Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Clinton Legacy

Democrats who once loved and praised Former President Bill Clinton for the "peace and prosperity" of the 90's, now have a different impression of the man. As a colleague of mine noted, "Looking at President Clinton now is like looking at the fat and bloated 40-year old Elvis. It's depressing."

The Atlatic's Marc Ambinder takes a look at the "Clinton Legacy":

Bill Clinton's blunders on the campaign trail have tarnished his reputation as a political virtuoso.

After he made yet another campaign-trail blunder, Hillary Clinton has told her husband to back off. Many in the Democratic party, even those in Bill's corner, would like him to back off, too. The debate about his political legacy is effectively over, and no one but a handful of prominent Democrats will argue that his presidency was salutary for the Democratic party. Present circumstances reinforce that judgment. Bill has been pilloried for his conduct in this campaign. We've seen his bad side -- temper tantrums, parochialism, arrogance, promiscuity with the facts -- and none of his good side. His post-presidency cocoon, gilded in no small part by the American taxpayer, seems to have left him ill-prepared for the modern news cycle. He's certainly no longer his party's best political strategist.

It may be too late to rehabilitate Bill Clinton the Democrat. But Bill Clinton the president? The Earned Income Tax Credit, arguably the largest anti-poverty program in recent memory; the innovations of welfare reform; NAFTA; the crime bill; willingness to fight against his party at times; low interests rates; real wage growth; deficit reduction; the tech boom; full employment. On the other side: NAFTA; welfare reform; willingness to fight against his party; Lewinsky; Rubinomics; regulatory dismantlement of the financial markets -- ah well. Looks like there's still an argument there, too.

Sunday Talking Heads Preview

This Week with George Stephanopoulos
--Former President Jimmy Carter
--National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, Bush Administration

Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace
--Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., Obama Backer
--Mayor Michael Nutter, D-Philadelphia, Clinton Backer

Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer

--Secretary of Defense Robert Gates
--Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

Meet The Press with Tim Russert
--Democratic Strategist James Carville, Clinton Backer

Obama: Rural Jobless Pennsylvanians Are 'Bitter'

Speaking at a fundraiser in California last Sunday, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., made some potentially politically damaging remarks about rural jobless Pennsylvanians. The Huffington Post's Mayhill Fowler reports:

When he spoke to a group of his wealthier Golden State backers at a San Francisco fund-raiser last Sunday, Barack Obama took a shot at explaining the yawning cultural gap that separates a Turkeyfoot from a Marin County.

"You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them," Obama said.

"And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

Depending on how much coverage the comments get, it could be harmful to Sen. Obama, who has had a tough time courting white, rural working-class voters in the Keystone State. Surely not as big of a story (or as meaningful, I should say), as the Clinton campaign debacles over the Columbian Free Trade Agreement, but it makes for a much better sound bite.

A Day In The Life - Saturday, April 12th

-- 9:45 am ET: Attends town hall meeting with voters, Muncie, IN
Attends private lunch with grassroots supporters, Muncie, IN


-- 9:30 am ET: Attends event with voters, Indianapolis, IN
-- 11:45 am ET: Delivers remarks via telephone to New York State United Teachers' Annual Representative Assembly, New York, NY
-- 1:30 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Mishawaka, IN
-- 4:45 pm ET: Attends town hall meeting with voters, Valparaiso, IN


-- 9:30 am ET: Attends event with voters, Winterville, NC
-- 11:30 am ET: Attends event with voters, Wilson, NC
-- 1:15 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Goldsboro, NC
-- 3:15 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Deep Run, NC
-- 5:15 pm ET: Attends event with voters, New Bern, NC
-- 7:30 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Jacksonville, NC

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Maverick on Torture

I was absolutely astonished to see that McCain's backtracking on torture over a month ago did not pick up any momentum beyond brief reports of the senate hearing. Time Magazine's special on McCain's "flip-flop" over torture should change that:

McCain has long argued that the Bush Administration overstepped its legal authority by approving techniques like waterboarding, and has successfully championed two efforts to try to limit the White House to the plain language of international treaties, which ban cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. McCain has also spoken in opposition to other techniques in the CIA arsenal like sleep deprivation and the use of stress positions, both of which were employed by the North Vietnamese during McCain's captivity as a prisoner of war and may still be employed by the CIA.

