Friday, March 28, 2008

Baghdad, Basra boil over with aggression

Baghdad, Basra boil over with aggression Protesters criticize al-Maliki as Bush lauds Iraqi progress BY LEILA FADEL • MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS • March 28, 2008 BAGHDAD, Iraq -- As gun battles raged in the southern port city of Basra, parts of Baghdad and neighboring provinces, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in effect declared war on Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army, saying he would fight the militia "to the end" and never negotiate. In Ohio on Thursday, President George W. Bush praised al-Maliki's bold decision to confront the militias and said it was evidence the Iraqi military is increasingly confident and able to act on its own. But three days into a U.S.-backed Iraqi offensive, the Mahdi Army retained control of key Basra neighborhoods. In Baghdad, attacks on the Green Zone intensified. The State Department confirmed that a U.S. citizen was killed by the rocket and mortar fire that has pummeled the area, where the Iraqi and U.S. governments are housed. The U.S. Embassy sent a memo to staffers saying they are required to wear helmets and other protective gear if they must venture outside, and it strongly advises them to sleep in blast-resistant spots. At least 189 people have been killed in the Basra offensive, neighboring provinces and Baghdad since early Tuesday, government health and security officials said. Of these, 97 were killed and 300 injured in Basra, health officials said. In an attempt to curb the violence, Iraq's military ordered vehicles and pedestrians off the streets of the capital until Sunday morning. In Basra and in Baghdad's Sadr City, hundreds of people took to the streets in antigovernment protests, calling al-Maliki a dictator and condemning the United States and Abdul Aziz al Hakim, head of the Islamic Supreme Council. In Sadr City, the demonstrators carried a red coffin with a depiction of al-Maliki's face on the side. A black X was marked over the face and "The New Dictator" was written under his visage. The protesters burned American flags with depictions of his face on them. For the first time since he launched the offensive, al-Maliki spoke on government television, referring to a "political entity" that chose to stand up to the government. He issued a weekend deadline for the surrender of Mahdi Army militiamen loyal to al-Sadr. Also Thursday, saboteurs bombed one of Iraq's two main oil export pipelines that carries crude oil from Basra to the country's oil terminal on the Persian Gulf. The attack briefly sent prices rising on international petroleum markets. In Baghdad, gunmen kidnapped the Iraqi civilian spokesman for the Baghdad security operation and killed three of his bodyguards after torching his house in a Shi'ite neighborhood.

Dean says attacks getting too personal, wants closure by July 1

Dean says attacks getting too personal, wants closure by July 1 David Edwards Published: Friday March 28, 2008 Democratic Party chief Howard Dean says Barack Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton and their supporters should beware of tearing each other down, demoralizing the base and damaging the party's chances of winning the White House in November. In an interview with The Associated Press, Dean also said he hopes the Democratic nominee will be determined shortly after the voting ends in early June and that he will encourage the superdelegates who will play a role to make up their minds before the August convention in Denver. The 2004 presidential candidate told CBS News that he wants closure by the first of July. Dean said the charges and countercharges between Clinton and Obama have gotten too personal at times. He declined to say how they have crossed the line, but he said he's made it clear privately when it has happened. "You do not want to demoralize the base of the Democratic Party by having the Democrats attack each other," he said Thursday during the interview in his office a t Democratic National Committee headquarters. "Let the media and the Republicans and the talking heads on cable television attack and carry on, fulminate at the mouth. The supporters should keep their mouths shut about this stuff on both sides because that is harmful to the potential victory of a Democrat." Superdelegates - the nearly 800 party and elected officials who can support whomever they choose at the convention, regardless of what happens in the primaries - should make up their minds before August to avoid a fight at the convention, Dean said. "There is no point in waiting," he said. The Democratic political organization "is as good or better as the Republicans,' and we haven't been able to say that for about 30 years. But that all doesn't make any difference if people are really disenchanted or demoralized by a convention that's really ugly and nasty." Dean commented during a wide-ranging, 40-minute interview about his leadership during a nominating season that has lasted longer than most expected and that has left the party with some tough issues to resolve. Among them: Florida and Michigan Democrats brazenly violated party rules by holding primaries ahead of schedule and lost their delegates to the convention as punishment. Both states are now demanding that they not be shut out of the decision-making process because of it. Since neither Clinton nor Obama are likely to secure the nomination with just the delegates won in the primaries and caucuses, the nominee will probably be determined by the superdelegates. That has some activists objecting that insiders could overturn the will of the voters. Dean has raised record amounts of money - the $51.5 million the DNC brought in in 2007 was a record for a non-election year. And he's spent it, too, on trying to build organizations in the 50 states. Campaign finance reports this month show the party with $4.5 million after accounting for debt, compared with $25 million for the Republican National Committee - and the Democrats have no nominee to help replenish the coffers. Not to mention that Clinton's and Obama's campaigns spend every day trying to tear each other down - and are unlikely to stop anytime soon - while Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the certain Republican nominee, is busy preparing for the general election. Even Dean said he doesn't expect the campaign to end until the last nominating contest is held in June. Dean, the former governor of Vermont and 2004 presidential candidate, said he knows his critics say he should take a bigger leadership role in resolving some of these disputes. But he said that's not his role. Rather, he thinks of himself as a referee who enforces the rules in a close basketball game. "Somebody is going to lose," Dean said. "My job is to make sure the person who loses feels like they have been treated fairly so that their supporters will support the winner." Dean said the massive numbers of people showing up to participate in Democratic nominating contests across the country gives him encouragement that the eventual nominee will be well-positioned to win the White House. He said it is good for the candidates to debate controversies like the incendiary sermons by Obama's pastor and Clinton's different accounts of danger on a trip to Bosnia as first lady. If Democrats didn't deal with them now, he said Republicans will surely make use of them in the fall. Dean also reflected the concerns of many Democrats who worry about Obama and Clinton tearing each other down. "What I don't want to do is have the Democrats make a stupid mistake in April and then be sorry they said that in October and end up with some more right-wing extremists on the Supreme Court," he said. Dean's supporters say he's working behind the scenes to resolve some of the issues. He's been consulting with party stalwarts about how to wrap up the nomination quickly after the voting ends in June, including former Vice President Al Gore, former presidential candidate John Edwards, former Sen. George Mitchell, former President Carter, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, civil rights activist Jesse Jackson and former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo. "There'll be some nasty fights if it goes to convention, and people will walk out," Dean said. "But I've also been talking to a fairly significant number of, by and large, nonaligned people about how we might resolve this." Dean wouldn't talk in detail about what the plan is, but it likely involves encouraging superdelegates to pick a candidate shortly after the voting ends. He said he will not encourage any delegate to vote one way or another. "I am going to stand up for the rules, and I know I'm doing the right thing most of the time because I've got both Clinton people and Obama people mad at me," he said. For instance, while Obama's campaign has been encouraging superdelegates to support the candidate with the most pledged delegates - which almost certainly will be Obama - Dean says the rules don't require that and superdelegates are free to chose who they want. On the other side, Clinton has been arguing lately that even pledged delegates - awarded to a candidate based on the outcome of state contests - aren't bound to vote for that candidate at the convention. Dean called that "a very technical argument." "You aren't going to get pledged delegates to move unless something really shocking happens," he said. And he thinks it unlikely the superdelegates would support a candidate who did not have the most pledged delegates. Dean also said the Michigan and Florida delegates will be seated at the convention. But he won't force a resolution because he said there's nothing the Obama and Clinton campaigns can support at this point. "You bring both sides together and say, `Don't you think it's time that the two campaigns made a deal on how we're going to do this?'" Dean said. "Let me just say that the campaigns believe that kind of a deal is premature right now." Politico's Ben Smith reports: A potential game-changer from CBS News and "The Early Show." Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean says he wants superdelegates to make a decision by JULY 1 -- the most specific he has been in his effort to prod the party to decide between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton before the Democratic National Convention in late August. Harry Smith asked if after the nominating contests end with the South Dakota and Montana primaries on June 3, "Do you want the superdelegates to have some sort of vote immediately so that you'll know months in advance of the convention what the outcome is?” Dean replied: “Well, I think the superdelegates have already been weighing in. I think that there's 800 of them and 450 of them have already said who they're for. I'd like the other 350 to say who they're at some point between now and the first of July so we don't have to take this into the convention.” An aide explains that July 1 is not a drop-dead deadline: "The point is before the convention, ideally in June." (with wire reports) This video is from CBS Early Show, broadcast March 28, 2008.

