Monday, December 31, 2007
(Commentary) Iowans, for a change, are about the select the smartest person in the room.
I expect Barack Obama to win the Democratic Iowa presidential caucuses Thursday night. He has succeeded in turning lightning in a bottle, that transcendent speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, into an enduring legacy and boots-on-the-ground effective campaign in Iowa.
The moment I thought I knew Obama would win the Iowa caucuses came nearly a year ago.
At 10:12 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 10, near the steps of the historic old state capitol in the gritty Midwestern city of Springfield, Ill., the post Baby Boom generation and all those dog tired of the Bush-Clinton politics of gratuitous self-absorption, had their man.
The phenomenon known as Barack Obama entered this 2008 race for the presidency of the United States that day and suggested that like another Illinois politician with relatively little experience before the White House, he too, could heal a fractured nation.
"The life of a tall, gangly, self-made Springfield lawyer tells us that a different future is possible," Obama said in that speech. "He tells us that there is power in words."
The power of words. That is something Obama understands in a way no other politician in America does today. It's revealed in the connection he makes with crowds. He's had the biggest in Carroll this political cycle.
After walking from the old Illinois state capitol grounds in senses-numbing cold back to my car that February day, I kept my coat on until well past Peoria, thawing out on the western ride back toward Carroll, all the while rolling Obama's words over and over, wondering if he could take that momentum across the Mississippi, the history I had witnessed on frozen feet, and mix it up in our small towns.
As it turns out, he could.
Obama doesn't sound false notes. Growing up without a father, he is the amalgamation of many male influences and ultimately the product of his own journey of self-discovery. He is that rare person who truly understands himself, and no doubt sees parts of that self in all of us. We get this in Iowa because we are all about authenticity. There aren't that many of us in Iowa so you can't escape into the anonymity of the streets. You are at once known and accoutable -- which is the beauty of holding the caucuses here.
The national media and pollsters don't live where I do (Carroll, Iowa). When the story is told on Thursday night, the narrative will be a remarkable one: Obama will cobble together western Iowa counties with ivory towered college towns and eastern cities within the shadow of his Illinois. What's more, while he is running a tight race with U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton and former U.S. Sen. John Edwards with traditional voters, Obama will pull ahead with new people, not just the young, but the never-before caucus-goers. I see their faces in the crowds. They are the woman I went to high school with who stunned me by appearing, waving a Barack Obama sign, no less, at one of his events in Carroll. Surely, she must have an "American Idol" re-run to watch, I thought. No, she's caucusing for Obama.
Here's another reason Obama will do well in western Iowa (and win the whole thing): Democrats listen to their Republican friends and family. They know who has the best shot against the Republicans in a general election -- an instinct a recent Zogby Poll bears out by showing Obama beating all GOP presidential candidates.
Don't take it from me, though. Living in heavily Republican territory in Sac County, Marjie Sands, a nurse, joked that she doesn't visit often about politics with her friends and colleagues. That said, when the matter does arise, she hears more negative comments from Republicans about Clinton than Obama.
"My husband's a very staunch Republican," Sands said.
And who does he dislike more?
"I think Clinton," she said.
One very much underappreciated dynamic in this race is that among the leading Democratic contenders Obama is the Midwesterner. Hillary is New York slick and Edwards is a Southern-fried pol who delivered a speech so populist in tone Sunday that I suspected he might leave Carroll High School, cross the street and march with a torched mob on the more well-to-do Collison Addition of our town.
Yes, we are a largly white state, and sure, it goes without saying that when Barack Obama is on the television screen or behind the political podium we see a black man.
That is, after all, what he is.
But when you listen to Obama, the substance of thinking, the cadence of his reasoning, his unassuming acceptance of people, you hear a Midwesterner.
"What I see in Iowa are a lot the qualities I love in Illinois," Obama told me in an interview. "I think there's a truth to the idea that there's a Midwestern sensibility and that people don't like a lot of fuss, don't like a lot of pretense, and I think are much more likely to think about things pragmatically and how do you get the job done as opposed to having a lot of ideology driving decision-making. And I think that's what America needs right now."
Obama has shown me something in this race. He fielded some tough questions from me on his admitted past drug use, absorbed a story I wrote that a leading Washington journalist termed "devastating," and kept doing interviews with me. No shut outs. He gamely continued doing an interview as I hounded him with questions about foreign policy experience. As much as I respect Obama I am reminded of the lessons of the early days of the Bush Administration, when a press corps starstruck with its access (I have interviewed Obama six times) didn't ask the hard questions for fear of losing those exclusives, the coin of the realm in this business.
