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All the Day's Political News From Newspapers, TV, Radio, and Magazines

Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Obama Says He Is Outraged By Wright's "Rants"

Sen. Barack Obama's forceful denunciation of Rev. Jeremiah Wright's appearance before the National Press Club Monday dominated last night's network and cable news broadcasts. Most analysts cast Obama's statements as a thorough, if overdue, break with Wright. ABC World News reported, "Strong words today" from Obama about Wright, "much stronger than anything Obama has said previously. No issue has threatened his campaign more than the relationship with Wright, whose controversial sermons have been all over television and the internet." NBC Nightly News noted that "the last time Obama fully commented on Wright, people said he refused to throw his former pastor under the bus, as they put it. Some believe that happened today" as Obama "went on the attack" and "unloaded on Reverend Wright as never before, describing his former pastor's remarks as rants not grounded in truth, he called them destructive, outrageous and flat-out appalling." The CBS Evening News said Obama "shifted...into major damage control, all but severing his ties to the pastor he once defended." According to CBS, the Clinton campaign "was eager to point out, this afternoon, and even provided a YouTube link for reporters, it was only last June that Obama was extolling Wright."

Coverage is similar this morning on the front pages of major papers across the nation. For example, USA Today, in a front-page article titled, "Obama Breaks With Former Pastor," says Obama "severed ties" with Wright, "decrying his...latest remarks as 'a bunch of rants that aren't grounded in the truth.'" The New York Times, in a front-page article titled, "Obama Breaks Forcefully With Ex-Pastor Over Fiery Remarks," reported that "in tones sharply different from those Mr. Obama used on Monday, when he blamed the news media and his rivals for focusing on Mr. Wright, and far harsher than those he used in his speech on race in Philadelphia last month, Mr. Obama tried to cut all his ties to - and to discredit - Mr. Wright, the man who presided at Mr. Obama's wedding and baptized his two daughters." The Los Angeles Times added that "a visibly angered" Obama "accused his former pastor of enjoying his recent three-day media the expense of the campaign and the issues that confront voters."

The Wright issue is seen as harming Obama's bid to appeal to a broader segment of white voters. Bloomberg News reports political analysts "said the timing and content of Wright's remarks complicates Obama's efforts to broaden his base of support among white voters and may hurt him if he emerges as the Democratic nominee. Obama's 'crucial goal' is trying to connect with working-class voters and the Wright controversy is making that harder, said Glenn Totten, a Democratic political consultant who isn't affiliated with either presidential campaign." The Indianapolis Star reports that the "revival of the controversy" comes as Obama "already faced an uphill battle trying to persuade white and rural Indiana voters, who had recoiled at his recent remarks about small-town people as folks who cling to their guns and their religion in tough times, to vote for him."

The crisis has reportedly shaken Obama's campaign staff. The New York Daily News reports, "At Obama's Chicago headquarters, top aides were trying to avoid an internal meltdown over the Wright fallout. 'Nobody even wants to talk about it. It's a disaster,' said one source, who noted that a usually upbeat headquarters was fighting off its worst morale problem since the primaries began."

Obama's Sincerity Doubted Karl Rove, appearing on Fox News last night, and the Washington Post editorial board, among others, cast doubt on the sincerity of Obama's outrage, noting that the controversial statements that offended Obama were nearly identical to those made by Wright numerous times in the past without upsetting the Senator. Rove, on Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, said Obama "drew three statements out that he found particularly unattractive...AIDS, Farrakhan, and terrorism, and the interesting all of those statements had been made in the past, some of them multiple times in different variations by Reverend Wright over a course of years, and yet senator Barack took umbrage at their repetition yesterday. Did he not take umbrage...the first time that reverend Wright talked about those things years ago?"

The Washington Post, in an editorial, writes, "It seems to us that the whole sorry episode raises legitimate questions about his judgment. Given the long and close relationship between Mr. Obama and the Rev. Wright, voters will ask: How could Mr. Obama have been surprised by the Rev. Wright's views? How could he not have seen this coming? ... At a media availability at an airport Monday afternoon, he displayed none of the anger and sorrow that etched his face in North Carolina one day later."

McCain Details Market-Oriented Healthcare Plan

The New York Times reports in a front page story that John McCain "detailed his plan to solve the nation's health care crisis in a speech" in Tampa yesterday, "calling for the federal government to give some money to states to help them cover people with illnesses who have been denied health insurance." McCain's health care plan "would shift the emphasis from insurance provided by employers to insurance bought by individuals, to foster competition and drive down prices." The AP adds that McCain advisers "called the speech a major policy address though McCain has talked about the same ideas for several months. Still missing: The total cost of the plan and an estimate of how many people it would help." The Miami Herald says McCain would "offer families up to $5,000 in tax credits to purchase insurance."

The Washington Post says in a front page story that McCain's "belief in the power of the free market to meet the nation's health-care needs sets up a stark choice for voters this fall in terms of the care they could receive, the role the government would play and the importance they place on the issue." McCain "dismissed his rivals' proposals for universal health care as riddled with 'inefficiency, irrationality and uncontrolled costs.'"

