Wednesday, February 28, 2007

"Obama to Attend Selma March Anniversary" (with audio)

NPR (with audio, 7:52):
Morning Edition, February 28, 2007 · This weekend, civil rights leaders will commemorate the anniversary of Bloody Sunday — the day in 1965 when civil rights marchers were beaten in Selma, Ala.
The speakers at the solemn occasion in Selma will include two Democratic presidential hopefuls — Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL).

Obama was just 4 years old when the marchers were attacked. This weekend, he'll be speaking at the invitation of one of the men who was beaten — Rep. John Lewis (D-GA).

"John Lewis is a dear friend and a hero of mine," Obama says. "It is something that I'd always wanted to do."

At his Capitol Hill office this week, Obama spoke with Steve Inskeep about his upcoming trip to Selma and his experiences as an African American presidential candidate:

Do you try to talk in the same way to a black audience as a white audience?

I think that the themes are consistent. It think that there's a certain black idiom that it's hard not to slip into when you're talking to a black audience because of the audience response. It's the classic call and response. Anybody who's spent time in a black church knows what I mean. And so you get a little looser; it becomes a little more like jazz and a little less like a set score.

What about in questions of substance or what you emphasize [in a speech]?

Typically that doesn't change. Whatever the audience, I am typically talking about America's capacity to transform itself — our ability to change and make this a more just and equal nation — despite what look like daunting odds.

Do you feel that you have to prove yourself to black leaders or civil rights leaders?

You know, I really don't. I think it's instructive to look at how I ran my U.S. Senate campaign... I think that the African American community is more sophisticated than I think the pundits sometimes give them credit for. The notion that right now I'm not dominating the black vote in the polls makes perfect sense because I've only been on the national scene for a certain number of years. And people don't yet know what my track record is.

Will you need to dominate [the black] vote in order to win?

I will be speaking to themes that are important to that community, but I don't expect to get monolithic African American vote... I think we have some strong candidates in the field and it would be presumptuous of me to assume that people would vote for me simply because of my race.

Our correspondent, Juan Williams, recently interviewed a number of black leaders about you. One of them was Bobby Rush, the congressman who defeated you one time.

He did more than just defeat me. He spanked me.

Well, this may count as another spanking — I don't know — I'll just read you this quote. [Rush] said, referring to you:

"I'm a race politician and he's not. I don't compromise. I don't step back. I don't try to deny. I'm proud to be an African American."

What does that make you think of when you hear a quote like that?

Well, it's always hard for me to know the context of these quotes. I mean, Bobby has endorsed my race and encouraged me to get in. There's no doubt that in the history of African American politics in this country there has always been some tension between speaking in universal terms and speaking in very race-specific terms about the plight of the African American community. By virtue of my background, I am more likely to speak in universal terms.

May I read you another quote? This is from Peggy Noonan, the Republican speech writer, talking about another path-breaking politician, John F. Kennedy.

She said of Kennedy when he became president, "The good news was that the Irish Catholics had arrived. The bad news was that he was a Protestant from Harvard."

Look, identity politics in this country are always going to be complicated and African American politics in particular is weighted with extraordinary history — often painful and tragic history. And so I think my candidacy for the presidency is going to bring to the surface a whole bunch of stuff. A lot of it won't necessarily have to do with me, but will have to do with the country being in a dialogue about where we are now, how far we've come, and how far we have to go.

Do you think that your life and your experience as an African American would cause you as president to pursue any particular policy differently than if you'd been white? Would you be a different president in some way?

...There are certain instincts that I have that may be stronger because of my experiences as an African American. I don't think they're exclusive to African Americans but I think I maybe feel them more acutely. I think I would be very interested in having a civil rights division that is serious about enforcing civil rights laws. I think that when it comes to an issue like education for example, I feel great pain knowing that there are children in a lot of schools in America who are not getting anything close to the kind of education that will allow them to compete. And I think a lot of candidates, Republican and Democrat, feel concern about that. But when I know that a lot of those kids look just like my daughters, maybe it's harder for me to separate myself from their reality. Every time I see those kids, they feel like a part of me.
There's also a post-broadcast interview (audio, 1:55) about "Campaign Fundraising Efforts." Cross-posted at

"Why I refused to blog for Edwards"

Lindsay Beyerstein (Salon):
I am an atheist, but when Bill Donohue called the John Edwards bloggers "anti-Catholic, vulgar, trash-talking bigots," my first thought was, "There but for the grace of God go I."

I was offered a job blogging for John Edwards, but I declined.
On Jan. 12, an Edwards campaign staffer whom I'll call Bob, which isn't his real name, e-mailed me to ask if I might be interested in blogging for the campaign. I maintain a blog called Majikthise, and I'd met Bob several times at various political and social gatherings in New York City, including Drinking Liberally.

Back in October, Bob had invited me to join a few local bloggers at an off-the-record meeting with Elizabeth Edwards at the Loews Regency Hotel. Unfortunately, I couldn't go.

Mrs. Edwards is a celebrity in the netroots because she maintains an active presence in the community. Months later, bloggers who attended that meeting are still talking about it in glowing terms. Mrs. Edwards has been writing her own diaries on DailyKos for years.

As a fellow blogger put it, "Elizabeth Edwards is everywhere."

Bob and I arranged to have an exploratory conversation on Sunday, Jan. 14, after the Martin Luther King Day commemoration service at Riverside Church in Harlem, where John Edwards was scheduled to speak. It was a mutually convenient time because Bob was there with the campaign and I was blogging (and photographing) the event.

After the three-hour ceremony, Bob worked his way through the throng of parishioners and choir members to greet me as I packed up my camera gear. He's a slight, soft-spoken guy in his 20s with short, dark hair and bright green eyes.

"You guys put on a great show!" I said. It was true. Everyone from Chuck Schumer to Bill Moyers had showed up to watch John Edwards denounce Bush's Iraq escalation in Hillary Clinton's backyard.

It was already dark and drizzling when Bob and I left the church. Bob was telling me how John Edwards was going to be a different kind of candidate. We, a new generation of Internet-savvy activists, had finally come of age. We were going to help Edwards run a campaign that was totally outside the Beltway.

I nodded. The glow of the ceremony was still with me. Anything seemed possible.

As we walked, Bob downloaded his vision: The whole Edwards campaign was going to be a decentralized grass-roots operation.

"Elizabeth Edwards gets it," he said with unabashed admiration.

We settled into the back of a small, brightly lit shawarma joint and ordered baklava. After this heartfelt pitch, Bob asked me if I was interested in blogging for the Edwards campaign.

I was dazzled by Edwards' speech, Bob's vision and the sense that I might be on the verge of the big time. I wanted to jump on the bus, but I knew I couldn't.

"I'm probably not ... the person you want," I said, finally. "I mean, I'm on the record saying that abortion is good and that all drugs should be legalized, including heroin. Don't you think that might be a little embarrassing for the campaign?"

Bob assured me that my controversial posts weren't a problem as far as the campaign was concerned. They were familiar with my work. And Bob did seem to know my writing. I didn't get the impression he was a daily reader, but it was obvious he had been reading the blog for a while.

"That's you, that's not John Edwards," he said.

Bob was confident that people would understand the difference. I wasn't so sure.

"So, it's not a problem that I'm an outspoken atheist?" I asked.

Every blogger says controversial things from time to time, Bob assured me. He admitted that he'd drawn some fire for a tasteless joke on his own site a while back. It hadn't been a big deal.

I asked if I would have to quit blogging at Majikthise in order to take the job with Edwards. My blog means more to me than any job I've ever had. After three years of hard work, I finally have a platform from which to express ideas that won't get a hearing in the established media, let alone in mainstream Democratic politics. So the prospect of giving up my untrammeled freedom to blog press releases for John Edwards gave me pause. Still, I assumed Bob would say it was a necessity.

I was wrong. Bob promised that I wouldn't have to give up my personal blog. He added that I probably wouldn't have much time left for personal blogging, since everyone was working 18-hour days on the campaign. But, he noted, he hadn't given up his own blog, and neither had another member of the Edwards Internet team.

I couldn't believe what I was hearing. A bunch of Internet staffers with private blogs sounded like a disaster waiting to happen.

I knew that if I was blogging for Edwards, anything I said on Majikthise would be a potential liability for the candidate, even if I wasn't talking about politics.

And aside from the risks to the campaign, I wasn't sure this arrangement would be healthy for my blog. With this responsibility weighing on my mind, how could I continue to deliver the independent perspective that my readers value? If I were suddenly on a candidate's payroll, yet still posting my own "independent" thoughts on Majikthise, what would my longtime readers think? Would they still trust me? Should they? Full disclosure wasn't going to solve the problem of divided loyalties.

Bob and I sat for a long time, nibbling baklava and talking strategy. He asked me if I knew of any other feminist bloggers who might be interested in the job.

I don't remember who brought up Amanda Marcotte's name first. I said Marcotte was the best writer in the feminist blogosphere. If they wanted a high-profile feminist blogger, Amanda was the best.

Bob is a regular reader of Amanda's blog, Pandagon. We reminisced for a while about some classic brawls and blowups that had erupted at Pandagon.

"The thing you have to realize about Amanda is that she's got real enemies," I said. "We've all got trolls, but Amanda gets a whole different level of abuse."

