WASHINGTON--In a run-up to impending overseas travel, presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) returned to a central rationale for his presidential run: the Iraq war and his broad strategy for a new U.S approach to foreign policy. Obama's speech, delivered Tuesday at the Woodrow Wilson Center here is his latest version of the "Obama Doctrine." Obama has talked tough on Pakistan in the past and his words were tough:
" And we must make it clear that if Pakistan cannot or will not act, we will take out high-level terrorist targets like bin Laden if we have them in our sights. Make no mistake: we can’t succeed in Afghanistan or secure our homeland unless we change our Pakistan policy. We must expect more of the Pakistani government, but we must offer more than a blank check to a General who has lost the confidence of his people," Obama said.
WASHINGTON--Obama campaign manager David Plouffe stars in a new video aimed at small donors--but when you click the button to give, the minimum is listed as $300. The Obama campaign has yet to release its June fund-raising numbers and that suggests they did not raise as much money as they hoped.
The Obama campaign is able to customize their pitches--the amount of money contributed in the primary and general campaign is noted, as in the note sent to one donor. "Our records indicate that you have given the maximum for the primary campaign and at least $0 toward the general election, which means you are $2,300.00 from your general election limit." A hard soft sell.
WASHINGTON--In the run up to an overseas trip--and to clarify his Iraq pullout plan in the wake of a statement that he will "refine" his plan if president, presumptive nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) delivers what his campaign is calling a major Iraq speech here this morning. This evening Obama appears on CNN's Larry King Live and the Newshour on PBS, covering the waterfront on long form interviews. On Sunday, Obama ran an op-ed in the New York Times where he talked about his 16 month time frame for pulling out combat troops.
Obama is poised to leave on a trip to take him to Jordan, Israel, possibly the West Bank, France, Germany and England. He is also to travel to Iraq and Afghanistan. On a conference call on Monday, Obama foreign affairs advisor Susan Rice was asked why Obama was clarifying his Iraq policy in advance of a "fact finding" trip to talk to commanders on the ground.
Said Rice, " But I think obviously Iraq is an important and critical issue in this election.
"Senator Obama has spoken and written about it multiple times during the campaign, as he will continue to. And this was an important opportunity, in light of recent events -- most notably what we've been hearing from the Iraqi government about its desire for a timetable, what we're hearing from our own general on the ground, General Dubik, about the enhanced readiness of the Iraqi security forces -- to reiterate20his approach and to underscore that he remains firmly committed to ending the war, to responsibly redeploying our forces, and to addressing the critical unattended national security challenges that we face.
WASHINGTON--The Obama team made formal a series of changes and additions in its communications team--including the elevation of Obama communications czar Robert Gibbs to senior strategist. Gibbs has been with Obama since his 2004 general election U.S. Senate campaign. Anita Dunn is the key senior advisor in charge of the Obama communications, research and policy departments.
CNN is reporting that "Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama will be visiting the Palestinian Authority president in the West Bank next week, a Palestinian government official said Monday. Obama will be meeting with President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on July 23, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said."
The Ramallah visit comes as part of Obama's Mideast-Europe swing. The Israeli press and my Israel connected sources said Obama will be in Israel July 22-23. Ramallah is a short drive from Jerusalem, especially if part of an Israeli-sanctioned motorcade to zip through West Bank roadblocks. The stop makes sense; even though Obama is also visiting Jordan, a close U.S. ally--it would seem unusual for Obama to meet with Israeli leaders and not venture to the Palestinian West Bank.
WASHINGTON--Presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) raised questions about his Iraq policy when he said he was said he may "refine" it if president. To put to rest his committment to get troops out of Iraq--a central premise of the Obama presidental bid--Obama clarified his position via an op-ed in the Monday New York Times. He will follow up with a speech on Iraq Tuesday in Washington. Obama will be visiting Iraq wth Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) and Sen. Chuck Hagle (R-Neb.).
Obama: As I’ve said many times, we must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in. We can safely redeploy our combat brigades at a pace that would remove them in 16 months. That would be the summer of 2010 — two years from now, and more than seven years after the war began. After this redeployment, a residual force in Iraq would perform limited missions: going after any remnants of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, protecting American service members and, so long as the Iraqis make political progress, training Iraqi security forces. That would not be a precipitous withdrawal. in carrying out this strategy, we would inevitably need to make tactical adjustments.
Put aside the flap over the cover of the new New Yorker, a cartoon portraying the Obamas' in the Oval Office--- Barack Obama in a turban with Michelle Obama wielding an AK-47 machine gun with a picture of Osama Bin Laden in the background. The Obama campaign finds it offensive and with good reason. It is tasteless. David Axelrod on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” said “did we like it? No. Is it the focus of our attention? No.”
