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Dec. 3 (Bloomberg) — Bill Richardson’s nomination as Commerce secretary won’t satisfy top Latino lawmakers, who sent President-elect Barack Obama’s transition office a letter yesterday afternoon recommending a slate of 14 Hispanics for the remaining eight Cabinet slots.

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“We’d definitely be disappointed,” if Richardson, 61, a former energy secretary and United Nations ambassador, were the lone Latino in Obama’s Cabinet, said California Representative Joe Baca, the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. He warned that Obama’s legislative agenda could be jeopardized if the president-elect doesn’t nominate additional Hispanics.

“If it’s just one, he’s going to have to answer to a lot of the issues that come before us,” Baca said in an interview.

There could be one more appointment soon. Two Democrats close to Obama’s transition office said that Representative Xavier Becerra, a California Democrat, has been offered the job of U.S. trade representative. The two Democrats didn’t say Becerra, 50, will accept the post.

Obama’s victories in New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada, all states carried by President George W. Bush in 2004, was “in large measure because of Hispanic support,” said Representative Charles Gonzalez, a Texas Democrat. Election-day exit polls of Latinos gave Obama a 2-to-1 advantage on Nov. 4.

Obama is expected to announce Richardson’s selection today in Chicago, a Democratic official said.

Becerra, who once declared U.S. trade policy was “broken completely,” would take part in global trade talks, negotiate with China on product-safety issues and possibly renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Caucus Recommendations

The Hispanic Caucus letter recommends Colorado Representative John Salazar for agriculture secretary, Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion for Housing and Urban Development secretary and Texas Assemblyman Rick Noriega for veterans’ affairs secretary, among others.

Baca described the letter, sent to transition director John Podesta, as the “the beginning of demonstrating that we are ones to be reckoned with and not to be taken lightly.” Baca and Gonzalez signed the letter on behalf of the 21-member caucus.

Richardson is the highest-profile Latino elected official in the U.S. Before being elected as governor of New Mexico in 2002 and winning a second term in 2006, he served in two Cabinet positions in President Bill Clinton’s administration and eight terms in the U.S. House.

Endorsed Obama

Richardson ended his own bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in January and later endorsed Obama, calling him a “once-in-a-lifetime leader” who can unite the country. That move was a rebuke to Hillary Clinton, and her husband publicly lashed out at Richardson at the time.

For several weeks, Baca and Gonzalez led a group of 10 lawmakers to create a list for Obama’s transition team, which was approved by a required two-thirds of the caucus members.

“We understand that the incoming administration will have a vast pool of talent from which to choose,” wrote Baca and Gonzalez. “The individuals we have endorsed constitute the best talent, while reflecting the diversity that is so valued by President-elect Obama.”

Baca expects Obama to improve upon the two Hispanics that Presidents Clinton and Bush had in their Cabinets. “We’ll start with two and then work for three,” he said. “But it’s got to be more than what we’ve had.”

Bush, Clinton Picks

Bush began his first term with Mel Martinez serving as Housing and Urban Development secretary and Alberto Gonzales as his White House counsel. In his second term, Bush promoted Gonzales to attorney general and had Carlos Gutierrez as his commerce secretary.

Clinton started off with Henry Cisneros at HUD and Federico Pena as transportation secretary and then later as his energy secretary, until Pena was replaced by Richardson.

Gonzalez said he was “confident” that Obama will select additional Hispanics for his Cabinet, insisting that “the process is still in play.” He cheered the choices of Louis Caldera to head the White House Military Affairs Office and Cecilia Munoz as White House director of intergovernmental affairs.

Other Latino lawmakers, while insisting that Hispanics deserved credit for the Democrats’ victory, said they weren’t focused on Obama’s final Cabinet tally. Representative Linda Sanchez, who left the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in 2006 but was still recommended the group as a potential labor secretary, said “for me it’s not a numbers game.”

She criticized Baca for “speaking a little hastily,” in setting down firm demands that Obama appoint more than two Hispanics. Baca is “very strident and he’s very passionate,” about wanting to ensconce Hispanics in influential positions.

Clinton Alumni

Republicans, meanwhile, had their own criticism of the Richardson pick. “Nothing says change like picking the Clinton administration’s energy secretary and UN representative to be commerce secretary,” said Alex Conant, a spokesman at the Republican National Committee.

Obama already has tapped top officials from the Clinton administration, including former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers to be his White House economic director, former Treasury official Timothy Geithner as his Treasury secretary, and Illinois Representative Rahm Emanuel, who was a special adviser to Bill Clinton, as his chief of staff. Obama also picked Hillary Clinton to be his secretary of state.

“Obama’s Cabinet is starting to look like a Clinton administration reunion,” Conant said.

Source: Bloomberg

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hp12-1-08i President-elect Obama made official the worst-kept secret in Washington this morning: that his national security team will be headlined by a bitter political rival (Clinton) and a member of President Bush’s war cabinet (Gates).

Beyond the obvious symbolism, however, Monday’s moves also offer some important evidence on the best-kept secret of the past two years: how will a President Obama actually govern in these troubled times?

The parlor game of who gets what job is largely over, save a few of the less prestigious cabinet gigs. Here is what today’s announcement – combined with the unveiling of his top White House staff and economic team – tell us about the 44th president as he prepares to take over.

• He is an intellectual, who is more impressed by academic and governing credentials than familiarity and loyalty.

New York Times columnist David Brooks nailed it recently when he called the emerging cabinet a “valedictocracy”: a team of the nation’s first-in-class Ivy League elites. He meant it as a compliment. He’s not alone: it’s hard to find Republicans who don’t express admiration (at least in private) for the emerging Obama team.

Of the 18 top appointments announced so far, 12 have degrees from Ivy League institutions, Stanford or MIT. Susan Rice was a Rhodes Scholar; Larry Summers was the youngest tenured professor in Harvard history and Greg Craig, the top White House lawyer, attended Exeter, Harvard, Cambridge and Yale.

Few of the early picks could be considered Obama loyalists. Hillary Rodham Clinton thought she would be banished to the outer reaches of Obama’s world. Now, she’s secretary of state. Robert Gates thought he was headed for retirement. Now, he will run war policy for anti-war Obama. The victor has proved to be anything but vindictive.