Poll shows Detroiters conflicted about mayor

FREE PRESS/LOCAL 4 -- THE MICHIGAN POLL Poll shows Detroiters conflicted about mayor Support is split, but most say he won't last term BY CHRIS CHRISTOFF AND NAOMI R. PATTON • FREE PRESS STAFF WRITERS • March 27, 2008 Nearly half of Detroit residents think Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick should leave office immediately as a result of the text message scandal and eight criminal charges lodged against him this week, a Detroit Free Press-Local 4 Michigan Poll shows, but 40% said Kilpatrick should stay in office for now. Ann Selzer, who conducted the poll, said it shows that Detroiters remain conflicted about the mayor because two out of three expect him to leave office before his term is up. "I don't know if they're caught up in the drama or they like the idea of the legal system doing its work and feel the need to push forward with that," Selzer said. The poll, based on telephone interviews Tuesday and Wednesday with 503 Detroit adults, also found: • 48% are confident Kilpatrick committed crimes, wasted city money, hurt the city's reputation and should resign. • 20% believe that although the mayor made mistakes, he has apologized and remains the best person to move the city forward. • 31% said they haven't decided yet what they think should ultimately happen to Kilpatrick. • Among the 40% who want the mayor to remain in office for now, 46% still believe the mayor will lose his $176,000-a-year job either because he will be convicted or make a plea bargain and resign. • 62% of likely voters say they'd definitely or probably vote for someone else in 2009 if Kilpatrick sought re-election. • Black Detroiters are evenly divided on whether Kilpatrick should resign immediately, with 45% saying yes and 43% saying no. Thomas (Skip) McDonald, 53, is a city employee who said he voted for Kilpatrick in his first mayoral campaign in 2001 but not his second. He said Kilpatrick should resign immediately. "It's about how he lied and how he continues to lie," McDonald said. "I believed in him and he let me down and the city down." Stay or go? Sam Hamilton, 44, a business student, said Kilpatrick should resign now. He said he believes Kilpatrick is a poor role model who committed perjury and a cover-up, and can't imagine how he can function while fighting criminal charges. "The biggest thing for me is the amount of games that seem to have been played with people's lives without regard to its effect," Hamilton said. But Keair Gibson, 31, a private security officer, said the scandal is blown out of proportion with what he said are illegally obtained text messages. "I think people are taking it too far. I think if his wife can get over it, everyone else should be able to get over it," Gibson said, referring to text messages published by the Free Press that revealed an affair between the mayor and his then-chief of staff, Christine Beatty, who also was charged with perjury, conspiracy and obstruction of justice. Gibson said Kilpatrick has done a good job as mayor, and added, "I'm not a racist, but if that was a white guy, all this would have been swept up under the carpet." Like Gibson, younger Detroiters are more willing to cut Kilpatrick some slack, the poll shows. Detroiters younger than 35 are nearly three times more likely to think Kilpatrick owned up to personal mistakes and is the best leader (28%) than those 55 and older (10%). Sixty-nine percent of white Detroiters want Kilpatrick to resign now, compared with 45% of African Americans. Forty-three percent of African Americans said he should stay in office for now. Among them is Linda Gaddy, 45, a schoolteacher. She said the scandal has been stoked by factions in the city that opposed Kilpatrick since his first run for mayor. "The stories on TV don't make sense," Gaddy said. "It's all sensationalized. You can't always believe what you hear." But Patricia Holbrook, 53, a white retiree, said Kilpatrick should resign or be forced out by citizens. "It's a disgrace," she said. "He thinks he got away with something, that he's untouchable. Every picture you see of him, there's always that smirk on his face, like, 'You're not going to get me.' " Re-elect or not If Kilpatrick is looking at re-election in 2009, he has a steep hill to climb. About half of likely voters said they definitely would not vote for him. Another 11% said they'd probably vote for someone else. Those who know the most about the text message scandal are the most opposed to Kilpatrick's serving another term. He doesn't fare well across all demographic groups. Whites, however, were much more likely to say they'd definitely vote for someone else than blacks. Jane McCormick, 71, an African American, voted for Kilpatrick twice before but said she won't again. She said he should resign. "You take a vow for marriage, you take a vow when you take office," she said. "He's an adulterer, a liar and a perjurer. If my son went to court for this they'd put him in jail." Chris Shidler, 34, a white Detroit homeowner, voted for Freman Hendrix in the last election and said there's no way he'd vote for Kilpatrick in the future. "Absolutely not," said Shidler, a college graduate. "There has to be a commitment to public service and public trust. He's a gentleman who has chosen his own best interest over the best interest of the city." He's among the 60% who said Detroit will suffer some or a lot if Kilpatrick stays in office. "I think it would discredit the city's validity and standing. It would lose multiple supporters and contributors to this city," Shidler said. Said city worker McDonald: "It would be terrible, almost like Armageddon. It wouldn't fall apart, because Detroit is a strong city, but there's too much division." But Naomi Keener, 76, a lifelong Detroiter and college graduate, said she voted for Kilpatrick twice and would again. "I believe in him," Keener said. "He's done a lot for the city. I believe he was a good mayor." Guilty or not? The question of whether Kilpatrick will be acquitted or convicted in a trial reveals the ambivalent views of some Detroiters. Charonda Murrell, 26, said she thinks Kilpatrick should take a leave of absence while his criminal trial plays out. She thinks he'll be acquitted. Murrell spoke of conflicted views of the mayor. She admires his speech-making and charisma, though she finds him arrogant. She thinks the city has improved under his guidance.

