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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The legislative committee considering impeachment of Gov. Rod Blagojevich could be at the beginning of its work or nearing the end, depending on the wishes of federal prosecutors.
If prosecutors give the OK, the Illinois House committee will explore the federal criminal charges against Blagojevich by interviewing his aides, reviewing documents and questioning witnesses to the actions that led to Blagojevich’s arrest.
However, some committee members say they expect U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald will steer them away from anything related to his investigation.
If that happens, the panel has little left on its agenda.
”I think we could wrap up our work within two days, maybe three,” the committee’s top Republican, Rep. Jim Durkin, said Sunday.
Chairwoman Barbara Flynn Currie, a Democrat like the governor, wouldn’t go quite so far. She said new issues could still come up and prolong the committee’s work, which began Tuesday.
The committee, which is supposed to produce a recommendation on whether lawmakers should pursue impeachment, hopes to hear Monday what limits prosecutors will suggest. Members have repeatedly said they will do nothing that prosecutors say would interfere the Blagojevich investigation.
Lawmakers said they’ll also hear testimony Monday on state jobs and contracts that Blagojevich gave to major campaign donors and on how prosecutors obtain permission to eavesdrop on their targets. Federal wiretaps are an important part of the case against Blagojevich, and his attorney has questioned their validity.
The governor was arrested Dec. 9 on a variety of federal corruption charges — including scheming to benefit from his power to name President-elect Barack Obama’s replacement in the U.S. Senate.
The arrest, after years of questions about Blagojevich’s honesty and clashes with other state officials, prompted an avalanche of calls for his resignation.
Blagojevich declared Friday that he is innocent and will stay in office to fight the charges. ”I’m not going to quit a job that people hired me to do because of false accusations and a political lynch mob,” he said.
So far, the committee has heard overviews of several complaints about the governor’s six years in office: Defying the Legislature by launching a health program that had been rejected, refusing to cooperate with government reviews, wasting money and withholding public information.
The committee has not delved into the details of each allegation. Members may seek more detail in a couple of areas, but generally they say an overview will be enough to come up with a recommendation on whether the full House should impeach.
”We’ve pretty well got to the bottom of complaints that the governor has abused his authority here, there or some place else,” Currie said.
The criminal complaint includes a sworn affidavit laying out some of the evidence. In addition, guilty pleas by others caught in the investigation contain other allegations against Blagojevich.
That might not be enough for a criminal conviction of the governor, lawmakers say, but it’s plenty for deciding whether to go forward with impeachment.
If the House approves impeaching Blagojevich, the Senate would hold a trial. It would take a two-thirds vote to remove him from office.
KAILUA, Hawaii – He’s not the commander in chief yet, but was President-elect Barack Obama briefly practicing his salute on Sunday?
On the first morning of his vacation here, Mr. Obama arrived at the Marine Corps Base Hawaii for his daily workout. As he walked out of the Semper Fit Center, his gray T-shirt soaked in sweat, he lifted his right hand and gave a quick salute to two Marines in fatigues who were standing in the distance.
The brief moment was not captured by cameras. Photographs and video were not permitted to be taken on the military base, according to campaign aides.
Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle Obama, opened their day with a 45-minute workout inside a large gymnasium at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, which is located on the Mokapu Penninsula on the windward side of Oahu, about 30 minutes outside Honolulu. It is sunny and warm here, a world away, at least in terms of the weather, from Chicago.
The Marine base seemed sleepy when the motorcade rolled through shortly after 7 a.m. Home to the 3rd Marine Regiment, Marine Aircraft Group 24 and the 3rd Radio Battalion, the base is located only a few minutes from where the Obamas are staying, a rented home at the end of a series of cul-de-sacs (and security barricades) along Kailuana Place.
Mr. Obama, who arrived to his native Hawaii on Saturday afternoon, is taking a 13-day holiday vacation with his family and a few friends from Chicago. At least some work, though, followed him to Hawaii.
He is receiving his daily national security briefing and his transition team is scheduled on Monday or Tuesday to release an internal review of any contacts between his advisers and the Illinois governor’s office over filling his vacant Senate seat. That is the subject of a corruption case and federal investigation into Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich.
Mr. Obama is not expected to address the inquiry, but rather have it released through a written statement from Washington.
The president-elect, after filling his Cabinet in record-setting pace, is taking a break. On tap for the rest of his Sunday? An afternoon tee-time and 18 holes of golf.
Evangelical pastor says he loves ‘gays and straights,’ met Melissa Ethridge
LONG BEACH, Calif. – The first openly gay member of Congress said Sunday it was a mistake for President-elect Barack Obama to invite evangelical pastor Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration.
“Mr. Warren compared same-sex couples to incest. I found that deeply offensive and unfair,” Rep. Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat, said in a broadcast interview.
“If he was inviting the Rev. Warren to participate in a forum and to make a speech, that would be a good thing,” Frank said. “But being singled out to give the prayer at the inauguration is a high honor. It has traditionally given as a mark of great respect. And, yes, I think it was wrong to single him out for this mark of respect.”
Under fire for opposing gay marriage, influential evangelical pastor Warren said Saturday that he loves Muslims, people of other religions, Republicans and Democrats, and he also loves “gays and straights.”
Says it’s OK to disagree
The 54-year-old pastor and founder of Saddleback Church in Southern California told the crowd of 500 that it’s unrealistic to expect everyone to agree on everything all the time.
“You don’t have to see eye to eye to walk hand in hand,” said Warren.
Warren also defended President-elect Barack Obama’s invitation that he give the invocation at the Jan. 20 inauguration in the keynote speech he delivered at the Muslim Public Affairs Council’s annual convention in Long Beach.
Obama’s choice of Warren earlier this week sparked outcry from gay rights and other liberal groups, who said choosing such an outspoken opponent of gay marriage was tantamount to endorsing bigotry.
“Three years ago I took enormous heat for inviting Barack Obama to my church because some of his views don’t agree (with mine),” he said. “Now he’s invited me.”
Warren said he prays for the same things for Obama that he prays for himself: integrity, humility and generosity.
Obama defends ‘wide range of view points’
Obama defended his choice on Thursday, saying that he has also invited Joseph Lowery, a Methodist minister and civil rights leader who supports same-sex marriage and gay rights, to deliver the benediction.
Read more …
Cigarette clamped between thumb and finger, a louche Barack Obama leans back with smouldering eyes and draws smoke deep into his lungs.
When he agreed to model for an aspiring photographer’s portfolio, the prospect of this image reemerging 28 years later as he prepared to enter the White House probably never crossed his mind.
Back then he was a student at Occidental College in Los Angeles struggling with his racial identity and, by his own admission, experimenting with drugs. These days he can claim to be the fittest President-elect in history, working out six days a week with a gym regime that some suspect borders on the obsessive. But he is still trying to kick cigarettes.