There could be a cost to having so many high achievers around the same table. Bush’s war Cabinet was also praised for its experience and gravitas, but wound up being a dysfunctional snake pit.

• He is willing to take big risks.

His economic and national-security teams are getting packed with huge personalities who see themselves as architects, not assembly-line workers. The potential for big clashes in tough times is high. But so is the potential for big results.

Hillary Clinton could be a fabulous world diplomat, considering her familiarity with leaders and global problems. She could also be a disaster if the Clinton family’s penchant for personal and political dramas distract the Obama presidency…

Read on…

president-elect-barack-obama-talks-about-choosing-orszag-as-his-choice-for-director-of-the-office-of-management-and-budget-during-a-news-conference-in-chicago CHICAGO (Reuters) – President-elect Barack Obama takes another step toward tackling the ailing U.S. economy on Wednesday as part of an aggressive effort to demonstrate that his administration will face the global financial crisis head-on.

In his third news conference this week, Obama will make an “economic announcement” at 10:45 a.m. EST, his transition office said, following a similar event on Tuesday, when he presented his picks to head the White House budget office.

The Wall Street Journal reported Obama would name Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker to chair a new economic advisory panel designed to stabilize financial markets and steer the country out of a recession.

Quoting Democratic officials, the newspaper reported on its Web site that University of Chicago economist and Obama policy adviser Austan Goolsbee would serve as the panel’s staff director.

It said the board would not supplant the Treasury Department, but give Obama an official forum for getting expert advice outside bureaucratic channels.

Obama, who succeeds President George W. Bush on January 20, seems already to be taking the reins as financial market players increasingly tune out the current president and focus instead on the country’s next leader.

In addition to naming his top economic advisers, Obama has come closer to forming his national security team, with reports saying that Republican Robert Gates will stay on as defense secretary and retired Marine Gen. James Jones will take over as national security adviser.

Those appointments, along with New York Sen. Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, are likely to be made early next week, after the November 27 Thanksgiving holiday.

For now Obama has put his focus squarely on the economy, pledging a costly stimulus package that he urged the next Congress to pass quickly.

On Tuesday, he vowed to cut billions of dollars in wasteful government spending.

But questions remain about both goals. Obama declined to put a figure on the stimulus package — other Democrats have estimated it could cost hundreds of billions of dollars — and he did not identify specific government programs to be cut.

Analysts said Obama’s daily economic pronouncements showed the next president stepping into a leadership chasm.

“Confidence in Bush as an effective president has eroded so substantially that he is no longer taken seriously,” said Paul Beck, a professor of political science at Ohio State University.

“There is, of course, much more confidence in Obama or he would not have been elected as president. And, he is the president-in-waiting, so the only alternative the country has to Bush as a leader, especially in a period when the markets have failed and government must play an enlarged role in them.”

Obama has not shied away from telling struggling industries like banks and automakers to take responsibility for their ailing position in the economy.

In an interview with ABC television network, Obama said bank executives should forego their bonuses this year.

Source: Reuters

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WASHINGTON — The thaw in the resentful relationship between the most powerful woman in the Democratic Party and her younger male rival began at the party’s convention this summer, when Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton gave such a passionate speech supporting Senator Barack Obama that his top aides leapt out of their chairs backstage to give her a standing ovation as she swept past.

Mr. Obama, who was in the first steps of what would become a strategic courtship, called afterward to thank her. By then, close aides to Mrs. Clinton said, she had come to respect the campaign Mr. Obama had run against her. At the least, she knew he understood like no one else the brutal strains of their epic primary battle.

By this past Thursday, when Mr. Obama reassured Mrs. Clinton that as secretary of state she would have direct access to him and could select her own staff, the wooing was complete.

UNHAPPY TOGETHER President Bush and Colin Powell had a strained relationship. Enlarge+

UNHAPPY TOGETHER President Bush and Colin Powell had a strained relationship. Enlarge+

“She feels like she’s been treated very well in the way she’s been asked,” said a close associate of Mrs. Clinton, who like others interviewed asked for anonymity because the nomination will not be formally announced until after Thanksgiving.

Few are predicting that this new relationship born of mutual respect and self-interest will grow into a tight bond between the new president and the woman who will be the public face of his foreign policy, though some say it is not impossible. They argue that a close friendship between the two powerful officials is useful but not essential, and is not a predictor of the success of the nation’s chief diplomat.

While James A. Baker III was extraordinarily close to the first President George Bush and is widely considered one of the most successful recent secretaries of state, Dean Acheson was not a friend of Harry S. Truman and Henry A. Kissinger did not particularly like Richard M. Nixon.

“Two of the nation’s greatest secretaries of state in the modern period, Dean Acheson and Henry Kissinger, were not personally close but were intellectually bonded to their presidents,” said Walter Isaacson, the author of a biography of Mr. Kissinger and the co-author, with Evan Thomas, of “The Wise Men,” a book about America’s postwar foreign policy establishment. “I think that Obama and Clinton could form a perfect partnership based on respect for each other’s view of the world.”

TIGHT TEAM James A. Baker III’s success lay in his ties to the first President Bush Enlarge+

TIGHT TEAM James A. Baker III’s success lay in his ties to the first President Bush Enlarge+

Colin L. Powell, who was President Bush’s first-term celebrity secretary of state, would appear to be a cautionary tale for Mrs. Clinton since his relationship with the president was strained, and he left office an unhappy man. But Mr. Bush’s second-term secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, is generally not viewed as having the success her unusually tight bond with the president might have engendered.

 

In the Obama-Clinton relationship, advisers say, the relatively smooth nature of their talks about the secretary of state job indicate that both, for now, have a working chemistry. The advisers say that Mr. Obama was clearly interested in bringing a rival under his wing, and that he also recognized that Mrs. Clinton had far more discipline and focus than her husband.

At the same time, Mr. Obama’s advisers said, he had the self-confidence to name a global brand as his emissary to the world. He recognizes, they said, that after Jan. 20, he will have to build the kind of relationship that ensures that foreign leaders know that when Mrs. Clinton speaks, she is speaking directly for him.