I told Bob this story to give him some idea of the kind of seething hatred the campaign might have to deal with: The first time I heard Amanda on the radio, an angry caller phoned up to say, "You're Amanda Marcotte, and you're a clerical worker at the University of Texas at Austin." He had his facts wrong, but his message was clear. He was trying to get Amanda fired while leaving some darker threat hanging in the air. The host had to cut him off. Since that incident, at least one of Amanda's trolls had called her then-employer and tried unsuccessfully to get her fired.

I tried to suggest that the campaign might not want high-profile bloggers. I thought it might be better off hiring a well-connected political operative with good connections in the blogosphere.

Bob listened attentively, scribbling copious notes. I didn't feel I was making much headway. The Edwards team was obviously looking for the blogospheric equivalent of star power, but they weren't looking for another high-powered blogger/political consultant like Tim Tagaris or Matt Stoller. They wanted a charismatic audience-builder who could connect with readers who weren't political junkies.

I tried to explain this as delicately and clearly as I could: A-list polemicists are popular because they say things you don't hear on television. The blogosphere isn't just "The Situation Room" with swear words, it's a space for writers to explore ideas that are outside the bounds of mainstream discourse.

If you hire these larger-than-life personalities to blog for John Edwards, they'll have to stop espousing many of the radical policy positions and unconventional values that made them popular in the first place.

Fans will also know when a John Edwards message conflicts with the bloggers' own record on an issue. Big-name bloggers hired by campaigns will be accused of "selling out" and open themselves up to accusations of hypocrisy from both sides.

What Bob didn't seem to realize is that the right-wing blogosphere was going to try to get Edwards' bloggers fired no matter what. Unlike the liberal netroots, the right-wing blogosphere is capable of exactly one kind of collective political action. They call it "scalping" -- they pick a target and harass that person and his or her employer until the person either jumps or is pushed out of the public eye. Whoever blogged for Edwards was signing up for a lot of bad hair days, and it wasn't going to be me.

I left the meeting feeling optimistic but uneasy. I later applied for a job as a campaign photographer. Taking pictures meant I could work for the candidate without having to type up and post endorsements of political positions I might not agree with. I felt that the Edwards campaign was going to make history one way or another. I would even have put the blog on hiatus for a front-row seat.

When the campaign announced that it had hired Amanda as blogger, I was overjoyed -- but very surprised. It's one thing to have a relatively junior staffer say your blog archives don't matter; it's quite another to see that assessment reflected in a hiring decision.

It was certainly a gutsy move, and I knew Amanda could do a great job. If anyone was inured to right-wing intimidation, it was Amanda. She's been fighting the wingnuts tooth-and-nail for years and she's already shrugged off every epithet in the book.

Upon reading the announcement, my partner Darcy said, "I hope the Edwards campaign knows what it's in for."

"I'm sure they do," I said.

At first it looked as if the Edwards campaign might have pulled off a real coup. The right wing's opening salvos fizzled. It was attacking Amanda for using bad words and supposedly rewriting her own posts, but nobody outside the blogosphere cared. Then, just when it seemed like the campaign was going to ride out the storm, my worst fears were realized. Bill Donohue of the Catholic League and the right-wing blogosphere aligned for an all-out assault on Amanda.

If it had just been the right-wing bloggers gunning for Amanda, the problem would have been short-lived. Unfortunately, as the Edwards campaign learned the hard way, the right wing has a large network of surrogates, like Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh and Bill Donohue, who can propel virtually any story into the mainstream media. These professional blowhards are supported by a lavish infrastructure of publishers, partisan media outlets, think tanks, grants, lecture circuits and more.

Republican benefactors lavish funds on the conservative message machine because they recognize the value of a good surrogate. Candidates don't pay their surrogates or give them orders. Instead, they rely on them to say all the outrageous things they can't say themselves.

So far, the left doesn't have much in the way of institutionally supported partisan counterweights. We've got Bill Moyers, they've got Bill Donohue. Explains a lot, doesn't it?

Progressive blogs have the potential to become the left wing's open-source counterpart to the right-wing noise machine. But that doesn't necessarily mean using money and a title to yoke an established blogger to a specific candidate.

There is a breed of blogger that has proven useful working in an official capacity for political campaigns -- the party activist/consultant/blogger hybrid, someone like Matt Stoller of MyDD. Ideally, but not always, that kind of blogger puts his or her own blog on hold while being paid by a campaign, perhaps returning to it once the race is run. And the content of a party activist's blog is heavy on poll numbers, policy discussions and electoral minutiae. An opposition researcher might unearth something allegedly "intemperate" from the archives and use it against the candidate, but that risk is less than with the other style of blogger, an independent polemicist like Amanda.

I can also see the argument for letting these party activists maintain their own blogs while working for a campaign, provided there's full disclosure. In 2006, the Jim Webb Senate campaign put two bloggers from Raising Kaine, Josh Chernila and Lowell Feld, on its payroll. Feld had launched the blog in 2005 with the express purpose of helping elect Democrat Tim Kaine governor of Virginia (Kaine won). Feld and Chernila then cofounded the draft movement that pulled Jim Webb into the Senate race, and Raising Kaine became one of the chief cheerleaders for Webb before the 2006 Democratic primary. When Webb eventually hired Chernila and Feld -- Chernila as deputy field director and grass-roots coordinator, Feld as netroots and online fundraising coordinator and blogger -- he wasn't paying them to say or do anything they didn't already fully endorse.

In my opinion, though, the real lesson of the Webb campaign is how effective bloggers can be when they're outside the campaign. I think the candidates who benefit the most from the netroots are the ones who can inspire bloggers to do their work for free. They create unpaid, unofficial surrogates. Webb is a netroots success story because his team captured the imagination of independent bloggers and online activists.

It was always clear that the netroots adopted Webb, not the other way around. His people figured out a way to make the relationship work. Throughout the race, besides hiring Feld and Chernila, his staffers also diligently cultivated relationships with bloggers outside the campaign. The Webb team started taking the pulse of the larger blogosphere before the Democratic primary -- and their candidate's primary victory was due, in part, to intense Internet support.

Some candidates effortlessly attract blogger buzz, but love at first sight is rare. Usually it takes a little more work to build relationships. Campaigns "work" bloggers more or less the same way they work the mainstream press. They send out e-mails and press releases. They make phone calls. They make their candidate available for interviews. They invite bloggers to campaign events. They network in person at Drinking Liberally or the YearlyKos convention. Webb's team was especially good at maintaining lines of communication with bloggers, and benefited from the netroots' infatuation with their candidate.

When Webb's videographer captured George Allen's "'macaca' moment," therefore, the campaign had a ready-made, receptive audience. All the campaign had to do was upload the video to YouTube and send out some well-targeted e-mails to bloggers and other supporters and wait.

Supporters forwarded the clip to their friends. Bloggers started posting the video on their sites. The "macaca" clip got more than 600,000 views on YouTube alone and exploded into the mainstream media.

The vast majority of bloggers who pushed the story didn't just seem like they were independent of the campaign, they were. They were unabashedly partisan, but they weren't paid operatives. The Webb campaign didn't want to push the video itself, but hoped that it would capture the imagination of supporters on the outside.

If the Webb campaign had pushed the video directly, the campaign would have been criticized for going negative. Instead, it left a tasty tidbit where bloggers would seize upon it.

In general, because of the candidate's popularity, and because of the relationships it had cultivated, the Webb campaign was able to benefit from much rowdier surrogates than Amanda Marcotte without paying for them. In addition to the "macaca" storm, pro-Webb blogger Mike Stark actually got arrested while covering an Allen campaign rally. The incident made national headlines. The video of Stark being carted away in handcuffs reinforced Allen's image as a bully in the last days of the campaign. It's unclear whether Stark's self-assigned political theater ultimately helped the Webb campaign at the polls, but it didn't hurt.

The Edwards campaign wants decentralized people-powered politics. Ironically, by hiring well-known bloggers to manage a destination Web site, it was actually centralizing and micromanaging.
Every campaign needs a blog, but the most important part of a candidate's netroots operation is the disciplined political operatives who can quietly build relationships with bloggers outside the campaign. And the bomb-throwing surrogates need to be outside, where they can make full use of their gifts without saddling a campaign with their personal political baggage.

Rep. Adam Smith Announces Support for Obama

Smith, who sits on the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees, said he has offered not only to help Obama "build contacts'' on the West Coast, but also on foreign policy issues.

"He's a very strong candidate with an excellent approach to issues,'' Smith said. "He's able to bring people together, rather than drive them apart. He's willing to say things the audience might not want to hear.''
Cross-posted at

"Blacks Shift To Obama, Poll Finds"

WaPo (front page):
The opening stages of the campaign for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination have produced a noticeable shift in sentiment among African American voters, who little more than a month ago heavily supported Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton but now favor the candidacy of Sen. Barack Obama.
Clinton, of New York, continues to lead Obama and other rivals in the Democratic contest, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll. But her once-sizable margin over the freshman senator from Illinois was sliced in half during the past month largely because of Obama's growing support among black voters.

In the Republican race, former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who recently made clear his intentions to seek the presidency, has expanded his lead over Sen. John McCain of Arizona. Giuliani holds a 2 to 1 advantage over McCain among Republicans, according to the poll, more than tripling his margin of a month ago.

The principal reason was a shift among white evangelical Protestants, who now clearly favor Giuliani over McCain. Giuliani is doing well among this group of Americans despite his support of abortion rights and gay rights, two issues of great importance to religious conservatives. McCain opposes abortion rights.

