Tales from the Trail

Blago judge says Obama doesn’t have to testify

BLAGOJEVICH-ILLINOIS/The federal judge overseeing the corruption trial of  Rod Blagojevich said he sees no need for President Barack Obama to testify, denying a defense request, though he left open the possibility.

“The testimony of the president is not material to this case,” James Zagel of the U.S. District Court in Chicago said at a hearing on Friday.

The issue, as Zagel framed it, was whether Blagojevich thought that a union official coming to see him about who best to fill Obama’s old U.S. Senate seat was an emissary for the president.

According to a defense filing, the unnamed union offiicial said he discussed the seat with Obama the day before the Nov. 4, 2008, election.

Blagojevich, a two-term Democrat ousted from office last year, is accused of trying to sell the Senate seat, which he had the power to fill. He goes on trial on June 3 on 24 counts related to using his office to leverage campaign contributions and job offers for himself and his wife.

Blagojevich asks for President Obama to testify

Rod Blagojevich’s attorneys have asked for President Barack Obama to testify at the former Illinois governor’s corruption trial, saying he would be “a critical witness.”

In an apparent mechanical error, blacked-out portions of the defense’s request were visible for some time online, and were subsequently published on the websites of Chicago’s daily  newspapers.

Among the disclosures in the redacted portions of the defense motion were that Obama spoke to Blagojevich on December 1, 2008, eight days before Blagojevich was arrested by FBI agents.

How well was Palin vetted? McCain, um, doesn’t know

Republican John McCain says he doesn’t know whether his former vice presidential running mate, Sarah Palin, was WASHINGTON-SUMMIT/adequately vetted. At least, he doesn’t know who says she wasn’t, and he doesn’t care. What he does know is that the 2008 presidential race was a tough fight. But now he’s very proud and very happy. Any more questions? Get lost. 
    
McCain just wouldn’t take the bait in an interview with NBC’s Today show when asked to comment on revelations about his failed 2008 White House campaign that appear in the new book, “Game Change,” by New York magazine writer John Heilemann and Time magazine reporter Mark Halperin .
    
NBC asked whether the book is correct where it describes the vetting process for Palin as hasty and haphazard, with no one bothering to speak to her husband or her political enemies.
    
“I wouldn’t know,” McCain replied.
    
Sorry? The Republican Party nominee wouldn’t know if his own running mate had been adequately vetted? 
USA-POLITICS/MCCAIN    
“I wouldn’t know what the sources are, nor care,” the Arizona senator explained.
    
“I am not going to spend time looking back at what happened over a year ago when we’ve got two wars to fight, 10 percent unemployment in my state and things to do. I’m sorry. You’ll have to get others to comment.”
    
McCain’s decision to transplant Palin from political obscurity to the national limelight undermined his credibility even among Republicans. Some worried that voters would see the former Alaska governor as too inexperienced to become Veep and possibly, some day, take on the mantle of Commander-in-Chief during a national emergency. 
    
Palin has since become the most visible Republican figure in the national political firmament, publishing a best-selling book, landing a job as pundit on FOX News and attracting speculation about a possible White House run in 2012. USA-POLITICS/MCCAIN
    
“She will be a major factor in American politics in the future,” McCain predicted, with an apparent air of vindication.
    
“I am proud of everybody in my campaign. I’m proud of the campaign we ran. I’m so proud that I had the opportunity to represent my party in the election. And I’ll always look back on that period with pride and with satisfaction. It was tough. But I’m very happy and I’m very happy in my new role in the Senate and going back and fighting the good fight.”

Photo Credits: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst (McCain); Reuters/Brian Snyder (McCain and Palin) and (Palin)

Click here for more political coverage from Reuters

It’s official – Obama is the next U.S. president

It’s official. Barack Obama will be the next president of the United States.

USA/The Senate and House of Representatives just concluded a joint session in which the electoral college vote results of the Nov. 4 election were counted and certified with great fanfare.