Harry S. Truman and his secretary of state, Dean Acheson. Enlarge+

Harry S. Truman and his secretary of state, Dean Acheson. Enlarge+

“It helps to have a relationship that Bush had with Baker, that’s no doubt true,” said Martin Indyk, a former American ambassador to Israel, who was a supporter of Mrs. Clinton in the primary battles. “But if they are seen as working together effectively, I think that can be easily overcome. I don’t think he would have decided to appoint her if he didn’t want her to be effective.”

 

One close adviser to Mr. Obama said the president-elect also saw that Mrs. Clinton’s political skills would serve her well in the job, as happened with Mr. Baker and Mr. Kissinger. “They understood that statecraft is politics by another name,” the adviser said.

Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton first spoke after their primary fight on a flight in June to Unity, N.H., their first stage-managed appearance after he won the nomination. As they settled into their seats on his plane, the conversation, according to people on both sides, was far less awkward than they had feared. Over the passing weeks, the relationship gradually improved.

“They got past this long before their supporters and the party activists did,” said one Democrat who is close to both Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton.

Henry A. Kissinger and Richard M. Nixon at the White House. Enlarge+

Henry A. Kissinger and Richard M. Nixon at the White House. Enlarge+

After Mrs. Clinton’s speech in support of Mr. Obama at the Democratic convention, she crisscrossed the country tirelessly to campaign for him — so much so that he told aides he was impressed by the sheer number of events she was doing on his behalf.

Mrs. Clinton, it should be said, was herself diligent in advertising how hard she was working for the man who defeated her. When announcing her appearances, her press office included tallies of how many events she had held for Mr. Obama, and in how many states. At some rallies, organizers would distribute “Hillary Sent Me” buttons, as if Mrs. Clinton was being magnanimous by “sending” her followers to vote for Mr. Obama.

But Mr. Obama began calling Mrs. Clinton after some of the events — he dialed directly from his cellphone to hers one day in Michigan and another day in Florida — to check in and thank her for helping. By then, their intense primary fights over policy, which both sides now insist was more about heat than substance, had long receded.

“The reality at the end of the day was, whether it was Iran or health care or some of these other issues, we were always fighting big battles over small differences,” said a senior aide to Mr. Obama, adding that “in a campaign, conflict is what you go to.”

Substantively, the two were at odds over the Iraq war — Mrs. Clinton voted to authorize it and Mr. Obama said he would have opposed it had he been in the Senate then — and to a lesser extent over negotiations with Iran. But although Mrs. Clinton criticized Mr. Obama for being willing to sit down and talk to dictators, he has said he would have a lower-level envoy do preparatory work for a meeting with Iran’s leaders first. Mrs. Clinton has said she favors robust diplomacy with Iran and lower-level contacts as well.

In the weeks just before the election, the relationship between Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton further mellowed, even as she found herself in a startling role reversal with her younger rival. As a celebrity senator and powerhouse on Capitol Hill, she had helped Mr. Obama in his Senate race and offered advice when he first came to Washington; now she was the workhorse for a political phenomenon.

Since the election, Mrs. Clinton has talked to Mr. Obama only a handful of times, even as two close advisers to Mr. Obama who held top positions in the Clinton administration — Rahm Emanuel and John D. Podesta — have served as key negotiators between her and the president-elect on the secretary of state position.

But Mrs. Clinton has talked several times to Michelle Obama about raising a family in the White House and private schools in Washington. On Friday, Mrs. Obama said the two Obama girls, Malia and Sasha, would attend the Sidwell Friends School, just as Chelsea Clinton did.

Jeff Zeleny contributed reporting from Chicago, and Mark Leibovich from Washington.

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I was agnostic on the matter of Hillary Clinton’s possible appointment as secretary of state–until last night.

If Barack Obama, the president-elect, wanted to pull a Team of Rivals play, that had seemed fine to me. And placing Clinton in Foggy Bottom would remove her from the dicey business of passing health care reform. Would it unite the party? Well, judging from the election results, the party is pretty darn united already. Despite the griping of a few Hillaryites at the Democratic convention, her voters certainly swung behind Obama in the general election (see Pennsylvania), after HRC and WJC campaigned for BHO in the fall. Unless an explicit deal was made between Obama and Hillary Clinton, it did not seem that Obama, after bypassing her for veep, had to appoint her anything for the party’s sake. Still, if Obama and his savvy band of advisers thought that handing her one of the best jobs in the Cabinet would generate political benefits they could use to advance their agenda, I, as a non-fan of Hillary Clinton, was willing to say, okay–for what that was worth.

But then this happened: the presidential transition of no-drama Obama became infected by the never-ending soap opera of the Clintons. And it really is time to turn that program off. There are plenty of policy and political reasons for a progressive not to fancy Hillary. She served on the Wal-Mart board when the mega-firm was fighting unions; she screwed up health care reform for almost a generation; she voted wrong on the Iraq war and then refused to acknowledge she had erred. But, worst of all, as the cliché goes, with the Clintons, it always does seem to be about the Clintons.

So we’ve had a week of will-she-or-won’t-she and what-about-him. Couldn’t this have been handled with a little more grace? Maybe not, since it involves the Clintons.

I don’t know how the Obama camp approached the issue. But before Obama met last week with Hillary to talk about this, his team should have done a pre-vetting of Bill. And then Obama, at this meeting, ought to have said something like this to her:

    If you might be interested in the State position, there are a few issues that would come up concerning Bill. Let me run through a few. Would he be willing to release the names of his foundation’s donors, as well as those who contribute to his presidential library? Would he be willing to forego contributions and speaking fees from foreign governments, foreign heads of states, and major foreign companies that would have an interest in US foreign policy decisions? Would he be willing to discuss with my national security adviser his foreign travel plans and his foundation’s projects before they are announced and undertaken–and would he be willing to defer to us if we believe they are not appropriate or helpful at the time? I know that these are big things to ask. But given his global activity and standing, there’s not much choice. And if it’s a deal-breaker, I certainly would understand. But before you and I go down this road, we should make sure there are no major obstacles. Can you talk to him and get back to me in a day or two? And, to be helpful, Rahm has come up with a list….

