Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
I turned 39 (2014)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama 44th US Prez!


President Barack Obama

The Obama Family

Hillary Clinton

My choice for U.S. President in 2008!

News Article:
Romney, Clinton ahead, vulnerable in N.H. poll
Race still open, analysts say
By Scott Helman, (Boston) Globe Staff | November 11, 2007

Republican Mitt Romney and Democrat Hillary Clinton remain the clear front-runners in the New Hampshire presidential primary, but both have vulnerabilities that could erode their support among voters in the weeks ahead, a new Boston Globe poll indicates.

Two months before the New Hampshire primary, Romney leads his nearest rival, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, 32 percent to 20 percent, with Senator John McCain of Arizona third at 17 percent. Among Democratic voters, Clinton, the New York senator, leads Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, 35 percent to 21 percent, with former senator John Edwards of North Carolina third at 15 percent.

The primary contest in both parties remains highly fluid - just 16 percent of likely Republican voters said they had definitely decided whom to back; among likely Democratic primary voters, only 24 percent are firm in their choice. And neither Clinton nor Romney has closed the deal with their party's voters, the poll suggests.

"It's still really open," said Andrew E. Smith, director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, which conducted the Globe poll.

In the Democratic race, Clinton's lead has narrowed 9 points since September, when a CNN/WMUR poll conducted by UNH showed her with a 43-to-20 percent advantage over Obama. Among Republicans, Romney has reestablished the lead over Giuliani that he enjoyed in the summer, after the same September poll showed the two candidates neck and neck.

The Globe survey of 400 likely Democratic voters and 404 likely Republican voters in New Hampshire, conducted from Nov. 2 to Nov. 7, has a margin of error for each party subsample of plus or minus 4.9 percent.

The poll also found that majorities of both Republicans and Democrats favor diplomatic steps over military action or further sanctions to resolve a showdown with Iran over its suspected nuclear weapons program, views that could work against hawkish candidates who have advocated a harder line. A majority of voters in both parties also say that building relationships with Muslims and improving homeland security would be more effective in combating terrorism than fighting Al Qaeda or waging wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

For the most part, Romney and Clinton fared well when voters were asked about their character and personal qualities. GOP voters see Romney as the most trustworthy, the most experienced, and the most capable of bringing "needed change" to the country, suggesting that his message of "strong new leadership" - bolstered by his heavy TV advertising in New Hampshire - is selling. He has also gained ground on Giuliani on the issue of electability, which is central to Giuliani's pitch.

Democratic voters, including many Obama supporters, see Clinton as by far the most experienced candidate - 47 percent for Clinton, compared with just 4 percent who picked Obama. And they believe she is best positioned to beat the Republican nominee next November. Both are impressions Clinton has worked diligently to cultivate.

But Romney and Clinton both have weaknesses on several fronts with the potential to shake up the race as the primary rivalries intensify, the poll suggests.

Only 12 percent of Republican voters said Romney was the best candidate to confront terrorism, compared with 31 percent who picked McCain, and 29 percent who selected Giuliani. On the campaign trail, Romney has cast "radical jihad" as the gravest threat the next president will face.

Also, Romney's supporters are the least likely to have definitely made up their minds compared with backers of the other top-tier GOP candidates.

"He has a pizzazz in him that I think I kind of like, as far as seeing him be a leader and make some changes," said Dave Faulkner, 59, a high school guidance director in Lebanon, N.H., who was among those surveyed. But Faulkner said he is still looking at other candidates.

The poll shows that Clinton's support has dropped as Obama and Edwards have stepped up their criticism of her positions and her forthrightness - attacks that have escalated since the presidential debate late last month, where they accused her of equivocating on illegal immigration and other issues.

Voters polled believe Clinton is less "trustworthy" than Obama - 19 percent said she was the most trustworthy candidate, compared with 26 percent who said Obama was. Only half of those who said they would vote for Clinton listed her as the most trustworthy. The results follow a national Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey released last week in which 43 percent of respondents indicated a negative view of Clinton's "honesty."

In addition, 44 percent of Democratic voters in the Globe poll said a candidate's original position on whether to go to war with Iraq was "very important" to their vote. That suggests that Obama, the only leading Democratic candidate to oppose the war from the start, has potential to capitalize on an important distinction with Clinton and Edwards, both of whom voted to authorize the invasion as senators.

But many voters clearly do not hold Clinton's war vote against her. Mo Landry, a 50-year-old public employee and Clinton supporter from Loudon, N.H., said she was not concerned about Clinton's vote for the war, because she had followed a similar trajectory herself: Landry backed the invasion but now wants to see US troops come home.

"I supported it at the beginning, too," Landry said. "Now that we've done it, it's time to go."

Managing the war in Iraq, preventing terrorism, and containing the perceived nuclear threat from Iran have been defining foreign policy issues in the campaign, with candidates in both parties sparring over who has the right approaches and experience to protect the country.

Despite the combative views of Republican presidential contenders, likely GOP primary voters in New Hampshire favor diplomacy over force in dealing with Iran and with terrorism.

Nearly two-thirds of Republican voters said they consider Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program "a serious threat" to American security, but nearly as many, 59 percent, said the United States should seek diplomatic solutions with allies or talk directly to Iranian leaders, compared with 32 percent who favored military action or tougher economic sanctions. Republicans said, by a 28-to-19 percent margin, that cultivating relationships in the Muslim world was a better way to fight terrorism than capturing Osama bin Laden and fighting Al Qaeda.

A majority of Republican voters, 54 percent, said they would be willing to surrender some civil liberties if it "significantly improv[ed] our security against terrorists," but three-fourths of Democrats said they were unwilling to make that bargain.

More Democrats said they consider Iran a threat to the Middle East than a threat to the United States, and Democrats overwhelmingly favor working with allies and talking directly with Iran over using force or imposing new sanctions. More than half of Democrats surveyed said building relationships in the Middle East was the best way to combat terrorism.

Almost two-thirds of Democratic voters said healthcare was the most or second-most important issue facing the country, followed by Iraq, and the economy. Republicans narrowly chose Iraq as the most important issue, followed by the economy and illegal immigration, a lightning rod in the GOP. More than half of Republican voters said a candidate's position on illegal immigration was "very important" to their vote.



The kitchen strategy won't cut it
By Joan Vennochi, (Boston) Globe Columnist | November 11, 2007

TAKE OFF that apron, Hillary. Democrats want a winning presidential candidate, not a gourmet cook.

As first lady-to-be, Clinton once said, "I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession." The same woman, now running for president, is telling voters, "I'm very much at home in the kitchen."

In this case, pandering to female voters is a big mistake. The sisterhood is famously fickle. Besides, in order to win, Clinton must grow her vote.

She already has a gender gap problem. More than half the married men in a new USA Today/Gallup Poll said they definitely wouldn't vote for her. And the most recent New Hampshire primary poll taken by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion underscores Clinton's dilemma.

Last month, Clinton led her closest competitor, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois by 21 percentage points. Now, the overall gap between them is down to 11 points - 36 percent for Clinton, compared with 25 percent for Obama. One of the biggest shifts occurred among men age 45 and older. Last month, Clinton led Obama and former senator John Edwards of North Carolina by 20 points among this group. Obama now leads Clinton by 13 points with this constituency.

The senator from New York had a commanding lead in the race for the Democratic nomination when she was perceived as the best candidate on the debate stage, who just happened to be a woman, too. Making gender the focus is nothing but a tempting trap.

Clinton fell into it after the last debate. Yes, opponents who happened to be men pressed her hard during the Oct. 30 forum in Philadelphia. In the political world, that's a sign of respect for front-runner status. She acknowledged that, but at the same time, her campaign sent out signals that this was all about the boys piling on the girl. Even if they were, victimhood is not a sound election strategy.

Bill Clinton didn't help matters when he complained that his wife faced a Republican-style "Swift Boat" attack. Besides exaggerating what happened during the debate, the former president sent the wrong message to voters. Is he going to rush to his wife's defense if she's president and Hugo Chávez says something unpleasant about her?

Everywhere she goes, Clinton asks voters to help her make history as the first woman president. On the campaign trail, she's telling baby stories about her daughter, Chelsea, now 27. On "The View," she joked about how long it takes her to get ready compared with her male rivals.

Female bonding is fine as far as it goes. It won't take Clinton all the way to the Oval Office.

At Wellesley College, Clinton said her alma mater prepared her "to compete in the all-boys' club of presidential politics." If that's true, she must understand that during the last debate, her opponents didn't attack her womanhood. They attacked her waffling.

But there's enough waffling in this presidential campaign to heat more than one kitchen. It's time for Clinton to fire up her own grill.

Obama was the first to attack Clinton for backing a resolution that urges the Bush administration to label Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization. Obama said he would have voted against it, but was conveniently absent when the vote was taken. At least Clinton cast a vote and has a rationale for why.

She is also taking heat from Edwards for her plans to continue combat missions against Al Qaeda in Iraq. Meanwhile, Edwards said he would carry out "expeditions" from bases outside Iraq. How is an expedition different from a combat mission?

Striking the right balance will never be easy for a presidential candidate who also happens to be woman. It's even harder for a woman named Hillary Clinton. Her appearance, from a wardrobe of pantsuits to a modest flash of cleavage, will be scrutinized. Her laugh will be deconstructed for cackles. Is she strong enough or too strident? As Clinton walks that tightrope, she should think back over the past year.

Her performance, not her gender, propelled her to the front of the pack. She looked and sounded more presidential than opponents who happened to be men.

Clinton should get out of that kitchen, ASAP. There aren't enough women in it to elect her president of the United States.


Democratic presidential candidates, former U.S. Senator John Edwards (D-NC) (L), U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) (C) and U.S. Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) attend the Jefferson Jackson Dinner at Hy-Vee Hall in Des Moines, Iowa November 10, 2007.

News Article:
Democrats court activists in Iowa
By John Whitesides, Political Correspondent | November 11, 2007

DES MOINES, Iowa (Reuters) - Six Democratic presidential contenders wooed Iowans at a raucous fund-raising dinner on Saturday, with Barack Obama and John Edwards taking veiled shots at front-runner Hillary Clinton on a night filled with dueling cheers and red-meat rhetoric.

Less than two months before Iowa kicks off the battle for the party presidential nomination, more than 9,000 Democratic activists jammed an auditorium in Des Moines for what amounted to a political pep rally.

Obama, an Illinois senator, and Edwards, a former North Carolina senator and vice presidential candidate, never mentioned Clinton by name but made clear their criticisms that she took money from lobbyists and ducked tough questions.

"Not answering questions because we're afraid our answers won't be popular just won't do," Obama said. "Triangulating, and poll-driven positions because we're worried about what Mitt and Rudy might say about us, just won't do."

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani are top contenders for the Republican nomination in the November 2008 election.

Edwards has been the most aggressive in attacking Clinton in recent weeks. "It is time for us as a party to stand up with some backbone and some strength," he said. "We do not believe in allowing lobbyists to write the laws of the United States of America."

Hillary Clinton, a New York senator who leads national opinion polls but is in a tight race in Iowa with Obama and Edwards, said she was experienced and ready to stand up to attacks.

"It's gonna get a little hotter out there, but it's fine with me," she said. "I have a little experience in standing up to fight for what I believe is right."

The dinner gave the Democratic candidates a chance to show their organizational muscle, with the campaigns competing in everything from coordinated cheers to the number of signs lining the auditorium's public walkways.


Obama's raucous supporters dominated the cheering battle, with yell leaders in each of his seating sections coordinating choruses of "Fired Up" and "Ready to Go" -- the call-and-response lines he often uses to close his rallies.

Supporters of Obama and Clinton made up more than half of the crowd, and Edwards also brought a big contingent. They were easy to spot -- Clinton's backers wore yellow T-shirts, Obama's red and Edwards' white.

Each candidate entered the darkened arena in a white spotlight and walked through the crowd to the podium in the center of the floor, giving the event the feel of a prize fight.

Obama's campaign amplified the image with a boxing-like introduction from an exaggerated ringside announcer. "And now, from our neighboring state of Illinois, a 6-2 force for change, Barack Obama!"

Edwards, who held a pre-dinner rally featuring bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley, set up a huge video screen on a corner outside the auditorium that showed clips and quotes.

Obama appeared before the dinner at a rally with 3,000 supporters, and then joined his wife, Michelle, in leading a parade of backers through the street to the auditorium.

Supporters of New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who has called for withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq in 2009, carried banners that read "2013" -- a reference to the refusal of the other top contenders to commit to having troops out by that year.

"American needs to become not the policeman of the world but the conscience of the world," Richardson said.

Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden, who has proposed partitioning Iraq into three regions, said he was the only candidate with a plan for that country's future.

Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd promised the crowd that if he was president "You will get your Constitution back. No more Guantanamos."

(To read more about the U.S. political campaign, visit Reuters "Tales from the Trail: 2008" online at

(Editing by Patricia Zengerle)



Hillary Clinton claims credit for child program

By BETH FOUHY, Associated Press Writer

Friday, October 5, 2007, 5:51 PM ET

When she talks about health care reform on the campaign trail, Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton points to a multibillion-dollar health insurance program for children as one of her signature accomplishments.

The program, enacted in 1997, has provided $24 billion over 10 years to states to cover more than 6 million children whose families earn too much to be eligible for Medicaid but cannot afford private health insurance.

While it has enjoyed broad support on Capitol Hill, President Bush this week vetoed legislation that would have vastly expanded the program's reach.


Clinton claims significant credit for helping launch the effort — formally the state Children's Health Care Insurance Program — as first lady during her husband's second term. Her new television ads prominently mention it as evidence of her long-term commitment to health care and children.

"She changed the lives of 6 million kids when she championed the bill that gave them health insurance," says one ad. "Hillary stood up for universal health care when almost no one else would, and kept standing until 6 million kids had coverage," says another.

Is she justified in claiming so much credit?


After the first lady's effort to enact universal health insurance went down to calamitous defeat in late 1994, she and other White House officials began looking for smaller changes that could win bipartisan support. Republicans had taken control of both the House and Senate that year.

A similar effort was taking place on Capitol Hill, with Sen. Edward Kennedy playing a lead role. One area he and the Clintons explored involved expanding health insurance coverage to children who had none.

On Dec. 9, 1996, senior White House health adviser Chris Jennings sent a memo to the first lady outlining several options — and recommending ways for her to increase her visibility on the issue.

With his wife's backing, President Clinton announced a plan to expand health coverage to as many as 5 million children in his 1997 State of the Union address.

Kennedy, meanwhile, introduced legislation based on a Massachusetts model with Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch as the lead Republican co-sponsor. The bill called for $20 billion in grants to states, paid for in part by raising the federal tax on cigarettes.

Gene Sperling, a Hillary Clinton campaign adviser who served as one of President Clinton's lead budget negotiators in 1997, said efforts to include children's health coverage were constrained by a balanced budget agreement between the White House and Republican congressional leaders.

But he said Hillary Clinton pushed hard and even favored boosting the price tag to $24 billion, instead of the $16 billion that had been floated as a compromise.

"Her office was across from mine, and I knew what her priorities were," Sperling said. "I remember her having a lot of influence — you're getting this done because you know the first lady wants it."

The effort nearly went off the rails when Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, a Republican, said it violated the balanced budget agreement. President Clinton, eager to preserve the agreement, actually phoned lawmakers to kill the legislation when it came to the Senate floor.

Hillary Clinton defended her husband's action at the time. "He had to safeguard the overall budget proposal," she told one audience. But she insisted he would find other ways to provide health coverage for kids.

The effort was revived, with Kennedy, Hatch and a coalition of advocacy groups ranging from the Children's Defense Fund to the Girl Scouts lobbying hard. Kennedy made a special appeal to the first lady, who added her pressure anew.

"The children's health program wouldn't be in existence today if we didn't have Hillary pushing for it from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue," Kennedy told The Associated Press.

President Clinton signed the bill in August 1997.

While Kennedy is widely viewed as the driving force behind the program, by all accounts the former first lady's pressure was crucial.

"She wasn't a legislator, she didn't write the law, and she wasn't the president, so she didn't make the decisions," says Nick Littlefield, then a senior health adviser to Kennedy. "But we relied on her, worked with her and she was pivotal in encouraging the White House to do it."

Associated Press Writer Andrew DeMillo in Little Rock, Ark., contributed to this report.



Hillary Clinton has been accused of running a cautious front-runner campaign. She has endorsed higher taxes for the wealthy. Hillary Clinton is a pragmatic moderate.

"During this campaign, you're going to hear me talk a lot about the importance of balance," she began, after acknowledging that the Bush Administration had gone too far toward deregulation in most areas. "You know, our politics can get a little imbalanced sometimes. We move off to the left or off to the right, but eventually we find our way back to the center because Americans are problem solvers. We are not ideologues. Most people are just looking for sensible, commonsense solutions." - Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton stands for "Getting stuff done," as Bill Clinton used to say. That means being flagrantly political, working the system, making the compromises necessary to get the best deal possible to enact their priorities. It is the domestic-policy equivalent of Realpolitik, and it drives partisans crazy on both sides of the political divide.

The Clintons were always perceived as part of the CORPORATE ELITE, especially by the populist labor left, as Wall Street fellow travelers on issues like free trade and fiscal conservatism. They were seen as ideological trimmers, betraying the interests of the working class.

The problems that have always plagued Hillary Clinton: the notion that she is perpetually calculating, triangulating and cold, & without core convictions.

Hillary Clinton's refusal to support higher Social Security taxes on the wealthy is a perfect example of her trying to avoid the the crux of the issues with her lawyerly answers. There are higher priorities than Social Security in 2008, especially if she wants to enact universal health insurance or a real energy-independence plan, both of which will require revenue (tax) increases.

Hillary Clinton's plans on the big domestic-policy issues — health care and energy — have been courageous and detailed, more sophisticated than her opponents' — and very, very smart politically. Her energy-independence proposal would drastically reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by auctioning off permits to pollute.

There is one area in which Clinton does seem to be fudging unduly for political purposes: foreign policy. Her vote supporting a Senate a nonbinding, symbolic resolution to label the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization seems a case in which she took the vote to protect her flank from Republican attacks in the general election. The resolution was sponsored by the reviled neo-neoconservative apostate Joe Lieberman. Hillary Clinton's actual foreign policy positions haven't been much different from Joe Biden's or Obama's. She is rhapsodic about the possibilities of diplomacy, and she has earned the trust of the military because of her hard work on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Hillary Clinton's hypocritical opponents have raised the red flag over Hillary Clinton's successes in milking the health care, insurance, defense and other rancid lobbying sectors for contributions.

SOURCE: "What Hillary Stands For" (By Joe Klein, Time/CNN, November 11, 2007, ~In Part~).


Bill Clinton urges youth to support Hillary
By DAN TUOHY, New Hampshire Union Leader

MANCHESTER – The Comeback Kid was back in Manchester last night to urge young Democrats to fight for their party and support his wife's presidential bid.

Former President Bill Clinton, the candidate once grilled on MTV about his choice of underwear, called on the younger generation to not only "rock the vote" but also get plugged in and make a difference in their community.

"I'm glad to be here with you because you have the most at stake in this election," Clinton said as he kicked off a convention of the National Young Democrats at the Radisson Hotel Manchester.

The Clinton courtship paid immediate dividends. Gray Chynoweth, president of the New Hampshire Young Democrats, endorsed Sen. Hillary Clinton before he introduced the former President.

The New Hampshire Democratic Party is trying to use the three-day summit to build a large grassroots army of volunteers. Chairman Raymond Buckley said the goal is to protect last year's political victories and deliver the state to the Democratic presidential nominee on Nov. 4, 2008.

The convention continues today with workshops and training sessions. Former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis is leading a presentation on grassroots organizing. New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch is among those scheduled to deliver speeches. As many as 700 Democratic activists are estimated to be in Manchester over the three days. The Stonewall Democrats and Eastern Region members of the Democratic National Committee are also participating.

Bill Clinton is not the only spouse speaking to the Young Democrats this weekend -- Elizabeth Edwards is scheduled to speak at noon today -- but there was no second-guessing his star attraction. Clinton, who campaigned earlier in the day in the North Country, rifled through dozens of subjects, some obscure and some universal, from tribal greetings in South Africa to the need for alternative energy.

"On climate change, there's another 'inconvenient truth' that has to be told," Clinton said, in a salute to Al Gore's documentary by the same name. "We ain't never going to get it done if we make it like swallowing castor oil."

His message was that people have to work together to effect change, regardless of political or cultural differences. Clinton said that, too, is a reason to support his wife: her ability to build consensus.

Clinton cited his 1992 campaign -- when he toughed out a second-place finish in the New Hampshire Presidential Primary and declared himself the Comeback Kid -- as an example of rejecting cynicism and the importance of focusing on the daily trials and tribulations of ordinary people. He noted critics in the media had made fun of him when he said, " I feel your pain."

As he wrapped up his 45-minute address last night, Clinton said he saw a little bit of himself in the fresh-faced crowd.

"I know you're here because you can feel other people's pain," he said.

Conference highlights
The Democrats' conference will include presentations by some of the country's top political experts.

"This conference will bring hundreds of diverse Democrats from around the country to New Hampshire to celebrate the importance of the New Hampshire Primary," said Buckley.

Today begins with an 8 a.m. welcome breakfast at the Radisson Hotel Armory featuring Lynch and 2nd District U.S. Rep. Paul Hodes. Also speaking will be Buckley and Chris Pappas, vice chair of the state party; Klye Bailey, vice chair of the YDA's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Caucus; and Chris Anderson, executive vice president of YDA.

The morning sessions from 9:15 to 11:30 a.m. will include: grassroots organizing, led by Dukakis; becoming a delegate to the national convention, led by Phil McNamara, DNC director of party affairs; and delegate selection and VAN (Voter Activating Network, an online voter data base) training, led by Parag Mehta, DNC director of training.

At noon, a luncheon will be held in the Armory with speakers representing several presidential candidates. Elizabeth Edwards will appear for her husband, John, while Washington U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee will speak for Hillary Clinton and Connecticut U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney will stand in for Chris Dodd.

The afternoon sessions from 1:15 to 2:30 p.m. will include Mehta speaking on "The Plan," which is the party's political ground game for 2008, and Rick Boyland, a Stonewall Democrats board member, who will speak on "Pride in the Party."

From 2:30 to 5 p.m., conference participants will have the opportunity to volunteer for a Presidential candidate's campaign or for a U.S. Senate candidate's campaign.

This evening, the AFL-CIO Labor Reception will be held from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at The Shaskeen, 909 Elm St.

The YDA's Women's Caucus Reception, dubbed "Wonder Women: A Salute to Outstanding Activists and Candidates," will be held from 7:30 to 9 p.m. in the Presidential Suite in the Radisson. Special guests are state Senate President Sylvia Larsen, D-Concord, and state House Speaker Terie Norelli, D-Portsmouth.

Tomorrow begins with a continental breakfast in the Armory at 8:30 a.m. with speakers Stew Acuff, national director of organizing for the AFL-CIO, and Pennsylvania U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy representing Presidential candidate Barack Obama.

A workshop from 9:30 to 11 a.m. on the importance of including new media techniques in today's ever-increasing, virtual world will be led by Donnie Fowler, CEO and founder of Cherry Tree Mobile.


Dr. Susan Lynch, First Lady of New Hampshire


Oprah Winfrey
The moment of truth for Clinton
By Joan Vennochi, (Boston) Globe Columnist
November 29, 2007


OPRAH for Obama. Susan for Hillary.

On Monday, Hillary Clinton countered news that Oprah Winfrey will be stumping for Barack Obama with endorsement news of her own. She has the backing of Susan Lynch, the wife of Governor John Lynch, who describes herself as the first lady of New Hampshire, a pediatrician, and "most importantly" a mother. Lynch's husband is officially neutral in the race to win the New Hampshire primary.

Clinton arrived an hour late for this announcement. The candidate offered no apology to the 50 or so supporters who waited it out in a small, overheated room, designed to make a small gathering look large. Lynch sounded sincere, but her comments lacked emotion or spark. And so did Clinton's follow-up remarks, which focused on healthcare, the one topic that should stir her passions.

Write it off as one flat, 10-minute interlude on a long, winding campaign trail packed with many emotional highs and lows. Even so, the event felt oddly disconnected from shifting political realities that stand to reshape the race for the Democratic nomination.

Recent polling shows a tightened contest in Iowa, with Clinton, Obama, and John Edwards bunched together, within the statistical margin of error. Clinton doesn't have to win Iowa, her supporters insist, but the possibility of a second- or even third-place finish makes New Hampshire even more of a necessary firewall. Now that inevitability is no longer succeeding as her main campaign theme, the Clinton strategy for victory seems harder to pinpoint.

Obama is working to undermine Clinton's claim as the most experienced candidate, diminishing her role as first lady during the Clinton White House years. At the same time, he is pumping himself up as the candidate of change and Oprah-enhanced excitement.

Clinton is sticking with women, as illustrated by the framing of the Lynch endorsement. Her political touchstone remains the Clinton era, as illustrated by the endorsement that followed from Barbra Streisand. Is any Hollywood entertainer more associated with Bill Clinton than Babs?

Up to this point, the Clinton campaign has been all about tactics. It has to get more visceral - less Streisand and more Springsteen.

In an interview in Concord with CBS News anchor Katie Couric, Clinton said she takes nothing for granted. But, she also declared that the nominee "will be me."

In the interview, Clinton sounded like she really doesn't believe a rival can steal victory from her. She should believe it; her supporters do.

At the Concord event, Kathleen Strand, Clinton's New Hampshire communications director, responded to a reporter working on a magazine article about Clinton with this question: "Is this contingent on anything?" In other words, if there's no Clinton victory, is there still a magazine story?

"The American people put you through your paces. They don't allow front-runners to coast to a coronation. I think she understands what she has to do . . . We have to see if she can do it," said a Clinton fund-raiser from Massachusetts.

The race is fluid. No one yet has closed the deal. There are more debates ahead, giving Clinton an opportunity to remind voters why she held onto front-runner status for so long. But now comes the moment of truth, when voters look to candidates to demonstrate more than facility with language and familiarity with policy. They are looking for substance, character, leadership, and humanity.

Polling shows Clinton is having trouble connecting with male voters and is vulnerable on the trust issue. Streisand's backing is no help with either.

Enough with obsessive targeting of the women's vote. She won't lose the female supporters already with her, and is unlikely to change the minds of those women who already dislike her.

Clinton wasted valuable time after the Oct. 30 forum in Philadelphia, playing the gender card far too long. Now, she's more aggressively challenging her opponents, and getting inevitable criticism for doing what must be done - drawing distinctions between them, as Obama would say.

Who knows? Maybe Susan Lynch, first lady, pediatrician, and mother, will help Hillary Clinton more than Oprah Winfrey, superstar and TV host, will help Obama in celebrity-averse New Hampshire.

Maybe at some level the Clinton campaign does understand what it takes to win hearts, minds, and votes in the Granite State. As Clinton left the Concord campaign event, the loudspeaker was playing "The Rising" by Bruce Springsteen.

Joan Vennochi's e-mail address is


November 29, 2007

Dear "Friend":

On to Politics…

I concur with your views on national politics today—in my own words—(a) The Corporate Elite controls the Agenda on Capitol Hill, (b) The American Economy has transformed—for the worse—from a productive system to a financial system, which is running our economy down into the ground, (c) The Iraq War(s) are financially unsustainable, (d) our national debt is nearly $9 Trillion nominally, not including our tens of trillions of dollars in unfunded liabilities from Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare and other HHS social entitlement programs, (e) the Oil industry, which is part of the Corporate Elite, is immorally making record profits without investing in alternative energy sources, (f) the Iraq civilian population is in the midst of an unconscionable civil war and multiple genocides, (g) the banking industry is just downright PREDATORY in its business practices, (h) millions of American Families are in the process of losing their biggest investments in the banks foreclosing on their homes, (i) The U.S. dollar is becoming a joke globally, (j) there are no more living wage jobs for the common man, (k) healthcare is becoming unaffordable and is one of the leading causes of bankruptcy, (l) The new Democratic Party controlled U.S. Congress is just as demonstrably complicit in America’s many socioeconomic crises as their Republican Party hack counterparts, (m) AND the kicker is that there is NOT a goddamned thing we can do about any of it!

Hillary Clinton’s weakness is also her greatest strength, which is that she does seem to be part of the SYSTEM! I have thought about candidates other than Hillary in the past, but I like Hillary’s message, which is that (a) the government should remain financially solvent and commit to social programs that keep the have-nots the same, (b) the have-nots should be free to make their own social decisions on social issues like pro-abortion, pro-sex education, pro-gay rights (except gay marriage, unfortunately), pro-civil rights, pro-secular rights, pro-religious rights with tolerance, and the like, AND, (c) the Corporate Elite—Wall Street—should retain its economic control over the entire system of big business and big government in order for America’s economy to be stable and continue to grow into the future.

Barack Obama and John Edwards both attack Hillary Clinton for allowing the Corporate Elite to set her economic agenda, but no one can rationally dispute Bill Clinton’s tenure of great economic growth in the mid to late 1990s. Moreover, both Obama and Edwards’ policy proposals are pro-business: i.e., Insurance Companies.

The fact is that since the late 19th Century, The Corporate Elite has run the economic show in Washington, D.C. Without our Capitalist Corporate Masters, we would instead be under the control of Hitler’s Fascist Nazi Masters! Now, some argue that we have only really traded-off mid-20th Century European Fascism abroad for late-20th Century American Corporate Fascism at home. For the most part, I concur with this sentiment that “Democracy Died” well over a Century ago, but what we have left is “The Struggle for Democracy”.

I am a “have-not”, or better stated, I am somewhere in the bottom 90% of the American population. I know that politically I have no real voice. The one thing I do know for sure in politics is that I have the right to struggle to have a voice. I can write letters to newspapers, post my political thoughts on my Blog, email fellow political correspondents, let pols know how I feel about the issues, and the like, without being sent away to prison for my struggle for democracy—although this was attempted against me by Pittsfield’s then-State Senator Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr. in the Spring of 1998 while I attended The University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

If I were a “have” or part of the Corporate Elite or the Ruling Elite, I would have a voice in big business and politics, but I would not be promoting real democracy. There would be no struggle for democracy for me because I would be like Bill Gates helping the totalitarian Chinese Government track down Chinese Internet computer bloggers who do what I do—participate in politics—on a daily basis. If I were John Forbes Kerry, whose maternal side of the family goes back to the first Massachusetts Governor, John Winthrop, and who was born with a colossal trust fund, I would collaborate only with other rich families, like Dalton, Massachusetts’ Crane Family, and even marry a second wife who inherited another man’s ketchup fortune. If I were wealthy, I would not care about “have-nots” like myself, and if someone like me lived in China instead of America, I would sell them out for a few extra Billion Dollars like the Yahoo!, Google, and Microsoft, et al, executives. If I were John Kerry, I would vainly attack George Bush instead of the current president’s powerful supporters.

Back to Hillary. She is no fool. Hillary Clinton knows that the system is run by design by our Corporate Elite Masters. The ideal would be for the People to run the system, but that all died somewhere in the 19th Century between the end our nation’s Slave System and the rise of our Corporate System after the Industrial Revolution. For Barack Obama or John Edwards to fallaciously argue that they are going to change our system from a Corporate one back to a Communitarian one in 4-to-8 years is purely ABSURD! We live in a Corporate System and it would take combined dramatic revolutionary events like the Civil War and the Industrial Revolution to make big changes to big business and big government.

Communitarianism—or Rockwell’s mythological America—is a lost ideology that still works but only on a micro-level, such as a military base, a (i.e., Catholic) college campus, a gated community, and the like. Barack Obama should be the last person to advocate this racist/ethnic lost ideology because he is foremost black and is also a uniter or a man of all peoples. John Edwards contempt for the Corporate System is HYPOCRTICAL since he (a) stood for the system in 2004, and (b) worked on Wall Street afterwards.

Communal ideals works against Capitalism because people of shared ascriptions cooperate together instead of compete against one another. The irony of the Republican’s emphasis on Cultural Issues focusing on Religion and the Family is that traditional family life is the very picture of Rockwellian mythological Communitarian America, which the Corporate Elite destroyed long ago. Moreover, even the early American Slave System did not allow African Slaves to live in a Family Structure at first. They knew what they were doing then, just as they know what they are doing now.

The Republican Party, which is the preferred party of Wall Street, not only ended the Slave System, but also, they destroyed many communitarian American societies to give the Corporate Elite complete economic control over our society. Yet, it is the Republican Party that spouts “Family Values”, which is nothing short of communitarianism!

Hillary Clinton understands that The Corporate Elite will economically control her presidency—like the presidential administrations of the past Century plus several decades ago. She knows that it would take combined revolutionary events to change the system. She knows that the Corporate System saved all peoples from totalitarian systems, except China and elsewhere like places. She knows that wealthy guys like Bill Gates and John Kerry don’t give a damn about real democracy in the first place. She knows that someone like me has the right to struggle for democracy, but really has no voice in big government and big business. She knows that our American Corporate System is selling out someone like me who lives in China for a few extra Billion Dollars. At least Hillary is honest about the Corporate System she will be administering as U.S. President in Washington, D.C.’s White House.

In ending, the Corporate System successfully did not make the same mistakes the initial Slave System made at our nation’s dawn through the Civil War into the Industrial Revolution. The Corporate System saw Communitarianism and Democracy as threats to their economic power, so they destroyed both. The good news is that the Corporate System also saw Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Regime as a threat and destroyed the mutually totalitarian fascist and communist systems as well. These other candidates—Barack Obama and John Edwards—are downright dishonest to say they are going to give big government and big business back to the people and their communities, and that they are going to create an America that never existed but in Norman Rockwell’s mythological paintings! Hillary Clinton is my choice for U.S. President because she truthfully represents the system she will be administering and will keep the illusion of democracy alive by protecting the struggle for democracy.

Best regards,
Jonathan Melle


"Suspect is holding hostages in Clinton campaign office in N.H."
The Associated Press
Article Last Updated: Friday, 11/30/2007, 02:49:47 PM EST

ROCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — A man claiming to have a bomb was holding one or more hostages at Hillary Clinton's campaign office Friday, police said.

Authorities were sending a tactical bomb unit to assist local police, and the area was evacuated, said Maj. Michael Handbrook of New Hampshire State Police.




Hostage situation at Clinton campaign office in N.H.
By Scott Helman and James Pindell, Globe Staff and Globe Correspondent

ROCHESTER, N.H. -- A woman who was being held hostage at Hillary Clinton's campaign office by a man wearing what looked like a bomb has been released, police said.

It was not immediately clear whether other hostages remained inside the office on North Main Street. The man walked into the office at about 12:55 p.m., said Captain Anthony Colarusso of the Dover Police Department, which is part of a regional tactical response team. Police have been in contact with the man inside the office, Colarusso said.

Heavily armed police holding riot shields and wearing helmets and camouflage arrived on the street in an armored truck at about 3 p.m. Nearby businesses have been evacuated.

A witness, Lettie Tzizik, told WMUR Channel 9 that a woman and her baby ran into neighboring business and said she was released by the hostage-taker.

"A young woman with a 6-month or 8-month-old infant came rushing into the store just in tears, and she said, 'You need to call 911. A man has just walked into the Clinton office, opened his coat and showed us a bomb strapped to his chest with duct tape,'" Tzizik said.

Rochester police Captain Paul Callahan said in a live interview on New England Cable News that police received a call just after 1 p.m.

"Right now we are handling this as a hostage situation," Callahan said.

Callahan would not say whether the person had a weapon or how many people were being held hostage. Clinton is not in New Hampshire today. She is scheduled to speak at the Democratic Party's annual fall meeting in Vienna, Va.

In a statement, the Clinton campaign said: "There is an ongoing situation in our Rochester, N.H., office. We are in close contact with state and local authorities and are acting at their direction. We will release additional details as appropriate."

Rochester is about 20 miles north of Portsmouth near the Maine border.

Workers for Senator Barack Obama's campaign office in Rochester also were evacuated, a campaign spokesman said. The office is four doors away from Clinton's. John Edwards's staffers also were evacuated from their nearby office.

US Representative Carol Shea-Porter is a Democrat who lives in Rochester. “We are praying for everyone inside,” Shea-Porter said today by phone.




The second of two hostages is released from a Clinton campaign office in Rochester.

Two Clinton Campaign Hostages Released
Witnesses Say Man Has Bomb-Like Device Strapped To Chest
POSTED: 1:14 pm EST November 30, 2007
UPDATED: 3:42 pm EST November 30, 2007

ROCHESTER, N.H. -- Two hostages have been released from the Hillary Clinton campaign office in Rochester, police said, but it was unclear if there were any more inside.

An armed man took hostages at the office on 28 North Main St. Friday afternoon, and officials with the campaign said that there were two workers taken hostage in the office, but police have not confirmed that those were the only two hostages in the building.

The two hostages were released at about 3 p.m.

ABC News reported that the hostage-taker was an older male who was well-known locally and has a history of mental illness who told his son today to "watch the new."

Clinton, who is not in New Hampshire, canceled a National Democratic Committee meeting in Virginia.

A woman and her baby told workers at a neighboring business that she was released by the hostage-taker.

"A young woman with a 6-month or 8-month-old infant came rushing into the store just in tears, and she said, 'You need to call 911. A man has just walked into the Clinton office, opened his coat and showed us a bomb strapped to his chest with duct tape,'" witness Lettie Tzizik said.

Witnesses described the man as in his 40s with salt-and-pepper hair. There are several police officers in the area with guns drawn.

"I walked out and I immediately started running, and I saw that the road was blocked off. They told me run and keep going," said Cassandra Hamilton, who works in an office adjacent to the building.

Police used a loudspeaker to announce to the hostage-taker that they were going to try to send a phone in so they could talk to him.

Nearby businesses have been evacuated, and students at the St. Elizabeth Seton School were moved to the Maple Street School, where they will be released to their parents.

Several elementary and middle schools in the areas locked their doors in what officials called a "soft lockdown." Children at the McLelland School, Maple Street School and William Allen School were only being released directly to their parents.

"There is an ongoing situation in our Rochester, N.H. office. We are in close contact with state and local authorities and are acting at their direction," an official from Clinton's campaign said in statement.

"Police are negotiating with someone in the building," said another witness, who did not want to be identified. "The police are notifying all the business owners on the street to evacuate. There are fire trucks behind the Hillary Clinton office."

"We are all disappointed that this would happen in our city. We are a quiet, friendly city," Rochester Mayor John Larochelle.

Presidential candidate Barack Obama also has an office in Rochester, and it has been evacuated. Staff members in John Edwards' office, which is a few buildings away, were also evacuated. There were no reports of any injuries. There were no reports of any injuries.


The Boston Globe
"Hostage-taker had troubled past"
December 1, 2007

ROCHESTER, N.H. - A man wearing what looked like a bomb beneath his sweater and tie walked into Hillary Clinton's campaign office yesterday, taking three staff members, a volunteer, and an infant hostage, forcing the closure of the senator's campaign offices throughout Iowa and New Hampshire, and paralyzing this small city on the Maine border, authorities said.

After a 5.5-hour standoff, in which all the hostages were released, Leeland E. Eisenberg walked out of the office on North Main Street with his arms up, slowly removed his sweater, and pulled off the faux bomb duct-taped to his waist. Members of the New Hampshire State Police SWAT team ordered him to the ground and handcuffed him. He was charged with kidnapping, reckless endangerment, and criminal threatening, authorities said.

Eisenberg, 46, of Somersworth, N.H., grew up in Groton, spent time in Massachusetts prisons, and was one of 541 victims of the clergy sexual abuse scandal who received payments in the landmark 2003 settlement with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, according to court records and a source involved with the litigation. He was reportedly due in court yesterday to face domestic violence charges.

In a news conference last night after police arrested Eisenberg, New Hampshire's attorney general, Kelly Ayotte, said she or federal authorities may file additional charges.

"We're grateful that there was a peaceful outcome and that the hostages are now safe and with their loved ones," Ayotte said.

State Police Colonel Frederick Booth said Eisenberg was carrying road flares and a mock detonator, which never presented a threat.

But the possibility of a bomb brought the city of about 30,000 to a standstill as agents from the FBI, Secret Service, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives joined bomb squads and SWAT teams from the State Police and local officers, who blocked off the downtown area and trained automatic weapons on the office. Officials immediately put local schools on lockdown, evacuated businesses, and shuttered other presidential campaign offices in the area.

It was not clear last night why Eisenberg targeted Clinton's office. Rochester Police Chief David Dubois said he had "personal reasons," but he declined to elaborate.

Eisenberg called CNN three times during the standoff and told staff members he wanted help getting psychiatric care because he lacked money, the Associated Press reported.

"I need to speak to Hillary Clinton," CNN quoted him as saying. "Something's got to change. Ordinary people need help" with their insurance.

Authorities said they denied Eisenberg's request to speak to Clinton because they did not want to give up a bargaining chip while they negotiated for the hostages' release.

"As a tactical standpoint, that would have not been a wise move," said Booth, who said Eisenberg also demanded cigarettes, a Pepsi, and alcohol. Authorities gave him only cigarettes.

Dubois said Eisenberg released the infant and its mother almost immediately after entering the office shortly before 1 p.m. Over the course of the afternoon, he released a man and a woman. Another woman being held hostage managed to escape, Booth said.

Eisenberg initially would not talk to authorities, Booth said, but gradually the negotiators built a relationship with him and began communicating with him by speakerphone. Eisenberg spent about a half-hour in the office by himself before he walked out with his hands up shortly after 6 p.m.

Booth said negotiators had promised "that we would be there to help him."

The authorities would not identify the hostages, some of whom they said helped mediate between Eisenberg and the State Police negotiators. Booth said the hostages had been communicating with police during the standoff. "I don't think he fully had control of them during the whole process," Booth said.

The hostages "were extremely helpful in bringing this to a successful conclusion," he added.

After speaking to reporters outside her home in Washington, D.C., last night, Clinton flew to New Hampshire, where she thanked law enforcement and her staff.

Flanked by law enforcement officials at the Portsmouth Sheraton Harborside Hotel, Clinton said: "It was for me and my campaign a difficult day."

She said she spoke to law enforcement officials and Governor John Lynch throughout the day.

"We are immensely relieved that this has ended peacefully, but it is with a great sense of gratitude that I came here tonight," she said.

The New York senator and presidential candidate said that talking to family members of those held hostage was "the hardest part for me. I really commend their extraordinary courage."

She said the campaign had to come to a standstill because it was focused on the hostage crisis.

Eisenberg, formerly known as Ralph E. Woodward Jr., served time at Bridgewater State Hospital and MCI-Concord, according to court records.

In 2002, he filed a lawsuit in Suffolk Superior Court against Bernard Cardinal Law, in Law's capacity as Roman Catholic Archbishop of Boston, alleging he had been molested by a priest at St. Catherine's Church in Westwood in the early 1980s, beginning when he was 21.

In the suit, Eisenberg said his mother died when he was young and he was abused by his alcoholic father. He alleges he was homeless and living in abandoned cars in an Ayer junkyard when a priest invited him to live and work at St. Catherine's and another priest plied him with alcohol, showed him pornographic material, and molested him.

In an interview with the Lowell Sun in 2002 after his suit was filed, Eisenberg said he was ashamed and mortified after being sexually assaulted by the priest. "Subsequently, I spent years sexually objectifying women and womanizing in a futile attempt to prove I wasn't a" homosexual, the Sun quoted Eisenberg as saying.

The priest denied molesting Eisenberg, and the newspaper reported that Eisenberg's paternal aunt said, "He's telling you a big story."

It was unclear how much money Eisenberg received as part of the 2003 settlement with the church.

IN 1999 and 2000, Eisenberg was incarcerated in a facility for sexual offenders at Bridgewater State Hospital, according to state court records. He was later transferred to MCI-Concord, the records show.

The Lowell Sun reported five years ago that in 1986, he forced a woman at knifepoint in Leominster to perform oral sex on him.

According to court records, Eisenberg filed a series of lawsuits in federal and state court against prison officials during stints at MCI-Concord between 1995 and 2002, but all of them were ultimately dismissed.

He was last released from a sentence at MCI-Concord in March 2005, said Diane Wiffin, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Correction. She would not specify the crime or the length of the sentence.

Dubois said that Eisenberg is known to Rochester police and that his background, along with information from residents, was "helpful to us in resolving this."

Eisenberg, who was arrested wearing gray slacks, a white dress shirt, and a red tie, had been due in court yesterday on a domestic violence complaint filed by his wife, Lisa (Warren), Foster's Daily Democrat reported on its website. Divorce papers filed Tuesday showed Eisenberg had been charged with criminal mischief involving a domestic dispute and violating a protective order, the paper reported.

In court papers, Warren attributed the divorce to irreconcilable differences and contended that Eisenberg suffered from "severe alcohol and drug abuse," according to the paper.

At the trailer park where he lived in Somersworth, about 10 miles from Rochester, neighbors described Eisenberg as "crazy" and said he was "always starting fights." They said he and his wife moved this summer into an old trailer, which they refurbished.

"From day one, I said, 'This guy is nuts,' " said Kathleen Carlson, who lives in the trailer next door to Eisenberg and his wife.

She and other neighbors said Eisenberg was unemployed and frequently drunk.

"He started fights with people leaving my house," Carlson said. "He was always drunk. I felt sorry for his wife. He was always fighting with her, always throwing things at her. I told her, 'If you have any trouble during the night and you're scared, come over and knock on my door.' He is crazy. I never wanted to speak to him."

Erik Carlsen, who lives in the trailer across from Eisenberg, said Eisenberg once told him he spent more than a decade in prison for the rape and murder of a girl.

He said Eisenberg dressed in a suit and tie nearly every day. "He always looks like he's ready to go to court," Carlsen said.

But he said Eisenberg seemed bookish and had an artistic side. He was impressed by the way he fixed up his trailer and built a neat rock wall beside it.

"Some days he sounded really intelligent, other days he was very distant," Carlsen said. "He was just a real strange individual."

Last night police sent a robot to the contraption Eisenberg had dropped in the street and destroyed it. The blast reverberated through the downtown.

Authorities said Eisenberg was being held at the Rochester Police Department.

Sarah Schweitzer, Shelley Murphy, and Marcella Bombardieri, and John R. Ellement of the Globe staff and correspondent James Pindell contributed to this article. David Abel can be reached at


Leeland Eisenberg

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Hillary Clinton campaign office hostage-taker to be arraigned Monday (12/3/2007)

ROCHESTER, N.H. -- The man who claimed to have a bomb and took hostages inside one of Hillary Clinton's small presidential campaign field offices yesterday will be formally charged on six criminal counts carrying with them a maximum penalty of 42 years in jail, the Rochester police said today.

Leeland Eisenberg, 46, of Somersworth, N.H., will be arraigned Monday afternoon at Rochester District Court, a police spokesman said. Eisenberg is currently being held at Strafford County Jail in nearby Dover.

Sometime around noon Friday Eisenberg claimed to have a bomb strapped around his torso with duct tape. For 5 1/2 hours he held off police and demanded to speak to Clinton because he wanted her to help him get access to mental healthcare. When he surrendered, authorities discovered the devices that looked like explosives were actually road flares.

The standoff created a media firestorm. The cable news networks and the local New Hampshire ABC affiliate, WMUR-TV, devoted live wall-to-wall coverage all afternoon. Clinton, who was in the Washington area at the time, canceled all other campaign events for the day.

Four adults and an infant were at the office when Eisenberg entered. Eisenberg will be charged with four counts of kidnapping and one count each of criminal threatening and use of false explosives. All six of the charges are Class B felonies, for which the maximum penalty, exclusive of fine, is imprisonment in excess of one year but not in excess of 7 years. Federal authorities are also considering filing charges.

Callahan said his police department had been aware for Eisenberg for approximately two years, but refused to say how, citing concerns that it would impede the criminal investigation taking place.

Eisenberg was one of 541 victims of the clergy sex abuse scandal who received payments in the landmark 2003 settlement with the Catholic church in Boston. He also has been in legal trouble over the years and spent time in a Massachusetts prison. He was due in court yesterday on a domestic violence complaint filed by his wife, who was divorcing him.

The Clinton office remained closed Saturday morning as the investigators are expected to examine the scene. The Obama office two doors down from the Clinton office was also closed, but some supporters for Obama could be seen at about noon carrying yard signs out of the office.


News Article:
Last Hostage Taken From Clinton's Office Before Man Taken Into Custody
POSTED: 1:14 pm EST November 30, 2007
UPDATED: 11:49 am EST December 1, 2007

ROCHESTER, N.H. -- A hostage situation at the Rochester headquarters of the Hillary Clinton campaign ended with a man's arrest Friday evening.

Leeland Eisenberg, of Somersworth, N.H., was immediately arrested after exiting the office and told to kneel and then lie on the ground before police placed handcuffs on him. Moments earlier, a young man believed to be the third and final hostage was released.

Police said Eisenberg took hostages at the office on 28 North Main St. Friday afternoon. Foster's Daily Democrat reported that Eisenberg is well known to police in Rochester.

The hostage-taker was ordered to untie something from his chest and drop it on the ground as he was arrested. A police robot later moved into the area and detonated the device. Police later said that Eisenberg had duct-taped flares to his chest.

Eisenberg was scheduled to appear in Strafford County Superior Court at 1:30 p.m. Friday with his wife for a domestic violence hearing. He also spent time in prison in Massachusetts. He was released from MCI Concord on March 16, 2005.

CNN later released a statement confirming that the man was Eisenberg and that he had been in contact with the network throughout the day. CNN immediately contacted law enforcement after the first call and then did not report the calls to avoid compromising the safety of the hostages.

"I am very grateful that this difficult day has ended so well. All of my campaign staff and volunteers are safe," Clinton said from her Washington, D.C., home Friday night. "I was in touch during the day with the families of those who were held hostage, and I commend their extraordinary courage under difficult circumstances. This has been a difficult day for everyone in our campaign."

Clinton immediately traveled to New Hampshire and spoke again in Portsmouth. She said that she followed the advice of law enforcement throughout the situation and was concerned both as a candidate and as a mother.

"I made it very clear from the very first conversations that I had that I would take their direction," Clinton said. "They were the professionals. They were in charge of this situation."

Eisenberg is facing charges of kidnapping, reckless conduct and criminal threatening. Police said he could face additional charges as the investigation continues.

The hostage drama began shortly before 1 p.m., when the man entered the office and took several hostages, police said. A woman and her baby were released, and she ran to a neighboring business and told workers about the hostage taking.

"A young woman with a 6-month or 8-month-old infant came rushing into the store just in tears, and she said, 'You need to call 911. A man has just walked into the Clinton office, opened his coat and showed us a bomb strapped to his chest with duct tape,'" witness Lettie Tzizik said.

A volunteer who gave only his first name, Daniel, said that he called one of the campaign workers on her cell phone after watching the situation unfold on TV. Daniel said that there were two women and one man in the office.

"She was very hysterical," he said. "The man said he wasn't going to hurt them, but he wanted to talk to Hillary Clinton."

Two women were released during the afternoon. Daniel said that other worker, described as in his 20s, was still in the office. At about 6:13 p.m., police could be seen taking a young man out of the office, minutes before the hostage-taker was taken into custody.

Clinton praised her campaign workers for their courage.

"I am very proud of them. They showed extraordinary courage," she said. "They were calm and collected under enormous pressure. They obviously understood that they could be in grave danger, but they handled themselves in the situation extraordinarily well."

A witness who said she spoke with Eisenberg's stepson said that he asked family members where he could purchase road flares. Some officials speculated that the man may have had the flares strapped to his body.

The witness said the man told her that his stepfather's marriage was falling apart and that he had been drinking for the past 72 hours.

A friend of the family said that Eisenberg thought that there was a government conspiracy and that government officials were "coming after him."

Clinton said that she did not believe her campaign had any contact with Eisenberg before the hostage taking.

"He was someone who was not known to my campaign headquarters until he walked in today, and as far as I know we've had no contact with him," she said. "It appears that he was someone who was in need of help and sought attention in absolutely the wrong way."

Witnesses described a frantic scene in the area as police worked to secure the neighborhood.

"I walked out and I immediately started running, and I saw that the road was blocked off. They told me to run and keep going," said Cassandra Hamilton, who works in an office adjacent to the building.

Nearby businesses were evacuated, and students at the St. Elizabeth Seton School were moved to the Maple Street School, where they were released to their parents.

Several elementary and middle schools in the areas locked their doors in what officials called a "soft lockdown." Children at the McLelland School, Maple Street School and William Allen School were released to their parents.

Presidential candidate Barack Obama also has an office in Rochester that was evacuated. Staff members in John Edwards' office, which is a few buildings away, were also evacuated.

Both campaigns said that their offices would be open on Saturday.

Clinton said the incident would not change her campaign schedule. She planned to travel to Iowa on Saturday.

Leeland Eisenberg will be arraigned Monday at 1 p.m. in Rochester District Court.


Hillary Clinton visits with hostages, thanks police after standoff

Hillary Rodham Clinton flew to New Hampshire last night to meet with the people held hostage in her Rochester presidential campaign office and some of their family members.

The senator from New York also thanked the law enforcement community for a peaceful resolution to the standoff earlier in the evening.

In a news conference in Portsmouth, she said Leeland Eisenberg, who was arrested after the hostages were freed, was not known to her campaign before yesterday.

"It appears he is someone who was in need of help and sought attention in absolutely the wrong way," she said as New Hampshire State Troopers stood behind her.

"It affected me not only because these were my staff members and volunteers," she said, "but as a mother, it was just a horrible sense of bewilderment, confusion, outrage, frustration, anger -- everything at the same time."

Clinton said she does not plan any changes in her campaign or schedule as a result. She is scheduled to be in Iowa today.




SWAT team members took Leeland Eisenberg into custody yesterday after a nearly six-hour hostage-taking and standoff at the Hillary Clinton campaign office in Rochester, N.H. (Craig Osborne/ Foster's Daily Democrat via AP)

Sen. Hillary Clinton talks to the press in front of her house in Washington Friday night. (AP Photo / Stephen J. Boitano)

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., speaks in front of her house in Washington Friday, Nov. 30, 2007, taking about the hostage situation at her Rochester, N.H. campaign office. (AP Photo/Stephen J Boitano)

News Article:
'Keep this man under lock and key right now'
New Hampshire Union Leader Correspondent

ROCHESTER – Accused hostage taker Leeland Eisenberg has a criminal past dating back nearly 30 years that includes two rape convictions - one stemming from an attack prosecutors said he committed after escaping from prison in Massachusetts while serving time for the first.

Strafford County Attorney Janice Rundles detailed Eisenberg's checkered past during his arraignment yesterday in Rochester District Court, using it as a reason to ask for $500,000 cash bail. Rundles' request was granted despite Eisenberg's public defender Randy Hawkes' attempt to portray him as a troubled man who simply reached out for help in a terrible way last week.

Last Friday, Eisenberg, 46, of Somersworth, took six hostages at the Rochester campaign headquarters of Sen. Hillary Clinton using a fake bomb, triggering a standoff that lasted more than five hours before his eventual surrender. None of the hostages were hurt. Officials erroneously reported last week that there were only five hostages.

"What we have here, in the state's view, is a man who has a trail of victims in his past and now he's trying to use his own actions to create sympathy for himself for a mental health problem, which as far as I can tell has been a phantom until now," Rundles said.

Judge Daniel Cappiello cited Eisenberg's "extensive" criminal history in setting the $500,000 bail and said that although he believes Eisenberg does have mental health problems, he could not ignore the facts.

"I think it's very, very important to keep this man under lock and key right now," he said.

Rundles said Eisenberg's criminal history began in Massachusetts in 1978 when he was convicted of possession of a knife, then assault with a deadly weapon in 1981. That was followed by "a couple of theft-related offenses" in Florida in 1981 and 1982, burglary and larceny in Fitchburg, Mass., in 1982, and then a conviction for rape in Worcester, Mass. in 1985, for which he was sentenced to 10 years in prison. During his time in the Bay State, Eisenberg was known as Ralph Woodward, Rundles said.

Eisenberg escaped from jail in 1986, Rundles said, and while out committed another rape and an assault with a deadly weapon. He was convicted on both charges. He was also convicted in New Hampshire of failure to report as a sex offender in 2005 and had various domestic violence charges this year, including a conviction for stalking this summer.

Hawkes began yesterday by offering apologies to the people taken hostage and the Clinton campaign. He said that in recent weeks, Eisenberg was reeling from alcohol abuse and mental health problems and tried to check himself into a local hospital for treatment and sought help from six different psychiatrists, all of whom turned him away for lack of insurance.

Hawkes said Eisenberg took the drastic step of taking hostages to bring attention to the plight of those with mental health problems.

"Last week he heard voices and saw a movie in his head telling him that he had to sacrifice himself to bring the issue forward," Hawkes said of Eisenberg.

But Rundles told a very different story and said that her office has tried numerous cases against Eisenberg and he never said he had psychiatric or drinking problems.

"Mr. Eisenberg did all he could to avoid the charges that were pending against him," Rundle said, noting that numerous domestic violence related charges were dropped after his wife, Lisa Warren Eisenberg, recanted her story.

Eisenberg's family, including his wife, Lisa, and stepchildren, Ben and Erin Warren, were all at yesterday's hearing but they refused to speak to reporters afterward. Lisa Warren Eisenberg left the hearing in tears before it finished.

Eisenberg is charged with four counts of kidnapping - because two of the six hostages were released quickly after the standoff began - as well as criminal threatening and false reports of explosives, all of which are class B felonies punishable by 3 1/2 to seven years in prison. Pleas will not be entered on the charges until the case is transferred to superior court.

Eisenberg is expected back in Rochester District Court for a probable cause hearing on Dec. 10, 2007, at 9 a.m.


Leeland Eisenberg, accused of taking workers hostage at a Clinton campaign office, is seen on a video monitor during his video arraignment yesterday. Judge Daniel Cappiello, seen in inset at top right, ordered a mental evaluation for Eisenberg. (AP)

During an interview at Strafford County Jail, Leeland Eisenberg talks about taking people hostage at the Rochester campaign office of Sen. Hillary Clinton. (AP)

"Accused hostage taker: 'I wish I would've died'"
By BEVERLEY WANG, The Associated Press

DOVER – The man accused of using a fake bomb to take hostages at a Hillary Rodham Clinton campaign office said in a jailhouse interview he wishes police had killed him during the standoff.

Leeland Eisenberg, 46, is being held on $500,000 bail, and a judge has ordered him to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

"I wish I would've died, I really do. I regret the fact that I didn't because now my suffering continues," Eisenberg said in an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press.

Eisenberg is accused of taking six hostages at Clinton's storefront campaign office in Rochester on Friday, showing them road flares strapped to his body and claiming they were explosives. A mother and an infant were released quickly, the others later. Eisenberg's family and lawyer have said his actions were a desperate plea for help after he repeatedly sought mental health treatment and was rejected.

His plan was a suicide plot inspired by movies and voices in his head, Eisenberg said.

"I'd see things on TV and the voice would say, 'That's it. That's how you need to do it,'" said Eisenberg, who said he has bipolar disorder. "I remember a scene from a movie where a person had a bomb strapped to them and as soon as they came to the door the police blew them away."

He said he purposely wrapped the flares around his waist to give police a clear shot at his torso. But when the last hostage was released and Eisenberg walked out of the office after 5 1/2 hours, police arrested him without firing a shot.

In the more than 40-minute interview in a jail conference room, Eisenberg was articulate, speaking evenly and clearly. No guards were present, and he was not shackled or handcuffed.

During an interview at Strafford County Jail, Leeland Eisenberg talks about taking people hostage at the Rochester campaign office of Sen. Hillary Clinton. (AP)
Eisenberg said he was unemployed and uninsured, having recently lost his job at a local car dealership. In the days leading to the hostage taking, he said he was drinking heavily and trying desperately to get mental health treatment.

"I have regrets not so much for myself but for the four people that I traumatized, I do, I really do. There's nothing I could do to make amends for them. Saying sorry is just trivial," he said.

His temper flared however, when he was questioned hard about the trauma he caused the hostages and how his actions could have convinced Clinton to help him.

He answered by recounting his multiple failed efforts to get help.

"How do you think that traumatized me? Let me flip the script on you for a minute," he said. "I'm not a criminal. I'm sick in my mind."

Prosecutors have said Eisenberg has a long criminal record, including two rape convictions. At a court hearing this week, authorities said he was sentenced to 10 years for rape in Worcester, Mass., in 1985 but apparently escaped the next year and committed another rape. He was sentenced to 11 to 20 years for that offense.


Reader's COMMENTS:

ED - Do you really consider using a fake bomb an escalation from rape? Because I feel that rape is worse than using a fake bomb.
- Jeff, Manchester

I echo the sentiments of many. Why are we giving a forum to the accused? I use "accused" as our laws appropriately view all as innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. It is this type of publicity that encourages other unstable indivduals to hurt innocent bystanders when they embark on their self-destructive patterns. Look at the mall shooting; sounds eerily like other homicide/suicide cases. When the media gives these individuals a forum they put us all in more danger.
- Mike, Whitefield

The last time I brought this up, I got my butt handed back to me on these forums, but this is exactly what I was talking about. This guy is obviously using (and to please those of you who WILL post angry comments to this, "abusing") the insanity defense. He's seen a few too many movies, and "15 Minutes" is a great one that demonstrates how to abuse that defense. It's sad, because it's people like this that build this distrust in the insanity plea, and people with real problems are oftentimes sentenced to prison when they just need therapy.
- Mike, Merrimack

I can't believe the media went in and interviewed this man. Now, though he is entitled to a fair trial, he'll never get one because of this interview. he certainly didn't call and ask them to come in. Ms. Wang should have used her brain instead of going for a big story. If the police had wanted to talk to him after he had an attorney they would have had to ask. Freedom of the Press shouldn't allow the press to violate rights of criminal defendants. I hope his attorney gets his statements kept out of trial. And for all you folks who have already convicted him of this offense, I hope someday you have to deal with the criminal system and people assume you are guilty before you ever get a day in court.
- Danilyn, Manchester

Why don't we just go back to public stonings. This man is sick. What he did was immensely stupid, but the fact still remains that numerous people in our society are suffering from mental health issues and are not getting the requisite care or assistance. The reason he is being referred to as the "accused" is the philosophy in this country of "innocent until proven guilty" coupled with the fact that he'll most likely be found innocent as a result of his insanity. If this world was a bit more compassionate than maybe there would be less Leeland Eisenbergs is all that I'm saying. The prior comments just seemed to me to show a lot of hate, and ill-will toward an obviously sick man.
- RT, Hooksett, NH

I wonder if he used the excuse "I am sick in my mind" when he raped 2 women.
- Lisa, Raymond

I keep seeing and hearing the term "Accused hostage taker" He did it, I seen the video footage, I watched him surrender to the police and unstrap the road flares from his body! He did it. Why does the media need to use verbage that suggest he "might" be inocent?
- Billy Coffey, Andover

Dear Mr. Eisenburg, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is free, requires no insurance, and doesn't turn anyone away unless they are disruptive. There is a meeting every day of the week in Rochester.
- D.M.D., New Durham

Thanks for giving this kook a platform. Is he going to endorse anyone for president?
- Chuck, Nashua

Leeland Isenberg could have gotten treatment if he'd really wanted it. Ability to pay is not a factor since many places have sliding scale fees or even contingency plans for people with no income or no insurance. I'm already tired of hearing about the voices in his head since that's probably all we'll hear about in his trial--his using the insanity defense. Clearly, Mr. Isenberg is guilty of having seen one too many movies in addition to everything else.
- William Smith, Manchester, NH

Three cheers for Mr Eisenberg, or whatever his name is. What a public minded person he is. He takes hostages with a fake bomb all in the public interest. How noble of him. What a true public servant. Now, for reality. As with many career criminals, he is very skilled at manipulating, and immensely self-absorbed. I believe his original claim was that he did this because he couldn't get any mental health treatment. This has now morphed into a claim that his actions were in the public interest. That's the manipulation part. he also told his son to watch the news that day for something big. That's the narcissistic part. This man has a rap sheet a block and a half long, and he is asking you and I to believe him? I'll believe him when he admits, on the news, to his prior rape and other convictions. I haven't heard him mention those yet. And something tells me he won't. Just a gut feeling. I'm certain he is aware that he would've received treatment in ANY emergency room regardless of his ability to pay. Maybe it was the 48 hour bender he was on just before this incident that caused him to forget that fact. Somehow, I doubt that also. He is simply a typical self possessed and manipulatice career criminal. His nobility is reserved solely for himself. Ask his rape victims if he ever acted nobly toward them. Ask the kidnap victims in Rochester if they think his actions were noble. We all know the answer. His criminal actions have simply escalated, and will probably continue to do so unless this person is locked away permanently, as he deserves. Let him be noble in prison. he'll have ample opportunity to milk this incident for fame and prestige in jail, which takes us back full circle to the manipulative aspect of his personality. Have no doubt that this man knows exactly how to use people for his own gain. He's been doing it repeatedly for years.
- ED, Bennington, NH

Taking fire from rivals, Clinton defends vote on Iran resolution
By Susan Milligan, (Boston) Globe Staff | December 5, 2007

WASHINGTON - Senator Hillary Clinton of New York yesterday defended her approach on Iran as appropriately aggressive diplomacy, saying she was not advocating a "rush to war" by her Senate vote declaring the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization.

But she faced criticism from her rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination during a two-hour debate hosted by National Public Radio and Iowa Public Radio, one day after a report by federal intelligence agencies that Iran stopped trying to develop nuclear weapons in 2003.

"Among the Democratic candidates, there's only one that voted for this resolution. And this is exactly what [President] Bush and [Vice President Dick] Cheney wanted," former North Carolina senator John Edwards said of Clinton at the debate in Iowa, the site of the nation's first presidential caucuses, Jan. 3. "Senator Clinton has said she agrees with George Bush terminology that we're in a global war on terror, then she voted to declare the military group in Iran a terrorist organization. What possible conclusion can you reach other than that we are at war?" Edwards added.

Before the new report, Clinton's September vote on the nonbinding Iran resolution already had been the subject of attacks from fellow Democrats who contend she is enabling the Bush administration toward a potential military conflict with Iran.

But the New York lawmaker said her vote bolstered "aggressive diplomacy" in the region and gave no room for Bush to justify military action. "If we thought that anything in that resolution gave even a pretense of legitimacy to President Bush taking any action, we wouldn't have voted that way," Clinton said of fellow Democrats who voted for the resolution.

Locked in a tight race in Iowa, the Democratic contenders have stepped up their attacks on one another. Clinton - who recent polls indicate is in a virtual dead heat in Iowa with Edwards and Senator Barack Obama of Illinois - has been especially critical of Obama, questioning his credibility and experience.

But without the theater of a televised debate, the candidates were unusually civil yesterday, peppering their responses with such rejoinders as "I agree with Barack" or "as Chris said," in reference to Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut. Repeatedly, the rivals declared their respect for one another by name - and except for the issue of the Iran vote, largely agreed on the limited agenda NPR offered for discussion.

On immigration, the contenders agreed that Americans should not be asked to turn in people they suspect to be in the country illegally. "We're not going to deputize a whole bunch of American citizens to start grabbing people or turning them in," Obama said.

Representative Dennis Kucinich of Ohio concurred. "We don't encourage vigilantism in this country," he said.

But Clinton, Dodd, Edwards, and Obama all said employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers should be held accountable.

On the matter of potentially harmful foreign products, the contenders took a hard line, saying the United States needs to stop the importation of dangerous toys and other materials from China.

"We don't do anything near enough to try to prevent dangerous products and material from coming into our country," Clinton said. "We need tougher standards across the board."

Dodd said he would not buy his young daughters any toys from China for the holidays this year, then quipped he would buy only Iowa-made products for them. Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware said he would "end - flat ban - the importation of those toys" if he were elected president.

All the candidates said the United States needs to get tougher with Beijing on human rights and trade, using America's leverage as China's biggest market to address such issues as China's manipulation of its currency.

And Americans might have to pay more for consumer goods to support American jobs, Kucinich said. "It's either 'buy America,' or 'bye-bye, America,' " he said.


Bill Clinton said that Hillary had wanted the United States to intervene in Rwanda. (Jason Reed/reuters)

"His big regret: not acting in Rwanda"
December 11, 2007

NEWTON, Iowa - The question to Bill Clinton was a good one: What decisions that you made as president did Hillary Clinton disagree with?

At first, the former president, stumping for his wife before several hundred people at an YMCA yesterday, talked about mistakes on healthcare and briefly discussed welfare reform. And then, in a more somber tone, he explained that she had wanted the United States to intervene in Rwanda in 1994, when hundreds of thousands of people died in a genocide that lasted just a few months.

Clinton has talked repeatedly about how not acting in Rwanda was one of his biggest regrets.

Had he listened to his wife, he said, history might have been different.

"I believe if I had moved we might have saved at least a third of those lives," he said. "I think she clearly would have done that."


Husband says Clinton is hardly calculating

AMES, Iowa - At an earlier appearance yesterday, Bill Clinton harkened back to the days when he and Hillary were dating to make the case that she's not a calculating politician who has had her eye on the presidency for years.

When they met at Yale Law School and started "going together," Clinton said he recognized his new girlfriend as one of the great talents of their generation.

He told her to "dump me," and then go work at a big law firm in New York or Chicago as a springboard to run for office.

Before several hundred people at Iowa State University, he recounted that the young Hillary Rodham laughed and answered, "Oh, first I love you and second I'm never going to run for anything."

When she eventually moved to Arkansas and married him, "I was a defeated candidate for Congress with a $26,000 salary and $42,000 campaign debt," he said. "Now if she were half as calculating as some people have said, that's a really bad way to run for president."

The version of their romance Hillary Clinton described in her autobiography, "Living History," is actually rather different. She describes how she turned down his marriage proposals countless times, because she was confused about her future, and scared of commitment in general "and of Bill's intensity in particular."


CNN cancels Boston Democratic debate

CNN confirmed yesterday it has canceled a Democratic debate next Monday in Boston. So if you're a fan of presidential debates, best get your fill this week.

The back-to-back face-offs in Iowa sponsored by The Des Moines Register - the Republicans tomorrow and the Democrats on Thursday - will be the last ones before the Jan. 3 caucuses, barring one miraculously materializing.

The planned forum, also sponsored by Politico and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, was called off "due to the early scheduling of the Iowa caucuses," CNN said.


Polls indicate Huckabee, Obama are gaining ground

Two new polls out last night generally agree on the state of the presidential race nationally.

Mike Huckabee, continuing his remarkable rise, is in a statistical tie with Rudy Giuliani on the Republican side. And Barack Obama is closing in on Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side.

In the CNN/Opinion Research survey, Giuliani has 24 percent, Huckabee 22 percent, Mitt Romney 16 percent, John McCain 13 percent, and Fred Thompson 10 percent.

In the New York Times/CBS News poll, Giuliani has 22 percent, Huckabee 21 percent, Romney 16 percent, and McCain and Thompson 7 percent each.

Among Democrats, CNN's survey puts Clinton at 40 percent, Obama at 30 percent, and John Edwards at 14 percent. The Times/CBS poll has Clinton at 44 percent, Obama at 27 percent, and Edwards at 11 percent.

One interesting finding in the Times survey: while 44 percent of Democrats said Bill Clinton's involvement made it more likely they would support his wife, only 1 percent said they would be swayed by Oprah Winfrey's support for Obama, despite the thousands who showed up for rallies over the weekend.



Clinton, Buffett denounce income gap
By Scott Lindlaw, Associated Press Writer, December 12, 2007

SAN FRANCISCO --Hillary Rodham Clinton argued Tuesday for keeping the inheritance tax in place, saying it is a key to ensuring the United States remains a meritocracy.

At a joint appearance with billionaire investor Warren Buffett, Clinton said the inheritance tax, due to be temporarily repealed in 2010, was a symbol of "what kind of society we are."

"The estate tax has been historically part of our very fundamental belief that we should have a meritocracy, that we do not want a system -- where we expect people to make it on their own -- to be, over time, dominated by inherited wealth," she said. "That we do believe that people should have to get out there and make their way, to a great extent."

Buffett, one of America's wealthiest men, told the Senate Finance Committee last month that the tax should remain in place.

Estates worth up to $2 million this year and next will be exempt from the federal estate tax. Portions of estates above that threshold will be taxed at 45 percent. In 2009, the exemption level rises to $3.5 million, and by 2010 the estate tax will be repealed -- but only for a year.

Unless Congress changes the law, the tax returns in 2011 with an exemption threshold of only $1 million and a top tax rate of 55 percent.

Democrats argue that a repeal would amount to a huge windfall for the wealthiest families.

Buffett said Republicans, who have led the effort to repeal the tax, "are going to keep the farmers out in front of the argument" as a public-relations ploy. Proponents of repeal often argue that it will mean families will lose control of farms and small companies.

But, Buffett said, only six-tenths of 1 percent of taxable estates in 2007 were farms.

"It's not as though people will be destitute," Clinton said.

In a subsequent appearance on the Fox Business Network, Clinton repeated her support for keeping the tax.

Asked whether she would let cuts in capital gains taxes expire, Clinton said: "I am more focused on preventing the repeal of the estate tax and returning to what I think are fairer, more effective tax rates for the wealthiest."

"While people like my husband and I have enjoyed a great series of gifts from the Bush administration, that is not what has happened to the vast majority of Americans," she said.

Her remarks drew a rebuke from California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring.

"Hillary Clinton's death tax is just another tax on assets that have already been taxed," Nehring said. "Under Clinton's plan, family-owned businesses and individuals stand to lose half of everything when the business and/or property pass from one generation to another."

The Clinton-Buffett appearance was their second this year, following a similar session in June in New York.

Like that appearance, Tuesday's question-and-answer session was a fundraiser that brought in $1 million for the campaign of Clinton, the Democratic presidential front-runner. From San Francisco, she headed to Sacramento to pick up another $300,000.

In San Francisco, the biggest campaign donors got special treatment from Clinton and Buffett, including an extended picture-taking session that caused their "conversation on the economy" before an audience of 1,500 to begin later than scheduled.

Clinton played moderator and questioned Buffett -- one of the world's richest people with a net worth of $52 billion, according to Forbes magazine -- about the economy. Buffett is chairman and CEO of Omaha, Neb.-based Berkshire Hathaway Inc., an investment company he founded.

Buffett and Clinton warned of the dangers of a growing gap between rich and poor, and a tax system that disproportionately helps people Buffett called "these super-rich" -- himself included. Both said political and economic instability could result.

"In the last seven-eight years what has happened is that the super-rich have gotten a huge break," Buffett said.

Said Clinton: "There's a growing sense that it's not working for the average American. If people feel that for whatever reason the deck is stacked against them, then that does feed the instability."


HILLARY CLINTON (David Kamerman/Globe Staff)
What difference would it make if a woman is president?
By Hillary Clinton | December 12, 2007

In recent interviews with the Globe editorial board, the three leading Democratic presidential candidates were each asked a question unique to his or her campaign. Here are their answers.

I THINK it will make a tremendous difference. I think it will make a big difference here at home, and I think it will make a big difference around the world. You know, when I travel around the country and go to these events . . . there are two groups of people that I am particularly moved by. One are women in their 90s. You know, when this started happening, I thought it was a bit of atypical - that there would be all of these women in their 90s at my events. And I now see them everywhere I go. And a lot of them say something along the lines of, 'I was born before women can vote and I am going to live long enough to see you in the White House.' And it is so personal and it is so intense that I have been just enormously moved by it.

And then on the other end of the age spectrum are all of these little girls whose parents bring them and, as I'm going along a rope line, and I heard a father or mother bend over and say, 'See, honey, you can be anything you want to be.' You know, that's what my parents told me, but who would have ever believed it, right? And I think that we were of the first generation of women who had anybody telling them that, and there were a lot of barriers you had to go through. You know, when I was college-aged, there were colleges I couldn't go to. There were scholarships I couldn't get. There were jobs that weren't open to me. You know, there were all of these things that we've seen change in our lifetimes, and the idea that parents are bringing their kids, particularly their daughters, and saying that - I think sort of speaks to how big this is in the minds of a lot of people. And I think around the world it would be game-changing in lots of ways. You know, when I gave that speech in '95 in Beijing, it was meant to be a kind of call to action about women's rights. And we've made some progress in the last 12 years, but we haven't made enough, and we can see how suppression of women is directly tied to extremism, to anti-democratic forces. I think that having a woman president. . . you know, I'm not running as a woman. I'm running because I think I'm the best qualified and experienced person to do the job, but having a woman president is a tremendous statement to the rest of the world that I think would be to America's advantage, and would help us more than any policy would on a lot of the forward movement that we need to have within societies when it comes to women.

"Lead in doubt, Clinton knocks on N.Hampshire doors"
By Scott Malone, Saturday, December 15, 2007, 5:20 PM ET

Hillary Clinton went door-to-door in freezing New Hampshire on Saturday, asking for support in the early voting state where her once-huge lead in the Democratic presidential primary race has melted away.

The New York senator knocked on doors along a snow-covered block of Manchester, less than a month before the crucial January 8 New Hampshire primary, the second binding contest of the 2008 presidential campaign.

"I'd be honored to have your support," Clinton said on the front porch of Mike Glickstein, a Manchester resident.

Glickstein, a 38-year-old maintenance worker whose beagle howled incessantly as he spoke to the former first lady, said he had intended to vote for Clinton already.

"I like her support of the middle class, I like her husband a lot," Glickstein said, referring to former President Bill Clinton.

Hillary Clinton has seen her lead over Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, her main rival for the Democratic nomination, evaporate both in New Hampshire and Iowa, which on January 3 kicks off the state-by-state contests to choose the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees.

Two polls this week showed Clinton and Obama in a statistical dead heat in New Hampshire, each with the support of about 30 percent of voters. In September, Clinton had led Obama by 20 points.


In a subsequent speech to voters in Plaistow, New Hampshire, Clinton said the state would be important to her efforts to secure her party's nomination.

"I'm counting on you for this primary election," she said. "It's a decision that I know you take very seriously. That's why you attend events like this, that's why you open your doors to us when we come knocking."

Clinton said that if elected she would work to find a way of providing universal health care to U.S. citizens, a fight she faced before as First Lady when her husband was president. She also said she would do away with the controversial education program No Child Left Behind and that if elected she would call on the leaders of the top emitters of greenhouse gases to meet every three months to agree on a solution to cut back their emissions.

Lou D'Allesandro, a New Hampshire state senator who accompanied Clinton as she knocked on about 10 doors, said personal campaigning was critical in his state.

"Politics is connecting with people, and this is how you do it here. I'd like to see her here more," he said.

Clinton's advisers once saw New Hampshire as a "firewall," which could protect her if she did poorly in Iowa, said University of New Hampshire political scientist Dante Scala.

"The firewall has largely disappeared now," he said. "If she loses both ... it would be very difficult to recover."

After New Hampshire, the next big contest is in South Carolina, where the large black population could flock to Obama, a fellow African American, Scala said.

"She's very intelligent, she has a lot of charisma. I wish she would talk more about women, because I think that would be helpful," said Herb Meyer, a 50-year-old physician from Danville, New Hampshire, who turned out to see Clinton in Plaistow.

"She's got a lot of presence, Barack Obama has a lot of presence," Meyer said, adding that he wasn't yet sure for whom he would vote.

(Editing by Eric Walsh)


Hillary Clinton: 'I do not favor war'
By James Pindell December 15, 2007 03:59 PM

PLAISTOW, N.H. -- In response to a question that there "appears to be a pattern" of her voting for war, Senator Hillary Clinton said she doesn't favor war and that she and her Democratic rivals basically have the same voting record in the US Senate on Iraq.

"I believe that everyone one of us that is running to be the Democratic nominee has the same position now on Iraq," Clinton said . "We are all going to end the war as soon as possible."

The questioner, Barbara Dennetts, a teacher from Newfields, said she supports Clinton, but her friends have problems with her vote to authorize force in Iraq. Barack Obama was on record of being against the war from the beginning though he wasn't elected to the Senate until after the war started and has supported war funding bills since. John Edwards voted for the war, but since he has left the Senate he has said he wants to cut funding for the war.

"I believe that it is important to look at someone's total record, you know, basically Edwards left the Senate and Obama came in we all voted the same way," she said.

But on Iran, she said, she does disagree with her rivals on a recent vote that labeled the Iranian National Guard a terrorist organization.

"If it saves American lives by labeling them a terrorist organization then I am going to label them a terrorist organization," Clinton said to applause.


Hillary Rodham Clinton is accompanied by state Sen. Lou D'Allesandro in door-to-door campaigning in Manchester, N.H. She is now tied in state opinion polls with Barack Obama ahead of the Jan. 8 primary. (Photos By Jim Cole -- Associated Press)

"N.H. Puts Ties Clintons Built To the Test"
By Alec MacGillis
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 16, 2007; A01

PLAISTOW, N.H., Dec. 15 -- Faced with the prospect of defeat in the Iowa caucuses, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) is counting on the foundation she and her husband built in this state over the past decade and a half, forged around Bill Clinton's "comeback kid" finish in the 1992 Democratic primary and years of assiduous tending to their relationship with New Hampshire voters.

Yet there are signs that all the time spent building connections and nourishing the memories of 1992 in the state with the first-in-the nation primary will not necessarily be enough to make New Hampshire the bulwark that Clinton might need against an early setback. Last week, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) closed to a tie with Clinton in several opinion polls here, after being behind by 20 percentage points only three months ago. Some of the same people who jumped aboard Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign here and were later rewarded with administration positions or White House invitations say that won't automatically translate into support for Sen. Clinton this time around.

"The fact of the matter is, they are two different people," said James McConaha, a Concord Democrat who campaigned around the country for Bill Clinton after the 1992 primary and later was made director of the state branch of the federal Farm Service Agency, but is now backing Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.). "Not that their positions on issues are different, which they might be. It's that they are really two different people. They are dramatically different, in my opinion."

The strength of the Clinton-New Hampshire bond is looming ever larger as next month's voting approaches. In Iowa, where Bill Clinton did not campaign in 1992, Sen. Clinton and Obama are essentially tied in opinion polls. Should she lose there on Jan. 3, she will head into the Jan. 8 New Hampshire primary in much the same situation that her husband did in 1992, hoping to see her campaign righted in the Granite State. Buffeted at the time by allegations of draft-dodging and marital infidelity, Bill Clinton had implored New Hampshire voters to look past all that and promised to stick with them "until the last dog dies." After finishing a solid second, he proclaimed himself resurrected.

Clinton campaign officials express confidence that she will prevail in the state, saying they expected all along that the race would tighten, just as it did in 2000 when Al Gore faced a tough fight with Bill Bradley. One reason they remain upbeat, they say, is the support for Clinton going back to her arrival in the state 16 years ago.

"The personal relationship makes people more engaged, and more willing to step up to help rather than just being passive," said Nick Clemons, Clinton's New Hampshire campaign director. "It insulates you from the ups and downs of the campaign, because people feel they know her already."

Yet some Clinton supporters are anxious. One staunch Clinton backer, a former elected official in the state, felt alarm on visiting Obama's headquarters in Manchester to pick up tickets for a friend for Oprah Winfrey's appearance with Obama last weekend and seeing how much "buzz" there was there. "I'm nervous. Obama's campaign feels like Jack Kennedy's. They seem so excited," said the supporter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the campaign had not authorized the comments. "When I call Hillary's headquarters, there's no electricity. It's scary."

Clinton's New Hampshire firewall has been long in the making. After winning the presidency, Bill Clinton appointed a disproportionate number of Democrats from this small state to his administration. New Hampshire Democrats received so many invitations to White House Christmas and St. Patrick's Day parties that they grew jaded. "People would say, 'I've been to three Christmas receptions at the White House. I just can't go to another,' " said J. Joseph Grandmaison, a former state party chairman whom Clinton named director of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency.

The unlikely close relationship between a former Arkansas governor brimming with Southern charm and a state known for its flintiness continued throughout Clinton's two terms. He carried the state twice in the general election. He or his advisers often called their contacts in the state to discuss local politics. In his final days in office, he made a farewell trip to thank the state for launching him in 1992. He urged Gore to consider then-New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen as his running mate in 2000. Cynics speculated that the grooming of the state was done with an eye toward a future Hillary Clinton bid. But supporters here say it was a simple expression of gratitude.

"They like New Hampshire," said Kathy Sullivan, a former state party chairwoman who is backing Sen. Clinton. "Bill loves people. Hillary loves people, too, and they liked staying in touch with people they became friendly with."

To stoke recollections of the good times, the Clinton campaign has dispatched the former president on several trips to the state. In Keene two weeks ago, he harkened back to a visit to the town in his 1992 campaign, when he showed up simply hoping to draw enough people to "avoid total humiliation" and instead found an over-capacity crowd of 400. It was "the first time I ever really thought I had a chance to win," he said.

It is not hard to find voters for whom the bond holds firm. Priscilla Clark traces her support for Sen. Clinton to 1992, when the Clintons stopped by St. Paul's School in Concord, where Clark's husband was headmaster. "I have liked her ever since I was first conscious of her and first met her with her husband. I just liked her personally. She seemed like an extremely bright, capable and thoughtful person," Clark said. She added: "At the beginning, she didn't give a hoot about how she looked, which is a good point for me. She always stood for good things."

But there also are local Democrats who say the affection they felt for Bill Clinton does not necessarily carry over to backing his wife. McConaha said that what drew him to Bill Clinton in 1992 was his "style, his intellect, his grasp of everything" and his ability to make the Democratic Party appeal to the middle of the political spectrum. He said he doesn't have a clear sense of what Sen. Clinton's vision for the party is. "I honestly couldn't tell you where Hillary is on that. I haven't heard it articulated or certainly not articulated as well as Bill did," he said. "They are just two very different people. To me, they might as well not even be related."

