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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.”

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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.

Read it all…

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Senator Barack Obama was joined by Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich, left, and Mayor Richard M. Daley in Chicago in April 2007.

Senator Barack Obama was joined by Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich, left, and Mayor Richard M. Daley in Chicago in April 2007.

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.

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Jeff Haynes/Reuters)

Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. at the National Governors’ Association meeting. (Photo: Jeff Haynes/Reuters)

PHILADELPHIA – Vice President Cheney always seemed to relish working in the shadows. After all, he’s the one who popularized the term “undisclosed location.” But that doesn’t seem to suit his successor.

Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. appeared glad to be out in public on Tuesday when he joined President-elect Barack Obama in meeting with the nation’s governors here. In the month since the election, he has been the mostly silent sidekick, joining Mr. Obama in private meetings and standing behind him wordlessly during news conferences.

But this week, Mr. Biden looks to be unleashed, at least a little bit. He was given a speaking role both at the unveiling of the national security team in Chicago on Monday and then again during the meeting with the National Governors’ Association here on Tuesday. By word count, he even had somewhat more to say to the governors than Mr. Obama did.

And then there was that little moment that may or may not have been revealing. At one point during his remarks, Mr. Biden noted the presence of his former opponent, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, and greeted her warmly.

thecaucus75 “Since the race is over, no one pays attention to me at all,” Mr. Biden said. “So maybe you will walk outside with me or something later and say hello to me.”

WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama has named a team of high-profile executives and fundraisers to oversee his inauguration and imposed limits on who can contribute to it and how much they can give.

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The group leading the Jan. 20 celebrations includes Chicago Bears part-owner Patrick Ryan, former Commerce secretary William Daley, and Penny Pritzker, a billionaire Chicago businesswoman who helped Obama raise record sums as his campaign’s finance chairwoman.

No budget has been set. Fundraising for President Bush’s inauguration in 2004 surpassed $42 million, federal records show.

While presidential candidates can collect no more than $2,300 in campaign contributions from individuals per primary and general election, federal law sets no limits on inaugural fundraising.

Obama, who vowed during the campaign that special interests would not yield undue influence in his White House, is limiting inaugural contributions to $50,000 each and will not accept money from corporations, unions, political action committees, or federal lobbyists, inaugural spokesman Josh Earnest said.

Individuals who raise money on behalf of the inaugural committee cannot collect more than $300,000 each, he said. Obama, however, still will accept donations from corporate executives, wealthy individuals and former federal lobbyists.

“While this isn’t a perfect solution, it’s a clear indication that he’s taking serious steps to change business as usual in Washington,” Earnest said.

Sheila Krumholz of the nonpartisan watchdog group Center for Responsive Politics said Obama’s move marks the tightest restrictions on inaugural giving. But wealthy donors still can try to use their contributions to gain access to the president-elect, she added. “If you have the means, you can essentially buy elite status … you may even get prime seats for the parade and (inaugural) ball tickets in the process.”

Earnest said big donors will not have an inside track in the new administration. The committee also plans a grass-roots fundraising campaign to collect money from a broad cross-section of Americans, he said.

Other members of the inaugural team: Obama fundraiser John Rogers, CEO of Chicago-based Ariel Investments, and Julianna Smoot, who served as Obama’s national finance director.

The federal government provides $1.2 million in public funds to pay for the swearing-in and a luncheon. Private donations pay for most other activities — from the splashy Inaugural Balls to installing jumbo television screens on the National Mall, where spillover crowds will watch the ceremony.

Bush imposed a $250,000 cap on inaugural donations in 2004 but did not bar corporate contributions.

Source: USA Today

In Chicago today, at Obama Transition HQ, President-elect Obama surprised the Vice President-elect, who will turn 66 tomorrow.

After their weekly lunch, Mr. Obama presented Mr. Biden cupcakes, Obama aides say.

Here is a picture from the Obama Transition Team:

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Obama lit the candles on the 12 cupcakes and brought them over to Biden.

“You’re 12 years old!” Obama joked, referring to the dozen cupcakes.

“Maybe in dog years!” Biden laughed.