Among Democrats, Clinton still enjoys many of the advantages of a traditional front-runner. Pitted against Obama and former senator John Edwards of North Carolina, she was seen by Democrats as the candidate with the best experience to be president, as the strongest leader, as having the best chance to get elected, as the closest to voters on the issues and as the candidate who best understands the problems "of people like you." Obama was seen as the most inspirational.

The Post-ABC News poll was completed days after aides to the two leading Democrats engaged in a testy exchange over comments critical of Clinton and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, by Hollywood mogul David Geffen, a former friend and financial backer of the Clintons who held a fundraiser for Obama last week in Los Angeles.

Early national polls are not always good predictors for presidential campaigns, but the Post-ABC poll offers clues to the competition ahead.

On the January weekend when she announced her candidacy, Clinton led the Democratic field with 41 percent. Obama was second at 17 percent, Edwards was third at 11 percent and former vice president Al Gore, who has said he has no plans to run, was fourth at 10 percent.

The latest poll put Clinton at 36 percent, Obama at 24 percent, Gore at 14 percent and Edwards at 12 percent. None of the other Democrats running received more than 3 percent. With Gore removed from the field, Clinton would gain ground on Obama, leading the Illinois senator 43 percent to 27 percent. Edwards ran third at 14 percent. The poll was completed the night Gore's documentary film "An Inconvenient Truth" won an Academy Award.

Clinton's and Obama's support among white voters changed little since December, but the shifts among black Democrats were dramatic. In December and January Post-ABC News polls, Clinton led Obama among African Americans by 60 percent to 20 percent. In the new poll, Obama held a narrow advantage among blacks, 44 percent to 33 percent. The shift came despite four in five blacks having a favorable impression of the New York senator.

African Americans view Clinton even more positively than they see Obama, but in the time since he began his campaign, his favorability rating rose significantly among blacks. In the latest poll, 70 percent of African Americans said they had a favorable impression of Obama, compared with 54 percent in December and January.

Overall, Clinton's favorability ratings dipped slightly from January, with 49 percent of Americans having a favorable impression and 48 percent an unfavorable impression. Obama's ratings among all Americans improved over the past month, with 53 percent saying they have a favorable impression and 30 percent saying they have an unfavorable impression.

Her position on the war in Iraq does not appear to be hurting Clinton among Democrats, even though she has faced hostile questioning from some voters about her 2002 vote authorizing President Bush to go to war. Some Democrats have demanded that she apologize for the vote, which she has declined to do.

The Post-ABC News poll found that 52 percent of Democrats said her vote was the right thing to do at the time, while 47 percent said it was a mistake. Of those who called it a mistake, however, 31 percent said she should apologize. Among Democrats who called the war the most important issue in deciding their 2008 candidate preference, Clinton led Obama 40 to 26 percent.

In the Republican contest, McCain was once seen as the early, if fragile, front-runner for his party's nomination, but Giuliani's surge adds a new dimension to the race. In the latest poll, the former New York mayor led among Republicans with 44 percent to McCain's 21 percent. Last month, Giuliani led with 34 percent to McCain's 27 percent.

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia ran third in the latest poll with 15 percent, while former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney was fourth with 4 percent. Gingrich has not said he definitely plans to run, and without him, Giuliani's lead would increase even more, to 53 percent compared with McCain's 23 percent.

When Republicans were asked to rate Giuliani, McCain and Romney on a series of attributes, Giuliani was seen as the strongest leader, the most inspiring, the candidate with the best chance of winning the general election, the most honest and trustworthy and the one closest to them on the issues. McCain was seen as having the best experience to be president, but only by a narrow margin.

Giuliani faces potential problems because of his views on abortion and gay rights. More than four in 10 Republicans said they were less likely to support him because of those views. More than two in 10 Republicans said there was "no chance" they would vote for him.

With Clinton and Obama as possible barrier-breakers in this presidential campaign, Americans were asked how a candidate's race or sex would affect their vote. What the poll showed is that Americans indicated they were less likely to support a candidate older than 72 or a candidate who is a Mormon than a female or black candidate.

Those findings could affect McCain, who is 70, and Romney, who is a Mormon. Nearly six in 10 said they would be less likely to vote for someone older than 72, while three in 10 said they would be less likely to support a Mormon.

The Post-ABC News poll was conducted by telephone Feb. 22-25 among a random sample of 1,082 adults, including an oversample of 86 black respondents. The margin of sampling error for the poll was plus or minus three percentage points; it is higher for the sub-samples.
Cross-posted at

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Congress Deliberates (Dithers) While Bush/Cheney "plan airstrikes on Iran" (with video)

"Congress Gears Up For Votes On Iraq." While the "anti-surge" vote passed in the House, it died in the Senate.
Meanwhile, Seymour Hersh talks about "plans by the Bush administration for the invasion of Iran. Covert operations have already begun in order to destabilize Iran, among other things by supporting Al Qaida affiliated groups against the Shiites in Iran (video from CNN, 5:57). More from Hersh here, from his New Yorker piece, "THE REDIRECTION."

"Some Thoughts on the Presidential Race" (We elect a gang.)

Back in 2000 I had an argument with one of my brothers who was intending to vote for George W. Bush. He didn't dispute that Bush had the intellectual curiosity of a retarded monkey. But, he pompously informed me, we don't elect a President, we elect a gang. And, from his point of view, Bush had assembled an A-Team of grown-ups while Gore was working from the Clinton C-Team.
Don't worry about my brother. His plate of crow is so high that he will never stop eating it. But his point was largely true...we do elect a gang. Bush's gang was full of lunatics and criminals, but that doesn't change the merits of the basic observation.

Yet, while I acknowledge that we elect a gang, we also elect a commander in chief that must ultimately be responsible. So, those are the two things I look at. Is the candidate qualified to be commander in chief and what kind of gang will they bring with them?

From that point of view, Rudy Guiliani passes the first test, but not the second. How do the Democrats stack up?

I'll start with Hillary. She is one of the most qualified people to ever seek the Presidency and she is highly electable. I reject her because of her gang, not because of her qualifications.

John Edwards has some excellent qualifications to run for the Presidency having run for the Vice-Presidency. I'm not nearly as convinced he has the the experience or temperament to actually be President. I'm open-minded about Edwards. But I don't really have a good sense of what kind of gang he would bring with him. As that becomes clearer, my impression of him will grow clearer.

Barack Obama definitely does not have the kind of experience I would like to see to either run for President or to be President. But he has something else...something intangible. He has charisma. And he has a good temperament. If he were to actually win the nomination, my biggest question would be about how he would staff his gang. Where would he go to fill out the ranks of his administration?

Bill Richardson has the dream resume in this race. He has all the skills to be President and he holds the Guinness Book of World Records title for shaking the most hands. Seriously. He is a world class campaigner. My problems with Richardson are all related to his gang, which I assume will be staffed by Clintonite retreads like Richard Holbrooke and Madeline Albright.

Joe Biden has a lot of positive attributes. I've always kind of liked him. But he has foot-in-mouth-itis and I would never trust him to carry the Democrats' banner. Not only that, but he is too wedded to traditional bipartisan foreign policies that I see as a massive failure. His gang would be as stale and unimaginative as it gets.

Chris Dodd is an interesting case. I don't see the kind of personal campaigning skills that can get him over the top. And I assume his gang would be drawn from longtime Washington insiders. But, they would probably be the kind of Washington insiders I have the most sympathy for. The problem here is a lack of excitement. But I think he would be the most instinctively progressive candidate of the bunch. I'd like to see more from Dodd.

Wesley Clark hasn't formally announced. My basic inclination is to reject any former military man. It's nothing personal to Clark, but I don't want generals becoming commander in chief. Eisenhower was a pretty good President, but I can't think of another example. I think Clark's gang would be pulled largely from the Clinton camp, and that isn't very reassuring to me.

I saw Mike Gravel for the first time this morning on CSPAN. He didn't impress me very much. I don't think there is much profit in discussing his campaign or Dennis Kucinich's campaign. They would both bring the most interesting gangs, but it's hard to see how they are qualified to be President.

And then there is Al Gore. Al Gore is riding high from his Oscar victory. He's definitely prepared to be President. What kind of gang would he bring? I have no idea. If I did have an idea I'd have a better feel for the man and his candidacy. If he's really changed then his gang will have changed. I have no confidence in that. But, since it would require him to beat Hillary to become President, we can be sure that his gang would not be Clintonian. Would it be the Clinton C-Team, as it was in 2000? Or would it be a fresh face?

As much as I distrust Gore, I have to give him credit for how he has conducted himself during the Bush era.

Here's my current list, in order of preference. If I could snap my fingers and make the next President, this is the order I would use.

1) Barack Obama
2) John Edwards
3) Bill Richardson
4) Al Gore
5) Chris Dodd
6) Joe Biden
7) Wesley Clark
8) Hiilary Clinton
9) Mike Gravel
10) Dennis Kucinich

Where do you come down?

"A request for Obama and HRC supporters"

adamterando (Diary on MyDD):
I am a John Edwards supporter. I've listened to all the candidates speak and have listened to multiple speeches by HRC and Obama. Obama supporters in particular (probably since there are more of them) have asked me to check out his policy positions and read his speeches on his website to find out where he stands on issues. I have done all that in the spirit of learning and so I can come to a reasonable judgement on who to support. So now I have a request for all HRC and Obama supporters. I would like you to give John Edwards a chance and to do it by listening to an interview he just did.