Hillary’s answer would have to have been either (a) of course, or (b) thank you for considering me, but I don’t believe this would be a good fit. Two days would pass, and then the drama–or at least this part of it–could be over.

Today the news is that Bill will do what he can. AP is reporting:

    Former President Bill Clinton has offered several concessions to help Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, his wife, become secretary of state, people familiar with President-elect Barack Obama’s transition vetting process said Wednesday.
    Clinton has agreed to release the names of several major donors to his charitable foundation and will submit future foundation activities and paid speeches to a strict ethics review, said Democrats knowledgeable about the discussions.
    They also said that Clinton would step away from day-to-day responsibility for his foundation while his wife serves and would alert the State Department to his speaking schedule and any new sources of income.

Does that take care of it? Note the use of the word “several.” It’s hard not to see some sticking points arising about what is disclosed and when. The negotiations between the Obama camp and the Clinton team are supposedly proceeding smoothly. But why should there be negotiations? And could it end up with news reports saying Bill Clinton is willing to reveal X, but the Obama side wants him to release X plus Y? That is, more drama. According to AP, “One Clinton adviser noted that former President George H.W. Bush has given paid speeches and participated in international business ventures since his son, George W. Bush, has been president–without stirring public complaints or controversy about a possible conflict of interest.” This does raise the suspicion that the Clintonites might not agree to all the necessary limitations. And don’t they–or at least, this aide–understand there’s something of a difference between their case and that of the Bushes (though it was probably not appropriate for Daddy Bush to engage in that activity).

Bottom-line: if HRC came fuss-free, then maybe there’d be no reason to kick up a fuss about her appointment. Yet that doesn’t seem to be what’s happening.

But there’s another issue to consider, one that has been overshadowed by the drama: if she runs the State Department in a fashion similar to how she managed her campaign, then the country will be in trouble. Her spinners went beyond the boundaries of fair and reasonable spinning. Her team was a snake pit of competitive aides. She did not master the art of refereeing internal disputes. She signed off on strategic blunders. Hers was not a steady hand.

Perhaps that’s the better argument against her. Being secretary of state isn’t just about giving speeches and touring the world as a celebrity, it’s about managing (and now reviving) the creaky and beleaguered foreign policy apparatus of the United States. And Clinton’s résumé is not strong on that front.

Source: Mother Jones

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has reduced the size of her presidential campaign debt to less than $7.5 million as of Nov. 1, according to campaign finance reports filed Thursday.

The documents show Clinton raised nearly $690,000 in October, a minor sum compared with the $218 million she amassed in her failed presidential bid.

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Of the $7.5 million owed to vendors, nearly $5.4 million was to her former adviser and pollster, Mark Penn. Clinton owed vendors a high of $12 million at the end of June. That was the month she abandoned her presidential campaign and ceded the Democratic nomination to now President-elect Barack Obama.

The amount she owes Penn has been her longest outstanding debt.

She also lent herself nearly $13.2 million. Under federal law Clinton can only repay herself $250,000 with private donations. The report also showed that she had nearly $1 million cash on hand at the end of October.

Obama is considering Clinton for secretary of state. As a Cabinet member Clinton would face fundraising restrictions to retire her vendor debt.

A 2001 advisory opinion by the federal Office of Special Counsel said a federal employee who still had a campaign debt would be prohibited from “personally soliciting, accepting or receiving political contributions.”

Clinton could name an agent from her campaign committee to continue to organize and hold fundraising events to retire the debt. Clinton would be limited to attending a fundraising event and simply stating her appreciation to donors.

Source: AP

2/4 Barack and Michelle Obama on 60 Minutes

3/4 Barack and Michelle Obama on 60 Minutes

4/4 Barack and Michelle Obama on 60 Minutes

I agree with those who are concerned that it would have been nice to see more women, said Kim Gandy.

I agree with those who are concerned that it would have been nice to see more women, said Kim Gandy.

Early indications that men might dominate the hierarchy of Obama administration have women’s groups worried, even as a growing chorus of advisers reportedly pushes Hillary Rodham Clinton for secretary of state.

“There’s definitely been a reaction to the few groups that have been named so far,” said Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women. “I agree with those who are concerned that it would have been nice to see more women.”

Women’s rights advocates acknowledge it’s still early in the transition process, but they say early staff picks and the lists of rumored Cabinet nominees send the wrong signal.

“It’s appropriate that Obama’s vetting Clinton, but she’s one women,” said Amy Siskind, co-founder of The New Agenda, a nonpartisan women’s rights group founded by former Clinton supporters. “We want to see parity in the representation of women in the Cabinet.”

Some women’s rights advocates believe the new administration is conducting a broad search across a diverse pool of candidates.

The Obama transition team asked NOW to send suggestions of qualified female candidates, according to Gandy.

“The transition team is going to take the time to look at and vet the people they don’t know,” she said. “Because frankly, the people who are already well-known in Washington tend to be men and tend to be white.”

The early teams released by the Obama administration have tended to be male-dominated. On Wednesday, four women and eight men were named to Obama’s transition advisory board. His agency review team is headed by seven women and thirteen men. And last week, Obama met with his key economic advisers — four women and 13 men.

So far, Obama has named four members of his top White House staff. Three are men – chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, press secretary Robert Gibbs and chief congressional liaison Phil Schiliro. And one is a woman – senior adviser Valerie Jarrett.

Additionally, Vice President-elect Joe Biden has named Ron Klain as his chief of staff.

The senior staff assisting with the transition is more evenly divided, with Jarrett, a mentor and close friend one of the three top aides overseeing it.

While Obama has not made any Cabinet appointments, the names that are circulating have worried some in the women’s rights community.

“I have been struck by how few women have been mentioned for high-level positions,” said former Vermont Gov. Madeleine Kunin, who worked on the Clinton transition. “It’s still very early, so I don’t want to reach conclusions yet. But the rumors are a flashing yellow light.”

