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The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

How Far Are Ellison and McNerney’s Positions From O’Hanlon and Pollack?



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I suspect the Democratic presidential candidates have already locked in their positions on Iraq and withdrawing troops. But the contrast with some Democratic members of Congress – Keith Ellison of Minnesota and Jerry McNerney of California – might be surprising:

The group met with Iraqi and U.S. military officials, including Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq.

Ellison said that local leaders in Ramadi told him of how they partnered with U.S. and Iraqi military officials to virtually rid al-Qaeda from the city. Although the lawmakers had to travel in flak vests and helmets, “we did see people walking around the streets of Ramadi, going back and forth to the market.”

There have been fewer anti-U.S. sermons as the violence has been reduced, Ellison said, and religious leaders meet regularly with U.S. military officials.

“The success in Ramadi is not just because of bombs and bullets, but because the U.S. and Iraqi military and the Iraqi police are partnering with the tribal leadership and the religious leadership,” he said. “So they’re not trying to just bomb people into submission. What they’re doing is respecting the people, giving the people some control over their own lives.”

Ellison said he was particularly impressed watching Maj. Gen. Walter Gaskin, U.S. commander in the Anbar province, greeting people with “as-salama aleikum,” meaning peace be upon you.

“And they would respond back with smiles and waves,” Ellison said. “I don’t want to overplay it. There were no flowers. There was no clapping. There was no parade. But there was a general level of respect and calm that I thought was good.”

McNerney, the California congressman, also said he saw signs of progress in Ramadi and was impressed by Petraeus, who argued in favor of giving President Bush’s troop surge strategy time to work.

McNerney said he still favors a timeline to get troops out of Iraq — something House leaders may bring to the floor again this week as part of a defense spending bill — but is open to crafting it in a way more favorable to generals’ wishes.

“As long as we start at a certain date I’d be willing to be a little more flexible in terms of when it might end,” McNerney said.

Much like O’Hanlon and Pollack, I contend that if these guys had seen hopeless chaos over there, they would have said so.

Kathryn noted that comment from Rep. Jim Clyburn that good news in Iraq would be a “problem” for the Democratic caucus. I suspect that the Democratic senators running for president would have no hesitation in fighting members of their own party tooth and nail to force a withdrawal from Iraq. It would be catnip for anti-war Democratic primary voters.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

A Bit More on Fred Thompson’s Fundraising



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If my e-mailbox is an accurate measuring stick – and I have no illusions – then more than a few potential Fred supporters say they’ll donate when he actually announces he’s running for president, not dipping his toe in the water. As one reader put it:

Well, you hit the nail right on the head and pounded it in firmly.

Over at Daily Pundit, Bill Quick has a link to donate to Fred’s campaign.  I clicked the link one day, so I could send him a small sum.  Turns out they only accept credit cards or checks via snail mail.  NO PayPal.

Well, I had planned to give via PayPal.  I posted about this at Daily Pundit, and Bill (via a Fred contact) responded that the non-campaign isn’t set up to take PayPal donations, and won’t until Fred officially declares his candidacy.  To me, this is quite stupid.  Especially for a non-campaign that up till then had seemed so together when it came to grassroots via the internet.

After such confounding reasoning as that, I decided not to donate anything.  Not until (or unless) Fred’s folks get their act together.

Beyond any technical issues, I would just wonder out loud that the Jim Gilmores, the Tommy Thompsons, even the Mike Huckabees of this race have found raising funds difficult, as I’m sure most donors would prefer to give to a guy who might actually become President, not a longshot. While many of us expect to see Fred Thompson formally announce his bid in September, why risk donating up to $2300 to a guy who could, theoretically, back out at the last second? 

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

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Why Team Hillary Wants a Truce With Obama



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Bill Clinton’s urging of a truce between Obama and Hillary isn’t terribly shocking; it’s in keeping with her strategy.

As frontrunner, she needs to bat down any argument that another candidate would make a better nominee for the Democratic party than her. For a rival to be better, there needs to be a distinction; if they agree on all the issues, the party might as well stick with the frontrunner. You’ll notice in every debate, Hillary emphasizes, “That’s why all of us agree…” or “I think every Democrat on this stage would make a better president than any of the Republicans…” (Right. Gravel over Rudy. Kucinich over Romney. Dodd over McCain. Biden over Thompson.) She’s trying to persuade Democratic primary voters that there’s no reason to change their current order of preferences.