Click here to listen to John Edwards on WBUR's On Point. The interview lasts about 50 minutes and it's very good. I'd like to hear people's opinion on it and if they learned anything new by listening to it. I do feel that many Obama and HRC supporters formed opinions of Edwards in 2004 (as did I) and have never really given him another look since then. So, in the spirit of elevating discourse and getting to know all the Democrats (because one of our candidates is going to lose so many of us will have to support someone else anyway) I'd ask that you give this a listen.

"Stalking Hillary: Her Tough Side"

Nicholas von Hoffman (The Nation):
Will we kill them before they drive us crazy? Or will they drive us crazy first and then we'll kill them? How are we going to make it through the next 20 months till Election Day?
In the old days you could use the same stump speech for a year and a half without anybody noticing and getting bored because you had to move from stump to stump to give it and the people at the next tree stump hadn't heard what you said to the people at the last stump. Now, the first time you give your stump speech is the last time it will sound new, fresh and inspiring.

How, then, will this clutch of candidates get through the long, dry, repetitive months ahead?

Quicker than you can say Lincoln Bedroom, movie executive David Geffen, thought to be the 45th richest man in the United States, let go with a blast at the Clintons. Since Geffen had been a major money raiser for them this is a painful moment for America's poster child couple. The Clintons' respect for money is well documented.

Geffen's treason is yet more dastardly than questioning their electability and their honesty. He attacked him and her as though him and her were one person. When he brought up Bill Clinton's pardon of Marc Rich just as Clinton was leaving office, it was as though she had done it. Rich is the 207th richest American and a shady commodities dealer convicted of tax evasion. The suspicion persists that only a bribe can account for the man's pardon.

You may be sure that the conflating of him and her haunts the Hillary campaign, but more tangible reasons exist to destroy Geffen. The man has switched sides and is now raising money for Barak Obama. Before Obama walked out of the Clintons' nightmares to become a real candidate, they had the Hollywood money locked up.

In conformity with the Clinton campaign tactics manual, Hillary had one of her button men immediately blast back, not at Geffen, but at Obama, who, so far as is known, had nothing to do with Geffen's remarks. There is no controlling the mouth of a billionaire. They say what they say and, if they're on your side, you hope that they are generous.

The Clinton campaign manual has it that you do not wait five minutes before you lash or slash back at whoever has criticized you. The idea is that you do not let the enemy define you.

But Hillary has a special "tough broad" problem. Nobody who follows the political game doubts the lady would have any compunction about kicking Geffen or anyone else in her way squarely in the onions. Once upon a time Hillary had a reputation as the idealist, the ideologue, one might even say the dreamer in the family, but she has worked for the past seven years to rid herself of such tags.

Today she defines herself as Ms. Tough Broad, Ms. Pragmatic, Ms. Senator Wheeler and Dealer. Again, she has reminded us that she is a midnight alley slasher, but does that get you votes from people who think you need some other qualification beside gender to make a good President?

While we answer that question, this little contretemps gives promise that the next year or so may be entertaining after all.

"Clinton, Obama, Edwards: Beyond Paralysis"

Ron Walters (Chicago Defender):
Right now most of the national polls are showing that the race for the Democratic nomination for president is among the three individuals mentioned above with everyone else in the background hoping they will fade. On the other hand, polls of the Black community are showing that Hillary Clinton is ahead of Barack Obama by more than 2-to-1 (52-28; CBS News, Washington Post, January 2007). These are early polls reflect not only the name recognition of the candidates, but the early support among Blacks for their bid. However, the polls could not just be a reflection of name recognition, because if that were true, then John Edwards, having run for vice president most recently in 2004, would be ahead of Barack Obama in all of the polls ñ but he is not.

So, a discussion has arisen about such issues as the relative strength of the Black vote essentially between Obama and Clinton, why the Clinton support is so large and whether Black still owe the Clintons anything.

In actuality, these polls reflect, not only that many voters, especially Blacks, do not know Barack Obama, and thus, may be more comfortable now with the legacy of President Bill Clinton that Hillary inherits, rather than the promises of the person or program of Obama that they have yet to sort out.

Nevertheless, my view is that all of this is beside the point and leads off into endless discussions that, while interesting, don't directly address the exercise of Black power. The real question to be considered now is who can we make the next presidential nominee of the Democratic Party and how can we make that happen? That is to say, it is time to grow up and exercise the power represented by the Black vote within the Democratic Party in ways that return dividends our people and not allow the Black vote to be split three ways (or more) and become ineffectual in determining who the leadership will be. But this appears to be the road we are on, by choosing up sides based on personality rather than choosing up our interests.

The power we have is that the Black vote constitutes from 20 percent to 25 percent of the Democratic primary vote, depending upon the election and in some states such as Louisiana and Mississippi, it amounts to almost half of the Democratic vote. If Hilary or Obama win the early primaries in the predominantly White states of Iowa and New Hampshire, then South Carolina, where the Black vote is likely to be at least 40 percent of the total, could give either person tremendous momentum with two victories under his or her belt. So, there is a great deal at stake here in a decision by the Black community to support either one, or perhaps Edwards.
This a classic opportunity to exercise the leverage of the Black vote by organizing a process to influence who the nominee will be, in a multi-candidate field, that is somewhat complicated by the fact that all of them have credible records.

But what if one of them were to win the primary with the black vote badly split, then go on to win the presidency; we could not make as powerful a case for favorable public policy. The risk is that we deliberately organize and give one person our support and they loose the primary election. Not to worry, they still need our vote to win the general election. So beginning to think through and to organize a political process within the black community is fundamentally more important than the person right now.

My view is that candidate forums in the Black community should occur this year, then a Black convention early next year. The election campaign has moved off so quickly that it could be decided in the first set of primaries in January of next year. This means that any candidate forums organized next year may be too late to provide an opportunity for Blacks to learn to what extent a given candidate supports the Black agenda. Forums this year would provide an opportunity for the liberal agenda issues of Barack Obama to be seeded in the Black community throughout the nation, to give his support a chance to grow before voting begins next year. It would also test how the centrist ideology that Hilary Clinton supports may mesh with the vital interests of the Black community.

We are approaching another presidential election when there is so much at stake. In the past, blacks tended to give effective political strategy little play, but increasingly we won't be empowered without it.
Cross-posted at

"Hillary Clinton to join Barack Obama in Selma on Sunday"

ELMA (AP) - Two major Democratic presidential candidates will be in Alabama this weekend.

Senators Barack Obama of Illinois and Hillary Clinton of New York will both attend the annual bridge crossing ceremony in Selma on Sunday. It's held in commemoration of the Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march.

Obama was the first to publicly accept an invitation to the event. He will speak at the historic Brown Chapel AME Chapel church.

Now officials say Clinton will also attend the commemoration. And she will speak at another Selma church at the same time Obama is speaking.

Both are expected to join civil rights veterans in a walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where marchers led by Martin Luther King were confronted by state police in 1965.

Obama and Clinton are hoping to win the support of minority voters across the Deep South. The Alabama ceremony is expected to be the first time they appear at dueling events so close together.
Cross-posted at

"Edwards: Treaty with Iran Possible" (with video)

ABC News with video from Nightline Online, (9:24):
Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards told a group of New Hampshire voters Saturday that he would consider pursuing a nonaggression pact between the United States and Iran.
Edwards' statement came in answer to a voter's question at a house party in Nashua on Saturday morning. Asked about it later in an interview with ABC News, Edwards confirmed that he views such a treaty -- in which the United States would promise not to attack Iran -- as "a possibility down the road." But he emphasized that the Iranian government would first have to change its behavior in several areas.

(Watch all of Terry Moran's interview with former Sen. John Edwards tonight (Tuesday) on "Nightline" at 11:35 p.m. ET.)

"I wouldn't give away anything until it became clear what the intent of Iran was, that they've given up any nuclear ambition, that they would no longer sponsor Hezbollah, Hamas and other terrorist organizations," Edwards told ABC News, in an interview to be broadcast on "Nightline" Monday night. "So there would be huge jumps and these things would all have to be verifiable. We'd have to be certain that they were occurring in order to get to that stage. But I think we would consider all of our relations on the table."

Edwards' willingness to pursue a nonaggression pact with the Iranian government could put him at odds not just with President Bush, but also with his Democratic rivals, none of whom has gone as far in advocating an alternative to the administration's increasingly confrontational stance toward Tehran. But Edwards' statement could win him support of many Democratic primary voters, who are deeply mistrustful of the president's policies and motives and deeply concerned about the possibility of another war in the Middle East.

In the "Nightline" interview, Edwards also specifically refused to say whether, as president, he would be willing to use military force to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

"I wouldn't make that decision. It would be a foolish thing for the president to say in advance what they would do," Edwards said. "And under no circumstances should the president of the United States ever take anything off the table, but the issue of threats and talking about the use of force is a foolish thing to do. This idea of preemptive strike that came out of the Bush administration I think is also completely unnecessary."

Instead, Edwards advocates what he calls "a much smarter course in Iran," starting with direct negotiations with Tehran on several issues. The United States, Edwards said, should be "engaging Iran directly on both nuclear weapons and on Iraq, bringing our European friends, to put a system of carrots and sticks on the table, a proposal that would allow Iran to do better economically and still have nuclear power without developing a nuclear weapon, with there being consequences, economic consequences if they fail to do that."

