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Mommie dearest: Chelsea speaks, but won’t talk to journalists April 26, 2008

Posted by chuckwh in Election 2008, elections, Hillary, Hillary Clinton, News and politics, Politics, primaries.
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Chelsea Clinton, Dorothy Rodham, and Bill Clinton

Look mom! No reporters!
Photo: AP

In Philadelphia Monday night for a final rally before the must-win Pennsylvania primary, Chelsea Clinton told a packed crowd that she and her father are having an “implicit competition about who is, like, duh, more normal.”

Bill Clinton is the master of retail politicking, widely acknowledged to have few peers as a campaigner. But ever since the red nosed beacon of 21st century racism began making an utter fool of himself, there’s a case to be made that his 28-year-old daughter is the more valuable advocate for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.  After all, she is allowed to speak in front of thousands, but the Clintons won’t let her speak to journalists. Smart move, considering the family’s sordid past. The question really becomes, though, why is the media giving her a free pass? Why are they afraid to ask her questions? Is she still a child?

Meanwhile, the former president has stumbled badly at times, veering wildly off message, picking fights with reporters and making ill-considered comments that have caused his wife’s campaign to relegate him to out-of-the-way locales and made even progressives consider the nickname “Bubba” legitimate fodder. The once-and-maybe-future first daughter, on the other hand, has loosened up and eased into her role as a surrogate, hitting her stride just when her mother needed it most, and done a marvelous job of keeping at arms length from reporters. Sites like Politico unabashedly sing her praises, partly out of fear that the Clintons may somehow still wrest the nomination from Obama and not have access to whatever they think they’ll need access to as journalists, perhaps, or maybe somehow too ashamed to ask why a major political figure like Chelsea will not talk to the press.

And, a major political figure is exactly what Chelsea has become.

Despite the fact that she is now a major figure on the Hillary campaign stump, she will not talk to reporters, and even spurned a child reporter in a now famous diss.

In the last three and a half months alone, Chelsea Clinton has traveled to 37 states, logging more than 75,000 miles on commercial airlines, speaking at more than 115 college campuses and answering more than 1,500 questions in total, said Philippe Reines, a senior aide to the campaign.

“She’s definitely her mom’s secret weapon,” said Erika Alexander, an actress who has appeared on the stump with Chelsea. “[Hillary Clinton] has no better messenger. But if you are a journalist, she’s like a scorpion. Good luck getting near her.”

Chelsea also has helped take some of the burden off her mother by reaching out to undecided superdelegates and placing as many as 80 thank-you calls a day to organizers of fundraisers and other events. The thank-you’s have even included the many vendors that are owed huge sums of money by the Clintons.

Earlier this month, when a small printing press in Pennsylvania sent a bill to the Clintons for a $300,000 printing job, it was Chelsea who called and told them to back off.

And, even earlier this month, when Minnesota superdelegate Nancy Larson decided to endorse Sen. Barack Obama, it was Chelsea Clinton who picked up the phone to find out why.

Larson told The New York Times that the conversation was “heartbreaking” because Chelsea was a “delightful young woman who loves her mother very much. I mean, I could almost hear the suckling still from her pursed little lips, and I now understand why the Clintons are reluctant to expose her to the mass media.” The incident stood in stark contrast to media accounts of Bill Clinton’s private discussion with uncommitted California superdelegates several weeks earlier, in which the superdelegates reported being stunned by his angry response when one of them broached the subject of New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson’s endorsement of Obama.

Asked if Chelsea was proving to be a more effective surrogate than her father, Reines said, “Sen. Clinton is lucky to have two fantastic surrogates who know her best and how great a president she’d be, working tirelessly on her behalf. Well, I mean, I’m not sure Bill would be comfortable being called a surrogate, since he’s used so many surrogates in his marriage, but, well, you know what I mean. ”

So far, then, it is Chelsea who has handled delicate situations with aplomb, and it is Chelsea who has emerged unscratched from public events where her family’s most sensitive issues — such as the Monica Lewinsky scandal — were suddenly and unexpectedly thrust upon her by questioners.

Only once has she drawn unfavorable public notice — and that for an absurdly disciplined approach that led her to refuse an interview request from a 9-year-old student journalist. Since then, the press has gotten smart, and has been afraid to challenge the notion that she should be asked questions on the stump.

Bill Clinton, by contrast, has appeared volatile and contentious at times as he careens from controversy to controversy, seemingly unable to grasp the realities of a new political environment where every statement is captured on audio or video and can be immediately vetted for accuracy.

However, that hasn’t stopped the press from its relentless pursuit of Obama’s relationship with a pastor. The question of this campaign hasn’t been, “How do you control your husband?” It’s been, “how do you control your pastor?”

Obama Visits Havana August 21, 2007

Posted by chuckwh in Al Gore, Barack Obama, Barak Obama, Cuba, Election 2008, elections, Havana, News and politics, Obama.
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On what has become a fixation of Democratic candidates on the American campaign tour, Barack Obama visited Havana, Cuba, today. He is the sixth Democratic candidate to visit Havana during this campaign season. Diplomatic relations with Cuba have been rockier than many suspected after Gore initiated the Havana Proposals shortly after the Democratic rout of Republicans in the last congressional election, but it has not stopped the march of candidates into Habana.

American diplomats have had to walk a fine line between the obvious necessity of treating Cuba like a normal person, and Raul Castro’s love affair with Hugo Chavez.

Chavez, although he has made several “I Love Al Gore” pronouncements, has nationalized and renationalized most of the hard core industrial infrastructure in Venezuela.

