Monday, June 30, 2008

MSNBC's Brewer falsely claimed Bill Clinton "reportedly told" Telegraph that "Obama was going to, quote, 'have to kiss my you-know-what' "

On the June 30 edition of MSNBC Live, anchor Contessa Brewer falsely claimed that former President Bill Clinton "reportedly told London's The Telegraph paper that [Sen.] Barack Obama was going to, quote, 'have to kiss my you-know-what,' unquote, if he wanted the former president's help." In fact, the Telegraph article to which Brewer referred did not say that Clinton had talked to The Telegraph, but rather quoted an anonymous "senior Democrat who worked for Mr Clinton," who in turn cited another anonymous source: "One person told me that Bill said Obama would have to quote kiss my ass close quote, if he wants his support." Brewer's comment came in response to Washington Post New York bureau chief Keith Richburg's statement that "we heard some pretty unkind words that President Clinton, apparently, according to a British newspaper, had said about Barack Obama."

Earlier on MSNBC Live, during a discussion with Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis, anchor Tamron Hall cited The Telegraph's anonymously sourced claim, saying: "You've heard about how angry or upset Bill Clinton is said to be. This might be to a whole 'nother level." She then asked Kofinis, "According to London's Telegraph, Bill Clinton allegedly told a friend that Barack Obama needs to kiss his expletive if he wants his support. If this report is true, does that surprise you?" Hall did not note the anonymous sourcing used in the Telegraph article.

From the Telegraph article:

A senior Democrat who worked for Mr Clinton has revealed that he recently told friends Mr Obama could "kiss my ass" in return for his support.


But his lingering fury has shocked his friends. The Democrat told the Telegraph: "He's been angry for a while. But everyone thought he would get over it. He hasn't. I've spoken to a couple of people who he's been in contact with and he is mad as hell.

"He's saying he's not going to reach out, that Obama has to come to him. One person told me that Bill said Obama would have to quote kiss my ass close quote, if he wants his support.

"You can't talk like that about Obama -- he's the nominee of your party, not some house boy you can order around.

"Hillary's just getting on with it and so should Bill."

From the 4 p.m. ET hour of MSNBC Live on June 30:

BREWER: We begin with three developing political stories. First up, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, BFF? Well, maybe that's going a little bit too far. BFF, by the way, best friends forever. You'd know that if you had teenagers. This afternoon the two men reportedly had friendly chats over the phone. Mr. Clinton said he will do whatever he can to get Barack Obama elected. Keith Richburg is The Washington Post New York bureau chief. All right, they have the conversation on the phone. Does that mean that the feud is over?

RICHBURG: Absolutely not. I mean that the ice is broken, at least. I mean, they're not quite BFFs yet, but they're not -- they haven't fallen out, you know, while teenagers sometimes do. I mean, we heard some pretty unkind words that President Clinton, apparently, according to a British newspaper, had said about Barack Obama.

BREWER: The former president reportedly told London's The Telegraph paper that Barack Obama was going to, quote, "have to kiss my you-know-what" --


BREWER: -- unquote, if he wanted the former president's help. But what we're hearing on the phone today, President Clinton had a good conversation with Senator Obama, he's impressed by Senator Obama, he believes that he's going -- he's this great inspiration for millions. I mean, now we're really hearing the praise that we were expecting to hear from the first statement when he came out in support of Obama.

RICHBURG: Absolutely. The first statement was very strange. It was just kind of a one or two sentence, "Obviously he's working for him because he's the nominee." We still haven't actually seen Bill Clinton say something out of his mouth, though, and that's what we're waiting for. We're waiting for Bill Clinton to give that kind of full-throated praise of Barack Obama, the way Hillary Clinton did in Unity, New Hampshire, and in her final concession speech. Not the first concession speech.

From the noon ET hour of the June 30 edition of MSNBC Live:

HALL: Well, within days, Barack Obama and former president Bill Clinton are expected to speak for the first time since Obama took the Democratic nomination away from his wife. But after the hard-fought, bitter primary season, what will it take for President Clinton to put his heart into campaigning for Barack Obama? Joining me now, live from Washington is Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis, and here in the studio, Republican strategist Andrea Tantaros. Thank you both for joining us. So Chris, I'll start off with you.

TANTAROS: Thank you.


HALL: You've heard about how angry or upset Bill Clinton is said to be. This might be to a whole 'nother level. According to London's Telegraph, Bill Clinton allegedly told a friend that Barack Obama needs to kiss his expletive if he wants his support. If this report is true, does that surprise you?

KOFINIS: Well, I have a hard time believing it's true. I mean, the reality is, I think what you've seen from both Senator Hillary Clinton and the former president is a very vocal amount of support since they left the race. They had the event in Unity, New Hampshire. I think you saw that. I think it was a fantastic event. So, I mean, listen. Are there raw feelings? Of course, there's always going to be raw feelings --

HALL: Yeah.

KOFINIS: -- after a really kind of heated, contested race. But the notion that, you know, President Bill Clinton, a lifelong Democrat, who's done incredible things for the Democratic Party --

HALL: Hmm-mm.

KOFINIS: -- isn't going to go -- isn't going to go out there and work his heart and soul to elect Barack Obama I think is just fantasy and just wishful thinking on some other people's part.

"Those Whispers About McCain" In 2000 Come Back To Haunt GOP

Current John McCain's (R) supporters are Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT) and former Senators Trent Lott (R-MS) and Don Nickles (R-OK):

Those Whispers About McCain
Elizabeth Drew, The Washington Post
November 19, 1999

A smear campaign of the ugliest sort is now coursing through the contest for the presidency in 2000. Using the code word "temper," a group of Senate Republicans, and at least some outriders of the George W. Bush campaign, are spreading the word that John McCain is unstable. The subtext, also suggested in this whispering campaign, is that he returned from 5 1/2 years as a POW in North Vietnam with a loose screw. And it is bruited about that he shouldn't be entrusted with nuclear weapons.

There has of course been rumor-mongering in previous presidential campaigns: that so-and-so is cheating on his wife, that someone's wife or husband has shady relations or business practices. In 1988 the Republicans (including President Reagan) fanned a rumor that Michael Dukakis had mental problems, but that collapsed quickly of its own weightlessness. But nothing as nasty as what's being rumored about McCain has occurred in a very long time.

Among the members of a small group of Republican senators, and sometimes their staff, participating in this whispering campaign are Majority Leader Trent Lott; Majority Whip Don Nickles; Paul Coverdell, secretary of the Senate Republican Conference; and Utah Sen. Robert Bennett. They have let it be known that they won't come forward and say these things openly, out of deference to McCain. How thoughtful of them. (This will of course be met with denials.)

As Colombia’s Internal Political Crisis Worsens, Senator McCain Leaves for the Andean Nation


• The Presumptive Republican Nominee is sure to ignore President Uribe’s political wizardry, which may set the stage for his increasingly authoritarian rule and the undermining of democratic institutions.

John McCain is set to visit Latin America this week, an occasion which will hopefully shed some light on his overall policy towards the region. Up to now, McCain has uttered only brief platitudes which have hewed exactly to the Bush White House line. He will almost certainly preach in favor of what he calls “comprehensive immigration reform” and the expansion of free trade agreements with several of the U.S.’ southern neighbors. McCain will visit both México and Colombia, but his trip to Bogotá is of particular interest as it underscores McCain’s hypocritical and self-serving stance towards a simplistic version of U.S.- Latin American relations.