Those steps, Edwards argued, would "empower the moderates and the reformers within Iran who want to get on a more responsible course and not on a course toward proliferation."

State Dems: "Don't Waste Your Time on Impeachment"

Seattle P-I:
"Stop impeach talk, legislators urged." Anti-war Democrats in Congress have this message for Washington state legislators pushing for President Bush's impeachment and reducing U.S. military involvement in Iraq: Don't waste your time.
Washington Democrats Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Jay Inslee requested last week that legislators drop bills calling for impeachment investigations of Bush and against the troop surge in Iraq.

They say such measures will increase political fighting at home while slowing the progress to get U.S. troops out of the fighting in Iraq.

Inslee and Murray are trying to tell state legislators that the efforts are a waste of time, said Inslee's spokeswoman, Christine Hanson.

"At the federal level, impeachment talks are more distracting than productive," added Murray spokesman Alex Glass.

State Sen. Eric Oemig, D-Kirkland, introduced the impeachment bill. Another bill that calls for the U.S. to refrain from increasing troop presence in Iraq is sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle.

It seems unlikely either bill will come to a floor vote.

But the hearings won't be until Thursday. That's one day after the deadline to get bills out of committee, so the hearings will mostly serve as opportunities for Washington citizens to speak out, said Sen. Darlene Fairley, D-Lake Forest Park, who heads the Government Operations and Elections Committee that will hear the bills.
Bothell Times (Postman):
"Bush bill puts Democrats at odds." OLYMPIA — Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown says she disagrees with Democratic colleagues who are pushing a resolution that calls on Congress to investigate and possibly impeach President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.
Brown, D-Spokane, weighed in on the bill Monday after U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee and other congressional Democrats said the impeachment resolution would distract from congressional oversight of the Iraq war.

"Personally, I feel that they're doing a pretty good job in ... Congress of investigating the Bush administration and really focusing on the problems in the Bush case for the war," Brown said. "I think they're on task in Congress right now on those issues."

Freshman Sen. Eric Oemig, D-Kirkland, introduced Senate Joint Memorial 8016, which calls on Congress to investigate a series of allegations against Bush and Cheney to determine if there is sufficient evidence to charge them and "follow the Constitutional process of impeachment."

In Olympia, a hearing on the bill is scheduled Thursday before the state Senate Government Operations and Elections Committee. Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles' Senate Joint Memorial 8003 opposing Bush's Iraq troop increase also will be discussed.

The hearing, and particularly Oemig's measure, has become a focus of anti-war activists in Washington state and around the country. Oemig said that among the people he has invited to testify Thursday is Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, who has become a high-profile figure against the war.

Kohl-Welles said she has invited both actor Sean Penn and retired Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. John Shalikashvili.

Bush resolutions in the state Legislature

Hearings on two resolutions — one calling on Congress to investigate and possibly impeach President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, and another opposing Bush's troop increase in Iraq — are scheduled at 3:30 p.m. Thursday before the Senate Government Operations and Elections Committee.

A rally in favor of the resolutions is planned earlier in the day, at 1 p.m., on the Capitol steps in Olympia.

Brown said she hopes that locals get their say.

"I would prefer that the focus be on hearing from people from Washington state, on both sides of the issue," she said.

It's unclear whether the Oemig's bill will get a vote on the Senate floor even if the committee approves it. Brown said there has not been a loud call for the resolution, either from Democrats in the Legislature or from her constituents.

Murray and Inslee have told Democratic lawmakers they think Oemig's measure is a bad idea.

"Jay called and he said, 'Darlene, don't do this,' " said Sen. Darlene Fairley, D-Lake Forest Park, chairwoman of the Senate Government Operations and Elections Committee.

Fairley said she told Inslee that hundreds of people are expected Thursday and that anti-war activists are encouraging people to attend via blogs and Web videos.

"I can't un-ring that bell," she said.

Inslee was busy with a family matter Monday and unavailable for comment. But he had told The Stranger, an alternative weekly newspaper, that impeachment is a diversion and that, in any case, there aren't the votes in Congress to impeach the president.

Murray spokeswoman Alex Glass confirmed that Murray told Brown last week that impeaching Bush was a bad idea:

"Senator Murray's message was, 'I have two words for anyone who wants to impeach the President: Dick Cheney.' "

Oemig said he's heard that some members of Congress would rather the Legislature not push impeachment.

"I'm on their side," Oemig said. "They should help me help them. As soon as Congress starts issuing subpoenas or indictments, 8016 will go away."
Howie Understatement: This is disappointing.

Monday, February 26, 2007


Nora Ephron:
Seven years ago, when Hillary Clinton first ran for Senate from New York, she said something that summed up everything, I'm afraid. "Here's what I've learned," she said. "I can't make a mistake."
I was truly horrified when she said this. One of the things I used to admire about Hillary Clinton was that she had politics - unlike her husband, who was merely political - and it seemed clear that she'd decided she had to give all that up in order to be elected.
Hillary has always been a true Wellesley girl - she's diligent and hard-working and cautious - but she had her real political coming-of-age with uncautious, committed people like John Doar and Marian Wright Edelman, and for a long time the influence of those mentors seemed to outweigh all the careful genes.

Anyway, you know the rest of the story: she ran a flawless, mistake-free campaign, was elected to the Senate, and spent her first six years in office with her finger in the wind. This led to her vote to authorize the war -- which she now disingenuously wants us to believe she cast on the assumption that George Bush wouldn't move forward until exhausting the UN inspection process. (This excuse, incidentally, is truly ludicrous. Does she think we weren't alive at the time? Does she think we don't remember how hellbent this administration was to go to war?)

But Hillary's people have been so mistake-proof for so long that I honestly thought they simply were too smart ever to make a big whopper. So it was weird and practically unbelievable to watch this week as they managed to turn what might have been a one-day story into something that had not just legs but was actually eventually referred to, in a blind quote in the New York Times, as a cry from the "collective unconscious."

I'm referring to David Geffen's interview with Maureen Dowd, in which he called the Clintons liars and worried that Bill Clinton's recklessness might derail his wife's candidacy.

Here's what Hillary Clinton should have said in response to Geffen's remarks: "I love David Geffen. He supported me in the past and I hope that after I win the Democratic nomination he will support me again."

But what she instead did was to issue a statement demanding that Barack Obama (whom Geffen supports) distance himself from Geffen's remarks. Then she sent her political adviser Howard Wolfson, who seems to have been groomed by the same people who restyled Chuck Schumer, onto Hardball. The Clinton campaign even suggested that Obama return the $1.3 million that Geffen and his partners Jeffrey Katzenberg and Steven Spielberg raised at a Hollywood fund-raiser this week. I love that suggestion. As far as I can tell, there is not a morsel of food that has crossed the Clintons' lips in the last twelve years that people have not paid $2300 a person to witness, and the only circumstance I can recall where they ever returned money was an instance where it could be traced to someone who was a distant cousin of a distant cousin of a person who might have been (but probably wasn't) a member of Al Queda.

Howard Wolfson claimed on Hardball that it was unfair to criticize Senator Clinton and President Clinton on "personal terms." I would like to say something about this: there's no separation between personal and political terms when you're President of the United States: your job is to keep the country focused on what's important, and if you screw up for a "personal" reason, it's going to change the subject and (as Dowd wrote) pull the focus. This is probably unfair, but in this age of cable, it's a fact of life.

Mistakes are a fact of life too. As Doris Kearns Goodwin said on Meet the Press Sunday morning, no one minds if you make them. They just want to know that you learned something from them.

"Edwards says only reporters care about Obama-Clinton spat"

AP (Boston Herald) :
That’s what Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards had to say about the publicity surrounding the donor spat between two of his chief rivals, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois.

The Obama and Clinton campaigns issued dueling press releases about a top Hollywood donor who once supported Bill Clinton but is now backing Obama.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign demanded Obama return producer David Geffen’s money after Geffen criticized both Clintons. Obama declined, and his spokesman criticized Clinton for accepting support from a South Carolina lawmaker who said Obama could not win because he is black.

”Oh, I think it’s a bunch of silliness,” Edwards said Sunday on CBS ”Face the Nation.” He said the topic was not on the minds of voters during a stop Saturday in New Hampshire. ”I met probably over a thousand New Hampshire primary voters in the course of having a bunch of house parties. And you’d be shocked to hear the only people who asked me about this were reporters.

”I didn’t have a single New Hampshire voter ask me about this. What they’re asking about is what are we going to do about Iraq? What are we going to do about Iran? What are we going to do about health care? The things you’d expect them to be concerned about,” Edwards said.

"Two steps forward, one step back"

The best thing Barack Obama may have done this young primary season was to freeze out Fox News after their "Madrassas" smear of him. I don't know if he's still cutting them off, but fact is, he sent an unmistakable message -- he'll only deal with legitimate news operations, and Fox News ain't one of them.
This was a huge step forward. Fox News is unabashedly movement oriented -- focused on promoting Republicans at the expense of Democrats. Every decision they make, from top to bottom, is predicated on that very simply mission.
But I suppose politics is about measuring baby steps. And the Nevada Democratic Party's decision to give Fox News rights to one of our field's debates sets back much of our hard work.

Would Republicans hold a debate on Air America? Would they live blog on Daily Kos? Only if they were idiots. But apparently, that very simple notion eludes our top Democrats.

