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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Obama and the Latino Vote

With Clinton out, the Latino vote goes to Obama. The Pew poll shows Obama stands well with Latinos. This should come as no surprise. With the choice being between McCain and Obama, Obama seems to be winning. RGN

Press Release
July 24, 2008
For Immediate Release
Mary Seaborn
Brandon Maitlen
Hispanics Support Obama over McCain for President by Nearly Three-to-One, Pew Hispanic Center Survey Finds

Hispanic registered voters support Democrat Barack Obama for president over Republican John McCain by 66% to 23%, according to a nationwide survey of 2,015 Latinos conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center, from June 9 through July 13, 2008.

obama leads

The presumptive Democratic nominee's strong showing in this survey represents a sharp reversal in his fortunes from the primaries, when Obama lost the Latino vote to Hillary Clinton by a nearly two-to-one ratio, giving rise to speculation in some quarters that Hispanics were disinclined to vote for a black candidate.
In this new survey, three times as many respondents said being black would help Obama (32%) with Latino voters than said it would hurt him (11%); the majority (53%) said his race would make no difference to Latino voters.
In addition to their strong support for Obama, Latino voters have moved sharply into the Democratic camp in the past two years, reversing a pro-GOP tide that had been evident among Latinos earlier in the decade. Some 65% of Latino registered voters now say they identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party, compared with just 26% who identify with or lean toward the GOP. This 39 percentage point Democratic Party identification edge is larger than it has been at any time this decade; as recently as 2006, the partisan gap was just 21 percentage points.


The report also examines Hispanic registered voter engagement, party identification, ratings of national conditions, and top campaign issues.
The report, 2008 National Survey of Latinos: Hispanic Voter Attitudes, is available at the Pew Hispanic Center's website,
The Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center, is a non-partisan, non-advocacy research organization based in Washington, D.C. and is funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Obama and Economic Policy

Obama to Meet With Rubin, Volcker, Buffett on Economic Plans

By Julianna Goldman

July 27 (Bloomberg) -- Democrat Barack Obama said he is convening a meeting on the economy tomorrow that will include former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker and billionaire investor Warren Buffett as he pivots to the U.S. economy after a nine-day trip abroad.

``I expect some further fine-tuning of short-term policies based on what's happened over the last several months,'' Obama said in an interview last night aboard his presidential campaign plane returning to Chicago from London.

The meeting in Washington will also include former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich and Anna Burger, secretary- treasurer of the Service Employees International Union, said David Axelrod, Obama's chief strategist.

Rubin advised New York Senator Hillary Clinton during her primary campaign against Obama. Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., plans to phone in to the meeting, Axelrod said.

Obama, 46, an Illinois senator, said he wants to ``really work through in detail some of the immediate steps that may need to be taken both between now and the end of the year and after inauguration'' to strengthen the housing and financial markets and to talk more about long-term economic strategies.

`Do Business With Me'

Obama expressed satisfaction with his foreign trip.

``I think voters can take a look at this trip and say to themselves that this guy can function effectively on the world stage,'' Obama said.

He stopped in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Middle East and Europe, where he visited troops, conferred with military commanders and met with dozens of foreign leaders. The trip allowed Obama to make his case that he's ready to be commander-in-chief as John McCain, 71, the presumptive Republican nominee, casts him as a neophyte on foreign affairs and national security.

``The reports of the heads of state that I met with were that they could do business with me and that obviously is what we wanted to make clear,'' Obama said.

The threat of a nuclear Iran dominated discussions in Jordan, Germany, France, Britain and especially in Israel, where Obama's stated willingness to meet with adversaries has raised concern. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly threatened Israel and questioned its right to exist.

Obama said Israeli leaders he met with, including Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Likud Party Leader Benjamin Netanyahu, didn't express those concerns, and he praised Olmert for engaging in diplomacy with Syria and Hamas through intermediaries.

``They recognize that we have to have a very hard-headed, non-ideological approach about how do we move our strategic interest forward,'' Obama said.

Military Power

``I think they have confidence that my interest in diplomacy does not preclude all other approaches to potential American power, including military power,'' Obama said.

The U.S. and its European allies accuse Iran of pursuing a nuclear weapons program; Iran insists its activities are peaceful and legal under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Obama, whose stops in Afghanistan and Iraq came during the first leg of his trip, also said he's ``not yet'' confident that the recently elected Pakistani government will provide the necessary cooperation with U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization efforts to root out al-Qaeda and Taliban base camps in the tribal areas along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

`Inadequate' Cooperation

``What we've seen so far has been inadequate,'' Obama said. ``There is no doubt that we have to have a greater cooperation with Pakistan.''

Obama, who has said the U.S. must refocus on Afghanistan, has called for a phased 16-month withdrawal of troops from Iraq to redeploy two or three more brigades to Afghanistan. He said, however, that the extra brigades are a ``necessary but not sufficient requirement for us to solve the problem.''

Pakistan's newly elected Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani will visit Washington this week and meet tomorrow with President George W. Bush.

Obama said he's ``hoping that I have a chance to meet him and have discussions with him,'' though he didn't say any meeting has been arranged.

When it comes to asking for more cooperation from European allies in the NATO effort in Afghanistan, Obama said, ``we need to make sure that we are helping to make clear what's at stake.''

``Hopefully to the extent that we are showing an interest in their top agenda items like climate change, that strengthens cooperation and gives them more political room to put more resources and more efforts in Afghanistan,'' he said.

In one month, Obama will accept his party's nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. He refused to comment on his vice presidential search.

`Inclusive' Convention

He said he's focusing on making the convention ``more open and inclusive,'' and that he's been thinking ``thematically'' about his acceptance speech at Invesco Field on Aug. 28.

Obama said he has been ``spending a lot of time figuring out how can we refresh the format so it's not only an interesting TV show but also it builds on grassroots organization.''

Obama said in his meeting with advisers he expects to ``get their read on where the economy is going,'' and fashion some ``additional steps'' to address the short-term economic and financial and housing issues.