Colombia, touted by many, including the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, as a bastion of conservative democratic ideals in a region quickly succumbing to the democratic left, is currently experiencing a major crisis which exposes the flimsy nature of the country’s institutions. With fully one-fifth of the country’s legislators accused of connections to illegal armed groups and the legitimacy of Uribe’s current presidential term being called into question by a recent Supreme Court decision, McCain’s unquestioning support of the current administration is just one more example of his ill-advised and ill-informed makeshift regional policy. Moreover, the Arizona senator’s offerings on Latin America, merely a repetition of the Bush administration’s policies that vacillate between neglect of the region and unwarranted villainization of leftist governments, is scheduled to offer nothing new to the US regional foreign policy dialogue.

The Colombian Supreme Court’s De-Legitimization of the 2006 Elections Backfires
On Thursday, the Colombian Supreme Court may have inadvertently strengthened Álvaro Uribe’s prospects of entrenching himself as the country’s populist dictator into the next decade. The Court’s decision to sentence ex-congress woman Yidis Medina to 47 months in prison for accepting bribes ultimately may have profound consequences. According to the Supreme Court, Medina’s conviction of accepting a pay off in return for voting in favor of the constitutional amendment allowing Uribe to run for reelection in 2006, indicates the “clear and manifest deviation of power” and may end up de-legitimizing Uribe’s election altogether. Because of its profound implications, the court forwarded copies of the sentence to both the Constitutional Court and the Attorney General for review. In response, Uribe accused the court of applying selective justice and using its power to put undue pressure on the executive branch of government.

Uribe and the Supreme Court
Thursday’s events are not the first example of tension between President Uribe and the country’s high court. Several instances have pitted the two branches of government against each other. In 2007, the Court’s ruling that ex-paramilitary leaders could not be found guilty of sedition (thus denying them status as political prisoners), caused what the Colombian media termed a “choque de trenes” between the head of state and the high court.

Later that year, a letter written by demobilized combatant José Orlando Moncada Zapata brought to light accusations regarding Uribe’s involvement in an assassination plot that targeted paramilitary leader Alcides de Jesús Durango. Supreme Court Chief Justice Valencia Copete declared that Uribe’s attempts to contact the author of that letter and his public comments on the situation were tantamount to an errant obstruction of justice. Tersely, Uribe responded that Valencia’s comments were biased, untruthful, and based on grave presumptions. Moncada eventually confessed that he had fabricated the accusations; however, the relationship between Uribe and the court had been damaged by his protests. In addition, the President’s critics feel that he has been involved in too many compromising situations which have effectively sullied his reputation and called his total innocence into question. Uribe may be a Hessian to Bush’s cause in choosing Washington over the rest of Latin America when it comes to ideas of autonomy, trade, and anti-drug initiatives, but he is also undeniably clever in advancing his own self interests.

Finally, the parapolitico scandal, which implicates as many as sixty members of Congress (20% of that body) –the majority of whom are from Uribe’s own party – in cooperating with the country’s illegally armed paramilitary groups, certainly has accounted for even more tension between the executive and legislative branches. Regardless of the myriad of causes for friction, it is clear that the president and the high court do not see eye to eye, and Uribe’s immediate calls for a re-run election send an undeniably hostile message to its members.

Referendum on Reelection: A pathway to a semi-dictatorship?
Immediately following the announcement of the Supreme Court’s decision, Uribe issued a request for Congress to draft plans for a referendum on re-running the 2006 elections. There are still many unanswered questions about the shape that such an election would take, including whom Uribe’s opponents would be. However, it seems certain that should the election take place in the near future, Uribe will be victorious. Due to the president’s current unprecedented popularity rating of 80% and the extreme unlikelihood of the country electing two different presidents in the space of two years, the Supreme Court has unintentionally handed Uribe the opportunity to establish himself as a de-facto dictator, a position for which his hawkish personality and confrontational political persona is uniquely suited.

It is still unclear if his near-inevitable victory in a second election would simply reaffirm his current term’s legitimacy, or actually would extend his mandate into the next decade. In either case, Uribe’s request is indicative of his scornful attitude towards at least some of the country’s democratic institutions. The Colombian president seems intent on utilizing any device, no matter how dangerous, to the country’s political status, to circumvent legislative processes to maintain his grip on power. Rumors have been circulating for some time that Uribe may even seek to change the Constitution to allow his run for a third term. This would be the ultimate manifestation of Uribe’s willingness to undermine democratic processes if it advanced his own prospects; a risky move in a country suffering the continent’s longest running civil conflict.

Compounding the problem is the veritable standstill that the Colombian Congress has come to. As one news source points out, while a fifth of the country’s legislators are embroiled in the parapolitico scandal, how can Congress adequately stand up to Uribe’s demands? Ex-president Ernesto Samper wisely urged the current administration to, “put things in order and recover institutional governability.” Uribe’s self-serving demand for a re-run election should be viewed very skeptically and Colombia’s congress should take care to protect and maintain what remains of the integrity of the country’s besieged democratic institutions.

This analysis was prepared by COHA Research Associate Jessica Bryant
June 30th, 2008

McCain vs. McCain

I suppose the upside to McCain's non-stop flip-flopping on immigration is that it makes for good web videos. He almost makes it too easy:

Why McCain's "Drill Here, Drill Now" Proposal Fails the Supply/Demand Reality Check

Huffington Post - David Fiderer

There were two reasons why the Truth-O-Meter at CQ Politics gave a "FALSE" rating to John McCain's "drill here, drill now" proposal for reducing oil prices: supply and demand. The impact on supply, achieved years after oil companies greenlighted any new development projects, would be at most "a couple of hundred thousand barrels a day" or about the same amount that Saudi Arabia promised to add in the next few months. That's well below 1% of today's global production. The impact on satisfying new demand, driven primarily by economic growth in Asia, would be nothing more than a rounding error. McCain's rhetoric on global oil, like the mainstream media narrative, seems stuck in the mid-1980s, when the U.S. produced as much oil as Iran, Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia combined.

Things were far simpler in 1986, when Saudi Arabia racheted up its oil production to 5.2 million barrels a day, up from 3.6 million daily barrels in 1985. Oil nosedived from $28 a barrel in 1985 to $15 a barrel a year later. But those days, when our good friends the Saudis could easily turn on the spigot to change the supply/demand balance, are long gone. To understand oil prices today, you need look beyond the U.S. and the Persian Gulf, to places where the U.S. has limited influence, places like Nigeria and China and Mexico.

And until we start dealing with the basics of global supply and demand, our political dialogue will be clouded with more empty rhetoric..........................

John McCain Campaigns on GI Bill He Opposed

Video Link

Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA), a Vietnam veteran, worked hard to pass a new GI Bill: S. 22. The bill increases education benefits for the men and women of the US military.

Webb reached out across the aisle to Sen. McCain, a fellow veteran, to help back the bill; but McCain refused and in fact spoke out against S. 22.

Of course McCain has the right to express disapproval for any bill he disagrees with, even if it seems strange for a veteran to be against better education funding for soldiers. But what he shouldn't be doing is touting S. 22 as a bill that he backed now that it has passed (75-22).

Watch as McCain uses the bill that he fought to kill as part of his stump speech at a town hall event, stating:

I'm happy to tell you that we probably agreed to an increase in educational benefits for our veterans that not only gives them an increase in their educational benefits, but if they stay in for a certain amount of time than they can transfer those educational benefits to their spouses and or children. That's a very important aspect I think of incentivizing people of staying in the military.

