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US-Election 2008

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US-Election 2008
<b>Black backers steadfast for Clinton</b><!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->“African-American superdelegates are being targeted, harassed and threatened,” said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II (D-Mo.), a superdelegate who has supported Clinton since August. Cleaver said black superdelegates are receiving “nasty letters, phone calls, threats they’ll get an opponent, being called an Uncle Tom.

“This is the politics of the 1950s,” he complained. “A lot of members are experiencing a lot of ugly stuff. They’re not going to talk about it, but it’s happening.”
...................

“I’ve gotten threatening mail,” Watson said. “They say, ‘Your district went 61-29 Obama and you need to change.’ But I don’t intimidate. I can hold the ground. … I would lose my seat over my principles.”

....

Black superdelegates are getting heavy pressure from such groups as ColorOfChange.org, a grass-roots organization backing Obama.

“Some [Congressional Black Caucus] members are threatening to vote against their constituents, and perhaps against the will of the American people, by casting their superdelegate vote for Sen. Clinton,” the ColorOfChange.org website reads. “We can prevent this from happen by letting black leadership know we're watching.”
..............


Rep. Gregory W. Meeks (D-N.Y.), a Black Caucus member, said he is still “very strong” for Clinton even in the wake of Lewis’s turnaround. He was unmoved by discord in his Queens district, which backed Obama in the New York primary.

“Some people threw out flyers. That doesn’t faze me at all. If someone wants to run against me, that’s democracy,” he said. “Sen. Obama is a very inspirational person. People in the district are proud. I’m proud. You can’t not be proud being an African-American… But I have to do overall what’s in the best interests of my district.”

....


Cleaver questioned why white superdelegates such as Massachusetts Sens. Edward M. Kennedy and John F. Kerry weren’t being targeted to support Clinton after she carried their state.

“If white people were being harassed and threatened because they were not supporting a white candidate, we’d see headlines,” he said. <!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
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Is this ad will do same as LJ did with Goldwater?

http://blog.hillaryclinton.com/
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Today Rockafeller endrosed Obama and Rep conservative had endrosed Hillary. This is fun to watch. In Wisconsin and Virginia Conservative voted for Obama now they think McCain is bad. <!--emo&Big Grin--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/biggrin.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='biggrin.gif' /><!--endemo-->
This will give you some idea.
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->HIGH VOTER TURNOUT IN PLANO, TEXAS
I have already sent my absentee ballot in the mail for HILLARY, the 44th President of the United States!

My dad, a registered republican who will be VOTING AND CAUCUSING for HILLARY, texted me and said that at his precinct in Plano, <b>the line was 300+ deep</b>. This is a VERY conservative area. <b>My dad re-committed yesterday to voting for Hillary after Rush Limbaugh encouraged Republican voters to get out the vote for Hillary</b>.  <!--emo&Big Grin--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/biggrin.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='biggrin.gif' /><!--endemo-->
<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
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it is both fun and odd. they are having some type of category level confusion. The subtle white racist accuses the beleagured black slave descendants of their own white cardinal sin of antisemitism!! These double bind dynamics are being brought to fore for first time. I would like to think their millenia long good cop-bad cop routine against oppressed peoples is finally imploding.
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dhu,
There is change in mood now, wind is blowing in different direction, here is another example.

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->I have, after many failed attempts, persuaded my Republican mother who has NEVER voted in ANY prior election to vote for Hillary.  My persuasion was really very simple.  Vote for Hillary to prevent Obama from being the Democratic nominee.  I then told her she could easily vote for the Republican party in November.  She said, "Alright, sounds fair to me.  So how do I vote and where?  My 85 year old Democratic grandmother took her at 9:30 this morning.  She too voted for Clinton and said she will vote Republican in November if Obama is the nominee."  Also, my sister, who is 35, has never voted in any election.  She went today at noon with my grandmother to vote for Hillary.  Go HILLARY!!!  Everyone:  Use the power of persuasion to get Hillary nominated<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->

Previously students were forcing parents to vote for Obama , because it was cool thing to do, now these kids are bored with brand Obama and now they are going back to Clinton. It is as simple. <!--emo&Big Grin--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/biggrin.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='biggrin.gif' /><!--endemo-->

Now he will be punished - <!--emo&Big Grin--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/biggrin.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='biggrin.gif' /><!--endemo-->
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->I have heard some sickening news.  It was announced that our senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) has endorsed BO.  He states that BO has the experience to be our president.  I can't believe it!  All of the early polls has Hillary 2:1 over BO.  This is also his re-election year.  I'm glad that he has told us now, so we can let him know on May 13th that his services are no longer needed.  He has lost several votes!<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
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The secret to Obama's success

A yearning for a new day in US politics is behind Obama's success, but other factors will determine if he wins the Democratic nomination, says Mike Rosenberg for ISN Security Watch.

Barack Obama by Joe Crimmings. (Joe CrimmingsFlickr)
Image: Joe Crimmings, Flickr

Commentary by Mike Rosenberg for ISN Security Watch (27/02/08)

Europeans are scratching their heads over how US Senator Barack Obama - until recently a politician relatively unknown outside the US - has become not only the front-runner in the Democratic presidential primaries, but also a serious contender to become what is arguably the most powerful political leader in the world.

To understand this peculiar American phenomena - in which the media appear only too ready to compare the Illinois senator to that of US president John F Kennedy without further explanation - one needs to understand not only how most Americans perceive recent presidents, but also how Obama's campaign is the by-product of a deep cynicism that has become ingrained in the past 50 years.

Kennedy is something of a mythical figure that held the Russians at bay and took on the Mafia. Beating out then-vice president Richard Nixon in the 1960 presidential election, he offered a vision of the US that was progressive, while promising to make the world a better place. While Kennedy's administration made a number of mistakes - and his personal life was questionable - he is nevertheless remembered as the US' last great president.

Following Kennedy's assassination in 1963, then-vice president Lyndon B Johnson, a Democrat from Texas, took office. Johnson's presidency was heavily marked by the Vietnam War, for which he is largely blamed.

After Johnson, America fell in love with the late president's brother, US senator Robert Kennedy. After the latter's assassination just before the 1968 Democratic Convention, the party turned to a rather gray but qualified man, Hubert Humphrey, who went on to lose the presidential race to Nixon.

Nixon is remembered of course for bombing Cambodia, losing the war in Vietnam, and authorizing the 1972 Watergate break-in, as well as a number of other "dirty tricks" against domestic opponents.

The disgraced commander-in-chief was followed by a line of US presidents who left dubious legacies: Gerald Ford, remembered for pardoning his old boss, Nixon; Jimmy Carter, who although some believe did a lot of things right, will go down in history for his handling of the Iranian hostage crisis; Ronald Reagan, viewed by many as the country's greatest president and harbinger of tremendous optimism, while others remember him for huge deficits, simplistic views of issues and siestas; and George Bush, who most would say did a credible job, but had the bad luck to run for re-election during an economic slowdown and losing to Bill Clinton.

But while the country did well by most measures during the Clinton years, and he demonstrated a certain mastery of detail and an interest in very complex policy discussions combined with optimism, the lasting legacy of Clinton's presidency is his relationship with a White House intern.

After Clinton, the divided nature of the US electorate was brought to a head and George W Bush won a very narrow and, to some, controversial victory over Al Gore. Since then Americans have seen 9/11, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and lately a crumbling economy.
Yes we can

Into this picture come two very different politicians competing for the Democratic nomination. Obama and his opponent, US Senator Hillary Clinton, actually have the same or similar views on most policy questions. If not for their both having chosen this moment to make their presidential bid, they would probably be allies. Besides the obvious aspects of the first woman and first black American to get this far in their quests for the Oval Office, each offers a compelling vision of how to meet the challenges facing the country.

Clinton projects competence and carefully researched policy positions on a myriad of questions and to some degree tells voters that she can repeat the success of her husband's tenure. Obama, on the other hand, offers hope. He, like Kennedy, Reagan and Bill Clinton, makes people believe that the US can do better on all fronts and terms the presidential race a choice between the "past and the future."

The real success of the Obama campaign has been its ability to penetrate the US' accumulated cynicism and give the country a glimmer of hope that it can actually move beyond its current divisions and come together. He echoes one of Kennedy's most famous ideas, saying that "we are the change we've been waiting for" and telling Americans that they have a role in "healing the nation and repairing the planet."
The role of new media

There is a further lesson in Kennedy's win over Nixon in 1960. The most common explanation of why a relatively young and inexperienced senator from Massachusetts could beat a popular vice president was that Kennedy was the first politician at the national level who understood how to portray himself on television.

What is clear about the Obama campaign is that it is using the internet in a way that has never been used before to raise money and awareness, as well as to organize voters at the local level to register and vote in the caucuses and primaries.

The success of his campaign is due, to a large extent, to a "viral" movement begun many months ago that used the internet as a key ingredient for spreading its message of hope and change and "infecting" potential supporters.

Both the message and the medium appeal particularly to people under 35, who are supporting Obama in record numbers. Currently, around 100,000 people send the campaign donations every month. For many, this is the first time they have contributed money to a political campaign.

My European friends have a hard time seeing the simplicity of the message for what it really is and accepting that millions of Americans are ready to suspend their disbelief and support what the Obama campaign calls a "movement for change."
The role of the super-delegate

Will Obama's campaign go all the way? Will the momentum continue to build until the national convention in August? The race is far from over and the Clinton campaign is betting heavily on winning in Ohio and Texas on 4 March.

But the story – as perhaps it can only be in the US – doesn't end there. Perhaps the most interesting question is assuming that Obama goes into the convention with a lead in delegates, will the roughly 800 "super-delegates" split evenly across the two candidates or would they, as a group, come out for Clinton?

This is not a question in vain.

Unlike the Republicans, Democrats, prompted by the battle between Walter Mondale and Gary Hart in 1984, instituted a system whereby super-delegates can have the final say of who will be the party's presidential candidate.

