to defy expectations.

"He looks back at his [Senate] primary election in 2004, when he was sitting comfortably in fourth place for a really long time," Gibbs said. "Then the campaign got fully engaged both on the ground and on TV. We all know what happened."


Saturday, September 29, 2007

"A poll for Obama"

Ben Smith:
Obama got the boost that he -- and perhaps that a media looking for this to turn into a head-to-head between him and Clinton -- needed from Newsweek today: A poll that has him, for the first time, up in Iowa.

Among all Iowa Democratic voters, Clinton draws 31 percent, followed by Obama (25 percent) and Edwards (21 percent). But among likely caucus-goers, Obama enjoys a slim lead, polling 28 percent to best Clinton (24 percent) and Edwards (22 percent). Bill Richardson is the only other Democratic candidate to score in the double digits (10 percent).

Worth keeping in mind people who say they're "likely" to caucus is still a looser screen than one might like,* and also that according to the poll, his support isn't as strong as Hillary's.

Still, it suggests that his expensive new advertising push there could be making a dent, and it puts a bit of a damper on Hillary's inevitability.

UPDATE: Actually, it's the second poll with Obama up. The other was the August 3 ABC/Washpost survey. And details of the screen, which I'd initially misread, are here: it's registered Iowa Democrats who say they'll "definitely" or "probably" attend, and captures mostly repeat caucus-goers, a sign that it's a tight screen.

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"Obama promises justice for blacks"

Miami Herald (FL):
Sen. Barack Obama on Friday diverted from his standard stump speech's emphasis on ending the Iraq War and uniting America, instead telling a black audience in the nation's capital that if he becomes president, he'll reshape the Justice Department and criminal justice system to help minorities.
Obama's remarks at Howard University, a historically black school, were striking because throughout his campaign, the biracial Democratic senator from Illinois hasn't emphasized race.

His speech came days after the 50th anniversary of the integration of Little Rock public schools and the ''Jena 6'' civil rights protest, which drew thousands of black protesters to Louisiana last week, both events elevating racial consciousness in public life.

Various polls suggest that Obama may lag behind front-runner Hillary Clinton, even among black voters, in the Democratic nomination contest, and both factors may have influenced his decision to emphasize racial issues.

Obama and Clinton both addressed the Congressional Black Caucus' annual legislative conference Friday, but at Howard, where Obama received an honorary degree, the stage was his alone.

He told the audience of 1,500 that he'd seek to end sentencing that punishes users of crack cocaine more harshly than those who take powder cocaine, ''when the real difference is where the people are using them or who's using them.'' He softened the rhetoric from his prepared text, which said the difference was ''the skin color of the people using them.'' The Supreme Court will hear arguments on the issue Tuesday.

Obama also suggested that he would scale back voter-fraud investigations in black and Hispanic districts in favor of investigations into voter suppression, hate crimes and job discrimination.

''It's time,'' he said, ``to seek a new dawn of justice in America.''


Friday, September 28, 2007

"Obama and the Black Vote" (with video)

CNN, video (01:00):
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama discusses broadening his appeal among African Americans nationwide.


"Barack the Vote: One Girl's Recap of the Rally in Washington Square Park" (with video)

Carolyn Castiglia (Huffington Post), with video: (01:12)
As I sat stuck in traffic on 14th street on my way to see the one and only Barack Obama yesterday, I was thinking, "God, I should have gotten here earlier." It was 3:30 p.m. on a Thursday -- Senator Obama was still in Washington -- and already he was making waves in New York.
I finally parked near Union Square and leapt out of the car at 4:45, bolting down to Washington Square Park. Sweating the entire way, I thought about designing myself an "I Exercised for Barack" t-shirt. I got to the East entrance of the park at 4:57 and found my friend, Marie, who looked fresh-faced and thrilled to be there. She handed me my "speed-pass" for entry, and I strode in. Yes! In three minutes I would see Barack Obama! Aaaaah!

Hardly. Marie and I waited, along with thousands of others, for two hours to get through security. The Secret Service had set up an airport-style screening tent, and they were fingering each person's bag at an abhorrently slow pace. (Surprisingly enough, I did not get arrested for my "More like Sucky Service!" comment.) We couldn't have moved more than 20 feet the entire time we were waiting. Every once in a while there'd be a surge and then nothing would happen. (Just like in Iraq.) As 7 p.m. approached, the crowd outside the entrance started chanting, "Let us in! Let us in!" Talk about the Audacity of Hope! Then suddenly, just when it seemed like all was lost, the security tent opened like floodgates and we all ran through. It was a cathartic moment, with people screaming and cheering like they'd never been so happy in their lives. My friend Michele was filming the rush when we accidentally ran into her:

The park was packed with mostly young people, dying to catch a glimpse of the rockstar from Illinois. At exactly 7 p.m., Barack hit the stage under a pool of bluish light, and he looked every bit the glowing presidential candidate I hoped for. The Times focused on what Barack said about his experience level and The Associated Press said in Newsday that he received "thunderous applause" when talking about the U.S. Constitution. But truth be told, I wasn't sure Barack realized who his crowd was until he started talking about making college education affordable and helping people graduate without $50,000 worth of debt. In my estimation, that received the biggest cheer of the night, and he felt it. Up until that point in his speech, though I was thrilled to be there, he hadn't really said anything specific or thrilling or enlightening. Just a bunch of "Social Security and healthcare are broken" stuff that only old people care about. Barack, if there's one thing you need to know about New York, it's that no one here is old -- not even the old people. (80 is the new 70, after all.)

He also got big responses while talking about racial equality, the environment, the war (of course) and got a nice big cry of support from the teachers present when he proposed paying them more. I think the most touching moments of his speech were when he acknowledged the middle class and our financial struggles. He seemed to truly understand how hard it is to be an everyday person in America and reacts to that with great empathy. He spoke about telling the truth, about bringing the change we need in Washington. He insinuated that Hillary wouldn't bring that change, and she won't.

The most interesting thing about Barack is that despite his gorgeous face and his Bill Clinton-esque charm, he remains humble. When he said, "I am reminded every day, if not by events by my wife, that I am not a perfect man. And I will not be a perfect president," he took a serious pause, reflecting on his life. In the silence I shouted, "Yes, you will!" The crowd around me laughed, and Barack must have heard it because I saw him smile and chuckle a bit. That chuckle, dear Senator, is what will help you win the White House. Be humble, yes. But know your power. W. has moved mountains on not much more than a chuckle! You know that you have what it takes for America to be the ideal you describe in your speeches, so don't let anyone tell you otherwise. No one is perfect, but you, Barack Obama, are perfect for right now.