Time magazine, naming Mr Obama as its Person of the Year, yesterday published the long-lost pictures with the photographer, Lisa Jack, saying that they showed a “spirit of fun and thoughtfulness” in the President-elect.
The film, she said, was kept locked in a safe during the election campaign so that it could not be used for political purposes. Some polls have suggested that his smoking habit was a bigger barrier to him getting elected than the colour of his skin.
Although Mr Obama was careful to avoid being photographed smoking on the campaign trail, he has acknowledged in recent interviews that despite promising to quit “there were times where I have fallen off the wagon”.
Under pressure from his wife, Michelle, Mr Obama claims that his daily intake has fallen from a peak of seven or eight to rare occasions when he has “bummed one” from an aide.
His battle with cigarettes is facing another deadline – January 20, Inauguration Day – because smoking is banned in the White House. Asked if he would be able to cope, Mr Obama said: “What I would say is that I have done a terrific job under the circumstances of making myself much healthier, and I think that you will not see any violations of these rules.”
His daily routine now begins with a Secret Service convoy escorting him from his Chicago home to the Regents Park apartment building five blocks away to use the gym. Some suggest that his priority is physical, rather than spiritual, health. Mr Obama reportedly has not been to church since the election campaign ended, but he still finds time to exercise on Sundays.
In an interview with Men’s Health magazine last month, he complained that the average 45 minutes a day he had spent working out during the campaign had been insufficient. In the past month Mr Obama has usually been in the gym for well over an hour. “The main reason I do it is just to clear my head and relieve me of stress. It’s a great way to stay focused,” he said.
Those who have seen the 47-year-old President-elect in action say that there is not an ounce of fat on him and that runners on adjacent treadmills have been unable to keep up. There have also been five-a-side basketball games with some of his closest aides.
Michael Lowe, Professor of Psychology at Drexel University in Philadelphia, who studies eating disorders, has said that although “it’s hazardous to draw wide-ranging conclusions about someone’s personality”, exercising for more than an hour a day could be regarded as compulsive.
The website Gawker.com suggested that the incoming President’s slender physique put him at odds with a nation where obesity has become widespread. “Barack Obama Shames Americans With His Elitist Body” read the headline.
Mr Obama has described pictures of his torso taken on the beach in Hawaii as embarrassing. But he may still prefer that image to one of him smoking while wearing a hat.
It’s official. Tomorrow, former Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan will file his paperwork, and throw his hat in the ring as a candidate for the Anchorage mayoral seat about to be vacated by current Mayor Mark Begich.
Begich will head to Washington D.C. as Alaskas Junior Senator and leave the Chair of the Anchorage Assembly, Matt Claman in the role of Acting Mayor until the election in the spring.
Matt Claman has been unwilling to say whether he will run for the seat he will temporarily occupy between January and April, or not. My guess is that he will not. His wishy-washiness to date has been aggravating, and the fact that there are already two strong progressive candidates in Croft and Selkregg means that the addition of Claman and the potential splitting of the vote could feasibly result in Dan Sullivan being elected, which many would consider disastrous.
The mayoral field is crowded. Monegan will be running against Anchorage Assembly member Sheila Selkregg, former legislator Eric Croft, former Assembly member Dan Sullivan, and former police spokesman Paul Honeman.
Monegan has recently spoken at the Bartlett Democratic Club Luncheon, and also at the University of Alaska. The theme for his talks was “ethics in government.” Alaskans are generally not familiar with that term.
And what does he have to say about the ethics of our current Governor?
“I think there could be improvement. Let me put it that way.”
Monegan is not giving details of his campaign until the paperwork is filed tomorrow.
His ouster at the hands of Sarah Palin, and the ensuing ethics investigation which found her guilty of abuse of power had the effect of catapulting Monegan into the national spotlight. His support in Anchorage is widespread both among law enforcement personnel and the public at large. He will be a formidable opponent.
Let the games begin!
You’ve seen him assaulted with a shoe, but care to see President Bush “hung?” That’s a scenario Mr. Bush decided was worthy of a joke this morning in Washington.
“I suspected there would be a good-size crowd once the word got out about my hanging,” the president said at the unveiling of his portrait at the National Portrait Gallery. The portrait by Robert Anderson – a classmate of Mr. Bush at Yale – will be hung in the exhibition “America’s Presidents,” and is available for viewing starting tomorrow.
CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller writes: “Since the gallery now has portraits dating back to George Washington, he noted the symmetry – from George W. to George W.”
Mr. Bush also noted that the artist said he had a lot of trouble with the president’s mouth. “And I told him that makes two of us,” Mr. Bush said.
One more crack: President Bush said the artist had to use alot more gray paint that in a previous portrait of a slightly younger Mr. Bush for the Yale Club.
First Lady Laura Bush’s portrait, by Aleksander Titovets, a Russian painter who now lives in El Paso, Texas. The portrait of Mrs. Bush won’t hang near her husband’s – it will be on display on the first floor in the north hall of the gallery.
Despite being allotted less desirable portrait real-estate, Mrs. Bush was all smiles and joviality, too. According to the official transcript of the unveiling, she said:
- Sasha [Titovets, the Russian painter] said that he postponed telling his mother when his work was chosen for this portrait. He thought the news might be “too big” for her. (Laughter.) And history shows us that these assignments can sometime turn out poorly. Years ago, Peter Hurd was commissioned to paint Lyndon B. Johnson’s portrait for the official White House collection. President Johnson took one look at the final portrait and declared it the “ugliest thing he’d ever seen.” (Laughter.) Across Washington, the joke spread at Hurd’s expense that artists should be seen, but not Hurd, at the White House. Peter Hurd’s portrait of President Johnson now hangs here in the National Portrait Gallery.
The first family wasn’t (quite) all jokes. As Mr. Bush reflected on being custodian of the presidency these last eight years, Knoller reports, tears welled in his eyes.
President-elect Barack Obama named his picks for new transportation and labor secretaries Friday, capping off a flurry of Cabinet appointments in the lead-up to the Christmas holiday.
Obama tapped Ill. Rep. Ray LaHood, a moderate Republican lawmaker, for transportation secretary, California Rep. Hilda Solis for labor secretary, former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk for U.S. trade representative and venture capitalist Karen Mills to head the Small Business Administration.
“Daunting as the challenges we are inheriting may be, I am convinced that our team and the American people are prepared to meet them,”Mr. Obama said. “It will take longer than anybody of us would like — years, not months. It will get worse before it gets better.”
Mr. Obama also fielded questions on the Bush administration’s newly unveiled plan to assist the ailing U.S. auto industry, saying it’s “absolutely necessary” to restructure the companies to save the industry, while also working toward creating “fuel-efficient cars of tomorrow.”
Democratic contender for the Minnesota Senate seat Al Franken took a 250-vote lead over Republican incumbent Norm Coleman in the still undecided Senate race Friday, but thousands of ballot challenges remain unresolved.
