Tales from the Trail

Bush makes rare public campaign fundraising appearance

WASHINGTON – President George W. Bush, despite record low job approval ratings, made a rare public appearance on Wednesday to help Michigan Republicans raise money for the November campaign and he used it to mock the campaign themes of Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama.bush-michigan.jpg
    
Bush never mentioned Obama’s name but used the Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s name 11 times throughout his 22 minutes of remarks to about 300 supporters in Livonia, Mich.
 
Obama has repeatedly used the words “hope” and “change” as themes of his campaign and to bash the Bush administration in his bid capture the White House in November. But Bush tried to turn the tables on Obama using his own words against him.
 
“The other side talks a lot about ‘hope,’ and that sums up their Iraq policy pretty well: They want to retreat from Iraq and hope nothing bad happens,” Bush said. “But wishful thinking is no way to fight a war and to protect the American people.”
 
On change, Bush said Democrats once favored lower taxes, believed in “common sense American values” and that “America should pay any price and bear any burden in the defense of liberty — but they have changed.”
 
“This isn’t the kind of change the American people want,” Bush said. Americans want change that make their lives better, their country safer. That requires changing the party control of the Congress.”

Republicans face an uphill battle retaking control of the House of Representatives because numerous lawmakers are retiring or seeking another office, while in the Senate they must defend 23 seats and Democrats have only 12 seats to guard.

Bush has made numerous appearances on the campaign trail to help Republican candidates raise money, but almost all of them in the last few months have been behind closed doors (the White House says their policy is to keep fundraisers at private residences closed to the press). Last week Bush made a public appearance in Washington to help the Republican congressional and Senate campaign committees raise some $21.5 million.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage

- Additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick in Livonia, Mich. 

- Photo credit: Jim Young (Bush speaking to supporters at a fundraiser in Michigan.)
 

Obama raps McCain adviser over terrorism comment

LOS ANGELES – Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama on Tuesday criticized a John McCain adviser who was quoted as saying a Sept. 11-type attack before the November election would benefit the Republican White House hopeful.
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But Obama stopped short of calling for the firing of Charlie Black, McCain’s top political adviser.
 
“There are certain things that should transcend politics and the prospect of a terrorist attack on American soil is one of them,” Obama told reporters on his campaign plane while traveling to Los Angeles.
 
“I think, factually, he’s wrong,” Obama said. He called the foreign policy under Republicans in the last few years disastrous and cited the failure to catch al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and renewed violence in Afghanistan as examples.
 
“So I’m happy to have that debate about who is actually going to be stronger on terrorism,” Obama said.
 
Fortune magazine said Black, in discussing how national security was McCain’s strong suit, had said when asked about another terrorist attack on U.S. soil that “certainly it would be a big advantage to him.”
 
Black apologized for the remarks and McCain disavowed the comment. “I cannot imagine why he would say it. It’s not true,” McCain said, adding he had worked hard since the Sept. 11 attack to prevent another such attack.
 
Obama, pressed on whether Black should step down from his role advising McCain, said, “I leave it up to John McCain.”

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

Picture credit: Reuters/Steve Marcus. Obama speaks during a campaign visit to the Las Vegas Springs Preserve in Las Vegas, Nevada, June 24, 2008.

Got a hankering for some Bush history?

WASHINGTON – Hankering for a history lesson on the Bush presidency from a Democratic point of view? Then look for the “Bush Legacy Tour” bus, which will be visiting communities across the country from now until the November presidential elections. 

bushlegacybus-ext.jpgThe liberal Americans United for Change activist group launched the national tour on Tuesday with much fanfare and a lunchtime barbeque in front of the AFL-CIO union building a block away from the White House.

It’s a 28-ton, 45-foot long, bio-diesel-powered museum on wheels featuring interactive exhibits “on the worst policy failures that grew out of the Bush/conservative agenda,” touts the group.

McCain says bandage on head due to “low-hanging roof”

 FRESNO, California — Republican presidential candidate John McCain had a bandage on the top of his head on Monday, but McCain said it was not due to a new bout of skin cancer.

“It was a brush with a lowmccain3.jpg-hanging door,” McCain told reporters at a news conference at Fresno State University.