He left us on a story that I can only imagine he must tell every day about a trip he made to a small town in South Carolina where he found himself at a rally of only 20 people. One of them was a 60 year old woman whose name escapes me, but whose chant I will never forget. "Fire it up! Ready to go!" Like an actor playing himself, really, Obama got the entire crowd of 24,000 shouting in unison, "Fire it up! Ready to go!" I haven't felt a collective moment that big in a long time, and my friend Marie and I both cried.
If you can make girls cry, you're as big as The Beatles. And if you're as big as The Beatles, you can certainly be the next President of the United States of America.
Howie P.S.: The chant is really, "Fired up?" And the answer is "Ready to go!"


Obama: "Our Politics Are Broken" (videos from the rally in NYC on 9/27/07))

Thursday, September 27, 2007

"Obama Distances Himself From Clinton, on Her Turf" (with video)

NY Times, with video (02:07):
Senator Barack Obama implored thousands of admirers who gathered last night in New York City to set aside their distrust in politics and believe in the long-term possibility of his presidential candidacy even though, he conceded, “there are easier choices to make in this election.”
In a giant rally in the backyard of Senator Hillary Rodham, Mr. Obama, of Illinois, drew distinctions between himself and his leading rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination, insisting that only a fresh candidate could truly change Washington. Twice, he singled out Mrs. Clinton.

“Even your senator from New York wasn’t clear about the Yankees,” he said, laughing at his own joke. “I know who I’m rooting for!”

Mr. Obama was referring to a moment in the debate Wednesday when Mrs. Clinton, who grew up in Illinois, said she would alternate sides between the New York Yankees and the Chicago Cubs should they ever face each other in a World Series. He broadened his criticism, suggesting voters should be dubious of any candidate who declined to acknowledge the prospect of raising taxes to fix Social Security.

Mr. Obama, bathed in bright flood lights as he stood on a stage before a crowd stretching across Washington Square Park, struck a sharper tone than he has through much of his campaign, particularly when he stands alongside his Democratic rivals. The arguments he made, before an audience of supporters, were not articulated during a debate one night earlier.

“There were folks on the stage that said Social Security is just fine, we don’t have to do anything about it,” Mr. Obama said last night. “There are those who will tell you that getting out of Iraq will be painless, we’ll do it in a snap, not acknowledging that there are no good options in Iraq. There are folks who will shift positions and policies on all kinds of things depending on which way the wind is blowing. That’s not the kind of politics that will deliver on the change we are looking for.”

The racially diverse crowd included Obama devotees who said they came specifically to increase attendance; Greenwich Village residents who had heard the commotion and followed it with dogs and yoga mats in tow; and nostalgists who beamed at the sight of thousands of mostly young people filling the park for a liberal, antiwar cause.

Though Mr. Obama and the other candidates have spent most of their time in the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire, the rally last night underscored efforts to look ahead to Feb. 5, when New York and 20 other states hold primaries. Mr. Obama has made at least 17 trips to New York City this year.

While Mrs. Clinton is expected to carry the state, Democrats split their delegates proportionally, so Mr. Obama believes he could win enough delegates to make a difference in a tight race.

“The challenge that we have today is restoring a sense that politics is not just a business, but that politics is a mission,” Mr. Obama said, “that power doesn’t have to always trump principle, that we can expect from our leaders that they are going to tell the truth and be honest about the problems that we face and they’re not going to equivocate and hedge and hem and haw.”

Initially, the crowds extended to the far borders of the park, massed behind metal detectors that were brought out for the first time in the 2008 campaign. Unable to hear the introductions, people started to leave. But after chants of “Let us in!” security gave up and the crowd filed in.

Mr. Obama’s aides said more than 20,000 people registered for the event through the campaign’s Web site. While it was impossible to determine even a reliable attendance estimate, view from the vantage point of an elevated lift seemed to reveal the gathering as one of the largest campaign events of the year.

Sophie Ragir, 18, a Columbia freshman, said, “It’s a social thing. Everyone on my floor was, like, are you going to the Obama thing?”

Leyla Biltsted, 60, who is retired and lives in Manhattan, said, “I’ve never heard such a wonderful visionary speech as he did at the Democratic convention. That brought me hope.” She added: “Now, I’m waiting to see what’s behind the vision, how he’s going to implement it, who he’s going to surround himself with. We don’t vote for a little while yet; I’m on a fishing trip.”


"Quad City Times Misreports Michelle Obama’s Comments on Iowa’s Importance"

Think On These Things:
When I read this story this morning, my gut feeling told me it sounded sketchy and Michelle probably was grossly misquoted, but I didn’t have the proof yet. Thankfully MSNBC’s First Read has investigated and found out that Michelle Obama was indeed misquoted. They write:

This morning, the Quad City Times reported that Michelle Obama said last night that “it’s over” if her husband does not win in Iowa.

But Michelle Obama did not, in fact, say “it’s over.” What she did tell supporters (and we have it recorded) is, “Iowa will make the difference. If Barack doesn’t win Iowa, then it’s just a dream. If we win Iowa, then we can move to the world as it should be. And we need your help in making that happen. If we win Iowa, then we can move to the world as it should be. And we need your help in making that happen.”

The gist is the same — Michelle Obama clearly implied that a poor showing in the state means the end of the road for Obama. And saying, “win” instead of the usual moderate-expectation-setting “do well,” is significant. But the ultimatum of “it’s over” was not uttered.

The Quad City Times corrected its reporting this afternoon.

Read more.

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"Obama Camp Plays Down Wife's Comment"

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The campaign of Democrat Barack Obama moved quickly Thursday to dampen any expectations raised by Michelle Obama who said this week that her husband has to win Iowa.
Most polls in Iowa show the Illinois senator in a tight race with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Edwards. During a visit Wednesday to Davenport, Iowa, Michelle Obama commented on the importance of a strong showing in the caucuses.

"Iowa will make the difference," she said. "If Barack doesn't win Iowa, it is just a dream. If we win Iowa then we can move to the world as it should be. And we need your help in making that happen."

Typically, meeting expectations in Iowa is nearly as important as who actually wins, so candidates are careful about their public comments on the importance they place on a victory.

On Thursday, Obama's campaign made it clear that they were optimistic about their chances in Iowa but didn't consider it essential that they win.

"Every campaign has said it's important to do well in Iowa, and that's our goal," said Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for Obama's Iowa campaign.

Vietor said the campaign will continue, regardless of his showing in Iowa.

Spokesmen for Clinton and Edwards also declined to predict how their candidates would do.