Coleman led Franken in election night returns and held a 188-vote lead before the board decided to review challenged ballots. However, both sides acknowledged that the lead could flip a few times before the long recount ends.
About 5,000 challenges were withdrawn after election officials asked that both camps pull back on unnecessary or frivolous claims in the interest of a faster recount.
The five-member Minnesota State Canvassing Board denied Coleman’s proposal to reject 150 duplicate ballots that weren’t run through a ballot machine and couldn’t be matched to their originals, the Minnesota Star Tribune reported.
Board members ruled duplicates should be resolved by “another forum,” yet to be determined, as they focused on ballots where there “are questions about the intent of the voters who cast them,” according to the Star Tribune.
Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said Thursday the board’s goal of finishing the recount by Friday would not be met, the Washington Post reported.
“The only real concern is accuracy and transparency,” he said. “Our job is to make sure we are absolutely certain how Minnesotans voted.”
Franken’s 250-vote lead over Coleman marks the Democrat’s first lead since the disputed recount began, but Coleman’s spokesman Mark Drake said numbers are expected to change as the vote counting continues.
“Because of procedural reasons regarding the way the process has been playing out this week, you will likely see the numbers continue to flip flop around and go upside down as a good-sized chunk of withdrawn challenges from the Franken campaign have not yet been awarded back into Norm Colman’s column,” he said, according to TheHill.com.
The recount’s final result will be delayed by the outstanding issue of which rejected ballots will end up being counted.
More than 12,000 ballots that were originally rejected must be sorted through to determine which should be counted. Officials estimate more than 1,000 will be recounted, the Washington Post reported.
Also delaying the final decision will be the consideration of absentee ballots, which must be accounted for before Dec. 31.
Johnston is the father of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s future grandson
The mother of Levi Johnston, the 18-year-old boyfriend of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s teenage daughter, has been arrested on drug charges, the Anchorage Daily News reported Friday.
Sherry L. Johnston, 42, has been charged with six felony counts of misconduct, the newspaper reported.
Levi Johnston entered the national spotlight this autumn when it was revealed that 18-year-old Bristol Palin — the eldest daughter of Sarah Palin, who had just been tapped as then-Republican presidential nominee John McCain’s running mate — was pregnant with his child.
The baby is due Saturday, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
The paper said that Alaska State Troopers charged Sherry Johnston with second-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance and fourth-degree misconduct involving controlled substances, or possession.
Sherry Johnston has been released on a $5,000 bond, the newspaper reported.
Contacted by the Anchorage Daily News, Palin’s spokesman, Bill McAllister, issued this statement: “This is not a state government matter. Therefore the governor’s communications staff will not be providing comment or scheduling interview opportunities.”
CHICAGO – In an unwavering statement of innocence, Gov. Rod Blagojevich said Friday he will be vindicated of criminal corruption charges and has no intention of letting what he called a “political lynch mob” force him from his job.
“I will fight. I will fight. I will fight until I take my last breath. I have done nothing wrong,” Blagojevich said, speaking for about three minutes in his first substantial public comments since his arrest last week on federal corruption charges.
The Democrat is accused, among other things, of plotting to sell or trade President-elect Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat in secretly recorded phone conversations.
“I’m not going to quit a job the people hired me to do because of false accusations and a political lynch mob,” Blagojevich said.
Still, one of the governor’s attorneys said Blagojevich will take his constituents into account as the case moves forward.
“He told me if it doesn’t work, if it is too hard if the people of Illinois suffer, he will step aside,” attorney Sam Adam, Jr., after the governor finished speaking.
Itching to talk
Blagojevich had been itching to talk, saying he wanted to tell his side of the story even though his lead defense attorney, Ed Genson, didn’t like the idea. On Friday, Blagojevich asked Illinoisans to “sit back and take a deep breath, and please reserve judgment.”
“Afford me the same rights that you and your children have — the presumption of innocence, the right to defend yourself,” said the governor, who said he wants to “answer every allegation” in court.
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Dec. 19 (Bloomberg) — Harvard University Professor John P. Holdren will be named Barack Obama’s top science adviser in the White House, the school said.
Holdren, 64, a professor of environmental policy, will be named to the post in a radio address by Obama tomorrow, Harvard, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said in a statement today. His appointment to Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, as the position is formally known, depends on confirmation by the U.S. Senate. Obama assumes office on Jan. 20.
Holdren is a specialist in energy technology and policy, and global climate change. As president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, an advocacy group in Washington, in 2007, Holdren called on politicians to show stronger leadership on climate change, which the group called a “growing threat to society.”
“None of the great interlinked challenges of our time — the economy, energy, environment, health, security, and the particular vulnerabilities of the poor to shortfalls in all of these — can be solved without insights and advances from the physical sciences, the life sciences, and engineering,” Holdren said in today’s statement.
President-elect Barack Obama plans to name former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack as his choice for Secretary of Agriculture at a news conference Wednesday, transition aides said.
Vilsack served for two terms, from 1999 to 2007, in what is one of country’s leading hog and corn-producing states.
He briefly ran for president, but raised little money and endorsed Hillary Clinton soon after getting out, becoming one of her more prominent surrogates.
Obama’s selection of Vilsack brings to four the number of former Obama rivals from the Dem primary now in his administration, as the Iowan joins VP-elect Joe Biden, Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Commerce-designate Bill Richardson.
Also Wednesday, Obama is expected to name Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar to head the Interior department.
With the selections, Obama has two more cabinet posts to fill: Labor and Transportation.
A perplexing new chapter is unfolding in Barack Obama’s racial saga: Many people insist that “the first black president” is actually not black.
Debate over whether to call this son of a white Kansan and a black Kenyan biracial, African-American, mixed-race, half-and-half, multiracial _ or, in Obama’s own words, a “mutt” _ has reached a crescendo since Obama’s election shattered assumptions about race.
Obama has said, “I identify as African-American _ that’s how I’m treated and that’s how I’m viewed. I’m proud of it.”
In other words, the world gave Obama no choice but to be black, and he was happy to oblige.
But the world has changed since the young Obama found his place in it.
Intermarriage and the decline of racism are dissolving ancient definitions. The candidate Obama, in achieving what many thought impossible, was treated differently from previous black generations. And many white and mixed-race people now view President-elect Obama as something other than black.
So what now for racial categories born of a time when those from far-off lands were property rather than people, or enemy instead of family?
It seems McCain could see what we all saw – Palin is no where near qualified and some of her ideas are borderline reckless.
In an interview with ABC’s “This Week,” Senator John McCain refused to endorse his former running mate Governor Sarah Palin for the Republican nomination in 2012.
When the network’s George Stephanopoulos asked McCain whether he hoped that Palin would become the Republican Party’s standard bearer in 2012, he refused to endorse her. “I can say something like that,” McCain said.