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North Carolina Governor Throws His Support To Clinton

The AP reports this morning that North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley (D), a superdelegate, endorsed Sen. Hillary Clinton, "boosting her presidential bid a week before North Carolina's May 6 primary." Easley "declared the New York senator 'gets it.' 'It's time for somebody to be in the White House who understands the challenges we face in this country,' Easley said, adding a gentle dig at rival Barack Obama's signature slogan of hope. 'There's been lots of "Yes we can, yes we should." Hillary Clinton is ready to deliver,' Easley said." The Raleigh News & Observer says the endorsement "comes as a big boost for Clinton ahead of the May 6 primary, as she acknowledged," saying, "Of course, [Easley's endorsement] is politically very meaningful, but even more than that, it's great to have someone who understands what we have to do to transform our country, to be prepared for the 21st century." However, the Winston-Salem Journal reports that despite the endorsement, Clinton's "odds remain long" in the state, which holds its primary on May 6.

Obama, Clinton Notch More Superdelegate Endorsements

Gov. Mike Easley wasn't the only superdelegate making an endorsement yesterday. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that MO4 Rep. Ike Skelton (D) also endorsed Hillary Clinton yesterday, saying, "he decided to back Clinton because of her support for 'rural America, her commitment to National Security, and her dedication to our men and women in uniform.'"

On the other side, Barack Obama picked up the endorsement of KY6 Rep. Ben Chandler (D), the AP reports. Chandler "said he was impressed with Obama's message of 'change and hope' and his 'quiet strength.' 'Now is not the time to be timid,' Chandler told a group of Obama supporters in" Louisville, KY, adding, "It is instead a time to be bold, and to support the candidate who has the ability to transform our future.'" The AP reports this morning that Iowa superdelegate Richard Machacek also backed Obama yesterday, saying "the obvious organization and momentum is on his side in Iowa," adding, "I cannot fly in the face of my precinct, county and statewide totals in good conscience." The Winston-Salem Journal reports that Allen Jones, Mayor of Winston-Salem, also endorsed Obama yesterday at a rally there.

Clinton Says Democrats Should Back Whoever Is Nominated

The Indianapolis Star reports Sen. Hillary Clinton said yesterday "it would be 'the height of political foolishness' for Democrats to back a Republican, or not vote at all, if they're disappointed by the outcome of the long-running nomination battle between her and Barack Obama. 'Anyone, anyone, who voted for either of us should be absolutely committed to voting for the other' in the general election, Clinton said during an hourlong meeting with The Indianapolis Star Editorial Board." The Washington Times adds that Clinton also said, "I have pledged that I will do whatever I can to bring our party back together and to make that case no matter who our nominee is."

Clinton, Obama Running Neck And Neck In Indiana Poll

The Howey-Gauge poll, a new survey released yesterday afternoon by the Howey Political Report, a publication specializing in Indiana politics, shows Sen. Barack Obama leading Sen. Hillary Clinton 47%-45% among likely Democratic primary voters. In a poll of just Democrats likely to vote in the primary, Clinton and Obama are tied at 46% apiece. Gauge Market Research Pollster Holly Davis said, "The Democratic primary is going to be decided by non-Democrats. To be determined is which group -- Republicans or independents -- are going to decide this race."

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Bush Prods Congress To Act On Economic Bills

President Bush delivered broadsides against Congress during a Rose Garden press conference on Tuesday, accusing the Democratic majority of inaction in the face of rising gas prices and economic hardship. Fox News says Bush yesterday "accused Congress of letting down the American public and blamed Democrats for the economic squeeze that has replaced Iraq as the country's main concern." Bush was shown saying, "I'm perplexed, I guess is the best way to describe it, about why there is no action, inactivity on big issues." Fox added that Bush "called, on five separate occasions, for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge." ABC World News showed Bush saying, "I've repeatedly submitted to proposals to help address these problems. Yet, time after time, Congress chose to block them."

With some exceptions the Fox News report above being one of them Bush's comments are receiving markedly negative reviews, largely tracking Democratic criticisms of Bush's news conference. On its front page, the New York Times reports Democrats accused Bush "of trotting out old ideas and of favoring big oil companies at the expense of average Americans." The Washington Post, under the headline "President Repeats First-Term Answers To Rising Gas Prices," reports Bush reached "back to the earliest days of his administration." Those proposals, notes the Post, "failed to gain traction even when Congress was under GOP control."

The CBS Evening News reported "a new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation puts gas prices ahead of health care and housing costs; 44% say the price of gas is a serious problem, including more than a quarter of households making at least $75,000 a year." Bush was shown saying, "I think that if there was a magic wand, you say, 'Ok, drop price,' I would do that. But there is no magic wand to wave right now." In his "Washington Sketch" column for the Washington Post, Dana Milbank makes light of the "wand" comment, writing that Bush's "incredible shrinking presidency...hit a new milestone yesterday: The commander in chief turned to sorcery."

Reports in major media outlets tend to portray the President's criticism of Congress as too shrill and motivated mainly by politics. USA Today says Bush's "dual goals -- assuring Americans he understands their plight and challenging Congress to act -- were on display as he cited evidence of 'tough times' and recited his proposals that lawmakers have blocked." And the AP reports Bush was trying "to inoculate his party and his presidential legacy from election-year anger over the economy."