"We are not setting any expectations for ourselves," said Mark Daley, a spokesman for the New York senator's Iowa campaign. "Obviously we hope to be successful in Iowa." He declined to describe what "successful" would mean.

Historically, three candidates from each party remain viable after Iowa, with those who finish fourth or worse losing steam and quitting the race relatively soon. That process could be even faster this cycle because of a compressed campaign schedule that's jammed a series of primaries and caucuses earlier in the calendar.


"New Obama line of attack on Clinton"

Lynn Sweet (Chicago Sun-Times):
White House hopeful Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) injected a new element in going after chief rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) -- that she does not have the personality to pass universal health care. At Wednesday’s debate in New Hampshire, Obama offered himself as a contrast; someone who can “inspire” people to get things done. He did not use the word “consensus,” but that is what he is talking about.
It was not exactly a major confrontation. Former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) was much sharper in drawing distinctions and going after Clinton. But it’s clear Obama is opening a new front as he appeals to independents and Republicans to come into the Democratic primary.

After the debate, Obama campaign manager David Plouffe sent out a statement in which he talked about Obama as the candidate of consensus. An Obama campaign spokesman, Bill Burton, sent out a research memo recapping the abundance of criticism Clinton received for her failed health care effort in 1993 and 1994. Health care coverage is the dominant domestic issue in the primary.

Here's how Obama bored into Clinton. All the leading Dems have health plans on the table. They are more alike than they are different. Obama said the issue is not who has the plans but “It has to do with who can inspire and mobilize the American people to get it done and open up the process. If it was lonely for Hillary, part of the reason it was lonely, Hillary, was because you closed the door to a lot of potential allies in that process. At that time, 80 percent of Americans already wanted universal health care, but they didn’t feel like they were let into the process.”

In his statement, Plouffe, said “Barack Obama offered a commanding debate performance where he showed that while he may not have the experience Washington likes, he has the experience America needs right now – the ability to bring people together, stand up to the special interests, and tell the truth to the American people on the major issues facing America, from Iraq to Social Security.

“He’ll approach major challenges like health care reform the same way he’s approached every challenge he’s faced through two decades of public service –- with an open, transparent process that brings people of differing views together to build a real consensus for change,” Plouffe said.

Obama also again asserted that he was risking his political career back in 2002 when spoke out against the Iraq War as he was getting into a primary race for a Senate seat from Illinois. Coming out against the war then was a boost for his election, because the anti-war Democratic activists in Illinois --with a number of influential people in their ranks -- rallied around Obama.

During the debate, moderator Tim Russert, noting that Obama has no landmark legislation asked why he was running after about 33 months in the Senate: "Why does it make sense now?"

Obama said basically it is because the country needs him. Obama's answer is yet another example of how he is casting himself as the consensus candidate. He has also made an interesting language adjustment. The issue is not his experience, he said. It is his "experiences" that make him ready to lead.

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"Brutal Hardball Hit on Obama"

nbutter's diary on Kos:
Anyone see Hardball tonight? It was a brutal, vicious pigpile on Obama -- Tweety, Fineman, Gregory, and O'Donnell -- and each one of them went nuts on the Senator from Illinois.
I was flabbergasted. I will admit (hell, I'll trumpet) that I'm a Hillary supporter, so I didn't mind them all talking about how she was extending her lead, winning debates, etc. But I noticed that there was a big focus on Obama -- his diffidence, his caution, his lack of attack. And one meme kept popping up (mostly from Matthews): "he's got to either hit her harder, or get out of the way for someone who can."

Wow. I realized what i was seeing. AMAZING Edwards campaign spin.

* nbutter's diary :: ::

Tonight was about one thing: the Edwards campaign trying to become the clear, MSM-annointed, Anti-Hillary Option.

Greory gave it away -- "when you talk to the edwards people, they argue..." -- a novel preface to another recital of the litany.

Edwards' debate performance backed it up. He's making a hard push to elbow Obama aside, with a clearly coordinated message that Obama's too courteous, timid, Senatorial to really go after Hillary.

I don't have a pick between them -- I think BOTH Edwards and Obama are good for the party and good for the country, and I'd love it if either one of them were President.

But man, for sheer political aggression, I have to admire how the Edwards campaign is playing their hand.


"URGENT REQUEST: Opportunity to Talk to Barack! $5 donation challenge"

Shanna Sawatzki (email):
Good news King County for Obama and Washington for Obama! We are in the top three groups nationwide for group fundraising (measured by # of contributors) with both of these groups.

The groups that get the most people to make a donation on their group fundraising page will get a chance to participate in a conference call with Barack this October!!!
Will you give on our groups' fundraising pages? Please contribute $5 or more to each group before Sept 30th for an opportunity to talk to Barack!!! Remember it's the # of contributors that matters most!
Donation Links are below (click thermometer to donate):
**donations on Washingtonians for Obama fundraising page also contribute to our sign drive--for every $500 raised, we get 250 yard signs to distribute in WA State!**
--Make sure to join King County for Obama and Washingtonians for Obama 2008 groups on to make sure you get the details on the conference call if we win!
Guidelines on the challenge can be found here.

Thanks so much for your help in growing the movement to elect Barack Obama for President!!!


Wednesday, September 26, 2007


"Part of the reason it was lonely, Hillary, is because you closed the door."--Barack Obama on Clinton's last healthcare effort.


"Obama: No on Kyl-Lieberman"

Ben Smith:
He does have a position!

Per press secretary Bill Burton, he would have voted against it, leaving Hillary along in the field in her support for it.

Here's the statement:

Senator Obama clearly recognizes the serious threat posed by Iran. However, he does not agree with the President that the best way to counter that threat is to keep large numbers of troops in Iraq, and he does not think that now is the time for saber-rattling towards Iran. In fact, he thinks that our large troop presence in Iraq has served to strengthen Iran - not weaken it. He believes that diplomacy and economic pressure, such as the divestment bill that he has proposed, is the right way to pressure the Iranian regime. Accordingly, he would have opposed the Kyl-Lieberman amendment had he been able to vote today.