But on this latest piece of legislation, which arose during the heat of the primary campaign and may surface again later this month, McCain sided with Bush in opposing a further restriction of CIA techniques. Despite the claims of some partisans, McCain's decision was not a flip-flop, but rather the continuation of a position he took in 2005 when he first championed a bill to restrict the Bush Administration's ability to mistreat detainees.

Bearing the Burdern

A Day In The Life - Friday, April 11th

-- 4:00 pm EST: Campaign Event at Lubbock International Airport, Lubbock, TX.

-- 12:30 pm ET: Town Hall meeting in Columbus, IN.
-- 8:15 pm ET: Town Hall meeting in Terre Haute North Vigo High School, Terre Haunte, IN.

-- 10:00 am ET: Campaign Event at YMCA Gym, Philadelphia, PA.
-- 5:00 pm ET: Campaign Event at Drexel University Main Building Atrium, Philadelphia, PA.

-- 10:45 am ET: Holds a campaign event at South Vermillion High School in Clinton, IN. -- 1:00 pm ET: Holds a campaign event at South Putnam Elementary School Gymnasium in Greencastle, IN.
-- 5:30 p.m. ET: Attends campaign event at Centennial Park in Roanoke Rapids, NC.
-- 7:30 p.m. ET: Attends campaign event at North Carolina Wesleyan College in Rocky Mount, NC.

--7:10 pm ET: Attends an RNC reception with First Lady Laura Bush, Broken Spoke Ranch, Crawford, TX

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Ad Wars

The Clinton campaign released a radio ad to respond to Sen. Obama's TV ad regarding the price of oil and the influence of the oil lobby.

The Clinton radio ad was the first negative ad released by either campaign in the state of Pennsylvania. The Clinton ad attacks very particular, nit-picky points in the Obama ad. Listen to Clinton's 30 second radio spot HERE.

Why the sudden decision to go negative? Clinton may be following her Texas/Ohio strategy. In the last week-and-a-half before the March 4th contests, Sen. Clinton got very aggressive and was able to score wins in 3 of the 4 contests.

However, the more plausible motivation for the sudden aggressive move is the hope of creating a diversion (damage control). Within the last week, it was exposed that Bill Clinton and Chief Strategist Mark Penn supported and lobbied for, respectively, a Columbian free trade agreement that Sen. Clinton opposes. Both stories have received very little play in the media.

Lastly, Sen. Clinton needs to stir things up. If the campaigns remain on cruise control, Sen. Obama will win the nomination and the Clinton camp knows it.

Today, Sen. Obama responded with a radio ad of his own, deploring Clinton's gutter politics. Listen to the Obama radio ad HERE.

Bush: Stay the Course

Breaking news, I know.

After meeting with Gen. Petraeus and Amb. Crocker this morning, President Bush defied calls to begin withdrawing troops and demonstrated his continued stubborn conviction to stay the course in Iraq.

And where did 5+ years, 4,000+ American lives, hundreds of thousands or Iraqi lives, and trillions of dollars get us?

“Iraq is the convergence point for two of the greatest threats to America in this new century: al Qaeda and Iran,” Mr. Bush said, speaking at the White House to an audience that included Vice President Dick Cheney, the secretaries of state and defense and representatives of veterans organizations, per The New York Times' Steven Lee Meyers. It is worth noting, President Bush created this convergence point.

And to think the President once claimed that calls to bring the boys home emboldened the enemy...

The Iraq War has done wonders to increase the power and strength of both Al-Qaeda and Iran (in absolute and relative terms).

Perhaps the best line from the President came when he targeted Democratic nominee Sen. Hillary Clinton, N.Y. Sen. Clinton released a statement calling for an exit strategy. “It’s time for the president to answer the question being asked of him: in the wake of the failed surge, what is the endgame in Iraq?” said Clinton.

Bush's reply? The president said Sen. Clinton “refuses to face reality.”

Powell for Obama?

In an interview with ABC News' Diane Sawyer, former Secretary of State Colin Powell came about as close as you can to endorsing Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., without making it official.