After the foreign trip, he is expected over the next week to spend most of his time talking about domestic issues with a special focus on the economy.

To contact the reporter on this story: Julianna Goldman in Chicago at

Last Updated: July 27, 2008 00:35 EDT

Grace Lee Boggs on Obama: Must Read

Grace Boggs is an internationally respected scholar/activist who has been active in the struggle for many years. She was married to auto worker and activist James (Jimmy) Boggs. James was also a well-respected activist/author. Racism and the Class Struggle: Further Pages from a Black Worker’s Notebook. Her thoughts appear below. She posted this late February and early March. RGN

Wikipedia says of Grace:

Grace Lee Boggs is an activist, writer and speaker whose more than sixty years of political involvement encompass the major U.S. social movements of this century: Labor, Civil rights, Black Power, Asian American, Women's and Environmental Justice.

Born in Providence, R.I. of Chinese immigrant parents in 1915, Grace received her B.A. from Barnard College in 1935 and her Ph.D. in Philosophy from Bryn Mawr College in 1940. In the 1940s and 1950s she worked with West Indian Marxist historian C.L.R.James and in 1953 she came to Detroit where she married James Boggs, African American labor activist, writer and strategist. Working together in grassroots groups and projects, they were partners for over 40 years until James death in July 1993. Their book, Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century, was published by Monthly Review Press in 1974.

In 1992, with James Boggs, Shea Howell and others, she founded DETROIT SUMMER, a multicultural, intergenerational youth program to rebuild, redefine and respirit Detroit from the ground up, which completed its 14th season in the summer of 2006. Currently she works with the Detroit City of Hope campaign and the Beloved Communities Initiative and writes for the weekly Michigan Citizen.

Her autobiography, Living for Change, published by the University of Minnesota Press in March 1998 is widely used in university classes in Asian American studies, on Detroit and on social movements.

For her contributions, she has received numerous awards.

Grace Lee Boggs, “The Authenticity of Obama’s Leadership”

Michigan Citizen, Feb. 24-Mar. 1, 2008

My eyes and ears are riveted to TV. I can’t get enough of Obama’s calling upon Americans of all ages, all walks of life, all faiths, all abilities, all sexual orientations, all political leanings, to stop thinking like victims and start believing that we have the power within ourselves to create the world anew.

“I am asking you to believe not only in my ability to bring about change in Washington . I am asking you to believe in yours.”

Obama is providing the authentic, visionary leadership we need in this period when our challenges are so great and our politics (as he puts it in The Audacity of Hope) so small.

That kind of leadership is very precious.

26 year-old MLK provided it in 1955 when he inspired Montgomery blacks, sick and tired of being sick and tired, to go beyond protest and manifest a more advanced humanity in their yearlong non-violent boycott.

Jimmy Boggs anticipated it when he said in his last speech to University of Michigan students in 1991 “I don’t believe nobody can run this country better than me. I’m saying you better think that way. You need to stop thinking of yourself as a minority because thinking like a minority means you’re thinking like an underling. Everyone is capable of going beyond where they are.”

Liberals and radicals tend to be skeptical of this kind of leadership. Viewing society as a laundry list of problems, liberals promise solutions. Radicals, having concluded that another world is necessary, begin to lose hope that another world is possible when only a few people show up for their meetings.

Obama does not promise solutions. He doesn’t view people as masses. Out of his experiences as a community organizer and his dialectical/historical appreciation of movement building in the U.S., he is asking us to become active citizens, builders of a new America that all of us will be proud to call our own.

As he put it in a 1995 interview:

"What we need in America, especially in the African-American community, is a moral agenda that is tied to a concrete agenda for building and rebuilding our communities, We have moved beyond the clarion call stage needed during the civil rights movement. Now we must move into a building stage…

"We have no shortage of moral fervor, In every church on Sunday in the African-American community we have fervor. .But as soon as church lets out, the energy dissipates. The biggest failure of the civil rights movement was in failing to translate this moral fervor into creating lasting institutions and organizational structures…

Chicago’s first African American mayor, Harold Washington was the best of the classic politicians, But he, like all politicians, was primarily interested in maintaining his power and working the levers of power. He was a classic charismatic leader,..

“How do we rebuild our schools? How do we rebuild our communities? How do we create safer streets? What concretely can we do together to achieve these goals?”

“For our agenda to work, we can't see voters or communities as consumers, as mere recipients or beneficiaries of this change. It's time for politicians and other leaders to see voters, residents or citizens as producers of this change. The thrust of our organizing must be the whole agenda of creating productive communities. That is where our future lies…

"The right wing talks about this but they keep appealing to that old individualistic bootstrap myth: get a job, get rich, and get out. Our goal must be to help people get a sense of building something larger…

"People are hungry for community, hungry for change…

"What if a politician were to see his job as that of an organizer, as part teacher and part advocate, one who does not sell voters short but who educates them about the real choices before them? As an elected public official, I could bring church and community leaders together easier than I could as a community organizer or lawyer. We would come together to form concrete economic development strategies, take advantage of existing laws and structures, and create bridges and bonds within all sectors of the community. We must form grass-root structures that would hold me and other elected officials more accountable for their actions…

"The right wing, the Christian right, has done a good job of building these organizations of accountability, much better than the left or progressive forces have. But it's always easier to organize around intolerance, narrow-mindedness, and false nostalgia. And they also have hijacked the higher moral ground with this language of family values and moral responsibility…

"Now we have to take these same values that are encouraged within our families--of looking out for one another, of sharing, of sacrificing for each other--and apply them to a larger society. Let's talk about creating a society, not just individual families, based on these values. Right now we have a society that talks about the irresponsibility of teens getting pregnant, not the irresponsibility of a society that fails to educate them to aspire for more."

That is what Detroit–City of Hope is about.

Grace Lee Boggs writings appear at:

More on Obama: &

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Bill Fletcher's Critical Support of Obama

This piece by Bill Fletcher is a repost of a ZNet post. Bill Fletcher, Jr., is a longtime labor and international activist and the former President and chief executive officer of TransAfrica Forum, a national non-profit organization organizing, educating and advocating for policies in favor of the peoples of Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America. Fletcher is also a founder of the Black Radical Congress and is a Senior Scholar for the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, DC.