The press hits rewind on Clinton scandals

The press hits rewind on the Clinton scandals by Eric Boehlert How dreadful was the news coverage last week surrounding the official release of Hillary Clinton's public White House schedule from her eight years as first lady? So bad that I found myself in rare (unprecedented?) agreement with at least two prominent conservative bloggers who noticed the same thing I did: The Beltway press corps is, at times, a national embarrassment. The unusual document dump came after professional Clinton snoops at The New York Times filed a Freedom of Information Act request to see the voluminous paperwork. That was followed by a lawsuit from the right-wing Judicial Watch organization, which owes its fame to the Clinton scandals from the 1990s. As Hillary Clinton noted last week, the highly unusual schedule release from the National Archives likely confirms that she is "the most transparent person in public life." (Former vice presidents Al Gore and Dan Quayle, for instance, never released their old White House schedules while running for president.) After months of relentless media chatter and speculation about what sort of investigative gold might be buried in the Clinton schedules, reporters, in the end, were left with very little to write about. So they did what they always did during the '90s, they fell back on worn-out sex and scandal narratives and pretended it was news. Surveying the news coverage, conservative blogger Rick Moran posed the same question I had last week, "Do we really need to know where Hillary was when Monica Lewinsky was with her husband? Or where she was when Vince Foster committed suicide? ... And does it deserve this feeding frenzy from the media?" It's true that the Clinton schedules did become a political issue within the Democratic primary race with questions raised by Sen. Barack Obama's campaign about whether the former first lady's itineraries sustained her claims of White House experience. And in that context, the schedules were certainly newsworthy and should have been reported on in order to inform news consumers. In fact, The Politico deserves credit, since its news story on the topic, written by Kenneth Vogel and Andrew Glass, was the only one I read or saw that focused entirely on the political ramifications of the schedules without wandering into pointless rehashing of previous Clinton scandals. On the opposite end of the spectrum though, was some awful journalism, including failing efforts from The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal -- the Post's because it was built around the childish notion that the schedules should have revealed more about Clinton's emotions -- her feelings -- during the '90s, and the Journal's for obsessing over what the schedules told us about the death of Vince Foster. (Hint: absolutely nothing.) But of course what really got journalists excited about the document dump was the fact that it allowed them to talk about White House sex. ABC News, which earned some place in journalism purgatory for its hellacious Clinton impeachment coverage, couldn't wait to dish the dirt in a highly inappropriate way. This was the breathless lede of the story that came complete with a photo of Lewinsky's semen-stained blue dress: "Hillary Clinton spent the night in the White House on the day her husband had oral sex with Monica Lewinsky, and may have actually been in the White House when it happened." Ah, oral sex in the White House. Doesn't that make you nostalgic for the Gin Blossoms, Seinfeld, and everything '90s? I have no idea what the news value was of ABC arousing itself in public that way, but apparently 10 years after the fact Americans needed to be informed. Also, a quick question for ABC's Brian Ross, whose ABC News Investigative Unit hyped the big blow job scoop: How exactly did he get access to "17,481 pages of Sen. Hillary Clinton's schedule as first lady" when virtually every other news organization in the country (CNN, New York Times, Washington Post, Washington Times, Los Angeles Times, etc.) referred to the 11,000 pages that were released by the National Archives? Did Ross really uncover an additional 6,000 pages that no other reporter knew about? Just asking. Anyway, soon lots of news outlets joined in and stressed how the big news was that Hillary was in the White House while her husband fooled around: "Sen. Hillary Clinton was in the White House on multiple occasions when her husband had sexual encounters with Monica Lewinsky, according to newly released documents." -- "Hillary Rodham Clinton was home in the White House on a half dozen days when her husband had sexual encounters there with intern Monica Lewinsky." -- Associated Press "A shameless President Bill Clinton had secret Oval Office sex eight times with Monica Lewinsky when his wife was under the same roof, Hillary Clinton's private records reveal." -- New York Daily News Here's the thing, though: We already knew that. The media's big scoop last week about Hillary's whereabouts during the Lewinsky episodes has been public knowledge for nearly a decade, thanks to independent counsel Kenneth Starr. Or did you really think that during his relentless, $70 million investigation into the president's sex life that Starr and his team of obsessive vice cops never answered the simple question regarding Hillary's whereabouts during the trysts? The Washington Post's Peter Baker let the truth slip out while appearing on MSNBC and discussing the fact that Hillary Clinton "was in the building" when Lewinsky fooled around with her husband. Noted Baker, "That's not entirely new [information], we sort of knew that, but it sort of reinforces what we learned at the time the Starr Report came out in 1998." In other words, the scoop last week had been hiding in plain sight for nearly a decade. More dumb and dumber? Read the following nugget from The New York Times' coverage and then decide whether to laugh or cry. It came as the Times tried to squeeze some nonexistent excitement out of the schedule release by tying it to the Lewinsky story: On Wednesday, Jan. 21, 1998, the day the Lewinsky scandal exploded into public view, Mrs. Clinton held meetings and discussions between 7:25 a.m. and 7:50 a.m. with people whose names are redacted from her schedule. So, on the day the Lewinsky scandal broke, the first lady met with somebody that morning for 25 minutes. The Times had no idea who she met with or what was discussed, yet the meeting deserved mention 10 years later because it represented "a small window into Mrs. Clinton's activities after revelations of the Monica Lewinsky affair in early 1998." I suppose the emphasis should be placed on "small." Truth is, we actually know that the 25-minute meeting the Times highlighted had nothing to do with the Lewinsky scandal because, as the National Archives made clear, the schedules released only reflected the first lady's public meetings, which meant any face-to-face that had to do with Clinton's personal affairs -- including various scandals and legal problems -- was omitted. Of course, that didn't stop reporters from pretending to be surprised that non-public meetings were missing from the released schedules. At Newsweek, that's what former Starr ally Michael Isikoff, along with Mark Hosenball, did, noting that all kinds of scandal-related meetings were not part of the public schedules released. As part of their "web exclusive," the duo -- bringing back that beloved Clinton-era narrative where any innocuous fact can be wrapped in ominous overtones -- reported that "anybody looking through Hillary Clinton's newly released White House records for clues as to how she handled this personal crisis will find ... absolutely nothing." Of course, both reporters knew those meetings were never going to be included, but they acted shocked just the same. (Ross at ABC played up the same nonsense.) Note that Isikoff and Hosenball also complained that for the month of August 1998, there is no reference in the first lady's public itinerary regarding the fact that Al Qaeda forces bombed two U.S. Embassies in Africa. I kid you not. The Post and the Journal win for worst coverage Some in the press also appeared to have been expecting Clinton's personal diaries, not her public schedules, to be released. Acting the most confused was Libby Copeland at The Washington Post, who wrote up an entire report about how the schedules didn't reveal anything about Clinton's emotions. The documents were "all mechanics and no feeling." Copeland wrote that "any insights here into the presidential candidate's interior life ... are between the typewritten lines and the reader's imagination." We know what Clinton "did on any particular day," Copeland complained, "but not what she felt," not what "she thought about." Honestly, what kind of fool turns to a government-issued public schedule to try to divine "insights" into somebody's "interior life," into how they "felt" or what they "thought about"? Copeland, who works for the largest newspaper in the nation's capital, which prides itself on its political sophistication and understanding of how the federal government truly operates, was apparently bewildered at what the schedule showed. Naïve beyond her years, Copeland was amazed that the first lady's schedule was stuffed with details about local weather forecasts and notations about time zone differences, as well as phonetic spellings for important people with tricky last names who Clinton was scheduled to meet. All of this was a revelation for Copeland and the Post. Post readers, though, many of whom have extensive backgrounds in government, were less amazed and quickly ridiculed Copeland's article at "What pea-brains expected to find ANYTHING in a schedule other than time, date, person? A SCHEDULE IS DESIGNED TO TELL US JUST THAT!" "Does Copeland think [a schedule] should read like a sixteen year old girl's diary? There is something deeply troubling about the Washington Post and its reporters." "This is a ridiculous article. Are you seriously complaining that the schedule of the first lady of the United States is too detailed?" "I am shocked that the Post writes as if it has never seen a Washington politician's schedule before." Lastly, there was the Journal's dreadful Vince Foster reporting. He's the former senior Clinton aide and longtime Arkansas friend who committed suicide in 1993 just after joining the Clinton administration. The saga became a focal point of wild, right-wing conspiracies, with conjecture coming from the editorial pages of The Wall Street Journal, as well as Rush Limbaugh, who once told listeners that Foster may have been murdered in an apartment owned by Hillary Clinton. Independent counsel Ken Starr spent three years and millions of dollars investigating Foster's death, only to confirm what local law enforcement officials understood almost immediately: Foster had killed himself. (I'm guessing Foster's suicide note proved to be a telling clue.) Again, the former first lady's released schedules provided absolutely no new information about the Foster suicide. But that didn't stop the Journal from devoting an entire blog post to dissecting Clinton's whereabouts at the time of Foster's death. The dispatch truly was jaw-dropping and disgraceful. It even drew the scorn of conservative blogger Ed Morrissey, who wrote, "I searched in vain for anything newsworthy in this post, but found absolutely nothing. Why write this post at all?" The piece was written by Elizabeth Holmes and headlined, "Clinton's Calendar and Vince Foster." Holmes justified the scrutiny by suggesting, "Hillary Clinton's schedule sheds light on are her activities before, during and after major events in her husband's presidential tenure." According to Holmes, Foster's death was a "major event" from Clinton's tenure, which seems like a stretch to me, considering the extraordinary and often historic episodes that transpired during Clinton's eight years in office. Meaning, for journalists and Clinton-haters, yes, I suppose Foster's death was a major event. But if you asked 100 random Americans to list the five most important events from Clinton's two terms, I doubt five or more would mention the sad tale of Vince Foster from the first months of the Clinton presidency. But more importantly, as Morrissey noted, the obvious (and honorable) thing to do would have been for the Journal to stress how the new White House information confirmed, yet again, that there was no connection between Clinton and the Foster death, and maybe even stress how the so-called scandal simply highlighted the irrational and often toxic atmosphere that dominated D.C. during the Clinton years. Instead, Holmes played dumb, first by giving credence to the suggestion that "many conspiracy theories persist suggesting [Foster] was murdered." From there Holmes diligently detailed "the last time" Clinton "officially" met with Foster ("from 11 a.m. until noon"), where she slept the night before the suicide ("a hotel in Santa Barbara"), and where she was the fateful moment of the suicide ("Clinton would have been in the air at that time."). And how about this touch: "Foster was reportedly found dead at a park in around 6 p.m. local time" [emphasis added]. "Reportedly"? We're talking about perhaps the most investigated suicide in the history of Washington, D.C., yet Holmes left readers with the impression that questions remain unanswered about the most basic facts regarding Foster's death, like when his body was found. I remain in heated agreement with the conservative Morrissey: The Wall Street Journal should know better than this. It panders to nutcases and then fails to deliver on the promise of its headline and lede. I await with bated breath the non-story regarding the non-connection between Hillary's schedules and the overdose death of River Phoenix. The release of Clinton's White House schedules hit the rewind button in lots of newsrooms last week as reporters jumped at the chance to revisit the good ole days. I suppose that was to be expected. Yet for those who paid close attention to the press during the partisan battles of the '90s and bemoaned the Fourth Estate's collective performance, watching last week's Keystone Kops routine surrounding the relatively simple story of the first lady's schedules being released confirmed a disturbing truth: The political press corps, in terms of standards and professionalism, is probably in worse shape today than it was 10 years ago.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Kilpartick, Beatty charged

Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and former chief of staff Christine Beatty were charged today with multiple counts of perjury, obstruction of justice, misconduct in office and conspiracy because of their conduct in last year’s police whistle-blower trial, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy announced.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The use and abuse of black anger

The use and abuse of black anger BY BRIAN DICKERSON • FREE PRESS COLUMNIST • March 21, 2008 Barack Obama's abiding talent is for deflecting criticism, not dishing it out. But this week, halfway through his remarkable magnum opus on race, Obama hurled a dart straight at Kwame Kilpatrick's Adam's apple. The Democratic presidential front-runner was talking candidly about the anger that festers in this nation's African-American kitchens and barbershops, a bitterness he said had fueled the most incendiary sermons penned by his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. "That anger is not always productive," Obama noted. "It keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. "At times," he added, the same anger "had been exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician's own failings." ZzzzzzzzzzzUNNNK! What? Oh, a thousand pardons, Mayor Kilpatrick! Sen. Obama hardly noticed you standing there between him and the bull's-eye! Thank goodness your necktie knot absorbed most of the point! Birds of a feather It's possible, of course, that Obama had some other major American city's legally challenged African-American CEO in mind when he condemned racial demagoguery in all its forms. Wright's sins were his primary preoccupation, the pastor's backward-looking bitterness that Obama was most anxious to renounce. But the closing minutes of last week's State of the City address, in which Kilpatrick lashed out at media critics and suggested that their "lynch-mob mentality" had placed his children at risk, was of a piece with Wright's often-broadcast jeremiads. And whether Detroit's mayor was a handpicked target or merely a collateral victim of Obama's critique, there's no doubt Kilpatrick's desperate tactics imperil the historic reconciliation Obama hopes to broker. The irony, of course, is that Kilpatrick began his own political career in much the same way Obama has forged his candidacy -- offering pride in place of paranoia, productive cooperation in place of pointless confrontation, and youthful energy in place of stale cynicism. His first mayoral campaign, like Obama's current presidential bid, was fueled by a new generation of voters less interested in channeling their parents' rage than in advancing their own dreams. The antithesis of hope Kilpatrick ought to be in the thick of Michigan's presidential scrum. As things stand, though, either candidate would likely seek a restraining order if Detroit's mayor offered his public support. Now, even as Obama tries to build new alliances, Kilpatrick is abrading old wounds. He talks of black empowerment but spends his days fanning flames of division that threaten to consume his party's first viable African-American candidate for president. If Obama's audacious campaign of hope succeeds, it will be despite men like Wright and Kilpatrick, not because of them.