Supporters of Sen. Clinton say the bond between the state and the Clintons is the result in part of how the state's position improved in the 1990s. In 1992, New Hampshire was struggling out of a recession that hit New England hard: The state's power utility had just gone bankrupt, a half-dozen banks shut down and the housing market was in decline. By 2000, the state was flourishing, thanks largely to a boom in technology jobs.

Clinton supporters also recognize, though, that the Clinton history with New Hampshire has less resonance for the many Democrats who are new to the state. Since 2002, about 45,000 new voters have registered as Democrats, a sizable chunk in a state where slightly more than 200,000 cast votes in the 2004 Democratic primary. Making the task of reacquainting voters with Sen. Clinton more challenging is the fact that despite the couple's bonds with the state, she herself made next to no appearances there in the latter years of her husband's administration, when she was preparing to run for the Senate in New York.

This has put the Clinton campaign in the position of seeking to introduce her on her own terms to New Hampshire voters even as it seeks to rekindle relationships from the 1990s -- a balance made more delicate by Clinton's attempt to tout her husband's successes without seeming to overdo it. She has taken nothing for granted in the state, with more than 100 staff members, a dozen field offices and 23 visits, putting her almost exactly on par with Obama in all three departments. Her events have been a conventional mix of town hall meetings, house parties and endorsements, and she is often joined by some of the many local Democratic legislators who are backing her.

At a town hall meeting at a middle school in Plaistow on Saturday, Clinton went through her entire stump speech and most of the question period without mentioning her time in the state in 1991 and 1992. But in her answer to the final question, she pivoted to invoke the 1992 campaign, saying the economic hardships she observed then were similar to some of what she saw today. "When I first came to New Hampshire in 1992, people were so anxious about what was happening in their lives," she said. "I know we can do better, because we did better. Not in the middle of the last century . . . but in the 1990s."

The crowd responded with some of its loudest applause of the hour.

Staff writer Michael D. Shear in New Hampshire contributed to this report.


Hannah Pare, left, impresses Hillary Clinton while talking about "No Child Left Behind" as her sister Sarah,8, and mom Kimberly watch yesterday on Montgomery Street in Manchester where Hillary went door to door.

The truth about honesty
By Joan Vennochi, Boston Globe Columnist | December 16, 2007

MAYBE American voters are ready for the truth.

Maybe they finally understand if they don't get it from a presidential candidate about their personal life, they are unlikely to get it from a president about anything.

George W. Bush, presidential candidate, refused to answer specific questions about his early years. "When I was young and irresponsible, I was young and irresponsible, " he famously said. Candidate Bush acknowledged being a heavy drinker in the past, but declined to answer questions about whether he ever used marijuana or cocaine. "When I get asked pointed questions, I'm going to remind people that I made mistakes in the past and the question is, 'Have I learned from those mistakes?' " said Bush in a 1999 interview with Globe reporter Michael Kranish.

Is it any coincidence that Bush's White House tenure is marked by a refusal to confront the truth, or tell it to the American people on a host of issues, most notably the invasion of Iraq and ongoing conflict there?

Presidential candidate Bill Clinton sidestepped questions about marijuana use, with the classic retort, "I didn't inhale." Candidate Bill Clinton didn't come clean about his efforts to avoid the military draft and he denied an extramarital affair even when confronted with explicit details. At the time, Hillary Clinton, his wife and a current presidential candidate, went along with her husband's dodges. Clinton's presidency was also marked by a refusal to confront the truth or tell it to the American people, most notably regarding his sexual escapades with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

Of course, Bill Shaheen, Hillary Clinton's New Hampshire cochair, wasn't thinking about the value of honesty when he told the Washington Post's Alec MacGillis the issue of Barack Obama's youthful drug use would be used against him by Republicans, if the Illinois senator captured the Democratic presidential nomination. "It'll be, 'When was the last time? Did you ever give drugs to anyone? Did you sell them to anyone?" noted Shaheen. "There's so many openings for Republican dirty tricks. It's hard to overcome."

Clinton personally apologized to Obama and Shaheen resigned in the ensuing uproar. But the Clinton campaign, struggling to reverse a downward slide in the polls, accomplished one part of its political mission. Attention was refocused on Obama's admission of teenage drug use in his memoir, "Dreams from My Father."

In the book, Obama said he smoked marijuana, drank alcohol, and occasionally snorted cocaine when he could afford it. "Junkie. Pothead. That's where I'd been headed: the final fatal role of the young would-be black man," he wrote.

However, it isn't necessary to go back to Obama's book to unearth candor about his past. Obama offers it up on the campaign trail. Of course, "I inhaled . . . That was the point," he said more than once.

During a Nov. 21 visit to a New Hampshire high school, a questioner asked the presidential candidate about his high school memories.

"I made some bad decisions that I've actually written about," replied Obama. "There were times when I, you know, got into drinking, experimented with drugs. There was a whole stretch of time where I didn't really apply myself a lot." He told his audience that in college he realized, "Man, I wasted a lot of time" in high school."

Will a renewed focus on these facts of life about Obama accomplish the Clinton campaign's ultimate political mission - to undercut Obama's momentum in Iowa and New Hampshire by raising doubts about his electability if he is the nominee? Or will it underscore a distinction that helps Obama in the short and long run?

Making Obama's long ago drug use a campaign issue may raise concerns about his ability to weather Republican attacks during the general election. But there's risk in it for Clinton, too, because it also shifts the focus to honesty.

It makes Obama the candidate most willing to tell the truth, even when it isn't pretty. In doing so, it helps voters consider the possibility of having a president willing to tell the truth, pretty or not. It has been a long time since that happened in the White House.

Truth-telling does seem more likely to occur in the Oval Office if it begins on the campaign trail.

But first, voters must decide how much truth they can handle. Maybe that's also when they decide how much truth they deserve.

Joan Vennochi's e-mail address is


"A wrinkle in her campaign"
By Ellen Goodman, December 21, 2007

AND SO we gather to praise the old feminazi hunter himself. Rush Limbaugh has single-handedly brushed aside the blinding snow on the windshield and let us have another clear view of the double standard running down this campaign highway.

This week, our man Rush offered a lengthy monologue about an unflattering photo of Hillary Clinton in the New Hampshire cold. He ended by asking the question: "Will this country want to actually watch a woman get older before their eyes on a daily basis?"

EEEEK! Hillary has wrinkles! Somebody call the exorcist!

Remember last summer when the nation was treated to a bit of fashionbabble about Hillary's cleavage? This alerted us to the startling news that the senator had breasts. Two of them. News at 11. Now we are being treated to a psychodrama titled "The Candidate Has Crow's Feet."

Let me stipulate that the photo was not one she'd put on These days, candidates are like celebrities stalked by the sort of paparazzi who can find cellulite on Jennifer Love Hewitt. Anyone who wants to run for the presidency should first imagine herself trying on bathing suits in a fluorescent-lit dressing room while six of her worst enemies point their cellphone cameras.

Hillary made mocking note of this on the stage at an Iowa auction barn. "I've been to cattle barns before," she joked, but "I've never felt like I was the one being bid on. I know you're going to inspect me. You can look inside my mouth if you want."

The now-infamous photo ended up on the Drudge Report with a caption reading: "The Toll of a Campaign." Rush then picked up the old bat, I mean, baton, and ran off (at the mouth) with it.

The svelte and charming 56-year-old talkmeister framed his words about the 60-year-old Clinton who is getting older before our eyes on a daily basis as a cultural comment. He bemoaned the reality of a country "addicted to physical perfection." He cited the laments of aging actresses. He oozed special sympathy to women, since older men look "more authoritative, accomplished, distinguished."

Do you believe that this was a pro-woman rant? Then you also believe that Limbaugh's routine about Hillary Clinton's "testicle lockbox" is a paean to female leadership qualities.

What a long way we have come. Ten months ago, opponents were asking whether America was ready for a woman president. Now they're asking whether America is ready for a woman getting older before our eyes on a daily basis as president.

Meanwhile, it's become retro, maybe even feminazi, to notice the teensiest whiff of sexism. Hillary was accused of playing the gender card for merely mentioning that presidential politics was an "all-boys club." If you complain about the heat, you'll end up back in the kitchen.

So when Limbaugh talks about the older woman as a kind of Doriana Gray - a figure of such terrifying crone-ishness that we don't even want her portrait in the Oval Office - we are required to acknowledge the talk of John Edwards's hair and Barack Obama's swimsuit. Not to mention the grimacing Giuliani and the robotic Romney.

Well, we do notice what both genders are wearing. But we have not yet passed the Equal Right to Be Scrutinized Amendment. Haggard still comes from old hag, which comes from witch, which rhymes with you know what. If Romney tears up, he's sensitive; if Hillary cries, she's toast.

In phase one of this campaign, Hillary was the experienced candidate. No gender need apply. In the last tense stretch to the first primaries, the headlines tell us she's being humanized, which is a political synonym for "feminized." When Hillary campaigns with her family, the media sometimes react as if she found Dorothy Rodham at Rent-a-Mom.

So it bears repeating, alas, that women still have to negotiate the Scylla and Charybdis of political life. If you're seen as an authority figure, you aren't seen as womanly; if you're womanly, you aren't an authority figure. By the time you tack through that narrow channel, you have - ohmigod - wrinkles!

In the 1990s, Hillary tried on more looks than Madonna. Now that she's arrived at a comfort zone, she's still studied for signs of cleavage, cackle and crow's feet. Since there's no whining allowed, she has to tough it out. At which point she's accused of being too tough. What a business this is. Come to think of it, maybe I'd prefer that bathing suit photo op. Only Rush, ol' buddy, you go first.

Ellen Goodman's e-mail address is



Hillary Clinton greeting supporters outside the River House Cafe in Milford, New Hampshire.

"A tough juggling act for Clinton"
By Joan Vennochi, (Boston) Globe Columnist, December 27, 2007


WITH HER mother and daughter at her side, Hillary Clinton told an audience of mostly female voters at the local YWCA that she understood their needs and, as president, would make family-friendly policies her priority.

She was articulate, personable, and substantive. But, of course, she referred frequently to programs linked to her husband's White House years, reinforcing a theme in that day's Washington Post - that Hillary Clinton is running for president "in a tight embrace of Bill Clinton's record." The Post article on Saturday also suggested that both Clintons "are making the case that theirs was a co-presidency."

Asked in an interview afterward if she viewed herself as co-president, Hillary Clinton replied, "No . . . I was a member of the team. I was a member of the White House team that was involved with trying to make a lot of changes . . . I think that people who are running for president should lay out for Americans their record, their experiences, their qualifications, their vision, their plan, and their understanding of how to make it all happen, and that's what I'm doing."

She's also doing what a lot of women do - juggling identities. In Clinton's case, she's a mother, daughter, US senator, and wife of a former president. But, the last role overshadows everything else, forcing Clinton, the presidential candidate, to define "experience" mostly from the vantage point of former first lady. There's some irony in that for a Wellesley College and Yale Law School graduate like Hillary Clinton. But she disputes the notion that Bill Clinton's large presence sends the message that a woman needs a powerful husband in order to run for president herself.

"Everybody's spouse is out there campaigning," said Clinton. "Some of the wives of some of my opponents are very active campaigners. They obviously support their husbands. And I supported my husband for years as he was in the political arena . . . I think it is absolutely appropriate that he would not only be supporting me privately, but doing so publicly."

Pundits may view Bill Clinton's help as a mixed blessing, but not Hillary Clinton: "It's been fascinating to see how Bill has understood the challenges of being someone who is trying to make the case for someone else," she said. "That's exactly what he's trying to do for me and that's what I have done for him for so many years."

Clinton is trying to connect what she views as the accomplishments of the Clinton administration to her agenda for the future. Part of that, she said, is weighing her record for change "long before my husband ever became president." That includes expanding health insurance coverage for children; improving the foster care and adoption system; advocating for education reform as first lady of Arkansas and as a senator from New York; and helping to pass legislation to assist family caregivers.

"We've been inflicted by a sense of fatalism under this (Bush) administration," said Clinton. ". . . There's this sense that we're not up to the challenge, that we can't fix problems and give people better opportunities. You don't have to go back very far in history to see that's just not true, to rebut this sense of built-in resignation that the Bush administration has basically promoted when it comes to our government."

The message should be a powerful one. But it's often lost in the overall rush to deconstruct the Clinton marriage, rather than the Clinton administration. Meanwhile, Clinton's rivals are challenging how much credit she should get for the positives of the Clinton years, while happily burdening her with the negatives.

The candidate who last month told Katie Couric that the Democratic nominee "will be me" now says: "You have to make your best case . . . but if you can't seal the deal with the voters that you would be the best president and they can trust you, your experience, your understanding of the world to do what they believe should be done in the country, you can run a great campaign but you can't overcome that."

She sees herself as a "hardworking candidate who gets up every day and tries to persuade voters to support me."

After a year of campaigning, she's still trying to connect her experience as daughter, mother, US senator, and wife of a former president to a commitment to change. It's a tough juggling act, but Hillary Clinton may be just tough enough to pull it off.

Joan Vennochi's e-mail address is

Clinton faces unthinkable upset in Iowa
Despite record $100M war chest, onetime leader is running second

Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton campaigns with her mother, Dorothy Rodham, and daughter, Chelsea Clinton, in Ames, Iowa, yesterday (1/1/2008), as polls show Mrs. Clinton trailing Illinois Senator Barack Obama going into tomorrow's Iowa caucuses.
Photograph by : Stan Honda, Agence France-Presse, Getty Images

"Facts about the Iowa caucuses"
By The Associated Press, December 31, 2007

Some questions and answers about the Iowa caucuses this Thursday:

Q: What is a caucus?

A: A party meeting at the precinct level at which citizens express their candidate preferences and pick delegates to their county conventions. It's the lowest level of party politics -- the real grassroots. These meetings, held in each of the state's nearly 1,800 precincts, typically draw anywhere from a handful of people in rural areas to hundreds in suburban areas.

Q: Who takes part?

A: Anyone who is old enough to vote in the November general election and is a member of the party is eligible, but traditionally only a small number of Iowans show up. This year, about 120,000 to 150,000 people are expected to vote in the Democratic caucuses, while 80,000 to 90,000 are likely to participate in the GOP contest.

Q: Why is it politically significant?

A: Persuading a group of average citizens to show up in support of a candidate is considered a sign of organizational strength. Each candidate courts politicians and activists at the state and local level in hopes of getting strong numbers of supporters to show up and participate. At the same time, the caucus system allows candidates to develop and hone their message before relatively small groups.

Q: What happens at a caucus?

A: Participants, led by a chairman or chairwoman, indicate their preferences for their party's presidential nomination, pick delegates to their county conventions and discuss party business, including their party platforms.

Q: What happens next?

A: Delegates chosen at the caucuses go to the county convention later in the year. There, the field is winnowed and delegates are chosen for the district convention. This happens again at district meetings and again at the state convention, where delegates are named to attend the party's national convention.

Q: Why are the numbers different?

A: The Republicans essentially hold a straw poll -- a head count -- at their precinct caucuses, reporting real numbers. One head, one vote.

The Democrats do not report straight numbers, but use a mathematical formula to determine support for a presidential candidate in percentages. A candidate must have the support of 15 percent of those present at any meeting, precinct caucuses through the state convention, to remain "viable." This is meant to ensure greater consistency throughout the process.

Q: Will there be exit polls in Iowa?

A: Yes. The Associated Press and the television networks will survey voters as they enter the caucus sites. Those surveys will help readers understand what issues and qualities motivated Iowans to vote for a specific candidate.

Q: How did the Iowa caucuses get started?

A: A commission appointed after the riots disrupted the 1968 Democratic National Convention recommended proportionate representation and affirmative action. Iowa Democrats decided to use new rules in 1972, adopting a regulation that there must be a month between events -- the caucuses, county, district, state and national conventions. The caucuses wound up being held as early as January.


January 7, 2008; Page A12; The Wall Street Journal

"HillaryCare v. Obama"

Once Hillary Clinton got roughed up in Iowa, she was bound to strike back against Barack Obama. Her first line of attack debuted at the Democratic debate over the weekend, and a big part of it concerns health care. Their differences are more political than substantive, but the debate does tell us something about current policy ambitions on the American left.

"Universal" health care is of course a major Democratic issue, and Mr. Obama laid out a proposal in May, Mrs. Clinton in September. Both plans create a public insurance option managed by the government. Both plans impose more stringent regulations on insurance companies, and both institute new taxes on business.

The main substantive difference is that Mrs. Clinton's plan would dictate that everyone have health insurance, while Mr. Obama's would only require the coverage of children. This so-called "individual mandate" has become the preferred liberal health policy tool after Mitt Romney introduced it in Massachusetts. In theory, such a law would force everyone to sign up for health insurance -- either through their employers, a private plan or a government option -- or otherwise pay penalties.

That Mr. Obama's mandate is limited to kids has led to a primary catfight that runs back several months, and Mrs. Clinton is pressing the issue especially hard now to attract liberals who think Mr. Obama is the better bet for "change." She said on Saturday that Mr. Obama "proposed a health-care plan that doesn't cover everybody." Mr. Obama counters that the reason many people aren't insured is because they can't afford it. Supposedly he is "echoing right-wing talking points," but he is more accurately echoing reality.

Massachusetts has exempted almost 20% of uninsured adults who don't qualify for subsidies from mandated coverage because it is too expensive. (No thanks to the state's health-care regulations, which Mr. Romney now prefers not to mention.) The logic of the individual mandate is that welfare programs will be necessary to achieve truly universal coverage. Thus it is in practice less an individual, and more a government, mandate.

In any case, these health-care plans aren't worth the white papers they're printed on, because Congress would carve them up along the way. Rather, they speak to aspirations. For "progressives," Mr. Obama's lack of a mandate is a kind of betrayal. Their political goal is to use incremental steps to gradually achieve a government-run health-care system -- and Mr. Obama's steps aren't grand enough.

At least by comparison to Mrs. Clinton. Her attacks are intended to appeal to liberals because they highlight one of the few cases where her triangulating produced a policy position more ambitious, and more leftward, than Mr. Obama's. They also highlight her history as an agent of "change," if you consider Mrs. Clinton's calamitous 1994 failure with HillaryCare to be helpful experience. She's betting that Democratic primary voters will give her credit for having tried.

The new liberal consensus is that her 1994 effort got the policy right but botched the politics. Now a progressive agenda will only be ushered in by "confronting" Republicans. That's why Mrs. Clinton -- and John Edwards -- posits insurance and pharmaceutical companies as villains who must be vanquished for liberal reform to prevail. By contrast, Mr. Obama says a genuine health-care overhaul must be negotiated at a "big table" including industry. Such feints toward bipartisanship and reconciliation don't appeal to today's angry left.

However it turns out, this less than Grand Guignol ought to provide a warning to Republicans. Whatever the minor policy differences among Democrats, their major domestic ambition this campaign season is the government takeover of the health-care market. The Republican nominee will need a free-market alternative, and a way of explaining it that is more concise and compelling than we've heard so far.


Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton listened to an undecided voter yesterday in Portsmouth, N.H. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

"Vulnerable moment shows Clinton in different light: Daughter adds pep to campaign"
By Marcella Bombardieri, (Boston) Globe Staff, January 8, 2008

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. - It is a rare day when Hillary Clinton tears up in public, or when her reticent daughter, Chelsea, ventures out to campaign on her own.

Both unexpected events came to pass on the eve of today's crucial New Hampshire primary, which could determine her political fate.

Chelsea Clinton's coffee shop appearances and calls to voters were clearly part of a deliberate, last-ditch effort to soften her mother's image and to reach the younger voters.

Hillary Clinton's show of emotion, on the other hand, seemed a genuine response to the enormous pressure of today's make-or-break moment and the exhaustion of campaigning around the clock for weeks.

The idea of a female politician showing such vulnerability, as Patricia Schroeder did two decades ago when she abandoned her presidential run, has long been seen as perilous. Yet as she choked with emotion, widened her eyes, and rested her chin in her palm, Clinton looked human and sympathetic to many who were there.

At a cafe in Portsmouth where Clinton was taking questions from undecided voters, a woman asked her, "How do you do it?" She mentioned how perfect Clinton's hair always is and added, "How do you keep upbeat and so wonderful?"

"It's not easy, it's not easy," Clinton answered softly. "And I couldn't do it if I just didn't, you know, passionately believe it was the right thing to do."

That's when she started to get choked up. "You know, I have so many opportunities from this country - I just don't want to see us fall backwards, no," she said, as people clapped. "So, you know, this is very personal for me. It's not just political. It's not just public. I see what's happening and we have to reverse it.

"And some people think elections are a game - they think it's like who's up or who's down," she said, her voice catching again. "It's about our country, it's about our kids' futures, and it's really about all of us together."

Several voters said they were moved by the moment, which was already being dissected yesterday by pundits and is sure to take a prominent place in the history of the 2008 campaign.

John Edwards had a decidedly less sympathetic take. "I think what we need in a commander in chief is strength and resolve, and presidential campaigns are tough business, but being president of the United States is also tough business," he told reporters.

Barack Obama mostly tried to stay away from the topic. "I know this process is a grind," he said. "So that's not something I care to comment on."

Later, Clinton said she was moved because the woman surprised her by asking about her well-being.

"It was so touching to me," she said on CNN. "I'm so other-oriented. . . . I am reserved. I am someone who says, 'Let's have a little distance here,' because I want to be judged by my work."

Meanwhile, Chelsea Clinton campaigned with her high school best friend and a longtime aide to her mother. Previously, she had appeared on the campaign trail only by her mother's side, and she has avoided saying anything in public beyond friendly chit-chat.

The 27-year-old stopped by two cafes to shake hands and visited two campaign field offices, where she enthusiastically greeted volunteers manning the phones. She even made about a dozen calls to voters herself and grew frustrated when few people answered the phone.

But she left a lot of cheerful messages, and found a few live voters. "This is Chelsea Clinton," she said from the Dover office. "It's really me!"

The man on the other end of the line apparently told her that he loved watching her grow up.

"I loved growing up," she said. "You're going to vote for my mom? Thank you very much! I hope you get all your friends to vote for my mom, too!"

Globe correspondent James W. Pindell contributed to this report. Marcella Bombardieri can be reached at


"The Democrats: As usual, the undecideds are the key"
State House Bureau Chief
January 9, 2008

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton defied the pundits and pollsters' predictions yesterday, winning the New Hampshire presidential primary and claiming her own rights to the title of "Comeback Kid."

Her husband, former President Bill Clinton, pasted the comeback label on himself in 1992 when he finished second in the New Hampshire primary after it was predicted he would lose badly.

Last night it was his wife's turn. In her victory speech, she credited the win to help New Hampshire voters gave her after a painful loss in the Iowa caucus.

"Over the last week I listened to you and in the process, I found my own voice," she told a cheering crowd at Southern New Hampshire University. "I felt like we all spoke from our hearts and I'm so gratified that you responded. Now together let's give America the kind of comeback that New Hampshire has just given me ... Tomorrow we're gonna get up, roll our sleeves and keep going."

With 96 percent of the vote counted, Clinton had 40 percent, Barack Obama 37, John Edwards 17, Bill Richardson 5 and Dennis Kucinich 1.

Political polls taken over the past week showed Clinton steadily losing ground to Illinois Sen. Barack Obama after he won the Iowa caucus by more than an 8 percent margin. Heavy turnout among young voters and independents here, experts said, would translate into an Obama win.

Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks at her victory rally in Manchester last night.


Ominous polling results had Clinton's camp worried. Her staff tried to dampen expectations yesterday, telling reporters they'd be happy to finish within 10 percent of Obama.

Instead, Clinton took an early lead last night and never let go of it. Media outlets began declaring her the likely winner just after 10:30 p.m.

She told her celebrating supporters her administration would take care of the middle class and those at the bottom of the economic heap.

"Too many have been invisible for too long. Well, you are not invisible to me," Clinton said.

She ticked off health care companies, mortgage, student loan companies as beneficiaries of the Bush Administration.

"We've had seven years of a president who stood up for them. It's time we had a president who stood up for all of you," she said.

Obama conceded at 10:45 p.m. He entered the gym at Nashua High School South, hugged and shook supporters' hands, and put the best face on his defeat, the way many spent their day expecting Clinton to do.

"A few weeks ago no one could have imagined what we have accomplished here. We always knew our climb would be steep," Obama said. In a brief speech, he emphasized his message of hope and led the crowd in a chant of "Yes, we can."

Urging supporters to build a "new American majority" he said, "There is no problem that we cannot solve, there is no destiny that we cannot fulfill. "

With 91 percent of voting precincts reporting at press time, Clinton had 102,379, or 39 percent of the vote, to Obama's 95,156, or 36 percent.

Throughout the night, Clinton maintained the same small lead in percentage terms over Obama, and well ahead of former North Carolina Sen John Edwards at 17 percent and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson at 5 percent.

Barack Obama acknowledges the cheers of supporters and receives a hug from his wife, Michelle, upon arrival at South Nashua High School in Nashua tonight. (AP)


Among cities and towns that reported, Obama won towns important to him, like Keene, Portsmouth and Dover, but Clinton took the state's largest city of Manchester by more than 3,100 votes and Nashua by nearly 1,800.

The scare Clinton got in Iowa and polling results here also prompted her to make staff changes yesterday, with longtime Clinton confidante Maggie Williams poised to come aboard to help sharpen the former first lady's message, according to an Associated Press report.

Obama, who surprised the nation with his 8 percent margin of victory in Iowa, hoped yesterday for a repeat performance that could well have propelled him to the nomination. Now he'll have to continue battling Clinton, who is better experienced and equally well funded.

Obama supporters were convinced they'd be celebrating last night.

"I'm somewhat in shock," said Wes Takayama of Nashua. Like many supporters, he stood quietly, shaking his head and watching the results roll in.

"I'm wondering where the polls got their numbers from," he said. "It wasn't one poll, either. What happened?:

David Callahan, 19, of Nashua, said he came expecting a blowout. He and his friends stood in the back of the gymnasium, arms folded to their chests.

"I'm surprised," Callahan said. "I can't explain it."

Clinton supporters said they were gratified.

"It's nice the New Hampshire voters have come out with a vengeance. She really deserves it," said A.J. Malloy of Dunbarton, a Clinton volunteer. "It's great. It's nice to see some real hard work pay off."

"It's a surprise the way the press was reporting such a lead for Obama," said Gail Morris of Bedford. "I'm thrilled. We were just hoping she could come close."

John Edwards takes the stage last night to congratulate Clinton and Obama.


If Clinton could not win the primary, she needed at least to stay close to Obama. In Iowa, she finished third, a few tenths of a percent behind Edwards. It is Edwards now with the biggest question mark over his head as he heads into an intense month of campaigning with third-place showings in two vitally important elections.

Edwards conceded the election at 10:15 last night, saying he's not done yet.

"Two races down, 48 states left to go," he said, adding, "I am in this race to the convention and I intend to be the nominee of my party."

His campaign adviser, Joe Trippi, said a race with no clear leader will go all the way to the convention. Edwards was outspent 6-to-1 in Iowa and 4-to-1 in New Hampshire, Trippi noted, but his message will get through even better in the reduced field.

"We knew what was going to happen here," Trippi said. "South Carolina will be a three-person race, and John has done very well against just the two of them. If you have the message, it can beat these people."

Candidates spent the day trying to lock up the last group of voters who hadn't yet made up their minds. Roughly 20 percent of those expecting to vote in the Democratic Primary still were undecided as recently as Sunday, according to the latest tracking poll by the UNH Survey Center.

Clinton and Obama delivered coffee to supporters at polls and campaign offices at the break of dawn and Edwards put the wraps on a 36-hour marathon of final campaign stops.

The theme of change came to be the central point in the Democratic campaign here, overshadowing other topics like the economy, health care and the war in Iraq. Each candidate vied to be seen as the one best able to deliver a change in the status quo in Washington.

Clinton, 60, a former first lady, argued that her years of experience working on issues like children's health insurance and women's rights prepare her best for the job.

"Change is not something you hope for. It's something you work for," she said.

Obama, 46, painted himself as the outsider untainted by decades in Washington, bringing hope to the political process. He told a rally in Iowa after his victory, "you can do what the cynics said could not be done."

Edwards, 54, former senator from North Carolina, said he is best able to break the stranglehold lobbyists and corporations have on the federal government, pointing out he has not taken money from special interest groups in any of his campaigns.

Richardson, who often cited his experience as a Secretary of Energy, a United Nations ambassador and a governor, conceded about 9 p.m., and promised to continue his campaign into the Feb. 5 Super Tuesday primaries.

Clinton had attracted the support of the Democratic establishment. Among those in her camp were former state party chair Kathy Sullivan; Dr. Susan Lynch, wife of Gov. John Lynch; attorney William Shaheen, husband of former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen; Senate President Sylvia Larsen and Speaker of the House Terie Norelli.

Obama drew the support of freshman congressmen Paul Hodes and Carol Shea Porter, and former Health and Human Services Commissioner Ned Helms.

Trailing far behind were Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel. Joe Biden and Christopher Dodd withdrew from the race after weak showings in Iowa.

Union Leader Staff Writers Scott Brooks, Benjamin Kepple and Chris Dornan contributed to this report.



My concern is do we really have this many voters in NH who want the devisiveness of the last 16 years to continue? Hillary has minimal experience, no intrgrity, and only Bill as a questionable asset. What are the Clinton voters thinking? Are they even stopping to think?
- jeff, goffstown

As we saw with Carol Shea-Porter's victory, we cannot trust the polls. The media likes to tell us who will win, and yet the people of New Hampshire, as independent minded as we are, refuse to let the media crown the victor. We make up our own minds and we decide who wins. Congratulations Hillary, and congratulations New Hampshire on deciding for yourself who would win our great state's historic primary.
- Ken Lambert, Manchester, NH

Just a short while ago Hillary had a 20+ point lead over Obama. then in the frenzy of the IA Obama win the pundits went all in for Barack they were being fed info about the Clinton implosion... they were very wrong but...

BARACK made up 18 pts! and is now no more than 3 points behind!

That is the real story, the manipulation of the Press by Clinton's lowering Hillary's expectations so Losing a 20+ point lead looks like a major victory
- Bob DeMaura, Peterborough

With my tin-foil hat tucked away in the closet, I also share a certain (albeit slightly different) concern with Ms. Collins from Nashua. This is the third time (from recent memory) that the poll numbers were WAAYYY off from the actual results. The other 2 times (2000 in FL and 2004 in OH)also had Diebold voting machines heavily involved, propping up Republicans. I've been seeing Diebold vans/trucks everywhere lately; I hope they're not hiding something. I wonder if they're trying to promote an easily-beatable Hillary over a slam-dunk candidate like Obama. You don't think there would be voter-shenanigans with the GOP here in NH, would there? ;) Maybe this is something that the Union Leader should investi... oh, who am I kidding? Go McCain!!!
- Breyer S., Manchester, NH

Yeah risk involved. You don't just SOUND like a Hillary hater. Your seriously saying that people were PAID to vote for Hillary? Really?? With the thousands upon thousands of people that would need to have been paid....everyone accepted and promised to keep it under wraps? Not ONE person would come forward and say what was going on? They approached people that were supporting Obama and, simply with cash, convinced them to change thier vote and to kepp quiet?? This is what your saying?? Wow. Creative imagination to say the least. Or just sour grapes. You choose.
- Mike, Concord

How could she have won? The people got out there and voted!! I voted for Hillary as did a bunch of other people of know.
- Amy, Goffstown

To be honest I’m very happy with the NH primary results, albeit pleasantly surprised. I would chalk this up as a potential flaw in the pre-polling surveys. In my personal network of friends, co-workers and family, I always believed that NH has a very large Hillary support number. And at the same time, I do not know of a single person who was actually polled before the election. Perhaps the pre-polling survey pool should be revisited prior to November to have more realistic results. To comment on Susan’s remarks, I’m not certain where her facts were gathered from to indicate the speculation that the Hillary campaign bribed voters, but I feel that the comment is unfounded.
- Jaime Miller, Manchester, NH

Wow Susan. You have no faith in our systems, do you? That's sad considering you probably voted too. Just remember, there are 48 more states. People are always going to have to blame someone when someone else was "supposed to win." All of those undecided voters must have made their minds up at the polls. It's going to be an interesting rest of the year.
- Amanda, Merrimack, NH

The reason Hilary won is that people in NH (I am from there) go into the booth and vote their gut, not what is new or different or trendy. As an avowed Independent - though I lean Republican here, I personally would have voted for Hilary. As much as I don't 'like' the woman, I believe she would make a good President (or at least AS GOOD AS anyone else running). Not only that, but as a woman, I do not see another woman on the horizon for a while - so why not Hilary?
- Anne Allen, Durham/ME

I suspect when the NH primary is analyzed it will be determined that the large voter turnout worked to Hillary's advantage. With a lager turnout the youth vote critical to Obama was simply offset whereas had a low or below normal turnout occured Obama may have prevailed because of the youth vote.
- Pete, Dover

I did not vote for her. She did win it fair and square. The only suspicious activity was the Shaheen machine holding back the Durham/Madbury/Dover/Rochester results until the very end. If there were going to be chicanery, it would be there. In the end , it did not happen because Hillary won outright in the cities and big towns such as Derry and Salem. give her credit. NH is not a sore loser type of place
- paul needham, derry

Susan, I couldn't disagree more. As soon as McCain was announced the winner, I knew it wasn't good news for Obama. Obama needed the independent vote much more than Hillary, and those votes went to McCain. As an Obama supporter, I saw many more people out in the streets for Hillary in your city and throughout the state in the final days and I thought it was an act of desperation, but it worked. Yesterday reminded me of the movie Gladiator, Hillary lost the fight in Iowa and NH was the emperor with their thumb out that spared her. This is going to be a great race.
- Jim, Manchester

Before you go on about Polls you should also know the undecided vote was a large margin. Many registered independents, like myself, were chased relentlessly and I refused to be part of a poll. Recent campaigning and more research likely changed people's mind at the last minute.
- Wendy, Candia

Oh for the love of pete! That is ridiculous. Polls have always been a waste of time in such tight races. NH Hillary supporters spoke and your nonsense sounds like pure sour grapes and does nothing to support your candidate. Move on.
- Wendy, Candia

She won because people got out and voted. I for one voted for her!!!!
- Amy, Goffstown

Go Hillary! Yesterday I stood up for women when I voted for Hillary. Right along I have been an Obama supporter, but the press turned an emotional moment into a so called sob-fest! Hillary speaks with clarity, has experience, and will get the job done. She deserves this win, my vote counted and I am certain that many stood in agreement with me when we gave our votes to Hillary.

Each of the top democratic candidates would be great leaders. Who did the pollsters poll? Ten points is a wide margin of victory on a 3-4%margin of error poll. If you need to blame someone, blame the polling people, because they apparently did not poll the right people.

Look to the people who give out the information about the numbers if you are looking for a conspiracy.
- Kate Desrochers, Manchester, NH

So much for pundits, pollsters and their "poll results." I said right here last week that "polls" should be outlawed, that they mean nothing and that " they are the figment of someone's imagination." So my State has spoken, not they way I had hoped, for both parties but this is the American way. Good job people of New Hampshire. I'm proud of you.
- Norm Landers, Sanford, Florida

Sounds like someone is a little upset that her canidate Obama) didn't win. Before you make accusations you should be sure about your facts. If I were Hillary Clinton I would sue you for slander. There is no way that this campaign was not on the up and up. Do you have proof that The Clintons did this type of thing before? As far as Hillary Clinton winning the NH Primary, I believe that she is the best canidate to be President and so do the majority of New Hampshire voters.
- Lynda, Manchester

There are lies, damn lies, and political polls.
- Glenn, Bedford, NH

One added point, beyond "put down the kool-aid", is this... I grew up in Manchester and lived in Coos County for awhile as well. Obama played very very poorly in traditional blue collar areas. Turns out traditionally blue collar folks like a message beyond hope and change. They often live hope and change. Obama is a darling of the elite liberal left, and has done nothing to distinguish himself otherwise. Your candidate did not lose because it was stolen, your candidate lost because of that not a conspiracy
- John A. Groulx, Norwood, MA

Susan, while I can't say I'm as suspicious as you that something dishonest actually took place, I will point out that the opportunity was there. Having voted in Manchester, I can tell you we are desparately in need of some polling place reform. As a registered voter, I didn't need to show any ID in order to vote. Had I been inclined to vote multiple times, I simply would have gone in the morning, looked at the list of uncrossed names in the books the volunteers open right in front of everyone, and gone back later claiming I was one of those people. Can you imagine the horror of showing up to vote and being informed that you had allegedly already voted? We can't rely on the honor system when it comes to voting - I'm astounded by the gross lack of security I see at my local pollling place (Gossler Park School).
- Rusty Shackleford, Manchester

Why do you doubt the election and not the poll results?
- Gail, Derry, NH

Anyone who trusts polls to predict election results is naive. Pollsters are not voters, and in this election many, many people made up theirs minds very late in the process. Clinton and Obama's poll numbers have been up and down for weeks, and in those weeks and days before the election, voters continued to weigh the issues and evaluate the candidates. For many voters it was a tough choice between candidates. The beauty of an Obama win in Iowa and a Clinton win in New Hampshire is that both canditates are viable, and Edwards may well be viable, too. That means the candidates can continue to state their positions and make their cases, and the participation of voters in many other states will be essential to choosing the Democratic nominee. People are getting involved, thinking carefully about their choices, and casting their votes. Let's not reduce ourselves to the mud-slinging of the past. Let's embrace change and celebrate the energy and excitement of this fascinating and unpredictable election process.
- Barbara, Manchester

Susan, I understand your concerns. However, I wouldn't believe the polls you see before the primary. Case in point, someone called me a week ago at a very bad time. To get them off the phone, I said I would vote for Obama (when I still was undecided).

Also, I think because there were so many undecided voters, when they got to the polls, they decided to vote for Clinton. Thus, her big surge at the end.

Just my .02 cents.
- Elizabeth, Candia

Susan from Nashua, it sounds like you are an angry Republican, Hillary Clinton's victory came at the hands of women, who voted in larger numbers than men and went for Clinton by 13 percentage points. Fewer young voters turned out for Obama as they did in Iowa, depriving him of crucial support. And he lost many independents to Republican candidates, the great weather also helped Hillary with the record turnout.
- Tony, Bedford

I belive New Hampshire was right in selecting Hillary Clinton as the Democratic candidate for President. What does she bring to the table? Knowledge, experience and resources count for so much more in this race. All the candidates are for change but Hillary is the only one that can do it as an insider. Although Barack Obama vows change, he is an untested candidate who says what all of us want to hear. But reality says that the new kid on the block will make many,many mistakes in an effort to make good on his campaign speeches. Hillary has spent 8 years in the White House already. She was the personal confidant of a President that did a lot of good for our country (personal problems aside). What counts is what he did for the country. I am sure that many of the decisions he made were the results of his conversations with Hillary. To now have Hillary as President, the country will benefit far greater than with any other candidate. No other candidate will have the benefit of the wisdom of a successful President as Hillary will. As she was Bill Clinton's confidant, he will return as the confidant of Hillary Clinton. We as a country will have the benefit of two very powerful, dedicated, well known, and well respected leaders serving our people. Any other candidate for President will have a long learning curve just to get to know the players necessary in order to effect any kind of changes. With Hillary's experience in politics, she will begin leading our country with positive results from day one.
- Vincent Laposta, Hooksett

The differance was 6 thousand votes out of a half million people that Clinton won. She didn't win anything, actually, there is so much more to go. Super Tueday will be the deciding factor. No one is more a fool that celebrates before you win.
- Chris Harris, Derry NH

At the risk of sounding like a "Hillary hater" gone paranoid, I have to say that I am highly suspicious of the results of the N.H. primary. After all the polls showed Obama WAY AHEAD of Hillary, how could she have won?? I don't believe she should have. I believe her campaign "operatives" greased a bunch of palms, probably in the urban areas of N.H. The Clintons have done this type of thing before, and Hillary HAD to win N.H. in order to "stay alive" in her campaign. A WARNING: if Obama rebounds, and I believe he will, be prepared to see more of this sort of thing, and be prepared for negative (and false) "revelations" about Obama suddenly and "mysteriously" surface. Yep, that's the way the Clintons operate.
- Susan Collins, Nashua

The Boston Globe
Political landscape

"Clinton, Obama claim fund-raising edge"
By Marcella Bombardieri and Lisa Wangsness, (Boston) Globe Staff, January 10, 2008

Democratic front-runners Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton sparred yesterday over who has the most fund-raising potential for the battle ahead, as Obama suggested that he will soon retaliate against Clinton's sharpened attacks.

A day after Clinton's unexpected comeback win in New Hampshire, both campaigns claimed momentum as they started the next leg of what is likely to be a long, costly, and possibly divisive race for the Democratic nomination.

On Tuesday, Clinton rebounded from her defeat last week in Iowa after she and her husband, Bill Clinton, suggested there was little substance behind Obama's inspirational calls for change. Yesterday, Obama indicated he would respond in kind.

"I think that Senator Clinton, obviously, is a formidable and tough candidate, and we have to make sure that we take it to them just like they take it to us," Obama said on MSNBC. "I come from Chicago politics. We're accustomed to rough and tumble."

The Democratic field is likely to narrow further, with the Associated Press reporting that Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico, who finished fourth in both Iowa and New Hampshire, plans to drop out today.

John Edwards, who came in a distant third in New Hampshire but edged Clinton for second in Iowa, held a rally yesterday in South Carolina, the state of his birth, where he is far behind Clinton and Obama in the polls but where he is putting his greatest hopes.

With the need for new fund-raising intensifying as the campaign widens across the country, Obama's campaign trumpeted having raised $8 million in the first eight days of the year. Within hours, the Clinton campaign announced that it had raised $3 million so far this year and had pledges for $5 million more.

Clinton raised slightly more money for the primaries than Obama in the last three months of 2007, $24 million to $22.5 million, and her campaign said it had more than $25 million in the bank at the end of the year. The Obama campaign did not disclose a cash-on-hand total.

Although both campaigns were still working to retool their strategies following the New Hampshire results, Obama's campaign boasted of its strength in Nevada and South Carolina, the only two states where the Democrats are competing before the Feb. 5 mega-contest that includes 22 states.

The senator from Illinois won the key backing yesterday of the 60,000-strong union representing Nevada's casino workers, which is considered the best organizing machine in the state and thus crucial to the outcome of the Jan. 19 caucuses, the next contested race for Democrats. In addition to the casinos' Culinary Workers Union, the Nevada chapter of Service Employees International Union also endorsed him yesterday.

Obama is also looking increasingly strong in the polls in South Carolina, where a majority of voters in the Jan. 26 primary are expected to be African-American.

In contrast, even as Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson told reporters that she would "compete vigorously" in every state and Clinton planned a trip today to Nevada, the campaign appeared to be focusing on the delegate jackpot on national Super Tuesday.

The campaign organized a conference call for reporters with members of Congress from states that will be voting that day, to talk up the New York senator's standing in their delegate-rich states.

The voting methods used in the different states on Feb. 5 could help determine who wins.

Obama's camp asserted that the enthusiasm of its supporters would be particularly valuable in the seven states with caucuses, which demand more time and commitment from participants.

Clinton, on the other hand, could be better positioned in the eight states that allow only registered Democrats to vote, since Obama has done significantly better among independents and Republicans so far.

The Clinton camp was buoyant after having pulled off the narrow New Hampshire win in defiance of polls that had predicted a possible double-digit loss.

"Momentum is clearly on our side," said Clinton national campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe. "Voters across the country are going to see what New Hampshire voters saw."

But Jamal Simmons, a Democratic consultant unaffiliated with either campaign, said that while Clinton clearly had gathered momentum from her come-from-behind New Hampshire win, it might not last until Nevada.

"If you look at what happened this week, Barack Obama's bounce [from Iowa] clearly did not last through New Hampshire over the course of five days," he said. "So over the course of 11 days, you could certainly see that bounce wear off."

Clinton took a break from the campaign trail yesterday to stop at her home in Chappaqua, N.Y., and then go to the campaign's headquarters just outside Washington, D.C., to thank her staff.

Her staff took advantage of the New Hampshire win to fish for more cash, revving up 500 fund-raisers on a conference call made available to reporters.

Obama, meanwhile, attended a luncheon fund-raiser at the State Room in Boston and later held a rally in New Jersey. He was scheduled to campaign in South Carolina today and then in Nevada tomorrow to accept the Culinary Workers' endorsement.

Obama's comments yesterday about "rough and tumble" politics, and the apparent success of Clinton's attacks in New Hampshire, suggested the race may get considerably nastier before the nomination is decided.

But Democratic Party activists and political analysts said they had little concern that any acrimony would prevent the party from uniting for the general election - especially if the nomination is determined on Feb. 5.

"I think there will be time to heal wounds," said Hans Noel, a political scientist at Georgetown University.

Marcella Bombardieri can be reached at bombardieri@, and Lisa Wangsness at


"Hillary's fine line"
By Ellen Goodman, (Boston) Globe Columnist, January 11, 2008

BY WEDNESDAY, the headlines that had blared "Panic" and "On the Edge" were as infamous as "Dewey Beats Truman." The advance stories written to explain Hillary Clinton's defeat had all been sacrificed to the delete button.

The irrepressible Tim Russert, who had delivered her obit in ringing tones of certainty just a day earlier, sounded like a real estate agent digging through a ruined landscape for explanations: "Women, women, women."

It was New Hampshire women who came to Hillary's rescue after the near-death experience of Iowa. The 57 percent of Democratic voters who were women chose Clinton over Barack Obama by 12 points. And she won with women over 65 by a stunning 30-point margin.

I never saw it coming. In dozens of interviews over the last days, I found women who were still waffling, still wavering, undecided. In a long buffet line at a Democratic Party dinner in Milford, a 66-year-old woman told me she was torn between her heart and her head. If Obama had won the heart of this long-term-care insurance saleswoman, Hillary was in trouble.

What happened? The story line is as divided - dare I say polarized? - as every other Hillary narrative. One line credits the strength she showed in the last debate and in her endless question-and-answer appearances. Another credits the "humanizing" moments, when she responded emotionally, especially to a woman who asked: "How do you do it?"

Matt Lauer posed the question baldly: Had it been "the issues or the tears" - those nonexistent "tears" - that had fueled her recovery? Did Hillary win because she was strong or vulnerable, the two ends on the bell curve of possibility for women leaders?

Or was it because she pulled back the mantle of change that had slipped so precariously off her tailored shoulders?

A year ago when Clinton announced her candidacy, the big question was whether the country was "ready for a woman." But when the first woman to ever have a serious shot at the White House arrived in New Hampshire, she was tagged as the shopworn goods of "old politics."

At the final debate, John Edwards attacked her as the embodiment of the "status quo." At the Rochester Opera House, Obama preached against her as more of the "same old, same old." She was more Clinton and less Hillary. It was if we had raced past history, without ever making it.

I don't think the Clinton campaign saw this coming. After all, Hillary had been an icon of change since her Wellesley graduation speech. "While Bill talked about social change, I embodied it," she once wrote.

As a law student, as Arkansas' first lady, as the candidate's wife who didn't "bake cookies," she said, "I had been turned into a symbol for women of my generation." It must have seemed wholly fanciful to believe that Rush Limbaugh's favorite target, the author of "Hillarycare," would get labeled as old politics.

As they planned the presidential run, the Clinton campaign read the female playbook that says women have to prove - and prove - their experience and strength. She was cast as the most seasoned candidate, the commander in chief, the tough guy in the race. And then experience became a liability.

How many times have we been told that if you are seen as a woman you aren't seen as strong; if you're seen as strong, you aren't seen as womanly? The tough guy nearly lost her place as a female change agent.

Then the moderator at the debate said: People "seem to like Barack Obama more." And that empathetic Portsmouth woman asked: "How do you do it?" Is this when women's heads shot up? When, exhausted and touched, she answered: "It's not easy, and I couldn't do it if I didn't passionately believe it was the right thing to do."

On primary eve, I was in the Rochester Opera House listening to an eloquent Obama. But many New Hampshire women were at home, as the television endlessly reran Hillary's answers and emotions.

How many women had a change of, well, heart? How many women-of-a-certain-age who've lived through vast social change remembered being told they could lead or be liked? How many had their wrinkles and cleavage and cackles and feelings dissected at every move? For that matter, do any of them still work with men like the one in Salem who yelled at Hillary: "Iron my shirt!"

Status quo? Same old, same old? I don't think so.

Hillary said she found her voice in New Hampshire. But she also found that very narrow line that women still have to walk. Hillary got her groove back.

Ellen Goodman's e-mail address is


FACTBOX: Clinton proposes economic stimulus plan
Friday, January 11, 2008

(Reuters) - Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton on Friday proposed a $70 billion emergency spending package to help victims of the U.S. housing crisis and stave off what she sees as a coming recession.

Here are the key aspects of the former first lady's stimulus plan:

* Create a $30 billion Emergency Housing Crisis Fund for U.S. states to help families unable to make mortgage payments.

* Reduce the number of home foreclosures by introducing a 90-day moratorium on subprime foreclosures and an automatic rate freeze on subprime mortgages of at least five years.

* Provide $25 billion in emergency funds to help people pay expensive heating bills.

* Accelerating $5 billion in investments in energy efficiency and alternative energy programs.

* Invest $10 billion in extending and broadening unemployment insurance for the jobless.

* Have Congress prepare a $40 billion tax rebate package to be released if needed to low-income and middle class workers if economic conditions in the country deteriorate.


"Campaign for Clinton begins in the county"
By Conor Berry, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Monday, January 28, 2008

PITTSFIELD — Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama may have momentum on his side following Saturday's decisive primary win in South Carolina, but here in Berkshire County, rival Hillary Rodham Clinton has a growing army of local supporters in her corner.

Many of those supporters turned up yesterday for a late-afternoon rally at American Legion Post 68 on Wendell Avenue.

The rally, organized by Massachusetts Democratic Committee member and former Middle Berkshire Register of Deeds Mary K. O'Brien, was the official Berkshire County campaign kickoff in support of the former first lady, described by many yesterday as a longtime friend of the region.

But it was state Rep. Christopher N. Speranzo, D-Pittsfield, who said county residents still remember and appreciate the former first lady's efforts on behalf of the Berkshires and the city of Pittsfield, particularly her July 14, 1998, visit to the county during her "Save America's Treasures" tour.

Clinton, standing in front of Pittsfield's Colonial Theatre, described the historic venue as a "rare jewel of architecture," with "some of the best acoustics in the world," and she praised the Berkshires as "one of the great cultural centers of our country."

That, according to Speranzo and others, is the sort of ongoing support county residents can expect if the New York senator makes it to the White House.

Pittsfield Mayor James M. Ruberto, an avowed Clinton supporter, said this presidential race is not about gender politics. It's about electing someone who is wise enough and qualified enough to lead the nation toward prosperity, he said.

"When I look around, I see women for Hillary. I'm a man for Hillary," said Ruberto, receiving a loud burst of applause from the lively crowd. "We need a prudent ... executive from Day One."

State Rep. Daniel E. Bosley, D-North Adams, simultaneously bashed the economic policies of the Bush administration while lauding Clinton as the candidate most likely to restore America's tarnished reputation abroad.

The nation's weakened economy and crushing deficit "threatens to impoverish our children and our children's children," Bosley said, noting that Clinton is "by far the most experienced candidate."

Local Democrats yesterday vowed to ratchet up their efforts on behalf of Clinton, including placing signs in prominent places and holding "standouts" in high-traffic areas.

To reach Conor Berry:, (413) 496-6249

Current Delegate Count

January 30, 2008

February 01, 2008

"Long road taken to Hillary Clinton"
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Monday, February 04, 2008

During the first year of my life in the Berkshires, women were finally given the vote. The 19th Amendment, introduced in 1919, the year I was born, became a reality in 1920. In over four score years, women made strides leading to this historic year when one who is eminently qualified is a candidate for president.

I dare say I should not be supporting just any woman. She would have to be a Democrat who has shown years of working successfully on political, economic and social issues. And there she is!

It took two Berkshire men to recognize her recently. From head and heart, Rep. Daniel Bosley and Mayor James Ruberto reminded us of her accomplishments over more than three decades as she instituted practical programs to help so many people in need. She has made a difference.

I hope I shall still be here next January to see her take the oath of office.

Stockbridge, Massachusetts


"Super Tuesday"
The Berkshire Eagle - Editorial
Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Massachusetts conducted its first presidential primary in memory that meant something yesterday, and voters responded by flocking to the polls. For Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, the day brought a satisfying victory in his old home state, though Berkshire County voters were less enamored than their counterparts elsewhere, while the Bay State, and the Berkshires, were once again Clinton country, as they were in 1992 and 1996.

Exit polls indicated that illegal immigration and the economy were the decisive issues in the state's Republican primary, which played into the strengths of Mr. Romney. Immigration is less of a hot-button issue in the Berkshires than it is in eastern Massachusetts, and with the Berkshires receiving little or no benefit economically from Mr. Romney's one term as governor, the support for Mr. Romney in the heavily populated eastern end of Massachusetts did not manifest itself here, to say the least. Arizona Senator John McCain trounced him soundly in the Berkshires.

Polls had indicated going into Tuesday that Mr. Romney would take the state's delegates, which raises questions about Mr. McCain's decision to spend considerable time in the Bay State in the days leading up to Super Tuesday. Mr. McCain, who has trouble disguising his contempt for Mr. Romney, may have succumbed to the temptation to pursue a long-shot upset in hopes of spiting Mr. Romney when his time could have been better spent campaigning in tightly contested states.

Massachusetts was Clinton country when Bill Clinton was president, backing him strongly in two elections, and that support translated to Senator Hillary Clinton who, as a graduate of Wellesley, has Massachusetts connections to cite. Ms. Clinton touted her experience and her ambitious health care reform plan to Massachusetts voters, and did particularly well with voters who identified themselves as moderates. Her position as a senator from bordering New York undoubtedly helped her as well.

Ms. Clinton captured Berkshire County, thanks in large part to a decisive victory in Pittsfield. Mayor Ruberto is a strong supporter of the New York senator, as is much of the Democratic Party apparatus in the city, and Ms. Clinton is remembered fondly for the ringing speech she made in Pittsfield championing the Colonial Theatre when the renovation project was in its infancy. Senator Barack Obama did well in more liberal sections of the Berkshires like Williamstown and South County.

Senator Obama was endorsed by Massachusetts Senators John Kerry and Ted Kennedy, as well as Governor Deval Patrick. If these endorsements matter to Bay State voters they didn't matter as much as did their long affection for Ms. Clinton or their belief that she is the stronger presidential candidate. Senator Kennedy drew comparisons between Senator Obama and his brother John in endorsing the Illinois Democrat, but JFK was assassinated 45 years ago, and the memory of the hope and inspiration the former president brought to the nation may not resonate as it once did, certainly not among younger voters for whom he is a figure from history, admired perhaps, but historical just the same.

Yesterday was a good day for democracy in Massachusetts, and by all accounts, across the nation, as polling booths were packed (by U.S. standards) with eager voters. It's a crucial election, and voters are responding.


"Clinton up against the ropes"
By Tom Raum, Associated Press, WASHINGTON
The Berkshire Eagle Online
Thursday, February 21, 2008

She's still fighting, but it's awfully hard to find encouraging news for Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Democratic homestretch.

She's behind in money, delegates and momentum. She's selling experience when everyone seems to want change. And all the cheering for the man who could be the first black president is drowning out any excitement for the first female.

Once deemed the nearly inevitable Democratic nominee, Clinton has now lost 10 presidential contests in a row as the battle heads for a March 4 showdown in Texas and Ohio — states she must win. By most measures, the combative New York senator is on the ropes.

"If she wins in Texas and Ohio, I think she'll be the nominee," former President Clinton said yesterday during a speech to his wife's supporters in Beaumont, Texas. "If you don't deliver for her, I don't think she can be."

Those are big "ifs."

Rival Democrat Barack Obama won Hawaii caucuses and Wisconsin's primary on Tuesday, extending his winning streak and making him difficult to overtake in the remaining 16 races. Clinton has not won a contest since Super Tuesday on Feb. 5.

Helping keep her afloat is her thin lead among nearly 800 superdelegates, made up largely of party and elected Democratic officials — but some of those who once backed her have recently switched to Obama. Others seem rattled.

Of course, few political veterans are prepared to dismiss a Clinton candidacy before all the votes are in. There have been gravity-defying comebacks before in the family. And Obama is still short of the 2,025 delegates needed to clinch the nomination.

Clinton clearly is capable of dragging the race out for weeks, even if the turnaround she is seeking does not materialize on March 4.

"It's fair to say the race isn't over yet, but I think Senator Clinton must win Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania to have any shot at getting the nomination," said Democratic strategist and pollster Mark Mellman, who is not affiliated with either candidate. "Obama could lose all three and still get the nomination. So at this point, he's got more ways to win than she does." Pennsylvania votes on April 22.

One by one, Clinton's original strengths have taken hits as the first-term Illinois senator's vital signs have improved.

Raising a million dollars a day for most of this year, Obama has outpaced Clinton in fundraising and spending. "Anybody who won't tell you it's disheartening is lying to you," said one of Clinton's New York fundraisers, John Catsimatidis. "The old adage is don't count the Clintons out yet. I still stick by that. We wait and see what happens."

She's behind in delegates, and the gap has been growing. She must win 57 percent of the remaining primary and caucus delegates to erase Obama's lead, a daunting task requiring landslide-size victories. Obama has 1,178 pledged delegates won in primaries and caucuses in The Associated Press' count. Clinton has 1,024. An additional 1,025 remain to be awarded; it takes 2,025 to win the nomination.

Momentum? That clearly goes to Obama, who has been building support among women and white working-class voters who have long formed the core of Clinton's candidacy.
Yesterday, he picked up the support of the 1.4 million-member Teamsters, his fourth labor endorsement in a week. Union support is expected to be key in the upcoming Ohio and Pennsylvania races.

Furthermore, in a strategy that must rankle the Clinton team, all-but-sure GOP nominee John McCain is now speaking as if it were a foregone conclusion that he will be running against Obama in the fall. In a victory speech in Wisconsin on Tuesday night, McCain contrasted his own national security experience with "an eloquent but empty call for change," a reference to Obama.

Mark Penn, Clinton's chief strategist, said the campaign has strong organizations and substantial resources in both Texas and Ohio. "We expect to be in a very good position coming out of those states," he said. He dismissed Obama's rise in various polls as just a reflection of his recent string of victories.

But unaligned Democratic pollster Geoffrey Garin said failure of the former first lady to win in both Texas and Ohio on March 4 could increase pressure among superdelegates and other party officials "to start rallying around someone and not have this big brawl at the convention."

The stakes are even higher because the Clinton campaign itself "established the two states as its firewall," Garin said.


"Can't buy Mass. votes: Obama raised more funds; Clinton got more delegates"
By Evan Lehmann, Berkshire Eagle Washington Bureau
Monday, February 25, 2008

WASHINGTON — Barack Obama overshadowed Hillary Rodham Clinton's fundraising efforts last month, tripling the amount in contributions captured by the former first lady in Massachusetts.

Obama raised $1.5 million from Bay State donors in January, adding to the $36.1 million he reaped nationally last month and providing a hammer to smash Clinton's $421,000 harvest in Massachusetts.

Still, just five days after the reporting period closed, Clinton collected the important windfall: primary votes. She easily won the state with a 15-point lead over Obama, who finished with just 41 percent of the vote and 38 delegates to Clinton's 55 delegates.

"More money doesn't necessarily mean more votes," said Nathan Gonzales, editor of the Rothenberg Political Report. "In this case, my guess is that Senator Kennedy significantly increased Sen. Obama's fundraising within the state." Kennedy and Sen. John F. Kerry, both Massachusetts Democrats, endorsed Obama and have been actively campaigning for him. Both are in Texas this week, which hosts a contest on March 4 that is seen as a crucial test for Clinton's faltering campaign.

Nationally, Obama accelerated his fundraising apparatus, reflecting the enthusiasm his candidacy is generating among Democrats.

Altogether, he has raised $138.2 million from individual contributors, compared with Clinton's $121 million, according to disclosure reports filed with the Federal Election Commission on Thursday.

Clinton raised $13.9 million last month, less than half the amount garnered by Obama, $36. 1 million.

McCain's fundraising

On the Republican side, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the likely nominee, found $322,900 in Massachusetts last month, bringing his national fundraising to $11.7 million for the one-month period.

Altogether, he has raised $49.2 million, according to FEC records.

Before Romney left the race

Former Gov. Mitt Romney, meanwhile, tapped his home state for $596,139 in January. The reporting period ended days before he suspended his presidential campaign.

Nationally, Romney raised $9.7 million last month and $63.6 million since launching his campaign more than a year ago. He also infused $6.95 million of his own money into the campaign in January, bringing his personal contribution to $42.2 million.

The Boston Globe, Op-Ed: CARYL RIVERS
"The double standard"
By Caryl Rivers, March 3, 2008

THE "SATURDAY Night Live" skit that showed reporters fawning over Barack Obama and tossing him puffball questions, while grilling Hillary Clinton like a felony suspect, wasn't too far off the mark.

The media coverage of the Clinton campaign will be, for years to come, a textbook case of how the coverage of female candidates differs from that of males. Women have to walk a very thin line when they run for high office. On the one hand, they have to appear tough, nothing at all like a sniveling female, and when they do talk tough, they are called "shrill."

The media loved Hillary when she put her hand on Obama's and said it was a privilege to be on the same podium; they hated her when she slammed him for giving out what she called misleading information on her healthcare plan. (After googling "shrill" and "Hillary" after that encounter, I stopped at 20 pages.)

At the same time, the news media have gone into a deep swoon over Barack. Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz said, "Look, I haven't seen a politician get this kind of walk-on-water coverage since Colin Powell a dozen years ago flirted with making a run for the White House. I mean, it is amazing."

Meanwhile, Hillary's credentials have been the subject of intense scrutiny. Weeks ago, MSNBC's Chris Matthews dissed her as a cheated-on wife for whom voters feel sorry. "Let's not forget, and I'll be brutal," Matthews said, "the reason she's a US senator, the reason she's a candidate for president, the reason she may be a front-runner, is that her husband messed around."

It's certainly fair to question to what degree Hillary's experience as first lady should count on her resume. But the media in general have not given as much critical scrutiny to Obama's record. As Gloria Steinem noted in her much-discussed New York Times op-ed piece, what if Obama had been a woman, with the same resume? A female candidate with his resume would have been laughed at if she said she wanted to run for president.

And while, fortunately, media coverage of the campaign has been largely free of racism, the same can't be said for sexism. On the blog Mediacrit, Ashleigh Crowther noted the widespread coverage of Hillary's laugh. Patrick Healy of The New York Times dubbed it the "Clinton Cackle," Frank Rich of the Times called it "calculating," and pundit Dick Morris called Clinton's laugh "loud, inappropriate, and mirthless. . . . A scary sound that was somewhere between a cackle and a screech."

And then there was Hillary's cleavage. When she appeared on the Senate floor with a modest décolletage, you would have thought Pamela Anderson had wandered into the chamber in a bustier. According to Media Matters for America, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on July 30, MSNBC gave 23 minutes and 42 seconds to segments discussing Clinton's cleavage. CNN devoted 3 minutes and 54 seconds to the story, while Fox News devoted none.

CNBC's John Harwood thought it was all part of some master plan. "When you look at the calculation that goes into everything that Hillary Clinton does, for her to argue that she was not aware of what she was communicating by her dress is like Barry Bonds saying he thought he was rubbing down with flaxseed oil," he said on "Meet the Press."

Then, of course, came the "pimp" episode. MSNBC reporter David Shuster suggested on the air that the Clinton campaign had "pimped out" 27-year-old Chelsea Clinton by having her place phone calls to Democratic Party superdelegates.

The media coverage of Ted Kennedy's endorsement of Obama was nothing short of worshipful. The media spun a narrative about the torch being passed directly from John F. Kennedy to Obama; from one mythic young man to another, and no antiheroic women in between, thank you. No surprise that the nearly all-male titans of 24-hour cable fell in love with this classic male epic.

Of course, the Obama narrative is tailor-made for the news media. He's a fresh face, he's calling for an end to the divisive politics we all hate, and to many he embodies redemption for America's racist past. But the first female president would not exactly be chopped liver. It would also be a huge departure from our patriarchal past, and that idea has been greeted with lukewarm enthusiasm by the news media in general. As Clinton said, her election would be "a real challenge to the way things have been done, and who gets to do them, and what the rules are."
Caryl Rivers is a Boston University journalism professor and the author of "Selling Anxiety: How the News Media Scare Women."

The Boston Globe, Op-Ed, ELINOR LIPMAN
"She's not my cup of tea"
By Elinor Lipman, March 3, 2008

MAY I advance the notion that in the year 2008, a woman may dislike a fellow woman and not be considered a traitor to her gender?

First, I'm all set with role models: my doctor, my agent, my current and last six editors, my editor in chief, my publisher, my mayor (Claire Higgins, Northampton), the president of my college, my orthodontist, my state Senate president, and my speaker of the US House are all women. I'll add, because I can already sense the hackles rising, a couple of personal feminist touchstones: I sued a former employer 30 years ago on the grounds of equal pay for equal work, and won. I didn't take my husband's name when I married 32 years ago, and for months carried in my purse a copy of the law stating that I could use any name as long as it wasn't for the purpose of defrauding.

So here's what I'm leading up to: I love Barack Obama and I have a low threshold for Hillary Clinton. The same goes for my furiously e-mailing friends and four-fifths of my knitting group, most of us in the demographic alleged to be Clinton-prone.

Go ahead, ferocious readers: Insult my pals who are smart, witty, kind, intuitive women of substance, mothers, grandmothers, daughters, and diehard Democrats. We feel no guilt and we don't apologize for our votes. We trust our taste in people; some of us make a living studying them toward a goal of putting them into books. Words and dialogue are our daily bread. Many decades of exposure to the human race give us a right to discriminate against a candidate who can't put a joke across, whose timing and ear are, well, not about to be studied at Comedy College.

Survival of the fittest, especially in junior high and high school, taught us that we liked some girls and we didn't like others. Because we played sports, we saw women as both teammates and adversaries. As charter subscribers to Ms. magazine, we feel equal to men in our hearts, minds, and bones. Plumbing does not ensure sisterly solidarity.

Questioning a woman's tone and delivery evokes charges of sexism, of biased preoccupations with niceness - as if no one ever complained about the Bob Dole snarl or the Dick Cheney sneer. How many times do we have to hear that when women get forceful, they are called shrill and angry, while bellicose males are lauded as strong and presidential? We get it. No one has questioned Senator Clinton's toughness, or her readiness to be commander in chief. I hope "hectoring" isn't a word that is more feminine than masculine, because I would like to employ it now.

My e-mailing friends took great and irretrievable offense when Senator Clinton rapped on our candidate's knuckles with "So shame on you, Barack Obama!" for campaign mailers criticizing her healthcare plan. Paired up with her Providence soliloquy ("The sky will open. The light will come down. Celestial choirs will be singing. Then everyone will know we should do the right thing and the world will be perfect!"), she crossed some line in our maternal hearts. "Hillary off the deep end?" two friends wrote in near-simultaneous e-mails. "Off her meds?" wrote another. I wondered if these double rhetorical whammies might be a paler version of Howard Dean's unintentional valedictory in Iowa in 2004.

Obama responded shortly thereafter. "There's nothing in that mailing that is inaccurate" or new, he said. Essentially the same charges had been out there for weeks. Clinton's anger, he suggested, might be "tactical. . . . The notion that somehow we're engaging in nefarious tactics I think is pretty hard to swallow."

This exchange, hers then his, reminded me of something I didn't immediately identify. Was I hearing players before a big game? No, that wasn't it; not enough trash-talking on Team Obama's part. And then it came to me: divorce, celebrity style. The calmer spouse, on the record, takes the high road, speaking in a more measured and sympathetic tone, mindful of the custody battle ahead and the judge who is listening: us.

"Tone" again, that word that carries the burden of female animus. Today I'm not talking about policy, experience, votes in any chamber. I'm not hearing the fine points of healthcare at this moment, but something narrower and closer to music, the felicitous qualities of grace, wit, and - oh, no, not that idiot's delight - sheer likability. Am I not allowed to gravitate toward that baseline human trait? That's how we live our lives, favoring the even-tempered over the snappish, the deft over the tone-deaf. Advantage, Senator Obama.
Elinor Lipman, a guest columnist, is the author of eight novels. Her most recent is "My Latest Grievance."



"Golden years for the Clintons: Huge tax payments and more than $10m to charity"
By Susan Milligan and Matt Negrin, (Boston) Globe Correspondent, April 5, 2008

WASHINGTON - Hillary and Bill Clinton earned more than $109 million in the past eight years, with the vast majority coming from the former president's book royalties and speaking fees, according to long-awaited tax returns her presidential campaign released yesterday.

The documents - the most detailed financial information the Clintons have made public since they left the White House and Hillary Clinton entered the US Senate - paint a picture of a prominent political couple whose personal financial fortunes grew exponentially after the former president entered the private sector.

The couple earned $357,629 in 2000, Clinton's last year in the White House and Hillary Clinton's first year campaigning for public office herself, and their combined income topped $20.4 million last year, according to the returns filed for 2000 to 2006 and the estimates for 2007.

Over the eight years, the Clintons paid nearly $34 million in federal taxes and gave more than $10 million to charity.

"Wow!" Dean Baker, codirector of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a Washington-based, nonpartisan think tank, said about the figures. The $3 million the couple contributed to charity last year "would be a lifetime of income for most people," who earn an average of $30,000 annually, he said.

Jay Carson, a spokesman for the Clinton campaign, said the Clintons have been generous with their new wealth, giving away nearly 10 percent of their income. Further, he said, the Clintons' tax burden was much higher than the typical wealthy taxpayer.

Over the past eight years, the Clintons were hit with a tax bill averaging about 31 percent of their adjusted gross income, compared with the average 21 percent paid by taxpayers earning more than $10 million in 2005, Carson said.

The returns, released as Hillary Clinton is battling for votes in the crucial April 22 primary in Pennsylvania, reveal a stark contrast between her personal finances and the working-class voters who are her core supporters.

Her newly revealed wealth "certainly doesn't enhance her ability to be able to appeal to working-class Pennsylvanians," said Don Kettl, director of the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania. But her rival, Barack Obama, whose healthy income is nonetheless a fraction of Clinton's, still is struggling to chip away at Clinton's longstanding advantage among that voting bloc, Kettl said.

Senator Clinton, who is locked in a tight race for the Democratic nomination, had been under heavy pressure to release her tax returns, especially after she loaned her campaign $5 million in January to shore up her finances.

For months, Clinton had said she would release her returns after she became the nominee, but as that prospect appeared less certain, she pledged to make them public before the April 15 filing deadline. Obama posted his returns for 2000 to 2006 online last week and challenged Clinton to do the same, saying voters deserved to know where the Clintons were getting their money.

Clinton posted her returns for those same years on her campaign website after 4 p.m. yesterday, a common tactic by politicians who hope that scrutiny will be diminished if complicated material is kept under wraps until late afternoon on a Friday.

And despite her pledge, it's not certain when she will release her 2007 return. The Clintons have asked for an extension to file last year's return because they are awaiting details of other income, including investments made by trustees of their blind trust, Carson said. He said the couple will not have to pay more than the $5.1 million they have already sent to the IRS for their 2007 earnings.

Carson said in a statement that "the Clintons have now made public 30 years of tax returns, a record matched by few people in public service. None of Hillary Clinton's presidential opponents have revealed anything close to this amount of personal financial information."

Being a freshman senator has been less lucrative for Obama; he and his wife, Michelle, earned $3.9 million from 2000 to 2006, according to his returns.

The Obamas also paid far less in taxes, $1.1 million, and gave away far less in charitable donations, less than $150,000, than the Clintons did during the same period. The Obamas' tax rate, about 33 percent, was similar to the Clintons', but the percentage of their income they gave to charity, about 4 percent, was less than half the Clintons'.

Obama also has yet to release his 2007 tax returns, but has pledged to do so later this month.

Senator John McCain of Arizona, the presumptive Republican nominee, has not released his tax returns for the past several years, drawing criticism from Democrats who say McCain is not living up to his image as a leader on congressional ethics.

McCain's campaign has said he plans to release his tax records this month. In his Senate financial disclosures, McCain lists his major sources of income as his Senate salary and Navy pension, totaling about $225,000 a year. His wife, Cindy, is an heiress to a beer distributorship, but the couple have a prenuptial agreement that has kept most of their assets in her name, the Associated Press reported.

The Clintons' returns show that Bill Clinton collected at least $12.6 million from 2000 to 2006 from his partnership with supermarket mogul Ronald W. Burkle. Clinton, who has served as an adviser to Burkle's Yucaipa Cos., a holding company for Burkle's investments, has pledged to dissolve the financial relationship if his wife gets the Democratic nomination, to avoid conflict-of-interest questions.

After President Bush's tax cuts of 2002, the couple's tax burden, as a percentage of overall income, dropped from about 37 percent in 2001, settling to about 30 percent during the tax years 2003 to 2006. Clinton tells campaign audiences that she did not want the Bush tax cuts, and she has proposed repealing the ones for the wealthy to help pay for programs, including universal healthcare.

The Clintons' day jobs accounted for a small fraction of their earnings; less than $2.3 million during the eight years came from Senator Clinton's salary and Bill Clinton's presidential pension. The former president, meanwhile, has collected $51.9 million from speeches and another $29.6 million in book royalties since 2000. More than $23 million of that came from his autobiography, "My Life."

Hillary Clinton earned more than $10 million from her "Living History."

"It's good to be an ex-president. They have incredible stories to tell, and they typically have enormous star power," Kettl said.


"Clinton stands at crossroads"
By Hillary Chabot, Berkshire Eagle Boston Bureau
Sunday, April 06, 2008

BOSTON — Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton got laughs on "Saturday Night Live", shed tears in New Hampshire and starred in her own "Sopranos"-style campaign advertisement.

But some elected officials believe it is time for her to exit stage right. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, asked Clinton to bow out last week.

Local Democrats support Clinton's right to fight until the end but have expressed concern about a divided party.

"As this drags on, I wonder if it's detrimental to the Democratic cause," said Democratic analyst Michael Shea. "As a Democrat who wants to win, the thing I worry about the most is the exhaustion level for both the candidates and everyone around them, and with this late convention, to go into that without knowing who the nominee is is going to be tough."

Shea struggled, as did many local Democrats, with the fact that Clinton is only about 200 delegates behind Sen. Barack Obama in the race to be her party's presidential nominee.

"It's an agonizing thing," Shea said. "If I was in her camp, I would not give up at this point."

During a recent appearance on WBZ radio, House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi, a longtime Clinton supporter, suggested that Michigan and Florida primaries should count.

"This is a very unusual year, as you can see. Michigan and Florida were never counted, and maybe they should be," DiMasi said. "I think she still has a chance."

Clinton won in the caucuses in both states, but Obama's name was not on the ballot in Michigan. Both states defied the rules of the Democratic Party and moved up their primary dates, so they were stripped of their delegates.

Even Obama supporters said Clinton should stay in the race.

Rep. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton, an Obama supporter who could be one of the Bay State's representatives at the Democratic Convention this summer, said Clinton should stay.

"She's a terrific candidate, and it still is a close race between Senators Obama and Clinton," Eldridge said.

Although Republican contender John McCain was crowned months ago, Eldridge said the race has inspired many to get involved.

"I think the number of people coming out to vote and campaign will translate to a Democratic victory," Eldridge said.

Others, such as superdelegate and Concord resident David O'Brien, are not so sure.

"If we don't have this solved by the convention, it will hurt the party," O'Brien said. He is pledged to Obama but said Clinton should see the race out until the last primary is held in June.

O'Brien also believes that the roughly 300 uncommitted superdelegates should make up their minds after the last primary.

"My question would be, 'What are you waiting for?' Everyone in America has had a chance to have a say," O'Brien said.

Others think it should go straight to the convention.

"I don't think it's bad for the Democratic Party to have a competitive process, as long as it's not divisive," said Sen. Steven C. Panagiotakos, D-Lowell.

Clinton supporter Rep. Kevin Murphy, D-Lowell, also does not see anything wrong with Clinton fighting up to the convention, although Obama supporter Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, does not agree.

"If she gets shut out, she should get out," Pignatelli said of the Pennsylvania primary on April 22. "I think the longer it goes on, the more it turns into a joke."

State Treasurer Timothy Cahill, who has not endorsed a candidate, said there should be a candidate before the convention.

"If it was me, I'd be insulted," Cahill said. "It's still a close race, and if people are confident Barack Obama is going to win, then what are they worried about?"

But even DiMasi admitted that Clinton does not have an even shot to clinch the nomination, saying she has a "40 percent chance."

Others are less kind.

"I still can't make the math work," said Tuft political professor Jeff Berry. "I think she's still looking into his past and hoping to find something disquieting."



"Small donors play huge role: In little installments, they fuel Obama, Clinton campaigns"
By Scott Helman, (Boston) Globe Staff, April 10, 2008

Unlike her neighbor, Barry Manilow, Edith Allen does not sell out the Las Vegas Hilton, make women's hearts flutter, or have the money to give $2,300 to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, as Manilow did last year.

But it is Allen, a 65-year-old retired schoolteacher in Palm Springs, Calif., who represents the more powerful political force for Clinton and her primary rival, Senator Barack Obama, as the two Democrats battle for the nomination and look ahead to November. In small installments, Allen has given Clinton $365 through February, and plans to give again before the pivotal Pennsylvania primary April 22.

"I help as much as I can - 100 there, 15 there, 10 there," said Allen, who has never before donated to a politician. "It's a big deal for me."

Allen exemplifies the "small donor" phenomenon that has reshaped the political landscape this election cycle, as hundreds of thousands of voters - many of them newcomers to politics - invest themselves in the presidential campaign like never before. Lured in part by e-mails that seem to come from the candidates themselves, low-dollar donors develop relationships with the campaigns, compelling them to give more and more money.

Obama and Clinton have aggressively cultivated these armies of supporters, turning to them again and again in times of need. But while small donors are fundamental to both campaigns, they are the backbone of Obama's candidacy - the reason he has shattered fund-raising records and outraised Clinton and the Republican candidates.

Obama's fund-raising success presents him with a quandary, however. He said last year that he intended to take public financing if he won the nomination. But that would mean giving up the right to raise general-election money from supporters, a huge sacrifice for a candidate who has proved he can raise tens of millions of dollars from small donors alone.

"We have created a parallel public financing system where the American people decide if they want to support a campaign, they can get on the Internet and finance it," Obama told supporters at a campaign fund-raiser Tuesday night in Washington.

"And they will have as much access and influence over the course and direction of our campaign that has traditionally [been] reserved for the wealthy and the powerful."

These small donors are not the executives, bankers, and lawyers who typically give the maximum allowable amount per election to presidential hopefuls. They are retirees, teachers, church organists, priests, and firefighters. They are young and old, and they share a conviction that the future of their country is at stake.

Some wait for payday, Social Security, or pension checks before sending another $10 or $25, often over the Internet. Many have given five or 10 times and plan to keep giving. And they are more than just funders - many go on to volunteer as door-knockers and recruiters for their candidates.

Barbara Bird, a 60-year-old librarian in Hingham who had given $253 to Obama through February, recalled seeing Obama tout his low-dollar donors on TV recently.

"I was yelling to the TV, 'That's me! That's me!' " Bird said. "You just feel that if you can just keep it going, then hopefully people are going to start thinking right and do the right thing and be smart and vote for him."

For Democrats, the accumulated power of such small donors is growing.

Through February, Clinton and Obama had raised a combined $109.4 million in primary funds from contributors giving $200 or less, according to The Campaign Finance Institute, a nonpartisan Washington research center.

Obama raised $76.3 million to Clinton's $33.1 million. And both candidates are relying more on small donors as the primary campaign goes on.

The presumptive Republican nominee, Senator John McCain of Arizona, is relying far less on low-dollar donors than either Democrat.

"The character of the Democratic nomination race has empowered voters," said Anthony Corrado, a specialist on campaign finance at Colby College. "That's given voters a stake in these campaigns and encouraged them to contribute."

Small donors began playing a greater part in presidential fund-raising after the 2002 campaign finance reform, which imposed new limits on what donors could contribute.

The new rules, combined with political campaigns' mastery of the Internet as a fund-raising tool, have led to a spike in low-level giving, allowing candidates to spend less time headlining fund-raising receptions and more time engaging voters.

In the 2004 race, President Bush and Senator John F. Kerry each raised about $80 million from donors giving $200 or less. But up to this point in the 2008 race, small donors have given far more to Democrats.

Susan James, a 56-year-old out-of-work accountant in Phoenix, had never made a campaign contribution before giving to Clinton, whom she respects for competing in a "man's world."

James gave the New York senator $230 in chunks through February, and, like many small donors, said she now feels invested in Clinton's candidacy.

"You do feel a sense of ownership in the campaign when you see the clips of Hillary on TV, or you see the clips of the ads," said James, who also signed up to call voters on Clinton's behalf. "Even though it's a small part, you can say, 'I'm playing a part.' I've never felt this connected."

Brad Agar, a 30-year-old restaurant manager from Kent, Ohio, feels invested in Obama, to whom he had given $208 through February.

"Those little donations add up to a big thing, and that's what I feel politics is about - millions of people coming together to do something big," he said.

Many donors say they never imagined being this involved in a presidential campaign.

"I've shunned it. I've been kind of repelled by it," said Mortimer Barron, a church organist and musician in Providence who has used his credit card to give more than $1,000 to Obama. "He's attracted a lot of people who have never been active, because we see the incredible things he's doing."

Because these donors have not reached the maximum contribution limit, the campaigns can hit them up over and over.

Indeed, many low-dollar contributors say they often send donations in response to e-mail pleas from the campaigns, or when they sense from the news that their candidate needs a boost. (Obama's best fund-raising period in January was the day after he unexpectedly lost the Jan. 8 New Hampshire primary.)

For Allen, the former schoolteacher in Palm Springs, it is Obama's fund-raising advantage over Clinton - and thus his ability to blanket Pennsylvania with TV ads - that is prompting her to "dig up" some more money to help the New York senator.

"I probably won't reach the maximum, but I might," Allen said. "It depends on how long this thing drags out."
Scott Helman can be reached at

"For Democrats, worrisome divide along class lines: Pa. split suggests trouble ahead"
By Peter S. Canellos, (Boston) Globe Staff, April 20, 2008

PITTSBURGH - The Lawrenceville neighborhood, with its car-repair shops and convenience markets giving way to coffee houses and yoga salons, represents both sides of the upscale/downscale electoral coalition that Democrats hope will carry them to the White House in November.

But Lawrenceville, like many Democratic precincts, is increasingly divided in its politics along class lines. Last week, while 27-year-old Bronwyn Loughren, co-owner of an art gallery called La Vie, was expressing disgust over Hillary Clinton's hardball political tactics, beautician Jenny Skrinjar, 53, of the Style North Hair Salon was fuming about Barack Obama. "He looks down on people," she said.

It is a division that seems to have widened as the pri maries moved to blue-collar states such as Ohio. And it's just one of several fractures in the Democratic coalition: Obama and Clinton have split the Democrats along age and some racial lines as well.

But the class issue looms the largest in Pennsylvania, which will go to the polls on Tuesday. And party leaders - including roughly 300 undecided "superdelegates" nationwide who will probably provide the winning margin for either candidate - will be looking at more than who wins and who loses: They will look for whether either candidate can penetrate a class barrier that has seen lower-income white Democrats go for Clinton while higher-income voters generally prefer Obama.

Increasingly, the fear among Democrats is that one group or the other might opt for Republican John McCain, should their favored Democrat not get the nomination. And in places like Lawrenceville, a section of Pittsburgh, preferences have only hardened as voters have gotten to know more about the candidates.

"I don't know if I could vote for Hillary Clinton" if she were the nominee, said Loughren, the gallery owner who supports Obama and decries Clinton's "fierceness." "Once I concentrate on what John McCain's positions are, I might go for her. But right now I don't know."

Clinton's campaign, for its part, has asserted repeatedly that blue-collar voters are crucial to winning the big industrial states that often swing between the Democrats and Republicans in presidential elections - places like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.

Supporters of Obama, who has generated strong enthusiasm among younger voters, blacks, and people with negative views of Washington, have countered that his backers won't necessarily come out for Clinton. If so, it would deprive the Democrats of a chance to make inroads in places like Virginia, North Carolina, and Colorado - all traditionally Republican states that could move into the Obama camp in the fall.

"I don't think the electoral map will look like it did when I ran," the 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry, now an ardent Obama backer, said last week, in predicting that having Obama could boost the party's chances in some former GOP strongholds.

Obama, whose comments about the "bitter" feelings of working-class voters dominated campaign news last week, could make the superdelegates' decision easier by winning a large share of Pennsylvania's blue-collar voters on Tuesday. A stronger-than-expected performance by Obama among lower-income whites would go a long way to shoring up his support among superdelegates, analysts said.

But no one knows whether he can do it.

"That's the $64,000 question right now," said Scott Keeter, director of survey research for the Pew Research Center, who has conducted a detailed analysis of the "traits and values" of different Democratic constituencies and why they're lining up with either Clinton or Obama.

Keeter pointed out that white Democrats without a college education have voted overwhelmingly for Clinton in most states - sometimes by margins of 20 and even as high as 40 points.