Note that Fletcher’s “critical support” is strong and he sees the election of Obama as an opportune moment for progressives. He sees a Barack Obama presidency as laying the groundwork for progressive movement in the U.S. RGN

Obama and the Essence of Critical Support

June, 07 2008

By Bill Fletcher Jr.
Source: Black commentator

So, I watched Senator Obama's speech Tuesday night and thought to myself how, despite every reservation I have had about Senator Obama's politics, I was moved by the moment. Deep inside me I had always expected that a conservative Black candidate could emerge at some point, but I thought that it was very unlikely that a liberal-to-progressive could, in the near future, emerge and win the nomination.

The color line has not been shattered. It has been further bent. It has been rendered more complex by the rise of a nominee for the Presidency of the United States of America who is of African descent. His emergence challenges the history of the USA, even if his politics are not on the Left. The fact that he was forced, through events, to articulate the clearest and most eloquent analysis on race in the USA by a mainstream politician, made this campaign particularly significant. What is even more significant is that Senator Obama is correct: this campaign is not actually about him, but it is about a very deep desire on the part of millions of people in the USA for change. How that 'change' will be defined is not primarily a question for who gets elected in November. It is a question for those of us in the field who have contending visions for what the USA and the world should look like.

I sat in front of the TV transfixed, knowing that this was an historic moment, irrespective of whether Senator Obama wins or loses in November. I, for one, will continue to critically support him. This means that I do think that there is a VERY significant different between Senators Obama and McCain. This is not a tweedle-dee/tweedle-dumb juxtaposition, even given my differences with Senator Obama. Senator McCain wishes to continue the direction of George Bush and to advance the process of the consolidation of a neo-liberal authoritarian state. Senator Obama is looking for a politically liberal solution to the current crisis. I do not think that such a solution exists, but I do think that there is an opening for progressives to push for genuine alternative political and economic solutions to the crises afflicting the USA and the planet as a whole. This will inevitably mean challenging and pushing Senator Obama on matters such as foreign policy and healthcare. This is the essence of critical support; actively supporting his candidacy while at the same time not being shy concerning expressing our differences.

Yes, this was and is an historic moment. There is, however, little time to relish in this moment because it will soon pass. If we are not thinking both about building for an Obama victory, but more importantly, laying the foundation for stronger social movements and a mass political organization that can advance a progressive direction, we will have misunderstood our challenge and fallen prey to illusions. Taking nothing away from Senator Obama's own brilliance, he stands today as the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party because of a groundswell of anger and hope that exists across the USA. It is up to progressives to do more than simply acknowledge this; we must help to gel it into a wave. Executive Editor, Bill Fletcher, Jr., is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum and co-author of the just released book, Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path toward Social Justice (University of California Press), which examines the crisis of organized labor in the USA.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Franceand Obama hit it Off

Sarkozy and Barack hit is off in joint press conference in Paris. Sarkozy obviously wanted the fist bump. RGN

July 26, 2008
3 Hours in Paris, and Smiles All Around
PARIS — President Nicolas Sarkozy of France warmly embraced Senator Barack Obama at the Élysée Palace here on Friday, saying his presidential candidacy presents a bold moment to change the United States’ image around the world.
“The America that France loves is an America that’s farsighted, that has ambitions, great debates, strong personalities,” Mr. Sarkozy told reporters. “We need an America that is present, not absent.”
Mr. Obama breezed through Paris — spending barely three hours here — as he began to wrap up a weeklong trip intended to build his foreign policy credentials. He met privately for an hour with Mr. Sarkozy before the two appeared at an afternoon news conference, where they warned of the threats posed by Iran.
Mr. Obama said Iran should not wait for a new American president and should accept an international proposal now to stop enriching uranium. He said Iran posed “an extraordinarily grave situation” with dangers to Israel and the West.
Mr. Sarkozy, who first met both Mr. Obama, of Illinois, and his Republican rival, Senator John McCain of Arizona, in Washington nearly two years ago, was a genial host, amused by the local excitement surrounding Mr. Obama. The newspaper Le Monde published the speech Mr. Obama gave one night earlier in Berlin.
“The French love the Americans,” Mr. Sarkozy said with a grin, praising Mr. Obama, and added, “The French have been following him with passion.”
It was an unusual sight for a Democratic presidential candidate to be standing beside a French president. Four years ago, Senator John Kerry spent months fighting the impression that he looked “French,” or favored the European view of the world, and some Republicans created a caricature that probably hurt his candidacy.
A French reporter asked Mr. Obama if those concerns led him to keep his visit brief, saying, “Is it a good thing to be loved by the French in the United States?”
Mr. Obama spoke of no downsides, declaring, “I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t want to spend more time in Paris.” He said Mr. Sarkozy was responsible for improving the image of France in Washington, noting that after Mr. Sarkozy’s visit in 2006, “people decided to call French fries French fries again in the cafeteria” at the Capitol.
At their news conference, Mr. Obama repeated the themes of his speech Thursday night in Berlin, saying that the United States wanted a strong Europe able to share in the collective defense; needed European help in Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran; welcomed European help in the Middle East; and valued allied contributions in problems like terrorism, poverty and climate change.
Mr. Sarkozy said he would work with whomever became the next American leader, adding, “Of course it’s not up to the French to choose the next president of the United States of America.”
Mr. Sarkozy has met three times with Mr. McCain, including twice in Paris. But each time, Mr. McCain emerged from the Élysée Palace alone to answer questions. Not so for Mr. Obama.
Mr. McCain’s foreign policy positions are probably closer to Mr. Sarkozy’s, especially on Iran, Russia and the Middle East. But clearly Mr. Sarkozy and Mr. Obama seemed comfortable together, smiling and joking on live television here and in the United States.
Without criticizing President Bush, whom he has hailed as a good friend, Mr. Sarkozy suggested that Mr. Obama would change the world’s view of the United States.
“If he is chosen, then France will be delighted,” Mr. Sarkozy said. “And if it’s somebody else, then France will be the friend of the United States of America.” For Mr. Obama, the stop in Paris seemed to be another hit in a carefully orchestrated international trip. But before he arrived, Mr. Obama called off a visit to wounded American troops at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, saying he did not want to politicize the visit.
Obama aides and the Pentagon offered conflicting explanations for the cancellation. The trip was approved by the Pentagon, but officials informed Mr. Obama’s aides this week that campaign staff members would not be allowed to attend because political events are not allowed at military bases.
“Senator Obama, like any other member of the Senate, is always welcome to visit our wounded warriors or our military hospitals around the world,” said Geoff Morrell, a Pentagon spokesman. “But they do so in their official capacity, and not as a candidate.”
The cancellation drew criticism from Mr. McCain, who through a spokesman said, “It is never inappropriate to visit our men and women in the military.”
Robert Gibbs, a spokesman for Mr. Obama, said the senator thought he could visit troops without causing a stir as he had done earlier this week in Iraq and Afghanistan. But that part of the trip was a taxpayer-financed Congressional delegation, while the Germany trip was paid for by the campaign.