Vice President Dick Cheney, who serves as president of the Senate, presided over the meeting and read the official results – Obama of Illinois received 365 of the 538 electoral votes for president and Sen. John McCain of Arizona received 173.  Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware received 365 electoral votes for the office of vice president while Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska received 173 votes, Cheney said. USA/

from FaithWorld:

When it’s better to lead with the economy than with the innuendo

President-elect Barack Obama gave a wide-ranging interview to the Chicago Tribune , offering his hometown daily a scoop that forced other journalists to choose which angle to highlight in their reports on it. Reuters chose to lead  with his comment that the most pressing problem right now was to "stabilize the patient" and save the U.S. economy from losing millions of jobs. I agree this is the key message he sent in this interview and deserved to take top billing. So I was surprised to see how many news organisations went with a different angle. (Photo: Obama in Chicago, 9 Dec 2008/Jeff Haynes)

"Obama to take the oath of office using his middle name" ... "At inauguration, it will be Barack Hussein Obama: interview" ... "I, Barack Hussein Obama" -- several news organisations led off with the fact that Obama would be sworn in under his full name. What did they expect? That he would kowtow to his campaign critics who pointedly called him Barack Hussein Obama but didn't have the courage to say what they were hinting at, i.e. that this self-confessed Christian was a "covert Muslim" or "Muslim apostate" and therefore unreliable?

Given the context of the campaign, the fact that Obama has not been cowed is interesting. We mentioned it in the third paragraph, the Chicago Tribune in the second. But let's ask if making this the lead, putting it at the top of the whole story, gives the whispering campaign against him much more importance than it is due?

Palin’s apple picking lesson: It’s about immigration, not China

NEW PARIS, Penn. – What is the biggest competition for an apple orchard owner in rural Pennsylvania?
 
Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin thought she knew the answer when talking to Matthew Boyer of Boyer Orchards.
 
“So is your competition imports from China?” Palin asked Boyer, as she stood in a barn in front of bushels of all different kinds of freshly picked apples at the family-owned orchard.
 
Not quite.
 
While it’s true that China is a huge apple producer and the United States’ share of world exports continues to decline, competition from China wasn’t Boyer’s biggest concern.
 
Boyer told Palin he was more worried about apples from Washington state, which produces some 60 percent of the apples grown in the United States.
 
In fact, the issue on Boyer’s mind was immigration.
 
Boyer employs migrants to pick his apples, and it is becoming harder to find people willing and able to do the work.
 
“We need workers. We can’t get any local person for it. It’s hard work,” he said.
 
“It’s increasingly difficult to find legal help. People don’t understand this immigration issue.”
 
Palin quickly turned the conversation to one of her preferred topics — the need to cut taxes, especially for small business owners.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

Rove, Gingrich weigh in with advice for McCain

mccaintux1.jpg 

How can John McCain win?
    
The Republican presidential candidate trails Democratic rival Barack Obama in opinion polls and time is running out before the Nov. 4 election. The Web site FiveThirtyEight, which uses statistical modeling to predict the outcome, gives the Arizona senator only a 5.3 percent chance of victory.

It’s third and long for the Maverick, but  two prominent Republican strategists see a path to victory.
    
Here’s what they say:
    
THREAD THE NEEDLE. McCain should focus on a handful of states that voted Republican in 2004 but could go Obama’s way this time out — Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, Missouri, Colorado and Nevada, said Karl Rove, President Bush’s former political advisor. He can lose Iowa and New Mexico, which also voted for Bush in 2004, and still squeak by with 274 Electoral College votes, enough for a win.
 
“It’s threading the needle, but it’s come to that,” Rove wrote in the Wall Street Journal on Thursday.
    
TAXES, TAXES, TAXES. Forget on-the-ground tactics — McCain and running mate Sarah Palin should hammer Obama for wanting to raise taxes on those making more than $250,000, tapping into Americans’ instinctive mistrust of politicans, said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
    
If the message catches on, all those swing states will swing McCain’s way, Gingrich said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
 
The way Gingrich sees it, Obama could have another Bittergate on his hands after telling Joe the Plumber that he wants to “spread the wealth around” to create a healthier economy.
    
“If Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin spend the rest of this campaign focused on whether or not politicians want to take money away from you and decide how much you’re allowed to keeep, I suspect they win the election,” he said.
 
“What Sen. Obama said the other night was a Freudian slip,” he added. 
    
There’s another prominent politician who’s not ruling out a McCain victory: Obama himself. 
 
“Don’t underestimate the capacity of Democrats to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory,” he said at a fundraiser Thursday night. “Don’t underestimate our ability to screw it up.”
    
What do you think? Who’s got the better roadmap for McCain — Rove or Gingrich?

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage

Photo credit: REUTERS/Jim Young (McCain arrives at the Alfred E. Smith dinner in New York, Oct. 16)

Senator, can you spare a million?