Super-delegates are political insiders, senators, representatives and governors who are not bound by any previous primary vote to cast their selection for the presidential candidate. In essence, they are free to cast their vote as they wish, however, in practice their vote may be susceptible to political pressures. In the end it is these super-delegates that may very well hold the keys to the White House.

Obama has said that he feels it would be "unwise" for the party officials to go against the will of the people – in reference to delegates awarded in the various primaries. However, to see if the Democrats are willing to listen to the voice of the people we may have to wait until the convention in Denver.


Mike Rosenberg is a professor of strategic management at IESE Business School, Barcelona, Spain.

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author only, not the International Relations and Security Network (ISN).
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The limit of Obama's imagination
At a time when Obama's moral voice was most needed, the reach of his wings proved to be cautiously perforated on an AIPAC line, writes Hamid Dabashi*

"We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late . . . Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, 'Too late.' There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect." -- Martin Luther King, Jr
Click to view caption
'If only Obama could burn this picture of him sitting with his wife, Michele, at the same table with Edward and Mariam Said'

I HAVE BEEN a silent witness to a succession of US presidential elections for over thirty years now. I came to the United States in August 1976, the very last year of the presidency of the incumbent Republican president Jerald R. Ford, and as he and Jimmy Carter were debating each other in the lead up to November 1976 election, in which President Ford lost and President Carter succeeded him. At the time of writing this article I am yet again witness to a highly contested series of primaries for the presidential election of 2008 -- as on the democratic front Senators Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois have captured and divided the attention of a highly charged and massively divisive American electorate -- along the thorny issues of race and gender, establishment versus progressive politics, and above all a regressive politics of the status quo and a buoyant possibility of yet another upsurge of hope for the younger generation of Americans to give political reality to their otherwise moot and mute idealism.

Meanwhile, Senator John McCain of Arizona is leading the Republican hopefuls on a path of pathological disregard for the pain and suffering of people the world over, beginning with the poor and disenfranchised Americans. For thirty years, I have wondered what does this dazzling exercise in the democratic will of the people of the United States -- when from conservative and retrograde multimillionaires to liberal and progressive public servants fight head over heels for every single vote of ordinary or even poor people -- has to do with the rest of the world.

When I came to the United States in August 1976, the country was plunged in a deep moral apathy following the US atrocities and final defeat in Vietnam, the aggressive thinning out of the social synergy evident in the Civil Rights Movement, the onset of the Vietnam Syndrome, and above all the political anomie that had set in after the assassination of President John F Kennedy (1963), Malcolm X (1965), and Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr (1968), and then to top them all by the Watergate Scandal.

The first Vice President appointed to that position under the terms of the 25th Amendment of the US Constitution, Jerald Ford succeeded the disgraced Richard Nixon and became the thirty-eighth President of the United States, serving from 1974 to 1977, effectively the interim president covering the hiatus between the beleaguered and corrupt presidency of Richard Nixon and the advent of Jimmy Carter's presidency. Ford was not elected to either of his two successive offices and was in fact the transitional figurehead covering two scandalous resignations, first by Vice President Spiro Agnew on 10 October 1973 (on corruption charges), and then by Richard Nixon on 9 August 1974 following the Watergate Scandal. Very much the establishment candidate, Ford lost that election to Jimmy Carter, the idealist peanut farmer from Georgia -- a president who had made human rights the hallmark of his renewed commitment to a more morally responsible American foreign policy.

That dream too, like all other hopes fostered in vain in this land, was not meant to be. It was during the presidency of Jimmy Carter (1976-1980) that the Iranian Revolution happened, and it was in the run-ups to the presidency of Ronald Reagan (1980-1988), that the American Hostage Crisis in Iran forever changed the face of the geopolitics in the region and even the globe, pushing the American imperial politics ever more aggressively to the right and beyond the arrested moment of Vietnam Syndrome.

For obvious reasons, all these events -- the Iranian Revolution of 1977-1979, the American Hostage Crisis of 1979-1980, and the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-1988 -- were exceedingly important to millions of people living in the region, and thus following the American presidential elections from that point forward became a matter of overriding curiosity as to what precisely does this spectacular exercise in the democratic will of an imperial nation-state has to do with the rest of the world.

LOOKED AT from a domestic point of view, the American presidential elections are perhaps the most spectacular democratic dramas one can ever hope to witness. Consider the drama of the current election: the world will not understand what it means for a Barack Hussein Obama to be this close to be the president of the United States unless and until it can imagine an Armenian becoming the Prime Minister of Turkey, or a Turk the Chancellor of Germany, or an Egyptian Copt the President of Egypt, or a Palestinian the Prime Minister of Israel, or an Iranian Jewish woman the President of the Islamic Republic, or a Pakistani the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, or an Algerian the President of France. But the sociological glory of this fact in the United States is predicated on the political calamity that ever since the commencement of the presidency of Ronald Reagan in 1980 the ideological pendulum in this country has so radically swung to the right that it is impossible to imagine how long it will take to push it back towards a meaningful center.

The best possible scenario, so goes the best hope of this campaign, is for Barack Obama to defeat the business-as-usual of Hillary Clinton drive and then go on to defeat Senator McCain and become the first African-American President of the United States and allow the waves upon waves of hope he has managed to generate to redefine American political culture. The worst possible scenario is for Hillary Clinton to defeat Barack Obama and then go on to lose to McCain in the general election, so we will end up with yet another four to eight years of belligerent Republican thuggery around the world and predatory capitalism at home. Which one of these two scenarios, or anything between them, will come to pass -- only time will tell.

For now, the painstaking process of American Democratic machinery is yet to unfold. However, it is important to note here how former president Bill Clinton, Senator Clinton's husband, had succeeded radically in racialising the presidential election when immediately after Obama won the South Carolina primary he quipped: "Jesse Jackson won South Carolina in '84 and '88. Jackson ran a good campaign. And Obama ran a good campaign here." What do Jesse Jackson and Barack Obama have in common -- other than being what Americans in their unguarded moments call "black"? So much for Clinton being "the first black president of the United States," as the Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison once famously said.

The most racist sound-bite of this Democratic primary so far in fact came from former President Clinton -- with one racist comment he transformed Barack Obama into a "black" candidate and sought to diminish his national, cross-racial, and universal appeal. Soon after this racist remark, Toni Morrison took that epithet back from Clinton by publicly endorsing Senator Obama in a moving letter to him. "Dear Senator Obama," she wrote, "This letter represents a first for me -- a public endorsement of a Presidential candidate. I feel driven to let you know why I am writing it. One reason is it may help gather other supporters; another is that this is one of those singular moments that nations ignore at their peril. I will not rehearse the multiple crises facing us, but of one thing I am certain: this opportunity for a national evolution (even revolution) will not come again soon, and I am convinced you are the person to capture it."

In the inner sanctum of their most dreadful despairs, the best amongst Americans now fear for Obama's life -- as they did for John F Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King. In the fragility of that fear, and the even more fragile hope for a more humane politics that it conceals, the best among Americans continue to dream for a better and a more just world, while their elected officials continue to inflict unfathomable pain on other nations, while ignoring the ever increasing hardship of ordinary people in the US. Within that paradox dwells the combustible hope to which Obama has now put a match.

Barack Obama rises in American political consciousness after eight years of Ronald Reagan, consistently pushing the country to the right of even his own conservative politics, after four years of one cynical and opportunist President Bush, after eight more years of a President Clinton whose foreign policies was even worse than his two Republican predecessors, and then after eight long and terrorising years of yet another President Bush who has now pushed the world to the edge of moral and environmental meltdown -- with the horror of the neocons and their Oriental regiment (Fouad Ajami, Hirsi Ali, et. al.), capping the terror that this country has brought against the word, in Afghanistan and Iraq in particular. When today young, innocent, hopeful, and idealist Americans cry out for "change" they mean change from this succession of catastrophe -- and they have invested that hope in Barack Obama -- for both John McCain on the Republican side and Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side have a sustained record of warmongering abroad and cut-throat, opportunistic self-promotion in domestic politics. Barack Obama has thus captured the imagination of a nation -- its youth and idealists in particular -- in dire, desperate, and earnest need for change.

But will Barack Obama be able to deliver half the hope he has ignited in his fellow-Americans?

TO BE SURE, on many issues, both domestic and foreign, Congressman Denis Kucinich of Ohio and after him former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina (both Democratic contenders for presidency) are far superior and progressive in their politics than both Senators Barack Obama and certainly Hillary Clinton put together -- and perhaps precisely for that reason they were both ousted from the race earlier in the primaries, Kucinich earlier than Edwards. To be even more precise, despite the fact that along with many other Democratic senators, Senator Barack Obama voted against authorising President Bush to go to war in Iraq, he has voted with Republicans to increase the size and presence of the US military there (in the so-called "Surge" program); he has voted yes to reauthorise the undemocratic USA Patriot Act that endangers Americans' civil liberties; and has voted in favor of a Republican bill to authorise the construction of a 700-mile fence on the border with Mexico.

Barack Obama's record becomes particularly troublesome when we turn to the acid test of American foreign policy, namely the bugbear of its unconditional support for the Jewish apartheid state of Israel. Here he has hit the rock bottom limit of his courage and imagination, and no one has understood Obama's problem in this respect better than Rabbi Michael Lerner, a progressive public intellectual, political activist, and editor of Tikkun Magazine. In his essay "Obama's Jewish Problem," Rabbi Michael Lerner has poignantly observed: "A new generation of young Jews no longer blindly adopts the strategy of domination or salutes to the policies of the current government of Israel. It is these Jews who are the future, but they do not yet control the institutions of Jewish life . . . Obama's problem is that his spiritual progressive worldview is in conflict with the demands of the older generation of Jews who control the Jewish institutions and define what it is to be pro-Jewish, while his base consists of many young Jews who support him precisely because he is willing to publicly stand for the values that they hold." The problem that Rabbi Lerner identifies goes to the heart of Senator Obama's message and appeal to a younger generation of Americans across all religious, ethnic, and even political divides, and yet his political cowardice prevents him from having the courage of his own convictions.