Stephanopoulos then pushed McCain by asking whether it was not strange that he endorsed Palin for vice president.
“Now we’re in a whole new election cycle,” McCain said. “My corpse is still warm.”
He went on to explain that there are a lot of other Republican governors who could play a vital role in the party.
Stephanopoulos was right to point out that McCain’s answer was strange in so far that he only endorsed Palin for vp weeks ago. He wanted her to become America’s president if something would happen to him. As such, it would make sense for him to speak positively about Palin for 2012.
McCain supporters could, of course, argue that the senator is right in so far that 2012 is four years off, and that someone else may win the nomination of his party then. Who knows, perhaps Palin will fall off the national stage pretty soon.
True, but he should have praised her nonetheless and indicated full support for her no matter what career path she chooses nonetheless. His reaction gives many the impression that he does indeed blame Palin to a considerable degree for his defeat which hurts both him and Palin.
McCain’s refusal to truly stand by Palin is an indication of his attempt to recreate a centrist image for himself, an image he had for decades, but which was destroyed during the Republican primaries and, especially, the national election. The ‘Maverick’ Senator from Arizona realizes that he lost the election partially due to the destruction of his centrist image and is, it seems, determined to get back that which he lost. One also notices that he has spent considerable time recently defending president-elect Barack Obama on a wide range of issues, especially on the Blagojevich corruption scandal.
The above all fits perfectly into the notion that McCain is trying to salvage his reputation as a centrist Republican, willing to reach across the aisle. Endorsing Palin would hamper this attempt somewhat due to her reputation as a hardliner, a true card carrying member of the Republican Party’s Christian conservative base.
As such, his reaction to Stephanopoulous should be interpreted as nothing more, or less, than an attempt of a man who lost the presidential election to restore his image and to continue being relevant in Washington, D.C.
From the plains of North Dakota to the deep waters of Brazil, dozens of major oil and gas projects have been suspended or canceled in recent weeks as companies scramble to adjust to the collapse in energy markets.
It would be foolhardy to depend on today’s lower energy prices – in this stalled economy – to determine whether or not we should develop alternatives to oil – as within two years we are going to be faced with the same climbing energy prices and the same scarcity of oil.
In the short run, falling oil prices are leading to welcome relief at the pump for American families ahead of the holidays, with gasoline down from its summer record of just over $4 to an average of $1.66 a gallon, and still falling.
But the project delays are likely to reduce future energy supplies — and analysts believe they may set the stage for another surge in oil prices once the global economy recovers.
Oil markets have had their sharpest-ever spikes and their steepest drops this year, all within a few months. Now, with a global recession at hand and oil consumption falling, the market’s extreme volatility is making it harder for energy executives to plan ahead. As a result, exploration spending, which had risen to a record this year, is being slashed.
The precipitous drop in oil prices since the summer, coming on the heels of a dizzying seven-year rise, was a reminder that the oil business, like those of most commodities, is cyclical. When demand drops and prices fall, companies curb their investments, leading to lower supplies. When demand recovers, prices rise again and companies start to invest in new production, starting another cycle.
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President-elect Barack Obama will name Arne Duncan, the superintendent of schools in Chicago, to be his Secretary of Education, a senior Democratic official and a second person close to the decision said.
Mr. Duncan is a Harvard graduate whose friendship with Mr. Obama began on the basketball court and flowered into frequent discussions of education policy.
He has seven years’ experience as chief executive of the Chicago Public Schools, the nation’s third-largest school district, where he has earned a solid reputation for confronting pressing issues in public education, like how to raise teacher quality, how to transform weak schools and when to shutter those that are irredeemably failing.
Word of the selection comes as Mr. Obama’s transition team said Monday that he would make an important announcement on Tuesday morning at the Dodge Renaissance Academy, an elementary school that Mr. Duncan and Mr. Obama visited together in October 2005.
Source: The Caucus
Read transcript of President-Elect Barack Obama’s Energy and Environment team announcement
It’s a conspiracy…or has rationality won out?
WASHINGTON (CNN) — The Supreme Court has dismissed a second emergency appeal questioning Barack Obama’s eligibility to be president because he had dual British-American citizenship at birth.
The justices without comment on Monday refused to intervene in the November 4 presidential election, dismissing the claims of Cort Wrotnowski, a resident of Greenwich, Connecticut.
In his appeal, Wrotnowski claimed that because Obama’s father was a Kenyan-born British subject, the president-elect does meet the Constitution’s requirement that the president be a “natural born citizen” of the United States. Obama was born in Hawaii in 1961. His mother was a U.S. citizen, born in the United States.
Many legal analysts questioned Wrotnowski’s argument.
“The law has always been understood to be, if you are born here, you’re a natural born citizen,” said Thomas Goldstein, founder of the Scotusblog.com Web site and a lawyer who has argued numerous cases before the high court. “And that is particularly true in this case, when you have a U.S. citizen parent like Barack Obama’s mother.”
A similar appeal was rejected a week ago by the high court, from a retired lawyer in New Jersey.
In another lawsuit making its way through the courts, Philip Berg of Pennsylvania alleges the president-elect was actually born in Kenya. Berg claims Hawaiian officials will not let him see Obama’s original birth certificate, although the campaign posted a copy of it online this summer, following numerous blog postings over the citizenship question. That case had previously been dismissed by lower federal courts.
The appeal rejected Monday is Wrotnowski v. Bysiewicz (08A469).
CHICAGO – President-elect Barack Obama said Monday a review by his own lawyer shows he had no direct contact with Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich about the appointment of a Senate replacement, and transition aides “did nothing inappropriate.”
Obama said he is prepared to make the review public, but decided to hold off because prosecutors asked for a delay and “I don’t want to interfere with an ongoing investigation.”
Controversy has swirled around the president-elect and his incoming White House chief of staff, Rep. Rahm Emanuel, following Blagojevich’s arrest last week on charges he schemed to trade Obama’s Senate seat for personal gain.
Obama, fielding questions at a news conference, sidestepped when asked whether Emanuel had spoken with aides to the governor.
Emanuel was one of several aides who watched the news conference from the wings.
The president-elect pledged the results of the investigation by his incoming White House counsel, Gregory Craig, would be released “in due course.”
He said the probe was complete and thorough, but did not say which of his aides Craig interviewed, whether any of them was under oath at the time, or any other details.
ALBANY, N.Y – New York Gov. David Paterson says Caroline Kennedy has told him she’s interested in the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Hillary Rodham Clinton. The Democratic governor will choose the replacement. He says Kennedy talked to him about the job Monday afternoon.
Paterson says that “it’s not a campaign” and that Kennedy would like “at some point to sit down.”
The daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy is the highest-profile candidate to express interest in the job. Her uncle Robert F. Kennedy once held the Senate seat she wants.