The reason the should-the-president-meet-with-dictators debate got such attention all of last week and on the Sunday shows was that it was one of the first real, substantive disagreements between Obama and Hillary. (You can only talk about 2002 opposition to the Iraq war for so long.)

Of course, some of us think sending either a Secretary of State or a President for a smiling photo-op with a dictator usually ends up benefiting the dictator a lot more than it benefits us anyway, so we’ll find the argument moot. But this is a big deal to Democrats, who believe that Kim Jong Il, Mahmoud Ahmedinjiad, Hugo Chavez, etc., are reasonable guys and can be talked into mutual cooperation if we just compromise enough.

This is why Team Obama needs to emphasize every policy difference they can find – starting with something like federal funding for needle exchange programs. He supports it, Hillary doesn’t.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Bob Novak’s Sequel To Valerie Plame



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So, how big was the O’Hanlon-Pollack op-ed piece in yesterday’s New York Times? (Read Sen. McCain’s response here on NRO.) It completely overshadowed the other big column of the day, in which Robert Novak effectively cancels a covert U.S. counterterrorism operation by revealing it to the world.

That got your attention, huh?

The background, since I’m not impressed with Novak’s, is that the PKK, a Kurdish separtist terrorist group, has been blowing up Turkish beach resorts and Istanbul neighborhoods for years. (Novak calls them, at one point ”guerrilla fighters.”) They raise money all over Europe. No matter how much we may like the Kurds in northern Iraq, the PKK are bad guys, and have defined themselves as that by their actions. Some of them are hiding in the mountains of Northern Iraq, and local Kurdish authorities have demonstrated a true disinclination to do anything about it.

The U.S. plan was to go after the PKK leadership with special forces, with assistance from the Turks. That option, though involving an element of risk, would be less violent and far-reaching than the Turks’ saber-rattling and threats of an all-out invasion of Northern Iraq.

I say “was” since Novak’s column gives the PKK everything except the time and direction of any joint U.S.-Turkish attack.

We can strongly suspect that Novak’s source is on Capitol Hill. (And to think, a few weekends back on CNN, I said the Pentagon ought not give details of a withdrawal plan to Hillary’s office as the Senate leaks like a sieve.) Novak writes:

The surprising answer was given in secret briefings on Capitol Hill last week by Eric S. Edelman, a former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney and now undersecretary of defense for policy. A Foreign Service officer who once was U.S. ambassador to Turkey, he revealed to lawmakers plans for a covert operation of U.S. Special Forces helping the Turks neutralize the PKK. They would behead the guerrilla organization by helping Turkey get rid of PKK leaders that they have targeted for years.

Edelman’s listeners were stunned.

If Novak knows that the listeners were stunned, it strongly suggests his source was probably among the listeners (and a skeptical one at that), not among the Pentagon or the administration. (Anyone know if Richard Armitage caught wind of this plan?)

Novak asks, “Wasn’t this risky?” No, it’s one of those risk-free covert counterterrorism operations. Of course there’s an element of risk! But Novak acts like it’s something new or surprising for U.S. soldiers to encounter an element of risk and danger while fighting terrorists on Iraqi soil. This operation, had it been pulled off successfully, could have cemented the U.S.-Turkish alliance for a generation and undone a lot of ire over the Iraq war. (And while the Kurds would have been bothered, they probably would have recognized that one covert operation in the mountains is better than 250,000 Turkish troops advancing over the border.)

Now, it looks like it won’t happen. Because someone exercised the “Novak veto.”

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

A Lot More Than We Ever Wanted, Or Needed, To Know About Mrs. Giuliani



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Vanity Fair’s much-hyped profile/hit piece on Mrs. Judi Giuliani begins by describing a scene at the ceremony marking the one-year anniversary of 9/11:

Senator Hillary Clinton stood in the aisle—until she was unceremoniously pushed by a phalanx of four burly cops entering the tent, these guarding Judith Nathan, Giuliani’s girlfriend. No apologies were offered, one observer noted.