In an article in The Electronic Intifada (4 March 2007, "How Barack Obama learned to love Israel"), Ali Abunimah, a leading Palestinian activist in Chicago, has fully exposed the manner in which the Illinois Senator gradually dovetailed his (perfectly legitimate) ambition for the White House with a systematic distancing of himself from the Palestinian cause and a simultaneous catering to the Zionist Lobby in the United States. "Israel," Senator Obama has assured his AIPAC audience in a speech on 3 March 2007, is "our strongest ally in the region and its only established democracy. . . We must preserve our total commitment to our unique defense relationship with Israel by fully funding military assistance and continuing work on the Arrow and related missile defense programs."

The actual speech he delivered in March 2007 in front of AIPAC, from which Ali Abunimah excerpts certain key passages, gets worse, much worse, all culminating in his January 2008 letter to the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad -- soon after hundreds of thousands of Palestinians broke out of the Gaza concentration camp and flooded into Egypt in search of food and other basic necessities. "Dear Ambassador Khalilzad," wrote Barack Obama, "I understand that today the UN Security Council met regarding the situation in Gaza, and that a resolution or statement could be forthcoming from the Council in short order. I urge you to ensure that the Security Council issue no statement and pass no resolution on this matter that does not fully condemn the rocket assault Hamas has been conducting on civilians in southern Israel."

In his recent debate with Senator Clinton at the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles, just before the Super Tuesday primaries, and while referring to Senator McCain, Senator Obama quipped, "Somewhere along the line the Straight Talk Express lost some wheels." Precisely so: as did Obama's own moral standing on behalf of a new generation of hope, or "the fierce urgency of now," as he likes to quote Rev. Martin Luther King. Precisely at the moment that his moral voice for a just cause definitive to all other just causes on this planet was most needed, he fell so sadly short, and the reach of his moral wings proved to be cautiously perforated on an AIPAC line.

The record of the Zionist contingency in this particular election, as in all others, is effectively to strangle the American political culture anytime it wants to have a sigh of relief -- and draw a line from which no dreamer, no idealist, no visionary can ever dare to cross. The question that Israelis, particularly the so-called Israeli "left" ought to ask themselves is what sort of a calamity is this colonial settlement in which they live that even at the most uplifting moments of a nation, they throw around the weight of all the might and money they command and cut the wings of a soaring eagle to their own size.

NONE OF BARACK OBAMA'S fancy footwork to the AIPAC tune means that he has fully convinced the Zionist contingency of American politics that he is their man, that he too, just like Senator Clinton, is their candidate. "Israeli values are American values," Senator Hillary Clinton famously said at the height of the Israeli bombing of innocent Lebanese in July 2006. But that is perfectly normal for Hillary Clinton, who just like her husband is a political creature of unsurpassed cunning, opportunism, and self-promotion -- and thus the logic of her calculated move to New York to run for Senate when her husband's term as president ended. Throughout her campaign in 2000, as she moved to New York and run for office from a state in which she had never lived, she was rightly accused of carpet-bagging by her opponents, a charge that has stuck to her to this day.

But things are supposed to be different about Barack Obama, the man who has stirred unsurpassed hope for change in young and idealist Americans. But instead, what we witness is his move to one up Senator Clinton and ingratiate himself to AIPAC. If he could only burn that picture that Ali Abunimah has taken and published of him sitting with his wife, Michele Obama, at the same table with Edward and Mariam Said.

But -- and there is the rub -- no matter how fast Barack Obama may spin to AIPAC's music, it does not mean that the Zionists are happy, or are willing to trade the sure deal -- squarely bought and paid for -- Hillary Clinton for the young and idealist Obama. How could they trust, horribile dictu, a man with a Hussein for a middle name, a Kenyan Muslim for a father, and above all a man who speaks a progressive and hopeful language that at least in its rhetoric promises to deliver Americans form their epileptic seizure in which they cannot ever dream a liberation for their ideals and aspirations without AIPAC formal approval or else cutting their wings short where it says "Israel."

All his attempts to appease AIPAC notwithstanding, Obama remains a suspicious character to fanatical Zionists. The same essay that Ali Abunimah wrote in exposing Obama's gradual distancing from the Palestinian cause, was used by Ed Lasky in his essay, "Barack Obama and Israel" for American Thinker (22 March 2007 -- revised and republished again on 16 January 2008) categorically to dismiss Obama as a man for Israel. Lasky accused Obama of concealing his affiliation with a church that is in fact "Afro-centric" in its Christianity, accusing Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Jr., the Pastor of the Church Obama attended, as the man who coined the term "audacity of hope" (that defines Obama's campaign), and also of having "a militant past."

"Moreover," Lasky points out, "Pastor Wright has beliefs that might disturb some of Obama's supporters. He is a believer in "liberation theology," which makes the liberation of the oppressed a paramount virtue." (This for Lasky is a vice.) Extending his dismissal of liberation theology to its very founder Gustavo Gutierrez, Lasky narrows in on "Pastor Wright for having criticised Israel and uttered the unforgivable sin: 'The Israelis have illegally occupied Palestinian territories for almost 40 years now.'" (Imagine the audacity of uttering that sentence in Chicago!) Then we hear from Lasky that "Once this history came to light, Obama started publicly distancing himself from his spiritual mentor, disinviting Wright from various Obama campaign events. Wright rationalised his current persona non grata status by stating that otherwise 'a lot of his Jewish support will dry up quicker than a snowball in hell.'" Lasky moves on to expose more of Obama's sins by lining up Ali Abunimah and Edward Said as Palestinians whom Obama has actually met and conversed with. Lasky is particularly incensed that Obama does not have much of a pro-Israel legislative record. Scarce as this young Senator's record might be on being a pro-Israeli stooge, he has nevertheless "already compiled one of the most liberal voting records in the Senate (even more liberal than Ted Kennedy) and a great deal of his most fervent support has come from the left-wing of the party, who have turned against Hillary Clinton . . . This is precisely the wing of the Party that has been increasingly corrupted by anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activists."

This is enough reason for Lasky to go after Obama for having, among other things, "decidedly very soft approach on bills dealing with drug, gang and gun control issues," for daring to make a sleight comment about Israel's apartheid wall, for having the audacity to talk about "the desperation and disorder of the powerless . . . of children on the streets of Jakarta or Nairobi," which to Lasky translates to "appeasement, stated clearly and succinctly." The list of Lasky's concerns about Obama goes on and on and includes the support of the former President Jimmy Carter for him. As for his speech in front of AIPAC, Lasky believes this speech "left many nonplussed. This speech was, in part, prompted by his knowledge that a panel of experts in Israel considers him to be the candidate that would support the state of Israel the least." The same speech that caused anger and frustration in Ali Abunimah left Lasky with much to be desired, and not sufficient at all. After a prolonged list of litany against Obama, Lasky finally concludes, "Barack Obama does have a record to run on and it is a record that should be of concern to those who support America's relationship with Israel."

IT IS OF COURSE ultimately unfair to laser-beam on Senator Obama a calamity that has long plagued American political culture. Over the last half a century, American foreign policy is held hostage (as John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt have extensively demonstrated) to a single-minded commitment to the Jewish apartheid state, which has in turn degenerated its own political culture to that of Christian imperialism. The US is narratively trapped inside a single-minded commitment to the Jewish state, which now amounts to the worst common denominator of American political culture, and as such it will pull down any sign of hope that may aspire to transform this catastrophe to become the promise that it has always been -- a beacon of hope for the world. But it is equally false to blame the Israeli lobby for the calamity of American imperialism around the globe, a reality entirely sui generis and predicated on the very nature of this economic and military monstrosity.

I for one have absolutely no doubt that Obama has indeed awakened a dead soul in American political culture, a yearning, a wish, a vision perhaps always embedded in the American dream -- to be a nation among others, to wed the fate of its own poor, sick, homeless, and forsaken to that of others around the world. What sort of decency is it, what sort of historical record is it, for a country, a people, a nation, like what they call "Israel" to abort that dream at its very inception and use all its power and wherewithal not to allow it to imagine beyond the particular demands of a ghastly apartheid state.

Obama has had to renounce his connections not just with the Palestinian cause but also even to the pastor of a church he faithfully attended because he is a liberation theologian. How many of his wings will the Illinois Senator have to cut short before he can fly, and if he ever gets actually to fly how far can he soar, how deep will he fall? The thing that he has failed to understand is that he can never out-Hillary in appealing to, satisfying, and securing the endorsement of the pro-Israeli lobby. Every corner that he comes to cross and sell a bigger part of his soul to AIPAC, Hillary Clinton has already been there and done that. If he only had the courage of his convictions, if he only believed in the spectacular hope that he has generated in millions of young and idealist Americans -- including (and in fact particularly) young and idealist Jewish Americans.

The problem with Barack Obama is thus the limit of his imagination, for the hope he has managed to generate in young and progressive Americans of all colours and creeds has now far surpassed his own limited courage. He has come up through the ranks and moved from an unknown local politician in Chicago to a national figure of open-ended possibilities. When he groomed himself to look like Malcolm X, consciously modulated the cadence of his voice to that of Martin Luther King, and actively sought the public endorsement of the Kennedys, he had no idea what hidden hopes, what repressed aspirations he would awaken among young and idealist Americans. If he does not listen carefully to the echo of the voice he has unleashed in this valley, he would be yet another bitter disappointment, even if (or particularly if) he gets to be the next President of the United States.

Today the absolutely weakest link in the chain of global injustice that tests the mettle of humanity at large, is the plight of millions of Palestinians suffering the indignity of exile from their historic homeland, forsaken in refugee camps and brutalised in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. That Barack Obama's message to these suffering millions is to send more missiles to the apartheid state of Israel is an obscenity that mocks every time he stands up and puts forward his messages of hope and change.