Read it all…

‘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.

abc-news-logo

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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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Senator Barack Obama, greeting President Bush at the White House in February 2005.

Senator Barack Obama, greeting President Bush at the White House in February 2005.

WASHINGTON — For nearly two years on the campaign trail, Senator Barack Obama rarely missed a chance to take a swipe at President Bush. The name George W. Bush invariably followed the phrase “failed policies” in Mr. Obama’s speeches. “When George Bush steps down,” Mr. Obama once declared, “the world is going to breathe a sigh of relief.”

Ronald and Nancy Reagan, right, and President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, in 1980.
On Monday, Mr. Obama, Democrat of Illinois, may find himself conveniently forgetting those words — or at least delicately stepping around the fact that he had said them. As the president-elect, he will be welcomed at the White House as an honored guest of its current occupant, Mr. Bush, for a meeting that could be as awkward as it is historic.

In a time-honored tradition of American democracy, Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle, will receive a tour of their new home from Mr. Bush and the first lady, Laura Bush. Then the men will split off to begin the formal transfer of power, all the more urgent this year because of the financial crisis. Mr. Obama has said he expects a “substantive conversation between myself and the president.”

But there will also be a subtext to the session: the personal chemistry between two leaders whose worldviews are miles apart. The ritual visit is occurring uncommonly early this year, less than a week after Mr. Obama handily defeated Senator John McCain of Arizona, who was the Republican nominee and Mr. Bush’s preferred candidate. Emotions may still be raw.

“I’m not going to anticipate problems,” Mr. Obama said Friday at his first news conference as president-elect. “I’m going to go in there with a spirit of bipartisanship.”

Mr. Bush, the president-elect, visiting with President Bill Clinton at the White House in 2000.

Mr. Bush, the president-elect, visiting with President Bill Clinton at the White House in 2000.

Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama have had little chance to forge the kind of personal relationship that might prompt a smooth handoff. In his book, “The Audacity of Hope,” Mr. Obama wrote less than admiringly of his first face-to-face encounter with the president, at a White House breakfast for new senators after the 2004 election, where Mr. Bush outlined his second-term agenda.

“The president’s eyes became fixed; his voice took on the agitated, rapid tone of someone neither accustomed to nor welcoming interruption; his easy affability was replaced by an almost messianic certainty,” Mr. Obama wrote. “As I watched my mostly Republican Senate colleagues hang on his every word, I was reminded of the dangerous isolation that power can bring.”

Mr. Bush, meanwhile, was privately critical of Mr. Obama during the 2008 Democratic primary race, telling friends that he thought Mr. Obama’s chief rival for the party’s nomination, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, was “more experienced and more ready to be president,” said one friend of Mr. Bush’s who had such a conversation. But Mr. Obama ran a good campaign — Mr. Bush is someone who appreciates that — and the election last week might have eased his doubts.

“President Bush is a realist,” said this friend, who spoke anonymously to disclose his private conversation with the president. “He has a way of coming to grips with things and moving on. The people have spoken.”

For Mr. Bush, the meeting has a distinct upside: the chance to take the edge off his unpopularity. Democrats are already praising him as gracious for his post-election speech in the Rose Garden, where he said it would be a “stirring sight” to see the Obama family move into the White House. The meeting on Monday will give Mr. Bush an opportunity to produce lasting images of that graciousness.

“The important thing he gets out of it,” the historian Doris Kearns Goodwin said, “is a public perception of him as somebody who is leaving in classy fashion, by opening his house and his information and his government. He wants to leave on a note that says he did everything possible to help this next president run the country.”

But such meetings can be fraught with political and personal danger. On Inauguration Day in 2001, President Bill Clinton invited Mr. Bush for coffee before the ceremony but kept his ever-punctual successor waiting for 10 minutes, recalled Mr. Bush’s first press secretary, Ari Fleischer. Even more uncomfortable was the presence of Vice President Al Gore, who lost the presidential election to Mr. Bush after a bitterly contested Florida recount.

Ronald and Nancy Reagan, right, and President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, in 1980.

Ronald and Nancy Reagan, right, and President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, in 1980.

“Clinton was his normal gregarious self, but Vice President Gore was not a happy camper,” Mr. Fleischer said. “I think it was a very sour moment for him, and you could kind of feel it in the room.”

In 1980, after President Jimmy Carter lost his re-election bid to Ronald Reagan, the two met at the White House. Mr. Carter came away feeling that Mr. Reagan had not been paying attention.

“President Carter was kind of taken aback by the meeting with Reagan,” said Jody Powell, Mr. Carter’s former press secretary. “There was a point where he sort of wandered off and asked questions that seemed to be only tangentially related to what they were talking about.”

And though the Carter White House had offered to share information about efforts to end the Iranian hostage crisis, Mr. Powell said, “My impression was that they wanted us to handle it without them being involved enough to have to take responsibility for whatever happened.”

So, too, may it be with Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama over the economy. Mr. Bush has invited world leaders to Washington on Friday and Saturday for an international conference on the economy. Mr. Obama and his team have declined to attend. Mr. Obama supports a new economic stimulus package; the Bush White House is cool to that idea.

The White House says Mr. Obama has been there seven times during Mr. Bush’s tenure, most recently in September for a much-publicized meeting on the $700 billion financial rescue package. That session blew up when House Republicans, backed by Mr. McCain, balked at the plan. Curiously enough, Mr. Obama and Mr. Bush were on the same side.

Perhaps Mr. Obama will remind Mr. Bush of that when he sees him on Monday. Or perhaps he will remind Mr. Bush of another encounter, at a White House reception in January 2005 when, according to Mr. Obama’s book, the affable president offered a dollop of hand sanitizer — “Not wanting to seem unhygienic,” Mr. Obama wrote, “I took a squirt” — and then pulled him aside for some unsolicited political advice.

“You’ve got a bright future, very bright,” Mr. Bush began, by Mr. Obama’s account. The president went on to warn the new senator that his celebrity status could hurt him: “Everybody’ll be waiting for you to slip, know what I mean? So watch yourself.”

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WASHINGTON – It popped out casually, a throwaway line as he talked to reporters about finding the right puppy for his young daughters.