 

“The nerve of that woman!” Hillary exploded, recalling that her own daughter’s Secret Service detail evaporated soon after Bill Clinton left office. Why should an ex-mayor’s girlfriend get such royal treatment? “Who does she think she is?” Hillary said to an observer, who later recounted the story.

I like her already, but perhaps I’m not the target audience.

 

The rest of the story continues the “outrages.” Apparently Judi lives well, in the Hamptons and on the Upper East Side. Because so many voters, so many Democrats, and so many Vanity Fair magazine columnists are outraged by Hillary and Bill’s lifestyle. An unnamed former Giuliani aide doesn’t think much of her as a speechwriter. Fine. 

 

It appears she had a messy marriage with her second husband, Bruce Nathan. (Again, it’s odd to see such sudden concern on the importance of healthy marriages among politicians from Vanity Fair magazine.)

 

  

    

 

A common topic of disagreement in that marriage? Money. Horrors. I doubt any married reader will relate or understand.

 

When the Giuliani campaign is irked that Vanity Fair magazine is talking to Judi’s parents, it is interpreted as a sign that she or they have something to hide. Or, you know, maybe they don’t want their comments being taken out of context by a reporter they suspect of writing a hit piece.

 

Vanity Fair also tells us Giuliani was canoodling with wife number three before he separated from wife number two. Not too surprised. We knew Giuliani’s divorce from Donna Hanover was messy. Either this is a dealbreaker for you or it isn’t; I could certainly see the argument that it’s better to divorce than to subject one’s spouse to an endless humiliating parade of infidelities (COUGHclintonsCOUGH).

 

Vanity Fair cites court papers where her second husband alleged she used anti-Semitic slurs in berating him. Mean and crude if it’s true, but one has to wonder how much of a raving anti-Semite you can be if you actually marry someone Jewish. She alleged he was physically abusive, he denies it. The portrait of the marriage is a messy, volatile one, only a fool would jump in and determine blame, much less contend that this tells us much about Candidate Rudy today. I read this with a shudder, was glad each party had moved on and seemed happier now, and plowed on to the next paragraph.

 

And then the article gets worse, going into the details from that messy divorce and custody fight – allegations of drinking, a claim that a child was anorexic, accusations of lying – all coming from her ex-husband, and even her harshest critic would have to acknowledge that this is hardly an unbiased source on her character. (Scratch that, as the ex-husband probably is the harshest critic.) Maybe the soap-operas and tabloids crowd relishes the messy details of this fight, but I kept wincing, “Don’t… want… to… hear… this… Too… personal…  and… private!”

 

Then there are the lines of criticism that are just plain weird:

“Some years ago at a Hamptons July Fourth party thrown by the journalist Lally Weymouth, two guests were astonished to learn that Judith was in a snit after discovering she and Rudy were at separate tables.” 

Raise your hand if you don’t quite get why it’s wrong, bothersome, or offensive for her to want to be seated next to her husband at party… Okay, it’s not just me.

There is a report that she wants a plane seat reserved for her Louis Vitton handbag. Okay, that’s a little weird. There’s a report of Rudy and she having a fight and him switching seats on a plane because he didn’t want to sit near her.  

And they close on the most ominous note, reports of current fights and signs of trouble in Rudy’s latest marriage – all from anonymous and secondhand sources, of course.

 

Some will contend that a politician who keeps marrying and divorcing has trouble dealing with long-term commitment and the ups and downs of life. Some people won’t care. All in all, I think Americans would prefer to avoid a presidential divorce, having lived through a messy presidential affair with an intern in recent memory.