Obama was a hit in Europe. 200,000 in Berlin for speech!!!! The world wants a different America not what we have in power now. RGN

July 25, 2008
News Analysis
Obama, Vague on Issues, Pleases Crowd in Europe
PARIS — For Senator Barack Obama, who came to Europe once in the last four years, making a stop in London on his way to Russia, the response of many Europeans to his potential presidency has been gratifying — emotional, responsive, replete with the sense of hope he seeks to engender about a more flexible, less ideological America.

European governments and politicians are not so sure.

On Thursday evening in a glittering Berlin, Mr. Obama delivered a tone poem to American and European ideals and shared history.

But he was vague on crucial issues of trade, defense and foreign policy that currently divide Washington from Europe and are likely to continue to do so even if he becomes president — issues ranging from Russia, Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan to new refueling tankers and chlorinated chickens, the focus of an 11-year European ban on American poultry imports.
Europeans admire Mr. Obama’s political skills, and welcome his apparent readiness to respect opposing points of view. For many here, that raises the prospect of a sharp break with the policies of the Bush administration, especially in its first term, when the United States chose to ignore the Geneva Conventions at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, rejected the Kyoto accord on global warming and invaded Iraq, starting a war that some of America’s European allies opposed.

“Will we acknowledge that there is no more powerful example than the one each of our nations projects to the world?” Mr. Obama asked in his speech, then added pointedly, “Will we reject torture and stand for the rule of law?” The huge crowd applauded and waved American flags.
“On the positive side, we can expect somebody who reasons the way we do in Europe,” said Pierre Rousselin, the foreign editor of Le Figaro, a French newspaper, after the speech. “That said, on climate issues, the economy and world politics there are still questions. There will be a

difference, but very quickly Obama will be faced with concrete questions, like Afghanistan.”

Eberhard Sandschneider of the German Council on Foreign Relations said, “The Obama who spoke tonight did not put all his cards on the table.” Mr. Obama “tried to use all the symbolism of Berlin to indicate that as president he would reach out to Europe,” Mr. Sandschneider said. “But between the lines he said very clearly that Europe needs to do more,” especially on Afghanistan and Iraq.

Europeans are wary about Mr. Obama’s call for more European money for defense and more soldiers for the fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan. They worry that he will not alter what they see as President Bush’s unbending bias in favor of Israel.

And, despite what appears to be his sensitivity to European concerns, they perceive Mr. Obama as largely uninterested in Europe, even though he is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee responsible for the region. As the newspaper Le Monde pointed out on Thursday, Mr. Obama has never asked to meet the European Union’s ambassador in Washington.

But European leaders are particularly concerned about Mr. Obama’s positions on trade, taken during the bruising Democratic campaign against Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, which seem to many to veer toward protectionism.

Europe’s trade commissioner, Peter Mandelson, last month urged both Mr. Obama and his Republican rival, Senator John McCain, to reject “the false comforts of populism” and abandon “the protectionist and antitrade rhetoric” that dominated the primaries.

Mr. Mandelson noted that Mr. Obama had pledged to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement and had opposed a new trade deal with Colombia. “A crisis of American confidence in globalization,” Mr. Mandelson said, “could knock it off course.”

Mr. Obama in his address spoke of the need for Europeans and Americans to recognize common challenges in an easily traveled world of radical Islam, nuclear proliferation, carbon emissions, violence, poverty and genocide.

But he offered more tepid support for free trade, even as negotiators in Geneva, including Mr. Mandelson, try to break an impasse that has dogged global trade talks for seven years. He said he wanted to “build on the wealth that open markets have created” but only if trade agreements were “free and fair for all,” a phrase that suggests fidelity to the trade-wary stance of one wing of the Democratic Party.

Europeans are upset about a recent decision by the Pentagon to order a new round of bidding for a $35 billion contract for aerial refueling tankers. A European-led consortium won the lucrative contract, beating Boeing, earlier this year. But Boeing and its Congressional supporters managed to have the bid reviewed and ultimately overturned.

The Europeans are unhappy with a five-year, $289 billion farm bill that maintains sizable subsidies for American farmers, even as the Europeans vow to review their own farm subsidies as a spur to trade talks. The United States complains that the European ban on American poultry costs American farmers about $200 million a year. The Europeans do not like the chlorine bath Americans use to disinfect their chickens, an argument that is less about safety than about taste.

Mr. Obama offered greater support for Europe’s great experiment in shared sovereignty, the European Union, which now includes 27 nations. “In this century, we need a strong European Union that deepens the security and prosperity of this continent, while extending a hand abroad,” he said, a nod to the large amounts of foreign assistance the Europeans provide.
He referred repeatedly to “European” people and values, drawing a contrast with the Bush administration, which has often sought to recruit individual European countries, like Britain and Poland, to support its policies, while doing less to cultivate ties to the broader European Union.

Washington views the European Union as being dominated by France and Germany and less eager to follow America’s foreign policy.