Iraqi notice on oil does not include contracts

BAGHDAD (AP)The Iraqi government opened six oil fields to international bidding Monday as the nation attempts to boost daily production by 60 percent.

The potential participation of big Western companies like BP, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Shell and Total SA in Iraq's oil industry has been criticized in recent weeks following published reports that several were close to signing no-bid contracts with the Iraqi government.

Those contracts were expected to be announced Monday, but Iraqi Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani instead named 35 companies that would be qualified to bid on service contracts for the oil fields of Rumeila, Zubair, Qurna West, Maysan, Kirkuk and Bay Hassan.

"These fields were chosen because their production can be raised in a short time and at a low cost," said al-Shahristani.

Iraq fails to sign contracts with foreign oil majors

BAGHDAD (AFP) - Iraq said on Monday it has failed to sign technical support agreements with global oil majors which were aimed at helping boost the war-torn country's oil production.

Iraq is negotiating with Shell, BP, ExxonMobil, Chevron and Total, and a consortium of other smaller oil companies, Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani said at press briefing.

"We did not finalise any agreement with them because they refused to offer consultancy based on fees as they wanted a share of the oil," he said.

"The TSAs (technical support agreements) are only simple consultancy contracts to help us raise the production during the interim period" before the ministry enters into long-term contracts to develop the oil and gas fields.

Oil Rises to Record on Concern Iran Supplies May Be Disrupted

(Bloomberg) -- Crude oil rose to a record above $143 a barrel on concern Israel may attack Iran over its nuclear program, disrupting supply from OPEC's second-largest producer.

Pressure on Iran to end uranium enrichment and the falling value of the U.S. dollar may drive prices to $170 a barrel, OPEC President Chakib Khelil said June 28. John Bolton, former U.S. envoy to the United Nations, said Israel would strike Iran after the U.S. presidential election in November.

``We are going beyond rhetoric at this point,'' said William Adams, managing director of JKV Global in Chicago. ``Israel's intentions are pretty clear. That's going to keep prices pretty high.''

Crude oil for August delivery rose $2.19, or 1.6 percent, to $142.40 a barrel at 9:17 a.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange after rising to a record $143.67. The price has doubled in the past year.

McCain aide: Reporters ‘have to earn’ special interview area seat on new ’straight talk’ airplane


The Washington Post reports that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is now traveling in a new “Straight Talk Express” campaign airplane. It “features a special area” with “a couch and two captain’s chairs” where “McCain will conduct group interviews with the press.” But not all reporters covering McCain can enjoy this new lap of luxury. Top McCain aide Mark Salter said “‘only the good reporters’ would get to sit in the specially-configured section for interviews. ‘You’ll have to earn it,’ he said.” So how can these reporters “earn” a seat? Never challenge the Senator, as McCain biographer Matt Welch explained in a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times:

....very open to people. You can come on the bus, everything is great but if he knows or if his team knows that you have a hostile line of questioning or you have a long and well documented critique, they’re not going to talk to you. <…>

As a human, he’s haunted by the notion of honesty and about honor and truth. He wishes that he could speak the truth all the time. He doesn’t. I don’t think he speaks the truth any more than any other politician really, no more, no less.

Explosion at militant compound in Pakistan

PESHAWAR, Pakistan - A powerful explosion destroyed a militant compound and killed up to eight people Monday in a volatile tribal region where Pakistan security forces are waging an offensive against pro-Taliban militants, residents said.

Residents said the blast in the Khyber tribal area hit a compound owned by a supporter of Haji Namdar, a local militant leader whose Vice and Virtue Movement is suspected of cross-border assaults. Villager Nawaz Khan Afridi said he saw eight bodies.

The political administration of the Khyber tribal area said at least five people were killed and three were injured during an explosion, but that its security forces had not fired on the damaged building.

Pakistani paramilitary forces launched an offensive in the region three days ago against militants threatening the main northwestern city of Peshawar and a key supply line for the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan.

The Pakistani show of force comes amid U.S. concern that the newly elected government's efforts to negotiate peace deals with militants have given Taliban and al-Qaida-linked extremists more space to operate along the lawless border.........

Court fines eBay over fake goods


A French court has ordered eBay to pay 40m euros ($63m) in damages to luxury goods group LVMH for allowing online auctions of fake copies of its goods.

LVMH said eBay's French site had not done enough to stop the sale of counterfeit bags and perfumes.

The brands affected include Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Givenchy.

An eBay statement said LVMH was trying to "protect uncompetitive commercial practices at the expense of consumer choice" and added that it would appeal......

McCain Picks Joel Osteen as Author Who Most Inspired Him

Washington Monthly - Kevin Drum

..... McCain enters the general election in the form of a man who has jettisoned the last traces of his dangerous unorthodoxy just in time to be plausible in the role of the torchbearing leader of the anti-Obama mob, waving the flag and chanting, "One of us! One of us!" all the way through to November. He now favors making the Bush tax cuts permanent, he's unblinkingly pro-life every time he remembers to mention abortion, and he's given up bitching about torture. With his newfound opposition to his own attempts to reform immigration policy and campaign finance, McCain is perhaps the first candidate in history to stump against two bills bearing his own name.

McCain's transformation is so complete that at a recent town-hall meeting in Nashville, when asked to name an author who inspired him, the candidate — who once described televangelists of the Jerry Falwell genus as "agents of intolerance" — put none other than Joel Osteen at the top of his list. "He's inspirational," McCain said.

Standing at the meeting, I didn't write Osteen's name down in my notebook — apparently because my brain refused on some level to accept that McCain had actually said it. Of all the vile, fake, lying-ass, money-grubbing shyster scumbags on the face of this planet, there is perhaps none more loathsome than Osteen, a human haircut with plastic baseball-size teeth who has made a fortune selling the appalling only-in-America idea that terrestrial greed is actually a form of Christian devotion.....

Juan Cole: Chalabi and McCain

Juan Cole, Informed Comment


Ahmad Chalabi, meeting in Tehran with Speaker of the Iranian Parliament Ali Larijani, commented on the Status of Forces Agreement being negotiated by the Bush administration with the Iraq government:

' The INC's Chalabi retorted that granting immunity to US military personnel from prosecution under Iraqi law is baldly unacceptable. “The vast majority of Iraqi people and authorities oppose the security treaty and regard it as contradictory to Iraq's sovereignty and security.” Chalabi stated the treaty is counterproductive for Iraq in the long term and what the US is seeking is a binding bilateral agreement for the ongoing presence of its forces in Iraq whose UN mandate expires on December 31.'

Then Chalabi sat there while Larijani warned the US against "adventurism."

I don't think Chalabi likes the US very much. What is he doing discussing a bilateral US-Iraqi agreement with Larijani in Tehran? And let's see, I'm trying to remember whose idea it was for the US public to give Chalabi tens of millions of dollars and to try to put him in power in Baghdad . . .

