Tales from the Trail

Bill Clinton takes on Obama, media on race comments

Bill Clinton is making news again.

Campaigning for his wife Hillary in Pennsylvania, the former president accused the Obama campaign of “playing the race card” and later lashed out at a reporter who asked him about his comments.billclinton

Could this hurt Hillary’s prospects in the must-win Keystone state, which holds its nominating contest today?

Bill Clinton was so popular among African Americans during his time in the White House that he was sometimes known as “the first black president,” but much of that goodwill evaporated after the racially charged South Carolina primary in January.

Many blacks were angered when he compared Barack Obama to Jesse Jackson, seeing it as an attempt to marginalize a black candidate who has drawn white support. Bill said he meant no offense, and later accused the Obama campaign of trying to take advantage of the remarks.

Bill took a lower-profile role in his wife’s campaign for several weeks after his run-ins with reporters who asked him about the remarks received prominent news coverage.

Obama, Clinton deadlocked in US Senate, 13-13

WASHINGTON – Among those who serve with them in the U.S. Senate — an institution often referred to as “the world’s most deliberative body” — endorsements for White House rivals Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are dead even.

rtr1xvi9.jpgThirteen of their fellow Democratic senators back Obama, the first-term lawmaker from Illinois, while 13 support Clinton, the second-term lawmaker from New York.

Twenty-one other Democratic senators are uncommitted in the race for their party’s 2008 presidential nomination.

‘Why can’t I just eat my waffle?’

obama-in-pa.jpgSCRANTON, Pa. – Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama kicked off a day of campaigning in Pennsylvania by dropping by a Scranton diner for a breakfast of waffles, sausage and orange juice.
 
But the press corps went hungry — hungry for an answer that is.
 
The Illinois senator brushed aside a question from one reporter on his reaction to former President Jimmy Carter’s description of a positive meeting with leaders of the Islamist Palestinian group Hamas.
 
“Why can’t I just eat my waffle?” Obama replied.
    
Reporters traveling with the Illinois senator, fighting with his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton over Pennsylvania ahead of its vote on Tuesday, are venting frustration over a lack of access to the candidate lately. Obama has not held a press availability in 10 days, though he has given dozens of interviews to local press in Pennyslvania.
    
Republicans have pounced on Obama’s “waffle” comment, suggesting he is evading tough questions.
    
“Today, Obama continued to dodge questions from the media, responding that he just wanted to eat his waffle,” the Republican National Committee said in an email sent to reporters that included press accounts of the waffle incident at the Glider diner.
    
Both Obama and Clinton are far less accessible to the media than presumptive Republican nominee John McCain, known for holding lengthy question-and-answer sessions with reporters on his Straight Talk Express bus.
    
The sessions last so long that some reporters say they run out of questions.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage

Photo credit: Reuters/Tim Shaffer (Obama greets Pennsylvania supporter)

Feds to keep an eye on Pennsylvania primary

WASHINGTON – As Democrats go to the polls on Tuesday to pick between Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama as their presidential nominee, the Bush administration said on Monday they will be keeping a close eye on the voting.
 
rtr1zn5o.jpgCiting previous allegations that the city of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia, had violated voting rights laws, the Bush administration’s Justice Department announced it would monitor the primary contest.

A year ago, the city settled with the government over the allegations, agreeing to provide additional Spanish-speaking poll officials, to give additional training for election workers, and to ensure better access for disabled voters, among other things.
 
“Philadelphia has an obligation to provide all election information, ballots and voting assistance information in Spanish pursuant to Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act,” the department said. “The monitors will gather information concerning compliance with this requirement and other federal voting rights statutes.”
 
The Justice Department said it had almost 1,600 monitors watching 119 elections in 24 states during the 2006 election year.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage

- Photo credit: Reuters/Bradley Bower (Obama at a rally outside Independence Hall in Philadelphia)

Financial Times backs Obama in Democrats’ nominating battle

WASHINGTON – Britain’s Financial Times newspaper, which has bigger paid circulation in the United States than its home country, weighed into the bitter Democratic nominating contest– offering its endorsement to Sen. Barack Obama.rtr1zo49.jpg

The backing of the financial newspaper in Monday’s edition comes just a day before voters in Pennsylvania go to the polls, a state that could offer some salvation for his opponent Sen. Hillary Clinton, who has been clinging to a narrow lead in the state but trails in the delegate count. 

The FT points to Obama’s well-run campaign and cross-party appeal for putting him over the top of his rival. It also cites Clinton’s unpopularity and questions her campaign strategy, arguing it has been re-tooled several times.

MoveOn.org criticizes debate between Clinton, Obama as “gotcha”

WASHINGTON – MoveOn.org is taking aim at ABC News over Wednesday night’s Democratic presidential debate between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, arguing the network’s moderators trivialized the issues in the campaign by asking “gotcha” questions. rtr1zkm4.jpg

The liberal activist group, which supports Obama, has posted a petition on its Web site and promises to run an ad protesting ABC if it gets 100,000 people to sign the petition.

During a nearly two-hour debate, Obama frequently found himself on the defensive as the moderators grilled him about his fiery pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, his relationship with a 1960s radical and his failure to wear a lapel flag pin.

Clinton says: just tell them I’m nice!

rtr1zkjz.jpgHAVERFORD, Penn. – Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, trying to shore up support in Pennsylvania ahead of next week’s hotly-contested nominating vote, had some simple advice on Thursday for how to win over undecided voters.

Asked by one audience member what to say when going door-to-door in support of the New York senator, Clinton responded: “Just knock on the door and say, ‘you know, she’s really nice.’”

“Or you can say it another way,” Clinton added. “‘She’s not as bad as you think!’”

Commentator quits radio show over Obama ‘hate’

ATLANTA – Commentator and activist Tavis Smiley has quit the syndicated “Tom Joyner Morning Show” after 12 years because of the “hate” he got from the show’s mainly black audience over his criticism of Sen. Barack Obama, Joyner sobamaman.jpgaid.

Joyner shocked listeners when he announced Smiley’s departure from the influential radio show on Friday and said he believed Smiley “can’t take the hate” he’d received from listeners who support the Democratic presidential candidate.

“We (the show and its listeners) are so emotional about this Barack Obama candidacy. If you don’t say anything for Barack Obama, you’re considered to be a hater.”

Bill tries to provide cover for Hillary from sniper fire

WASHINGTON – Former President Bill Clinton has leaped into the debate over Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s exaggerations about her 1996 trip to Bosnia — and got his facts wrong.

Hillary Clinton, the former U.S. first lady, has been accused of playing loose with the facts ever since her dramatic description of arriving in Bosnia under sniper fire was contrclintons3.jpgadicted by the actual videotape of her visit.

The controversy had seemed to run its course — until Thursday, when Bill Clinton got into the act while campaigning for his wife in Indiana.

Obama returns a compliment to Colin Powell

INDIANAPOLIS – Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama on Friday returned a compliment to Colin Powell after the former Bush administration secretary of state told an interviewer that he was impressed with Obama.

Obama, a first-term Illinois senator, has been criticized by Democratic rival Hillary Clinton and Republican Sen. John McCain, as lacking experience on foreign policy.

Powell told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that Obama seemed to be a quick study.