Knowing full well that the national media often builds and then crashes public figures Obama says he views the headlines and hoopla (and to his credit, the criticisms) as transitory.
But even when Obama does take broadsides and carefully crafted insults, the inevitable slings and arrows of politics at the highest level, he will retain a rare connectivity to voters. He understands people, not because, as Bill Clinton, he feels their pain in some abstract Baby Boomerish sense.
This generational change is what those undecided voters will gravitate toward on Thursday. Yes, the 1990s were better than the George W. Bush days. But like in some mend-bending physics test question are we to think we must go back to go forward? Or do we just damn the torpedoes and go with a real change?
Referencing President Clinton's legendary argument that he tried marijuana but didn't inhale, an audience member in Audubon one late November night asked Obama if, "Unlike other presidents, did you in-hale?"
"I did," Obama said. "It's not something that I'm proud of. It was a mistake ... But you know, I'm not going to ... I never understood that line. The point was to inhale. That was the point."
Who else would dare to say that? Who else could get away with laying the truth out there?
With that answer, Obama closed the deal with hundreds of southwest Iowans weary of equivocation, people who just want the truth, warts and all.
In an interview, U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin compared crowd responses to Obama to what Harkin saw in 1968 with Bobby Kennedy.
Many people who attend Obama events make the Bobby Kennedy analogy, including people who saw Obama speak at Harkin's own steak fry last fall, I observed to Harkin.
"It's amazing," Harkin said. "I said the same thing to people. I'd just gotten out of the military and come back to Iowa in '68 and Bobby Kennedy came through Iowa and I was there and watched it. You're right, I haven't seen anything like that since, until Obama, just the way people draw into him. It's a very, very interesting dynamic there."
And on Thursday, it will be a winning one for Obama.
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Here is The Post story:
Iowa Independent, a group blog written by many of the leading lights of the state's growing blogosphere, draws more than 10,000 unique viewers a week, according to the site. It's a reported blog that's deliberately non-partisan. This weekend's top stories include a posting on Republican Rep. Ron Paul ("The Ron Paul Question: Will Enthusiasm Translate To Support?") and on turn-out for the Democratic candidates ("Western Iowa Could Decide Democratic Caucuses). In the latter, Douglas Burns, a veteran reporter-turned-blogger, writes:
The intense push in western Iowa, particularly among Democrats, is result of the disproportionate influence we wield in Iowa caucuses. In short, western Iowa will determine the Democratic finish here -- and most likely the next president of the United States.
Friday, December 28, 2007
Douglas Burns: Governor, in a recent release you sent out you were critical of Hillary Clinton on, you called it, "a stunning flip-flop," on Iraq. Not to get too much into the vice presidential speculation but that would almost seem to be a voodoo economics moment. It would be awfully hard for her to select you now that you have suggested she had a stunning flip-flop on the most important issue of our time.
Gov. Bill Richardson: I don't want to be vice president. I'm going to win the nomination. I'm not in this to be vice president. And I'm fair. I defended her when I thought she was being attacked on a personal level, but you know, she flip-flops on Iraq. She has. I don't know what her position is now. I guess the biggest distinction between me and her is that I get all the troops out in one year. And she still gets them out in five years. But she's now saying one year, but it's really five years if you ask her, 'Would you leave troops behind?' Her answer is 'yes.' I just don't know where she is now. She should be clear about where she stands. Iraq is the most important issue facing our country. But I'm not running to be vice president. This doesn't interest me. I'll go back and be governor of New Mexico. I got three years to go. But I'm going to win this nomination. I'm going to pull an upset.
Friday, December 21, 2007
Iowa Independent fellow and (Carroll) Daily Times Herald reporter and columnist Douglas Burns spent about 15 minutes speaking one-on-one with Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson on his campaign bus outside the Carroll Country Club Thursday morning.
Thompson, a former U.S. senator from Tennessee and accomplished actor, discussed the war in Iraq, his own campaign style, criticism of his admitted lack of “type A” personality, his chances against Hillary Clinton in a potential general election match-up and the recently held Des Moines Register GOP debate.
U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, a Thompson supporter, was present for the full interview, and the presidential hopeful’s wife, Jeri, stood in for some of the session aboard a bus bearing the slogan: “Clear conservative choice: Hands down! Bus Tour.”