WASHINGTON – If you want a recession-proof job, maybe being a member of Congress is the way to go.
 
With the U.S. economy tanking, the 535 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate appear well-positioned to weather the storm, according to an analysis of their personal wealth by the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics. rtx9mpc.jpg
 
In 2007, the U.S. economy grew at 2.2 percent, the slowest pace in five years, with only 0.6 percent growth in the last quarter of that year, according to government statistics.
 
Things were rosier for those sitting on Capitol Hill.
 
According to CRP’s survey, the net worth for members of Congress grew 11 percent in 2007, “despite indications last year that the economy was headed south.”
 
In that year, senators had a median net worth of about $1.7 million, according to CRP, with 61 percent of senators considered millionaires.
 
For House members, median net worth was about $684,000, with 39 percent in the millionaire club. That compares to about 1 percent of all Americans reaching that status.
 
rtx9mpt.jpgDemocratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, a senator from Illinois, had a fabulous year in 2007, when he became the 31st richest senator, up from 70th richest in 2006, thanks mostly to royalties from two best-selling books, CRP said. His net worth grew from about $800,000 in 2006 to $4.7 million.
 
Obama’s opponent, Sen. John McCain went the other direction, but don’t feel too sad. He was the 12th richest senator, with a net worth of $28.5 million last year, thanks mostly to wife Cindy’s family fortune. That was down from 10th place in 2006.

In picking Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware as his running mate, Obama went out of his way to achieve a balanced ticket, at least when it comes to money. Biden is near the very bottom of  the list of “poorest” senators with a net worth of $215,997 at most, CRP said.

CRP noted that 2008 might not be so kind to lawmakers’ bank accounts however, given the nosedive in stocks and other investments.

In apparent shift, Cindy McCain invokes sons in criticism of Obama

cindy.jpgBETHLEHEM, Pennsylvania – Republican John McCain’s military history is famous, but the service of his sons is less well known. And until recently, that’s exactly how the presidential candidate and his wife, Cindy, wanted it.
 
But on Wednesday, Mrs. McCain made a rare reference to her sons when criticizing the Illinois senator for his 2007 vote against a war funding bill. McCain has two sons in the military, and one has served in Iraq.  “The day that Sen. Obama decided to cast a vote to not fund my son when he was serving sent a cold chill through my body,” McCain told a crowded rally in Pennsylvania, an electoral battleground state.
 
“I would suggest that Sen. Obama change shoes with me for just one day and see what it means … to have a loved one serving in the armed forces and more importantly, serving in harm’s way,” she said. “I suggest he take a day and go watch our fine young men…and women deploy, get on those buses and leave with a smile.”
 
McCain also invoked vice presidential nominee Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s son, who recently deployed to Iraq.
 ”We have a lot in common, the McCain family and the Palin family,” she said. “We represent between us the Army, the Navy and the United States Marine Corps.”
 
Obama voted against the funding bill in 2007 but supported a version that included a timetable for withdrawal for U.S. troops from Iraq.
 
The son of Obama’s vice presidential running mate, Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, has just been sent to Iraq with the Army National Guard, and will be there for about a year. Obama has two young daughters. 

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

Photo credit: REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Biden ready to return to campaign, come out swinging

WILMINGTON, Del. – Expect Joe Biden to come out swinging Wednesday when the Democratic vice presidential nominee resumes his campaign after a five-day break to attend family matters.
 
rtx95to.jpgBiden goes to Florida where he’s ready again to hit Republican presidential nominee John McCain on the top issue among voters, the ailing economy.
 
He’s also expected to rip into McCain for increased attacks in recent days on Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama.
 
With a month to go before Election Day, candidates normally accelerate their campaign schedules. But with his son heading off to the Iraq war and mother-in-law dying after a long illness, Biden grounded his campaign to be at home with family.
 
He’s been in Delaware since the morning after his debate last Thursday in St. Louis with Republican rival Sarah Palin.
 
Both Biden and Palin gave what were widely seen as strong performances.
 
Biden told Newsweek magazine the next day — in an interview at a coffee shop near his home in Wilmington — that he was happy with the debate, that he liked Palin but that doesn’t believe their showdown will have much impact.
 
“The real issue is John and Barack,” Biden said.
 
Biden planned to watch Tuesday night’s Obama-McCain debate at home with family, an aide said.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

Photo credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria (Joe Biden during vice presidential debate Oct. 2)