"The Front-Runner"

Eli Sanders (The Stranger):
In This Washington, It's Obama--The new conventional wisdom among the D.C. press corps is that Hillary Clinton has emerged as the front-runner to win the Democratic presidential nomination. Why? The quality of her campaign, her strong showing at the Democratic debates, the positive reception for her recent health-care plan, and, as always, the polls. National polls consistently show Clinton ahead of her Democratic rivals, and, more importantly, polls in New Hampshire, one of the earliest primary states, have shown Clinton with a comfortable lead. The sense of Clinton being in first position was reinforced on September 23, when she hit five political talk shows in one Sunday morning, and then on September 24, when word came that President Bush had weighed in on Clinton's seemingly invincibility. "I believe our candidate can beat her, but it's going to be a tough race," Bush told a reporter for the Washington Examiner, after indicating that he thought Clinton would get the nod from Democratic primary voters.
As usual, however, things are much different in this Washington. Here, Barack Obama seems to be the front-runner, at least in terms of money and grassroots excitement. Obama has raised just over $740,000 in Washington for his presidential run, nearly three times as much as Clinton, who's taken in about $263,000 from this state (and considerably more than John Edwards, who has just over $399,000 from Washingtonians). With a large network of antiwar former Deaniacs behind him, Obama also has considerably more grassroots cred here than his two main rivals.

"There's something going on in Washington," says Peter Masundire, 47, a health-care consultant from South Seattle who acts as communications coordinator for Washington for Obama, an organization that operates independent of Obama's official campaign. Masundire says the number one thing pushing people in this state into the Obama camp is the Iraq war. "Obama was right on the Iraq war before it started," he told me. "So that resonates with a lot of Washington voters."

The national Obama campaign has taken notice. Jen Psaki, spokesperson for Obama, praised the "amazing grassroots energy and organization" in this state, but, no doubt because Washington's Democratic Caucuses come so late as to be almost irrelevant, Psaki also sought to paint the energy here as part of a broader trend that Clinton watchers aren't noticing. "We have this going on in a lot of parts of the country," Psaki told me over the phone from New York on September 25, where she was preparing to help with an event in Brooklyn marking the fifth anniversary of Obama's 2002 speech opposing the Iraq war authorization—that's the much-discussed speech in which Obama correctly warned that the war could lead to "a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences."

It will be interesting to see whether Psaki is right that the pro-Obama energy in Washington is mirrored nationwide, but it's also interesting to wonder why it's so particularly strong here right now. Like Masundire, Psaki told me it's all about the war. "Also," she said, it's "the fact that he really is a fresh and new voice. People are really looking for a change in leadership. He's really the one candidate who can bring that about."

King County Executive Ron Sims, who recently endorsed Clinton and signed on as her campaign cochair for this state, wouldn't bite on the question of why Obama's been doing so well in Washington. Instead, Sims simply repeated one pro-Clinton talking point: "Any poll that's been done shows that she's ahead, even here." I asked: What about Obama's money momentum in Washington? Sims: "The fact is, Senator Clinton leads in the polls in this state." I asked: What about Obama's strong grassroots support here? Sims: "Senator Clinton is the poll leader here."

Knowing that there have been few polls of Washington State voters on the Democratic primary slate, I asked Sims what "polls" he was referring to. He had only one: a SurveyUSA poll from May showing Clinton at 38 percent, Obama at 30 percent, and Edwards at 19 percent.

A four-month-old poll is hardly a definitive rebuttal to the sense that Obama has become Washington's man. And in any case, Masundire told me that he believes any poll focused on likely Democratic primary voters (that is, people who have voted in Democratic primaries in the past) is going to miss a lot of Obama support. Among the Obama enthusiasts, here and around the country, who Masundire believes are going uncounted: young new voters, people who only have cell phones (and thus aren't on pollsters' call lists), and people who haven't voted in recent elections but will vote next year because of Obama.

Speaking of the D.C. prognosticators and their designation of Clinton as the front-runner, Masundire told me: "I think when the primaries come, they are really going to be surprised."

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"The Obama Challenge"

Standing in front of a rust-red barn in Peterborough, N.H., Barack Obama finds himself in a strange situation.
He can still draw a hefty crowd of more than 1,000 supporters in the middle of a working day. Yet the polls suggest he’s trailing by 20 points in the Granite State.

He’s on track once again to beat Hillary Clinton in fund-raising for the third quarter in a row. Yet the pundits have universally declared that he’s lost momentum.

If all that weren’t perplexing enough, he’s suffering from a head cold on a stiflingly hot late-September day.

In a few hours, Obama (with congested sinuses) will walk on stage for the latest in an endless line of debates—an exchange of sound bites that have solidified Clinton’s image as a confident and polished candidate. Yet again, Obama’s aides promise that the Illinois senator will draw a sharp distinction between his own agenda for change—to reform the country’s politics—and the New York senator whose slogans now include “ready for change.”

“The voters in New Hampshire or places like Iowa are discerning enough to know that you can’t just print CHANGE on a sign and hold it up and think you are all of a sudden for change,” says Robert Gibbs, Obama’s communications director. “Not to mention the jujitsu of saying that you are the most experienced candidate who can work the system but that you are also for change.”

Gibbs may have a point, but it doesn’t seem to have sunk in with voters yet. In Iowa, polls through August and September have suggested that the race is a three-way statistical tie between Clinton, Obama and Edwards. In New Hampshire, Clinton is in an even stronger position than she is in national polls.

Why is the road that much tougher for Obama up north? “In New Hampshire, we still have name-recognition issues,” says Gibbs. “The Clintons were trudging around up here 20 years ago.” Of course, the fact that it's a conservative state without a ton of ethnic diversity could play a role, as well. The Obama campaign only bought its first airtime in New Hampshire this week with the ad “Believe”—in which Obama talks about ending “decades of division and deadlock” as the camera seems to move through a doorway. The desired effect: cross the threshold and trust your hopes to the new guy.

The commercial is a sharp contrast to the first Clinton ad in New Hampshire, which does not use the candidate’s voice. Instead a voice-over begins by promising that “we will change things in this country,” accompanied by pictures of Clinton at rallies and faintly patriotic music. The desired effect: the presidential aura of a natural-born leader.

In hopes of altering that picture, Obama has stuffed his stump speeches with references to the Clinton era. But they don’t name names, and they aren’t exactly a punch in the solar plexus. In Peterborough, he talks about the importance of universal health care: “If we’re going to change it this time,” he notes, “it’s not enough to just have plans. We have to build a movement to overcome the special interests.”

Now and then, he gets a little grittier. “I recognize that people in Washington really value what they are doing,” he says. “But I have to remind them that Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld had two of the longest resumes in Washington, and they didn’t turn out so well. They led us into the biggest foreign-policy disaster in a generation. A long resume doesn’t guarantee good judgment. It doesn’t say much about character.”

There’s no doubt who he’s talking about-but do voters respond to this kind of indirection? “Change in America doesn’t happen from the top down; it happens from the bottom up,” he says. “You’ve got to understand that one of the things that people are counting on, the people who are benefiting from the system as it is, is that you’re cynical people. To them, politics is a game. They like the system as it is and are counting on you to turn away from the process and that things don’t change.”