Powell said he is not concerned with Obama's alleged inexperience. Powell pointed to the amazing success Obama has had running his presidential campaign as a testament to his ability to handle executive operations (see yesterday's cartoon regarding Clinton's 'experience' as an executive). Said Powell, "He seems to know how to organize a task, and he seems to know how to apply resources to a problem at hand."

In the end, Powell said he has not decided who to vote for yet.

Powell covered a range of issues, including the overextension of US armed forces. Expressing concern over McCain's plan to continue our current level of resource commitment to Iraq, Powell stated flatly, "The United State military force cannot sustain 140,000 people deployed in Iraq and the 20-odd thousand deployed in Afghanistan."

Watch the interview in its entirety HERE.

A Day In The Life ~ Thursday, April 10th

-- 12:00 pm ET: Attends town hall meeting with voters, Gary, IN
-- 6:00 pm ET: Attends town hall meeting with voters, Lafayette, IN

-- 5:00 pm ET: Addresses Beaver County Democratic Dinner, Hopewell Township, PA
-- 8:30 pm ET: Delivers address at the Allegheny County Democratic Committee's Jefferson/Jackson Dinner, Pittsburgh, PA


-- 3:00 pm ET: Holds event with voters, Boonville, IN
-- 5:15 pm ET: Holds event with voters, Jasper, IN
-- 8:15 pm ET: Holds event with voters, Vincennes, IN

-- Appears as a guest on The View
-- 12:45 pm ET: Attends small business roundtable with voters, New York, NY

-- 7:00 pm ET: Delivers address to voters, Lancaster, PA

At the White House and Beyond. . .


-- 7:15 am ET: Holds breakfast with General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, Washington, DC (Closed press)
-- 11:30 am ET: Delivers statement on U.S. Policy toward Iraq, Washington, DC
-- 12:00 pm ET: Departs for Crawford, Texas with the First Lady, Washington, DC


-- 6:10 pm ET: Speaks at the Defense Advanced Research Project, Washington, DC

-- 12:10 pm ET: Participates in a first bloom activity and delivers remarks, Dallas, TX
-- 9:45 pm ET: Speaks and accepts Methodist Health System's 2008 Robert S. Folsom Leadership Award, Dallas, TX

-- 8:30 am ET: Releases the trade balance report for February, Washington, DC

-- 2:00 pm ET: Releases the March report on the federal budget, Washington, DC

-- 2:00 pm ET: Endorses Barack Obama alongside several state representatives and state senators, Philadelphia, PA

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Feeding Frenzy

As the global prices of commodities skyrocket, many are feeling the impact. But like most shocks to the global economy, the least well-off are hit the hardest.

Many factors contribute to the sharply rising prices of food including climate change, increases in the cost of oil, as well as an increase in US biofuel production.

The sharp increase in food prices have led to violent outbreaks in Haiti:

Crowds of demonstrators in Haiti have tried to storm the presidential palace in the capital Port-au-Prince as protests continue over food prices.

Witnesses say the protesters used metal bins to try to smash down the palace gates before UN troops fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse them.

At least 5 have died and dozens have been wounded in the violent demonstrations that began last week.

For [over a week], parts of Haiti have been erupting into violence triggered by the soaring cost of food.

The prices of rice, beans and fruit have gone up by 50% in the last year.

Earlier this week, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon issued a report saying that the food crisis threatened the Caribbean nation's fragile security.

However, the steep prices and violence are not unique to Haiti. The overall rise in price of food is a global phenomena. Egypt, the Ivory Coast, the Philippines, and India, among others, are experiencing much of the same turmoil as Haiti. Considering gas prices and climate change will only get worse, there is no telling when conditions will improve.

Slick Willie Too

Mark Penn is not alone. Former President Clinton also supports the Columbian free trade agreement that his wife so staunchly opposes.

The Clinton camp has attempted to equate these severe conflicts of interest to that of Austin Goolsbee and the Obama camp re: NAFTA.

As ABC News' Rick Klein points out, "the fact is there's no real comparison."

The Huffington Post's Sam Stein has more:

In June 2005, Clinton was paid $800,000 by the Colombia-based Gold Service International to give four speeches throughout Latin America. The organization is, ostensibly, a development group tasked with bringing investment to the country and educating world leaders about the Colombia's business opportunities.

