Friday, June 6, 2008

Aha! The "pivot" has begun

Obama shows tougher side on Iran

BARACK Obama strode on to the international stage for the first time as the Democratic Party's presidential nominee-elect and vowed to use "all elements of American power" to eliminate Iran's nuclear threat. He told America's powerful pro-Israel lobby: "I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Everything."

After finally seeing off the challenge from Hillary Clinton on Tuesday night, Senator Obama sought to burnish his credentials as a potential commander-in-chief, which have been repeatedly battered by the Republican candidate, John McCain. In previous speeches he has played down the danger of Iran, even likening it to that of Venezuela and Cuba. But this time he said there was no greater threat to Israel than the Islamic republic. He said that Iran supported violent extremists and pursued a nuclear capability that could spark a dangerous arms race.

Senator Obama's speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington represented his most hardline and uncompromising national security message yet. It was designed to assure sceptical Jewish voters - who could be decisive in swing states such as Florida this November - that his pledge to hold talks without preconditions with Iran's leadership was not a soft option. It also showed that within hours of clinching the Democratic nomination he had begun to tack away from the party's liberal Left. The last election was won on issues of national security.

Israel's security was sacrosanct and non-negotiable, he said. "I will always keep the threat of military action on the table to defend our security and our ally Israel," he added. Senator McCain has identified foreign policy as Senator Obama's weak point and told the Aipac conference this week that his opponent was guilty of "very bad judgment on national security issues".

Senator Obama has appointed a team of three people, including Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the assassinated president John F. Kennedy, to choose his running-mate for the November election. His choice came as former Democratic president Jimmy Carter warned Senator Obama not to choose Senator Clinton as his deputy, saying it would be the "worst mistake" because it would accumulate the negative aspects of both candidates.

Senator Clinton spoke to him on the telephone. She has infuriated Senator Obama's campaign by refusing to concede and is thought to be making an aggressive pitch for the vice-presidential nomination. Yesterday she was on her best behaviour as she rehearsed the role of playing second fiddle. She told the Aipac conference: "Let me be very clear: I know Senator Obama will be a good friend to Israel."

Senator Obama's speech brought a standing ovation lasting more than a minute from the fervently pro-Israel audience. He said that President Bush's decision to invade Iraq had enabled the hardliners in Iran to tighten their grip on power, making both Israel and the US less secure. He said that Senator McCain offered a false choice, to "stay the course in Iraq or cede the region to Iran" - a policy, he said, for staying, not one for victory.


Public celebrations hide private Democrat consternation over Obama

Barack Obama has finally been crowned as the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee for president. But while his historic win is justly being celebrated, party insiders are secretly worried about his chances against the Republican, John McCain.

Hillary Clinton has clutched at three straws for her nomination. Last Saturday's decision by the Democrats' rules committee to count only half the delegates from the disputed Florida and Michigan primaries removed her first straw ("I was robbed"). Her big win in Puerto Rico on Sunday kept another straw in play ("I won the popular vote"). But her final argument for staying in the race is much more important because of its implications for McCain-Obama in November. "I do better than Barack Obama in big swing states Democrats need to take back the White House," Clinton has said repeatedly. And based on the evidence, she is right.

Obama's ability to bring new voters to the polls has been widely celebrated, and to Democratic strategists his ability to put in play previously solid Republican states like Colorado and Virginia is at least as important. It is his poor showing in big swing states like Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania that is causing Democrats to contemplate the unthinkable. Obama might not get to the White House because he can't seem to close the deal in middle America, despite the unpopularity of President Bush and Iraq, the parlous state of the US economy, and McCain's age, temper and limitations on the stump.

The Democrats' sensible split-the-difference resolution to the vexed issue of Florida and Michigan, which held their primaries earlier than the national party allowed, snuffed out her first reason for staying in the campaign. Clinton's second grievance has been that, on some counts, she has beaten Obama in the popular vote even though she has lost the delegate count. There are two reasons for this apparently undemocratic outcome. Obama's domination of the caucus states, with small numbers of highly motivated participants, was sustained on small vote totals. In contrast, Clinton fared best in large states with lots of voters.

After five months of primaries and caucuses that bruised not only the candidates but also the party, there will be considerable soul-searching among Democrats about reforming the process before 2012. But the rules of the game were clear before the primaries began, and Obama won fair and square on the only indicator that matters, delegates.

Clinton's best argument for fighting on has big implications for the presidential election in November. Whereas Obama piled up wins in states the Democrats will almost certainly win or certainly lose, she won the pivotal states on which a close election will turn. Most analysts believe Obama has to win at least two of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania to get into the White House. He lost all three to Clinton in the primaries, by sizeable margins. More troubling for Democrats, Obama is doing considerably worse than Clinton in opinion polls against McCain in all three states and losing to him in two.