Mayor would attack messages' authenticity

Mayor would attack messages' authenticity Prosecutor's burden: Prove he, Beatty really typed them BY JOE SWICKARD and ZACHARY GORCHOW • FREE PRESS STAFF WRITERS • March 21, 2008 If perjury charges are filed against Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick or his former aide Christine Beatty, defense lawyers are preparing to make prosecutors work hard to prove whose thumbs were on the keys when racy text messages zipped between the pair's paging devices. "That's something the prosecution has to prove," said Mayer Morganroth, attorney for Beatty, the mayor's former chief of staff. "It's not a defense strategy or tactic. It's an absolute requirement for the prosecution that they prove every element -- each and every element." Kilpatrick alluded to that this week as he awaited Monday's announcement by Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy on whether she will file criminal charges. "There will be a lot of conversations about texts and the authenticity of all of it," he said Tuesday in a brief exchange with reporters. "So I'm looking forward to having that conversation at a later date." Defense lawyers will deconstruct any charges and "take that case apart inch by inch," predicted Mt. Clemens criminal defense lawyer Brian Legghio, a former federal prosecutor who is not involved in the investigation. Worthy's investigation follows a Free Press report in January that revealed damaging text messages between the mayor and Beatty. The messages showed the pair lied at a police whistle-blower trial last summer when they denied having a sexual affair and sought to mislead jurors about whether one of the cops, Gary Brown, was fired. The mayor agreed to settle that suit and another for $8.4 million within hours of learning that a lawyer for the cops had obtained copies of the text messages. Legal fees pushed the cost to taxpayers to more than $9 million. Detroit's City Council members say they were never told of a secret pact to hide the messages when they were asked to approve the deal in October. Council President Ken Cockrel Jr. said Thursday that if Worthy issues charges, it could affect the council's investigation. The council has ordered Kilpatrick, Beatty and several attorneys who defended the city and Kilpatrick in the whistle-blower suits to appear before it in April. Anyone charged might not be able to appear because doing so could complicate the criminal proceedings, Cockrel said. "That could potentially be very problematic," he said. Cockrel was interviewed by investigators from the prosecutor's office. He said Thursday he was asked about what information city attorneys gave the council and when it was given. Councilwoman Barbara-Rose Collins said Worthy should make her announcement immediately because she has said she knows what her decision will be. "This city needs to move on," Collins said. "It's hard for it to move on when she hasn't made" her announcement. Kilpatrick press secretary Denise Tolliver declined to comment on Worthy's plan to hold a news conference Monday. "We're going on, business as usual," she said. Kilpatrick supporters held a rally Thursday night at the Akwaaba Community Center in Detroit. They said the mayor addressed the 400 to 500 in attendance, including the Rev. Horace Sheffield. "We're gonna walk and hold hands with the mayor until the end or a new beginning," Sheffield said. Worthy's investigation has been cloaked in secrecy, but her office has made no secret of the fact that perjury is one possible crime it is reviewing. The mayor's Chicago-based attorney, Daniel Webb, did not return calls seeking comment on his defense strategy. Morganroth said he has not spoken with Worthy's office and has no idea what -- if any -- charges will be announced. "I heard so much I don't believe anything," he said. "I'll just wait to see what happens." Or maybe he won't see. Morganroth said he would be at a news conference Monday morning with another client, assisted-suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian, who wants to run for Congress. Perjury -- intentionally lying under oath, a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison -- is not commonly prosecuted. But courthouse veterans say they see it routinely in trial testimony. Still, legal experts say that lies from major political figures are not easily ignored and note that Michigan's perjury laws cover lies about any matter in a witness' testimony, regardless of whether it concerns something important to the case's outcome. Comparing the text messages against the sworn testimony might seem an easy task, but veteran criminal defense lawyers said skilled lawyers like Morganroth and Webb likely would put prosecutors through the mill to prove the messages are real and that Beatty and the mayor actually typed them. "As far as this being a simple case to prove, that's the opinion of people who haven't tried one," Detroit defense lawyer Jeffrey Edison said. "If it were so simple, why is it taking the prosecutor so long in putting this together?" The text message records -- kept by Mississippi-based SkyTel, the city's communications provider -- show the messages came in and out of Beatty's city-issued paging device. But several lawyers said prosecutors would have to prove the devices were in hers and the mayor's hands when the messages were typed. Legghio said the prosecution also would have to establish that the messages it views as damaging are placed in context with other messages, "making them part of a sensible dialogue." Birmingham criminal defense lawyer Neil Fink said that defense lawyers don't need to sway 12 jurors with such a strategy -- just one. "It would give a peg for a juror to hang his hat on if he wants to acquit," Fink said. "The prosecution needs all 12 to convict; the defense just needs one to" get a hung jury, he said, adding that going after one might work in a case involving a strong political figure. "Everyone is going to be thinking about Bill Clinton," Fink said. "He perjured himself and sexually manipulated a young woman and, look, he's treated like a rock star." Edison said going for a hung jury is an iffy tactic. "You try your case for an acquittal," he said. "You don't go for a tie. A hung jury is just temporary."

Obama/Dukakis 2008

OBAMA/DUKAKIS 2008 Tue Mar 18, 7:57 PM ET Dem Wimp Throws His Truth-Telling Preacher Under the Bus NEW YORK--If Americans were represented by an animal, it wouldn't be an eagle. It would be a tiny shrew, nervous and paranoid and living in constant terror of being attacked by predators. Our national prey mentality doesn't have much basis in reality. The last attack on U.S. soil took place two-thirds of a century ago; Hawaii wasn't even a state at the time. Before that, you have to go back to 1846--and we provoked that one. Whatever the historical basis--or lack thereof--for this innate fearfulness, U.S. voters look to their president as a Father Protector figure--someone who, if threatened, will ferociously defend what is now called, stupidly and horribly, das Homeland. Republican candidates win elections in years when national security is a top concern. In 2004, it didn't matter that John Kerry volunteered for, fought in, and returned with medals from Vietnam. What mattered was that he turned the other cheek to the Swift Boat ads. He held his fire in the debates. If Kerry wasn't willing to stand up for himself, voters reasoned, how would he protect them? Bush may have been a coward during Vietnam, but his "dead or alive" cowboy movie bravado, not to mention starting a couple of wars from scratch, conveyed a comforting, if imbecilic bellicosity. The monosyllabic tough-guy act soothed a savage, terrorized electorate. Hillary Clinton has figured this out. Her policy actions--voting for war twice, the Patriot Act, keeping silent about torture and Guantánamo--have been engineered to project Republicanesque hawkishness. She dresses butch and talks like a female prick--i.e., bitch. You don't like her. She doesn't want you to. She wants you to think that she's macho enough to deal with Them the next time They pick a fight at three in the morning. Barack Obama, on the other hand, has already given away a store he doesn't yet own. He's the new century's version of Dukakis. "I would explicitly reach out to disaffected Republicans and remind them of some of their traditions," Obama told U.S. News & World Report. "Very rarely do you hear me talking about my opponents without giving them some credit for having good intentions and being decent people." "I think I can reach out to Republicans and independents more effectively than any other candidate," he said on "Meet the Press," citing his "ability to focus on getting the job done, as opposed to getting embroiled in ideological arguments." No wonder Republican pundits love him! Not only will he be easier to beat in November--if McCain loses, they'll get the same love from President Obama. Obama's attempt to transform himself into the living embodiment of girly-man wimpiness led him to throw his own priest under the bus. This latest display of X-Treme wussosity came in response to demands by Rush Limbaugh, The Wall Street Journal and other braying hounds of the right who feigned offense at quotes pulled from his pastor's old sermons. Jeremiah Wright, long-time leader of the Trinity United Church of Christ of Chicago, officiated at Obama's wedding and inspired the title of his book "The Audacity of Hope." "I reject outright the statements by Reverend Wright that are at issue," Obama said in a statement. First rule of politics: never apologize. It won't satisfy your critics, and it makes you look weak. If Eliot Spitzer had followed that dictate, he'd still be governor of New York. First rule of presidential politics: fight for those near and dear to you. Michael Dukakis lost points when he was asked what he'd do if his wife got raped. (Correct answer: "I would kill the rapist.") If a man won't stand up for his own wife--or his own pastor--how can we trust him to fight the terrorists? Obama's Sister Souljah act may erode his base of support: African-Americans and younger whites, many of whom agree with Reverend Wright's "controversial" homilies. "Racism is how this country was founded and how it is still run," Wright said. Well, duh. The Journal's editorial page, which still thinks Iraq was the best idea ever, is particularly agitated about...this...this obvious fact. Who could say, with a straight face, that racism wasn't a founding principle of a nation with legalized slavery? Who could argue, after reading countless newspaper headlines announcing the acquittal of white cops for shooting unarmed black men, or while driving through urban slums, that we've put racism behind us? Murdoch's right-wing rag, noted The New York Times, also criticized Wright for "accusing the United States of importing drugs, exporting guns and training murderers." These things are all true (please reference "Iran-Contra," "U.S. as top arms exporter," and "School of the Americas"). If Obama can't bring himself to speak the truth, he could at least support those who do. Most damning of all, say Limbaugh et al., was Wright's post-9/11 sermon urging his flock not to yield to the urge "to pay back and kill" or act "holier than thou." His advice proved prescient--wars against Afghanistan and Iraq killed a million innocents, yet none of the criminals of 9/11. It also happened to be quintessentially Christian. "We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians [true] and black South Africans [true], and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is brought back to our own front yards," he continued. "America's chickens are coming home to roost." Chalmers Johnson wrote a bestselling book in 2000 about this phenomenon. It's called "Blowback," named after CIA jargon for foreign policies that result in unexpected, negative effects. Johnson wrote that blowback "is a metaphor for the unintended consequences of the U.S. government's international activities that have been kept secret from the American people." It is well-established that the radical Islamists who launched the 9/11 attacks were motivated by their contempt for American policy in the Muslim world and their desire to bring the war, as they saw it, to the U.S. Everyone knows that Al Qaeda has its roots in the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan, which the Reagan Administration funded and armed. Calling 9/11 a case of "chickens coming home to roost" isn't offensive. It's painfully, boringly obvious. Obama found it necessary to state that "the violence of 9/11 was inexcusable and without justification." Wright never said otherwise. Most of the victims of September 11th were office workers. They weren't responsible for U.S. policy in the Middle East. Many were opposed to it. As Johnson wrote: "Terrorism by definition strikes at the innocent in order to draw attention to the sins of the invulnerable." People who deny that U.S. foreign policy mishaps provoke long-term consequences are liars. People like them--people like Barack Obama--are laying the foundation for the next 9/11. (Ted Rall is the author of the book "Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?," an in-depth prose and graphic novel analysis of America's next big foreign policy challenge.)