But Mr. Obama also called for a more muscular Europe to act with the United States in the common defense, a politically delicate matter here that is likely to prove an irritant no matter who wins the presidency.

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France has sent more troops to Afghanistan, but he has faced fierce political criticism for doing so. The Germans continue to be unwilling to send their troops from the safer northern provinces of Afghanistan to the south, where the Taliban is resurgent.

Hubert Védrine, a former French foreign minister, said, “I don’t think Europe is a major stake for” Mr. Obama, adding, “It’s the support that Europeans can bring to his politics that matters.”
Mr. Obama indulged in “some pro-German demagogy on nuclear weapons to get applause,” Mr. Védrine said. But he said Mr. Obama’s call for more European engagement in Afghanistan would not go over so well.

Even on Iran, where so far Washington and the main European countries have cooperated in their effort to prevent Tehran from getting a nuclear weapon, Mr. Obama refuses to rule out a military option — a position that, as Le Monde said, “is judged unproductive by most Europeans.”

Still, his willingness for some form of prepared negotiation with Iran is much closer to European views than that of Mr. Bush.

Nicholas Kulish contributed reporting from Berlin, and Katrin Bennhold from Paris.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Robert Novak: Barack in the Middle East

The piece that follows is by Robert Novak, a right wing columnist who is often just plain disgusting. After seeing his analysis of Barack’s trip to the Middle East, it seemed to be something worth sharing with progressives. It seems as though even the right sees the handwriting on the wall. A word of caution: there’s PUMA (Hillary supporters whose modus operandi is: Party Unity My A--). they will vote for McCain if Hillary is not selected by Obama as his running mate. These Hillary supporters say Obama's not qualified. (This seems like a line that is rather common when it comes The resistance to voting for Obama because he is black has faded somewhat into the background. A discussion of PUMA on Washington Journal, where everyday people are able to express their opinions, provides plenty of testimony from recalcitrant whites who will not vote for Obama under any circumstances. One claim is that he is arrogant. Is that the same as saying he is “uppity?” Even though there are many whites who will not vote for Obama, Novak’s observation is a warning to conservatives that Barack is resonating well with Americans. Also, his observations are a warning to whites and conservatives that John McCain is being seriously challenged by Barack. RGN

Obama Scores Overseas

by Robert Novak and Timothy P. Carney (more by this author)

Posted 07/23/2008 ET
Updated 07/23/2008 ET


  1. The Afghanistan-Iraq segment of Sen. Barack Obama's foreign trip was an unqualified success. He committed no blunder as Republicans had hoped he would, and had the good luck to play into the Iraqi government's negotiations for a U.S. treaty—making it seem as though the Iraqis endorsed his withdrawal plans. The visit increased Republican defeatism and Democratic triumphalism.
  2. The response by Republicans is that any time the inexperienced Obama enters the realm of Iraq policy he has entered into Sen. John McCain's area of expertise. But this may be a case of whistling past the graveyard.
  3. The problem for McCain is that Obama can now say that there is a difference of only months between his proposal for withdrawal and that of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The danger for Obama is that he has strayed far from his strict and simple 16-month withdrawal pan, which was instrumental in defeating Sen. Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. Obama also is plagued by not admitting that the Surge, which he opposed, is the reason that Iraq is secure enough for him to visit.
  4. Obama has known since the beginning of his campaign what was needed to bridge the Iraq demands of Democratic primary voters and general election voters: a convincing argument that withdrawal can be done honorably and safely. As Obama puts it, we need to be "as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in." The "al-Maliki endorsement" greatly bolsters Obama on this score.
  5. As Obama prepared to arrive in Baghdad, the McCain campaign leaked to us word that he would name his vice presidential candidate this week. As we go to press, this seems most unlikely, and appears a clumsy attempt by McCain aides to create a buzz in the midst of Obama's triumphal tour.
  6. The identity of McCain's running mate, whenever he is named, still is unknown. But former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney now leads all speculation. He is getting a boost from private polls that show his presence on the ticket puts McCain ahead in Michigan—changing that state from Blue to Red,
  7. The McCain candidacy appears constricted and wooden, while Obama's is expansive and effective. The McCain hope still is that inherent public doubt about Obama's ability to be President in a dangerous world will persist.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Un-American: Cheney-Addington-Bush Exposed

With the Constitution about shredded, we now have the data. Bob Herbert devoted his op-ed piece to sharing his thoughts on Jane Mayer's The Dark Side. Working on "the dark side" has been Cheney's mantra since 9/11. What this has meant is that our civil liberties have been threatened and at times sacrificed as a result of the Bush administration that declares that the president has extraordinary powers -- powers that go beyond the law. The policy of rendition has been exposed. In The Dark Side, we learn that under the Bush administration, America has been moving toward fascism -- not regarding the rights of individuals. Herbert expresses his outrage. RGN

July 22, 2008
Op-Ed Columnist

Madness and Shame

You want a scary thought? Imagine a fanatic in the mold of Dick Cheney but without the vice president’s sense of humor.

In her important new book, “The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals,” Jane Mayer of The New Yorker devotes a great deal of space to David Addington, Dick Cheney’s main man and the lead architect of the Bush administration’s legal strategy for the so-called war on terror.

She quotes a colleague as saying of Mr. Addington: “No one stood to his right.” Colin Powell, a veteran of many bruising battles with Mr. Cheney, was reported to have summed up Mr. Addington as follows: “He doesn’t believe in the Constitution.”

Very few voters are aware of Mr. Addington’s existence, much less what he stands for. But he was the legal linchpin of the administration’s Marquis de Sade approach to battling terrorism. In the view of Mr. Addington and his acolytes, anything and everything that the president authorized in the fight against terror — regardless of what the Constitution or Congress or the Geneva Conventions might say — was all right. That included torture, rendition, warrantless wiretapping, the suspension of habeas corpus, you name it.

This is the mind-set that gave us Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo and the C.I.A.’s secret prisons, known as “black sites.”