Hillary Clinton, who kicked off her fall campaign in New Hampshire with a speech about change and experience on Labor Day, hasn’t suffered yet. One recent poll by the Pew Research Center encapsulated Obama’s challenge. Voters were asked which words apply to the leading candidates of both parties. Obama beat Clinton handily on being energetic, honest, friendly, optimistic and even-tempered. But he trailed on being compassionate, and he lost heavily on being smart and tough.

Obama’s aides believe that Clinton has topped out in the polls. Despite her extensive name recognition, she hasn’t been able to crack 40 percent in soundings measuring who should be the Democratic nominee. Moreover, in head-to-head polls against the leading Republicans, Clinton and Obama fare equally well.

Maybe so. But until Obama stops crab-walking around his opponent and starts scoring some direct hits, Clinton will continue to enjoy her lead.


"Obama sharpens critique of Clinton"

Boston Globe:
PETERBOROUGH, N.H. -- Barack Obama woke up today with a bad head cold and a bad headline: A new University of New Hampshire poll shows Hillary Clinton way ahead of him (43 percent to 20 percent) among Granite State Democrats.

But at least he got lucky with the weather. About 1,000 people (according to the campaign's count) came out for a pre-debate rally this morning under unrelenting sunshine in bucolic Peterborough, in the southwest part of the state.
Notable -- other than the unseasonably warm temperature -- was Obama's sharper critique of the ways of Washington, and, obliquely, of Clinton herself. Will we see more of this when the Democrats meet tonight at Dartmouth College?

Obama began with his standard stump speech, but he added some new attacks on the Beltway that left little doubt about whom he was referring to.

"George Bush and Dick Cheney may have perfected the art of special-interest driven partisan politics, but they didn't invent it," Obama said. "It was there before they came into office, and if we're not careful it will be there after they leave. That's what's at stake in this election."

Translation: The Clintons, too, are purveyors of partisan politics, and a Clinton White House would be more of the same.

Obama continued: "Now there are those in this race who tout their experience working the system as is. And what I have to remind them of is that the system has not been working for us. There are those who say we just need somebody who can play the game better in Washington. And what I'm saying is that we need to put an end to the game-playing."

Translation: Don't believe the hype from Clinton supporters that I have too few years in Washington; that's an asset.

Obama then went on to note that "we [read: Clinton] have been talking about our health care crisis for decades now, through Democratic and Republican administrations. And yet year after year after year after year, nothing seems to change."

UPDATE: The Obama campaign takes issue with the characterization of today's attacks on Washington as "new." They contend Obama has said much the same thing for three weeks.

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"Kyl-Lieberman Iran Amendment Passes By Huge Margin" (UPDATED)

UPDATE: TPM's Election Central has the full roll call vote as well as an explanation (in the comments) for Obama's absence:
Obama is in New Hampshire trying to become our next President. Majority Leader Reid said last night that there would be no vote on this amendment in the near future, so Senator Obama had no reason to expect that this vote would be happening today. The announcement that the amendment would come up for a vote today didn't happen until 12:30pm. What was Senator Obama supposed to do, hop on a private jet and fly straight back to the Capitol? It's not like his vote would've changed the outcome.
Talking Points Memo (Election Central):
The Kyl-Lieberman Iran amendment -- which ratchets up the confrontation with Iran by calling for the designation of its Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization responsible for killing U.S. troops -- just passed overwhelmingly, 76-22.

Of the Dem Presidential candidates, Hillary voted for the measure, Joe Biden and Chris Dodd opposed it, and Barack Obama missed the vote. On the GOP side, John McCain missed the vote.

The bill's backers had tried to mollify its critics by taking out some of its most incendiary language, particularly the idea that "it should be the policy of the United States to combat, contain, and roll back the violent activities and destabilizing influence inside Iraq of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, its foreign facilitators such as Lebanese Hezbollah, and its indigenous Iraqi proxies."

Also removed from the measure was a provision "to support the prudent and calibrated use of all instruments of United States national power in Iraq, including diplomatic, economic, intelligence, and military instruments" in support of the above.

One leading critic, Jim Webb, however, still opposed the bill because it designates the Iran guard a terrorist organization. Nonetheless, it was able to pass overwhelmingly.

We'll bring you the exact language of the amendment when it's available.

Late Update: You can read a copy of the actual legislation here in our TPM Document Collection.

Also added to the final version was this conciliatory-sounding language:

"Secretary of Defense Robert Gates stated on September 16, 2007 that "I think that the administration believes at this point that continuing to try and deal with the Iranian threat, the Iranian challenge, through diplomatic and economic means is by the preferable approach. That the one we are using. We always say all options are on the table, but clearly, the diplomatic and economic approach is the one that we are pursuing."

In the end, though, the amendment says this:

"the United States should designate Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a foreign terrorist organization...and place the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps on the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists."

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

"Video: Obama On Iranian President, Ahmadinejad Visit"

"Audio: Obama Interview After Winning Yahoo Mashup Debate"

lovingj1, with audio (08:38):
Post debate interview with Barack Obama by Yahoo News on September 24,2007.


"Barack Obama takes action on Blackwater!" (with video)

CPDem81's diary on Kos:
"We know Iraqis don't benefit from this. We know it ruins our relationship with the world. We know that we are paying through the nose for these services. We know its unjust."
Barack Obama

Private security contractors have taken on a frighteningly disproportionate and largely unaccountable role in the United States' military occupation of Iraq.

This poses many problems for U.S. policy, American soldiers, and Iraqi civilians. Last week's incident involving Blackwater guards killing 11 Iraqi civilians underscores this problem.

Barack Obama is picking up the torch on this issue, and much like everything else -- he's not new to it either.

More below the fold.
* CPDem81's diary :: ::

Most Daily Kos readers need no reminding of the incident I'm referring to in Iraq.

Here's a little more on Blackwater. This video was produced by the Nation, specifically by Current Obama campaign blogger Sam Graham-Felsen.

(That is Jan Schakowsky, current Obama national co-chair, in the video - Obama links abound!)

The AP has more on how Blackwater manages to get away with it all, without accountability:

Not one diplomat has died while being guarded by employees of the politically connected company based in the swamplands of northeastern North Carolina. Experts say that success — combined with the murky legal world in which Blackwater operates and its strong ties to Republicans — has allowed the company to operate with impunity.

"You can argue about the methodology and say it's negatively impacting relationships between the Iraqi government and citizens and the U.S. But if you get right down to the terms of the contract, they're tasked with protecting U.S. diplomatic personnel. They've done that," said Scott Traudt, operations manager for Cohort International, a Lebanon, N.H.-based competitor.