Richardson endorses Obama

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has endorsed Barack Obama's bid for the Democratic nomination for U.S. president, in a big boost for the senator. "I can confirm that he (Bill Richardson) is endorsing (Obama) and that he will be at the rally in Portland tomorrow," said an official with the Obama campaign. Richardson's endorsement has been fiercely sought by both Obama and his rival Sen. Hillary Clinton in part because as a Hispanic he is seen as influential within the Latino community, which could be a key voting bloc in the November presidential election. Richardson was energy secretary under President Bill Clinton and was also the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. A personal note from Richardson, distributed via email by the governor's suspended presidential campaign, follows in full. # Dear Friend, During the last year, I have shared with you my vision and hopes for this nation as we look to repair the damage of the last seven years. And you have shared your support, your ideas and your encouragement with my campaign. We have been through a lot together and that is why I wanted to tell you that, after careful and thoughtful deliberation, I have made the decision to endorse Barack Obama for President. We are blessed to have two great American leaders and great Democrats running for President. My affection and admiration for Hillary Clinton and President Bill Clinton will never waver. It is time, however, for Democrats to stop fighting amongst ourselves and to prepare for the tough fight we will face against John McCain in the fall. The 1990's were a decade of peace and prosperity because of the competent and enlightened leadership of the Clinton administration, but it is now time for a new generation of leadership to lead America forward. Barack Obama will be a historic and a great President, who can bring us the change we so desperately need by bringing us together as a nation here at home and with our allies abroad. Earlier this week, Senator Barack Obama gave an historic speech that addressed the issue of race with the eloquence, sincerity, and optimism we have come to expect of him. He inspired us by reminding us of the awesome potential residing in our own responsibility. He asked us to rise above our racially divided past, and to seize the opportunity to carry forward the work of many patriots of all races, who struggled and died to bring us together. As a Hispanic, I was particularly touched by his words. I have been troubled by the demonization of immigrants -- specifically Hispanics -- by too many in this country. Hate crimes against Hispanics are rising as a direct result and now, in tough economic times, people look for scapegoats and I fear that people will continue to exploit our racial differences -- and place blame on others not like them. We all know the real culprit -- the disastrous economic policies of the Bush Administration! Senator Obama has started a discussion in this country long overdue and rejects the politics of pitting race against race. He understands clearly that only by bringing people together, only by bridging our differences can we all succeed together as Americans. His words are those of a courageous, thoughtful and inspiring leader, who understands that a house divided against itself cannot stand. And, after nearly eight years of George W. Bush, we desperately need such a leader. To reverse the disastrous policies of the last seven years, rebuild our economy, address the housing and mortgage crisis, bring our troops home from Iraq and restore America's international standing, we need a President who can bring us together as a nation so we can confront our urgent challenges at home and abroad. During the past year, I got to know Senator Obama as we campaigned against each other for the Presidency, and I felt a kinship with him because we both grew up between worlds, in a sense, living both abroad and here in America. In part because of these experiences, Barack and I share a deep sense of our nation's special responsibilities in the world. So, once again, thank you for all you have done for me and my campaign. I wanted to make sure you understood my reasons for my endorsement of Senator Obama. I know that you, no matter what your choice, will do so with the best interests of this nation, in your heart. Sincerely, Bill Richardson

The lady takes a lead

Clinton takes lead over Obama in Gallup poll REUTERSReuters US Online Report Top News Mar 20, 2008 09:11 EST WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has moved into a significant lead over Barack Obama among Democratic voters, according to a new Gallup poll. The March 14-18 national survey of 1,209 Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters gave Clinton, a New York senator, a 49 percent to 42 percent edge over Obama, an Illinois senator. The poll has an error margin of 3 percentage points. The poll was a snapshot of current popular feeling, but Clinton trails Obama in the state-by-state contest which began in January to select a nominee to face presumptive Republican nominee John McCain in the November election to succeed President George W. Bush. The nominees are formally chosen by delegates at the parties' conventions in the summer. Gallup said the poll lead was the first statistically significant one for Clinton since a tracking poll conducted February 7-9, just after the Super Tuesday primaries. The two candidates had largely been locked in a statistical tie since then, with Obama last holding a lead over Clinton in a March 11-13 poll. Gallup said polling data also showed McCain leading Obama 47 percent to 43 percent in 4,367 registered voters' preferences for the general election. The general election survey has an error margin of 2 percentage points. The Arizona senator also edged Clinton 48 percent to 45 percent but Gallup said the lead was not statistically significant.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Dems fear a long fight