Mr. Obama led the staff in singing him “Happy Birthday,” and then gifted his loquacious running mate with a Chicago White Sox Hat, a Chicago Bears Hat and a bucket of Garrett’s popcorn as gifts.

Source: ABCNewsBlog

‘Good Morning America’s’ Chris Cuomo Grills ’60s Radical Bill Ayers

William Ayers, the 1960s radical whose violent history became a focal point in the 2008 presidential election, said today that the Republicans unfairly “demonized” him in an attempt to damage the campaign of President-elect Barack Obama.

Ayers remained militant in his defense of his bomb-throwing past and repeated a statement that has infuriated his critics: “I don’t think we did enough.”

The college professor also argued to “Good Morning America’s” Chis Cuomo today that the bombing campaign by the group he helped found, the Weather Underground, was not terrorism.

The Weather Underground bombed the Capitol, the Pentagon and the New York City Police Department to protest the Vietnam War.

“It’s not terrorism because it doesn’t target people, to kill or injure,” Ayers insisted.

Ayers became a bogeyman for Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin, who demanded to know more about Obama’s relationship with his Chicago neighbor. Palin accused Obama of “palling around … with a terrorist.”

Breaking his silence, Ayers told Cuomo that the GOP attack was a “dishonest narrative…to demonize me.”

He added, “I don’t buy the idea that guilt by association should have any part of our politics,” he said.

Ayers scoffed at the Republican effort to make his ties to Obama appear suspicious.

“This idea that we need to know more, like there’s some dark, hidden secret, some secret link,” Ayers said. “It’s a myth thrown up by people who want to exploit the politics of fear.”

But he was unapologetic about his militant actions during the Vietnam War.

“What you call the violent past, that was a time when thousands of people were being murdered every month by our own government… We were on the right side,” he told “GMA.”

The co-founder of the Weather Underground was, as McCain has claimed, unrepentant about the the bombings his group committed during the 1960s.

“The content of the Vietnam protest is that there were despicable acts going on, but the despicable acts were being done by our goverment… I never hurt or killed anyone,” Ayers said.

“Frankly, I dont think we did enough, just as today I dont’ think we’ve done enough to stop these wars,” he said.

Ayers Says He Is ‘Family Friend’ of Obama
Ayers did soften his stand on violence during the “GMA” interview.

“We knew it was wrong. We knew it was illegal. We knew it was immoral,” he said, but they felt they “had to do more” to stop the Vietnam war.

He urged people today “to participate in resistance, in nonviolent,direct action” to stop the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Ayers, 63, currently a distinguished professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, became a political piñata for McCain, R-Ariz., and Palin during the presidential campaign.

Despite Obama’s attempt to portray their relationship as a distant one, Ayers, in a new afterward to his book “Fugitive Days,” describes Obama as a “neighbor and family friend.”

On “GMA,” Ayers again downplayed any close ties to Obama despite the reference to”family friend.”

“I’m talking there about the fact that I became an issue, unwillingly and unwittingly,” he said. “It was a profoundly dishonest narrative… I’m describing there how the blogosphere characterized the relationship.”

“I would say, really, that we knew each other in a professional way on the same level of, say, thousands of other people,” he said.

He added, echoing a phrase that Obama used to describe Ayers, “I am a guy around the neighborhood.”

Ayers acknowledged that he held a reception in his home when Obama began his political run for state office.

“He was probably in 20 homes that day,” Ayers said.

During the campaign, Obama tried to defuse the Ayers issue by condemning Ayers’ past actions as “detestable.”

“The notion that … me knowing somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8 years old, somehow reflects on me and my values, doesn’t make much sense,” Obama argued.

Sarah Palin Still Concerned About Ayers Tie
Ayers made a point of remaining silent during the presidential race, but his proximity to Obama was highlighted on Election Day when the two men nearly ran into each other in the same polling place. As recently as Wednesday, Palin was still raising the Ayers’ issue, telling NBC that she was still concerned about Obama’s relationship to the former radical. Palin was the fiercest critic of the Obama-Ayers tie, accusing Obama of “palling around with a domestic terrorist.” Ayers was a co-founder of the Weather Underground, a radical anti-war group said responsible for a militant bombing campaign against government targets.