McCain has had four instances of melanoma — a potentially lethal type of skin cancer — and various other skin growths have been taken off his body over the years.

from FaithWorld:

Are U.S. atheists from Venus and Mormons from Mars?

Barack Obama, 15 June 2008/John GressIs the Democratic Party really "Godless" and are Republicans really righteous?

Far from it, though there are findings from the monumental U.S. Religious Landscape Survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life which could be used perhaps to make such arguments. You can see our main story on the survey here and the survey itself, which was released on Monday, here.

On partisan affiliation for example, the survey found that Mormons were the most staunchly Republican religious group in America with 65 percent of those polled indentifying with or leaning towards that party.

Members of historically black Protestant churches remain the most reliably Democratic at 77 percent while the Godless crowd was also firmly in that camp. It found that atheists and agnostics leaned heavily Democratic (65 percent and 62 percent respectively).

Can Barack Obama collar the Blue Dogs’ vote?

Barack Obama’s White House bid could depend on guys like Allen Boyd.
 
To be sure, this 63-year-old white, Florida farmer is not the protoypical rtx73g1.jpgsupporter of the drive by the 46-year-old liberal to become the first black U.S. president.
 
But Boyd, who also happens to be a Democratic congressman, seems to be edging in Obama’s direction, citing economic and foreign policy reasons.
 
Obama “adheres to fiscal responsibility,” Boyd says and on foreign policy he’s “sort of out front on that about how we change the direction of this country.”
 
At the same time, Boyd says Obama likely has an uphill battle to win Florida, a likely crucial battleground.
 
“I would say if you look at the history of the last few presidential elections, it would be very difficult for him (Obama) to win,” Boyd said. He added, “Obama has a very tough bore in districts like the one I represent” in Florida’s panhandle.
 
In an interview taped on Friday for C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers,” Boyd, a six-term lawmaker, said he has no plans to endorse Obama, explaining he never endorses presidential candidates.
 
But when asked if there was any chance he would end up supporting Republican presidential candidate John McCain, Boyd said, “From what I see right now from a policy perspective, I’d say no.”
 
Boyd is a leading member of a group in the U.S. House of Representatives known as “Blue Dogs,” lawmakers who think government spending is out-of-control. They’re known for their independent streak within the Democratic Party and for holding  up legislation, such as an Iraq war spending bill, to insist that popular add-ons costing billions of dollars be paid for.
 
Given the difficulty pigeonholing these lawmakers, it’s been an open question if they — and voters in the conservative districts many of them represent — will back Obama.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage. 

Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Bourg (Barack Obama at Washington news conference June 18)
 

Obama, McCain camps spar over bin Laden comment

binladen.jpgCHICAGO – Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s campaign is attacking rival Barack Obama for saying that if al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is caught, the United States should avoid making him into a martyr.
    
Allies to McCain have suggested the comment shows the Democratic candidate opposes the death penalty for bin Laden — an interpretation the Obama campaign says is false.
    
The Illinois senator was asked on Wednesday how he would proceed if bin Laden were captured. He said he was not sure if bin Laden would be caught alive because of shoot-to-kill orders.
 
Concerning how to try the al Qaeda leader, Obama said it was important “to do it in a way that allows the entire world to understand the murderous acts that he’s engaged in and not to make him into a martyr and to be sure that the United States government is abiding by the basic conventions that would strengthen our hand in the broader battle against terrorism.”
    
McCain adviser Randy Scheunemann seized on the word martyr.
 
“Now, the last time I checked the definition of martyr, it’s someone who dies for a cause or is killed for a cause and it seems to be that Sen. Obama is ruling out capital punishment for Osama bin Laden were he to be captured alive under U.S. jurisdiction,” he said.
 
The Obama campaign said that interpretation was wrong and noted Obama is on record saying he believed bin Laden “would qualify for the death penalty.”
    
When he spoke about bin Laden on Wednesday, Obama cited the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals after World War II as an example of how the United States “advanced a set of universal principles” in bringing to justice people who committed heinous acts.
    
