Articles of Interest, March 11th, 2008

Obama for America

Obama: ‘If I am not ready, how is it that you think I should be such a great vice president?’

COLUMBUS, Miss — Sen. Barack Obama delivered an animated rebuke today of suggestions from the Clintons in recent days that he could run as her vice president.

“Now first of all with all due respect, with all due respect,” he said here during a town hall meeting. “I won twice as many states as Sen. Clinton. I won more of the popular vote than Sen. Clinton. I have more delegates than Sen. Clinton. So I don’t’ know how someone in second place can offer the vice presidency to someone in first place. If I was in second place I could understand but I am in first place right now.

He referenced comments from Bill Clinton in 1992 that his “most important criteria” for vice president was that person must be ready to be commander in chief.

“They have been spending the last two or three weeks” arguing that he is not ready to be commander in chief, Obama said.

“I don’t understand. If I am not ready, how is it that you think I should be such a great vice president?” Obama asked the crowd, which gave him a standing ovation during his defense. “I don’t understand.”

“You can’t say he is not ready on day one, then you want him to be your vice president,” Obama continued. “I just want everybody to absolutely clear: I am not running for vice president. I am running to be president of the United States of America.”

Exchange bets favor Obama for Democratic nomination

By David Alexander

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Hillary Clinton will win Democratic primary elections in Pennsylvania, Kentucky and West Virginia in the coming weeks, but rival Barack Obama will ultimately capture the party’s presidential nomination, traders were betting on Monday.

Traders on the Dublin-based Intrade prediction market also put their bets on the Democratic party to hold new primary elections before June 30 in Michigan and Florida, where earlier results were declared invalid in a fight over the date of the elections.

But even that, the traders were betting, wouldn’t be enough to help Clinton win the Democratic nomination to oppose Republican John McCain in the November general election.

Intrade traders gave Obama a 75 percent chance of winning the Democratic nomination for U.S. president, versus 23.5 percent for Clinton. Traders on the Iowa Electronic Markets, a nonprofit exchange run by the University of Iowa for research purposes, gave Obama a 74 percent chance of winning, versus 24 percent for Clinton.

Team Obama Hits Clinton on Experience Claims

To: Interested PartiesFrom: Greg Craig, former director, Policy Planning Office, U.S. State Department

RE: Senator Clinton’s claim to be experienced in foreign policy: Just words?

DA: March 11, 2008

When your entire campaign is based upon a claim of experience, it is important that you have evidence to support that claim. Hillary Clinton’s argument that she has passed “the Commander- in-Chief test” is simply not supported by her record.

There is no doubt that Hillary Clinton played an important domestic policy role when she was First Lady. It is well known, for example, that she led the failed effort to pass universal health insurance. There is no reason to believe, however, that she was a key player in foreign policy at any time during the Clinton Administration. She did not sit in on National Security Council meetings. She did not have a security clearance. She did not attend meetings in the Situation Room. She did not manage any part of the national security bureaucracy, nor did she have her own national security staff. She did not do any heavy-lifting with foreign governments, whether they were friendly or not. She never managed a foreign policy crisis, and there is no evidence to suggest that she participated in the decision-making that occurred in connection with any such crisis. As far as the record shows, Senator Clinton never answered the phone either to make a decision on any pressing national security issue – not at 3 AM or at any other time of day.

When asked to describe her experience, Senator Clinton has cited a handful of international incidents where she says she played a central role. But any fair-minded and objective judge of these claims – i.e., by someone not affiliated with the Clinton campaign – would conclude that Senator Clinton’s claims of foreign policy experience are exaggerated.