The group's chief operating officer, Andres Franco, said in an interview that the group supports the congressional ratification of the free trade agreement and that, when Clinton was on his speaking tour, he expressed similar opinions.

"He was supportive of the trade agreement at the time that he came, but that was several years ago. In the present context, I don't know what his position would be. It is not only about union trade rights. It is about what benefit or damage it can do to the US economy," said Franco. "Events with the Clinton campaign [concerning Mark Penn] are not good at all for the trade agreement... Right now it became a campaign issues and that is sad, because it needs to go through."

Keep in mind, Clinton has everything staked on a marginally significant victory (at least 10+ pts) in the labor heavy Keystone State.

Effective Executive?

From The Miami Herald's Jim Morin:

A Day In The Life ~ Wednesday, April 9th

-- Attends town hall meeting with voters, Malvern, PA
-- Attends town hall meeting with voters, Levittown, PA
-- 10:00 pm ET: Attends rally with voters, South Bend, IN

-- 10:00 am ET: Attends town hall with veterans, Aliquippa, PA
-- 3:00 pm ET: Participates in Irish American Presidential Forum, New York, NY
-- 8:00 pm ET: Attends concert with Elton John, New York, NY

-- 8:00 pm ET: Attends concert with Elton John, New York, NY

-- Attends to Senate duties, Washington, DC
-- 4:00 pm ET: Attends town hall meeting with voters, Westport, CT

At the White House and Beyond. . .


-- 10:05 am ET: Participates in a commemorative tree planting, Washington, DC
-- 10:30 am ET: Signs the Second Chance Act of 2007, Washington, DC

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Ad Watch: Obama

In an attempt to match Sen. Clinton (but falling one short), Sen. Obama released four, yes four different TV spots that will be airing in the Keystone State.

View 'Quiet' here:

View 'Maya' here:

View 'One Voice' here:

View 'Mother' here:

'No Light at the End of the Tunnel'

It was a long day for everyone involved. Even as a mere spectator, fatigue kicked in early on. The first testimony was delivered before the Senate Committee on Armed Forces , chaired by Sen. Levin, D-Mich., and began at 9:30 am ET. After 4+ hours of grueling testimony and Q&A, Patraeus and Crocker had a roughly 25 minute break before appearing before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Again, the second testimony lasted over 4 hours, ending at roughly 6:45 pm ET.

Gen. Petraeus and Amb. Crocker opened with their testimony, noting the successes of the surge. Following the firestorm of sectarian violence that plagued last summer (some of the worst months since the beginning of the war), the violence in Iraq has dropped as a result of last fall's 'surge.' Even amidst the military successes of the surge, roughly 40 American troops died per month during the period of the surge (not to mention the steady and much higher rate of Iraqi casualties). Gen. Petraeus noted repeatedly that the success in Iraq was "fragile, and reversible." After giving a breifing on the conditions in Iraq, Patraeus made his recommendation: a "pause" on troop withdrawals and followed by a reevaluation of the conditions in Iraq (the play it by ear strategy). Next Amb. Crocker delivered his remarks, reiterating many of the points touched on by Petraeus, but adding his intention to step-up diplomatic efforts. Then, the questioning began.

Sen. Levin opened the Q&A session. A senior Senator with a striking resemblance to Ben Franklin and the wits to match it, Levin didn't waste anytime getting to the crux of the matter (and neither did a protestor who was carried out by Capitol Hill police, repeatedly chanting, "Bring them home! Bring them home!"):

Right out of the gate, Gen. Petraeus set the tone for the day's responses: ambiguity. Petraeus and Crocker both seemed to suffer from two types of shortsightedness: 1) Their focus was largely on the success of the surge, recapping the last 6 months in Iraq, and they offered little to no insight as to what Iraq will look like going forward; what does "success" mean? And what conditions must be met for the US to begin significant troop withdrawals. 2) They look at Iraq in a vacuum with respect to the United States' limited resources and military priorities around the world. When asked pointedly about where Al-Qaeda posses a larger threat, in the Afghanistan/Pakistan border region or Iraq, both Petraeus and Crocker eventually acknowledged that border region to be of greater military significance.

All three presidential candidates received the opportunity to question Petraeus and Crocker. Sen. McCain asserted that a rapid withdrawal of US troops would be “a failure of moral and political leadership.” While the Republican nominee referred to calls for withdrawal as "reckless and irresponsible," McCain had another reckless and irresponsible moment himself; once again dropping the ol' Shia-Sunni gaffe.