After the Nuremberg proceedings, 10 top Nazi figures were hanged following the main trials and several dozen lower-lever figures were hanged following other trials.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage: http:www.reuters.com/globalcoverage/2008candidates

Photo credit: Reuters Afghanistan stringer (Bin Laden speaks at news conference in Afghanistan in 1998)

Obama touts work, patriotism in TV ad

WASHINGTON — Barack Obama touts hard work and “heartland values” in his first TV ad of the general election, which will air in several Republican-leaning states.

“America is a country of strong families and strong values. My life’s been blessed by both,” the Democratic says in this one-minute spot, which emphasizes his humble roots.

 

Like Republican rival John McCain ‘s first national ad, it’s a soft-focus introduction for voters who may not be familiar with his background.

Michelle Obama getting more negative coverage than Cindy McCain?

WASHINGTON – Americans are hearing a lot more about Michelle Obama than Cindy McCain, but the news they get about the Democratic presidential candidate’s wife is far more negative than what they hear about thertr209pf.jpg spouse of the Republican candidate, according to a study.
 
The study by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press found that 30 percent of Americans said they had heard a lot about the wife of Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama, while only 9 percent reported hearing a lot about Cindy McCain, the spouse of Republican candidate John McCain.
 
Seventy-eight percent said they had heard at least a little about Michelle Obama, while only 54 percent reported hearing at least a little about Cindy McCain, the study found.
 
Michelle Obama has been more heavily covered by the news media than Cindy McCain. Between Jan. 1 and June 15, Obama has been a significant newsmaker in 102 stories, while McCain has appeared in just 28 stories, according to the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism.
 
In evaluating the coverage of the two candidates’ wives, about half of those questioned said the news had been a mixture of positive and negative.
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But people were much more likely to say the news they had been hearing about Michelle Obama was mostly negative. About 26 percent said Obama’s coverage had been mostly negative, while 21 percent said it had been mostly positive.
 
Thirty-one percent said the news about Cindy McCain had been mostly positive, while only 7 percent said it had been mostly negative.
 
Republicans were much more likely to say the news about Obama had been mostly negative. Thirty-three percent found that to be the case, while only 10 percent of Republicans said coverage of the Democratic candidate’s wife had been mostly positive.

What do you think — has Michelle Obama been getting rougher treatment from the news media than Cindy McCain? Or are they being treated equally?

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage.

Photo credit:  Top: Reuters/Chris Keane (Barack and Michelle Obama in Raleigh May 6); Bottom: Reuters/Mike Stone (John and Cindy McCain in Dallas March 4)

Huckabee not going for VP job — or is he?

huckabee.jpgTOKYO – Mike Huckabee is not running — or maybe he is.

The marathon man, who lost 110 pounds (50 kg) by hitting the road and advocating healthy living after he was diagnosed with diabetes in 2003, has a painful inflammation of the heel known as plantar fasciitis, and he is walking around the Imperial Palace in the Japanese capital gingerly.
    
Whether he will take a walk with presumptive Republican Presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain, as vice presidential nominee is another question requiring equally careful footwork.
  
Speaking with Reuters less than five months before the U.S. presidential election and three months ahead of the Republican convention, the former Arkansas governor was interested but self-deprecating when asked if he would be the party’s No. 2.
    
“I don’t truly believe that’s probably going to happen and I’ve moved on to doing other things.”
    
Those projects include the trip to Japan and lectures at Tohoku University in northern Miyagi Prefecture, as well as Fox News, which hired the former Republican presidential hopeful as a political commentator leading up to the national election.
    
But Huckabee quickly noted that did not preclude being on the other side of the camera in November.
     
“I’m very happy and proud to be able to do some commentary and develop a programme with the Fox News Channel,” he said.
    
“But that doesn’t mean if there was an opportunity to run somewhere out in the future, if not this year some other time — I’m not going to take myself completely off the stage.”

Huckabee has called the vice presidential spot an offer no one could refuse, but says he doesn’t expect to be running to the phone anytime soon.
    
“It would be a real surprise if I got that call.”

- Reporting by Dan Sloan    

- Photo credit: Reuters/John Gress (Huckabee pauses during a news conference in Appleton, Wisconsin in February, 2008)