Unfortunately for Clinton, the Democratic grandees who comprise the super-delegates ignored her electability argument. They feared the backlash, particularly from all those new young Democrats energised by Obama, that would surely have come had they overturned the pledged delegate count. But that does not mean they are not concerned about his electability. Behind closed doors they are worried sick by Obama's poor showing in those states that have thwarted Democratic presidential ambitions in recent elections.

McCain may choose the Governor of Florida, Charlie Crist as his running mate, hoping to lock up that state. Obama will be tempted to counter with the Governor of Ohio, Ted Strickland, to win that state, even though Strickland would do nothing for Obama's vulnerabilities regarding his lack of national security experience.

The race for the Democratic nomination is now all over bar the shouting. But Clinton's best argument for staying in the contest to the end - Obama's poor showing in key swing states - is the big story behind the celebrations. Democrats thought the road to the White House would be a cakewalk. Now it looks like a dogfight.


She Won't Back Down

BARACK OBAMA HAS DEFEATED Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination--but with a new and unwelcome twist. He hasn't succeeded in ridding himself of Clinton (or her husband Bill). She refuses to go away, much less concede.

The effect was to inject a sharply negative and divisive element in the already bitter race at the very moment that Obama was making history by becoming the first African-American to win a major party's presidential nomination. Her goal, from all indications, is to force him to choose her as his vice presidential running mate. And her tactic is political hardball.

So rather than concede or even acknowledge that Obama had captured a majority of the delegates who will decide the nomination at the party s convention in Denver in August, Clinton sent him an unmistakable message.

It was this: The primaries are over, but I can still drag this contest all the way to the convention, denying you the opportunity to concentrate on your Republican opponent, John McCain. I can try to flip delegates who ve lined up with you by persuading them I would have a better chance of beating McCain in the general election. And there's only one way you can stop me and that's by making me your running mate.

In her speech after winning the South Dakota primary by a surprisingly comfortable margin last night, he focused on how well she--and not Obama--had done.

She mentioned four times that she d won 18 million votes, the most ever by a candidate for a presidential nomination. The assumption in the political community was she'd take a conciliatory posture, figuring that would be the best tactic in seeking the vice presidential nod. Indeed, leaks from the Clinton campaign had indicated that would be her approach. It turned out not to be--far from it.

Now Obama is left in an awkward position. From all accounts, he s not eager to bring her on the ticket, particularly because of the presence of her husband, former president Bill Clinton. The fear is he'd be a disruptive force in the campaign and, if Obama wins this fall, in his White House.

But Hillary Clinton can cause trouble. She has almost as many delegates as he does, giving her the ability to keep him from uniting the party and presiding over a harmonious Democratic convention.

So why not pick her? He may wind up doing that. But if he does, he might look like a weak candidate unable to stand up to the Clintons. And you can imagine what Republicans would say: If he knuckles under to the Clintons, how could he stand up to hostile world leaders?

Clinton, however, would bring some advantages to the ticket. She's clearly a plausible president. And an Obama-Clinton partnership would insure party unity and a peaceful convention. But Clinton is disliked, polls show, by roughly half the country and thus might be a drag on the ticket in some states. On top of that, she's someone Obama may not be comfortable with as his running mate.

As she often boasts, Clinton is a fighter. She has moxie. To get her way, she's willing to make life unpleasant for Obama by forcing his hand on the vice presidency when he's barely begun to consider running mates. Last night, she encouraged supporters to send her their advice, no doubt expecting they'll insist she be on the ticket.

This is surely not the position Obama anticipated he'd be in after defeating Clinton, once dubbed the prohibitive favorite to the win the nomination. For him, it's a moment of peril, not joy. And the whole world is watching.


Birds of a feather....

By Thomas Sowell

It is amazing how seriously the media are taking Senator Barack Obama's latest statement about the latest racist rant from the pulpit of the church he has attended for 20 years. But neither that statement nor the apology by Father Michael Pfleger for his rant really matters, one way or the other. Nor does Sen. Obama's belated resignation from that church.

For any politician, what matters is not his election-year rhetoric, or an election-year resignation from a church, but the track record of that politician in the years before the election.

Yet so many people are so fascinated by Barack Obama's rhetorical skills that they don't care about his voting record in the U.S. Senate, in the Illinois state senate, the causes that he has chosen to promote over the years, or the candidate's personal character and values, as revealed by his actions and associations.