And not just in Nevada. Howard Dean has endorsed the effort as a way to, um, let Fox News talking heads make fun of Democrats to a large audience:

But the Nevada party organizers -- and Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean -- said Thursday that while they may not think much of Fox's reporting, they want to reach out to viewers of the largest cable news network, one with double the number of prime-time viewers of CNN. And one whose believability is much higher with Republicans than Democrats, according to a 2005 study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism.
Howard Dean has forgotten his own battles with Fox, and is now eagerly helping legitimize the right-wing's smear machine. Perhaps there's a limit to how long one spends in DC before they lose common sense.

So it comes down to the candidates.

The second- and third-tier candidates are desperate for any exposure, and won't turn down the debate. But a couple of the top-tier candidates have complained about the heavy debate schedule. So once again, here's a chance to clear up some of that calendar for more productive endeavors.

Skipping this debate will have a second positive effect -- gratitude from lots like me who don't appreciate Democrats bolstering the enemy's smear propaganda machine.
Cross-posted at

Sunday, February 25, 2007

"Reactions to Obama, Clinton Excite S.C. Democrats"

Democratic presidential hopefuls Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama drew huge crowds on recent campaign swings through South Carolina.

Together, they made a statement: The Democratic Party is back.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” remarked Democratic consultant Bob Wislinski on leaving the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center where Obama, a U.S. senator from Illinois, just had addressed a raucous rally of 2,800.

“I’m hopeful,” Wislinski said of his party’s future.

Clinton, a U.S. senator from New York, spoke to more than 3,500 at a town meeting at Allen University.

South Carolina is a key battleground state in the primary process, coming just a week after New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary.

The S.C. Democratic primary is set for Jan. 29, 2008. The Republican contest tentatively is scheduled for Feb. 2, 2008.

With both parties holding early primaries, South Carolina will get a lot of attention from Republican and Democratic candidates. There’s been a steady stream since the first of the year.

A sizable number of South Carolinians have been showing up at the rallies of Democratic candidates, catching party establishment types off guard.

But it is foolhardy for candidates and their followers to suggest victory is in the air.

The size of the turnout is no indication of what’s going to happen on Election Day, says Clemson University political scientist Bruce Ransom.

Many in attendance at the candidate rallies are curiosity seekers, like John Clark, a State House employee.

He came to see Obama, a “celebrity, a rock star,” he said. But he was a long ways off from picking a horse to ride.

After all, what’s the rush?

Columbia attorney and former state Rep. I.S. Leevy Johnson cautions black voters to proceed slowly in picking a 2008 candidate for president.

Gather background information on the candidates. Listen to their stands on key issues. Check out their personal lives.

Right now, the momentum is with Obama and Clinton.

“I’m excited,” said state Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter. “Obama is stirring excitement among voters in a manner I have not seen before. That’s good for the Democratic Party.

“I want to win in ’08 and will support the candidate who demonstrates electability and whose message I can resonate with.”

Unlike some past years, Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, has no intention of staying on the political sidelines this primary cycle.

“I believe this election is for the Democrats to lose,” Cobb-Hunter said. “I can’t afford to sit this one out.”

Candidate No. 4, Please

Meanwhile, some Republicans are concerned that U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona appears to have lost interest in the race.

“The excitement in 2008 is on the side of the Democrats. No doubt about it,” says Francis Marion University political scientist Neal Thigpen , a GOP activist.

On the Republican side of the primary ledger, McCain is locked in a tight race and appears to be losing ground. Those who’ve seen him recently say he looks a bit shopworn.

“My impression is that the Republicans are demoralized,” Thigpen said. “They are not wild about any of their top three candidates.”
Politico has another story, "Stakes Go Up for Edwards in Iowa."

"Ellen explains the unpredictability of the Oscar nomination process (with video)

Think Progress:
Sometimes, the vote count doesn’t always tell the whole story. Watch it here and here.

Ellen: You know, I tried to figure it out, there’s no rhyme or reason to who’s going to win, or how they figure these things out. Because, you know, you can’t — Jennifer Hudson. Jennifer Hudson’s here tonight. Look at that. I tell you. Jennifer Hudson was on American Idol, America didn’t vote for her, and yet she’s here with an Oscar nomination. That’s amazing. That’s incredible.

And then, Al Gore is here, America did vote for him, and then — [applause] Very complicated.

"Hillary's Stalking Horse Leaves the Field"

John Nichols:
Having served his none-too-subtle role in the grand scheme of the 2OO8 presidential competition -- keeping as many Iowa Democrats as possible "locked up" until New York Senator Hillary Clinton ☼ got her campaign up and running in the first caucus state -- former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack today announced his exit from the race for the Democratic nomination.
Vilsack launched his run early and made as much noise as could be expected from a nowhere-in-the-polls candidate with a vague message and even vaguer hopes of raising the funds needed to mount a truly national campaign. But his brief candidacy -- which was quietly advised and encouraged by Democratic strategists with long and close ties to the Clinton camp -- never really amounted to much more than a blocking move for the New York senator with whom he worked closely as a leader of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council centrist.

For his trouble, the Iowan will earn a little bit of speculation about his vice presidential prospects -- nil. And, if Clinton actually wins the presidency, about his Cabinet prospects -- pretty good, if he's willing to settle for Secretary of Agriculture; a bit slimmer if he wants something muscular like Energy.

From the start, Vilsack's job was to present himself as a respectable alternative to the other Democratic candidates who, while he would go nowhere in states other than Iowa, could remain in the running with his fellow Hawkeyes until it was time to get out of Clinton's way.

Even that modest task proven difficult.

Iowa Democrats never took Vilsack's candidacy all that seriously. The latest Strategic Vision survey of potential Democratic caucus goers had former North Carolina Senator John Edwards at 24 percent, Clinton and Illinois Senator Barack Obama ☼ each at 18 percent, and Vilsack with 14 percent.

That's consistent with other polls. It is consistent, as well, with the reaction of key Democrats in Iowa, who dismissed Vilsack's candidacy as they rushed to jump aboard other bandwagons. After Obama officially announced his candidacy earlier this month, two of Iowa's most prominent Democratic officials, Attorney General Tom Miller and Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald, endorsed the Illinoisan.

And Edwards has a grassroots operation in the state that borrows far deeper into most Democratic precincts than that of Vilsack, who quickly came to understand that the definitional phrase in the term "former governor" is "former."

Had the 2OO8 race begun more slowly, Vilsack might have had a better run. The original plan was for Clinton launch her campaign at the relatively leisurely pace of a clear front runner. With that in mind, Clintonites quietly encouraged Vilsack to get in the race early and to run hard -- in order to prevent the Edwards campaign from gaining too much of a lead in the essential first-caucus state.

But Obama changed everything. After achieving superstar status on the fall 2OO6 campaign trail for Democrats around the country, the senator made it clear in early January that he intended to seek the party's presidential nod. That forced Clinton to move her schedule forward and to hightail it into Iowa in order to counter the Obama surge.

Clinton's moves were smart, and effective. She's holding her own in a state where it was thought she would have a hard time. But the former First Lady's fast start turned Vilsack's candidacy into little more than an annoyance. There was no longer a need to have a homeboy candidate keep Iowa's county chairs on the sidelines -- either backing their former governor or at least refusing to make endorsements that might embarrass him. In fact, Vilsack was in the way. Whatever money might have slid into his campaign accounts from DLC-tied donors dried up, and the Clintonistas who had been giving him encouragement were now encouraging him to quit the race and let Hillary grab up as many of his Iowa backers as possible.

Not without an ego, Vilsack tried to pump some energy into his flagging campaign by moving left. The man who chaired the DLC for most of the past two years suddenly abandoned the group's modestly pro-war approach to the Iraq imbroglio and started talking about the need to bring the troops home. But, as the Hotline political wire noted this week, "Even Vilsack's anti-Iraq war message fell on deaf blogger ears."

After this week's Nevada forum for the Democratic presidential candidates, the Daily Kos savaged the Iowan's response to the question: What have you done to end the war?

"What has Vilsack done to end this war?" asked Kos. "[Where] was he the last few years? Well, for one, he was chair of the Democratic Leadership Council between 2005-2007. ... Of course, the DLC has been a haven for pro-war Democratic warmongers, and has been used by the media to paint a picture of a divided party."


So Vilsack's out. As Des Moines Register political writer David Yepson correctly notes, "Vilsack's departure does little to change the nature of the national race -- he was getting less than 1 percent in the polls."

Even In Iowa, Vilsack's exit will mean only a little.

A few savvy staffers will be freed up for hire by the other campaigns, and grassroots Dems who remained with Vilsack will now be getting calls from Clinton, Obama, Edwards and others. And Vilsack? He'll talk about keeping his options open for awhile. But watch for him to eventually join the Clinton camp that he never really left.

You Tube Covers the Oscars

Melissa Ethiridge's Music Video of "I Need To Wake Up" from Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth."

Jon Stewart mocks Shrub and the red carpet: "Sunday Funnies: Coalition Of The Leaving."

"The Bill Clinton factor. Obama repudiates staff hardball tactics"

Lynn Sweet (Chicago Sun-Times):
Bill Clinton's personal behavior...will it matter in 2008 race? LOS ANGELES -- As White House hopefuls Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama competed for major California Democratic donors the last few days, the campaign trail took the rivals to uncharted territory.
The Bill Clinton elephant entered the room.

The matter of former President Clinton's personal behavior -- you know the references -- surfaced in Maureen Dowd's New York Times interview with movie mogul David Geffen, who co-hosted a $1.3 million fund-raiser in Beverly Hills for Obama on Tuesday.