Clinton is expected to be confirmed as President-elect Barack Obama’s secretary of state.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – The speaker of the Illinois House took the first step Monday toward impeaching scandal-plagued Gov. Rod Blagojevich, appointing a committee to recommend whether he should be ousted after his arrest on federal corruption charges.
“We’re going to proceed with all due speed, but we’re going to make sure that what we do is done correctly,” said Speaker Michael Madigan, who often has clashed with fellow Democrat Blagojevich.
Once the committee makes a recommendation, the full House will formally decide whether to file impeachment charges. The Senate then would rule on the charges.
Blagojevich was arrested Tuesday on federal fraud and bribery charges, including allegations of a scheme to profit from his power to appoint a replacement for the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.
The state constitution gives lawmakers broad authority to impeach a governor for any reason they consider sufficient.
The governor, who remains defiant and returned to work Monday to sign a tax credit bill, had no immediate reaction to the impeachment committee, spokesman Lucio Guerrero said after Madigan’s announcement.
“Impeachment talk’s nothing new for this governor,” Guerrero said. “They’ve been talking about it for a long time.”
Indeed, Madigan said Monday his staff has been reviewing the legal possibilities for impeachment for about a year. His office produced a memo earlier this year outlining all the arguments legislative candidates could make in favor of impeachment.
Blagojevich’s administration has been under a federal corruption investigation for years.
Raw Video: Iraqi Journalist Throws Shoe at Bush
If you read on you’ll see that Gingrich gets put in his place in respect to Cao’s outreach to the Black community – but what it does show perhaps is the GOP Party’s eagerness to change and to adapt their message to a changing demographic. I mean ~ it is all real America. More strategically the GOP have to be eyeing up a way to break through the virtually solid support Obama did get from the African American community in time for the next election – the only way that is possible – if he for some reason doesn’t do a good job or reneges on too many of his campaign promises.
Earlier this week, the Times-Picayune profiled the district’s new congressman Joseph Cao (R-LA), who beat out the indicted Democratic incumbent William Jefferson. As the first Vietnamese-American in Congress — and the only non-Hispanic minority in the GOP caucus — Cao is generating considerable excitement within his party for being able to capture a Democratic district.
Before his victory, almost no Republicans were paying attention to Cao. None of the Republicans in Louisiana’s congressional delegation donated to his race. “They just ignored me,” said Cao. “The message was, ‘Why waste our time?’”
Now, however, he is a conservative hero. On Sunday, House Minority Leader John Boehner issued a memo titled, “The future is Cao.” Boehner wrote that the “Cao victory is a symbol of what can be achieved when we think big, present a positive alternative and win the trust of the American people.” Even former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has offered his services. According to a Times-Picayune report earlier this week, Gingrich has volunteered to be Cao’s liaison to the African-American community:
- By midmorning Cao was interrupting an interview to take a call from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who offered good wishes and, Cao said, counseled him “to reach out to the African-American community.” Cao said Gingrich offered to act as a go-between.
ThinkProgress spoke with Cao’s spokesman Murray Nelson, who wouldn’t confirm or deny the Times-Picayune report or the extent of Gingrich’s involvement. Nelson stressed that he personally has “great respect” for the former Speaker but said that it wasn’t necessary for Gingrich to “show” them how to do minority outreach, since they had been doing it for some time:
- Although it’s very nice and we appreciate and continue to work with the former Speaker in that regard, we already are reaching out to the African-American community. We’ve already attended an NAACP organizational meeting. We went to a Christmas party last night and had the best time. […]
- Within the district, we have plenty of people we partner with and work with to get into the community. … It’s not like the Speaker would be coming down here to show us how to do it. He’s done it.
The reason why Bush would say – we need to get off our oil addiction – is because as a man who drilled for oil unsuccessfully – he is in the best place to understand the addiction to finding and dealing in oil – he’s the biggest addict.
Al Gore sounded the warning back in 2000 for the environment – when he said we need to move away from the combustion engine – because the polutatants were causing climate change – then the media echoed the Republican charge that the car industry would fail. Then there is another cost – moving leaps and bounds in technology – we have smaller this and faster that – but when it comes to energy technology everything is frozen – just like these Saudi oil reps. stuck in a time warp.
How many calls have their been for a ‘Steve Jobs’ to take over the car industry – because we know what can be achieved. A lot of this backwardness – in energy technology – is almost certainly due to the oil lobby. But there’s even a problem with this – the oil fields used to be controlled by western nations – so although they still make lots of money – the oil industry is likely not as profitable as it once was when they controlled the wells. So now $700 billion from America alone – goes to the Middle East. A place which doesn’t see a whole range of individual freedoms as a priority – and who depend almost entirely on the west for technology. Now imagine our western oil lobby being replaced by theirs. In short we could be trading our freedoms for the oil.
What they are doing at the moment primarily is building mosques everywhere – so they can build a mosque here – but you can’t build a church there. Russia recently – has enough oil of its own – when approached by the Saudis to build a mosque in their capital – told the Saudis well let us kindly build a Russian Orthodox church in your capital. Russia found that 80% of the written material in their mosques was radical – in the US the numbers are similar and most of this radicalized information is coming directly from Saudi Arabia *what was the info. saying – pretty much don’t mix in – don’t make friends with westerns or don’t respect their costumes.
We need to get off the oil for a variety of reasons – and we should not let guys who know nothing about technology – tell us what is or is not possible.
President-elect Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates appear to differ on the nuclear weapons issue – realistically if countries like Iran and even Pakistan have nuclear weapons – it will be almost impossible for the US to relinquish its nuclear arsenal – for the time being.
It is worth mentioning that auto CEO’s did give Congress assurance that they would not use this bailout money to sue states over their emission standards. It is a big about turn for the auto industry – almost everything they have been against now they have to be – for, one of the auto CEO’s did say that they thought electric cars were the way forward – as everyone has a plug – hybrid-electric is a good step, until battery life improves – at the moment we have car batteries that can go 240 miles without recharging – but they are heavy – and they weigh a tonne literally – though there is car battery technology being developed in Japan (always Japan) that is half the weight 450 lbs – their car companies quite sensibly work with the battery companies – the Japanese are also working on bringing down recharging times to about a half an hour.
Environmental groups are disappointed that money put aside to aid automakers to produce more fuel-efficient cars is now going to fund their operations.
Although the bill promises the money for retooling plants will be replenished in the future, environmentalists are skeptical. And they’re also upset the bailout doesn’t ban automakers from suing states that set tougher emissions limits than federal rules.
“We know they need help retooling their factories, and we feel very strongly that if those funds are going to be diverted and not replenished, Congress is walking away from their own commitment to fuel efficiency,” says Phyllis Cuttino, head of the U.S. Global Warming Campaign for the Pew Environmental Group.