NBC Nightly News reported, "How do Americans feel about how the President is handling the US economy? 21% approve -- that's the lowest number ever in our poll -- while 73% disapprove." Those ratings may be caused by the fact that "people are paying almost $4 a gallon for gas, or the record numbers of homes are sitting empty, or students" who "are concerned about having loans for the upcoming fall semester." The Wall Street Journal also notes Bush's "broadside" against Congress came "as a new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll showed that 73% of US citizens disapprove of his management of the country's economic policy, up from 66% last month and the worst rating of his presidency." His remarks, adds the Journal, must be viewed "against that backdrop of voter discontent." The Christian Science Monitor reports, however, that "while the president's approval ratings are low, the ratings for Congress are lower still."

A number of analysis pieces overtly take issue with Bush's assertions. The AP, for example, says the President "put politics ahead of the facts." Bush "renewed his call for drilling in an Arctic wildlife refuge, but his own Energy Department says that would have little impact on gasoline prices." McClatchy runs a similar analysis in which it takes issue with Bush's statements on energy policy. Of his " new US refineries could be built on military bases," McClatchy says it "makes a nice sound bite but isn't a real-world solution." ABC World News also said "experts say it's not Congress, but big oil companies, which reported record profits again this week, that have been reluctant to build new refineries." The Financial Times notes "Republicans have been pushing to open ANWR to oil drilling for decades but the proposal has faced resistance from many Democrats on environmental grounds."

Veto Likely For Iraq Spending Bill

Coverage of President Bush's Rose Garden news conference on Tuesday focuses on his criticism of Congress on the economy and energy policy. Less noted were his comments about Iraq, which appear to signal a new showdown with Democrats in Congress. The AP reports this morning that Bush and Democrats "continued on course toward a veto confrontation Tuesday as Bush said he would veto any attempt to add a popular veteran benefits bill to his $108 billion war funding request." The President's "hard line in a Rose Garden news conference could virtually assure a veto of the hotly contested war funding bill."

In its coverage of a Capitol rally by Democratic leaders and Iraq vets, the CBS Evening News reported veterans in attendance "called on Congress to provide desperately needed money for education." Veterans "are entitled to financial help under the GI Bill," but "with expenses exploding, the value of the benefit has plummeted." The Washington Times reports, "A popular '21st Century GI Bill' increasing college tuition benefits for veterans could reach the House floor next week, though Democrats may try to attach it to a war spending bill, placing President Bush in a difficult political position."

Biden Makes Case For Iraq Draw-Down In a letter to the editor of the Washington Post, Sen. Joseph Biden says, "Al-Qaeda in Iraq is a Bush-fulfilling prophecy: It wasn't there before the war. When we draw down, the Iraqis are likely to stamp out its remnants," and "US forces in the region can help finish the job." Biden adds "Iran's influence skyrocketed when we toppled Saddam Hussein," and argues that "by drawing down, we can force Iran to confront the specter of a disintegrating Iraq or all-out war among Shiite factions, and diminish Tehran's ability to wage a proxy war on our soldiers."

White House Thinks Colombia FTA Would Pass

The US News Political Bulletin has learned the Bush Administration thinks that it would win passage of the Colombia free trade act if Democratic leaders would let it move to the House floor, but sees union politics as causing a major delay to any action. Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer told the Bulletin, "Leadership doesn't want to put it on the table because they don't want it to pass before the election when they have to answer to the unions." Labor groups are generally opposed to trade deals believing that they export jobs. Schafer, whose department has a lead role in promoting trade, said that the delay in voting for the deal is costing American exporters up to $1 billion due to tariffs and fees imposed by Colombia that would be removed in the deal.

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The Latest From Late Night Comedians

Jay Leno: "MSNBC is reporting that the Department of Homeland Security wants all 80 million of America's recreational boaters to be on the lookout for terrorists in small boats trying to explode a nuclear bomb. I don't believe it. What are we paying, $50 billion a year for homeland security? All they can come up with is three drunks on a waverunner in Lake Havasu?"

Jay Leno: "Well, the State Department announced today the most dangerous place in the world, no longer the Mideast; it is now between Reverend Jeremiah Wright and a microphone."

Jay Leno: "Of course, the Republicans will not let this Reverend Wright controversy die. You know, they're trying to keep it in the news. Like, today they said for the wedding of President Bush's daughter, he's going to be the minister."

David Letterman: "How about that John McCain? ... I like John McCain. He looks like the kind of guy that walks into Circuit City and says, 'Do you have typewriter ribbons?'"

Conan O'Brien: "Tomorrow night on Fox News, Hillary Clinton is going to be making her first ever appearance on Bill O'Reilly's show, 'The O'Reilly Factor.' Yeah. Yeah, Hillary should do well, because she has years of experience yelling, 'Shut up, Bill!'"

Conan O'Brien: "Today, President Bush gave a news conference about the economy, but he stubbornly refused to say the word recession. ... Instead, President Bush said our country is headed towards something with three syllables that rhymes with refression."

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