McCain's strongest supporters, Sen. Graham, R-S.C., and Sen. Lieberman, I-Conn., joined in the cheerleading of the surge's success. Many criticized the surge, acknowledging the military successes, but noting its severe failure to bring about any form of significant political reconciliation. Sen. Lieberman responded: "Let's be honest about this. The Iraqi political leadership has achieved a lot more reconciliation and progress since last September than the American political leadership has."

Follwing suit with Sen. McCain, Sen. Clinton used well over half of the alloted 7 minute questioning period as a political soapbox; effectively hijacking the opportunity to question the leading military general and diplomat to Iraq for her own political purposes.

Perhaps one of the most candid moments in all of the testimony came during Sen. Evan Bayh's, D-Ind., question session. When asked about the future of Iraq, Gen. Patreaus acknowledged, "We haven't seen any lights at the end of the tunnel." Watch the exchange here:

Appearing before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, the only presidential contender yet to speak was Sen. Obama. Sen. Obama did not waste any time on an opening monologue, but he did take full advantage of Chairman Biden's lax time restraints.

The most impressive line of questioning came from the foreign policy guru, former presidential contender, and Chairman himself, Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del.:

When all was said and done, it was clear: even those most in favor of prolonging our occupation of Iraq see "no light at the end of the tunnel." McCain, Petraeus, Crocker, Bush, and Cheney; not one of them can spell out the specific conditions that must be met in order begin significant troop withdrawal. Subsequently, not one of them can speculate on how long we will remain in Iraq.

At a time when we are losing ground in the battle against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, facing the largest budget deficit in decades, have troops serving 3rd, 4th, and even 5th tours of duty in Iraq with over 4,040 already dead, thousands more wounded, and NO END IN SIGHT, it boggles my mind how anyone can support the continuation of this hopeless mistake of a War.

(Not to mention, it already appears as if the "fragile" success is on the verge of "reversal.")

Obama Questions Patraeus/Crocker

Sen. Biden was lax with the time limits and Sen. Obama took full advantage. Sen. Obama did not waste time, like his colleagues Sen. Clinton and Sen. McCain, on a long drawn out opening statement.

Watch Sen. Obama's questioning, Part I, here:

And Part II here:

Clinton's ...Opening Statement?

Falling in line with Senators McCain and Lieberman, Sen. Clinton wasted her questioning period making a long drawn out opening statement. This 4-plus minute clip doesn't even make it to any of her actual questions. I will post her line of questioning when it becomes available.

Gen. Patraeus and Amb. Crocker will appear before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations at 2:30. I suspect Sen. Obama will follow suit and waste his minutes on a dragged out opening dialog... we shall see.

UPDATED 8:14 pm ET with Sen. Clinton's questions:

American Politics Worse than Iraq?

The Atlantic's Matthew Yglesias points out the pure "idiocy" of Sen. Lieberman's, I-Conn., assertion that American politics are worse off than the absolute political quagmire facing Iraq:

Joe Lieberman is probably beyond shark-jumping at this point, but his statement that Iraqis have made more progress on political reconciliation since September than have Americans is really pretty appalling. To state the obvious, America has a heated political debate, but liberals and conservatives aren't shooting mortars at each other and we don't have pitched battles in the streets. To compare the situation in Iraq to the persistence of strong partisan disagreement in the United States is idiotic.

I understand American politics are partisan this day in age, but the two situations are simply NOT analogous.

Sen. Lieberman and Sen. Graham, R-S.C., Sen. McCain's faithful sidekicks, spent their entire question time praising the success of the War, effectively hijacking the proceedings for political purposes.

UPDATE 2:28 pm ET: See Sen. Lieberman's comments here:

It's All Good

McCain's opening statement for Gen. Patraeus and Amb. Crocker's testimony before the Armed Services Committee.

I will update with questioning from the candidates as it becomes available. All three candidates will have the opportunity to question Patraeus and Crocker. Sen. McCain and Sen. Clinton are both on the Senate Committee on Armed Services and Sen. Obama is on the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs.