The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 called for increasing fuel efficiency to 35 miles per gallon by 2020. In exchange for agreeing, automakers would get $25 billion in loans to help revamp their plants. They waited over a year for Congress to allocate the money. Now, some will go to the bailout.
“The funding Congress is considering now is just a Band-Aid, and it diverts funds originally intended to help the Big Three and other companies produce more fuel-efficient vehicles,” says Michelle Robinson, director of the Clean Vehicles Program for the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Those funds should be replenished when the new Congress convenes in January.”
INTERACTIVE GRAPHIC: A state-by-state look at auto industry jobs
What particularly irks environmentalists is that the automakers will continue on their quest to stop individual states from enacting their own emissions rules.
Roland Hwang, vehicle policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said, “The White House has decided they want to hold up this entire bailout bill in order to remove this litigation provision. We’re very disappointed.”
Still, even though they aren’t getting money to increase fuel efficiency, high gas prices have forced the automakers to revamp their lineups in favor of more fuel-efficient cars. As Congress debated the bailout bill Wednesday, Ford showed off its 2010 Ford Fusion hybrid in Marina del Rey, Calif., and said that at 39 miles per gallon, it will be the highest-mileage midsize car.
“We’re going squarely after the imports with this,” says Frank Davis, executive director for North American product. The goal: “not only to compete but lead.” It’s exactly the pitch that Detroit needs to win the hearts of a skeptical Congress and American public, and the environmental lobby. Ford has not asked for loans now. General Motors and Chrysler say they need loans to stave off bankruptcy filings.
While it makes a play for environmentalists, the new hybrid will also be aimed at being a commercial success for Ford. Davis says it should add up to 25,000 sales of Fusions a year. While pricing isn’t set, the hybrid system is 30% less expensive than the last generation, like that in the Ford Escape hybrid SUV.
Ford plans to spend $14 billion in the U.S. on advanced technologies and products to improve fuel economy in the next seven years, it told Congress in the business plan it submitted as part of the bailout consideration. It plans a pure electric sedan by 2011.
Source: USA Today
WASHINGTON (CNN) — The House of Representatives handily passed a bill Wednesday night that would provide up to $14 billion in bridge loans to automakers, but Republican opposition cast doubt about the bill’s fate in the Senate later this week.
The U.S. House approved an auto bailout package Wednesday, but it could hit a roadblock in the Senate.
The stopgap measure, approved by a vote of 237 to 170, is designed to let the new Congress and incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama craft a long-term solution. It would also give the companies time to negotiate with creditors and the United Auto Workers union on additional concessions needed to stem their ongoing losses.
Thirty-two GOP representatives voted with 205 Democrats in support of the bill while 20 Democrats and 150 Republicans opposed the bill.
In Michigan, the home of the three major U.S. automakers — Chrysler, Ford and General Motors — eight Republicans joined the six Democrats in the state’s delegation in voting for the measure. A ninth Michigan Republican, Timothy Walberg, did not vote.
Seven other Republicans that voted for the bill are from nearby Midwestern states that are also home to auto plants. However, outside of the auto belt, the bailout had little Republican support.
Even Democrats couldn’t come to complete agreement on the bill, with House and Senate Democrats going their separate ways on one of the criteria the “car czar” must consider in determining an auto company’s long-term viability plan.
House Democrats used language requiring that autos meet stricter “applicable” fuel efficiency and emissions standards — which would cover consideration of state standards such as those adopted in California and New York — while the Senate version of the bill calls for vehicles to meet “federal” standards, which are not as high as some state benchmarks.
A Senate Democratic leadership aide told CNN that Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid Wednesday morning that the bill would never pass the Senate with the House language.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wanted the higher efficiency standard so that liberal Democrats who are not inclined to help the auto manufacturers would feel they had assurances that these companies would adopt and make more fuel-efficient cars, according to House Democratic aides.
However, even if language about the fuel efficiency standards is resolved, Senate Republicans still aren’t likely to flock behind the bill.
“I don’t think the votes are there on our side of the aisle,” reported Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio, one of few vocal Republican backers of the bill.
“It’s not gonna pass right now,” echoed Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, a fierce critic of the bill.
Voinovich and Shelby spoke after Senate Republicans huddled behind closed doors in the Capitol on Wednesday to weigh the merits of the bailout. Vice President Dick Cheney and White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten attended the meeting — called “spirited” by one senator — to sell the bill the White House negotiated with congressional Democrats.
Several senators said they were concerned the so-called “car czar,” created by the legislation, would not have enough power to force the troubled automakers to restructure to become profitable.
“I have concerns about the power of the czar,” said Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minnesota, a moderate who Democrats have hoped would vote for the bill, “that he actually has some real power. And I think that’s a concern a lot of my colleagues have right now.”
“The car czar needs the authority to create a de facto structured bankruptcy. Not consulting. Not calling meetings. He needs the capacity of a master of bankruptcy to force things to happen,” said Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah.
Some senators oppose any assistance to the automakers, saying they should file for bankruptcy, but White House spokeswoman Dana Perino pointed out that many lawmakers from both sides of the aisle believe that allowing “a disorderly bankruptcy could be fatal to U.S. automakers and have devastating impacts on jobs, families and our economy.”
“As a result, they also agree we should find a way to foster the companies’ restructuring so that they can become viable and profitable,” she said. “We believe the legislation developed in recent days is an effective and responsible approach to deal with troubled automakers and ensure the necessary restructuring occurs.”
Other senators said they were concerned that the carmakers might never pay taxpayers back for the loans, meant to keep General Motors and Chrysler afloat until they can finalize a long-term viability plan — by March 31, according to the legislation.
GM has said it needs $4 billion by the end of the month to continue operations, and believes it’ll need an additional $6 billion in the first three months of 2009. Chrysler has said it needs $4 billion by the end of the first quarter.
Ford, which has more cash on hand than its U.S. rivals, is not expected to tap into this bailout in the coming months.
Today, four former CEOs of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac testified before the on how their companies’ actions may have “contributed to the ongoing crisis.” Blaming Fannie, Freddie, the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), and low-income people is one of conservatives’ favorite talking points. In September, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) touted an article criticizing the CRA for pushing “Fannie and Freddie to aggressively lend to minority communities.”
But as the Wonk Room’s Pat Garofalo points out, at the beginning of today’s hearing, Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) said that 400,000 documents amassed by the committee showed that the right-wing claim is nothing more than a conservative myth. Later in the hearing, Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NY) asked the four CEOs whether poor people caused the current financial crisis. All said “no”:
- Richard Syron, former Freddie CEO: “I would think that it wasn’t mostly trying to do things for poor people.”
- Daniel Mudd, former Fannie CEO: “[W]hen the market goes down, it’s the folks who are the closest to the margin who — who get hurt first and longest every time.”
- Leland Brendsel, former Freddie CEO: “I cannot recall ever being forced to make — or to purchase a mortgage loan that I didn’t feel, as a matter of policy at Freddie Mac, was a good mortgage loan, a sound mortgage loan, and an attractive mortgage loan for the homebuyer or the owner of an apartment building.”