The cover hides an in-depth story about Obama’s political roots, taking us to Hyde Park, the North Side and Springfield. New Yorker political writer Ryan Lizza brings us inside Obama’s Chicago political world and the political culture that spawned the presumptive Democratic nominee.
Among Lizza’s scoops:
*Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th), with Obama at the launch of his political career—when he ran for state senate and knocked his opponents off the ballot—is lukewarm in the article and is critical of Obama’s relationship with Tony Rezko. She also sidesteps a question about whether Obama has retained his personal integrity.
"I asked her if what she considered slights or betrayals were simply the necessary accommodations and maneuvering of a politician making a lightning transition from Hyde Park legislator to Presidential nominee. 'Can you get where he is and maintain your personal integrity?' she said. 'Is that the question?' She stared at me and grimaced. 'I'm going to pass on that.'
*Lizza reports that Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) told him that Obama was a “top strategist” for Gov. Blagojevich’s first gubernatorial campaign.
“He and Obama “participated in a small group that met weekly when Rod was running for governor,” Emanuel said. “We basically laid out the general election, Barack and I and these two.” A spokesman for Blagojevich confirmed Emanuel’s account, although David Wilhelm, who now works for Obama, said that Emanuel had overstated Obama’s role.”
The American Federation of Teachers was one of the first unions to endorse Sen. Hillary Rodman Clinton (D-N.Y.) The Chicago native returned home on Saturday to attend a wedding and to address the group, where she plugged presumptive nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and paid her props to an influential union that was for her and worked in at least 14 states to get her the nomination. Obama will be endorsed by the union on Sunday and talks to the AFT via a remote hook-up from San Diego.
Mayor Daley, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) also spoke. Gov. Blagojevich was invited, did not accept.
Video link for clip from Clinton's speech. http://www.aft.org/convention/videos/index.htm
UPDATE: The Obama team sent over a PDF of a letter from Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fl.) thanking Obama for his work on immigration legislation that eventually stalled. This is to rebut the assertion from McCain backer Martinez on Friday and in the column, from Sen. Lindsey Graham that Obama was not around to help when it mattered. http://www.suntimes.com/images/cds/MP3/Martinezletter.pdf END UPDATE
WASHINGTON -- No matter if you are—or are not — voting for presumptive GOP nominee Sen. John McCain (R-Az.), he deserves credit for trying to forge a bipartisan deal on immigration in 2005 and 2006 at great personal political risk, a situation unfamiliar to rival Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.)
McCain put his comeback presidential bid in peril because of his leadership role with Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) to find a path for millions of illegal immigrants to stay in the U.S.
Obama spokesman Jen Psaki issued a disclaimer on top of the pool report by Louis Roug containing some wild and tasteless riffs from comic Bernie Mac, who was listed on the invitation as a "special guest" at the Obama fund-raiser in the Hyatt. Let's see if Mac's crack about "hoes" causes some headaches for Obama, who spent the last few days courting the female vote.
" Senator Obama told Bernie Mac that he doesn't condone these statements and believes what was said was inappropriate," Psaki said. Obama told the comic "you got to clean up your act." Did he mean it? Or was he just messing with Mac. Click below for the pool report.
The McCain campaign opens its books on bundlers and small donors after the Friday New York Times noted the Obama and McCain campaigns lagged on updating lists of big fund-raisers. (Sun-Times work on this front was noted in the article.) Now the McCain campaign is pledging a new series of moves to increase transparency. Obama through his presidential run has stayed a few steps ahead of the competition. Click below for McCain campaign manager Rick Davis about setting up new searchable data base and "best effort" monthly reports. Will Obama meet and match or up?
"Senator Obama has long believed we should take all necessary steps to ensure affordable homeownership for millions of American families, and that includes an essential role for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Nearly a year ago, Senator Obama called for a major response to the housing crisis and significant relief for struggling homeowners. It took Senator McCain three different tries to figure out a real response to the housing crisis, and his current plan does nothing to help more than two million homeowners who are facing foreclosure," said Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton.
My Chicago Sun-Times colleagues Chris Fusco and Dave McKinney write in the Friday Chicago Sun-Times about how presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.)--as a state senator--gave a $100,000 state grant to a supporter for a botanic garden in a blighted community that was never built. The project was out of Obama's state senate district--but squarely in the First Congressional District of Illinois that Obama at the time was running to represent. Tim Novak contributed to the report. Obama's full response is at the end of the story.
