Tales from the Trail

Democratic abortion platform wins points from some pro-lifers

DALLAS – The Democratic Party remains staunchly behind a woman’s right to choose an abortion.

But the platform statement on the issue that will be adopted at the party’s presidential nominating convention in Denver later this month has been well received by some pro-life Christians, who rtr1w5c6.jpgapplaud its emphasis on abortion reduction.

On a conference call Tuesday with journalists, several leading evangelical and Catholic activists welcomed the stress on abortion reduction as the “common ground” between those who support abortion rights and those who oppose them (camps which describe themselves as pro-choice and pro-life).

A draft of the platform circulating last week — which insiders say has had few changes — said “The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade (the 1973 Supreme Court ruling granting women a constitutional right to abortion) and a woman’s right to choose a safe and legal abortion.”

But it also recognized the role of health care, education and “caring adoption programs” in reducing “the need for abortions.”

Psychotic firemen and circular firing squads: the Clinton post-mortem

WASHINGTON – It’s not exactly news that Hillary Clinton‘s presidential bid was hobbled by a dysfunctional staff that seemed to spend more time battling each other than rivals like Barack Obama. Still, the Atlantic Monthly’s inside look at the Democrat’s campaign paints a detailed — and highly entertaining — picture.

clintonobama.jpgAtlantic reporter Joshua Green got his hands on two dozen internal e-mails that portray the strategic vacillating and backbiting that reduced the New York senator from frontrunner to also-ran.

Here are some of the juiciest:

“This makes me sick. This circular firing squad that is occuring is unattractive, unprofessional, unconscionable, and unaccptable … It must stop,” adviser Robert Barnett wrote to other senior staffers on March 6, after a Washington Post story about the campaign’s internal battles.

After attacks, McCain crowd happy not to hear about Obama

ERIE, Pa. – After a week of slamming his opponent in a barrage of controversially negative advertisements, U.S. presidential hopeful John McCain spoke for more than 20 minutes Monday without mentioning Barack Obama by name once. 
His audience seemed to like it.
“I want to hear more about the issues, not bickering between the candidates,” said Ron Holden, a locomotive assembly worker who listened to the Republican senator from Arizona address staff at a large GE Transportation plant here.
“I don’t want to hear about what Obama’s been doing from McCain and I don’t want to hear about McCain from Obama,” said Holden, a registered Democrat who said that he was undecided about which way he would vote in November.
McCain did aim one nuanced blow toward his Democratic rival, recalling Obama’s comment about bitter small town Americans clinging to their guns and their church.
Obama’s rival for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Hillary Clinton, had taunted him over the remark, saying it was evidence he was out of touch with heartland America. McCain gently took a leaf out of her playbook.
“You’re going to seeing a lot of me in this state and we’re going to be on the bus and we’re going to go from town to town, and we’re going to tell people that we know that they love the Second Amendment and cherish their religion, because they believe in America,” McCain said.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

Photo credit: Reuters/Brian Snyder (McCain at a July 21 campaign appearance in Maine)

Obama ad fires celebrity charge back at McCain

combo.jpgWashington – Barack Obama is firing back against John McCain’s ad ridiculing the Democratic candidate’s popularity. Obama’s campaign on Monday released a counter attack ad accusing McCain of being “Washington’s biggest celebrity.”

The ad features McCain’s guest appearances on NBC’s comedy show “Saturday Night Live” and on talk shows that usually host celebrity guests.

It is unclear whether the new ad will prompt the kind of news coverage generated by McCain’s ad accusing Obama of being a celebrity like Paris Hilton, but Obama’s hard hitting ad accuses McCain of embracing Washington lobbyists “running his low road campaign.”

Freight Train sleeps through McCain’s whistle-stop tour

DES MOINES, Iowa – Republican presidential candidate John McCain conducted a whistle-stop tour through the Iowa State Fair on Friday but Freight Train was unimpressed.
The Arizona senator did what all politicians do at the fair. He pressed the flesh. He mounted a soapbox, actually a microphone placed behind bales of straw, and munched on some pork chops on a stick.
He may have won some votes when he praised the fair and its 1 million-plus visitors as true to the heartland of America. But he didn’t win over Freight Train.
The prize boar — all 1,259 pounds of him — stayed resolutely asleep throughout his visit, resting his enormous bulk on a bed of sand.
“I saw the new champion and world record-breaker boar, Freight Train. He’s in good health. I can tell you that,” McCain later said at a fund-raiser.
“I lament and had thought with some nostalgia about last year’s winner Big Red who is no longer with us. But perhaps I had part of him in a pepperoni pizza — who knows,” he said.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

Photo credit: Reuters/Ilya Naymushin (A wild boar stands in an open cage at a zoo in the Siberian city of Krasnoyark in 2006)

Hawaii-bound Obama waylei-ed by international crisis

SACRAMENTO – Nothing like starting your vacation with an international crisis.
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama was Hawaii bound when it became clear he needed to make a public statement about the outbreak of violence between Georgia and Russia — as rival John McCain had already done — or risk looking out of touch.
Arrangements were hastily made for a quick press conference during a refueling stop in Sacramento.
American flags were found for a backdrop and Obama came into the small room to make his statement, still dressed in khakis, a black polo shirt and a light jacket.
“This is a volatile situation,” he said. “Obviously we’ll be getting updated on a regular basis. But what is clear is that Russia has invaded Georgia’s sovereignty … has encroached on Georgia’s sovereignty, and it is very important for us to resolve this issue as quickly as possible.”
The Illinois senator still intends to duck out of the spotlight in the next week, but Friday was not the day to keep quiet.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young (Obama arriving in Paris July 25)