- Franklin Raines, former Fannie CEO: “I do not believe that poor people are the cause of the current financial crisis. … Most of the losses, as I read the record, have come on mortgages that were made to middle-class and upper-middle-class people, not to poor people.”
Congress passed the Community Reinvestment Act in 1977, requiring banks “to lend throughout the communities they serve.” In the 1990s, greater mortgage lending to lower-income households by CRA-coveed banks increased the homeownership rate for lower-income and minority families. As CAP scholar Tim Westrich has written, “The real culprits in the mortgage mess are non-bank mortgage companies — not covered by CRA — that originated the lion’s share of bad mortgages at the heart of the crisis. They made an estimated 50 percent of subprime loans in 2005.”
Numerous other scholars, including Nobel-winning economist Paul Krugman and Center for Economic and Policy Research co-director Dean Baker, have also explained that while Fannie and Freddie made many bad decisions, they weren’t primarily to blame for the financial crisis. At a hearing in September, former top government economic experts agreed that conservatives were pushing myths, rather than facts.
Source: Think Progress
Cameras capture Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich on his way into work, one day after he was arrested on corruption charges, including conspiring to sell Barack Obama’s senate seat. (Dec. 10)
WASHINGTON (AP) — President-elect Barack Obama is calling for the Illinois governor to resign.
Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs says the president-elect agrees with other prominent politicians in Illinois and elsewhere that “under the current circumstances, it is difficult for the governor to effectively do his job and serve the people of Illinois.”
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagovich was arrested Tuesday, accused of scheming to enrich himself by selling Obama’s vacant Senate seat. The governor has authority to appoint the replacement.
Source: Washington Times
This is not the only talk coming from that region – I believe that it was Iran’s secretary/minister of defence who made similar jibes about Obama’s carrot and stick, tough diplomacy stance, truth be told Europe has attempted to negotiate with Iran, only to find, one; through a leaked document that they were taking them for a ride all along – where the Iranians were openly deceiving them and laughing about it and two; the nuclear watch dog IAEA has had little success in getting Iran to cooperate with inspections – all while Iran continues to make noises about wiping out Israel. Moving to the unthinkable – a nuclear attack on Israel would mean that neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians would be able to make use of the land. In addition the world would have to form a coalition and go after Iran. When Ahmadinejad first stated publicly that Israel should be wiped from the map – top German military officials were saying that America may need to attack Iran. What Obama is saying quite clearly that in order for America not to appear as the aggressor – extend a diplomatic hand – albeit a tough one – tighten sanctions – and if war with Iran unavoidable then he has much of Europe and the free world behind him – support that will no doubt be useful.
Influential former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani on Tuesday accused US president-elect Barack Obama of mimicking his predecessor’s tough stance on Tehran’s nuclear drive.
“I don’t expect someone who considers himself to be originally from Africa and a member of the oppressed black race in America to repeat what (George W.) Bush has to say,” Rafsanjani said in a sermon on state radio.
In an interview broadcast on Sunday, Obama vowed “tough but direct diplomacy” with Iran, offering incentives along with the threat of tougher sanctions over its atomic programme.
During his term, Bush spearheaded the international campaign against Iran’s atomic drive which the United States fears could be a cover for ambitions to build nuclear weapons, allegations denied by Tehran.
The outgoing US president once famously branded Iran as part of an “axis of evil” and never ruled out military action over its nuclear work.
“I advise (Obama)… we don’t want your incentives and your punishments will not stop us either,” he said in a speech marking the Muslim Feast of the Sacrifice or Eid al-Adha.
“It’s better for you to be reasonable and not to deprive Iran of its rights.”
The UN Security Council has repeatedly demanded that Iran freeze its uranium enrichment work, the process which makes nuclear fuel as well as the fissile core of an atom bomb, but Tehran has refused.
In a sequence of events that neatly captures the contradictions of Barack Obama’s rise through Illinois politics, a phone call he made three months ago to urge passage of a state ethics bill indirectly contributed to the downfall of a fellow Democrat he twice supported, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich.
Mr. Obama placed the call to his political mentor, Emil Jones Jr., president of the Illinois Senate. Mr. Jones was a critic of the legislation, which sought to curb the influence of money in politics, as was Mr. Blagojevich, who had vetoed it. But after the call from Mr. Obama, the Senate overrode the veto, prompting the governor to press state contractors for campaign contributions before the law’s restrictions could take effect on Jan. 1, prosecutors say.
Tipped off to Mr. Blagojevich’s efforts, federal agents obtained wiretaps for his phones and eventually overheard what they say was scheming by the governor to profit from his appointment of a successor to the United States Senate seat being vacated by President-elect Obama. One official whose name has long been mentioned in Chicago political circles as a potential successor is Mr. Jones, a machine politician who was viewed as a roadblock to ethics reform but is friendly with Mr. Obama.
Beyond the irony of its outcome, Mr. Obama’s unusual decision to inject himself into a statewide issue during the height of his presidential campaign was a reminder that despite his historic ascendancy to the White House, he has never quite escaped the murky and insular world of Illinois politics. It is a world he has long navigated, to the consternation of his critics, by engaging in a kind of realpolitik, Chicago-style, which allowed him to draw strength from his relationships with important players without becoming compromised by their many weaknesses.
By the time Mr. Obama intervened on the ethics measure, his relationship with Mr. Blagojevich, always defined more by political proximity than by personal chemistry, had cooled as the governor became increasingly engulfed in legal troubles. There is nothing in the criminal complaint unsealed Tuesday to indicate that Mr. Obama knew anything about plans to seek money and favors in exchange for his Senate seat; he has never been implicated in any other “pay to play” cases that have emerged from the long-running investigation of the Blagojevich administration.
By David Horowitz
The continuing efforts of a fringe group of conservatives to deny Obama his victory and to lay the basis for the claim that he is not a legitimate president is embarrassing and destructive. The fact that these efforts are being led by Alan Keyes, a demagogue who lost a Senate election to the then-unknown Obama by 42 points, should be a warning in itself.
This tempest over whether Obama, the child of an American citizen, was born on American soil is tantamount to the Democrats’ seditious claim that Bush “stole” the election in Florida and hence was not the legitimate president. This delusion helped to create the Democrats’ Bush derangement syndrome and encouraged Democratic leaders to lie about the origins of the Iraq war, and regard it as illegitimate as Bush himself. It became “Bush’s War” rather than an American War — with destructive consequences for our troops and our cause.
The birth-certificate zealots are essentially arguing that 64 million voters should be disenfranchised because of a contested technicality as to whether Obama was born on U.S. soil. (McCain narrowly escaped the problem by being born in the Panama Canal zone, which is no longer American.)