For Democrats, Increased Fears of a Long Fight By ADAM NAGOURNEY and JEFF ZELENY WASHINGTON — Lacking a clear route to the selection of a Democratic presidential nominee, the party’s uncommitted superdelegates say they are growing increasingly concerned about the risks of a prolonged fight between Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, and perplexed about how to resolve the conflict. Interviews with dozens of undecided superdelegates — the elected officials and party leaders who could hold the balance of power for the nomination — found them uncertain about who, if anyone, would step in to fill a leadership vacuum and help guide the contest to a conclusion that would not weaken the Democratic ticket in the general election. While many superdelegates said they intended to keep their options open as the race continued to play out over the next three months, the interviews suggested that the playing field was tilting slightly toward Mr. Obama in one potentially vital respect. Many of them said that in deciding whom to support, they would adopt what Mr. Obama’s campaign has advocated as the essential principle: reflecting the will of the voters. Mr. Obama has won more states, a greater share of the popular vote and more pledged delegates than Mrs. Clinton. A New York Times survey of superdelegates last week found that Mr. Obama had been winning over more of them recently than Mrs. Clinton had, though Mrs. Clinton retained an overall lead among those who have made a choice. Over the past month, according to the survey, Mr. Obama, of Illinois, picked up 54 superdelegates; Mrs. Clinton, of New York, picked up 31. “If we get to the end and Senator Obama has won more states, has more delegates and more popular vote,” said Representative Jason Altmire, Democrat of Pennsylvania, who is undecided, “I would need some sort of rationale for why at that point any superdelegate would go the other way, seeing that the people have spoken.” Mr. Altmire said he was repeating an argument that he made to Mrs. Clinton during a session at her house in Washington on Thursday night with uncommitted superdelegates. The interviews were conducted at a time of rising displays of animosity between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama, with Mrs. Clinton repeatedly arguing that Mr. Obama did not have the foreign policy credentials to stand up to Senator John McCain of Arizona, the likely Republican nominee. Several superdelegates said they were concerned that this could hurt the Democratic Party in the fall elections and put pressure on some of them to endorse one of the candidates to bring the contest to a quicker conclusion. “It would be nice to find a way to wrap it up,” said Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, who has not committed to either candidate. “If the current trajectory of the debate continues, the divisions will make it more difficult for many of our candidates.” Over all, the interviews with these influential Democrats presents a portrait of a particularly exclusive political community in flux, looking for an exit strategy and hoping they will be relieved of making an excruciating decision that could lose them friends and supporters at home. “This was everybody’s worse nightmare come to fruition,” said Richard Machacek, an uncommitted superdelegate from Iowa, who said he was struggling over what to do. In Ohio, Senator Sherrod Brown would seemingly have an easy task. Mrs. Clinton won his state by 10 points. If the nominating fight had to be resolved by party leaders, wouldn’t he side with her? Not necessarily. “It’s the overall popular vote, it’s the overall delegates, it’s who is bringing energy to the campaign, it’s who has momentum,” Mr. Brown said. “It should be wrapped up before the convention, and I think it will be.” Representative John P. Murtha, Democrat of Pennsylvania, is not wringing his hands. “I don’t see the problem,” he said. “People complain and criticize each other, and then they always work it out.” But Eileen Macoll, a Democratic county chairwoman from Washington State, is expecting something different — and not exactly looking forward to it. “I think it’s going to go all the way to the floor,” Ms. Macoll said. “We will take the vote and that will be the nominee. We’re going to see that happen.” The delegates said they hoped to avoid being portrayed as party elites overturning the will of Democratic voters. They spoke of having some power broker — the names mentioned included Howard Dean, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee; former Vice President Al Gore; and Speaker Nancy Pelosi — step in to forge a deal. Yet even as some of them pleaded for intervention, they said they were not sure what could be done in a race with two candidates who have so much support. “It think it has got to be brokered before the convention,” said Bill George, the head of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. in Pennsylvania. “I think there should be a couple of people — maybe Howard Dean and Al Gore, they have some credibility — to do it. Dean should call a meeting, and the two camps should be forced to do it.” When asked how, Mr. George just laughed. “I just think the two campaigns have to do it,” he said. “I think we lose credibility in America if we let some group come in and do it.” But David Parker, a superdelegate from North Carolina, was not about to give much deference to any political leader in a contest that was of such consequence. “I don’t think too many people are going to listen to Howard Dean unless he appointed them,” Mr. Parker said. “The D.N.C. is not some monolithic group that is going to move as a body.” While the situation is fluid and could change as the voting plays out in Pennsylvania next month and in a series of primaries and caucuses scheduled to last into June, there seems to be intensifying support for the idea that superdelegates should follow the voters rather than for the approach promoted by Mrs. Clinton: that they should exercise their own judgment about who would make the best president. “If the votes of the superdelegates overturn what’s happened in the elections, it would be harmful to the Democratic Party,” Ms. Pelosi, Democrat of California, said in an interview to be broadcast Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” Members of Congress from states where Mrs. Clinton won or seems likely to win, including Mr. Brown in Ohio and Mr. Altmire in Pennsylvania, made a point of saying they would not feel bound by how their states voted. “Barack’s impressive showing in our state is attractive to me,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, where Mr. Obama beat Mrs. Clinton two to one in the popular vote last month. “If somehow 200 superdelegates decide this, it will be problematic.” And there were indications that Mrs. Clinton is facing some questions among the superdelegates about her electability and her potential effect on other Democratic candidates in November. “A key question to me is how the candidates would affect the down-ballot races,” said Steven Achelpohl, the Democratic state chairman in Nebraska. “I think Obama would have a more positive impact on our other races out here in Nebraska.” As of Friday, Mrs. Clinton claimed 254 superdelegates, and the Obama campaign said it had commitments from 213; the figures provided by the campaigns differed somewhat from those tallied by The Times. Mr. Obama has won 1,367 delegates in primaries and caucuses, compared with 1,224 for Mrs. Clinton, based on a count and projection by The Times. A candidate needs 2,025 votes to win the nomination. There are 246 superdelegates who are not listed by either campaign as supporters and are viewed as uncommitted. Of those, 107 are from states where Mr. Obama won nominating contests, compared with 83 for Mrs. Clinton. An additional 56 come from states that have not yet voted. Of the 246 uncommitted superdelegates, 75 are women, 10 are governors and 100 are in Congress. So far, Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton are relatively even when it comes to competing for elected officials; Mrs. Clinton’s overall advantage among superdelegates has come from current and former party officials, reflecting the ties she and her husband have built over the years. Some argued that the fighting between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama was good for the party, by keeping the candidates in the news and energizing Democrats. “People are just enthusiastic about their candidates — I don’t find any rancor here,” said Jennifer Moore, chairwoman of the Kentucky Democratic Party. But many called on Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama to tone down the rhetoric, warning that it could polarize the party and damage the eventual nominee in the general election battle. “I am very concerned about it, and I think they ought to cut it out,” Mr. Achelpohl said. “We need to be unified in the end. Some of these remarks that people are making on both sides are unacceptable.” The superdelegates said in interviews that more than anything they wanted the contest resolved before Democrats assemble in Denver at the end of August. “Every day that this continues, people can surmise that this is going to the convention in Colorado and it could be decided by the superdelegates,” said Gov. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, the head of the Democratic Governors Association. “There is not a superdelegate that I have spoken to who wants that to happen.”

Foreign investors veto Fed rescue

Foreign investors veto Fed rescueBy Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, International Business Editor Last Updated: 1:13pm GMT 17/03/2008 As feared, foreign bond holders have begun to exercise a collective vote of no confidence in the devaluation policies of the US government. The Federal Reserve faces a potential veto of its Desperate measures: Bernanke and the Federal Reserve need to keep on top of the crisis and continue to intervene if needed Asian, Mid East and European investors stood aside at last week's auction of 10-year US Treasury notes. "It was a disaster," said Ray Attrill from 4castweb. "We may be close to the point where the uglier consequences of benign neglect towards the currency are revealed." The share of foreign buyers ("indirect bidders") plummeted to 5.8pc, from an average 25pc over the last eight weeks. On the Richter Scale of unfolding dramas, this matches the death of Bear Stearns. Rightly or wrongly, a view has taken hold that Washington is cynically debasing the coinage, hoping to export its day of reckoning through beggar-thy-neighbour policies. It is not my view. I believe the forces of debt deflation now engulfing America - and soon half the world - are so powerful that nobody will be worrying about inflation a year hence. Yes, the Fed caused this mess by setting the price of credit too low for too long, feeding the cancer of debt dependency. But we are in the eye of the storm now. This is not a time for priggery. The Fed's emergency actions are imperative. Last week's collapse of confidence in the creditworthiness of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac was life-threatening. These agencies underpin 60pc of the $11,000bn market for US home loans. With the "financial accelerator" kicking into top gear - downwards - we may need everything that Ben Bernanke can offer. Bear Stearns may be worse than LTCM collapse Jeff Randall: A world addicted to easy credit must go cold turkey How Bear Stearns ran out of the necessities "The situation is getting worse, and the risks are that it could get very bad," said Martin Feldstein, head of the National Bureau of Economic Research. "There's no doubt that this year and next year are going to be very difficult." Even monetary policy à l'outrance may not be enough to halt the spiral. Former US Treasury secretary Lawrence Summers says the Fed's shower of liquidity cannot cure a bankruptcy crisis caused by a tidal wave of property defaults. "It is like fighting a virus with antibiotics," he said. We can no longer exclude a partial nationalisation of the American banking system, modelled on the Nordic rescue in the early 1990s. But even if you think the Fed has no choice other than to take dramatic action, the critics are also right in warning that this comes at a serious cost and it may backfire. The imminent risk is that global flight from US Treasury and agency debt drives up long-term rates, the key funding instrument for mortgages and corporations. The effect could outweigh Fed easing. Overall credit conditions could tighten into a slump (like 1930). It's the stuff of bad dreams. Is this the moment when America finally discovers the meaning of the Faustian pact it signed so blithely with Asian creditors? As the Wall Street Journal wrote this weekend, the entire country is facing a "margin call". The US has come to depend on $800bn inflows of cheap foreign capital each year to cover shopping bills. They may have to pay a much stiffer rent. As of June 2007, foreigners owned $6,007bn of long-term US debt. (Equal to 66pc of the entire US federal debt). The biggest holdings by country are, in billions: Japan (901), China (870), UK (475), Luxembourg (424), Cayman Islands (422), Belgium (369), Ireland (176), Germany (155), Switzerland (140), Bermuda (133), Netherlands (123), Korea (118), Russia (109), Taiwan (107), Canada (106), Brazil (103). Who is jumping ship? The Chinese have quickened the pace of yuan appreciation to choke off 8.7pc inflation, slowing US bond purchases. Petrodollar funds, working through UK off-shore accounts, are clearly dumping dollars amid rumours that Gulf states - overheating wildly - are about to break their dollar pegs. But mostly likely, the twin crash in the dollar and US agency debt reflects a broad exodus by global wealth managers, afraid that America is spinning out of control. Sauve qui peut. The bond debacle last week tallies with the crash in the dollar index to an all-time low of 71.58, down 14.6pc in a year. The greenback is nearing parity with the Swiss franc - shocking for those who remember when it was 4.375 francs in 1970. Against the euro it has hit $1.57, from $0.82 in 2000. Against the yen it has smashed through Y100. Spare a thought for Toyota. It loses $350m in revenues for every one yen move. That is an $8.75bn hit since June. Tokyo's Nikkei index is crumbling. Less understood, it is also causing a self-reinforcing spiral of credit shrinkage throughout the global system. Japanese investors and foreign funds are having to close their yen "carry trade" positions. A chunk of the $1,400bn trade built up over six years has been viciously unwound in weeks. The harder the dollar falls, the further this must go. It is unsettling to watch the world's reserve currency disintegrate. Commodities from gold to oil and wheat are taking on the role of safe-haven "currencies". The monetary order is becoming unhinged. I doubt the dollar can fall much further. What is it to fall against? The spreading credit contagion will cause large parts of the globe to downgrade in hot pursuit - starting with Europe. Few noticed last week that the Italian treasury auction was also a flop. The bids collapsed. For the first time since the launch of EMU, Italy failed to sell a full batch of state bonds. The euro blasted higher anyway, driven by hot money flows. The funds are beguiled by Germany's "Exportwunder", for now. It cannot last. The demented level of $1.57 will not be tolerated by French, Italian and Spanish politicians. The Latin property bubbles are deflating fast. The race to the bottom must soon begin. Half the world will be slashing rates this year to stave off credit contraction. The dollar will have a lot of company. Small comfort. Have your say