Ms. Mayer wrote: “The legal doctrine that Addington espoused — that the president, as commander in chief, had the authority to disregard virtually all previously known legal boundaries if national security demanded it — rested on a reading of the Constitution that few legal scholars shared.”

When the constraints of the law are unlocked by the men and women in suits at the pinnacle of power, terrible things happen in the real world. You end up with detainees being physically and psychologically tormented day after day, month after month, until they beg to be allowed to commit suicide. You have prisoners beaten until they are on the verge of death, or hooked to overhead manacles like something out of the Inquisition, or forced to defecate on themselves, or sexually humiliated, or driven crazy by days on end of sleep deprivation and blinding lights and blaring noises, or water-boarded.

To get a sense of the heights of madness scaled in this anything-goes atmosphere, consider a brainstorming meeting held by military officials at Guantánamo. Ms. Mayer said the meeting was called to come up with ways to crack through the resistance of detainees.

“One source of ideas,” she wrote, “was the popular television show ‘24.’ On that show as Ms. Mayer noted, “torture always worked. It saved America on a weekly basis.”

I felt as if I was in Never-Never Land as I read: “In conversation with British human rights lawyer Philippe Sands, the top military lawyer in Guantánamo, Diane Beaver, said quite earnestly that Jack Bauer ‘gave people lots of ideas’ as they sought for interrogation models.”

Donald Rumsfeld described the detainees at Guantánamo as “the worst of the worst.” A more sober assessment has since been reached by many respected observers. Ms. Mayer mentioned a study conducted by attorneys and law students at the Seton Hall University Law School.

“After reviewing 517 of the Guantánamo detainees’ cases in depth,” she said, “they concluded that only 8 percent were alleged to have associated with Al Qaeda. Fifty-five percent were not alleged to have engaged in any hostile act against the United States at all, and the remainder were charged with dubious wrongdoing, including having tried to flee U.S. bombs. The overwhelming majority — all but 5 percent — had been captured by non-U.S. players, many of whom were bounty hunters.”

The U.S. shamed itself on George W. Bush’s and Dick Cheney’s watch, and David Addington and others like him were willing to manipulate the law like Silly Putty to give them the legal cover they desired. Ms. Mayer noted that Arthur Schlesinger Jr., the late historian, believed that “the Bush administration’s extralegal counterterrorism program presented the most dramatic, sustained and radical challenge to the rule of law in American history.”

After reflecting on major breakdowns of law that occurred in prior administrations, including the Watergate disaster, Mr. Schlesinger told Ms. Mayer: “No position taken has done more damage to the American reputation in the world — ever.”

Americans still have not come to grips with this disastrous stain on the nation’s soul. It’s important that the whole truth eventually come out, and as many of the wrongs as possible be rectified.

Ms. Mayer, as much as anyone, is doing her part to pull back the curtain on the awful reality. “The Dark Side” is essential reading for those who think they can stand the truth.

Barack in Iraq

Obama’s trip to Iraq and Afghanistan going well. He was greeted enthusiastically by the troops in Iraq. He showed his hoops skills by making his 30’ shot. Malaki agreed with Barack about the timeline for troop withdrawals. What else is there to say? RGN

July 22, 2008

News Analysis

For Obama, a First Step Is Not a Misstep


BAGHDAD — The Iraqi government on Monday left little doubt that it favors a withdrawal plan for American combat troops similar to what Senator Barack Obama has proposed, providing Mr. Obama with a potentially powerful political boost on a day he spent in Iraq working to fortify his credibility as a wartime leader.

After a day spent meeting Iraqi leaders and American military commanders, Mr. Obama seemed to have navigated one of the riskiest parts of a weeklong international trip without a noticeable hitch and to have gained a new opportunity to blunt attacks on his national security credentials by his Republican rival in the presidential race, Senator John McCain.

Whether by chance or by design, the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq chose a day when Mr. Obama was in the country to provide its clearest statement yet about its views on the withdrawal of American troops. After a weekend of dispute about precisely what Mr. Maliki was suggesting, his spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, told reporters in Baghdad, “We cannot give any timetables or dates, but the Iraqi government believes the end of 2010 is the appropriate time for the withdrawal.”

Mr. Obama has said he would seek to withdraw American combat forces over 16 months if he is elected president, starting upon taking office in January, meaning his plan would be completed on roughly the same timetable as suggested by the Iraqis. The Bush administration has signaled a willingness to work with the Iraqis on their desire to begin setting at least a general “time horizon” for reducing the American military presence, leaving Mr. McCain at risk of becoming isolated in his position of firm opposition to a withdrawal timetable.

The central tenet of Mr. Obama’s foreign policy is suddenly aligned with what the Iraqis themselves now increasingly seem to want. Not only have the developments offered Mr. Obama a measure of credibility as a prospective world leader in a week when his every move is receiving intensive attention at home and abroad, but it has complicated Mr. McCain’s leading argument against him: that a withdrawal timeline would be tantamount to surrender and would leave Iraqis in dangerous straits.

Mr. McCain is hardly conceding the point. He continued to hammer away at Mr. Obama’s judgment on national security, saying on Monday that Mr. Obama had gotten it badly wrong when he opposed sending additional American troops last year to help stabilize Iraq. Republicans said Iraq would never have reached the point where it could reasonably call for a reduction in the American presence without the troop increase, a policy championed by Mr. McCain over the objections of Mr. Obama and most other Democrats.

“The fact is, if we had done what Senator Obama wanted to do, we would have lost,” Mr. McCain told reporters in Kennebunkport, Me. “And we would have faced a wider war. And we would have had greater problems in Afghanistan and the entire region. And Iran would have increased their influence.”

American military commanders have also expressed qualms about setting a specific timetable for withdrawal, suggesting that to do so could risk reversing the progress made in Iraq since the United States increased its troop presence last year. On Sunday, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Adm. Michael Mullen, told Fox News that the consequences of setting a two-year timeline for removing American combat troops “could be very dangerous.”