Geffen's acidic remarks about the Clintons triggered a mudslinging exchange between the Clinton and Obama camps.

Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson started with a demand for Obama to disavow the Geffen comments; Obama communications chief Robert Gibbs countered by bringing up a controversial supporter of Clinton's in South Carolina and harkening back to the campaign finance scandals dating to the President Clinton era.

Wolfson went public after BlackBerrying his statement to Clinton. Gibbs acted without the knowledge of Obama, so I'm told by the two camps.

In a lesser noted part of the interview, Geffen said Bill Clinton is a "reckless guy" who "gave his enemies a lot of ammunition to hurt him and to distract the country."

Geffen also said in the interview he's not talking about the past, "I don't think anybody believes that in the last six years, all of a sudden Bill Clinton has become a different person."

Intended or not, Geffen planted a seed.

That "reckless" statement implicitly raised a smeary flag about the present-day relationship between the Clintons -- territory seen as personal and absolutely off-limits by anyone associated with the New York senator.

Lanny Davis, who handled scandal control for the Bill Clinton White House, said the bottom line is this when we talked Friday: "David Geffen's attack on two of the most popular Democrats among Democratic voters in the U.S. ... says more about Mr. Geffen having an anger management problem than any potential harm among Democrats to Bill and Hillary Clinton."


Obama repudiated the hardball tactics of his own staff. And he made it seem he was clueless about a major story dealing with his own campaign.

In a front page New York Times interview published Friday, Obama suggested that his marching orders to stay on the high road were ignored, quite a public flogging.

Obama, in his two-week old campaign, is offering himself as the antidote to a cynicism he asserts is poisoning U.S. politics. One of Obama's stump lines goes something like this: His rival in the Democratic primary "is not other candidates," he says, "it's cynicism."

Gibbs and Wolfson mixing it up is campaign business as usual. The back-and-forth, however, exposed Obama to a risk -- being called a hypocrite.

Obama decided not to handle matters internally, however.

"I told my staff that I don't want us to be a party to these kinds of distractions because I want to make sure that we're spending time talking about issues," Obama told the paper. He added, "My preference going forward is that we have to be careful not to slip into the game as it is customarily played."

Obama, who is rarely without a cell phone or BlackBerry, seemed curiously removed from a major political story dealing with his campaign.

He told the Times the clash erupted as he was flying back to Chicago from Los Angeles on a red eye. Then, he was busy getting a haircut and taking his kids to school.

Later that day, he was back in a plane, presumably with aides who could have delivered the news.

Folks may well have been ready to move on by the end of the week. But Obama, in a baffling strategy, made a surprising call -- to the New York Times.
Cross-posted at

"Oscar Hopeful May Be America's Coolest Ex-Vice President Ever"

LOS ANGELES -- In the annals of vice presidential history, tonight will be something different. In his black tux, the man known to his most fervent fans as "The Goracle" will arrive by hybrid eco-limo and, surrounded by fellow Hollywood greenies Cameron Diaz and Leonardo DiCaprio, will stroll down the red carpet at the Academy Awards to answer the immortal question: "Al, who are you wearing?"
What a year it has been for Al Gore and his little indie film.

"An Inconvenient Truth," the 100-minute movie that is essentially Gore giving a slide show about global warming, is the third-highest-grossing documentary ever, with a worldwide box office of $45 million, right behind blockbusters "Fahrenheit 9/11" and "March of the Penguins."

"AIT," as Team Gore calls it, is also the hot pick tonight for Best Documentary, and if its director, Davis Guggenheim, wins an Oscar, he plans to bring Gore along with him to the stage to accept the golden statuette and perhaps say a few words about . . . interstitial glacial melting? (More likely, Gore will deliver a favorite line about "political will being a renewable resource.")

In the year since his film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, to a standing ovation, Gore has gone from failed presidential contender -- and a politician who at times gave new meaning to the word cardboard -- to the most unlikely of global celebrities.

Incredible as it may seem, Al Gore is not only totally carbon neutral, but geek-chic cool. No velvet rope can stop him. He rolls with Diddy. He is on first-name basis, for real, with Ludacris. But what does this mean? And how did it happen? Did Gore change? Or did the climate -- political, cultural, natural -- change around him?

In an e-mail exchange with The Goracle himself, "AG" typed to The Washington Post that the Oscar craziness and pageantry of the film premieres has been fun (his word) "but I'm old enough to know that a red carpet is just a rug, so I've been able to enjoy that part of it without losing perspective."

Just a rug, people. Because, Gore continued (this was on Friday during a break from his tux fitting): "Actually, for me, the most moving moments have been in conversations with people who have told me that the movie had a big impact on the way they think and feel about our moral responsibility to protect the Earth."

"He is more popular now than he ever was in office, and he knows it," says Laurie David, one of the producers of "Inconvenient Truth" and a Hollywood environmental activist (and wife of "Seinfeld" co-creator Larry David) who has traveled around the world promoting the film with Gore. "He's a superhero now."

Before the film? He was more Willy Loman than Green Avenger. After his loss in 2000, a battered Gore began to schlep around the country, often solo, flying coach, giving his ever-evolving slide show about climate change, a threat that Gore, now 58, says he has felt strongly about since his Harvard days.

After the film? Says director Guggenheim, "Everywhere I go with him, they treat him like a rock star."

Guggenheim is not being hyperbolic. Take the Cannes Film Festival: Al Gore was mobbed. By French people. He was a presenter at the Grammy Awards, alongside Queen Latifah, where he got one of the biggest welcomes of the night. "Wow. . . . I think they love you, man. You hear that?" the current Queen asked the former veep. Earlier this month, the ticket Web site at the University of Toronto crashed when 23,000 people signed on in three minutes to get a seat to hear Gore do his thing on the oceanic carbon cycle. At Boise State, Gore and his slide show sold out 10,000 seats at the Taco Bell Arena, reportedly "faster than Elton John."

Remember that this is the same Al Gore who even today interrupts himself to explain that while he supports the use of ethanol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, please, he is not talking about regular ethanol; he is talking about "cellulosic ethanol" (made from wood chips rather than cornstarch).

Also remember that "An Inconvenient Truth" was not on anybody's short list for theatrical release, let alone an Oscar. "I think I was the only person crazy enough to want it," says John Lesher, president of Paramount Vantage, which purchased the film at Sundance. "Everybody else had already passed on it, to be honest, but I thought if we do our job right, this could be a zeitgeist moment."

The film distributor's greatest challenge? "To convince people that it wasn't going to be boring," he says. "We didn't want to sell spinach." His greatest asset? "Al Gore. There was no hiding him."

Lesher explains that, from a marketing and branding perspective, Gore was lugging some very heavy baggage. "Democrats felt disappointed in him, and Republicans didn't like him," he says. "But it worked." How come? What comes through in the film, Lesher says, "is here is this person who has gone through this incredible adversity" -- Florida recount, Supreme Court decision, bye-bye White House -- "and this is what he decides to do," the one-man slide show, "and so you see this massive integrity."

And nobody worked for the film harder than Al Gore, Lesher says: "He was an amazing collaborator, and unlike everyone else in Hollywood, he did everything he said he would do, which is unique in my experience."

Gore worked the premieres in Edinburgh, Helsinki, Oslo, Stockholm, Sydney, Hong Kong, Amsterdam, Zurich, Brussels, Berlin and Tokyo. In France, he not only attended the film opening, but presented his 90-minute Apple Keynote lecture to the National Assembly. He did the slide show at the United Nations, the American Geophysical Union, and before conservative activist Grover Norquist's regular Wednesday meeting.

"I am trying to reach out to people in every effective way that I can find," Gore wrote in his e-mail. "In the process, I have had the chance to work with really interesting people from all walks of life." Meaning: eggheads and rappers, movie moguls and prime ministers, and, recently, Bon Jovi. "So, pop culture is an important part of the message delivery system, but far from the only part."

Gore's book, based on the film, has sold 850,000 copies worldwide and translation rights for 24 languages. In Spain, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero told Gore that the DVDs of the film would be shown in the public schools, following similar proclamations in Scotland and Norway. And speaking of Norway, earlier this month Gore was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for his work to alert the world to the dangers of climate change.

"People ask him all the time what does he attribute his recent success to and Gore tells them 'reality,' " says Larry Schweiger, a friend and president of the National Wildlife Federation, who is a leader of Gore's Alliance for Climate Protection, a foundation that seeks to bring evangelicals, hunters, farmers and entrepreneurs to the cause. "They used to ridicule him. They called him a tree-hugger. They don't do that anymore."

Guggenheim explains: "People say to me that Al Gore is so different now. Why wasn't he like this when he ran for president?" Meaning that Gore now appears relaxed, confident, happy, and not stiff, robotic, pinched. "They say Al has changed. But I don't think so. We've changed. The setting has changed. He's the same. When you're running for office, you're a target every moment you are in front of the camera. Now, he's in a different place and we see him in a different way."