 

And yet… despite this article rampaging and trampling through the Giuliani’s zone of personal privacy like an enraged elephant, we’re left not knowing whether Giuliani’s third marriage is really on the rocks or whether this is a reporter with an agenda hyping the standard “How could you do that?” spats that married couples have. (Er, right?) After 6,300 words, readers won’t feel enlightened or informed. They’ll want to take a shower.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

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Team Fred Offers a Defense of Their Fundraising



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Team Fred offers a defense of their fundraising:

I’m sure you’ve seen the Politico story on Thompson raising more than $3 million in his first month – a sizable amount for someone who hasn’t been running since 1999.   Unfortunately, people are comparing this to active candidates, when the appropriate comparison is to equivalent exploratory periods.  Here’s a little information you might find useful:

(1)     In his first exploratory month, Thompson raised well over $3 million – more than 10x what Giuliani did in his first month and about 3x McCain.  Here’s the initial exploratory month (from the time they started taking money) for GOP candidates…

·         Giuliani – total raised in first month (Nov. 15-Dec. 15): $258,660

·         McCain – total raised in first month (Nov. 14-Dec. 14):  $1,130,351

·         Romney – raised more money in his first month, but largely because he organized his big-dollar donors ahead of time to give himself a bit splash and he “loaned his committee at least $850,000 weeks before filing his statement of candidacy on Jan. 3”

(2)     Under FEC rules, you are not allowed to raise funds “in excess of what could reasonably be expected to be used for exploratory activities”.    Thompson has raised an appropriate amount for an exploratory phase.   Note, however…

·         One month ago, the DNC attacked Thompson (in the Politico) for potentially raising more money than he’d need for the exploratory period and said they’d “argue aggressively” against him.  The DNC rolled out that hit piece at Daily Kos* claiming that Thompson was “Raising Funds Beyond What You Need To “Explore”” and the liberal activist outlet CREW said Thompson “appears to have raised far more money than necessary…”

·         After being attacked for raising “too much” money, Thompson is now being attacked for not spending his entire Exploratory focus on raising money.

(3)     So far we’ve utilized no direct mail or telephone fundraising, and we have a burn rate below 20% – far below the other candidates.

It’s a pugnacious defense, and almost convincing… until you figure that they probably would prefer to be in the situation where they have to defend raising $5 million or more.

Having said that, I wonder how many potential donors are holding off, because they want to donate to an actual, hat-in-the-ring candidate, not a dipping-my-toe-in-the-water potential candidate.

* UPDATE: Daily Kos’ Adam Bonin writes in, “I am the author of the DailyKos “hit piece” on Fred Thompson, not “the DNC”.  I write regularly for the DailyKos front page on campaign finance and other legal issues. I don’t work for the DNC, wasn’t directed to write anything by the DNC, and located all the supporting materials pretty easily using the Google.”

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

“Congress Should Plan on Sustaining the [Surge] At Least Into 2008.” Candidates, Response?



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Two thoughts on the op-ed of the day, Michael E. O’Hanlon and Kenneth M. Pollack’s vivid potrait of an Iraq in which U.S. military forces are steadily achieving their goals, that concludes, “there is enough good happening on the battlefields of Iraq today that Congress should plan on sustaining the effort at least into 2008.”

First, I disagree with Dean Barnett’s characterization of the Brookings Institution as “hard left.” Gregg Easterbrook, William Galston, Stuart Taylor, former #2 at the CIA John McLaughlin… these are not hard lefties, and it’s silly to describe an institution that has them in their ranks as such. I understand the impulse to argue that progress in Iraq is not just being reported by conservatives or administration allies, but let’s not overstate the liberal bona fides of these folks.

But these men are generally regarded as trustworthy asessors of Iraq by left, right, and center, and their description is based on eight days in Baghdad, Ramadi, Tal Afar, Mosul and Ramadi. So my second thought is, if the Democratic presidential candidates disagree with their assessment (I presume they disagree with their conclusion) then I’d like to know how and why. Did O’Hanlon and Pollack not see what they think they saw in Iraq? Is someone in Washington, or New York, or Chicago getting a clearer picture of the state of affairs on the ground in Iraq than someone who walked the streets of Baghdad and Ramadi?

I’m willing to be persuaded that a pullout is the best course of action for the United States. Right now the argument from Democrats is endlessly repeating the mantra, “civil war, civil war, civil war.” Well, tell that to O’Hanlon and Pollack, or even better, listen to them and tailor your policy prescriptions accordingly.

Has the Democratic candidates’ message on Iraq become, in essence, ”Who are you going to believe, me, or your lying eyes?”