"It's clear that there are reservations on the part of some socially conservative voters about Obama," Keeter said.

The Pew survey suggested that racial attitudes may play a role: Democrats who said they objected to interracial dating or felt civil rights laws had gone too far were far more likely to say they'd consider supporting McCain over Obama in November, should Obama defeat Clinton.

But not everyone is writing off Obama's chances with working-class voters.

Bill Green, a public relations consultant and local political analyst in Pittsburgh, said he believes Obama's controversial comments - suggesting working-class voters are bitter about their economic plight, and thus cast their votes based on religious values or gun ownership - might actually help him with Pennsylvania's blue-collar voters, who are indeed frustrated.

"I'm not sure he was so far off the mark," said Green. "I don't think that was a misstep for him."

Added Green: "The only people who have tried to make those comments an issue are Washington people. I think he hit on something here. These citizens have been bypassed since the steel mills went down in the '70s."

In Lawrenceville, once a community of factory workers for the steel mills that lined the Allegheny River, there remains a large working-class population of multiple races, existing alongside a growing artistic community that has attracted fine restaurants and music clubs.

Working-class people in Lawrenceville had mixed reactions to Obama, with blacks in particular standing by him.

"Most of us are hoping and praying that he can make a change for everyone - every type of individual in the United States," said Loretta Millender, an African-American waitress at the lunch counter at Starr Discount store. "We need a young president that has different thoughts than the old presidents have."

At the front counter of Starr Discount, however, Donna Blakely, who is white, expressed a preference for Clinton: "She's smart. She knows what she's doing. She's going to help the people and she's not for the war."

Blakely said she just doesn't get Obama. "I don't know what he's talking about," she said quietly. "He just doesn't make any sense to me."

Not all working-class whites agreed. Some men, in particular, seemed receptive to Obama's anti-Washington message.

"They're all a den of thieves, so you go with the boy who hasn't been there so long," said Bill Deeley, a 62-year-old retiree. "He's not a senior member of the [Washington] club."

Few white working-class women agreed. Several expressed open suspicion about Obama, with beautician Barbara Kelly, 57, saying, "I just don't trust him. That's my own feeling. That's the bottom line. It's just my feeling. More will come out. We all have our feelings, right?"

And Kelly, like other working-class women who were interviewed, approved of the harder edge that Clinton has been showing recently.

"She's a good strong woman," Kelly said.

The preference was largely reversed among more upscale voters, who tended to find Clinton too harsh and Obama a breath of fresh air.

Bill Barron, a developer who is renovating two houses in Lawrenceville, said, "I'm an Obama supporter. I believe that he may have the ability to unite the country in a way it hasn't been for a long time, and we need to be united."

Until recently, Democrats seemed to think that this campaign, between people seeking to be the first black or first woman president, could elevate the party to new heights. But in the nearly four months since the Iowa caucuses, voting patterns have become more predictable, and analysts can only wonder if people's views are hardening in a negative way as well.

"There certainly are recognizable patterns in who is supporting whom, and those patterns keep reappearing, whether you're talking about polls or the actual voting in states," said Keeter, of the Pew Research Center, citing in particular Obama's big support among blacks and young people, and Clinton's support among the white working class.

Asked if he would expect any big changes in the pattern in Pennsylvania, Keeter sighed and concluded, "No, I really wouldn't."


"Locals fight for votes"
By Amy Carr, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Nationally, it is a war of words. Ideas. Character. But to grass roots troops like Williamstown Democrat Margaret J. Ware, today's Pennsylvania primary is a battle of neighborhood phone calls, pamphlet drops and sore knuckles.

"I have knocked on probably 750 doors," said Ware, a former selectwoman and a former Massachusetts Senate candidate, who has traveled to the Philadelphia area for the past three weekends to promote New York Sen. Hillary Clinton in her fight against Illinois Sen. Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination. "It's a very interesting experience. This is vote by vote, because unlike in 2004, when there was a stark difference between the candidates, the differences aren't so stark. And it's understandable that people might not make up their minds until the last minute."

Today's presidential primary drew thousands of volunteers to the Keystone State for a blockbuster contest that could prove crucial in setting the November ballot.

"There are people here from all over the place because for the first time, Pennsylvania really matters," Ware said. "And I think people from Massachusetts are going to tune in to see if something happens that puts a period on the race, or if it's going to be a dot-dot-dot and on to Indiana."

Lee Harrison, chairman of Berkshire Brigades, the county's association of Democrats, said the 2008 campaign season marks the first time in his memory that groups of Massachusetts volunteers have flocked to the nearby state for a primary election.

"In 2004, a lot of us went up to New Hampshire, which is usually the biggest one locally," Harrison said. "But this is a very unusual year because the race is so tight. And I'm not surprised that people are traveling or going all out."

Like many Clinton and Obama volunteers, Ware spent hours this weekend targeting Montgomery County neighborhoods and canvassing streets for undecided registered Democrats hungry for thoughtful conversation. With an impassioned message at the ready, Ware made her way to door after door — and knocked.

"The TV is chock full of ads, and you go around with your list and try to get to people before the other side does," she said, traveling back to Williamstown last night. "The neighborhood I just finished canvassing, the Obama people had been there about an hour before. I wouldn't say (the mood) is very rah-rah. It's more of a marathon. And I know everyone is doing everything they can to try and make an impact."
To reach Amy Carr:, (413) 496-6233.

The Boston Globe, Quotes of Note, May 10, 2008

"Don't ever forget that we have a choice in this country. We can choose not to be divided; that we can choose not to be afraid; that we can still choose this moment to finally come together."-- BARACK OBAMA, to supporters after primaries in North Carolina, Indiana


"I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on . . . Senator Obama's support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again . . ."-- HILLARY CLINTON, in an interview published Wednesday in USA Today


May 19, 2008

I respectfully disagree with the negative feelings towards Hillary Clinton for U.S. President. Moreover, Barack Obama does not even know what he is doing or what he stands for & he is a clone of the do-nothing Democratic Liberal Elite Establishment—i.e., John Forbes Kerry L; while John McCain transformed from an Independent to a clone of “George Bush”. Hillary Clinton’s message is pretty straightforward: FISCAL SOLVENCY! She wants to keep everyone, including the people, out of crushing debts. That makes good public policy sense to me. Furthermore, Hillary’s message is the very supply-side economics that was at the crux of Ronald Reagan administration’s fiscal policies. She would produce growth for the Corporate Elite, too, just like George Will’s aforementioned favorite modern U.S. President. It is a sad day in America when the people will pay AGAIN for incompetence in the name of groundless negativity.

In response to an inquiry: What would life be like if the corporate powers I seem to disdain were somehow neutralized?: My answer is communitarianism via grassroots democracy. Instead of many thousands of self-serving lobbyists setting the agenda in Washington, D.C. and down, there would be elected delegates serving their communities via the voices of the people. The Corporate Elite’s agenda would be one of many items placed on the legislative & executive docket(s), and the merits of all sides would be considered instead of the done deal outcome we get today. I concur with a point that economic & financial incentives have been the upside of capitalism, but I do not believe we live in a traditional 1950’s-styled capitalistic society anymore. I believe the Corporate Elite has become so rich & powerful that they CONTROL the system instead of just influence it.

Lastly, there are 2-sides to Bill Gates! He has colluded with totalitarian authorities, such as in China, to persecute political dissidents, as well as given charitable monies to good causes at home & overseas. Bill Gates, along with his contemporary corporate counterparts, are all akin to aiding Adolf Hitler’s Nazi-German fascist State in persecuting those who work for Human Rights, Democracy & Freedom. That turns my stomach.

-Jonathan Melle


"Clinton delegate aims to help unify convention"
By Matt Pilon Staff Writer

EASTHAMPTON - As South Dakota and Montana residents cast votes Tuesday, Hillary Clinton delegate and Easthampton resident Shawn Robinson, 25, had one thing on his mind - the National Democratic Convention.

As a young African-American who supports Clinton, Robinson said he believes he is in a unique position to help unify the party at the August convention.

With the math favoring Obama, Robinson said he hopes the former first lady is at least offered the vice presidency if she concedes. 'She's got so many votes,' he said. 'I think the important thing is how far she's come as the first serious female contender for president.'

Democratic Committee Chairman and City Councilor Joseph P. McCoy said Easthampton has not sent a delegate to the convention since Bill Clinton ran in the 1990s. McCoy noted that the 1st Congressional District is the largest of 10 in the state.

'Just the fact you have someone from Easthampton from that huge geographic area is pretty impressive,' he said.

McCoy said Robinson has accomplished much without long-standing political ties. 'It's nice he is rewarded for true grassroots work,' he said.

Robinson won the vote in Greenfield in March to be one of six 1st District delegates sent to the Democratic convention, just barely beating out Rep. Daniel Bosley, D-North Adams.

He had to write to the campaign for approval to be placed on the ballot. After his organizing work, campaign staff was familiar with him and seemed to trust him, he said.

Whatever happens, Robinson said he is excited to have the opportunity to be present for an important moment in politics.

'This is the most historic Democratic convention to happen in a long time,' he said.

Robinson plans to attend workshops on grassroots organizing and media outreach while in Denver for the week of the convention. 'I'll be trying to meet other people from Massachusetts who are heavily involved,' he said. 'It's a great opportunity to meet people who care about the issues you care about.'

Parental influence

Robinson said his parents instilled in him a love of the Clintons from an early age. Robinson attended Holyoke Community College and then the University of Massachusetts, where he graduated this May with a sociology degree. He works for ServiceNet in Northampton in the mental health services division.

Now older, Robinson has come to the same political conclusion as his parents.

'I know her history and I know the work she's done,' he said. 'It was clear to me that Hillary was the woman.'

Robinson saw Clinton speak in Pittsfield as a child, and was delighted to be able to shake her hand and thank her earlier this year in Springfield during her visit to Springfield College at the end of January.

'It was a wonderful moment,' he said.

Robinson began organizing politically at the age of 14. He assisted in anti-teen pregnancy efforts in Berkshire County. He sat on the State Board of Higher Education for a year as a student at Holyoke Community College, and on the UMass Ways and Means Committee, which allocates approximately $2 million to student groups and organizations.

Robinson was the Clinton campaign coordinator for Easthampton, organizing volunteers both locally and regionally, leading up to the Super Tuesday primaries this year. He also sits on the Easthampton Democratic Committee as its outreach coordinator and is focusing on appealing to younger voters.

Robinson said he got involved at a young age because he saw things that he thought needed to be different.

Drawing in younger voters is difficult, but worthwhile, he said.

'You help them figure out what concerns and affects them most,' he said.

Robinson said he hopes to become more active in Easthampton politics in the near future, but also plans to continue to campaign for Democrats running for election or re-election in the state.
Matt Pilon can be reached at

Re: Thank you Mary Carey, & Hillary Clinton, ...

June 5, 2008

Dear Mary E. Carey, News Media, Pols, & the People:

Thank you, Mary, for sending me a copy of the following news article, below. I enjoyed reading it. I hope Shawn Robinson becomes a future Massachusetts Governor or the like someday in the future. I am saddened that Hillary Clinton lost her bid for the Democratic nomination for U.S. President. The Liberal Elite insiders "done-dealed" her for the past 3-plus years since their good old boy, John Forbes Kerry, lost to the Corporate Elite's good old boy George Walker Bush. The Democrats have burned down their house to cook the steaks, and now they have to rebuild for Barack Obama to have real chance at victory in November. I will now be supporting & voting for Obama for U.S. President.

My thoughts on John McCain are that he wants to continue in Iraq and begin a war in Iran while fighting in Afghanistan, while at the same time he wants to cut taxes. I believe spending Trillions of dollars on wars while cutting Trillions in taxes is Orwellian.

My thoughts on Barack Obama is that he wants to create new unfunded mandates by expanding the social entitlement programs not only without raising taxes on the masses, but also, by offering the poor & middle class tax breaks.

While Hillary Clinton's policies came with a price tag to the taxpayers, both McCain & Obama, respectively, are going to BANKRUPT our country in long-term fiscal insolvency! McCain is going to financially screw the masses while serving the military industrial complex and playing nice with Corporate America, while Obama is going to financially screw the Corporate Elite while playing nice with the military industrial complex in order to fund social entitlement programs for the poor and middle class.

Hillary Clinton was right! She was going to keep everyone happy with compromises so that our country and all who live and do business within it would have every fair opportunity to stay fiscally solvent. I am now supporting Barack Obama because I believe he represents a great majority of America, especially the People--or +90% of the citizenry. Now, both McCain & Obama have to explain how their fiscal math adds up & subtracts down to financial equity. I hope both of them will do so soon.

Thank you Mary Carey! You are my favorite journalist EVER! You stand for fairness, the people, and TRUTH! You are my Lois Lane even though I am not Superman/Clark Kent. You are one person I will always hold dear in my memory & heart, no matter if I am the village idiot or a future U.S. President, or anywhere in between. Please keep up your good work in journalism, and your unending advocacy for me amongst the wolves and sharks that swim in the pool of big business & politics. Your friendship to me is like Patrick Fennell, Glenn Heller, Jamie Cooney, and others, who have stood up for me against the bullies like "Luciforo", Carmen Massimiano, & Denis "Golddigger" Guyer! I appreciate the good people far more than the lousy ones.

In Truth,
Jonathan Melle


Hillary Clinton greeted supporters yesterday at the National Building Museum in Washington, where she ended her campaign. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

"Clinton ends her bid, hails Obama: 'Now it's time to restore the ties'"
By Sasha Issenberg, (Boston) Globe Staff, June 8, 2008

WASHINGTON - Without a hint of reservation in her voice or words, Hillary Clinton formally ended her presidential campaign yesterday and endorsed Barack Obama, a onetime rival she portrayed as a joint partner in a historic quest for the presidency.

"I think we all know that this has been a tough fight, but the Democratic Party is a family and now it's time to restore the ties that bind us together," the New York senator said at a midday rally at the National Building Museum. "We may have started on separate journeys, but today our paths merge."

Heralding Obama's candidacy as an opportunity to "stretch the boundaries of the possible," Clinton offered him her "full support" and vowed to "work my heart out" for his election. Her priorities were at stake, Clinton said, from universal healthcare coverage to control of the Supreme Court - suggesting that Obama would continue the "tremendous progress" made by her husband's administration.

"This is the yin and yang of the Democratic Party, and this speech created the perfect circle," said Mark Aronchick, a lawyer and fund-raiser who was chairman of Clinton's Pennsylvania campaign. "There will be nobody wondering, 'What does Hillary want?' "

Clinton, who had been officially running for president for 16 months, had declared "I'm in it to win it" upon declaring her candidacy last January. As late as Tuesday, after the final two primaries that gave Obama the necessary delegates for the nomination, Clinton insisted she would be "making no decisions" that night about whether to continue her candidacy.

Yesterday, she mounted a stage surrounded by her daughter, mother, and husband to wild applause from thousands of supporters. She waved, picked individual supporters out of the crowd, and took a little bow.

"Well, this isn't exactly the party I'd planned, but I sure like the company," Clinton said, framed by massive marbleized columns and encircled by supporters, some of whom leaned over the rafters beneath the museum's great hall.

The largely female crowd stretched down city blocks on a day when local broadcasters were advising citizens to remain indoors because of extreme heat. Sweat-soaked T-shirts outlined a campaign's life cycle in slogans, from "Rise Hillary Rise" to "Strength. Vision. Courage" to "Give 'Em Hill" to a freshly painted, homemade "Thank You."

"This room is the very definition of bittersweet," said congressman Anthony Weiner, a tireless Clinton campaigner who joined his New York colleagues in endorsing Obama last week.

Praising the putative Democratic nominee for "his strength and determination, his grace and his grit," Clinton called on her supporters to "join me in working as hard for Barack Obama as you have for me." Her invocation of his "Yes, we can!" catch phrase encountered a mix of applause, silence, scattered boos, and tears.

"I did see some Clinton supporters, female, that were crying their eyes out," said Charles Butler, 21, a onetime Clinton supporter from Guam who has signed on to work for Obama's campaign in New Mexico and hopes the two will end up on the same ticket.

"I think she has more work to do. But it will rely on Obama - it will depend on what he does."

In a statement from Chicago, where he took a day off from campaigning to play golf, Obama said: "Obviously, I am thrilled and honored to have Senator Clinton's support. But more than that, I honor her today for the valiant and historic campaign she has run."

Few candidates have ever acknowledged their defeats with as much fanfare, and few have found as much reason to claim victories. Clinton received, by varying counts, nearly 18 million votes - more than any other candidate to lose a party's nomination - and fought Obama to a near-draw through 54 primaries and caucuses.

"It's such a sad moment, it's a historic moment," said Maggie Bruck, 61, of Baltimore, a professor of psychiatry.

"We're all sad that she is not going to be the presidential candidate. She has been a wonderful spokesperson for the generation I grew up with."

While Clinton, the first woman to win a presidential primary, has consistently emphasized the momentous nature of her candidacy - invoking the pride of women born before they had the right to vote - yesterday she insisted bluntly that her gender had at times been a hindrance to the effort.

"Like millions of women, I know there are still barriers and biases out there, often unconscious, and I want to build an America that respects and embraces the potential of every last one of us," Clinton said. She declared that she would work for "equal opportunities, equal pay, and equal respect" for women and to ensure that "there are no acceptable prejudices in the 21st century."

Clinton encouraged supporters not to be dispirited by her loss, and said that her campaign would hasten the election of a woman to the White House. "Although we weren't able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it's got about 18 million cracks in it," she said.

The choice of venue was conspicuous for Clinton, hampered by consistent charges from Obama that her campaign represented little more than a continuation of old-style Washington politics. She withdrew not in Arkansas or Illinois or New York, states she called home at various points - or Connecticut, Massachusetts, or Texas, where she claimed formative experiences - but in the capital, in a building that has long housed federal bureaucrats and was the site of two of her husband's inaugural celebrations.

Yesterday's event, delayed to the weekend so that more of Clinton's backers could attend, was designed in part to demonstrate the strength of the coalition that carried her throughout the long nominating contest.

"She's going to make it very clear to some broken hearts in this room our desire to make sure there's not a Bush third term," said Weiner. "Barack Obama is not a bad second choice."

Yet a fresh choice lies ahead. And for some it will be hard.

One woman with a battered "Hillary" sticker on her lapel said she wanted to learn more about John McCain and was unsure about Obama. "One of the things that's obvious is we don't know a lot about him," said Lee Richmond, a 73-year-old Maryland Democrat. "Most of what I've heard him say are platitudes."


Barack Obama:


Barack Obama

Monday, June 09, 2008
What Is Obama's Economic Plan?
By Justin Fox, Time Magazine

When it comes to economic policy, Barack Obama's standard campaign crack that a John McCain Administration would amount to a third term of George W. Bush contains an awful lot of truth. Yes, McCain is a different man, with a different history, who will face a different set of challenges and opportunities than Bush has. But look through McCain's campaign pledges on the economy, and for the most part they really do amount to a continuation of two key policy priorities of the Bush Administration: cutting taxes and moving more economic decisions (and responsibilities) into the hands of individuals.

McCain economic adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin tried over the weekend to make the case that it's Obama who more closely resembles Bush because they're both big spenders. But it's hard to see that one sticking. If this election becomes a referendum on the recent performance of the U.S. economy, Obama wins and McCain loses. It's as simple as that.

Can Obama make this election a referendum on the U.S. economy? He's certainly going to try. If his speech in Raleigh, N.C., Monday afternoon was any indication, though, it's not going to be a slam dunk. It's clear that Obama's economic policies aren't a continuation of the Bush era. But what they are remains a hard-to-summarize mix of moderate Democratic standbys, populist silliness and the occasional truly visionary proposal. They haven't coalesced into anything you could really call a rallying cry. Not yet, at least.

The Raleigh speech kicked off a planned two-week push by the Obama campaign on the economy — most of it taking place in battleground states that went for Bush in 2004. This week he's talking mainly about short-term fixes "to help working families who are struggling to keep up"; next week, his aides say, the focus will be on the long run. The latter plays to Obama's strengths, as he can wax eloquent about the nation's need for investment in education, infrastructure and clean energy. For now, he and his advisers are reciting the details of his three big short-term priorities: a new $50 billion stimulus program, much of it routed into extending unemployment insurance beyond the current 26-week limit and helping struggling state governments; a more aggressive foreclosure-prevention effort, with $10 billion in funding; and a tax cut for Americans making less than $150,000 a year — to be financed with tax increases on those making more than $150,000 a year.

These add up to what you could call the stock Democratic response to tough times. They're not necessarily bad ideas, but they're not what you could call new or transformative either. Obama throws in a few populist panders — he favors a windfall profits tax on oil companies (which could discourage investment in new energy resources), and says he would oppose raising the Social Security retirement age (which if phased in over a long enough period would be the fairest, most sensible way to ease some of the system's long-run funding challenges). Near the end of the speech, there was a hint of Obama's "yes, we can" vision: a plan to give $4,000 a year in tuition aid to college students who pledge themselves to community or national service after graduation.

You can see the internal tensions within the Obama campaign in this laundry list. His economic advisers are moderate, mostly free-market-oriented wonks. His campaign strategists would presumably love it if he breathed a bit more populist fire. And the candidate himself balances a lifelong devotion to progressive causes with what seems to be a pretty keen sense of the tradeoffs inherent in economics. All of which helps explain why, for the moment at least, Obama's most compelling economic argument remains the fact that, on the economy, John McCain sounds an awful lot like George Bush.


The Boston Herald, Editorial, Page 16, Saturday, June 21, 2008

“Agent of `reform’ follows the money”

Barack Obama’s decision to reject public financing of his presidential campaign comes down, of course, to basic arithmetic. The man is a private fund-raising machine. He expects to raise at least two or three times the $84 million he would be allowed to spend under the public financing system and he knows a political advantage when he sees one.

But given his professed support for public financing not just in general but in this very election cycle, Obama and his handlers obviously felt his decision required a high-minded video explanation.

And it was as tortured as one might expect from a candidate who has based his entire campaign on being an agent of reform.

We learned that in fact, it is John McCain’s fault that Obama has been forced to go this route.

“We face opponents who have become masters at gaming this broken system,” Obama proclaimed in the video, adding that McCain “won’t stop the smears and attacks from his allies” in independent groups that can raise funds without limits.

That is a truly remarkable political contortion. We have yet to hear much of anything from independent GOP groups in this election cycle. And in fact Obama’s announcement came in the same week & the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees launched a national television ad that wildly distorts McCain’s statements on Iraq. Apparently if the baby in the ad is cute enough, it does not count as a smear from a political ally.

Ah, but Obama has washed his hands of independents, hasn’t he? In fact he has rejected donations from lobbyists and political action committees to his campaign and the Democratic Party, which we supported. But frankly when you are Barack Obama, who needs them? And he has discouraged his supporters from donating to outside groups but then again, so has John McCain.

Another defense for rejecting public financing and the spending limits that go with it: The majority of his donors have given his campaign less than $100 apiece and in Obama’s world that amounts to a new kind of public financing, free of special interests. Note that this year the prime beneficiary of that “system” is…Barack Obama.

The public financing system, adopted in the wake of Watergate, may indeed be imperfect and in need of reform. But for Barack Obama that is a problem best dealt with, conveniently enough, after the election.

We occasionally grow weary of the term “flip-flop” during political campaigns. In this case we are satisfied to use “broken promise”.


"Grim proving ground for Obama's housing policy: The candidate endorsed subsidies for private entrepreneurs to build low-income units. But, while he garnered support from developers, many projects in his former district have fallen into disrepair."
By Binyamin Appelbaum, (Boston) Globe Staff, June 27, 2008

CHICAGO - The squat brick buildings of Grove Parc Plaza, in a dense neighborhood that Barack Obama represented for eight years as a state senator, hold 504 apartments subsidized by the federal government for people who can't afford to live anywhere else.

But it's not safe to live here.

About 99 of the units are vacant, many rendered uninhabitable by unfixed problems, such as collapsed roofs and fire damage. Mice scamper through the halls. Battered mailboxes hang open. Sewage backs up into kitchen sinks. In 2006, federal inspectors graded the condition of the complex an 11 on a 100-point scale - a score so bad the buildings now face demolition.

Grove Parc has become a symbol for some in Chicago of the broader failures of giving public subsidies to private companies to build and manage affordable housing - an approach strongly backed by Obama as the best replacement for public housing.

As a state senator, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee coauthored an Illinois law creating a new pool of tax credits for developers. As a US senator, he pressed for increased federal subsidies. And as a presidential candidate, he has campaigned on a promise to create an Affordable Housing Trust Fund that could give developers an estimated $500 million a year.

But a Globe review found that thousands of apartments across Chicago that had been built with local, state, and federal subsidies - including several hundred in Obama's former district - deteriorated so completely that they were no longer habitable.

Grove Parc and several other prominent failures were developed and managed by Obama's close friends and political supporters. Those people profited from the subsidies even as many of Obama's constituents suffered. Tenants lost their homes; surrounding neighborhoods were blighted.

Some of the residents of Grove Parc say they are angry that Obama did not notice their plight. The development straddles the boundary of Obama's state Senate district. Many of the tenants have been his constituents for more than a decade.

"No one should have to live like this, and no one did anything about it," said Cynthia Ashley, who has lived at Grove Parc since 1994.

Obama's campaign, in a written response to Globe questions, affirmed the candidate's support of public-private partnerships as an alternative to public housing, saying that Obama has "consistently fought to make livable, affordable housing in mixed-income neighborhoods available to all."

The campaign did not respond to questions about whether Obama was aware of the problems with buildings in his district during his time as a state senator, nor did it comment on the roles played by people connected to the senator.

Among those tied to Obama politically, personally, or professionally are:

Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to Obama's presidential campaign and a member of his finance committee. Jarrett is the chief executive of Habitat Co., which managed Grove Parc Plaza from 2001 until this winter and co-managed an even larger subsidized complex in Chicago that was seized by the federal government in 2006, after city inspectors found widespread problems.

Allison Davis, a major fund-raiser for Obama's US Senate campaign and a former lead partner at Obama's former law firm. Davis, a developer, was involved in the creation of Grove Parc and has used government subsidies to rehabilitate more than 1,500 units in Chicago, including a North Side building cited by city inspectors last year after chronic plumbing failures resulted in raw sewage spilling into several apartments.

Antoin "Tony" Rezko, perhaps the most important fund-raiser for Obama's early political campaigns and a friend who helped the Obamas buy a home in 2005. Rezko's company used subsidies to rehabilitate more than 1,000 apartments, mostly in and around Obama's district, then refused to manage the units, leaving the buildings to decay to the point where many no longer were habitable.

Campaign finance records show that six prominent developers - including Jarrett, Davis, and Rezko - collectively contributed more than $175,000 to Obama's campaigns over the last decade and raised hundreds of thousands more from other donors. Rezko alone raised at least $200,000, by Obama's own accounting.

One of those contributors, Cecil Butler, controlled Lawndale Restoration, the largest subsidized complex in Chicago, which was seized by the government in 2006 after city inspectors found more than 1,800 code violations.

Butler and Davis did not respond to messages. Rezko is in prison; his lawyer did not respond to inquiries.

Jarrett, a powerful figure in the Chicago development community, agreed to be interviewed but declined to answer questions about Grove Parc, citing what she called a continuing duty to Habitat's former business partners. She did, however, defend Obama's position that public-private partnerships are superior to public housing.

"Government is just not as good at owning and managing as the private sector because the incentives are not there," said Jarrett, whose company manages more than 23,000 apartments. "I would argue that someone living in a poor neighborhood that isn't 100 percent public housing is by definition better off."

In the middle of the 20th century, Chicago built some of the nation's largest public housing developments, culminating in Robert Taylor Homes: 4,415 apartments in 28 high-rise buildings stretching for 2 miles along an interstate highway.

By the late 1980s, however, Robert Taylor Homes and the rest of the Chicago developments had become American bywords for urban misery. The roughly 30 developments operated for poor families by the Chicago Housing Authority were plagued by crime and mired in poverty.

In Stateway Gardens, a large complex just north of Robert Taylor, a study of 1990 census data found the per-capita annual income was $1,650. And the projects were falling apart after decades of epic, sometimes criminal, mismanagement.

Similar problems plagued public housing in other cities, leading the federal government to greatly increase funding to address the problems. Many cities, including Boston, mostly used that money to rehabilitate their projects, maintaining public control.

Chicago chose a more dramatic approach. Under Mayor Richard M. Daley, who was elected in 1989, the city launched a massive plan to let private companies tear down the projects and build mixed-income communities on the same land.

The city also hired private companies to manage the remaining public housing. And it subsidized private companies to create and manage new affordable housing, some of which was used to accommodate tenants displaced from public housing.

Chicago's plans drew critics from the start. They asked why the government should pay developers to perform a basic public service - one successfully performed by governments in other cities. And they noted that privately managed projects had a history of deteriorating because guaranteed government rent subsidies left companies with little incentive to spend money on maintenance.

Most of all, they alleged that Chicago was interested primarily in redeveloping projects close to the Loop, the downtown area that was seeing a surge of private development activity, shunting poor families to neighborhoods farther from the city center. Only about one in three residents was able to return to the redeveloped projects.

"They are rapidly displacing poor people, and these companies are profiting from this displacement," said Matt Ginsberg-Jaeckle of Southside Together Organizing for Power, a community group that seeks to help tenants stay in the same neighborhoods.

"The same exact people who ran these places into the ground," the private companies paid to build and manage the city's affordable housing, "now are profiting by redeveloping them."

Barack Obama was among the many Chicago residents who shared Daley's conviction that private companies would make better landlords than the Chicago Housing Authority.

He had seen the failure of the public projects in the mid-1980s as a community organizer at Altgeld Gardens, a large public housing complex on the far South Side.

He once told the Chicago Tribune that he had briefly considered becoming a developer of affordable housing. But after graduating from Harvard Law School in 1991, he turned down a job with Tony Rezko's development company, Rezmar, choosing instead to work at the civil rights law firm Davis, Miner, Barnhill & Galland, then led by Allison Davis.

The firm represented a number of nonprofit companies that were partnering with private developers to build affordable housing with government subsidies.

Obama sometimes worked on their cases. In at least one instance, he represented the nonprofit company that owned Grove Parc, Woodlawn Preservation and Investment Corp., when it was sued by the city for failing to adequately heat one of its apartment complexes.

Shortly after becoming a state senator in 1997, Obama told the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin that his experience working with the development industry had reinforced his belief in subsidizing private developers of affordable housing.

"That's an example of a smart policy," the paper quoted Obama as saying. "The developers were thinking in market terms and operating under the rules of the marketplace; but at the same time, we had government supporting and subsidizing those efforts."

Obama translated that belief into legislative action as a state senator. In 2001, Obama and a Republican colleague, William Peterson, sponsored a successful bill that increased state subsidies for private developers. The law let developers designated by the state raise up to $26 million a year by selling tax credits to Illinois residents. For each $1 in credits purchased, the buyer was allowed to decrease his taxable income by 50 cents.

Obama also cosponsored the original version of a bill creating an annual fund to subsidize rents for extremely low-income tenants, although it did not pass until 2005, after he had left the state Senate.

"He was very passionate about the issues," said Julie Dworkin of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, who worked with Obama on affordable housing issues. "He was someone we could go to and count on him to be there."

The developers gave Obama their financial support. Jarrett, Davis, and Rezko all served on Obama's campaign finance committee when he won a seat in the US Senate in 2004.

Obama has continued to support increased subsidies as a presidential candidate, calling for the creation of an Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which could distribute an estimated $500 million a year to developers. The money would be siphoned from the profits of two mortgage companies created and supervised by the federal government, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

"I will restore the federal government's commitment to low-income housing," Obama wrote last September in a letter to the Granite State Organizing Project, an umbrella group for several dozen New Hampshire religious, community, and political organizations. He added, "Our nation's low-income families are facing an affordable housing crisis, and it is our responsibility to ensure this crisis does not get worse by ineffective replacement of existing public-housing units."

One of the earliest public-private partnerships of the type supported by Daley and Obama took place in the Woodlawn neighborhood, a checkerboard of battered apartment buildings and vacant lots just south of the University of Chicago.

Grove Parc Plaza opened there in 1990 as a redevelopment of an older housing complex. The buildings had a new owner and a major renovation funded by the federal government. Even the name Grove Parc Plaza was new.

The owner, a local nonprofit company called Woodlawn Preservation and Investment Corp., was led by two of the neighborhood's most powerful ministers, Arthur Brazier and Leon Finney. Obama had relationships with both men. In 1999, he donated $500 of his campaign funds to another of their community groups, The Woodlawn Organization.

Woodlawn Preservation hired a private management firm, William Moorehead and Associates, to oversee the complex. In 2001, the company lost that contract and a contract to manage several public housing projects for allegedly failing to do its job. The company's head, William Moorehead, was subsequently convicted of embezzling almost $1 million in management fees.

Woodlawn Preservation hired a new property manager, Habitat Co. At the time, the company was headed by its founder, Daniel Levin, also a major contributor to Obama's campaigns. Valerie Jarrett was executive vice president.

Residents say the complex deteriorated under Moorehead's management and continued to decline after Habitat took over. A maintenance worker at the complex says money often wasn't even available for steel wool to plug rat holes. But as late as 2003, a routine federal inspection still gave conditions at Grove Parc a score of 82 on a 100-point scale.

When inspectors returned in 2005, they found conditions were significantly worse. Inspectors gave the complex a score of 56 and warned that improvements were necessary. They returned the following year and found things had reached a new low. Grove Parc got a score of 11 and a final warning. Three months later, inspectors found there had been insufficient improvements and moved to seize the complex from Woodlawn Preservation.

After negotiations with tenants, the government agreed to allow a new company, Preservation of Affordable Housing, a Boston-based firm, to replace Habitat as the manager of Grove Parc. The company is negotiating to buy the development, which would then be demolished and replaced with new housing.

Officials at Woodlawn Preservation say the government didn't give them enough money to properly maintain Grove Parc. Habitat's Jarrett declined to comment on Grove Parc in particular but said it is hard to manage something you don't own.

But other Chicago developers and housing activists say federal subsidies can be adequate if managed properly. They say Grove Parc stands apart for how badly it fell into disrepair.

Preservation of Affordable Housing has assumed responsibility for numerous subsidized complexes across the country.

"Grove Parc is quite an exception to what we've normally done because it's in such bad shape," said the nonprofit's chief executive, Amy Anthony. "These complexes are often tired, they're always denser than today's philosophy, but they're not usually anywhere near as deteriorated."

Similar problems also plagued the next generation of affordable housing de velopment in Obama's district, created as part of the Daley administration's efforts to subsidize smaller apartment buildings scattered throughout neighborhoods.

One of the largest recipients of the subsidies was Rezmar Corp., founded in 1989 by Tony Rezko, who ran a company that sold snacks at city beaches, and Daniel Mahru, who ran a company that sold ice to Rezko. Neither man had development experience.

Over the next nine years, Rezmar used more than $87 million in government grants, loans, and tax credits to renovate about 1,000 apartments in 30 Chicago buildings. Companies run by the partners also managed many of the buildings, collecting government rent subsidies.

Rezmar collected millions in development fees but fell behind on mortgage payments almost immediately. On its first project, the city government agreed to reduce the company's monthly payments from almost $3,000 to less than $500.

By the time Obama entered the state Senate in 1997, the buildings were beginning to deteriorate. In January 1997, the city sued Rezmar for failing to provide adequate heat in a South Side building in the middle of an unusually cold winter. It was one of more than two dozen housing-complaint suits filed by the city against Rezmar for violations at its properties.

People who lived in some of the Rezmar buildings say trash was not picked up and maintenance problems were ignored. Roofs leaked, windows whistled, insects moved in.

"In the winter I can feel the cold air coming through the walls and the sockets," said Anthony Frizzell, 57, who has lived for almost two decades in a Rezmar building on South Greenwood Avenue. "They didn't insulate it or nothing."

Sharee Jones, who lives in another former Rezko building one block away, said her apartment was rat-infested for years.

"You could hear them under the floor and in the walls, and they didn't do nothing about it," Jones said.

By the time Rezmar asked Chicago's city government for a loan on its final subsidized development, in 1998, the city's housing commissioner was describing the company in a memo as being in "bad shape." The Daley administration still made the $3.1 million loan.

Shortly thereafter, Rezmar switched from subsidized housing to high-end development, fueled by the money it had made in subsidized work. Rezko's companies also stopped managing the subsidized complexes.

"Affordable housing run by private companies just doesn't work," Mahru, who no longer works with Rezko, said in an interview with the Globe. "It's difficult, if not impossible, for a private company to maintain affordable housing for low-income tenants."

Responsibility for several buildings fell to the Chicago Equity Fund, which had purchased government tax credits from Rezmar to help finance the projects. After Rezko walked away, the fund was obliged to maintain the buildings as affordable housing. If it did not, it would have to repay the government for the tax credits.

The fund found the buildings in terrible condition. In a 2001 plea to the state to temporarily suspend payments on its mortgages, a fund executive wrote that heating problems, lapsed maintenance, and uncollected rent made the buildings almost impossible to manage.

Most of the buildings have since been foreclosed upon, forcing the tenants to find new housing.

All the while, Tony Rezko was forging a close friendship with Barack Obama. When Obama opened his campaign for state Senate in 1995, Rezko's companies gave Obama $2,000 on the first day of fund-raising. Save for a $500 contribution from another lawyer, Obama didn't raise another penny for six weeks. Rezko had essentially seeded the start of Obama's political career.

As Obama ascended, Rezko became one of his largest fund-raisers. And in 2005, Rezko and his wife helped the Obamas purchase the house where they now live.

Eleven of Rezmar's buildings were located in the district represented by Obama, containing 258 apartments. The building without heat in January 1997, the month Obama entered the state Senate, was in his district. So was Jones's building with rats in the walls and Frizzell's building that lacked insulation. And a redistricting after the 2000 Census added another 350 Rezmar apartments to the area represented by Obama.

But Obama has contended that he knew nothing about any problems in Rezmar's buildings.

After Rezko's assistance in Obama's home purchase became a campaign issue, at a time when the developer was awaiting trial in an unrelated bribery case, Obama told the Chicago Sun-Times that the deterioration of Rezmar's buildings never came to his attention. He said he would have distanced himself from Rezko if he had known.

Other local politicians say they knew of the problems.

"I started getting complaints from police officers about particular properties that turned out to be Rezko properties," said Toni Preckwinkle, a Chicago alderman.

She had previously received campaign contributions from Rezmar and said she had regarded the company as a model, one of the city's best affordable housing developers.

But in the early 2000s, she called Rezko to ask for an explanation for the declining conditions. He told her Rezmar was "getting out of the business," she said - walking away from its responsibility for managing the developments.

"I didn't see him nor have anything to do with him after that," she said.

Preckwinkle, who will be an Obama delegate at the Democratic National Convention, said she would not answer any questions about Obama's role in her district, nor his relationship with Rezko.

Allison Davis, Obama's former law firm boss, dabbled in development for years while he worked primarily as a lawyer. He participated in the development of Grove Parc Plaza. And in 1996, Davis left his law firm to pursue a full-time career as an affordable housing developer, fueled by the subsidies from the Daley administration and aided, on occasion, by Obama himself.

Over roughly the past decade, Davis's companies have received more than $100 million in subsidies to renovate and build more than 1,500 apartments in Chicago, according to a Chicago Sun-Times tally. In several cases, Davis partnered with Tony Rezko. In 1998 the two men created a limited partnership to build an apartment building for seniors on Chicago's South Side. Obama wrote letters on state Senate stationery supporting city and state loans for the project.

In 2000 Davis asked the nonprofit Woods Fund of Chicago for a $1 million investment in a new development partnership, Neighborhood Rejuvenation Partners. Obama, a member of the board, voted in favor, helping Davis secure the investment.

The following year, Davis assembled another partnership to create New Evergreen/Sedgwick, a $10.7 million renovation of five walk-up buildings in a gentrifying neighborhood. The project, a model of small-scale, mixed-income development, was subsidized by almost $6 million in state loans and federal tax credits.

Conditions deteriorated quickly. Chronic plumbing failures consumed the project's financial reserves while leaving undrained sewage in some of the apartments. In October, after repeated complaints from building residents, the city government sued the owners, and a judge imposed a $5,500 fine.

New Evergreen/Sedgwick is managed by a company run by Cullen Davis, Allison Davis's son and also a contributor to Obama's campaigns. Cullen Davis said the problems were rooted in the way New Evergreen/Sedgwick was financed. Like most new projects, it is owned by a company created to own one building. That company determined how much to spend on renovations, how much to set aside for maintenance - and how much to keep as profit. When the maintenance funds ran out, there was no other source of money.

"All these deals are set up as islands," Cullen Davis acknowledged. In this case, "The margin of error at Sedgwick was a little too close to begin with."

Chicago's struggles with the deterioration of its subsidized private developments seemed to reach a new height in 2006, when the federal government foreclosed on Lawndale Restoration, the city's largest subsidized-housing complex. City inspectors found more than 1,800 code violations, including roof leaks, exposed wiring, and pools of sewage.

Lawndale Restoration was a collection of more than 1,200 apartments in 97 buildings spread across 300 blocks of west Chicago. It was owned by a company controlled by Cecil Butler, a former civil rights activist who came to be reviled as a slumlord by a younger generation of activists.

Lawndale Restoration was created in the early 1980s, when the federal government helped Butler take control of a group of old buildings, including lending $22 million to his company to redevelop the buildings and agreeing to subsidize tenant rents. In 1995, Butler's company got a $51 million loan from the state to fund additional renovations at Lawndale Restoration. In 2000 Butler's company brought in Habitat Co. to help manage the complex.

Nonetheless, the buildings deteriorated badly. The problems came to public attention in a dramatic way in 2004, after a sport utility vehicle driven by a suburban woman trying to buy drugs struck one of the buildings, causing it to collapse. City inspectors arrived in the ensuing glare, finding a long list of code violations, leading city officials to urge the federal government to seize the complex.

In the midst of the uproar, a small group of Lawndale residents gathered to rally against the Democratic candidate for the US Senate, Barack Obama.

Obama's Republican opponent, Alan Keyes, trailed badly in the polls and was not seen as a serious challenger. But the organizers had a simple message: Cecil Butler had donated $3,000 to Obama's campaign. Habitat had close ties to Obama. And Obama had remained silent about Lawndale's plight.

Paul Johnson, who helped to organize the protest, said Obama must have known about the problems.

"How didn't he know?" said Johnson. "Of course he knew. He just didn't care."

Butler did not return messages but in the past has said the government did not give him enough money to maintain the project. Habitat emphasized in a statement that its role at Lawndale was restricted to tasks that included financial oversight and management.

In 2006, following the foreclosure, the federal government sold the buildings to the city for $10. The city has since parceled out the buildings among two dozen developers, who are rebuilding Lawndale for the fourth time with yet another round of government loans and subsidies.

Even as Lawndale Restoration and Rezmar's buildings were foreclosed upon, and Grove Parc and other subsidized developments fell deeper into disrepair, Obama has remained a steadfast supporter of subsidizing private development.

And although he has distanced himself from Rezko, Obama has remained close to others in the development community. Jarrett participates in the campaign's senior staff meetings. And Obama chose another close friend, Martin Nesbitt, as his campaign treasurer. Nesbitt is chairman of the Chicago Housing Authority, one of the key overseers of the shift toward private management and development.

"Throughout his career in public service, Barack Obama has advocated for the development of mixed-income housing and public-private partnerships to create affordable housing as an alternative to publicly subsidized, concentrated, low-income housing," the Obama campaign said in a statement provided to the Globe.

As a result, some people in Chicago's poorest neighborhoods are torn between a natural inclination to support Obama and a concern about his relationships with the developers they hold responsible for Chicago's affordable housing failures. Some housing advocates worry that Obama has not learned from those failures.

"I'm not against Barack Obama," said Willie J.R. Fleming, an organizer with the Coalition to Protect Public Housing and a former public housing resident. "What I am against is some of the people around him."

Jamie Kalven, a longtime Chicago housing activist, put it this way: "I hope there is not much predictive value in his history and in his involvement with that community."



"In Unity, N.H., Clinton and Obama Set New Tone"
By JEFF ZELENY, The New York Times Online, June 28, 2008

UNITY, N.H. — Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton set off on their maiden political voyage on Friday, trading their rivalry from the presidential primary battle for a newfound display of harmony intended to set a fresh tone for any Democrats still harboring bitterness from their grueling duel.

It was a day of choreographed unity — their destination was a rally here in this small western New Hampshire town — with the two senators appearing together before the cameras for the first time. Three weeks after suspending her campaign, Mrs. Clinton renewed her endorsement and pledged to do all she could to help Democrats win the White House in the fall.

“Unity is not only a beautiful place, it’s a wonderful feeling, isn’t it?” Mrs. Clinton said. “I know what we start here in this field of unity will end on the steps of the Capitol when Barack Obama takes the oath of office.”

Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton strode onto an outdoor stage here, arm-in-arm, waving to a friendly crowd. Their messages complemented one another, as did his blue tie and her blue pantsuit.

“For sixteen months, Senator Clinton and I have shared the stage as rivals,” Mr. Obama said. “But today, I couldn’t be happier and more honored that we’re sharing it as allies in the effort to bring this country a new and better day.”

Here in Unity, the merging of the crowds did not go without a few momentary flaws. When the music was cued and the senators were introduced, they did not appear on stage. For several minutes, the crowd waited, their cheers gradually diminishing to an awkward silence. The enthusiasm sparked anew when they finally arrived and walked past large letters that spelled U-N-I-T-Y.

Mrs. Clinton spoke first, with Mr. Obama sitting on a stool. His shirtsleeves rolled up, he listened intently and often led the applause at her remarks. The crowd, a mix of loyal supporters of Mr. Obama and die-hard admirers of Mrs. Clinton, broke into a chant of “Obama, Obama, Obama.” A few moments later, several women in the crowd led a chant of “Hillary, Hillary, Hillary.”

“If you like the direction the country is going, then vote for Senator McCain, but if you think we need a new course, a new agenda, vote for Barack Obama,” Mrs. Clinton told the crowd. “To anyone who voted for me and is now considering not voting or voting for Senator McCain, I strongly urge you to reconsider.”

Mr. Obama implored Mrs. Clinton’s supporters to join the Democratic campaign. He praised the Clintons, saying: “I know how much we need both Bill and Hillary Clinton as a party and a country.” Echoing a line he heard from the crowd, he added, “She rocks. She rocks.”

The arrival of Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton stirred something of a spectacle here, with hundreds of people turning out on the grounds of an old elementary school. The site was selected for the community’s symbolic name and the fact that both candidates received 107 votes in the town during the state’s primary in January.

If the purpose of the day was to telegraph a unified Democratic Party, images of that message were plentiful.

Their motorcades arrived simultaneously at an airport in Washington, where they exchanged a kiss and smiled as they stepped onto the same chartered plane. They sat in adjoining seats, chatting the whole flight to New Hampshire. Then, for more than an hour, they rode on the same bus to Unity.

On a sultry summer day, with the aroma of grilled hamburgers and hot dogs in the air, the rally took on the trappings of a political festival. A giant blue banner, “Unite for Change” provided a backdrop against a meadow of trees. Many of those in the crowd, who came from New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and beyond, wore faded stickers of their favorite candidate.

The pleasantries, though, belied a litany of extenuating issues between the two former rivals. Mrs. Clinton asked a Washington powerbroker lawyer, Robert Barnett, to help negotiate the talks, which include helping repay her campaign debt and securing a prominent spot at the party’s summer convention.

None of those details were discussed, at least in public, on Friday.

“Are you ready for change in Washington?” New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch asked the crowd, which answered with resounding approval.

The rally came one day after the two senators met at an invitation-only gathering Thursday evening in Washington. Mrs. Clinton invited Mr. Obama to meet her leading contributors (He brought a personal check of $2,300 as a goodwill gesture to help wipe away more than $12 million in debt for her campaign expenses.) and asked them to help Mr. Obama defeat Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee.

“We have to make it a priority in our lives to elect Barack Obama the next president of the United States,” Mrs. Clinton told her supporters, including many who came with their own checks for Mr. Obama’s campaign. “his was a hard-fought campaign. That’s what made it so exciting and intense and why people’s passions ran so high on both sides. I know my supporters have extremely strong feelings, and I know Barack’s do as well.

She added, “But we are a family, and we have an opportunity now to really demonstrate clearly we do know what’s at stake, and we will do whatever it takes to win back this White House.”

For his part, Mr. Obama urged his supporters to help ease Mrs. Clinton’s debt and pave the way for her to become a leading surrogate for his campaign. There was no mention of whether she will be considered as a prospective running mate.

Terry McAuliffe, the campaign chairman for Mrs. Clinton, said it was time to get her contributors “fired up for the general election.” There was no time, he said, to look back.

“It was a great race. She got 18 million votes and she realizes what was accomplished,” Mr. McAuliffe said in an interview. “No one likes to lose, but you know what? She’s moved on.”


Speaking in Zanesville, Ohio, Senator Barack Obama said his plan would get religious charities more involved in solving the nation's array of social problems, including feeding the needy, helping poor children learn, and providing job training. (Jae C. Hong/Associated Press)

"Obama vows $500m in faith-based aid: Analysts say bid signals shift to center"
By Joseph Williams, (Boston) Globe Staff, July 2, 2008

WASHINGTON - Democrat Barack Obama said yesterday that if elected president he would set aside more than $500 million a year in federal funds for religious organizations to help the disadvantaged, sharply expanding a Bush administration program that has strong support from evangelical Christians.

In Ohio, Obama said his plan would get religious charities more involved in solving the nation's social problems, including feeding the needy, helping poor children learn, and providing job training for those who need work. Unlike Bush's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, Obama said, his plan would not be used to "promote partisan interests" - and it would lay out far more money than Bush's program, which depends largely on a network of grants.

"The challenges we face today, from putting people back to work to improving our schools, from saving our planet to combating HIV/AIDS to ending genocide, are simply too big for government to solve alone," he said. "We need all hands on deck."

Political analysts said Obama's proposal appeared to be part of an attempt to shift to the center and recruit moderate, evangelical Christians and mainstream Catholics, two voting blocs that consistently supported Bush and have embraced Republican candidates.

If Obama succeeds in breaking the GOP's grip on those voters, it would upend a calculation that Bush and Karl Rove, his top strategist, used to great effect in 2000 and 2004. But some liberal critics suggested that Obama was outdoing the president himself by building on Bush's faith-based initiatives, which some groups have said come close to violating First Amendment protections separating church and state. Others noted that Obama's proposal does not completely ban faith organizations from discriminatory hiring practices based on religion, even while receiving federal funds.

"I find it a tad worrisome, to be perfectly honest," said Randall Balmer, professor of religious history at Columbia University. While it could pass muster under the Constitution, he said, any proposal combining religion and federal money carries "the potential for a lot of mischief."

In a statement yesterday, the Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, a Baptist minister and president of the Interfaith Alliance, said Bush's faith-based initiative "has been a colossal failure." He said Obama's plan - which, like Bush's, allows religious organizations to receive money directly from the government rather than through a separate nonprofit entity - needs "much stronger safeguards" to guarantee separation of church and state and to keep religious organizations from hiring only people of the same beliefs.

In his announcement yesterday, Obama said he firmly believes government and religion should remain separate, "but I don't believe this partnership will endanger that idea" as long as safeguards are in place.

Groups cannot use the money to proselytize those in need, he said, and they cannot refuse to hire someone of a different religion. Federal dollars granted directly to churches, temples, and mosques can only be used on secular programs, Obama said, adding that close monitoring will "ensure that taxpayer dollars only go to those programs that actually work." The People for the American Way, a liberal public-interest group, issued a statement yesterday applauding Obama for those safeguards, but questioning why he would allow direct government payments to houses of worship, something that "is neither necessary nor appropriate."

If Obama allows it as president, "it would create both a constitutional problem and logistical mess, pitting oversight and accountability for public funds against the autonomy of churches, synagogues, and mosques," the statement said.

Douglas L. Koopman, a political science professor at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., said Obama's intention to prevent discriminatory hiring will be difficult to enforce. Though the law bans hiring solely on the basis of religious beliefs, it is less clear on whether a fundamentalist Baptist organization, for example, can refuse to hire a candidate because of his or her sexual orientation, or position on abortion rights.

According to his campaign, Obama wants to streamline the process by which faith-based organizations get federal money; maintain the 11 faith-based offices currently embedded in government agencies such as the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice; study the effectiveness of both the charity and the government's assistance to it; and create a network between the federal faith-based offices and their local counterparts across the nation.

Obama's campaign did not give a cost for the entire program, saying only that the educational component - involving reading programs and free summer school for 1 million poor children nationwide to address the achievement gap with wealthier children - would cost about $500 million a year. That would be paid for through savings accumulated through more efficient management of surplus government property, holding down spending in the federal travel budget, and streamlining the federal purchasing process, the campaign said.

The White House's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives maintains the 11 regional offices, which help community and religious charities obtain federal grants. A press representative for the office said it does not have a formal budget; it is funded in part by the White House through grants and through budget adjustments from different federal agencies.

Political analysts say Obama's announcement is the latest attempt to broaden his appeal by moving away from the Democratic Party's liberal base as the general election nears.

John Green, a political science professor at the University of Akron in Ohio, said Obama's announcement "does suggest a move toward the center," much the way President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore did when each ran for the presidency.

Yesterday's speech also allowed Obama to talk about his Christian faith, contradicting persistent rumors that he is a Muslim, Green said. And the announcement "does fit into a broader pattern of 'values' speeches' " Obama has delivered recently, including Monday's speech on patriotism and an address on the military scheduled for later this week.

Steve Waldman, editor of, a news website dedicated to religious issues, was more skeptical in assessing Obama's announcement: "Politically, it's very bold. Substantially, it remains to be seen how dramatic it is." Obama's announcement risks alienating liberals who did not like Bush's faith-based initiatives, Waldman said, but his plan was short on details and funding specifics.

Nevertheless, Obama "basically concluded the biggest problem with Bush's faith-based organization is it didn't go far enough," Waldman said. "Obama said maybe there might have been some problems at the margins, but the biggest problem is it didn't deliver on its promise."

David Kuo, the Washington editor for and a former deputy director for Bush's Faith-Based Initiatives office said Obama builds on those initiatives with "a very smart, thoughtful plan" that intensifies the efforts to help the poor. Still, "the poor and faith-based practitioners have heard promises before," said Kuo, who left the administration and wrote a book alleging the Bush administration made empty promises on faith-based initiatives.

"The only question that matters here is, 'Can he do this? Will he do this?' " Kuo said. "This is really hard work."


"Obama received rate discount in loan for Chicago mansion"
The Boston Globe Online, July 2, 2008

WASHINGTON - Shortly after joining the US Senate and while enjoying a surge in income, Barack Obama bought a $1.65 million restored Georgian mansion in an upscale Chicago neighborhood. To finance the purchase, he secured a $1.32 million loan from Northern Trust in Illinois.

The freshman Democratic senator received a discount. He locked in an interest rate of 5.625 percent on the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, below the average for such loans at the time in Chicago. The loan was unusually large, known in banker lingo as a "super super jumbo." Obama paid no origination fee or discount points, as some consumers do to reduce their interest rates.

Compared with the average terms offered at the time in Chicago, Obama's rate could have saved him more than $300 per month.

Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt said the rate was adjusted to account for a competing offer from another lender and other factors. "The Obamas have since had as much as $3 million invested through Northern Trust," he said in a statement.

Modest adjustments in mortgage rates are common among financial institutions as they compete for business or develop relationships with wealthy families. But amid a national housing crisis, news of discounts offered to Senators Christopher Dodd, a Democrat from Connecticut and chairman of the banking committee, and Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat, by another lender, Countrywide Financial, has increased scrutiny to the practice and has resulted in a preliminary Senate ethics committee inquiry into the Dodd and Conrad loans.

Within Obama's presidential campaign organization, former Fannie Mae chief executive James Johnson resigned abruptly as head of the vice presidential search committee after his favorable Countrywide loan became public.

Driving the recent debate is concern that public officials, knowingly or unknowingly, may receive special treatment from lenders and that the discounts could constitute gifts prohibited by law.

"The real question is: Were congressmen getting unique treatment that others weren't getting?" associate law professor Adam Levitin, a credit specialist at Georgetown University Law Center, said about the Countrywide loans. "Do they do business like that for people who are not congressmen? If they don't, that's a problem."

Under financial disclosure rules, members of Congress are not obliged to disclose debts owed to financial institutions for personal residences.

Last week, during debate on a bill to help homeowners caught in the foreclosure crisis, members of the Senate ethics committee proposed an amendment to require that lawmakers disclose their mortgage lenders and terms in financial forms starting next year.


Patti Solis Doyle reacts during an interview with the Associated Press at the downtown Chicago headquarters of Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., Wednesday, July 16, 2008. The former Clinton campaign manager said, "I understand the, you know, deep emotion and passion, absolutely. She's (Hillary Clinton) my friend and I threw everything into her campaign that I could possibly throw into it," Solis Doyle said. "But as heartbreaking as it was, she lost. And now it's time for the good of our country and for the good of my kids to move on and get Barack Obama elected." (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

"Obama Supporters Prepare for November Run"
By Lyndsay DeBord - July 23, 2008, Special to iBerkshires

PITTSFIELD — Local political heavyweights were no-shows at Tuesday's rally for Barack Obama but that didn't signify a lack of support, said organizers.

"Berkshire County is Obama County," said Lee Harrison, chairman of Berkshire Brigades, the local Democratic committee, who added it was time to put a Democrat into the White House. "Boy, do we need that."

Invited speakers Mayor James M. Ruberto, North Adams Mayor John Barrett III and state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, were unable to attend the political function, held at the Brigades' 1 Fenn St. headquarters. Barrett was at a North Adams City Council meeting that night and Ruberto missed the event because he wasn't feeling well, said Mary K. O'Brien, co-coordinator for the Obama for America campaign in Berkshire County.

Planners said state representatives were tied up in Boston. O'Brien, former registrar of deeds in Central Berkshire, conveyed the support of the elected officials, saying they were "all on board."

Despite the missing speakers, organizers remained upbeat and confident. And the lack of an assembly room didn't appear to bother anyone, as about 45 supporters, filling the building's first-floor hallway, clapped and cheered during the rally. The crowd also laughed at the obligatory Republican jokes.

Like Harrison, O'Brien also spoke about wanting a change in government and described how she had been depressed over some of the people who had been voted into office. She went on to say the Berkshire County Obama campaign is "gung-ho to get him elected." A previous Hillary Rodham Clinton supporter, the longtime Democratic activist believes that the former presidential candidate acted gracefully in her support of Obama.

To get their man into office, the Democratic organization is relying on volunteers. "It's people who count," said O'Brien.

When supporters showed up at Berkshire Brigades' headquarters, they were sent directly to the volunteer sign up sheets. Available duties included making phone calls, writing postcards and canvassing areas locally and in swing states. Later, when asked how many people were interested in volunteering, nearly every hand went up.

O'Brien described volunteers' roles as "ambassadors to bordering states." Unlike Massachusetts, swing states such as New York and New Hampshire are more evenly matched for Republican and Democratic voters. Therefore these areas are targeted because the organization feels it can sway voters.

Mable Hamilton, 76, of Pittsfield, attended the rally with her daughter Valerie Hamilton. "She's seen a lot of presidents," said Valerie. The senior Hamilton believes Obama has the ability to negotiate across party lines and to appeal to both young and older voters. "He's a unifier," said Mable.

Valerie Hamilton, who also supports the Illinois senator, spoke about the issue on her mind - stopping youth-related violence. She believes that Obama, with the younger generation behind him, can make a change.

Two of the state's Democratic congressmen, Sen. John Kerry and Rep. John W. Olver, sent representatives. Debra Guachione, Olver's campaign manager, relayed the congressman's endorsement for Obama.

She spoke about the congressman's like-minded stance on Iraq. Olver voted against going into Iraq, and he is now committed to getting the troops home safe, according to Guachione. The regional director for the Kerry campaign was unable to comment.

Also attending the rally was U.S. House candidate Robert Feuer, who challenging Olver for the 1st Massachusetts seat. He described the Berkshires area as "a beautiful district" and outlined ideas for his campaign, among which was a plan to produce more food in the Berkshires.

The rally also saw many people who voiced their agreement with Obama's Iraq policy.

"I want the troops back home," said Jean-Claude Attoumo of Pittsfield. He believes this will be possible, in part, because the senator has the support of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Originally from the Ivory Coast in West Africa, Attoumo says he wasn't swayed by the senator's current tour of the Middle East. "I already had my mind set."

Other supporters, like Michael F. Wilcox, co-coordinator for the Obama for America campaign in Berkshire County, are excited about Obama'’s Middle East tour. "[It’s] making the McCain people squirm," he said.

Many critics argue that Obama does not have enough experience to fill the presidential seat. However, Wilcox, naturally, disagrees.

"He's brilliant," said Wilcox when asked about the Democratic candidate's experience. He described how the support of officials, like Kerry, made him confident he is backing the right presidential contender. (The state's senior senator, Edward M. Kennedy, has also endorsed Obama, as did Gov. Deval Patrick.)

Still, electing Obama as president is not enough for Berkshire Brigades. "He's going to need a Democratic Congress and Senate," said Harrison. For this effort, the organization is once again counting on volunteers.

The chairman said volunteers of all ages are welcomed. Though he also admitted, "kids have more energy." In the fall, he expects to see more volunteers, particularly from the college community, "anxious to help" because of the upcoming election.

New Ashfords residents Mary Bosakowski and Tom Plunkett, both of whom had volunteered in the New Hampshire primary for Obama, came to the rally together. They were looking forward to volunteering more time with the Obama campaign. "Barack Obama seemed like the most promising candidate that I've seen probably ever," said Plunkett.

"This is once in a lifetime," added Bosakowski, who described feeling excited and proud about getting involved.

After the talk, many Obama supporters stayed to discuss political issues and to coordinate volunteer efforts.

People who want to volunteer can contact campaign coordinator for Berkshire Brigades Marge Cohan at 413-822-6218 or e-mail

Berkshire Brigades held its "Democratic Campaign Kick Off" in Pittsfield in January. The organization has a listing of summer events on its Web site. More events are posted on Wilcox's site, along with his blogs. Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean will headline an upcoming fundraiser for the Obama Victory Fund.

Lee Harrison of the Berkshire Brigades talks to rallygoers on Tuesday. Photos by Lyndsay DeBord
Obama supporters sign up at the Berkshire Brigades' headquarters in Pittsfield on Tuesday.


"Obama's Women Problem"
By Dick Morris, July 30, 2008

If soccer moms determined the outcome of the 1996 presidential race and security moms tipped the balance in 2004, it is beginning to look as if older moms are the key to the 2008 contest. Obama has a problem among women over 40 and a big problem among women over 50. These groups, normally the staunchest of Democratic supporters, are showing a propensity to back McCain and a disinclination to support Obama.

According to the latest Fox News survey, Obama is winning among women under 40 by 13 points, but McCain is winning among women aged 41-45 by four points. Among women 50 and over, McCain is three points ahead. Obama's 48-35 lead among women under 40 is normal for a Democrat, but to trail among women in their 40s by 45-41 and by women over 50 by 38-35 is extraordinary.

The problem is that older women don't like Obama as much as younger women do. While 70 percent of women under 40 have a favorable opinion of the Democratic candidate, only 58 percent of women in their 40s feel the same way, and only 52 percent of those over 50 see him favorably.

For a Democrat to be losing among women over 40 is without precedent in the past 20 years.

In fact, the gap between male and female voting preference in this election is far lower than it normally is. Among people under 40, men back Obama by eight points and women support him by 13. Among those in their 40s, men back McCain by 11 points and women support him by four. And for those over 50, men vote for the Republican by a nine-point margin while women prefer him by three points.

Usually, the gender gap runs at least 10 points in each age group and, more usually, averages a 15-point differential. The lower gap in this race does not indicate any special popularity for McCain or negatives on Obama among men. Men are voting the way they usually do. It's women who are making the big difference and keeping this race tied.

Part of the problem may stem from Obama's defeat of Hillary Clinton during the primaries. Hillary drew her strongest support from older women who still remembered the sexism of their youth and their struggles to pierce the glass ceiling. For younger women, sexism has much less personal relevance and they were less drawn to her candidacy.

But a bigger problem may be a cultural alienation older white women feel toward Obama. The Rev. Jeremiah Wright may linger as a worry in their increasingly gray heads as they contemplate an Obama presidency. This fear of the unknown and the gap they seem to feel with Obama is so strong that it is overcoming their normal proclivity to back Democrats.

Of course, McCain is a uniquely attractive candidate to the Democratic and independent base. Long regarded as a maverick Republican, he attracts these swing voters and is ideally positioned to exploit the estrangement between older women and Barack Obama.

Would choosing Hillary as a running mate assuage the concerns of older white women? It might.

They could get enthusiastic, one would think, about seeing a woman sitting a few feet away from the president in the Oval Office (again!).

But Hillary would bring with her a different set of problems. Her candidacy would invite scrutiny of Bill's financial dealings, most recently exposed in The Wall Street Journal's coverage of the incredible corruption of his buddy the president of Kazakhstan.

The problem is Obama. And it can only be solved by Obama, not by his running mate. For his part, McCain should take dead aim at this demographic, perhaps by selecting a female running mate who would appeal to them.

The current favorite, Mitt Romney, does him no earthly good with these folks, and his Mormonism is likely to be a big turnoff. But McCain could choose Condi Rice or any number of other Republican women (like Kay Bailey Hutchison, the Texas senator) and attract these dissident women.
Morris, a former political adviser to Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and President Bill Clinton, is the author of “Outrage.” To get all of Dick Morris’s and Eileen McGann’s columns for free by email, go to

This undated photo shows Barack Obama while a student at Columbia. (Obama campaign via associated press)

"Obama shows hints of his year in global finance: Tied markets to social aid"
By Sasha Issenberg, (Boston) Globe Staff, August 6, 2008

WASHINGTON - Barack Obama has authored two books, heralded for their poetic reflections on the conundrums of identity and the possibilities of politics. But his first professional writing was for a weekly newsletter more concerned with how investing in gold futures in Sao Paulo and London could be used to hedge against the fluctuating value of Brazilian cruzeiros.

Obama rarely talks about his year spent within the arcane sphere of global finance as a junior editor for Business International Corp., a publisher based in New York. In a recent biographical campaign ad, Obama says he chose to "pass up Wall Street jobs and go to Chicago instead," suggesting that after graduating from Columbia University he cast aside material pursuits in favor of self-sacrifice as a community organizer.

But in the years since, Obama has demonstrated an economic worldview bearing some common priorities with the first company for which he worked. At some points in his legislative career and presidential campaign, Obama demonstrated a willingness to let markets run their course when some other Democrats had sought a more forceful government hand. He rejects mandates for adults to buy health insurance and encourages the expansion of global exchanges for carbon-emissions credits. He has helped make it easier for private companies to take over public housing projects.

"I think that back in the '60s and '70s, a lot of the way we regulated industry was top-down command and control," Obama told Fox News Channel in April. "And I think that the Republican Party and people who thought about the markets came with the notion that, you know what, if you simply set some guidelines, some rules, and incentives for businesses, let them figure out how they're going to, for example, reduce pollution."

As a political science major at Columbia concentrating on international relations, Obama took a senior seminar focused in large part on aid and capital flows between the first and third worlds. "It was a subject everyone was talking about," said Michael Baron, who taught the seminar.

Obama recently told CNN that "it was natural for me to be interested in international affairs," given the influence of his mother, an anthropologist he described as "a specialist in international development, who was one of the early practitioners of microfinancing . . . helping women buy a loom or a sewing machine or a milk cow to be able to enter into the economy."

Yet unlike many of his peers, Obama did not spend his senior year making plans to attend graduate or professional school. Obama, who expressed interest in becoming a writer, found a job as an editor at Business International Corp. after graduating in 1983.

"I thought that he was going to be a novelist or something like that," said Cathy Lazere, who interviewed Obama and became his immediate supervisor. "He seemed like the type of person who was observing the world and taking it in."

Obama took charge of updating Financing Foreign Operations, a yearbook (annual subscription: $900) for which he edited manuscripts from correspondents in 40 countries. Obama also wrote for Business International Money Report, a newsletter covering currency issues and monetary policy. "He had a good profile for Business International: bright, articulate, a good writer, and a knowledge of world issues and affairs," said Lou Celi, an editor of Obama's.

In "Dreams From My Father," his 1995 memoir, Obama describes being hired by an unnamed "consulting house to multinational corporations."

"Like a spy behind enemy lines, I arrived every day at my mid-Manhattan office and sat at my computer terminal, checking the Reuters machine that blinked bright emerald messages from across the globe," Obama wrote. "Sometimes, coming out of an interview with Japanese financiers or German bond traders, I would catch my reflection in the elevator doors - see myself in a suit and tie, a briefcase in my hand - and for a split second I would imagine myself as a captain of industry."

Those who worked at Business International say Obama's brief account contains inaccuracies or misrepresentations about the company. (Obama has acknowledged fictionalizing narrative elements in the book.) They say that while offering consulting functions to clients, Business International was far more a publishing house than a consulting firm.

Founded in 1954 to publish a magazine targeted at an increasingly globalized managerial class, Business International covered a broad array of subjects, including reports on economic policy making and recommendations for executive insurance policies.

The office had a collegiate feel: Employees rarely wore suits, and writers at Obama's level did not - as he suggests in one anecdote - have their own secretaries, according to fellow workers at the time. Obama had to share a Wang computer terminal with another employee; he would often edit manuscripts by hand, smoking Marlboros. When he interviewed finance specialists, he did so by phone. "None of us were hobnobbing with multinational corporate executives," said Susan Arterian Chang, a writer who worked alongside Obama.

The flagship publication had an activist bent, as an early champion of corporate social responsibility. A 1983 "call for action" encouraged multinational compa- nies to push not only for lower corporate taxes in the countries in which they operated but also reduced weapons spending, as a means to promote "peace through greater global understanding and economic integration."

" They were boosters for multinationals and they thought globalism was the way we should be going," Chang said.

But the publications for which Obama worked had far narrower interests. Written for bankers and financial executives, Business International's money report delivered practical, if often rarefied, advice for eluding foreign-exchange rules that often limited the ability of investors to efficiently control their assets.

"If you're just working on the technical financial points, the social implications are out of the question," said Michael Veseth, a professor of international political economy at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Wash. "You're just dealing with, 'How am I getting my money from here to there?' "

Still, a belief in the primacy of markets as engines for both the creation of wealth and social progress prevailed at the company - as became evident in an office debate between Obama and a colleague over whether to trade with South Africa during apartheid.

Obama "made some comment like there should be a boycott of any company doing business there," recalled William Millar, a writer for the money report. "I said he needed to realize that it's the non-South African companies who were hiring blacks and giving them positions of authority with decent pay. That's what accelerates change - not isolation."

Such discussions were rare for Obama, described by peers as a distant presence in the office: diligent about his work but rarely engaged by it, uninterested in after-work drinks with colleagues. "He was all business; he didn't chat and gossip," said Chang.

"He always seemed aloof, a little bit of a stray cat," added Celi.

After about a year at Business International, Obama found a job as a community organizer in Chicago. "I remember telling him he was making a big mistake," said Celi, who conducted Obama's exit interview. "He let me know he had bigger fish to fry."

Moving to Chicago gave Obama a local framework to address some of the issues of poverty and development that had interested him in a global context, said Jerry Kellman, who hired him for the project. "He believed in markets and he believed in competition, but he didn't believe the market was a level playing field," said Kellman. Working in neighborhoods facing high rates of foreclosure, he said, Obama was bothered by the complexity of mortgage documents: More transparency in their language could help consumers make better decisions.

"Obama is pro-market, and he has a keen understanding of what free markets do and of the needs and value of business," said Cass Sunstein, a law professor who was a colleague of Obama's at the University of Chicago.

Yet Obama's campaign says the experience was not a particularly strong influence on his thinking today. "Barack Obama's views on the American economy and the global marketplace were shaped by a variety of experiences," said spokesman Ben LaBolt.
Sasha Issenberg can be reached at

Mary O'Brien.

"History awaits Berkshire delegates in Denver"
By Benning W. De La Mater, Berkshire Eagle Staff
August 25, 2008

PITTSFIELD — Mary O'Brien and Edith "Kit" Dobelle feel as if they're about to embark on history.

The women are among the 121 Massachusetts delegates — and 4,440 nationwide — who will be in the stands at the Democratic National Convention in Denver this week when Illinois Sen. Barack Obama becomes the first black candidate of a major party to accept the nomination for president.

Both Pittsfield residents have been to conventions before. O'Brien, 75, the former Middle Berkshire register of deeds, attended five of the last six — she missed 1984 — as a delegate. Dobelle, 63, the wife of the former Pittsfield Mayor Evan Dobelle, attended several conventions as a volunteer, and one as chief of staff to first lady Rosalyn Carter, but never as a delegate.

The locals believe this is an exciting time for their party and the country.

"There's a lot of history about to be made," O'Brien said.

The Democratic National Convention Committee is reporting that this will be the most diverse convention in its history, with 44.3 percent of the delegates representing minority communities, 50.1 percent female and 31.4 percent seniors or youth.

O'Brien and Dobelle began the campaign as Hillary Clinton supporters, and while they still believe Clinton is presidential material, they have thrown their support behind Obama. They said the party is united, not torn, after a tumultuous and close primary contest.

"That's what primaries are about. That's what politics are about," Dobelle said. "It's not unusual for candidates in the same party to butt heads."

O'Brien sees positives in the war of words waged between Clinton and Obama in the spring.

"It has brought out the strength in our party," O'Brien said. "They debated and they became stronger on the issues, which will help us when we have to take on the Republicans."

After raising six daughters, O'Brien thrust herself into politics, working for the Ward 4 Democratic Committee. She ran for the register of deeds position and won as a rookie, going on to serve 32 years in the position. In 1978, she was named deputy coordinator of former Gov. Michael S. Dukakis' re-election campaign. She was later assigned to the state rules committee, which helps develop plans for the Democratic State Convention.

Dobelle always was drawn to politics. She met her husband in a Boston campaign office, where they were both stuffing envelopes as young volunteers. She worked on President Carter's campaign, served as assistant to his wife, Rosalyn, and later as the president's chief of protocol. During the Clinton years, she served on the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars.

O'Brien is an at-large delegate who was elected by the Democratic State Committee. Dobelle is a delegate elected by party members in the 1st Congressional District. Dobelle's son, Harry, 21, is serving as an alternate at the convention.

Both women were designated as Clinton delegates based on her decisive win in the Massachusetts Democratic primary in March. They plan to vote for the New York senator and former first lady when her name is put before the convention as a candidate, but that will be a symbolic gesture, as the convention is expected to issue a unanimous vote for Obama as the presidential nominee.

Their itinerary is chock full for the five days they'll be in Denver. One of the highlights should be Wednesday morning, when the delegates are scheduled to clean a city park with Michelle Obama.

"It's very tiring, but very exciting," O'Brien said. "You meet people from all over the country."

Dobelle said it's invigorating to be surrounded by like-minded people united for a cause. "The whole party is there," she said.

Dobelle's husband, Evan, the president of Westfield State College, will also be in Denver during the convention, but the couple won't have time to meet — Evan is accompanying a group of Westfield students as part of a national program to ignite passion for political involvement in young adults.

Both women are looking forward to the speeches: Obama campaign co-chairman and Massachusetts Gov. Deval L. Patrick and Clinton will address the convention tomorrow night, and former President Clinton will speak Wednesday night. Obama gives his nationally televised acceptance speech Thursday night.

At home, Lee Harrison, head of the Berkshire Brigades, the countywide Democratic organization, said efforts are being made to get local Obama supporters organized for the Nov. 4 push.

There will be a rally at the Crowne Plaza on Oct. 5, with the state's leading Democrats scheduled to speak. The Brigades are also planning to send Berkshire County Democrats to New Hampshire to canvass heavily.

In presidential elections past, locals have been sent to Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. But Harrison said this year, New Hampshire is poised to be a decisive swing state.

Dobelle and O'Brien are hopeful that Obama can win against Sen. John McCain, although O'Brien warns that "it's going to be close ... it always is."


"Patrick will sound familiar themes"
Posted by Foon Rhee, deputy national political editor August 26, 2008, 7:19 PM
By Brian C. Mooney, (Boston) Globe Staff

DENVER -- Three years ago Deval Patrick was a political unknown, but tonight the Massachusetts governor will step onto a prime-time national political stage to extol the historic candidacy of his friend, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, and criticize the man standing between Obama and the White House, John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee.

Appearing in a coveted convention time slot between keynoter Mark Warner, the Senate candidate from Virginia, and Hillary Clinton, Obama's vanquished rival, Patrick planned to adhere to comfortable themes such as building a sense of community and renewed civic engagement. Those themes defined his upstart gubernatorial candidacy in 2006 and echo those espoused by Obama in his presidential campaign. But he also plans to draw sharp contrasts between Obama and McCain on the issue of education, which both Patrick and Obama see as a gateway to opportunity in the United States.

Patrick, the second African-American elected governor in US history, and Obama, bidding to become the first black president, share similar life stories, political philosophies, and campaign advisers. Consultants David Axelrod and David Plouffe worked on Patrick's campaign and serve as chief strategist and campaign manager, respectively, for Obama.

Doug Rubin, Patrick's chief of staff and close political adviser, said the assignment of a choice speaking slot for Patrick is not surprising given the similarities in style and philosophy and the familiarity of the two rising political figures.

"You couldn't ask for a better place to be," Rubin said of the convention schedule. "David Axelrod knows the governor, he's seen him in action, and he knows there are probably few people out there who can articulate Barack Obama's vision better than Deval Patrick. And, obviously, he knows the governor is an accomplished speaker."

The two rose from humble backgrounds and broken families, attended Ivy League schools, and rose quickly in politics. Patrick grew up on the South Side of Chicago, a neighborhood Obama adopted as his home.

During the fight with Clinton for the nomination, Obama was accused of lifting passages from Patrick's stump phraseology.

Obama drew huge crowds when he campaigned for Patrick two years ago, and Patrick has returned the favor, making a limited number of surrogate appearances, usually on weekends, in Iowa, Ohio, and New Hampshire on behalf of Obama's candidacy.

Massachusetts Democratic Party Chairman John Walsh, who managed Patrick's campaign two years ago, called the speech "a very significant event" in the maturation of Patrick as a political figure. "I've been at a couple of events with him this week with people who have been doing this for a long time, and Deval described himself as an amateur" in politics, Walsh said. "He said, 'I've done this one time, getting elected, whereas many people at this convention have done it time and time again.' "


Senator Hillary Clinton last night (8/26/2008) at the Democratic National Convention. The former presidential candidate urged Democrats to support Barack Obama. (Dina Ruddick/Globe Staff)

"An impassioned call for unity: Clinton tells party Obama 'must be our president'"
By Susan Milligan, (Boston) Globe Staff, August 27, 2008

DENVER - Senator Hillary Clinton, answering a high-stakes challenge to unite her fractured party, called on Democrats last night to join together in an urgent mission: to elect her onetime foe, Barack Obama, as the next president of the United States.

In an address closely scrutinized for perceived slights against Obama, Clinton threw herself fully behind the man she battled and often criticized during a long and at times bitter primary campaign.

"We are on the same team, and none of us can sit on the sidelines," Clinton said, as a feverish crowd cheered and waved "Hillary" signs. "This is a fight for the future. And it's a fight we must win together," Clinton added, winning a deafening round of applause after uttering the word "together."

"You haven't worked so hard over the last 18 months, or endured the last eight years, to suffer through more failed leadership. No way. No how. No McCain," Clinton said. And with the next sentence, Clinton said the words, unthinkable just a year ago, that defined the end of her long, unsuccessful struggle to become the first female president: "Barack Obama is my candidate. And he must be our president," Clinton said to loud applause from convention- goers waving three-sided signs with "Hillary" on one side, "Obama" on another and "Unity"on the third.

At times, Clinton's address sounded like an acceptance speech, as she recalled her own historic quest for the White House and the many people she met on the campaign trail and hoped to help as president. A video presentation, narrated by the senator's daughter, Chelsea, praised Clinton's ground-breaking candidacy, and included just a smattering of photos of her with Obama.

But the senator reminded her many supporters in the packed Pepsi Center that the campaign was not ultimately about her, but about bringing prosperity, justice, and fairness to all Americans.

"I want you to ask yourselves: Were you in this campaign just for me? Or were you in it for that young Marine and others like him? Were you in it for that mom struggling with cancer while raising her kids?

"Were you in it for that boy and his mom surviving on the minimum wage? Were you in it for all the people in this country who feel invisible?" Clinton asked the assembled Democrats.

Some fervent Clinton supporters still retained resentment toward Obama, believing that the former first lady would have been a stronger pick than the freshman lawmaker from Illinois.

Republicans have sought to capitalize on the division, running ads featuring Clinton's primary campaign comments depicting Obama as too inexperienced and unqualified to be commander-in-chief.

But Clinton - who has been aggressively combatting the GOP ads - told the Democrats that they could not afford to spend time harboring ill feelings.

"We don't have a moment to lose or a vote to spare," Clinton said. "Nothing less than the fate of our nation and the future of our children hang in the balance."

Clinton also aimed some shots at GOP nominee-in-waiting John McCain, saying the Arizona senator "thinks it's OK when women don't earn equal pay for equal work" and doesn't care about the number of Americans without health insurance.

"With an agenda like that, it makes sense that George Bush and John McCain will be together next week in the Twin Cities," Clinton said, referring to the upcoming Republican National Committee convention in Minnesota. "Because these days they're awfully hard to tell apart."

During Clinton's address, Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, a strong Clinton backer, waved a "Hillary" placard and then an "Obama/Unity" sign. Afterward, Landrieu, who is in a battle for reelection, said she will campaign for Obama as much as she can and predicted most of Clinton's supporters will too. Landrieu said "a handful" of Clinton's supporters, mostly women, will abandon the party's nominee or sit out the general election. "The vast majority of women are thinking about their families and the future of the country," Landrieu said.

Clinton delegates in New Mexico, a primary Clinton narrowly won, said they would support Obama and several sported "Clinton supporter for Obama" buttons, which began appearing on on the floor of the convention hall. However, several Clinton delegates in the Indiana and Florida delegations said they probably would not vote for Obama, but would not consider casting a ballot for a Republican.

Luchy Secaira, a Clinton delegate from Naples, Fla., campaigned for Clinton in nine states during the nominating fight against Obama and was angry about the way Clinton was treated. After Clinton's remarks, she said: "Wow! She's one tough cookie . . . You heard her. What I will do is take all the anger that I feel and turn it now and do all I can to help Obama as a way to honor her, even though the party doesn't deserve her."

Another Clinton stalwart from Florida, a battleground state, was not persuaded. Marykay Jiloty of Ormond Beach, said there is little chance she will support Obama but will hear him out tomorrow when he addresses the convention to accept the nomination before making a final decision. "I want to hear specifics from him about what he will do," she said after Clinton spoke. "I would consider not voting for anyone" in November, she said, but noted that her husband, a Republican who would have voted for Clinton will now vote for McCain. "So the Democrats lost a vote there," Jiloty said.

The Obama campaign was careful to provide ample convention attention to the Clinton family, giving the New York senator a prime time slot last night, and former President Bill Clinton his own featured role tonight.

Michelle Obama paid tribute to Hillary Clinton Monday in her opening-night address, lauding the second-place finisher for putting "18 million cracks in the glass ceiling," echoing Clinton's own words on the campaign trail.

Hours before the New York senator was to speak, women cheered in the Pepsi Center, holding signs that said, "When Women Vote, Democrats Win." Eight of the Senate's 11 female Democrats spoke in the afternoon.

The convention signaled both a triumph and an emotional transition for the Clintons. With no Democrat winning the White House since Bill Clinton left in 2001, the former president had been the party's unofficial leader. Clinton had been an early favorite to win the primaries, with high name recognition, eight years in the Senate, tens of millions of dollars, and a solid political resume.

But Obama's acceptance of the nomination tomorrow - to be held in a football field for 70,000 political fans - will make the 47-year-old Illinois senator the new leader of the Democrats.


"For the Descendants of King's Dream, a New Day Dawns"
By Kevin Merida, Washington Post Staff Writer, Friday, August 29, 2008; A01

DENVER, Aug. 28 -- No one said this exactly, but imagination was the quiet star of this day, that thing that leaps over walls and moves the fences of our limitations.

Forty-five years ago, many of those who jammed the Mall in Washington to hear a young Baptist preacher exhort the nation to be better were just trying to get the foot off their necks, win the right to vote, stay at a highway motel, eat at a decent diner. They were trying to send injustice packing. Not elect a black man president. Most had not yet envisioned that.

But imaginations have expanded this campaign season, soaring beyond Invesco Field, where Barack Obama accepted the Democratic Party's nomination Thursday night, becoming the first African American to stand before his nation and ask for its November vote.

As the masses streamed into the Denver Broncos' football stadium and took their seats in the baking afternoon sun, throats tightened and eyes got misty. And old hands shook with nervous excitement. Many had waited three hours to get in, and never considered turning around. There is a saying in the black church: "Your steps are ordered," which is to say your path is preordained, your way set.

"There are some places you just have to be," said Alice Beckwith, manager of Agape bookstore in Los Angeles, who had come with her friend Jo Keita.

"We're here to represent our ancestors. Yes, indeedy, every one of them," said Keita, a member of the Agape International Choir, which sang with John Legend at the convention on Monday night. Her iPhone was humming constantly Thursday, as word spread to friends that she had gotten into Invesco. "I must have spent $400 on buttons and shirts. Everybody says, 'Bring me something back.' But it's not a problem. I understand what they're feeling."