Northern Ireland:

Senator Clinton has said, “I helped to bring peace to Northern Ireland.” It is a gross overstatement of the facts for her to claim even partial credit for bringing peace to Northern Ireland. She did travel to Northern Ireland, it is true. First Ladies often travel to places that are a focus of U.S. foreign policy. But at no time did she play any role in the critical negotiations that ultimately produced the peace. As the Associated Press recently reported, “[S]he was not directly involved in negotiating the Good Friday peace accord.” With regard to her main claim that she helped bring women together, she did participate in a meeting with women, but, according to those who know best, she did not play a pivotal role. The person in charge of the negotiations, former Senator George Mitchell, said that “[The First Lady] was one of many people who participated in encouraging women to get involved, not the only one.”News of Senator Clinton’s claims has raised eyebrows across the ocean. Her reference to an important meeting at the Belfast town hall was debunked. Her only appearance at the Belfast City Hall was to see Christmas lights turned on. She also attended a 50-minute meeting which, according to the Belfast Daily Telegraph’s report at the time, “[was] a little bit stilted, a little prepared at times.” Brian Feeney, an Irish author and former politician, sums it up: “The road to peace was carefully documented, and she wasnt on it.”

Bosnia:

Senator Clinton has pointed to a March 1996 trip to Bosnia as proof that her foreign travel involved a life-risking mission into a war zone. She has described dodging sniper fire. While she did travel to Bosnia in March 1996, the visit was not a high-stakes mission to a war zone. On March 26, 1996, the New York Times reported that “Hillary Rodham Clinton charmed American troops at a U.S.O. show here, but it didn’t hurt that the singer Sheryl Crow and the comedian Sinbad were also on the stage.”

Kosovo:

Senator Clinton has said, “I negotiated open borders to let fleeing refugees into safety from Kosovo.” It is true that, as First Lady, she traveled to Macedonia and visited a Kosovar refugee camp. It is also true that she met with government officials while she was there. First Ladies frequently meet with government officials. Her claim to have “negotiated open borders to let fleeing refugees into safety from Kosovo,” however, is not true. Her trip to Macedonia took place on May 14, 1999. The borders were opened the day before, on May 13, 1999.

The negotiations that led to the opening of the borders were accomplished by the people who ordinarily conduct negotiations with foreign governments – U.S. diplomats. President Clinton’s top envoy to the Balkans, former Ambassador Robert Gelbard, said, “I cannot recall any involvement by Senator Clinton in this issue.” Ivo Daalder worked on the Clinton Administration’s National Security Council and wrote a definitive history of the Kosovo conflict. He recalls that “she had absolutely no role in the dirty work of negotiations.”

Rwanda:

Last year, former President Clinton asserted that his wife pressed him to intervene with U.S. troops to stop the Rwandan genocide. When asked about this assertion, Hillary Clinton said it was true. There is no evidence, however, to suggest that this ever happened. Even those individuals who were advocating a much more robust U.S. effort to stop the genocide did not argue for the use of U.S. troops. No one recalls hearing that Hillary Clinton had any interest in this course of action. Based on a fair and thorough review of National Security Council deliberations during those tragic months, there is no evidence to suggest that U.S. military intervention was ever discussed. Prudence Bushnell, the Assistant Secretary of State with responsibility for Africa, has recalled that there was no consideration of U.S. military intervention.

At no time prior to her campaign for the presidency did Senator Clinton ever make the claim that she supported intervening militarily to stop the Rwandan genocide. It is noteworthy that she failed to mention this anecdote – urging President Clinton to intervene militarily in Rwanda – in her memoirs. President Clinton makes no mention of such a conversation with his wife in his memoirs. And Madeline Albright, who was Ambassador to the United Nations at the time, makes no mention of any such event in her memoirs.

Hillary Clinton did visit Rwanda in March 1998 and, during that visit, her husband apologized for America’s failure to do more to prevent the genocide.

China:

Senator Clinton also points to a speech that she delivered in Beijing in 1995 as proof of her ability to answer a 3 AM crisis phone call. It is strange that Senator Clinton would base her own foreign policy experience on a speech that she gave over a decade ago, since she so frequently belittles Barack Obama’s speeches opposing the Iraq War six years ago. Let there be no doubt: she gave a good speech in Beijing, and she stood up for women’s rights. But Senator Obama’s opposition to the War in Iraq in 2002 is relevant to the question of whether he, as Commander-in-Chief, will make wise judgments about the use of military force. Senator Clinton’s speech in Beijing is not.