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

The Flaws in Hillary’s Public Service Academy Idea



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Hillary’s talking about her Public Service Academies again.

 

She seeks a new educational institution modeled after the military service academies, that would provide a four-year, federally subsidized college education for about 5,000 students a year in exchange for a five-year commitment to public service following graduation.

 

Again, from her comments, one might think that the federal government has a hard time attracting workers. But according to federal human resources specialists posting at FederalSoup.com, a discussion board for federal employees, it is common to receive more than 100 applications for entry level positions, generally GS-3 to GS-7. Other hiring services firms have put the ratio closer to 150 applicants for every federal job opening. Back when Hillary first proposed the idea, I called editors at Government Executive, and they said these numbers were not out of whack.

 

According to figures from 2002, there were 75 applicants for every open Foreign Service position, 52 applicants for every open FBI special agent position, and 28 applicants for every opening for a passenger and baggage screeners at the Transportation Security Administration.

 

Also note that even if this academy turned out 5,000 of the greatest federal employees one could imagine, it would amount to a drop in the bucket. According to FederalJobs.com, a government recruiting web site, the federal government hires an average of 327,000 new employees each year just to replace workers that transfer to other federal or private jobs or retire. (Expansions of government agencies and new offices create even more openings.) Senator Clinton’s school, at full capacity, would manage to fill 1.5 percent of federal jobs each year.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

This & That: Spencer Abraham, Candidate Wives



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1. On Spencer Abraham and the charge that his presence on Team Thompson makes them less pro-Israel: I would urge those who would write “the anger against Abraham’s appointment by Thompson is starting to build in conservative circles” to do two things. One, get clear on Abraham’s role on the not-yet-campaign, which according to my sources is comparable to Don Evans’ role in the first Bush campaign: Loyal friend, sounding board, idea generator, voice at the table but not at the head of the table. He is not Thompson’s Karl Rove or his Ken Mehlman. Second, don’t put as much faith in Debbie Schlussel as a representative voice on the American right, as “career water carrier for Islamists of the most extremist stripe” is not necessarily the first words that come to mind when people think of Spencer Abraham.

2. Tom Bevan notes that Elizabeth Edwards gets glowing coverage, while the coverage of Jeri Thompson and Judi Giuliani has not been so kind.

3. So if we’re supposed to believe John Edwards will put the South in play for Democrats, how will his campaign explain him only getting 15 percent in South Carolina?

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

What Stood Out to Me on Meet the Press



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The comments that stood out to me on a very campaign-heavy Meet the Press this Sunday:

MR. RUSSERT:  Then why pile on with those, with those words?

MS. MITCHELL:  Because they were—they are an aggressive, tough, fighting campaign.  There is no machine like the Clinton war machine.

MR. BALZ:  I, I think that was not planned.  I am not convinced that they had a plan that she would go out and say—and, and accuse Obama of being irresponsible and naive in a newspaper interview.  I think she freelanced that.

MR. RUSSERT:  Which is interesting, because other times we have seen Hillary Clinton saying, “I didn’t stay home and bake cookies,” “I’m no Tammy Wynette,” “This is a right-wing conspiracy.” Sometimes, when she’s freelancing, words come out that really do draw a firm line…

I would note Russert’s examples are from the Hillary of the early 1990s and 1998. This is a much more disciplined candidate. I suspect that if Hillary calls Obama “naive,” Mark Penn has already run a poll or at least a focus group on it.

Also, I find it somewhat satisfying that even Mrs. Greenspan - er, Andrea Mitchell — refers to her campaign as “the Clinton War Machine.” Later on…

MR. BALZ:  I was going to say, on, on our most recent poll we asked, “Are you looking for a candidate who is more likely to deliver change or a candidate who has strength and experience?” Among Democratic voters they prefer change by a margin of about 10 points over strength and experience. What’s interesting is that, as John said, Senator Clinton is way ahead on the experience quotient.  On the change quotient, she and Obama are running almost even at this point. 

We’re going to hear a lot about “real change” in the coming months…

The roundtable agreed that both Obama and Edwards get under Hillary’s skin:

MR. BALZ:  I think there is something there.  We’ve seen some evidence of that from time to time.  The Clinton campaign has been—obsessed is too strong a word, but, but obsessed is not far off—with Obama and the Obama campaign from the very start of this.