The critical question of course at this conjuncture is that if we coloured and marginal folks -- we Blacks, Asians, Latinos, Arabs, Muslims and all the most recent (legal and illegal) immigrants to this land -- will have the courage and the imagination that Barack Obama lacks. Will we cross a fence and extend a hand to a man who is after all one of us, however he may think it politically expedient to pick and chose one thing or another from the baggage he and we have brought along across the borders?

Two of my three children (born and bred here in the United States) have now reached the age when they can vote. They are both committed Obama fans and voted for him in the New York primaries on Super Tuesday. At this point, I am afraid the votes of my two children are all I can offer Brother Barack. Come next November, I too may leave my own darkest convictions behind and vote with the bright hope of my children.

Sometimes I think that the worst thing about the United States is that there is always hope for it.

* The writer is the Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York.
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Dominic Lawson: Obama must beware of turning into a cult

His speeches are studded with religious rhetoric. A chapter in his book is entitled 'Faith'
Tuesday, 26 February 2008

At this stage, it must be desperation rather than strategy: Hillary Clinton has unleashed the potentially deadly weapon of ridicule against Barack Obama. The almost hoarse Senator from New York told supporters in Rhode Island yesterday: "I could just stand up here and say [that] the sky will open, the light will come down, celestial choirs will be singing and everyone will know we should do the right thing and the world will be perfect."

Mrs Clinton did not mention her rival in this peroration but it was a very pertinent caricature of Mr Obama as the new Messiah. In fairness to Obama, the greatest claims for his near-divinity come not from his own lips but from his supporters. One of them is his own wife Michelle, who announced: "Our souls are broken in this nation. Barack Obama is the only person who understands that ... before we can work on the problems, we have to fix our souls." Even such a political veteran as the eighth-term Illinois Congressman Bobby Rush says Obama's political career has been "divinely ordered". His language is moderate compared to that used by some of Obama's youthful supporters, who talk openly of being members of "a cult" and of their rallies as being "religious experiences".

More surprisingly, seen-it-all reporters seem to have undergone a similar epiphany. MSNBC's Chris Matthews – somewhat to the consternation of his co-hosts – declared that Obama "comes along and he has the answers. This is the New Testament". The experienced Washington correspondent for The Australian, Geoff Elliott, reported: "You know something special is going on. The atmosphere at his events is such that one wonders if Obama is about to walk out with a basket with some loaves and fishes to feed the thousands."

Obama has a stock line which seems to play straight into the notion that he is an instrument of the divine. To a number of audiences, he has declared: "My job is be so persuasive that if there's anybody left out there who is still not sure whether they will vote, or is still not clear who they will vote for, that a light will shine through that window, a beam of light will come down on you, you will experience an epiphany ... and you will suddenly realise that you must go to the polls and vote for Obama."

To be fair to Obama, this is said in a manner which just leaves open the idea that he is not being entirely serious. Yet I don't believe that those applauding this riff see it as elevated irony – and it is slightly creepy even as a joke. Perhaps it isn't a joke at all, but completely sincere: Obama's speeches are studded with religious rhetoric. For example, last October he told an audience of 4,000 that he hoped to be "an instrument of God" and that "I am confident that we can create a Kingdom right here on Earth".

This sort of rhetoric from an American politician is not a novelty. There has been a strong sense ever since Independence – indeed it is at the heart of America's own sense of uniqueness – that this is a nation chosen by God, a sort of New Jerusalem. Barack Obama is certainly not the first campaigner for the presidency to use almost Biblical language to tell the American people that they and they alone can "save" the world from sin and wickedness.

Yet in recent decades the American Left has shunned such religiosity, regarding similar language used by the so-called "religious right" with extreme distaste. In such a strongly churchgoing country as the US, this was always going to limit the appeal of the Democrats. Anyone who has read Obama's book The Audacity Of Hope will already have known that the junior Senator from Illinois had no intention of ignoring this constituency, were he ever to run for the presidency.

There is an entire chapter on this, entitled "Faith". In it, Obama wrote: "The discomfort of some progressives with any hint of religiosity has often inhibited us from effectively addressing issues in moral terms. Some of the problem is rhetorical: scrub language of all religious content and we forfeit the imagery and terminology through which millions of Americans understand both their own personal morality and social justice."

He also wrote that for Democrats to shun religiosity is "bad politics" adding: "When we shy away from religious venues and religious broadcasts ... others will fill the vacuum." Well, if there ever was such a vacuum, Barack Obama is filling it now. As he will certainly have anticipated, many erstwhile Republican voters are seduced by this form of rhetoric and have been indicating that they will vote for Obama. In fact, he has invented a word for these voters: he calls them "Obamicans".

It is interesting that this seems to have been an unmitigated benefit. Not only has Obama successfully made an appeal to Republicans who viewed other Democrats as godless, but the Left has, by and large, ignored its scruples and refused to criticise its candidate's studied use of specifically Christian language and imagery. As a result, Obama has got away with claims to metaphysical virtue which would have been denounced as medievally idiotic presumption, had they been uttered by a Republican candidate.

To Obama's credit, he does not follow the religious Right in denouncing his opponents as wicked. The worst you can say is that this is implicit in his message, rather than explicit. Nevertheless, there is an underlying strain of intolerance in Obama's message of unification. In his victory speech in Wisconsin last week, he made his usual attack on "special interests". "We must put aside the divisions in Washington. We must work for a higher purpose" – or perhaps that should be Higher Purpose. Yet to stigmatise "divisions in Washington" is just acceptable rhetoric for denouncing the workings of a complex pluralistic democracy. For "divisions" read "disagreement" – or "opposition". Obama, of course, is a democrat as well as a Democrat; but there is something in this form of rhetoric that has echoes of fascism, with its idea that the squabbling of mere politicians should be overthrown in favour of one man's uniquely wise interpretation of the National Will. Phrases such as "everything must be changed" were also the stock-in-trade of fascist orators, raising hopes which ended in the most dreadful disillusionment – and worse.

I think Barack Obama understands this risk. For all the fever of his rallies, his own oratorical style never descends into ranting, still less foam-flecked hysteria. Yet the frenzy he has engendered contains within it the seeds of bitter disappointment, or even tragedy. There is the question of his own physical safety. Less morbidly, what will be the reaction of his supporters if he should fail to be elected President? Perhaps most troubling of all, what will be their reaction if he is elected, but the celestial choirs fail to appear and the world refuses to be perfect?

d.lawson@independent.co.uk
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Malcolm X: Memories still Strong after 42 Years

TEHRAN (FNA)- The thirteenth annual commemorative program in honor of slain American Muslim/social activist Malcolm X was held Saturday night at Howard University in Washington, DC.


The program was sponsored by Al-Mizaan, an Islamic organization based in the metropolitan Washington area, devoted to developing community education, purification and economic self-reliance.

Before the keynote address, the annual Community Service Award was presented to Br. Hodari Abdul-Ali, for recognition of his tireless efforts for the Washington community, as an activist and speaker; who established Pyramid Books, a publishing agency for the distribution of Islamic-themed literature and also the founder of Dar Salaam Bookstore, FNA correspondent in Washington said.

Abdul-Ali mentioned his trips to Sudan, where he was warmly welcomed by the people there, not because of his own personal worth, but because he was seen as a member of the tribe that had given birth to the great Martyr Malcolm X.

He further commended the Muslims for their successful actions, saying that although "we live in the heart of modern Babylon, Islam still thrives."

The keynote speaker of the night was, Amin Nathari, who is Imam of the mosque in Newark, New Jersey, an activist and author of Insight and Foresight: Aiming near and far; an invitation to self-examination (What Would Malcolm Do?)

Imam Nathari quoted the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in saying that "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

Imam Nathari urged the assembly to contemplate the dynamic actions of the Martyr Malcolm X (Hajj Malik Al-Shabazz) as an expression of the many Quranic injunctions to put faith into action.

Having grown up in the Nation of Islam (later converting to orthodox Islam) and been strongly influenced and motivated by the actions and powerful speeches of Malcolm X, Imam, Nathari offered the same method employed by the American-born Muslim Martyr to put into action in our own lives. The method involves self-examination (and the accompanying self-correction), priority setting and planning (for both this life and the Hereafter).

Quoting the English translation of the Holy Quran, Nathari gave illustration of the philosophy of priority-setting in the Quran by using the verse which relates that "those who clean/protect the Kaba and serve water to pilgrims are not equal to those who struggle with their lives and property in the name of Islam."

He spoke of the absolute necessity of using Quran as an owners' manual for success in life.

In comments given after the talk, Nathari summarized by saying that Muslims who apply Quran in their own lives are capable of being a positive force for change in the US, by demonstrating the Positive Lifestyle of Islam. As in his speech, he emphasized that "personal expressions of worship alone are not enough to stabilize our communities; if the message of Quran and Islam are to be effectively conveyed to our youth, awareness of societal conditions and activism are also vital."
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Obama – A Cowboy
for Washington


By Sabine Muscat

Translated By Amy Funderbunk

February 13, 2008

This time around, Barack Obama was able to win over voters who favored Hillary Clinton: Americans over 65 and rural voters. His opponent has just one more chance to turn the race for the presidential candidacy in her favor.

Germany - Financial Times Deutschland - Original Article (German)

Before her speech in El Paso, Texas, candidate Hillary Clinton was presented a child wearing a sombrero. The child and the candidate stood hand in hand for a while on the stage, both looking a bit bewildered. The child was finally able to get off the stage. But the candidate remained in the spotlight.

After Barack Obama’s win on Thursday evening, the parents of that child with the sombrero could be Hillary Clinton’s last hope in the battle for the Democratic presidential candidacy – just like the unemployed factory workers in Cleveland whose jobs have been outsourced to China. Texas and Ohio are the last two large U.S. states that will go to the polls on March 4. In a normal election year, no one would be interested in them anymore. This year however, they could decide everything.