Senator Obama’s speech opposing the war in Iraq shows independence and courage as well as good judgment. In the speech that Senator Clinton says does not qualify him to be Commander in Chief, Obama criticized what he called “a rash war . . . a war based not on reason, but on passion, not on principle, but on politics.” In that speech, he said prophetically: “[E]ven a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences.” He predicted that a U.S. invasion of Iraq would “fan the flames of the Middle East,” and “strengthen the recruitment arm of al Qaeda.” He urged the United States first to “finish the fight with Bin Laden and al Qaeda.”

If the U.S. government had followed Barack Obama’s advice in 2002, we would have avoided one of the greatest foreign policy catastrophes in our nation’s history. Some of the most “experienced” men in national security affairs – Vice President Cheney and Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and others – led this nation into that catastrophe. That lesson should teach us something about the value of judgment over experience. Longevity in Washington, D.C. does not guarantee either wisdom of judgment.

Conclusion:

The Clinton campaign’s argument is nothing more than mere assertion, dramatized in a scary television commercial with a telephone ringing in the middle of the night. There is no support for or substance in the claim that Senator Clinton has passed “the Commander-in-Chief test.” That claim – as the TV ad – consists of nothing more than making the assertion, repeating it frequently to the voters and hoping that they will believe it.

On the most critical foreign policy judgment of our generation – the War in Iraq – Senator Clinton voted in support of a resolution entitled “The Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of U.S. Military Force Against Iraq.” As she cast that vote, she said: “This is probably the hardest decision I have ever had to make – any vote that may lead to war should be hard – but I cast it with conviction.” In this campaign, Senator Clinton has argued – remarkably – that she wasn’t actually voting for war, she was voting for diplomacy. That claim is no more credible than her other claims of foreign policy experience. The real tragedy is that we are still living with the terrible consequences of her misjudgment. The Bush Administration continues to cite that resolution as its authorization – like a blank check – to fight on with no end in sight.

Barack Obama has a very simple case. On the most important commander in chief test of our generation, he got it right, and Senator Clinton got it wrong. In truth, Senator Obama has much more foreign policy experience than either Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan had when they were elected. Senator Obama has worked to confront 21st century challenges like proliferation and genocide on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He possesses the personal attributes of a great leader – an even temperament, an open-minded approach to even the most challenging problems, a willingness to listen to all views, clarity of vision, the ability to inspire, conviction and courage.

And Barack Obama does not use false charges and exaggerated claims to play politics with national security.

Clinton-backer Ferraro: Obama Where He Is Because He’s Black

March 11, 2008 7:30 AM

Clinton campaign finance committee member, former vice presidential candidate, and former Rep. Geraldine Ferraro, D-NY, told the Daily Breeze of Torrance, Ca., that, “If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman (of any color) he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept.”Of Clinton, Ferraro said that the press “has been uniquely hard on her. It’s been a very sexist media. Some just don’t like her. The others have gotten caught up in the Obama campaign.”

The Clinton Tax Returns: What’s the Holdup?

Hillary Clinton

After weeks of intense pressure, and more than a year after announcing her presidential candidacy, Sen. Hillary Clinton has offered little explanation for why she has delayed releasing the tax returns made public by most other Democratic presidential candidates in recent years.

“What is the holdup?” said Sheila Krumholz of the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit group that tracks the role of money in politics. “She hasn’t exactly made it clear as to what process is making it so cumbersome to just release them.”

Past Democratic presidential candidates have set a precedent for releasing their tax returns before or during the primary season. Sen. John Kerry released his in December of 2003, and former Vice President Al Gore’s were in the public domain while he was in office. Clinton’s opponent, Sen. Barack Obama, released his 2006 return last April.

Obama-Clinton Race Creates Security Concerns for Secret Service

March 11 (Bloomberg) — The political passions stirred by the Democratic presidential battle between the possible first black nominee and the possible first woman are also stirring security concerns on the part of the U.S. Secret Service.