Millicent Sims of Houston, an AKA sorority sister with a pink-and-green pouch draped around her neck, sat with her husband, Samuel. "We already have our airline tickets to D.C. for the inaugural," Millicent said. "We just need him to win." The couple were in the upper-upper deck, and Samuel said, "We'd sit on the ceiling if we had to." He was thinking about his father, who worked in an icehouse, and his mother, who was a community service worker, both dead. He was getting a little emotional. "I was thinking how they'd want to see this."

In 1958, Ralph Ellison had a thought, but it was just a thought. "I would like to see a qualified Negro as president of the United States," he said, "but I suspect that even if this were today possible, the necessities of the office would shape his actions far more than his racial identity."

There is no escaping Barack Obama's racial identity, but everyone sees in him something different.

Jim and Mary Doyle drove 500 miles from Norfolk, Neb., just to experience the feeling of this history, to dream some more about tomorrow. "My first grandbaby is going to turn 1 on Saturday," said Mary, "and for me this day represents new possibilities for her. I want things for her to be different. I don't want her to get paid 75 cents on the dollar like we are." And by "we," she meant women such as herself, now retired as a former sales rep for a steel company.

For more than two centuries, only white boys growing up could see themselves in a president, knowing they could aspire to the highest office in the land, the most important job in the world. Not white girls. Not black girls. Not brown, red or yellow children. Not black boys, whom Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) was thinking about most. Because he is co-chairman of Obama's campaign in Maryland, Cummings said, "they come up to me. 'Is he going to be okay? Is he going to make it?' Little kids. In many instances, they can't even pronounce his name."

They just want to know if Barack Obama is going to make it.

When King addressed the hundreds of thousands at the Lincoln Memorial, he was not just there to talk about his "dream."

Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquillity in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges. . . . And then King zeroed in, to mention Mississippi four times.

We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote.

Mississippi was one of the scariest states in the nation for blacks at the time. It was not a "Yes We Can" state. It was the second state to secede from the Union, a state known for its lynchings. It was a state where 14-year-old Emmett Till was brutally murdered and thrown into the Tallahatchie River, a state where three civil rights workers were killed as they embarked on a voter registration drive a year after the March on Washington.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

On Thursday, the Mississippi delegation took its seats in the back, near the end zone, right behind Utah and in front of the CNN booth.

Mississippi had changed. "You know that old saying? The hands that picked cotton can now pick a president," said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.).

Mississippi. A state of a thousand black elected officials, a state that Obama overwhelmingly carried in the primary. The Democratic National Convention wouldn't seat Emma Sanders in 1964, but she is seated now. She squints her eyes, and they sparkle. In 1964, she was with Fannie Lou Hamer when the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party came by bus to the convention in Atlantic City with an alternate delegation. They had come to challenge the legitimacy of the official whites-only Democratic state delegation.

"We went to the floor and to the Mississippi delegation and the whites walked out," Sanders recalled. This day, she said, is a reminder of all the sacrifice. "We know that our effort was not in vain," Sanders said. "Even though we had to take chances down in Mississippi because people were being killed, somebody had to do it. Even though we took chances, it was worth it."

Lisa Ross wasn't there with Hamer, who was once beaten so viciously in jail that she ended up permanently disabled.

But Ross was with Barack Obama early on. "I stayed away from politics, didn't believe in politics," said Ross, a 45-year-old attorney and delegate. "I just hope that Fannie Lou Hamer is looking down and can see what she's responsible for producing. Today, you can be what you want to be."


"One Degree of Separation Between Obama's Speech and JFK's"
By David S. Broder, Friday, August 29, 2008; A30, (The Washington Post Online)

DENVER, Aug. 28 A strange bit of personal history links two landmark events in the history of the Democratic Party -- John F. Kennedy's acceptance speech at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1960 and Barack Obama's parallel ceremony Thursday night at Invesco Field.

Kennedy's collaborator in the speech that launched the phrase "New Frontier" was Theodore C. Sorensen, a young Nebraskan who had traveled the country with the senator from Massachusetts on the quest that led to Los Angeles.

Sorensen, now 80 and afflicted with visual agnosia, a condition that has left him nearly blind, said in a phone interview from his New York law office Thursday he had not had any input into Obama's speech. But he said he would listen "with immense interest" because one of Obama's speechwriters, Adam Frankel, "served as my eyes for six years while I was working on my memoir."

Frankel was a Princeton sophomore when Sorensen recruited him to work on "Counselor: A Life at the Edge of History," published earlier this year.

The remarkable thing about Kennedy's speech, which drew praise at the time, is that it was almost devoid of the programmatic detail many Democrats have urged Obama to include in his speech. Sorensen said he agrees that Obama needed to flesh out his biography and agenda. But Kennedy, he said, "did not want [his speech] to sound like a reading of the platform," and feared that a recital of Democratic domestic programs would give it "too partisan a tone. He thought the appeal to the country should not be partisan."

After saluting his defeated rivals for the nomination, Kennedy addressed the religious issue that shadowed his campaign, much as race has shadowed Obama's. Only the second Roman Catholic to run for president, Kennedy said to the Los Angeles rally, "I hope that no American, considering the really crucial issues facing this country, will waste his franchise by voting either for me or against me solely on account of my religious affiliation. It is not relevant."

Kennedy took a few rhetorical swipes at his opponent, Richard Nixon, saying that "before he deals, somebody better cut the cards." But he dealt gingerly with the popular Republican incumbent, Dwight D. Eisenhower, saying that Nixon "did not measure to the footsteps" of the general.

Like Obama, he cast his appeal on a generational basis, with a declaration that "the world is changing. The old era is ending. The old ways will not do. . . . It is a time, in short, for a new generation of leadership -- new men to cope with new problems and new opportunities.

There was no generation gap between Kennedy and Nixon, unlike the wide age difference between Obama and John McCain. But Kennedy argued that the GOP platform was "a pledge to the status quo -- and today there can be no status quo."

He used his outdoor setting -- "facing west on what was once the last frontier" -- to set up the metaphor that came to identify his administration (the New Frontier) and to call on voters to summon up the courage to join him on that frontier.

"My call," Kennedy said, "is to the young in heart, regardless of age."

When Sorensen was asked how much Obama might be able to borrow from that address, delivered the year before the candidate was born, he said, "There are obvious parallels, with Kennedy facing a religious test and Obama, a racial test. And both then and now, we had a Republican administration that for eight years had allowed problems to accumulate and people to lose heart."

Across the miles, you could almost hear the old speechwriter contemplating how he would address the new challenge. When I called him moments after Obama had finished speaking, he gave the speech an A-plus.

Sorensen said he liked the "aggressive" tone, thought the biographical parts worked and said Obama had "clearly defined" his differences with McCain. The absence of any phrase as memorable as "New Frontier," he said, did not mar the performance.


"Sen. Barack Obama Addresses Denver National Convention at Invesco Field"
CQ Transcripts, Thursday, August 28, 2008; 10:59 PM

SPEAKER: SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-ILL.): Thank you so much.


Thank you very much.


Thank you, everybody.

To -- to Chairman Dean and my great friend Dick Durbin, and to all my fellow citizens of this great nation, with profound gratitude and great humility, I accept your nomination for presidency of the United States.


Let me -- let me express -- let me express my thanks to the historic slate of candidates who accompanied me on this journey, and especially the one who traveled the farthest, a champion for working Americans and an inspiration to my daughters and to yours, Hillary Rodham Clinton.


To President Clinton, to President Bill Clinton, who made last night the case for change as only he can make it...


... to Ted Kennedy, who embodies the spirit of service...


... and to the next vice president of the United States, Joe Biden, I thank you.


I am grateful to finish this journey with one of the finest statesmen of our time, a man at ease with everyone from world leaders to the conductors on the Amtrak train he still takes home every night.

To the love of my life, our next first lady, Michelle Obama...


... and to Malia and Sasha, I love you so much, and I am so proud of you.


Four years ago, I stood before you and told you my story, of the brief union between a young man from Kenya and a young woman from Kansas who weren't well-off or well-known, but shared a belief that in America their son could achieve whatever he put his mind to.

It is that promise that's always set this country apart, that through hard work and sacrifice each of us can pursue our individual dreams, but still come together as one American family, to ensure that the next generation can pursue their dreams, as well. That's why I stand here tonight. Because for 232 years, at each moment when that promise was in jeopardy, ordinary men and women -- students and soldiers, farmers and teachers, nurses and janitors -- found the courage to keep it alive.

We meet at one of those defining moments, a moment when our nation is at war, our economy is in turmoil, and the American promise has been threatened once more.

Tonight, more Americans are out of work and more are working harder for less. More of you have lost your homes and even more are watching your home values plummet. More of you have cars you can't afford to drive, credit cards, bills you can't afford to pay, and tuition that's beyond your reach.

These challenges are not all of government's making. But the failure to respond is a direct result of a broken politics in Washington and the failed policies of George W. Bush.


America, we are better than these last eight years. We are a better country than this.


This country is more decent than one where a woman in Ohio, on the brink of retirement, finds herself one illness away from disaster after a lifetime of hard work.

We're a better country than one where a man in Indiana has to pack up the equipment that he's worked on for 20 years and watch as it's shipped off to China, and then chokes up as he explains how he felt like a failure when he went home to tell his family the news.

We are more compassionate than a government that lets veterans sleep on our streets and families slide into poverty...


... that sits...


... that sits on its hands while a major American city drowns before our eyes.


Tonight, tonight, I say to the people of America, to Democrats and Republicans and independents across this great land: Enough. This moment...


This moment, this moment, this election is our chance to keep, in the 21st century, the American promise alive.

Because next week, in Minnesota, the same party that brought you two terms of George Bush and Dick Cheney will ask this country for a third.


And we are here -- we are here because we love this country too much to let the next four years look just like the last eight.


On November 4th, on November 4th, we must stand up and say: Eight is enough.


Now, now, let me -- let there be no doubt. The Republican nominee, John McCain, has worn the uniform of our country with bravery and distinction, and for that we owe him our gratitude and our respect.


And next week, we'll also hear about those occasions when he's broken with his party as evidence that he can deliver the change that we need.

But the record's clear: John McCain has voted with George Bush 90 percent of the time.

Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but, really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than 90 percent of the time?


I don't know about you, but I am not ready to take a 10 percent chance on change.


The truth is, on issue after issue that would make a difference in your lives -- on health care, and education, and the economy -- Senator McCain has been anything but independent.

He said that our economy has made great progress under this president. He said that the fundamentals of the economy are strong.

And when one of his chief advisers, the man who wrote his economic plan, was talking about the anxieties that Americans are feeling, he said that we were just suffering from a mental recession and that we've become, and I quote, "a nation of whiners."

(AUDIENCE BOOS) A nation of whiners? Tell that to the proud auto workers at a Michigan plant who, after they found out it was closing, kept showing up every day and working as hard as ever, because they knew there were people who counted on the brakes that they made.

Tell that to the military families who shoulder their burdens silently as they watch their loved ones leave for their third, or fourth, or fifth tour of duty.

These are not whiners. They work hard, and they give back, and they keep going without complaint. These are the Americans I know.


Now, I don't believe that Senator McCain doesn't care what's going on in the lives of Americans; I just think he doesn't know.


Why else would he define middle-class as someone making under $5 million a year? How else could he propose hundreds of billions in tax breaks for big corporations and oil companies, but not one penny of tax relief to more than 100 million Americans?

OBAMA: How else could he offer a health care plan that would actually tax people's benefits, or an education plan that would do nothing to help families pay for college, or a plan that would privatize Social Security and gamble your retirement?


It's not because John McCain doesn't care; it's because John McCain doesn't get it.


For over two decades -- for over two decades, he's subscribed to that old, discredited Republican philosophy: Give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else.

In Washington, they call this the "Ownership Society," but what it really means is that you're on your own. Out of work? Tough luck, you're on your own. No health care? The market will fix it. You're on your own. Born into poverty? Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, even if you don't have boots. You are on your own.


Well, it's time for them to own their failure. It's time for us to change America. And that's why I'm running for president of the United States.


You see, you see, we Democrats have a very different measure of what constitutes progress in this country.

We measure progress by how many people can find a job that pays the mortgage, whether you can put a little extra money away at the end of each month so you can someday watch your child receive her college diploma.

We measure progress in the 23 million new jobs that were created when Bill Clinton was president...


... when the average American family saw its income go up $7,500 instead of go down $2,000, like it has under George Bush. (APPLAUSE)

We measure the strength of our economy not by the number of billionaires we have or the profits of the Fortune 500, but by whether someone with a good idea can take a risk and start a new business, or whether the waitress who lives on tips can take a day off and look after a sick kid without losing her job, an economy that honors the dignity of work.

The fundamentals we use to measure economic strength are whether we are living up to that fundamental promise that has made this country great, a promise that is the only reason I am standing here tonight.

Because, in the faces of those young veterans who come back from Iraq and Afghanistan, I see my grandfather, who signed up after Pearl Harbor, marched in Patton's army, and was rewarded by a grateful nation with the chance to go to college on the G.I. Bill.

In the face of that young student, who sleeps just three hours before working the night shift, I think about my mom, who raised my sister and me on her own while she worked and earned her degree, who once turned to food stamps, but was still able to send us to the best schools in the country with the help of student loans and scholarships.


When I -- when I listen to another worker tell me that his factory has shut down, I remember all those men and women on the South Side of Chicago who I stood by and fought for two decades ago after the local steel plant closed.

And when I hear a woman talk about the difficulties of starting her own business or making her way in the world, I think about my grandmother, who worked her way up from the secretarial pool to middle management, despite years of being passed over for promotions because she was a woman.

She's the one who taught me about hard work. She's the one who put off buying a new car or a new dress for herself so that I could have a better life. She poured everything she had into me. And although she can no longer travel, I know that she's watching tonight and that tonight is her night, as well.


Now, I don't know what kind of lives John McCain thinks that celebrities lead, but this has been mine.


These are my heroes; theirs are the stories that shaped my life. And it is on behalf of them that I intend to win this election and keep our promise alive as president of the United States.


What -- what is that American promise? It's a promise that says each of us has the freedom to make of our own lives what we will, but that we also have obligations to treat each other with dignity and respect.

It's a promise that says the market should reward drive and innovation and generate growth, but that businesses should live up to their responsibilities to create American jobs, to look out for American workers, and play by the rules of the road.

Ours -- ours is a promise that says government cannot solve all our problems, but what it should do is that which we cannot do for ourselves: protect us from harm and provide every child a decent education; keep our water clean and our toys safe; invest in new schools, and new roads, and science, and technology.

Our government should work for us, not against us. It should help us, not hurt us. It should ensure opportunity not just for those with the most money and influence, but for every American who's willing to work.

That's the promise of America, the idea that we are responsible for ourselves, but that we also rise or fall as one nation, the fundamental belief that I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper.

That's the promise we need to keep. That's the change we need right now.


So -- so let me -- let me spell out exactly what that change would mean if I am president.


Change means a tax code that doesn't reward the lobbyists who wrote it, but the American workers and small businesses who deserve it.


You know, unlike John McCain, I will stop giving tax breaks to companies that ship jobs overseas, and I will start giving them to companies that create good jobs right here in America.


I'll eliminate capital gains taxes for the small businesses and start-ups that will create the high-wage, high-tech jobs of tomorrow.


I will -- listen now -- I will cut taxes -- cut taxes -- for 95 percent of all working families, because, in an economy like this, the last thing we should do is raise taxes on the middle class.


And for the sake of our economy, our security, and the future of our planet, I will set a clear goal as president: In 10 years, we will finally end our dependence on oil from the Middle East.


We will do this. Washington -- Washington has been talking about our oil addiction for the last 30 years. And, by the way, John McCain has been there for 26 of them.


And in that time, he has said no to higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars, no to investments in renewable energy, no to renewable fuels. And today, we import triple the amount of oil than we had on the day that Senator McCain took office.

Now is the time to end this addiction and to understand that drilling is a stop-gap measure, not a long-term solution, not even close.


As president, as president, I will tap our natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology, and find ways to safely harness nuclear power. I'll help our auto companies re-tool, so that the fuel-efficient cars of the future are built right here in America.


I'll make it easier for the American people to afford these new cars.

OBAMA: And I'll invest $150 billion over the next decade in affordable, renewable sources of energy -- wind power, and solar power, and the next generation of biofuels -- an investment that will lead to new industries and 5 million new jobs that pay well and can't be outsourced.


America, now is not the time for small plans. Now is the time to finally meet our moral obligation to provide every child a world-class education, because it will take nothing less to compete in the global economy.

You know, Michelle and I are only here tonight because we were given a chance at an education. And I will not settle for an America where some kids don't have that chance.


I'll invest in early childhood education. I'll recruit an army of new teachers, and pay them higher salaries, and give them more support. And in exchange, I'll ask for higher standards and more accountability.

And we will keep our promise to every young American: If you commit to serving your community or our country, we will make sure you can afford a college education.


Now -- now is the time to finally keep the promise of affordable, accessible health care for every single American.


If you have health care -- if you have health care, my plan will lower your premiums. If you don't, you'll be able to get the same kind of coverage that members of Congress give themselves.


And -- and as someone who watched my mother argue with insurance companies while she lay in bed dying of cancer, I will make certain those companies stop discriminating against those who are sick and need care the most.


Now is the time to help families with paid sick days and better family leave, because nobody in America should have to choose between keeping their job and caring for a sick child or an ailing parent.

Now is the time to change our bankruptcy laws, so that your pensions are protected ahead of CEO bonuses, and the time to protect Social Security for future generations.

And now is the time to keep the promise of equal pay for an equal day's work, because I want my daughters to have the exact same opportunities as your sons.


Now, many of these plans will cost money, which is why I've laid out how I'll pay for every dime: by closing corporate loopholes and tax havens that don't help America grow.

But I will also go through the federal budget line by line, eliminating programs that no longer work and making the ones we do need work better and cost less, because we cannot meet 21st-century challenges with a 20th-century bureaucracy.


And, Democrats, Democrats, we must also admit that fulfilling America's promise will require more than just money. It will require a renewed sense of responsibility from each of us to recover what John F. Kennedy called our intellectual and moral strength.

Yes, government must lead on energy independence, but each of us must do our part to make our homes and businesses more efficient.


Yes, we must provide more ladders to success for young men who fall into lives of crime and despair. But we must also admit that programs alone can't replace parents, that government can't turn off the television and make a child do her homework, that fathers must take more responsibility to provide love and guidance to their children.

Individual responsibility and mutual responsibility, that's the essence of America's promise. And just as we keep our promise to the next generation here at home, so must we keep America's promise abroad.

If John McCain wants to have a debate about who has the temperament and judgment to serve as the next commander-in-chief, that's a debate I'm ready to have.


For -- for while -- while Senator McCain was turning his sights to Iraq just days after 9/11, I stood up and opposed this war, knowing that it would distract us from the real threats that we face.

When John McCain said we could just muddle through in Afghanistan, I argued for more resources and more troops to finish the fight against the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11, and made clear that we must take out Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants if we have them in our sights.

You know, John McCain likes to say that he'll follow bin Laden to the gates of Hell, but he won't even follow him to the cave where he lives.


And today, today, as my call for a timeframe to remove our troops from Iraq has been echoed by the Iraqi government and even the Bush administration, even after we learned that Iraq has $79 billion in surplus while we are wallowing in deficit, John McCain stands alone in his stubborn refusal to end a misguided war.

That's not the judgment we need; that won't keep America safe. We need a president who can face the threats of the future, not keep grasping at the ideas of the past.


You don't defeat -- you don't defeat a terrorist network that operates in 80 countries by occupying Iraq. You don't protect Israel and deter Iran just by talking tough in Washington. You can't truly stand up for Georgia when you've strained our oldest alliances.

If John McCain wants to follow George Bush with more tough talk and bad strategy, that is his choice, but that is not the change that America needs.


We are the party of Roosevelt. We are the party of Kennedy. So don't tell me that Democrats won't defend this country. Don't tell me that Democrats won't keep us safe.

The Bush-McCain foreign policy has squandered the legacy that generations of Americans, Democrats and Republicans, have built, and we are here to restore that legacy.


As commander-in-chief, I will never hesitate to defend this nation, but I will only send our troops into harm's way with a clear mission and a sacred commitment to give them the equipment they need in battle and the care and benefits they deserve when they come home.


I will end this war in Iraq responsibly and finish the fight against Al Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan. I will rebuild our military to meet future conflicts, but I will also renew the tough, direct diplomacy that can prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and curb Russian aggression.

I will build new partnerships to defeat the threats of the 21st century: terrorism and nuclear proliferation, poverty and genocide, climate change and disease.

And I will restore our moral standing so that America is once again that last, best hope for all who are called to the cause of freedom, who long for lives of peace, and who yearn for a better future.


These -- these are the policies I will pursue. And in the weeks ahead, I look forward to debating them with John McCain.

But what I will not do is suggest that the senator takes his positions for political purposes, because one of the things that we have to change in our politics is the idea that people cannot disagree without challenging each other's character and each other's patriotism.


The times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook. So let us agree that patriotism has no party. I love this country, and so do you, and so does John McCain.

The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and independents, but they have fought together, and bled together, and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a red America or a blue America; they have served the United States of America.


So I've got news for you, John McCain: We all put our country first.


America, our work will not be easy. The challenges we face require tough choices. And Democrats, as well as Republicans, will need to cast off the worn-out ideas and politics of the past, for part of what has been lost these past eight years can't just be measured by lost wages or bigger trade deficits. What has also been lost is our sense of common purpose, and that's what we have to restore.

We may not agree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country.


The -- the reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than they are for those plagued by gang violence in Cleveland, but don't tell me we can't uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals.


I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in a hospital and to live lives free of discrimination.


You know, passions may fly on immigration, but I don't know anyone who benefits when a mother is separated from her infant child or an employer undercuts American wages by hiring illegal workers.

But this, too, is part of America's promise, the promise of a democracy where we can find the strength and grace to bridge divides and unite in common effort.

I know there are those who dismiss such beliefs as happy talk. They claim that our insistence on something larger, something firmer, and more honest in our public life is just a Trojan horse for higher taxes and the abandonment of traditional values.

And that's to be expected, because if you don't have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare voters.


If you don't have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from. You make a big election about small things.

And you know what? It's worked before, because it feeds into the cynicism we all have about government. When Washington doesn't work, all its promises seem empty. If your hopes have been dashed again and again, then it's best to stop hoping and settle for what you already know.

I get it. I realize that I am not the likeliest candidate for this office. I don't fit the typical pedigree, and I haven't spent my career in the halls of Washington.

But I stand before you tonight because all across America something is stirring. What the naysayers don't understand is that this election has never been about me; it's about you.


It's about you.


For 18 long months, you have stood up, one by one, and said, "Enough," to the politics of the past. You understand that, in this election, the greatest risk we can take is to try the same, old politics with the same, old players and expect a different result.

You have shown what history teaches us, that at defining moments like this one, the change we need doesn't come from Washington. Change comes to Washington.


Change happens -- change happens because the American people demand it, because they rise up and insist on new ideas and new leadership, a new politics for a new time.

America, this is one of those moments.

I believe that, as hard as it will be, the change we need is coming, because I've seen it, because I've lived it.

Because I've seen it in Illinois, when we provided health care to more children and moved more families from welfare to work.

I've seen it in Washington, where we worked across party lines to open up government and hold lobbyists more accountable, to give better care for our veterans, and keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists.

And I've seen it in this campaign, in the young people who voted for the first time and the young at heart, those who got involved again after a very long time; in the Republicans who never thought they'd pick up a Democratic ballot, but did.


I've seen it -- I've seen it in the workers who would rather cut their hours back a day, even though they can't afford it, than see their friends lose their jobs; in the soldiers who re-enlist after losing a limb; in the good neighbors who take a stranger in when a hurricane strikes and the floodwaters rise.

You know, this country of ours has more wealth than any nation, but that's not what makes us rich. We have the most powerful military on Earth, but that's not what makes us strong. Our universities and our culture are the envy of the world, but that's not what keeps the world coming to our shores.

Instead, it is that American spirit, that American promise, that pushes us forward even when the path is uncertain; that binds us together in spite of our differences; that makes us fix our eye not on what is seen, but what is unseen, that better place around the bend.

That promise is our greatest inheritance. It's a promise I make to my daughters when I tuck them in at night and a promise that you make to yours, a promise that has led immigrants to cross oceans and pioneers to travel west, a promise that led workers to picket lines and women to reach for the ballot.

(APPLAUSE) And it is that promise that, 45 years ago today, brought Americans from every corner of this land to stand together on a Mall in Washington, before Lincoln's Memorial, and hear a young preacher from Georgia speak of his dream.


The men and women who gathered there could've heard many things. They could've heard words of anger and discord. They could've been told to succumb to the fear and frustrations of so many dreams deferred.

But what the people heard instead -- people of every creed and color, from every walk of life -- is that, in America, our destiny is inextricably linked, that together our dreams can be one.

"We cannot walk alone," the preacher cried. "And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back."

America, we cannot turn back...


... not with so much work to be done; not with so many children to educate, and so many veterans to care for; not with an economy to fix, and cities to rebuild, and farms to save; not with so many families to protect and so many lives to mend.

America, we cannot turn back. We cannot walk alone.

At this moment, in this election, we must pledge once more to march into the future. Let us keep that promise, that American promise, and in the words of scripture hold firmly, without wavering, to the hope that we confess.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.



"Lieberman calls Obama young, untested"
By JULIET WILLIAMS, Associated Press Writer
Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Democratic vice presidential pick eight years ago, on Tuesday criticized his former party's nominee as an untested candidate unwilling to challenge powerful interest groups as both Republican John McCain and one-time Democratic President Clinton have done.

Playing his former party's spoiler, the Democrat-turned-Independent called McCain — not Democratic nominee Barack Obama — the best choice to lead the country forward in his prime-time address to the Republican National Convention.

"Sen. Barack Obama is a gifted and eloquent young man who can do great things for our country in the years ahead," Lieberman said. "But my friends, eloquence is no substitute for a record — not in these tough times for America."

The Connecticut lawmaker, who sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004, argued that Obama has not reached across party lines to achieve anything of significance and has been unwilling to take on Democratic interest groups.

In a clear appeal for backers of Obama's former rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Lieberman said, "Let me contrast Barack Obama's record to that of the last Democratic president, Bill Clinton, who stood up to some of those same Democratic interest groups and worked with Republicans and got some important things done, like welfare reform, free trade agreements, and a balanced budget."

Lieberman said the comparison "may make history here at this Republican convention," but it drew only lukewarm response from the partisan crowd.

Lieberman addressed the second night of the Republican meeting just eight years after he stood before a cheering throng at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles and accepted the nomination as Al Gore's running mate.

He broke with his party over the war in Iraq and used his platform Tuesday to criticize Obama's national security record and hail McCain's. Lieberman, one of the strongest backers of the war, said that while Sen. Obama was voting to cut off funds for troops in Iraq, McCain took the unpopular position to support a surge in troops.

"Because of that, today, America's troops are coming home, thousands of them, and they're coming home in honor."

Seeking to reach beyond the GOP faithful gathered here, Lieberman said anyone who's ever contemplated voting Republican should do it this year.

"Tonight, I want to ask you, whether you are an independent, a Reagan Democrat, a Clinton Democrat, or just a plain old Democrat: This year, when you vote for president, vote for the person you believe is best for our country, not for the party you happen to belong to," Lieberman said.

Lieberman also sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004, but lost badly to John Kerry. Two years later, he lost a Democratic nomination for another term in Connecticut in 2006, then recovered quickly to win re-election as an independent.

His vote in the Senate gives the Democrats a narrow majority, but these days, he often calls himself an independent.

Former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean predicted Lieberman's speech would be the most interesting of the night, and shows tremendous courage.

"He's going to be punished by the Democratic Party and he knows it. But he wants to do it because he thinks he's the best candidate for president," Kean said.

Lieberman was also believed to be among those on McCain's vice presidential shortlist before the candidate selected Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin last week. Bedrock Republicans reacted strongly against the political moderate.

Lieberman's speech also echoed the McCain campaign story line about Palin: That she is a Washington outsider who courageously took on fellow Republicans in Alaska.

He painted McCain in a similar light, saying he's not "just another go-along partisan." Instead, he took on corrupt Republican lobbyists, big corporations and powerful colleagues in Congress.

"That's why I sincerely believe that the real ticket for change this year is the McCain-Palin ticket," he said to cheers.


Barack Obama shakes hands after a rally in Concord (nh) last night. (AP)

"In Concord, Obama says McCain 'is not offering anything different' than Bush"
By DAN TUOHY, New Hampshire Union Leader, 9/13/2008

CONCORD – Barack Obama leveled a sharper attack last night on the surging Republican ticket, casting his rival as a clone of President Bush who is beholden to lobbyists and out of touch with middle-class America.

"John McCain has not broken with his party," the Democratic presidential nominee said at New Hampshire Technical Institute in Concord. "He is not offering anything different than we've seen from George Bush the past eight years."

In this battleground state, the candidate signaled he's ready for battle.

He mocked McCain as a Washington insider. He said McCain's record showed his judgment is questionable.

"He was wrong on Iraq," Obama said. "He was wrong to be distracted from Afghanistan. Instead of chasing Bin Laden to the gates of hell, we should have been chasing him to the hills of Afghanistan."

The heated criticism comes as McCain is pulling ahead in the polls, thanks in part to the buzz around running mate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. But Democrats said there is nothing to worry about.

Mary Rauh, a New Castle Democrat and co-chair of Obama's New Hampshire campaign, said the bounce was inevitable as McCain emerged from his party's convention.

"Will the enthusiasm last? I doubt it," she said, smiling.

U.S. Rep. Paul Hodes, a Democrat who came out in support of Obama early, said Obama and Democrats are ready to show they are tough enough and smart enough.

"We're not going to stand for it," Hodes said before Obama took the stage 90 minutes late.

Dave Abrams, a semi-retired Democrat from Weare, said the party is energized behind Obama.

"I know it's going to get tougher," he said. "I just hope it doesn't get too dirty."

In his speech, Obama promised to be the antidote for a broken health care system, the housing crisis, the highest unemployment rate in five years and an unfair tax system. He renewed his pledge to provide a tax cut to 95 percent of working Americans and eliminate the capital gains tax for small businesses. He called McCain a patsy for the richest Americans and corporations.

America must focus on increasing domestic production of oil, he said, while chiding Republicans at their national convention for chanting, "Drill, baby, drill."

"We can't drill our way out of the problem," he said before calling for development of alternative and renewable energy that could take years.

As he took stage and thanked supporters, Obama singled out Jim Demers, a prominent New Hampshire lobbyist. But as he concluded his speech, he criticized McCain for having lobbyists as senior advisers to his campaign.

"I may not have the lobbyists," Obama said, "but I've got you."

Obama continues his "Change We Need" campaign swing today with another rally at Veterans Park in Manchester. His running mate, Sen. Joe Biden, is scheduled to join him. McCain returns to New Hampshire tomorrow for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon.

Speaking after the GOP Unity Breakfast yesterday morning, state Republican Chairman Fergus Cullen picked up a tried and true target, calling the Democratic ticket a couple of tax-and-spend politicians.

He said Obama voted more than 94 times as a U.S. senator to raise taxes, including twice to increase taxes on families earning as little as $42,000 a year.

"Democrats will raise your taxes, while Republicans will hold the line on taxes," he said.
New Hampshire Union Leader Staff Writer Garry Rayno contributed to this story.
This Congress has been in session close to two years and now they have accomplished exactly nothing to meet any challenges. Now Senator Obama wants you to believe that things will get better if Democrats control both the Congress and the presidency, But when Americans demand change in Washington, one-party rule where power is an end of itself isn’t exactly what they have in mind. It is an hypocrisy and Obama is the biggest liar of all. If you don''t understand or wake up to this fact- you all are toast. This is a fact.
- Ken Peters, Manchester, NH

McCain is actually a classic ogre of American politics. If you watch his old campaign footage you'll see a consummate fibbing mud slinging old pol vs his many opponents, he has proven he can lie outright in a debate with a smile on his face, "my friends."

He sat in debates vs Romney and just plain lied about Romney's record. When Romney, underestimating McCain's outrageous gall, would correct him, McCain would simply take the opportunity to repeat the lie with a smile, knowing repetition works. That's what make him exactly like Bush.

McCain is as ugly a political player as any old cigar chomping deal maker from any of the worst eras in politics. We are seeing it vs Obama.

Will Obama be a weakling like Kerry or will he get in McCain's face and call him the liar he is? I think if he is pushed, with his sports playing background, Obama is not going to let McCain lie himself into office. We shall see.
- Carol Garlandson, Manchester

Senator Barack Hussein Obama is nothing more than a closet socialist with no background what so ever, he has not even a wisp of an idea of what he is other than he is not John S. McCain. John S. McCain has served his nation in both war and peace for more than forty years.

Obama talks of hope and change, but his views favor the distribution of wealth from those who have earned it to those who refuse to better themselves. He would rather reduce our role in a dangerous world thereby committing us to a future attack by those bent on bringing us down.

Barack H. Obama is in fact the worst possible choice you can make in ensuring the peace and security of our homeland. Hope is not a sound plan for a future nor is change is not a clear cut distination for our nation.
- John Pagan, Concord, NH

I'm not a big supporter of John McCain but Barrack Obama as a President would be a disaster. People need to look at his past record and where he gets his financial support.
- Elliott Halom, Manchester

haha you Obama supporters prove my point yet again. All you have is this false notion that McCain is Bush but nothing else to go on. Get over it because he isn't Bush. McCain has a history of being an independent senator who works across party lines. Obama has been voted the 3rd most liberal senator in the senate.

Just to take a page out of the Democrat's playbook, don't give Jimmy Carter a second term by voting in Obama.
- Ted Ginder, Bedford, NH

The fact is the Democrat Party together with their corrupt liberal "enablers" are the one's that have put "poison in the bloodstream of this great country". And more and more Americans are coming around to that concept everyday. We do need real change in November and it starts with the election of McCain and Palin
- Harold Fortnier, Portsmouth, NH

Sarah Palin is one of us. She's transformed Alaskan politics, and I believe in time she'll transform Washington. Mrs. Palin is living proof the dreams of our founding fathers weren't fantasy. Unlike Leftists, she will not try to impose her beliefs on anyone else. But she will stand up for our founding principles. And the more the Left, including the increasingly irrelevant MSM, attack her and her family, lie about her, dig into her personal life, the more determined Evangelical Christians become to elect McCain as president.
- Carol Jenkins, Newington, NH

It turns out Senator McCain cannot type emails because he cannot type, not because he lacks secretarial skills but because of the consequences of his war injuries.

It's sort of like Obama being unable to recall his close ties with Bill Ayers, Tony Rezko, Reverend Wright or Reverend Pflieger, or his inability to remember specifics about his years at Columbia University, or what precisely he did as a "community organizer/activist" in the Belly of the Chicago Beast, or his Muslim roomies in college.

Truth be told, Barack Hussein Obama, despite all the hype conjured up by the mainstream media, is just plain stupid.

More proof of that stupidity: He married Michelle, didn't he?
The woman who is now proud of the country and who didn't show up to honor 9/11 victims with her husband.
- Brent Harris, Salem, NH

Some of these comments are astonishing. Independent fact checkers who are without biased confirm that the Obama plan would result in a tax cut for 95 percent of Americans. It is also without dispute that Mccain voted with Bush 90 percent of the time. Sarah Palin's record or lack of record is out there for those who wish to take a serious look as well. An Obama Biden administration offers the combination of change behind a unifier and foreign policy experience. I wish those on the far right would turn off their am radio talk shows, get out of their mother's basements and pay more attention.
- Eric Bellisimo, Concord New Hampshire

Non-partisan studies have shown that McCain's plan will raise taxes more than Obama's. I know the party formerly known as conservative has been all for more big government the past eight years, but I thought that was a Bush thing. I guess I was wrong.
- Del Maxwell, Hampton

I never expected to say this: Obama is right on one thing. He keeps hammering out "Change we need" as his campaign slogan. I must agree. Democrats should change their platform, their tactics, their agenda, their minds, their hearts, their priorities, and especially their nominees.
- Ed Holdgate, Sandown

McCain IS just 4 more years of Bush. No one can say Bush's presidency was good for the country. Does anyone remember McCain's response to a question about Iran was "Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran!" Does he think war is a punchline! He now has Carl Rove working for his campaign (Bush insider with his grip on McCain again). His wife wears $300,000 outfit to one of the RNC nights - is that in touch with NH residents. My guess is that many of you would never wear that on just one night (I can't even live in a house worth that much!) Obama WILL work for the middle class - THAT has been HIS experience. McCain has worked for the military - that's his claim to fame.
- Donna Smith, Durham, NH

It is sad to see the level of hate these comments represent. Both John McCain and Barak Obama want what is good for our Country. The difference is in how they would govern. Unfortunately for Senator McCain he had to embrace President Bush and his supporters in or der to get the nomination.

We cannot afford four more years of the Bush policies. Senator Obama will certainly not be an extension of Mr. Bush, Senator McCain will.
- Rick Newman, Nottingham

All of you McCain supporters be sure to send back the $1,000 stimulus check you're going to get from President Obama and tell him "No thanks!" on your tax break. Also, be sure to thank McCain for taxing your health care premiums as regular income, and tell your kids to kiss their tuition subsidies good-bye, even if they do community service. And one other thing--how do you justify the Bush/McCain tactic of borrowing a billion dollars every other day from China and then sending it to corrupt warlords and contractors in Iraq.

Obama and Biden provide the change we need and deserve. Eight McBush years are enough.
- George M. Fodor, Derry, NH

As a Democrat, I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm actually voting Republican this time around. I can't vote for a man who I couldn't trust to protect me and my family from terrorists or people who would wish to harm America. I believe Hillary would have protected us, but Obama has oroven to me that he would let terrorists and other counties run all over us. This election, I'm putting my politics aside and voting for a man who will protect my family.
- Victor Roberts, Nashua

All I ever here is Obama telling us what's wrong with our country, but never any true and realistic ides of how to make it better. Typical Democrat.
- Ted Ginder, Bedford, NH

I think I've seen it on some other posts so I'll just reiterate a common sentiment: New Hampshire is McCain/Palin country. Obama; get out of our state!
- Tom Moore, Manchester

So Obama, how could you criticize McCain on anything regarding Iraq and the middle east. You've been there like twice and actually voted against sending funds to buy body armor for our men and women in uniform. If you want to be against the war thats one thing, but it completely un-American to refuse to protect the soldiers that are in harms way.
- Trish Campbell, Manchester Nh

Don't let NH turn into Massachusetts north! We cling to religion and guns up here in NH, so Obama should be pretty scared of us small town folk up here.
- Kevin Lyons, Freemont, NH

I just can't wait for McCain at the race. It will be nice to have a dose of reality and truth after all the lies from Obama the Chicago mobster politician.
- Shannon Lee, Hampton, NH

When are the Dems going to actually develop a platform to run their campaign on other than just liking McCain to Bush. Do they really think we are that stupid? Everyone knows that McCain has taken on the Democrats and Republicans alike and has been one of Bush's toughest critics. Grow up and come up with something to run on other than the deceitful attempt to link McCain to Bush because it just isn't true and doesn't work.
- Chris King, Manchester Nh

Paul Hodes can kiss his congressional seat good bye. Him and Carol Shea-Porter are the biggest jokes and blind followers of Nancy Pelosi. We need leaders representing NH, not puppy dogs from Massachusetts whom are tied to Pelosi and at her beckon call.
- Barbara Manning, Concord, NH

The only change we need is for the election to be over so we can usher in President McCain and stop hearing constant lies come out of Obama's mouth such as "I will not add any new taxes on the middle class." Talk about empty promises from an empty suit.
- Pam Dupont, Nashua, NH

You've got to be kidding me! Obama not having lobiest? I'm pretty sure he wouldn't know how to survive. As senator, he certainly hasn't done much (well who could when you've only really served one term and spent the other running for president) but what HAS has done is request MILLIONS in earmarks and wasteful pork spending for the Chicago area. He is one of the most wasteful senators in the US Senate but sure, we can trust that he won't use lobiests! Riiight....
- Casey Johnes, manchester, New Hampshire

Uh duh! We all know that drilling won't fix the problem of becoming fuel independent in the short term. I think it is wicked funny how the Democrats keep saying that like we don't already know the fact that it will take some time, but at least it is something. Even the belief that drilling more in our own country will lower gas prices. As McCain has said, on top of drilling we need to use everything from wind, solar, natural gas, ect to try and work towards becoming fuel independent.

Lets review what Obama's proposal was: "Make sure you inflate your tires and get a tune up." You've got to be kidding me! This guys really thinks he has the common sense to be President!?!
- Ryan Feltner, Manchester, NH


Obama at a campaign event at the McConnell Center in Dover yesterday. (AP)
"In Dover, Obama makes 'pledge' against tax hikes on most Americans"
"Poll results show McCain with small lead nationally"

"Obama widens lead in N.H."
The Boston Globe Online, Posted by Foon Rhee, deputy national political editor, October 2, 2008, 5:47 PM

Barack Obama's surge in battleground states appears to be extending to New Hampshire.

A new poll out this afternoon from the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College shows Obama ahead of Republican John McCain by 12 percentage points, 49 percent to 37 percent. Another 11 percent said they are undecided, but 88 percent of those who have selected a candidate say they will not change their mind.

"The results are significant and show upward movement for Obama, but it is still early in the world of elective politics,” institute fellow Michael Dupre, who designed the poll, said in a statement.

The institute reported: "Obama is ahead among likely voters who identify themselves as Democrats, independents, moderates and liberals. He is ahead among women, as well as voters in every age group and salary range listed in the survey. Men are almost evenly split between the two candidates, while conservatives, Republicans and Evangelical Christians are strongly in the McCain camp, the poll indicates."

The survey, conducted Sept. 27-30 by Abt SRBI in New York, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

A Suffolk University poll conducted last week found the race in a dead heat in New Hampshire, with Obama at 46 percent and McCain at 45 percent.

A series of polls released Wednesday also showed Obama widening leads in other swing states, including Florida and Pennsylvania.


"Hillary Clinton hovers over debate"
Posted by Foon Rhee, deputy national political editor, October 2, 2008, 5:57 PM
By Peter S. Canellos, Boston Globe Staff

Joe Biden and Sarah Palin can thank Dick Cheney for making the vice presidency seem important -- and Hillary Clinton for making their own candidacies seem inadequate.

Politicians used to line up to make jokes about the vice presidency -- "a warm bucket of spit," and so on -- and now, suddenly, it is being viewed as the most elite power perch in the Capitol.

The vice president is more than just a heartbeat away; the vice president is now presumed to be there, in the White House, riding herd on the government.

Cheney, whose decisive influence on the war on terrorism has been widely acknowledged, can be credited with enhancing the stature of the office. To many, he has also demonstrated the importance of closely vetting the candidates for the nation's number-two job.

But that's only one reason that this year's only vice presidential debate coming up tonight attracted more buzz than the first debate between the two presidential contenders.

Another is the drama surrounding Barack Obama's decision to bypass Clinton as his vice-presidential choice. There has been a very loose tradition of candidates in closely contested nomination fights giving the number two slot to the runner-up: John F. Kennedy chose Lyndon Johnson, Ronald Reagan chose George H. W. Bush, and . . . well, there haven't been too many more recent examples.

Then again, there haven't been too many nomination fights as closely contested as Obama's and Clinton's, and many of her supporters felt she was owed an offer.

Obama's failure to extend one opened the door to Biden -- and to Palin, whose addition to the GOP ticket by John McCain was aimed in part at wooing disaffected Clinton supporters.

Both Biden and Palin have paid tribute to Clinton in ways that have embarrassed their supporters. The normally combative Palin -- once nicknamed Sarah Barracuda -- caused a few hiccups on the right wing by kicking off her campaign with strong words of praise for Clinton.

Palin spoke proudly of the 18 million votes that Clinton garnered in the Democratic primaries and suggested that many of those voters would rally to her cause. "The women of America aren't finished yet," she said. "We can shatter that glass ceiling."

About two weeks later, Biden, rising to the challenge, raised some eyebrows in Nashua, N.H., by declaring that Clinton might have been a better pick than himself -- "not because she's a woman, but because, look at the things she's done in the past."

The two comparisons seemed to reflect better on Clinton than on the two veep candidates, raising questions about whether Palin is, as she seems to think, as qualified as Clinton was, and whether Biden may be living up to his unfortunate reputation for making odd statements.

Unlike presidential candidates, vice presidential candidates lack the validation of having been chosen by the voters. Their fitness is therefore perpetually in question.

Palin's selection produced initial excitement among conservatives, followed by some second thoughts. Her weak answers to interview questions posed in the past week by CBS anchor Katie Couric raised inevitable questions about her lack of experience in foreign policy and managing the economy.

Biden's experience is extensive, after 35 years in the Senate. But his five re-elections in the small state of Delaware were only lightly challenged, so there is reason to wonder if he's fully armed for political combat.

Clinton, by contrast, has been on the campaign trail for almost two years, criss-crossing the same proving grounds as Obama.

His failure to choose her shadows this year's vice presidential contest. It's fair to say that Clinton's presence, as much as Cheney's, has been hovering over the race this year.

Hers is the empty seat at the vice presidential debate.


Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., answers a question as Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., listens during a town hall-style presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn.

Presidential debate
"Tense talk at town hall: Obama, McCain clash on cures, cause of crisis"
By Charles Babington, Associated Press Writer, Wednesday, October 08, 2008

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Barack Obama and John McCain clashed repeatedly over the causes and cures for the worst economic crisis in 80 years yesterday night in a debate in which Republican McCain called for a sweeping $300 billion program to shield homeowners from mortgage foreclosure.

"It's my proposal. It's not Sen. Obama's proposal," McCain said at the outset of a debate he hoped could revive his fortunes in a presidential race trending toward his rival.

In one pointed confrontation on foreign policy, Obama bluntly challenged McCain's steadiness. "This is a guy who sang bomb, bomb, bomb Iran, who called for the annihilation of North Korea — that, I don't think, is an example of speaking softly."

He spoke after McCain accused him of foolishly threatening to invade Pakistan and said, "I'm not going to telegraph my punches, which is what Sen. Obama did."

The debate was the second of three between the two major party rivals, and the only one to feature a format in which voters seated a few feet away posed questions to the candidates.

"It's good to be with you at a town hall meeting," McCain jabbed at his rival, who has spurned the Republican's calls for numerous such joint appearances across the fall campaign.

They debated on a stage at Belmont University four weeks before Election Day in a race that has lately favored Obama, both in national polls and in surveys in pivotal battleground states.

Not surprisingly, many of the questions dealt with an economy in trouble.

Obama said the current crisis was the "final verdict on the failed economic policies of the last eight years" that President Bush pursued and were "supported by Sen. McCain."

He contended that Bush, McCain and others had favored deregulation of the finanancial industry, predicting that would "let markets run wild and prosperity would rain down on all of us. It didn't happen."

'We've got to get some trust back'

McCain's pledge to have the government help individual homeowners avoid foreclosure went considerably beyond the $700 billion bailout that recently cleared Congress.

"I would order the secretary of the Treasury to immediately buy up the bad home loan mortgages in America and renegotiate at the new value of those homes at the diminished value of those homes and let people be able to make those payments and stay in their homes," he said.

"Is it expensive? Yes. But we all know, my friends, until we stabilize home values in America, we're never going to start turning around and creating jobs and fixing our economy, and we've got to get some trust and confidence back to America."

McCain also said it was important to reform the giant benefit programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

"My friends, we are not going to be able to provide the same benefit for present-day workers that present-day retirees have today," he said, although he did not elaborate.

The two men also competed to demonstrate their qualifications as reformers at a time voters are clamoring for change.

McCain accused Obama of being the Senate's second-highest recipient of donations from individuals at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two now-disgraced mortgage industry giants.

"There were some of us who stood up against this," McCain said of the lead-up to the financial crisis. "There were others who took a hike."

Obama shot back that McCain's campaign manager, Rick Davis, has a stake in a Washington lobbying firm that received thousands of dollars a month from Freddie Mac until recently.

Pivoting quickly to show his concern with members of the audience listening from a few feet away, he said, "You're not interested in politicians pointing fingers. You're interested in the impact on you."

But that didn't stop the two men from criticizing one another repeatedly as the topics turned to energy, spending, taxes and health care.

Obama said McCain was going to require taxes on the health benefits workers receive from their employers at the same time his plan would wipe out the ability of states to enforce their own regulations to require tests such as mammograms.

McCain countered that under his rival's plan "Sen. Obama will fine you" if parents fail to obtain coverage for their children but had yet to say what the fine would be. "Perhaps we will find that out tonight," he said.

Obama quickly followed up, saying that McCain "voted against the expansion" of the children's health care program the government runs.

The two men prefer dramatically different approaches to easing the problem of millions of uninsured Americans. McCain favors a $5,000 tax credit that he says would allow families to find and afford health care on their own.

Obama wants to build on the current system, in which millions receive coverage through the workplace, with government funding to help uninsured families obtain coverage.

Foreign territory

The debate also veered into foreign policy, and the disputes were as intense as on the economy and domestic matters.

McCain said his rival "was wrong about Iraq and the surge. He was wrong about Russia when they commited aggresion against Georgia. And in his short career he does not understand our national security challenges. We don't have time for on the job training."

Obama countered with a trace of sarcasm that he didn't understand some things — like how the United States could face the challenge in does in Afghanistan after spending years and hundreds of billions of dollars in Iraq.

The audience was selected by Gallup, the polling organization, and was split three ways among voters leaning toward McCain, those leaning toward Obama and those undecided.

Tom Brokaw of NBC, the moderator, screened their questions and also chose others that had been submitted online.


"Fact Check: McCain, Obama Charges and Countercharges: ABC News Fact Checks Claims Made By White House Contenders During Second Presidential Debate"
Oct. 7, 2008 —

ABC News independently checked some of the claims made by John McCain and Barack Obama during the debate tonight.

With reporting by the ABC News Fact Check team John Berman, Lisa Chinn, Dennis Dunlavey, Brian Hartman, Tom Giusto, Kimberley Randolph, Z. Byron Wolf, Justin Rood, Teddy Davis, Karen Travers, Kirit Radia, Luis Martinez, Ariane deVogue, Arlette Saenz, Reynolds Holding and Jerika Richardson.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Money

Early in the debate tonight, McCain charged that Obama had the second highest donations of anyone in the Senate from troubled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

TRUE. The Illinois senator has received $126,349 ($120,349 from employees and $6,000 from Political Action Committees or PACs) since he joined the Senate in 2005, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. His total is the second largest of any member of Congress, right behind Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., at $165,400.

McCain has received $21,550 from employees (nothing from PACs) since 1989 -- a period 14 years longer than Obama has been in the Senate -- according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Pork Barrell Spending

McCain charged that Obama was guilty of driving up pork barrel spending -- government spending on programs that benefit his state of Illinois. McCain said, "While we were working to eliminate these pork barrel earmarks, he voted for nearly a billion dollars in pork barrel earmark projects including, by the way, $3 million for an overhead projector at a planetarium in Chicago, Ill."

TRUE: In July 2007, Obama requested a $3 million earmark for the Adler Planetarium to repair the 40-year-old projector to the Sky Theater, as detailed on his Web site.

AND FALSE: As to the first part of the claim, that Obama voted for nearly a billion dollars in pork barrel earmark projects, any senator, including McCain, who casts a vote to pass spending bills, in effect, votes for far more than that.

But if McCain misspoke and meant to say that Obama requested nearly a billion in earmarks, he's not even close. According to the Citizens Against Government Waste's annual Pig Book for 2008 Appropriations, Obama requested 53 earmarks worth a total of $97.4 million.

Small Businesses and Taxes

Obama defended his tax plan against McCain's charge that "Obama's secret that you don't know is that his tax increases will increase taxes on 50 percent of small business revenue." Obama responded that "only a few percent of small businesses make more than $250,000 a year. So, the vast majority of small businesses would get a tax cut under my plan." TRUE...AND TRUE: Only 4.3 percent of the total U.S. businesses are small businesses that make more than $250,000 a year, according to tax data. It's also possible that a majority of "small business revenue" comes from these firms. Obama is referring to the number of firms, McCain is referring to the concentration of revenue at the top end of the small business food chain. Both managed to make the facts work for their arguments.


McCain charged that "Sen. Obama likes to talk loudly. In fact, he said he wants to announce that he's going to attack Pakistan."

FALSE: Obama has not said that he would "attack Pakistan," but he has said that if Pakistan was unwilling or unable to move in on Osama bin Laden, he would.

This charge started with a speech Obama gave on Aug. 1, 2007, called "The War We Need To Win," in which he said: "I understand that President Musharraf has his own challenges. But let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will."


When asked what he would do to make Congress move quickly to address the environment, Obama said, "This is one of the biggest challenges of our time, and it's absolutely critical we understand it's not a challenge, it's an opportunity ... we can do it but we're gonna have to make an investment. The same way the computer was invented by a bunch of government scientists." Were computers invented by the government?

FALSE: The Mark I, widely considered to be the first digital computer, was developed by Harvard scientist Howard Aiken working in conjunction with IBM from 1939 to 1944.

A year later came the final assembly of the ENIAC, a computer developed by scientists at the University of Pennsylvania who were under contract with the U.S. Army in order to more rapidly compute firing and bombing tables.


McCain said, "In Lebanon, I stood up to President Reagan, my hero, and said if we send Marines in there, how can we possibly beneficially affect the situation, and said we shouldn't. Unfortunately, almost 300 brave young Marines were killed."

FALSE: This is an issue that came up in the first presidential debate, as well. And in both cases, McCain exaggerates his position. Marines were already in Lebanon when McCain arrived on Capitol Hill in 1983, and his vote was to prevent invoking the War Powers Act to extend the Marines already deployed. McCain did vote against that, but as he did in the first debate, McCain is wrong to imply that he opposed sending the Marines to Lebanon.

Town Meeting?

Perhaps the biggest exagerration of the night came from the debate organizers, who called the format a "town meeting." Of the 21 questions asked during the 90-minute debate, nine came from moderator Tom Brokaw, eight from the live audience in the hall and four from Internet users.


"A net spending fib: Obama doesn't cut it"
The New Hampshire Union Leader, Editorial, Thursday, October 9, 2008

Will the most liberal member of the U.S. Senate reduce the size of the federal government if he is elected President? Not a chance in hell.

At the presidential debate in Nashville Tuesday night, Sen. Barack Obama said, "Actually I'm cutting more than I'm spending so that it will be a net spending cut."

Really? No, not really. As the Associated Press reported after the debate, "The bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates Obama would increase spending by $425 billion over four years and reduce spending by $144 billion for a net increase in the deficit of $281 billion. Obama has said he'll cut pork-barrel programs and the costs of the war in Iraq to pay for his programs -- as well as raise taxes on the wealthy -- but the specifics of his new spending plans outweigh the few spending cuts he's identified."

The National Taxpayers Union subtracted Obama's proposed spending reductions from his proposed spending increases and came up with a net spending increase of $293 billion.

For Obama's claim to be truthful, the federal government would have to shrink under an Obama administration so that it ends up smaller than it was in the last year of the Bush administration. The last time federal spending shrank from one year to the next was in 1964-65. That is largely because entitlement spending is growing by 7 percent a year. And by the way, Obama made clear Tuesday night that reforming entitlement spending is not on his agenda.

Will Barack Obama cut federal spending more than Ronald Regan did? When pork-filled budgets fly.


Readers' COMMENTS:

Have you not heard Obama in every rally and every debate? He sits there and rattles of dozens and dozens in new programs and new spending that he will implement as president. Who's going to pay for all this? Do you really believe his claim that all of the funding for this will come from taxing rich people? Come on! He is going to either have to raise his taxes on EVERYONE or else at least half of his campaign promises are lies. Either way, I can't believe an intelligent voter would not see through this hog wash.
- Chris King, Manchester, NH

Jim Smith it is really interesting to read your post. You have spelled out exactly why people such as myself could never vote for Obama. You do a great job of blaming people for all the ills of this country. In your hate filled eyes, Obama promises you hope and change. What makes you think he will or he can deliver? Because he said so? Tell me about any taxes he has raised on the rich? Tell me his background on providing national security? As a matter of fact tell me his experience on any of the major issues facing this country. Please tell me. But all you can do is tell me what he has promised. That is fair and I would accept that but for the fact that it now brings into focus the character of the man making the promises. Do you really want me to start listing all the reasons for questioning his character? Maybe if you just think of what I have written you may come to your sences. I pray that the rest of this great country does.
- Bob Hunnefield, Manchester

So it wasn't right for Obama to point out that McSame voted 90% of the time in favor of Bush's economic policies...the same policies that are responsible for the financial mess we are in??? UL, how much does Faux News pay you to constantly attack Obama??? The GOP had the ball for 8 years and look what they did with it! Not bad enough the instigated a war with a country that was only supposed to cost 60B, and to date is almost at a 1T with no end in sight. Now we have a huge meltdown and another 1T is thrown to the wolves that created the mess with no repercussions!!! The thought of another 4 years on the same path is revolting to anyone with half a brain...and should be to anyone making less than 250K a year because you and your children are going to be the ones that foot the bill, not the rich fat cats that caused the mess!!!
- Jim Smith, Merrimack NH

I was undecided until the two debates. BO seems to redirect most economic questions, by shining a bad light on McCaine and Palin, or throwing in huge numbers, some people find hard to understand,(thanks for spelling that out) then he starts singing praises about his health care plan, which I have yet to see him talk real, American tax dollars, oh yeah, and the loss of personal control to a government who doesn't believe we are responsible enough to make choices ourselves. A philosophy, which to me, sounds alot like socialization.
Think about it; is hiking taxes up on people / businesses or pushing penalties on them, going to solve economic hard times? How many businesses have we lost to other countries? How many jobs are we willing to give up? How many people will be forced to live on government support checks?(at the cost of their self respect) Which, by the way, our American tax dollars pay for.
Seems to me, he would be better minded to try and find ways to entice businesses to come into the country, and those already here, to stay.
More businesses, and businesses choosing to stay is what is going to cause a better economy, and put more people to work. Government paychecks will start going down, and the economy would build itself back up. Political Science wasn't my major, but common sense tells me this.
- Bonnie Pleisch, Charlestown NH 03603

Of course, we would NEVER want the public to know that the rate of increase in size of the federal government these past 8 years has not been seen since FDR's time. The reason the "conservatives" are facing national repudiation is that for 30 years they have been doing almost exactly what they preach against. And it may be some time before the GOP is a force again in US politics. Justifiable so!
- Tom S, Rochester

When pork-filled budgets fly the Wall Street bailout.

Did Senator John Sununu join other senator in paying off fellow members one hundred fifty billion dollars a twenty percent increase to gain the majority vote?

Or was Senator Sununu on the receiving end demanding ten million dollars for television and the media paybacks?

Will the most liberal Republican NH. member of the U.S. Senate reduce the size of the federal government if he is re-elected? Not a chance in hell.

Independents and true Republicans we now have the numbers it’s time. Libertarian Candidate for U.S. Senate Ken Blevens.
- Libertarian Ken Blevens, Bow

Gees Dave, I guess it hurts when the truth is printed. Folks like you have been brainwashed by Obama bin Biden into thinking your taxes will be cut. As far as the polls go, a lot of us in the Granite State aren't really letting the polsters really know how we'll vote. The Dems took control of congress and really messed things up. We really need to get rid of the career politicians like Palosi and Biden.
- Dick Olson, Jaffrey

The throngs of those who have been lured aboard the Hope & Change Express are apparently either unable or unwilling to do the math. Senator Obama has promised to cut spending as President, but will not tell us specifically what he would cut. Meanwhile, he claims he will provide health care for one and all, tax cuts for most and entitlements galore. The equation simply will not work.

The McCain campaign has so far been unable to convince the undecided voter that the Obama vision is, in fact, a hologram. Unfortunately, this realization probably will not begin to sink in until January.
- Kevin Drew, Milford

Dave, we wouldn't want the people of New Hampshire to actually know what they're getting with Obama. Now if we could only get him to cough up the truth on his relationships with Ayers, Rezko, Wright, ACORN...but he's too busy insulting American troops and those awful folks hanging on to their guns and religion while simultaneously kissing up to the Far Left. Talk about making a mockery....of the truth.
- cheryl lassiter, hampton

More Obamanomics and slick rhetoric! Let me get this straight--BO proposes a "net spending cut" that he calculates by adding and subtracting the number of items rather than figuring the net sum of those items based on their valuations? This is about as logical and mathematically sound as his other promise to cut taxes for 95% of adult workers, even though 33% of adult, wage-earning Americans don't even pay taxes into the system. According to BO's brilliant and equitable plan, the non-taxpaying sector of the workforce gets a refund too! Of course, increased taxes on the rich will cover the difference. But there's only one problem: when taxes get too high, the rich, like many corporations, leave the country! So much for Obamanomics!
- Susie Nickerson-Warley, Horseshoe Bay, Texas

Funny, that you should print this biased article from the editors of the states one sided republican newspaper, when your man continues to fall further behind in the polls, and continues to make a mockery of himself. Cant fault you for giving it the old wall street underhanded try. Great job Union Leader.
- Dave Allen, Manchester


The Boston Globe, "Quotes of Note", Saturday, October 18, 2008

"Probably close to zero."-- Senator HILLARY CLINTON, on the chances she will run for president again


"A final push in most expensive campaign: Obama presses edge over McCain in funding"
By Brian C. Mooney, Boston Globe Staff, October 30, 2008

An unprecedented $64 million worth of television ads in just the final week of the race will put an exclamation point on the most expensive presidential campaign in history.

Republican John McCain, bolstered by about $18 million in late spending by the Republican National Committee, will hold his own against Democrat Barack Obama on the airwaves in the closing days. But over the course of the long campaign, the Obama operation will have spent more than $100 million more than McCain and the RNC on TV ads, according to data compiled for the Obama campaign and reviewed by the Globe.

Obama has been pressing his lopsided fund-raising advantage to challenge McCain in states long considered safe for Republican presidential candidates.

Data compiled by Obama's campaign show that by Election Day, Obama will have outspent McCain and the RNC, $278 million to $176 million on broadcast and cable TV, including $3 million for last night's 30-minute infomercial on seven national television networks.

McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds said: "Not since Richard Nixon has a candidate tried to buy his way into the Oval Office . . . until Barack Obama."

Obama spokesman Nick Shapiro answered: "Barack Obama's campaign has been funded by more than 3.1 million hard-working Americans giving small donations."

Obama, the first major party candidate to forgo public funding since the post-Watergate reform law went into effect in 1976, has smashed fund-raising records, taking in more than $600 million during the campaign, including the primary campaign, almost all from individual donors. McCain has raised $358 million, including $84.1 million in public funds for the last two months of the general election. McCain counted on national party money to help offset the Obama financial onslaught.

The RNC has helped McCain narrow the gap with Obama, but the problem for the Republicans is that they are almost exclusively playing defense as the clock ticks to Nov. 4, trying to hold off Obama in states carried by President Bush in 2004.

Among states that Democrat John F. Kerry won four years ago, McCain and the RNC are making a concerted effort in only one, Pennsylvania; in 17 other states, Republicans are either trying to defend states won by Bush or making token efforts in Democratic-leaning states. And even in Pennsylvania, Obama will outspend them by about $900,000 for the week through Election Day in the Keystone State, according to the Obama campaign data.

In the final week, McCain and the RNC will outspend Obama's campaign in the battlegrounds of Ohio, Florida, and Missouri, the report shows. The RNC made its heaviest last-minute purchases of airtime in Florida ($4.2 million) and Ohio ($3.4 million), two Bush states in which Obama is even or slightly ahead in the polls.

However, in the Sunshine State, considered a lock for McCain only two months ago, Obama had been airing uncontested ads for months and by Election Day will have outspent the Republican and the RNC, $36 million to $13 million. In the Buckeye State, which tipped the Electoral College to Bush in 2004, Obama will have outspent McCain and the RNC by a small amount, about $1 million out of a combined $62 million by both sides.

Virginia, North Carolina, Indiana, and Montana are other traditionally safe Republican states where Obama's team spent large sums on TV ads for months before McCain and the RNC responded, after polling data showed the Democrat pulling ahead or nearly even in polls. This week, the RNC jumped in to defend Montana, buying about $290,000 worth of ads in a state Bush carried by 20 percentage points four years ago. The Obama campaign has spent more than $2.2 million in Montana.

The RNC also boosted its advertising in support of McCain in West Virginia, a state Bush won by 13 points in 2004 and where both sides have been buying airtime in markets that reach into the neighboring battleground states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Virginia.

In the first two weeks of October, the RNC also meted out $11 million to Republican state committee efforts in 21 states to be used to support the GOP ticket and get-out-the-vote efforts, according to its filing with the Federal Election Commission. The Republican Party of Florida was the chief beneficiary ($3.2 million), followed by Pennsylvania ($1.5 million) and Ohio ($1.3 million).

Four weeks ago, the McCain campaign abandoned Michigan, another big state won by Kerry, and in the final week has all but written off New Hampshire and Wisconsin, two other states Kerry captured and where recent polls show Obama with commanding leads and heavily outspending McCain on the airwaves.

The only states where the McCain campaign and the GOP have maintained a clear-cut TV spending edge over Obama are Iowa, where Bush eked out a win in 2004, and Minnesota, where Kerry prevailed. Obama leads McCain in both states by double digits in most recent public polls.

"The McCain campaign has done an admirable job 'gaming the system' by getting as much as they could out of McCain-Feingold," said Evan Tracey, president of the Campaign Media Analysis Group, a group which monitors political advertising trends, referring to the 2002 campaign finance reform act coauthored by McCain.

That law limits the ways parties can directly help their presidential nominees. In recent years, the parties have found innovative ways to augment the candidate's own advertising - either by splitting the cost of ads that mention both the candidate and the party or buying ads without coordinating with the candidate's organization.

Tracey said that with such heavy purchases of airtime, campaigns reach a point of diminishing returns, buying spots at all hours on obscure stations. McCain's campaign, he said, has managed to remain competitive in many markets with more valuable spots on prized time slots, Tracey said.

As one McCain campaign operative in Florida mused recently: "We knew Obama had more money than he could spend when we began seeing spots on the CMT [Country Music Television] cable channel at midnight."


Historic victory
"Obama elected nation's first African-American president in a romp; McCain falters on GOP terrain; Democrats increase clout in Congress"
By Scott Helman and Michael Kranish, Boston Globe Staff, November 5, 2008

CHICAGO - Senator Barack Obama of Illinois was elected the 44th president of the United States and the nation's first black commander in chief yesterday, his triumph ushering in an era of profound political and social realignment in America.

Obama's decisive victory over Republican John McCain is a landmark in the country's 232-year history, especially for the millions of African-Americans around the country energized and inspired by his improbable candidacy. It gives Democrats control of Congress and the White House for the first time in 16 years and it led to impromptu celebrations around the country.

Making good on his promise to draw his own electoral map, Obama captured Virginia, which last voted for a Democrat in 1964, and he beat McCain in key battleground states, including Colorado, Florida, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, while holding on to Democratic-leaning states. He won in part on the support of new voters, African-Americans, and Hispanics, and as of early today he had 338 electoral votes, far more than the 270 needed to win the presidency, while McCain had 142.

In a grand celebration on a balmy fall night in Chicago's Grant Park, 240,000 supporters gathered to toast the president-elect. When the networks called the race shortly after 10 p.m. local time, tears flowed, flashbulbs lighted up the night, fists pumped in the air, and the lakefront erupted into roars of relief and disbelief - "We did it!" and "Oh, my God."

"I am so proud to be black, so proud to be American," said Alicia Thompson, a 45-year-old financial analyst from Chicago, tears streaming down her cheeks. "Anything is possible. Anything is possible."

Obama, the weight of his achievement reflected on his face, walked out on stage with his wife, Michelle, and their daughters, Sasha and Malia, to thunderous applause.

"Because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment," he said, "change has come to America."

Obama said his victory proved the bottom-up power of American democracy, citing the hours-long lines to get into polling places. "This is your victory," he said.

Obama also sought to warn the country of the challenges ahead, saying his election was not, by itself, the "change we seek."

"It is only the chance for us to make that change," he said, adding: "There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as president, and we know that government can't solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree."

A much smaller and more muted crowd awaited the results at the Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix with McCain, the veteran senator from Arizona.

In conceding the election with a gracious and conciliatory speech, McCain recognized the historic significance of Obama's achievement and offered his help. "Senator Obama has achieved a great thing for himself and for his country," McCain said.

McCain quieted some supporters who booed when he announced that he had offered his congratulations to Obama. "The American people have spoken and they have spoken clearly," the Republican said, while expressing his admiration of the way Obama inspired "the hopes of so many millions of Americans." He urged his supporters to "find ways to come together" for the good of the country.

Obama's win, which comes as Democrats also picked up seats in the House and Senate, sets the stage for significant shifts in the country's domestic and foreign policy in the years ahead. It was a fitting final bend of the arc of a presidential race Obama has run largely on his own terms since winning the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3.

He set the fund-raising pace, bringing in a record $639 million through last month. He set out early to play offense by competing in "red states" such as Colorado, North Carolina, and Virginia, a strategy helped by independent demographic trends that favored the Democrats. The general election battle was fought almost exclusively over change, terrain that Obama seized early and never relinquished.

And his compelling narrative his half-Kansan, half-Kenyan heritage, binational upbringing, and rousing call for a new dawn of politics often sucked oxygen away from his opponents. Even McCain's choice of Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska as his running mate was designed in part to give the GOP ticket its own rising young, telegenic star with a unique story who could compete for the public imagination.

The election - the longest and most expensive presidential race in history and likely to attract a record turnout - came at a pivotal juncture for the country, which is fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and suffering the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. With the president's approval rating at 26 percent, and only one in 10 Americans saying the country is moving in the right direction, the landscape favored Obama considerably.

Though the race was tight after the Republican convention and the initial enthusiasm for Palin, Obama began to pull away in national polls once the economic crisis exploded in mid-September, as voters came to see him as the more capable economic steward. In nationwide exit polls of voters yesterday, 62 percent said the economy was the top issue, compared with 10 percent who cited Iraq - a sweeping change from last year when McCain's campaign believed that the election would center on foreign policy, his strong suit.

Obama, 47, first gained national exposure with his stirring speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, in which he issued his now-famous call for the country to move beyond the political and cultural divisions that had split America into "red states" and "blue states." At the time he was a little-known state senator from Illinois, but that fall he was elected to the US Senate, becoming just the third African-American senator since Reconstruction.

Obama's star only gained intensity once he arrived in Washington, and he began to seriously consider the entreaties from many Democrats to run this year. He formally launched his candidacy on a frigid day in Springfield, Ill., on Feb. 10, 2007, casting his unfamiliarity with Washington as a political benefit.

"I know I haven't spent a lot of time learning the ways of Washington," Obama said in his announcement speech. "But I've been there long enough to know that the ways of Washington must change."

Obama went on to build his candidacy on that one simple word, "change," while eventually fleshing out his soaring rhetoric with detailed proposals based on helping the middle class. He drew millions of new voters hungry for a new direction and fresh leadership, including record numbers of young people. Since defeating Hillary Clinton, who had the backing of much of the Democratic establishment, he expanded his coalition to include other party constituencies as well as independents and moderate Republicans.

Obama also built an unmatched grass-roots army of supporters and volunteers, in part through novel Internet networking and fund-raising tools that may have changed forever the way presidential campaigns will be run. Obama became the first presidential nominee to reject public financing, choosing instead to rely on his millions of donors.

He had financial dominance in both the primaries and in the general election, allowing him to open hundreds of campaign offices across the country, blanket television nationwide with ads, and put resources wherever he wanted, including many traditionally Republican states.

McCain, 72, whose father and grandfather were Navy admirals, was held for 5 1/2 years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, an experience that brought him to national prominence.

McCain served in the US House for four years and then, in 1986, was elected to the US Senate, where he was often at odds with his party.

In 2000, McCain lost the Republican nomination to George W. Bush, and last year, pundits declared his second bid all but dead as he fired his top advisers and struggled to raise money. But a victory in the New Hampshire primary in January revived his campaign.

McCain sought to separate himself from Bush, who mostly stayed on the sidelines, and tried to find his footing on the economy, which he admitted was not his strength.

In last night's speech, Obama issued a call for bipartisanship, speaking to the millions of voters who did not support him.

"I may not have won your vote tonight," he said. "But I hear your voices. I need your help. I will be your president, too."
Helman reported from Chicago, and Kranish from Washington. Sasha Issenberg of the Globe staff contributed to this report from Phoenix.
The Next President of the United States of America: Barack Obama!
In a vote of historic proportions yesterday, Senator Barack Obama became President-Elect of the United States of America with a 52% majority in the popular vote, and more than 349 electoral votes. Over two years of campaigning was resolved with a record voter turnout, as the Republican candidate John McCain conceded graciously at 11:20 pm eastern last night. With such a high level of interest and attention, there have been millions of words written and photographs taken of the candidates over the past year. Here is a collection of some of the best photos of President-Elect Barack Obama over the past several months. (35 photos total)

The Boston Globe, Op-Ed, DERRICK Z. JACKSON
"He offered economic change"
By Derrick Z. Jackson, Boston Globe Columnist, November 5, 2008, CHICAGO

FOR ALL the multiracial throng cheering wildly at the moment Barack Obama won the White House, it was a stream of mostly white voters at a north side polling spot here who were symbolic of why we now have our first African American president-elect.

Color paled next to common pain.

Consider Ethel Kissin. She ambled slowly but glowingly down the street after voting for Obama. She put all her 99 years into that vote. A half century ago, she and her husband established a successful toy business, making kaleidoscopes. Her brothers fought in World War II. She understood discrimination as a Jew.

In her twilight, she has been hit hard by the economy. "I'm really down to my rent, my heat, and my food," Kissin said. "I just wear my old clothes. I was lucky I was able to buy good ones when I had the chance."

The first thing Kissin wants Obama to do as president is to fix the economy. "I don't know how much of what he does I'll get to see," she said. "But I feel he is a very special person. It will take a very special person to run this country the way it is now."

She was echoed by Bill Graburn, a 70-year-old retired Wall Street investment manager, who said, "I want him to restore the middle class."

Gina Konrath, 52, a freelancer in advertising, pays for her own health insurance, which costs more because of preexisting conditions. "And my job to just find a job is now so hard, Konrath said.

Genevieve Chencinski, 77, a retired office worker, said, "I just want him to be honest. We haven't had an honest president for a long time."

For a night of historic racial change, they said the Change We Need from President Obama is the change in their pocket.
Jackson's e-mail is

"Obama names transition team"
Posted by Foon Rhee, deputy national political editor, November 5, 2008, 2:47 PM

President-elect Barack Obama this afternoon announced his transition team, which will be headed by political veterans Valerie Jarrettt, a long-time friend and adviser from Chicago; Pete Rouse, his Senate chief of staff; and John Podesta, a former chief of staff for President Bill Clinton.

They will be assisted by an advisory board that includes Carol Browner, William Daley, Christopher Edley, Michael Froman, Julius Genachowski, Donald Gips, Governor Janet Napolitano, Federico Peña, Susan Rice, Sonal Shah, Mark Gitenstein, and Ted Kaufman.

Supervising the day-to-day activities of the transition will be:

Chris Lu – Executive Director
Dan Pfeiffer – Communications Director
Stephanie Cutter – Chief Spokesperson
Cassandra Butts – General Counsel
Jim Messina – Personnel Director
Patrick Gaspard – Associate Personnel Director
Christine Varney - Personnel Counsel
Melody Barnes – Co-Director of Agency Review
Lisa Brown – Co-Director of Agency Review
Phil Schiliro – Director of Congressional Relations
Michael Strautmanis – Director of Public Liaison and Intergovernmental Affairs
Katy Kale – Director of Operations
Brad Kiley – Director of Operations
Also, John Forbes Kerry, Denis E Guyer, Carmen Massimiano, Andrea Nuciforo, & Deval Patrick - Directors of CORRUPTION, PERSECUTIONS, & ABUSES of Power!

By Paul C. Light, Special to the Washington Post
Wednesday, November 5, 2008; A21

This presidential transition will be the most difficult since Abraham Lincoln entered office. Although President-elect Barack Obama is not facing a civil war, he will inherit an agenda of staggering uncertainty as the nation teeters on the edge of economic collapse.

The next six weeks will make Franklin Delano Roosevelt's transition seem less daunting by comparison. Roosevelt faced a great economic calamity, too, but the nation was not at war, the federal government was tiny and the transition was six weeks longer. Also, Herbert Hoover had done so little to address the economic crisis during his last year in office that Roosevelt had a clean slate on which to write the New Deal.

Obama's success depends in large measure on the transition infrastructure designed eight years ago by former White House chief of staff and current transition director John Podesta. He could not have known that Obama would be the first president-elect to use the tools he championed, but designed them so that even a former Illinois state senator with four years in national office would benefit.

Obama must use that infrastructure to pass three tests.

First, Obama must start pushing about 3,000 political appointees through a notoriously sluggish vetting process. Designed during the McCarthy era, when everyone in government was suspected of being a communist, the process is best viewed as a concrete pipe that can handle a only small number of names at a time, usually on a first-come, first-served basis. Congress gave the FBI authority to begin vetting transition aides from both campaigns months before Election Day. Because many of these aides will end up in line for positions, the Obama administration will almost certainly set a record in the number of early nominations.

Nothing guarantees quick Senate approval, however. The big problem in the Senate is not the filibuster, which is rarely used against nominees, but personal holds designed to extract executive concessions.

Even the most principled senator has been known to use the tactic. Angered by the Senate's opposition to his $1.8 billion railroad rescue bill, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) informed his colleagues in March 2002 that he had just placed the first two holds of his distinguished career. "I do not know what else to do," he told his colleagues, "stand on my head in the middle of the well to get the attention of people around here?" Obama's trusted adviser former Senate majority leader Thomas A. Daschle is no doubt already at work brokering deadlines to force faster confirmations, but old habits are hard to break.

Second, the next president must decide how to decide. If the campaign is prologue, Obama is likely to use John F. Kennedy's collegial approach, which emphasizes open, sometimes interminable discussion among senior advisers en route to consensus. However, he will soon discover that he needs a more disciplined process built around a strong chief of staff. Democratic presidents are particularly vulnerable to this awakening. They often enter office promising maximum access only to find they are soon drowning in advice. Absent some formalization, they drift through the transitions squandering resources as they ponder possibilities, not realities.

Third, Obama must narrow his priorities to a precious few. There will be no New Deal or Great Society next year. By intent or accident, the Bush administration has done a masterful job constraining the next president's agenda through his tax cuts and mistakes. Obama can use some of these calamities to create a sense of urgency for tax cuts, economic stimulus and a deadline for troop withdrawal from Iraq.

But he must also recognize the brevity of his influence. Even with a landslide victory in 1964 behind Lyndon B. Johnson and a massive Senate and House majority on his side, he worried about the erosion of support. "You've got to give it all you can that first year," he later said. "Doesn't matter what kind of majority you come in with. You've got just one year when they treat you right and before they start worrying about themselves."

No matter how well he does on these first three tests, Obama's greatest challenge will be deciding when to say no. Potential appointees are already lined up like airplanes over Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, while urgent appeals for action are flowing into the transition team from every conceivable approach.

Obama would do well to install a wall of industrial-strength paper shredders as a first line of defense against the onslaught. Forced to defend many of Johnson's now-rusting Great Society programs against a cacophony of claims, Obama may soon find that he will be doing more talking about grand ideas than signing laws.
Paul C. Light, the author of "A Government Ill Executed: The Decline of the Federal Service and How to Reverse It" and a professor at New York University's Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, will be writing an occasional column for the Loop page on the transition to a new administration.

"Obama Announces Transition Team -- and Web Site"
(Updated) November 5, 2008, 5:09 p.m.
By Shailagh Murray and Chris Cillizza, The Washington Post Online

CHICAGO -- President-elect Barack Obama unveiled his transition operation today, as Democratic sources said Rep. Rahm Emanuel, the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House, was seriously considering an offer to serve as White House chief of staff.

Emanuel has long been considered a front-runner for chief of staff if Obama won. The Illinois congressman is one of the rising stars within the Democratic Party. He worked for President Bill Clinton, was elected to a Chicago-area seat in 2002 and served as the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in the 2006 election, in which Democrats moved back to the majority.

Through that tenure, Emanuel has built a reputation as one of the savviest political minds in the party and also one of the most confrontational. His tactics and approach earned him the name "Rahmbo."

In pursuing Emanuel, Obama is sending a message to Capitol Hill that he recognizes the need to work with them by selecting one of their own but that he also will not be afraid to play tough -- Emanuel's trademark.

The "Obama-Biden Transition Project" will be overseen by former White House chief of staff John D. Podesta; Obama friend and senior campaign adviser Valerie Jarrett; and Pete Rouse, Obama's former Senate chief of staff and top campaign aide, officials said today. It will occupy offices in Washington and in a federal building in Chicago.

The transition co-chairs will work with an advisory board stacked with Clinton veterans and Obama and Joe Biden allies and confidants. On the list: former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Carol Browner; Obama friend and former Commerce Secretary William Daley, University of California-Berkeley law school dean Christopher Edley; Obama law school friends and advisers Michael Froman and Julius Genachowski; former Gore domestic policy adviser Donald Gips; Governor Janet Napolitano; former transportation secretary Federico Peña; Obama national security adviser Susan Rice and Sonal Shah of

Mark Gitenstein and Ted Kaufman, old friends to Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., will serve as co-chairs of his transition team.

Later today, the Obama team will launch, a transition news Web site.

At the White House today, President Bush said his administration was preparing for the transition. He called Obama's victory a "triumph of the American story" and pledged "complete cooperation" with him during the upcoming transition.

"All Americans can be proud of the history that was made yesterday," Bush said, focusing on the broader implications of a vote that swept his own Republican Party from power. "Across the country, citizens voted in large numbers. They showed a watching world the vitality of America's democracy and strides we have made toward a more perfect union."

Pointedly referring to Obama as the country's next commander in chief, Bush said he would brief the Illinois senator on any significant decisions he makes in coming weeks, as Obama's transition team begins the new president's ascension to the White House.

At the State Department, an emotional Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice personally opened a regular morning briefing by hailing Obama's election as "an extraordinary step forward." She called Obama "inspirational" and pledged the department's full cooperation for a "smooth transition."

Obama is expected to continue operating out of Chicago for most of the transition.
One Obama source familiar with the transition process said the goal is to move "quickly, but not hastily." The approach to appointments and other senior hires will be comprehensive, as opposed to ad hoc, which may mean that Obama will not name, say, a Treasury secretary right away but will continues to rely in the short term on his current economic advisory team. A game plan for moving forward will become clear by Friday, Obama sources said, and Cabinet announcements may start to trickle out next week.

The process of vetting and assembling a Cabinet began well before yesterday's election, with staff members hinting at the potential for several "outside the box" picks for top jobs. Aides will move quickly to begin monitoring the government's various departments and agencies, obtain the necessary security clearances, and keep a close eye on any last-minute attempts by current administration officials to leave a mark on policy after Bush's term ends.
Staff writer Howard Schneider contributed to this article.

"Obama's challenge at home"
November 6, 2008

ALL OF President-elect Barack Obama's campaign promises to improve healthcare, spur renewable energy, and better fund education will be stalled if the economy continues its downward slide. For that reason, Obama can best demonstrate his commitment to change by working behind the scenes now to persuade Congress, especially Senate Republicans, to agree to a quick and substantial economic stimulus package.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is planning a lame-duck session of Congress for later this month to consider such a package. It should include at least $150 billion in infrastructure projects, lengthened unemployment benefits, increased food stamps, and direct assistance to states. Representative Barney Frank, chairman of the Financial Services Committee, has also suggested it include reduced tax rates for low- and middle-income households, a proposal that is in line with Obama's campaign pledge of tax relief for the middle class.

In September, the House approved a more modest, $61 billion array of stimulus measures, only to see Republican senators block a slightly less costly Senate version of the bill. Since then, job losses have mounted, manufacturing is down, and the automobile industry has gone into a tailspin.

What has also occurred since September is the election Tuesday, in which Republicans lost seats in both chambers. That outcome decisively proved the public's deep desire for action on the economy. All of this should make Senate Republicans open to a request from Obama that they not once again play the role of spoilers.

Obama has already spoken with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson about the Bush administration's efforts to resolve the credit crisis with the $700 billion bailout. The president-elect should get his own economic team in place as quickly as possible so the new appointees can be kept abreast of the tactics the Bush administration is using.

When the new Congress convenes, Obama and its leaders will have to decide whether to push for his comprehensive healthcare plan or first wait out the recession. The argument for sweeping reform is that the economic downturn will cause even more families to lose jobs and coverage, increasing the need for the Obama plan. Also, without reforms Obama has favored, such as computerized record-keeping, the health sector will continue to be a drag on the economy.

There would be no better way for Obama to use the mandate he won Tuesday than by wrenching the dysfunctional US healthcare system into the 21st century. Before he tackles that, though, kick-starting the economy with a stimulus package deserves the highest priority.


"Obama's mission to the world"
November 6, 2008

BARACK OBAMA'S election has been greeted with good will and great expectations around the world. South Africa's Nobel Peace Prize laureate, former archbishop Desmond Tutu, said, "We have a new spring in our walk and our shoulders are straighter. It is almost as when Nelson Mandela became president of South Africa in 1994." In a letter to Obama, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said the French and others around the world "welcome the election of a man committed to dialogue between peoples and communities and cooperation among nations."