While he was a fugitive, he married Bernardine Dorhn, another member of the Weather Underground.

Obama and Ayers have several connections. The two men have also served on boards together, including the Woods Fund of Chicago and the Chicago Annenberg Challenge.

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Though Bill Richards might be very good for relations with South America. Although I like Clinton’s stance on dealing with the Arabs on oil ~ when she say Bush begging the Arabs to lower the price that this was his administration’s energy plan. Then we have to remember that Hillary’s big thing is health ~ she might better serve here. 

Andrea Mitchell has a huge scoop — or a big red herring.

The part that really jumps out is the secret trip to Chi-town.

The Clinton camp –which has shot down these kinds of reports before — isn’t denying (read after excerpt):

    Two Obama advisers have told NBC News that Hillary Clinton is under consideration to be secretary of state. Would she be interested? Those who know Clinton say possibly. But her office says that any decisions about the transition are up to the president-elect and his team.
    Clinton was seen taking a flight to Chicago today, but an adviser says it was on personal business. It is unknown whether she had any meeting or conversation with Obama while there.
    Other Democrats known to want the State Department post are Sen. John Kerry and Gov. Bill Richardson. A possible compromise choice would be former Sen. Tom Daschle.

Clinton, who ridiculed Obama during the primaries as inexperienced on foreign affairs, has previously poo-pooed SoS chatter.

Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines: “[A]ny speculation about cabinet or other administration appointments is really for President-Elect Obama’s transition team to address.”

The first Obamaaide we got on the phone wouldn’t confirm or deny.

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Obamas Hyde Park home now a fortress

Obamas Hyde Park home now a fortress

CHICAGO — A couple of weeks ago, Barack Obama headed to the Hyde Park Hair Salon for a trim. He greeted the staff and other customers and plopped down in the same chair in front of the same barber who has cut his hair for the last 14 years.

But when he wanted a trim this week, the Secret Service took one look at the shop’s large plate-glass windows and the gawking tourists eager for a glimpse of the president-elect and the plan quickly changed. If Mr. Obama could no longer come to the barber, the barber would come to him and cut his hair at a friend’s apartment.

Life for the newly chosen president and his family has changed forever. Even the constraints and security of the campaign trail do not compare to the bubble that has enveloped him in the 10 days since his election. Renegade, as the Secret Service calls him, now lives within the strict limits that come with the most powerful office on the planet.

“It’s always just the two of them,” said Tony Mantuano, the chef and co-owner of Spiaggia. “Now it’s just the two of them and 30 Secret Service agents.”

He has chosen to spend this interval before his Jan. 20 inauguration at his home in Hyde Park, which has in some ways been transformed into a secure fortress for his protection. After two years of daily speeches and rallies, he has retreated into an almost hermitlike seclusion, largely hidden from public view and spotted only when he drops his two daughters off for school or goes for a workout at the gymnasium in a friend’s apartment building.

“This is a tremendous personal transition, as well, far beyond what anyone could imagine,” said Alexi Giannoulias, the Illinois state treasurer and a close friend. “Little things, like going to the gym, going to the movies, going to dinner with his wife, none of that will ever be the same again. Things that we take for granted.”

Mr. Obama is putting off the change as much as he can by remaining in Chicago during the transition. “I am not going to be spending too much time in Washington over the next several weeks,” he told someone in a telephone conversation overheard by reporters on his chartered plane heading back to Chicago after a White House visit on Monday.

Catching a glimpse of Obamas motorcade

Catching a glimpse of Obamas motorcade

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President-elect Barack Obama, right, hugged Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth after a wreath laying ceremony at the Bronze Soldiers Memorial in Chicago in honor of Veteran's Day. Ms. Duckworth is the director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs. NYT.

President-elect Barack Obama, right, hugged Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth after a wreath laying ceremony at the Bronze Soldiers Memorial in Chicago in honor of Veteran's Day. Ms. Duckworth is the director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs. NYT.

Obama meets with economic advisers [Photo-op]

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Obama will discuss the U.S. financial challenges ahead of him with his “transition economic advisory board” then field questions from the press for the first time since Tuesday’s victory.