The following is a transcript of the exchange with Thompson.
Daily Times Herald: We aren’t hearing too much on the war in Iraq from the Democratic side of the presidential race right now. Perhaps they feel it is going well. Do you think at the end of the day the Iraq war becomes a good issue for the Republicans?
Thompson: Yeah, I think it is going well from all those whose opinions I value who have come back from over there. We have very close friends of ours who have kids over there who have re-upped and we get reports back from them from time to time and things are going on the provinces, just something that hasn’t been going on before.
We saw some of these atrocities I think in the last day or two day, al Qaeda torch hospitals or whatever they call them. That’s indicative of what’s been happening out there and people are sick and tired of it. And they’re coming to our side. Some of the Sunni leadership is coming to our side.
They’re reaching some arrangements at the local level that has not yet made its way to the politicians in Baghdad.
And that needs to happen but it doesn’t mean a lot of good things aren’t happening. Violence is down. Car bombings are down. Ramadan was much more peaceful than it has been in a long, long time.
So all indications are good. I was amazed the other night at the Iowa debate when they took Iraq and immigration off the table to start with.
I said to myself, if there had been some bad news out of Iraq it wouldn’t have been off the table.
Daily Times Herald: Was that last Des Moines Register debate at Iowa Public Television the worst-run debate you’ve ever been involved with, senator?
Thompson: I’ll have to think for a minute because I’ve been involved in some pretty badly run debates.
I don’t think the format serves the people well. It’s an exchange of sound bites and then when they come in and get even more officious than usual.
They set the ground rules and tell the candidates, “it’s take it or leave it.”
They wouldn’t even give a break in the middle of that hour-and-a-half debate. Any other debate we’ve had there’s been a break or two, usually two little breaks along the way.
They said “no.” I said, “Wait a minute, this is kind of unusual.” They said, “Take it or leave it.”
So that’s the attitude they have. This is our deal. You have to dance to our tune and do it our way.
Then when they take that extra added step when they say now we’re going to have a show of hands like we’re a bunch of trained seals waiting for a fish to be thrown to them there are some things that ought to be even beneath the dignity of a presidential candidate. When I basically said, “No,” it kind of broke them and showed it for what it was.
And now they’re getting an awful lot of bad comments about it and I think richly deserved.
It was a poorly conceived deal and they would have been a whole lot better off if they would talk to some people in the process a little bit about what might make a better debate, instead of being so officious about it.
Daily Times Herald: On the Democratic side of the presidential race U.S. Sen. Barack Obama has admitted in his book and in different speeches that not only has he done marijuana in his past but that he has had some experience with cocaine. His campaign’s explanation is that the honesty, the forthright element of that, is good. Some people have been critical of it, suggesting that it might red carpet the notion of experimentation for kids. Do you have any thoughts on that, that this is out there in the dialogue and it’s not just marijuana, it’s cocaine?
Thompson: Well, it’s hard to comment on somebody else’s personal revelations without knowing all the circumstances involved.
Obviously, that’s not a good example for kids and it’s very unfortunate, but I imagine Obama thinks the same thing. I imagine that’s his own opinion about it. I wish it hadn’t happened. He probably wishes it hadn’t happened.
The political effect of that is for people to decide.
He’s like every other human being. You have to live with the consequences of your actions.
Daily Times Herald: With the fighting between GOP candidates Mitt Romney (former Massachusetts governor) and Mike Huckabee (former Arkansas governor), do you see a dynamic at work here similar to the Democratic side in 2004 where you had (U.S. Rep. Dick) Gephardt and (former Vermont Gov. Howard) Dean going at it and you had (U.S. Sen. John) Kerry emerge? You’re just about as tall as Kerry. Do you see yourself playing that role?
Thompson: I think I’m ahead of where he was in the polls. I don’t know. You just kinda got to follow your own game plan.
And, you know, my game plan is just to be who I am and what I am. It’s a whole lot easier to remember. My positions on the issues are constants.
Some people say I’m not a Type A personality and they’re right.
They want examples of me clicking my heels and things like that. That ain’t me. It wasn’t me in Tennessee when I got more votes than anybody in the history of Tennessee politics.
It’s served me well all my life being who I am. A large part of what I am is that, you know, I don’t mind telling it like it is.
Daily Times Herald: You stayed in Carroll last night at the Super 8. Your first event started at 10 o’clock today. One of the knocks on you has been maybe that you’re a little lazy. Why did you start your first event at 10 o’clock?