Attacks give McCain a taste of celebrity: Now he’s back for more

John McCain got his own taste of celebrity last week and evidently liked it — he’s back with a new ad ridiculing Barack Obama‘s fame. rtr20efd.jpg

The Republican candidate got a huge boost from accusing Obama of being a big celebrity like Paris Hilton and acting like some sort of political messiah.
Until his spate of negative attacks, McCain had been languishing ignored by the media while Obama triumphantly toured the world.
But last week McCain nearly tied Obama in the battle for media coverage — the first time that has happened since the start of the general election, according to the Project for Excellence in Journalism.
So the Arizona senator is returning ahead of Obama’s weeklong vacation in Hawaii with another advertisement ridiculing his fame. It also paints him as a big-tax Democrat.
“Life in the spotlight must be grand,” an announcer says as a camera pans over images of a smiling Obama on the covers of GQ, Vanity Fair and other magazines.
“But for the rest of us, times are tough,” the announcer says. “Obama voted to raise taxes on people making just $42,000. He promises more taxes. On small business. On seniors. Your life savings. Your family.”
“Painful taxes. Hard choices for your budget. Not ready to lead. That’s the real Obama.”
Scary stuff, but…
A study in mid-July by the Tax Policy Center — a venture of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution — found that Obama’s tax proposals would lift the after-tax income of the poorest 20 percent of Americans by 5.5 percent.
McCain’s plans would provide the poor with “virtually no benefit,” it said.
Nearly everyone else does better under Obama’s tax proposals as well.

Only the top 20 percent of U.S. wage earners would do better under McCain than Obama. The richest Americans would see after-tax income rise by 5.9 percent under McCain’s plans, while under Obama their after-tax income would drop by 2.8 percent, the study found.Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

McCain: He’s no maverick in Obama’s book

WASHINGTON – Barack Obama thinks John McCain is losing his credibility as a maverick.
Sure, the Arizona Republican has sometimes refused to go along with his party. Sure, he has occasionally cussed out Senate colleagues. And, yes, rtr20ejs.jpgthe word “maverick” is regularly attached to his name in the media.
But that was before McCain became the Republican presidential candidate. Now, Obama says, he has started changing his positions to please the party.
“That doesn’t exactly meet my definition of a maverick,” the Democratic presidential candidate told supporters in Indiana this week.
“You can’t be a maverick when politically it’s working for you and not a maverick when it doesn’t work for you,” Obama said.
The Illinois senator began taking jabs at McCain’s maverick image after suffering a week of taunts and insults from the Arizona senator’s campaign. McCain’s aides ridiculed Obama as a celebrity and accused of him injecting race into the campaign.
With some polls showing McCain gaining ground and the two candidates in a virtual tie, Obama is fighting back with his own negative attacks.
He has rolled out speeches and an ad challenging McCain’s maverick image, ridiculing a recent TV spot that touted the Arizona senator as “the original maverick.”

“Really?” Obama’s ad questions before cutting to a 5-year-old clip of McCain saying he had voted to back President George W. Bush 90 percent of the time.
“Maverick, or just more of the same?” the ad asks as the image on screen expands to show McCain posed in a photo with Bush.
The Democratic National Committee rolled out its own ad saying much the same thing: “Maverick No More.”
Ridicule or not, McCain is embracing the maverick moniker.
“You may have noticed that I have been called a maverick,” he told an Ohio crowd Thursday. “Sometimes it’s meant as a compliment. Sometimes it’s meant as a criticism, sometimes worse.
“But what it really means is that I understand who I work for. I don’t work for a party. I don’t work for a president. I don’t work for a special interest and I don’t work for myself. I work for you and the country we love.”

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

 Photo credit: Reuters/Brian Snyder (McCain greets a veteran in Maine July 21)

Gay marriage, right to hunt among November U.S. ballot initiatives

gay-marriage.jpgDALLAS – When Americans vote for a new president on Nov. 4, many will also be asked to have their say on local issues and proposed state constitutional amendments.

Much of the attention has been focused on the attempts to ban gay marriage in California and Florida, which we have written about elsewhere.

Similar initiatives in 2004 were seen as crucial to President George W. Bush’s re-election victory as they energized the Republican Party’s conservative evangelical base.  Propositions are initiated locally people who collect enough signatures to have them put on the ballot. If passed by voters they carry the force of law.

Obama appearance with Bayh spurs VP talk

obama1.jpgPORTAGE, Indiana – A visit by White House hopeful Barack Obama to Indiana set off speculation that he might be leaning toward picking Sen. Evan Bayh as his running mate.

Bayh, an Indiana Democrat, has long been seen as a strong candidate for the No. 2 slot on the Democratic ticket.

Like Obama, Bayh has an even temperament, but he would also bring to the ticket foreign policy experience as a member of the Armed Services and Intelligence committees. As a former governor, Bayh also has executive experience.