Oh, yeah, thanks to Amanda Terkel for reminding me . . . it was our very own Mr. Foreign Policy Experience (a.k.a 'one is born every minute' . . .):

' McCain welcomed Ahmed Chalabi, leader of the Iraqi National Congress (INC), to Washington and pressured the administration to give him money. When General Anthony Zinni cast doubt upon the effectiveness of the Iraqi opposition, McCain rebuked him at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

In 2003, McCain joined four other Republican senators and asked Bush to “personally clear the bureaucratic roadblocks within the State Department” that blocked increased funding for the Chalabi’s group. Also that year, McCain said of Chalabi, “He’s a patriot who has the best interests of his country at heart.” '


Freestyle Flip-Flopping of John McCain

From Crooks and Liars

A few of Steve Benen’s list of McCain flip-flops:

And that’s not all. There’s many many more. In fact, here’s an even longer list. McCain has reversed his former positions to fall more in line with the Bush administration so many times now it’s really hard to tell Bush and McCain apart (can you beat my 3 out of 5 on the first try?). It might actually be easier to list the issue(s) McCain hasn’t (yet) flip-flopped on, although I can’t think of a single one right offhand.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Top 10 Conservative Idiots, No. 343

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June 30, 2008 - Look Who's Protecting Marriage Now Edition

This week Sens. Larry Craig and David Vitter (1) make a triumphant return to the list as they... well, you won't quite believe it. Elsewhere John McCain (2,3,5) struggles along, Sam Brownback (8) gets it backwards, and George W. Bush (10) drops a clanger.

Media Matters Daily Summary 06-29-08

Kristol, who previously said "[w]hite women are a problem ... we all live with," is "appalled" by the "sexism and misogyny the Democratic primary voters demonstrated"
On Fox News Sunday, Bill Kristol, who previously declared that "[w]hite women are a problem ... we all live with that," stated of Sen. Hillary Clinton: "She's put behind her the horrible sexism and misogyny the Democratic primary voters demonstrated, which I'm appalled by, personally. Never would have happened in the Republican Party. You know, we're -- Republicans are much more open to strong women." Read More

WSJ's Moore didn't note that McCain's own words contradict Gramm's claim that McCain "wants to cut defense"
In a Wall Street Journal commentary, Stephen Moore quoted Phil Gramm, economic adviser to Sen. John McCain, saying McCain is "going to cut the defense budget by making major changes in procurement." Moore later quoted Gramm saying: "[T]here is nothing John McCain wants from Congress. He wants to cut defense. There's no place they can take him in cutting spending that he's not willing to go." But Moore did not mention that Gramm's statements are inconsistent with McCain's assertion in a Foreign Affairs article that the United States needs "additional investment" in the military and "can afford to spend more on national defense." Read More

Amid Policy Disputes, Qaeda Grows in Pakistan


WASHINGTON— Late last year, top Bush administration officials decided to take a step they had long resisted. They drafted a secret plan to authorize the Pentagon’s Special Operations forces to launch missions into the snow-capped mountains of Pakistan to capture or kill top leaders of Al Qaeda.

Intelligence reports for more than a year had been streaming in about Osama bin Laden’s terror network rebuilding in the Pakistani tribal areas, a problem that had been exacerbated by years of missteps in Washington and the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, sharp policy disagreements, and turf battles between American counterterrorism agencies.

The new plan, outlined in a highly classified Pentagon order, was designed to eliminate some of those battles. And it was meant to pave an easier path into the tribal areas for American commandos, who for years have bristled at what they see as Washington’s risk-averse attitude toward Special Operations missions inside Pakistan. They also argue that catching Mr. bin Laden will come only by capturing some of his senior lieutenants alive.

But more than six months later, the Special Operations forces are still waiting for the green light. The plan has been held up in Washington by the very disagreements it was meant to eliminate. A senior Defense Department official said there was “mounting frustration” in the Pentagon at the continued delay.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush committed the nation to a “war on terrorism” and made the destruction of Mr. bin Laden’s network the top priority of his presidency. But it is increasingly clear that the Bush administration will leave office with Al Qaeda having successfully relocated its base from Afghanistan to Pakistan’s tribal areas, where it has rebuilt much of its ability to attack from the region and broadcast its messages to militants across the world.

A recent American airstrike killing Pakistani troops has only inflamed tensions along the mountain border and added to tensions between Washington and Pakistan’s new government.

The story of how Al Qaeda, Arabic for “the base,” has gained a new haven is in part a story of American accommodation to President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, whose advisers played down the terrorist threat. It is also a story of how the White House shifted its sights, beginning in 2002, from counterterrorism efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan to preparations for the war in Iraq.

Just as it had on the day before 9/11, Al Qaeda now has a band of terror camps from which to plan and train for attacks against Western targets, including the United States. Officials say the new camps are smaller than the ones the group used prior to 2001. However, despite dozens of American missile strikes in Pakistan since 2002, one retired C.I.A. officer estimated that the makeshift training compounds now have as many as 2,000 Arab and Pakistani militants, up from several hundred three years ago.

Publicly, senior American and Pakistani officials have said that the creation of a Qaeda haven in the tribal areas was in many ways inevitable — that the lawless badlands where ethnic Pashtun tribes have resisted government control for centuries were a natural place for a dispirited terror network to find refuge. The American and Pakistani officials also blame a disastrous cease-fire brokered between the Pakistani government and militants in 2006.

But more than four dozen interviews in Washington and Pakistan tell another story. American intelligence officials say that the Qaeda hunt in Pakistan, code-named Operation Cannonball by the C.I.A. in 2006, was often undermined by bitter disagreements within the Bush administration and within the intelligence agency, including about whether American commandos should launch ground raids inside the tribal areas.

Inside the C.I.A., the fights included clashes between the agency’s outposts in Kabul, Afghanistan, and Islamabad. There were also battles between field officers and the counterterrorism center at C.I.A. headquarters, whose preference for carrying out raids remotely, via Predator missile strikes, was derided by officers in the Islamabad station as the work of “boys with toys.”

An early arrangement that allowed American commandos to join Pakistani units on raids inside the tribal areas was halted in 2003 after protests in Pakistan. Another combat mission that came within hours of being launched in 2005 was scuttled because some C.I.A. officials in Pakistan questioned the accuracy of the intelligence, and because aides to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld believed that the mission force had become too large.

Current and former military and intelligence officials said that the war in Iraq consistently diverted resources and high-level attention from the tribal areas. When American military and intelligence officials requested additional Predator drones to survey the tribal areas, they were told no drones were available because they had been sent to Iraq.

Some former officials say Mr. Bush should have done more to confront Mr. Musharraf, by aggressively demanding that he acknowledge the scale of the militant threat.

Western military officials say Mr. Musharraf was instead often distracted by his own political problems, and effectively allowed militants to regroup by brokering peace agreements with them.

Even critics of the White House agree that there was no foolproof solution to gaining control of the tribal areas. But by all accounts the administration failed to develop a comprehensive plan to address the militant problem there, and never resolved the disagreements between warring agencies that undermined efforts to fashion any coherent strategy.

“We’re just kind of drifting,” said Richard L. Armitage, who as deputy secretary of state from 2001 to 2005 was the administration’s point person for Pakistan.

Fleeing U.S. Air Power

In March 2002, several hundred bedraggled foreign fighters — Uzbeks, Pakistanis and a handful of Arabs — fled the towering mountains of eastern Afghanistan and crossed into Pakistan’s South Waziristan tribal area.

Savaged by American air power in the battles of Tora Bora and the Shah-i-Kot valley, some were trying to make their way to the Arab states in the Persian Gulf. Some were simply looking for a haven.

They soon arrived at Shakai, a remote region in South Waziristan of tree-covered mountains and valleys. Venturing into nearby farming villages, they asked local tribesmen if they could rent some of the area’s walled family compounds, paying two to three times the impoverished area’s normal rates as the militants began to lay new roots.

“They slowly, steadily from the mountainside tried to establish communication,” recalled Mahmood Shah, the chief civilian administrator of the tribal areas from 2001 to 2005.