Thompson: First of all we had telephone interviews this morning in our room. We had briefings in our room. We got in last night from over in east Iowa. I don’t know what time we finally got to bed but it was late last night. We’ve been doing I don’t know how many events. We’re going to do 50 towns and communities. You can catch us sometimes where there is a gap there. But if you look at the overall schedule you’ll find it to be a very, very active one.
I don’t have anything to prove to anybody.
I mean, you know, I actually like to read a little bit along the way. The first thing I do when I walk out is get asked about the president’s news conference that he had this morning that I saw, and what’s happened with the other candidates and comments that they’ve made, and sometimes disasters that have happened in various communities and shootings and so forth. I read and talk to people about that. Talk to them in the home office. Get my plan for the day and the information I need for the day.
You can’t put yourself in another man’s shoes, figure out well he got in this time that night so he ought to start this time the next morning in order to prove he’s more energetic. That’s the kind of thing they used to say about Ronald Reagan and he always said, ‘They say hard work never hurt anybody but why take a chance?’
Daily Times Herald: If Hillary Clinton is the nominee and you are, do you take the South off the table? Are you just going to destroy her in the South?
Thompson: That’s a little premature. I think that we’re going to need somebody who is a solid conservative who can unite the country. I think that I would match up very, very well with her in that regard.
Daily Times Herald: By the way I saw “Hunt for Red October” four times in the theater when it came out.
Thompson: That’s more times than me.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Sioux City Journal reporter Bret Hayworth just reported on his blog, Politically Speaking, that an edit board meeting "believed to have been set up with Mike Huckabee fell through."
We all have scheduling conflicts so no worries there, but other candidates found the time to get to Hayworth and his colleagues before the SCJ decides on endorsements -- and this is the most influential paper in western Iowa. What's going on here with Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor? There aren't that many people home-homeschooled here -- and many people still read and respect newspapers.
Here is the quote:
"I've always compared Edwards to a real-life version of an attorney in a John Grisham novel," said Douglas Burns, a newsman in Carroll, Iowa, who also writes for the Iowa Independent Web site. "And who reads a John Grisham novel twice?"
Romney stressed his business credentials, tough stances on illegal immigration and took issue with Huckabee for attacking Romney’s faith. The former Massachusetts governor also had some interesting observations on Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Barack Obama’s admissions of past illegal drug use.
Iowa Independent: One of your GOP opponents, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, has made the comment on Social Security that he has a plan for a one-time payout, presumably for older people with certain wealth levels, and I’ve never been able to get anyone on his campaign to explain what that scheme is. What do you think about that idea and the fact that he does appear to have any follow-up explanation?
Romney: You know, I haven’t seen his proposal with regard to Social Security. I don’t know what he’s referring to. Clearly. People who receive Social Security should continue to receive Social Security.We shouldn’t change the deal on people who count on Social Security. We are going to reform programs for younger people coming along to make sure promises we make to folks that are 20 and 30 and 40 years old we can honor. But we’re not going to change the deal for people who are retired or near retirement. That would be inappropriate and we’re just not going to go in that direction.
Iowa Independent: Huckabee said the following, “Don’t Mormons believe Jesus and the Devil are brothers?” First of all, governor, is that true? And what do you think of that kind of rhetoric?
Romney: Well as the Church indicated in its statement that is an old smear and it is not accurate.And that’s unfortunate to be brought into the political sphere. Huckabee has apologized for attacks on my religion and I accepted his apology.Look, religious attacks have no place in the American political process. Of course if people want to talk about our differences on issues and track record that’s part of the political process. We have some important issues that we face. But bringing up people’s religious beliefs is just not the American way.
Iowa Independent: Some of your most sustained applause here in Carroll was on the issue of immigration. The 14th Amendment defines children of illegal immigrants born on U.S. soil as legal U.S. citizens. This rankles many people. Is there a legislative fix to this and do you plan to seek one?
Romney: There is. The current practice is that if the child is born here to illegal parents the child becomes a U.S. citizen and then what occurs is something known as chain migration where the relatives of that child are now able to come into the country. We can stop chain migration. It does not require a change to the Constitution to say we are not going to have a policy of bringing in family members of a child that was born here to illegal parents.
Iowa Independent: You were critical of Senator Barack Obama for talking openly about drug use. He wrote about it in his book. He’s admitted to marijuana use but he’s also admitted to cocaine use in his past. Do you think there is a difference in the admission of marijuana and cocaine? Is there a gradation?