Obama's $100,000 garden grant wasted
He vowed to 'work tirelessly' to build an oasis for Englewood. It never happened.
BY CHRIS FUSCO AND DAVE MCKINNEY Staff Reporters
As a state senator, Barack Obama gave $100,000 in state money to a campaign volunteer who failed to deliver on a plan to create a botanic garden in one of Chicago's most blighted neighborhoods.
Obama -- who was running for Congress when he announced the project in 2000 -- said the green space in Englewood would build ''a sense of neighborhood pride."
Kenny B. Smith, a onetime campaign volunteer for Barack Obama, can't explain exactly how he spent $100,000 of taxpayer's money on a garden that was never built.
Instead, what was supposed to be a six-block stretch of trees and paths is now a field of unfulfilled dreams, strewn with weeds, garbage and broken pavement.
WASHINGTON--Reports from the London press that presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) will arrive in England on July 18 are not accurate, the Sun-Times has learned. Look for him to arrive at a later date. Reports that the Obama overseas trip will be bookended with European stops NOW are not right as I write this.
Based on new intelligence, here's what is shaping up. I have been reporting from a reliable Israeli connected source that Obama is already booking appointments in Israel and will be there July 22 and 23. Stories from French and German news outlets put Obama in France and Germany on July 24 and 25 (those dates may be flipped). That leaves two countries to account for, England and Jordan. Common sense would put a Jordan stop adjacent to the Israeli visit, since the countries are neighbors. So by elimination and logic, that would put London at the end. END UPDATE
A developing tempest--perhaps--brewing, triggered by comments made by the Rev. Jesse Jackson about presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.). Here what Jackson told CNN on Wednesday afternoon:
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We want to get right back to another story we're following. Breaking news, the Reverend Jesse Jackson saying some very, very disparaging words about Senator Barack Obama, even though he supports him for president of the United States. CNN's Don Lemon has been working this story, together with a lot of us. First of all, Don, I know you're watching this story. Senator -- Reverend Jackson is about to join us on the phone. But just remind us, before you start talking to Reverend Jackson, what exactly he said on an open mike that's causing so much distress right now.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Well what he said to me earlier, and we're going to talk to him in just a little bit, we just got him on the phone, Wolf. He said that he made some crude what he called crude and hurtful comments that he would much rather have made to the senator in private. He did not know the microphone was open. He said it was a hot mike, didn't realize it.
WASHINGTON--The latest report on the Obama campaigns efforts to figure out how to highlight presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-lll.) when he visits Germany on or about July 24 comes from AFP's Berlin bureau has this lede:
BERLIN (AFP) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel has slammed a request by Barack Obama to give a speech this month before the Brandenburg Gate as inappropriate, her deputy spokesman said Wednesday.
The conservative leader said that while she would be pleased to meet the US Democratic presidential
hopeful, it would be wrong for him to hold a "campaign rally" at the historic symbol of German unity.
"It is unusual to do electioneering abroad," spokesman Thomas Steg told reporters.
"It is unusual to hold election rallies abroad. No German candidate for high office would even think of using the National Mall (in Washington)
Protective pool report from Perry Bacon, Washington Post...
No major news. The Senator went to the Russell Senate building in the
morning to tape appearances with the three network orning shows. After 9
a.m., the pool headed to a large office building on 12th and
Pennsylvania . The candidate and David Axelrod went into a unmarked door
on the side of the building on E Street that read "Tenant Entrance
WASHINGTON—The Obama’s did not anticipate the massive news interest in the “Access Hollywood” interview they did with their adorable and charming daughters, Malia, 10 and Sasha, 7, regret they put them in the spotlight and won’t do it again, presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) said Wednesday morning.
Obama made the rounds of three morning news shows and was asked in each about the speaking debut of his daughters. The Obamas up until July 4 minimized their daughters public exposure. They have been seen often, but never heard from.
The "Access Hollywood" interview was conducted July 4-Malia’s birthday—while the family was campaigning in Butte, Montana. “Access Hollywood,” never expecting to get the Obama children on camera, is running excerpts of the unexpected scoop over four nights this week.
WASHINGTON--Sen. Barack Obama told an influential Hispanic group on Tuesday that White House rival Sen. John McCain -- a champion of comprehensive immigration reform Congress has refused to pass -- has let them down, while McCain's allies disputed Obama's claim that he was a key fighter in trying to get the hot-button measure approved.
The two White House rivals spoke -- separated by a few hours -- to the United Latin American Citizens convention here, the second time in two weeks they pitched themselves to a major Hispanic association, with each booked at another Hispanic conference later this month.