GOP behind Spitzer fall?

Intrigue: Novak suggests GOP operative behind Spitzer fall 03/17/2008 @ 8:51 amFiled by John Byrne Was a political operative behind the fall of New York Governor Eliot Spitzer? That's the suggestion in a Sunday column by conservative columnist Robert Novak(R-always wrong). A Republican operative, he's found, predicted the governor's fall specifically -- several months in advance. "Republican political operative Roger Stone, Eliot Spitzer's longtime antagonist, predicted his political demise more than three months in advance," Novak writes. "Spitzer's entrapment by federal authorities investigating a prostitution ring raised speculation that Stone, with a 40-year record as a political hit man, somehow was behind it." "Eliot Spitzer will not serve out his term as governor of the state of New York,'' Stone said Dec. 6 on Michael Smerconish's radio talk show," Novak added. "He gave no details." Novak's post was titled "GOP strategists at work." In an interview last week, Stone cheered the governor's demise, and hinted further that he'd known about the governor's fall. "I didn't make him go to a prostitution ring," Stone told a Newsday columnist Mar 12. "He did that all on his own." Asked whether he had a hand in Spitzer's woes, Stone said, "No comment." "I will say I knew it was coming," he added. "That's why I wasn't too upset about the results of the special election," where a Democrat won control of a formerly Republican seat in the State Senate, where the Republicans have a one-vote margin. Speaking of the scandal Stone added cryptically: "My work isn't done there. Just watch." Stone now runs an anti-Clinton political 527 group, Citizens United Not Timid, the acronym of which has sparked fury among liberal groups.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Say so long to Kevin Jones and Kalimba Edwards

A couple of weeks ago, running back Kevin Jones was at Lions headquarters. Everything seemed fine. He went back to Arizona to rehab his surgically repaired right knee. He planned to come back to Detroit late this week, because the Lions start their off-season conditioning program Monday.And so, according to two sources, he was shocked this morning when president Matt Millen called to tell him he was going to be released.The Lions later announced the release of Jones and defensive end Kalimba Edwards, who did not expect to return. Two more players once considered building blocks of the Lions’ future are now, already, gone.Millen and coach Rod Marinelli were unavailable for comment.In a statement, Marinelli said: “With the off-season program beginning next week and with our draft preparation intensifying, we decided this was the right time to make these two roster moves.“While there are always a number of factors that go into this type of decision, we do believe these moves bring clarity to our roster and also eliminate some uncertainty heading into the draft that would have otherwise existed.”The draft is April 26-27. It is supposed to be deep in running backs, and the Lions have the No. 15 pick. The top-rated running backs are Arkansas’ Darren McFadden, Illinois’ Rashard Mendenhall and Oregon’s Jonathan Stewart.Jones’ release comes at a time when the Lions want to run the ball more, with Jim Colletto replacing Mike Martz as offensive coordinator. The Lions cut Jones, a first-round pick in 2004, even though they lost T.J. Duckett and Julius Jones to Seattle in free agency. They re-signed Tatum Bell and Aveion Cason, and they also have Brian Calhoun, who is coming back from a knee injury, too.The sources said the Lions gave Jones two reasons for his release: the salary cap and injuries. Jones had one year left on his contract with a base salary of $2.37 million. One source said there was a possibility he could return at a lower number, depending on how things play out. He is recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, after coming back from a serious foot injury last year.Jones was injured in December 2006 while trying to score a touchdown against Minnesota. That was a Lisfranc injury, a tearing of the tissues that connect the bones in the middle of the foot.After surgery and months of rehab — even including an unconventional heat acupuncture therapy in a Saline man’s basement — Jones returned in Week 3, earlier than many projections.Jones managed his soreness every week so he could be ready for games, but he didn’t get to carry the ball much. He had only three games with 20 carries or more — and at least 92 yards and a touchdown in each of them. He suffered a torn ACL after catching a screen pass late in the first half Dec. 23 against Kansas City and had reconstructive surgery.His final rushing numbers for 2007: 153 carries, 581 yards, eight touchdowns. The attempts and yards were career lows, the touchdowns a career high.Edwards, a second-round pick in 2002, signed a five-year, $20-million contract with the Lions in ’06. He hoped Marinelli, a defensive line guru, would turn him into one of the NFL’s top pass rushers. He talked about double-digit sacks.But he had only three sacks each of the past two seasons. He opened last season as the starting right defensive end, missed four games because of injuries and ended up inactive for the last four games. He didn’t even travel for the last two road games, and he said Dec. 31 he didn’t expect to be back.“I told you all at the beginning of the season what the deal was if I didn’t produce, if you all remember my statements,” Edwards said. “If I would have made the plays, I’d still be here. I told you if I didn’t make the plays, I wasn’t going to be here.”He said he wasn’t bitter, though.“We men, man,” Edwards said. “Ain’t no hostility. You sign a contract. If you produce, you keep that contract. If you don’t, you don’t. Me and Rod, we men. …“When he told me what was up, I said, ‘I understand,’ because that was the deal between us. It was unsaid. It was unwritten. But we knew what the deal was.”Defensive end is another position the Lions need to address in the draft. The Tampa Two defense they run relies on a strong four-man rush, and the Lions do not have an elite pass rusher.Since Millen became team president in 2001, the Lions have drafted 18 players in the top two rounds. And since Marinelli became head coach in 2006, eight of those players have left Detroit.Jones and Edwards joined Shaun Rogers, Joey Harrington, Charles Rogers, Boss Bailey, Teddy Lehman and Mike Williams.“As I’ve said all along, we will always make decisions that we believe are in the best interest of our entire football team,” Marinelli said in the statement. “As the off-season has evolved — from our postseason roster evaluation to the combine to the free agency period — we feel we’ve made several moves to improve our team. …“We sincerely appreciate the contributions that Kevin and Kalimba have made to our football team and we wish them the very best. We appreciate their hard work and professionalism during their time with the Lions.”

Gov. Granholm speaks out against Kwame throwing down the N bomb

Granholm speaks out against Kilpatrick's use of racial epithet By CHRIS CHRISTOFF • FREE PRESS LANSING BUREAU • March 13, 2008 Add Gov. Jennifer Granholm to the chorus who have expressed dismay at Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s use of the N-word during his State of the City speech Tuesday. Granholm's spokesperson, Liz Boyd, noted that Granholm attended – along with Kilpatrick – the ceremonial burial of the racist epithet last summer in Detroit ceremonies. “Gov. Granholm condemns the use of the n-word and believes it has no place in public or private discourse. The governor was shocked that it was used, because it should never be used.” Kilpatrick used the word toward the end of his Tuesday speech in describing what he said were racial slurs and threats he and his family have received since the text-message scandal unfolded. His use of the N-word has been criticized by a Detroit pastor and others. The mayor, through his spokespeople, have defended his decision, saying Kilpatrick was simply describing in plain terms what his family has endured in the past month.

Michigan do over in works?

