Tales from the Trail

On veterans education bill, Dole backs Obama over McCain

WASHINGTON – Former U.S. Sen Bob Dole is a leading advocate for war veterans and a longtime Republican ally of presidential candidate John McCain, but on Friday he sided with Democrat Barack Obama to endorse a bill the Arizona senator opposes to raise benefits for former soldiers.

The legislation passed by the Senate on Thursday is at the heart of a fierce spat rtr1nj7z.jpgbetween McCain and his Obama, the Illinois senator closing in on the Democratic presidential nomination. Obama questioned McCain’s commitment to veterans, while the Republican candidate blasted the Obama’s lack of military service.

“I’m for the concept … I probably would have voted for it, if we get the money,” Dole told the National Press Club in an appearance spiced liberally with his trademark political wit. He acknowledged, “I haven’t read it, which is not a requirement in Congress.”

The bill would increase education benefits for war veterans. Dole likened the current political battle to the one over the narrowly approved post-World War Two G.I. Bill, which generously funded college education and other benefits for soldiers and became wildly popular.

“I’m for it. That’s how I got an education,” said Dole, who was severely wounded in the war.

Dems acting like GOP toward Florida, Michigan – Bill Clinton

LOUISVILLE, Kentucky – Democrats are acting more like Republicans by not counting the results of the Florida and Michigan primaries and by not seating those states’ party delegates, former President Bill Clinton said on Tuesday.cafe.jpg

“The Republicans are supposed to be the people that don’t count votes in Florida, not Democrats,” said Clinton, campaigning with his wife Sen. Hillary Clinton at Lynn’s Paradise Cafe, where she chatted with voters and he held an impromptu news conference.

The January votes in Michigan and Florida were deemed invalid by the national Democratic Party because both states moved their election dates forward in defiance of party rules.

McCain finds the coffee in Little Havana pretty strong

MIAMI – Republican John McCain’s “Straight Talk Express” bus took a little detour today, depositing McCain at a Cuban-American restaurant in Little Havana.

rtx5yjz.jpgMcCain, who likes to keep a cup of coffee at his side most of the time, decided to sample the espresso served up at Cafe Versailles, ordering a cup at a window for ordering items to go.

Taking a sip from the small ceramic cup, he must have found it a pretty strong brew. He pumped his fist as he tasted the coffee.

Baby gets baptised, with a visit from Clinton

hillary-smile.jpgBOWLING GREEN, Kentucky – Katelyn Jenkins got a surprise visit from Sen. Hillary Clinton on one of the biggest days of her life so far. But odds are, she didn’t even notice.

The eight-week-old girl was getting baptised on Sunday morning at the State Street United Methodist Church, where the Democratic presidential contender paused in her campaigning to attend services.

At the sight of the former first lady, the baby’s father said: “I was pleasantly surprised and amazed.”

Bush appeasement comment stirs up U.S. political race

WASHINGTON – President George W. Bush stirred up the U.S. presidential campaign Thursday by suggesting that Democratic front-runner Barack Obama’s pledge to talk to Iran’s leader amounted to “the false comfort of appeasement.”

“Some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along,” Bush said in a speech to the Israeli parliament marking Israel’s 60th anniversary.

Without mentioning Obama by name, he compared “this foolish delusion” to the appeasement of the Nazis ahead of World War Two. 

McCain favors UK-style question time for U.S. president

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Republican presidential candidate John McCain says he would take a page from the British government if elected and hold question-and-answer sessions with lawmakers.

“I will ask Congress to grant me the privilege of coming before both houses to trtx5mdz.jpgake questions, and address criticism, much the same as the prime minister of Great Britain appears regularly before the House of Commons,” McCain told an audience Thursday.

Although U.S. presidents deliver annual “State of the Union” speeches to Congress at the start of each year, those formal addresses do not include a question-and-answer session.

To Obama, it seems like there are more than 50 states

BEAVERTON, Oregon (Reuters) – The battle for the Democratic nomination has been long and tiring. So much so that Democratic frontrunner Barack Obama seemed to forget how many states were in the United States.

“Over the last fifteen months, we’ve obama4.jpgtravelled to every corner of the United States,” the Illinois senator said during a campaign event in Beaverton, Oregon.

“I’ve now been in 57 states, I think — one left to go,” Obama said. “Alaska and Hawaii I was not allowed to go to … my staff could not justify it,” he added after hearing laughter from the audience.

Obama camp to superdelegates: “Read the newspapers”

CHICAGO – As Barack Obama celebrated his compelling win in North Carolina and the unexpected closeness of the Indiana race on Tuesday night, his senior strategist said one of the campaign’s top tasks now is to court influential Democratic Party figures.
 
The Democratic senator from Illinois was seen as showing resilience after a bumpy ride in which he has struggled with questions about his former pastor’s fiery sermons and efforts by Clinton to paint him as an “out of touch” elitist.
 
Analysts said his rival Hillary Clinton, who won only narrowly in Indiana where she had been favored to do well, was likely to face increased pressure to exit the race because her showing did little to advance her argument that she would be more electable than Obama in a matchup against Republican Sen. John McCain.
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Asked by reporters whether there would be a slew of new endorsements from the party stalwarts and officials known as the “superdelegates,” Obama’s chief strategist, David Axelrod, was careful not to reveal too much.
 
“We’re going to be reaching out to them,” Axelrod told reporters as Obama, who would be the first black U.S. president, flew back home to Chicago from his evening rally in North Carolina.
 
The Obama strategist said the message in these conversations would be a simple one: “Read the newspapers.”

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

Photo credit: Reuters/Chris Keane (Obama waves to supporters at his North Carolina and Indiana primary election night rally in Raleigh.)

US House Republican leader shrugs off Gingrich advice

WASHINGTON - House Minority Leader John Boehner on Wednesday shrugged off a warning that his fellow Republicans are facing peril in the fall elections unless they change course, a prediction made by a former Republican House speaker. 
 
Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich warned on Tuesday that Republicans must immediately “chart a bold course of real change” otherwise they will “suffer decisive losses this November.”
   
rtr20ahg.jpgThat apparently didn’t sit too well with Boehner as he faces an uphill battle to reclaim control of the U.S. House of Representatives since more than two dozen fellow House Republicans are leaving this fall or running for another office. And last weekend, they lost a Republican seat in Louisiana in a special election.
 
“Listen a lot of people have a lot of ideas and advice for me and our leadership team about what it is that we should do,” Boehner told reporters after a meeting with President George W. Bush at the White House.
 
“I tell our colleagues every week, if you stand up and do the right things for the right reasons, the right things will happen,” Boehner said. “And frankly, we have been standing up for the right things that the American people want us to.”
 
The Ohio Republican argued that their efforts to cut taxes and expand exploration for oil and gas in the United States served as evidence that they were on the right path for the November elections. 
 
“There’s a whole array of issues that I think where we’re representing the interests of the American people,” Boehner said.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage

- Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young (Boehner after a meeting with Bush at the White House)

Gingrich warns fellow Republicans of possible disaster

WASHINGTON – Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich is warning fellow Republicans in the U.S. Congress that they face a possible Election Day disaster this fall.rtr1q2or.jpg

“Either congressional Republicans are going to chart a bold course of real change or they are going to suffer decisive losses this November,” Gingrich wrote on Tuesday in HumanEvents.com, a leading conservative voice.

Gingrich, who helped Republicans win control of the House for the first time in 40 years in 1994, is now a commentator who likes to give his party unsolicited advice.