Romney: I think we’re probably best if we’re running for president of the United States to honestly indicate to people we’ve made mistakes in our lives and there are things we wish we wouldn’t have done.But I think we mistakenly describe the details of our failings, recognizing that we may open the door to a young person’s mind to think it’s OK for them to do those same things.I think Barack Obama was wrong in describing his illegal drug use because of the effect it has on the minds of young people. Of course, we all make mistakes. No one’s perfect.But President Bush I think had the right approach. He said, look when I was young and irresponsible I was young and irresponsible. He acknowledged those things that were subsequently dug up and confronted him and he said, yes, that’s accurate. But he did not want to in any way contribute to a decline of the resolve young people have to follow the law.
Carroll Daily Times Herald: Since this is an edit board meeting, what’s your pitch for our potential endorsement and for the support of our readers on caucus night.
Romney: My life has been spent in the private sector where talk is cheap. You have to be able to deliver or you’ll get fired. I’ve learned how to get the job done. I’ve done that in the private sector. I did that at the Olympics. I did that as governor of Massachusetts. I will get the job done and America needs someone who can finally get us on track, stop the overspending, stop the over use of oil, stop illegal immigration, get us more competitive with China and fix the currency problem we have with China, get us in a posture where we can help the Muslims reject the violent extreme so we don’t have to do it for them.
Monday, December 17, 2007
DENISON -- This is some video of Catholic Hispanics in Denison celebrating Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patron saint of heavily Catholic Mexico and is a key figure for immigrants in this area of that faith.
The event in the relatively new Denison Catholic church, in which the Rev. Paul Kelly holds Masses in both Spanish and English, involves spectacularly colorful costumes and these Aztec dances with historical meaning to the parishioners.
The video here was shot by La Prensa editor Lorena Lopez and Iowa Independent fellow Douglas Burns. It was edited by Jon Sampson.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
With a command of details on China, foreign policy and education, U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, who also just seemed more alert, on the balls of his feet intellectually, this afternoon displayed a separating statemanship in The Des Moines Register Democratic Presidential debate on Iowa Public Television. It was his day on the stage.
Barely registering in the polls Dodd's "win" in the debate is something to be seen in a vaccuum.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
You need to check out Iowa writer Chuck Offenburger's latest column about living in the country. It is posted at his Web site, www.offenburger.com.
It includes those fantastic photos above of Iowa's sneaky beauty.
Headline: Muslim e-mail? Check. Talking Up Obama's Cocaine Use? Check.
Having ditched some volunteers for spreading the "Obama is secretly a Muslim" e-mail, the Hillary campaign takes the high road. (Okay, except for digging for dirt in his younger days in Chicago.) Her allies, however....
Other Democratic activists have quietly received messages from Clinton allies pointing in the likely direction. Those messages provided a link to an Iowa Independent story by Douglas Burns headlined "The Politics Of Obama's Past Cocaine Use."
For once, it would be nice to see a candidate come out and say what they think, instead of trying to circulate rumors, innuendo, and past misdeeds through back channels. If Hillary Clinton really thinks Barack Obama's past cocaine use ought to disqualify him from the presidency, she should just come out and say so.
DENISON -- U.S. Sen Barack Obama is earning significant points with the Hispanic community his supporting drivers' licenses for illegal immigrants a controversial issue on which his chief rivals either disagree with him or have heavily nuanced positions.
Federico Pena, the former Clinton Administration transportation official who is supporting Obama for the presidency, says the drivers' license issue has traction in the Latin community.
“Sure, because it is a practical approach,” Pena, the former Denver mayor, tells Iowa Independent. “We have to get back to things that work. What we’ve learned in states like New Mexico and other states is that motorists do not want to be worried about getting hit by a person driving a car who has never taken a driver’s course.”
Pena said 40,000 people are killed annually on highways.
“We have to find other ways to reduce the fatalities,” he said.
Pedro Rodriguez of Denison says the Hispanic community sees Obama, a candidate with a mixed-race family, as having a "birds-eye" view of many cultures.
"He's got a knowledge of how to approach things from a different cultural level," said Rodriguez, 51, a supervisor with a packing house in Denison.
During an event here with Federico Pena, Rodriguez and Luis Navar, a local Latino activist, served as pitch men to their community for the Illinois senator.
“He can bring together all the communities,” Navar said.