For a day, at least, the images of the two presidential candidates offered a sharp contrast. In an interview on “Good Morning America” on ABC, Mr. McCain talked about securing the “Iraq-Pakistan border,” a momentary misstatement of geography. (American forces are pursuing terrorists along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border; Iraq does not border Pakistan.) His aides staged an event where he was seen riding in a golf cart in Maine with the first President George Bush, while Mr. Obama flew over Iraq in a helicopter with Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American military commander.

During his visit to Iraq, Mr. Obama said it was important that the Iraqi government take charge of its own affairs.

“I think it is very important we build on this progress and recognize Iraqi sovereignty,” he said shortly after meeting with Mr. Maliki and as he was starting a meeting with one of Iraq’s vice presidents, Tariq al-Hashimi, a Sunni.

The talk of a strict timetable appeared to worry Mr. Hashimi. Sunni Muslims fear that a rapid withdrawal would leave them vulnerable to Shiite Muslim efforts to further diminish their power. Rather, he said the emphasis should be on the Iraqi army’s readiness.

The comments on troop withdrawal came after a weekend of controversy between the United States and Iraqi governments over a German news report that Mr. Maliki had expressed support for Mr. Obama’s proposal to withdraw American combat troops within 16 months of January. On Friday, President Bush agreed to a “general time horizon” for pulling out troops without mentioning any dates.

Mr. Obama, on the latest leg of his first overseas tour as the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, arrived in the Iraqi capital in the early afternoon after first stopping in the southern Iraqi city of Basra. General Petraeus met briefly with Mr. Obama when he arrived at the Baghdad airport, and they flew by helicopter to the Green Zone, where the American Embassy and many Iraqi government offices are situated, an American military official said.

Mr. Obama met with Mr. Maliki; President Jalal Talabani; Mowaffak al-Rubaie, the Iraqi national security adviser; and other Iraqi officials at the prime minister’s residence in the Green Zone.

He and the two senators traveling with him, Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, and Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island, had dinner with General Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker.

In an interview with ABC News on Monday in Baghdad, Mr. Obama said he would not be locked into a false choice between a rigid timetable for withdrawal that ignored changing conditions in Iraq and “completely deferring” to the recommendations of military commanders.

He said his conversation with General Petraeus and Mr. Crocker focused on “what’s adequate for our security interests, factoring in the fact that not only do we have Afghanistan, which I believe is the central front on terror, but also the fact that if we’re spending $10 billion a month over the next two, four, five years, then that’s $10 billion a month that we’re not using to rebuild the United States or drawing down our national debt or making sure that families have health care.”

Before meeting with Mr. Hashimi, Mr. Obama said he was “pleased with the progress taking place” and said it was his impression that among Iraqis there was “more optimism about what is happening.”

He spoke of more “activity taking place, the people in the shops, the traffic on the streets” and said, “Clearly, there’s been an enormous improvement.”

Mr. Obama’s trip is cloaked in secrecy and high security, and aides have also worked to avoid images like the one that caused a headache for Mr. McCain in a visit to Iraq, when he suggested that safety had improved as he walked through a market that was heavily protected by military personnel.

Mr. McCain, whose aides are frustrated by the level of attention being paid to Mr. Obama this week, criticized Mr. Obama as not recognizing the reductions in violence and improvements in Iraq.

“He’s been completely wrong on the issue,” Mr. McCain said, offering a reminder to voters that Mr. Obama is “someone who has no military experience whatsoever.”

That biographical difference, of course, is a central reason for Mr. Obama’s across-the-world detour from the domestic presidential campaign. From Kuwait to Afghanistan to Iraq for three straight days, it is difficult to find a picture of Mr. Obama not surrounded by American commanders or troops.

Richard A. Oppel Jr. reported from Baghdad, and Jeff Zeleny from Amman, Jordan.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

McCain and His Confusions

Frank Rich spells out in detail the numerous contradictions in Senator John McCain as a candidate for the presidency. As is generally known among “high information” voters, it is rather commonplace that McCain states contradictory positions or gets confused on issues. Rich ties many of these contradictions together to show the problems, nay the threat, they pose should McCain get elected. That he has to reorganize his campaign team on a recurring basis is not inconsistent with what he really brings to the table. RGN

Op-Ed Columnist

It's the Economic Stupidity, Stupid

By FRANK RICH Published: July 20, 2008

THE best thing to happen to John McCain was for the three network anchors to leave him in the dust this week while they chase Barack Obama on his global Lollapalooza tour. Were voters forced to actually focus on Mr. McCain's response to our spiraling economic crisis at home, the prospect of his ascension to the Oval Office could set off a panic that would make the IndyMac Bank bust in Pasadena look as merry as the Rose Bowl.

"In a time of war," Mr. McCain said last week, "the commander in chief doesn't get a learning curve." Fair enough, but he imparted this wisdom in a speech that was almost a year behind Mr. Obama in recognizing Afghanistan as the central front in the war against Al Qaeda. Given that it took the deadliest Taliban suicide bombing in Kabul since 9/11 to get Mr. McCain's attention, you have to wonder if even General Custer's learning curve was faster than his.

Mr. McCain still doesn't understand that we can't send troops to Afghanistan unless they're shifted from Iraq. But simple math, to put it charitably, has never been his forte. When it comes to the central front of American anxiety -- the economy -- his learning curve has flat-lined.

In 2000, he told an interviewer that he would make up for his lack of attention to "those issues." As he entered the 2008 campaign, Mr. McCain was still saying the same, vowing to read "Greenspan's book" as a tutorial. Last weekend, the resolutely analog candidate told The New York Times he is at last starting to learn how "to get online myself." Perhaps he'll retire his abacus by Election Day.

Mr. McCain's fiscal ineptitude has received so little scrutiny in some press quarters that his chief economic adviser, the former Senator Phil Gramm of Texas, got a free pass until the moment he self-immolated on video by whining about "a nation of whiners." The McCain-Gramm bond, dating back 15 years, is more scandalous than Mr. Obama's connection with his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Mr. McCain has been so dependent on Mr. Gramm for economic policy that he sent hi m to newspaper editorial board meetings, no doubt to correct the candidate's numbers much as Joe Lieberman cleans up after his confusions of Sunni and Shia.