UPDATE 2:09 pm ET: Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., with more cheerleading:

Ad Watch: Clinton

Today, Clinton released five, yes, five different TV spots that will be airing in Pennsylvania.

Live Feed of Patraeus/Crocker Testimony

Per MSNBC, watch the Patraeus/Crocker testimony on the Iraq War HERE.

The Dem Horse Race by the Numbers

As always, take these figures with a grain of salt:

National, per Gallup:
Obama - 52
Clinton - 43
*Dates conducted: April 4-6. Error margin: +/-3%

Pennsylvania, per Quinnipiac:
Clinton - 50
Obama - 44
*Dates conducted: April 3-6. Error margin: +/-2.7%

North Carolina, per Rasmussen:
Obama - 56
Clinton - 33
*Dates conducted: April 3. Error margin: +/-4%

Ad Watch: Clinton

Hillary has a new 30 sec spot featuring Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., that will be airing in Indiana (her first in the Hoosier State).

A Day In The Life ~ Tuesday, April 8th


-- 8:30 am ET: Delivers remarks to the Communication Workers of America, Washington, DC
-- 2:30 pm ET: Attends hearing of General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, Washington, DC


-- 11:40 am ET: Attends round table discussion with voters, Harrisburg, NC
-- 2:30 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Winston-Salem, NC
-- 7:30 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Raleigh, NC


-- 8:00 am ET: Delivers remarks to the Communication Workers of America, Washington, DC
-- 9:30 am ET: Attends hearing of General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, Washington, DC

-- 8:15 am ET: Attends rally with veterans, Washington, DC
-- 9:30 am ET: Attends hearing of General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, Washington, DC
-- Attends fundraiser with supporters, Washington, DC

At the White House and Beyond. . .

-- 3:05 pm ET: Participates in Medal of Honor Presentation, Washington, DC

-- 9:30 am ET: Testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Washington, DC
-- 2:30 pm ET: Testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Washington, DC

Monday, April 7, 2008

What About the Troops?

I wanted to highlight this article from ABC's Martha Raddatz. We ask so much of our troops; it would only be just if we asked them what they wanted, more often.

ABC's Martha Raddatz asked American soldiers in Iraq what issues are most important to them when looking at the presidential candidates.

Though the military is not supposed to engage in partisan political activity, these soldiers spoke out about their personal endorsements, and their opinions are likely to matter. In 2004, 73 percent of the U.S. military voted for a presidential candidate, and officials believe it may be even higher this time around.

PFC Jeremy Slate said he supported Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., because of his stated intention to pull out of Iraq right away.

"That would be nice," Slate said, "I'd like to be home, yea."

SFC Patricia Keller also expressed support for Obama, citing his representation for change.

Spc. Patrick Nicholls from Eggawam, Mass., pointed out that many soldiers on the frontlines frequently think about their families back home.

"We think about how our families are doing back home. That's a major concern, like how the economy is doing, also as well as where we're going to be in the future. Because really, truly, what we consider we're doing, we're doing a valuable job, we want to make sure that the efforts we make are appreciated."

He suggested he was too engaged in Iraq to keep up with politics back home. "I haven't really been following it too much since we've been over here, ma'am," he told Raddatz. "So, don't really know which issues are too important to me right now. ... I don't know who's running, ma'am."

Lt. Leah Wicks said that, tied into concerns about her family's welfare, were concerns about the economy, "where we're going to be in the future."

Only moments before speaking with ABC News, the troops had been listening to Vice President Dick Cheney give a rousing speech, but it didn't change their political preference.

Spc. Imus Loto said he supported Obama. "It will be something different. But he's out there and he'll probably support us a lot more."

By support, Loto meant pulling out troops. "Pull me out, too." he said.

Though the military is generally a more conservative group, soldiers like Sgt. Justin Sarbaum are just as eager for a pull-out as the Democratic candidates. Sarbaum said he wondered which presidential candidate would be able to better the U.S. relationship with rogue nations, such as Iran, so that soldiers are not sent off to another war.

"Iran is obviously a big issue," Sarbaum said, "Here in Iraq for my third time; starting another war right now is it really necessary?"

Sgt. Cory Messingham from Lewisville, Texas, said he wasn't following the race, but he was concerned about candidates' paying attention to the emotional toll that the war has taken on soldiers.