There might be something to this. Earlier this month in Los Angeles, accompanied by booming house techno bass beat, Gore announced his plan for a global "Live Earth" day of mega-concerts this summer, to be held simultaneously on all seven continents, with 100 of the world's most popular musical acts -- Snoop Dogg, Kelly Clarkson, Bon Jovi, Korn -- to promote awareness about climate change. Gore was surrounded by a grinning Cameron Diaz (she hugged him) and a nodding Pharrell Williams, the rap-producing impresario, and though Gore perhaps went on for a few paragraphs too long about how many tons of carbon a day are entering the oceans, the riser of international press and paparazzi were clearly gorging on the glamorama. Gore was his usual earnest self. A nerd? Maybe, but he was the nerd with Cameron and Pharrell, talking about the carbon cycle and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. It was the mixology -- high-wattage celebrity and energy-efficient light bulbs -- that helps the medicine go down.

"Is being president better than this?" muses Simon Rosenberg, head of the New Democratic Network. "I think what Gore's figured out how to do is something that a lot of people want to do. He's living a life of great freedom and pursuing his interests, and he's having an impact on public policy. He's been able to start a bunch of companies and do the movie and he's got this great life right now."

"I agree" Gore typed, "that the Zeitgeist has begun to change. I think it reflects the increased popular will to confront and solve this crisis. It's an extraordinary experience to see this issue -- which the conventional wisdom used to say was politically marginal -- become central for so many people. As it should. I also think that people see candidates through a different lens, and that is a factor. But I also think there is at least a grain of truth to the old cliche that 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.' So maybe I've gotten a little stronger in the last six or seven years."

Gore is escaping the fate of most former politicians, says Matt Bennett, a consultant for Democrats who worked closely with Gore during his vice presidency. "Usually defeated -- or allegedly defeated -- party nominees become pariahs. Look at Mike Dukakis or John Kerry. Or they just go out to pasture like Bob Dole. Gore has pulled off a feat unknown in modern times, which is to completely rehabilitate his image in the public mind very quickly."

Bennett credits savvy handling by people around Gore, including the documentary-makers. And he says the world is catching up with Gore. "Look, this guy was a visionary. He was right about everything, even the stuff he was ridiculed for," Bennett says. "He was right about the Internet, he was right about the first Gulf War, he was sure as hell right about the Iraq war. And he was right about global warming."

At the "Live Earth" press conference, Gore once again affirmed that he is not planning to enter the 2008 presidential fray, though this has not stopped the lefty blogosphere from imagining the jaw-dropping holy cow if The Goracle announces his run on Oscar night. That, say Gore's most intimate insiders, is most definitely not going to happen.

As for whom Gore will be wearing, his people reveal: It'll be Ralph Lauren.

"Richardson Looks to Use Hispanic Roots"

WESTON, Fla.--For the Broward County, Fla., Democratic chairman, Bill Richardson's presidential campaign has meaning far beyond how well the New Mexico governor fares against better known 2008 rivals.

Richardson represents two important growth targets for the party, said Mitch Ceasar: He is Hispanic and from a Western state once considered solidly Republican.
"The challenge will be for him to show not just that he's the Hispanic candidate, but that he can mobilize that base," Ceasar said. "His ability to do that will be measured and considered by all candidates in the future."

Before a speech Saturday night at a Broward Democrats' dinner, Richardson said in an interview with The Associated Press that his Hispanic heritage will be a key asset as he attempts to distinguish himself from other candidates.

"It will provide, hopefully, a base of support. Hispanic votes are very important in the early primary states, like Nevada," Richardson said. "Naturally, I am campaigning hard to get Hispanic support. But I am not running as the Hispanic candidate. I am running as a mainstream American candidate who happens to be Hispanic."

Joe Garcia, executive vice president of the nonprofit NDN Network, formerly known as the New Democratic Network, said Richardson is "what the new Democratic Party will look like" as it works to attract Hispanics and make inroads in the West.

"I think he offers tremendous opportunity for the growth of the party in areas where the party needs to grow," the Miami activist said.

Richardson's father was an international banker from Boston and his mother was Mexican. Richardson settled in New Mexico after several years as a Washington staffer, partly because of the state's large Hispanic population.

His main problem in the 2008 campaign is that he trails the top-tier candidates - New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and 2004 vice presidential nominee John Edwards - in name recognition and fundraising. Richardson does have a strong resume that includes stints as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, energy secretary, congressman and twice-elected New Mexico governor.

In the AP interview, Richardson said this broad experience is unmatched by any of his rivals and said his campaign is based on selling that resume to voters.

"When the American people see my record and my experience, they will know I'm not just a candidate who talks the talk, I've walked the walk. I've done things this country needs," Richardson said. "I may not have the most resources or the rock-star status, but I think this should be an election about competence and vision for the country."

In his speech to about 700 Broward Democrats, Richardson called for U.S. troops to leave Iraq by the end of 2007 and said he is uniquely qualified to help broker a workable power-sharing arrangement among the competing factions in Iraq.

"The next president must be able to repair the damage that's been done to our national reputation," Richardson said. "It is time for our troops to leave with honor."

Richardson also said he supported efforts in Florida to move its 2008 presidential primary forward on the calendar, possibly to Feb. 5, in part because of the state's large Hispanic population.

"I hope it happens. If it happens, you're going to see a lot more of me," he said.

Florida's Hispanic population differs politically from most of the rest of the country because of its dominance by Cubans. They overwhelmingly are Republican, largely because of perceptions that the GOP is more staunchly against Fidel Castro.

It did not help Democrats when President Clinton's administration decided in 2000 to send Elian Gonzalez back to Cuba after the boy was rescued floating on an inner tube and his Miami-based relatives and supporters fought to keep him in the United States.

Garcia, however, said many younger Cubans are more open to supporting Democrats, who do well among other major Hispanic groups, such as Mexicans and Puerto Ricans.

"To have a candidate who is a Hispanic, if nothing else it shows that Democrats are inclusive and that's a message the party wants to send," said Aubrey Jewett, political science professor at the University of Central Florida. "It keeps him in the game. I don't think it's enough to put him over the top."

Also Saturday, Richardson urged the Bush administration to negotiate directly with Iran over its nuclear program.

"Saber-rattling is not a good way to get the Iranians to cooperate," Richardson wrote in The Washington Post. "But it is a good way to start a new war."

A better approach, he said, "would be for the United States to engage directly with the Iranians and to lead a global diplomatic offensive to prevent them from building nuclear weapons."

Richardson, who has visited North Korea several times for talks, both in an official and unofficial capacity, said the recent tentative agreement with the communist government over its nuclear program illustrates that "diplomacy can work even with the most unsavory of regimes."

"Edwards Insists on Discussing Iraq War" (UPDATED)

UPDATE: "Clinton-Obama spat 'sad,' Edwards tells ABC."

NASHUA, N.H. — Health care was the topic of the day Saturday, but Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards made sure New Hampshire voters gave him another chance to say he was wrong as a senator to authorize the use of force in Iraq.
Edwards' visit to New Hampshire was billed as a series of house meetings to promote his health care plan and his presidential bid. But less than five minutes after walking into the day's first house party, the 2004 vice presidential nominee turned to the subject that has consumed the Democratic contenders: Iraq.

"Honestly, if you don't bring up Iraq, I'll bring it up," the former North Carolina senator told about 150 people gathered in a state senator's living room and kitchen.

And when the first few questions dealt with other issues _ homelessness, catastrophic health insurance, the federal budget _ Edwards again suggested someone might want to ask him about Iraq. Edwards wanted to make sure everyone there knew he regretted his Senate vote that gave President Bush the authority to begin the war in Iraq _ an apology Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has refused to offer.

On his way to an appearance in Salem, Edwards told reporters he wanted to make certain his position was clear.

"I just wanted to make sure anyone who hadn't heard me say it, knows that that's my position. On that issue and everything else, I want to make it absolutely clear to voters in New Hampshire where I stand," he said.

Perhaps in a sign that Edwards has accomplished that goal, not one of the nine questions he faced later at a house party in Concord involved Iraq. Instead, voters pressed him on immigration, education, and whether the president has become too powerful.

"Would you be willing to say this is too much power for one person?" one woman asked Edwards.

"I would absolutely say that," said Edwards.

The war's unpopularity helped Democrats gain control of the New Hampshire Statehouse last fall and defeat its two Republican congressmen. Would-be presidents who've visited the state have faced detailed questions on the issue.

Edwards said the United States should cap its level of troops at 100,000 and bring home more than 40,000 troops immediately. His proposal closely resembles that of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group report, which recommends a complete departure from Iraq by this time next year.

"(Bush) was not given authority to police a civil war, which is what he is doing now," Edwards said.

He borrowed an analogy from his wife, Elizabeth _ sitting nearby on the floor, leaning against a couch _ and said the U.S. approach is like a parent scolding a child for not making his bed and then making the bed for him repeatedly.

"We're continuing to enable this bad behavior," Edwards said.

State Rep. Jeff Fontas, D-Nashua, said he wasn't that interested in supporting Edwards before Saturday.

"But he came and gave this brilliant speech," said Fontas, who was impressed with the appearance of Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill, weeks earlier. "He voted for the war. But his apology brought light to his ideas to fix it."

Edwards also brought his health care plan, which would require health insurance for everyone but also provide subsidies to help lower-income families afford it. He also touted proposals to cut energy subsidies to the energy industry, reduce global warming and address homelessness.

Edwards' work on anti-poverty causes since his last run brought Pat Harris to the event. She said she sees a bit of her political hero in Edwards.

"He's a Jimmy Carter-kind of guy," said Harris, who housed 20 John Kerry volunteers in 2004 but hasn't decided who will get her support in 2008. "I'm very impressed. I had questions. But the questions I had, he answered."

Among her questions about his campaign: Iraq.