Obama will need this good will. But he also will have to know how to make the most of it. Above all, he must have a clear strategic vision, and orient his administration's policies toward the realization of that vision.

A sense of strategic purpose is what President Bush and Vice President Cheney most fatally lacked. Instead of empowering America's allies and weakening its enemies, they did the opposite. The new order they brought to Iraq has been a geopolitical gift to Iran - and a cause of anxiety to Arab governments, Turkey, and Israel.

It falls to Obama to use the tools of dialogue and cooperation lauded by Kouchner to meet the challenge from Iran. Iranian officials have expressed interest in a deal that would involve not only Iran's nuclear program, but also its security concerns and its regional role. It is technically possible to guarantee Iran the right to develop nuclear power while precluding its production of nuclear weapons. To determine whether Iran's leaders are serious about such a bargain, Obama will need to authorize old-fashioned direct diplomacy with them.

Multilateral diplomacy will be needed to reach another strategic goal: extricating the United States from a yawning quagmire in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This means engaging not only those two neighbors, but also India, Iran, Russia, the Central Asian countries, and China. This will be a complex, difficult process. But the alternative is an open-ended NATO military commitment in Afghanistan, and the danger that nuclear-armed Pakistan devolves into a failed state.

Obama will also have to keep a pledge to plunge immediately into the hard work of brokering a two-state peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians as well as a peace accord between Israel and Syria.

To create a congenial atmosphere for these new departures in statecraft, Obama should speak to the world's Muslims. They, and others, need to hear that America has no interest in a clash of civilizations but, on the contrary, stands ready to cooperate with all peoples in coping with common threats to the planet.


"Obama speaks on economy"
Posted by Foon Rhee, deputy national political editor, The Boston Globe Online, November 7, 2008, 2:58 P.M.

In his first news conference as president-elect, Barack Obama said this afternoon that it is urgent to deal with the economy, but also made clear that there's "only one president and government at a time."

"We are facing the greatest economic challenge of our lifetime," he said in Chicago, with his economic advisers arrayed behind him on stage, standing in front of a series of American flags. "Immediately after I become president I will deal with this economic crisis head-on."

Obama said there's a need for a rescue plan for the middle class to create jobs and help struggling families. He also the administration to accelerate aid to the auto industry to retool to make hybrid and other fuel-efficient cars.

The urgency of their task was made only more obvious with the latest depressing numbers. The Labor Department reported this morning that the unemployment rate jumped to 6.5 percent -- the highest in 14 years -- after the loss of another 240,000 jobs. That brings to 1.2 million the total jobs lost this year -- more than half of them since August.

Also, two of the big three US automakers reported huge losses in the third quarter -- Ford nearly $3 billion and GM $2.5 billion.

"This morning we woke up to more sobering news about the state of the economy," Obama said, noting that the country has had 10 straight months of job losses and now 10 million unemployed.

"I do not underestimate the enormity of the task that lies ahead," he added. "We have taken some major actions to date, and we will need further actions during this transition and subsequent months. Some of those choices will be difficult, but America is a strong and resilient country. I know that we will succeed if we put aside partisanship and work together as one nation. And that is what I intend to do."

Obama, Vice President-elect Joe Biden, and newly named White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel will huddled with the 17-member Transition Economic Advisory Board, which Obama's office said will "help guide the work" of Obama's transition team in "developing a strong set of policies to respond to the economic crisis."

Obama voted for the $700 billion financial rescue package, but has also talked about a rescue plan for the middle class, including targeted tax cuts, and about an economic stimulus package to create jobs. Democratic leaders in the House suggested this week that they might push for a $60 billion plan to extend unemployment benefits and food stamps and help cash-strapped states, then seek a broader package that could reach $200 billion once Obama takes office in January.



"Job Losses Soar, Unemployment Rate at 14-Year High"
By Howard Schneider, Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 7, 2008; 11:54 AM

The U.S. economy shed 240,000 jobs in October and the unemployment rate jumped sharply to 6.5 percent, a worse-than-expected showing that highlights one of the top issues President-elect Barack Obama faces when he meets with his economic advisers later today.

Businesses have been trimming payrolls since the start of the year, with 1.2 million positions lost over the past 10 months. The 6.5 percent unemployment rate -- up from 6.1 percent in September -- is the highest since early 1994, when the economy was pulling out of recession.

More than 10 million people are now jobless, actively seeking work but unable to find it, a number that has spiked by 2.8 million over the past year.

President Bush said in a statement that the numbers "reflect the difficult challenges confronting our economy," and urged Americans to allow time for federal efforts to address the global economic crisis to bear fruit.

Economists were expecting a poor reading, as an ongoing downturn in the housing industry continued to undercut construction jobs, a financial crisis led to job losses in that sector and weak consumer spending undercut retailers.

But Friday's release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed a broad and deep falloff in employment. Job losses hit almost every part of the economy -- blue collar and white collar alike.

Manufacturing lost 90,000 jobs, part of a steady decline in U.S. factory employment, while construction shed 49,000 jobs. The retail sector lost 38,000 jobs, with high gas prices, stagnant wages and general concern about the economy leading consumers to scale back spending. Professional and business service companies dropped 45,000 positions.

Only education and health services companies added jobs in the private sector, boosting employment by 21,000, while government added 23,000 jobs.

In addition to the fresh job losses in October, the estimated job losses for August and September were revised to reflect an even steeper drop in employment. August job losses were set at 127,000, compared with the previous estimate of 73,000, while the September number was fixed at 284,000, compared with the prior estimate of 159,000.

Obama confers today with his economic team, confronting a thick book of domestic problems, a financial crisis that has locked up world credit markets -- and a seemingly steady flow of bad news. Along with today's unemployment report, Ford Motor Co. announced further job cuts on the heels of a $3 billion quarterly loss. Both Ford and General Motors, the nation's top two automakers, posted larger-than-expected quarterly losses and used a significant amount of their cash reserves as the U.S. auto industry continued to struggle.

Nationally, meanwhile, wages barely crept forward. Average earnings increased 0.2 percent, or 4 cents, to $18.21 -- unadjusted for inflation.

The White House said the job losses are a reflection of broader underlying problems -- including the downturn in housing and the global credit crisis that stemmed from it. World economic leaders are due to meet in Washington next week to discuss possible changes in the global financial system. In the meantime, countries have tried an array of strategies to bolster their economies -- from interest rate cuts to direct bailouts of troubled companies.

"We are in the midst of a global financial crisis, and tight credit markets have made it harder for businesses to borrow the money they need to meet their payrolls, grow, and create new jobs," Bush said in the statement. He cautioned that more time is needed for federal rescue efforts to take effect.

In recent days, "the market for lending between banks has loosened considerably," Bush said, "and the Federal Reserve's efforts to stabilize the commercial paper market have provided businesses with an urgently needed source of financing for day-to-day operations."

Bush urged Congress to approve free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea, and said he looks forward to hosting next week's summit.
Staff writer Debbi Wilgoren contributed to this report.

"The GAO's "Urgent Issues" List"
By Joe Davidson, The Washington Post Online, "Federal Diary: The Source for the Federal Workforce"

The Government Accountability Office this morning released a list of 13 “urgent issues” needing the attention of President-elect Barack Obama and Congress during the transition and the first year of the new administration.

“With the serious challenges related to financial markets and the economy, the financial crisis facing the nation, two wars underway, and the first transition since 9/11 and the creation of a Department of Homeland Security, this is absolutely a unique time,” said Acting Comptroller General Gene Dodaro.

“GAO has combed through all of its recent work to help identify where its work can help address urgent challenges facing the nation now, to assist new appointees in every agency zero in on the challenges of that particular agency, and to help identify areas with the potential to save the nation billions of dollars.”

GAO said the 13 urgent issues need “continuing oversight to ensure the nation’s security and well-being.” Listed alphabetically, they are:

. Caring for Service Members
. Defense Readiness
. Defense Spending
. Food Safety
. Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan
. Oversight of Financial Institutions and Markets
. Preparing for Large-Scale Health Emergencies
. Protecting the Homeland
. Public Diplomacy and International Broadcasting
. Retirement of the Space Shuttle
. Surface Transportation
. The 2010 Census
. Transition to Digital TV

The list is the centerpiece of a transition Web site the agency launched last week.


"Obama's promised tax cuts"
By Kimberly Blanton, Boston Globe Staff, November 8, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama's proposal to cut taxes for the vast majority of Americans will be among his first actions next year as part of an economic-stimulus package.

So how will this affect your tax bill? The line between those who benefit and those who pay more is already clear, said John Irons, research and policy director for the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal Washington think tank.

"It's going to be a tax reduction on most people making under $250,000 a year," he said. "People making more than $250,000 a year will obviously see an increase in their taxes."

If Obama's plan passes, he would pay for his middle-class tax reductions by rolling back tax breaks put in place by the Bush administration for high-income earners.

But raising their income taxes and capital gains taxes will generate $780 billion over 10 years - short of the $835 billion needed to fund income tax cuts and mortgage credits for the middle class, according to the Tax Policy Center, a nonprofit Washington organization.

Other tax reductions would boost expenditures to more than $1 trillion, including a tuition credit equal to the first $4,000 paid by families to public and private colleges. The catch for students is that they perform community service.

Obama has said he would target assistance for the nation's lowest-paid workers, including boosting the earned income tax credit. The credit is effectively an income supplement.

The current maximum credit is $3,000 for households with two children. There are few details, but Obama has discussed a larger credit for households with three or more children.

The new president would also help workers save more. The current federal match for retirement accounts - up to $2,000 annually - is available to couples earning less than $52,000, and singles earning less than $26,000. The income limits would increase to $75,000 for families and $37,500 for singles.


"The New Order: As Barack Obama names a chief of staff, Republicans ponder how to respond."
The Washington Post Online, Editorial, Friday, November 7, 2008; A18

THE POST-ELECTION order continued to take shape yesterday. Another Senate Republican, Oregon's Gordon Smith, was defeated, taking Democrats to 55 Senate seats and further thinning the ranks of GOP moderates. Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the capable House Republican whip, announced he would step aside, most likely to be replaced by his more conservative chief deputy, Virginia's Eric Cantor. After a day of will-he-or-won't-he speculation, Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) said he would become the president's chief of staff, and Mr. Obama prepared to meet the press for the first time today as president-elect.

The choice of Mr. Emanuel is daring and somewhat risky, but it also gives Mr. Obama the benefit of a skilled and relentless operator who understands the inner workings of both the executive branch and Congress. Mr. Emanuel is a sharp-elbowed partisan whose renowned abrasiveness has rankled some within his own party; even more, Mr. Emanuel has been a focal point of Republican ire, especially since he played an instrumental role in winning back the House for the Democrats. The Republican National Committee and House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) expressed some of that enmity in statements issued yesterday. Mr. Boehner termed Mr. Emanuel's selection "an ironic choice for a president-elect who has promised to change Washington, make politics more civil and govern from the center." The RNC statement was even more acid, saying that "the White House needs a chief of staff -- not a chief campaigner like Emanuel."

The GOP response is worth taking to heart -- the new president needs to demonstrate a willingness to reach across the aisle -- but it is not entirely fair. Mr. Emanuel is undoubtedly a partisan, but with centrist instincts. In his previous White House job, he oversaw President Bill Clinton's effort to win passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement; he was a voice for pursuing issues such as welfare reform and co-authored a 2006 book, "The Plan," with his former White House colleague Bruce Reed of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council. The leftward precincts of the party may have more reason to be discomfited by Mr. Emanuel's selection than Republicans do. Mr. Emanuel could be an enormously effective chief of staff, playing a useful bad cop to the new president's good cop and translating Mr. Obama's political agenda into governing reality, but he will also need to temper his impatient personality to the demands of a new role.

The less-than-gracious GOP statements, and the turmoil in the House leadership ranks, underscore the choice ahead for the Republican minority: whether to try to cooperate with the new president or, with moderates an endangered species in the party, to form an unyielding opposition. We are not in the business of giving either party advice on how to tend to its electoral interests, but the public does not seem positively inclined toward political jockeying and reflexive obstructionism. Republicans should, of course, stand up for their principles, although the party, in the aftermath of its loss, will inevitably spend some time debating exactly what those are. But the country -- and, we suspect, the party as well -- would benefit from a sincere effort to find common ground with the new administration on some of the daunting issues facing the country in the months ahead.


"Like Lincoln and FDR, Obama faces nation in crisis"
By DEB RIECHMANN, Associated Press Writer, November 9, 2008

WASHINGTON – All presidents are tested. Few walk into the Oval Office when the nation is in the throes of multiple crises. Like Franklin Delano Roosevelt, President-elect Obama is facing a banking emergency.

Like Abraham Lincoln, Obama is trying to patch up national divisions. To ready himself for the job, Obama said Friday he is reading some writings by Lincoln, "who's always an extraordinary inspiration."

And like Richard Nixon, George W. Bush and others, Obama will be commander in chief over U.S. troops in combat.

"With two wars and an economic crisis, this is one step away from what Lincoln or FDR faced," said Terry Sullivan, associate professor of political science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "The question is `Which direction is the nation going to go?'"

While the challenges Obama faces are daunting, they also give him the opportunity to shape history in a big way.

"My 88-year-old mother asks me regularly, `Why would anybody want to be president now?' said Sullivan, who manages the Presidential Transition Project at Rice University. "My answer is 'Every one of them wants to be FDR.' This is their chance. What makes fame in the American presidency is a great challenge and succeeding." Or, Sullivan added, facing a great challenge and failing.

In fewer than 11 weeks, Obama will inherit not just the economic crisis and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also the ongoing threat of a terrorist attack, a resurgent Russia and nuclear proliferation in hot spots across the globe.

"We are in an almost unprecedented situation, at least in modern times," White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten said in a C-SPAN interview Friday.

Knowing his opening moves will be widely scrutinized, Obama tried to roll back expectations on election night.

"Our climb will be steep," he said. "We may not get there in one year or even in one term."

Yet he remained upbeat as did Roosevelt, who took the reins of a nation in the depths of the Depression. FDR used his optimism to lift up the downtrodden and refresh the American spirit. "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself," he said at his inauguration in 1933.

When Roosevelt died in 1945, by then a wartime president making secret plans for an atomic bomb, Harry Truman told reporters, "I felt like the moon, the stars and all the planets had fallen on me."

In an earlier conflict, when the country was on the brink of civil war, Lincoln took a hands-off approach during a four-month lag between his election and inauguration, staying mum so as not to inflame tensions in the North or the South. After Lincoln was elected, but before he took office, South Carolina announced its decision to secede from the Union. Six more states then seceded and together formed the Confederate States of America.

During the transition, Lincoln maintained what became known as an attitude of "masterly inactivity," said Harold Holzer, who recently wrote the book "Lincoln President-Elect." Lincoln didn't want to do anything that would upset the South, lose him the support of abolitionists in the North or the northern Democrats whom he needed on his side if there was going to be a fight to save the union.

"He thought the best way to deal with it was to be silent," Holzer said.

Like Lincoln, Obama used his first speech as president-elect to try to mend fences — and he did it by quoting Lincoln's conciliatory first inaugural address, which was given at a time of such national turmoil that Lincoln traveled to Washington in secret for safety.

"Let's remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House, a party founded on the values of self-reliance and individual liberty and national unity," Obama said of Lincoln, another lanky lawmaker from Illinois.

"As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, we are not enemies but friends," Obama said. "Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection."

To reach out to his critics, Lincoln even allowed a reporter from an opposition newspaper, a journalist named Henry Villard, to virtually move into his office in Springfield, Ill., to chronicle the transition.

"That's the equivalent of Obama picking up the phone and asking Sean Hannity to move in," Holzer said of the conservative television personality.

Roosevelt, who picked members of the opposing party for Cabinet spots, was as noncommittal as Lincoln as he was about to be sworn into office amid a banking crisis. When Herbert Hoover asked him to sign on to a bank holiday — a temporary closure of banks — three days before inauguration, Roosevelt famously looked up and said, "The drapes look very pretty. I'm sure Eleanor will want to keep these just as they are."

That made Hoover furious. Soon after taking the oath of office, Roosevelt declared the banking holiday on his own.

In his first fireside chat in March 1933, FDR said: "We had a bad banking situation. Some of our bankers had shown themselves either incompetent or dishonest in their handling of the people's funds. They had used the money entrusted to them in speculations and unwise loans. ... It was the government's job to straighten out this situation and do it as quickly as possible, and the job is being performed."

Sound familiar?

"He wanted to do it himself. A clean slate is what Lincoln wanted. It's what Roosevelt wanted," Holzer said. "The lessons of history are there. The most successful transformative presidencies were patient between the election and the inauguration."

Maybe history is repeating itself in that regard. When President Bush announced before the election that he was hosting a global economic summit in Washington on Nov. 15, the Obama camp said the presidential hopeful wouldn't be there. "He understands there is only one president," an Obama adviser said.

It's early in the transition to draw many conclusions, but Obama's style as a candidate and a legislator was to proceed in a measured, disciplined fashion.

"Obama is an empty vessel into which the American people can be expected to pour their inexhaustible supply of hope — in just the same way that they did in 1932," said Bruce Kuklick, professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Obama supporters who spontaneously flocked to the White House into the wee hours after his election Tuesday night were anxious for Obama to move forward. Gazing at the illuminated Executive Mansion where Bush slept, one waved signs that said: "Why wait? Evict Bush now."

For some, jubilation was tempered by recognition of the enormity of the tasks Obama faces.

"It's not just about him," said Rachel Reclam, of Olympia, Wash., an international affairs student at George Washington University. "He inspired people, but I'm not expecting miracles. The financial crisis, the war in Iraq, the health care crisis are not going to be over tomorrow."


"What it meant: In the great national narrative, where will Obama's election really fit? Five historians answer."
The Boston Sunday Globe, IDEAS, November 9, 2008

IF THERE'S A single word that has been used more than any other to describe last week's election, it is "historic." In a different year, this might be dismissed as the hyperbole that comes with the season, but this time the word is undeniably apt. The sense of history has been palpable. It was felt in the spontaneous street celebrations, in the way words faltered, in the keen conviction that a sprawling, modern nation had just achieved a measure of old-fashioned redemption.

But what place will the elevation of the senator from Illinois really be given in history? In 50 years, will the election of Barack Obama, the nation's first black president, be judged a pivot in the grand national narrative, or just a symbolic footnote?

Ideas put this question to five American historians. Their task was an act of imagination: to project themselves ahead to the middle of the century and gaze back, following the long threads of American politics and society; to report how the emotionally charged event might appear from a cool distance. One historian sees the vote as one of the country's great periodic political transitions, with parallels as far back as Thomas Jefferson's manhandling of the Federalists; another sees the moving culmination of the story of a former sharecropper, Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer. And another somberly forecasts that Obama's victory, feted last week as a turning point for African-Americans, will prove more a symbolic change than a real one.

History is never a single tale; all these visions may be correct, or none. They are best guesses, no more, no less, at the history we are living through right now.

America, reconfigured


MOST PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS do not fundamentally alter the American political landscape. Even when the party in power changes, the basic assumptions governing policy generally remain the same. But in a few critical elections, the advent of a new president is a transformative moment that reshapes American public life for a generation or more.

Thomas Jefferson's victory in 1800 was a deathblow to the Federalist Party and its goal of wedding the young Republic to the interests of its financial and mercantile elite. The election of 1828 ushered in the era of Jacksonian democracy, which far outlived its namesake's eight years in office. Lincoln's election in 1860 marked the end of slaveholder control of the federal government. McKinley's in 1896 created a Republican majority that lasted (with an interruption by Woodrow Wilson) until the Great Depression. The political alignments and attitudes toward public policy brought into being by Franklin D. Roosevelt after his victory in 1932 persisted into the 1960s. And Ronald Reagan's election in 1980 opened an era of deregulation, deindustrialization, anti-unionism, and the militarization of foreign policy - norms that the three presidents who followed did little to change.

Future historians may well view Barack Obama's victory as another of these critical elections, the end of the age of Reagan and the beginning of something substantially new. This is not primarily because of his race, although in view of our tortured racial history the election of the first black president indeed represents a watershed. Nor does it arise from the decisive nature of his victory - Jefferson had an extremely narrow margin and Lincoln received only 40 percent of the popular vote. Some landslides, like Eisenhower's in 1952 and 1956, do not mark the advent of a fresh political paradigm. Obama's opportunity rests above all on the fact that his victory arises from a powerful popular desire for change after one of the most disastrous administrations in American history and the wreckage of the ideology that has guided American politics since 1980. Perhaps the end of Reaganism came two weeks ago when Alan Greenspan, the high priest of deregulation during his years as Federal Reserve chairman, admitted that market fundamentalism had failed.

With its widespread use of today's technology - the Internet, cellphones, text messages - and its massive mobilization of first-time voters, the 2008 campaign will be viewed by future historians as a 21st century prototype. In his personal ancestry, Obama embodies recent social changes that point the way to tomorrow's America - a nation where the old black-white template has given way to a reconfigured landscape of race.

Obama has the bad luck to come to power in the midst of an economic crisis. He has the good luck to do so in a country yearning for strong leadership and a renewed sense of political possibility. No president can perform miracles. But if, like his most successful predecessors, Obama seizes the occasion by striking out boldly, articulating forcefully a new philosophy of governing at home and relating to the rest of the world, we will add 2008 to the very short list of elections that have truly transformed American life.

Eric Foner is DeWitt Clinton professor of history at Columbia University. His most recent book is "Our Lincoln," an edited collection of essays.

The first - and last? - black president


IT HAS TAKEN 43 years since passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which extended the right to vote to the majority of African-Americans, for a black candidate to become president of the United States. The significance of this achievement rises further when we remember that it has been nearly 90 years since women received the suffrage and that no woman has been elected president or even chosen by the two major parties to run.

Barack Obama's election confirms the faith that the civil rights movement placed in the power of the right to vote. In becoming commander in chief, Obama has inherited the legacy of countless civil rights warriors who risked their lives and many who lost theirs, to gain the right to vote, not as an empty symbol, but as a genuine tool for freedom and equality. He stands on the shoulders of John Lewis, Medgar Evers, Amzie Moore, Ella Baker, and Martin Luther King Jr., among many others.

He is the culmination of the political aspirations of the civil rights movement. After the Civil War, Reconstruction policies provided civil and political rights for newly freed slaves. Although 16 black Southerners served in the US Congress during Reconstruction and hundreds more were elected to state and local offices in the South, black political power largely had been erased by 1900. The North had retreated from its support of African-Americans, and the Supreme Court upheld laws that disfranchised blacks and permitted their segregation. The maintenance of black political freedom stood little chance in a nation that, despite the end of slavery, still believed in the racial inferiority of African-Americans.

The nation's Second Reconstruction met with much greater success. Beginning in the 1940s, the civil rights movement transformed the social, political, and psychological landscapes that underpinned and reinforced racial inequality. As the United States proclaimed its fight for democracy and against tyranny during World War II and the Cold War, racism lost much of its respectability.

Yet the civil rights movement battled for more than the right to vote; it fought to end the economic legacy of slavery and Jim Crow. The fortunes of black Americans have improved since the heyday of the civil rights movement, especially those who have educated themselves into the middle class. But as Hurricane Katrina vividly showed, African-Americans still live in poverty disproportionate to their percentage in the population. There are more black men in prison than in college.

And, remember, Obama's triumph does not guarantee the election of another African-American any time soon. John F. Kennedy was the first Catholic to win election to the presidency in 1960 and remains the only Catholic president to date. In fact, unless Americans become racially blind, which has not happened through 500 years, it will become harder for African-Americans to win the White House again. Demography is working against them, as Hispanic-Americans have now become the nation's largest minority group.

Steven F. Lawson is a professor of history at Rutgers, the state university of New Jersey, and author of "Running for Freedom: Civil Rights and Black Politics in America since 1941," 3d edition.

The end of the '60s


ON ELECTION NIGHT, Barack Obama addressed nearly 200,000 supporters in Chicago's Grant Park - the place where, just 40 years earlier, antiwar protesters, hippies, yippies and black radicals clashed with police during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Alternative visions of America had collided on Chicago's streets: dissent versus "America love it or leave it" patriotism, militancy versus law and order, sexual libertinism versus family values. Obama's Grant Park celebration - just like the election of 2008 - exorcized the ghosts of 1968, perhaps forever.

Campaigns in the 40-year period leading up to the election of Barack Obama hinged on the great question that Americans, both left and right, raised in the aftermath of the 1960s protests: "What side are you on?" Post-1960s politics fostered polarization: the "silent majority" versus raucous minorities, the Christian nation versus its libertine detractors, hard-working middle Americans versus welfare cheats, small-town gun owners versus latte-sipping urbanites, red states versus blue states. This year, John McCain attempted once again to turn the election into a plebiscite on the 1960s, from his first general election ad on the "Summer of Love," which contrasted McCain's military service and love of country with beaded and bearded protesters on the home front, to his campaign's attempt to brand Obama a socialist and pal of '60s fringe radicals like Bill Ayers of the Weathermen.

In 2008, however, the return to cultural warfare failed. Barack Obama distanced himself from the 1960s, reminding voters that he was but a child in Hawaii when America exploded in conflict. The activists who protested in the streets in the 1960s and the "silent majority" who railed against them are aging out. Their passions are mostly irrelevant to many younger people who grew up, like Obama, in the world that the 1960s made, a place where cultural differences were a source of pride, not conflict. Obama - and the voters who propelled him to victory (a majority of whom are his age or younger) - inhabit an ethnically and racially diverse America. Hippies and yippies are a thing of the past, but the values of sexual freedom and liberty have entered the mainstream; they even touched Sarah Palin's family.

Generation Obama has its own issues: global warming, worldwide epidemics, the threat of terrorism, and the collapse of the financial markets, to name a few. McCain's evocations of small-town values, of dissent and the silent majority and campus radicalism, left those problems unaddressed. Obama's rhetoric of unity - of common purpose and common cause - threw the dated politics of division and resentment into the dustbin of history. The cultural warriors, fighting over law and order, God, guns, and family values, will not be silent during the Obama administration, but they are increasingly relics of the past.

Thomas J. Sugrue's new book, "Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North," has just been published. He is Kahn professor of history and sociology at the University of Pennsylvania.

For blacks, what won't change


NOW THAT HALF a century has passed since the election of President Barack Obama, we can begin to place that watershed event into historical perspective.

Those of us who witnessed the turbulent campaign of '08 recall that, at the time, many pundits, scholars, and politicians argued that "racial progress" constituted the true significance of Obama's election. Certainly his success at the polls that year was a great symbolic victory; less than a century and a half earlier, the vast majority of Americans of African descent were enslaved, and as late as 1965, the vast majority of rural black Southerners were disenfranchised. Obama's election then was a triumph on two fronts: Many white Americans repudiated centuries of pervasive racial prejudice and discrimination to vote for a black man, and at the same time, President Obama represented the integration of blacks into the highest echelons of American elective office. The night of the election, Obama's supporters joyfully celebrated what many considered to be the elimination of racial barriers to black people's full participation in American political and social life.

Yet we now know that race was only a secondary story line as we gauge the larger meaning of Obama's successful campaign. Indeed, although virtually all historians today agree that the election was a transformative one in the context of presidential politics, they disagree about the broader causes of that transformation. Some argue it was the political and economic crises in the fall of 2008 that ushered in a 21st century Democratic majority. Others point to the mobilization of millions of young activists who engaged in old-fashioned, pound-the-pavement neighborhood organizing while armed with sophisticated electronic technologies. Either way, it's clear now that "race" had little to do with it.

Virtually any Democrat who had survived the grueling primary process would have won the presidency in the fall of 2008.

Indeed, while the symbolism of Obama's election was powerful, his success at the polls failed to change in any dramatic way the legacy of slavery borne by the nation's impoverished and thus most vulnerable African-Americans. In 2007, one-quarter of all blacks lived in poverty; the national poverty rate was 10 percent. Blacks represented a disproportionate number of all workers who lacked formal education and job skills, and thus they were among the workers hardest hit by widespread layoffs during the deep recession that began in the fall of 2008. Charitable giving plummeted, forcing drastic cuts in food pantries and homeless shelters. Depressed housing prices and large numbers of home foreclosures led to decreased property-tax revenue, which caused states and municipalities to slash spending for public education, housing, and transportation.

In time-honored fashion, many Americans searched for scapegoats to blame as the long era of freewheeling spending came to an abrupt halt; and in the years after 2008, those scapegoats were likely to be African-Americans and undocumented immigrants. In hindsight we know that contemporary observers who celebrated Obama's victory as a new era in American "race relations" were sadly mistaken.

Jacqueline Jones teaches American history at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author, most recently, of "Saving Savannah: The City and the Civil War."

The story that Fannie Lou started


FIFTY YEARS FROM now historians will look back on the election of 2008 as a watershed. Transcending the issue of his race, Barack Obama assembled a new progressive coalition, galvanized by the young and minorities, that successfully challenged the conservative consensus that had defined American political life for more than a quarter century.

Future historians will also conclude that the election was, in some sense, the end of a story that began in the summer of 1964, when a group calling itself the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) challenged the legitimacy of the state's all-white, segregationist delegation at the party's national convention in Atlantic City. Blacks in the Deep South had been denied the franchise for nearly 100 years. In Mississippi, the black electorate had been limited to about 5 percent of its potential. The MFDP, made up of sharecroppers, maids, and small-business owners, laid out its case in Atlantic City, presenting evidence that blacks were being assaulted, jailed, even killed for attempting to register to vote.

The dramatic high point was the testimony of Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer. A former sharecropper with a sixth-grade education, she had been fired from her job as timekeeper on a plantation after she had tried to register. Mrs. Hamer described her brutal beating by police officers in the small town of Winona, and then concluded, "If the Freedom Party is not seated now, I question America."

The Freedom Democratic Party did not win its challenge. Lyndon Johnson believed he needed the support of Southern segregationists to win the election, and proposed a compromise that would seat only two of the MFDP delegates. Once again it was Mrs. Hamer who stated the case for rejecting the offer: "We didn't come all this way up here for no two seats," she said, "'cause all of us is tired."

The MFDP challenge did, however, open up the Democratic Party. After the 1964 convention, Democratic leaders pledged to end discrimination in all party matters. The Freedom Democrats also raised the issue of disfranchisement when they issued a formal challenge to the seating of the state's all-white congressional delegation. This dramatic action, together with the Selma campaign led by Martin Luther King, pushed Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965. That law had far-reaching consequences, some of them unintended. As hundreds of thousands of newly enfranchised Southern blacks registered as Democrats, Southern whites switched their party allegiances, ushering in four decades of Republican ascendancy, both in the South and in the nation.

The 2008 election - with Democratic wins in Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida - may well have marked the beginning of the end of that era.

A month ago, at a conference I attended, a reporter asked a veteran of the civil rights movement about Obama. "I never dreamed," he replied, "this could happen in my lifetime." Having experienced white supremacy at its most virulent, this activist had no illusion that the election of a black man would solve the race problem. Still, he was amazed at the distance that had been traveled.

On Election Day, men and women who had once fought for the right to vote stood in line for hours to elect a black president. At the Obama victory rally, when asked to explain the tears running down his cheek, the Rev. Jesse Jackson said he was thinking of all the martyrs who had given their lives to make the moment possible. Television footage from across the country showed people crying and hugging each other, evoking images of the spontaneous celebrations at the end of World War II. A new day seemed to be dawning. Once again America was leading by example, giving hope to all who believe in the possibilities of democracy.
John Dittmer is professor emeritus of history at DePauw University and author of "Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi."

"Obama victory took root in Kennedy-inspired Immigration Act"
By Peter S. Canellos, Boston Globe Staff, November 11, 2008

WASHINGTON - Barack Obama's victory last week triggered an immediate accounting of debts to be paid off in constructing his new administration. There were those who speculated that Obama would be building a White House staff of loyal old Chicago hands. Others foresaw a bevy of Clintonistas. And still others had a vision of a kind of Kennedy redux that wags quickly dubbed "Obamalot."

After all, Caroline Kennedy had emerged from her shell of shyness to head Obama's vice-presidential search team, after joining her Uncle Ted on a national barnstorming tour with Obama in the days leading up to Super Tuesday. Her exertion not only signaled her enthusiasm for Obama, but also her willingness to be a greater presence in public life: Some now envision her as a possible UN ambassador.

Her cousin, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., has spent decades developing credibility as a global environmental activist, and some people close to the Kennedy family feel he, too, is ready to emerge on the national stage, having overcome a troubled youth. They see him as a possible Environmental Protection Agency chief.

There is no question that Obama owes a debt to the Kennedys - but it may be far greater than he or they realize. Yes, Senator Edward M. Kennedy offered a crucial early endorsement, comparing the Obama of 2008 to the Jack Kennedy of 1960. And certainly Caroline and others in the Kennedy family worked hard on the campaign trail. But the greatest Kennedy legacy to Obama isn't Ted or Caroline or Bobby Jr., but rather the Immigration Act of 1965, which created the diverse country that is already being called Obama's America.

That act is rarely mentioned when recounting the high points of 1960s liberalism, but its impact arguably rivals the Voting Rights Act, the creation of Medicare, or other legislative landmarks of the era. It transformed a nation 85 percent white in 1965 into one that's one-third minority today, and on track for a nonwhite majority by 2042.

Before the act, immigration visas were apportioned based on the demographic breakdown that existed at the time of the 1920 Census - meaning that there were few if any limits on immigrants from Western and Northern Europe, but strict quotas on those from elsewhere.

The belief that the United States should remain a nation of European lineage was openly discussed when immigration laws were revisited in 1952. The resulting bill, the McCarran-Walter Act, was notorious for giving the State Department the right to exclude visitors for ideological reasons, meaning that a raft of left-wing artists and writers - including Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, British novelist Graham Greene - and scores of others were denied visas. But it also had the effect of maintaining the 1920s-era notion of the United States as a white nation. (Congress imposed the bill over President Truman's veto.)

A decade later, attitudes were changing, and President Kennedy proposed a new immigration structure that would no longer be based on national origins. After Kennedy's assassination, his brother Ted took up the fight, pushing the Johnson administration to go even further than it wanted in evening the playing field. Though Lyndon Johnson, in signing the bill, tried to reassure opponents that it wouldn't do much to change the balance of immigration, its impact was dramatic.

In the 1950s, 53 percent of all immigrants were Europeans and just 6 percent were Asians; by the 1990s, just 16 percent were Europeans and 31 percent were Asians. The percentages of Latino and African immigrants also jumped significantly.

Simon Rosenberg, president of the liberal think tank NDN, formerly the New Democrat Network, calls the Immigration Act of 1965 "the most important piece of legislation that no one's ever heard of," and said it "set America on a very different demographic course than the previous 300 years."

By adding so many Asians, Latinos, and African immigrants, Rosenberg says, the act changed the racial narrative in America from one of oppression - the white-black divide dating to slavery - to one of diversity. That change was strongly echoed in the Obama campaign, which emphasized the candidate's mixed-race background as making him representative of a new generation of Americans.

That generation has its roots in the Immigration Act of 1965, and the act had its roots in the Kennedys. Obamalot may be the modern reflection of JFK's New Frontier, after all.
Peter S. Canellos is the Globe's Washington bureau chief. National Perspective is his weekly analysis of events in the capital and beyond. He can be reached at

"Obama puts leash on lobbyists for transition"
Posted by Foon Rhee, Deputy National Political Editor, By Michael Kranish, Boston Globe Staff, The Boston Globe Online, November 11, 2008, 7:35 PM

WASHINGTON -- President-elect Barack Obama, who vowed during his campaign that lobbyists "won't find a job in my White House," announced today that he would allow lobbyists on his transition team as long as they work on issues unrelated to their earlier jobs.

Obama's transition chief laid out ethics rules -- which also bar transition staffers from lobbying the administration for one year if they become lobbyists later -- and portrayed them as the strictest ever for a transfer of presidential power.

But independent analysts said that the move is less than the wholesale removal of lobbyists that he suggested during the campaign -- and shows how difficult it will be the lessen the influence of more than 40,000 registered lobbyists, who have become almost a fourth branch of government.

"That is a step back and there is no other way of seeing it," said Craig Holman, who lobbies on governmental affairs for the watchdog group, Public Citizen. Nonetheless, he said Obama is still making "a very concrete effort to avoid what I consider a potentially corrupting situation."

Obama, who promised to change how business gets done in Washington, railed against the lobbyists in the upper echelons of rival John McCain's campaign.

The Democrat also refused to take money from federal lobbyists, and lobbyists will also be banned from giving to the transition, which is expected to involve 450 employees and cost about $12 million, including $5.2 million from taxpayers. The remainder is to be raised privately, with a $5,000 per-person contribution limit and a ban on donations from corporations and political action committees as well as lobbyists.

"Barack Obama has pledged to change the way Washington works and to curb the influence of lobbyists," John Podesta, co-chairman of Obama's transition team, told reporters. "We are announcing rules that are the strictest, the most far-reaching ethics rules of any transition team in history."

Obama's office also issued statements from two nonpartisan think tanks praising the rules as "tough" and "bold."

Podesta said staffers who lobbied in the last year won't be allowed to work in their field in the transition and will have to cease all lobbying while part of the transition. He said he would have "more to say" later on details about rules for lobbyists in the administration, apparently including whether such people could be hired immediately to work in areas on which they did not lobby.

During his campaign, Obama declared: "I have done more to take on lobbyists than any other candidate in this race. I don't take a dime of their money, and when I am president, they won't find a job in my White House."

That left unclear whether he was referring to the relatively small number of staffers in the West Wing or to the hundreds of political appointees throughout an administration. Obama campaign's website said a lobbyist could join the administration as long as they didn't work on "regulations or contracts directly and substantially related to their prior employer for two years." He also proposed that political appointees would be prohibited from lobbying the executive branch for the remainder of the administration if they left.

During the campaign, Obama's anti-lobbyist rules also weren't ironclad. His staff included some lobbyists, though his aides said they stopped all such activities once they joined the campaign full-time. He accepted fund-raising help from lobbyists registered with states and took money from associates and family members of federal lobbyists.


"Obama softens ban on hiring lobbyists"
By Michael Kranish, Globe Staff, November 12, 2008

WASHINGTON - President-elect Barack Obama, who vowed during his campaign that lobbyists "won't find a job in my White House," said through a spokesman yesterday that he would allow lobbyists on his transition team as long as they work on issues unrelated to their earlier jobs.

Obama's transition chief laid out ethics rules - which also bar transition staff from lobbying the administration for one year if they become lobbyists later - and portrayed them as the strictest ever for a transfer of presidential power.

But independent analysts said yesterday that the move is less than the wholesale removal of lobbyists that he suggested during the campaign - and shows how difficult it will be to lessen the pervasive influence of more than 40,000 registered lobbyists.

"That is a step back and there is no other way of seeing it," said Craig Holman, who lobbies on governmental affairs for the watchdog group Public Citizen. Nonetheless, he said, Obama is still making "a very concrete effort to avoid what I consider a potentially corrupting situation."

Obama, who promised to change how business gets done in Washington, railed against lobbyists in the upper ranks of rival John McCain's campaign.

The Democrat also refused to take money from federal lobbyists, and lobbyists will be banned from donating to the transition, which is expected to involve 450 employees and cost about $12 million, $5.2 million of that from taxpayers. The remainder is to be raised privately, with a $5,000-per-person contribution limit and a ban on donations from corporations and political action committees, as well as lobbyists.

"Barack Obama has pledged to change the way Washington works and to curb the influence of lobbyists," John Podesta, co-chairman of Obama's transition team, told reporters. "We are announcing rules that are the strictest, the most far-reaching ethics rules of any transition team in history."

To reinforce that point, Obama's camp office also issued statements from two Washington think tanks often at ideological odds, which praised the rules as tough and bold. Podesta said staff members who lobbied in the last year won't be allowed to work in their field in the transition and will have to cease all lobbying while they are part of the transition team. He said he would have "more to say" later regarding details about rules for lobbyists in the administration, apparently including whether such people could be hired immediately to work in areas on which they have not lobbied.

During his campaign, Obama declared: "I have done more to take on lobbyists than any other candidate in this race. I don't take a dime of their money, and when I am president, they won't find a job in my White House."

That left unclear whether he was referring to the relatively small number of staff members in the West Wing or to the hundreds of political appointees throughout an administration. Obama's campaign website said a lobbyist could join the administration as long as he or she didn't work on "regulations or contracts directly and substantially related to their prior employer for two years." He also proposed that political appointees be prohibited from lobbying the executive branch for the remainder of the administration, if they left government.

During the campaign, Obama's anti-lobbyist rules weren't ironclad. His staff included some lobbyists, though his aides said they stopped all such activities once they joined the campaign full time. He accepted fund-raising help from lobbyists registered with states and took money from associates and family members of federal lobbyists.

Brian Pallasch, president of the American League of Lobbyists, said yesterday that members of his organization grew weary of being pummeled by both presidential candidates. Invoking the right to present their case to lawmakers, thousands of lobbyists represent millions of Americans, Pallasch said.

The change of administration and the prospect of dividing up billions of dollars to bail out Wall Street firms and to stimulate the economy are bound to create more business for lobbyists, he said.

Pallasch said that many lobbyists have expertise on an issue that would prove helpful in improving the efficiency of the large and complex federal government. "They can use that knowledge to make the government better," he said. "I don't think that should necessarily be seen as a negative thing."

Podesta said yesterday that he has heard complaints that Obama's policy would leave "all the people who know everything out in the cold."

"So be it," he said. The American public expects Obama to carry through on his campaign pledges "so that the undue influence of Washington lobbyists and the revolving door of Washington ceases to exist," said Podesta, who was President Clinton's chief of staff in the final two years of that administration.

Podesta, in a wide-ranging update on the transition 70 days from the inauguration, said that Obama would like to begin naming Cabinet nominees as soon as possible, but would take the time needed to make the right choices.

He reiterated that Obama wants to provide aid to the troubled auto industry, but said no decisions have been made. Congress may meet next week in a lame-duck session and consider whether to approve an economic stimulus package and more aid to automakers, but it is unclear whether Republicans will support the measures. If Republicans balk, the matter will be held over until after Obama's Jan. 20 inauguration, when Democrats will have a larger majority in Congress.

Podesta also said that Obama has no plans to meet with foreign leaders at a global economic summit in Washington this weekend, hosted by President Bush. "We have one president at a time, and it's important that the president can speak for the United States at the summit," Podesta said.
Material from the Associated Press was also used in this report. Michael Kranish can be reached at
"Clinton and Obama: Compatible on foreign policy?"

Barack Obama is considering making former rival Hillary Clinton secretary of state in his new administration, according to Democratic officials.

Although Clinton certainly has the qualifications, she often battled fiercely with Obama during the primaries on foreign policy -- the domain of the State Department.

Scroll through this gallery to see where the two diverged during the 2008 race, and vote at the end on whether you think they could agree on foreign policy going forward.
(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

In a July 2007 debate, Obama said he would be willing to meet with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea without preconditions in the first year of his presidency.

After the debate, Clinton jumped on the statement, saying, "I thought that was irresponsible, and frankly naive."
Read the Story:
"Clinton: Obama "Irresponsible" And "Naive": Democratic Rivals Clash Over Obama Saying He'd Be Willing To Meet With Heads Of Rogue Nations", CHARLESTON, S.C., July 24, 2007.

In October 2007, Obama criticized Clinton's Senate vote to declare the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist group, saying it might clear a path for the Bush administration to invade the country.

"As we learned with the original authorization of the Iraq war - when you give this President a blank check, you can't be surprised when he cashes it," Obama wrote in an opinion piece.

In November 2007 Clinton ridiculed the Illinois senator for his assertion that living abroad gave him knowledge of the world.

"Now voters will judge whether living in a foreign country at the age of 10 prepares one to face the big, complex international challenges the next president will face," Clinton said.

In December, with the Iowa caucuses approaching, Obama belittled Clinton's foreign policy experience by saying:

"My experience is grounded in understanding how the world sees America, from living overseas and traveling overseas, and having family beyond our shores. It's that experience, that understanding, and not just of what world leader I went and talked to in the ambassador's house who I had tea with."

Clinton tried to turn Obama's words against him in February, saying his openness to send troops into Pakistan after terrorists contradicted his willingness to meet with rogue nations.

"He wavers from seeming to believe that mediation and meetings without preconditions can solve some of the world's most intractable problems to advocating rash, unilateral military action without the cooperation of our allies in the most sensitive part of the world," Clinton said.

In March, Obama's campaign returned the favor, hitting back at her misrepresentation of a 1996 visit to Bosnia. Clinton had come under fire -- figuratively -- for saying she landed amidst shooting, only to have videos contradict the claim.

Clinton said she misspoke, but an Obama aide called it part of "a growing list of instances in which Sen. Clinton has exaggerated her role in foreign and domestic policymaking."

(REUTERS/Mike Segar)
Obama, whose youth often drew charges of inexperience from Clinton, raised some eyebrows in April 2008 when he said, "foreign policy is the area where I am probably most confident that I know more and understand the world better than Senator Clinton or Senator McCain."

Clinton replied to Obama's comment by saying: "Well I'm somewhat shocked by that since I don't see any evidence of it. This is kind of hard to square with his failure to ever have a single policy hearing on the only responsibility he was given, chairing the European and NATO subcommittee the foreign relations committee. I don't know. I'm speechless. Making an assertion like that belies the facts and the record."
(Globe Photo)

After Obama's primary victory the two put their differences aside and worked together amicably during the general election. But can the two see eye to eye on foreign policy going forward?

"A team of rivals?"
The Boston Globe Online, November 18, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama is considering Senator Hillary Clinton as his secretary of state, but they exchanged some sharp criticism of their foreign policy stands and credentials during their Democratic primary campaign:

# July 2007 Clinton on Obama pledging to meet with leaders of rogue nations such as Iran without preconditions: "I thought that was irresponsible, and frankly naive."

# October 2007 Obama on Clinton's support for a resolution declaring Iran's Revolutionary Guard a terrorist group: "As we learned with the original authorization of the Iraq war - when you give this president a blank check, you can't be surprised when he cashes it. I strongly differ with Senator Hillary Clinton, who was the only Democratic presidential candidate to support this reckless amendment."

# November 2007 Clinton on Obama's experience: "Now voters will judge whether living in a foreign country at the age of 10 prepares one to face the big, complex international challenges the next president will face. I think we need a president with more experience than that - someone the rest of the world knows, looks up to, and has confidence in."

# December 2007 Obama on Clinton's tenure as first lady: "My experience is grounded in understanding how the world sees America, from living overseas and traveling overseas and having family beyond our shores. It's that experience, that understanding, and not just what world leader I went and talked to in the ambassador's house, who I had tea with."

# February 2008, Clinton on Obama's vow to attack terrorists in Pakistan if Pakistan would not: "He wavers from seeming to believe that mediation and meetings without preconditions can solve some of the world's most intractable problems to advocating rash, unilateral military action without the cooperation of our allies in the most sensitive part of the world."

# March 2008 Obama adviser Greg Craig on Clinton's assertion of foreign policy accomplishments as first lady: "I think it's exaggeration. It's inflated résumé. It's in that category."

# April 2008 Obama on his credentials: "Foreign policy is the area where I am probably most confident that I know more and understand the world better than Senator Clinton or Senator McCain."

Clinton's reply: "Well I'm somewhat shocked by that since I don't see any evidence of it. . . . I'm speechless. Making an assertion like that belies the facts and the record."
SOURCE: News reports

The lineup of probables includes Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, Timothy F. Geithner as treasury secretary, Lawrence H. Summers as a senior economic adviser, and Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico as commerce secretary.

"Hillary Clinton is choice for State Department: Obama plans to tap rival; markets soar on news of Treasury pick"
By Joseph Williams and Robert Weisman, Boston Globe Staff, November 22, 2008

WASHINGTON - President-elect Barack Obama is all but certain to appoint former rival Hillary Clinton to be his secretary of state, an Obama aide confirmed yesterday, and will reportedly name Timothy F. Geithner, president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, as his Treasury secretary, the key Cabinet post responsible for confronting the surging economic crisis.

The stock market soared in the final hour yesterday when news emerged that Obama would appoint Geithner and other top members of his economic team as early as Monday, a signal that he wants to establish his team quickly to try to stem the economic free fall. Obama also is expected to appoint Lawrence H. Summers, the former Harvard president and Treasury secretary, as a senior economic adviser.

Obama and Clinton, who battled fiercely for the Democratic nomination, have worked out the final terms, and Obama plans to announce her appointment after the Thanksgiving holiday, according to the aide, who works on the presidential transition team but did not want to be identified because he does not have authority to speak on the record about the matter.

A key stumbling block over Clinton's appointment - full disclosure of former President Bill Clinton's finances and his international dealings - has been resolved, according to the aide, and the president-elect and Senator Clinton are "in good, substantive conversations" as the remainder of the national security team is selected.

Reports that Obama had settled on Geithner triggered a dramatic rally on Wall Street and elicited praise from a range of lawmakers, bankers, and lobbyists. Most hailed the 47-year-old Geithner's capability, his calmness under pressure, and his cre ative approach to problem-solving.

"I think it's a great appointment," said Barney Frank, Democrat of Newton, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. "There'll be a smooth transition, but there'll be a change" on national economic policy.

Because Geithner has been involved in the $700 billion Wall Street rescue package, "there'll be a lot of continuity," Frank said. "He's been in it. He was a formulator of it."

News reports also said that Summers - a senior Obama adviser, a former Treasury secretary under President Clinton, and past president of Harvard University - would become a senior White House economic adviser. The New York Times reported that Summers, who had been a front-runner for the Treasury post, would be in line to succeed Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, when his term expires in 2010.

"I think this is pro-Geithner and not anti-Summers," Frank said.

Another former Obama rival for the nomination, Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico, was reported to be in line for the post of commerce secretary. That would bring a Latino into the Obama Cabinet.

The reports about Clinton and Geithner capped a week of speculation about Clinton and a flurry of reports about Obama's Cabinet - most attributed to leaks by senior advisers or transition officials, a sharp contrast to Obama's "leak-proof" presidential campaign.

An Obama campaign adviser close to the transition team told the Globe yesterday that the president-elect is apparently focusing on retired Marine Corps General James Jones as his national security adviser. If selected, Jones - a widely respected officer and former Marine Corps commandant who led NATO forces in Afghanistan - would indicate that Obama intends to keep his campaign promise and make the worsening situation in Afghanistan a top military priority.

The Clinton and Geithner selections would also signal that under Obama, the United States is looking to work more closely with the international community.

As first lady, Clinton traveled extensively and gained worldwide recognition. Geithner speaks Chinese and worked at the International Monetary Fund before joining the New York Fed in 2003. He also worked at the Treasury Department under Republican as well as Democratic presidencies.

Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief, said Clinton as secretary of state would be well received in Europe, especially because her husband remains popular on the continent. "She is a very capable person, whose experience is well known. . . . The name Clinton is well taken."

Choosing her for perhaps his most influential Cabinet post is a dramatic move for Obama, given their long, bitter fight for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, a battle that sharply divided the party for months. Obama hammered Clinton for her support of the Iraq war, while she said he wasn't ready to lead the nation in an unexpected crisis.

Geithner's resume includes work at Kissinger Associates Inc., the consulting firm of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

On the Federal Reserve board, the president of the New York Fed is considered first among equals, said economist Alan Clayton-Matthews, associate professor at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. Among other things, the New York Fed president is the only permanent member of the Federal Open Market Committee, which sets interest rates, and he is responsible for implementing Fed monetary policy, Clayton-Matthews said.

"The New York Fed is a special bank," he said. "They always have a vote at the table."

Boston University banking professor Cornelius Hurley said the appointment of Geithner would be "a marvelous choice."

Hurley said Geithner is more polished than some other candidates for the Treasury post. "What you're looking for here is a true diplomat and ambassador to the capital markets. And with all due respect to Mr. Summers, diplomacy isn't his strong suit," Hurley said.

Scott E. Talbott, senior vice president for the Financial Services Roundtable, a Washington trade group representing large banks and investment companies, said executives at these firms broadly supported Geithner for the post and tended to favor him over other candidates for the job.

"He's a rock star," Talbott said. "He's got the experience, the resume, and the background. . . . He'll be seen as the right guy."

Connecticut economic consultant Nick Perna, a former head of the research department at the New York Fed, applauded the selection of Geithner.

Perna said Geithner's familiarity with Wall Street and his work on the financial rescue efforts of recent months will give the markets confidence he can negotiate the choppy economic waters.

"I've always been a fan of his, and I've been rooting that President-elect Obama would pick him," said Perna, who teaches banking at Yale University. "He's been in the thick of what's been going on. He doesn't need to be brought up to speed."

Perna said Geithner would be less likely to ruffle feathers at a sensitive time in the economy than Summers and is more familiar with the ins and outs of the banking world than legendary investor Warren Buffett, who was also rumored to have been in the running.

"Warren Buffett is a great adviser, but Tim Geithner knows how all this stuff works from the inside," Perna said. "You need somebody who knows the plumbing, and that's Tim Geithner. This is Tim the Plumber."
Ross Kerber and Bryan Bender of the Globe staff contributed to this report, which also includes material from the Associated Press.

"Chicago, Clinton camps feed Obama's incoming team"
By CHARLES BABINGTON and LIZ SIDOTI, Associated Press Writers Charles Babington And Liz Sidoti, Associated Press Writers, 11/22/2008

WASHINGTON – Two main quarries are supplying the building blocks for President-elect Barack Obama's new administration.

Longtime, deeply loyal associates will dominate the White House inner sanctum. And veterans of Bill Clinton's presidency will hold vital jobs throughout the government, although a bit farther from the Oval Office.

The structure suggests Obama is confident enough to hand top posts to former rivals whose loyalty is not guaranteed, a strategy many presidents have avoided. But most of those on Obama's team who will have his ear everyday will be old friends and experienced advisers who are seen as having no ambitions beyond his success.

Obama raised eyebrows this month when he tapped some of Clinton's closest allies for important jobs.

John Podesta, Clinton's former White House chief of staff, is heading the transition effort. Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel, a former top Clinton adviser, is Obama's chief of staff. Former Clinton appointees Eric Holder and Janet Napolitano appear in line for Cabinet posts.

Even more startling to many, Obama has signaled plans to name former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state.

Some Obama supporters have praised him for reaching out to his toughest primary opponent. But others question why they worked so hard to defeat Clinton only to see her, and many close to her, grab prizes in the new administration. They note that Obama repeatedly campaigned against "the politics of the past" and Washington "dramas," thinly veiled jabs at the Clinton presidency as well as President George W. Bush's tenure.

Stephen Hess, a George Washington University authority on presidential transitions, said Obama is playing it smart.

"It's easy to make a leap that this is going to be a repeat of the Clinton administration and there's no way that's going to happen," said Hess, who first worked for the Eisenhower administration.

Obama needs a core of Democrats with federal government experience, Hess said, and veterans of Bill Clinton's administration are virtually the only source. "The old-timers are exceedingly valuable to him now," he said, but Obama "also has his own group of advisers and he will merge the two groups."

That merger began taking shape last week. Obama's three "senior advisers," who will have desks near the Oval Office, are some of his closest and longest-serving allies:

_David Axelrod, his Chicago-based media strategist, will focus on message and communications.

_Valerie Jarrett, a Chicago businesswoman and close family friend, probably will concentrate on intergovernmental relations and community outreach.

_Pete Rouse, who was Obama's Senate chief of staff, is expected to work closely with Emanuel on White House operations and congressional affairs.

In addition, Robert Gibbs, Obama's spokesman since his 2004 Senate race, is on track to be White House press secretary.

Another possible top pick, retired Marine Corps Gen. James Jones as national security adviser, could give Obama a valuable hand in dealing with Hillary Clinton, a powerful figure who might not completely subordinate her political ambitions to those of the new president. Obama feels close to Jones, aides say, and he might form an important part of the innermost circle even though the two men have not known each other as long as Obama has known Jarrett and Axelrod.

The task of coordinating all these efforts and bringing structure to the West Wing will fall largely to Emanuel, the fiercely competitive and sharp-tongued Chicagoan who is giving up his House leadership post to work for Obama. He is well-positioned to bridge the Obama and Clinton camps.

Emanuel made his political reputation as a brash young adviser to President Bill Clinton. But his Chicago roots give him close ties to Obama and associates such as Axelrod and Jarrett.

One of Emanuel's biggest challenges will be regulating access to Obama and keeping him from being unduly distracted by well-meaning aides focused on their particular set of problems and ideas. Some people close to Obama think that Axelrod, Rouse, Jarrett, Gibbs and perhaps others will expect to have "walk-in" privileges at the Oval Office, meaning that at almost any time they can insist on seeing the man they have called "Barack" for years.

Such easy access has plagued past presidents, and Washington insiders will watch closely to see where Obama draws the line, even if it means bruising old friends' egos.

Jennifer Palmieri, a spokeswoman in the Clinton White House, said the West Wing's cramped quarters and urgent business can lead to "a situation where the day become comes one rolling meeting that starts in the chief of staff's office and spills into the Oval Office."

The chief of staff must cope with huge amounts of chaos, tension and demands to insulate the president from all but the must important issues before him, she said.

Aides such as Axelrod and Gibbs probably will be able to see Obama on short notice without seeking Emanuel's permission, Palmieri said, but they certainly would inform Emanuel of their visit and its purpose.

"You have to establish access rules to the Oval Office up front," she said. Emanuel should be able to impose such discipline, she said, because "he's tough and direct with everyone, so no one has to take it personally."

Most presidents and their staffs need some time to find the right balance.

Bill Clinton brought to Washington several Arkansas associates, including boyhood friend Mack McLarty, his first White House chief of staff. McLarty had trouble imposing discipline on West Wing operations and was soon replaced by the no-nonsense Leon Panetta, Clinton's budget director and a former California congressman.

Virtually every new president surrounds himself with people he has known for years, even if they know little about the White House, Congress and the sometimes sharp-clawed worlds of Washington lobbyists and journalists. They adjust at varying rates.

Jimmy Carter brought a cadre of aides from Georgia, including press secretary Jody Powell and key adviser Hamilton Jordan. They struggled at times to cope with the flood of problems and demands pouring in, and Carter famously spent time deciding who could use the White House tennis courts.

The current president was somewhat more successful with top aides who came with him from Texas. Karl Rove was his top political adviser for almost his entire presidency and masterminded Bush's 2004 re-election. Karen Hughes was Bush's communications and image guru in the first term.

Palmieri says the most successful administrations "have found an equilibrium between having staffs that are close to the president — that he feels comfortable with and are looking out for his best interests — with the experienced hands that can guide the ship."

So far, she said, Obama seems to be following that blueprint.
Associated Press writer Beth Fouhy contributed to this report.

"Rising Hope For Fixing Health Care"
By David S. Broder,, Sunday, November 23, 2008; B07

Things are looking up for substantive reform of America's troubled health-care system.

No one who knows the history of such efforts, from Harry Truman's administration through Bill Clinton's, needs to be reminded of the difficulties that inevitably confront any plan to overhaul one-seventh of the U.S. economy and bring high-quality medicine to millions of the uninsured.

But developments at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue last week -- and across the country -- pointed up both the urgency of the problem and the prospects for seeing significant action.

When Barack Obama's transition team let out word that former Senate majority leader Tom Daschle would be his choice to run the Department of Health and Human Services and to quarterback his work on health reform, it signaled that Obama is serious about his campaign promise to make that issue a first-term priority.

Daschle would not leave a lucrative job at a law firm to twiddle his thumbs. Only with a clear understanding that the new president will put his own political capital at risk in this cause would the South Dakotan sign up for the job.

Daschle can be of great help to Obama in achieving the goal. He has made his own in-depth study of health-care issues and brings a genuine passion to the subject. And he knows the Senate, where past efforts have foundered.

There are positive signs within the Senate as well. Max Baucus of Montana, the chairman of the Finance Committee, one of the two main centers of Senate action, moved first by releasing a detailed outline of his preferred piece of legislation. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, the chairman of the other committee of jurisdiction -- Health, Education, Labor and Pensions -- quickly asserted his right to be at the center of action. He organized three task forces within his committee and reached out to Baucus to suggest that their staffs start exchanging ideas as well.

One issue that could have clouded House prospects was resolved when the Democratic caucus voted to make Henry Waxman of California chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, replacing John Dingell of Michigan. Both are skilled legislators; Waxman is closer to Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

A fast start is important because it takes untold hours to work through all the complex issues involved in comprehensive health care. When Bill Clinton delayed in getting Hillary Clinton's legislative proposal up to Capitol Hill until the end of 1993, his first year in office, he made it much easier for opponents to throw up roadblocks.

The architects of the Clintons' defeat were Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole, then the leaders of GOP forces in the House and Senate. Gingrich has now become an advocate for systemic change in the way health care is financed and delivered. His approach differs from Obama's, but it starts from the same premise: The current system is too wasteful and unproductive to be sustained.

And Dole, who in 1994 moved belatedly to opposing the Clinton effort as his own presidential ambitions rose, told me last week that today's circumstances make a repetition of those scorched-earth Republican tactics inappropriate. Instead, he is reminding Republicans of his own contributions to bipartisan successes -- the 1983 Social Security rescue and the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act in 1990.

Dole and Daschle have both worked for the firm of Alston and Bird for the past few years, and it would not surprise me if Dole finds ways to be helpful to Daschle and Obama in the coming fight.

Some have argued that Obama will be forced to delay his promised effort at health-care reform, either because of the urgency of the economic problems facing the country or because there will be no money in the budget to pay for such an enterprise.

But every indication is that he will not wait. Indeed, he could well argue that the current plight of the Big Three automakers stems in part from the burden that Ford, General Motors and Chrysler are carrying for the failures of our employer-based health-care system. One of their basic competitive disadvantages stems from the fact that Japanese and other foreign carmakers are operating in countries where government and society as a whole -- not individual companies -- pay the costs of health care.

No question, it will be a tough fight. But you can see the possibility of success.

"Obama to Develop Plan to Create 2.5 Million Jobs"
By Lori Montgomery, Washington Post Staff Writer, Saturday, November 22, 2008; 1:13 PM

President-elect Barack Obama has instructed his economic team to develop a plan to create 2.5 million jobs over the next two years, suggesting that he intends to push a more expensive package to stimulate the economy than he has so far proposed.

Speaking during the Democrats' weekly radio address, Obama said that his team would work out the details of the package in the coming weeks but that he expects to present it to Congress in January and to sign it into law soon after taking office.

It will be a two-year nationwide effort to jumpstart job creation in America and lay the foundation for a strong and growing economy, Obama said. "We'll put people back to work rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, modernizing schools that are failing our children, and building wind farms and solar panels," as well as fuel-efficient cars.

Aides could provide no details of the plan, which echoes the priorities of Democrats in Congress. During the campaign, Obama proposed a $175 billion stimulus package that contained new money for cash-strapped states, infrastructure projects such as roads and bridges, and a $1,000 tax credit for working families.

The campaign did not release an estimate of the number of jobs that proposal would create. But congressional aides who have worked on various stimulus proposals over the past few months said a plan to create 2.5 million jobs is likely to cost well over $200 billion.

The idea is not surprising. Economists have called on the federal government to spend at least $150 billion and as much as $500 billion to ease the effects of what is expected to be the most painful economic downturn since World War II. A stimulus package passed earlier this year and signed by President Bush cost $168 billion. House Democrats have been working to assemble a second stimulus package of at least $150 billion.


"A Church for the Obamas"
By Sally Quinn,, Saturday, November 22, 2008; A15

Along with the speculation on what kind of puppy Sasha and Malia will choose, where the kids will go to school (it's Sidwell Friends), and, oh yes, who will be appointed to the White House staff and the Cabinet, the matter of where the Obamas will choose to worship is drawing a lot of interest in Washington and elsewhere.

I would like to recommend Washington National Cathedral. The cathedral sits atop a hill overlooking all of Washington. It is an extraordinarily imposing structure whose beckoning towers can be seen from nearly every point in the city. It is also "The" National Cathedral. It's the place where, in recent years, presidents have gone for the inaugural prayer service the day after being sworn in, where ex-presidents are mourned at their death, where presidents and Americans as a people congregate during moments of crisis, as they did after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. "The reality is that the cathedral serves as a sacred space for the nation," says Sam Lloyd, dean of the cathedral. "A place the nation looks to in critical times."

Washington National Cathedral also transcends politics and even the separation of religions. Though nominally an Episcopal church, it welcomes everyone. It is at once deeply Christian and deeply interfaith. The Episcopal Church has a long history of inclusiveness. The first black bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, John Walker, presided there. Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, the first female presiding bishop in the Episcopal Church, was inducted there. And Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson of the Diocese of New Hampshire was the first openly gay bishop in Christendom.

"We are a place that welcomes people of all faiths and no faith," says Lloyd, echoing Barack Obama's words of two years ago. "Whatever we once were," Obama said then, "we're no longer just a Christian nation. At least not just. We are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation and a Buddhist nation and a Hindu nation and a nation of nonbelievers."

Until recently, the cathedral has been mainly a place where people from out of town have come to worship and marvel at the beauty of the stained-glass windows and exquisite stone carvings. Thousands of visitors from all over the country and the world pray there. Recently, though, under Lloyd's direction, the cathedral has made a major effort to build its own congregation. "We wanted people to have the experience of being part of a faith community," says Lloyd. "A space for people to come on their own terms."

The cathedral has its own security force and is used to, and adept at, discreetly helping to protect the presidents and vice presidents.

For these reasons and others, I believe the cathedral would be the perfect church for Barack and Michelle Obama to join. They would be sending a message to the rest of the country, as they did during the inspiring election campaign, that this is a pluralistic nation where everyone is invited.

The Jeremiah Wright episode, though hopelessly misunderstood by most Americans, drove Obama to give his speech on race in America. "The most segregated hour of American life occurs on Sunday morning," he said. For the first time, many white Americans were exposed to rhetoric inside a black church that shocked and surprised them. But what it really did was to expose a deep religious divide in the country.

Last year was the 100th anniversary of Washington National Cathedral. It was celebrated for an entire year, with the theme being reconciliation. Archbishop Desmond Tutu flew in from South Africa to kick off the large anniversary dinner. The church spent a week considering the subject of racial reconciliation, with Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) delivering a Sunday sermon and playing a key role. There have been large conferences on gender and equality, with participation by women's advocacy groups from this country and the developing world.

The cathedral sponsors programs on interfaith dialogue with Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Bahais and people of other faiths. Former president Mohammad Khatami of Iran attended a Christian-Muslim-Judaic conference there in 2006. Twice a year, there is an Abrahamic roundtable with Bishop John Chane, Rabbi Bruce Lustig and professor Akbar Ahmed of American University's School of International Service. Last spring, a "Lighting to Unite" event concluded the centennial. The theme: "One Spirit among many nations." With a background of sound and lights, the festival drew believers and nonbelievers from all over the country. "We wanted them to experience their humanity," says Lloyd, "to have the sense that they shared a common life with each other."

I am drawn to the cathedral over all of the other sacred spaces in Washington because it is the most pluralistic of the places of worship I've been to.

On Nov. 12, Deepak Chopra, a Hindu, spoke there to a packed house. Asked about Obama in the question-and-answer session afterward, he said that the president-elect "has transcended religious identity. Just imagine when he puts his hand on the Bible to be sworn in and says, 'I, Barack Hussein Obama' . . . How wonderful!"

It would indeed be wonderful for the country to have a president who worshiped at a place most likely to welcome all Americans and all people of the world alike.
The writer is a moderator, with Jon Meacham, of On Faith, an online conversation on religion at

"Success of Clinton Choice Hinges on Rapport"
By Michael Abramowitz and Glenn Kessler, Washington Post Staff Writers, Tuesday, December 2, 2008; A01

Leaving the news conference in Chicago yesterday where he introduced his national security team, President-elect Barack Obama strolled out of the room arm in arm with his choice for secretary of state and onetime rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton. The gesture may have been a subtle indication that Obama is aware that one of the biggest questions about his choice of Clinton is the kind of relationship they will be able to forge in the months ahead.

Many of the most successful secretaries of state, though not all, enjoyed great influence with the presidents they served, giving them crucial leverage with foreign leaders and inside the national security establishment. But Obama and Clinton are only starting to develop the kind of rapport that could lead to that trust, and the ultimate success of the senator from New York in her new role may depend as much on Obama's willingness to admit her to his inner circle as her ability to master the intricacies of the Middle East peace process or North Korea's nuclear weapons program, according to senior foreign policy officials from past administrations.

Democrats familiar with the transition said the two have spent time over the past several weeks discussing the parameters of the job and how they would work together: Clinton received assurances that she would have the kind of access to Obama she needs, as well as the authority to pick her own team. They said the Obama team would like her to select James Steinberg as her deputy, but that hardly seems a problem, since Steinberg worked closely with her husband in the Clinton White House as deputy national security adviser.

Ironically, Steinberg recently co-authored a book raising questions about the wisdom of appointing "all-stars" -- foreign policy experts and prominent members of Congress with little connection to the new president -- in key national security jobs. While such appointments can help foster a sense that a new president has made the transition from campaigning to governing, Steinberg and co-author Kurt M. Campbell pointed to numerous examples of the appointments leading to discord and disappointment, especially in the Clinton administration.

Some close to Clinton and Obama say the two are well aware of these potential pitfalls. In their private discussions in recent weeks, Obama "really made an effort to say that she would be an important member of his team," said one Democrat familiar with the transition effort.

Melanne Verveer, Clinton's chief of staff when she was first lady, said Clinton was heavily influenced by watching her husband conduct foreign policy. "She learned the importance of there not being sunlight, if you will, between the secretary and the president in terms of foreign policy," Verveer said. "She really understands the importance of speaking with one voice, and that is the president's voice. Her record is very clear on that -- and that is exactly what she will do."

Former secretary of state Madeleine K. Albright said that the body language of Obama and Clinton, as well as the public statements they have made since the primary season concluded, suggest that the partnership will work. "I think they are both highly professional and highly respectful of each other," she said. "I am sure that in fact that they have worked out a way that she will have the kind of access she needs. She will give him her opinion unvarnished, but she will also be a very good team member."

Clinton, if confirmed, may be the most prominent figure to hold the top job at State in modern times -- a presidential candidate and former first lady who knows other world leaders on a first-name basis and has been a fixture on the world stage since the 1990s. Her nomination is the first time that a president has appointed a major political rival to head the State Department since 1881, when James Garfield chose James Blaine.

"I think this is a sensational appointment," said Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger, who served as Bill Clinton's national security adviser. "She brings intellectual firepower. She brings a high energy and a credibility in the world, which will be very valuable. Obama has shown great leadership in putting this team together."

But the risks to the appointment are substantial, and success is far from guaranteed. Clinton has enormous star power, but some of her predecessors who were initially greeted as rock stars, such as Colin L. Powell, proved to be less effective than anticipated. Clinton has no real experience managing a large government bureaucracy, and in fact her two most significant management missions -- running the health-care task force in her husband's first term and her own presidential campaign -- were riven by infighting. And Bill Clinton has been a magnet for controversy.

During the primary campaign, the two leading Democrats also fought bitterly at times over foreign policy, with Clinton questioning Obama's willingness to talk with Iran's president and Obama questioning her judgment in supporting the resolution giving President Bush the authority to go to war in Iraq. But associates of both Clinton and Obama say the differences were magnified during the heat of the campaign; Clinton, they say, shares Obama's desire to restore American influence in the world through diplomatic efforts such as a new initiative aimed at getting Iran to halt uranium enrichment that could lead to the development of a nuclear weapon.

"She is very keen on having America's leadership restored in a way where we are respected, where we are capable of talking to countries we don't like," Albright said. "That would be her modus operandi, and it fits with what Obama has said."

James M. Lindsay, director of the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at the University of Texas's LBJ School of Public Affairs, said there are several key ingredients for a secretary of state's success. First, he said, a secretary needs "a mixture of political savvy and a vision for the world." Second, the secretary needs the trust and support of the president -- "someone who takes your calls and doesn't hang you out to dry." And third, "having a strong will to work and an ego wrapped in leather."

Many of those qualities describe James A. Baker III, who worked for President George H.W. Bush and is generally regarded as the most successful of modern secretaries of state. Baker came to the office with few defined foreign policy views -- but worked for a president who did. He was also the president's closest friend, which made him a formidable force when combined with his political skills as a former Treasury secretary, White House chief of staff and presidential campaign manager.

In much the same way, Condoleezza Rice's close relationship with George W. Bush helped pave the way for influence overseas. Kings and prime ministers believed that she had a direct line to the president, and that when she spoke, she was speaking for him -- in contrast to Powell, her predecessor.

"Clinton's challenge will be to make sure her stewardship of the State Department is compatible with the views of the new president," said Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser under President Jimmy Carter.

President-elect Barack Obama shared a laugh with Governor Jim Douglas of Vermont at the National Governors Association annual meeting in Philadelphia yesterday. ''We intend to put tax cuts into the pockets of hard-pressed, middle-class families in your states,'' Obama said. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

"Obama says he'll work on relief for states: Seeks advice from nation's governors"
By Liz Sidoti, Associated Press, December 3, 2008

PHILADELPHIA - President-elect Barack Obama yesterday pledged quick work on an economic recovery plan that will include tax cuts and increased federal spending, and told the nation's governors he wants their advice in designing a package to help their hard-hit states.

"We intend to put tax cuts into the pockets of hard-pressed, middle-class families in your states. And we intend . . . to start making a down payment on the critical investments that are going to be necessary to sustain long-term economic growth as well as pull us out of the current slump," Obama said as he sat down with governors, nearly all of whom are struggling with budget deficits at home as a result of the recession.

"Forty-one states are likely to face budget shortfalls this year or next, forcing you to choose between reining in spending and raising taxes," Obama said. "Programs for the needy are at risk. Libraries, parks and historic sites are being closed."

Vice President-elect Joe Biden told the governors he hoped they will not criticize the incoming administration for raising the federal deficit as it tries to help them. "I know none of you would do that," he said jokingly. Many states have constitutions that prohibit deficit spending.

The recession and the accompanying increase in joblessness translate into higher healthcare costs for the poor, greater use of food stamps, and added strain on welfare programs, and the governors are seeking help in coping.

They have asked for at least $40 billion to help pay for healthcare for the poor and disabled and perhaps $136 billion more in infrastructure projects in the legislation, which Democrats hope to have ready for Obama's signature as soon as he takes office on Jan. 20.

Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania, a Democrat who chairs the National Governors Association, told reporters that road and bridge repair projects can get started especially quickly. "We are not here asking for money for governors. If we're asking for any money at all, it's for the citizens of our states," he said.

Obama has said he will make an economic stimulus his top priority, and his aides and congressional leaders have been discussing the outlines of a measure that could exceed $500 billion over two years. The president-elect has said his goal is to save or create 2.5 million jobs in his first two years.

In his brief remarks before the closed session, Obama pledged a partnership with the governors and made a point of promising Republican governors "the same hand of friendship and cooperation that I offer Democratic governors."

Obama spoke to a bipartisan group of state chief executives at historic Congress Hall that included former and possibly future political rivals. Among those attending were Republican Governors Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Sarah Palin of Alaska, the GOP vice presidential nominee.

Republican and Democratic governors sat at desks in the hall, with no separation by party, and gave Obama and Biden a standing ovation.

Biden singled out Palin and said his former rival's presence there is a sign that both parties are now confronting problems together. He joked that since the election, he has been virtually ignored, unlike Palin, a media star. "Maybe walk outside with me later and say hello to me," he said to laughter from the crowd.

Palin told reporters after the meeting that she was "optimistic" about Obama's bipartisan outreach, and praised him for inviting governors into his Cabinet. "On the campaign trail I tried to convince a majority of voters that governors knew best. Obviously that didn't work, and I'm here and VP-elect Biden is there," she said.


"Karl Rove Has Figured Out Why Obama Won" Blog, December 04, 2008 10:38 AM

This morning in the Wall Street Journal Karl Rove writes about the election...and money. Today, Barack Obama and John McCain report on just how much money they ended up spending on their race for the White House. Rove says that the numbers may show Obama outspent McCain by the biggest margin in history, perhaps, he says, by a quarter of a billion dollars.

Rove writing in the WSJ: "If money talks, we'll likely soon hear the real reason why Barack Obama beat John McCain. Both men and the national parties will report to the Federal Election Commission today how much money they raised in October and November. And what the numbers will probably show is that Mr. Obama outspent Mr. McCain by the biggest margin in history, perhaps a quarter of a billion dollars."

Rove also raises the question of where Obama's money came from. How much really came from small donors? ABC's Senior White House Correspondent reported on this subject back in November. Here's Rove in the Journal: "To diminish criticism, Mr. Obama's campaign spun the storyline that he was being bankrolled by small donors. Michael Malbin, executive director of the Campaign Finance Institute, calls that a "myth." CFI found that Mr. Obama raised money the old fashioned way -- 74% of his funds came from large donors (those who donated more than $200) and nearly half from people who gave $1,000 or more."

"Obama Tax Cuts Likely Soon: Senior Adviser Says Middle Class Needs 'Some Relief Now'"
By Philip Rucker, Washington Post Staff Writer, Monday, December 29, 2008; A04

HONOLULU, Dec. 28 -- President-elect Barack Obama's economic stimulus plan will include an immediate tax cut for middle-class families, and the incoming administration hopes to enact permanent tax cuts soon thereafter, a senior adviser to Obama said Sunday.

David Axelrod said the stimulus package will be implemented soon, given the worsening economy, and could cost $675 billion to $775 billion. The massive recovery plan will seek to create or save 3 million jobs, he said in appearances Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" and CBS's "Face the Nation."

"Look, we feel it's important that middle-class people get some relief now," Axelrod said on "Meet the Press." Obama has "promised a middle-class tax cut," he added. "This package will include a portion of that tax cut that will become part of the permanent tax cut he'll have in his upcoming budget."

Giving people more spending money will "help get our economy going again," Axelrod said. He also said he is hopeful that the recovery plan will be ready for Obama to sign soon after his Jan. 20 inauguration.

"Obviously, the sooner the better," Axelrod said on "Face the Nation." "I don't think Americans can wait. People are suffering, our economy is sliding, and we need to act. And so our message to Congress is to work on it with all deliberate speed."

Obama, in the second week of a vacation in Hawaii, continues to work on his economic plan, aides said. He is considering immediate tax cuts of $1,000 for couples and $500 for individuals, which would be delivered through reduced tax withholding from paychecks, a transition aide said. That plan could cost about $140 billion over the next two years, the aide said.

Axelrod said that the incoming administration plans to propose permanent tax cuts in its next budget but that officials have not determined the form of those cuts. They are likely to be based on Obama's campaign proposal, which said that families earning less than $250,000 would see their taxes remain the same or decrease.

Asked by NBC's David Gregory whether Obama will raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans by reversing President Bush's tax cuts, Axelrod said Bush's plan is "something that we plainly can't afford moving forward."

"Whether it expires or whether we repeal it a little bit early, we'll determine later, but it's going to go," Axelrod said. "It has to go."

Obama's economic stimulus plan is expected to include billions in new spending on infrastructure projects, aid to beleaguered state governments and programs to create jobs. Axelrod said creating jobs is an essential part of the plan.

"We want to do it in a way that leaves a lasting footprint, by investing in energy and health-care projects, and refurbishing the nation's classrooms and labs and libraries so our kids can compete, and rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges and waterways," he said on "Face the Nation." "And, in this way, we're not only just -- we're not only creating work, but we're laying the foundation for the future of our economy."


"Obama to include accountability in economic plan"

WASHINGTON (AP) — President-elect Barack Obama vowed Tuesday to bar lawmakers' pet projects from his massive economic stimulus plan and to bring unprecedented accountability to federal spending.

Even as he promised to fight waste and to make tough budgetary decisions, however, Obama warned that the nation could face trillion-dollar deficits for years go come. Eight years ago the federal budget ran a surplus, and the deficit on Sept. 30 was about $455 billion.

Two weeks before taking office, Obama said Americans will accept his proposed stimulus plan — expected to cost about $775 billion — only if they believe the money is being used wisely to boost the troubled economy and to make smart long-term investments in public projects.

He told reporters at his transition office that his package will set a "new higher standard of accountability, transparency and oversight. We are going to ban all earmarks, the process by which individual members insert projects without review."

Details of the plan, which has yet to be drafted as a bill, will be available online, Obama said, "so the American people will know where their precious tax dollars are going and whether we are hitting our marks." He promised to make difficult choices and to "eliminate outmoded programs and make the ones we do need work better." He did not specify which programs might be trimmed or eliminated.

Obama said he will create an "economic recovery oversight board" and bring "a long overdue sense of responsibility and accountability to Washington ."

Previous presidents, of course, have promised to cut spending and waste, only to find the task far easier to describe than achieve.

Long-running criticisms of budgetary "earmarks," which some consider pork-barrel spending, are having an impact, however. Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said the stimulus package is likely to emerge from Congress free of earmarks, even though he notes that some earmark projects have proven tremendously popular and effective over the years.

Conrad agreed that trillion-dollar deficits are likely for a few years, and must be tolerated as the government pumps money into the badly weakened economic. But the nation must confront long-term problems facing Social Security and Medicare, he said, which will be "very, very tough."

Meanwhile, in comments to reporters, Obama — while not officially confirming that he has picked Leon Panetta to head the CIA — praised Panetta as "one of the finest public servants that we've had."

"He brings extraordinary management skills, great political savvy, an impeccable record of integrity," Obama said, adding — perhaps in answer to grumbling from some members of Congress that Panetta has no direct experience in intelligence-gathering — that "he is somebody who obviously was fully versed in international affairs crisis management, and had to evaluate intelligence consistently on a day-to-day basis."

With Democrats controlling the House and Senate, a version of Obama's stimulus plan seems likely to become law within a few weeks. He has promised Republicans a say in the process, saying bipartisan support is vital.

As an Illinois senator for four years, Obama obtained federal money for several local projects in large spending bills. But some lawmakers have abused the earmarking process, he said during his two-year campaign.

Obama's proposed Economic Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board is to include members the administration deems relevant to helping the country rebound from the year-old recession, as well as inspector generals of agencies including transportation, defense, energy, education and health and human services.

Outside appointees with expertise in economics, public finance, contracting, accounting, auditing and other areas will advise the board. It will hold public meetings and issue financial reports to Congress on how the money is being used.

The new Web site will allow taxpayers to track where money is being spent while also showing the administration's estimate of how the money is affecting individual communities and the economy overall.

Obama met Monday with congressional leaders to seek backing for his economic plan. It could cost $775 billion over two years, his advisers say, though they say they think add-ons by lawmakers could raise the price to $850 billion. Obama's advisers say an $850 billion plan could generate about 3.2 million jobs by the first quarter of 2011.

His proposal includes tax cuts of up to $300 billion — including $500 for most individuals and $1,000 for couples if one spouse is employed — as well as more than $100 billion for businesses.

Some $77 billion would be used to extend unemployment benefits and to subsidize health care for people who have lost their jobs. The rest would go toward job-creation projects such as rebuilding roads and bridges and toward long-term goals like alternative energy programs.

Obama spoke with reporters after meeting with his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel; Timothy Geithner, his Treasury Secretary-designate; budget director Peter Orszag and his top deputy, Rob Nabors; Christina Romer, chosen to head the Council of Economic Advisors; and Lawrence Summers, a former Treasury secretary who will head Obama's National Economic Council.



"A historic gathering of presidents"
Posted by Foon Rhee, deputy national political editor,, January 7, 2009

As President Bush hosts his successor and predecessors for lunch today, he is the least popular by far of any of them.

But a poll out today suggests he has cause for hope that Americans will look more kindly on him in years to come.

In the CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey, former Presidents George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton all received higher approval ratings further away from when they were in the White House. The poll found that 69 percent approve of how Clinton handled the presidency, up from 51 percent in March 2002; 64 percent approve of Carter's performance, up from 45 percent in November 1990; and 60 percent approve of Bush's, up from 58 percent in November 1993.

In the same survey, conducted Dec. 19-21 with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, Bush's approval rating was 27 percent and Obama's was 82 percent.

Before the lunch, they all gathered for a brief photo opportunity in the Oval Office.

According to the press pool report, President Bush said, "I want to thank the president-elect for joining the ex-presidents for lunch. And one message that I have and I think we all share is that we want you to succeed. Whether we're Democrat or Republican we care deeply about this country. And to the extent we can we look forward to sharing our experiences with you. All of us who have served in this office understand that the office itself transcends the individual and we wish you all the very best and so does the country."

Obama responded, "I just want to thank the president for hosting us. This is an extraordinary gathering. All the gentlemen here understand both the pressures and possibilities of this office, and for me to have the opportunity to get advice, good counsel and fellowship with these individuals is extraordinary and I'm very grateful to all of them. But again thank you, Mr. President, for hosting.

After the lunch, Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs issued this statement:

"They had a very constructive conversation. The President-elect was grateful for their counsel and the spirit of bipartisanship they showed in wishing his Administration success in meeting the challenges we all share as Americans. The President and the former Presidents had helpful advice on managing the office as well as thoughts on the critical issues facing the country right now. The President-elect is anxious to stay in touch with all of them in the coming years."


"Obama Warns of Dire Consequences Without Stimulus: Obama warns of lingering recession, double-digit unemployment without approval of stimulus"
By JENNIFER LOVEN, The Associated Press

President-elect Barack Obama warned of dire and long-lasting consequences if Congress doesn't pump unprecedented dollars into the national economy, making an urgent pitch Thursday for his mammoth spending proposal in his first speech since the election.