"My biggest issue is support for the military, military funding and our deployments, not having long deployments anymore. Because [the] majority of us are doing ...15-month deployments. So, it's tough on the soldiers and tough on the soldiers' families. Those are really my biggest issues."

1st Sgt. David Logan said, "I am leaning toward Hillary. I think that we should have a gradual drawdown."

Though the soldiers have been living in Iraq, they listen closely to the candidates on issues far beyond the wars they are fighting.

"Education back in the states is one of my main concerns," Spc. Matthew Durkin said.

Economy and environment were on Staff Sgt. Derek Dion's mind. "Things like gas prices, and look at the environment and what we're going to leave our children."

Spc. Joseph Lindsesdt, who is from Alaska, said he was watching for consistency of the candidates' views. "The steadiness of the candidate, whether they've changed their views, constantly, over time, or with political wind, as I like to put it."

To that end, Lindsesdt's pick is Obama. "The fact that he's followed his views, regardless of what they have been [sic] and whether I've agreed with them or not, sometimes. But he's been steady the entire way."

When asked if he was concerned about criticism that Obama had less political experience than some of the other candidates, the battle-weary soldier replied, "No, I think being a decent leader doesn't have to do anything with experience much."

Watch Raddatz's broadcast report HERE.

Extinguish the Torch?

What was suppose to be a PR boost for the Chinese has turned into utter disaster; the Olympic touch relay went through Paris today and, three times, Oympic officials had to extinguish the torch amid Tibetan liberation protest. For the last leg of the run, the torch was brought on board a bus to protect it from protesters.

The NY Times' Katrin Bennhold and Elisabeth Rosenthal report:

Despite heavy security, at least one activist got within a meter of the pack of Rollerblading police officers crowding around the torchbearer. On several occasions, officers were seen tackling protesters. A police official quoted by The Associated Press said 28 people were arrested.

To view video footage of the protests and read how the story was covered per France 24, click HERE.

Lastly, I leave you, the reader, with a few questions: Are protesters, in effect, 'hijacking' the Olympics for political purposes? Should the Olympics be a time when all the world's countries come together and put political differences aside? Or would it be wrong to stand idle, and give China free PR while they exercise brutish rule over Tibet and continue to aid Sudanese government forces responsible for genocide?

One more: Do you think the protests would have been comparable had the Olympic games been held in the US this year?

Vote Both!

The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder highlights a new website up ( that encourages Democrats to support a join Obama-Clinton ticket (no particular order).

The web site, although technically unaffiliated with the Clinton camp, was launched by Adam Parkhomenko who resigned from the Clinton campaign just three weeks ago. Parkhomenko was executive assistant to ex-campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle.

[Parkhomenko] had been one of the first employees of the 2006 incarnation of Clinton's political action committee, HillPAC, and his proximity to the powers of the campaign will raise the question of whether the effort is sanctioned by the campaign. (Parkhomenko says that the idea was his own.)

The website features a petition to members of the Democratic National Committee "to support a unity ticket with both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama."

Five years ago, another unauthorized Parkhomenko website,, caught the attention of Clinton; he was hired by Solis Doyle in 2005.

A Day In The Life ~ Monday, April 7th

--10:45 am ET: Attends event with voters, Kansas City, MO

--1:30 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Barceloneta, Peurto Rico
--5:45 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Salinas, Peurto Rico
--7:45 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Ponce, Peurto Rico

-- No public events scheduled, Washington, DC

--No public events scheduled, Chicago, IL

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Penn Steps Down (...kinda)

The latest wrinkle in the ongoing story regarding Chief Clinton Strategist Mark Penn and his lobbying done on behalf of the Columbian government for a free trade agreement that Clinton opposes, unraveled this afternoon when Penn (kinda) stepped down as from his role as chief strategist.

"After the events of the last few days, Mark Penn has asked to give up his role as Chief Strategist of the Clinton Campaign," said the official statement issued by campaign manager Maggie Williams.

As the statement implies, Penn is stepping down in order to disassociate himself from campaign. However, to use a common Clinton line of attack (most likely devised by Penn himself), these are "just words." Penn, and his firm, Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates, Inc., will continue to provide "polling and advice to the campaign."