In many ways, the foreigners were returning to their home base. In the 1980s, Mr. bin Laden and hundreds of Arab and foreign fighters backed by the United States and Pakistan used the tribal areas as a staging area for cross-border attacks on Soviet forces in Afghanistan.

The militants’ flight did not go unnoticed by American intelligence agencies, who began to report beginning in the spring of 2002 that large numbers of foreigners appeared to be hiding in South Waziristan and neighboring North Waziristan.

But Gen. Ali Mohammad Jan Aurakzai, the commander of Pakistani forces in northwestern Pakistan, was skeptical.

In an interview earlier this year, General Aurakzai recalled that he regarded the warnings as “guesswork,” and said his soldiers “found nothing,” even when they pushed into dozens of square miles of territory that neither Pakistani nor British forces had ever entered.

The general, a tall, commanding figure who was born in the tribal areas, was Mr. Musharraf’s main adviser on the border areas, according to former Pakistani officials. For years, he would argue that American officials exaggerated the threat in the tribal areas and that the Pakistani Army should avoid causing a tribal rebellion at all costs.

Former American intelligence officials said General Aurakzai’s sweeps were slow-moving and easily avoided by militants. Robert L. Grenier, the C.I.A. station chief in Islamabad from 1999 to 2002, said that General Aurakzai was dismissive of the reports because he and other Pakistani officials feared the kind of tribal uprising that could have been touched off by more intrusive military operations. “Aurakzai and others didn’t want to believe it because it would have been an inconvenient fact,” Mr. Grenier recalled.

Signs of Militants Regrouping

Until recent elections pushed Mr. Musharraf off center stage in Pakistan, senior Bush administration officials consistently praised his cooperation in the Qaeda hunt.

Beginning shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Musharraf had allowed American forces to use Pakistani bases to support the American invasion of Afghanistan, while Pakistani intelligence services worked closely with the C.I.A. in tracking down Qaeda operatives. But from their vantage point in Afghanistan, the picture looked different to American Special Operations forces who saw signs that the militants whom the Americans had driven out of Afghanistan were effectively regrouping on the Pakistani side of the border.

When American military officials proposed in 2002 that Special Operations forces be allowed to establish bases in the tribal areas, Pakistan flatly refused. Instead, a small number of “black” Special Operations forces — Army Delta Force and Navy Seal units — were allowed to accompany Pakistani forces on raids in the tribal areas in 2002 and early 2003.

That arrangement only angered both sides. American forces used to operating on their own felt that the Pakistanis were limiting their movements. And while Pakistani officials publicly denied the presence of Americans, local tribesmen spotted the Americans and protested.

Under pressure from Pakistan, the Bush administration decided in 2003 to end the American military presence on the ground. In a recent interview, Mr. Armitage said he had supported the pullback in recognition of the political risks that Mr. Musharraf had already taken. “We were pushing them almost to the breaking point,” Mr. Armitage said.

The American invasion of Iraq in 2003 added another complicating factor, by cementing a view among Pakistanis that American forces in the tribal areas would be a prelude to an eventual American occupation.

To have insisted that American forces be allowed to cross from Afghanistan into Pakistan, Mr. Armitage added, “might have been a bridge too far.”

Dealing With Musharraf

Mr. Bush’s re-election in 2004 brought with it another problem once the president overhauled his national security team. By early 2005, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Mr. Armitage had resigned, joining George J. Tenet, who had stepped down earlier as director of central intelligence. Their departures left the administration with no senior officials with close personal relationships with Mr. Musharraf.

In order to keep pressure on the Pakistanis about the tribal areas, officials decided to have Mr. Bush raise the issue in personal phone calls with Mr. Musharraf.

The conversations backfired. Two former United States government officials say they were surprised and frustrated when instead of demanding action from Mr. Musharraf, Mr. Bush instead repeatedly thanked him for his contributions to the war on terror. “He never pounded his fist on the table and said, ‘Pervez you have to do this,’ ” said a former senior intelligence official who saw transcripts of the phone conversations. But another senior administration official defended the president, saying that Mr. Bush had not gone easy on the Pakistani leader.

“I would say the president pushes quite hard,” said the official, who would speak about the confidential conversations only on condition of anonymity. At the same time, the official said that Mr. Bush was keenly aware of the “unique burden” that rested on any head of state, and had the ability to determine “what the traffic will bear” when applying pressure to foreign leaders.

Tensions Within the C.I.A.

As attacks into Afghanistan by militants based in the tribal areas continued, tensions escalated between the C.I.A. stations in Kabul and Islamabad, whose lines of responsibility for battling terrorism were blurred by the porous border that divides Afghanistan and Pakistan, and whose disagreements reflected animosities between the two countries.

Along with the Afghan government, the C.I.A. officers in Afghanistan expressed alarm at what they saw as a growing threat from the tribal areas. But the C.I.A. officers in Pakistan played down the problem, to the extent that some colleagues in Kabul said their colleagues in Islamabad were “drinking the Kool-Aid,” as one former officer put it, by accepting Pakistani assurances that no one could control the tribal areas.

On several occasions, senior C.I.A. officials at agency headquarters had to intervene to dampen tensions between the dueling C.I.A. outposts. Other intragovernmental battles raged at higher altitudes, most notably over the plan in early 2005 for a Special Operations mission intended to capture Ayman al-Zawahri, Mr. bin Laden’s top deputy, in what would have been the most aggressive use of American ground troops inside Pakistan. The New York Times disclosed the aborted operation in a 2007 article, but interviews since then have produced new details about the episode.

As described by current and former government officials, Mr. Zawahri was believed by intelligence officials to be attending a meeting at a compound in Bajaur, a tribal area, and the plan to send commandos to capture him had the support of Porter J. Goss, the C.I.A. director, and the Special Operations commander, Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal.

But even as Navy Seals and Army Rangers in parachute gear were boarding C-130 cargo planes in Afghanistan, there were frenzied exchanges between officials at the Pentagon, Central Command and the C.I.A. about whether the mission was too risky. Some complained that the American commando force was too large, numbering more than 100, while others argued that the intelligence was from a single source and unreliable.

Mr. Goss urged the military to carry out the mission, and some C.I.A. officials in Washington even tried to give orders to execute the raid without informing Ryan C. Crocker, then the American ambassador in Islamabad. But other C.I.A. officials were opposed to the raid, including a former officer who said in an interview that he had “told the military guys that this thing was going to be the biggest folly since the Bay of Pigs.”

In the end, the mission was aborted after Mr. Rumsfeld refused to give his approval for it. The decision remains controversial, with some former officials seeing the episode as a squandered opportunity to capture a figure who might have led the United States to Mr. bin Laden, while others dismiss its significance, saying that there had been previous false alarms and that there remained no solid evidence that Mr. Zawahri was present.

Bin Laden Hunt at Dead End

By late 2005, many inside the C.I.A. headquarters in Virginia had reached the conclusion that their hunt for Mr. bin Laden had reached a dead end.

Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., who at the time ran the C.I.A.’s clandestine operations branch, decided in late 2005 to make a series of swift changes to the agency’s counterterrorism operations.

He fired Mr. Grenier, the former Islamabad station chief who in late 2004 took over as head of the agency’s Counterterrorist Center. The two men had barely spoken for months, as each saw the other as having a misguided approach to the C.I.A’s mission against Al Qaeda. Many inside the agency believed this personality clash was beginning to affect C.I.A. operations.