Just two weeks before publicly sharing his thoughts about America's "mental recession," Mr. Gramm laid out equally incendiary views in a Wall Street Journal profile that portrayed him as "almost certainly" the McCain choice for Treasury secretary. Mr. Gramm said that the former chief executive of AT&T, Ed Whitacre, was "probably the most exploited worker in American history" since he received only a $158 million pay package rather than the "billions" he deserved for his success in growing Southwestern Bell.

But no one in the news media seemed to notice Mr. Gramm's naked expression of the mind-set he'd bring to a McCain White House. And few journalists have vetted the presumptive Treasury secretary's post-Senate history as an executive at UBS. The stock of that banking giant has lost 70 percent of its value in a year after its reckless adventures in the subprime lending market. It's now fending off federal investigation for helping the megarich avoid taxes.

Mr. McCain made a big show of banishing Mr. Gramm after his whining "gaffe," but it's surely at most a temporary suspension. When the candidate said back in January that there's nobody he knows who is stronger on economic issues than his old Senate pal, he was telling the truth. Left to his own devices -- or those of his new No. 1 economic surrogate, Carly Fiorina -- Mr. McCain is clueless. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger, a supporter, said that Mr. McCain's latest panacea for high gas prices, offshore drilling, is snake oil -- and then announced his availability to serve as energy czar in an Obama administration.

The term flip-flopping doesn't do justice to Mr. McCain's self-contradictory economic pronouncements because that implies there's some rational, if hypocritical, logic at work. What he serves up instead is plain old incoherence, as if he were compulsively consulting one of those old Magic 8 Balls. In a single 24-hour period in April, Mr. McCain went from saying there's been "great economic progress" during the Bush presidency to saying "Americans are not better off than they were eight years ago." He reversed his initial condemnation of mortgage bailouts in just two weeks.

In February Mr. McCain said he would balance the federal budget by the end of his first term even while extending the gargantuan Bush tax cuts. In April he said he'd accomplish this by the end of his second term. In July he's again saying he'll do it in his first term. Why not just say he'll do it on Inauguration Day? It really doesn't matter since he's never supplied real numbers that would give this promise even a patina of credibility.

Mr. McCain's plan for Social Security reform is "along the lines that President Bush proposed." Or so he said in March. He came out against such "privatization" in June (though his policy descriptions still support it). Last week he indicated he isn't completely clear on what Social Security does. He called the program's premise -- young taxpayers foot the bill for their elders (including him) -- an "absolute disgrace."

Given that Mr. McCain's sole private-sector job was a fleeting stint in public relations at his father-in-law's beer distributorship, he comes by his economic ignorance honestly. But there's no A team aboard the Straight Talk Express to fill him in. His campaign economist, the former Bush adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin, could be found in the June 5 issue of American Banker suggesting even at that late date that we still don't know "the depth of the housing crisis" and proposing that "monitoring is the right thing to do in these circumstances."

Ms. Fiorina, the ubiquitous new public face of McCain economic policy, adds nothing to the mix beyond her incessant display of corporate jargon, from "trend lines" to "start-ups." Before she was fired at Hewlett-Packard, its stock had declined 50 percent during her five-plus years in charge. She missed earning projections -- by 23 percent in one quarter -- much as she now misrepresents both the Obama and McCain records. This month she said Mr. McCain wanted to require insurance plans to cover birth c ontrol medications along with Viagra, when in fact he had voted against it.

Ms. Fiorina received a $42 million payout (half in cash) from H.P., according to a shareholders' subsequent lawsuit. With this inspiring resume, she now aspires to be Mr. McCain's running mate. So does the irrepressible Mitt Romney, who actually was a business whiz before serving as Massachusetts's governor. Beltway wisdom has it that the addition of such a corporate star will remedy Mr. McCain's fiscal flatulence.

But Mr. Romney, while more plausible than Ms. Fiorina, is hardly what America wants at this desperate time. His leveraged buyout dealings as co-founder of Bain Capital induced plant closings, mass layoffs and outsourcing. If Mr. McCain tr uly intends to "put our country's interests" above politics and reach across the aisle to move the nation forward, as he constantly tells us, why not go for a vice president who's the very best fit for the huge challenges at hand?

The obvious choice would be Michael Bloomberg -- who, as a former Republican turned independent, would necessitate that Mr. McCain reach only halfway across the aisle, and to someone who is his friend rather than a vanquished rival he is learning to tolerate.

Romney vs. Bloomberg is not a close contest. Bloomberg L.P. has roughly three times the revenues and employees of Bain & Company, where Mr. Romney ultimately served as chief executive. Mr. Romney rescued the Salt Lake City Olympics while running it in 2002, but Mayor Bloomberg revitalized New York, the nation's largest metropolis, after the most devastating attack in our history. The city he manages has more than twice the budget of Mr. Romney's state.

Yes, Mr. Bloomberg is a closet Democrat and an alpha dog who doesn't want to be a second banana. And his views on gay civil rights and abortion would roil the G.O.P. base. But Mr. Romney shared some of those same views before he flip-flopped, and besides, these are not ordinary times. Millions of Americans are losing their homes and jobs. Whole industries are going belly up. The national crisis at hand, not yesterday's culture wars, should drive the vice-presidential pick.

Mr. McCain reminds us every day how principled he is. That presumably means he'd risk a revolt by his party's dwindling agents of intolerance and do everything in his power to persuade Mr. Bloomberg to join his ticket in the spirit of patriotic sacrifice. The politics could be advantageous too. A Bloomberg surprise could impress independents and keep the television audience tuned in to a G.O.P. convention that will unfold in the shadow of Mr. Obama's address to 75,000 screaming fans in Denver.

But this is fantasy political baseball, not reality. Mr. McCain, sad to say, hung up his old maverick's spurs the day he embraced the Bush tax cuts he had once opposed as "too tilted to the wealthy." And Mr. Bloomberg? It's hard to picture a titan who built his empire on computer terminals investing any capital, political or otherwise, in a chief executive who is still learning how to do, as Mr. McCain puts it, "a Google."