Obama’s reaction to his visit was a mixture of happiness and concern.

“On one hand, it’s good to see the new trade pact taking hold,” he said, referring to a new trade package between the U.S. and Cuba, “but, on a personal level, it is difficult to be a witness to the commercialism and greed that is pushing the folks who have been the backbone of this economy inland. I’d like to know what becomes of them.”

Obama then toured the suburbs of Havana and the adjoining countryside.

In a political season bereft of major issues, Obama tried to seize one: “This is a beautiful country. Now that we have established relations with Cuba, think eminent domain, multiplied ten fold.”

New Report on Iraq Charts Growth February 3, 2007

Posted by chuckwh in 9-11, Al Gore, Economy & Business, Election 2008, George W. Bush, Gore, Iraq, News and politics, Politics, Terrorism, World Trade Center.
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The new U.S. government-released National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq is providing some of the most comprehensive numbers on Iraq growth since President Gore’s Bill of Hope authorized billions for education programs across the Middle East. Total literacy has jumped from an estimated 50% in 2001 to nearly 88% in late 2006, according the report (parts of which were provided by UNESCO).

Baghdad University has grown from 34,555 students (1988 numbers) to nearly 90,000, mostly through its two new campuses. The Foundation of Technical Institutes has grown from 35,000 students (also 1988) to 70,000, a growth that also can be attributed to new campuses. In addition, the Hijric Collective has opened up a number of smaller universities (in addition to the Hijric Samarra University) with a somewhat Islamic-focused curriculum. This makes some American politicians nervous, but so far the results are encouraging, with about 35% of the first wave of graduates moving on to post-bachelor work at the larger universities.

The new Samarra University is by far the largest in the Midde East, with some 200,000 students spread among 14 widely dispersed and quickly built campuses.

The first wave of Samarra graduates hit the street only recently, and no figures are available yet on what they’re up to, but indications are that their interests are split among a few distinct areas. The largest contingent of graduates seems to be migrating towards the glamour of Qadisiyah Expressway, the growing high-tech hub that has sprouted in Central Baghdad. The next largest groups are evenly split between teachers, lawyers, doctors, and engineers.

Unemployment in Iraq is now at about 8%, a high number, the report notes, considering all of the infrastructure projects that have been initiated by the BOH since 2001, but much better than the 30% or so estimated at the time of the fall of Saddam (who was basically shown the door after the population saw how well Iraqis were doing in the Shia south and Kurdish north).

The oil industry boom has already prompted the Iraqi government to offer to repay some BOH expenditures for 2006, even though BOH funds were grants, not loans,. Meanwhile, no BOH money has been spent this year by the Iraqi government. Negotiations are now under way to transfer 2007 BOH funds to Sudan, which has been reeling under internecine unrest for several years, but many obstacles remain (primarily on who to give the money to, because the Republican-forced compromise for getting the BOH passed in the first place mandates that no BOH money can go to UN-chartered services).

The report notes that one of the trickle down effects of the rise of the oil industry in Iraq has been a massive growth in small businesses, which also have benefited from the tough standards imposed on BOH beneficiaries that mandate simple legal processes for starting a new business, instead of high taxes and a morass of red tape. The BOHBA (Bill of Hope Business Administration) has, additionally, released nearly $2 billion in business loans in Baghdad alone since the bill was passed. An escrow was established early on that allows the loans to be transferred to an Iraqi financial authority, which means that yet another portion of BOH funds will ultimately be repaid.

That, in fact, is one of the most encouraging aspects of the new report. The U.S. has poured billions into Iraq and other Middle East countries in an effort to improve conditions there, and now some of that money is showing signs of coming back.

I remember when 9-11 happened and thinking to myself that we were at war. But today, the men responsible for that attack are nothing more than a fringe group wandering around aimlessly in Waziristan, unable to even move East or West because they’re surrounded by committed democracies dedicated to destroying what’s left of them.

Something tells me this could have all gone much differently. After the incursion into Afghanistan, Al-Queda went on the run, vowing their revenge, but nothing happened. But Gore didn’t stop there. He then looked at the root causes that might have prompted such anger, and reached out to a people few Americans at the time understood.

The world is richer for it, in more ways than one.

Republican Candidates Run on Fear October 18, 2006

Posted by chuckwh in Al Gore, Congress, Congressional ethics, Election 2008, News and politics.
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Republicans campaigning for Congress are famous for their hypocrisy and unsubstantiated attacks. Several Republican congressman have latched onto what one called Gore’s successful Middle Eastern policies as a “parade with our enemies.” But the silliness doesn’t stop with Republican fascination with war and power politics.

For example, one Republican congressman, Lynn Westmoreland, is saying that despite today’s study that it’s still okay to eat fish, Al Gore’s environmental “blitzkrieg”, as he calls it, will result in “no fish Fridays, which is an affront against Christians. He’ll ignore this report, and force Christians to eat red meat on fasting days. You can count on this.”

Westmoreland is a well-known expert in such Christian matters as the ten commandments and other points of scripture. He has also been an outspoken critic of President Gore, once standing on a podium and declaring, shortly after a Gore visit to the same venue in Atlanta, Georgia, “and the devil came here yesterday. Yesterday the devil came here. Right here. And it smells of sulfur still today.”

As part of a campaign promise, Westmoreland had promised to debate elementary school children in a “wide ranging discussion of the issues,” but his campaign has recently backtracked, saying he’s too busy studying the bible and the physical properties of methane gas, particularly as it relates to sulfur.

“He’s been kind of a smelly dude lately,” one staffer confessed to me, “so we’ve asked him to take a look at it.”