MR. RUSSERT:  Is it because he’s an upstart who’s in her way?

MR. BALZ:  I think that’s part of it.

MS. MITCHELL:  And a successful part.

MR. BALZ:  And, and a very bright new-age person who, who has made clear that he wants to, you know, close the book on not just the Bush era but the Clinton era as well, that, that he thinks…

MR. RUSSERT:  So turning the page is a double turn.

MR. BALZ:  …he thinks—he thinks—he thinks this, this period that we have been through for the last 12 or 15 years has been bad in terms of what it’s done to American politics.  He wants to change that.  She’s certainly part of that, so there’s a personal element there.

This point was speculative, but interesting – Hillary helping Edwards in Iowa to deny Obama the victory?

MR. TODD:  First of all, don’t forget, Iowa’s a three-dimensional chess.  If one of them—if Clinton knows she could finish third, then don’t be surprised if they start figuring out a way to make sure Edwards—and I agree with Ron on that point, he’s very disagreeable this morning, but I agree with Ron on the fact that an Edwards victory in Iowa is, is the second-best result for Clinton.  You know, because this calendar sets up really well for Obama if… The Clintons have to deny Obama victory in Iowa, because this thing—you pointed out the independents—this thing sets up well for Obama going in through the first three states.

I would also note how quickly and casually Hillary’s campaign is referred to as “the Clintons.”

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

That Other Departing Fred Campaign Staffer Is Named



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This news – that Tom Frechette, ”who had been effectively serving as campaign manager Tom Collamore’s deputy” has departed Team Fred- is the gist of what I was hearing yesterday, with some specific names attached, before yesterday’s “expect more changes” post. When I hear “so-and-so might be leaving,” I’m not inclined to post it, as A) I’d hate for so-and-so to learn about a change of employment via my blog, whether it’s voluntary or involuntary and B) sometimes people change their mind, and then you’re stuck having reported that so-and-so is leaving when they’re staying.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Jim Mills is joining Team Fred?



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Jim Mills is joining Team Fred? Jim Mills?

The reaction among those who don’t know him will be “Ah, a Fox News producer is joining the Thompson campaign, so much for ’fair and balanced,’ blah blah blah.” For those of us who have encountered Mills on Capitol Hill, there will be a lot of raised eyebrows. Mills is something of a local legend in the Capitol Hill press corps – very smart, tenacious but fair questioner, relentless energy. He somehow manages to have a good relationship with lawmakers while asking them how they got their hand caught in the cookie jar, pointing out that their answer contradicts what they said yesterday with a friendly smile on his face.

One instinctively wonders how Mills will handle the transition from asking questions to answering them, but this is a very impressive hire for Team Fred.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Message From Hillary Clinton’s Campaign: “Cleavage”



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McCain Is In For The YouTube Debate, Despite Snowman Concerns



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Something about the snowman really irked some of the Republican candidates.

McCain:

 “I only saw some excerpts. I just don’t think that questions from snowmen are appropriate in presidential campaigns,” McCain said, referring to a YouTube video in which a snowman asked the candidates about their views on global warming.

(Having said that, I’ve just been told by McCain’s people he’s up for it.)

Romney:

“I think the presidency ought to be held at a higher level than having to answer questions from a snowman,” he said in an interview yesterday.

Team Rudy:

“We have scheduling issues,” said Giuliani adviser Anthony Carbonetti, who added that discussions on dates are continuing.

Patrick Ruffini is pro-YouTube debate, Hugh Hewitt is strongly opposed.

I think if the GOP candidates don’t do it, their refusal will feed into a “they’re scared of questions from ordinary people” narrative that the Democrats will deploy morning, noon, and night.

And if somebody asks a really stupid question, isn’t it fair for a candidate to respond, “you know, that’s a stupid question”?

UPDATE: Ruffini wants to SaveTheDebate.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

A Bit Too Much Rosy-Eyed Optimism in the Post About Turkey



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Earlier this week, I said I was disappointed by the results of the Turkish elections, but not in a panic. Today the Washington Post addresses it, and I think somewhere staunch AKP critic Michael Rubin is banging his head against a wall in frustration.