Mr. Grenier had worked to expand the agency’s counterterrorism focus, reinforcing operations in places like the Horn of Africa, Southeast Asia and North Africa. He also reorganized and renamed Alec Station, the secret C.I.A. unit formed in the 1990s to hunt Mr. bin Laden at a time when Al Qaeda was in its infancy.

Mr. Grenier believed that the unit, in addition to focusing on Mr. bin Laden, needed to act in other parts of the world, given the spread of Qaeda-affiliated groups since the Sept. 11 attacks.

But Mr. Rodriguez believed that the Qaeda hunt had lost its focus on Mr. bin Laden and the militant threat in Pakistan.

So he appointed a new head of the Counterterrorism Center, who has not been publicly identified, and sent dozens more C.I.A. operatives to Pakistan. The new push was dubbed Operation Cannonball, and Mr. Rodriguez demanded urgency, but the response had a makeshift air.

There was nowhere to house an expanding headquarters staff, so giant Quonset huts were erected outside the cafeteria on the C.I.A.’s leafy Virginia campus, to house a new team assigned to the bin Laden mission. In Pakistan, the new operation was staffed not only with C.I.A. operatives drawn from around the world, but also with recent graduates of “The Farm,” the agency’s training center at Camp Peary in Virginia.

“We had to put people out in the field who had less than ideal levels of experience,” one former senior C.I.A. official said. “But there wasn’t much to choose from.”

One reason for this, according to two former intelligence officials directly involved in the Qaeda hunt, was that by 2006 the Iraq war had drained away most of the C.I.A. officers with field experience in the Islamic world. “You had a very finite number” of experienced officers, said one former senior intelligence official. “Those people all went to Iraq. We were all hurting because of Iraq.”

Surge in Suicide Bombings

Militants inside Pakistan only continued to gain strength. In the spring of 2006, Taliban leaders based in Pakistan launched an offensive in southern Afghanistan, increasing suicide bombings by sixfold and American and NATO casualty rates by 45 percent. At the same time, they assassinated tribal elders who were cooperating with the government.

Once again, Pakistani Army units launched a military campaign in the tribal areas. Once again, they suffered heavy casualties.

And once again, Mr. Musharraf turned to General Aurakzai to deal with the problem. Having retired from the Pakistani Army, General Aurakzai had become the governor of North-West Frontier Province, and he immediately began negotiating with the militants. On Sept. 5, 2006, General Aurakzai signed a truce with militants in North Waziristan, one in which the militants agreed to surrender to local tribes and carry out no further attacks in Afghanistan.

To help sell Washington on the peace deal, General Musharraf brought General Aurakzai to the Oval Office several weeks later.

In a presentation to Mr. Bush, General Aurakzai advocated a strategy that would rely even more heavily on cease-fires, and said striking deals with the Taliban inside Afghanistan could allow American forces to withdraw from Afghanistan within seven years.

But the cease-fire in Waziristan had disastrous consequences. In the months after the agreement was signed, cross-border incursions from the tribal areas into Afghanistan rose by 300 percent. Some American officials began to refer to General Aurakzai as a “snake oil salesman.”

A Rising Terror Threat

By the fall of 2006, the top American commander in Afghanistan had had enough.

Intelligence reports were painting an increasingly dark picture of the terror threat in the tribal areas. But with senior Bush administration officials consumed for much of that year with the spiraling violence in Iraq, the Qaeda threat in Pakistan was not at the top of the White House agenda.

Mr. Bush had declared in a White House news conference that fall that Al Qaeda was “on the run.”

To get Washington’s attention, the commander, Lt. Gen. Karl W. Eikenberry, ordered military officers, Special Operations forces and C.I.A. operatives to assemble a dossier showing Pakistan’s role in allowing militants to establish a haven.

Behind the general’s order was a broader feeling of outrage within the military — at a terror war that had been outsourced to an unreliable ally, and at the grim fact that America’s most deadly enemy had become stronger.

For months, military officers inside a walled-off compound at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, where a branch of the military’s classified Joint Special Operations Command is based, had grown increasingly frustrated at what they saw as missed opportunities in the tribal areas.

American commanders had been pressing for much of 2006 to get approval from Mr. Rumsfeld for an operation to capture Sheik Saiid al-Masri, a top Qaeda operator and paymaster whom American intelligence had been tracking in the Pakistani mountains.

Mr. Rumsfeld and his staff were reluctant to approve the mission, worried about possible American military casualties and a popular backlash in Pakistan.

Finally, in November 2006, Mr. Rumsfeld approved operation of Navy Seals and Army Delta Force commandos to move into Pakistan and capture Mr. Masri. But the operation was put on hold days later, after Mr. Rumsfeld was pushed out of the Pentagon, a casualty of the Democratic sweep of the 2006 election.

When General Eikenberry presented his dossier to several members of Mr. Bush’s cabinet, some inside the State Department and C.I.A. dismissed the briefing as exaggerated and simplistic. But the White House took note of his warnings, and decided to send Vice President Dick Cheney to Islamabad in March 2007, along with Stephen R. Kappes, the deputy C.I.A. director, to register American concern.

That visit was the beginning of a more aggressive effort by the administration to pressure Pakistan’s government into stepping up its fight,. The decision last year to draw up the Pentagon order authorizing for a Special Operations campaign in the tribal areas was part of that effort.

But the fact that the order remains unsigned reflects the infighting that persists. Administration lawyers and State Department officials are concerned about any new authorities that would allow military missions to be launched without the approval of the American ambassador in Islamabad. With Qaeda operatives now described in intelligence reports as deeply entrenched in the tribal areas and immersed in the civilian population, there is also a view among some military and C.I.A. officials that the opportunity for decisive American action against the militants may have been lost.

Pakistani military officials, meanwhile, express growing frustration with the American pressure, and point out that Pakistan has lost more than 1,000 members of its security forces in the tribal areas since 2001, nearly double the number of Americans killed in Afghanistan.

Some architects of America’s efforts in Pakistan defend the Bush administration’s record in the tribal areas, and vigorously deny that Washington took its eye off the terror threat as it focused on Iraq policy. Some also question whether Mr. bin Laden and Mr. Zawahri, Al Qaeda’s top two leaders, are really still able to orchestrate large-scale attacks.

“I do wonder if it’s in fact the case that Al Qaeda has really reconstituted itself to a pre-9/11 capability, and in fact I would say I seriously doubt that,” said Mr. Crocker, the American ambassador to Pakistan between 2004 and 2006 and currently the ambassador to Iraq.

“Their top-level leadership is still out there, but they’re not communicating and they’re not moving around. I think they’re symbolic more than operationally effective,” Mr. Crocker said.

But while Mr. Bush vowed early on that Mr. bin Laden would be captured “dead or alive,” the moment in late 2001 when Mr. bin Laden and his followers escaped at Tora Bora was almost certainly the last time the Qaeda leader was in American sights, current and former intelligence officials say. Leading terrorism experts have warned that it is only a matter of time before a major terrorist attack planned in the mountains of Pakistan is carried out on American soil.

“The United States faces a threat from Al Qaeda today that is comparable to what it faced on Sept. 11, 2001,” said Seth Jones, a Pentagon consultant and a terrorism expert at the RAND Corporation.

“The base of operations has moved only a short distance, roughly the difference from New York to Philadelphia.”

Mark Mazzetti reported from Washington, and David Rohde from Washington and from Islamabad, Peshawar, and Rawalpindi, Pakistan. David E. Sanger contributed reporting from Washington.