Let's be clear here: They're effective BECAUSE there are no rules of engagement or accountability. That's why we use them. We don't want them to be accountable. We need an unaccountable, extralegal praetorian guard to maintain our occupation until Shrub leaves office.

Thats the point.

There's more:

For years, North Carolina Democratic Rep. David Price has urged colleagues to regulate the private security industry and increase congressional oversight of companies such as Blackwater. But as the GOP controlled Congress, he said, his efforts went nowhere.

"I was getting silence," Price said. "My impression is that many Republicans see any attempt to tighten up the contracting practice as an implicit criticism of the Bush administration."

Blackwater's ties to the GOP run deep. Company founder and former Navy Seal Erik Prince has given more than $200,000 to Republican causes, a pattern of donation followed by other top Blackwater executives. The company's vice chairman is Cofer Black, a former CIA counterterrorism official who is serving as a senior adviser to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Members of Blackwater's legal team have included former Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth Starr and current White House Counsel Fred Fielding. The company tapped a GOP-connected public relations firm after the grisly 2004 deaths of four Blackwater employees who were ambushed by insurgents in Fallujah.

And, circle complete.

We know Iraqis don't benefit from this. We know it ruins our relationship with the world. We know that we are paying through the nose for these services. We know its unjust.

But we also know, importantly, that the US military's leadership is sick and tired of this too.

It's a question that Navy Adm. William Fallon, the senior U.S. military commander for the Middle East, planned to address in weekend meetings with U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq.

Fallon said security contractors shouldn't be seen as a "surrogate army" of the State Department or any other agency whose workers they protect.

"My instinct is that it's easier and better if they were in uniform and were working for me," Fallon told The Associated Press in Kabul, Afghanistan. "There's a rule set out there, and these guys should adhere to it as far as action, training and accountability."

But it is largely accepted that the Pentagon doesn't have enough troops to fight both the war in Iraq and perform all the tasks contracted out to firms such as Blackwater, including protecting diplomats and other civilians in one of the world's most dangerous places.

It is becoming harder and harder to find anyone who actually benefits from Blackwater's activities other than the Republican Party and Blackwater themselves.

In steps Barack Obama.
Obama has proposed sweeping reforms of the mercenary contracting industry:

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has proposed clarifying that private contractors accused of misconduct can be tried under U.S. law and urging the Pentagon to pursue such civilian prosecution. Following a Sept. 16 shooting that infuriated the Iraqi government and got the contracting firm Blackwater USA briefly barred from the country, Senate aides are working on adding parts of Obama’s plan to the defense authorization bill.

Obama told Bush in a Monday letter that he should pin down information immediately on offenses committed by contractors.

"It is our government’s obligation to ensure that security contractors in Iraq are subject to adequate and transparent oversight and that their actions do not have a negative impact on our military’s efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan," Obama wrote.

His proposal also would require the Justice Department inspector general to report to Congress on the number of complaints it has received against private contractors, and the number of investigations opened and criminal cases pursued in response. Baghdad officials are investigating Blackwater’s actions in the Sept. 16 violence and other recent incidents that caused Iraqi civilian casualties, and the State Department launched its own probe late last week.

Obama told Bush he was "disturbed" by the Blackwater episode, which "raises larger questions about the role of private security contractors."

There's more. Obama himself penned a blog post Monday on the Hill's congress blog about his legislation, which dates back to February of this year:

.... This recent incident, which is under investigation by the Department of State, raises larger questions about the role of private security contractors. An estimated 48,000 private security employees are operating in Iraq, and more than 1,000 contractors have died in Iraq since 2003. Little is known about what functions these security contractors are performing, how much their services are costing, what military and safety equipment they are provided, and what rules of engagement they are following. And according to press accounts, Blackwater has been exempt from military regulations governing other security companies, such as restrictions on the use of offensive weapons, requirements to report shooting incidents, or abiding by a central tracking system that allows commanders to monitor the movements of security companies on the battlefield.

In February, I introduced the Transparency and Accountability in Military and Security Contracting Act (S. 674). This bill would require federal agencies to report to Congress on: the total number of security contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan; the total cost of the contractors; the number of contractors killed or wounded; information about the military and safety equipment provided to contractors; and a description of disciplinary action taken against contractors. The bill also would improve coordination between security contractors and U.S. armed forces by requiring the issuance of rules of engagement, clarify the legal status of contractors, and require investigation of criminal misconduct committed by contractors.

I have offered this legislation as an amendment to the FY 2008 Defense Authorization bill, which is currently before the Senate. I also sent a letter earlier this week to U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, calling on him to answer questions about the Blackwater incident and the role of private security contractors and the impact of their operations in Iraq. ...

Barack Obama is LEADING on this issue.

He has identified the main problems -- the lack of accountability, the lack of standards or rules of engagement, and the ambiguity about criminal liability -- and he is not only speaking about about them to Bush and Gates, he proposed legislation back in February to deal with it. Now that the Defense Authorization bill for FY2008 is in the offing, he's tacked that legislation on as an amendment and is pushing for it again.

Barack Obama gets it on this issue, and he's taken a leadership role. For our military, for justice, for our country.


"Obama Match Game" (with video)

WaPo, with video (00:32):
Sen. Barack Obama mixes social networking with fundraising in his latest appeal for money. You send in a check, then you get a message from another donor -- with whom you presumably talk about Barack and change and hope.

Sound Bite: "No matter how much you choose to give, you'll get a note from someone whose passion for change has led them to make the same commitment you did."


"The End Of Fear And Division" (video)

lovingj1, video (02:08):
Obama does not want to continue the Bush philosophy like Rudy, Mitt, Fred and Hillary.

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"Obama Statement to Rally Opposing Iran's Nuclear Ambitions"

NH Insider:
Chicago ,IL— U.S. Senator Barack Obama today released the following statement on ensuring Iran does not achieve its nuclear ambition to the organizers of the “The National Rally to End the Threat Now.”

“I commend you for holding this important rally, and regret that I could not join you today. You are coming together at a critical moment to send a clear message to Iran: it is time for the Iranian government to cease its dangerous and reprehensible behavior.
Iran is now the greatest strategic challenge to America in the Middle East in a generation, and poses a grave threat to Israel’s security. We do not accept Iran’s support and encouragement of sectarian violence in Iraq. We do not accept their sponsorship of terrorism throughout the Middle East.We do not accept their pursuit of nuclear weapons, in defiance of the international community. And we are outraged by President Ahmadinejad’s vile statements, from his denial of the Holocaust to his declaration that Israel should be “wiped off the map.”