Just as on the evening of the primary in South Carolina on January 26, Clinton planned her escape, putting the best face on a battle Obama had won by a mile. This time in Texas, she acted as if it were nothing – even as Republican frontrunner John McCain referred to Obama as the opponent in his congratulatory speech, pushing experience (as Clinton does) over hope.

Obama Angling Clinton Voters

But there’s something else. The Clinton campaign expected Obama’s victory in all three primaries. Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia (the administrative district around the U.S. Capitol Washington), have a large percentage of black residents and an overwhelming amount of young academic types – Obama’s typical target groups.

But Obama won these primaries with constituencies he wasn’t predicted to: women, those over 65, and rural voters. If this trend continues, there’s not much left for Clinton.

Voters from lower income groups have remained true to Clinton in previous primaries. They found the formidable speaker Obama in his elegant yuppie clothing too aloof. But lately Obama has been emphasizing his simple upbringing and addressing the economic concerns facing this group. His wife Michelle personifies these issues even better. She comes across pragmatic and dynamic – and has enormous energy. She could be a hidden weapon in the last weeks of the campaign.

Clinton Wants a Small Hat and More Cattle

Latinos are another important constituency that has favored Clinton. Immigrants from Latin America find it difficult to vote for a black candidate. Tensions exist between the two minority groups; many African Americans dislike the immigrants, who make the struggle for minimum wage jobs harder. But Obama appears to be connecting better now with Latinos, maybe because he has been able emphasize his childhood as the son of a Kenyan immigrant father, demonstrating he has more in common with them than they might have thought at first.

Now Obama has three weeks to convince Texans that he can do more than just orate well. "All hat and no cattle” is what they say in Texas when someone talks a lot but doesn’t do much. Clinton used the saying in El Paso to describe soon-to-be-former president George W. Bush and said, “We need a smaller hat and more cattle.” But she didn’t mention that Obama might be a new type of cowboy.
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Trans-Atlantic Relations | 24.02.2008
Europeans Hopeful US Democrats Will Rescue Trans-Atlantic Ties
Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama
Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Europe has high hopes for the Democratic presidential hopefuls

Europeans think the next US president will be better. They hope a Democrat in the White House will reinvigorate trans-Atlantic ties. But the candidates aren't necessarily much more in tune with Europe.

Europeans' interest in the US primaries and caucuses is immense: leading German newsmagazine Der Spiegel even devoted its title story to Democrat Barack Obama last week, and the Internet is alive with young Europeans commenting on the campaigns in innumerable blogs and forums.

US soldiers talk to journalists in BaghdadBildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Many have been unimpressed by the Americans' actions in Iraq

Many Europeans connect the election of a new US president with the hope for a new beginning in trans-Atlantic relations, which suffered setbacks due to numerous controversies, from George W. Bush's uncompromising approach to climate change to his foray into the Iraqi desert. To many Europeans, everything will get better once there's a new president. And if he or she is a Democrat, they believe, it's guaranteed.

Regardless of how passionately Europeans follow the duel between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, Europe plays a negligible role in the top Democratic contenders' campaigns. Aside from a few sentences in speeches and essays, the two have hardly said a word about Europe.

And according to some, European hopes will likely be dashed.

"A fundamental new evaluation of the trans-Atlantic relationship will not take place," said Esther Brimmer, research director at the Center for Transatlantic Relations (CTR) at Johns Hopkins University in Washington, DC.

But the tone will change.

"Obama and Clinton will make themselves out to be more cooperative, more international. And for every American president, Europe remains the most important partner," Brimmer said.

US won't allow Europe to dictate

On points of contention between the US and Europe, such as climate change or human rights, the Europeans could expect significantly more cooperation than in the past, she added.

President Bush in Biloxi, Mississippi, surveying damage caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005Bildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: A new president may take a different approach to climate change

But whether under a President Obama or a President Clinton, the US would demand the leadership role in fighting climate change. It would also refuse to let the Europeans dictate what should be done, Brimmer said. And it's inconceivable that a new president would ratify the statutes of the International Criminal Court (ICC), an issue that looms large for Europeans.

"With so much military personnel all over the world, the US doesn't want to be subjected to politically motivated accusations from other states at the ICC," Brimmer said.

But a new president wouldn't try to actively thwart the ICC, as the Bush administration did at the start.

And when it comes to Iraq and Iran's nuclear ambitions, a President Obama or Clinton would discuss the issues more closely with the Europeans, Brimmer reckoned.

Obama attracted attention last year by suggesting he would try to engage in direct talks with Iran. Clinton called the suggestion naive.

Grown apart

Brimmer said the biggest difference between the two Democrats in regard to Europe was that Obama wanted to set the course for where the US would be in 30 or 40 years, particularly in terms of climate change and international dialogue. Clinton, on the other hand, was focused on improving America's standing in the world in the near term.

The World Trade Center on fireBildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Sept. 11 doesn't loom as large for Europeans as it does for Americans

This different approach "naturally influences the role Europe plays for the US in the mid-term," Brimmer said.

Though Bush's foreign policy may have caused a storm over the Atlantic, actually there had been a fundamental, structural change in the trans-Atlantic relationship, said Karen Donfried, vice president of the German Marshall Funds of the United States.

"The attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, hit the US at a time when the Europeans -- after the end of the Cold War -- felt safer than ever," she said. The US and Europe had not only developed different interests, but were also no longer united by a common enemy.

Polls reinforce that view: While Americans identify terrorism as the number one threat, Europeans say climate change is the biggest problem.

Finding a common cause

The rise of new 'super powers,' such as China and India could, however, bring Americans and Europeans closer together again, according to Donfried.

"The EU and the US must work together to integrate countries that come from outside this tradition into the global political system they have so clearly molded," she said.

In that sense, Obama and Clinton would certainly view Europeans as effective partners. But the "Europeans would have to finally get their house in order," Donfried said.

"In haggling over a new European constitution and the Lisbon reform treaty, the Europeans were so occupied with themselves that they were neither united enough nor did they have the necessary view of the outside world to be this effective partner," she said.
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The week the Obama backlash started

As the Democratic frontrunner racks up one primary victory after another, American newspapers and TV shows have started to pick over his past and ridicule his rhetoric. But will this come too late to restore the fortunes of Hillary Clinton, who needs to win both Ohio and Texas to stay in the race?
This article appeared in the Observer on Sunday February 24 2008 on p42 of the World news section. It was last updated at 00:07 on February 24 2008.

Back in 1995 it would have seemed like meeting just another group of left-wing academics in liberal Chicago. Barack Obama, then about to be an Illinois state senator, was taken to an activists' gathering at the house of William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn.

So far, so innocuous. Except now Obama is running for president and Ayers and Dohrn - both Illinois professors - were once members of the Weather Underground, a radical Sixties group that planted bombs across America.

Thus the long-forgotten meeting resurfaced late last week in a detailed news story on the respected politics website Politico under the blaring headline: 'Obama once visited 60s terrorists.'

For a candidate long used to an overwhelmingly positive press, it was a jarring headline. But with Obama's new status as the Democrats' clear frontrunner, a media backlash is now showing clear signs of gathering pace.

The Politico story was not alone last week. In the New York Times, two influential columnists weighed in with brutal attacks against Obama. David Brooks called him a 'trophy messiah' and Paul Krugman claimed Obama's campaign was '...dangerously close to becoming a cult of personality'. Meanwhile, in the Boston Globe, Obama supporter Margery Eagan expressed her own doubts about her pick. 'I'm nervous because John McCain says Obama is an "eloquent but empty call for change" and in the wee, wee hours a nagging voice whispers: "Suppose McCain's right,' Eagan wrote.

Nor was it confined to print. On television, ABC's respected Nightline show ran a segment on Obama's often wildly enthusiastic supporters and compared 'Obama-mania' to the Beatlemania of the Sixties. Anchor Terry Moran asked: 'Is this a political movement or a personality cult?' On cable channel MSNBC, a hapless Obama backer, Texan state senator Kirk Watson, was harangued by host Chris Matthews to 'name any' of Obama's legislative achievements. When Watson failed, the clip became a huge Youtube hit.

Many observers say that a backlash against Obama was inevitable after 11 straight wins against his rival, Senator Hillary Clinton, had sent the former First Lady's campaign into a desperate tailspin. 'We are going to see this backlash. The press has been enthralled by Obama, but I have no doubt that is going to change,' said Professor Jack Lule, a communications expert at Lehigh University, Pennsylvania.

Obama's relationship with the press has been almost entirely positive so far. Paradoxically, this comes despite his campaign team adopting a distant approach to many reporters assigned to cover him. Unlike Clinton, who now makes a point of personally chatting to the media following her, Obama is kept at arm's length from reporters.

But that has not prevented a slew of positive coverage. 'He is a unique candidate. He is a path breaker. That makes it harder for reporters to treat him like a normal candidate,' said Professor Cary Covington, a political scientist at the University of Iowa.

That phenomenon has undoubtedly exasperated the Clinton camp, who frequently complain that Obama's record has not been examined in the same detail as her own by the press pack. Yet that is now likely to change.

Though Obama holds only a narrow lead in the number of delegates needed to win the nomination, all the political momentum is with him. Clinton has to look back all the way to Super Tuesday for her most recent victory. Nor has she even come close since then: Obama's recent wins have all been routs. For the first time Clinton's key staff are using the F-word - frontrunner - to describe their opponent. But at the same time they are hoping that will finally lead to intense media pressure on Obama that could yet unseat him. 'Mr Obama is the frontrunner. There will be increased scrutiny on him and his qualifications to be president,' said top Clinton strategist Howard Ickes.