Program in Iraq against al-Qaida faces uncertainty

RADWANIYAH, Iraq - Capt. David N. Simms wanted the tribal sheiks to have no doubts - the $500,000 his unit spends every month to pay and equip local tribesmen to keep peace here will soon run out and they had better be ready when it's gone.

Simms handed the sheiks 600 applications for a vocational school in nearby Baghdad. It's one option, he said, to prepare the men for life after he stops giving them salaries.

The "Sons of Iraq" are the estimated 80,000 fighters - mostly Sunni tribesmen and former insurgents - recruited and paid by the U.S. military to help fight al-Qaida and maintain security in neighborhoods, including this Sunni farming community west of Baghdad.

The program has been a remarkable success, helping reduce violence across the country by 80 percent since early 2007 at the cost of $216 million to date.

Nearly two years into the program, however, the U.S. is gradually handing over responsibility for the Sons of Iraq to the Shiite-led government. By January, the military hopes to turn the entire program over to the Iraqis.

But the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has been reluctant to absorb large numbers of armed Sunnis into the Shiite-dominated security forces. American officials fear that many of the U.S.-backed fighters may turn their guns on the government unless jobs can be found for them.

"If we don't find work for the men, it will work against us," said Asaad Nawar al-Ameen, a retired general in Saddam's army who heads the Sons of Iraq in Radwaniyah. "Al-Qaida can get them."

The government already has accepted nearly 20 percent of Sons in Iraq members in the security forces and is pledging to find civilian jobs for most of the rest.

Meanwhile, it has introduced "support councils" made up of trusted tribal chiefs and their followers to support the security forces.

But that move is seen by leaders of the Sons of Iraq as an attempt to sideline them at a time when some of them are complaining that the Americans are abandoning them to a government they don't trust.

In Radwaniyah, the government recently named a wealthy businessman, Ayad Abdul-Jabar al-Jaborui, to head the new support council.

Al-Jabouri, wearing a smart creme suit and a tie, repeatedly told last week's meeting that he was to have a meeting with "his excellency" the prime minister soon. His office is decorated with pictures of himself along with top army commanders and al-Maliki's aides.

But even al-Jabouri, also a Sunni tribal chief, acknowledges that the government that is courting him may be trying to drive a wedge between the Sons of Iraq and the recently created support councils.

"The government is promoting a rift between us and the Sons of Iraq," he said. "My response was to name Gen. Asaad as the head of the council's security committee."

Kamal al-Saadi, a lawmaker from al-Maliki's Dawa party, said the leadership had worried about al-Qaida infiltration into the Sons of Iraq but now believed that "the government has become too strong for the Sons of Iraq to be a threat."

But a top al-Maliki aide, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, said he is still worried about the loyalty of the Sons of Iraq.

"They are like mercenaries," he said. "Today, they are paid by the Americans. Tomorrow they can be paid by al-Qaida."

Some of those concerns are shared by residents in some parts of Baghdad who complain that Sons of Iraq members are branching out into extortion and protection rackets.

"They are abusing the powers given to them by the Americans," said Ahmed Abed Jassim, who runs an electronics store in the Fadhil neighborhood.

Mohammed al-Aazami, a 40-year-old schoolteacher in Azamiyah, complains that young fighters "brandish their weapons provocatively and lack discipline."

"They are too young and they need to be offered training and guidance," he said.

Earlier this month, hundreds of displaced Shiites demonstrated in central Baghdad to protest against the Sons of Iraq in the Sunni-dominated Adil district, claiming the Sunni gunmen were preventing them from returning to their homes in the west Baghdad neighborhood.

Nevertheless, in many impoverished areas of this country, the Sons of Iraq program pays dividends beyond manning checkpoints and improving security.

In Radwaniyah, a farming community where Saddam Hussein used to go hunting, the local economy depends heavily on the money that the Americans pay to the local Sons of Iraq, who chased away al-Qaida a year ago.

Each volunteer receives between $150 and $300 or more a month - roughly the same as a police recruit. Local sheiks earn much more to help raise and equip their followers.

But of the 900 men who have asked to join the police or army, only 45 have been accepted to the police, Simms said.

Simms, a 31-year-old native of St. Marys, Ohio, is not sure how much longer he can keep paying them and the local sheiks who administer their contracts.

Hence, he hopes to enroll as many of the fighters as possible in the vocational school, where they earn a monthly stipend of $240 paid by the government and a diploma after a year's training.

"We don't want to fire these guys and leave them on the streets without an income," Simms told the sheiks during a meeting this week. "It is competitive to get into that school. We want to reduce the number of the Sons of Iraq, so I want these forms returned to me as soon as possible."

Media Matters for America: The Edwards standard and John McCain

Media Matters for America

During John Edwards' campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, media regularly treated his personal wealth as a key to assessing his policy proposals -- a standard that is not being applied to John McCain.

It often seemed as though the news media was incapable of running a story about Edwards' anti-poverty proposals without noting his own wealth. The Washington Post, for example, ran a 203-word blurb about Edwards' eight-state poverty tour, opening it with a 28-word reminder of the candidate's fortune: "John Edwards is battling back the 'three H's' that have dogged his campaign -- expensive haircuts, a lavish new house and a stint working for a hedge fund."....When Edwards exited the race, the Post noted "Edwards's focus on the poor was muddied by tales of his personal good fortune. News stories told of his $400 haircuts, of an ostentatious North Carolina home and of his work for a hedge fund."...

Whatever the reason, there was broad consensus in the media that Edwards' personal wealth should be part of discussions of his policy positions. But the media doesn't apply that standard to John McCain.

Last week, the Center for American Progress Action Fund released a new report by Michael Ettlinger estimating that under McCain's tax plan, he and his wife, Cindy, would save $373,429. That's nearly $400,000 -- per year, not over the course of their lifetimes. (Under Barack Obama's plan, the McCains would save less than $6,000. The Obamas would save nearly $50,000 under McCain's plan, and slightly more than $6,000 under Obama's own plan.)

By the standards the media applied to Edwards, the fact that McCain supports tax policies that would save him and his wife nearly $400,000 a year -- and require massive cuts to public services to pay for those tax breaks -- should surely be news. Unlike the media's focus on Edwards' wealth, which did nothing to help voters understand the substance of his proposals, McCain's potential savings under his tax plan actually would help illustrate how much the wealthy would benefit from the plan. At the very least, McCain would seem to have the dreaded "optics" problem ascribed to Edwards. With voters jittery about the economy and a crushing budget deficit, what could be worse "optics" than a wealthy candidate proposing massive tax cuts for his wife and himself?...


The Ettlinger estimate was completely ignored by the news media. Beyond that report, I don't remember ever seeing a major-media report about John McCain's tax policies noting that, due to his wealth, he would fare quite well under his own proposals. And in a couple hours of Nexis searches, I haven't been able to find one....

Senator Biden: "Mr. Obama is Right on Iran"


The Post was wrong in saying that Sen. Barack Obama's support for setting aside a precondition for talks with Iran could rupture relations between Europe and the United States ["Europe Fears Obama Might Undercut Progress With Iran," news story, June 22]. High-level European officials involved in nuclear diplomacy with Iran have told me that the American side should drop the precondition that Iran suspend its enrichment and reprocessing-related activities before the United States talks.

Europeans saw the suspension requirement as a way of enticing the Bush administration to join their diplomatic effort. Europeans understood that diplomacy was not likely to succeed without the United States.