“Let’s be clear: the terrible atrocities of the Holocaust are historical facts, and their denial is offensive and outrageous. We know that the most powerful way to confront the statements of President Ahmadinejad is to shine the light of truth on his hateful lies. We should never shrink from raising our voices to put our own values up against the bankrupt values of the Iranian regime. Let President Ahmadinejad learn, here in America, that we are united in rejecting Iran’s support for terrorism, its pursuit of nuclear weapons, and his comments which offend Israel, Jews, and all people of goodwill.

“We also need to match our words with policies that pressure Iran to change its behavior. It’s time for tough, sustained, and direct diplomacy – backed by real pressure – from the United States, our friends and allies, and the United Nations. Iran must know that it can give up its nuclear ambitions and support for terror, or it will face further isolation. And the Iranian people must know that we have no quarrel with them: we seek a future in which their aspirations for peace and opportunity are enabled by their government, not obstructed.

“One critical tool in applying pressure on the Iranian government is divestment. Our friends in Florida and in my home state of Illinois have joined a grassroots movement and passed laws to divest their pension plans of businesses that invest in Iran’s energy sector. Florida’s actions alone will stop $1.3 billion from going into the Iranian budget. But these efforts could be stopped if the bipartisan Iran Sanctions Enabling Act is not passed by the Congress. This strong, bipartisan bill would authorize these divestment efforts and shine a light on companies who do business with Iran. Its only obstacle is a single Senator who placed an anonymous “hold” on the bill.

It’s time for Washington to catch up with you. It’s time to do more than condemn Iran’s actions – it’s time for our own actions to apply real pressure on Iran.We will never waver in the face of President Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric. We should never worry that his message will defeat ours. We must unite to make it clear that the future does not belong to hate, it belongs to hope.”

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"Union's non-choice is loss for Edwards, gain for Obama "

Lynn Sweet (Chicago Sun-Times):
CARBONDALE, Ill. -- After an eight-hour board meeting in Chicago on Monday, the executive board of the Service Employees International Union decided not to endorse for now in the Democratic primary. The executive board will revisit an endorsement on Oct. 8, after the third-quarter fund-raising totals are in.
This is a big setback for White House hopeful former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.), who has been working the SEIU leaders (first, second and third tier) for years. This is very good news for rival Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), who now has bought time to persuade SEIU leaders that he is the most politically viable contender.

I'm told the leaders of the SEIU -- one of the most politically active unions in the nation -- want to make an endorsement. And there are elements within the leadership who want to stop Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), who is the frontrunner in most polls -- national and in the four early primary states.

I'm told the executive board never even took a vote. That's all bad news for the Edwards forces, who hoped to lock in the SEIU endorsement last week, after the top Dem contenders addressed their political conference in Washington. But SEIU chief Andy Stern and SEIU chief politico Anna Burger said the executive board needed to hear more from the top strategists for the campaigns. Team Obama sent strategist David Axelrod and campaign manager David Plouffe.

Obama delivered a stemwinder last week at the conference. I wrote last week he faced an uphill battle getting the union's backing. By slowing down the process on Monday, he's leveling the hill.

Presumably, Obama will have a strong third-quarter fund-raising showing. The books close Sept. 30 and Edwards will be lucky to have $8 million. Obama and Clinton should be reporting at least $20 million in third-quarter results.

Today, Change-to-Win, a labor federation of which the SEIU is a member, meets in Chicago. No endorsement is expected.

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"Retired Air Force boss stumping for Obama"

The Citizen (NH):
The former Air Force Chief of Staff visited the Lakes Region on Monday as part of a campaign trip that has him supporting Senator Barack Obama as the only candidate with the "chops" to lead the country.
Retired Gen. Tony McPeak — a self-described moderate Democrat who once served as a prominent supporter of President George Bush — says the current administration has left the country in the dark about a war he and Obama are hoping American troops will be out of by the end of 2008.

On Monday McPeak, a top foreign policy adviser to Obama who served on the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Gulf War, made stops at the New Hampshire Veteran's Home in Tilton and at a house party in Franklin to stump for a candidate he says he is supporting more for his character than his political affiliation.

"He is head and shoulders about the rest (of the candidates) in every measurable dimension," said McPeak, during an interview with The Citizen.

The longtime military man is no stranger to the campaign trail having supported several presidential hopefuls both Republican and Democrat since he retired from service in 1994.

McPeak served as the Oregon state chairman for Bob Dole's 1996 run for office and in 2000 worked as the chair of a veteran's organization in that state working to get George W. Bush elected. He worked for Howard Dean in the 2004 election and eventually supported John Kerry.

A longtime Republican, McPeak registered as an independent in 2004 and is now a registered Democrat. He attributes his switch in political affiliation to what has occurred during Bush's years in the White House.

McPeak said he took note of Obama's leadership when he heard the candidate state years ago that he wasn't against war, but was against the United States engaging in "dumb" wars whose consequences will not be positive.

"(He) was exactly right," said McPeak, adding that he appreciates the enthusiasm Obama is bringing to the presidential campaign as a person who isn't a Washington Beltway insider.

In talking about the current foreign policy struggle the United States is in, McPeak prefaced his comments by assuring he is no pacifist or left-winger.

"I'm a professional military guy ... I have either been fighting someone or getting ready to," explained McPeak.

However, he said Obama is correct in being among the only candidates who have opposed the current war in Iraq long before troops hit the ground in the battle-torn nation.

McPeak called the current situation in Iraq nothing short of "a mess" and expressed extreme skepticism about a recent report from U.S. Commander General David Petraeus that indicated forces where making progress in slowing violence in a country that some say is involved in a civil war.

The retired general said he respects Petraeus, but called his recent report a "non-event" that saw the Bush administration "making lemonade" out of a situation that has ethnic cleansing and millions of displaced Iraqis fleeing, resulting in diminished reports of violence in certain areas of the country.

McPeak said Bush has avoided providing information on military spending relating to the number of bases being built in the country and has refused to take responsibility for a policy that put U.S. troops in Iraq.

"It's pretty unedifying to watch our president play dodge ball in this way," said McPeak in reference to his belief that Petraeus is being put in the limelight on the Iraq war.

The former military leader said the Bush administration has also been less than forthright in explaining the extent of the military's use of upward of 140,000 private contractors in carrying out the military plan.

McPeak said reports indicate there are at least 25,000 "snake-eating (and) gun-toting" contractors working to actually fight the war and noted that the Bush Administration's numbers only have 400 of such people having been reported killed in the war compared to a Department of Labor report that pegged it at around 1,000 individuals.