The Post declares Prime Minister Erdogan ”has made no move during five years in office to Islamicize Turkish government or curb the rights of secular Turks.” Whoa, whoa, whoa – he hasn’t succeeded (or succeeded only at the margins), that’s not the same as making no move. First and foremost, let’s look at what triggered this early election: Personnel is policy, and Erdogan wanted to replace staunchly secular President Sezer with his foreign minister, Abdullah Gul, who is completely at home in the “moderately Islamist” ruling party AKP.

The Post calls Gul a “pro-Western moderate.” By the standards of the AKP party, yes, but that’s kind of like being a tall midget. Gul’s no frothing-at-the-mouth extremist, but he’s completely comfortable with a more dominant role of Islam in Turkey’s politics.

There are times when I’ve felt AKP has gotten unfairly lumped in with Hamas and other irredeemably evil Islamist groups. AKP has ruled Turkey for the last five years, and the country has not become Saudi Arabia; in fact, they’ve actually done a pretty good job of getting out of the way of economic growth. They’re not the party Americans would most prefer to work with, but they have proven they can work with us. But let’s not forget the animating spirits in that party, and the fact that a portion of their membership - not a majority, but a significant faction – are bad guys who would like to make radical changes to America’s closest Muslim ally and the world’s healthiest Muslim democracy. 

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Get-Out-The-Fake-Voter Efforts Begin Early This Cycle



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Remember ACORN? (Some old Kerry Spot coverage here and here, if your memory needs refreshing.)

Well, in the state of Washington, King and Pierce County prosecutors filed felony charges today against seven paid employees and supervisors of ACORN “who allegedly committed the biggest voter-registration fraud in state history.”

The announcement of criminal charges came after the King County Canvassing Board revoked 1,762 allegedly fraudulent voter registrations submitted by ACORN employees.

Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Stephen Hobbs told the board that six ACORN workers had admitted filling out registration forms with names they found in phone books last October. The canvassers filled out the forms while sitting around a table at the downtown Seattle Public Library, Hobbs said.

County prosecutors charged the six canvassers with one to eight counts each of filing false information on voter registration, and charged a supervisor with providing false information and making a false statement to a public official.

Two of the ACORN workers were also charged in Pierce County with submitting 55 phony registrations.

The story gently concludes, “ACORN canvassers in other states also have been the subject of investigation.”

Actually, they’ve been convicted in Wisconsin and Colorado, and had various forms of reprimand, investigation, indictment, and other run-ins with the law and state election authorities in Virginia, Texas, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Ohio, New Mexico, North Carolina, Missouri, Michigan, Florida, and Arkansas.

At what point does this group stop getting the benefit of the doubt?

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

What People Are Seeing of Mitt and McCain on the Stump



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Today’s David Brooks column (behind the TimesSelect barrier) has a couple of interesting points about the presidential race.

Then there’s the issues. Iraq will still be a shooting war in 2008. Health care is emerging as the biggest domestic concern. This is natural Democratic turf. So as I travel around watching the Republican candidates, I’m looking for signs that they’re willing to try something unorthodox. Eighty percent of the time, what I see is the Dole campaign: Republican candidates uttering their normal principles – small government, military strength, strong families – and heading inexorably toward defeat. 

I suspect his encouraging words for John McCain and Mitt Romney will be greeted by both candidates’ camps with, “well, he’s right about us, but how can he praise him so much?”

On McCain:

In Washington, the McCain campaign is considered dead, but somebody seems to have forgotten to tell the people here [in New Hampshire]. A man at one packed event rose to vent his outrage at Washington. He ignited something in McCain, who started talking about what he’d learned from the failure of immigration reform. McCain worked himself up, recounting one failure and disgrace after another, culminating finally with an angry bellow, “Nobody trusts us to do what we say we’re going to do!”

It wasn’t a Howard Beale “Network” moment, but it touched something. The crowd was with him all the way.

And on Romney:

At the Lincoln Financial Group in Concord, Romney had slipped away from the policy chunks of his stump speech and was talking about his success in business and in running the Olympics. He was talking about how you assemble a team of people with complimentary skills. How you use data and analysis to replace opinion. How you set benchmarks and how often you should perform self-evaluation.