Navar, who runs a construction company here, held an event in his home for Pena. For his part Navar said he went with Obama over New Mexico Gov. Richardson.
Pena said he believes Obama can put an end to the cultural wars of the Baby Boom generation.
“The reason that I’m supporting Barack Obama is that he doesn’t participate in those old battles of the last century,” Pena said. “He’s really a 21st century leader and I think the world is looking for a 21st century leader in the United States. We don’t need to fight the old partisan battles and the old cultural battles of the last century. We are fastly moving into a new century.”
This story is cross-posted at Iowa Independent.com.
Monday, December 10, 2007
The senior vice president at Iowa Savings Bank in Carroll tells his readers that the 20 top hedge fund managers have average annual earning of $657 million.
Quoting financial planning superstar Harold Evensky, Nelson breaks that down into hours and minutes. If you made $657 million a year it would work out to:
$20.83 per second
$1,250 per minute
$75,000 per hour
$1.8 million per day
"I'm going to volunteer to take over for one of the hedge fund managers on Christmas Day so they can spend time with their family, provided they let me keep a chunk of the day's 1.8 million haul," Nelson joked.
Sunday, December 09, 2007
[Commentary] DENISON -- At one point in tonight's Republican presidential debate on Univision, Lorena Lopez, editor of the influential western Iowa Spanish-language newspaper, La Prensa, looked at a mixed-race audience sitting in a Denison, Iowa, living room and said, "What?"
That "what" was Lopez's reaction to a string of what she believed to be almost offensive posturing and invocations of the American immigrant tradition by the Republican candidates, some of whom she has seen up close in front of largely white audiences in western Iowa.
"I think they are posing because it's not Anglo people they want to convince," Lopez said. "Honestly I think they are just playing the place and the time."
So are Hispanic voters buying a debate The New York Times later characterized as being full of "gauzy paeans to legal immigration and the values of immigrant voters?"
"I don't think so," Lopez said. "I think especially Hispanic people they know it was Republicans who don't support immigration reforms."
What's more, Lopez said, Hispanics will remember that most Republican White House hopefuls balked at an earlier Univision debate in Florida -- making tonight's appearances something akin to attendance at an ex-brother-in-law's funeral: grit your teeth and just be seen.
Read the rest of the story at Iowa Independent.com.
Saturday, December 08, 2007
The New York Times has a story up now about how Huckabee wanted to quarantine people with AIDS.
That said, when polls are examined more closely, and the question is posed to voters not on drugs generally but specifically on cocaine (which Obama admitted to using in his best-selling memior,"Dreams From My Father," by noting that he did "maybe a little blow when you could afford it.") the results show some potential vulnerabilities for the senator.
His Democratic opponents haven't seized this issue a in high-profile way. But Republican presidential Mitt Romney has challenged Obama on the drug angle, perhaps presaging a general-election strategy, while two western Iowa conservative Republicans see the issue as having no traction and being fraught with tripwires for their party if mishandled.
Read the rest of my story on this at Iowa Independent.com.
Angelo elaborates on his thoughts on this matter in an interesting post on his blog.
Friday, December 07, 2007
The ad uses recent headlines about Vice-President Dick Cheney’s heart procedure to point out the difference between the government-funded health care that the nation’s leading politicians enjoy and the precarious health care situation in which most Americans find themselves.
A news article about Cheney’s recent treatment for heartbeat irregularities provides the context with the headline: “If he were anyone else, he’d probably be dead by now.” The text highlights that factors such as the patient’s history and prognosis would likely lead to a denial of private insurance claims for most Americans, assuming that they had coverage in the first place.
Thursday, December 06, 2007
Here is Grassley in a New York Times story:
Even though Mr. Grassley has decided — for the first time apparently — not to endorse anyone in the Republican caucuses, that didn’t stop him today from offering up his predictions: Senator Barack Obama of Illinois for the Democrats and former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts for the Republicans.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
AUDUBON -- Barack Obama did something no other presidential candidate has managed during the Iowa caucus campaign season: talked about the subject of his own past illegal drug use in a winning way.
Speaking to a crowd of some 400 people in a high school gymnasium during a recent campaign stop in this southwest Iowa town of about 2,200 people, the Illinois senator was asked about President Clinton's legendary argument that he tried marijuana but didn't inhale. An audience member asked him,"Unlike other presidents, did you inhale?"