What difference does it make to the future of this country whether Obama was born on U.S. soil? Advocates of this destructive campaign will argue that the constitutional principle regarding the qualifications for president trumps all others. But how viable will our Constitution be if five Supreme Court justices should decide to void 64 million ballots?
Conservatives are supposed to respect the organic nature of human societies. Ours has been riven by profound disagreements that have been deepening over many years. We are divided not only about political facts and social values, but also about what the Constitution itself means. The crusaders on this issue choose to ignore these problems and are proposing to deny the will of 64 million voters by appealing to five Supreme Court Justices (since no one is delusional enough to think that the four liberal justices are going to take the presidency away from Obama). What kind of conservatism is this?
It is not conservatism; it is sore loserism and quite radical in its intent. Respect for election results is one of the most durable bulwarks of our unity as a nation. Conservatives need to accept the fact that we lost the election, and get over it; and get on with the important business of reviving our country’s economy and defending its citizens, and — by the way — its Constitution.
Obama sought to reassure the nation that while he occasionally sneaked a cigarette during the rigorous presidential campaign, he won’t succumb to such temptations in the White House:
Obama was asked — as he occasionally is, most recently by ABC’s Barbara Walters — whether he still sneaks a cigarette now and then. He suggested he does, but said he won’t at his new address.
“What I said was that there were times where I have fallen off the wagon,” Obama said. “What I would say is that I have done a terrific job under the circumstances of making myself much healthier, and I think that you will not see any violations of these rules in the White House.”
Source: Huffington Post
NAIROBI — If the election of Barack Obama has been greeted with glee across much of Africa, there is at least one spot where the mood is decidedly different.
In the Sudanese capital of Khartoum these days, political elites are bracing for what they expect will be a major shift in U.S. policy toward a government the United States has blamed for orchestrating a violent campaign against civilians in the western Darfur region.
“Compared to the Republicans, the Democrats, I think they are hawks,” said Ghazi Suleiman, a human rights lawyer and member of the Southern People’s Liberation Movement, which has a fragile power-sharing agreement with the ruling party. “I know Obama’s appointees. And I know their policy towards Sudan. Everybody here knows it. The policy is very aggressive and very harsh. I think we really will miss the judgments of George W. Bush.”
While the Bush administration most recently advocated the idea of “normalizing” relations with Sudan as a carrot approach to ending a crisis it labeled a genocide, Obama’s foreign policy appointees have pushed for sticks.
Hillary Rodham Clinton, the nominee for secretary of state, has called for a NATO-enforced no-fly zone to “blanket” Darfur in order to prevent Sudanese bombing of villages. The appointee for U.N. ambassador, Susan E. Rice — a key Africa adviser to the Clinton administration during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, when President Bill Clinton was sharply criticized for failing to act — has pushed for U.S. or NATO airstrikes and a naval blockade of Sudan’s major port to prevent lucrative oil exports. Rice has vowed to “go down in flames” advocating tough measures.
Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., who was chosen for his foreign policy experience and pressed early for U.S. intervention to stop the fighting in the Balkans, was blunt during a hearing last year: “I would use American force now,” he said.
But it remains unclear how those pre-election views will square with the president-elect, who has outlined a pragmatic, coalition-based approach to foreign policy, while also speaking of America’s “moral obligation” in the face of humanitarian catastrophes of the sort that are plentiful in Africa.
Heading off potential genocide is the focus of a task force report to be released today in Washington. The group recommends, among other things, that the Obama administration create a high-level forum in the White House to direct the government’s response to threats of mass violence.
So far, Obama has been more cautious on Darfur than some of his appointees, advocating tougher sanctions against Khartoum and a no-fly zone that might be enforced with U.S. “help.” He has not called for direct U.S. intervention.
Obama intends to keep Bush’s defense secretary, Robert M. Gates, who has already suggested that the United States will not provide much-needed helicopters to a struggling peacekeeping mission in Darfur because U.S. forces are stretched too thin in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama has also nominated as national security adviser retired Marine Gen. James L. Jones, a former NATO supreme allied commander who has suggested that NATO’s role in Darfur should be training and support to the current peacekeeping mission rather than direct intervention.
And specialists close to Obama’s presidential campaign said that more generally, the new administration sees a need for diplomatic approaches to security crises across the continent.
“We don’t have the capacity to pacify these places militarily,” said John Prendergast, a Darfur activist and former White House aide during the Clinton administration, citing Sudan and the worsening conflicts in Congo and Somalia. “We need political solutions.”
Sudan’s U.N. ambassador, Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad, dismissed the calls for military action as “only election slogans.”
“You cannot claim to be disengaging from disasters like Iraq but creating a new disaster in one of Africa’s biggest countries,” he said.
The crisis is in many ways a far more complex conflict than the one the Bush administration confronted. The violence in Darfur began in February 2003 when two rebel groups attacked Sudan’s Islamic government, claiming a pattern of bias against the region’s black African tribes. Khartoum organized a local Arab militia, known as the Janjaweed, to wage a scorched-earth campaign against the three ethnic groups — mostly farmers and traders — thought to be the rebels’ political base.
Some analysts estimate that as many as 450,000 people have died from disease and violence in the conflict. About half the population of the Darfur region — about 2.5 million people — are now displaced.
President George W. Bush got a look at how history will remember him, at least in one artist’s view. Bush presided over the unveiling of his portrait at The Union League. (Dec. 6)
As President Bush prepares to move into his new Dallas home at the end of his term, neighborhood residents worry about having him close by.
One woman shared her fears as she walked past Bush’s house carrying her King Charles cocker spaniel on Friday.
“I am afraid with all the negative press the president has been getting, the whole neighborhood is going to be a target,” said the woman, who refused to give her name.
Traffic has already begun to clog the narrow streets around the home, causing neighbors to call the police — who expect the hullabaloo to continue.
“When the Bushes are here full time, I imagine we’ll be here full time,” said Officer Michael Bratcher of the Dallas Police Department, who was directing traffic.
But the exclusive Dallas community the Bush family will soon join has a troubled history of its own.
Until 2000, the neighborhood association’s covenant said only white people were allowed to live there, though an exception was made for servants.
Enacted in 1956, part of the original document reads: “Said property shall be used and occupied by white persons except those shall not prevent occupancy by domestic servants of different race or nationality in the employ of a tenant.”
The entire covenant can be seen here.
When asked about his new home in an interview with The Dallas Morning News, Bush “played coy.”
“Mr. President — you excited about your house in Dallas?” Todd Gillman asked.
“Todd, why do you care?” Bush responded. “You live in Washington, D.C.”
The neighborhood is home to many famous people, including former presidential candidate Ross Perot and Mark Cuban, the billionaire businessman and Dallas Mavericks owner.
President Bush’s new house abuts the 14-acre lair of real-estate investor Gene Phillips, who just had a trout-filled lake installed on his property.