"In short, a bad situation could become dramatically worse" if Washington doesn't go far enough to address the spreading crisis, the Democrat said as fresh economic reports showed an outlook growing increasingly grim.

Since his November election, Obama has deferred to President George W. Bush on foreign policy matters such as the Middle East. But, with the worsening of the economic situation, Obama has waded deeply into domestic issues as he works to generate support for his plan to create jobs and jolt the economy into recovery.

In the speech at George Mason University outside Washington, Obama asked Congress to work with him "day and night, on weekends if necessary" to pass a revival plan within the next few weeks so that it can be ready for his signature shortly after he takes office on Jan. 20.

As Obama spoke, his economic advisers were on Capitol Hill to brief Democratic lawmakers on details of his economic plan. Senate Finance Committee members met privately to assess his proposals. The Senate Democratic caucus planned a late afternoon meeting, followed by a news conference by Majority Leader Harry Reid and other caucus leaders.

The president-elect cast blame on "an era of profound irresponsibility that stretched from corporate boardrooms to the halls of power in Washington." But he added, "The very fact that this crisis is largely of our own making means that it is not beyond our ability to solve."

"I don't believe it's too late to change course, but it will be if we don't take dramatic action as soon as possible," he said.

Obama laid out goals of doubling the production of alternative energy over three years, updating most federal buildings to improve energy efficiency, making medical records electronic, expanding broadband networks and updating schools and universities.

"It's a plan that represents not just new policy but a whole new approach to meeting our most urgent challenges," Obama said.

Still, his remarks shed no new light on the details of his plan that could cost as much as $775 billion over two years in tax cuts and spending. And, he said little about the unprecedented red ink and rising debt confronting the government, even after spending days reassuring the public and Congress that he is committed to tackling long-term deficits after the economy rebounds.

The speech marked Obama's highest-profile effort yet on an issue certain to define and dominate his early presidency. It was the fourth day in a row that he had made a pitch for a huge infusion of taxpayer dollars to revive the sinking economy he will inherit from Bush.

Throughout his remarks, Obama painted a stark picture, including double-digit unemployment and $1 trillion in lost economic activity — that recalled the days of the Great Depression in the 1930s.

But he expressed confidence the country could meet the challenge, saying: "We are still the nation that has overcome great fears and improbable odds. If we act with the urgency and seriousness that this moment requires, I know that we can do it again."

The economic news is, indeed, grim.

Consumers and companies are folding under the negative forces of a collapsed housing market and a global credit crunch. The recession, which started in December 2007, already is the longest in a quarter-century.

A report that came out the same day as Obama's speech showed that the number of people drawing jobless benefits rose last week to the highest level since 1982, demonstrating the troubles the unemployed are having in finding new jobs.

And broader unemployment figures due out Friday are expected to show that the U.S. lost a net total of 500,000 jobs in December. That would bring 2008's total job losses to 2.4 million, the first annual job loss since 2001 and the highest since 1945, though the number of jobs has more than tripled since then.

Obama's events have increasingly taken on the trappings and air of the presidency. Thursday's speech — coming 12 days before he takes over at the White House — was a particularly showy move. Presidents-elect typically stick to naming administration appointments and otherwise staying in the background during the transition period between Election Day and Inauguration Day, but Obama has clearly made the calculation that a nation anxious about its economic outlook needs to hear from him differently and more frequently.

Speaking a day after the release of a stunning new deficit estimate — that the federal red ink will reach an unprecedented $1.2 trillion this year, nearly three times last year's record — Obama acknowledged some sympathy with those who "might be skeptical" of the stimulus. Vast sums already have been spent or committed by Washington in an attempt — largely unsuccessful so far — to get credit, the lifeblood of the American economy, flowing freely once again.

Such statements are meant to appeal to both parties' budget hawks, whom Obama wants to win over so that approval of a package draws wide, bipartisan support in the Democratic-led Congress.

To answer their concerns, he promised to allow funding only for what works. He also pledged a new level of transparency about where the money is going. A day earlier, he promised to tackle the out-of-control fiscal problem posed by Social Security and Medicare entitlement programs and named a special watchdog to clamp down on all federal programs.

Obama made broader arguments, too, saying that the private sector cannot do what is needed now.

"At this particular moment, only government can provide the short-term boost necessary to lift us from a recession this deep and severe," he said.

Obama also promised action to address the economy's ills beyond the package, such as tackling a potential wave of home foreclosures, preventing the failure of financial institutions, rewriting financial regulations and keeping accountable the "Wall Street wrongdoers" who engage in risky investing.


"Lawmakers and Financial Experts Question Obama's Tax Cuts"
By Shailagh Murray, Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 8, 2009; A02

At least two tax cuts that are part of Barack Obama's stimulus package have been criticized by lawmakers, tax experts and economists for being potentially too expensive and ineffective, signaling that they are likely to face resistance on Capitol Hill as congressional leaders begin direct negotiations with the president-elect's team.

Both Democrats and Republicans have questioned a provision that would provide a $3,000 tax credit to companies for every job created and, possibly, for every job spared. They contend that the idea would be ripe for abuse and difficult to administer.

Lawmakers are also skeptical about a measure that would allow companies to deduct large portions of recent losses. The proposal would benefit companies that have been hit hardest by the recession, including in the banking and real estate sectors, but experts worry that costs could soar because so many would be eligible.

Despite the concerns, as well as growing unease from Republicans about the size of the package after the Congressional Budget Office's latest projection of a $1.2 trillion deficit for the current fiscal year, congressional leaders said they are moving swiftly to produce a big, bold bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) vowed that a stimulus package would be passed by Congress before it takes a 10-day break on Feb. 13, or "there won't be a recess."

Obama is scheduled to speak this morning at George Mason University to promote his plan, while former Treasury secretary Lawrence H. Summers, who will be Obama's most senior White House economic adviser, is scheduled to brief Senate Democrats in the afternoon on its outlines. Today the Senate Finance Committee will hold its first meeting on the emerging stimulus package.

In the House, Democrats on the Ways and Means Committee have scheduled three sessions -- today, Friday and Tuesday -- with Obama economic aides to begin drafting the tax portions of the bill.

Democratic congressional leaders said they welcome Obama's input but made clear that they will have their own priorities. "Senators are senators," Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (Mont.) told reporters after a Democratic caucus meeting yesterday. "They've got ideas, too."

Baucus's preference is to invest a bigger share of the roughly $775 billion package in domestic energy programs. But, he added, Senate Democrats and the president-elect are "in general agreement" on what should be in the bill.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles B. Rangel (N.Y.) was less committal, describing the five tax proposals Obama outlined this week as guidelines aimed at reaching general goals, such as job creation and relief for middle-class workers. House tax writers "may have a little more experience technically" on what incentives might best achieve those objectives, Rangel cautioned. "Don't get tied up in how we do it."

Obama promoted the corporate tax credit on the campaign trail as a way to keep workers in their jobs, but many experts dismissed it when it resurfaced this week as one of his five tax priorities.

"It is tough to see how a company that is seeing its sales slaughtered in today's recession is going to hire just because it gets a few thousand dollars per new worker from the government," Howard Gleckman wrote on the TaxVox blog for the Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan think tank. "Profitable firms would merely take the credit for bringing on workers they were already planning on hiring."

Mark Zandi, chief economist and co-founder of Moody's, said the credit "sounds good" but added, "It's going to be hard to design something" that proves effective and resistant to abuse.

Rep. Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.), chairman of the Ways and Means subcommittee on select revenue measures, said the scenario that worries him is that of the employer who lays off thousands of people and then is subsidized for hiring back a few hundred. "My game plan is to be helpful to the administration," Neal said but added that he hopes questionable proposals will be "filtered out through the committee process."

The credit is similar to the New Jobs Tax Credit, a two-year provision that offered subsidies to 1.1 million businesses for hiring 2.1 million workers, according to a report by Timothy J. Bartik, senior economist for the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research in Kalamazoo, Mich.

The estimated annual cost for the 1977-78 credit was less than $4 billion, Bartik found, or about $13 billion in today's dollars. Obama's version could add about 1.3 million jobs per year, Bartik estimated. But he noted that the proposed credit is significantly smaller than the 1977 version, and, as a result, Bartik wrote, "a smaller wage subsidy would probably lower both budgetary costs and job creation impacts."

Tax experts also warned that allowing companies to deduct recent losses could come at an enormous cost. One senior GOP congressional aide said the number of businesses that could cash in on the break "is potentially frightening."

Zandi said the provision "could have the biggest impact" of any of the business tax measures Obama has proposed "but could also be very costly."

Other potential disagreements include a Democratic effort to provide states with money to relieve Medicaid costs and the strain of providing other services. Republicans are resisting the proposal, saying it would encourage states to expand benefits beyond what they can afford to provide.

Many lawmakers are also eager to add provisions to ease the housing crisis through the stimulus. House Budget Committee Chairman John M. Spratt Jr. (S.C.) and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (N.D.) are backing a tax credit for first-time home buyers, along with a government subsidy that would lower mortgage rates to 4.5 percent, an idea that has been discussed by Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr.

In an interview with CNBC, Obama said he would act soon after taking office to address the housing problem. "Dealing with this foreclosure crisis is something that we've got to do," said Obama, adding that he would announce a mitigation plan "sometime in the next month or two."


"'Years to Come': Mr. Obama levels with the public about deficits -- and sets himself a fiscal challenge."
Thursday, January 8, 2009; Washington Post, Editorial, A14

"FISCAL SPACE" is an economist's term for a country's capacity to borrow and spend its way out of recession without risking exorbitant interest rates and inflation later on. Generally speaking, the more public debt a country already has as a share of its economy, the less new debt it can take on.

As President-elect Barack Obama and Congress contemplate a fiscal stimulus package that could total hundreds of billions of dollars, they still have some fiscal space to work with. At $6.3 trillion, the publicly held national debt is about 45 percent of the $14 trillion economy -- not much above the post-World War II average debt-to-GDP ratio of 43 percent. But the space is shrinking rapidly. According to new figures from the Congressional Budget Office, federal debt is rising at the fastest rate since World War II: It is estimated at $1.2 trillion in fiscal 2009, or 8 percent of gross domestic product. This stunning number reflects both the direct effect of the recession on tax revenue and spending and the high cost of measures taken to combat the downturn, such as the financial sector bailout. And it is likely to be matched or exceeded when the Obama stimulus plan kicks in.

Mr. Obama was just leveling with the American people when he noted yesterday that the country faces "trillion-dollar deficits for years to come" unless policymakers "make a change in the way that Washington does business." The question, of course, is how to change. Though Mr. Obama's appointment of an efficiency-minded chief performance officer sent a useful signal, the real answers are legislative. The stimulus package must not bloat the government's permanent financial commitments. According to a recently published International Monetary Fund paper, appropriate measures include increased transfers or temporary tax cuts to consumers at the bottom and middle of the income scale; aid to state and local governments; and repairs and improvements (especially energy-saving ones) to existing infrastructure. The IMF recommends against increasing the federal payroll, cutting corporate tax rates or letting companies deduct their recent losses against past years' profits. The stimulus plan should include a plan for offsetting spending cuts and revenue increases once the economy recovers.

Over the long run, investors will finance the U.S. government at reasonable rates only if it tackles its huge unfunded health-care and pension commitments. Unchecked, the cost of providing Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to 77 million retiring baby boomers could push the debt-to-GDP ratio up to nearly 300 percent by 2050, according to a December 2007 CBO report.

Ideally, Congress would make the necessary hard choices through the normal legislative process. Its repeated failure to do so, however, may necessitate a commission to recommend reforms for the House and Senate to accept or reject. Reps. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) and Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) and Sens. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) have offered proposals for such a panel. Hard as it is, jump-starting the U.S. economy will be easy compared with securing its financial future. But Mr. Obama and the Congress must do both.


"Law professor to take top regulatory post"
By Jason Szep,, January 8, 2009

BOSTON (Reuters) - Cass Sunstein, a leading constitutional scholar, said on Thursday he had agreed to take the post of regulatory czar in the incoming Obama administration, overseeing all governmental regulations.

The Harvard Law School professor will lead the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, an agency expected to assume a big role in Washington following recent financial scandals and turmoil on Wall Street.

"Confirmed," Sunstein wrote Reuters by e-mail when asked if he had agreed to the job, which includes oversight of government agencies ranging from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Sunstein, 54, an informal adviser to Democratic President-elect Barack Obama and longtime friend, is a pioneer in the field of law and behavioral economics, which seeks to shape regulatory policy around the way people behave.

Obama, who takes office on January 20, has said regulatory reform would be one of his earliest initiatives and he would release a detailed plan for regulatory changes.

Like Obama, Sunstein is a graduate of the Harvard Law School and is well known in intellectual circles in Chicago. He taught at the University of Chicago Law School for 27 years before moving to his post at Harvard last year.

"Expect transparency to be a central theme in any Obama administration as a check on government and the private sector alike," Sunstein wrote in the Huffington Post last March.

Sunstein, also expressed concern that advisers to Obama might be "too deferential, too unwilling to question" his decisions because "so many people are treating him as a near-messiah."

"But I believe that his humility, and his intense desire to seek out dissenting views, will prove crucial safeguards," he added in the March article.


Obama promised last month to strengthen financial regulatory agencies and to crack down on runaway "greed and scheming" in a bid to restore stability to a reeling U.S. economic system.

He has already named veteran regulator Mary Schapiro as chairwoman of the Securities and Exchange Commission -- the U.S. markets watchdog criticized for recent failures involving investment banks and Bernard Madoff's alleged $50 billion fraud scheme -- and Gary Gensler to head the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

"Sunstein is a big thinker in the administrative law world. He and Schapiro are both absolutely first rate," said James Post, who teaches corporate governance and business ethics at the Boston University School of Management.

"There are some big challenges. We've got a network of financial agencies that are not coordinated and sometimes they trip over one another and sometimes there are big gaps between what they do, and it's clear that that needs a whole rethinking," he added.

The agency Sunstein will lead is part of the Office of Management and Budget, which reviews draft regulations and oversees implementation of policies intended to make federal agencies more efficient, according to its mission statement.

A congressional report on Thursday highlighted the need for "significant reforms," saying financial authorities had failed to limit systemic risks and urging swift action to fix weaknesses in U.S. regulation.
(Editing by Peter Cooney)


"Obama Seeks Rest of Bailout: Request for Funds Meets Skepticism On Capitol Hill"
By Lori Montgomery and David Cho, Washington Post Staff Writers, Tuesday, January 13, 2009; A01

President-elect Barack Obama yesterday launched an aggressive campaign to persuade a deeply skeptical Congress to permit him to spend another $350 billion to stabilize the still-fragile U.S. financial system, as the Bush White House formally notified lawmakers of Obama's intention to use the money.

Obama began calling lawmakers, promising to respond to their intense criticism of the financial rescue program by expanding its scope to aid struggling homeowners, small businesses and others. His top economic adviser, Lawrence H. Summers, sent a three-page letter to congressional leaders, vowing to better track how the money is spent and bolster oversight.

The president-elect plans to appear today at a luncheon in the Capitol where he will ask Senate Democrats to stand with him on an issue that is shaping up as an early test of his ability to build bipartisan consensus. Yesterday, he was forced to relent to skepticism on a separate politically complicated initiative, the economic stimulus package, by dropping his proposal to give businesses a $3,000 tax credit for every job they save or create.

The Treasury Department has already committed the first $350 billion of the financial rescue program. Lawmakers from both parties have complained that the Bush administration rushed the bailout through Congress and then badly mismanaged the program. Some lawmakers were upset that no help came for struggling homeowners. Others said banks and other financial institutions that have received money have failed to resume lending.

Congress has 15 days to approve a resolution blocking the funds. With anger over the financial bailout at a boiling point in the House, Obama and Democratic leaders are focusing on the Senate, which could vote as soon as Thursday on a measure to prevent release of the money.

Obama has already secured an important ally: Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), who helped negotiate the October passage of the financial rescue package known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program, said he spoke to Obama yesterday and has agreed to help him navigate the stormy waters of the Senate.

"It is critical that they have [the money] and that they have it with maximum flexibility" to keep the financial system functioning, Gregg said. If Congress blocks the cash, he said, "we'll be forcing them to manage this economy with one arm tied behind their back. There's no point in doing that to them."

But other lawmakers from both parties said Obama has offered insufficient information about his plans. Several said they would oppose release of the funds unless Obama offers more specific assurances about how he will use the money.

"I didn't see a whole lot of detail in the Summers letter," said Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), who said she cast a reluctant vote to create TARP but now has "great reservations about approving" the rest of the money. "I'm persuadable to the extent that somebody's got a plan and an idea of how it's going to be administered, and how it's going to be accounted for and how it's going to help Arkansas."

Several Republicans, meanwhile, were still smarting over the Bush administration's decision last month to lend a small portion of the rescue funds to the nation's faltering automobile industry.

"Bringing stability to the credit markets is critical to improving the overall economy, but I would be hard-pressed to support additional funding for the TARP without sufficient assurances this money will not be wasted, misspent or simply used for more industry-specific bailouts," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement.

Congress created the Troubled Asset Relief Program after dire warnings from the Bush administration that panic had seized credit markets and that the global economy was on the verge of meltdown. Barely two weeks later, Congress rushed through a measure giving Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. sweeping authority to spend up to $700 billion to inject cash into troubled financial institutions and buy "toxic" assets such as those backed by failing mortgages.

However, lawmakers reserved the power to block release of the second half of the TARP money. A resolution to do just that has already been filed in the House; Republicans in the Senate were poised to file one today, according to a senior Republican aide.

Under the TARP law, the resolution cannot be amended or filibustered, and it needs only a majority of votes in both chambers to pass. While the House is likely to approve the resolution, Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), said Senate leaders were optimistic that they could defeat the resolution in the Senate, allowing the funds to flow.

"We're still unsure of where the votes are, but we're working hard on that right now," Manley said.

The Obama team had been pressing the Bush administration to issue a formal notice to Congress that the second half of the bailout money would be needed. Bush agreed yesterday after receiving a call from Obama.

Speaking to reporters after meeting with Mexican President Felipe Calderón, Obama said he, like many senators who voted to create TARP, has been "disappointed" with the program. But he said the financial system remains "fragile, and I felt that it would be irresponsible for me, with the first $350 billion already spent, to enter into the administration without any potential ammunition should there be some sort of emergency or weakening of the financial system."

He added: "My commitment is that we are going to fundamentally change some of the practices in using this next phase of the program."

Over the weekend, key Democratic senators requested a written statement of Obama's intentions. Yesterday's letter from Summers provided a response.

In it, Summers described the need for the money as "imminent and urgent," and said that Obama would dedicate a portion of the funds to a "sweeping effort" to stem the skyrocketing rate of foreclosures, as lawmakers had originally intended.

Summers did not say how those homeowners would be helped, however, nor did he offer details of the other new programs that he and other Obama advisers have been developing behind closed doors in their downtown Washington office. Much of their plan is not expected to be unveiled until after Obama takes office next Tuesday.

Summers did say that Obama plans to impose strict limits on executive compensation at firms that accept TARP funds, ban dividend payments beyond a penny a share, and prevent the money from being used to buy back stock or acquire other companies. But these terms would apply only to companies that got "exceptional assistance" from the government; it was unclear what restrictions, if any, would apply to the vast majority of companies participating in the program.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, is pressing a measure that would go much further. His bill, which could be voted on in the House as soon as Thursday, would change the TARP law to limit executive salaries at all firms that take federal aid, including those that have already received funds. It would also require Obama to spend at least $40 billion to help distressed homeowners.

Though Obama and his team have said they agree with those goals, Frank said in a statement yesterday that he intends nonetheless to seek legislation "that sets forth the conditions we believe are necessary to assure that the public gets the full benefit of these funds."

Key Senate Democrats seemed more inclined to trust Obama. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, indicated in a statement that he was satisfied with Summers's letter, calling it "an important first step" toward "a sharp course correction."

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) also suggested she was willing to give the president-elect the benefit of the doubt. After receiving a call from Obama yesterday, Boxer said she is now more comfortable that her demands for mortgage relief and greater transparency would be met.

"I was leaning 'no,' and now I'm leaning 'yes,' " Boxer said.
Staff writer Paul Kane contributed to this report.

"Congress boosts Obama on economy: Steps to free up $350b, allocate $825b more"
By Michael Kranish, Boston Globe Staff, January 16, 2009

WASHINGTON - In what he hopes will lay the groundwork for a sweeping economic recovery, President-elect Barack Obama yesterday won Senate approval to spend the second half of the controversial $700 billion financial rescue package and embraced House Democrats' new proposal for a historic $825 billion stimulus plan.

While both measures have been the subject of bitter debate, they are coming up for votes in Congress as Obama is still basking in a post-election glow and is likely to get a further boost in popularity from his inauguration Tuesday. The president-elect goes to Ohio today on a campaign-like trip to build public support for his efforts to fix the economy and win over wavering members of Congress.

With President Bush focused on giving his final address to the nation last night, the top Senate Democrat, Harry Reid of Nevada, declared that the vote was a victory for Obama.

"This was a test of leadership at a time when leadership is desperately needed," Reid said on the Senate floor.

Obama's economic team worked hand-in-hand with House Democratic leaders on the stimulus package, designed to save or create 3 million to 4 million jobs. One of the costliest bills ever taken up by Congress, it calls for federal spending of roughly $550 billion and tax cuts of $275 billion over the next two years. Democrats said the massive plan was necessary to revive the moribund economy, with strong emphasis on energy, education, healthcare, and construction. Votes on the package are expected within the next few weeks.

The Senate, meanwhile, heeded a personal plea from Obama, voting 52-42 to release the remaining $350 billion of the deeply unpopular financial rescue package. A House vote is expected next week.

To win support from skeptical Democrats, Obama promised to spend between $50 billion and $100 billion to reduce the number of foreclosures. Obama's top economic adviser, Lawrence Summers, declared that he has "no intention of using any funds to implement an industrial policy," seeking to mollify Republicans angry about the way the Bush administration tapped some of the first $350 billion to provide loans to automakers General Motors and Chrysler.

The Senate battle revealed a lingering, deep divide over the use of the financial rescue funds, turning at times into a debate over how wisely the Bush administration spent the first $350 billion. Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, spoke for many members of her party when she said, "If the Bush administration was going to continue to dole out this money, I wouldn't give them $3."

But she said that Obama has assured her that "he is going to use these funds in a different way," such as forestalling home foreclosures. "I feel he deserves my trust," she said.

Many Republicans objected, saying that the public is fed up with the way the bailout has given billions of dollars to failing financial institutions, while questioning whether the measure has helped free up credit.

"It would be a disservice to the American taxpayers who are footing [the] bill, and it goes against every open government principle I have worked on in my public service," said Senator John Cornyn of Texas.

Only six Republicans voted for the release of the funds. They included Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, the ranking GOP member on the Budget Committee, who said in a statement that it was "essential that the incoming administration has the flexibility and the resources necessary for addressing severe crises that could devastate our financial system."

Obama said in a statement yesterday that he shared the frustration about how the financial rescue funds have been spent so far, citing "too little transparency and accountability" and a failure to get credit to small businesses and families. He pledged to limit CEO salaries at companies that get money and to enact regulations to protect consumers, investors, and businesses.

The Bush administration initially urged passage of the $700 billion by arguing that the money would mostly be used to buy up "toxic assets" from banks. But after the measure was approved, the administration changed tactics, using much of the $350 billion to inject capital into both failing and healthy banks. But with the economy still performing poorly, critics of the program said that too few conditions had been attached and that too few banks were explaining what they were doing with the money.

As a result, members of Congress from both parties have suggested that more strings be attached to the money. Even as the measure was being debated, senators heard reports that some banks that have already received funds remain deeply troubled and might need more money.

On the other side of the Capitol, House Democrats yesterday unveiled a stimulus package that was $50 billion more than that Obama had proposed and might grow further as members try to add on favorite projects.

Obama has warned against increasing the cost of the package too much, given the record federal deficits, projected to reach $1.2 trillion this year. He told editors at The Washington Post yesterday that he will convene a "fiscal responsibility summit" in February to discuss how to solve long-term financial problems, with a special focus on entitlements such as Social Security.

Still, Obama said he was pleased, calling the plan "a significant down payment on our most urgent challenges, and it will contain the kind of strict, independent oversight that will allow the American people to hold Washington accountable for how and where their tax dollars are spent."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that approval of both measures would produce immediate job creation.

But the House Republican leader, John Boehner of Ohio, said Democrats were trying to "borrow and spend their way back to prosperity with a half-trillion dollars of new spending and less tax relief than President-elect Obama has been talking about."
Material from the Associated Press was also used in this report.

"'Hope over fear': Before huge throng, Obama takes oath, calls for a nation remade"
By Michael Kranish and Scott Helman, Boston Globe Staff, January 20, 2009

WASHINGTON - Barack Hussein Obama, in a moment rich with hope and history, was inaugurated today as the nation's first black president, and called on an anxious nation to join him in the "work of remaking America" by ushering in "a new era of responsibility."

Comparing the current economic crisis and the struggle against terrorism to the trials faced by the nation's founders, President Obama told an immense throng of more than a million people standing before him: "On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord."

"Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested, we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter," the nation's 44th president said in his inaugural address on the steps of the Capitol to the crowd, many of whom had gathered on the National Mall before dawn despite the frigid, windy weather.

To Americans fearful about the badly weakened economy and "a sapping of confidence," Obama vowed bold and swift action, calling for massive government help in building roads and bridges, remaking the nation with solar and wind energy, and improving healthcare and education. "The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works," Obama said, distancing himself from liberal as well as conservative mantras and defining his own vision of Washington's role in American life.

To citizens of other countries, Obama asked for "greater cooperation and understanding between nations." Speaking specifically to Muslims, Obama said "we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and respect." Addressing leaders who cling to power through corruption and deceit, Obama said that they are "on the wrong side of history" but that the United States "will extend a hand if you're willing to unclench your fist." But to those who try to advance their cause through terror, Obama said, "you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you."

Striking a populist chord, the 47-year-old Democrat from Illinois paraphrased words from the Declaration of Independence, saying that all citizens "deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness," while warning that the nation "cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous." Alluding to his call for more stringent regulation of financial institutions, Obama said the current crisis has reminded the country that "the market can spin out of control."

Moments before delivering his inaugural address, Obama put his left hand on Abraham Lincoln's inaugural Bible, raised his right hand, and became the first African-American president of the United States, promising to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution before a sea of witnesses that stretched more than a mile into the distance on the National Mall.

In a setpiece of American democracy, power was transferred peacefully from the outgoing president, George W. Bush. The oath was administered by Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who stumbled early on in the exchange as all eyes trained on the two.

Roberts's nomination by Bush to the high court was opposed by Obama as a senator. But Obama has strived during his transition to be bipartisan, winning accolades from former adversaries, including the failed Republican presidential candidate, Senator John McCain of Arizona.

Obama's swearing-in, protected by an extraordinary blanket of security, was the capstone to a festive, multiday celebration that captivated Washington and capitals around the world. In the days leading up to today's event, the nation's capital was filled with anticipation, with every kind of American face imaginable filling the Mall to soak up the atmosphere, snap photos of the occasion, and plant lasting memories.

The scene, a reflection of the unique fellowship of Obama's campaign, was lively and fraternal, with perfect strangers laughing, shouting, and waving American flags with one another under cold January skies.

"I woke up this morning thinking, this is our day. It's the nation's day. We're taking it back," said one of those in the crowd, Lauren Azar, 47, of Madison, Wis.

"I think America's just coming on the mend," said Timothy Young, 55, a doctor from Atlanta, standing in the vast crowd on the Mall just moments before Obama took the oath. "I think it's bigger than race, it's bigger than anything. That's why you see all these people, of every race, every color, every creed, and they're all talking to each other. We're talking to each other again."

After Obama and Vice President Joe Biden took their oaths, they were slated to travel from the Capitol to the White House to view the customary inaugural parade along Pennsylvania Avenue. Contingents from the Punahou School, Obama's high school in Honolulu, and Whitney M. Young Magnet High School, first lady Michelle Obama's high school in Chicago, were to lead dozens of military bands and marching units from across the country in the procession.

The inauguration of Obama, the son of a black Kenyan father and a white Kansan mother, holds special resonance for the country's 37 million African-Americans, to whom Martin Luther King's birthday celebration on Monday meant something different this year. Obama became the first African-American to be elected to the White House, which was built partly by slaves, and he took the oath of office near sandstone laid by slaves at the Capitol. Michelle Obama is the great-great-granddaughter of slaves.

"Men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall," Obama said, saying that "a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath."

The crowd stretched from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial. Thousands of people who streamed toward the Mall from adjacent neighborhoods in southeast Washington found themselves turned back by members of the National Guard when they approached the security cordon around the Capitol. Many were forced to trek the overpasses of Interstate 395 to try to find their way to one of the jumbo television screens on the Mall.

Some were still milling around in the environs around the Capitol as the ceremonies began, penned in by a series of fences and closed streets. But the atmosphere was jubilant nonetheless as some families decided to give up and get warm in office lobbies and drug stores.

"I wouldn't have missed it for anything," said Kathy Young, a 65-year-old retired nurse from Medford, Ore., who said she remembers marching with King from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., in 1965.

But now that his historic two-year march to the presidency is complete, Obama must now squarely face a litany of challenges at home and abroad.

The United States is enduring the worst economic calamity since the Great Depression, with 7.2 percent unemployment, a stock market that lost one-third of its value in 2008, and a widening chain of layoffs that has left many people apprehensive about the future.

"The challenges we face are real," Obama said. "They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America - they will be met."


"Leave this Act behind"
By Michelle Gillett, Op-Ed, The Berkshire Eagle, Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Every day, the list of daunting tasks facing our president-elect grows longer. Realistically, no one expects Barack Obama to fix the economy, make peace in the Middle East, find a remedy for health care or shore up the real estate market any time soon. But I am looking forward to some of the changes that can be put into effect early on — like leaving behind No Child Left Behind.

When George Bush introduced The No Child Left Behind Act of 2002, he thought it would be part of his legacy, but like many of his legislative actions, this one has fallen well short of its promise. The idea behind the plan was that with more federal involvement, schools would be held accountable for raising performance and closing achievement gaps, that standards would be set and resources provided. But instead, No Child Left behind has become what the president-elect calls "an empty slogan."

Rather than being effective in improving education, the act has punished schools and teachers, failed to provide adequate funding, and created a teacher shortage. It is true that we are woefully behind other countries in math and science but for me, the emphasis on more testing has always been questionable as a way to increase learning.

Even before I became a teacher, I knew there is no one right way to plant information in students' heads and have it stay there. I also knew that process and ambiguity have to be part of the mix in providing that information. It became clear early on in my career that standardized testing is not the end-all, be-all for measuring knowledge but is only one, often narrow measure.

There are better ways to achieve high standards and high expectations than with what No Child Left Behind mandates. As Obama has noted, "Don't tell us the only way to teach a child is to spend too much of the year preparing him to fill in a few bubbles on a standardized test."

No Child Left Behind was to be renewed in 2007 with changes that would supposedly strengthen it, but those changes made the act even more controversial — more testing, more basics-focused classes, and opportunities for students at failing schools to transfer to a private school. The reauthorization of the act was tabled last May. Fortunately now, those thoughts will be guided by a new administration and a new education secretary.

If he is confirmed. Arne Duncan, Obama's pick for the position, will have to come up with a new version of the No Child Left Behind Act fairly soon. His background as head of Chicago's school system, the third largest in the country, and his reputation of being a reformer who can listen to all sides, will be a boon to the remaking of No Child Left Behind, and to promoting innovative and creative ideas that will correct the damage it has done.

Obama pointed out that while the goals of No Child Left Behind "are the right ones," we didn't need "words in a law" to promise to educate every child with an excellent teacher, and to distribute resources equitably. But, he also noted "fixing the worst aspects of No Child Left behind is just a starting point." Obama has made a commitment to teachers to receive both the resources and the pay they need to meet individual student's needs. His government will have to find ways meet the cost of the law that has been under-funded by $71 million during Bush's administration.

Duncan will have to make good on Obama's other campaign promises as well, such as expanding early childhood education, investing in high-quality teaching programs and making college affordable. He has to do this at a time when school districts are cutting back on spending because of enormous budget deficits. In Massachusetts, cuts have been proposed to Head Start; early intervention services to help special needs children; funding for K-12 education, including spending for mentoring, teacher training and reimbursements for special education residential schools; services for disabled students, and programs for gifted students.

The original goal of No Child Left Behind — to have all children read and do math at grade level — is more achievable than ever now that we have a government that understands what must be done to provide high quality education. I am not saying it is going to be easy, but it is possible — and it's wonderful to know that teachers and students can be excited and inspired about learning again, and that our country can have an educational system that makes the grade.

Michelle Gillett is a regular Eagle contributor.


"Obama pitches his plan to reverse economic slide"
By Philip Elliott, Associated Press Writer, January 24, 2009

WASHINGTON --President Barack Obama took to the airwaves Saturday to promote his economic aid plan in what's-it-mean-to-me terms: thousands of better schools, lower electricity bills, health coverage for millions who lose insurance.

It was the latest appeal from the new president for a massive spending bill designed to inject almost $1 trillion into the economy and fulfill campaign pledges. As lawmakers consider an $825 billion plan and Obama woos them with an eye toward a second economic package, he used his first radio and Internet address from the White House to update the public about his goals.

"Our economy could fall $1 trillion short of its full capacity, which translates into more than $12,000 in lost income for a family of four. And we could lose a generation of potential, as more young Americans are forced to forgo college dreams or the chance to train for the jobs of the future," Obama said in a five-minute address.

"In short, if we do not act boldly and swiftly, a bad situation could become dramatically worse."

Obama aides have refused to rule out that the administration would seek a second economic recovery plan -- even before Congress approves the first -- to patch an ailing economy. Some are considering a sequel to assuage members of their own Democratic Party who fret that too little of the money is going toward public works projects that would employ their constituents.

"Look, let's get one done, and start seeing that impact on the economy before I get into hypotheticals about what we might do later on in the year," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Friday.

Along with the speech, Obama's economic team released a report designed to outline tangible benefits of the plan and shore up support. Aides said they wanted people to understand exactly what they could expect if Congress supported the proposed legislation.

The United States lost 2.6 million jobs last year, the most in any single year since World War II. Manufacturing is at a 28-year low and even Obama's economists say unemployment could top 10 percent before the recession ends. One in 10 homeowners is at risk of foreclosure and the dollar continues its slide in value.

That harsh reality has dominated Obama's first days in office that brought his top economic advisers to the White House on their first Saturday in power to talk about the proposed stimulus package and the federal budget.

A day earlier, he invited Democratic and Republican leaders to the White House to hear their ideas on the economy. At that visit, he did not share the details he released Saturday.

"We presented President Obama with our ideas to jump start the economy through fast-acting tax relief -- not slow-moving government spending programs," House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio said in the weekly GOP address. "We let families, entrepreneurs, small businesses, and the self-employed keep more of what they earn to encourage investment and create millions of new private-sector jobs."

Boehner said the Republicans would cut taxes for every taxpayer, dropping even the lowest income tax rates. "That's up to an extra $3,200 per family every year -- money that can be saved, spent or invested in any way you see fit," Boehner said. He also proposed a tax credit for home purchases, an end of taxation of unemployment benefits and tax incentives for small businesses to invest in new equipment and hire new employees.

"We cannot borrow and spend our way back to prosperity," Boehner said.

Obama also plans to travel to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to meet with Republican leaders, his latest move to bring along his rival party to pass an economic package that has GOP support. On Sunday, Vice President Joe Biden and economic adviser Larry Summers were to appear on the morning talk shows, as was Boehner.

Many of the goals in the speech and report were familiar from Obama's two-year campaign, such as shifting to electronic medical records and investing in preventive health care. Other parts added specifics.

Obama's recovery package aims to:

--double within three years the amount of energy that could be produced from renewable resources. That is an ambitious goal, given the 30 years it took to reach current levels. Advisers say that could power 6 million households.

--upgrade 10,000 schools and improve learning for about 5 million students.

--save $2 billion a year by making federal buildings energy efficient.

--triple the number of undergraduate and graduate fellowships in science.

--tighten security at 90 major ports.

The plan would spend at least 75 percent of the total cost -- or more than $600 billion -- within the first 18 months, either through bricks-and-shovels projects favored by Democrats or tax cuts that Republicans have pushed.

There is heavy emphasis on public works projects, which have lagged as state budgets contracted. Governors have lobbied Obama to help them patch holes in their budgets, drained by sinking tax revenues and increased need for public assistance such as Medicaid and children's health insurance. Obama's plan would increase the federal portion of those programs so no state would have to cut any of the 20 million children whose eligibility is now at risk.

Obama's plan would also provide health care coverage for 8.5 million people who lose their insurance when they either lose or shift jobs.

"It's a plan that will save or create 3 to 4 million jobs over the next few years" and recognizes "there are millions of Americans trying to find work even as, all around the country, there's so much work to be done," he said.

But Obama cautioned again against expecting instant results: "No one policy or program will solve the challenges we face right now, nor will this crisis recede in a short period of time."


On the Net:

Obama video:

Obama economics report:


"Early education is a good investment"
The Berkshire Eagle, Letters, Thursday, January 29, 2009

President Barack Obama's inauguration marked an epic moment for America — a chance to take a hard look at our country's priorities and reevaluate. What, really, will prepare us for an uncertain future?

As the director and teachers of the Williamstown Community Preschool, an early education program and recipient of one of the Massachusetts Universal Pre-Kindergarten Pilot Classroom Quality grants, we were heartened by President Obama's emphasis on high-quality early education during the campaign and his recognition that it is critical to the nation's future prosperity and economic growth.

Research shows that high-quality early education improves children's health and well-being and increases their academic achievement. During the campaign, Mr. Obama pledged an additional $10 billion investment to guarantee access to quality, affordable, early childhood education for every child in America.

With the country's economic upheaval, financial pressures will loom large, so let's hope that President Obama keeps his promise on early education. Unlike many other economic tactics that have been suggested in recent months, high-quality early education is an investment with proven results.

Williamstown, Massachusetts
The writer is director of the Williamstown Community Preschool. The letter was also signed by educational coordinator Nancy LaValley and teachers Sally Chin, Amanda Martin, Amanda LeBeau, Carolyn Meaney and Michelle Lapine-Denette.


"Obama Calls Wall Street Bonuses in Crisis ‘Shameful’"
By Julianna Goldman and Roger Runningen, January 29, 2009 (Bloomberg) --

President Barack Obama said bonuses dealt out by Wall Street firms are “shameful” while the U.S. economy is in recession and companies are asking for help from taxpayers.

Distributing bonuses now “is the height of irresponsibility” Obama said at the White House, where he held a closed-door meeting with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Vice President Joe Biden. Firms need to “show some restraint and show some discipline and show some sense of responsibility.”

Obama also said his administration will be unveiling a plan to stabilize financial markets and overhaul Wall Street regulations in the coming weeks. He and other members of the administration said support for action to will depend on public confidence in what the government is doing and that companies will act responsibly.

The president’s comments followed a call by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd for the government to examine ways of forcing executives to repay the bonuses.

The New York state comptroller reported that Wall Street firms disbursed $18.4 billion in bonuses last year as the U.S. sank into a recession. While the figure represents a decline of 44 percent from the previous year amid record losses in the securities industry, the bonus pool was the sixth-largest ever, the comptroller said in a yearly report.

‘Big Hole’

“There will be times for them to make profits and there will be time for them to get bonuses -- now is not that time,” Obama said. “The American people understand that we’ve got a big hole that we’ve got to dig ourselves out of, but they don’t like the idea that people are digging a bigger hole even as they’re asked to fill it up.”

He also made a reference to Citigroup Inc.’s reversal, under government pressure, of its decision to buy a $50 million corporate jet as it was getting money from the Troubled Assets Relief Program.

“Secretary Geithner already had to pull back one institution that had gone forward with a multimillion-dollar jet plane purchase at the same time as they’re receiving TARP money,” Obama said. “We shouldn’t have to do that.”

The report on bonuses also was drawing fire in Congress. Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, said he will look for “every possible legal means” to get the money returned.

Demand for Return

“I’m going to be urging -- in fact not urging, demanding - - that the Treasury Department figures out some way to get the money back,” Dodd said. “This is unacceptable.”

News about the bonuses comes as Obama is seeking to maintain public support for his economic stimulus plan and as his economic advisers are developing a proposal to stabilize the financial system, including how to spend the second half of the $700 billion.

Obama has said the rescue plan is a key component of his administration’s efforts to pull the U.S. out of a recession, along with overhauling financial market regulations.

One of the options under consideration is setting up a so- called bad bank, managed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., to buy up the toxic assets clogging banks’ balance sheets, according to people familiar with the matter.

The bad-bank initiative may allow the government to rewrite some of the mortgages that underpin banks’ bad debt, in the hopes of stemming a crisis that has stripped more than 1.3 million Americans of their homes. Some lenders may be taken over by regulators as the government seeks to provide a shield to taxpayers.

Next Phase

Obama said a plan to overhaul the regulation of Wall Street will be rolled out “in the coming weeks.”

Economic data released today may provide more urgency for action by the administration and Congress. Sales of new homes in the U.S. fell to the lowest level on record and orders for durable goods slumped for a fifth month in December. The Labor Department reported a record number of Americans were collecting jobless benefits in the week ending Jan. 17.

Obama also is seeking to keep up momentum for an economic stimulus. The U.S. House last night passed a version of Obama’s $819 billion package without a single Republican vote. Action now shifts to the Senate, where Republicans have more power to demand changes.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said earlier that public confidence is key to supporting an economic stimulus plan and a financial-markets rescue.

“We’re not going to be able to do what is needed to be done to stabilize our financial system if the American people read about this type of outrageous behavior,” Gibbs said.
To contact the reporters on this story: Julianna Goldman in Washington at; Roger Runningen in Washington at

"Biden to Lead Task Force on Issues of the Middle Class: Group's Goal: Raise Standard of Living For Working Families"
By Anne E. Kornblut and Anthony Faiola, Washington Post Staff Writers, Saturday, January 31, 2009; A03

During his first major White House event since taking office, Vice President Biden on Friday announced that he will be leading a task force on issues affecting the middle class.

"This task force, I might add -- which coming out of the vice president's office will be a bit unique -- will be fully transparent," Biden said as President Obama stood by his side.

The audience in the East Room laughed and applauded. And unlike last week -- when Biden's off-the-cuff comment about U.S. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. drew a chilly reaction from Obama -- his dig at secretive former vice president Richard B. Cheney drew no rebuke.

The relationship between Biden and Obama has continued to develop over the pair's first weeks in office, aides say, with the two spending as much as four hours a day together. Biden has already been assigned two missions: heading the task force on middle-class issues, which will hold public hearings on matters including green jobs and retirement plans; and, next week, leading a delegation to an international security conference in Munich.

Biden made his first prominent White House appearance Friday with the launch of the Middle Class Working Families Task Force, billed as a "major initiative targeted at raising the living standards of middle-class, working families in America." Although the term "task force" is often coded language for a group that tackles an issue on which an administration hopes to postpone taking direct action, Obama administration officials said that this one was designed to have heft: In addition to Biden at the helm, it includes the secretaries of labor, health and human services, education and commerce, the directors of the National Economic Council, the Office of Management and Budget and the Domestic Policy Council, and the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.

Officials said they did not know how big the task force's budget will be, but they stressed that it will deliver its conclusions directly to the president. Asked whether the task force will have real power, an administration official said the "teeth come from our ability to elevate these issues to the level of the White House." The task force is expected to recommend specific pieces of legislation and executive orders that Obama can issue, and in addition to publishing its findings on a new Web site, will hold public meetings, the first in Philadelphia on Feb. 27.

As vice president, Biden has not entirely curbed his habit of wandering off the script.

In an interview with CNBC on Thursday, Biden said of the Employee Free Choice Act, also known as "card check": "This year. This year, we hope. Our expectation is this year, this calendar year, that we will move, and hopefully with some bipartisan support, to dealing with this issue."

But in an interview with The Washington Post before his inauguration, Obama was less committal. Asked whether the bill, which would allow workers to organize more easily, would come to his desk within a year, Obama said, "Let's see what the legislative docket looks like."

Also in his Thursday interview, Biden expressed support for the Buy American proposal, which has ignited a debate internationally over the specter of rising U.S. protectionism. The proposals have particularly alarmed Europeans and Canadians, some of the largest foreign sources of imported steel in the United States, who have spoken out forcefully against the measures over the past two days.

"I don't view that as some of the pure free-traders view it, as a harbinger of protectionism," Biden told CNBC. "I don't buy that at all. So I think it's legitimate to have some portions of Buy American in it."

On Friday, at the lectern in the White House briefing room, press secretary Robert Gibbs said the White House is still reviewing the benefits of Buy American, which is part of the spending bill the House passed Wednesday. "The administration is reviewing that provision," he said. "It understands all of the concerns that have been heard, not only in this room but in newspapers produced both up north and down south. So let us undertake that review, and when we have something to announce as it relates to that review, I will be able to answer any number of your questions related to a review that has not yet currently been done."

But some outsiders were already reacting to Biden's comments.

"I know that countries around the world are expressing grave concern about some of these measures that go against not just the obligations of the United States but, frankly, the spirit of our G20 discussions," Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper told the House of Commons in Ottawa on Thursday, according to an official transcript of the meeting. "We will be having these discussions with our friends in the United States and we expect the United States to respect its international obligations."

The provision passed Wednesday by the House as part of the stimulus bill would mostly bar foreign steel and iron from the infrastructure projects laid out by the $819 billion economic package. A Senate version still being considered goes further, requiring, with few exceptions, that all stimulus-funded projects use only American-made equipment and goods.

Biden's comments were hailed by proponents of expanding Buy American provisions, while opponents took heart in indications that Obama may be less supportive. The measure has split U.S. corporate community, with steel, iron and textile manufactures and labor unions strongly supporting a broader Buy American provision. Large U.S. exporters, including General Electric and Caterpillar, have come out strongly against the measure, arguing that it could ignite strong retaliation against American companies overseas.

"Vice President Biden had it right," said Scott Paul, executive director of the District-based Alliance for American Manufacturing, a partnership of the United Steelworkers union, some domestic steel manufacturers and related companies. "Domestic sourcing is not protectionism. It is a long-standing policy of the U.S. government that is completely compliant with our international trade obligations."


"Here's to you, Mrs. Robinson"
By Michelle Gillett, Op-Ed, The Berkshire Eagle, Tuesday, January 27, 2009
STOCKBRIDGE, Massachusetts

Barack Obama is finally in the White House, there is finally a Michelle in the White House, and equally reassuring, there is a grandmother in the White House. Michelle Obama's mother, Marian Robinson, is living with the first family to help out with their two granddaughters, Malia, 10 and Sasha, 7, while they get settled into their new life in Washington DC.

When Barack Obama decided to run for president, Mrs. Robinson left her job as an executive secretary at a bank in Chicago to take care of her granddaughters while he and Michelle hit the campaign trail. I credit her with Obama's ultimate success in getting elected. Both Obamas have said that Mrs. Robinson had not been willing or available to care for the girls, he might not have been able to pursue his campaign.

I have done my fair share of grannie-duty and can identify with what Marian Robinson did for the 22 months the Obamas were campaigning.


When I stay with my grandchildren when their parents are away, I cook the meals, drive them to school, shuttle them to soccer and ballet and play dates, help with homework, bathe them, read stories and put them to bed. I try to follow my daughter's child-rearing injunctions but like Mrs. Robinson, I break the organic food rule now and then and ignore the 8 p.m. bedtime once in a while. I have been known to walk my grandchildren down to the corner store to buy candy or gum.
Like Marian Robinson, I figure it is my prerogative to break the rules as long as there is no harm done; in fact, it is every grandmother's prerogative.

Mrs. Robinson has not decided if she will reside at the White House permanently, but her presence now is going to ease her children's and grandchildren's transition. She will give them the consistency and comfort they need as their family becomes the focus of the world's attention. As Louisa May Alcott wrote, "a house needs a grandma in it." Increasingly, there are more grandmas in the house. More and more retired people are moving in with their children and grandchildren.

In 2007, more than 3.6 million parents lived with their children, a 67 percent increase from 2000. According to AARP, 24 percent of baby boomers expect their parents or in-laws to move in with them eventually. In addition, more and more young families are going to be moving in with their parents during this time of economic uncertainty when so many are losing their jobs and their homes.

In a society where separating from one's parents is evidence of maturity and independence, it is difficult to know how this change will affect us. Maybe we will become more like European countries, where family support and caretaking is expected and enjoyed. Marian Robinson's example will help dispel the stereotype that living with one's children means one has become prehistoric or a failure of some kind.

Marian Robinson has her own life and had no intention of retiring until she decided to help out so Obama could become president. Until she moved to Washington, she competed in the 100- and 50-yard dashes at the Illinois Senior Olympics.


While she is not the first grandma or the first president's mother-in- law in the White House, she is probably the first positive mother-in- law role model in the White House. Mamie's Eisenhower's mother stayed in bed until noon. Harry Truman's mother-in-law thought Bess had married beneath her and expressed her disappointment by belittling him.

Michelle Obama said in an ABC interview," We are grateful that she's going to be here, helping the girls, helping me get acclimated to the changes that we'll be facing. I can breathe a little bit easier, knowing that if I'm out late or have to travel that the girls have Grandma."

Mrs. Robinson told a Boston Globe interviewer she wouldn't have it any other way. So even while we continue to cheer for Obama, we should add a "Here's to you, Mrs. Robinson."
Michelle Gillett is a regular Eagle contributor.

"Two Sides of a Debate: Bipartisanship produced Friday's stimulus deal -- but Washington hasn't yet changed."
Saturday, February 7, 2009; The Washington Post, Editorial, A12

THE $780 BILLION stimulus package deal reached by a bipartisan group of senators and the White House Friday was the culmination of a frenzied week that reflected two strains of politics. One embraced President Obama's attempt to rise above the partisan squabbles that too often have paralyzed Washington. Another made it clear that the old ways will die hard.

The gang of 20 or so moderate Democrats and Republicans, led by Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), heeded the president's call for bipartisanship and hunkered down to produce the bill announced Friday night. Though the details of the package still need to be examined, the senators' effort was an admirable one -- one that aimed at providing the quick and large injection of funds into the economy experts say is necessary, while modifying or removing parts of the bill that were too long-range or complex for an emergency bill, or which blatantly served special interests.

The effort wasn't helped by those senators, including the leadership on both sides of the aisle, who wallowed in customary blame-gamesmanship. On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) accused the moderates of trying to hold the president hostage. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) derided the impending bill as an "aimless spending spree that masquerades as a stimulus." Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) went theatrical. He held up a copy of an earlier version of the Senate stimulus plan to slam the process that led to its creation. She brandished her own copy to complain that Mr. Graham never resorted to such antics when they considered President Bush's bailout bill for Wall Street. Friday House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) jumped in, deriding the quest for bipartisanship as a "process argument" and claiming that potential cuts in the Senate bill "will do violence to the future."

For his part, Mr. Obama has dabbled in both arenas. Coffee, drinks and huddles with Republicans on Capitol Hill and at the White House over the past two weeks gave way this week to more partisan warnings to Republicans not to "turn back to the same tried and failed approaches that were rejected in the last election." In the end the White House showed pragmatism in striking Friday's deal. Mr. Obama now must go to work to ensure that the fragile consensus survives a conference committee and a vote in Ms. Pelosi's House -- where there has been, as yet, no sign of the new politics he seeks.


"Barely Bipartisan But a Senate Stimulus Deal is Done"
Saturday, February 7, 2009, TIME

The U.S. Senate looks to be on track to pass a bill that sounds almost exactly like what President Barack Obama asked for last month. The measure - now heralded as $780 billion, down from $890 billion - will include about 40% in tax cuts and more than 80% of the spending will flood the faltering economy within the next 18 months. But with just three Republican votes, the bill falls well short of the bipartisan goal Obama worked hard to achieve.

The final cost of the bill remained fuzzy late Friday as senators scrambled to figure out how three amendments the Senate has already passed, estimated to add at least another $30 billion more in spending, would affect the total. Ten additional pending amendments could also alter the overall number. Democrats estimate the total in the end could range from $780 billion to $820 billion; Republican leaders said they believe the bill would cost more than $827 billion even before other amendments are added.

Nevertheless, the deal has three G.O.P. votes in the Senate in its support - three more than the President got in the House. They come at a cost. Depending on what the final bill amounts to, the deal could cost more than $35 billion in cuts per Republican vote. And that's after the Dems removed several provisions at the G.O.P. senators' request - from family planning for low-income women to money to restore the National Mall. Senator Susan Collins, the lead Republican negotiator said that the miniscule support from her party proved how hard it will be for Obama to overcome deep political divisions. "It's really unfortunate as I think the American people really want us to work together and really are sick and tired of all the partisanship," she said.

At one time, the Obama administration had hoped to draw as many as 80 votes in the Senate but several spending provisions that would not have kicked in until after 2011 drew fire from both sides of the aisle. Collins and Senator Ben Nelson, a Nebraska Democrat, spent most of the week closeted with 18 centrists, including six Republicans, hammering out the deal reached late Friday. In the end only Collins, her fellow senator from Maine, Olympia Snowe, and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania signed on. Collins said she will continue to lobby her G.O.P. colleagues.

Since he took office Obama has reached out to the G.O.P., even though the Democrats hold large majorities in both chambers of Congress. The President made an unprecedented trip to the Hill to meet with the Republican conferences, invited select G.O.P. senators to meet him with him in the Oval Office, at times one-on-one, and called numerous senators to convince them to come on board. In recent days, though, as the bill languished before the Senate his tone turned sharper. "The American people did not choose more of the same," Obama said at a White House meeting Friday announcing his Economic Recovery Advisory Board. "They did not send us to Washington to get stuck in partisan posturing, or to turn back to the same tried and failed approaches that were rejected in the last election. They sent us here with a mandate for change, and the expectation that we would act. The bill before Congress isn't perfect, but it is absolutely necessary."

Democrats had hoped to vote on the measure Friday. Indeed, Senator Ted Kennedy, who is undergoing treatment for a brain tumor, was prepared to return to Washington to cast his vote in support. But Republicans said they wanted more time to examine the deal and passage looks unlikely until Sunday, at the earliest. "No action is not what any of my Republican colleagues are advocating, but most of us are deeply skeptical that this will work," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said announcing his opposition to the measure. "And that level of skepticism leads us to believe that this course of action should not be chosen." It remained unclear if Senator Judd Gregg, a New Hampshire Republican who is Obama's nominee to run the Commerce Department, would vote. Gregg had said he did not intend to, but if Kennedy is absent he may be forced to step in to help pass his future boss' plan.

Most of the cuts that led to the deal - about $85 billion - came from reduced spending on school construction (a $19 billion proposal was zeroed out), teacher funding and higher education. The negotiators also cut provisions that the Congressional Budget Office said diffused less than 10% of funds into the economy within 18 months - for example, shrinking Head Start and a program to make federal buildings more energy efficient. "The Democrats wanted to see a lot of education funding and the Republicans generally argued that the programs, while worthwhile, should go through the regular appropriations process," Collins said. "Or in the case of the $19 billion for school construction there's a real case on whether that's a federal role or a local and state role." Tax cuts and other finance provisions allowed the negotiators to slash another $25 billion.

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel attended the Democratic caucus' briefing on the compromise and senators said he pushed hard for their support. Emanuel, a former House leader still popular with his ex-colleagues, may help win backing for the bill from House Dems upset over the loss of funding for their projects. Obama will also hit the road to sell the stimulus, visiting Elkhart, Indiana and Fort Myers, Florida early next week. Elkhart has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country - at, 15.3%, dramatically up from 4.7% a year ago. Fort Myers has an unemployment rate of 10%.

Democratic leaders hope that the only thing Americans will remember of this excruciating process is the passage of a historic bill that could go a long way to fixing the economy. With his own twist to Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, said: "The world will little note nor long remember how many votes we had to pass the measure. The world and Congress and the nation want to know if this will work. If it passes with 61 votes or 81 votes, it's just a footnote in history."


James L. Jones said in an interview that he will be the primary conduit of national security advice to President Obama. (By Linda Davidson -- The Washington Post)

"Obama's NSC Will Get New Power: Directive Expands Makeup and Role Of Security Body"
By Karen DeYoung, Washington Post Staff Writer, Sunday, February 8, 2009; A01

President Obama plans to order a sweeping overhaul of the National Security Council, expanding its membership and increasing its authority to set strategy across a wide spectrum of international and domestic issues.

The result will be a "dramatically different" NSC from that of the Bush administration or any of its predecessors since the forum was established after World War II to advise the president on diplomatic and military matters, according to national security adviser James L. Jones, who described the changes in an interview. "The world that we live in has changed so dramatically in this decade that organizations that were created to meet a certain set of criteria no longer are terribly useful," he said.

Jones, a retired Marine general, made it clear that he will run the process and be the primary conduit of national security advice to Obama, eliminating the "back channels" that at times in the Bush administration allowed Cabinet secretaries and the vice president's office to unilaterally influence and make policy out of view of the others.

"We're not always going to agree on everything," Jones said, and "so it's my job to make sure that minority opinion is represented" to the president. "But if at the end of the day he turns to me and says, 'Well, what do you think, Jones?,' I'm going to tell him what I think."

The new structure, to be outlined in a presidential directive and a detailed implementation document by Jones, will expand the NSC's reach far beyond the range of traditional foreign policy issues and turn it into a much more elastic body, with Cabinet and departmental seats at the table -- historically occupied only by the secretaries of defense and state -- determined on an issue-by-issue basis. Jones said the directive will probably be completed this week.

"The whole concept of what constitutes the membership of the national security community -- which, historically has been, let's face it, the Defense Department, the NSC itself and a little bit of the State Department, to the exclusion perhaps of the Energy Department, Commerce Department and Treasury, all the law enforcement agencies, the Drug Enforcement Administration, all of those things -- especially in the moment we're currently in, has got to embrace a broader membership," he said.

New NSC directorates will deal with such department-spanning 21st-century issues as cybersecurity, energy, climate change, nation-building and infrastructure. Many of the functions of the Homeland Security Council, established as a separate White House entity by President Bush after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, may be subsumed into the expanded NSC, although it is still undetermined whether elements of the HSC will remain as a separate body within the White House.

Over the next 50 days, John O. Brennan, a CIA veteran who serves as presidential adviser for counterterrorism and homeland security and is Jones's deputy, will review options for the homeland council, including its responsibility for preparing for and responding to natural and terrorism-related domestic disasters. In a separate interview, Brennan described his task as a "systems engineering challenge" to avoid overlap with the new NSC while ensuring that "homeland security matters, broadly defined, are going to get the attention they need from the White House."

Organizational maps within the government will be redrawn to ensure that all departments and agencies take the same regional approach to the world, Jones said. The State Department, for example, considers Afghanistan, Pakistan and India together as South Asia, while the Pentagon draws a line at the Pakistan-India border, with the former under the Central Command and the latter part of the Pacific Command. Israel is part of the military's European Command, but the rest of the Middle East falls under Central Command; the State Department combines Israel and the Arab countries surrounding it in its Near East Bureau.

"We are going to reflect in the NSC all the regions of the world along some map line we can all agree on," Jones said.

The national security process, he said, will also be "transparent to its clients" inside the administration, with meeting agendas and outcomes made available to "the whole community" in real time. Each department will appoint someone to monitor the NSC process, enabling senior officials across the government to be ready to jump into issues without steep learning curves.

Directorates inside Jones's NSC staff will oversee implementation of decisions. "It doesn't mean that we micromanage or supervise," he said. "But you have to make sure, . . . particularly if it's a presidential decision, that the president is kept abreast of how things are going. That it doesn't just fall off the end of the table and disappear into outer space."

Most modern chief executives have issued an early directive outlining a structure for making national security decisions. Although the 1947 National Security Act created the NSC and listed its membership -- including the president, the vice president, and the secretaries of state and defense -- each president has redefined it to fit his own needs and style. In recent administrations, the CIA director, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and at times the Treasury secretary have regularly attended principals meetings. At the same time, the role and power of the president's national security adviser, and the size of his staff, have grown larger or smaller depending on the president's wishes.

But initial presidential intentions have often been waylaid by personalities and events. George W. Bush criticized Bill Clinton's NSC style as rambling and indecisive. Over the next eight years, however -- as first-term Bush adviser Condoleezza Rice was outmaneuvered by Vice President Richard B. Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and as Bush's second term became mired in an unpopular war and a failing economy -- decision-making quickly became more reactive than strategic, and deliberations were opaque to all but a small inner circle.

The Obama administration -- with powerful figures such as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates -- appears crowded at the top of the national security pyramid and heavy with military officials, including Jones himself and retired Navy Adm. Dennis C. Blair as director of national intelligence. Special envoys to trouble spots -- former diplomat Richard C. Holbrooke to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and former senator George J. Mitchell to the Middle East -- have been given broad presidential authority.

Although Jones said he strongly supports increased resources for the State Department, which is increasingly dwarfed by the size and expanding missions of the Defense Department, he has long been an outspoken proponent of a "pro-active military" in noncombat regions. He has advocated military collaboration with the oil and gas industry and with nongovernmental organizations abroad.

But Jones said he sees an administration filled with colleagues rather than competitors. Since Jan. 20, "I've had more meetings with the secretary of state and the secretary of defense than I've had in my entire lifetime," said Jones, who served as Marine Corps commandant, NATO military chief and, under Bush, a special Middle East envoy.

During a midafternoon interview last Thursday, Jones said he had already spoken face to face with Gates and had four telephone conversations with him that day. He has set up a standing Wednesday morning meeting with Gates and Clinton together in his office.

"I believe in collegiality . . . in sounding out people and getting them to participate," Jones said. "I notice the president is very good at that." But he made clear he plans to apply military-like discipline to the NSC. "The most important thing is that you are in fact the coordinator and you're the guy around which the meetings occur. When we chair a principals meeting, I'm the chairman." One of the first of many internal Bush administration clashes occurred when Cheney proposed that he, rather than Rice, chair NSC meetings.

In his initial conversations with Obama before taking the job, Jones confirmed, he insisted on being "in charge" and having open and final access to the president on all national security matters. "We engaged in about an hour-long discussion about what I was already thinking about the NSC; it happened, I think, to mesh pretty well with what his instincts were. He was clear about the role of the national security adviser," Jones said of Obama.

The NSC will take on all national security matters that are strategic in nature and "of such importance that the president of the United States would care" about them, he said. Action groups from various departments and agencies will be formed around specific issues for as long as it takes to resolve them. "Some of these things will be very short-term. When the problem goes away, the group goes away." Others will be ongoing. "An Afghan strategic review, that's going to take a while," Jones said. "The policy that is generated from that review, and the implementation, is going to take a while."

Some principals will be regulars at the NSC "just by force of issues," he said, and "you can't just designate the whole government as being there." But everyone should be kept aware of "what's going on" and given an opportunity to say, 'Wait a minute, I've got something to say here.' "


"Saving the Banks: The most important steps of the administration's recovery plan are still to come."
The Washington Post, Editorial, Sunday, February 8, 2009; B06

AS LAST week's dreadful new unemployment report showed, the U.S. economy is still in free fall. But, important as it is, the fiscal stimulus plan upon which President Obama and Congress have spent most of their efforts so far is at most only part of the solution. The economy can't recover as long as the nation's financial system remains in suspended animation. Through episodic bailouts, the Bush administration prevented a total meltdown -- which was necessary, but far from sufficient. As it prepares to unveil its plans for the second half of the $700 billion Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), the Obama administration has a chance to dispel the confusion and uncertainty that still cripple the banks and, by extension, the entire economy.

The basic problem is this: America's financial institutions remain burdened with "toxic" assets, i.e., instruments (often of mind-blowing complexity) for which the market has collapsed. Goldman Sachs says that about $1 trillion in illiquid securities still haunts the banks' balance sheets. The resulting paper losses are eating away at the banks' capital, and without a stable capital cushion, banks do not dare lend money, even to quite creditworthy customers. As long as the toxic assets remain, private capital will shun the banks -- and government capital will get eaten up by more and more losses. One way or another, this corrosive uncertainty must end.

Broadly speaking, the Obama administration has three options, each of which has been tried in similar crises in other countries.

First, it can nationalize insolvent banks, take their bad assets directly onto the government's balance sheet and try to manage them at a minimum cost to the taxpayer. This has the advantage of decisiveness -- but the huge disadvantage of involving political authorities in the banking business indefinitely.

A second approach would be for the government to use TARP money to capitalize one or more "bad banks," which would buy and -- with the help of experts recruited from the private sector -- manage toxic assets, thus freeing the remaining "good banks" to resume normal operations. This is more promising, since it includes an exit strategy for the government and might jump-start a private market for the assets. But there is a huge risk that the government would badly overpay in the first place.

Finally, the government could agree to pick up the tab for any losses above a certain level, in return for a fee from the banks. It has already done this with Citigroup and Bank of America. With this guarantee, the banks could more safely hold the securities to maturity or sell them to private investors, who would be secure in the knowledge that Uncle Sam's got their back. This proposal probably has a much lower upfront cost than either nationalization or a "bad bank." The downside is that it perpetuates ambiguity about the ultimate valuation of the assets.

Whatever approach, or combination of approaches, he chooses, Mr. Obama must level with the public about the costs and benefits. One misconception he should dispel is the expectation -- unfortunately being encouraged by some members of Congress -- that the banks must immediately use whatever aid they get to restore lending to pre-crisis levels. Easy credit is part of what got us into this mess, and, even without the toxic assets problem, there would be less lending in a recession. No, it's not fair that banks that helped create the crisis might get a fresh start subsidized by taxpayers. But, unless we want a Japan-like "lost decade," there is no alternative. What's crucial is to set a strategy that is coherent, decisive and transparent -- and then stick to it.


"$3 trillion! — Senate, Fed, Treasury attack crisis"
By DAVID ESPO, AP Special Correspondent David Espo, Ap Special Correspondent, 2/10/2009

WASHINGTON – On a single day filled with staggering sums, the Obama administration, Federal Reserve and Senate attacked the deepening economic crisis Tuesday with actions that could throw as much as $3 trillion more in government and private funds into the fight against frozen credit markets and rising joblessness.

"It's gone deep. It's gotten worse," President Barack Obama said of the recession at a campaign-style appearance in Ft. Myers, Fla., where unemployment has reached double digits. "The situation we face could not be more serious."

If any more emphasis were needed, Wall Street investors sent stocks plunging, objecting that new rescue details from the government were too sparse despite the huge numbers. The Dow Jones industrials dropped 382 points.

The president spoke shortly after Senate passage of an $838 billion emergency economic stimulus bill cleared the way for talks with the House on a final compromise. In a display of urgency, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel traveled to the Capitol in mid-afternoon for meetings with Democratic leaders as well as moderate senators whose views — and votes — will be key to any compromise.

Separately, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner outlined plans for spending much of the $350 billion in financial bailout money recently cleared by Congress, and the Federal Reserve announced it would commit up to $1 trillion to make loans more widely available to consumers.

Taken together, the events marked at least a political watershed if not an economic turning point — the day the three-week old administration and its congressional allies assumed full control of the struggle against the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

The vote was 61-37 in the Senate to pass the stimulus, with moderate Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania joining Democrats in support.

Even before the vote, Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with Obama at the White House to go over the task ahead.

The Democratic leaders have long pledged to have legislation on Obama's desk by mid-month, and Reid told reporters he hopes for at least a first cut at a deal within 24 hours. "We need to get this done as fast as we can," he declared.

The political urgency bumped up against other obstacles, though.

The House measure includes roughly $70 billion more spending than the Senate's, but it lacks Senate-approved tax breaks totaling more than $100 billion for new car buyers, home purchasers and upper middle income families.

In a further obstacle, Collins and other Senate moderates — in both parties — signaled they will work to hold the cost of the final bill below $800 billion. That's less than the $820 billion in spending and tax cuts combined in the bill that cleared the House as well as the $838 billion legislation the Senate wrote.

Additionally, Obama has campaigned particularly energetically to include funds for school construction in the bill. At the insistence of Collins, the Senate measure omitted money for that purpose, and it wasn't clear whether she had eased her position on the presidential priority.

Whatever the cost of the final bill, it will add to the deficit, and that created another little-mentioned dilemma for the administration and Democrats.

Future spending bills on domestic programs or tax cuts will probably have a far more difficult time gaining the support necessary to pass without offsetting spending cuts or tax increases that would hold the deficit level.

Obama has campaigned energetically in recent days for passage of the stimulus bill, at the White House, on visits to other federal agencies, in his trip to Florida and a similar appearance Monday in a high-unemployment area of Indiana.

Reid depicted a president deeply involved in the compromise effort as well. He said Obama had "certain set ideas as to what he thinks should be done," but declined to elaborate.

The president set the context for the unfolding events Monday night at his first presidential news conference, when he said, "With the private sector so weakened by this recession, the federal government is the only entity left with the resources to jolt our economy back into life."

Geithner outlined some of the details, although he and aides left numerous questions unanswered.

"We have to both jump-start job creation and private investment, and we must get credit flowing again to businesses and families," Geithner said at a news conference. He pledged to "fundamentally reshape" the financial industry bailout that began last fall under the Bush administration, and he announced that at least $50 billion would be spent helping homeowners facing foreclosure. He also said new steps would hold banks accountable for their use of bailout funds.

One element of the administration's approach calls for using as much as $100 billion in federal bailout funds to give banks, hedge funds or other investors the incentive to purchase so-called toxic assets carried on the books of other financial institutions. The goal is to return struggling banks to health so they can resume making loans, and an administration fact sheet said the amount of government and private funds combined will be "on an initial scale of up to $500 billion, with the potential to expand up to $1 trillion."

Separately, the Federal Reserve announced it would commit up to $1 trillion to purchase bonds or other assets backed by consumer loans. The Treasury will guarantee a portion of the Fed investment by putting up $100 billion, an increase from a $20 billion commitment that Bush administration had announced.

The goal of this program is to make it easier for consumers to buy cars or obtain student loans, small business loans or other types of credit that have dried up in recent months.

Separately, Geithner said $50 billion in bailout funds would be dedicated to an effort to prevent mortgage foreclosure of "owner-occupied middle class homes." Few details were provided.

Obama said in Florida, "I'm going to be personally making an announcement in the next couple weeks what our overall housing strategy is going to be. ... We've got to provide some direct relief to homeowners."

Additionally, the administration announced numerous steps designed to ease public anger at the Bush administration's handling of the bailout program.

In addition to a previously announced $500,000 limit on annual compensation for top executives at some companies receiving bailout funds, the steps include a restriction on dividend payments.
Associated Press Writers Martin Crutsinger, Tom Raum, Jennifer Loven, Ann Sanner and Andrew Taylor contributed to this story.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (second from left) celebrated with Representatives Rosa DeLauro, James Oberstar, and Charles Rangel yesterday during a news conference after House passage of the stimulus legislation. (SUSAN WALSH/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

"$787b stimulus bill approved"
By Sasha Issenberg, Boston Globe Staff, February 14, 2009

WASHINGTON - Less than one month after President Obama took office, Congress last night passed his flagship proposal, an unprecedented collection of tax cuts and new spending that Democrats say offers the country its best hope to stave off an impending depression.

After a frenzied month of legislating, the House and Senate produced an economic stimulus bill estimated yesterday to cost $787 billion, with $281 billion in new tax cuts and the remainder in one-time spending on infrastructure investments, expanded unemployment benefits, and other programs.

It passed both chambers on a largely party-line vote, winning the support of no Republicans in the House and three in the Senate.

The outcome amounted to the first significant fruits of November's Democratic landslide, in which Obama handily won the presidency while his party expanded its congressional majorities. For the first time in 14 years, Democrats have been empowered to legislate without serious Republican interference, and yesterday reveled in what many described as a new dawn for liberalism.

Democrats claimed a mandate to beef up the federal government's role in areas including transportation, alternative energy, and school construction - and to take on whopping deficits to do so - citing a shift in popular opinion provoked by some of the most vexing domestic problems the country has encountered in decades.

"The bottom line is: with this downturned economy, there is no place to turn but government," said Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat who headed his party's Senate campaign efforts last fall. "Most of the Republicans are resisting that, but they're just out of touch with the times."

The Senate passed the bill after keeping the vote open for hours late into the night, to allow Senator Sherrod Brown to return from his native Ohio, where he had spent the day marking his mother's recent death.

Brown, who was hustled back on a White House-provided plane, represented the Democrats' 60th and decisive vote in favor of the bill at about 10:45 p.m. Sixty votes were required because the bill would increase the federal deficit.

The vote tally was one fewer than the bill received upon first clearing the Senate earlier this week because Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts did not vote yesterday, having returned to Florida, where he is resting and being treated for brain cancer.

While Democrats said the bill offered hope to millions of struggling Americans, Republicans called it a historic - and expensive - mistake.

The stimulus votes exposed a "stark divide between the Democratic party and the American people," said Representative Mike Pence, an Indiana Republican who said he expects that colleagues supporting the plan will hear from angry constituents upon returning to their districts this weekend.

"This is a massive liberal spending bill being passed under the guise of stimulus," said Pence, chairman of the House Republican Conference. "President Obama talks about the tired ideas of the past. The ideas people are tired of is reckless federal spending."

The White House said Obama would probably sign the bill early next week, when he kicks off a tour of Western states to pitch new proposals in excess of $50 billion that a spokesman said were designed to protect homeowners by preventing foreclosures.

Obama told a business group yesterday that passing the stimulus was "a critical step. But as important as it is, it's only the beginning of what we must do to turn our economy around."

Obama's allies said the passage of the stimulus plan - which they had rushed through as an emergency measure - would make way for them to take on other major, if narrower, items on their agenda, including overhauls of healthcare, energy policy, and financial regulations.

"There are legitimate philosophical differences, and elections should be about them," said Representative Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat.

Although the dimensions of the final bill closely matched a template presented by Obama after his election, the particulars were drafted by House Democratic leaders at the direction of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who invoked special rules to streamline its passage to a final vote.

Many Republicans yesterday described the 1,071-page bill as an act of "generational theft" that would dangerously increase federal deficits, saying Pelosi's maneuvers had limited their ability to influence its contents. The fact that Obama was able to enact such a sweeping expansion of government's role with little of their cooperation betrayed much of his campaign-year rhetoric about seeking bipartisan consensus, several said.

"The people spoke, and I don't think this is what they had in mind," said Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and close ally of GOP presidential nominee John McCain. "We lost the rhetoric of the campaign. The process clearly did not live up to the hopes and aspirations that people had."

The few concessions to minority views came at the hands of three Republican senators - Maine's Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, and Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter - and a handful of centrist Democrats who drove negotiations that helped shrink the size of the legislation and keep about 40 percent of it devoted to tax cuts.

House Democratic leaders had worked to include greater public investments as part of the package, and several of them grumbled yesterday that they expected the Senate's effective requirement of 60 votes for passage of major legislation would continue to remain the strongest check on the party's governing ambitions.

"We had to do what we wanted to do and sell it to those three senators," said Representative George Miller of California, chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee.

The ranks of House Democrats opposing the plan shrunk, from 11 on the Jan. 28 vote on their initial $819 billion plan, to seven yesterday, mostly from rural and southern districts. A leader of the party's fiscally conservative Blue Dog faction said that he only reluctantly switched his vote to support Obama yesterday, and remained critical of the way that his party's leadership handled the legislation.

"It's not what I would have written, but this was an emergency measure early in the administration, and I hope this procedure will never be tried again," said Representative Jim Cooper of Tennessee. "It reflects the need to stimulate the economy, and the caucus is still very divided."

Democrats conceded some tactical missteps in their handling of the bill, including Obama's public focus on earning bipartisan support - and his decision to endorse tax cuts popular with Republicans before securing their votes. One scholar said that the process created less a monument to liberal principles than a gawky hybrid of both party's priorities.

"I think the stimulus plan recapitulates the history of the federal government's attempts spanning the last 60 years to stimulate economic growth: spending and tax cuts," said Kathleen Frydl, a University of California-Berkeley historian and author of a new book about the GI Bill after World War II.

"I wish I could add that I believe this amalgamation represents a genuine step forward and an elegant resolution of competing economic theories," Frydl added. "Unfortunately, I think it rather represents confusion and hesitation."
Sasha Issenberg can be reached at

"Compromise bill highlights", February 14, 2009


AID TO POOR AND UNEMPLOYED: $40 billion to extend unemployment benefits through Dec. 31 and increase them by $25 a week; $20 billion to increase food stamp benefits; $4 billion for job training; $3 billion in temporary welfare payments.

DIRECT CASH PAYMENTS: $14.2 billion to give one-time $250 payments to Social Security recipients, poor people on Supplemental Security Income, and veterans receiving disability and pensions.

INFRASTRUCTURE: $48 billion for transportation projects, including $27.5 billion for highway and bridge construction and repair; $8.4 billion for mass transit; $8 billion for construction of high-speed railways; $7.2 billion to bring broadband Internet service to underserved areas; $4.2 billion to repair and modernize Defense Department facilities.

HEALTHCARE: $24.7 billion to provide a 65 percent subsidy of healthcare insurance premiums for the unemployed under the COBRA program; $86.6 billion to help states with Medicaid; $19 billion to modernize health information technology systems; $10 billion for health research and construction of National Institutes of Health facilities; $1 billion for prevention and wellness programs.

AID TO STATES: $8.8 billion in aid to states to offset budget cuts.

ENERGY: About $50 billion for energy programs, focused chiefly on efficiency and renewable energy, including $5 billion to weatherize modest-income homes; $6.4 billion to clean up nuclear weapons production sites; $11 billion toward a "smart electricity grid" to reduce waste; $6 billion to subsidize loans for renewable energy projects; $6.3 billion in state energy efficiency and clean energy grants; $4.5 billion to make federal buildings more energy efficient; $2 billion in grants for advanced batteries for electric vehicles.

EDUCATION: $44.5 billion in aid to local school districts, with flexibility to use the funds for school modernization and repair; $25.2 billion to school districts to fund special education and the No Child Left Behind law; $15.6 billion to boost the maximum Pell Grant by $500; $2 billion for Head Start.

HOUSING: $4 billion to repair and improve the energy efficiency of public housing projects; $2 billion to redevelop foreclosed and abandoned homes; $1.5 billion for homeless shelters.

SCIENCE: $3 billion for the National Science Foundation for basic science and engineering research; $1 billion for NASA; $1.6 billion for research in areas such as climate science, biofuels, high-energy physics, and nuclear physics.

HOMELAND SECURITY: $2.8 billion for homeland security programs, including $1 billion for airport screening equipment.

LAW ENFORCEMENT: $4 billion in grants to state and local law enforcement agencies to hire officers and purchase equipment.


TAX CREDIT: About $116 billion for $400-per-worker, $800-per-couple tax credits in 2009 and 2010. For the last half of 2009, most workers could expect to see about $13 a week less withheld from their paychecks starting about June.

ALTERNATIVE MINIMUM TAX: About $70 billion to spare about 24 million taxpayers from being hit with the alternative minimum tax in 2009.

COLLEGE TUITION: About $14 billion to provide a $2,500 expanded tax credit for college tuition and related expenses for 2009 and 2010.

CHILD TAX CREDIT: About $15 billion to provide the $1,000 child tax credit to more families that don't make enough money to pay income taxes.

EARNED INCOME TAX CREDIT: $4.7 billion to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income families with three or more children.

HOMEBUYER CREDIT: $6.6 billion to repeal a requirement that an $8,000 first-time home buyer tax credit be paid back over time for homes purchased from Jan. 1 to Nov. 30, unless the home is sold within three years.

AUTO SALES: $1.7 billion to makes sales taxes on paid new cars, light trucks, recreational vehicles, and motorcycles tax-deductible through the end of the year.

RENEWABLE ENERGY INCENTIVES: About $20 billion in tax incentives for renewable energy and energy efficiency over 10 years.

BUSINESS TAX BREAKS: $5 billion to extend a provision allowing businesses buying equipment such as computers to speed up its depreciation through 2009.

SOURCE: Associated Press


"How will the government stimulus plan affect you?"
By The Associated Press, February 14, 2009

An examination of how the economic stimulus plan will affect Americans.



The recovery package has tax breaks for families that send a child to college, purchase a new car, buy a first home or make the ones they own more energy efficient.

Millions of workers can expect to see about $13 extra in their weekly paychecks, starting around June, from a new $400 tax credit to be doled out through the rest of the year. Couples would get up to $800. In 2010, the credit would be about $7.70 a week, if it is spread over the entire year.

The $1,000 child tax credit would be extended to more low-income families that don't make enough money to pay income taxes, and poor families with three or more children will get an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit.

Middle-income and wealthy taxpayers will be spared from paying the Alternative Minimum Tax, which was designed 40 years ago to make sure wealthy taxpayers pay at least some tax, but was never indexed for inflation. Congress fixes it each year, usually in the fall.

First-time homebuyers who purchase their homes before Dec. 1 would be eligible for an $8,000 tax credit, and people who buy new cars before the end of the year can write off the sales taxes.

Homeowners who add energy-efficient windows, furnaces and air conditioners can get a tax credit to cover 30 percent of the costs, up to a total of $1,500. College students -- or their parents -- are eligible for tax credits of up to $2,500 to help pay tuition and related expenses in 2009 and 2010.

Those receiving unemployment benefits this year wouldn't pay any federal income taxes on the first $2,400 they receive.


Health insurance:

Many workers who lose their health insurance when they lose their jobs will find it cheaper to keep that coverage while they look for work.

Right now, most people working for medium and large employers can continue their coverage for 18 months under the COBRA program when they lose their job. It's expensive, often over $1,000 a month, because they pay the share of premiums once covered by their employer as well as their own share from the old group plan.

Under the stimulus package, the government will pick up 65 percent of the total cost of that premium for the first nine months.

Lawmakers initially proposed to help workers from small companies, too, who don't generally qualify for COBRA coverage. But that fell through. The idea was to have Washington pay to extend Medicaid to them.

COBRA applies to group plans at companies employing at least 20 people. The subsidies will be offered to those who lost their jobs from Sept. 1 to the end of this year.

Those who were put out of work after September but didn't elect to have COBRA coverage at the time will have 60 days to sign up.

The plan offers $87 billion to help states administer Medicaid. That could slow or reverse some of the steps states have taken to cut the program.



Highways repaved for the first time in decades. Century-old waterlines dug up and replaced with new pipes. Aging bridges, stressed under the weight of today's SUVs, reinforced with fresh steel and concrete.

But the $90 billion is a mere down payment on what's needed to repair and improve the country's physical backbone. And not all economists agree it's an effective way to add jobs in the long term, or stimulate the economy.



Homeowners looking to save energy, makers of solar panels and wind turbines and companies hoping to bring the electric grid into the computer age all stand to reap major benefits.

The package contains more than $42 billion in energy-related investments from tax credits to homeowners to loan guarantees for renewable energy projects and direct government grants for makers of wind turbines and next-generation batteries.

There's a 30 percent tax credit of up to $1,500 for the purchase of a highly efficient residential air conditioners, heat pumps or furnaces. The credit also can be used by homeowners to replace leaky windows or put more insulation into the attic. About $300 million would go for rebates to get people to buy efficient appliances.

The package includes $20 billion aimed at "green" jobs to make wind turbines, solar panels and improve energy efficiency in schools and federal buildings. It includes $6 billion in loan guarantees for renewable energy projects as well as tax breaks or direct grants covering 30 percent of wind and solar energy investments. Another $5 billion is marked to help low-income homeowners make energy improvements.

About $11 billion goes to modernize and expand the nation's electric power grid and $2 billion to spur research into batteries for future electric cars.



A main goal of education spending in the stimulus bill is to help keep teachers on the job.

Nearly 600,000 jobs in elementary and secondary schools could be eliminated by state budget cuts over the next three years, according to a study released this past week by the University of Washington. Fewer teachers means higher class sizes, something that districts are scrambling to prevent.

The stimulus sets up a $54 billion fund to help prevent or restore state budget cuts, of which $39 billion must go toward kindergarten through 12th grade and higher education. In addition, about $8 billion of the fund could be used for other priorities, including modernization and renovation of schools and colleges, though how much is unclear, because Congress decided not to specify a dollar figure.

The Education Department will distribute the money as quickly as it can over the next couple of years.

And it adds $25 billion extra to No Child Left Behind and special education programs, which help pay teacher salaries, among other things.

This money may go out much more slowly; states have five years to spend the dollars, and they have a history of spending them slowly. In fact, states don't spend all the money; they return nearly $100 million to the federal treasury every year.

The stimulus bill also includes more than $4 billion for the Head Start and Early Head Start early education programs and for child care programs.


National debt:

One thing about the president's $790 billion stimulus package is certain: It will jack up the federal debt.

Whether or not it succeeds in producing jobs and taming the recession, tomorrow's taxpayers will end up footing the bill.

Forecasters expect the 2009 deficit -- for the budget year that began last Oct 1 -- to hit $1.6 trillion including new stimulus and bank-bailout spending. That's about three times last year's shortfall.

The torrents of red ink are being fed by rising federal spending and falling tax revenues from hard-hit businesses and individuals.

The national debt -- the sum of all annual budget deficits -- stands at $10.7 trillion. Or about $36,000 for every man, woman and child in the U.S.

Interest payments alone on the national debt will near $500 billion this year. It's already the fourth-largest federal expenditure, after Medicare-Medicaid, Social Security and defense.

This will affect us all directly for years, as well as our children and possibly grandchildren, in higher taxes and probably reduced government services. It will also force continued government borrowing, increasingly from China, Japan, Britain, Saudi Arabia and other foreign creditors.