Despite clever spin from Obama's supporters about avoiding "guilt by association," much more is involved than casual association with people like Jeremiah Wright and Father Pfleger. In addition to giving $20,000 of his own money to Jeremiah Wright, as a state senator Obama directed $225,000 of the Illinois taxpayers' money for programs run by Father Pfleger. In the U.S. Senate, Obama earmarked $100,000 in federal tax money for Father Pfleger's work. Giving someone more than 300 grand is not just some tenuous, coincidental association.

Are Barack Obama's views shown by what he says during an election year or by what he has been doing for decades before? The complete contrast between Obama's election year image as a healer of divisions and his whole career of promoting far-left grievance politics, in association with America-haters like Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers, are brushed aside by his supporters who talk about getting back to "the real issues." There is nothing more real than a man's character and values. The track record of what he has actually done is far more real than anything he says, however elegantly he says it.

There is no office where the character and values of the person in that office matter more than the office of President of the United States. He holds the destiny of 300 million Americans in his hands and the fate of generations yet unborn.

That was never more true than today, with Iran moving ever closer to a nuclear bomb, while the United Nations wrings its hands and Congress fritters away its time on everything from steroids in sports to earmarks for pet projects back home.

Does anyone seriously consider what it would mean for Iran to have nuclear weapons? They are already supplying terrorists with the means of killing people in other countries, including killing American troops in Iraq.

Sen. Obama has been downplaying the Iran threat, saying that they are just "a small country," not like the Soviet Union. The people who flew planes into the World Trade Center were an even smaller group than the Iranian government.

Half a dozen terrorists like that with nuclear weapons would be a bigger danger than the Soviet Union ever was, because the Soviet leaders were not suicide bombers. They could be deterred by the threat of what we would do to Moscow if they attacked New York.

You cannot deter suicidal fanatics. They are not going to stop unless they get stopped. Rhetoric is not going to do it. Not only Senator Obama, but too many other Americans, seem to have no concept of the seething hatred that can lead people to destroy their own lives in order to lash out at others. But terrorists have been doing this repeatedly, not only in Iraq and in Israel, but in other countries around the world - including the United States on 9/11.

Have we already forgotten how the Palestinians were cheering in the streets over the news of the attack on the World Trade Center? How videotapes of sadistic beheadings of innocent people by terrorists have found an eager audience in the Middle East? Are we going to leave our children hostages to hate-filled sadists with nuclear weapons? Are we to rely on Barack Obama's rhetoric to protect them?

Sen. Obama's foreign policy seems to be somewhere between Rodney King's "Can't we just get along?" and Alfred E. Neuman's "What, me worry?"


Paging the ACLU

Democratic Sen. Barack Obama's church got $15 million from taxpayers. Trinity United Church of Christ's pastor may have preached "God Damn America," but he raked in $15 million from federal taxpayers over the years, Fox News reported. The money preceded the ascendancy of the church's most famous member to the U.S. Senate. It shows that many social services are contracted out to churches. Think about that the next time some liberal complains about Faith-Based Initiatives.

Separation of church to liberals means separation from only certain churches; the ones they don't like. I have no problem with using churches for government-funded programs like Head Start (although Head Start is a terribly ineffective program). My problem is with the two-facedness of the Trinity United Church of Christ's pastor and yes, its parishioners - both current and longtime-but-former.

Andrew Walsh of Trinity College defended the Rev. Jeremiah Wright damning America while accepting its money. "Wright believes things like the government-funded programs are a necessary compensation for the legacy of white racism, part of what's necessary to heal the wounds inflicted over four centuries on blacks," Walsh told Fox. "His niche is even more specialized - he does this sort of work in the context of white denominational mainline Protestantism, which, on the whole has welcomed both him and his message."

Let's call it what it is: Milking white guilt. Wright who lives in a mansion in a white community is a hypocrite. He mentored Obama for 20 years. It shows.


Obama's Close Friend, Mentor, Home Financier, and Neighbor Guilty, Guilty, Guilty

Playing Obama Roulette with the nation's security just doesn't seem like a good idea. Usually the parties nominate two candidates with differences, but neither of whom seem obviously radical or surrounded by radicals or corrupt people. The sole exception was 1972, and George McGovern was nowhere near as far outside of the political mainstream then as Obama is now.

Senator Obama is himself a radical --though one with a nice smile, beautiful kids and a marvelous eloquence-- and he has a long list of radical friends, Now he also boasts a very close associate --his mentor and home financier!-- just convicted of more than a dozen federal corruption offenses.

A vote for Obama isn't like throwing the dice on him, or betting odd or even on a roulette wheel. It is like betting the green numbers. or just one of them. Do we really think the country is going to take that sort of risk in the era of al Qaeda and WMD?



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