It wasn’t impassioned or angry (he doesn’t do anger). But it was Romney losing himself in something he really cares about, and it opened up a vista of how government might operate.

I concur with Brooks that a standard-issue Republican campaign just ain’t gonna get it done this cycle.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Team Fred: Growing Pains? Or a Portrait of Chaos?



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One of my Thompson people has heard that there may be more departures coming tomorrow, but this person is not sure. (Yes, I realize that doesn’t clear up much; I’m telling you this to let you know that even some guys on the inside think some things still have to shake out.) My guess is that with Collamore stepping out of his leadership role, and Randy Enwright stepping into the new leadership role, we may see more comings and goings. The new guys are presumably going to want to bring on some of “their” people, and folks who had gotten on board earlier in the process might look around, see a bunch of unfamiliar faces, and decide it’s somebody else’s show.

Those looking for reasons to bury Thompson will see the recent moves as a sign of a campaign in chaos, with poor lines of authority, disagreement at the top, undefined roles and a lack of organization. Those looking for reasons to believe in Thompson will see the recent moves as growing pains, the sort of thing that happens when something goes from a lightly-staffed, small, casual, on-the-fly group around a candidate to a fully-staffed, much more formal, more organized nationwide campaign.

While I’m sure Team Thompson would have preferred to avoid all this, I lean towards the latter interpretation… for now. Let’s see what happens when Fred announces, and where things stand a month or two from now. If we don’t see any improvement in the autumn, then it will be time for the Fred-heads to hit the panic button.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Clinton To Obama: ‘What’s Happened To The Politics of Hope’?



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From Team Clinton:

Senator Clinton taped an interview with CNN’s John King this afternoon where she was asked to react to Barack Obama referring to her as “Bush-Cheney Lite.”  The following is what Senator Clinton said (the interview will air later this afternoon on CNN):

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SEN. CLINTON: “Well, this is getting kind of silly. I’ve been called a lot of things in my life but I’ve never been called George Bush or Dick Cheney certainly. We have to ask what’s ever happened to the politics of hope?

“I have been saying consistently for a number of years now, we have to end the Bush era of ignoring problems, ignoring enemies and adversaries. And I have been absolutely clear that we’ve got to return to robust and effective diplomacy. But I don’t want to see the power and prestige of the United States President put at risk by rushing into meetings with the likes of Chavez, and Castro, and Ahmadinejad.”

That’s the problem with being the Obamessiah who will calm the troubled waters and end the negative politics – the moment you criticize your opponents, . At least we didn’t get “the politics of personal destruction” cliche.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Uh, Did Fred Thompson Really Have a 23-year-old as his Lead Advance Man?



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“Absolute b***s***!” is the response from a Thompson Associate to Marc Ambinder’s report that “ex-Sen. Fred Thompson’s lead political advance operative, Sam LeBlond, resigned this morning.”

(The b***s*** is in response to the description of LeBlond’s title and prominence to the campaign, not the news that he has departed, I should clarify.)

“LeBlond is a fine young man and a credit to his family, but he was a kid who was a junior, junior aide to[departed campaign chief] Tom Collamore,” the associate said. “He was not our lead political advance, he was never our lead political advance… We right how have political advance teams working before every stop Fred Thompson goes to. [LeBlond] may have assisted informally with the recent trips to New York and Richmond, but that’s it. We have additional advance staff that we’re going to be announcing soon, but they’ll be based out of Nashville, not Washington. LeBlond was based in Washington… This is a whole lot of nothing.”

Sam LeBlond was born in 1984, making him 22 or 23?*

One point in favor of the argument that this is a significant departure for the Thompson campaign: At 24, I left Congressional Quarterly, and I’d like to think that organization has never quite recovered.

* I would note that I originally had 23 or 24, as I am bad at math.

UPDATE: I should note that I’m hearing a different tune from another Thompson Associate. This individual has been less than thrilled with the developments in Thompson’s not-quite-campaign in recent weeks, and this person indicates that LeBlond’s activities were significantly more than the First Associate indicated.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

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