Presser will kick off in Chicago at 2:30 pm ET. Read more details here.

Aides say he plans to stay home through the weekend with a blackout on news announcements so he and his staff can get some rest.

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Barack Obama has done it. On Tuesday, Americans elected their first black president — and a genuine intellectual. It is the crowning of one of the most rapid political rises ever, but the real work is only now set to begin.

Democrat Barack Obama beat Republican contender John McCain by a clear margin in Tuesday’s presidential election and made history by becoming the country’s first African-American president.

“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer,” Obama told hundreds of thousands of elated supporters in Chicago.

Despite his historic triumph, the ecstatic cheering of the crowd and the scale of the challenges facing him, Obama looked as calm and collected as ever as he addressed his supporters.

Just one night earlier, the comedy show Saturday Night Live took one last opportunity to lampoon the candidates. And the candidates’ doubles make it clear just how different the outcome could have been for Barack Obama.

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The parody is a reminder of how Obama could have featured in America’s consciousness in this crazy, never-ending campaign. The Americans aren’t just sending the first African American president to the White House. They have also elected a pensive intellectual, regardless of all the Internet euphoria and “Yes We Can” chants. “One of the striking ironies is that a man who draws tens of thousands of people to his rallies, whose charisma is likened to that of John F. Kennedy, can be sort of a bore,” wrote the Los Angeles Times.

Where Are the Sweat Stains?

He’s a candidate who likes to read the philosophy of Reinhold Niebuhr. And one who doesn’t get sweat stains on his ironed white shirt, even in the sweltering heat of Nevada or Indiana. He has studied the Socratic Method applied at US law schools — the principle of eliciting truth through the astute interplay of questions and answers. His wonderfully composed speeches rarely betray a sense of humor. He’s evidently a devoted family man and a proud father.

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Such characteristics herald a new era in the White House. The Democratic icons John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton were strong intellectuals as well, but they had rough edges and they were almost pathological womanizers. Model Republican Ronald Reagan turned his anti-intellectualism into a virtue, as of course did George W. Bush. His father George Bush senior also liked to mask his Yale education and foreign policy expertise with cowboy boots.

Will Obama’s erudition help him in the White House? Or will he be easy prey for the hands-on Democratic Congressmen and women who are up for election every two years and must pay close attention to the will of the people? Will the new president’s intellectual leanings jar with the desire for action among the Internet generation that voted him into office? Will it be an obstacle to taking quickfire decisions as commander-in-chief?

Obama’s curious ability to remain untouched by all the razzmatazz around him is likely to prove a source of strength. His political career has been one of the most astonishing of all times. At the Democratic National Convention eight years ago he wasn’t even invited to the important parties. He readily admits that whoever gave him the name Barack Hussein Obama cannot have expected him to become a presidential candidate.

THE WORLD WELCOMES OBAMA

German Chancellor Angela Merkel

    “My heartfelt congratulations on your historic victory in the presidential elections.””At the beginning of your administration, the world faces momentous challenges. I am convinced that, with closer and more trusting cooperation between the US and Europe, we can resolutely confront the novel challenges and dangers facing us…. You can be sure that my government is fully aware of how important the trans-Atlantic partnership is for our futures.”

    “It is my pleasure to invite you to visit Germany in the near future.”

German President Horst Köhler

    “In the name of my fellow citizens, I would like to offer you my heartfelt congratulations on your election to the president of the United States.”
    “We increasingly recognize how important it is for countries to work together. The international community has a responsibility to work together for peace, freedom and prosperity, in the battle against poverty and to protect our planet… My country is prepared to face these challenges together with the United States of America.”

French President Nicolas Sarkozy

    “With the world in turmoil and doubt, the American people, faithful to the values that have always defined America’s identity, have expressed with force their faith in progress and the future. At a time when we must face huge challenges together, your election has raised enormous hope in France, in Europe and beyond.”

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso

    “We need to change the current crisis into a new opportunity. We need a new deal for a new world. I sincerely hope that with the leadership of President Obama, the United States of America will join forces with Europe to drive this new deal — for the benefit of our societies, for the benefit of the world.”

Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende

    “The necessity for cooperation between Europe and the United States is bigger than ever. Only by close trans-Atlantic cooperation can we face the world’s challenges.”

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown

    “It has been an important election. I think the most important thing that follows from it is that America and Europe will have to work together to deal with the international problems we face, not just the financial crisis, but also stopping protectionism, making sure we work for stability and particularly peace in the Middle East.”

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai

    “I applaud the American people for their great decision and I hope that this new administration in the United States of America, and the fact of the massive show of concern for hhuman beings and lack of interest in race and color while electing the president, will go a long way in bringing the same values to the rest of the world sooner or later.”

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki

    “We the Kenyan people are immensely proud of your Kenyan roots. Your victory is not only an inspiration to millions of people all over the world, but it has special resonance with us here in Kenya.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni

    “Israel expects the close strategic cooperation with the new administration, president and Congress will continue along with the continued strengthening of the special and unshakeable special relationship between the two countries.”

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh

    “Your extraordinary journey to the White House will inspire people not only in your country but also around the world.”

Chinese President Hu Jintao

    “The Chinese Government and I myself have always attached great importance to China-US relations. In the new historic era, I look forward to working together with you to continuously strengthen dialogue and exchanges between our two countries.”

Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso

    “The Japan-US alliance is key to Japanese diplomacy and it is the foundation for peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. With President-elect Obama, I will strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance further and work towards resolving global issues such as the world economy, terror and the environment.”

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd

    “Senator Obama’s message of hope is not just for America’s future, it is also a message of hope for the world as well. A world which is now in many respects fearful for its future.”

But now the disastrous legacy of the Bush era has transformed this man with the strange name and the dark skin into someone the whole world is pinning its hopes on. Well over 200,000 people came to listen to him speak in Berlin in July; he really is the biggest “celebrity” in the world, as McCain jibed during the campaign. But even attacks like that provoked nothing but bemusement in Obama. It made television host Chris Matthews wonder openly whether Obama was capable of ever getting worked up about anything.

Obama’s sanguine nature could have been interpreted as a lack of passion in the election campasign, but the financial crisis turned that into a virtue. He suddenly appeared calm and presidential, while McCain seemed unpredictable and jumpy.

Fate on His Side

It was yet another example of the luck that has accompanied Obama throughout his political career. When he ran for the US Senate as a newcomer four years ago, his designated Republican opponent had to give up due to a dirty divorce dispute.

Only three years later he was up against Hillary Clinton, the best-known political brand in the country, for the Democratic nomination. But she underestimated Obama for too long, was too late in slipping into the role of a fighter, and wasn’t exactly helped by her husband whose latently racist comments about Obama drove African Americans into his arms.

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01020134344200When it came to the general campaign, fate provided him with a rival who didn’t play the race card. And one who, no matter how hard he tried, was unable to sell an image as an independent-minded outsider. McCain went out of his way to distance himself from Bush, but then tried to win over his supporters by naming Sarah Palin as his running mate. The Republican candidate never found a congruous strategy.

Obama, for his part, proved to be lucky and strategically astute. His campaign movement was the most perfect political start-up of all time — he collected almost a half a billion dollars in campaign donations and mobilized millions of supporters, many of them making a foray into politics for the very first time. Jonathan Alter of Newsweek wrote that Obama forever changed campaigning in the US. His message of “change” remained consistent from day one.

Period of Belt-Tightening

Rational as he is, Obama, of course, quietly bid adieu to the promise of real change in Washington — a radical shake-up of politics as we know it — as the campaign progressed. In the final months of the race, the newness has worn off his campaign as the candidate opted for pragmatism. He secured consultation from Washington insiders and his final television spots felt conventional as they praised American ideals in Kansas or the value of hard work. Even in the debate over how to respond to the financial crisis, he benefited more from his reticence than for making courageous policy proposals. Just like other politicians in the heat of a campaign, he was wary of telling Americans that a period of belt-tightening was on its way.

That, though, is exactly what he will now have to do. And he won’t have much of a grace period to get used to his new job. The criticism that he has spent his career looking for the next challenge is not entirely wrong. Now, though, there is nowhere else to go.