"I did," Obama said. "It's not something that I'm proud of. It was a mistake … But you know, I'm not going to ... I never understood that line. The point was to inhale. That was the point."
The comment drew applause and some of the most sustained laughter of the night.
In contrast to virtually all presidential candidates in recent years, Obama has voluntarily raised the subject of his own drug use on the campaign trail. In his memior, "Dreams From My Father," Obama discussed his past use of cocaine and marijuana in vivid terms.
Last month, he brought it up to a group of high school students in New Hampshire, according to MSNBC.
His remarks in Audubon drew few objections from people in the crowd.
"If I were that age I probably would have tried it," said Sam Kauffman, 72, the mayor of Audubon and the town's leading barber.
Kauffman and others who were at Obama's Audubon event said his candor about drug use reflected positively on his candidacy and did not constitute the kind of deal-killing moment for a presidential hopeful that it would have been only a decade ago.
Read the rest of this story at Iowa Independent.com.
Monday, December 03, 2007
A conservative Democratic member of Congress from Arkansas said that had Bill Clinton spoke out forcefully against the Iraq war in 2003, putting a voice to a position the former president claims he held at the time, it could have switched this "Blue Dog's" vote on the House floor.
“It probably would have had an effect on me and the way I voted on the resolution had I known for sure he felt that way, and why he felt that way which is a conversation we could have had but didn’t,” U.S. Rep. Marion Berry, D-Ark., told Iowa Independent and the Carroll Daily Times Herald this morning.
Berry spent Monday in western Iowa campainging for U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.
With grave reservation and much doubt in his heart, Berry said, he voted in favor of the resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq. Berry is a member of a coalition of conservative congressional Democrats known as the Blue Dogs. Had Bill Clinton expressed opposition and given cover to Berry, the congressman could have made the case to this key swing block of voters in the House.
“I don’t overestimate the impact I have,” he said. “The reason I voted the way I did is because I didn’t think anyone could sit in the Oval Office and not feel the weight of responsibility to this country and to humankind to where they would enter into something like this casually and I was wrong.”
When questioned about the suspect veracity of Bill Clinton's assertion that he was an early opponent of the war, Berry acknowledged that he didn't recall any public statements from the former president before the war.
"I agree wth you there," Berry said. "I don’t remember it either."
But Bill Clinton has said he was against the war from the beginning.
"But he didn’t say he spoke out against it," Berry said.
Isn’t that almost worse, if he’s a former president and he feels that strongly about it and he remains silent?
"Well former presidents have a certain expectation, kind of an unwritten requirement that they don’t speak out against the next president," Berry said. "They just kind of don’t do that."
Berry said it important to consider that Bill Clinton is not running for president.
"The No. 1 point there is he said it,” Berry said. "He didn’t say it for her. He’s not running for president as she said in one of the debates."
A strong supporter of Hillary Clinton, Berry raised an issue one expects to hear from detractors -- that Clinton English often demands laser-like attention.
"You really have to listen to what the Clintons say, especially with him," Berry said. “You’ve got to listen to him very carefully. We all just make a few slips of the tongue from time to time but he doesn’t say things he hasn’t thought out."
Berry has known the Clintons since 1976, and says the nation needs Hillary Clinton's experience now.
“I fear for the future of the Republic and I think there is absolutely no one else in the Democratic or Republican party primaries who even comes close to her range or vision and knowledge and wisdom to face all the problems we have from health-care to our standing in the world community,” Berry said.
Berry takes issue with Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards and others who suggest Hillary Clinton could pose problems for her party in the South.
“She understands the neighborhood I come from, the part of the world I come from,” Berry said.
Berry added: "The people of Arkansas still adore senator Clinton."
A folksy rice farmer who represents northeastern Arkansas, an area that includes most of the Arkansas's Delta lands and stretches west to the Ozarks, talked of leaving behind his water jug, boots and a shovel to drive to Wasington, D.C., where he was a special assistant to the President Clinton in the 1990s.
"The culture shock is just amazing," Berry said. "It is something you have to experiece to appreciate."
Based on his own issue with adapting to Washington, Berry suggests top Clinton rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., doesn’t have the experience to be president.
"Four years in the United States or even a couple of terms doesn't prepare you for anything like what the president of the United States is going to face January 2009."
Berry added, "I don’t question (Obama’s) intelligence. I don’t question any of ‘ems intelligence. I’m not saying they can’t learn it. I’m saying she doesn’t have to learn it. She already knows most of these people she’s going to be dealing with."