That scrutiny will lead to more stories like that of Obama's meeting with the former Weather Underground militants. It will also lead to a willingness to pounce on any perceived mistakes from the Obama camp. Thus last week Obama's wife, Michelle, faced criticism after she appeared less than patriotic at a campaign rally in Wisconsin. 'For the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country,' she said. The remark was seized on as anti-American by many commentators, forcing the campaign to stare down a rare surge of criticism and clarify the remarks.

The incident served to show how the media landscape is changing for Obama. At another rally, in Dallas, Obama paused to blow his nose and received a round of cheers. That prompted withering headlines, too. 'Even blowing his nose, Obama gets applause,' snickered the Chicago Tribune, a newspaper from Obama's adopted hometown.

All over America, reporting teams are now investigating Obama's record, matching the long-term efforts of Clinton 'opposition research' workers. 'Right now, there are people digging all over. I have no doubt about it,' Lule said.

However, the key question is whether there is anything to find. So far, little that is dramatically new and damaging has emerged. The New York Times researched an article on Obama's self-confessed drug use while he was at college, but the story, when published, actually appeared to find less evidence of drug use than the candidate had already admitted to in his autobiography.

The second vital area is that time is growing short for the dynamic of the campaign to shift. Attention is now firmly focused on 4 March, when Texas and Ohio - both rich in delegates - go the polls. Clinton's campaign admits that she needs to win both. At the moment, she is narrowly ahead in both races. But Obama's support tends to surge as election day nears. In short, Clinton needs an Obama gaffe or a hitherto unknown scandal. 'The real thing here is whether the press can get at Obama in time to change things. Will that dynamic shift come before he gets the nomination or afterwards, when it will be too late for Clinton?' said Professor Covington.

Certainly Clinton's camp is revving up and preparing for a last-ditch fight. She has sharpened up her message, portraying Obama and his campaign as naive and idealistic, telling rallies of supporters that: 'It is time to get real.'

At the same time, a group of Clinton supporters is seeking to bypass campaign finance laws and set up a group called the American Leadership Project. Because the group is not officially linked to the campaign, it can take in large donations from wealthy individuals. It is aiming to raise $10m and its adverts will start to air in Ohio and Texas tomorrow.

The move has outraged Obama campaign officials, who have compared it to the Swift Boat group that campaigned against John Kerry in 2004's presidential race. David Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager, said: 'We are tired of swift boat-style groups and of smear campaigns.'

Such tactics also cannot hide the fact that the Clinton camp is in deep trouble. Much of the top leadership still remains deeply split over the right tactics in the final days before Texas and Ohio go to the polls. Even after a leadership shake-up, the campaign is divided into supporters of pollster Mark Penn, who favour continuing to emphasise Clinton's experience, and others who want a new aggressive campaign. The latter are centred on Ickes, a strategist notorious for his pugilistic attitudes. It was a split that was evident in last Thursday's debate, where Clinton made a few pointed jabs at Obama, but declined several opportunities to attack him outright.

At the same time, the campaign is losing the financial battle. Figures released last week show a massive mis-spend of money, including millions of dollars to its own campaign pollsters and media experts. A list of debts and bills include thousands of dollars spent on luxury hotels in Las Vegas, almost $100,000 on catering from an Iowa supermarket and $11,000 on pizza. By contrast, Obama's top staffers, who are in charge of what is now the frontrunning campaign, are paid much less than Clinton's operatives and the campaign is awash in cash.

But many experts believe Clinton should not be written off. 'She is behind. There is no question of that. But she can still win it,' said Covington. Yet now her last best chance may rely on the hunger in the media for a fresh way of writing about the campaign, seeking to cast Clinton as the 'come from behind' underdog. It worked in New Hampshire, where she confounded the pollsters with an unexpected win. Now she needs to do it again.
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US society helping to make people sicker

By Christopher Bowe in New York

Published: February 29 2008 02:39 | Last updated: February 29 2008 02:39

Americans should be living four years longer at current rates of healthcare spending, signalling that US society is helping to make people sicker, a report on health inequality said on Thursday.

The report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), an influential US philanthropy, presented new evidence of widening disparities in health between income levels in the United States.

The nation’s poorest adults were nearly five times more likely to be in “poor or fair” health as the richest - 31 per cent versus 6.6 per cent - and at every income level the wealthier group was healthier than the next lower one.

This trend of declining health according to income was seen in all race groups. Although socioeconomic factors are “harshest” on the poorest, the report said, “economic inequality has increased in the United States and the middle-class has lost ground.”

Dr Risa Lavizzo-Mourey chief executive of RWJF said: “A far greater determinant is the sometimes toxic relationship between how we live our lives and the economic, social and physical environments that surround us. Some of the factors affecting our health we certainly can influence on our own; many of the factors, however, are outside our individual control.”

The report and a new commission formed by the RWJF to look at remedies highlight potentially wider discussion and scrutiny on health disparities due to socioeconomic status and income inequality.

Researchers, including social epidemiologists, have long sought wider attention to socioeconomic forces to improve national health and reduce healthcare spending.

Dr Stephen Bezruchka, of the University of Washington school of public health, told the Financial Tines in an interview this month: “That is the key thing. Inequality basically shapes the whole structure of society. The thing is - in America - people seem to like it. But that’s what’s killing us.”

US healthcare reform proposals have so far centred around better access to basic healthcare for all Americans, in particular 47m people without health insurance.

Americans’ health and life expectancy is relatively poorer than other rich countries, even though the US spends more than $2,000bn a year on healthcare and nearly double per capita than the amount spent in the UK.

Dr Mark McClellan, former chief of both Medicare, the US health programme for elderly and poor, and the Food and Drug Administration said: “In fact, wealthy Americans have worse health than middle income Britons, as measured by several major chronic conditions. But there are promising strategies out there that show we can take practical steps to close the gap.”

Dr McClellan will lead a commission comprised of leading private and public sector voices, including Wal-Mart, to explore how to mitigate US society’s worsening health despite significantly higher healthcare spending than other countries.

It plans to take two years to formulate potential remedies to health disparities through in urban planning, economic development, improved schools and access to higher education, housing subsidies and health prevention efforts.

Linda Dillman, head of Wal-Mart risk management and benefits, said US society presents some obstacles to good health, and fixing them is good for the nation and makes better customers. “There are underlying causes that need to be addressed in this country. For instance, compared with Europe, we’re a ’drive-thru’ country,” she said.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008
  Reply
Obamanomics
Hope and fear

Feb 28th 2008
From The Economist print edition
Democratic economic policy sounds worryingly populist

AP

FOR a man who has placed “hope” at the centre of his campaign, Barack Obama can sound pretty darned depressing. As the battle for the Democratic nomination reaches a climax in Texas and Ohio, the front-runner's speeches have begun to paint a world in which laid-off parents compete with their children for minimum-wage jobs while corporate fat-cats mis-sell dodgy mortgages and ship jobs off to Mexico. The man who claims to be a “post-partisan” centrist seems to be channelling the spirit of William Jennings Bryan, the original American populist, who thunderously demanded to know “Upon which side shall the Democratic Party fight—upon the side of ‘the idle holders of idle capital’ or upon the side of ‘the struggling masses’?”

There is no denying that for some middle-class Americans, the past few years have indeed been a struggle. What is missing from Mr Obama's speeches is any hint that this is not the whole story: that globalisation brings down prices and increases consumer choice; that unemployment is low by historical standards; that American companies are still the world's most dynamic and creative; and that Americans still, on the whole, live lives of astonishing affluence.

It is not fair, moreover, to blame Mr Obama exclusively. His rival, Hillary Clinton, is no less responsible for the Democratic Party's wholesale descent into economic miserabilism. Both candidates have threatened to pull America out of NAFTA, the free-trade deal with Mexico and Canada, unless it is rewritten. Both rail against oil companies, drug companies, credit-card companies—the usual suspects. Both want more government spending and regulation to protect individuals against predatory companies. Indeed, in some ways, Mrs Clinton is worse. She appears to be sceptical of all trade deals, including the multilateral Doha round which would produce big benefits for the world's poorest countries. Unlike Mr Obama, she has proposed a deeply unsound five-year freeze on interest payments for subprime borrowers, which would surely result in higher rates and scarcer credit for future borrowers.
Beyond the campaign

How worrying is their populism? The sanguine—and conventional—argument is that none of it matters much. Democratic candidates always veer to the left during primaries, because that is where the votes are. But come the general election, the winner will tack back towards the centre, where the crucial independent voter resides.

The winner, unless Mrs Clinton can stage a dramatic comeback in the big primaries on March 4th, is likely to be Mr Obama. If you look on his website rather than listen to his speeches, there are plenty of intelligently designed, reasonably centrist proposals to be found (see article). It is sensible, for instance, to make it easier for people to save for retirement by enrolling everyone in a scheme unless they specifically opt out. His plans for health-care reform, like Mrs Clinton's, are middle-of-the-road. And his economic advisers, even more than hers, are sound academic economists. So although it might seem odd to advise suspicious voters to ignore the rhetoric of a man whose principal appeal rests on his speeches, Mr Obama in office would surely seek to be something other than the capitalist-hating demagogue he has recently sounded like.

Yet there are reasons to worry. The longer the Democratic race grinds on, the more entrenched the candidates may become in their populism. As America moves into the election proper, there is every likelihood that it will do so against a backdrop of worsening macroeconomic figures and rising numbers of house repossessions. Both John McCain and the Democratic nominee will then be chasing swing voters who are, typically, white working men—the type already prone to pessimism about their prospects. This group is not a natural part of Mr Obama's constituency and, if he were the nominee, he might well be tempted to keep the populism turned up high. If he were elected president, backed by a Democratic Congress with enhanced majorities, Mr Obama might well feel obliged to deliver on some of his promises. At the very least, the prospects for freer trade would then be dim.