Perhaps he should advise Clinton to completely disassociate herself from Penn instead of staging this cute act.

Once Told Book Series ~ Next Up

Next up in the Once Told book series is Matt Welch's McCain: The Myth of a Maverick.

Bhutan: Development with a Mind for the Environment

Thought this would be a good follow-up to today's Once Told review of Jeffrey Sachs' Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet.

Per Al Jazeera News:

Agree to Disagree on Missile Defense

President Bush and Russian President Vladamir Putin met Sunday in what would be their last meeting as heads-of-state. Despite the rising tensions between the two countries ever since Bush took office in 2001 (and as Russia slides towards authoritarianism), Putin and Bush have maintained a somewhat civil (albeit awkward) personal relationship.

The leaders promised to continued cooperation between the two countries heading forward, but disagreed on the issue of missile defense. Russia remains opposed to U.S. plans to build missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic. As nuclear nonproliferation seems to be going nowhere, both the US and Russia have agreed on the importance of establishing a global missile defense system. However, the implications of the U.S. plans to establish missile defense systems in the Czech Republic and Poland (given the countries' geographic location) are clear: the U.S. doesn't trust Russia. Nonetheless, President Bush assures Putin the missile defense system is not directed at Russia.

Bush's visit with Putin comes just days after Bush's failed effort to grant Ukraine and Georgia NATO membership at this week's Bucharest summit meeting. Again, the implications of Bush's plan were clear. Ukraine and Georgia are of the utmost geopolitical significance to Russia. France and Germany opposed the bids for membership citing "concerns about upsetting relations with Russia."

I was under the impression that the debate over missile defense systems was moot. Historically, the technology of missile defense systems has failed. Additionally, the proliferation of missile defense systems will undoubtedly drive the incentive to build more missiles and nukes. The Bush Administration has long neglected the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty; now, they are actively pursuing a course of action that could result in another arms race.

See how the story was covered in Russia, per Russia Today.

Once Told Book Series

Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet
by Jeffery Sachs

Jeffery Sachs’ Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet is a visionary manifesto that takes a global perspective (in every sense of the term) in tackling the vast issues of climate change, poverty, disease, as well as civil and interstate conflict.

This work is an expansion of Sachs’ prior book, The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time. It is a critique of the shortsightedness of today’s politicians. Sachs does not address the issues simply on normative terms; he clearly demonstrates that it is in our own interest address the issues of global climate change and poverty. He likens the UN Millennium Development Goals to the Marshall Plan; viewing foreign aid as a benevolent act with great strategic benefits and importance.

Sachs attributes the crisis in Darfur to lack of drinking water, infrastructure, and communications. In doing so, he seems to go too far in asserting that the crisis in Sudan can be solved by addressing these issues. Sachs dismisses political and military solutions to Sudan as a waste of time; a solution that misses the point. While Sachs clearly addresses the preventative measures that could have been adopted prior to the Sudan crisis unravelling, improving infrastructure and access to drinking water will not stop a brutal regime that has shown the utmost disrespect for NGOs. The international community should work to improve said conditions in Sudan and all analogous countries in order to prevent future conflict, but once crisis has shown its ugly face, developmental aid can only go so far.

On climate change, Sachs address every issue from the depletion of the ozone and fisheries to desertification, rising sea levels and access to clean drinking water. Sachs demonstrates his mastery of the subject and clearly address the problem, the roadblocks to confronting the problem, and the best course of action, accounting for cost, organization, and implementation. As someone who is more concerned with politics and international affairs, I found myself skimming over some of the nitty-gritty statistics regarding climate change, but it simply goes to demonstrate Sachs' meticulous work and attention for the details.

Rating: Jeffery Sachs' Common Wealth receives 4 stars out of 5, for its visionary outlook and global perspective.

About the Author: Jeffrey D. Sachs is director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University and special adviser to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the Millennium Development Goals. He is internationally renowned for his work as n economic adviser to governments and international organizations around the world.

Doonesbury ~ Fiscal Responsibility

A Day In The Life ~ Sunday, April 6th

--1:00 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Missoula, MT

--6:00 pm ET: Attends event with voters, San Juan, Puerto Rico
--7:00 pm ET: Attends event with voters, San Juan, Puerto Rico

--No public events scheduled

--No public events scheduled