The agency began providing protection to candidates earlier this year than in any previous election in response to crowds that have sometimes topped 30,000, a record for the primary season, spokesman Darrin Blackford said.

The excitement of the race pitting Illinois Senator Barack Obama against New York Senator Hillary Clinton “definitely adds something the Secret Service hasn’t seen in a while,” said Andrew O’Connell, a special agent in the 1990s who is now a managing director at New York-based Fortress Global Investigations and Security Corp.

McCain advisers lobbied for European plane maker

Story Highlights

  • European airplane won $35 billion contract to build air refueling tankers
  • U.S. manufacturer Boeing will appeal decision
  • Sen. John McCain tried to referee competition for tanker
  • Two top McCain advisers lobbied for EADS before joining campaign

WASHINGTON (AP) — Top current advisers to Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign last year lobbied for a European plane maker that beat Boeing to a $35 billion Air Force tanker contract, taking sides in a bidding fight that McCain has tried to referee for more than five years.

art.mccain.plane.ap.jpg

Sen. John McCain talks to reporters during a flight to St. Louis, Missouri, Monday.

Two of the advisers gave up their lobbying work when they joined McCain’s campaign. A third, former Texas Rep. Tom Loeffler, lobbied for the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. while serving as McCain’s national finance chairman.

EADS is the parent company of Airbus, which teamed up with U.S.-based Northrop Grumman Corp. to win the lucrative aerial refueling contract on February 29. Boeing Co. Chairman and CEO Jim McNerney said in a statement Monday that the Chicago-based aerospace company “found serious flaws in the process that we believe warrant appeal.”

McCain, the Republican presidential nominee in waiting, has been a key figure in the Pentagon’s yearslong attempt to complete a deal on the tanker. McCain helped block an earlier tanker contract with Boeing and prodded the Pentagon in 2006 to develop bidding procedures that did not exclude Airbus.

1 in 4 teen girls has sexual disease

CHICAGO – At least one in four teenage girls nationwide has a sexually transmitted disease, or more than 3 million teens, according to the first study of its kind in this age group.

A virus that causes cervical cancer is by far the most common sexually transmitted infection in teen girls aged 14 to 19, while the highest overall prevalence is among black girls — nearly half the blacks studied had at least one STD. That rate compared with 20 percent among both whites and Mexican-American teens, the study from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found.

About half of the girls acknowledged ever having sex; among them, the rate was 40 percent. While some teens define sex as only intercourse, other types of intimate behavior including oral sex can spread some infections.

For many, the numbers likely seem “overwhelming because you’re talking about nearly half of the sexually experienced teens at any one time having evidence of an STD,” said Dr. Margaret Blythe, an adolescent medicine specialist at Indiana University School of Medicine and head of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ committee on adolescence.

Superbelter

Creepy Gnome terrorizes town

A TOWN in South America is living in fear after several sightings of a ‘creepy gnome’ that locals claim stalks the streets at night.

The midget – which wears a pointy hat and has a distinctive sideways walk – was caught on video last week by a terrified group of youngsters.

Teenager Jose Alvarez – who filmed the gnome – yesterday told national newspaper El Tribuno that they caught the creature while larking about in their hometown of General Guemes, in the province of Salta, Argentina.

He said: “We were chatting about our last fishing trip. It was one in the morning.

“I began to film a bit with my mobile phone while the others were chatting and joking.

“Suddenly we heard something – a weird noise as if someone was throwing stones.

“We looked to one side and saw that the grass was moving. To begin with we thought it was a dog but when we saw this gnome-like figure begin to emerge we were really afraid.”

Jose added that other locals had come forward to say they had spotted the gnome.

He said: “This is no joke. We are still afraid to go out – just like everyone else in the neighbourhood now.

“One of my friends was so scared after seeing that thing that we had to take him to the hospital.”

Haile Gebrselassie pulls out of Beijing marathon because of pollution

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