During the campaign, Obama left little doubt that he thinks he’s ready. And he exudes an aura of calm. A friend of Obama’s recalled to the Chicago Magazine last summer how crowds of supporters were already following Obama around Boston just before his famous 2004 speech to the Democratic National Convention. The friend, Martin Nesbitt, recalled saying “this is pretty unbelievable, man you’re like a rock star.” Obama replied, “it might be a little worse tomorrow…. It’s a pretty good speech.”

Now, the Democrat is set to be sworn in on Jan. 20, 2009 as the 44th president of the United States, right in the middle of one of the worst crises America has ever faced. “We’ve got to hit the ground running,” Obama said last week.

The US — and the world — have a lot riding on him doing exactly that.

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CNN International

On Dec. 6, 2006, this page encouraged Obama to join the presidential campaign. We wrote that he would celebrate our common values instead of exaggerate our differences. We said he would raise the tone of the campaign. We said his intellectual depth would sharpen the policy debate. In the ensuing 22 months he has done just that.

Many Americans say they’re uneasy about Obama. He’s pretty new to them.

We can provide some assurance. We have known Obama since he entered politics a dozen years ago. We have watched him, worked with him, argued with him as he rose from an effective state senator to an inspiring U.S. senator to the Democratic Party’s nominee for president.

We have tremendous confidence in his intellectual rigor, his moral compass and his ability to make sound, thoughtful, careful decisions. He is ready.

The change that Obama talks about so much is not simply a change in this policy or that one. It is not fundamentally about lobbyists or Washington insiders. Obama envisions a change in the way we deal with one another in politics and government. His opponents may say this is empty, abstract rhetoric. In fact, it is hard to imagine how we are going to deal with the grave domestic and foreign crises we face without an end to the savagery and a return to civility in politics.

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Source: Chicago Tribune

William Ayers works as a professor – and likely there are a lot of students and faculty members who associate with him. The Woods Foundation which Obama and Ayers both worked on was started by a Republican. We are truly sorry for what the Murtagh went through as a result of the Ayers attack on their family home – some 40 years ago – but these accusations being made against Obama and now his wife are based on thin ice.

The McCain campaign is now broadening their attack on Obama’s past association with William Ayers to include Michelle Obama — even though McCain has repeatedly said spouses should be off limits during the campaign.

McCain is ditching yet another formerly-claimed principle

The attack? Bernardine Dohrn, Ayers’ wife and fellow former Weatherman, went to work in 1984 for the major Chicago-based national law firm of Sidley & Austin, and three years later, Michelle joined the mega-firm as well.

That’s the entire attack. We wish we were joking. But we aren’t.

In launching this latest, McCain is ditching yet another formerly-claimed principle as he faces the growing likelihood of defeat. In a statement back in June, the McCain campaign said: “Senator McCain agrees with Senator Obama that spouses should not be an issue in this campaign, and he has stated that position frequently.”

The attack on Michelle came on a McCain conference call with reporters this afternoon featuring John Murtagh, who has been hitting Obama over the Weather Underground’s attack on his family’s home back in 1970. Murtagh noted that Dohrn and Michelle Obama had both worked at the firm starting in the late 1980s.

The firm’s Chicago office currently employs more than 500 lawyers.

Murtagh didn’t even bother alleging that the two even knew each other, instead suggesting that they might have. If so, he said, the Obamas have known the two longer than suspected.

“If it is true” that the two women knew each other, Murtagh said, “the relationship is almost a decade older than Senator Obama has acknowledged. And that can very easily be resolved by Senator Obama, by Mrs. Obama, by Mr. Ayers and by Ms. Dohrn.”

“And incidentally, I would emphasize that we’ve all been focusing on Senator Obama,” said Murtagh. “I think we need to speak to his wife.”

Keep in mind that this wasn’t any surrogate speaking off the cuff. He was on a call organized by the McCain campaign, and he was apparently reading from a prepared statement, which would of course have been vetted by McCain aides. And so another once-cherished McCain principle gets junked in the service of self-parody.