The article also suggested that U.N. Security Council resolutions enshrine suspension as a precondition for talks. While the resolutions contain a demand that Iran suspend the activities in question, they do not hold negotiations hostage to that demand. While we are not talking, Iran is getting closer to a nuclear weapons capability. As a result of the policies that President Bush has pursued and that Sen. John McCain would continue if he became president, Iran, not freedom, is on the march. Mr. Obama is right about our need to change course.


U.S. Senator (D-Del.)


The writer is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson (Trailer)

Run time: 02:27

Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson Trailer

City Vehicles Painted with Anti-Obama Sayings

ORLANDO, Fla.Vandals spray-painted “Obama Smokes Crack” and other hate messages on 60 city vehicles parked across the street from City Hall in downtown Orlando.

Investigators said the vandals painted the messages — which appear to be politically motivated — after dark Saturday night.

Local 6 showed several vehicles covered in different colors with the “Obama” messages.

A passing motorist initially spotted the damage and called police.

“I'm driving by and every car I see has been hit with spray paint,” witness Mike Lowe said. “There is so much damage to them. There are messages written on them and the vandals left their business card, which is crazy.”

Special business cards left near the damaged vehicles contained negative messages about Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain. However, there were positive words about Sen. Hillary Clinton, Local 6’s Kimberly Houk reported........

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Tutu urges Zimbabwe intervention


Archbishop Desmond Tutu has urged the international community to intervene in Zimbabwe - by force if necessary.

The former Cape Town archbishop said he would support the deployment of a UN force to restore peace in the country.

He said African Union leaders should refuse to recognise Robert Mugabe as the legitimate president of Zimbabwe.

It is thought Mr Mugabe will be sworn in for another term on Sunday, although final results from the one-candidate election have been delayed.

The opposition boycotted the vote amid claims of violence and intimidation.

'Powerful signal'

Mr Mugabe was said to have won by a wide margin, but international observers have reported many spoilt ballots, which in some areas could outnumber votes cast.

Earlier, officials said the count was complete, but later reports said results from rural areas were still trickling in.

In an interview for the BBC's Andrew Marr programme, Archbishop Tutu said the African Union could have a clear role in persuading Mr Mugabe to negotiate.

"If you were to have a unanimous voice, saying quite clearly to Mr Mugabe... you are illegitimate and we will not recognise your administration in any shape or form - I think that would be a very, very powerful signal and would really strengthen the hand of the international community."

"I think that a very good argument can be made for having an international force to restore peace," he added.

African Union (AU) foreign ministers have gathered in the Egyptian town of Sharm el-Sheikh, before a full meeting of heads of state on Monday which Mr Mugabe is expected to attend.

Earlier the Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula said sanctions against Zimbabwe are unlikely to work, and that Mr Mugabe and the opposition should instead be encouraged to talk.

Push for negotiations

Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), announced he was pulling out of the election on Sunday.

But his name remained on ballot papers after Zimbabwe's electoral authorities refused to accept his decision.

In interviews published in British newspapers on Sunday, Mr Tsvangirai said he would push for negotiations with Mr Mugabe on a new constitution and fresh elections.

"We have the power to control parliament, and that is recognised even by Mugabe's Zanu-PF... We must force a transitional agreement for a set time-frame and work towards a new constitution for Zimbabwe," he told the Mail on Sunday.

"I am confident we can achieve that if international pressure keeps up," he added.

In a separate interview with the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Tsvangirai said it was possible that Mr Mugabe could remain as a ceremonial head of state.

"I don't think it's inconceivable for such an arrangement to include him, depending, of course, on the details of what is being proposed and what are the arrangements," he said.

Mr Mugabe came second to Mr Tsvangirai in the first round of the presidential vote in March.

Since then, the MDC says some 86 of its supporters have been killed and 200,000 forced from their homes by militias loyal to Zanu-PF.

The government blames the MDC for the violence.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

BOB KERREY: Build a bridge, Barack Obama


I support and will do what I can to help Sen. Barack Obama become our next President. Among other reasons, I believe he has a unique capacity to get world leaders to collaborate with the United States to fight the war on terror, negotiate good trade agreements and get the world on the track of sustainable economic growth.

Still, there is a lot to admire about Sen. John McCain. I agree with many of his ideas, regard him as one of the few political leaders who is willing to take a stand on unpopular issues when the cause demands it, and believe he, too, would make a very good President.

I know that it is unlikely that McCain would be offered or accept a position in President Obama's cabinet. I also know that if and when President Obama is drafting his first State of the Union address - and laying out big policy goals - he is going to need important GOP allies and lots of bipartisan goodwill.

From this comes a modest proposal and an immodest wish: That Obama begin now to look for opportunities to say to McCain: “I agree with you on that.”

This may sound like a small thing or a naïve hope. And I know it would not make for a reliable applause line at the Democratic Party's Denver convention.

But it would be a worthwhile refrain at moments throughout this campaign season, which has already taken on a polarized, partisan and sometimes petty air despite the earlier promise, by both nominees, of a substantive, postpartisan conversation.

This will not require Obama to go wobbly on the core beliefs of the Democratic Party. Nobody will confuse the two party platforms on health care, foreign affairs, social policy or the economy. On these and other issues, he and McCain will have to fight it out in the court of public opinion.

In other cases, though, I hope Obama will understand that agreement is not only possible, it is necessary if the real change we seek is to happen. Indeed, if a Democrat cannot find common ground with John McCain, he is unlikely to find it with any Republican. And if this Democrat - who specializes in gracious gestures - cannot do so in this election year, the chances we will ever see a new kind of American politics emerge are slim to none.

Here, then, is my wish list of some of the things I hope our nominee will say:

- Sen. McCain, I agree with you on Iraq, in one important sense. We cannot abandon our ally and walk away from the region. I remain in favor of withdrawal - because this war is costing us too much in blood and treasure - but I understand that the surge has produced some positive effects. And ultimately, I will need your help to fashion a way to leave Iraq without turning our back on our national interest.

- Sen. McCain, I agree with you in one critical way on the global war on terror. Some Democrats - and Republicans like Ron Paul - minimize the danger posed by violent Islamic fundamentalists. I say we must relentlessly pursue those who have declared themselves to be existential enemies of the United States. I will need your help, and that of other Republicans, to accomplish that objective.

- Sen. McCain, I agree with you on immigration. We need a comprehensive solution to this problem. I will need your help to accomplish that objective.

- Sen. McCain, I admire the courage you've shown in bucking your party to support carbon trading. Our behavior is warming the planet and threatening our very existence. We need stronger domestic and international agreements. I will need your help to accomplish that objective.

- Sen. McCain, I agree with your demand that Congress change the way it organizes oversight of our intelligence and homeland security efforts. I will need your help to accomplish that objective.

- Sen. McCain, I appreciate your leadership on campaign finance reform, and my opting out of public financing isn't meant to abandon the system. There is a lot more that needs to be done to clean up the influence of money in politics. I will need your help to accomplish that objective.

Sen. Obama talks eloquently about embracing the best ideas no matter where they come from. He's right: Reflexive rejection of every Democratic idea by the Republican candidate, and vice-versa, is unwise - especially given the short period of time the President-elect will have to confront many contentious issues.

George W. Bush promised, but failed, to change the tone in Washington. Barack Obama can do it. He is far more likely to succeed if he starts today.

Kerrey, a Democrat and former U.S. senator from Nebraska, is president of the New School.