The package includes $9.2 billion for environmental projects at the Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency. The money would be used to shutter abandoned mines on public lands, to help local governments protect drinking water supplies, and to erect energy-efficient visitor centers at wildlife refuges and national parks.

The Interior Department estimates that its portion of the work would generate about 100,000 jobs over the next two years.

Yet the plan will only make a dent in the backlog of cleanups facing the EPA and the long list of chores at the country's national parks, refuges and other public lands. It would be more like a down payment.

When it comes to national parks, the plan sets aside $735 million for road repairs and maintenance. But that's a fraction of the $9 billion worth of work waiting for funding.

At EPA, the payout is $7.2 billion. The bulk of the money will help local communities and states repair and improve drinking water systems and fund projects that protect bays, rivers and other waterways used as sources of drinking water.

The rest of EPA's cut -- $800 million -- will be used to clean up leaky gasoline storage tanks and the nation's hazardous waste sites.



The stimulus bill includes plenty of green for those wearing blue.

The compromise bill doles out more than $3.7 billion for police programs, much of which is set aside for hiring new officers.

The law allocates $2 billion for the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant, a program that has funded drug task forces and things such as prisoner rehabilitation and after-school programs.

An additional $1 billion is set aside to hire local police under the Community Oriented Policing Services program. The program, known as COPS grants, paid the salaries of many local police officers and was a "modest contributor" to the decline in crime in the 1990s, according to a 2005 government oversight report.

Both programs had all been eliminated during the Bush administration.

The bill also includes $225 million for general criminal justice grants for things such as youth mentoring programs, $225 million for Indian tribe law enforcement, $125 million for police in rural areas, $100 million for victims of crimes, $50 million to fight Internet crimes against children and $40 million in grants for law enforcement along the Mexican border.


Higher Education:

The maximum Pell Grant, which helps the lowest-income students attend college, would increase from $4,731 currently to $5,350 starting July 1 and $5,550 in 2010-2011. That would cover three-quarters of the average cost of a four-year college. An extra 800,000 students, or about 7 million, would now get Pell funding.

The stimulus also increases the tuition tax credit to $2,500 and makes it 40 percent refundable, so families who don't earn enough to pay income tax could still get up to $1,000 in extra tuition help.

Computer expenses will now be an allowable expense for 529 college savings plans.

The final package cut $6 billion the House wanted to spend to kick-start building projects on college campuses. But parts of the $54 billion state stabilization fund -- with $39 billion set aside for education -- can be used for modernizing facilities.

There's also an estimated $15 billion for scientific research, much of which will go to universities. Funding for the National Institutes of Health includes $1.5 billion set aside for university research facilities.

Altogether, the package spends an estimated $32 billion on higher education.


The Poor:

More than 37 million Americans live in poverty, and the vast majority of them are in line for extra help under the giant stimulus package. Millions more could be kept from slipping into poverty by the economic lifeline.

People who get food stamps -- 30 million and growing -- will get more. People drawing unemployment checks -- nearly 5 million and growing -- would get an extra $25, and keep those checks coming longer. People who get Supplemental Security Income -- 7 million poor Americans who are elderly, blind or disabled -- would get one-time extra payments of $250.

Many low-income Americans also are likely to benefit from a trifecta of tax credits: expansions to the existing Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit, and a new refundable tax credit for workers. Taken together, the three credits are expected to keep more than 2 million Americans from falling into poverty, including more than 800,000 children, according to the private Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The package also includes a $3 billion emergency fund to provide temporary assistance to needy families. In addition, cash-strapped states will get an infusion of $87 billion for Medicaid, the government health program for poor people, and that should help them avoid cutting off benefits to the needy.


From: "President Barack Obama"
To: "Jonathan Melle"
Subject: A big first step -- thank you
Date: Tuesday, February 17, 2009, 7:23 PM

Jonathan --

Today, I signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law.

This is a historic step -- the first of many as we work together to climb out of this crisis -- and I want to thank you for your resolve and your support.

You organized thousands of house meetings. You shared your ideas and personal stories. And you informed your friends and neighbors about the need for immediate action. You continue to be a powerful voice for change throughout the country.

The recovery plan will create or save 3.5 million jobs, provide tax cuts for working and middle-class families, and invest in health care and clean energy.

It's a bold plan to address a huge problem, and it will require my vigilance and yours to make sure it's done right.

I've assigned a team of managers to oversee the implementation of the recovery act. We are committed to making sure no dollar is wasted. But accountability begins with you.

That's why my administration has created, a new website where citizens can track every dollar spent and every job created. We'll invite you and your neighbors to weigh in with comments and questions.

Our progress will also be measured by the tens of thousands of personal stories submitted by people who are struggling to make ends meet. If you haven't already, you can read stories from families all across the country:

Your stories are the heart of this recovery plan, and that's what I'll focus on every day as President.

With your continued support, we'll emerge a stronger and more prosperous nation.

Thank you,
President Barack Obama



"With history and flourish, Obama signs stimulus bill"
Posted by Foon Rhee, deputy national political editor, February 17, 2009, 5:56 P.M.

Signing his modern-day equivalent to the New Deal, President Obama declared that the stimulus bill is the most sweeping economic recovery package in the nation's history -- one that helps keep his campaign promise to preserve the American dream.

"We have begun the essential work of keeping the American dream alive in our time," he said, before affixing his signature to the $787 billion stimulus bill passed by Congress on Friday.

Singing its praises as if the package had not yet passed, Obama continued selling the stimulus to a public that is far more enamored of him than of the bill.

He said the bill will "improve travel and commerce throughout the nation," will put the nation on track to transforming "the way we use energy," and "represents the biggest increase in basic research funding in the long history of America’s noble endeavor to better understand our world.

Combined with an expansion of a children's healthcare program he also signed, "we have done more in 30 days to advance the cause of health reform than this country has done in a decade," he added.

Obama said he signed "a balanced plan with a mix of tax cuts and investments. It is a plan that’s been put together without earmarks or the usual pork barrel spending. And it is a plan that will be implemented with an unprecedented level of transparency and accountability."

Still, Obama acknowledged that much more needs to be done to restore the economy, but said that the economic stimulus bill is the "beginning of the end" of the work.

While the White House says the stimulus bill will save or create 3.5 million jobs in the next two years, the impact will likely take several months to take root. In the meantime, Obama has several crises to deal with: perhaps giving more loans for General Motors and Chrysler to keep them afloat, figuring out the details of version 2.0 of the bank bailout, and Wednesday outlining a plan to stem home foreclosures.

Beneath the lectern were three identical placards saying, "Making America Work."

He spoke at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science after touring the solar panel array that the museum uses for part of its power and that he cited as an example of the "green" alternative energy jobs the stimulus will generate.

Obama was introduced by the head of a solar energy company that has grown from 3 to 55 employees in the past three years, but that had to impose a hiring freeze and slash spending in the economic downturn.

Governor Bill Ritter called Colorado "the home of the new energy economy."

"This is how we rebuild America...." he said. "This is the promise of a better tomorrow."


Obama also issued an official statement on the stimulus bill signing:

"Today I have signed into law H.R. 1, the "American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009." The Act provides a direct fiscal boost to help lift our Nation from the greatest economic crisis in our lifetimes and lay the foundation for further growth. This recovery plan will help to save or create as many as three to four million jobs by the end of 2010, the vast majority of them in the private sector. It will make the most significant investment in America's roads, bridges, mass transit, and other infrastructure since the construction of the interstate highway system. It will make investments to foster reform in education, double renewable energy while fostering efficiency in the use of our energy, and improve quality while bringing down costs in healthcare. Middle-class families will get tax cuts and the most vulnerable will get the largest increase in assistance in decades.

"The situation we face could not be more serious. We have inherited an economic crisis as deep and as dire as any since the Great Depression. Economists from across the spectrum have warned that failure to act quickly would lead to the disappearance of millions of more jobs and national unemployment rates that could be in the double digits. I want to thank the Congress for coming together around this hard-fought compromise. No one policy or program will solve the challenges we face right now, nor will this crisis recede in a short period of time. However, with this Act we begin the process of restoring the economy and making America a stronger and more prosperous Nation.

"My Administration will initiate new, far-reaching measures to help ensure that every dollar spent in this historic legislation is spent wisely and for its intended purpose. The Federal Government will be held to new standards of transparency and accountability. The legislation includes no earmarks. An oversight board will be charged with monitoring our progress as part of an unprecedented effort to root out waste and inefficiency. This board will be advised by experts -- not just Government experts, not just politicians, but also citizens with years of expertise in management, economics, and accounting.

"So much depends on what we do at this moment. This is not about the future of my Administration. This effort is about the future of our families and communities, our economy and our country. We are going to move forward carefully and transparently and as effectively as possible because so much is on the line. That is what we have already begun to do -- drafting this plan with a level of openness for which the American people have asked and that this situation demands."


Obama's full prepared remarks are below:

It is great to be in Denver. I was here last summer to accept the nomination of my party and to make a promise to people of all parties – that I would do all I could to give every American the chance to make of their lives what they will and see their children climb higher than they did. I am back today to say that we have begun the difficult work of keeping that promise. We have begun the essential work of keeping the American dream alive in our time.

Today does not mark the end of our economic troubles. Nor does it constitute all of what we must do to turn our economy around. But it does mark the beginning of the end – the beginning of what we need to do to create jobs for Americans scrambling in the wake of layoffs; to provide relief for families worried they won’t be able to pay next month’s bills; and to set our economy on a firmer foundation, paving the way to long-term growth and prosperity.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that I will sign today – a plan that meets the principles I laid out in January – is the most sweeping economic recovery package in our history. It is the product of broad consultations – and the recipient of broad support – from business leaders, unions, and public interest groups, the Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, Democrats and Republicans, mayors as well as governors. It is a rare thing in Washington for people with such different viewpoints to come together and support the same bill, and on behalf of our nation, I thank them for it, including your two outstanding new Senators, Michael Bennet and Mark Udall.

I also want to thank my Vice President Joe Biden for working behind the scenes from the very start to make this recovery act possible. I want to thank Speaker Pelosi and Harry Reid for acting so quickly and proving that Congress could step up to this challenge. I want to thank Max Baucus, Chairman of the Finance Committee, without whom none of this would have happened. And I want to thank all the Committee Chairs and members of Congress for coming up with a plan that is both bold and balanced enough to meet the demands of this moment. The American people were looking to them for leadership, and that is what they provided.

What makes this recovery plan so important is not just that it will create or save three and a half million jobs over the next two years, including nearly 60,000 in Colorado. It’s that we are putting Americans to work doing the work that America needs done in critical areas that have been neglected for too long – work that will bring real and lasting change for generations to come.

Because we know we can’t build our economic future on the transportation and information networks of the past, we are remaking the American landscape with the largest new investment in our nation’s infrastructure since Eisenhower built an interstate highway system in the 1950s. Because of this investment, nearly 400,000 men and women will go to work rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, repairing our faulty dams and levees, bringing critical broadband connections to businesses and homes in nearly every community in America, upgrading mass transit, and building high-speed rail lines that will improve travel and commerce throughout the nation.

Because we know America can’t outcompete the world tomorrow if our children are being outeducated today, we are making the largest investment in education in our nation’s history. It’s an investment that will create jobs building 21st century classrooms, libraries, and labs for millions of children across America. It will provide funds to train a new generation of math and science teachers, while giving aid to states and school districts to stop teachers from being laid off and education programs from being cut. In New York City alone, 14,000 teachers who were set to be let go may now be able to continue pursuing their critical mission. It’s an investment that will create a new $2,500 annual tax credit to put the dream of a college degree within reach for middle class families and make college affordable for seven million students, helping more of our sons and daughters aim higher, reach farther, and fulfill their God-given potential.

Because we know that spiraling health care costs are crushing families and businesses alike, we are taking the most meaningful steps in years towards modernizing our health care system. It’s an investment that will take the long overdue step of computerizing America’s medical records – to reduce the duplication and waste that costs billions of health care dollars and the medical errors that every year cost thousands of lives. Further, thanks to the action we have taken, seven million Americans who lost their health care along with their jobs will continue to get the coverage they need, and roughly 20 million more can breathe a little easier, knowing that their health care won’t be cut due to a state budget shortfall. And an historic commitment to wellness initiatives will keep millions of Americans from setting foot in the doctor’s office for purely preventable diseases.

Taken together with the enactment earlier this month of a long-delayed law to extend health care to millions more children of working families, we have done more in 30 days to advance the cause of health reform than this country has done in a decade.

Because we know we can’t power America’s future on energy that’s controlled by foreign dictators, we are taking a big step down the road to energy independence, and laying the groundwork for a new, green energy economy that can create countless well-paying jobs. It’s an investment that will double the amount of renewable energy produced over the next three years, and provide tax credits and loan guarantees to companies like Namaste Solar, a company that will be expanding, instead of laying people off, as a result of the plan I am signing.

In the process, we will transform the way we use energy. Today, the electricity we use is carried along a grid of lines and wires that dates back to Thomas Edison – a grid that can’t support the demands of clean energy. This means we’re using 19th and 20th century technologies to battle 21st century problems like climate change and energy security. It also means that places like North Dakota can produce a lot of wind energy, but can’t deliver it to communities that want it, leading to a gap between how much clean energy we are using and how much we could be using.

The investment we are making today will create a newer, smarter electric grid that will allow for the broader use of alternative energy. We will build on the work that’s being done in places like Boulder, Colorado – a community that is on pace to be the world’s first Smart Grid city. This investment will place Smart Meters in homes to make our energy bills lower, make outages less likely, and make it easier to use clean energy. It’s an investment that will save taxpayers over one billion dollars by slashing energy costs in our federal buildings by 25% and save working families hundreds of dollars a year on their energy bills by weatherizing over one million homes. And it’s an investment that takes the important first step towards a nationwide transmission superhighway that will connect our cities to the windy plains of the Dakotas and the sunny deserts of the Southwest.

Even beyond energy, from the National Institutes of Health to the National Science Foundation, this recovery act represents the biggest increase in basic research funding in the long history of America’s noble endeavor to better understand our world. Just as President Kennedy sparked an explosion of innovation when he set America’s sights on the moon, I hope this investment will ignite our imagination once more, spurring new discoveries and breakthroughs that will make our economy stronger, our nation more secure, and our planet safer for our children.

While this package is mostly composed of critical investments, it also includes aid to state and local governments to prevent layoffs of firefighters or police recruits – recruits like the ones in Columbus, Ohio who were told that instead of being sworn-in as officers, they would be let go. It includes help for those hardest hit by our economic crisis like the nearly 18 million Americans who will get larger unemployment checks in the mail. And about a third of this package comes in the form of tax cuts – the most progressive in our history – not only spurring job-creation, but putting money in the pockets of 95% of all hardworking families. Unlike tax cuts we’ve seen in recent years, the vast majority of these tax benefits will go not to the wealthiest Americans but to the middle class – with those workers who make the least benefiting the most. And it’s a plan that rewards responsibility, lifting two million Americans from poverty by ensuring that anyone who works hard does not have to raise a child below the poverty line. As a whole, this plan will help poor and working Americans pull themselves into the middle class in a way we haven’t seen in nearly fifty years.

What I am signing, then, is a balanced plan with a mix of tax cuts and investments. It is a plan that’s been put together without earmarks or the usual pork barrel spending. And it is a plan that will be implemented with an unprecedented level of transparency and accountability. With a recovery package of this scale comes a responsibility to assure every taxpayer that we are being careful with the money they work so hard to earn. That’s why I am assigning a team of managers to ensure that the precious dollars we have invested are being spent wisely and well. We will hold the governors and local officials who receive money to the same high standards. And we expect you, the American people, to hold us accountable for the results. That is why we have created – so every American can go online and see how their money is being spent.

As important as the step we take today is, this legislation represents only the first part of the broad strategy we need to address our economic crisis. In the coming days and weeks, I will be launching other aspects of the plan. We will need to stabilize, repair, and reform our banking system, and get credit flowing again to families and businesses. We will need to end a culture where we ignore problems until they become full-blown crises instead of recognizing that the only way to build a thriving economy is to set and enforce firm rules of the road. We must stem the spread of foreclosures and falling home values for all Americans, and do everything we can to help responsible homeowners stay in their homes, something I will talk more about tomorrow. And while we need to do everything in the short-term to get our economy moving again, we must recognize that having inherited a trillion-dollar deficit, we need to begin restoring fiscal discipline and taming our exploding deficits over the long-term.

None of this will be easy. The road to recovery will not be straight and true. It will demand courage and discipline, and a new sense of responsibility that has been missing – from Wall Street to Washington. There will be hazards and reverses along the way. But I have every confidence that if we are willing to continue doing the difficult work that must be done – by each of us and by all of us – then we will leave this struggling economy behind us, and come out on the other side, more prosperous as a people.

For our American story is not – and has never been – about things coming easy. It’s about rising to the moment when the moment is hard, converting crisis into opportunity, and seeing to it that we emerge from whatever trials we face stronger than we were before. It’s about rejecting the notion that our fate is somehow written for us, and instead laying claim to a destiny of our own making. That is what earlier generations of Americans have done, and that is what we are doing today. Thank you.


"Bill Clinton: Obama Should Sound More Hopeful: Says President Obama Should Voice Economic Optimism, Paint GOP as the Party of 'No'"
By TAHMAN BRADLEY,, Feb. 19, 2009—

Former President Bill Clinton gives President Barack Obama an "A" grade for his first month in office, but tells ABC News that Obama needs to put on a more positive face when speaking to the American people about the economy and must keep pressure on Republicans who try to obstruct his plans.

"Look, the American people, I think, know the president has tried to reach out to Republicans," Clinton told ABC News' Chris Cuomo. "And it takes two to tango. I think there are some of them who really believe that just-say-no politics is good politics.

"It was -- briefly, only briefly -- in the '90s. It isn't anymore," he added. "So, sooner or later, I think if he just keeps chugging along, just keeps the door open, invite 'em to every economic conference, invite 'em to every meeting, eventually, he'll start getting some votes" in Congress.

Clinton gives former President George W. Bush a harsh review on the economy, however, blaming the Republican for the current fiscal crisis by not moving sooner to help struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure.

"I personally believe, based on my experience over the years with the economy, that if we moved aggressively on this home problem a year and a half ago, even a year ago, as much as 90 percent of the current crisis could have been avoided," he said.

In a notable early showdown over a $787 billion economic stimulus proposal, only three Republicans in the Senate and none in the House of Representatives voted for the Obama-endorsed bill.

You can watch Cuomo's interview with former President Clinton Friday on ABC News' "Good Morning America."

Regarding Obama's bleak warnings that "the economy could get worse before it gets better," and that the economic stimulus program is only the beginning of the end of the economic crisis, Clinton said, "I like the fact that he didn't come in and give us a bunch of happy talk. I'm glad he shot straight with us."

But he added, "I just want the American people to know that he's confident that we are gonna get out of this and he feels good about the long run."

Clinton thinks Obama should talk to the public in greater depth about the economy.

"I like trying to educate the American people about the dimensions and scope of this economic crisis," Clinton said. "I just would like him to end by saying that he is hopeful and completely convinced we're gonna come through this."

He added that though the economic problems are large, he expects the stimulus money to help.

"I think you will see some good economic news from the stimulus fairly soon," Clinton said. "I think you'll start to see people express gratitude for getting the unemployment benefits, the tax cuts and the food stamps. And you'll see the money flowing through the economy. Then I think you'll see every state be able to quantify how much better shape they're in, because of the education and health money."


Stimulus Good for Economy
Clinton, who presided over a balanced budget as president, said he views the $787 billion stimulus program as a "bridge over troubled water." He said he's not concerned with the massive amounts of spending in the legislation, because something needs to be done to revive the economy.

"I think it's absolutely the right thing to do," he said. "And I'm a fiscal conservative. You know, I balanced the budget. I paid $600 billion down on the debt to the American people. I don't like deficit spending. He has no choice. The economy is contracting. He has to prop it up."


Clinton Admits Mistakes
Though Clinton largely defended his own economic record, he admitted fault for lack of regulation on derivatives during his eight years as president, a problem some economists believe helped contribute to the nation's economic woes.

"I think we should have moved a little more aggressively on these derivatives," he said. "Alan Greenspan and others thought we shouldn't regulate, didn't need to regulate derivatives, 'cause they would only be bought by very large, very wealthy, very sophisticated institutional buyers.

"The problem is [that] if enough of 'em are bought, they become so much a part of the economy that if they crater, they still affect everybody else, anyway," he added. "So, I think I should have done more on that."

But the former president defended his record on another front: He disputed the idea that his administration, by placing a special emphasis on the Community Reinvestment Act, pressured lenders too hard to make loans to low-income Americans trying to secure mortgages.

"What I have disputed is that the conservatives are saying that I pressured the banks too hard to make loans in the community," Clinton said. "The banks that took money from their depositors and turned around and loaned money to their depositors -- genuine community banks -- came through this financial crisis much better than those that were branches of big national banks [that] took money from their depositors and put 'em in these shaky securities investments."

He suggested the worst damage was done during the Bush years.

"The sub-prime mortgages that caused all these problems were basically those that were gathered up in 2004 to 2007," Clinton said.


Obama Gets an 'A'
So, how does Clinton rate the new president's first month on the job?

"A," he told Cuomo. "They've gotten their stimulus through in record time, and I think in pretty good shape. Like I said, it may be a little ragged around the edges, but they'll be able to continue.

"You hire presidents to keep big bad things from happening," Clinton said, "or when something big and bad has happened, to fix it, and to seize big opportunities, and to push the country in the right direction, to keep working toward the more perfect union.

"And so, he comes in," Clinton continued, "he's got an economic crisis at home, and a crisis in America's role in the world. He has to pick people to deal with this. I think he picked excellent economic and national security teams."

The former president joked his grade may have been boosted by Obama's pick for one of those posts -- his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"You know, you have to discount for the fact that ... I give him a high rate for his choice of secretary of state," Clinton said. "That's an A-plus-plus."

But the overall grade might drop to "A," Clinton said, because he believes the Obama administration unnecessarily caved in to demands to remove a $7,500 credit for electric cars.


Fighting Obesity
Clinton also used the interview to talk at length about the problem of obesity, the number one public health problem for American children, and an issue he has set his sights on after using his charitable foundation to take on big issues, such as worldwide AIDS and malaria.

"We actually are at risk of having the first generation of Americans to live shorter lives than their parents, because the obesity rates are so high among our young kids," Clinton said.

The solution to the epidimic, Clinton said, is for kids to eat better, eat less and exercise more.

He wants to take the fight to where the children are, so he said he's negotiated agrements with the beverage and snack food industries to reduce the aggregate calories on vending machine items in schools.

"We've been at this now for a couple of years," he said. "There is some evidence that all of the publicity and efforts that have been done may have caused the rate to level off.

"But that's not good enough," he added. "We got to take it down. We got to restore the health of our younger generation. And I intend to keep working on it until either we get the results or I can't do it anymore."


"Obama opens summit, pledges $15B for Medicaid"
By Liz Sidoti, Associated Press Writer, February 23, 2009

WASHINGTON --Calling for fiscal restraint even while federal spending soars, President Barack Obama pledged to dramatically slash the annual budget deficit and announced $15 billion in Medicaid money to states from his $787 billion economic stimulus package.

"We cannot and will not sustain deficits like these without end. ... We cannot simply spend as we please and defer the consequences," the president said Monday. He said the government must both confront the current economic crisis and address skyrocketing deficits or "we risk sinking into another crisis down the road."

"I refuse to leave our children with a debt they cannot repay," Obama declared.

The president summoned allies, adversaries and outside experts to a White House summit to address the nation's future financial health one week after signing into law the gargantuan stimulus measure designed to stop the country's economic free fall and, ultimately, reverse the recession now months into its second year.

By Obama's own account, the new law will add to this fiscal year's deficit, which the administration projects will be $1.5 trillion. Obama said he will at least cut that in half by the end of his first term 2013.

Earlier, he met with Republican and Democratic governors who are poised to benefit from his unprecedented emergency spending-and-tax cut measure.


"Obama vows honesty in budgets"
Political Intelligence,, Posted by Foon Rhee, deputy national political editor, February 23, 2009, 1:32 P.M.

President Obama, opening a "fiscal responsibility summit" to tackle the flood of red ink facing the federal government, declared today that Washington can no longer "spend as we please" -- and will no longer try to hide the size of the problem.

Facing the worst economic crisis in generations, he had no choice to add to the deficit in the short term with "extraordinary but necessary steps," Obama said.

"They will come at a cost," he said, and there also are long-term challenges in energy and healthcare that need funding.

But the deficits cannot be sustained and the American people are "already paying the price" for them, he said, noting that the government paid $250 billion in interest last fiscal year on the national debt -- one in 10 taxpayer dollars.

Getting deficits under control starts with honesty in budgeting, said Obama, vowing to end accounting gimmicks, such as not budgeting for the Iraq war in advance, that obscured how much the government was spending.

"I believe it is time for a frank conversation," he said. (His full remarks are below.)

The federal deficit, projected to reach a record $1.2 trillion this fiscal year, is expected to approach $900 billion next fiscal year -- and those figures do not include the cost of the $787 billion stimulus package.

On Thursday, the White House plans to release a budget that calls for slicing the deficit in half by 2013, largely by reducing the cost of the Iraq war through troop withdrawals and by allowing tax cuts for the highest-income taxpayers to end as scheduled in 2010.

The White House released the list of moderators for smaller, breakout sessions among the 130 attendees.

Social Security
Moderators: Chair of the National Economic Council Larry Summers and Gene Sperling of the Treasury Department

Moderators: OMB Director Peter Orszag and Domestic Policy Council Director Melody Barnes

Tax Reform
Moderators: Secretary Tim Geithner and Council of Economic Advisers Chair Christina Romer

Budget Process
Moderators: Secretary Ray LaHood and Deputy OMB Director Rob Nabors

Moderators: Secretary Janet Napolitano, Deputy Secretary of State Jack Lew, and Rahm Emanuel

Thank you, everybody. Please, have a seat. Thank you very much. Thank you to Mark and Bob and to Peter. It is wonderful to see the Speaker here. And we've got our -- I don't see Harry here, but we've got Dick Durbin in his stead. Mitch, thank you for being here. John Boehner, to all the congressional leadership, thank you.

My administration came into office one month ago in the depths of an economic crisis unlike any that we've seen in generations. And we recognized that we needed to act boldly, decisively and quickly -- and that is precisely what we did.

Within our first 30 days in office, we passed the most sweeping economic recovery package in history to create or save 3.5 million new jobs, provide relief to struggling families, and lay the foundation for long-term growth and prosperity. And I had an opportunity to talk to the nation's governors today -- both Republicans and Democrats have ideas about how they are going to use that money to make sure that people are put back to work and that we can stem some of the job loss that's taking place.

I also laid out my housing plan to break the cycle of falling home values and rising foreclosures that has devastated so many communities. And we put forth a Financial Stability Plan to start shoring up our banks, so we can free up credit and jumpstart lending and restore confidence in our financial system.

These are all extraordinary -- but necessary -- measures to address this economic emergency, and as has already been noted, they will come at a cost. This administration has inherited a $1.3 trillion deficit -- the largest in our nation's history -- and our investments to rescue our economy will add to that deficit in the short term. We also have long-term challenges -- health care, energy, education and others -- that we can no longer afford to ignore.

But I want to be very clear, if the message was not effectively delivered by the three previous speakers: We cannot, and will not, sustain deficits like these without end. Contrary to the prevailing wisdom in Washington these past few years, we cannot simply spend as we please and defer the consequences to the next budget, the next administration, or the next generation.

We are paying the price for these deficits right now. In 2008 alone, we paid $250 billion in interest on our debt -- one in every 10 taxpayer dollars. That is more than three times what we spent on education that year; more than seven times what we spent on VA health care.

So if we confront this crisis without also confronting the deficits that helped cause it, we risk sinking into another crisis down the road as our interest payments rise, our obligations come due, confidence in our economy erodes, and our children and our grandchildren are unable to pursue their dreams because they're saddled with our debts.

And that's why today I'm pledging to cut the deficit we inherited in half by the end of my first term in office. This will not be easy. It will require us to make difficult decisions and face challenges we've long neglected. But I refuse to leave our children with a debt that they cannot repay -- and that means taking responsibility right now, in this administration, for getting our spending under control.

We'll start by being honest with ourselves about the magnitude of our deficits. For too long, our budget process in Washington has been an exercise in deception -- a series of accounting tricks to hide the extent of our spending and the shortfalls in our revenue and hope that the American people won't notice: budgeting certain expenditures for just one year, when we know we'll incur them every year for five or 10; budgeting zero dollars for the Iraq war -- zero -- for future years, even when we knew the war would continue; budgeting no money for natural disasters, as if we would ever go 12 months without a single flood, fire, hurricane or earthquake.

We do ourselves no favors by hiding the truth about what we spend. In order to address our fiscal crisis, we're going to have to be candid about its scope. And that's why the budget I will introduce later this week will look ahead 10 years, and will include a full and honest accounting of the money we plan to spend and the deficits we will likely incur.

To start reducing these deficits, I've committed to going through our budget line by line to root out waste and inefficiency -- a process that Peter and our administration, our team, has already begun. And I'll soon be instructing each member of my Cabinet to go through every item in their budgets, as well. And already we've seen how much money we can save, just in the last 30 days.

Take one example -- the Department of Agriculture has moved some of its training programs online, saving an estimated $1.3 million a year. They're modernizing their financial management system, saving an estimated $17.5 million. They're saving tens of thousands of dollars by cutting back on conferences and travel and other small expenses that add up over time.

So we will replicate these efforts throughout the federal government, eliminating programs that don't work to make room for ones that do -- and making the ones that we keep work better. We'll end the payments to agribusiness that don't need them and eliminate the no-bid contracts that have wasted billions in Iraq. We'll end the tax breaks for companies shipping jobs overseas and we'll stop the fraud and abuse in our Medicare program.

And we will reinstate the pay-as-you-go rule that we followed during the 1990s -- the rule that helped us start this new century with a $236 billion surplus. In recent years, we've strayed from this rule -- and the results speak for themselves. The pay-go approach is based on a very simple concept: You don't spend what you don't have. So if we want to spend, we'll need to find somewhere else to cut. This is the rule that families across this country follow every single day -- and there's no reason why their government shouldn't do the same.

Now, I want to be very clear: While we are making important progress towards fiscal responsibility this year in this budget, this is just the beginning. In the coming years, we'll be forced to make more tough choices and do much more to address our long-term challenges, from the rising cost of health care that Peter described, which is the single most pressing fiscal challenge we face by far, to the long-term solvency of Social Security.

In the end, however, if we want to rebuild our economy and restore discipline and honesty to our budget, we will need to change the way we do business here in Washington. We're not going to be able to fall back into the same old habits, and make the same inexcusable mistakes: the repeated failure to act as our economy spiraled deeper into crisis; the casual dishonesty of hiding irresponsible spending with clever accounting tricks; the costly overruns, the fraud and abuse, the endless excuses. This is exactly what the American people rejected when they went to the polls.

They sent us here to usher in a new era of responsibility in Washington -- to start living within our means again, and being straight with them about where their tax dollars are going, and empowering them with the information they need to hold all of us, their representatives, accountable.

So that's why I have called this summit today, and why I have invited leaders from both sides of the aisle -- because we all have a role to play in this work. I believe it is time for a frank conversation about the fiscal challenges we face. They're challenges that concern every single one of us, no matter where we are on this political spectrum.

So today I want to -- I hope that all of you will start talking with each other and exchanging ideas. I want you to question each other, challenge each other, question me and my team, challenge us, and work together not just to identify problems but to identify solutions.

And that's the purpose of the breakout sessions that are starting right now. I know that each of you bring a wealth of experience and expertise on a broad range of topics. I appreciate your willingness to participate in these sessions. I expect that this process will be engaging and productive, and I look forward to hearing the results when you report back later this afternoon.

So thank you very much, all of you, for participating.


"Clinton Criticized for Not Trying to Force China's Hand: Advocacy Groups Urge Her to Put Human Rights Front and Center"
By Glenn Kessler, Washington Post Staff Writer, Saturday, February 21, 2009; A08

BEIJING, February 20, 2009 -- Human rights violations by China cannot block the possibility of significant cooperation between Washington and Beijing on the global economic crisis, climate change and security threats such as North Korea's nuclear program, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday.

"We pretty much know what they are going to say" on human rights issues such as greater freedoms for Tibet, Clinton told reporters traveling with her on a tour of Asia. "We have to continue to press them. But our pressing on those issues can't interfere" with dialogue on other crucial topics.

Clinton's remarks elicited sharp condemnation from Amnesty International, which has urged her to move human rights near the top of the U.S.-China agenda. The organization accused Clinton of saying "that human rights will not be a priority in her diplomatic engagement with China" and urged her to "publicly declare that human rights are central to U.S.-China relations before she leaves Beijing."

The Obama administration has high hopes of winning China's cooperation on reducing harmful greenhouse gases, in part through public-private partnerships. Clinton, who is ending her week-long trip with two days in the Chinese capital, is scheduled to visit a thermal power plant Saturday that was developed with General Electric technology. Accompanying her on the trip is Todd Stern, the administration's special envoy for climate change.

Administration officials also want to press China to use its close ties with North Korea to prod the reclusive nation to return to talks on its nuclear program and refrain from testing a long-range missile. On the economic crisis, Clinton wants to coordinate policies in advance of the Group of 20 summit on the global financial crisis in April. Clinton is also bringing proposals to elevate a high-level economic dialogue, currently managed by the Treasury secretary, to a more comprehensive conversation that could be handled by her or even the vice president.

But human rights groups say those goals do not negate the gravity of the abuse allegations they have lodged against Beijing in the past year. Among them: branding as terrorists those who believe that the Xinjiang region in China's west should be more independent, as an excuse to detain and silence them; introducing repressive martial law-type curfews, military patrols and questioning in Tibet; and trying to bully or buy off parents angry about the thousands of children who died when their schools collapsed during last year's earthquake in Sichuan province.

Over the past two months, Chinese police have been aggressively questioning several hundred of the more than 8,000 people who have signed a pro-democracy manifesto called Charter 08 that has been circulated on the Internet. At least one man who is thought to have helped write the document -- Liu Xiaobo -- has been detained, prompting an international cry for his release.

The timing of Clinton's comments stung human rights advocates particularly hard because this year will mark two important anniversaries for rights in China: the 50-year anniversary next month of the unsuccessful Tibet uprising, which sent the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, into exile; and the 20-year anniversary of the June 4 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy demonstrations, which were crushed by the Chinese military. Chinese officials, mindful of the symbolic significance of any memorials, have already begun cracking down on potential dissenters.

"The United States is one of the only countries that can meaningfully stand up to China on human rights issues," Amnesty International said in a statement released after media reports of Clinton's remarks. "The Chinese people face a dire situation. . . . Half a million people are currently in labor camps. Women face forced abortion and sterilization as part of China's enforcement of its one-child policy."

Amnesty, along with Human Rights Watch and other organizations, wrote Clinton a letter before her trip urging her to tell Chinese officials that China's relationship with the United States "will depend in part on whether it lives by universally accepted human rights norms." Human Rights Watch, in its own statement Friday, implored Clinton not to separate human rights from the broader agenda.

Clinton said Friday that she was simply being realistic about China's stance on human rights, noting that the Chinese halted the broadcast of a tough speech she gave on women's rights in Beijing 13 years ago, when she was first lady.

"Successive administrations and Chinese governments have been poised back and forth on these issues. . . . I have had those conversations for more than a decade with Chinese leaders," Clinton said. She said she did not mean to imply "a lesser concern" for human rights but intends to spend more time talking about areas where she senses a breakthrough, possibly including "the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crisis."

"We have to have a dialogue that leads to an understanding and cooperation on those" issues, she said.

Clinton's willingness to break a diplomatic taboo -- generally U.S. officials will claim to seek progress on human rights, even if they may not mean it -- appears to be part of a determined effort by the new administration to clear the linguistic fog of international diplomacy. She noted she had generated headlines this week with remarks on the failure of sanctions to influence the Burmese junta and a possible succession crisis in North Korea.

"I don't think it should be viewed as particularly extraordinary that someone in my position would say what is obvious," she said. "Maybe this is unusual because you are supposed to be so careful that you spend hours avoiding stating the obvious. But that is just not productive in my view. It is worthwhile being more straightforward. . . . That's how I see it and that's how I intend to operate."

She said she was "somewhat fascinated" by the reaction to her remarks on the health of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and whether there was a power struggle underway in Pyongyang. Her comments -- that "there is an increasing amount of pressure because if there is succession, even if it is a peaceful succession, that creates even more uncertainty" -- prompted front-page headlines in the South Korean press and were the central focus of many of the stories written by reporters traveling with her, largely because U.S. officials generally avoid the subject for fear of offending North Korea.

"To me, it is the most obvious issue," Clinton said. "It has been in the news for months. I don't think that it is a forbidden subject to talk about succession in the hermit kingdom."

Clinton said the question of Kim's continued hold on power has to be an important part of any policy review. "You have to be thinking down the road about what, when and where," she said. "Obviously it is a factor, but I don't see it as news."
Staff writer Ariana Eunjung Cha in Beijing contributed to this report.

"Summit vows healthcare push: Obama goal to insure millions intended to save money later"
By Michael Kranish and Lisa Wangsness, Boston Globe Staff, February 24, 2009

WASHINGTON - A White House summit that opened discussions on how to make sweeping changes in entitlement programs concluded yesterday with a pledge to immediately pursue an effort to provide health insurance to most Americans, which could increase spending in the short term but would be designed to save money later.

President Obama said at the end of yesterday's "fiscal responsibility summit" that next week he will hold a similar meeting on healthcare, focused on how to provide coverage to most of the 47 million Americans who do not have insurance while also squeezing out savings by revamping the system. "Putting America on a sustainable fiscal course will require addressing healthcare," Obama said. "Many of you said what I believe, that the biggest source of our deficits is the rising cost of healthcare."

The effort to overhaul healthcare and extend insurance to most Americans has vexed politicians in Washington for decades. There had been discussion among analysts in the last month about whether the Obama administration might try to wrap healthcare into a "grand bargain" that would also include overhauls of Social Security and Medicare.

But Obama aides said that the president wants to work on healthcare separately and "made it clear they want to focus on healthcare first," according to Senator Judd Gregg, a New Hampshire Republican who took part in the summit.

Gregg, who backed out of his nomination to be Obama's commerce secretary earlier this month, is cosponsor of a measure to create a bipartisan panel to produce recommendations on an array of entitlement programs that would be subject to an up-or-down congressional vote. Gregg said he was concerned that overhauling healthcare will be difficult without the bipartisan commission.

The summit was intended to be a clear signal to the public that despite the massive deficit - projected at $1.2 trillion this fiscal year before passage of the $787 billion stimulus bill - Obama intends to cut spending over his presidency. Obama hopes he can halve the deficit over four years through measures including tax increases on the wealthiest Americans, a reduction of troops in Iraq, and an increase in revenues if an economic recovery develops as he hopes.

"We cannot simply spend as we please and defer the consequences to the next budget, the next administration, or the next generation," he said in opening the summit with a vow to end "clever accounting tricks" and other deceptions to hide the size of the federal budget.

But in the markets, continued worries about the recession appeared to trump Obama's pledges to cut government deficits. The bellwether Dow Jones industrials dropped 251 points yesterday, ending at the lowest level in nearly 12 years.

Just hours before the summit, Obama promised the nation's governors that tomorrow he will start sending them $15 billion in stimulus money for Medicaid, which provides healthcare for the poor. (According to the White House, Massachusetts will get $594 million, Maine will get $94.5 million, New Hampshire $31.5 million, Rhode Island $93.5 million, and Vermont $45.5 million.)

Obama sought to rebut criticism that he was trying to cast himself as a deficit hawk just one week after signing the stimulus package, asserting that both tracks are necessary.

He also made clear that the deficit should not stand in the way of major initiatives. The country faces "long-term challenges - healthcare, energy, education, and others - that we can no longer afford to ignore," said Obama, who is expected to deliver a similar message tonight for his first address to a joint session of Congress.

A new analysis by economists at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services highlights the urgent need to contain healthcare costs, which continue to increase, even as the overall economy shrinks because of the recession.

Even after the economy recovers, health spending is projected to continue growing faster than the gross domestic product, almost doubling over the next decade to $4.4 trillion, according to the analysis, which will be published today on the website of the policy journal Health Affairs. That would be about one-fifth of the economy, more than twice the proportion it was in 1980, the report said.

Democratic leaders in the Senate, including Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, are working on major legislation that aims to reduce health costs as well as improve quality and extend coverage to the uninsured. But it is not at all clear that they will be able to do all three things at once.

Robert Reischauer, president of the Urban Institute and former head of the Congressional Budget Office, said at the session on healthcare at yesterday's summit, "The notion that we are going to save gobs of money is still largely unproven by the analyses that researchers have done."

Obama acknowledged that there are trade-offs in overhauling healthcare and "some of these things will ultimately involve some tough decisions and some tough votes."

While yesterday's summit was designed to be bipartisan, some Republicans emphasized they felt excluded from negotiations on legislation such as the stimulus bill and expansion of children's health insurance.

The summit was "a good first step," Representative Joe Barton, a Texas Republican, told Obama. "But if this is all we do, it's a sterile step. On the other hand, if you really follow up and include everybody in the process, you're more than likely to get a solution that everybody signs off on."

Obama agreed that Democratic leaders in Congress must try to work with Republicans in the future, but he issued terms for such discussion.

"On the one hand, the majority has to be inclusive," he said. "On the other hand, the minority has to be constructive."

In an unusual question-and-answer session at the close of the summit, Obama called on a number of Republicans to seek their suggestions, starting with his campaign opponent, Senator John McCain, who urged a closer eye on Pentagon spending.

At one point, Obama ribbed one of his most outspoken critics, Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia.

"I'm going to keep on talking to Eric Cantor," he said. "Some day, sooner or later, he's going to say, 'Boy, Obama had a good idea.' It's going to happen. You watch. You watch."


"U.S. Clears Path to Bank Takeovers: Obama's Revised Plan for Industry Aid Could Result in Nationalization"
By Binyamin Appelbaum and David Cho, Washington Post Staff Writers, Tuesday, February 24, 2009; A01

The Obama administration yesterday revamped the terms of its emergency aid to troubled financial firms, setting a course that could culminate with the government nationalizing some of the country's largest banks by taking a controlling ownership stake.

Administration officials said the change, which allows banks to repay the government with common stock rather than cash, is intended to give banks more capital to withstand a continued deterioration of the economy, and not to nationalize the banking system.

But in seeking to bolster investor confidence in troubled companies such as Citigroup, the government said it is willing to acquire large chunks of their shares. .

The move is a significant gamble. The magnitude of the effort could underscore the severity of the crisis, further alarming investors. The government could also forego billions of dollars in dividend payments.

Some investors welcomed the announcement. Even as the Dow Jones industrial average fell 251 points to its lowest close since 1997, shares of Citigroup climbed 10 percent. Shares of another troubled firm, Bank of America, rose about 3 percent.

The change paves a road toward nationalization for the most troubled large banks. The government this week will begin a series of "stress tests" on 20 of the largest banks with $100 billion in assets to determine how much more capital these firms need to withstand an extreme recession.

Companies deemed to need more money will be required to raise it from private sources, or else accept additional government investments. If those investments are converted into common shares, even a relatively modest infusion of taxpayer money could give the government majority control of many banks because their stock prices have plummeted in recent months. The total value of Citigroup's outstanding shares, for instance, is less than $12 billion.

Administration officials said the goal of the revised program is to give banks a short-term boost that avoids the need for a more dramatic federal intervention.

What Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner and his team want to avoid is an explicit takeover that would put the government in charge of running banks. But some senior officials have said that, as a last resort, they would consider taking temporary control of large banks. The government also could take a majority ownership stake in a company without attempting to manage its daily operations.

A wide range of prominent economists and public figures have called for the government to take this step. But a backlash is building against government ownership.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, sent Geithner a letter yesterday demanding details of the administration's plans. "Common stock is riskier than preferred stock. The American taxpayers are already shouldering a lot of risk these days," Grassley said in a statement. "This move could expose taxpayers to even more risk."

Even within the government, some senior officials say they are worried that Geithner's approach has left investors unsettled because of ambiguity over the administration's intentions.

The government has invested almost $200 billion in more than 400 banks under a program created by former Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. In exchange, the government received shares of preferred stock that paid an annual interest rate of 5 percent for five years.

The changes announced yesterday create a two-step process, officials said. Companies can replace the government's preferred shares with a new kind of preferred shares that will differ in at least one critical respect -- they can be converted into shares of the company's common stock. The company can request the conversion at any point during a specified period of several years, or else the shares will begin to gradually convert into common shares over time. If the company does not want to issue common shares to the government, it must buy back the government's preferred shares before the end of the period. Conversions will require the approval of banking regulators with final approval from the Treasury Department, a senior administration official said.

The change in terms could improve the health of banks without requiring the government to invest additional money.

Companies that convert the government's investment to common shares can reduce required dividend payments, allowing the largest banks to save billions of dollars. There is also an important accounting benefit that improves the value of the government's investment as a cushion against future losses.

Under accounting rules, banks are constrained in their ability to count the money raised by selling preferred shares under the narrowest definition of that capital cushion, called tangible common equity. Investors viewing banks with an increasingly jaundiced eye have increasingly favored that narrowest definition, and as a result, they have excluded the government's initial round of investments from their calculations of how much money banks hold in reserve. Issuing common shares would allow banks to improve their performance on that narrowest measure.

But if the government effort to revive the banks is unsuccessful, the change unveiled yesterday increases the risk that billions of dollars in taxpayer money could be lost. The Bush administration structured its investments to resemble loans, with regular dividends and some chance to recover money if a bank fails. Converting those investments into common shares reduces or eliminates the dividends and the protections, but it also allows taxpayers to benefit if companies return to profitability.

Scott Talbott, a spokesman for the Financial Services Roundtable, said the changes showed the government's support for the industry.

"This is a signal that the government believes the financial institutions are strong and provides them with the flexibility of terms should the economy worsen," Talbott said.

Citigroup pushed for the change in terms, according to people familiar with the matter. The company is walking a fine line between its need for explicit government support and its desire to remain independent.

The government already has invested $45 billion in Citigroup and promised to limit its losses on a portfolio of more than $300 billion of loans and other troubled assets. Senior Citigroup executives approached federal regulators to urge that the government convert parts of its investment to common shares, the sources said. The company hopes to reassure investors and attract new money.

David Dreman, chairman of Dreman Value Management, which as of the end of last year was among the top 70 stakeholders in Citigroup with more than 9 million shares, said he was comforted by the government's latest move yesterday. "It looks like the government is going to get them out of this. They're going to give them enough money so they don't go under," he said.

Brett Hammond, chief investment strategist at TIAA-CREF, another large Citigroup shareholder, said while a larger government stake would initially hurt existing shareholders, it would be better for them in the long run.

"I think you have to take the big view," he said. "It's better for the shareholders for government to take some action rather than no action. There's a much better chance that Citigroup will survive now and therefore live to pay dividends another day."
Staff writers Neil Irwin and Tomoeh Murakami Tse in New York contributed to this report.

Economic State of the Union
Fourteen months into a downturn that appears to be deepening, President Obama will address a joint session of Congress tonight to speak about the health of the U.S. economy. A look at some of the economic conditions the Obama administration faces and what resources have already been pledged to help.

Credit: 2009 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive

(Getty Images/AP Photo)
The government is kicking off its Capital Assistance Program, a new effort designed to ensure major U.S. banks play a role in the recovery of the American economy. The Treasury Department, led by Secretary Timothy Geithner, left, and the Federal Reserve, chaired by Benjamin Bernanke, right, along with several other government agencies are participating in the program.

"Time to Cram? Government Sets Bank 'Stress Tests': New Capital Assistance Program Includes Tests to Measure Whether Banks Need Government Aid"
By ALICE GOMSTYN, ABC NEWS Business Unit, February 25, 2009 —

If today's ravaged economy falls into even more dire straits, will your bank survive?

That's what multiple federal agencies will try to determine starting today as the government kicks off the Capital Assistance Program, a new effort by the Obama administration that is designed to ensure major U.S. banks play a role in the recovery of the American economy.

"We're going to do an honest evaluation. We're going to do a tough evaluation [to] try to figure out how much hole there is, if there is a hole," Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said Tuesday in testimony before the Senate Banking Committee.

Under the program, the country's largest banks will undergo "stress tests" performed by the government. The tests will measure if banks can weather what-if economic conditions that could emerge over the next two years, which analysts say could include much higher unemployment and further drops in home values.

If they can't, the banks stand to receive more federal aid on top of the hundreds of billions already provided by the Troubled Assets Relief Program under the Bush administration. The program, according to a government statement released this week, calls for the banks to seek private investment before turning to the government for a "temporary capital buffer."

Tuesday Bernanke rejected concerns that the government's assistance to the banks would ultimately result in nationalization -- a fear that contributed to turmoil in the stock market earlier this week.

"It's not nationalization, because the banks would not be wholly owned or probably not even majority owned by the government. The government will be a shareholder, along with private shareholders," he said.

Some say that government regulators tasked with keeping tabs on the banks should already know whether they would survive an even deeper downturn. But the stress tests could help reassure a public unnerved by the distribution of the government's original TARP funds.

"Taxpayers need accountability, and using a stress test is one method of the government showing, 'We've looked at these banks -- this is a prudent investment for the taxpayers to make,'" said Morningstar banking analyst Jamie Peters.

In his address before a joint session of Congress Tuesday night, President Obama sought to distinguish early TARP spending from his adminstration's plans.

"I understand that when the last administration asked this Congress to provide assistance for struggling banks, Democrats and Republicans alike were infuriated by the mismanagement and results that followed. So were the American taxpayers. So was I," he said. " So I know how unpopular it is to be seen as helping banks right now, especially when everyone is suffering in part from their bad decisions."

Obama said he would hold the banks "fully accountable for the assistance they receive."

"And this time," he said, "they will have to clearly demonstrate how taxpayer dollars result in more lending for the American taxpayer."

Financial Firms Already Stressed

Not everyone thinks the tests will have a reassuring effect, including Paul O'Neill, who served as treasury secretary under President Bush but later emerged as a fierce critic of Bush's policies. In an e-mail to, he criticized the current government, questioning how much influence federal officials will actually have.

"Is the market going to accept a judgment from people who have no credibility?" he asked. "I don't think so."

Bernanke said that the country's largest 19 banks with assets above $100 billion would be subject to the stress tests. Banks meeting the $100 billion threshold include struggling Citigroup, which made headlines this week after news surfaced that the bank may be in talks to change the way the government has invested in the bank, raising its stake in Citi to as much as 40 percent.

The change would not require more government money but would entail the conversion of much of the government's $45 billion investment -- which is now in preferred shares -- into common stock. Such a move, Morningstar's Peters said, would expose the government to Citi's stock market fluctuations.

"For the taxpayer, they are going to be taking some downside risk," she said, adding that the taxpayer could also stand to benefit if Citi's stocks recover.

Citi's name has been floated as one of the banks that will likely require more government aid after the stress tests. A Citi spokesman declined to comment on the stress tests.

The bank itself released a statement Monday touting its "very strong" capital base and its progress in "reducing the assets on our balance sheet, reducing expenses and streamlining our business for future profitable growth."

Ailing insurance giant American International Group, which has received $150 billion in government assistance, is also in talks to convert the government's preferred shares to common stock, Bloomberg reported.

Asked about the report, AIG spokeswoman Christina Pretto told ABC News that the firm continues "to work with the U.S. government to evaluate potential new alternatives for addressing AIG's financial challenges."

How Healthy Are the Banks?

Despite the grim financial news, Mark Tenhundfeld, an American Bankers Association senior vice president, said he believes most banks will come through the tests "with flying colors."

"In point of fact, banks are healthier than a lot of people are giving them credit for them right now," he said.

The public, however, may not learn exactly how healthy the banks are: While the government is expected to disclose which banks will ultimately receive more government capital, it's unclear whether it will disclose how the banks fared on the stress tests.

"I think they would want to avoid any nervousness in the market," said Neena Mishra, a banking analyst with Zacks Investment Research. Federal officials, Mishra said, may worry that providing more information could result in a run on the banks.

Tenhundfeld agreed.

"Any time confidential information is disclosed, there's always a danger that it will be misunderstood and that people will act on it in ways that are irrational," he said. "Regulators are trying to preserve confidence in the banks and essentially communicate the message that the public doesn't need to be concerned about the viability of these institutions."

O'Neill, however, has argued for publicizing more, not less, information about the banks.

"If I were in charge, I would require each financial institution to classify their assets, by amount, into rating classes, beginning with AAA, and then down [through] the investment grade ratings. & All of this would be posted on the Internet," he said in an e-mail.

"The argument against doing this is that we can't handle the truth," he said. "However gruesome the truth may be, I believe the truth would give us a base to build on."
ABC News' Eileen Murphy and Charles Herman contributed to this report.

Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi applaud prior to President Barack Obama's address to a joint session of Congress in the House Chamber of the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2009.
(Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo)

"Obama: 'Day of Reckoning' for U.S. Economy: President Balances Realism and Optimism in Address to Congress"

In his first address to a joint session of Congress, President Obama told the American people that the "day of reckoning" has arrived for the nation's economy, which he pledged to not just fix but make stronger than it was before the current crisis.

"Now is the time to act boldly and wisely -- to not only revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity," the president said in his televised prime-time address.

Obama was greeted with thunderous applause in the House chamber, as lawmakers reached out to try and get a handshake or, in some cases, a kiss as the president made his way down the narrow aisle to the podium.

Obama is enjoying a 68 percent approval rating after his first month in office, according to the latest ABC News-Washington Post poll, and his pledge to reverse the nation's economic woes earned him an early standing ovation from both Democrats and Republicans.

"While our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken; though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this: We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before," Obama said.

Obama laid out proposals in energy, health care and education policy that he said would help everyday Americans struggling with rising costs and would be long-term investments toward economic recovery.

Without mentioning his predecessor by name, Obama seemed to point the finger at the Bush administration when he spoke of a period when "short-term gains were prized over long-term prosperity" and "critical debates and difficult decisions were put off for some other time on some other day."

But the president said he was not there to "lay blame or look backwards," but explained that in order to fix the problems, it is necessary to consider how the country got to this point.

Long-term Investments and Budget Cuts

Tonight, Obama spoke about the stimulus plan and financial market stability plan as immediate, short-term actions taken by his administration to jump-start the economy. But in order to fully restore the economy, he called for long-term investments in energy independence, health care, and education in order to create new jobs, industries and renewed global competitiveness.

"The only way this century will be another American century is if we confront at last the price of our dependence on oil and the high cost of health care; the schools that aren't preparing our children and the mountain of debt they stand to inherit. That is our responsibility," the president said.

Obama did not devote much time to foreign policy, noting that he will soon announce a plan for ending the war in Iraq. He did note that the budget he will release this week would include the full costs of those wars, a shift from the Bush administration's practice of using supplemental appropriations bills to fund Iraq and Afghanistan and keep the costs outside of the official budget.

Obama called that first budget "a vision for America ... a blueprint for our future."

"My budget does not attempt to solve every problem or address every issue. It reflects the stark reality of what we've inherited -- a trillion-dollar deficit, a financial crisis, and a costly recession," Obama said. "But that does not mean we can afford to ignore our long-term challenges. I reject the view that says our problems will simply take care of themselves; that says government has no role in laying the foundation for our common prosperity."

Turning his attention to the members of Congress seated before him, Obama called for sacrifices on programs and policies that will not be funded and says he will sacrifice with them.

He outlined some of the ways that his administration will begin to work on its pledge to cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term and noted that $2 trillion in savings has already been identified after a line-by-line review of the federal budget.

"In this budget, we will end education programs that don't work and end direct payments to large agribusinesses that don't need them," the president said.

"We'll eliminate the no-bid contracts that have wasted billions in Iraq, and reform our defense budget so that we're not paying for Cold War-era weapons systems we don't use," he continued. "We will root out the waste, fraud, and abuse in our Medicare program that doesn't make our seniors any healthier, and we will restore a sense of fairness and balance to our tax code by finally ending the tax breaks for corporations that ship our jobs overseas."

No Bailouts for Wall Street Executives

Obama had strong words for banks and their executives, saying that the days of using taxpayer money to "buy fancy drapes or disappear on a private jet" are over.

"I intend to hold these banks fully accountable for the assistance they receive, and this time, they will have to clearly demonstrate how taxpayer dollars result in more lending for the American taxpayer," he said.

Obama sought to frame the financial rescue plan as helping the little guy, the everyday American, not the banks or Wall Street executives, and noted the ripple effect that freeing up credit will have on the economy.

"When credit is available again, that young family can finally buy a new home," he said. "And then some company will hire workers to build it. And then those workers will have money to spend, and if they can get a loan too, maybe they'll finally buy that car, or open their own business. Investors will return to the market, and American families will see their retirement secured once more. Slowly, but surely, confidence will return, and our economy will recover."

Realism vs. Optimism

In the lead-up to the address, White House officials repeatedly spoke of the balance Obama sought to strike between speaking realistically about the economic crisis while not sounding too pessimistic, being mindful of the financial markets and the weariness of the American people.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said on "Good Morning America" today that Obama would offer "a sober assessment about where we are and the challenges that we face."

The message and tone, according to a senior White House official, would be: "We will get through this economic hardship. ... Here are the actions necessary to take to do so."

Obama told Americans that he understood that they did not need to hear more rhetoric or statistics to know that the economy was in crisis because it is part of their daily lives.

"It's the worry you wake up with and the source of sleepless nights. It's the job you thought you'd retire from but now have lost; the business you built your dreams upon that's now hanging by a thread; the college acceptance letter your child had to put back in the envelope," he said. "The impact of this recession is real, and it is everywhere."

In an interview with ABC News' Charles Gibson earlier today, Obama senior adviser David Axelrod said the speech tonight was going to give the president an opportunity to speak beyond the audience in front of him in the House chamber.

"[F]undamentally, this is a chance to speak to the American people, to be direct and open and blunt about where we are and where we need to go," Axelrod said. "And I think he wants to take advantage of that opportunity."

Republican Gov. Jindal : Democrats' Economic Plan 'Irresponsible'

In the Republican response to tonight's presidential address Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal took aim at the Democratic Party for the $787 billion stimulus legislation, which he has strongly opposed.

Jindal, often mentioned as a potential 2012 Republican presidential candidate, charged that the stimulus legislation will not help the economy grow but will increase the size of government and "saddle future generations with debt."

"It's irresponsible. And it's no way to strengthen our economy, create jobs, or build a prosperous future for our children." Jindal said in Baton Rouge, La. "To solve our current problems, Washington must lead. But the way to lead is not to raise taxes and put more money and power in the hands of Washington politicians. The way to lead is by empowering you -- the American people. Because we believe that Americans can do anything."

First Lady Michelle Obama's Guests

First lady Michelle Obama was joined in her box at tonight's address by more than two dozen people representing a range of backgrounds, states and political views.

Mrs. Obama sat with two governors, Republican Jim Douglas of Vermont, who supported the president on the stimulus bill, and Democrat Ted Strickland of Ohio, a 2008 battleground state.

Several Washington-area students also attended the address as guests of the first lady, part of Obama's pledge to reach out to their new community.

Other guests reflect accomplishments of the month-old Obama administration. Blake Jones, the co-founder and president of Namaste Solar, met with President Obama last week for a tour of his company's solar installation in Denver and spoke about how he will benefit from the stimulus plan.

Lilly Ledbetter is the namesake for the first piece of legislation the president signed in office -- the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, which makes it an act of discrimination to pay workers unfairly.


ABC News: The Note, Washington's Original and Most Influential Tipsheet, 2/25/09: "Getting It -- Hope returns to Obama rhetoric -- but what will follow?"

The hope is back. And the question is the same for a skeptical Congress, a jittery public, and a Twittery set of pundits: In a time of nervous, narrow thinking, can a president elected to do big things get the nation to think big again?

With no shortage of audacity, President Obama made the connections he needed between what he’s already done and what he wants to do next. There was the now-typical mastery of a crowd, a room, and a larger audience (if perhaps served with an extra helping of partisan meat).

But as he looked out over a bright House chamber assembled for another historic gathering Tuesday night, the president just might have glimpsed the limits of his own power.

Start with the Republicans who couldn’t quite bring themselves to rise to their feet at his cue (and who couldn’t hold back a jeer or two when Obama turned lecturer on fiscal discipline).

Add to that Obama’s broader problem: that he remains far more popular than the ideas he needs to sell. And he hasn’t even picked out most of the hard items -- those tough choices we always hear so much about -- from his menu.

Is the state of the nation’s union with the new president strong enough to make it all happen? He gets it, he says -- so will the public take it?

For those with long memories: “Not since Franklin Roosevelt delivered his first fireside chat, eight days into his presidency, have Americans been more hungry -- and more desperate -- for economic leadership. And not since FDR has there been an economic agenda as bold or ambitious, or as likely to reshape American capitalism,” Steven Pearlstein writes in The Washington Post.

“It remains an open question whether by trying to do so much so fast, Obama will be able to create the momentum and sense of urgency necessary to overcome pushback from many Republicans, the inevitable opposition from special interests and the natural tendency of the system to return to the old political equilibrium,” he writes.

The president is still feeling his way through the new job (surely he’ll know how to wait out applause by next year’s speech). But it only gets trickier from here.

“The young new president projected a voice of generational confidence to a public that by one measure is less confident than at any other time since Mr. Obama was in grade school,” Peter Baker writes in The New York Times. “Mr. Obama skated past his disagreements with Republicans to claim a broader mandate to seize ‘opportunity from ordeal.’ Though he pushed through a huge economic recovery package in his first month in office, he failed to forge the partisan consensus he had sought. So his speech before a nationally televised audience on Tuesday was a chance to shift from legislative leader to national leader.”

“After soaking in the applause and shaking hands on the way out of the chamber on Tuesday night, Mr. Obama now must find a way to get his own credit flowing to cash in on a big investment,” Baker writes.

Obama “straddled the divide between fear and hope,” The Wall Street Journal’s Jonathan Weisman writes. “The speech, 52 minutes long, punctuated by more than 60 ovations, was billed as a rhetorical salve to a nation battered by layoffs and plunging stock prices -- and a tempering of pessimistic rhetoric from the Oval Office over the past few weeks.”

“It didn’t seem like he moved everyone in the hall,” ABC’s George Stephanopoulos reported on “Good Morning America” Wednesday. “He began on hope, he ended on hope. Now, in between, there’s an awful lot of hard things to be done, and the president did not engage in any kind of happy talk. But I think he made a start in inspiring hope out in the country.”

Not wasting a crisis: “Obama spoke about the stimulus plan and financial market stability plan as immediate, short-term actions taken by his administration to jump-start the economy. But in order to fully restore the economy, he called for long-term investments in energy independence, health care, and education in order to create new jobs, industries and renewed global competitiveness,” ABC’s Karen Travers and Jake Tapper write.

“In a clear tonal shift from his first month, Obama seized the bully pulpit of his office to offer more hope than angst to a nation desperate for reassurance,” the New York Daily News’ Thomas M. DeFrank writes.

“President Barack Obama gave America the audacity to hope again,” the AP’s Ron Fournier writes. “He was blunt but bullish on America. . . . In short, he reminded people that America has always seen itself as a ‘shining city upon a hill,’ as one of its earliest leaders, John Winthrop, put it -- a metaphor that Ronald Reagan reintroduced effectively in the 1980s.”

More Reagan talk, from David Brody, of the Christian Broadcasting Network: “Reagan was also good at understanding that his audience was always the American people and not the people in the room. President Obama seemed to understand that as well. . . . It was pitch perfect.”

A different age? “A key question is whether voters will be as patient with Obama. Roosevelt was president at a time when the pace of politics was not measured in 24/7 news cycles, and expectations of government intervention were not high,” the Los Angeles Times’ Janet Hook writes.

“What matters is whether voters continue to trust him. And Obama -- in a rigidly honest, careful way -- showed last night that he will fight to keep that trust by presenting himself as the embodiment of the national interest,” writes The Boston Globe’s Peter Canellos.

Newt Gingrich was watching the tone: “Nobody messes with joe and the smiles and nancy handshake resembled a democratic pep rally not a state of the union--sophomoric and silly,” he Twittered.

(Dana Milbank collects the best of the Tweets from the House floor -- and comes to a sensible solution for suddenly Twitter-mad Washington: “Should these guys maybe spend time fixing the country and leave the Twittering to somebody else?”)

The red meat was seasoned for a reason: “The entire speech was laced with shots, some more obvious than others, at the former administration. They were all harnessed to a single purpose: convince the public that every risk Obama takes or dollar he spends is to clean up the mess Bush either left behind or failed to address,” Politico’s Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen translate.

Some morsels went down better than others: “The president skipped over several complex economic circumstances in his speech to Congress -- and may have started an international debate among trivia lovers and auto buffs over what country invented the car,” Calvin Woodward and Jim Kuhnhenn write in their AP fact-check.

The next steps begin: Per a Treasury official, Secretary Tim Geithner on Wednesday will announce that first-time home buyers can start applying for the newly expanded $8,000 tax credit, at Geithner will make the announcement at a morning meeting with HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan and other stakeholders, an official tells The Note.

Vice President Joe Biden, to ABC’s Robin Roberts on “Good Morning America”: “We’re going to make sure that the people who in fact bought the five-bedroom home when they should have had a two-bedroom home, they’re not rewarded. We’re trying to reward those people who were caught in the crossfire.”

And take three for Commerce: The president introduces his latest choice for secretary, former Gov. Gary Locke, D-Wash., at an 11 am ET event at the White House.

“Mr. Locke, a Democrat, is viewed as generally business-friendly and pro-trade. He is likely to provide a sympathetic ear to multinational firms in the administration. He also is regarded as a skilled and experienced strategist when it comes to domestic economic-development projects,” John D. McKinnon writes in The Wall Street Journal.

Not much talk of foreign policy Tuesday night -- but that changes soon:

“President Obama will likely announce a pullout of U.S. troops from Iraq later this week, according to a Defense Department official,” ABC’s Martha Raddatz reports. “Obama has been given three plans by the current top U.S. commander in Iraq, Ray Odierno, for troop withdrawal -- 16 months, 19 months or 23 months. The official said it appears Obama is ‘trending’ toward 19 months, although the decision is coming [from] Obama, not the Pentagon, the official said. While campaigning for President, then Sen.-Obama pledged to drawdown U.S. forces in Iraq within 16 months. But he was always careful to add that troop withdrawal needed to be done carefully.”

“The timetable would give the military three months more to withdraw than the 16-month pullout Mr. Obama promised last year on the campaign trail. Officials said he was prepared to make that shift because he agreed with the concerns of ground commanders who wanted more time to cement security gains, strengthen political institutions and make sure Iraq did not become more unstable again,” The New York Times’ Peter Baker and Elisabeth Bumiller report.

“Obama has not made a final decision on the matter, but it could come during a trip to give a speech in North Carolina on Friday,” The Washington Post’s Ann Scott Tyson and Anne Kornblut report.

The agenda continues: healthcare and education and service and energy . . . “He tried to strike a balance between describing the symptoms of the U.S.’s financial woes and prescribing a cure. That prescription went well beyond the crisis that has forced banks such as Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp. to seek billions of dollars in federal aid, to include the expansion of the government’s role in health care, energy and education,” Bloomberg’s Hans Nichols and Julianna Goldman write.

With healthcare the topic next week, The American Prospect’s Ezra Klein reports that Obama will take his coverage plan further than he did in the campaign: “The health care proposal in Obama's budget will have a mandate. Sort of,” he writes. “Here's how it will work, according to the officials I've spoken to. The budget's health care section is not a detailed plan. Rather, it offers financing -- though not all -- and principles meant to guide the plan that Congress will author. The details will be decided by Congress in consultation with the administration. One of those details is ‘universal’ health care coverage.”

As for the GOP response -- Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-La., may have wanted that one back. It read better than it sounded.

Paul Begala, at The Daily Beast: “It wasn’t a fair fight. Watching Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s painful, sing-song response to President Barack Obama’s powerful and plain-spoken speech felt like watching an over-eager child trying to box Muhammad Ali.”

Politico’s Andy Barr rounds up the criticisms: “Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.) hoped to step into the national spotlight Tuesday night to sound a hopeful yet defiant note in countering President Barack Obama as the GOP’s fresh and exciting face. Instead, he got panned.”

New party branding, in the making: “Republicans responded to President Obama's first address to Congress on Tuesday by vowing to work with the White House while also holding fast to principles of limited government and fiscal discipline,” John Fritze writes for USA Today.

How does this fit in? “Republicans are expected to deliver a daylong rant Wednesday against Democratic spending legislation, yet the bill is loaded with thousands of pet projects that Republican lawmakers inserted,” McClatchy’s David Lightman reports. “Rep. Ralph Hall, R-Texas, included $142,500 for emergency repairs to the Sam Rayburn Library and Museum in Austin, Texas. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., joined state colleagues to include $1.425 million for Nevada ‘statewide bus facilities.’ The top two Republicans on Congress' money committees also inserted local projects.”

Advice for the president: “I would call on him to veto it,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

Civil war brewing in Kentucky: “Sen. Jim Bunning all but declared war this morning on his own party’s Senate campaign committee chairman and threatened to sue the GOP if committee officials recruited an opponent to run against him in Kentucky’s 2010 Republican primary,” James R. Carroll writes in the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Said Bunning, R-Ky.: “I don’t believe anything John Cornyn says. I’ve had miscommunications with John Cornyn from, I guess, the first week of this current session of the Senate. He either doesn’t understand English or he doesn’t understand direct: ‘I’m going to run,’ which I said to him in the cloakroom of our chamber.”

The Kicker:

“I did big wooohoo for Justice Ginsberg [sic].” -- Sen. Claire McCaskill, among the Twitter-crazy lawmakers in the House chamber, applauding with BlackBerry in hand, per The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank.

“Nobody messes with Joe.” -- President Obama, maybe messing with his vice president just a little bit.
Rick Klein is ABC News' Senior Political Reporter and author of The Note's morning look at the upcoming day in politics.

"Obama Budget Would Limit Pay Raises for Civilian Workers, Military"
By Steve Vogel, Washington Post Staff Writer, Thursday, February 26, 2009; 1:54 P.M.

Civilian employees of the federal government will be limited to a 2 percent pay increase in 2010 under the proposed budget released this morning by the Obama administration.

The administration describes the proposed increase as reflective of the current economic crisis and bringing federal pay and benefit practices more in line with what workers in the private sector are experiencing.

The fiscal 2010 budget summary released this morning notes that Obama has ordered a freeze of White House senior staff pay. "In this budget, federal employees also will be asked to do their part," the summary states.

The proposed increase compares with a 3.9 percent increase for federal workers in 2009 and 3.5 percent in 2008.

A senior official for the nation's largest federal employee union described the small increase as understandable. "It's a modest increase, but it certainly is prudent," said Jacque Simon, public policy director for the American Federation of Government Employees.

"We're in an economic crisis and everybody understands that," Simon said. "While it's certainly a modest pay increase, federal employees recognize the severity of the economic situation, and we're viewing it from that context."

But Richard N. Brown, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees, was more critical and said his group would push Congress for a larger pay increase.

"Even in this economy, 2 percent is a very small increase for workers that are already paid well below those doing similar work in the private sector," he said.

Brown also objected to civilian workers drawing a smaller pay increase than uniformed personnel under the budget plan. Increases for men and women in uniform are to be limited to 2.9 percent.

"We are baffled by the large disparity in the proposed pay adjustments for civilian federal workers and military personnel," he said. "Civilian federal employees often work side-by-side with military personnel and are in their own right critical to maintaining our military readiness and homeland security."

The 2.9 percent limit for military personnel is described in the budget summary as reflecting "the priorities of an administration that is committed to caring for the service members who protect our security and the families who support them."

Last year, military personnel received a 3.9 percent pay increase, half a percentage point more than President George W. Bush recommended.



Obama Reverses Bush Policy, Allowing Media to Photograph Caskets Returning Home From War.

Source: ABC News


"Necessary, Not Evil: The case against TARP-bashing"
Washington Post, Editorial, A16, Friday, February 27, 2009

IS PRESIDENT Obama a TARP-basher? He sounded like one on Tuesday, telling Congress that he had been "infuriated" by the Troubled Assets Relief Program's "mismanagement and the results that followed" under the Bush administration. He promised that, on his watch, banks "will have to clearly demonstrate how taxpayer dollars result in more lending for the American taxpayer" and won't be allowed to pad bonuses or redecorate their corner offices.

In some well-publicized cases, TARP recipients have behaved in the style to which the boom had accustomed them. The latest example was Northern Trust, a recipient of $1.6 billion in TARP funds, which flew hundreds of employees and clients to a Southern California golf tournament. More substantively, TARP's congressional oversight panel accuses the program of overpaying for its stakes in the banks by $78 billion. And then there are those who want to know why government capital did not trigger an immediate burst of lending. "Start loaning the money that we gave you. Get it on the street!" Rep. Michael E. Capuano (D-Mass.) ordered bankers at a recent House committee hearing.

The total TARP pot is $700 billion. So far, $281 billion has gone to prop up banks and insurance giant AIG. General Motors and Chrysler got $24.8 billion; $50 billion has been allocated for Mr. Obama's homeowner support plan and $100 billion to help the Federal Reserve provide liquidity to credit markets. Every nickel spent on undeserved perks is galling, but, as a percentage of the bailout, blatant corporate excess probably accounts for very little.

Undoubtedly the government paid more for shares in banks than private investors would have, thus conferring a huge subsidy. But that was the point. Last fall, when the Bush administration announced TARP, the financial sector was melting down. Private investors were spooked; there was no time for the government to haggle. The resulting subsidy should be seen not as a rip-off but as the cost of a valuable public good: economic stability.

There are two sides to the lending story as well. Yes, some banks are using the funds to shore up their balance sheets. But they are being pressed by regulators to avoid excessive credit risk -- which is what brought on this crisis. There is much debate as to precisely how lending changed after TARP. Analyst Richard Bove of Rochdale Securities LLC found that lending by the 13 largest TARP recipients went up 4.7 percent between the third and fourth quarters of 2008.

A fair assessment of TARP and its results is important because Mr. Obama himself will soon be seeking additional funds for bank capitalization. What's interesting is that his plan does not require banks to increase lending per se, as he implied in his speech, but to show that they are lending more than they would have without government aid. That is, the details of his policy are more nuanced than his rhetoric. Indeed, once his populist riff was over, the president reminded Congress that fixing the banks, though unpopular, is a precondition of economic recovery. "In a time of crisis, we cannot afford to govern out of anger or yield to the politics of the moment," he said. Sound advice.


President Barack Obama speaks during a visit to Camp Lejeune, N.C., Friday, Feb. 27, 2009 as Defense Secretary Robert Gates, left, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen listen. (Gerry Broome/AP Photo)

"Obama: 'By Aug. 31, 2010, Combat Mission in Iraq Will End': Some Democrats Unhappy With Obama Iraq Withdrawal Plan"
By LUIS MARTINEZ and Z. BYRON WOLF, ABC News, February 27, 2009 —

President Obama made it official today, that U.S. combat operations in Iraq are scheduled to end on Aug. 31, 2010.

On that date, the president expects to have withdrawn 90,000 combat troops who will mainly focus on training and advising Iraqi forces.

"The United States will pursue a new strategy to end the war in Iraq through a transition to full Iraqi responsibility," Obama announced today.

"America's men and women in uniform have fought block by block, province by province, year after year, to give the Iraqis this chance to choose a better future. Now, we must ask the Iraqi people to seize it," he said.

"Let me say this as plainly as I can: By Aug. 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end," Obama said, triggering applause from the Marines. The president called Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki and former president George W. Bush from Air Force 1 enroute to the speech to brief them on what he would say.

The plan has drawn "cautious" support from Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who battled Obama over his Iraq withdrawal plans throughout the long presidential campaign.

But it has disappointed leading Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who are surprised that Obama plans to leave such a large contingent of Americans in Iraq.

Addressing an audience of Marines at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Obama said America's six-year Iraq experience "has already been a long war," and he praised the country's military.

"You have fought against tyranny and disorder. You have bled for your best friends and for unknown Iraqis. And you have borne an enormous burden for your fellow citizens," he said.

Obama won more applause when he praised the nation's soldiers, telling them, "In an age when so many people and institutions have acted irresponsibly, you did the opposite  you volunteered to bear the heaviest burden."

But he got a roar of approval when he promised to reward the nation's fighters by raising their pay.

"I figured that would be an applause line," he said with a grin.

Obama warned Americans,"Let there be no doubt: Iraq is not yet secure, and there will be difficult days ahead. Violence will continue to be a part of life in Iraq.

The president also wanted to "take a moment to speak directly to the people of Iraq."

"We Americans have offered our most precious resource  our young men and women  to work with you to rebuild what was destroyed by despotism," he said, adding, "We seek a full transition to Iraqi responsibility for the security of your country."

Withdrawal from a stable Iraq, Obama said, would usher in "a new era of American leadership and engagement in the Middle East."

"The United States will pursue principled and sustained engagement with all of the nations in the region, and that will include Iran and Syria," he said. The U.S. does not have diplomatic relations with Iran and accuses both countries of backing terrorist groups like Hezbollah.

McCain, R-Ariz., noted that it will be important for Obama to remain open to changing the plan as the situation on the ground warrants.

"I think it's important to point out that the President's plan is not without risk," he said. "We have not yet completed the mission in Iraq, and the gains we have made there remain fragile. We'll need to be cautious as we withdraw troops so as not to jeopardize these achievements and listen closely to the commanders on the ground as the administration determines the pace of withdrawals."

McCain this morning warned that Americans should not think that the troops who will remain in Iraq under the Obama plan would not be in danger.

"The American people should be clear, the president's plan, even after the end of its withdrawal timeline is reached, will leave in place up to 50,000 U.S. troops. All will be in harm's way. Some will continue to conduct combat operations," he said.

McCain said the president should not "succumb to pressures to make deeper or faster cuts in force levels."

Those pressures will come primarily from Obama's own party.

Reid said on Thursday, "I have been one for a long time that's called for significant cutbacks in Iraq, and I am happy to listen to the secretary of defense and the president, but when they talk about 50,000, that's a little higher number than I had anticipated."

After the speech today, Reid called it a "sound and measured plan," but suggested some disagreement by adding that the administration "must keep in Iraq only those forces necessary for the security of our remaining troops and the Iraqi people."

Other leaders in the Democratic Party, including Pelosi, have expressed similar frustration with the high number of troops that will remain in Iraq after August 2010 under the president's plan.

The withdrawal plan will leave behind a "residual force" of between 35,000 to 50,000 U.S. troops whose new mission will be to train, equip and advise Iraqi Security Forces, support the Iraqi government and conduct targeted counterterrorism missions.

Officials told ABC News said the plan "will responsibly redeploy our troops" and in doing so, Obama "is living up to a commitment he made."

The officials said that under the plan, the remaining U.S. forces would be reconstituted into "Advisory and Assistance Brigades. According to the officials, these brigades will not be combat units, but units with different force structures that have been specifically retrained to conduct a training and advising mission.

A large portion of the remaining American forces will be combat support troops and only a very small percentage of the remaining troops will undertake the counterterrorism mission. U.S. forces will still be able to defend themselves, but after Aug. 31, 2010, American troops will not be responsible for providing security to large areas of Iraq as they do now.

On Thursday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that the size of the residual force should be considered "a way station" since the current Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq calls for all American troops to be out of that country by the end of 2011.

Many specifics of the plan remain to be determined by the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. Ray Odierno, but both officials said that troop reductions will begin later this spring and continue through the summer.

"Exact force levels will be risk-dependent, and the pacing will be in the hands of commanders with the goal and direction of the president to end the combat role by Aug. 31, [2010]," said one official.

The 18-month plan was a compromise between Obama's campaign promise to pull combat troops out of Iraq in 16 months and concerns raised by military commanders about the need for additional forces to maintain the security gains of the past year.

One official said military commanders made a compelling argument to the president that "they wanted increased flexibility" around upcoming key events this year, such as regional elections over the summer and a national election in December.

There had been a "meeting of the minds" between senior military commanders and the president since Jan. 21 when he asked Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to explore plans to reduce the number of combat troops in Iraq, an official told ABC News.

On Thursday, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the president had asked his national security team "to put together a plan that they and he believed would accomplish the goal of removing our combat forces from Iraq in the most responsible way."

At the White House on Thursday night, the president briefed congressional leaders on the plan. Rep. John McHugh, R-N.Y., the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee released a statement after the meeting that during the meeting the president provided reassurances that he would "revisit" his withdrawal plan if the violence were to worsen.

"President Obama assured me that there is a 'Plan B'," said McHugh.

"Obama's Dream Team: A Look at the 44th President's Administration"

Who's Who on Obama's Dream Team
Remember These Faces: A Look at Picks, Top Contenders for Obama Administration
Feb. 13, 2009—

On Jan. 20, President Obama inherited a nation in financial turmoil and waging wars on two fronts overseas, which made a quick, smooth transition imperative.

Obama has been working hard to select his Cabinet and administration to stand beside him through that shift. But several of the people he selected to navigate those challenges hit bumps in the road during the confirmation process. Obama's initial picks for secretary of Commerce and secretary of Health and Human Services had both withdrawn by early February. Several chosen by the president also faced questions about their taxes as their histories were examined in the early weeks of Obama's presidency.

Here are Obama's picks:

Obama's Foreign and National Security Leaders

Former Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y. was officially announced as Obama's secretary of state Dec. 1, just months after she lost her own historic bid to become the first female president. On Jan. 13, Clinton faced tough questions on her husband's charity work during her confirmation hearings before the U.S. Senate but was confirmed the day after Obama's inauguration. During the primaries, Clinton and Obama fought each other over foreign policy, especially the Iraq War. Clinton voted to authorize President Bush's use of force against Saddam Hussein in 2003, but during her campaign, she denounced the war. Perhaps the most infamous episode during the campaign occurred when Clinton claimed in a speech that on a trip to Bosnia in 1996, she had landed under "sniper fire." Only a video from her trip later showed that Clinton and her daughter, Chelsea, had walked calmly off the plane in Tuzla, forcing her to take back her words. Clinton served as New York's junior senator beginning in 2001, and sat on the Armed Services, Budget, Health, and Environment and Public Works committees. In 1996, Clinton published her best-selling book, "It Takes a Village and Other Lessons Children Teach Us." She won a Grammy award for the recorded version.


Susan Rice, picked as the new U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has her work cut out for her. Under the Bush administration, relations between the U.S. and the U.N. became strained, with many unhappy with the unilateral goals of the U.S. government and the means with which it pursued them -- including the invasion of Iraq. With a new administration, there is a hope at U.N. headquarters that "business as usual" with the United States will change. Rice's experience in government includes serving on the National Security Council during the first Clinton administration, where for two years she was special assistant to the president and senior director for African affairs. In 1997, she became assistant secretary of state for African Affairs. During her tenure, the twin embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania took place, giving her exposure to al Qaeda. In 2002, she joined the Brookings Institution and during the 2004 presidential campaign, she was an adviser to Sen. John Kerry. During the 2008 presidential campaign, she was a top foreign policy adviser to Barack Obama, and it appears that her counsel, wisdom and advice, along with her experience, have earned her the trust of President Obama.


Two-term Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano was confirmed to lead the Department of Homeland Security on Inauguration Day. Napolitano, who served as adviser on Obama's transition team, is the first female Homeland Security secretary. An early supporter of the president, Napolitano has been a popular Democrat in Republican-leaning Arizona, which went to native son Sen. John McCain in the November election.

Napolitano was Arizona's first female attorney general before her appointment as governor. She has been outspoken on immigration issues and has been an advocate of more federal government responsibility in border control issues.


Defense Secretary Robert Gates -- a registered independent -- will be staying on in the top Pentagon job for at least the first year of the Obama administration. Obama has indicated he wants a bipartisan Cabinet, and keeping Gates in his position might avert criticism of partisanship. Gates was appointed by president Bush in 2006 following Donald Rumsfeld's departure. Before taking the top job at Defense, Gates served as president of Texas A&M University but had spent a lifetime in intelligence and military, having worked as an adviser to President Reagan and as CIA director from 1991 to 1993 under President George H.W. Bush.


Marine General James L. Jones will serve as Obama's National Security Advisor. The 64-year-old served for 40 years in the Marine Corps, rising from a platoon commander in Vietnam to Commandant of the Marine Corps and later served as Supreme Allied Commander of NATO. Since retiring last year as a four-star general, he served as the Bush administration's special envoy for Middle East security and chaired the Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq, a blue ribbon panel appointed by Congress that assessed the readiness of Iraqi troops. As National Security Adviser, Jones will serve as President Obama's chief adviser on national security affairs and help coordinate the interagency efforts of the Pentagon, the State Department and the intelligence community. Some of the national security issues Jones will face include the management of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and combating the terrorist threat in Pakistan; and containing the nuclear aspirations of an ambitious Iran and a flip-flopping North Korea.


On Jan. 28, 2009, the Senate confirmed retired Navy Adm. Dennis Blair to be director of national intelligence. Blair was the top contender for the post since the beginning, but sources initially said "Hill problems" could keep him from being confirmed. Some Democrats had pressed Obama to keep Mike McConnell, former President Bush's intel chief, to ensure a smooth transition. Blair is only the third person to serve as the nation's most important intelligence officer. The post was created in 2004 as part of the intelligence community reforms that followed the attacks of Sept. 11. The goal of the director of national intelligence is to streamline the gathering and analysis from the 16 different agencies that make up the intelligence community. Blair last held a job in government in 2002, when he retired -- after 30 years in the U.S. Navy -- as leader of U.S. Pacific Command.