But with just three offhanded words in his first news conference as president-elect, Barack Obama reminded everyone how thoroughly different his administration — and inevitably, this country — will be.

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“Mutts like me.”

By now, almost everyone knows that Obama’s mother was white and father was black, putting him on track to become the nation’s first African-American president. But there was something startling, and telling, about hearing his self-description — particularly in how offhandedly he used it.

The message seemed clear — here is a president who will be quite at ease discussing race, a complex issue as unresolved as it is uncomfortable for many to talk about openly. And at a time when whites in the country are not many years from becoming the minority.

Obama made the remark as he revealed his thinking in what is becoming one of the highest-profile issues of this transition period: What kind of puppy will he and his wife, Michelle, get for their daughters as they move into the White House.

Because Malia, 10, has allergies, the family wants a low-allergy dog. But Obama said they also want to adopt a puppy from an animal shelter, which could make it harder to find a breed that wouldn’t aggravate his daughter’s problem.

“Obviously, a lot of shelter dogs are mutts like me,” Obama said with a smile. “So whether we’re going to be able to balance those two things, I think, is a pressing issue on the Obama household.”

In his first postelection news conference, the man who will be president in just over two months described himself as a mutt as casually as he may have poked fun at his jump shot.

If he thought nothing of such a remark in his first news conference, doesn’t that signal that over the next four years, the country is likely to hear more about race from the White House — and from the perspective of a black man — than it ever has before?

It’s not necessarily that he will make a crusade about the issue once he takes office. There was little sign of that in his election campaign, in which he ran on issues like the economy with a broad appeal to all Americans.

But it does underscore that the president-elect clearly does not see race as a subject best sidestepped or discussed in hushed tones. To Obama, race in all its complications has long been a defining part of his life, and he is comfortable talking about it.

The timing seems fortuitous. Obama will be sworn in as the country is rapidly becoming more racially diverse. The latest government projections indicate that by 2042, white people will make up less than half the nation’s population.

Blacks have been elected to local and statewide office in growing numbers in recent years, a sign that the country is becoming more tolerant. Obama lost the white vote to Republican John McCain by 12 percentage points, according to exit polls of voters — a better showing than Democrat John Kerry’s 17-point deficit with whites four years ago.

Still, a conversation about race over the next four years that is more open and explicit than the country has ever heard from its president can’t be bad, can it?

Obama’s comment was all the more noteworthy coming from a man who just ended a presidential campaign in which he stayed relentlessly on-message and made few comments that could be hurled against him. This is a man who can limit himself to saying exactly what he wants to say — usually.

One remark that did haunt him came during his long-running primary campaign against Hillary Rodham Clinton. Speaking at a private fundraiser in San Francisco, Obama said some residents of depressed rural areas get bitter and “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them.”

Eager to avoid slips like that in the campaign’s closing days, Obama usually avoided reporters and seldom departed from prepared remarks.

At his news conference Friday, Obama seemed less guarded. But that led to another eyebrow-raising moment.

Obama told reporters that he has turned for advice to all “living” former presidents. But he then joked, “I didn’t want to get into a Nancy Reagan thing about, you know, doing any seances.”

The former first lady actually has not been linked to conversations with the dead. President Reagan’s former chief of staff, Donald Regan, did write that she set her husband’s schedule with the help of an astrologist.

Obama called Mrs. Reagan late Friday to apologize.

Ironically, Obama’s remarks came just a day after Italy’s Premier Silvio Berlusconi, in an apparent joke, described Obama as “young, handsome and even tanned.” Critics called the comment racist, while Berlusconi defended it as a compliment.

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Nancy Reagan stands with Larry King

Nancy Reagan stands with Larry King

It worked out well ~ a good chance to have a nice chat with Mrs. Reagan, [I kind of believed it], just about ~ about. Nancy Reagan’s husband Ronald Reagan was one of the greatest Presidents of our time.

We are definitely going to enjoy an Obama presidency!

WASHINGTON (AP) — President-elect Obama called Nancy Reagan on Friday to apologize for joking that she held seances in the White House.

At a news conference in Chicago, Obama said he had spoken with all the living presidents as he prepares to take office in January. Then he smiled and said, “I didn’t want to get into a Nancy Reagan thing about doing any seances.”

The 87-year-old former first lady had consulted with astrologers during her husband’s presidency. But she did not hold conversations with the dead.

Obama spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said the president-elect later called Mrs. Reagan “to apologize for the careless and offhanded remark.” She said Obama “expressed his admiration and affection for Mrs. Reagan that so many Americans share, and they had a warm conversation.”

It actually wasn’t Nancy Reagan who was linked to conversations with the dead; it was Obama’s top Democratic challenger for the presidency, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y.

In either case, use of the word “seance” might be overstated.

Nancy Reagan consulted an astrologer to help set her husband’s schedule, wrote former White House chief of staff Donald T. Regan. The revelation created a furor and President Reagan even broke with his policy of not commenting on books by former White House staffers.

“No policy or decision in my mind has ever been influenced by astrology,” Reagan said.

In his book “The Choice,” Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward described how Clinton consulted with a spiritual adviser who led her through imaginary conversations with her personal hero, Eleanor Roosevelt. Newsweek magazine, which was promoting the book, characterized the visits as “seances,” a term that White House officials quickly tried to squelch.

“These were people who were helping her laugh, helping her think,” said Neel Lattimore, Clinton’s spokeswoman. “These were not seances.”

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Obama meets with economic advisers [Photo-op]

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Everyone knows that Obama would be dealt a stiff hand ~ if he were to become President.

Obama tells people what he thinks and in the direction he thinks we should go in. Look at the convention - when Obama accepted his party’s nomination – I think what many of detractors saw were the Greek columns – I barely noticed – because it was what he said that was important – he said it was not over – the Republican attack machine is going to come after him to try to win this election. Which is one of the reasons I built this blog, that and the appearance of Sarah Palin – who has either reached or is safely on her way back to Alaska:-}. When Obama became President-elect he said that there is a lot of work to do and it is going to take time. Obama’s a guy with some good ideas - and not only America but much of the world is with him – and once he becomes President – it would be difficult to understand why he wouldn’t work to get these things done. If you scroll down and listen to the speech that Obama made when he announced his candidacy for President – it sounds very similar to the speeches he used to end his campaign with — but more in his very first speech – he tells you what he is going to do once he is elected – after telling you the route by which he was going to get elected – and he got elected. The inaugurated is in January – and I am sure – a good day that will be. Most of all we trust him. 