Original radio broadcast


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Source: TPM

I’m of two minds about how to deal with the McCain campaign’s further descent into ugliness. Their strategy is simple: you throw crap against a wall and then giggle as the media try to analyze the putresence in a way that conveys a sense of balance: “Well, it is bull-pucky, but the splatter pattern is interesting…” which, of course, only serves to get your perverse message out. I really don’t want to be a part of that. But…every so often, we journalists have a duty to remind readers just how dingy the McCain campaign, and its right-wing acolytes in the media (I’m looking at you, Sean Hannity) have become–especially in their efforts to divert public attention from the economic crisis we’re facing. And so inept at it: other campaigns have decided that their only shot is going negative, but usually they don’t announce it, as several McCain aides have in recent days–there’s no way we can win on the economy, so we’re going to go sludge-diving.

But since we are dealing with manure here, I’ll put the rest of this post below the fold.

It is appropriate that the prime vessel for this assault is Sarah Palin, whose very presence on a national ticket is an insult to your intelligence. She now has “credibility,” we are told, because she managed to read talking points off notecards in the debate last week with unwitting enthusiasm.

Over the weekend, she picked up on an article in The New York Times, which essentially says that Barack Obama and the former terrorist Bill Ayers have crossed paths in Chicago, served on a couple of charitable boards together, but aren’t particularly close. To Palin–or her scriptwriters–this means that Obama has been “palling around” with terrorists. Now, I wish Ayers had done some serious jail time; he certainly needed to pay some penance for his youthful criminality–even if most people in Chicago, including the mayor, have decided that he has something of value to say about education. But I can also understand how Obama, who was a child when Ayers was cutting his idiot swath, would not quite understand the enormity of the professor’s background. (I got to know Alger Hiss twenty years after the fact–he was a printing salesman then, a friend of my father’s–and thought of him as a sweet old man, if a good deal more liberal than dad’s other friends.)

In any case, this is rather rich coming from Palin, who is married to a man who belonged to a political party–the Alaskan Independence Party–that wanted to secede from the union. (I should add here that the Times may have been overreacting to the McCain campaign’s attack on its fairness here: the Ayers story was a nothingburger, but it was placed prominently in the top left hand corner of page one–a position that would seem to indicate that it contained important news, which it didn’t.)

Then we have the ever-reliable Bill Kristol, in today’s New York Times, advising Palin to bring up the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Palin, of course, believes that’s a darn good idea:

“To tell you the truth, Bill, I don’t know why that association isn’t discussed more, because those were appalling things that that pastor had said about our great country, and to have sat in the pews for 20 years and listened to that — with, I don’t know, a sense of condoning it, I guess, because he didn’t get up and leave — to me, that does say something about character. But, you know, I guess that would be a John McCain call on whether he wants to bring that up.”

So then, I’d guess, it would be appropriate to bring up some of the nuttiness that passes for godliness in Palin’s religious life. Leave aside the fact that The Embarracuda allowed herself to participate in a cermony that protected her from witchcraft, how about her presence–she didn’t “get up and leave”– at a sermon by the founder of Jews for Jesus, who argued that the Palestinian terrorist acts against Israel were God’s “judgment” on the Jews because they hadn’t accepted Jesus.

Speaking of Jews, the ever-execrable Sean Hannity has been having intercourse with a known Jew-hater named Andy Martin, who now wants to expose Barack Obama as a Muslim. According to the Washington Times:

In 1986, when Mr. Martin ran as a Democrat for Connecticut’s 3rd Congressional District seat under the name “Anthony R. Martin-Trigona,” his campaign committee filed papers saying its purpose was to “exterminate Jew power in America and impeach U.S. District Court of Appeals judges in New York City.”

Calling all Podhoretzs! Where’s the outrage? I mean, don’t the hateful doings at Palin’s church and Hannity’s perfidy deserve a lengthy exegesis from Pete Wehner or Jennifer Rubin or one of the other empretzled ideologues over at Commentary?

As I said, I’m of two minds about this. I don’t want to give currency to this sewage, so it will remain below the fold. And I’ll try to devote the lion’s share of my time to the issues–the war, the economic crisis, the fraying health insurance system, the environment–that should define this campaign. But what a desperate empty embarrassment the McCain campaign has become.

Soure: TIME