"It's obvious that not enough sunshine is allowed on questions like this. The administration has been very circumspect in the very least," said McPeak.

McPeak said he stands with Obama in his belief that the current administration has ignored pressing concerns relating to the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the need to work diplomatically to assure that Muslim nations can maintain peaceful relations with Israel.

In speaking of Israel's situation McPeak said: "This is a fundamental problem. (The Bush Administration) really didn't do anything to work on it."

The foreign policy adviser said Obama is looking to put such issues back on the front burner.

McPeak said he supports Obama's plan for a phases withdrawal of troops in Iraq.

He drew upon a past quote in station his belief that the U.S. must be as careful in leaving Iraq as is was "careless" in entering a war that he believes was ill-conceived.

When pressed about what Iraq will look like when American forces depart, McPeak responded by admitting that it certainly will not be pretty. He equated the situation with having your foot caught in trap, noting that it will painful no matter how it is removed.

McPeak said one thing he is sure of is that Obama is the candidate who is best equipped to handle the situation and show the world that the United States wants to head in a different direction concerning how it handles itself globally.

"What we need to decide in this election is what type of leadership we want (during) this mess. (Obama) has the chops ... who else does?" asked McPeak.

When asked about some voters belief that Obama lacks the experience to lead the nation, McPeak said the United State has had more than one great leader who was relatively young when they took over.

He referred to George Washington specifically in noting that he took over the Continental Army at age 43.


"Obama's troops seek Nevada voters one at a time"

LA Times:
Susan Gray and Tom Harper, momentarily lost amid a labyrinth of desert-hued apartment buildings, attract curious stares from tenants as they scurry along snaking sidewalks until they finally find the address on their list: a second-floor unit at the top of a flight of stairs.
Harper looks down at him and, after a pause, explains that they're working for the Obama campaign and that the person at the address is listed as a supporter. "Good," the man says, touching his right hand to the small of his back, "because I've got my .44 back here."

Gun-toting neighbors weren't on Gray's list of expectations when the political novice left her Mission Viejo home Friday to spend the weekend pounding the Las Vegas pavement for Obama. She and four other Orange County volunteers came to pair up with locals like Harper, and to get crash course in street-level politics.

This morning's lesson: Expect the unexpected.

Over the last couple of months, 164 Obama volunteers from neighboring states have made similar trips to Las Vegas, Reno and Elko as part of the Obama campaign's Drive for Change program. His is the only Democratic presidential campaign using this tactic, according to local observers.

The idea is to augment Nevadans' volunteer work ahead of the state's Jan. 19 caucuses while learning such campaign basics as how to run phone banks, knock on doors and collect data. Obama's campaign is running similar efforts in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina -- which also are holding early caucuses or primaries.

But Nevada's program has an added dimension: "We are surrounded by February 5th states," said Obama's campaign director in Nevada, David Cohen, referring to primaries scheduled in California, Arizona, Idaho and Utah. That makes Nevada prime training ground for volunteers from the other states.

"This is important from a larger, strategic perspective," Cohen said.

So far, California groups have traveled from the Bay Area to Reno, and from Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego to Las Vegas. Arizona volunteers -- 21 last weekend -- also target the Las Vegas area; volunteers from Utah and Idaho focus on Elko and other rural areas in the vast northeast part of the state.

The trips are coordinated by the official Obama campaign in Nevada, but often draw from unofficial grass-roots resources, such as a group calling itself Orange County for Obama. Most of the groups are making multiple trips. Last weekend was the second Drive for Change for the Orange County group, and a third is possible.

Most of the imported volunteers stay in Nevadans' homes. The campaign hopes they'll build relationships so Nevadans will go to California, Arizona, Utah and Idaho for get-out-the-vote primary drives there, Cohen said.

Though caucuses and primaries are conducted differently -- precinct-level meetings scheduled for a set time versus absentee ballots and all-day polling -- the organizing details are similar: Find supporters and make sure they get to where they need to be when the time comes.

A similar 2004 effort by Howard Dean in Iowa backfired. The locals resented the intrusion of thousands of out-of-staters who wore orange hats and were ignorant of local pronunciations. The Obamans hope to head off such troubles in Nevada by pairing the traveling volunteers with locals -- and by teaching in an orientation session that it's Ne-VAD-uh, not Ne-VAH-duh.

"These volunteers aren't parachuting into communities telling Nevadans who to caucus for," said Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt. "They are providing logistical and organizational support to increase the amount of outreach our 2,000 Nevada volunteers can perform to their neighbors. And they're learning the skills they need to organize their communities in California to turn enthusiasm for Barack Obama into votes on February 5th."

Enthusiasm is high. The volunteers speak with the fervor of the converted, and each organizational meeting begins with get-acquainted segments in which volunteers explain why they're supporting Obama. It may sound like a group therapy session, but it's part of a grass-roots organizing strategy that relies on "personal narratives" to help forge bonds.

After 90 minutes of orientation and narratives Saturday, the volunteers hit the streets in two-person teams. Those in each car have a list of 60 to 80 names and detailed directions from address to address over routes of 40 to 50 miles. But on this unseasonably cool and beautiful day, few people are home, and success comes in small measures.

There's no answer at the first house on Gray and Harper's list, but at the second one they catch their target, Ercilia Valdez, before she heads out on a bike ride with her husband, Jerry. Both sign cards.

Yet over the next 17 houses, Gray and Harper only get one more signature.

Bill Spaulding of Santa Ana and Luke Hayes, a paid Obama Nevada field organizer, have more luck in the afternoon, getting seven cards signed at 15 addresses. Spaulding brought himself out of self-imposed political exile to join the Obama campaign: He quit activism 20 years ago, after work in New York City and Los Angeles, including the quest to win city status for West Hollywood.

"It was time to hand off the baton to someone younger," Spaulding says as he drives his Toyota Prius to the first address on the afternoon list. "I served my shift."

Obama's Democratic National Convention speech in 2004 reawakened Spaulding -- something he said no other candidate had been able to do.

"He's the first candidate for any office who's excited me in 20 years," Spaulding says. "When you trust the way a person thinks, you can trust their goals and objectives."

The organizing goal for the day is 100 cards signed by supporters promising to show up for the caucus -- an ambitious goal, more than triple the previous weekend best of 29 cards.

By day's end, only 42 cards are signed in; 15 more were gathered Sunday, for a weekend total of 57.

"It's kind of a long, tedious task," Harper says as he turns away from his 17th stop -- another unanswered door. "But it's got to be done."