President-elect Barack Obama has begun an effort to tamp down what his aides fear are unusually high expectations among his supporters, and will remind Americans regularly throughout the transition that the nation’s challenges are substantial and will take time to address.

Visitors offered wishes to Barack Obama at a wall built Wednesday near the Lincoln Memorial.
Mr. Obama’s advisers said they were startled, if gratified, by the jubilation that greeted the news of Mr. Obama’s victory in much of the United States and abroad. But while the energy of his supporters could be a tremendous political asset as Mr. Obama works to enact his agenda after taking office in January, his aides said they were looking to temper hopes that he would be able to solve the nation’s problems or fully reverse Bush administration policies quickly and easily, especially given the prospect of a deep and long-lasting recession.

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“We have talked about this,” said Robert Gibbs, a senior adviser to Mr. Obama. “It’s important that everybody understands that this is not going to happen overnight. There has to be a realistic expectation of what can happen and how quickly.”

Joel Benenson, Mr. Obama’s campaign pollster, said he thought that the public appreciated the problems that the president-elect was facing and would judge him against that backdrop.

“I don’t think they view him as a miracle worker who in two months is going to solve an economic crisis,” Mr. Benenson said. “It is a matter of being straightforward with people about what we are going to achieve and how fast it’s going to take.”

Mr. Obama will hit that theme at a news conference he is expected to hold over the coming days, and in most of his public appearances from here on out, aides said. They said they would discourage the traditional yardstick for measuring the accomplishments of a new president — the first 100 days. Mr. Obama told an interviewer toward the end of his campaign that it was more appropriate to talk about the first 1,000 days.

Mr. Obama’s advisers said that the tone of his victory speech on Tuesday night — sober and devoid of the arm-pumping that would typically be in an address of that sort — reflected his awareness of these circumstances. Mr. Obama warned that the promises that led Americans to embrace his candidacy — be they as specific as expanding health care or as broad as changing the tone of Washington — might take as long a term to carry out.

The caution reflected the inevitable perils of taking control of the White House at such a difficult time, particularly after a campaign that stirred so much hope among voters. The economic crisis will certainly complicate Mr. Obama’s more ambitious domestic efforts like broadening health care coverage and cutting taxes for most Americans. His call for a change in the tone in Washington would require a sharp shift in history. Even with substantial Democratic majorities in the Senate and the House, passing major legislation could still be time-consuming for Mr. Obama and require compromises.

Mr. Gibbs said one of the main challenges for Mr. Obama was tamping down expectations a bit without making anyone think he was moving away from the promises of his campaign.

“The flip side of this — and I want to make sure this is also clear — we also believe that it is paramount to begin doing everything we said we would do in the campaign,” Mr. Gibbs said. “We know expectations are high. But disappointment if we didn’t try to do the things that we said we were going to do would be far, far greater than anything else. People went to the polls and elected Barack Obama because they believed the fact not only that he could do what he said, but that he would try to do what he said.”

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The challenge facing Mr. Obama today is similar to one that faced Bill Clinton in 1992, the last time a president arrived in Washington with anything approaching the level of excitement Mr. Obama’s election set off around the country.

As Election Day approached in 1992, it was apparent from the crowds that Mr. Clinton drew, in their size and their faces, that his supporters expected big things after a campaign in which Mr. Clinton had promised a dramatic revamping in health care coverage and programs for the poor. At the time, a senior adviser who was traveling with him, Paul Begala, warned Mr. Clinton to add some caveats to his speeches, to avoid voter letdown should it take time to accomplish things as president.

“I remember talking about this to him in the closing days of the campaign,” Mr. Begala said. “And he started saying, ‘We didn’t get into this overnight and we’re not going to get out of it overnight.’ ”

“So I remember him talking about it and doing it — and it didn’t have any effect on the citizens,” Mr. Begala said. That was one reason, he said, that Democrats lost control of Congress two years later.

A nearly 500-point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average on Wednesday was a reminder that Mr. Obama’s election did not bring the financial crisis to a close, and that the economic downturn could limit his ability to pursue his full agenda right off the bat by demanding an immediate focus on trying to pull the nation out of recession. And, even if Americans are ready to bear with Mr. Obama as he pursues policy proposals, they may not as readily accept the sort of compromise that legislative accomplishment often requires.

With the Democrats falling short of a filibuster-proof 60-seat majority in the Senate on Tuesday, his agenda will probably require some modicum of horse trading for Republican support. Further complicating the picture, Mr. Obama’s winning coalition includes new voters who will be watching him closely but may not have patience for the deliberative give and take that accomplishment in Washington often demands.

“He’s got to lower some expectations, indicate the limits he’s confronting,” said Leon Panetta, a former chief of staff to Mr. Clinton. “He’s got a story to tell about how he’s confronting the worst crisis that any president has faced in modern history, and I think he can make clear that he’s going to try to deal with these problems one at a time.”

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WASHINGTON – In the final weekend of a long race for the White House, Barack Obama promised to heal America’s political divisions while rival John McCain fought to hold on to Republican-leaning states and pledged to score an upset.

For Obama, buoyed by record campaign donations and encouraging poll numbers, it was a time for soaring rhetoric and forays into Republican territory. “We have a righteous wind at our back,” the Democrat said Saturday.

McCain saw the weekend as a final opportunity to persuade voters to prove the polls and pundits wrong and sweep him into office.

“We’re a few points down but we’re coming back,” he told supporters in Virginia.

Obama campaigned Saturday in Nevada, Colorado and Missouri, all states that voted for President Bush four years ago, while McCain struggled to keep Virginia from voting for a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time since 1964.

McCain also made a quick sidetrip to New York City and an appearance on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” where he joked about his campaign and his latest plan to win over voters.