The sad thing is that one might reasonably have expected better from Mr Obama. He wants to improve America's international reputation yet campaigns against NAFTA. He trumpets “the audacity of hope” yet proposes more government intervention. He might have chosen to use his silver tongue to address America's problems in imaginative ways—for example, by making the case for reforming the distorting tax code. Instead, he wants to throw money at social problems and slap more taxes on the rich, and he is using his oratorical powers to prey on people's fears.

Mr Obama advertises himself as something fresh, hopeful and new. But on economic matters at least he, like Mrs Clinton, has begun to look a rather ordinary old-style Democrat.
  Reply
acharya,.

Provide link, we just can't reproduce whole article here.
Don't forget for 3 months we were chased by one person.
_Mudy


I will provide later the links
These are important article which are not archived much
acharya
  Reply
USA Systematically Discriminates

Translated By Ester Luteranova

20 February 2008

http://watchingamerica.com/News/2008/03/01...-discriminates/

Slovakia - SME - Original Article (Slovakian)

Various human rights groups in Geneva noted on Wednesday that the United States is responsible for "ongoing and systematic" racial discrimination throughout all aspects of society, from Guantanamo Bay to the justice and education systems. "The government of the United States does not react to permanent and systematic racial discrimination problems" despite ratifying the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CEDR) in 1994, according to Ajamu Baraka, the executive director of the U.S. Human Rights Network (USHRN).

"Unfortunately, we are finding that the government has not complied with its obligations since 1994² Baraka said to reporters, specifying the effects of Hurricane Katrina on the African-American population in New Orleans, treatment of immigrant workers, police brutality and housing discrimination. "These issues escaped examination" by the government. The American Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) will publish its evaluation of Washington's efforts later this week. USHRN and other organizations, including Human Rights Watch (HRW), prepared their own evaluations, stressing serious cases of racial discrimination.

HRW stated that different legal standards applied to non-American citizens held in Guantanamo. "American policies are holding foreigners without judicial process and their arrests are based on discriminatory practices, violating CEDR," said Alison Parker, an HRW Deputy Director of the United States Division. She also stated that American citizens were transferred from Guantanamo to a standard U.S. justice system, which grants them more rights. She also mentioned disproportionate judicial proceedings against African-Americans and other minorities, mainly life sentences of youth offenders charged with murder without the possibility of parole.

Experts noted that administrations led by both democrats and republicans have failed to apply the Convention to its full extent since 1994, but hope that the upcoming presidential elections in November will bring some progress on these issues.
  Reply
<!--QuoteBegin-acharya+Mar 1 2008, 03:07 PM-->QUOTE(acharya @ Mar 1 2008, 03:07 PM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->Obamanomics
Hope and fear

Feb 28th 2008
From The Economist print edition
Democratic economic policy sounds worryingly populist

AP

FOR a man who has placed “hope” at the centre of his campaign, Barack Obama can sound pretty darned depressing. As the battle for the Democratic nomination reaches a climax in Texas and Ohio, the front-runner's speeches have begun to paint a world in which laid-off parents compete with their children for minimum-wage jobs while corporate fat-cats mis-sell dodgy mortgages and ship jobs off to Mexico. The man who claims to be a “post-partisan” centrist seems to be channelling the spirit of William Jennings Bryan, the original American populist, who thunderously demanded to know “Upon which side shall the Democratic Party fight—upon the side of ‘the idle holders of idle capital’ or upon the side of ‘the struggling masses’?”

There is no denying that for some middle-class Americans, the past few years have indeed been a struggle. What is missing from Mr Obama's speeches is any hint that this is not the whole story: that globalisation brings down prices and increases consumer choice; that unemployment is low by historical standards; that American companies are still the world's most dynamic and creative; and that Americans still, on the whole, live lives of astonishing affluence.

It is not fair, moreover, to blame Mr Obama exclusively. His rival, Hillary Clinton, is no less responsible for the Democratic Party's wholesale descent into economic miserabilism. Both candidates have threatened to pull America out of NAFTA, the free-trade deal with Mexico and Canada, unless it is rewritten. Both rail against oil companies, drug companies, credit-card companies—the usual suspects. Both want more government spending and regulation to protect individuals against predatory companies. Indeed, in some ways, Mrs Clinton is worse. She appears to be sceptical of all trade deals, including the multilateral Doha round which would produce big benefits for the world's poorest countries. Unlike Mr Obama, she has proposed a deeply unsound five-year freeze on interest payments for subprime borrowers, which would surely result in higher rates and scarcer credit for future borrowers.
Beyond the campaign

How worrying is their populism? The sanguine—and conventional—argument is that none of it matters much. Democratic candidates always veer to the left during primaries, because that is where the votes are. But come the general election, the winner will tack back towards the centre, where the crucial independent voter resides.

The winner, unless Mrs Clinton can stage a dramatic comeback in the big primaries on March 4th, is likely to be Mr Obama. If you look on his website rather than listen to his speeches, there are plenty of intelligently designed, reasonably centrist proposals to be found (see article). It is sensible, for instance, to make it easier for people to save for retirement by enrolling everyone in a scheme unless they specifically opt out. His plans for health-care reform, like Mrs Clinton's, are middle-of-the-road. And his economic advisers, even more than hers, are sound academic economists. So although it might seem odd to advise suspicious voters to ignore the rhetoric of a man whose principal appeal rests on his speeches, Mr Obama in office would surely seek to be something other than the capitalist-hating demagogue he has recently sounded like.

Yet there are reasons to worry. The longer the Democratic race grinds on, the more entrenched the candidates may become in their populism. As America moves into the election proper, there is every likelihood that it will do so against a backdrop of worsening macroeconomic figures and rising numbers of house repossessions. Both John McCain and the Democratic nominee will then be chasing swing voters who are, typically, white working men—the type already prone to pessimism about their prospects. This group is not a natural part of Mr Obama's constituency and, if he were the nominee, he might well be tempted to keep the populism turned up high. If he were elected president, backed by a Democratic Congress with enhanced majorities, Mr Obama might well feel obliged to deliver on some of his promises. At the very least, the prospects for freer trade would then be dim.

The sad thing is that one might reasonably have expected better from Mr Obama. He wants to improve America's international reputation yet campaigns against NAFTA. He trumpets “the audacity of hope” yet proposes more government intervention. He might have chosen to use his silver tongue to address America's problems in imaginative ways—for example, by making the case for reforming the distorting tax code. Instead, he wants to throw money at social problems and slap more taxes on the rich, and he is using his oratorical powers to prey on people's fears.

Mr Obama advertises himself as something fresh, hopeful and new. But on economic matters at least he, like Mrs Clinton, has begun to look a rather ordinary old-style Democrat.
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<!--QuoteBegin-acharya+Mar 1 2008, 03:06 PM-->QUOTE(acharya @ Mar 1 2008, 03:06 PM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->US society helping to make people sicker

By Christopher Bowe in New York

Published: February 29 2008 02:39 | Last updated: February 29 2008 02:39

Americans should be living four years longer at current rates of healthcare spending, signalling that US society is helping to make people sicker, a report on health inequality said on Thursday.

The report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), an influential US philanthropy, presented new evidence of widening disparities in health between income levels in the United States.

The nation’s poorest adults were nearly five times more likely to be in “poor or fair” health as the richest - 31 per cent versus 6.6 per cent - and at every income level the wealthier group was healthier than the next lower one.

This trend of declining health according to income was seen in all race groups. Although socioeconomic factors are “harshest” on the poorest, the report said, “economic inequality has increased in the United States and the middle-class has lost ground.”

Dr Risa Lavizzo-Mourey chief executive of RWJF said: “A far greater determinant is the sometimes toxic relationship between how we live our lives and the economic, social and physical environments that surround us. Some of the factors affecting our health we certainly can influence on our own; many of the factors, however, are outside our individual control.”

The report and a new commission formed by the RWJF to look at remedies highlight potentially wider discussion and scrutiny on health disparities due to socioeconomic status and income inequality.

Researchers, including social epidemiologists, have long sought wider attention to socioeconomic forces to improve national health and reduce healthcare spending.

Dr Stephen Bezruchka, of the University of Washington school of public health, told the Financial Tines in an interview this month: “That is the key thing. Inequality basically shapes the whole structure of society. The thing is - in America - people seem to like it. But that’s what’s killing us.”

US healthcare reform proposals have so far centred around better access to basic healthcare for all Americans, in particular 47m people without health insurance.

Americans’ health and life expectancy is relatively poorer than other rich countries, even though the US spends more than $2,000bn a year on healthcare and nearly double per capita than the amount spent in the UK.

Dr Mark McClellan, former chief of both Medicare, the US health programme for elderly and poor, and the Food and Drug Administration said: “In fact, wealthy Americans have worse health than middle income Britons, as measured by several major chronic conditions. But there are promising strategies out there that show we can take practical steps to close the gap.”

Dr McClellan will lead a commission comprised of leading private and public sector voices, including Wal-Mart, to explore how to mitigate US society’s worsening health despite significantly higher healthcare spending than other countries.

It plans to take two years to formulate potential remedies to health disparities through in urban planning, economic development, improved schools and access to higher education, housing subsidies and health prevention efforts.

Linda Dillman, head of Wal-Mart risk management and benefits, said US society presents some obstacles to good health, and fixing them is good for the nation and makes better customers. “There are underlying causes that need to be addressed in this country. For instance, compared with Europe, we’re a ’drive-thru’ country,” she said.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008
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<!--QuoteBegin-acharya+Mar 1 2008, 03:04 PM-->QUOTE(acharya @ Mar 1 2008, 03:04 PM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->Trans-Atlantic Relations | 24.02.2008
Europeans Hopeful US Democrats Will Rescue Trans-Atlantic Ties
Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama
Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift:  Europe has high hopes for the Democratic presidential hopefuls

Europeans think the next US president will be better. They hope a Democrat in the White House will reinvigorate trans-Atlantic ties. But the candidates aren't necessarily much more in tune with Europe.