Obama tapped former California Congressman Leon Panetta as director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Panetta was confirmed by the Senate on Feb. 12, 2009. Panetta previously served as President Clinton's White House chief of staff, but throughout the confirmation process critics said he lacked hands-on intelligence experience, other than time spent in the Army, from which he was discharged in 1966. While some in the CIA approved his pick, some former top CIA officials said that the choice could have a chilling effect on the agency. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, also expressed concern about Panetta's appointment, saying that "the agency is best-served by having an intelligence professional in charge at this time." Still, Obama officials defended their pick, saying Panetta had gained extensive intelligence experience during his time in the White House. Human rights groups also applauded the pick. ABC News learned that initially Obama may have been considering retaining Michael Hayden for the post but that may have changed because Hayden took a lot of heat for defending and implementing the Bush administration's counterterrorism strategies, including waterboarding and wiretapping. In March, Panetta stated in an Op-Ed that "torture is illegal, immoral, dangerous and counterproductive." As CIA director, Panetta would report to Dennis Blair.

Obama's Economic and Health Leaders


Obama announced his economic team Nov. 24, including his selection of Timothy J. Geithner to be secretary of treasury. At the time, Geithner was president of the New York Federal Reserve and well-known on Wall Street, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average soared almost 500 points Nov. 21 when the news of Obama's pick leaked out. Similarities between Geithner and the President are clear at every turn. Geithner was confirmed on Jan. 26, 2009 after relatively tough confirmation proceedings. The Senate voted 60-34 in Geithner's favor after examining questions about his failure to pay the correct amount of taxes on time, and employing a housekeeper whose work authorization had expired.
NOTES: On Thursday, March 5, 2009, Annette L. Nazareth took her name out of the running to be the deputy under Secretary Timothy F. Geithner. And Caroline Atkinson, the pick for undersecretary for international affairs, also withdrew her name

WITHDRAWN: Obama paged CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta for the post of surgeon general under his administration, to the criticism of some who feel a doctor on television should not become the nation's top doc. Well known for his CNN news shows, Gupta managed to continue as a practicing neurosurgeon and associate chief of neurosurgery at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. The surgeon general post would not be Gupta's first experience in the overlapping niche of politics and medicine. In 1997, Gupta was one of only 15 people chosen for the White House Fellows program. He also served as special advisor to Hillary Clinton when she was first lady while President Clinton was in the White House.
NOTES: "CNN's Sanjay Gupta Decides Against Surgeon General Position, Cites 'Timing'" (By Michael D. Shear and Howard Kurtz, Washington Post Staff Writers, A02, Friday, March 6, 2009): Dr. Gupta, a journalist and neurosurgeon who continues to practice medicine, said he did not want to stop performing brain surgery, leave his television career or spend extended time away from his family. He said the surgeon general "has to have a little bit of a higher profile. Whoever takes this job has to be out there really advocating the issues of public health. At no time is it probably more important than right now, as we're dealing with health-care reform. These issues really go hand in hand."


WITHDRAWN: Judd Gregg was selected as Obama's pick for secretary of commerce after the president's initial pick for the post, withdrew his name from consideration. On Jan. 4, 2009. New Mexico governor Bill Richardson bowed out amid questions about whether he played any part in a "pay-to-play" scheme. But on Feb. 12, 2009, Gregg, too, withdrew from consideration, citing differences over policy with the Obama White House. "For me, I just realized as these issues started to come at us, and they started to crystallize, that it really wasn't a good fit," said the Republican senator from New Hampshire.


On Dec. 19, Obama announced his selection of Rep. Hilda Solis, D-Calif., for secretary of labor. The Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee examined her nomination Jan. 9, but the panel has not yet voted on whether to approve her nomination. Solis told the HELP committee that at the helm of the Labor Department she would prioritize fair pay, retirement security and investing in workforce development and job growth. One of seven children whose mother emigrated from Nicaragua and whose father worked as a Teamsters shop steward, Solis added, "My passion for improving opportunities for middle-class Americans is the product of my life story." Solis, from east Los Angeles, became a representative in the U.S. House in 2001 after many years as a California state lawmaker. She became California's first Latina state senator in 1994.


Barack Obama tapped 81-year-old Paul Volcker to chair the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board, which will be responsible for offering independent, non-partisan economic analysis and advice to Obama. Volcker served as Federal Reserve Chairman under presidents Carter and Reagan. He has been criticized for driving up interest rates during his time but is also known for cutting inflation. One of Obama's top economic advisors during the campaign, Volcker has been a staunch proponent of government regulation. Austan Goolsbee, an economics professor at the University of Chicago, will serve as Staff Director and Chief Economist of the Recovery Advisory Board and act as the primary liaison between the Board and the Administration.


Larry Summers has been picked to lead Obama's National Economic Council. Summers was Treasury secretary under Clinton and became president of Harvard University after leaving Treasury in 2001. He resigned from his post at Harvard a year after making a controversial speech about women's success in math and science careers.

Before serving in the Clinton administration, Summers was one of the youngest tenured professors in Harvard's history, served as chief economist of the World Bank, and worked as an economic adviser in the Reagan administration. Summers' appointment to the National Economic Council does not require Senate confirmation.


To lead the Council of Economic Advisers, which is in the executive office of the president, Obama selected Christina Romer. Romer is a well-respected economist and economics professor at the University of California at Berkeley. Previous chairs of the Council of Economic Advisers include Ben Bernanke, Greg Mankiw, Laura D'Andrea Tyson, and Alan Greenspan.


Obama also announced that Melody Barnes would be director of the Domestic Policy Council. Barnes was the executive vice president for policy at the Center for American Progress. She has also served as Sen. Edward Kennedy's chief counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee and as the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's director of legislative affairs.


Dallas' first black mayor, Ron Kirk, will be U.S. trade representative, if confirmed. Kirk ran an unsuccessful campaign for the Senate in 2002, but lost to Republican John Cornyn. Kirk, a native Texan, has had a lengthy political career, having served as secretary of state in the administration of former Gov. Ann Richards and as a lobbyist on behalf of the city of Dallas to the Texas legislature. Since he stepped down as mayor, Kirk has been working for the Houston-based law firm Vinson and Elkins, which represents several airline companies and lobbied Congress for the Dallas Area Rapid Transit and Southwest Airlines.


WITHDRAWN: On Feb. 3, 2009, Tom Daschle withdrew from consideration to be Obama's secretary of Health and Human Services. Daschle's exit came after the public learned he failed to pay more than $120,000 in taxes.

Obama had selected the former Senate majority leader to replace Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt in guiding critical, high-profile federal agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the National Institutes of Health. Even before Obama was elected, he had reportedly told confidantes he was most interested in a position at HHS because he thought health care would be one of the most important issues facing the new administration. His book, "Critical: What We Can Do About the Health Care Crisis," was published in February 2008.

Obama's Energy and Environment Picks


Carol Browner will serve as White House energy "czar," a new position that the president is creating. Browner, who served as a senior adviser on the Obama transition team, led the Environmental Protection Agency for eight years, nearly a quarter of the agency's existence, during the Clinton administration. As energy czar, Browner will coordinate the work of various energy and environmental agencies, paying particular attention to climate change. Currently, Browner is chairwoman of the National Audubon Society and a principal in the Albright Group, an investment consulting firm that focuses on emerging markets.


President Obama nominated Nobel Prize winner Steven Chu as Department of Energy secretary. Chu was confirmed by the Senate on Inauguration Day, becoming the first Nobel laureate serve in a Cabinet position. Chu was part of a three-man team that won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1997 for developing and advancing methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light. Before entering the Obama administration, he taught physics and molecular and cell biology at the University of California at Berkeley and served as the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.


Former Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., was confirmed as secretary of the Department of Interior on Inauguration Day. Obama has said the Interior secretary will play a "critical role" in working with energy and environmental appointees on energy independence. Salazar, formerly a farmer, was elected as a senator in November 2004 after serving as attorney general for six years. His political portfolio also includes a stint on the staff of Gov. Roy Romer as chief legal counsel and executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. Salazar's older brother, John, was elected to Congress at the same time as his brother.


Lisa Jackson will serve as Obama's EPA administrator. She will be the first African-American to head the agency. Jackson was appointed as chief of staff to New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine in October. She began serving in that job Dec. 1, serving in the governor's office for less than two months before moving to the EPA. Jackson was commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection for two years before working in Corzine's office.

More of Obama's Cabinet


President Obama tapped his basketball buddy Arne Duncan as his pick for Education secretary. Duncan, previously the chief executive officer at Chicago Public schools, was confirmed by the Senate on Jan. 20. The 44-year-old Harvard graduate has played pickup basketball with Obama since the 1990s and played professionally in Australia before beginning his education career. He ran a nonprofit education organization on Chicago's South Side before going to work in Chicago schools. Obama's Education secretary pick was quickly hailed by teachers' unions. Randi Weingarten, head of the 1.4 million-member American Federation of Teachers, said in a statement that the organization was pleased with Obama's pick. The president emphasized in his campaign that education would be a top priority in his administration, and there are many questions as to whether he will alter the "No Child Left Behind" Act passed by president Bush.


Obama announced retired Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki for secretary of Veterans Affairs on Dec. 7. In his former job, Shinseki clashed with the Bush administration about troop levels in Iraq before his retirement. He'll now be tasked with helping those troops make the transition to becoming veterans. Shinseki is the first Asian-American named to Obama's Cabinet. The Senate Veterans Affairs panel held a hearing on Shinseki's nomination of Jan. 14 but did not take a vote on whether to approve him. Instead the full Senate confirmed the nomination by voice vote on Inauguration Day, making Shinseki's new position official.


Obama announced former Democratic Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack as his choice for secretary of the Department of Agriculture. Confirmed by the Senate on Jan. 20, Vilsack was the fourth opponent that Obama selected for his administration. In 2006, the two-time Iowa governor decided to run for the Democratic presidential nomination but dropped out within four months because he had trouble raising money. Vilsack, who most recently worked for a law firm in Des Moines, supported Hillary Clinton and served as her campaign's national co-chairman. Animal rights organization The Humane Society of the United States endorsed Vilsack, dubbing him as an "excellent choice" for the post. Some of the key issues Vilsack will have to contend with as agriculture secretary are alternative energy, the recession-affected agricultural industry and the controversial ethanol subsidies, which Obama supports.


Obama tapped Illinois Republican Rep. Ray LaHood as secretary of transportation. LaHood, confirmed on Jan. 22, was the second non-Democrat selected to join Obama's Cabinet. News of his appointment was welcomed by Republicans, who had been waiting for Obama to fulfill his promise of selecting a bipartisan Cabinet. LaHood will play an important role in the stimulus plan and in carrying out the transportation reforms that Obama seeks. In a December radio address, Obama promised significant upgrades to the country's infrastructure -- "the single largest new investment in our national infrastructure since President Eisenhower established the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s," he said. LaHood will also have to work with U.S. governors, who are pushing for more federal investment to improve roads and highways. LaHood's son Sam worked as a press advance staffer for John McCain's campaign.


Obama nominated Shaun Donovan to his Cabinet as the secretary of Housing and Urban Development. In his radio address on Dec. 13, Obama praised the New York City housing commissioner for his efforts in creating the "largest housing plan in the nation" and "helping hundreds of thousands of our citizens buy or rent their homes." The native New Yorker led a $7.5 billion proposed plan that entails adding 165,000 reasonably-priced homes to New York's expensive housing stock by 2013. Like several of Obama's Cabinet appointments, Donovan is also an alumni of the Clinton administration, serving as a deputy assistant secretary at HUD.


Washington lawyer Eric Holder was confirmed as the attorney general in the Obama administration on /// . Holder, 57, was the first black to hold several top Justice Department positions and is likewise the first black attorney general.

During the Clinton administration, Holder served as deputy attorney general, working under then-Attorney General Janet Reno. While at the Justice Department, Holder was viewed as a centrist on most law enforcement issues, though he has sharply criticized the secrecy and the expansive views of executive power advanced by the Bush Justice Department. Holder faced a tough audience during his confirmation hearings, addressing old controversies of Clinton-era pardons. The Senate voted 75-21 to confirm him on Feb 2.

White House Staff Picks

Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., has accepted the position of White House chief of staff. A veteran of the Clinton administration and a close Obama political ally from Chicago, Emanuel brings experience, knowledge of Capitol Hill and a sense of duty and loyalty. Obama reportedly told associates, according to ABC News' George Stephanopoulos, that he believes Emanuel will "have his back."

Emanuel served 6½ years under Clinton and has been a member of Congress for four terms. He has moved up through the congressional ranks and knows how to work Washington. While these are certainly qualifications for his new job, they also may have posed some reservations in him accepting the position. Emanuel was said to have ambitions to someday be House speaker. He also has young children and cited his family as a big consideration when making the decision.


Obama chief campaign strategist David Axelrod has been tapped to be White House senior advisor. The Chicago native has known the president-elect since 1993, longer than anyone else in Obama's inner circle. He is widely credited for helping Obama's political ascent and has been on the forefront of his campaign.

In his acceptance speech, Obama said Axelrod has been "a partner with me every step of the way." Axelrod is not new to the political scene. He has advised several Democratic candidates since 1985 and is reportedly close friends with Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley.

In a profile of Axelrod, the Los Angeles Times cited a description of him as "Obama's answer to Karl Rove and the most powerful political consultant not on a coast." Axelrod has said he became interested in politics at the age of 5, when he watched John F. Kennedy become president.


Robert Gibbs, one of Obama's top aides, is Obama's White House press secretary. Gibbs helped lead the campaign's communication team as the senior strategist for communications and message.

The 37-year-old Alabama native is a regular on cable news and the morning talk show circuit. Despite the occasional sparring with "Fox and Friends" host Sean Hannity, the lighthearted Gibbs is said to have a good rapport with reporters.

The new White House podium dweller is a longtime Obama loyalist and has been a constant force on the trail ever since the president first ran for the U.S. Senate in 2004. Before working for Obama, Gibbs was an aide to Sen. John Kerry in 2003. He left the Kerry campaign before Kerry clinched the 2004 presidential nomination.


Obama nominated Peter Orszag as director of the Office of Management and Budget director. Orszag, confirmed by the Senate on Jan. 20, previously served as the seventh director of the Congressional Budget Office, a job he began in January 2007. During his term, he was credited for his work on health care and climate issues. Like many other Cabinet picks, Orszag is a veteran of the Clinton White House where he previously served as an economic adviser.


Close Obama family friend and adviser Valerie Jarrett is serving as a White House adviser. An Obama campaign source tells ABC News that Jarrett has been named senior advisor and assistant to the president for intergovernmental relations and public liaison.


John Podesta heads up Obama's transition team. Podesta served as White House chief of staff under Clinton from October 1998 until the end of his term and is currently the president and CEO of the Center for American Progress.
ABC News' Martha Raddatz, Richard Coolidge, Kirit Radia, Luis Martinez, Jake Tapper, Huma Khan, Sunlen Miller, Nitya Venkataraman, Matt Jaffe and Kate Barrett and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Related link:

"Obama Gathers Two-Thirds Support for Additional Troops to Afghanistan: Nearly Two-Thirds Support Obama's Plan to Send More Forces to Afghanistan"
ANALYSIS By GARY LANGER, ABC News, February 26, 2009 —

Nearly two-thirds of Americans support Barack Obama's decision to send 17,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan -- despite substantial skepticism on whether the war there has been worth fighting.

Sixty-four percent in this ABC News/Washington Post poll support the deployment, even though just half say the war in Afghanistan's been worth it, and half, likewise, are convinced that victory there is required for the broader war on terrorism to succeed.

There's considerable bipartisanship for the deployment; it's favored by 60 percent of independents, 63 percent of Democrats and 77 percent of Republicans. That seems to reflect a convergence of two forces: Republicans' support for the war, and Democrats' support for Obama.

Indeed, notably, "strong" support for the deployment is substantially higher among Republicans (52 percent strongly in favor) than among Democrats or independents (35 and 38 percent, respectively). Among liberal Democrats it's just 29 percent.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and special envoy Richard Holbrooke hold trilateral talks in Washington today with foreign ministers from Afghanistan and Pakistan, part of the new administration's review of U.S. policy in the region. An ABC/BBC/ARD poll in Afghanistan last month found sharply lower ratings for the performance of the United States and NATO there, amid worsening security and struggling development efforts.

WORTH IT? -- In this ABC/Post poll, Americans divide by 50-47 percent on whether the conflict in Afghanistan was worth fighting, with the negative view at a new high in ABC/Post polls. Support for the war doubles among Republicans, 74 percent, compared with Democrats, 36 percent.

There's also a 50-41 percent division on whether winning in Afghanistan is necessary for the broader war on terrorism to be a success, with a similar broad partisan gap: 75 percent of Republicans say yes; four in 10 Democrats agree.

Support for the additional deployment contrasts with an ABC/Post poll in January, just before Obama took office, in which just 34 percent favored boosting U.S. forces, given the options of increasing, decreasing or holding the troop level steady.

Views also contrast with the more unpopular war in Iraq: In April 2007, reflecting weariness with the war and George W. Bush's own low approval, only 35 percent supported his decision to send a "surge" of 28,000 more U.S. forces there. At that time, 66 percent of Republicans were in favor, but just a third of independents and 11 percent of Democrats agreed.

IRAQ -- Views on Iraq remain broadly negative. Despite progress after the surge, allegiances with Sunni leaders and the recent provincial elections, 60 percent of Americans still say that, given its costs vs. benefits, the Iraq war was not worth fighting. That's hovered between 58 and 66 percent steadily for more than two years.

Forty-four percent say winning the Iraq war is necessary to defeat terrorism more broadly; while still below half that's up from a low of 31 percent last April.

Again, there are sharp partisan divisions, with Republicans more than three times as likely as Democrats to say the Iraq war was worth fighting, and twice as apt to say victory there is necessary to succeed against terrorism.

METHODOLOGY -- This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone, Feb. 19-22, 2009, among a random national sample of 1,001 adults, including both landline and cell phone-only respondents. Results for the full sample have a 3-point error margin; click here for a detailed description of sampling error. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by TNS of Horsham, Pa.
Charts with questions in PDF format:

"Alice T" - "We'll see what happens. I predict that Obama's big government solutions will be a disaster. His main accomplishment will be to take Jimmy Carter's place as the worst President ever."


What would you have President Barack Obama do? Here you criticize our chief without offering any alternative prescriptions to our nation's economic or financial crisis. I have criticisms of Obama's policies. I think he is allowing the corporate elite to profit while the average American loses out. For example, President Obama's healthcare plan is a huge waste of money. He is going to subsidize healthcare insurance companies to provide universal healthcare. Why? This plan NEVER worked! My alternative would be to create a single payer (government administered) system with low administrative costs with a baseline of healthcare services for every American Citizen with Children and Elderly as the top priorities. On Iraq, Obama is wrong to play politics. The ultimate tentative end date is really the end of 2011, which is when he will run for re-election. On Afghanistan, critics say it is Obama's new Vietnam or new Iraq. President Obama should be working with European nations especially and forming regional coalitions in Asia and the Middle East to resolve these military conflicts instead of setting arbitrary timelines. On the corporate bailouts, Obama is subsidizing large American financial institutions with no real plan for nationalization. This is another waste of taxpayers' money. If we end up nationalizing our nation's big banks and insurance companies, it will cost a lot more money in the future than right now. Barack Obama has broken his promises again and again -- from vowing not to take in special interest money to then spending 30% more than any other presidential candidate in US History, to redistributing taxpayers' money from the masses to the corporate elites, to his revised military decisions in Iraq & Afghanistan, and also Hillary Clinton's flawed statements diminishing Human Rights in China and other areas of Asia. While I believe it is commendable to see President Barack Obama taking action to respond to our nation and World's crises and conflicts, I also believe he is both disingenuous to his own words and ineffective in his public policies that is, indeed, spending and wasting too much taxpayers' money. There is a dichotomy between Obama's short term policies and long-term goals. After the first 40 days of the Obama administration, I am disappointed in the new President. However, I still have to look at how he does after 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, and so on.

- Jonathan Melle


"Time for Iraq: President Obama's strategy aims at success. Is that a goal congressional Democrats can support?"
The Washington Post, Editorial, A12, Saturday, February 28, 2009

THE IRAQ strategy that President Obama announced yesterday was broadly faithful to his campaign promises, but it contained some important and praiseworthy adjustments. The president lengthened his 16-month timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops to 19 months, thus adopting the middle of the three options the Pentagon studied. He set a ceiling of 50,000 troops for the "residual" force he has always said would remain -- a figure that quickly prompted sniping from his party's left wing. He gave up his formula of withdrawing forces at the rate of a brigade a month, which will allow U.S. commanders to maintain a large force in the country through Iraq's crucial parliamentary elections at the end of this year.

Most important, Mr. Obama spoke of Iraq not as a fiasco to be abandoned but as a "great nation" whose "future . . . is inseparable from the future of the broader Middle East." He said his administration aimed for "a new era of American leadership and engagement" in the region and "will work to promote an Iraqi government that is just, representative and accountable, and that provides neither support nor safe haven to terrorists." That is almost exactly how the Bush administration defined "victory" in Iraq. Thanks to the military and political successes of Mr. Bush's last two years, there is reason for hope that Mr. Obama's strategy can achieve that aim.

The president's speech was not without hedges and contradictions. He said there would be limits to what the United States would do to stabilize Iraq, and he put Iraqis on notice that they must "seize" the opportunity they have been offered. Perhaps with his antiwar base in mind, he pronounced "as plainly as I can: By August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end." In the next breath, he promised to "proceed carefully" and "consult closely" with military commanders and the Iraqi government, and he said "there will surely be difficult periods and tactical adjustments." Does that mean Mr. Obama is open to altering his plan if al-Qaeda or Iranian-backed militias rebound as U.S. troop levels decline? Some of the congressional leaders he briefed, including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) seemed to think so; Mr. McCain called Mr. Obama's plan "reasonable."

Unfortunately for Mr. Obama, the initial response of some congressional Democrats was anything but reasonable. A number objected to the size of the residual force: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) declared that 15,000 or 20,000 would be more appropriate. Neither she nor other objectors explained why fewer troops were needed or expressed any interest in nurturing what Mr. Obama described as the "renewed cause for hope in Iraq." That is a measure of Mr. Obama's statesmanship: Though he opposed the war, his strategy recognizes what has been achieved in Iraq, even at a terrible cost, and aims at preserving it. His party would do well to follow his lead.


"Obama's vision, in budget form"
March 1, 2009

PRESIDENT Obama's $3.55 trillion budget and his 10-year projections delineate an America dramatically different from the one he inherited from George W. Bush six weeks ago. If Congress goes along with the bulk of his proposals, the country will have a tax code that takes account of widening income inequality, a market-based system for shifting industry away from greenhouse gas emissions, and a revenue base to defray the cost of insuring some if not all the 47 million Americans who lack coverage. This is unmistakably the budget of a president who just won a 365-173 electoral vote majority.

Much more than the $787 billion stimulus package, this document fulfills Obama's inaugural promise to end the "childish games" of the nation's recent past. Basic to those games was a notion that the nation could blithely fight two wars and slash taxes for the rich without worrying about escalating federal budget deficits. Obama matches his visions for a fairer tax code, cleaner environment, and healthcare reform with the names and addresses of those who will have to finance the changes.

The list begins with couples earning more than $250,000 a year and also includes insurers profiting from overly generous Medicare subsidies, drug companies, oil companies, corporations benefiting from offshore tax loopholes, and manufacturers and utilities spewing carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. And that's just the start. His proposals would also cut outlays to defense contractors and take billions in government subsidies away from corporate agriculture and from banks that have profited from federally supported student loans.

Under the Obama plan, however, most of the increased taxes and the fees on polluters would be delayed until the economy has righted itself. The new administration does not want its tax hikes to squelch the first signs of an upturn.

But Obama's belief that the economy will resurge quickly and grow 3.2 percent next year is far more optimistic than most economists are predicting - especially given that the economy contracted at a 6.2 percent rate in the last quarter of 2008. The president is even more bullish for the years after 2010, expecting growth of 4 percent or more.

Obama is counting on expansion at this level to bring down to earth this year's expected $1.75 trillion deficit. If the economy does not perform well, deficits will remain high. The president found it difficult enough to win approval for the stimulus package, with its popular tax cuts and spending boosts. If deficits stay high, getting Congress to approve health and other reforms that will inevitably hurt special interests will test all of Obama's political skills. Still, the payoff will be worth the effort - a more egalitarian America with greater access to healthcare and a smaller carbon footprint.


"Battle Lines Quickly Set Over Planned Policy Shifts: Massive Budget Marks Largest Ideological Swing Since the Reagan Era"
By Lori Montgomery, Washington Post Staff Writer, Sunday, March 1, 2009; A01

Battle lines are rapidly hardening over the broad policy shifts, massive deficits and tax increases President Obama unveiled last week in his first budget request, a 10-year spending plan thick with political friction points.

Yesterday, the president used his weekly radio and Internet address to declare his budget plan a fundamental reordering of federal priorities that would deliver "the sweeping change that this country demanded when it went to the polls in November."

The budget proposal "reflects the stark reality of what we've inherited: a trillion-dollar deficit, a financial crisis and a costly recession," Obama said. He warned off lobbyists and other critics, who, he said, "are gearing up for a fight as we speak."

"My message to them is this: So am I," he said. "The system we have now might work for the powerful and well-connected interests that have run Washington for far too long, but I don't."

Republicans and Democrats alike say the budget request, which seeks $3.6 trillion for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, marks the biggest ideological shift in Washington since the dawn of the Reagan administration. Fierce clashes are likely on an array of fronts, from Obama's plan to spend at least $634 billion to expand health care for the uninsured to his proposal to raise a similar sum by taxing industries that generate greenhouse gases.

The central political battle so far, however, centers on cost. The White House budget request seeks to increase federal spending by at least $500 billion over the next decade, excluding the cost of health-care reform. While Obama would pay for that initiative as well his plan to lower taxes for the middle class by raising taxes on high earners and corporations as well as cutting federal health spending, his budget would not generate enough cash to finance the additional spending he seeks for routine government programs.

As a result, his plan would produce annual deficits far larger in dollar terms than any recorded before the recession. As a percentage of the overall economy, the budget gap is projected to settle down to a more manageable 3 percent by the end of Obama's term. But Washington would continue to borrow heavily, and the national debt would double over the next five years.

As Congress this week begins reviewing Obama's request, Republicans are blasting the proposal as a historic and irresponsible enlargement of the federal bureaucracy that ultimately will force Obama to break his pledge to avoid a broad-based tax increase.

"If you think with this kind of incredible growth in government that they're going to only tax wealthy people, then I have some old lottery tickets I want to sell you," said Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), the senior Republican on the House Budget Committee.

Democratic congressional leaders say they expect to endorse Obama's agenda in April. But they warned that it will not be easy and predicted that a proposal to limit tax deductions taken by the wealthy for charitable giving, mortgage interest and other items may not survive.

"Folks are a little skittish. It's asking a lot," a senior Democratic aide said. "This is a tax-and-spend budget the likes of which we haven't seen in years."

In his radio talk, Obama did not address the charge that his plans are simply too expensive. But he reasserted his commitment to fiscal discipline, saying his budget team has "identified $2 trillion worth of deficit reductions over the next decade" by scouring the budget "line by line" for wasteful and inefficient programs.

Obama first made that claim in his address to Congress on Tuesday. But administration officials have since acknowledged that his budget plan does not contain $2 trillion in spending cuts. It includes $1.5 trillion in "savings" generated by comparing Obama's plan to wind down the war in Iraq against a scenario many consider unrealistic -- one in which war spending consumes more than $200 billion a year for much of the next decade. Because Obama wouldn't be borrowing to pay for a war that costly, he also says he would save more than $300 billion in interest on the national debt.

The claim of $2 trillion in savings is "easily blown apart," said Robert Bixby, executive director of the nonpartisan Concord Coalition, a deficit watchdog group, and one of several deficit hawks briefed on the plan by White House budget director Peter R. Orszag.

Administration officials say they intend to identify additional spending cuts when they deliver their final budget to Congress in April. But they acknowledge that any savings generated by eliminating ineffective programs is likely to be plowed back into programs that work better or represent the president's priorities.

For example, in the Agriculture Department, Obama proposes to cut $15 billion in subsidies to big farms and crop insurance. But he would spend an extra $10 billion on child nutrition. In the Education Department, Obama would slash $54 billion from student loan programs, in large part by cutting private banks out of the system. But he would spend an extra $120 billion expanding the Pell Grant college aid program and creating a new "college access and completion fund."

"The president honestly lays out that he'll be spending more than in the past and more than projections would be," said Richard Kogan, a senior adviser to Orszag. "This is a reordering of priorities from defense, particularly the war budget, to domestic priorities. That's what President Obama campaigned on and won on."

The result is a federal government that would expand from about 20 percent of the nation's overall economy before the recession to about 22 percent after, a level matched only eight times since the end of World War II, primarily during the Reagan administration, said Brian Riedl, a budget analyst at the Heritage Foundation. With revenue projected to grow to about 19 percent of the economy, the Treasury would be forced to add to the massive borrowing it is doing now to finance various financial-sector bailouts.

Obama's budget plan projects that the Treasury will borrow a record $2.6 trillion this year, and another $1.1 trillion in 2010, leaving the nation deeper in debt than at any time since the 1950s.

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), a deficit hawk who chairs the Senate Budget Committee, said he is "very uncomfortable with the buildup of debt" and urged Obama to make good on his promise to overhaul federal retirement and health-care programs. Also, Conrad said, "More discipline on the spending side is also going to be required."


Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, an early backer of Barack Obama's White House bid, spoke at the Democratic National Convention in Denver last year. (By Win Mcnamee -- Getty Images)

In this Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2008 file photo, Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., left, and Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who endorsed Obama, greet supporters in Kansas City, Mo. A White House source says Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius is President Barack Obama's choice for secretary of health and human services. (AP Photo/Dick Whipple, file)

"Governor Of Kansas Tapped to Lead HHS: Sebelius Would Play Key Role In Health-Care Reform Plans"
By Michael A. Fletcher and Ceci Connolly, Washington Post Staff Writers, Sunday, March 1, 2009; A01

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius yesterday accepted President Obama's request to become his secretary of health and human services, stepping into a central role in the new administration's ambitious effort to overhaul the nation's health-care system.

Sebelius's nomination comes just days before the White House is scheduled to convene a summit on health reform, an early step in the president's bold plan to vastly expand the reach of the health-care system. A formal announcement of her nomination is scheduled for tomorrow.

The summit, which is expected to be the first in a series of open meetings across the country, is intended to spotlight the challenges presented by the nation's balkanized health-care system -- including soaring costs and gaping holes in coverage. It is also aimed at rallying public support for an overhaul certain to draw ideological and industry opposition. The health session, similar to last week's "fiscal responsibility" summit, will open with remarks by Obama. Participants will then split into working groups led by administration officials.

In his budget proposal unveiled last week, Obama set aside $634 billion for a new reserve fund that over the next decade would serve as a substantial down payment on the cost of moving the country closer to universal health-care coverage. About 46 million Americans lack coverage, a number likely to grow as the economic downturn puts more people out of work.

If confirmed by the Senate, Sebelius would fill a vital Cabinet position originally slated to go to former senator Thomas A. Daschle, who withdrew from consideration last month over his failure to pay $146,000 in back taxes and interest until he had been nominated for the post. The controversy prompted Obama to acknowledge that he had "screwed up."

Steering the costly changes through Congress, which would be a big part of Sebelius's portfolio, promises to be a complicated and politically charged task. The withdrawal of Daschle, a former Senate majority leader steeped in the byzantine ways of Congress as well as the intricacies of the nation's $2.3 trillion health-care system, delivered a significant blow to the administration as it prepared to launch its ambitious agenda on the topic.

Sebelius, 60, would inherit a sprawling department of 65,000 employees responsible for public health, food safety, scientific research, and the administration of the Medicare and Medicaid programs, which serve 90 million Americans. The solvency of the programs is yet another worry confronting the administration, which has vowed to take on entitlement reform. The department's budget, consumed largely by the two programs, exceeds $700 billion.

The Kansas governor served as state insurance commissioner for eight years and has overseen the Medicaid program for the poor during her tenure as governor. Sebelius tried unsuccessfully to expand health coverage in the state through higher cigarette taxes. Still, under her watch, Kansas has added tens of thousands of low-income children to state health programs.

As insurance commissioner, Sebelius rejected the sale of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas to an Indiana company, citing the prospect of higher premiums. The job, however, had little to do with the delivery of care or the achievement of the sort of quality improvements and efficiencies that Obama and policy experts speak of when describing a high-performing health-care system of the future.

More than a month into the administration, few Obama appointees have been placed in the Department of Health and Human Services, and the president has yet to name a chief for major health agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration or the National Institutes of Health.

"This evening, the president asked Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius to serve as his secretary of health and human services, and she accepted," an administration official said yesterday.

An administration source said it is likely that Obama will nominate someone else for a second post Daschle had created for himself: director of a new White House Office of Health Reform. One name mentioned for the job is former Clinton administration adviser Nancy-Ann DeParle, who would take over the effort to conceive, sell and implement a wide-ranging health-care overhaul.

Sebelius, the daughter of a former Ohio governor, is halfway through her second term as governor.

Although she lacks Washington experience, Sebelius is a veteran politician who learned the craft from her father, John J. Gilligan, and later her father-in-law, Keith Sebelius, a Kansas Republican who spent more than a decade in Congress. Kathleen Sebelius, a graduate of Trinity College in Washington, served eight years in the state legislature and was once a lobbyist for the Kansas Trial Lawyers Association.

Sebelius is known for reaching across the aisle in her Republican-dominated state, and in her first gubernatorial bid she chose a former Republican businessman as her running mate.

Sebelius, raised Roman Catholic in Ohio, has endured fierce and often personal criticism from antiabortion activists largely because she vetoed a bill that would have required doctors who perform late-term abortions to report a reason for the procedure. After the veto, the archbishop of Kansas City asked Sebelius to stop taking Communion.


"Big job awaits Kan. Gov. Sebelius as health chief"
By Ricardo Alonzo-Zaldivar, Associated Press Writer, March 1, 2009

WASHINGTON --As President Barack Obama's health secretary, Kathleen Sebelius immediately will face a host of difficult policy issues that touch the lives of every family.

Obama planned to introduce Sebelius, the Democrat governor of Kansas, on Monday as his nominee to lead the Health and Human Services Department. The announcement would come before the president this week hosts lawmakers of both parties and representatives of major interest groups, from insurers to drug companies to consumers, at a White House summit on health care reform.

If confirmed by the Senate, Sebelius will play a leading role in Obama's ambitious effort to overhaul the health care system. But critical problems await her at the department, a vast bureaucracy that handles everything from Medicare to cancer research and to food safety.

The recession has taken its toll on Medicare, which provides health care for older people and the disabled. Plunging tax revenues have weakened the program's giant hospital fund, accelerating its projected insolvency to as early as 2016, only five years after the first baby boomers start signing up for services.

The Food and Drug Administration, meantime, is reeling from a seemingly endless series of safety lapses.

Sebelius, 60, is seen as a steady hand, an experienced public official who knows how to work across political lines and is unfazed by the complexities of health care and insurance issues. But she represents Obama's backup plan.

Originally, the president had counted on former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle to shepherd his health overhaul agenda through Congress.

Daschle would have worn two hats: health secretary and head of a White House health reform office. He was on a first-name basis with most senators, where health care legislation faces its stiffest test.

Sebelius knows some of the key players, but will have to establish a working relationship with others. Obama plans to name a different person for the White House health care job, raising the prospect of tensions between that office and the health secretary's.

Prospects for Sebelius' confirmation appear to be good, although she faces sharp criticism from abortion opponents who clashed with her in Kansas. Kansas' two senators, both Republicans, offered words of praise.

"Obviously we will have different viewpoints than the administration on many issues including health care reform, especially given the huge price tag," said Sens. Pat Roberts and Sam Brownback. But despite "real concerns" about Obama's direction, they said they looked forward to being able to pick up the phone and talk directly with Sebelius about health care issues.

The health insurance industry and consumer groups have also responded favorably to Sebelius, a former state insurance commissioner.

Obama made his opening move on a health care overhaul last week with his speech to Congress and a budget that set aside $634 billion over 10 years as a down payment on coverage for all -- a goal that could ultimately cost $1 trillion or more. Now Congress will have to take the initiative.

Obama outlined some general policies, such as putting the country on a path to cover all its citizens and preserving the employer role in providing health insurance. His budget also showed it will take tough choices on spending cuts and tax increases to pay for health care.

But it will be up to Congress to turn those ideas into workable legislation. Democratic Sens. Max Baucus of Montana, the Finance Committee chairman, and Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, who leads the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, say they want to present legislation by the summer.

Before health care legislation gets moving, Sebelius' attention may well be diverted by problems at the department. The administration will have to move quickly to name an FDA commissioner, a decision delayed by the difficulty in filling the health secretary's job. A trustees' report due in the spring is expected to highlight the worsening condition of Medicare's finances.

HHS has some 65,000 employees and a budget of more than $700 billion a year. It oversees Medicare benefits as well as Medicaid, the federal-state program serving the poor. It also is a responsible for the nation's front-line scientific defenses against disease and bioterrorism, as well as for research into causes and cures for cancer and other illnesses.

Medicare is considered a foundation of the nation's $2.4 trillion health care system because many private insurance plans use its policies as a guide. It suffers from runaway costs and questionable quality, problems that plague the rest of the system. Some experts estimate that 30 percent or more of Medicare spending may be for services that provide little or no value to patients.

Obama wants to expand coverage while slowing the rate of increase in costs. Administration officials say they are hoping that in the end that will lead to a more affordable system, without the coverage gaps that leave an estimated 48 million people uninsured.


"Obama steadfast on healthcare: Calls reform broad imperative"
By Lisa Wangsness, Boston Globe Staff, March 6, 2009

WASHINGTON - President Obama yesterday presented his goal of fixing the healthcare system as a political imperative, as well as a moral and economic one: Americans, he said, will no longer stand for soaring costs that have bankrupted millions of families, hobbled businesses, and crowded out other public needs.

At a White House summit, Obama acknowledged that providing quality, affordable healthcare for everyone has eluded politicians for decades. But he described a kind of popular uprising, citing heart-wrenching letters he received from the public, painful stories he heard on the campaign trail, and comments, condensed into a glossy 120-page report, from more than 30,000 people who attended community meetings late last year. With such swelling demand for Washington to act, he said, "entrenched interests" can no longer stand in the way.

"This time, the call for reform is coming from the bottom up, and from all across the spectrum - from doctors, from nurses, from patients; from unions, from businesses; from hospitals, healthcare providers, community groups," the president said in opening the gathering. "This time, there is no debate about whether all Americans should have quality, affordable healthcare - the only question is, how?"

Though he repeatedly emphasized the need to compromise, Obama said he would not stand for a stalemate, which he said threatens the "very foundation of our economy."

"Those who seek to block any reform at all . . . will not prevail this time around," he said.

Signaling the enormous political task ahead, lawmakers and advocacy groups that have been preparing for this moment for months waged an early skirmish over one of the most contentious aspects of the health insurance fight: whether to create a Medicare-style public insurance plan for people under 65.

Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate, sent a letter to Obama signed by several other Republicans, including Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, saying that they would not support such a plan, which private insurers see as a potentially fatal blow to their industry, because it would "create an unlevel playing field and ultimately doom true competition."

In a conference call yesterday morning, Health Care for America Now, a coalition of about 800 liberal groups, declared it would fight to include a public insurance plan to help keep costs down. Later, in a statement, the group said it was "no surprise [Republicans] don't want choice if it threatens the profits of the private health insurance industry."

In a glimpse of how he might seek to negotiate thorny issues, Obama tried to accommodate both views.

"The thinking on the public option is that it gives the public more choices," Obama said near the end of the summit. But he also said he understood insurers' concern about unfair competition from a government plan.

The president also spoke pointedly to groups that are focused solely on covering all 47 million Americans without insurance. "If we don't address costs, I don't care how heartfelt our efforts are, we will not get this done," he said. "We'll run out of money. The federal government will be bankrupt."

In his budget last week, Obama set aside $634 billion over 10 years for healthcare, what he called a down payment on an overhaul that many analysts estimate will cost more than $1 trillion. The healthcare system now costs about $2.5 trillion a year, and is on track to consume one-fifth of the economy by 2018.

"Nothing is harder in politics than doing something now that costs money in order to gain benefits 20 years from now," Obama said.

His summit drew about 150 lawmakers and representatives of healthcare advocacy and industry groups; after the president's opening remarks, they broke into small groups to discuss approaches to changing the expensive and extraordinarily complex system. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs called the summit a "ceremonial first pitch" - not an effort to actually solve the crisis, but rather a chance to underscore its importance to the administration.

The diversity of participants - who included groups that favor a Canadian-style Medicare-for-all system as well as insurance industry and business groups - and the open discussion were markedly different from the atmosphere in 1993-'94, the last time a serious attempt to change healthcare was made, when the Clinton White House wrote a huge bill behind closed doors and many industry groups felt shut out of the process.

"What struck me is how committed everyone is to actually working together and getting this done," Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans, the largest health insurance lobby, said after the summit. "And that is a very, very different attitude than existed 15 years ago."

Although Obama made it clear his administration will set parameters for acceptable policy, he indicated he expects Congress to handle the initial writing of the bill. That effort is well underway in hearings and private meetings among senior senators and with lobbyists. Senator Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Representative Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, have said they hope to pass a bill by the end of the summer.

But lawmakers warned that it is the specifics that will determine the fate of a healthcare overhaul.

Senator Robert Bennett, a Utah Republican, said he recalled agreeing with "absolutely everything" President Clinton said in his 1993 address to Congress on healthcare - but almost nothing in his actual plan. "Bipartisanship is not just a nice thing we say to each other before we touch gloves go to our corners and come out swinging when the bell rings," Bennett said.

When Obama returned to the East Room after the small-group meetings for closing remarks, he was accompanied by Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who has made healthcare his signature issue. Kennedy, who is suffering from brain cancer, drew a lengthy standing ovation and a chorus of cheers when he appeared.

"That's the kind of greeting a knight deserves," President Obama said, referring to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's announcement Wednesday that Kennedy is receiving an honorary knighthood.

Obama also gave the first question to Kennedy, who returned to Washington for the first time since casting a key vote on the economic stimulus package last month.

Taking the microphone, Kennedy called the summit a "very special gathering," noting that all the different interests are represented.

"Now is the time for action," Kennedy said. "I'm looking forward to being a foot soldier in this undertaking, and this time we will not fail."

Obama picked up that theme.

"Let's just be clear," he concluded. "When times were good, we didn't get it done. When we had mild recessions, we didn't get it done. When we were in peacetime, we did not get it done. When we were at war, we did not get it done. There is always a reason not to do it."
Lisa Wangsness can be reached at

"US President Barack Obama to Overturn Ban on Federal Funding for Stem Cell Research on Monday, March 9, 2009" - ABC News has learned [3/6/2009, 3:51 p.m. ET]


"Obama to reverse stem cell limits: Plans to lift Bush's ban on federal funds"
By Carolyn Y. Johnson and Joseph Williams, Boston Globe Staff, March 7, 2009

President Obama plans to sign an executive order on Monday overturning his predecessor's restrictions on stem cell research, and scientists in the Boston area and nationally reacted with a mix of excitement and relief at the prospect of expanded funding.

The White House sent out an e-mail yesterday saying it was planning a ceremony "on stem cells and restoring scientific integrity to the government process. At the event the president will sign an executive order related to stem cells."

Sources in Washington said the order would lift the restrictions on federal funding of research using human embryonic stem cells, which were put in place by President George W. Bush in August 2001.

Obama had promised during his campaign to reverse the policy early in his presidency, and stem cell researchers hailed and welcomed the change as a significant boost for a field that holds the tantalizing possibility of eventually growing replacement tissues for patients, but that has been mired in ethical and political debate.

Opponents of the research blasted the presi dent yesterday, saying the work is unethical because it involves destruction of human embryos and that many advances have been made in the field despite the funding restrictions.

Bush's executive order banned federal funding of research on embryonic stem cell lines created after Aug. 9, 2001. Scientists, who typically depend on federal money for basic research, were limited to using 21 lines of stem cells, and some of those turned out to be unsuitable for research. Stem cell researchers had to find private sources of money to continue most of the work.

Scientists say the lack of federal funding caused young researchers to shy away from the work, limited research to institutions and states that were able to raise their own funds, and forced researchers to keep two sets of expensive equipment, one for their federally funded research and the other for privately supported work.

"This will be an enormous relief, because of the enormous constraints under which we've operated," said Douglas Melton, co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, one of the places where research has continued because of collaboration between scientists, hospitals, and donors. "What I very much hope is that researchers who have been unable to study these cells will now be excited by the fact they are accessible and can be used in labs all over the US."

Amy Comstock Rick, president of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research, an advocacy group that supports embryonic stem cell research, said she received an invitation to the Monday event.

"We certainly know it's a stem cell event, and it's our every expectation and wish that it's where Obama will sign an executive order completely rescinding" Bush's policy, Rick said. "We're pretty excited and happy."

The move to open up the research to federal funding comes at an opportune moment. The National Institutes of Health received $8.2 billion for research in the stimulus package passed last month, and stem cell researchers look forward to applying for grants from that pot.

Stem cell opponents said an expansion of federal funding for stem cell research was unacceptable.

"I think that we would be witnessing a situation where the federal government, while not directly financing the destruction of embryonic humans, would nevertheless become complicit in the destruction of those humans," said Reverend Tadeusz Pacholczyk, director of education for the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia.

Human embryonic stem cells are extracted from embryos, often ones obtained from fertility clinics. They have the capacity to develop into any tissue in the body, such as insulin-producing cells that could one day be used to treat diabetics or neurons that might be used to repair spinal cord injuries.

Critics of the use of embryonic stem cells note that scientists have recently developed methods to create cells that behave like embryonic stem cells, by reprogramming skin cells instead of using embryos.

Thomas Murray, president of the Hastings Center, a nonpartisan bioethics research center, said care would have to be taken to ensure that embryonic stem cell lines were derived in a responsible way, including not paying women for their eggs, and getting fully informed consent of egg donors.

"So I think with those sorts of protections, I would today continue to support embryonic stem cell research and federal funding of embryonic stem cell research," Murray said.

Even without federal funding, the research has continued at places like Harvard, where donors pitched in to support the research. It also garnered support from states, including California and Massachusetts. This fall, the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, the quasi-public agency that is the steward of the state's $1 billion investment in biotechnology, gave $8 million to support a stem cell bank and international stem cell registry at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester.

Dr. Robert Lanza, chief scientific officer of the beleaguered Worcester stem cell company Advanced Cell Technology, said ever since Obama was elected, it has been easier to raise money, and predicted that a reversal of the restrictions would help research outside academia, too.

"Hallelujah, this marks the end of a long and repressive chapter in scientific history," Lanza said. "It will not only impact research in the laboratory, but it finally lifts the black cloud that has hovered over this research for so long."

The biggest impact, however, might be to let stem cell science move beyond the borders of the institutions and states that have managed to support the work.

"As much as I'd like to think Harvard has some claim on genius, it certainly doesn't have a monopoly," said Dr. David Scadden, co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute. "It would be great to see the field now blossom - this area does capture people's imaginations."

Scadden, who said his lab was filled with duplicate equipment marked with stickers signaling which equipment was federally funded (red) and which was not (green), said that the end of the restrictions would call for a special kind of graffiti.

"I think we're actually going to annotate them now, and put some celebratory sticker on top of them," Scadden said. "Something that says, 'We're back.' "
Carolyn Y. Johnson can be reached at

"Embryonic stems cells, the ultimate master cell"
By Reuters, March 6, 2009

President Barack Obama will sign an executive order Monday concerning limits on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.

Following are some facts about stem cells and the politics surrounding their use.

.. Stem cells are the body's master cells, the source of all cells and tissue, like brain, blood, heart, bones and muscles.

.. Embryonic stem cells come from days-old embryos and can transform into any type of cell in the body.

.. Scientists generally harvest embryonic stem cells from embryos left over after in-vitro fertilization attempts at fertility clinics. They can also be produced using cloning technology.

.. Scientists hope to harness the transformational qualities of stem cells to treat a variety of diseases, including brain cells for Parkinson's disease, pancreatic cells for diabetes and nerve cells for spinal-cord injuries.

.. The issue is controversial because some people believe the destruction of any human embryo is wrong.

.. U.S. legislation called the Dickey Amendment forbids the use of federal funds for the creation or destruction of human embryos for research.

.. In 1998, soon after human embryonic stem cells were discovered, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services determined that the Dickey Amendment did not apply to researchers working with stem cells so long as they did not get the cells themselves from human embryos.

.. In August 2001, President George W. Bush declared otherwise and limited the use of federal funds to stem cell lines, or batches, that existed as of that moment -- not by executive order, as widely reported. He vetoed several congressional attempts to override this decision.

.. The issue does not fall clearly along party lines. Strongly conservative Republicans who oppose abortion such as Utah Senator Orrin Hatch have backed broader federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research for years.

.. Britain, Belgium, Sweden, Canada and New Zealand actively encourage embryonic stem-cell research. Austria, Lithuania and Poland have laws banning research into human embryonic stem-cell research.

.. Researchers have discovered how to make embryonic-like cells from ordinary cells, called induced pluripotent stem cells, which may be more acceptable to some people.

"My Daily Work": "Budget backbones"
The Boston Globe, Posted by Dan Wasserman, March 10, 2009, 3:42 P.M.

"Analysis: Govt.'s recovery plans sowing some unease"
By Tom Raum, Associated Press Writer, March 7, 2009

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama offered his domestic-policy proposals as a "break from a troubled past." But the economic outlook now is more troubled than it was even in January, despiteObama'sboldrhetoric and commitment of more trillions of dollars.

And while his personal popularity remains high, some economists and lawmakers are beginning to question whether Obama's agenda of increased government activism is helping, or hurting, by sowing uncertainty among businesses, investors and consumers that could prolong the recession.

Although the administration likes to say it "inherited" the recession and trillion-dollar deficits, the economic wreckage has worsened on Obama's still-young watch.

Every day, the economy is becoming more and more an Obama economy.

More than 4 million jobs have been lost since the recession began in December 2007 -- roughly half in the past three months.

Stocks have tumbled to levels not seen since 1997. They are down more than 50 percent from their 2007 highs and 20 percent since Obama's inauguration.

The president's suggestion that it was a good time for investors with "a long-term perspective" to buy stocks may have been intended to help lift battered markets. But a big sell-off followed.

Presidents usually don't talk about the stock market. But the dynamics are different now.

A higher percentage of people have more direct exposure to stocks -- including through 401(k) and other retirement plans -- than ever.

So a tumbling stock market is adding to the national angst as households see the value of their investments and homes plunge as job losses keep rising.

Some once mighty companies such as General Motors and Citigroup are little more than penny stocks.

Many health care stocks are down because of fears of new government restrictions and mandates as part a health care overhaul. Private student loan providers were pounded because of the increased government lending role proposed by Obama. Industries that use oil and other carbon-based fuels are being shunned, apparently in part because of Obama's proposal for fees on greenhouse-gas polluters.

Makers of heavy road-building and other construction equipment have taken a hit, partly because of expectations of fewer public works jobs here and globally than first anticipated.

"We've got a lot of scared investors and business people. I think the uncertainty is a real killer here," said Chris Edwards, director of fiscal policy for the libertarian Cato Institute.

Some Democrats, worried over where Obama is headed, are suggesting he has yet to match his call for "bold action and big ideas" with deeds.

In particular, they point to bumpy efforts to fix the financial system under Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

Obama may have contributed to the national anxiety by first warning of "catastrophe" if his stimulus plan was not passed and in setting high expectations for Geithner. Instead, Geithner's public performance has been halting and he's been challenged by lawmakers of both parties.

Republicans and even some top Democrats, including Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, have questioned the wisdom of Obama's proposal to limit tax deductions for higher-income people on mortgage interest and charitable contributions.

Charities have strongly protested, saying times already are tough enough for them. The administration suggests it might back off that one.

Even White House claims that its policies will "create" or "save" 3.5 million jobs have been questioned by Democratic supporters.

"You created a situation where you cannot be wrong," the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Montana Democrat Max Baucus, told Geithner last week.

"If the economy loses 2 million jobs over the next few years, you can say yes, but it would've lost 5.5 million jobs. If we create a million jobs, you can say, well, it would have lost 2.5 million jobs," Baucus said. "You've given yourself complete leverage where you cannot be wrong, because you can take any scenario and make yourself look correct."

Republicans assert that Obama's proposals, including the "cap and trade" fees on polluters to combat global warming, would raise taxes during a recession that could touch everyone. "Herbert Hoover tried it, and we all know where that led," says House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio.

The administration argues its tax increases for the households earning over $250,000 a year and fees on carbon polluters contained in its budget won't kick in until 2011-2012, when it forecasts the economy will have fully recovered.

But even those assumptions are challenged as too rosy by many private forecasters and some Democratic lawmakers.

Many deficit hawks also worry that the trillions of federal dollars being doled out by the administration, Congress and the Federal Reserve could sow the seeds of inflation down the road, whether the measures succeed in taming the recession or not. The money includes Obama's $3.6 trillion budget and the $837 billion stimuluspackagehesignedlast month.

Polls show that Obama's personal approval ratings, generally holding in the high 60s, remain greater than support for his specific policies.

"He still has a fair amount of political capital, so the public is willing to cut him some slack and go along with him for a while," said pollster Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center. "But the public will have to get some sense that the kinds of things he's proposing are going to work, or are showing some signs that they are working."

Allan Sinai, chief global economist for Decision Economics, a Boston-area consulting firm, said the complexity and enormity of the crisis make it hard to solve.

"There's no way to get it all right, regardless of which president is making policy," Sinai said. "The problem is the sickness got too far. The actions taken, medicine applied, were mainly the wrong actions. So it's just worse, and it gets harder to deal with. At this stage, there is no easy answer, no easy way out. It's a questionofhowwefumble through."
EDITOR'SNOTE--Tom Raum has covered Washington for The Associated Press since 1973, frequently reporting on the economy.

The Boston Globe, Op-Ed, NANCY-ANN DEPARLE
"Ready to act on healthcare"
By Nancy-Ann DeParle, March 11, 2009

LAST WEEK, President Obama took a bold step on healthcare: He brought together a wide array of people who have a stake in the healthcare system with the people who have the ability to change it.

Some have suggested that we should put off fixing the system because times are tough; that we can't afford to tackle healthcare until we fix the economy. The reality is that if we want to fix the economy, we can't afford not to tackle healthcare.

As the president said in his opening remarks Thursday, "Healthcare reform is no longer just a moral imperative, it is a fiscal imperative. If we want to create jobs and rebuild our economy, then we must address the crushing cost of healthcare this year, in this administration."

Exploding costs are bankrupting families and burdening businesses, dragging down state and local budgets, and piling up our national debt. The time to act is now.

Reform won't be easy. Obama acknowledged that his predecessors - beginning with President Teddy Roosevelt - had tried unsuccessfully to tackle this issue. But he also offered his belief that this time it will be different: "This time, there is no debate about whether all Americans should have quality, affordable healthcare - the only question is how."

As a participant in the 1993-'94 health reform effort, I can say that this time, it feels different already.

Thursday's forum participants came from all sides of the debate. They were Democrats and Republicans; members of Congress and constituents; businesses and labor unions; hospitals, doctors, patients, and insurance companies. People who worked to pass healthcare reform a decade ago strategized with those who worked to defeat it. And while they certainly didn't all agree on every aspect of how to fix the system, they all agreed that the one thing we cannot do is continue on the current course.

Fifteen years ago, many felt that if they couldn't have exactly the change they wanted, their second choice was no change at all. Last week, there were no defenders of the status quo. More than one Republican member of Congress agreed with the principles the president laid out for reform. Even a representative of the insurance companies that famously played such a huge role in killing reform in the 1990s pledged the industry's cooperation this time around.

In the past month alone, there has been important progress toward the goal of providing affordable, high-quality healthcare to all Americans. The children's health bill the president signed provides and protects coverage for 11 million children, while the Recovery Act ensures that 7 million men and women who have lost their jobs through this recession can keep their insurance. It also made critical investments in electronic medical records, prevention programs, and funding for research on the effectiveness of care.

But there is much more work left to do. That's why we held the forum on Thursday. It's why we opened it up to the American people by live-streaming the discussions on the Web and why we'll hold similar forums all over the country. And it's why the president has submitted a budget that sets aside a $634 billion down payment on health reform that is fully paid for and does not add one penny to the deficit.

With a focus on cutting costs, expanding coverage, and improving the quality of healthcare, and with the new sense of urgency across the spectrum, as Senator Kennedy said on Thursday, "this time we will not fail."
Nancy-Ann DeParle is director of the White House Office for Health Reform.

"Deval Patrick headed for Vermont for health care forum"
By Associated Press, Wednesday, March 11, 2009,, Healthcare

BOSTON — Gov. Deval Patrick is traveling to Vermont to help lead a White House forum on health care.

The Democrat will join with Gov. Jim Douglas next Tuesday to talk about his experience with a universal health care law in Massachusetts.

President Barack Obama has said he wants to pass legislation this year that will provide health insurance to the 45 million Americans who currently lack it. Massachusetts has dramatically lowered its number of uninsured since enacting its health care law in 2006.

The state’s experience has prompted interest by the White House in Jon Kingsdale. He’s executive director of the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority.
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The Boston Globe, Op-Ed, SCOT LEHIGH
"Obama a socialist? Not quite"
By Scot Lehigh, Boston Globe Columnist, March 11, 2009

OF ALL THE inane accusations about President Obama, the silliest has to be this: The president is a socialist.

Obama's plans are "one big down payment on a new American socialist experiment," asserts House minority leader John Boehner. He's "the world's best salesman of socialism," says Republican Senator Jim DeMint.

"Lenin and Stalin would love this stuff," declares Mike Huckabee. Sean Hannity derides his agenda as "socialism you can believe in." Obama is "a radical communist," warns kooky Alan Keyes.

"Epithets are substituting for thinking," observes Marc Landy, professor of political science at Boston College.

Are they ever.

That has long been the case across vast realms of conservative talk radio, of course. I recently heard one of our local luminaries who regularly accuses Obama of Marxism offering a similar sort of indispensable insight on another critical issue: Michelle Obama's appearance during her husband's speech to Congress. The first lady's face resembled that of a camel, while her body looked like the Liberty Bell wrapped in purple, said WTKK's Jay Severin, who, hilariously, fancies himself a political polymath leading a rarefied radio discussion. (Severin imagines any number of things about himself that are at considerable variance with the truth.)

So let's examine the matter. One defining aspect of socialism is state ownership, control, or direction of the economy. Think of Hugo Chavez nationalizing steel, cement, power, and telecommunications firms in Venezuela, and assuming control over foreign oil projects. Or of Francois Mitterrand nationalizing six of France's largest industrial conglomerates, plus dozens of the country's largest banks and investment houses, during his presidency.

By contrast, despite the excuse of a crisis, Obama has resisted calls from both left and right to temporarily nationalize teetering banks. Similarly, if Obama were a socialist, crypto or otherwise, he would surely be proposing government-run healthcare, rather than an expansion that builds upon our current hybrid model.

Nor does his agenda compare to the democratic socialism of countries like Denmark or Sweden, which have high taxation across a wide swath of the population to fund a generous system of social benefits.

"What Obama even in his wildest moments is proposing is way short of that," notes Landy.

What's really causing conservative conniptions is that Obama wants to tax top earners more and spend some of that revenue on benefits - healthcare, education, tax cuts, etc. - for others. His mortgage plan has drawn similar ire.

But if he prevails, the two top income tax rates - 36 and 39.6 percent - would still be well below those the country had for much of the last six decades. The top rates were 90 percent or more from the mid-1940s until the mid-1960s. They remained above 65 percent from the mid-1960s until Ronald Reagan's presidency, when they were first cut to the 48 to 50 percent range and later to 28 percent with a "bubble" bracket that taxed some income at 33 percent.

Taxes rose under both George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. During Clinton's presidency, the top rates were set at 36 and 39.6 percent. George W. Bush's tax cuts reduced those rates to 33 and 35 percent. When those tax cuts expire, Obama favors letting the top rates revert to 36 and 39.6 percent.

That historical perspective gives the lie to the notion that the president wants to impose an unprecedented level of taxation. Add in his other revenue-raisers, and he would clearly be more progressive than Clinton, but well within the tradition of FDR and LBJ.

It's ambitious liberalism, without a doubt. But socialism, with all that conjures up? Hardly.

"For upper-income taxpayers, marginal tax rates on ordinary income would return to Clinton-era levels," says Rosanne Altshuler, co-director of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. "Taxes on capital gains would be lower or the same as the top capital gains rate under Ronald Reagan, while taxes on dividends would be significantly lower than under Reagan."

So why do Obama's ideologicial opponents persist in the socialist canard?

Simple: It's far easier to gull people with politically freighted terms than it is to argue actual facts.
Scot Lehigh can be reached at

"Obama OKs ‘imperfect’ spending bill, with earmarks"
By Associated Press, Wednesday, March 11, 2009,, Business & Markets

WASHINGTON - Calling it an "imperfect" bill, President Barack Obama signed a $410 billion spending package Wednesday that includes billions in earmarks like those he promised to curb in last year’s campaign. He insisted the bill must signal an "end to the old way of doing business."

The massive measure supporting federal agencies through the fall contains nearly 8,000 pet projects, earmarked by sponsors though denounced by critics.

Obama defended earmarks when they’re "done right," allowing lawmakers to direct money to worthy projects in their districts. But he said they’ve been abused, and he promised to work with Congress to curb them.

"I am signing an imperfect omnibus bill because it’s necessary for the ongoing functions of government," Obama declared. "But I also view this as a departure point for more far-reaching change."

In a sign of his discomfort with the bill, Obama signed it in private. He declined to answer a shouted reporter’s question about why.

Obama also released a "signing statement" in which he said several of the bill’s provisions raised constitutional concerns. This week, Obama criticized his predecessor, George W. Bush, for frequently issuing such statements upon signing bills into law. Bush attached the statements to legislation he viewed as placing unconstitutional limits on executive power.

Running for president, Obama denounced the many pet projects as wasteful and open to abuse — and vowed reform.

He said Wednesday that future earmarks must have a "legitimate and worthy public purpose" and that any earmark for a private company should be subject to competitive bidding rules. He said he would "work with Congress" to eliminate any the administration objects to.

He acknowledged that the system of influential lawmakers inserting earmarked projects has bred cynicism, and he declared, "This piece of legislation must mark an end to the old way of doing business."

White House officials in recent weeks have dismissed criticism of the earmarks in the bill, saying the legislation was a remnant of last year and that the president planned to turn his attention to future spending instead of looking backward.

Obama’s modest reform proposals build upon changes initiated by Republicans in 2006 and strengthened by Democrats two years ago. Most importantly, every earmark and its sponsor would have to be made public.

In new steps — outlined in concert with House Democratic leaders Wednesday morning — the House Appropriations Committee will submit every earmark to the appropriate executive branch agency for a review. And any earmark designed to go to for-profit companies would have to be awarded through competitive bidding.

Obama promised to resurrect a long-defunct process by which the president proposes to cut spending from bills that he has signed into law.

Under this "rescissions" process, the White House sends Congress a roster of cuts for its consideration. Congress is free to ignore the cuts, but both Obama and senior members including Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., say they want to use it to clean out bad earmarks that make it through the process.

Obama declined to endorse a stronger process advocated by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and others that would require Congress to vote on a presidential rescission earmark package. Senior Democrats dislike the idea even though many of them backed it in the early- to mid-1990s.

During his presidential campaign, Obama promised to force Congress to curb its pork-barrel-spending ways. Yet the bill sent from the Democratic-controlled Congress to the White House on Tuesday contained 7,991 earmarks totaling $5.5 billion, according to calculations by the Republican staff of the House Appropriations Committee.

The 1,132-page bill has an extraordinary reach, wrapping together nine spending bills to fund the annual operating budgets of every Cabinet department except Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs. Among the many earmarks are $485,000 for a boarding school for at-risk native students in western Alaska and $1.2 million for Helen Keller International so the nonprofit can provide eyeglasses to students with poor vision.

Most of the government has been running on a stopgap funding bill set to expire at midnight Wednesday. Refusing to sign the newly completed spending bill would have forced Congress to pass another bill to keep the lights on Thursday or else shut down the massive federal government. That was an unlikely possibility for a president who has spent just seven weeks in office.

The $410 billion bill includes significant increases in food aid for the poor, energy research and other programs. It was supposed to have been completed last fall, but Democrats opted against election-year battles with Republicans and former President George W. Bush.
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"Obama: Help coming for those facing economic pain" - ap - March 13, 2009

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama on Friday acknowledged that many families are suffering "incredible pain" from the economy but said his government is on a daily campaign to get credit flowing and build a long-term recovery.

"If we are keeping focused on all the fundamentally sound aspects of our economy — all the outstanding companies, workers, all the innovation and dynamism in this economy — then we're going to get through this," Obama told reporters in the Oval Office. "And I'm very confident about that."

Obama spoke after meeting with economic adviser Paul Volcker and members of his business advisory board. The president largely recapped his agenda of trying to stimulate the economy, shore up banks and deal with home foreclosure.

He said more help will be announced soon for small businesses, but did not elaborate.

Pushing a big agenda for health care, energy and education, Obama said he was seeking a "post-bubble economic growth model."

"The days when we are going to be able to grow this economy just on an overheated housing market or people maxing out on their credit cards, those days are over," he said.

The president spoke on the same day that his top economic adviser, National Economic Council Director Lawrence Summers, said that the economic crisis has led to an "excess of fear" among Americans that must be quieted to reverse the downturn.

Asked to elaborate on Summers' point, Obama pivoted optimistically to the "undiminished capacity" of American workers, businesses and universities.

"We've got to get through this difficult period," he said. "And, look, there are a lot of individual families who are experiencing incredible pain and hardship right now. If you've been laid off at your job, if you've lost your home, then, you know, right now is very tough. But we're providing help along the way."


A BOSTON GLOBE EDITORIAL: Short Fuse, March 15, 2009

"Taxes: The return of fuzzy math"

It's a claim that greets any proposed income tax hike: This will be devastating to small businesses. We heard it in the presidential campaign (Who can forget Joe the Plumber?) and we're hearing it again now that President Obama has formally proposed letting the Bush tax cuts expire for those with incomes over $250,000. But a recent study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities puts the issue in proper perspective. Only 8.9 percent of people with small businesses have gross incomes of more than $250,000. What's more, only 1.9 percent of those with small-business income currently fall into a tax bracket that would rise. That hardly looks like a knockout blow to the small-business sector.

"Educationese: Incensed at 'incent'"

Arne Duncan comes to Washington with impressive education-reform credentials. But it's clear that President Obama appointed the former Chicago schools chief as secretary of education, not secretary of vivid expression. In a recent WBUR radio interview, Duncan talked of the need to "incent" excellent teachers and principals. In a speech last month, he vowed to "incent" better data collection. Call us old-fashioned, but what's wrong with simply encouraging these things? Duncan's word choice is an occupational hazard; from "critical thinking" to "English language learners," the education field is overgrown with rote buzzwords. Adults should help - for starters - by speaking in plain English.


"Republicans criticize Obama’s budget plan"
By Associated Press, Saturday, March 14, 2009,, U.S. Politics

WASHINGTON — Republicans are trying to build on some bipartisan misgivings over President Barack Obama’s ambitious spending blueprint, claiming that the deficits and taxes he envisions are "destroying opportunities for the next generation."

"The president and his allies in Congress want to spend too much, tax too much, and borrow too much," Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa says in the Republicans’ weekly radio address. "Somebody has to pay — if not the middle class now, then later. Eventually the middle class gets hit."

Grassley said Obama’s budget proposal to raise taxes, starting in 2011, on individuals earning more than $200,000 and on households earning more than $250,000 will hurt small businesses.

"These small businesses happen to create 74 percent of all new private sector jobs in the United States," Grassley said. "Tell these business owners their taxes will go up. Odds are, they’ll cut spending. They’ll cancel orders for new equipment, cut health insurance for their employees, stop hiring, and lay people off."

He also said Obama’s proposal for mandatory limits on carbon dioxide emissions to combat climate change will lead to higher energy costs and amount to an "average hidden tax increase of around $3,000 per household a year." The Obama administration maintains that revenue from auctioning off carbon emission allowances would offset much of the higher energy costs for many Americans.

In the past week, Obama’s proposals for major health care, energy and education changes amid a recession faced skepticism from both Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill. North Dakota Sen. Kent Conrad, the Democratic chairman of the Budget Committee, called the track of future deficits "unsustainable."

Obama is projecting a federal deficit of $1.75 trillion this year, by far the largest in history, but says he can get it down to $533 billion by 2013.

On Saturday, Grassley criticized Obama’s proposals for tax increases as failing "to connect all the dots." The senator said the major tax increases will only force people to drop out of the work force, reducing tax revenue to pay down the deficit.

"There’s evidence that the president and his people understand this, even if their budget doesn’t show it," Grassley said. "They say they don’t want to raise taxes until 2011 because the economy is too weak. ... Well, if the president admits that tax increases hurt the economy, that will be true in two years as it is true today."
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David Petraeus, Commander, US Central Command. (Photo by AP)

"General Petraeus: No Iraq-style surge in Afghanistan"
By Associated Press, Saturday, March 14, 2009,, Middle East

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — The commander of the U.S. Central Command said Friday that an Iraq-style surge cannot be a solution to the problems in Afghanistan.

Gen. David Petraeus, speaking before about 800 people at an event sponsored by the World Affairs Council, acknowledged that the situation in Afghanistan has been spiraling downward and is likely to get worse before it gets better.

In a speech that also touched on issues ranging from the nuclear threat in Iraq to pirates off Somalia, Petraeus said more resources are needed in Afghanistan, both military and especially civil to help build a stable government there.

"The secretary of defense and I are among the biggest champions with members of Congress for increasing the resourcing for the State Department and the Agency for International Development," he said.

The U.S.-led invasion of Aghanistan ousted the Islamist Taliban regime in 2001, but the militant movement has regained control of large swaths of the country. U.S. and NATO forces have been unable to reverse the gains.

Petraeus blamed the problems on a resilient "syndicate of extremists," financing from the drug trade, safe havens in Pakistan and frustration with the slow development of the country’s fledgling government.

"We must help our Afghan partners create the breathing space that’ll allow the people to stand up for themselves as the Iraqi people did during the awakening movements there," he said. "That also will allow the government to begin working for its people and begin providing essential services, instead of just struggling to survive."

Last month, President Barack Obama ordered 17,000 more U.S. troops to bolster the record 38,000 American forces already in Afghanistan, a likely down payment on the request by ground commanders to double the U.S. force to 60,000.

But Petraeus said a large military surge like the one in Iraq would not work in Afghanistan because there is not enough infrastructure on the ground to handle one, and because it is imperative that Afghans not view coalition forces as conquerors.

"You do need to tenaciously pursue the enemy and the extremists," Petraeus said. "But you also need to be building, and to develop, and to assist, and to help and to partner."
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President Barack Obama intends to name former New York City Health Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, pictured, to lead the troubled Food and Drug Administration, a source close to Hamburg said Wednesday. (Photo by AP (file)

"Obama announces FDA picks, food safety measures"
By Associated Press, Saturday, March 14, 2009,, Business & Markets

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama says the nation’s decades-old food safety system is a "hazard to public health" and in need of an overhaul, starting with the selection of a new head of the federal Food and Drug Administration.

Obama used his weekly radio and video address to announce the nomination of former New York City Health Commissioner Margaret Hamburg as FDA commissioner, and his choice of Baltimore Health Commissioner Joshua Sharfstein as her deputy.

The president also said he was creating a Food Safety Working Group to coordinate food safety laws throughout government and advise him on how to update them. Many of these laws, essential to safeguarding the public from disease, haven’t been touched since they were written in the time of President Theodore Roosevelt, he said.

Obama said the food safety system is too spread out, making it difficult to share information and solve problems.

He also blamed recent underfunding and understaffing at FDA that has left the agency unable to conduct annual inspections of more than a fraction of the 150,000 food processing plants and warehouses in the country.

"That is a hazard to public health. It is unacceptable. And it will change under the leadership of Dr. Margaret Hamburg," Obama pledged.

Hamburg, 53, is a well-known bioterrorism expert. She was an assistant health secretary under President Bill Clinton and helped lay the groundwork for the government’s bioterrorism and flu pandemic preparations.

As New York City’s top health official in the early 1990s, she created a program that cut high rates of drug-resistant tuberculosis.

She is the daughter of two doctors. Her mother was the first black woman to earn a medical degree from Yale University, and she credits her Jewish father for instilling in her a passion for public health.

Sharfstein, 39, is a pediatrician who has challenged the FDA on the safety of over-the-counter cold medicines for children. He also served as a health policy aide to Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who plays a leading role in overseeing the pharmaceutical industry.

Both are doctors and outsiders to the troubled agency who will face the daunting challenge of trying to turn it around.

Hamburg’s appointment requires Senate confirmation; Sharfstein’s does not.

Obama said while he doesn’t believe government has the answer to every problem, there are certain things that only government can do such as "ensuring that the foods we eat and the medicines we take are safe and don’t cause us harm."

"Protecting the safety of our food and drugs is one of the most fundamental responsibilities government has," he said.

Obama cited a string of breakdowns in assuring food safety in recent years from contaminated spinach in 2006 to salmonella in peppers and possibly tomatoes last year. This year, a massive salmonella outbreak in peanut products has sickened more than 600 people, is suspected of causing nine deaths and led to one of the largest product recalls in U.S. history.

These cases are a "painful reminder of how tragic the consequences can be when food producers act irresponsibly and government is unable to do its job," Obama said, noting that contaminated food outbreaks have more than tripled to nearly 350 a year from 100 incidents annually in the early 1990s.

The FDA’s work will be part of the larger effort undertaken by the Food Safety Working Group.

Obama also announced a complete ban on the slaughter of cows too sick or weak to stand on their own, to keep them out of the food supply. So-called "downer" cows are at increased risk for mad cow disease, E. coli and other infections, partly because they typically wallow in feces.

Downer cattle are already mostly banned from slaughter, but the new rule would end an exception or loophole that allowed some "downer" cattle into the food supply if they passed an additional veterinary inspection.

Obama’s action finalizes a rule announced last year following the nation’s largest beef recall, which involved a slaughterhouse in Chino, Calif., where downer cows entered the food supply.

Obama said he takes food safety seriously not just as a president, but as the parent of daughters 10 and 7 years old.

When he learned of the peanut product recall, Obama said he immediately thought of his younger daughter, Sasha, who eats peanut butter sandwiches several times a week.

"No parent should have to worry that their child is going to get sick from their lunch," he said.
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The Boston Globe, Op-Ed, MARIANNE LEONE
"Special needs aren't funny, Mr. Obama"
By Marianne Leone, March 21, 2009

PRESIDENT OBAMA made an off-the-teleprompter remark on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" on Thursday that wasn't the least bit funny. Joking that his bowling skills were "like the Special Olympics" was one of those knife-in-the-heart moments that parents of mentally challenged children live with every day.

Obama's presidency was hailed for breaking stereotypes. We have had a disabled president - Franklin Delano Roosevelt - but the fact that he used a wheelchair was kept hidden.

Now we have a "cool" president, and racial slurs are supposed to be banished forever, but it's still OK to make fun of "retards." After all, our president does it. On national television.

All over the progressive blogosphere, the Obama supporters who retired to the fainting couch over racial slights are quick to tell the disabled community to "get over it."

A poll on the Huffington Post has 28 percent agreeing it was "just a light-hearted, self-deprecating comment. Get over it, people." Twenty-six percent agreed that it was "Maybe a dumb thing to say, but he didn't mean it in a mean-spirited way, and it is pretty funny." And 23 percent wondered, "Why are we even talking about this?"

We're talking about this because words have power, and because Obama promised change, and to be a leader, not a comedian.

There is little doubt that we'll be seeing lots of wheelchairs in photo ops at the White House in the coming weeks and Michelle Obama will have her arms around a lot of children with Down syndrome. But no stereotypes will have been broken by this new president in the area of public perception of children with disabilities. Not when they are used as a punch line on national television in a "joke."

Obama apologized to the chairman of the Special Olympics, Tim Shriver, who regards this gaffe as a "teachable moment." But here's what Obama should learn from this: Stop your cringe-inducing attempts at humor, and try to bring about the change you promised when I voted for you. And don't go off the teleprompter again anytime soon. It makes you sound. . . not so smart.
Marianne Leone is an actress and writer living on the South Shore.

President Obama's ''joke'' was a knife-in-the-heart moment for many parents. (Larry Downing/Reuters)


"Obama apologizes for Special Olympics joke on TV: Press aide: Comment was 'thoughtless'"
By Boston Globe Staff & Associated Press, March 21, 2009

Going on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" was always a risk for President Obama, whose calm, but usually serious demeanor is one of his biggest assets as he tries to steer the country through the economic crisis.

And then one of his attempts at humor Thursday night ended up causing offense - and necessitating an immediate apology.

Leno asked whether the White House bowling alley had been closed down to be replaced by a basketball court.

"No, no. I have been practicing," Obama replied as the audience laughed. "I bowled a 129."

"That's very good, Mr. President," Leno said.

Obama joked, "It was like Special Olympics, or something."

On his way back to Washington on Air Force One, Obama called the chairman of the Special Olympics, Tim Shriver, to say he was sorry.

"He expressed his disappointment and he apologized in a way that was very moving. He expressed that he did not intend to humiliate this population," Shriver said yesterday on ABC's "Good Morning America."

But the president's remarks have caused "enormous pain" among families who take part in Special Olympics, Shriver said later yesterday on MSNBC. "Many people are just heartbroken," Shriver said.

He said the comment shows that much more education needs to be done, noting that Leno and the studio audience laughed, and said he hopes it will be a "teachable moment."

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said yesterday that Obama believes that the Special Olympics are "a triumph of the human spirit" and described the remark as "a thoughtless joke."

In the phone call, the president invited some Special Olympic athletes to visit the White House to bowl or play basketball, and in a statement, Shriver also urged Obama to consider hiring a Special Olympics athlete to work in the White House to "help end misperceptions about the talents and abilities of people with intellectual disabilities, and demonstrate their dignity and value to the world."

Shriver is the son of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who founded the group in 1968. His sister, Maria Shriver, a longtime Obama supporter, said laughing at the president's comments "hurts millions of people throughout the world."

The Arc of Massachusetts, the state's largest advocacy group for people with developmental disabilities, also expressed its disappointment for what it called Obama's "unfortunate and insensitive comments."

"This is proof, as President Obama has said himself, that words do matter," the group said in a statement. "While President Obama can't take his comments back, what he can do is help ensure that people with disabilities get the assistance they need."

The gaffe was another sign that basketball, not bowling, is Obama's sport. During the run-up to the Pennsylvania primary last April, he tried to show his blue-collar bona fides by going to a bowling alley in Altoona.

But he rolled only an embarrassing 37 in seven frames and looked rather out of place doing it in his business attire.


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I am a citizen defending the people against corrupt Pols who only serve their Corporate Elite masters, not the people! / My 2 political enemies are Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., nicknamed "Luciforo" and former Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr. / I have also pasted many of my political essays on "The Berkshire Blog": / I AM THE ANTI-FRANK GUINTA! / Please contact me at

50th Anniversary - 2009

50th Anniversary - 2009
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Columbus Avenue in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Pittsfield Politics: Capitanio, Mazzeo agree on budget cuts, public safety

Pittsfield Politics: Capitanio, Mazzeo agree on budget cuts, public safety
Paul Capitanio, left, speaks during Monday night's Ward 3 City Council debate with fellow candidate Melissa Mazzeo at Pittsfield Community Television's studio. The special election (3/31/2009) will be held a week from today (3/24/2009). The local issues ranged from economic development and cleaning up blighted areas in Ward 3 to public education and the continued remediation of PCB's.

Red Sox v Yankees

Red Sox v Yankees
Go Red Sox!

Outrage swells in Congress!

Outrage swells in Congress!
Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., left, and the committee's ranking Republican Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., listen during a hearing on modernizing insurance regulations, Tuesday, March 17, 2009, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh). -

Beacon Hill's $pecial Interest Tax Raisers & $PENDERS!

Beacon Hill's $pecial Interest Tax Raisers & $PENDERS!
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The path away from Wall Street ...

The path away from Wall Street ...
...Employers in the finance sector - traditionally a prime landing spot for college seniors, particularly in the Northeast - expect to have 71 percent fewer jobs to offer this year's (2009) graduates.

Economic collapse puts graduates on unforeseen paths: Enrollment in public service jobs rising...

Economic collapse puts graduates on unforeseen paths: Enrollment in public service jobs rising...

Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis

Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis
Should he be fired? As Bank of America's Stock Plummets, CEO Resists Some Calls That He Step Down.

Hookers for Jesus

Hookers for Jesus
Annie Lobert is the founder of "Hookers for Jesus" - - Saving Sin City: Las Vegas, Nevada?

Forever personalized stamped envelope

Forever personalized stamped envelope
The Forever stamp will continue to cover the price of a first-class letter. The USPS will also introduce Forever personalized, stamped envelopes. The envelopes will be preprinted with a Forever stamp, the sender's name and return address, and an optional personal message.

Purple Heart

Purple Heart
First issued in 2003, the Purple heart stamp will continue to honor the men and women wounded while serving in the US military. The Purple Heart stamp covers the cost of 44 cents for first-class, one-ounce mail.


The bottlenose is just one of the new animals set to appear on the price-change stamps. It will serve as a 64-cent stamp for odd shaped envelopes.

2009 price-change stamps

2009 price-change stamps -&-

Red Sox v Yankees

Red Sox v Yankees
Go Red Sox!

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama
AP photo v Shepard Fairey

Rush Limbaugh lackeys

Rush Limbaugh lackeys
Posted by Dan Wasserman of the Boston Globe on March 3, 2009.

Honest Abe

Honest Abe
A 2007 US Penny

Dog race

Dog race
Sledding for dogs

The Capital of the Constitution State

The Capital of the Constitution State
Hartford, once the wealthiest city in the United States but now the poorest in Connecticut, is facing an uphill battle.

Brady, Bundchen married

Brady, Bundchen married
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and model Gisele Bundchen wed Feb. 26, 2009 in a Catholic ceremony in Los Angeles.

Mayor Jimmy Ruberto

Mayor Jimmy Ruberto
Tanked Pittsfield's local economy while helping his fellow insider political hacks and business campaign contributors!

Journalist Andrew Manuse

Journalist Andrew Manuse

New Hampshire Supreme Court Building

New Hampshire Supreme Court Building

Economic State of the Union

Economic State of the Union
A look at some of the economic conditions the Obama administration faces and what resources have already been pledged to help. 2/24/2009

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama
The president addresses the nation's governors during a dinner in the State Dinning Room, Sunday, Feb. 22, 2009, at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari).

The Oscars - 2/22/2009.

The Oscars - 2/22/2009.
Hugh Jackman and Beyoncé Knowles teamed up for a musical medley during the show.

The 81st Academy Awards - Oscars - 2009

The 81st Academy Awards - Oscars - 2009
Hugh Jackman pulled actress Anne Hathaway on stage to accompany him during his opening musical number.

Rachel Maddow

Rachel Maddow
A Progressive News Commentator

$500,000 per year

$500,000 per year
That is chump change for the corporate elite!


Jeffrey R. Immelt, chairman and chief executive of General Electric

The Presidents' Club

The Presidents' Club
Bush, Obama, Bush Jr, Clinton & Carter.

5 Presidents: Bush, Obama, Bush Jr, Clinton, & Carter!

5 Presidents: Bush, Obama, Bush Jr, Clinton, & Carter!
White House Event: January 7, 2009.

Bank Bailout!

Bank Bailout!
v taxpayer

Actress Elizabeth Banks

Actress Elizabeth Banks
She will present an award to her hometown (Pittsfield) at the Massachusetts State House next month (1/2009). She recently starred in "W" and "Zack and Miri Make a Porno," and just signed a $1 million annual contract to be a spokesmodel for Paris.

Joanna Lipper

Joanna Lipper
Her award-winning 1999 documentary, "Growing Up Fast," about teenaged mothers in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

Happy Holidays...

Happy Holidays...
...from "Star Wars"

Massachusetts "poor" economy

Massachusetts "poor" economy
Massachusetts is one of the wealthiest states, but it is also very inequitable. For example, it boasts the nation's most lucrative lottery, which is just a system of regressive taxation so that the corporate elite get to pay less in taxes!

Reese Witherspoon

Reese Witherspoon
Hollywood Actress

Peter G. Arlos.

Peter G. Arlos.
Arlos is shown in his Pittsfield office in early 2000.

Turnpike OK's hefty toll hikes

Turnpike OK's hefty toll hikes
Big Dig - East-west commuters take hit; Fees at tunnels would double. 11/15/2008.

The Pink Panther 2

The Pink Panther 2
Starring Steve Martin

Police ABUSE

Police ABUSE
I was a victim of Manchester Police Officer John Cunningham's ILLEGAL USES of FORCE! John Cunningham was reprimanded by the Chief of Police for disrespecting me. John Cunningham yelled at a witness: "I don't care if he (Jonathan Melle) is disabled!"

Barack Obama