“I thought I might try a strategy called the reverse maverick. That’s where I’d do whatever anybody tells me,” McCain said. If that failed, he quipped, “I’d go to the double maverick. I’d just go totally berserk and freak everybody out.”

Both men appealed to supporters to turn out on Election Day, saying the stakes could scarcely be higher.

“If you give me your vote on Tuesday, we won’t just win this election — together, we will change this country and change the world,” Obama said in a nationwide Democratic radio address.

Vice President Dick Cheney endorsed McCain, saying Americans “cannot afford the high tax liberalism of Barack Obama and Joe Biden.”

Obama, campaigning in Colorado, pounced on the remark, saying McCain had earned the endorsement through supporting the Bush administration’s failed social and economic policies.

“Bush and Cheney have dug a deep hole,” Obama said. “Now they’re trying to hand the shovel to McCain.”

An Associated Press-Yahoo News national poll of likely voters showed Obama ahead, 51 to 43, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. McCain’s campaign says its internal polling shows the gap closing.

Senior members of the Republican party are in open mutiny against John McCain’s presidential campaign, after a disastrous period which has seen Barack Obama solidify his lead in the opinion polls.

And as disputes raged within the McCain camp yesterday, Democrats took another symbolic step towards healing the party after their bitter primary battles, as Bill and Hillary Clinton made their first joint appearance in support of Mr Obama.

From inside and outside his inner circle, Mr McCain is being told to settle on a coherent economic message and to tone down attacks on his rival which have sometimes whipped up a mob-like atmosphere at Republican rallies.

Two former rivals for the party nomination, Mitt Romney and Tommy Thompson, went on the record over the weekend about the disarray in the Republican camp. And a string of other senior party figures said Mr McCain’s erratic performance risks taking the party down to heavy losses not just in the presidential race but also in contests for Congressional seats. Mr Thompson, a former governor of the swing state of Wisconsin, said he thought Mr McCain, on his present trajectory, would lose the state, and he told a New York Times reporter he was not happy with the campaign. “I don’t know who is,” he added.

Mr McCain’s erratic performance risks taking the party down to heavy losses not just in the presidential race but also in contests for Congressional seats.

Some Republicans seeking election to Congress have begun distancing themselves from Mr McCain. In Nebraska, a Republican representative, Lee Terry, ran a newspaper ad featuring support from a woman who called herself an “Obama-Terry voter”.

The McCain camp was reportedly considering launching a new set of economic policies last night, on top of the plan for government purchases of mortgages which he unveiled in a surprise move at last week’s presidential debate. Possible options include temporary tax cuts on capital gains and dividends. Mr Romney said he should “stand above the tactical alternatives that are being considered and establish an economic vision that is able to convince the American people that he really knows how to strengthen the economy”.

With just over three weeks to go to election day, a new Reuters/Zogby tracking poll showed the Democratic candidate gaining momentum during the past week. From a two-point lead four days ago, the latest reading has Mr Obama up 6 points. A Gallup poll yesterday put him at plus-7 per cent.

The Clintons took to the stage yesterday in Scranton, a down-at-heel Pennsylvania town that has taken on outsize significance in the presidential election. The town, which has become symbolic of the decline of industrial America, was childhood home of Joe Biden, Mr Obama’s vice-presidential running mate, and is where Hillary Clinton’s father grew up and is buried.

“This is an all hands on deck election,” Mrs Clinton declared, adding that only a Democrat could put the interests of struggling working families at the centre of policy. John McCain sees the middle class as “not fundamental, but ornamental,” she said.

“This is an all hands on deck election,” Mrs Clinton declared, adding that only a Democrat could put the interests of struggling working families at the centre of policy. John McCain sees the middle class as “not fundamental, but ornamental,” she said.

Her husband praised Mr Obama as having the best ideas, best instincts and best team for the White House. However, he focused most of his speech on his wife and Mr Biden, and quickly disappeared for a campaign appearance in Virginia, raising eyebrows among those who worry he has still not fully reconciled himself to the Obama candidacy and is still smarting from the bitter reaction against his contributions to the primary race.

McCain campaign staffers lashed out at the media for focusing on a minority of supporters at some rallies in the past week who have gone beyond booing and hissing at Mr Obama’s name, and begun calling out “terrorist” and “kill him”.

Senior Republicans have sharply conflicting views about the direction the McCain campaign should take, with some arguing that their candidate has not hit Mr Obama hard enough on the shady associates from his past. The issue of the Rev Jeremiah Wright, Mr Obama’s former pastor, whose incendiary speeches about white racism almost derailed the Democrat’s primary race, should be brought back on to the table by Mr McCain, many are counselling. Mr McCain, however, has ruled that issue off-limits, for fear of being accused of playing a race card.

The Republican candidate appeared keen to cool the temperature at rallies over the weekend, at one point snatching the microphone from a woman in Minnesota who declared Mr Obama was an “Arab”. He chided her, and another man who said he was “scared” of an Obama presidency, and told a booing crowd to be respectful. “He is a decent family man, a citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues,” said Mr McCain.

McCain campaign staffers lashed out at the media for focusing on a minority of supporters at some rallies in the past week who have gone beyond booing and hissing at Mr Obama’s name, and begun calling out “terrorist” and “kill him”.

Reining in the party’s supporters may be harder. A minister delivering the invocation at a rally on Saturday asked Christians to pray for a McCain win. “There are millions of people around this world praying to their god – whether it’s Hindu, Buddha, Allah – that his opponent wins, for a variety of reasons,” said Arnold Conrad, the former pastor of Grace Evangelical Free Church in Davenport. Those comments earned a rebuke from a McCain spokesman, and both sides this weekend had to slap down supporters for stirring issues of religion and race.

The Obama campaign disassociated itself from comments by Democratic congressman John Lewis who compared Mr McCain to the late Alabama segregationist George Wallace. “Senator McCain and Governor Palin are sowing the seeds of hatred and division,” he said. “George Wallace never threw a bomb. He never fired a gun, but he created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against innocent Americans who were simply trying to exercise their constitutional rights.”

Source: Independent London

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