MICHIGAN DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY State-run do-over plan may come today BY KATHLEEN GRAY • FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER • March 14, 2008 Another proposal for a do-over Michigan Democratic primary election is taking shape in the form of a state-run election that would be paid for with private donations raised by Democrats. But time is running short. Legislation allowing for a second presidential primary would have to be written and considered by the state Legislature before the House of Representatives goes on two-week spring break on Thursday. If the bills don't pass before then, they get put on hold until April 15 when the Senate returns from its two-week spring break. According to Democratic party rules, an election would have to be held before June 10. Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, a Rochester Republican, said he's willing to work with the Democrats to reach a solution as long as no taxpayer dollars are used for a do-over election. "We understand they have quite a situation," said Bishop's spokesman Matt Marsden. "So if we're called upon to be involved in assisting them, we will do so." A primary could cost up to $12 million, but Govs. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania and Jon Corzine of New Jersey, who are both supporters of Sen. Hillary Clinton, have said they're prepared to raise $30 million for new primary elections in Michigan and Florida. A team of four Michigan Democrats is charged with coming up with a solution to the problem of seating the state's delegation at the party's national convention in Denver -- U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, Democratic National Committeewoman Debbie Dingell, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick and UAW president Ron Gettelfinger. They talked Thursday with both the Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama campaigns to try to get closer to a solution on a do-over primary. A mail-in vote touted by Levin earlier this week has fallen out of favor, especially with the Obama campaign. But any other plan still needs to get the approval of the Legislature, the DNC and both candidates. The campaigns were not willing to automatically back any plan Thursday. In back-to-back conference calls with reporters, the Clinton campaign said the delegates should either be seated based on the results of the disputed primaries in Michigan and Florida -- which Clinton won -- or redo elections should be held. Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said, "There are concerns about picking a plan that's fair and reasonable and whether there is enough time to do certain plans." In the absence of an agreement, he said, a 50-50 split of the state's 156 delegates between Obama and Clinton "would let their voices be heard." The Florida Democratic Party submitted a plan to the DNC for a do-over election, which would combine vote-by-mail and about 50 polling places across the state. But party chairwoman Karen Thurman said it's unlikely to fly because of concerns about the format. The DNC stripped Michigan and Florida of their convention delegates when the states violated party rules and moved up their primaries. The Republican National Committee also stripped Michigan and Florida of half their delegations, but the GOP nominee Sen. John McCain told reporters Wednesday that he'll work to overturn that decision and seat the entire delegations at the party's convention in Minneapolis/St. Paul. Contact KATHLEEN GRAY at 313-223-4407 or

Ozone rules weak at Bush's behest

Ozone Rules Weakened at Bush's BehestEPA Scrambles To Justify Action By Juliet EilperinWashington Post Staff WriterFriday, March 14, 2008; A01 The Environmental Protection Agency weakened one part of its new limits on smog-forming ozone after an unusual last-minute intervention by President Bush, according to documents released by the EPA. EPA officials initially tried to set a lower seasonal limit on ozone to protect wildlife, parks and farmland, as required under the law. While their proposal was less restrictive than what the EPA's scientific advisers had proposed, Bush overruled EPA officials and on Tuesday ordered the agency to increase the limit, according to the documents. "It is unprecedented and an unlawful act of political interference for the president personally to override a decision that the Clean Air Act leaves exclusively to EPA's expert scientific judgment," said John Walke, clean-air director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. The president's order prompted a scramble by administration officials to rewrite the regulations to avoid a conflict with past EPA statements on the harm caused by ozone. Solicitor General Paul D. Clement warned administration officials late Tuesday night that the rules contradicted the EPA's past submissions to the Supreme Court, according to sources familiar with the conversation. As a consequence, administration lawyers hustled to craft new legal justifications for the weakened standard. The dispute involved one of two distinct parts of the EPA's ozone restrictions: the "public welfare" standard, which is designed to protect against long-term harm from high ozone levels. The other part is known as the "public health" standard, which sets a legal limit on how high ozone levels can be at any one time. The two standards were set at the same level Wednesday, but until Bush asked for a change, the EPA had planned to set the "public welfare" standard at a lower level. The documents, which were released by the EPA late Wednesday night, provided insight into how White House officials helped shape the new air-quality rules that, by law, are supposed to be decided by the EPA administrator. The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) questioned in a March 6 memo to the EPA why the second standard was needed. EPA officials answered in a letter that high ozone concentrations can cause "adverse effects on agricultural crops, trees in managed and unmanaged forests, and vegetation species growing in natural settings." The preamble to the new regulations alluded to this tug of war, stating there was a "robust discussion within the Administration of these same strengths and weaknesses" in setting the secondary standard. The preamble went on to say that the decision to make the two ozone limits identical "reflects the view of the Administration as to the most appropriate secondary standard." The effort to rewrite the language -- on the day the agency faced a statutory deadline -- forced EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson to postpone at the last moment a scheduled news conference to announce the new rules. It finally took place at 6 p.m., five hours later than planned. Under the Clean Air Act, the federal government must reexamine every five years whether its ozone standards are adequate, and the rules that the EPA issued Wednesday will help determine the nation's air quality for at least a decade. Ozone, which is formed when pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and other chemical compounds released by industry and motor vehicles are exposed to sunlight, is linked to an array of heart and respiratory illnesses. The EPA set the allowable amount of ozone in the air at 75 parts per billion, a level stricter than the current limit but higher than what the scientific advisers had recommended. Carol M. Browner, who served as EPA administrator under President Bill Clinton, also encountered objections from the OMB when she established new ozone standards in 1997. In that instance, the president backed the EPA over White House budget officials. "We did not allow OMB to push us into a decision we were quite certain was outside the boundaries of the law," Browner said in an interview. The Clean Air Act, she added, creates "a moral and ethical commitment that we're going to let the science tell us what to do." Asked for a comment yesterday, EPA spokesman Timothy Lyons said the agency had complied with the Clean Air Act. "The secondary standard we set is fully supported by both the law and the record, and it is the most protective eight-hour standard ever for ozone." When asked about Clement's role, White House spokesman Tony Fratto said: "The White House sought legal advice from the Justice Department and made its decision based on that advice." The EPA's documents suggest that senior officials and scientific advisers resisted the White House's position. Last year, the agency's Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee wrote -- using italics for emphasis -- that it unanimously supported the EPA staff's conclusion that "protection of managed agricultural crops and natural terrestrial ecosystems requires a secondary [ozone standard] that is substantially different from the primary ozone standard. . . ." When the OMB's Susan E. Dudley urged the EPA to consider the effects of cutting ozone further on "economic values and on personal comfort and well-being," the EPA's Marcus Peacock responded in a March 7 memo: "EPA is not aware of any information that ozone has beneficial effects on economic values or on personal comfort and well being." Lisa Heinzerling, a Georgetown University law professor who specializes in the Clean Air Act, said Dudley's letter to the EPA represents "a misunderstanding of the statute, a misunderstanding of Supreme Court precedent and a misunderstanding of the science as the expert agency understands it."

Liberal talk radio hires Bob Ney

Liberal talk radio hires ex-con Ney By Jackie Kucinich Posted: 03/12/08 07:51 PM [ET] Former Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) has landed his first job since being released from prison last month.Ney is working in Columbus, Ohio, for the Talk Radio News Service (TRNS), thanks to his longtime friend Ellen Ratner. Ratner, a self-described “proud liberal” who is the TRNS bureau chief, confirmed that Ney is working for the communications company as the ex-lawmaker stays in a halfway house. TRNS is a news booking and host service dedicated to serving the talk radio community. TRNS has a Washington office that includes White House, Capitol Hill and Pentagon staffed bureaus, and a New York office with a United Nations staffed bureau, according to its website. In a telephone interview, Ratner said, “We have never had a Columbus office. Ohio is very important to us.” Ratner said the TRNS-Ney arrangement had been in the works for months and that she hoped to make Ney a political contributor once he is placed on probation. She hopes to make that transition as soon as August. “The Bureau of Prisons won’t let him be on air,” said Ratner. “He’s doing our daybook; he does research.” She added that some TRNS staffers were initially skeptical but are now convinced that hiring Ney was a good move. In February, Ney was released from a Morgantown, W.Va., prison to a halfway house in Ohio. Ney pleaded guilty in 2006 to corruption charges and was sentenced in January 2007 to serve 30 months in prison, but was released early. Ratner was among the family and friends gathered in the courtroom the day Ney was sentenced. In an October 2006 op-ed in The Hill, Ratner publicly defended Ney. “While I’m heartbroken about Bob and angry as hell about the Justice Department’s slimy tactics, I don’t worry about him,” she wrote. “I know my friend will look at incarceration not as the end of the road, but as a detour, a long-overdue chance to seek help for the alcoholism that has taken over more and more of his life these past few years.” She added, “He’ll be strong, and when all this is over, he’ll be a better man, a better husband and father — and he’ll still be my friend.” In a March 2007 interview the evening before he reported to prison, Ney told The Hill that a return to Washington was unlikely. “My family’s in Ohio, and that would tend to be where I want to be,” he said at the time. Rep. Zack Space (D) currently represents Ney’s former district.

Again sorry for another round of lack of updates

I thought I was over the flu bug, I get a chest cold. Going to start working on the blog through the weekened to catch up on the news.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Double Standards

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