Europeans' interest in the US primaries and caucuses is immense: leading German newsmagazine Der Spiegel even devoted its title story to Democrat Barack Obama last week, and the Internet is alive with young Europeans commenting on the campaigns in innumerable blogs and forums.

US soldiers talk to journalists in BaghdadBildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift:  Many have been unimpressed by the Americans' actions in Iraq

Many Europeans connect the election of a new US president with the hope for a new beginning in trans-Atlantic relations, which suffered setbacks due to numerous controversies, from George W. Bush's uncompromising approach to climate change to his foray into the Iraqi desert. To many Europeans, everything will get better once there's a new president. And if he or she is a Democrat, they believe, it's guaranteed.

Regardless of how passionately Europeans follow the duel between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, Europe plays a negligible role in the top Democratic contenders' campaigns. Aside from a few sentences in speeches and essays, the two have hardly said a word about Europe.

And according to some, European hopes will likely be dashed.

"A fundamental new evaluation of the trans-Atlantic relationship will not take place," said Esther Brimmer, research director at the Center for Transatlantic Relations (CTR) at Johns Hopkins University in Washington, DC.

But the tone will change.

"Obama and Clinton will make themselves out to be more cooperative, more international. And for every American president, Europe remains the most important partner," Brimmer said.

US won't allow Europe to dictate

On points of contention between the US and Europe, such as climate change or human rights, the Europeans could expect significantly more cooperation than in the past, she added.

President Bush in Biloxi, Mississippi, surveying damage caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005Bildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift:  A new president may take a different approach to climate change

But whether under a President Obama or a President Clinton, the US would demand the leadership role in fighting climate change. It would also refuse to let the Europeans dictate what should be done, Brimmer said. And it's inconceivable that a new president would ratify the statutes of the International Criminal Court (ICC), an issue that looms large for Europeans.

"With so much military personnel all over the world, the US doesn't want to be subjected to politically motivated accusations from other states at the ICC," Brimmer said.

But a new president wouldn't try to actively thwart the ICC, as the Bush administration did at the start.

And when it comes to Iraq and Iran's nuclear ambitions, a President Obama or Clinton would discuss the issues more closely with the Europeans, Brimmer reckoned.

Obama attracted attention last year by suggesting he would try to engage in direct talks with Iran. Clinton called the suggestion naive.

Grown apart

Brimmer said the biggest difference between the two Democrats in regard to Europe was that Obama wanted to set the course for where the US would be in 30 or 40 years, particularly in terms of climate change and international dialogue. Clinton, on the other hand, was focused on improving America's standing in the world in the near term.

The World Trade Center on fireBildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift:  Sept. 11 doesn't loom as large for Europeans as it does for Americans

This different approach "naturally influences the role Europe plays for the US in the mid-term," Brimmer said.

Though Bush's foreign policy may have caused a storm over the Atlantic, actually there had been a fundamental, structural change in the trans-Atlantic relationship, said Karen Donfried, vice president of the German Marshall Funds of the United States.

"The attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, hit the US at a time when the Europeans -- after the end of the Cold War -- felt safer than ever," she said. The US and Europe had not only developed different interests, but were also no longer united by a common enemy.

Polls reinforce that view: While Americans identify terrorism as the number one threat, Europeans say climate change is the biggest problem.

Finding a common cause

The rise of new 'super powers,' such as China and India could, however, bring Americans and Europeans closer together again, according to Donfried.

"The EU and the US must work together to integrate countries that come from outside this tradition into the global political system they have so clearly molded," she said.

In that sense, Obama and Clinton would certainly view Europeans as effective partners. But the "Europeans would have to finally get their house in order," Donfried said.

"In haggling over a new European constitution and the Lisbon reform treaty, the Europeans were so occupied with themselves that they were neither united enough nor did they have the necessary view of the outside world to be this effective partner," she said.
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<!--QuoteBegin-acharya+Mar 1 2008, 02:57 PM-->QUOTE(acharya @ Mar 1 2008, 02:57 PM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->The secret to Obama's success

A yearning for a new day in US politics is behind Obama's success, but other factors will determine if he wins the Democratic nomination, says Mike Rosenberg for ISN Security Watch.

Barack Obama by Joe Crimmings. (Joe CrimmingsFlickr)
    Image: Joe Crimmings, Flickr

Commentary by Mike Rosenberg for ISN Security Watch (27/02/08)

Europeans are scratching their heads over how US Senator Barack Obama - until recently a politician relatively unknown outside the US - has become not only the front-runner in the Democratic presidential primaries, but also a serious contender to become what is arguably the most powerful political leader in the world.

To understand this peculiar American phenomena - in which the media appear only too ready to compare the Illinois senator to that of US president John F Kennedy without further explanation - one needs to understand not only how most Americans perceive recent presidents, but also how Obama's campaign is the by-product of a deep cynicism that has become ingrained in the past 50 years.

Kennedy is something of a mythical figure that held the Russians at bay and took on the Mafia. Beating out then-vice president Richard Nixon in the 1960 presidential election, he offered a vision of the US that was progressive, while promising to make the world a better place. While Kennedy's administration made a number of mistakes - and his personal life was questionable - he is nevertheless remembered as the US' last great president.

Following Kennedy's assassination in 1963, then-vice president Lyndon B Johnson, a Democrat from Texas, took office. Johnson's presidency was heavily marked by the Vietnam War, for which he is largely blamed.

After Johnson, America fell in love with the late president's brother, US senator Robert Kennedy. After the latter's assassination just before the 1968 Democratic Convention, the party turned to a rather gray but qualified man, Hubert Humphrey, who went on to lose the presidential race to Nixon.

Nixon is remembered of course for bombing Cambodia, losing the war in Vietnam, and authorizing the 1972 Watergate break-in, as well as a number of other "dirty tricks" against domestic opponents.

The disgraced commander-in-chief was followed by a line of US presidents who left dubious legacies: Gerald Ford, remembered for pardoning his old boss, Nixon; Jimmy Carter, who although some believe did a lot of things right, will go down in history for his handling of the Iranian hostage crisis; Ronald Reagan, viewed by many as the country's greatest president and harbinger of tremendous optimism, while others remember him for huge deficits, simplistic views of issues and siestas; and George Bush, who most would say did a credible job, but had the bad luck to run for re-election during an economic slowdown and losing to Bill Clinton.

But while the country did well by most measures during the Clinton years, and he demonstrated a certain mastery of detail and an interest in very complex policy discussions combined with optimism, the lasting legacy of Clinton's presidency is his relationship with a White House intern.

After Clinton, the divided nature of the US electorate was brought to a head and George W Bush won a very narrow and, to some, controversial victory over Al Gore. Since then Americans have seen 9/11, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and lately a crumbling economy.
Yes we can

Into this picture come two very different politicians competing for the Democratic nomination. Obama and his opponent, US Senator Hillary Clinton, actually have the same or similar views on most policy questions. If not for their both having chosen this moment to make their presidential bid, they would probably be allies. Besides the obvious aspects of the first woman and first black American to get this far in their quests for the Oval Office, each offers a compelling vision of how to meet the challenges facing the country.

Clinton projects competence and carefully researched policy positions on a myriad of questions and to some degree tells voters that she can repeat the success of her husband's tenure. Obama, on the other hand, offers hope. He, like Kennedy, Reagan and Bill Clinton, makes people believe that the US can do better on all fronts and terms the presidential race a choice between the "past and the future."

The real success of the Obama campaign has been its ability to penetrate the US' accumulated cynicism and give the country a glimmer of hope that it can actually move beyond its current divisions and come together. He echoes one of Kennedy's most famous ideas, saying that "we are the change we've been waiting for" and telling Americans that they have a role in "healing the nation and repairing the planet."
The role of new media

There is a further lesson in Kennedy's win over Nixon in 1960. The most common explanation of why a relatively young and inexperienced senator from Massachusetts could beat a popular vice president was that Kennedy was the first politician at the national level who understood how to portray himself on television.

What is clear about the Obama campaign is that it is using the internet in a way that has never been used before to raise money and awareness, as well as to organize voters at the local level to register and vote in the caucuses and primaries.

The success of his campaign is due, to a large extent, to a "viral" movement begun many months ago that used the internet as a key ingredient for spreading its message of hope and change and "infecting" potential supporters.

Both the message and the medium appeal particularly to people under 35, who are supporting Obama in record numbers. Currently, around 100,000 people send the campaign donations every month. For many, this is the first time they have contributed money to a political campaign.

My European friends have a hard time seeing the simplicity of the message for what it really is and accepting that millions of Americans are ready to suspend their disbelief and support what the Obama campaign calls a "movement for change."
The role of the super-delegate

Will Obama's campaign go all the way? Will the momentum continue to build until the national convention in August? The race is far from over and the Clinton campaign is betting heavily on winning in Ohio and Texas on 4 March.

But the story – as perhaps it can only be in the US – doesn't end there. Perhaps the most interesting question is assuming that Obama goes into the convention with a lead in delegates, will the roughly 800 "super-delegates" split evenly across the two candidates or would they, as a group, come out for Clinton?

This is not a question in vain.

Unlike the Republicans, Democrats, prompted by the battle between Walter Mondale and Gary Hart in 1984, instituted a system whereby super-delegates can have the final say of who will be the party's presidential candidate.

Super-delegates are political insiders, senators, representatives and governors who are not bound by any previous primary vote to cast their selection for the presidential candidate. In essence, they are free to cast their vote as they wish, however, in practice their vote may be susceptible to political pressures. In the end it is these super-delegates that may very well hold the keys to the White House.

Obama has said that he feels it would be "unwise" for the party officials to go against the will of the people – in reference to delegates awarded in the various primaries. However, to see if the Democrats are willing to listen to the voice of the people we may have to wait until the convention in Denver.


Mike Rosenberg is a professor of strategic management at IESE Business School, Barcelona, Spain.

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author only, not the International Relations and Security Network (ISN).
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